i have aspirations to remain as topical as i can, thus review copies of books are generally read in as timeous a manner as possible. but something i hadn't considered until this sunday afternoon past, was just how topical my review might become. having watched the majority of the 2013 world championship road race from tuscany, i was wont to vent at least a portion of my disappointment on twitter.
for with still a substantial number of kilometres remaining, the entire british team had abandoned and were presumably checking flight times and undulging in online check-in before rui costa had crossed the finish line to bring the stripey jumper to portugal ahead of spain's joaquin rodriguez. a brief interview with chris froome, britain's team leader elicited the memorable quote "i just wasn't feeling it today."
there's no denying that, until the last few laps, the weather conditions were considerably less than pristine; cold and wet seems to have been the general consensus. but though 'tis easy for armchair critics such as myself to rail against professional riders who wimp out because their tan lines will not be getting any crisper over the course of 200 plus kilometres, i think it only right and proper to point an elbow towards the word 'professional'. there are many of us who endure far worse in our attempts to cover rapha's festive 500' each year, and simply for fun.
sean yates has a fine reputation as one of cycling's hard men, seemingly content to ride on the front of the peloton for hours at a time, no matter the weather conditions because that's principally what his team paid him to do. but of primary importance in this instance, it seems it had far more to do with the fact that he rather enjoyed doing so. putting the hurt on others. it would be hard to think of yates as one for seeking the shelter of the team bus had he been riding in tuscany yesterday.
as brian smith is quoted as saying from his time with yates at motorola "Hennie Kuiper paired us up for an intervals session. I was thinking, 'Please not Yatesy, please not Yatesy', as I expect everyone was... we had to do twenty seconds all out, each three times, rest two minutes, then repeat. Nobody wanted to be paired with him; he used to love that kind of shit more than anything, more than winning races, I suspect."
however, though yates is remembered for his exploits on the bike throughout his racing career, latterly he had confined his abilities to the driving seat of a team sky jaguar, acting as a directeur sportif. promotion to the number one position arrived after scott sunderland jumped before he was pushed, following a rather tentative yet seemingly arrogant first season for the upstart british team. the book opens at the end, so to speak, with yates recounting his departure from the world's number one cycle team in the wake of sir dave's reiteration of sky's zero-tolerance stance over any form of drug use by riders or staff members.
he precedes this dubious debacle by recounting in chapter one, just how he guided sir wiggo to the first british yellow jersey in the tour de france, aided and abetted by second place for chris froome. the constrast surely has to be deliberate, for chapter one ends with the phrase "We're going to win the Tour de France."
six pages later..."The United States Anti-Doping Agency released their report into their investigation of Lance Armstrong. Though I wasn't named in the damning report, for some people my long friendship and working relationship with Lance meant guilt by association."
sir dave brailsford, rightly or wrongly told him "...that he was finding it more and more difficult to protect me from the fallout from the stories about Lance. He said that he was constantly having to justify my presence on the team." seen in this light, and yates' later contention that brailsford found it hard to deal with confrontation, there's no doubt that reader sympathies may side with the man robert millar referred to as 'the big yin'.
however, yates does not necessarily do himself any favours when the subject of armstrong is broached later in the book, displaying uncharacteristic naivety and leaving himself open to accusations of double-standards. "Say what you will about Lance, make your own mind up about being stripped of those titles for doping, I won't ever be dissuaded from my opinion that his seven Tour de France victories after recovering from cancer is the greatest achievement our sport has ever seen." the basis for this testimony is one that has seen use by others; that sean doesn't believe any of lance's rivals were preparing any differently.
yet only a few chapters later, when discussing the giro d'italia of 2008 "There was some serious shit going down at that Giro. Teams who had been creeping all year were suddenly firing guys off up the road every minute of the day in a manner I would term 'not normal.'" Justifiable if you were winning seven successive tours, deplorable if others were winning by similar means.
however, though others as well as I have brought the subject to your attention, the armstrong affair truly occupies a very small bit of a rather excellent book. i'm also keen to applaud the modern-day practice of acknowledging the writers who have effectively penned riders' 'autobiographies' based on an endless series of interviews. there are few individuals from the peloton who are accomplished writers, and it seems a far better notion to hand over the narrative and grammatical duties to someone who does so for a living. in yates' case, that man is john deering whose previous connection with yates would most likely be through his recounting the story of an abortive linda mccartney team.
additionally, yates has enlisted the assistance of many of those he rode with during his career, one that stretched from amateur at athletic club de boulogne-billancourt (acbb), through peugeot, fagor, seven-eleven and motorola, all of whom seem happy to provide pithy quotes attesting to the man's fortitude in the face of cycling adversity. if i have one qualm regarding these literary domestiques it is the seamless manner in which they are inserted into the main narrative. i for one would have been grateful if they had been printed in italics, for it is sometimes difficult to distinguish whose words are whose.
perhaps the only example where this proves a tad embarrassing is his conversation with johan bruyneel, and not for any reasons attached to the latter's subsequent culpability in the armstrong case. where the majority of interviewees appear to be addressing the book's readers, bruyneel's is presented as if we are eavesdropping on their conversation. a bit like dragging your fingernails down a blackboard.
perhaps the finest example of yates' intention to leave no stone unturned in his career, whether unpalatable or otherwise, is his turning over the whole of chapter thirteen to his former wife, pippa yates. i can't think of too many individuals willing to accept that level of clarity, no matter how civilised the current arrangement. he also pulls no punches over his serious health issues with his heart. a sufferer of arrhythmia (where the heart lapses into beating almost at half pace), you just know that a man of lesser constitution would never have made it as far as a published autobiography.
sean yates, despite having worn the tour's yellow jersey in his career and achieved other notable victories, is likely more remembered for his tenacity in driving the peloton on behalf of his various designated team leaders. perhaps it wouldn't be overstating his case to refer to yates as possibly the first of the super domestiques. either way, deering and yates have produced an eminently readable book, well illustrated and indexed, and providing an excellent and at times entertaining insight into the british rider's career.
it's a story that well worth reading.
monday 30th september 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
pedestrians do not feature large on my horizon. the village main street is not a lengthy one, and the only period of care and attention required is on turning from shore street into main street on a return journey to the croft. at that point, pedestrians with tunnel vision are often making their way to the average market and paying less than credible attention to speeding bicycles. other than that, i am living the rural idyll, pedalling my way to joy and happiness. but that's not to say that there are not obstacles periodically in my way.
live moving obstacles that populate the cyclocross idiom.
i may have mentioned on previous occasions that saturday is cyclocross day, when the lime green ibis needs little by way of persuasion to be released from the bikeshed for a morning of scuttering about the labyrinth that is bridgend woods. saturday morning is also dog walking morning or even just walking morning for everybody else. hit the trails at the wrong time, and speed will not feature often in relation to velocipedinal activity.
on my two previous weekends of inhabiting the innards of the woods, i have come upon red deer casually standing by the edge of the trail, less keen to run away and more on figuring out whether lime green is really my colour. distant deer are not only cute, but something of a reminder that i ride far from city streets. however, whizzing round a blind leafy corner to narrowly miss a deer crossing from one side to the other has the potential to render us both less than cute.
the word is obstacle.
i was once informed by a member of islay's farming community that sheep are remarkably short-sighted. so when they stand motionless in apparent scrutiny of the incoming carbon-fibre and rubber, it is to discern whether i might too be of the woolly fraternity. at the point when it becomes clear that wool does not have fsa cantilever brakes, they scatter, and rarely in a single direction.
sheep are, as i have attested in the argyll and bute council cycling on islay leaflet, predictably the most unpredictable animals in christendom. no matter the side of road on which you encounter sheep, they will always think the opposite side the safer of the two. on single track roads, that becomes a problem.
cows, on the other hand are at the cutting edge of immoveable objects. i have no information regarding their eyesight or cognitive functionality, but more often than not, they will simply stand in your way and hope to stare you out, relying principally on their bulk and size to infer superiority. that is, up until the very last moment, when they become as unpredictable as sheep. beef and carbon fibre are less than complementary bedfellows.
the second part of my cyclocross outings incorporate the grass between road and beach on uiskentuie strand. since this stretch of a couple of kilometres is periodic grazing ground for both sheep and cattle, i have yet again to contend with moving obstacles. shouting is often the only means of clearing the way ahead, but if i were happily chewing my lunchtime cud only to be shouted at by a guy in a yellow helmet, i'd be inclined to become a shade testy and unpredictable. aggressive even.
perhaps the ideal method of warning any livestock that may be standing in my path, or contemplating egress from the undergrowth would be a bell that pings gracefully, sonorously and loudly.
the heavily bearded scientist, inventor and engineer, alexander graham bell died in 1922, but not before he'd been credited with inventing the first practical telephone. this invention was perhaps predicated by his mother's profound deafness, prompting bell to speak in clear audible tones into her forehead, that she might better understand him. this preoccupation led him to study acoustics.
while experimenting with a phonautograph which drew sound waves on smoked glass, he thought it likely that a skoosh of metal reeds tuned to different frequencies might be capable of converting electrial currents back into sound. on june 2nd 1875, his assistant, thomas watson, plucked one of these reeds connected to a wire, at the other end of which was graham bell. he heard the reed's overtones and the rest is not only history, but currently an overweening factor in contemporary life.
i wonder if alexander ever considered adding a camera?
but i digress, for up until alexander graham bell interrupted proceedings, we were discussing not the iniquities of pedestrians, but the unpredictability of farm and wild animals and how such perceived dangers might be ameliorated by use of a bicycle bell. in the uk it is illegal apparently, to sell a new bicycle without a bell; whether you subsequently make use of it is neither here nor there. right up there with offering hand signals when turning corners, the bicycle bell has more recently emulated the extinction of the dodo. you hardly ever see one about nowadays.
this, i might venture, has a great deal to do with the uselessness of many that accompany new bicycles. several thousand pounds worth of carbon fibre as ridden by your favourite world tour team is perceived to be sullied considerably by the affixation of a naff bicycle bell, not only through naffness of its design, but by temerity of sound. quite frankly, it looks ridiculous, particularly when bolted to the top of a pair of carbon bars. and this is where alexander graham bell makes a second appearance.
for this is the name given to the pingingly clear brass offering from portland design works, a bicycle bell that offers an ingenious method of affixation. supremely ideal for that cyclocross bicycle as it happens. the bracket, rather than a variation on the clamp of regularity, is a spacer to fit the steerer of a 1.125" headset. this sites it comfortably inboard of the bars out of harms way, yet easily accessible should a deer, cow or sheep inadvertantly stray into your path.
i'm ready for them.
pdw's 'alexander graham bell' costs a rather impressive £18 and is joined by the bar-mounted 'king of ding' for three pounds less.
sunday 29th september 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
at the time i managed to successfully apply and be offered a place at art college, those with no real idea of how to wield a paintbrush, faff about with clay, or produce a half-decent advertising poster, took themselves off to university. still an evident factor even to this day, those of us in our late teens often had a less than concrete idea of quite what it was we intended/hoped to do with our lives. many of us are still in that very situation after over thirty years of working for a living.
though i can honestly say that i did not for one second consider a career in art as an easy option i don't doubt there were many, parents included, who thought differently. however, those with a less than demonstrable notion of where their future lay seemed, at the time, to have all opted for the same triumvirate at university: english, psychology and philosophy. i'm pretty sure that it was mostly the latter subject that held sway, offering visions of taking long walks by a riverside with a book of poetry in one hand while stroking one's beard with the other. unless of course, you were of the female persuasion.
everybody spoke english after a fashion, so how hard could that be, and the other two sounded vague enough that surely no-one would know whether they were being successfully pursued academically or not?
i have little connection with the academic life these days, so any impressions are based purely on conjecture, but it seems that these options seem to have been all but replaced by an appetite for media studies. the word media is the clincher, for similarly to my professed intention to style myself as a knowledge management consultant, how will anyone ever prove that i'm not? even at art college it didn't take long to discover that our supposed creativity could be immeasurably enhanced by exhibiting works in mixed media, no matter the constituents of those less than admirable artworks on the college walls.
mixed in with, and often used interchangeably, the word media implies a level of creativity over and above that of the ordinary civilian. perhaps the first stage of this creativity is to infer the likelihood that it may be one of the dark arts, albeit one of the more accessible of the breed. thus, to be in possession of a business card identifying one as a member of the creative industries can be a much sought-after token.
one of the more obvious of the so-called creative industries is that of advertising, a branch of marketing designed to sell products that we ether didn't know we needed in the first place, or really didn't/don't need at all. we have been here before; on at least two previous occasions i have offered my individualistic thoughts on the lack of enterprise shown in the average bicycle advert.
for my research purposes, i have confined myself to the ads placed in the cycling monthlies, very much a case of preaching to the converted. i feel able to justify this latter conjecture by remarking upon a fiat car advert in the current issue of procycling magazine, perhaps justifying its inclusion by way of a british cycling official vehicle supplier logo at bottom right. i think it very unlikely that, were i to purchase any of the motoring monthlies, i'd find any advertisements for bicycles.
the few bicycle adverts displayed in any of these publications are less than innovative, if i might use that word. a profile photo of a bicycle on a black background over a double-page spread can surely be improved upon in some way or other? after all, many of these manufacturers spend inordinate amounts of money sponsoring top-flight professional teams, yet seem reluctant to use such connections as a means to underline the prowess of their frames. is that not the very reason why sponsorship exists in the first place?
i see few exceptions to this generalisation, though the groom at the altar with a brown stripe up the back of his white suit and one trouser leg rolled up is certainly heading in the right direction. something that suggests they might actually understand their potential customers. and with back to back yellow jerseys at the tour, you'd figure that pinarello would be keen to capitalise on their association with team sky in some creative manner. but bizarrely they seem more enamoured with relentlessly pointing out the asymmetry of their dogma frame. frankly, who really cares?
perhaps we might dispense with the word creative when used in proximity to advertisers of bicycles and associated paraphernalia. i offer this principally on the grounds that, in this context, there seems precious little creativity on show. none of those i viewed would come even close to having me part with my hard-earned.
i really hoped we'd moved on from the 'we make these - buy one.' mentality of previous years.
saturday 27th september 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm happy to consider myself something of a trekkie, perhaps not going quite so far as to dress as lieutenant worf and carry a sharpened battleth by my side, but i can just about handle going where no-one has gone before. i was there in the sixties when the first episode aired on british television, entranced by dilithium crystals, tribbles and hoping to live long and prosper. my interest, occasionally bordering on infatuation has continued through star trek: the next generation, deep space nine and star trek: voyager while only in the last couple of weeks i watched star trek: into darkness twice in as many days.
gene roddenberry has a lot to answer for.
though the early episodes harboured stage sets alluding to far away planets constructed from polystyrene and fibre-board, it can't have been too easy trying to create other worldly landscapes on a limited budget and without the benefit of modern computer techniques and green screens. similarly, these landscapes required to be populated by peoples or creatures with appropriately interstellar names. and the inspiration for such nomenclature had to come from somewhere.
which is, i presume, where the association with xpelair units came from. in point of fact, it was their competitors that lent their name for a particular planetary population in one less than memorable episode of the next generation. the ventaxians (i kid you not) were one of those peoples visited by captain picard and will ryker, though for the life of me, i haven't the faintest idea why. and while you're all bemused by this inexplicable digression, if i were to inform you that the ventaxians lived on vigor alpha, i doubt too many would pay a great deal of attention or, indeed, be prepared to argue the point.
though the moniker vigor alpha does indeed sound if it was inspired by gene roddenberry, in actual fact it comes from the home of paired spokes in eugene, oregon. it's not so very long ago that i reviewed rolf's deep section carbon rimmed ares 4 wheels, rather fine, fast hoops that provided their own brand of scariness when hit by galeforce crosswinds. as a result my remarking upon this state of affairs, uk distributors 2pure elected to send me the less sail-like vigor alphas with a mere 33mm rims as opposed to the ares' 46mm.
however, the principal differentiation between the ares and vigors is that of construction. though both make use of the same paired-spoke technology which really ought not to work but bizarrely does so remarkably well, the vigor wheels have an aluminium rim, yet only adding around 100g to the weight. rather obviously, wheels need tyres, in this case a pair of clement strada lgg 700x25c clinchers, the exact same tyres as fitted to the carbon ares and also distributed by 2pure. i loved them then, and i loved them this time too.
though 33mm is less deep than 46mm, it's still deep enough to need a 60mm valve stem, something disappointingly absent from thewashingmachinepost bike shed, having to settle for the smaller 40mm. those just peeked through the rim, and ingenuity had to resort to one of those little brass adapters that allow inflation via the schrader end of the track pump. tired of having sore thumbs from hours of attempting to fit recalcitrant clinchers on previous rims, 'twas a pleasant change to find the clements almost rolled themselves onto the rim.
the ares, if you will recall, were less than completely true at point of fitting, though refused to budge throughout the review. the vigor alphas were immaculate in their trueness, demonstrated by running both brake calipers mere millimetres from the shiny braking surface. according to a tiny sticker on the rims, the rolf prima hubs cossetted some ceramic bearings for easy road rolling. the shimano/sram pattern freehub is long enough to accommodate both manufacturers' recently added eleventh sprocket, but each pair arrives with a thin aluminium spacer if fitting only ten.
though i'd hate to admit it to the folks kind enough to send wheels for review in the first place, i don't tend to show a lot of mercy, because that would rather seem to miss the point. though i believe there are some fragile, activity specific wheels on the market, i am firmly of the opinion that survivability ought to be first and foremost. there's not much hope of travelling at hitherto unheard of speeds if something breaks. and despite a deeply held belief that a 1.5kg pair of wheels with only 30 spokes between the two of them (14 front, 16 rear) should fall apart when lifted from their box, they resolutely failed to prove me right.
i count myself fortunate to live midst a particularly fine cluster of cattle grids, many of which are in less than pristine condition and eager to eat wheels for breakfast. but in this, they are far from alone, for the roads bordering many of these grids are, if anything, even more set on physical destruction. i will allow that i am the archetypal ten-stone weakling, and that the carbon colnago c40 to which they were fitted doesn't give even a set of digital scales much to worry about, but nonetheless, i hit everything as hard as i could.
for a set of wheels, of whatever hue or spoke count that cost nigh on £900 ought to see off anything short of the grand canyon placed in their way, in my humble opinion. taking into consideration that i kept the calipers at their scary closeness to the rim, by the time they were being cleaned and polished for return, they hadn't budged a millimetre. that's big and strong in my eyes. and though i was unable to find a crosswind of the magnitude experienced last time round, there was enough of a draught in the wrong places to convince that these would be the preferable hebridean option. there was never even the hint of a nudge up, down or round about.
the clements were magnificent all across three weeks; i do so like these tyres, but next time i'll get a pair of inner tubes with longer valve stems.
straight line speed was remarkable easy to attain and almost as simple to maintain, while the colnago's chuckability was immeasurably improved over the previous incumbents. i confess to having experienced minor juddering at the front wheel while braking, but that may well have been due to having fitted brand new pads only days before fitting the rolfs. and it does not seem too superficial to mention the distinct advantage of aluminium rims in not needing to switch brake pads, as is almost necessarily the case with carbon rims. and on a purely superficial level, i'd love them to simplify the levers on their quick-release skewers, purely on an aesthetic level, you understand. they're a tad on the curly side for my liking.
i still do not, however, quite understand how rolf wheels keep their structural integrity. i've watched the videos and read the technical info and i cannot deny that it all makes perfect theoretical sense. but a mere fourteen spokes up front are enough to make your kneecaps crinkle at the very thought. however, as this is the second pair from rolf that i have ridden without even so much as a hint of anything going awry, i cannot but declare myself a convert.
the proof is in the pudding as kenny van vlaminck would say.
friday 27th september 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on the road to bunnahabhain distillery and village, there's a whisky cask on which is inscribed the words bunnahabhain 1/2 mile, probably a help to those intent on visting the distillery at the end of a three mile twisting road featuring no signposting other than the cask. the current incumbent has managed to remain in place for several years now, after all the previous, smaller casks were pinched by whisky aficionados keen on a larger souvenir than normal.
the previous distillery manager became so fed up with replacing these casks, that he took the largest example and filled it with water. "if they can lift that, they're welcome to it" he said at the time. the fact that it's still there is testament to his thinking.
by bicycle, the road is easier to traverse on the journey to bunnahabhain than the return trip. those freewheeling descents, including the final one into the village are a bit of a slog on the way back, particularly the ascent at ardnahoe, a short, sharp burst that briefly encounters a 20% gradient just past mid-distance. however, having ridden out from the village, on encountering that selfsame cask once more, if heavy breathing and red mist over the eyes has cleared, it is notable that the other side of the barrel says 'other places'.
in this case, those other places refers only to villages and hamlets on the principality. but thoughts of other places far, far, away bring into play checklists of one kind or another at least amongst the organised or wannabes. i have been fortunate to rarely have need of my own bicycle when undertaking distant rides; on the few cases to which i'll admit, generous benefactors have provided bicycles that i might not only ride, but review in the process. rather obviously, that cuts down drastically on the luggage.
and that, dear reader, is where a list is necessary. the big stuff is pretty much self-evident: helmet, jersey, shorts, baselayer, shoes, pedals etc. that's always been my starting point, and i don't doubt that it's been yours too. but it's the little things that make all the difference between a modest degree of purgatory and unbridled joy no matter the conditions that pervaded the subsequent bike rides. i have specifically in mind thoughts of gloves and socks; easy to overlook but likely to make a considerable difference to one's velocipedinal machinations.
kings of the ancillaries, no matter your country of residence are the fine fellows at prendas ciclismo, ready and eager to cover those hand and foot extremities in the face of incoming adversity.
i have offered houseroom to several of their excellent pairs of socks on previous occasions, but in this particular instance it's a rather natty pair of gloves that are easing the autumnal chill, and would thus be elevated to the top of any list that needs to be made. i have yet to make lists for the sunday morning ride, but in view of the items regularly forgotten at the supermarket, it can't be too long before that becomes something of a necessity.
the rather excellently named prendas super roubaix gloves portend of a heft and bulk that was not the case on opening the package. recommending a size smaller than usuall (i downsized to a small), they're very light and flexible long-fingered mitts featuring a white prendas logo on the back and little bobbly bits on the palm and first and second fingers, the latter to more easily shift a gear or two, and perhaps stop every now and again.
though in these early autumnal days their lack of substance is a major boon, the thinness of material would allow use as liners inside chunkier winter gloves. but to explore coolness of intent (in both senses of the word), a cyclocross day informed their first outing, undergrowth scrabbling of the first degree in which my efforts to remain upright engendered not just a modicum of heat energy. it would not be too much of an overstatement to recommend that the super roubaix gloves may have been born for cyclocross.
however, well aware that many of you may not be of the muddy persuasion, i might testify to their fortitude when confronted by road-bound drop bars. though their constitution is deft enough to keep happy little fingers warm, yet not overly so, they're breathable enough to prevent overheating even in unseasonally mild conditions. i have every confidence that this will continue into colder conditions, right up until they slide inside heavier winter gloves or are replaced by something else from the prendas stable.
undeniably, art does live in the details, a box that, in this case, has been lightly and comprehensively ticked and for a remarkably modest £17.50. order them now, because they're italian made and they're from prendas.
thursday 26th september 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i may well have brought to your attention on previous occasions that fact that my late father (along with many others i might add) did not consider drums to be a member of the musical instrument clan. thus, while he favoured my learning to play the piano, i stubbornly had designs on becoming a guitarist. i believe that is what might be known in non-musical circles as a 'mexican standoff'. however, this particular standoff required a modest level of subterfuge in order that i might continue with my clandestine percussive ambitions.
to this end, i purchased an acoustic guitar from a schoolfriend, an instrument he was happy to dispense with for a mere five pounds. it did require a new set of strings, opting for nylon in order to save the ends of my fingers. i then purchased a tutor book entitled 'solo guitar playing' by frederick m noad and proceeded to fool a dispassionate parent, aided and abetted by leaving the guitar book lying in strategic locations about the house on a daily basis. i did have modest success with those six strings, managing a passable rendition of 'greensleeves' classical style.
i was, in my spare moments, about to become the next john williams or julian bream, though ultimately i'd have preferred to be closer to alan holdsworth.
had circumstances been different, with parental encouragement for my guitar studies, allied to personal enthusiasm, any notable progress with my guitar studies might conceivably have led to the purchase of something a tad less dishevelled than the orange box on which i commenced, leading ultimately to a gibson es 335 switchmaster semi-acoustic. even as a drummer, i still harbour a desire to own a guitar such as that.
but, and i know you'll agree with me wholeheartedly, to have spent close on £7,500 on such a delectable stringed instrument on which to garner a favourable grounding in the rudiments of rock stardom would make very little sense. unless of course, those familial pockets were consideraby deeper than was the case. it is a philosophy that is easily translated to many walks of life including, now that we're being self-effacingly honest, that of cycling.
the obsessive cognoscenti may well spend a king's ransom on carbon fibre and the sartorial equivalent. were sir bradley to come across us on the sunday ride, he would feel himself at ease with his peer group. but what of the individual who has need only of a sub £200 bicycle and whose needs for cycling apparel are minimal to say the least? it's all good and well for us cycling snobs to drool over body-fit bibshorts and breathable, wicking sportwool tops that have need of discussions with the local bank manager. but not everybody has such designs on sartorial elegance or the wherewithal to indulge them if they did.
and that, quite frankly, is where everybody's new favourite supermarket, aldi, steps into the fray. i cannot skirt the issue that they have a distinctly eccentric attitude to sales of their cycling apparel, seemingly less concerned with having plentiful stocks at all times of the year. but in view of the range and prices on offer, perhaps we can stretch to a smidgeon of forgiveness. on thursay 26th september and again on 21st november they intend offering to any cycling aficionados light of pocket to peruse and purchase from a wide range of winter and commuting gear.
but is it any good?
it would be naive on both their part and ours to expect aldi's offerings to compete with the eye-watering price and quality of the usual suspects, but that doesn't mean it's not worth considering as part of your starter pack. so i currently have in my possession a long-sleeve winter jersey and waterproof and windproof winter gloves for review on the post. the latter are likely to have to wait until even the hebridean temperature takes a dive, but the jersey review ought to arrive a bit sooner.
meanwhile, if the price tag still attached to the jersey's ykk zip is anything to go by, it might be well worth your while nipping along to aldi's on thursday. there are jackets, jerseys, caps, socks, waterproof trousers and even a heart-rate monitor and cycling shoes amongst other low-cost items. meanwhile, i'll let you know how the jersey pans out.
wednesday 25th september 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
car advertisements are the bane of my life, more especially if the car dealer decides to alter the format and content of the advertisement placed in a previous issue of our newspaper. aside from the tedium of listing another few dozen motor cars of varying years and mileage, it's the nomenclature that drives me round the twist (pun intended). for instance, any vehicle featuring the letters hdi is unquestionably a diesel, yet it is apparently necessary to underline this point by adding the word diesel to the description. and since diesel engines work on the principle of fuel injection, why is it necessary to add the letter 'i'?
car advertisements are thus a combination of stating the patently obvious with merely a soupcon of inscrutable acronyms; e/w, s/r, fsh and the like. all this fol-de-rol simply exists to add intrigue to an item of basic motorised transport.
but there are other subjects and concepts for whom the applicable designation offers either an overwrought impression of complexity, a tag to the incomprehensible, or a serious undermining of something few of us will ever understand. quantum physics is one that springs to mind, along with the general theory of relativity, an epithet that hides a rather frighteningly complex concept. i suppose it very much depends on who it is that coins the significant phrase in the first place. in this case, it's cyclocross photographer balint hamvas.
i have featured the gentleman's photographic output in these pixels on previous occasions, but this time he is guilty of serious misrepresentation. cast your eyes back to the title and you will note that it is simply subtitled photo book; that is the equivalent of saying sven nys is a cyclist. hamvas' misrperesentation of his collected work as a photo book is made manifest the minute you approach the first chapter, for the imagery contained within is some of the finest photography of any genre it has been my good fortune to set eyes upon.
the 2012/2013 'cross season was, by his own admission, his third, and via personal admission in the introduction "The race venues haven't changed significantly, which meant that sometimes I had to work hard to find new, yet interesting angles to show a different face of familiar venues."
in which case every moment of hard work was worth every second of his time. covering the entire season of super prestige races, world cup races and pretty much everything in between, there's not a chance all this can be viewed and appreciated in a single sitting. i have quite literally spent hours sat in the leather reviewing armchair picking my way through more than 349 colour and black and white images. these offer portraits of the stars, their bicycles, those who are not yet stars and perhaps most importantly, the racing.
all are quite uncannily observed, with often the backgrounds offering every bit as much intrigue and interest as the designated focal point of the image. the differing viewpoints of photographers standing behind klass vantornout; a mechanic riding while carrying two bagged wheels at middlekerke; a white jacketed sven nys shouldering his colnago in front of a snow-drenched landscape; a dura-ace decal displaced from its wheel rim in the mud. and a great deal of the latter, for what indeed is cyclocross without lashings of mud?
however, the pictures are not simply content to sell themselves unaccompanied, a feature again explained by hamvas in his introduction. "One thing that has not changed is the fact that my photos are infinitely better than my writing, and that was the reason that I asked a few talented people, who are deeply involved with the sport, to delve deeper..." as if these excellent photographs were not enough, there are brief yet insightful essays from simon burney, stefan wyman, dan seaton, caroline cardinaels and matthew montesano.
if you're lucky enough, you can stand by the side of the courses or perhaps nab a peek at the action via sporza, but for the real nitty gritty and a vision that is uniquely in tune with its subject matter, this is the best thing to happen to cyclocross since pdxcross's dirty pictures.
definitely not just a photo book.
tuesday 24th september 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................