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If you are approaching cycling in a conventional fashion, there are generally 5 places where you touch a bicycle whilst riding it. Two feet on pedals, two hands on the handle bar and of course your derriere (which s randonneur speak for bottom) on the seat. Needless to say, these are all important places for the proper control of the bicycle, and as you’ll be getting personal with all these parts of your bicycle, it’s worth paying attention to them all with regard to your ongoing comfort and support.

Pedals, need to be sturdy enough to bare 1/2 your weight (each), rotate freely and provide a solid platform. ‘Serious’ cyclists use clipless pedals so as to eek out every watt of performance from each cycle stroke, and my experience with this style of pedal really focused my mind on posture, cadence and efficiency. So much so that the restricted feel of the pedals pretty much consumed my experience of cycling down to these elements. Perhaps I didn’t use clipless long enough to really get used to them and forget they were there. Who knows! The impression they left on me was that they certainly improve performance, but I felt they took something away from the pleasure of cycling. Some parts of touring, and most parts of racing leave the fluffy enjoyment bit at home, and concentrate on pure efficiency. In these uncompromising circumstances they have their place, but most commuting, touring and transport around town should be done with a smile and at a comfortable pace. Perhaps in these circumstances, you just don’t need them. When I began my search for pedals, I looked for something simple.

As with all bicycle components, there are literally hundreds of options for pedals. As they all serve the same basic function I wasn’t after anything too fancy or flash, but my preference was for those that looked light, durable, cheap and not too ugly. What I came up with was the Wellgo M142 sealed bearing pedals.

The specs are:

Body: Aluminium 6061 Extruded, CNC machined
Spindle: Cr-Mo CNC machined
Bearing: DU / Sealed
Size: 100* 60 * 24.5 [mm]
Weight: 236 g/pr

After a couple of rides they seem pretty good, and well worth their price. Before installing them I wondered if they would be big enough, and they are – just. My size 44 feet are comfortable enough when wearing firm soled shoes, but I need to take care with softer soles to place my feet suitably. Once my feet are in place, the extra grippy platform does not let my foot slide around. They seem well constructed, nicely designed and have been silky smooth.

Having said all the above, perhaps they could be a little wider, and they won’t suit someone who doesn’t do footwear. What they are is a light, study, smooth and handsome commuter pedal, that can be obtained for a good price.

My only caveat here would be that if you have a big hoof – these may not be wide enough for you. I’m 185cm and have a biggish foot and they are just big enough.

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The Bicycle Thieves was made in 1948 and is a classic of Italian cinema.

It is set in a post war Italy where work, food and simple conveniences are hard to gain, and harder to keep. The plot revolves around a man and his search for a stolen bicycle and draws you into his hopeless struggle to retain, and make something of his slim chances of providing for his family.

Essentially the movie isn’t about bicycles, but is worth watching anyway, it is that good! The acting from these unschooled actors would put many current, fame engorged actors to shame with the power they bring to the simple and direct dialogue and plot. The important place cycling had in the Italian culture is strongly evident from the scenes that show the everyday cycling culture around the action of the movie. More broadly speaking, the portrayal of everyday life in Italy seems very authentic and so the movie also provides a window into a lost world of suits, fortune tellers, markets, whore houses and homes.

The Bicycle Thieves has been broadly critically acclaimed and very much worth the time and effort to track down and watch. It’s a little melancholy but those were dark, grim times for Italy, made even more grim by bloody bicycle thieves.

Quicksilver is a movie about cycle couriers made in 1986 and stars a young Kevin Bacon and Laurence “Larry” Fishburn.

First thing you notice about this movie is that it has similar DNA to other classics from the period, like dirty dancing and footloose. You may be surprised to know that all 3 of these movies involve dancing.  The dancing scene in Quicksilver involves a bicycle and easily tops them all for romance and must be seen.The next thing you notice is that movie editing has come along way in the last 20 years.

The best parts of the movie, as you might imagine, involve bike chases, and essentially the rest of the film only really works to explain and build your excitement for the next cycling action scene.

One excellent scene worth noting is one which involves the main character transforming as he walks down the street. He starts off as a stockbroker and starts shedding clothing, as it was happening I wondered if the main character was going to keep devolving all the way to a teenwolf character which would have been interesting, but sensibly for the rest of the plot he ends up in in 80’s chic.

Another important scene involves a cycling trick session where the cycle couriers suddenly turn into russian circus performers and start pulling off crazy shit. This scene ends brilliantly with the owner of the courier business, who is wearing one of those natty little racing caps, calling everyone inside with a happy chuckle. It’s a quintessential 80’s moment.

There are lots of fun ingredients in this movie, but nothing of any substance, which is good because it would be probably too hard to swallow give everything else. It’s light, it’s fluffy and a perfect antidote for being stuck inside on a rainy afternoon instead of being out in the sunshine cycling. If you’re a fan of Raleigh cycles there is some bike porn here too – I won’t spoil it for you by naming the models.

If you like bikes, this movie is fun – it’s available on itunes.

21 Nights in July
The Physics and Metaphysics of Cycling
Dr. Ianto Ware

The Author

Ianto Ware claims to be a doctor, and for mine, doctors fix broken people. So with this is mind, what claim does the author have that relates to the book? Well… he cured my cycling literature virginity and cured my complete disinterest and ignorance of the Tour de France. I’ve been riding for a few years but hadn’t ever felt drawn to the tour, however since being ‘treated’ by Ianto, I’ve felt more of an appreciation for it. So while I wouldn’t say I was broken – I feel much better now. Thank you Doctor Ware.

book Ianto Ware 21 Nights in July

The book, 21 Nights in July

the Book

The book is broken up into stages of the 2008 Tour de France and the musings of the author during that time. It’s stimulating, funny and a witty sideways glance at the event and its personalities. Additionally and in parallel, it’s a very personal and philosophical consideration of many issues facing cyclists and Ianto draws on the history of cycling and various ‘ologies’ to bring together a modern cyc-ology of a sort. I found it to be a pretty compelling read and Ianto, true to his background, retains the ‘zine’ feel without losing it’s way into fathomless introspection. It’s introspective, but this adds style and personality to the work, rather than becoming simply navel gazing.

Who’d like it?

Well I liked it alot, and would recommend it to anyone who I thought could read, and had more than a passing interest in bicycles. It’s not a light hearted or flippant book, but It’s not a serious and massive tome either. Some of it’s beauty is that is is broken up into short chapters that don’t follow a strong linear narrative, so you can simply pick it up from time to time and take a bite when you’re peckish – I read it all in one sitting. It probably wouldn’t suit someone after an historical reference guide to the tour, but they’d certainly appreciate the strong reference to the cultural event – apparently it’s more that simply a sporting occasion.

Books aren’t for everyone, but even if you’ve got short attention span this book is worth your time, even if it is only available in 17 minute intervals.

You can purchase the book here for $12

The Bianchi Pista is a compromised track racer, a feisty, but broken thoroughbred. Tamed for fixie fascination and single speed simplicity it’s now road ready.

Bianchi Pista Specification:

FRAME: Bianchi Cr-Mo (steel) butted
FORK: Bianchi Cr-Mo, 1″
HEADSET: VP-A34C, 1″
CRANKSET: FSA Tempo, 48T
CHAIN: KMC Z50
CASSETTE: Shimano SS-7600 fixed, 16T
BRAKES: Reparto Corse, front & rear
WHEELS: Maddux Track F15
TYRES: Hutchinson Nitro 700 x 23
STEM: Bianchi alloy
HANDLEBAR: Premetec 4002R Steel, Chrome
BAR TAPE / GRIPS: Velo VLT-004
SEATPOST: Bianchi alloy
SADDLE: Charge Bucket
PEDALS: Wellgo

Before getting on the bike you notice it’s good looks. The one I rode (pictured) was the standard chrome pista. The chrome finish isn’t really for me, but having said that, it suits the bike’s Italian origins. While being showy, Bianchi have the racing pedigree to back up all that flash. I think the light green¬†Pista Via Condotti is probably the prettiest of the variations on this theme.

Reclining Bicycle

Lifting the bike you notice that this is a traditional double butted steel frame. It’s not the lightest bike of its type but the supple feel of the bike more than makes up for the weight once you are on the bike. The feel through the handlebars is agile and intuitive, without being quick. The responsiveness is a product of its short wheel base, track geometry and engineered tubing profiles throughout. It’s not a bike you need to man-handle – you can really place it neatly and it responds well to changes in weight distribution. everything you’d expect from the bikes’ DNA. It’s not a fast handling or twitchy bike, it tracks well in a straight line and also responds to steering input – a nice balance.

Bicycle Photo

3/4 view

I found the 48 by 16 chain wheel and sprocket set-up to be pretty good once I’d been upwind and down wind on the bike, hills were a challenge, but this is a single speed and so no surprises there.

One of the compromises for the purists is that the bike has front and back brakes as original equipment. I found these to be good with plenty of feel without being amazing. Given the price tag perhaps you could expect more from them.

I am not a regular drop bar rider but found these to be pretty good on the bike. This is probably as much due to having the bike set-up well as it is a great design of drop bar. My guess is that track drop bars are all mostly similar. The bars suit the traditional style of the bike and I got comfortable with them quickly – probably enough said.

The pedals are a real disappointment and I think they are one of the only negatives of the bike. They are c-grade pedals on an a-grade bike.

Bicycle Photo

Stock Hindquarters

Overall, the package feels right with a nice mix of agility and a solid, supple feel on the road. If you want something that will probably hold its value, and potentially provide many miles of smiles, then this is worth the price tag. To some degree you are paying for the pedigree and cache of the bianchi name, but, the bike feels great to ride, and that’s what it is all about.