my daughter has just been home to pay a visit to her ageing parents for a week, bringing with her our two grandsons to lay waste to everything within sight, preferably everything with a toy-like appearance. however, though she was happy to return to the ancestral home, she did admit that she figured she'd find it hard to move back home (sigh of relief from her father) and leave the allegedly bright lights of the big city.
islands such as islay are, however, undoubtedly ideal communities in which to bring up children, where they can still play outside without supervision and attend evening dances either at school or the village hall without parents having great concern over the homeward travel arrangements. but, as the saying goes, every silver lining has a cloud; it's a case of weighing the good against the bad to decide whether island life might suit you or not.
in my case, the good stuff far outweighs the bad, but i cannot deny that one of the more infuriating aspects relates to mail and carriage delivery costs. if i might illustrate the point by informing you that my son ordered a new lawnmower online with free mainland delivery. however, if he wished it sent direct to his door on islay, that would be £40 please. a tad iniquitous you will probably agree.
to make matters just a smidgeon worse, though it costs exactly the same to post an item to any corner of the uk, we are frequently advised of extra postage costs if sending to islay.
that's annoying, particularly if you factor in the fact that next day delivery very rarely means what it says. you can pay extra for it, but you'd probably be daft. unless, of course, you've ordered from prendas ciclismo. despite their being at the other end of the earth, from my point of view at least, with regard to the recently reviewed prendas 20th anniversary jersey, i received advisement of its despatch on friday and it was sitting on my doormat on saturday.
prendas ciclismo opened their doors in dorset only a few months after thewashingmachinepost began to occupy some interweb pixels. those were the days when compuserve not only existed, but pretty much owned the web and amazon were cool enough to have the legend 'no pixels were harmed in the creation of this website.' appended to the lower portion of their website. and despite the exponential growth of the cycling clothing market since the turn of the century, mick tarrant and andy storey haven't changed one bit in those twenty years. well, ok, they do look a year or two older.
in the past couple of decades, it seems every man and his wardrobe has entered the cycling apparel fray, a trend that was considerably rarer in the 1990s. i asked prendas founder mick tarrant what the rationale had been behind entering the world of cycle clothing in 1996?
"In the early 90s, I was a partner in a cycle shop and was interested in developing the clothing side of the business, as it interested me more than the bike and accessory side of the biz. I also saw this as something that bike shops neglected to focus on and started a fledgling mail order operation from the shop. We took on the Basque brand Etxeondo from the previous importer (who I eventually inherited the name Prendas Ciclismo from)and I actually had to go visit them before they would OK it.
"I recall arriving in the dead of night to a pretty rural part of the Basque Country in the dead of the night trying to find their (original) premises. An hotel was out of the question, so I kipped in the car and found a bar in the morning for coffee and croissants, a shave and a wash and brush up. To cut a long story short, when the cycle shop moved to bigger premises with an onward and upward philosphy, I left the partnership of three in 1996 with the idea of starting a mail order business specialising only in unique clothing."
it is no secret that mick's bread and butter prior to his entry into the cycling world came predominantly from the music business, and though jeff lockwood's current editorial in the latest issue of grit.cx magazine pays tribute to the tangential relationship bewteen cycling and music, it's hardly an obvious connection. at least, other than mick jagger owning a racing bicycle, i'm not aware of too many obvious links. so what was it that shifted mick's gaze from music to cycling?
"I had a long run in the music biz which dated back from DJ'ing in youth clubs and onwards to working on the road with the orginal Thin Lizzy when they were a trio. I worked in various London record shops, which inspired me to open my own. I continued DJ'ing and also became a gig promoter which in turn led to having a live music club in which I booked the bands, DJ'd, cleaned, stocked the bar, did the cash and carry etc.
"I had some good times, but the lifestyle was taking its toll and I bought a ten-speed Carlton 'racer' from a departing South American language student to combat the ravages of an R'n'R lifestyle. I had raced and belonged to a club as a kid.
"The music club came and went and despite a loyal following and some big acts appearing at the humble 200 capacity club (The Smiths, The Cure, Tears for Fears and others), it was just too hard. So I went back to DJ'ing locally and also held a residency at the original Mean Fiddler in Harlsden, London. Hence, I had leisure time in the day, so continued to ride, got keen and took a part-time job in a local bike shop where my long time amigo, Andy Storey, was a 'Saturday boy'.
"The rest, as they say is history.
the prendas 20th anniversary jersey features a black upper torso, married to a bright orange lower section, the latter as tribute to those euskaltel/exteondo days of yore. however, encircling the chest, on the black background is a black and white chequerboard pattern that itself signals affinity with the original peuegot jerseys as worn by tom simpson, robert millar, sean yates et al. was that replica jersey the first item on the prendas clothes hanger?
"My first purchase from Santini was in 2000/2001 when I had a yearning for a Didier Rous French National Champion jersey. The only time that there was ever going to be a French tricolor jersey with the legend 'Bonjour' in the sponsor panel. Gotta have! They said they would make it for me, even though it was not a stock item. 2002 rolled round and Santini took on Mapei/Quick Step the 'Super Team'.
"I had majored in Mapei clothing for many years through Sportful and had a big client base for all things colour cubed. It was a natural progression that I went to visit Santini in 2002 and after reading up on their history, I noticed that there was a photo of Sean Yates tagged as Phil Anderson in Peugot kit on the history page of their website. I'll point that out to them, I thought, to show that I am paying attention! "Are you sure" they asked when I pointed out the error. Dialogue ensued and I asked if they could replicate it for me and was met with "Don't know. Nobody ever asked us."
A short while later, all details were sorted and I placed the first order. That was the first retro replica I commissioned, although I had sold retro items prior to that, as I had a fondness for checking out vintage stock in warehouses and dingy basements throughout Central Europe."
your average bikeshop doesn't just stock bicycles and though prendas ciclismo could rarely, if ever, be regarded as such, if memory serves correctly, there was a time when the double-page advertisements to be found in cycle sport magazine and other items of the cycling press featured bicycles for sale. and not just any bicycles, but those belonging to the orange colours of euskaltel. for i am sure that prendas once stocked orbea bicycles. were there ever plans to head in that direction, or did that become a salient lesson that perhaps the world of cycle clothing was a better bet?
"Hah, good recall. This was simply driven by a desire to own a Euskaltel team replica and a wish to offer Orbea bicycles to the many supporters of Euskadi, later Euskaltel/Euskadi who formed a great part of my client base at the time. This was as a direct result of selling Etxeondo and the pro-team clothing for many years. I was pretty keen, even selling Ikurrina flags at one time, I was pretty committed (or should have been)
"Luckily, Andy shared my enthusiasm and he still has a couple of bikes from that period, as do I. We still really miss the team. The incredible thing was that the customer for an Orbea bike would never get to see the bike before they received it. They would place their order, then we would order from Orbea, it would arrive, the customer would pay and off it went. That was a huge leap of faith for the customer.
"They were always delighted though. They could customise the paint job, have their name on the frame if required and there was a huge amount of choice on spec. Lovely bikes. They still are, even though the ubiquitous carbon has replace the aluminium and steel."
having shared almost precisely the same twenty years of cycling as messrs tarrant and storey, i can testify that things are a lot different today than they were back then. aside from the fact that, instead of crossing to the other side of the road in case i spoke about bicycles, i now have folks coming up to tell me which stage of the tour they watched, there are far more folks on bicycles now than there was back then. however, as to the bike industry, i've been more on the outside looking in. what notable changes has mick seen over the last two decades?
"Every man and his dog now thinks the pavé is made of gold!"
and given that i personally think the cycle clothing market has long passed the point of saturation, would mick open the doors of prendas today? "Easy one. A resounding NO!"
i do not recall the precise circumstances that led to andy storey's rather apposite answer, but he once told me that he and mick were probably having too much fun to be in business and worry about the future. but in a commercial world in thrall to the three or five year business plan, do mick and andy have their own cunning plan that would lead them away from their joy and happiness and into the realities of corporate existence?
" I Never considered i'd still be doing this after 20 years and never expected to work beyond retirement age. I never had a plan either, although Andy being a much younger man, may have! We do have fun for sure, but are serious about what we do and want to provide the best products at the right price that we possibly can.
"Sometimes our pricing structure can work against us, as many believe that some of our products have little merit as they are too cheap to be any good. The truth is, we have a lean supply chain, low overheads and we'd back our stuff against most and are happy to ride in it too. We've always put loads back into the sport in the form of sponsorship of events and supporting young riders. Our clothing deal with Drops Cycling this season brings us immense satisfaction and helps fine tune stuff to provide a better product."
i know i've said it before, but i believe it's as true today as it was yesterday; if prendas ciclismo didn't exist, we'd have to invent it.
saturday 11 june 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................