Chikashi Miyamoto

philosopher by training, gentleman by accident, pervert by nature, glutton by choice

The Cockroach of Fashion

Jordache Basics

Stone-washed denim.

Just when I think it has disappeared for good (again), it comes back (again).

It simply won’t die.

Forget Brexit. Forget Trump. This is a serious matter.

Front Derailleur Alignment in a Flash

Aligning the front derailleur is a faff. But it does need some realignment every now and then. I used to avoid touching the front derailleur until it became embarrassingly obvious that it needs adjustment. Usually, it’s just the limit screws needing adjustment after riding lots of cobbles, or the cable tension needs to be increased a tad. The alignment usually remains unchanged unless the FD gets knocked by my right heel during a crash or a near-miss. However, I didn’t want to deal with the FD at all for fear of discovering that the alignment needs correcting.

Because it’s a faff.

And then, I discovered the Campagnolo front derailleur alignment tool.

It lets you get the alignment done in well under 10 seconds. Every time I use the tool, I think, Where were you all my life? So simple, so effective. For usage guidance, see pages 7-8 of this.

I have it from a reliable source that it also works with Shimano and Sram front derailleurs. (I wouldn’t know, would I?) Unlike most Campag tools, the price won’t make your bank manager nervous. Yet, it’s not very widely available for some odd reason.

Part number UT-FD120 or UT-FD020. If you don’t have it already, then get it. Less faffing = more riding.

A Perennial Challenge in Retail, Part 2

In the 1970s, a woman and her partner opened a Louis Vuitton Malletier franchise boutique in Munich and introduced the brand to Germany when LV was still owned and managed by the Vuitton family. Unsurprisingly, she still has several LV pieces from the 70s, one of which is a well-used Keepall bag.

Several years ago in the south of France, decades after her affiliation with LV had become a distant memory, she visited a Louis Vuitton boutique, owned and operated by LV, now a subsidiary of LVMH Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton, to have a repair job done on the Keepall.

After listening to her requirement, the LV sales associate took a quick glance at the bag and pronounced that it is fake.

Priceless.

Now, imagine if that sales associate told the same thing to someone who doesn’t really know the origin of the bag because it was a present from a thoughtful and generous person, or, so awkward to mention in this age of throwaway culture, it was handed down from a previous generation.

What can one say after receiving a divine revelation like that? My experience at Bottega Veneta in Paris was, I must say, a lot more subtle, if that’s the appropriate word.

With 1 1/2 times as many shops as Ikea, it’s no small undertaking for LV to train and manage all the front-of-house staff in all those retail locations. And, by training, I don’t mean just product knowledge but also conduct.

I know, it’s hard.

What bemuses me is the current trend (more like a mad rush) amongst product brands to have an army of ‘brand ambassadors’. They hand out products to these ‘ambassadors’ so that they can be seen in the wild and on social media using their products. The tactic itself has been used for ages, even before the advent of the Internet, but the practice of giving these people a formal designation is, I believe, a more recent phenomenon.

Some are famous people. Some are ordinary people.

With due respect to these people and without undermining the contribution that some are making in increasing awareness of the respective brands, none are ambassadors of the brand.

The real ambassadors, or rather, the people who should be the real ambassadors, are the brand’s members of staff, particularly those that come in direct contact with existing and potential end users and influence how they form a view about their relationship with the brand. That is not a revolutionary or innovative concept. Rather, it’s a very old one that has not lost one bit of its relevance.

However, it can be difficult to remember the important things when there is so much focus on gimmicks, buzz words, page views and likes.

Or, call me a dinosaur.

Break Rule #22 or You Are Not a Real Roadie

Most roadies know or at least heard of The Rules. The Keepers of the Cog wrote them with their tongues firmly in cheek. It is an entertaining read. It’s a cycling classic. The problem with these things is that they sometimes get the unimaginative and humourless ones all earnest about some or all of the Rules. The one that regularly comes up in a variety of channels, including those containing articles written by people paid to write them, is Rule #22.

I’m sure that some of those authors also have their tongues firmly in cheek when they mention it. However, I suspect that some are rather earnest. If things get repeated often enough, it’s bound to become gospel to the unenlightened.

Rule #22 states:

Cycling caps are for cycling.

Cycling caps can be worn under helmets, but never when not riding, no matter how hip you think you look. This will render one a douche, and should result in public berating or beating. The only time it is acceptable to wear a cycling cap is while directly engaged in cycling activities and while clad in cycling kit. This includes activities taking place prior to and immediately after the ride such as machine tuning and tire pumping.  Also included are cafe appearances for pre-ride espressi and post-ride pub appearances for body-refueling ales (provided said pub has sunny, outdoor patio – do not stray inside a pub wearing kit or risk being ceremoniously beaten by leather-clad biker chicks).   Under these conditions, having your cap skull-side tipped jauntily at a rakish angle is, one might say, de rigueur. All good things must be taken in measure, however, and as such it is critical that we let sanity and good taste prevail: as long as the first sip of the relevant caffeine or hop-based beverage is taken whilst beads of sweat, snow, or rain are still evident on one’s brow then it is legitimate for the cap to be worn. However, once all that remains in the cranial furrows is salt, it is then time to shower, throw on some suitable aprés-ride attire (a woollen Molteni Arcore training top circa ’73 comes to mind) and return to the bar, folded copy of pastel-coloured news publication in hand, ready for formal fluid replacement. It is also helpful if you are a Giant of the Road, as demonstrated here, rather than a giant douchebag.

In a normal world, I would read articles mentioning the above rule, be amused and move on. If some seem rather earnest, it is of no consequence.

However, we no longer live in a normal world.

Baseball caps are bloody everywhere.

They have infiltrated the pro-cycling circuit by being presented as ‘podium hats’. Bleedin’ blasphemy.

In any case, anyone who refers to caps as hats must be treated with the same suspicion as a man who wears his tie in a so-called full Windsor knot or a man who wears brown shoes with a navy suit. Not. To. Be. Trusted.

They make the 3 highest ranking cyclists of the moment look like under-nourished 18-wheeler drivers.

They are standing in front of global media channels, with their images beamed to all corners of the world.

Wearing baseball caps instead of cycling caps.

Nobody complains about all those people going about their business wearing baseball caps outside a baseball field. Some even wear a baseball cap with a lounge suit — if you have never seen such a specimen, go visit North America where there are plenty of them and other exotic species.

However, roadies are not supposed to wear cycling caps off the bike? And, what, wear baseball caps instead?

I don’t think so.

You’re not a real roadie if you are not habitually breaking Rule #22. You’re just a poseur.

I’m totally and utterly serious.

Curating a Wardrobe

What does that mean? (That is, assuming that it actually means something.)

 

Besting the Best Grease

Campagnolo’s grease has been regarded by many as the best bicycle grease for a rather long time. Its reputation is well deserved although actually getting hold of one has been a bit tricky at times. However, I think there’s been a paradigm shift.

I previously wrote about NixFrixShun’s chain lube. Excellent stuff. Josh at NFS has been busy cooking up new products, one of them being the Race Grease. I bought a pot of Race Grease last summer and so far used it to pack 4 hubs from 3 different eras and 2 different construction types.

They all spin like never before. Noticeably better than Campagnolo grease.

Like the Campag grease, the NFS Race Grease is made with lithium soap. However, it’s red instead of white, if that’s of any significance to you. (I actually prefer white simply because it is easier to tell the degree of contamination accumulated through use.) You can read more product details here, but the important bit is about the product over-delivering. Besting the best grease probably qualifies as over-delivering.

The Race Grease is the best out there, AND it’s easy to obtain. Josh has since introduced a free worldwide shipping policy with a $30 order. Get the Race Grease and one of the chain lubes, and just plug in “nfs30” at checkout for free shipping. Simple.

Don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.

A Nest for Your Fabergé Eggs

Despite many dedicated fans, there are many reasons to laugh at or about Assos.

The hideous, puerile graphics. I honestly don’t think there is such a thing as a cool cycling kit in the same way that there is no such thing as a cool golf kit. (The test being whether any sane, self-respecting non-practitioner would want to be spotted wearing any of the stuff in public. Cyclists and golfers are like fetishist groups that meet up at conventions dressed up as furry animals and romp amongst fellow fetishists whilst praising each other’s outfits, something others simply cannot appreciate.) However, there is no need to make matters worse with unrestrained use of ghastly designs: they are fine on comic-book superheros but not on mere mortals unless attending a fancy dress party.

The ridiculous, supremely geeky product names. Whatever they are smoking, it can’t be good.

The tag line ‘Sponsor Yourself’ that leaves you feeling cold and empty or thinking, in contemporary vernacular, WTF?

(Hopefully, the above will slowly change for the better after the new majority owner-manager has had a chance to implement bits of his strategy.)

When they launched in late 2013 the kuKuPenthouse, a new men’s bib shorts pad design with a ‘nest’ in the front for your lunch box, I laughed. I just had to. I know that I wasn’t alone.

img_4966

After wearing a pair of their T.Cento_S7 bib shorts with a kuKuPenthouse pad for long rides, including a 198km ride last weekend, I am no longer laughing.

The proprietary pad, which is made by CyTech exclusively for Assos, is simply amazing. Not only does the nest make a noticeable difference, the whole pad is better than anything else I’ve tried, including a range-topping off-the-peg pad from Elastic Interface (CyTech). Actually, everything about the Cento is outstanding, and the aesthetically criminal graphics are consigned to the rear of the bib, safely hidden from public view by one’s jersey. They are the most comfortable bib shorts I’ve ever worn. By a large margin.

By the way, when I was chatting with a shop floor staff at a London bike shop recently, he told me that Assos make their own pads. (Admittedly, it is possible that I completely misunderstood him since I was having a very difficult time understanding his heavy Scotch accent. It was in the morning, so I was still sober.) Assuming that I understood him correctly and if anyone else holds the same belief, his statement is incorrect. (I wasn’t going to argue with him since I wasn’t certain I did and would understand him.) CyTech was incorporated because Assos commissioned them to make synthetic chamois pads for Assos shorts many moons ago. The De Marchi family firm still supply Assos their pads. Regardless, the Scotsman got me thinking about Assos, and a couple of weeks later I picked up a pair locally. (Yes, the sale should have gone to him, but I’m not in London very frequently…)

If I were to pick nits, then it would be the silicone gripper bits on the hems. I am not sensitive to silicone, but some people are. Also, there are other gripper constructions that eliminate the need for little strips of silicone, so I think it’s a bit quaint to be still using those little strips. However, they don’t bother my skin, so it’s not an issue for me. Also, to be fair, plenty of other brands who claim technical and technological blah-di-blah use silicone strips on their so-called ‘most advanced’ bib shorts, so Assos are certainly not the only sinners.

The hem length is a matter of personal preference, so those who prefer longer hems may not find the Cento to their liking. For me, the length is almost exactly the way I like it.

Also, as Assos say, the fabric is of a more forgiving type, so those who prefer a high level of compression may find Cento to be a bit lacking. For me, the compression level is perfect, not too tight, not too forgiving.

Like I said, I’m not laughing any more. The Assos T.Cento_S7 bib shorts are, as Jane Austen once said, the dog’s bollocks.

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