it has always seemed, to me at least, that the heritage of our beautiful sport is not often approached with anything close to equanimity. the exploits of the great and good feature highly in the self-education of those swinging a leg over a road bike for the first time. there are, of course, those leaning heavily towards the philistine, those who have purchased cheaply from a reputable dealer, heading off into the sunset caring not one whit for the campionissimos, and to be blunt, it is desirable that such ought to remain the case for as long as it can. any activity that demands an academic approach to participation is unlikely to grow organically or successfully.
however, for the many or the few (i have no statistics to prove either correct), detailed analysis of the sport's rich heritage adds more than just a superficial frisson to their velocipedinal joy. knowledge of garin, bobet, anquetil, bartali, coppi and merckx surely can't but enhance the act of withdrawing the bicycle from the bike shed of a sunday morning and clipping in noisily before treading the path well-travelled. but there's another, less appreciated facet of cycling's history that pertains almost exclusively to the bicycle itself.
there are many young riders nowadays, even midst the professional ranks who have never experienced the frustration of index gear shifting, of the original ten speed racer, of toe-clips and straps and perhaps of anything other than carbon fibre frames. lost on them was the need to place an oily rag under the bottom bracket when removing a hard to displace fixed cup, in order not to lose any of the quarter inch bearings eager to experience the great outdoors. that in itself brings me to point out the very difference between the modern-day luxury of contemporary componentry and its 'less accomplished' past.
i have placed the latter phrase in inverted commas because there are times when modernity can be found wanting. returning briefly to that bottom bracket, the ability to simply replace a set of bearings from a fifty pence packet could be seen as a tad more equitable than an expensive set of bearing cups with no user serviceable parts. it is a sad fact that many of today's bits when worn, can only be thrown away. sometimes an easily effected repair would be a lot easier and more economic. and for more than just a few of those unspecified fixes, a small sachet of sugru offers a particularly effective means of repair.
if, like me, you'd never heard of sugru before, it bears an uncanny resemblance to coloured play-do, the sort of stuff that your kids manage to spread all over the carpet and upholstery. not only will it stick pretty much anything to anything else, it forms a non-conductive, flexible and moldable silicon rubber that can be used on cycling footwear, saddle edges, bottle cages, mudguards and any number of other cycle related uses.
of course, it's not the sort of substance that will replace a worn-out bottom bracket.
for the purposes of reviewing, it is perhaps unfortunate that i had nothing mechanically or cosmetically untoward happening on any of my bicycles, but its usefulness extends past the point of simply repairing stuff. on my kask helmet, i was careless enough to lose one of the spongy silicon pads from the rear cage, something that was simplicity itself to replace with sugru. though the hardened product (after 24 hours) remains flexible, there's no getting away from the fact that it doesn't emulate the softness of the missing pad. however, having ridden with the helmet tightly in place, the replacement part molded by yours truly offered nothing in the way of discomfort.
and you know those pre-electric gear and brake cables that wear an unsightly portion of that shiny paintwork? well, placing a carefully molded piece of sugru at the side of the head tube will not only prevent the cable from rattling, but maintain the integrity of the decor. in fact, after having added a piece to the cielo's head tube, it dawned on me that i could have rolled a piece around the cable itself, something that would perhaps have been a more smooth solution.
you live and learn.
the package i have in my possession contains eight mini packs of sugru in red, yellow, blue, black and white. this costs a particularly amenable £12.99, and though i've not tried all the reported properties, it apparently bonds to aluminium, steel, ceramics, wood and some fabric and plastics. and in the majority of cases, the sugru can be easily and cleanly removed when no longer required. holes in shoes can be repaired with inherent waterproofing, and discomfort at the heel can be alleviated by fashioning a profiled insert where necessary. in short, it is a highly versatile product that really ought to be at the fingertips of every cyclist, even those who have little or no idea of quite how their bicycles work. in some ways, quite miraculous.
monday 23 june 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
until recently i would have comfortably placed myself in the doesn't watch much television bracket. apart from cycle racing on eurosport or itv 4, the light emitting diodes on our toshiba 32" were mostly filled with the soaps. for mrs washingmachinepost, like many women it seems, has a predilection for such televisual entertainment. of course, while these were being pumped into our sitting room i am most often writing the following day's post or some other cycle-related task, so it really was of no nevermind in any case.
though it probably means sir brailsford is unlikely to drop by for tea, we desisted from our sky subscription some years ago when their customer service let us down rather badly after a bout of inclement weather shifted the dish a centimetre or two. since discovering that the aforementioned toshiba had freeview built-in, we decided to lessen our monthly outgoings and survive with an aerial on the window sill. however, though a quick visit to the freeview website will result in the promise of almost three-score tv channels, due to a lack of foresight when the tv masts were erected on islay, there are a substantial number unavailable to us. so watching any itv or bbc channel numbered greater than two involved headphones and my macbook air.
however, rather more au fait with such matters than his ageing parents, number one son managed to shift the satellite dish slightly, allowing use of the formerly defunct sky box to watch freesat on which suddenly, all those missing channels were now available. thus in the latter part of the evening, when i really ought to be reading more pages of more books for review, i find myself watching re-runs of lewis, midsumer murders and foyle's war. there truly is no accounting for taste.
the exception to this nightly rule currently takes place on thursdays when channel e4 broadcasts new big bang theory with a half hour gap before the good wife appears on more 4. the problem, should it be seen as such, being quite what to do in the half hour between those two programmes. i can hear the voices at the back shouting "read a book, read a book", but that doesn't take into account the fact that several of the more recent releases contain chapters that last more than half an hour.
there truly ought to be a measure taken at the editing stage as to quite how long a chapter will last based on a national average reading speed. i tend to think i'm quite a speedy reader, yet more often than not, after big bang has ended and just as the good wife is about to commence, i still have three or four pages to get through. oh for a compact and bijou set of reading material that would comfortably and interestingly fit into that space.
i am well aware that messrs bacon and birnie had no such context in mind when deciding to augment our velocipedinal entertainment by way of their excellent cycling anthology series. issue one to three evinced nothing more nor less than the halcyon days of publishing when it was possible to acquire quite superb storytelling in a small package that is not only ergonomically perfect in a leather armchair, but decorated with a handsome set of related covers. cycling anthology, on reaching number four (a major landmark in itself i'd warrant) is now released by the inimitable yellow jersey press who have seen fit to retain the illustrative excellence of simon scarsbrook, but redirect it in a way that sadly loses the boys' own persona that it inhabited so well.
in fact, by way of celebration and imprint, they've republished the first three editions of the cycling anthology with similarly enhanced covers. a bit of a shame i feel, but superficially so, for the contents, if anything, are more wonderful than ever.
there was always a perceived danger that the editors would come to favour certain writers and what we could conceivably have ended up with was an old boys club of a cliche; the same chaps and chapesses writing about the same subjects for evermore. on the evidence of number four, this has been very neatly and confidently side-stepped, with a range of thirteen short stories all of which will easily fit between the big bang theory and the good wife with time left over to, as billy connolly once said "appreciate, appreciate."
naturally enough, editors ellis bacon and lionel birnie are amongst the contributors, offering words on songs about cycling and the world of the sprinter respectively, but their number four accomplices could hardly have been better chosen: sky's orla chennaoui, an excellent testament to jock wadley by will fotheringham, james startt, matt stephens falling off his bike in italy, daniel friebe, keith bingham, peter cossins, alisdair fotheringham and last but definitely not least, tom southam finding out what it means to retire as a professional never having ridden the tour de france.
it is probably unfair to single out one from the many, but i must confess that richard moore's eccentric interview with long distance lorry driver (sic), iban mayo was a delight. though a book review is surely the opportunity for chaps like me who have read it cover to cover to explain just why you ought to be filling your advert breaks by purchasing a copy, i can't help feeling that doing so to the best of my ability might just give the game away, so to speak. i'm happy to give the authors a name check, but if you want to find an appropriate antidote to all the football currently filling prime-time tv, for only £8.99 you need look no further.
yet another work of art.
sunday 22 june 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
today, i am reliably informed, is the longest day of the year, the twenty-four hours that offers the greatest bang for buck when related to time upon the bike. the disappointing part of that knowledge is that it has fallen upon a saturday, the one day of the week when it has become traditional to spend way too much time traipsing the aisles of bowmore's average market. on those rare occasions when i am given free rein by mrs washingmachinepost to compose the shopping list (which will, in traditional manner, subsequently be left on the hall windowsill), i mentally walk round the store, noting down items that we may or may not require for consumption during the ensuing week. to me at least, that makes perfect logical sense.
mrs twmp, however, approaches the process in a far more random manner, simply scribbling each item whenever recall or necessity brings them to mind. thus, after acquiring our trolley, we cover almost double the optimum distance, darting back and forward, avoiding some shoppers and spending an inordinate number of minutes conversing with others. after queuing for what seems like hours at probably the only manned checkout, we manfully and womanfully cart all our ill-gotten gains back to the croft. probably not that much different than other couples all across the country.
but by the time all the above has been taken care of, there's not much daylight left. even on the longest day such as today. the worrying part of such an equation is the weather; maybe the longest day is one to be looked forward to if it features wall to wall blue sky and sunshine. but what if it rains? after all, this is the scottish hebrides; wind and rain are our natural birthright, so even though we are mere days from the grand depart, there's still every likelihood of random precipitation. in fact, as i left the croft yesterday morning, there was a faint hint or smir of rain, happily being blown in the same direction as i was walking, so the rest of my travail was less of a chore.
the thought of rain has featured highly on my to do list this past week, pretty much as a result of last year's less than scrutable ride of the falling rain route map. the problem is one that i've come across before, and no doubt others have too, in that portions of the route are traversed in both directions. sadly i may have taken my eye off the ball when producing the original map, failing to take into account that fact that the majority of participants are not entirely familiar with the island's road network. however, resorting to a new level of clarity and two differing colours, i have now reformatted the map in order that fewer will ride with quizzical expressions.
popping over to the ride of the falling rain website will not only provide access to a web page with the map occupying centre stage, but provide a link to allow downloading of a pdf version. short of riding the whole thing for you, i can't think of much more i can do. well, other than making sure aileen opens debbie's cafe early enough on the sunday morning and ensuring copious amounts of pasta are available at port charlotte's port more centre on the sunday evening.
should you be considering visiting this rock in the atlantic for the purposes of joining us for the bike ride, not only would i recommend checking out the aforementioned website, but also setting yourselves up with accommodation much sooner than later, as well as booking ferry space if arriving by car. august is a very busy month on islay, aided and abetted by the fact that the day before rotfr is the islay half marathon, so much of the island's bed & breakfast accommodation has already been nabbed.
the total distance available for your velocipedinal pleasure is the almost standard 100 miles, but we'd far rather you rode the distance that suits you best. there are no feed stations, no marshals and the roads most definitely are not closed for the day. mid-point (as near as makes no difference) is the old kiln cafe at ardbeg distillery where refreshments, food and perhaps a dram can be enjoyed. there were a few folks last year asking whether it might be possible to form a slower moving peloton that would cheerfully converse en-route. i have a great deal of sympathy with this suggestion, given that i rode the majority of the 2013 route with a chap i ride with pretty much each and every weekend. no disrespect to the gentleman in question, but i'd rather talk to people i don't know.
so, while i've not figured out all the options, with luck, that's something that will happen this year. perhaps rather obviously, riding at a more sedate pace will probably mean a reduction in the miles covered, but who's bothered? quality is far better than quantity. sunday 3 august, debbie's cafe bruichladdich, 9:30am for a 10am start.
and it might rain.
saturday 21 june 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
daniel pasley pretty much got it right first time. 'riding the road less travelled', more or less the manifesto behind the original concept of the 'rapha continental'. aside from achieving pretty much what it said on the tin, the continental spawned a compact and bijou peloton of handmade bicycles from the likes of tony pereira, ira ryan and richard sachs amongst others. it was an intriguing and well-crafted alternative to carbon fibre and smooth italian and french climbs, far more closely allied to the sort of riding more befitting that of the clichéd 'weekend warrior'.
adhering to my e-mailed instructions, i took a scotrail train from glasgow's queen street station to uphall, apparently the closest to livingston's houston industrial estate where i was to be collected by steven shand. idiotically, i arrived at queen street's low-level platforms and ascended to the main concourse, only to discover uphall is also served by the lower-level.
uphall station, or should i say 'platform', is something of an oddity. there is no station building whatsoever, yet a large sign asks those intending to travel to purchase their tickets prior to boarding the train. while awaiting steven's arrival, i tried to figure out how i would reach the return platform had i need of so doing, for there seems to be no obvious underpass or bridge. five minutes later, when steven drove into the car park, i asked him the selfsame question. "There used to be an underpass, but when they modernised everything, they blocked it off. Now you have to walk to the end of the road, walk under the railway bridge and then back up to the platform for a return to Glasgow."
that, apparently, is progress.
at the risk of over-generalising perceptions applied to the rare-breed of uk frame-builder, touring frames, this year's road frame and over-sized pipes for over-sized bicyclists might be classified as their stock-in-trade. not entirely accurate, i'll admit in these 'steel is real' days, yet not entirely unfounded. but for a scottish frame-builder to style his business as 'an adventure bike company', is perhaps to bring the art of the brazing torch into a more defined focus.
steven shand is the man with his name applied in an attractive script to the downtube of stoaters, stooshies and skinnymalinkies. russell stout is the fellow who puts it there. collectively, they are shand cycles, based in nasmith court in houston industrial estate, livingston, near edinburgh. if they were in portland, we'd refer to their premises as 'a nice space', though the surroundings are, by definition, a tad more industrial. i'm no engineer, so the variety of machinery neatly and geometrically occupying a sizeable floorspace meant little to me. and if i'm honest, none of it was being employed during my visit, so on departure, i was none the wiser.
steven has has been building bicycle frames since 2003, but sometimes only for six months or so at a time "I used to take work as a freelance computer programmer in between times. There was rarely enough bicycle work to make it a full-time occupation." a chance conversation with russell stout, whose background is similar to my own, involving graphics, fonts and design, and who fancied a change of direction eventually led to the current partnership. he'd contacted steven with a view to talking through some ideas. "There was initially no intention to become a part of the business", said russell. however, the two shared similar views in relation to bicycle frame building, the result being that both invested in new tooling and larger premises, making shand cycles a full-time affair.
having been more used to hand-crafting custom frames one at a time, the decision was made to augment the custom work with a range of three 'production' frames that straddled the line between custom and marginally less so. the stoater is the most flexible of choices, currently available in three different flavours and their most popular model to date. the stooshie is a no compromise cyclocross bike, something of a niche market at best, despite a healthy scottish cyclocross series. and the road bike market is served by the skinnymalinky, but providing messrs shand and stout with something of a conundrum.
"We built the Skinnymalinky to accept mudguards, wide tyres and deep-drop caliper brakes (or maybe even discs)", says shand, "But most of its customers have looked upon it as the steel substitute for carbon." a bit like big bang theory's sheldon cooper exclaiming "they're having fun wrong" you'd think folks speccing the 'skinny' as a full race bike would hardly be of great concern. but doing so rather undermines their 'adventure bike company' stance, and that, to steven and russell, matters a lot.
though it might have taken the pair a while to come to the now (with hindsight) obvious conclusions, shand cycles may be about to make the transition from offering semi-bespoke frames to that of complete bicycles. "Though we currently offer build-kits for all three current frames, that seems to be taken as more of a starting point. One customer had even drawn up a spreadsheet with all the options he was considering for his frame." said steven. "It would be simpler and quicker to offer complete bicycles with the option perhaps of around four different colours. That way we could shorten our lead times and provide an end product that we know will work satisfactorily."
in essence, it seems like the ideal compromise. it would also, i might suggest, make it easier to market their 'grey sky thinking'. the skinnymalinky might just become the very bicycle it was ever destined to be, riding the (scottish) road less travelled and distancing itself from any pelotonic affiliations.
meanwhile, handcrafting continues apace at livingston's nasmyth court, with three other employees carrying out the hard graft of filing sanding, polishing and assembling those immaculate fillet-brazed steel frames. the shand models i have had the good fortune to ride have all exhibited a liveliness in excess of their business cards and a smoothness of construction that can really only be achieved by steven's preferred method of joining tubes. these are complemented by stout's immaculate paintwork, including the frame logos; there are no decals in evidence, all the lettering being applied with paint under the clearcoat.
sat on the workstand at one end of the workshop was a bright orange stoater plus, almost at the end of its assembly stage. harbouring a son front dynamo hub ("It was a struggle to fit a disc brake with its wider flanges") which also offers usb charging at the stem cap, a carbon belt drive and a rohloff 14 speed rear hub gear, it's as close to this particular state of the art as it gets. though no doubt any framebuilder worth his salt could do likewise, the highlighted build seemed precisely what the stoater was made for in the first place.
there may well be other scottish framebuilders (though none that immediately spring to mind), but none that have achieved such a high national profile in such a short space of time. and almost certainly none that have the scottish weather, temperament and road surfaces at the heart of their existence. though 'grey sky thinking' may be the scottish bike rider's birthright, it's comforting to know that there are bicycles to fit such an ingrained national philosophy.
friday 20 june 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i like to think of myself as being appropriately mechanically minded for one in charge of his own bicycle maintenance. though there are adverts appearing in the trade press for cycle mechanics' courses that might result in a suitable qualification, that's something that i doubt existed when i started pulling apart bits of bicycles without any real knowledge of what lay behind the allen bolts or lockrings. in the grand scheme of things, i doubt i'd have done it in any other fashion, for mostly by getting some things quite horribly wrong did i learn what not to do.
that, in my experience, is every bit as valuable as what ought to be done.
however, i am not demeaning or discarding the procedures taught or discussed during the course of learning to be a qualified mechanic. one would hope that the courses are slightly less pedantic than the copy of barnett's cycle manual that languishes in the back of the hall cupboard. accroding to mr barnett, when adjusting hub cones (remember those?) one ought to screw them in finger tight before tightening the two locknuts against each other, before checking for any lateral play or friction. should either be perceived, those locknuts ought to be loosened, the cone tightened or unscrewed one quarter turn, and the procedure gone through once more. repeat ad finitum until perfection is realised. probably just under one month later.
but bicycle components were, i believe, a tad less complex in the halcyon days of yore. there are a number of contemporary bicycle bits i wouldn't dare to fettle without first alerting the coastguard. in order to learn about such fiddlesomeness, a well equipped and spartanly clean workshop captained by an understanding and patient instructor would surely be essential nowadays. hydraulic discs, press-fit bb bearings, electric gearsets and all manner of torque settings are not the things you want to be teaching yourself about.
reviewing bicycles and components necessitates some mechanical ability, something that seems implicit in any distributor's agreement to send the bits in the first place. it would surely do one's credibility no good whatsoever to have to admit to having broken an expensive doohicky, or contact technical support to figure out how the darned thing works in the first place. but it's also about knowing when something has failed/is failing to perform in an appropriate manner, and at this point, i'm going to name names.
in the world of cyclocross and even commuting, crank brothers' eggbeaters and candys are remarkably popular, and with good reason. the former ought, i think, to be considered leaning more towards the competition side of things, and though the latter is the pedal of choice for the american cyclocross champion, their platform offers commendable foot support for both the recreational rider and commuter. in the latter case, the tiny cleats offer unfettered walking ability even over shiny floor coverings. but there is, i fear, an inherent problem with the pedal design.
having reviewed both the eggbeaters and candys a few years back, i had cause to reconsider my opinon of the candys mere days after the review had been posted. though my original pair of crank bros. candys acquitted themselves particularly well during the review, they subsequently seized up within hours of each other on the same bike ride. the construction of the candy 3 pedal, similar to that of the eggbeater 3, consists of a tapered steel axle with a small cartridge bearing at the outer end, and a set of needle bearings at the inner edge next to the crank.
the failure of my candys was due to the needle bearing races having disintegrated after an islay winter. these bearings are 'protected' by a wholly inadequate rubber seal that had let in all the crap, resulting in a failed product. the former distributor immediately sent me a couple of re-build kits (which, incidentally, contain no instructions for use), and the bearings were relatively easily replaced. however, considering those particular pedals had only seen about 45 days' use, they hadn't exactly covered themselves in glory.
in mitigation, it's only within the last few months that the left pedal has once again shown signs of repeating the procedure, confirmed by my having dismantled it at the weekend. this time, that needle bearing race has jammed in place, rendering the pedal useless. one of my eggbeaters refuses to allow the outer dustcap to be removed in order that it might also be relieved of its having completely seized. it would be unfair to lump unbridled criticism upon crank brothers, for they do advise stripping and rebuilding the pedals at least once a year. that's something that would have been not at all unusual a decade or so ago, but now seems overly onerous due to our fit it and forget it mentality.
at the point where my candys originally failed, i was moved to send an e-mail to crank brothers pointing out that, were they to replace the inner needle bearings with a cartridge bearing as at the other end, the problem would likely all but disappear. the fact that i did not receive a reply wasn't really that surprising. good or bad reviews are part and parcel of modern commercial life, but a mere scribbler dabbling in engineering principles...
drop down the rankings a bit, to the candy/eggbeater 1 and candy/eggbeater 2, and the services of that inner needle bearing are undertaken by a delrin bushing. is that a better solution? well, i don't truly know, but in order to find out, i have just fitted a pair of lime green, resin bodied candys to my chris king cielo.
who said this wasn't investigative journalism?
thursday 19 june 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
prestwick town hall as was circa 1973 (i think it's been converted into flats. have they no sense of community spirit?) and the arts club annual exhibition. though technically still attending secondary school, albeit in my sixth year, that educational year that had one foot in learning and the other in the world of grown-ups. i've a feeling it was the latter fact that allowed us (my then girlfriend and i) an entry form each for the aforesaid exhibition. of course, this brought with it an economic baggage that had so far left our artistic pretensions untouched.
it was all very well to create the very masterpiece that would set the local artworld alight, described on board and cunningly labelled mixed-media, the latter solely to confirm how entrenched in pretension we had already become even at such a tender age, but it cost money to frame the end result. that was, as i remember, an inescapable condition of entry. as if these works were insufficient in their own abstract expressionism, it was felt necessary to append a suitably pretentious and preferably inscrutable title, most often naive to the fact that it would invariably point the viewer in completely the wrong direction.
though the title of my own earnest artwork has left me completely, my female compatriot entitled hers after a track on tangerine dream's phaedra. please try not to laugh when i announce it to have been 'mysterious semblance at the strand of nightmares.'.
i said, don't laugh.
however, the specific notion of holding an exhibition is, i think, a particularly good one. though our particular mode of expression may have been lacking in maturity back in the early seventies (and i'm none too sure it has improved much in the interim), even the conversion of prestwick town hall into flats has hardly put paid to a continuing fashion of exhibitionism. in the process of reading, reviewing and researching andrew smith's recent publication je ne pas comprende eddy, our albeit brief conversation brought to light the 'cyclism' exhibition being held at leeds gallery, one that truly encompasses the epithet mixed media.
according to the information i have before me, none of which appears to bear a scary resemblance to anything by tangerine dream, 'cyclism' will include custom built bicycles and design collaborations, a series of limited edition jerseys and musettes, archive photography and film footage, screenprints (i hope you're included, mr mather), letterpress prints (from the inestimable chris sleath i believe) and most eccentrically and importantly, bicycle biscuits. admit it, your curiousity has been piqued. though the exhibition commenced on 16 june, the official launch night will be held on friday 27 june and the whole visual story ends on 31 july.
it is unlikely to have escaped your attention that not only is leeds one of the towns involved in the grand depart, but that the exhibition coincides with the start dates. while you're standing around looking for an innocent french bystander on which to practice your o-level francais, perhaps you might like to pop along to munro house in york street/duke street.
we're all exhibitionists at heart.
wednesday 18 june 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
despite the large, blue helvetica lettering plastered across a warehouse not a thousand miles from the velo club's favoured coffee hostelry, most single malt whisky distilleries are not in the least bit progressive. in fact, the anonymous one to which i refer makes great play of using no computers in the process of turning water, yeast and barley into an amber nectar that has the ability to have you forget not only your own name, but where you were when you last remembered it. progressive rather goes against the grain (if you'll pardon the pun), undoing all that sterling work by fevered marketing departments to convince us of the ageing process in oak casks stacked close to the atlantic swell. not a single factor that would link the art of whisky-making with yes, genesis or pink floyd.
match that with the almost obligatory ten years old, twelve years old, seventeen and eighteen. granted, there's the occasional oddity that may have been lurking at the back of an all but forgotten warehouse, a matured malt that promises to adopt the meaning of the word lucrative. i have, in the course of my perambulations, visited each and every distillery on the island on several occasions, though never for the purposes of consumption (though i did have a panini at ardbeg's old kiln cafe once). and on all those visits, the one word that has never sprung to mind is the word progressive. but then, 'twas not me that made mention in the first place.
first, a bit of history. many years ago, a group of employees at glenmorangie's livingston bottling hall (glenmorangie are the owners of ardbeg distillery and are themselves owned by moet hennessy) appeared on islay to run the annual half-marathon, dressed in ardbeg corporate colours in the shape of rather fine looking cycle jerseys. not unnaturally, i made further enquiries and it transpired that they had had around a dozen made when participating in a twenty-four hour mountain bike race.
so i made overtures to the brand manager at glenmorangie, pointing out what a rather spiffing idea it would be if the corporate might (and marketing budget) were placed squarely behind producing more of the same, offered commercially to the great unwashed. to cut a long story short, after many apparently deliberate sidetracking attempts, but never a definite "no", the nice gentleman capitulated, saying "we're only going to have 40 made, and truthfully just to keep you quiet." produced by brian gibb at thecyclejersey.com, they currently sell upwards of 300 per year from the old kiln cafe at the distillery and probably just as many direct from thecyclejersey's website. in other words, it has become a commercial success, one for which i have been at least partially credited.
but a good thing can only last for so long. many are the velocipedinists who visit the island already dressed in ardbeg colours and many are those who leave after a short or long visit similarly clad. but cyclists are never satisfied with stasis, and after a lengthy run in its ageing format, the ardbeg cycle jersey has been given a contemporary makeover, already available from the distillery as you happen by this coming summer, or allegedly also available from thecyclejersey.com website.
its polyester functionality is a tad less figure hugging than some of the garb inhabiting the professional genre, but then its fan base is somewhat less specialised than a tour de france peloton, apparently being frequently found clothing those mountain biking chaps and chapesses. perhaps the most obvious nod in this direction is the lack of bicep grasping sleeves with silicon gloop on their inner regions. i have high hopes of persuading mr gibb that a matching set of armwarmers emblazoned with the ardbeg name would be a most palatable and synchronous notion, but i'll let you know how that pans out.
the jersey is available from the link at the end of this article, resulting in the newest edition being posted out in return for your £42.95, failing that, what better excuse to pay a short or long visit to the ancestral home at ardbeg?
you can thank me later.
tuesday 17 june 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................