it would be someone suffering from myopia of considerable proportions not to have noticed the exponential increase in the number of sportive rides all across the world, however the nomenclature would have them described. it's been an incredible phenomenon to watch from informed sidelines and has done wonders for cycling's popularity as an approachable yet demanding activity. it's debatable whether the rise of the mamils (middle-aged men in lycra) has been the cause of this upsurge, or whether they exist as a result. no doubt someone has the history carefully detailed and catalogued, just waiting for the opportunity to publish a book on the suject, but as a mere observer with little to commend in the way of participation, the author will not be me.
as to what constitutes a sportive ride seems to expand as the genre is developed, having now become an apellation comfortably cuddling any ride that means the minimum of a metric century, all the way up to knee-breaking stages of the tour de france. taking that as perhaps the definitive blueprint for a sportive ride, it is now no secret that the 2011 edition will have two etapes de tour dedicated to the great unwashed, thus sealing the arrival of the sportive ride, if there were ever any doubt that the platform remained empty. last year, the annual london-paris ride organised by sven thiele of hot chillee sold out in a matter of hours, such were the numbers of the reasonably well-heeled wishing to participate in the professional event for amateurs with closed roads, full technical support and a triumphant arrival at the eiffel tower, slap bang in the centre of paris. the 2011 event sold out in fifteen minutes.
our favourite people at perren street having secured the services of the inimitable phil deeker, a man who simply knows not how to stop climbing hills, have played their part too in popularising the sportive ride; again, however you want to call it. across the pond, the rapha continental, though not strictly an open sportive format, has brought the lengthy scrabble for pain and suffering to a black and pink website very near you. and we are all considerably better off for their ventures in colour and black and white.
conversations held during the ride of the falling rain, itself now in danger of being added to the club, despite having been born as a solo century ride round the principality, centred round the knowledge that the bulk of cyclists can't climb hills. yet the competition to be britain's, or europe's, premier sportive ride has seen a 'we have more hills than you have' mentality. even hot chillee, london-paris organisers have joined the latter club, this past september having organised the alpine challenge (a veritable success i believe, despite low numbers for its opening performance). however, aware that lord carlos is often hell-bent on any climb he can find, despite an inability to get to the top very fast, it is perhaps not too surprising that many a cyclist has encompassed the gradient as part of a heritage they've been told is theirs.
but, in the words of bachmann turner overdrive, you ain't seen nothing yet.
that the something you ain't seen has much to do with the gravity defying talents of phil deeker will not come as much of a surprise to many, and after his epic (and i mean that most sincerely) trip across the continental united states earlier this year, sharp electronics managing director, paul molyneux has embraced the undo-able in order to make it do-able, while benefiting sharp's chosen charity: prostate cancer. epic now equates to three weeks of the giro d'italia, and the participation of around two hundred mere mortals, riding one day, three days, five days, or for those for whom leaping tall buildings in a single bound is a mere walk in the park, the whole enchilada.
the gran corsa d'italia, as it is heretofore known, has been described as the ultimate charity ride, but with no disrespect intended to either the prostate cancer charity or those intent on raising squillions of cash for same, charity ride somehow seems to undermine the magnitude of the undertaking. granted there is far less pressure on the participants leaving turin than on the pros arriving in milan on the same day (29th may), but we are talking about the very same route that forms one of the three major stage races in the world of cycle sport; that means the same mountains, same descents, same transfers and same sprint stages. the biggest difference is three roadside feed stops per day, but similarly to the professionals, all luggage will be transported from hotel at departure to hotel at destination, and the equivalent of a following mavic car.
in a fabulous game of join the dots, here's the sequence of background events: sharp electronics are principal sponsors of rapha condor sharp, so rapha will be part sponsors of the event and supplier of some prestigious kit in which to ride. add to that the occasional presence of members of the rapha condor sharp team with whom to while away the italian kilometres and i see now that i have caught your attention. but nothing's for nothing, and tucked away here at the end is the bit that makes the whole three weeks of pain, suffering and more suffering (and pain) all worthwhile. each participant, and numbers are capped at 200, will be responsible for covering the cost of flights and half-board accommodation for however many days they intend to say 'tonight matthew, i'm going to be ivan basso.' classic tours will take care of the remaining logistics; all you have to do is ride.
well, all you have to do is ride after raising a prescribed amount of money to benefit prostate cancer charity. that's how it all works. gran corsa italia receives its official launch on monday 13th december at london's finest cyclists' rendezvous, look mum no hands. phil deeker has all but completed the reconnaissance of the route, figuring out who needs to be where, when and just what a pain in the legs lactic acid is. i have had a sneek peek at the complete itinerary; where's a darkened room when you need one? if you are one of the lesser percentile who can really, truly, actually climb really big hills, and one for whom the word sportive is simply a byword for shopping trip, you're probably already on your way to clicking both web page and facebook page, while ordering an italian phrase book from amazon.
i am distinctly unworthy to pen a suitable precis of such an enormous undertaking, so i have left that to phil deeker;
'it will be a superb event and i am very excited about it. oh, and it will be very hard cycling at times.' a man with a talent for understatement.
posted monday 15 november 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's a continually debatable point as to whether such an object as the holy grail truly exists; the cup or dish allegedly used by jesus at the last supper supposedly imbued with miraculous powers. it's subsequent connection with joseph of arimathea dates from the 12th century when robert de boron penned the description of joseph receiving the grail from the ghost of christ and sending it with his acolytes to, of all places, great britain. as is often the case with legends, particularly those originating in the dim, distant past, constructs have appeared round the edges; the grail's legend was enhanced by its supposed utility in containing christ's blood at the time of interrment, and the subsequent creation of a line of british guardians to ensure its safety. from whom is pointedly left unsaid. its connection with britain presumably provided the entwinement with arthurian legend.
legends are notoriously difficult to prove or disprove, but the fact that no museum in the known world professes to have the grail on display, or at best, sitting in a protected vault, must surely give rise to the notion of a quest to find a holy relic that may or may not exist. quests would, by their very definition, be seriously undermined were the object of desire readily discoverable, the tautology of which has allowed the quest for the holy grail to apply to any puzzle that remains unsolved. hopefully many of these objects of research and development will remain just the wrong side of obscured, otherwise a culture of endless improvement may well come to and end, either in the form of another brick in the wall, or resounding success.
this is november; a month imposed on every corner of the world, even allowing for the fact that the world, like bowmore's round church, has no corners. in the northern hemisphere at least, this heralds the opening gambit of winter and pretty much all that that entails. sitting here on the edge of the atlantic, the appearance of substantial rainfall and wind that didn't come from eating too many baked beans is no real suprise. to sit by the double-glazed window in the office, spattered with heavy raindrops, watching a not insubstantial river of water doing its best to provide white water rapids down bowmore main street, cannot be regarded as unexpected. the balance comes from accepting this state of affairs, and acknowledging that things will get a lot worse before they get much better.
just ask my shed roof.
there may be little pleasure to be had from riding a bicycle in such conditions, but oft times option is not a word that can be successfully applied to the process. we have acres and acres of sky, almost unobstructed by a man-made skyline of buildings; a distinct lack of trees is reflected in the low profiles applied to the panoply of whitewashed cottages and houses constituting each village. thus, as the atlantic is about to drop significant amounts of precipitation upon any hapless individual aboard a bicycle or intent on pedestrianism, the observation rarely leads to a hurried quest for shelter. much of islay's road network is bereft of the latter, leaving little option but to grin and bear it. and often, such conditions, despite their lack of concealment, can simply sneak up from behind.
in such cases it is not only pragmatic to be well clad against the elements, but in the case of frenetic physical activity it is simply not enough to be protected against the ingress of moisture from the outside, but also against invasion from that generated by the physical activity referred to only a moment ago. breathability.
there are a considerable number of jackets which favour the latter as their reason for existence, many bearing trademark membranes as a guarantee of efficacy against becoming swot and hetty while casting off thunderous precipitation, promising the holy grail of a dessicated arrival at one's destination, commensurate with that which existed at point of departure. sadly, not all promises come true.
it is, to be fair, a particularly open-ended grail to be searching for; human beings are not built to a common standard, there fore that which keeps one warm and dry may struggle continuously and ultimately unsuccessfuly to do the same for another. i know not if there is an accepted standard for such breathable membranes, quantified by numbers of millilitres of moisture transferred from inner surface to outer in a given period of time, but even that would be rendered unsatisfactory at best, depending on the overall construction of any specific jacket. personal experience would suggest that those garments which feature breathability above and beyond the call of duty, do not necessarily excel at waterproofing from the outside. or vice versa.
so the holy grail of designing and producing a breathable, waterproof jacket, capable of satisfying the most exertionary of cyclists in both respects is one that has continued for more years than seems credible, given the technological advances over the past two decades. on more than one occasion i have acquired a garment in receipt of a handsome testimonial from another credible source only to find it wanting. so in the case of such jackets, my expectations have become, perhaps not unsurprisingly, somewhat lowered over time.
waterproof, as defined by trading standards, is a description that can only be applied to garments featuring fully taped seams, thus rapha's rainjacket can only be legally described as water-resistant, however inadequate a description that proves to be. taped seams, fairly obviously, will be more likely to contain internal moisture than those simply stitched together. the art of breathability gets harder and cycling makes it harder still.
saturdays have taken on an altogether more remedial hue than has historically been the case. it may be a factor of age, or perhaps even of exposure to the very technology designed to alleviate daily strain, but the daily travail has not become any simpler. there is a parallel here with the art of cycling itself; cover appropriate distances on a regular basis with a view to continual improvement, and disappointment will be the only result. for, as greg lemond helpfully pointed out 'it doesn't get any easier, you just get faster. thus saturdays have taken on the role of palliative; a way of ridding the mind and body of accumulated grief and anguish engendered by the nine to five.
this is most certainly not weather dependent, for the weekly baggage is no less real if the sun is shining or the rain thundering while the 20 kilometre quest for lactic acid and soya cappucino is in saturday progress. it is mostly cosy and warm on the couch in debbie's, and of preference, i would like to sit in comfort and joy while ordering that carrot cake and coffee. as alluded to only a few pixels further north, this is november when cloudbursts must be accepted with equanimity and hopefully some purple rapha + paul smith waterproofing and breathability. if the holy grail has not exactly turned up on the kitchen table, it can almost certainly be seen through the window. as i turned south at bridgend auction mart, the meagre tree covering of bridgend woods surrounding islay house occluded the bouncing rain from the radar.
a veritable downpour.
it continued until at least half-way down the scarily exposed uskentuie strand. it's a strange reaction, perhaps, to be enclosed in a waterproof, breathable jacket, yet to substantially increase speed. this has little effective result as regards getting out of the rain, but is almost bound to test the breathability of the paul smith rainjacket: comfort and joy, comfort and joy. i have pedalled very hard on a number of subsequent occasions, layering the jacket over a long-sleeve jersey, a merino jersey and the recently reviewed rapha breton jersey. the breathability has proved exemplary; and subsequent to its initial dousing in rain after only ten minutes of wear, freezing rain made itself known on the way home from today's sunday ride. not easier, but faster yet again.
that is the business end of the equation suitably discussed at perhaps more length than is seemly for a sunday evening, but the words rapha + paul smith raise far greater expectations than 100% functionality; there is the not insignificant matter of sartorial elegance, something easily as important to the former as it is to the latter. purple, it turns out, is a trademark colour associated with paul smith, and though the rainjacket is available in more sombre black, i would think the purple to be of higher visibility; as a city jacket of commuting apparel that is surely of substantial importance. there are neat touches in this direction, for the velcro'd cuff straps fasten either way; one matches the jacket's colour, the opposite reveals a scotchlite edged fluorescent strip facing outwards. clever and practical.
though most commuters will have educated themselves to the benefits of mudguards (or fenders), the dropped tail on the jacket, tensioned by an adjustable internal cord, features a zipped section that opens to reveal a fluoro pink extension, keeping the rider firmly in view of following traffic, and protecting bum and upper thighs. there's a zipped internal pocket, a front left, zipped and flapped debbie pocket, and yet another, larger rear pocket on the right. all the zips are taped and waterproof. the close-fitting, high collar is soft lined and exceptionally comfortable, but the mystery, given rapha's almost trademark association with the ubiquitous zip garage, is that this top of the range waterproof has none at the collar end of the full length, flapped, offset front zip closure. maybe i should ask why.
the outer fabric is tangibly more substantial than that of the rapha stowaway or standard rainjacket, and seems to inhabit the area between the latter two and that of the softshell. i did have occasion to use a canvas musette filled with bicycle tools on one of my cycle trips to the far south (port wemyss); hard wearing is good.
but there is one other quest for the grail that has also been explored. rapha's stowaway combined an impressive degree of waterproofing with a foldability that made short work of stuffing it in a rear pocket before and after science. the standard rainjacket built on this, despite its less flimsy construction. given that the paul smith + rapha rainjacket could reasonably be expected to continue this trend, are we now expecting a breathable, waterproof garment that can be unceremoniously bunged in a pocket? aside from the fact that the answer is yes, it is previewed by the provision of a fluorescent pink goodie bag into which the jacket can be unceremoniously stuffed. i would be less than keen to use this as its mode of transport in the real world, for you would be a tad wet by the time the jacket was released from this hi-vis enclosure, but it's a useful method of daily storage if wardrobe or coat rack space is at a premium.
it ill behoves me to predict the quest for the holy grail as complete, for doubtless the quest will continue unabated, but as an aggregation of breathability, waterproofing and stowability, this is as good as it gets for the present, and as good as it gets is pretty darned impressive.
the rapha + paul smith city rainjacket costs a reassuringly expensive £270 in sizes from xs to xxl and in black or purple. and let me advise that it works just as well, if not better, in an inner hebridean city too.
posted sunday 14 november 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
now don't get me wrong, i thoroughly enjoy my occupation even if it wasn't quite what i set out to do, and though in common with many the pay could be a bit better, it has provided me with a skillset that i am confident is the equal of others working in the same field (i do wish i could work in an office though). however, what i really want to be, for all sorts of reasons, is a consultant. consultants seem to get paid way too much money for telling people what they already know and being entirely blameless when the house of cards falls in on itself. i apologise in advance to any of you reading for whom consultancy puts bread on the table, but i'm sure this cannot be the first time you have had this pointed out.
consultancy is a particularly broad subject, but i have narrowed down that which i would like to specialise in: knowledge management consultancy, because i have yet to find anyone who actually knows what it means. thus the perfect solution; no-one can prove that i'm not a knowledge management consultant. so i would then feel fully confident to stride about, distributing knowledge management advice to all and sundry, charging substantial sums of money for my indispensible guidance on all manner of subjects i know little or nothing about.
a bit like thewashingmachinepost, only without the money.
likely not in the same bracket of remuneration, is the comparable field of philosophy; in common with many a self-proclaimed intellectual, i would have few qualms about my self-qualification as a philosopher. many an article that has graced the pixels of this website (or blog, to use contemporary parlance) could be persuasively construed as homespun philosophy, because heaven knows it needs some justification. at the time i headed north to attend art college for a few years, those of my peer group with no specific career or academic attainment in mind, did likewise through the faculties of english, psychology and philosophy. these inhabited the more esoteric end of the academic trail and seen from the point of view of a sixth year secondary pupil, the ideal concentration for a total lack of direction.
yet professional philosophers do exist in contemporary society, even if their mode of employment is still a mystery; so far as i am aware, argyll and bute council have not once advertised for a qualified philosopher in the past twenty or so years. it is a vocation i would more readily associate with harry potter stories. but i wish not to demean the profession in any particular way, for without philosophers society would be bereft of realism and nominalism, rationalism and empiricism, skepticism, dealism, phenomenology, and perhaps most important of all, existentialism and metaphysics. where would we be without them? it's a genuine question, for were philosophy never to have existed, modern society would be virtually unrecognisable, and harry potter would probably have been the sixth member of the famous five.
the difference, should it be necessary to point out, and perhaps the reason for substantial difference in stipend between consultants and philosophers, is that the former would suggest specialisation, while the latter is ostensibly for everyone, whether they know it or not. and that is exactly the proposition offered by wiley blackwell publishers in their series philosophy for everyone. a neat coincidence masquerading as serendipity.
cycling, however, as we all know, is a physical, rather than a metaphysical activity, born of mechanical means and existing not as existentialism, but as that of matter of fact, down to earth getting aboutness. it's a human activity about which it is eminently possible to wax lyrical, but when it comes right down to that visit to halfords or wiggle, philosophy is likely furthest from the visiting minds; colour, gearing and width of tyre is more likely. but that's when it's all about the bike; what of the act of cycling itself? this can be construed in a myriad of ways; a means of transport, racing, exercise, escapism. perhaps the latter is more easily identified with philosophy than its antecedents? such is the river running through cycling: a philosphical tour de force from thephilosophy for everyone series, edited by the eruditely named jesus ilundain-agurruza and michael w austin with a foreword by velonews' lennard zinn.
if i may quote the latter from his introduction:
'riding bicycles takes us away from the frantic rat race, as well as from the mundane and uninspiring. it at times gives us uninterrupted opportunities to muse at length and at other times demands all of our concentration and focus. we are in control of our destiny in the moment, not at the whim of the next interruption coming our way in our want-everything-right-now world.'
i was almost with lennard right up until his last few words, for i cannot see that cycling is exempt from the desires of instant gratification any more than are the worlds of technology, motoring; in fact modern society at its best/worst. however, his previous incantations will resound well with the mindset of many a cyclist. but is there any real need to elevate these sensations and experiences to that of philosophy with a metaphorical capital 'p'? in the world of pain and suffering and the hard men of the spring classics, isn't this just a bit touchy-feely? i would blame you not for believing this to be the case, and i think on many occasions, i'd be standing there next to you with my hand in the air too. but, as the saying goes, don't judge a book by its cover or, in this case, its list of contents.
there is, as you would perhaps expect, a lapse into the realm of the pretentious, particularly peter m hopsicker's chapter on learning to ride a bike, surely a zen moment where simply attempting and succeeding (or not) is enough; no need to build it into an edifice all of its own. that this constitutes chapter two is unfortunate, for were you to believe that this sets the tone for all that follows, the book may well remain on the bookstore shelf to gather philosophical dust. chapter three, subtitled phenomenological reflections on cycling would conceivably have you off to the humour section for gary larson's cows of the far side as an amenable antidote.
but it would be a poor reflection on my meagre abilities as a reviewer of cycling literature if i were to join you in raucous laughter over the cow sitting on a fence declaring to the rest of the watching herd 'if it were electric, could i do this?' as the farmer is about to pull a heavy switch on the farmhouse wall. for much is redeemed in chapter four with a very convincing poke at the uci for stymying technological development in favour of an idealistic view of the form of the bicycle, one that no longer really exists. john richard harris' chapter twelve entitled 'the commutist manifesto' does much to place the bicycle as transport as a philosophical modern step that will preach to the converted while logically providing an argument against the naysayers.
in between times, you will still come across the pink fluffy bits that you may agree with, but would be too enbarrassed to admit as much over a double espresso and a piece of carrot cake. however cycling: a philosophical tour de force does more to set our obsession in a context other than simply a transportation of delights, at the very least providing a framework for subdued smugness whether you cycle because your very existence depends upon it, or because getting to work does. and should the concept of cycling as an extension of modern philosophical thought and exploration strike a chord that you haven't played before, each chapter ends with a bibliography that might encourage further reading. this is aided by a brief introduction to each contributor in the latter pages of this collection of 273 pages.
perhaps not for everyone, but then you won't know that until you try. wasn't it lewis carrol who said, begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop?
posted saturday 13 november 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the highlands and islands of scotland are fast becoming the second or third class citizens of what's left of the united kingdom. i say this not because of any perceived arrogance on behalf of the remainder of scotland, england and wales, but due to rather disadvantageous zoning by the country's haulage contractors. in the case of the islands, there is always going to be the slight hindrance of a ferry trip on which any bulky goods require to travel, but this has rapidly become a licence to print money on behalf of many a carrier, resulting in even more shopping about by the disadvantaged. you see, many a mail order retailer, whether online or otherwise, has an agreed contract with a preferred carrier (ups, fedex, anc etc.), the latter offering a tariff based on an agreed minimum number of packages across the course of a specified time period. this is quite often why you can have a three bedroomed house and a hummer delivered to your front door for £2.95.
unless, of course, you happen to live within certain postcode areas, roughly defined as the highlands and islands of scotland, the isle of man and northern ireland.
this is not a new phenomenon; if you live in any of the above areas, this sort of thing has been going on for a while, but as more and more online retailers make it to the web and transport costs head ever upwards, the disparity becomes seemingly larger and larger. this has even manifested itself in a couple of recent orders to the proclaimed number one online cycle retailer: wiggle. in the process of ordering a couple of tyres, i was met at the checkout by an announcement that two 26" tyres were either too heavy or too bulky to send to my location. perhaps i may wish to specify a mainland address to which these could be delivered.
i have thought long and hard over whether my online demeanour gave rise for wiggle to think my annual income allowed for a house on islay and a mainland residence too, but that brick wall remained shut. i should point out that after several e-mails between myself and wiggle's customer service manager, they kindly sent the tyres out and apologised for the problem. it was agreed that the tyres had been wrongly coded as bulky in the database, but a couple of weeks later, a second order for the same style of tyres gave the same result. thank goodness for chain reaction.
this, however, points towards an even more insidious development, namely the implication that there are certain items not regarded as practical or economical to send to certain parts of the country; didn't we used to call this the united kingdom? the irony of the situation is that chain reaction cycles are based in northern ireland, yet seem happy to send out most items postage free.
before i move on to the topic that really brought me here today, you are probably not the remotest bit interested in what prompted this outcry, but i'm going to tell you anyway. those very nice people at drumwright in berkshire send me a colour catalogue every christmas, detailing all the percussives that i shouldn't even consider spending money on. and helpfully on page four they have detailed the carrier charges that will apply should i ignore my inner advice, and use my flexible friend on a set of cymbals, or a snare drum or perhaps something as cheap and mundane as a pair of drumsticks. single items (and there is no qualification as to whether this single item has a maximum size) to the uk mainland can be had for as little as £2.95. given that i do not reside on the uk mainland, my eye wanders to to the cost for a single item to the highlands and islands: £23.17. mainlanders can acquire a drumkit on their doorstep for a mere £12.95, while for me to do likewise is a tad more expensive at £33.60.
having briefly digressed, allow me to consolidate the meaning behind the title printed above. this past week i was introduced to the hidden pleasures of the new igo gift voucher, being touted as the perfect gift for cyclists. the idea is similar to that of the long-lived book token whereby if i wish to send a chrimbo prezzy to gem at bianchista, i need only purchase a voucher to the desired value, something i can do online, and miss atkinson can pop along to her nearest participating cycle retailer and purchase whatever her heart desires; up to the value of at least £20. (vouchers can be purchased from £20 to £500) there are, i am led to believe, a nationwide network of 1600 independent cycle shops just waiting to pop one of those vouchers into their point of sale electronic tills.
as with all new ventures there are, however, one or two shortcomings, the first one being delivery. having called the undertaking igo, the inference, at least by my means of perception relative to items such as the imac, ipod, iphone and ipod is that we are embracing the online world as well as bricks and mortar. sadly, i am misguided in this regard; not only can the voucher not be sent directly to the intended recipient (it must first be sent to the purchaser, who must then re-send), but more disappointingly for many living in the highlands and islands, or some of the more remote parts of the kingdom, the vouchers are not redeemable online.
you see, some of us live nowhere near a cycle shop, let alone one commended by cyclescheme. i typed in my postcode on the igovouchers website to be met with a map of great britain and ireland totally devoid of of store icons. therefore, not only is there not one within cycling distance of my front door, but the website has obviously no intention of letting me know where the nearest one is in case i fancy a caledonian macbrayne wave. many of us nowadays purchase our cycles and accessories online, partly out of necessity, partly out of choice. the igo vouchers are a practical way of directing at least some of those purchases to independent cycle shops who face ever increasing competition from the web browser. but it does mitigate against those of us in the hinterlands ever receiving a cycle gift voucher for birthday or christmas; not a life threatening experience i agree, but it's always nice to be included.
however, 'tis early days yet, and there's plenty of room for progress. perhaps this time next year, as the man with the white beard and red jumpsuit prepares for his annual day at work, i will be cheerfully inviting you to send me tokens of your esteem allowing me to buy bicycle stuff online. (or not, as the case may be). for those of you in the more favoured areas, this is perhaps the solution for which you have been searching; december is none too far away.
posted friday 12 november 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
cyclocross, particularly in europe and portland, can be a muddy activity. if i'm brutally honest, it's a very muddy activity, as any trip to pdxcross.com is likely to prove, and while the mud is an occupational hazard for those participating, it can also be a badge of honour. a sport that at club level can be one of the most sociable forms of competitive cycling, oft given to bizarre bouts of fancy, means that even finishing last is not the disgrace more serious events would pour scorn upon. thus, arriving home still bearing substantial traces of mud in places where substantial traces of mud shouldn't really be, one can still receive unqualified adoration from those who merely stood at trackside. mud encrusted cyclocross clothing stuffed into the washingmachine will be looked upon in the same light as clothing messed up by the rugrats after playing in the garden on a wet day. this heroic badge of honour knows know bounds or biological soap powder.
but what about that training schedule? i have been there recently; i still am, and likely to be there for longer than the current 'cross season lasts. incompetence takes a while, or at least trying to get rid of it and acquiring a suitable level of nonchalance does. for me at least. and that old adage beloved of mountain bikers certainly rings true in these circumstances: 'if you don't fall off, you're not trying hard enough. it is comforting to know that, based on my recent track record, i may be trying too hard; i fall off a lot. falling off a lot from a cyclocross bike does have certain benefits: firstly, though not necessarily guaranteed, a soft landing is quite likely, and secondly, there's less likely to be an adoring audience to witness this gravitational exercise.
but to briefly return to my opening statement regarding mud and gloop, that's not such a cool result, because the leeway given after competitive endeavours is not likely to extend as far as training sessions. perhaps that's because the thought of my training for anything often causes a level of hilarity that i find most discomfiting. anyway, while i have not pinned on a number, and thus not received the adulation accorded many of those who have. i can live with that, though i'd really, really like to have the skill to leap aboard at full tilt without investigating the undergrowth in bridgend woods quite so closely. given then, that a non-competitive state of dishevelment is likely to gain negative approval from mrs washingmachinepost, what is the hapless individual to do?
already entered into the road-going lexicon is the word roadracers, those fine, flexible and decidedly unostentatious mudguards that can easily be slipped under a pair of close-fitting calipers on weaponry even such as the colnago c59. but cyclocross bikes cannot wear those, if only because there are not brake bolts onto which they can be zip-tied. that is, of course, the least of our worries in this direction, for if you share my lack of direction, skill and navigation when inadvertantly hurtling through the undergrowth, there is more than an even chance that the ibis would emerge from the other side minus the roadracers it had when it went in. but, of course, you can't fit roadracers to a cross bike, and nor should you.
that's what raceguards and crud catchers are for.
pete tomkins has made a lengthy career out of preventing gloop attaching itself to our ever more expensive cycling apparel, starting out in the early nineties with the crudcatcher. having completely eschewed the knobbly tyre scene for almost as long as crudcatchers have existed, it was rather a natty surprise to realise just how space-age the item has become. a bit like a reliant robin, the original was very angular and affixed to the downtube by a pair of zip-ties with a slight tendency to play rough with the paintwork they grasped. the latest version could have been designed by nasa, such is its aerodynamic persona, including a flexible rubber bumper at the front should the occasional tyre deflection occur. affixation is now by means of mini-bungie cords that stretch to fit tubes of drainpipe proportions.
and just to make sure that the paintwork remains pristine, and rattling is minimal, the word crud has been attractively attached to the top of the crudcatcher in soft rubber.
that takes care of the front mud spray, but 'tis the brown stripe starting at short level and perpetrating a diminuendo towards the shoulders that is of most concern. that rear tyre has to be shielded, and preferably by something of ample proportions, as mud is no respecter of vector dynamics (well, maybe it is, but it doesn't look that way). thus, the raceguard: a large upturned shovel of a mudguard that clamps onto the lower portion of the seatpost, no matter its diameter, arriving with three thicknesses of rubber gasket to sandwich between clamp and post. the clamping mechanism allows the angling of the guard depending on how much displacement you feel capable of engendering.
one of the worst offences that a set of guards can inflict is a constant shake, rattle and roll, deflecting moments of serene calm even during those gestalt periods when man/woman and cycle become as one. so, aside from taking a look at how much soap powder these are likely to save in a brief period of time, i rode all the way to dave t's summer house in port wemyss and home again with both guards in place. it's not a sensible option, but were one to close one's eyes during that refined padalling action, there's not an earthly you'd ever know they were there. even in white.
so while these may not be year-round accessories, depending of course, on just how frenetically messy you like your cycling, they will most certainly keep the training kit less prone to unsociable comments from the better half, or, for those of spinsterhood, the woman who works down the launderette. a crud twinpack consisting of crudcatcher and raceguard has an rrp of £19.99, available in either black or white, though they can be purchased separately should you only wish to cover your back.
the generosity of mr tomkins seemingly knows know bounds, and i have a couple of twinpacks (one black, one white) to give away to the two first selected correct answers to the following question: what other sporting artifact was unceremoniously cut up to give the basic shape of the original raceguard? the answer can be found on the crud products website. send your correct answers to firstname.lastname@example.org; you can specify which colour you'd prefer if you like, but either way, someone's going home with black and someone with white. closing date is one week from today.
posted thursday 11 november 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm a vegetarian, not something i wish to hide, but a dietary choice of which i am quite proud, though aside from the occasional whimsy, i try very hard not to impose my ideals on those dratted carnivores (oops, there i go again). so when it comes to this time of year, the search is on for a christmas lunch menu that is as appealing to me, as it is to those in the office who cannot see past turkey with all the trimmings. in years gone by we have designated a particular evening and headed south for the winter (so to speak) for a night of merriment, over eating, and too many elizabeth shaw mints with coffee in the lounge. this year, due to continued unrest and indecision over which night suits who, and underlined by the fact that almost everyone's lunch menu is well nigh identical to their festive dinner menu at a considerably lower tariff, we have opted for a mid-day celebration and to heck with the afternoon in the office.
a the joys of christmas.
vegetarianism is far more acceptable nowadays than it was when i opted for my meat-free diet (nothing with a face) in my early teens. this, unfortunately still seems to have passed one or two hoteliers by; where is the attraction in printing vegetarian option available? i want to know what i'm likely to be devouring just the same as everyone else. but it is/was the draconian manoeuvres and regulations of the vegetarian society that kept my choice to that of an individual.
in a previous abode, many years ago, the local health food store was fastidious enough in its proselytisation, that it kept up to date copies of the vegetarian society's give-away newspaper. in those days, rightly or wrongly, i considered there to be a certain cache in being meat-free and despite an inherent mistrust of belonging to any organisation, i did consider the possibility of becoming a member of the society mentioned above. however, the condition stated in the membership form, that one resolved 'not to knowingly consume any meat on pain of being excommunicated' (or words to that effect) seemed a mite unnecessary; if i intended to eat meat, why would i be applying to join the vegetarian society in the first place? and had i relented or been led astray during those early years, what did it have to do with them?
so i didn't join, but i'm still a vegetarian some forty years later.
now, however, the onus is being shifted to those who are too namby pamby to suffer the slings and arrows of the winter of discontent. those who have perhaps a fine brace of carbon in the bikeshed and likely a rack of more than competent crap-weather gear in the wardrobe. excuses, excuses, excuses are linked into a lengthy dissertation to excuse these rider(s) from active service, all the while decrying the necessity of spending hour upon hour in the basement, garage or kitchen with the rear wheel firmly clamped in a hamster wheel.
the turbo trainer.
viewed by thewashingmachinepost as no different from those machines of torture and terror favoured by the spanish inquisition (if you'd like to re-enact the monty python sketch just now, i'm willing to wait, cardinal fang), i can think of nothing more detrimental to the lofty ideals of pain and suffering than to puff and sweat while travelling precisely nowhere at all, to the soundtrack of earth, wind and fire's greatest hits.
i spent two and a half hours yesterday afternoon putting a new layer of roofing felt on thewashingmachinepost bike shed, the award-winning construct having suffered painfully in sunday night's gale-force winds. these zephyrs need only find a tiny chink in the tacked down armour and they will unceremoniously rip the roof covering into do-it-yourself portion control, necessitating two and a half hours atop a ladder with hammer and a packet of roof felt nails. it's the first onslaught of the winter, but if the forecast is to be believed, it will be less than twenty-four hours before all is repeated. apparently this evening's ferry has been cancelled in anticipation. but we are nothing if not (fool)hardy in the face of adversity and it would take closer to hurricane force winds to force members of the velo club to even consider thumbing through the latest tacx or minoura catalogues.
but while i come over all superior and devil-may-care, there are others who adhere to the manifesto of the more weak-willed, those for whom the turbo trainer is as much a part of winter riding as mudguards on the winter hack. from basic noisy fan effort, to the rolls-royce of going nowhere in front of tour de france virtual reality, there must be enough members of the clan to persuade constant development in that direction. one such is simon tyler of the delightfully monikered salted mackerel.cc
now is the winter of our discontent,
made glorious summer by this turbo'd trainer.
now are our brows awash with perspiration,
our fading quad'ceps buried deep in pain;
as now, instead of mounting iron steeds
to fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
we caper nimbly to our turbo chambers
where hip hop discs do spin upon the magic lute.
and i, especially shaped for sportive tricks,
muscles ripp'd my looking-glass doth testify;
delight to pass away the time rotating pedals
until my visage turns a merry shade of crimson.
i am determined to prove a champion
and love the tedious pleasures of these nights.
yes, you may well smile for yea verily forsooth 'tis a splendid rhyme, but it has a hidden agenda, one that makes the vegetarian society seem almost as welcoming as goofy at disneyland. for while mr tyler may be reluctantly accepting his undoubted winter fate (gleaned from the pixels of twitter) with as much self-effacing aggrandisement as is seemly in polite company, there is a sting in the tale; conditions are attached, enforced by an invitation to sign on the dotted line. for this reluctance to venture into the great outdoors astride steel or carbon is not merely a passing fancy, but one that has 100 hours, or 4.1666 days of purgatory as its intended goal. not for the faint hearted 'tis sure.
if you find this to your liking, aside from finding yourself a lifestyle coach and qualified medical help, you may wish to click across to saltedmackerel.cc download a pdf of the above rhyme followed by four score numbered circles and twenty, ready for your crosses, ticks or alternative smudges that will indicate that i, the undersigned, hereby make oath and state that I have successfully pedalled for no less that one hundred hours on my turbo trainer this winter, so help me god.
rest assured that members of the spanish inquisition will be visiting each of you individually with ministry of sound rave compilations and a selection of tortuous accoutrements that will pale into insignificance beside that turbo trainer.
brownie points to simon tyler for alerting me to this lost cause and allowing reproduction of such fine verse.
posted wednesday 10 november 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the mighty dave t lives in a cute little white terraced cottage in the village of port wemyss, adjacent to the slightly larger village of portnahaven. it's very difficult to tell where on ends and the other starts, but to infer that the mighty dave comes from portnahaven is the equivalent of calling a canadian an american, or mistaking me for an englishman. which, in fact, the mighty dave t is. the regular modus operandi for a sunday morning is for me to ride from bowmore to debbie's and dave t to do likewise from port wemyss, since we are both equidistant from deb's. but on sunday past, dave t got a longer lie in bed, because we all went down to portnahaven.
when i moved to islay, kids who wanted to learn to swim, did so in loch indaal from an old slipway at the edge of bowmore village. given that islay is an island, and thus surrounded by water, learning to swim was perhaps more pressing than if they'd lived in bearsden or carmunnock. but islay was devoid of a swimming pool, the nearest being in lochgilphead; a two hour ferry trip and maybe around half an hour's drive away. we now have a swimming pool, one that is nigh on twenty years old, and built in a disused warehouse gifted by bowmore distillery; in fact some of the heating required to keep the water temperature at a comfortable norm is supplied by the distillery by recycling some of the waste heat from the distilling process. although the swimming pool (now known as a leisure centre) receives a modest degree of funding, unlike all the others within the argyll and bute region, it largely has to be self-sufficient.
there are a number of independent organisations regularly using the centre for their swimming and non-swimming activities, one such being the islay and jura dolphins, a junior swimming club. throughout the region and the rest of scotland are various swimming competitions which cost money to travel to and from, so the club has to hold fundraising activities throughout the year to help finance these activities, and this past sunday, they opted to ride their bikes from portnahaven to port charlotte, a distance of seven miles along a singletrack road.
this is why the mighty dave had a longer lie in his bed.
leaving at my regular 9:30 depart, i rode to jez hastings' place in port charlotte, and along with spartacus, we rode to portnahaven, giving my sunday a head start of around 28km. meeting up with dave t, we joined the throng of small bicycles with rusty chains, incorrect gears and saddles a lot lower than the ideal, turned around and rode back to port charlotte on a cold november sunday morning, but thankfully with a bit of a tail wind. some of those bikes and kids had not pedalled for quite some time, if the wanderings along the edge of the road were to be carefully observed.
however, what was gratifying to see was the progress of those who regularly attend port mor wheelers on those all too infrequent sessions on a saturday morning. riding ahead of the pack, a group of four or five were cycling a la peloton and happily conversing as they went along, taking care to split to single file in the face of oncoming or overtaking traffic and finding apparently no difficulty riding less that a couple of pedal widths from each other. those of lesser practice were split by multiple bike lengths often in hopelessly the wrong gear, intent on pulling the brakes on, even on the freewheeling downhills. still, perhaps the experience will encourage them or their parents to get the bikes out an a more regular basis, and perhaps even plop a touch of lubricant on those brown and bright orange chains.
the mighty dave t and i rode shotgun around the middle of the pack, refraining from advising any gear changes, lest the searching for the appropriate sprocket led to off-course travels or worse, a falling off. the first riders eased into port mor centre at port charlotte in around 45 minutes; not bad going for little legs. i'm not at all sure that islay and jura dolphins required the services of ageing gentlemen masquerading as velo club d'ardbeg, but it seemed at least a partial undertaking of our civic duty, and an opportunity for little faces to cast little eyes on skinny wheels and bendy bars, perhaps with aspirational rose-tinted glasses.
i hope i'm not kiding myself.
posted tuesday 09 november 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
every now and again, in order to retain any sliver of credibility i may appear to have, it is necessary to do other than just scribble a mass of words and try and pass it off as an article. i figure i'm relatively safe from interrogation, given that i don't exactly live next door, but on the off chance that closer scrutiny is but a mere e-mail away, facts and figures need to be acquired, perused, distilled and edited into a format not too taxing for the human brain (mine, not yours). as you will doubtless have discovered yourselves, the interweb is a fabulous place to find all sorts of numbers, words and pictures that might just aid whatever it is i've adjudged to be the jackanory tale for the day. but occasionally, facts and figures pertaining to the specifics are hard to come by, and that's where press offices come into play.
if i rewind several years, a scots chappie telephoning a press office on behalf of a bizarrely named website that's either about washingmachines or bicycles would have either resulted in raucous laughter, several patient but quizzical questions, or the phone line going dead. because so many of you obviously suffer from insomnia and have had to resort to daily reading of these black and yellow pixels, i have garnered what is, in commercial parlance known as clout. there are still some notables who refuse to reply to any of my e-mail enquiries and that, quite frankly, is their prerogative. if they perceive that my scribblings are unlikely to result in any increase in sales or profile, i'd be the last one to argue the contrary.
if you don't ask, you don't get. and if you don't get, nobody died.
however, that situation is less acceptable when related to an official body, funded by pounds, shillings and pence supplied by the likes of you and i. yes, for our money we gain benefits either in kind or in material form, and these organisations allow us to get on with cycling or training while someone else takes care of inter-organisational or governmental niceties. but it does mean that our financial benevolence brings with it certain rights as customers or, in the case of even minor members of the media such as myself, a degree of respect that there is a job to be done. plainly put, if i ask for some information pertaining to the operation of the organisation, other than sensitive financial and discretionary statistics, i would generally expect to receive a timely answer to my enquiry.
if you have not already deduced the subject of my forthcoming ire, i refer to british cycling. as an opening gambit to my review of the ibis hakkalugi, i thought it worthwhile to compare not only the membership figures of both british cycling and the cyclists' touring club with the population of the united kingdom but, in the case of british cycling, the number of members who had taken out a competition licence. i did not require absolute figures for this; an approximation suited my purposes equally as well. membership figures were fairly easy to acquire via both organisations' websites, but i could find no record of those with racing licences anywhere on the british cycling web presence.
here's where the press office comes into play, a collection of track-suited individuals (i imagine) calmly sitting at the hub of british cycling in manchester, surrounded by enough computing power and shelf upon shelf of easily inspected facts and figures, just waiting for members of the press and media to ring that number or fill that inbox with salient comments, faint praise and never before received enquiries as to which colour of toe straps sir chris hoy favours during keirin bouts. always willing to take advantage of free information, i e-mailed the senior press officer, iga kowalska-owen to ask if she could tell me how many members held racing licenses.
after a couple of weeks of waiting, i felt it safe to assume that either my e-mail had been eaten by an over-active junk mail filter, or they were still all sniggering at having received an e-mail from some washingmachine company. so i telephoned iga kowalska-owen to provide the benefit of my stentorian oratory and ask the very same question in person. call me naive if you will, but it strikes me that the two most likely questions to ask of british cycling would be a) their current membership and b) how many members race? thus, i expected the answer to be rattled off as the coffee cup was placed back on its coaster. 'i'll need to check that information and get back to you. what's your number?'. disappointing no doubt, but this sounded much more promising than an unanswered e-mail. sadly it wasn't. two weeks later, i am still waiting for iga to call me back.
the article is written and all but forgotten; i had to skirt around the lack of the number for which i searched in vain. i am not silly enough to overestimate the importance of the post in a sport awash with media and press demands; i am a minnow at the back of the shoal. but i am also a member of british cycling, and as such feel that i deserve a better response (or any, for that matter) from those who depend on my annual subscription for at least a small portion of their wages and expense accounts. however, it shouldn't depend at all on my being a member of the organisation; answering questions from the media, however they wish to define the criteria for such, is what press officers are supposed to do.
or is there some small print i missed out on?
posted monday 08 november 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i kid you not; next saturday, the islay, jura and colonsay agricultural association will hold a silage competition. basically a 'my dead grass is better than your dead grass' challenge, and something to keep the farmers happy as the days grow shorter and there are a myriad of cattle and sheep to feed. the title of the association, as far as the current competition is concerned, is slightly disingenuous, as the island of colonsay is at least a one hour ferry sailing from islay, and there are currently no scheduled calmac sailings between us and them until next easter. add to that, our northerly ferry port at port askaig, used by the colonsay ferry on the summer timetable, is currently out of commission because one of the ferries hit it a few weeks back.
island life is never short of topics for discussion.
however, to return to the subject of the dead grass competition, it's to be hosted, if the advert is to be believed, by big bale silage and his brother pit (a bit of a long-winded in-joke there, i'm afraid). for those not of an agricultural perusasion, silage is grass grown through the year, cut once or twice by combine, and stored either in large, bulbous 'bin bags' (bale) or stacked in walled pits and subsequently covered by the equivalent of an unrolled big bin bag. that's known as pit silage. because the winter weather rather precludes the growth of regular grass, farmers use the silage to feed cattle over winter.
farming lesson over.
you will have easily deduced that silage, such as that required for a forthcoming competition, cannot be acquired overnight. assuming you knew just such a competition was about to appear, the grass would need to have been grown quite some time hence, somewhat at odds with the instant gratification of the consumer society in which we live. for if new stuff appears in adverts or magazines, many of us just have to have it, caring not one whit for that old chestnut, no money. heck, that's what credit cards are for. (please not that hills can go down as well as up. you are advised to seek independent financial advice.)
returning briefly to the real world, some of these must have items engender their own obstacles to instant gratification by way of their announcement but subsequent unavailability in the here and now. apple computer have almost made this an art form in itself, and our favourites from perren street are not that far behind. for whatever reason, commerce now dictates that the year is split into two distinct halves, consisting spring/summer and autumn/winter, at which point many of the world's cycling apparel providers announce their soon to be available ranges.
most of us fall for this hook line and sinker, because few of the items from any can be bought right there and then, individual items trickling out over the following months, often to great anticipation. one such item of apparel that has already built up a head of steam, to the extent that it is expected to sell out within days rather than seasons, is rapha's tweed softshell. currently available to pre-order at the not inconsiderable wallet lightening price of £400, it bears all the hallmarks of the current standard softshell. featuring an outer shell of schoeller tweed, it is very much the appropriate material for wearing while cycling to a silage competition midst hebridean ruralness.
features that make this distinctly rapha are a two-button collar, a brown synthetic-suede zip puller, and a suede effect shoulder patch. there are also rapha branded buttons, and that trademark left sleeve hoop with a rapha logo. as my new york drumming friend would say 'this is the shiznit'. the jacket is officially available on 10th december, so there's that instant gratification gone for a burton again.
available a bit sooner than that is bradley wiggins vanity publishing. i use the term very much tongue in cheek, because to be honest this really is anything but, if the previews i have been privileged to view are anything to go by. scottish-based photographer scott mitchell is a friend of bradley's, though not a cycling photographer as defined by contemporary parlance. scott followed wiggins, and by implication, team sky during this year's not quite as successful as they hoped, tour de france; the book is therefore far less vanity and much more documentary. to quote bradley:
'i love reading old tour books, and leafing through all the cycling mags. what particularly appeals is that nostalgic, retro, timeless look that black and white pictures give you. scott is not a cycling fanatic and most importantly, to my mind, not a specialist sports photographer. he arrived on the tour completely fresh, although like the rest of us he left paris completely bolloxed. that's the essence of this book . . .'
on one hand, it's nice to know that one of the sport's more contemporary riders is as entranced with the black and whites of yesteryear as are us mere mortals, but even better to find that he has put his (mitchell's) silver-halide where bradley's mouth is to add to the sport's monochrome historicity. as has been shown by rouleur magazine and photographers such as camille mcmillan and ben ingham, the sport of cycle racing responds very well to black and white, in contrast to the more regular reportage colour of such as graham watson. no matter you views on bradley's abortive attempt to better his 2009 result, or the brashness of team sky, on tour promises to be an independent, unprejudiced document of a top british rider in what is annually billed as one of the world's greatest sporting spectacles. i hope to have a full review of the book sooner rather than later.
on tour - bradley wiggins; a folio of photographs by scott mitchell is published in paperback by orion books on 11th november at £14.99
posted sunday 07 november 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
during the brief period of time that i spent working for a major car hire firm, it was constantly surprising to note how some folks just didn't get the advantages of the cars they had hired. hiring a hatchback but continually dragging your luggage out through one of the front doors, not having realised there was a third door at the rear. that would be why they're known as hatchbacks. but every now and again would appear an example of ingenuity that was not only a fine example of thinking outside the box, to use a rather well-worn cliche, but also flew in the face of the service for which the perpetrators were seemingly unkowingly paying. one of the benefits of car hire is the backup that arrives with the package; should something serious, or relatively serious, befall the hired motor car, there is usually a freefone number to call for assistance. this will either bring the joy of a replacement car, or at very least a local garage to effect some sort of repair.
however, two american gentlemen (and i mean nothing by mentioning their nationality; it's simply that they were from north america), touring the western isles in a hired car, had experienced windscreen wiper failure when on the isle of skye. either oblivious to the customer support service, or simply in spite of it, they had attached a length of string to each wiper arm, bringing one in through the driver's window, and one through the passenger's. everytime it rained, they would, in much the same way as a rowing team, synchronise their string pulling and keep the screen clear of precipitation as best they could. a remarkably clever solution, though one that could easily have been remedied with a phone call.
simple notions such as these are oft to be admired, because they seem so remarkably obvious when pointed out. i was presented with one of those cunningly simple solutions as i pretended to represent my own corner of the media at october's cycle show. i can only apologise that it has taken this long to impress this idea upon you all, for when i present such cleverness in all its glory, you will realise that it barely required a couple of days testing, rather than the month it has apparently taken.
sometimes i'm a busy boy.
this is not a stunningly new idea; a few rides of the falling rain ago, someone showed me that they were using one of those small plastic wallets that rapha used to send out the likes of their merino socks in, to keep their mobile phones dry in a jersey back pocket. however, unless you'd already bought a pair of rapha socks, it was a rather expensive way of keeping phone, keys or money away from the rain. add to that, closure, if i can put it that way, was by way of the flap, so a waterproof seal could not be effected. jersey bins are made of a similar recyclable plastic, but are deliberately sized to fit in any one of those three pockets. in this case, however, a sealable zip tops each size of bin (there are two), meaning whichever electronic device or paper money you decide to entrust, it will remain operable and/or dry no matter the ferocity of the elements buffeting your onward motion.
as you are now tired of hearing, i do not own a mobile phone, so for the purposes of my seemingly extended review, i popped my ipod touch, a set of keys and some paper money inside the smaller of the two (the trim bin) and went out to get wet. of course, even if rain is not on the horizon, we pelotonese have a tendency to get swot and hetty in the course of our perambulations, sadly oft times transferring moisture to items to which moisture should not be transferred. my continued use of the trimbin can be taken as my vote of confidence in its efficacy. in one of those daft notions easily the equivalent of sitting on the end of the branch that is in the process of being sawn off, i popped my compact digital camera in the bigbin, since its girth was too excessive for the trimmer version. of course, the realisation that one cannot take a picture of a camera in a bigbin while the camera is in the bigbin didn't take long to arrive.
it's been a long week.
the great joy of this simplicity is that purchasing really is a no-brainer; there is no need whatsoever to cogitate, because the prices are undeniably favourable. a bigbin costs £3.49, with a twinpack costing £6.99. the trimbin is a mere £2.99 and a double pack priced at £4.99. a pack with one of each costs £5.99.
as you might expect, jersey bins can be customised with pretty much any logo or message you care to have imprinted. having been presented with two of the real jersey bins, rohan dubash later handed me a sigma sport version. customising applies to orders of 100 or more; see the website for details.
as obligatory as a zipped rear pocket on a jersey.
posted saturday 06 november 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
every september, at the islay jazz festival, i get the opportunity to play and converse with some of scotland's finest jazz musicians; i mean this in the light that these fine musicians are scottish, rather than that their abilities are confined to north of the border. and while i have butterflies in my stomach when playing on the same stage as these men and women, as my musical abilities are several orders of magnitude lower, it turns out that they all experience the same thing when playing in the company of those they judge to be their betters. it seems an affliction that affects the majority of those involved in artistic endeavours; that perennial self-doubt.
to an extent, this is why i read very few other blogs, because many make my own scribblings seem somewhat lame and laboured, and have me wondering if i should be expressing myself in similar ways. falling into this trap ends up inculcating a complete inability to write anything without examining it from way too many aspects. it's a far more enjoyable experience to simply sit down and write whatever i think appropriate, without anticipating any virtual criticism. the man behind the original idea of the rapha continental, a man who subsequently worked with rapha usa for a year or two, is daniel wakefield pasley. aside from generating what is now a much admired and oft imitated idea of undertaking lengthy bike rides along undocumented roads and tracks, daniel is a superb photographer and a writer i much admire. it thus gives me a great deal of pleasure to print below a recently written piece that needed a good home.
daniel's writing is substantially different to my own, but as we keep in touch regularly through skype (daniel lives in portland, oregon) we have discovered similar interests, ideas and intent, even if we have different ways of getting there. ladies and gentlemen, for the first time, and hopefully not the last, i give you mr daniel wakefield pasley (and i apologise in advance for his use of capital letters).
On a dirt road in the woods on a bike designed for paved roads, descending if you want to call it that, on 23s or 25s, it doesn't matter as either way; they're wrong for this. Barely making each corner of which there are many; uneven, canted, strewn with rocks and branches and rotting leaves, and generally struggling to maintain my speed and style. Two wheel drifts in the mud where it's still wet from rain and constant shade. Drop bars bucking and violent. English in the washboards, hands numb. This is wrong.
Skateboarding, a sport of sorts about finding and making lines, was wrong. Torn, retied, retorn shoelaces. Dented shins; the raw relief of which like a miniature major mountain range. Late night security guards mindlessly adlib, orating about insurance and perceived vandalism. Receding glacial sweat stains encircling my torso and sweaty ass prints on curbs a map of our progress from spot to spot through the city. Landing too hard and in the wrong spot and snapping yet another board. We, the marginalized, ostracized and wllfully misfit. Pulled tendons vs. torn ligaments vs. rolled ankles. The obsession and uncanny focus, visualizing, in spite of countless, fruitless monotonous hours, making it just once, just this one time. All that was fine, but something was eventually and apparently missing.
Mountain bikes. Purple mountain bikes with elevated chain stays. Red, White and Blue Hammerheads, a dart on the front and a smoke on the rear. A suspension fork that didn't much suspend. Onza Pedals. Onza fucking pedals, like the slingshot, the softride, nuke proof hubs, kooka cranks and countless anodized and atypical to a fault; others, all an enticing dead-end, the hallmark of which walking not riding home. Chaparral, cactus and rattlesnakes. Moonlit coasting and coaxing a fine piece of single track on a 30 pound bike with drain-dead steampunk light systems rattling between bar-ends. Learning to lean back and over the post and past the saddle with wet finger tips on wet grips, pushing through a knock in the dirt on the edge of the road on the way to some dirt tributary steep and absurd, the sky somersaulting by and the sound of a camel bak queefing on impact. Also all wrong, and but more importantly the missing thing discovered in the midst of switchback grinds, false flats, early snow and fire roads ramping into the sky. The transformational mind and body tune-up exacted by hours of miles of exposure and exhaustion.
Inconceivably, mountain biking was left in order to chase harder, better and faster this new thing, this transformational thing. And but at any rate mountain biking, at least the original and current and decidedly wrong way, was fast succumbing to free-ride, finish-line and suspension imperatives. Scientists making right what was wrong, but what was really right, and in fact nearly perfect.
On the kick, roaming industrial parks on Saturday mornings looking for what was sorta beginning to feel like crack, I discovered race wheel sets, magic food and plastic bikes. I'm not a jock and I don't team, lateral advances and torsional improvements are boring and irrelevant, speed for it's own sake, also boring and irrelevant, I'd soon gone too far and reduced too much too little. Road cycling, it started to dawn on me, was the domain of latent jocks still angry about being benched and dateless through high school. That palpable, unseemly desire to belong and team, the rules and codes and customs lauded for their history and self congratulatory significance, but still just rules and codes and customs. The latent unsophisticated machismo, the competitive drive and obsession with mastering not experiencing. Waveless passings and flaccid nods. I'd traded transformation for numbers and statistics and chilly, soul-less initiatives.
And then sabotage was unconsciously discovered; then refined, perfected and artfully, if not freely employed. Too much drinking before, during and, sure to never miss a glycogen window, after. And smoking cigarettes and whatever too. Showing up late with no map, no planning, no tools, no money, no water, the wrong equipment, no speeds, one gears and no freewheels. No pump, no tube, no sleep, bald tires, a fixed gear cross bike, which bike is everything and nothing at once. And dirt. Dirt rediscovered, but on a road bike which is wrong but in this fashion and for my tastes, right.
Road bikes in the dirt, some call it gravel racing, is gladly wrong but it seems behind every frontier and push and edge, an industry waits to tame and dominate and emasculate it, to neuter it. But for now, even with more and more matching booties and team kit blurring among the ferns and alders and evergreens, it's safe to miss corners and lines, scrub speed with skid stops, and flat four times in as many miles. It's safe to handle it with grace and style, and not better equipment.
with the exception of the photo of himself at the top, all other photos are copyright daniel wakefield pasley, and are reproduced with permission.
posted friday 05 november 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................