how many cappuccinos could be classed as one too many? bear in mind we are considering this from the point of view of the honed athlete aboard his/her velocipede, and not necessarily at the end of a hard ride. if any of you read all the way through the transcript of the paul kimmage/phloyd landis interview, you may recall the part where phloyd admits hanging out in a cafe with dave z and downing an alleged total of 13 cappuccinos rather than go out training with his usp team-mates in bad weather. the most i've ever managed to consume in one sitting is three, and one of those was because debbie thought my second was not to her exacting standards, and i supped it not to disappoint her. the landis situation is perhaps understandable; apart from the fact that phloyd is a bit bigger than me, and i've never been to a cafe with dave zabriskie, it is evident that he had no intention of riding a bicycle afterwards. though in point of fact, i doubt, in this case, that would have been physically possible.
debbie's cafe is in bruichladdich and only on the way to somewhere if you're heading to port charlotte or considering a visit to the mighty dave t's summer house (next to the standing stones of port wemyss). if your abode is in bowmore (hub of the universe), while i mean no disrespect, 'tis but a welcome stopping point on a trajectory with a purpose. for the geographically challenged, that's 18km under consideration before the warmth and comfort of washingmachinepost cottage can be experienced. and several of those kilometres are along the exposed stretch of uiskentuie strand; just as likely to provide a head or crosswind as it is to encourage the intrepid. three soya cappuccinos, allied to my constitution, provided an all but insurmountable hurdle to the return of the jedi; four would have left me asking about the possibility of bed and breakfast behind the coffee machine.
if we can extrapolate in an unlikely direction at this point, perhaps those who have the strength and vigour to down a selection of cappuccinos that stretches into the low teens, are built of sterner stuff than your average member of the pelotonese. it may be that the conditioning appropriate to the competitively inclined, specifically those in the cycling realm, allows for the ingestion of food and liquids that would leave most of us standing (or sitting with our feet up in the coffee shop, if truth be told). i'm sure we have all seen the archetypal photographs in the monthlies, come july, that graphically indicate the quantities of victuals required to maintain that slender frame and calorific consumption associated with even the lowliest of tour riders. compared to that, a dozen or so cappuccinos is likely considered small beer.
the abilities conferred upon the hardy are oft times to be marvelled at. even the mighty dave t, conditioned through years of working out of doors, is often to be seen wearing regular cycling mitts even during the lowest of temperatures. and while i convince myself of a long lost belgian heritage concealed under the ear flaps of my merino winter cap, the mighty dave is content with a regular cotton casquette. brian smith, a man i believed doth protest too much, gives much credence to the scottishness of grasping the bars with unclothed hands; in his case, it is all too true. however, with my poor circulation (at least in the right hand), i place great comfort in long-sleeves and long-fingers, particularly in the hebridean temperatures currently in force.
but temptation operates in the manner of edgar allan poe's tell tale heart; even though the red gloves were ensconced in the rainjacket's rear pocket, the temptation was always there. did i really need to be wearing the corio gloves? were they not overkill under the circumstances? had the temperature not risen sufficiently that mitts would be more equivocal than gloves, even though this would be to give semantics its day? the gara rosso simply did not give up, and after only one cappuccino and the cool, calm and collected length of uiskentuie to contend with, those red mitts were grasping the brooks covered bars on the cielo, and we were making our minds up as to whether those were cold fingers or not.pride, as is often proposed, bears no pain, and though none were about to see, pride is the deciding factor. the leather could not be softer (or more red) or more like silk if fortune smiled more forcefully upon it. the fingers are commendably longer than most, the padding minimal but indeed all that could be asked for, and the fit like a second skin. rosso is good; for while pride is resisting that pain and suffering, the colour is tying us with the speed and grace of a ferrari; of dubious benefit to maranello, but you can see the personal affiliation to be gained. perhaps a popper fastening across the back of the wrist would have been more in keeping with the tradition of a leather mitt, but it cannot be denied that velcro (or hook and loop fastening, as they'd say on blue peter) is a pragmatic nod to the contemporary, and a more easily applied method of fastening.
i will readily concede that for all apart from the stalwart from port wemyss, the opportunity for the sunday ride to be regularly accompanied by bare fingers is several weeks in the distance. but on the cusp of each ride, those dromarti gara rosso will be pleading not to take no for an answer, and on each occasion, headspace will be party to the arguments of the meek. perhaps hardiness can be acquired sooner rather than later; that pride still bears no pain.
dromarti's gara rosso red leather cycling mitts are currently only available in a limited edition of 100 (well, ninety-eight if you exclude my pair and that in the possession of the photographer) at a slightly alarming, yet reassuringly expensive £95. these should soon be populating the dromarti website ready to welcome all-comers.
posted sunday 6th february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
polyethylene terephthalate; two words that you'll rarely find at the beginning of the first sentence on a cycling website; probably with good reason. it's the plastic substance more commony used to manufacture the plastic bottles in which you'd find coca cola. but after the second world war, drummer remo belli began experimenting with the substance as a replacement for the calfskin heads in regular duty on both drumsets and orchestral snares and tympani. if you've ever had the dubious good fortune to play, or more worryingly, tune, a drum with a natural skin playing surface, the whys and wherefores of searching for a more consistent membrane will not be a mystery.
calf or goatskin drumheads are subservient to the vagaries of heat and moisture, meaning that both tension and pitch are likely to change dramatically depending on the conditions under which they are played. plastic heads are less prone to change unless the temperature variation is extreme. i have, on occasion, left a set of drums overnight in a transit van in sub-zero temperatures, before subsequently placing them on stage prior to deafening the bass player without so much as a semitone of difference from casual tuning. for that reason alone, remo belli deserves the praise and adoration of contemporary drummers across the world.
in the mid seventies, the remo drum company produced a series of drumheads in either white or transparent media with a black dot stuck in the centre. the range was known as remo cs; many of us interpreted the latter acronym as centre spot, but the official translation was controlled sound. i fitted a set of those to my drumset of the day, but i confess only because it was the seemly thing to do; i hated the sound.
on the back cover of rouleur issue twenty-two, a drummer dressed in bolivian army fatigues stands alongside his brass playing compadres, his drum a shallow steel snare drum hanging from a white strap across the right shoulder. it is fitted with a clear remo cs head.
this forms a graphic clue to the incorporation of an article by mike chick about the vuelta a bolivia in the very latest to arrive from rouleur magazine. even after twenty-two issues of what is likely the finest publication in the world of cycling, the anticipation and joy of finding it lying on the welcome to mmp childcare coconut mat below the letterbox has not withered one iota. that sense of anticipation even incorporates the intoxicating aroma of printed paper wafting from the grey plastic envelope feverishly ripped open and cast uncaringly aside. for those wihout soul, or a copy of rouleur, the experience is akin to that of opening a fresh packet of coffee; different aroma, similar elation.
the phrase 'it's cycling jim, but not as we know it' may have been all too often borrowed from the mr spock who never actually uttered those words, but rouleur is such a refreshing change from the regular monthlies. this is not to do them a disservice, for their contribution to obsessive behaviour is a welcome distraction, but they are stuck on the lower steps of the podium. and i know i have pledged a similar platitude on previous occasions, but one really has to wonder at what elevated point the content will plateau, for number twenty-two has all but outdone itself.
the continuing saga of the seemingly hapless jan hirt is again visited by the excellent pairing of writer herbie sykes and photographer ben ingham, editor guy andrews pays a visit to dt swiss, deputy editor, ian cleverly, visits european cyclocross in flanders, and johnny green has a word with bradley wiggins. but if rouleur made its name through devilishly dramatic and enviable photography, it now ploughs the cutting edge of illustration too. world class illustrator richard mitchelson has turned his graphic attentions to marco pantani, and it is a delight to see the growth of his vision and caricature applied to il pirata.
but rouleur's paean to graphic excellence does not rest there.
in the mid-nineties, graphic art in the uk burst out of its straightjacket and presented us with the likes of tomato, why not associates, and sunbather (to name but a few). their work was often to be seen in the pages of macuser, and the represented work scared the bejesus out of those of us who thought we had it nailed. but here we are in the early part of 2011, and the bar goes up another couple of notches: aside from featuring rich mitch, we have the basic time-trial papers, illustrated (a word that barely does justice to the pages) by perpetri. it's a part of the cycling emporium that has not historically covered itself in glory by way of intriguing narrative, however, reach the end of perpetri's ten pages on the subject, and never again will the contre la montre be a stage of the tour cast in the role of the mundane.
i well know that many of you are already on the subscribers' list for this esteemed publication, but maybe, just maybe there are a few who have yet to experience the smell of printer's ink, writing that more than does justice to our adopted sport, and world class photography plus illustration captured within 142 pages.
worth ten pounds of anyone's money.
rouleur magazine can be purchased direct from rouleur.cc and a large number of select locations across the world.
posted saturday 5th february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
make your stops short and infrequent, so as not to lose your drive.
eat lightly and often. eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty.
never ride until you are so tired that you cannot eat or sleep.
put on extra clothing before you're cold, and take it off before you're hot. don't be afraid of exposing your skin to the sun, air and rain.
don't drink wine, eat meat, or smoke, or at any rate while in the saddle.
never rush things. ride within yourself, particularly during the first few hours of a ride when you feel strong and are tempted to force the pace.
never pedal out of vanity.
velocio (inventor of the dérailleur in the 1890s)
eccentric is good in my opinion; there's far too many instances of following the crowd as far as i can see, something that seems to inculcate itself at school age, often before secondary education has even been contemplated let alone achieved. and though this lessens to some degree should further education be reached, for those continuing on to the workplace after school's finished, the social and peer pressure to conform is irrepressively greater than any inner desire for individualism. though we as cyclists tend towards individuality, seen from the outside, we must appear like a large bunch of conformists to our own greater agenda. i have been reading an essay by iain sinclair entitled the raging peloton, an essay which appeared first in the london review of books, but before you class me as an unbearable snob with intellectual pretensions, be aware that i was alerted to this piece by a correspondent who pointed me to a recent, relevant radio broadcast from the thinking allowed series.
in this essay, which is not entirely devoted to the joys of cycling; in fact, if truth be told, it seems keener on persecution and demeaning of the lifestyle than it is a celebration. i shan't bore you with the vagaries of mr sinclair's diatribe, but suffice to say that he has exercised an apparent skill in the art of derogatory pigeon-holing, and separated at least the cycling fraternity of the country's capital city, into three distinct groups: the peloton, the posse and the pod. i don't intend to discuss further these arbitrary classifications; you need only pop over to the lrb website (address below) to read for yourselves, if indeed you wish to see yourselves as others see you.
on islay, i daresay i am viewed in certain quarters as one with eccentric tendencies, particularly when aboard that lime green ibis, clad in lime green endura. even the purple rapha/paul smith jacket has given cause for civilian comment. but in this case, i am a big fish in a very small pond; a pond of not ever more than three at this time of year. i have no idea if there is a collective noun for a group of eccentrics, but for the time being let's just call them velo club d'ardbeg.
however, abiding by the law of diminishing returns, within each group of self-recognised individuals, there is usualy at least one who stands on a bigger individual platform. those are the true eccentrics. depending on your point of view and social sensibilities, eccentricity can be seen as either a good thing or a bad thing; i'd certainly opt for the former. the world needs, in my opinion, more eccentrics, and in order to better identify those of whom i speak, i'd nominate graeme obree and quite possibly richard sachs. believe me, in my little world, i'd be hard-pushed to offer a better compliment to either gentleman.
both are, to a greater or lesser degree, in the public eye, but there are those who express their worldy views and actions from a less obvious platform, and simon lamb, progenitor of la gazzetta della bici fits the bill perfectly, though this might not be so readily apparent from a simple, cursory glance at la gazzetta. though i am content to update the post once per day, seven days a week, simon seems to have not only the time, but the perennial urge to update several times per day, with wildly differing subjects, all connected with an obsession with the bicycle and cycling that we'd like to call our own. a quick swatch at the home page as i write, details an audience with helen wyman and ian field at look mum no hands, a photo of snow on the monte zoncolan, a photo montage of 'the dream team' and a series of photos of eddy merckx with an unexpected array of people.
the kernel of the website, however, is a love of all things italian; or more specifically a love of all things italian connected with cycling. but unlike i and a plethora of other bloggers, simon has encompassed the tangible world alongside the virtual; product inventory is available, consisting of a range of massage oils formulated for pre and post ride application. (a review of the post-ride oil will follow at a sooner, but later date). mr lamb has not stopped there.
in the latter stages of 2010, la gazzetta della bici expanded into the world of the domestic peloton via the newly formed gruppo sportivo gazzetta, the link to which is signified by the silhouette of a raging bull. the gruppo refers to the italian for sporting group and membership is open to all, no matter your geographical location. that extends to well beyond the shores of the uk. it would be churlish to reiterate the details here, but you are more than welcome to slide over to the sportivo website by the end of this article. what prompted a closer look at the workings of both la gazzetta and the gruppo sportivo was the arrival in a pink postage bag, bearing a black and yellow address label, of a range of fridge magnets alerting all who enter for milk or muller rice to the glorified existence of simon's cycling world; la calma e la virtu dei forti.
eccentricity to be proud of.
as his friend and co-founder of g.s. gazzetta, paul sanders said; "simon is man passionate about all things cycling. he is always straight talking - a quality i personally admire - and isn't afraid to say the things many people think. he doesn't worry if his opinions are against the majority view because he enjoys a good debate over the issues surrounding cycling.
"he's a man who provokes a reaction from people, in the same way marmite provokes a reaction.
"together we have started g.s gazzetta with two other friends as an all-inclusive cycling club for those who don't want to get bogged down by the egos and elitism in our sport. simon has driven this project with the same enthusiasm and passion he applies to everything he does."
this love of cycling is not only an end in itself, but a means to an end. simon is bi-polar, a situation that rather obviously impinges on his day to day life. gruppo sportivo has the additional aim of financially benefitting the mental health charities mind and rethink via a portion of the membership costs. that, i might say, is anything but eccentric.
if you speak campagnolo, or would like to try, might i respectfully suggest adding la gazzetta della bici to the bookmarks bar at the top of your web browser. it may be the least eccentric thing you do this weekend.
posted thursday 3rd february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the bikeshed is as much a part of british heritage as fish and chips, chicken tikka masala and streets paved with gold; few members of the great british public in the middle of last century owned cars and thus needed a garage. a garden shed was a castle in the back garden which, if anything like thewashingmachinepost version, surrounds the bicycles, tools and odd components with garden rakes, spades and half empty tins of paint, not only of indeterminate colour, but matching none of the contemporary decor throughout the house. however, the bike shed's influence stretched a lot further than the personalised accoutrement of somewhere to store stuff, including bikes. many are the schools across the country which either have or had bikesheds, though the current vogue for giving the kids a lift to school has probably rendered redundant most of those remaining in existence.
of course, to define this traditional abode as a bike shed, it was requisite that it fulfilled a greater purpose than that of simple containment. to inhabit a temporal space of bikeness, fixing and repairing had to be part of the deal; thus inner tubes, the odd spare tyre, a tyre lever or two and maybe a track pump should be seen to be almost carelessly lying about the inner sanctum. that's what made an otherwise innocent shed into a bike shed, always assuming at least one bicycle was cossetted inside.
some people, however, take these things to extremes. i used to think that meant me, as there is a black and decker workbench against the back wall bearing a var wheel truing stand and an industrially capable vice that was once used to hold the ceramic tiles from the space shuttle (actually, i made that bit up, but it is a very big vice). all around are a wide range of tyres that no longer fit anything capable of human propulsion, and a shelf overladen with as many different sizes of inner tubes as it is seemly to offer to the islay public. and there's a lezyne floor drive track pump.
but i have been outdone by my mate dave.
dave seaman lives in aberdour, fife, scotland. he used to work in local and central government, latterly concerned with transport and cycling policy. however, no doubt even the hardest status quo fan gets fed up with headbanging after a length of time, and dave recently took the opportunity to cast his horizons wider, embarking on a new career as a bicycle mechanic, opening the alarmingly well-equipped and oversized dave's bike shed. intriguingly, the position of bicycle mechanic seems to hold greater cache than the equivalent motor mechanic. perhaps i just lead a sheltered life, but i haven't heard anyone refer to a bicycle maintenance technician as a grease monkey. sometimes status is everything.
as one who is geographically challenged, i have little social or topographical knowledge of dave's locale, so i was concerned that the very rural sounding aberdour would have a sparse number of cyclists. would he spend his days drinking coffee and re-arranging his cone spanners? however dave tells me "i'm sure that in the 25 mileish radius that takes in central and west fife, edinburgh and lothians, there are a lot of cyclists. my seven years of commuting from fife to central edinburgh witnessed a big growth in numbers; edinburgh cyclists modal split is reckoned to be 10% in some wards."
so, satisfied that dave's bike shed would have a financially secure future ahead, the big question that i was desperate to ask was "why leave the comparative security of a job in government (a little topical humour there) for the uncertaintly of the bicycle repair trade?"
""the current financial/economic situation presented the opportunity to take a severance package from the civil service and fulfill an ambition to be self-employed, and use a skill i've had since my dad showed me how to service hubs, bottom brackets, true a wheel etc. when i was about eight, bikes were transport in our family; i even remember working on rod brakes, westwood and westrick rims."
one of the delights of rurality is the difference of expectation, particularly on the part of bicycle owners, from those on carbon wonderstuff to the supermarket cheapy. this has obviated the need for a large shopfront with its concomitant large overheads. and then there's the getting out and about; dave is just as happy to bring tools and expertise to the recalcitrant velocipede as he is happy for the bicycle to be brought to the bike shed. but is there a need for repair, particularly when some of the bicycle shaped objects on sale today are cheaper to replace than to fix? could he be confusing perceived need with his own desire to become bicycle repair man?
there is, i believe, a need in this area for someone to repair bikes that is not a retail outlet and be able to charge prices commensurate with the low overheads i have with a home-based business. it's also easier to be honest with people and fit decent secondhand stuff. the economics of bike mechanics for sub £300 rrp on new bikes, is stacked against repair; one hour's labour at typically £28-35, and parts at retail prices mean that it's often cheaper to pass on a bike to a recycler and buy this year's model. witness the great success of the bike station in edinburgh and now perth."
i have been my own, and the island's, bicycle repair man for almost twenty years now, but based on the notion that not only am i obsessed with bicycles, but i have great interest in how they work and how to repair them when they go wrong. there are certain jobs i cannot undertake simply because the tools for doing so are uneconomic to own, particularly on the basis that they might be used, rather than the certainty they would be. i believe it is still possible in this day and age to step out the front door and declare to the world 'i am a bicycle mechanic', but surely safer and more professional to have had some training in the art to which one has nailed one's colours?
"i have the city and guilds bike maintenance qualification and the bike inn certificate of attainment. this goes beyond cytech one, two and three; hydraulics, wheelbuilding and frame geometry are not part of the cytech syllabus, but they are at the bike inn. propretor alf webb has a lifetime's experience in the cycle trade - he is 73 - his knowledge and enthusiasm towards his students is 110% and instruction is peppered with anecdotes and stories. for example; spokes araldited in place, seven-speed freewheels fitted on five-speed spaced axles, cantilever brake levers fitted to v braked bikes. it was an education in itself."
my own experience of setting-up the bike repair hub of the hebridean universe consisted of purchasing a few inner tubes and some brake and gear wires, and hoping no-one asked for something i didn't have. however, in these modern, technologically challenging times, this would be seen as merely a stopgap and particularly amateurish display of what truly was/is amateur hour in the bike shed. was the setting up of dave's bike shed a fiercely expensive undertaking?
"training, tools, marketing, initial stock purchase for about the same cost as a top end carbon eleven-speed road bike and a pair of assoss bib longs!"
i do admire someone who has the patience, the gumption and the temerity to live the dream, whatever that dream may be. to quote a particularly topical and well-worn cliche in the current economic climate, it's the minority who have the confidence to step into the unknown, particularly when peer and social pressure edges us all towards upward mobility. more the executive path than the practical workman/woman. even better is the desire to not only maintain the bicycle of your fellow man, but to give something back by way of advocacy for those who have yet to accept the way of the bicycle, or simply at the rudimentary end of the art, and care for the safe passage therof.
"i'm a sustrans ranger; the ncn 76 path is ten miles from my house. i've gained a set of skills from local and central government employment that means i know my way around policy administration, and in march of this year, i intend to become a qualified cycle trainer via cycling scotland training, setting the tone of my advocacy. i'm happy to leave the shouting to others.
as i say on my web site: 'for many adults returning to cycling after a few years away, the traffic conditions on local roads can be frightening and put you off using the bike. these feelings of roads being unsafe and drivers not taking care and paying attention towards cyclists can be easily dispelled once you gain confidence in road use and practical skills to use junctions and roundabouts, and be an aware and skilled bicycle user.'
"creating a public that wants to and is able to cycle, will bring round political attention and resources to the needs of cyclists. the time is now."
words that i'm sure most of us would echo, if only from the safety of our own bike sheds. as i said from the outset, dave seaman is a buddy of mine, and as such i wish him every success in this new venture, but not just for his own moral and financial well-being, but because he is but a small part of a bicycle movement that continues to grow, but far wider than just in aberdour, fife.
you can contact dave via his website, more especially if you live in the area and your bicycle has need of some tender loving care.
posted thursday 3rd february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on my last ride to paris, before even getting as far as dover, a fellow member of the pelotonese and i were unceremoniousy left to fend for ourselves, having been dropped on the outskirts of the town. in mitigation, the two of us were experiencing a complete lack of energy having chased a disappearing peloton almost all day; certainly since lunch stop.
allow me to explain.
having opted to ride in group three (of four), because i figured i had the speed and stamina (we've all fooled ourselves at sometime), i ended up stuck behind some dutch riders who were even slower than i, but who would not move out the way on narrow country lanes, to let those of us with a sense of ambition, to pass. by the time i made it through, the break had gone, and though i chased, everyone else was happy to sit behind and let me. there's only so much a middle-aged wuss can manage alone. therefore by the time dover was on the roadway signposts, the motorcycle outrider and technical support were too far behind the main bunch for safety's sake (apparently).
so they told us we couldn't go wrong, and rode off into the sunset.
you will doubtless recall my ineptitude and lack of direction attempting to join rapha for the hell of the north last april, so it will surprise no-one, least of all me, that finding the right route into dover was a climb of the tourmalet all of its own. thank heaven for the london-paris advance party with their bright yellow signs.
it's great to follow in the tyre-tracks of others, to see where they're going, to see how they deal with gradients, to see which gear it would be a good idea to have selected, and perhaps even more so, to converse with while trying desperately to regain the ability to breathe. this does not abrogate any notion of independence; we should gather the available information, carefully consider its import, and react accordingly, based on that finely honed sense of perspective gained over years of sitting at the back. (who told?). it was knowledge such as that described which led to my trundling disjointedly; knowing when to admit defeat.
the ride journal, only just into its fifth edition, and offering that wonderful smell of printed paper that no matter what apple says, you'll never get from an ipad, fulfils just exactly that purpose. there is such an enormous width and breadth of material, both written, photographic and illustrative. for no matter what your own joys, interests and love of bicycles, it's always informative and perhaps even educational to find out what others think or say. it's not necessary to experience a eureka moment while reading issue five's 168 beautfully printed pages (smell the ink again), but surely the purpose of reading so many widely differing points of view is to make sure that something is not missed.
i have ridden race oriented bicycles for years, because i believed that's what roadies did. but exposure to a number of wonderful people through writing thewashingmachinepost has altered my viewpoint considerably. i still own and ride a disturbingly fast colnago, but i have come to enjoy other equally enjoyable ways of experiencing life behind bars, and it's this possibility of cycling revelation that continues to make the ride journal an essential accessory for those inhabiting the world of bicycles.
issue five has words by friends graeme obree and velodramatic's michael robertson, a fine photographic essay on the almost doomed meadowbank stadium in edinburgh, some excellent photos from last year's tweed ride, words by sky's michael barry, a fine piece on l'eroica by editor philip diprose with accompanying photos from his brother, and some really marvellous photos of japanese framebuilding. there's a really neat piece about riding in the hebrides by richard barrett (which worryingly states 'anything above a force four means stay at home'. force four is only around 32kph; if i stayed at home in those wind speeds, the bikeshed would be locked and untouched around ten months of the year).
and, to incur a well worn cliche, much more.
but that's the other attraction of the journal; disagreement. much of the written word, including those you read before you, is opinion. sometimes informed, sometimes not. but the ability or opportunity to disagree in your own informed/uninformed way is just as likely to alter or confirm your viewpoint as is passive reading. that's what going along for the ride is ultimately all about. (one last pick; the description of shimano's di2 as wireless is plainly incorrect; otherwise why is everybody drilling their frames to accommodate the wires?)
the best seven pounds you'll spend till issue six arrives.
the ride journal issue five can be ordered online at the ride journal
posted wednesday 2nd february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"The Superbowl (all one word and capitalized no matter who you are) is for the championship of the world. Yes, the world. It's the holiest day of the sporting calendar in America. And the most important event in the world. Ever."
not my words, but those of a good friend of mine who lives across the water. i had been naive enough to ask if he watched the super bowl (note that my naivety extended to writing it as two separate words). i too watch the superbowl, though geo-restrictions and the need for sleep generally prevent any viewing of the playoffs or, indeed, any of the pre-ambles. i should probably make more effort.
when my son was but a babe in arms, and before the plethora of channels found on today's television, his late feed was perilously close to midnight. in a vain attempt to become a modern parent, i felt it unseemly and a trifle unfair to nip off to bed, when mrs washingmachinepost had to sit up till the wee small hours, so i elected to remain in company of mrs and child. all of interest on the television was channel four's coverage of american football, and i couldn't understand what the heck they were trying to do, and why they needed helmets and a big bucket of gatorade to do it. however, hours of constant exposure to the wiles of the game over a month of sundays produced a gradual dawning of the processes at work, and when that year's superbowl arrived, i was the one left alone in the sitting room while mrs and child were sound upstairs.
how does a ninety minute game last from 11pm until 3:30am?
however, despite my confirmed distaste for most sports, other than those involving two wheels and a chainset, i have succumbed to the dubious pleasure of staying awake until stupid o'clock once a year to watch the confusion on the ten yard line. on more than one occasion i have sadly had to lug my weary carcass upstairs at half-time, having been unable to keep eyes wide open, but at least the spirit was willing sometime around 11:30pm. i will be there once again this sunday eve, but i offer no guarantees as to when slumber will be gained early monday morn.
channel four features well in this diatribe, for the selfsame channel was the one to pioneer regular, if brief coverage of the tour de france on our television screens in the mid-eighties. but the brevity, to someone new to the concept of stage racing, left queries of its own. why, for instance, was robert millar first over the opening three climbs, yet barely mentioned in despatches when the finsh line was reached. and for what unearthly reason were kelme sending riders off into the hinterlands at the end of the neutralised section when they quite blatantly hadn't a snowflake's chance in hell of remaining in front until the end. and come to that, how could it be that riders achieved a lead of over twenty minutes, yet be caught in time for champagne?
mysteries that even gary imlach (who popped up again on the american football coverage) failed to explain. if someone eager to be steeped in the waters of pain and suffering couldn't fathom the inner workings, what chance the casual and innocent bystander unfortunate enough to engage me in conversation come may, july or september.
but then eurosport happened.
eurosport's happy predilection of covering some of the tour de france mountain stages turned a spectacle that looked superficially like a bunch of blokes on bikes cycling through exotic french countryside, into a game of three dimensional chess. over the course of several hours, various strategies were pulled into focus, and in one fell swoop, professional stage racing became full of intrigue and excitement accompanied by brie and baguettes.
just like american football but with burgers and coke.
but there's another connection that has become apparent between thewashingmachinepost and this year's superbowl. i know not enough about the inner workings of the game to have any substantial cause to support one team against the other, and i am too scared to enquire as to the proclivities of my american friends. but if the terrible towel has not already caught your eye, my pointing it out perhaps make it clearer: yes, it's yellow and black, the very environment if find myself inhabiting on a daily basis, and these are the colours of the pittsburgh steelers (who will play the greenbay packers). if ever there was a good omen.
so, despite having no idea of form or tactics, i will sit in front of my tv this coming sunday eve, ready to cheer on the steelers even though i have no idea what the terrible towel is.
and do i need one?
posted tuesday 1st february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
triathlon is very definitely not my sport, and though i have no wish to offend anyone whose sport it is, i think it fair to state that i'm not sure i have any sport that i could reasonably call my own. from a point of participation that is. i couldn't run from here to my front door, and my swimming can only be likened to that of a mobile jacuzzi. i haven't swum since 1994.
our local leisure centre, which started life as a simple 25 metre swimming pool, has been host to an annual triathlon since 1992, started as a team event to encourage mass participation by those (like me) without the desire or ability to manage all three disciplines. still continuing in 2011, the event now combines those with ironman tendencies with individuals perhaps more equated with balsa wood, and it has been my good fortune over the years to have been placed in teams consisting of superb swimmers and excellent runners. thus i have won medals and trophies without the need to excel beyond mediocre output.
it seems that those allied with the swimming fraternity are the ones most likely to ascend to the triumvirate. often the running and swimming disciplines seem complementary, and many seem to figure those are the two that will get them to the finish line ahead of most other competitors. strangely, competitors who excel in either of those two, spend inordinate amounts of time training almost to the point of excess to shave seconds off their times, yet seem happy if that is the correct term, to simply ride what they class as a fast bicycle. anything with aerobars will do the trick.
this seems to be the point where i come in.
one of the lads who used to swim regularly in a team i rode for, was out of the islay pool after swimming 32 lengths, in less than 15 minutes (as i recall). particularly impressive i am bound to say. times such as these were recorded when he was still at school.
of course, you can't stay at school forever; manna for some, disappointment for others, and he subsequently joined one of the armed forces. not long after joining he was yet again involved in triathlon, only this time it was more serious and encompassed all three that compose your average event. as a more than competent swimmer, it was likely a simple case of buying a decent pair of trainers in order to run, but he phoned me to ask what i would recommend by way of a decent bicycle.
now this is where everything falls apart, for what i would class as a velocipede of decent provenance would likely exceed the budget of one who is making only tentative steps in the big world of competitive sport. choice was constrained by budget, so i reccommended one or two websites, and asked him to e-mail his choices with which i could than assist.
i am very unlikely to be the only one asked to help in circumstances such as these, though perhaps more awkwardly in my case because i have little interest in personal competition. however, i provided my advice, and last i heard he was enjoying triathlon so much, a bicycle upgrade was now on the cards. likely he still concentrates more on the seconds available from swimming and running, than the minutes on offer from more disciplined cycling ability. however, no nevermind.
the paucity of my advice hit home over the first two days of this weekend when i extricated my colnago master from its darkened recess in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed. as i have already given vent to in a recent article, this bike, an inanimate object at heart, pushes me harder than i'd really rather it did at this early point of the year. no matter that christmas pud was ignored this past festive season, nor the fact that, as a vegetarian, turkey with all the trimmings was not on my menu; too many hours in front of a computer/television screen have done little for muscle honing.
but the realisation dawned near the point at which exhaustion set in, that a bicycle such as this is the very artefact that should be acquired by the promising, practising and would-be athlete. a bicycle that is demonstrably fitter than its rider will allow no quarter to be asked or given, whereas the machines on offer of less than lively aluminium and rotationally challenged wheels will always be a slog to ride.
i can hear amongst the murmurings, that such a machine is just what the keen newbie needs, in similar ilk to those who ride a heavy winter bike to prepare them for the sliver of carbon that will deliver finish line after finish line throughout the subsequent season. i favour not this argument, for surely the excitable gazelle ridden through the dark hours of winter continues to push limits and sinews to levels they'd rather not be pushed. on every ride?
i have returned myself to the cielo for the sunday ride, for it exhibits less in the way of prodding every minute, every metre. i am in charge when it lets me.
now i fear that my entry level consultancy did not go far enough, and i did not persuade my first non-paying client to exceed his bicycle budget and make his training hours sheer purgatory. perhaps then i would have merited at least a byline or acknowledgment in his autobiography.
and faced with a week's worth of colnago riding, how would anyone have the energy to swim and run anyway?
posted monday 31st january 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................