the hero of the piece is a chap by the name of frank bowden. having been told by his doctor that for the sake of his health he should ride a bicycle (how often have we heard that one lately?) the 38 year-old bought a messrs woodhead, angois and ellis bicycles which, in similar manner to that of victor kiam many years later, impressed him so much that he bought the company. by fortuitous happenstance, in 1887, woodhead, angois and ellis bicycles were ensconced in raleigh street, nottingham. in order to increase production from three bicycles per week, frank bought larger premises in russell street and changed the name of his company to raleigh cycles to commemorate its original location.
eventually raleigh cycles became the biggest bicycle manufacturing company in the world, and when (sir) frank bowden died in 1921, his son sir harold bowden took over the chairmanship. the heron badge adorning the nottingham built cycles was taken from sir frank's family crest. come the mid to late 1950s, the increasing invasion of economically viable automobiles led to a decrease in cycle sales in the uk, forcing many cycle companies to merge their operations for continued viability. in 1960, tube investments, owners of reynolds steel from which many bicycles were manufactured, purchased the raleigh bicycle company and strategically, if a little unimaginatively, renamed it ti-raleigh. tube investments also owned brooks saddles, and sturmey-archer of three-speed hub fame.
in 1982, the huffy corporation of america purchased the rights to the name, raleigh usa, under which agreement, they were licensed to design and distribute raleigh bicycles across the pond, providing them with instant access to a particularly large network of bike shops. bizarrely, canada still received raleigh of england bicycles, and was the country in which the infamous raleigh chopper was released in 1969. by 1984, the thin end of the wedge had become somewhat wider, with a considerable number of cycles manufactured in japan by bridgestone, leaving only the racing team service course machines and the prestige range of raleighs to be built in nottingham.
the raleigh usa operation was purchased from huffy in 1987 by the german derby corporation, and today, even raleigh uk is owned by the same folks. in 1999 all the company's frame-making equipment was auctioned and volume production of raleigh bicycles was transferred to the far east. by 2003 all remaining assembly and factory staff in britain were made redundant; raleigh nottingham is now only a distribution outlet.
it would be churlish to jump up and down, demanding to know how the once largest cycle company in the world has descended to such depths, for if the obvious truth be told, the same accusation could be levelled at a great number of so-called british companies who retain much of their indigenous nationality in name only, production having been shifted to somewhere less enamoured of industrial action and ever-increasing wage demands. it's the british way.
this year, 2012 is, even by means of my rudimentary arithmetic makes this the 125th anniversary of raleigh bicycles, an event that it would have been an excellent time to announce a revival in raleigh's fortunes, and possibly even a return to some semblance of uk manufacturing. ok, so perhaps i'm stretching incredulity just a smidgeon too far, but my little bicycle world is ever hopeful that lugged steel frames will rise up over night, reasserting their dominance over the carbon insurgent. bicycle closure, if ever such existed.
but that's my little world, one bearing almost no resemblance to the real one; i'm right, they're wrong. but in a stunning notion of earth shattering originality, the current owners of raleigh, eager to celebrate this landmark anniversary, have bestowed the historic marque with a new logo. if only i were blessed with such a highly developed sense of perspicacity.
they would have perhaps gained a greater degree of respect, had this groundbreaking piece of graphic design not simply been frank bowden's heron with the legend 125 years positioned underneath. and i'll bet it's just a sticker when it reaches that head tube.
posted monday 16 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on 11 september 1997 a general referendum concerning scottish devolution was promoted as the result of a labour party commitment in their election manifesto. that the referendum produced a positive majority in favour of scotland having its own parliament in holyrood is now part of british and scottish history, and in one small, wrong place at the wrong time moment, also part of mine.
a portion of my own required commitment to our local newspaper dictates that i am often in the office during a non-production week, taking care of all the niceties and essentials that will make for a smoother issue the following week. at some time prior to the devolution vote, the office was contacted by a producer from the bbc enquiring as to whether someone in the office would willingly (or otherwise) be interviewed about the impending show of hands. such are the powers of our receptionist's abrogation, the phone call ended up in my hands. my understanding was that this was a bbc radio crew in the village and looking for unsuspecting victims. i protested my innocence by attempting to sidestep the issue on the basis of complete political agnosticism; sadly, that made them warm to me even more.
but it was radio; how hard could that be?
my fundamental mistake was revealed when camera, sound and lighting crews appeared through the office door a mere fifteen minutes later, followed by john pinar, one of the beeb's more politically astute commentators. i remember little of what came to pass, but i did studiously avoid watching the bbc news for the next couple of days. one or two folks were kind enough to comment that my appearance was most coherent, but sadly, i doubt that very much.
so here we are, a matter of fifteen years later, and yet again the conversations have turned to scottish independence, though this time from the seeming point of no return. i am not sufficiently well-educated in political mannerisms to know whether this is a good thing or not; do i really want to live in a scotland that is a wholly separate entity from the country that it borders? will i need to spend yet another seventy odd quid to receive a scottish passport rather than the british one i already own? will rapha require to add scotland to the country jersey range?
all jesting aside, should alex salmond continue to defy our current political masters south of the border, a yes vote in any subsequent scottish referendum is bound to have repercussions that few will have even considered as of yet. in a hopelessly parochial manner, my first thought was of the british cycling memebrship card residing in my ardbeg wallet. though my first point of contact for any cycling membership would not unnaturally be scottish cycling, a strange thing happens when typing www.scottishcycling.org.uk into any web browser that comes to hand. very quickly (the interweb is like that) the very words i dictated to the ether are converted to www.britishcycling.org.uk/scotland.
firstly, though i should probably be less than surprised, would the paying of lip-service to cycling scotland not be better served by having the latter web address simply forward to a landing page on the british cycling website, leaving the typed url in place? i realise this would be simply a sop to those of scottish pedalling techniques, but it would at the very least retain some semblance of dignity for the country that provided robert millar, graeme obree and sir chris hoy, without whom british cycling would be very much the poorer. (if you want to stretch credibility a tad, you could include david millar, but i fear he has less clout than the previous three; and yes, i know that graeme isn't scottish by birth).
the latter point may, of course, be worth some coffee shop debate, for who's to say that a scottish olympic committee would not be predisposed to allowing david to compete, despite his served two-year ban? (though he'd be of little national use to cav or wiggo under such circumstamces) however, with the referendum not due till at least 2014 (according to the scottish first minister), that is likely a moot point as is, perhaps, the likelihood of sir chris making a successful return appearance in 2016.
however, as per usual, i have seriously, if not unrelatedly digressed, for my initial point was that of re (or mis)-direction. why scottish cyclists require to be taken care of by an organisation residing in manchester (though the scottish co-operative retail society may have set a similar geographical precedent in this case) when there are apparently nine scottish cycling board members with an edinburgh contact telephone and address (south gyle) is something of a mystery to me. i now wonder whether the scottish cycling twitter account is handled by someone without an edinburgh accent. check the home page for the latter and it makes no pretence of having even a scottishcycling.org web address but brazenly advertises the url for british cycling averred to above.
glasgow is due to host the commonwealth games in 2014, possibly not long before alex salmond asks that question of his loyal subjects, with the cycling events taking place in a new, purpose built sir chris hoy velodrome. given that british cycling currently resides at manchester velodrome, is there one squeak of a chance that scottish cycling will regain its lost identity, hire a transit van in edinburgh and move those nine directors lock, stock and starting gate to a small cupboard and a secret squirrel complex in glasgow's new facilities?.
and just to maintain this new corporate image, will they ask for their website back again?
i'd just like to point out, for editorial independence reasons, that while i am proud to be scottish and rather fond of the home country, my political ideals are pretty much all over the place both geographically, organisationally and philosophically.
posted sunday 15 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on october 14th, 1947 flight officer charles elwood chuck yeager took a bell x-1 experimental rocket plane through the sound barrier for the first time, flying at a scary altitude of 45,000ft. yeager for many, embodies the character and spirit of what most would refer to as a test pilot and indeed was the subject of tom wolfe's book the right stuff. without those with the courage and experience to consistently take new and untrialled aircraft into the skies, attempting mostly to break them or push them to their notional limits, air travel for the rest of us would hardly be as safe as it has turned out to be.
the trepidation encountered by modern day test pilots, responsible for dragging colossal monsters of aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre off the runway and all the way up to what currently passes for cruising altitude, is not something most of us would be willing to experience. but test after test after test must be endured because changes in design and improvements in technology foster a need to find out their safety limits. it's a tough job but somebody has to do it.
even at this advanced age, when boyhood dreams of becoming an astronaut, train driver, fireman or cement lorry driver (yes, really) have long since evaporated, a litte kernel shielded from everyday life hangs on to the thought of being a test pilot of something or other. software beta testing has its moments, but other than the likelihood of inadvertantly crashing the programme, there is little danger involved. at least, nothing worth the adoration of one's peers.
though hardly worthy of the respect rightly conferred upon the likes of chuck yeager, the more mundane aspects of test pilotness still require to be carried out in the unlikely world of cycling apparel. not too many months prior to christmas 2011, andy storey at prendas ciclismo forwarded a pair of windproof overshoes and matching winter gloves for a good thrashing prior to their commitment of substantially larger quantities. as mr storey said at the time "we figured that your experience of reviewing umpteen items of cycling garb over the years would allow for close examination of thes latest prospective additions to the prendas range", an ego booster if ever there was one, ultimately undermined by mick tarrant adding "but mostly because you've got crap weather."
for perhaps the first time in my career, i had cause to softly curse islay's weather for failing to deliver the goods when required. the wind is omnipresent, so it's never too much of a hardhsip to check the windproofing qualities of anyhting you care to mention, but in the case of overshoes, it would have been an ideal consideration to get them wet on at least one or two occasions. precipitation did eventually occur, but only after i'd passed on my thoughts to test team headquarters in poole, dorset. as it turns out, the weatherpoofing is consistent with the quality regularly delivered from prendas.
the fabric responsible for both items is referred to as air tunnel, a multi-layered fabric designed to protect from the elements but still fulfill the climbing specifications of, say, michael rasmussen: in other words, lightweight. strictly speaking, air tunnel is not waterproof, but not so as you'd notice, and when it does get wet, unlike neoprene it doesn't becoming a sopping bulk. external decor is hard to miss; the seam is thickly obscured by bright white tape, while each side bears a substantially sized logo and the word prendas writ large, white on black. just to finish off, the top collar is favoured with a small italian flag to indicate country of origin.
cosy toes are the only two words i need expound by way of review; this state continued whether wet or dry. did i have any contentious results from my test piloting? the commendable zip garage atop the ankle section (in faux carbon fibre) seemed a smidgeon too large by my reckoning, and the white seam tape threatened to be a wee bit pointy if not constrained at the toes. when worn with regular look style cleats, the rear of the front cleat cutout was just a flick too close to the cleat (and i have my cleats pushed as far forward as possible). none of my considered opinions, however, were ever likely to prevent these from flying.
the usual problem with gloves fashioned from a frothy sort of fabric is that of internal movement and stretching. ride your favoured steed, outstretched on the lever hoods, as the fabric extends itself untrammeled, reticence is experienced by those hand muscles leading to an unwarranted degree of tension throughout the ride. the air tunnel fabric bears many similarities to its predecessors in this respect, yet exhibits virtually none of the stretching to which i refer. in similar manner to their overshoe brethren, warmth can be taken for granted. what is something of a surprise is their lack of bulk; winter gloves often have a heft descriptive of substantial weatherproofing. the air tunnel gloves take care of all with an almost unbearable (but highly agreeable) lightness of being.
as with henry ford, the gloves are only available in black, again with a solo white prendas logo on the back adjacent to a white prendas ciclismo. the palm and finger grips are cleverly ordered from a repeating prendas logo: form and function in one package.
i confess that my brief period of test piloting could find nothing in the gloves about which to complain. the iniquities of the system demand that one take more than just a second look at either item, since the ordering of substantial quantities by a third party may depend on a simple, badly aimed, off-the-cuff remark.
the proof of the pudding offers a responsibility i am happy to live with.
prendas air tunnel' overshoes are available in small to xxl at a very reasonable £29.95, while the matching gloves can be acquired in xxs all the way to xl for the same price. if you purchase both together, mick and andy are offering £4.90 discount. i'm sure i need not prod you further; winter has a way to go yet.
posted saturday 14 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i always fear for the humiliation of perhaps the sole entrant to a competition who chances to get the answer wrong when every other entrant is 100% correct. thankfully, in this particular case, that unfortunate person simply doesn't exist. every one of the many entrants in the cervo rosso test team membership competition had the answer right on the button.
the question asked for the letters and numbers describing the comfortable bit in cervo rosso's latest bib shorts, the answer to which was hg11. but of course, you knew that. the winners, who will be receiving their test team membership cards, entitling them to join with other test team members in various gran fondos and sportives across the world, and to receive 25% discount of any item on the cervo rosso website are listed below. congratulations to those who won, but commiserations and thanks to all others who took the time to e-mail their answers. you were all correct, but sadly only three can walk off with the prizes.
neil power from edinburgh, david irvine from ayrshire and alan van riet bogaarden from belgium, you will all be receiving your prizes very soon.
posted friday 13 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
hurricane force winds and horizontal hail notwithstanding, islay's a rather fine place to ride a bike. many of the backroads are singletrack and bear relatively little traffic, leaving plenty of time to look about you and admire the scenery. and in much the same way as hordes invade the alps and pyreneees of france in an effort to test their mettle against the gradients of the tour, negotiating a headwind just a smidgeon more testing than you'd get in ordinary civilian life, could be quite cheerfully seen as a similar experience, but perhaps a bit closer to home.
while the art of the gran fondo undoubtedly sprung to life in the european hinterlands, its nephew, the sportive, now occupies every inch of every road in more countries than i have time to relate. many of these are within the confines of britain's shores, and no doubt many have already planned this year's training, entry and work holidays around just such events. though the majority of these are nominally non-competitive, the trend appears to be towards cramming as many ascents into as few square miles as feasible. it's all about bragging rights.
however, not everyone wishes to emulate le tour peloton; some are far happier experiencing the scenery bypassed by those intent on summitting (a word i borrowed from jura fell race) at a more leisurely pace. yes, there may be skinny wheels and bendy bars, but contrary to popular opinion, those do not necessarily constitute an invitation to speed.
in the past, guided cycle tours of islay and jura were a not infrequent happenstance, not operated locally, but relatively popular all the same. sadly, they are no longer in existence, but many a tour of similarly attractive parts of great britain can still be had through the auspices of bikecation, a business run by rob penn and jamie paterson. though i confess to the former being a personality unkown to me, rob penn holds a slightly higher profile, being the author of it's all about the bike: the pursuit of happiness on two wheels and star of the accompanying bbc documentary ride of my life.
the inexplicable part of this is that rob and i have conversed by e-mail on more than one occasion, yet i was completely in the dark as to his efforts in the direction of providing holidays that move you. and now i'm feeling guilty for my lack of investigative journalism that would surely have turned this up earlier than today.
bikecation comprises a wide ranging set of cycling holidays both self-guided and under the auspices of a tour guide, depending on your sense of adventure. delights such as a five day ride through and around the lochs and glens of scotland, the northumberland coast, the borders, cornwall and others. prices start at around £395. "At Bikecation, we aim to provide cycling holidays that revel in the rhythm of two spinning wheels; holidays that capture the fun and freedom of cycling as kids; holidays that celebrate the fellowship of pedalling with friends and family; holidays that give you a thirst for adventure and an appetite for great food; holidays that make time stand still." ostensibly a total antithesis to the sportive and gran fondo scene.
so perhaps, after reading your copies of procycling and cycle sport, accompanying daily perusal of velonews and bikeradar, it is time to sidestep the competitive urge, particularly amongst those who have forgotten what that was in the first place. all tours are bookable via the bikecation website, and if you take the time to watch the movie below produced for the lochs and glens tour, perhaps holiday-time this year will require less in the way of power meter readings and the inevitable periodisation. and more in the way of getting used to riding with a saddlebag.
perhaps i could persuade rob to incorporate some hebridean hospitality in years to come.
posted friday 13 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though the commotion has died down somewhat on both the forums and the public face of same, twitter, i doubt much has changed in the interim. allow those large or small packages to fall through the letterbox onto the coconut welcome mat and 'tis only a matter of speedily removing the outer packaging to inhale the aroma of printers' ink on heavy stock paper. you know it only too well from copies of rouleur, privateer, the ride journal and those delightful little rapha catalogues displaying the fruits of ben ingham's auto focus. it is a distinctly heady bouquet.
for that reason alone, all attempts to wean us away from our individual pages and onto e-readers ought to be viewed with suspicion and not just a soupcon of concern. pixels have no intrinsic smell other than the smears of marmalade that are an inevitable occurrence of trying to read e-mails while devouring a warm croissant for breakfast. there is no heart and soul to a liquid crystal display however subtle its similarity to real paper. concern should also be expressed over the practicality of lazing in the bath reading the latest from apple's bookstore. one slip could be substantially more expensive than a second copy of rouleur.
though it ill behoves me to admit, i appear to harbour deep-rooted luddite tendencies, witness my recent diatribe against the wholesale adoption of disc brakes on road bikes. you would think a man of my perspicacity would embrace technological advancement with open arms. however, i'm still bristling at the imposition of integrated headsets, so i fear i'm beyond saving. though mrs twmp has happily adopted an ipad into her daily continuum over the past year and a half, i still find myself eyeing such devices with suspicion.
however, just to keep mrs twmp in the picture for a moment or two more, i cannot honestly deny that the substantial number of books received for review take up a sizeable amount of space, an aspect of home life that has given more than the odd occasion for consternation. i like my books; i like the smell of books, i like the tactility of books and i just plain like books. a retired friend who makes a disturbing habit of traipsing off round the world with alarming regularity swears by his ipad for, he tells me, it allows him to take hundred of books on his travels that would ordinarily be the subject of exorbitant excess baggage charges.
that is a hard point with which to argue.
yet until now, i have interestingly avoided the experience of reading from scaled down flat panel displays. yes, i did attempt to become a guardian ipad reader when on holiday last year, only defeated by the paucity of center parcs' wi-fi broadband which regularly failed to supply the long-awaited. my senses have now been tempted by the arrival of my first book review copy in ipad format: cyclepedia.
you may recall my original paper and ink review from last february (though the book was published in mid-march). michael embacher's coffee table book featured a whole host of exclusive bikes from his own vast collection of cycles, some of which are now unique. each cycle was provided with a high quality photograph along with a written description and brief history, accompanied by a set of specifications. it was, and still is, a most interesting and educational book, sold at a cover price of £19.95.
but only the other day, i received a press release from the publishers announcing that the ipad app of the very same book had been mooted app of the week on the uk itunes store, surely something of a first for a book about bicycles. intrigued, my interest was encouragingly piqued when acquiring a download on mrs washingmachinepost's ipad.
though heft is completely absent in one sense, i will allow that the weight of the ipad is likely similar to that of the original book, if a mite slimmer. it is perhaps a sign of my shallowness that i was hoping for bells and whistles; features that would tell the world that this was not simply a book scanned and re-presented in pixellated format. lo and behold, that's exactly what i got. the intro page consists of 3d components spinning into place to cleverly spell the word cyclopedia, morphing to a spinning bicycle that changes model and colour at the touch of a finger.
navigating the contents is a simple matter of opting for either the brilliantly displayed timeline or type of bike. touching the small icons representing each model reveals a page on which the 2d image of paper and ink has become a rotatable three-dimensional bicycle on which pretty much every detail can be examined. true harnessing of the power of modernity. there are weblinks included should you wish to examine further and the text afoot each cycle needs only a sideways swipe to complete your reading pleasure. the concept and implementation are all but immaculate.
if any complaints are to be borne they are perhaps unfair given both the price of the app and comparison with the original book. one of the oft trumpeted features of the ipad is its response to what apple refer to as gestures; bringing thumb and forefinger together on the screen would normally zoom out, while the opposite gesture zooms in. neither of these gestures appear to have any effect on the cylclepedia app. and i find it slightly confusing as to why it was not deemed prudent to add a search facility. there are a considerable number of bicycles contained in this electronic publication and used in ultimate fashion, it would be nice to pinpoint the very bicycle you wish to seek in a more precise manner.
however, i perhaps carp unfairly; though the ipad celebrates its second birthday very soon, it truly is in its infancy; there is always room for further development. it embarrasses me to say i am hooked. no doubt some of the novelty factor will wear off, but at present, despite protestations from mrs washingmachinepost along the lines of 'can i have my ipad back, please? (rather too forcefully put if you want my opinion) my eyes are full of wonder at the content and ingenuity brought to bear on what was originally just a book.
as i pointed out above, the print and paper version retails at £19.95, yet this all but fully featured ipad app costs a mere £6.99 and can be downloaded immediately rather than waiting for amazon to deliver. i doubt i could recommend this highly enough; it's probably worth buying an ipad for.
posted thursday 12 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's a not unreasonable question to ask. yet search the forums and archives, and no-one even mentions this aspect as being something you should bring up during that introductory conversation. certainly, one ought to discuss the type of steel prospectively used in the building of your latest bicycle, and though measurements will undoubtedly be taken, it's not an unknown phenomenon to ask for your builder's point of view on the length and angle of stem that might eventually be fitted.
you will already have had lengthy conversations regarding the pros and cons of effecting construction either by means of tig welding or brazed lugs, then there's the not inconsiderable question of paint colour. i have, of course, merely scratched the surface of the density of queries between you and your framebuilder, but not once has the subject of listening pleasure been brought to the surface.
despite contact with a goodly number of those involved in the business of providing bespoke bicycle frames to the cognoscenti, i am somewhat in the dark as to how long one should allow between initial approach and final delivery. if it is prudent to take the rapha continental collaboration between tony pereira and ira ryan, orders were due prior to new year's day, with delivery in march 2012. if this is indicative of the normal lapse of time, then that's around three months that your framebuilder is toiling away in his/her workspace listening to you know not what.
and that could be a particularly unsavoury situation.
it should be said at this point, i have little against most genres of music, well aware that one man's runrig is another man's ray lamontagne. live and let live i've always wished i'd said. however, it would give me serious cause for concern if i thought that the person responsible for the frame 'neath my bum had indeed owned and listened to the entire back catalogue of runrig issues on their ipod. if we take a leaf from the pages of flann o'brien, should it be true (and anything's possible) that after several thousand miles of cycling pleasure, the atoms of rider and velocipede become inextricably entangled, it also seems just as likely that those molecules of gaelic sound may have invaded the steel fabric of the cycle.
stepping back just a smidgeon from the realms of science fiction, even if only for a brief period, perhaps a more relevant question ought to be what is your photographer up to these days? i mean not to infer that we are of a social strata that employs an individual to document daily life by means of recorded image, but more to imply that there may be a favourite amongst the progenitors of cycling images. my problem is that i have a whole phalanx of favourite photographers, but one of the favoured amongst my favourites is the inimitable chris milliman.
for those not familiar with the man's photographic output, it has graced many a website, printed matter and pretty much everything in between, displaying a grasp of the visible beyond that of mere mortals with a compact camera. it's about a year and a half since i last interviewed chris at which point i asked the question "do you feel any pressure to move into the world of moving pictures?
his answer was similar to many i have received from still photographers on initial approach. "No, I don't. I can see that the new video capabilities are super cool - my two new digi bodies are both 1080p capable - but still and video are so different, for me anyway. If you're asking, do I think video is going to replace still photography? I don't. There's crossover for sure, and you're seeing video in new places, but I'm not too surprised or upset about that.
I'm not really interested in shooting my own video stuff, but someday it might be fun to do some directing and producing. Shooting stills requires you to be your own director, so that aspect interests me but I'll leave the technical aspects to the video guys. I have had some clients ask me about video this year, and that's a first, but I usually refer them to those I know who do it well."
however, a few days ago, i received an e-mail from chris which opened with "You know how I said in our interview I wasn't really interested in video? Well..... followed by a link to some chris milliman videos, two of which you may view at the foot of the page. such a volte face demands answers to questions, and mr milliman was kind enough to co-operate. the obvious opening gambit was to ask what brought about the shift sideways into film?
"Honestly it was a spur of the moment decision this past fall. I was at a 'cross race I'd shot a ton of times before and the second day I couldn't bear to shoot it once more. So, realizing my cameras could shoot both I decided to switch them into video mode. It was really good fun and opened my eyes to the opportunities moving images can afford. The reaction was good, even though it was a super rough edit with cobbled together titles. People told me the video looked like my still images, that's what really turned me on to the possibilities."
human beings are experts in procrastination, putting off what seems scary for as long as is prudent, only to find that when the escape route vanished, what seemed scary turned out to be not only rather fun, but that one is actually quite competent. if chris had realised he was this good at it, would he have made movies earlier?
"No, I don't think so. I've spent so much time concentrating on my still work and didn't want to muddy the waters with taking on something else. I'm of the mind that it's better to be good at one thing than mediocre at two things. Finally in the past 18 months I got comfortable enough with where I was with my stills that I could begin to think about other means of expression. I'd dabbled in a couple small video projects before this fall, but hadn't really committed in any meaningful way. I never wanted to do it just because the technology made it easy to do, that didn't seem like a good enough reason for me. And I'd not go as far as saying I'm good at it just yet, it's getting there but I know I have a lot of work in front of me. In my mind, right now I'm a photographer making movies, not a movie maker."
i occasionally run digital photography weekends on islay on behalf of the local further education college, along with a professional photographer of far greater talent than i. he takes care of the photography while i handle basic photoshop techniques. my accomplice has often attempted to teach me some of the more basic aspects of photography including that of mastering depth of field. in this, though i understand the principle, i have sadly remained totally useless at pressing the appropriate buttons. video, though similarly concerned with image capture, involves more complex thoughts and actions. has chris had to learn far more than he ever wanted to?
"The capture part is pretty straightforward, I find it actually easier than still photography. The edit part is a whole new thing for me though, but I like it. Maybe one of the reasons I like the edit element so much is I have no idea how much I don't know yet. Also, it's heartening to find out that hiring a good editor is always an acceptable option. I like working with people who are really good at things I know next to nothing about."
for those who do not follow the slings and arrows of technological progress, it may be worth my pointing out that the word of digital slr cameras has been insidiously invaded by the pixels of hi-definition video, even stretching as far as broadcast quality. simultaneously, the development of the bona-fide video camera has continued apace, some of these even having the ability to capture still images along with the moving pictures. it depends on which side of the viewfinder you have arrived from. is it dslr or video camera for mr milliman and has it meant purchasing an altogether more expensive camera?
"The only new equipment I've had to purchase is a stabilizing rig and a view finder. So, that's not too bad. I'm shooting exclusively with DSLRs. But I did have to spend some money on a faster computer and editing software."
as one formerly given to creating some rather naff little videos for thewashingmachinepost, i am well aware that the time taken is far in excess of that to nab a few stills to accompany an article or review. i am in the fortunate (i think) position of not having to place a price upon my time, but it strikes me that a professional photographer may need to look a great deal more closely at whether the shift from stills to video is truly a commercial proposition. is it?
"That's a really good question, Honestly, I don't know yet. The market is arguably over saturated with people shooting video, a lot of them much more technically advanced than I am. But at the same time, from my photography business I know what I need to bring in for income, so I'm not going to shoot video just to do it and decrease my income. That would be crazy. I'd like to think I have some time to develop the video work to where I'd like it to be and once it gets there, if that's good enough to become a part of my income that's great, if not I'll chalk it up to a creative exercise."
so now that we have discovered exactly what it is our favoured photographer is occupying his time with, does he himself know which way to turn next? "Luckily for me I've done this before, building a creative business, so it's not like I'm starting from scratch. I also have a good group of friends who help me avoid some of the pot holes I might otherwise hit and give me honest assessments of my work. But most importantly, I feel like I can follow what I want to do creatively, that I know how I want things to look and can eventually make them look that way. As long as I keep that as my guiding principle and try to avoid fads and shortcuts, similar to how I've viewed my work in stills, then I think I'll be okay."
we have all read stories of the exacting lensman/woman spending extraordinary hours in some remote and deserted location waiting for just the right light conditions to snap that award-winning photograph. i'm sure chris milliman has stories of a similar ilk to relate, but how does he cope with the fact that movie-making, start to finsih, takes a whole lot longer than stills photography?
"You have to accept it, it's part of the deal. It's similar to writing in that you can spend an almost limitless amount of time massaging the final output. But at some point you have to call it good and present it as a finished product. Like I said, I like the editing process but I can also see working with an editor much more going forward. That, and I have a really comfortable office chair"
there are those who take the march of progress oh so easily in their stride, though as the rate of that progress seems to increase exponentially, their numbers are likely on a proprtional decline. given that he has just (voluntarily) increased his workload by at least a factor of three while not necessarily seeing a comparable increase in his bank balance, is chris milliman still the easy going chap we all know and love?
"I bet most people wonder how other people would describe them, not sure 'easy-going' is it for me. But it could be. I like to think I'm easy to work with. In any event, I'm guessing however I was when I was shooting stills is the same as how I am now. It's only been four months, after all."
posted wednesday 11 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's the inevitability of it all that does not bode well, at least not for those of us concerned with aesthetic excellence and with certain luddite tendencies to boot. the admission of both states of mind is tantamount to a personal recommendation to keep my opinions to myself, which is very likely why i'm about to ignore my own advice. it's the thorny problem of those pesky disc brakes that has me irritated, an irritation i would prefer not to own, but some of us are more susceptible to infection than others.
my son has owned a couple of mountain bicycles that were stopped by means of discs or, as the offroad community would have us refer, rotors. in both cases, these were actuated by mechanical means, as indeed were the rotors affixed to the recently reviewed colnago world cup cyclocross bicycle. to my mind, if such stopping power is to be applied to the skinny wheels and bendy bar affiliates, there is no real requirement for other than wires to connect lever with caliper. hydraulics are beloved by the knobbly tyre brigade but conceivably they might be faced with more unexpected braking opportunities requiring less inflexibility in operation.
however, one or two manufacturers have already brought adaptors to market to translate cable actuated leverage into direct hydraulic action, thus aiding members of the cyclocross community in their quest for an immediate degree of stationariness (i made that word up). up until the beginning of the 2010/2011 season, discs were unsanctioned by the uci for use on cx bikes. the repealing of this disbarrment should potentially have opened the doors for a flood of disc equipped machinery, but in practical terms the influx has been a mere trickle. i believe only one of the front runners in sunday's american cx nationals was equipped with discs.
as i have been keen to point out in the relevant reviews, the market for competitive bicycle machinery is, in the grand scheme of things, somewhat miniscule. within this small portion of the cycling firmament, the world of cyclocross is even tinier, thus the return on investment for any foohardy enough to rush to market will not please the shareholders. however, the small, but substantially larger road bike market is surely a fruit worth picking.
if only such were legal.
legality of componentry, however, is only of importance to those involved in competing within uci regulations. there is nothing whatsoever stopping you or i from owning and riding an hydraulic disc equipped skinny wheeler, as long as we don't try to enter the tour de france. however, industry prognostications are keen to be the first to let on that this year's round of cycle shows, presenting what we'll all be riding in 2013, will feature a number of disc equipped racing bikes.
oh woe is me.
technology continues apace, no matter my or anyone else's misgivings about its place in our cycling lives. it would be churlish to make a list of those improvements which are acceptable and those which are not; subjectivity is an unforgiving mistress. it is therefore necessary to accept the rough with the smooth. in mitigation, it seems more than likely that, even if the uci relents and allows discs in the pro-tour for 2013, not every bicycle will be immediately thus equipped, and standard, dual pivots will be around for sometime to come.
grimpeurs at the giro and tour are often obsessed by weight-weeniness, and perhaps unlikely to wear the additional weight retarding their upward progress. there is little need for braking of any sort when ascending alpe d'huez or the monte zoncolan, however, we could perhaps see the farcical situation of climbers changing bicycles at the summit for disc equipped alternatives, in order to restrain unrequired progress on the descent. if discs are given the go-ahead for professional road racing and find widespread adoption amongst the peloton, they have the potential to alter many an aspect of contemporary road racing and not necessarily for the better.
just as well i decided to keep my opinions to myself.
posted tuesday 10 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................