i've made several mentions of it before, and on each occasion, i genuinely figure it'll probably be for the last time. as a sport or activity, we must be on the receiving end of one of the widest ranges of apparel specifically designed for our needs. everytime a new cycle clothing provider sends a press release or review samples, i truly wonder what it is they hope to gain from doing so, for though it may be the whole world to us, cycling is a very small niche market in a world of small niche markets. and many other sports are served by fewer clothiers despite a higher profile and partcicpation factor amongst the great unwashed.
there is little reason to suppose we have seen it all as far as cycle jerseys, shorts, tights and jackets are concerned. technology doesn't ever sleep at night, so there's just the off-chance that one new manufacturer will gain a march on the established brands and take the world by storm. at this very moment, someone of entrepreunerial nous could be scheming in a bike shed near you...
there are also a variety of different ways to the sun, meaning that the conventional business model is not necessarily the only way to reach an adoring public. perhaps instead of looking from the outside in, there's room for a business that starts from the opposite direction. this is the manner in which tribesports began around three years ago. as they have made mention on their website "Tribesports launched in 2011 as a place where sports people from around the world could gather to motivate, celebrate and educate one another to improve in their chosen sports."
that could, of course, be simply marketing rhetoric used to disguise their means of selling product to customers, and the following may not necessarily divest you (or me) from that point of view. for tribesports go on to claim that this community they have fostered feel they are paying too much for their sportswear, having to decide between price and quality, taking advice from their friends and peers rather than highly paid and endorsed pro athletes. as if that were insufficiently contentious, they claim now to be "ripping up the rulebook and taking on the world of sportswear."
so far, so good, but so far untested. tribesports already provide clothing for the running fraternity, but are about to enter the fickle world of cycling with an initial offering of his and hers short-sleeve jerseys. both jerseys are of similar hew, so to speak, the gents available in black with yellow trimmings and the ladies being more subtly garbed in mid grey with yellow. i have one of each in for review, though despite long hair in a ponytail, i will not be the one reviewing the ladies version (before you ask).
to paraphrase marcel wust "first thing i noticed, straight out the box..." was a closeness of fit on the medium-sized gents' garment, though its constitution of lycra and spandex means an impressive stretch factor to allow a comfortable fit. perhaps the oddest feature for a company that has presumably researched its market before stepping off the ladder, is the existence of only two rear pockets, though with a third zipped security pocket outboard of one of them. aside from a surety that the bottom bracket of your race bike will have been engineered for maximum stiffness, it is one of the great consistencies of road cycling that the jersey will have three rear pockets.
i do so wonder if tribesports community are responsible for telling them to lose that third pocket or maybe they really are ripping up the rulebook? only time will tell, and reviews of both garments (retail £29.95 each) will be forthcoming soon.
monday 17 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in the years of my aspiring megastardom, me and the guys (and gal) in the band were in the habit of hanging out (a technical term used by megastars) in thomson's music shop in aberdeen's union street. as music shops go, it was hardly the least corporate choice we could have made, but doug the salesman was most accommodating even to the point of the occasional free instant coffee, despite the usual practice of our leaving without actually having bought anything, though we did tend to try out pretty much everything in the shop over a period of time. i'd imagine, however, that his largesse paid off eventually, as cymbals, pedals, strings and even an entire public address system came via his cash register.
thomson's wasn't the only tune in town, and i know that one or two other bands favoured others as an alternative, a fact that probably stopped us breaching fire regulations by all congregating upstairs from the cookers and washing machines. these are singular practices exhibited by only certain offbeat strains of society; i cannot recall ever meeting a phalanx of plumbers occupying a local hardware store, or indeed a large group of new parents lolling about on the sofas at mothercare, drinking designer coffees. unless, of course, you consider the local bike shop.
though it's doubtful the corporates would encourage a peloton of cyclists to occupy their carefully laid out display areas, the oft-threatened lbs will often nurture such ad hoc gatherings of a saturday afternoon (or any other day of the week, for that matter). much of this depends entirely on the space available and the personal disposition of the shop owner or manager. if there's a local professional rider who regards the shop as their second home, that won't hurt too much either.
now well into their third year and rapidly approaching a fourth, the two neils at ronde bicycle outfitters in edinburgh's stockbridge area are the very guys to let (and positively encourage) this to happen. aided and abetted by a particularly fine cafe in one half of the shop in hamilton place, featuring a pile of magazines on the bench table, and bookended by a leather couch, the atmosphere in ronde is chilled enough to prevent any feelings of being surplus to requirements.
a bike shop is a bike shop, preferably leading towards a healthy set of figures in the spreadsheet come financial year end, so sales have to be made; the more the better. but the guys in ronde tend to take a rather longer term view than some, happy to encourage anything up to an hour or so of idle banter and browsing in the confident hope that sales will follow. this extends to the overall bike-fit, discussing the customer's riding proclivities, budget, preferences et al, before a mechanic even starts to look at which spanner to use.
there is, of course, a market to be appraised; only a few doors down is a branch of evans cycles with corporate back-up which would be difficult to compete. therefore, in ronde you'll find frames and bikes from colnago, look, condor, and de rosa, with componentry and clothing to match (castelli, mavic and scotland's only rapha outlet). they've also started delivering high-quality handbuilt wheels, sales of which are beginning to outstrip the upper stream of mavic factory builds (which in itself is an encouraging sign i'd say). they've actively encouraged the formation of a ronde cycle club, and lying on the wooden table was a self-published colour magazine entitled en plein air, documenting the club's first year of existence. putting your money where your dedication is.
were the latter from the shop's ownership it would be commendation enough, but in this case, the magazine was brought to fruition by one of the club's members.
in the day and age of the internet, when pretty much anything other than trek bikes can be specced and ordered online, it's of great comfort to see an independent bike shop occupy a slightly offbeat niche in a niche market. and bear in mind that hamilton place in edinburgh is a reasonable cobblestoned walk from the fiasco that is the prince's street trams.
it's also of great comfort to find that the almond croissants are every bit as excellent as they were two years ago when i last visited.
sunday 16 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
everyone has the right to hold an opinion, and ultimately, given the west's upholding of the freedom of speech, it is one of the tenets of democracy that we have a right to freely express that opinion. unfortunately, knowing that and acting on it are two different sides of the same coin; despite no illegality of statement, there are occasions when one really ought to seriously consider one's options and maintain a dignified silence. a proverb of old would have it that it is better to be thought a fool, than open one's mouth and prove it.
if only i were more adept at listening to my own advice.
in this case, it would be almost acceptable to proclaim one's innocence and place the blame fairly and squarely at the door of colnago. for were they not the very italians who i was happy to quote only a day or so ago saying "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.". they and i were, of course, referring to their latest proprietary press-fit bottom bracket standard inhabiting the nether regions of the recently announced colnago c60.
the above is plain for all to see on colnago's website, and i could, therefore, simply pronounce my innocence and leave it at that. unfortunately that would be only a quarter truth, for my tirade against what i (and several others, to be fair) took to be a further unnecessary muddying of the waters relating to bottom-bracket standards has made me look rather foolish, even if nobody else knows that to be the case. yes, i could have kept my face firmly shut and let you believe me to be a tireless defender of the faith, but i'd be no less guilty of my knee-jerk reaction.
as one long enamoured of colnago bicycles, i have access to those far better informed as to the machinations of cambiago than myself. and had i despatched a querying missive in the direction of just such a person (in this case, dan jones of uk colnago importers, windwave), rather than an empty and erroneous tirade against a non-existent transgression, i might have better spent my words praising italian ingenuity.
for those less well-versed in such technical matters, the press-fit bottom bracket relies on losing the threaded sections that hitherto formed a part of the bottom bracket shell. into these threaded parts were screwed the bottom bracket, or more recently, the bearings on which the spindle rotated. the press-fit option simply relies on pushing (with the appropriate tool) the bearings into most often, smooth carbon fibre. however, due to even slight variations that can occur during carbon frame construction, these surfaces are not always perfectly smooth or perfectly round, leading to several creaks and groans during pro-active pedalling. additionally, should any wear or damage occur at this point, there's the possibility of ending up with an expensive and useless piece of carbon sculpture.
these are the factors that caused colnago to refrain from jumping wholesale into the press-fit bb market without cause to pause for consideration. the result is what colnago described above and which my pig-headedness failed to invstigate fully before castigating their ingenuity. what colnago have actually done in both the c60 and the cx-zero is simplicity itself, yet quite magnificently so. by threading the bottom bracket shell, they have provided the luxury of two threaded press-fit adaptors that accept the current shimano bb86 standard bearings. but instead of the bearings being fitted into shiny carbon fibre, they press-fit into precision machined surfaces.
additionally, should any damage occur when fitting or removing the bearings, or wear over a period of time, it's a simple matter of replacing the offending insert, providing a greater degree of reliability and longevity than the current method. a standard, if you don't mind me saying, that is worthy of a round of applause.
i'm now expecting to eat a large slice of italian humble pie any day now.
i would like to thank dan jones of windwave for not only pointing out the error of my ways, but for doing so in such a tactful and informative manner. you have my respect sir.
saturday 15 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the uci's globalisation of the sport of cycling is, at best, somewhat misguided. with the advent of the pro-tour and subsequently the world tour series, distinctly non-traditional cycling nations have been brought into the fold. this in itself is hardly an iniquitous situation, for who are we in the western world to deny the rest of the globe, participation in what many of us regard as 'the beautiful sport'? however, many of the more recent innovations in this respect, such as the tour of china, the tour of qatar and the like, have been imposed upon the international racing calendar as part of a series in which pro-tour teams are required to participate even though their sponsors may have no commercial interests in those countries.
the downside of this imposition from on high is the loss or downgrading of many classic european races which have lost the commercial sponsorship necessary to continue. these losses most often have occurred at the hands of a governing body which has often seemed to care a tad more for its coffers than for the good of the sport. if several of these long-standing one day races and multi-day tours have been effectively de-listed, there is no compulsion for the world tour teams to take part. with an already overfull calendar of often conflicting race dates, this means that if the world's top riders are no longer entered for such events, potential race sponsors no longer see the likelihood of a return on their investment.
hence the loss of so many.
as peter cossins demonstrates in this superb and substantial book (almost a monument of its own), more than one of what are now regarded as the monuments of cycling's one-day classics, took several years to become firmly established, unaided by a governing body that could make participation compulsory in even a brand new event. the saying 'water always finds its own level' is particularly pertinent in most of these cases. nowadays water is being pumped to whatever level the offices of aigle dictate.
so well researched are these historical narratives of liege-bastogne-liege, paris-roubaix, the tour of lombardy, milan-sanremo and the tour of flanders, that i'm sure mr cossins knows the ins and outs of modern cycling politics far better than i. which is why it was something of a surprise to read in his epilogue to the monuments that "The thinking behind this season-long series, which used Formula 1 as a template, was sound". i'd be inclined to counter that the preceding 365 pages were proof of quite the opposite. he does then go on to say "Yet the Monuments have lost some of their status by being lumped in with lesser events from a points-winning perspective".
that is, of course, another argument for another day and has little true bearing on such a formidable book, but i feel that mr cossins has let the side down just a smidgeon by rounding out the book in this manner, even if he does hold this as his considered opinion.
'la doyenne', the longest surviving one-day classic, and undoubtedly my favoured second behind paris-roubaix, commenced its long career in 1892. its entry into the cycling firmament was not, as the author is keen to point out, a straightforward affair. "Thanks in part to the desire of French bike manufacturers to establish new markets beyond their borders, the first edition of the Tour of Flanders took place in 1913, by which point Liege had also re-emerged, though rather shakily."
by this, cossins is referring to an amalgamation of the 'peasant club liegeois with the liege cyclists' union in 1908 to relaunch the race as an amateur event. paris-roubaix though undoubtedly also suffering the ravages of time and occasionally the tarmacing of many of its cobbled sections, came into being in 1896, predominantly as a means of raising the profile of roubaix and its new velodrome built and owned by textile magnates, the perez brothers. they even attempted to position it as a preceding training event for the longer and arguably more demanding bordeaux-paris.
the reasons for starting what we now refer to as the monuments are varied, though frequently involved newspaper sales and rivalry somewhere along the line, commercial interests that inevitably shaped each event in different yet similar fashion, but ensuring a depth of feeling that contrived to ensure their success in the face of often trying circumstances. in those days, there was no overall loading of the dice (so to speak).
"That plush enclave in the tiny principality of Monaco had been connected to the railway in 1868. Ten years later, it boasted one of the grandest casinos in the world. In 1905, Sanremo hit back with the opening of its own Casino Municipio, a magnificent Liberty-style building that still dominates the western end of the town. Yet tourists, and particularly those from Britain, still favoured the French end of the Riviera." thus, one year later, several with commercial interests in the town met to discuss the possibility of a single event that would give sanremo the profile they and their money felt it deserved.
it would be counter-productive, i believe to list the birth marks of each of the monuments that form the contents of this marvellous book. peter cossins is a far better narrator than i, having turned what must be years of research into a treasure trove for the committed cycling fan. each race has its territory marked out during the introductions, followed by a historical account of its life to date. not unexpectedly, this involves many of the great riders and rides of this and last century. that cossins has refrained from making this a series of critical essays on the fortunes of each monument plays well to his favour. subjectivity is left at the start-line allowing us to wallow in the magnificent part each has played in cycling lore.
the races read in order of their inception, but in a self-contained manner, they can be read in whichever order the reader so desires. it is, in truth a most amicable format, one that is by turn intriguing, informative and a pleasure to devour. and though i have often been led to disparage one or other aspect of the recent crop of cycling book covers, the monuments makes up for pretty much all of them, depicting as it does a style reminiscent of british rail posters from the 1920s.
with a comprehensive index at the back of the book accompanied by a list of each and every winner of each and every monument, this is a book that truly ought to be a compulsory purchase for anyone with a drop-bar bicycle in the shed. with the uci seemingly hellbent on spreading the word in ever wider and thinner fashion, it is heartening to read of the european backbone of the sport, even if read with rose-tinted oakleys when races survived and prospered by their own merit and tenacity.
did i just say that out loud?
thursday 13 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
dating from around 17,300 years ago, the paleolithic cave paintings at lascaux in southwest france display an intriguing singularity that can perhaps be simply explained or considerably less so. though recently plagued with the encroachment of black mold, leading to the caves being closed to the public, they depict three specific groups of images: animals, human figures and abstract signs. what they fail to show is any indication of the surrounding landscape; these are images in isolation.
if you've ever studied mediaeval art, you'd have recognised that the artists of the time had no realistic method of describing perspective. therefore the size of individual elements had more to do with perceived importance, rather than distance, and roads that ought to have receded into the distance simply went upwards, maintaining the same width along their length. though we know better nowadays, not all those factors had been satisfactorily resolved at the point of image-making.
therefore, it's quite possible that the ancients with their earthy pigments delicately scrawled upon cave walls simply had no technique allowing them to render the landscape in which these animals anad individuals resided. of course, the answer could be even simpler than that, and based on the possibility that they had no interest in depicting their surroundings; their cave paintings were of a celebratory nature.
it's a trait that continued through mediaeval times, into the renaissance and on to modern day picture-making, the art of celebration. perhaps it would not be too unseemly to regard the cave painters as amongst the first graphic designers. for much of modern day graphic art is also centred on the individual object, casting aside all thoughts of environmental realism.
nowadays, our more civilised disposition has stopped us painting upon walls, unless you're around three years old and armed with a pack of wax crayons. modern day painting and printmaking is still, however, destined mostly to decorate our walls, whether in the hall, sitting room, private and public institutions or art galleries. and our celebration continues pretty much unabated, a celebration that, in the world of cycling, seems centred on two days in yorkshire this coming july.
situated in harrogate, pretty darmed close to le grand depart, a shop declaring itself to be the purveyor of eclectic interiors has introduced a rather fetching set of prints whose sole purpose is to bring the tour de france to the walls of not only those intent on attending the tour in yorkshire, but those of us who'd rather sit at home and watch it on eurosport on itv4. limelace (for it is they) offer each image digitally printed on antique 270gsm paper and sold unframed in two impressively large sizes, a3 and a4.
the former retail at £18.95 each and the latter at £23.95. probably less than a souvenir t-shirt on the start line.
to join in the celebrations, take a look here, credit card and yellow-tinged artistic appreciation in hand.
wednesday 12 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
rule number 17 quite clearly states: "team kit is for members of the team. wearing pro team kit is also questionable if you're not paid to wear it. If you must fly the colors of pro teams, all garments should match perfectly, i.e no mapei jersey with kelme shorts and telekom socks."
it's a rule and/or sentiment with which i would normally tend to agree, even if only from a commercial point of view. the guys in the team have their salaries paid courtesy the team sponsors, and it is therefore incumbent upon them to sport the corporate logo at every possible occasion. this extends to days off, and particularly if being interviewed for a feature in procycling or cyclist magazines.
you and me, however, in a serious case of volte face are required to pay for the privilege of advertising the sponsors' wares, all the while living in fear of being ridiculed for sporting more than just a pair of trade team gloves or socks. applying a degree of rationality to the situation, i doubt i'm the only one who has come across a rather overweight football fan, wearing his team's jersey and making it plain for all to see that he, quite frankly, isn't wayne rooney (sorry 'bout that; it's the only football player i know). yet aside from a mental snigger, the hypothetical gentleman in question receives no lambasting as he decides which particular brand of kitchen roll should go in the trolley.
in fact, as far as i'm aware, even fans of competing clubs have little problem with this state of affairs. probably because they do exactly the same themselves.
so, while most of us are aware that velominati's rules of cycling are ever so slightly tongue-in-cheek, why do we take great delight in the endless ribbing of one of our own who turns up to the sunday ride clad in the kit of his/her favourite team? and if it really is a major velocipedinal faux pas, why do so many offer replica team kit? i mean, who is buying it in the first place?
as far as most of the tabloid newspapers and one or two of the broadsheets are concerned, sport is merely a euphemism for football, and the customary wearing of team tops even for doing the weekly shop raises barely an eyebrow midst the civilian population. surely doing likewise with cycling kit cannot harm the cause? even though i'm pretty sure that alejandro valverde would be unlikely to wear his endura made race jersey for domestic purposes.
i cannot deny that i benefit locally from perceived eccentricity. you and i know that i'm as normal as the next member of the peloton, but it's very unlikely that the population of islay have the faintest notion that i don't always ride the same bicycle and nor do i wear the same apparel on my various sorties when surveying the estates. and let me assure you that this has nothing to do with riding at a speed that depicts me as a blur in the rear view mirror; i'm simply not that fast. therefore, on the first sunny day to have hit this far west in i don't know how long, my taking in one or two of the less salubrious roads across the principality, dressed head to toe in movistar team kit neither lessened nor increased that perceived eccentricity.
scotland's endura cycle clothing have made a highly successful concerted effort to associate themselves with road cycling, firstly via their domestic continental endura team and more recently with the conitinental pro net app endura squad. there is no doubt whatsoever that owning and part-owning their own teams has had a major effect on the quality and fit of their clothing. the endura equipe range is easily amongst the best in the world. 2014, however, has seen endura make the enormous step up to world tour status by providing the clothing for the spanish movistar squad. though work has been churning in the background for the past couple of years to make sure they hit the ground running, a bit like formula one motor racing, the very top does not suffer fools gladly.
endura sent me a jersey, bibshorts, leg warmers, arm warmers, team socks and a movistar logo'd neckwarmer. all these were more than welcome, for though the sun was out, sunburn is still a good few months in the distance. the only bits missing were a canyon team bike (i wonder...?) and a catlike helmet. other than that, you'd have sworn blind i'd simply taken a wrong turning in paris-nice.
the grippers on the hem of the shorts are so thin, yet so grippy, i'd to pay attention when pulling them on; no wonder we shave our legs. the leg warmers are of a heavier material than either the shorts or jersey, backed with a roubaix-like fleece and zippered at the back. doing so means a far easier time can be had when removing them if the pace gets too hot. the attention to detail has stretched as far as curving the zip toggles to make them more ergonomic in use. the armwarmers, minus the zips, are of similar constitution as those intended for your legs.
it is surely pure coincidence that the movistar logo features more than just a soupcon of lime green, for that is the colour of seat pad you'll find in the equipe range as well as in the replica shorts. (i might point out that when endura say replica they mean we get exactly the same stuff as valverde, quintana et al. this is not a cheaper alternative.) the padding in the shorts is so darned good that you'd scarcely notice it was there; not too thick, not too thin. my bum cossetted just like a professional.
the (short sleeve) jersey has the same impossibly thin grippy bits at the end of the sleeves, again meaning care and attention when donning, for believe me, that stuff grips everything, and that includes the outside of the armwarmers. the top ends of both leg and armwarmers are hemmed with silicon gloop that does an excellent job of keeping them right where you want them. neither moved a millimetre during any of the review rides. it almost goes without saying that neither the shorts nor the sleeves gave any trouble either.
the jersey features substantially sized three rear pockets, though no zipped security pocket because that's what the team volvo is for and the miracle coating cold black has also been incorporated into its fabric to prevent heat absorption even on hot days like what we never get. the fit is marvellous (medium size reviewed) as is that of the bibshorts (small size reviewed). the mesh bibs do a marvellous job of easing pressure on the shoulders while the tell-tale awkwardness off the bike attests to their true, race-fit purpose in life.
the socks were the only bit of kit that gave me a problem but not in the way you might think. should i have worn them under the leg-warmers, or should i have given movistar even more square centimetres of publicity by placing them over the top? in practice, i hid the logos inside the leg-warmers, but only because the zip irritated my left ankle. needless to say, when sorching heat and windless days (who am i kidding?) approach from the west, i'll let the air whistle round those bare, muscular calfs with ankles clearly displaying that funky letter 'm'.
your mileage may vary; perhaps the pelotonese around your neighbourhood feel it their strident duty to uphold rule 17 and will make your life a misery until you settle for the club kit or something a tad more anonymous. but i feel that there is a case for merging rule 17 with that of rule nine, rephrasing as: 'if you wear team kit on the bike in public, you are badass. period.'
endura movistar replica team kit is available through your local endura dealer. costs are as follows: s/s jersey £59.99, bibshorts £74.99, armwarmers £24.99, legwarmers £39.99, multitube (neckwarmer) £9.99, socks £9.99. also available is a team cap, track mitts and a long sleeve jersey
tuesday 11 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................