Feeling unusually chill and content this week. Weird. Maybe it’s the advent of spring and some sunshine.
§ My favourite listen of the week was Dust to Dust: The NTS Guide to Ambient Americana which was repeated one morning (Easter Monday?): “Western-flavoured downtempo sounds. Lapsteels, anachronistic electronics, and deconstructed country ballads.” Lovely stuff.
§ A couple of months back I bought a Tacx Flow smart bike trainer which, after initial frustrations with it and my old bike and various apps, worked consistently and I decided I enjoyed this isolated indoor cycling as much as I’m likely to enjoy any very convenient cardio exercise.
I also decided that if I was going to carry on doing this then I’d eventually want to upgrade the trainer. The Tacx Flow involves the bike’s rear wheel turning a metal roller to gauge speed, and the metal roller providing some resistance to the wheel in order to simulate cycling uphill. It works fine but it’s fairly noisy, it doesn’t do the tyre much good, and there’s a little too much that requires adjustment over time, in order to keep the friction between tyre and roller consistent.
So, if I was going to carry on, and one day upgrade, I thought I might as well do it now. Browsing eBay and Facebook Marketplace there was, coincidentally, a second-hand Wahoo Kickr Core (which seemed like what I’d upgrade to) being sold by a guy in Hereford. Given no one wants to post these very heavy, very awkward devices, and the chances of another one appearing within a few miles of me being slim, I bought that. £300 is approaching half price but still feels expensive for a component of some exercise equipment, but still.
This kind of trainer involves removing the bike’s rear wheel and looping its chain around a set of gears attached to the trainer. No rear wheel, no finicky levels of friction, but direct interaction between pedals and the device providing resistance. There’s less to fall out of whack, and it’s much quieter: the only sound comes from the bike’s chain and gears while the trainer’s flywheel silently spins.
And but also I was finding my old bike annoying. It’s a bit like a classic car – lovely to look at but you have to enjoy the finicky nature of using it, which isn’t always the case. The gear shifters are – as they all once were – on the downtube rather than the handlebars, and aren’t indexed, so shifting up and down involved a bit too much clanking and swearing on hilly routes. If using it on an actual road it also added the hazard of having to remove your hands from the handlebars.
So I kept my eyes peeled for second-hand bikes, with the set of bikes big enough for me and not too far away being pretty small. My eye was taken with a Kinesis Racelight T2 about an hour’s drive away. I hadn’t heard of the brand before but the reviews from 2015 seemed positive and it looked more like my kind of bike than most of the other brightly-coloured, curvy-framed road bikes out there: classic straight tubes, mudguards and fixing points for a rear rack, and it’s black.
So, one drive and £250 later we managed to squeeze it into the Fiat Panda and I was coming home with a new-to-me bike. I took it for a service at a Local Bike Shop, with no major new parts required, and it was in good shape.
I’ve used the new trainer and bike a couple of times so far and it’s a luxurious improvement over the old set-up. Quiet and smooth, and changing gears doesn’t involve any swearing. It hasn’t been cheap but if it’s a way that I will actually do some cardio frequently, and even enjoy it – or, at least, not hate it – then it’s money well spent. Plus it’s cheaper than a Peloton and I now have a bike that I might one day take out on the non-virtual roads one day. We’ll see.
§ I’ve been trying to help Mary work out exactly what device she will need in order to connect her existing computing peripherals, and a couple of monitors, to a MacBook Air. The options are bewildering in variety and expense, and even with a spreadsheet to keep track of the options I am still struggling.
Yes, Apple creates beautiful, easy to use hardware, but only by offloading all the complex and ugly parts on to the manufacturers of hubs and docks that cost over £200, and absolving itself of responsibility for the research, decision-making, and expense their customers then have to go through.
And it’s apparently not officially possible to use two monitors with a modern MacBook?! Come on Tim Apple, get your act together.
§ This week I finished reading Arbitrary Stupid Goal, Tamara Shopsin’s 2017 memoir about her father, his friend Willy, and growing up at the family’s restaurant in Greenwich Village. It was good. Short pages nicely written about interesting people and places.
§ Good bye till next time.