time for a cup of tea

galibier tea mug

many years ago, around this time of year (well, exactly at this time of year in fact) my services as a drummist were engaged along with two of my compatriots, to perform our musical outpourings in an hall in saltcoats, ayrshire - coincidentally the same town in which graeme obree now resides - for the hogmanay benefits of the local chapter of alcoholics anonymous. this was a particularly well-remunerated appointment in the light of it being particularly difficult to employ a group of musicians willing to forgo the evils of alcohol on such an auspicious occasion.

galibier tea mug

you may well think it a simple matter for those possessed of drums, guitar and bass to smuggle in whichever tipple took their fancy and secretly imbibe in the shadow of the amplifiers or bass drum, but such was not considered worth the risk. though i myself have never been one to consume alcoholic beverages even in those distant days, the two gents with whom i formed a trio of apparent entertainers were partial to the occasional pint or even a dram. however, since many a reformed alcoholic needs little by way of encouragement to fall off the wagon, we were under strict instructions not to bring such items along with us. i do recall our accoutrements being checked at one juncture.

however, though well-paid, the amount of effort expended on behalf of all three was relatively minimal. we would commence around 11pm, play up until the bells brought in the new year, then break for around half an hour while all wished each other the very best for the forthcoming twelve months, and toasted their good health predominantly with a decent cup of tea.

it seems a particular trait of both those consumed by the demon drink, as well as those making serious efforts to renounce its influence, that they find themselves possessed by the need to sing at the least presented opportunity. thus, on our return to the stage, there was an almost endless queue of persons (mostly male) ready and willing to offer their finest frank sinatra impersonations. though sinatra himself had an astounding grasp of musical timing, few of those on that hall stage in saltcoats held similar abilities, rendering my percussive adjuncts rather null and void.

easy money, as they say.

galibier tea mug

when all had demonstrated their relative (in)competence, we were left with barely more than an hour to perform before packing up and hading homeward. thus, for at least five years in succession, i brought in the new year with a cup of tea, while many others would spend their subsequent waking hours trying desperately to rmember where they had been, with whom, and what might have been said or sung during that period. i would figure there are many souls from yesteryear more than grateful that twitter and facebook had yet to be invented.

my last few years at hogmanay have been similarly spent behind a drumset, though those surrounding me had most definitely not forsworn the demon drink. this year, however, promises to be quieter for me at least, likely welcoming 2013 in the comfort of my own sitting room, followed by the watching of jools's hootenanny, if such a programme is still broadcast at this time of year. and i will once again do so with a slice of mrs washingmachinepost's excellent christmas cake in one hand, and a cup of green tea in the other.

or perhaps i should correct myself by pointing out that my green tea will at least half-fill a mug of truly epic proportions and pedigree.

lest you misunderstand, let me point out that my reference to epic is not meant to imply that the said mug is somewhat on the colossal side. on the contrary, it is of excellent proportion and balance, ideal for cossetting sufficient green tea to aid the digestion of that outstanding christmas cake. however, the external markings belie such minimal description: 'D902 - Col du Galibier. Altitude 2642m'. the tea may extend to only a few well-measured mouthfuls, but that is just this side of gargantuan. and were that not impressively sufficient, on turning the yellow lipped mug around, displayed across its gleaming white china exterior is a profile of the northern approach to the galibier by way of the 1566m summit of the col du telegraphe, descending briefly via valloire before going up an awfully long, steep way to that 2642m peak, very close to the top of the mug.

galibier tea mug

though i have described a specific tea mug (or coffee mug, if you're partial to the offerings from a well-known chain of coffee houses), it is, in fact, one of a set of four, all similarly described, but pertaining to alternative iconic climbs of the tour de france: the ventoux, alpe d'huez and the col du tourmalet. it does seem particularly apt that these comprise a set, for few are those nowadays who bring in the new year, comprised solely of their own company. it makes perfect sense that all, whether aware of the importance of the mug decor held in their warm grasp or not, should be appropriately provided for in the herbal tea stakes.

all four are dwarfed by the immensity of their subject matter, being a mere 9cm tall, but a generous 8cm in diameter. that could translate into a substantial quantity of hot beverage. though by the time you read this it will be only a matter of hours before 2012 becomes 2013, no matter the time zone in which you reside, i think there little wrong with being adequately if rather previously organised for the same process on 31st december 2013. thus, your new year's resolution is to contact richard at urban hunter on the earliest opporchancity and send £32.95 in his direction. his part of the bargain is to respond with the previously detailed collection of tour de france mugs.

have a happy new year, and grateful thanks for reading and avoiding my being accused of talking to myself.

urban hunter

monday 31st december 2012


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freedom of choice

vinnie colaiuta

let me introduce you to vinnie colaiuta. he's not the latest signing by liquigas, but one of the world's top session drummers, a man i whose work i first came across on the 1982 joni mitchell album wild things run fast. the highlight not only for me, but for other vinnie acolytes too (in the world of drumming, the mere mention of vinnie carries the same cognitive weight as does brad in our more regular context), was the triplet break at the end of the guitar solo on joni's cover of the elvis presley song, 'you're so square'. i know i practised this particular part over and over again, but to no avail; though i could manage it in the comfort of my own bedroom, there was never any chance of successfully fitting it into any meaningful musical situation.

at the time of introduction (from afar; i have never actually made mr colaiuta's acquaintance in person), vinnie was a confirmed yamaha drummer, augmenting his series of japanese made kits with some of the world's finest cymbals from the zildjian stable. vinnie has accompanied, amongst others, gordon sumner (sting) in both the recording studio and on tour, and appeared on stage with steve gadd and dave weckl (also yamaha and zildjian players) accompanying the buddy rich big band. it is safe to infer from this, that his innate musical skills cover the entire gamut from big band jazz to rock'n'roll.

however, having played yamaha drums for many a long year, while praising their quality and sound and even having had the honour of the company producing a signature snare drum (the equivalent of a sideburned yellow pinarello), he then upped sticks (pardon the pun) and moved his affections to the american gretsch drum company, though remaining true to the zildjian cymbal company. considering very few of us could possibly tell the difference between the best that yamaha could offer and similar from gretsch, one can only infer that a certain level of financial inducement was involved, though i can't help feeling that the move rather undermined vinnie's credibility as an arbiter of sonic quality.

tommy voeckler

imagine, therefore, my surprise recently on opening a copy of modern drummer to find that not only had the man left gretsch drums in order to transfer his allegiance yet again, to ludwig (a company that never seemingly reached the infamy it enjoyed when played by ringo and the late lamented john bonham), but had also unceremoniously ditched his lengthy association with america's zildjian cymbals and traded this to switzerland's paiste cymbals.

it is part and parcel of modern cycling that riders move from one team to the next, either for career or contractual reasons. it's possible to see or suspect the hand of a particular manufacturer or brand in some of these changes (colnago were apprently very keen to retain the services of sven nys, making it easier to explain his continuing contract with the less than groundbreaking landbouwkrediet team), but by and large, professional cyclists either are, or are required to be somewhat equipment agnostic.

marketing will almost always place some sort of spin on the product placement, with perhaps the most high profile example being that of pinarello, a cycle marque that claims team sky chose their frames over all others when, in fact, it is something of an open secret that things are not quite as straightforward as they might be made to appear. but the interesting difference between the world of drums and cymbals and that of the professional cyclist (other than the glaringly obvious) is the nature of the sponsorship.

for while it is quite naturally accepted that rapha and condor sponsor their own team, and sky television also sponsor their team, in the case outlined at the opening of my narrative, vinnie is said to be a ludwig endorser, shifting the onus of choice to the drummer himself, rather than that of ludwig or paiste. we would be very unlikely to accept the notion that tommy voeckler endorses colnago bicycles, or that jeremy powers endorses giro helmets; as far as we're concerned, the two marques sponsor the respective riders. and in point of fact, the same is true of vinnie colaiuta and the ludwig drum company, but in marketing terms, the latter is portrayed as having the upper hand.

castelli winter clothing

though i know i am not, nor will i ever be, a drummer as skilled as mr colaiuta, the fact that he endorses ludwig drums indicates that, should i wish to improve in his general direction, if they're good enough for him, they'll be more than good enough for me (the fact that my current drum workshop kit is every bit as good, if not better, notwithstanding).

on the back page of the current issue of cycle sport is a photograph of david millar, presumably on a training ride, clad in a sartorially impressive set of castelli kit. i'd be rather gratified if i looked as good on the bike as does mr millar, the inference being that the selfsame castelli kit would do exactly that for my personage, even though similar physical abilities may be sadly lacking. but i am only too well aware that the garmin sharp team is sponsored by castelli, and thus david has little choice but to not only wear what he's given, but be photographed doing so.

i'd be much more impressed if he endorsed it.

photo of vinnie colaiuta courtesy of drummerworld. photo of tommy voeckler from the 2013 prendas ciclismo/photosport international 'les memoires du peloton' calendar.

sunday 30th december 2012


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very bright prendas cordura oversocks

prendas cordura oversocks

rain on the kitchen window when i come down for breakfast in the morning is never a great sign. essentially, it means that only a metre or two beyond those wet panes of glass is a damp bike shed containing a number of bicycles all huddling towards the back in the hope that each will be spared the ignominy of being dragged into the cold and wet. that rain rarely hits the glass square-on, for the prevailing wind usually attacks from the right, though occasionally from the left. surprisingly, almost never straight on.

if it arrives from the left, the frontmost of those bicycles is going to have a wet top tube. for reasons outwith my grasp, the door of the bike shed has dropped a centimetre or so at the left, leaving a small gap at the top allowing for ingress of windswept precipitation. i have a cure for this (fitting a panel of wood across the top), but in the manner of the inept craftsman (?) it'll only happen when i get around to it. until then, i like to think it helps air the contents.

according to general consent, in this part of the country (western scotland) we're likely to get rain around 250 days per year, leaving a mere 115 when i can expect to remain dry. of course, this only posits the number of days on which rain might be expected at some point of the clock, not necessarily a meteorological feature that will fill each waking hour. thankfully, one of those 115 days happened by earlier this week, or at least, i thought it had happened by.

the period between christmas eve and hogmanay is traditionally the festive 500, a challenge successfully completed over the last two years, though not at all dry in 2011. thus, on each morning, after observing the rain-speckled windows in the kitchen and having devoured a hero's breakfast of porage and peaches, i would be more than inclined to cover my cycling shoes with overshoes. on the particular morning under discussion, i opted to alter this habit, and keep tootsies cosy by means of a pair of distractingly fluorescent yellow cordura oversocks from the dynamic duo at prendas.

prendas cordura oversocks

my reasoning was two-fold; firstly, at the time of so doing, not only was it not raining outside, the clear sky observable to the southeast suggested the day might truly be bereft of precipitation during my velocipedinal perambulations. add to that my disturbingly early start, wherupon the light outside was not yet do-able without artificial illumination. with a chartreuse jacket, fluoro oversocks, flashing tail light and a headlight that would do justice to a boeing, i have little doubt that i was visible from the international space station.

of course, those with perhaps a tad more savvy about them than i, will have realised that my meteorological observations extended only as far as the south west and partially to the south east. it should not come as too much of a surprise to know that the impending doom arriving from the northwest had escaped my gaze. thus, in the process of gathering more kilometres towards the grand total (just passed the auction mart at bridgend, now that you ask), it rained. it is fortunate that this rain expressed itself as only a brief shower, for though the oversocks were brighter than the midday sun, as well as commendably warm, waterproofing was/is not one of their many merits.

i have not yet entirely come to terms with the machinations involved in wearing oversocks of any particular hue. the late frank vandenbroucke was one very much in favour of wearing such apparel on a regular basis, an affectation i thought more akin to a perceived sense of style rather than for any pragmatic need. david millar is another who has, on occasion, shown a predilection for a similar mode of dress. while i have been accused of many a misdemeanour, being stylish is certainly not one of them, and i have thus previously refrained from oversockness to avoid such finger-pointing.

however, under the circumstances (a need for foot insulation and ostentatious visibility), i really cannot recommend these highly enough. on suffering a puncture a mere 2.5km from home, i removed the oversocks lest they should become tattered while wrestling with tyres, levers and inner tubes, and i can attest to the observation that both feet suffered a noticeable drop in temperature. anxious to avoid yet another impending rain shower, i mistakenly forgot to replace them before pedalling homeward; oh, silly me.

prendas cordura oversocks

cold toes.

while neither i, nor anyone else would recommend these as a substitute for regular water-resistant overshoes, beloved of accurate belgian impersonations, they do suggest themselves for those frank vandenbroucke moments of style, or simply as a way to keep your feet warm. and it takes only the merest hint of time to get used to that brightness of yellow.

if fluorescent yellow is not entirely to your taste (or that of your immediate peloton), prendas can also supply the selfsame cordura oversocks in black or white for the highly reasonable asking price of only £7.95. all shoe sizes from 37 to 47 are catered for.

prendas ciclismo

saturday 29th december 2012


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training camp

faema coffee machine

i'll admit, i'm a little hard pushed to find an appropriate comparison, for i have not, nor am i likely to, attend a cycle training camp. of any description. so, yet again, i throw myself into a narrative, entirely bereft of the first-hand knowledge that would lend an appropriate degree of credibility, making it a feature worth searching for unforgettable quotes. in the mid to late nineties, i do recall a certain sporting tours company offering an early season training camp overseen by robert millar, and i'd always thought it an excellent idea to subscribe. but i didn't. and then robert stopped doing them. so i am still without practical experience and a slew of anecdotes that would entertain you for more than just a moment or two.

but i feel that my ineptitude at not signing up for the millar endeavour is somewhat indicative of the experience enjoyed by many a professional attending their very first training camp with a new team.


i am fortunate to be one of only two musicians to have played each and every year of the islay jazz festival, the last six or seven in the company of my betters (and then some). similar to the exhortation to ride with those at least a smidgeon faster in order to improve, the same encouragement is valid with regard to musicianship; accompanying those of professional status lends everything a certain edge, one that it might be preferable to live without, but one that will ultimately pay dividends.

lest this should be seen as a state of affairs pertaining only to the enthusiastic amateur, let me disavow you of any misapprehensions on that score. two of the gents with whom i have great friendship as well as the occasional serious musical collaboration, offered up the admission that, when working with those they perceived as their own elders and betters, similar feelings of inadequacy made themselves known. i have never quite come to terms with this admission, for i had not considered those i hold in high musical esteem to have any room for concerns of this nature.

it just goes to show.


so consider the plight of the neo pro, or even the experienced racer who finds himself at the first training camp of the season. other than those who have already raced at least one season with the team (of whichever sponsor), the dreaded implications will have surely gnawed for several weeks or months prior to the appointed hour. will i get on with my team-mates? will i be good enough to impress them? will i be good enough to impress the management? what if my race programme is not what i thought it might be?

if you will allow me for just a moment or two might i posit that the experience might be seen as similar to riding such as hot chillee's london to paris? from personal experience (at last), concern was uppermost in my mind on the start-line just outside london. new bike, never before ridden; new people, never before met; riding in a peloton of more than four (admittedly something from which the professional is unlikely to suffer), an experience completely outwith my ken, and an overweening concern that i'd be way too slow for the others in my group.

though some of these may not pertain to even the neo-pro, there is little doubt that the first training camp must bring its own unsettling baggage. we all have our favoured bicycles; some of us are fortunate to have a choice, and it could conceivably be the case that the team just joined, though offering appropriate remuneration along with pleasant fringe benefits, might offer bicycles less suited than that previously ridden. here is where that demonstration of professionalism requires to be training schedule maintained, for though at world tour level, no-one is riding crap, much like those of us at a considerably lower level, we have our preferences. it is something of an open secret that, on leaving mapei to join csc, andrea tafi had his colnago c40 sprayed in appropriate colours rather than ride the offering from the official team supplier. adjustments often need to be made, and i don't mean just to the saddle height.

the food on offer at breakfast and at post race dinner seems mostly to consist of pasta, often it would appear, of varying consistency, hence the need for certain of the better funded to bring along their own chef. but it cannot be discounted that the repasts on offer may differ from that experienced during one's amateur years or from that proffered by the previous professional squad.

new faces, new management, new equipment, new race programme, new challenges; all this and the need to fulfil one's promise. there are any number of reasons why a rider may have been signed to a world tour professional team: previous palmares and uci points if you've been here before, a propensity to assume the mantle of uncomplaining cannon fodder for the team leaders in the case of those without portfolio. in seems unlikely that the team management will have made their choice on a whim, though i know not whether the specific reasons will have been divulged prior to the opening training camp of the season.


a worry. perhaps an unnecessary worry.

but those are surely all the negatives; perhaps in the light of my complete lack of understanding of such pre-season machinations i place too much emphasis on the perceived downsides. for surely the training camp is also an opportunity to meet new friends while meeting up with old friends too. the chance to go ride your (new) bike wearing (new) team kit in a more than likely, most salubrious location without an oppressive need to perform. the pre-season training camp is surely an appropriate occasion to let loose a bit, to kick back and take stock of just where you are in the grand firmament that is top level professional cycle racing.

the bulk of the team will almost certainly be the legacy of the previous season; many of those wearing the sponsors' apparel will surely have been here before. the backroom staff of mechanics, soigneurs, directeurs sportifs may well be the very same as finished the 2012 season, and now look forward to doing the same, albeit with greater success, in 2013.

of course, transfer this scenario to the more mundane travails of civilian life, and the comparisons surely stutter? for most of us are ensconced in our current employ, where our garnered experience in the position can be seen as an asset to our employers. unless found guilty of malfeasance, or succumbing to itchy feet, vision wheels most of us prefer to remain in our current positions for a lengthy period of time. many professional cyclists receive contracts of only one or two years at a time, so is it incumbent on the newly signed professional to simply enjoy his/her time at the current team, or divert one's attention to just what might be the options in one or two years' time?

perhaps the training camp will sort out all of the unanswerables; all the imponderables. though the fellows at the top (the ones with the sideburns) are remarkably well remunerated for their services to cycling, for the many it still holds true that, in order to make a million pounds from cycling, you'd need to start with two million. it's an obsession, an addiction. like several others, i am currently spending my waking hours riding rapha's festive 500, waking each morning, dressing in sportwool and lycra prior to breakfast before going out, whatever the weather, to ride my bike. and i'll do this (as will you all) for eight days on the trot. then i'll nip out on new year's day for another ride. i do this not for remuneration, glory, or a rather grand prize at the end of it all. it's because i like riding my bike.

it is a truism that many a professional would ride his/her bike for free; it's simply the need to earn a living that gets in the way. training camps, at least from the outside looking in, could be seen as the sunday school trips, an opportunity that will present itself only so often during a relatively short career, and for the great unwashed, the images of those practised by many of the top teams will fill the pages of the monthlies sooner rather than later. but, as with everything in life, there are alternative views of the same event, views that have been iconically captured here by new hampshire based photographer, chris milliman.


his published record of the recent liquigas training camp in italy features not so much as a single rider or bicycle, yet manages to tell the story behind that which the sponsor would likely wish us all to see. because that's what sponsors pay many dollars or euros for; their logos and colours on the backs of a peloton of training riders. yet a whole infrastructure is required to make that a pictorial reality, one that is every bit as important as shiny bicycles, sleek team cars and honed athletes grasping taped drop bars. and all against a series of dramatic, sun-drenched backdrops. though if the paradigm of pain and suffering is to be considered, perhaps those backdrops might be monochrome and rain-infused (maybe less likely at a training camp in italy)?

for while our earlier discussion revolved around the neo-pro, this is surely the nuovo image? other than strict imagery that doubles as reportage, images of cyclists offer up only a fraction of that which constitutes professional cycling. it's not that we are barred from witnessing the scenery and the props; the very existence of these images are testament to that, but it's having the perspective to capture their existence when surrounded by the more glamorous aspects of the location and the camp that marks chris milliman out as amongst the best of those eagerly serving our sport and doing so with an eye that the majority of us can only aspire.

would you, given the circumstances, have photographed half empty plates of salad?

you can download a pdf of the full set of chris milliman's training camp photos here.

all photographs copyright chris milliman. reproduced with permission. |

friday 28th december 2012


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solo winter jacket, merino baselayer and merino collar

solo winter jacket

hugh laurie originally came to our notice in the uk via the television series a little bit of fry and laurie along with renowned raconteur, stephen fry. they followed this up portraying the p.g. wodehouse characters, jeeves and wooster with such excellence, that i now find it hard to read any of the wodehouse stories without picturing fry and laurie in those humorous roles. though fry has continued a career path that some would identify with oscar wild (i think it possible he sees himself as something of a reincarnation), laurie eventually moved his acting skills to the usa, becoming i hear tell, one of the highest paid actors in television through the series house which, though riven with dark humour, showed laurie to have something of a serious side to his public persona.

solo winter jacket

and then, as if to reinforce this new found level of seriousness, he released the joe henry produced let them talk, a selection of blues songs recorded in the company of tom jones and irma thomas, along with some of the finest musicians currently available across the pond. while the short videos accompanying this release are peppered with occasional humour, his treatment of the songs is deadly serious. laurie hardly has the most convincing of blues voices; perhaps a diet of razor blades and broken light bulbs would assist, but nonetheless, it offers a fitting tribute to compositions such as st james infirmary and buddy bolden's blues.

not that it has any specific bearing on the subject under discussion, but i am reminded (not musically, i hasten to add) to the title of a rod argent composition; the serious side of sirius three.

many comedians and humourists are remarkably unfunny when bereft of an audience or carefully rendered script, but it is surely of testament to laurie's versatility that he can swap betwen humour and seriousness? a bit like the cycle clothing offerings, now that you come to mention it, from new zealand's solo clothing.

solo winter jacket

the brainchild of paul mason, the company made its mark on the pelotonese via a series of humorous cycle jerseys bearing the names and designs of utterly fictitious sponsors, each pertaining to a specific country of origin. i still have an example of the original french jersey (which, according to paul, is still the most popular, though i note that it seems no longer available via the solo website) st neith clement sur lie, alluding to a non-existent but highly believable french cycle club.

though this series of classique jerseys offers tidbits of humour, depending on your own proclivities, there is nothing humorous about the quality and sincerity behind the garments themselves. for rather than employ the more common method of dye-sublimation to colour the jerseys, paul mason opted for screen printing, an alternatve that offers a greater depth and vibrancy of colour.

however, while not wishing to appear in any way unkind or to undermine that on which paul has created a particularly well-liked and successful business, this past month or so, things just became serious. sent from uk distributors, paligap i received a retro tech winter jacket, merino collar and merino short sleeve baselayer, perusal of which needed not to be too extensive before recognising that mr mason has done his homework. built with wind and waterproof panels featured on the front and top of the sleeves as well as the shoulders, this is something of a serious contender in the stakes for an ideal cosy jacket.

solo merino baselayer

though i have previously discussed the semantics of just what can be meant by the word jacket, this particular example straddles two camps. in milder weather, it may well be convenient to wear over said merino baselayer, but in view of the temperature drop in the hebrides just before christmas, i opted to cover that baselayer with a solo retro-tech s/s jersey and a pair of similarly logo'd armwarmers. the jacket is a close fit, but not so much that dressing in this manner prevented blood flow either to the hands or head.

available only in black, the jacket possesses a total of five pockets: three regular rear versions, along with a fourth zipped outer on the rightmost rear. and coming as a complete surprise, because i only found it by accident, was a concealed zipped pocket secreted along the right hand seam on the side panel. while forum discussions have oft criticised the propensity for cycle clothing purveyors to over utilise black, in the solo winter jacket's defence, it does proudly display a wide reflective strip that stretches from one cuff to the other via the chest, breaking only to allow a full length zip.

there's also a thin reflective strip that does a similar job across the jacket's rear.

solo winter jacket

confusion, however, reigns, for i would be far happier to advertise my presence to those approaching from the rear, than to those passing in the opposite direction. i think it perhaps might have been more pragmatic either to swap front reflection for rear, or perhaps more usefully, have a similar width of reflective strip across both front and back. that full-length zip takes great care not to nip the nape of the neck, by being offset from the centre of the jacket, culminating in a respectfully high collar that allows room for the wearing of that merino collar.

at this time of year, i cannot but point out that i would have preferred a jacket that offers wall to wall rain protection, but both you and i know that this rarely translates into an appropriate level of breathability. on my first trip into the hinterlands, half of my journey had precipitation imposed upon it, and it would be a false claim to state that i arrived at my destination in any state other than a trifle damp, principally across the rear of both arms. though the waterproofing extends the full length of both sleeves and incorporates the shoulders, it is a feature of atlantic winds that they rarely meet you head on. much of the water ingress arrived on the left arm into which the gale-force wind was blowing at the time.

slightly disappointingly, the knitted cuffs and hem offer spongelike surfaces to persistent rain, so while the polyester of the jacket often dried sufficiently at the coffee shop to allow for a comfortable return, squishy cuffs aren't my favourite. it is, however, possible to ameliorate this situation by stuffing a solo solo winter jacket raincoat in one of those rear pockets for just such an eventuality. subsequent outings in less concentrated rain met with greater success; the comfort, warmth, windproofing and breathability proved that solo's new found seriousness arrives as a result of well-considered options.

no winter jacket i have come across seems well-disposed towards the ideal combination of waterproofing and breathability, and unless someone discovers a truly magical fabric, it seems likely that things will remain thus for the foreseeable future. i am not given to training of any nature, whether in summer or in winter, but on those colder days ripe for busting a gut in the name of going as fast as i can, the solo winter jacket cannot be seen as other than ideal. yes, additional waterproofing might be something you'd like to take with you just in case, but unless you're looking at a serious and lengthy downpour, this will do me (and, by implication, you) just ginger peachy, thank you very much.


the solo winter jacket is available in sizes from xs to xl at a cost of £170. the solo black merino baselayer can be acquired in small through xl for £50 and the one-size fits all merino wool collar is a mere £18

solo cycle clothing

thursday 27th december 2012


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mark windsor and the amazing folding mudguard

full windsor

as one who plays on twitter, regaling the world with my less than smart ass one-liners, i had come across full windsor folding mudguards if only because they followed me. you're not going to tell me that if you saw the delineation #fullwindsor arrive in your inbox, you wouldn't do a little bit of digging yourself? thing is, on the basis of my minor hercule poirot impersonations, i couldn't really see what all the fuss was about, for there are any number of stick-on rear guards designed to keep that pristine jacket or jersey in the same condition throughout any grubby ride. surely we didn't need yet another?

but, as they say, you should never judge a book by its cover (though i'm pretty sure most of us do), or indeed, a folding mudguard by its description.

purely by chance, when off on my holidays, i found myself with time to visit glasgow's siempre bicycle cafe, partly for the chat, partly for the coffee and pretty much all for the french toast. i've always enjoyed this particular delicacy, all the more on having experienced a substantial plate of the stuff in a new york diner; they know how to make french toast. and, i'm happy to say, siempre offer a rather fetching portion of the same, though gratifyingly less colossal than broadway's miami diner.

it would be rude of me to simply drop in at the bicycle cafe, scoff my toast and coffee, then depart with a simple how do you do. siempre is less of a bike shop in the conventional sense, geared (did you see what i did there) more towards the needs of proper, everyday cyclists, than the latest in lycra clad. it seems a poignant time to mention that i think it likely the world needs a great deal more of such establishments. however, in the course of my perusals, i came upon a shelf bearing a modest selection of the aforementioned full windsor mudguards.

full windsor

viewed in their naked state, so to speak, one cannot but be intrigued as to how on earth these bits of plastic with folding scores all about their person had any chance of keeping sprayed elements from soiling perfectly good cycling apparel. if you take a click over to full windsor's website, you can view a short video showing just how everything clicks into place, though i cannot deny a certain level of apparently unnecessary footering by yours truly. mostly for the usual reason of if all else fails, read the manual.

in practice, the thinking is quite sound; all those folds mean minimal packaging (always a good thing in my estimation) and cunningly clever assembly with pretty much an absence of tools, though cable cutters are ideal to trim the excess from the zip-tie version. though hardly in the same league as the genius that brought otto mergenthaler to design the linotype machine, there's some interesting use of lateral thinking in evidence. i occasionally have what i'd like to think are half decent ideas pertaining to the world of bicycle design and associated paraphernalia, but so far a lack of presumption has persuaded me not to bet the house on going into business on this basis. you know what thought did. yet mark windsor saw fit to bring his brainchild to market. why?

"Commuting daily on my single-speed to and from the design studio where I worked in London, I wasn't really impressed by any of the existing mudguard solutions on offer. I often resorted to jamming a cut up soft drink bottle between my seat stay so I didn't have to permanently fix any of these mudguards to my bike. This was also the case with my road bike, and talking to other cyclist friends it seemed they felt the same way. I had previously worked on the design of other products which featured origami folding techniques to make 3D forms from a 2D pattern. I figured this could be applied to create a solution that was very functional yet exceptionally simple."

full windsor

if i might refer back to the linotype machine of mr mergenthaler, one of his failings if such it could be said to be, was an inherent need to keep innovating, even after having proceeded through several less than effective previous solutions. did the full windsor guard present itself fully formed, or was there, as there seems to be with many an original and successful idea, a lengthy gestation period?

"You could say it was a pretty lengthy process, as I made close to 200 iterations, testing each one until I had a solution I was happy worked well in all areas. But as with all the design projects I have ever worked on, the simplest most refined solution usually requires the most sweat and tears."

plastic, metal and wood have all been utilised in the making of bicycle mudguards, all of which display excellent qualities, along with one or two less than desirable traits borne by each. it is, of course, unlikely that the latter two would have lent themselves to the ability to be folded by the end user; wood has a tendency to resist any form of bending, while metal, if at all foldable in the first instance, quickly displays signs of fatigue, subsequent splitting and more than a few sharp edges as a result. which pretty much leaves plastic. however, had mark considered any alternative materials during the design and testing period?

full windsor

"From past products I had designed, I knew that polypropylene was one of the best materials to use as a living hinge, although I did experiment with a few other materials just to make sure."

if you had perhaps read my review of the two iterations of the full windsor guard, you would have appraised yourself of the knowledge that each performs in identical fashion, differing only by the method of fastening each to the bicycle frame. one features poppered extensions that can be fitted and removed in moments, while the other owns a couple of holes at the points of contact to allow affixation by zip-ties. this makes the fitting a tad more permanent, requiring the removal of excess zip-tie and the total destruction of same should you wish to remove the guard for any reason. why has mark seen fit to offer two alternatives performing essentially the same function?

"I created two versions to cater for to slightly different users. The quickfix is perfect for someone who prefers to have no mudguards on their bike for the majority of the year but when it is wet out can easily snap on the quickfix to provide full coverage from. While the foldnfix offers a more permanent solution."

full windsor

it would be hard to deny a certain logic in the above answer, for though i fitted a pair of fullwoodfenders to the cielo around three years ago, the intention had always been to remove them come summer (i know, i know). suffice it to say that they have never left the frame and forks. however, as an ageing cyclist, i can see the benefit of having mudguards permanently affixed to my bicycle, though 'twas not always so. in younger days, it would have seemed tantamount to treason to pop any form of fender on pristine carbon. one's pelotonic heritage would surely be defiled by such appendages on a permanent basis. given these variations of thought, who does mark see as his target market?

"It was originally designed for commuters, but after speaking to so many different cyclists in the last year who have used our mudguards, I think it appeals to a wider target market. I have been contacted by weekend road cyclists and hard tail mountain bikers who love our mudguards."

each morning, as i lie more asleep than awake, radio four entertains me with the business news at around 6:15 and 7:15, proclaiming a mystical intrigue that is often hard to fathom. if i might cite as an example the fact that apple computer's share price has apprently dropped by over $150 in the past month or so, despite opening sales in china of the iphone 5 reaching two million in a remarkably short period of time. in order to better acquaint us with the machinations of the economic world, the radio presenter enquired of a business analyst why this was the case, considering there seemed to be little wrong with such sales figures. "because two million sales of the iphone in china (over a period of one or two days, mind) is simply not considered enough" such an answer seems rather unrealistic if you ask me.

full windsor

but considering this is the world in which we are required to live, i can see the very same analyst pointing out the fallacy of building a business empire based on a single offering. in which case, other than the full windsor mudguard(s), has mark any other products in the pipeline? "There are many ideas in the pipeline, that is what Full Windsor is all about! We have been working away on a new innovative multi-tool for the last nine months which we are going to be releasing very soon. We are also in the process of collaborating  with some other small innovative cycling related companies on some projects"

it would seem rather trite of me to paraphrase the slogan of a well kent mobile phone network provider the future's bright, the future's folding, but it does seem rather a clever idea to offer the intrepid cyclist the opportunity to deflect some of the crud covering the world's roads as and when they individually adjudge it to need deflection. and remarkably economic deflection at that, might i add.

full windsor

wednesday 26th december 2012


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tis the season to be footering


i, believe it or not, used to sell bicycles. it was the early nineties when there was no such thing as a bike shop on the isle, and my ministrations on behalf of repairing the indigenous cycles had led to one or two folks asking after purchasing new. so, in conjunction with another fellow who is no longer an islay resident, we set up the appropriate accounts and sold bicycles to order, having insufficient funds to purchase an entire showroom's worth. at that point in time, it was necessary to have a tad more mechanical know-how than is currently the case, for even kids' bicycles arrived mostly in bits with an entire rainforest's worth of corrugated paper masking-taped to each and every tube. it was a few years before this was supplanted by the now ubiquitous bubble-wrap.

the only pre-built bits were the affixation of the rear wheel in the frame and the chain on the chainset. the remainder - bar grips, brake levers, cables, pedals, handlebars, stem, seatpost, saddle and brakes - had all to be bolted in position, though i cannot deny that the hardest bit was removing all that packaging without scratching the paintwork. thus, on removing the cycle from its box, the time devoted to each and every cycle was technically eating into one's notional profit. for in the real world of commerce, mechanics such as i would have been paid an hourly rate, and if it took more than an hour (which it invariably did), i was probably doing it for a hobby.


many of those bicycles were advertised by the manufacturers at a recommended retail price; by the time i'd added vat and carriage, plus the time taken to assemble, and offered a (admittedly rarely claimed) six week free service period, it was never going to get me that holiday home in the bahamas i'd always dreamed of.

it was around the same time that i noticed several of the cycle shows holding competitions between shop mechanics as to how quickly each could assemble a new bicycle, and the times quoted were often quicker than i could have removed a cycle from its box. on closer examination, it turned out that their new bicycles appeared to have a great deal more pre-assembly than had the examples delivered to islay. particularly the batch of a formerly well-known mountain bike manufacturer who sent twenty bicycles all of which had front wheels that were not evenly tensioned and trued. every one leaned far more to the left than to the right, and that took a while to correct.

eco grease

nowadays, however, life is a little less frenetic in the assembly department. i know because a work colleague purchased a raleigh twenty-inch wheel bicycle for her grandson, one which fell out the bottom of a rather soggy box. at the point of egress, she took one look at the object and decided there was no way either she or her partner were going to cope with the assembly procedure and brought it all into the office for yours truly to deal with.

yet again, the removal of chunky zip-ties and copious amounts of cardboard and masking tape was the hardest part, before coating pedal threads, stem and seatpost with green oil grease. you can never be too careful in the local climate. however, it having been a lengthy time since i last did this sort of thing, the stunning lack of compatibility throughout even a child's bicycle was remarkable enough to warrant comment.

pedla spanner

the stem bolt featured a recessed 6mm allen bolt, while the stem bolt was 5mm. the v-brakes' cable clamp bolt also used a 5mm bolt, but the seatpost was held in place by a 13mm nut on a steel bolt, and the front wheel tightended in position via two 15mm nuts. all those sizes on such a small bicycle. the bell and front and rear reflectors were kept affixed via philips cross-head screws, but that on the bell was of a larger size than those on the reflectors.

i know that raleigh bicycles are no longer built in nottingham, but in a land far, far away, but surely it is not outwith the bounds of common sense that at least one of those nations might indulge in joined up thinking. many a stem bolt on modern racing bicycles and adults' mountain bikes is 5mm (though every bit as frustratingly, the clamp bolts on stem and stem plate are 4mm), so why not standardise on 5mm for everything? and while you're at it, raleigh, how can it possibly be more cost effective to fit a 13mm nut on that seatbolt clamp rather than a 5mm allen bolt?

you will, however, be pleased to know that those spanners that arrive in the plastic bag with the reflectors and bell are every bit as useless as they always were. in fact, that was undoubtedly the only consistent factor in the whole process. i used proper workshop tools.

that's christmas for you.

tuesday 25th december 2012


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