in the matter of on-the-bike hydration, i'm completely rubbish, but let me qualify that statement. since much of my cycling would be classified under the heading of recreational, i'd feel a total fraud if i filled my water bottle with carbo drink everytime i clippy-cloppied out the back door. so the majority of rides are undertaken with filtered water available for the sole purpose of hydration. this is likely a big mistake for at least a couple of reasons: firstly, water is hardly the most exciting liquid to ingest because you have to. this is exactly the same when i'm out drumming; while all around are downing pints of foamy stuff or some onerous concoction in a glass, my tall coca cola glass is clear, with ice floating in it. about half-way through the gig, i wish i'd opted for something more flavourable, but on the compact and bijou stages around this part of the world, once behind the snare drum, i'm there to stay, and the options are limited.
thus, with a yellow bikefood bottle in the king cage, the notion for the occasional slurp rarely occurs due to flavour crisis, and most liquid ingestion is carried out on the basis of knowing i should do, rather than particularly want to. i pay big time for this later, of course, when the fridge is emptied of around two one litre cartons of refreshing juice. carbo powder in the water would be a more sensible thing to do.
i'd be utterly terrible at sticking to any sort of training plan; more often than not the intention to ride 50km ends up being over 80km, giving rise to my second difficulty. true recreational rides, in my humble opinion, rarely encompass quite so many kilometres. thus my own travails require to be re-classified, falling under the column entitled put some carbo powder in the bottle. i can handle the shame of having to admit to possibly training rather than ambling about on a bicycle.
however, that is one of the technical aspects to which many of us pay lip service, because that's what real cyclists do. (don't they?) there are pages and pages of such advice in every issue of the comic, and there's little point in shelling out for a copy each week unless we're paying attention, and showing in the most ostentatious way. justification if you must know. but proper cyclists know otherwise.
most pastimes and sports have the knowledge; information and customs only available to the cognoscenti in a nudge, nudge, wink, wink; a hod's as good as a sink to a blind norse sort of way, and in the case of cycling, it has little to do with carbohydrates, protein and training plans, despite those middle pages of the comic (they couldn't really give the game away in print; anyone could be reading). we're talking coffee and buns here: let's not beat about the bush. you and i both know it.
once you get into the way of the knowledge you'll find that there's more to this than meets the eye, but keep eyes and ears open midst pelotonic recreation, and acquisition of the necessary experience is reasonably easy to come by. early initiants will almost always opt for a double espresso, partly for italian reasons, partly under the mistaken impression that it describes a degree of bravado yet to be found. don't get me wrong, a good double espresso is to be greatly savoured, post or apres ride, but espresso is not necessarily the pinnacle of one's caffeine appreciation. sticky buns however, of whichever variety, beat munchie carbo bars hands down any day of the week.
to a certain degree, we, the great unwashed must consume that which is on offer, dependant on our establishment of choice. there are numerous direct links between cycling and coffee, most notably and probably longest lived, that from chris king in portland, and more recently but likely of higher profile amongst confirmed roadies, magnus maximus. the latter we attempted to bring into the fold at debbie's but with pretty much no success whatsoever; strange but true. (lovely coffee but a strange reluctance to supply).
however, the connection picked a slightly differing route latterly in the shape of the rapha cycle club in clerkenwell street, london town, and look mum no hands in nearby old street, offering coffee of quality directed at those of us on two wheels. i'm not sure about that on offer at lmnh, but rapha have gone so far as to commission their own blend, and wouldn't you just know it that, despite being a serious number of miles from the capital city, the velo club peloton have supped, slurped and sampled cups of this very blend in our own coffee hostelry nearby.
catherine, our sunday morning hostess, must be mentioned in despatches, for the rapha blend arrived, courtesy the wonderful laura in perren street, in bean form, and catherine was kind enough to render it to powder for the peasantry in lycra and sportwool. with a plethora of distilleries surrounding, and the tosh and nonsense that follows in the form of tasting notes for the various single malts, i will spare you the nosing and bursting forth of flavours, sights and sounds during and after imbibing. suffice it to say, the rapha coffee blend produces a fine, full bodied and aromatic cup of espresso, cappuccino or latte, providing a greater impress of speed than any amount of carbo powder (though admittedly for a lesser number of minutes). i can particularly recommend it in ristretto format accompanied by a large chunk of brioche, though it may just be necessary to add several more kilometres on the end of each ride to negate any additional calories that may infiltrate that svelte figure of a whippet.
it is, after all, the true kernel of cycling. just keep it to yourself for the time being.
thanks to tim ashton of antidote for the photos of the rapha cycle club, to catherine for the dark brown powder, and to laura etherington for favouring the peloton with a pack of the exclusive blend. and a quick note of thanks to richard sachs for the very necessary pegorichie musette.
posted tuesday 18 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i take it you are currently watching the giro d'italia; not right this minute, but as the stages unfold on a daily basis? though the promised thousands lining the strada bianche seemed conspicuous by their absence, pouring rain may well have had something to do with this, and generally the giro does not suffer from the dearth of spectators that is a feature of the vuelta. but when we get to the mortirolo, the gavia and monte zoncolan, the ascents will have been transmogrified out of all recognition. hardly the stark and foreboding topography that legend describes.
but if you can take your eyes away from the battles transpiring on the tarmac of those mountains, look at the attire of those cheering loudly and exuberantly from the roadside. many will be in club jerseys, caps and shorts or tights (depending on the temperatures and just how far up the slopes we're looking). not for them hanging about for the bus back home; it's onto the italian carbon fibre to live the dream homeward bound.
the point, which was bound to come along at some time or other, is that dressing in the manner of their heroes or club, and walking in that duck-like manner we all know so well seems not at all out of place. unlike the jokes and pointing that we, as art students, used to aim in the direction of bay city rollers fans, nothing looks at all out of place.
however, transpose those very same fans into your local branch of mcdonalds or waterstones, and they are unlikely to pass unremarked midst those in normal attire.
with the islay whisky festival starting this coming weekend, the number of visitors to the isle is noticeably on the increase, as are those visiting by bicycle. today's portion of velo club d'ardbeg passed larger pelotons heading in the opposite direction, often on wrongly sized or fitted bicycles, wholly inappropriate for slogging into an islay headwind. sadly none are likely to stay long enough to find this out. so with this increase in cyclist numbers on the island's roads, lycra and sportwool seem less at odds with the normal environment, but this will only last a few months, and by autumn, we'll be back to being eccentric.
as someone whose sole mode of transport is on two, unmotorised wheels, there are events, times and places where even the more subtle variations on the cycle jersey will mark me out as not one of the civilian population. and it is often to my advantage to blend in with the surroundings; i have no real wish to become a tourist attraction all of my own. in those moments and occasions, i'd really rather look less cycley.
i cannot pretend that my desires and wants have not already been catered to by a number of clothing manufacturers, some more successfully than others, but despite my reputation for designer scruff, now and again it's nice to have a bit of style about one's deportment and attire. possibly even italian. nothing in the world of cycling should be a surprise anymore, but emitting a low whistle is not only allowed, but possibly encouraged by the new range from derny clothing of new zealand.
geography is most definitely not my chosen subject, but even i have recognised that italy and new zealand do not share any real degree of national proximity. the italian styling therefore comes from an italian in new zealand; claudia pelizzaro.
derny clothing is the brainchild of solo's paul mason. rather than call the new range something like solo urban, a whole new identity has been crafted for their urban italian chic, including a readily identifiable red logo that turns up on odd places on the various items of clothing.
the review and test concerned here is with the derny long-sleeve merino polo shirt, city shorts and merino socks. there's two sides to this story both of which are contradictory. for starters, i have not only never been described as fashionable or chic, but generally feel uncomfortable in any apparel that would fit that description. so here am i, keen to pursue a secret identity after stepping away from the bicycle, but somewhat at odds with acquring a sense of style. but i could likely get used to it.
my complete ignorance of the way of savile row was amply advertised with regard to the derny city shorts. attached to the swing tag is a spare pair of buttons which, upon removal, i not unnaturally wished to place in one of the four pockets. placed anywhere else, it is guaranteed that they will never be seen again, particularly if needed. except, i couldn't open any of the pockets, because they'd all been sewn shut. concerned that the guy in the tailor's in auckland may have had one too many diet pepsis of a saturday eve, i e-mailed paul to point out this feature (not a bug).
if i'd only read the website first;"note: derny city shorts, like suit pants, come with front and rear pockets sewn closed for presentation purposes. you will need to unpick the thread all part of the fun. as paul replied, "consider it the clothing equivalent of gluing on a tubular"
unpicked, the four pockets have ample room, the front two being edged towards the outside to provide the least restriction when pedalling. that cool little logo puts in an appearance just inside the top of the left-hand front pocket. the shorts dip below the knee, with a split to the outside lessening any retriction of movement on the bike. there are three buttons sewn with differing coloured thread (a constant feature of the range) allowing the rider to tame or allow the shorts' grasp upon the lower leg. they're cut higher at the rear than front, and the waist features belt loops if such is required. to an extent, threequarter length cycling shorts are an unremarkable bunch, all fulfilling a similar function, but these are somewhat of a triumph in the style stakes.
shorts, of course, do not necessarily maketh the civilian; upper body accompaniment could be seen as a compulsory addition, and in this case a long-sleeve merino polo shirt fulfilled this function. this is really what sold it for me; the merino is fairly heavyweight, comparable with one or two merino cycle jerseys in the wardrobe. with superb length in the sleeves and body and a natural flecked black (i'd have said dark grey if questioned under duress; derny call it bitumen) appearance, this is style personified. continuing the derny theme, that neat little red logo appears above the ribbed cuff on the left sleeve, and the three buttons up top are again affixed by red, blue and grey coloured thread.
(testing its ability to function miles from the nearest brooks saddle, i wore it when playing drums at a wedding last week, and despite the red derny on the sleeve, nobody suspected. not even the accordionist.)
my ensemble for the day was rounded off with a pair of black derny merino socks, featuring thin blue, red and grey hoops above the ankle. the design equivalent of unnatural tan stripes. white merino would have all but given the game away.
lots of clothing looks the bees knees straight out the packet, more especially if worn in the relatively undemanding environment of ardbeg distillery or debbie's cafe. but those moments occupy a very small proportion of their day (don't they?), since principal purpose must be to make the rider look not at all like a cyclist away from the bicycle, while fulfilling the majority of the functionality we all hold so dear when pedalling.
that i mentioned the above establishments was no accident; clad in the polo shirt, shorts and socks, i rode the 25km from bowmore to ardbeg before altering vectors in the direction of bruichladdich and a satisfying soya milk cappuccino. total kilometres added up to about 80 on a cool and slightly breezy day. the shorts were great, the socks unnoticeable (to my mind, the ultimate commendation) and the polo shirt a true stalwart. not only did the polo keep me cosy, but despite the trammeling it received, while being forced into a modicum of swot and hettyness, it looked the same at end of day as it had when unwrapped fresh from new zealand.
the marketplace for this style of clothing is starting to fill up quite convincingly, and with the continual improvement in fabrics and technology, few fail to satisfy on most counts. rather than being a case of style prevailing over substance, the two now need to be conjoined; we have raised our expectations.
my money's on the little red derny.
derny clothing is available direct, though currently not priced in uk pounds due to the vagaries of international currency markets. however, uk customers can still purchase. the socks are available in sizes small, medium and large at a cost of 18 euros ($25); the city shorts are available in black or grey, in sizes 30", 32", 34" and 36" waist at 98 euros ($135). finally the superb polo shirt in bitumen is available in small, medium, large and extra large for 98 euros ($135).
posted monday 17 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
just think how much it costs to be a cyclist these days, particularly the weekend warrior variety. with few exceptions, at least a half-decent bicycle is required, preferably carbon fibre, but if not, a remarkably good reason as to why not (steel is a good enough reason). and if we're going to be of the moment with regard to our two wheeled steeds, there's a whole screed of brownie points to be lost by wearing inappropriate apparel. you see, already, we've spent silly amounts of money, and we're not out of the bike shed yet. of course, you and i know that such expenditure is perfectly justifiable, even if disapproving scowls are received from spouse and bank manager alike.
so let's escalate the situation somewhat by becoming a cycling team. not one that contests a weekly ten and features a 130km sunday ride through endless hills and the legacy of roads' department budget cuts. i'm thinking more of the cycling team that employs not only enough riders to simultaneously enter more than one road race, but a whole support crew with a camper van (at least), one or two team cars and mechanics that don't just tinker in the shed at weekends, not forgetting a directeur sportif. a professional setup no less.
now we are into serious money, because while you and i make do with a mere ten or so bikes, at least two of which would do justice to an exhibition in the v & a, our professionals need a race bike and a training bike, plus a spare. multiply that by one or two riders (the ones who can enter more than one simultaneous event) and the empty corner in the bikeshed starts to look seriously inadequate. where in phil liggett's living room are we going to find that sort of cash?
maybe we need a sponsor?
sponsors, like it or not, are the lifeblood of modern day cycle racing, enabling today's professionals to earn a decent wage for a decent day's sprinting or grimpeuring, and leave the days of two tubulars crossed over the jersey and the need to raid passing hostelries for liquid refreshment and baguette sustenance in the past. however, the very nature of sponsorship when applied to most anything you can think of, is a neat variation of newton's third law of motion: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. in other words, in return for wads of cash, the sponsor is likely to want something in return. the easy answer to the question i failed to ask is publicity, but a sponsor's needs extend just a tad beyond mere publicity, for that alone does not satisfy the shareholders. the publicity needs to be easily convertible into sales of whatever it is the sponsor puts into the corporate trucks.
therefore the onus moves away from the paragons of commerce, and to a lesser extent, from the cycle team itself. in a strange quirk of fate, it lands fair and squarely on the shoulders of the cycle racing aficionado, for we are the intended target. or at least the first move towards it.
i would honestly purchase a diquigiovanni if i knew it was available with long sleeves.
sharp electronics moved into the world of cycle sponsorship at the start of this season by adding their logo to the black, white and pink jerseys of the rapha/condor team, one of the uk's more prominent and successful teams. the contract is good for two years, and so far sharp can't be regretting the move considering the success the team has garnered already, and the tour series has yet to get underway, with its guaranteed television coverage. happy smiles all round.
however, just to kick the ball back to the sponsor (if you will permit the world cup flavoured metaphor), we can't be criticised for not supporting them if that which they offer is not to our liking or standards. we are aficionados after all. so in a washingmachinepost effort to spread the word and test the water, sharp sent the snappily named i-elegance music system dk-ap7 that i might enjoy better sounds from my ipod touch.
mrs washingmachinepost has no great affinity for music of any ilk, and thus has little desire wish to overhear my growing collection of fifties and sixties hard-bop jazz. until now, personal musical enjoyment has been confined to heavy use of those white earphones, or the tiny speaker enclosed within the ipod itself. the latter is never going to simulate the grateful dead's sound system, but it has its uses at the breakfast table when all around are in the queue for the shower. but every now and again, there's a hankering for those halcyon days when one could sit of a quiet evening with vinyl on the turntable, listening to those tribal sounds of art blakey, or the saxophone explorations of the great john coltrane. nostalgia is exactly what it used to be.
the sharp i-elegance for ipod is a whole heck of a lot smaller out the box than it appears in the catalogues; it's not even the length of two ipod touches, and only just a smidgeon wider than one. a hinged front flap opens out to reveal the docking station for the ipod (the i-elegance works with quite a substantial number of different ipods via the included dock adapters) in one of three colours: white, silver or red. on each side of the dock are two large buttons, the right of which switches the device on (signified by a row of three red leds), while the left switches on the bass enhancer. there are two smaller buttons allowing the volume to be turned up or down. the bigger bit of the box features two speakers that can't be more than about 1.5" in diameter.
staring at the neat design does provoke the question 'how loud could something that small possibly be?'; according to the manual, not only are there the all too obvious speakers, but somewhere inside is a bass woofer, something that seems rather too unlikely to be true.
so if one of these turned up on your sideboard, bearing in mind the manufacturer's affiliation with the rapha/condor team, what would be the first thing you'd play through its minimalism? right first time: rapha's recently released giro cd. that may seem a touch contrived under the circumstances, but perfectly true; that's exactly what i played first, because the combination of speech with a wide variety of musical genres, from club mix to opera, seemed the ideal test of the i-elegance's mettle. how do they manage to get sound like that out of such a tiny box? i'm playing that very recording in the background just now, and you have to admit that's a pretty classy sound.
art blakey's moanin' provided exactly the ambience i was hoping for as i tucked into belgian waffles with banana, greek yoghurt and maple syrup after a fine sunday ride. that e-sound button with its three yellow leds adds a delightful warmth to the sound while subtly increasing the volume. jymie merritt's bass has likely never sounded so good, while blakey's drum thunder suite makes for impressive thunder.
power output is stated at 4.4w; i'm no heavy metal listener (thankfully), but pressing the volume increase button until the standby lights flashed indicating maximum reached, risking neighbourial ire, was more than loud enough for me. and probably loud enough for john herety in the team car, given that the supplied mains unit can be augmented with battery power. (if using the latter, the device does not charge the ipod in use).
so, i cannot fault the sponsor's product; in fact, the sharp i-elegance is going to add a whole new dimension to my listening habits, even if mrs may not share my glee. cycling is, as pointed out in my opening gambit, more than expensive enough without going out of our way to keep the name on the jersey happy, but assuming you need or want something on offer, does it not make equitable sense to purchase intelligently with just a touch of prejudice?
if you've just bought the rapha cd, what's a few more pounds between fans and sponsors?
the sharp i-elegance ipod sound system sells for around £60, depending on point of purchase. the system described above works only with ipods and not the iphone, though sharp offer a comparably priced unit that will accommodate the phone.
posted sunday 16 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
by the very nature of both the giro d'italia and the tour de france (plus the vuelta, come to that) the place names change from year to year. last year's stage starts are no longer this year's; likewise the finishes. and the grand theatre of all three grand tours, the mountains, probably vary most of all. alpe d'huez does not feature in this year's tour, and was absent from the 2009 version tour. the dutch will not be happy, even though their country has been graced by the opening of the giro, and will do so again when le tour starts off in july. the ventoux is also missing from this year's route. but then, a change is as good as a rest; and a lot of towns would get verily upset if they were excluded year on year.
but i don't think that we're kidding ourselves too much if we accept that the mountains are where it's at. how many flat stages could we survive where the result had no effect on the overall, simply because, despite the sprinters doing what they do best at alarming speeds and facial grimaces, the bunch finishes together and the man with the yellow jersey loses no time? mountains make the difference. time gaps open up. different riders win. and by differing margins.
this happens in italy, france and spain, and don't we just love it? but those mountains are there when the tours are not, and a bit like sauchiehall street on a flag day, they don't appear quite the same when empty. not lined on both sides by flag-waving basques, motorhomes and filled with riders, cars and motorbikes. and because we love the mountains, it's not unlikely that we'd want to visit them. and ride up and down somewhat slower than our heroes. disappointingly, there's a likelihood that they look different in daylight.
i have, in my time, had the good fortune to review several books on cycle-touring, some of which have concerned the mountains of france and italy, even wandering into iberia on occasion. but these books treat the mountains as topographical features, pure and simple. no sense of heritage, no fabulous battles of yore; all pictured in colour without a hint of black and white. that's not the way we see them, and not the way we want to visit them: on a loaded dawes galaxy, dressed in fluorescent yellow and following a michelin map under the plastic cover of a bar bag.
actually, that last bit is probably a trifle inaccurate. aside from the dawes galaxy, there's every chance that the bar bag bit will be true; there's no way you're going to use graeme fife's book to get from a to b. too big and heavy. however, i'd seriously suggest that you leave out the kitchen sink in order to fit this volume in your luggage somewhere, because between fife and drinkell, rapha's guide to the great road climbs of the southern alps puts everything in glorious perspective.
in sharp contrast to the sights and sounds we see from the giro and le tour, pete drinkell's photos show us the climbs stark naked: nothing to be seen for miles except tarmac, and worn painted names on its tactile surface; sheer cliffs, heavy mist and cold, cold snow. the images also treat us to some of the incidentals that frame the experience(s), most notably, if i'm allowed a favourite, the pontechianale church in the ironhead region on the french/italian border. i'd imagine that more than a few of us are armchair grimpeurs or scalatores, happy to experience the terrain from the comfort of our own fireside or bikeshed. so the book has to satisfy on more than one count, something that not every guide book manages to fulfil.
mr fife is a past master of the art. witness the first volume (the great road climbs of the pyrenees) in what would appear to be an ongoing and highly desirable series of books from the publishing quarter of perren street (a company rapidly and successfully blurring the lines between its different cycling ventures). couple some of the most incredible images with accurately descriptive writing, allied to some highly pertinent graphics by ben aquilina, and yet another aspect of our beloved sport is captured to live another day. and another, and another.
after a comprehensive introduction to the area bordering france and italy, each geographical region of mountains and mountain passes is separated into chapters, for want of a better description, interspersed with historical moments that defined those mountains in cycling history: robert millar's coming of age in 1983; the bernard hinault of 1986; bernard thevenet in '75. you get the idea.
the climbs themselves are presented in deceptively simple detail, beginning with the length of the ascent, the total height gain and the maximum gradient. making sure their tour or giro heritage is not overlooked, graeme fife places their pointed feature sets in context. if the actual riding must be followed via that michelin map on the bar bag, it would do each aspirant well to stop for a moment at the foot of each ascent and read through the relevant description of the pain and suffering about to follow. doing so will place all in context and make everything worthwhile as you summit (to coin a phrase, so to speak).
think what you like about rapha; this second in the series brings a level of enjoyment, history and imagery that no-one else in the world of cycling has attempted. the first book, featuring the pyrennean climbs, is still regularly acquired from the bedside cabinet for perusal of an evening, and i have little doubt that this edition will provide the same hours of delight, what ifs, and spectacular imagery as i metaphorically ride off into the sunset. cycling may well be on the up in all corners of the western world, but in the grand scheme of things, it's still a minority interest, so to produce a book of this quality for only £40 would suggest that rapha are more intent on stoking our fires than lining the corporate coffers. you owe it to yourself and love of the beautiful sport of cycling to have this by the side of the armchair for the rest of the four seasons.
or perhaps readily accessible in one of those panniers on the dawes.
posted saturday 15 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on the event of our local newspaper's 25th anniversary, for the princely sum of 50p, a quiz could be purchased listing a rather large number of questions about malt whisky (not an insurmountable connection on an island with an annual whisky festival). we had been donated a sooper-dooper bottle of sooper-dooper islay single malt whisky as the prize for the winning contestant.
the smarts behind this idea would have brought us in large numbers of 50 pence pieces that would not only equal the cost of the whisky, but would provide so much more that we could pass on to local charities. however, the fly in the ointment was not only the number of questions, but their complexity. most possible contestants took one look and decided that the likelihood of a slew of correct answers was so far removed from reality, there was little point in parting with half a pound.
the experience was not wasted effort however; despite the quiz in question failing miserably, any quizzes i have subsequently run on thewashingmachinepost have had very simple answers. the easier the question(s), the more entries, and that's generally the idea.
however, i can see little harm in what could realistically be described as lateral thinking to make a competition so intriguing that it seems almost criminal not to take part. that and the intellectual challenge. may, even though almost half of it has already gone, is national bike month in the usa and the sierra club has decided that they would like to celebrate in a manner that means someone will ride off into the sunset on a breezer uptown 8 bicycle.
however, not for us, the willing participants in this bicycle month extravanganza, such easy questions as who gave the breezer bicycle its name? or what month is national bike month in the usa?, for that would be just what we'd expect them to do. in order to sit in the saddle of the aforementioned breezer bicycle, contestants are required to join the bicycle group on climate crossroads (sierra club's climate social network), post a picture to the group's gallery, and write a haiku about your bike and/or bike commuting.
ok, so we were with them up until the last bit. what the heck is a haiku? it is of course, likely the purest form of poetry of contemporary times, and named by the japanese writer masaoka shiki at the end of the 19th century. It consists of seventeen syllables (well, it doesn't really, but it's close enough for jazz), and in the western form, is usually presented over three lines. the best way of illustration without tying myself in knots is to present one of the most famous haikus written by matsuo basho (1644 1694)
old pond . . .
a frog leaps in
this may not suit the sensibilities of the world's top sprinters, though to be honest, who can picture bennati on a breezer 8? but if it seems the sort of quiz/competition that would intrigue you poetic tendencies, click the link below, and you're on your own. and if you win, can i have a shot on the breezer?
posted friday 14 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................