book review - bikie | september 03
book review - inside the peloton | november 03

riders of the purple sage

last sunday, (4 august) myself and two astute companions took part in the second annual washingmachinepost century ride covering a large proportion of islay's roads in what turned out to be a day of blazing sunshine - and by the end of the day a wee bit of blazing sunburn.
we did exactly the same thing last year, hence the moniker 'second annual' and pre-ride, i had done fifty miles to bring the mileage up before hitting the hundred, which involved covering the road round loch gorm. if you don't know islay, the geographical descriptions won't mean that much but since they're not a desperately intrinsic part of the story, humour me for the time being. anyway, there's a part of this road, a principal route to two of islay's most visited beaches, that doesn't really consist of road, just hundreds and hundreds of little tarmac patches, in various states of disrepair. when doing the build up last year, i hurt my back cycling over this part of the route and wrote a letter to the ileach (even employees of the paper have gripes from time to time) complaining about the lack of maintenance applied to the surface.
this ignited a series of letters from sir john mactaggart of ardtalla estate and several locals abotu the state of the road leading to lagavulin and ardbeg distilleries and beyond. this culminated in a letter and incriminating photos from regular visitors to ardbeg and ardtalla, published on the front page of the ileach and our local msp describing the road as the worst he'd seen in scotland.
argyll and bute roads department relelnted, red faced and carried out repair work almost immediately, earlier this year, though even that hasn't been done properly as visitors to laphroaig and lagavulin will attest. anyway, the bit of raod at loch gorm, either side of sunderland farm, is travailed twice in the course of pedalling round the isle, once in each direction, and the surface is, if anything, worse than it was last year and there seems little chance of the roads department paying a visit in the near future.
with the proximity of the rspb reserve, this is a much visited part of the island, by a number of folks on bikes.
granted, many of the visitors on bikes are on slightly fatter tyres than those attached to the colnago or tom1's giant tcr. however, even in a car, suspension has serious cause for complaint. after the days ride on sunday, tom1 was due to call at the office but didn't show. i have since discovered that the cause of his no show was a painful back, gained at exactly the same spot as my own lumbar unhappiness in 2001. and received through the miracle that we call e-mail the other day was correspondence from tom1, for the letter column in the next ileach, complaining about the state of islay's roads. and i have guaranteed that it will be included in said issue because i have total sympathy with his complaint.
now i have had a long think about nominating this as the topic for this week's post. let's face it, i spend word upon word telling all and sundry about the delight that is islay and how there cannot be any place on earth that deserves your tyre tracks more (well, maybe alp d'huez) than this hallowed isle and that everyone with a desire to ride a bike should make their way to this southernmost of the inner hebrides. and yet, here i am (as well as tom1) pointing out the serious deficiencies of the very roads i would have you cycle. well, you'll be pleased to hear that there is some method in my apparent madness.
first off, i am not naive enough to believe that islay is the only place in argyll and bute, or indeed scotland, that suffers from less than glass like surfaces on its tarmac. so what i would like you all to do, particularly those who have visited or intend to visit islay, to e-mail me with any complaints you may have about the roads on which you have trammeled. and i will endeavour to have these published in the ileach. and i will also do my best to make sure that they make their way to argyll and bute roads department. and if you've cycled somewhere else in scotland and feel the same about their roads, e-mail their roads department. i can see no reason whatsoever why cyclists should be ignored when it comes to road surfaces. with the number of road bikes and skinny tyres on the increase and the increasing dependence on tourism (whether cyclist or not) the councils throughout scotland should start to take more notice of the people they're trying to attract.
i really like the paris-roubaix but even johan museeuw doesn't want to ride it every day.

Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here

any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from or

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

this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.

on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, ibook and imac computers, using adobe golive 5 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.