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

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

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

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the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"spent the day indoors contemplating the true meaning of rule #5."

©2014 the mighty dave t, is a prendas sponsored rider and le patron of the thoroughly decent fellows. the mighty dave t recommends purple harry products

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colorado calling danny boy, part three...

rapha condor jlt in colorado

I saw Elliot, Rich, Hugh, and Mike come back to the team cars, all looked as though they had just come off the western front. None of them spoke. They were ashen. Their black overworn, ageing kit now nearly see-through and with holes, was adorned with white streaks of sweat. Snot mixed with dried sweat ran down their faces. In a word, they looked awful.

us pro tour challenge

Word reached us that Magus B - who I have much respect for - was talking up Graham's chances of winning the sprint. Sadly I watched Graham at first hand start to go backwards on the first climb. Once the elastic broke he fell back into the team cars. When we passed him, his shirt was open, his chain around his neck was swaying back and forth and his sweat-ridden face told us immediately that he would not survive. Not long after, Tom fell back the same way, and he would go back to join Graham. Frantic words ensued between the two Directeurs Sportifs, Tom asking John for guidance, when they could get reception on dodgy radios. Tom was told to stick with them.

A breakaway went early and seemed to be holding about a 90 second lead, with Cannondale on the front driving the peleton, keeping them in check. In the meantime all we cared about was the safety of our lads, becoming worried when we saw some falling back through the peleton. We knew they were suffering. They couldn't breathe It's that simple.

On the last lap on the run-in, the crackling voice over the radio said that rider 31 had made a break. It had to be Herr Voigt and sure enough he helped to explode the peleton. We passed our boys on the last climb; they would all survive the day, Tom just made the cut nearly twelve minutes adrift. Sadly, Graham did not, and he is now looking to try to get an earlier flight home.

This sport is so hard.

© Charlie Pearch 2014.

tuesday 19 august 2014

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the loyal lieutenant; my story. george hincapie and craig hummer. harper sport hardback 300pp illus. £20

the loyal lieutenant: george hincapie

my day to day travails concern what used to be referred to as desktop publishing, a particular vocation enabled by the fine folks at aldus in the early 1980s, having brought to market their groundbreaking pagemaker programme for the fledgling apple macintosh computer. nowadays i believe the same occupation is more commonly known as page layout, though that might just be me. the software too, has moved onwards, with pagemaker having now gone to the great binary heaven in the sky, replaced by the ubiquitous indesign from aldus' successors adobe.

it's a job i rather enjoy, something that can be noted from the enthusiasm with which i undertake extra-curricular research to advance my abilities beyond the specific demands of my job. these have brought me into contact with both photoshop and illustrator, both from the previously noted adobe. rather than simply stick a few words and pictures on a page, i have looked into the variations and suitability of different typefaces, both serif and sans-serif, whether they offer italics, small caps, ligatures, alternatives, to the tracking and kerning and default leading features.

hopefully it is only me who fusses over such idiosyncracies, for i generally believe that only the message should leave an imprint; the messenger ought to remain transparent. it is commonly known within typographic circles, that line length has great bearing upon legibility. too long and the reader's eye falls to the line below; too short, and reading becomes harder than it need be. additionally, in an ideal world, as in these black and yellow pixels, all type would be set justified left and ragged right, but due to space considerations, our local newspaper fully justifies all text. not ideal, but needs must.

however, i must temper some of my following conclusions in the light of this coming from one who completely eschews the use of uppercase letters. (just before anyone gets in there first).

whoever undertook to mastermind the typesetting of george hincapie's book the loyal lieutenant is clearly either wholly unaware of these determined conventions, or just like david carson in his much celebrated, but now defunct magazine raygun, has chosen to ignore them altogether.

this should be a book review concerning just how george hincapie managed to justify use of banned substances and practices during his professional cycling career. it ought also to shed light on quite why anyone would ask the pariah of the sport (lance armstrong) to write the foreword for said volume. but sadly, that is not the case.

the loyal lieutenant: george hincapie

i confess to having admired big george during his career, probably because he was not only unafraid of paris-roubaix, but actively engaged in trying to win the darned race on more than one occasion. my complete naivety in the ways of blood doping and subsequent acceptance at face value even of victories that seemed too good to be true, does me no favours now. in common with many other fans of the beautiful sport, i now feel like an embarrassed fool, less than well disposed towards those who now seem intent on cashing in on not only our foolishness, but a subsequent kiss and tell culture. for them it must seem like a win/win situation.

however, it is not those matters that have prevented my offering you an insight into big george's testimony, but the dreadful layout of the book's chapters. i have valiantly attempted to read the loyal lieutenant on three separate occasions, finally admitting defeat before making it even as far as chapter three. aside from being less than impressed that any book has need of incorporating annoyingly frequent quotes from friends, colleagues and family, separating these from george's own words, (sic) preceded by the person's name set inrosewood typeface, in uppercase and in grey is simply more than my patience could absorb (see accompanying page illustration above). this practice continues throughout the book, culminating in an ignominious page featuring three such quotes and not a single word from big george.

this could, of course, be simply a personal idiosyncracy, brought on by a form of typographical arrogance on my part. either way, i offer my apologies to messrs hincapie and hummer, for i seriously doubt they had much say in the matter. harper collins, however, really ought to take a reality check.

tuesday 19 august 2014

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colorado calling danny boy, part two...

rapha condor jlt in colorado

The race starts proper at 21:10 UK time. There is apprehension in the camp; the first day is always hard and our youngsters are up against some world tour riders and others that have just come off the back of the Utah race. Today it's three 33 km loops from Aspen back to Aspen. They are rather hoping that a break goes on the first loop, on the climb to Snowmass to calm things down a bit. I have a feeling that they won't get their wish.

us pro tour challenge

What the guys are fearful of is whether they have acclimatised. The first four days were horrible: nosebleeds, headaches, and as Kristian says it's like breathing through a straw. They all feel better now, but you never know until that first climb. All just want to survive and get through today. Right now, post breakfast, they all sit on phones trying to kill time and not think about what lies ahead. If they did, Elliot tells me that they will over-analyse and that's not good for the head. So much is in the head. It will be a grim three hours.

I learned that a chain consumes 9 watts of power. Kristian has one that consumes 5. He sends his chains back here to a specialist who coats them in a special wax. When applied, it looks like the chain came out of the freezer. They all are on 25mm tubs, and are all riding 11-27 cassettes. The young New Zealander though, has a 52/36 chainring set. All will be on Bora wheelsets with rim depths that will vary depending on taste.

us pro tour challenge

Going into breakfast, I held the door open for a United Healthcare rider. He looked at my black RCJ t-shirt in disdain. No smile and no thank you.

One thing I will say about the Americans, they sure do things properly. Fabulous organisation and we have a superb fleet of vehicles at our disposal. Everything is running like clockwork and the organisers are all very pleasant and friendly. One guy came by the truck yesterday and implored us to make sure that we did not leave rubbish outside the van. There are bears around here and we were advised that they will rip open anything. RCJ is now waste management compliant!

So it's a beautiful day here; the sun is out and it's a fresh morning. We just need to pray that we can survive the day.

© Charlie Pearch 2014.

monday 18 august 2014

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ventoux training camp bag

ventoux training camp bag

though a drumming colleague of mine delights in the number of drums and shiny hardware he surrounds himself with, smugly pointing this out to other musicians with whom he plays, i have mixed feelings. i do rather enjoy splattering my remo fiberskyn drum heads with an approximation of paradiddles and ratamacues, but the bits that come before and after are those that seem less enjoyable, especially when accompanied by advancing years.

ventoux training camp bag

i have, therefore, instigated a downsizing programme that has had me trading in snare and cymbal stands that wouldn't look out of place at nasa, for substantially more svelte offerings that are lighter to carry, yet manage remarkably similar functionality. though i woud not consider myself to be a heavy hitter, i do find myself wondering why other drummists opt for chunky hardware or even the now ubiquitous rack systems. i've no real dissension with the setting up ritual, but to watch a harmonica player pocket his axe is most disconcerting when faced with dismantling cymbals, pedals, stands and drums at night's end.

ventoux training camp bag

conversely, though i rarely travel far in order to partake of velocipedinal activities, if i ever have to do so, it's likely that there will be substantially more paraphernalia to cart about than is the case with my percussive meanderings. and accepting this to be the case brings with it an incumbent need to pack everything in appropriate fashion. to be blunt, in a great big bag, hopefully designed specifically to accommodate all the stuff those cycling reviews and advertisements have been telling us we need all year.

ventoux training camp bag

and in similar fashion to the rough, tough trap case i have for percussive accoutrements, a set of chunky wheels and a retractable handle sure as heck wouldn't go amiss. having said that, i figure there's a degree of responsibility that comes with these items. i cannot be the only individual who has had to carefully negotiate those wheel-enabled man bags that seem to populate the concourse of euston station (totally oblivious to the mayhem being created in their insouciant wake). however, the bag i currently have in my possession from the fine folks at ventoux is not only of an altogether more visible and substantial personage, but unlikely to catch any passing professional unawares.

ventoux training camp bag

one hundred and fourteen litres is quite a lot of space to fill, but not one that it's easy to equate to an amount of cycling kit. there is, however, no need to strain your furrowed brow, because i've done it for you. though i can't say i stood on the sidelines listing every item placed in the ventoux's cavernous interior, i did manage two pairs of shoes in the zipped base section (and i figure i could have managed a third) while the top section swallowed two pairs of track mitts, two helmets, four jerseys, two softshell jackets, a gilet, three pairs of shorts, two pairs of armwarmers, three pairs of socks and some other stuff i lost track of.

had there been need, i could also have managed a t-shirt, trousers and a proper jacket for those off-the-bike moments.

ventoux training camp bag

aside from the red, black and beige colouring, the ventoux training camp bag follows in the velcro straps of its smaller siblings by featuring a foil-lined compartment for drinks, gels, peanut butter sandwiches and any other comestibles you may have in mind. however, this is the bit i don't quite get; since the bag is designed to sit upright, with handle at top, why would you put this latter section at the bottom of the bag? if i had to sit on the train, bus or waiting room, i'd quite like to have easy access to the munchy stuff. but, by design, this would be at the bottom of the bag, also meaning that any filled water-bottles would be almost pointing downward.

however, to take care of those moments when wheeling is neither necessary or appropriate and to keep the bottles in a safer position, there's a couple of straps along the bag's length that can combine via a velcro closure to allow carrying where wheels would fear to tread.

the zipped top section looks as if it may be internally waterproof, and combined with a side-mounted expanding waterproof wet pocket, would allow placement of the very clothing i was wearing when i poured in the back door on saturday (rule#9).

the bag seems exceptionally well made, weighs only 4.5kg and comes fitted with a remarkably sturdy pair of wheels. how they manage this for only £95 is quite beyond me. the two previously reviewed ventoux bags have been in service for at least a couple of years now, one having been dragged kicking and screaming into service last year to assist with the carriage of drum hardware, apparently with no adverse effects.

when the race season ends and training starts, or perhaps more topically, when cyclocross season begins, i think it safe to say you need look no further.

ventoux training camp bag

monday 18 august 2014

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colorado calling danny boy. come in...

rapha condor jlt in colorado

the fine fellows that form the rapha condor jlt cycling team are currently in colorado usa for this week's usa pro tour challenge, competing against world tour teams such as garmin sharp, bmc, cannondale, tinkoff saxo and all the other usual suspects. it's their opportunity to show what strength and depth a uk domestic team can offer against the top tier of the sport.

senior partner at sponsors jlt and former president of the rapha condor club (sadly ending with the withdrawal of title sponsor rapha at the end of this season), charlie pearch, is spending the week as an integral part of the team. he kindly offered to send notes from the inside, when time and opportunity permit. his first missive from abroad arrived today, so there is surely no more apposite time to air his views of the team's adventures across the pond.

hopefully there will be more as the week progresses.

rapha condor jlt in colorado

"34,000 feet at 894 kph approaching Denver which is 90 minutes away and Caravan of Love is in my head. The Isley Bros words "Are you ready..." and "from the highest mountain..." resonate. My heart skips; I am alive, excited. I've followed my football team all over Europe, Milan, Rome, Porto, Bremmen, Stuttgart, Paris, Munich (ah what a night that was), Istanbul, but never have I done anything quite like this. A week, a ten hour flight and a small fortune to get here, just to follow a small British cycling team that realistically has little chance of doing anything. In football parlance it's Crewe Alexandra vs Manchester United. So now the Isley's sing "Stand up, Stand up..." words resonate deeper. "Are you ready, are you ready". The music stirs up hope. One never knows, maybe one of the youngsters will take a liking to a blue jersey.

"I'm wondering if John would like what's coursing my head right now? He's a music aficionado, but I am not sure about the Isley Brothers. Herety's an amazing man, so loved by all those that have ever ridden for him. Ok maybe there's an odd exception, but take the likes of an old King of Scotland, Jimmy McCallum, who told me two days ago of his respect and love of John, and that he was even planning on leading out our sprinter at the Nocturne. That says a lot. John Herety is British Cycling through and through, one of those northern diamonds. A man who tells it straight; he's the best. Ok, he's demanding, but he cares. He's a perfectionist, he's focused, but ultimately he's just bloody good and I can't wait to see him tomorrow.

"The thing is I know with 100% certainty that every British DS will be tuning into Colorado, and will be a tad jealous of our wildcard entry. And I am certain that they, deep down, will be rooting for the Men in Black, who this week will actually be representing British Cycling over here.

"So as we start our descent into the city that is a mile high, I figure that this will not be a long descent! The first officer just told us it's 31 degrees (88F) and that's at 6pm. The race, which starts on Monday, is at altitudes considerably higher. Imagine, just imagine what the lads will be thinking when they sit on their top tubes at the start of the race on Monday."

© Charlie Pearch 2014.

sunday 17 august 2014

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a clean break: my story by christophe bassons with benoit hopquin. bloomsbury publishing hardback. 227pp £16.99

a clean break by christophe bassons

oddly enough, the book about which you are about to read currently sits midst my almost undiminished pile of review publications only half-read. this has nothing whatsoever to do with its content, for in truth, i'm rather enjoying it, but with five books currently under review, my mehtodology revolves around reading those five simultaneously rather than in sequence. that means, as you've no doubt figured out, that it takes rather longer to finish a single publication. but i like it that way.

however, previous contributor and avid cycling reader, gordon daniels beat me to it in this instance, and i'm very grateful that he sent through his own views of a clean break by christophe bassons. while i delight in imposing my thoughts upon a hapless readership, it's nice every once in a while, to enjoy someone else's. and most commendably, he typed the whole thing in lower case letters.

what a guy.

christophe bassons is a brave man. in the milieu of pro cycling he stood out against the institutionalised doping that enveloped the peloton and asserts that it has not gone away. the us anti-doping agency's (usada) reasoned decision brought about the downfall of lance armstrong. this encouraged bassons to revisit his previous work and update it. armstrong's 'confession' on the oprah winfrey show was a watershed. after years of complicity in doping, and under a new president, the uci has the opportunity to change cycling for the better and has made a start. however, the root and branch changes that bassons believes to be necessary have yet to appear.

independent commissions that encourage riders to admit to past transgressions go some way to purging the past. bassons believes that whilst the management and direction of cycling teams are in the hands of retired racers, amongst them known dopers, little will change and the omerta will remain intact. moreover, the uci needs to expunge its own complicity. tellingly, outside agencies exposed the corruption in cycling and not its own governing body.

young bassons had the potential of hinault. soon spotted by pro teams he joined festina, then under the direction of bruno roussel, one of the key players in the subsequent festina scandal that exposed the depth of cheating in cycling. a clean rider with festina - team-mates like virenque, brochard and dufaux - is surely an oxymoron. acceptance by fellow pros meant that he had to fait le metier, to dope.

university educated, bassons is analytical and critical when discussing cycling. his integrity becomes a crusade as he challenges virtually the entire peloton, vituperative and openly abusive towards him. team-mates, psychologically dependent on dope, failed to destroy him, although he was frequently in despair.

the public gave support. he categorises cycling aficionados as people incapable of hatred. perhaps that is why they have been consistently duped by generations of cheats. obfuscation over the use of drugs, sometimes science-based, attempts to confuse the issue. his first book, positif, was not well received by either team-mates or the peloton. frequently, prejudice, not supported by knowledge of the book, masqueraded as criticism.

under intense pressure owing to his views and outspokenness, and after a short career, bassons quit riding as a professional. he wanted to stay in cycling to educate youngsters on the prevention and ethics of doping, however, the french cycling authorities viewed him with suspicion and proved unsupportive; something to remember.

largely a voyeur during the armstrong era, he watched the spectacle but recognised the outcome as theatre rather than reality. armstrong humiliated similarly drugged riders, who, in turn, had humiliated bassons, a strangely satisfying experience. commentators tied themselves in knots giving cycling credibility, and failed. he believes that there is more to come out of the scandal. post-armstrong, riders did not flag and average speeds did not drop. haematocrit levels stayed constant through the tour de france according to bassons.

invited to become the regional correspondent of the french anti-doping agency, he found himself back in the milieu and with lance armstrong. although the usada reasoned decision exposed armstrong, nothing in the peloton changed. some dopers feigned contrition and then went back to the old ways. bassons' words on the current state of cycling are unsettling and make depressing reading. for example, drugs, other than epo, are available that render the rider leaner yet able to produce more power. cycling's redemption could be accelerated by consigning the 'win at all costs' posturing to the dustbin. sadly, doping is still acceptable in the peloton and holds sway. can it be defeated? the outcome is uncertain but something other than a smoke and mirrors solution is essential.

Gordon Daniels, August 2014

sunday 17 august 2014

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rich mitch in the movies

richard mitchelson

the islay, jura and colonsay agricultural association hold an annual agricultural show on what is locally referred to as show field. alongside the high road and low road, there is proof, if proof were needed, that intellectualism is alive and well and living in the hebrides. in days gone by, when this rural idyll was concentrated more upon its agricultural and farming heritage, i'm pretty sure there were only sheep, cattle and lots of men in wellies chewing on straw and discussing either how much rain they'd just had, or how much the land was in desperate need of.

it's unlikely that one side of the field was filled with stone-baked pizza vans, inflatable slides, bouncy castles and climbing walls, to say nothing of tents promoting the better together or yes campaigns. it's an event i would usually avoid like the plague, for the notion of traipsing up and down a packed field full of, as a colleague was wont to say "people i've spent all year trying to avoid" does not fill me with joy. however, the newspaper has need of photographs advising the reading public that such an event took place (in glorious sunshine, no less) and this year, i drew the short straw.

cav

and now that i think of it, there's one photograph that i neglected to capture, one that now seems probably a lot more important than it ought to be. a gent sat at a sidestall was accompanied by a large coloured sign advertising that his stock-in-trade was that of a caricature artist. slightly unfortunately, a smaller handwritten price card on the table had spelt the word as carictures, an error i would have been sorely tempted to point out, had manners not got the better of me.

those manners also prevented me from sidling round behind the cartoonist to not only marvel at his skills, but to snap a photo that would have looked just ideal in the centre pages of the next edition. it's a skill i once convinced myself was one that i too was in possession of, but in truth, any humourous resemblance to the person sat on the other side of the sketch pad was likely to be totally accidental. and though i once had thoughts of commencing a cartoon strip, my concern was that i would very rapidly run out of ideas. i'm sure there are many that wish this would happen more often in these black and yellow pixels.

but a man who does possess the very skills that i lack, is richard mitchelson. renowned far and wide as the progenitor of both the eddy and cav figures available from rouleur as well as having illustrated its pages, t-shirts and mugs, he has now been captured in a short moving pictures interview by balint hamvas of cyclephotos (whose cyclocross book i will be reviewing in the merest hint of time).

jimmy mccallum

in this video, richard outlines how he became involved with rouleur in the first place, how certain illustrations transpired and from whence comes his many influences. though the world is filled to overflowing with rider interviews, films on how to glue a carbon fibre frame together, and several demonstrating how to do silly things with road bikes without breaking a finger nail, few of those earnestly working in the background for our reading and viewing pleasure, ever seem to gain their fifteen minutes of fame.

of course, more often than not, that is an entirely purposeful stance; few, if any, become involved in the world of cycling to seek fame and fortune, but that is hardly a valid excuse not to surface on the other side of the printing press or camera at least once in a youtube career. for those of you who would like to know that man behind those excellent cycling caricatures, here's your chance.

richard mitchelson video

saturday 16 august 2014

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portland design works ninja pump

ninja pump

for reasons that now escape me, i once undertook to learn one of the martial arts. to be honest, i can't actually recall which particular discipline, but i believe it had more in common with judo than with karate. i have a vague notion that this may have been as a result of watching the david carradine series kung fu, naively believing that it was possible to deflect bullets with a shovel, or walk across rice paper without leaving any sort of trail. it all seemed well within the pounds of possibility, so every wednesday eve i'd drive from home to the scout hall alongside the railway line to spend an hour or so trying to avoid being walloped by blokes with black belts round their tunics.

ninja pump

you see when you watch these things on tv, not only does it look fabulously simple, but the principal character comes cross as indestructible. that's what i'd signed up for, but it's not quite the way the evenings' events transpired. those guys were not only quick, but pretty merciless to a complete newbie which i thought just a tad unfair. david carradine would surely have said sorry before throwing me unceremoniously to the floor?

needless to say, the lessons didn't last too long. aside from feeling in imminent danger every wednesday night, the cost of white jumpsuits, various coloured belts and travelling away for gradings started to mount up. i didn't know that when i started and at the time i worked most weekends. that made things awkward.

ninja pump

i must admit, i'm far happier undertaking tasks that i can teach myself. fame and fortune are mine in the realm of music, having taught myself to play drums. i confess i find it a trifle ironic that being self-taught, i have subsequently taught many others in the way of the paradiddle. and bicycles also come under the same umbrella. ever since i inadvertantly unscrewed the lockring on a five speed freewheel and covered the garage floor in very small ball bearings, i have learned the intricacies of the velocipede, usually in the most awkward of circumstances.

however, one of the fundamentals of riding a bicycle, particularly in the wilds of the hebrides, is the skilled ability to replace an inner tube on having suffered a puncture. more often than not, these will occur out near the atlantic coast in very wet and windy weather, and attempting to repair a punctured tube under such conditions is the very definition of pointlessness. though the rules mitigate against 'man satchels' stuck under the saddle, containing a spare inner tube, a tyre lever and perchance a multi-tool, i delight in my rebelliousness by doing so in spite of the velominati.

ninja pump

the one item missing from the above list is, of course, a pump, a device that ranges in shape and function from a less than portable track pump, to the tiny ninja pump from portland design works that currently nestles close to a pdw bottle cage on my orange colnago. however, before we enter into the whys and wherefores of a bicycle pump with the propensities of an eastern martial art, can i just point out that the little rubber clip that fastens the pump to its bottle cage mount struggles to fit neatly beside the bottle cage made by the same company. surely a momentary lapse of joined up thinking?

however, in practice, this is but a mere superficiality, and now i'm sorry i mentioned it.

ninja pump

the difference between the ninja pump and its peer group can be attributed to its rather nifty duality. like pretty much every bicycle pump on the market, this compact and bijou delight will cheerfully inflate any tube you care to mention via an integral adapter along its minute length. this securely attaches to presta, woods and schrader valves in a matter of seconds, just as you prepare yourself for the herculean task ahead. for, rather obviously, the smaller the pump's barrel, the smaller volume of air that can be transmitted at one go. the sales card to which the ninja was very securely affixed on arrival, contends that it might be simplicity itself to reach over 100psi, but i'd respectfully advise that you'd have need of schwarnold arzenegger's upper body physique to reach that pressure without cardiac arrest intervening.

ninja pump

with substantial effort from my puny muscles, i managed about 72psi before mrs washingmachinepost had to call in the paramedics. in truth, however, i carry the ninja soley to pump a tyre up sufficiently to get me home from mid-atlantic. but what of its duality, i hear you ask?

indeed, those clever folks at pdw have obviously taken into account those of us who have not recently won a mr or mrs universe contest, by adding the option of inflating a tyre via one of those dinky carbon dioxide cartridges. now, at this point i must raise my hand to inform that gas of any style or flavour scares me every bit as much as a boxed set of coronation street episodes. the only pump i previously owned that promised effortless co2 inflation, all but froze my fingers off by distributing a fine layer of dry-ice across rim, tyre, valve and fingers. unfortunately, none of it entered the inner tube.

ninja pump

the ninja, as you'd doubtless expect from a device practised in eastern philosophy, does things slightly differently by incorporating a shut-off valve into the process. by setting this valve to the closed position, threading a cartridge until the seal pops, it is easily possible to check that the pump is fully connected before opening the gas valve fully. though gas still scares the heebie jeebies out of me, this was pretty much simplicity itself.

despite my having the ninja concealed alongside a bottle cage on the downtube, for those inevitable kung-fu moments, it is easily small enough to be hidden in a rear pocket.

you can never be too careful in the coffee shop these days.

the portland design works ninja pump is distributed in the uk by paligap and retails at £22 including mounting bracket but excluding co2 cartridge.

pdw ninja pump | ninja pump video

friday 15 august 2014

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cycling rather a long way

mark beaumont

i am not an ornithologist. despite living on an island renowned for its bird life and an overwintering population of greenland geese that number almost 60,000, as far as i'm concerned there are only two types of bird: geese and not geese. on arrival here over 26 years ago, i had thought i would better integrate myself into the community by adopting the persona of bill oddie. well, not literally, but i'd erroneously figured that the ability to identify any bird at fifty paces was an attribute much to be desired.

i purchased a copy of the observer's book of birds intent on studying those that were reputedly occupying my back yard, so to speak. scarily, it's very easy to memorise a series of watercolour illustrations on white pages, an altogether different kettle of feathers to do the same when they're but a speck in the middle of a field. over the course fo the past couple of decades, i have come to notice the more common occupants of the local airspace, though to be honest, i'd still be hard pushed to tell you what they're called.

all this is by way of my having no idea whatsoever as to why the distance between two points is often placed at the feet (or wings) of the crow. perhaps, were i better informed, i'd know whether they are one of the few, if not only species of bird recognised as flying in straight lines. thus, when investigating the distance between john o'groats and lands end, one of the numbers presented was 603 miles (970km) as the crow flies. based on the knowledge that no bicycle of which i am familiar has the ability to follow this trajectory, presenting the answer in this manner seems just a tad pointless. considering the same two points travelled by road is nearer 1,400 miles, more than double the first figure, who other than a family of crows intent on holidaying at the foot of the country would really need to know?

donny macdonald

considering the number of cyclists perpetually undertaking the trip between the two points, knowledge of that road distance is either of great value, or somewhat soul-destroying when standing on the start line at lands end. however, all pales into insignificance when you add on the further distance to gibraltar, that large rocky outcrop that every now and again causes consternation between britain and spain.

but, placing all in context, why on earth should we be the least bit interested?

mark beaumont, the lanky scotsman who, in 2008, cycled around the world in record time, finidng the time to record a particularly fine televsion documentary in the process will set off in october, once more on a bicycle, to ride from john o'groats in the far north of scotland all the way to gibraltar. he will be joined in this lengthy commute by donny macdonald and british cycling coach dan small, with the intention of raising up to £5 million for three children's hospitals: yorkhill in glasgow, great ormond street in london and the rainbow wing of st bernard's hospital in gibraltar. however, aside from the requisite pedalling, donny explained that they were using a couple of options to fund the adventure. "We are using traditional corporate sponsorship and crowdfunding to cover the costs of the event. We hope involve the cycling community in a way they would not be able to if we raised all the funds needed through just corporate sponsorship."
"We wanted to do it this way so that people had a bit of ownership of the event. They can say to themselves that they made the cycle happen and they were part of the reason that the total amount raised at the end of the cycle was down to them."

dan small

however, sponsorship either through the corporate route or via crowdfunding is not the sole means of becoming involved. "We're also looking for one more member of the core team to join us on the cycle. We are looking for a team member crazy enough, (ahem I mean fit enough) to join us. We are also looking for volunteers to help us and join the support team." if the latter is a distance that you think might well occupy your autumn months, send me an e-mail at brian@twmp.net and i'll pass on your communication to the right man.

if, however, it seems just 3660.5km too far, there's still the option to assist by donations via the jog2gib website, and even the possibility for you social media experts to create a facebook page and maintain it for the duration of the ride. more often than not, the only means of participating in such a bicycle extravaganza is two stick a coupleof panniers on the back and head off in slow pursuit. here's the ideal opporchancity to help raise substantial funds for what are undeniably good causes. crowdfunding opportunities will be available by Friday 22 August, at which time a link to the crowdfunding site will go live.

jog2gib

thursday 14 august 2014

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i did not know that

cycle to work day

only a matter of months after moving to islay, i was kindly invited to join the organising committee of the islay festival (feis ile), the forerunner to the current whisky festival in late may. the remit of this festival had been to lengthen a rather short summer season by providing entertainment (for want of a better word) over anything up to two weeks. though i was full of private praise for the generosity and friendliness of the local populace by inviting a total newcomer into the body of the kirk, i subsequently discovered it may well have been my naivety and unfamiliarity with island life that had prompted the invitation.

you live and learn.

cycle to work day

however, during the period of time i spent on the committee, a well run, remarkably formal affair, i kept having the uncanny notion that i had missed meetings about which i was unaware. this transpired due to the modus operandi of the meetings closest to the festival itself. we would be provided with options from which to choose potential entertainers each year, bid with considering over the coming week and reporting our decisions at the following meeting. except, when the next meeting arrived, it appeared that all decisions had already been made.

you can perhaps see where i'm coming from.

and now it's happening again, only this time it's the world of cycling that has made a decision about which i've only just found out. and it occurs to me that maybe if i didn't know, maybe the same is true of others. apparently thursday 4 september has been designated national cycle to work day, a happenstance that promises to have every bit as much effect on the british public as take your pets to work day. with a total of 365 days in any given year (other than leap years), riding to work on one of them is hardly the sort of event that's likely to lead to a longer term commitment to leaving the car at home and using the bike instead.

cycle to work day

a bike to work week would be a more pragmatic step in the right direction, but ultimately a well publicised cycle to work month would be considerably more effective, based on the apocryphal knowledge that any practice carried out for at least 21 days becomes a habit. however, meantime, the fact that i discovered the existence of this one day stunt via a bicycle trade newsletter suggests that the organisers might be talking to the wrong people.

excluding myself, who lives far too close to the office to make use of a bicycle, it's not dyed-in-the-wool cyclists that ought to be targetted, many of whom probably already use their bicycles to get there and back, but those on the cusp of adopting greater use of the cheap mountain bike in the shed. as i have said to more than just a few folks in the past, it's all very well to sponsor a formula one team, but then you have to tell people you've sponsored a formula one team.

cycle to work day

organising an event such as cycle to work day is one thing, but publicising it an arguably greater part of the enchilada. i receive many press releases every day about all manner of events related to the world of bicycling. in this case it seemes that either i missed the memo, or the memo missed me.

cyclescheme director, daniel gillborn offered the following words to the trade: "We truly believe Cycle to Work Day is one of only a few events in the national calendar that celebrates cycling in its most simple, universally relevant form. Cycle commuting touches every part of our industry, and the Cycle to Work Day campaign provides a much-needed focal point for us all to work together to raise the profile of cycling to work in the UK."

sadly, i fear mr gillborn is living in a world not permanently attached to our own.

cycle to work day

wednesday 13 august 2014

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mr angry of bowmore

portland, oregon

the city of portland in oregon state is renowned for its iconic bicycle culture, at least within the realms of our own little pelotonic niche. this happened thanks to a forward looking city council which, more than fifteen years ago decided that it wanted to make portland a far more cycling-friendly environment than was then the case. this admirable vision of a less car centric future has resulted in an extensive network of bicycle lanes that almost entirely avoid the gutter, a light railway system that has provision for bicycles in each and every carriage and a flourishing of frame-builders the likes of which has not been seen since the early part of last century.

in an almost perfect example of the slogan 'build it and they will come', making life safer and easier for those who wish to cycle to and from their place of work, as well as for purely leisure purposes, has resulted in substantial numbers of portlandians leaving the car at home, if they even own one in the first place.

but portland is not the capital of north america; it's a relatively small city (about the size of edinburgh) on the pacific northwest coast. it isn't new york city, it isn't los angeles and it isn't san francisco. at the risk of being a naive brit, those are the most likely candidates for the position of capital city. so the fact that it is close to nirvana for even the average velocipedinist can surely be separated from its position in the pecking order of north american cities. when rapha considered both new york and portland as possible locations for their usa office, it is notable which one was chosen.

cars on pavement

and now we return to the united kingdom.

though i prefer to come across as a particularly laid-back and unflappable individual, one who worries not about life's little trials and tribulations, there are things that i find irritating. i find it irritating that the footpath outside the croft is used by motorists to drive closer to other abodes. i find it irritating that motorists often try to run us off the road, yet find it quite normal to park their cars on the pavement, and i find it irritating that itv, bbc and eurosport find it necessary to have a gaggle of talking heads prior to any live race footage they might be about to show us.

just press play.

which brings me rather neatly to the principal cycling event of the past weekend; ride london. it was a particularly invigorating event, not that i participated in any way, but encouraging to learn that well over 60,000 people did. granted, with a population of over 12 million in london alone, we perhaps ought not to become too excited, for that's still a rather small proportion overall. however, having turned my television to bbc1 and alternated between that and eurosport player, hoping that the pundits would stop talking and let us watch some cycling, there was almost bound to be at least one moment of disappointment and it came from the inimitable chris boardman.

chris boardman

i should point out here that i'm not actually getting at the olympic gold medallist (why is it necessary to mention him in this context everytime he appears on telly?), for though it was his answer to an entirely logical question that provided the reason for this specific irritation, he may have been put on the spot slightly and not given great consideration to the way he phrased his words.

the show's presenter, just as the broadcast was coming to a close, made mention of the number of participants in the ride london sportive and asked chris boardman if he found it encouraging to see so many taking to the city's roads on two wheels and how this might positively affect cycling in the uk. boardman replied "well, if it's going to happen, it has to happen in london first.", an answer that i find not only a tad contentious, but leaning heavily towards arrogance. i'm keen to underline that i don't believe this to be personal arrogance on the part of chris boardman, but a london-centric arrogance that extends far beyond the tiny world of cycling.

(the situation is hardly alleviated by it having been pointed out last week in an online cycling publication, a rather obvious dichotomy in boardman's dual stance. though boardman bikes are no longer owned by the man himself, it does come across as slightly contradictory that he eagerly promotes a bums on saddles approach to everyday cycling, while simultaneously developing high-end carbon race bikes.)

the implication here is that, wherever we are domiciled in the united kingdom, we ought to continually check just how the nation's capital is handling any curated improvement in cycling activity before making any plans for our own regions. is not the example of portland one to which those of us outside of london village might look to for velocipedinal sustenance? will boris get really, really angry if leeds or edinburgh become massively more cycling friendly than london. will chris boardman become every bit as miffed?

london cycle highway

there is little doubt that london has made substantial inroads into easing the situation for the commuting cyclist. on my last visit to the city i confess i could not understand why anyone would opt to drive when presented with not only the relative ease of cycling, but also underground and overground trains and a comprehensive bus system. couple that with a population that is over double that of the whole of scotland, i can perfectly comprehend that any serious uptake of cycling on london's streets would be proportionately and statistically greater than could likely be achieved anywhere else in the country.

however, boardman's answer unintentionally (i hope) effectively undermines the efforts put in place elsewhere and to arrogantly proposes that only london is going about it in the correct manner. with a bit of luck, however, people in far more strategic positions than i will hopefully have been irritated by mr boardman's answer to a far greater degree, switching their tellys off at the end of the broadcast with renewed ambition for their own regions.

meantime, i think i may change my name by deed poll to victor meldrew.

tuesday 12 august 2014

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evans cycles

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tell them we sent you

quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.

club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.

debbie's cafe

bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner.

welcometogreatcoffee.co.uk

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

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