Global Bianchi domination…

After having stumbled across the Bianchi café in Milano, I stumbled across the Bianchi concept store in Akihabara, Tokyo. Am I following Bianchi, or are they following me???

This one is basically just a bike shop, but only with new Bianchi bikes. The shop was shut but I didn’t see any vintage bikes, or memorabilia. While this seems a shame given the brand’s strong heritage, without wanting to generalise, in Asia often new things are valued more highly than old things, so heritage is maybe not so important.

Some nice frames and bikes here, but out of my price range, whether in Yen or Euros!

IMG_1753

IMG_1754.JPGIMG_1758IMG_1755IMG_1757IMG_1756

So as the bike shop is closed, time for some tasty ramen instead!

IMG_1727.JPG

Advertisements

Now that’s what I call infrastructure

I’ve been lucky enough to live in a few countries over the years, but it’s not until I came to Switzerland that I have seen bike infrastructure this good.

IMG_0075 (1)

You might say “bikes on a train? Nothing special”. But…

  • Every train has bike storage, and on most every carriage (local trains), not just the mail carriage by the engine
  • There’s 5 or 6 bike slots on this carriage, not cramped together into a corner by the door. Half the seats in the carriage have been taken out to make space for bikes.
  • There are huge bike parking facilities at most stations. Almost too big actually… Good luck finding your bike again (ugly bright colours are your friend).
  • Check out how clean the train is (and the bike). No clutter, no tangle of bicycles banging into each other.
  • This is an intercity commuter train between two major Swiss cities at peak time…

IMG_2230

Swiss people are, in general, affluent (certainly compared to the global average), and this choice is not motivated by cost savings, but by an enjoyment of riding.

For cycling to be an option as part of our daily back and forth, it has to be easy (and safe). In most cases, cyclists accept (sometimes unreasonable) compromises in order to cycle daily.

This is a great example of a society in which a “normal” person, rides from home down to the central station, pops her bike on the train, travels to another city, pops the bike off the train and then parks it at work.

Hers is the pink road bike in the picture above. She is dressed for the office, not for a cyclocross event.

Of course full lycra, SPD clip shoe commuter cycling on a full carbon road frame remains an option…

IMG_0076

These facilities are a great step in the right direction, towards keeping people heathy, safe and happy. That’s what our public institutions should be doing, and what we should be asking for.

Well done Switzerland.

IMG_0093 IMG_0092

Tour de Suisse : Bern, Stage 8

Completely by accident, my family and I happened to be in Bern on Saturday 20th June, so were lucky enough to catch a front-row spot to see a section of the Tour de Suisse.

I’d love to have a go on some of these bikes…

Some photos and video for you to enjoy below!

FullSizeRender (1)IMG_0055 IMG_0061 IMG_0063

Retro Rescue: Scott CX carbon fork

The curb finds continue! The latest one is a Scott carbon fork.

IMG_2474

The fork is beautifully finished and extremely light as one would expect. The first thing to stand out is the addition of brake posts typically seen on mountain bikes, not road bikes. Which, along with the CX in the name, indicates this is a cyclocross fork, and the posts are for cantilever brakes.

Cyclocross seems to be having a bit of a renaissance, though it does seem a little odd to me to essentially use lightly modified modern road bikes for off-road use and forgo the benefit of suspension, wider tyre footprint and various other modifications integrated into the modern mountain bike. Cyclocross predates the MTB, so I guess it’s a bit like reviving real tennis or Queensberry rules boxing. Why not?

Now, being more of a classic bicycle fan than a weight weenie, I am not completely up to speed on the latest and lightest in the world of road bikes. Nonetheless, unless you’ve been living under the sea for the last 20 years, you’ll know the future is carbon-flavoured.

My first experience of riding with carbon bike parts was on a 2007 Lemond Chambery (carbon fork, seat post and rear stays) and it was very positive. The difference between riding a 1970s or 1980s steel bicycle and a more modern bike is phenomenal (though not just due to the addition of carbon, but many other developments). While I do love classic bikes, I think modern bikes offer real improvement in almost every area (comfort, speed, safety and performance) and are also a great pleasure to ride. But that comes with a downside, initially one of cost as new components seem horrendously expensive, but also due to the characteristics of the material itself.

When I found a carbon fork, thrown out with the rubbish, I was pretty pleased. The next thought to go through my mind was that it surely must be damaged, but a good close look revealed no damage whatsoever to the paint finish, no cracks and nothing to indicate previous crash damage.

Carbon, similarly to (but more spectacularly than) aluminium, is prone to failure and stress damage is difficult to detect. So it is not practically possible to be certain that a piece is safe to re-use. Which brings us to a real problem with modern components and materials.

If you can’t be sure a component is safely useable, then that will either kill or severely limit the second-hand market. Many early aluminium frames have a bad reputation for cracking and failure. I do wonder whether these fears are exaggerated through repetition, but the reality is these frames are relatively sparse today though they were an important part of bicycle frame history.

Either user confidence in carbon fibre will increase, and allay the fears of unpredictable failure, or we can expect to see far fewer “vintage” bicycles from the 90s onwards, 30 years from now.

I think that would be a shame, as these frames are really beautiful and an important part of our future cycling history.

I am unlikely to make a cyclocross rebuild as I’m unlikely to ever ride cyclocross (you never know…), but these forks could potentially be reapplied to a hybrid and used with v-brakes. That might make for a pretty sporty town bike. Or a horrible “Frankenbike”… We shall see!

IMG_2483 IMG_2487 IMG_2479 IMG_2476

Velobrico Workshop: Lemond Chambery (2005)

Ok, it’s not a vintage bike, (yet) and it doesn’t need restoring, but I love it anyway!

This is my weekend ride in Singapore. You don’t see many like it out here. I’ve only seen another 3 in the last 2 years.

In fact, I like it so much that I’m taking it back to Europe with me!

IMG-20140503-00589IMG_1695.1IMG_1697.1IMG_1699.1IMG_1707.1IMG_1708.1