thewashingmachinepost




..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

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

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

built from life ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

war on wheels; inside keirin and japan's cycling subculture by justin mccurry. pursuit books hardback 264pp illus. £16.99

war on wheels - justin mccurry

following its admission as an event to the olympics in 1996, the men's keirin first took place in the millennium summer olympics, with the women's version arriving twelve years later. it's an event most western cycling fans will know from chris hoy's medal-winning spree, becoming the first brit in a century to win three golds in the 2007 olympics, one of which was achieved as victor in the keirin. however, at the risk of seeming to denigrate the latter event as 'simply' yet another competitive track race, despite hoy's best efforts, those 21 years are as nothing compared to the seventy-three years since the sport's inauguration in japan.

and like many aspects of japanese culture, keirin racing goes a lot deeper than yet another means of watching cycle-racing. despite the country's legal aversion to betting, keirin, along with a select number of other sports, such as boat and horse racing, it's one that benefits from a technical 'blind eye' being turned by both government and the population. according to this excellent and thoroughly researched new book from the guardian newspaper's japan and korea correspondent, it might not be too much of an exaggeration to state that keirin almost single-handedly saved the nation following their defeat in the second world war.

the bicycle arrived in japan in the late nineteenth century, following a period of insularity where foreign goods were subject to heavy tariffs. the backlash resulted in the arrival of american warships in the 1850s, forcing the country to "...finally face outward." the japanese population was initially only allowed to rent bicycles, a business that flourished in the 1880s, and by the 1890s, bicycle ownership began to beget cycling clubs in the principal cities. the first track race was held in 1894, confined solely to visiting americans, and the first road race two years later, with entry once again confined to american competitors. as will be seen later, it was war that provided a boost to japan's nascent bicycle industry, the 1904-05 conflict demanding greater numbers to supply the japanese army.

over forty years later, the second world war provided the impetus for the popularisation of keirin track racing. "The end of the Pacific War in August 1945 signalled an explosion in interest in newly-legalised forms of sports gambling. [...] It was keirin, though, that would later force government officials to rethink their initial enthusiasm for betting on sports." The eventual introduction of a not universally popular bicycle race law, allowed betting on keirin racing to take place in venues across japan. the revenue received by the government would eventually be employed in the rebuilding of a country that had suffered from the devastation incurred by the world's first two atomic bombs.

"The Japan of the late 1940s desperately needed funding for new factories, homes, roads, bridges and other infrastructure that would return a semblance of civic normality..." thus was born japanese keirin racing, a cycle sport that initially attracted crowds of up to 55,000, betting 20 million yen at a single track meet.

author, justin mccurry has made excellent use of his domicile in japan, as a correspondent for the guardian newspaper, to write this excellent volume on a sport that most westerners know only from the word of track racing, a version of the sport that is but a superficial copy of its japanese inspiration. as with many historical matters, there is, of course, counter claim as to where keirin actually originated, with some purporting that it truly began in denmark. however, missing from this alleged european ancestry was the all-important derny.

the word keirin translates literally as 'compete wheel' or 'racing cycle' and, as a sport, it's currently worth a not insignificant annual $5.6 billion. mccurry has strategically divided war on wheels into four sections, subtitled anatomy of a race, parts i, ii, iii, iv. these examine the gambling aspect of the sport, the school from which all competitors must graduate before being allowed to earn what can be a long and lucrative career. and, to incorrectly paraphrase lord voldemort, 'it's all about the bike', a chapter in which the author visits the all but anonymous workshop of japan's most revered keirin framebuilder, yoshiaki nagasawa.

"I had come to learn more about what goes into building a keirin bike from scratch."

the phrase 'greater than the sum of its parts' could have been invented for this book. having watched chris hoy, and subsequently, jason kenny, excel at the olympic discipline, along with shouting "derny!" every time a small motorbike passes during the sunday ride, i thought i knew keirin racing, and that reading 'war on wheels' would be a prospect similar to a busman's holiday. how wrong can a smug scotsman be? there is literally not a single nook or crannie of the sport that mr mccurry has left unexplored. but even better than that, his obvious enthusiasm for the subject is impeccably translated to the printed page.

japanese keirin racing, however, is on the decline. audiences have decreased, as have gambling revenues, and several critics have argued that the sport needs to be opened up to the dreaded foreigner. though men's keirin still takes place aboard all-steel, craftsman built frames, the women's events have acceded to the world of carbon. revered framebuilder, ryu yukuwa has been quoted as saying, "The keirin authorities will have to completely change the system to make sure it lasts another seventy years."

however, in the author's afterword, he points out that, with the olympics due to take place in japan beginning 23 july this year, "After the most tumultuous year in modern Olympic history outside wartime, keirin could finally be coming home." you have around a month to read and find out why. a superb book.

'war on wheels' by justin mccurry is published by pursuit books on 24 june.

wednesday 23 june 2021

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

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

the book i'll never write

cyclists training diary - joe friel

throughout the time that i have been writing the post, alongside several side projects that included writing commissions for others, i have heard it said that, inside every writer, there is a book just clamouring to get out. i would like to refute that claim, for though i find it relatively easy to write articles and features on a variety of subjects, there is a world of a difference, in my humble opinion, between writing 3,000 words (for example), and over one hundred thousand, all concerned with the same, localised subject. yes indeed, i do (allegedly) write about cycling most of the time, but in what i believe is a largely idiosyncratic - some would say, eccentric - manner, little of which would, i'd imagine, translate to an entire book.

couple that with the fact that, despite having contacts within the publishing industry, nobody has ever arrived at the front door, proffering a contract and sizeable advance for my scribblings. undoubtedly with good reason.

however, we should be eternally thankful for the fact that there are very many individuals who not only have the ability to write books, but the desire so to do. let's face it, cycling may have become considerably more popular over the past year, but it's a popularity that doesn't necessarily translate to the reading habits of those now imbued with velocipedinal glee. and though popular, cycling is still very much a minority interest, not only in the grand scheme of things, but in commercial publishing terms.

a friend of mine recently published a book about the scotsmen who put the tea in britain. it's a very readable, enjoyable, and well-researched book (published by birlinn, if you're interested), which, if there's any justice in the world, will sell by the truckload. and with the latter in mind, when i met him over the weekend, i enquired whether sales offered reason for optimism? he claimed not to know, but he thought he might contact the publishers yesterday to find out. i find that an admirable stance, for had i actually written a book, i'd have demanded hourly updates as to its sales figures.

there's always the possibility, however, that the last thing the world needs, is yet another book about cycling. not so many years ago, you'd undoubtedly have had to ask the assistant in waterstones if they could point you in the direction of the almost non-existent cycling section in any of their stores. nowadays, the sports section can feature more than two or three shelves of cycling books. and the non-sporting cycling sections are also on the rise. but then there's the fear that cycling might begin to emulate the whisky market, a genre that really, really does not need any more books. there are only so many words that can be written about water, yeast and barley.

however, my pet subject, purely because i cannot make up my mind one way or the other, is that of training manuals. i do not, nor have i ever, raced on my bicycle, and as a result, i'd be loathe to subject myself to anything resembling a training manual. but i may be guilty, in certain respects, of misapprehension, for though there are probably about as many cycle training books as there are books about whisky (maybe), several are less concerned with the competitive realm, than with keeping fit as age takes its toll. i'm happy to mention that my average speed of a weekend (not that i pay any attention, you understand), seems to have remained relatively constant, give or take a galeforce headwind or two, so do i really need to train?

the fear is that, if i don't, the next growth spurt might find me lagging well off the back, hoping that my compatriots will wait long enough at the coffee stop until i arrive in a state of near collapse. or maybe i should wake up and smell the roses, forgetting that, though i may look like a refugee from the peloton, in reality, a more sedate future may be worth considering. and though not based on extensive research, i'm unaware of any training manuals aimed at those of a certain age, who want to at least look as if there is sporting prowess in those chris hoy lookalike thighs, even if the truth is more norman wisdom.

so, should i take note of my own potential predicament and begin work on an extensive and well-researched manuscript for which i believe a large and appreciative audience eagerly awaits? would i find myself the toast of the mamil community and others who are already considering a pinarello f-14 kitted out with shimano's no longer secret, dura-ace di2, but concerned that it's useful life may not extend to year's end without advice on their exertion quotient?

i think we both know the answer to those questions.

top image from joe friel's training diary. published by velopress

tuesday 22 june 2021

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

hot chillee ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

meanwhile, back in the real world...

wind tunnel

during yesterday's morning bike ride, a member of the velo club, intent on improving his cadence (or so he said), took his speed up to 43kph, by which time i had effectively sat up, in the hope that he couldn't keep it up for too much longer. because i knew i couldn't. following this apparently pointless bout of sustained acceleration, he was wont to point out that his terminal velocity was the average sort of speed demonstrated by the professional peloton when rolling along, discussing the finer points of gardening, stocks and shares, or the alarming cost of servicing a jaguar f-pace.

we, on the other hand, portray far more human proclivities, as evinced by the considerably lower average speed displayed on my garmin when returning to the homestead near lunch time. it is for this very reason of comparison that the velo club has its gps devices set to kilometres rather than miles. there is not a single example of an islay road distance expressed in kilometres on any road sign you can find, but measuring speed and distance in metric measurements, better allows us to compare our meagre efforts with those of the professional milieu. and meagre is the very adjective that springs to mind each sunday.

however, none of us have ever involved ourselves in the competitive realm; neither have we pinned a number on our backs, other than to participate in, perchance, a sportive. suggestions had been put forward several years past, to instigate such a tradition for the ride of the falling rain, but it is our considered opinion that a number pinned to a jersey is likely to engender an unwarranted competitive spirit in those taking part. so, currently, jerseys during each year's rotfr remain unadorned. yet there are aspects of competitive road-racing that inflect our sunday rides, such as similar tyres and wheels as sported by the professionals, extending not only to bicycles, but componentry and, on occasion, apparel too.

and it is the latter that is pertinent to this particular discussion.

in this week's comic, several pages are given over to a feature on a particularly high profile cycling apparel company's efforts to design and build the ultimate skinsuit for those desperate to eke out every last watt in the search for finish line glory. where once the research and development pound notes would have been spent in the search for clothing that wicked sweat, offered at least a smidgeon of weatherpoofing, and had a lifespan that would justify the numbers on the price tag, aerodynamics have intervened. certainly, any purchaser would presumably wish the resulting garment to demonstrate an ideal level of longevity, since it seems likely that the end product will not be cheap, but first and foremost, the wind-tunnel testing is more obviously concerned with the suit's slippery-ness through the air.

if these are minstrations with which you find specific interest, might i suggest that you acquire a copy of said publication, for i have no intention of reiterating the aerodynamic principles applicable to such a time-trial skinsuit. to be quite blunt, it is not those with which this one-sided discussion is concerned. and while i cannot claim to have read the feature from start to finish, i did glean that the garment is claimed to offer an extra 4.7 watts at 40kph. yes, indeed, 40kph. hands up all those who are able to continuously ride at such a velocity whenever the opportunity presents itself?

i will freely admit to being several years on the wrong side of three score years; if i ever had my finest moments, they were some considerable years ago. however, my colleagues are a tad younger, perhaps not in the first (or even second) flush of youth, but still young enough to consider a competitive scenario, should they wish so to do. in short, they could form a part of the very demographic to which this particular apparel purveyor, or their competitors, might wish to sell the product under discussion. though the apparel provider has indicated that they hope to be in the world tour next year as a clothing sponsor, over and above the costs involved with that sort of setup, the costs of developing this time-trial skinsuit must also prove considerable.

that means, logically enough, that they intend to recoup their costs by selling garments to you and me. it may be that you and i are not in the market for a one-piece time-trial aero suit, but should one such item be worn to victory in a grand tour, its costs may be offset by our purchasing of more standard items of velocipedinal garmentage, such as bibshorts and jerseys. but it cannot be discounted that the skinsuit will also be available for purchase; several other cycle clothing manufacturers already feature these in their range. you will not be surprised when i advise that these are not exactly cheap. but my real query, testing and price aside, is just how many sunday riders have the capability of riding at 40kph for long enough to gain any benefit from such a garment?

my other cycling colleague, a maths teacher to trade, has threatened to calculate just how many watts you and i might benefit from clad in the same item, but i'd be very surprised if it was more than a fraction of one watt. i agree that the velo club has no intentions to hold a local time-trial, or to compete in a sanctioned event elsewhere, but it's hard to discount the results of the testing trickling down through the range, even if the gains are less notable. it holds parallels with road-race bicycle development, the majority of which are aimed squarely at the professional and the power and skills that form a particular requirement of the job. marketing then attempts to convince the rest of us that what's suitable for the professional must surely be suitable for you and me.

and that's not always true.

i confess that i would be more impressed and ultimately satisfied, if the research and development luncheon vouchers were directed more closely towards garments with which we might find particular sympathy. that's not to say that this is not a consideration, and it's possible that the story behind the more mundane part of the equation might be of less interest to the cycling press. but what did not appear to be addressed in cycling weekly's article was just how much it cost to achieve those 4.7 watts, relative to just how many skinsuits would have to be sold to cover not only the development costs, but future sponsorship costs advertising the effectiveness of such aerodynamic trickery. and then there's the fervent hope that the uci don't subsequently ban it, when they discover it actually works. that scenario has already been played out to the disfavour of another, former, world tour clothing sponsor.

but what still remains an outstanding query, is why the rider portrayed wearing said prototype in the wind tunnel, sported a full beard and moustache? surely such facial hair would undermine at least one or two of those 4.7 watts?

monday 21 june 2021

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

rouleur

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

deux vitesses

coffee and cake

at the outset of 2020, a couple based in port ellen village set up an electric bike hire company entitled 'islay e-wheels', specialising, as you may have guessed, in hiring out e-bikes. the range contains not a single analogue bicycle. this, i can but admit, was quite enterprising, for though there are a number of inidviduals on the island in possession of e-bikes all of their very own, the upsurge in electric bicycles has not been quite as marked here as is apparently the case on the mainland. and those who do own velocipedinal electrons, are not necessarily in the habit of using them on a daily basis.

a neighbour of mine is an inveterate runner, prior to the covid restrictions, a man in the habit of scooting off every now and again to take part in marathons or half-marathons all across the country. rather him than me. however, he is in possession of a road bike, which gains scant usage, but comes in handy for a spot of cross-training every now and again. his mrs, however, owns an e-bike on which she was in the habit of popping out for a short ride of a morning, frequently met as i headed out for my morning walk. on one of those early meets, she embarrassedly mentioned that she thought herself to be cheating. it was at that point i was moved to ask who it was she thought she was cheating?

for a while, that appeared to be the default position for owners of e-bikes, though i figure now that bicycles with motors will soon challenge the supremacy of the analogue bicycle, any notions of cheating will likely dissipate. and possibly, in the fullness of time, those of us with even expensive road bikes will be viewed as third class citizens, behind cars and electrons, ostensibly too poor to afford an e-bike. for i truly believe that the e-cyclist is a breed apart, totally unfamiliar with cycling as we know it.

i would tentatively suggest, however, that it might be necessary to impose a minimum age limit on the motorised of the species. only last week, as a ploughed my way along the road at gruinart flats, i met a young couple heading in the opposite direction, both aboard e-bikes, making short shrift of the irritating little headwind, that was blowing me along in a contrary trajectory. this couple must have been several years younger than half my age, yet seemed quite at ease with their battery power. though i'd hate to be seen as one of those things were different in my day, sort of fellows, actually, things were different in my day. for starters, at that age i'd have felt perfectly capable of riding an analogue bicycle when on holiday. quite why a young couple should find it necessary to rely on battery power, i have no idea, but it does seem indicative of the lack of character of which many of us oldies figure the younger generation to be guilty.

and though i can already hear the protestations of innocence as i type, were evidence required of the veracity of my assertions, yesterday afternoon at debbie's may have provided the necessary. having had to play bass drum with the community pipe band earlier in the day, it was well after lunchtime before i managed a brief jaunt to bruichladdich and back, collecting 3kg of training porridge in the process. on arrival at debbie's, i noticed a young couple sat outside supping froth, he on an impressive, analogue canyon road bike, she on a bicycle hired from islay e-wheels. as i sat indoors reading this week's comic and enjoying my own portion of caffeine, the young gril came in and asked for a slice of walnut cake, citing the fact that she'd ridden 20 miles, as possible demonstration of a calorific deficiency.

let's face it; though you and i would have managed 20 miles (32km) with relative ease, and may have thought a slice of cake to be in order, the same distance on an e-bike can hardly be said to be an onerous undertaking. perhaps a table of ratios is in order: 40km on an analogue bike = one slice of cake. 55km on an e-bike = one slice of cake, and not one kilometre less. the french once cited a race of deux vitesses to account for their failure to take stage wins during the seven year reign of lord voldemort. i think i foresee resurrection of the phrase in altered circumstances very, very soon.

sunday 20 june 2021

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

rapha ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

apple crumble

apple crumble

over the past week, my so-called 'home-page' on youtube has enlightened me to some of the miscreants who ride bicycles on urban and inner-city roads. naturally, there is a whole slew of short clips depicting cyclists jumping red lights before receiving instant karma and either being pulled over by a police motorcyclist they had not espied, or hitting the kerb and performing dramatic face plants. yet others showed riders with apparently no conscience whatosever, riding across zebra crossings despite there being pedestrians crossing in what they thought was perfect safety. thankfully, in at least once instance of the latter, a pedestrian took matters into their own hands, balking the cyclist until he had to fight his way past in order to continue on his less than merry way.

i have my own theory in such matters, despite there being no traffic lights, no roundabouts and no zebra crossings anywhere on either islay or jura. simply put, there are idiots; some drive cars, some ride bicycles, and i seriously doubt that one is any better than t'other, though statistically, there are a great deal more motorists than cyclists. and though i have come across many a bike rider who insists that they have as much right to the road space as those in cars (and in essence, they're right), there can be little doubt that, as cyclists, we're generally substantially slower than cars and faster than pedestrians, so the least we can do is exercise both moral and pragmatic judgment to do the decent thing by either slowing down, or getting the heck out of the way.

however, though i'd imagine that we're all inured to the fact that life simply isn't fair, sometimes it just isn't fair.

over the past few weeks, argyll and bute council's roads department has been laying some remarkably smooth tarmac in seemingly random stretches of road between bowmore and bridgend and, thankfully, on the hill at the rspb's aoradh farm, where potholes and loose gravel would not have looked out of place in the dirty kanza. over the past couple of weeks, we have glid both uphill and downhill in perfect safety and, to be honest, perfect comfort. however, despite carlton reid's excellent book, 'roads were not built for cars', it appears that a copy of said book is missing from the roads department's bookshelves.

as previously advised, alternate friday afternoons are spent riding to bruichladdich village to deliver copies of the local newspaper to debbie's, ready for sale on saturday morning. though we'd feared as much, having sighted piles of gravel opposite the coalyard, no sooner had we become used to periodic smoothness, than they'd decided to smother the smooth patches and the gaps between, with apple crumble. or surface dressing to give it its technical name. this operation resulted in our having to ride across a road surface that may have given rise to the popularity of the gravel bike, except, blissfully unaware that the process had begun, we were on road bikes.

about halfway between the two villages, we were held at a stop/go sign while work took place on the side of the road on which we were travelling. when the sign said go, we rode along the untreated side, but were directed onto the only just crumbled side for the last few metres. with very little clearance between tyre and caliper at the front of my ritchey, i came to an almost immediate halt, when chips covered in still wet tar, stuck to the tyre treads and jammed the front wheel completely. unsurprisingly, none of the contractors responsible were particularly phased by my struggles, and once back onto a more normal road surface, it took a goodly distance to finally clear all the stones from my tyres.

in this particular instance, it seems that roads were/are very much built for cars, no account being made for those not travelling in metal boxes.

on my return, i removed both wheels to clear spots of tar from the frame, to discover that not only had the gravel put a hole in the rear tyre, but scraped all the paint from the underside of my campagnolo record calipers and roughened the metal. i cannot pretend that the rear tyre was in pristine condition, but it had been at least rideable when i left the house at lunchtime, and given that a set of record calipers are priced close to £250, i am not exactly a happy bunny at present.

there are many examples all around the island, demonstrating that surface dressing simply doesn't work in the long term. the only reason, i'm led to believe, that surface dressing takes place is due to its low cost, as opposed to properly resurfacing the road. a few years past, the majority of the road leading to kilchoman distillery was resurfaced with a healthy dose of tarmac, perfectly adduced to the needs of both the motoring and cycling public. sadly the same cannot be said for apple crumble.

just ask my calipers.

saturday 19 june 2021

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

campagnolo

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

allez!, allez!, allez!

brainy bikers - allez! allez! allez!

while the above title statement of encouragement is mostly heard by those in the midst of competitive battle, a number of years ago, the mighty dave-t and i found it applied to our goodselves, when the only battle was a slightly gravelous 14% climb out of kilchiaran on islay's west coast. as we struggled manfully up the gradient, fervently wishing that there was just one more sprocket on our cassettes, we espied a vehicle descending towards us. dismayed at the thought of having to stop mid-climb, we were pleasantly surprised to see them pull into a nearby passing-place, exit the vehicle and provide the above exhortations with a distinct german accent.

brainy bikers - allez! allez! allez!

however, in this particular case, it's the name of a new cycling card game from brainy bikers. personally, i have no truck with games of any type, a predilection that i have carried forward from childhood. and only yesterday, when one of those in the charge of mrs washingmachinepost asked to play monopoly, it was an invitation that i politely (i hope) declined. the same applies to computer games, for which i have no time whatsoever. in the days when i subscribed to macworld magazine, each monthly edition arrived with a cover mount compact disc on which was held a wide variety of software. one of those folders was dedicated to games software, a folder, i have to report, that remained untouched for the duration of the subscription.

brainy bikers - allez! allez! allez!

but surely, i hear you ask, even the average cyclist has no time to play card games, obsessed as we all are with escaping on the bicycle at every opportunity? that may be living the dream, but aside from any cycle-related game offering a place of repose in the dark, wet nights of winter, we're a long way from august at the moment. however, it will not have escaped the radar of the majority that, in a mere eight days, the 2021 tour de france celebrates its grand départ from brittany. judging by the confused faces i see before me, the velocipedinal cognoscenti are not well represented in the world of lateral thinking.

let's, for instance, assume that you have spent the day watching live coverage on either itv4 or eurosport, and your attention to detail will soon have you engaging with the evening's highlights programme. in the intervening downtime, following a modest period of bike fettling and meal-times, there is homework to be accomplished. brainy bikers have tapped into the modern-day cyclist's obsession with data, such as kilometres ridden, calories burned or average velocity, creating a unique card game pitting legendary cyclists from cycling's great nations against each other. it's a game almost built to fill the gaps between race coverage.

brainy bikers - allez! allez! allez!

according to brainy bikers head of marketing, eoghan mchugh, "players choose the country they want to manage and use their wits, knowledge and luck to win head-to-head races against their opponent. The objective is to win all your opponent's cards by 'flipping' them over to your nation." though the card game depends, to a certain degree, on blind luck, the more you know about 'your' cyclists, the better the chances of winning. each pack of allez!, allez!, allez! features a plethora of statistics on forty of the greatest past and present riders from two nations chosen from uk, france, spain, italy, germany, belgium and the usa. the only danger i foresee is becoming so engrossed in enjoyment of the game, that ned boulting and david millar spend an hour each evening takling to no-one but themselves.

eoghan admitted that, in the creation of the card game, they collated over 12,000 data points, with statistics gleaned from the three grand tours, the olympics, world and national championships, paris roubaix, milan san-remo, de ronde and others. alongside a rider's statistics, each card features a photo and a brief biography, with 'fascinating facts and insights.'

there are currently 21 packs available (with a further 24 in development) at the modest price of £11.99 if purchased direct from the brainy bikers website. now those three weeks spread across june and july can form a perfect 21 days, with breaks between obsessing over the tour now comfortably taken care of.

brainy bikers website

friday 18 june 2021

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

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

oh dear, oh dear

elia viviani's tdf de rosa

cycling, despite the efforts of one or two, remains both a colourful sport and a colourful activity, but there's no doubt that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. i spent a brief portion of my wednesday afternoon assisting with online shopping for a child's bicycle; sadly, not the most illuminating of experiences. for starters, not only does there seem to be little in the way of logic when it comes to pricing, it seems to me that the various design departments may have been on extended lunch breaks when time came to sign off on the final product. aside from the fact that every selected machine featured at least a small patch of fluorescence about its, more often than not, black frame, the contrast of which was reasonably effective, that's pretty much where any design work began and ended.

judging by the books and toys enjoyed by my one-year-old grand-daughter, brightly coloured would be the way to go, a conformity that i thought was at least the basic essence of any item destined for junior eyes, limbs, or both. though i have no inside line on the vicissitudes of bicycle manufacture for the next generation, i cannot believe that it's any more expensive to paint a frame red, than it is to paint it black, particularly given the modest dimensions of the average ten-year-old's bike. yet, maybe i'm wrong.

having browsed the website of harley davidson motorbikes (don't ask), it transpires that anything other than henry ford black, will add a mystical £250 to the retail price. surely colour isn't that much costlier to apply? but it's not just the metal or carbon parts of a bicycle that can be imbued with colour. i cannot deny that i prefer my tyres to have black treads, sandwiched between tan sidewalls, but there was a time when, michelin at least, offered their tyres with coloured sections on the tread, all the better to match the colour of the bicycle. mountain bikers were once party to many an anodised widget, even if their gearsets remained stubbornly shiny or dark. and even the trend for coloured saddles appears to have returned to predominantly black or white, which i fear may be road cycling returning to its more conservative roots.

perhaps road cycling, in a vain attempt to be taken more seriously, has decided to eschew bright and sparkly. after all, state presidents are rarely to be seen being transported in range rovers of any colour other than black. and cycle clothing purveyors (and i think you'll know who i mean) have frequently been criticised for continuing to offer black jerseys and black jackets, when any (less than) self-respecting cycle tourist knows that fluorescent yellow is the official uniform of the intrepid velocipedinist. i own a goretex jacket designed specifically for those days when inclement visibility is at a minimum, yet was available only in black. (mind you, i also have another that is bright orange)

elia viviani's tdf de rosa

however, it's the sporting milieu that surely ought best adopt a bright and colourful exterior, all the better to highlight the sponsors' largesse, or corporate presence. yet all too many remain black or white. even last year's jumbo visma bianchis were frequently to be seen clothed in black, as opposed to the more famous and attractive celeste. excuses that this was entirely for reasons of weight, when climbing, seemed less than convincing. and so hideous are the majority of time-trial bicycles, that bright, energetic colours would surely be a blessing.

but then there's the special bicycles, those destined for the team member spending more than a few days in yellow, pink, polka dots, or green. those teams with riders capable of acquiring any of the above jerseys no doubt have a suitable arrangement with their bike sponsor to have an appropriately coloured frame waiting in the wings, though obviously under wraps in case a sneak peek would appear a tad too presumptious. more propitious would be provision of suitable attired machinery for national champions, colours that not only are in sympathy with the jersey that goes with the job, but more of a sound investment, given that a suitably coloured bicycle will gain a hoped-for three weeks of public and televised exposure.

which, in the case under discussion, is where the best laid plans can go oh, so horribly wrong. for the upcoming tour de france (starting saturday 26 june), italian sprinter and italian national champion, elia viviani, currently with cofidis, has been presented with his tdf de rosa bicycle, resembling little more than a mint toothpaste commercial or barber shop pole. as a twitter correspondent mentioned, not only did someone get paid to design it, someone else approved it, and someone else received money to paint it. apparently at no stage of the foregoing process, did anybody think to point out that the end result was likely to be as hideous as it turned out to be.

i have no idea whether viviani was included in the decision-making process, but assuming he wasn't, i shan't be expecting any sprint victories from the italian, lest that bike appear on the finish-line camera or any subsequent reports in the cycling press, let alone on tv.

unless, of course, it's just a practical joke that we'll all laugh about when viviani's real tour de france bike is unveiled.

photos: de rosa

thursday 17 june 2021

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

wheelsmith ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

from the mouths of babes

changing gears survey - cycling scotland

saturday past must rank as a major milestone in the annals of islay cycling history. not, indeed, that i achieved any particularly momentous distance, speed or effort, but i did manage to be overtaken in every completely inappropriate section of road in which it is possible to be overtaken. i daresay occurrences such as i am about to describe, take place in urban and city locations every day of the year, but unlike the latter, island roads (and i don't just mean islay) are a smidgeon different. while many less rural locations feature roads more likely to follow a straight(ish) path, many a hebridean parcour tends to deviate considerably.

changing gears survey - cycling scotland

on islay, in common with many islands, roads tend to follow the contours of the land and the outlines of the coast. this means that, more often than not, the twists and turns are inclined to provide blind corners, blind summits, or, quite frequently, a combination of the two. in order to forestall any unwarranted attempts to overtake at these points (if i can't see what's coming, there's no chance the car behind can), i tend to move out towards the centre line (on dual lane roads), if only to indicate that i don't want to be passed. there are still those who either fail to comprehend why it is i'm riding in the middle of the road, or could care less, driving past oblivious to the danger in which they're putting both themselves and, more importantly, me.

the same goes for singletrack roads, the difference being that if overtaken, i, or any other cyclist, have nowhere else to go. believe it or not, i have been accused of riding on the wrong side of a singletrack road, by a summer visitor. go figure. i can accept that driving on rural and island roads for those whose daily commute consists of 'normal' streets, with junctions, crossings, traffic lights, etc., will undoubtedly present problems. in which case, surely there is even more need to proceed with caution, rather than drive as if the car is about to turn into a pumpkin? and i still haven't figured out whether continued failure to use passing places is ignorance, arrogance, or a combination of both.

changing gears survey - cycling scotland

yet, it's not only the wide-open spaces that suffer from such iniquities (and believe me, i'm not excusing local drivers from this rant). from the office window we have often witnessed vehicles reversing into main street, parking right on the corner, with the rear of the car only millimetres from the main road, and an almost total lack of indicator use when turning. and since bowmore village is home to both a primary and a secondary school, their existence ought to encourage more prudence on behalf of drivers. but there's no real need simply to listen to my views on the subject.

changing gears survey - cycling scotland

commissioned by scotland's national cycling organisation and funded by the road safety framework evaluation fund, a report entitled 'changing gears' has revealed some surprising views from children on cycling and motorists. this includes a perceived need for better education for drivers, allowing the country's youngsters to feel safer on the roads. interestingly, they also felt they needed better access to bikes to encourage more kids to cycle. but isn't that what parents are for?

perhaps predictably, many children claim to be put off cycling due to safety concerns linked to driver behaviour, though they viewed cycling as "a fun and enjoyable activity they can do on their own, or with friends and family. Cycling was seen as both relaxing and exciting, helping to keep them fit and healthy both physically and mentally." and aside from proposing that drivers return to the classroom, many suggested there ought to be more road signs advising drivers to slow down, and that cycle training could be taught to children at an earlier age. at this point, the irony of argyll & bute council having dispensed with its road safety department over two years ago as a cost-cutting exercise, is not lost on me.

changing gears survey - cycling scotland

one of the report's authors, and a man with what must rank amongst one of the longest job titles in the industry, chris ross, senior policy, projects and participation officer at children in scotland, said, "We look forward to the views we heard being absorbed into future policymaking to support safe and fun cycling for young people.' i, along with many other scottish cyclists, also look forward to such an outcome, for it's just possible that the end results will benefit us all, and not just the younger generation. it's just a shame that similar protestations by adult cyclists seem to be given considerably less credence.

wednesday 16 june 2021

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

world bicycle relief

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

much-needed minimalism

ben scruton high profile climbs

as an antidote to the complexities of modern life, minimalism, which began as an art movement in the late 1940s, can be viewed as salvation for the soul. the second world war, adhering to the mantra 'necessity is the mother of invention', forced the development of many technologies that might give an edge over the aggressors, thus ensuring victory. naturally, the latter were employing a similar strategy, which, when both combined, moved contemporary life to a level that peacetime would have been unlikely to have created. or at least might have done, but at a slower pace. the space race, in retrospect, may be viewed as a corollary of such technological development, with russia's launch of sputnik in 1957, the catalyst for american-soviet attempts to achieve the ultimate goal of a manned moon landing. history tells us this goal became the preserve of the usa in july 1969.

the ability to engender inveterate tinkering, not always specifically for the benefit of the targeted end-user, continues to this day, with experiments in artificial intelligence looking ever more to be an end in and of themselves, as opposed to a desired means to an end. have we really become so lazy that we need the 'internet of things' integrated in our fridges to contact the supermarket's computer servers and order a cucumber and a pint of milk?

ben scruton high profile climbs

minimalism sought, and continues to do so, a simpler means of expression through audio and the visual arts. there would have been little point in applying the philosophy to technology, given that national pride and urgency demanded precisely the opposite. market forces tend to drive the latter as opposed to the human aesthetics that tend to condition artisitic endeavour. in the visual arts, practitioners such as carl andre (of the tate gallery's infamous 120 bricks) frank stella and mark rothko reduced objectivity to a subjective simplicity, while musicians and composers including steve reich, philip glass, and john cage, sometimes retained complexity to produce a minimalistic outcome.

meanwhile, minimalism in the velocipedinal world could once be captured by the apocryphal stories of roadies ordering a new frame in an identical colour to that in the bikeshed, safe in the knowledge that their better halves would be unlikely to notice the difference. minimalism in those terms revelled in the knowledge that bicycle design varied almost not at all in the years that america and russia were reaching for the stars. the same, quite frankly, (for better or worse), is no longer the case .

ben scruton high profile climbs

my initial acquaintance with the road-going bicycle was predominantly at the behest of its relative simplicity. while the intrusive mountain bike seemed to sprout a differently coloured, unnecessary anodised widget every week, the road-bicycle scarcely changed from one year to the next, presumably benefiting from many decades of evolution to reach what we may have inadvertently have mistaken for perfection. even a brief glance at the website of any manufacturer you care to mention, will swiftly disavow you of the veracity of that notion. and, depending on your point of view and the depth of your bank balance, it shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. hydraulic changing and electric brakes anyone?

ben scruton high profile climbs

however, just because the bicycle strives for greater complexity at the expense of serviceability, doesn't entail a similar strategy by those whose careers include illustrating this fascinating world on two wheels. ben scruton, for example, a man who has spent the last decade illustrating all manner of subject matter, and whose idiosyncratic palmares includes work for the bbc, the sunday times, national geographic and oxford university. more recently, he has taken to creating artworks portraying some of the sport's iconic climbs, along with one or two for which iconic might seem somewhat overstated.

these singularly coloured graphics can be acquired as posters, stickers for bidons, t-shirts or hooded sweatshirts. few graphics in my experience can demonstrate such wide-ranging versatility. subject matter includes the ventoux, alpe d'huez, the tourmalet, col d'aubisque and toy's hill in kent. the minimalist simplicity of ben's series of high profile climbs can be measured by the number of us who have exclaimed "i could have done that." the point is, of course, that none of us did, nor would we have thought of it if mr scruton hadn't beaten us to the gradient. i am actually on record and in print pointing out that there are two means of describng a straight line. simply draw a straight line, or fill in all the surroundings apart from the blank space designated to show a straight line. negative space.

mr scruton has employed the latter to great effect. these highly desirable illustrations, are filled with a range of (almost) solid colours, leaving a blank portion at bottom right to show a profile of the mountain/hill under discussion.

artistic genius takes many forms.

ben scruton's high profile climbs

tuesday 15 june 2021

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

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

galloway cycling

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

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

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

top of page.

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... thewashingmachinepost

top of page.

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

book reviews

top of page.

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................