saturday 16th of april, a seminal day in the life of scottish cyclists and, indeed, any scots resident who happened/happens to hold an interest in cycling of one form or another. for, thanks to the efforts of rowan mackie and magdala media, north of the border had its very first and very own cycle show at glasgow's exhibition centre in glasgow.
i arose at 07:15, carried out the necessary ablutions prior to changing into my semi-civilian identity and heading for the starbucks on the corner of sauchiehall street and west nile street. debbie's coffee it certainly isn't, and strangely bereft of any noticeable coffee aroma upon entering. however, though happy enough to avail myself of a double shot soya cappuccino (they certainly know how to charge for a do-it-yourself coffee), the real reason i was breakfasting chez starbucks was the rough and ready tub of porage with added dried fruit that seems almost mistakenly available. recollection of feasting on same from days gone by do not bring to mind so little porage and so much soya milk, making breakfast a little heavy on the white liquid, yet distinctly light on the fibre. no matter; marginally preferable to the cooked scottish breakfast in the hotel.
the scottish exhibition and conference centre is reached via a lengthy, covered walkway from the rail stop past anderston; a mere £1.40 return from glasgow central station's low-level platforms. you couldn't get a soya cappuccino for so little. the train journey took less time than i had anticipated (never one to be on time; always early), and even after the lengthy walk several hundred feet above the motorway, spliced by a designated cycle track from station to secc, i'm still in the ticket queue at least ten minutes before the kiosk windows are opened.
as befitting one who has convinced many of hidden journalistic attributes, i have e-mailed rowan mackie to ask after the likelihood of a press pass for the day. his reply states quite succinctly "You're on the list, so show up and you get a name badge, then in the door. could it be any simpler? well, apparently, yes it could. the helpful staff behind the kiosk windows admit that they do not have all the necessary passes within grasp, and call rowan to ask the whereabouts of the item i have asked for. needless to say, neither my name or thewashingmachinepost carries any recognition in secc ticketing circles.
no doubt for good reason, the provided cycle parking, of which i have no need, is at the opposite end of the building from the hall containing the show itself, which must have been a bit miffing for some, but it's hardly the longest building i've ever been in, so it likely rates only minor on the inconvenience scale.
true to form and my early arrival, in good company i might add, the hall drawbridge has yet to be raised, revealing a very tall, burly but very pleasant security guard, along with several smaller versions. i have no ticket, no press pass, and there is no sign of anyone i think might answer to the name of rowan mackie. the security supervisor motions me to follow him to the organiser's cupboard where an attractive brunette recognises my existence but can't find the necessary pass, so i write my own.
at least i'm in.
this is 2011, yet here i am at the very first day of the very first bicycle show in scotland, wondering if perhaps there was a very good reason why no-one had ever attempted this before now. i'm sure rowan had the same thought at least once over the last few months. from my point of view, let alone his, it's a bit of a worry. it's now just a shade after 09:30; what happens if it only gets as far as 10:30 and i'm looking at my watch, wondering whether i could make it to pizza hut in west george street in time for the all you can eat for £6.99 lunch? happily, that problem never rears its ugly head; i was still bidding thanks and farewells as the tannoy was telling us all to get the heck out at 17:50 before the doors were closed for the night.
due to my propensity to talk for britain, the day turned out to be just as long and just as hard as trade day at the london show.
rowan mackie did catch up with me very soon after i'd left his office to present me with a lanyard and press pass that clearly described me as sir brian palmer-twmp-vip. press. i like a man with a sense of humour, as did dean and richard at purple harry's who insisted on bowing while offering felicitations, along with one or two others. i could get used to that (maybe).
the hall was well filled with a shed load of exhibitors, a couple of cycle displays, both mountain bike and bmx, as well as the austrian tirol who had erected a very popular riding track, and another allowing the riding of several display (mountain) bikes over obstacle thingies. it was every bit as popular. unlike many a cycle show, pretty much everything was for sale, and i am led to believe that substantial amounts of money changed hands over the course of the day.
by day's end, there had been easily more than the population of islay through the front doors. around mid-day, i figured that, rather than rely on my own enthusiasm, i would ask those manning the stands if it had been good for them, so to speak. the question was answered for me. in almost every instance, it took me a several attempts and more than a few hours to find staff disengaged from earnest conversation with potential customers: hooked on cycling, pedal power, renner sport, purple harry's, singletrack magazine, alpine bikes, 2pure, chocolate distribution, braveheart cycling, walkers cycling (i never did get to speak to anyone there) and many several others were happy that day one alone had justified their attendance.
all my incessant talking did, you may be happy to hear, provide me with enough interesting stuff to regale you with over the coming days. all i have to do is remember what they said and what i asked, then convert it into black and yellow pixels.
i am pleased and somewhat abashed at the readers of the post who came to say hello; you made a knight of the realm very happy. i may eventually learn to deal with the embarrassment of being recognised when going about my business. if you weren't there but could have been, you really mised out on a great weekend.
however, there's always next year for scotland's second ever bike show.
posted sunday 17th april 2011
if i were a member of garmin-cervelo, aside from likely still celebrating johann's win at roubaix on sunday, you would definitely recognise me if i walked down the street. well, you would if i was still wearing team kit, even if my name didn't spring easily to mind. leaving aside the fact that jonathan vaughters hasn't been on the phone lately, this is a more than hypothetical scenario, for were johann van summeren to nip across on the calmac ferry just to say hi, and thanks for watching on sunday (i did say it was hypothetical), there's a very good chance that he wouldn't be wheeling around a cervelo, nor wearing full team kit. it's one thing to be a sponsored rider, but quite another to look like a prat in the woodpile.
at functions such as the braveheart dinner each october, stars and watercarriers from the world of professional cycling are invited to mingle with the proletariat. were it not for the inestimable messrs. harmon, smith and mccrossan, many of those riders would be as anonymous to me at the end of the evening as they were at the start. would you recognise phillipe gilbert in civvies were he sitting in starbucks? i know i wouldn't.
and thus we may find ourselves reverting to the hidden communicators; those tanned circles on the back of each hand or, assuming it's warm enough for short sleeves, the tanline that ends rather suddenly around those upper arms. but would that not be generally the case if you happened across the giro peleton during a rest day? everyone would have the appropriate tanilnes in all the correct places, but devoid of sponsored jerseys, maybe they'd all look the same, and the process of recognition would be as difficult as finding an ileach in sauchiehall street. (actually, that's a bad example; you can almost always meet an ileach in sauchiehall street, usually without trying too hard).
bear in mind also, that this is scotland. tanlines are not in plentiful supply, and probably won't be until summer commences in late september. and even if they'd been acquired on one of those mallorcan training camps, all would be covered by the need to keep warm, in sauchiehall street and all points north, west and east.
what's an intrepid reporter to do?
i only ask because this is the last post for a day or so, as i head off to scotland for the very first scottish bike show at glasgow's secc on saturday. i like to think that we have endured a black and yellow lasting friendship over the years, and as you will no doubt be attending the bike show yourselves, it would be great to bump into each other intentionally. my problem is a sheltered lifestyle. there is every likelihood that there will be more folks atteding the show than live in my village. in fact, on the whole island. having lived here for a long time, in common with many an island resident, i know most folk and most folk know me (it's the bicycle that gives the game away). but take me out my comfort zone and plonk me in a strangely shaped building in glasgow, and there's a good chance i'll get lost.
remember last year's rapha 'hell of the north' ride?
so, in order to pre-empt any embarrassment that may ensue, i used the legendary power of twitter to ask where to meet and how we'd all recognise each other. the problem is compounded by my less than photographic memory. there are folks i have met throughout the years who i just know i will never recognise, though familiarity will prompt the sort of greeting one would expect. unfortunately, those who replied on twitter seem blessed with my own trivial sense of humour, and though many suggestions were good for a chuckle, i'm no further forward in the sphere of recognition.
there is also a reasonable chance that the bulk of those attending will be affiliated to the cycling fraternity, and thus possibly dressed in cycle related clothing, meaning that the wood will be hard to see for the trees. so can we please just agree to humour me?
assuming you want to say hello, d'you think you could wear a name badge?
posted wednesday 13th april 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
although open to much debate, and something that will never truly receive a definitive answer, conjecture and nationalistic pride would have it that the bicycle was invented by kirkpatrick macmillan in 1839. granted it was of wooden construction and with iron-rimmed wooden wheels, but a bicycle nonetheless. many a counter-claim exists in competing countries across the world, even extending to the elaborate hoax that averred the original invention was depicted in drawings attributed to leonardo da vinci.
but leonardo wasn't scottish.
ever since those days, you get the notion that britain has been setting itself up for a fall in the world of cycle sport, in much the same way as has afflicted performance in many another sport reputedly invented on these very shores. i'm sure i need not take this line of questioning any further. so in the world's premier stage race in existence since 1903, the first all-british team to take part, was the hercules outfit of 1955, including brian robinson, recently the subject of both book and dvd.
in the fifties, teams competed as national teams rather than the multinational trade teams that participate today, and it took a further 32 years before just such a trade team arose from the bedrock of british cycling, along with one or two johnny foreigners to again compete for that coveted yellow jersey in paris. of course, the ultimate prize in this case was merely a hypothetical aim; the constitution of 1987's anc halfords team was unlikely to trouble the judges, as david duffield was wont to say.
malcolm elliot, adrian timmis, graham jones, paul watson, shane sutton, steve swart, kvetoslav palov, guy gallopin and bernard chesneau made up the nine riders who rode peugeot bikes wearing anc-halfords jerseys (manufactured by assos; coincidentally, one of the directeurs sportifs was phil griffiths, the man behind yellow ltd, uk distributors of assos clothing). admittedly not all of british extraction, but that seemes to have mattered as little in the eighties as it does today.
parachuted in as journalist in residence from the star newspaper was jeff connor, subsequent author of this testament to self-destruction, wide eyed and legless. having a journalist in tow was likely as popular then as it would be now; even more so perhaps, given that connor was a tabloid journalist, rather than one with any sort of pedigree in writing about the beautiful sport. there is doubtless much worse than getting in above your neck while someone not only watches while you do so, but writes about it afterwards.
the anc-halfords participation in the tour de france has entered the annals of history possibly for all the wrong reasons. 1987 was the year that stephen roche kept delgado at bay to win a second grand tour (he'd already won in italy) and went on to take the rainbow stripes when sean kelly was dropped from the lead group, leaving roche free to ride his own race. to put it bluntly, the anc team literally disintegrated. most of the riders were considerably out of their depth; only malcolm elliot (94th), guy gallopin (133rd), kvetoslav palov (103rd) and adrian timmis (70th) finished in paris, while team creator tony capper left the tour before stage 22, "i've got to go back on business".
that was the last time any of the team saw him.
capper's disappearance may not have had a major detrimental effect on the remaining riders' competitive edge, but it did lose them a vehicle, finally making jeff connor less of a journalist and more of a team member. driving an iveco van down hairy pyreneean mountain descents with a distinct lack of braking power is likely not what he signed up for.
his position with the team, despite one of increasing reliance from their point of view, was never left in any doubt. phil griffiths; "there's no room for 'civilians' in a racing team". jeff connor, wondering if that meant him too received his answer; "of course i mean you too. i've never known a situation where a journalist was allowed to travel with a cycling team."
"but phil, you could have been lumbered with a real tabloid pig, you know, like the characters who put mikes under beds."
"yeah, but if you'd been a pig, you wouldn't have lasted the first two days. we'd have just bombed you out."
entertaining read as this book is, i am confused as to it's republishing at this point. it's not, in my opinion, the very best book on cycling ever written, even though the cover states it to be cycle sport magazine's no.1 cycling book of all time. (some dubious judgment going on there i'd venture). my press release states that publication is not till late june, but amazon are showing the book as currently for sale. either way, i can't help thinking that they've missed the boat slightly. surely a more appropriate time would have been either last year, when again we had a british team (sky) making its first attempt on the tour, or perhaps 2012 when it would have been the 25th anniversary of the anc-halfords attempt?
either way, it's quite good fun. if the 1987 race was to be recorded in any particular way, let alone from the point of view of an insider with a british team, this will do me just fine. and as a slightly disappointing epilogue, at the time this book was originally published (1988), the nine riders had not been paid for their july in france. not every story, however entertaining, has a happy ending.
posted tuesday 12th april 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
how long would you need to live in a jersey for it to become a favourite, or even the favourite? and do folks even have favourite jerseys anymore? in a world awash with the philosophy of disposability, perhaps cycle apparel need only inhabit a designated portion of the wardrobe and make itself readily available whenever the opportunity for a bike ride presents itself. what constitutes the fabric of the jersey at the top of the pile may not matter much.
polyester or lycra, however you want to name it, surely has a generic feel about it, three rear pockets, a short front zip and a tendency to exhibit little pooks in the material after several washes and wears. and there's another aspect about defining a favourite jersey; wearing it interminably is one thing, but how does it fair when you wash it? several times?
favourites require to be faithful, it's a (perhaps unfair) conditioning we place upon them. the reasoning is logical: if it's a favourite jersey, you want it to hold its own in esteemed company. there can be no faith in favourite that looks shabby. well, actually, that's not true, for it is written that a jersey that has experienced several years of road rage will have acquired character. now character is an indefinable. everyone's definition of character is going to differ; often by millimetres, but possible by a huge gaping chasm.
but you would surely broker no argument that several years of polyester will have little in the way of character. saggy patches and pooked stitching do not a summer make. search through your extensive collection of photographs depicting coppi, anquetil or merckx fending off photographers and well-wishers in the post race scrum. i agree that the wool jerseys they all wore will hardly have made it past the baby stage, but the wear and washing that those garments will have experienced in their short careers, will likely shame those we've had for many a year.
so wool it is then.
returning to the subject of favouritism, a secondary unique selling-point would appear to be necessary. let me explain. suppose all jerseys were made in black (i'm thinking expressly of wool here; though it may have been a subtle shift, the conversation has now eschewed polyester), and that wordrobe i mentioned earlier was filled to overwhelming with examples of same. how could a favourite be possibly defined? in fact, given such a scenario, what would be the point of even having a favourite in the first place? surely that would constitute eccentricity?
thus, by definition, this favourite jersey (i can see you are warming to my theme), ought to have a secondary motive in its armoury, one that links it with another favourite, perhaps a rider, or one of the makes of bicycle in the bikeshed. and that's kind of where i come in. or, more to the point, where i am at present.
i have, in the past, lovingly described the original wabi woolens jersey (in luxurious espresso hue) as the rolls royce of merino cycle jerseys, and in the process of it being a favourite jersey, i have found no reason to rescind that published statement. were it necessary to come clean, the espresso colouring alone would do it for me, but the jersey is of such a robust and comforting resolution that both pre, during and post ride, it is a wonderful garment to inhabit.
you must surely know of which i speak? those days when footering about the house for an hour or so prior to even putting on a pair of cycle shoes, dressed in the jersey de jour seems perfectly acceptable. and on returning, slouching about for a similar period of time before becoming a civilian again seems like normality. it's just that sort of jersey.
in a cruel twist of fate, the concept of favourite is a variable, susceptible to daily moods. thus, what was yesterday's favourite may not be today's, particularly if yesterday's is in the wash. and even favourites need to be at least temporarily retired at some point, particularly if there's a change in the weather. the espresso wabi is of long-sleeves and substantial construction, far too cosy for impending sunshine. so while it remains the/a favourite, its sterling service over the winter months has earned it a period of respite.
harth huffman is a man of perspicacity; he has the astuteness to realise that the aforementioned change in the weather happens every year, and there may be room in our psyches and wardrobes for a less substantial merino knit, one that will accompany the fortunate rider through the months when it doesn't get dark early in the evenings. this range is referred to in wabi terms as the sport series.
those who have been paying attention will realise that a long-sleeved example of the latter has already inhabited these yellow and black pixels, and acquitted itself with distinction, as indeed it continues so to do in day to day cycling life. you may also have picked up on the fact that my regular bicycle of choice is a sparkly black chris king cielo, a velocipede that likely needs no introduction, but one that has now gained an important ally in the sartorial stakes.
launched at the north american handbuilt show in february of this year, cielo are now able to offer a cycle jersey originating from the same city (portland, oregon), also constructed in the usa, and equalling the quality of the handbuilt cycle frame and its attendant components. on the left (short) sleeve, just above the ribbed wool cuff, is an embroidered cielo logo, subtly complemented by a logo'd tab sewn to the left side of the hem.
it is a wabi woolens jersey, even though such distinguishing and confirming marks are absent from the knit. i just know.
merino is now an everyday part of cycling; ubiquitous would not be too strong a word. but there is merino, and there is merino. this is the latter. the collar is also ribbed, most pleasingly, and offers safe haven for a half-length zip. the hem is elasticated, plied with that silicon gloop that stops the ineffective lycra of a pair of shorts from allowing it to ride up while doing its job in the saddle.
there are the three obligatory rear pockets, sited almost half-way up the back of the jersey and joined by a zipped security pocket outboard of the central, ipod enabled pocket. these pockets are not as elastic in their intention as more regular fair, but will retain their good looks well into the next decade. that said, it's astonishing just how much can be successfully crammed into what seems such a sequence of small spaces.
cielo and wabi woolens: it has favourite written all over it.
the cielo merino team jersey retails at $180. if a cielo does not reside in your bikeshed, you might wish to consider a regular sport series wabi woolens jersey. the short sleeve costs $145, the long sleeve at $160.
posted monday 11th april 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it was an innocent conversation, one that was merely designed to fill the gaps between our usual lack of action, and to allow us the luxury of feeling superior to lesser cyclists. inner tubes, is what it was all about initially, not so much sizes and valve choice, but more about why you'd travel any distance at all without packing at least one in a back pocket or tool roll under the saddle. in the days of black and white it seemed possible, though nostalgia may have intervened, to carry a trusty puncture repair kit, one that had a yellow crayon, chalk dust, rubber cement and a wide variety of red coloured patches. oh, and a couple of metal tyre levers that no self-respecting peletonese would ever allow anywhere near an anodised alloy rim.
but in the colour years, either inner tubes have altered or the sticking power of those patches, but it's nigh on impossible to get one to stick to the other, no matter how much patience and sandwiches you have. the smart money now is on carrying those spares; it's a darned sight quicker to replace a tube, safe in the knowledge that it will inflate and stay that way util a passing track pump can be found. who wants to be stood at the side of the highway trying manfully (or womanfully) to find the blasted hole and get a patch to stick? that's usually when it starts to rain anyway.
this was our (not so) hell of the further north; unable to be in north london to join the happy throng at rapha's offroad bash, we'd elected to ride our own, given that anything away from the main bowmore-port ellen road is fair game when it comes to this sort of thing. a day when the headwind seemed to be in every direction apart from the slog up the glen road, and a day when thoughts of precipitation were all but banished. unusually for the sunday ride, neither of us had packed rainwear, such was our increased confidence. there was a heat in the air, but only one that practiced to deceive. tan lines may have to wait a month or so yet.
so there we were, heading ever closer to the hill at storakaig, a peleton of two (which, strictly speaking, doesn't quite fulfil the description), enjoying sunshine, tailwind and rumination on subjects well outside our immediate experience. storakaig hill floated by in a few moments of heavy breathing and exertion, but the mistake i made was being way too cavalier when it came to the cattle grid en-route to knocklearach farm. it's slightly downhill at that point, and the grid has seen better days, so trammeling across it at reasonably high speed was, in retrospect, not the smartest choice i've ever made.
the reaction to poor choice made itself known almost immediately, when an already rough road became suddenly a lot rougher; front wheel puncture. it's at times like that, when searching the horizon for the mavic or team cars leads only to exasperation. i had thought of asking whether such a situation would befall tom boonen, but after his luck at paris-roubaix today, i thought better of it. thankfully, and not as a result of the day's earlier conversation, a trusty inner tube was to hand, along with a tyre lever crafted from milk duds and my trusty park tools frame fit pump. my faithful domestique, a role reversal for one day only, the mighty dave-t, who had been far more circumspect with regard to the cattle grid, was on hand to hold the wheel while i demonstrated why nobody has ever mistaken me for schwarnold arzenegger.
dirk hofman motor homes were very conspicuous by their absence. (ask me about it sometime).
the only saving grace of having such a minor infraction occur was the circumstance. somehow, a puncture in the heat of battle (leave me alone; justification is in the eye of the beholder) is so much more worth increased bragging rights than a simple, run of the mill loss of pressure. and there's always the added thematic instance of it happening on paris-roubaix sunday. sitting down to watch the race on eurosport, still clad in the armour of the day, it's a doddle to convince oneself that there's an almost tangible connection between johann, fabian and the old git sitting in the leather armchair.
posted sunday 10th april 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................