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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Farewell 2012 - a Year in Cycling

*The format of this piece is borrowed from David Mitchell's yearly piece in his Guardian/Observer column.

What an eventful year 2012 was in the wide world of cycling. The UK government was forced to adopt the EU fifth motoring pillar as a part of a series of concessions made during negotiating our re-entry into the EU after the events following David Cameron's now infamous use of the UK veto at the end of 2011. The change has yet to have any detectable effect on cycling rates, with a government spokesperson adding, "It seems that the legal technicalities surrounding insurance disputes following road traffic collisions was not the major factor which was keeping people off their bikes. We are at a loss." 2012 was also a year for moral outrage, following from the announcement that Brooks were planning a Soylent variant of their popular B17 saddle. The company to issue a statement apologising for the move, "We misread the market," claimed a Brooks spokesperson, adding "It seems it just isn't the time for this type product right now."

As we are soon to transition from one year into the next, let's take a moment to remember some of the more notable stories from 2012:

Churchill Ballad
Earlier this year Adobe released the Re-animation Suite, a collection of software tools which allowed the creation of an animatable CGI model of a person using a combination of archive still and video imagery. Following Adobe's acquisition of Bremneras, a company specialising in voice emulation software, the means to produce photo-realistic animated versions of people which could speak in the appropriate voice were within the grasp of ordinary people. Predictably, many set about using the technology to make crude YouTube videos. However, cycle journalist Carlton Reid seized upon the opportunity to re-animate the speech by Winston Churchill which is used in one of his I Pay Road Tax graphics:

The resulting video was later re-mixed and auto-tuned into a faux-power ballad and promptly went viral. In the process, Mr Reid, creator of the original video, became a mainstream celebrity on the back of the popularity of the viral hit. Carlton's new-found fame led to him being invited as a guest on Top Gear, leading to one of the most memorably violent interviews in the show's run. He also managed to get the fastest time in the reasonably priced car.

Healing Power of Helmets
In August, ground-breaking work was published in the Lancet identifying the possible use of cycle helmets as a powerful universal placebo. Professor got the idea for the study after seeing how strong many non-cyclists faith in cycle helmets was, despite the lack of evidence in support of this position, "I often receive comments and heckles when out on my bike. One of the recurring comments was along the lies of, 'You should wear a helmet, otherwise you'll have an accident.' it was at this point that I realised that the cycle helmet held a special place in the imagination of a large section of the public, who attributed it with almost limitless healing and protective power" This prompted the Professor to put his lab to work in investigating this effect further. Whilst the helmets could not do much to help cyclists in the event of a crash, the group found that wearing a helmet during the recovery process significantly reduced treatment time compared to the control group. The team proposed that what they were witnessing was actually a super-powered variant of the placebo effect, noting that helmets could be used to reduce recovery times for illnesses and injuries which were completely unrelated to cycling.

Cycle helmets are now used as a universal placebo in hospitals nationwide, shortening the recovery times for all patients regardless of their condition. Whilst the work has been widely welcomed, it has been a disaster for, who now have to issue a warning to visitors of their site that the contents may prevent their future use of the universal placebo treatment. Those who choose to continue reading the site are urged to carry a card stating that in the event of injury, use of the new universal placebo will no longer be effective.

Cat-6 Olympic Shocker
Earlier in the year, there was a great deal of surprise when the IOC unexpectedly recognised Cat-6 racing as a separate Olympic sport. The inaugural race taking place at the London 2012 games. As I'm sure most of you are aware, professional Cat-6 racing takes place on open streets and the winner does not merely cross the finish line first, but must be acceptably presentable for a working typical office environment. The sport attracted athletes from other cycling disciplines who were keen to be the first to win gold in the new event, in addition to enthusiastic amateurs including Mr Jim Davis from The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. Whilst Mr Davis (who rode his Dutch bike during the event) crossed the finish line last, he was already dressed in a suit and didn't need to take a shower. To the shock of much of the world of professional cycling, he took home the gold medal. 

In the months since the games, the recognition of Cat-6 racing as an Olympic sport and the result from the first race has had a profound result on the nation's Fred population. Many manufacturers were quick to respond, with Specialized producing an all-crabon roadster including crabon mudguards and chaincase and Endura produced a Cat-6 cycling suit which is designed to be indistinguishable from a regular £150 suit in every single characteristic (MSRP £350). Sturmey Archer announced that crabon-shell version of their popular AW hub will go on sale in early 2013, complete with all-titanium internals.

Trek was not so quick to respond, with their new Cat-6 Madone rumoured to just be a Batavus with 'Madone' written on in Tippex.

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