price and prejudice

believe in better

professional cycling has always been commended on its engagement with those that follow the sport, even in these days of team sky's death star and all the other luxuriously appointed team coaches. almost gone are the days when unfettered access to each and every rider, including the stars, took a downward turn in the days of the current pariah of the sport, good old lance. it was particularly difficult to sit down for a coffee with big tex, when two rather large heavies with earpieces towered over any repartee you may have hoped to engage in.

however, what hasn't altered in any way, is the ability to nip out to your local bike shop and buy the very same bicycle as ridden by world tour stage and race winners. ironically this has become even more the case in the era of carbon, since it is pretty much outwith the budget of any manufacturer to create a mold to cater specifically to a star rider. it's even possible, perhaps for a small premium, to acquire said bicycle in identical team colours, if that's indeed what you'd like to own.

in the rarefied atmosphere of nano fibres, this is unlikely to be a particularly economic transaction, but that in no way detracts from the ability so to do. in these days of investment bankers who can afford to purchase an entire estate on our neighbouring isle of jura, simply as somewhere to chill, away from relative price indexes and other confusing economic faff, spending £10,000 on a bicycle is probably considered pocket money by some.

sky pinarello dogma

consider the unfortunate amongst us whose every waking moment is obsessed by formula one motor racing. many can but dream about driving a mclaren or ferrari, but dreaming is quite likely the closest any will ever get to the experience. the second hand car lot at the bottom of the road is unlikely to be able to supply even last year's race car, even were you able to afford it in the first place. only one of many differences between motor sport (and others) and our own particular obsession.

it is, not to make too light of it, common knowledge that this is the case. on the occasions that colnago uk have been kind enough to send a particular model for review, i am reminded not only of the cost, but the ability to own, should my bank balance stretch that far, by an accompanying invoice. we may not have the stamina, speed or power output of our heroes, but we can own their bicycles, wheels and jerseys if the financial means is at our disposal.

after last year's tour de france, when two members of the same british-based cycling team stood on podium positions one and two, coupled with british successes in the london olympics, british cycling fans had a great deal to cheer about. in a substantial change from the dark ages, ordinary civilians were not just willing to stop and discuss cycle sport, but were substantially better informed than at anytime in the recent past. changed days indeed.

imperial works

then come the new year; 2013. not only can we now look forward to team sky contesting another road-based season, but it seems an extra edge might have been added by their recognition of a relatively poor 2012 classics season and a perceived need to do better in 2013. and then there's brad's professed intention to compete for the pink jersey in italy as well as yellow in paris. though the tour down under has yet to provide the first serious results of the season, already there is much to look forward to.

and, in a not particularly well-kept secret, british-based cycle clothing supplier rapha has partnered with team sky for the next four years, a subject i have comprehensively dealt with at the beginning of last week. it surely bodes well for british cycling that the team sky/rapha partnership has perceptibly so much going for it? should we not be at least indulging in, at worst, muted celebration?

personally, and as a confirmed cynic, i think so.

yet, britain's foremost weekly cycling publication met the news of rapha's partnership with sir dave's boys not with the aforementioned celebration, but what amounted to a substantial editorial that concentrated almost exclusively on the cost of rapha's sky apparel. what is not in doubt, is that it would cost £460 to purchase a team sky jersey, bibshorts, socks and cap, something that the comic finds particularly iniquitous. in their defence, rapha pointed out that the jersey and shorts are identical to those supplied to the team, and not look-alike replicas. rapha do, however, also offer the latter; a jersey at £70 and bibshorts at £100, presumably more in keeping with cycling weekly's approval.


i am not, contrary to popular opinion, a rapha apologist. i cannot deny that i have many good friends at perren street and in portland, and have done so for many a long year. though i was introduced to each and every one of them through their association with rapha, continuation of these friendships, in truth, has had little to do with the company for which they work, or are sponsored by. they have been very generous over the years with review samples, and i rather hope this generosity has been repaid through the medium of impartial reviews on the post. rapha are big enough to take care of themselves, and really have no need of little people like me attempting to do battle on their behalf.

but i found the editorial annoying, mostly due to the concentration on price rather than the merging of two british cycling successes. and there's just ever so slightly the hint of a prejudice or two.

for starters, the jerseys and bibshorts as supplied to team sky are, at present, identical to rapha's pro-team kit as supplied to the rapha condor jlt race team and available to purchase at exactly the same price, both with and without logos. though not an avid or regular reader of the publication, i do not recall a similar upbraiding being aimed at rapha over the past two years of its availability.

sky tv guide

i also took a look at the recommended retail prices of assos jerseys and shorts, a marque that seems to find favour at ipc despite its similar cost and one that is often regarded as being in a similar league to that of rapha. the rrp for the swiss national team jersey is £138.99, exactly £1.01 less than rapha's team sky jersey. more regular short sleeve offerings from switzerland retail at an rrp of £174.99, yet neither of those facts bring to mind endless tirades of opprobrium. if it's a sharp intake of breath you're looking for, perhaps a pair of assos bibshorts at an eye watering £225.99 might start to make rapha look like excellent value for money.

it is also a somewhat obvious statement of fact to point out that nobody has made a complete team sky outfit the cost of entry to go ride a bike. it's not compulsory. if you can't afford it, or don't want to spend that much money, then nobody says you have to.

if, for a moment at least, i might return to my opening gambit referring to the ability to purchase bicycles which are an exactitude of those ridden by the professionals, the comic gave the pinarello dogma frame five stars in a recent review, despite the fact that it retails at £3950. and they later reviewed a complete build of the bike with campagnolo record eps, the cost of which was £9899. in neither review was there any criticism of pinarello for charging those particular amounts of money, despite the fact that any true team sky fan, determined to emulate their heroes in every detail, would have required to shell out that sort of money in order so to do.

rapha team sky shorts

were it not for rapha's largesse, i would be unlikely to have more than a couple of items with their logo attached, for my annual income would simply not stretch to regular purchase. you can be sure, however, that the comic receives at least as many review samples from perren street as do i. doing so costs money; straight and simple. it has been a well documented fact that each and every member of team sky, from the riders to the support staff, have received two suitcases full of rapha kit. that costs serious amounts of money, and in the world of unsympathetic economics, that must be recouped in order to remain in business.

in the run up to the 2012 london olympics, the budget for team gb cycling was in the region of £26 million. as we head towards rio in 2016, that budget has been increased to £30 million. all this money arrives via you and me buying lottery tickets every week (actually only you, since i do not indulge). just like buying a rapha team sky jersey, it's still an option, but i would think the comic to be more than supportive of this exceptional level of lottery funding despite its transparent cost to the nation.

and where do you think team sky's substantial sponsorship budget arrives from? for many, a sky satellite subscription is not an option that can be lived without.

rapha team sky kit

opinions on the cost of rapha clothing have been divided ever since they opened their doors in 2004, but frequently by those who would love to purchase, but do not have the financial wherewithal to make it a reality. that's something that is true in almost all walks of life. i'd be more than happy to own a colnago c59, but i can't afford one; should i criticise colnago for charging so much? my son would be more than cheered to drive a porsche carerra, but similarly, it is well outside his purchasing power; should we aim vitriol at porsche?

people who live in glass houses are generally advised not to throw stones; it is surely not outwith the bounds of journalistic fairness to apply the same criteria to each and every manufacturer of similar products? why criticise one for being too expensive, when their competitors charge more, yet receive not only little or no denunciation, but quite frequently maximum points in reviews?

products cost what they cost, and complaining about it is very unlikely to persuade the purveyors to lower their prices on the basis of such complaints. it pretty much boils down to the fact that, if that's truly what you want (with reference to any specific item), that's what it costs; you can either afford it, or you can't. surely the only true criteria that ought to be applied is whether or not the item under consideration does what it's supposed to do to the best of its ability or not. if the latter, then let fly with the criticism.

rapha team sky kit

british road cycling has been the sporting underdog for as long as i can remember. now that two british leaders in their respective fields have combined their strategies, i don't think either exempt from deserved fault-finding, but nor do i believe there should be a concentration on extraneous matters, particularly from the self-styled arbiter of uk cycling has been pointed out, few cyclists are likely to race in team sky kit unless they are contracted by sir dave; most of us will be happy to make do with the replicas which are no dearer or cheaper than for any other team, rendering the moans rather surplus to requirements.

'believe in better' ought perhaps to be a more widely adopted mantra.

monday 14th january 2013


top of page.


identity crisis

the belgian road

i'm not like tom. he's bigger than i am and more than likely a smidgeon broader of shoulder too. tom also rides a lot faster than i do, and he's already won paris roubaix four times and flanders thrice. i, on the other hand, have only watched them on television, having never even made it across the channel to watch either monument in person. on the negative side, tom had a bit of bother over his use of cocaine and reputedly causing damage to a lamborghini. i've never done either of those things. in fact, if truth be told, the only singular factor that ties tom boonen and yours truly, is that we both ride a bicycle.

but he's still faster than i am.

there is, however, no real harm in making such completely invalid comparisons; i think it likely that, in our own individual ways, we harbour the same grim, determ and ination when facing untold adversity. except my understanding is that omega pharma quick step have emulated seemingly every other formula one team, and headed to warmer climes for a spot of winter training. where, might i ask, is the pain and suffering in that?

the belgian road

i'm not too sure whether milan-sanremo qualifies as a spring classic, but if not, then i think it likely that dwars door vlaanderen does, the former taking place on march 17, and the latter only a matter of three days later on march 20th. i know this because i have consulted my team sky ipod app, so much racing excitement is only a matter of two months away culminating in liege-bastogne-liege on april 21st via the 2013 paris-roubaix on april 7. if the grim winter weather is the harbinger of dampened spirits, the knowledge of the above impending races will surely raise them to their former glory?

the differences between tomke and myself, however, took a back seat in today's prevarications on the way to coffee and the last remnants of mrs washingmachinepost's christmas cake. i have made possibly excessive mention of the belgian road that lives out near ballinaby farm, but a stone's throw from the island's atlantic shores. there is nothing inherently belgian about its existence, but flat farmland on each side, at least one inhabited by a smattering of drenched sheep feeding on a peppering of turnips, wading through flooded grass. it's highly reminiscent of the scenes that form the backdrop to such as scheldeprjs, e3 prijs vlaanderen, gent-wevelgem and one or two other minor flandrian classics.

and it is worth remembering my contention that hebrideans are the flandrians of the west.

the belgian road

it was at the point of avoiding the thick grass growing along the centre of the belgian road, that i thought tom, despite our manifest differences, ought to be in my wheeltracks, preparing himself for anticipated joy in central europe. it would seem far more pragmatic than sunning himself in mallorca with cav.

for though i could not promise him the endless kilometres of the mediterranean, or even those of flanders, the coastal road that brushes saligo bay and its substantial breaking waves, completely encircles loch gorm. tautologically, it joins up with itself, providing an endless loop of what was once considerd to be tarmac. however, argyll and bute council's roads department, with consummate skill, has left many a short stretch to dissolve into decrepitude. and the portions that have been allegedly repaired, now seem worse than prior to their intervention. this has brought it into much the same realm as the stretches of pave that infest the hell of the north, endless loops of which would surely bring tom to the peak of condition for a possible fifth victory in the queen of the classics.

but then, i did point out that tom and i have little in common.

sunday 13th january 2013


top of page.


picture post

abattoirenberg forest

through the very nature of my day job, one that frequently seeps into this particular part of the operation, rather blurring the lines between what i do and what i'm supposed to do, i am brought into contact with photographic imagery. some of this is of my own doing, but more often than not, it is the more superior imagery of others. over the last few years i have been fortunate enough to come in contact with many of the world's finest photographers, either personally or via the miracle of the interweb; these individuals would undoubtedly be amongst the finest in their field no matter the activity they chose to capture, and i think we should consider ourselves very fortunate that they chose cycling as the subject for their collective lenses.

most of the business end of the equation, from my own point of view, concerns viewing digital imagery in adobe photoshop, for it is probably the most important tool in my limited armoury. mostly this involves taking people out, adding others in or removing artefacts that really ought not to have been there in the first place. but as a software tool, it also allows me to blend my exceedingly minimal photographic skills with an appropriate level of pixel wrangling, hopefully resulting in adequate illustration to accompany these daily ramblings.

bowmore distillery

without any intended arrogance, when teaching folks the basics of photoshop, i have frequently advised that the only person i know who ought to adopt the 'i'll fix that in photoshop later' would be me. i'm sure many of those practicing their photographic art would concur that it is always, always better to get it right in the camera first, thus minimising the amount of time sat in front of a computer screen. if the latter outweighs the former, there's every likelihood that you're doing it wrong. less time in the chair translates to more time in the saddle.

however, to hark back to the recently completed festive 500, those of you who read in full, rapha's invitation to participate, may recall that, should you hold to a prizewinner's mindset throughout those hundreds of kilometres, it was necessary in some way or another, to document them by means of my beloved (who says sarcasm is the lowest form of with?) social media, blogging, or a menagerie of digital imagery.

loch indaal

as one less concerned with grasping for rapha trinketry, delightful though it would be, i elected simply to concentrate on riding the darned thing, punctuated by the occasional tweet of accomplishment. regular readers will know by now that i did successfully complete the challenge, one that has become so much a part of my festive season that, were it not to exist, i would have to invent it. but my visual documentation of my hebridean travails left a great deal to be desired. i can recall only stopping long enough to snap three rather dubious photos; debbie's and loch indaal on christmas morning, and a cyclists dismount sign on the knocklearach cattle grid.

hardly the stuff of legend, even though i do say so myself.

several years ago, i purchased the equivalent of a tripod mount on a handlebar bracket that would have allowed me perpetual access to the shutter button wherever i might travel which, even had they been of dubious quality, could in retrospect, have been viewed as a diary of mundane events. i still have it somewhere abouts, but the habit, fortunately or otherwise, desisted long ago, having never truly imposed itself upon my psyche.

cervo rosso

simon lamb was noted as railing against those cyclists who incessantly take photos of their coffee at every opportunity, and i cannot but find myself in total agreement with his aggressive sentiments on this matter. though i have been guilty of so doing on previous occasions, i have done so only in the interests of providing appropriate illustration for whatever was on the literary table at that time. i envy those who seem able to document each and every ride with a fine selection of digital imagery, if for no other reason than they seem to find not only the opportunity, but the need so to do.

so, while i am wary of making anything that might bear a passing resemblance to a new year's resolution, starting today, i have sort of resolved to make more of an effort to record that which i travel through while out on my bicycle. bereft of a mobile phone, you are unlikely to find the post or indeed twitter awash with instagrammed images, but perhaps practice will make (slightly closer to) perfect, and adobe photoshop will find its services less in demand.

but i wouldn't hold your breath.

saturday 12th january 2013


top of page.


reach out and touch the sky

team sky app

there is, as the new year unfolds just a tad faster than i would like, a danger in it adopting a thematic pose. for only mere days after presenting the interconnectivity offered by a couple of new bicycle gps units from garmin, the lads with the blue stripe down their backs have entered the fray with a similar but slightly different approach. the latest iphone/ipad/ipod app from team sky links with the well-respected map my tracks to provide the opportunity of fans and non-fans alike to, if you will forgive my obstinacy, map their rides.

the reaction, at least from the constraint of these black and yellow pixels is twofold; one gratifyingly positive, the other slightly less so, though i am always conscious that certain of my luddite tendencies do not necessarily concur with the great unwashed. if i might commence with the good bits, undoubtedly at the top of my metaphorical list, is the fact that the app is free and currently available for download from apple's itunes. (there is no mention of a version for android based devices, no doubt the result of sky and apple being good pals.)

team sky app

if you happen to be a fan of brailsford's boys, the entire roster is flippably available offering height, weight, date of birth and nationality, and bizarrely photos of all the management, though mercifully without their attendant personal details. it has also been brought to my attention via the race section, that the tour de france is not just three weeks in july, but also a couple of days in june. i did not know that. it's quite an eye-opener too to see just how many races the team, and by implication, every other world tour team, compete in over the course of a year. it's no real wonder the budgets are so high.

not unnaturally, all these virtual pages are themed black and (sky) blue, fronted by a news page detailing happenings at the death star that can be flicked over to some general cycling news. as i am bereft of a phone, i have the app installed on an ipod, and all the features and functions so far detailed, seem more than happy to present themselves via the miracle of wi-fi.

however, it's when selecting the training section, that limitations and concerns begin to surface, though i must reiterate these are entirely my prejudices, perhaps slightly wider reaching than simply whether team sky may or may not be my favourites. you see, at this point, the importance of a global positioning satellite (gps) connection becomes entirely necessary. wi-fi is, in this instance, of no use whatsoever.

team sky app

in order to use the training section, it's necessary to create a map my tracks account, though sadly, i cannot inform you further at this juncture, because pressing the start button results in a 'the training tools in this section are only available to iphone users that have gps. sorry, your ipod does not have gps'. socially excluded at such a tender age. if i might quote map my tracks founder, nick tatt "The app takes advantage of our very latest live tracking technology which lets friends and family follow a rider's progress live and comment on their performance as they hit the climbs. With the addition of live heart rate, power and cadence it makes the Team Sky training app an obvious training accessory to take on any ride."

am i the only one just a mite concerned by the thought of friends and family following my progress? what ever happened to the loneliness of the long distance cyclist? and what i think more to the point, is who was it that thought this might be a good idea in the first place? it's hard enough nowadays to step out the front door without appearing on someone's facebook page, and i've always thought one of the great joys of cycling to be the relative anonymity and freedom afforded by the activity. the very thought that mrs washingmachinepost might be sitting at home on her ipad checking to see how long i have been sitting in debbie's supping froth, is enough to engender nightmares.

team sky app

on my second riding of hot chillee's london to paris, nokia were kind enough to lend me a mobile phone with gps capability and built-in software that would record similar information, though thankfully keep it to itself, while showing me a map of just where it thought i was. though it performed reasonably well, within the ergonomic restrictions of the phone, the battery life was never as long as a day's ride, rendering the whole exercise null and void. according to apple, the iphone 5 offers at least eight hours before fading to black. common consent would, i believe, render that number downwards slightly, but it's still a good bit less than the 17 hours offered by garmin's latest devices.

i do have a love of gadgetry, even if i feel no great compulsion to rush out and buy the latest device on offer, bicycle related or not. but my minor concern here is that we are being brought grudgingly or otherwise in to the facebook universe for no good reason other than it is now technically possible. whatever happened to leaving the phone on the bedspread, getting the bike out the shed and going for a ride? no numbers, no family, no facebook and only twittering birds.

aren't you glad i told you that?

team sky app

friday 11th january 2013


top of page.


it's only entertainment

lance armstrong

the darkened mornings we're experiencing at present have a couple of noticeable disadvantages. number one, it's patently too dark to see what the weather's like in the great outdoors; rain on the window is admittedly a clue worthy of note, but in its absence, waiting till sunup is often the only solution. always assuming, of course, that the sun does, in fact, rise at all. the second disadvantage, and one experienced by a substantial number of folk, is the difficulty getting one's sorry carcass out of bed.

in the almost total absence of daylight even at 7:30am, a 15 tog duvet has a myriad of comforting qualities which i am loathe to leave behind.

my radio alarm, for no discernible reason, is set to switch on at 6am, allowing a vague awareness of world matters via radio four's the today programme, a cornucopia of news items that precedes my purchase of a daily newspaper around lunchtime. during this programme, a snippet of ambient noise from westminster zoo is subtly titled yesterday in parliament during which if ever you had doubts as to why members of parliament are paid so much for so little, they will increase tenfold by the time this piece is concluded.

it does not take more than a few days or weeks of innocent listening to pick up on what passes for parliamentary procedure, where a member of the opposition phrases the same question in oh so many ways in a more than pressing resemblance to a moray eel. i would guess that the premise behind this is an attempt to outfox the interviewee, or perhaps to simply demonstrate a level of tenacity hitherto unfurled. should the mp being questioned have the measure of their interlocutor, "i refer the honourable member to my previous answer" is a frequently heard statement.

oprah winfrey

and in similar manner, i must claim affection for an homologous sentiment previously declared within these pixels. this takes the form of the refrain 'it's only entertainment', a postulation passed to me by the great robert millar, and an observation with which i have yet to find fault.

no matter the aspect of modern cycling under concern, pertaining more specifically to the sporting aspect of the activity, it is hard to define it as anything other than a form of entertainment. all those gents or ladies garbed in logo'd polyester advertising hoardings on ever more technical forms of carbon fibre may well be racing for victory, undoubtedly completely serious in their intent, but innocently providing the interested bystander with a spectacle worth watching.

the dividing line between those at the roadside and those in the saddle seems to be/have been, just how far the latter have been prepared to go in order to satisfy their own sporting aspirations, almost incidentally enhancing the pageant in the process. playing hooky from work to sit in front of an all-day stage in the tour de france is an altogether less onerous deceit than swapping blood in the hotel room overnight, or imbibing substances that the fat controller has decreed persona non grata.

that in itself might properly be considered the anathema of entertaining behaviour, but there can be little doubt that the aftermath will provide endless possibilities for some considerable time after elvis has left the building.

lance armstrong

twitter was awash last week with unfathomable claims that lance armstrong was about to to tell all. bereft of his seven yellow victories, and facing a lifetime of litigation and court settlements on the back of these disqualifications, somebody, somewhere thought the texan ready to spill the beans. it would be one with a considerable disparity between themselves and reality to deny that the anticipation of an event that has not yet taken place provided many an entertaining tweet. in a twisted sort of way, it kept an entire tweeting population on their toes for at least a day or two.

now it transpires that big tex will appear next week on the oprah winfrey show (surely the pinnacle of televisual entertainment) at which point the over-eager are convinced that all will be revealed, though as matt seaton eloquently explained in the guardian's comment is free column the other day, it probably won't be.

but whatever oprah manages to glean from the retired and ultimately discredited champion, it'll be entertaining to watch and subsequently to take issue with ad finitum.

thursday 10th january 2013


top of page.


going against the grain

sugar wheelworks ghisallo rims

wood is a quite remarkable material, if not least for its ability to be continually replenished, albeit over on often lengthy period of time. would that it were possible to grow some more oil after each barrel is withdrawn from whichever deep part of an ocean or desert happens to be the case, but 'tis not so. there are few aspects of even contemporary life that are not touched by some benefit conferred by bits of trees: furniture, window frames, house frames, musical instruments, bike sheds and at odd moments along the velocipedinal timeline, bicycles.

i am, as has been demonstratively proven over the years, nowhere near being a competent engineer. sure, i can assemble, disassemble and repair almost any bicycle or component you care to mention, but if push comes to shove, i have no real grasp on what might constitute the ideal design, angles or materials to build the ideal bicycle.

sugar wheelworks ghisallo rims

the current double-diamond shape so beloved of the unione cycliste international has been arrived at and refined over the past century into a series of substructures that, together, make the ideal bicycle frame. one that offers an ideal ride quality allied to a strength of purpose that has served us well till now. there have been, as one would expect, variations on the theme, more shaped by aerodynamic dictate than necessarily that of engineered strength.

you will perhaps excuse my cynicism if i also contend that one or two leaned perhaps just a tad too heavily upon aesthetics at the expense of performance.

however, and once again, based on no verifiable evidence whatsoever, the wooden frames that have crossed my gaze seem to have adopted the regular bicycle shape by default rather than any projected engineering principles. for though i can understand the variables of riding dynamics, surely there is an intrinsic tensile strength and torsional behaviour that is applicable to specific materials rather than necessarily to their aesthetic shape?

sugar wheelworks ghisallo rims

by this, i mean that the tube shape in a steel frame imparts specific properties that would not necessarily be owned by carbon or, in this case, wood. thus, my basic question is whether it is truly necessary or beneficial that a wooden cycle frame adopt the seatstay, chainstay arrangement at the rear? would there, perhaps, be a more optimal arrangement for the material that is obscured by a perceived need to emulate a bicycle shaped object?

in my haste to describe various objects that might be effected in wood, it all but slipped my mind to mention wheels. for reasons that i think are beyond question, even for those of us with no aspiration to the engineering milieu, wheels need to be round, all the better to roll along our road infrastructure. it's a principal that has been amply demonstrated by way of the more regular aluminium wheel rim and subsequently carbon, all the while remaining aware of the fact that before either of the latter two happened along, wood was the principal material for rim construction, more regularly bamboo.

sugar wheelworks ghisallo rims

however, very much due to the graciousness of jude kirstein at portland's sugar wheelworks, wheelaholic ric hjertberg and also white industries, i have been riding a pair of wheels constructed with impressively wide, ghisallo beechwood rims. these were perhaps brought to the pinnacle of their abilities by having the recently reviewed challenge parigi-roubaix 27mm open tubulars fitted. jude pointed out at the point of delivery, that the ghisallo rims measured at 29mm wide, and though the challenge tyres were specified at 27mm wide, simon beatson at importers paligap figured they measured up closer to 29.

on viewing the tyres' profile sitting on the wood rims, i think he is likely correct.

though the ghisallos have spent a reasonable portion of their life shod with cyclocross tyres for the express purpose of getting down and dirty on a saturday morning, it is far easier to discern their true worth when thrust onto rough tarmac in the face of adversity. which, to put not too fine a point on it, is exactly what i did, and over a not inconsiderable 300 plus kilometres.

sugar wheelworks ghisallo rims

the only concern i have regarding these wheels is the braking surface; and not because of their stopping power. in order that the beechwood rims might look not only their sunday best, but maintain their constitution in disfavourable circumstances, each is given a thorough drenching in clear varnish. the friction caused by the cork cantilever pads, obeying the laws of physics, have worn most of this varnish at the point of contact.

this does have a propensity to look somewhat dishevelled after a while, more so on the rear than the front, but having consulted, this appears to be purely of aesthetic consideration than otherwise. i can live with that.

it is very hard to describe the difference between riding regular aluminium rims and wood, but to my mind, it is a far more satisfying experience. the necessity in this case, to run any fitted pair of tyres at a comparatively low pressure seems far more beneficial than a hindrance, and the build quality of the pair has been exemplary throughout the ride period.

wooden wheels are not just for christmas.

sugar wheelworks

wednesday 9th january 2013


top of page.


social media

garmin edge 810

i don't do facebook.

in the late nineteen nineties, a gentleman by the name of jakob neilsen made it his sole mission in life to educate the new attendees at the world of the interwebs as to the nature of pragmatic usability in relation to websites. in this manner, he made himself a thorn in the side of those who viewed the combination of pixels and html (hypertext markup language) as the gateway to a new field of creativity. no longer constrained by the perceived limitations of print media, all sorts of folks from widely differing backgrounds jumped on board the website bandwagon, offering their design services based on not very much at all.

the problem was more often than not, one of navigating the bright sparkly swathes of screen real estate that quite patently purported to be of use to someone or other, yet seemed to fall at the first hurdle when it became necessary to move from information point a to information point b. in other words, usability or accessibility. mr neilsen's website was, and still is,, aiding and abetting those who might admit to a lack of skill or knowledge in this arena.

garmin edge 810

unfortunately, on more occasions that ought to be the case, the difficulty was persuading a web designer (or developer as is, i believe, the preferred term) to admit that they might be more concerned with demonstrating their own brilliance, rather than helping visitors to the sites under their direction to actually find the location of useful information. if i might offer a specific example, at one time, all linked text on web pages was highlighted in blue (and often underlined) to help distinguish it from regular narrative. this would then change colour when clicked to indicate visited links.

so far, so logical. but, as i have done on thewashingmachinepost, many saw the blue as being somewhat rudimentary, and took the opportunity to colour their links in a manner more complementary to the sites' principal colours. jakob neilsen saw this as an unwarranted intrusion, a bit like altering traffic light colours to fit in with the neighbourhood. i doubt anyone can see how this would cause unnecessary confusion.

garmin edge 810

in case you're wondering how this relates to my not being an aficionado of mark zuckerberg's progeny, it's because it seems to me at least, as if facebook has had a look round and then ignored every aspect of neilsen's life's work. surely i cannot be the only one to have followed a link to a facebook page and found the result to be utterly confusing. to be honest, i rarely have the faintest notion of what it is i'm looking at or, for that matter, where to find it.

i'd be fibbing if i said i completely eschew social media altogether, for twitter is an excellent means of extolling the virtues of the smart-ass one-liner, even if i'm often the only one who finds them funny. however, this is a practice carried out via my macbook air, having successfully avoided any thoughts or pressure to acquire a smartphone. i have no desire to join the ranks of the anti-social, banging into individuals in sauchiehall street or princes street and who place texting ahead of sociable observation, nor to be anti-social enough to check my (non-existent) smartphone at ten second intervals when in polite company and at meals.

garmin edge 810

however, my non-adoption of the above does not mean that i am unaware of its importance in the modern world. professional bike riders at all levels can find themselves cloistered in a profession induced bubble, involving considerable travel, anonymous hotels and many an hour upon the bicycle. no doubt many of those thus described would be aghast at my discrimination against the delights of facebook, for it is surely an ideal way to connect with family, friends and fans alike.

the keyword here is most likely connect, a token idea that has now invaded the realm of the gps unit clamped to the stem or handlebar of a team issue or personal bicycle.

my understanding of the technology available to this point, specifically in this case, offered by garmin, is the ability to create or record specific training routes along with associated data, uploading to an appropriate computing device after the fact. so doing allowed managers and coaches to keep tabs on their charges during both race season and off-season. the after the fact statement itself has now become after the fact.

garmin edge 810

the recent launch of both the garmin 810 and 510 now bring gps into the realm of the here and now as well as connecting with social media via an attendant smartphone. to quote from garmin's website "The live tracking feature allows your friends and family to follow your races and training activities in real time. Invite followers using email or social media, so they can view your live data on a Garmin Connect tracking page. Once they get your email invite, they can click to follow and see your stats and location on the map." (maybe eurosport could like garmin's facebook page during world tour races?)

it's a situation that will currently have no impact on me whatsoever. with no facebook page or smartphone, i can be alone with my thoughts and sporting inadequacies when out on the bike. however, for those more socially connected, this could be something of a resounding boon. with the maps feature on the 810 not only can you see where you're going, but so can any of your social media colleagues and how soon 'twill be before they might catch up on the same route.

garmin edge 810

cynics such as myself will contend that if eddy had no need of it, neither have we; cycling could conceivably be the last bastion of enforced isolation; the luxury of being alone with one's feeble thoughts. but modern society is not heading in that direction (as strava has already demonstrated), and i still have the liberty to ignore such developments as i see fit. the day is no doubt looming when i will have no option but to avail myself of the latest in apple's communication technology, for life will be harder without than with.

which has left me wondering how many training rides with david millar i might have missed?

garmin bicycle gps

monday 7th january 2013


top of page.