fresh from my unsuccessful attempt to become a megastar in my own lunchtime in the late 1970s, i returned to my parents' home with an unavoidable need to seek gainful employment. there are times when all the planets are appropriately in alignment and that which is being sought, more or less falls into your lap, and i'm happy to say, this was one of those occasions. it will completely ruin my street cred as a disparager of the motor car to stare that this employment consisted of wearing black and yellow clothing (so appropriate given the very pixels in which this is written) as a hertz car rental quailty inspector.
though this job description would imply that at least a small degree of quality appraisal would have been involved, in reality the title referred to the guys/girls who keep the rental cars washed, polished and shiny, both inside and out. renters would walk in through the out door to hand in the keys after a hopefully successful rental period, and i would retrace their steps back to the motor vehicle and scream the engine in completely the wrong gear to the quality inspection area.
the car wash.
lest you figure that any jenson button off the street could find themselves in such a position of responsibility, let me point out that there was (and possibly still is) a quality inspector's exam to be taken after several weeks in the position. quite what would be the situation should this exam have been failed, i know not, but it did seem more of a token gesture than a strict requirement. the questions concerned knowledge of procedures and features pertinent to the cars on the fleet, and one that took me just over fifteen minutes to complete (successfully i might add). it transpires that the station manager was required to fill in the time taken by the candidate, something that subsequently required a phone call from head office to clarify, since the time allowed was one hour thirty minutes.
i cannot honestly state that such a job, which i held for around three years, fomented considerable interest in the humble bicycle, but i did use the latter to commute to my work every day, and the people with whom i worked were most amenable. sadly, the same could not be said about a considerable number of the customers. you see, as hertz marketing would have it at the time, the company was the number one rental outlet; whether this was in the uk, the usa or the world, i know not (nor cared), but it led to the preferred renters being invited as members of the number one club.
this club promised a lack of queuing at any rental outlet when collecting the car, unless of course all others in the queue were also number one club members. the plebs who simply wanted a car had to wait until the choice rentals had made their way from the counter. for reasons outwith my ken at the time, many of these number one club members were remarkably outspoken, given to standing in line and mentioning their membership affiliation in a loud voice by way of complaint. strictly off the record, this did not endear them to the rental agents or, indeed, the quality inspectors, often leading to far lengthier directions to their destination than was strictly necessary.
however in the particular location where i worked, there were two other rental companies, namely avis and swan national (the latter is perhaps less heard of these days). i cannot remember the slogan used by those at swan, but the avis slogan was we try harder, signified by a substantially sized and lit panel at the rear of the counter and badges worn by the rental and qi staff. in the light of this, we at the adjacent booth managed to acquire badges that stated 'we're number one. why try harder? hopefully this was all taken in good part, but had to desist after a visit by senior hertz management who smiled but took a rather dim view of our excess.
switching tactically to the bicycle industry, there is one bastion of modern cycling which earns praise and desire in equal measure, one which goes quietly about its superlative business with less than faff and fuss, happy and confident enough in its products to let them speak for themselves. wander through the corridors of power above the shop floor and you'll notice a series of framed t-shirt designs attesting to the company's funky past and present. under a graphic of mahatma gandhi is the word 'faster'; you either get it or you don't; i have no intention of explaining further.
the man at the top, who i had the great pleasure of meeting earlier this year, raised the bar quite considerably with his original headset, an item that still sits slightly bashed but insouciant on the windowsill of his office. though famed for the medical grade bearings that inhabit both their headsets, hubs and bottom brackets, as well as the famed buzz from the patented ring-drive they have recently upped their game once again providing a ceramic bearing option. and a campagnolo flavoured freehub.
the chris king plant in nw nela, portland, oregon is likely the most anonymous looking building i have ever come across. were it not for the chris king emblazoned truck parked outside, it would be very simple to drive on in an endless quest to find the front door. there is nothing anywhere on this large, grey industrial unit to indicate what goes on inside. i know they like it that way. however, it is not a case of we're number one, why try harder?, because inside the building, everyone is trying a lot harder than perhaps they need to, assembling the aforementioned along with cielo bicycles and those for james selman's beloved cycles.
i know i have waxed lyrical about the merits of the company's product line on many occasions before, but in this case, it is not just i who has paid tribute. each year as part of world trade week the portland development commission (pdc) hosts the international business awards. these honour businesses developing local jobs, helping the city of portland to better position themselves in the international market. this year chris king precision components won the small business exporter award.
as cielo project director, jay sycip said; "we try hard and continue to do so whenever and wherever we can. so much is unplanned which is the beauty of it all.", an appropriately understated comment. there are areas of the cycle industry where making a song and dance about a product or new release is both appropriate and expected, but i find it both comforting and quietly impressive that king's seem far happier to get on with their research, development and production than incur a level of unnecessary fuss.
show and go in one package for which they have my congratulations.
monday 21st may 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i am, like many of you, a confident cyclist, far more so than i ever was in a car. i am happy to claim my piece of the road, no matter that motorised traffic feels it to be theirs by right, and though i live in one of the more idyllic corners of the world, i'm more likely to be the one doing the bullying than being on the receiving end. of course, it's easy for me to say that of a road system bereft of traffic lights, roundabouts and one-way systems. though the roads are well trammeled by enormous trucks, those are driven by blokes that i know, and ones that know me, so the element of unrecognised danger is one that rarely, if ever, surfaces.
i have only once ridden a bicycle in london, a situation that was fraught with danger and stress, but far more so due to my having little idea of where i was heading at the time, no idea how to get there, and less than a clue about where i actually was at any point. the traffic itself (on a sunday morning) was, to put not too fine a point on it, not my major concern. such confidence, however, in any given area of riding, comes with familiarity. if you know where you are, where you're going and what the road does on the way there, it's almost bound to instil a sense of confidence in any practised cyclist. aside from getting lost, i managed just fine in portland.
islay is about to experience an influx of visiting motorists, motorhomes and not just a few cyclists with the whisky festival at the end of the week and summer holidays only a few weeks further on. though the cycling group are undoubtedly the ones most at risk, it's my contention that they are often the ones creating at least a portion of that risk by riding as if all the road was theirs, and not infrequently riding all across the road often more than two abreast. most of the island's road mileage is comprised of single track which will bear two cyclists abreast when conditions allow, but certainly not in the face of oncoming or following traffic.
that is perhaps the least of all the problems. while resident drivers can be seen to drive with less than absolute care and attention, those arrived here by ferry seem intent on ignoring the peace and tranquility they are presumably keen to acquire. speed is apparently of the essence, as is passing anything travelling slower (we're back to cyclists here) within one or two coats of paint. and it is here we come across perhaps the nub of a national problem.
if i might refer back to my professed confidence in the saddle, when heading north from debbie's only the other day, i made to cycle across the small bridge adjacent to uiskentuie farm, one that allows only one motorised vehicle at a time due to a narrowing of the road. but it's one that can safely accommodate a car and cycle if distance is appropriately judged. disappointingly, the motorist following me at that particular point seemed not to be owner of a judgment that would do him credit, passing me at substantial speed and close enough that, had mischief been uppermost in my mind, i could have closed over his passenger side wing mirror without extending my arm by much.
for an assured cyclist, the vehicle's speedy proximity was a trifle unnerving, but not of serious concern. however, should such a situation have occurred in this manner to a child aboard a cycle, only a few centimetres wavering could have resulted in serious injury. this is the thrust of the latest campaign by cycling scotland endeavouring to impress upon the motorist that giving an appropriate amount of space to child cyclists when passing ought to be a mandatory consideration. i am, of course, yet again preaching to the converted; those who both ride and drive (on separate occasions of course) tend to respect the space of cyclists no matter their age or ability. others seem hell-bent on simply arriving at their destination as quickly as they can, and hell mend anyone who slows their pace irregardless of age.
while such consideration ought to be extended to the more youthful aboard a bicycle as an inviolate right, there truly should not be an age limit applied. a middle-aged velocipedinist such as myself and other members of the velo club are just as entitled to expect a suitable amount of space by passing vehicles as anyone else, but the threat of this not being applied to small kids eager to cycle to school could conceivably mean fewer in the peloton in later years.
and that's certainly not right.
sunday 20th may 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
this plays directly into my one person campaign to expose christmas as undoubtedly the wrong time of year to present children with bicycles as presents. i will broker no argument on this point except from the point of view, common to most christmas presents, that it is a time of year when silly amounts of money are spent on keeping the kids happy. the overwhelming philosophy, from an adult point of view, seems mostly to consist of thinking in terms of keeping the little blighters out of their bedrooms, preventing glazed-over eyes in front of a playstation/wii/x-box or some such. in those terms, they have my unqualified support, for 'tis far better to have them scooting about hither and thither acquiring some sort of exercise.
so, do i not either protest too much, or seem to contradict myself? correct on both counts.
unless you live in the southern hemisphere, christmas is rarely the progenitor of clement weather and scorching temperatures. winter is not the season to be selling ultra lightweight cycling jerseys and crap weather is not the ideal enticement to get kids outdoors, unless there's lots of fluffy white snow to throw at unsuspecting bystanders. extrapolating these sentiments in the direction of pedals, wheels and handlebars would seem something of a non sequitur to have children ride their bicycles (the ones that you just gave them for christmas).
in these less than stable economic circumstances, gaining the most bang for buck is a criteria exercised by many, and definitely something to be applied to the choice of bicycle. several years ago, there was a multiple choice of wheel sizes applicable to children's bicycles, perhaps pre-mountain bike, but not exclusively. these started at 16", progressed to 18" before migrating to 26" via 20" and 24". economics dictates that it costs almost as much to build a cycle with an 18" wheel as it does that bearing 20", and similarly between 24" and the full-size standard, 26". for that reason, both 18" and 24" are all but as rare as hen's teeth. the effect this has had on cycle sizing is not to be discounted.
this often means that smaller children end up with bicycles that are too big for them at point of presentation because mum and dad (quite rightly) wish to ensure that when those long, lazy hazy days of summer finally arrive (between august 5th - 7th on islay) and even the most studious of children cannot be prevented from grabbing lungfuls of fresh air, the bicycle will fit. so we are now at an impasse: the kids received bikes for christmas that were too big for them, leading to an ignoring of desperately pleading parents to explore the great outdoors and turning eyes back to the computer screen.
those bikes ought to fit round about now. the hardier amongst us (and i extend this to the offspring) are already out on our bicycles even though the temperature would mitigate against this, but elsewhere, glee is in the air. but now consternation turns to the act of leaving those kids to learn about the greater world they can now explore on their bicycles. the helmet is an endemic part of cycling life; whether entirely necessary on children is a moot point and open to discussion. i and my peer group in those early years, crashed about on bicycles pretty much every day, acquiring all manner of scrapes and bruises, despite the notion of a bicycle helmet being an unticked box.
by the time we all reach our later teenage years, the weight of responsibility begins to be on the increase, a weight that is unlikely to lessen as the years roll by, so it is not a consideration to take lightly that younger children ought to be able to fritter away their early years in an elevated degree of innocence. and preferably accompanied by a bicycle. it is my genuine belief, and this is a long and unsubstantiated leap, that velo club d'ardbeg's minimal membership is as much due to a complete lack of the foregoing as it is to minimal local population.
islay is one of the few wonderful places left in which to live; children can play unconcerned and mostly without adult supervision. they can walk to school unchaperoned, traffic is effectively negligible, and being out late at night invokes no greater sense of danger than at ten o'clock in the morning. yet, here we are, only a day away from another sunday morning bike ride, and there's not a chance that any of those participating will be younger than forty, most considerably older. if we can't encourage kids to get on their bikes here, the future looks even bleaker for those in less carefree locales around scotland, britain and the rest of the world. yes, there are specific locations that buck the trend, but that will always be the case.
though i would like to think myself relatively free of prejudicial associations, i cannot excuse the one i have held for many a year regarding halfords. despite having reasonably good cause to, if not disparage the brand, rarely recommend them as a first port of call, their lasting sponsorship of the tour series has been of great benefit to raising the profile of cycling in the uk, and now, their latest television advertisement is to be roundly applauded, and not just for their choice of music. bring back the days when kids ran out the back door leaving an empty plate on the breakfast table, grabbing their bicycle on the way out the gate, leaving mum and dad to instigate a late evening search to drag them kicking and screaming when bedtime loomed.
shouldn't all summers be like that?
saturday 19th may 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
when the obvious hits you right between the eyes, it's hard not to feel a bit stupid. and even though that obviousness was not something you needed to be told, sometimes, every now and again, its obscurity masks its conspicuousness.
it didn't start out that way, as irritating noises rarely do. though the occasional click was audible on flicking down a gear to aid ascent while muscles and brain were still cold, i'd put it down to either my dromarti shoelaces or the right foot brushing against the cable end from the front gear mech. it was after some five kilometres that the recognition of a more insistent and thus undiscovered click became all too apparent. by the time 15km and the turn had been reached, it had reached annoying proportions, so much so that i stopped in the first passing place to investigate further.
nothing seemed amiss. the gears worked, the brakes worked, and those 15km had warmed the rider sufficiently that the noises were not of a personal nature. as with everything on any bicycle, the clicks appeared to emanate from the bottom bracket, but given that the object of misidentification was a recently installed chris king ceramic, the likelihood of that being the case was small to insignificant. flummoxed, but eager not to waste a perfectly good bike ride, i continued on my way, this time into a headwind that obscured much of any sort of noise, including that of following cars. every now and again, i'd hear the odd click but managed to convince myself that matters were improving.
how easily fooled we are when we want to be.
as one of stoic constitution, even when faced with a namby pamby tailwind that whisked every click, bang or creak towards the rider, i pedalled upon my way. the reasoning was that of the ostrich; if i'd made it this far without mechanical failure, there was good portent that the insistent clicking was not of a terminal nature. at least, not yet.
i am on record somewhere or other that, with a modest degree of ingenuity, all roads on islay lead to debbie's, home of quality froth supping and a destination that my clicking bicycle was noisily carrying me. the road around the top of loch indaal is on a parabolic curve, one which if engendering a tailwind at the onset, will have modulated to that of cursable headwind by the end. this altering of trajectory had almost convinced that the click had disappeared somewhere between bridgend and bruichladdich. it hadn't.
it was only after the cappuccinos had been consumed and the cheese and apple chutney roll munched, that i returned to that which i pretended to be; a cyclist. immediately upon rotating those cranks, the click started clicking again, and it was at this point that the obviousness dawned upon me. you see, bicycle chains take three full revolutions of the pedals from end to end, and that click coincided. why did i not see it before? sometimes idiocy finds it's own level.
i am a reasonably able mechanic; i have a comprehensive set of tools and know how that enables me to maintain all my bicycles in a condition commensurate with their value, both monetary and personal. not only that, for the bits and pieces that are outwith my nous, i can consult the interweb or youtube to educate myself further in such matters. and it cannot be denied that my position as writer of endless cycling articles gains me access to many others with considerably greater knowledge than i. in short, despite the absence of a local bike shop, it's a fairly simple matter for me to ride nice, well-maintained bicycles.
the same, you will be unsurprised to hear, cannot be said for everyone.
"Before I was trained as a mechanic, I had no idea of what I was supposed to do in life. At 37 I did not know how to ride a bicycle, let alone repair it. Today look at me. I am able to take my children to a fee paying school and everybody in my community look at me as an expert in bicycle repairing. I have a ready market and am not worried about my future.". the words are those of elijah, a field mechanic for world bicycle relief, trained through the programme that the charity has instigated to help maintain the 100,000 plus bikes they've distributed in africa.
"Bicycle maintenance is paramount to the success of our programs. World Bicycle Relief has developed a Field Mechanics Training Program to accompany bicycle distribution; this ensures that bicycle owners have access to local, qualified maintenance and repair service. Mechanics are trained in bicycle assembly, maintenance and repair as well as basic business, marketing and management skills. Each trained mechanic receives a set of high quality bicycle tools, a uniform, and marketing materials; some mechanics work with microlenders to establish businesses and purchase a stock of spare parts. World Bicycle Relief has trained over 750 local field mechanics in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda."
i have made mention of world bicycle relief previously, not least in conjunction with the ride of the falling rain where it was the ride's nominated charity in 2011 and will be again in 2012. most of us take the bicycle for granted, a vehicle or vehicles at our immediate behest for transportational or leisure purposes whenever the whim takes us. africa is somewhat different, both geographically and financially, a continent where a bicycle can literally mean the difference between survival and desperation, between regular education and endless chores. world bicycle relief, with assistance from such as those riding the ride of the falling rain is making one hell of a difference to a lot of people.
another of which i have made mention here before is sportique active body care, the brainchild of jan pivoda and a company now celebrating seven years of success by aiming to boost world bicycle relief's funding by way of an offer that will benefit us lot too. two of their most successful products, one of which sits atop my bathroom cabinet, are century riding cream and warming massage oil, still a welcome embrocation in this less than equable month of may. as of the beginning of this month, any purchasers of either or both of these items will receive a 25% discount, and all the money paid after this discount will be handed over to world bicycle relief. this, as if you need to be retold, will enable them to train more field mechanics and hand over even more bicycles.
which is a good thing.
pretty much all of us need chamois cream to obviate unnecessary chafing, and i cannot but admit that sportique century riding cream is amongst the best i have used. even if you only buy one tube and store it for later, it's going to help people like mary in zambia "The bicycle program has really helped me because from some profit I am able to buy food for my family. I want the bicycle program to prosper so I can have more earning from the same program and serve the community at large.". that's not too much to ask is it?
to take advantage of this offer, enter the code WBR582012 at checkout and the appropriate deduction will be made.
friday 18th may 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it will not come as any sort of surprise that i have no great truck with football (or soccer as i believe it is referred to in other parts of the world). i realise that it keeps happy a substantial number of folks in the uk, but it holds no interest for me whatsoever and i'm also aware that i inhabit a minority as far as adherence to a specific sporting activity is concerned. i am quite happy with this state of affairs, as are others and i'm sure many a football supporters' club is likewise. accepted as simply a sport, we could probably leave it at that, but having inadvertantly listened to the sports news on radio four the other morning, the news is not good.
you will forgive me if i get this horribly wrong; i'm about to throw my lot into a conflagration about which i know less than nothing, but it's not something that has stopped me before. the numbers are probably less than correct, but in principle they'll accomplish my being able to get a point over without too many people getting hurt. according to confirmation i have had from those around me, manchester city won something over the weekend, possibly the league, possibly a cup and even more possibly both. though my comprehension of the situation is far less than complete, it seems that they, along with many a competing team, appear content to spend their way to the top.
of the bits that sank in, i believe that manchester city have an annual wage bill of around £175 million, not far off the gdp of some of africa's smaller countries, a number that seems ludicrous enough without adding insult to injury the knowledge that the team made a financial loss last year of around £197million. (as stated above, these might not be the exact figures, but they're in the notional ball park.) numbers are not my strong point, but even my rudimentary understanding has red lights flashing. the news reporter continued to point out that some footballer whose name i did not catch, would be likely to sign for the team because they could move in against their competitors and offer him a £10 million a year contract.
the only news worse than the above, is learning that britney spears is to be paid $15 million to be a judge on the american edition of x factor.
if i am suitably awake in the mornings prior to arising, i occasionally catch the business news during which some remarkably intelligent and educated people discuss what amounts to science fiction. i have a better understanding of einstein's theory of relativity than i have of the inner workings of the stock exchange. now that this has seemingly extended to the world of football/soccer, i begin to find myself on the marginalised regions of society as one happy to simply ride my bicycle and watch bicycle racing on television. with regard to the latter, i am similarly distanced from the fanaticism displayed by many a soccer fan; granted i did rather enjoy domenico pozzivivo's giro stage victory aboard a colnago on sunday, but you will not find a pink scarf pinned to my bedroom wall (not that mrs twmp would allow it anyway); the chances are that the guy first across the line probably deserved to win.
in thewashingmachinepost household we are blissfully unfettered by any television sports channels. mrs twmp has no great interest in sports whatsoever and i only watch cycling, much of which is available free to air on the interweb. soccer, it seems is demonstrably well-served in the televisual arena; as if more than one game on sky sports every evening were not enough, regular programming on the terrestrial stations is often interrupted by the showing of one inscrutable game or another. perish the thought that those uninterested should be allowed to watch their regular programmes. my admitted incomprehension of all matters financial extends as far as not knowing what it costs to broadcast a football match on television, but i imagine it is somewhat considerably lower than the budget or return on same to televise such as the giro d'italia.
football stadia tend to remain in the same location throughout the nominal ninety-minutes and can be satisfactorily covered by dotting one or two cameras strategically about the sportsplex. conversely, broadcasting television pictures of the giro, the tour, the vuelta involves guys on the back of motorbikes, helicopters - which are not noted for their economy of operation - static cameras at the finish and an aeroplane circling above to collect all the signals from all the foregoing and send them back to base. do that every day for around three weeks and i can confirm that i would not like to be the one who receives the invoice.
it seems strange but true that a sport which is most certainly less popular than football/soccer even in italy and possibly in france too, receives substantial daily coverage and this despite the rather obvious expense. currently it's free every day on both la gazetta's website along with that of rai and on the former at least, the number of advertising breaks verge on the minimal. in a vain attempt to place this in any form of context whatsoever, might i point out that team sky's annual budget is only a few million more than manchester city were cited as being likely to pay only one footballer. and, so far as i know, none of the word tour teams (and for all i know, the pro continental and continental teams too) are likely to find themselves fielding a multi-million pound loss come season's end.
cycling doesn't seem to work that way.
so for all the uppitiness promulgated by myself and others regarding the huge gap between the salaries paid to cyclists who ride non-stop for twenty-one days at a stretch, often continuing after accidents that would have the average premier league footballer carried off on a stretcher and sidelined for several weeks, the entertainment provided to us as cycling fans is far greater than the whole would suggest. cycling will never supplant soccer, tennis, cricket or any number of competing sports from tv scheduling or column inches in the dailies; at least not in the uk or likely north america. but the fact that so many races are still given the sort of television exposure that we have begun to take for granted is surely cause for celebration?
perhaps by next year, mark cavendish will be judging britain's got talent (which surely ought to be written as britain has talent to be more grammatically correct?).
thursday 17th may 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
were you to be so foolish as to crack an egg on the bonnet of any motor car parked by the roadside in bowmore, or any other location on scotland's west coast, there's every likelihood you'd be either arrested for a variation on disturbing the peace or have to face off with an irate car owner. in fact, i'm not so sure the same wouldn't be the case in warmer climes, but one thing that wouldn't result in the northwest would be a fried egg. for the simple reason, the temperature rarely, if ever, rises high enough to cook ice cream let alone scramble some eggs.
this is not a surprise.
here, in the land of no hosepipe bans and reservoirs that you could sail a calmac ferry on, one thing you are unlikely to hear is the noise of folks complaining about the unbearable heat. stand at the side of a highland single track road as one or two of the pelotonese pass by, you're more likely to hear discussion of the current weather outlook or just a moaning drone directed at the substantial quantities of precipitation playing havoc with forward motion. even if you can distinguish any form of the spoken word above the splattering of rain on their panniers. and one associated feature of cloudy skies and pouring rain has to be an often not insubstantial reduction in temperature.
i mean no disservice to visitscotland, and wish not to dissuade eager participants in the act of holidaying in the scottish region. i am appeased at the thought that likely few holiday this far north in search of a suntan. scotland has other attractions that outweigh the perceived disadvantages, but that doesn't mean that in the interim, it has become any warmer. it must, at this point, be observed that i have perennially scoffed at the naysayers who aver that it is surely too cold for any sort of venture in the saddle. as we all well know, it is often merely a case of pedalling a smidgeon harder than usual, coupled with ownership of appropriate clothing for inclement weather.
it is prudent, however, to look beyond the act of pedalling and consider one's comfort or pending discomfort should a mechanical befall the more intrepid amongst us. if i take the route well travelled, incorporating the belgian road heading towards the blue-doored cottage at saligo, i am as far west as it is possible to go without leaving islay altogether. the sandy beach is the mediator between scotland and the atlantic. as i know to my disfavour, this ocean has vast stores of bicycle shifting winds that can push the hapless cyclist closer to a roadside ditch than is truly comfortable, and in those circumstances it is an ideal to be clothed in apparel that is the equal of the elements. last year's festive 500 was graphic demonstration. twice.
that part of the equation is now, however, of historical note. though my investigations have uncovered a british summertime lasting only eight days from 7:29 on june 20th until presumably a similar time on june 28th, we are in the throes of well nigh everyone's spring/summer clothing range, and if nothing else, the photos that accompany the release of such clothing (though often snapped in continents of warmer hue) are geared towards encouraging and fomenting regular wear of many a lightweight jersey or shorts. rare is the manufacturer that offers a long-sleeve jersey for mid june.
rapha have, to all intents and purposes, fostered adoption of the sportwool jersey in both long and short sleeve variants, a factor that has built them the domain they now occupy with pride. prior to their emergence in 2004, the majority of the garment offerings not only imitated the professional peloton in terms of design, but often in the manner of their polyester construction. many have followed suit with similar sportwool offerings, some of which have stretched that degree further and inhabited the pure merino stance. both sportwool and merino have fabulous properties to benefit the sartorially and technically aware cyclist, but what if those catalogue photos have brought a greater degree of sunshine to your cycling life? that's when a more lightweight covering might come in handy.
perren street has not rested much over the last eight years; there have been refinements along the way, augmented by some interesting developments, one of which was the lighter weight offering of the sportwool jersey, providing many of the advantages that sportwool can confer besides benefiting those afflicted by heat. as stated in my opening gambit, the west coast of scotland is rarely the location in which an entire wardrobe of the fabric is likely to be found, but that does not discount finding the occasional well-chosen example.
several days ago i was wont to wax lyrical over the existence of the inestimable rapha condor cycle club, whose existence is solely to support the lads under the guidance of john herety. rapha and condor are big boys now and perfectly capable of supporting themselves. members of this exclusive yet openly inclusive club can avail themselves of a black and pink club jersey, one which surely can be regarded as amongst the finest available to any cycle club in the land. by strange coincidence, this jersey is constituted from lightweight sportwool and it seems an apt point at which to discuss its merits and demerits in public.
as yet, i have had no opportunity to ride bare-armed, displaying to all and sundry the words rapha and condor both front and back, just above that recognisable pink hoop paying witness to the aforesaid cycle club. the outer surface bears recognisable similitude to a series of perforations across the length and breadth of the fabric, and that hoop is not printed, but sewn in place. if nothing else, quality is rarely far from the surface. there are the usual three rear pockets capable of swallowing a colnago c59 whole, the outer two scalloped towards the outside and the right rearmost bearing an all but concealed zip for the inclusion of life's small valuables and coffee money.
this particular example features a full-length zip, as does the more regular offering of the lightweight jersey, a zip which terminates safely in the ubiquitous yet welcome zip garage. it is, however, the wicking properties of the jersey that make it a particularly apt choice under a rainjacket or even - as during this past weekend - under a pro-team jacket topped with rain jacket. i had, at the time, figured i may well have been overdressed for the occasion, and though the temperature lowered as the morning progressed, it's a factor that never reared its ugly head. admittedly its appropriateness for the occasion presented itself in surprising fashion; i think it likely many purchasers of the rapha lightweight jersey will have succumbed to the marketing nous that encourages the belief that this is the ideal way to the sun, and who would blame them?
however, for those bereft of regularly intense sunshine, it is surely iniquitous that we be so disenfranchised. with no intended sense of irony, what if we want to join the club too? £105 may be a tad more than it is desirable to spend on a jersey only seeing the light of day (no pun intended) once or twice a year, but taking into consideration its apparent hereby discovered versatility, new opportunities appear. it might be a prudent choice at time of purchase to acquire a pair of armwarmers or armscreens to extend the jersey's versatility even further, but that's a choice that will vary depending on climate. it can also be successfully and more insouciantly worn over a long-sleeve baselayer.
though i did sort of half-promise a discussion of perceived demerits, it both grieves and delights to say that, as yet, i have found none. even the flap that sits behind the full-length zip seems intent on remaining interference free; not once have the two had conversations with each other. and though i have road-tested an arguably more iconic and exclusive variation on a theme, whether you are domiciled midst glorious heat, or chittering in the highlands and islands, this is a jersey that can look you in the eye and justify every one of its hard-earned pound notes or dollars.
the race is now on to see which of you is the more demanding.
rapha's lightweight jersey is available in blue or cream or, for members of the rapha condor cycle club, in black with pink hoop. price for the former is £105 with sizes ranging from xs to xxl.
wednesday 16th may 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's difficult to decide whether we are victims of our own success, success that surfaces in the manner of continually producing an endless variety of products that score brownie points over their predecessors or peer group. that difficulty includes figuring out whether irrepressible advancement is truly in favour of the end-user, enabling them to carry out tasks or activities in a manner improved from that which was previously the benchmark. or is it simply a case of the need to bring new product to market in order to maintain the corporate balance of payments? after all, when you've sold everyone double-glazing, what next can you offer?
this impressive speed of development has, however, made us lazy. in the days of friction gear shifting, though it was only a (short) matter of time before changing became second nature, there was a certain amount of concentration required to ensure smooth cadence at all times. indexing, assuming correct adjustment, has removed any lack of definition; no surprises here. electrics and electronics have only boosted this situation. braking too, now that the dual pivot caliper is endemic, provides a decent and expected degree of modulation and handfuls of stopping power that could conceivably lock up wheels if applied with too much gusto.
at the risk of pre-judging, we take most of the above for granted, happy to be on the receiving end of the benefits they all confer. that is exactly the way that it should be; it's why prototypes appear on professional racers' bicycles before they can be ordered from chain reaction. all will be well in the peloton for as long as nothing goes wrong. and that's sort of the problem. as the complexity increases, so do the chances of one factor amongst many deciding to opt out, usually at the point of least convenience.
this is not to demean technological advancement in one swell foop, for in all the years i have been riding with sti/ergopower/double-tap levers, i have not had one failure. yes, cables have stretched marginally in use and made gear-changing less than pin sharp, but mostly that is an easily solvable problem. so despite my foreboding remarks, despite a greater potential for failure, while the technology improves facilitation it also improves reliability. perhaps the more pressing concern is a lack of readily available spares should that reliability prove fallible. that is something that used to sit at the back of my mind while riding mavic's r-sys exalith coated slr wheels.
the radial spokes composing the front wheel and non-drive side rear are fabricated in kevlar reinforced carbon, spokes that gave rise to mavic's tracomp technology where the spokes react in traction and compression. ever tried compressing a steel spoke? mavic recalled the original r-sys front wheels due to fears those spokes could break catastrophically if an object (such as a wayward competitor's pedal) was to find itself in the path of those rotating spokes. the wheels resurfaced a few months later with strengthening kevlar and seem to have been efficacious ever since. however, the concern would be just how easy it is to acquire spares should one be inadvertantly broken.
the matt black exalith coating offers a stealth look to any bicycle to which they are fitted, while its industrial advantages provide a hardened surface to deflect untoward scratches and improved braking. this latter device has received more than a few column inches, for under tightly squeezed levers it's possible that even banshees might be drowned out. more restrained pressure produces a delightful (to my ears at any rate) whistling sound redolent of a turbine. very cool. it is the serrations all around the braking surface that are responsible for this noise, though the promise is that the proprietary green pads will succeed in flattening the tops of those serrations, thus diminishing the squealing.
i first reviewed these wheels in mid-july last year, and though they are fitted to a colnago that does not see daily use, the braking surfaces are still announcing their presence just a smidgeon more than i'd like to be the case. however, to underline my contention that we/i take everything for granted nowadays, the mavics are so impressive, that they only become recognisable when switching to a bicycle that does not have them fitted. they have seen many a rustic cattle grid in their ten months on islay, along with those roads only brought out on special occasions (just like your gran's jubilee tea set), and have not seen hide nor hair of mavic's proprietary spoke key.
i admit that i have temporarily dispensed with the services of the yksion tyres in favour of a pair of vittoria open paves, more because of the state of the roads rather than any dis-satisfaction with the originals. those smooth, non-existent treads fare less well on the substantial loose gravel that inhabits fast corners and the centre of many singletrack backroads. the paves are also a modest number of millimetres wider and complement the comfort dispensed by the wheels.
so, despite bearing in mind the huge fall that modern technology may well be preparing us for, i'm becoming firmly of the opinion that many an item may be stoically prepared to allow a bypassing of the impending gravitational pull. these are not particularly cheap wheels, and it's possible that they will impress and benefit the more experienced rider, one that perchance is more astute with where their money is spent. it has often and continually been said that the single biggest improvement any rider can make to his/her bicycle is to upgrade the wheels. that is, until you get to the lofty heights of a pair of mavic r-sys slr.
though i'm enough of a luddite wheelaholic to have yearnings for the more traditional handbuild, i'd be a mite foolish if i didn't appreciate the joys of riding a pair of these. a technological triumph, though i still have fears over replacement spokes.
mavic are now offering purchasers of these, other wheels and other mavic products the option of paying an extra pound/euro or dollar (which seems a trifle iniquitous given the exchange rates. it means those of us in the uk are paying a smidgeon more than our counterparts) to participate in a 'crash replacement' programme. details can be found here.
tuesday 15th may..........................................................................................................................................................................................................