thewashingmachinepost



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gran fondo

gran fondo

there's been a little more interest in the gran fondo on 5 august 2007, so i've popped a link here to the info on the ardbeg page for those who may have missed the original posting. with bealach na ba apparently sold out (not without good cause) you might fancy a bop round islay - nowhere near as challenging nor as well organised, but good fun nonetheless. and we've now designated it a braveheart fund sponsorship ride. downloadable sponsor form available here.

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a darned good start

braveheart award - kate cullen

you will perhaps recall that last october, jez and i, plus some guys called kelly, smith and hoy, cycled 70k around kilmarnock, stewarton, new cumnock and even east renfrewshire as part of the now annual event that is the braveheart ride. but it wasn't just to give the legs a rather damp workout round part of western scotland, but also to help bolster the funds of what is often described as the scottish version of the dave rayner fund.

having raised screeds of money through the ride and other fundraising efforts, the braveheart fund has now announced that twenty-seven scottish cyclists will receive total funding of 37,000 in 2007. this is the largest number of cyclists ever supported by the four year old fund (started by former british champion and cycling.tv personality, brian smith) and they will receive a higher level of support than in previous years.

and it's not just those old enough and fit enough to be posted to the continent to experience 'real cycling' of a level they are unlikely to get in the uk (five of the funded riders will be based in belgium) - the youngest rider, kyle yates, to receive braveheart support is only twelve (and probably faster than me). he'll be given financial assistance to travel to the isle of man youth tour, and may also get the opportunity to race in belgium. in a new three-tier funding structure, nine riders are fully funded; seven are named in the 'braveheart juniors' squad; and eleven are in the braveheart academy.

brian smith said "the fund was set up to help young scottish cyclists to fulfil their ambition, with an emphasis on assisting them to train and race abroad. it is our goal to support talented young cyclists who are aiming for a career with a professional continental road team; we also support track cyclists and mountain bikers who are aiming for the olympics and world championships in their disciplines."

"the fund was not established to give riders long-term financial assistance. our role is to help them progress to the next level, and that means a professional career."

the braveheart fund has also managed to secure sponsorship for equipment to the value of 4,000 from evans cycles and 2,000 from science in sport (sis)

if you're taking part in the gran fondo d'ardbeg this year (august 5), get sponsorship towards the braveheart fund. it's the only scottish thing to do. (this year's braveheart ride and dinner will be held in kilmarnock on october 27.)

photo above shows kate cullen, braveheart cyclist of the year 2006, presented with her award at the braveheart fund dinner (held after the ride) by brian smith (left) and special guest scott sunderland (team csc). photo by graeme brown (geebee images)

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prendas ciclismo


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smoother shiny bits

ultra-torque ceramic bearings

much has been trailed over the past few years about ceramic bearings including the odd piece on the post. granted, they have been around (no pun intended) for quite a number of years and their properties and degree of roundness have even been touted as just as super when grease or oil are missing from the equation. but now they are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence - everybody is fitting them in their bottom brackets or hubs, and pro-tour teams are falling over themselves to fit them in as many moving parts of the bike as possible.

and now they're even being retro-fitted to campag's very new ultra torque chainsets. or at least, they are if you're shopping at competitivecyclist.com. since campagnolo press fit the bearings to the crank arms during manufacture, - unlike most other brands where the bearings are in the bb cups - removing them isn't something you'd cheerfully undertake with a swiss army penknife, but the chaps at cc have done just that (though with a more sophisticated toolset) and replaced them with double sealed grade five (currently the highest grading) ceramic bearings.

since thewashingmachinepost budget does not stretch to fitting even one ceramic bearing to the company colnago, we're taking all this hype on trust and with a modest degree of cynicism (though if anyone wishes to send samples, we're open to persuasion), but if your wallet/credit card is feeling friction free, a converted ultra-torque chainset will relieve you of $750 or (£385). www.competitivecyclist.com

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put your heart into it

skeese valentine card

between this article and the one below, the post is beginning to become like the bbc - full of repeats. before christmas we discovered skeese greets, an austin, texas company with a neat line of cards for all occasions, though in the pre-christmas market we were obviously talking about christmas cards (surprisingly enough). if you missed that bit, the cards have a cycling appeal because they all have chains and/or cogs on the front.

now i know that we've only just assailed the beginning of 2007, and valentine's day is a few weeks away yet, but for those of us not on the same land mass as texas, it could take a day or seven to get delivery, and i didn't want anyone to miss out. mrs washingmachinepost would never forgive me.

but it's not just valentine's day - there are cards for birthdays, special occasions, mothers' day, fathers' day... pretty much anything you fancy. stacy keese tells me the cards have garnered much interest in britishland, and with a bit of luck, someone might pick up distribution over here. until then, the internet and credit card will have to suffice. and no, i don't have nicole cooke's address.

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close, but no cigar

inside page

my apologies if this is becoming tedious, but after the apparently good natured banter that i have with nigel at the comic regarding the cover design, then my dramatic outburst and consequent correspondence with peter cossins at procycling over that magazine's re-design, there are bound to be dozens of you (yes, there are that many of you reading the post) clicking hurriedly to the bbc's weather pages, rather than having to read more of the same. hence the reason for the initial apology. but unfortunately, here we go again.

i flagged up, in an article at the end of last year, the existence, and my subsequent ordering of, womenscycling.net's 2006 in review magazine. considering the number of national and international cycling magazines available, there is precious little coverage of the female side of cycle racing and it does seem kind of sad that the fairer sex find it necessary to publish their own magazine to achieve any sensible exposure (if you see what i mean).

cover

the magazine cover depicted on the website was (and is) naff, to say the least, but i really wasn't prepared for the contents. professional page layout and pre-press is my real job, and believe me that, if i produced work of this standard, i wouldn't have customers for very long. it's a real shame, because the content, both written and visual is just what we want to read and view, but it shouldn't be this inconsistent or this much hard work. if i understand their 'manifesto' correctly, it is hoped to make this review of the year an annual occurrence, so i really hope somebody learns how to do it properly before 2008. (the keywords here are grids and stylesheets)

soap box rant aside, there are some great photos and interviews within - if really bad design has less effect on you than it has on me, pop over to www.womenscycling.net and order yourself a copy from the australian publishers. they are to be congratulated on the effort, but 152 pages of different type sizes, bizarre paragraph spacing and sideways photos is a tad more than thewashingmachinepost can stand in one sitting.

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deb's

while i have no real wish to bore you with the minutiae of the day to day life of velo club d'ardbeg, with dave t otherwise engaged, it was left to jez and i to uphold the club honour at the sunday ride and cycle in what were less than clement weather conditions. since it is the beginning of january, we are well used to the fact that we should not hold out too much hope of blazing sunshine, and heed the words of our directeur sportif by knuckling down into the (not inconsiderable) headwind for a lengthy session of character building.

however, in previous januarys, we would have finished our sunday ride as homeless waifs - the old kiln at ardbeg closes from september to june and our previous haunt, the croft kitchen, is closed from january to easter. and there is nowhere else where we could pour in after 50km and drip on the floor. but now all is well with the world because we have debbie's in bruichladdich, which remains open all year and serves easily the finest espresso, capuccino - heck, the finest coffee - in the whole world and islay (nice cakes too). and since there seems to be no calendar limits to those visiting islay on their bicycles, we would heartily recommend debbie's as an approved v c d'ardbeg refreshment stop at any time of the year. it has certainly brightened up our new year.

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in this for the long haul

ultremo

most of the stuff tested on twmp gets the compact and bijou treatment. we're generally always keen to try out whatever we've been sent and since there is no print schedule (actually, there's no schedule at all), as soon as we figure we've done just more than enough to give us and you, a good idea as to its ultimate worth, then the pixel wrangling begins in earnest.

but quite a lot of stuff that remains in our possession continues to be used in the manner originally intended, enabling infrequent updates, and many of you will have already guessed that this is just one of those occasions. last october schwalbe were generous enough to send a pair of their new ultremo road tyres, which should almost be available for purchase by the time this is on the web. i've already managed 1000km on the pair affixed to the company colnago, during which time they have been subjected to conditions above and beyond the call of duty. at least, if you consider that these are very light racing tyres, they have. and in all that time they haven't aged or complained at all. in fact when they're scrubbed up nice (you do scrub your tyres, do you not?) you would think them to be brand new.

there is nary a scuff mark, let alone any nicks or cuts, but more importantly in the name of style, the big silver lettering that proudly says 'schwalbe' and 'ultremo' is as fresh as the day they were removed from the box. so thewashingmachinepost proudly endorses these tyres and has no quibbles about recommending them to all and sundry. however, this doesn't preclude an update after another 1000km.

and then there's the item of clothing that jez rapha winter hatand i couldn't cycle without. on new year's day, the two of us cycled to the outer edge (seemed like a good idea at the time) which is saligo bay. next stop from here is the eastern seaboard of canada, and i think we were getting their waves - and then their hailstorms. however, cosy inside our winter clothing, we both wore rapha winter hats under our catlike helmets (longer term tests on those will appear when you least expect them) and they are easily the best item of cycle clothing since sliced bread (actually that last statement makes no sense at all).

the well designed ear flap (which folds up when it's not so cold) has kept the lugs cosy and dry despite the aforementioned hail, the winter rain and the perennial gale force winds. ok, so there are plenty of under helmet cosies that can achieve the same effect, but the crowning glory of the rapha hat is the peak. not only does it imbue a sense of class and style to the wearer (and jez and i need all the help we can get in that department) but when the sun does put in the occasional appearance at this time of year, it's low in the sky. with no peak, it's a mite hazardous in the viewing department - with peak, all is hunky dory. so we love it, and so will you. for a mere £35, what are you waiting for? www.rapha.cc

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always on the first date

epic alternatives

before the start of 2007 the post featured the incredibly idiosyncratic calendar from chris king precision components, and i remarked that i hadn't quite figured out the captions at the foot of each month's strange (in a good way) photo. it turns out that perhaps that was at least part of the idea. the calendar promised more, and has delivered - and will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year. how cool is that?

if you log in to the chris king website and click on the calendar web companion, not only does it show thumbnails of the entire year's worth (the real thing sits adjacent to my daily desk) but january already has a link. the resulting page goes some way towards explaining the month's caption (in this case 'epic') as well as showing some of the alternative takes for the month's photo (see above).

coincidentally enough, the progenitor of the caption seems to have been scott nicol, he of ibis cycles, and the very bike company that produced the long-lamented 'single malt' mountain bike, which was kitted out with chris king components. don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

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gridlock

cattle grid

out here in the sticks we have free roaming cows and sheep, because certain areas of the island are 'designated' as such. and such designations are not confined to islay. this does provide varying degrees of consternation to visiting drivers and cyclists alike because cows tend to pretty much stay where they are no matter how big your 4x4, and sheep are just, well, suicidal no matter your mode of transport.

there are, however, well documented ways of trying to ensure that any cattle that shouldn't be somewhere, never make it to that somewhere - not fences, cattle grids.

i am acutely aware that urban dwellers may be comfortably ignorant of such devices, so let me digress. since the above mentioned animals have four cloven hooves, they are less than comfortable with the co-ordination required to navigate a series of steel bars laid across a hole in the road, lest a digit fail to connect with a bar and drop through the gap between. under normal conditions the cattle grid will easily prevent onward progress, almost always with cows, but i have seen sheep leap the whole edifice in an attempt to avoid a speeding colnago, and there were reports a year or so ago of some sheep that had taught themselves lie down and roll across the grid (and they said sheep were stupid).

i am reliably informed that maintenance of an area's cattle grids resides with the roads department, and since many roads are often in a state of disrepair, perhaps this should teach us to be more circumspect when riding over them. i am happy to report that all the cattle grids with which i am in regular contact (on the bike, you understand) can give you a good rattling, but are mechanically sound. the worst ones are the older models with round bars - they seem more prone to bending and don't have the same degree of smoothness displayed by the newer square section bars (i can't believe i just described a cattle grid as having 'smoothness'). as a rule of thumb, and providing road conditions allow, aim for the middle of the grid if you have to cycle over one, because tractors, cars, trucks et al cannot put their wheels on this bit, so the centre remains pretty much unscathed, and this is the best bit at which to point your front wheel.

my current training route takes me over six cattle grids in just over twenty-five miles, and the eventual intention is to traverse this route about four times in one day, three days on the trot. (that's seventy-two grids, for the arithmetically challenged). but if you're not familiar with the cattle grids over which you must travel - do yourself and the italian carbon fibre a favour and slow right down before crossing.

pain hurts.

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cycling in the french alps - eight classic cycle tours by paul henderson. a cicerone guide £14 softcover

cycling in the french alps

no real apology for the amount of french stuff in the post since new year, but it moderates the usual italian bias and since the weather is decidedly crap here at the moment, looking towards sunnier climes across the channel seems perfectly normal to me. this is the 'other' cycling guide to france produced from the huge range of guides that is cicerone.

for some reason, even cyclists with little enthusiasm for uphill parts, seem to delight in going on holidays that involve gravity defying with bags attached. author paul henderson has the great good fortune to live amongst the terrain he is eager to describe and provides us with eight tours that take the would be tourist (or actual if you've already done this) over france's bumpy bits during the course of five day tours up to a twelve day traverse of the alpine chain from the geneva end, all the way down to nice.

now i have never yet been to france on any type of transport, let alone on a bicycle, so the best i can do (and did do) is to read through the description of each tour (the precis is followed by a point to point itinerary covering each day's ride), and i want to be there now. henderson describes the terrain, the views, the history and accompanies with an anecdote where necessary. all convincingly portrayed, and no patronising introduction to the joys of fixing a puncture.

speaking of such, the introduction covers traffic, government, weather access, money, insurance - in fact pretty much everything i hadn't thought of. the (very good) colour photos are less cycling world than the previously reviewed cicerone guide and the book is logically laid out and accessible both in content and size (something that does, in fairness, apply to stephen fox's guide too). and a small detail on the back cover that most of us would miss - the guide doesn't cost £13.99, it costs a very sensible £14. a pricing trait that should be followed by all, if only to get rid of those annoying one pence pieces that make me sound like a percussion section when walking down bowmore main street.

so good, i nearly got sunburn and altitude sickness.

again, if you can't find a copy of this book in your 'local bookstore', it, and many other guides from cicerone, are available from their website.

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

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