in somewhat of a bizarre coincidence, today brought more than just one photo of a colnago, at both ends of the spectrum really. it cannot have escaped your attention that there's a degree of snobbery that pervades the world of bicycles, not just from the marketing end, but more onerously, from the end-user (that's you and me). and it's not only confined to the world of skinny wheels; if you'll put up with me dragging drums into this again, way back in the seventies, drumkits started to arrive from the land of the rising sun, and were generally treated with disdain by the cognoscenti (notice the parallel already?). grab any contemporary drum magazine, and drumsets from the far east all but dominate, and at the top end of the market, thank you very much.
to return to my photographs, one depicted a quantity of carbon frames all racked; those closest to the lens had s-works on the downtube. the next rack contained colnagos. walking past was a person very much of oriental descent. i believe the point intended by the sender was not only the emergence of a quality italian brand with over half a century of history from the same factory as those specialized people, but that such was a tad contrdictory to the image perpetuated by cambiago. to a certain extent, i can do little but agree.
however, as i remember stating in my review of colnago's first taiwanese excursion, the clx mark 1, carbon has no idea what nationality it is. with the design done in italy and the carbon molds made in italy, layup in taiwan is simply a case of economics. colnago aren't the only ones to take advantage of lower costs in the chinese republic, but i doubt specialized get the same level of criticism for not being made in the usa. it's a snobbery thing; sure, it's lovely to own an italian colnago, but the reputation they gained in this respect was from the days of lugged steel construction. lovely though carbon tubes and lugs are, traditional they most certainly are not; at least not in the tradition that includes eddy, fausto and beppo. italian frame makers such as colnago have adapted and moved on; it seems a selection of their customers might not have done the same.
but the world of the bicycle is a marvellous place to inhabit. good things are done for good causes both by cyclists and most recently, by the very italian manufacturer under consideration. and if it's italian made bicycles that float your boat, then the following should make you very happy.
started in 2000, the annual fireflies ride will take place this year between 15th - 23rd june, traversing 1000km across the french alps from geneva to cannes. taken in isolation, there's nothing too remarkable about either the location or the distance; all sorts of cyclists cover silly distances year on year. but this particular ride has one motto: "for those who suffer we ride". cycling downhill in the dark has little to recommend it; during the initial ride doing exactly that, the riders were guided by a procession of glowing fireflies, hence the name, and since that time, the rides have raised over £700,000 for leukaemia research, a charity that benefits from everything the fireflies do.
and then along came colnago, or at least, along came christopher haworth, one of the principals behind the fireflies phenomenon, to ask ernesto if they might please have some special colnago bikes on which to traverse the alps. "asking colnago was tough though, and it was peter (nisbet, md of windwave, and uk importers of colnago bicycles) who approached the factory first. for me to ask colnago to build a series of bikes for our group felt like a spotty teenager asking monica bellucci for a date. fortunately the ethos of the ride, the charity, leuka, and the people involved with the ride over the years (it is strongly supported by ridley scott, the film director responsible for gladiator and more recently, robin hood) greatly helped colnago to understand what we were trying to achieve. ernesto colnago personally sanctions every project, and having his blessing really helped to achieve our aim of a bike that could really catch eyes and bring attention to the charity aspect of the ride in our tenth year.
after having an open ended discussion with myself in the opening paragraphs of this article about overt oriental pedigree, the bicycles decorated with musical notes and fireflies over a ferrari red colouring, are italian through and through. "individual riders choose their own preference, steel or carbon. many chose the steel for heritage as they envisage the master x-lite frame as an italian great. with the eps, people had more serious performance in mind and it's a great frame that's still built in the same factory as the master under ernesto's house. each bike has been purchased by the rider, with a percentage going to the charity and we are aiming to sell twenty more bikes world-wide to the public. all the profit from these bikes will go to the leuka charity, based at hammersmith hospital, london, one of the worlds leading research departments to find a cure for leukaemia."
around thirty frames have been built, with a 50/50 split between steel and carbon.
so how do you go about taking delivery of one of these splendid machines? it would seem to undermine the whole experience to have a dhl truck pull up outside the house and a neighbour sign for it because you were out training for the fireflies ride. somewhere with heritage and a distinct penchant for the very finest in roadcraft: the rapha cycle club seemed a perfect match. the first batch of these fabulous bicycles was delivered to clerkenwell road on friday 28th where they spent a few hours on display before being collected by their new owners. the fact that it was possible to sit and gloat over the latest addition to the bikeshed, accompanied by a fine cup of coffee was a bonus. chris haworth again; "all the riders I have spoken to intend to keep the bikes for as long as possible. they have bought them as mobile advertisements for leuka as well as for riding themselves."
as posited above, the world of cycling is filled with wonderful people, from those intent on riding for those who suffer, to gentlemen like ernesto colnago, and those at rapha who, inadvertantly or otherwise are superb ambassadors for the sport, cycling activity and bicycle people power. the next twenty limited edition fireflies colnagos will be available in fixed, master x-light and eps versions. chris says he hasn't been cheeky enough to ask for c59s. yet. if you're interested in acquiring one of these frames, drop an e-mail to email@example.com to express an interest.
posted wednesday 2 june 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
many are the providers who wish to cater for our energy and hunger needs on the bike, some of which are highly tasty, some of which taste like papier mache with a fruity sheen. as i have said on many a previous occasion, there is little point in perusing the ingredients, energy provision, calorie count and fat percentage if the resulting flavour and/or texture is not to your liking. our sunday morning rides take in substantial portions of the island, always assuming the weather to be favourable, something i'd like to think we can count on as british summer time becomes even more of a fact rather than a promise. all those sunday rides, allowing for the fact that i do have to pedal about 15km back home, finish with a soya cappuccino at debbie's, and in previous times, i have found myself flagging on the homeward run due to a slight hunger and thus energy deficit.
there is occasion to stop en route during the ride to have a slurp from the bottle and a munchie bar, but i have been trying to save myself for the coffee break, and an accompanying calorie intake. when i have mind, i like to have an appropriate repast in the rear pocket, although it wouldn't be the first time that recollection of the need to do so has only occurred at breakfast on sunday morning.
very kindly, the folks at 9bar sent through a selection of their products to fill the back pocket during a week of cycling to more distilleries than most people will see in a lifetime. single malts are hard work. 9bar (no idea why they're called that) have a slight nutritional advantage over several of their competitors, in that the five flavours on offer are wheat, gluten, dairy, lactose, yeast and egg free. notwithstanding the fact that i thought lactose and dairy free meant the same thing, that's a fairly impressive portfolio, and one of the reasons that they are happily endorsed by olympic track rider, craig maclean who is a coeliac sufferer.
the constituents of each bar consist predominantly of seed concoctions: original, nutty, pumpkin, flax and organic. some of these have a carob coating on one side applying a sweetness to those tightly packed seeds. i rather like the idea of the bars being lactose and dairy free, though the other options don't actually affect me from any health or dietary points of view. each 50g bar is liberally fixed with a substantial number of calories, so there should be little difficulty with ingesting sufficient amounts, ensuring consistent pedalling over a reasonable distance.
this is, in fact, borne out in practice, but as is the nature with all foodstuffs, the taste is entirely subjective, and a separate issue from dietary ingestion. the only bar i found myself completely at ease with was the nutty version, despite its carob coating; seeds just don't do it for me i'm afraid. i mention a slight aversion to carob (a chocolate substitute) for two reasons; firstly, those rear pockets tend to get reasonably warm during a heated sprint, and the lead-up to same, meaning there is often somewhat of a sticky, melted mess when trying to stuff down a bar while riding the bike. secondly, and i'm willing to accept that this maybe a desired intention, chocolate makes me thirsty; something that i do not wish an energy bar to do to me while pedalling.
i do not want this review to seem like a character assassination, since the bars are well constituted and i really cannot deny that they did exactly what it promised on the wrapper. they just aren't for me. bear in mind however, that craig maclean thinks otherwise, and he is a lot faster than i.
9bars can be acquired in several ways, but perhaps the sanest way to go about it is to order a sampler pack of five bars for only £3.50. once tried and reportedly satisfied with a particular variation, they can be purchased in packs of 16 individual bars at prices varying from £10.40 for the original, up to £13.60 for the organic. this includes free delivery. ordering is through 9bar's particularly imformative website.
posted tuesday 1 june 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
scotland is pretty old ground, something easily seen if you take a close look at the craggy cliffs of the west and the ancient celtic crosses that appear not too far from the tip of ireland. couple that with the standing stones and the like on the outer hebrides, and history is certainly something that we own by the truckload. everything nowadays is suitably orderly, as codified by our society and political organisation: what is now argyll and bute was at one time a part of stratchlyde region until such pigeonholing was dispensed with in the nineties, and we are, more or less, masters of our own destiny. at least, that's what it said on the campaigning leaflets at the last election.
such are the vestiges of language that many areas of scotland that were originally named with a purpose, have now simply become vacuous appelations that decorate the local authority vehicles 'neath a neglectfully coloured logo. argyll is derived from earra-ghaidheal, which very roughly translates as the land of the gael (as in gaelic speaking peoples). these gaelic speaking peoples, like the majority of scotland, were divided into clans, with the almost obligatory clan chieftain and a council helping rule the domain relating to such clans.
islay has a specific history relating to clan donald, a clan also closely associated with the isle of skye, a bit further north. in the middle ages, the lands relating to the lords, which included kintyre and, at one time, parts of ulster, were administered from finlaggan on islay. on loch finlaggan, just a few metres off the shore are two islands, one of which housed the chapel and sleeping quarters, and the smaller of which is known as eilean na comhairle, or the island of the council, where the lordship's meetings were apparently held. you can still visit both islands if you're ever over this way; there's the almost obligatory interpretive centre situated on the track down to the loch which will put all in order for you.
however, as i have intimated, there were clans plural, and one of the other powerful clans were the campbells who, you will be unsurprised to learn, were also inhabitants of argyll. the macdonalds and the campbells were not the best of friends in days of yore. however, aggressive tendencies aside, the scottish clans were identified by the tartan weave of their kilts, and it is this latter feature that neatly brings me onto the subject of this ever lengthening diatribe. derived from the tartan of clan campbell is the so-called argyle pattern beloved of garmin slipstream, and a pattern that has been applied to many a golfing sweater and tartan hose, or socks.
unless you're on the garmin team roster, it's unlikely that you'll have any thus patterned footwear in the cycling drawer, but for special cycling occasions there can be little more fitting in the way of leg attire. originally produced for the london tweed run a few months back (the wording tweed run is brazenly displayed on the foot section), this merino from rapha comes complete with garters and flashes to complete the look, whether that be tweedie or scots. i was unable to acquire a pair in time for my tweed run debut, but felt that there could be no more fitting an occasion on which to wear them than during the islay whisky festival. despite being largely populated by germans, americans and japanese, it is a celebration of scotland's national drink, and the perfect excuse to wear a pair of long, argyle patterned socks when cycling out to ardbeg distillery in the rain on saturday morning.
depending entirely on your leg length, these either have a generous ribbed turnover at the top, or a very generous ribbed turnover at the top. i wore mine under a pair of urban style shorts, thus dispensing with the services of the garters, since they would have been cunningly concealed in any case. despite the weather being decidedly inclement, the ambient temperature was almost pleasant; merino was a fine accomplice for such a day, leaving the legs warm but not to the point of overheating. strutting around the assembled entertainment, legs clad thus did not, to my mind at least, seem too out of place, given that there were more than a few of non-scottish nationality parading in rather ill-fitting kilts.
for cycling purposes, they are ideal, and may well find extended use in the winter months when they can add to their decorous proclivities by engendering a degree of insulation too. i would normally ransack the sock drawer for a suitable pair as per normal cycling, but it is rather luxurious to have a pair of these at one's beck and call, should the situation warrant. very much the ideal sartorial elegance of a scottish or tweed nature.
rapha's tweed run merino socks retail at a very respectable £35 in small to extra large. traditionally eccentric and a real delight. nab a pair while you still can.
posted monday 31 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in my sixth year at school, over half my week was spent in the art department, studying for my sixth year studies certificate in the subject. having skillfully negotiated to absent myself with permission from the extra subjects that were nonetheless compulsory, such as music and p.e., this meant that i could devote myself to my favoured subject. this is school of which we speak however, and the word devote had entirely different connotations at the time.
allow me to elucidate.
the secondary school which i attended was mere metres away from an international airport, and i had yet again used my apparently skilful negotiatory techniques to choose aircraft as my nominated subject for art study. thus, at anytime that suited during that half week, i could take myself off to the terminal building to apply myself to study. unsupervised, i might add. despite the international appelation, it wasn't the busiest of airports, meaning there were lengthy periods of time when there weren't actually any aircraft to draw or photograph. certainly one could occupy oneself with the accoutrements that are a part of any airport, sketching and the like, but basically i was on an extended skive with official approval. brilliant, don't you think?
it didn't take too long for the school anoraks to discover that i had extensive time at my disposal in the very place that, but for the grace of the headteacher, went they. the original and far less high tech hobby was called trainspotting, where individuals in their anoraks could stand on any station platform within access and, for reasons i'm not too clear about, could write down the numbers on the side of the engines. go figure.
presumably due to the proximity of an actual airport, there were modern day anoraks who felt it necessary to fill their notebooks with the numbers painted at the tail end of an aircraft's fuselage. quite what they did with these numbers i know not, but collect them they did. i suggested on more than one occasion that an easier option would be to contact air traffic control, who kept records of such information, and ask them for the numbers, but that would seem to have been against the rules. quite how me returning from a day's hard skive with the numbers of aircraft that they had likely not even seen due to a double period of maths, wasn't also against the rules, i really couldn't say.
however, now that i have grown up to become a mature, sane(ish) and intelligent human cyclist, it is time to take on the mantle of being an anorak, though in our case, i believe rainjacket would be a more satisfactory epithet. summer is now upon us (allegedly), even though it may be well into august before it reaches the outer edge, and already the objects of this latest trainspotting exercise have begun to populate islay's roads. and as many of you traverse the continent, eager to participate in those sportive thingies, it's a harmless yet addictive pastime in which we can all join. i appreciate that it may be difficult to balance a notebook and pencil on that carbon stem, but maybe that's just part of the fun.
i am referring to motorhome spotting.
yes, those inevitably white garden sheds on wheels, which i believe our american cousins refer to as recreational vehicles, are becoming ever more prevalent as the years roll by, going so far as to create a solid white wall along the edges of many of le tour's mountain stages. one such vehicle parked at ardbeg distillery yesterday carried not a pair of bicycles on the rack at the back, but a full cask of whisky; that sort of thing counts for bonus points i would think. simply spotting them would be just too easy, and i would be unlikely to involve too many of the cycling fraternity with their notebooks if that were the case. but take a look the next time one of them passes you, and check out the name either on the back or the side.
yes, that is correct, motorhomes have names: randonneur, goldstar, sundance, bolero, voyager; inventive are they not? well, perhaps not, but nonetheless, with the increase in daylight hours, and the overweening compulsion to spend more hours on the road in search of the elusive fitness gene, there will be plenty of kilometres to indulge in this new hobby. i expect that garmin will add an extra feature to their edge 705, allowing the notebook and pencil to be relegated to the team car in case of emergencies. when watching le tour in july, keep an eye open for an apparent bike stop that seemingly accomplishes little or nothing; it's the mechanic leaping out with a campagnolo pencil sharpener (if they make one, i want royalties).
someone with greater technical abilities than i (adam leadbetter and simon clayson, i hope you are listening) will likely launch a website where we can all compare notes across the continents, and suddenly a whole new dimension to cycling will have dawned. i would not cajole you into joining something such as this on a whim. i spent a portion of last year checking out the possibilities, and it was quite an eye-opener just how many variations there are, and how scarily bizarre and irrelevant they can be.
just wait for the cycling weekly article on how to do it properly, related to your vo2 max.
posted sunday 30 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it is obviously not my fate to remain dry this half of the week. as you are now bored of hearing, this past week constituted the islay whisky festival, or alternatively, the islay festival of malt and music, given that donnie munro and skerryvore were both playing on the island last night. it's hard to cover the whole thing single-handedly while still accommodating additional work that piles up in the office while i'm out playing. therefore, having wet my appetite travelling to and from jura on thursday, my colleague, lord carlos, took himself off to bunnahabhain yesterday whie i was desk bound. today, however, i was to spend at least a section of my day heading to ardbeg distillery, not only because it's their open day, but because it is the ancestral home of velo club d'ardbeg.
naturally enough, the law according to sod dictated that lord carlos be presented with a sunny and dry day for his pedal to the northern reaches; not so for yours truly today. intent on reaching ardbeg by lunchtime, leave enough time to scrabble some hasty photographs, then back home to watch the gavia stage of the giro, i set off well before 11am at which point lashings of rain driven by an islay headwind had me saturated before i even reached the airport at the half-way point.
other than informing you that the distillery had stretched a good idea even further, jollity and happiness seemed undamped by the weather; unless you were me. ardbeg recently released a bottling entitled rollercoaster, and perhaps predictably, today's theme was that of a fun fair, with a real, honest to goodness, wooden helter skelter slap bang in the middle of the car park, surrounded by the sort of stalls you would associate with fun.
however, while the distilleries like to show everyone a good time at their expense, make no mistake that it is really at the ultimate expense of the customer, and the busyness of the visitor centre underlined that admirably. but, and i think i'm probably the first to let this out of the bag, there is a veritable bargain to be had, nestling subtly above the well-renowned ardbeg cycle jerseys. with the forthcoming gourmet ride taking place on 19th june, along with the flying scotsman, graeme obree, one or two additonal cycling niceties have been arranged, exclusive in one sense, and not quite so exclusive in another. as you may have noticed from the photo atop this article, i am wearing an ardbeg cycle cap, made in italy by apis, and with a substantial amount of assistance from mick and andy at prendas, for which major bownie points are due.
it would have been churlish to keep these delectable items packed in a box until the 19th, so they are now on sale in the old kiln cafe at ardbeg distillery. if, as i think you might be, you are thinking so what? (the first track on miles davis' 'kind of blue'), then allow me to elaborate further. ardbeg are selling these caps for only £5 each, and i'm letting you know now before they realise their mistake and change the price tag to a more realistic number. i think you may have to wait until after the ride on the 19th to have caps sent in your direction of a postal nature, (it wouldn't hurt to ask) but i'm sure the more creative amongst you could come up with a suitable excuse to visit the distillery before then.
posted saturday 29 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm not at all keen on motor cars; i understand their ubiquitousness in the modern world, and that they're very handy vehicles for putting bike racks on, but i'd rather not partake of their ubiquity if i can possibley help it. granted, there are times, like yesterday, when the necessity of undertaking a character building ride on hilly bits and freezing rain (in may?) has less appeal than the inside of a warm vehicle (did i just say that out loud?). this past week has seen the islay whisky festival, an event that incorporates the sole distillery on jura, and it's my mission jim, now that i've accepted it, to visit quite a number of these establishments with camera to illustrate an accompanying article in the local newspaper next week. the weather had been reasonably kind up until wednesday eve; sunny and dry, but perishing cold. thursday, the very day that provides the longest distance to travel, changed back to winter.
jura is the next island north(ish) of islay, separated by a fast moving sliver of water called the sound of islay, the word sound apparently being used to describe portions of water as well as the music that inhabits your ipod. getting from here to there involves a short ferry trip, then around 15km of narrow single track road that heads mostly upwards. having had to nip into a bus shelter at keills on islay, about 2km from the ferry to put on a rainjacket after one of those surprise showers appeared from an increasingly grey sky, about halfway up the ride to craighouse on jura, the rain, persisting along with a tailwind, became a bit too heavy to inhabit, so i popped into the (red) phone box at jura gardens, till the precipitation lessened.
distilleries are predominantly elderly buildings, and aside from the still rooms, they are not renowned for their cyclist heating abilities, particularly when the programme for the day involves heading into warehouses and filling stores. it's difficult to dress for both eventualities when trying to carry the minimum, and wearing only enough to be comfortable on a 15km climb.
craighouse, home of jura distillery, and the island's only hotel, sits in small isles bay in the shadow of the paps of jura, three of the tallest hills around, and over which is held an annual competitive run (on foot, not bicycle; the latter would be only a hindrance). so having climbed for a substantial number of kilometres, the last half k or so rolls downhill into the village. thus, taking account of the surroundings, it's very difficult to gauge what the weather is about to do until climbing back out of craighouse and past the last warehouse. unfortunately what it was doing was raining, and that tailwind assisted arrival was now a dragging headwind home. despite much of the return trip to the ferry being downhill, i was having to pedal to reach the bottom of each dip. the wind was now stronger, the wind colder, and the rain numbing my right cheek.
imagine having to wear long fingered gloves, a winter jersey (thank you wabi woolens) and a rainjacket at the end of may. global warming indeed.
the ferry between the two islands runs approximately every half hour, so getting back to islay wasn't a drawn out affair. a 14 percent climb out of port askaig was met with even more cold rain which increased exponentially until a drowned rat and i were siblings. still, i got my photos and had spoken to some folks who have been attending this festival for almost as many years as it has been in existence. even i wouldn't visit the colnago factory every year for ten years.
if you've read this far, i would have no qualms at all about you coming up to me in the post office and asking what the heck that was all about. truth be told, i have an interesting bicycle in for test/review at the post, a bicycle with wheels that are not exactly the norm for road riding, and wheels for which i had no fittable inner tubes. the thought of being stranded on a 70km round trip should i have encountered a puncture, considering the conditions i have just described, was not a warming one, and despite the fact that the ride would have been a fine test for this particular machine, i opted to ride the cielo. i have tubes for that.
so please, as the touring season is about to begin in earnest (there's a fair number already pedalling these shores), do as i say and as i do. do not travel so much as a half-kilometre without a spare inner tube. yes, i have met those well armed with puncture repair kit at the ready, but if you fancy sitting at the side of the feolin-craighouse road in cold wind and rain, trying to find the tiny hole somewhere in the now thoroughly soaked inner tube, then you're on your own. i have no sympathy. carry spare tubes that fit your wheel, and make sure the valves do too. if you're so intent on recycling, you can always patch the bust one when you get back to the evening's accommodation. the landladies around here would likely happily supply water and basin to find that perishing hole.
a pump would come in handy too. you might think i exaggerate or point out the glaringly obvious, but i have met more than my fair share of travelling cyclists accompanied by no tube and no pump.
and while i'm here, even if you run into crappy weather, when cyclists approach from the opposite direction, make sure you manage at least a half-hearted wave. it's a bye-law on islay, and it's a courtesy everywhere else.
here endeth the first lesson.
posted friday 28 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
a bicycle frame is a wonderful object, particularly if you have a new one in the bike shed that you can drag out every now and again and fawn over. i have just such an object which i have procrastinated over waaaay too long. i should be riding it by now, delighting the local populace with its fabulous colour and sleek good looks. but in a perfect example of i used to be indecisive, but now i'm not so sure, it remains a frame because i can't make up my mind what componentry to hang upon its impressive profile. it will happen, and perhaps even before the frame becomes another year older. however, it's supposedly better to travel well than to arrive, a mindful thought i am currently using as an excuse for not having made it into a complete bicycle. there are one or two components awaiting that day; brakes, and rear gear mech are in nice new, once opened boxes, and just today i received notice that the very seatpost i have lusted after, may be within my grasp. until then, the travelling continues.
however, the travelling of which i infer is simply a euphemism; i'm unlikely to be physically moving myself too far from the bikeshed in the quest for bicycleness, unlike rob penn who quite literally travelled the world to put together his dream bike. then, just to turn us a delightful shade of green, he has written about the whole enchilada, from the early visits to brian rourke's being measured for his savile row steel frame (what else?) to the end of his happy travelling when the bits met their repository for that all important first ride.
yet strangely, feelings of envy don't materialise in the fashion i expected; reading this book is much more of a cathartic experience. as ran the slogan for the co-operative supermarket: 'we go further, so that you don't have to'. in putting the ideal bicycle together bit by bit, component by component, rob has been living the dream for us. substitute your own builder, your own wheels and your own preferred saddle, and there but for the grace of a publisher's advance go we (collectively speaking). don't for a minute expect me to believe that you wouldn't travel the world to do this for yourself. however, were the written words solely about building the dream bike, i could perhaps understand your misgivings; a nice idea, not one that any of us hasn't had at least once in a bathtime, but hardly the sort of notion liable to fill over 200 pages. much like those four-part dramas on itv that could have been finished in one.
you see, to fully appreciate why the bicycle is the bicycle, how it made it from the days of the dandy horse to the finest form of human transport on the planet, is something that needs to be fully understood in order to make informed choices. well, actually that's not entirely true, but unless you frequent the bicycle section of the national library, i'm pretty sure you won't be aware of all the nuggets of velocipedinal history and their subtle intertwining that mr penn has uncovered in pursuit of his quest. rob has not only investigated and relayed the historical aspect of the bicycle, but also that of his component choices; even if you strongly disagree with his build programme, there is no way you're going to finish this book less educated in the way of the velo, than before you opened the cover.
in the days when i used to teach basic computer studies to adults, in order to have them practice the art of clicking around the screen with a mouse, i'd have them draw me a house. two windows top and bottom, one chimney (even in this age of central heating), a front door, garden path and a wicker fence. so intent were they on perfecting this idealised abode, that their perceived ineptitude with a point and click device deserted them. rob has taken a similar approach to the chapters in the book; i'm not averse to learning as much about the history of the bike as is comfortably palatable, but it's not always the most rivetting of subject matter. rob is master of an ability, that of skilful manipulation of the written word; you could easily reach chapter three before realising how much more complete your education had become. the quest for each component (wheels, tyres, headset, groupset, bars, saddle) is brilliantly threaded midst their place in the panoply of all that is velocipedinal. the result is a book that cannot be laid aside for long, if at all. the quest for closure must be followed to its logical end; around page 186 if you must know.
rob penn contacted me several months ago with a precis of the outline for this book, and i confess i couldn't quite see any mileage in the project (pun intended), but i now find myself slightly red of face, not only through lack of faith in his initial idea, but because the finished work has proved me unquestionably wrong. i understand that a film crew accompanied rob across the (bicycle) universe, and thus the book (due for publication at end of july - ideally placed to fill the gap left by the tour) will hopefully be closely followed by the documentary. the book is currently available for pre-order at amazon uk, and i'd respectfully suggest that you click the appropriate link to do so.
chris distefano's in it and that's a darned good cover too.
posted thursday 27 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
technology is not only a wonderful thing, it's quite frequently a pain in the ass, and the worst part is that it knows that it is. interweb technologies allow me to communicate with my reader on a daily basis, but had i had this notion, drive and amount of spare time around 18 to 20 years ago, i would have either to have been in possession of unlimited finance, or ended up a frustrated ball of cycling on the floor. print was realistically the only method of imparting my collective ignorance via the paragraph and skillfully crafted fonts; to publish on a daily basis would have needed me to be rupert murdoch.
but technology has marched forward at an alarming rate, that not only has one to appreciate the opportunities it offers, but also learn to use the tools in order to take advantage of those opportunities. digital stuff was very thin on the ground in the nineties, but now that we have more than entered the noughties, everything is digital. even gearchanging. no longer is the written word the province of newsprint and shiny colour pages, but it can happily inhabit pixels too
matt rendell first offered us the real peloton in 2006 in the form of a dvd report on the world of professional cycling, and owing not just a little to the editing efforts of andy storey at prendas. building on matt's connections and good relations with many of the pro peloton, issue one carried an interview with both ivan basso and bjarne riis. of course, we now know just what those gentlemen had hidden in the closet. just like a highland piper (a case of bad timing) circumstances inadvertantly shot this first issue in the foot. there was an issue two which carried an in depth look at the fuentes affair which still hangs over certain members of the peloton even now. but after issue two, the real peloton hung up its wheels.
or at least, so it seemed.
producing dvds is a very time consuming business (i know from personal experience) and it's also quite expensive unless you have a guaranteed market. it may have been an idea that was ahead of its time; it was certainly a nice try, but with online video in the shape of youtube and vimeo starting to kick in, the age of the dvd in this manner was certainly on the wane. that pain in the ass i mentioned earlier. however, matt rendell is a prolific chap in the world of cycling, what with writing books on obscure cycling subject matter that delight as much as they surprise, and doing his fair share of commentating. prolific people need to find an outlet for their prolificacy, and once again, technology has come to the rescue.
the latter is a tool, a tool that should be subservient to its master(s), and not proffered for its own sake. in other words it should be a means to an end, not an end in itself. matt rendell has now been joined by ned boulting (itv's man at the tour since 2003) and has re-invented the wheel, so to speak, by way of a real peloton podcast, a medium that it seems may have been searching for them just as much as they were searching for it. i've tried podcasting, and the few that i produced for the post were wooden to say the least, because in my case, the technology was getting in the way. i wasn't comfortable. writing comes a lot more naturally. however. messrs rendell and boulting seem so at ease with the format, that you could be forgiven for thinking that, at times, you were eavesdropping on a public conversation about cycling affairs. as chilled as the doobie brothers.
the depth of knowledge, insight and information at the fingertips of both is a joy to listen to, the entire affair tempered by a highly developed sense of humour that they're not afraid to let seep between the lines and out into the open. notionally the real peloton podcasts arrive at the itunes store on a weekly basis, depending on whether the two gentlemen are within shouting distance of each other. i realise that i'm well behind the curve with this one; i've been listening regularly for a fair number of weeks, but it just never dawned on me that some of you might be experiencing moments of vacuity that could satisfactorily be filled by the real peloton.
if you too have been listening, allow yourself a self-satisfied grin. if you've been living in ignorance, click the itunes link below and join the party.
and one of the best bits about this technology? it's free.
posted wednesday 26 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................