Just a fraction of a second after this photo of Julian Alaphilippe, newly crowned cycling World Champiion, was recorded, Primoz Roglic, the Slovenian rider in yellow on the left, crossed the finish line of the 2020 edition of Liege-Bastonne-Liege road race to claim the victory. Ultimately Alaphilippe would be relegated to 5th in the race having deviated from his sprinting line to check Marc Hirschi, the rider just to the right in the photo. While the question remains if Hirschi, perhaps the strongest sprinter of the five riders in the lead at the end, would have won if not checked by Alaphilippe, the victory for Roglic was sweet nonetheless, having lost the Tour de France only two weeks earlier to Tadej Pogacar, the other rider visible in the photo. I posted a blog entry some time ago with another example of hubris, so perhaps it’s a theme that resonates with me, but the examples of some of the best cyclists in the world celebrating before crossing the line–and losing–are legion, and often entertaining. In this case Alaphilippe did himself no favors, especially as he stole the hearts of cycling fans the week before when he won the World Championships with a characteristically daring solo breakaway, and at LBL he showed other sides of his personality by losing the race twice.
It is commonly known that the bicycle is one of the most efficient mechanisms for converting energy into motion. A bicycle uses about 10-20 times less energy to cover a kilometer than a car, and it consumes about 100-200 less energy to manufacture. It might not be 10-20 times more fun to ride a bike than drive a cool car, but it is fun. For me it’s also rewarding. I find the notion of propelling myself, using only my body and a simple mechanism, over distances up and down hills, making progress at my own pace.
I’ve had a lot of bicycles in my life – way more than the cars I’ve owned. Nearly all of them have been multi-geared bikes, starting off with 10-speed road bikes all the way to my current 20-speed bike (which at over ten years old is no longer “up to date” by any means.) Modern road bikes have wireless electric shifters, hydraulic disc brakes, and easily fall below the UCI weight limit of 6.8Kg.
But the last couple of years I’ve been riding my fixie. It’s a single speed bicycle with no freehub and no brakes. It’s the most simple a bicycle can be: frame, cranks and pedals, two gear cogs, chain and wheels, handlebars and a seat. But simple in structure and function doesn’t mean simple in design or composition. It is mostly made of carbon fiber, which is both strong and light. I have a couple of fixed gear bikes, but this one is a pure track bike, with tight frame, steep angles, and a very short rake for greater stability. It’s a bit slow out on the road, but immense fun!
This version of the fixie is all-carbon fiber. The tires are Continental GP5000. The bike weighs 14lbs – not super light, but a good weight.
I have been absent from my website/blog for a long time. I’m sorry!
The reason for my neglect is my activity on Facebook, and to a far lesser extent Instagram. Since beginning to collect precision spinning tops, and then make them, I have been active on the many Facebook groups that support the general interest in pocket tops and each maker of tops.
My Instagram posts are meant to archive every top and station I have made. It doesn’t go back to the beginning, so there are many missing, but it is current.
My Facebook group Spin In Style is the main portal to my work. There I post works in progress, finished tops and stations for sale, and I host a weekly live video every Friday afternoon.
I go out riding in the mornings, before work. I get on the road and trail about 7am. My route takes me along the edge of a golf course where there is a dual-use bike and pedestrian path. People also walk their dogs on it.
I often come up behind people running or walking, and I ring my bell to warn them of my approach. Yes, I have a bell on my handlebars, and I use it all the time. It is made of brass and has a very pleasant ring. And most of the time–nearly all of the time–nothing happens. By which I mean the runners or walkers have no reaction. There is no reaction BECAUSE THEY HAVE EAR BUDS IN THEIR EARS AND THEY CANNOT HEAR ME OR MY BELL. They are listening to music, or NPR, or a podcast I guess. They are not hearing anything from their surroundings. They do not hear the cars going to work, they do not hear the construction workers beginning their days, they do not hear the lawnmowers on the golf course. I get that those noises interfere with their enjoyment. But they also don’t hear the birds chirping their good morning songs, or the wind whistling through the trees. They don’t hear the squish of their feet on the path, or their breath as it enters their lungs.
When I go outdoors to exercise, I want to see and hear as much as I can. I am out there, IN the outdoors, and I want to experience it all. The last thing I want to do is to shut it out, or block it off, by plugging things in my ears and blasting music or listening to someone talking. When I am outside I want all my senses enjoying the outdoors.
It’s also safer to be able to hear your surroundings. When I am riding I can hear cars and trucks, and dogs, and other riders coming up behind me. I use those sounds to stay safe. I also use sounds, like my voice and my bell, to warn others of my presence, in order to keep them safe.
When the people I share my morning exercise outdoors with are plugged in and tuned out, I feel less safe, and worry about frightening these people into doing something stupid by surprising them as I pass them. I just wish they would unplug and enjoy the morning.
I’ve long been a fan of lap times on the Nurburgring Nordscheife. The fastest lap ever recorded was in 1983 by Stefan Bellof in a Porsche 956C at 6:11. That was in qualifying and stood for 35 years until now. In June, 2018 Porsche took their unleashed LMP1 race car, the Porsche 919 Evo, to the track with team hot shoe Timo Bernhard, and smashed the lap record. They didn’t just go under six minutes, they almost took one entire minute off Bellof’s record. The in-car video is incredible, looking more like a video game than a real driver in a real car on a real track taking real risks…
Setting out to break the electric vehicle (EV) record at Pikes Peak International Hillclimb of 8:57, Volkswagen brought Romain Dumas (3 time PP winner and Le Mans winner) to pilot the VW I. D. R Pikes Peak vehicle. Not an insane amount of power or torque, but a complete design with massive aero. Despite what Dumas claimed as difficult conditions in the middle section of the course, he not only smashed the EV record, but also set a new sub-8 minute overall record: 7:57! I saw the car in testing, and it surely moves faster than you can imagine, the impression helped by the whir and whine of the electric motors. It’s not silent, (which is good I think), but very different to the sound of any combustion engined car.
I defined a simple measure of top performance and called it the Zen Ratio. It is so named as it came out of conversations with Marc Osgood, the owner of the Zen Spin Works Facebook group, after he had created a top he called the 1:1 that spun in minutes its weight in grams. 17g for 17 minutes. A very beautiful top, and an impressive performance.
We could calculate the ratio of spin time in minutes to top weight in grams for any and every top. The calculation is quite simple: Z = t/m, where Z is Zen ratio, t is time in minutes, and m is mass or weight in grams.
I have done this for all the metal tops in my collection and the graph is shown below.
The highest Zen ratio I have heard about is for a tiny top weighing about 3g that spun for nearly 9 minutes for a Zen ratio of over 3.
As you can see from the graph, the relationship between the Zen ratio and weight is negative, i.e. lighter tops are more likely to have higher Zen ratios.
The obvious challenge is to make a heavy top with a Zen ratio over 1.0. The heaviest top I have with a Zen ratio greater than 1 is a tungsten and titanium top made by John Phillips of JP Momentum. I have heard of a Billetspin Infinity top (weighing about 30g) that spun for over 40 minutes, which is likely the record holder for heaviest top with a Zen ratio over 1.
You can read a little more about the Zen Ratio here.