Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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The VV View: Our Changing Timeline


Changes; ‘time may change me; but I can’t trace time,’ said the late, great David Bowie, most take it to mean that whilst you can run your finger back along the timeline of your life, you can’t change anything along there.

I take myself as an example; now I have an ‘e’ Gravel Bike, disc brakes, 1 x transmission. 

Ed’s timeline is now at the gravel riding stage. Photo©Ed Hood

And after the altercation with that silent but deadly hybrid SUV, I now have been made to pledge to wear a hard shell helmet. 

I know, I know, it’s sensible, sets an example, etc.

But in my head it’s still the 70’s, ‘Oppy’ cotton caps, Belgian woollen training hats – and I can’t help feeling that I look like Dan Dare’s old adversary, ‘The Mekon’ with a Giro planted on my nut. 

If I still road raced I’d want a Banani patent leather crash hat set at the same jaunty angle as Roger de Vlaeminck’s, not some chunk of plastic. 

Still, if I had a hard shell on the other day it would have saved me a bit of blood. 

My big fear was that I’d ripped my Craft arm warmers, a present from Michael Mørkøv, but fortunately all was well on that score.

And my altercation helped with my ‘disc education’ – I buckled the front rotor and had to get on the ‘chat’ with Adam at Chain Reaction Cycles.

To my surprise and delight the new rotor and removal tool arrived next day and it wasn’t too difficult to fit.

But next time out I punctured – no spare, natch, and had to ride home on the rim.

My Gravel/MTB education continued when I tried to swap a tyre off my Cannondale MTB with the defunct one on the Ribble.

This was when I discover that 26” isn’t 650c – it’s all so confusing.

I phoned Craig Grieve of Spokes Cycles for advice and I was a bit deflated to hear that only ‘cheapo’ MTB’s run 26” now.

I didn’t mention that in front of my Klein. 

And Jeez – those cool Sendero tyres take a bit of getting on the rim but then my thumbs ain’t as strong as they once were.

Anyways, new disc rotor, new rear tyre and … a crash hat – that’s me sorted and comprehensively ‘changed’, with just a few ‘hero marks’ on the back of my gilet to remind me of my encounter with the tarmac.  

But ‘disc brakes,’ that’s a huge change right there; a year or two ago VeloVeritas mentor/soothsayer Viktor and I both pledged that we’d never possess a bicycle with disc brakes – but you know what?

Yes, we both now ride bikes with disc brakes.

Aaron Gate. Photo©Joyce Ghijs

I was listening to quadruple Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Aaron Gate on the Bobby and Jens podcast the other day.

The former World Omnium Champion has been on both sides of the disc fence at the wrong time; when he raced with the Aqua Blue team in 2018 and their SRAM 1x 3T’s only them and Roompot were on disc brakes – race service didn’t carry disc brake wheels so if you punctured and the team car wasn’t near at hand then it was ‘Goodnight Vienna.’

Now he’s with New Zealand continental team, Bolton Equities – Black Spoke Pro Racing, the only team currently still on rim brakes, he confesses to horror on tricky wet descents because he has to brake 20 or 30 meters before his disc braked adversaries.

But don’t fear, Black Spoke go ProTeam, and disc for 2023 season.

* * *

Sticking with the mulleted (made up word) Kiwi, he was talking about his gearing for the Games events.

In the Points Race he rode 70 – yes seventy – x 18, or in old money 105”, whilst in the Team Pursuit he rode 66 x 15 or 119” in old money.

I can remember when 88/89/90” was the norm, 91” was big and 93” huge; but sprinters are now doing their time trial 200 metre qualifying rides on 60 x 12 – which is 135” – and I’ve even heard tales of 140”-plus ratios being employed. 

On the variable gear front, I can remember being excited to go up from five to six rear sprockets; I can now purchase a Campagnolo Ekar Gravel transmission which will give me 13 sprockets.

And remember downtube shifters? Slipped gears and knees torn open by the tiny screws on the top tube cable clips; now I can change gear electronically at the push of a button. 

Head attire, brakes, gear ratios, transmission have all changed and let’s not forget ‘AERO.’

BUT best read this next bit before you shell out €33,000 on a Pinarello just like Pippo’s – oh, and upwards of €17,000 for the cockpit.

Rohan Dennis Photo©Getty Images Sport

Going back to Messrs. Bobby & Jens, they had Rohan Dennis on the show and as a National, Commonwealth and World Time Trial Champion, not to mention former World Hour Record holder, the Aussie is a dude who knows a little about the ‘alone and unpaced’ effort. 

In the Aussie’s opinion, position then helmet and skinsuit are the most vital things and can make a huge difference.

Then come wheels and tyres in order of importance.

But in his test experience, the frame makes zero difference.

Hate mail to Rohan guys, not me, I’m just quoting. 

On the subject of skinsuits and bike clothing in general there’s little doubt that companies like Assos, Bioracer, Castelli and our clothing partner Nopinz have changed things so much for the better – the days of six layers and hardly being able to move on the bike are long gone, thankfully. 

Then there’s race radios, thank the Motorola dudes for that change – the argument for not banning them is that they make the racing safer, DS are able to warn their charges of upcoming danger, this generally involves just two words; ‘move up!

The trouble is that every DS is saying the same thing and there’s only so much tarmac up there…

* * *

And no rant about ‘changes’ would be complete without mention of Zwift and ‘e-racing’.

For me, the joy of the bike was, and still is, getting out in the countryside, the feeling of a nice bike underneath you, the sun on your skin, discovering some new track, the herons rising from the streams, the seals sunning themselves on the rocks – not staring at the garage wall or spending fortunes on some snazzy ‘p##n c##e.’*


But looking at the main component of any bike race, the riders; I wrote an obituary the other day for the late, great Gerben Karstens (which we’ll be running next) and it struck me that things really have changed; Remco, Wout, Mathieu, Tom, Julian, all great riders – but ‘colourful characters?’

Like I said at the start, you can draw your finger down that timeline but you can’t change anything…

*[Ed can’t bring himself to write the words ‘pain cave’. ed.]