"Fantastic coffee and home made cake are our passion (are they not everyone's ?)
art college had a dual purpose, one that transpired when there, not one that was in any way premeditated. in retrospect, i learned a lot at college, even if it was only what i subsequently didn't need to know, but it did instil certain values that still permeate the day to day even now. it's secondary purpose, and one that was tested by more than just yours truly, was rock'n'roll. actually, it wasn't quite rock, but neither was it pop and it sure as heck wasn't jazz. this at least i have in common with eric clapton, brian eno and brian ferry, all of whom spent at least a few years in the melting pot of a british (in my case, scottish) art college. artistic folk generally do not restrict themselves to a single realm; that is the remit of the architect.
during those four years, a mix of the visual and audible seemed quite normal. so many of us partook of a skiffle at the weekend, pre-empted by several rehearsals in the art college hall, that to say it was unremarkable is altogether unremarkable.
by year three, competence was looming. four of us were all in the same year at college, while the bass player maintained that he was studying for a degree in marine communications, though two of us learned alpha, bravo, charlie, delta while testing him before an exam which he subsequently failed. competence brings with it delusions of grandeur, all of which had been subjugated up till that point, but as a now well-known band, it had become relatively simple to spread our meagre talents further afield. thus, in the days when megastardom and a 200 watt pa system beckoned, we often found ourselves in the smaller principalities bordering the region, mostly hitherto unknown by anyone including our roadie.
the preamble would almost always be the same; make sure the road map was the correct way up, and find the most direct route to the scene of our next gig. on arrival, it was usually necessary to find some hapless soul wandering the streets and query them for directions to the venue. "well, you'll need to turn back the way you've just come, take a left past the newsagent's on the corner, carry on along that road until you come to a phone box. there's a blue painted house on your right, so you want to head towards that, but take left just before you reach it, down the lane by the 30mph sign. you can't miss it."
unfortunately, every request for directions in any town or village you cared to mention, would always end with "you can't miss it". what they actually meant was, they couldn't miss it, because they lived there and probably had done so for years. we, on the other hand, were from the big city; we could quite easily miss it and more often than not, we did.
armed with the memory of these local misdirected meanderings, i have become highly cynical of any propensity to pinpoint a location via suspiciously simple directions. the two words 'next to' usually entail a long walk in the wrong direction before realising that, in fact, the truth has been stretched just a tad. i was, at one time, informed that victoria street bus station in london, is next to victoria railway station.
however, always on the look out for new emergences of a cycling context, i had recently come across the name siempre as the moniker for a new cycling cafe in glasgow's dumbarton road. erroneously, the article pertaining to the cafe's opening described it as the first in scotland which, bearing in mind the two neils at ronde made the assertion technically incorrect. however, the first in glasgow it most definitely is, an excellent proposition given glasgow's lower profile as a cycling friendly city. perhaps things were taking a giant leap forward in the west.
the centre of glasgow i know almost as well as i know the roads around islay, but the peripheries of the city are less well-kent. thankfully, siempre's website helpfully provides directions on how to get there, an option of which is to take glasgow's almost unknown (elsewhere) underground railway. this consists of the outer circle and the inner circle, so named because the trains do indeed travel in circles. according to siempre, the cafe was just next to kelvinhall underground station. i therefore expected my non-existent knowledge of this part of town to involve a considerable amount of leg work looking for just next to.
by heck were they pinpoint accurate with their directions. step out the exit of kelvinhall station and only two paces in front is the unmistakeable purple logo of siempre (it's spanish for always). though the two large logo'd windows face onto dumbarton road, the side entrance could not be closer to the station if they'd parked a train in the doorway.
it's a cafe of two parts that is only a hop, skip and a jump away from becoming three. the all-important coffee machine and a counter decorated with an array of enticing food, cakes and biscuits resides at the back, facing a raw brick wall (exhibitions here we come) and edged with several tables and chairs from which froth supping may be partaken. walk through an archway in the selfsame brick wall, and you enter the brighter and larger front portion. this is populated with more tables and chairs looking out over the road and traffic, with bicycles in the window spaces, clothing racks and a changing room, serving counter and a pile of tyres, tubes and a rather hefty vice.
siempre is owned by kirsteen caldow and callan dickson. the former has a day job away from siempre, while callan handles the day to day in the cafe. he's the bike guy, while there are others taking care of the food and beverages. there are no hidden strategies for their opening a cycling cafe in glasgow. though they're fortunate to have done so just as the bradley bubble begins to take concrete form, siempre has been in planning a lot longer than those 21 days in july. business is business, so the cafe does not make itself a martyr to serving only cyclists; however, it's a large, bright and incredibly amenable space that does not hide its light under a vulpine rainjacket. there's no denying the cycling influence that hopefully might just spread itself a little further into the civilian population given time.
callan plans to add in a large screen tv before the spring classics next year, allowing those with a fascination for the sport to enjoy moving pictures with their coffee and cake. there's free bike parking in a rack in the front section of the cafe, but serving coffee and selling bikes is not by any means the end of kirsteen's and callan's plans for the space. i referred earlier to a third area, one which currently resembles a flat wasteland accessible through the back door of siempre. "We'd like to develop the rear area of the property," said kirsteen, "to complement our strategy of cycling, health promotion and inner city regeneration. We've proposed to Glasgow City Council that we lease the land and repurpose it as a 'Bike Town'.
"The intention is that this will offer an opportunity for children and young people to get involved in cycling. It's an area that will be developed with the purpose of allowing them to learn how to ride a bike as well learning to have fun on their bikes, safely."
"And", added Callum "it may also allow us to offer bike-parking for those using the underground, making a combination of bike and train a viable proposition to travel to the city centre."
of course, to be bluntly superficial about such admirable plans, i can tell you're all dying to know just how good the soya cappuccino really is. i'd stop short at referring to myself as a connoisseur of the roasted beans, but i have never shied away from passing judgement for the benefit of others. suffice to say both cappuccino and double-espresso, hailing from dear green roasters were a truly excellent accompaniment to a piece of millionaire's shortbread and some siempre-made flapjack biscuit. now that i'm home, however, i'm kicking myself for not having requested some french toast as advertised on their breakfast menu. granted, i was hardly at siempre while breakfast was being served, but a guy can ask, can't he?
my ignorance stretches to not knowing how much of a hassle it is to ride to 162 dumbarton road from wherever in glasgow some of you may reside; it is perhaps not even close to your regular commute, but in the light that it is open seven days a week, and impressively, from 6:30 in the morning on weekdays (8:30am at weekends), i'm sure that a little ingenuity and effort would get you over if only to see what it's like. with look mum no hands! in london, ronde in edinburgh, debbie's on islay and now siempre in glasgow, the surreptitious plan for world domination begins to take shape.
as edinburgh bicycle are keen to foretell 'the revolution will not be motorised'.
monday 12th november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it depends on who's doing the talking, or writing the brochure. confusion has already been confounded this past week in discriminating between a t-shirt and a baselayer, though to be honest, in the latter case, it becomes a semantic discussion rather than one that might conceivably end in tears. for, to be deliberately obtuse, when is a jacket, not a jacket? when it's a jacket, of course. there will be those of you who have grasped the iniquity of the occasion in a gearshift. and just as confusingly, there will be others exhibiting not only the quizzical demeanour i once possessed, but determinedly wondering if this is not the website it was supposed to be.
it is again, a matter of semantic definition, but where the t-shirt/baselayer argument was not only easily resolved, it was ever easily resolvable in the first place. floors and ceilings if i recall correctly. but jackets are of a differing proposition altogether. the less radical definition is that of an outer shell, one designed most often in cycling terms, to protect the honed athlete from specific elements, depending principally on the time of year. if i'm willing to accept that as an astute interpretation of the genre, we have yet to reach shaky ground. however, taken quite literally, this latter instance would suggest that the selfsame honed athlete was already replete with the baselayer du jour, topped with either a long or short -sleeve jersey of indeterminate thickness.
it's a climatic choice, you understand.
along with most of you, i already own several that fit the description nicely, but the fly in the oitment, so to speak, arrives when someone proffers a jacket. in this case, the esteemed mr yanto barker, formerly seen aboard a colnago c59, but currently aiding and abetting the second career of magnus backstedt in the uk youth team and now stridently aboard a windymilla bicycle.
yanto, who in tandem (not literally) with big maggie, is also seeing the light of a second professional career, returned to the fold initially to test and promote his own marque of cycle clothing under the brand le col. we have crossed paths previously on the occasions of my reviewing several items from the original range, and it was at yanto's request that i clad myself in a gent's b3 winter jacket and a matching pair of winter bibtights, and it's sort of at this point that dictionary definitions began to rear their ugly head.
the le col b3 winter jacket has a singular purpose in life, and in order to fulfil that purpose, it's jacketness is one step removed from that of others who may witter on about softshells and hardshells. do not willfully misunderstand me; i have great affinity for the latter, but when performance comes to shove (can i say that?), they do not possess the sort of jacketness that constitutes a b3 from lecol.
here is an italian made garment that, when zipped from the lower zip garage to the upper zip garage bears an uncanny resemblance to having been sprayed on. i will concede that such does prefer the body shape of a whippet with as few inadvertant bulges as possible, but its constitution would be hard to surpass. the mix of windproof, waterproof and breathable fabric has been honed to the point of perfection, with a sterling length of sleeve and cuff, the latter provided with thumb loops to negate any draught inducing gaps between sleeve and winter glove. the collar is of exemplary, fleece-lined height, while a substantial proportion of the lower body is clad in a scotchlite reflective material that is, in the face of benign daylight, grey.
everything appears to be triple-stitched in the manner that all le col clothing has been from day one, while its race-readyness is enhanced by the existence of three rear pockets and a fourth waterproof zipped utility. though i have ascribed the epithet race-readyness in its direction, in fact this is formula one status clothing in which the serious cyclist might best continue training throughout the duller, colder, windier and wetter days that lie before us. internally, there is enough fleece to re-clothe a flock of sheep, all the while pared to a minimum that nothing untoward restrict the pelotonese in their quest for winter fitness.
not for nothing is mr barker one of the country's finest. his attention to detail and innate knowledge of the cyclist's metier has borne significant fruit in this case.
the winter bibtights are no less minimalistic. though there can be no query over their nomenclature in relation to their true purpose in life, they are a particularly adept match for their b3 stablemate. there is evidential clever attention to the panelling, ensuring a close and comfortable fit from bib straps to ankle grips. were it necessary to take exception to any of the forgoing details, it might just be with those ankles. featuring a delta-shaped panel of reflective scotchlite at the back (visible above waterproof overshoes), they are a particularly close fit, one that requires a smidgeon of effort to pull over naked feet, and while there was no discomfort even overlaying a pair of winter socks, i feel i might have wished for a zip closure to ease initial fitting.
i am, however, willing to concede that this might advertise me as a bit of a big girl's blouse and thus occlude me from the professional ranks.
the outer fabric is aqua-zero breathable, waterproof roubaix, providing a high degree of water repellency, which turned out to be something of a godsend when riding a bicycle in the rain, not fitted with mudguards. in keeping with the theme of minimalism, the b3 winter tights are fitted with a very comfortable and resilient pad, meaning no need to wear shorts underneath. stitching is as before, and it's worth pointing out that the waterproofing has seemingly no adverse effect on the flexibility or stretchability in regular use.
that pretty much covers what the garments look like, the purpose for which they were intended and how most of it is to be achieved. finding out if they do what it says on the tin was definitely the fun part.
it would be foolish to deny that the le col b3 winter range has speed and souplesse uppermost in its mind, and i think it does me no credit at all that their initial trial of strife was encompassed in the sunday morning, velo club ride. though i have no wish to demean this weekly peloton, its composition, by very definition stretches from wannabees (me, me ,me), to the relaxed pace of the weekend commuter. this may undermine a propensity for speed, but plays to its advertised thermal strengths. in this case, the jacket was not a jacket, but a jacket, giving cover to none other than the long-sleeve merino t-shirt that i had unilaterally promoted to that of baselayer. i had high hopes from the b3, since the temperature was not much above freezing, the wind was thinking about becoming gale-force and the rain was never far away.
when one of the peloton experienced a puncture not but a few hundred metres from the rspb centre at aoradh, standing around for the better part of fifteen minutes in an exposed location did absolutely nothing to keep my hands warm. a fast slurp up the hill past aoradh farm failed to make great inroads to my digital freeze, but it is to the great credit of the b3 apparel, that the rest of me fared considerably better. by the time we'd made some headway towards a raging atlantic coast, the rain was straining to break out of the connotations of mere precipitation, and by half-way round, it was no longer funny, and i had good reason to put the fast properties of yanto's clothing to the test.
somewhat unsure as to how waterproof was waterproof, i had carried a definably waterproof outer shell in one of those cavernous rear pockets just in case, but on making it back to debbie's after a thorough soaking, the baslelayer/t-shirt demonstrated only sporadic and restricted damp patches on the lower arms. under the circumstances, i'd no cause for recriminations. and despite this thorough and prolonged soaking, there was no tenable loss of warmth at any time or at any speed.
if you are seriously fast and have the temerity to spend most of the forthcoming winter months attempting to become seriously faster, yanto has made your choice of clothing for the occasion a darned sight simpler than it may have been before. if i were the chaps in san pietro, i'd be getting worried round about now.
the le col b3 winter jacket is available in black/lime green, in a range of sizes from small to xxxl (medium size reviewed) at a cost of £249.99. the le col b3 winter bib tights are in black only and are also available in sizes small (reviewed) to xxxl at a cost of £159.99. these can be purchased direct from lecol.net
sunday 11th november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
we're pretty darned near that time of year when careful consideration has to be given to just what it is we might buy the little darlings for christmas, and i imply no age restrictions in that statement. no doubt the release of apple's ipad mini has made it it a tad cheaper for the well-heeled to elicit squeals of delight come christmas morning, but it is only one of an expensive phalanx of gadgetry doohickies that will leave the sitting room floor strewn with torn wrapping paper, empty cardboard boxes and likely several manuals that will only be referenced when some light or other fails to come on. the tradition of christmas has become somewhat tainted with modernity, perhaps no bad thing in itself if it keeps them quiet during the queen's speech, but not the ideal way to persuade the recipients into physical activity.
that, traditionally, was the remit of the bicycle, a present usually reserved for the most bizarre time of year for giving, based mostly on its relative cost. birthdays were/are for books, dolls, spiderman outfits and replica buggies with dolls that cried when they needed feeding. christmas was when you got a bicycle. ignore the fact that often the weather around december and january were hardly conducive to shoving the kids out the back door and telling them to get on with it. sometimes you just have to be cruel to be kind.
i have already been queried as to the ideal size for a child of an unknown age. should they opt for a 16" wheel or would it be safer to get an 18" and let them grow into it. which, in a scottish winter, they likely will have done by the time it is clement enough to get out and ride it. and therein lies the quandary. it costs effectively no more to manufacture a bicycle possessed of a 16", 18" or even 20" wheel, since the frame size varies little across the board. and when shifting up the scale a tad to 24" and 26", there really is very little difference at all. caught between a rock and a hard place, inevitably there's a reasonable chance the wrong one will be chosen, undountedly making the kid's christmas a great one, but possibly for not as long as one had hoped.
as i have already mentioned, a bicycle is hardly the cheapest option at christmas, though with xboxes and playstations in the mix, nor is it necessarily the dearest. for families who are not possessed of a limitless income or who survive mostly or partially on benefits, the need to acquire a bigger bicycle for a child who has plainly fallen in love with the activity can result in a whole series of awkward moments which have the potential to remain unresolved.
glasgow's the bike station have hit upon at least a partial solution to this dilemma by offering the bike swap. the bike station operates branches in glasgow, edinburgh and perth, recycling old and unwanted bicycles and selling them to the public fully reconditioned and with a three month warranty. the plan now is that kids who have outgrown their own bicycles, pass them on to the bike station in exchange for a fully refurbished larger and more suitable model, while their own is also refurbished and passed onto a younger child.
such an incredibly simple but effective idea.
however, carrying out this plan may cost little or nothing for the families concerned, but it still has a price attached to the cost of refurbishing. and yet again, the bike station has saved the day with a truly excellent notion that will provide two objectives. to be held on friday 30th november, st. andrews day, the inaugural tartan ride will take place across glasgow with up to 200 riders dressed in tartan (what else?) leaving from the bike station headquarters in yorkhill and pedalling to the west brewery at glasgow green just outside the city centre. all, however, does not stop there. the accurately named tartan ride ceilidh band comprising three of scotland's top musicians will entertain the pedalists as they consume haggis, neeps and tatties (vegetarian option available).
if this is something you figure might bring out your inner kiltness, for a mere £20, you could be one of the 200, all the while helping several kids get the bikes they need to be able to participate in the years to come. they may prefer tweed down south, but it really ought to be tartan this far north. tartan and a shand skinnymalinky i should think.
saturday 10th november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm very protective of my drum kit, partially because it cost me a lot of money and partly because it features a satin wood finish that, i am led to believe, can be fairly easily scratched. not unnaturally, i'd like it to remain in as pristine a condition as possible and for as long as possible. i'm not normally as possessive as this, but historically, those who ask "can i get a shot of yer kit, mate?" are the very blokes (and it's always blokes) who haven't a dicky bird of an idea how to play even a simple beat in anything resembling regular time. as a simple defence mechanism, i have resorted to kindly replying in the negative.
however, come the 2012 islay jazz festival which took place mid-september, when asked if i'd be willing to hire out my kit for use by stu hastie, i readily acceded because stuart very much knows how to play, and then some. this request brought with it a brief period as a drum tech, having to assmeble and set up the kit due to mr hastie arriving in haste with precious few minutes available to do so himself. as one used to playing a variety of styles, i have somewhat heavy duty hardware that will cope with anything the situation might throw its way. the downside is contained in the adjective; some of it weighs a great deal more than is ideal for regular schlepping from gig to gig, particularly for those of us without a motor car.
during those mid-gig periods normally filled with mutual back-slapping, stuart described his exceptionally minimal setup used when gigging in london, effectively pointing out that i may have gone slightly overboard in my hardware acquisitions. of course, each to their own; the types of music i am asked to play may not be that which fills his diary, but i couldn't help thinking that he was essentially correct. this has led me to take longing glances at a considerably lighter, but drastically less macho range of stands from drum workshop.
that i have no motor vehicle readily to hand that might ease my pre and post gigging hardships had me recall the dutch drummer who had created a kit that could be easily transported by bicycle. by carefully selecting drum sizes, he had managed to fit one inside another while transporting the paperclip-like stands in the way that an archer might carry his arrows. however, the overwhelming sense was that the kit had been optimised more for haulage considerations rather than any sonic properties it might have offered. however, i am not altogether convinced that the ultimate, bicycle transportable drum kit cannot be assembled bearing the correct priorities; sound over portability.
but before i start conscientiously noting the weights and dimensions of individual snare drum and hi-hat stands, all the while keeping one eye on the available cases on the market, my endeavours may have been usefully usurped by ben wilson.
a 3d industrial designer, ben has developed what he refers to as a 'utility vehicle' in the shape of a bmx wheeled bicycle, propelled by a shimano three-speed hub gear that has versatile front and rear racks on which considerable weight can not only be placed, but transported over short distances, the latter depending greatly on your own subjective perception of the difference between short and long. as can be seen from the accompanying illustrations, and most defintiely from the short video at the curtailment of this article, the donky is not shy of moving decidedly awkward items from a to b.
my singular concern is that while the donky is blatantly capable of lifting the illustrated items, i wondered how adept it is at being ridden while so doing. however, short of borrowing one for a period of time, it seems only polite to accept the words of it's designer. "The idea was to create an affordable, practical bike which has a large load carrying capability, with great handling and steering even at low speeds through traffic and when loaded with cargo." it would be a foolish man who laid claim to the forgoing were it in any way to be in doubt, though i'm none too sure as to just how versatile is the limitation of three shimano hub gears. perhaps the eight-speed alfine hub could be made available as an option.
the two fore and aft racks are both adjustable to allow accommodation of awkwardly shaped objects (like a drum set perhaps?) and the frame is manufactured from steel tubing allied to low maintenance componentry. though i've been overly vocal in my distaste for disc brakes, the donky would seem the ideal candidate for such stopping power, though doubtless this would have involved some specialisation with regard to the wheel hubs, thus raising the entry level price above the rather stounding £499. the bike is available in two distinct colours: black and lime green and in one size that features a quick-release adjustable seatpost and bmx style handlebars.
all carping aside, however, this is the very stuff of which pragmatism is made. we can all fill our bicycle sheds with swooping carbon fibre, but most of those baulk at the thought of carrying a spare inner-tube and heaven forfend that this should be augmented by a frame-fit pump. ben wilson's donky is perhaps the first of what i hope might become an expanding genre of cargo carrying bicycles, allowing those of us voluntarily bereft of a motor car, but with drumsets to transport to an expectant audience, to maintain our positions in modern day society.
a perspicacious bicycle development that deserves our approbation and applause.
friday 9th november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the reent launch of matthew sowter's and rickey feather's magnum opus made in england pays honoured testament to a dozen of the best framebuilders currently working south of the border. with a population considerably less in number and a country of a more geographically rugged constitution, i doubt that scotland could stretch to twelve individuals involved in the craft. however, what we perhaps lack in width, we more than make up for in quality and colloquial language.
steven shand and russel stout comprise the brains and brawn behind shand cycles, based in livingston in close proximity to edinburgh (co-incidentally, just next door to endura clothing). having augmented the custom build with a range of three hand-made production frames, the last of the triumvirate, which was originally to have been the first, has now seen the light of day. joining its stablemates, the stooshie (cyclocross bike) and the stoater (a 'cross bike for those who don't need a 'cross bike) the skinnymalinky is essentially a road bike for the rest of us. it's one that never loses sight of the fun that can be had from riding a lightweight race bike, yet is intended to deal with the less than smooth single track roads that populate most corners of scotland. and if it works here, it'll work anywhere.
islay provides something of a microcosm of scotland when it comes to reviewing bicycles (or anything else for that matter), it's galeforce windswept pathways frequently offering the worst and the best a cyclist can expect to experience in the uk. this pertains just as much to tractor pummeled roadways as it it does to climatic conditions. so after several weeks of doing exactly that aboard a beautifully painted skinnymalinky, would rust on the stem cap bolts and brake cable pinch bolts be the only downsides?
read the review here
thursday 8th november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
just at the bottom of our street, they've started building four houses, placed at right angles to each other and in the format of two semi-detached buildings. it has always seemed akin to dr who's tardis (time and relative dimensions in space) that the foundations (or foonds as everyone hereabouts is prone to refer) seem to amount to little more than the space required for a rabbit hutch, yet when walls, windows and roofs are added, all seems comparable to a replica of downton abbey.
with winter fast approaching, the two brothers who are constructing these houses have been keen to move on as quickly as possible, adding every level of substantiality that will keep both buildings precisely where they were designed to be in the face of often fiercely inclement weather. i confess i know little or nothing about the processes inherent in growing everything from a pile of bricks to a collection of quality homesteads and it has thus been an education to watch a parcel of land become populated with buildings that have obscured my former view across the loch.
however, one aspect that is all too clear and effectively undermines one of life's great fundamental sayings/cliches is where the ground floor meets the upper structure. naturally enough the upstairs bedrooms require sturdy floors on which both adults and offspring can impersonate clydesdale horses when necessary. this is separated from the lower floor by means of the rafters; beams of wood stretching from the rear wall to that of the front (i know you know this, but i just wish to make sure we're all singing from the same hymn sheet). to remain in the realm of the blindingly obvious, this means that there are floorboards on top and gyproc plasterboard ceiling panels below, separated by the aforementioned rafters.
it is thus nor longer a tautology to state that one man's ceiling is another man's floor for that is plainly not the case. were it so, it would not be for long, as i am led to believe that gyproc or plasterboard is not renowned for its weight-bearing properties. yet another myth dissolves into the annals of semantic pragmatism.
a similar level of semantics concerns the strikingly stylish and fashionable and recently released long-sleeve merino t-shirt from nick hussey's vulpine clothing. not only the vulpine website, but the safety-pinned labelling attests to its premise as that for which it was named. a t-shirt. i am well aware that nick is not one for untrammelled speed and sleekness that might clothe a member of the pelotonese. not for him the smell of carbon fibre and silk tubulars, but more positively and distinctly that of the everyday cyclist, intent on visiting a local hostelry, coffee shop or place of work without appearing to have signed a two year contract with liquigas.
thus, when vulpine proffer a t-shirt, it is surely not unseemly that i acquiesce and treat it as such? except, like many a modern day man of the road i have a cleated foot in each camp. requiring to attend a consultation meeting only the other day, much of which involved sitting at a desk wondering why folks still use powerpoint in this day and age? at which point, i really rather enjoyed the fact that i was clad in a dark blue, merino t-shirt. my secret identity could, therefore, be still occluded from those around while i basked in the smug self-satisfaction that, even at a moment's notice, i could be selecting any one of the eleven gears on the shand skinnymalinky thoughtfully parked outside.
wishing not to unsettle a doubtless carefully crafted marketing strategy however, i had e-mailed nick on the garment's arrival to ask permission to call it a baselayer when the opportunity presented itself. which, in fact, it had done so only the previous day. though my outer cladding on that occasion remains to inhabit these pixels, suffice to say that its mentoring was impressively enhanced by using the vulpine t as an interior baselayer. thus for the price of only a single garment, a dual-purpose can be readily satisfied. and in fact, was satisfied.
though the augmentation of its smooth merino-ness with a single buttoned rear pocket on the lower right is perhaps the sole representation of its true designated purpose, to all intents, it makes an excellent, cosy, odourless baselayer, even when adversity in the face of the elements tests its mettle to the extreme. if i can hint that the outer shell was a single layer winter jacket, worn during a thoroughly cold, wet and windy three hour ride, you will garner that i have given it no easy ride. add to the latter the fact that an inopportune puncture by an ill-equipped member of the peloton enforced a lengthy stationary period in the middle of nowhere, and its baselayer-ness is indubitably enhanced.
that only a day or so later i could be seen impersonating a civilian in close proximity to a cup of coffee and a biscuit, voguishly wearing the selfsame merino, now masquerading as a t-shirt, and i think it only correct that i use the word versatile in its true sense. i hasten to add at this point that my request of mr hussey that i have his permission to willfully misconstrue his labelling was met with a resounding but of course. baselayer away! demonstrates just how amenable and pertinent is the customer service at vulpine.
as i write, en route to scotland, it has reverted to the t-shirt formerly known as baselayer and i am hoping that the distinction between celings and floors has been dynamically taken into account on calmac ferries.
the vulpine merino long-sleeve t-shirt is available in sizes ranging from xs to xxl in either grey or blue and at a cost of £65
wednesday 7th november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i do not, you will be pleased to hear, have the statistics, figures and research papers to hand, but much has been circulated regarding cycling's much promoted 'green-ness. after all, aside from the odd cup of cappuccino, maybe a crosissant, and almost definitely a danish pastry or carrot cake, the energy requirements of your average velocipede are pretty minimal. i'm sure that if you posed the same proposition to bradley or tommy v, the answer might be a tad different, but in general, i'm talking about riding to and from somewhere for some unspecified reason, but totally unconnected with a finishing line or some polka dots.
in this sense, not only is cycling good for your sense of health and wellbeing, it saves a puddle or two of fossil fuel, and mostly takes up considerably less space than one bloke in a car. that makes it green in most peoples' eyes, content to look at the outside without looking too closely at the energies involved in building a bicycle in the first place. and it would be less than perspicacious to take account of the endless train of motor cars and motorcycles that encase the competitive peloton. it is, in the grand scheme of things, and when lined up against your average nuclear power station, possibly just a drop in the ocean.
however, i think it only pragmatic to place all in some form of context. if we can accept that human society is going to use energy in one way or another, any practical way of minimising that amount, particularly when accompanied by an impressive set of health benefits, can be but a progressive step. but, while perhaps not the subject of a masters degree thesis, the bicycle can also be used to provide untold benefits to those who are unable to cycle a bike even if they wanted to. i'm thinking specifically of chairty rides, something you either see as a blot on the landscape or an excellent opportunity to excuse several more, conscience free days on the bike.
as a specific group of honed athletes, no doubt we have observed the newspaper advertisements offering the opportunity to cycle the length and breadth of the peruvian rainforest pedalling only a few easy miles a day, while the contents of our respective houses are traipsed from day's start to day's end by white van man. all we have to do is pedal, provided, of course, we have achieved a minimum amount of sponsorship and thus justifying the whole enchilada. i am, i'm afraid, being somewhat supercilious, for i have little doubt that there ar many for whom forty miles in a day is an impressive undertaking, one that may even confer bragging rights in the local hostelry of a sunday afternoon.
of course, after only a few years of such ventures, the challenges become all too similar, and though the kernel purpose of raising funds for a nominated charity cannot be denied or ignored, i can't help feeling that it does not reflect all that favourably on the world of epic, conscious though i am of appearing just a bit too smug for my own good.
i think the sad part attached to the sort of charity ride that has been unsparingly parodied above is that those of us just a bit more obsessive about our cycling prowess are inclined to leave them on the sideboard. let's face it, there is very little chance of my clambering aboard suspended mountain bike to explore the inner sands of the gobi desert, and i feel confident in lumping many of you in with my arrogance.
much as i prefer the term pelotonese in favour of the over-used weekend warriors, it is the latter epithet that many of us would opt for. though confined purely to saturday and sunday, it's the warrior aspect that underlines our commitment to the world of skinny wheels and bendy bars. for us, le grande challenge is the very grail that awaits at the end of the rainbow. buoyed since adolescence with the tales of grit and derring do purveyed by the greats portrayed in those grainy black and white photos, something on just such an unattainable scale is the very thing we've all been waiting for.
supping froth of a sunday lunchtime is only a penance endured while we await the conferring of greatness upon our sportwool and bibbed lycra.
our bluff has now been called. if you are of faint heart and and a squeamish nature, this may be the time to look away. those esteemed fellows in london's perren street have cunningly and secretively resurrected the long-lost bordeaux to paris race, famously won by jacques anquetil and tommy simpson, and last run as a competitive event some twenty-five years ago. if ever a former monument of the sport was in line for a revival, this is surely it?
in reality, were the entire edifice to content itself with this alone, it would be worthy of our attention, but nothing worth nothing is worth nothing, and rapha's simon mottram has played his master stroke by allying this massive undertaking with the opportunity to raise a considerable amount of money for ambitious about autism. a lesser known fact is that simon's son, oscar mottram suffers from autism and attends the charity's treehouse schoola facility supported by the charity.
as pointed out above, this is not an event for those who perhaps ride to the shops on a friday afternoon. it will be raced by teams comprising four riders, and rapha have made clear that each rider will need to be capable of sustaining an avergae speed of at least 25kph to avoid being pulled from the event for failing to reach any specified checkpoint within a pre-defined time limit. i have been aware of charity rides in the past that also recommended a minimum speed to keep all running smoothly, but when push came to shove, several were not up to the mark. an average 25kph from home to the coffee shop and back is not quite the same as sustaining it over 600km. is it possible, i asked simon mottram, that riders might be able to 'wing it'?
"Only if they have a couple of very strong friends! The four riders work as a team, with at least two riders on the road at all times. Strategies will vary, but each rider will need to complete at least 300km under any strategy."
i can see from many of the quizzical faces in the background, that several of you have never heard of bordeaux-paris, and are wondering what all the fuss and reverence is about. does it disappoint simon that historic events of this nature have faded not only from the race calendar, but are often unknown in modern times?
Yes. I think many fans new to the sport in the last five years have little or no idea about the wonderful old classics and early season races that have died off. It would be wonderful if this event could lead to us doing more 'list classics' rides in the future."
while familiarising myself with details of the event, the very nature of it being a team tournament brought a smile of familiarity when used in conjunction with the rapha marque. would it be true to say that the nature of this contemporary re-running of bordeaux-paris has taken lessons from north america's gentlemen's races?
"Not really. We are trying to recreate Bordeaux Paris in a way that is as sympathetic as possible to the original. There won't be any gravel sections!"
aside from the historic nature of the ride, bringing to the fore its former pride of place in cycling's great firmament, it should not be misplaced that between 12th and 15th september next year, one heck of a lot of money is likely to be raised for ambitious about autism. the cost of entry is £975 per person (£3,900 per team of four), but before you experience a sharp intake of breath, it's worth popping over to the entry page on rapha's website to see just what you'll be getting in return for your hard-earned cash. additionally, each team member will be expected to raise £2,500 for the charity.
i imagine ambitious about autism is a charity close to simon's heart? "Absolutely. Oscar (Mottram) has been attending treehouse school for twelve years now. It is pretty amazing - the best of its kind in the country. The school and the charity attached to it have been life savers for us. It is great that I can do something to help them in return."
unless autism has affecetd your own lives, you may know little about it and perhaps even less about the charity. how will the monies raised for ambitious about autism be used by the organisation? "I don't know the exact details, but the funds will go towards providing life-long learning and support for young people and adults with autism, plus campaigning for greater understanding and provision nation-wide. This will be one of the most significant fund raising activities the charity does in 2013."
i can already think of one or two incumbents who are likely champing at the bit to line up in bordeaux come 12th september next year. to ride in the wheeltracks of anquetil and simpson through the french autumn night looking to be first to arrive in paris is veritably the stuff of modern legend, and an opportunity that might not arrive with unadulterated frequency. but bordeaux-paris is only one of an ever expanding list of sadly defunct races. aside from the charitable aspect of this ride, does simon see rapha becoming something of a curator of long-lost races such as this?
"Yes. Assuming next year's event goes to plan, I hope we can do a 'lost classic' event every year in the future, raising more funds for Ambitious About Autism in the process. I would welcome your ideas on possible classic races to focus on: the peace race? Paris - Rome? London - Holyhead?"
an undertaking such as this is not one that can be looked upon lightly. a lsubstantial amount of organising has had to see the light of day before reaching this initial stage of invitation. i have not the space or indeed, the need to reiterate all the minute details here, for everything you need to know can be read here.
it simply remains, however, to inquire as to whether simon intends to believe his own publicity handout and have the colnago on the start line next year? "The slowest team will be the Rapha Board. Three of my four directors and I will form a team. The 5th doesn't ride but I'm persuading him to ride his Vespa as a derny!"
tuesday 6th november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................