if you can cast your minds as far back as 1996, consider the possibilities of naming a cycling website thewashingmachinepost. granted, when the joke is explained and its unconnected affinity with graeme obree's old faithful record breaking bicycle made clear, a dawning realisation made further communication a little easier on the psyche. but not always. it is currently quite acceptable to have websites named in a fashion that bears no relation to the service provided or the product sold. if examples are required admiral.com hardly attests to car insurance, and just as obscurely, protectyourbubble.com seems a tenuous connection to insuring techy gadgets.
and lest you figure that such obscurity pertains solely to insurance companies, i doubt i'm the first to make mention that vulpine.cc seems to have no particular connection to cycle clothing (sorry nick). mind you, the same could be said for a number of other apparel providers. however, despite offering up a particularly obscure domain name as the label for my cycle ministrations, combined with a location that, while it is the hub of my universe, is hardly that of everyone else, the post has survived more or less intact for around eighteen years.
who'd have guessed?
i am particularly remiss in investigating the innards of my site statistics, and only partially because i don't quite understand them. i realise there a number of folks who read on a regular basis, for which i am very grateful, but in truth, nothing would change. i'd still be inclined to write the same capital-free text on a daily basis, no matter how many folks were reading.
but one of the ways i am inclined to gauge the relative success of these offerings is by way of the progressive increase in the number of unsolicited press releases that arrive in my inbox on a daily basis. some of them are a tad irrelevant based on the sort of scribblings i prefer to make, but all are more than welcome, because you just never know. occupying a regular weekly spot, even if not designed to be press releases in the true sense of the words, are those emanating from perren street in london's kentish town. rapha are particularly good at keeping their customers in touch with their varying output, whether it be new clothing, intriguing stories or about their extra-curricular activities. don't get me wrong, rapha's press officer is more than adept at keeping me up to date in advance of official announcements, but i also receive the same e-mails that all their other customers receive.
last week was no exception, with an e-mail arriving to my inbox on friday; subject heading ride with rapha in 2014.
i cannot deny that i have a number of friends at rapha, so an invitation to go ride with some of them, while slightly unexpected, would not be entirely unusual. however, on opening the missive, it turned out to be an entreaty to join a rapha retreat at le grand banc in french provence. it's a place i was rather fortunate to have visited at rapha's invitation last april, and if i'm totally honest, i had already attempted to persuade mrs washingmachinepost that it might well be a location we could visit in 2014, eased by the fact that planned activities would cater for my better half, while i showed a clean pair of yak leather heels to a small but perfectly catered for peloton.
for those who read my wordage on returning from provence last year, my failure to come even close to letting anyone see those yak heels will be all too well known. however, despite having taken a sharp intake of breath on reading the cost of those four days at le grand banc, i returned seriously wondering quite how they managed to offer the retreat at such an amenable price.
it's your own responsibility to get self from home to marseille airport, but from the point between arrival and checking in for the return flight, literally every inch is taken care of. being met in the concourse of marseille airport before having your luggage carried to a black jaguar xf sportbrake (as used by team sky) for the hour and a half road trip to one of the most obscure, eccentric and quite frankly beautiful locations it has ever been my pleasure to visit.
le grand banc was, at one time, a hamlet incorporating a series of less than identical individual homes, all built from the same local stone in a fabulously higgledy-piggledy fashion. each of these is now where attendees will sleep and prepare for some of the most marvellous cycling i have ever undertaken. and the fact that i was last home each day did absolutely nothing to detract from the experience.
le grand banc is situated within cycling distance of mont ventoux, a mountain that we were due to climb, but were prevented from so doing by poor visibility about half way up the mount. however, should you be persuaded to join this year's retreat and befall a similar fate, do not be disappointed. in my opinion, the ride along the walls of the lanesque gorge was, if anything, a better day out than the possibly box-ticking exercise of riding to the met station at the top of the ventoux.
i took with me enough cycle clothing to allow riding on each day, but in truth i could have survived on half that amount. at the end of each ride, the day's apparel was collected, laundered and returned dry and folded to my accommodation, ready to continue a day later. i had also taken a helmet with me; i needn't have bothered. along with a brand new rapha liveried pinarello dogma k, augmented with a garmin 810 gps, there was a kask helmet with my name on the side. in fact, my name was also appended to the top tube of the dogma.
ride guides, including rapha continental rider ben lieberson, made sure that no-one was left alone at anytime, no matter the paucity of their climbing ability and one of those black jaguar estates was inevitably only a few metres behind with spare bikes and wheels should they be found necessary. though i'm proud of the fact that i never had need, if the ride proves too long or too hard, those jaguars have plenty of spare seats, as does the roof rack for your bicycle. and at the finely judged coffee stops along the way, someone else took care of the bill.
and while you're there, every home-cooked meal is included in the price.
the latter has increased this year, but so have the number of days at le grand banc. in fact arrival is now geared towards a sunday, while departure has now shifted to a friday. believe me, by the time that jaguar has returned you to marseille airport it won't seem like anywhere near long enough. the cost varies depending on room selection, and any non-riding folks are more than well catered for with visits to local markets, cheesemakers and visits to the gorge adjacent to le grand banc.
if i were you, i'd click the book now link before someone else does.
rapha retreats 2014 | all photos courtesy of brad sauber
in related news, rapha will be holding a sample sale in manchester this coming weekend. details here
monday 27 january 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
many, many years ago, i made mention in these very pixels, of my hopeful intention to alter the common perception of road-racing from its almost stuffy and restrictive persona to one more in keeping with the laissez-faire attitude that at one time pervaded the world of mountain biking. it's quite possible that the difference is one of originating continent; while road racing's heritage is predominantly european, mountain biking is definitively american. not many would argue against those across the pond being of a more irreverent nature than us on this side of the atlantic.
as recent evidence in support of this theory, i would like to cite martyn ashton's road party two video, displaying distinctly off-road style antics on a colnago c59 disc. had the youtube video been of the three gentlemen attempting similar stunts on a mountain bike, there would probably have been considerably less than the eight million views currently shown. if road racing were less stuffy, such velocipedinal behaviour would likely have been less of note.
unfortunately, i figure i've failed miserably in my self-appointed task; irreverence does not come easily round washingmachinepost croft. in fact the furthest i think i've headed in that particular direction is to incorporate the merest hint of cyclocross, a sport that seems to comfortably straddle the two previously mentioned divisions of the sport. aside from that, i fear i may have been too formally schooled in the use of wordage and grammatical convention (other than the absence of capital letters) to ever appear as laissez faire in print.
it's simply a cross you will have to bear on my behalf.
however, i have every confidence that the task is currently being done for me by a good friend of mine currently bemoaning the imposition of an orange media vest at the tour down under. though we did finally meet in person, in the lobby of the ace hotel in portland, our virtual introduction was made many years earlier when daniel wakefield pasley was masterminding the original rapha continental. being self-proclaimed 'men of words', there was more than just a smidgeon of transatlantic collaboration being undertaken on the articles accompanying each north american ride, both by e-mail and skype.
daniel has not been with rapha for many a long year now, but is the principal force majeure behind castelli's manual for speed, a distinctly left field look at the background of the bicycle racing world, ranging from entry level all the way to world tour status. not unnaturally, considering the site's sponsorship, there is frequent mention of the garmin sharp team in both word and imagery for whom castelli supply clothing. but more often than not, it seems that pretty much anything goes, which is very much manual for speed's favour.
last year daniel and co-conspirator, emile, ventured to europe to report on paris-roubaix. several anecdotes related post race were more than worth the price of admission, and i recall pleading with daniel at the time to put everything down in print somewhere or other, that the rest of you might laugh as hard as i did. as related earlier this week, manual for speed (aka daniel wakefield pasley) is currently in australia to cover the tour down under from the confines of a much derided orange media vest. if you haven't been following his exploits, you really ought to remedy the situation forthwith, for he's in serious danger of giving irreverence a good name.
the manual for speed reportage most certainly isn't rouleur; nor is it cycle sport or procycling, and it's definitely not cycling weekly. without wishing to show any disrespect to the aforementioned journals, this is on a whole 'nuther level, dedicated to the more important aspects of professional cycle racing that we're all eager to learn. if i may be so bold as to quote...
"(today's) Objectives: Purchase a wide assortment of 4SHAW socks from the Giant Bicycle dealer in Adelaide. This item is a carryover from yesterday. And if I'm being honest and upfront, it was actually a carry over from the day before yesterday. Enough is enough, I want, no, I need those socks. And oh, today's other objective is to celebrity-style stalk Marcel Kittel, ask him about his hair, talk to him about the movie Top Gun."
i wouldn't hold out too much hope of reading marcel kittels' views on top gun in any of the bona-fide cycle press. additionally, it's important that, in order to place the racing in some sort of national context, we learn something of the surroundings in which the event is taking place. i think we're by now all acquainted with the fact that australia at this time of year is decidedly hot, but i can't be the only one eager to know more?
"Dear Adelaide, why do your citizens drive so not good, is it something in the water?, which water, like I said yesterday, tastes really really bad? Realtalk, 89-96.7% of your motor vehicle-owning and driving citizens are incapable of properly operating their motor vehicles: we're talking merging, giving way, parking, holding a line, etc.; essentially all the elemental, basic-type skills without which there's really no point to pavement and traffic lights and the whole transportation infrastructure. My thoughts are A.) Get it together, take a class, do whatever you have to but figure-it-the-fuck-out, or B.) Give up, get a fleet of high-speed trains or rickshaws or whatever form of public transportation makes the most sense, grab a book, open up your laptop, and relax while a trained professional safely and efficiently delivers you to your desired destination. What about those cars that drive themselves?, those could be great!
i'd certainly agree that daniel's grasp of punctuation can often be a tad on the rudimentary side, but in this context, it seems particularly apt. and funny. this is cycling reportage jim, but not as we know it.
it may be that there is an unwritten (or maybe written) rule that mitigates against the incestuousness of my citing aspects of another cycling blog. there does seem something partly uncomfortable about doing so, but heck, i'm really keen that those of you more used to the regular journalistic sensibilities displayed in the european cycling press, learn to expand your horizons just a bit. granted, some of you will be less than impressed to the point of wondering what all the fuss is about, but i rather think that will be a defined minority.
the tour down under ends today, so i suggest you pop over, start at the beginning and enjoy the (irreverent) entertainment.
photos courtesy of manual for speed
sunday 26 january 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i do not, nor have i ever, owned a suit. i cannot pretend that this is accidental, for i have made it a badge of honour and rebellion (in a manner of speaking) to have reached such a grand old age without ever having had to conform to an unwritten dress code. i count myself as remarkably fortunate never to have been put in the position of having need of such mode of attire, though i did wear a jacket and kilt both in the pipe band and at my daughter's wedding. marching about with a snare drum fastened to my midriff did have need of wearing a tie, the selfsame tie that was worn at the aforementioned nuptials. but i must now confess that if that were the one item that would save my life, i'd currently have no idea of where to look.
when it comes to velocipedinal dress-sense, it seems most likely that i am not only more accommodating, but a great deal more likely to conform to the accepted mode of looking fast while travelling undeniably slowly. thankfully, over the past ten or so years, cycle clothing has softened the hard line, becoming substantially less based upon pelotonic design. this has been so successful to the point where one could almost pass for a civilian on occasion, were it not for the helmet and clippity-cloppity shoes.
but while the reality of daily cycling life has been heading in a less ostentatious direction, the world of the professional cyclist has not only headed the other way, but adapted and adopted unnecessarily from other sporting realms.
the baseball hat was born in 1860 atop the heads of the brooklyn excelsior and by the turn of that particular century had become popular as the 'brooklyn style' hat. legend has it that the extended peak on this style of hat was to shield the eyes of america's baseball players from bright, overhead sunlight, making it less likely that a ball would be missed due to a brief moment of solar inflicted blindness. in this context, its invention and subsequent use makes perfect sense. as the 20th century became ever more sophisticated and relaxed at the same time, a number of other sports adopted this 'brooklyn style', though not always for such pragmatic reasoning. in fact, as the peaks have become ever more rounded and longer to the point of hilarity, it has been an ideal vehicle for sponsors' logos. on occasion, it can seem the sole reason for its wholesale adoption.
sadly, cycling has fallen foul of this imitation, making use of the baseball hat with no recourse to practicality or pragmatism other than the aforementioned advertising purposes. it's not a mode of headwear that will fit easily under a helmet (if at all); it's sole purpose seems to have become the bringing of the sport into disrepute. for cycling has long had its own perfectly acceptable form of headwear in the shape of the cotton cycling cap.
though originating long before the proscribed need to wear helmets in sanctioned races, it has adapted to this requirement with ease and suitability, first practiced below the late lamented leather hairnet beloved of belgian hardmen. in much the same way that i would not board my bicycle devoid of a hardshell helmet, nor would i wear said protection without first donning a bona-fide cycle cap, always worn peak down in the manner of one born to be badass. not only does the peak shield my rudy projects from a wintery, watery sun, it pushes the raindrops as far away as possible while preventing the helmet vents from instigating a bad case of 'helmet hair'.
in my substantial collection of cycle caps, there are many that pay graphic testament to current and former team sponsors, making the unwarranted shift to baseball hats all the more iniquitous. for who can have failed to notice podium incumbents, dressed in overly chunky training shoes, wearing baseball hats in place of the more appropriate cotton cycle cap? something of an abomination as stated in opinions other than my own.
bicycling editor at large, bill strickland was wont to give vent to this ideal in the independent newspaper during last year's tour de france. "One thing I love about cycling is the odd traditions that still exist no matter how hi-tech it gets. The cycling cap is one of these, so it seems a shame that on the podium, the showcase for the race, you always see baseball hats."
i think that puts this incongruity in a nutshell, a statement that augmented bill's vociferous objections on twitter last july. partnering bill in this clamour for maintaining of an important cycle tradition are casey robertson and david herbold at superissimo.com, who have had the good grace and perspicacity to have caps not hats cotton cycle caps produced, in order that the more astute and deferential amongst us can show good faith with the campaign. perhaps by the time yorkshire hoves into view this coming july, the professionals will have heeded their good sense and dispensed with baseball hats in favour of tradition, no matter the wishes of their sponsors.
for who amongst us plays baseball anyway?
saturday 25 january 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though it's very unfair so to do, i cannot often stifle a loud smile when i come across relatively new businesses that find delight in proclaiming their year of incorporation or establishment. a date further in distance than fifty years seems a viable achievement to be proud of, and announcing this on one's logo or product label undoubtedly adds a desirable degree of gravitas in the eye of the public. however, though i've now been scribbling in these pixels for around eighteen years, were i to add the words established since 1996 to my masthead, it would seem not only a conceit but somewhat vacuous.
however, on the cycling timescale, thewashingmachinepost is but a recent footnote, taking into account the the bicycle was allegedly invented just past the mid-1800s, the tour de france began in 1903 and followed only a few years later by the giro d'italia. events such as these are the stuff of which legends are made, providing the world of cycling with its legendary and oft regaled heritage. those, however, are the more obvious aspects of this heritage; while it's hardly compulsory that everyone with a bicycle make themselves aware of these salient facts, there's a evens chance that they will make themselves known at sometime during one's career in the saddle.
there are, however, several factors and features of the velocipedinal universe without which it would have been hard pushed to have made it this far. and sadly, many of us are guilty of taking a few, if not all of these things for granted. for instance, were you aware that 2014 celebrates the 125th anniversary of mavic, more rudimentally known (as per my heading) as manufacture d'articles velocipediques idoux et chanel?
in 1889 leon and laurent vielle started a nickel plating business, and shortly afterwards, charles idoux and lucien chanel began making spare parts for the recently invented velocipede. the commonality that brought them under the mavic marque was their president, henry gormand. mavic's chequered, yet fascinating career saw them step temporarily out from the bicycle market in 1933, when they made a range of children's pedal cars, though one would query their popularity in the light of very few having been made. surviving examples are akin to hen's teeth.
however, what we all recognise that black and yellow logo to stand for, are wheel rims and more recently in their timeline, factory built wheels, several of which have become as close to an industry standard as anything can be nowadays. it is worthy of note, however, that my use of the word recent in fact, dates back to 1973, though their first signed wheel was never raced due to international regulations in force at the time. 1973 was also the year in which those almost ubiquitous yellow cars began to follow behind the peloton, providing neutral servce to professional riders in the world's greatest races, something they've continued to this day. it's also a salient fact that mavic provide this service effectively free of charge. proof, if proof were required, that marketing can pay great dividends.
bizarrely enough, from the company that toyed with electronics long before shimano or campagnolo, was also home to yellow and black liveried aircraft. the mavic air department was created in 1984 to develop lightweight motorised aeroplanes. the death in 1985 of bruno gormand, grandson of mavic's guiding light, henry gormand, put paid to this airborne diversion after sales were, to put it mildly, rather disappointing.
nowadays mavic are almost as well renowned for their clothing, helmets, footwear and associated componentry as they are for their wheels. the original nickel plating business has moved through machined aluminium rims, subsequently coated with space age exalith, to wheels that eschew any form of metal in favour of carbon fibre. it is very much to their credit that, throughout their 125 year history, mavic have never ceased their endless quest to provide the very best for the very best. and the fringe benefit of such industry is that us mere mortals have the opportunity to gain from all their hard work and fit the very same level of excellence to our own bicycles.
happy birthday mavic.
friday 24 january 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
this past weekend, i spent a reasonable chunk of my saturday riding around loch gorm on islay's west coast. the weather, as is normal for this time of year was less than clement; it had rained from the point of leaving home, intitially rather heavily before ameliorating to a more persistent drizzle, having the occasional look-see at becoming fully-formed raindrops.
the cunning plan, formed while en-route, was to ride over to the loch, and if the weather had failed to improve by much, rather than perambulate its circumference, i'd turn left and take the more direct route to debbie's for a toastie and the requisite froth. arriving at the junction, it dawned on me that opting for the bail-out route would surely be a tad pointless, since i was already fairly wet. implementing both rules nine and five, i rode round the loch's perimeter road. that was, of course, my first mistake, for as i passed ballinaby farm, the rain descended with greater impetus. if i thought i had been wet before, this brought a whole new meaning to the condition.
the saving grace, while trying hard to assume the demeanour of one who did this sort of thing for pleasure, was meeting another group of drowned rats. accompanied by a herd of dogs, they were unmistakenly mid-shoot, carrying a phalanx of shotguns and all dressed identically in barbour waxed cotton jackets and similarly constituted caps. apart from the fact that i cannot see how shooting birds (which is what i presume they were attempting to do) can be classified as a sport when the birds have no opportunity to shoot back, as a vegetarian, i'm not at all keen on the act of killing for fun (or for food, come to that).
i made mention during this past week over lunch, that i could find little reason for these nine or ten chaps having necessity to dress exactly the same. an obvious case of opening mouth prior to engaging brain, for as far as my work colleagues are concerned, all those of us in the velo club are guilty of doing likewise. as if that would ever happen. in fact, on the sunday ride, the three of us were wearing different marques of waterproof jacket. i bet they felt really silly when i pointed that out.
however, the so-called explosion in uk cycling has brought this sort of thing to the point of demarcation. though lord carlos spent nearly eight years trying desperately to be a man with a bike rather than a cyclist, it is now perfectly possible to manage the former as part of a cunning disguise. at the turn of the century, the non-sporting cyclist would have little option other than to wear clothes not really designed for sitting on a saddle. levis and wrangler were never too particular where they placed those thick, double seams. life, today, however is substantially different, aided and abetted by the rise and rise of nick hussey's vulpine clothing.
though allegedly at one time a cyclist possessed of an impressive turn of speed, nick had never any intention of following the way of lycra, more intent on providing the new found commuting fraternity with clothes they'd not only wear with pride, but clothing that never forgot its principal purpose in life. to a certain extent, it was a clever move to make; developing stylish and practical cycle clothing as the sole range without so much as a nod to the pelotonese, for right from the get go, vulpine have struggled to keep pace with demand for their apparel, and struggled too with finding premises that would not soon be cast aside in favour of something a bit larger.
this latter factor has been of necessity rather than nick's desire for a larger boardroom or a desk the size of raj koothrapali's in e4's the big bang theory. for the bigger things have become, the more folks mr hussey has had to surround himself with, simply to meet the demands of an ever-expanding customer base. and though following the contemporary model of initially selling via pixels, vulpine clothing is now to be found in several retail emporiums the length and breadth of the country. all this needs more than nick and jools answering several phones simultaneously.
while i wait eagerly for vulpine to advertise the position of chief button and zip consultant, they are currently recruiting for a commercial director, a trade sales executive and a digital marketing executive. in the interim, they have managed to add jon knight to head up customer service, james greig from chanel as head of design and isobelle rudman from timberland as production controller. "I've sought extra finance to fund a total of five staff and huge stock increases, in comparison to previous orders anyway." said nick. "I've already hired one of those staff, and now we're advertising for more. With this we can now be proactive in reaching bike shops and retailers that we had previously to turn down."
fortunately, so far as i can see, all this behind the scenes turmoil has had no detrimental effect on garment quality or design. yes, it takes several hours longer to garner an e-mail reply from mr hussey, and his twitter feed has become a tad more eccentric, but vulpine's success is an excellent indicator of how cycling has changed from slam that stem to can i get a brooks b66 on that?.
it looks like that is set to continue.
thursday 23 january 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
amongst the many cyclists i've met in my time on islay, aside from moaning about the perennial wind, perhaps the most commonly made remark concerns the apparent lack of serious traffic. it's a statement that testifies to the theory of relativity (well, not really) for what could perhaps be designated as rush hour in bowmore, would barely be worthy of notice in any meaningfully sized town. i cannot deny that i rather like it that way; it's one of the great plus points of living in one of scotland's more remote communities, but there is little doubt that the traffic has increased substantially in my twenty-five plus years of domicile.
this was painfully obvious even a few years back when i took my son out of a weekday evening as he practiced for his driving test. though i believe the correct term is parallel parking, what we were trying to do was reverse the car into an appropriately sized space between parked cars. except on more than one occasion, there were simply no spaces available on the few streets where this manoeuvre could be safely carried out without fear of holding up traffic. on one of the village's longest streets, the cars were nose to tail on both sides.
i cannot deny that this is of concern.
however, compared with the congestion noted on recent visits to both glasgow and london, even when all those cars leave their parking spaces the following morning, the resultant traffic isn't overly onerous. as, indeed, has been noted by those on bicycles visiting the island.
however, it would not be an inaccurate assessment of islay's motor car population to point out that this substantial increase over the last couple of decades must mean that some folks who were previously content to walk, cycle or use public transport, must now be driving metal boxes. and while the number of folks living here has increased slightly over the same time-period, it hasn't done so by much; certainly not one that would explain all those cars. i cannot deny that this too is of concern.
it is a matter of record that thewashingmachinepost (before it was so-named) was brought to fruition by way of a (failed) attempt through the local paper to encourage the local population to get on their bikes. the incentive i employed was that of potential family economic benefit; ditch the car, buy four quality bikes, panniers, quality waterproofs, and the savings over a single year would easily allow the hire of a car for family holidays if found necessary. twenty-six years later, pretty much nothing has changed. in fact, given my testimony above, they are conceivably worse.
which doesn't augur too well for the latest initiative, dubbed wisp (whisky island sustainability project) based at the local leisure centre. much as i would delight in being proved wrong, i've a notion they might be leaving the starting blocks in the wrong direction. aside from instigating a car-sharing website, wisp have invited interested individuals to sign up for cycle leader training, something i have previously undertaken many years ago, but in support of the cause, i have eagerly done so in this instance.
however the intended result of this training is to have chaps or chapesses like yours truly guide parties of cyclists over risk-assessed routes on the island. for starters, i cannot truthfully imagine a veritable peloton of would-be cyclists trailing in my wake, eager to grasp every snippet of velocipedinal wisdom i may deign to impart as the journey proceeds. and secondly, i cannot, for the life of me figure out what a risk assessed route would look like.
if the idea is to get bums on saddles, bums that have every intention getting themselves from a to b, i'm not sure this is the way to go about it. though learner drivers are required to feature a red coloured 'l' prior to passing the test, leading a group of wannabe cyclists around the principality is something i don't see happening anytime soon. the embarrassment factor will likely intervene. i'd be more inclined to spend my continued efforts simply extolling the virtues of riding a bike, coupled with as many realistic incentives as i can think of.
that's not to say, however, that cycle training itself is devoid of benefits. though 'tis possibly true that you rarely forget how to ride a bike, that rarely stretches as far as coping with modern-day traffic conditions; even on islay. one of the uk's leading road safety education organisations, the ttc group offer their cycle experience, concentrating on easily overlooked factors involved in urban riding. trainer jon pook points out that "Untrained cyclists rarely look over their shoulders to see what is going on behind them. Observing how road users interact with each other is a very good way of showing people how not to do it." 'proper' cycle training aims to obviate such elementary mistakes.
so despite my lack of faith in our local initiative, about which i sincerely hope i am completely wrong, if you, or someone you know is a tad nervous about enetering the fray, checking around for a local, qualified and experienced cycle trainer might conceivably begin to make inroads into all that nose to tail parking and traffic congestion before it makes everyone's lives unbearable and untenable.
wednesday 22 january 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's a story that is perhaps repeated ad finitum all across the world, if only because all of us are subject to strictures over which we have little choice or control. sadly, it's one that seems to have experienced something of a slowdown in recent years, but there are enough individual narratives to ensure the lineage isn't left incomplete. the bicycle, after being the sole means of transport and work ethic throughout those all-important teenage years, was relegated to hibernation during a modest period of study. it's renewal arrived, ironically enough, at the behest of the motor car.
though i can currently be found on any day of the week endlessly bemoaning the frighteningly short journeys being undertaken around the village by motor car, when feet or saddle would have been a far more prudent choice, it was this very option that encouraged my purchase of a bicycle in the first place.
the modern motor car is possessed of considerably more computing power than was employed in the early years of america's space programme, ostensibly for the betterment of its drivers and passengers, but not entirely to the benefit of their pockets or bank balances when repairs need to be effected. at the time of my first motorised transport, cold starting was aided by a manual choke, increasing the amount of petrol being fed to the carburettor (there's a word you hear little mention of nowadays). wee geordie, who used to work at avis car hire, attended every breakdown callout with a can of petrol; removing the air filter and pouring neat fuel into the mouth of the carburettor pretty much guaranteed an engine start on cold and frosty mornings.
such was the mimimalism of my journey to work each morning, the car was on the choke in both directions, negating at least a modest portion of my daily earnings by forcing more regular refilling of the petrol tank. surely, i reasoned, such a short trip there and back could be better undertaken by bicycle, repaying its cost in a relatively short period of time by a diminution of my petrol expenses? not only did that turn out to be the case, but there were fringe benefits too by way of an irritatingly pleasant disposition each and every morning while the chefs were stood in front of open convection ovens, trying vainly to come to terms with the fact that it was morning once more.
yet my original purpose had simply been one of basic economics; the improved health, fitness and strength of smile arrived as an unsuspected by-product.
though many a long and short year has transmuted in between then and now, it appears that science has catalogued this means of daily transport, bottled it (in a manner of speaking) and offered it to a probably less than interested group of innocent bystanders.
featured in an online article on the bbc's website, professor of chronobiology at the institute of medical psychology at ludwig-maximilians university in munich (that's easy for him to say), till roenneberg says that the best way to feel refreshed before work is to forget the car and get to work on a bicycle. while i am most welcoming of such highbrow, scientific confirmation with which i am only too willing to concur, if they'd only asked me around thirty or so years ago, perhaps i could have escalated professor roenneberg's chronobiological and academic tenure.
he only had to ask.
tuesday 21 january 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................