Wednesday, February 11, 2009

the carbon fibre bidon cage effect

The weight of a bicycle is perhaps the most widely understood measure of "quality". The first thing anybody ever does when they see a racing bike is lift it up to gauge its weight. Even if they know nothing else about bicycles, they will know that a light bike is expensive and desirable. Now that bikes are often in the 6 or 7 kilogram range it is becoming increasingly difficult to save weight. A new frame weighs less than 1 kg, a gruppo around 2, a set of lightweight wheels less than 1.5 kgs... add bars, stem, saddle, tyres and pedals that have all been shaved to within an inch of their warranty periods and there aren't many places left to save weight. Bar tape is pretty light stuff. Enter the humble bidon cage (water bottle cage for the uninitiated)...

Special thing 1 about the bidon cage (henceforth referred to as a BC) is that it doesn't do very much. It holds bidons. That's it. It doesn't make the bike go any faster, stop any faster, shift gears any smoother, stick better to a bumpy road or corner in the wet. It just holds bidons. Special thing 2 about BCs is that good quality steel or aluminium cages will set you back less than $40 for a pair and they will hold onto full bidons even on the cobbles. Between them they might weigh about 85 grams.

Have a look around at your local "Café Racer" and you won't see too many steel cages. You might naively think that's because if you spend $200 on a pair of carbon fibre Campagnolo Record BCs you can save a massive 40 grams on the weight of your bicycle! Indeed, for some this may well be the clinching factor. After you've replaced all your steel bolts with titanium ones to save a total of 20 grams on your bike, nothing remains apart from the BCs.

You'd be wrong. This is where special thing 3 about BCs comes into play... they are visible and have logos on them. An anonymous steel BC on a carbon fibre bike is just not on! It looks silly, a bit like putting a sheepskin car seat cover in your Lamboughini. Of course carbon fiber doesn't hold bidons any better than steel – irrelevant for the Beach Rd. crew since there are no cobbles between St. Kilda's cafés and Oliver's Hill ;-) enjoy your Campy Record carbon cage... maybe save to upgrade it to an "11 speed Super Record cage". Just don't pretend you have it to offset the weight of the dribble of water left at the bottom of your bottle or I shall choke on my Gatorade!

Monday, February 9, 2009

significant figures

07/02 - 09/02/2009
108+ lives lost*
20 patients in Alfred Hospital burns unit (10 are listed as critical)
750+ homes lost
330,000 hectares burnt
15 Red Cross relief centres
48 degrees C max. temp. in suburban Melbourne
31 fires continue to burn...

It seems so absurd that people battle to save their homes with buckets in the face of a fire-storm rocketing up a hillside. A garden hose? It must of course be absolutely devastating to lose a home. But would there have been so many deaths had people surrendered their houses? Was it worth it?

Telling for me were the words of a woman interviewed last night... she had a fire plan in place. Her intention was to stay and defend her home. But in the face of the inferno that appeared on the horizon she rapidly changed her mind and fled. How can it be worth the risk?

As unpopular as I might be for saying so, what fire plan is worth a life? If a plan is anything other than "leave as soon as there is a risk of being trapped and burnt" no amount of property damage is worthy of concern. Its not a battle for ideals, or human rights. Its not a struggle in the face of oppression. Its not even a sport or a challenge. Its an inferno. Its hard enough to fight with tankers and aerial water-bombardment. Set your sprinklers going, fill your gutters, hang wet blankets on the windows... and then get the hell out of there.

Of course I can't understand. I'm a suburban resident watching it on the news. The smoke haze is changing the colour of the sky but no flames are visible from here. Its easy for me to say "its not worth it".... Well its not. Its plainly not worth it.

* over 200 lives lost as of 23/02 and still counting...