i believe it was picasso who said good artists borrow, great artists steal or words to that effect, so perhaps for once in our lives, we're going to be great artists as this island heads towards islay show day on 13th august. the show itself has a long heritage, principally as an agricultural show which, essentialy, it sort of still is. this was the one time of year when the island's farming community would haul themselves together in a field behind islay house (commendably known as show field), import some judges, and display their sheep, cattle, dairy herds, horses and all the other stuff that is associated with farming.
with the demise of the island's creamery in the early part of this century, it was no longer practical or economic to produce milk (with the exception of debbie's home of esknish farm) and all those years of islay dairy herds effectively came to an end. this has meant that there are far fewer exhibits at the show, and the slack has been taken up by what sometimes verges on trivia, as far removed from agriculture as it is possible to be. and this is where we come in.
lord carlos of mercian had the bright idea earlier this year, that show day might be a fine time to underline the wonder of the modern and not so modern bicycle, with a grass track race (or variation thereof) for kids, the opportunity for all children riding their bikes to the show to gain free entry (islay energy trust will meet the costs) and a stationary velo club d'ardbeg peloton accosting innocent bystanders with cycling leaflets and propaganda. not all is yet written in stone, because i still have a few influential people to talk to who may just be able to help us out with some in your face stuff, but you get the general idea.
all this will be augmented by a display of as many different types and styles of bicycle as we can lay our track-mitted hands on: everything from italian carbon fibre to (hopefully) a proper bike from paper-bicycles.
of course, we know that, to a certain extent, we are defeated before we start; adults are pretty much a lost cause, too dependent on their infernal combustion and heated drivers seats to give them up for two wheels and a chainset. but as i have undoubtedly pointed out on several occasions before, kids are the future, hence the rather junior bias of our undertaking. but we have not given up on the adult population of islay altogether; and this brings me to the bit that we've stolen. granted, my friend mark ontiveros at river city cycles, portland has given his approval, so it might not even qualify as stealing at all, but we're going to push cycling to adults with the once a week, that's all we ask slogan that mark has espoused for several years (to good effect if the number of bicycles he sells is anything to go by).
lord carlos rides his bike into work more or less every day of the week, come rain or shine; many have remarked that they'd never manage even a portion of this. but we think that most everyone can, but you have to start somewhere, and once a week is just the ideal first step. this will be prologued by go the extra mile, whereby we invite the amenable public of the isle to cycle one mile: half a mile in one direction, then half a mile back to the start. so convinced are we that this will seem such a tinsy distance, that the route will allow for the option of cycling a total of two miles (hence the slogan).
we all love our cycling, but we are few and far between over here, so an inventive recruitment drive doesn't go amiss, and i like the thought of being a great artist.
posted on wednesday 1 july 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it might well be my current state of absorption, but i can't help feeling that there's a lot less hype surrounding this year's tour de france than used to be the case in past years. yes, i too have fearlessly bought the monthlies with their variations on who's going to win, how many stages cav's going to nab, and who could realistically go head to head for the green jersey, and possibly even the yellow one too. i have a feeling that, in this 25th anniversary year of millar's king of the mountain win, nobody's got much of a clue who's likely to be wearing red polka dots in paris in about a month's time, but it's always nice to have at least one unknown variable.
of course, prognostications regarding many sporting events seem to multiply in direct proportion to how popular the sport has become, though it's also likely a by product of an increasingly media led world. at one time, if we can all remember that far back, eurosport in pre-digital days, used to simply show the racing alone commentated on by mr duffield. this was in stark contrast to channel four's entry into the cycling world with its iconic half hour nightly show of the eighties, with messrs ligget and sherwen, interrupted midway through by gary imlach (perhaps better remembered for his association with american football on the same channel).
in retrospect, using my honours degree in hindsight, channel four may well have been the culprits responsible for introducing cycling to a largely disinterested viewing public. we'd all be champing at the bit to see if millar made it over the last col still in the lead, as mr imlach was pointing out the merits of the local region's unique cheese and their presentation of a cow to the winner of the pmu sprint midway through the village. it's easy to scoff at this sort of thing when you're a dyed in the wool roadie, but i'm willing to bet that a good number of you are reading this today as a result of gary imlach, or even david duffield's unofficial guide to the wine regions of france.
however, i'd like to put my hand in the air and admit to being almost solely interested in the racing itself; all credit to eurosport for attempting to make the tour into formula one motor racing or premier league football by having a round table discussion before, during and after most of the stages of le tour, but i for one would settle for just a few hours of a lot of bikes racing up hills, and can the pre-race chat altogether. of course, i do have to temper this moaning slightly because i now find that a few of my friends and acquaintances are being pulled in off the streets to say a few words, and i would not like to be the one to rain on their parade.
but if a bit of spit, polish and homely comforts round a coffee table can bring even a few more folks into this great big world of cycling, then i'm willing to put up with those extra moments of guesswork. because maybe, just one day, it'll become part of the open university curriculum; ok, so maybe a stage too far - most of us would lose our self-imposed degree of specialness if cycling became too mainstream, but a few more wouldn't go amiss.
i wonder who'll win the etape?
posted on tuesday 30 june 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm not sure how relelvant this is to countries other than the united kingdom, but apparently in the good old days of yore, purchasing a bicycle frame and subsequently the parts with which to assemble it into your pride and joy attracted no purchase tax. conversely acquiring a complete bicycle, ready-made from the shop, did. this financial state of affairs gave rise to a tradition that i at one time found hard to comprehend: it seemed to me unusual that while mountain bikes were presented as fait accompli on many of the pages of the mtb monthlies, the comic seemed filled with similar numbers of adverts for frames capable of being mated with skinny wheels, followed by line after line of shimano and campagnolo components.
of course, purchase tax has gone the way of the dodo even in the uk, and now we have value added tax applied in equal percentage to every item that the government decides merits a dollop. while this may still give rise to the apocryphal story of the cyclist who buys a new frame every couple of years, always in the same colour, so that his other half will be blissfully unaware of how often this upgrading is taking place, there are now fewer and fewer reasons, from a financial perspective, to go the way of the frame and components route. a good example of this is the recently reviewd focus izalco di2; deduct the cost of the componentry at retail price, and it leaves the frame looking an absolute bargain.
however, i currently have a very nice colnago master frame sitting in a cardboard box in thewashingmachinepost bike shed eagerly awaiting its jewellery: something that is taking a lot longer than i ever thought it would. this state of affairs is due to the skillful indecisiveness of its owner (yours truly), one day modernity is the flavour of the minute, next day i find myself wondering what fausto would have fitted. however, the sight of a beautiful molteni coloured colnago staring me in the eye everytime i open the shed door is beginning to provide just the incentive i need.
but it is often said (quite often by me it should be admitted) that it is better to travel well than to arrive: the fun of choosing, deciding, rejecting and building is definitely good fun, and if carried out over longer than a week, can seem less destructive to that recession hit bank balance. the colnago arrived with light aluminium down tube barrel adjusters, but since islay's climate eventually had a particularly adverse affect on the same fitted to the c40 (they turned to powder), i bought a couple of stainless steel adjusters from sacha white, vanilla cycles, portland. similarly, since the frame colour is predominantly burnt orange, chris distefano was able to supply me with a sotto voce, mango coloured chris king no threadset and applicable spacers. i have a long-held pair of campagnolo delta brakes which have inhabited the inner recesses of the bike shed for more years than i care to remember, and are now being pressed into service, so the frame is slowly metamorphosing into a bicycle.
having experienced great joy with a pair of chris king wheels, i cannot see other than a pair of mango coloured classics being suitable for the master; aside from which, i delight in the happy buzzing noise emanating from thet rear ring drive. this time however, inspired by rohan dubash's article in rouleur thirteen on glueing tubulars, i may well mate a pair of the mango hubs to some mavic sprint rims. though things can change, and probably by tomorrow.
granted, this is the sort of problem that i would prefer to have over the winter months, when time on the existing bike is less pressing; with the spell of fine weather currently invading the country, getting out and pedalling takes precedence over any mental bike construction. but as far as i'm concerned it's a problem that i'm happy to own.it will be fun to find out what i end up with.
posted on monday 29 june 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
car owning or rail season ticket holding cyclists can maintain a certain sense of velocipedinal distinction, keeping that sliver of italian carbon fibre cossetted in its abode, polished, and fettled ready for the weekend warrior outing, either alone or as part of the peloton. apparel for the occasion will be select: a jersey with those very necessary three rear pockets, bibshorts in whatever colour your cycling prowess will allow you to wear, and likely other ancillaries as prescribed by looking through the cycling monthlies or team rosters.
however, in common, no doubt, with many others, i am a voluntary none car owner, so the company colnago is not only used for the purpose as described above, but has to fulfil the purpose for which the bicycle was designed in the first place: a transportation device. popping round to debbie's for a coffee is sort of the mid-point in the transition between the two; it's certainly the easiest way to travel from bowmore to bruichladdich, but it doesn't quite come under the heading of a necessary journey, however much i try to convince myself to the contrary. and in weather such as we currently enjoy on the isle, it is always aspirational to sup al fresco on the patio, trying very hard to appear as one would in the village depart (sadly, usually failing miserably).
on those occasions when the colnago has to fulfil truly transportational functions, there is usually a meeting or training session at the other end, in which case looking like a weekend warrior doesn't always cut the mustard (whatever that means). the lower half of me is generally clothed in a pair of shorts over the top of bib shorts, maintaining a semi-businesslike appearance while allowing for padded saddle comfort during there and back. but what would should the conscientious rider cum business person wear that will allow for practical comfort on the bike, and similar levels of comfort while sat in front of a computer screen or across whatever passes for a conference table?
the above has to be qualified by the e-mail tag-line as preferred and professed by my sometime cohort, mr hastings: be the cyclist, even when they're not looking. this rather excludes that white colnago logoed shirt and likely most of my wardrobe of polo-shirts and t-shirts. the latter may look just fine and dandy in the normal world, but are hardly conducive to sweat and wrinkle free riding. enter the endura baabaa merino tech jersey, a confusing piece of apparel, since the swing tag says jersey, the website says jersey but the screen printed collar description says base layer. because it's merino wool, it could quite likely fulfil the position of undershirt, but the cut would rather mitigate against that. it's a short sleeve merino jersey, but with a threequarter front zip and a small zipped pocket on the rear right, something that would be kind of hard to get into if worn under a top.
i'm normally a medium in everything that anyone ever produced in a jersey, but the medium in this was way too big, which endura kindly remedied by supplying the small; this fitted far better. however, even the small is just a soupcon too baggy around the chest and shoulders, but that may say more about my scrawny physique rather than any wide of the mark design by endura. the jersey features a commendably high collar, loose enough not to constrict but high enough to deflect cold draughts. i wore this over an endura baabaa long sleeve baselayer, which may have been just a tad too warm on the day i travelled, but a combination that is eminently practical due to merino's temperature regulating properties, as well as the fact that it doesn't smell. these are enhanced by aerated sections under the arms and across the shoulders on the back.
the small rear pocket is really only ideal for some loose change, perhaps an ipod or phone, and at a squish, half a peanut butter sandwich. i have suggested to endura that by tightening up the fit slightly (this jersey is admittedly aimed more at the off-road community rather than the skinny tyre brigade) and adding three rear pockets would present a more realistic appeal all-round, and certainly more so for those of us on bendy bars. the jersey is available in black, grey and the red colour as tested; even the latter comes across as perfectly acceptable in a transportational situation, and i hope that if endura do make a revised edition available to the roadie community, they stick with the single colouring and resist the temptation to resort to different coloured panels as often exhibited on some of their fs260 jerseys.
i don't mind admitting that i'm a big fan of merino wool; while it doesn't present itself as a skintight fit in the mode of many lycra/sportwool jerseys, admittedly ideal for the sunday ride and all that solo training we tell ourselves we're doing, the more relaxed fit makes it ideal for a variety of situations. unlike some heavier merino tops, this one can be chucked in the washing machine with that devil may care attitude that cyclists tend to have with regard to their wardrobe. i like that, and i've no doubt you will too. because of the inherent breathable properties of merino, the top lends itself well to layering: a true baselayer, the merino jersey, heavier wool top and possibly even a waterproof mean that this is something that could be worn year round. nifty.
the price of £45 is good for such a fine jersey in merino wool, and if you need a jersey that can be worn on and of the bike, this is a good choice. just bear in mind the sizing: i'm 5'10" with a 38" chest and the small is a good, if loose fit. maybe try before you buy.
posted on sunday 28 june 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................