Back on track?

A quickie today, as I have bicycles to ride, places to go, coffee to drink.

The March issue of Cyclist is out, and it has a nice sunny cover. So that’s good. And they have girls on the cover, in a good way, which is a refreshing change, even though we’re already well into the 21st Century.

After the usual news and new product stuff (puffa jackets? Really? On a bike?) we have an interesting little interview with Vin Denson about his part in Fast & Furious 6 being Tommy Simpson’s super-domestique. It’s a nice little piece, as is the following article about fast fueling during a ride. The piece about the Etixx training camp was a bit of PR puff for the team and failed to address the really important questions, such as why can’t the riders tie their shoelaces quicker. They spend all this time practicing lead-outs, sprinting, weight-training, and so on, yet they haven’t mastered the one thing that will get you an invite to a hellish sandpit in the middle-east — brisk shoelace tying. For the Qataris to complain about lack of respect while simultaneously working hundreds of migrant workers to death building football stadiums seems a bit rich, but it’s their money and they can put it in whichever brown envelope they like.

This month the High Grand Wizard of the Velominati is talking about riding in bad weather, but it’s just regurgitating oft-told stories of Bernard Hinault and Andy Hampsten and saying it’s OK not to ride if it’s icy. Meh.

The Big Ride this month is on the Croatian island of Hvar. And it’s fine. Susannah Osborne is a travel writer and does these things well, but it’s 15 pages long and the photos aren’t all that (why the occasional black and white? And too much contra-jour and lens-flare). The other issue I have is why Hvar? Yes it’s pretty. And yes it has some nice enough roads. But so do so many Mediterranean islands. And Hvar isn’t a big island, so is anyone really going to ship their bike over there to spend two days riding? I don’t know. I wouldn’t, but that’s because I’ve already been there by boat and know that there are only really two roads on the island.

So last month Cyclist did a ride outside San Francisco and this month it’s in Croatia. For me, this is not the way forward. I really only want three types of riding articles:

  • Stupidly hard Gran Fondos that I will never ride but which puts the journalist in a world of pain (Etape, Marmotte, etc).
  • Beautiful iconic rides which are achievable for most of the readers (Alps, cobbles, Pyrenees, Dolomites, etc).
  • Ridiculous tales of derring-do in weird places (cycling up K2 on a unicycle).

And while it’s nice for journalists to get a free holiday somewhere sunny, it doesn’t necessarily give the readers what they want (or maybe it’s just me).

Moving on, next is a good piece about dealing with extremes of temperature while riding. It’s an interesting sciencey article that neatly finds the middle ground between advice for newbies and degree-level biochemistry. This is about imparting useful, thoughtful advice rather than treating us all like idiots or showing off how much the author knows. Good stuff.

I generally don’t like racer interviews much, but the profile on Lizzie Armitstead was more interesting than most. I generally find that women racers tend to be more interesting and forthcoming than their male counterparts, and this seems to be the case with Armitstead. It would have been interesting if she had been asked about the dichotomy posed by being excited about her Team GB kit while at the same time living as a tax-exile. Monaco is full of British sports stars who are proud to be British but are unwilling to pay tax in Britain. But then I don’t know much about non-dom tax affairs, so let’s move on to the UK Ride…Trevor Ward’s Scottish road trip. He flogged a piece to CA about cycling the islands and now he’s punted a piece to Cyclist on the joys of cycling in the Highlands. It’s a nice story, with nice photos, and it’s a lovely part of the world. What’s not to like?

The story about Demon Frameworks is also pretty good, and reminds me why I ride the Pig-Iron Pista rather than something made from plastic. Demon is a proper one-man-band fabricator and makes some lovely frames. I like stories like this, and this one is well executed. Almost Rouleur-esque in some respects.

Next is a story about the Trek team press officer, which is an engaging look behind the scenes at a part of a team that rarely gets any recognition. Being a press officer must be a total nightmare most of the time, and this piece gives us a glimpse of what it’s like. Poor buggers. I enjoyed the Bianchi Gran Fondo piece too, mostly because it reminded me why Italy is still my favourite cycling country. Roll on summer and my annual pilgrimage to the Appenines.

Bikes tested this month are a Hersh Disc (which is really a Sarto Ernergia), a Cervelo S5 and a Chesini GP. All quite interesting in their own right. The Equinox carbon wheels are also interesting, albeit pricier and heavier than many at this level. And finally, Felix is telling us all about who has moved to which team and what sponsors they have. This is clearly written for people who have used up their data allowance and haven’t had internet access for the last month.

And that’s your lot. It’s a considerable improvement on the last couple of issues and even though it now costs £5.50 it’s still pretty good value. I would like to see a move back to more achievable Big Ride stories, but other than that it’s good enough to outlast the average lunch-hour.


 

Tomorrow, it’s issue 60 of Rouleur under the microscope. Until then, you can follow me here @TranquilloTommy

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7 thoughts on “Back on track?

  1. I still think it has lost the verve of the first year, but it is OK. I can’t understand why they keep on wheeling out the hand-built / custom / seriously expensive reviews when the on the whole the ‘core’ of the UK buying public will never come close to these builds aside from a visit to Bespoke Bristol and so on. It seems like an obsession or are builders sending them in for review ? I’ve no idea. Cyclist should target cost effective UK available carbon bikes like Defy, Synapse and Roubaix, Cervelo R2, R3 and co. but middle ground price points as I suspect that is the core readership. There are a lot of consumers buying out of the box builds….or am I simply missing the point and these reviews are targeting what market research tells them who is buying the mag…?

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    1. I wouldn’t mind them indulging in the odd object of desire to keep us dreaming, but I like the tone and format of their reviews and would like to see this in reference to more attainable bikes. There are plenty of great bikes in the sub 3k price range…

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  2. Bought this month’s copy on the strength of your positive comments. I’d always been put off by the number of city types reading it on rush hour trains. Anyway I’m glad I did – this is a decent mag with generally well written articles. It held my interest much better than a CW or one of the sportive-based publications. However the Felix Lowe column was tripe. Lame puns about pro cycling jerseys? Who in hell’s name wants to read that? A full page advert for chamois cream would have been more entertaining.

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  3. BT say’s There are plenty of great bikes in the sub 3k price range…

    Yes, for sure and they get them in occasionally, but on the whole, custom builds no one has heard of. I’d rather more reviews, less about riding in far flung places and 10-15 pages of decent bike tech/talk which I thought Bikes ETC had covered til’ it went ‘Nuts’,,,,

    Tommy, is it a case of targeting the audience as you know more than us mere readers ?

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    1. I think Cyclist made a conscious decision to stay away from the standard four-bike road tests (already being done by CA, C+ and CW), and instead to look at individual bikes that are in some way interesting. The problem with most sub-£3000 bikes is that they’re not particularly interesting. There are many very good ones, but they are all basically the same (mid-range far-eastern frame, mid-range gruppo and finishing kit, half-decent wheels). So Cyclist look for things that are slightly different, and consequently quite expensive. Sadly I suspect that many of the City-boy readers don’t have the wit or imagination to try these bespoke brands and instead just buy the latest, most expensive Pinarello.

      I had hoped that BikesEtc would be the other side of Cyclist’s coin, offering a grown-up approach to product and product testing. And for a while it looked like that was how it was going. Sadly Dennis Publishing decided to turn it into Men’s Health on wheels.

      The other thing is: how often do people really buy a new bike? Although I don’t subscribe to the N+1 bollocks, I am arguably the typical Cyclist reader (middle-aged, middle-class, wear Castelli and Assos, my bike runs 11-speed Chorus, hand-built wheels on R45 hubs, etc) and I haven’t bought a new bike for five years, and nor am I likely to any time soon. I bought the frame and fork, then set about buying all the bits I wanted for it. Not so much a custom-build as a self-curated object of desire. Pretty much the only new stuff I buy now is clothing. So I’m not interested in tests of Defys or Synapses. I would rather read about exquisite workmanship or left-field design solutions. But I am interested in reading about nice places where I can ride my bike and I like their stuff about the science of cycling.

      Ultimately it’s very hard to please everyone, so Cyclist have trodden their own path and left the comparative testing to others. Given the amount of arse-ache involved in getting these tests organised, written and photographed, I don’t really blame them!

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  4. Good stuff and noted. I have found that everyday of the week people want to buy stock road bikes. The update comes 3-5 years into ‘serious’ cycling and the migration to better quality kit moving from Altura and Endura to Assos and Castelli. It usually happens when the casual roadie becomes a club rider and thus takes advice from other seasoned riders and starts using the internet instead of the LBS. Some items come out of nowhere. La Pierre bikes in 2009, Kask helmets over the last couple of years. Product placement I suppose. But yep you cannot please everyone and I concur that Cyclist is a good mag. I wish I had Stu Bowers legs too….

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  5. Regarding Vin Denson, his book Full Cycle is a good read and he is unquestionably the coolest looking dude to ever lift his leg over a top tube.

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