Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Feral Houses

I enjoy listening to Matt Frei's Americana shows on the BBC's iPlayer and this week he has a great interview with photographer and blogger James Griffioen, who has documented the decay of Detroit. His big point is that in amongst all this decay is beauty and hope. Nature is taking over and people are adapting by running renegade urban farming operations, a sort of bizarre future sustainablity model for the USA coming out of the home of the motor car.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

PS Mancave

It's no secret that I admire Paul Smith on many counts, least of which is his studio cum mancave. This minature model of said mancave was made for him by some architects who vistited Paul Smith's studio as a thank you for him giving them a suit. The mad thing is that the way they managed to wangle the free suit was by saying they were too thin to fit into a normal suit. Having tried on a few Paul Smith suits I can affirm that they are not cut for cyclist's thighs (perhaps Rasmussen) so that must have been one thin architect... a product of spending too long making models in the night? Whatever the end product is very cute!,564,PBL.html

Sunday, June 27, 2010


It's not often the defining image from a bike race is a satellite rainfall chart, but that was about right for this morning's Hong Kong National Road Race. Guess where our race was on this chart? Yep, right under the yellow blob. 40mm rainfall in one hour is the same as South Africa gets in a month! Thanks to Jonny for the image, pinched from his facebook album. Not the best race for me on many counts, but that's what you get for not training enough and watching too much football. Full report to follow on The definite highlight was the story about the Junior who went into a metre deep puddle and didn't come out.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Great Road Climbs of The Southern Alpes

It's raining cats and dogs outside, so much so that this morning's National TT Champs was cancelled. I'm a big fan of the great road climbs of the Pyrenees, and with the Tour about to kick off I'd rather be riding the Alpes than Hong Kong right now. Noted future bookcase addition.

Friday, June 25, 2010


A new web favorite for me is oobject, full of great lists like this series on aircraft factories.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ryugyong Hotel

I thought I'd commemorate the North Korean's getting humped 7-0 by the Portugese with a quick post on the ultimate unfinished building- the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang. I guess this is a pretty well known building, but perhaps what is less known is it's similarity with this.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What [Road] Wheels?

OK, this one's been building for a while - it's something I get asked quite often and it's something I've spent a lot of time researching over the years. I'll start this off with a few pre-qualifications and philosophies on the subject:

1./ I've built about a dozen bike wheels over the past 15 years and while I wouldn't describe myself as a master wheel builder I have a basic understanding of wheels.
2./ I've owned 'lots' of wheels and ridden even more but I don't work for bikeradar so it's not like I've ridden everything. A lot of my info is gleaned off reviews, forums and old fashioned talking with people.
3./ I'm an 80kg guy who likes a sprint. I appreciate lateral stiffness and reliability over weight as the only barometer of quality. I think with this comes a degree of reliability.
4./ I like tubulars and hate clinchers. I'd rather ride a cheap tubular wheel with nice tubs than an expensive clincher wheel. This gives me some bias, but I shall try to include clincher options in my lower price bracket recommendations. If you're reading this and you're thinking about buying a set of clincher Lightweights then you're mad. You might as well put remoulds on your Ferrari.
5./ There is no such thing as the 'ultimate wheel'. There is only the ultimate collection of wheels. 
6./ Taste in wheels is like taste in music. It splits opinion and you may have different taste but it's usually worth listening to the first few bars.

Just like music, there are lots of good wheels out there, which makes it hard to sift through and work out what is a good option- this is one of the reasons I get asked for recommendations. Light, strong, cheap- pick two tends to run pretty true with wheels and as such I will break my recommendations down into price brackets. What I'm trying to do is pick out the wheels that I think are their best in class based on their cost. If your wheels aren't on that list that doesn't mean they're bad, just that I think there might be better options out there. An example of this is the Mavic Kysrium. A hugely popular wheel with lots of people who think they're great- I've even got a cheaper set (that I'll sell) myself. But what I would say is that the bearings aren't that good, they're not aero in tests, the spokes can have a tendency to snap, it's hard to get hold of replacements and they're overpriced for the weight / quality ratio. But yes, there are lots of happy people out there on them- they're not bad wheels as such, but they won't feature in the below. So, without further ado here are my thoughts:

$ (<£150)
This is possibly the easiest price bracket in which to make a recommendation but the hardest to execute. In short, I'd say avoid the cheaper machine built wheels like the Askium and head straight for a hand built from fleabay. Crucially you're looking for something in good condition with 32 spokes (2 or 3 cross), brass nipples and some hubs compatible with your groupset. You're unlikely to get Dura-Ace or Record at this price but a nice set of 105 / Ultegra or Chorus  should be possible. As an example some years ago I got a superb Chorus / Mavic hand built rear wheel for £30. Ambrosio and some older Hope hubs may also crop up at this level and are great finds if they come with the right rim. Speaking of which, the benchmark standard is the Mavic Open Pro. A clincher rim, and the one everyone's heard of, which means it attracts attention from bidders, but not a bad choice. Ambrosio rims have a bit of a cult following among tubular fans due to their ubiquitous use in Paris Roubaix by the pros, but you may be lucky. If you land a lesser known Mavic / Ambrosio, perhaps a DT or an old Campagnolo rim you've probably done well. You now have a great set of wheels that are strong, easily serviceable, nice and comfortable to ride, suitable for poor road surfaces and if you went tubular are quite raceable.

$$ (£150-300)
For the reasons stated above handbuilts are still a great option but you can forego the risks of used and buy new. For example you can pick up a new set of Ambrosio Zenith hubs with Mavic Reflex rims for around £170 on eBay, or spend a little more and the classic combination of Ambrosio Nemesis on Dura-Ace / Record hubs should be achievable for around £300 from Maestro. Of course, I prefer the older Campagnolo hubs so I'd probably still search eBay for a good used pair but the options are there and life is a little easier.

What is less easy is finding a decent wheel builder, especially when you're in Hong Kong. Recommended UK builders who can talk you through what'll suit your needs include Wheelcraft in Glasgow, WheelsmithPaul Hewitt. In the US ridemagnetic and Svelte make good noises on the internet, while I'm sure Competitive Cyclist build a nice pair. Getting these guys to post to the other side of the world can be harder, and possibly expensive, so the better pre-built sets do have to be considered at this price point. 

I'll stick my neck out here and say that in the pre-built market go for Campagnolo, Easton or Fulcrum. If it's clinchers you're after Campagnolo offer the proven Scirocco, Easton offer the EA50 & EA70, while Fulcrum offer the good value Racing 5. If you're lucky you may also find a Racing 3 for that sort of money. All are good choices. If you want tubulars you're limited to Easton's EA70X, of which I own a pair- they're bombproof!* I bemoan the death of the Campagnolo Nucleon tubular, that was probably the nicest alloy rimmed wheel I've ever owned. Still, life moves on.

A compromise selection is the traditionally built but commercially available Hope Hoops. Hope hubs have legendary build quality in the mtb world and they've teamed up with DT and Mavic to produce what seems like a great hand built selection but with the convenience of buying a pre-built on-line. They don't seem to have caught on in the road market as well as in the mtb world but I'm quite sure of the quality. Note to Hope- please offer a tubular option!

$$$ (£300-500)
This is an interesting price point. If you believe what you read in the mainstream cycling press, you're still in aluminium clincher territory. Heck, you're still a fair way off the top of end of most company's range. I would argue you're not going to see much of a performance improvement over wheels in the $$ category with this approach. 50g here, 100g there. Pick of the pre-built bunch is probably the Campagnolo Neutron or the Easton EA90 range* but for me at this point you have to start thinking race wheels and tubular. 

Wheelsmith offer a Gigantex carbon tubular rim built on Novatec hubs for sub £500, which seems a real steal given you're getting the sort of performance usually associated with wheels twice the price. Planet X offer a similar 50mm rim  for similar money but I'd be more comfortable going with Wheelsmith as the builder.

On the second hand market wheels that usually sit a category or two above this start to become viable and given most people tend to save their carbon tubbies for race day if you're patient on eBay near new used options can crop up. I've had two sets of Corima carbon wheels for this money, both of which have been great. The first (Winiums) were a little flexy for me but for the money an absolute steal for a 1200g wheel. The second is my Corima Aeros that were again a real bargain and are a bit more my style in terms of stiffness and strength with a minor weight penalty over the Winiums, but still way faster wheels than the any new factory built wheel at this price point.

If you insist on the ultimate training wheels I'd think about what you can do in the hand built selection further. Things like Mavic Ceramic rims start to open up as options and hubs can start to include DT Swiss, Goldtec, Chris King and even Royce for the ultimate in durability. I'm curious to see how tubeless technology develops at this price point. Rumours are abound that Stans are coming into the market which could be interesting. For now, while the Dura-Ace seems like a good option for Shimano users I'd be put off by the tyre selection available.

$$$$ (£500-£1000)
At this price point the carbon tubular starts to become a bit more mainstream though Mavic will still try and sell you a Ksyrium. Off the peg I'd say Hope look to offer the best reliable pre-built package at £950 with a hub you can trust on what I assume is a Gigantex rim. You might be lucky and get a deal on an Easton carbon tubbie also which would be a great buy for sure (edit: no it wouldn't*), once you've got your head around the idea of the law of diminishing returns... However, I'd still argue that you'd get better value from a custom builder who knows what they're doing with carbon rims. For example, Wheelsmith offer a Royce hub set on a Gigantex 50mm for £650 with lots more options on hubs and spokes etc. available.

Beyond this, I'm interested to see what Industry Nine come up with and how that maps out in the coming years. They've been on the mtb scene for a while now and offer a great hub with a unique spoke system that also happens to look great so if they can get it together I see no reason why they can't offer something really different at this price point.

In case you're reading this and you're still thinking well, I'd rather buy a Mavic pre-built, just read this.

$$$$$ (£1000+)
If you're thinking of spending this much on a pair of bike wheels any rational person would declare you insane but what you do get is the pick of whatever the various marketing, I mean R&D departments can come up with. If you're after a TT specific wheelset you might want to go for a Corima 4 spoke up front with a disc out back, which offers comparative 'value' and stiffness for such a fast wheelset. I'd avoid Zipps on the basis that I've heard too many stories about the rims cracking, but if you can afford to replace them I have to say I've been impressed when I've borrowed some (well I should be). Campagnolo's Hyperon and Bora wheels are some of the nicest wheels out there, while Easton offer some degree of value at this price point, especially if you buy from the US (edit- don't do it*). Also growing in the popular stakes in the States are the Edge rims, that if you paired with a good hub would create a very nice wheel I'm sure.

However, for me, if you're crazy enough to be spending this much at all, you might as well just go the whole hog and drop it all on a pair of Lightweights. They're amazingly light (sub 1kg), strong enough that you can tow a truck with each spoke, and so stiff that the few guys I know rich enough to own a pair (or two) just don't stop going on about them. I can't afford a pair but if I could (and I could hide the receipt from the missus) I would. For me they are in a class of their own and the closest thing to the 'ultimate wheel'. Saying that, if you owned a pair and you rode them all the time you would be certified insane. Combine these with a TT disc and a nice set of handbuilts and you do have the ultimate wheel collection.

*stop press- Easton wheels are shyte... My experiences do also seem to be further backed up by tales from peleton:- The freehub on Colin R's rear EA90 also creaked within 6 months, while his front failed to clear the forks when a spoke popped- he was lucky not to be thrown over the bars. The web also seems to back up the poor freehubs. Sorry if you bought Eastons off the back of the above...


I guess it wouldn't be a blog written by an Architect in Hong Kong if I didn't post a picture of some bamboo scaffold once in a while. This sh*t never ceases to amaze me.

Not sure about the font

But a sign for your man cave is a good idea. Etsy is well worth a browse also by the way.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cape Collinson

View Hong Kong bikesandbuildings in a larger map

My new favorite place to ride is Cape Collinson road out the back of Chai Wan on Hong Kong Island, also known as the D's by SIR Cycling for some reason. It's an out and back road that feeds past some graves towards a youth detention centre. Crucially, it's a quiet single track lane with no buses, it has great views over the surrounding coast and it's a steep enough to make you work however lazy you're feeling just to get up the gradient, but it's not ridiculous if you're still trying to clear a hangover (who, me?). Afterwards I can also head down to Shek-O to hang out on benchs with old men and stock up on Pocari whilst contemplating how dreadful the England football team is. Who says you have to get up at the crack of dawn to train on Hong Kong Island?


The Germans do have that knack of making the industrial look rather beautiful. Einzelganging also just sounds so much better than single speeding don't you think? Loving those white walled Continentals.

Head Badge

I got a sneak peak of the new retro inspired Colossi head badge during my factory visit last month, but here it is in all it's digital glory.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Seperated at Birth

The Dalian Shell Museum and the Bell Meteor II. Buildings just shouldn't look like bike helmets or vice versa in my opinion.

Flying Lotus

Check the video- mad artist / musician skills.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Clever Trevor

Driving on the left, driving on the left, hang on, no, I'm driving on the right! Clever Trevor.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Another day, another report from Scotland- here's my friend Grant (left) on his way to a commendable 13th place in the Scottish National Road Race. Sounds like a top 10 is beckoning Mr. G.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Glasweigen Man Cave

I got sent this man cave through from my friend Jamie in Glasgow, author of He made the bench himself to which I say 'a chapeau'. I still think it could be improved upon (a bottle of whiskey here, some hazard tape there) but all things considered nice work Jambo!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Luma Shop: Bling it On

So today I paid a visit to 178 Queens Rd Central to see the new Luma shop.

It must have the best location of any bike shop in Hong Kong, being about a 10 minute walk from Central.

The window gives a glimpse of what's inside. Bling's the word, with Louis's trademark frame scribbles taking pride of place.

Inside the bling continues with back lit brick walls and model lycra louts. TT speed machines are a plenty with most stuff prototypes not available to buy (what do you mean it's a shop?). 

Everything is presented very nicely and I guess you have to take the place as a showroom rather than a 'bike shop'- they're not going to fix your puncture, but if you want something unique creating, be that bike clothing or components, he's a great man to speak to.

A great example of what he can do is this hipster dream machine- think laquered squiggles around steel lugs, with custom deep sections and rough finish carbon track bars that require no bar grips.

I'm not sure Hong Kong will quite 'get' this shop but it certainly shows Luma is going from strength to strength and they're ready to move up a gear. Expect big things from these guys.


8H - The 8-House from BIG on Vimeo.

Talks like an Architect, dresses like a magician, works somewhere in-between the two. Doing very well in this profession for a guy who's only 36.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Think they're playing this in South Africa?

Seemed an appropriate posting given the World Cup starts today, Watch the video here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tweed Run

Tweed- perfect for 30 degree heat with 95% humidity. Watch the video here.

Danish Pavilion

After posting about the wonders of the North Korean Pavilion and also the British Pavilion, I thought my cyber coverage of the Shanghai Expo wouldn't be complete without the Danish Pavilion by Copenhagen 'next big thing' practice BIG. This is a bikes and buildings building in the truest sense- you can hire a bike and cycle around inside. Hey, you even get super aero disc wheels! Let's hope all the cross wind ventilation analysis is in order and no one nicks the bikes. Right, no need to go to Shanghai now.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Wings

There's a lot of things to love about 'The Wings' Bike Shop, best of all how it's not called 'Wings Bike Shop', which would make sense, but 'The Wings', as if it was a Noughties rock band (The Killers, The Rapture etc.). A great commentary from Mr. Waffles & Steel below:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

North Korean Pavillion

This is absolutely brilliant- an American with a good sense of humour's take on the North Korean Pavillion in Shanghai. This made me chuickle after a very long and slightly manic weekend.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Buildings Bookcase

In Praise of Shadows Exhibition at V&A London 2009 on Vimeo.

I just got round to adding a little Amazon 'Buildings Bookcase' to my ever growing sidebar. This was quite a fun exercise in picking out 10 books loosely based on Architecture with a capital 'A' and stuff that's a bit more fuzzy around the edges. One of the books that came to mind very quickly was 'In Praise of Shadows' by the rather wonderfully named Jun'ichirĊ Tanizaki. 

I was recommended to read this by a tutor many years ago and it's one of those books that once you read it you just don't forget. It's very short, very subtle and very well written. It harks back to a simpler way of life in Japan, when paper screens and candles ruled the roost, before Western culture invaded and they went all neon. What's interesting is this book was written in the 70's and now the tables are turning. This may be a wild generalisation but the West seems to be going all Eco (see above interview on a London lighting exhibition named after this book) while the East just cannot get enough technology. 

I don't usually touch on work on this blog but it's funny that I spent the morning touching up photoshop renders to tone them down a bit from what comes back from our Chinese rendering company, to make them better suit my eyes (to use a bit of Chinghlish) but at the same time I could be short selling us out of a sale with a Chinese client who generally can't get enough bling. As the saying goes you can't see light without shadows. Whatever, the book is recommended to all, not just Architects wearing funny glasses.

Spartacus the Motor Bike

Quite an amusing article in the Times about electric motor 'doping'. I'm surprised a big name media brand has picked up on this, as I'd have put it more in the murky world of internet forums. Must explain why the Murdoch ownded Team Sky didn't win any of the Classics then i guess. Thanks to Tom for the link.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Good name for a company doing very nice resin floors. I can hear the HK property developer asking now "what, no tiles?"