Summer will come again will come again. It will! It will!

Photos by my pedalpal Helen Lane.

Andre Jute is a novelist and painter — and a cyclist — who lives in West Cork.


Your lifespan: Would you pay $1268 for an extra year of life?

andre_jute_seven_headsA cost-benefit analysis of new bike lanes in New York concludes that “over the lifetime of all people in NYC, bike lane construction produces additional costs of $2.79 and gain of 0.0022 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) per person.” Let’s see what that means in actual lifespan.

That comes to 0.803 quality-adjusted days or about 20 hours of extra life.

Since life is the ultimate benefit, 2.79USD for an additional 20 hours of a high quality life like mine or yours seems a bargain, annualizing to 1268USD for a year of extra life.

My physician and cardiologist have long been on this case, saying that cycling so regularly for the last quarter-century saved my life, and that continuing to cycle continues to contribute to the quality of my life.

it_s_the_economy__stupid_v2_cover_800ph_123kbOf course, if you were a sourpuss econometrist, you might argue that the hours spent on the bike to receive the benefit must be subtracted, and so inflate the annual cost by perhaps as much 10 per cent (if you spent around 2 hours a day on the bike). I wearily wave off such accounting hairsplitting: who wouldn’t pay even double the simple calculated base cost, $2536, for an extra year of life?

andre_jute_blueAndre Jute is a motivational psychologist and economist who spent his early career in advertising and is now a prizewinning, best-selling novelist. He is also the author of IT’S THE ECONOMY STUPID, a Rhodes Scholar Education in One Hour.

Downsides of the fascist compulsion urge shared by too many bicyclists

One Frank Krygowski wrote on the cycling newsgroup
> …a bigger problem is that Stevenage did nothing to actively
> discourage car use. By contrast, Dutch cities tend to make car parking
> rare and super-expensive, and they close direct routes to cars so car
> trips take longer than bike trips, etc. etc.
> It seems that as long as it’s easier to get into a car and turn the key,
> almost everyone will prefer to drive.

This is my reply:

Let’s forget for the moment that from close acquaintance we are unfortunately burdened with the sure knowledge that Frank Krygowski is a fascist asshole in each and every way imaginable, and on all observed occasions. For once read what Krygowski says carefully, don’t just dismiss it as “Oh, more Kreepy Krygo Krap, same-old, same-old”, because here Franki-boy is at last what he always wanted to be, a “spokesman for bicycles”.


If you close your eyes and you try hard to ignore Krygowski’s bullying breath on the back of your neck, you can hear those words coming from the mouths of so many cyclists, albeit more insidiously stated, it is almost a generic mantra.

It shouts, “Compulsion, compulsion, compulsion.” It raises its voice insistently, “I know what is best for you, and if you don’t do as I say, you will be forced to do as I say.” It grates, “You will conform to my worldview, or suffer the consequences.” All three of these are fundamental fascist attitudes.

It’s one reason people who could cycle if they wished to don’t want to, and instead drive their cars. Some of us believe that this offensive, self-assumed, unwarranted, fascist “superiority” of the “cycling cause”, as it is perceived, does more damage to the future of cycling than anything else.

Yes, I know, most cyclists don’t even notice because, in general, they’re environmentalists and other classes of those “liberals” whose intolerance of dissent, reason, debate and liberty are a sickening byword among intelligent people, and a huge part of the cycling community isn’t very bright, nor sensitive enough to observe how offensive their attitudes are to those with better manners and more tolerance. Instead they think motorists are out to get them. Paranoia comes with fascism, chaps.

It goes without saying that threats of compulsion won’t achieve the cycling nirvana. Persuasion and education was never even tried, and it is now too late to try them while the memory cone of the nastiness of Frank Krygowski and his like persists. It’ll be ten or fifteen years down the line—if no single cyclist spouts this nastiness in public during that time—before we get another chance. It takes that long to clear the air,

Today is a good day to start. Why am I not holding my breath?


Yes, I know, I’m speaking about a minority of abrasive cyclists. I appreciate the majority of cyclists who’re nice people. But I have news for you: you influence the perception of cyling among non-cyclists much, much less than the nasty minority. That’s just the way of the world.

Andre Jute is a writer and painter.
Andre also keeps a cycling page for his rare and wonderful bicycles.

The ghost of yesteryear’s bicycle


The ghost of yesteryear’s bicycle in Bandon, West Cork.

Andre Jute is a novelist, painter and cyclist.


The theory and practice of derailleur chain tensioners, vertical dropouts, horizontal dropouts, slotted frame ends and Rohloff OEM slider dropouts, with reference to power and braking torque resolution, and to suspended and unsuspended bicycles, with a critical path decision tree through the complications

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_chain_elongation_216pxhEvery drive chain wears over its service life. This wear is misnomered “stretch” because the visible effect is growth in the operating length of the chain. This increase must somehow be adjusted out in every bicycle transmission of whatever type. This article is about the technical ins and outs and aesthetics of “somehow”, to serious cyclists a matter of importance third only to sex and hydration.



On a derailleur-equipped bicycle, with more than one chainring and most likely many sprockets in the rear cluster, the chain tensioner, a spring-loaded arm, does what it says on the tin, adjusts the chain for wear (“stretch”), and it does it automatically. It is a well-understood, proven system, albeit crude in conception; it has the additional advantage of offering flex for the varying chainline between different sized front and rear cogs at different distances from the
centreline of the bike.

On a fixie, single-speed or internal hub bicycle there is a fixed, hopefully straight chainline because there is only one cogged ring on the bottom bracket axle and one cogged ring on the wheel axle, but chain wear over the chain’s service life must still be allowed for, and in this case too a chain tensioner is simple to design and execute with widely available components in a wide range of qualities and prices.

andre_jute_instructions_coca_cola_zero_bikes_cork_andre_jute_instructions_coca_cola_zero_bikes_cork_a_popular_service_stand_overview_800pxwHowever, with a fixie, a single-speed or an internal hub gearbox, there are several advantages over the derailleur system — which are lost by the installation of a spring tensioner. The advantages lost in what we generically call “single-speed bicycles” include the “clean appearance” of a simple chain between two cogs without appendages, easy adjustment and service, cleanliness, longer service life of the chain and all other transmission parts, a very long list. Perhaps the greatest loss brought about by the thoughtless, reflex fitting of the chain tensioner is the important ability in all but the crudest bicycles of fitting a full chain case with its own advantages in attracting a wider class of rider and putting the bike to a wider class of service, or in intensifying the other advantages of doing away with the chain tensioner.


When you replace the ugly, dirty, imprecise, wear-inducing derailleur system and its chain tensioner with a tidy, self-contained, longlasting hub gearbox, you don’t want the gearbox to turn around in the frame. So, whatever design you put in the place of the chain tensioner must not only provide adjustable drive length (the centre to centre distance between the bottom bracket axle and the rear wheel axle), but must react torque for the drive power.

Regardless of which transmission system you choose, disc brake torque too must be reacted and ditto the torque of the very effective roller brakes available as an integral fitting with Shimano hub gearboxes (Nexus, Alfine).


Rear suspension on bicycles are perforce swing arm systems. There are only two possibilities:

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_rohloff_softtail_216pxhIn one type the swing arm contains only the rear wheel, with the swivel before the bottom bracket on the forward part of the frame, in which case a chain tensioner is inevitable whatever the transmission type preferred.

When the swing arm contains both the rear wheel and the bottom bracket, with the swivel to the main frame placed forward of the bottom bracket, the swing arm forms a rigid brace as on the tradional diamond frame, and all the other chain tension possibilities canvassed below open up.


andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_various_dropouts_216pxhFirst we’ll look at the most difficult installations, in which a traditional derailleur-equipped bicycle is turned into a fixie, a single-speed or a hub gearbox bike. The thorough Germans have of course thought the matter through exhaustively, and Bernd Rohloff supplies kits of his hugely admired Rohloff Speedhub for every configuration of frame imaginable. This is the opening page of Rohloff’s Speedhub Finder, which purports to simplify a complicated decision tree:


You can play with this decision tree but basically, unless you have horizontal dropouts 25mm or longer (illustration B), to fit a Rohloff, you will need either a chain tensioner (illustrations A, C D, E) or a custom frame or at least custom frame ends brazed/welded on (illustrations F and G).

“Frame ends” is the proper name for rear dropouts that don’t drop out… I don’t know what front dropouts with lawyers’ lips, which don’t drop out easily either, are called. Long horizontal slots that open rearwards are called “track ends”, if you want to be fancy. Stick to “dropouts” and you can’t go wrong.

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_horizontal_slot_216pxhI have long horizontal slots on bikes fitted with Shimano hub gearboxes and, together with tug nuts, and in conjunction with serated axle locknuts which chew up the aluminium frame ends, they work a treat. My Rohloff hub gearbox is fitted to the full katootie OEM slider dropouts on a custom frame, so I cannot say from personal experience how well the adaptations of the Rohloff to standard derailleur frames work, but they appear to work for tens of thousands of riders and mud pluggers.


andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_phil_ebb2_216pxhSo, if you’re resigned to having a derailleur frame altered, or to buying a dedicated frame for your fixie, single-speed or hub-gearbox bicycle, what choices do you have for adjusting chain tension?

Gazelle Flowline KettingkastAs an aside, a temporary tributary in the flow of bicycle design, a chain tensioner is possible inside an enclosed chaincase if the bicycle is designed from scratch with the correct fittings to move the chain tensioner to a suitable position, as in the Gazelle Flowline concept illustrated to the right. (Thanks to Simon McKenzie for finding the illustration.) It solves the difficulties of the consumable eccentric bottom bracket, or alternatively the irritating rolling consequential adjustments (mudguard, brake, rack) that may accompany chain length compensation in slotted frame ends. Many, including me, would however consider this design a retrograde step because it cannot but result in faster chain wear. In 2012 Gazelle commercialized the Flowline design on an innovative bike called the Friiik (not a spelling mistake), illustrated in a video and photos available via links in the comments below; this clever model is now gone from Gazelle’s catalogue, according to insiders for reasons of sales channel resistance and low demand.

So it’s probably safe to assume that you’re taking a more expensive route because you’ve already ruled out the crude, ugly, dirty chain tensioner.

Thus, again, there are two main choices, an adjustable bottom bracket, and some kind of movable dropout.


andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_basic_ebb_216pxhAn EBB is a bottom bracket set off-centre (ex-centrically — English is not always intuitive!) in an aluminium plug sized to fit inside the bottom bracket shell. The bottom bracket shell may be larger than standard, so the plug is bigger than a standard bottom bracket and will then take a standard bottom bracket. Or the bottom bracket shell may be a standard bottom bracket diameter, in which case a smaller than standard bottom bracket is required to fit the plug; this is a uncommon option.

Chain length adjustment is achieved by rotating the plug in the bottom bracket shell so that the bottom bracket axle comes to rest nearer to or further from the rear axle as required. A special peg tool (a pin wrench) is required but it is usually combined with another tool useful in a touring kit so that excessive weight is not added.

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_ebb_dimple_fixing_216pxhThe plug is fixed in the bottom bracket in a variety of ways, the most common being by pointed- or rounded-end bolts entering the soft aluminium some short way, which have the disadvantage that eventually they ruin the EBB by wearing grooves in the aluminium plug and then will no longer hold it in position.

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_ebb_lipped_shell_216pxhAn alternative is splitting the bottom bracket shell at a pair of lips that bolt together and clamp the EBB in place, a method hated by many frame designers as compromising the strength of the frame at a critical concentration of loads. You take your pick and pay the consequences.

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_bushnell_retro_ebb_216pxhThe Bushnell EBB does not require a split shell; it is fixed in position by turning a screw which expands the eccentric within the bicycle’s bottom bracket shell. There are also external bearing EBB, such as the Trickstuff Excentriker or the Phil, which screw into standard bottom brackets but whose adjustment is external; they use modern cranks with integrated axles. Most of these “special” EBB have the disadvantage that they’re priced for plutocrats.andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_exzentriker_216pxhandre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_phil_ebb_216pxh

Note that the aficionados of the EBB who use hub gearboxes (and that’s almost all of them) must still design and construct a special dropout for torque reactions, or make do with a kludgy arm, so the EBB choice isn’t necessarily the cheaper construction option (though it is often presented as such). Furthermore, replacements of inevitably ruined EBB (for those who choose the cheap option of fixing the EBB by dimpling bolts) could over time make it a more expensive option than sliders. But for most designers cost appears to be an afterthought in this choice, an extra justification, as many have a visceral dislike of the only alternative to an EBB, some kind of slotted frame end in which the axle can slide.


andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_trackend_216pxhSlotted horizontal dropouts, long familiar from hub gearbox practice on Dutch-style city, commuter and continental holiday bikes, are slider dropouts, open at one end.

The axle is retained by friction between the axle nut, often with a serrated mating face, and the frame material, usually but not invariably assisted by an adjustable tugnut. For torque control, flanged washers fit over flats on the axle.

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_tugnut_216pxhAdjustment is by loosening the axle nuts and the tugnut screws (often wing nuts or other finger-operable fasteners), sliding the axle until the chain reaches the required tension, and then locking all four fasteners.

The horizontal open slot has worked well for decades on tens of millions of installations. However, with anything more complicated than a simple rim-braked bike, it soon becomes complicated, though Shimano managed to integrate their rear roller brake with only a single extra bolt on the torque reaction arm braced to the chainstay to be undone-retightened for chain adjustment. Disc brakes are also possible but more complicated.

Long horizontal slots also allow beautifully clean installations without any unsightly dangly bits like chain tensioners when a standard hub-gearbox frame is converted into a fixie or a single-speeder.


Though the open-ended horizontal slot beloved of Continental commuters works well within its limits, which is basically for bikes with 300% or so range in their hub gearboxes, and for fixie and singlespeed conversions, the Rohloff, with 526% range, that is torque multiplication, is altogether a different kettle of fish. A serrated nut, especially on the sort of steel frame often used for Rohloff installations (rather than the aluminium common on Dutch city bikes), and a pressed steel tugnut in an open slot is a recipe for high maintenance and frequent breakages, and very likely painful incidents (which is what we sensitively prefer to “accidents”). The Rohloff concept is anyway high quality and low maintenance, so tugnuts and open slots, such obvious choices for an internal gear hub, were also obviously out.

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_rohloff_hangers_for_welding_in_216pxhBernd Rohloff solved the conundrum by designing his own frame end and dropout to suit the particular strengths and needs of his gearbox, adapted his designs for every possible application, and then put the designs in the public domain so that today you can buy a frame with frame ends to his design, suitable for socalled “Rohloff OEM dropouts” made by a variety of manufacturers in a variety of decorative patterns. The ones on the left are for brazing or welding to frames with eccentric bottom brackets or, horrors, chain tensioners.

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_standard_oem1_rohloff_slider_216pxhThe Rohloff slider frame ends consist on each side of two closed slots in a line at a shallow angle to true horizontal, in the same way that traditional open “horizontal” slots are at a slight angle to horizontal.

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_rohloff_slider_dropouts_216pxhThe dropouts are two entirely separate machined aluminium plates. The plates are tapped to accept two M6 bolts, one through each slider slot. Dropout plate and frame are further located to each other by a precisely machined tongue and groove system.

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_white_bike_216pxhThe dropout has a long vertical slot that does double duty as a torque reactor by holding both the axle and a rectangular stud the width of the slot, protruding from the gearbox. The non-driveside dropout can be shaped with or without ears for a disc brake caliper, which then moves in correct relation with the axle.

Custom frames often have additional strengthening triangulation between the chain- and seat-stays if a disc brake is intended, or even just in case a disc brake is added later, because that is so easy.

andre_jute_chain-dropout-rohloff_article_complete_slider_setup_216pxhTo adjust chain length with the Rohloff slider frame ends, both slider bolts on each side are undone, the wheel is slid to the desired chain tension, and all four bolts are tightened. This takes less than a minute, much, much faster than resetting an EBB or the somewhat fiddly open horizontal slot system with tugnuts. However, large movements may require rim brakes to be adjusted to suit, and if the bike is assembled to fine tolerances, other adjustments may need to be made. It’s never happened to me, and my bike is constructed to 1mm clearances between moving parts, but it is theoretically possible.

There no reason that less puissant gearboxes cannot be hung on Rohloff sliders, or a fixie or a single speeder rear axle.


Many bicycle designers really hate one or another aspect of every one of these systems.

The chain tensioner is an aesthetic bicycle killer, the devil’s work.

Nor do I much like the idea of the expensive eccentric bottom bracket being a consumable part, but then I’m proud of having developed a virtually zero-service, near-zero-replacement bike, which is not everybody’s ideal.

Of course I dislike the possibility of cascading adjustments flowing from a chain tension adjustment in the horizontal slot or the Rohloff slider systems, but it has never happened to me on my several bikes with these systems.

So, recognizing that all these systems are compromises, I’m happy with the Rohloff-designed slotted frame ends and “OEM” dropouts as the least evil, and in any event vastly superior to derailleurs and an accompanying chain tensioner.

Your mileage may vary!

Andre Jute is a novelist and painter who also keeps a bicycling page.


Copyright text and images © Andre Jute  2015. This text may be freely reproduced on not-for-profit sites as long as it is complete and unaltered, including all the links, illustrations, and this copyright notice. Commercial, print, broadcast, other use, contact the author.

Portrait of the netstalker Peter Howard aka Little Howie, corruption bursting from every pore, his inner child screaming to be let out.

Many artists have stalkers, now that the internet has enabled the spite of those vicious enough to take out their own lack of talent and enterprise on strangers. But one of the advantages of being an artist is that all experience is grist to the mill, and the mill grinds income, so here is a particularly worthless stalker turned into a painting in my Rorschach series.

Portrait of the netstalker Peter Howard aka Little Howie, corruption bursting from every pore, his inner child screaming to be let out. One in a series of Rorschach Paintings by André Jute. Monotone oil on canvas, 6x8in, signed and dated. From left to right: Complete painting; detail of The Child Peter Screaming To Be Let Out; two superimposed positioning details, the upper one of the child screaming, the lower of the mother and child; Peter’s Mother Leading Him in Prayer; and a highlight of the three-quarters portrait hiding in the fullface portrait.

Portrait of the netstalker Peter Howard aka Little Howie, corruption bursting from every pore, his inner child screaming to be let out. One in a series of Rorschach Paintings by André Jute. Monotone oil on canvas, 6x8in, signed and dated. From left to right: Complete painting; detail of The Child Peter Screaming To Be Let Out; two superimposed positioning details, the upper one of the child screaming, the lower of the mother and child; Peter’s Mother Leading Him in Prayer; and a highlight of the three-quarters portrait hiding in the fullface portrait.

There are more subliminals, what I call “juju details”, for those who want to search them out, so here are some larger versions.

Portrait of the netstalker Peter Howard aka Little Howie, corruption bursting from every pore, his inner child screaming to be let out. One in a series of Rorschach Paintings by André Jute. Monotone oil on canvas, 6x8in, signed and dated.Portrait of the netstalker Peter Howard aka Little Howie, corruption bursting from every pore, his inner child screaming to be let out. One in a series of Rorschach Paintings by André Jute. Monotone oil on canvas, 6x8in, signed and dated.

Still, no-one is unadulterated evil, through and through. Everyone was a child, more or less innocent, once. And most mothers try to inculcate decency in their offspring, though not all succeed.

Portrait of the netstalker Peter Howard aka Little Howie, corruption bursting from every pore, his inner child screaming to be let out. One in a series of Rorschach Paintings by André Jute. Monotone oil on canvas, 6x8in, signed and dated 2013. From left to right: Complete painting; detail of The Child Peter Screaming To Be Let Ou

Note in the black and white version, at the left, that it is a full face portrait. On the right  is The Child Peter Screaming To Be Let Out.

Peter’s Mother Leading Him in Prayer

Above, Peter’s Mother Leading Him in Prayer.

the_netstalker_peter_howard_5__corruption_breaking_out_of_his_skin__the_inner_child_screaming_to_be_let_out_800pxhOil is a marvellously plastic medium both figuratively and metaphorically in what the practised painter can layer with it. But, looking for my M. Graham oils, the first wooden paintcase I picked up held my Winsor & Newton oil bars, which are thick columns of pigment stiffened with wax for direct application, beloved of graffitologists only next to spray cans. (Oil bars were first invented by Sennelier for Pablo Picasso, a noted iconoclast…) It struck me that what stalkers do is slash graffiti across the face of the beloved object, so this would be an appropriate medium. Of course, oil bar on a canvas only six by eight inches isn’t an ideal medium, unless one makes a lateral mental hop. I found the “soft” narrow-blade palette knives Franco Pastrello invented in conjunction with the artisans of RGM at Maniago the ideal tool for getting tiny detail with a stiff medium on a small canvas, and aided their good work with the misnomered “colour shapers”, silicon-tipped tools clay sculptors use. Here you can see that the full face portrait as  well incorporates a three quarters portrait of a toothless old man, which is how I imagine this particular stalker.

André Jute is a novelist and painter described by the NY Times as “wild but exciting”.

Text and images copyright © Andre Jute 2015


I came to cycling too late in life to learn cadence control, so my cadence is fixed between about forty and sixty revolutions a minute, depending on which side of the bed I got out of that morning. That has turned out to be a really good thing, because from the beginning it forced me to control my exertion by my respiration rate rather than by my speed or whatever the gearing of my bike demanded or even by the terrain. From that follows the gearing specification of my bikes, for fifteen years or so now with internal hub gearboxes, currently Rohloff Speed 14.


812lf1lEueL._SL1500_In 25 years of cycling, a fair number of heart rate monitors (henceforth HRM) have been through my hands. Let’s leave aside cheap supermarket crap I bought to have another HRM on standby; they all broke too soon to justify their cost. Let’s also leave aside a Medisana Polar H7 copy, bought at Lidl, which did everything right with every software package I tried it with, except the last step: it wouldn’t put my heart rate on the display page, making it useless; returned for a refund. Let’s leave aside Chinese ripoffs of the Polar H7; none of them worked as expected.


BICYCLE-HAC4-on-wristThe Ciclosport HAC 4 PLUS was a superb HRM. with all the bells and buttons you could wish for. So it should have, at 300 Euro. For that price I expected it to last at least 10 years. It broke on the day after the three-year guarantee ran out. I didn’t buy another because I don’t like planned obsolescence! Also, as watch, it looked cheap on the arm. Note that the head unit, left on the bike when you remove the watch part, is vulnerable to theft; there is a thriving trade in these units on Ebay…

Sigma PC9 Heart Rate MonitorThe Sigma PC9 was altogether at the other end of the scale. It cost 40 Euro, had all the functions Iactually used on the Ciclosport HAC 4 (except altitude) and then some, was much more elegant as a watch, and still works after about ten years; it was replaced simply to save some space on my handlebars by combining various bits of kit/functions/displays into my iPhone. I’m a big fan of Sigma, and also use their bicycle computers; their stuff is very fairly priced, especially for top quality German goods, and lasts forever.

An iPhone or other smartphone with Bluetooth 4 (a low energy transmission protocol that saves battery use) with appropriate software, much of it free, is already an HRM. All the hardware you need to add is sensor/sender belt to fit around your chest. I’ve tried quite a few and the only one that is truly an allrounder (works with everything I tried it with) is the Polar H7, which cost STG 47.15 delivered in Ireland from Amazon UK. Mine was returned inoperative to the manufacturer shortly after arrival, fixed, and returned to me in a couple of weeks. It has worked well since.


I put the iPhone in a waterproof bag on the handlebars where I can see it, but I could keep it in a pocket because Polar’s own programme, which I use, reports every kilometer or mile, to choice, in a loud woman’s voice the elapsed time or average speed, and heart rate. If you need to control your heart rate closer than that, you need to cycle with your physician or a trained nurse. (My pedal pals include both.) With the phone on the handlebars you can control your exertion very closely to your chosen or permitted maximum respiration rate. (Here’s a tip: the physio will normally set a lower max heart rate than your physician or a cardiologist will. Get an opinion from all three, if you can.) I also have a motor on my bike, and when my respiration rate hits max, I keep up with the group by cutting in the motor.


The smartphone/BT4 belt setup has an advantage over all dedicated HRM. Your dedicated HRM is set up so that a bunch of roadies riding in a peloton don’t have HRM interfering with each other, so the range is at most 18in. This is a stupid irritation for a utility cyclist or a tourer who sits upright and usually has 24in or more between the sender on his chest and the reporter unit on the handlebars or even on his wrist if he’s being energetic. Any BT4 band though has a 10m/33ft sender radius, so there is no interruption in the flow of information if you step away from you bike. This can be important, because if you really need an HRM, the second most important thing you do with it is check your respiration recovery rate R^3: the faster your respiration settles, the fitter you are.

Polar’s H7 has the fastest latch onto a heart signal of any belt that I’ve ever tried; about a third of all the belts I’ve tried failed altogether to detect a signal. This is important especially when it is cold and your skin is not naturally moist.



If you’re a luddite or poor or a multi-gadgeteer, I recommend the Sigma PC9 (or its successor), which is easy to set up because it has very clear instructions, beautifully printed, and it just keeps working, and it is extremely reasonably priced, and goodlooking too.

I don’t recommend any Ciclosport because mine was ultimately unreliable, and they’re too expensive for what they offer.

If you have a smartphone with Bluetooth 4 already, I don’t see why you should want anything more than the Polar H7 belt, which lets you choose which software you want to use; I find Polar’s own free software quite good enough, and it has outstanding automatic record-keeping, useful when my cardiologist asks.

André Jute is a novelist and cyclist, and a teacher via his non-fiction textbooks of creative writing, engineering and reprographics.

Copyright © 2015 Andre Jute

May you reach as safe a harbour as this one

Andre Jute: Sampan Harbor, South China Sea, oil on canvas, 2014, 16x12in
Andre Jute: Sampan Harbor, South China Sea, oil on canvas, 2014, 16x12in

Happy holidays, all!

Cycling history personified! On his 90th birthday, my bike builder is honored by Volkswagen.

Henk Kluver, the master craftsman who built my everyday bike, a Utopia Kranich, and made the coachlines on it, is 90, and in recognition of his lifelong dedication to quality transport, has been given a brand-new VW Transporter for being a “real craftsman” — that’s the “egte vakman” they’re searching for near the beginning of the touching video.

Among other things the video shows Meester Kluver assembling a near relative of my Kranich crossframe by hand, and, most interesting of all, coachlining it with a special tool.

90 and still working!

See my bicycle page  for my other bikes. This photo essay on my Utopia Kranich includes more images of Meester Kluver at work, and also of the 1930s version of my bike.

Andre Jute
Riding history

On Winsor & Newton’s Bijou Paintbox, my Little Postcard Pocketable Pochade Tin, and bicycling in the bitter Irish Spring

Last year for my birthday one of the gifts I received was the last Winsor & Newton Bijou Box from Green & Stone in London. I never actually received the brush supposed to go with this box but would in any event have chucked it out to fit in four more half pans, new total twelve, because the standard eight is one short of my minimum palette and a more normal palette for me is twelve colors. I have one of those WN travel brushes that came with another WN kit, and it is uselessly small, except I suppose to people who want to paint the eyes on gnats. The Bijou Box, about the size of a visiting card, now lives in my Little Watercolor Pochade Tin, a pocketable traveling watercolor kit kept on the hall table by my glove chest to grab whenever I go out. Today I went out on my bike, and the first thing I saw that I wanted to sketch was a well kept hedge, the pride and joy of some farmer’s wife.

andre_jute__painting_the_hedge 800pxhMy favorite bike, a Utopia Kranich, and my Little Watercolour Pochade Tin, caught in action on the ten minutes in which it was pleasant to stand painting outside on a miserably cold spring day in Ireland.

andre_jute_painting_the_hedge_w_n_bijou_box_800pxhAndre Jute: The Hedge, 230g rough paper, 6x4in.

The photo shows that the Bijou Box is Winsor & Newton’s most compact paintbox, about the size of a visiting card. The box itself isn’t well made or finished, and will soon rust, starting at the bubbles and pinholes in the so-called “enamel”; with eight half pans of color it is grossly overpriced at 55 Euro, say about eighty US dollars. I’m not surprised that WN have stopped selling it if Fome cannot supply a better quality box.


Andre Jute captures a leprechaun on film.

My leprechaun quest — described, with more images, at the scientist Gabriela Popa’s SoupandNuts Blog — has now thrown up another welcome result.

Look carefully at the  photograph above, in which the leprechaun appears near the bottom centre; you’ll see the quality of the light is different in the leprechaun’s dimension or world, which presumably accounts for those large black light-gathering eyes. That shocking insight cost me quite a few electrical shocks, but now it turns out I was on the right track when I discarded the n-space of the  light between mirror and glass in which the leprechauns were avoiding me, and started working instead with zero-n polished steel mirrors, like the one in which I captured the leprechaun top left.

Dr Daniel Wood has now used my method to prove something cyclists have long suspected, that leprechauns share the roads with people, and play pranks on them, for most of which motorists are blamed.  Here’s the leprechaun he captured before it could disappear into the slightly unsettling landscape that always seem to accompany leprechaun sightings — see how the solid building appears to float 600mm off the ground.

Proof leprechauns are cycle-tourists Kissing the Blarney Blog photo credit Dan Wood


Dr Wood writes: For one fleeting moment in the eastern Netherlands, I seem to have caught photographic proof showing leprechauns cycle-tour the Continent. Look closely and you will see.

This is also proof they don’t always wear green; this one is wearing a pink-and-blue Polte Lamballe jersey. Must’ve been a TdF fan.

Good heavens! Is there nothing these leprechauns won’t do to crash the party?




So what good are parking lots?

Unlike most of the American cyclists, who hypocritically keep several automobiles, I don’t have a car at all; I gave up the car altogether in 1992.

But I have a definite use for parking lots. In my small town, I’m less than a kilometre in each direction from a good, smooth carpark, much better surfaced than the roads, where I can ride round and round when there is ice on my normal rides, or if I’m riding when the bars are emptying around midnight.

One parking lot on a hillside is particularly good. It’s quite small but it is laid out as a reversed Q, with the short section flat and long section uphill and fat with a garden strip down the middle; there is also a steep but short rise from the flat bar to the circular slope. The flat bit is big enough to make a large figure of eight at speed even when frosty.

This lot is behind a closed gate from 6pm, but I can get in via a pedestrian entrance which is not gated, and I have an arrangement with the security guys that if their alarm goes off they call the manned gate at the factory across the road and if it’s just a lone or a few cyclists the gateman can see on the hill opposite, they don’t come out.

I ride intervals on this lot for an hour, slow at first, then faster and faster, then a conscious warm down. This, I feel, does me more good as an hour or even two of gentle riding in the lanes and on the lesser hills, or an hour on one of my exercise machines. Because of my peculiar circumstances in my formative years (where I grew up and went to college rugby was compulsory, and I hated the entire oppressive apparat), I know next to nothing about the physiology of exercise. But you don’t need to know much to observe that you feel less tired and sleep better after one kind of exercise than another.

I vote for interval training, varied with whatever else you like, of course.

andre_jute_seven_headsAndre Jute’s sports are cycling, rugby, racing in all its forms (automobiles, offshore powerboats, transocean yachts), polo, tennis and golf. He is the author of IDITAROD a novel The Greatest Race on Earth, about the perilous 1000 mile sled dog race across Alaska, the modern equivalent of the Marathon of the Ancients. He keeps a bicycling netsite.

• Copyright ©2013 Andre Jute. This article, as long as it is used complete including this notice, may be freely reprinted on not-for-profit sites. No commercial use without permission.



by Andre Jute

You don’t need to be Carl Jung to know that most people find it easier to conform, to go along.

There is no evidence that Lance Armstrong was the primary or even a main instigator of doping in top-level cycle racing. There is every evidence that he arrived in a sport where doping was already the norm — and went along with what was expected of him. Demonizing Armstrong will not change the facts.

I don’t feel sorry for Armstrong. He’ll be touring the talk shows, building his brand, which may now become Repentance and Redemption.


I see that picking on Armstrong and, even worse, waiting to do it until his career was definitely over, is symptomatic of collusion and incompetence and hypocrisy throughout the sport.

I feel sorrier for the fans, not Armstrong’s fans in particular, but the fans of top-level cycle-racing. It seems to me unlikely that any result of the last 20 or 30 years — and stretching much deeper than the podium — is now above suspicion. That the UCI are not awarding Armstrong’s wins to the second-place man is their admission that they know it.

As for the UCI, it is so contaminated and tarnished, it should be closed down. It’s officials should be prosecuted. It is impossible to believe that they didn’t know what was going on in their sport. Once that is agreed, it is impossible to believe that they didn’t collude. Now, immorally, they’re embarking on retrospective witch hunts, applying twenty-twenty hindsight, claiming to be whiter than white. It’s immoral, disgraceful, and disgusting, the nadir of blazers covering their slack asses when the manure hits the spreader, and at the same time trying to put themselves forwards for new careers as drugs busters, the very activity at which they have already failed so ignominiously. We should start afresh with a new control body with new people, probably brought in from junior team sports, maybe girls’ soccer, guaranteed to be clean because there’s no money in it.

Turning now to drugs testing. I was vastly irritated during the Olympics, what I caught of it, by the constant advertising of the drugs testing laboratory, to the point where it seemed the Olympics was not so much a contest of athlete against athlete but against doping. Anti-doping has become the new Global Warming, with the same hysterical mob reaction to it.

The problem is clearly that effective drugs testing is less a science than an art, a matter of opinion, at the margins a toss of the coin. Putting a bunch of chemists in ultimate charge of our iconic sports isn’t the answer either. We have already seen how politically committed “scientists” trashed long-range climate forecasting by concerted, consistent lying and thuggery to protect an ideal that shone only to them. They were supported every step of the way by the mob, as the chemists will be if my bleak scenario is enacted.

What we have already seen in sports where they control doping better, as in the better regulated Olympic sports, is that witch hunts lead to false accusations, people’s careers ruined for taking a cough medicine prescribed by their physician for a slight cold. That’s nonsense too, and the drugs laboratories and officials should be sued for consequential damages and penalties. Let’s be clear on this: I would rather a hundred dopers escape punishment than that one innocent is falsely shamed. That is the only proper interpretation of the law and any regulation applied by anyone whosoever; to compromise on that principle is to betray human rights.

These facts together may make control of doping impossible. We may be heading for a Rollerball future in which athletes are a separate class of humanity, bred and doped from birth for extraordinary athletic feats.

andre_jute_seven_heads• Andre Jute’sports are cycling, rugby, racing in all its forms (automobiles, offshore powerboats, transocean yachts), polo, tennis and golf. He is the author of IDITAROD a novel The Greatest Race on Earth, about the perilous 1000 mile sled dog race across Alaska, perhaps the only race in the world which is guaranteed to be drug-free. He’s wondering if he should remove all reference to Armstrong from his bicycling netsite before the politically correct get the wrong idea!

• Copyright ©2013 Andre Jute. This article, as long as it is used complete including this notice, may be freely reprinted on not-for-profit sites. No commercial use without permission.