Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lonely Hearts #2

Rugged Italian WLT raise your heart rate on winter country jaunts. Shoulder me and I’ll lift you to new heights Contact below or Box 13040 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lonely Hearts #1

Lonely, svelt (52cm) Italian frame seeks athletic, solvent partner to share the open road on carbon hoops . Love of Vincenza’s elite groups & sets a must.  Orientalists need not reply. Replies below or Box 13034

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cav and the Lion

During the 2013 Tour of Britain, Manx missile and all round Bon Oeuff Mark Cavendish tweeted that if it didn't stop raining he'd feed his race numbers to the lions in Knowsley Safari Park.  Avoiding fitting bar tape to a customers bike for a short while, I adapted Marriott Edgars monologue made famous by Stanley Holloway.  I beg theirs' and their estates forgiveness

Mark C and the Lion

There's a famous race called Tour of Britain,
That's noted for fresh-air and fun, 
And OmegaPharmaQuickstep 
Went there with young Mark, their son. 

A grand little lad was their Mark 
All dressed in his best; quite a swell
'E'd a pump with an 'orse's 'ead 'andle 
The finest that Specialized could sell.

They didn't think much to the ocean
The waves, they was fiddlin' and small 
There was no wrecks... nobody drownded
'Fact, nothing to laugh at, at all. 

So, seeking for further amusement 
They paid and went into the zoo 
Where they'd lions and tigers and cam-els 
And old Brad and time trial too. 

There were one great big lion called Wallace 
His nose were all covered with scars
He lay in a som-no-lent posture
With the side of his face to the bars.

Now Mark he had heard about lions 
How they were ferocious and wild
And to see Wallace lying so peaceful 
Well... it didn't seem right to the child. 

So straight 'way the brave little feller 
Not showing a morsel of fear
Put 'is number with on 'orse's 'ead 'andle 
And pushed it in Wallace's ear! 

You could see that the lion didn't like it
For giving a kind of a roll
He pulled Mark inside the cage with 'im 
And swallowed the little lad... whole! 

Van Slyke, who had seen the occurrence 
And didn't know what to do next 
Said, "Shaffrath! Yon lions 'et our Mark"
And Shaffrath said "Eeh, I am vexed!

So OmegaPharmaQuickstep 
Quite rightly, when all's said and done 
Complained to the Animal Keeper 
That the lion had eaten their son. 

The keeper was quite nice about it 
He said, "What a nasty mishap 
Are you sure that it's your lad he's eaten?" 
Pa said, "Am I sure? There's his cap!

So the manager had to be sent for 
He came and he said, "What's to do?" 
Van Slyke, said “Lion's 'eaten our Mark 
And 'im in his skin suit, too."

Then Van Slyke said, "Right, young feller 
I think it's a shame and a sin 
For a lion to go and eat our Mark 
And after we've paid to come in!" 

The manager wanted no trouble 
He took out his purse right away 
And said, "How much to settle the matter?" 
Van Slyke said "What do you usually pay?" 

But Shaffrath had turned a bit awkward 
When he thought where his lad Mark had gone 
He said, "No! someone's got to be summonsed" 
So that were decided upon. 

Round they went to the Police Station 
In front of a Magistrate chap 
They told 'im what happened to Mark 
And proved it by showing his cap. 

The Magistrate gave his o-pinion 
That no-one was really to blame 
He hoped OmegaPharmaQuickstep 
Would have further Marks to their name. 

At that Shaffrath got proper blazing 
"And thank you, sir, kindly," said she 
"What waste all our lives raising riders 
To feed ruddy lions? Not me!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Ramblings

My posts here are few and far between. Mainly as I feel if I wouldn't read it why would anyone else.  Usually first thing I am answering emails, trawling my reader feed and struggling to find anything interesting to post on our Facebook, Google+ and Twitter feeds.  Today the inbox is virtually empty, I have one return order to generate and the Old Reader is having a few issues and is generating kittens.  That leaves me the rebuild of a customers veteran Exage FH-A450 wheel.  It's been a sod and I lost patience with it earlier in the week as it steadfastly insists on being Pringle shaped despite my efforts.  It's properly sunny outside and I'd rather be riding to a shady spot by a river to read a book with a picnic in my panniers. Harrumble!

I'm one of the people who uses modern technology because it makes my life easier or fun. I'm not really interested in the nuts and bolts of computers etc.  I just want it to work straight out of the box finding a replacement for Google Reader was a royal PITA as initially it seemed you needed some level of computer skills I don't need or want.  All I wanted was to press a button and get given a file I could drag and drop into whichever replacement I chose.  I initially ended up manually transferring them into Hootsuite a time consuming effort I begrudged.  On the whole I like Hootsuite, I can manage our accounts from one window with ease and it works.  Its RSS reader however, is terrible in my opinion. Slow, clunky and only a title view I was losing the will to live as Google Reader's closure loomed.  Then, in a last ditch trawl of the net I tripped over The Old Reader.  It is as the title says. The layout is pretty much the same transferring my feeds was painless and simple.  I am a happy bunny again.  The website had a topple overnight and my login was met with a wry apology and a picture of a kitten. Clichés, both, but they made me smile nevertheless. 

The '70s were my childhood, Raleigh Choppers, ChinniChap productions and Gerry Anderson TV shows insert your generic memory here. One of the guys in our G+ circles is one of the lucky few playing with GoogleGlass.  This new tech is, I think awesome, in the true meaning of the word sadly hijacked by Valley Speak.  It intrigues and terrifies me in equal measure.  I'm liberal by nature and the tracking and logging of our every move makes me uncomfortable.  Like so many people I lay myself open to it by engaging on social networks.  I see Glass as a tool if I go to a trade show, having a pair of these to record the shiny pretty stuff is so much nicer than struggling with my dodgy camera skills or the now ubiquitous iPad stretch.  My cynical side says in a show with 7000 other people fighting for a little of the minimal band width means I'm probably going to use Bluetooth to a device in my bag with the ensuing battery eating that is incurred. Computer techs now throw their hands in the air at my ignorance, presuming they've even read this far. I guess if I write, fundementalist prism snowden, some poor soul in Gloucester might have to read it. Hello.  If Glass is better than this the real world situations then hurrah.  But then my every move location and action is tracked and that unsettles me.

On a cycling note my twisted sense of humour is mulling the pleasant multicultural word play that South Africa's first wearer of the Tour D'France's yellow jersey is called Impey. While trying to find a way to express this so the touchier ends of society don't get their knickers in a twist I read the Wiki page on Impi and this multi use description of Impi logistics,

         "The fast-moving host, like all military formations, needed supplies. These were provided by young boys, who were attached to a force and carried rations, cooking pots, sleeping mats, extra weapons and other material. Cattle were sometimes driven on the hoof as a movable larder. Again, such arrangements in the local context were probably nothing unusual. What was different was the systematisation and organisation, a pattern yielding major benefits when the Zulu were dispatched on raiding missions."

Almost the perfect description of a modern Grand Tour Cycling team.  If you've got this far, thank you for reading.  Now we both better go and do some productive work.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Here at Dotbike it can be like working in a sweetshop.  Lots of shiny stuff passes under our noses, some tempting, some not so tempting.  We all ride bikes, we all use stuff and none of us are rich beyond the dreams of avarice.  Over the years we've noticed the things people buy and the things we rate and buy regularly differ.  Seven years ago when I came to work here the review recommendations of a certain cycling magazine really meant something, a five star review for a product we listed meant an instant increase in sales.  It had been ridden in the wild by cyclists and the reviews came from the heart of the reviewer.  I’m sure they still do, but the review items are bolted to review bikes ridden on strictly planned tests by that well known individual “We.” 

The collective group-speak that is "We" doesn't compare and contrast has no personal opinion or come from a position. To be fair magazines are expensive things to get on the street and are wholly dependent on advertising revenue. So, after a few years of raging against the man they realise that the mortgage needs paying, the kids need feeding and a little pragmatism is required.  As circulation grows, so does the amount of stuff coming through the door for review.  Suppliers demand an even playing field so a system is devised where a number of salient points are covered on each product by every reviewer so an average view can be ascertained.  So what you get is more accurately described as a comparison than a review.

“We” also has the problem that on the whole, kit just works.  Take half a dozen rear lights, chosen for their price points and brightness.  There won’t be a lot between them so you’re down to does the bracket work, is the switch a faff and is it reliable.  Our two best selling rear lights highlight the problem “We” has.  The Topeak Redlight Mega sold in huge numbers in the early part of the winter.  The Smart Lunar R1 is £10 cheaper, just as bright with variable modes, we have had a similar number of returns (less than 1%) on both yet the Topeak has sold seven times as many.  It’s dominance in the winter was only toppled when a drastic price change on the Smart R2 blew it off the top spot.  I thought the reviews of these would show the bare facts stripped of feeling, which for the Topeak, on the whole, is true.  However, the Smart R1 hasn’t been reviewed since 2010 and the R2 since 2011 both with excellent coverage.  There is a fair amount of talk on forums on the R2 and we all know what a nightmare asking for opinions on forums can be. You end up with as many contradictory comments and options as humanly possible. So a recent review does seem to shift numbers.

"Where is all this going?" you ask, presuming anyone got this far.  Well, magazine reviews/comparisons obviously get the brand name out there and readers get a rational comparison of like with like and appear to take notice of them. More traditional reviewers who get to put their name at the bottom give a point of view but do they get read.  Chris Juden in Cycle Magazine  has a wealth of experience both technical and cycling and in my experience has as many supporters as detractors.  When he name dropped us in a reply to a letter in the magazine, sales of a certain brake calliper and cable hanger went through the roof.  The difference is it’s a personal review with opinions and arguments not a comparison piece.  Personally I prefer a review where someone has put their name at the bottom, for me that gives it some credibility.  Over time the reviewers name and angle become obvious and you can take it as someone’s opinion not a committee piece. Like or loathe the writers opinions if they are fair and can back up their view then all well and good. 

What I thought I’d do is opine about some of the stuff we use and sell.  It will be a personal view and the stuff will have been in long term use.  Hopefully it will at least start a discussion, my head says only the spell-checker and I have read this far and will ever comment.  In the unlikely event of being given stuff to review, I will make it perfectly clear but it will still have been used as the rest of our kit is, unless otherwise stated we will have paid with our own cash.


Friday, January 25, 2013

On Elastic Timescales

For a while I have been trying to find a way to describe Italian timescales.  For those of you who have never dealt with Italian industry this has little to do with 1950s racial stereotyping. What it has to do with is a very different and nebulous problem. 

The usual stated delivery time from confirmed order to receipt is six to eight weeks.  In reality this can be much longer with no explained reason. Within the bike trade you soon stop stressing and file this under Italian timescales.  Work on the premise that a week is an elastic timescale and you kind of get the picture.  I make sure that I explain to customers that six to eight weeks doesn’t mean forty nine days after they put the phone down and that this estimate can extend as well as increase.

I thought it might be mildly entertaining to paste this retail annoyance onto some serious physics for the delectation and delight of the alleged readership of this article.  After typing, elasticity of time, into my search engine of choice I discovered two things.  Well, discovered one and reminded myself of another.
How does an inelastic demand lead to elastic delivery?  Despite the fact that customers like repairable items  over throw away items rational delivery of spares from manufacture seems almost impossible.  Maybe elastic time is nearer to the point. My limited foray into Einstien’s works led me to the realisation that no matter how you simplify it, it’s jolly complicated.  Realising that the physicists out there would tear my assertions to shreds I decided a less elevated explanation was required. At this point I remembered why I got an “E” in my physics “O” level. 

I can almost tag it to a use of the Julian calendar but even the removal of ten days and the addition of intercalary months didn’t really nail it.  So there I am stumped on a witty time based allegory to illuminate your weekend (7)

Have a good weekend and if you have a witty explanation based on relativity I’ll happily publish the best here amidst the Snargs in the dark unswept corner of the tinterweb


Thursday, January 17, 2013

The 2014 Grande Depart

Cecil Rhodes may have thought being born an Englishman was like winning the lottery, but the residents of Yorkshire will now be feeling as if ERNIE has finally coughed up gold.  The Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France is to be held in Leeds so, despite HarryEnfield’s 1980’s jibe, it would be fair to say that Leeds is now sophisticated.  The city is sold to students as a party town, a place where you can go out every night and shop in exclusive boutiques every day. The message is Leeds is a city for the image conscious and a place to be seen in. 

For the visitor and this includes those from as far away as Matlock, the north of England can be a confusing place.  So here are a few small tips on enjoying your stay in “God’s Own County

Do your Homework:
Forget everything you’ve seen on TV about the north of England.

The Yorkshire dialect can be a little dense even to those used to it, so get yourself a phrase book and on no account sound like a southerner

As previously, forget all you've heard, you can eat in t’north and if you’re savvy enough to avoid the global chains you can eat damn well for not much at all if you choose.  Hot chocolate and pastries may well sort you while you wait for elevenses a long way south but a proper breakfast will stand you well during your windswept wait on the moors for the Tour to come by.  Life is too short to not have a proper English breakfast once in your life and all that protein and fat is there for a reason.  

If you choose to miss proper fish & chips while in Yorkshire you are selling yourself short.  In a life partaking of allegedly unhealthy food on a pretty regular basis I have only had better fish & chips than that available in Whitby only once.  That particular chippie had been recently voted best Chip shop in the country so fair play.  There are many reasons for a trip to Whitby don’t miss it. 

Drink tea eat cake it’s Harrogate’s raison detre
Beer is brown, served at room temperature in 1 pint measures, that is all.  There’ll be plenty of chance for wine, fruit based drinks and fizzy pop as Le Tour heads back to the continent.

Unless you’re very, lucky you will not experience classic Tour de France weather. We are a windswept island in the North Atlantic; comparisons with southern Europe end with sun dried tomatoes and reasonable Primitivo being sold in some supermarkets.  A pashmina will not keep you warm on the moors you will probably need a proper raincoat, jumpers and a hat.  In the unlikely event that it is a cloudless, windless, hot day then use them as a cushion while you note the date in your diary.

Ignore them, I have placed a few here because I’m a southerner and it’s the law.  For the purposes of travel, you will be made very welcome in this most hospitable of counties.  If you’re from outside the UK don’t join in the north/south banter, it’s our game hands off!   Enjoy the hospitality, if you get good weather enjoy Yorkshires stark rolling beauty to the full.
Book early.  A good B&B or a proper hotel is worth the outlay.  There are motel type affairs and bland corporate vacuums but you could be anywhere on the planet.  Come and experience Yorkshire and the UK at ground level give yourself a few extra days.  Enjoy your stay.

Neil is a southerner with no ties familial or professional to the north of England.   Although not above accepting a beer if anyone tells their host they booked because they read this. (As if)