on the longest day of last spring's visit to the rapha retreat in provence, the very day poor visibility prevented us from riding up the ventoux, rapha's ben lieberson, accompanied by another couple of stalwarts, rode from le grand banc to the designated meeting place where the rest of the shy and retiring arrived in the jaguars. he then covered the next 120km in fairly short order, and opted to ride back, in the rain, to le grand banc, while i was most grateful to be offered a seat in the mini-bus, a large lemon tart and several gallons of recovery drink. at that particular point, i recall mentioning that i wanted to be ben lieberson when i grow up.
i wasn't alone in expressing that sentiment.
but on an entirely different and far less athletic level, i'd also like to be herbie sykes when i grow up. the author of the eagle of the canavese has been not only a welcome contributor to rouleur magazine but a regular writer for procycling, most often in matters of historical interest. to accompany rapha's release of three distinct trade team jerseys as part of their 2014 spring/summer catalogue, herbie contributed an essay on merckx's closely fought victory in the 1974 giro d'italia. he has a writing style that almost places the historical into the vernacular, in this case making the greatest show on earth seem as if it happened only yesterday.
those are literary abilities that i wish i possessed.
however, rapha's one day online showing of the greatest show on earth movie, for those who may have been slightly confused as to why, was almost a subliminal method of introducing the three trade team jerseys that form a core part of their spring/summer catalogue. and though i'm scared to death of generating unjustified hyperbole, i honestly figure these may be the finest sportwool jerseys ever to break free from imperial works. i'm not clever enough to understand the significance of the embroidered lettering that takes the place of molteni, bianchi or scic, but please note that i said embroidered on all three jerseys, the lettering on front and sleeves is beautifully rendered in thread rather than screenprinted.
i have, along the years, owned several items of bicycle trinketry that has posed the question as to whether it ought to be hung on the bicycle or framed and placed on the lounge wall. these jerseys ask the very same question; should i match them with armwarmers and wear them in all their finery, or have mark at islay studios frame them for me and hang them on the wall?
the detailing is quite marvellous; inside the collar of each starting with the merckx edition, is the time taken to complete the course of the 57th podio corsa (113hours, 8 minutes and 13 seconds) with each of the others offering the time gap to baronchelli (12 seconds) and gimondi (33 seconds). on the back of each jersey is a 57 podio corsa graphic and on the middle of the three pockets respectively, the race numbers for merckx, baronchelli and gimondi. as i have found with each and every jersey from perren street, the fit is immaculate. these jerseys are the perfect example of what it is rapha does best; beautifully made and finished in a style that you'll be happy to wear for as long as you can ride a bike or stave off that middle-age spread when or if it arrives.
rapha's sponsorship of its own continental team over the past number of years has made it necessary to place sportwool on the race back burner, if only because dye sublimation printing is far more immediate when it comes to accommodating sponsors and a quick turnround. it's a situation that has been accelerated with the team sky partnership. consider that sky added 21st century fox just prior to last year's tour de france, and how long that would have taken in sportwool. consider that in embroidery terms, and there's no way it would have happened before yorkshire this coming july.
however, for the majority of us, sportwool offers multiple benefits over the flimsier pro-team jerseys, not least of which is longevity (i still have one of the original pink mortirolo jerseys from around eight years ago, and it still looks as if it was taken from the packet only yesterday.) though they offer dark and light colours across all three, they wash well without colour contaminating each other and still look every bit as fresh and stylish on the next ride.
the quarter zip is safely enclosed in a zip garage at the collar, and those three rear pockets (oddly, the outer two are not scalloped as has become common on rapha's classic jerseys) are accompanied by a fourth vertically zipped security pocket on the right. in addition, the hem features an adjustable drawstring to ensure an impeccable fit over my bib threequarters.
though i have mixed feeling over the wearing of team kit ( i believe reviewing said kit is an allowable exception), i can see no such objection being levelled at any of these three. in fact, the clever variations on the originals offer a quaint degree of authenticity that can only be said to be underlined by the quality of the embroidery. i'd respectfully suggest that you grab at least one of these before they're gone, because you might just regret it when they're showing as out of stock. i've always wished i'd bought one of the jerseys issued to commemorate the tour in london.
however, "tonight matthew, i'm going to be eddy merckx and felice gimondi"
the sportwool rapha trade team jerseys are available in three designs in xs to xxl at a price of £140 each.
monday 10 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the velo club has enjoyed fame, fortune and notoriety (not necessarily in that order) for the last dozen or so years, with a rule book that clearly states 'there are no rules' (rule two, in case you're interested, says see rule one). in line with corporate strategy, we have achieved pretty much nothing at all, other than the ride of the falling rain and a lot of framed pictures on debbie's wall. disappointingly, what we have also not achieved is an increase in pelotonic numbers; it's still the same bunch of boring old farts meeting in bruichladdich each sunday morning, in conditions more suitable for a game of canasta or snap, pretending to be every bit as fast as we were twelve years ago.
despite confirmed rumours of a new club jersey in the pipeline and every likelihood of musettes to match, it seems that the junior dolphins swimming club have an easier time recruiting new members than we've ever had. those we have encouraged to join the happy throng, divested of the weather as a legitimate excuse have resorted to pointing out that they's have little chance of matching our sunday speed, desultory though it may be. explaining that, left to our own devices, at what other speed would we ride at, has brokered no advance; we'd be happy to ride at the speed of the slowest acolyte.
but it's not just the possibility of male recruits that has nabbed our concern, but that of encouraging members of the fairer sex, women who seem happy enough to spend hours in the gym or membership of any number of slimming clubs. no matter the diet du jour, the fact remains that expending more calories than one consumes can but result in a loss of weight, to say nothing of the fitness acquired along the way.
though the lack of a designated recruitment officer may well be hampering any increase in numbers of whichever gender, we are not the only peloton keen to encourage female participation in the beautiful sport. around this time last year, the female contingent within imperial works in perren street were keen to do likewise with the inaugural rapha women's 100, an opportunity for womenfolk with bicycles to expand their horizons by focusing on a date in july by which time their exertions would allow them to ride 100 kilometres.
i know full well that, come monday morning were i to suggest to the girls in the office that they might attempt riding this distance, i would have need of hiding behind the couch (if we had one in the office, that is). and to be quite honest, the same reaction would likely result were i to suggest likewise to most of my male acquaintances. however, there is little doubt that there are fewer women cyclists in the uk than their male counterparts; that's a situation that surely needs to be remedied?
so, to follow up part one, rapha are once again encouraging ladies with bicycles or intent on purchase, to prepare themselves for a further 100 kilometres on 20 july 2014. if it's the sort of distance that makes you go weak at the cleats, you need fear less, for rapha have kindly offered a training plan courtesy of mrs jeremy dunn, julie krasniak. there is no required need to pop out and ride sixty miles at a single sitting; this is the sort of task that needs to be drip fed in manageable portions. julie's plan commences with riding 30km as an opening gambit, steadily on the increase until 20 july when 100km will seem like a walk in the park.
if there's no female company in your area (rapha will be organising training rides, though probably only south of the border), either decide to train alone, or join the blokes for a while. aside from the sense of achievement, think of the good it'll do.
sunday 9 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i like to think of myself as an approachable sort of fellow, one welcoming of unsolicited consultations as long as we're talking bicycles. a lack of perception on my part several years ago did bring a degree of consternation when my cunning disguise fooled no-one, and i was approached by several innocent bystanders keen to make their presence known as readers of these very words. at the time, i was in a part of scotland where i cannot truthfully admit to knowing anyone, yet a disarming number seemed to know me.
of course it took a third party to point out that, of necessity, most of my clothing reviews are saddled with me as the principal model, and placing images of such on the post rather gave away the identity principal. mistake me not; it was most gratifying to be met with so many handshakes, and only slightly alarming till i figured out why.
aside from such faux celebrity (less sniggering at the back, please), the simple fact that i have been writing thewashingmachinepost for nigh on seventeen years means that even a simpleton such as myself has accrued more information about bicycles and their associated paraphernalia than could have been achieved by studying in a library some considerable distance from the croft. it is almost inevitable that much of this information has been garnered through experience, both good and bad, but my infamy has gratefully led to communication with many in the cycle industry who know a great deal more than i. and in the spirit of that industry, have been helpful enough to pass on their knowledge quite freely when asked.
it therefore behoves me well to play my own part in this endless sequence, happy to answer questions to the best of my ability about items i may have reviewed or products in which i am supposed to have specialist knowledge. colnago is a name that looms large in this situation, mostly via photographs of frames or bicycles that have been purchased online or received from a generous benefactor. many, for reasons best known to themselves, are keen to learn the provenance of an elderly model, and since i am known for my affection for such bicycles, it is perhaps not a surprise that i would be contacted.
sadly, i'm often flying on a wing and a prayer in this respect.
though colnago have followed common practice by stamping a frame number on most, if not all of their early steel offerings, and while you would expect that there exists some orderly system to such numbers, i have failed miserably over many a long year to have italy supply any information based on these numbers. the water is often muddied in the latter decades of last century by the existence of a number of colnago copies, making it often hard to tell (from the photos) whether i'm looking at a genuine colnago or not.
but the cycling question that holds no correct answer, or at least one seriously loaded against the answeree (new word) is, "what bike should i buy?". hurdle number one concerns that of cost. as one who has reviewed the colnago c59 disc costing a knee watering £10,000, my appreciation of the cost of quality is somewhat different than those who thought it a neat idea to buy two mountain bikes from sterling house at a cost of £99.99. i once pointed out to someone who asked whether i thought that to be a good deal, that the seatpost for my colnago c40 cost a lot more.
i have no wish to come across as a cycling snob for whom entry level, refers to something in the region of £3.500 for the frame. cycling obeys the logarithmic law of diminishing returns; a £2,000 bike is rarely twice as good as one costing £1,000. however, what i personally look for in a bicycle or frame is unlikely to be similar to those upgrading to the road from either a mountain bike or a hybrid. what happens if i recommend something that retails in the thousands and the new owner discovers that, either they bought the wrong size, or quite simply, the wrong bicycle? i think i'll perhaps have to add one of those lengthy disclaimers to the foot of my e-mails just in case.
that's not to say that i wish to absolve myself completely from the position of velocipedinal benefactor. it would be all for nought if i simply refused to discuss matters past the colour of handlebar tape or chainring size. i, and i'm sure you too, would far prefer that each prospective road bike buyer carry out a modicum of research prior to asking or sending over some web links. then at least, i won't embarrass them or me by recommending that colnago c59 disc when the riposte is likely to be "i could buy a car for that!"
i prefer to think of myself as a knowledge management consultant if only because it will be very hard to prove that i'm not
saturday 8 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i could almost laugh at my naivety, though i'm not entirely convinced that i'm entirely to blame. in line with my tutorial role in digital multimedia at the local further education college, i was supplied with an overview of the learning outcomes required of my students. that's pretty much a regular happenstance when teaching certificated courses, and something i would generally print out for the benefit of the studious. it lets them see how much learning is required in comparison to what they figure they already know. and it makes entirely sure that the meaning is not lost in translation.
what i had not realised, however, is that along with the questions forming part of the course assessment, the latter part of the multitude of pages contained the answers to all the multiple choice contained within the first part. this is presumably to assist me with my marking, or in case i am no better informed than those i profess to teach, but nobody told me they were there. and in my aforementioned naivety, i was on the point of handing over the printouts en masse when i realised the situation.
though the course is not the most onerous i have come across or been required to teach, it would surely be completely devalued if, in the process of asking the questions, i cheerfully handed over the answers at the same time. it's not that much of a challenge if there's no perceived challenge in the first place.
in which case, transposing the same situation to the art of completing a grand tour (in this case, the 2014 tour de france), isn't it cheating just a little bit to have the opportunity to peruse the parcours several months in advance of the event? shouldn't each and every one of the almost 200 riders start with the same lack of knowledge regarding the next hundred or so kilometres? except, in the case of the start in yorkshire this year, there's an outside possibility that many of us who will not be on the start line already know how to mentally ride each of the first two or three stages.
whether we want to or not.
however, it's likely that the grand depart 2014 will be truly of use to yorkshire if all those of us possessed of substantially less speed turn up with bikes in bag or roof rack, ready and willing to emulate the professional routes at a more sedate speed, happy to partake of yorkshire hospitality and scenery. in which case, a tour guide or virtual tour guide would be an undoubtedly fine idea. and that's where heather dawe enters the fray.
through her self-published, kickstarter funded, compact and bijou hardback 'a bicycle ride in yorkshire' heather has provided an exceptionally delightful book that does exactly what it says on the cover. and were her words insufficient to guide the uninitiated through the hills and valleys of the county, there is a veritable spread of unique illustrations on each and every page presenting heather's vision of her perambulatory surroundings.
her local knowledge is more than pertinent in places:
"If I am honest, one of the things I dislike about the route of the second day of Le Tour Yorkshire is this descent into what is a substantial amount of urban sprawl and very busy, large roads."
and arguably of greater personal interest on other parts of the route:
"For those who like their real ale, Masham should not need an introduction. Apart from being a lovely market town it is famous for having two large breweries - Theakston and Black Sheep."
though the professionals have a mere two days to cycle all those scenic kilometres, heather has strategically separated those into several chapters equating to a slower pace through yorkshire. and while rouleurs, grimpeurs and baradours are unlikely to see much more than crowds at the roadside, all the while surrounded by a convoy of motorbikes and sponsor and cycle bedecked team cars, heather's narrative, illustrations and routes offer a far more pleasant means of appreciating the surroundings from the saddle.
i admit that there's is little current likelihood of my being one of the many thronging yorkshire's roads and lanes aboard my colnago c40 dressed head to toe in endura movistar team kit. but for those of an aesthetic and appreciative disposition, the 48 exquisite illustrations that bring the book to life are every bit as worthwhile as the words they accompany. as a slightly offbeat and less commercialised souvenir of the 2014 tour start, this will be hard to beat.
thanks to heather's generosity, i have two signed copies of 'a bicycle ride in yorkshire' to offer to the first two selected correct answers to the following question...
in which town would you find the home to the breweries of theakston and black sheep real ale?
e-mail your answers to email@example.com ensuring you include a postal address. closing date is wednesday 12 march.
friday 7 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the principle is, to all intents and purposes, remarkably straightforward. a spindle running through a cylinder built into the bicycle frame just where the seatpost and the downtube meet, rolling on two sets of bearings to ease the effort of rotation. to achieve this rotation, there's a pedal and crank affixed to each end of the spindle. there's every likelihood that any ten or eleven tyear old could make a model out of kitchen roll tubes, yogurt cartons and sticky back back plastic.
the old square taper spindle had a lot going for it, but looking into the physics of solid versus hollow, there was always the possibility that the solid version with a nut on each end to retain the cranks on the spindle would suffer from a smidgeon more flexibility than the more powerful professionals would be willing to suffer. sadly, even the hollow, bolted spindles received the same short shrift, leading to the splined, hollow spindle of a larger diameter. this, all on its own, brought the need for pragmatism in the bearing department.
if we accept that the bicycle manufacturers are/were unwilling to alter the diameter of the bottom bracket shell, the bearings that had need of coping with the larger circumference of the new hollow spindles would either need to reduce substantially in size or get out of the way. as it turns out, the latter became the option of choice, confusing matters slightly in the definition of stiffness. for if the headset bearings had been moved inside the head tube in the name of stiffness, it was surely asking a bit much to have us accept that moving the bottom bracket bearings outboard would achieve the same end? physics doesn't quite work like that.
now, had it all stopped there, we could have gone back to what we all do best; riding our bikes. but such hopes were always going to be in vain, because just like microsoft, someone always figures they have a better solution, in this case, the all but ubiquitous press-fit bearing set, creating so many standards, that the hapless newcomer to the world of road cycling must often be wishing they'd stuck with some other, simpler sport or activity.
i mention all this, for the umpteenth time, as colnago tease the faithful by means of sneak peeks of their latest crowd pleaser, the much vaunted c60. the fact that it arrives with colnago's proprietary press-fit bottom bracket bearings was something of a foregone conclusion, having been first introduced on their cx-zero model announced last year. if i might quote from colnago's website "Colnago saw the inherent problems with the current design and would not adapt the technology without making the necessary changes to ensure longevity, reliability and serviceability." in between gritting my teeth, i make no specific comment here but leave you to your own thoughts on the matter.
the imposition of dogmatic standards to any part of the bicycle could be easily seen as a means of stifling technological development on a grand scale. but i think surely the inveterate tinkering that seems never to stop is eventually going to result in a situation similar to that of many car marques, where the only real option for servicing is to take it to a specifically approved dealer. thus, owners of the colnago c60, unless fairly mechanically adept, and equipped with a set of proprietary tools, may find themselves having to return the cycle to their nearest colnago dealer, no matter how far distant that might be. as an example, my nearest colnago dealer is a two hour ferry journey and 125 miles away.
i dearly love colnago bicycles; they're a joy to ride, but fitting proprietary semi-integrated headsets and now a similarly constituted bottom bracket arrangement, they're beginning to get a bit irritating. as are a number of others heading along their own proprietary path. the worrying part is, i'm pretty sure we haven't seen the last of such innovation.
thursday 6 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have a long-term habit of collecting what i believe to be useful little aphorisms and quotes and pasting them into a text edit file on my mac. more often than not, that is precisely where they remain, though i occasionally read through them at erratic intervals, sometimes wondering why i stored some of them in the first place. for others, i often find myself trying desperately to bring about some happenstance that would allow me to quote them in public, effecting an altogether more intellectual demeanour than comes naturally. unfortunately, aside from the occasional humorous remark, i feel that i have pretty much failed with this strategy.
at least until today.
for those of you who know the inestimable richard sachs, he of atmo and frame building fame, his intelligence will be well known, along with his literary prowess, one that i often wish i could equal. what takes me several paragraphs to expound, he often seems to manage in a couple of well-chosen sentences. however, one of the more notable quotes i found stored in that text edit file i recall being scraped from an article to which richard had directed me. the topic of the specific dissertation, by american author tom robbins, currently escapes me, though it seems likely it had something to do with the art of writing. the following quote, however, has resonated on more than just a few literary occasions of late:
"Whatever it is everybody seems to hate in your work, that's what you should focus on and develop. If it's arousing that kind of antipathy, you can figure that that's the thing you do best. That's the thing about you that is unique and special."
though you may well be concerned that i am about to relate just how this is ascribed to my own scribblings, nothing could be further from the truth. i am in fact convinced that it's an observation that pertains more topically to current thinking on helmet design.
helmets are a subject all to themselves these days, almost like the yes, no approach to scotland's forthcoming independence referendum. by this i mean they seem to instil one or other diametrically opposed opinion. some feel helmet use ought to be compulsory for cyclists, others maintain their right to decide for themselves without pressure from the nanny state and the motoring lobby.
such matters are, i believe, for another blog in another universe at another time. my concerns, such as they are, revolve round contemporary aesthetics. we should never lose sight of the fact that whatever colour and whichever shape these are constituted, they essentially exist to protect the grey matter under a dishevelled hairstyle. to that effect, and rather simply put, quite how they look ought to be of little concern. but as i was reminded only the other day, one's style on the bike is every bit as important as any other aspect of cycling. as a general aside, has it ever dawned on anyone that the wearer remains visually oblivious to the design and colour of the helmet being worn at any given time?
perhaps the first to the how fast does this look? party were giro, supplying helmets to greg lemond and many other tour winners along the way, one of which they may wish to forget if they could. and arguably they were also the first to move one step up from the plethora of vents and speedy look into the realm of aerodynamics via the 'you either love it or hate it' air attack. the peloton is infected greatly now by ventless helmets, some of which wouldn't be out of place in a buck rogers movie. others seem to inhabit the middle ground, still with vents but a lot less battlestar galactica in intent, one of which can be seen atop riders with garmin sharp; the poc octal.
mind you, as helmet names go, it is certainly one of the more bizarre, i am reliably informed that the name octal is derived from occipital, referring to increased attention and protection having been paid to that region of the head. poc are based in sweden, a company seemingly concerned more with a mission to improve the safety of sports people in a variety of disciplines, and not solely through a varied helmet offering. the octal is one of a range of three aimed specifically at the road cyclist (the octal aero is essentially the same helmet but devoid of most of the air vents, while the tempor is aimed at the bona-fide time-triallist)
edinburgh's 2pure, poc's uk distributors very kindly sent a fluorescent orange version of the octal for review, requested partially because it's the new kid on the block so to speak, and partly because it seems to have elicited a number of disparaging remarks on twitter. i rather like it; i think it a particularly stylish piece of headgear, though i'm well aware of the opinion weighted in the opposite direction. ultimately, the helmet's there to protect your head, and if we live with the proposition that form (arguably) ought to follow function, that surely should be the sole discretion taken into account?
always assuming the helmet fulfils its promise.
it's probably one of the hardest products to objectively review (insofar as it's possible to be purely objective about anything), for who amongst us would be keen to crash in strategic fashion to check the veracity of any helmet? certainly not me. but, if we're willing to accept that any helmet has been tested to within a few millimetres of its existence by those better qualified to judge, that particular box can be satisfactorily ticked.
at a mere 190g, the octal is scarily light, battling with my team sky winter cap as to which placed a greater burden upon thewashingmachinepost head. though it's not short of a vent or two to assist with cooling, poc seem keener on minimising the number of vents while increasing their size. distractingly, though the side vents are of comfortably minimal size, the hardshell bonded cover manages to make them look a tad bigger. it's a clever optical illusion creating a chunkier look than their racier, more streamlined competitors.
thankfully, gone are the days when the fit of a helmet depended on swapping of differing thicknesses of padding; never a satisfactory solution. in keeping with several on the market, the octal makes use of a thumbwheel adjustable harness at the rear of the helmet, though it sits just a tad too close to the helmet body to manage gloved fingers both top and bottom. however, despite this, it was still reasonably easy to manage. on the medium-sized helmet, wearing a thick winter cap underneath was easily and comfortably accommodated by the level of adjustment, still allowing it to sit properly on my head.
the octal is, however, the first helmet i've come across that arrives with its own cycle cap, ostensibly for wearing on dark nights when the applied highly reflective lettering will aid visibility. the two sidemost front vents sport plastic inserts described as the eye garage; somewhere to put those cycling glasses when the sun disappears behind the clouds. as a wearer of prescription rudy projects, it's a feature i never had cause to employ.
in keeping with poc's avowed intent to concentrate on our safety, included along with the instruction manual, cap and drawstring bag is an ice sticker, featuring a pin code and a qr code. as an acronym for in case of emergency, it is simply a case of logging onto icedot.org, typing in the pin number and filling in the required fields with contact and medical information. should you be found unconscious or incoherent at the side of the road as a result of a crash, the emergency services need only input the code at the website or scan the qr code with their mobile phone.
it's a clever idea that could conceivably save lives, though with several of the outlying areas on islay and elsewhere in rural britain without any appreciable phone signal, there are obviously flaws in the procedure. in keeping with almost every manufacturer of cycling products worldwide, poc obviously couldn't resist the opportunity to add their very own vacuous acronym to a part of the octal. avip or attention visibility interaction protection is a pointless addition to an excellent product, invading the integrity of its existence with triviality.
however, it fits well, looks good (as far as i'm concerned), weighs next to nothing while ostensibly offering considerable head protection for the wearer. and if they ever get round to making cycle helmets mandatory, it would surely be one of the more effective compulsory choices to be made.
and the graphics are pretty neat too.
the poc octal helmet is distributed in the uk by 2pure. the helemt is available in small, medium and large and in blue, white or orange at a cost of £225
wednesday 5 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the suspension of belief is a marvellous ally to the intrepid marketing executive. within reason, there seems no barrier to the limits of disbelief he or she might point in our direction, and we sit puppy-like ready to lap it all up. if i might cite my home product as a particularly apt example, basically the amber nectar is the end product of an amalgam of water, barley, peat smoke and yeast left for several years in a wooden barrel. there's nothing particularly magical about it, though you'd be hard pressed to tell that from the hard sell.
yes, i am guilty of gross simplification, even though whisky is the result of a well-documented chemical process. and even though the distilleries in which this magic is created, are simply intriguingly constituted industrial units (just ask the scottish environmental protection agency (sepa)), the managers are often feted with the same level of adulation as rock stars. none that i know of on islay even owns an electric guitar.
it is also suggested, if not clearly stated, that the clear liquid left in those wooden barrels (the golden colour comes from the wood) is left to mature within breathing distance of islay's salt spray blowing in from the atlantic. that is certainly true in a number of cases, but in most others, the simple fact is that it leaves in a truck on the ferry to see out its period of nurturing in a warehouse on the mainland. and while the majority of whisky aficionados are well aware of all this, en masse, they prefer to look the other way.
and we, as members of the worldwide peloton, are guilty of similar self deception.
for instance, though first bradley wiggins, and secondly chris froome were able to occupy top spot on the paris podium having reached those lofty heights aboard one or two pinarello dogma variants, in actual fact, we all know the result would have been the same had they been astride any other brand of taiwanese built carbon fibre. quite rightly, pinarello were happy to advertise both victories as being testimony that a dogma ought to be the next bicycle squeezing into the bike shed, if only in an attempt to recoup their substantial financial outlay in supplying sky with the bikes in the first place. there's rarely any such thing as a free lunch.
it is, of course an integral factor in the world of so many sports, where manufacturers are keen to have their product(s) associated with successful athletes, knowing full well that, despite our knowledge to the contrary, we'll be happy to avail ourselves of the aforementioned products, ever keen to declare our own association. it's the very model by which sponsorship works, and it's very unlikely i'm telling you something you don't already know.
in at least a couple of the current editions of the cycling monthlies already on the bookshelves, you will find an advertisement featuring the head and shoulders of 2012 word road race champion, philippe gilbert, rather naughtily clad in his world championship jersey several months after it was acquired by someone else. however, in this advertisement, philippe is keen that we make at least a mental note of his italian shoe sponsor, dmt, and more specifically the dmt vega which appears floating an inch above his open hand to indicate, i would imagine, its uncanny lightness of being.
i would dearly love to profess that i am above buying into the whole fairytale, but the truth is, i'm just as gullible or entranced as the rest of you. in the case of the vega, the equation was experienced the wrong way round, for i had a pair of these shoes (220 grams for size 41) in my possession and on my feet before i spied the adverts, and in this case, that placed rather a different spin on the situation.
it is perhaps not unnatural to find the copious literature contained within the box of an italian pair of cycling shoes to be written perdominantly in italian. however, a smidgeon of english in this case would not have gone amiss. for though the shoes were alarmingly light enough to have me wonder whether the box contained anything other than tissue padding, lack of appropriate instructions led to a momentary period of embarrassment.
the dmt vegas sport the quite commonly used boa closure system, a means of tensioning a loop of high tensile nylon, to effect a remarkably tight fit when closed. however, not all boa systems are created equal; they all tighten in the same manner, but they don't all release the same way. thus, on receiving the shoes, i placed both of them (minus cleats) on my feet, closed them appropriately, then discovered i couldn't release the tension. fortunately i was in my sitting room with no real intention of going anywhere soon. the enclosed italian literature offered nothing by way of succour and nor did a quick search on the web. only when, in desperation, i pulled hard on one of the boa dials did i discover that pulling up on each shoe's two dials is precisely how the tension is released.
in practice, it's quite excellent, and now that i've figured it out, i wouldn't be without it, but if anyone from dmt is reading, could you just pop in a piece of paper in english?
the well-ventilated upper is constructed from a shiny, yet resilient plastic material, pretty much all white apart from a grey stripey pattern applied to the toe, swooping along the shoe's sides. though proving a trifle inconvenient in sub-zero windchill, there are substantial vents along each side filled with a pliant gauze. however, come the last few kilometres of the ventoux in late july, i'm sure my feet would be my best friend.
my fastest bike still remains an original colnago c40 to which i have attached a pair of mavic iclic road pedals. having acquired an pair of matching cleats, set to the minimum q factor i made every racing manoeuvre that ensures i'll never be the subject of a dmt magazine advert (or of any other shoe manufacturer for that matter). there is little to disbelieve about these shoes; though i doubt they played any major part in gilbert's world championship win, they've played a great part in my skittering about the countryside. with superbly rigid soles that make it well nigh impossible to crouch down and oil a chain, climbing even short bumps is a smile inducing pleasure. clamped tightly to both feet via the inscrutable boa system, there's all the benefits of well-built rigidity and virtually no weight penalty.
for ageing amateurs like me, it doesn't really get much better. except, of course, for those freezing winds when you forgot to wear overshoes.
cycling footwear is undeniably one of the major contact points between rider and bicycle, and not one of the bits that you want to get wrong. in this particular case, i'd be happy to take philippe's word for it, bolstered by the fact that the vegas are a fabulous pair of shoes. they even come with their own waterproof bag; there's nothing worse than winning at paris-roubaix and discovering you've made your team kit all muddy by shoving the uncleaned shoes in the kit bag.
so i'm told.
dmt vega road shoes are available in euro sizes 39 to 46 and in either black or white. dmt are distributed in the uk by paligap.
tuesday 4 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................