the principles of painting, in the artistic sense, are reasonably basic, particularly if the subject matter is presented directly in front of the canvas; or whichever medium you feel comfortable with when brush wielding. if we take the ubiquitous still life as an example, unless the objects about to be depicted are of bizarre hue, mix a few pigments from the tubes carefully laid out next to the palette (it may surprise you to know that, concealed in their lonely garretts, berets worn at a jaunty angle, very few artists hold an oval-shaped piece of flat wood on which to mix the paints. you'd only need to take a peek at frank auerbach's studio floor to understand of what i speak) and use that innate artistic talent to match canvas with subject.
of course, the artistic ability may be the stumbling block, though i confess there is also an additional art in knowing which colours to mix and in what proportions to match artifice with reality. still lives traditionally consist of bowls of fruit with the odd slice of newsprint perhaps, and maybe an item of metallicised surface just to challenge that acute visual perception; natural colours, and even better if viewed in natural light. if i give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you have the appropriate skills to mix your paints in a verisimilitude of lifelike colour, you must see that we're already on the way to, at the very least, providing an appropriately sized portion of illustration to cover that damp patch on the bathroom wall.
but taking even the brightest of pigments suffusing even a small corner of the masterpiece, it is unlikely to have you shading your eyes from the glare.
move on from this appreciation of realism and it may be that your artistic endeavours encapsulate the more imaginative, incorporating idealism, expressionism, fauvism and perchance the abstract. here the colour palette gains, almost overnight, a widening of its limitations, for at least two of the foregoing accepted styles almost demand a vibrancy of colour that it may be hard to find in the natural world.
many have been the threads on the cycling fora discussing the almost inexplicable affectation practised by the modern providers of cycling apparel to offer a wide range imbued with henry ford's favourite colour. i will not here attempt to defend this situation, for i confess to a degree of incomprehension on my own part as to this prevalence of black, though a stab in the dark (pun intended) might reasonably conjecture that designers like black because designers wear black (actually that's another myth, but it suits my current purposes). look closely in most instances, and you cannot fail to note those almost concealed tabs of scotchlite designed to blend into the smooth courteous lines, hopefully advertising the wearer's presence when out after dark. at this point, we may all query this apparent construct of opposites. for were the principal purpose of such clothing to fend off motorised traffic, surely jackets and trousers of unadulterated scotchlite would carry more visibility?
if your daily grind consists of repairing motorways, sweeping streets, or emptying wheelie bins, the company uniform may well do just this, replacing the tweed of the game-keeper with an eye watering fluorescence. disappointingly, contrary to the blunt and unsubtle, many of us have sensibilities and a daily occupation that mitigates against such glare. how many would feel comfortable, or remain in a job for too long, sitting in the boardroom wearing bright orange and silver with the word cyclist emblazoned across the shoulders? not many i'll warrant. black, on the other hand, even mediated to a charcoal grey, has far more sober propensities, entirely fitting for the modern executive on a swivel chair in an open plan office.
could we not come to a compromise somewhere, donning a removable something that one can allow to dazzle the international space station from the great outdoors, yet curtailing such properties in polite company. a something possessing an additional practical purpose? well, yes we can; a brightly coloured, fluorescent yellow, waterproof rucksack cover that keeps the elements at bay in every sense and implication of the word. but even here there is a fly in the ointment, for who amongst us has the cojones to ride around our city centres, or even the open stretch of road between here and debbie's wearing a yellow something with the word hump substantially emblazoned on each side? a well crafted item of practical avow,and though i can see where they're coming from with the name, i think a bit more time could have been invested in the branding.
that. however, comes under the heading of superficiality, since whatever name they print on the side doesn't affect whether the item does its job or not. as has been minutely detailed in previous editions of this literature (who laughed?) whenever an item of waterproofness arrives in scotland's home of wet weather, i suffer for my art by the infliction of a spell of drought (well, it didn't rain). in this case, i have deviated from my usual pernickety attention to detail, by refusing to sit on the bike shed step twiddling thumbs, until precipitation designs to grace with its presence.
i threw a lot of water on it.
of course, the cover had been stretched over a (black) rapha fixed backpack, no slouch when it comes to repelling water on its own, but it never hurts to have a bit of brightly coloured and reflective help. to gauge whether water could worm its way between the untaped zips, i put some white paper at the top of the rucksack, both inside and outside, before dousing with water. i figured the stuff on the outside of the bag would perhaps become a trifle damp, but such is the effectiveness of the hump, that all remained dry. well, apart from my shoes when i stood a bit too close. as can be seen from the photos, it is not shy and retiring, so i think we can safely tick the visibility box. and just to add utility to effectiveness, the bag in which the hump arrived, can be poppered inside the hump itself, should you need to carry several pairs of drumsticks in dessicated safety. clever.
respro's hump can be acquired in many different flavours, not all of them as brash and uncompromising as this one, for just under £30. if travel by bike, dark night after dark night, through the commuting splash, with your schoolwork on your back, is a regular part of your trasnport strategy, maybe you need a hump.
top photo of frank auerbach in his studio, by jorge lewinski
posted monday 13 december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
my mother is an inveterate knitter; perhaps i should re-phrase that, she used to be an inveterate knitter. age never arrives alone, and i think the knitting habit may have lessened over tha past few years; she's now in her eighties. however, all through my childhood and teenage years, knitting continued unabated: pullovers, gloves, hats and even a multi-coloured dr who length scarf that three of us cheerfully wore up holburn street in aberdeen (art students do those sort of things). the knitting itself gave every credence to the oft vaunted skill of the female sex to multi-task, in that she could successfully watch television, carry on a meaningful conversation with either of her children, and knit one, purl one at the same time without so much as dropping a stitch. and when we had outgrown those pullovers (though at the time, those woolies were getting smaller rather than we were getting bigger; not sure at what age that changes.) they were unravelled and knitted into something more fitting for the improving physique.
in an act that would presage a later gig with a well-known west coast accordionist (who fell asleep at a ceilidh on top of his accordion, still playing. and in time), she could drop off in front of the telly and awake an hour or so later, picking up right from where sleep had taken over, without skipping a beat. it was/is a form of relaxation and occupation that produced practical results. in a strange sort of serendipity, i find a similar result form the art of wheelbuilding.
it's a practical skill, hard-won, which again often produces practical results that i find therapeutic and, assuming i don't get the spoke pattern wrong, quite relaxing. in similar manner to my mother, i can't say that there have been many commercial undertakings in the role of spokeseperson; it's a small island, and the peloton proportionally compact and bijou. not too many require a steady supply of wheels, and concomitantly, the opportunities to improve my art/skill are few and far between.
several years ago, my rear gate was met with a bicycle shaped object on which the rear wheel had developed more than just one eccentricity. on removing from the frame, one half of the axle fell on the ground, having split at the cone on the freewheel side. that would have been a simple enough remedy in itself, were it not for the fact that, on extricating the remaining portion, the inside of the hubshell was discovered to have totally collapsed, throwing those hapless little quarter-inch bearings asunder. on inqury as to whether the sturdily built rider was carrying a substantial load in the removed panniers, he replied in the affirmative, adding "but i think the accordion may have been the last straw". a perfect example of not only tailoring the bicycle to the intended trip, but perhaps taking the wheels into consideration too.
that, it cannot be denied, is the calling card of the experienced wheelbuilder, and very much the opening gambit of jonathan at strada wheels who approached me a couple of months ago to enquire if i would care to test and review an example of their produce. based in hove, east sussex, strada wheels currently consists of darren who builds the wheels, the aptly named tom sturdy who carries out the bulk of the prototype testing, and jonathan day who owns the company. rather than just pop a pair of wheels in a cardboard box and send to islay, i was asked what sort of riding i partook of, what size and weight i was and what my mother's maiden name was (kidding), along with a recommendation as to the type of rim that might best suit my ineptitude on a bicycle. the rest i left up to jonathan and darren, for there seems very little point in engaging the services of experts and then proceeding to tell them how they should go about their business.
on return from my week of lazing about in whinfell forest, that wheel-sized cardboard box was sitting in the hall, desperately requiring my attention. would that life were that simple. the small matter of preceding reviews and testing; it is only fair that, where practical, items sent are dealt with in chronological order, and wheels need tyres and tubes (thoughtfully supplied by strada) as well as requiring cassette removal from one set of wheels to position on the new kids on the block. that takes time and scheduling (honestly; it really does). provision of those little extras also included sturdy red rim tape and strada-labelled wheel skewers.
don't you just love it when all you have to do is pedal?
at the time of my studying a-level english literature (you didn't think this drivel was magicked out of thin air did you?) i asked of the lecturer whether it would be counter-productive to answer a question with the opposing point of view to that i held to be true. because when faced with john donne was one of england's more prominent metaphysical poets. do you agree?, the answer 'yes' made for a particularly unspectacular way of filling an a4 sheet of lined paper. surely it would make for far more interesting reading to argue the contrary, with the supporting evidence doubtless filling several sides of that lined paper. it may not surprise you to learn that i was strongly advised against this course of action, which is exactly why i did it anyway. the mark justified my temerity in contrary action.
i don't particularly care for a radially spoked front wheel; let me clarify: i don't quite get the point. since the fastest rotating part of a wheel is the rim, where the spokes finish, no matter how many others they do or do not cross on their way to the nipple, there surely cannot be any aerodynamic gain from such a spoke pattern? and given that the spokes describe a perfectly straight line between hub flange and rim, the amount of built-in comfort must surely be at a minimum? however, my experience to date has been only with boutique wheels with their straight blade, radial spoke patterns, never with a skillfully handbuilt wheel featuring regular spokes that bend prior as they ply their trade in the flange spoke holes; and only twenty four of them. i have been well wide of the mark on several notable occasions before, so pre-judgement is perhaps not the best path to follow. at the very least, strada's front wheel will provide an interesting level of inquiry, contrary to my possibly prejudicially unsound opinion. basically speaking, you'll end up with more words to read.
the rear wheel owns twenty-eight spokes, built two-cross both sides; commendably so, since the world of the boutique would have had radial on the non-drive side.
the componentry is impeccable. though i have not heard of australia's velocity rims before, their 23mm width and semi-aero profile isn't going to fall apart anytime soon. while i have favoured italian aci spokes for my own meagre wheelbuilding efforts, i cannot remember them being any more or less impressive than the sapim employed by strada, and though all manner of international exotica exists in the field of bicycle hubs, strada have placed their faith, for this wheelset at least, in the british made goldtec brand. it is undeniable that much of the exotica may proffer a tad more flair in the design department, but i do tend to favour function over form when my riding pleasure depends on it.
so there you have it (or them), a particularly fine pair of wheels which, though it may be verging on the sacreligious, have replaced, temporarily at least, a pair of chris king r45s on the cielo, in order that i might provide an insight into the world of the custom handbuilt wheel. this a23 wheelset is available as an off the shelf purchase at a retail cost of £395; a sensible price for the sweat of darren's brow, and there is commendably no surcharge for the custom option.
"we try to select combinations that go well together, but naturally everyone is different in their taste, physique, bike, riding style, road conditions and budget so we select and match components to the customer's requirements and expect to do this for the majority of our clients. spoke selection and tension can make a big difference to the feel, ride and durabilty of a set of wheels. We don't charge any extra for taking a full set of data before commencing a build; it's an integral part of the process.". jonathan day.
as to my perhaps unfounded prejudice against a radial front; "there is a bit less stress going through the front, so it doesn't need to be (spoke) crossed with such a good wide hub flange on the goldtec front, and a stiff rim."
testing/reviewing has already commenced this weekend, but it would be naive and foolish to enter into print based on a couple of relatively cursory rides around the principality, so perhaps between now and new year i'll scribble a few notes on the back of some handlebar tape and a red napkin from debbie's and let you know how well we're hitting it off. almost like the end of the current harry potter movie in fact (well, not quite, but i'm just trying to create a bit of well-deserved tension and intrigue). i'll tell you this much though; they're quick.
posted sunday 12 december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
next sunday, the 19th of december, is the velo club d'ardbeg mince pie ride, a ride of (to use daniel wakefield pasley's word) epic proportions, though less so for the kilometres and terrain covered than the amount of delicious mince pies and coffee stuffed in rosy cheeks after the easy bit is over. it may seem to the casual bystander that a ride such as the mpr is of little consequence in the grand scheme of all things cycling, and though there's just an outside possibility that the casual bystander may be correct, concerted minutes of meticulous planning have gone into ensuring the event's success for yet another year.
of course, the origins of such a monument are lost in the mists of time (so i'm told), and in similar manner to easter each year, the date has a habit of changing. the velo club pelotonese are an itinerant and mechanistic bunch, and it is not always easy to coincide concerted attendance with a large tin of mince pies; we have to be flexible, if not downright vague. it cannot be underestimated just how intrinsic to the process is a handy calendar, preferably one that has pictures of cyclists on it, inspiring the great unwashed to new heights of sprinting prowess in an attempt to be first to the couch in debbies, and thus a still warm mince pie to accompany that cappuccino/espresso/latte or hot chocolate with lots of little marshmallows floating on the top.
that is how the forthcoming event was planned down to the last detail, only requiring simultaneous scribbles on individual calendars ensuring uniformity of attendance. it goes without saying that none of us will eat this coming week for fear of being unable to accept "just one more mince pie?".
much like the tour de france, the giro d'italia and christmas, this is not something to be left until only a few months away, and though this years mpr is already on its way to entering the annals of history, there is still next year's to consider. just to be colossaly previous, christmas day itself is on a sunday in 2011, an unseemly day for those with family to be excusing themselves from the dinner table, to throw a few well-chosen kilometres in, prior to mince pie munching. add to that the fact that debbie, for purely selfish reasons, refuses to open on christmas day, it seems safe, even this far ahead, to write off sunday, december 25th as an appropriate occasion on which to hold the 2011 mince pie ride. but there's always the sunday prior to santa claus, and i shall be discussing this possibility with the remnants of the peloton on the morrow.
lest you figure that i have broken a hitherto unknown uci regulation and foreseen the situation twlelve months hence in some unrequested desk diary from a roof tiling company, let me assure you that the date of 18th december 2011 is headed by two impressive photographs: jan raas riding the three days of de panne in 1982, faced with a monochrome impression of the great man demonstrating just what constitutes an impressive pair of thighs in the 1979 skol six day in london. if i cheat for just a moment or two and close my 2011 calendar over, i am greeted with a photograph from a dusty 1997 paris roubaix (ah, paris roubaix; 10th april 2011 can't come soon enough).
while i am certainly amongst the privileged few when it comes to being populated with cycling trinketry and necessitous artefacts, in this case i do not have access to that which is protected from the multitudes, for next year's mps is being decided from the twelve months represented in the prendas ciclismo les memoires du peloton calendar, available this instant, even as we speak.
graced with some excellent images from the library of john pierce's photosport international, each month features sufficient space for the organising of all sorts of important events. should your life be exceptionally devoid of important events, and you're struggling to invent any, care not one jot; just look at the pictures, containing a quality and ambience that may just have been lost in the transference to the contemporary digital world. you can additionally celebrate some of the great moments from cycling's past, perhaps most notably the mapei one, two, three in april 1996 at paris roubaix. (not that one wishes to prejudice your own favouritism).
les memoires du peloton is currently available from prendas ciclismo for under a tenner, easily the best purchase you'll make this festive season. order two, and send one to a friend; you know it makes sense. and there's a selection of video clips on the prendas site to accompany each calendar month.
posted saturday 11 december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it may seem a tad optimistic to expect a drummer to read music, but it has been known, and in this form of notation, as is the case with pretty much every instrument, there are a variety of black notes sitting on or between five perfectly straight lines. these denote at which point our hypothetical reading drummer is expected to hit one of the drums or cymbals conveniently placed in between him/her and the music stand. and, perhaps more importantly, which limb is expected to be used in conjunction with another. pretty straightforward really, until you actually have to do play along with other musicians.
as maturity, laziness, or perhaps a combination of the two, lands upon the rhythmnatist, the spaces between those black bits begin to assume a more pertinent air, sometimes mistaken for taste, but definitely conferring a degree of finesse and musicality to any composition currently being destroyed with a pair of drumsticks and a bass player. in fact, a prominent drummer of my acquaintance used to sport a t-shirt bearing the legend 'love the space between the notes'. it's a skill that takes almost a lifetime of drumming to acquire, but one guaranteed to exponentially increase the gratitude of all on stage at the same time.
transfer such skill to the world of cycling, particularly that pertaining to any so-called training regime, and the necessary word is 'rest'. that's the part of the sequence that supposedly allows the rebuilding of muscle fibre, hopefully a mite stronger and fitter than before. that's the fast bit. many a two page with pictures article has warned against the excesses of over-training, where those poor, ripped-to-shreds muscles are given no time to recover, and instead of getting better, become a shadow of their former selves.
but what if you're not training? what if every bike ride is simply a celebration of the opportunity to go cycling, with no real desire for a dramatic increase in speed? i figure that i'm fast enough for me, given that i have eschewed the desire to ride with a number on my back, and, for the time being at least, i'm not the last one at the table for coffee. the joy of cycling a tasty bit of carbon at speeds commensurate with its image is not, however, lost on me, and i'd quite like to retain the speed i currently own, for as long as that remains possible. so do i still need to rest, and if so, how much is enough?
having returned from a week of lazing about doing as little activity as humanly possible - what mrs washingmachinepost and i like to refer to as 'a holiday' - i feel appropriately rested, but i'm interested to find out if this might be considered too much rest. and should i now go hell for leather in order to give those fast twitch fibres a wake up call? or merely climb aboard and continue as if nothing were amiss?
look at the sides of cereal packets and the like, and there will probably be a list of vitamins and minerals associated with a recommended daily amount (rda), helping the great unwashed to mediate their intake of said munchy products. however, i am reliably informed that these numbers are merely appropriate to mrs and mrs average, and if you cycle or exercise regularly, particularly at speeds not generally associated with commuting, you have excused yourselves knowingly or unknowingly from membership of the average. it may well be that the average male requires to ingest 2500 calories per day to make it to bed time in a healthy condition; you and i, however, place greater demands upon that honed physique, and a few more wouldn't be too unseemly, while still retaining a slim, muscular exterior (no sniggering please).
but most of us experience the equivalent of explosive decompression should the opportunity to go cycling unexpectedly present itself at an opportune moment. i doubt there have been too many thoughts of 'perhaps just a few more hours of rest may be in order' on an afternoon off at the height of summer. as previously mentioned, cycling is far too much fun at this lowly level to be bothered with the interspersion of periods of rest. i have little concern over whether i will maintain the desired degree of form into august 2011 for the ride of the falling rain to consider the necessity of serious 'periodisation' of my non-existent training schedule around mid june.
but my question still stands: should i be paying more attention to the space between the notes? should i be loving them enough to roll over of a sunday morning, and go back to sleep, safe in the knowledge that as i sit at my desk on monday morning, superior fitness is mine.? not a flipping chance.
the rest is history.
posted friday 10 december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there's no set formula to a bike ride on saturdays; depending on whether any agenda is being adhered to, the distance and route varies considerably. or at least, as considerably as the roads will allow on a smallish island. the carrot on a stick is the knowledge that a large(ish) soya cappuccino awaits at some point of the day; it just hasn't been poured yet.
still sitting, dust-covered in a corner of the kitchen worktop is a small gaggia coffee machine, a gift from mrs washingmachinepost several christmases ago. in the way of pretty much all machinery, the efficacy with which it provided a more than acceptable cup of espresso started to wane. i have no great understanding of precisely how these machines do their work, but it seems more than likely that the seals coercing the water under pressure through the coffee grounds were reluctant to continue performing to the best of their ability. it was losing pressure, to put it bluntly.
around the time that this began to become noticeable, the lovely debbie installed herself in the mini-market in bruichladdich, having gained more experience in the art of coffee construction than any other within these shores. it was only upon tasting a coffee made by someone who takes pride in their work and has some degree of control over the brown liquid occupying one of those little china cups, that i figured there was little point in replacing or repairing that errant gaggia machine.
where would be the point of attempting to be my own barista when there was a perfectly good one a mere 20km from home; and each cup came with a free 40km round trip?
this making of a decent cup of coffee is something we all kid ourselves we are managing quite happily in the comfort of our own homes. put your hand up if you've ever been in anyone's house and had a cup of coffee that compares with one made by a professional barista. hmmm, not that many. it seems likely that the manufacturers have cottoned onto this state of affairs and have begun to offer very stylish bits of kit that accept pods; pre-determined amounts and blends of coffee to ensure that perfect coffee every time.
i've only ever had one of these pod coffees, and while acceptable, it wasn't quite at the standard that this member of the cognoscenti was looking for. you should realise, at this point, that the title of coffee cognoscenti is self-imposed (inflicted?). in much the same way as wine buffs are insufferable within fifty paces of an ikea wine rack, those of us convinced that we can detect minute variations in coffee blend can be every bit as annoying. especially if we try hard enough.
but the bit that undoubtedly requires specialist training, and this only applies to cappuccinos as far as i know, is the ability to have whirly milky bits on the froth bearing an uncanny resemblance to ferns, fronds and even leaves and hearts. in similar fashion to riding no-hands or fixed gear, the principal seems cunningly simple, yet often evades actuality by its very nature of being a lot harder than it looks. (i have no objection to no-hands, fixie riders who can make ferns on cappuccinos feeling particularly smug at this point).
my first coffee with such decoration, presented without request, was at stumptown coffee in portland. i berated debbie for long enough to produce something similar, an ability she always inferred she possessed, but it seems that one had to be in the mood for art to emulate reality. so you don't get too many of them to the dozen.
so, what exactly does one do if riding fixed no-hands with no cappuccino artistic ability whatsoever is an affliction that has become too hard to bear. the first two are of trivial interest to me, to be honest; i'm much happier turning both into skills of their own, something to be proud of rather than run away from. but if learning the skills necessary to become a fully-fledged barista is high on your list of things to do before cavendish wins the green jersey, how could such be accomplished within one lifetime.
well, briefly returning to portland, oregon (where else?), you will find the american barista coffee school, a coffee based educational institute providing business workshops, roasting workshops, consumer workshops (me, me, me) and hopefully, though not mentioned on their website, a workshop that spends several hours demostrating the art of making leaves and fronds on cappuccino froth. as evinced by one of their students from their own home town...
"i had no idea there was so much to learn about coffee."
see, just what i've been telling you from the start. of course, referring back to that estranged gaggia machine looking so forlorn in its isolation, aside from the art and skill, one needs the best of equipment. eager to aid their compatriots in the surreptitious quest for the very best froth decoration, the inhabitants of nw nela street have offered their considerable cnc capabilities to ensure a perfectly tamped pod of roast, ground coffee before it is subjected to hot pressure.
those fine, fine people at chris king precision components have adapted their considerable headset technology and expertise to produce, in conjunction with the american barista school of portland, oregon, the chris king espresso tamper. weighing in at less than 500g (to accommodate weight-weenie coffee drinkers), the upper anodised section is of the same aluminium alloy used in a chris king headset, and available in four of their colours: pink, brown, gold and red. there are three ten millimetre high stainless steel base diameters (58mm, 56mm and 53mm) with a total stack height of 83.5mm.
it is a particular humbling part of my lack of education in such matters, that the promise of a convex base in spring of 2011 has me bewildered; why would you need that?
very little of quality comes at pocket friendly prices, but if the cost can be justified in terms of patterned soya milk froth, i fear there are no grounds (see what i did there?) for serious complaint. the chris king espresso tamper retails at $75 (around £48). i have, of course, requested a review sample.
posted thursday 9 december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if you ever have the opportunity to take a tour of jura distillery, when the tour guide eventually introduces you to the washbacks, you will notice, partly because the room is compact and bijou, partly because the washbacks all but fill that minimal space, that they are constructed from stainless steel. this vastly alleviates the toil and trouble involved in cleaning wooden washbacks, but rather tautologically obviates the possibility of imparting any natural flavours to the maturing liquid. undertake a similar tour at either bowmore or bunnahabhain distilleries, stainless steel is conspicuous by its absence.
the tour guides at bowmore and bunnahabhain would have you believe that wood is the only way to produce the finest of amber nectar, but jura have at least the brutal honesty to point out that, to be honest, nobody really knows which way is better, if either. rather obviously, if a particular brand of single malt has been matured in wooden washbacks from time immemorial, they've no idea whether stainless would be an improvement. and vice versa those using steel. perhaps we could hold a conference to discuss at some time in the distant future?
based on absolutely nothing at all, i have oft given vent to my notion that a bicycle frame constructed from tubes and lugs is definitely the way to go. to be honest, it has far more to do with the aesthetic than the engineering, a subject about which i know embarrassingly little, yet rarely hold back when an opinion looks like it might just be sought. certainly, it is a lot simpler to compare when it comes to bicycles. i have in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed a frame made from steel tubes and lugs, tig welded steel, carbon tubes and lugs and carbon monocoque. before you ask, they're all good, some of them brilliantly so, but yet i persist in proselytising the benefits of joining carbon tube to carbon tube via a carbon lug.
why is that?
having shifted a part of their frame production to taiwan a few years ago, colnago effectively had to eschew the luxuries of tubes and lugs, and embrace the monocoque expertise contained in the factories of the chinese republic. the first of those was the clx, followed by the frst step in colnago's revolution the cx-1. this has culminated, presently, in the colnago m10, featuring highly sculptured carbon and a look that, in the flesh, belies its mundane look in the website photos. it's ostensibly aimed at the same market as the recently reviewed c59, but it's cheaper and it has no lugs. how good could it be?
posted wednesday 8 december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
e-mail spam is a serious problem for anyone whose e-mail address is prominently in the public domain, and as i ply the daily grind in the offices of a newspaper, the sheer amount of junk mail has reached horrendous proportions. the practised eye gradually garners the ability to pick out the relevant from the crap, but only last week an e-mail arrived purporting to recruit a mystery shopper for an assignation on islay. after a few exploratory replies, the veracity of their requirement was proven, but i felt it my duty to point out that the population of islay is only marginally above 3,000 and we all know each other, therefore the notion that someone might assume the mantle of mystery shopper was, at best, a little disingenuous. i do seem to remember at least one or two follow-up e-mails intent on disparaging my controversial assertion, but i am now on the look out for a person wearing a false nose, glasses and a moustache, hidden behind a long overcoat, pretending to purchase something with which they would not normally be associated.
there was a time when one could change into one's secret identity just prior to extricating the velocipede from the bike shed; with those three rear pockets, a peaked cap and helmet, surely cognition would be none to prevalent as i expertly negotiated the lack of village traffic and headed for the wide-open yonder. of course, the likelihood of a secret identity on a bright orange colnago motoring at speed through a village of a thousand people is delusion of considerable magnitude, but there's no denying that seen on a bicycle, my apparel would not be confused with everyday wear. well, at least that would have been the case several years ago. now however, i have more jerseys with pockets at the back for day to day wear than not, and i'm happy for that to be the case.
i have, on more than one occasion, expressed a distinct preference for long-sleeves on my cycle jerseys; actually, long-sleeves on pretty much anything, come to that. having reviewed my attire for the last few weeks/months/years, i now realise that i wear cycle related tops pretty much everyday, and can't make up my mind whether that's a good thing, or merely demonstrates how narrow minded my outlook on life has become in the past few years. ever the optimist, i'd prefer to look upon this as a good thing, and the even gooder thing can be summarised by harth huffman of portland's wabi woolens.
"one other thing i do notice though, is that i am always in a hurry to get out of my wet footgear and change pants, but for some reason - unless it is completely soaked - i am never in a hurry to get out of my wabi jersey. it seems to warm with my body, keeping me comfortable and serving as a reminder of the weather and roads i just conquered. if that sounds cheesy, i apologise, but it is very, very real."
harth is the proprietor of wabi woolens, so you'd sort of expect him to say that, but on repeated wearing of my own wabi woolens jersey, i find that i can do little but concur. i'm sure if you own(ed) one too, you would be of similar mind. however, the original wabi jersey is of not insubstantial construction, and still the finest cycle jersey i own. if it has a downside, it's that its cosiness errs perhaps too much on the toasty side; not that much of a problem under current weather conditions in the uk, but rather exempting it from year-round wear, even when you'd rather be wearing merino.
despite his comfort and joy in extended wearing of the original jersey, mr huffman is aware of the perceived need for a smidgeon of flexibility in the upper apparel department, realisation of which has resulted in the long-awaited long-sleeve sport series wabi woolens merino jersey. again, it seems far more practical to have harth introduce his sport series (also available in short sleeve format).
"the sport series is a lighter weight interlock wool that is machine washable. the fit is athletic, which is to say a trimmer fit than the original wabi jersey, and aimed particularly at those wool lovers who like to keep the faith year-round."
the notion of being able to test any product in temperatures alluded to above seems like a very welcome opportunity at present, but given that it is currently several degrees below, and has been over the past week or so, meant that a long sleeve, sport series jersey not only received a decent workout around the principality, but was a major factor in retaining enough comfort and warmth for a couple of long test rides over this past weekend. now i won't delude you into thinking that my secret identity is rough and tough enough to undertake four hour plus, sub-zero bike rides clad in a lightweight merino jersey, long-sleeves or not. i was, for a substantial portion of the foregoing, sheltered within a softshell jacket.
another myth escapes into the ether.
however, this softshell regression was entirely deliberate, because there are always going to be times when a jersey of even fortitude and reputation are simply not enough. merino is not renowned for its windproofing properties, though i must admit that the original wabi jersey has given cause for second thoughts on that score.
the sport series jersey is luxury of a quality that comes along too few times in a lifetime. no matter harth's delight in remaining jerseyed after a ride, this is the jersey you wear for an hour or so before secrecy, simply because of a) how good it makes you look, and b) how fabulous a jersey it truly is. nothing that subsequently transpired over eight hours of cycling and probably around an hour in debbie's (over two days, i'll have you know) gave any cause to revise my initial thoughts. merino breathes, and it does so even while hidden under a fleecy softshell; swot and hetty are not table-mates over coffee, no matter the exertions of getting there. the sleeves are of commendable length, ending in ribbed cuffs which match the ribbed collar, a nice retro touch on a contemporary garment. the zip extends about half way down the jersey's front, allowing for flexibility of ventilation.
there are three substantial pockets at the rear arranged in the recognised pattern, augmented by a fourth, zipped pocket on the outside of the middle one. the tail under the pockets drops lower than the front to protect the rear mid-section from spray, assuming you have not fitted a set of roadracers. this is held in place by some of that gloopy stuff that holds things in position so well. the fit is, if i have the terminology correct, of race comport; the physique becomes positively whippet-like if the mirror does not tell tales.
so wabi woolens has now removed itself from the one-trick-pony status lovingly conferred. mistake me not, if you were allowed only one wish, the wabi original has head and shoulders to spare, but now it has a fight on its hands, leaving one wish for a colnago. mr huffman again;
"the sport series should appeal to performance oriented cyclists who are accustomed to the fit of lycra but may be interested in the benefits and luxury of merino wool. to honor my michigan roots by paraphrasing henry ford, they are available in any color you want, so long as it's black."
i described the original jersey as being the 'rolls royce of wool cycling jerseys, and the temptation is therefore to ascribe a more sports oriented vehicle to this particular variation, but i figure its coming of age makes comparisons unnecessary; this is the wabi woolens of wool cycling jerseys, eminently comfortable in its own skin.
wabi woolens sport series jerseys are available in sizes small to xxxl. the short sleeve retails at $145 (£92), and the long-sleeve at $160 (£102). both are made in the usa, and available direct from the wabi woolens website.
posted tuesday 7 december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
apart from the bah humbug portion of the season, where christmas starts earlier every year, and arrival at december 25th is even more of an anti-climax than it used to be, i really don't care for christmas too much at all. this has not too much to do with the lost meaning of christmas, though much like anyone, pangs of guilt last for a minute or two when watching a toy story dvd on christmas eve. what bothers me most about christmas is the increasing prevalence of contracting the principal word to that of xmas. because if disbelief is suspended long enough, that would make the expanded pronunciation 'cross-mas'. religiously speaking, that would be easter.
as a part of my daily grind involves the setting out of advertisements, often re-created from scribbles on the backs of envelopes, i tire greatly of this, something that offends my pedantic sensibilities. where at all possible, i ignore the scribbled instructions and substitute the full and correct spelling, meaning i can retire at the end of each day, as darkness falls, safe in the knowledge that i have done my bit for humanity and that by a small almost immeasurable margin, the world is a better place.
christmas has also this possibility, excluding but accepting the religious overtones, but only if the more traditional forms of present giving are adhered to. this is, in the current economic climate, sadly less likely than it used to be, for though we are all supposed to be observing a period of austerity, judging by the numbers trudging through snow and ice in suachiehall street on sunday past, austerity hasn't got a look in.
if it were possible, and perhaps it is, to classify the strata of annual present choosing and subsequent giving, this has to be the period of the gadget. nintendo wii, apple ipad and iphone, xbox with kinect, hd ready tvs with freeview; no doubt your world is filled with the same demoralising thoughts, and the credit card is being scared on a daily basis; oh for the days of train sets and scalextric.
however, the principal delight to wake up to on christmas morning was a rather ungainly wrapped present with a wheel sticking out each end; christmas was the ideal time to present your offspring with a bicycle, for the spending of such a large amount seemed easier to justify than at other times of the year. why christmas should be deigned a more appropriate occasion on which to present a bicycle than on an individual birthday, has always been somewhat of a mystery to me, but it seems that my parents, and subsequently mrs washingmachinepost and i have set our traditions by the same yardstick. and we are apparently not alone in this.
neither of my kids have any interest in bicycles, other than the knowledge that it keeps dad out the way for pleasantly lengthy periods of time at the weekends, and stuck behind a computer screen every evening, so there is no consternation over which flavour of carbon to wrap, but there are those who are deep in the throes of those can i have a bicycle for christmas please daddy?; or at least it would be nice to think that were the case. for the reasons outlined earlier, i fear that is decreasingly the case.
but the real bit that has me confused and a tad disappointed about the propensity for bike-giving at christmas is the fact that christmas is pretty darmed near the end of december. i can appreciate that this is stating the glaringly obvious, something for which i believe i have an unerring talent, but december 25th is not a day on which one would reach fro the ambre solaire, nor don a short sleeve jersey and bibshorts. it's often cold, even though flakes on the met office roof have often failed to materialise and upset the bookmakers. follow my train of logic for just a short distance, and a bicycle for christmas starts to seem a little out of place. of course, athletes such as those in the velo club have no truck with sub-zero temperatures and howling winds, so waking up to that new colnago would elicit the expected screams of joy in the far flung outposts of the mighty dave t's foot-soldiers (if you sort of see what i mean).
but what about the small people? gauging the size of velocipede for such small apprentice adults is an incredibly inexact science, more often led by price tag than by a comfortably athletic fit. thus a bicycle which fits sort of ok on december 25th is more often than not, going to be wildly out of scale when the weather warms up enough to allow for any extended period of pedalling. and that's why i think christmas is a daft time of year to buy someone (other than a grown adult) a bicycle.
thus, is it asking too much that we put our collective heads together and decide when the best time of year is to have christmas? because quite obviously december has had more than a fair chance to state its case for bike buying, and it's failing miserably.
mid-may's looking good to me.
meanwhile, take a look at this entirely gratuitous stop animation movie that bears every relevance to the foregoing. would i lie to you?
posted monday 6 december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................