Monday, October 22, 2007

Infinity and Beyond!

Late Friday night I took the plunge and ordered a Nuvinci hub from the US. It offers the fascinating prospect of continuously variable transmission, rather than the stepped gear ratios on most bicycles. Not only does this offer experienced cyclists an optimum ratio for their pedaling power and the road steepness, but it should be much easier for new cyclists to pick up. (A couple of years ago I was out with a friend who hadn't ridden for a while, and they kept switching the wrong set of gears or in the wrong direction. Nothing like making things harder just when you need them to ease up to ruin your day.) The shifter comes with a cleverly designed indicator which is reported to be very intuitive.

At the moment you can only get these hubs on certain upmarket new bikes, or from two US distributors who don't seem to have established connections to NZ. Conveniently, QBP seems to have recently made their catalogue available for retailers to put on their websites and a couple have realised the opportunity in shipping internationally. The famous Sheldon Brown has it up on the Harris Cyclery site, but Alfred E. Bike seems to have tacked on a smaller margin (and cheaper indicative postal rates, which have yet to be confirmed for my order) and thus won my business. Once the hub arrives, I have arranged for it to be built into a wheel by Bruce at Adventure Cycles, then I can finally try it out.

Hopefully buying the hub contributes to them becoming more widely available. I'm sure that the price would drop if they were turned out in the millions. Maybe when my parents retire back to NZ (in a few years?) I'll be able to afford a couple of these on the basic old bikes I would hope to hook them up with. They ought to work well with electric motors, too, which would gladden my Mother's heart and extend my ambitions as to what I can carry on a bike.

For now we wait. The big question is: "How robust is it?" I'll be sure to post on how things turn out, but for now leave you one of the official promo videos:

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Professional 'Sport'

Minutes away from the first serious game for the All Blacks in this Rugby World Cup, I am seated in front of the television full of both tension and ambivalence. I will be watching the game, and in fact watched their first game, but each time I wonder whether I should be. Why? Because 30+ men turning up to work isn't sport, and I delude myself to think I share in their success.

Professionalism may have stopped the flow of players from union to league, but I reckon it will prove to undermine the All Blacks in the long term. They are no longer the normal men who prove to be different by the commitment and skill they demonstrate in their 'spare' time. Neither is there continuity between them and the schoolboys and team players; professionalism draws a vast distinction in terms of material rewards, life structure (fulltime training etc) and consequent quality of play. Young players may be lured by the 'big time', but will they identify with the All Blacks in the same way?

Will kiwis as a whole identify? [Not that my flatmate is showing any lack of identity as the French team have just beaten 'us'.] Do the grassroots players, particularly those past the change of going pro, identify with their playing companions who get paid for it?

I have further concerns about how hard we use the bodies of sportspeople. Similar questions have been raised elsewhere - can people be said to be exploited by actions they choose to engage in? How much do they realise the health issues they buy into? How much are they dehumanised and treated as cattle by the team management trying to maximise success? (Not to mention how much sportsmanship may be suppressed.)

So far, I haven't been able to stop watching.

For the record, it was a cracker of a game.