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...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"the velo club d'ardbeg is on amber weather alert, with the sunday ride liable to disruption or cancellation at short notice."..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"my greatest fear is that when i die, my wife sells my bikes for what i told her they cost." anonymous
it is a commonly held misconception that children are far more adept at using modern computer technology than adults. in years gone by, i used to hold an after school computer club at the local primary school, something that elicited a decent level of interest until it became little more than cheap babysitting. during those one hour sessions, it became all too apparent that one or two of the teachers were asking the kids to help them with the occasional task on the imacs. when i made mention that surely the process ought to be the other way round, i was told "but they're so much better at this than i am."
whether that should be or is still the case is something of a moot point, however, my theory as to why that situation has occurred has little or nothing to do with a more youthful approach to modern technology. in the case of schoolkids, were they to press the wrong button or combination of keys and trash some part of the computer in front of them, it's not their responsibility to replace or repair it. any remorse is likely to be concealed in the phrase "miss, this computer's not working. can i play with the lego?"
the same pretty much goes for bicycles in that age group. though bikes tend to float in and out of favour, there have been many occasions when i've had to negotiate abandoned machines on the pavement outside our average market. and almost without exception, those full-suspension lead weights with wheels have been lying derailleur side down, probably dropped without ceremony on the way to buy some crisps. that would likely explain why i used to have a queue of the little blighters asking me to fix their gears. "i don't know what could have happened to it."
we are fortunate, however, that dropping your bicycle unnanounced outside cafes or shops on islay does not result in an empty space on return. cycle theft is almost unknown, while relatively sparse traffic and conscientious drivers (both cars and hgvs), coupled with barely a complete peloton of cyclists means there are rarely damaged bicycles and injured riders left scattered about our roadways.
however, i am under no illusion that in these respects, we are remarkably favoured on the outer edge.
we are but a corner of only 3,200 people, around five of which (on a good day) ride bicycles; hardly representative of the world at large. or, come to that, even the uk. bicycle theft on the mainland it seems, knows few bounds. despite endless improvements to the design of cycle locks and purpose built cycle racks, those folks intent on separating owner from velocipede still manage to make off with untold numbers of bicycles, usually never to be seen again. and a friend of mine had two reasonably expensive bicycles removed from their shed overnight, despite the door featuring three padlocks and the bikes being cabled together.
to be honest, this situation is unlikely to change for the better. as cycles become lighter, more popular and more expensive, they are only ever likely to become a more attractive target for thieves. all we have as a means of defence (such as it is) is the opportunity to insure against loss. however, i cannot be alone in owning several cycles, and insuring all of them at the prices quoted by most brokers would undoubtedly mean no pocket money left for coffee on sunday mornings. bikmo cycle insurance presume to be slightly different, or at least more in touch with the needs of today's pelotonese. but starting with that name, i asked ceo david george where the heck that came from?
"The name Bikmo was the name that stuck out of many possibilities and was derived from our slogan of Ride More which changed to Bike More then finally Bikmo. It's a nonsense word, but the one most people remembered the day after an ideas session over a few beers."
the last time i took a look at the cost of insuring my bicycles, the broker with whom i checked seemd only to have two rates: city address and not city address, and there didn't seem to be much of a difference between the two. if you take my points mentioned above as to the almost total lack of cycle theft on islay and as little by way of traffic danger, surely those factors ought to be reflected in the premium offered? i put the same query to david, as the bikmo website allows the potential customer to input postcode details. does the postcode feature on the website calculator really make any difference? i input my parent's postcode in prestwick (a town on scotland's west coast), and my own on islay for the same bike value and there was no difference in premium.
"We've kept the rating as simple as possible and the only weighting we apply is for London as the level of theft in the capital is significantly higher than the rest of the country. Though I appreciate there's far less theft on Islay (great location by the way), it would make our system a lot more complex to start tweaking every postcode. Plus there's not always data available for every single area.
"The approach we've taken in reducing risk because we focus on cycling enthusiasts, makes our policy the best value, yet still the most comprehensive on the market."
on a couple of my trips to london town, i have espied a van offering a mobile cycle mechanic service, whether to repair gears, brakes or a puncture while en-route to somewhere. this is similar to a service that bikmo have included in the price of their insurance. effectively a breakdown service that will either repair your bicycle, or get you to where you're going. but surely that's something that would only apply to inner-city or urban areas? does the breakdown cover apply in the wilds of scotland (or england and wales, for that matter)?
"Breakdown / get your home cover is worldwide, as are all our policy benefits (aside from third party liability in the US & Canada), so you can still claim if you're in a remote spot in the Highlands and break down."
it's quite a long time since i owned a motor car, but i've been driving since i was seventeen and never had an accident that was my fault. add to that the fact that i have never indulged in alcoholic beverages, and i held the ultimate in no-claims bonus discount. yet, the insurance on my volkswagen was still not a kick in the teeth off £300. oddly, when last checking the cost of insurance for my colnago c40, a bicycle that i'll admit would be harder to replace than one of their new models, the annual premium was higher than that of my car. though bikmo's premiums seem to be very competitive, why is it that cycle insurance, in some cases, costs almost as much as that for motor cars, despite the latter being often considerably more expensive to replace?
"This is exactly what I found when doing research and one of the reasons many people don't take out a cycle policy. Insurance is based on risk against claims value; if you get a lot of bikes being stolen and the overall cost is high, then insurance premiums will rise. It's the same process as with young drivers. Statistically they have more incidents than more mature drivers, therefore they pay more to insure their cars.
"Though we don't change our premiums according to age, we've taken a similar approach in that as cyclists we understand the market, which led to a couple of decisions;
"1 We don't insure riders whose maximum value away from the home (normally your most expensive bike) is below £1,000. This means our customers don't pay for cheap bikes which are left in cities, stolen and make up a large number of claims. Our policy is focussed on cycle enthusiasts like us.
"2 You don't pay the same premium on all your bikes. I own four bikes, but can only ride one at once. Most thefts / incidents happen when bikes are away from the home, so as cyclists, we shouldn't pay the same rating for bikes we leave in the garage. That's why, with Bikmo Plus, we can offer up to 50% multi-bike discounts, reducing the cost of insuring all your bikes."
though perhaps not the ideal statement to include in an feature on cycle insurance, i don't actually know of any cycling friends who insure their bicycles. most seem content to wing it and hope that their house insurance will pay up if they don't admit that it costs almost as much as a small car. but are cyclists beginning to see the value of insuring their bicycles, or as a species are we still pretty much a lost cause?
"It's going to take some time to convince all cyclists that having a specific policy is right for them, as the balance between policy cost and bike value needs to be right. However, with the ever increasing value of bikes, I doubt many people spending £2k up to £12k on their bike would want them stolen the next day without any protection.
"One current issue for some cyclists is believing they're covered under their home insurance policy. Though it may the case in certain circumstances, there are a number of restrictions with many house insurance policies, some with a £500 excess, and if you claim on your house insurance for your bike then it's possible that your premium for the following year will increase.
"I approached Bikmo Plus as a cyclist, with the aim of creating one simple to buy and well priced policy that covers you whether you're riding trails or road, in the UK or overseas, for competition or pleasure. And I hope we've done just that. I do however, welcome any thoughts or comments on our policy as I'm always looking to improve."
bikmo do offer a comparison chart on their website that shows what they're offering as against their nearest competitors. it's a bit of an eye opener in some cases, but it's definitely the most comprehensive and cheapest option i've come across.
and they didn't pay me to say that.
friday 31 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
last year, the british road race championships were held in glasgow, not only the first time the championships had made an appearance north of the border, but allegedly as a precursor to the commonwealth games road race held this past august. not being particularly well informed regarding such ventures, though i had viewed the par cours on the map thoughtfully provided along with my press accreditation, it was sort of difficult to visualise just how the route played out, even allowing for my fairly comprehensive knowledge of glasgow city centre.
to see argyle street barriered along as far as buchanan street, before heading up this pedestrian precinct and turning left onto st vincent street and out towards kelvingrove park was quite something else, compared to its more usual claustrophobic and frighteningly busy setting. however, as fortune would dictate, i had the very best of views of the entire course over every single lap, from the seat of the rapha condor jlt team car driven by john "did i ever tell you about the time..." herety, often at speeds nearing those practised by most of the formula one grid. this extremely fortunate state of affairs was a combination of john herety's largesse on the day, and team sponsor jlt's charlie pearch having made me aware that the passenger seat was likely to be vacant.
if ever you get the option to view any race from the shotgun position, grab it with both hands. it might be scary at times, but boy is it thrilling.
the british road race championships in 2013 are now a matter of record, but suffice it to say that kristian house surprised everyone, including his directeur sportif by nipping away from his own small group to take sixth place as the first domestic rider to finish. it is also now a matter of record that title and clothing sponsor rapha have decided to bow out from direct team sponsorship, having formed the whole team with condor cycles at the start of the 2006 season. eight years is an impressive length of time to sponsor a uk domestic cycle racing team, even if doing so coincided with britain's seeming wholesale adoption of cycle racing. imperial works, it seems, now have bigger fish to fry at world tour level along with a considered change of direction in this particular realm.
that potentially would have left john herety's band of merry men high and dry were it not for the fortitude of the team's most fervent supporter, the aforementioned charlie pearch. he has been not only the supporters' club president in previous years, but instrumental in bringing jlt in as co-sponsor and now title sponsor for the 2015 season.
"JLT is delighted to continue its support of the UK's leading domestic cycling team in partnership with Condor who are an iconic part of British cycling's heritage." condor's grant young was equally as committed to the team's future, saying "The team will remain a testing and proving ground for our new technologies and bicycle models. Our Super Acciaio and new Leggero SL models are direct results of rider-based research."
so that's the team remaining in the safe hands not only of manager john herety, but of an enthusiastic sponsor and bicycle supplier. but rather obviously, if rapha have left the fold, there's the pressing need to clothe the riders in competitive cycle clothing that will also retain their deserved reputation for style in the peloton. and that's precisely where mavic have stepped into the frame. as mavic's François-Xavier Blanc said "The new partnership will allow us to develop further our striking new technologies designed to improve performance, both by reducing aerodynamic drag and helping the athletes to perform in all weather conditions.
"We are happy that Team JLT Condor gives its whole trust to the Mavic Head-to-Toe helmet-apparel-footwear range for the coming year"
happily, though inevitably tinges of yellow were bound to infiltrate the new team kit, the men in black remain resolutely sartorially sombre in their latest apparel. aside from anything else, this means that charlie pearch at least won't have to alter his twitter persona as mib supporter. the team for 2015 will consist of graham briggs, dante carpenter (under 23), david mccarthy (under 23), ed clancy, mbe, mike cuming, felix english, kristian house, richard handley, richard lang, ed laverack (current british under 23 national champion ), luke mellor (under 23), joe moses (under 23), tom moses (under 23) and harry tanfield (under 23).
until january 1, the team website and social media contacts will remain as rapha condor jlt. the new livery will debut on 2 january at the team's first race in australia.
how long before mavic start offering a john herety signature yellow and black tank top?
thursday 30 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
some of you may have seen a recent episode of david attenborough's latest wildlife documentary series in which some remarkable footage was shown of baby barnacle geese jumping out the nest, at a height of 400ft, and falling down a sheer cliff to their parents waiting below. not unnaturally, not all survive this extraordinary right of passage, and those that do, have often then to run the gauntlet of arctic foxes along the shore on which they have arrived. for all the gasps and tears on behalf of the tv audience witnessing this debacle, it's obviously a birthright that is more successful overall than you might think, for every october, around 60,000 geese arrive on the island of islay to create havoc on the lush agricultural ground for which the isle is famous.
apparently the barnacles don't simply munch on grass, but pretty much pull it up by the roots. scottish natural heritage, currently debating the likelihood of culling at least a few of these sizeable locusts, pays out substantial amounts of cash to the local farmers by way of compensation. depending on who you talk to, it arguably costs them more to winter feed their cattle and sheep, as well as re-seed their fields than they receive by way of compensation.
however, despite their colossal numbers (the goose count was only 24,000 when mrs washingmachinepost and i moved here in the late 1980s), or perhaps because of them, large numbers of birdwatchers (twitchers) arrive almost simultaneously to observe the birds (there are also whitefront and greylag geese making up the numbers) from the windows of their hired minibuses and overly large telescopes and binoculars. from my point of view, there are only two types of bird: geese and not geese. but in the true style of the blase philistine, my wind battered face has always to smile as i pass considerable numbers of twitchers on sunday mornings as i head to the velo club rendezvous point at debbie's.
why in heaven's name would you get up so early on a sunday morning, be confined to the seats of a volkswagen minibus, while dressed in the compulsory barbour jacket uniform just to look at geese that can be seen from pretty much every stopping point round the island? but then, if i might turn the situation on its head, let's look at it from their point of view.
on a wet and windy sunday morning, while harmlessly studying birdlife that is not native to your own location, on the trip of a lifetime, some idiot passes at a speed he probably thinks is quite impressive, wearing a lime green helmet and other ludicrous garb, astride a sliver of carbon fibre that probably cost not a lot less than the minibus. horses for courses i suppose.
however, it's not even as simple as that, for that selfsame sunday morning cyclist has a hidden secret that turns the appreciation of items designed for specific purposes into something approaching an art form. then just in time, messrs andrews and dubash come along with a book possibly designed specifically to satiate such closet realities. their latest publication, bike mechanic, manages to be at least three things inside one set of covers. firstly, guy and rohan provide us with first hand experience of what it's like to be a pro mechanic on the world tour race circuit. the unsung heroes of the peloton, or perhaps even more accurately 'the roadies of the cycling world'.
it's a career that pays scarce heed to a regulated number of hours per week, that embraces early mornings and late evenings, and is interspersed with interminable hours cooped up in the back seat of a skoda. and it's not one that is open only to the team mechanic. necessity and marketing have decreed that shimano, vittoria and mavic provide a similar, but neutral service across all of the grand tours and one day classics. it's also a career that has little truck with academic qualifications.
"I just gave them my CV, but in this job a CV doesn't mean shit, really, does it? And then, a month later, I got an email - here's your contract."
aside from the writings and literal observations by both excellent wordsmiths, the imagery of taz darling, much of it in the monochrome style of rouleur, provides easily as great a point of interest as the paragraphs and sentences. in fact, on finishing the book, i returned to page one and simply enjoyed all the photos.
but documentary is but one facet of bike mechanic, for the middle section indulges those of us who take as much pleasure in drooling over beautifully photographed campagnolo workshop tools as in applying their features to intrinsic parts of the bicycle. probably every bit as suspect a pastime as watching geese from a minibus. however, part three is arguably the finest feature of this truly excellent book. for not only does rohan dubash easily (and visibly, courtesy of ms darling's imagery) walk the reader through the steps of assembling, repairing and fettling a range of bicycles and componentry, but shamelessly displays the ocd that is part of his fastidious demeanour.
"As always, the devil is in the detail, so align any relevant logos or graphics, separating a bike that looks like it has been thrown together from one that has been assembled with care."
the only conceivable way this book could have been improved would have been to print it on greaseproof paper and ring bind the pages allowing it to lie flat on the workbench. but then it would have been an altogether different edifice altogether. guy andrews is both an accomplished writer, editor and mechanic, and while rohan dubash is no mean writer himself, he ranks amongst the uk's finest bicycle mechanics. there is much to learn within these 272 pages, pretty much all of it in a style that educates and never preaches.
if you think you know everything there is to know about bicycle mechanics (both the process and the individuals), this is the very book for you, as indeed it is also even if you can't tell the difference between a bb30 bottom bracket and a quick-release skewer. for those of us who could spend hours simply staring at a campagnolo peanut butter spanner, it is manna from heaven.
wednesday 29 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i must apologise to readers and to le col for the lack of 'real' photos to accompany this review. this was due to a camera malfunction.
my original, yet ultimately pointless slogan for thewashingmachinepost (why on earth would a blog need a slogan in the first place?) was 'cycling on the outer edge', words that i rather hoped would be understood for their deliberate double meaning. though possibly less true nowadays, at one time these daily scribblings were somewhat different in character to the so-called (by me) mainstream cycling media. this was not a deliberate ploy, and i do not wish to make it a point of apparent self-aggrandisement, but with really only one string to my bow, that's the way it happens to be.
the second, more geographical meaning was brought home on some of my early rides around the western approaches of the principality. stop off at saligo bay on the island's atlantic coast, and were it not for the earth's curvature and the lack of a (very) powerful telescope, you could see canada's eastern seaboard. nova scotia, to be more precise, and thus, the outer edge.
it is the latter physical fact that drops large quantities of rain and wind on the island, something that has recently begun once again, and will be our birthright until late march/early april next year. velominati's rule five is the only real way of looking at cycling in such rugged elements, on an island that offers little by way of shelter. across the west coast, there are few trees that will cheerfully grow in the face of a howling gale, meaning that anything heading in off the atlantic is faced with few, if any, physical hurdles. of course, this is true not only of islay, but of pretty much the whole of scotland's west coast.
it is very easy to become blase about riding in these conditions, but just how different it is to the norm was graphically pointed out on saturday. when it's very wet and very windy, i often nip out on my cyclocross bike around bridgend woods. it's relatively sheltered there and i can cycle myself silly for a couple of hours without having to face too mch in the way of inclemency. however, when the fun's over, there's still the exposed six mile stretch of road to get to debbie's for lunch and coffee, where the stability of a cyclocross bicycle is a distinct boon.
however, descending the short hill at blackrock, about to swing off onto the machair and dunes at uiskentuie, i overshot my exit point because a sudden gust from the left engendered huge understeer and i couldn't turn in where intended. the plus side to such weather conditions is in providing an ideal stage for the testing of winter cycling apparel. with frequent horizontal rain accompanying the practice of cycling into a galeforce mattress, any garment found wanting will probably do so quite early on in its career. on saturday, i protected my torso with the rather stylish le col rain jacket; all black trimmed with fluorescent yellow cuffs and inside collar.
this rain jacket is fashioned from event fabric, a highly breathable ptfe membrane installed on the jacket's inner face. the cuffs appear to be of lycra which has always struck me as an odd choice, not only by le col, for lycra may be many things, but waterproof isn't one of them. the jacket features a le col branded elastic hem around its even length, but with a poppered fold-down-tail to protect your posterior from tyre and road spray. though this flap is a welcome addition to the jacket, i figure it would not only be more effective if the jacket was longer at the back by a couple of centimetres, but if the flap was made of a heavier material. in galeforce winds it flapped about a bit too much, undermining its potential effectiveness.
though many a rain jacket is devoid of pocket space, the le col version provides a small zipped inner pocket for coffee money, keys or possibly a mobile phone. however, i think the jacket's overall value would be greatly enhanced by featuring two or three outer pockets at the back. in order that it is effectively employed, the close fit is very welcome, not doubt aiding the breathability, however, if you've already stuffed those jersey rear pockets with all manner of paraphernalia (and, let's face it, who doesn't?), the fit is compromised by having to accommodate such cargo. le col are not alone in this; i can think of several others who offer similarly pocketless waterproofs, but it would be a nice touch.
but despite its impressively stylish countenance, wind and rain are less than impressed by aesthetics. the bottom line is, does it do what it says on the tin? to the very best of my rainsoaked cycling abilities and observations, i'm pretty sure the jacket keeps the rain at bay, even after two hours in frequently heavy rain. what it does not do, and i've yet to find a breathable waterproof that does, is manage to equate its moisture management with that of an energetic cyclist's moisture output.
my first exploratory ride took place in beautiful sunshine, in direct contrast to the day's weather forecast. on arrival at the coffee destination, my jersey was a trifle damp at the waist abd back while both armwarmers were decidely so. however, in such mild air at the time, it would be slightly unreasonable to expect otherwise. try the same trick in pouring rain, however, and though the condensation was still evident to a greater or lesser degree, there is little doubt that rain was being kept confidently at bay. riding six miles into a galeforce headwind in the pouring rain left the upper two thirds of my jersey impressively dry.
i've no doubt there will come a day when waterproof, breathable fabrics display 100% of both factors, but until that day arrives, the le col rainjacket, minor gripes aside, occupies the upper reaches of both style, practicality and weatherproofing.
the le col rain jacket is available in black with fluorescent yellow trim only and in sizes small to xl. it can be purchased for £260 direct from the le col website.
tuesday 28 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
many years ago, when i still saw myself as the predecessor to mark beaumont in the adventure stakes, i would, less frequently than such a description might advertise, cycle from islay to the scottish mainland. though i'd love to say i took the long way round, via the rest and be thankful hill climb, in point of fact, i took the easy way out and rode via the isle of arran, eventually arriving at ardrossan, only a few miles down the coast from my parents' home in prestwick.
i wasn't much good at reading maps in those days, and it hasn't improved any over the years. but as the islay ferry made its way to the pier at kennacraig, i spied a rather steep looking road heading towards the kintyre skyline. thank goodness i had no need of riding that road. of course, that was exactly the road i had to traverse on my way to the claonaig - lochranza ferry. a mere five miles according to the ordnance survey; i had simply failed to note that at least one of those miles bore a gradient of 14%.
however, having made it to arran and slogged my way up the road between lochranza and brodick (oddly 14 miles in one direction but signposted as 15 miles in the other), i met up with another gent far more practised in the art of cycle touring. this could not only be surmised by his bicycle carrying less than half the stuff i'd forced upon mine, but the fact that he rode with a lightweight waterproof jacket and cycle shorts.
this wasn't at the height of summer, i might point out.
i, on the other hand, wore a rohan waterproof jacket and a pair of goretex waterproof trousers. those of you experienced in such matters will be well aware of the fact that supposedly breathable garments rarely fufil their promise in the cycling milieu, so it will come as no real surprise to learn that i was probably as wet inside as my companion was outside when the rain started halfway to goat fell. which was sort of his point in the first place.
one therefore has to wonder if there's really any point to purchasing so-called waterproof bibtights in the first place if all that's going to happen is getting wet legs either way. couple that with the fact that any waterproof material is likely to be less flexible and thus less comfortable than good old roubaix lined lycra, and you may prefer to stick to the tried and trusted non-waterproof variety.
however, livingston-based endura have recently released their stealthlite ii biblongs which purport to be crafted from a more flexible fabric than previous editions, combined with ultrasonically welded seams to keep precipitation at bay. therefore it ought to be a practical reality to ride all day in the rain without legs and nether regions getting wet. the stealthlite bib tights do have to be worn over a pair of bibshorts, for adding a pad to the former would likely interfere with the waterproofing, so any improved flexibility is more a necessity than a luxury.
throughout the years i've been reviewing cycling apparel, i have almost without exception worn small sizes in shorts, tights and trousers. therefore i requested the small size of stealthlight tights. that may have been a minor error, for though i thought it likely that the need to wear shorts underneath would have been taken into consideration, they were a bit strenuous to pull on. though the new fabric is undoubtedly more comfortable and flexible than its predecessor, and the tight fit offered no noticeable restriction when pedalling, a few more millimetres would have been most welcome.
endura also contend that having lengthy, waterproof ankle zips will allow fitting outside waterproof overshoes. however, in practice i failed miserably to do so, trying three makes of overshoe just to make sure. in fact, to be honest, i couldn't get the zips to fasten all the way to the bottom even over a pair of waterproof socks. room for thought i'd imagine.
however, all that aside, did the stealthlites keep me dry? it's actually a harder question to answer than you might think. i wore them in an hour and a half's worth of torrential rain, i wore them while pretending to be jeremy powers in bridgend woods and on several occasions in conditions in between the above two. though i did experience mild internal dampness on my legs, on the basis that the endura infiniti bibshorts seemed almost completely dry on my return home, would tend to favour the integrity of endura's claims. since the cross bike has no mudguards, even the brown stripe up my back failed to migrate through to the shorts. with regard to breathability, no matter the numbers offered by any manufacturer, the sad fact is that i doubt anything can be both fully waterproof and fully breathable.
there is a slight bunching around the back of the knees, something that's almost inevitable given that they're not made from lycra, but it's more a visual problem than one of comfort. and if it's as wet and windy as it has been over the past week, i shouldn't think anyone's going to notice in the first place.
at £160 per pair, they're well priced with regard to the (almost negligible) competition, though it is worth bearing in mind that you'll still need a pair of shorts to wear underneath. however, if your winter training schedule knows no bounds, and hypothermia is not on the menu, it may be worth your while taking a look, but try for size before you buy.
endura stealthlite ii biblongs retail at £159.99 and are available in sizes small to xxl from your nearest endura dealer.
monday 27 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as you enter the front door of our local newspaper office, there's a sign, ignored by many, that points to the reception desk on the right. turn left (as many seem to do) and you would be confronted by the editor which is not the ideal state of affairs if, as is often the case, they're on the phone. in days gone by, before the interweb was born, submitting an advert or article was done either by hand to the reception desk on the right, by mail, subsequently opened by the receptionist, or by telephone, again to the very receptionist previously mentioned.
thus, there was but a single channel of contributions and advertisements to deal with between reception and dtp (desk top publishing) operator. things were nice and simple and everything seemed to be handled in a more controlled manner. the above system is still in place, but has been largely undermined by the advent of e-mail. now there are three channels with which to deal; reception, dtp e-mail and adverts sent erroneously to the editor's e-mail. it's a situation that has effectively trebled the likelihood of any mistakes being made, and alternative features have had to be added in order to minimise the chance of this happening.
i know for a fact that the same malady has affected pretty much every newspaper on the planet; many have more staff and greater financial backup to apply more sophisticated routines than can be seen on islay, but nonetheless, it's something that has to be dealt with in one manner or another. for this, as we are constantly being reminded, is the information age, one that was supposed to herald the paperless society, but seems only to have succeeded in increasing the amounts of paper being shuffled, archived and received across many different industries. far from easing the strain, this constant flow of information simply seems hellbent on creating even more.
however, to blame information per se is to risk shooting the piano player. information has never been more necessary, particularly the correct variety, and in a fast and furious world with an ever lessening attention span, providing information in a more graphic and less literary fashion is not only seen as a necessity, but often a more convenient means of dissemination. over the past year or so i have been sent and featured so-called infographics, usually lengthy pieces of graphic design that detail specifics pertinent to whoever commissioned them in the first place.
in an effort to compose the many strands of velocipedinal activity in a hopefully more entertaining manner, the folks at roadcyclinguk have published, in co-operation with bloomsbury, the infographic guide to cycling. all the usual suspects are present and correct, along with a number of pleasantly surprising infiltrators, offering such gems as a two page guide as to the carbon frame process, details of just how chris king's ring drive actually works, and a highly explanatory graphic of just how effective a well-drilled echelon can be.
there are features on the hour record, blood doping, the tour de france (naturally) and the classic one-day races. there is, in short, a wealth of information to be found. however, as is the case with many publications that detail facts and figures, the infographic guide to cycling, published on thursday 23 october, is already out of date. in a four page feature on the jerseys and teams of the uci's world tour, cannondale have already merged with garmin and belkin have, i believe, combined with lotto belisol, meaning the former no longer exists.
and i'm sure i read that giant shimano were not entering 2015 in the same format. there are doubtless other changes i have missed.
and for a book that places information first and foremost, it's a shame at least one item of that information was not proofread a tad more closely. on page 126 heading an infographic about big tex and il pirata, the heading reads pantini vs armstrong, compounded by the fact that the diminutive italian's surname is correctly spelt in the captions. i know all too well how easy it is to make proofreading errors but...
though i am partial to most varieties of good graphic design, the contents of this book are rather patchy and some of the included information seems a smidgeon on the spurious side, though that's an accusation that could be levelled at others of the genre. in short, it's a reasonably good idea that perhaps ought to have been confined to the occasional self-contained infographic, rather than an entire book.
sunday 26 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there's two ways of looking at every opportunity. one would state the appropriate epithet as if at first you don't succeed, give up. there could, of course be any number of reasons why that first attempt was less than successful. it could conceivably be that the planets were not aligned in your favour, it could be that whatever or wherever you're attempting to create, demonstrate or sell is quite blatantly at the wrong time or place. there actually is such a thing as being ahead of your time, though conversely, there's just as much likelihood of you're being well behind the curve. and last, but not least, the effort of getting as far as failure was simply a process you're less than you'd be willing to repeat.
but on the basis of newton's third law of motion, that each and every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the more optimistic view would be if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. perhaps the latter may not be the simpler option, but in a world filled with untold pressures to succeed, it's quite likely the one more often adopted by the socially adept.
however, there is quite possibly little point in making each of those try agains identical to the previous one that failed. this could be entitled the headbanging option, where, convinced that there was nothing empirically wrong with attempt number one, it's merely a process of repeating endlessly until someone gives you an even break, or you run out of funds to keep trying. the more prudent plan would be to learn from each unsuccessful attempt at whatever we happen to be discussing and applying this knowledge to the subsequent attempt.
if there's really any merit involved, our hypothetical entrepreneurship will eventually bear commercial fruit.
hopefully this latter option is the one adopted by stefano mangini. it's a name you may recall from these very pixels in july earlier this year, as the progenitor of a kickstarter campaign to raise funding for his funnel project, combining a backpack with a waterproof jacket. for those who have similar powers of recollection to my own, the basic premise was pretty much as stated. stepping out from the office or college into inclement weather, two tags at shoulder height wouldpull a fully formed jacket from a hidden panel in the backpack, enabling the wearer to be weatherproof in mere seconds.
despite the ingenuity of mangini's idea, he failed to reach the total amount required to go ahead. but rather than spend endless hours bemoaning his fate or looking for an alternative idea, stefano has refined his original idea and once more opted to start another kickstarter campaign. the total amount he needs to raise is just under $26,000. at the time of writing, he's almost half way there.
for those who had every faith in funnel part one and shared mangini's disappointment, click the link at the end of this piece and pledge a portion of your hard-earned towards this quite unique idea.
saturday 25 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as i peer out the sitting room window across the field to bowmore distillery's bonded warehouses, though the rural idyll is plain for all to see, it doesn't quite look like it at the moment. a day or two after the remnants of gonzalo came for a walk in our park, the temperature has climbed once more, but the wind direction has altered to its more usual south westerly direction. and that, more often than not, means rain. which is precisely what i can see from that very same window at the moment, blurring the window panes but seemingly bothering not one wit, the sheep grazing in the field.
this is the hebrides, and they are on scotland's west coast, a part of the world renowned for its rain and wind, factors that you either embrace or you move. however, with a population on islay nudging downwards of 3,200 folks on an island roughly 21 miles east to west and a similar dimension north to south, there is little pressure on space. and there's a great deal of the latter, mostly consisting of peat moss, green fields and everything else in between.
in my early years of residence, i was a confirmed mountain biker, to the extent that one elderly gentleman thought my name real was muddy fox. however, there are few circular offroad routes to be had nearby or further afield, and riding to and from such scarcities was becoming a bit of a travail on the knobbly tyres required to get through most of them. so i switched to the road and have, metaphorically speaking, never looked back.
however, i am under no illusion that the majority of the cycling uk does not have the benefits that my relative isolation provides. granted, there are only so many miles/kilometres of road that can be accessed, and it doesn't take too long or too much impetuosity to have trammeled every mile more than once. in fact, across twenty-seven years, i should imagine i've repeated myself rather a lot. and even when the weather takes a turn for the worse, there are very few days across the annual 365 that confine me to the indoors.
cities are different. cities are usually filled with all forms of motorised traffic, most of which asserts its moral right to be top dog, expecting subjectively lesser forms of motion to be subservient. in other words get out of my way. the bus from kennacraig to glasgow buchanan bus station drives of necessity along glasgow's great western road, and it is not too unusual to come across a cyclist on a finely crafted road bike, negotiating the same endless sets of traffic lights, school crossings and bus lanes in which cars have been parked (illegally?) they do not look as if they are having fun.
i, on the other hand, am possessed most often of a smile, whether being buffeted by a galeforce headwind or drenched in horizontal rain. because, to be quite frank, i am having fun.
and it is not often that someone of an artistic persuasion finds it within his creativity to construct an edifice (however temporary), that might just take the edge off the daily commute and offer not only respite, but quite literally, endless fun.
artist stephen murray has installed a rideable sculptural figure of eight velodrome at wasps artists' studios, the briggait in glasgow. these are sited only a hop, skip and a jump from glasgow green, near stockwell street and provide a large internal space for this unique cycling adventure. the wooden fabrication does have a few padded mattresses lying on the floor at strategic points of the ride, but it appears to have no barriers to prevent riders serenely sailing over the edge.
nobody said it would be easy.
inspired by the red bull minidromes, but configured as a twisting loop, the comedown will be in place only as long as saturday 1 november, so if you've a hankering after a touch of thrill-seeking and enough of constantly riding through congested streets, pop along this weekend, or play hooky from work next week. islay, on the other hand, will be here all winter.
friday 24 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the weather, as presently constituted, rather precludes the wearing of short-fingered cycling mitts. what the cognoscenti would rather erroneously refer to as track mitts. (mistakenly, because few of us ever ride track). the outer edges of hurricane gonzalo blew through a couple of days ago, cancelling all our ferries for the day and reputedly blustering across the cairngorms at 108 mph. since cycling wasn't even on the menu as far as the hebrides was concerned, i can't see that there would have been much pedalling in the cairngorms.
the lack of track mitts, only a few weeks after any strength of sun that might provide a bertie the accountant grand tour tan has gone for this year at least, removes the last subtle bastion of our secret society. many of us spend the summer months casually leaving the backs of our hands in view, eager that any other surreptitious lurking velocipedinists may recognise us as one of their own. such observable subtleties are not, however, confined to our own society.
recently (name dropping alert), when accompanying prince albert of monaco on a short ride between three of islay's distilleries, one of the staff at ardbeg asked the special branch officer in our company as to the significance of a small enamel pin badge on his lapel. apparently, when working in co-operation with other officers on a protection case, such as the one under discussion, these pin badges allow them to distinguish colleagues midst a throng of potential bad guys.
had she not asked, the rest of us would have been blissfully unaware of this alternative secret society. but now, i have taken to checking the lapels of any jacketed individual who looks as if he might be a secret agent. so i now wonder if there are members of the civilian population casting furtive glances at the back of my hands, just in order to check if i'm a cyclist or not.
i seriously doubt it.
however, for those not given to secretive sporting endeavour, particularly related to the cycling milieu, it may be more prudent to advertise such a state with a touch more flair and panache. a prendas ciclismo polo shirt, for instance. not only is the surname bartali writ large in blue embroidered script across the front. do not be mistaken, it is luxurious embroidery that looks quite fabulous in the flesh as opposed to the website photo. the blue colour is repeated in the collar and button section, while each sleeve features italian flavoured stripes.
according to mick and andy at dorset's finest, the polo shirt is inspired by the jersey as worn by the bartali cycling team of the early 1950s and the great gino bartali himself. granted, wearing one of these down to pretty much any pub in the country is more likey to elicit a "which team does he play for?" enquiry, but that only opens the door to a lengthy, yet highly interesting conversation in which you now have centre stage.
since everyone in great britain is now clearly aware of the tour de france, and most of northern ireland (and islay) educated on just what is meant by the giro d'italia, mentioning that gino won the former twice and the latter three times, as well as the italian national road race championship four times, ought to ingratiate you into the surrounding company of an evening. and all this from a single polo shirt.
should your largesse towards your fellow man know no bounds, there is also a green and red edition available bearing the embroidered legend legnano.
fashioned from heavyweight cotton, these would generally not be my first suggestion as active cycle clothing. cotton is rarely the ideal fabric to wear on the bike, but just to prove myself correct, i rode from bowmore to debbie's for a friday afternoon coffee, dressed thus and with a thermal jacket over the top. despite a continuing indian summer that offered a milder ambience than is normal for this time of year, not only was the bartali polo shirt comfort personified, but a lot less swot and hetty than i had convinced myself (and maybe you too) it would be.
mick and andy have just reduced the price of both the above mentioned polo shirts to a most satisfying £29.95, so nab one while they're still around. if not for you then as a christmas present for a favoured member of the pelotonese.
the prendas embroidered leisure polo shirts are available direct from the prendas website, in sizes ranging from xs to 4xl. it's worth dropping to a size lower than your regular cycling jersey size. i might also point out the superbness of prendas delvery service, one that has been praised not only by yours truly. this particular item was despatched from dorset on thursday morning and arrived on islay by friday lunchtime, tracked every inch of the way.
there are few who can provide that sort of service nowadays.
thursday 23 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i and several others have paid lip service to the fact that the majority of cycle shows these days resemble little more than several acres of carbon fibre. it is common knowledge that the bulk of the worlds monocoque frames are produced in three large factories in taiwan. though each manufacturer is at pains to point out that their own research and development is what makes the difference between their own carbon and that of their competitors, there's no denying that, aside from paint schemes, a lot of them look remarkably similar.
however, it should perhaps also be pointed out that, just like the motor industry, many are the result of computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnel testing. if everyone's asking the same questions, there's bound to be a high level of similarity in the results.
shiny, team liveried carbon fibre, however, fettled to within a millimetre of its life by a team of highly trained mechanics really is rather impressive. though making every effort to adhere to the uci's 6.8kg minimum weight limit, today's race machines are sleek and pared to the minimum, particularly those destined for the alps or pyrenees.
jacques anquetil was well noted for removing the bottles from the cage and placing them in his rear pocket in order to improve his skills as a grimpeur. presumably he was absent from school the day gravity was discussed in class. while carbonsports, only a few years ago released a pair of their lightweight wheels that were specifically for climbing prowess, reputedly because they featured no braking surface. presumably this was one of those situations that required a change of bicycle at bottom and top of the climb.
in the face of the above, it would not seem too unkind to suggest that the modern-day racing bicycle is somewhat limited in its practicality. i seriously doubt that alejandro valverde nips down to spain's equivalent of tesco on his canyon race bike when mrs valverde realises they need a couple of pints of milk. heaven forbid that he would have need of purchasing sufficient food for any dinner parties the valverde's may throw, of an evening.
for the relatively mundane day to day existence, something a bit more realistic would seem to be in order. in terms of bicycles, i find that my taurus corinto fulfils the bulk of this ideal, with its sit-up-and-beg riding position, comfy brooks b66 saddle, balloon like tyres and sidewall operated dynamo. for cargo carrying necessities there is a substantial, tubular steel rack over the rear mudguard, a device that promises much but, to be honest, on its own delivers rather less.
though it features a large spring clip, to hold items in place, you really wouldn't want to place a box of large size, free-range eggs underneath it. nor indeed, would two bags of green city jumbo porridge oats fare too well between here and bridgend stores. ideally what is required is some sort of bag or box that would fulfil the functions demanded by the latter two foodstuffs and many another, no doubt. however, i'd really rather utilise some form of cargo bay that sullies not the italian beauty of the taurus, something i fear a wooden box or crate might do to a greater or lesser extent. and generally speaking, panniers look perfectly fine on a dawes galaxy on its second circumnavigation of the world, but to be honest, i was thinking of something less industrial looking but a tad more bohemian.
the answer is, of course, a pair of brooks brick lane roll-up panniers.
these are fashioned, in typical brooks style, from a heavyweight waxed cotton, offering a brownish-green to the outside world, but a natural cotton look to all of your cargo. each pannier is rolled up and sits on top of the eyeletted joining panel, held in place by a brooks bungee cord, threaded through a brooks leather buckle (for want of a better word). the panniers' top flaps also fasten to a chrome popper attached to the underside, preventing them from loosening over less than pristine road surfaces. the whole affair is held onto the rack by means of four small, leather buckles attached one at each corner of the panel, each wrapping round the rack's outer tubing.
they can be safely and aesthetically left in this manner until such time as shopping becomes a necessity. i might also add that i have now somewhere more appropriate to store a spare inner-tube, tyre lever and wheel bolt spanner, than scrunched in the back pocket of my jacket. since my middle name is fumblefingers, i have determined that it makes more sense to unfurl the panniers before returning with two full carrier bags (5p each in scotland now) in need of transportation.
it's probably as well to leave the shopping inside those bags. though the waxed cotton quite likely offers adequate waterproofing, the top flaps are a casual fit when closed, leaving gaps in the firmament into which precipitation can easily fall.
i cannot deny that i was very impressed with the carrying capacity offered by the brick lane panniers. they arrive rolled up inside a card sleeve, and until they have been unfurled when required, give the impression of being rather modest of means. not only that, despite being held in place against the rack legs by any manner of means, they remained steady throughout my three-mile journey from bridgend stores on each and every occasion. it is quite prudent to site the panniers as far to the rear of the rack as is possible, in order to avoid rubbing your heels on overstuffed fabric, something accomplished with ease on the taurus.
for additional safety of carriage, there's a leather popper fastener to close over the top of each pannier, and another to close the outer flap over the top of that. and in the finest manner of school books, there's a this belongs to legend under which to write your name. hopelessly optimistic, but a nice touch all the same.
for a family of four, cramming in a weekly shop would be quite out of the question, but since mrs washingmachinepost and i are the only two left on the croft these days, capturing a couple of days' worth of food and provisions gave little trouble. and cycling homeward with only three sturmey archer gears for company, offers an extremely beneficial effect on those chris hoy thigh muscles.
i did have some misgivings as to the effectiveness of the brick lane panniers when first fitted, partly because i had not realised their substantial capacity, but also because the operating instructions were less than clear. i feel i'm not letting too many cats out of the bag by admitting i had originally fitted the panniers upside down and completely missed those four little leather fitting buckles after i'd realised my mistake.
as with most quality products, and brooks are no exception, the brick lane roll-up panniers are reassuringly expensive, but the build quality and design ethic go a long way to compensate. not only do they look as if they were made for the taurus, but i love them.
brooks brick lane roll-up panniers retail for €185 (approx £146) and can be purchased from any brooks authorised dealer. brooks products are distributed in the uk by extrauk.
taurus corinto courtesy of pronto gara
wednesday 22 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
last week i became engrossed in watching a documentary about the search for the elusive higgs boson by way of the multi-billion pound large hadron collider. though i had little comprehension of the physics i studied at school, by some strange quirk of fate, i managed to achieve a rather fine grade for my higher, and have maintained a distant, quizzical interest ever since. until settling down of an evening to watch this scientific wild goose chase with a happy ending, i had been only able to confuse the higgs boson with edvald boasson haagen.
assuming i've understood everything correctly (and there's a greater than evens chance that i haven't) it transpires that there are two differing theories as to the constructs of the universe: super-symmetry and multiverse. the former construct theorises that each sub atomic particle, such as quarks, gluons and the like are equally matched by anti-particles, the very thing we learned from scotty in star trek. however, this theory had one failing; a bit like the lord of the rings, it needed one particle to rule the rest, one proposed by by peter higgs and thus known as the higgs particle, higgs boson or even the god particle. unless this mythical item was discovered, the super-symmetry (or standard model) theory was just so much hocus pocus.
the building of the large hadron collider at cern was, at least in part, a very expensive means of discovering whether the higgs boson was fact or fiction. this is achieved by spinning protons in opposite directions around an enormous donut shaped tunnel, accelerating them to slighly below the speed of light, before smashing them into each other. these crashes are photographed by a surprisingly large number of hi-res digital cameras, then examined to check if any of the minute traces could be identified as the boson.
now, i'm rather unsure of my ground on this next part, but apparently the world's particle physicists betting on super-symmetry expected (hoped) that the higgs boson would appear with a value of 104 gigaelectronvolts (gev). if its discovery was closer to 160 gev, then the multi-verse would seem to be the more conclusive theory and a whole bunch of folks in white coast would have to clean the whiteboard and begin all over again. as it turned out, the particle was observed at 125gev, apparently still favouring super-symmetry, but causing mild consternation in the process.
on 5 july 2012, just the day after the particle was discovered in the large hadron collider, for the rest of us, the sky was still blue, the wind still prevailed from the south-west, and the roads were ever in need of serious repair. and no matter how many other particles might be discovered in the future, it'll probably be of no nevermind to much of the world. we'll still refer to the whole enchilada as atom stuff. because unless you've got a comfy seat at organisation europeenne pour la recherche nucleaire, it's simply all about bosons, quarks and gluons.
from the outside looking in, cycling probably inhabits many of the same misapprehensions. we're in admittedly rather less intense airspace than particle physics, and a whole chunk less theoretical, but for those whose lives are devoid of saddles and pedals, everything conveniently comes under the heading of cycling. which is why we should be truly grateful for ellis bacon's and lionel birnie's the cycling anthology.
having now reached number five in a hopefully infinite series, it has the ability within the framework of around 200 odd pages to dissect the multiverse that is the contemporary and historical world of cycling. and at the pocket-friendly price of £8.99, it's one heck of a lot cheaper than even a lego model of the large hadron collider. though still in its early years of existence, and now published by yellow jersey press, the cycling anthology has assumed the mantle of a cycling institution, its cover still sporting the artistic penmanship of simon scarsbrook, though sadly not in the 'boys own' style of the early editions.
number five splits our world into several complementary strings; brendan gallagher's treatise on those cyclists who fared less than well after the first world war; jeremy whittle's search for panache amongst today's heroes and how the tour de france became the international circus we all know and love, by francois thomazeau. sadly my perennial distaste for poetry led me to skim through ellis bacon's ode to the 2014 tour, but fellow editor lionel birnie's recounting of the rise and fall of the linda mccartney team was a welcome blast from the past.
andy mcgrath's search for joey mcloughlin, ed pickering's testament to the majesty of super-bagneres and matt beaudin's voluminous traipse round france, provide joy for the senses, while matt mcgeehan's eclectic look at the colombian round of the world track championships is almost the perfect aperitif to daniel friebe's unveiling of the short-lived director of the tdf from 1987.
theoretically, hardly the extended panoply that luxuriates in being simply referred to as cycling
tuesday 21 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.
club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.
bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading...........................................................................................................................................................................................................