"now that the sun's come out, i might sit here a while longer"..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on the return portion of yesterday's yet to be read (or written) adventure, joe and i dropped in at ardbeg distillery's old kiln café if for no other reason than we really needed to be plied with a smattering of food and drink. three-course lunches were never on our radar, but a panini and some fizzy stuff in a glass hit the spot just nicely. as is mostly the case with cyclists, and we're determined not to upset the apple cart, we rounded this off with a finely crafted double-espresso. well do we recognise that the effectiveness of an espresso has as much to do with the barista as it has with the blend, grind and machine from which it transpires. and that's just where mickey heads excels.
mickey has been manager at ardbeg distillery for more than just a handful of years, having previously been in charge at jura distillery. as a non-drinker, there's no way i can attest to the quality of the amber nectar produced under his tenure, but i don't mind sharing the knowledge that he can pull a mean double-espresso. and therein sort of lies the problem, because mr heads is a distillery manager and not the chap at whom you snap your fingers and ask for a bit of speed with the coffees.
yet another case of who you know rather than what.
in just over a couple of weeks, islay will be seriously inundated with thousands of whisky enthusiasts, keen to attend every masterclass, feast on every whisky-oriented dinner, follow each manager-led tour and generally involve themselves in every arcane aspect of whisky distilling that they figure fits well within their own self-imposed limits. and some of those visitors will arrive here on bicycles, though more often from a transportational point of view rather than for pelotonic reasons.
the islay whisky festival or fèis ìle as it sometimes likes to be referred follows a tried and tested format, with each distillery holding a pre-determined open day in a sequence that pretty much mitigates against the logical means of visiting each and every one in turn. for instance, the week will commence with an open day at lagavulin on saturday 21 may, followed by bruichladdich's celebratory courtyard event on sunday 22 may. even a quick glance at a map of islay will make you aware that neither of the above are anywhere near each other.
that monday will open with tours, tastings and masterclasses at caol ila simply compounds this velocipedinal estrangement even further. just look at that map once again.
the way to treat a bicycle tour of the distilleries, even if spread over a day or so, is to follow the route employed by the fellows from the scotch malt whisky society prior to the beginning of last year's festival. as the fourth member of that particular peloton, i might point out that we left from ardbeg distillery and visited in turn; lagavulin and laphroaig before heading north east along the glen road to take in caol ila, then bunnahabhain. subsequently we headed south west to kilchoman, then to bruichladdich and finally, bowmore.
granted, we omitted jura distillery at craighouse on our neighbouring island, but in truth, unless you're physically fit enough and have more than just a few hours to spare, that's one for another day.
of course, the flaw in this cunning plan is/was a total absence of whisky. aside from the possible inebriation that would follow downing a satisfying (so i'm told) dram at each port of call, time is of the essence. thus, though the above has proved the most efficient means of taking in each amber nectar repository, to actually enjoy the product, it would make more sense to ask for a miniature of whisky and sip at your leisure when the pedalling is done for the day. drunk in charge of a bicycle does not look good on your curriculum vitae.
however, there will still be the intrepid members of the cognoscenti who visit, if even only for a few days, by bicycle. most will rely on islay's scant public transport, employ the services of a local taxi firm, or have a nominated driver rota for the hire car.
but cycling to each is definitely the picturesque way to go when it's not the whisky festival.
thursday 5 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
last friday, as i was about to commence the working day, i was overcome by the pressing need for a peanut butter sandwich. none of your namby pamby smooth peanut butter you understand; real men only eat crunchy. in order to avoid both the friday rush in our local averagemarket and the thought that by lunchtime i might well have forgotten, i popped down main street to acquire the necessary ingredients.
as a minor aside prior to my continuing the original thread, why has it been found necessary to add sugar to peanut butter, particularly in the light that most brands already contain a detectable amount of also unnecessary (in my opinion) salt? surely one counteracts the other? and in so doing, ruin a perfectly good jar of peanut butter.
at any rate, on entering the shopping facility, i made note of a gentleman by the door, standing adjacent to a display promoting 'guide dogs for the blind'. assuming he was collecting on behalf of the charity and at that point having no loose change that would even cover the cost of a collar, i made good my shopping purchases, then headed in his direction, newly acquired loose change in hand.
it turns out, however, that i was slightly mistaken. the gentleman had no desire to relieve me of my jingly coins, but to entice me into signing a direct debit that might aid the training of a cute little labrador puppy, the cost of which would bring tears to your eyes. i am nothing if not occasionally charitable, so i readily succumbed to his ministrations, having agreed to provide a small monthly amount to eventually benefit a member of society who will probably never have the joy of riding a bike.
in this particular instance, the phrase a puppy isn't just for christmas' rings particularly true. and at the risk of seeming contradictorily superficial, it's an epithet that might just as easily apply to certain cycle jerseys.
the days of acquiring a cycle jersey for the sole purpose of pragmatism in the sunday morning peloton are seemingly behind us. ordering a shade of polyester that might fit well with your athletic considerations may well have been in vogue during yesteryear, but the modern day cycle jersey, always keen to carve out a life of its very own, may well have more historical or celebratory pretensions, a factor that could conceivably raise its position in the pecking order, either by way of fabric, design or most often, both.
this, the second in rapha's recently released rivals series, pays tribute to fausto coppi and his great adversary, the pious gino bartali, the two having fought long and hard against one another, even if it meant letting a third party take victory from their very toeclips. fashioned from 100% merino wool, this particular pastel coloured jersey, eschews the more usual zipped neck and collar in favour of three buttons and a collar more usually found on the modern-day polo-shirt.
its impracticality for many modes of riding can be plainly seen in the two buttoned chest pockets, neither of which is overly capacious and neither of which seemed keen to play host to a stowaway waterproof jacket and a mini pump. thus, assuming the mavic skoda to have the weekend off, you'll either have need of a frame-fit pump, a small rucksack or charge at the peloton on your touring bike with panniers. personally, i sidestepped the problem altogether by wearing a gilet provided with its very own rear pockets.
but, as my mother was often wont to proclaim "pride bears no pain"; if you have either coppi or bartali pretensions, quite honestly, who gives a fig if you have to put the price of a cup of coffee and a gluten-free, belgian chocolate brownie on the slate for once? and if a puncture strikes, you can walk, can't you?
impracticality aside, this is a beautiful jersey, not only to admire, but to wear. for no particular reason, folding my arms while sat staring into space elicited a feeling of velocipedinal superiority, none of which was related to athletic prowess. with no 'story label concealed about its person, the jersey arrives with its own unique story card, one side of which bears a small, matching coloured ice-cream cone, making manifest the gelato wording featured on the back as well as on the underside of the complementary casquette.
both are marked by their neapolitan colouring and distinctively italian influenced typography, the latter factor, in my estimation, every bit as important as the length of the jersey sleeves. the three button-holes on the jersey front have a strong cotton reinforcing strip along the back to maintain their composure in the face of such fine merino wool. each sleeve bears embroidered, flock-style lettering paying tribute to both riders (il pio and l'airone). neither might mean a lot to the young lady behind the counter at costa, but that's no less reason to appear smug when ordering a cappuccino with a faux italian accent.
though i figure it's perfectly acceptable to purchase the cap as a solo item, it behoves you well to acquire both if it's the jersey you're after. though rapha have not specifically earmarked this as a limited edition, i would be a tad surprised if there were containers full sitting in the forecourt at imperial works. while the jersey is every bit as comfortable and well-fitting as all other garments in the rapha range and ought to be worn with pride, there's also no doubt that it is also worth appreciating as a collector's item.
with the giro commencing this weekend, surely that's all the excuse you'd need to avail yourself of such characterful luxury?
the rapha gelato tricolore rivals jersey is available in sizes xs to xxl at a price of £130. the matching water resistant cotton cap is an additional £25.
wednesday 4 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
yesterday morning, in order that i might transport a couple of items to our beloved leader, the mighty dave t, i cycled the 30 kilometres from washingmachinepost croft in bowmore, all the way to the grand metropolis of port wemyss and that delightful whitewashed cottage that is the residence of the man himself. what seemed like a cunning plan at the time, turned into something of a badass slog, with a galeforce headwind and occasional heavy showers featuring head-on from bridgend all the way to the southernmost westerly tip of the island.
i had hoped to have enough time to indulge in conversation and metaphorically shoot the breeze with our directeur sportif, but so long did it take me to slog my way south, that on arrival i had little option but to carry out the delivery task in hand before immediately setting of to return home, via a timeous stop at debbie's café for a soya cappuccino and double-egg roll as some much needed sustenance.
the tailwind on my return was more than welcome and even though i was aboard the specialized awol elite, a rather heavy means of transport on 42mm tyres, i was not long in reaching the welcoming village of bruichladdich.
as you can perhaps imagine, after being sandblasted and rained upon, as i reached my back door ready to slump onto a kitchen chair, i could hardly avoid catching sight of my reflection in the kitchen window. regular visitors will be well aware that i have an aversion to hairdressers and though my greying, scraggly locks are always clean and shiny, i cannot recall the last time upon which i was commended for my neat and tidy appearance. in fact, give me a worn alpaca jacket, a woolly hat and an empty starbucks takeaway cup, and i could easily pass for the guy sat opposite the entrance to buchanan bus station, late on a saturday night.
sartorial may be a word often read, but scarcely inhabited in these black and yellow pixels, but it's very much a case of 'do as i say, not as i do'. however, surprising though it may be to hear, ever since i have entered the fray of velocipedinal commentary, a whole host of folks have seen fit to not only have yours truly turned out in a more respectable manner, but many another cyclist too.
where once we would have been satisfied to appear at the sunday morning ride in a replica motorola jersey thinner than most toilet paper, matched to a pair of shorts that only once resembled that which they purported to be, the intervening years have seen a more holistic approach to cycle clothing, an approach intent on having us appear more an integral part of society, than the pariah's we are often portrayed to be by those who are behind us in the queue for coffee and a piece of lemon drizzle cake. not least of these stalwart entities is britain's john smedley.
i am embarrassed to admit that until relatively recently, john smedley was a name i had not once come across. had i met the man in bowmore main street i would have known neither he nor that which he did for a living. but smedley's is one of, if not the oldest manufacturer in the united kingdom, having been founded at lea bridge, just outside matlock in 1784. and that wasn't yesterday.
if you take a moment to peruse the john smedley website, you will be introduced to a substantial range of highly prized knitwear, a fair proportion of which is fashioned from the cyclist's favourite; merino wool. this salient fact has obviously not by-passed the keen eyes at matlock, with one or two offerings casting more than a passing nod towards velocipedinal styling, an example of which can be seen within this feature in the style of the hugh merino sweater. as a dishevelled scot, i would be happier categorising this as a jumper, but whichever apellation by which you address it, there is no denying its style and quality.
though john smedleys do not specifically quantify this as pertaining to the inner-cyclist, it's not hard to make the connection via the half-length zip and stand-up collar. the only feature missing is those three rear pockets. it is constituted of a very fine merino knit, a superbly judged length in the sleeves and a warmth that easily belies its lack of bulk. this was made perfectly clear when heading to bruichladdich aboard my stately italian steel taurus, having need of opening the accompanying jacket just a tad to feel that cool prevailing south-westerly. rarely has such finely crafted luxury been nudged in the direction of the cyclist with taste and elegance (yours truly excepted, obviously).
but lest you think that all need have a pelotonic connection to be featured on thewashingmachinepost, i might also point you in the direction of the john smedley jig pullover, a teal coloured hooped jumper that takes me back to my late teens when i owned a scrappy, but much-loved acrylic jumper that i wore until it literally fell apart. of course, the crew-necked jig is of an order of quality far above that of the jumper of yesteryear, but its blue stripes evince the same vibe, if that doesn't come across as too pretentious?
the jig (a range currently at sale prices) is every bit as desirable as the hugh, perhaps more so if you prefer to keep your velocipedinal life separate from your civilian identity. i cheerfully wore this to the office every day for a week (it is merino after all), as well as one or two coffee inflected travels. though i am more than enamoured with the styling of the hugh jumper, i've a feeling that the jig will, just like its predecessor, be worn until there are only a couple of merino threads remaining.
stunningly fabulous. and that's not a phrase that can be applied to many entirely british made products these days.
the john smedley hugh pullover is available in a range of colours and in sizes that range from small through xxl at a price of £175. the jig pullover in three differing colourways is currently on sale at £75 in the same sizing range as the hugh.
tuesday 3 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if life is a bunch of compromises, cycling life will never be seen as anything different. once the dominant british means of personal transport in the 1940s, it has gradually become more and more marginalised by the seemingly unstoppable growth of motorised transport. the latter could potentially become a great deal worse if the driverless car is as successful as google, apple, volvo et al are banking that it will be.
currently, one of the limiting factors in becoming a fully-fledged motorist, other than a prohibitive cost that many seem happy to bear, is that of learning to drive in the first place. this too places an unhelpful burden on the hapless bank account, but also requires that a test must first be passed prior to taking solo control of your very own car. i must admit that my theory that on one random day of each year the dvla hand out free drivers' licences for no good reason is often given greater credence based on some of the manoeuvres seen even on islay's roads. however, legally, it's still currently necessary to pass the prescribed driving test.
driverless cars may challenge that particular tradition. if the car truly needs no driver, will it still be necessary for one of those in the car to be sanctioned as a qualified driver? thus, just when you thought there was scarcely room for any more cars or trucks on britain's congested roads, along comes a wizard wheeze that might challenge the exponential status quo. and if we as cyclists feel a tad downtrodden at present, it can only get worse from here on in.
it thus makes greater and greater sense for mr and mrs cyclist, whether acting as temporary refugees from the peloton, or simply trying to get to and from work/the shops/school (delete as applicable) to ensure that all these cars are aware of our existence, never mind presence. quite how driverless cars will deal with the plethora of fluorescent colours in their theoretical line of sight, i really have no idea. the visibility of a man or woman on a bike may have no real value for the automaton.
the only good i can see from this will be a reduction in such hideous, but often perceivably necessary, colouring in the first place.
however, fluorescence is somewhat less effective during the hours of darkness; car headlights will pick it up, but generally a modest level of reflective material is required to truly make it shine (literally). though there is great danger in disregarding a tried and tested safety feature in favour of a more sartorially acceptable appearance, quite frequently that is in itself something of a necessity or, depending on your level of vanity, just as desirable. though convention has made it more than acceptable for troops of schoolkids to reach school wearing fluorescent and reflective vests (those not driven there by mummy or daddy), entering your place of work dressed thus and accessorised with the once obligatory trouser clips may raise more than a single corporate eyebrow.
i can see one or two of you are keen to point out that divesting oneself of such bright garmentage at point of entry is every bit as simple as it gets, but would it not be more amenable to be clad in apparel that advertises itself not as velocipedinally inclined until required to do so? apparel that, to the civilian population looks every bit as smart and respectable as could be acquired from a visit to savile row? i see heads nodding in agreement.
the aptly named lumo may just be the port of call in a storm that the executives amongst us were hoping for. i am reliably informed that the harrington jacket is a stylish accoutrement, well-respected in the fashion world, having been first popularised by elvis presley in the 1958 movie king creole, though the design itself stretches back to the 1930s. not necessarily one to actively seek out stylish apparel, i cannot deny that lumo's harrington is devlishly presentable and more than just a tad substantial in construction.
available in both men's and women's versions, the lumo herne hill harrington (try saying that after a packet of wine gums) is made from a gabardine cotton twill, a water-repellent schoeller 3xdry fabric that equates rather well with the frequent inclement deluges experienced in the hebrides and possibly even in the region of an inner-city commute. in point of fact, my poorly timed excursion on the taurus corinto coincided with a burst of snow and sleet, driven headwind style into providing rosy cheeks. it's hard to describe both the joy and relief to watch such precipitation baubling harmlessly on the jacket's surface before dripping off onto the steel top tube.
but water-repellency is of little nevermind if the garment itself is bereft of the wherewithal to keep the rider cosy and warm. thankfully, that heavy gabardine cotton is not shy on the central heating front, aided and abetted by inner lycra cuffs preventing draughts from circulating where you'd honestly prefer they wouldn't. the front of the jacket features two handy zipped pockets shielded from the elements by covering flaps lined with a rather attractive white polka dotted pattern on a red background.
this feature, however, gives grounds for minor criticism, stitched as they are to the rear of the pockets. thus when walking in windy conditions, or cycling in pretty much any conditions, the flaps are prone to blowing outwards away from the pockets they were ostensibly designed to cover. lumo's doug bairner said the company was aware of the problem and intimated that it was something that may well be solved in future editions of the herne hill harrington. there is also a helpfully angled and flapped rear pocket which can be relatively easily accessed while on the bike, big enough to swallow a bulky wallet, and a generously sized, zipped internal pocket plays daily host to my ipod touch.
however, given the dark blue nature of this particular harrington, it may appear that i have somewhat strayed from my original objective of discussing that which makes us more visible in the face of mechanisation. and that's where the secret weapon comes in.
concealed within a small internal pocket on the jacket's lower left side, is a small rechargeable battery plugged into a cable sewn into the jacket itself. pressing the white button atop the battery switches on a row of white light emitting diodes hidden vertically, parallelling the full length front zip. at the same time, it also illuminates a corresponding set of red diodes along the rear hem of the harrington. pressing the button for a second time slows the rate of flashing; the choice is yours.
a colleague was wont to point out that he figured this incessant flashing may be something of a distraction when riding during the hours of darkness. though the siting for the front lighting strip renders it concealed from the rider's line of sight, reflection of the regular flash will obviously be seen on the bars and stem etc. in a rural setting such as ours, there's every likelihood he may be right. i cannot deny this possibility based on a ride along a narrow singletrack lane near to washingmachinepost croft, however, it ceased to be too much of an irritation after a kilometre or two. your own level of irritation may vary.
in city or urban settings, the plethora of surrounding scattered light sources will probably render this less of a potential distraction. i asked mr bairner if they had considered offering a third option of a non-flashing mode, but apparently this would kill the battery life rather more quickly than any of us would be happy with.
lumo are keen to point out that these lights are not intended as a substitute for front and rear lights affixed to the bicycle. in fact, legally, you might have a hard time arguing with the nice constable who just pulled you over for flashing loudly but with no bike lights. you have been warned. naturally enough, it's also an excellent idea to remove the battery if you intend to wash the jacket.
the jacket arrives with a usb cable to allow recharging of the battery when necessary. the battery has means of warning you that this ought to be done and soon, but you'll need to get into the habit of checking if you often ride in the dark.
in terms of style, whether in flashing mode or otherwise, it's hard to think of a garment that would confer a greater favourable impression upon your work colleagues or the girl on the checkout at aldi's. i know my personal standing in the office has moved up a degree or so since i took to arriving thus clad of a weekday morning. however, if you choose to leave the battery in place during the working day, please ensure you don't carry two heavy boxes of distillery tour times leaflets to the tourist information office on a friday morning.
the sniggering of passers-by was noted.
the lumo herne hill harrington jacket is available in navy blue with red and white polka detailing and in sizes ranging from xs to xl at a web price of £250
monday 2 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'll admit, it was an embarrassing faux pax to make, but one that had all the markings of an honest mistake. everybody knows the tour de france and likely the giro d'italia, but the spring classics; well, that's a whole 'nuther bucket of sprint rims altogether. paris-roubaix ought probably to be left out of the discussion altogether, because it exists on a similar level of hype to that of le tour and it has an awful lot of cobbles in it.
the others, and i'm thinking here of the ronde van vlaanderen, an apellation to which we media folks like to refer, fleche wallonne and undoubtedly liège-bastogne-liège, even if their cobbles are less intrusive than roubaix, and none of them finish in a velodrome.
you see, in my early days as a purveyor of road bike culture (as matty ball once referred to the post), i had a hard time telling one from the other. thus my recollection of a sartorially pretentious frank vandenbroucke pedalling with ease uphill on a road (cote de la rue naniot) bordered by undoubtedly belgian-looking houses was, for one erroneous reason or another, associated with flanders. this mistake had me believing for years that the ronde sat only a smidgeon behind roubaix as a classic about which to get all hot and bothered.
but in fact, it was liege, a fact only realised but a few years ago when i should have been considerably more edified. there is little worse than having the startlingly obvious pointed out in contradiction to your smug, self-satisfaction.
yet, so myopic are we, the cognoscenti, in our blasé appreciation of the spring classics, that it maybe takes those with eyes wide open to remind us of just how startlingly amazing they really are. and at the risk of being overtly political for a moment or two, it is this sort of history (liège was first run in 1892, hence its nickname of la doyenne - the old lady) that is in real danger of being destroyed entirely by the governing body's obsession with mondialising the sport.
my good friend daniel wakefield pasley has, for the last few years, brought his own exciting, obsessive and distinctly american syle of enthusiastic reportage to our eager senses via the online pages of manual for speed, a more than worthwhile institution supported principally by castelli, but with welcome support from the folks at cannondale. daniel and the mfs crew have spent the past few weeks watching the very races that many of us take for granted, such as the amstel gold, paris-roubaix, the tour of flanders, flèche wallone and the old lady herself, liège-bastogne-liège. only an american appreciation of all the above could be encapsulated under the heading of cobble goblins. there's even a t-shirt (as if you weren't expecting that).
"manual for speed center is at the heart of the peloton and we're not afraid to take its pulse."
it would be naive to think that the manual for speed crew are in possession of a level of insight that we have either never owned, or completely forgotten we had. when across the pond, i have often gasped out loud at the portion size attached to a breakfast of pancakes and fruit, along with a strange predilection to ask the rhetorical question if you'd like more coffee as they are insouciantly in the process of filling your cup anyway. it's simply an observation of habits and customs that we might take for granted, while those from another continent smile inwardly.
thus many parts of europe provide an endless source of seeming contradictions about which those of us on this side of the channel have scarcely paid heed. yet all is attendant on appreciating every aspect of travelling to see any one of the spring classics.
"..when you're trying to find Liège but you can't because it's called Luik in the part of Belgium where they speak Dutch but call it Flemish, custom is a dick. Which reminds me, Benelux, shit, maybe all of Europe but definitely Benelux, is a change-based economy. They love change here, in particular the two euro coin, you can do just about anything here with those fuckers, entire dinners, rent, whatever, it's all just a handful of coins away."
irreverent would not be too strong a word to describe daniel's idiosyncratic writing style. many years ago, i was tasked with editing some of the man's words in order that they might be seen as more palatable for their intended audience, but in truth, they should probably have been left exactly as they were. hindsight and a modicum of editing prowess is all very well, but i seriously doubt (thankfully) that chas chandler made more appropriate chord suggestions to jimi hendrix.
it's the same liège-bastogne-liège we all watched on eurosport, but different.
if you have yet to appreciate the manual for speed style of race reportage, i seriously suggest you click the link at the foot of this article and tell me i'm wrong. as a reasonably well-educated scotsman, it is highly unlikely i would have the temerity, let alone the imagination to bring any sort of race to your attention in this manner. thank goodness then for messrs. pasley, marshall and sturme. thank goodness for manual for speed and thank goodness too, for the spring classics.
"La Redoute is maybe the single greatest section of any bicycle race ever. It's magical."
manual for speed | all photos copyright manual for speed. reproduced here with permission.
sunday 1 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
rule #14 quite plainly states that shorts should be black, capitulating only to the extent of allowing the side panels to match the rest of a team kit. since very few of us are members of a team, it seems only right and proper that we adhere to the first diktat of rule #14. though this rule may at first seem uncompromisingly dogmatic, i feel there are mitigating reasons for adhering to henry ford's colour sense.
though contemporary garment technology has all but solved the problem relating to lycra transparency with relation to certain colours (you know i'm talking about white, don't you?), when wet, there is still an inherent danger of being pulled over by the traffic police for indecent exposure, to say nothing of the potential embarrassment experienced in the coffee shop. which is precisely why your shorts ought to be a solid shade of black at all times.
however, even if adhering to rule #14, there can still prove to be moments of impropriety. i well recall my own early days as a cyclist when, having plucked up the courage to wear cycling shorts in public, it seemed a stage to far too dispense with my usual undergarments. comfortable it was not. however, lycra cycling shorts, when blessed with a material sheen, can be every bit as revealing as the world champion's white bibs, leading once more to potential exposure at ardbeg's old kiln café when stopping by for a lunchtime panini.
in touring mode, a pair of over the knee length baggy shorts would not seem out of place, but if dressed in such a manner when parking the colnago seems potentially to risk breaking at least one other of velominati's rules.
jerseys, on the other hand, are pretty much guilt free. though i have yet to see a member of the peloton careering round the averagemarket of a saturday morning, laden basket in hand while dressed in team sky kit (as appears to be de rigeur for the average football supporter), there is no shame whatosever attached to consuming soup and home-made granary bread while sat wearing a long-sleeve movistar jersey. and few of the civilian population will look askance if your companion is dressed in a tinkoff jersey.
well, maybe not.
as you can imagine, as a world famous member of the cycling media, i have more than just a few drawers full of cycling jerseys. it would read a whole lot better if i could append the phrase 'of all shapes and sizes', but in truth they are all the same size and with the exception of the sleeves, all are pretty much the same shape. my collection, however, bears scant comparison to the great venn diagram of the world's cycle jerseys, even if we restrict ourselves to those employed in the professional peloton. and when it comes to jerseys of the peloton, past and present, there are really only two gents whose names spring to mind.
one would be prendas' mick tarrant and the other would be prendas' andy storey. which is more than convenient, because the latter has just compiled a book of "over 200 of of the most iconic, memorable and stylish racing jerseys ever to grace the peloton." as the subtitle says, the book is 'a celebration of the cycling racing jersey'; and the man is not wrong.
each jersey, commencing with santini's bianchi ursus replica jersey made specifically for the 1995 film, i'l grande fausto' is accompanied by brief text placing it in context, with which rider it is most associated, the manufacturer and which bicycle accompanied the jersey in its particular peloton. if nothing else, it demonstrates the wide-range of superb designs to have made it to a cycle jersey. it pains me to admit that, when perusing richard mitchelson's grand tour earlier this week, i quite literally drew a blank when presented with a jersey outline to colour in.
there are pages and pages of inspiration to be seen in andy storey's book.
the format, production and printing are quite impeccable, presenting a small format coffee table book that will not only provide hours of reverie on sunday evenings after tea, but potentially settle one or two historical arguments. with over 200 jerseys included, it would take from now till bedtime to list them all, but some are just too good not to mention. bartali's legnano/pirelli from '1952; luis ocana's 1970 orange bic jersey; eddy's 1972 molteni arcore; 1976's ti-raleigh campagnolo jersey; robert millar's 1984 cycles peugeot chequerboard jersey and the 2012 jimmy mccallum king of scotland champion's rapha condor jersey.
yes, that is a highly erratic compendium culled from the book's 200 plus pages. if it was you writing this review, possibly none of these would have featured. but always remember: i'm right, you're wrong.
this is superb, and if you order a copy direct from prendas, andy storey will even sign it for you.
saturday 30 april 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
so that's where portishead is. and much more to the point, that's how you spell it. in my teens and early twenties, i remember listening to radio one, in a vain attempt to hear something worth listening to, but taking scant interest in the competitions aired at the time. invariably, answers in those pre-internet days had to be sent to an address in portishead, but the clarity of audio, coupled with geographical unfamiliarity, meant that i was never too clear on just how to spell the name of the town.
was it porter's head, was it portiz ed or, as it turns out, was it portishead? apparently the town isn't that far from bristol, home of the recent bespoked bicycle show. who knew? this means that only a few years past, when i visited that architecturally delightful train station in bristol, i wasn't all that far from the town of mystery. and i apologise to all those who live in the area and are now looking at me with a quizzical look on their faces.
i mention this and, by way of conversation, the town of budleigh salterton, the name of which appeared in noel coward's blythe spirit, because both are in close proximity to the initial stages of the so-called end to end; the cycle route from land's end to john o'groats.
i have voluntarily admitted to my apparent lack of a sense of adventure, one that has prevented me from taking a bus or train to land's end visitor centre complete with a rack festooned bicycle, intent on taking self and velocipede all the way to the northernmost point of scotland. and while i'm on that particular point, the map included in cicerone's superb end to end cycle route appears to show one or two promontories that stretch further towards orkney and shetland than does john o'groats. in mitigation, however, there's no sign of roads allowing access.
i can live with that.
it's a bike ride that encompasses britain's middle way, traversing pretty close to 1,000 miles. the straight-line distance is 603 miles, while the shortest route over classified roads is 847 miles. i have little doubt that there are those possessed of huge quantities of intrepidness who probably set off powered only by a collection of ordnance survey maps and an unshakeable faith in their sense of direction. that, to put not too fine a point on it, does not describe yours truly in any way, shape or form. i'd need a step by step guide or better still, a real guide well versed in the art of directional conversation.
in reality, neither are likely scenarios from a personal point of view, but it's hard to see how the hypothetical real guide could manage any better than mr mitchell's cicerone book. not only is it remarkably well illustrated with detailed maps (that's precisely how i found out where portishead is located), but there are tidy little sidebars offering informational and historical snippets regarding the places through which pedalling will take place. as with pretty much every cicerone cycling guide, the introductory pages offer advice on pre-ride preparation duties, the most practicable type of bicycle to employ, what to see en-route and even information on how to get back from john o'groats. always assuming, of course, that your intrepidness doesn't extend as far as cycling home.
aside from maps and directions, the book is well plied with photographs; these not only enhance the book's persona when looked at from a reading point of view, but offer useful landmark pointers along the way, should you at anytime consider yourself to be just the wrong side of lost. though hardly the fault of the author, i could scarcely stifle a snigger at the photo of the half moon inn. though it may not sound particularly humorous in print, the fact that the letter 'f' is missing from the building's gable end elicited a short smile.
though i seriously doubt many end to enders would have handlebars bereft of a bar bag, the size of the book endears itself to a jersey rear pocket for quick reference in the saddle. the rear of the book features a comprehensive list of hotels, hostels and b&bs to be found along the way as well as a list of all the ordnance survey maps your bank account might wish to acquire for more accurate travelling. mind you, it seems possible at least half your luggage might be filled in this manner; i counted 35. perhaps an ipad with cellular coverage might be more practical.
a thousand miles is quite a long way to go and with the best will in the world, there's always the possibility that your bicycle might suffer a mechanical misfortune. mr mitchell has already thought this far ahead, providing a list of cycle repair shops prepared to assist your passage northwards. in short, i can find nothing that nick mitchell has left to chance, meaning the rest is up to you.
on the off chance that you decide to ride from john o'groats to land's end, it should simply be a case of starting at page 202, or downloading the available gpx files in reverse order.
friday 29 april 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"You can't tell me going to the gym is better than this?"
it is something of a truism that the moment the human race invents yet another vehicle with wheels, someone, somewhere will want to see how fast they can travel using said vehicle. cars, bicycles, motorbikes, skateboards, roller skates, roller blades and any other number of wheel-mounted inventions have seen organised speed trials to prove just how quickly the obsessed can travel.
it is somewhat obvious that of the above mentioned, cars and motorbikes fall outside those featuring a human-powered element. in those it is a simple matter of increasing the power of the engine while correspondingly reducing the aerodynamic drag in an effort to increase the ultimate speed at which either will travel in a straight line.
the flying scotsman, graeme obree has already featured in the public eye as a man with a penchant for travelling quicker than anyone else on a bicycle, having broken the hour record in both 1993 and 1994, famously making two attempts in 24 hours on the former occasion. both those records were gained against the clock, but graeme also proved his mettle for speed by becoming world 4,000 metre pursuit champion in both 1993 and 1995.
however, obree's fame was also aided and abetted by an eccentric engineering ability, having famously created his record-breaking bicycle, 'old faithful', from bits of an old washing machine. when his folded arm riding position was banned by the uci, graeme returned with the so-called superman position, used to great effect not only by obree but several others including his nemesis, chris boardman, before that position too was banned by cycling's ruling body.
if you've ever had the pleasure of meeting graeme, you'll already know that he bears no airs and graces; you'd honestly think you're having a catch-up with an old school friend. and during that conversation, it's all but impossible to become aware of a driven intellect. which is why it was probably less than surprising that he announced his intention to attempt the human-powered land speed record in nevada 2013. battle mountain is a film documenting not only the actual record attempt, but the complex building of 'the beastie', a small wheeled prone bike encased in a fibreglass skin to provide aerodynamic assistance.
though the annual international human powered speed championships could be viewed to be every bit as eccentric as graeme obree, the machinery on display in nevada varied from the well-funded to the heath robinson, the beastie being far closer to the latter than the former. to quote the scottish daily record reporter who accompanied graeme's entourage to nevada.
"He's a maverick genius. He's got the enthusiasm of an eight year-old kid, but when it comes down to it, what 48 year-old would squeeze themselves into a coffin on wheels, launch themselves across a highway in northern Nevada at speeds touching 60mph in a machine that's made from saucepans and second-hand roller-blades that cost six and a half quid from a charity store in Saltcoats? He's mad, absolutely mad. But that's why we love him."
graeme obree has no sense of pretension. as we watch him cut the disc brake mount from a child's bicycle fork and fit the elongated pedal levers using the wheels from a pair of second-hand inline skates, there is scarcely the faintest whiff that this will never be viewed as cutting edge technology. nor, in fact, that it's hardly the most reassuring way to build a vehicle intended to travel at over eighty miles per hour. that fact that all this takes place not in a state-of-the-art engineering facility, but in the kitchen of his saltcoats flat only enhances his persona from that of maverick genius, towards becoming a real hero of the bicycle.
in order that he might best analyse the minimum shoulder width for such a human-powered vehicle, he clambers behind the sitting room sideboard and has his two sons push the furniture towards the wall until he can minimise the width no more. that the subsequent shoulder rests were fashioned from pieces sawn from an old stainless steel cooking pot, formerly resident beneath the kitchen sink, almost seems unremarkable.
battle mountain is one of the best cycling movies i have ever had the good fortune to witness. not only is it well and sensitively made, it successfully depicts a stage in the career of a man who not only scarcely realises just how intrinsically clever he actually is, but is driven to reach heights few of us would contemplate and in a manner that's as marvellous as it is entertaining.
watching those first tentative yards on the beastie along an ayrshire shorefront, bereft of any aerodynamic fairing, i figure that graeme was the only one who could see its ultimate potential. wobbling all over the road at a speed lower than most of us could probably walk, hardly recommended the design as safe, efficient or even fast. and that, in short, is the unique selling point of battle mountain; graeme's unshakeable belief in his own vision, a belief that is decidedly not born from arrogance, but from an almost innocent joie de vivre, sufficient to engage the interest and support of those around him.
from the early testing at macrihanish and prestwick airport runways, to a training ride in the sun aboard a rented pink mountain bike, to those initial runs on a closed highway in nevada, disappointments are almost equally matched with sucesses. and bear in mind, though endlessly enthusiastic, graeme is no spring chicken; attempting to reach the upper reaches of human powered speed would more likely be considered the preserve of those around half his age.
if you have not yet seen the movie while on its hopefully continuing tour of uk cinemas, i seriously commend that you do and sooner, rather than later. there are many film releases touted as 'the ultimate feel good movie', but battle mountain beats them all hands down. it is a superb celebration of a man who really is a genius, someone who, were he not to exist, would surely have to be invented?
thursday 28 april 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it really was robert millar that brought me into cycling. not personally, you understand, if only because robert was in france at the time and i was living in troon, quite a long way from france (as it happens). i had bought my first ten-speed racer via the pages of one of mrs washingmachinepost's mail-order catalogues. you know that of which i speak; telephone directory thick, clothing catalogues where the mrs orders some clothes, tries them on then immediately packs them up to have them returned.
this is a trend that continues to this day (clothes ordering, not bicycle purchase), so much so, that i suggested to mrs washingmachinepost she should simply have all the parcels sent to catherine at the post office for returning and cut out the middle-man (woman).
anyhoo, having digressed somewhat, i return to mr millar. though he's a couple of years younger than yours truly, the tenacity he'd displayed in having moved from glasgow to french france several years previously to join acbb en route to peugeot, the team with which he subsequently nabbed 1984's king of the mountains and fourth place overall had inspired me to try and climb hills too. if you were a bloke from glasgow with his very own ten-speed racer in 1984, it's not hard to see the influence. i did stop short of having my hair permed, but spent many a purgatorial hour attempting to climb the hill to the village of dundonald without stopping to be ill at the side of the road.
though my admiration for robert millar continues to this day, a feature i share with many scots cyclists, learning about cycling's almost clichéd rich heritage brought me into contact (metaphorically speaking) with fausto coppi. i confess i truly have no idea what it is that singled coppi out from amongst greats such as anquetil, magni, bobet, bartali and merckx, but black and white images of the tall, gaunt and awkward (off the bike) italian were very much the stuff of which heroes are made. similar to my admiration of robert, this manifest adoration of coppi has persisted to the present.
i am in a very fortunate position where i am regularly plied with review copies of truly excellent cycling books, a situation that has enabled me to collect more than just one or two books about fausto coppi. aside from will fotheringham's biography the passion of fausto coppi, many of these are full-blown or quasi coffee table books, beloved of sunday evenings with the tv off, a green tea on the chairside table and the weekend copy of the guardian scattered all over the fireside rug. other than visual, there is little effort required on behalf of yours truly.
it was therefore of great interest and succour to the coppi fan to be presented with a pink-covered copy of richard mitchelson's grand tour, a volume which contains a page featuring a join-the-dots image of the great italian. i did so enjoy that, even if i did come across one or two stray, un-numbered dots in the process.
lest you think that richmitch's grand tour appeals solely to those enamoured of steel, celeste coloured bicycles and their iconic riders, you can also join the dots to delineate eddy, jacques and miguel indurain. this is serious stuff; the subject matter is hardly what the cognoscenti would refer to as child's play. towards the back of the book, there's one of those beloved word searches, regarding which, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to inform you that i am currently stuck on the word soigneur, though i have managed to find aero, attack and bottle with relative ease.
there is much between front and back covers with which to become obsessed. even if you've yet to gain base level fitness enabling unfettered colouring of every page, you can choose your very own dream team for richard's hypothetical grand tour as well as being offered the opportunity to cast monsieur prudhomme aside and create your own tour de france route. in fact, taking your lead from all the rider interviews you've devoured over the years, you can write an account of your very own stage performance.
"How did it feel chasing Merckx and Fuente?"
richard has also presented us, armed with our colouring pencils, with the opportunity to colour a jersey, an exercise that would prove highly beneficial if ever applying for a job at rapha. aside from the fact that i count richard mitchelson as a good friend, it was his idiosyncratic style of illustration, animation and cycling that connected us in the first place, even though he didn't move to france and win the occasional jersey. grand tour is amongst his finest work to date. if you haven't grown up yet, so much the better.
though not quite to the same extent as found on the golf course, those of us in the peloton can be occasionally guilty of taking ourselves too seriously. if this dawning realisation has landed upon you from a great height, grand tour is surely the ultimate panacea?
and it's darned good fun into the bargain. "The finishing line is yours for the taking."
richard mitchelson's grand tour is currently available for pre-order and due for publication in a day or two. | richard mitchelson's grand tour
wednesday 27 april 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have frequently gone on record as undermining the validity of britain's annual bike to work day as well as national bike week, but not because i have secretly infiltrated the velocipedinal world in order to remove, brick by brick, the very foundations on which it is built. my persistent moaning is based entirely upon what i perceive to be a lack of overall commitment on both sides of the bike lane.
if i might briefly return to my last seemingly unsuccessful argument, old wives would have us believe that any activity if carried out for a minimum of twenty-one days is no longer looked upon as being a chore, but has become an ingrained habit. therefore, if we were to follow the example set in north america, we would hold a national bike month, with each and every weekday promoted as a day on which to ride to work. that way, we might conceivably begin to gain some traction, particularly from those who currently take the car, bus or train.
in other words, non-cyclists.
you will be permitted to bestow a brief moment of admiration if i point out that i have said all of the above to the powers who organise both events. though it's possible that they may not be entirely to blame for the current situation, these nameless individuals are the folks who have set themselves in this apparent position of authority, so i'm afraid the blame, should it be deemed applicable, currently has to point in one direction.
i am not naive; multiplying national bike by four would probably cost a lot more money, but on the basis that america seems to have solved the problem via the instigation of incentives via collaboration with the captains of industry, there is obviously room for manoeuvre on this side of the atlantic.
however, it perhaps makes a good deal of sense to examine the problem (my word, not theirs) from a wider perspective. encouraging more folks to ride their bicycles to work is a means to an end and not, as i may have implied, an end in itself. in other words, if more folks rode to work, there are far more implications for town and city planning than how many bike shops there are per square kilometre to satisfy potential demand. but how do we find that out?
most of us will have read in the national and cycling press, various statistics concerning the number of bicycles owned per household, the number of journeys made by bicycle each week and, relevant to the current discussion, how many are said to ride to work each week. in all the years i have ridden my bicycle, for any of the above criteria, i have never once been polled as part of a national or local survey. in short, nobody knows whether i ride to work or not and if i do, how frequently. thus at best, many of those previously mentioned statistics must contain a fair amount of inspired guesswork.
and while i'm on the subject of villified entities, it behoves me well to introduce strava into the proceedings. once more, in the habit of casting disdain upon features with which i have no truck, i have castigated strava as facebook for cyclists. it's a statement that can be taken as a compliment or the putdown it was intended to be, depending on your point of view. however, strava is maybe not the villain that i'd like you to think it might be, particularly in the light of their announced support for global bike to work day on 10 may.
as the website metro.strava.com clearly states "strava metro is a data service providing 'ground truth' on where people ride and run." this does, in truth, make more than just a smidgeon of sense; if all those participating in the global cycle to work day use strava's mobile app to track their journeys, advocacy organisations, individuals and even local and central government can license the gathered data for use with geographic information systems. this is data that must surely be of use for future urban planning?
i cannot deny that i still have misgivings about confining this experiment to one specific day; surely data gathered over a period of a week or better still, a month, would weed out the inconsistency of those who simply want to join the one-day party and subsequently provide strava with more meaningful information?
however, on a more entertaining level, strava are to be roundly congratulated for engaging the impeccable talents of richard mitchelson to create an appropriate and explanatory animation viewable on youtube. though i live far too close to my place of work to concern myself with extricating the bike from the shed, this welcome display of richmitch's talent will suffice as something of a substitute for yours truly.
whether or not you elect to implement strava's mobile app on 10 may, if the opportunity is a realistic one, please try and have the bicycle take you to work. you know it makes a lot more sense than i may have led you to believe.
tuesday 26 april 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.
club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.
bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading...........................................................................................................................................................................................................