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this is cambridge

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condor cycles ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"i was mistaken for a bike racer this morning. i think it was the aldi cycling mitts that had him fooled."

©2015 the mighty dave t, is a prendas sponsored rider and le patron of the thoroughly decent fellows. the mighty dave t recommends purple harry products

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dromarti ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

tour de islay

ardbeg distillery

the joy of the islay whisky festival - or fèis Ìle as it is more correctly known - is the existence of eight malt whisky distilleries in reasonably close proximity to each other. proximity, however, is a relative term. glasgow is reasonably proximitous to edinburgh, but that's a whole different scale to the one that separates ardbeg at one end of the island, to bunnahabhain at the other end. you'd have to be a superb athlete in order to walk to all eight in one day, but the notion of cycling to each in a similar period of time is eminently do-able.

feis ile 2015

because we did.

when i say we, i refer to richard, rennie, david and myself, even though i let the side down by opting to miss one of the distilleries from my own itinerary. there is a perfectly acceptable (to me at least) reason for that, but we'll get to that later. however, the history of this latest escapade has an interesting (to me at least) history, of which i am now about to regale you with.

several years ago, a gentleman by the name of richard goslan (the richard referred to above), a journalist for the scotch malt whisky society magazine 'unfiltered' undertook a cycle journey round several of the speyside distilleries (about which we are forbidden from mentioning in polite company over here) on a colnago arte, a bicycle which subsequently was sent in my direction for review.

feis ile 2015

impressed with his tenacity and thematic use for the colnago, i continued the theme by riding round all eight islay distilleries as a basis for my own review. whizz forward a few years and richard contacted me once more to let me know that he too would be completing a similar perambulation of the amber nectar as a prelude to the smws open day at the newly constituted islay house hotel at bridgend. the story of our travails would subsequently fill a few pages in the aforesaid unfiltered magazine.

if you've ever tried this at home, or had notions of so doing, the logical route is to begin at ardbeg, pop along to lagavulin and laphroaig, before heading north to caol ila and bunnahabhain. leaving the north, ride south west (stopping at labels café in ballygrant en route for a bite of lunch) to kilchoman on the shores of loch gorm, then down to bruichladdich (coffee and cake at debbie's is optional/compulsory, depending on time and predilection). the final stretch is to return along uiskentuie strand to bridgend, then south to bowmore where you can smile at your tenacity or simply collapse in a darkened room.

caol ila visitor centre

so far, so much fun.

the fly in the ointment, for today at least, despite being remarkably close to the end of may was a lack of ambient heat and heavy, misty rain for much of the morning. add to that, the accompaniment of a photographer and videographer and not everything was quite as simple as your own scoot about the principality might be. the progenitors of such occupations have a distinct tendency to ask those on bicycles to repeatedly cycle up and down individually and collectively until they have the imagery for which they are famed. that takes time.

lagavulin distillery

even though fèis Ìle doesn't really start until today (23 may) with lagavulin's open day, we met many european and american enthusiasts frequenting most of the establishments we visited. rather cleverly the swms had produced brevet cards and stamps for each distillery. i believe the future plan is that the latter cards will be downloadable for society members, becoming a simple case of asking each distillery to stamp them on arrival. don't for one minute think that those members who simply drive to each distillery will gain favour at the visitor centres; this is a velocipedinal matter. you have been warned.

richard, rennie and david are much faster than yours truly. consistently so, a factor made even less palatable by my having chosen the cielo on a rain-soaked morning. though it's the only bicycle i own with mudguards, it's also the only one with 53/39 rather than a compact. the short, sharp ascent from caol ila started my physical degradation and the similar pathway from bunnahabhain, coupled with the steep hill at ardnahoe, pretty much finished me off. my excuse for missing out kilchoman, though in truth due to the latter reasons, was my having ridden out to ardbeg this morning (about 24km) while the others had used motorised transport from port charlotte. suffice it to say, on reaching our final destination at bowmore, i was several lengths behind my faster compatriots.

i am assured you will be able to view a more impartial report in a future issue of unfiltered, accompanied by considerably more impressive and more relevant photos than appearing hereabouts.

and i think you ought to know that should ardbeg manager, mickey heads, ever find himself desirous of a career change, he'd make a darned good barista.

(almost) eight distilleries, 115.2km, 6hrs 41 minutes of cycling, 3,988 calories, 1152 metres of ascending and there's no way i'm telling you my average speed.

scotch malt whisky society | islay house hotel | islay festival of malt and music

saturday 23 may 2015

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sportif magazine ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

an evening with graeme obree

an evening with graeme obree

it is something of an intriguing juxtaposition that individuals such as musicians and sportspersons can find themselves in two different situations either simultaneously or sequentially. my best illustration of that of which i speak is perhaps robert millar. for those who have watched the high life you will undoubtedly recall the scene where robert, sat in the tailgate of a team car, all but ignores a hapless journalist less than eagerly attempting to question the scotsman as to his prospective fortunes in the 1985 tour de france. robert's distinct lack of conversation provides an atmosphere that could almost be cut with a chainsaw.

an evening with graeme obree

however, look at it from robert's perspective. he has just completed a mountain stage of the tour in which he is faring considerably less well than in 1984. his job is to ride his bike, to win stages or jerseys and ultimately to represent his team and sponsor to the best of his ability. he signed up to be a bike racer; shooting the breeze with intent journalists quite possibly wasn't part of the job description.

musicians can also find themselves in a similar situation. having practised diligently for years, they have finally found themselves in a musical situation that is offering not only musical reward, but more than reasonable financial compensation to boot. traipsing round radio and tv stations promoting their latest album or concert or spending most of the day enetertaining the often inane questions posed by a series of journalists was never mentioned in the handbook.

an evening with graeme obree

watching from the sidelines as interested parties, we must surely be forgiven for not crying into our ipads. particularly if the sportsman or musician in question earns more in a year than any of us will manage in a lifetime. don't they realise that we are the very people who helped put them there in the first place (well, sort of)? don't they at least owe us a few civil and considered answers?

it's a yes and no situation, depending on the personality of those being cornered by the media.

fortunately, there are those who transcend such situations, either by dint of their personality or by having a distinct proclivity to examine factors well outside their original or current remit. marry the latter to an innate ability for public speaking with a tinge of humour and our hero worship starts to become requited. which is precisely why any evening with graeme obree is an event that really ought not to be missed even by those who have little or no idea who the heck graeme obree is.

an evening with graeme obree

in order to remedy the possibility of such a situation occurring in the first place, wednesday evening's audience with graeme, in the attractively bluish surroundings of edinburgh's, commenced with a three-minute film encapsulating graeme's not inconsiderable sporting achievements in the field of cycling. this was immediately followed by an interview with mr obree by gary fairley and graham farr, the two clever brains behind the late lamented (whatever they might say themselves) velo club don logan podcast. as averred in the introduction, if we'd simply wound graeme up and let him go, we'd all still be sat in the corn exchange even now. the tag-team of interviewers kept graeme pretty much on track and to the pre-arranged time schedule.

the day had not started well. to join the audience on wednesday evening, i had need of travelling on stagecoach's x77 service between ayr and glasgow, a bus that scarcely made it onto the kilmarnock bypass before it broke down. thankfully it took only twenty minutes to send out a replacement and get us all to glasgow's buchanan bus station around 30 minutes behind schedule.

an evening with graeme obree

having subsequently reached edinburgh's haymarket station, my google maps guide to walking from the station to the corn exchange had mislabelled dalry road as dalry place, leading me to believe i had misread my route. once sorted and underway, i took a wrong turning, adding several minutes to a walking route that wasn't as short as the map had led me to believe.

but i did find the corn exchange in time.

though graeme stated at the outset that nothing was "off the table" as far as subject matter was concerned, the interview predominantly remained grounded in his cycling career. we did, however, hear very little about the land speed record attempt in 2013 due to the proximity of a film release concerning the attempt. graeme did however, on the basis that we kept it to ourselves, let slip that the hero survives. (did i just write that out loud?)

one pointed question asked of the flying scotsman was just what it felt like to ride the hour record on the sunday after his failed initial attempt at hamar in norway. "You know those boilers that you see in old movies, where there's steam pouring from every seam and the dial on the front is bouncing well into the red section, threatening to blow at any minute? Well, combine that with the gasping for air you'd experience when school bullies held your head under water, letting you surface at the last minute.
That described the first three laps. And then you see a sign that says 'only 207 laps to go.'
i believe eddy merckx simply exited with a pained look on his face.

an evening with graeme obree

describing man's two best inventions as "...the bicycle and the duvet", graeme covered such topics as nutrition and hydration ("What we used to call eating and drinking." said gary from vcdl), innovation from the kitchen of a one-bedroom flat in saltcoats and perceiving the bicycle from the unknowing perspective of an alien. the evening concluded with a series of questions from the floor, all of which graeme answered with conviction, humour and an insight that you'd scarcely find in a post soccer match interview.

after all was over, graeme was happy to pose for photos and sign autographs in the bar of the corn exchange (his strongest tipple all evening was coffee) after which i walked the two miles back to haymarket station. only this time i didn't take any wrong turnings (thank you google).

i extend my thanks to organiser rowan mackie, graeme's manager charlie milarvie, gary and graham from vcdl and to graeme obree himself for an excellent and enjoyable evening. this formed part of the advance guard for the edinburgh cycle fest which also takes place in the edinburgh corn exchange over the weekend of 19/20 september this year.

friday 22 may 2015

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big brother is watching you

eye

as i may have mentioned on several occasions, if all goes to plan in the office on friday morning, i can almost legitimately play hooky on friday afternoon. doing so can only practically be done after lunch, meaning i leave at around 1pm with stomach that, though not crammed to the gunwhales, would have had to wait for an hour or so had i decided to go swimming instead. (disclaimer: i would never go swimming instead.)

though daylight now extends well past teatime, earlier months of the year dictated that this afternoon sortie be confined to pedalling southwest to debbie's for a brief froth-supping session. additionally, any pre-ride faff involving slipping into something more comfortable would delay departure by more minutes than i was willing to forgo, so inevitably that entailed riding the taurus corinto from the late-lamented pronto gara, while dressed in civilian garb.

it would be foolish to think that i could foil the intent observations of mr washingmachinepost and nip into the croft and back out again unseen. therefore, though she still has an afternoon's work ahead of her (something she is more than keen to point out) my velocipedinal activities are at least well considered by one of us. however, though i rarely undertake lengthy journeys on this most delightful of bicycles, i am presuming (hoping?) that those i pass en-route are oblivious to my caffeinated machinations.

not so, apparently for those enslaved to gps technology. i have placed myself on record previously as comparing strava to the self-publicised iniquities of facebook. quite why anyone wishes to inform the rest of the world as to their minute-by-minute habits, i have never quite understood, but it seems that, knowingly or otherwise, many are prone to so doing.

there is undoubtedly little wrong with placing a gps unit on the handlebars, all the better for recording distance, average speed, time in the saddle or, in the case of yours truly at present, simply keeping an eye on the time. however, on my return i simply switch the garmin off, happily ticking the discard option on the screen. how slow i've ridden and whereabouts are between me and the lcd on the handlebars.

i am, however, very much in the minority, for squillions of cyclists can see no further than their own strava page, allowing not only the world's grand peloton to see how they have fared, but effectively providing permission for the boffins at the other end to collect, quantify and distribute all in the name of publicity. or so they say.

therefore, though my brief trips to bruichladdich for a soya cappuccino and perchance a slice of lemon drizzle cake are for me to announce and no-one else, it seems that the stravanians have used the powers of data capture to announce london's top stops for coffee based on analysis of 38 million strava journeys.

it would be false of me to claim that all those journeys took place in london town, for in truth they have provided sufficient information to map similar details for a total of twelve cities around the world, but for those who might be interested, i have provided a list below of the cafés relevant to the uk. according to strava, over 78,000 rides are recorded in london each week, adding up to in excess of 1.7 million kilometres. i'm really not sure if you should be proud of yourselves or not, but your admittedly anonymous data is now in the public domain.

personally, i'll happily keep you guessing as to whether i've popped out on a friday afternoon or not (as if anyone's actually interested).

1. Roehampton Gate Café, Richmond Park 2. Box Hill Café (National Trust) Tadworth, 3. Peaslake stores, Guildford 4. Cadence Cycling Performance Centre, Crystal Palace, 5. G!RO - Esher, 6. Old Village Café, Hayes, 7. Dish, Hampton Court, 8. look mum no hands!, Old Street, 9. Garden Café, Regents Park, 10. Rapha Cycle Club, Soho, 11. Café St Germain, Crystal Palace, 12. Bike Beans Cycling café, Ashtead, 13. Pretorius Coffee Bar, Hoxton, 14. Grind Coffee Bar, Putney, 15. Artisan Coffee, Putney.

strava local

thursday 21 may 2015

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shand cycles ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

spoilt

motorhome with car in tow

the time has arrived, or if it hasn't, it's just about to. the introduction of road equivalent tariff on the islay ferry route has made it a less expensive option to pop over to the island by car or, perchance, by motorhome. these latter vehicles are a perennial source of both humour and downright frustration, the former due to the optimistic naming system the manufacturers seem to have set upon (adventurer, sunseeker etc.) the latter mostly because they're all hired and the blokes at the wheel (it is almost exclusively the male adventurer who undertakes driving duties) haven't a clue how to drive them properly. particularly along wind-strewn single track roads.

it has been said, most recently by me, that the simplest way to foil the laws of physics is to strap a sheet of buttered toast to the back of a cat. legend would have it that cats always land on their feet, while buttered toast always lands buttered side down. therefore, in the above instance, the cat will hover in mid-air all day. similarly, have a hired motor home meet a four-wheel drive audi on the kilchoman road, and since neither have a clue how to reverse into a passing place, they're probably still sitting there now.

as bona-fide velo club cyclists, we can (and do) moan about the driving antics of mainland drivers bringing their unwanted motoring skills to the principality. this has necessitated implementation of greater foresight on our behalf than has been even the case during lambing season. my driving instructor of many years ago, always told me to treat everyone else on the road as a total idiot, but i have to admit that i hadn't expected that advice to be quite so relevant on the outer edge.

in the process of castigating the allegedly hapless motorist, we must naturally assume that those of us on two wheels are of impeccable credentials, never once putting a pedal out of line. everybody knows the problem is the blinkered motorist and never the cyclist. or maybe that's just not always true.

west coast motors, citylink coach

as i wended my merry way acros the western part of scotland only the other day, happily listening to a live adam levy concert on the ipod, the citylink coach on which i was comfortably ensconced, had need of driving through the bustling metropolis of lochgilphead. the ninety-degree right hand turn from the ardrishaig road must navigate one of those token roundabouts painted on the road before crossing a narrow bridge. the latter has space for traffic in only one direction, particularly if it has citylink painted on the side.

rather courteously, i thought, a range rover had stopped on the other side of the bridge to allow the coach to pass, and as i looked out my panoramic window, i noted that a road cyclist had drawn almost to a halt behind the rover. we can all be guilty on occasion of missing certain salient points relevant to the movement of traffic round about us, but it would appear that this helmeted fellow on his skinny tyres had completely misjudged the entire situation. so despite a rather large, bright yellow and red coach heading across the bridge in his direction, he pulled out from behind the range rover and made to pass as our coach passed him.

with the coach now mostly off the bridge, the driver of the range rover, blissfully unaware of this errant cyclist passing on his blind spot made to move off, only noticing the cyclist trying to overtake him at the last minute. quite rightly, he blasted the horn, at which point the cyclist unclipped and loudly berated the driver with language that would have you ejected from a palace investiture. quite how this cyclist had not taken note that the car had stopped to allow the coach safe passage across the bridge is quite beyond my ken. but i might tender that it is velocipedinal behaviour such as this that gives the rest of us a bad name.

so as the roads become busier on the belated arrival of summer, please have some consideration not only for yourselves, but for those that might be inclined to cross your path (sometimes, literally) from time to time. i truly have no idea how many of you read the post every day, but i'd rather not lose any through inadvertant misadventure.

it's a jungle out there.

wednesday 20 may 2015

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the patter of tiny pedals

frog bikes young adventurers

it was definitely blue, with something reminiscent of a breadbin between the two rear wheels. that was most often teddy's seat, but occasionally it was brought into use as a transporter of chuckies. because the trike was slightly too big for me when new, there were woodblocks attached to the pedals to allow my little feet to propel it forward. as i recall, it was brilliant; i could ride pretty much anywhere my little head wished me to go. granted, the distances were hardly earth shattering. maybe down to the building site at the end of our street, or once following a fire engine to a house at the other end.

frog bikes young adventurers

according to the fireman, the television had exploded after the lone ranger had fired a bullet at the inside of the screen. we all believed him implicitly.

oddly enough, the next bike i remember was at a much older age, though it too was blue. i have no idea whatever happened to the trike, or at what age i outgrew its three wheels. maybe teddy is still sat in the blue breadbin at the back in a garage far, far away?

frog bikes young adventurers

kids on bikes is a sight that seemes to travel in cycles round here (if you'll pardon the pun); at one point there seems to be a veritable peloton of tiny pedals, then just as quickly, they're gone. in times of playstations and x-boxes, that's probably common with many uk suburbs and rural areas i should imagine. but i keep my disappointment to myself that many of them seem to have acquired velocipedinal skills at a far earlier age than yours truly. that second blue bike mentioned earlier remained unridden for over a year because i was still struggling childfully in the back garden on a small red bike borrowed from a neighbouring kid. i was nine before i could remain upright on two wheels.

frog bikes young adventurers

but once again, when mastered, the bicycle became my equivalent of unlocking the front gate. once more, i could ride wherever my legs had the ability to carry me, either alone or in company. interestingly enough, it was only the advent of adult years that had me take on the mantle of cyclist. previously i had been merely a bloke or child with a bicycle.

frog bikes young adventurers

there's a lot more traffic on the roads these days, traffic that often seems to care little for the good of others sharing that road. particularly cyclists, no matter their age. washingmachinepost croft is sited within a pedestrianised area, so it's safe enough for the kids round about to ride where and when they want without having to be continually on the lookout for motor traffic. additionally, in the midst of the country, there are many tracks along which little minds might construct adventures of their very own, unhindered by adult perspectives on health and safety.

frog bikes young adventurers

though christmas has long been the traditional, yet inexplicable time of year during which to bestow the gift of a bicycle upon young adventurers, the school holidays looming on the horizon would seem infinitely more appropriate. that would appear to be the message delightfully displayed in the latest short film from frog bikes. though i may be cynical about the role that health and safety now plays in all our lives, the majority of parents want their kids to be safe when out playing on their own, a desire that if anything, is heightened by letting the little darlings head off into the sunset all on their very own.

frog bikes young adventurers

there are a few notable brands of junior bicycles on the market, of which frog bikes form a commendable instance. having had a little miss ride one of their models last summer, the quality and build was every bit as impressive as you'd expect on your own machines. the british weather can be fickle, as we are all aware, but an inclement climate rarely seems to trouble the adventurous youth as much as it does fawning parents. ban the playstations this summer, get them a bike and tire them out before bedtime.

every day.

the adventurers

monday 18 may 2015

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tern cycles ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the collective approach

collectif parlee

i don't go much for sportives, partly due to incurring travel arrangements that are often two days longer than everyone else's, but also because there seems to be little of the camaraderie that i'd expected/hoped for. even on the couple of occasions i took to sportive roads unknown with a colleague, it wasn't long before either i'd dropped them or, more likely, the other way round. catching up with others who had begun ahead of me had a similar outcome. a few words of greeting were exchanged before either silence or puffing and panting ensued; then one of us left the other behind.

collectif parlee

i appreciate that we all ride at differing rates and there's only so many kilometres that can be trammelled together before one party feels an urgent need to stretch their legs. but i often figure that even those few kilometres would suffice. the difference between a sportive and a club ride would mostly revolve around the alleged training element and the fact that the former rarely leaves you alone at the back to find your own way home unaided.

collectif parlee

the latter situation may not still be the case in the age of the mamil, but many are the legendary stories of newbies joining their local club and being unceremoniously left behind on the first club run. the principle behind this unsociable behaviour is akin to the sink or swim attitude fostered by caribbean island dwellers when throwing their children into blue/green warm waters from the safety of glorious sandy beaches. if the rules are followed to their logical conclusion, the loner left on the road is expected to meditate on rule number five before submitting him/herself to the same treatment the following week.

collectif parlee

the theory behind this seemingly undesirable behaviour is, of course, to encourage a hitherto unknown level of tenacity. it has corollaries in other walks of life too. i have taught drum rudiments for many a long year where the same principle is alive and well, though perhaps without the apparent humiliation. drumming, a bit like cycling, looks pretty darned simple, as indeed does almost much everything when displayed by those who have grasped theory and put it into conjugated practice. however, on discovering that achievement depends on putting in the work (or woodshedding, as we of a percussive leaning are wont to say) more fall by the wayside than continue in the face of adversity.

collectif parlee

collectif parlee cycles proffer that cycling performance is no exception to the rule that everything is relative. and to prove just how true that can be, they have produced an excellent short film to demonstrate their contention. this is explored through the character of nick as a member of this recently incorporated team. to quote: "As a collective, attention and admiration that is directed toward the leaders is fading. The group becomes the leader. The human being has a premium on performance and everyone inspires each other in his own way. There is no longer any weakest or strongest link, only a sum of individuals dissoluble in the group."

i would dearly like to claim that the velo club practises a similar philosophy, but if truth be told, none of us is noticeably any better than the others; it would take a serious amount of effort to leave anyone else behind. and should one of us, in a burst of enthusiasm succeed in so doing, there's every chance they'd fall by the wayside on the route to bruichladdich's 30mph sprint signs.

the parlee collectif movie not only serves a pertinent lesson to the world's pelotonese, but entertainingly makes rather a good point. i'm pretty sure the same alternative bicycle frames are also available.

nick's movie | collectif parlee

saturday 16 may 2015

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rouleur issue 51 ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

rapha cima coppi jersey, cap and essentials case

cima coppi jersey

for those who may be aficionados of the big bang theory, you may recall the episode where sheldon cooper suffers from an alleged lack of closure. for those who are not viewers of the series, or who may not have seen the specific episode under discussion, think of setting up hundreds of dominoes only to have to pack them away before the domino effect can be demonstrated. or to have a jack-in-the-box removed before jack has the opportunity to pop up and say hello. or after making a wish and blowing out the candles on a cake, one candle is shielded to prevent being extinguished. i'm sure you get the general drift.

cima coppi jersey

rapha's cima coppi jersey, featuring a most appropriate ultan coyle designed graphic, has created a similar effect at the croft. imperial works has a lengthy history of secreting story labels about the pocketry of many of their finest jerseys and jackets, occasionally directly relevant to the garment in question, but every now and again, rather cryptically so. maintaining this tradition always lives near the danger of becoming a cliché, but the cima coppi jersey, fashioned from magnificent sportwool (i love sportwool jerseys), hides the characterfully screened names of those mountains that have occupied the mantle of cima coppi in the giro d'italia since its inception in 1965.

cima coppi cap

i am not a garment specialist in the sense that were i to be handed several lengths of material and a sewing machine, i think a parachute may ensue rather than anything resembling a cycle jersey. however, based on observational deduction, it appears the names of each year's highest peak have been screened on the lower back prior to the pockets being attached. if you've followed me so far, you will already have a mental picture of typography which is all but impossible to read in serial fashion. i'm pretty sure that's exactly as rapha intended, and i'm happy to admit it suckered me totally and then some.

cima coppi cap

it may simply be a case of mistaken identity, but each iteration of rapha constituted sportwool seems more luxurious than its predecessor, both prior to and after washing. given its purported heritage, the combination of la gazzetta pink across the chest, shoulders and upper back, combined with a rich brown lower torso and left sleeve hoop which rapha describe as raisin is hard to fault. it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the cima coppi's origination as prize for the first over the highest climb in the race. this year, the col della finestre fulfils that honour; each of its antecedents is applied in raised lettering on the back of the jersey, while the numerals 1965 take pride of place on the centre pocket.

but for those who delight in enunciating phrases in a language they don't understand (like me, for instance), the right sleeve bears the embroidered mantra una scalata superba which, i believe i'm correct in stating, roughly translates as 'the ultimate climb'. the embroidered text and graphics mimic the era of il campionissimo after whom the annual prize is named. cima coppi cap functionally, the jersey emulates many of its predecessors; three rear pockets with a fourth zipped version, quarter zip sliding into a zip garage at the collar and an impeccable fit. the only notable difference is a lack of the two outermost rear pockets fielding scalloped top edges. this fact, however, seems in no way to inhibit sliding the matching essential case in and out as required.

i cannot deny that the naming of the small, but perfectly formed essentials case seemed at first thought, something of a misnomer. on a jersey featuring three sizeably judged rear pockets and that all-important fourth zipped instance (for coffee money), why would a leather case, even with the ability to contain items that might be just as happy in raw pockets, be deemed essential? marketing at its best i'd cima coppi essentials case warrant. or at least i would have had i not decided to place my coffee and cake money in its zipped inner pocket while allowing it the luxury of keeping my digital camera comfortable. by the time i'd reached debbie's, having made frequent stops for photographs, i was beginning to get a handle on this essential status, if for no other reason than the loop on the zip made it simplicity itself to extricate it insouciantly.

the crowning glory, if you'll pardon the allusion, is the matching casquette. once again, perception would indicate that rapha's caps have undergone a creeping schedule of endless improvement. the cima coppi example is certainly a far cry from the simple cotton team caps of yesteryear. the purist may view this as unnecessary enhancement of a utilitarian accessory, but few examples produced to recall the heyday of cycling's greats had need of spending their working day ensconced beneath a polystyrene helmet in the teeth of what passes for summer in cima coppi jersey the hebrides. the date 1965 once more makes an appearance atop the peak. for the more dapper amongst the pelotonese, there is also a cima coppi silk scarf available to match the three items already described.

by the end of this month, the giro d'italia will be over and done with for yet another year, and one rider will bask in the glory of having summitted the col della finestre ahead of his fellow riders. however, the memory of fausto coppi as one of the planet's finest riders of a bygone era will likely remain forever. aside from being a quite superb cycle jersey, rapha's cima coppi sportwool is as much a garment for right now as it is a celebration of a past heritage that is rightly often preceded by the adjective 'rich'.

rapha's cima coppi jersey is available in sizes from xs to xxl at a cost of £110. the matching cima coppi essentials case costs £45 and the cap is priced at £30.

cima coppi

friday 15 may 2015

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drawing on history

dick power

early mediaeval paintings amongst other things, are mostly bereft of perspective. because the principles were either totally misunderstood, ignored or simply too difficult to portray, features such as roadways and rivers did not disappear into the distance, but simply exited the canvas via top, bottom or one of the two sides. in the process of so doing, they remained of constant width, because as we are all aware, that's precisely what reality dictates. and to muddy the waters even further, it was often the duty of the commissioned artist to portray his patron in a more favourable light, altering the proportion of one individual relative to another in order to delineate levels of importance.

children mostly emulate this lack of geometrical knowledge, handing us beautifully scribbled pages to occupy a further place on the fridge. that may be the true reason why today's fridge/freezers are a whole lot bigger than was once the case. oddly, the artistic perceptions of children are amongst the most honestly described; pretension takes several years to become an intrinsic part of their armoury. and yet, if their drawing abilities show little sign of improvement as they head inexorably towards their years of secondary education, educationalists are wont to dismiss the skills they praised in younger years.

taliah lempert disposable drawings

however, perspective is seen as a necessary part of the equation, if the end result is to bear any relation to reality. despite all the efforts of the surrealists, the years of abstract expressionism and cubism, the bulk of contemporary society prefers their art to resemble the subject matter as closely as is deemed possible. the difficult bit is deciding which version of reality would best represent the subject, while continuing to satisfy the eye of the beholder.

from the late 1930s through to the early 1960s, dick power was an important figure on the new york bicycle racing scene. he owned a small shop in queens which he used as a base not only for coaching local riders, but for building his own frames. collector eddie albert, the man behind the vintage bike life website, has loaned an original dick power bicycle to brooklyn artist taliah lempert to use as the subject of one of her excellent bicycle paintings. this has resulted in an intriguing series of sharpie drawings on paper and plexiglass. (for those not in the know, a sharpie is a brand of fibre tip pen) taliah has labelled these as disposable drawings: "I'm looking for a pose that's different, where I can show the skinnyness of the seat. Standing really close to it and looking down, making sketches to figure out what I want."

taliah lempert disposable drawings

if you've taken a look at the illustrations accompanying this article, you might note that though perspective plays a major part in their consitution, and thus bearing a verisimilitude to reality, their sketchiness does not detract from that fact. this specific lack of attention to minute detail is, of course, endemic in the notion of a sketch, but in this case, that we are still well aware of the subject is a pointed underlining of the basic simplicity of the bicycle. though the example depicted in taliah's sketches dates from the early part of last century, the advent of carbon fibre, electronica and other creature comforts has scarcely impinged upon this simplicity of form.

though there is relentless pressure upon the contemporary cyclist to maintain some sense of modernity on the sunday morning velocipede, drawings such as these strip everything back to the fundamentals. it still warms the cockles of my ceramic bearings to note that the bicycle remains the work of art it has always been.

at least, that's my perspective.

taliah lempert paintings | vintage bike life

thursday 14 may 2015

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sold, to the cognoscenti at the back

michael embacher cycle collection

viennese architect, michael embacher has spent more than a decade collecting some of the more unique models of bicycle on the planet, amalgamating them into what has been described as the finest cycle collection on the planet. we're all afflicted by the collecting bug in one way or another, whether it's stamps, coins, bicycle bits, snare drums (don't tell mrs washingmachinepost) or even just bottle tops or beer mats. admission of such is, in itself, not an inquitous situation; there are any number of explanations for so doing, but embacher's modus operandi in collecting so many bicycles speaks well to his integrity.

michael embacher cycle collection

"To use a particular object to demonstrate: What is design? How far can it be reduced? And how many variations does it nevertheless generate?"

it's a question that seems not yet to have received a final answer. though the uci in their infinite wisdom have decreed that the racing bicycle need be of the ubiquitous double-diamond shape, no such constraint exists to govern those of a non-competitive nature. engineering, separated from marketing, will frequently embody the form follows function mantra, shaping tubes and componentry to fulfil whatever its end purpose dictates. and if the engineering principles to support such pragmatism do not yet exist, then there is need of necessity becoming the mother of invention.

michael embacher cycle collection

still frequently described as the most efficient means of transport devised by mankind, the bicycle still contrives to inhabit as many forms as the demands of human transportation find necessary. if ever a good reason were needed to take the n+1 equation to its logical conclusion, that surely is it. and for the first time ever, across those ten plus years, michael embacher's collection has been opened to public gaze since the 9th of this month, leading to an auction of all 203 bicycles from the collection. selections have appeared in various parts of the world and also been enshrined both in the print version of cyclepedia and the ipad version which allowed more of a three-dimensional experience.

michael embacher cycle collection

quite why embacher has decided to auction his painstaking accrued collection, i honestly have no idea, but come tuesday 19 may, in the dorotheum in vienna those of you with considerably larger bike sheds than thewashingmachinepost (and deeper pockets too) will have the opportunity to bid on models such as the italian skoot suitcase bicycle, a one-off collapsible titanium moulton and a german kothke tandem. and were it not sufficient to have visual access to over two hundred fabulous examples of velocipedinal history, they have been arranged in a fan of colours, reflecting the mode of storage used by embacher in his attic.

viewing is currently underway at the dorotheum in vienna with the auction at 5pm on tuesday 19 may. the ipad app is still available from apple's app store should you fancy taking a closer look without need of a plane ticket to switzerland.

cyclepedia ipad app | the embacher collection

wednesday 13 may 2015

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bernard hinault and the fall and rise of french cycling. william fotheringham. yellow jersey press hardback 370pp illus. £16.99

bernard hinault by william fotheringham

i cannot, for the life of me, see the point of the sport of golf. in my younger years, a couple of my friends had taken a fleeting notion to dredge their dads' golf clubs from the hall cupboard and dragged me into the fray (i'd like to say 'kicking and screaming' but that's not entitrely true). unfortunately, my abilities with a golf club turned out to be even poorer than my current skills on the bicycle. the first outing resulted in my having taken 107 strokes after nine holes on a course that featured a par of 84 for the whole eighteen. by the second game, i'd resorted to building sand-castles in the bunkers after only three holes.

i'd like to think this might be considered something of an embarrassment, given that the game was allegedly invented in 15th century scotland. ironically the first written record of its existence was the banning of the game by king james ii in 1457, predominantly becasue it was proving a distraction to those who should have been learning archery. take a good, long hard look at those inhabiting the upper echelons of modern-day professional golf, and you may struggle to find a scot in the top ten.

the french must feel somewhat the same regarding their national tour. while many countries lay claim to having invented the bicycle, there's little doubt that henri desgrange was the progenitor of the grand tour, a stage race originating in 1903 and originally the preserve of the french nation's cyclists. the last frenchman to stand atop the podium at the end of three weeks of gallic sight-seeing was bernard hinault in 1985. since then, the nearest any frenchman has come to repeating any of hinault's five tdf victories was 2nd and 3rd places in 2014 by respectively jean-christophe péraud and thibot pinaud.

william fotheringham's masterful treatise on the career of the badger takes into account this seeming contradiction of the biggest cycle sporting event in the world and the drought of local winners since hinault hung up his wheels in the 1980s. not surprisingly fotheringham offers no solutions, only hope. conversations with marc madiot and dominique arnould place the state of contemporary french cycling in a modern context, offering informed contrast between the exemplary sporting career of bernard hinault and a subsequent lack of yellow jerseys.

"On this, Madiot, Guimard and Hinault spoke with one voice: champions are born, not made."

hinault's rise to fame would seem to confirm that statement. born and brought up in the almost unpronouncable breton village of 'yffiniac', a "country lad who (sought) a career on two wheels rather than till the soil..." his first nickname was 'cerdan' after a legendary boxer of the 1950s, paying tribute to his combative stance as a youth. before cycling took hold, the young hinault was being trained up as a cross-country runner, an activity that occupied his athleticism in the years from '69 to '71 before cycling began to take hold.

"He had been bought a bike at fifteen as a reward for passing his exams; he rode it daily into Saint-Brieuc to technical college, to avoid the two kilometre walk from the bus station...

emulating many of the world's great cycling champions, hinault began winning almost as soon as he began racing. the rest, as they say, is history. hinault's career, a bit like that of merckx and coppi, is reasonably well-known, or at least, bits of it are. almost everyone with an interest in professional cycle racing will have heard at least one anecdote concerning the badger, even if it's only a predilection for throwing interlopers off a tour de france podium. through the pages of this book, the author fills in any (every?) gaps in the reader's knowledge.

fotheringham has made pointed use of his freindship with scots climber robert millar, who features frequently throughout the narrative relating to hinault's career from the early eighties. as a rider closely involved in the annual melée at the tour de france, millar was ideally placed to observe hinault at close quarters. referring to the stage to sallanches in 1980, millar as a first year professional states "It was the first time I saw Hinault in action, the first time I'd been there at the front when he was going for it... It was so hard that there were no attacks. [...] I had never seen anything like that."

the author also pays tribute to richard moore's previously published volume slaying the badger, a book specifically dealing with the episode of hinault's career in which he partnered american greg lemond. this chapter of tour de france history will likely bear continual re-examination; lemond still contends that hinault was intent on working him over despite early season promises to the contrary. hinault's side of the story would have it that, though he could easily have won that sixth tour, he wanted lemond to win having demonstrated his true champion status.

"He did not behave like someone who was trying to set up the win for his teammate. It provoked a total schism in the team."

it's a character trait regarding which robert millar has also been quoted in the high life, stating that while he admired hinault's prowess on the bike, he was less than impressed with his personality off it. merckx had to win every race he entered, where hinault only had to win the races he'd decided he wanted to win. however, if we exclude armstrong (in the same manner the uci have seen fit to do), hinault was arguably the last patron of the peloton; a rider who marshalled those he deemed inferior, and woe-betide anyone who attacked without permission. it's this personality that infuses each and every chapter; like millar, though the reader may not admire hinault's methods, it is very hard to dismiss his tenacity and panache in achieving a palmares, the successor to which france eagerly awaits.

unless, perhaps, your name is greg lemond.

though it's a habit i'm not proud of, in order that i might reprise portions of a book under review, i fold the corners of pages relating to items i may wish to refer to or quote from when writing the final review. the downside to such a method is one of concentration. i have come to note that books which encourage addictive reading, such as this one, often result in a whole chunk of pages devoid of folds. on reflection, i see that the first fold appeared at page 50, and it certainly wasn't for lack of interest.

few published cycling books can truly be regarded as essential; a pleasure to read and to own perhaps, but rarely can it be said that cycling life would be lessened by having passed them by on the bookshelf. william fotheringham's bernard hinault falls into the former category. if you have even simply a passing interest in the sporting side of cycling, here is a book that shines brighter, written in a manner that makes it very hard to put to one side once started. his writing is noticeably finer in each subsequent book; this one is state of the art.

william fotheringham's 'bernard hinault' is published by yellow jersey press on thursday 14 may. through the generosity of the publishers i have one copy to give away to the sender of the first correct answer to the following question.
in which year did bernard hinault last win the tour de france?
answers to brian@twmp.net and please include a full postal address. closing date is monday 18 may.

tuesday 12 may 2015

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tell them we sent you

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.

debbie's cafe

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.

welcometogreatcoffee.co.uk

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as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

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.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... thewashingmachinepost

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