the tailwind pulled in behind me as i passed the foreland turnoff, and what could have been an endless slog up uiskentuie strand was eased greatly by the strong wind at my back. the jacket's windproofing didn't extend that far round. i'd gained a gap by jumping off the front at debbie's, facing a bit of a cross headwind on the snaking roads leading out of bruichladdich. now as i neared whinpark and the road leading to bridgend, the chasing one or two were nowhere to be seen. i knew there was a chase; you could see it in the faces of the sheep grazing to my left. they hadn't dared cross the road and that's very unusual for such indolent creatures.
the bridgend junction was reached in almost no time at all. i must have about one and a half minutes on the chase; i had no idea if my pursuer was alone, or riding in tandem with another. if that was the case, it was hardly likely to add to my lead, so i pressed on past jimmy's and the hotel, now heading into a wind, where the white windproof frontage extending to both arms would stop me worrying about weather, instead of increasing my lead.
through the shelter of the trees and a quick right-angled flip up to the left and i was effectively out of sight. the road ahead was now rolling countryside; it was going to be hard-going, but it would be difficult to be seen by any chasers, and with no race radios, out of sight would surely mean out of mind. the colnago master must surely be one of the finest machines on which to keep ahead, even if its orange faux molteni colouring made it hard to hide amongst the greenery of the continuous farmland on each side of the road. and what else would you wear on a colnago, but colnago endorsed clothing?
it might be spring and thus classics season, the very racing to revel in, but at the moment i had the upper hand and clothing that kept my cool and kept me warm. the jacket fleece lined, the bibtights similarly so. fit was impeccable, leaving me free to exercise my honed athletic physique (did i hear sniggering?) in the direction that made most sense. i'd taken a quick look at the handmade in italy tag inside the high collar, and even at the colnago branded hang-tag, but neither gave any indication of the jacket's true worth. was it showerproof? was it waterproof? was it breathable?
sometimes it's better to find these things out on the bike; sometimes not. i had watched the dark grey cloud and its impending precipitation heading in my direction as i passed neriby farm and headed down through the village of weak bridge to mulindry and the hairpin bend at cluanach. at this point i would be truly heading into a cold headwind, and that raincloud was disturbing an otherwise pristine blue sky. i needed to push on relentlessly, as they couldn't be that far behind, but riding faster would create a rider/rain interface which, true to form, it subsequently did.
the jacket, at least the frontispiece, was water resistant, though those capacious, elasticised rear pockets had comfortably stowed away a stowaway, should more rain protection be quickly required. the other two pockets had a musette and camera (in case it came down to a photo finish). the securely zipped fourth had money in it.
now the road was disintegrating before my eyes as i plunged headlong towards the abattoirenberg forest building character at every pothole. judging by the helicopters i could hear overhead (or it could be that stowaway flapping in that back pocket) and the faint notion that following traffic was edging ever closer (or perhaps the cows made more noise than sense), the inseguitori must, by now, have my bib tights and three rear pockets in sight. my only hope was to thunder across the cattle grid at avonvogie cottage, indulge in some extra curricular cyclo-cross over the remnants of the junction with the high road and flip it hard right, taking advantage of the tailwind towards the cruach road and an eventual triumphal finish in bowmore.
now i understood what was meant by pain and suffering; pain from pushing the colnago as hard as my spindly legs would allow, and suffering because i had no idea just how close anyone else actually was. the only real worry was the hill at tallant, but i was sure that if it was hurting me, it was hurting my chaser(s), and once past tallant farm, it was all, quite literally, downhill.
there's a young fellow-me-lad round the corner from washingmachinepost cottage who used to own a ford focus, less than tastefully decorated with all manner of self-evident decals. these not only proclaimed that the car was indeed a ford focus, though now writ large, but that apparently the michelin ascribed tyre sidewalls, at least according to more stickers on the front wings, were supplied by michelin. this vehicle has now passed into someone else's history, and been supplanted by a bright yellow, but never very clean seat sporty thing with red painted disc calipers behind alloy wheels. no stickers, but yellow has never been renowned for its indiscretion.
i am of the confirmed opinion that a colnago, of whatever hue and cry, resides within the upper social strata of italian bicycle lore, and should be treated with reverence. similarly any branded clothing with which it may be associated. there is need not for loud proclamation; the cut of the jib is enough to advertise the quality of the ride. eschewing previous incarnations of colnago branded clothing, the new range states little but says much. both jacket and bib tights have only one small, rubberised logo apiece. aside from the black on black of the elasticated hem on the jacket it is a case of say no more. that it should be thus is entirely appropriate.
the colnago m10 winter jacket features a superior fit, thermal construction, windproof panels on front and arms plus the usual three rear pockets and a fourth zipped on the outside of the middle. you could probably fit a spare colnago in there. the hem is colnago branded across the back and features silicon gloop to prevent it riding up when on the bike. it's available in white or black, in sizes from small to xxl and retails at £179.95
the winter bib tight features a fleece lined interior, seam eliminating inserts behind each knee, an elastic padded insert and substantial body coverage front and back, with a zipped front panel. available in black only from small to xxl, they retail at £149.95. available from any authorised colnago dealer.
if you own a colnago, you owe it to yourself to dress in colnago head to toe; this is some of the finest and most comfortable race-fit clothing it has been my pleasure to ride in. comfort is impressive and the fit and quality leaves any previous colnago clothing you may own/have owned firmly in the shade. cambiago is in safe sleeves and bib straps.
many thanks to peter and luke at colnago uk for their assistance with this review.
posted monday 28th february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the opposite of my heading would be predictability, a word that implies a level of safety many of us are happy to accept. predictability means no surprises, and as life rolls along, there's a certain comfort in that; to open the bikeshed door and know that the bicycles contained within will still be there, in the same disgraceful degree of mess they were in when put away the day before. knowing that each week/month, those who employ will deposit pretty much the same amount of money in the bank, allows for predictable bankruptcy when ordering some more unnecessary carbon. life's like that for most of us, even in these days of big society and current economic crisis. it may be apt to spare a thought for those poor merchant bankers who never know from one day to the next just how many millions their undeserved bonuses are likely to be.
well, maybe not.
and i strive heartily to bolster this air of predictability by ensuring, against all odds, that there is a daily portion of washingmachinepost to read (and believe me, against all odds at the moment barely covers the hoops i'm jumping through). predictable to the last, the post has made its flimsy career from concerning itself with as many diverse directions of road bike culture as it is possible to ascribe without stepping beyond sky's thin blue line. and now, having underlined my watchword, i am going to be demonstrably unpredictable, for today we're going to talk about mountain bikes.
or at least i am.
firstly, though you may not be a subscriber, many of you will be acquainted with rouleur magazine, a publication that has become as much a part of the world of the roadie as oversocks and bar tape. it is well into its stride now, yet still elicits squeals of delight when that grey plastic envelope thuds heavily on the doormat underpinning the letterbox. and as is the nature of publishing blessed with a soupcon of foresight, somebody in the office obviously thought the same formula could be applied to the off-road fraternity, resulting in the first issue of privateer appearing in autumn last year. number one was somewhat of a revelation, for there were plenty of voiced and unvoiced misgivings as to how the format would apply to a sport without anywhere near the heritage bestowed upon road cycling.
however, to resurrect the old hoary chestnut concerning first albums, the proof of the pudding was likely to be in issue two; it's not too hard to fill number one given an indefinable gestation period. number two has to follow that in a shorter time period, and number three will be scary close in only a couple of months, equaling its sister magazine with a bi-monthly publication schedule. i have no great interest in offroading, though i confess to having gained a frisson of excitement throwing myself trough muddy puddles on an ibis hakkalugi cross bike. but mountain biking is not cyclocross, at least certainly not as defined in the vertigo inducing photographs constituting the illustrative portion of a chapter entitled sick. i find it hard to accommodate such exertions into my personal definition of cycling, but one man's floor is another man's radical, and it does no harm to watch from the safety of the page numbers.
there are then those feelings of inadequacy when faced with the exploits of fellow islander (skye is the most northerly of the inner hebrides), danny macaskill, who makes the bicycle seem like an extension of not only his own body, but of a confidently warped psyche. you have to admire, even if grudgingly, the temerity of a man whose first youtube video has scored in excess of twenty-two million views. and i'll bet some of those were from roadies.
before you get the impression that i actually enjoyed issue two of privateer, let me sweep aside all conjecture and admit that i still am enjoying it; like every copy of rouleur, it is seemly to indulge in a modicum of savouring, and not finish all at one sitting.
in my early years on islay, when wrenching as our north american partners would say, a would-be downhiller in the early years of the activity bought an orange aluminium frame which yours truly built up from scratch, including the fitting of a headset that seemed ludicrously sizist in its diameter for the age, encapsulating a pair of pace forks. that was in the early nineties, and orange bicycles are still alive and well and living in west yorkshire, having opted to avoid the standard practice of getting bigger and trying to break america. privateer writes about the inner workings and the inner people who make up the ecky thump of mountain bikes, in precisely the way guy andrews would introduce dt swiss.
so, there you go, quick burst of unpredictability on a sunday, just to set the coming week on edge. and as the piece de resistance more than fitting the subject matter under discussion, take a look at a consummate piece of film-making by one of the masters of the art and progenitor of pure muddy hell and cyclocross meeting, brian vernor.
back to normal tomorrow.
posted sunday 27th february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
you can rally all you like over the early season races; that tour down under thingy and the one in saudi arabia somewhere, consisting of endless sand and roads that wouldn't know a corner if it offered to buy them an orange juice. no wonder there's no king of the mountains jersey, as there's barely a humpty back bridge for consolation. the race season simply means zip until the spring classics, and that, for 2011, meant today's omloop het nosebleed, a stunning 203km ride through the backroads around gent. rain, mud, gloop, armwarmers, bib knickers and puddles; what more could a cycle fan ask for? that's the true meaning of pain and suffering (even more so if your name is juan antonio flecha), for none of us would lose a wink of sleep if they filmed it in black and white.
the sport is built on races like this, and it not only annoys but confounds me that it is derogatorily referred to as a semi-classic, along with its sunday partner in crime, kuurne-brussels-kuurne. with several of those of my acquaint and many more who suffer not from such association, uttering whoops of delight before, during and after the omloop, surely that is enough to confirm its status as a true classic? who but the uci would allow the real season to start with other than a classic? cycle racing does not do support acts.
it is this degree of obsessive fandom that brought my saturday ride to a premature close. spring has sprung in the hebrides which, with the exception of the odd shower or two, led to blue skies and a sense of warmth that was more the emperor's new clothes rather than true temperature rise. the fabulous interweb stepped in for the embarrassment that is eurosport who singularly failed their cycling audience by providing no coverage whatsoever. i sat, still clad in winter jacket, bibtights and colnago cap from 47km to go right to the bitter end, despite two browser refreshes when the picture and commentary irretrievably stalled. ruddy brilliant.
and it is also this degree of obsessive fandom that provoked carlyle ware to build a new brand of cycle clothing with the rather fabulous name cervo rosso which, for no real reason i can fathom, always reminds me of espresso. must be the double esses. it will not have escaped the attention of many, that cycling is particularly well served in the apparel department. why on earth did carlyle feel the need to add cervo rosso to the throng?
"As an avid competitive road cyclist l have always enjoyed the demands of the sport in terms of personal fitness and achieving my own personal goals. Additionally the thrill of being up close and personal to the professional scene is very inspiring for an amateur rider like myself. The drive to establish Cervo Rosso as a performance brand is largely due to this raw passion for the sport, but also based on my ongoing search for a brand that represents the perfect balance between the heritage of European road cycling with modern styling and the right technical functionality of cycling wear. There are many brands great brands out there that have provided a lot of inspiration, but I'm not convinced that anyone of them have found the right balance of performance, functionality and style that satisfies my hunger!"
carlyle confesses to having been a b grade amateur rider, something that gave a taste for the competitive edge and at least a racer's insight into the needs and wants in the clothing department; basically what works and what doesn't. but with acceptance of my foregoing premise that we're in danger of being suffocated by cycle clothing, what makes cervo rosso different or even the same? "Many factors but primarily, hitting the right balance of clean classical styling, a genuine passion for the sport (which provides a real personality behind the brand) and having the ability to choose the right technical requirement for the garment using a number of different manufacturing techniques and fabrics. We produce in sportwool, Lycra, Polyester Blends and even 100% Merino Wool. We are not restricted to the last roll of fabric we bought.
"What has made Cervo Rosso so popular so far is that our customers have a very strong sense that there is a genuine passion and interest in us wanting to provide them with something very different. We are not about putting our brand on as many products as possible. We want our riders to feel that not only are they wearing a very high quality item, but they are part of something very unique and special that is growing by the day. There is a strong community sense to the brand at the moment where Cervo Rosso riders want to know more about each other (see community map link on our website) This has created a lot of interest, to the point where customers are initiating events for CR Riders in their local areas."
the harbouring of cycling fabulousness in central europe is hard to mistake when races are referred to as omloop het nieuwsblad, kuurne-brussels-kuurne, ronde van vlaanderen and brabantse pijl. none of those names are in gaelic. so perhaps it is not surprising that cervo rosso are far from the inner hebrides, based almost slap bang in the middle of the map; switzerland. we are all likely aware of the preponderance of mountains encapsulated by this neutrality, offering a playground for the aspiring grimpeur, but given that a substantial percentage of the cervo rosso offering pertains to the well-dressed commuter, does the country have a sizeable population that cycles to work?
"Yes but not as much as markets like Italy, the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands and Australia. What it does provide is an excellent standard in product quality. There is very strong association between Switzerland and quality products. Cervo Rosso is by no means is an exception here."
in which case, does carlyle see clothing for the committed commuter to be a potential growth market? "Yes totally. In fact our CR Urban Collection is very much geared toward city riding, commuters and even the single speed / fixie culture. We will be developing our offering in this category further over the next twelve months, including some pretty cool local level events. We have a very good manufacturing partner here in Switzerland who has a very strong heritage in clothing design and production for city riders."
if you've had the chance to peruse the cervo rosso website, much like fifty percent of the pages of rouleur, colour is kept to a minimum. in fact pretty much all the road-going garments are fashioned from black, red and a smattering of white. are there any specific reasons for this restricted palette? "Clean and classic. Not cluttered with to much 'noise' and hopefully timeless. If you buy a new bike, we hope that you don't need to change your Cervo Rosso gear each time as well! The colors are very complementary to various bike color schemes."
as mentioned by carlyle above, the brand received its genesis from "a raw passion for the sport', and in order to conserve momentum, it is only right and proper that this raw passion is reciprocated by involving oneself in the very sport that provided that initial and continuing enthusiasm. many others have done so through race teams and race sponsorship; in this, cervo rosso is no different, providing endorsement of brian ignatin's classics series in philadelphia usa, the first of which, the hell of hunterdon, takes place on march 26, and the fools classic on april 2. with an even greater distance between switzerland and philadelphia than to islay, how did that happen, and could this be viewed as an opening salvo aimed at the american market?
"Yes, very much so. We will do this through a grass roots level where we actively support community and local level events, such as what Brian is creating with his series. It's also great to bring a little bit of the European flavor or rode cycling to North America. There are growing base of customers who appreciate our interest in doing this for them in both the US and Canada."
the cervo rosso website is not devoid of content; there's a substantial range of clothing on offer, suggesting that carlyle ware has done his homework before committing sublimation to polyester and lycra. who would he identify as the typical cervo rosso customer? "Wow, that's a really good question. As a professional marketeer and having had extensive experience in brand building (albeit in the pharmaceutical Industry) you always try to create a customer target and profile based on their needs. For us this is primarily the competitive road cyclist and Sportive / Gran Fondo rider. They have been largely males between the ages of 25 - 50. However recently two additional customer groups are emerging and showing tremendous interest in the brand: female road riders and single speed / fixie riders. Both customer groups will have specific product offerings developed for them over the coming months.
"What has been really nice for our Cervo Rosso customer group so far, is that they are defining who they are as opposed to us trying to present the 'Cervo Rosso Rider' to them. We will maintain a very strong focus on the competitive road cyclist, but we are very excited about the crossover into other customer groups."
all that, however, is entirely academic. think not of chamois pads, mesh bibs and full-length zips, nor, indeed of leather weekender bags, commuter caps or anything made of merino wool. the home-page tantalisingly displays a red and white cervo rosso emblazoned volkswagen camper van, reminiscent of scooby doo's mystery machine but with windows on the side. before we commit to black, red and white for those moments of rouleuring on a sunday morn, i think we should know whether carlyle actually has just such a vehicle locked in his garage. "No, but we are looking for a 1965-1970 Model. If anybody can help, please contact us! We have the color segways and brand element layed out for the Combi, we just need to find one that will get us over the Tourmalet or up the Muur without overheating!"
you really can't knock someone who has put this much effort into providing us with classic clothing for that sunday ride or, raising our game just a bit, perhaps the etape du tour, hell of hunterdon or the race named after yours truly, the fool's classic. it will not, however, be left wanting, as i hope to be reviewing specific, yet to be revealed clothing, from the cervo rosso wardrobe in the foreseeable future. if i'm really good, perhaps it'll be delivered in a red and white veedub camper.
posted saturday 26th february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i can't actually remember how i came across wabi woolens in the first place, but in march 2008, i reviewed an espresso coloured merino cycling jersey sent from portland, oregon by the sole proprietor of the company, harth huffman. the jersey i described at the time as the rolls royce of merino jerseys, a description i have not once come to regret to this day. the jersey still occupies pride of place in the long-sleeve jersey drawer, subsumed as the weather improves by the more recently released but no less marvellous sports series.
since that first road test, harth and i have kept in touch over matters of merino wool, cycle jerseys and other matters pertaining to cycling in the hebrides and portland. it does my credibility and sensibility no good whatsoever to inform that i failed miserably to get in touch when in portland a couple of years back, but there's always next time. meanwhile, it has been intersting to watch progress at wabi woolens from afar.
with harth's sense of independence, and endless desire to have wabi woolens jerseys wholly made in the usa, it's very much a case of the small guy versus the corporates; harth's secret weapon is the lack of a need to compete at that level, content to produce product of unerring high quality. he has been aided in this task most recently by portland's chris king cielo project asking him to produce cielo branded jerseys. and you bet that i want one of those.
so who is harth huffman, what are the plans for wabi woolens, and what does that cielo jersey look like?
posted friday 24th february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
up until 1991, islay children were taught to swim in the sea during the summer months because the island had no swimming pool. not being able to swim is somewhat of a disadvantage for those living on an island, given that the bulk of travel to and from scotland is by ferry. after much campaigning and fund-raising, a group of concerned locals, aided by the generosity of bowmore distillery in gifting one of their disused warehouses, managed to have a particularly fine, but still somewhat underfunded swimming pool/leisure centre constructed in the centre of the village. i bring this to your attention because i have spent a reasonable portion of my day scanning and processing photographs of many kids who gained swimming certificates in 1986; 25 years ago. before i even moved to the island.
after a vehicle accident in the early nineties in which i was an innocent, but injured passenger, i'd to refrain from swimming for a number of years, and i've never gone back. if i'm quite honest, i was never much into it in the first place; too boring, and not much to see apart from water. if time allows, i'd far rather be out on my bicycle where there is a great deal more to see. but in the days when i did go splashing about in the water, i wore apparel suitable for the purpose; you wouldn't, for instance, go swimming in a pair of levis and a berghaus jacket (would you?). therefore, much the same applies to the act of cycling, in my humble opinion, where the clothing available is there for very good reason, one that includes making a bike ride as comfortable as possible.
bibshorts, bibtights, overshoes, merino baselayers, jerseys with three back pockets, all have been developed over the years to a high state of refinement making us almost as efficient as our bicycles. but what of those who prefer to be folks with bikes, rather than rouleurs and grimpeurs, where do they fit in? well, fortunately, many's the company now offering regular looking apparel that bears nearly all the efficiency of that landbouwkrediet team kit. what seems to have been often overlooked, or perhaps just minimised by design constraints, is storage space; where do you put stuff?
it's funny you should ask that. kyle mosholder pretty much single-handedly operates brooklyn-based d'emploi, manufacturing entirely by hand, a wide variety of all but essential cycle artifacts, such as rucksacks, belt bags, top tube flannels, t-shirts, and thermal baselayers. these are all built with the sole aid of a singer sewing machine. but which came first, the sewing machine, or the need for one? "i had been using a less manly machine for some time and knew that what was missing was the consistency of something industrial. i had no way of knowing that it would come one random day, or that it would be as young as my grandfather. that day i went to see another machine and fell in love with this one. yes, i love the old singer."
the cycle world, however, has much more in common these days with technological advance, whether it be nano-fibres in the carbon, or micro-fibres in the polyester. the notion of producing goods the old fashioned way is all but anathema; all cut from the same die is seemingly the way to go. but the more that technology heads in this direction, the more some of us ache for the days of old when stuff was made by craftsmen, and not everything had the same standard patina, sheen or stitching. was kyle making a conscious attempt to restore the heyday of the hand-made product, with a mission to instil a bit of pride in that hand-made in america tag?
"definitely. i'm no nationalist, but i feel a real aesthetic connection to objects and apparel from the first half of the 20th century. so many things in the world are 'hand-made' but with such precision it never crosses the minds of most. however, though i strive for quality and consistency, i thrive on seeing slightly shifty stitching. knowing that someone was so focused (or not), in that moment, on what they were doing. really, i just want everyone to take pride in how they do their thing."
the proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and kyle was kind enough to send over one of his hand-made belt bags hand-sewn and lined by his own fair hand, substantially built from water-resistant waxed canvas sourced from a new jersey fabric mill and with sailcloth lining from new york city. this consists of a large, main pocket with a flap fastened by good old hook and loop just above a ykk zip sealing a secondary pocket on the front. the back features two loops to fit on a belt as well as a u-lock sling doubling as a handle when wandering about off the bike and off the belt. the crowning glory is a hand embroidered d'emploi logo sewn into one of the side seams. its rustic good looks owe as much to the overall design as they do to kyle's workmanship. what i wanted to know was how hard it had been to source home-made materials for use in d'emploi products. was that difficult to do?
"again, definitely. it's hard to find a finished product made in the usa, let alone a fabric. my sources vary quite a bit, from new to upcycled, but all of them make 'sense' or fit into the functional and visual aesthetic. and to be honest, one of the best parts of my 'job' is establishing these personal connections and getting to know a little about the people and places that supply the outcome. also, one of my main points of inspiration comes from scott constable and the deep craft manifesto: 'The functional lifespan of a constructed thing should mimic the lifecycle of its principle material.' meaning, in my case, the choice for 'traditional' materials comes from a pre-understanding of organic life, rather than synthetic.
my own use of the d'emploi belt bag came at a fortuitous moment; the day after the bag arrived from new york. i'd to cycle out to one of the island's farms and carry out some investigative broadband works on an apple macintosh. don't get me wrong, there are things i can manage when it comes to modern telecommunications, and lots more that leave me standing, but it ill-behoves me to leave a fellow macintosh user stranded. this is not something i do on a regular basis. a part of the problem portended to be the inability of a small boy to download apps to play on his ipod, so i had need of my own ipod, and since, weather permitting, there would be a following trip to the mighty dave t's involving gear cables, it was necessary to take along cable cutters, crimpers and those little cable ends that it is incredibly easy to lose.
en-route, lunch would be obligatory, so i needed to take some money, and given that i ride wearing my rudy projects, i'd to take along my regular spectacles so as not to look too much of a prat in front of a computer screen. all the above fitted comfortably and securely into the d'emploi belt bag, meaning i had no need to dress like larry, bertie or andy to carry out the tasks in hand. and, d'you know, wearing just such an appendage about one's person is not only all but unnoticeable from the saddle, but adds a soupcon of je ne sais quoi to one's stature and well-being.
did kyle have to train himself to use that singer sewing machine to end up with such fine craftsmanship, and is it the sole example in the d'emploi empire? "i am a sculptor in mostly metals, by training. i had used a sewing machine for art purposes many times, but probably not 'productively'. so when i started getting serious, the quality of the craft and tools became the key to that. and indeed lately, being productive involves pushing what i know and can conceive of in my mind when figuring out a new bag (at least two new ones coming this spring!). it's both the mind and the machine, the hands are just the go-between.
"as to the sewing machines, you probably have more than one bike, but when it comes down to it, you know which one is right for the job. for the heavy canvas goods, it's my singer 241-2. i also have two machines that allow me to make t-shirts and another 'home' machine for finer work. gotta have an arsenal..."
though my belt-bag has become all but indispensible when riding dressed as a normal human being, it strikes me that many of kyle's output would also suit activities other than those involving two wheels and a chainset. so is he specifically targeting the cycle market, or is the net being cast wider than that? "cycling is what i know. the idea with the word d'emploi (french for employment, or 'of employment') is considering how you spend your time. how one trades time for money, fun, etc. i have started by sticking close to what i know and what i already do. in working with others, i have begun other paths to make functional items for different pursuits. photography being a big one right now, expect a badass photopack to pop up in the near future. mostly, i am happy to use this endeavor to work with other's ideas and needs. functionality and applicability are what drives this thing; 'fashion' just messes it all up."
the belt bag as reviewed costs only $40 (around £25), and kyle is more than happy to send products to the four corners of the world as well as the usa. it's not often that it's possible to own something hand-made in brooklyn, new york, more especially when that something has character infused in the very fabric of its being. take a look through the online catalogue to see for yourself, but nothing really compares to holding one (or more) in your hand. a sense of tradition well worth participating in.
posted thursday 24th february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's a tired cliche that there's nothing new under the sun, a cliche particularly apt when applied to the bicycle. so many folks have claimed credit for invention of the machine, or a variation thereof, that i figure it would only take minor tweaking of a nearby family tree to put one of my own ancestors firmly in the frame for the invention of at least one rudimentary bicycle. i will, however, leave the wrangling to bona-fide historians; the bicycle is here and has an even richer history than many of us could even have guessed at.
it may be that bicycle design has settled into a pattern (or rut, if we're being unkind) with the advent and subsequent development of groupsets from the big three, and the widespread use of computer design software. the latter is perhaps most to blame for the ubiquity of the carbon fibre on show at most of the autumn's cycle shows. perhaps we need to look more towards this weekend's north american handbuilt show for breaks from tradition, or in one or two cases, the continuation of same. assuming an errant publisher had the temerity to offer me a substantial advance allowing the production of an illustrated volume describing carbon bicycles of the last few years, i fear the pages would be remarkably similar, a feature that would no doubt be underlined if they were devoid of paint and logos.
i say this as a point of fact, rather than any form of criticism. for though we'd all like to be houseproud bicycle owners, the shape and form all but disappear when in the saddle; provided the ride is to our satisfaction, style is overcome by substance. but it's hard to escape the overweening desire for a large smidgeon of character, and much as i enjoy the benefits of carbon fibre, i'm not so sure its manufacture allows for quirky. we are fortunate, therefore, to have michael embacher and photographer bernhard angerer to clearly and forcibly point out in such artistic fashion, the quirks of the velocipedinal past.
michael embacher is unkown to me, yet a photo on page nine places him midst a huge collection of bicycles placed neatly within a bikeshed to die for. though it is not expressly stated, i take it that the illustrations of such a motley crew of historic and near modern cycles are from this exemplary collection. who knew that someone had invented a complex mobius strip of a chain arrangement that moved into second gear when the rider started pedalling backwards. who knew that you could hinge the latter part of a pair of handlebars that woud apply the brakes when the bars were squeezed inwards. of course, this resulted in a complete lack of steering, but nobody's perfect.
each bicycle is more than adequately illustrated over two or more pages, accompanied by details of country of origin, approximate date of manufacture, number and type of gears, tyre size and the method of stopping. considering the state of most of the repairs that come my way, these historic machines have either been very well restored, or incredibly well maintained in the first place. or maybe they just don't make stuff like they used to.
i am a subscriber to singletrack magazine, the only trappings of the dark side that are allowed in washingmachinepost cottage (well, aside from the first issue of privateer). in my defence might i state that i like to keep an eye on offroad developments, just in case some of them osmosise (i think i just made that word up) across to skinny tyres and bendy bars. but it is with some satisfaction that i was only twenty-six pages into the book before finding a road bike from 1954 (older than me) featuring fibreglass hoops front and rear providing very rudimentary suspension. admittedly, i'd be the last in the queue to ride it (an afa), but yet again, the star around which our planet revolves has seen it all before.
if there's a disappointment with cyclepedia, aside from its title being a rather overused variation on the word encyclopaedia, it is the rather random nature of the contents. to quote the author; "this selection does not attempt to categorize (when did we start spelling that word with an american 'z' as opposed to the queen's english version with an 's'?) bicycles too prescriptively, or to show them chronologically". unfortunately, he does not expand upon this, and we are left wondering why not. it may well be the joy of historical discovery to treat each item individually, but i can't help feeling that it would have benefitted the book's overall ethos if chronology had been inplemented from the get go. surely it wouldn't have been that hard to do?
however, this lack of an explicable and orderly timeline does not detract from the substantial fascination engendered on each and every page of this book. as an example, i for one had no idea that colnago had produced a carbitubo pista frame in 1990, pre-dating the c40 by almost four years. nor was i aware that sweden's wilhelmina plast itera was a bicycle almost entirely fabricated from plastic; it warped in summer heat and its tyres were a fraction larger than the standard. and i thought it was shimano who invented incompatibility. and talking of inventions, the brief potted history of the bicycle in the first few pages of cyclepedia ascribes not only invention of the pneumatic tyre to john boyd dunlop in 1888, and with it the simultaneous invention of the puncture. nicely put.
cyclepedia is due for publication on 14th march at a cost of £19.95. it may well easily slip into the category of coffee table book, but the contents are more than equal to perusing while supping the froth from a soya cappucino, or appreciating the crema atop the double espresso sitting on that coffee table.
as alluded to in the title, the foreword of 'cyclepedia' is provided by sir paul smith, pictured inside holding a paul smith branded single speed. and purely co-incidentally, rapha today announced the spring/summer collaboration between themselves and sir smith, available to buy come early march. and a rapha launch would not be a rapha launch without a video, in this particular case, from the inestimable ben ingham. this is what's known as viral advertising, a concept with which i am familiar and one i'm only too happy to encourage.
posted wednesday 23rd february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm always in favour of alliteration, and the above heading provided too good an opportunity to miss; devoid of its alliterative affectation, it refers to a new series of women-only, mass participation events. these were launched in london yesterday by vicky pendleton with the hope that it will inspire more of the fairer sex to climb aboard their bicycles and join the endless fun and expense that afflicts those of us hard as nails blokes. however, no matter how the situation is packaged, i find myself at somewhat of a loss to understand how there is women's cycling as opposed to just cycling. surely the act of turning pedals is non-gender specific?
a part of my daily travail now and again involves the layout of advertisements in a newspaper, and according to the advertising standards authority, there are certain things you can't say in advertisements. for example, if you would like to prospectively employ a waitress for your restaurant, it appears you cannot advertise as such; waiting person is the appropriate nomenclature i am led to believe. there are bound to be situations where employment is gender specific, though i confess none spring to mind immediately, so one has to wonder whether it is ok to promote women-specific cycling without someone raising their hand in objection. i'm not aware of any male specific bike rides. well, other than the giro d'italia, the tour de france, the vuelta espana, paris-roubaix, the tour of flanders, paris-nice, the tour of....
and we wonder why there are not so many girls on bikes.
fear not for my perspicacity on this matter, i am well aware that, for reasons that are all too obscure for unravelling in so short a space of time, far fewer women ride bicycles than men. in the very same (see above) small office in which i carry out serious amounts of photoshopping (in-laws removed from a wedding photo anyone?) there are two blokes and four women. both of us hard as nails ride bicycles, pretty much to the exclusion of all motorised transport; none of the women have any inclination to ride at all, preferring to own big shiny motor cars with too much space for only one person. and despite relentless propaganda from the two stalwarts over several years, though all know who robert millar, graeme obree and chris hoy are, ironically they might be pushed to identify vicky pendleton.
however, there can be no denying that the state of affairs is the state of affairs, and any initiative(s) that can persuade more folks on bicycles has not only my vote but in this specific case, that of my glamorous female assistant, bianchista gem atkinson;"the cycletta series seems a great series of women friendly events, importantly running in both the north and south of the country, aiming for an inclusive riding experience on closed roads. aimed at all skill levels they look to be a really good way of getting out and racking up the kilometres with some like-minded ladies."
and gem mentions one of the more important features of this set of rides, that they take place on traffic-free roads. mrs washingmachinepost doesn't ride a bicycle principally out of a fear of traffic; many of our byways are singletrack, leaving little space between a cyclist or motorist if the two should meet. were it possible to cycle in the great outdoors with no chance of meeting traffic in front or behind, there'd be every chance of confidence gained prior to entering the big wide world. though only two events are scheduled for 2011, one near manchester on 26th june and a second one in proximity to london on 11th september, i believe the plan is to roll out more events for 2012 with the likelihood of featuring a ride or two north of the border. the courses will be 40km in length, just long enough to be challenging but not too long to discourage the faint of heart and possibly heavy of bike.
"with ambassadors like mistress of the track victoria pendleton, the series looks to have sterling backing and is a great place for adventurous ladies to cut their teeth on closed road riding. such a wonderful opportunity to grab a taste of the open road, with support vehicles and even a broom wagon for those tired legs; there hasn't been this good an excuse for ages to jump in the saddle and get out there!" of course, gem would say that; there's every indication that she'd leave me for dead on any collaborative bike ride (it's an age thing), but the idea behind the rides is not specifically to encourage the competitive spirit, but more simply to enhance the bicycle's reputation as a safe and comfortable way to get out and about, whether that means an alternative way of commuting to work, or a subtle way into joining hubby or boyfriend on the sunday ride.
i believe the readership of the post to be principally male, though i'd be happy for that to equalise just a bit. however, at the risk of preaching to the converted female rider, it would be excellent if you checked out the cycletta website and went along to join in one of the rides near you. perhaps you could leave vicky and nicole trailing in your wake, but perhaps channeling some of those skills into encouraging others would be a neat way to increase the female peloton. an additional fringe benefit is the option of cycling for charitable organisations as you enjoy your 40km.
with the initiative being supported by both sky and british cycling, the choice of victoria pendleton as the cover girl is an astute one. and to quote the olympic champion "whatever the reasoning, cycling can improve your life." amen to that.
the two scheduled rides are at tatton park, cheshire on sunday 26th June and on sunday 11th september, whipsnade zoo, bedfordshire.
posted tuesday 22nd february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in the days before technology was applied to the drumset, certain notables of the percussive persuasion were seen to augment the standard setup of toms and cymbals with a second bass drum. most notably, but in differing genres would be louis bellson and ginger baker; fine for those two gentlemen and their sizeable road crews, but back-breaking work for the jobbing drummer keen on emulation. it is not a road i ever headed along, having sufficient problems managing to sound convincing with one bass pedal to worry about.
it might also be worth mentioning that few were the styles of music that would allow demonstration of prowess (or lack thereof) on those two pedals. i am reminded that kenny jones, deputising for the self-destructive keith moon in a subsequent edition of the who had a second bass drum to which no pedal was attached. a substantial demonstration of style over substance.
however, as i averred in my opening sequence, technology has been brought to bear whereby two beaters can thud on a single bass drum head, simulating the sound of those two bass drums. this arrangement does not in any way replace the visual impact of two large drums front and centre, but has allowed incompetents such as myself the opportunity to make more noise than it would first appear. such is actioned by a second pedal sitting to the left (or right, if a southpaw) connected to a second beater on the main pedal by an adjustable rod.
it is one thing to possess such a contraption, but another thing altogether to be able to play it with anything approaching what i would refer to as skill. in my case, that left foot has a mind all of its own and, it would seem, a musical sensibility that has nothing in common with its counterpart. much like any skill, musical or otherwise, there is no secret; practice is usually the only shortcut.
islay is a land of wide open spaces, gale force winds, horizontal rain and one of the friendliest populations you will find this side of easter island. however, what it has a glaring dearth of is a musical sublife that would allow the would-be double pedal practitioner the opportunity to make good those hours of travail in full view of the general public. in my case, that is likely no bad thing, but if you are unfamiliar with the rigours of accordion based ceilidh music, let me simply point out that double bass licks are not one of its principal requirements.
so other than inflicting uneven thudding on mrs washingmachinepost's sensibilities, how is an aspiring terry bozzio to reach the heights of precocity?
happily, for almost every interest, hobby and practice throughout the known universe, there is a magazine, and as a drummer of little repute, i have my local newsagent pop a copy of modern drummer inside my guardian once a month. you would hardly expect a publication with the best interests of the percussor at heart to pay even lip service to the world of the bicycle, given that their paths do not tend to cross each other with any reguarity.
however, in a recent issue, midst endless articles entitled chops building exercises and one hundred and one uses for the paradiddle was an article designed to introduce the unwary to the intricacies of double bass drumming, either via two drums or a double pedal such as i have. much like these daily articles, the author was in no hurry to dive into just what that left foot should be doing while the right one kept the dance floor occupied with syncopated, immaculately timed beats. instead, he opened with preparatory words of wisdom, including how one might educate the limbs into the work that lay ahead, one of which plainly stated that cycling would be of acute importance due to its emphasis on an equal workload between both lower limbs.
far be it from me to poke holes in someone else's theory, but having been a cyclist for around the last thirty years, covering distances not equally the preserve of the gigging drummer, i find myself no nearer to double bass drum nirvana than i was the day i pumped up my first skinny tyre. however, always willing to alter my approach to accommodate a theory that may have some mileage (sorry), i am now traversing the great plains of the inner hebrides to the mental accompaniment of ratamacues, paradiddles, flams and mammy-daddies in the forlorn hope that it may transfer to those drum workshop doubles in perfect rhythm.
a smidgeon of cross-training surely helps the well-rounded constitution, and i look forward to embarking upon many an odd time signature.
posted monday 21st february 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................