though most of us look at and live in the world of cycling through rose tinted spectacles, every now and again events poke surreptitiously through gaps in the time/space continuum that remind all involved that it is, in fact, an industry. industries have commercial concerns that are comprehensible to most, but occasionally unpalatable when they fail to coincide with that rosy coloured veil. in many cases, its the industry's own fault, for they (you will, i hope, forgive the gross generalisation and oversimplification) have spent many a long year convincing us that they too are a part of our world. 'products made by cyclists for cyclists' would perhaps be a succinct way of summing it up, and there are few tangible reasons to judge this in a harsh manner.
these born and bred cyclists, who have been lucky enough to find themselves employed by the very reason for their existence, are often to be seen at every major event, cheerfully servicing the bicycle of any passing cyclist, handing out caps, stickers and t-shirts. are these not the very friends that make the greater family of peletonese worth bragging about? in essence, that can frequently be the case, but in order to find this seeming largesse, dollars, euros, pounds and yen need to be flowing freely into the corporate bank account in quantities that will allow the continuation of the truman show. sometimes the pursuit of profit leads to unfortunate choices, and at times like these, you find out who your real friends are.
richard sachs has spent the bulk of his last forty years handcrafting lugged steel frames in his workshop firstly in connecticut and latterly in warwick, massachusetts. every year, a part of his build list includes several red and white cyclocross bikes for himself and team members in order to contest the east coast cyclocross races. for the past few years he has equipped these bikes with sram force groupsets, going so far as to have the guys at house industries to produce posters subtitled with the slogan 'powered by sram' at least in part as protest at don walker's introduction of shimano's sponsorship of the annual north american handbuilt show (nahbs), this year taking place in sacramento, california.
this cycle show, portraying the finest, eclectic and even eccentric of the framebuilding craft not just from north america, has an importance that belies its relatively small size. as such, the world's component manufacturers are keen to offer favourable terms to the premier builders in order that their trinketry might be seen on what might be reasonably considered, the cutting edge of velocipedinal craftsmanship. it is no stretch of credibility to understand that sram were keen to continue their long-standing connection with richard sachs by offering him competitively priced sram red components at the end of last year, for delivery prior to the forthcoming editions of nahbs.
"Many component makers know that aligning with a NAHBS exhibitor is a good way to have their goods seen on the finest hand made bicycles in the world."
this is where sram became the villain of the piece.
as of last week, sram announced a brand new edition of their flagship red groupset due for commercial availability in early march, and for supply as oem equipment a few weeks later. eager to have his show bikes garnished with the latest rather than that perceived as last year's, richard contacted his friends at sram to enquire as to the version he would be receiving. "Sram told me that some 450 Sram Red 2012 groups are en route (that's french for in the route...) to their U.S. distributors who will have them in the second week of March. While the company considers these parts 2013 model year production, they have named them Sram Red 2012. I was also told by Sram that their year starts on April 1st.
"So we are all going to the show with 2011 parts that will not be changed at all, except maybe in name. But a month before we leave for Sacramento, consumers will know about, and possibly clamor for, newer parts that were not available to us (though they will be available to them by mid March)."
sram have stated perfectly acceptable and legitimate business reasons as to why the situation is as it is. "The company line is that NAHBS is about the frames and the men who make them. Had the Sram Red 2012 been made available to us at all, the overwhelming buzz in the press and blogs tied to the three day weekend would be about the parts groups and thus would steal focus away from the frames (and the men who make them). "The February 1 launch has to be when it is because they (Sram) are up against their competitors' launches too. The NAHBS show, the dates, and the amount of commerce that is part of Sram's (and Shimano's, and Campagnolo's...) business model make it such that the framebuilding community ends up collateral damage in a fight to win a bigger battle that involves HUGE purchases from the Treks and Orbeas of the world."
you can understand richard sachs' frustration at this, a situation that has been echoed by the guys at independent fabrication, who are not only seeing their bikes being equipped with similar 2011 componentry, but tantalised even further by "one of our customers who is tight with folks from the Red Tower (sram) had procured a new, yet to be released, Red group, and displayed it on one of our bikes weeks ago."
unpalatable though this situation may be, it graphically demonstrates the effect when our nice cosy little world, wrapped up in its green-ness and practicality, is poked by the marketing and commercial demands and dictates of commerciality. it will doubtless not be the last instance of the iniquites of mixing business with friendship. as those at indyfab were at pains to point out "As a business person, I can understand (their thinking), and almost respect it. That doesn't mean that I agree that it is a smart business decision. I explained to the Red Tower that I had once been in the position in my previous life of managing new product launches and allocating scarce units. I explained that my philosophy based on that experience was actually quite different from the one currently being pursued by SRAM. We always allocated hot new product to customers with the most influence, not necessarily those with the most cash. In other words, don't mistake cash for cache."
though the world will continue to rotate up to and after this year's north american handbuilt show, sram will continue to sell both red 2011 and red 2012 for the bulk of this year, it's a timely reminder of how commerce has an invasive influence even, and perhaps especially, on the little guy.
and on a related note, with both shimano and campagnolo now offering electric groupsets, sram must surely find themselves at a slight commercial disadvantage. with the development times required to bring such componentry to market (just ask vicenza), sram were perhaps in need of any suit of card up their corporate sleeve to bring at least partial redemption. it seems this, if it can be so defined, is their admission almost in the small print accompanying the launch of red 2012, that they will be releasing a hydraulic road disc system later this year. aside from many other inconsistencies this will engender, it has raised calls for the road bike market to standardise on the 135mm rear axle currently used by mountain bikes.
in which case, we are all doomed.
posted monday 6 february 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as i have often reiterated in these pixels, the luxury of a short walk to the office each day is mine for the taking. no need to release any bicycle from thewashingmachinepost bikeshed, for that would likely take longer than the walk. therefore in the weeks prior to and just after the shortest day of the year, the too-ing and fro-ing in the hours of darkness were, from a personal point of view, unilluminated. the villages on islay are relatively small (something of a tautological statement there), and oft times feature street-lighting along one side of the road only. this is perfectly adequate for our needs, and in the absence of any public transport after the hour of 6pm, there is no need to even stand in a darkened bus shelter.
the working day is often longer than office hours would dictate, but since the bulk of my efforts require little more than a trackpad, wacom tablet and a computer, any evening work can be calmly and comfortably carried out in the confines of my own home. i have yet to resort to uploading and downloading from the cloud, but any work carried out from the armchair is generally available from some sort of portable storage. aren't i one of the lucky ones?
there is, therefore, no need generally to be out on a bicycle during the hours of darkness, something which would surely have me classified as a commuter of one type or another. this is not to say that i do not attend evening events, but such is my unwillingness to expose self and bicycle to the vicissitudes of the boy racers who find it a satisfactory definer of manhood to cut blind corners at excessive speed, that there is a distinct limit to how far i am willing to travel on two wheels after dark.
however, in the late part of last year and the months currently inhabited in 2012, the difference between light and dark can often be measured in minutes, and since the best laid plans often have minds of their own, it ill behoves the conscientious cyclist to be caught out bereft of appropriate illumination. the iniquitous part of the equation can be often measured in candlepower, lumens or simply downright brightness of lighting, for it seems an incontrovertible truth that motorists are either reluctant to dip headlights for a mere velocipede, or they simply do not cotton on to our existence until too late. this is presumably because that which is affixed to the bars is sufficient for the purposes of navigation, but insufficient to engender temporary irritation to the retina.
thus bicycle lighting must exist on two spearate planes; that of enabling appropriate luminescence and a strong enough beam that oncoming traffic will mistakenly assume they have wandered onto the main runway at heathrow. the third factor would surely concern that of pragmatism; those searchlights used by search and rescue helicopters would be ideal were it not for the fact that they need a helicopter on which to mount them. thus the simple demands of the peletonese require that such unlimited power be encapsulated in a compact and bijou casing, capable of being easily unclipped and stuffed in a pocket to avoid unwarranted removal during the hours of unattendance.
after all the foregoing, it will surprise you little to learn that i may have found the ideal candidate for the job. the whimsically named minewt 600 is in possession of, as the name suggests, a maximum of 600 lumens. believe me, that is easily enough to make you blink. its size and weight are a mere nothing, and though its styling is very 1950s dan dare, it slots onto its easily mounted bar bracket and is operable by a glowing green button on the top.
the minewt's versatility does not, however, end there, for in the best of traditions, there are options to be merciful to those hapless motorists. press that glowing button a couple of times and the light subtly dips first to 400 lumens and subsequently to 275, in each case lenghthening the battery life. i have not yet had cause to test the figures supplied by nightrider, but apparently 1.3 hours can be expected for the highest setting before recharging is required. to extend battery life to its maximum, it is a simple matter of holding the button for a few seconds, during which the light switches off completely before moving into flash mode, ideal if you simply wish to be seen rather than to see.
the only criticism i may have, and the minewt is not alone in this failing, is a lack of lateral adjustment on the bar bracket. many of islay's roads simply ameliorate into grassy fields, many populated by wandering cows and sheep. it is of great assistance to allow positioning of the light pointing towards the edge of the road to distinguish tarmac from grass and to catch the eye of itinerant cattle before they step in front of the moving bicycle. granted, this is not a problem that will afflict many of the light's purchasers, but it would surely be a simple undertaking to allow the top of the bar bracket to swivel slightly from side to side.
the minewt comes with pretty much every accessory conceivable: the bar bracket, a helmet bracket, and a cable and mains plug to recharge the internal lithium ion battery. the recharge socket is a mini usb, so it is possible to recharge the light from a computer, should such prove desirable or necessary.
legally, riding after dark not only demands some form of forward illumination, but a matching red light at the rear. in vitamin d challenged grey days such as pervades much of the current daylight hours, it is often a salient idea to mount a rear flashing red light even in daytime, simply to advertise one's existence to the hordes of approaching traffic (or not so many hordes in my case). to fulfil both obligations, the minewt headlamp was matched with a nightrider cherry bomb presumably so-named for both its colour and degree of brightness.
powered by two aaa batteries, the one watt led astonishingly belies its minimal power output by engendering headaches after only a brief period of close observation. the very thing of which unsubtle identification is made. the mounting bracket which clamps round the seatpost allows movement both vertically and rotationally (so why can't we have that at the front?), making it a simple job to position the cherry bomb under a seatpack and still allow a clear view of its brightness. this tail-light has only two modes: flashing and steady, the former giving battery times of up to 100 hours, easily enough for one winter of greenwich meantime.
so while i hope to continue my period of home-safety and comfort of a dark evening, should the circumstances demand it, my path along islay's highways and byways ought to be easily visible from the international space station.
the nightrider minewt 600 cordless retails at £134 while its cherry bomb partner costs £19.99 for the 0.5 watt version and £24.99 for the one watt. nightrider lights are distributed in the uk by edinburgh's 2pure.
please note that the top photo is merely for illustration; my camera simply could not record the full power of the minewt 600 which illuminated a tad more than the photo shows.
posted sunday 5 february 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
most cycle clothing nowadays is highly specific in both form and function. by the time the first week in august arrived, it's doubtful that mark cavendish was still sitting in his living room wearing a green jersey, and when he did swap, it probably wasn't for one from htc. ned boulting's recent masterpiece how i won the yellow jumper gives rise to thoughts of cosiness and perhaps a smidgeon of practicality. if only it weren't for the fact that they all seem to zip up the back.
jumper as a word, has softer and warmer connotations than that of the word jersey, even though in ned boulting's mind, they are likely one and the same. thus, for the more sportingly and athletically inclined, cycle specific garments are readily on hand when it comes time to remove the velocipede from the bike shed. though many have produced jeans and trousers that are all too happy to step up to the plate, 'tis a mode of dress that is mostly, and quite rightly, employed more by the commuting masses. i have scanned through many an image from the 2011 tour de france and at no time did thomas voeckler wear chinos and a checked shirt in the peloton.
the pelotonese are corralled by the simulacrum; there is a pressing need to either emulate their idols completely, or at least give the impression that unbounded and unfettered acceleration is a less than distant possibility. this is something to which the firmament is happy to subscribe.
but, philosophically, theoretically and practically speaking there is a before and after, two periods of time that could not be defined as such were there not a substantial period of bike riding in the middle. and while that part is comfortably taken care of, as i have already alluded, for some of us at least, the fore and after create their own concerns. the after period is perhaps slightly less of a concern, however; having ended this morning's ride cold and wet due to an influx of unexpectedly lengthy precipitation, there was little need, point or likelihood that i would inhabit my cycling garb for longer than truly necessary.
however, the moments before heading out to muddy the hakkalugi provided an intriguing and discomfiting period of transition. i'm sure i cannot be the only one who would wish to take on the notion, premeditated or otherwise, for a ride on my bicycle, something i'd like to be as seamless as going for a walk. the latter rarely requires any unique mode of dress, though i'll agree that donning a waterproof in this clime is a pretty darned good idea.
i am not possessed of the bluntness to deny that a bike ride could be perceived in similar fashion, but despite a psyche that talks to my inner-self, prescribing a more relaxed pace than usual, my inner-self is demonised by my devotion to the spring classics, the grand tours and a cyclocross course that eats casual garb for breakfast. surely it cannot be outwith the bounds of possibilities that technical could meet with jumperism resulting in offspring that could be worn while masquerading as owner/occupier?
that offspring, seeing as you asked, answers to the name yolande and has been thoughtfully provided by the chilled folks at cafe du cycliste for the purposes of riding one's bike, indulging in coffee and carrot cake, or simply getting in the way of mrs washingmachinepost as she vacuums under my pile of rouleurs. fashioned from merino tecnowool it follows in the footsteps of many who use similar fabrics. unlike the wool jerseys of yesteryear, there is no danger whatsoever of the back pockets dragging on the rear tyre in the rain. add to that merino's outstanding reputation for softness and comfort, and you can perhaps see where i'm coming from with this.
unlike a liquigas jersey, the yolande is not figure hugging. this is not to imply any form of baggyness; the style is very much that of the slim cyclist, but the yolande has a decidedly relaxed air about it that would commend its being worn more often than purely in the saddle. such a demeanour is enhanced by the affixation of (faux?) leather elbow patches, matched by a similar material running full length as a baffle behind the zip. this material also appears backing the buttoned collar. my only criticism, and it is slight, of this mode of styling relates to that collar which i feel ought to be a tad closer in fit to keep out untoward draughts at the neck. i am, however, reminded that the purveyors of the yolande jersey are ensconced in the cote d'azur where cold, biting winds are perhaps the stuff of myth and legend.
rarely has any jersey arrived so well-equipped with pockets: there is a vertically zipped example on the front right, three very accommodating pockets on the rear and the mandatory zipped outboard instance on the right rear. both shoulders feature padding that would surely allow comfortable use of a backpack and there are strategically placed reflective strips should your cavorting take you out past lighting up time. the dropped hem enjoys the services of silicon gloop to prevent untoward vertical movement, and something i have not seen on a jersey before, the cuffs have thumbloops preventing the sleeves from riding up and any ingress of the elements between sleeve and glove. a thoughtful and practical extra.
i cannot tell a lie; i look in envy at the photographs on the cafe du cycliste website showing a yolande clad rider bereft of outer shell, seemingly enjoying the comfort of his jersey and the absence of cold, wind and rain. sadly, my past weeks with the yolande have not seen many moments such as these, other than half a day lazing about the house, testing my theory that this jersey is as warm and practical off the bike as it is on. though marvellous in so many ways, technical merino wool is not windproof, so at the very least, in a hebridean january and february it would be unseemly to pedal without at least a windproof covering. however, with one or two exceptions, most rides have required something substantially more weather repellent than a simple gilet.
for those of us living in the british isles it is more than likely to be a few months yet before long-sleeve jerseys can be worn unfettered, so it is as well to gauge the efficacy of one so stylish when unceremoniously hidden beneath a softshell. to put it in a nutshell, just equate it with ned boulting's allusion to a jumper. the yolande is a triumph of style, function and practicality; i have little doubt i could wear this to the office without garnering undue attention from the fashion police.
undoubtedly one of the best jerseys/jumpers on the market.
the cafe du cycliste yolande jersey is available in navy or rust, sizes small to xxl at a cost of £125 ($199). arriving in delightfully traditional french themed packaging, it can be purchased from select dealers in europe and the uk or direct from the website.
posted saturday 4 february 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there is little worse than that feeling of having missed out on something. even when you know that it'll be just as relevant if you get to do it later, there are mixed feelings of envy and disappointment that someone else got to do it and you didn't. even worse is the knowledge that you have little or no idea what it's all about in the first place, and this sense of missing out has been solely engendered by that selfsame lack of knowledge.
as is the nature of cycling, both in terms of transportational needs, heck this is fun sort of needs and most of all, in competitive terms, everything is cyclical, if you'll pardon the rather obvious pun. it's mudguards/fender time at the moment, coupled rather topically with freezing conditions in certain parts, but soon the big chill will give way to less chittery conditions and before you know it, we'll have dug out those short sleeve jerseys and bibshorts. it's unlikely the fun part is much of a respecter of weather conditions; tomorrow it is due to rain, so i'll go play on the 'cross bike in the woods, pretending to be jeremy powers.
and i doubt it's a factor of major concern in the competitive arena either.
competitively speaking, the road season almost doesn't finish at all. the tour down under has already been and gone, with few in the northern hemisphere actually paying as much attention as they might. but then it's unlikely that those who were in the mix in australia will show face again until the classics leap up and slap us in the face come late march, early april. so riding in the sun might be idyliic in one sense, but it's hardly a pointer to the remainder of the season. the idea of riding in the sun, however, provides much vaunted benefits for those who normally reside in less benevolent climes, a state of affairs that has fostered well-worn tradition of the early season training camp.
this brings us back to the part about missing out, or at least providing fuel for the fire that foments such concerns. the majority of us have no need of training at all, let alone a week riding in a smartly dressed peloton, holding up the traffic on obscure spanish roads, parts of nice, or more congestedly, the isle of mallorca. but the fact that the monthlies, the comic and several well-to-do websites have seen fit to place journalists in each or all of those locations, means that their opening pages are rife with photos that possess light and shade, brightness and contrast and densely packed shadows. all of these have been missing in action on this side of the channel since well before hallowe'en last year.
therefore even the majority averred to above, with no demonstrable need to improve their vo2 max, the big numbers on the screen of an srm display or even something often referred to as a recovery rate, either go ahead and book themselves on a week of purgatorial bliss, continually state that they're about to do so, or simply never shut up about it. it is the curse of the shaven legged. but does anyone actually know of what a pre-season training camp consists? could it be that the words and pictures are telling fibs; that it's not all it's cracked up to be?
the homeboys, even though they're nothing of the sort, have to be the guys from endura equipe pro road team. endura clothing are one of the few major scottish sponsors involved in pro cycle racing and, managed by former twice british road-race champion, brian smith, that black and lime green has a heart of tartan. in preparation for the 2012 season, smith, riders and the endura service course headed to mallroca for a two week training camp at the end of january, in the light of which brian seemed the ideal chap of whom to enquire just what a modern day training camp consisted and what it hoped to achieve?
"Years ago a training camp was a 'training' camp, especially in warmer climates. Now it's more of a 'gelling' camp, as riders do six hour rides together and spend days in a hotel with each other. So from 100% training i would now say it's split 50/50 between training and bonding. Riders are now pretty fit in late January and some have already raced. There's also the factor of bedding in new bikes and kit (endura have shifted from the look frames used for the past two seasons over to giant for 2012). All contracts run until the end of the year, so many are using new bike and kit in January, unless they've been with the team last season."
so a team training camp could be likened to the cup of coffee at the office in the morning before the real paid for work commences. rarely does any professional team retain the same riders year on year. some will have retired, some will have moved on, and others may have found themselves without a renewed contract. this all makes way for several new riders, some of whom will be well versed in the sport, others just at the beginning of their careers, and it's not too unseemly that they spend quality time getting to know each other and figuring out what it is that a sram shifter does that a shimano one doesn't.
but the training camp surely provides the team management with the opportunity to assess each rider 'au naturele' so to speak, consider what training plan may be appropriate and which race programme they'll be following? "A little bit of assessing, but pro teams usually know what their riders are capable of. Through testing facilities and talent spotting, most riders have their programme already by this time of year. For Conti teams it's a little harder, because they all need to be prepared at this time of year waiting for some invites to arrive.
World Tour teams have more structure. A training camp is often split between Classics specialists and Grand Tour riders. It's important for the Classics team to be fit at this time of year, but for the Tour de France it's not so important. Gone are the days when Lemond would turn up at training camp overweight. There may be general tweaking of programmes, but in general all is set, with reserves in case of illness or injury. Many riders now have their own coaches, so a training camp will give general training without too many specifics to individual riders. It's more bonding than full-on specific training."
so we now know pretty much what's on the cards for those in lycra, the chaps who'll be at the coal-face in a matter of weeks, but what about the blokes in short-sleeves. what about those who'll spend much of their year sitting behind the steering wheel of the team car, handing up bottles and gels while being ready to stash armwarmers and rainjackets when the tempo increases? is this also something ironed out at the training camp, or are those deatails already written in carbon fibre? "Most of the staff planning has been done in November and December. Training camps are all about the riders, giving them good training, good place for interaction and showing them the season's plan."
team endura equipe takes its name from the title sponsor, based in livingston, near edinburgh, scotland. company and team owner, jim mcfarlane is the man who has dipped deep into the corporate pockets over the last few seasons to place the endura team right where they are today, all in the name of product development and publicity, along with an insatiable passion for competitive cycling. is jim's role simply that of the guy who signs the cheques, or does he take a more hands on' approach when it comes to these early season rides in the sun? "Sadly I have nothing to do with the training camp, as it is far too much like a cycling holiday (for me) and I am instead chained to my desk in the office trying to earn the money to send others out to Mallorca instead. Funny how things work out...
"Everything is managed by Smiffy and Winnie (Julian Winn). I failed to attend either this year or last year due to time pressures in the business and lack of direct flights from Scotland at this time of year."
as brian mentioned above, for a continental team, there is a degree of apprehension to be endured, waiting to see where the race invites will come from for at least a part of endura's season. how dependent is he on receiving these invites to plan the racing year? "There is a new UCI rule which asks all 1.2 and 2.2 races to invite the top three ranked Conti teams in their area. Endura are lying 2nd in the UCI Europe Tour. These races are good, but a team like ours has goals of achieving Continental Pro status, so we need to try and perform in 1.1 and 2.1 races.
"It is highly competitive to gain entry to these races and Continental teams receive the last invites, and always last to know, something which is often difficult to manage. The UCI are trying to make cycling into a global sport, but race organisers will always look after their own country's teams first. Realistically, we need more UCI events in the UK to help more British teams gain access to the better races across the world. Where you are ranked in the UCI points system is now very important for all categories."
moving up from uci continental to continental pro is a step that will involve an appropriate increase in budget, one that needs to be spent judiciously. is jim mcfarlane content with providing endura's share of the budget, safe in the knowledge that he has a management team to ensure productive spending of the money? "I look at the budget at the start of each year and very closely at the proposed race schedule, riders and equipment, but after that's signed off, the team gets on with it with little involvement from me."
considering the degree of trust and budget with which brian smith and his peers are charged, it seems there may be a tad more flexibility and skills required from a team manager than acquiring a triangular tan line on one arm. just what is it that the team manager does and is responsible for? "The General Manager looks after the running of the whole team and its sponsors, from race programmess, public relations, staff, performance, future partners, sponsorship... it's a long list.
"The Sports Director looks after his staff and riders at their particular events. They will also look after certain riders away from racing. They are also responsible for planning every event and are the ones making all the tactical decisions. From time to time they will need to look after sponsors and guests."
while we're on the subject of sponsors, the team has parted company with french concern look, on whose frames they have raced for the last two seasons, and made the move to that of giant bicycles. each rider has a race bike, a training bike, a spare and a time-trial machine. presumably, in order to see that all is well in the land of carbon cycle frames, giant took the opportunity to attend the camp in mallorca too?
"Most teams are visited by all their sponsors during the training camp. Our main sponsor is obviously Endura Equipe and so is already well looked after. It's entirely up to the product supplying sponsors to visit the team. At World Tour level all sponsors attend, but at Continental level it's sometimes not always necessary. In my opinion Giant, as our new bike brand, should have been represented at the training camp but they chose not to, deciding to leave us to it, which most often works for the rest of the team staff. Giant, however, have tried and tested products used by the Rabobank team, so I completely understand why they decided not to attend."
endura's pre-season two week training camp in mallorca is, of course, now at an end and there are the coming month's of racing to look forward to. i would assume, race entries permitting, that brian smith has a cunning plan for the season? is endura set up to turn on a tanner (a scottish sixpence), if the season looks as if it may be straying from the ideal path? "As a Continental team we are set up to make immediate changes to whatever we need to do. Our race programme is pretty much set for the first half of the year, and I am confident we have the agenda to gain the relevant exposure in the areas where Endura need/want to be. We would, of course, like to do a couple of bigger events, but it's difficult to get in due to the level we're at and what the UCI rules say.
"I always have a plan B...."
it seems only constitutionally fair to ask the man behind the desk just how he sees the year ahead. what are jim mcfarlane's hopes for the season, both competitively and promotionally? "The main change this year will be to dominate in the UK. Last year we put too much of our efforts into the overseas races and didn't deliver in Britain as we perhaps should have. This year we are strong enough to do well both in the UK and in Europe."
that has either sated your appetite for pre-season training whether you need to or not, or it has you searching the sporting tours website to book for next year. probably the principal difference is that the riders on endura equipe will now, not unnaturally, be expected to repay their two weeks in the sun by way of results. you and i, on the other hand, are perhaps more likely to simply have a more impressive photostream on flickr.
posted friday 3 february 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
apparently the new mini eats asphalt for breakfast, is constantly looking for adventure and cuts a dash in town and country. additionally, if you're keen to purchase one of the more exclusive models such as the mini john cooper works, you can meet the big, bad bruiser, while there is nothing quite like the special edition. i'd be willing to dispute the latter claim on the basis that though the wholesale adoption of computer aided design may produce more efficient motor cars, it often seems as if they emanate from the same mould.
as it says at the top of this page, this is a cycling website, so how is it that i seem to know so much about the new mini? well, i'll have you know that i learned to drive in a dark blue mini clubman, when minis were still small cars and still owned by british leyland (remember them?). the clubman was the successor to my mother's first motor car, a mini traveller; an estate car if you will, featuring wooden detailing on the exterior, two rear doors, a flexy pull cable to open the two front doors and slidey windows that outdid many a rolling stone by gathering uncanny amounts of moss. asv 230b was the registration, and it was necessary to insert the igintion key and press a button on the floor simultaneously in order to start the engine.
pale blue, since you ask.
however, i have never owned a mini of my own; even the clubman was my mother's. in fact, as i recall, i have never owned any austin or morris branded motor car, and nor have i had the ignominious distinction of owning or even driving a bmw, who now own and produce the new mini.
to answer the question i was earlier kind enough to have asked on your behalf, the reason i know all the slogans accompanying the new mini (which doesn't look a heck of a lot different from its predecessor if i'm honest) is because my inbox today became populated with an e-mail inviting me to request either a brochure or, heaven forbid, a test drive. if you are wondering why one steeped in the tradition of european cycling, with a brace of colnagos in the bikeshed and partial to wearing a pair of rapha socks to work, would receive such unsolicited mail, then i'm afraid i am no better informed than you.
the e-mail address from which the missive was sent would indicate a public relations company to be responsible, but try as i might, i cannot recall ever having provided any answer to a market research survey that would have indicated any form of interest in motoring, let alone the new mini. in common with every other hapless shopper in glasgow's sauchiehall street or buchanan street, i portend to be late for a mythical meeting, should it look as if i may have inadvertantly caught the eye of a very pleasant woman clutching a clipboard. i have already asked myself the question 'why me?'
but we have been here before, and relatively recently. it may be that the un-named public relations company is as errant as the reader's digest apocryphally was in one of its promotions from yesteryear. you may recall that junk mail originating from the rd was amongst the first to embrace the possibilities of personalisation. in this particular case, the introductory paragraph read similarly to the following; "imagine, mr hapless, how it would feel to climb into your new morris austin ford vauxhall and drive off down anywhere street, receiving envious glances from the neighbours." sadly the readers digest failed to follow the personal aspect to its ultimate conclusion, realising not that anywhere street was a pedestrian precinct.
you live and learn (or not, as the case may be).
the errant nature of this mailshot is obvious enough; why send it to someone who dislikes cars, does not own one and has, quite frankly, no intention of purchasing one? it could, of course, be pot (bad) luck, or perhaps a variation on the scatter gun approach; fertile ground will surely be found somewhere along the line. it's a very cheap method of marketing, and i mean that in the economic sense as opposed to its quality and preparation. so why don't the world's bicycle manufacturers take a leaf from those in the motor industry? all it would take is a striking graphic and an appropriate list of e-mail addresses. surely not outwith the bounds of possibility?
i have long pressed the local accommodation providers on islay to use e-mail as a weapon; they must receive any number of e-mail enquiries throughout the year, many of which will be asking to book weeks already let to others. storing these e-mails ought to provide a ready-made list should they wish to promote any special offers during the less populated parts of the season. the folks at trek, specialized, pinarello, colnago and giant must gather huge numbers of e-mail enquiries throughout any given period and it would surely make perfect sense to adopt these as the basis of an e-mail marketing campaign similar to that being currently waged on behalf of the new mini.
yet, in all the years that i have been obsessed with the bicycle and its associated trinketry, i have never once received an e-mail from colnago inviting me to consider any item from their carbon emporia. in fact, none of the majors have ever entreated me to send for a brochure or request a test-ride on this season's offerings. and i do find myself asking why the heck not?
we are consistently told by the media that cycle sales are on the up, that the bicycle's time has arrived once again, but so far as i can see this is something that has happened to the cycle industry, rather than something promulgated by same. think how many more bums could be making more permanent acquaintance with numerous saddles if the cycle industry stopped preaching to the converted and aimed at least a portion of its proselytisation at the civilian population.
whimsically, and without a trace of irony, the website for the new mini invites visitors to record the great british roar come this year's olympic games in london. did i mention the mini is german owned?
posted thursday 2 february 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i can recall reading an interview with one of the world's more prominent crime fiction writers, probably in the guardian's weekend review section. the questions posited were in consideration of how one goes about assembling the ultimate whodunnit, at least until the next one hoves into view. though the author's concise answers seemed glaringly obvious in retrospect, they did rather explain why it is i have never experienced a thundering breakthrough in the crime writing genre. personally, i'd have figured out both the crime and whodunnit, before fingers were brought into play on what passes for my word processor. the intervening chapters would simply have consisted of a round the houses goose chase to separate the two events by as large a gap as possible to justify the enormous publisher's advance that would undoubtedly have been offered.
of course, that's not quite the way it works.
first off, it's necessary to muster a phalanx of characters, dividing them into those who may have had the motive or opportunity to have committed the dastardy deed(s), and those who exist simply as vehicles for the narrative and to provide a red herring, should such be needed. the story ought then to be sketched out in rough detail, often avoiding the necessity of naming the guilty party, even if only in the writer's psyche. for apparently, as in the manner that non linear editing pertains to movie-making, it may not be necessary or desirous of choosing the hapless character until much later in the writing process.
that one could work in this manner had not, i'll readily admit, occurred.
at the point of settling on just exactly whodunnit, the chapters can then be revisited, honing the insertion of clues that will appear blatantly obvious to the reader once all has been brought to light. this process lends itself well to the interpolation of false clues to lead the more investigative and smug amongst us in entirely the wrong direction. so though we mostly read such novels in a linear manner, it is most certainly not incumbent on the writer to operate in similar fashion. in fact it behoves them well to ignore all temptation for linearity.
i will grant you that there is a modest level of deceit included in each daily washingmachinepost article; i am a creature of habit, one who enjoys deceiving until i'm ready to reveal what the heck it is i have found it necessary to expound to those who have become similar creatures of habit. my failing is in knowing and describing plainly what it is i have in mind. these words are not subsequently revisited in order to incorporate a devious degree of subliminal suggestion that will be revealed as necessary upon reaching the last sentence. for starters, there is no butler waiting to receive his come-uppence just before the posting date, and my deadlines are a little closer than they are for celebrity crime fiction writers. i am, however, happy with my lot, though the money could be better.
yet such subterfuge, craftsmanship and a smidgeon of deviousness have infiltrated the latest issue of rouleur magazine, and i am on the edge of despair (well, not really, but i'm possessed by a necessity to appear 'edgy' at this precise moment) that i had/have not the skills to achieve such heights by myself.
every written article has to have at least one subject under discussion, but nowhere is it inscribed that one has to reveal one's subject to the reader; at least not blatantly. the article to which i refer is simply entitled 'ss10', referring to a particular stretch of roadway in italy. the words are by maglia rosa author, herbie sykes, with photography by the inestimable ben ingham. the former has come under a barrage of criticism for his 'unseemly' writings pertaining to zullo frames in the previous issue of rouleur, though i think it likely that the man is simply ahead of his time in this respect. i thought the zullo article to display a grasp of irony that seemingly by-passed the appreciation of the majority.
however, back to issue 28; herbie sykes has peppered his article with sufficient clues as to the subject of his interview without revealing his name even in the final paragraph. it is the job of the reader to be attentive throughout, or to resort to google when reading has ended. i'd to rely on my powers of observation, since googling in the bath can lead to all sorts of unseemly innuendos. though i regard this article as the highlight of rouleur issue 28, the remaining pages also offer an embarrassment of riches encapsulated in that pervasive ink on paper aroma that leaks out the minute the gray plastic wrapper is breached.
yet again, just when you think rouleur may be about to suffer from the dilution of longevity, underlined by an increase in publication frequency, we are proved substantially and undeniably wrong.
did i mention the 162 pages?
posted wednesday 1 february 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
we have a substantial number of candles secreted about the sitting room in washingmachinepost cottage. i have no idea where they are, but mrs washingmachinepost has a map of their locations hard-wired into that pretty little non-cycling head, which presents a small problem, should they require to be used for the express purpose which they were purchased.
i heard tell last week that a small rural township in northern scotland was complaining vociferously about the frequency of power outages experienced last year. ten, i believe, was the number quoted, and it was something of a disappointment to discover how much attention was being given to this modern day travesty. this is not because i am hard-hearted enough to ignore this rural plight, but more because the mighty dave t, a resident of port wemyss, has suffered at least 28 power interruptions since december, one of which lasted for over five days.
though 'tis difficult to travel far nowadays without having one's view of the landscape broken by the spectacle of one or two windfarms, it is also comforting (in one way or another) to realise that the country's energy providers have our best interests at heart, doing their utmost to ensure that those little electrons continue to flow through the overhead and underground wires, while providing the ability to watch anything we like on bbc's iplayer. i am, of course, bearing in mind that they are keeping the other eye on both share price and profit margin. electricity has become so much a component of modern living, that we all take it pretty much for granted that the light will go on when the switch is flicked.
at the far end of ardtalla estate on islay's southern coast, lies ardtalla farmhouse, an elderly self-catering house that has no electricity. it may have had some at one time, for just inside the back door is a light switch. the strangest thing is that, even knowing that the house is bereft of power, it's still something of a surprise to find nothing happening after stupidly attempting to switch the light on.
islay is fortunate to an extent, that there is a generating station on the outskirts of bowmore village that can be brought into play should anything untoward happen to the current from the national grid on the mainland. last winter the undersea cable bringing power to both islay and jura broke, and bowmore's generator took the strain for over six months until the cable could be repaired (at considerable expense. apparently the few boats capable of laying undersea cables are in short supply and kept particularly busy.) for reasons i know not, we're being supplied by the island generator at present.
situations such as ours cannot but underline the fragility of modern existence. it affects us all in a myriad of differing ways. coffee being the lifeblood of even barely average cyclists such as myself, the option to pedal the few kilometres to debbie's cafe for a regular infusion of soya cappuccino is as much a part of peletonic certitude as inflating my tyres or donning a pair of cosy overshoes. a large, industrial brasilia coffee machine is gainfully employed churning out measured dose after measured dose, cups of which are brought to one's table for unadulterated supping.
along with those little caramel biscuits, it's something we simply take for granted.
so on receipt of a fine silver packet of dutch and wolf arabica coffee, a not inconsiderable degree of distress can be noticed trembling the upper lip. it says, and i quote 'suitable for both cafetieres and filter machines'. what if you don't own a cafetiere or filter machine? i mean, good grief charlie brown, that's what debbie's is for. isn't it? whatever happened to self-sufficiency in the face of silver packets of coffee?
nothing if not resourceful, i resorted to my bialetti moka pot surely the saviour of the technologically dependent, and the small ring on the cooker hob. i have no doubt that this produces differing strains and flavours than either of the commended methods, but i promise you, it made a rather flavoursome cup of coffee (well, two to be honest). the dark brown liquid, poured into an espresso cup out of habit, hit the spot nicely; it's not an espresso, but then it wasn't meant to be. what it was, was a rather fine, smoky flavoured cup accompanied by a plain-chocolate digestive. the ideal introduction to an evening's twmp scribbling.
i'm hoping you'll agree.
dutch and wolf's exclusive coffee blend, for both cafetieres and filter machines, is available to order direct from thijs and hank for only £5.95 in 227g packets. only the self-sufficient need apply.
posted tuesday 31 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................