it's a well told story.
the good little girl who lives alone with her mother in a little house in a little village. they have, to all intents and purposes, no money, and little likelihood of acquiring any in the near future. unsurprisingly, in the true tradition of storytelling, this poverty extends to having nothing to eat. it is seemingly the way of the fairy tale world. in order to alleviate the early symptoms of starvation, the good little girl pops out to the forest (there's always a forest) to scour for mushrooms. and in the process of her scouring, she meets and old woman who, rather generously, hands her a little cooking pot.
as you will perhaps have surmised, this is no ordinary cooking pot, but a magic one. the old woman explains that its magic will cook porage (regular or old-fashioned oats depending on taste) whenever the words "cook, little pot' are mentioned within hearing distance. when enough was to be had, it was necessary only to say "enough, little pot" and porage cooking would cease. the good little girl took the pot home (there is no mention of whether any mushrooms had been collected); from that moment onwards the good little girl and her mother need not worry about a high-fibre diet ever again.
if the tale ended there it would not only make for a very slim volume of fairy tales, but would surely struggle to stretch the abilities of the average fairy tale illustrator. be assured that there is much more, not all of it good, but i will spare you the details. there are no bicycles involved.
unfortunately, despite years and years of technical innovation and development, this tale no. 103 in grimm's fairy tales from the 19th century has never been truly realised. i still need to pop into the supermarket around once a week to purchase yet another packet of scott's old-fashioned porage oats, and the hardware store has seemingly never heard of a pot with an innate ability to endlessly continue the cooking of porage. the americans can land a little tonka toy in a crater on mars, before sending it off for a look see round its little bit of the red planet, yet neither morphy richards nor tefal's research and development departments have set aside any meaningful budget for inexhaustible cooking pots.
just what kind of world are we living in?
however, if you'd care to back up to the beginning of my last paragraph, you may take note that i paid lip service to the notion that what i shall refer to as endless technology, as in 'it has not been truly realised, for i believe it a truism that rapha might be slightly closer to the holy grail than either they or we have realised.
in october 2011, the folks at perren street were kind enough to send me a little black tin of their shaving cream, the latest addition to the rapha skincare range. as one who had long eschewed the iniquities and faff associated with electric shavers, particularly when travelling abroad with completely the wrong adaptor to re-charge, i was already well into the swing of a razor with more blades than most campagnolo cassettes, though allied to an alternative brand of shaving foam. thus habits need not be subject to substantial change.
rapha's shaving cream is of a composition that requires very minimal application prior to whisking into a santa claus quantity of foam with a wet brush. add to that a propensity to make me smell like mont ventoux, and what's not to like? check the date at the foot of this article to find that we are midway through october, and yet i still have well over a month's worth of rapha shaving cream left in the tin. i will admit to at least a couple of days that were shaving free during this past year, plus a week's trip to portland and sacramento during which i opted for electric to get round any subtle variations in airline security regulations. for the purposes of not very much at all, let's assume that to be 365 days minus two weeks (to be generous); 351 days.
at £15 per tin ($20) that equates to less than four pence (five cents) per day. in my experience, that's the nearest anyone has ever come to the magic porage pot, and knocks into a cocked winter hat, the oft quoted notion that rapha kit is somewhat on the pricey side of life.
monday 15 october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i can recall a book i have somewhere abouts that concerns itself with custom bicycles, the handmade variety. on the cover is one of sacha white's vanilla bicycles. so far, so not extraordinary, but the feature of this particularly attractive velocipede is not necessarily the paint scheme, the brazing or, indeed, the rather fine mudguards/fenders applied. in this case it is a most agreeable looking bottle cage fitted in front of the handlebars. i confess i did not look close enough to see whether the downtube also bore cage bolts as an alternative or complementary fitting, but in my eyes, the one on display would have suited just dinky doo, thank you very much.
it so happens that, shortly after receiving a review copy i was due to make my first ever visit to portland, oregon, the very domicile of mr white. thus, the cunning plan was not only to visit sacha at his workspace in south east portland, but to broach the subject of just how one might acquire one of the aforementioned bottle cages. my cycling format tends to waver between being a member of the pelotonese and that of a sedate pedallist intent only on transporting oneself from point a to point b. this bottle cage was intended for the latter state of mind.
however, joined by michael robertson of velodramatic on my vanilla bicycle's visit, innocent conversation amongst the three of us concerning various aspects of frame construction, fenders and accessories such as the front mounted bottle cage, elicited the understanding that it had been a one-off, and one that sacha had neother the time nor, indeed the desire to repeat anytime soon. been there, done that, move along now. under such circumstances, i felt it better to refrain from making any specific request for a similar device.
the mighty dave t has long regaled me with tales of dessication from his early years awheel, when the thinking of the day forestalled any thoughts of thirst quenching at any point before 60 miles. apparently any thoughts of removing that bottle from its cage prior to 100km passing was regarded as a sign of weakness. thus, if the morning's bike ride was of a mere fifty miles or so, there was truly no need of a bottle at all.
we now know, or at least we are now told that even an infinitesimal leaning towards dehydration will undermine one's stamina and power output in a negative manner, so hydrating correctly before the off and following up within ten minutes is seemingly the way to go. sipping every five minutes throughout the remainder of the ride ought to keep thirst at bay without producing webbed feet. and though it has often been stated that if you wait until you're thirsty, then it's already too late,it has also been conversely mentioned that it is thirst that ought to be the marker by which slurping from that bottle should be adjudged.
as i have mentioned before, perhaps more than once too often, i am particualrly poor at drinking when on the bicycle, partly because i rarely feel thirsty and partly because, despite good intentions, i forget to drink. the recent opportunity to review those nuun tablets has improved this immeasurably; the initial burst of flavour brings with it the desire to have a second, third and often fourth slurp from the bottle. nuun tablets are designed to rehydrate and replace lost minerals but not to provide a liquid source of carbohydrate. however, the rather attractive flavours offered by many of the carbo powders on offer have had a similar effect to that of nuun.
therein, however, lies the horcrux of many a water bottle's own destruction. though i have experienced a water bottle gather a flurry of penicillin when solely used for water, in most cases it is the sugars contained within the tablets or powders that ferment in the most awkward corners (do water bottles have corners?), resisting pretty much every attempt with letter opener and j-cloth to remove before refilling. fortunately the humble water bottle is an ideal vehicle for a sponsor's logo or provider's artwork, a fact that often mitigates against a less than amenable price. i think it unlikely that any amongst us is without the financial wherewithal to purchase a new bottle every now and again as required, but more often than not, that turns out not to be the case.
members of the pelotonese who think nothing of spending untold amounts on carbon fibre, sportwool or lycra, seemingly baulk at the thought of a few pounds on a new bottle. worse than that, despite the fact that i am often provided with logo'd water bottles at apparently regular intervals, i am no more blameless than the rest of you. it is, i think, a blatant sign of favouritism; we all have our favourite bottle, one that we figure increases our standing in the peloton due either to its perceived rarity or hoping to inhale a smidgeon of the palmares that its logo would imply. i have a chris king bottle that has lasted seemingly forever, not once offering up some unwelcome mould at its base. there's also a velobici version, a nuun and somewhere in the bikeshed, an unused, pristine rapha example, undiscovered for at least a couple of years.
i know it's in there somewhere.
this pressing realisation ought to be adopted by us all; no exceptions. no matter the logo or implied superiority, when that bottle shows any sign of undesired growth on its innards, chuck it in the bin. if that means you have to order another, then so be it. cycling provides health benefits like no other activity, turning even a mediocre rider into one likely to suffer anxiety attacks if the gaps between each outing are considered too far apart. any afflictions that may be acquired through supping from an infected bottle, could extend those periods of pedestrianisation a lot longer than could be borne by even those possessed of unbridled stoicism.
it doesn't take a lot of bottle to do.
sunday 14 october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
'In this leading group of 15, Merckx is clearly the strongest. For the moment, he does nothing to hide his form. He is single-minded and has decided to wear out his companions. At 17km from the finish, he chooses to attack for the first time. It's Maertens who calls him to order. A little later Merckx nips out again, and once more Maertens is alert to it. The same scenario repeats at 10km from San Remo. The Poggio is really quite close now.'
my holiday reading, for one reason or another, rarely falls into the category of relaxing and untroubled narrative. whatever the male equivalent of mills and boon is, i know well to be the sort of book i ought to have in my travel bag, sandwiched between a couple of cycling monthlies, modern drummer and the uk edition of wired. the latter options ought to keep the intellect from deteriorating too far as i spend a week doing as little as humanly possible, while an appropriate book can fill in the gaps with some mindless tat.
but that's not the way it seems to work.
several holidays ago i purchased two reasonably paginated paperbacks concerning aspects of modern literary thinking; not in a storybook sort of way, but more in terms of the mechanics of the genre. they were entitled phonetics and semantics. quite how i thought i was to devour both in the space of a week, seven days when i was due to be lazing about on leather sofas thinking about nothing more challenging than what i might fancy for lunch. what made such a task even more onerous was the nature of both volumes. leaving phonetics aside for just a minute, semantics concerns the science of understanding or categorising of language in an almost mathematical manner.
effectively we're looking at the meaning of meaning. such fun.
however, these are often the subjects that can be reflectively consumed when on holiday, distanced as one is from any form of onerous reality. granted any philosophical musings are blown well away on returning to the real world, but it's nice to consider oneself of intellectual constitution for a few days every year, even if no-one else ever does.
i never did start reading the book about phonetics. it still lies buried in a cupboard somewhere abouts, or i may have passed it onto the local recycling group, a fate that also befell the book on semantics. i never did finish reading it, even after two abortive attempts, though i think myself well enough informed on the subject to feign a knowledgeable facade if the word ever arises in conversation. however, the modest number of chapters that i did manage to read, engendered an annoying improvement in the level of pedantry i find it necessary to impose upon others. mostly i just can't help myself.
for instance, take the term legend. in the throes of youth, a legend was a tale told based on a kernel of real happenings but creatively added to over time, thus sort of believable but sufficiently distanced from contemporary times to avoid any in depth investigation. for illustrative purposes, may i suggest the legends of both bonnie and clyde and ned kelly. there's more than a grain of truth in both, but it's hard to tell where reality ends and myth begins. few would dispute that both the latter can be etymologically classified as legends, yet how to we reconcile such with a recent legend such as eddy merckx?
regularly described as a legend in his own lifetime, eddy is still fit, healthy and able to adjudge and verify any superhuman claims made on his behalf. yet a rider with an official 525 victories throughout his fourteen years in the saddle surely deserves the apellation legend? how else would we describe him?
eddy hasn't done too badly this year already, with his career more than adequately described by both will fotheringham and daniel friebe, but this velopress offering invokes the words sumptuous, luxurious and magnificent. the title encompasses those 525 official victories, logically detailed for every year of eddy's professional career, though the writers are astute enough to point out that there exists an accurate tally of 553 victories; those not part of his official palmares are printed in italics.
some of these victories, particulalry in the light of the more specialised approach of our modern heroes, are worth repeating here.
7 x milan-sanremo
5 x liege-bastogne-liege
3 x ghent-wevelgem
5 x tour de france
5 giro d'italia
world hour record.
and that's barely scratching the surface.
there are few amongst the cognoscenti who are unaware of the importance of the legend that is eddy merckx. when there was consternation expressed recently by one of the paralympic track sprinters over the length of his competitor's carbon fibre legs, asking for a ruling on the parameters of such, the inimitable michael hutchinson commented on twitter that the uci would solve the problem in a tea break: everyone's legs would need to be the same length as eddy merck's. it is perhaps no coincidence that the bicycle design accorded approval by the uci for the athlete's hour record was pretty much that of colnago's steel as used by merckx in his own successful 1972 attempt on the hour.
i'd love to be able to point my finger at favoured photographs, images that rise above all the others, but that is a false hope. it would be very much an uphill struggle to impose a hierarchy to which all the others aspire; rarely has a book such as this displayed such consistency from the opening pages to those met near the end. as merckx himself states in the cover wrapround "(it) contains a unique collection of exclusive photographs, including some that even I had not seen before." the same testimony advises that it is the only work officially authorised by eddy merckx.
i have mentioned above that an adjective easily applied to this widescreen format hardback is that of sumptuous, one that applies not only to the beauty of the paper, the luxuriance of the photographs and the graphic sensibility of the page layout. it is the essence of good design that it remain all but transparent to the intended audience, but each of its 221 pages simply scream out loud to satisfy the senses. even the choice of ff scala as the body text typeface is as impeccable as it gets. i'd be hard pressed to suggest better. if the rouleur readers amongst you enjoy the aroma of that publication's ink on paper, you will adore merckx 525.
£42 may seem a hefty price to pay for a book that could realistically double as a coffee table by dint of its size and heft, but this is real and tangible contemporary history which ought to make as much of an impression on those born well after the legend's era, as it will to those who remember eddy's heyday from the roadside. modern cycle sport is particularly well-served by some excellent photographers, but the imagery contained within merckx 525 is exemplary. i have spent several gratifyingly happy hours deliberating over many of these photos; leading his faemino team car during a very dark 1970 paris-roubaix; being half-wheeled by a press motorcycle during the 1969 ronde van vlaanderen; clothed in a thick blanket at the summit of a snowy 'tre cime di lavaredo' in the '68 giro d'italia. each succeeding year or chapter brings with it a collection of images that will urge you to head out on the bike no matter the weather outside.
reading is for a cosy evening by the fireside.
merckx 525 is little short of a triumph. with christmas looming on the horizon, you would do well to leave giant-sized completely unsubtle hints on every square inch of available space. i can think of little more despondent than waking up on christmas morning to find an empty space where a copy of this book ought to have been.
'Just before the Poggio, the final killer on the course, the young Belgian Vandenbroucke speeds up. De Vlaeminck, who appears to have recovered from his fall earlier in the race, counters and drags the rest with him to the head of the race again. Merckx then keeps on going at full speed. No one reacts. It looks as if his fourth attack will be successful. Only Vandenbroucke is capable of following. Merckx is his pacesetter. Vandenbroucke does not lead...'
saturday 13 october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
despite the accusations and confessions that are filling many a column inch of the newspapers and will do so again when the monthlies add their ten pence worth, cycling is still a pretty cool activity in which to be involved. only on wednesday of this past week came the announcement that bradley wiggins was considered the most influential man in britain, though i ought to temper this by pointing out that the sixth most influential is reckoned to be andy murray. professional cycling is a world away from the 20km ride i enjoyed before work the other morning, requiring only an extra spoonful of porage oats to fuel (though i will confess to feeling the notion to have a brief siesta after lunch), and a substantial proportion of that difference is down to the often impressive amounts of money involved.
watched from the sidelines of replica team jerseys, inflatable green hands and mobile homes parked nose to tail all the way up alpe d'huez, cycling is entertainment, and mostly very enjoyable entertainment that has many more facets than several other sports.
though perhaps the aspect with the highest public profile, the one day classics and three grand tours are not the be all and end all of cycle sport. at least not for everyone. running periodically and coincidentally with the road racing season are the world track championships, held across the world on a velodrome near you, while the descent into the depths of winter brings forth those intent on a season of cyclocross. many are the cyclists who embrace the diversifications from both a fan perspective and that of participation. and just like real world cycling, that involves professionals as well as rank amateurs.
those three weeks in july mostly have us glued to itv4 or eurosport to watch the entertainment unravel, fascinating to watch and even more fascinating to discourse upon for the benefit of blatantly disinterested work colleagues the following day. in keeping with many other sports, cycling throws up its own phalanx of heroes (some of whom may currently be finding such former accolades to be a smidgeon tarnished at present), almost a necessary part of any sport to ensure audience participation. there is no stranger discovery, therefore, to find promoters willing to pit one against another in a no-less competitive situation, but one that bears few of the hallmarks of a life or death situation. i might offer up the star pairings competing in the winter's six day races. as a pertinent example.
though a matching of heroes in the madison may draw in supportive crowds, in many an instance they are little match for riders who do this sort of thing regularly and with the opportunity to train together. it's just the way the entertainment machine, in which we are all complicit, works.
it would be hard to have ignored the publicity surrounding glasgow's hosting of the 2014 commonwealth games, partly through the common knowledge that the new velodrome in which the cycling events will take place has been named after scottish cycling's favoured son, and that the selfsame velodrome has now been subsumed by some of that money we discussed earlier in the shape of the emirates arena. ironic because the sponsor with the money plays no part in the british commonwealth. it's a funny old world.
the sir chris hoy velodrome has, however, been completed well ahead of commonwealth requirements, meaning that its wooden boards are available for use right this minute. the two most notable events to occupy the space in the next month or so are the upcoming scottish track championships on 26th, 27th and 28th october, followed on the 16th, 17th and 18th november by a round of the uci track championships. however, entertainment of a more colloquial nature will accompany the former event in october, courtesy of scotland's braveheart fund.
known for its support of young scottish riders making their first steps in a big bad, but opportune world of cycling, the braveheart fund has long held a bike ride and fundraising dinner at the end of october, both taking place in and around kilmarnock in ayrshire. this year the bike ride is being replaced by the thunderdrome. this is a two hour track cycling exhibition taking place prior to saturday's episode of the scottish track championships and commencing at 1pm. four teams of three sprinters (braveheart, scotland, england and europe) will battle each other for top honours interspersed with keirin and match sprint exhibition exhibitions, all in honour of sir chris hoy who will be in attendance.
riders such as the king of scotland james mccallum, craig mclean, matt crampton, jason queally, dean downing and tosh van der sande will participate across several events adding a capital e to the word entertainment for the day. the scottish track championships take place over three days (friday, saturday, sunday) with the thunderdrome taking place on saturday only. tickets are £20, £18 and £15 available online here
that should be enough to take your minds off big tex.
friday 12 october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the only things missing were a pair of shiny alloy toe clips, the stuff of which legends are made.
my drum student's father was discussing the likelihood of our seeing the aurora borealis in the evening sky, so clear was its blue as dusk fell. walking through the village after teatime was chilly enough to have regrets over not wearing gloves. dry but cold, and the very conditions that looked well towards going out for a quick whizz after breakfast the following morning.
i had been advised in years gone by that if a morning ride was what was intended, the ideal was to have all the appropriate clothing lying out ready. thus, prior to climbing under a nice new 15 tog duvet the previous eve, i laid out bib threequarters, long-sleeve baselayer and a decidedly retro del tongo colnago long-sleeve top. cosy though this promised to be, the crowning glory and the very item that gives credence to my opening statement, was a prendas thermal winter hat. one of those beauties that covers your ears and keeps them cosy.
the true height of retro and all the better for it. a quick plate of epo (extra porage oats) and i'm good to go.
disarmingly, the morning failed to live up to the promise of the previous evening. if the aurora borealis had made itself known this far south, there's every chance that cloud cover had obscured it from view. a grey morning. however, raining it was not, and cold it most certainly was. i lamented the omission of toeclips even further when wearing a pair of italian leather shoes, but under the circumstances, it's as close as i was likely to get to emulating a 1980s spring classics domestique.
it causes me great regret that my italian leather has not been worn more frequently of late, for aside from the inevitable sartorial benefits, they are inhabited by a pair of cyclefit custom insoles; i now remember what comfort means. however, it may just be the case that custom shims under the cleats are not in the precise position they once were. at least, not on the right shoe. heading out towards the abattoirenberg forest road involves a brief uphill over less than pristine road surface. i did have queries over whether the right cleat had fully engaged as i left the safety of washingmachinepost cottage, but my foot pulling out from the pedal rather confirmed that just as i passed the tv mast for bowmore village.
i stopped at tallant further along the road to check the cleat and pedal. nothing to see here; move along now. yet the connection wasn't being made.
if any of you own or ride a colnago master, you'll be aware of the fact that freewheeling isn't an option. even when the bike is heading downhill, it forces you to pedal; like fixed wheel with gears. on a chilly morning, that's not going to favour the ears; cold when standing still translates to hypothermic on a fast downhill. if ever there was a reason for that prendas winter cap, i have found it.
the cleats survived intact along the abattoirenberg road despite the serious roughage under those rather delectable wheelsmith hoops, though i still had my suspicions as to whether that right foot was truly engaged to the pedal. for authenticity, several of the roads had been peppered with agricultural by-products such as mud and isle of wight ferry, lending a greater level of belgique, complementing my winter hat and del tongo jersey.
much as i hate to be the harbinger of bad tidings, it's unlikely to get any warmer between now and next february. you will, i trust, be already in possession of a long-sleeve jersey and doubtless some form of waterproofing, but i really must insist that you gather for yourself one of these prendas winter hats. hand made in italy (it says so on the label - fatto a mano italia) and with prendas embroidered on the peak, i feel i must take issue with mick and andy's contention that you might find their under-helmet cap a better option under a helmet. au contraire mes amis, i had this firmly fitted under one of giro's finest without the least consternation or despair. .
i now look forward to a cold, wet autumn morning when i can laugh in the face of inclemency, while correspondingly laughed at for being out in horizontal rain in the first place.
the prendas winter cap is available in black/grey, one size fits all, for an extremely reasonable £19.95.
thursday 11 october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the days have gone, faded just like a photo left in a shop window for too long (incidentally, why do folks do that? i have lost track of the number of photos i've been presented with to restore faded colour, when taking them out of direct sunlight would have made a far better job of it). gone are the tell-tale ovals of tan on the back of the hands, testifying to signs of endless kilometres in the sun pretending to be fast and emulating whichever grimpeur takes your fancy. and, of course, if those markings have disappeared, likely so have the straight giveaway tanlines atop thighs and biceps. well, i like to think of them as biceps.
those are the marks of distinction that function as the cyclist's secret handshake. you know the moments well, when standing in a branch of wh smith's looking through a dog-eared copy of peloton magazine. the ovals of tan profess you to be a member of the pelotonese rather than being unable to grab a copy of amateur photographer because there's someone already standing in front of that section. this is not narcissism or exhibitionism of any mantionable note; it takes hours in the saddle to acquire such marks of distinction, often to the extent of playing hooky from work and telling clients "it'll be ready tomorrow".
you know of which i speak.
so in the words of the crows on the tree in walt disney's the jungle book, "whaddya wanna do now?" we could, of course, take a leaf from the manchester united book of life, and wander about in ordinary togs except for a landbouwkrediet cycle jersey, but that's surely the cycling equivalent of telling all and sundry that the butler did it. what is required is the more subtle approach, one that can be recognised by the cognoscenti, yet all but oblivious to the civilian population. the casquette does have a certain je ne sais quoi, but is accompanied by a degree of ostentation bordering on the pretentious. at least it does down bowmore main street, so it seems that when all else fails, it may be necessary to resort to the good old tee-shirt.
which is kind of where some of the cunning plan falls flat on its face, particularly at this time of year. i have no doubt i could wander the aisles of bowmore co-op wearing an i love pave, but the classics are over and done with, and roubaix puts in no appearance until next april. what i want is something entirely topical. like cyclocross for instance. which is precisely where alex grant steps into the fray with his velocity tees; blatant (if you get down and dirty at the weekend) yet erring on the subtle if you don't get cross. but is a tee-shirt really the garment de jour? i mean, why not caps or jerseys?
"There are already plenty of caps, jerseys and other technical wear for cyclists. For me, the one thing missing was simple, well designed clothing that said something and maybe more importantly 'spoke' to serious cyclists.
"My wife and daughter went to my LBS to buy a birthday present. They came home with some gels and a mirror for my handlebars.
"It is not easy to buy a gift for a competitive cyclist. They already have gear, components are very particular and expensive. I thought it would be great to simply walk in a shop, see a cool t-shirt for $20 and be able to give a great gift. Plus, who doesn't love t-shirts?
but as with many things in life, there are tee-shirts and there are tee-shirts. rather obviously, we could accomplish everything that needs to be said by simply wearing a tee that boldly states "i'm a cyclist". but at the risk of being obfuscatory, isn't there just a bit of fun in being well-designed and playing hard to get? now i'm talking my language, and on the velocity website, the current four designs on offer display some neat lateral thinking. where do alex's ideas come from? "The initial ideas were mine, but I did get some design help from a guy I do group rides with. He came up with the design for CX and my wife provided the inspiration for VELO (LOVE)."
as attested to above, at least in the northern hemisphere, summer is fast becoming a memory, a fact not alleviated by constant barracking from those intent on informing us just how many months, weeks, days, hours and minutes are left before christmas. the fact is that the floor of bridgend woods is an endless carpet of multi-coloured leaves; autumn. thus the current range of tees are geared towards cyclocross. is that seen as an easier target market than the more staid roadie?
"No, not really. I've been thinking about doing this for a year plus, but only finally got around to printing designs in late August. Because it was the end of the road season, I focused on cyclocross. Another factor is that I race competitively here in the local cyclocross series (@chicrosscup) and talked to the organizers about selling at the races. They were open, so I know that any given weekend I'd have 500+ CX racers as a target market so CX just made sense. All that said, I've got a number of road specific designs that I will produce."
a part of my final year at art college was spent in textile print design; screen printing by any other name. there's a lot involved in screen printing, at least, a lot of equipment and inks and squeegees and screens and huge long tables if you fancy printing lengths of fabric with a repeating pattern. not the sort of thing you'd set up in the spare bedroom. did alex screen print the tees himself?
"No, I am working with a local printer. I am very particular about quality and while I could have probably printed myself to keep costs down, I wanted quality to be top notch right out of the gates."
at the risk of appearing discontented, a quick visit to the velocity website results in a slightly underwhelming range of garments. granted, we ought to consider the quality rather than the quantity, but these initial offerings seem to promise that there might just be more where those came from. what can we expect next? "I have a few more designs I'll be adding in the very near future. Most are CX focused. In early 2013 I'll start to produce more road themed tees. They are great and follow our mission of producing simple cycling tees for serious cyclists."
all of which rather plays into the hands of the diminishing time-factor between now and december 25th. if, as alex has already testified, you find it darned near impossible to think of an appropriate present for the cyclist in your life (truly, the bikeshed can handle only so many colnagos), velocity tees have answered all your prayers (well some at least). for even if the other half is a confirmed roadie who would never consider muddying any square inch of that carefully nurtured team sky kit, a cross tee-shirt will lend them an element of street cred without the need to leap hurdels in a single bound and know who the heck j-pow really is.
wednesday 10 october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i begin with a brief geography lesson both for those who share my own lack of wherewithal when it comes to placing towns and cities around the united kingdom, and for those who live elsewhere and for whom the following will mean not one whit without appreciable explanation. the town of larbert nestles in falkirk council, north of falkirk town and slightly south east of stirling itself. viewed within the greater perspective of scotland altogether, it is on a similar latitude to that of the north end of jura, islay's neighbouring isle.
wednesbury is a few miles south east of wolverhampton and a slightly greater distance north west of birmingham, all just a smidgeon south of the middle of england. in fact, birmingham is just over 304 miles distant from that of stirling, making the gap between larbert and wednesbury probably around 290 miles. and just for good measure in assisting me with my narrative, the travelling distance between larbert and islay is around half the above at 160 miles.
so, who do we know that stays in larbert that might have any tangible connection to that of islay, or more specifically, thewashingmachinepost? i am glad you asked, for that man is derek mclay, proprietor of wheelsmith and purveyor of pretty much any fine handbuilt wheel you care to mention. on friday 28th september, derek was kind enough to send in my direction, a custom built pair of road wheels for my delectation and subsequent review on the post. i felt in only right and proper so to do after favouring the wheels built by jude at sugar.
there are a great many of you reading on both sides of the pond, and though jude creates some fabulous and beautiful wheels, it does me no honour whatsoever that i had all but ignored the skills on my very doorstep. well, a doorstep that resides 160 miles away. derek and i had therefore conferred and agreed that it would be an excellent idea for a pair of his handbuilt wheels to have a holiday on islay. which is why, on friday 28th september, a pair were duly despatched by carrier to the sceptred isle, and in keeping with modern transport technology, i was sent a tracking number to keep an eye on their progress.
derek, however, beat me to it, sending an e-mail on october 2nd with the following message "Just to let you know the wheels have left Glasgow and are now in Wednesbury, in the heart of England's Black Country. Mental!" it would be very hard to disagree with derek's final exclamation. why in the name of everything that is sane and above board, would you send a pair of wheels from larbert to wednesbury via glasgow when they were originally destined for islay?
i figured i'd ask, so i filled in the query form on the website associated with the tracking number, asking just exactly what they thought they were doing. i received my answer a day later in the form of "This parcel has been sent on to a forwarding agency and this is where they are located" an answer that might as well not have been sent, for all the use it was. keeping an eye on the tracking schedule, the wheels subsequently left wednesbury, travelled north to glasgow, then on to oban, a scottish west coast town ninety five miles north of islay by road. the wheels were delivered around teatime on friday 5th october by the principal glasgow-islay carrier who have a depot at tarbert only a few miles from the islay ferry terminal at kennacraig. they had been delivered from oban to tarbert.
the islay haulage company to which the wheels were eventually delivered, have their principal depot at hillington industrial estate in glasgow, a mere 22 miles from larbert to where logic dictates the wheels ought to have been sent in the first place instead of experiencing a trip of around 700 miles. no wonder carriage costs are on the wrong side of pricey.
mavic's ksyrium wheels have been around since the mid 1990s, becoming at one time, almost ubiquitous as original equipment on new complete bikes. they have been oft imitated by competing firms, yet remained the staple of mavic's current wheel range, presently offered in five different flavours across the price range. i have had a pair of the ksyrium slr wheels on test in previous editions of the post, and remarkably fine if slightly pricey at the slr end of the market they have proved to be. they are hard to fault.
however, like many a shiny component, they're quite wonderful until they aren't, and then the brown stuff hits the rotating object. for the zicral flat bladed spokes that feature in all ksyria are of proprietary manufacture, meaning a quick phone call to whomsoever your nearest mavic dealer might be if one should break for whatever reason. add to that, the spoke nipple itself is also of proprietary manufacture and requires a rather large mavic spoke key to invoke truing. i'm not getting at mavic at this point, for the same could be said about many a bicycle component nowadays; it's simply the world in which we live.
however, it doesn't have to be that way.
the wheelsmith set feature 20 sapim cx-ray bladed spokes built radially up front and four more at the rear built two cross onto an all black 23mm wide, 25mm deep wheelsmith badged alloy rims. add to that, the regular flanged black hubs are a wheelsmith custom design and can be had in sram/shimano or campag pattern (i have the latter version). with black spokes and shod with schwalbe ultremo r.1 tyres, the stealth look is complete. derek considers these to be his ksyrium beaters. weighing in at 1425 grams per pair they're only 15 grams heavier than mavic's top range ksyrium slr. though i intend to explore their ride quality over the next few weeks, perhaps their most obvious advantage is that they're handbuilt in scotland using stock spokes and nipples and come with wheelsmith's 'free spoke for life' service, so confident is derek that they will not break in normal use.
the cost is a quite superb £450 considering they are handbuilt from the ground up, though neither of us can guarantee they'll arrive with the travelogue that the review pair can tell their grandchildren.
tuesday 9 october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................