it is but a mere matter of weeks since i featured the rather enterprising, but ultimately fictional cycling accessory as demonstrated by the eccentric folks at 21st avenue cycles in portland, oregon. their bizarre solution to the often sudden need for a rainjacket after having headed out minus just such a necessity, was a pair of tinted sunglasses that, with one shake of their lenses, transformed into cycling rainwear. no doubt at some point in the future, when technology such as memory plastics have reached their ultimate development cycle (sorry), such an instant conversion will not only seem like child's play, but nothing at all out of the ordinary.
for now, however, since none of us are the jetsons, we'll have to live with the restrictions of real life.
my cycle trip on wednesday of last week, purely for business you understand, (there was no enjoyment involved whatsoever) was a two parter; visit one client in the morning, and another after lunch, a meal not altogether unsuspectingly partaken at debbie's. no detours had to be taken; coffee and a toastie were en route from one to t'other. i was clad in my city riding apparel, everyday wear that can be worn confidently aboard the taurus corinto, but clothing that would need to be covered should precipitation uexpectedly appear.
of course, the minute i stepped outside the froth hostelry, large raindrops appeared, necessitating retrieval of a ranjacket from the rear rack. so far, so conventional, but stefano mangini, a man well used to the vicissitudes of inclement weather all across the globe, has developed a remarkably impressive solution to the need for waterproofing. i cannot deny that i am rarely seen in velocipedinal mode with any form of backpack, though i cannot deny there have been occasions. however, the confirmed commuter is much more likely to have need of carrying stuff in this most contemporary of luggage solutions.
and therein lies stefano's panacea to the potentially wet.
though the man's original means of transport appears to have been a more motorised form of biking, in essence the requirement is pretty much the same. of course, now that it has been brought to our attention, it seems so incredibly obvious.
stefano's funnel eject wear consists of a tailored, padded rucksack with what appear to be two cords, the ends of which can be grabbed from the top of the bag. pulling these up and forward brings a waterproof jacket into view, fitting of which is then a mere matter of seconds. add to that, the jacket features a hood, one that looks as if it might fit over a cycle helmet, but would certainly sit underneath. it's really darned clever, and in order to bring it to market sooner rather than later, stefano and his crew are a few days into a kickstarter campaign hoping to raise $43,000 (approx £25,000). pop over and have a look at the promo video, marvelling at just how sneekily clever it all is. and if you're as impressed as i, a few dollars wouldn't go amiss.
tuesday 8 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i could be completely wrong, and i may have learned this stuff in a class other than mathematics, but i think i'm right in saying that my long-suffering maths teacher was the very fellow who taught me all about venn diagrams. those are the chaps that consist of several notated and intersecting circles employed to show how several apparently disparate statistics or concepts are related to each other. thus it is possible to have a circle representing cyclists and another denoting motorists, with their intersection representing those who both cycle and drive a motor car.
a substantial number of you would inhabit that intersection, while others (such as i, for instance) would remain firmly in the land of the velocipedinist. not unusually, i'm aware of many who would occupy the other circle. despite the so-called wiggo effect i doubt there will be much in the way of variation over the next ten years or so, unless the cost of fuel increases to demonic levels.
but as i wend my merry way around the princiaplity every weekend, traversing those idiosyncratic and rarely billiard table flat single track roads, i meet many a motor vehicle. and being such an amenable and well-disposed sort of fellow, i more often than not pull into passing places to allow motorised traffic to pass me by, safely and securely. should a well-meaning motorist reciprocate, i usually make every effort to cycle as fast as is seemly, in order to diminish the time they have to spend in a stationary position. however, despite most motor manufacturers advertising their vehicles on the basis of gut wrenching acceleration, few if any, approaching motorists seem the least bit interested in speeding up just a tad to help me avoid unclipping at least one foot.
so what is it that each of us thinks about the other?
according to a recent survey carried out by policy expert insurers 16% of motorists figure cyclists are useful in keeping down traffic levels, while 21% think cyclists are not only a danger to drivers, but also to themselves. not unnaturally, cyclists don't agree, with only 8% thinking along similar lines. mind you, 30% of drivers think cyclists are completely harmless, not bothering them at all, with 25% of cyclists concurring. where the folks at policy expert may find themselves carried away with the veracity of their own verbosity is when asking whether cyclists ought to pay road tax. as each and every well-informed cyclist (and motorist) knows, road tax was abolished in the late 1930s; roads are maintained out of the general tax budget, thus all cyclists already pay road tax.
however, if we modify the question to be semantically correct, just over 33% of motorists think cyclists ought to pay what is essentially car tax. phrased in that way, i bet some of them are feeling a tad silly now. which brings to light the fact that there are a number of motor vehicles on the roads today that are exempt from car tax on the basis of low emission levels. given that even these low levels are well in excess of those emanating from the average bicycle, it would be very hard both semantically and legally to enforce a tax on the hapless cyclist.
however, a subject that deserves closer attention from those on two wheels is that of insurance. 60.8% of motorists figure we ought to have insurance for the road. i tend to agree; in fact many a long year ago, at the behest of the inimitable matt seaton, i took out a british cycling membership to avail myself of their free third party insurance. yet 45.8% of cyclists figure they ought not to hold insurance. try responding in similar fashion to that question after you fall off your bike and accidentally scrape the brake lever along the side of a brand new jaguar.
however, i'm far more in favour of words than numbers, and i can already see this particular feature taking on a more numerical mantle. so, at this point i'll leave any further reading to your goodselves, for on a previously unannounced venn diagram, there's bound to be an intersection between those who are cyclists and those who like reading statistics.
thursday 3 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as we rounded the corner at saligo bay this past sunday, what little wind there was started to breeze in our faces. relatively speaking, the words wind or breeze would be considered something of an overstatement around these here parts, but that is, as we'd say, of no real nevermind. out there is about as far as it gets from home, for the waves that calmly lapped against the shore belong to the atlantic ocean, the other side of which lies the north american country of canada. it is the very portion of this isle that engendered the original phrase, 'cycling on the outer edge'.
but that's probably more than you need to know.
despite the road that surrounds loch gorm being something of a tourist route (it's the only way to arrive at kilchoman distillery) its surface barely resembles a road in any way shape or form. we have made mention to argyll and bute council's roads engineer over the iniquity of such tactile excess, but there's every likelihood that the poor chap's annual budget stretches not that far. however, we can only look within ourselves; already counting down the days until paris-roubaix 2015, it seems a tad iniquitous to complain about a short stretch of rough road.
however, as is always the case when riding as a group of three, one rode in front (me) while the mighty dave t and lord carlos dallied behind. rolling across one of the road's numerous cattle grid, a loud bang signalled the demise of lord carlos' rear tyre, a lengthy split in the centre of its tread reminding him that perhaps he may have been prudent to have checked before departure. however, the blame should not be laid entirely at his door, for the parlous state of many of islay's roads are curating sandpaper like abrasion upon all our velocipedinal rubber. tyres simply don't last as long anymore.
but, protestations to the roads department notwithstanding, i am beginning to find my bike riding being more accommodating of such conditions, almost to the point of actually enjoying being shaken but not stirred. here we are at a distinct disadvantage when compared to those with the ability to head into the road less travelled, pretty much like many of those traversed by the original north american rapha continental. for the occasional gravel track cut into our local hillsides are for the purpose of cutting peat, tracks for which the word 'brief' was invented. it is, however, an apt opportunity to highlight this comparison, for the subject of today's diatribe is very closely related to one (well, two actually) founder members of that continental.
the gents of whom i speak are ira ryan and tony pereira, two of portland's, if not north america's finest frame builders. having collaborated on a rapha continental bike exclusively for the doyens of imperial works only a few years back, and discovering they had much in common, they started breadwinner bicycles, a marque that has been quite rightly featured within these pixels on previous occasions. however, while we consider, as we did in my opening paragraph, roads that bear scant resemblance to a three-lane motorway, perhaps it is time to consider a bicycle that features as its origination, a lack of commendable tarmac.
breadwinner's 'b' road seems all but destined to fulfil the needs already outlined. to quote from the b-road's orange themed web page "Explore forgotten logging roads and rural farm lanes, and take the loose gravel path towards the horizon." continuing "Light enough to float over crushed Iowa limestone, adventure on double-track over wild mountain passes and equally nimble on the paved roads connecting them." ok, so there are few regions on this side of the pond that are scattered with crushed iowa limestone, but i'm sure you get the general idea.
a steel frame with enve carbon forks, an extra set of bottle cage bolts under the down tube and the option of traditional cantilever brakes or discs if you're feeling a smidgeon more contemporary, adds up to a bike that would eat cattle grids for breakfast. and with lashings of space for wide tyres, the gravel surfaced world is your oyster.
the price for such ruggedness is a perfectly amenable $2395 for frame and forks, and though breadwinner cycles do not have distribution in the uk, i'm pretty sure tony and ira would be more than willing to ship one in your direction for a few dollars more. if you'd care to view the orange bike in action, expertly and victoriously guided by the tenacious mr ryan, james wilson has produced a video of the "B-Road pushing the boundaries of the Oregon Outback". for those who have not met or ridden with ira, james has summed up the experience impeccably "Ira went a little fast for me to call it a tour, but it was a lot of fun rallying through the state getting the shots."
wednesday 2 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
traditionally the answer to the above would have been a newspaper. it's a question that really only works verbally, because the implication is that the word read would imply the colour red, predicated by the previous use of the colour black. when written down, as it has been here, either the ploy has to be illiterately continued by spelling the word incorrectly, or the answer made rather obvious as i have done above. i'd be the first to agree that it involves rather simplistic humour at best, but already i've managed a whole paragraph from it, so it obviously has its uses.
as indeed do paragraphs, the very agglomeration of which can ultimately constitute an entire book, the ultimate subject of my discourse despite the allusion to newspapers. in fact, raher than bringing to light a single book, i have good reason to make mention of an entire peloton of the blighters, the publication of which has every bit as much to do with july 5th as do black puddings and bags of coal (in an oblique sort of way).
i'm sure i have previously pointed out that there are two distinct periods of cycling related book releases, one of which is the approach to christmas (an approach that seems ever nearer to the end of summer each year), and the other dependent on proximity to the tour de france.
the former makes perfect sense, and is a period of publication enjoyed by all manner of genres, but the latter used to be something of a mystery to me. if you accept that the real cycling season begins in late march with the onset of those magnificent spring classics, for those who consider themselves to constitute the cognoscenti, from there on in, there is a seamless path leading from the classics, through the grand tours and all the way to the world's and cyclocross. until the latter's arrival, that which precedes it is what richard sachs has described as pre-season.
yet, as the years roll by, the pre-eminence of the tour de france over all other cycling activity has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, underlined and over-emphasised by this year's yorkshire start. publishers are not daft; the print side of the industry is under constant haranguement from the e-book, so in order to maintain margins and profits, every bit of publicity that can be eked out of the existence of one grand tour that towers above all else must be tightly grasped with both hands. one tangible result of the foregoing is my having spent the past two months constantly reading books, to the detriment of my usual monthly fare of magazines, the offspring of which many of you will have read in these very pixels.
however, mistake not my apparent reservations over these seemingly common practices. i have long had an excellent relationship with the printed word since my early years, one that has continued even as age continues to encroach upon my average speed. this almost constant arrival of brown jiffy bags containing the latest from the nation's publishers has been like a constant stream of christmases arriving at once. and the luxury of lying in the bath with one book in hand, while a small (large) pile sits apprehensively above the towel shelf never really gets tired.
at this point in time, since the arrival of heather dawes' a bicycle ride in yorkshire, i have read and reviewed around twenty books, and there are still another four to go.
however, this is not a one-way cycle path, at least not on the part of one of the country's major publishers: bloomsbury. they have released a sizeable proportion of my menu of reviews, and now, in the spirit of altruism, they are offering to assist you in accompanying this year's tour de france by offering a 30% discount of pretty much their entire cycling catalogue. titles such as faster by michael hutchinson, the obree way by the flying scotsman, coppi by herbie sykes and the utterly fabulous merckx 69 can now be had for a lot less money than was on the inner flap when they arroved at washingmachinepost croft.
tuesday 1 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................