Europe: The Winds of Change

So, is this now the expected timeline?

  • The ‘troika’, led by German interests, forces Greece to accept a humiliating defeat and loss of sovereignty
  • EU democracy is shown to be a farce, there is a genuine threat to survival of European Project but it hangs on
  • Anti-EU faction in UK and elsewhere emboldened by Greek capitulation to unaccountable corporate greed, makes large gains
  • UK referendum produces a shock result to leave EU
  • UK leaves EU, shattering what was left of EU unity
  • EU implodes
  • War?

Is this the Europe that David Hasselhoff and The Scorpions promised us?

Road vs MTB bikes: How much faster?

People always ask “How much faster are road bikes compared to mountain bikes?”, well just having bought myself a new road bike (my first since my early 20s) and having logged dozens of times on local segments on Strava on my Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc (to the point where my times have pretty much plateaued), I’m in a pretty good position to find out.

I was working from home today so I looked at a little 30 minute segment-bashing run I could make at lunchtime. I checked a few times and positions on segments that I knew pretty well then went out. Zero preparation and, despite it being 25°C, not even a water bottle (I’ve no spare cage).

I didn’t go hell for leather but I did try to get some decent times.

Here are the not too scientific results:

Table of segment times

Click for larger version

For segments where I posted an improvement (ignoring the little sprint climb) I was between 11% and 14% faster. My average speed of about 24 kph was about 10-12% faster than similar short rides across the same territory as well.

Bear in mind I’d probably posted 10+ times within a 5% of my previous best on each of these segments so to blow them out of the water by a clear 10+% shows a significant, if expected, advantage for the skinny bike.

What did I notice on the road? Well, it was a lot easier to maintain speed up the gradients. The Hardrock is probably at least 17kg all-in (with bidon, tools, pump etc.) and currently has 2.2 Conti Mountain Kings fitted which are nice and grippy off-road but really just too draggy on smooth stuff. The noise they make is horrendous. The 58cm Genesis Volare 10 is reckoned to be about 10kg and as I was riding ‘naked’ (no bidon etc.) then it will be about that on the road so that must make a difference, as will the smooth-running Grand Sport Races at 90 and 100psi (f/r).

It really was refreshing not to feel all that weight dragging me back down the hill, my legs certainly appreciated it! I’m hoping this really shows on the longer, shallower climbs where I really was struggling to stay in touch with the top half of the segment times on the MTB.

To get a 35th placing out of 1,277 riders on a segment like that is something I couldn’t hope to have achieved on the Hardrock. And I know I could go faster. This stuff gets addictive!

Apart from Barracks Hill where my inexperience with the gearing and the STIs slowed me up it was all good and I expect to be able to stomp on that time at some point in the very near future.

So, there we have it; a road bike is at least 10% faster than a mountain bike :)

Edit: Screwed up the table, fixed version hopefully there now.

New bikes! N+1 in action.

Much as the trend is to rush out and buy a racket and tube of balls during Wimbledon, so I have convinced my lovely wife to go out and buy a new bike to replace/augment her slightly tatty £80 Gumtree special hybrid as Tour de France time hits again.

The inevitable Cycle To Work scheme justified pushing the budget a bit but there really aren’t many lady-specific options around and while I don’t consider single-sex frames absolutely essential, the arguments for women-specific geometry, particularly a shorter top tube, do make a lot of sense.

It turns out that Specialized are flogging off the last of their 2015 range at the moment and my LBS, a Spesh dealer, was able to supply a 2015 Dolce Sport for a not-too-unreasonable £640. It comes in a suitably ladylike colourway complete with a light smattering of carbon, a Sora drivetrain and a full complement of cages, bottles and even a wee saddle bag.

Specialized Dolce Sport

One for the Lady…

The chap who runs this shop is an arse and I’d sworn not to buy anything from him again, but I thought a fitting was pretty much essential and as the prices are manufacturer supported, i.e. everyone has them at the same price, there wasn’t much incentive to go elsewhere. Being sure of a decent fit was worth the gritted teeth resulting from 45 minutes of his arrogant patter.

Now, it certainly wouldn’t do to have my spouse zooming around on a slick new machine with me creaking along on my needing-a-bit-of-attention MTB so it seemed natural to insist that I too needed a road bike. Hang the bank balance!

Well, it is my birthday soon…

By complete and utter coincidence I had recently spotted on HUKD what, to my eyes, looked like pretty much the perfect bike. Amazing fortuity. And so it came to pass that today I ordered myself a 2015 Genesis Volare 10.

Genesis Volare 10 2015

…and one for me!

Steel?! In this day and age? Well, yes. Despite not having any personal experience of the ‘real world’ advantages/disadvantages of steel, alloy and carbon, having owned precisely one, one and zero examples of each respectively as an adult, there is something slightly contrarian about the steel Genesis bikes that I like. Especially their single-minded devotion to using them at the sharp end of professional cycling.

Genesis Volare Team

I *really* couldn’t afford this one.

OK, so it’s not constructed from super-expensive Reynolds 953 tubing as used in the Volare Team bikes but uses instead Genesis’ own ‘Mjölnir’ steel, likely an analogue of something from the lower-end of the Reynolds range, 520 perhaps.

As Reynolds themselves have this drawn in Taiwan nowadays and the published Mjölnir strength/stiffness are seemingly identical to the Reynolds figures, it may even be (whisper it) the same stuff. Genesis must be considered a good customer/advocate by Reynolds nowadays so it’s not a stretch to imagine a ODM/white label kind of deal.

Thor's Mjölnir

A Mjölnir, yesterday.

Anyway, frame aside it’s predominantly Tiagra-equipped so I don’t feel like too much of a cheapskate (and can conveniently look down on the missus’ Sora machine) and with a fashionably straight carbon fork/sparse spoke count so it doesn’t look like too much of a luddite’s ride. It was well reviewed at £1000 so man maths makes it look like a veritable bargain at a smidgeon less than half that (gots dat £5 voucher, yo).

I also think it’s a handsome beast, something that can’t always be said about Genesis and their occasionally, erm, challenging paint schemes. It seems they span the beautiful (the Team above and their stainless numbers are generally amazing) to the slightly odd (the 2014 Volare 10 was a mess) but most are classily understated and nothing is too mundane. I suppose that’s a good thing in this age of ubiquitous black/white swoopy carbon things with macho graphics and them deep, deep rims.

So now comes the wait. It’s like Christmas again!

I know I’ll come across as a bit of a Strava weenie here but I really am looking forward to seeing what my first proper road bike as a semi-fit adult means for my road segment times. I’ve been dragging the Hardrock around terrain that it is vastly unsuited for – great for improving fitness, not so great for judging just how fit you are – so there can’t fail to be a bit of an uptick in my speeds.

I can generally maintain a roughly median placing on most segments, but really found the longer segments and the bigger climbs a different story as I was barely in the 30th percentile on some of them. OK, probably unrealistic to expect too much from an old man on a heavy bike with knobbly tyres, but these things begin to get at you after a while, hence the chase for a new bike!

It also means I can keep the XC for where it is best suited; off road. About 2,500 road kilometres are starting to show themselves on it.

So hopefully it’ll be here this week in time for a run out to the Chiltern Cycling Festival this weekend. If not I’ll definitely have it for the RideLondon FreeCycle in early August, by which time I’m hoping I’ll have put at least a few hundred kms on it.

C’mon, TNT!

New car: Skoda Yeti Monte Carlo

The Mercedes C220 is off to pastures new and has a not-quite-straight replacement in a Skoda Yeti Monte Carlo. Not many of these about, especially in Brilliant Silver. I struggled to find pictures of one when I was looking, so; you’re welcome, Internet.


It’s one of the last with the 170PS engine (they’ve just swapped to a 150PS AdBlue-infected version – much slower) and has the four wheel drive that is soo important when driving to Tesco. Given how it goes and the appetite the chassis has, it’s a shame they don’t offer one with the 190PS version.

OK, there’s only so much you can do with a fundamentally awkward-looking thing like a Yeti, but I think it does cut a dash as far as these things go. Qashqai? Puh-leeze…


The press vibe is right about it too, this is a great wee car. Practical, nippy enough (with this engine at least), amazing gearshift, has already swallowed bike, kids etc. with aplomb, enough trinkets to keep you amused. Dare I say, genuinely a better car to drive than the Mercedes? Yes, yes I do.

Finally some decent sidewalls again too, which means I can again drive up kerbs without worrying about ruining the Mercedes’ absurdly low profile tyres.

Bad points?

Well, the ride is certainly a lot more comfortable than the Merc but it can still feel a bit unruffled over broken tarmac, but that probably says more about the sad state of Buckinghamshire’s roads than any lack of competence from the Czechs.

The odd bit of interior trim is a grade or two lower than you’d ever find in an Audi or VW, but it’s just cosmetic.

The ‘Bolero’ audio is distinctly better than the older VAG touchscreen kit in terms of looks (had it in a previous Touran), but despite having an obviously faster processor and rendering to go with its high resolution display, it seems to have an engineered-in fade/delay which means it takes a second or two do complete most operations like changing radio stations. The screen is responsive enough, it really does look like they’ve made it this way to re-enforce some feeling of “quality”.

Minor niggles though.

Really, what more car do you need?

Car dealers report card

Shopped around for a new car recently. Vast difference in how the various dealers stacked up though.

Lancaster Jaguar: Wideboy-type salesman, far too keen to talk competitors down and stretched truths about the XF to breaking point. Actually said there wouldn’t be a test drive until he was sure we’d be buying a car from him! Took details with promise of quotes, never heard from him again. Not offered any coffee. 0/10

Perrys Ford (two branches): No STs in stock at either branch, nobody seemed interested in talking. Left after 5 minutes each time. 1/10

Chipperfield Land Rover: Disinterested woman on reception barely glanced up when we entered. It was quiet but no-one came across to speak to us. Left after 5 minutes as Evoque really too small anyway. No coffee tried. 2/10

Amersham Audi: Slick sales patter, seemed to be too keen to get us in the car he wanted though and not what we were actually after. No call back as promised. Coffee not offered. 3/10

SMC Ford: Initial chat went well, went back in a few days later though and after a 20 minute wait despite an appointment being booked, discovered they’d gone off the boil as they couldn’t/wouldn’t match online deals. Most 1980s experience of the lot, very shiny suits. Water only. 4/10

Hughes Mercedes-Benz: Not really willing to do much of a deal despite us being a current customer. Sensed that all was not well in the dealership as they were a bit disorganised (not responding to calls/emails) but have been very good in the past. Coffee pretty dreadful, so no change there, but play room for kids is good. 4/10

Sytner BMW: Friendly, relaxed and well organised. Offered test drives, called back when they said they would etc. Will probably buy our other car from them in 2016. Coffee passable, kids liked the nibbles. 10/10

Hughes Skoda: Second visit after quick poke round the cars the week before, got down to straightforward chat about specs and availability with business manager who was happy to tweak and adjust prices. Left after 90 minutes having put down a deposit on a Yeti. The way it should be. Coffee not tried. 10/10

It’s no surprise that the dealers who a) didn’t follow-up with calls/emails, or b) made it clear there would be no decent deals, test drives etc. were never really in the running for selling us a car.

Sales people need to be prepared to actually engage and promote their goods to sell? Whodathunkit, eh?

Election night thoughts

There’s only so much vacuous speculative election bullshit a man can put up with so I’m off to bed with only a handful of seats declared.

Based on the exit polling and the initial results it really does look like a fucking terrible night for Labour, almost a Tory wet dream.

So it may well be another five years of Cameron et al. But as I retire I will take comfort from the following, which hopefully all look like transpiring:

  • Even the Labour seats won plus the 30-40 they look like losing in Scotland would still be nowhere near a majority. Would prove that Labour’s plan to denigrate Scottish voters’ wishes was absolutely the wrong one, and may just have handed power to the Tories.
  • Nigel Farage not winning in Thanet South, maybe even coming third.
  • Jim Murphy losing his seat.
  • George Galloway losing his seat.
  • Danny Alexander losing his seat.
  • Margaret Curran losing her seat.
  • Nick Clegg losing his seat.
  • Green vote share increasing.
  • Lib Dems on a hiding to nothing, haemorrhaging votes to Conservative, Labour and UKIP. Karma’s a bitch, eh?


Crossing the meme streams

Stellar piece of work from Greg Moodie, mixing the Clarkson fracas into the SLab canon.

Frame from Greg Moodie cartoon about Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson

A horrific alternate universe

To RT, or not to RT, that is the question – A Retweet Guide

You’re a new Twitter user. The whole thing is very confusing. You see a tweet you like. Should you retweet it?

Print off this handy flowchart and stick it next to your computer or glue it on to the back of your phone so you can always find out in an instant!To RT or not to RT


People are asking about a dress. Someone took this photo of a dress and posted it to Tumblr.

The Dress

A dress (blue)

Apparently many people are convinced it is white and gold.

A great debate ensued, many Buzzfeed articles were borne of it.

It is not white and gold, it is blue and black.

Blue dress on website

The Dress for sale (also blue)


The 9p Miracle

How much was your last toothbrush?

£4, but on a BOGOF?
£39.99, but half price at Boots so only £19.99?

It’s very easy to spend upwards of £2 on what is literally just a bit of plastic, and much more if you believe the hype. I’ve tried many over the years. Gum massagers, flexible necks, cross-cut bristles, all that shit.

I was suckered into the electrics for a while but realised they didn’t clean my teeth any better. Also, buying the specific heads was a PITA and locked you in to the pricey OEM parts, razor blade style.

My lovely wife does the non-technical procurement in this household though so I got used to whatever she bought, which tended to mean whatever is on offer at Tesco at the time. All branded stuff – Oral-B or Colgate – though, none of the cheap crap. Teeth are, like, important, yeah?

As dentists recommend I much prefer a soft brush, but it seems that all the common ones are “medium” with soft very thin on the ground. Some of the branded stuff stretches the definition of medium though, with extra long ‘penetrator’ bristles and the like.

I began to look more closely at the price of them when the kids got to an age where they were needing proper brushes. “How much?!” was pretty much my initial response, “Fuck that!” being the second.

I needed a new plan. A Brushtrategy for the 21st Century.

I was working in Aylesbury at the time when I was due for a new brush. I walked past a branch of Morrisons (ack!) each day on the way to work so I popped in there. No deals on, but I spied a pack of two plain white and distinctly ‘70s-looking brushes in a pack labelled ‘Medium-Soft’ so thought I’d take a punt.

The price? 18p

Yes, 9p a brush. Bargain.

Finding out that they brushed much better than the previous Colgate job I was chuffed to bits. At that price you could use a new one every week and still be quids in!


Some 9p miracles, yesterday

I’ve since switched to the Tesco equivalents as they come in different colours so me and the kids* can keep ours separate (important when you see how, erm…careless then can be with them). They are labelled ‘Medium’ but just as soft as the Morrisons’ ones.

Still only 18p a twin pack though. I suspect some cartel-like activity to fix the price of poverty-spec brushes…


Can’t get over it.

What a rush.

Do yourself a favour and try these bad boys. Spend the money saved on beer or smack or handbags or whatever. Martin Lewis? Take a hike, buddy!

*The missus remains a stooge for Big Dental though, the snob in her insisting that a £2 toothbrush much be at least 20x better than a 9p one so she refuses to switch. I laugh at her pathetic profligacy.