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this is cambridge baselayer

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

the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"they don't make 'jammy dodgers' like they used to."

©2016 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 and n+1 cycle t-shirts


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endura cycle clothing ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

big brother

boardroom

though you may think it a strange notion for a holiday, every year, mrs washingmachinepost and i choose at least a couple of dvds to take with us, movies that we might watch in the luxury of our apartment (darling) of a dark winter's evening. one of those was roald dahl's rather intriguing bfg, but the other was the latest from the star trek franchise which bizarrely commences with the destruction of the uss enterprise. not only did i not see that coming, it was akin to killing off the principal character before the main narrative has begun.

star trek, the original series, was first broadcast on nbc fifty years ago and it is surely testament to its enduring qualities that it can still attract a substantial paying audience so far into its dotage. the original storytelling was based on classical mythology with just a soupcon of cowboys and indians added for good measure. but almost ignored by the average trekkie, the movies' continued popularity at the box office has more to do with commercial success than an overwhelming desire to satisfy the world's science fiction aficionados.

star trek beyond, released in the uk at the beginning of the summer, is a product of universal studios. as with all large corporations such as universal, the bottom line is the number at the foot of the annual accounts. if star trek fans avoided the movies in droves, you can be sure that j j abrams would have to find himself another paymaster. it's the same all across holywood and i doubt i'm telling you anything you didn't already know.

it's friday afternoon, the end of a busy working week leading towards the biggest anti-climax of the year. but all over the country, nay, the world, folks like you and me have only one thought in mind, a thought that is focused purely on the weekly activity of getting out on the bike. naturally enough, just what this consists of will vary widely across the spectrum. some of us are more than happy to simply pedal in the direction of caffeinated froth, while others will scoff heartily at such minimal mileage as they prepare the team car for yet another marathon excursion.

in a recent article appearing on the business of fashion website, author limei hoang reported on the new mantra 'feeling good is the new looking good.' one based on sound economic reasoning. why else would a large conglomerate such as louis vuitton moet hennessy have purchased such a large stake in team sky's bicycle supplier, pinarello? though separated as much by distance as by commercial intent, this puts the italian cycle manufacturer in the same cupboard as islay's ardbeg distillery, whose parent company glenmorangie is a part of the lvmh empire.

it is a situation about which we possibly ought to be genuinely outraged; here's a longstanding family owned firm that is now a smallish cog in a business, the name of which would scarcely have you believe they had much in the way of interest in matters of a velocipedinal nature. unlike some of the world tour sponsorship deals which rely on the enthusiasm of a wealthy benefactor, an individual who is as obsessive about cycling as are you and i, but with the financial wherewithal to indulge more deeply for at least a year or so, lvmh have no intrinsic interest in cycling. but the fact that we have, is that which has garnered their (financial) attention. as long as we innocently, yet enthusiastically abide by the 'feeling good is the new looking good' mindset, big business will be inclined to take note.

whether that's a good thing or not is open to debate.

it would be naive of me to pretend this is a malady (if such it is) pertaining purely to the world of cycling. many other activities with a large or growing number of adherents are likely to find themselves subject to changes both desirable and undesirable over the coming years. the article to which i referred above goes on to mention that the overall global market for health and wellness reached $701 billion last year and is ecpected to reach $833 billion within the next half-decade. cycling will doubtless play only a minor part in achieving those numbers, but it's a 17 percent growth which overshadows the mere one percent growth demonstrated by the personal luxury goods market in the past year.

so while you and i look forward to the weekend in order to free ourselves from the shackles of the business week and notionally improve or maintain our fitness levels, there are folks in the boardroom who are counting on it.

literally

business of fashion

friday 9 december 2016

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rouleur issue 67 ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

what? more numbers?

numbers

it is ironic and just a bit like the proverbial london buses; you scarcely see mention of numerical information for months, then all of a sudden they are the discussion du jour for more than just one jour. i'm still not persuaded, mind you, and will continue my luddite ways, lost to modernity when modernity could hardly care less.

but, for the great unwashed, numbers are their daily bread, veritable manna from heaven. i spend most of my sundays in an almost peloton (see yesterday's article) alongside velo club members with all manner of digital trickery fastened to their handlebars, trickery that extends as far as go pro cameras recording each and every kilometre in order to review at our leisure on somebody's iphone. personally, i'm more interested in the froth and a jammy dodger, but there's no accounting for some folks.

numbers

and as has become de rigeur with many of the lycra clad, at least one of those devices strapped to the bars is also recording every one of those kilometres before being uploaded to strava later that same day. i have been known to disparagingly refer to strava as 'facebook for cyclists', a comment by which i stand without regret. but then, i have no time for facebook either, so that likely says more about me than it does about the pelotonese at large.

numbers

but while pretty little maps of those sunday morning exertions are being shared amongst family and friends, coming perilously close to an evening looking at someone else's holiday photographs, the elves at strava headquarters are gathering all those numbers into an array of little red boxes, before collating them into a handy little book, a copy of which has recently made its way into my track-mitted paws. and despite any misgivings i might have over the point of the whole construct, some of the numbers are actually quite interesting, while others elicited more than just the occasional wtf?

numbers

for instance, and it may well be worth dropping this into conversation the next time you're in a lengthy queue at the averagemarket, did you know that, in the united kingdom, 2016's most active day was sunday 8 may, yet worldwide it was sunday 11 september? church attendance must have been a tad lower on both those days. the average ride distance for british men is a rather lowly 41km compared to the fairer sex's even lower 34km and at respective speeds of 25.6km/h and 19.8km/h.

numbers

and just for the record, the most popular commuting day was tuesday 19 july. and no, i have no idea why.

assuming your appetite for numbers has diminished little over the past few paragraphs, strava's worldwide cycling adherents uploaded a total of 161 million rides of which 27 million belonged to the brits. and somewhat disappointingly, glasgow (19.9km) and edinburgh (20.3km) edged out the country's capital (21km) as hosts to the shortest average ride. fear not that i have exhausted strava's numerical largesse; there is a whole landscape of numbers that i have left untouched for reasons of both brevity and sanity.

what does all this mean? darned if i know.

strava

thursday 8 december 2016

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chalet col des aravis ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

our number's up

peloton

i believe i may have partially broached this subject on a previous occasion, but given its relevance to the discussion about to make itself known, i'm going to pretend to regale you with information currently not in your possession. once more, my monologue concerns the preponderance of numbers in our happy little world of cycling. i am not in favour of numbers per se, relying a great deal more upon the written (or typed) word and a wide variety of image formats. the latter and former are of greater comfort in my own little bubble, but i rather reluctantly deal with numerical values when they impinge upon reality, such as it is.

not so very long ago, the cutting edge of clincher technology made this entirely necessary, though happily, the world of skinnyness is a tad less complex than that facing the offroad fraternity. those unfortunates have to spend three times as long on the bicycle shop floor, endlessly debating the relative merits of standard 26", twenty-niners and the more recent 650b standard. other than the all but extinct 27 x 1 1/4", our skinnyness embraces merely the oddly named 700c. the variations, such as they are, simply concern the width. the once uniform and mandatort 23mm has been supplanted by 26mm, 28mm and, fitting no known road bike but remarkably comfortable nonetheless, 33mm.

peloton

my weekly (should that be weakly?) bicycle rides resemble those of marco pantani insofar as they feature not a computer or gps strapped to the handlebars. (i'm still working on the italian's propensity for gravity dismissal). that will shortly change with the advent of this year's festive 500. though it was pointed out to me earlier today that i must surely be in possession of full recall of the length of each and every stretch of tarmac on islay (which i am), i prefer to employ the services of mr garmin as unassailable arbiter between christmas eve and new year's eve.

rather obviously that will involve a certain degree of digital interpretation about which i'm less than enamoured, yet willing to suffer for my art.

however, as some of you may have already inferred over the years, my apparent obsession with matters velocipedinal occasionally spills over into the daily workplace. thus, individuals of my acquaint have been known to correctly answer questions on eggheads, complete obscure crossword clues and even catch the odd stage of the tour de france (though that was apparently due to the batteries in the tv remore choosing that particular moment to find themselves in need of replacement. so they said, anyway).

peloton

thus, during afternoon coffee break only the other day, a colleague was heard to mention that they had passed more than a single peloton of cyclists en-route to the ferry. having inadvertently employed the correct nomenclature, the question then arose as to just how many cyclists were required to constitute a peloton. it is a question to which i do not have a definitive answer and apparently neither does twitter. several seem convinced that it is a term exclusively applied to the competitive realm, though i would stoicly advise otherwise.

a friend who is a former professional rider advised that a peloton ought to consist of at least 40 individuals, but it would depend on how many began the race. however, in the absence of a definitve ruling from the uci, if anyone would like to weigh in on the discussion, you know where i am.

wednesday 7 december 2016

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going clubbing

british cycling ride social

i am absolutely rubbish at joining clubs of any form or function, whether of a velocipedinal bent or otherwise. this has been the case for many a long year and i think it likely i am now past the point of no return. groucho marx is oft quoted as having said that he would refuse to join any club that would have him as a member, though my own lack of enthusiasm rests not upon such self-deprecatory reasoning. many club members are delightful people, but i frequently have my suspicions about those for whom nothing other than the robes of office will suffice.

british cycling ride social

yes, i may have often regaled you with tales from the velo club d'ardbeg archive, but in truth, the latter is something of a facade; it is indeed a club of sorts but perhaps not as we know it, jim. according to our unelected president, the mighty dave t, the rule book consists of rule one: there are no rules, followed quickly by rule two: see rule one., at which point the edict comes to a sudden halt. though there exists a well-publicised team jersey, at present there is no accompanying wardrobe of similarly decorated garmentage that would see any of the club members safely through an islay winter.

british cycling ride social

as a result, the self-styled sunday club run is but a kaleidoscope of contemporary cycling apparel. the only outward display of affiliation with a higher order is a series of flashing red tail lights and an ordered proximity of skinny wheels and bendy bars. as such, things are just the way we like them; no annual subscriptions with which to deal and an annual dinner dance held in the phone box at carnduncan. it has been this way for more years than i care to recall and will doubtless continue along similar lines for many more to come.

british cycling breeze

but on returning to the hallowed isle on the citylink coach from buchanan bus station, it is hard to avoid passing the ordered, team-clothed pelotons belonging to one of glasgow's more notable cycle clubs joining the dubious pleasures of a dual-carriageway on a saturday morning. and though all that can be seen from a coach seat is a series of backs and rear mudguards, the fact that there are an impressive number of the latter would tend to suggest at least a modest number of happy campers. and also that i'm probably in the minority.

british cycling ride social

if you see what i mean?

though i'd love to use modern parlance in order to demonstrate my familiarity with contemporary social media ('there's an app for that'), the reality is even better, courtesy of british cycling. irrespective of gender, there are two initiatives to not only encourage more folks in their first tentative steps (sorry) on the bicycle. for though we are all congratulating ourselves on the growing importance of our sport/activity, the pelotonic reality from the outside is often just a tad more daunting. british cycling's breeze programme for women accompanied by the more generic 'ride social' both aim to remedy that reality, perceived or otherwise.

british cycling breeze

using the dedicated websites for either of the above, the prospective cyclist can check for buddies, groups, clubs or rides that they may find welcoming in their locale. and though both initiatives state an affiliation with sport england, you don't have to be south of the border to take part, for according to british cycling's callum o'toole.

"Both programmes operate in Scotland but aren't as widespread as in England and Wales."

british cycling ride social

so why am i telling you this? after all, we are members of the cycling cognoscenti, rarely given to conversing with those other than our immediate peer group. as acknowledged experts in the velocipedinal arts, can you seriously imagine that any of us would have need of pixels to find cycling companions? well, as mr o'toole went on to say "Both initiatives depend on how many ride creators there are in any given area, so it can be a bit of a chicken and egg scenario in some ways." and that is precisely where you come in.

irrespective of your country of domicile, click onto the website most relevant to your gender and take a look to see if there are any rides or available groups in your area. if there aren't, it's surely a simple matter of you contacting british cycling to offer your services. think back to those dark days of cycling solitude, when you'd have sold your last copy of cycle sport to find someone to ride with.

remember, 'tis the season of goodwill.

breeze bike rides | ride social | breeze rides on youtube | ride social on youtube

tuesday 6 december 2016

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not quite there yet

cricket

our local averagemarket, in keeping with many a retail store nowadays, endured a corporate upgrade a few years past, at which time they were able to comprehensively demonstrate that their head-office designers have very little grasp of the reality that is bowmore food shopping. amongst a few quizzical alterations as yet unexplained, behind the off-licence counter they installed a television screen the sole purpose of which appeared to be that of a substitute clock. though a real clock would have been a more economic decision, for a lengthy period of time (apologies for the pun), while stood in an inevitably long queue, bowmore's shoppers were able to check how long they'd been there via the verisimilitude of a timepiece.

american football

even more recently, however, the co-op once more became the co-op, a concept with which most of us live in contemporary confusion. but one of the changes engendered by this latest marketing ploy was most obviously to this television screen. now offering a co-op blue background and a digital clock in the top right corner, it is given over to daily updates that mostly concern the antics of the world's so-called celebrities and allegedly better-known sports personalities.

the upshot of this new visual regime reached what i regard as its ultimate purpose in life while queuing one saturday for a bottle of san pellegrino and a litre of milk. there on the screen, when there was no-one around to whom i might point it out and while the staff had far more pressing concerns on their minds, was a news bulletin proclaiming that cavendish and wiggins had moved into the lead of the ghent six-day. i realise that there are few (if any) bowmore residents for whom this news would be considered life-changing, but good grief charlie brown!

soccer

mrs washingmachinepost and i have just returned from a week's holiday at the center parcs holiday facility near penrith. since we last visited, like the local averagemarket, the place has seen an alteration or two. both of us are all but obsessed with experiencing a holiday during which we both do as little as humanly possible. thus, part of the daily ritual is to drag our weary bodies to the sports plaza, sink into the faux-leather sofas and spend an hour or two reading our holiday books. (in my case, phil collins' autobiography 'not dead yet').

cricket

considering the professed sporting nature of the location, the flat panel tvs that once hung over the aforementioned sofas, have been replaced by a wall consisting of a very large screen (composed of several smaller screens), bookended by two standard sized televisions. though the multiple artefact showed nothing but endless soccer, the leftmost screen showed sky's cricket coverage while the rightmost was given over to bt sport and mostly seemed to be showing american football.

american football

i have no great love of cricket, probably because not only do i not understand it, neither do i quite 'get it'. but i admit i was greatly amused that a sport during which very little appears to occur was often augmented by (very) many slow-motion replays showing several differing viewpoints and computer simulations demonstrating just why the umpire had made his apparently unpopular decision. on boards sited at each entrance to this area of the sports plaza were a lists of forthcoming televisual attractions, the majority of which appeared to be soccer matches, interrupted by few alternative sports.

soccer

despite there being uci world cup cyclocross racing from zeven in germany, i could find no reference on the list to cycling of any nature. and during breakfast one sunny morn, bt sport broadcast several aspects of sea-based sports, such as boat racing, wind-boarding and several tenuously related demonstrations of getting wet with a smile on your face. but no cycling.

thus, it may be that track racing in ghent has made headlines in bowmore co-op, but it appears that cycling has yet to make any visual inroads into a defined edifice given over to sporting activity. it seems we may have to redouble our efforts and almost certainly send a stoutly worded e-mail or two to center parcs management.

monday 5 december 2016

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sugar wheelworks ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

crapper cycle lanes. 50 more of the worst bike lanes in britain. dvid whelan. eye books mini-hardback. 120pp illus. £7.99

crapper cycle lanes: david whelan

a number of years ago, while participating in the annual braveheart ride, the route took us onto a newly constructed cycle-path alongside the old a77 road that squirrels around the nether regions of kilmarnock. with the latter having been superseded by the m77, it seems that certain aspects of the old route required a modicum of tidying up, one benefit of which was the aforementioned cycle lane.

though the tarmac'd path was separated from the roadway by means of a concrete kerb, the developers had thoughtfully inserted frequent gaps in this kerb, allowing for any necessitous, yet unexpected egress. which was just as well, for plonked squarely in the centre of this reputedly cycle-only passageway, was a contractor's van. naturally enough, this vehicle was unoccupied and strategically placed to prevent anything other than a rogue hamster from passing. at this point, we'd to leave the relative safety of the cycle-lane and join the motorised throng, admittedly a less than onerous option, but that's scarcely the point.

in britain, we suffer from a narrowness of roads. in urban and city locations, this is a heritable condition brought on by those having never been originally considered for motorised traffic in the first place. therefore, now that they have need of coping with such vehicular traffic, attempting to add in some designated cycle lanes is a bit like pouring a quart into a pint pot. and don't we know it. america, on the other hand, and in this case i'm selectively thnking of portland, oregon, not only has a history of larger motor cars, but road widths to match. thus, in downtown portland, both sides of the roads have parking, then the cycle lanes, then the area designated for the motorists.

though i'd have to have words with my portland friends, i believe cars and bicycles tend to co-exist with less friction than is often reported in the british press. the problem on this side of the atlantic is the esteem with which cycle lanes are held; in other words, none whatsoever. and in this i refer to both drivers and cyclists.

i'm sure most, if not all of us, have come across the "why don't you lot pay road tax?" admonishment frequently received from those behind the steering wheel. the non-existence of road tax notwithstanding (it ended in the 1930s; roads are now funded from general taxation), words that, extended to their logical conclusion, are surely aimed at getting cyclists off the road. so you'd think that the existence of a cohesive network of cycle paths and lanes across the country would keep everybody happy. but it transpires that many cyclists are less than enthused about such a prospect, frequently resting on a sense of macho arrogance. "why am i, aboard my di2 equipped colnago concept, relegated to a cycle lane, in amongst schoolkids on bicycle-shaped objects and mums doing the shopping?"

but in essence, the part that prevents a nation of velocipedinists from wholesale adoption of a cohesive network of cycle paths is the almost total lack of any cohesiveness. or network. it's a less than satisfactory state of affairs originally laid bare by the original 'crap cycle lanes' published a decade ago. in those ten years, very little has improved; in fact, there's every evidence to show that things may have become steadily worse, hence this latest publication from eye books 'crapper cycle lanes'. if you're new to the subject, you will scarcely believe some of the howlers incorporated in this excellent little hardback.

the cover shows a green painted cycle lane that lasts all of about ten metres, serving no purpose whatsoever. each illustration is categorised under three distinct headings: hazard level, goof level and remedy. though i cannot deny i found that classifying the goof level as jeremy, govey, boris or nigel as just a tad inexplicable (i probably need to get out more), i doubt anything could completely detract from the ineptitude and humour of the illustrations. perhaps the most bizarre example (according to my opinion) is one from swindon.

"The bike lane does seem to come to a rather abrupt halt, but then it has entered a one-way street going the other way. So. Bollards."

we must fervently hope that the wish of rod king, founder of 'twenty's plenty for us' and author of the book's foreword, does indeed come to pass. "...we hope it will be the last of its kind we ever need to publish."

eye-books.com

friday 25 november 2016

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upside down

upside car roof rack

on monday of this past week, islay was smitten by a couple of frosty mornings; one of them a sunday followed by the start of the working week. the weekend is notable for a full car park while the local residents enjoy a lie-in, with no work to go to, but it pays host to greater activity for the subsequent five days. with frost on the monday morning, one or two had taken the less ecological but speedier way forward by nipping out to start their engines and leave them running while the heaters were on full blast, pointed at the windscreens. enduring such cold, still air, the car park featured a bit of a fug from all those smoking exhausts.

upside car roof rack

yuk.

those who were either less alacritous or more ecologically inclined had waited until breakfast was over and done with, before popping out with de-icer and/or a plastic windscreen scraper. at moments such as those, i make every attempt to endear myself to the motoring public by pointing out that not only does my bicycle start first time in all weathers, but has no need of a can of de-icer or plastic scraper. i'm not too sure of their retorts, but i believe they were thanking me for pointing this out.

after about half a dozen years, i am more than comfortable with my non-motoring stance, finding it not at all onerous to travel hither and thither on two wheels, with scant regard for the weather. but to deny that cars have their uses would be a tad naive. in the years during which i attended the braveheart ride in and around kilmarnock, a friend of mine would graciously transport both of us and our bicycles in his maroon coloured landrover. with no convenient space inside the vehicle for two bicycles, two cyclists and their attendant luggage, it was more convenient to place both cycles on a roof rack.

upside car roof rack

long-wheelbase landrover defenders are not renowned for their diminutive size, so in order that the bicycles be suitably and safely affixed, one of us had to stand on the roof, while the other (me) handed the bicycles up. fortunately, at the time, both bicycles were carbon colnagos, neither of which were in serious debt to the earth's gravitational pull. but had we chosen to ride somewhat heavier steel dutch-style roadsters, it may have been necessary to engage the services of a fork-lift, due to our less than impressive upper-body strength.

though it may seem a tad obvious, even on vehicles of less demonstrable height, safely and carefully placing a bicycle on a roofrack is a smidgeon harder than eating a clif bar. for those who are eagerly suggesting that surely a boot-rack would have required less effort and potential scratching of the vehicle, there is an island caveat of which you may not be aware. vehicles travelling on caledonian macbrayne's ferries are subject to length qualification; should the car be deemed longer than the definitive five metres, the price of a ticket gets more expensive. and with a couple of bicycles affixed to a boot mounted cycle-rack, the measuring tape has further to go.

upside car roof rack

aside from the above consideration, it is illegal for those bicycles at the rear to obscure either or both the license plate or lights. to obviate the likelihood of the local police deciding to have a friendly word with the driver, an auxiliary, and wired lighting board ought to be attached to the outward facing bicycle, along with a duplicate license plate. suddenly, the option to place the bicycles on the roof seems a great deal more attractive. i need not point out, surely, the potential idiocy of the professional peloton's team cars following the race with the spare bicycles attached to the back of their skodas?

but, as alluded to above, roofracks are not without their own problems, which is kind of why stefan wrobel and sean stoney decided to offer an alternative solution. their upside rack turns the very problem on its head, by fitting the foldable rack attachment to the top of the bicycle, prior to flipping it upside down and attaching to two spars on the vehicle's roof. darned clever, if you ask me.

once again, kickstarter has come to the aid of the future availability of the upside rack, so just in case the twenty-two tour de france directeurs sportifs have been reading, i'd nip over the kickstarter page on november 29, before they do.

upside racks

thursday 24 november 2016

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prendas ciclismo ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

"the challenges are many, but the rewards are bigger"

world bicycle relief: kakamega

unless you happen to live in the southern hemisphere, christmas has always seemed to me to be a very odd time of year to give a bicycle as a present. if you think about it, i have recently successfully reviewed two waterproof jackets and a waterproof jersey, which might be all very well and good for someone who lives by the book of velominati, but perhaps something of a less than inviting imposition on a child full of the christmas spirit. to make matters worse - and i cannot be the only one to have observed this - well-meaning parents seem to purchase bicycles that are either too large (they'll grow into it) or quite the opposite. so when the clouds clear and the birds sing, their knees are hitting their chins even with the saddle all the way up.

world bicycle relief: kakamega

historically, christmas was the time of year when santa gave you a bigger and better present than you'd get for your birthday, a situation for which a bicycle fitted the bill remarkably well. but a recent spate of productivity in the houses of playstation and xbox has rather skewed the situation for the nation's parents. and it would be hard to argue against an overheated teenager's bedroom in the middle of winter compared to an hour or two on two wheels in less than clement conditions. remember, we're not talking about us at this point.

world bicycle relief: kakamega

but the world nowadays is a mish-mash of standards and expectations, not to mention the wide variation in energy infrastructures. though we may now be able to control heating and lighting from our phones (assuming you have succumbed to the apparent need), there are parts of the world where it's not possible to setup a direct debit to cover the quarterly electricity bill. such as kakamega in kenya, for example, a town of just under 100,000 and situated north west of nairobi, 30km north of the equator.

world bicycle relief: kakamega

sadly, girls are seen as being of less value than boys; the latter have a relatively clear path into education and subsequent career path, while the girls must take care of the household chores before walking up to 10 kilometres to school, if they're allowed to attend in the first place. not unsurprisingly, many have difficulty concentrating on their studies as opposed to trying womanfully to keep their eyes open. as if life were not hard enough already, in this third world country, there are many unsavoury situations that can befall a young girl walking to and from school on her own.

world bicycle relief: kakamega

in 2015, 200 students at buckhaywa secondary school received bicycles from world bicycle relief, perhaps not at christmas time, but to be honest, that's not the main concern at present. for many, these bicycles have quite literally changed their lives. in around one month, aside from those of us embarking upon the festive 500, a large proprtion of the top bit of the globe will be watching endless re-runs of only fools and horses (or the local equivalent) while stuffing their faces with more food than is strictly necessary or desirable, having crammed all the festive wrapping paper in the recycle bin after opening the presents.

world bicycle relief: kakamega

for those of you intent on giving or not giving a bicycle as a christmas present, and for those hoping or expecting to receive one, would it not be a thoroughly decent notion to say thank you that we're in a position to give or receive a present that's not just for christmas, by donating five or ten percent of its value to world bicycle relief? that way the young girls of kenya and other regions of africa can look forward to a lifetime's education, safe in the knowledge that the new bicycle they'll receive due to your largesse will transport them to and from school in timeous and safe fashion. and at present, your donation will be matched 1:1 thanks to a small group of private donors.

at the risk of sounding like a moralising american sitcom, that is the real power of the bicycle.

watch 'the way forward' | donate to world bicycle relief

wednesday 23 november 2016

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speclalized turbo cotton 700x26c clinchers

specialized turbo cotton clinchers

these are the tyres on which tony martin achieved his world championship time-trial title. well, not exactly this specific pair - his were a smidgeon narrower than those currently gracing my colnago master - but the principle and constitution were the same. this is worthy of remark because it is allegedly the first time a world title has been won on clincher tyres as opposed to the pros' more usual choice of tubulars. while this pays great testament to the construction and speed of the turbo cottons, it was undoubtedly a safer option than had the rest of the ettixx team ridden the same tyres in the road race.

the choice of tubular tyres for the professional peloton is a long-standing one for very good reason. for one, in the event of a flat, glued-on rubber can still be ridden on, albeit at a slower pace, until the team car or neutral service catches up. in a time-trial, a puncture will simply result in a bike change; even a quick tyre change is unlikely to save a race. though clinchers have been ridden in the peloton long before now, so far as i'm aware, they've never won anything as exclusive as a world championship.

for the rest of us, the faff associated with tubular tyres and all that messy glue is often seen as a step or two too far. and rather than popping a spare tube or two in a seat pack or back pocket, it becomes necessary to maintain a 'here's-one-i-made-earlier' glued tubular in that same under-saddle position. and assuming a crevaison actually inflicts itself upon your tubular, have any of you ever tried to repair the blighters?

specialized turbo cotton clinchers

therefore, in the interests or simplicity, peace of mind and a shed door that hasn't been glued shut, most of us are happy to forgo pelotonic speed and stick to our trusty clinchers of whichever width is in vogue at the time.

that in itself is a whole subject worthy of discussion. in my early days as a clueless cyclist, i had logically deduced that, if 700 x 25 was pretty quick, then even with me aboard, 700 x 18 ought to be positively supersonic. now with an honours degree in hindsight, i can see the flaw in my cunning plan, a flaw that applied every bit as much to 700 x 21. but at one time, it was only budget road bikes that arrived replete with 700 x 25c; those of us in the know and with more informed and deeper pockets, displayed our nous with rubber of 700 x 23. but nowadays, common lore informs us that, in fact, wider rubber runs less restrictively than the narrower of the species.

that same lore would have us believe (and i have no earthly reason to doubt it) that the optimum width might conceivably be 28mm, but having ridden 33mm road style rubber with no apparent reduction in my tardiness, it's possible that the jury may still be out on that one. for 2017, specialized have re-styled their roubaix model to incorporate disc brakes, thru-axles and 28mm rubber, in the supposition that we will not have our paris-roubaix entries returned. but the turbo cottons as ridden to devastating effect by tony martin is available in narrower format, to wit, 700 x 24 and 700 x 26. i was sent a pair of the latter by specialized, mostly because i figured the extra millimetres might better resist the crumbling degradation that is islay's roads.

specialized turbo cotton clinchers

it is rare that even the hebridean climate provides the very conditions with which to assess the proclivities of bicycle related rubber. i just got lucky this time round. but often every bit as important as the speed and resilience on offer, is just how darned simple it might be to fit any tyre to any wheel without placing both thumbs in traction. in the current instance, i applied the cotton pros to a pair of wheelsmith's finest handbuilts and i am more than cheered to report that the words hot, knife and butter were the order of the day. though eventually marred by the muck dispensed by a set of brake pads in the wet, i am very much in favour of what we used to refer to as an amber sidewall. i confess that the colnago looked even faster when simply leaning against the fence. and though i'm always in favour of a fine herringbone tread pattern, i'm willing to bow to the almost treadless minimalism featured here.

my experience of riding tubulars is rather limited, but it is hard to deny that a well-inflated (100psi) pair of specialized turbo cottons offers a remarkably similar ride quality. though i did point out to william watt of specialized uk that my pair were seemingly defective since i got nowhere near the speed achieved by martin, they are impressively quick. even with me pedalling. other than straight-line speed this seems most notable when cornering, where the supple sidewalls offer grip and a smattering of centrifugal je ne sais quoi to flatter the inept amateur.

but aside from my dry velocipedinal activity, i have had the great good fortune to spend several hours not only in the rain but ploughing through more than my fair share of localised flooding. i would figure that my ability to remain upright throughout, even down the gravel and pothole strewn descent past aoradh farm, pays greater testament to the tyres than it does to yours truly. and then, only just this past weekend, islay was smitten by sub-zero temperatures, resulting in unseen pockets of black ice, along with the more obvious friction-reducing frost and ice. once more, uprightness was my bedfellow, though i don't mind admitting this was achieved at a more subtle velocity where found to be necessary.

i'm not enough of a scientist/engineer to make bold statements regarding the efficacy of differing tread widths, but wherever possible, i prefer wider rubber if only for the perceived improvement in comfort. i'm never going to win anything, no matter which tyres are on my wheels, but i do know what i like and why i like it.

i really, really like these.

specialized turbo cotton clinchers are available in 700 x 24c and 700 x 26c both featuring a 320tpi polycotton casing. reccommended retail price is £50 per tyre.

specialized turbo cotton clincher

tuesday 22 november 2016

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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

port mòr bistro. now that the original debbie's is run by her mum, aileen, debbie has taken over the catering franchise at port charlotte's port mòr centre, where you can have some of deb's famously wonderful coffee as well as a wide range of foodtsuffs. highly recommended.

braehouse gallery, portnahaven. sited at the entrance to portnahaven village, the gallery also offers takeway coffees and a range of cakes. there's also quite a wide range of photos, islay souvenirs and other desirable odds and bits. though you can't sit in for coffee and cake, there is a table and chairs outside along with an adjacent bicycle rack for parking.

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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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