Chikashi Miyamoto

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

Di2 Shift Mode Selection Problem

img_0019

My new rig has the bar-end junction box A (EW-RS910), which enables the front end to appear much cleaner than using the external junction box. However, the button on the RS910 needs to be depressed firmly in order to invoke any function. Given the location of the button, this is entirely sensible lest accidental activation occur, but it probably makes the RS910 unsuitable for those with delicate, slow or delicate AND slow fingers.

The way to select the desired shift mode from amongst Manual, S1 and S2 settings is simple enough: double-click on the button. However, I was not able to change my selection.

Because I was double-clicking too slowly.

It’s admittedly rather daft, but I suppose that I was more focussed on depressing the button firmly and less about the speed with which I double-clicked. Multi-tasking is clearly not my forté.

However, once I was told that I need to double-click as you would a computer mouse, that is, quickly, I realised my problem: slow finger.

Firmly and quickly. It’s hard. 🙂

Advertisements

Di2 and iOS 11

img_0017

You might have experienced difficulties when accessing your Di2 features by Bluetooth using the E-Tube Project app on your iPhone or iPad that is running iOS 11. (OK, that was a mouthful…) The 2 bits of negative user feedback left on the App Store are about not being able to establish connection after updating iOS to version 11. I initially encountered the identical problem with my new bike and had a minor panic because the only alternative is to use the E-Tube software for Windows PC. Since I don’t have a Windows PC, it is not a viable alternative for me. After a day of agony, I figured out that it is caused by a very minor problem that takes less than 10 seconds to solve.

It appears that when iOS 11 is installed, the user needs to give the device explicit permission for it to be “discoverable” by other Bluetooth devices. In other words, you need to change the Bluetooth setting on the phone or tablet to allow this. Merely turning on the Bluetooth transmission is not sufficient. Otherwise, your device remains invisible to the EW-WU111 unit on the bike, and connection cannot be established.

The only caveat is that if you are concerned about security risks that may arise from your device being “discoverable”, there does not seem to be an option to revert to the original, cloaked setting, so the only way to protect your device against such risks is to switch off the Bluetooth transmission when you don’t need it.

Podium Girls, Where Are You?

Vuelta a España is nearly upon us, having previously been reported by El Mundo that podium girls will be replaced by men and women in tasteful attire.

“Tasteful attire”, whatever that means. I don’t know why that’s even a point worth mentioning given that these people are meant to stand next to some guy in garish Lycra and, when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, a baseball cap. But I digress…

There has been quite a lot of discussion in the last couple of years about podium girls / hostesses. These discussions have led to the Tour of Down Under doing away with them altogether, and more recently, to Vuelta’s reported decision.

Many have referred to these discussions as debates. I don’t see them as debates because there is one key interested party that appears to have been absent from the discussions: the podium girls themselves.

Many of those active in those discussions seem to be concerned about the social, moral and psychological welfare of the podium girls. They appear to be advocating on behalf of them.

Are they?

I am not acquainted with a podium girl, but I get the impression that at least some of them take pride in what they do.

Some first-person narratives from the singular constituent at the centre is required, I think.

Does Mrs Sturgeon Know What She Wants?

It’s one thing to know what one doesn’t want, but it can be a wee bit harder to know what one wants. The Scottish National Party do not want Scotland to remain part of Britain. They sound like they know what they want because they go on about wanting independence.

Mrs Sturgeon has been getting plenty of air time and column inches in the months following the Brexit referendum. She has had many opportunities to go beyond a few buzz words and explain what her plan actually is for Scotland if secession from Britain is accomplished. I don’t get the sense that she knows where she’s going once she’s out that door.

Even before the Brexit referendum, Mrs Sturgeon had articulated SNP’s desire to leave the UK and join the EU as a member state. I have always struggled with this concept of leaving a small union only to join a much larger union and have even less influence. (It’s tempting to use some fish metaphors here, but I will resist.) What is the point?

After the Brexit referendum, the case for wanting to join the EU acquired the heretofore lacking context. A lucky retrofit.

Still, there is deafening silence amongst SNP members on how Scotland would survive as a sovereign nation and become a member state of the European Union. It seems to me that they simply assume that Scotland will ascend to EU membership almost without delay after leaving the UK.

I do not understand why that would be the case.

The EU has a giant fiscal debacle called Greece. Greece is the reigning champ in terms of national deficit as a proportion of GDP. Greece makes Spain in second place look healthy.

Scotland makes Greece look like a booming economy.

It is politically and economically untenable for the EU to allow Scotland to become a member state unless and until Scotland sorts out her finances. Does Mrs Sturgeon have a realistic plan to accomplish this?

SNP supporters often refer to the Scottish oil reserve. It’s a funny thing to say repeatedly. If I were them, I would try not to mention it at all lest I cause awkwardness or even embarrassment.

The estimated cost of oil production in the North Sea, where the Scottish reserve is located, is $44 a barrel. It’s very high. It wouldn’t matter as long as the market price of crude is flying high. However, I wonder if Mrs Sturgeon has seen the prevailing price.

Or, the fact that OPEC and Russia are bracing for a price war. In a price war, the price tends to go down, not up.

One does not need a team of quants at Goldman Sachs to see if Scotland can live off their oil reserve if the handouts from England end without the EU stepping in to fill the void.

It does not seem like Mrs Sturgeon knows what she and her supporters want.

Campagnolo Spoken Here, But I Will Need to Speak Shimano

THE enduring question in road cycling is “Campagnolo or Shimano?” More recently, I think it has evolved to “Campagnolo, Shimano or Sram?” It’s a partisan issue. Therefore, one cannot have a sensible debate.

It’s a bit like “completely shaved, landing strip / trimmed triangle or bottomless bush?” It’s not a debate to be won.

Ever since I saw a pair of Skyway’s Graphite Tuff Wheels with golden Campag hubs (with something that sounded a bit voodoo: sealed bearings) almost 4 decades ago when I was racing BMX, I have been a card-carrying Campagnolo Party member. Life was very simple in this regard.

If I were to choose between Campagnolo and Shimano by relying solely on the left side of my brain, then I know that it would be Shimano almost every time. However, the right side wields considerable influence. It is probably fair to say that Shimano’s mechanical performance is superior to that of Campagnolo’s in almost every way. However, one aspect of Shimano that leaves me completely cold is the heavy-handed design, not so much the shortage of lore and myth associated with their name. In other words, aesthetics.

To be fair, Shimano’s design language is probably “on point”, judging from sports car designs coming out of Italy in recent years. Whilst I am tempted to think that Italian industrial design took a wrong turn, got lost in the wilderness and entered the dark ages, Campagnolo’s designs represent hope in my eyes. Who else can make a rear derailleur look sexy? The Super Record rear derailleur is nothing short of delicious.

However, I have concluded that my continued membership in the Party is untenable.

Over the years, Campagnolo have chosen to be selective with their product assortment after a few unsuccessful forays into mountain bike components and other diversification attempts. As a small company, their resources are comparatively limited, so the strategic decision to remain narrowly focussed may have been forced upon them if independence remained an over-riding priority.

One might not think that in a low-tech category like bicycles, such choices would matter. However, I have come to the conclusion that such strategic choices do matter.

We have seen a couple of developments in the world of road bike components. One is the electronic transmission, and another is the hydraulic disc brake. Both require proper R&D, which in turn requires money. One can make small, incremental progress over a longer period, or one can try to go from zero to sixty in a much shorter period, which requires a much more significant capital outlay within a shorter period of time if one is to be successful. And, even more money is required to keep ahead of the competitors.

If you are in the business of group sets, you need money to stay ahead, even relevant. It now seems abundantly evident that diversified, successful experience is a competitive advantage. Campagnolo have neither.

Campagnolo, once the leading innovator in the field, now seem rather quaint.

Putting aside people’s varying preferences in how an electronic drive train should function, I think it’s safe to say that, in the general sense, Shimano and Sram are way ahead of Campagnolo. Catching up, getting ahead and staying ahead of their larger rivals will require money.

And, Campag do not have the benefit of diverse experience that the others do. One can always buy experience by going on a hiring spree, but that costs money, again… Take for instance, Shimano’s new Dura-Ace Di2 group set coming out this year. The new rear derailleur design comes straight out of their MTB experience in designing a rear derailleur that tucks under the chain stay in order to make it less susceptible to damage in case of a crash. Also from their MTB experience is the new synchronised shifting feature that automatically avoids sub-optimal gear combinations. Clever stuff.

Sram’s Etap is a good example of what Americans call out-of-the-box thinking. The wireless shifting enabled them to take a leaf out of the paddle shifters used in motor sports and better sports cars. It is arguably a lot more intuitive mechanism than anything else that’s available in cycling today. Sure, you’ll need to unlearn some shifting habits, but that does not take anything away from the fact that it is a more intuitive system. If Steve Jobs designed the way bicycle drive trains works, then this would be it.

The good old bicycle isn’t so low tech any more. And Campagnolo are having to play catch-up.

One glaring setback suffered by Campagnolo is their utter lack of expertise and experience in disc brakes resulting from their absence in the mountain bike segment. Sram had a hiccup when they first introduced their hydraulic version for road bikes, but it was nothing more than a hiccup after having accumulated significant experience in the off-road segments. In contrast, Campagnolo had to resort to partnering with a third party to develop their first disc brake group set.

And, we’re still waiting.

In the meantime, Shimano’s hydraulic disc brakes have become the standard by which everyone else’s disc brakes are judged.

When Campagnolo finally come out with a disc brake group set, I do not want to be a guinea pig for Version 1.

I always thought that disc brakes on a road bike are ugly. However, my priorities completely changed one day a few years ago in the French Alps. Descending in biblical conditions, the limitations of rim brakes became rather frightfully obvious. Disc brakes still hurt my eyes, but I want them.

As Shimano have gained market share at the expense of other companies, most notably Campagnolo, it has become increasingly difficult to find bike shops that have the experience and stocked with spare parts and specialist tools to service Campagnolo parts. I usually don’t go abroad with my bike more than twice a year, but whenever I do, I worry about not being able to get help in a timely and expert manner if I need it. Essentially, Campagnolo (and Sram) are exotics in today’s world. It’s hard enough to find a shop that knows how to deal with Campagnolo’s little peculiarities; forget about finding someone in the middle of nowhere who knows how to deal with EPS problems.

It feels more unnatural than painful, but my conclusion is that I need to learn to speak Shimano.

The Histrionic Chamois Cream

butt-sniffing-train-web

The Peloton. Image via K-9 Solutions Dog Training

The quintessential cycling ointment is available from a variety of brands. They all have their proprietary blend of ingredients, usually including those that have something to do with smell.

Some are there to prevent or inhibit bad odor by preventing bacteria from flourishing in your nether regions.

Some are there to neutralise the odor arising from all the perspiration and heat.

Some are there to mask the odor.

The last one is generally called “fragrance” and can be either natural or synthetic.

A discreet concoction or a screamer.

Pleasant or repulsive.

Preference for fragrance is a very personal thing, and whatever blend they use in the cream, what people end up smelling is a unique cocktail of the ingredients and the wearer’s own chemicals. Let’s call this the Mix. The Mix is inherently a difficult one.

A screamer amplifies the risk of the Mix ending up on the wrong side of that preference.

When you’re the only one out on the road, all this fuss about smell is pointless either way. The problem is that the Mix does not hit the olfactory nerves of the wearer but only of those that are behind him or her.

Sometimes, someone in front is using some cheap perfume, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, layering of some or all of the above. However, even if you are not familiar with every single chamois cream on the market, you can tell that what you are smelling is a chamois cream, particularly if the Mix is a screamer.

Whether you like the smell or not becomes a secondary concern when you realise that, regardless of your olfactory preferences, you are smelling someone’s butt.

It could be a rather pleasant thought.

But rarely.

Therefore, the question is, to sniff or to be sniffed.

Tea. Bicycle. An Unexpected Confluence. 

I enjoy tea. I am not an expert; I simply like the stuff. Not the ‘herbal’ varieties, but the Camellia sinensis varieties. Because coffee is so fashionable amongst cyclists of various stripes, I had not expected that the world of tea would overlap with the world of cycling, at least not in my sphere. Happily, it did, seemingly out of nowhere. 

I tend not to ‘talk shop’ with social contacts until I have developed some level of familiarity with that person. I cringe when I read or hear chatter about cycling being the new golf, for professional networking and advancement. I prefer to cycle with those that turn up because they want to go for a ride in the company of others, not for any motives unrelated to cycling, health or amusement. As such, I do not ask about someone’s trade until I feel I have become sufficiently familiar with that person. Of course, by that time, I tend to have picked up the information through normal chit chat within the group so I end up not needing to ask him or her what it might be.

Sometimes, such incidental discoveries take time. There’s a chap that rides regularly with a group that I occasionally join. He’s one of the group’s core members. I’ve been riding with them for a couple of years, but I only learned about his trade earlier this year. It so happens that he is a tea importer, with a family firm that got started in the 19th century.  

When you think of cycling, you think of coffee, not tea. Sometimes I get consumed by the most trivial discoveries in life.

There are tea importers and tea importers, and I didn’t know which one he is.

When spring was about to give way to summer, I was running low on tea supply at home. It was the time of year when spring harvest should be trickling into market. It seemed like a good time to suss him out.

Tea is a lot like wine in many ways. Climate and topography influence the flavour. Weather has a tremendous impact on the quality of the crop; the output varies from year to year. Each harvest, even with ideal weather, will have a range of quality. The crop must be picked and categorised with expert care. It must be steamed, fermented or both, to the right degree, not too little and not too much. The degree of care exercised by the producers depends partly on how discerning the market is.

There has been a steady decline in quality amongst many regions, even at renowned estates. If the weather does not co-operate, we don’t get good products no matter how good the producers are. However, there has clearly been some human contribution over the years. For example, it’s been quite a few years since the first flush from Darjeeling tasted like it should.

Surging demand from emerging markets brings buyers willing to pay any price for something, without understanding or caring about quality, because it’s ‘the thing to have’. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve seen that in wine, French in particular. The same has happened with tea. Producers get top money for mediocre output. So, why make the effort? I am guessing that the worst news to hit the Cuban cigar market is the US lifting the embargo. 

On a Sunday jolly in June, when we stopped for a nature break, I casually mentioned to him that it seems to be more and more difficult to find good Darjeeling these days. If he specialised in herbal and ‘detox’ nonsense and flavoured teas, he wouldn’t have anything substantive to say in reaction to my moaning. But he did. Pleasantly surprised, I was. Talking tea, on a bike, in Belgium.

Later I tell him that I’m in need of some tea. How is this year’s Gyokuro? He tells me Yame had a good crop and that he has some. I was stunned that he had any Gyokuro on hand.

I tell him that I’m also in the market for some white tea from southern China, expecting him to say he has no such thing on hand. He says he has some Yin Zhen. I thought, ‘Wot? You have Yin Zhen? You’re joking…’

And, any decent Darjeeling first flush, either SFTGFOP or FTGFOP grade? He tells me that he has a really nice batch from Tumsong. Tumsong was not familiar to me, and my ignorance had me feeling a bit suspicious. And then he proceeds to tell me that it’s a real, old guard production, what you expect a first flush to be like, from a small estate. OK, you got my attention…

 

He gave me a sample packet of Tumsong, and back at home I found that he was spot on. Darjeeling first flush as you would expect. Except it’s hardly ever available these days. It reminds me a bit of Castleton and a bit of Namring Upper when they were still producing excellent first flush many years ago. Marvellous. In this day and age, it seems even majestic.

Come autumn, I’m curious about the summer harvest, so I asked him how the second flush from Darjeeling turned out. ‘Too much rain, not enough wind, low grade crop. But I can still give you some if you want.’ OK, no second flush this year then.

Does he still have a kilo of Tumsong first flush to spare? Yes, he does. Fabulous.

Tea, cycling. Still surprised by the happy confluence…

Serving notes:

Gyokuro: 10g for every 60ml of spring water, steeped at 60°C, for 2.5 minutes 

Yin Zhen: 5g for every 200ml of spring water, steeped at 80°C, for 2-4 minutes 

Darjeeling first flush: 3.5g for every 200ml of spring water, steeped at 95°C, for 3 minutes 

%d bloggers like this: