painter and decorator

tiger paint scheme

much of cycling is inveigled by the apparent necessity of fashion, whether it be the supposed technology involved in moulding burnt plastic into a podium winner, the seeming dispensation with all form of changeable gearing and freewheeling, or the simple act of riding with peak up or peak down. it's sort of why so many individuals have written their own rules of cycling, and lots of us feel compelled to follow on behind. as a rather spurious example, there will be few active racing cyclists who would consider anything other than carbon for their principal bicycle, if only because the general consensus would have it that you are considerably less likely to appear on one of the three steps if riding aboard anything else. that carbon is the only sane choice is probably not entirely true, but as i said, fashion in this sense plays a great part.

though the stories may be apocryphal, or perhaps still as true as they ever were, it is of note that many a rider will opt for a frame of the same colour as the outgoing one, in order to disguise the fact from his/her spouse that anything has changed under the saddle. were this truly to be the case, amateur and semi-pro races ought to consist of remarkably few distinct hues. such is, of course, made something of a mockery by the annual revamp of anything bicycle-like, where many a manufacturer is eager to tout at least a cosmetic difference between this year's and last year's model.

my introduction to the world of bicycle finery was through an insatiable desire to own a colnago, a company who, at the time, had a reputation for providing art decor paint schemes that were not only fairly unique, but something that instilled pride in anyone who owned such a machine. though i am anxious not to be seen apportioning blame in any one direction, the fact that almost everything made from burnt plastic these days exists under pointless swoops, darts and stripes seems linked to the popularity of at least one of the new kids on the block (relatively speaking). it is therefore of agonising despair that i watch colnago's paint experts spend hour upon hour of fastidious workmanship on some bland paint schemes that are little different to those of their peers.

what cannot be denied these days, however, is the quality of the decoration. many a layer of paint and clearcoat successfully disguises the existence of brand decals announcing just where your loyalties have been placed. the transition between one and t'other is often seamless. such is not necessarily the case if you opt to re-decorate a new or elderly frame in the bike shed or garage.

in the days when a mountain bike still resided within thewashingmachinepost bikeshed, fashion had dictated that i furnish my steel hard-tail with a pair of rock shox suspension forks. these, unfortunately were painted in something akin to grey hammerite paint which had a certain undesirable industrial look which probably suited my riding skills but certainly not my aesthetics. at that period, the highly marketable rock shox judy forks were sold in a very noticeable yellow, and it did not seem outwith the bounds of possibility that, armed with a sable brush and a tin of yellow humbrol paint, i could fashion a closeness of purpose. from a distance this would hopefully have me marked out as a mountain biker with nous and a sense of discernment.

i need hardly point out that such a cunning plan was not without its considerable downfalls, and you will be not in the least surprised to hear that those forks spent the rest of their career (such as it was) remaining gun-metal grey now distinguished by a faint yellow smudge towards the top of the non-drive side leg. painting, or repainting a bicycle to a standard that polite company would deem acceptable is not a task that should be undertaken lightly. that's why there are professionals.

however, in order to encourage and enlighten the aesthetically adventurous, ilex press are in the early stages of compiling a book of bicycle painting techniques and practicalities, due for publication in early 2013. if your own skills in this department make my own look like the pathetic attempt it undoubtedly was, the publishers would be very keen to hear from you. in order to find fresh talent in the area they're offering £250 to the best paint job submitted in the next month or so. it's a competition open to all, applying not only to fancy decorative jobs, but also classy and faithful restorations. if this is an area in which you figure you occupy the upper echelon, then click the link below to embark on stage one of increasing your bank balance by a most welcome amount.

i think it somewhat superfluous to point out that i will not be amongst your competition for the prize.

ilex press

posted monday 10 october 2011

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a ride in the falling rain

uiskentuie burn

the car park at the end of our terrace of houses used to take care of quantities of precipitation by means of a long slit-drain, one that had filled up with gravel a long time past and was only a drain in terms of its verisimilitude and certainly not in any functional way. this blockage meant the collecting water sat in the shape of a small loch in the middle of the car park, much loved by small kids on bicycles but a feature that quickly led to serious surface degradation of the car park entrance. while the estate was owned by the local council, repairs were effected by chucking gravel in the resultant holes and flattening them with a shovel. it didn't take long before the entrance became a mess once more, giving motorists serious concern for their suspension and making for a demonstration of handling skills by this particular cyclist.

when the council sold the ground to a housing association, they very kindly acquired funding from somewhere or other to have professionals come in, completely re-plumb the car park drainage and place a billiard table smooth surface to keep the susbtantial number of car owners happy, and alleviate handlebar strain for the solitary cyclist (me). reputedly the surface is guaranteed for twenty years, though i'm sure there's some small print to allow for negotiated argument, so when the solitary drain where water used to collect, blocked once more only a few weeks past, it seemed worth testing the association's mettle. rather surprisingly, and certainly not witnessed by me, the blockage has been cleared, and once more, little kids on bicycles circulate in disappointment at the loss of their puddle, while the homeowners breathe a sigh of relief.

stanalane car park drain

the repair is pretty much just in time, for though every season is rainy season in the west, it tends to be a tad more concentrated as we head towards a reduction in the daylight hours, the introduction to which started this past week. i got away with a meander to deb's on friday pm in frequent sunshine with the occasional heavy smattering of rain, but saturday was the crowning glory. this was fortunate in one way as a confirmation of my friday afternoon conversational drivel, during which it was affirmed that i laughed in the face of inclement weather. be careful what you wish for.

serious and consistent precipitation dawned on saturday morn, and with a lunchtime lunch appointment with mrs twmp, any riding i was likely to be blessed with would have to take place between rising and mid-day. a lesser wimp would have turned over and gone back to sleep before vacuuming the sitting room, but i had received the fortification of the latest rapha gentlemen's movie. the mention of this is sort of an incidental to my public train of thought, for unlike the general trend in cycle related blogging, i'm less than keen to scribble a few thoughts and round them off with a photo or movie gleaned from somewhere else on the web. that's not a great deal removed from re-iterating press releases.

but every now and again there's the exception that proves the rule.

this particular movie concerns a bike ride in frankische schweiz otherwise known as little switzerland. the location sounds like every cyclist's idyll, even if only from the implication of the name. this is conformed by the opening paragraph accompanying the ertzui movie: 'its landscape (is) made up of forests, jagged rock faces, brutally sharp climbs and winding rivers. it was named after the obvious comparisons to its larger cousin. it also just happens to boast the highest density of breweries in the world'. i see little in the way of dissension at the back.

uiskentuie burn

the idyll, however, was unceremoniously dismantled on this occasion by a sharp turn in the weather; pouring rain on a scale not often seen in the month of july. that those involved had the cojones to ride the event in the frst place is reason enough to applaud, but we should be providing a standing ovation to the ertzui guys for daring to get their camera gear waterlogged in the process of recording the 130km of purgatory. i can only guess at the precentage of pain involved, but the suffering is plain to see, or at least would have been had the lens not been flooded with water. the marvellous, but surely questionable part of watching a considerable number of all but drowned bicycle riders smiling and planning to ride on past the feed stop, is that they all seemed to be enjoying the suffering.

bicycle riding is mostly like that.

if the purpose of the movie was to impress, inspire and cajole, then it succeeded on every score, for who wouldn't want to be one of the lucky few splashing through flooded roads at speed (relatively speaking) heading towards a large bowl of warm, inviting cappuccino? i doubt very much whether a film of my ride from bowmore to bruichladdich would merit pride of place on rapha's website, but then that's hardly the point. watching my body double do so in frankische schweiz was more than enough to satusfy my own sensibilities and to throughly soak a pair of bib-threequarters and a kapelmuur independent casquette.

this agonism thing just loves wet weather. in fact, i did it again today.

posted sunday 9 october 2011

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santini metis jacket

sabian paragon steampunk

only today did i read a review of a rush album, the name of which i now can't remember, where he was compared to ginger baker and keith moon, both comparisons i figure are well wide of the mark. though the late keith moon was perhaps a more technical drummer than his persona would have us believe, i don't ever remember his drumming being the subject of hours of deliberation, unlike neil peart who seems to agonise for ages as to which hand should lead into a triplet phrase around his myriad tom toms. ginger baker is surely far too laid back and funky to ever find himself in the same room as the funk-less peart?

for die-hard rush fans whose blood pressure is now on the rise, fear not, for i do have a modicum of respect for neil's 23 inch bass drum, though i find the adulation that follows his every stick-whirl to be sycophancy of outlandish proportions. there seems little chance of this decreasing to any appreciable level anytime soon, as we prepare for the release (in early november) of a dvd entitled neil peart - taking centre stage which promises over six hours of footage and a somewhat excessive one-hour interview, explanation and demonstration of a new rush song, one that lasts for only five minutes forty seconds. surely procrastination to an unheard of standard.

santini metis jacket

most of this revolves around the recently completed time machine tour, and in keeping with his predilection for displaying a new specially decorated, humungous drum workshop kit for every tour, neil has proved his predictability in this respect. however, this time he has decided that nothing succeeds like excess, and turned attention to his substantial array of sabian paragon cymbals. i will not go into the background details as to why he found this necessary, but suffice it to say that he requested that sabian decorate the tops of each with varying alchemist symbols to match the exquisite decoration of the drums.

these he referred to as steampunk cymbals.

for those not familiar with the demands placed on drumset cymbals, the general idea is that the lathing and polishing are intended to result in superior and definitive sounds appropriate to the end user. in this case, neil peart. applying decoration of any ilk is more than likely to affect this sound generation, generally dampening it in a less than ideal manner. which, of course, is exactly what happened when sabian attempted to follow through mr peart's request. several sets were subjected to varying treatments and methods of decoration before the drummer was satisfied that the set required for rush's 2010 time machine tour was equal to the task. many man hours were spent on achieving graphic certitude, and one would imagine that sabian, as peart's cymbal supplier/sponsor would have carried out this detailed work at no expense to mr peart.

santini metis jacket

in the bicycle world, such extreme lengths would doubtless have been recouped by selling a verisimilitude to the great unwashed, but in the case of neil's extensive supply of decorated paragon cymbals, sabian have made it perfectly clear that these will not be offered to clamouring rush fans. you can almost hear the disappointment.

there is, however, one major fly in the ointment pertaining to the above concept, and i'm sure all the drummers reading this will have realised it by the end of the third paragraph. for those less well-versed in the percussive arts, let me make a rather obvious statement: neil peart's cymbals sit on top of (in this case) copper plated dw cymbal stands. the operative feature here is 'on top of'. if it's still not obvious, the decoration on those paragons is on top of the cymbals, sitting on top of the cymbal stands, surrounding a drum kit sited on top of a drum riser. in other words, apart from neil peart and his drum roadie, nobody is ever going to see those hours of effort unless they've taken a look at sabian's website.

pointless decoration.

santini metis jacket

though in full view of anyone in a following or surrounding peloton, the same can be said of the applied dye sublimation on santini's metis breezewall jacket. it's available in two colours: blue or white, and while white is white is white, i do so wish santini (and others) would avail themselves of adobe's kuler extension in photoshop and provide us with shades of a more modern constitution. and in the process of doing so, it would be greatly appreciated if they would please stop themselves from plastering seemingly random portions of their metis jacket with pointless and unnecessary (in this case) gridlike decoration. all they're doing is lessening the visual appreciation of an otherwise fabulous jacket.

carping aside, we are about to enter the time of year when a jacket such as this will be spending very little time on the coat-hanger. replete with three substantially sized (my digital camera was all but lost in one of them) rear pockets, santini have bypassed my constant demand for a fourth zipped version by piggy-backing a smaller internal (but non-zipped) pocket inside the middle one. the full length front zip features a so-called zip garage at both top and bottom, the first time i've come across this welcome attribute. the collar is high, the sleeves are long and the fleece lining makes this as cosy as snuggling under the duvet on a cold night. there is some interesting contouring in evidence on the lower portion of the forearms, removing any tendency for the sleeves to 'tug' at the elbows when reaching into one of those cavernous rear pockets en-route.

santini metis jacket

if your place is anything like my place, the ambient temperature during any given ride is subject to perennial change, a condition that necessitates tempering such cosiness with brief periods of ventilation. the latter is achieved by raising or lowering that front zip, and i have to say that the santini tagged zip puller is the finest i have ever had cause to pull up and down; easy doesn't even begin to describe it. though thoroughly windproof (and i'm in just the right place to verify that), the metis jacket is remarkably breathable. though certain rides this past week have been in milder climes than designed for, at coffee time and home time both baselayer and/or jersey were commendably dry.

and while we're on the subject of commendably dry, though the accompanying product tags mentioned it not at all, the outer layer of the jacket seems quite happy to repel untoward showers, which was a bit of an unexpected bonus.

santini metis jacket

originally priced at £129.95, it's your lucky day, as the chaps at prendas have lowered the price to an extremely amenable £75, meaning that not only can you expect to remain toasty in even the coldest of weathers that the forthcoming winter is likely to dispense, but you can do so while protecting the sorry-looking number at the foot of your bank statement. however, if anyone has any influence with the design department at santini, please, please, please point them in the direction of, and then persuade them against adding pointless design features to jackets that simply have no need of them.

as worn by neil peart (not).

prendas ciclismo

posted saturday 8 october 2011

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from the inside looking out

tour of britain

i would imagine we've all been there, or at least most of us have. standing by the side of a road eagerly awaiting the arrival of a phalanx of bike riders. it's necessary to discount events such as the tour series because by the very nature of its being, riders will pass your vantage point several times before they podium. (just a point of order here; podium is not a verb). the latter series has enjoyed great popularity for that very reason. not only is it far easier to televise a criterium, but the innocent bystander can gain a better grasp on who is leading lap by lap. the first guy across the line is the winner of that particular race, an easier concept to assimilate than those who figured mark cavendish had won the tour de france because he was first across the line in paris.

that means, to return to those of us standing by the roadside, that anything up to several hours in unpredictable weather to see a lone breakaway closely followed by a straggly peleton. all is over in a matter of minutes or even seconds, and unlike the continent, there is rarely a handy quoffing establishment nearby showing the event live on a big screen television. thus, those standing in orderly fashion need to be of stern constitution, hell-bent on enjoying even a smidgeon of cycle racing in its natural environment, to endure what others wouldn't give a fig for.

tour of britain

imagine be-scarfed soccer fans having to sit (yes, sit; cossetted or what?) for hours at a time, waiting for two teams to run onto the pitch for a couple of minutes kicking a ball, before disappearing back into the changing rooms. i can't see that catching on.

the fabulous thing about cycle racing however, is that those few minutes of bicycles rushing past are but a part of the vast panoply of the sport. and we are exceedingly fortunate to have those amongst our clique who selflessly confrim the myth both externally and internally. if i may briefly return to my football simile, when was the last time, other than on the playstation, you were able to view the match in the midst of the field of play?

that would be never then?

i have, sitting on the narrow windowsill behind my computer desk, a postcard bearing a photograph by ben ingham. the card kindly accompanied some correspondence from rapha, and depicts fast moving bicycle wheels in the rain. there is no indication as to whose legs are powering those wheels, where in the world the bicycle was at the time the shutter clicked, or whether the weather improved later that same day. it's a fabulous photograph, curiously inspiring, yet one that would have likely been consigned to the erase button had it shown up on my blue lumix. but had that been the case, it would have been there accidentally rather than deliberately, unlike as on mr ingham's camera.

tour of britain

ben ingham is an appropriate character to have entered the discussion at this point, for he was one of the first of the crop of contemporary cycle photographers to explore the ability of modern digital cameras to capture high definition video. witness his exemplary acciaio filmed at dario pegoretti's workshop in italy. it's not that the rest of us are not excitable enough to delight in this aspect of cycle racing, it's simply that mostly we do not have the skill, perception, vision and accreditation to capture this for ourselves. i have pointed out in previous posts that i think cycle sport to be probably the best served in the world by the quality of the photography that represents it. i know some folks just don't get it, who see little difference between the imagery of masters like chris milliman and that of graeme watson, other than the former's enjoyment of black and white and the latter's use of larger than life colour.

in the final analysis, it is a matter of individual perception, appreciation and what it is you expect to gain from an obsession with bicycles and bicycle racing.

tour of britain

so while the handbuilders of portland spend their waking hours pushing the limits of what steel will do when contorted into the uibiquitous double-diamond, and the carbon experts of taiwan coupled with the finite element analysis software of italy are manipulating carbon into as many smooth, yet angular shapes that'll fit within the uci's diktat on frame design, lenses and shutters are working just as hard. for aside from welcoming technical developments with open arms, many of this new breed of imaginists have the same quest to push the bubble in every direction to see what will happen if and when it eventually bursts.

if the above seems impenetrably cryptic, i offer the video below as evidence to accompany my dissertation. while you can, if you wish, spend a not inconsiderable £35 on a dvd set from this year's tour de france, i have a feeling you may gain more from the imagery on show below. at the risk of setting myself up for a fall, i'd tender that this has all the impact, intrigue and excitement as those three weeks in july; yet it's in black and white, there is no commentary, and not very much dialogue. the hero of the hour is rapha condor sharp's jonathan tiernan locke, winner of the king of the mountains in this year's tour of britain. the film is directed by camille mcmillan, edited by harry foster and produced by laura fletcher.


posted friday 7 october 2011

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wasn't she the kid in 'bewitched'?


i do not train. i have nothing truly to train for. that is, of course, an oversimplification; i train in my own special way, counting the minutes from bowmore to the soft and cosy couch at debbie's. and i have made one or two efforts to ensure that lifting that soup bowl of soya cappuccino is as easy as, well, lifting a soup bowl of soya cappuccino. any cyclist who says that they do not train, is probably telling a fib, though it's possible that they're telling the same fib to themselves. like i am.

saturdays of late, have become cyclocross days, mornings when i attempt to dress appropriately, grab the lime green hakkalugi from the bikeshed and head almost carelessly off into the hinterlands. bridgend woods if truth be told. the pathways through the woods were opened up only a few years ago by a confusingly benevolent islay estate, having cleared much a-plenty dead wood to allow clear passage by walkers, horse-riders and bicyclists. the latter category incorporates the odd (and i do mean odd) cyclocrosser and a few mountain bikers. they, not entirely unnaturally, feel that they inhabit the higher ground (it's the bouncy bits on the front that do it), and based on my own rudimental skills when tarmac turns to gravel, they may well be right.


cyclocross looks so cotton pickin' easy; leaping on the bike, leaping off, and carrying the darned thing over stuff that gets in the way (like pedestrians and dogs). how hard can it be? unfortunately, a lot harder than it looks. i have found a circular route in hidden corners of the woods that will hide the fact that i'm trying harder than i'd prefer folks to think i am. this circuit of indeterminate length (it seems longer every lap) has the requisite uphill bits, several downhill sections, and a steep run up through the trees that has so far garnered some very quizzical looks from visitors outside islay woollen mill.

i have tried, in this latter case, to make it look as if i'm doing nothing out of the ordinary, for the indigenous population and visitors to the isle are less well-versed in bicycle nomenclature than those gathered around me here. i am sure i am classed along with the mountain bikers, as brief glimpses of the tyres will have excluded me from the road-going variety. mountain bikers will attempt to ride everything, rarely attempting anything that might prove itself otherwise, while i, on the other hand am doing all in my power to emulate real crossers, thus indulging in a modest quotient of running uphill.


on the second lap, such was my joy, but disgusting lack of fitness for the task in hand, i put the ibis down on reaching the summit of the running section and convinced myself and all those not watching, that this was the ideal situation and opportunity to take photographs of the apparel under review. an excellent set of circumstances to retain some sense of decorum. it plays well to my perceived image and street-cred, to appear composed and serene as i scurry past those out walking dogs, kids or grannies, but oft times that is harder to achieve than the hour or so's cycling that preceded it. so perhaps i have to admit defeat and participate in a modest smidgeon of exertion.

not training, you understand.

which sort of leads me to my curiousity. if i wasn't curious about matters pertaining to cycling, i wouldn't be writing this stuff in the first place, and we'd likely never have met. this curiousity several years ago, brought me to the sometimes pointless word of twitter (@twmp), a form of social media that i have adopted in the same way that a duck takes to sand. those that i am following, and the bulk of those following me, are similarly concerned with the world of the bicycle, and judging from some of the tweeting flying back and forth, they are several leagues above me when it comes to the skill and fitness department. disappointingly though, there were terms of language unknown to me, terms that impressed that i may just be missing out on an integral part of stuff i ought to be doing. or at least stuff i ought to know about doing. that is, if i trained.



that was the word being bandied about in colloquial fashion by those obviously cheered by the advent of the cyclocross season. claire beaumont, she of condor cycles fame was recently tasked with training 'cross intent ladies (surely discrimination of some sort?) since she owns a degree of fitness and cyclocross skill that is the envy of many. and most. or both. so when the word tabata surfaced regularly amongst tweeters of her acquaint, i felt compelled to ask the question, one that no doubt many others would like to have asked had the opportunity arisen.

here is her reply: "It's a type of training taking 20mins max. Studies found that subjects who undertook just tabata for six weeks, twice a week, increased their V02 max by 11% over a group that did one hour rides three times a week at threshold.
"There are some things to consider with Tabata: one cannot do it alone and expect to be a Pro Tour rider, but it's good for cyclocross as it's short. I usually ride home for 40mins and then do tabata. It consists of 20 seconds flat out, ten seconds recovery and repeating that combo for four minutes before taking a five minute break."


purgatorial though that sounds, it seems that this is another case of cyclists proving that pain and suffering isn't just a rapha marketing ploy. having been educated so eloquently as to what tabata is, why in the name of cantilever brakes is it called tabata? i'm glad you aksed me that, for it allows me to elucidate you as to the extent of my curiousity regarding such matters. it seems that this appellation is derived from the japanese gentleman who invented the technique in the first place, a man by the name of izumi tabata. mr tabata was formerly a researcher at japan's national institute of fitness and sports in kanoya, and it turns out that his name should be suffixed with the letters ph.d.

all that via twitter; and folks said it was a pointless waste of time.

so what do you think i'll be doing next time i go down to the woods on a cyclocross bike? exactly, i'll be doing the same as i did last week. that tabata stuff sounds way too much like hard work, and i don't need to train.

in fact, i don't train.

tabata protocol

posted thursday 6 october 2011

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never a cross word

rapha supercross

it will likely not surprise you to learn that i played in a band when at art college; it's one of those things almost expected of art students for one reason or another. roxy music met at art college, members of queen dabbled in graphics courses, and i'm sure it would be possible to add a considerable number more to the list. you can likely guess that the musicians/art students with whom i was playing never quite scaled the lofty heights and commercial success shown by either of the above. but then if that were the case, i wouldn't be sitting here on a wednesday evening typing this. i'd be midway through yet another world tour, wondering why throwing a flat panel tv out the holiday inn window hadn't the same pizzazz provided by the old cathode ray tubes.

aside from learning how to play enough songs to complete even a modest set (playing the same tune more than once seems to garner little by way of ecstatic approbation), the hardest part about any coming together as a rock/pop band is finding a name that everyone agrees upon, and which won't prove to be embarrassing to disclose in middle-age. if we'd been of a jazz persuasion, the trials and tribulations would have been so much less onerous; depending on personnel numbers, we'd just have been somebody's trio, quartet or quintet.

rock 'n' roll gives you the blues.

rapha supercross

midst so many derivative suggestions, two in particular held untold promise. wouldn't it be marvellous if those years of middle-age had much more to tell, that our little group of wannabes had shared stages with led zeppelin, yes, genesis, roxy music or even rush? the chances of that happening, of course, were almost nil, but a little creativity would not have gone amiss. thus the two supercilious selections were either 'support' or 'cancelled'. we could doubtless have acquired bona fide concert posters that detailed in sizable letters bob dylan plus support or joni mitchell: cancelled.

joshing aside, it was with great satisfaction that we watched another local band with a slight whiff of arrogance, name themselves rue de remarx, a rather clever play on words. this literary excellence was wholly undermined by their appended catchphrase of 'la rage' which, i assume, was intended to imply that they were all the rage. unfortunately, in french, la rage means rabies.

however, if i may, i'd like to return to the notion of naming the band support, except here i'm looking more at an event series whereby one has emerged as the headliner and the preceding two have taken on the connotation, by implication, of supporting events.

rapha supercross

the brainchild of rouleur deputy ed, iain cleverly, rapha's supercross series has hopes of bringing an amalgam of belgian and north american cyclocross to three corners of the uk. unfortunately none of the three have made it north of the border, but from tiny acorns, giant oaks will grow. i feel no serious guilt in admitting that i have never attended a cyclocross meet of any description, so the hype of possibly viewing muddy racing emulating the photos seen on (over 1500 entered for portland's cross crusade at alpenrose last weekend) or something akin to kalmthout, was incentive enough to search out the logistics of attending the nearest event to my rock in the atlantic.


taking a look at rapha's supercross pages, one would be forgiven for believing that here are three cyclocross events with equal billing: windermere, huddersfield and alexandra palace in london. but those of us residing in the principalities have become cynical towards such apparently transparent falsehoods. basically the ally pally event is the headlining band, while the other two are merely the support, existing to warm the crowds before mud, sweat and gears in the metropolitan area. its inflated sense of its own worth is manifest in oh so many ways; listen to radio four in the morning (james naughtie really ought to know better) and the weather forecast will almost inevitably pronounce cloudy but warm in the south, rain and wind everywhere else, forecasts that are as much use as a derailleur on a track bike.

so what i'm proposing is that we give those southerners a taste of their own medicine. if as many folks as possible grabbed wellies, rapha cyclocross winter caps and cowbells before making their way en-masse to either windermere (15th october) or huddersfield (16th october), it could seriously undermine the self importance of the final round in alexandra palace.

and that would make them really cross.

rapha supercross

posted wednesday 5 october 2011

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blade runner

rapha shaving foam

there can be few of us who have not travelled at least part of the road made famous by dave stoller in breaking away. perhaps not quite as far as adopting an italian stance in daily life, other than ordering the occasional pizza and a bottle of san pellegrino. but for many a cycling obsessive, shaving is not confined to the facial department; in order to slice through the air more easily, with the svelte suppleness of an italian professional, that razor needs to take issue with hairy legs.

the early, tentative days of even considering such a life-changing move, are fraught with dichotomy. remaining hirsute in the face of the competition which may also contain members of your peer group demonstrates one of two things, neither of them particularly commendable. either one's commitment to the cause is not as fastidious as it ought to be, or attachment to conformity in polite society denotes one as entrenched in civilian society. either way, the reluctantee comes out smelling of less than the slopes of the ventoux. for adherence to the unwritten rules of cycling demands that those legs should profess a smooth sheen whenever turned in a favourable light.

rapha shaving foam

though i am aware of professionals and amateurs alike who delight in the winter months of growth, i confess to finding the same portion of the year as more demanding of regular shaving. for autumn and winter have a predisposition to lower temperatures, a situation that can only be sustained in shorts for just so long. it is only a matter of days or weeks before the bib threequarters find their way to the top of the shorts drawer, giving greater protection to the lower limbs. a smattering of roubaix lining serves but to enhance the effect. and then we'll be into winter tights.

particularly in the latter but occasionally in the former, i find that unfettered lycra tends to seek out hairs over a certain length and spend the remainder of the ride pulling for all they're worth. all the souplesse in the world will be hard put to isolate that scraping feeling and restore poise and grace. therefore, for me at least, leg shaving is a tautological necessity throughout the year, but perhaps more so during an islay winter. which only leaves july and a wee bit of august then.

rapha shaving foam

though i have not investigated far enough to understand the width of his commitment to anti-hirsute behaviour, it is said that fausto coppi would not suffer any of his team-mates to ride with a residual f five o'clock shadow. this apparently stretched even to sending a rider back to his room to shave just prior to a stage start, should he have had the audacity to appear with facial growth. mark cavendish would not have had a place in fausto's team, and i'm sure he'd have had many a problem with dave zabriskie.

given this depth of tradition and wide-ranging pragmatism, it is perhaps far less of a stretch to understand why rapha have decided to augment their skin-care range with a small black tin of shaving cream. i don't deny that opening the chunky cardboard box to find a small decorative box inside, exactly the same size as rapha's chamois cream was flooded with initial disappointment. for given the amounts of foam that i used to squirt from a shaving foam canister, the contents sat before me seemed to promise little more than a week's use.

never judge a tin by its size.

rapha shaving foam

leg shaving, you may be relieved to learn, is not a daily feature of my life, therefore shave number one was facial, but on a monday morning, after ignoring the need on a sunday morning, meant a couple of days' growth to be cleared (seems i'd have my tail between my legs if i rode for fausto). rapha's instructions demand smoothing a portion of cream onto a raw face and working up to an impressive lather. unfortunately, i seem not to have the required technique, and all that resulted was a white, smeary face. but then, that's what shaving brushes are for; major foaming in every direction that had me soon resembling saint nicholas. wearing of a red softshell is not to be encouraged when shaving.

and i very much do enjoy smelling like the slopes of mont ventoux, though i have yet to see the aroma inflict notions of strenuous mountain climbing on any of my work colleagues. however, they are philistines and well they know it. mere smatterings of shaving cream are required for the daily shave, and not a great deal more when it comes to those thighs of steel and calves of iron. in remarked contrast to my opening concerns, this little black tin of shaving cream is going to last me well into next season.

however, the agonist within me agonises over whether i truly have a next season, or if it's just a continuing part of the current one, which is...

rapha's shaving cream is sold in 150ml tins at a more than reasonable cost of £15 ($20) (given how long it seems likely to last).

rapha shaving cream

posted tuesday 4 october 2011

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................