i have just spent the lunchtime of my day after january 2nd watching a recorded broadcast (september 1st 2010) of a john mayer gig from red rocks, colorado. this instead of riding down to debbie's to meet up with jez hastings and inflict ourselves on debbie while inflicting upon ourselves the necessary and welcome coffee. why the change in plan? basically, cold and rain. i have faced the elements more than enough over the so-called festive period, and a little r&r in a warm sitting room didn't seem too much of a wimp out. and anyway, hastings pulled out first.
so, back to the john mayer gig; he's an artist i came across while spending itunes vouchers received for christmas. since mayer is a guitarist you can probably imagine that the spending was for more percussive reasons, and though i'm happy in this case not to bore you with those reasons, you're bang on the money. on the days when i like to think of myself as a musician, those anorak tendencies like to kick in, where finding out who plays what, where and when, along with all those arcane production credits seem of far more importance than they really ought to be. carrying out such departmental research brought me to this most recent of televised concerts lasting around two hours and, since i had such time available (due to the cancelled wet ride to bruichladdich), i sat and watched and listened.
those of you with more history in this area may well be wondering if john mayer is perhaps not just a tad too aor for someone historically more intent on impressing a feeble degree of jazz credentials, but anyone who includes a particularly fine rendition of jimi's 'voodoo chile' in his set, with a facility on the guitar that brings him pretty close to hendrix territory, deserves all the kudos he gets as far as i'm concerned. i've popped the url for the concert at the end of this article for those who may wish to explore further, but the real impetus for this article is not the guitar playing of john mayer nor, indeed, the drumming of steely dan stalwart, keith carlock; it's the roadies.
there is little doubt that one of the trappings of success in the world of rock 'n' roll is a ready and willing road-crew, eager to erect massive gantries with far too many lights hanging south of each beam, build a substantial wall of amplifiers separating themselves from the stars and watercarriers and attending to the main man's every whim. idiosyncratic though it may be, the feature of the concert that caught my eye more often than once was john mayer's need to change guitar for virtually every song. granted, in one or two instances, this was justified, as he swapped electric for acoustic and, on one occasion, for what looked like a ukelele. but on other occasions, the change seemed to be more for change's sake, when a red stratocaster was exchanged for a black one with most of its paint missing.
at every turn, there between the drum riser and the impressive keyboard set-up, was a small chunky fellow with baseball cap, baggy shorts and shoulder blade length hair. he would hand mayer the next instalment with one hand, while receiving the outgoing with the other, striding purposely forward to the substantial array of pedals deftly arranged in front of two foldback monitors and standing on one of them. presumably john mayer doesn't even have to switch off his own effects units.
were it simply mayer who partook of such room service, i could cheerfully put it down to the trappings of stardom, but the two other guitarists and bass player seemed honour bound to follow in their leader's guitar straps, and do likewise. obscure observations to be sure, but a fine concert nonetheless.
the get down and get muddy brigade, always resurgent at this time of year, will be jumping up and down with their hands in the air, eager to point out the similarity with their own branch of cyclesport. one need only take a look at the sven nys entourage at any super prestige event to observe his own road-crew and phalanx of bicycles, ready to be handed up should there be a vague smir of dirt on any of his colnagos. it may be churlish of me to point out that, in this case, each of those colnagos is pretty much identical in specification and size; nys does not shange bicycle because he feels a different song coming on.
however, at a considerably more basic level than the upper reaches of cyclocross, one or two amongst us may well have the privilege of owning more than one bicycle. and if we have exerted any intellect in the manner of their choosing, they will not all be 14 x 5 snare drums. the recent bizarre hebridean weather, coupled with my feeling honour bound to undertake rapha's festive 500, specifically demanded two differing velocipedes for differing situations. the first 250km were essentially snowbound; not particularly renowned for my bike handling skills, i entrusted my safety to an ibis cyclocross bicycle. as it turns out, a good choice. when the snow melted and rain and wind filled the void, the cielo seemed particularly better suited to the conditions and what's left of the roads. another good choice. the biggest difference between john mayer and myself, or indeed me and sven nys, is that i had no-one to hand me up the appropriate choice. mrs washingmachinepost was on holiday from road crew duties for the season.
(at least i think that's what she said).
such versatility did not stop at the mechanical level. the changes in weather, temperature and ambience demanded a similar degree of versatility in one's attire: snow needs an original wabi woolens jersey, while encroaching mildness brought on the necessity for a change to their thinner sport series merino jersey. but you'd sort of expect that anyway, and such translation could easily be applied to equally meritorius brands.
but what of one's buff?
agreed, not the sort of question one is asked every day, but one logically applicable at this time, and most certainly to the undertaking in question. buffs are remarkably chameleon like garments, evidence of which exists on their website and on the cd thoughtfully included with the two that got me through my festive 500. an insidious and invasive cold needs to be kept at bay, and something fleecy would seem the ideal weapon with which to repel. the lightweight bulk of a reversible polar buff is liable to strangle the wearer (me) if worn under a tight fitting softshell collar, but there's nothing that says it has to be worn on the inside. in fact, if worn on the outside, its considerable length allows the buff to be pulled up over a very cold chin. at times.
but then the weather changes, and that chin is no longer as chilly as it once was. but, taking all into consideration, mildness notwithstanding, it was still too cold for a naked neck, no matter the proximity of that paul smith collar. and we all know how truly excellent merino can be in such circumstances. therefore, the polar buff was discarded to the care of a forty degree wash, and my roadie handed me up a brown merino buff. a seamless transition.
now to rehearse for that world tour.
the polar buff is available in a variety of flavours and colours, all available via the buff website from around £23. the soft and woolly merino buff can be owned from the same source and costs £22.
posted monday 3rd january 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
this time last year, i had a well designed box sitting in the bikeshed all the way from portland. the iniquities of the fedex hub in glasgow deemed it necessary that this box had been for a wander round most of scotland before being popped on a truck headed for islay. bizarrely, this meant that it took longer to travel from glasgow to islay than it did from portland to glasgow. highlands and islands apparently automatically infers inverness.
i should qualify the notion that the box was well-designed, given that a box is a box is a box. the well designed bit was on the inside, having cossetted a chris king cielo frame, forks and r45 wheels with a few cardboard tubes and a mere smattering of bubble wrap. at the time, sending from nw nela street to washingmachinepost cottage on the inner hebrides, was probably the ultimate test for such minimal packaging; this was exactly the method used to despatch the same to anyone in the world. now of course, cielos are more readily available across the world from local distributors. i cannot vouch, however, for the local method of despatch.
if you flick back through some of the preceding articles regarding this bicycle, you might notice that the package looked identical sitting in the chris king plant as it indeed did outside my back door. jay sycip's faith in his packaging design was well founded, trip to inverness included. there are a number of items and bicycles that remain in residence at the post for a commendable length of time, though not all are the subjects of what i'd like to refer to as a long term test, something i've always really looked forward to undertaking. so while it might appear that i'm just riding my bike, every one of those minutes i have been working; sometimes harder than others.
nope; mrs washingmachinepost didn't believe me either.
professional riders are given new bikes at the beginning of each season and, depending on the level of sponsorship, sometimes a replacement mid-way through. if it breaks, it gets replaced, and since it is a part of the contract, they ride what they're given, like it or not. we, on the other hand, have options, often constricted by available funds, but options nonetheless. in my case, the cielo wasn't necessarily an option, since chris king's offered to send it over for review, but who amongst us was going to say no? based on a few days riding a pre-production version in portland, most certainly not me.
all the necessary information has already been written, probably several times, and contained within the other chapters relating to this bicycle, but it is surely not unseemly to have a brief recap as to how bike and rider have interacted over the course of a year's pedalling together. there have obviously been times when the cielo has remained dormant for brief periods of time during 2010, if only to accommodate other bicycles sent for review. in this manner, it missed out on the ride of the falling rain, but that was partially compensated for by riding alongside graeme obree in june's ardbeg gourmet ride. other than that, however, the cielo and i have been the best of friends for week after week of more than pleasant cycling.
changes have been made; i think there are few amongst us who don't tweak and augment just because we can, even if there was nothing wrong with the bits that moved to the parts bin. i added a pair of full wood fenders from portland's river city bicycles, something that i had intended simply to use for the winter months before returning the cielo to its naked state for the summer months. however, so good did the bike look with these in place, that they have not been removed even once, but so far received a precautionary soaking in teak oil to keep them looking like furniture and protected from the elements.
latterly the brooks team pro saddle has been replaced with a zimbale leather saddle which, i must admit, suits the bicycle better on an aesthetic level. the saddle arrived along with a small, beautiful leather saddle bag, originally installed through the saddle loops, but now transferred to the handlebars. (the latter has temporarily replaced another small saddle bag that was a gift from a friend). not that it wasn't before, but the cielo is now the bees knees. original fitments in the gear department were supplied by sram rival, but sram were kind enough to send a red groupset for a comparison test, substantially upgrading the usability for a cack-handed rider.
the biggest change, and i don't mind admitting, the biggest wrench from the norm, was removing the chris king r45 wheelset in favour of a pair of handbuilts from strada wheels. don't get me wrong here; the strada set is quite beautiful, there just seemed something maniacal about separating a frame from its sibling components. however, in the grand scheme that is bike testing, the wheels will eventually move to another bicycle to evaluate their performance under different circumstances. all these changes have made incremental differences to the act of riding the cielo, in every case so far, positively so.
but the real nub of a long-term test is to assess how well, in this case, the chris king cielo has performed over the past twelve months, and how well it has withstood the rigours of rider, weather and an increasingly decrepit hebridean road system. the phrase with flying colours is one likely overused, but i can see little option but to use it once more. the headset and bottom bracket, both from the parent company, are as good now as they were a year ago; as yet absolutely no maintenance has been carried out on either component. our often vicious and unrelenting climate, though probably no drier than that of portland, has singularly failed to make any inroads on the fabric of the frame. the stainless steel dropouts still shine in the occasional sunlight, the cielo endcaps atop each seatstay are shiny enough to check for a froth moustache after a visit to debbie's, and as far as i can see, the paintwork is immaculate in every area; no scratches, no nicks and no flaking at all.
it's hard to be objective when the ride is under consideration; with so many other machines ridden through the year, a change of wheels and saddle, and memory not being what it was, but i would steadfastly maintain that the cielo rides better now than it did last new year. it is still as comfortable, as steady, as predictable and surefooted as it ever was; chris king and jay sycip knew exacly what they were doing when they designed this. if you've ever scanned or read those rapha continental articles and marvelled or coveted a bicycle such as ridden by cole, jeremy, carey et al, then this is perhaps the more available option. for what its worth, particularly as i own one of those rapha continental under-seat tool wraps (thank you slate), this has been my continental, go anywhere bike for 2010, and i look forward to it being the same again for 2011.
the cielo sportive and cyclocross frames can be ordered in the uk through evolution imports, and in the usa, direct from chris king in portland, from where it will be despatched in a nice cardboard box. price depends on spec. evolution imporrts have supplied the following bikeshops with test models. bromley bike co. 0208 460 4852. sideways cycles, 01270 883785
posted sunday 2nd january 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there's always an aftermath. no matter what it is you've done, whether good or bad, there's always an aftermath. in this case, 500 kilometres of islay roads at least half of which were ridden over the most amount of snow the island has had in over fifteen years. there's no way that can't make a mess of a bicycle, even if the ibis excelled in such conditions. no matter the type or make of bicycle, scutterings of snow all over the chain and drivetrain are going to leave some sort of legacy. in this case, most obviously, a brown/orange deposit on the chain.
i can't level this accusation purely at the weather, at least not directly; after the daily dose of kilometres had been undertaken, the notion for scrubbing every square (or round) centimetre of a bicycle was not uppermost in the mind. a late lunch seemed a far more pressing need at that point. as conditions became milder and damper, lashings of condensation in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed caused as much of the ferrous oxide, as did the snow and slush.
what i have always failed to understand, for i doubt the additional expense would ultimately harm the bottom line, is why bolts that will pointedly be exposed to the elements are not made from stainless steel. to my mind there is little more irritating than a clean, shiny bicycle with four rusty stem clamp bolts. since most are recessed to some degree, keeping them in pristine condition would necessitate removal and individual polishing. my obsessiveness does not extend to such.
i'm rather hoping that my reaction to the aftermath lies somewhere between lackadaisical and pernickety; i'd hate to be accused of being fanatical about cleaning, though i'm sure mrs washingmachinepost wishes i observed the same attention to detail about the house. jammed between the cielo and the ibis in the bikeshed is my plastic bucket of cleaning materials; various sprays and lotions to be applied successively via a range of sponges, cloths and dusters. i have seen the way professional team mechanics scrub each machine in their charge to within a centimetre of its life, and though it is highly unlikely that i will be followed by a camera motorbike, lenses concentrated on either of my sram cassettes, i'd like to inherit the same albedo as the pros.
purple harry has eased the anguish of trying to shine those teeth and the gaps between that have an almost magnetic propensity to collect thick gloopy stuff and hang on to it in sufficient quantity to affect gear-changing. the cielo got a new pair of strada handbuilt wheels as an early christmas present, and while i had the savvy to adjust the brake pads to cope with the extra rim width, i was less attentive to the sprockety bits. though not much changes from wheel to wheel, as the number of cogs has increased, tolerances have become less tolerable, and i did experience one or two minor shifting difficulties over the course of 250 kilometres. thus the obligatory cleaning ritual today observed was the ideal opportunity to footer with cable tension.
there was, of course, a secondary purpose to clamping successive bicycles in the workstand before giving them a good lathering. tomorrow is the first day of a new year, and while i have little truck with the overimbibing, handshaking and unseemly kissing that will follow later this evening, i cannot realistically take part in the new year's day ride on a bicycle that looks as if it has been thrashed across decrepit and dissolving roads, all the while drenched by salt sea air. so that's how those bolts got rusty. in much the same way that the rapha festive 500 will likely enter the annals of history and become a part of the rich tradition that is the world of road-cycling, perhaps instigating an overweening need to clean and polish the favoured velocipedes that have given such stalwart service throughout the year wouldn't be such a bad idea.
depending on where you are, new year will either reach you a bit before it reaches me, or perhaps several hours later. if the latter, there may just still be time to grab a sponge and some warm soapy water and start the way that you mean to continue. with music-making this eve, more tomorrow afternoon and hopefully some 2011 cycling in between, it is doubtful that i will have the time or constitution to pen my first words of the new year until sunday. in which case, might i wish you all a happy and prosperous new year, and maybe, just maybe, there's the possibility we might meet somewhere before we go through this ritual again next december.
i'll deal with the aftermath on sunday.
posted friday 31 december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the radio alarm comes on at 6am; at least i'm assuming that to be the case as it's almost 8am when the today programme faintly enters into what passes for consciousness. discomfort there is none, or at least remarkably little, and we're looking at another fifteen minutes or more before the notion of getting out of bed has started to form a part of the day's curriculum. by this time, the radio is discussing the lack of water in northern ireland from burst pipes, and as mrs washingmachinepost has a look at the outdoors through curtains on her way to the shower, i'm listening for any signs of rain or wind or both.
it's still dark outside, or at least darker than would be found welcoming to encourage arising and putting on shorts, baselayer, tights, jersey and winter hat for the eighth time. it's the porage that does it though; no disrespect to mr kellogg, but that plate of rice krispies on power-cut morning didn't quite cut the mustard (or whatever the complementary breakfast phrase would be). porage and grapefruit juice.
ah, what times we had; we laughed, we strived, we pained, we suffered and we cried (actually we didn't do the last of those, but why spoil a perfectly good melodramatic entry?). inches of snow brought out the best in the ibis cyclocross bike, while the cielo with its flashing lights and strada wheels faced a festive islay headwind and several gallons of precipitation. notionally there had been the perfect route allowing for any discrepancies in my addition. but snow, a modicum of flooding at ingress to the glen road, and the very thought of climbing to storakaig in the pouring rain and wind meant several variations on a theme. it is necessary to thank the folks at perren street, for had ultan not designed that crankset snowflake, we would have been left to our own floundering devices, entirely ignorant of each others' trials and tribulations. it has been fun in a way that none of my office colleagues will ever understand.
however, in similar manner to my megastar reputation as a drummer of no little repute (in fact, of very little repute), before delusions of grandeur infiltrate those last few kilometres leading to the approbation of one's peers, are we now all ready for the big time? has the physique, diet, athleticism and bike handling skills brought on a search for that elusive full-time contract? could we, to a man and woman, bring ourselves to rise each day a few moments past dawn, eschew the more regular attire of the proletariat for cleats and softshell before, to coin a well worn phrase 'getting the miles in'? to quote from brian robinson in the current issue of rouleur "there was a job to be done, and i just had to get on with it..."
let's face it, there was no real job to be done, even if categorising it as such made the daily travail just that bit easier. this is the life of the professional, casting aside the so-called joys of christmas day for a calculated proportion of the festive kilometres, already on the slippery slope after the previous two days' commitment; the ignominy of calling it quits after a healthy start. snow, slush, ice, frostbite and hypothermia only added to the frisson, safe in the knowledge that the 500 was an officially sanctioned event (it was, wasn't it?) that would way-lay any domestic objections.
there can be few amongst us who have not, at some deluded point or other, figured that the continental life of a cycling pro would not fit us as well as a merino baselayer. the almost god-given right to ignore the routines of everyday life and supplant with the routines of becoming a fitter and faster advertising hoarding are not often decried by the knowingly righteous. it takes a special kind of athlete to devote hour upon hour, day upon day to traversing the same roads in the secure hope that each successive day would count for incrementally less on the clock. i need hardly remind you that the weather is no excuse, as indeed it has not been for many of us over the last eight days; only the comfort of a steadily increasing bank balance might ameliorate several weeks of continual soaking.
i will, however, in contradiction to the foregoing, miss the routine. with two mucky velocipedes in the bikeshed, new year's eve will be bereft of pedalling as the andystand earns its keep, while scrubbing, polishing and lubricating restores the real heroes of the hour to their pre-chrstmas glory. it is no substitute for the expectant joy of trundling along the low road into the teeth of a headwind, all the while looking to the high road tailwind that will satisfactorily dilute the experience. to struggle up the eight percent climb to storakaig, despairing that 53/39 is no true antidote to gravity with a pair of weakened legs like mine.
just the same as putting something away for a rainy day, the first three rainy days of this week increased the number of kilometres in the bank above and beyond the call of duty. thus at the dawn of this very thursday, a mere 35 were required to clinch a podium spot, yet on more than one occasion i seriously considered a deviation of route that would have set me up for a festive 600. sometimes enthusiasm just has to be curbed.
i cannot, of course, lay claim to flying entirely solo; though the distance was covered pretty much in solitary confinement, my road crew cannot remian unsung. mrs washingmachinepost, despite the domestic and culinary chores that arrive with every festive season, took care of all uncomplainingly, even when the kitchen table was rife with discarded helmet, rudy projects, half-full bikefood water bottles and snotty gloves. the secondary routine was that of falling asleep in front of the telly each evening, yet not once did a flouncy cushion invade my extra-curricular slumber. and though not sited at the end of the day's exertions, debbie was always just un-crabbit enough to smilingly provide a large soya cappuccino that, on more than one occasion, overflowed into a waiting, and almost expectant saucer.
the recuperative powers of froth.
so thank you rapha, for giving freely of your festive imposition on our time, for undermining the lifelong tradition of over-eating, sleeping late and watching utter nonsense on the television, and many congratulations to all who participated, even if the magic 500 is, for some of you, a story for another day.
posted thursday 30 december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
is it not something questionable, and worthy of our further investigation, that the amount of news that occurs in the world each day, is just sufficient to fill a newspaper? the fly in the ointment would be the obvious variation in the content of say, the guardian and the daily record, suggesting that each has its own agenda as to what constitutes news, and whether it will be printed in their respective pages. i'd love to know whether there's another complete newspaper altogether sitting in an office each evening, comprising all the stories that were left out. or do each of the above, and their brethren, simply not acknowledge the news that suits them not to acknowledge?
a philosophical impasse.
it may seem a strange concept with which to commence a review of cycle clothing from the darlings at wiggle, but the corollary has to be the availability of apparel conducive to the riding of the season. basically, how come when we want to be clothed in cosy warmth, is that those are the very items on offer? oh, they'll tell you it's marketing and seasonal, but i happen to know that the design of such cycle clothing, and for any other active sport for all i know, is designed, tested and critiqued when short sleeves are the order of the day, and the windows are left open to the sunny world outside.
it's a tospy turvy world as a cycle clothing designer, and no mistake.
it is incumbent upon me to continue to labour the point about islay being remarkably snow free, while the rest of the uk suffered under mounds of the white powdery stuff. i have consoled myself that the monthlies, just as we enter the new year, will have fewer pages than is their custom, since i figure i was likely the only one able to continue reviewing unabated. it was cold though, so don't think that everything was plain sailing; i still had to suffer (just a little bit) for my art.
there's a degree of decorum to be observed in cold weather, one that should stretch from head to toe, and one that i prefer to be garnered from a single source. this isn't always possible or practical, but in the case of dhb, the only item i can think of that is missing from their extensive range, is a casquette bearing the corporate logo; not a great miss at this time of year to be sure. from inside to out, an aerofit baselayer ostensibly manufactured from a coffee bean viscose, alloyed to regular polyester.
coffee bean viscose?
baselayers sit next to the skin (tell us something we don't know) and as a result, have a marked tendency to get swot and hetty; polyester, as a fabric, manages that reasonably well, particularly with the soft fleece lining on the aerofit s'cafe version. however, due to the nature of polyester fibres, the bacteria that make us smelly and therefore unattractive to our better halves post-ride, have places to meet with each other and do the sort of things that bacteria do. by adding the coffee viscose, the hope is that the odouresness will be negated.
i consider myself something of a baselayer consultant, if only because i'd like to be a consultant of some kind, well practiced in the art of finding out how long one can be worn before people start to cross the street. the current mode d'emploi is to wear the baselayer under consideration to work for a week before heading into the hinterlands at the weekend on the cielo. sometimes they never make it as far as the bike before being thrown in the wash, but at least it's a standardised test of sorts.
in the case of the aerofit, it lives up to its name, being very close fitting; lumps and bumps in that physique you most certainly do not want; they will be on show. the aerofit made it from monday to saturday, but i could see myself being excommunicated from the peloton come sunday, so it went to meet its washing powder. however, it did prove itself worthy, managing to remain dry even when wet, if you follow my drift. the long-sleeves (there's that predilection again) are easily long enough; and it kept me warm.
the warmth was partially kept in place by the substantial upper construction of dhb's super-roubaix winter tights. these, i must confide, are something of a revelation, being a remarkably good fit, well-built (unlike their occupant), and lined with what wiggle describe as "the daddy of winter brushed fabrics". they're not wrong. the red pad to sit the bum cheeks in/on is another from cytech, and while remarkably pliant and comfortable, a smidgeon more padding would not have gone amiss from my point of view.
this isn't a serious criticism, for i will admit that i have little but bone in that department, and i was resting upon a thinly padded race saddle at the time. as the saying goes your mileage may vary. there's a substantial if short zip up the front, easing those calls of nature, and a back that reaches all the way to the collar, giving the baselayer a harder time than usual. more brownie points for s'cafe.
the legs of the bib tights feature a windproof fabric that proved very effective; windproofing is another thing that i could be a consultant on. in similar form to their threequarter brethren, the seams are slightly chunkier than would should really be displayed in polite company. fortunately, the velo club consists of little of that. cleverly, the lower calves have sensible length zips to aid getting them on and off, coupled with footloops to keep them in place once rouleuring and grimpeuring commences.
to top out my winter collection, i encased my upper physique in the aggressively named dhb windslam softshell jacket. i am a great fan of softshell, and spend many a minute trying to figure out what we wore before softshell was discovered in mines in north america (i made that bit up). rather than provide scarily naked softshell bereft of lining, the windslam has lovely fleece, increasing the sense of cosiness provided by the entire ensemble. the sensibly lengthed sleeves have velcro straps to vary air ingress or outgress (is there such a word?) if that cosiness proves too great or verging on the inadequate.
pocketwise, the windslam is well featured, with two side pockets pointing backwards (internally); when stuffed with a clif bar in one and a digital lumix in the other, there was nothing to impede superior souplesse on the sram chainset. for larger, chunkier and perchance, heavier items, there is a single large pocket across the back, zippered along the top, and sheltered from water ingress by a flap over that zip. i carried two spare wheels in mine (well, not really, but i probably could have).
sadly, as seen on some competitors' softshells, there are no zippered vents under the arms, something that would have been most welcome in the combination tested, even allowing for the sub-zero temperatures all day. similarl to the dhb southsea waterproof jacket tested around a year ago, i found the collar slightly too high and definitely too wide. i recall pointing this out regarding the southsea, and it's a bit of a disappointment to find that a year later, nothing much has changed. considering roadies have a distinct tendency to lean forward into the wind, it seems a shame to emulate a high bypass turbine and scoop in more cold air than seems strictly necessary. additionally, the collar is higher at the rear; is it not more logical to dip at the point where the head leans back?
in mitigation, the softshell material accommodates both of these misdemeanours with aplomb, and while riding, the effects are minimised to the best of its ability. however, it would be a boon to society if the 2012 version featured a slightly lower and tighter collar. and at the risk of adding insult to injury, how difficult would it have been to pop a tab in that collar allowing the jacket to be hung on a peg when slouching on the sofa at debbie's? a minor detail, but you know what they say about details.
despite all the foregoing, i rather liked this jacket, and while it's not necessarily a way of letting it off the hook (pardon the pun), much can be forgiven for such a favourable price point. overall, the quality is somewhat impressive, and layering these three items, with the addition of a jersey makes for ideal winter fare.
the aerofit s'cafe baselayer retails at a meagre £30 in sizes from small to xxl. dhb pace super roubaix padded bib tights (these are also available pad free) cost a highly favourable £79 in sizes from extra small to xxl, and the dhb windslam softshell jacket is priced at £70.
posted wednesday 29 december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on the run up to christmas, undoubtedly the biggest anti-climax there is apart from new year, i was asked to paint the scenery for the local primary school's christmas panto. given my somewhat limited spare time these days, this onerous task was lightened by the need to merely create a series of outlines that could then be coloured in by the kids during the run of a normal school day (you'll be happy to learn that they made a good job of it). i make no artistic claims regarding my depiction of a winter wonderland that encompassed a large slide with feet, several pine trees, a few stars and a fireplace topped with candles and the ubiquitous three ducks on the wall above. ostensibly an art school training put to mediocre use.
as i was about to put brush to hardboard for a third panel, i noticed a child's painting lying on the bench against which the completed scenery was being rested. i know not the age of the progenitor of this rudimentary artwork, but without being too immodest, it verily put my own efforts to shame. children's art, specifically that of the earlier years of primary education is, in my opinion, the very pinnacle of picture making; marks made without pretension before such natural ability is all but squeezed out by well-meaning parents and over-zealous art teachers. by the time any of them makes it to art college, they'll have lost any spark they originally had, supplanted by a facile technique that operates independently of the need or desire to make art.
the renowned british artist, augustus john, is reputed, in later life, to have realised that his sister was in fact the better of the the two siblings with regard to artistic ability. rumour has it that in order to remove his hard-won skill, he resorted to taping charcoal to his elbow and creating his pictures thus. i confess that, on leaving art college, i attempted to achieve similar by drawing with my left hand. the act of carrying institutionalised art education to its limits bears an uncanny resemblance to that of socialisation; stuff happens because that's the way it's supposed to happen.
realisation of the above is not, i confess, simply the result of my own ruminations on the subject, but a conclusion reached through exposure to others with greater perspicacity than my own. people i met during my early years on the island and the artists they pointed me towards, pretty much headed up by the teachings of david bomberg. masters such as leon kossoff, frank auerbach, and ultimately, roy oxlade. the latter has commensurately achieved almost a total reversion to a series of markings similar to that painting resting on the primary school bench.
and i am now beginning to see a pattern here, a pattern that has also invaded aspects of my other artistic endeavour, that of drumming. again, the rascal is that of education, though this time self-imposed; i have had, that i can recall, only one formal drum lesson in my thirtysomething years of playing. in similar manner to those who learn piano or other chromatic instrument, drumming has its scales, differentially known as rudiments. these are the building blocks required to scrabble round a drum kit in a semblance of order, but rather specifically to those of a percussive persuasion, the rudiments quite often take the place of musical expression; rather than being a means to an end, they quickly become an end in themselves. if involved in the fields of orchestral percussion or perhaps pipe band (where rudiments are god), this may be no bad thing, however, it can be a serious barrier to effective drumset playing.
i have spent enough of my years sitting behind wood and metal to realise that pretty much nobody comes to the gig to listen to or watch the drummer. there are exceptions (usually other drummers), but generally this hypothesis holds true, whatever the idiom being expounded. singers; yes. guitarists; yes. pianists and keyboard players; quite possibly. drummers and bass players do their best by ensuring the first three are accompanied to the best of their ability. if the drummer keeps the beat and allows the fills to elude him/her, no-one is likely to complain. masters of this are steve jordan, jim keltner, and when the music demands, billy ward.
all well and good no doubt, but what on earth is the relevance to cycling? i will admit it's somewhat of a lateral shift, but if i can effect a suitable translation here, larry and bertie are the billy cobham and boticelli of the pro cycling ranks; flair, skill, arrogance and facility always on display, often for three weeks at a time. sadly, such as you and i take gentlemen such as they, to be our role models, wishing often to emulate not only their methods of victory but, cajoled by their respective cycle sponsors, that a trek madone or specialized tarmac (pertaining to the personalities under consideration) can do for us as it has for both. this often leads to a similar discontent with our own meagre abilities as can be imposed by drummers such as terry bozzio and neil peart, or those well-meaning art teachers and expectant parents.
the daily festive 500 exhortations give one plenty of time to consider the substantial gap in cycling ability between yours truly and the truly skilled. grunting up an eight percent into a headwind and prevailing mist is hardly the stuff of which legends are made, but it was, in a strange sort of way, a joyful exertion, and one which i am in no great hurry to educate to the level of unconscious facility.
if i may be permitted to quote from the writings of roy oxlade; "those valuable insights which occur in odd scraps of drawing, diagrams, graffiti, apologetic graphic stumblings, done from time to time by people who insist that they can't draw, will sadly be dismissed by the world at large, as worthless. at the same time, large numbers of amateur artists strive vainly to gain proficiency in a kind of drawing which can end only in banality, sublimely unaware that the jaded modern artist has frequently found inspiration in drawings from primitive societies as well as those by children, where innocence of conventional skills has allowed a freedom of expression all too often denied to the professional artist by his very training. what an irony. if, as i believe is the case, drawings by untrained people are more likely to offer fresh insights and idiosyncratic vitality than drawings by professional artists, then there are many difficulties to overcome, not least the fact that the untrained have no value for what they themselves can do. they, god help us, want to draw like leonardo.
simplicity is not stupidity.
posted tuesday 28th december 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................