i have no wish to encourage the notion that i am of an adventurous nature. i once stood dithering in front of the muller rice section of the co-operative, unable to decide whether to purchase toffee and banana (limited edition no less) or regular apple flavour. adventure is not in my genes. but a smidgeon of adventure in the mixing and matching department when it comes to bicycle componentry never did anyone any harm. at least not if confined to the workstand. you may recall the cole wheels reviewed only a week or two ago, the pair with the campagnolo freehub and concomitant campagnolo cassette. on the indirect recommendation of my good friend mr sachs, i thought the wheels might enjoy a brief outing aboard the ibis hakkalugi.
islay has plunged into autumn as of yesterday, cyclocross season will be here before we know it, and it seemed only right and fitting that a scuffle about with cantilevers was in order. those coles looked as if they might be keen to join in. however, the fly in the ointment is a minor incompatibility between teeth and shifters; the ibis is festooned with sram, and campagnolo is not sram. at least, not last time i looked.
working on the demonstrated assumption that with ten sprockets available across the board (so far i have had no serious truck with eleven) the gap between sprockets can have minimal room to manoeuvre. in theory, how hard can it be? sadly the answer to this latter query will have to wait for another day (probably tomorrow), for in the process of removing the cielo from the bikeshed, i recalled that the front fender (they're american, so it seems only proper that i give them their sunday name) had been rattling slightly on yesterday's ride.
at the time of fitting, i had been surprised to discover that the full wood fenders came without any mounting hardware; the stays were present, but there were no bolts for affixation to the forks. if you've ever been in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed, you will understand just how unlikely it would be to happen upon a set of four appropriately sized stainless steel bolts. thus, in order to proceed with the task in hand (at the time) i grabbed anything that would fit. in this case, that consisted of four galvanised steel philips screws. you see the thinking at the time was that only a few days later, i would conduct a door to door search for a set of pristine allen bolts. as the saying goes, 'you know what thought did.'
here we are over a year later, in fact darned near two years later, and those rust encrusted screws are still doing a reasonable job of keeping said fenders in place. well, apart from that rattle up front.
so in the process of removing bicycles from shed, i opted to try and replace them with recently discovered less rust prone bolts. all, that is, apart from one which steadfastly refused to budge. it's still there, doing an admirable job which, unless brute strength and ignorance wins the day, it will continue to do for a good while longer. however, in the process of scrabbling about the bicycle on hands and knees (since the intention had not been there to begin with, the workstand was still in the shed), a circle of rust at the interface between drive-side chris king bottom bracket cup and bottom bracket shell was all too obvious.
this is a substantially corrosive atmosphere in which i live, (if i haven't mentioned that before), and ferrous oxide is an occupational hazard, but one that i'd rather was conspicuous by its absence on my bicycles. so having set out to get to the hakkalugi at the rear of the shed, i now felt it more practical to deal with what seemed like the problem in hand. cranks removed (how incredibly easy is that?), 'twas a mere matter of seconds to lay my hands on the chris king bb tool, a ratchet handle and set about cup removal. it is at this point that doubts surfaced over which cup was a left-hand thread.
when bottom brackets were real, and not just a couple of bits of aluminium hiding some bearings, the fixed cup hid behind the chainset; flat, inaccessible and usually stuck. and it became even stucker after battering the stuffing out of it in the wrong direction. since those halcyon days, bottom brackets have become trendy to the point where both bearing cups look identical, failing miserably to advertise their particular direction in life. contrary to prognostications of doom and gloom, both cups came out like a hot knife through butter, suffered an ignominious re-greasing and popped back in place. i did take the time to clean the inner side of the chainrings and the inaccessible area of the frame around the bottom bracket.
what a conscientious fellow i have become.
as a last effort to salve the guilty conscience, the enormous, once fluffy towel was pressed into service to clean the chain, and a liberal quantity of chain-l applied to each link. satisfaction guaranteed.
it seems only fair to mention that i also removed the less than pristine brake bolt that captures the rear caliper. for reasons not altogether clear, this one as opposed to its front counterpart, seems particularly keen on getting stuck. i know of more than one cyclist who has a rear brake that will probably never be separated from its master. thankfully, the rust was only skin deep; removal and re-fitting was simplicity itself.
if it's autumn up this way, it will be reaching you all too soon, and i'll bet you've barely even cleaned that bike once over the summer months let alone looketh well to its going. in which case, you're lucky i happened along just in time. the minute you've finished reading, drop what you're doing, get out to that bike shed and start checking that all the bits that ought to be working (on the bike that is) still are. and if any give the merest hint of retardation, either fix them, or get someone to fix them for you. remember, it might seem like autumn, but its' really only august; there's a lot more can go wrong between now and happy christmas.
posted monday 29 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
have you ever attempted to get peach slices out of a tin using only a teaspoon? it's a bit like trying to catch goldfish with a breadstick, though ultimately a great deal more productive, (unless of course, you breed goldfish). i used to have muesli for breakfast, but muesli is often full of sugar and more than my fair share of salt. sugar might be helpful for pedalling around a bit, but i really can't stand salt at all. i've mever quite figured out why some folks put salt in their soup before they've even tried it; rather unfurls the edges of logic by my way of thinking.
however, if muesli was off the breakfast menu, a substitute was earnestly required, a substitute found by way of a packet of porage oats. well, several packets if truth be told. willfully trying to live up to the fitness, health and macho profile of the kilted shot putter that appears on packets of scott's porage oats, i opted not for the regular fare, but for the old fashioned variety. these are far chunkier in their constitution than the norm, and the equivalent of the need for crunchy peanut butter. only track sprinters eat smooth peanut butter.
now it may be considered sacreligious to criticise the traditional scottish breakfast, but allowing for the fact that i use no salt, it's hardly the most flavoursome product on the market, though its health giving properties are second to none. if only i had subscribed to such a start to the day prior to the shot putt at school sports. having seen an advertisement in one of the magazines i collected when in portland, for bobs red mill oats, where the plate was lavishly decorated with fruit, i thought i'd go down the same route. banana seemed the more obvious solution, but it turns out that peaches are even better. i started with fresh items from the local supermarket, but given that their stock control is as it is, a regular supply was pretty hard to come by. (sadly, subsequent months provided a dearth of even the tinned product for no appreciable reason).
hence my difficulty with fetching sliced peaches from a tin can, to say nothing of dripping juice over the table mat.
after a hearty weekend breakfast, it is common policy to take a bicycle from the bikeshed and go ride it somewhere, which is sort of where the question about freeview in a tent comes from. (for those not familar with the ever changing face of british television, having switched off the analogue signal all across the country, we are now provided with digital free-to-air programming through the auspices of a standard aerial. the picture quality is quite excellent.) though many excursions into the hinterlands are regularly conducted dressed as a member of the pelotonese, every now and again it does no harm to avail oneself of a more relaxed and acceptable form of apparel, one that doesn't necessarily advertise a predilection for skinny wheels and bendy bars. in fact, one that would conceal almost all affinity with the bicycle altogether.
mind you, the tell-tale tanlines on the back of the hands is a bit of a giveaway.
i cannot deny that there is a certain joy to be had from association with the bicycle, so one's garmentation need not stretch too far in the direction of civility, but a relaxed style never did anyone any harm either. since saturday was of favourable weather, not too hot, not too cold, a merino baselayer under muxu's new merino jumper, brilliantly named if only because i have been told i shouldn't use such wordage; the proper description is, apparently, sweater. i prefer jumper; it's a word that engenders an altogether cosier ideology. paired with muxu's threequarter shorts, remove the cielo from under me and civilianity would be mine to own.
it was as i rode in the direction of debbie's, sleeves rolled to the forearms, zip coolly less than all the way to the neck, that i noticed the green tent pitched on the grass at uiskentuie strand. sitting on a makeshift stand only a few feet from the tent, and tethered by a co-axial cable, was a television aerial. televisions and tents are, to my mind, not normal bedfellows, but it occured that, with the analogue signal now conspicuous by its absence, only the digital signal must be providing viewing pleasure. another total contradiction it would seem.
muxu's (pronounced moo-shoo) mapp merino jumper (how i love that word) is of an impressively mature quality, finely knitted, commendably substantial and cosy and warm in just the way a jumper ought to be. for the immediate outset, yet to warm up from my exertions, i had the zip all the way to the neck, at which point it is likely i would be identified as at least a refugee from the peloton, comfortable in my own athleticism. and though sleeves were not long in being rolled, their length was particularly impressive.
i travel light; lunch at debbie's requires only that i carry sufficient folding stuff, in this case, ensconced in the pockets of the ride shorts. however, should i have required the use of a pocket, a substantial canvas fronted example features at lower right, just close enough on the back of the jumper for easy access. closure is by means of a substantial rubberised button which resisted all my attempts of fastening while in motion. it is however, large enough to contain a digital camera and a folded up copy of this year's lagavulin islay jazz festival programme. i could likely also have managed a packet of bikefood lemon energy sweets had push come to shove. supposing that more substantial removals had been the order of the day, both shoulders are protected by the same heavy canvas that fabricates the pocket, so a rucksack or musette would make no inroads into the very substance of the jumper. cuffs and hem are of doubled construction and the internal portion below the collar bearing a bearably white muxu logo makes continued use of the canvas patching.
though i have worn my black jumper for only a brief moment in time, there is every indication that the garment will outlast its wearer.
i cannot, however, deny that a modicum of criticism might be levelled at that rear pocket, and the fact that it is flying solo. though i have only ridden in favourable weather, it dawned on me that should i have required some sort of wet weather protection, there was nowhere to put it. though the single pocket is commendably sized, it comes not even close to swallowing a rainjacket and it might be a favourable addition were a couple of companions provided. at the risk of ruining what is obviously intended as a minimalist commuting garment, surely i cannot be the only one with a 30km round trip to the coffee stop along a fiercely exposed coast road?
anyone help me out here?
i'd also prefer that it was positioned ever so slightly more towards the centre. with a compact digital camera and that jazz programme contained within, the weight pushed the pocket more towards the side/front of the jumper. a trivial complaint i agree; nothing's perfect, but reviews are designed for one to express one's views even if they do seem a mite unreasonable.
all in all, however, muxu have hit the spot with this one. body length and drop tail couldn't be more spot on (medium size reviewed), windproofing is a lot better than you'd think, and the henry ford colour scheme is more than up to the job of retaining my composure, despite an uncanny ability to get oil on anything simply by my walking past the bikeshed. and if testimony towards the everyday were needed, i presaged my cycling efforts with two days sat in a computer chair, wrangling pixels, just to prove that such a practical jumper is no one trick pony.
and did i mention that it's cosy, just as a jumper ought to be?
with the vuelta in mid-flight at present, it is a source of frustration that, for some unknown reason, my freeview enabled set at home refuses to provide itv4, something that would enable me to obviate the need to experience a daily dose of coronation street. as we again passed the tent on the strand with its aerial still connected, it dawned on me that perhaps i should drop in on my return to debbie's to ask if spain could be had on their set.
maybe we could even have sliced peaches while we watched.
posted sunday 28 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
pretty much all new stuff works the way its maker intended (unless you're microsoft), though the odd glitch is bound to seep in through the cracks now and again. witness, with reference to the latter, apple's refurb store, where it is possible to by ostensibly brand new apple products often at substantial discount. the only noticeable diference for the purchaser is the item in question's arrival in a plain cardboard box, rather than one of those stylishly designed efforts carried proudly from store to car park. there will always be exceptions, but most conscientious purveyors have done at least a modicum of testing before unleashing on a welcoming cycling public. thus it is with review products.
in all the time i have been regaling you with my thoughts on a wide range of goodies, i have only ever had two items which singularly failed to live up to the words on the side of the box. or, indeed, the copywriter's hyperbole at the foot of the advert. by the very nature of most reviews, the reports are of short-term testing; in this modern world of built-in obsolescence, there is a danger that any lengthy review would be of a product that has been superceded. this very happenstance occurred only a couple of years back when, after having had the luxury of a colnago clx for several months, just as the long-term review was about to be pixelated, colnago announced the clx 2.0, thus rendering the bulk of my observations null and void.
however, it is also a truism that reviews on the post, and many in print do not testify to the continuance of those aspects noted at point of scribbling. for instance, in the case of clothing, i will readily admit that few of the garments i have been sent have been washed within an inch of their lives to check for colourfastness, shrinkage and downright survivability. technically speaking, that is not the prime reason for reviewing cycling apparel, just as it is not a major consideration as to how well an expensive carbon frame survives being crashed into the wall at debbie's. i'm not sure i'd want to be the one making the phone call after that.
however, i am well aware of the iniquities of the system; the fact that a pair of tyres survived puncture free for a couple of weeks of dry riding would surely come under the heading of as designed? and if you'd just paid the better part of £100 for the pleasure of fitting them to your wheels, you'd be inclined to expect this at the very least. but what if the same tyres were subjected to the road not long travelled, to conditions that would hardly be their bread and butter on a regular basis, and in lashings of very wet rain? surely that would give a better indication as to whether the parting with your hard-earned was a conceivably good idea at the time?
i wholeheartedly concur.
therfore, while my initial review of vittoria's open pave evo cg tyres was most complimentary, i believe i did aver at the time that i would continue to give them as hard a time as i could, and let you know more at the end of the month. that time has arrived, and i have done my level best to ensure that they did not have time to rest on their laurels. in fact, not that the notion was included in my original premise, but so far they have transferred their affections to another two sets of wheels (with ease, i am happy to say), and have existed on a concentrated diet of potholes, cattle grids, a short period of unavoidable offroading, and as much rain as it was seemly to invite. (folks do have a very strange opinon of cyclists who deliberately go out in the rain).
as of writing, and i realise i am about to put the hoobiken on the enture affair, i have suffered zero punctures, and close examintation of the treads, particularly that of the rear, show no untoward deterioration of either. there are no obvious cuts and bruises on show. they have also been my saviour on more than one occasion when i rather outdid my meagre limits of bicycle control in the face of more gravel than i had expected. remaining upright in the face of adversity is always a comfort to the soul.
these are not, as of this updated review, being summarily retired from service. i will continue to ply my trade across the degenerating road surfaces of islay for the foreseeable future, particularly now that autumn and winter begin to hove into view. if any irregularities present themselves, but considered in the light that the vittorias are no longer pristine examples of their genre, i will be sure to let you (and vittoria) know. it's a bit late for beta testing, but perhaps an early start on their inevitable successors.
posted saturday 27 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
let's imagine that the soigneur has woken you from your deep slumber at 6am for a quick shower before a breakfast of more pasta. the very same menu that's been on offer for the last two weeks. already dressed in team kit with the option to change to clickety shoes before the off, you nip back up to the room to grab last minute bits and bobs, grab the suitcase on wheels and head down to the team bus parked, ready and waiting in the hotel car park. there are a couple of other teams staying in the same hotel so the exodus through the front door almost demands an orderly queue. you settle into your seat on the bus, plug in the ipod's earphones and settle back for the brief, but longer than necessary ride to the start.
on disembarking from the coach, the mechanics have neatly ranged the bikes along the side, from which you grab the one with your number on the seatpost and head for the sign-on. the very same actions that you've performed for the last fourteen days. at this point, one hotel is beginning to look very much like another, and each stage seems to herald the same stretch of tarmac, though admittedly there have been one or two grovelling lumps in the middle of some of them.
then you're off into a few kilometres of neutralised zone, kilometres that are always a degree faster than desired, with the keenest riders jostling for position long before the guy in the red car waves his little flag from the safety of his blue shirt and a skoda sunroof.
at this point, with no specific expectations from the directeur sportif, you settle into the middle of the peloton for a chat with those similarly placed for the day. if you're tired and bored, just think how the guys in the commentary box are feeling, and what about those sitting at home with an afternoon off work? just like any job in the world, stage racing is not immune from being boring or engendering boredom in its obsessive adherents. would we ever admit this to be the case?
not on your nelly.
perhaps an unfortunate time to be suggesting the above; everyone will automatically assume that i'm referring to the vuelta, but i feel the question should be spread so much wider. the one day classics are a pleasure to watch on several levels; beginning to end is a good start, but similar to struggling through the superbowl and its precedents, eventually it all begins to make sense, no longer appearing as a simple bike race. there are strategies at work here that make a game of chess look like tiddlywinks. and as with pretty much every race, stage or single day classic, the last few kilometres are always exciting.
so isn't a three week stage tour simply 19 single day epics strung back to back? well, strictly speaking yes, but there's a lot more feigning and tactics to be played out across this stretched period of time which may well involve day upon day of doing pretty much nothing at all, in order to play to supposed strengths when it comes to the crunch. that's the bit that's boring, probably just as much for the riders as for those watching on the telly.
but in much the same way that black couldn't exist without white, or cold without hot, it's all relative. those mountain stages wouldn't seem half as exciting if we hadn't endured mile upon mile of flat parading, and seemingly pointless breakaways, waiting for the sprinters to only just manage to avoid banging into each other. few album downloads from itunes consist of 100 mile an hour songs; there's generally one or two slow ones to help pacing on the ipod. heralded to a podium of their own would be the race organiser able to provide a race that catered for every racing whim, one that agreed with both riders and viewers.
so, to put it bluntly, stage races (and occasionally one day pedals) incorporate a modicum of boredom; life's like that. there's no reason why bike racing should be any different. so if the opening week of one of the three tours has failed to light the blue touch paper, just think how much more interesting and exciting will be the mountain stages.
now who nodded off while i was talking?
photographs courtesy of manual for speed
posted friday 26 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
gone are the days when we were content with the roads around town; or even the roads out of town. and perhaps even the roads that led to the next town. for cycling has now reached international proportions, and there are many persuasions to gather up the velocipede and head north, south, east or west. i have already availed myself of two differing routes from london to paris aboard two different eddy merckx bicycles, and circumnavigated a small selection of the byeways round portland on a lovely blue cielo. for am i not one of the new international peletonese, forever bound towards pastures new with passport in my musette?
actually i'm not.
as the years roll by, i find myself quite content to ride around my home, while drooling over the rapha continental movies and a seeming endless stream of fabulous vistas, populated by one or two satisfied cyclists. i'd love to be a more adventurous cyclist, but i fear both ambition and economics have placed a restraining order on riding further afield, at least on a regular basis.
with stage races and single day events taking place all across the world, our fascination with carbon fibre and emulation of the professional classes has led us to the world of the gran fondo and etapes du tour. though my mind is still open enough to accept the possibility of the occasional jaunt in hitherto unexplored regions, i draw the line at riding with several thousand other pedallists. somehow, i just don't see the attraction.
but while foreign parts take on the virtues of grass on the other side, what about that which lies in our own back garden? our local high school annually offers pupils the opportunity to explore obscure, rugged locations at the four corners of the world. this year's extravaganza led a party to the island of madagascar which, by all accounts and the report that appeared in the local paper, was the trip of a lifetime. however, fun and enlightening though it may have been, i have it on good authority that most, if not all the pupils, had never set foot on the outer hebrides. or visited smoo cave in dornoch. nor seen the dome of dounreay nuclear power station at thurso, or even popped across the water to either orkney or shetland.
far be it from me to place restrictions or order upon world travel, particularly the adventurous young, but does it not seem ironic that schoolchildren are less aware of their own country than they are about islands off the coast of africa? it is but a small shift of nomenclature to apportion a similar level of blame upon the pelotonese. with the exception of an area stretching from culzean castle in south ayrshire to ardrossan, arran and the kintyre peninsula, i have singularly failed to explore the roadways of the country in which i was born. at least not by bicycle. and i certainly have not done so aboard something with skinny wheels, bendy bars and no panniers.
hot chili advertise their annual london-paris event as being the professional event for amateurs, a claim which they regularly live up to. there can be little better than having nothing else to do but climb aboard your bicycle in the morning and ride to your destination at a pace that brings the heart rate to maturity. there is maintenance that follows in your wake, a car up front to clear the way, and motorcycle outriders to deal with the iniquities of road junctions, roundabouts and inconvenienced motorists. in all honesty, i can't recommend it highly enough. but it leaves from london, which is not in scotland, and finishes en masse along the champs elysees in the little french village of paris.
couldn't i do the same thing at home? you bet your bottom euro i can.
the aptly named skinnytyres offer the highland perthshire revolution, a three day fiesta of scottish cycling. as described on their website "This 200 mile route will take you on a complete revolution around all of the best roads, mountains, lochs, forests, straths and glens in Highland Perthshire. the route includes 13 categorised climbs, with some of the biggest and best in the uk. the idea seems so incredibly obvious in retrospect, but what brought it to fruition? skinny tyres director, scot tares; "It started on the back of a cycling trip to the Alps, which was fantastic. On my return, I went out on a 100miler with my club Perth United CC. We went over Ben Lawers, which I had done many times previously, but it struck me that I was searching for great places to cycle, but missing what was right on my doorstep."
scotland is well equipped with roads that are sparsely traversed by the motor car, often surrounded by scenery that many would pay a great deal to view. what better way to do so than in the saddle of a fast bicycle? "Our first customers came from all over the UK, including Essex and Kent and were amazed that they could ride on such quiet roads with such good climbs. The feedback was very positive. We are keen to promote Scotland as a genuine road cycling destination and Highland Perthshire has such a great network of roads."
islay seems to many the ideal playground for state of the art, full-suspension mountain bikes, but in this, disappointment is often the end result. for many of the tracks that spur from the road network, head towards the hills before coming to an abrupt end; most were simply engineered to allow access to estranged peat banks. but mainland scotland is better served for those with knobbly tyres, having gone even so far as to provide specific offroad centres both south and north. and the annual downhill championship event at fort william has been highly successful in putting scotland firmly on the mountain bike map. however, scot feels that "the scottish tourism industry is missing out on a real opportunity by not actively promoting road cycling. I believe it is getting there, as VisitScotland have changed the title of their guide from 'Scottish Mountain Bike Guide', to the 'Scottish Mountain Biking and Cycling Guide'. (Incidentally, I find the new title a bit strange, suggesting as it does that mountain biking and cycling are two different entitites). Anyway the new cycling guide has six of its 82 pages dedicated to road and other forms of cycling, so i suppose it's a start."
i can't say that i disagree with him.
the highland perthshire revolution is not only a suitable antidote to mountain biking's overweening importance in the eyes of visitscotland, it is a truly excellent way to spend three days in may on the bike. the rides expand to 200 miles over the course of three days, incorporating 10,000ft of climbing, guided riding and full vehicle support. luxury accommodation is provided at the moness house and country club, set in a 35 acre woodland estate in aberfeldy. for surely there is little sense in flaying one's pedals within a millimetre of their bearings for three days, if there is not the opportunity for a little bit of luxury at day's end.
such fun and frolics are best kept to a select few, so places on the 2012 edition (18th - 20th may) are limited to fourteen riders. demand is expected to be high, so don't dilly dally for too long. cost is a disarmingly respectable £399 for three days' riding and two nights' accommodation. if you're of scottish descent, you owe it to your country to overlook tuscany and the apennines in favour of the highlands. if you are from foreign parts, and i include south of the border in that description (purely for the occasion you understand), it behoves you and your bicycle well to ride the tartan brick road.
posted thursday 25 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in the early part of the year, various aspects of the media were eager to quote men from the met office saying that the summer we haven't just had, would be an absolute scorcher. there may have been slight variations on this particular non-quote, but generally speaking that's the way the cookie was said to be about to crumble. undoubtedly this is a perfect example of selectivism, for i daresay many statements or weather prognostications to the contrary of this picture of endless sun were summarily ignored. though i cannot claim to have read my daily newspaper from cover to cover on a regular basis, i have no recollection of the press offering me the option of rain and chilly temperatures.
in practice, i shouldn't really complain. this is the west coast of scotland, and i have faith in humanity that most do not visit hereabouts to improve their tanlines. in fact, only the other weekend, i was moved to mention to the mighty dave t just how many of the visiting cyclists i came across were encased head to toe in wet weather gear. in wet weather, that would be unremarkable, but at the time i wore a short sleeve jersey (albeit with armwarmers) and bibshorts. surely those carrying an entire house on the rear rack would find themselves a trifle stifled inside those jackets?
weather, however, unlike climate, is but a fleeting notion, particularly round these here parts. at the time several of us were doing our damnedest to reach the bend on consiby hill on the eve of the ride of the falling rain, precipitation was our bedfellow. yet a few miles across the water, respectable adults were standing about on a touchline watching a rugby match in glorious sunshine. seems there is no justice in the world. for this very reason i have come to pay scant heed to weather forecasts; we're going to get what we're going to get. i will qualify that statement by allowing a closer examination of windspeeds from end of september onwards, though that is more a case of self-preservation than any specific interest in weather per se.
but this past weekend, i had a notion to wear a specific casquette, one that i had neglected for quite some time. it's amazing how these notions arrive unnanounced while riding aimlessly homeward after a fine cappuccino at debbie's. though most of my life, possessions and bicycle tools are somewhat haphazardly organised (and i use the latter in its loosest sense), my cycle clothing has a certain rhythm to its arrangement: jerseys in one drawer, shorts in another and so on, and so on. this structure breaks down only marginally in the unruly pile of apparel that fails to fit into a pre-determined category.
the casquette in question, however, had apparently made a bid for escape midst its brethren; it was nowhere to be found within the defined repository. in the process of searching (a bizarre enough notion in itself, given that i am particularly well catered for in the cycling cap arena, and if i'm refreshingly honest, they all fulfil the same function) i came across random items from my autumn/winter clothing selection. can i actually remember when i last wore a softshell or a pair of bib threequarters? having spent half a week riding in the snow to complete rapha's festive 500 last december, and encasing myself in mountains of waterproof thermals to go play in the woods on the hakkalugi, the notion for doing so again seemed stronger than i'm proud to admit.
i have read nothing in the press of late that offered to enlighten me as to the nature of climatic accompaniment in the forthcoming months, but i'm willing to have faith in my geographic location. headwinds that have the physical presence of a mattress, rain that probably never quite reaches the nirvana of hitting the ground due to its prevailing angle, and salt-packed air intent on wholesale oxidation of anything even remotely metallic.
your envy is almost tangible.
thankfully, the traditional moan about being all downhill after the islay show, has shown encouraging signs of being true; at least for this year. while the winds have been practicing, with a view to providing wind-tunnel testing before november, rain has already inhabited more than just the occasional morning. and were that not sufficient in itself, the traditional overwintering geese have already been seen and heard over washingmachinepost cottage. these birds more usually arrive at the end of september and the early weeks of october; perhaps they know something we don't.
so at the risk of being thought somewhat eccentric, i'm rather looking forward to piling on the roubaix lycra and feeling less self-conscious about riding with mudguards. though a pair of dromarti leather mitts has provided tanlines on the back of my hand, often the subject of enlightened conversation, i fear not the morning when long fingered softshell gloves do not look to be an affectation, but an earnest means of retaining blood flow to the brake levers in lowering temperatures. if nothing else, it means the opportunity to spend many a kilometre of frenetic pedalling without consequent overheating, but with a healthy glow about the visage.
summer is so last month.
posted wednesday 24 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
cycling is an expressive activity, one that advertises itself by way of its participants. if i may borrow from the recollections of a failed chemistry higher, it is far more exothermic than endothermic. the mere act of riding along main street astride who knows what, is enough to demonstrate to the civilian population that cycling has qualities of which they too may wish to avail themselves. of course, it's just as likely to anger the motorist who has just double-parked, but can't open the door until that ruddy cyclist gets out the way. and i can't have been the only one to notice that pedestrians constantly underestimate the speed at which a modern bicycle can travel.
but even if the above is truly the case, it does little to undermine my initial contention. all publicity is good publicity, so to speak.
what has also become more readily apparent is the addictiveness of the activity; never mind the quality, feel the width. it's perfectly possible for cyclists and those who simply ride a bike to co-exist, and in a twisting of flann obrien's original proposition regarding the atoms of cyclists and those of their bicycles, it is more than likely that this co-existence experiences a transfer of experiences. though most practice their expressiveness in glorious isolation and innocence, it is fortunate that amongst the subsets there are a few willing to examine the mechanics just a little closer.
cycling does not bear close scrutiny of a scientific nature, as this risks replacing emotion with numbers and equations, none of which will bring tears to your thighs on an alpine climb or descent. or even the gravel strewn swoosh from knocklearach to ballygrant quarry. one man's ceiling is another man's tourmalet. similarly, direct education as to any perceived failings in the uptake of expressivity won't always hit the target at which it was aimed. the precursor to thewashingmachinepost was directly aimed at the non-cycling public, eager to boost the vast percentage of pedestrian and motorised public that inhabited my, at that time, newly adopted home.
after a constant twelve month barrage of propaganda, my failure was consummate.
to a greater or lesser degree, david martin suffered a similar inglorious fate, but as one door closes another blog opens, in this case three pockets.
"The intention was initially to showcase the contents of the ridiculously overstuffed pockets of people who came in to the shop, with a notion of ridiculing them into only carrying what they needed! That never happened, so I just started posting vaguely cycling related photos instead."
the shop in question is bicycleworks in argyle place, edinburgh where mr martin is gainfully employed as bicycle mechanic. had three pockets remained a simple case of pixels in a browser, there's every chance i may have kept appreciation all to myself, though i might have mentioned it if asked. however, david has taken his acute observational skills to the next logical stage and offered readers/viewers the opportunity to acquire a selection in print. but i leap too many steps at once. the seemingly endless selection of images on three pockets surely can't have arrived via the same shutter?
"Yes, they're all mine, with the exception of the two photos of me on the track, and a few of the video clips posted a while back. The Hubbard logo was designed by a friend too. I'm not really sure how they come about, but a trip to Belgium or a wet day at Meadowbank is always a good starting point for some quality material!"
david is surely erring on the side of modesty when he says 'i'm not really sure how they come about', for the standard of consistency between such an eclectic range of images points to more than just an accidental skill with the lens. is he formally trained, or just remarkably good at it?
"Ha, thanks! No, I'm not trained at all, I would go as far as to say I don't always really know what I'm doing, embarrassingly so in the company of "real" photographers. I just take photos of things I like the look of, and often from slightly odd perspectives. There are a lot of people who do know what they're doing taking photos of the race action, so I try to look at what's going on around the edges."
and now, if you will permit, i return to three pockets the book. it is not often i am at a loss for words when the time arrives to review a book of words or images or both, but i confess i struggled with this one. let me assure you that this is a good thing. the only thematic order contained within its plain, grey covers is subjugated by the word cycling and i would not dispute that many inhabit the outer perimeter of this definition. but they succeed and inform by association. seen in a whole different context, only the cognoscenti would place them in the velocipedinal drawer, but nonetheless all thrive as images in their own right, less than dependent on any subjective influence.
why, when three pockets has a pixelated life of its own, did david publish the book? "Pretty much as a vanity project, and to have some copies to give to a few people. The beauty of these self-published things is that people can buy, and have printed, single copies if they like. I thought I'd give it a go, and was pleasantly surprised at the print quality."
i should point out at this juncture that three pockets the book, is not one available through your nearest branch of waterstones or barnes and noble. self-publication is made far easier these days by the existence of sites such as blurb; publishing on demand. thus for a few pounds, any prospective purchaser need only press the order button, and blurb will churn out one or more copies. that's how i received mine.
at the risk of jumping too may hurdles at one go, i asked if there were likely to be more in the series? "Quite possibly. I have more than enough material to do a second and third volume already."
of the many qualities exhibited by the imagery appearing in both the book and web, is a refusal to become predictable, repetitive or stale, while subtly adding to our appreciation of the activity through which we have decided to express ourselves. it's a modus operandi that could suffer if examined in retrospect by its author; look what happened to status quo. in which case, with the future always there in the morning, has david a cunning plan? where does he go from here? "There's no particular plan. I like to keep the blog as simple as possible, with photos I find interesting (though not everyone does!). It'd be nice to get a few more books out there somehow, and I like to try to have a few pictures in reserve to put up when there's not much going on."
always assuming your appreciation of cycling is as inclusive as i like to think mine is, you might wish to bring david martin's vision to a bookshelf near you. i think it unlikely you'll be disappointed.
posted tuesday 23 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................