thewashingmachinepost




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necessity is the mother of expenditure

accipiter cycles

i was about to apologise for once again beginning a post with mention of percussive instruments, but on reflection, i think it fully justified. so the apology will have to wait for another time.

one of the more prominent uk drum stores is in the habit of sending out e-mails, advising of what they refer to as 'sale club'. granted, there are a number of desirable items appearing in the list, the price of which scarcely seems like a sale; at least until you read the price at which it ought to have been sold. drums can be every bit as expensive as bicycles. a bit like my ebay explorations, for yours truly, reading the list is pretty much an end in itself, since i have little intention of purchasing anything displayed; to be honest, i have more drums and cymbals than i need, though one of these days...

accipiter cycles

i am, however, a self-confessed cymbalholic, with enough of the metal discs to furnish several more drumsets than i currently own. but i think this particular addiction eventually takes on the mantle of a search for the holy grail. no matter which cymblas you have decorating the drumset, there's always that feeling that there's something even better out there that would prove even more preferable than those currently residing in the cymbal case. having received another 'sale club' e-mail only a day or so past, i'm now trying to talk myself out of exploring this theory further, to the potential detriment of my bank account.

either encouragingly or disappointingly, considering the grass to be greener on the other side, seems also to have imposed itself upon the velocipedinal realm, for which i absolve myself of all responsibility, preferring, instead, to place that fairly and squarely at the door of peloton magazine. the latest digital edition happily landed in my inbox recently, offering one more opportunity to stave off any necessary chores in favour of looking at bike porn. midst reviews of colnago's new v3rs disc, the basso diamante sv, accompanied by features on gios, faema coffee machines (who knew faema was an acronym for fabbrica apparecchiature electro meccaniche e affini?), and fausto coppi, there's a sneak peek at some of the machinery that will be exhibited at this year's postponed north american handbuilt bicycle show (nahbs).

accipiter cycles

i paid my only visit to nahbs in 2012, when it was held in california's capital city, sacramento. a saturday morning bike ride educated me not only to the knowledge that the city's cyclists are privileged to have access to 31 miles of a two lane cycle track, but that said cycle way passes by the famed folsom prison. if that doesn't encourage an earworm, i don't know what will.

the nahbs feature shows off many highly desirable bicycles, none of which would look out of place in thewashingmachinepost bike shed. however, given that i currently ride a superb, all steel ritchey logic, festooned with delectable carbon from vicenza, italy, one has to seriously question why i would take more than a passing and curious interest in august's forthcoming exhibits? it's a query with which i would wholeheartedly agree, and, in my defence, i find i cannot offer any credible defence.

accipiter cycles

but there, on page 76, midway down the layout, is a photograph of the lugged seatpost cluster from berthoud, colorado framebuilders, accipiter cycles. according to the accompanying text, accipiter has researched frame designs from the 1960s through to the 1980s and has created a bicycle frame that fulfils the requirements of l'eroica events. apparently, accipiter is as obsessed with lugs as am i (in a similar vein, i prefer my drumshells to feature internal reinforcement rings, particularly the oversized versions on dw's classic series), each example being carved by hand.

but, as i pointed out above, i already own a magnificent steel bicycle that rides just as i desire. though i'm not denying that a lugged steel frame could conceivably usurp my tig-welded steel, it's more than likely i'd scarcely notice on our unkempt, potholed roads. and that's to say nothing of the potential costs of shipping a bicycle from colorado to islay. however, rationality often has nothing whatsoever to do with pragmatism. you may even note, on one of the accompanying illustrations, that there, for all to see, is a square-taper, bottom bracket.

suddenly, my faith in humanity is restored.

accipiter cycles | peloton magazine

monday 18 may 2020

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a course of study

robert millar & brian smith

islay is not, you may have noticed, the hub of the universe, no matter my protestations to the contrary. for whisky aficionados, it may well be different, but in terms of cycling, though it is a fabulous place to ride a bicycle, it falls some way short of perfect. and in terms of positioning one's self as a wannabe jazz drummer, it is light years away from any point in the solar system you may care to mention. but, in trying to uphold that percussive mentality in a jazz idiom, it is incumbent on the apprentice to avail him/her self of the learning opportunities featured on the internets.

the perennial advice to almost any musician, has been to learn from the greats. to study those who practised the same art that you yourself would wish to become a part of, the better to learn what has gone before, saving any likelihood of trying to re-invent the wheel. the problem, at least as i see it, is an almost total lack of being able to put into practice, any nuggets that might be gleaned from such a process. with a complete dearth of like-minded musicians on the island, and very little likelihood of gigs, even when lockdown becomes a thing of the past, the only potential outcome is one of unrequited self-satisfaction.

and the internet, in the form of youtube, shamelessly promotes an illogicality through any number of available videos. these purport to teach the foolhardy, particular phrases expounded by the likes of max roach, philly joe jones, elvin jones and even more contemporary practitioners such as steve gadd, dave weckl, phil collins and bill bruford. i categorise these as illogical on the basis that, unless you happen to be playing a tune or song on which any of the above were present, what is the point? as an example, suppose i'm playing in a local pub band, and we're attempting to offer a rendition of 'wishing well' by free, or 'sweet home alabama', by lynyrd skynyrd. where would be the point in dropping in a steve gadd shuffle or a lick from elvin, that first appeared in coltrane's 'a love supreme'?

those phrases may have been entirely appropriate at the time they were first employed, but what's the point in playing them in completely different songs, simply because i've spent the past month perfecting them in the practice room? (that's a little humorous aside; like i have a practice room).

however, on the basis that the above approach is heartily recommended by any number of bona-fide drum instructors, would it thus be prudent to apply the same logic to that of cycling? if i feel that my recent efforts during rapha's 26 climbs challenge were left wanting, ought i to scour the internet for video clips depicting robert millar ascending a french col? and in the light of my having had to descend foreland hill 26 times, should i scare myself witless by watching vincenzo nibali descend a french or italian alp? by so doing, could i improve my own abilities in either realm?

but just like all the recommended drummers, is it not likely that the above cyclists and their professional peers, simply have mental and physical abilities beyond my ken? i tend to think so, otherwise i'm sure i'd be one of the first tour de france winners to have a successful album in the jazz charts. no doubt there are climbing and descending techniques from which i might learn, but to return to my 'hub of the universe' discourse, foreland hill is but 1.2 kilometres in length and features only two negotiable bends. no matter how often i watch and study the likes of nibali and his pals, i cannot see my current time for descending being substantially improved upon.

and just like those famed drummers, perhaps it's less about what they actually do, but much more about how they know when to do it. i am a great fan of drummer, jay bellerose, whose simplicity of approach is highly admirable. but, that said, i cannot fathom what is going on in his head to know just what to play when it matters most. and having watched many a robert millar film clip, i still wouldn't know at which point on a climb it would be advantageous to rocket from the back of the group, taking all by surprise, but with the knowledge that i could sustain that effort all the way to the top. in other words, professional cyclists surely must have thought processes on a plane that the majority of us have yet to approach?

otherwise, sir dave would have already called to ask what size ineos jersey i take.

sunday 17 may 2020

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versatility

endura cycle clothing

it seems that the bicycle has indeed, fulfilled chris boardman's hope that it would become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. this it has achieved not only by offering an ideal means of self-isolating while indulging in daily exercise, but providing a relatively safe means of transport for key-workers and others alike. and with pollution levels having dropped substantially in cities and urban areas, the desire to keep things that way for as long as possible, has meant the overnight appearance of temporary cycle paths.

endura cycle clothing

but it's not only the bicycle itself that can be held responsible. the peripherals that have helped make cycling what it is, have dipped several toes in the covid water, from the folks at muc-off producing hand sanitiser, to at least two cycling apparel purveyors offering nhs badged cycle jerseys, with profits going to their namesake. and now the part played by the cycle industry in the pandemic effort has been extended, through the ingenuity of the good people at livingston-based endura clothing.

many of today's cycle clothing providers have their garments fabricated in locations all across the world, and for certain ranges, that remains true for endura. however, their scottish base features an impressive manufacturing facility, including large dye-sublimation printers and the ability to sew the various sections that make up a jersey or a pair of shorts, into the finished product. working with keela, redwood ttm and trancal, endura have begun to supply significant amounts of much-needed personal protection equipment (ppe) to nhs scotland.

endura cycle clothing

according to endura, using specialist fabrics, "...the project will provide more than half of the non-sterile gowns needed for health and care workers in Scotland." in conjunction with nhs scotland, scottish enterprise, and scotland's manufacturing advisory service, this project has developed a design specification for a ppe gown, that made it simpler to manufacture, and offered a production rate that met the requirements of scotland's nhs. these have also survived rigorous testing to ensure complete compliance.

generous to a fault, endura have also collaborated with nhs england, to produce a re-usable gown made from a breathable fabric, donated by their pentland brands stablemate, berghaus. at the time of writing, samples of these gowns are with nhs england for evaluation and certification, with full production expected soon. and given the accompanying need for protective eyewear, endura have donated every last pair of suitable glasses that remained in stock, to surgeries and health centres. in the process, they've sourced face masks and ppe eyewear to distribute to care homes and childcare hubs in urgent need.

endura cycle clothing

endura founder, managing director, and all-round decent chap, jim mcfarlane said, "as a result of this work, our headcount is increasing again and we continue to adapt the way we work to ensure the safety of staff.
the pentland brand's pandemic response team provide us with updates on best practice as it becomes available. we want to thank our customers, for their ongoing support and the amazing endura team for the effort they're putting in."

endura cycle clothing

saturday 16 may 2020

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mountains. epic cycling climbs. michael blann thames & hudson hardback. 256pp illus. £35

gotthard_pass

though i claim that there's a garmin affixed to my handlebars purely for reasons of time-keeping (i don't wear a watch while cycling), that's not entirely true. yes, it's much simpler to look down to check if i've strayed over my exercise quota for the day, and yes, there's always the accidental danger of noting one's average speed, but it's the second number at the top of the display that often equates to bragging rights.

sa calobra

those of you who may have recently acquired a cycle-computer or bar-mount gps device, will have noted that the majority enquire as to whether your grovelling will be measured in miles, or kilometres. with the uk and north america firmly entrenched in the imperial system of measurements, the default setting to choose would be that of miles. however, if i might stretch my assumption to expect the majority of you to be aboard drop-bar road bikes, and thus even slightly in thrall to the competitive milieu, i would suggest kilometres to be a better option.

my reasoning is entirely based on the fact that our world tour heroes race only in kilometres, and, in order to compare our meagre efforts, it is incumbent on the aspirational roadie to do likewise. and should you choose so to do, i can offer you a free gift by return; the bragging rights mentioned above. it's so much more impressive to converse with non-cycling colleagues in the office, stating the number of kilometres ridden at the weekend, a number that will be larger entirely due to its metricity. for instance, if you managed a mere 36 miles last weekend, stating that as 60 kilometres will gain far more brownie points. a similar happenstance will accompany any speeds you may wish to quote in kph.

col d'aubisque

but, to paraphrase 'jiminy cricket', "there's more". for, if you rummage through the endless settings available, you may well discover that it's possible to have the device inform you as to the percentage of the gradient on which you only just managed to grovel to the top. unfortunately, nobody's impressed by this number, mostly due to a lack of comparable information on which to base their potential approbation. however, once again, when carlton kirby points out that bernal is riding a 12% gradient with ease, you'll have something on which to hang your shame.

col de la bonette

we are, almost to a man and woman, obsessed with the mountains, particularly the iconic climbs that feature in the three grand tours. alpe d'huez, mont ventoux, the col de l'iseran, the stelvio pass, the mortirolo, are all names that should be spoken in hushed tones. unless, that is, if you happen to have won a stage atop any of them. every bit as obsessed with ruddy great hills, is photographer, michael blann, whose 'mountains: epic cycling climbs' has recently been given a revised lease of life in this updated and expanded version of the original.

lacets de montvernier

make no mistake, though a certain dedication to one's velocipedinal craft will make this a celebratory publication to own and peruse, such is the power of mr blann's photography, that you should hardly be surprised if you find the rest of the family continually borrowing it from your (strengthened) bookshelf.

the majority of dramatic content is at the behest of some of the finest photography i have witnessed in many a long year. the drama, however, is also made concrete via the words of several who have conquered their twists, turns, cambers and, ultimately their height and gradient. witness this from philippa yorke (robert millar) from the col de tourmalet.

"As we get nearer the climb, I can see people and their belongings silhouetted against the dramatic backdrop, like a scene from a Western. In this particular movie they are the bandits, and we are the travelling convoy about to be attacked. Spaghetti was one of the choices at breakfast this morning, but now I'm glad I declined the pasta. If shots are going to be fired, even metaphorical ones, I'd like to believe I've done all I can to have luck on my side."

mont ventoux

philippa is not the only one with a palmares to offer the reader the benefit of her mountain perspective. there are some excellent essays from bernard thevenet, stephen roche, andy hampsten, the late paul sherwen and sean kelly, to name but a few. conveniently, in the contents, the mountains have been placed in an orderly fashion, as indeed have the contributors' words, should you wish to browse first and read later. the northern and southern french alps, the pyrenees, spain, spanish islands and portugal, the dolomites and italian alps, and finally, the austrian and swiss alps. i recall as a teenager finding that i could only listen to one-side of a joni mitchell lp at a single sitting, otherwise it all became too overwhelming. i think a similar situation pertains to 'mountains'.

col du tourmalet

blann's imagery combines race footage with empty roads and empty hills, each every bit as stunning as the last. i struggled to take this all in in a single sitting, finding it easier to choose a few chapters each day, often with a cup of tea and a biscuit in between. if you're still in lockdown, this is the very book you'll need. in fact, when resting your eyes and vertigo, read a chapter of herbie sykes' 'balmamion' before returning for a second, third or fourth helping. however, it's not only you and i who are in danger of being separated from our breath, as romain bardet is keen to point out.

colle delle finestre

"It's impossible to appreciate the true value of the mountains when you're riding the Tour. Their breadth, the harmony and tranquillity of the place, panoramas so full of riches that don't register when the stakes are high. In a race, the supreme happiness that comes from climbing is always trumped by the need to win."

hopefully, some of the images accompanying this review will give a better idea of the drama contained within. author and photographer, michael blann has previously worked in design and with creative teams; the skills acquired in so doing have arguably informed his eye (and lens) creating, as the press-release states "...a volume that will inspire awe and wonder in anyone who wishes to confront the power of the mountains." with all three grand tours taking place in a later timeframe this year, here's your chance to acquaint yourself in advance of many of the bumpy bits that will feature.

grandiose, in a very, very good way.

friday 15 may 2020

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i wasn't expecting this

islay pipe band spirit of islay and jura tartan

under the original conditions of lockdown in scotland, around six or seven weeks ago, with the exception of caol ila and lagavulin, all of islay's distilleries ceased production. and prior to their ceasing of whisky-making, they all closed their doors to visitors, meaning no tours, no masterclasses and no onsite sales. the corollary of this, and also acting in accordance with government advice, fèis ìle, the annual festival of malt and music, also gave notice that this year's events had been cancelled.

quite how many distillery employees were as disappointed at this enforced state of affairs, as those intending to visit the isle in their thousands, i wouldn't like to hazard a guess, but for those visitors who have been arriving in late may, year after year, no whisky festival must have left a large hole in the year's dramming. of course, the chain of events stretched originally to calmac ferries advising visitors not to travel, unless their journey was essential; the subsequent drop of over 95% in ferry passengers over the whole of the west coast of scotland, led the state-funded calmac to reduce the number of sailings to lifeline status.

for those not dependent on a boat to get to and from anywhere in particular, a lifeline service consists of one sailing per day, arriving at 09:20 and departing at 15:30. the only exceptions are two sailings on a thursday (no, i have no idea why) and no sailings at all on sundays. to continue to stave off any predilection for visitors to try their luck, i believe calmac staff at kennacraig are only allowing aboard, those who can prove residence on the island. to the best of my knowledge, the same stringencies apply across the entire west-coast network.

however, despite the whisky festival being canned, along with the islay book festival in late august, and the possibility of the annual ride of the falling rain suffering the same iniquity, moves have been afoot to offer a virtual taste of islay, something that would be hard to do with rotfr, eminently possible with the book festival, and yet to be discovered with the imbibing of whisky.

the majority of the island's distilleries are inclined to produce a festival bottling, sometimes avalable in very limited editions, but often also available in claimed limited editions, provided you're willing to accept that several thousand fits the description of the word 'limited'. many of those have been in the pipeline (so to speak) for several months prior to the current restrictions, so alternative plans have been enacted to offer most of these online, the dates of release varying from kilchoman's offering from 14:00 today (thursday 14 may), through to those only available on the day on which the distillery would normally have held its festival open day.

aside from this, the fèis ìle committee intend to prepare and deploy a virtual festival, the contents and format of which i am scarcely in a position to reveal, becasue i'm not sure that they are either. but, as a member of islay and jura community pipe band, i had originally expected to have my days and evenings filled to overflowing during festival week, as was the case last year. the slight disappointment of things being wholly different this year, was lightened just a tad from the knowledge that i wouldn't have to spend my days wearing a kilt and a purse from morning til night. but my tentative jubilation might, it transpires, have been a mite premature.

as part of this virtual festival, i have been asked by the pipe major, to make my way this friday evening, to the car park of a suitably geographically estranged distillery. once there, we will assemble in a socially distant fashion to play a selection of tunes for the benefit of no audience other than a camera operator or two. these recordings will, i believe, be broadcast online during the festival week, to drive people to drink.

however, as one bereft of a motor vehicle, and unable to successfully socially distance in someone else's car (my son does not live with us, so i cannot even ask him for a lift), i am now required to cycle a round-trip of some 45 kilometres with my kilt, shoes, shirt and cap in a backpack, in order to give the bass drum a severe beating. i have yet to ascertain whether all the necessary accoutrements will, in fact, fit inside a backpack, originally designed for the intrepid commuter, but either way, i think you may be the second to know.

i have often been the subject of pipe band jests that i should acquire a lycra kilt, or that riding in such a garment would be likely to catch in the spokes. though the need for either of the latter should hardly prove necessary, i honestly never thought that i'd be using my bicycle to travel to a pipe band gig.

this isn't quite what i signed up for.

thursday 14 may 2020

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cycling for softies?

swytch e-bike technology

in common with many towns, villages and cities across the uk and beyond, islay has seen a notable increase in adoption of the bicycle, less as a means of transport, more as a means of (mostly) family exercise. there are very few individuals on the island who commute by bicycle to school or to work, predominantly due to the exposed nature of the roads, but mostly because it's just too easy to take the car. the latter is hardly an option confined to the hebrides; current statistics show that 66% of all car journeys are under five miles, which seems ludicrous considering that yesterday i took an eleven year-old for a four mile bike ride and, she had no problem at all. it even rained.

swytch e-bike technology

worrying, therefore, that 38% of car journeys are under two miles. what is wrong with these people?

however, in regions of the uk with a more dense population, the current need for social distancing has definitely brought the option of the bicycle to the fore. to facilitate this, many bike shops (still open due to the essential nature of their work) and cycle organisations have gone the extra mile (pun intended) to assist those who may not previously have been regular cyclists. i know of three folks locally, who have either acquired bicycles or begun cycling in the past week, the biggest problem for whom has either been sore legs, sore bums, or a combination of the two. my advice has always been that they could put a parker-knoll sofa on the seatpost, and they'd still experience discomfort until they've more kilometres under their pedals.

swytch e-bike technology

current health advice concerning cycling throughout the covid-19 pandemic is, to be honest, quite encouraging. according to those who know a great deal more than i, exercise - in this case, cycling - strengthens both the immune and cardiovascular systems. during the act of cycling "You breathe more intensively, which means you clean your lungs well. And this is optimal in terms of virus protection." so, aside from the health and mental well-being benefits to be derived, it's conceivable that regular cycling may act as a sensible precaution of sorts, against contracting the virus.

those of us who have cycled for more years than we can recall, will perhaps now have genuine cause to feel particularly smug at present, though i'd be less than inclined to trumpet this too loudly. however, based purely on the newbies i mentioned above, i tend to think that many who have been persuaded to leave the car at home, are amongst the healthier percentage of the population, individuals for whom riding even a five or ten mile round-trip each day would be unlikely to give cause for concern. and given the physical benefits outlined above, a modest amount of pain and suffering would hardly seem too onerous.

swytch e-bike technology

it seems likely, however, that my new found faith in people, might be just a tad misplaced. london-based startup, swytch technology, makers of a kit designed to convert an ordinary bicycle into an e-bike, has reportedly been inundated with orders, their waiting list now exceeding 100,000. swytch has subsequently had to increase production to meet this considerable demand.

if we're willing to accept that the average uk journey equates to the previously mentioned five miles, then my first question would have to be, "why?". back in the 1930s, mrs washingmachinepost's grandfather cycled a 40 mile round-trip, six days a week, to start his work at 6:30am in a dairy. his bike closely resembled those currently made by pashley, but without any gears. a car was simply not an economic option for the majority of islanders in those days. surely it is therefore possible for the majority of those wishing to adopt the bicycle as transport, to ride ten miles per day on a light(er) weight machine with multiple gears?

swytch e-bike technology

my second question concerns that of cost. one of the individuals referred to above, purchased a new mountain bike for the princely sum of £300, an amount he considered quite substantial. experience has taught me that this perception of cycle cost is remarkably common. assuming that to exist nationwide, what is it that has altered this state of affairs sufficiently, to accept that the £1,000 price tag on the most basic of swytch conversions, is an equitable and affordable expense?

i have no quibble with e-bikes per se. there is a definite market for electric power-assist bicycles, particularly amongst those who would find it physically hard, if not impossible, to ride even modest distances on a regular bicycle. however, i would imagine that the number to which that pertains, is even more modest than the distances. so once again, with no disrespect to swytch technology, what is wrong with these people?

swytch e-bike technology

wednesday 13 may 2020

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proof of ownership

london stock exchange

in may, 2019, the new single malt whisky distillery on the isle of barra in the outer hebrides was given its licence by and concomitant bonded-warehouse approval to commence making whisky. producing single malt is not only a time-consuming process, but one that's also frighteningly expensive. though matured spirit can only be officially referred to as 'whisky' after three years, the majority of world markets are less than interested before it reaches ten years old. that's why so many distilleries feature the latter as their 'entry-level' bottling. imagine setting up a bike building business, with no promise of return until after ten years have passed.

and, if we are willing to accept the latter premise, imagine further, having to store ten years' worth of bicycles. or, in this case, ten years' worth of spirit in wooden casks. barra distillery, a community-owned business, financed with input from highlands and islands enterprise, along with private money, has therefore taken the commercial route de jour and produced, in the interim, gin, a drink that has no need of a lengthy period of maturation, and thus, little in the way of storage requirements. sales of barra gin will help finance the first ten years, along with, in more normal times, income from the visitor centre.

the distilleries on islay, apart from kilchoman and ardnahoe, have been around a great deal longer, with bowmore, founded in 1779, the oldest amongst them. ardnahoe was constructed at the behest of glasgow bottlers, hunter-laing, while kilchoman too, remains privately owned. however, the remainder of islay's distilleries are owned by far larger, international corporations, such as diageo (caol ila, lagavulin and port ellen), remy cointreau (bruichladdich), distell international (bunnahabhain), and beam suntory (laphroaig and bowmore). that leaves ardbeg, notionally owned by glenmorangie, but ultimately another notch on the louis vuitton, moet hennessey (lvmh) bedpost. this parent company has invested a substantial amount of cash in the overseas luxury goods market, one in which they have strategically positioned both the glenmorangie and ardbeg brands.

gone are the days when distilleries were simply a means of producing the ultimate dram; they are now a means to an end in a far bigger, inernational game.

coincidentally, lvmh are also the owners of pinarello bicycles. whisky and carbon road bicycles can hardly be regarded as perfect bedfellows, but in a world that kowtows ever more to the lucre offered by the dollar or euro, they are simply two strands of a machiavellian marketing strategy, owned for their potential return on investment promised by their respective branding. and it may be that lvmh's investment in one of italy's premier cycle marques, has paid dividends so far. though movistar have now moved over to canyon bicycles, first team sky and now ineos, have provided the sort of media coverage that cannot simply be gained from reviews and advertising.

whether or not you feel that the pinarello marque is devalued by its luxury brand ownership, is simply an argument you can have with yourself. their carbon frames have long since been produced in the far east, with the headquarters alone based in treviso italy. it's quite possible that, with elbows pointing in direction of pinarello, ernesto colnago was once moved to state that no bicycles bearing his name would ever be produced anywhere other than in italy. however, that was only one of several bold statements made by the octagenarian mastermind behind one of the allegedly most sought-after brands in the velocipedinal universe. few of those statements have remained unsullied. though the c64 lugged carbon frame is still produced at cambiago, along with the master and arabesque steel framesets, all of colnago's monocoque carbon is now built in taiwan.

and, according to reports made last week, the cloverleaf logo is no longer any more independent than its treviso competitor, a majority shareholding having been acquired by abu dhabi based chimera investments lcc.

to a certain extent, such financial investment makes a degree of economic sense. at the announced arrival of team sky in the professional peloton, there was initially much intrigue over who might supply their bicycles. i recall attending the 2009 cycle show in earls court, when sky were announcing the contract and asking alessandro colnago (ernesto's grandson), if they had tendered, to which he replied "we could never afford it". you have to speculate to accumulate; providing bicycles to a world tour team can, bizarrely enough, cost quite a lot of pennies. for colnago to continue as credible rivals to their peers, those abu dhabi dollars were probably deemed more than necessary.

but the world of corporate investment is not one that always goes according to plan. it frequently depends on the morals and/or aims of those doing the investing. accountability was last week demanded from the former parent company of mavic as it became known that the long-serving neutral service provider to the tour de france had been placed in receivership. owned by salomon and principal shareholder, amer sports, mavic was sold in 2018, according to press reports, to regent lp, a california-based investment fund. amer sports was subsequently purchased by a chinese group the following year.

though regent told mavic employees that they had great faith in the company, there was subequently no more contact and no investment. amer's call to account was brought by the discovery that, in point of fact, mavic had not been sold to regent, but to a delaware-based company called m sports, which has no financial links to regent lp. the administrator is now investigating the conditions under which salomon and amer dispensed with mavic, a company that recently extended its contract with tour de france owners, amaury sports organisation (aso), through to 2022.

british clothing providers, endura and rapha, have both recently been the subject of external investment and new ownership. livingston-based endura cycle clothing was purchased in march 2018 by pentland brands, whose portfolio includes mitre, berghaus and speedo, while london's rapha clothing acquired inward investment of £200 million and thus ceded ownership in august 2017. the purchasers were steuart and tom walton, via their private equity firm, rzc investments. their acquisition of one of the world's premier cycle-clothing brands, valued ceo simon mottram's stake in the business at £25 million.

so why is this all happening, and in the long-term, will it make any difference to the rest of us?

currently, if you hadn't read this, or any other reports, probably not. even mavic wheels and components are probably still available through their existing dealer network, though subsequent warranty claims might be at risk if things go from bad to worse. however, the mavic brand is both strong and high-profile, so once the arguments over who actually owns it are resolved, it's unlikely to be short of prospective buyers. but to briefly return to distillery ownership, bruichladdich distillery was purchased by remy-cointreau, principally because their portfolio was bereft of a single-malt distillery, while their competitors in the luxury goods market often owned several. but markets can be fickle, and when the guiding principles revolve around offering a suitable return for shareholders, any brand not performing as hoped, could conceivably be set adrift.

as richard sachs once told me "these companies are in the business of making money, not bicycles." that might be considered a cynical point of view, but it's essentially true. however, it would be a naive cycling enthusiast indeed, who thinks that a multi-national corporation, listing 17 luxury brands on a website headed by last year's revenue, in millions of euros, will have the same enthusiasm for a 67 year-old bicycle marque, as do they. cycling, for all the aggro frequently displayed on twitter against cyclists, is still regarded as an ascending market, a legacy of the 'bradley bubble' and thus considered ripe for investment.

change is almost inevitable. corporate accountants are paid to look for savings, wherever savings can be made, either by 'streamlining human resources', or transferring production to more economic locations. rapha's purchasers are both mountain biking enthusiasts, which prompted me to ask simon mottram, at the time of purchase, if this would mean a diversification into rapha mountain bike clothing, to which he replied "they own the company. they can do what they want." you need only check their website to learn that this will come to pass next year.

so, perhaps we are simply hoist by our own pètard; persistent proselytisation of the cause has brought it to the attention of our potential, yet self-absorbed benefactors. but now that they're here, we can't afford to let up on the enthusiasm, lest the pastures on some (any) other side appear of a greener hue.

we're not in kansas anymore.

tuesday 12 may 2020

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................