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interviews & features | dvds | equipment | clothing | books | videos | portland 2009

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this is cambridge
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tell them we sent you (part one)

somewhere in the world it's always going to be sunny, and the honed athlete will thus always be in need of an appropriate choice of designer/sports sunglasses. this link ought to do the trick.

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house industries
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the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"i' was only going out today to get fit for next sunday's mince pie ride."

©2014 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 ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

you couldn't make this up

zum zum

my own first proper bike was a blue, single-speed affair, with swept back handlebars and light blue mudguards. memory does not allow me to recall what size wheels it had, but i'm willing to bet they weren't as big as i think they were. however, it appears that they were too big for the moment, because i couldn't ride it. at all. it was just a smidgeon too big for me and i could never achieve any practical sense of balance to try and learn. a great disappointment to both my dad and i, who'd just bought this vision of blue.

brum brum

so i borrowed a smaller red bicycle from one of my friends across the road and spent many a frustrating day, week, month falling off in the back garden until i could eventually ride a bicycle. nowadays, when trying to assist my own kids, and presently some of those looked after by mrs washingmachinepost, it was/is a case of bending uncomfortably and holding the back of the saddle as we run/walk incessantly between here and the distillery bonds. a ride of passage, so to speak.

modern day thought currently revolves round small bicycles bereft of cranks, a chain and pedals, allowing today's kids to place both feet firmly on the ground and propel themselves along unfettered and allegedly without need of adult assistance. while there are many paeans of evidence to the efficacy of this means of cycle education, i sort of have my reservations; somehow it all seems a tad easy, if you get what i mean. allegedly, balance on these crankless cycles comes naturally, allowing the little blighters to commence riding pretty much immediately. within hours, they're scurrying here, there and everywhere while dad contacts sir dave about a future contract for his impressive offspring.

brum brum

but much like many modern day conveniences, i can't help wondering whether this gross simplification of the art of the velocipedinist isn't turning out youthful cyclists with no sense of the pain and suffering that awaits them if sir dave ever follows through on those faint platitudes when dad phoned him in tenerife. graeme obree is on record as advising any incumbent simply to press harder on the pedals when the going gets a little tougher. if the evolutionary path trudged by today's kids is as easy as falling off a saddle, where will be the impetus to live the words of the flying scotsman?

it turns out, however, that for all the hardship not being experienced by the little people, those who produce the very type of cycles to which i have been referring are involved in a battle of their very own. and while internecine commercial warfare is hardly unknown in the world of business, the naming of both parties seems closer to the wonderful of disney than current thinking on brand awareness.

brum brum

the claimed 1997 inventor of the balance bike, germany's like-a-bike filled the void that has now become a recognisably mature part of the cycle market. in order to differentiate, two manufacturers, latvia's brum brum and america's zum zum (honestly, i'm not making this up) have produced variations on a theme fabricated from bent birch or plywood, the latter currently seeking funding via kickstarter. in a weird oddity of market forces, brum brum have become a backer of zum zum in order to post messages on the former's kickstarter page claiming intellectual property infringement.

i have no intention whatsoever of entering into the intricacies of modern day commercialism, because i seriously doubt i'm well enough acquainted with its machinations to bring anything meaningful to the party. and i don't intend to try. however, at the time of year when, theoretically at least, more bicycles are presented to eager children than at any other single time of year, doesn't it fill your little elf heart with joy to know there are still big people in the world willing to name their companies brum brum and zum zum?

brum brum | zum zum kickstarter page

friday 19 december 2014

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showers pass ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

mavic cosmic windjacket

mavic cosmic wind jacket

there's a gent in the village who's been here for a number of years, yet seems not to have quite fitted into what might be termed the local groove. don't get me wrong; he's affable enough in a curt sort of a way, but he's the only bloke i know who still wears a long trench coat in winter. while to most of you this may not seem even close to aberrant behaviour, it's worth my pointing out that nobody, but nobody wears full length coats on islay (though there may have been the odd one or two during the goth period). it's the wind wot does it.

mavic cosmic wind jacket

the rest of us all wear jackets (this only concerns the male population; islay women seemingly have little idea of sartorial presence).

i cannot claim total immunity from this deviation. having failed to even grasp the basic rudiments of the gaelic language and failed miserably to recognise any birdlife other than the ubiquitous barnacle goose, i attempted to reclaim some degree of locality by purchasing a waxed cotton jacket (yes, even worn while cycling) and even a similarly constituted cap. not of the cycling variety i might point out. heaven knows what i must have looked like; i'm sure that rather than seamlessly fitting in, i likely stood out like a sore, waxed cotton thumb.

mavic cosmic wind jacket

this bears velocipedinal comparison. the act of cycling in the uk, prince bradley notwithstanding, is still seen as something of an eccentric activity, particularly in the light of the clothing most of us are (seemingly) happy to wear. the happy factor appending to this state of affairs is that cycling's sartorial rules, despite what you may think, are comparably lax. no matter the label affixed to the inside of the jacket or the logo applied to the leg of your bibshorts/bibtights, the very fact that we are dressed thus, automatically singles us out as members of the pelotonese. however, as with waxed cotton jackets, some are substantially better than others.

mavic cosmic wind jacket

and if i may carefully reprise a portion of my opening gambit, the wind has a great deal to do with the perceived quality of any item of cycling apparel, particularly the jacket. and it is noticeable that cycle clothing has evolved to a level where the full panoply of jackets occupies that of speciality. for we are incredibly well supplied with waterproof stuff-jackets, water-resistant softshells, fully waterproof hardshells and those that offer at least minimal shelter from precipitation but full shielding from the wind. that's without even considering the varying levels of cosy insulation on offer.

mavic cosmic wind jacket

the latter is a fabulously impressive factor in mavic's cosmic windjacket, apparently constructed from three different fabrics with an exterior windshell, a breathable membrane and a fleecy inner that extends all the way down each sleeve. in fact, had i realised that on my initial outing, i'd have been happy with a short-sleeve baselayer rather than the long-sleeve i wore instead. while the breathability is every bit as good as any comparable jacket, it's easily warm enough to wear with baselayer only, even in relatively cold weather.

those cosy sleeves are of an impressive length, ending in mavic's ergo cuffs which succeed in clinging closely to the wrist in order to keep the cold at bay. perhaps its most eccentric visual oddity is the full-length zip that begins in the middle of the hem, but wends its way gracefully towards the left shoulder. the fact that the zip ends in a zip garage as part of that high collar is perhaps unremarkable in itself, but starting in one seems wholly unnecessary and a bit of a footer, if i'm honest.

mavic cosmic wind jacket

and while we're on the subject of zips, there's an almost full width version closing an internally portioned rear pocket, the tag of which features a pull-toggle to simplify use when riding the bike. sadly, the front zip does not possess this feature, nor is there provision for an after-market remedy. that makes life a tad more awkward when riding with gloved hands, if unzipping is deemed necessary for aerodynamic cooling. a minor detail, but...

having been inadvertantly caught in heavy rain on my way home from froth supping one saturday, i had rather resigned myself to reaching the croft a trifle damp inside. for though the cosmic jacket advertises itself as water-resistant, a lack of any taped seams seemed likely to expose its limitations in the face of a downpour. however, i'm happy to relate that those water droplets bobbled delightfully on the jacket's surface and my insides (so to speak) were nice and dry.

overall, the cosmic wind jacket is a substantially versatile item of cycling apparel, more than i'd have figured when formally introduced. come 1 january, when the jlt condor team put away their current-day clothing in the cycling wardrobe, this is one item of mavic clothing that will cheerfully see them through the rest of the winter.

thanks to mavic's michel lethenet and claire beaumont of condor cycles for assistance with this review. the cosmic jacket retails at £170.

mavic cosmic wind jacket

thursday 18 december 2014

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

not just for christmas

world bicycle relief

how quickly could you ride five kilometres? ok, for me, that answer depends on wind direction, while for you the amount of traffic might be a more sensible consideration. either way, i figure most of us would ride that distance rather than walk, especially if we'd stuff to carry and had to undertake the same journey in the opposite direction at the end of the day. if it was the distance your kids had to walk to school and back (ten kilometres), more than just a few of you would soften up and give them a lift, maybe even stretching as far as to collect them again when school ends. given the weather currently troubling my sitting room window, that wouldn't be overly surprising.

world bicycle relief

the single secondary school on islay is located in bowmore, with the kids from outlying areas and the other villages being bussed in each morning. free of charge i believe. and very much to my disapproval, considering bowmore village is a mere one mile end to end, an inordinate number of children are driven to school each morning. with the average distance of a bowmore child from school of half a mile, you'd figure they could walk. they certainly can when popping down to the main street for chips and curry sauce at lunchtime.

world bicycle relief

unfortunately the same travel arrangements seem to apply to those attending the village primary school which sits directly opposite that of the secondary. bicycles are almost conspicuous by their absence, unless the school is training for whatever they call the cycling proficency test these days. were the latter to walk from home to school and back, there's really nothing bad that can happen to them unless they step off the pavement onto the road.

a number of those kids will be getting bicycles for christmas, admittedly not the most clement time of year for teeny tinies to go out cycling on 25 december, but somewhat of a tradition going back many a long year. considering the cost of even a bicycle shaped object these days, it's likely the best time of year for the big parental spend.

world bicycle relief

though i may be guilty of stating the obvious, not everywhere is this safe nor with a school that's so easy to access.
"every morning, tamara performs chores for her family before leaving for school: cooking, cleaning, fetching water, and washing dishes. then she sets out on the four kilometre walk along challenging roads to kabulanga primary school in the kafue district in zambia. tamara is twelve years old. she lost her parents when she was young and now lives with her grandmother, aunt and uncle, and four siblings in kampongwe, zambia. her favorite school subject is english and she has dreams of becoming a teacher. her grandmother says tamara is a hard worker and likes going to school. but tamara often misses classes because of the distance and difficult route."

the above is quoted from the world bicycle relief website. on july 14 this year, admittedly a long way from christmas, tamara and 99 other students at the school were presented each with a bicycle. for these they had to sign a contract agreeing to ensure a timely and regular arrival at their primary school. the bike also offers independence for her immediate family. tamara's aunt says "We will use this bike as a family. On Saturdays we will be able to take maize to the mill to grind, while Tamara will also use the bicycle to go to church on Sundays."

world bicycle relief

in addition, wbr were able to train two mechanics to service the bicycles for the school and the surrounding communities. and when tamara moves onto secondary school, the bike is likely to be handed down to younger members of the family or to other kids at kabulanga primary school.

take a look at the video linked below to see just how happy the presentation of a bicycle has made tamara and her schoolmates. though i figure we're all facing at least one month of penury as a result of our over-profligate christmas spending sprees, perhaps you could spare a coin or two to send in the direction of world bicycle relief to help them continue their darned near essential work.

after all, as we are constantly reminded, a bicycle isn't just for christmas.

,em>tamara's new bicycle

wednesday 17 december 2014

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 wabi woolens ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

these are the days of our lives

rapha festive 500

one hundred and seventeen days. that's how long we have to wait until the 2015 paris-roubaix, the one-day classic that i would happily swap for all three weeks of the tour de france. an easy statement to make, safe in the knowledge that both will likely remain in the international cycling calendar for the foreseeable future. and much as i'd hate to give the impression that between now and then nothing else matters, in point of fact, nothing else matters. it is a huge and embarrassing iniquity that most of us moan like stink about the state of the public roads, then shake our metaphorical fists at the tv, when most of the peloton opt to ride in the smoother stretches of road that border the cobbles.

there's no pleasing some folks.

rapha festive 500

the very same sense of apprehension can be seen in the eyes of the cyclocross brigade. their season ends around the switch from january to february, with nothing serious taking place between then and cross-vegas at the end of september. for the cyclocross fanatic, the spring classics and grand tours might just as well not exist; they are but insignificant events that get in the way between each season of hurdles, mud and sand. i'm not arguing against either of those facts; if i'm in the right frame of mind, either will likely seem quite equitable.

this wishing our lives away is a common state of affairs amongst members of the human race. who hasn't sat either in college or work, mentally willing the wall clock to move a darned sight faster than it has been doing all day? and now it is that time of year when polar opposites view each other's seasonal motives with suspicion. mrs washingmachinepost is a christmas enthusiast as can be witnessed by the substantial quantity of decorations and tinsel not only on our tree, but festooned about strategic parts of the croft.

rapha festive 500

i, on the other hand, view the proceedings at the end of the year with a large helping of bah humbug. the sooner it's all over the better, as far as i'm concerned, and that goes double for new year when i have need of redoubling my efforts to avoid any visible trace of scottish hogmanay tv. it is probably the biggest annual anti-climax known to mankind, or would be were it not for one salient feature...

rapha's festive 500.

ever since designer graeme raeburn was daft enough to spend his christmas holiday riding 1000km between christmas eve and new year's eve, the boredom engendered by the christmas holiday has taken on a more scintillating existence. aware that the majority of us have families to whom we owe a certain level of seasonal allegiance, the fine folks at imperial works halved the number of kilometres and offered the challenge to the great unwashed.

and thus, for the last four or five years (who can remember) i, along with a sizeable number of the world's cycling population, have had no need of watching endless repeats of only fools and horses. instead, i have kept one eye firmly set on the local weather report, for almost every year without fail, there have been days of excessive wind speed curtailing my exuberance. the silver lining that surrounds the latter fact is an opportunity to redress the situation over the following days.

rapha festive 500

they don't call it a challenge for nothing.

many of you will have joined me on my festive 500 in past years, if perhaps at somewhat of a distance. and i hope we've agreed amongst ourselves that those 500 kilometres ridden from rapha's san francisco cycle club are of hollow virtue by comparison to the same distance in britain's less freindly climate? there will always be those who err more towards the raeburn distance and which the festive 500 welcomes with open arms. but similarly to an audax ride, it is simply a case of riding those 500 kilometres in whichever manner you find most suitable.

do them all in one day if you want, or average them out over the eight day period. if you're working over the festive period, i'm sure you'll figure it out somehow, but whatever the circumstances in which you find yourself, i'd recommend embracing the challenge.

end the year in the manner in which you'd like to continue the next.

rapha festive 500 2014

tuesday 16 december 2014

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coffee beans

a couple of weeks ago, islay's local newspaper printed a full-page advert from the owner of the local sweet shop. despite having no connection to astana team management (that i know of) in large lettering at the top of the ad were the words 'do you need drugs to get you through christmas?', before going onto point out that the drugs to which he was referring were caffeine, chocolate and sugar, the very things you might expect to be available from a sweet shop also offering barista style coffee. it appears that the majority of folks took the ad as it was intended; with a slightly offbeat sense of humour. however, what may have let him down was the next paragraph, claiming that those drugs were all class a. by this he inteded to infer that his products were all first class, but the self-righteous decided to place this in the context of hard drugs.

now while the proprietor may have a slightly misconstrued sense of humour, there can be little doubt that he was at least partially correct. and in point of fact, he doesn't sell or supply hard drugs. the difference appears to be that the drugs to which he referred in the ad (and make little mistake, they are all classed as drugs) are all legal. and as my son pointed out, if the whisky shop across the road had advertised 'do you need alcohol to get you through christmas?', nobody would have batted an eyelid.

bag of sugar

however, it's not only foodstuffs such as chocolate, sugar and caffeine that can be classed as addictive. it seems that certain activities may also be classed as such. cycling, for instance.

every sunday morning is the same. up at 8:30am, clothe myself in the previous evening's carefully laid out apparel and pop downstairs for breakfast (as i pointed out yesterday, porage with sliced peaches on the top). after washing the dishes and shaving, it's on with the exterior clothing and off out into the wide blue/grey yonder to meet up at debbie's 15km distant. except yesterday morning the wind was howling and the rain quite torrential. granted, that's not entirely unusual out here, but yesterday morning was just a few raindrops beyond the pale, so despite being dressed for the occasion, i baled out.

that was my first mistake. when you're used to riding out pretty much every sunday morning apart from holidays, having to sit in the armchair watching christmas movies is something of a let down. this iniquitous situation was only made worse by my constant trips to the sitting room window to see if there were any tell-tale signs of improvement in the weather. eventually, mrs washingmachinepost admitted that my cosntant fidgeting was driving her nuts and would i please just go out on my bike.

so i did.

chocolate bar

much like many who are addicted to coffee, chocolate, sugar or any other classified addiction, i'd always figured that i could easily miss one scheduled bike ride without it making one iota of difference. because there really are certain days over the winter months when riding a bike comes perilously close to resembling suicide tendencies. i've only actually been blown off my bike once (or twice), but i have been in the company of the uninitiated who have examined islay's roadside ditches a little closer than intended. once the average windspeed is over 40mph, depending on direction, it can be extremely foolhardy and dangerous to go riding a bike.

sales of deep-rimmed wheels are almost nil in this part of the world.

none of this is to ameliorate my ultimately (forced) decision to ride to debbie's and back for a coffee. one or two roads were flooded and the headwind in places almost brought me to a complete standstill. but in point of fact, even allowing for the above circumstances, it was an addiction worth satisfying; no, it was better than that; it was ruddy brilliant.

monday 15 december 2014

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the ride journal number nine ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

rapha climbers' shoes

rapha climbers' shoes

at the risk of falling foul of the post astana licence brouhaha, the letters 'epo' have always been local shorthand for extra porage oats. however, availability of the very necessary large oats has been something of a wild goose chase ever since the upgrading of our local averagemarket. for many a long year, my daily ration of epo (with peach slices on top) has been met by a regular supply of scotts old fashioned prage oats a variety that is somewhat larger than their standard fare. while the local store was in the process of becoming bright and shiny, many products were removed from the shelves in order that the shopfitters might have room to manoeuvre.

rapha climbers' shoes

unfortunately, several previously desirable items, such as litre bottles of san pellegrino, failed to return, another of which was the aforesaid porage oats. strangely, though both varieties of scotts oats were conspicuous by their absence, the diversity of instant porage products grew like wildfire, leaving only the store's own brand of regular oats available. unfortunately, when transformed into a hot breakfast cereal, the latter tastes like mush (with peach slices on top). so it was time to look elsewhere.

it is, therefore, not only fortunate, but highly convenient that debbie's stocks 3 kilogram bags of green city jumbo oats, a product that satisfactorily filled the empty space left by the lack of the scotts old-fashioned variety. of course (and you could probably see this coming), the vagaries of stock control in the averagemarket dictates that often, and without prior warning, products suddenly reappear on the shelves. which is precisely what happened with the old-fashioned porage oats. sadly, that has yet to happen with the san pellegrino.

rapha climbers' shoes

now, however, after surviving on green city's offering for a month or so, i find that i'm less than impressed with those scotts oats.

so, while the availability of those 3kg bags at debbie's is highly fortuitous, they are also a tad further adrift than those in the store a few hundred metres down bowmore main street. this means that the only real means of transportation is by way of a cotton musette slung over one shoulder, in the process adding 3kg (almost half a stone) to my climbing weight. and legend would have it that the average grimpeur is marginally obsessed with losing rather than gaining weight.

with seriously perforated uppers, such is the mindset behind rapha's new climbers' cycle shoes, the size 42.5 weighing a scant 215 grams which really isn't very much at all. in fact, it's almost 100 grams less than the rapha gt shoes, and i can't say those feel too heavy on the feet. the worst part is an unhappy coincidence, for a pair of cycle shoes splattered with a myriad of tiny holes are not the footwear you want to be wearing in sub zero rain and hail. however, though it's december, it's not winter everywhere; rapha are quite well entrenched in the antipodes where this end of the year is an endless feast of sun, sea and sand. and come january, those three will be appended to by the tour down under.

rapha climbers' shoes

i managed a few rides where i was able to show off their sky blue and white to the inhabitants of the isle who could truthfully care less. but more recent escapades have seen them covered by a pair of rapha winter overshoes. the perforated uppers are formed from a mesh-backed synthetic leather, joined to a giro engineered carbon sole, all of which eschews any excess weight. thus, even when climbing laden with an extra 3kg of jumbo porage oats, spinning those carefully honed leg muscles is accomplished with ease. the lack of foot weight is particularly noticeable, even by a lanterne rouge such as myself.

similar to both the gt shoes and rapha's recently reviewed cyclocross shoes, the climbers' shoes arrive with two sets of inserts allowing a fine tuning of the excellent fitted footbeds. and in common with the cyclocross and gt shoes, they're available in half sizes, meaning i could save a few extra grams by dropping from my more usual size 44 to a 43.5. and doing so also means i can comfortably live without either set of inserts. and for the chap on twitter who queried the validity of offering only velcro straps as a closure method rather than at least one alloy ratchet (as on their other two footwear offerings), the velcro is more than equal to the job of keeping the shoes firmly in place while climbing enthusiastically as well as transporting porage oats.

rapha climbers' shoes

thankfully, rapha have not spent all their spare time removing unnecessary grams at the expense of comfort. in fact, despite their perforated svelteness, these shoes are easily amongst the most comfortable i've ridden, even without playing about with the inserts. the padding round the ankle offers not only an ideal level of support, but a padded support. so those explosive efforts on a 14% incline won't result in more pain than than engendered by the ascent in the first place.

my only query surrounds the perforated envelope incuded in the magnetically closed box. this contains a compact and bijou care and instruction manual and a white card emblazoned with several carefully considered logos. however, quite what i'm expected to do with this remains a complete mystery.

in the meantime, i've sat my bag of jumbo oats on it.

rapha climbers' shoes are available in blue/white (as reviewed), black/pink and white/grey in full and half sizes ranging from 39 to 46.5 and also in 47 and 48. cost is £280.

rapha climbers' shoes

sunday 14 december 2014

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a film about coffee

a film about coffee

no smoking on apron.

that's what it said on the back of the identity card that was handed to me when, as a student, i started working at prestwick airport. this was before they gave me what would more readily be recognised as an id card nowadays, encapsulated in plastic and with a photo in the corner. this was simply a piece of orange card with my name, employer and department of work written in biro on the front. and on the back was printed no smoking on apron. bear in mind that it was a catering company that had employed me, and the only aprons i was aware of, were those worn by the chefs. and when they had a smoke break, they'd to take their aprons off. however, they didn't have id cards because the chefs never had need of going anywhere other than the kitchen.

a film about coffee

and i didn't smoke.

you can imagine how stupid i felt on discovering the aprons to which the card referred were the aircraft parking bays. though described as gates when waiting to board a flight, collectively those gates open out onto the apron. in fact, enter the aerogrill in the prestwick airport of yesteryear, through the big swing doors from the kitchen, passing the canteen where the chefs (minus their aprons) were having a smoke break, and the apron was clearly visible through the tall windows.

a film about coffee

at both ends of the aerogrill were a pair of cona coffee machines, on which the filter coffee pots sat all day. rumour had it that, at the end of the day, if you placed a teaspoon in the leftover coffee, the spoon would remain upright. and that the coffee could then be used to repair cracks in the apron. quite how folks who had paid for a three course lunch in the restaurant could put up with such stewed coffee was something of a mystery. ironically the best way to gain a decent cup was to be on a delayed flight. meals were then prepared for usually a couple of hundred passengers, necessitating fresh coffee.

a film about coffee

quite how it was possible to have created such a flavourless, tarry substance from carefully grown coffee plants, i will probably never know. thankfully our appreciation of the drink through the appearance of specialty coffees has taken the brown liquid from being little more than a traded commodity, to its present day status as one of direct trade. all this is made beautifully clear in dalia burde's and brandon loper's 'a film about coffee'. the british public premiere took place on thursday eve at the manchester rapha cycle club. but if you missed those convivial surroundings, it's possible to either purchase or rent the film via vimeo.com (see link at the end of this review).

a film about coffee

not unnaturally for a film about coffee, the processes of growing, picking, processing, packing, shipping, roasting and drinking are depicted in marvellous detail, beautifully filmed and brought to life by interviews with coffee obsessives. these include david rumbanzangabo of the huye mountain coffee plantation in rwanda from whence comes the direct trade beans employed by portland's stumptown coffee. their green coffee buyer, darrin daniel explains that the first step up to providing equitable prices to coffee growers in africa and south america was the ubiquitous fair trade. a film about coffee however, in order to offer the customer a better coffee and the farmers the ability to plan a longer term strategy ("i can increase the size of my house and take care of my children's education."), stumptown's brown packets now bear a direct trade sticker as witness to their partnership with huye.

if you consider yourself something of a coffee obsessive, ruminating over the quality of the espresso sitting on the table in front of you in costa or starbucks (who am i kidding?) it would pay you well to observe the machinations of katsu tanaka, owner of japan's bear pond espresso. so obsessed is tanaka over the quality of the drink offered to his customers, that he has been known to keep the shutters to his premises closed until he is satisfied with the espressos drawn from his coffee machine.

that's true obsession.

however, in what is the film's finest moment, kevin bohlin, barista at ritual coffee roasters makes espressos and cappuccinos for the farmers who supply ritual's coffee. none of them have ever previously tasted their coffee in this fashion, and the look on their faces would have you wondering if this is quite what they expected. the movie lasts marginally over the hour and guarantees one outcome; you'll never approach a cup of espresso, cappuccino or latte in the same way ever again.

quite superb.

a film about coffee

saturday 13 december 2014

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sportif magazine> ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

look mum no hands stainless steel hip flask and cage

lmnh flask

despite the best efforts of the so-called weatherbomb this past week, i still find myself surrounded by eight malt whisky distilleries. and, as mentioned in these very pixels not so very long ago, there's a ninth due to begin construction in march of next year. despite being a committed tee-totaller, intent on keeping one's distance from the surrounding single malts, i have almost inevitably learned more about uisge beatha than i really wanted to. in fact, so well-versed am i in matters relating to mixing water, yeast and barley, that i even recently reviewed a book on the subject for our local newspaper.

the very fact that another book would spend two lengthy chapters explaining the history of whisky-making and the process itself is pointless at best and iniquitous at worst. there have been more books written about whisky than ever was the case about cycling, despite the fact that the ingredients and means of production haven't altered for over 500 years. i assume that any individuals with a penchant for the amber nectar will have little need of a phalanx of books all of which describe (often in minute detail), how the aforementioned ingredients are poured into wooden barrels and stored for at least ten years. just one ought to do just fine.

lmnh flask

while travelling to each open day at an islay whisky festival several years ago in order to photograph the proceedings, i met a whisky aficionado who was fuming and muttering while holding a small notebook and pencil. when i enquired as to the reason for his apparent disappointment, he told me that the distillery in which we were standing would not reveal the parts per million of the phenol content of their single malt. apparently every other distillery had included this information as part of their tours. as a non-believer, so to speak, i couldn't quite see the problem, for it wasn't as if he could replicate the process at home. wouldn't he be better simply to enjoy drinking his tipple of choice?

lmnh flask

and while we're discussing drinking, one of the accoutrements that came to light during those years of trying unsuccessfuly to avoid single malt whiskies, is what i believe is more readily referred to as a hip flask. there are a couple of reasons i can think of for this state of affairs; firstly, there's no sense of convenience associated with carrying around a glass bottle of the preferred dram. and secondly, how embarrassing would it be to be caught red-handed sipping an ardbeg while touring lagavulin, or a laphroaig while being guided through bowmore? the obvious answer is to pour a measured amount into an all but anonymous hip flask.

there are only a few folks who visit the islay whisky festival that travel between distilleries by bicycle, but there are many who do so throughout the summer months. that's the very reason why ardbeg, bowmore and bruichladdich successfully offer branded cycle jerseys for sale. and should those cycling whisky fans feel the need to be accompanied by a hip flask, the ingenious folks at look mum no hands! have the very items to ease such a quest.

lmnh flask

made from stainless steel and emblazoned with the lmnh branding and a bicycle motif, the curved flask is accompanied by a stainless ahearne cycles bottle cage, carefully fabricated to accommodate the curve of the flask. this does, however, mean that the flask really only fits in one way, but it's not really the sort of thing that you'd find need of accessing while riding (i'm not even sure it could be reached from the saddle). to prevent loss of the screw-on cap, there's a clever hinged bracket attached; the only thing missing is your dram of choice.

for those who remain to be convinced, the incredibly narrow profile offered by the flask and cage has to add a few kph of aerodynamic bonus. i have tested this in 30+ winds and horizontal rain, but in the absence of verified data, you'll just have to take my word for it that it works. however, i've no idea if plain water is any faster that ten year-old single malt.

the look mum no hands hip flask and holder retails via the cafe for £45 or can be ordered from the lmnh website. the ideal christmas present for the cyclist who thinks he/she already has everything.

look mum no hands hip flask and holder

friday 12 december 2014

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bikmo cycle insurance

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rapha cyclocross shoes

rapha cyclocross shoes

over the past year or so, i have managed to describe many of the reasons why i have no desire (or choice) to affix a number to the pockets of my jersey and race cyclocross. despite having received a pre-release copy of jeremy powers' 'cross clinic video for review last year and having almost religiously put many of his instructions into practice, i see little signs of improvement over my pre-powers situation. this, i might point out, is no refelection on the usa national champion, nor indeed for my own tenacity when it comes to a desire for improvement. let's face it, not everyone is cut out to be a cyclocross champion.

rapha cyclocross shoes

but despite protestations from the professionals that this is an all inclusive sport, designed for family days out and the very style of racing in which anyone can participate, there are features that separate them from us. an almost inhuman athletic ability has to be the most obvious, but for those who may have seen the excellent sram video depicting powers and his mechanic, there are a number of other details rather conspicuous by their presence.

sram's cx-1 chainset and derailleur for one. while the rest of us are struggling to change from inner ring to outer, jeremy's already leaving us in the dust (or mud). and he and his professional cohorts are all aboard state of the art carbon 'cross bikes that have been tweaked to within a millimetre of their ultimate performance. do we know how to to do that? no. nor do we have an entire peloton of the blighters to facilitate endless, smooth pit-stops. and while i have no intention of ever being seen in public wearing a rapha onesie, there has to be some advantage to such sartorial faux pas or they wouldn't do it on television.

would they?

rapha cyclocross shoes

you would be well within your rights to ask what has brought this state of affairs to my attention that i felt need of bringing it to your attention. and i feel no shame in pointing out that the arrival of a pair of rapha's new cyclocross shoes is what started it all. beginning from the ground up, so to speak. but before we enter the whys and wherefores concerning the huge chasm between me and literally any professional (or decent amateur come to that), i feel it only fair to point out the generosity of rapha's sizing policy. more often than not, i would simply specify my shoe size as 44 when it comes to arranging for review samples of footwear.

rapha cyclocross shoes

by and large (if you'll pardon the pun), that has served me well, but frequently that 44 has proven to be a smidgeon on the large size; comfortable but roomy. rapha, however, doubtless in co-operation with giro who make the shoes, offer half-sizes, for which i am eternally grateful. thus, inside the highly intriguing eggbox packaging were a pair of size 43.5 black cyclocross shoes.

just ginger peachy.

all of rapha's footwear offers two pairs of shaped cork insteps to allow fine tuning of the footbed. i'm in two minds over these; i figure i ought to use them since they're in the box, but whether i actually need them or not, i haven't quite figured out. nonetheless, it's a neat addition to the product. and in the case of shoes designed to leap tall buildings in a single bound, rapha also provide a couple of studs for fixing up front to gain greater traction when running up rocky mountains. in retrospect, i might have been better to fit those before rather than later.

rapha cyclocross shoes

the fabulous soles with sky-blue treads are configured to accept standard two-bolt cleat systems such as shimano's spd or those for the crank brothers' eggbeaters fitted to my lime green hakkalugi. up top, the synthetic leather is bumpered with a textured rubber. 'cross shoes are unlikely to be given a smooth ride, particularly when worn by the inept such as yours truly. secure, and i mean very secure, closure is provided by two front velcro straps and a main aluminium ratcheted strap (similar to that on rapha's grand tour shoes) all covering a comfortable and flexible tongue.

rapha cyclocross shoes

add all these factors together and suddenly that gap between us and them becomes a tad more explicable. though few, if any, of my adventures in the mud have been conducted at speed that would scarcely worry a garmin, the difference a well fitted pair of shoes can make is almost tangible. add to that the incredible stiffness of those giro soles and both hard pedalling and effortless scrabbling (who am i kidding?) are suddenly a lot easier than was previously the case. while you'll be less than surprised that i forgot to unclip my left foot when dismounting, what was surprising was the lack of even a single scuff mark after picking myself out the ditch. on the subsequent steep, rocky and wet leafy clamber, i managed to remain upright all the way to the top.

rapha cyclocross shoes

of course, adding the abbreviated word 'cross to the shoes' description, does not undermine or negate their use for any other form of cycling. after an aborted attempt to use my c40 for the sunday morning ride, on discovering a loose cassette (don't ask), i had need of slipping on the 'cross shoes to ride the candy pedal equipped cielo, a function they fulfilled with aplomb.

if i had need of bringing a criticism to the fore, i'd have preferred a touch more visible colour if only to draw attention to the fact that i'm wearing a pair. it would surely have been possible to have repeated the sky blue on the sole in one of those top straps?

however, such a remark is of a superficial nature; all black doesn't remove one iota of their effectiveness, comfort or remarkably understated style. maybe i should even everything up all round and purchase richard sachs' cross bike; apart from the rider, that ought to make for a winning combination.

rapha's cyclocross shoes are available in sizes 39 through to 48 with half sizes up to 46.5 in black only (size 43.5 tested). cost is £250

rapha cyclocross shoes

thursday 11 december 2014

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

powered by hippo technology

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sit on yer bahookie

shand cycles bahookie

language is quite a fabulous subject of study even for its own sake, divorced from the necessity to offer up any seemingly logical meaning. phonetics and semantics allow for a wide range of explorations without necessarily being constrained by a need to make logical sense. some of you may have noticed certain leanings in that direction midst these pixels over the years. sometimes these linguistic digressions have been deliberate ploys, allowing me to demonstrate just how little i comprehend that which i do. others are simply happy accidents that either slip on by unnoticed, or which are subsequently pointed out by others far better qualified than i. but no matter which, the journey is a happy one.

shand cycles bahookie

i refer, of course, solely to the english language, mostly based on my inability to speak, write or understand any other. well, that's not entirely true, for there is a form of slang that derives from a variation on that which we speak and write every day. often referred to as auld scots (which is admittedly somewhat more fully constituted than that to which i refer), it has the ability to add a smidgeon of colour, even if mostly incomprehensible by those who live not in the northlands.

shand cycles bahookie

phrases such as 'haud yer wheesht', would constitute an instruction to remain quiet, while 'gie it laldy' is an encouragement to participate with gusto. if i might turn the conversation to the more topical, prior to the wind rising to interesting proportions late on tuesday, the day would have been described as dreich, a short adjective that i would think needs little by way of explanation.

of course, those merely scrape the surface of the alternatives the scottish nation has at its fingertips (quite literally in this case). for even daring to broach this particular line of thought in a blog that more often than not concerns itself with the world of the velocipede, several would be likely to describe me as a dunderheid, eejit, galoot or numptie, while others may find the whole enterprise somewhat 'gallus'. despite the protestations of the former, there is serious bicycle interest behind my apparently aimless meanderings, interest that has been fomented by the inestimable steven shand and russell stout, the pair behind scotland's premier bicycle brand, lovingly hand-crafted on the outskirts of edinburgh.

shand cycles bahookie

where the majors are inclined to adorn their carbon, aluminium or steel with apparently fictitious monikers such as emonda, more believable expressions by way of roubaix and impressive numerical apellations such as c60, there's little in the way of identity to be garnered from any of the above. and most certainly not that which would give rise to a specific nationality. which is precisely why scotland's shand cycles feature a range more aptly named on the top tube: stoater, skinnymalinky and stooshie. in my opinion, any one of the above hand-built steel bicycles would be worth owning on the strength of their names alone. the fact that all three are superb examples of the framebuilders' art make it simple to justify either way.

shand cycles bahookie

but having stuck mostly to the land of the bendy bars, shand have now diversified into that of the hardtail mountain bike, and with characteristic scottish aplomb, the name on the sloping top tube is bahookie, scottish slang for your bum, backside (or ass, for my american friends). designed around the now almost ubiquitous 29" wheel, this steel frame is fashioned from columbus nobium tubing, with a headtube built to accept the latest in tapered suspension fork steerers. in common with its more road-oriented stoater stablemate, the bahookie can be ordered as frame only or a fully assembled bicycle with double or triple chainset, a 1x10 groupset, singlespeed or even the rohloff 14 speed hub gear.

shand cycles bahookie

there are three distinct sizes in small, medium and large, equating to 48.5, 49.5 and 52 cm frames and in 23 standard colours. given that mountain bikes are ultimately dervied from the 26" wheel, why did steven opt for 29"?

"Two reasons. I've been a fan of the bigger wheels and how they roll for a while. I've been building 29" wheel mountain bikes for a very long time. I think they come into their own when riding long miles off-road. Though I'm aware that there's an argument that smaller wheels are somehow better in very tight technical situations."

having ridden the shand stoater equipped with rohloff's sophisticated but hardly light weight hub gear and belt drive, it was hardly a surprise to see this as a build option on the bahookie, particularly with steven offering an eccentric bottom bracket fitting and the polydrop dropouts making it a simple operation to fit the carbon belt through the frame. does steven figure there's a niche market waiting to be discovered for a hardtail 29er with a rohloff?

shand cycles bahookie

"Well we already do some of those. I'm not sure it'll ever be a huge market. For someone who wants to tour offroad and where reliability is key, it's a natural choice. Some of the in fashion multi day/week endurance events - the Tour Divide for example - are ideal for that kind of thing."

though shand cycles originated as bespoke builders of handcrafted frames, the recent developments of the past few years have been geared towards offering a specific range; still handbuilt, but without the endless options inherent in a custom build. the bahookie is the culmination of a few previous experiments in offroad mass production (for want of a better phrase). it's the whole that has arrived via the sum of its parts. is this first foray into the mountain bike market the result of demand, or a cunning strategy on his part?

"It's a tricky one. I started by building mountain bikes and although we've never had one in our production range, we've always been building them. The competition for steel hardtail mountain bikes in the UK is fierce and we're competing with much cheaper bikes, but we're constantly being told we should include one in the range. So here it is!"

the only satisfactory ending to this particular foray into language manipulation is to order one and sit on your bahookie.

shand cycles bahookie

wednesday 10 december 2014

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resistance is futile

white chalk hills ultracross

aside from his screenprinted campbell's soup cans and the prognostication that everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes, american artist andy warhol was also responsible for having filmed empire in 1964. this silent, black and white, slow-motion film consisted of eight hours and five minutes worth of the empire state building in new york. warhol, during his lifteime, would not allow edited viewings, believing that its inherent unwatchability was every bit as important as the avowed artistic intent of the work.

white chalk hills ultracross

it would seem superfluous to mention that during those eight hours and five minutes, very little actually happened. though the interior of the empire state building maybe a hive of activity during the same period, its exterior is not what you and i would call a bundle of joy. such are the vicissitudes of the avant garde.

cyclocross, on the other hand is not only the very antithesis of avant garde (discounting some of the more inventive means of clambering over white chalk hills ultracross the hurdles), but something of a frantic spectacle at the best of times. in common with xc mountain bike and formula one car races, the argie bargie and acceleration to reach that first corner at the head of the pack is only the start of the action. the unexpected often plays out over the subsequent hour, as differing strategies are brought into play. add in some of the eccentricities brought from portland by rapha's supercross series, and somehow the empire state building begins to appear rather static by comparison.

white chalk hills ultracross

however, for some, mere cyclocross was never going to be enough. such is the sport's increasing popularity, there are always going to be those for whom conformity is seen as a form of failure. gone are the days when one could wallow in faux self-pity that no-one (and i really mean no-one) understood the attraction of bendy bars, hurdles and thick layers of mud. today it's almost as much a part of british culture as prince bradley nabbing time-trial gold at the london olympics. for all i know, the search may always have been on for an alternative use of the 'cross bike, yet encompassing some of the somnolence and futility of andy warhol's empire.

white chalk hills ultracross

witness the second (or maybe the third) coming.

essentially every bike ride is a rite of passage; a means of traversing the landscape whether paved or otherwise, aware of one's surroundings and pelotonic observations. but no matter the intent, speed or inherent competition implied, a bike ride or race can only ever be an individual experience. and were it possible to subtly and accurately reflect the vainglorious and futile, gavin peacock's three and a half minute film of two cyclocrossers passing across the white chalk hills is probably the very best attempt to be brought to our attention in recent times.

white chalk hills ultracross

not wishing to preface this article with a spoiler alert, i refuse to make further comment upon mr peacock's unique vision, but i think it only fair to say that, in a future only just round the next bend, more and more of us will remember where we were when we first came across ultracross.

the white chalk hills utlracross event makes a return visit at 9am on 27 december leaving from eastbourne's tri-store. the after party will be held at the belgian cafe in grand parade, eastbourne. make no mistake, this is the next big thing.

white chalk hills ultracross - the movie

tuesday 9 december 2014

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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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book reviews

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