let's assume that you've just got the drop on tom boonen in the last fifteen kilometres of paris roubaix. the gap isn't stretching by much, but it's not diminishing either; there's still well over 27 seconds by the time you enter the cobbled traffic island that leads to roubaix velodrome. you subtly acknowledge the cheers of the assembled multitudes in the surrounding stands as you take what is effectively a parade lap ahead of belgium's favoured son. there will be no sprint for the line, since boonen only enters the velodrome as you cover the last few metres, but with the world's cycling press eager to fill their viewfinders with you and bicycle as you cross the line, it is necessary to pull the zip to the neck, except you suffer from exactly the same malady as i do - you cannot ride a bike no-hands. that would make pulling up the zip a mite tricky, under the circumstances, but if you'd been wearing a rapha classic jersey, the problem would be substantially minimised, due to the thoughtful presence of a bite grip on the left side of the collar. with boonen now completing his own lap of honour, you grab the collar between your teeth, pull the full-length zip to the foldover at the top, thus not producing any embarrassing grimaces for those photographers, and cross the line with one arm in the air and the front of the jersey in full view of a battery of lenses.
when a manufacturer designates any of their products 'classic' it's worth checking the definition of that word to make sure that the end result matches the accepted meaning. because nowadays there's a heck of a lot of propaganda being spouted by over eager marketing departments keen to imprint an image upon grey matter, that may just convince you that their description is beyond reproach. the epithet new size has been seen in star shaped colours on the outer wrappers of many a food product, promising optimism but in point of fact ironically drawing your attention to the fact that the packaging is exactly the same, but the contents are actually smaller. that rapha saw fit to name their first public offering, the classic jersey implies that they'd spent a good many hours on the pink couch making sure all the bases were well covered back in 2004, because they'd look mighty stupid in 2009 if their so-called classic jersey had turned out to be anything but.
just so that we're all reading from the same hymn sheet, my dictionary's definition of the word classic when applicable to an item of apparel reads thus:
'of a simple elegant style, not greatly subject to changes of fashion.'
the very first rapha classic jersey could be had in either white with contrasting black armwarmers, or black with white armwarmers; both with a contrasting hoop on the left sleeve, which if it were musical, would be rapha's signature tune.
it's still the same classic today.
colours have come and gone even in the relatively brief period of time covered by five years, and many sponsors from 2004 are now no longer in the sport, necessitating a wholesale change in racing jumpers on the chaps at the top; i think we can safely assume that this year's columbia jersey will be unlikely to ever be preceded by the adjective classic. so it seems a safe bet, purely on the basis of the dictionary definition, to allow rapha the continued luxury of naming their top of the line sportwool offering as they do.
but there are few of us carrying dictionaries in one of those back pockets, so the true measure of a classic is how good it looks and how well it fits, both on and off the bike; there is little point on assuming honed athlete status in the saddle, while resembling an islay farmer when ensconced in the comfy sofa at debbie's.
sportwool is undoubtedly one of the finest materials from which to construct a cycle jersey - to borrow from richard sachs: atmo - leading to soft and cuddly next to the skin, a remarkable degree of windproofing from a fabric not necessarily designed to be so, and a resistance to wear that polyester jerseys can only lust after. i own one of the original rapha mortirolo jerseys (the one with the flock lettering front and back) which receives more than its fair share of use during islay's warmer times, and without word of a lie, it still looks pretty much as it did when new. sadly, other regular jerseys acquired at the same time have faired less well. over the intervening years, rapha have refined the look and feel of the sportwool, to the extent that this latest version is currently state of the art. i'd happily wear this jersey, sitting in my leather armchair typing this review. and who's to say that i'm not?
The classic jersey arrives with a pair of lightweight (in comparison to rapha's standalone offering) armwarmers - since i was testing the black jersey, the armwarmers were in white. i'd only taken them out the bag when good reason to e-mail rapha's design department had already presented itself (a rare instance, it should be noted) - those pink loops at the top of the armwarmers have gone. on my regular rapha armwarmers, i rely on those loops to make removal from swot and hetty arms, an easier operation. and i'd be willing to bet that i'm not the only one. please restore the loops to their rightful place.
other than that, this jersey thoroughly deserves not only its classic name, but its classic status: the fit (medium tested) is exemplary, aided and abetted by race-fit side panels and the full length zip is heading ever nearer to uci mandatory status, in similar fashion to the small zipped rear pocket. there is, of course, an included story label attached to this zipped pocket, the outer two rears are scalloped for easy access, and the dipped tail is kept in place with gloopy stuff.
the rapha classic, short sleeve jersey is available in black or white, and in sizes from xs to xxl at a cost of £125 ($195). this includes a pair of polyester, brush lined armwarmers in white or black depending on choice of jersey colour.
posted on tuesday april 21 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i know it will surprise many of you, but i do have a life other than cycling; admittedly one that sometimes gets in the way of cycling, but it helps pay the bills and keeps me in the colnagos to which i have become accustomed. as you may occasionally have surmised from the surfeit of black jerseys portrayed in these very pixels, most of that other life comes under the heading of graphic design (well, it comes under my heading of graphic design), my speciality in which is the oft times trumpeted black belt in adobe photoshop. there are, however, in much the same way as a proper black belt, different levels available.
photoshop is an immensely complex piece of software, undoubtedly written by aliens, which makes photographic post-production both remarkably simple and remarkably sophisticated at the one and the same time. it might come as somewhat of a revelation, but inhabiting this world of photography are a number of different colour modes, the most obscure of which, yet probably the most powerful, is known as lab. i think most of us who pretend we understand what's going on in this bizarre colourspace pronounce it the way it looks, but it should correctly be pronounced phonetically, since each letter represents a different channel within the space. i'm not going to get any more technical than that.
the grand master of lab colour, is a a chap called dan margulis who has written the book i am currently being regularly confounded by: 'the canyon conundrum', so titled because photos of the various american canyons tend to be images which benefit most obviously and simply from corrections made in lab. however, (this is almost beginning to sound like one of those thought from the manse type articles) the notion of colour and conundrums was recently brought to mind both by the impending start of the giro d'italia starting next month, and the arrival of the pink, dolce and gabbana designed, 2009 leader's jersey from prendas.
in july of each year, it is possible to acquire a yellow tour de france leader's jersey from several suppliers who advertise in the cycling press. but nobody in their right mind, or who has any mind of finishing a ride without serious heckling from their own peloton, would ever wear such a jersey on the club ride or evening ten. it would be seen as tantamount to arrogance or overestimating your own abilities. lance, eddy, miguel, marco or alberto can wear one, but you can't. yet the same ethos does not appear to apply to the pink jersey so beloved of the tifosi; as far as i can make out, any of us are free to purchase a giro leader's jersey, wear it on the sunday ride, and receive nowt but admiring stares from all and sundry. a conundrum indeed.
prendas have in stock not only the santini made regular short-sleeve version, but currently exclusively offer the long-sleeve too. the maglia rosa short sleeve retails at £49.95 ($73), while the long-sleeve adds another tenner making it £59.95 ($88). both are available in sizes from small to 6xl.
get one now before lance does.
posted on monday april 20 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
you are different whether you like it or not, or whether you know it or not. being a cyclists makes you different, though perhaps not as different as you would once have been considered. when the majority of folks prefer to spend their leisure time on the golf course, going for a drive in the country, or splashing up and down the local swimming pool, climbing aboard a sliver of carbon fibre and getting in the way of traffic is generally regarded as different.
there is, of course, just that tiny inkling that it's everybody else that's out of step, and i would tend to concur on this point, but democracy suggests that it is the minority who must be willing to accept the inevitable. this is certainly not a cause for despondency: on the contrary, being different these days is just as likely to promote a sense of well-being amongst the civilian population, as it is to hinder, so i'm of the opinion that we should celebrate such differentness as long as it is the end product and not simply a means to an end.
there may be many who wish to conceal this sense of difference, while others (me, me, me) take pride in representing the, oft times, downtrodden in the face of adversity, a sense of pride that happily offers a wide variety of advertisement. in this particular instance, the method under consideration is headgear; this is most commonly seen in modern society throughout the world by way of the now ubiquitous baseball cap, an item that has long since separated itself from the colloquial adjective that defines it. there are of course, variations on this theme, even within the world of two wheels; it may be it is still considered to be the preserve of babe ruth in north america, but the european professional peloton has seemingly appropriated it for its own purposes and re-designated its description as a podium cap. i presume the reasons for this are obvious enough that i need elucidate no further.
however, due to the overwhelming presence of the latter, a degree of specialisation is required by the self-respecting cyclist, keen to to narrow down the reasons as to why he/she is regarded as different, and to the aid of selfsame has been gifted the casquette; a cap with no pretensions to be other than associated with speed on two wheels. the great advantage of these is their flexibility and insubstantial nature, allowing for covert wearing and being produced from thin air at a moment's notice. the casquette also has the advantage of allowing identification with a marque or brand of the wearer's choosing - you need only browse the pages of prendas.co.uk to be sure to find something that catches the eye and quickens the pulse.
but within this marvellous set of differences, are several subsets of the even more different, those for whom the podium cap could be seen as anathema, while the more humble casquette doesn't, not to put too fine a point upon it, quite cut the mustard. and it is for the members of this subset, again whether they are aware of it or not, that a hitherto unseen item of head apparel has made it to washingmachinepost towers courtesy of the great richard sachs. bearing the widely applicable acronym atmo (according to my opinion) this fidel knit hat comes in one size fits most, and is of thick knitted acrylic construction with a small peak at the front. it's ideal for wearing whenever the notion takes you, but its strength of use seems principally for colder weather (such as islay when it's sunny): pulled well down, the rear part covers the top of the ears. as it says on mr sachs' website "best suited to an 'atmo' day"
the cost of being this different is only $22 (about £15), it comes in black only, and i look forward to spotting more of those different people.
the good-looking one in the photograph above, is the lovely debs from debbie's cafe in bruichladdich
posted on sunday april 19 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if you don't live in the uk, you may find this even more questionable than some of us resident in the humorously titles great britain: during the past week, the british government announced plans to provide up to £2000 to drivers wishing to purchase an electric car. in practical terms, this doesn't really amount to a whole lot more than nothing in particular, because it's more than likely that there will be an election before the grant is due to kick-in around 2011, and there's every possibility that the current incumbents will be voted out. however, it's a double-edged offer; at face value it makes the british government appear to be adding to their always questionable green credentials, while also tentatively aiding and abetting the british economy - apparently britain produces quite a high proportion of the current crop of electric cars.
as we all know to our cost and oft times frustration, items, gadgets and cars that run on electricity require a constant supply of same to enable continued function. electric cars, due to the weight and capacity of current ('scuse the pun) battery technology, can't carry enough of the stuff to get them very far, and even when they get there, charging is going to be a pressing necessity. so the selfsame government has additionally proposed the siting of a network of charging stations across the country to allow those in receipt of their £2000 grant to get back home again.
but it doesn't stop there. they have also suggested that it might be a neat idea to offer a similar sum of money to those who are willing to scrap their present polluting tin boxes and purchase a more fuel efficient vehicle. this suggestion however, is less likely to come to fruition because someone has noticed that this would probably be an effective subsidy for foreign made cars. perish the thought that we should give money to johnny foreigner while attempting to save the planet.
but we ride bicycles, a means of transport that doesn't cause any pollution at all; a much more efficient and economic way of getting about, and one that has no need of an infrastructure of anything at all across the country (though a track pump every so many kilometres wouldn't go amiss). so why not put a light bulb above the heads of those in government and ask whether the £2000 could be extended to those wishing to purchase a bicycle, enabling acquisition of a quality machine, cycle luggage and practical clothing? i have already e-mailed my member of parliament to ask that very question, and while i have little faith in politicians (to quote sting:'they all seem like game-show hosts to me'), if they really are concerned with reinforcing their green credentials and doing something positive to save the planet, i would suggest that they pay a bit more attention to the humble (and not so humble) bicycle.
if you're in agreement, you could e-mail your member of parliament and ask the same question.
posted on sunday april 19 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm not much one for the business side of things, particularly the business side of cycling, though i do pay a bit of attention so that i can put much of what i write and what i read in some sort of context. however, it would be particularly naive of me to pretend that cycling didn't have a business side to it as well as the pain and suffering side that most of us inhabit. while it might not be cycling's most attractive elevation, without it we'd all be scrabbling about on whatever we could find, if even that.
however, the business side segregates itself into a varity of layers: there is big business (trek, specialized, giant et al) who probably see little wrong with world domination and who maximise profit almost to the exclusion of all else. ok, i really don't know if that last statement is true, but oftimes it's the way it comes across. then there's the cycle chains (if you'll pardon the pun) who distribute all those specializeds, giants and treks; companies such as evans cycles, halfords, wiggle - you get the general idea. sadly my knowledge of such does not stretch to those doing likewise in the united states, but i'm fairly sure they have them too, as will many other of the developed world's countries.
in this case, these latter companies have either chosen or ended up in the business of selling bikes, which they don't necessarily do because of their love for two wheels (i apologise to those working for the aforementioned who are as obsessed with bicycles as i am - i am flailingly attempting to use a stereotype to make a point). it is more than likely that the chaps and chapesses in the individual stores are there because they like bicycles, but their counterparts at head office are keeping their eyes firmly fixed on the last figure on the accounts sheet. of course, somebody has to, because that's what makes the world go round (or not, as the case may be), and the wages of the folks that like bikes, often depend on the alacrity of those that quite often don't.
so it does come as a bit of a surprise, therefore, that halfords, that well known non-specific sales entity (well could you describe what it is they do?) has decided to jettison both bikehut and cycle republic from their portfolio due to their 'not delivering sufficient financial return'. it seems not so very long ago that halfords were trumpeting this more independent method of cycle retailing as opposed to selling from existing halfords stores which, ironically enough, is what's going to happen now; the bikehut and cycle republic outlets will be rebranded where appropriate, to halfords metro while the wider ranges available from the former will be incorporated into halfords superstores. like me, you may well be asking yourselves at this precise moment so what the heck is the difference? i don't know either.
however, halfords have continued to re-define the word bizarre: only a couple of days ago, they revealed that their sales of bicycles had somewhat bucked the trend of the current financial climate and that as a company, had effectively been responsible for one in three of all cycles sold in britain. but apparently this isn't good enough, and the two independents have suffered against growing online sales. and this is where we get to the point where you just know that their ceo, david wild, hasn't the faintest idea what pain and suffering on a bicycle is all about; i really can't remember when was the last time anyone came close to saying the following in debbie's after the velo club sunday ride:
"our early action to reduce costs and maintain a prudent balance sheet provides a solid platform for future earnings growth from our core strategic growth initiatives.
"the integration of our stand-alone cycle pilot into the main business, signals our intention to focus our efforts on enhancing shareholder value through the more material expansion opportunities presented by central europe and our multi-channel activity, where we continue to generate significant sales growth."
can we get that on a t-shirt?
posted on saturday april 18 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have no wish for you all to break out the violins and open boxes of tissues on my behalf, so i'll do my best not to cause you to read much about the loneliness of the long-distance cycle tester, and how onerous it is on my part to garb oneself in a wide variety of highly desirable clothing for the appropriate season, clambering aboard yet another absurdly expensive set of wheels and exotic frame, that you might be better edificated as to what to spend your kids' inheritance on. it does take many years of training to wipe the ear-to-ear grin from that weatherbeaten face, and inculcate an air of blase indifference, something i have miserably failed to do. yes, anything that arrives at washingmachinepost towers for review generally brings on that kid in a sweet shop sense of joy that you'd think would have worn a bit thin by now.
however, the reality is that waiting several days until the amount of wind, lack of temperature and amount of precipitation is just present in the right amount, before donning or riding the previously mentioned sent items prior to the readable html, is just as fun and exciting as ever it was. if i wasn't obsessed by bicycles and their associated paraphernalia then i'd have given this up a long time ago, because it is never going to give me that holiday home in tuscany that i've had my metaphorical eye on for many a kilometre.
so it therefore presents a far different challenge to write a review when sitting in front of my macbook pro, with no need or desire to move an inch from the comfort of the armchair to studiously examine every last millimetre of the item in question. it is, in fact, a bright sunny day outside, though still bearing that 40kph wind, but i have no need of venturing any further than here in order to complete this review. last august, i had the pleasure of receiving an advance copy of the movie, the road to roubaix, a movie i subsequently smallenated and added to my ipod touch, that it can be watched whenever the fancy takes me; and it is with some clever timing that the excellent soundtrack from the movie, by paul o'brien, has been released in digital format, currently on amazon, but eventually from itunes too.
while the tide does seem to be changing for the better, much of the accompanying music on cycling dvd and video was, at one time, crass to put not too fine a point on it. granted, in the world of low or non-existent budgets, it can be hard to find appropriate, royalty free music in the length and quantity required, but the directors of road to roubaix had the great perspicacity, and presumably the budget, to commission mr o'brien to write music specifically for the charge across the cobbles, and a more suitable accompaniment it would be hard to find. however, there can't be many of us who have not enjoyed a movie so much that we rushed out to buy the soundtrack only to find that it carries a lot less weight when there are no pictures to aid the meme.
happily, sat here in my leather armchair (all those who aspire to write have to do so in a leather armchair), i am now on my second time through the nine tracks of which the original motion picture soundtrack consists, and there will probably be a third time when this round finishes. of course you can preview a short section of each track on amazon, but if you have had any exposure to the music of steve reich, philip glass, or john adams, then you're half way to understanding the style of which this inhabits. if you are already in possession of the dvd, or were fortunate enough to watch on the big screen, it should be a no-brainer to click over to amazon and download for a pleasurable weekend's listening.
as highly recommended as the movie.
paul obrien's original motion picture soundtrack from 'road to roubaix' is available on amazon.co.uk for £6.99 and from amazon.com for $8.91. it will also be available on itunes in a couple of months, but downloads from amazon will happily play on an ipod. the dvd is still available from prendas at a cost of £19.95.
posted on friday april 17 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's a thursday morning, bright and exceedingly breezy, and i have a meeting at around 10:30 with mickey heads, the manager of ardbeg distillery. this is, of course, in my official capacity as a founding member of velo club d'ardbeg, and concerns something that i can't tell you about at the moment, but you may well be interested to hear hopefully within the next few days. however, the subject of the meeting, for the present, is really neither here nor there, because meetings are something i do not partake of all that often, but in a quest to minimise my carbon footprint, they are something to which i will always pedal.
that, and the fact that i do not own a motor car.
therefore, keeping in mind the status of the man i am going to meet (it may surprise you to know that, within the world of single malt whisky, distillery managers are the nearest that genre comes to rock stars - mickey would have played in the grateful dead or the doobie brothers; laid back 'r' us), it ill behoves me to arrive dressed like a member of the liquigas team. since any previous meetings i have had with mr heads have been perpetrated at a table in the old kiln cafe, this means that there will be tour victims who have us in full view throughout, and i wish to portray the image of a serious businessman - one who happens to have arrived on a colnago c40.
there really only is one range of options in thewashingmachinepost wardrobe, and that is sportwool and fixed shorts from rapha. i have toed the corporate line (if you'll pardon the pun) by wearing a pair of ardbeg socks, and i have on my seriously sartorial marresi leather shoes. but just in case anyone mistakes me for an accountant, i have on a white rapha cap with a pink stripe down the centre.
of course, for a few pennies more, i could have seriously impersonated an accountant and arrived clad head to shins in a bespoke, timothy everest suit, betraying the selfsame pink while in flight, toned down just a tad while business is transacted by internalising its glow. this is the very suit of which i wrote several weeks ago when a fitting was arranged by rapha usa in a cyclery in new york. on april 7th, rapha invited several of its favoured uk customers to attend a launch event and personal fitting with mr everest. while you can view the item in question on this very page, mr everest says that it is:
"a purely bespoke design with the ergonomics required for cycling as well as looking reasonably smart. the fabric was inspired by old boy, country suits worn by farmers to market - think reid and taylor 1958."
sadly, i was only two in 1958 and never knew reid or taylor, but considering my locale, an old boy country suit worn to market wouldn't look out of place in our local co-op (though they do hate me leaning the colnago up against the bread counter). as to my assertion that this can be had for only a few pennies more than my current meeting attire, that does amount to £3000, with which even a distillery manager would be impressed. should your mind's eye see yourself in one of these fabulous suits - perhaps you are an accountant - a deposit is required at the time of fitting. and even if you just missed being on rapha's most favoured list, you can still contact them to arrange your very own meeting and fitting with timothy everest.
mind you, i am thinking i could do with a new pair of fixed shorts.
posted on thursday april 16 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in a similar way to the on-going developments in bicycle tyres and razors, you would think that the cycle helmet had reached the pinnacle of its development, at least employing the materials currently used in construction. with tyres, you seriously wonder how many different tread patterns it is possible to come up with, particularly when realising that two of the more successful rubber hoops of latter years have had no tread pattern whatsoever. razors - well, surely they can't just keep adding more blades in order to stay ahead of the game?
in terms of taking a dod of polystyrene and coating it in shiny plastic, surely the pinnacle here has also been reached. if they add too many vents, slipstream cooling will undoubtedly improve, but the effectiveness of the helmet will likely be seriously compromised (not to put too fine a point on it), and before you know it, we'll all be wearing the emperor's new clothes. of course, that is conjecture on behalf of someone who's job it isn't to design and construct new cycle helmets, so it will surprise no-one at all, least of all me, that someone has tweaked the cycle helmet just a smidgeon more.
you and i are probably sprinting or climbing animals, legends in our own lunchtime, and feared throughout the rear of the peloton, and possibly even by the following team car. therefore, at the sort of speeds and rarefied atmosphere which we inhabit, cooling the head under the helmet is really not such a difficult concept to encompass. however, several of our slower brethren, those who think that a sportive is supposed to last a whole day (actually, i think that bit might be true), may suffer from hot headedness due to being kilometrically challenged, and it is they who require jumbo sized vents. of course, now we're back at the emperor's new clothes, that is unless you wish to partake of the new catlike vacuum.
in order to give a helmet the appropriate degree of rigidity, it is necessary to provide polystyrene spars to create a cohesive structure. you'll understand what i mean if i point out that the lance wears it giro helmet incorporated carbon fibre on these spars. catlike, however, have attacked the problem in another way. if you look at the photograph above, you can see what appears to be a rather large, bendy straw, tunneling its way through the polystyrene: catlike refer to this as the air tube system and consists of a hollow tube moulded into the whole framework.
if you've ever had cause to wonder how it is that a hollow hub axle is stronger than a solid axle, rather flying in the face of implied wisdom, it's because a tube is stronger than a rod; it is much easier to bend the latter than the former. therefore incorporating a light, hollow tube into the vacuum, catlike have a degree more freedom to increase the size of the vents, while still retaining the necessary amount of torsional rigidity. therefore it's now possible to achieve almost the same cooling factor at slower speeds, as those of us privileged enough to wear catlike's whisper (ask the chaps at cervelo or euskatel). of course, the forward and top vents smoothly connect with the exhaust vents at the helmet's rear, ensuring that all that hot air is distributed evenly amongst the grupetto behind.
more than can be said for most of the hot air on this web page.
the catlike vacuum is available in the uk from prendas in three sizes at a cost of £79.95 in glossy white, and if you travel about a bit, you can buy a pod in which to secure it for only £15.
posted on wednesday april 15 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
up here on the outer edge, we'd refer to us as teuchters - basically country boys/girls with no street smarts whatsoever. granted, we know our way around the agricultural region in which we live, and definitely know one end of a highland cow from the other, but remove us several hundred miles south to the big smoke and the words standout, sore and thumb spring to mind. in the far south, midst the nation's capital and the hub of the worlds financial and business markets, things are a whole lot different; when jez and i were there last month, not a single highland cow was to be seen. and perhaps a misconception that we teuchters have about the self-styled (erroneously) hub of the universe, is that all international commerce is carried out from the upper reaches of impressive constructs such as the gherkin. doubtless, we are not the only ones sharing this misapprehension, but such myths can be dispelled if you have ever found yourself in rapha's international headquarters at perren street.
not that one wishes to dispel any illusions or delusions regarding the real hub of the universe, but the top floor of imperial works in no way resembles any part of the gherkin, least of all in height or proximity to london's financial or political centres. but international headquarters they indeed are, controlling the far flung outpost in portland, oregon through the excellent mr olson. north american operations have expanded to such an incredible degree, that despite my impending visit in may, one of the incumbents i was looking forward to meeting, the inestimable mr pasley, will be somwhere a lot further south-east, caretaking the substantial number of rapha continental rides that make last year's initial foray into uncharted territory look like a drop in the ocean.
but these unassuming, and comfortably busy open plan offices in kentish town, are not only directing strategies in the united states, but also giving a rapha lease of life to parallel happenings in japan, their first ride recently taking place, shadowing events in the spring classics in deepest, darkest belgium. of course, the name had to change to protect the innocents: the ronde van vlaahanshin, the route of which very closely mirrored the features of the tour of flanders, and was inspired by de ronde van oeste portlandia which takes place, guess where? the hanshin part of the name is an area of japan situated between osaka and kobe, at the foot of rokko mountain.rapha's man in japan is daisuke yano, who told me that the ronde van vlaahanshin 'is the real ronde van vlaanderen course crammed into 60km'. the first half is mainly flat but exposed to strong headwinds blowing off the mountain; due to japan's predilection for construction means that there is no pave or dirt roads, but there are plenty of short, steep climbs, particularly in the kobe area. the ride was just that - not a race, but an invitation event for some of rapha's japanese customers - taking in some of the country's finest neighbourhoods, bearing light traffic and some beautiful descents. the final climb, at 60 metres was hardly the longest the world has ever known, but with a gradient of almost 26 percent topping out at over 30 percent, many riders were placed in the unnatural position of having to put feet down in order to reach the summit. daisuke had inside knowledge as his advantage and pedalled the full distance due to an appropriately fitted compact chainset.
rapha are in this business to make money, because if they don't, then there is no rapha; but much of that money is ploughed back into the sport via the rapha condor team in britain, the rapha continental in north america, and some interesting plans for their japanese devotees. fortunately, as simon mottram e-mailed to inform me, daisuke speaks english with less of an accent than i do, so we'll be hearing more from japan.
as, indeed, we should.
thanks to daisuke yano for his assistance with this article. you can see the full sequence of events here
posted on tuesday april 14 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................