in a previous life, i had the dubious honour and livelihood, purchasing catering and food supplies for the benefit of airline passengers out of one of scotland's international airports. this required a modest degree of time-shifting, in terms of purchasing in advance, though likely little more than the average household, and the weekly visits to the supermarket, except on a considerably larger scale. however, commercial realities dictated that, in order to consolidate the commercial footing of what was a reasonably sized concern, it was necessary to produce meals for one or two other british airports who suffered from air traffic requirements far in excess of their physical capacity to supply same.
this involved making substantial batches of individual meals, well in advance of their use-by date, and blast freezing them (bet you wish i hadn't told you that). the ingredients for such meals were not anything out of the ordinary, and were therefore readily available through the regular daily supply chain. however, one of the airlines provided for, an airline i believe no longer exists, required me to purchase those little foil containers in which your plastic meal resides, from a company in holland. it may surprise you to know, and i think this still to be the case, that each airline has trollies that accommodate a specific size of foil container; containers for northwest airlines, for example, may well not fit the trollies or ovens for alitalia.
for the airline in question, an order for several thousand required to be telexed (remember those?) to holland, by a specific date in the month. if this date was missed, that was it until next month, becasue there were only twelve trucks per year heading our way. thus calculations had to be made as to our requirements for the month following delivery (which itself took around three weeks), while the meals that would eventually fill them, would not be eaten for around a month after that.
so, while all around will insist that we live for the moment, at least a part of my existence at that time was several months ahead. and it was likely even more confusing than it sounds.
swing over to the present day, and recent correspondence with graeme raeburn, designer at rapha, concerned this year's launch of the autumn/winter range. i was arming myself with information regarding the thoughts, fabrics and philosophy behind the apparel i was being sent. shortly after we spoke, graeme was about to enter meetings to discuss the autumn/winter range for 2010. that's nearly a year away, and most definitely not living in the moment. however, now that i've said this, you're all wondering just what might be contained within this prospective range; but we won't find out until around september next year.
preceding that, of course, will be the rapha spring/summer line which, by all accounts was being designed while most of us were bringing rapha's server to its knees, clamouring to see what was on offer for 2009. and i might just be able to help you there, when it comes to having a sneek peek at some of the items we'll be saving for this coming spring.
from december 11th to 13th, cycle-mode in japan shows off the great, the good, and the forthcoming. according to rapha ceo, simon mottram, the show concentrates on spring/summer products, so some pre-production samples were shipped out to their japanese representative, daisuke yano, along with guy andrews from rouleur (showing the richard mitchelson tete de la course t-shirts), and slate olson from rapha usa.
the opening photo is of the club jerseys; bold colours, a larger white hoop and, to be honest, a bit of a surprise. and sneaking around in the background is a rather fetching orange casquette (or biretta as rapha would have it). the mid photo is, i believe, that of the country jersey, the union jack on the sleeve being a bit of a giveaway. as to the shirt on the hanger, i have no idea, but a small amount of intrigue never goes amiss when none of this is up for grabs until the clocks go forward in 2010.
looks like it will be a good new year after all.
posted tuesday 15 december 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
you need only have been a spectator yesterday as i cleaned the colnago, to realise that islay is still very much an agricultural community. much of all that is natural for renewing the goodness of the land was congealed around the not inconsiderable bottom bracket area of the clx 2.0, with odd pockets of similar substances re-colouring the calipers and the inside top of those hefty carbon forks. despite a light scattering of frost on the sunday morning roads, midst damp patches where the sun's influence had made itself known, the wetted treads had failed to repel the isle of wight ferry (what's hot and steaming and comes out of cowes backwards?).
not unnaturally (in fact, quite the converse) all of this fertiliser has to come from somewhere; the sources are generally wandering in the middle of many of the island's roads. unlike many a mainland agricultural community, things are different over here; there is seemingly no legal requirement for cattle and sheep to be restrained behind fences or dry stone walls, so they wander pretty much where and when they like. and they're not house trained.
both have to be watched for in different ways: cows tend to amble slowly, but can be easily startled, so my solution is to start talking to them on approach. they're not that interested in cyclists, and will often remain in the road even during these one-way conversations, but suitably alerted, they're not dangerous. startle them on the way past, and there's always the chance that a pair of hind legs might be aimed in the direction of pedalling legs. (i know this from personal experience, hence the chatting bit.)
sheep are a different bale of wool altogether, since they will run in flocks for miles just ahead of the front wheel, rather than take the sensible option and nip off onto the not insubstantial grass verge. you can talk to them all you like: they're not interested. they are predictably the most unpredictable animals you will ever likely meet. but they do have a distinct advantage over the modern day cyclist, in that they get to wear the same wool jersey for seeming ages without the better half insisting they change on a monday morning. or throw in the washingmachine after a lengthy ride. yes, granted, sheep do smell a bit, and they do have bits of gorse bush stuck in rather less than strategic places (and i have seen one or two sheep stuck in less than strategic places in gorse bushes). but the point is that they have wool clothing that's just like a second skin. (do you see what i did there?)
i can almost achieve honorary sheep status too (without the smell and gorse bushes), because i have a wabi woolens jersey which, as i recall, i described as 'the rolls royce of merino cycle jerseys'. and over a year and a half down several roads, i have found nothing to make me repeal that statement. it has been worn often; in fact much more than often, yet its espresso colour has aged not one whit, perhaps because its constitution does not require over-frequent washing. at the time of the review, wabi woolens of portland, oregon offered three colours: espresso, sandstone red and eggplant. however, the present day wabi woolens has colour diversified, offering navy, green and an absolutely adorable and must-have golden orange, alongside the initial jersey colours.
since the quality and construction of each jersey has not altered since my original review, should you wish a degree of expansion on the above, id suggest you have a quick read through then pop back.
not wishing to short change any of my readership by abrogating responsibility to others, i find it hard to better the following description by wabi woolens owner, harth huffman. of course, i can hear you say, he's not going to tell us anything to the contrary, but i am happy to endorse all of the following...
"with morning temperatures dropping to near freezing here in oregon (much colder elsewhere - as a michigan native, i do understand), consistent rain or mist, and even glimpses of snow already, it is time to bundle up on the bike. the house is damned cold on sunday mornings, as I pour my coffee while pulling on my shorts and knickers, two layers of socks, and my oldest, most used and abused wabi jersey. i pull a sweater over the top, until the coffee warms me as i get my shoes out, pack my snacks and fill bottles.
stalling for time, i sit and allow myself to read the front page of the newspaper, or check email before heading out to the garage. finally, i replace my sweater with a vest, pull on my gloves, headband and cap, snap my helmet and roll down the driveway. it is never easy to get moving on cold mornings - especially when it is raining - but in my own head (and only in my head) it is kind of a merit badge of sorts. going for a ride on cold, wet mornings is one of the most real things i do in a week, and it's all for myself. it is a test, of sorts, to see if i get out of the driveway, for i know the rest of the ride will be its own reward, and there is no comparison for the feeling i have when i return. It sets the tone for my day, clears my head, and energises me for the week to come. even my dear partner appreciates my getting out on these mornings, even though she rolls her eyes at me every time, because she knows i will be easier to get along with for the rest of the day. one other thing I do notice though, is that i'm always in a hurry to get out of my wet footwear and change pants, but for some reason, unless it is completely soaked, i'm never in a hurry to get out of my wabi jersey. it seems to warm with my body, keeping me comfortable, and serving as a reminder of the weather and roads i just conquered. if that sounds cheesy, i apologize, but it is very, very real. i love riding in this weather (once I'm done)."
i really couldn't have put it better myself. should you feel even remotely tempted to sample of which we both speak, give in now, and avail yourself of a wabi woolens merino cycle jersey. it is luxury you can afford, and the new colours have only made it an even more desirable item of cycling apparel.
an original wabi woolens cycle jersey costs $140 (£87); the new colours as detailed above are available for pre-order (early 2010 availability) with only a $10 increase in price to $150 (£93). wabi woolens also offer an 'adventure' jersey; similar to the cycle jersey but without the rear pockets at $130 (£80).
posted monday 14 december 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
photographs come under the heading of buy one, get one free for the very reason that each has a minimum of two examinable aspects. granted, just how much of each you may wish to place under the aesthetic microscope depends largely on the skill of the photographer, and how far down you wish to drill, but it is undeniable that the bogof cannot be by-passed.
to take each one in turn, i'll start with the subject matter; in the current instance, since the post purports to be about cycling, for the sake of consolidation, let's assume that the photographs we are perusing are about this very subject. which, in this case, they are. almost exclusively.
we are all likely aware of the common or garden views from the tour de france that surface every year, frequently from the lens of the same photographers: sunflowers; and horses chasing riders, though in the latter case, hopefully not on the same piece of tarmac. those are cliches, and even the most generous of tour fans would be apt to view them as such. it makes little difference whether we attended the event in question; the hope and desire is that the photographer will have captured an aspect of the event that we, the mundane viewing public were either not party to, or failed to register. that's sort of what they're being paid for. that and the quality and skill of use pertaining to the camera equipment used. it is very unlikely that my lumix compact would render all the bends of the stelvio with the clarity of a double page spread; and heaven forefend that there should be any cyclists on it at the time.
so the principal characteristic of a successful photograph that would advertise its presence to us all would be what the photographer saw, how he/she saw it, and how well it was composed at the time of shutter clicking. this latter skill is one that escapes many of us. it's one thing to see that euskatel rider somersault into a roadside ditch; quite another to not only realise the moment, but have the final print agree with the unwritten laws of successful composition.
paintings, by and large, are required to fulfil the same parameters, but the techniques pertaining to oils and canvas are slower, more precise, and more leisurely implemented. it is a well known compositional technique available to the painter that the canvas be upended on the easel and the dispersion of shapes and colours measured in a more abstract manner. while there are many tricks of the trade available to the photographer, that is certainly not one of them, particularly when you consider that the painter can re-make and re-model almost endlessly until satisfaction is achieved. of course it would be unrealistic and simplistic to expect that the photograph in the frame and on the wall was taken in isolation. there will almost certainly be an entire bin of, or memory cards saturated with, cuts that didn't make it thus far, in which case we must accept the honesty, judgement and perspicacity of the person behind the lens.
given that these are professional people, acceptance seems uncontroversial; the final say, however, is entirely ours. it is of little use appreciating the skill and timing if the end result is less than pleasing.
part two, and the bit that comes free, if you will, is the inherent quality of the image. this is an entirely separate set of circumstances to that of the subject matter, and could, if acceptable, be seen as an appreciation of the surface. photography has had an upheaval in recent years, bringing added angst to those practised in the art. shifting from silver halide film to a succession of zeros and ones in the digital realm is not one that many have enjoyed. indeed, a few have remained faithful to the analogue method of recording despite editorial and commercial pressures to change. thus the surface area has either retained or dispensed with its meniscus; digital has the power of immediacy and is, essentially, free. once camera and memory card have been purchased, the costs of recording images have evaporated, bringing the ability to immediately review and discard while still in the desired location. those immersed in film have the continued and likely increasing expense of purchasing, developing and ultimately printing images taken in the confidence of their ability as photographers.
there are doubtess those expensive and disappointing moments of returning from a classic or stage race to discover that all is not as hoped for, while the moment has well and truly gone. in either case, the surface is as it is, and demands as much appreciation from the viewer as that of its subject. images processed on film will often have a degree of saturation and grain that do not display themselves in digital, and despite the giant steps made by today's technology, film reacts differently to light than does the charge coupled device (ccd) at the back of every dslr. and noise isn't grain. then there is the developing process itself; photoshop may be an alien technology presented from the gods, but it can only, at best, simulate the effects and sheen provided by chemicals. we need not know how each image was produced, but it is, i believe, incumbent on us to appreciate these aesthetic surface qualities arriving free with each photograph.
thus the luxury that the 2009 rouleur photography annual affords us, as cycling aficionados, cannot be overestimated. a collection of works by ten of the finest artists working in the rarefied atmosphere of cycling photography. some will be well-known to you, others have appeared from relative obscurity, but each, despite a uniform subject matter, highlight widely differing aspects of the same play. though beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in similar appreciative response to a joni mitchell album, it's almost impossible to listen to all ten at one sitting; even repeated listening brings out features not apparent on previous sittings.
but the world of rouleur is not just about visual imagery. each chapter is introduced by quality writing from ten pilots of the written word, either setting each in thematic context, or adding complementary imagery of their own. this is the third successive rouleur annual (sort of what annual means, come to think of it) and it is of note that as the format has developed it has become stronger at each turn. each image is printed on quality paper, bound in hardback format to protect not just your average collection of bicycle photographs.
it would be churlish and long-winded to deal with each chapter in turn, but highlights are the bizarre rorschach reflections by camille mcmillan, which ultimately and surprisingly demand admiration; the idiosyncratic postcards of rein van de wouw, the painted road signs of geoff waugh, and the still and ghostly velodrome photos of ben ingham. however, it is more than likely had i waited a further period of days before writing this review, the above list would have changed. writing of note is herbie sykes' (rightful in my view) demolition of the centenary giro d'italia, and bill strickland's appreciation of the space between the notes.
all in all, this is one of the highlights of the year for me, which could only be amplified by my missing copy of rouleur 15 turning up in tomorrow's mail.
photographers: timm kolln, marthein smit, gerard brown, olaf unverzart, daniel sharp, camille j mcmillan, rein van de wouw, taz darling, geoff waugh and ben ingham.
written contributions from: gerry badger (foreword), david millar (prologue), guy andrews, nando boers, matt seaton, william fotheringham, graeme fife, herbie sykes, jack thurston, bill strickland, and johnny green. the 2009 rouleur photo annual is available from the rouleur website at a cost of £35.
posted sunday 13 december 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
much as i would have you believe that investigative reporting is almost second nature on the post, that is rather far from the truth. in fact, i doubt if it's true at all. and the following will probably get me into all sorts of trouble, given that the general consensus is that british cycling, in relation to the olympics, can do no wrong, and any calling to the contrary could be seen to be a treasonable offence. today i opened the huge pile of dead trees that constitutes saturday's guardian newspaper, and for once, inadvertantly looked at the headlines on the sport section. that's about as close as thewashingmachinepost is ever likely to get to investigative reporting, and it wasn't even on purpose. while sport as classified by the daily papers, at least in the uk, usually concerns football, cricket, and snooker, today's principal article by my friend richard moore, was all about cycling.
or, to be more specific, about the amount of money britain's track cycling team is not going to get on the run up to the olympics in 2012.
ever one to display a confident knee-jerk reaction, it was with dismay that i read of a reduction in funding for cycling of £500,000 ($813,000), something that was apparently unexpected and would, according to the man of the moment, dave brailsford, cause untold problems, given that the olympic cycling programme had been budgeted on the original 'promised' amount. how dare they.
however, on further reading, mr moore brought to attention that this half a million reduction in pocket money dragged the amount available for spending down to £26.39 million ($43m). if you will pardon the use of the vernacular, 'holy shit, batman!'. do you really mean to tell me that in order to win a few gold medals in only one sport, the british government is handing over that amount of money? for mere trinkets?
no disrespect to those who depend on this for their livelihood, and spend enough hours training to make my eyes water, but surely this is somewhat on the ludicrous side? i will be the first to put my hand in the air and clearly state that i had absolutely no idea that this much money was spent on cycling. i'm not naive enough not to realise that every other nation likely spends a similar amount, but i'd just like to go on record as stating that i think this is wrong. while there will always be injustices in the world that require money to solve, i think that a great many of them are far more deserving than standing on an olympic podium wearing a lycra union jack.
end of rant. tomorrow's post may come from the tower of london.
posted saturday 12 december 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
this is the west of scotland; to be more geographically precise, the island of islay where the next landfall to the west is the eastern seaboard of canada. and it's december, a month not noted for blazing sunshine and the ability to fry an egg on the pavement. it is very unlikely that anyone comes on holiday here to lie out on the beach with a ready supply of ambre solaire beside the deckchair. in fact, you could probably garner a reasonable flavour of the climate by the fact that we have a sportive ride at the commencement of august entitled the ride of the falling rain (ok, so it didn't rain this year, but let's not split hairs). thus, i have based at least a portion of my career on the premise that sending waterproofs to the post for trial and error is probably an excellent and enterprising notion.
it was with this in mind that richard at urban hunter was most agreeable in sending a showers pass portland jacket for a good and frequent soaking, in the hope of proving it a most efficacious remedy to inbound dampness in the course of the daily commute. granted, i'm not sure that cycle movement on the hallowed isle fits that exact description, but a modest suspension of belief does no-one any harm if the end result justifies the means. portland is about ten degrees further south than islay; while the summers seem undoubtedly warmer than they are over here, legend has it that the winter months are just as wet, though the fact that being much further inland, likely a few hundred metres higher above sea level and undoubtedly not on the gulf stream, means that snow is far more a possibility than it ever is on islay.
i can think of few other locations on earth that support a business whose sole raison d'etre is to provide wet weather clothing for cyclists of all genres, so i think we should take this as a vote of confidence in the likelihood of precipitation at such latitude. the ideal match.
or so you would think.
having received the rather stylish portland jacket, you can appreciate my eagerness to mount the steed du jour and simply pick and choose how wet i wished to be, and for how long. unfortunately, it took me several weeks and a great number of attempts to gather any moisture on the outer fabric at all. and you would have cause to be less than enamoured with any subsequent review if it ignored the principal function of the garment, namely, keeping you dry on the way to work, or to visit a sick relative. so i persevered, covering a silly number of kilometres before returning home in the same dry condition as when i left.
i notice that one of the monthlies seemingly tested the waterproofness of a selection of thus named jackets, by throwing buckets of water at the day's fall guy. i have little doubt that mrs washingmachinepost would have been only too accommodating should i have opted for the same method, but in the interests of scientific study (?), i preferred to deny her such an elevated degree of satisfaction, and restrict myself to the jacket's primary purpose and my own self inflicted integrity as a conscientious chap.
showers pass themselves describe the portland jacket as 'a multitasking superhero of a softshell' and i am not necessarily inclined to disagree. it is not quite a softshell in the manner that i myself would describe, but neither is it a hardshell; let's, for the sake of nomenclature, describe it as a midshell. the outer material is completely waterproof, but due to the seams not being taped, it cannot truly be described as waterproof. however, this has more to do with legal formalities than it has to do with accuracy; having finally managed to engage in serious precipitation on at least two occasions, one with a high degree of wind assistance, i can confidently attest to a remarkably high level of waterproofing, seams notwithstanding. the breathability, which was a lot easier to test, by simply wearing more layers than strictly necessary, was also quite impressive; i have doubts as to the existence of a completely breathable waterpoof cycling jacket, but the portland gave little cause for concern, despite some serious puffing and panting while wearing a touch too much.
venting and breathing are aided by an underarm zip on each side which can be opened when the inner glow becomes a mite too hot to handle. complementing this feature are zips from mid-forearm to cuff which either close out drafts or, indeed, allow ingress to same; if we refer back to james lamont's contention that cooling of the wrist is an effective way of affecting the whole body, this is an acutely observed addition to a fine garment.
it's not necessarily a jacket that would be worn in the weekend peloton, and it certainly can't be scrunched up and forced into a rear jacket pocket; unless you have a team car following, you're wearing it for the day. however, nobody is pretending that it should be otherwise; this is a classy commuting jacket that blends in superlatively with whichever daily grind is your chosen poison. in fact, in an attempt to prove the veracity of this statement, i wore the portland jacket into the office for a week, and not one of my colleagues noticed any cycling affectation whatsoever. believe me, with the amount of endless propaganda they have to put up with in the course of social intercourse, they can generally spot cycling gear at one hundred paces. even debbie was wont to comment on its stylish appearance. proof if proof were required.
this clandestine double-life is one of camouflage: while the outer fabric is that of a waterproof midshell, in appearance it resembles pinstripe tweed; in the case of the review item, a rather natty brown tweed. this is exaggerated by its being of a tactile consistency that encourages such misapprehension; perfectly smooth, it is not. the interior lining is a soft polyester mesh. aiding its profession as apparel for the commuting cyclist is a hang loop at the collar, dispensing with the need to drop it on the floor of your favoured watering hole.
this double-life is enhanced by the normality of appearance: the jacket has two generous zipped pockets either side of the full-length, two-way zip, as well as a suitably practical chest pocket on the left of said zip. while not huge, it does allow for the safe (waterproof) carrying of cash, cards and an autographed photo of brian smith. the collar is commendably high to keep out chills and a reasonable proportion of any downpour, though i felt it could be a tad closer in fit. however, the overall sizing of the jacket will easily allow for the wearing of suitable work attire underneath, while still allowing the participant the option to breathe freely and have a comfortable level of articulation in the process. the superman option to turn an apparently bona-fide business jacket into a temporary road-warrior, is concealed at the back, where three poppers hold a drop-down tail, plated with a large half-moon of 3m reflective material. the hem is also adjustable via a cordlock.
so, despite a complete lack of any race pedigree, and let's face it, there are more cyclists of a sedate commuting disposition than are involved in pelotonism, this is a paragon of all that should be available for to-ing and fro-ing on a bicycle, especially in portland or the west coast of scotland; though i am led to believe that summary other locations occasionally suffer from a touch of damp in the air from time to time.
the showers pass portland jacket is available in small, medium, large and extra large for a surprisingly affordable £165.
posted saturday 12 december 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if i told you it was winter, from the northern hemisphere at least, i wouldn't expect to receive a great deal by way of contradiction. while snow isn't lying thick on the fields, and it's still possible to distinguish the sheep from their surrounds, the rain is a dashed sight colder than it was in august, there have been a handful of gale fueled days, and it's cold. christmas cards and tv ads will often depict stockings hanging by log burning fires, but the reality is that most of us have double glazing and central heating, so our fast becoming sterile anodyne abodes have us shielded from anything the elements have to throw at our way. i've just received an e-mail from colorado telling me that it's fifteen below, so an excellent time, in fact, to release a new range of short sleeve t-shirts.
in the course of the years of reviewing and writing on the post, i haven't come across a plethora of t-shirts that would not only be kindly to wear, but would advertise my cycling affectations to aficionados i may happen to meet in the process of going about my daily business. this is not to say that there are not some excellent logo'd shirts available, but i've often thought it would just be nice to have a t that simply looks good; if it flags up my velocipedinal cognoscenti status, then so much the better.
happily, despite the exterior temperature, this very problem that you didn't know existed, has been solved partly by rouleur, but mostly by richard mitchelson. those who have been paying attention in class will remember him as the genius who brilliantly illustrated the 1974 giro in a previous issue of rouleur. with a level of perspicacity obviously brought on by riding the cobbles earlier this year, rouleur magazine commisioned mr mitchelson to illustrate a range of six t-shirts with his idiosyncratic and quite unique take on the tetes de la course: eddy, fuente, felice, laurent, greg and marco. all are described on the face of a cotton shirt and available from small through to extra-large at a cost of only £30.
just in time, in fact, to be not too late for that almost last minute christmas present. if you're sending, i'd like the one with marco, please, in a medium.
posted friday 11 december 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there are people behind the scenes of this singular little world of ours who spend hour, upon day, upon month researching, conferring, testing and sharing outbursts of targeted conjecture to ensure that we become efficient at speed. while these are qualities and activities that could reasonably be levelled at the carbon and aluminium guys and girls, in this case the reference is to the apparel purveyors or, more specifically, those who construct the fabrics of which the latter may take advantage. my friend james lamont is one such person, and one day i'll ask him lots more about all the foregoing. for the time being, however, let's keep the discussion on a more approachable level.
in order to maximise every last degree of effort expended by those at the very top, along with those on the upper slopes (applicable to many sports other than cycling), wind resistance, moisture control, reflectivity, flexibility and doubtless many more features that none of us would understand, are examined in minute detail. when all has been respectably considered and reflected upon, someone has then to suss out whether or how the resultant fabric(s) can be massaged into appropriate articles of clothing. we, in our educated innocence, take this all for granted; does the colour match my carbon?; will i stand out like a sore thumb as i get dropped over a humpty-back bridge? the clothing either works, or it doesn't.
but not all even aspire to, or consider such fabrics; for some, the need for speed is fairly low on the priority list, at least not beyond a comfortable maximum, and that comfortable maximum doesn't quite come close enough to the requirement for moisture control. since the church of cycling is a broad one, eager to include as many as possible, many, other than the fast and furious, would like to be catered for with as much care, attention and sympathy for their cycling style and apparel, as anyone else.
urban could be the appropriate term for such cyclists, and often, aside from the fabrics, the legends and graphics appearing on front and back may be of a different genre than team polti lookalikes. you would be surprised if i told you that this was all hypothetical, and that no-one actually catered for this section of the cycling public; me too. i would therefore like to point you to faction cycling of chicago illinois. ascending into the realm of political correctness and a modest degree of sticking up or your rights, the jerseys offered by faction do not resemble anything seen in the pro-tour. they've divided the range into three distinct flavours: the works, metro and centaur. since there is no way on this earth i could begin to describe their works jerseys in as cool a fashion as the boss, i'll introduce you to hector rodriguez.
"here in chicago, we take 'the works' seriously, that is if you're talking dogs. you better not put ketchup on it, and it's not chicago-style without the celery salt. this jersey's got the works, right down to three rear pockets with plenty of room for, you guessed it, two kosher dogs and basket of fries."
i take it we are now settling into the groove being dug at faction?
the metro jersey is built to the same standard, but the 'dog and fries' will likely have to be foregone, since these have no pockets. i did ask whether there really was a market for jerseys with no back pockets; mr rodriguez again:
"we think so. pockets are handy indeed, especially when you're wearing bibs or bike shorts. the way we see it though, is that not everyone needs to get fully kitted just to get out and ride. there's an influx of new cyclists to the scene; cyclists that aren't as embedded in traditional cycling culture, and who are using their bikes in ways other than competitive cycling. we're trying to bridge the gap between on-the-bike and off-the-bike, when it comes to cycling apparel. also, take a close look at the original fixed gear riders, the track racers racing six day events among others. what does their apparel have in common with some of ours? no pockets."
you'd be hard pushed to argue with the logic there. and, as jiminy cricket was wont to say, "there's more". faction cycling co.'s centaur range takes the path to what likely is its logical conclusion, by "taking some of the functional benefits of a jersey and combining them with the natural simplicity of a t-shirt."
and you and i will both be happy in the knowledge that there are real t-shirts too, decorated in suitably idiosyncratic style.
cast an eagle-eye over the last few years of washingmachineposts, along with the bulk of the published works each month, and it almost seems there are now more people making clothing for cycling, than there are folks making bikes. so in similar fashion to the welcome extended on islay to yet another book about whisky, why should our arms be open to another clothing company?
"at first glance, the sport of cycling does seem to be well served when it comes to clothing, if nothing else, in terms of the sheer number of suppliers. but it's the sport of cycling that is well served. in our minds, it's all very similar and going after the same group of folks".
it's a fair point, so which part of the market are faction managing to grab?
"we believe there is a large group of people that are underserved - cyclists that appreciate clean lines, and can relate more to casual fashion than they can to 'sport team' clothing. the folks who ride because they want to do their part to put one less car on the road, either everyday or on the weekends. we don't expect to save the world, but if something we do allows us to make a small contribution to a healthier planet, we're down with it."
lofty ideals, when it's likely that many just want to buy a jersey; but that part of the equation doesn't really matter. faction are putting their money just where there mouths are in this case, having set up bik-aid as a charitable branch of the company, and currently donating 5% of their profits to ciclo-urbano, a charity intent on getting urban kids on bikes. not content to sit back and be smug, they're looking for a few more places to support.
all the jerseys, of whichever range, are designed by the guys at faction, and manufactured in the usa, and there's no way we could take them at all seriously if they didn't make cycling caps. they do, but currently only a range of two. everybody, however, has to start somewhere, building their plans from a firm base, so the range of caps will expand in a few directions.
"we're currently in the process of launching a small series of extremely limited edition upcycled caps. in case you're not familiar, upcycling is when you take a material and give it new life; taking material from a wool suit bought at the thrift store, and turning it into two or three awesome caps. it's actually more intriguing to us because it removes the process of waste."
so why the name faction?
we wanted to come up with a name that was less about a company and more of a nod to the movement of cyclists we see building every day. we wanted something that was both counter-culture or non-conformist, because that is a big part of who we are and where our products come from, but we also wanted to capture the spirit of banding together. all cyclists, whether exclusively on the road, in the mountains, or in the streets, are part of the same societal faction."
many of us who have the pretence to be weekend warriors, and indeed many of those who warrior at a rather elevated level, are regular cyclists too. we tread the broken roads, avoiding exocet drivers and wayward pedestrians, and it ill behoves us to accept it all with a forced grin. we can't all be cycling activists, and nor would many of us want to be; it's mostly about taking the pride and joy from the bikeshed and going for a bike ride; plain and simple. but if there are guys like hector and co., hoping to make the world on two wheels a touch more palatable, the very least we can do is help them to help us.
faction clothing can be shipped anywhere in the world , almost coincidentally with the advent of this article, via the faction cycling website.but meantime, what's likely to be in the foreseeable future for this company? despite their sincerely held beliefs in just which cog they are in the cycling machine, will there be the more usual pressurised growth into shorts, tights, jackets etc., or does the urban road stretch in a different direction?
"we'll continue listening to our customers and see where that leads. we're always talking to everyone we know about what they want, and really, we owe a lot of our ideas to a lot of friends and fellow cyclists. there are ambitions to do all types of things - hats, hoodies, knickers, gloves, etc, but we'll take it one step at a time."
it's the way of the world; thank goodness.
posted thursday 10 december 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have to offer up apologies at this point; after asking of you all the question what is the slogan of sue me? in order to win one of their bamboo and cotton shirts, emblazoned on the rear with the twmp logo, it has taken me far too long to provide the names of the winners. this competition, by far, generated the largest number of entries i've ever received. most gratifying. the answer, which everybody got correct, was what goes around, comes around.
the winners are as follows: jim harvey of decatur, georgia; darren gill of sheffield; kevin mcdonald of edmond, oklahoma and lastly, christine mclean of shetland. your prizes will be in the post as soon as i can manage, thanks to everyone who entered, thanks to james lamont of sue me for generously providing the prizes, and thank you to all who were so complimentary about my daily scribblings. all genuinely appreciated.
posted wednesday 9 december 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................