unless you happen to work in the cycling industry, in particular the roadie end of the market, you must surely have, at one time or another, had aspersions cast upon your choice of saddle? i don't mean whether it says prologo, selle italia, fizik or selle san marco along its perimeter, but more with reference to its shape. those of us who harbour aspirations to conquer mont ventoux in the manner of chris froome are likely to be seen riding not only some particularly shiny carbon fibre, but carbon topped with what, for some reason or other, is often compared to a razor.
i have, purely for the purposes of research, often taken a good long look at my gilette mach 2, yet at no time, even under disadvantageous lighting conditions, has it ever resembled any of the saddles on which i have placed my posterior. i have not unnaturally inferred from this comparison, that there is a liberal amount of exaggeration included by those not of the road bike persuasion (or even mountain bikes come to that).
what i had not realised, however, was that the civilian population is scarcely aware that the black lycra respectfully covering those tanned lower limbs has a padded insert secreted about its person. this realisation has, more often than not, brought about a new found comprehension as to how anyone can actually sit atop a razor blade for an extended period of time.
for those of us in the know so to speak, there are degrees, levels and comforts of padding that can often separate the men from the other men. even my distinctly amateur explorations of the principality on a bicycle can last several hours, more often than not in levels of precipitation that make niagara falls look like a dry sherry. in keeping with my velocipedinal peers, i rather want my comforts; compared to froome, personal efforts may be scant, but they're hard enough for me, and i'd much like to be comfortable while they take place.
thus, the area of cycling apparel on which it seems false economy to skimp is that of the bibshorts. i think it unlikely too many of us are inhabitors of the regular cycle short (the ones without the bib) as thse are likely to expose areas of the back that take not kindly to cold, wet and windy weather. this throws up the dilemma of quite how to size such an essential item of clothing. should it be based upon one's height, or perhaps the waist? i have mostly gone for the latter with so far, excellent results.
however, not greatly informed as to the average size of the male italian population, i have garnered basic information that would suggest articles of cycle clothing manufactured in that country have a tendency to be a tad smaller than the chunkier brit is used to wearing. on inquiring as to which particular size of shorts would be in keeping with my athletic profile (if you lot at the back snigger once more...), ben higgins of custom performance kit suggested that i may wish to eschew my more usual small in favour of an italian medium.
always willing to take advice on such matters, we arranged that he'd send small and medium, but i'm pleased to relate that my first choice was correct, and the small size fitted fine. and i have no italian blood that i'm aware of.
the leg on these pella pro bib shorts is a smidgeon shorter than on those of comparable quality in the shorts drawer. not sean yates short, but sufficient to allow for a larger tan on the thigh muscles. the bib section is composed of white mesh that had little problem stretching to fit my five foot ten inches without a hint of discomfort. it is a trait of the very best that in normal 'i must make myself some porage before going out on the bike' mode, they fit a little strangely, a sensation that melts away as soon as assuming the position on the bike.
the somewhat oddly named skyve pad seems far too thin to offer the degree of comfort trailered on the attached tag, particularly with the paragraph 'recommended for + eight hour extreme rides'. eight hours is more than mrs washingmachinepost would ever allow at a single sitting, but i did behave sneakily and managed a four hour continuous ride. in much the same way that one should not judge a book by its cover, neither should one apply the same principles to an italian made skyve pad. if those four hours had been doubled, i still doubt there would have been any discomfort in the seating area.
and in a strengthening of the principle that you pretty much get what you pay for, these pella pro bibshorts are little short of marvellous (see what i did there?) the manufacture is little short of immaculate, for me the fit is ideal, and to put not too fine a point on it, they ooze quality. even the gloop that stops the legs riding up is applied in minimal flecks on the inside of the hem.
what does bother me, however, on a superficial level, is the applied graphics. it states twelve times on the hem of each leg 'pure made in italy since 1980', hardly a perfect translation of the intended message, i'm sure you'll agree. but, to be honest, that's of no real nevermind; the real idiosyncracy is that those words are dye sublimated into the lycra. so far, so good. why then apply the pella advanced technology sportswear logo by way of a poorly attached transfer? these have been washed around five or six times since receipt and already that logo is peeling off the leg.
others have managed to screenprint their logo onto lycra with a great degree of success, but in this case, why not just dye sublimate it as with the other wording? like i said, totally superficial and something that impinges not one whit on the ride quality, but you do sometimes have to wonder.
that portion of trivia aside, these are a truly excellent pair of cycle shorts and worth every penny.
the pella sportswear pro bibshorts retail at £140 per pair.
monday 15th july 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the last time i owned a mountain bike was 1994; a steel muddy fox mega with (for the time) trendy square tubing. the original out the box version had rigid steel forks, but in keeping with the times, i replaced those with a pair of rockshox something or others. the one's with the elastomer suspension. hydraulics and air seemed a might too complex if you had asked me at the time. in fact if you asked me now, i'd probably give the same answer.
never having been much of a trendsetter at anytime in my life, the conversion to skinny wheels and bendy bars was borne more out of pragmatism than any concern with fashion. in the early nineties it was still relatively uncool to arrive at the coffee shop (there was, at the time, only one coffee shop on the isle at which one could arrive) on a pair of 700c wheels, when all around were wide and knobbly. however, though islay has its moments when it comes to the art of offroading, getting there on chunky rubber, left intentionally low on pressure to counter the anticipated mud, was just so cotton pickin' hard.
a road bike, on the other hand, need only roll forward a couple of metres and the world was my oyster, and a shellfish that could be approached at far higher speed. from that moment onwards, the muddy fox was confined to the nether regions of the bike shed, while my thoughts and aspirations were concentrated more on shiny bits of italian componentry and whether the cork fragments in cinelli bar tape truly conferred superior status.
fast forward a few years, around the turn of the century to be a bit more precise, and two american chaps contacted me to say they were on their way to islay with a single-speed mountain bike, painted the very same green as lagavulin was wont to print its whisky boxes. this was the almost legendary ibis single malt. if you scrabble about in the post archives, its story might still be there somewhere, but basically speaking, it was a steel framed bicycle featuring the aforementioned colour scheme, chris king hubbed disc wheels, rock shox front suspension and shimano hydraulic discs.
the two gents were kind enough to allow me an afternoon to play on the single malt, just long enough to remind me of how much fun offroad could be, before i'd to hand it back, and they disappeared off across the pond, never to be seen again. the story has a few extra turns into which i will not go at present, but suffice to say the ibis cycles as was, had been purchased from its originator, the inestimable scot nicol, and around twenty months later, the company was bust.
scot nicol re-purchased and revived ibis cycles; it's now one of the premier independents alive and well in the offroad world. imagine my joy, therefore, to find a feature in the latest issue of privateer magazine about scot and ibis, written by andy waterman and photographed by portland-based daniel sharp. i make mention of this because the entire issue comprises words and pictures from these two gentlemen and no others besides; not exactly common practice in the world of periodical publishing. and even to a confirmed roadie, it's flipping brilliant.
and despite my reticence to get down and get dirty on a mountain bike (though i am occasionally tempted), this latest issue is every bit as good as editions of rouleur.
those of us with road-going pretensions and a personalised team sky kit in the cycling wardrobe, can surreptitiously satisfy a bit of scrabbling in the undergrowth by clambering aboard the 'cross bike at frequent intervals, safe in the knowledge that roger de vlaeminck would wholeheartedly approve. not quite as knobbly as an ibis ridley, but then who needs suspension anyway?
however, we have far more in common with the bulk of our offroad brethren that would seem to be the case if you only listen to the word according to red bull. there may well be a bona fide faction prepared to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or throw themselves fearlessly down a rocky mountain way, but far more spend their leisure hours careening along gnarly single-track, enjoying it every bit as much as those of us pretending to climb mont ventoux or alpe d'huez. in fact, with traffic numbers on an exponential increase, you can sort of see their point.
and this is precisely where privateer magazine enters the room. and as it enters, whatever your cycling proclivities, it should be warmly welcomed as one of our own. the current issue, aside from the scot nicol feature, brings us paul components, specialized, santa cruz, oakley, easton, wilderness trail bikes and a visit to strava in san francisco. it is noteworthy that several of the foregoing have at least one cleat in the insular world of the roadie.
but just like the skinny wheel aficionados, mountain biking has to come from somewhere. people like brian lopez and the athertons did not pop from the womb with bike-handling skills that would make your kneecaps crinkle. there is, and has been, nurturing involved, supremely portrayed (again by messrs waterman and sharp) in an article about high school mountain biking. and should you think that the divisions are clearcut, i'm sure the admirable mr chris distefano of rapha usa won't mind my pointing out that he is as besotted with offroad as he is with rapha's take on the most beautiful of sports. as was pointed out by a member of a blues band in which i used to percuss, 'it's always a bonus if you can bring something different to the table'.
however, at the risk of outstaying my welcome, let me constructively digress for a moment or two. it is no secret that privateer is an integral part of rouleur publishing, perpetrators of magazine layouts to die for, publications that succeed every bit as much from an aesthetic perspective as they do from a literary and photographic point of view. number in their thousands do those who listen intently for the substantial thump as the latest issue of rouleur hits the welcome mat, before releasing it from its cardboard packaging and inhaling the essential aroma of ink on paper.
these are hereditary traits. privateer may not yet have hit the colossal pagination of its proud parent, but in issue sixteen, the layout aesthetic will encourage an involuntary gasp as each page is turned. and the smell is every bit as intoxicating as its stablemate. the word design with a capital 'd' springs to mind. (or at least it would do if i used capitals). the pairing of andy waterman and dan sharp is an important one, for it gives a continuity rarely seen outside of book format, and if i tell you you'll love the cover...
maybe, in the interests of accepting cycling as one big happy family, it's time to consider rouleur and privateer as being two of a perfect pair.
sunday 14th july 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
shamefully, sitting in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed, still in the box in which it arrived, is a former carlton steel frame that was lovingly and rather stylishly re-fitted and repainted by russell stout at shand cycles in livingston near edinburgh. though the frame may be just a smidgeon too big for me by contemporary standards, i find great favour with the bygone approach of very little seatpost showing. that would be a look more easily captured, however, if i actually owned a seatpost of the correct length and diameter. it's place in the cycling firmament would be guaranteed even further were this non-existent seatpost to resemble a shiny alloy fluted campagnolo record version.
however, though i have most of the componentry required to change a simple lugged steel frame into a fine upstanding pillar of velocipedinality, including wheels, gears, cranks and even bottom bracket and threaded headset, the rather important items missing from my list are those of a quill stem and complementary handlebars, preferably adhering to the classic bend style. at the mere mention of the word quill used in conjunction with the word stem many of you will be sniggering to yourselves, convinced that i may find myself constrained to trawling the pages of ebay for many of my remaining years. for 'tis not only appropriate that i find said items to fit and to match this delightful frame, but that they be of appropriate dimensions for my personal use.
unlike many, i have no great desire to spend many a happy evening clicking through hundreds of pages to satisfy this perhaps vain hope. i would far rather purchase new, shiny components and be done with it; bicycles are for riding, not for fawning over. so from whence might i acquire said shiny componentry?
well, my first choice would be that of tokyo fixed a london cycle emporium that stocks suitable items sourced from the pre-eminent brand for such ephemera, that of japan's nitto. their online selection will allow me to perfectly match bars to stem to seatpost, even down to deciding which diameters i would prefer in each, so long as they match. but did i not recently hear that tokyo fixed had closed their shop in peter street, packed everything into boxes and moved to golden square in the heart of the metropolis?
in fact, yes i did. only the shop formerly known as tokyo fixed has morphed its identity on reaching golden square, and now identifies itself as kinoko cycles. still the apparent japanese influence but hardly to be confused with its predecessor. despite the change of name, originator of tokyo fixed, max lewis, is still the man to talk to. where does the name kinoko come from?
"Kinoko means mushroom in Japanese. Which doesn't say much. We were thinking of possible names a long while back over a meal at the Taiwan bicycle show. Kinoko probably came up as a bit of a joke but is sounded nice and stuck. It wrote well and wouldn't feel out of place in the future."
as the bicycle market continues to change, many existing brands and emporia have found it necessary to alter their approach to the world. this is partly based on a perceived need to better service an increased customer base, and also to cater for those who now know more about their personal cycling needs than was formerly the case. in certain cases, and kinoko is one in point, a shop location can say as much about its position in polite society as does, for example, its window display. in that sense, the move from peter street to golden square seems perfectly understandable, but why not simply continue with the name tokyo fixed?
"The Tokyo Fixed brand is still going strong. But the brand is different from Kinoko. Kinoko is becoming a trusted bike shop known for a great selection of lifestyle and performance clothing and accessories. And a custom bike studio with expertise in all types of bikes. Tokyo Fixed leans more towards single speed and urban cycling. I'm happy this separation has been made as previously Tokyo Fixed was being pulled in both directions."
i'm surely not the only one who has viewed the changing demographic applicable to the bicycle industry. those who, several years ago would have been content to remain inside their bmws and audis, are now adopting the way of carbon fibre, perhaps giving rise to the mamil acronym, but most certainly widening its scope. though it may seem crass to discuss money in these hallowed pixels, few of us can survive without it, and many of the new adherents of cycling have a fair bit of it to spend. naive would be the shopkeeper who ignored this growing source of income. is max aiming kinoko at a different clientele to that which populated tokyo fixed?
"Our new brands such as Independent Fabrication, Focus and Castellli obviously will bring in more road cyclists. But we did get a lot of road cyclists in the old shop. Ultimately the brand we stock will decide the clientele but it's worth pointing out we have not discontinued any brands from the old shop."
i am on record as stating that a decent logo and corporate design can work wonders for any business, whether it be the one woman wool spinning cottage industry in the far reaches of the hebrides, or the largish corporation harboured in a city centre. it does not pay to be anonymous unless you carry out work for the central intelligence agency or mi6. to this end, max engaged the services of the creatives at harriman steel to provide an appropriate and memorable set of imagery and logo with which to identify kinoko cycles. does this signify an increased importance in such matters?
"We've always been concerned about image, and yes, when opening the new shop we were very concerned about the image. H&S were great to work with, guiding us in the right direction."
so, the peter street premises are now history, kinoko has opened to acclaim in golden square and the coffee cups in the back room are starting to gain a patina that absolves them from being the new kids on the block. surrounded by many a media company, including sony pictures and sony computer, as well as the m&c saatchi group, the cinema advertising association and a substantial number of overfed pigeons, how does max intend to proceed from here?
"We just hope to continue to offer great brands and great service. Regarding the shop, that's all there is to it. We are working on some lovely new frames for the Tokyo Fixed brand including the versatile Trooper CX frame and a full line of winter clothing."
kinoko cycles is at 10 golden square, london.
saturday 13th july 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
you'll have to take my word for this because i'm taking someone else's advice on the selfsame matter. i seriously doubt that many of you are opera fans, though i'd be more than happy to be surprised. brief conversations with those who are far better informed on the subject than i have given rise to the knowledge that even within the realms of operatic appreciation, there are schisms and divides. this positions certain aficionados on the side of german opera, specifically those of wagner, while others consider these an abomination and that italian is the true home of the art, and will bear no contradiction.
i would certainly not consider myself anywhere near being a member of the cognoscenti, for i doubt very much i could appraise you of the storyline behind any of the world's great operas. rather irrationally, however, i have always harboured the notion of purchasing wagner's entire ring cycle, and not simply because of the inadvertant us of the word cycle in its title.
having moved this far west to thrust my artistic pretensions upon an unsuspecting and largely uncaring world, i found the act of painting to be a somewhat lonely and quiet affair, locked as i was in my downstairs studio for most of each day. thus, a radio was procured to accompany my every brush stroke and palette knife dalliance upon the canvas. radio's one and two were deemed too rhythmic to allow for unfettered expressionism, while radio four's talk format led to my deserting the job in hand to pay more attention to the conversations.
radio three, however, was content to purvey lengthy pieces of orchestral music with sparse interruption from the announcer, so i opted to become highbrow in all my artistic dealings, and listen exclusively to classical music. at the time, each thursday afternoon, the station would broadcast an opera in its entirety, each successive act preceded by a precis of the forthcoming action. not having had much to do with opera previously, i was pleasantly susprised to discover that i had an affinity for this so-called elitist musical form and looked forward to oils and watercolours each thursday pm.
though the home of english opera seems to be encapsulated by concerts at glyndebourne, likely at least in part due to the inclemency of the british weather, these performances are held within the purpose built concert hall on the premises. europe, however, generally fares a tad better on the meteorological front and holds several open-air festivals, proclaiming their operatic presentations in the great outdoors. it is the avowed superiority of this means of appreciation that has been passed onto me by those with a more refined awareness, and to which i now inform you too.
it will, however, come as little or no suprise that the principal thrust of my narrative has, in fact, nothing whatosever to do with opera at all. it does however, pertain to a similarly elitist practice; that of track racing. now i mean not to disparage those who participate in this branch of the sport, for of those i have met, i would be telling a great untruth if i presented any as being more ighbrow than the rest of us. but it is an all but undeniable fact that track racing or riding is marginally less accessible than that of road riding or time-trialling, simply because it depends entirely on premises built specifically for the purpose.
i would be teaching my granny to suck eggs were i to reiterate the history of track racing in britain, resting as it did principally on concrete outdoor tracks. most of these have been demolished or re-absorbed by the undergrowth in the years over which cycling in circles has waned as a cyclist's premier pastime. there are, however, one or two historic tracks still barely in existence, relying on the enthusiasm, dedication and hard work of groups of individuals who stoutly defend that their time is still now. one such is that of herne hill in london, a track that has suffered as much as any, yet refuses to lie down amongst the weeds.
herne hill, however has even more in common with the practice of performing opera out of doors, despite my misdirections. this coming tuesday (16th july), evans cycles, hoy bikes and the antidote design agency (responsible for the teamsky corporate identity amongst others) are inviting all and sundry to join them at herne hill to not only witness competition winners riding the track on hoy bikes with sir chris, but take part in a question and answer session with britain's most decorated olympic medallist.
those chosen for the track ride have been posting pictures of their rides to instagram with the hashtag #ridesummer. these were automaticall added to the evans cycles ride-summer map, and the winners chosen by sir chris.
following the q & a, chris hoy will offer a brief introduction to the highlight of the evening, an outdoor cinematic viewing of belleville rendezvous an aninated movie that every cyclist worth their salt ought to have watched a minimum of six times prior to this herne hill showing. if this is just the sort of evening you thought you'd like to have planned for a tuesday eve, the presentation begins at 8pm and ought to be complete by 10:30pm, the movie commencing at 9:15pm.
for those of you like me who will be nowhere near herne hill on tuesday eve, take the telly into the garden and watch the dvd of belleville rendezvous
for those who would like to attend, evans cycles have graciously provided four pairs of tickets for the event. to win, simply tell me the names applied to both styles of hoy bikes currently available from evans cycles. e-mail your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org by this sunday eve (14th july). winners will be notified by e-mail on monday.
friday 12th july 2013
i've long considered the tour de france to be something of a self-fufilling prophecy. it's an event that has become ever more popular due mostly to becoming ever more popular. in essence, there is little to differentiate it from its nearest brethren; the giro d'italia and la vuelta espana. all comprise three weeks of intense racing, with flat, mountain and time-trial stages to test the mettle of the world's finest cycle racers, yet the tour de france maintains a pre-eminence that sees the other two as bookends to its own magnificence.
the latter state of affairs confirms participation in le tour as the ultimate goal not only for the riders, but more importantly, that of their sponsors. thus, add all these ingredients together and you arrive at an event that is somewhat considerably greater than the sum of its parts. and we, the tifosi (to shift nationalities just for a moment), delight in every moment of it, from the two month build-up in the cycle press, to a concomitant two month de-brief after it's all over, a de-brief that frequently interrupts the preview time set aside for la vuelta.
don't get me wrong, i enjoy the tour as much as the next obsessive, but i'm also somewhat disposed to enjoy the other two as well. and don't even get me started on the consummate delights of the spring classics.
however, in 2013, i feel i must adopt a more conciliatory stance, for it's not every year that a three week cycle race celebrates 100 editions, a substantial achievement for any sporting event. and with those ten decades comes a wealth of detail, narrative, anecdote and reportage, much of which has been put in print by a plethora of uk publishing houses, to say nothing of those abroad. however, interested though i am in the minutiae of each and every race, in much the same way that i approach appreciation of drawing and painting, i like to know how those in the headlights (so to speak) are affected by that which they saw or experienced. and in that spirit, the timely reprinting and updating of sport and publicity's 2003 golden stages is, to my mind, a particularly excellent way to experience at least a portion of those 100 tours.
the format is simple enough; twenty-one writers have been alotted at least one chapter each in which to either regale us with aspects of specific stages across the years, or, indeed, to inform the readership as to their own unique experience of the world's greatest bicycle race. many of the contributors will be familar to you; herbie sykes, david harmon, john deering, matt rendell, michael breckon, graeme fife and rather obviously, several others. at this point i wish to remain as impartial as i can manage, for though i have my favourites from the contents, several of the contributors are known to me personally and i'd like that to remain so for the foreseeable future.
suffice it to say, there is not a dud amongst them all, and their wide-ranging variety of style and content means continued reading is never a chore. richard allchin and adrian bell (he of mousehold press fame) are to be congratulated on choosing such an excellent team of contributors. amongst the many 100th tour books that you will find on the shelves (virtual or otherwise) of your local bookstore, this is perhaps the best kept secret, occupying a more modest format than its coffee-table brethren, yet arguably offering a lot more. i missed out on the original offering ten years ago, and though the current version declares the addition of eight new chapters, such is the consistency of origination, that without looking at the contents or chapter headings (where a date is included), you'd be hard-pressed to identify them from their longer serving peers.
and excellent publication from two of the stalwarts of cycling literature.
thursday 11th july 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
due to the antiquity of the television masts on islay, even on freeview we are somewhat restricted in the channels that are available. while the rest of britain (more or less) can view fifty television channels, four hd channels and listen to 24 radio stations, access on islay is rather more limited. the alternatives of course, are to pony up for a satellite dish and freesat box, or pay rupert murdoch enough money for sir dave to order another death star.
as my own television watching habit is far less demanding than even islay's freeview access, and mrs washingmachinepost seems quite happy with her soaps, i think we'll survive as we are. however, i'm aware from even those who do watch their televisions via a dish from the dark side, that despite more channels than anyone truly knows what to do with, on certain evenings there is simply nothing worth watching. one of those evenings happened along on sunday past.
though i could have occupied my time switching between melodramatic replays of andy murray playing tennis in slow motion, or the ned and chris show reliving the day's pyreneean tour stage that i'd seen that very afternoon, you know what? i couldn't be bothered. youtube however, offers a means to occupy an evening in earnest and nostalgic viewing; in this case, stars and watercarriers, jorgan leth's film of the 1973 giro d'italia.
if ever there was an antidote to the sometimes clinical riding of modern times, and the excruciating commentary that often accompanies it, stars and watercarriers is surely it. one need only cast a quick glance at the comments appended to the youtube page to find that one is not alone in a secret desire to have a bicycle with downtube levers sat in the bike shed. the film may not have aged as well as it might in terms of remaining colour-fast, but to watch merckx and ritter time-trial on standard road bikes as opposed to the formula one, wind tunnel tested carbon of present times was pretty much as cool as it gets over a sport-infested weekend.
perhaps the most notable feature, however, was the headgear. or, as in most cases, the complete lack of. one or two of the riders across various participating teams wore the traditional cycle cap, emblazoned with the sponsor's credentials; molteni, scic, bianchi, et al. and to this day, i still have no idea how those caps remained in situ when perched on the very top of an unruly crop of hair. how come it doesn't blow away in the wind? it was also intriguing to note that neither peak up nor peak down constituted the way of the hardmen. both variations were frequently on display.
but it's a notable feature because it's no longer something seen in the professional peloton. initially, uci rules dictated that the riders must all wear approved helmets, at least until reaching the final climb of the day, at which point there was often seen a mad rush back to the team cars to dispose of the often unwanted dod of polystyrene. that lasted about one season i believe, and it is now incumbent on all professional cyclists of whichever league, to wear a helmet at all times.
we, on the other hand, are not under such an enforcement.
however, simply to invite a distinct perspective on such matters, if those who ride bicycles for a living, at speeds we can only dream of, and over roads closed to regular traffic are required to wear cycle helmets for safety reasons, whither the civilian? though bicycle use has undoubtedly increased over recent years, this may well have been matched by a similar if not greater increase in the number of cars on the road (take a look at the wall to wall cars parked on your street of an evening; is the number more or less than it was ten years ago?)
for the sake of wearing an often brightly coloured, lightweight chunk of polystyrene on your head, i'm often astounded at the arguments against doing so. however, my point here is not to necessarily argue the case for or against, but simply to introduce one of those chunks of polystyrene that not only gives my kitchen scales very little trouble, but would do little damage to an innocent bank account into the bargain. if i have any criticism at all, it would be the confoundingly naff identity applied to such a comfortable, convenient and stylish lid.
as i understand it, c originals have been manufacturing helmets for others for around twenty years, but have now decided the time is right to bring their light out from under its bushel. however, in this day of branding consultants, and visible corporate identies, not only is the name c originals eminently forgettable, it provides a less than impressive decal on such a glorious looking helmet. and to add insult to injury, they've called it the sv888. aaaargh.
for the incredibly wallet friendly price of £99.99, c originals offer a 240g helmet, with an excellent, one-hand adjustable retention system and a remarkably easily adjustable, padded chin strap. add to that copious amounts of internal padding and enough vents to cope with the current heatwave, and you have a helmet that would challenge several of the better known and more expensive brands on the market.
the only feature i am somewhat loath to test is just how well it fares should i happen to land on my head in an inappropriate gravitational situation, but that's something applicable to each and every helmet that has passed through the croft. much like an insurance policy, you hope you'll never have need of its countenance.
the sv888 holds en1078 certification thus complying with the european personal protective equipment directive, also the basis of an identical british standard. in use it's pretty much invisible; i guarantee that at some point i will leave debbie's cafe only to return figuring i forgot to put the helmet on. the retention system allows an almost perfect head fitting even before fastening the chin strap, particularly confidence inspiring in this respect, and the fact that it looks rather good (and fast) does it no disfavours.
the review helmet is quite plainly a rather fetching yellow, and though i believe it is available in a selection of colours, unfortunately i can only find sight of a white with red flashes on the website. however, it also arrives in one of two sizes: small/medium (55-58cm as tested) or medium/large 58-61cm.
i would respectfully suggest that c originals have a serious think about not only their brand name, but those they've applied to their seemingly excellent helmets. with so many offerings on an international market, it's quite possible they will get lost in the melee. i know i'd pay scant attention to the brand if i came across it in a magazine or online advert, and on the evidence of the reviewed item, that would be a huge mistake on my part. i'm all for not judging a book by its cover, but that in essence, is a two way street.
wednesday 10th july 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
'we are cyclists. the rest of the world merely rides a bike'
nostalgia is one of those emotions that carries the supreme ability to tint historical events and times with a warm glow. no matter the technological and societal developments of contemporary times, those of a bygone era are stripped of their disadvantages, leaving only historical positives. this is a state of affairs that invades pretty much all walks of life, apart possibly, from astro and nuclear physics.
though rapha can be seen as responsible for bringing the warmth of wool jerseys to the pelotonese, the mighty dave t has brought the sixties and seventies to life by describing just how awful the jerseys of those years truly were. it might be no exaggeration that three full back pockets in the rain would have soaking wool dragging on the rear tyre. it's difficult to see how a sense of style could be maintained under such circumstances.
rule 80: always be casually deliberate.
what is beyond redemption and argument is that the riders of yesteryear participated in a substantially larger number of races than seems currently to be the case. should evidence be required, you need look no further than last year's velopress release 'merckx 525', the numerical part of the title referring to eddy's career victories. you will search in vain to find any of the contemporary riders who look even to be approaching such a total. it is, therefore, no real wonder that a sizeable portion of the cycling cognoscenti have deified eddy merckx. even the uci, with their athlete's hour record, have effectively set the belgian as the bona-fide standard of all that is good, great and probably unachievable in modern cycling.
bluntly put, riders such as merckx, de vlaeminck, kelly and bernard hinault, wear the mantle of 'hardman' and as such can be seen as progenitors of the commandments of cycling, codified here by the velominati as the rules. surely each and every one of us has a desire to imitate our heroes? even those with little cognisance or exposure to the rules can surely not have failed to have been berated by rule number five: harden the f**k up? and at the time of this book's printing, it was accompanied by a further 89 rules pertaining to pretty much every aspect of cycling activity.
'The Rules serve as an induction into the fundamental principles of living life as a Cyclist. While some seem to fixate on the arbitrary and others on the aesthetic, all are steeped in history and culture and are intended for one purpose only: to inspire people to ride their bikes more often and love them more deeply than they do now.'
rule 65: maintain and respect your machine.
in order to produce a more thematic volume than simply list each in numerical order (though such a list is present at the back of the book), the chapters deal with cycling specifics: The Disciple, The Ride, The Bike, The Aesthete and The Hardmen. i confess i'd have been a touch happier had numerical order been respected, but that said, i can see no real disadvantage to the way the rules have been here portrayed.
of course, were these really the rules to which it was necessary to adhere before clipping into a pair of road bike pedals (or toeclips and straps), most of us would be in real trouble. i doubt there are many to whom rule number five does not at some time apply. i hold my hand up to that one almost everytime i venture out. and i'm also rather dismayed by number 56: 'espresso or macchiato only'. this is disappointingly qualified by "if the word soy/skim latte is heard to be used by a membr wearing Cycling apparel, then that person must be ceremonially beaten with CO2 canisters or mini-pumps by others within the community"
rules are meant to be broken, so the saying goes; i'll continue to break that one.
however, in a way that often seems not reflected by other sports, the velominatus seem well-disposed to have their tongues firmly planted in at least one cheek. the rules are intended to celebrate the cyclist's estrangement from the rest of society, not by apologising for it, but by acknowledging such eccentricities with a wry grin. though many a foreword by a respected figure from within cycling's greater circle seems mostly a device to draw attention to the book's cover, followed only by several platitudinal paragraphs inside, in this case, william fotheringham's words are to be much heeded.
"It was snowing the other day, and I wanted to take my daughter outside. She wasn't in the mood. Well, I said, you know how we roll. Rule #5, she replied. She has never ridden a bike in anger."
it pretty much goes without saying that the rules in book form is as compulsory a purchase as a bicycle. no matter your level of ability or experience within the realm of cycling, i'd like to propose a 95th rule stating that a copy of this book should be maintained on each and every cyclist's bookshelf. though the contents are easily available on the velominati.com website, there is true inspiration to be drawn from holding this perfectly formed volume in either hand.
brandish it with pride
"This book will assume nothing but passion - whether it be dormant or vibrant. We will not give history lessons, we will not explain what a quick-release skewer is."
tuesday 9th july 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................