tim dawson's saddles

1889 rover safety bicycle

bums on seats, or, to be more precise, bums on saddles. a bewildering array is on offer to the modern cyclist, often without the faintest idea which would suit those bum cheeks best. a bit like all those telly ads for car insurance, i find it hard to believe there is a large enough market for so many variations on one theme. what they all have to have in common nowadays is a common width between the rails, no matter the material of which those rails are made. aside from those dumb seatposts with no clamp at the top, if a saddle is to reach the widest market (pun intended), it needs to fit all the seatposts from the world's component manufacturers. other than that, it seems that almost anything goes, though i'll admit that some of the subtle differences are lost on me.

while at one time every cycle saddle was made from tanned leather spread over a metal frame, a la brooks, look on the underside of the saddle on the steed du jour, and disappointingly, it will likely consist of a leather type fabric stapled onto a plastic, resin or carbon base which gives the saddle its shape. the staples are underneath, thus maintaining the slick, streamlined look seen from the top, and it may well be that this is the most efficient method of modern saddle construction, but it's a bit like discovering there's a zip underneath that carbon downtube.

thankfully brooks still make leather saddles the old-fashioned way, the proper way, if you like, but what happens if the elderly bicycle you're restoring, needs a period saddle to maintain that authenticity. it's unlikely a bicycle from the early 1900s could live with a carbon razor blade on an ageing, non-standard seatpost. it just wouldn't look right.

would it?

1890 raleigh saddle

tim dawson, who i met through the non-introduction by a mutual friend is a committed bicycle restorer; he has a collection of vintage bicycles that would make most of us drool. tim lent one of his pre- twentieth century bicycles for rapha's recent 100 years of the bicycle exhibition in the now sadly demised cycle club in london. i met tim dawson dressed in a fine set of tweeds earlier this year at the tweed ride in the country's capital, a day slightly too warm for a full three piece tweed suit. but pride bears no pain, and tim rode the full distance so attired.

conversation is a major part of the tweed ride, and i discovered that, in the process of restoring elderly velocipedes, he had often found it necessary to reconstruct period leather saddles from the remains of the original seating arrangements. such skills as are necessary to accomplish this, do not arise from thin air. at a subsequent meeting in the rapha cycle club of all places, tim brought along an example of a saddle he was working on at the time; the phrase 'we are not worthy' has never seemed so apt.

"in 2003 i took a course in saddlery, of the horsey type. i told the excellent teacher, david may, that i wasn't the slightest bit interested in horses and wanted to mould a bicycle saddle! luckily he was a keen cyclist and was more than happy to guide me. we also went out on a couple of nice rides together up in cumbria.
"after that it was a question of learning by myself. there's only really one other guy, tony colegrave, who makes saddles, and his work is beautiful. he's also been a great help, as he always has more than enough work and has kindly passed on some very useful advice."

in much the same way as undertaking any new activity, there is the perennial question of specialist tools to not only make the work easier, but in some cases, to make it happen at all.

saddle for rover safety

"most of the tools are those used for general leatherwork. i prefer to buy vintage tools which I find at jumbles like the beaulieu autojumble. woodworking skills are also very handy."

general leatherwork i can sort of understand, given that the principal material required to create a new old leather saddle is rather obviously leather. but on checking my small collection of brooks saddles, i can see no evidence of any wood. can this be correct? perhaps it's better that tim describe the process of creating a leather saddle.

"making a saddle is a lengthy process, taking about three days. first you have to make a block out of wood to the exact shape of the inside of the old saddle. this has to be pretty accurate. the leather is then soaked and subsequently moulded over the block, and tacked down. while it's wet i dye it to the required colour, then it's left to dry for a day or so before being cut off the block in the correct shape. this is largely done by eye. final shaping is done on a machine before the fun bit of the finishing work; edge finishing. putting lines around the edges with a creasing tool, cutting the vent etc. finally the cover is riveted to the frame with solid rivets, and some leather treatment applied. i suppose it takes about seven hours of actual handwork. however, one slip at any stage and the cover is scrap! as you might expect, bearing in mind all the time and handwork involved, as well as the cost of the finest leather, my saddles are not cheap."

so now we know where the woodworking skills come into play, something that rather lets me out of the equation, since i have barely the technique to produce a door wedge. but you'll notice from tim's description of the saddle making process that after the leather is finished he rivets the shaped item to the saddle frame. but where the heck does that come from? it's one thing to fashion leather, a fairly malleable material, into a verisimilitude of a bicycle seat; it's an entirely nuther ball-game altogether to bend metal into a frame to which the leather can be attached. so firstly, where does tim acquire the leather, and more pointedly, where does the frame come from?

saddle detail

"the leather comes from a wonderful tannery in devon which has been carrying out oak bark tanning for over 400 years. their leather is used for the soles of the finest shoes by makers such as lobbs, as well as for horse saddlery. the leather is from english hides and of the finest quality. the oak bark process does not use the nasty chemicals that a lot of other tanneries use; and the leather they produce is beautiful stuff to work with.
the saddle frames are supplied by the customer, sometimes with the original broken cover, sometimes without. i use my archive of brooks and other saddle catalogues to find the correct shapes."

from many of the elderly machines i saw during the course of this year's tweed ride, it's obvious that bicycle restoration is a painstaking process, and one that cannot be unduly hurried. however, the saddle making skills described above are most certainly not for everyone. as i have detailed often enough to induce boredom, i'm fairly adept at wheelbuilding, but that's precisely where everything stops. i know my place.

so given the number of folks involved in restoring old bicycles, and lets face it, as time marches on, there will be more and more elderly bicycles requiring such tender loving care, what's a guy/gal to do for a saddle? with a burgeoning market not only in retro, but in the appreciation of techniques and quality bespoke products to decorate even the modern bicycle, is tim willing to accept work and/or commissions from interested parties?

"i mostly work on saddles for 19th and early 20th century bicycles, but i'm happy to undertake bespoke commissions for any type of saddle. i've recently been experimenting with a new style of cover for a brooks titanium swift. however, in common with the tony colegrave (who also uses leather from the same tannery) the saddles are not as durable as, say, a brooks saddle.
1890s victor spring fork safety bicycle their saddles are made from fully tanned leather stamped under very high pressure in a mould. when you hand-block a saddle you have to use partially tanned leather, which is not as 'greasy', because fully tanned leather of the thickness required is impossible to mould successfully by hand. so the saddles are suitable for limited use, but have the advantage that they are comfortable right away! provided they are protected from getting wet (as with any leather saddle) they will last, so they are ideal for vintage machines or the 'sunday best' bike. i've ridden a couple of thousand miles on my ordinary (penny farthing) saddle, and it's hardly stretched."

it strikes me that, having acquired the skills necessary to make works of art as shown accompanying this article, their may well be room for a bit of lateral thinking, and lateral building. so does tim find the time to make other similar items for the bicycle, modern or otherwise?

"i also make other leather items such as tool bags and made to measure mud flaps, and can also replace the leather on toe straps where period detail is important.  one of my most recent projects was to refurbish a brooks 'cyclist's' wallet tool bag from 1888. it was horribly squashed, so I re-blocked it back into shape and replaced the broken straps to exactly the original spec. it's worth spending the time on rare early items like that.

mud flaps bound for japan

so, if you've a rusting hulk in the corner of the bikeshed that you fancy bringing back to life, it seems that tim is the very chap to alleviate any concern over the saddle that barely clings to existence atop the post. or if the notion for something finer than a wonderfully fine thing to finish off your pride and joy has come to mind, a beautifully hand-crafted leather saddle or saddle bag might be just the unique touch required to set it apart from the humdrum. examples of tim's work can be seen in the velorama bicycle museum in nijmegen in holland, as well as in various private collections around the world.

if you'd like to know more, you can read tim's blog, or take a leisurely wander through his flickr galleries. if either give rise to want, want, want or untold desire, drop tim an e-mail.

many thanks to tim dawson for his assistance with this article.


posted thursday 26 august 2010

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a not very funny thing happened on the way to the velodrome

tour rides

it's very easy to poke fun at people, especially those who do not do as we do. we in the velo club have many a chuckle at the expense of those who golf (i doubt we're alone in that pursuit), and i'm equally sure many a putter finds men in lycra just as humourous. this approach is probably endemic in every walk of life; in one of my previous careers, a standard joke around the establishment went thus: "what's the difference between a week in operations, and a week's holiday? the answer was, of course, "absolutely nothing." a trifle obvious perhaps, but it kept us amused. thank heaven for intellectual pursuits.

i've always maintained that despite being deadly serious about cycling, i am often less so about my own participation in the activity. when the post was merely a footnote in our local newspaper, it was written with a cosmopolitan audience in mind, one with a majority that had no intrinsic interest in cycling in the first place. what apparently made each episode of interest, was its basis that everyone was as obsessed with the subject as i. shooting fish in a barrel is, i believe, a useful epithet. there are extremes of this poking of fun, some of which might just return to bite at the worst possible moment, though bikesnobnyc seems to have made a successful career out of doing exactly that.

tour rides

i am not of a particularly sensitive disposition that, should i meet any of the local golf club, i would feel intimidated or even substantially wounded, should a castigating yet humourous remark be thrown in my direction. what i do find myself sensitive to, however, are attempts such as the youtube video linked below to inject what passes for humour into popularising the sport or participation in same. on 11th september, the tour of britain (which i hope is receiving daily threats from trading standards: scotland has been totally excluded, rendering the use of the word britain somewhat suspect) heads off from rochdale en-route to blackpool for stage one of an eight stage race. it finishes with the traditional scoot round london on september 18th.

one of the tour's partners is the prostate cancer charity, a highly worthwhile cause, and one that is keen to raise its profile in this area, via three charity rides that will accompany the tour. ride one leaves from minehead and finishes at teignmouth, ride two, on the 18th september, is in london, and despite the tour having been finished for about a week, the third ride is in stoke-on-trent on the 26th. to ease newbies into the joy that is cycle riding, each event has a family ride covering from 1km to 25km, a challenging ride of around 80km and the pro-ride of around 160km. take your pick.

tour rides

unfortunately, someone in an office decided that these rides needed an injection of humour to make them more attractive to the uninitiated, recruiting david schneider, reputedly a comedian of repute from the i'm alan partridge tv show (a programme i've never seen). he coerced the hapless dean downing to join him at herne hill to spoof a range of techniques of no use whatsoever to anyone considering any of the three rides. despite schneider being billed as a comedian, i'm afraid i could find very little to laugh at in this video, other than the fact that someone had obviously thought it funny in the first place.

attempting to persuade those unused to getting on a bicycle, that riding just a bit further than they are convinced they can manage is an excellent idea, can always be assisted with a smidgeon of humour. there is nothing to be ashamed of in being seriously obsessed with cycling, but coming across with an almost religious fervour when talking to others rarely does us any favours. but promoting an excellent cause such as the prostate charity, in conjunction with britain's major cycle race, does not need to be undermined by any poor excuse for a laugh such as this. i'm sorry if i offend anyone by the above, but every now and again cycling seems incredibly capable of shooting itself in the foot, and this is one of those occasions.

mind you, since the object of the exercise was to publicise the rides, and i have written several hundred words about the object, maybe it worked. maybe i fell for their cunning plan.

take a look for yourself.

the prostate charity rides | tour of britain


posted wednesday 25 august 2010

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the good bit, just before the good bit

master-x-light bb

i like testing bicycles; there's likely few amongst us who wouldn't. more often than not, a nice shiny new machine, worth much more than i could possibly afford, arrives in a box or a bike bag, and the act of carefully (well, as carefully as possible) removing mountains of bubble wrap never really loses its shine. oh, i remember the days when bubble wrap merely served to keep me amused for hours, trying to pop as many little bubbles of air as was seemly in polite company. anyhoo, having the opportunity to ride a new bicycle likely before any other, and write the consequent review is a pleasure i still hold dear. the novelty has yet to wear off, and i hope it never does.

generally, the review machine arrives complete, apart from pedals (with the exception of the folders); it's simply a case of clamping the bars into the stem, adding the seatpost and saddle to the mix and we're off. now and again, on two rare occasions, everything has arrived in bits; you've already read at length about one of them, the chris king cielo, and the other has brought new depth of meaning to the word procrastination, having resided in thewashingmachinepost bike shed for a lot longer than i'm prepared to admit.

centaur lever

i have a colnago master x-light frame, painted in a rather fetching merckx era molteni colour scheme. the difference between this and the off the shelf model pertains to the rear triangle. the current version is pretty much 100% lugged steel, including seat and chainstays. thewashingmachinepost version, rather uniquely, has a carbon b-stay with those adorable leaf chainstays. ostensibly the best of both worlds, but you'll have to wait for the review to find that out. firstly, a bare naked frame needs much in the way of trinketry to transform to a fully-fledged bicycle.

and that, happily, became my job.

procrastination is a long word, but its meaning, in this case, became even longer, and certainly longer than necessary. with the frame being a hybrid of materials, the initial debate (even stretching as far as the offices of rouleur at one point), was whether to go down the road of retro, or stop pretending that steel is yesterday's material, and ensure that a degree of modernity prevailed. colnago's master frame no longer arrives with down-tube lever bosses, those having been replaced with cable stops. concerning this latter detail, those of you who are colnago owners will be aware of the utter crapness of the cable adjusters that are usually supplied from cambiago with a new frame. it took only two and a half years for the adjusters on my c40 to turn to powder. keen that this shouldn't happen on the molteni-master, i acquired a pair of stainless steel adjusters from none other than sacha at vanilla cycles in portland (well, actually it was scott that fetched them from the drawer). brass was also on offer, but it doesn't have the same force-field properties of stainless steel.

precisa fork steerer

i realise that most of you, having read this far, will be dreading the cycling equivalent of showing someone my holiday snaps, and wondering if maybe a cup of coffee is in order, or perhaps that rear tyre needs pumping up, as an alternative to wading through the following paragraphs. fear not, the bits that made the master into a bicycle will be woven into the diatribe intrinsic to the review, whenever it turns up. doubtless the fora (plural of forum), are stuffed with endless lists of what other folks have impinged upon their frames, and i apologise profusely to those i have already burdened with photos of my finished machine.

what seems to be less common these days, based on no research whatsoever, is the likelihood of an individual building up their own bicycle, as was apparently once the case. local bike shops must delight in the trade received from folks such as myself, with a frame, no idea and a bit of a shopping list written on the back of an envelope (preferably accompanied by a few oily fingermarks for authenticity).

i own a workstand; not the one i would ideally possess, but it does the job more than satisfactorily, into which the frame was clamped prior to a lengthy day of faff, nonsense and bike building. there can be very few frames on the market nowadays that arrive with threaded steerers, and the steel one on colnago's chromed precisa forks is no exception. in my case, on a 54cm frame, this needed cut to size, after carefully measuring with headset, spacers and stem in place. there are likely superb labour saving devices, such as those employed by plumbers for cutting pipes into appropriate lengths which i not only do not possess, but likely would be clueless as to their operation if i did, thus a trusty hacksaw was the fallback. unfortunately the cheap and nasty junior hacksaw blades purchased at the local shop were as much use as a chocolate fireguard, and i'd to use a much larger and more industrial looking implement to take more than an hour to chop the top off the steerer. i will not worry unduly about any fragility inherent at the steering end of the machine.

fsa sl-k crank arm

the bottom bracket was a real toad to fit. there's every likelihood that the bb shell threads needed chased, but have you seen the cost of those tools? for use once in a lifetime? i'm afraid i am miles and miles from a bikeshop that may provide such a service. if i'd checked this sooner, i could have had the frame away and back and still been nowhere near the build stage. in the event, vast quantities of lubricant and ant-seize compound liberally applied to both sets of threads, and more than a few schwarnold arzenegger moments put everything in place. remember: made in italy, so italian threads, meaning right hand turns both sides.

if you've never undertaken a complete build from start to finish (yes, i even have a headset press), and stood back to admire your handiwork, you really haven't lived. there's a huge difference between sprinting down uiskentuie strand, screaming "i bought this!", as opposed to the same scenario, but the speech bubble filled with "i built this!". i wouldn't necessarily recommend the above if you are generally bereft of mechanical aptitude, or have little in the way of quality bicycle tools (junior hacksaw notwithstanding), but assuming you have some idea of what goes where and how, and there's a local bike shop ready and waiting to assume the mantle of safety net, it's an admirable way to spend a day with workstand, coffee, and a lunchtime tub of muller rice (original flavour).

rohan dubash made me do it.

there are a number of folks to whom i owe a vote of thanks for their patience while i figured out which bits i needed to have, including guy andrews, rob bragginton, peter nisbet, chris distefano, michel lethenet, scott greenwood, martin scofield, pete tomkins and chris walker. thank you gentlemen for such forebearance in the face of adversity.


posted tuesday 24 august 2010

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cyclopedia. william fotheringham. yellow jersey press. hardback. 442pp illus. £16.99

cyclopedia cover

bicycles, at the risk of being stupidly obvious, are bicycles. a couple of wheels, a frame, two pedals and a set of handlebars. what it looks like is of secondary importance. actually that last bit isn't true, otherwise we wouldn't spend forever reading reviews, looking at pictures and moaning that it can't be purchased in green. today's colours schemes are verging on the obvious and mundane, ignoring the great days of the metallic fade, though occasionally reviving the sixties via plain colours with contrasting bands featuring the manufacturer's name in stylish lettering. modern stuff just doesn't do it for me anymore, and the logos are too prevalent and too big. but, apart from that functionality is expected and mostly guaranteed.

thus climbing aboard whatever it is that resides in the bike shed, will result in a bicycle trip of at least modest ability.

you'd be considerably less than impressed if things didn't work, or if it was difficult to figure out what did which. after years of development, gear changing has evolved to the handlebars and changing has gained an electronic impetus. after one or two trial runs (if it actually takes as many as that), and all is sussed. the bicycle has become transparent in use, and confidence wields its happy fingers.

imagine if reading a book was less than straightforward. ever since midway through primary school, reading has been one of those intuitive actions that is barely thought about at point of use. the majority of us lift up a newspaper, magazine, book, or leaflet and read without thinking. that's definitely the way that it's supposed to be, and hours are spent by designers across the world trying to ensure that the design of the printed page does not get in the way of the message. austerity is not necessarily a badge to be worn with pride, for the odd flourish or decoration can enhance the act of reading, as long as it doesn't get in the way.

it is sad, therefore, that those responsible for designing william fotheringham's excellent compendium of cycling knowledge, found it necessary to ignore the foregoing. the legend on the back cover pays tribute to the publishers being yellow jersey press, and whether this had any bearing on the yellow cover, i know not. it certainly stands out on a crowded bookshelf. the travesty was to continue this over onto the pages inside. the ultimate example of this iniquity is displayed on page 202, where a list of hour record holders since the first in 1893, prints the riders' names in yellow on a yellow background. yes, the background is but a tint of the text colour, but it's still harder to read than need be the case.

this is but one example of design failure, but the persistent example that pervades every page, is the choice of a thin serif typeface, again printed in yellow, to denote cross-references. concerned that it may just be my eyesight, i showed this to several others, all of whom experienced the same difficulty. before the book arrives in paperback, might i plead with the publishers to source a more distinctive colour. yellow on white is not its finest hour.

that said, the book itself, an encyclopaedia of cycling lore, is easily worth the price of admission. aside from the hour record entry mentioned above, you can read about cycle lanes, roger de vlaeminck, the foreign legion, great italian cycle manufacturers (though one wonders why colnago has been singled out as the only one guilty of taiwanese production), the alps, paris-roubaix; a veritable plethora of information pertaining to what for most is a daily activity, and weekend escape. mr fotheringham has not stinted on the research, for while lots of us will have at least heard mention of the bulk of entries, i'm sure most (self included) would struggle muchly to be quite so coherent and precise if asked to expand to any passing civilians.

for while many a cycling book is clearly aimed at the cognoscenti, safe, perhaps, in the knowledge that it will appeal only to the great unwashed, any tome branding itself as an encyclopaedia is likely to attract attention from the uninitiated. that's sort of its job really, for how else are potential converts expected to find the door of the changing room? this is where william fotheringham's depth of field comes into its own. and i quote:

robert millar the glaswegian is britain's best ever tour de france cyclist, one of cycling's greatest climbers, and one of the sport's great eccentrics. during the 1992 'euro tour', where the race numbers bore the 12 stars of the european union, millar spent several minutes each morning scraping the stars off, and carefully inscribing a scottish saltire instead. he has an ascerbic, rather black sense of humour, is a fine writer, coined various nicknames for his contemporaries and featured in a fine television documentary, the high life, with soundtrack by steve winwood.

you have to admit, if any of us were asked to sum up robert in one paragraph, we'd struggle to be so succinct.

this commendable ability to precis without missing the kernel of each definition, is not one owned by many, and the cyclopedia is all the better for it. it has perhaps more value for those not inducted into the ways of the spoked wheel, than for those with a subscription to rouleur, but i have spent a happy week dipping in and out and learning more than i expected. illustrations are simple black and yellow graphics at the level of adornment, though nicely done and quite welcome in the context; there are, however, no illustrations specific to each entry. you won't find a picture of robert millar to accompany his entry.

though that yellow printing has gone from merely irritating to positively annoying, i'd still be inclined to brave the occasional bout of illegibility and get hold of a copy. one of the few books that can genuinely be described as indispensible.

william fotheringham's 'cyclopedia' will be published on 16th september 2010

yellow jersey press


posted monday 23 august 2010

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here we go round again

rapha's winter jersey mark one

our local secondary school, at some time in the recent past, banned the wearing of football jerseys in the classrooms during school hours, a move with which i have every sympathy. considering the logos emblazoned across the front of, at least those of glasgow's two premier teams, it means that kids not even close to the legal age for drinking are wearing hoops, stripes and solids promoting the brand names of one or two famous lagers. football jerseys were not fabricated for wearing over a pair of jeans; who really needs a number on the back with their own surname atop? it may assist in recognition by the teaching staff, but is that really what scallywag pupils wish to encourage? i would have little problem siding with the school if they were to include rugby, cycle, and hockey jerseys, along with swimming trunks and possibly even wetsuits.

gentlemen such as the infamous james lamont spend many an entertaining hour poring over dynamic flow diagrams (or whatever it is that apparel fabric specialists pore over), determining whether the hydrophilic properties of specific clothing materials are equal to the job in hand, and whether the elasticity of lycra infused clothing will coincide with the desired co-efficiency of drag. i don't really understand it either, but i don't think we really have to; that's why they have specialists like james.

therefore it would seem sheer folly to clothe oneself in sartorial fashion earmarked for more technical purposes in order that the class and teachers will be advised of any pupil's specific support for a football team of note (or not). should this be taken to its illogical conclusion, it's possible that a monday morning classroom would appear like a reckless amalgam of scottish and english premier league representatives. if it were left to me, every pupil would be required to wear full school uniform at all times, including retiring for the evening to bed; blazer, shirt and tie was good enough for me, and i see no reason why the modern generation be spared this particular discipline.

however, inappropriate sportswear in the classroom aside, there may be life in one old cycling dog yet, though i'm not sure school premises should be included.

i cannot claim resonsibility for emerging with this idea single-handed, for the notion first sprouted wings at july's edinburgh nocturne. it wasn't a particularly cool evening, so the necessity of wearing even so much as a softshell through the course of the evening was negated. and given the nature of said evening, something more relaxed, devil-may-care, and distinctly i'm particularly au-fait with this cycling lark could but do wonders for one's street cred. you can be sure, in this case, that i was not the one emulating the equivalent of a cycling james dean, but simply an observer storing ideas with which to regale you at a later date. over two months later as it turns out.

rapha's winter jersey mark one

several years ago (about three-ish, if memory serves) rapha released their initial offering of a winter jersey; a black fleecy-lined garment with the trademark white hoop on the left sleeve, a full-length zip with pink lining and two rear pockets; one small, one larger. since then, the rapha winter jersey has evolved to include windproof front panels, and a variation in the henry ford black. so, while aimlessly wandering about the hospitality area in the capital's grassmarket, trying to appear nonchalant, i passed two thin gentlemen attired one in a black rapha stowaway, the other in an unzipped rapha winter jersey mark one. and that looked really cool, if you don't mind me saying so.

i happen to own one of those jerseys, one that has been well worn and washed, so the black is not what the printing trade would refer to as a rich black any more. but that, in fact, only adds to the effect, providing a certain je ne sais quoi if worn in the correct fashion (and i wish it noted that i am not suggesting for one minute that i have achieved whatever this correct fashion might be). having the need to pop down to bowmore harbour last evening to photograph some boats (don't ask), an evening almost as warm as that experienced in edinburgh's grassmarket returned to mind, and i suited up so to speak. it's not quite the equivalent of wearing a soccer jersey to class, and there seems little likelihood of anyone banning me from so doing, even though i expect to wear it to the office at least once this week.

but it works for me.

the two rear pockets, assisted by one of the waterproof zipped variety, only adds to the practicality of so doing. it has not been brought to my attention that football jerseys have pockets of any description, meaning i'm already one up at the start. i doubt that mr mottram had this particular recreational use in mind when the winter jersey first saw light of day, though i distinctly remember asking at the time whether he had ever considered producing the same jersey minus those rear pockets. how glad am i that most people ignore my suggestions.

if you are fortunate enough to own just such a winter jersey, and have retained it in wearable condition, dig it out this minute. after the islay show, it is considered to be winter; the show is over a week past, and the rebirth of cool is happy to inhabit the mini-season prior to doom and gloom. we are, after all, a breed apart.


posted sunday 22 august 2010

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it's a fair cop, but debbie's is to blame


saturday morning, a time to both fear and embrace in that order. fear because the weekly shop has to be undertaken at the co-op supermarket in bowmore, a shopping experience that makes you wonder where the word super came from, and whether it may be necessary to re-define the meaning. however, once that part of the day has passed, the heavy bags carried up the street (literally; bowmore main street slopes upwards towards the round church), and all put away in their designated storage spaces, cycling beckons.

as breakfast of porage and toast has long since been put away, it's not only cycling that beckons, but just a teensy hint of peckishness, one that really ought to be satisfied before any serious distance has been targeted. i agree that something fitting in a rear pocket may just provide enough in the way of slow-release carbohydrates to encompass at least an economical distance, but that has fewer social possibilities than the more obvious alternative, even though the latter consists of fewer kilometres between hunger and satisfaction.

this has been the routine for many a saturday: off down to deb's for a soya cappuccino accompanied by a mediterranean roasted vegetable sandwich or roll. with cheeky crisps. assuming the weather to be as clement as it was today, even though it's pouring down now, one can enjoy the foregoing in an unashamedly hedonistic manner by dining al fresco. the tables and chairs on the patio at debbie's provide lovely views across the loch to home, always providing some ruddy motorist hasn't parked a car right in front of me, leaving the engine running while they pop inside to order takeaway coffees and sandwiches. today was particularly picturesque, since there was more than just a boat or two participating in the stormcats' tope fishing festival.

the idea is then supposed to include heading off into the hinterlands for what passes as quality miles.

debbie's soya cappuccino

i also need to put my hand up and admit to having the occasional read of the comic while dining (always assuming the mighty dave t hasn't pinched it). this despite my having cancelled the newsagent copy some considerable time ago. i only read it for michael hutchinson's column anyway.

so there i am, on a sunny saturday lunchtime sitting outside debbie's in bruichladdich, a mere pump's throw from bruichladdich distillery with a hearty lunch, a fabulous cup of coffee, and something to read. if i'm lucky i have one further option: company. in summertime, islay has become a bit of a mecca for the cycling fraternity, and no visit can be considered complete without a visit to debbie's, therefore more often than not, there are other cyclists with which to converse. now you wouldn't have me appear so unsociable as to remain cloistered at my own table, egotistical enough to be satisfied with my own reverie? would you? no of course you wouldn't. i have ambassadorial duties to perform, ensuring word of mouth brings more bicyclists next year. at least, that's my excuse.

after a passage of time that is most unbecoming of a honed athlete, one with a reputation to be bolstered (which doesn't take much, come to that), there is a likelihood that i am either going to be placed on the staff rota at deb's, or show up on an ordnance survey map. a glance at the bicycle leaning casually against the wall of carol ogilvie's house serves to remind what on earth it is that i'm supposed to be there for in the first place. it can be ignored under the pretence of a period of admiration for just so long, and one has to be concerned that passers-by, who, in the nature of village life, often pass more than once in a lunchtime, may begin to wonder whether the bike and sportwool is nothing more or less than a sham.

debbie's soya cappuccino

conscience being what it is, i can only hope that it continues to nag at a frequency that prevents longer spells in the big chair. if the coffee wasn't so darned good and the staff so welcoming, there would be no compulsion to stay. thus i feel no responsibility for my predicament because it is plainly not my fault. if i'm really lucky, some worthy will ask advice about bicycles (i think they feel they ought to just to humour me) or will ask if they can lift whatever i'm riding at the time, just to see how light modern velocipedes have become. (it has long ceased to be a surprise that civilians prove themselves more obsessed with bicycle weight than those who ride the darned things). such questioning will allow justification.

this will all come home to roost at some point in the future, likely sooner rather than later, when someone suggests a ride of greater magnitude than my verbal attestations would suggest i cover at each and every opportunity. it is referred to as cycling after all, an activity that rather obviously encourages perhaps more pedalling than i have managed of late, and spending the following week with bum planted firmly in front of an imac is hardly making serious demands on my vo2 max.

but hot diggety, that coffee's good.


posted saturday 21 august 2010

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boneshaker issue 2

boneshaker issue 2

had i been starting out today with thewashingmachinepost, i would be sorely tempted to investigate the world of print and paper. while the day of the fanzine has, for whatever reason, seemingly gone the way of the dodo, there is little to compare with having a bunch of stitched and bound pages sitting on one's lap; there's a subtly glorious tactility to be gained from text on textured paper, and i still maintain that photography carries a more luxurious quality when printed than when represented in pixels. mind you, the cost of printing, allied with the requirement to have the result transported into the hands of a (hopefully) eager readership is a sobering thought. it's an undertaking i'd love to consider, but one that should likely be left to hover in the background, just slightly out of focus. depth of field is, i believe, the correct technical term.

i am what i believe could be described as a voracious reader, for despite subscribing to a number of publications and having others ordered through my local newsagent, there still seem to be gaps in the month when i am bereft of reading material. granted, there is always the guardian each day, but a newspaper is for the news, not necessarily discursive writing on subjects i have a predilection for, and it's murder trying to turn the pages in the bath. such a predicament is not aided and abetted by the monthlies placing all their eggs in one basket and re-living 21 days in july.

suddenly the bookcase is bare.

boneshaker issue 2

if any of you are well versed in the art of twitter, you may have come across the constant tweeting back and forward when the latest issue of rouleur is due to drop through the letterbox. either we are all so obsessed with our cycling literature, and eager to read and look at the luxury end of the pedals, or we're all total saddos who have so little in our lives, apart from handlebar tape and boutique wheels. anyway, whichever of the above is true (and feel free to delete as applicable), it is likely very much to the financial and editorial benefit of rouleur. it's a service industry after all.

despite chiding guy andrews often enough about going weekly, that really isn't going to happen anytime soon (actually i think the word never was used), so there are still gaps to be filled. if i'm lucky, a kindly publisher or two will send in books to review, and suddenly i'm like a pig in that brown stuff we don't talk about. however, i could always squeeze in one more, especially if the subject matter concerns a side of bicycling that doesn't quite fill the pages of everything else on the shelf. and that's sort of where boneshaker magazine fits in.

boneshaker issue 2

issue one was a bit of a revelation; bound and printed in similar fashion to rouleur, but more pocket-sized, quality illustrations, though the writing still needed to get up to speed. however, despite us all being unadmittedly joined at the hip when it comes to bicycles that go very fast, a great number depend on them for transportation and just generally getting about, something that seems too indefinable to be regarded as transport. and people sell and fix bicycles, only the concern of the regular fare when it comes to advertising, but isn't their story worth telling? issue two of boneshaker, which can now be nabbed online as well as in favoured locations (look mum no hands, to name one), smells just wonderful; i'd recommend buying a copy purely for the luxury of the smell of real paper and ink. you won't get that from thewashingmachinepost.

pages 18 to 23 feature the art and story of brooklyn artist, taliah lempert (on the cover too), quickly followed by some words and pictures about edinburgh's falling apart velodrome at meadowbank. the opening pages bearing a colourful similarity to the post, feature brixton cycles; where it's from, where it's at, and where it's going. with a total of fifty six beautifully printed pages for only a fiver (according to my paypal account), i think you owe it to the progenitors and yourselves this compact and bijou homage to a side of cycling less often covered in print anywhere else.

boneshaker magazine


posted friday 20 august 2010

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