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Bag of Spanners

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Wrapped,  1 issue 7 To me, fresh bar tape indicates a state of mind – as, for that matter, does a spotlessly clean bike. The former world pursuit champion and Six-Day star Tony Doyle would agonise over the wrap of his bars and have them re-done, even minutes before a pursuit heat, if they weren’t perfect. Nothing left to chance, pride in your workplace, as it were. Whenever I see freshly fitted white bar tape, I am reminded of a passage from The Rider by Tim Krabbé: “Kleber is standing in front of me. We greet each other. I point to his bars. ‘New tape?’ He smiles apologetically. ‘For morale.’” Exactly.

Delta, 1 issue 5 Computer modelling and new materials now produce better brakes made out of less material, which meant the Delta route was washed aside by the super-efficient dual pivot caliper and the more user-friendly combined brake and shift levers. Even though the Delta has gone, it certainly left its mark as component design moved on, perhaps for the better. But let’s face it: love it or loathe it, and function aside, has there been anything since as aesthetically pleasing as a Delta?

Colnago, 1 issue 4 But maybe the final decades of the 20th century were the golden years for frame design and manufacturing. After all, it took ten years to make a better carbon frame than the C40, and customers now demand new developments every year. It is sad to say, but Colnago has to change, and change it will. But whatever happens in the coming years, Colnago is still the name that instantly conjures up images of countless victories, quality products, innovative engineering and a love of the bicycle – a love of cycling.

SSC, 1 issue 3 Time moves on and the days of the hand built wheel have all but gone. A new, almost brutal, technology has been fuelled by CAD programs, the demands of less weight coupled with greater strength and the eagerness of designers to push the boundaries using their imagination and new materials. Yet still the hand built wheel will not die. When adversity calls, many turn to a traditional wheel. One has to understand that the bike is a sum of parts. Each component must work in harmony. If a part fails to do this, unreasonable demands may be made on others. Did Hincapie’s choice of wheel in the 2006 Paris Roubaix make unreasonable demands on other parts of his bike? A wheel  may well be stiff and strong but is that enough?

Campagnolo, 1 Issue 8, 23 and 24 That afternoon changed everything for me. I found myself collecting catalogues and posters scrounged from local bike shops. The more I read, the more obsessed I got. Holdsworth’s Bike Riders’ Aids and its pages of European cycling exotica was my bible. It had beautiful photos and sketches of Campagnolo components with weights, prices and brief résumés for each product. I used to pore over those pages for hours, committing almost every word to memory, and writing out imaginary build lists with Campagnolo, Cinelli and Clement. Today when you receive any modern bicycle part it is accompanied (or should be) with a heap of warranty information, disclaimers and a comprehensive instruction manual written in several languages, labelled with repeated warnings about excessive torque, use with non-associated parts and danger of injury – or even death – if you choose to ignore the manufacturer’s recommendations. In 1982, all you got was a simple picture of a rear derailleur sitting underneath a set of sprockets with sparse text explaining how the travel adjustment screws should be set – nothing more, nothing less. It was not the mech itself but this greaseproof paper instruction sheet that set me thinking. There was no question about the emotional gratification of finally getting my hands on my very first bit of Super Record gear, but that shiny instruction sheet that lay flattened out in front of me had been carefully folded by someone and placed in the box, prompting me to think about how that iconic component part ended up sitting on the dining room table. Up until then, a product was simply a product – lovely as it may be – but the moment I opened that box I began to consider that there might be more to owning it than simply ownership itself.

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