Saturday, May 29, 2010

Retro Campagnolo

Credit due to Mr Smiff for sending me through a link to a rather nice looking Eddy Merckx on fleabay. Seeing the close ups of the pristine 8 speed Record groupset does make me think Campagnolo kind of lost their way a bit with all the carbon stuff- those old chainsets actually look much nicer. And don't even get me started on skeleton brakes and the 'new' quick releases...

Geotagger's World Atlas

This such an incredible idea - it maps the places where people take photos in our cities, making these mad maps that look more like medical scans than cities. This one's Hong Kong (can you spot the star ferry?!?) but check out the series.

No wonder nothing is made in Italy any more

Boo hiss Eurosport & Italian technology. I want to watch the pain and suffering on the Gavia pass in today's Giro d'Italia but there's no live coverage due to them not being able to transmit any video footage! So here's a picture of the offending low reception mountain.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Edward Burtynsky

Another great find from the Art Fair was Edward Burtynsky. Aside from having a great name this guy does amazing photographs of industrial landscapes like this. It's not a bike or a building but ships are kind of a combination of the spirit of a bike and a building when you think about it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bird Cage

The definite highlight of tonight's Hong Kong Art Fair was this gigantic model of KPF''s Shanghai Finance Centre, complete with live birds inside. How much we ask.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chi Ma What?

Bit of a catch up post from last Sunday's Action Asia mtb race around Chi Ma Wan. The good news was that former HKMBA chairman Bob (pictured with Afgan beard above) was back visiting from Afganistan for the week so it was great to catch up, the beers in the China Bear waiting for the ferry back to Central being a particular highlight.

The bad was that I seem to have lost my mojo for racing mountain bikes. I always seem to finish the same position in these races (between 6th and 8th) and Sunday I was 7th. I won my age category (welcome to the 30's) with plenty of room to spare but somehow I'm still so far off really competing in these races and it takes so much effort to keep the mtb technical skills going that I'm not sure how many more Action Asia races I'll do. I enjoy the social aspect but when the winner puts 20 minutes into you in 2 hours, but you can beat him on the road it makes you wonder what you're doing! We'll see. Bob's photos up here and some more action photos here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One Island East

I'm a bit busier than usual (note lack of blog posts) but the new office is quite nice. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I'm a big fan of Tarkovsky's 'Stalker', but having learned some of the people who helped film this masterpiece got cancer as a result of going in 'The Zone' I'm in no hurry to visit. So a video game seems an excellent option- this screen shot makes it look pretty cool. Great article:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sky Shots

Some excellent Team Sky photos from the Giro on facebook at the minute. Cyclingnews please take note.!/album.php?aid=177145&id=194104484872

Pro Bike Pron: Lothar Thom's Cinelli Laser

With all the cyclingnews Giro TT bike coverage, such as Wiggins's PinarelloMillar's Felt & Pinotti's Scott, I thought I'd do an alternative post on one of the most beautiful TT bikes ever dreamed up- the Cinelli Laser. This was built in 1984, yes, 1984 for East German track sprinter Lothar Thoms, who must have been a pretty big guy looking at this frame. 

The stand out features of this frame are the integrated headset, top tube and stem in-line with the top tube, which is very much an in vogue thing to do in 2010 for TT bikes, such as Pinotti's Scott. Also, de-rigeur is the solid outer chainring and the smoothed off tube junctions. The difference is this frame was all done in steel rather than carbon fibre and the integrated headset was done with a quill stem because Aheadsets hadn't been invented! Check out the below section through the head tube, courtesy of Gilco Design.

So, what I don't get is if they had all these aero features figured out in 1984, why the hell does the bike have bullhorn bars? Oh yes, that's because no one had invented tri bars yet!!! It'd be very interesting to see how this bike stacked up in a wind tunnel against the modern day wonders, and I suspect it'd do quite well with the right set of handlebars. But when one considers that 75% of rider drag is position orientated (according to this study) I'll bet the bullhorn bar choice would negate all these minor gains from smooth tubing shapes etc. making for an aero bike that was a bit like designing the fastest Ducatti the world has ever seen then putting some chopper handlebars on as your finishing touch. Evidently a bike far far ahead of it's time, and a really interesting anomaly when one considers how unadvanced rider positioning was back then. But these anomalies are what makes things interesting from a historical perspective. What is evidently timeless is the beauty of the details and the sheer craftsmanship involved. Italian bike design at it's best. Key images and info sourced from:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Where Did The Hills Go?

Not the most scenic day in the Kong. This is kind of the view from my new office window. Funny not to see the hills behind- pollution or fog?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Top Step

Did a points race in Macau on Sunday where I scored the top step with a little help from my Colossi team mates. Frustratingly I lost the final sprint which turned out to be the most important, but such is life- if 60kph isn't quick enough to shake someone off your wheel then there's not much you can do to stop them coming around you. Note slightly surreal casino background environment. Race report up on:-

Pompidou Two

Interesting that the Louvre and Guggenheim foundations chose Abu Dhabi for new outposts. The Pompidou chose, hmmm, Metz.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Corten Japan

Just another nice Japanese house. Why don't we ever see stuff like this in Hong Kong?!?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Colossi Factory Visit

A fantastic visit to the colossi factory in Shenzhen yesterday. I loved seeing all the machinery- including an Italian hydaulic jig that looked like it must have weighed a good few tonnes, and watching the whole process at work. I felt a bit like a kid in a sweetshop picking up bits of chainstay here, a lug there. Watch this space for some follow up to that visit...

Click below for the full gallery:-

Colossi Factory Visit 7th May 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

Outside the Box

It's been a while since I read a blog that really made me laugh and this photo most certainly did that. Waffle and Steel's coverage of the Shanghai Bike Show is also excellent.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

KL Twin Towers vs. Taipei 101

Before moving to Asia I recall acknowledging the battle for the world’s tallest building between these two Asian emerging powers in a kind of re-enactment of New York back in the day when the Empire State nudged out the Chrysler for top honours (image from here). 

In this 21st Century equivalent scenario it was Taipei 101 that emerged as ‘The Empire State’, taking over from KL’s Twin Towers the brief accolade as world’s tallest building, until the completion of the Burj Khalifa earlier this year. We’re now in a position where these buildings make an interesting comparison as reflections of their respective country’s socio-economic prospects and aspirations, especially since it now doesn’t really matter if you’re the 2nd, 3rd or 4th tallest- 1st is the only number that matters in that battle. So, leaving the issue of who is tallest aside for a moment, and seeing as I’ve visited both buildings within brief timescales I thought they’d make an interesting subject for comparison.


Both buildings are visible from miles around and stand head and shoulders above anything else out there. They emerge from the skyline in the unlikeliest of places and dominate as you enter both cities from the airport. I’ll leave judgment of their respective forms for later but in terms of impression on sky line you’d have to call it a dead heat.

Tourist Attraction

101 is quite a remarkable tourist experience. There are queues for the lift that even at 11am on a Monday morning lasted 20 minutes. And what a lift is- the world’s fastest, taking you up half a kilometer in 30 seconds! When you get up there the views are spectacular and the sense of height is quite remarkable. Living in Hong Kong I’m used to being 30 or 40 stories up and height doesn’t bother me so much, but being on the 92nd floor is the highest I’ve even been and whatever you think of the building, it is amazing to be up there. 

What is perhaps equally remarkable is that they have marketed everything, from the stabilizing damper (Damper Baby) to the Jade ornaments on sale and the ubiquitous gift shop junk.

I’d like to say I had the equivalent experience in KL, but didn’t get there early enough to make the ticket give away (you need to be there before 8am and well, I was on holiday).

Besides, they only take you up to the sky bridge on the 40th floor, so we agreed that a much better option was evening cocktails on the 33rd floor of a nearby hotel overlooking the Twin Towers. A tough call given the circumstances but I think 101 has to get the nod in this respect.

Contribution to City

View Tapei in a larger map

It is here that the two buildings suddenly become world’s apart. Taipei 101 stands as an isolated monolith with no connection to it’s surrounding area. It is what it is, but in terms of contribution to city I couldn’t see what it offered beyond another expensive mall. If I lived in Taipei I can’t see myself spending much time mixing it in the mall with the coach loads of mainland tourist who visit.

KL’s Twin Towers on the other hand really surprised me in terms of what they offered. Yes, there is another expensive mall- which is the Asian way, but there was a complete change in terms of clientele and ground floor experience. Locals and tourists alike seemed to love the place, soaking up the shopping and, most importantly, the relationship to KLCC park. There were nice coffee shops where you could stop, watch the world go by and enjoy this little bit of calm green oasis. 

View Kuala Lumpur in a larger map

The area seemed to have been masterplanned coherently around the towers and this was obviously their new modern civic hub, with the shops, offices, hotels, restaurants and a concert hall linked to the tower’s base. If there’s a criticism it is that it would have been nice if the very formal axial relationship between park and city, via tower base led to something more coherent than the busy highways surrounding. But, this is Kuala Lumpur and to achieve what they have done must be considered a success.


Of course, things like cityscape and contribution to city define a building’s architectural success in a much more fundamental way than any stylistic niceties, that ultimately come down to personal preference. I think it’s established that KL wins already on the count of it actually working as a nice bit of city. But hey, I’ve got opinions too, so why not go for it! 

As I say, before coming to Asia, I’d watched these buildings go up from afar and dismissed them both as cynical Americanised interpretations of Eastern culture that were pure kitsch, and not serious Architecture (with a capital ‘A’) per se. Taipei 101 lived up to this expectation- it’s a horrid and obvious take on the stacked temple with ornamentation of the ugliest form that gets even worse as you get up close. The cladding is cheap and the building looks old already. It’s everything nasty about modern day China- throwaway culture and built to fall apart.

KL’s Twin Towers had never captured my imagination either. I never felt so strongly against them but I certainly thought they looked rather ornamental and not in keeping with the dictum ‘a building should be what it wants to be’. Actually seeing it within it’s context of Kuala Lumpur I have to say I reconsider. The plan is generated off two squares, one rotated 45 degrees, with arcs built around a radius off these square’s intersections. It’s a very Islamic formal move that references in quite a subtle way the surrounding mosques and the end result is actually quite a nice modern interpretation of this historical architecture. 

I wasn’t expecting to like them, but I thought these towers were very contextual and considered. They’re obviously modern, and sure, they’re a bit kitsch, but it’s in a likeable way. Furthermore, the cladding is of a remarkable standard for SE Asia and it still looks good. The gleaming stainless steel (a la Cheung Kong Centre in Hong Kong) is a bit of a Cesar Pelli trademark and it’s something that really comes to life when you see it in the flesh. Again it comes down to the Architecture forming part of the contribution to city- these towers gleam and reflect from miles around. There is a sense locals are proud, and they look to these towers as a sign of a prosperous future. I went to KL with no expectations, but I came back pleasantly surprised.

Gratuitous KL photos below:

KL 10

Fraser's Hill Down > Up

Tuesday was much more pleasant at just the 80km riding down and then back up the usual climb way up Fraser’s Hill (reservoir at base pictured). This meant not so much time spent in scorching sun as I was a bit worried I'd come a bit too close to heat exhaustion yesterday and the body may not react well to more of the same. So, a nice normal ride followed by a very chilled afternoon lounging around the Smokehouse seemed a more civilised way to spend my little holiday. 

Alongside books on Scottish castles I've also been reading the Mark Beaumont ‘around the world’ book. I have the greatest respect for him for what he did, and what he talks about with the mental side being the hardest aspect I can completely relate to. I've done long distances solo before and even toured solo, but somehow I'd forgotten a bit what it is like. It's hard- you question yourself, your motivation in a way you don't need to when you're in a group or you're racing. ‘A chapeau’ as they say in France.

Finally, I know I've blogged about the Smokehouse before but it really is amazing- they have pictures on the wall of places like Borrowdale and Norfolk, which is the stylistic cue, but it's staffed by mainly Muslim Malays and of course the local vehicle of choice is a Proton not a Ford.

I still think their Tea & Scones followed by Beef Wellington is hard to beat after a long day's riding, especially when the sunset is like this. I only wish the flat lands of Malaysia had a bit more to offer and a bit more opportunity for poor innocent Western cyclists to stay cool beyond the petrol stations…