there are, as all too many of us are aware, rights of passage to be endured as we head towards that well-deserved professional contract. we already have the passion, the intensity, the fitness and in at least one direction, the speed. all that remains to be acquired is strategy, skill and the knowledge of which way round to wear a pair of shorts.
some of you may remember a uk based firm by the name of been bag, responsible for providing some particularly fine, left of centre cycling apparel, more readily aimed at the offroad market. it is to my great credit that i owned a pair of their slightly baggy and not altogether full-length trousers, featuring a rather ostentatious but highly decorative multi-coloured stripe down the outer edge of each leg. though simply an eager customer, i feel they must have known of my proclivity for experiencing the earth's gravitational pull, for the top section of each leg bore a lightly padded section, one capable of alleviating at least some of the thud felt as i fell off the mountain bike once more.
however, on discovering the exciting world of road cycling, head cocked backwards as i sped along firmly grasping those white taped drop bars, the aforementioned pair of been bags appeared just a tad incongruous. and sat on a more razor-like saddle, they failed to provide the level of comfort once enjoyed while trammeling across the sand dunes on bouncy forks. the only solution available is one that meets virtually every uk-based roadie wanabee; the comic.
before the days of the interweb, the back pages of cycling weekly were literally awash with multi-page advertisements from the regulars, enticingly listing the price of every item of componentry offered by either shimano or their italian counterparts. and further down those crammed lists would be the offer of certain indispensible items of cycling apparel. in the case under discussion, we only have eyes for cycling shorts.
as a right of passage, the choice of such netherware is fraught with danger, and in those bygone days was even more so. we currently luxuriate in a plethora of enticingly coloured and decorated chamois pads, none of which have ever come across even a photograph of the carpathian mountains, let alone the breed of deer inhabiting their slopes. but, as the name suggests, this was not always so.
as a member of a cycling club, there would doubtless have been some old fogies still dressed in wool jerseys and weathered molteni caps who could have advised the youth of the day. but the individualist, ensconced on a hebridean island bereft of any recognisable cycling heritage was pretty much left to his own devices. and the back pages of the comic. for at the point of purchase, that chamois pad was a soft as the cloth your mother used to wash the kitchen windows. suddenly posterior comfort had reached hitherto unrealised proportions.
but wash those recently acquired shorts (a process that arrived very quickly) and when the lycra was dry, followed closely by that of the pad, subsequent wearing would be more likely to take on the characteristics of a brillo pad. suddenly, the true properties of so-called chamois cream became all too glaringly obvious.
as an appendment to this possible source of injurious discomfort, was the option of a garment referred to in those advertising columns as bibshorts. the occasional illustration alerted the newbie as to the constitution of said garment, but how to size the blighters? ought one simply to take account of one's waist size, or, considering the length of those bib straps, would it be better to order on the basis of height. the less kind amongst us would offer that this is a decision that is still rife with confusion.
however, the original purpose of chamois cream was, quite patently, to restore the softness apparent in the pad at point of purchase. once dry, or perhaps even prior to, the cream was necessitously and conscientiously rubbed into the tan coloured pad, that on our way to that pro contract, the undercarriage might retain most, if not all, of its original pre-velocipedinal function.
however, now that the antelopes of central europe are safe from militant marksmen despatched from the cycling apparelists of italy, and the word synthetic is the preferred pre-fix to any contemporary pair of shorts, is chamois cream still necessary on a bike?
i know of those who would answer with a resounding no!, including many who have never appreciated its original purpose. but i think there are still as many who'd answer yes and i'd count myself resolutely amongst their number. without wishing to delve too far into a portion of the sunday morning ablutions, i will not wear a pair of padded shorts, bib-threequarters or tights without first applying an appropriate quantity of chamois cream.
though i do have my preferred brand, i'm always open to suggestion, particularly if it originates from the home of hard-man cycling. yes, i am talking about belgium, but you may be surprised to learn that the name on the label is that of morgan blue; as surprised as i was, come to that.
for a name i have never come across before, it was with a breath of amazement to discover just how many professional race teams rely upon their extensive range of products to get them through the season. how many proferrers of chamois cream do you know that also produce chain oil, bike polish and chain degreaser? exactly. their chamois cream is of a remarkable light consistency and utterly devoid of aroma. and in a physical demonstration of their versatility, morgan blue offer not only solid chamois cream for wet weather conditions, but a counterpart known as soft chamois cream which is recommended for dry weather.
the dichotomy or conundrum is why uk distributors windwave would take it upon themselves to send me the latter, given the hebridean predilection for precipitation. in truth, i have ridden not only in wet conditions, but on a bicycle that has no earthly means of attaching mudguards should such be deemed necessary. what i'm attesting to in a rather devious manner is that the 23mm rear tyre has been spreading grime and splash across most of my backside without, so far as i can detect, any detrimental effect.
in this respect, i have every faith in those belgians; they will know at least as much about agricultural toothpaste and pouring rain as the flandrians of the west. it is good stuff. in fact, it's very good stuff, no matter the climatic directions on the label. it is, if you will forgive the colouristic wording, pretty transparent in use; i can honestly say that the consistency of its constitution has not been uppermost in my mind as i slog into yet another atlantic headwind.
and in the manner described by many a housewife with regard to the kindness of her washing-up liquid to care of her hands, i think i might offer the same praise to the care and attention provided by morgan blue's chamois cream to my bum.
a white plastic 200ml tub retails at £9.99, a particularly efficacious price for the quantity involved, and none too onerous even if you are of the opinion that modern padded shorts are perfectly acceptable raw (so to speak). i do have one or two other items from the morgan blue range sitting in either my bathroom or bikeshed for review over the coming weeks, but i am quite aghast at the breadth of their range considering i'd never heard of them before.
and they're belgian.
monday 18th february 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i must apologise for bringing star wars into the conversation once more; pure coincidence i assure you, and i'll try not to let it happen again. when mrs twmp was around eight months pregnant with our daughter, we went to an odeon cinema to watch all three star wars movies in one sitting. though there have been episodes one, two and three inhabiting the more digital realm of storytelling, in this case, i refer to those featuring han solo, luke skywalker and princess leia. episodes four, five and six if you will.
with each movie lasting at least an hour and a half, interspersed with the usual cinematic faffing, the whole expedition lasted a bit over five hours, and necessitated taking with us a packed tea. man cannot live by choc ice and cornetto alone. there is something delightfully eccentric about munching sandwiches as the millennium falcon desperately evades capture by the empire's battle fleet.
the whole edifice was quite marvellous; several hours of suspending disbelief that this all happened in a distant galaxy far, far away and strolling out from the cinema, convinced that doors could now be opened by use of the force. truly a case of don;t try this at home.
and essentially, that is what the cinema is all about; drama, swashes being buckled, and fair maidens being rescued from certain death. yes, you and i both know they're all actors, living in substantial mansions in beverly hills and with the same daily toil as that experienced by the rest of us, though doubtless with a tad more pennies to spend. and in the light of this, we view professional cycling in entirely the wrong way.
as robert millar once astutely pointed out, 'never forget, it's all entertainment', something i think we and others may well have lost sight of. though i have no real wish to condone the sort of medical assistance that tyler hamilton has alluded to in his secret race, subsequently bringing lance to conversation with oprah, it is all too apparent that we perhaps expect too much of our heroes.
though undoubtedly entertaining, it's also sport, two factors that we, as an adoring public seem to find very hard to reconcile. we expect them to remain true to the innocence we ourselves think ourselves party to, yet fail to applaud when their ascent of the ventoux is something less than meteoric. it's how they all earn their living, and just like you and me, there are one or two less than desirable traits involved in maximising the income on offer, traits that we would be aghast at had we realised their reality at the time.
i would dearly love to impress upon you that these insights are mine and mine alone, gleaned from decades of observing professional cycle racing, and conversing with the great and the good to better inform my sensibilities. but sadly, other than taking mrs washingmachinepost to see three star wars movies when eight months pregnant, i am not responsible for such credible perception.
they have, in fact, been brought to light in the pages of a dutch book, the title of which translates as 'a feast of slyness and betrayal' by an author with the unlikely name of herman chevrolet. and to make matters worse, the discovery of his viewpoint concerning professional cycle racing had nothing whatsoever to do with me either. olivier nilsson-julien explains all in issue 36 of the esteemed publication rouleur, perusal of which may just give you cause to re-examine your own appreciation of the beautiful sport, or at least those participating in same.
and as if to temper such serious doubt cast upon the virtuous, the inimitable ned boulting has penned a delightfully humorous, yet incisive piece on the recently concluded revolution series. and should you wish to return to the realm of the serious for longer than you originally thought possible, herbie sykes' interview with paul kimmage is the sort of conversation you will always remember where you were when you read it.
not only the forgoing, but additionally a continuation of rouleur's insider view of the new madison genesis race team, and interview with tony martin, and a rather fascinating view of those delightfully expensive carbon wheels made by the chaps at lightweight.
i am not entirely in the habit of reviewing periodical publications, for in truth, i think it likely that many of you already read them anyway, and need no further words from me to congratulate you on your impeccable choice of reading material. however, for those who, for whatever reason, prefer to live without recourse to the world's finest cycling publication, i was sufficiently moved by nilsson-julien's enlightenment as to the contents of mr chevrolet's untranslated book.
as he himself points out, 'leaving no cobblestone unturned, he paints a wonderfully immoral picture of the peloton'. and i believe this and the cohabiting contents of rouleur number 36 to be more than worthy of your attention.
sunday 17th february 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if you've seen the orginal star wars movie (part iv), you may recall the scene where sir alec guinness in the part of obi wan kenobi uses that old jedi mind trick on an empire stormtrooper to convince him that the droids r2d2 and c3po contained within the sand speeder are not the droids they're looking for. this instant hypnotism appears to work, for the stormtrooper than states to his colleagues "these are not the droids we're looking for. move along."
not so very long ago, i came upon a cartoon showing two stormtroopers, guns leaning against the wall and each smoking a cigarette. the speech bubble said "...and then he said, 'these are not the droids you're looking for', but they effing were!". the three most recent star wars movies featuring ewan mcgregor (episodes one to three) singularly distanced themselves from the original three by a marked lack of humour. perhaps it's not so funny filming in front of a green screen and having to pretend that your co-stars actually exist.
however, just in case you're remotely interested or intrigued, this venture into the word of luke skywalker and his dad, darth vader, was prompted by my perusing of the cycle trade website bikebiz.com, not because they made any mention of star wars, but because, strange to relate, there are worlds of commerce other than that of the humble and not so humble bicycle.
one of those worlds catered to by a companion website to that of bikebiz concerns itself with the toy market (toynews-online.biz) the contents of which were flagged up at the foot of the bikebiz homepage with the heading 'new starwars easykits and packaging revealed'. i have spent many a long year denying that toys hold any intrinsic interest on a personal level. yes, mrs washingmachinepost is a childminder and there are therefore more than just one or two toys surrounding me as i write, but they are specifically not for playing with by yours truly.
however, george lucas released the original episode iv in may 1977, with the two subsequent movies being released at three year intervals, meaning star wars has been around for the last 36 years and apparently shows no sign of diminishing in interest. i am surely not the sole progenitor of the phrases "use the force, luke" or "it is your destiny, luke" at wholly inappropriate moments of conversation? and though i'm well aware that it's a fictional comedy tv series 'the big bang theory' pays more than just lip service to the movie franchise.
the web article concerned itself with new models arriving from revell, a company i remember well from my days of sticking together model aircraft kits before making any attempt to paint them properly. if i might quote, These include the X-wing Fighter (RRP £49.99, 62 parts), which measures more than 40cm long and the Jedi Knights Starfighter (RRP £22.99, 34 parts) with the pointy nose in large numbers. A Pirate Ship (RRP £17.99, 32 parts) will also arrive.'
i think it not unnatural to assume that the target market for these items is not the forty or fifty somethings who were present at the original screenings in the seventies. either mum and dad have elicited their own affection for these movies to their offspring or grandchildren, or there are a sizeable number of the modern-day x-box generation watching re-runs on itv come saturday afternoons.
in the 1970s, i owned a raleigh twenty shopping bike. not the ideal velocipede had i been besotted with the exploits of eddy m, but the ideal practicality that allowed me to deliver newspapers on time each and every weekday morning. though it harboured a sturmey archer three-speed that was won't to malfunction just when you least needed it to do so, i was rather attached to that bicycle and its large, rack mounted tartan box/bag swallowed a lot of sunday newspapers at one go.
on islay, the newspapers do not arrive until the first ferry of the day, reaching the newsagents, depending on their distance from the ferry terminal, from around 10am. as school starts at 9am, islay's kids have never experienced the employable joy of being paper boys (or girls). given the geographical spread of many of the island's domiciles, there's every likelihood that such an onerous position would have been untenable in any case; we'll probably never know.
however, when i had kids of my own, one of the first joys they were introduced to on reaching a certain age, was learning to ride a bicycle. i bent my back into contortionable distress for both kids, running along behind their tiny bicycles until they could move under their own power. sadly, these efforts have gone unheralded, as neither have made any attempt to continue the tradition i was at pains to instil. even in the face of a veritable stream of expensive carbon fibre that arrives at the croft almost on a monthly basis, they have shown no affection for the sport or activity.
c'est la vie.
the disappointment is that the chain is likely now broken, for when they have their own kids, unless grampa tries the jedi mind trick on their offspring, the sound of little kids riding into the side of the house will no longer resound in the palmer dynasty. so i think it only fair that i make myself even more insufferable than i likely already am and ply small minds and bodies with interminable copies of rouleur or cyclist, even if that has to be in ipad format.
if star wars can survive for over thirty years with impunity, in the face of encroaching motorisation (is that a word?), i think we all need to accept this as our principal contribution to evolution. the latter might seem a singular, inevitable and unstoppable aspect of human progress, but that doesn't mean it couldn't do with a helping hand now and again. there are way too many folks driving tiny distances, and too many kids being driven to school for the good of the country.
congestion is hardly on the decrease and neither is the growing trend of childhood obesity. i'm willing to accept almost any reason you like to provide for the latter epidemic, and concomitantly unwilling to broker any reason/excuse for not walking or cycling short distances. the bicycle is unlikely to die out anytime soon, and seemingly neither is affection for star wars, but the velo club shows no signs whatsoever of acquiring youthful recruits; we're all reasonably fit and healthy boring old farts. we need an influx of boring young farts. and we're not the only ones.
it is our destiny...
saturday 16th february 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have, up till now, made my thoughts and feelings clear about endless fiddling with bottom brackets, integrating the headset, tapering the steerer and now applying hydraulic disc brakes to the innocent road bike. in my humble and poorly informed opinion, i'd really like it all to stop, even though i know it's not going to.
in 1992 i purchased a reynolds 531 steel frame from a uk builder trading under the orbit name, subsequently replaced with a 653 version before entering my colnago phase.
believe it or not, i have just caught sight of that selfsame 531 frame, still bearing its original red colour, but ever so slightly the worse for wear with twinklings of rust showing through at the odd point or two. however, and i think it testament to the integrity of reynolds 531 that the frame still rides as well as it ever did, and it would take little effort from the likes of russell at shand cycles to restore it to its former glory. and it is most gratifying to note that it seems likely that this particular frame is about to enter the next stage of its life.
when i bought the frame and forks, i also bought a campagnolo chorus groupset, built a pair of wheels and smiled from the start of one kilometre until the end of the last. at that point in time, a road bike wasn't just for christmas, but for life. there were no specific road-styled trends to cater for, and unless components broke or wore out, it would have been possible to remain cutting edge for an annual smattering of pennies.
the arrival of dual pivot calipers, outboard bottom brackets, integrated headsets, wheels that looked as if built for nasa, electronica and all manner of other outlandish componentry have effectively turned road cycling into the garish and unquenchable miasma that is or was mountain biking. every year and at every turn there arrives another development that the accompanying marketing would have us believe is entirely necessary in order to hold one's head up in public for another twelve months.
unless your steel velocipede can be categorised as a classic, it might be best not to admit to which is yours sitting outside the coffee shop.
but i fear that my earnest persona as 'mr angry of bowmore' might be going soft. though words will eventually tell all in the fullness of time, currently sitting in thewashingmachinepost bike shed, is surely the ultimate in contemporary road bike technology; the colnago c59 disc version with campagnolo super record eleven speed electronic gear shifting.
i have so far ridden it only the once, though i did manage 60km in one sitting and my heavily prejudiced preconceptions are looking to be on very shaky ground. electronica i have reviewed twice before, but on both occasions, the japanese version. this is the first time the opportunity to ride italiana has presented itself, and though i have never found mechanical shifting to be overly onerous in operation, i find i'm beginning to develop rather a penchant for the electronic version. even more so that the battery charger was not included in the package.
my first ride of shimano's dura-ace di2 was fraught with consternation; the little black doohicky that hung from the cables emanating from the bar tape refused to co-operate when asked what battery charge remained, so i spent every evening conscientiously recharging. rarely did this take more than a matter of minutes. my last visit with electrons was another colnago; the clx with ultegra di2. i had the bicycle for over three weeks and never charged the battery once. so colnago's reassurance that the chances of battery power evaporating during the review period are miniscule at best seems well founded.
i've had more than one bike in for review so far featuring cable operated discs, though both of cyclocross descent, and other than squeaky noises, i would be telling fibs if i said that they hadn't worked satisfactorily. i can't honestly say the discs were noticeably better than the cantilevers they replaced, though in both cases, the disc equipped bikes were marginally heavier.
but what the flipping heck do we need with hydraulic disc brakes on a featherweight road bike? a whole new hobby horse to goad for months and years to come. but then...
however, i digress prematurely i fear. the other component that appeared to be missing from the box was a stem cap, steerer bung and stem bolt with which to affix the stem and bars that had been removed to allow the bicycle to fit within its sizeable box. i phoned colnago to point out this glaring ommission, only to be told that the current incarnation of colnago's semi-integrated headset had removed the need for the items i thought to be missing.
below the colnago monikered carbon stem spacers are two metal rings which, in their unnatural state, slot together, featuring a small split ramp on their surfaces. on closer inspection, the top ring has a steel pin fitting into an elongated slot in the lower ring, only a few millimetres from a recessed allen bolt (one that requires a very small allen key to operate; you have been warned).
it seems that the process of setting an appropriate level of headset pressure requires the stem to be clamped over the steerer having first pressed down firmly to exert load on the spacers and subsequently, that top ring. by now tightening the allen bolt, it pushes against the steel pin, moving it along the elongated slot in the lower ring and pushing the ramps laterally across each other. this jams the top ring against the stem and the lower ring against the internal cup, thus removing any fore and aft play in the steerer/headset interface.
it took a bit of working out, even after all was clearly described to me over the phone (thanks luke), and although it's a clever solution, i can't figure out what was wrong with the aheadset system we've all known and loved for many a long year. so the question thus becomes not how?, but why?.
i ferevently hope that these mechanical contrivances arrive in an opportune manner, because i'd hate to think someone was sat in an italian office desperately trying to think of just what they could alter next.
friday 14th february 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
hydrogen is, by all accounts, the most plentiful element in the universe. i admit i have not explored every corner as of yet, but i had a science teacher who assured me this conjecture was true. as a highly flammable gas (remember the hindenberg?) we should perhaps be thankful that it rarely flies solo, more commonly existing as some sort of compound; water for example.
as the need for a petrol or diesel substitute increases before the world as we know it comes to an end, automobile manufacturers are continuously on the lookout for alternative and preferably greener methods of making their vehicles move in a forward direction. the current flavour of the month is the hybrid, a motor car such as the ubiquitous toyota prius combining battery power with that of the infernal combustion engine, each used according to the road and traffic circumstances of the moment.
however, though commendably better than making sole use of petrol or diesel, the ideal would undoubtedly be to remove both from the equation altogether, offering motive force via electrical power entirely. that is the current thrust of automobile research at present, personified by two differing means to a similar outcome.
straightforward battery power exists even as we speak; the option to purchase a completely battery driven car is one that those with the need and purchasing power can currently take advantage of. however, as those of you with a torch sitting just inside the back door will know only too well, batteries do not last forever, and are in constant need of recharging. this is no less the case with regard to electric cars, some of which can move as quickly as a regular motor vehicle, but rarely compare well in the maximum distance travelled category.
also providing electromotive force are the rarer, but under development, hydrogen fuel cells. as the name suggests, these use hydrogen to keep the electric kettle boiling (so to speak), and though apparently relatively efficient, give rise to one or two other problems. firstly, as described above, hydrogen is rarely to be found lying around in someone's back garden; as usually one component in a compound, there is an overweening need to separate it from its chemical partner in order to use it as a fuel for the hydrogen cells previously mentioned.
with water covering around 75% of the globe and hydrogen being an essential constituent of h2o, perhaps the most obvious and plentiful potential supply of hydrogen would be, indeed, water. the process of releasing hydrogen from water was discovered almost 150 years ago by sir william grove by passing an electric current through the liquid, breaking it down into its separate components. it is a simple matter then of syphoning off the gas that the process is designed to provide. it's a slow process, but one that scales well.
an alternative method is to use natural gas which consists of natural hydrocarbons, using a process known as steam reformation. however, natural gas is as much a fossil fuel as the crude oil these developments are designed to replace, so we're sort of on a hiding to nothing there. on the other hand, since hydrogen extraction from natural gas can be applied on an industrial scale, it's quite likely that this will be the first port of call when gathering hydrogen gas for fuel cells.
it has also been suggested that it would be possible to build miniature extraction plants that would fit in the garage or bike shed, while there's even been conjecture that electrolysis could be managed from within the car itself, creating a vehicle that could quite literally run on water. however, electrolysis requires electrical power of its own, so there's still the likelihood that such a vehicle would still require to be periodically recharged.
if you live in the state of california, though you can't buy a car using hydrogen fuel cells outright, you can lease one; a honda as it happens. this is simply because, at present, the south western pacific coastal state is the only location in the world with an infrastructure of hydrogen fuel stations.
despite current prognostications that useful and commercially viable hydrogen fuel cell powered cars are at least seven years away from practicality. the americans have estimated that the costs of building just such a hydrogen fuel infrastructure could be as high as £350 million and the time taken to complete as long as forty years. that would put it firmly in the timeframe of the day after tomorrow.
yet despite knowledge of all the above, the british government has announced that it is willing to seed-fund uk filling stations to supply hydrogen powered cars. three government departments (dept. of transport, dept. for business innovation and skills and the dept. of energy and climate change) supported by several commercial concerns, jointly released a report stating that the uk government is keen to subsidise the hydrogen fuel market to the tune of £418 million.
global management consultants mckinsey & co. were expensively commissioned to write a report claiming that, though these subsidised filling stations would be loss-making until after 2020, their existence would be justified in the decade following, due to a surge in sales of hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles, contesting that there will be 1.6 million such motors on our currently congested roads by 2030. automobile association president edmund king figures that such plans are a mite fanciful.
despite the fact that both battery and fuel cell powered vehicles recognisably continue to use fossil fuel in one form or another to provide at least a portion of their propulsion, the uk government seems hellbent on continuing to support all manner of car-related fanciful ideals while persistently ignoring the existence of the bicycle. it would likely take a fraction of that seed-funding to make britain's roads safer for those who cycle; both for those of us who already cycle and for the potential recruits who would do so if such a means of transport were seen to be somewhat safer than is currently the case.
scottish power has meantime partnered with scottish cycling by investing an undisclosed six-figure sum in its youth work, money that will aid not only sc's youth race programme but also in getting more kids on bicycles. it's a transparently benevolent public relations programme, but one that can only benefit both parties. if commerce is willing to invest in this manner, why can those who govern the country not do likewise? surely the more folks who travel short distances by bicycle, the less investment will be needed by the motor car.
i doubt anyone would decry the need for motor transport in some shape or form, but with the majority of journeys still below five miles and in the light of increasing obesity with its concomitant cost to the national health service, would it not make more sense to invest large amounts of government cash in improving the cyclists' lot?
if people want to scrimp and save to buy a hydrogen fuel cell motor car, that is their prerogative, but why is it down to the government to fund the means to keep those vehicles running? whatever happened to market forces? the government has failed to ensure that the whole of the uk has access to the hi-speed broadband experienced by the privileged few, so what makes hydrogen cars so special? the bicycle is right here, right now, fulfilling the desire for a non-polluting means of transport, reducing serious road congestion and keeping folk fit and healthy into the bargain.
all that would be needed is for central government to pay heed to these simple facts and make life a level or two safer for all its subjects and not just for those intent on driving alone in a substantially sized chunk of metal. it is demonstrably working a treat in many european countries such as holland and belgium, where their elected officials actually give a fig.
it brings, does it not, new meaning to the phrase power struggle?
thursday 14th february 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in 1972, i took a grand step for humankind, well, at least for this human, and took a bus trip to a town around 15 miles from home to visit a school chum who had moved there with his parents to a new housing scheme. we'd been pals most of the way through primary school, but partially lost touch on graduating to secondary and his subsequent move.
the bus station was a mile or so from his new abode and involved walking past an area of town i'd been well warned about, though i'm sure it came across as far more threatening to a twelve year-old in broad daylight than was truly the case. however, impending doom passed quickly enough and i found his new and recently completed abode. in fact, we were also able to walk a few yards from his back door and view the yet to be completed a77 dual carriageway intent on easing traffic flow all the way to glasgow. unopened at that point, it had a distinctly untrafficked eerie quality about it; its easing of traffic obviously failed in the long-term, for it has now been superseded by the m77 motorway.
anyway, having messed about as only twelve year-old boys probably can, we retired indoors and i commenced playing a brand new cassette recently purchased from an independent record store (remember them?) in a nearby town. the band had recently released their first single (virginia plain), to publicise their self-titled first album, a track i felt sure would have been included on the cassette (vinyl was so old hat by then; this was the modern world). sadly i was wrong, and had to purchase the single (vinyl) later. (the single was subsequently added to the re-released and re-mastered album issued in 1999.)
the album was a tad bizarre in places, with tracks such as the bob (medley), remake, remodel, and 2hb, a bizarreness that my long lost chum was wont to remark upon on more than one occasion. strangely that's a feature of my musical preferences that has followed me to the present day.
virginia plain was and is a classic, an attribute i and many others are happy to confer upon roxy's original first recording. rather obviously, the epithet classic is one applied to many historic recordings, and if we had all the time in the world, i'd be happy to shoot the breeze and list all others we might conceivably agree upon.
though roxy no longer exist in their original format (i don't believe brian eno currently constitutes a part of their itinerant touring party), singer bryan ferry has had a particularly successful career as something of a lounge lizard and successful pop singer. now entering his fortieth year in the business, he's taken the opportunity to revisit some of those early tracks, including do the strand, and the aforementioned virginia plain, though on this occasion, devoid of ferry's dulcet vibrato.
the songs have been classically and beautifully reworked as instrumentals played in the style of 1920s jazz, curated by ferry but without his direct instrumental involvement. if ever there was a demonstration of the classic nature of many of the songs, it is their success even in this modified format that's the proof of the pudding. but were we to have engaged in this hypothetical conversation, it would probably develop to include may other forms of the word classic. maybe we'd even be able to agree on variations within the world of cycling.
there are bicycles that are regarded as classics, several of which depend on knowledge of the event in which they achieved that designation. sitting in ernesto colnago's museum below his house is the still mud spattered colnago c40 belonging to the late franco ballerini, and ridden to victory in paris roubaix in mapei colours. it is no different than any other colnago c40, but regarded as a classic due to who was riding it when victory beckoned. its all a case of context.
and in july of 2004, another classic appeared, this time from the new kids on the block, a particular block in kentish town, london, previously home to a firm of piano builders. yes, the now well kent imperial works became home to simon, luke and claire, ready to breathe some classicity into the often garish world of cycling apparel. in fact, such was the classic appeal of that first sportwool short sleeve jersey, that mr mottram received a phone call from a prospective customer apparently glad to see that rapha clothing was now available in the uk, having been a fan for many a year.
the fact that the company had only been incorporated a few months previously is surely testament to the timelesseness of their original offering.
i have one of those classics in my cycling wardrobe; it's black with a white hoop on the left sleeve, three rear pockets plus a zipped fourth, a full length front zip with zip garage and a bite patch on the collar to aid closing with one hand. it arrived with matching black piped, white armwarmers. i can think of no conceivable situation when this rapha classic jersey would not be appropriate cycle wear. and in the manner of a true classic, it remains as stylish, practical and as good looking as the day i removed it from its rapha branded packaging.
but classics are not, to mix a metaphor, necessarily written in stone. a classic design is better not messed with lest it lose that which made it a classic in the first place. however, rapha's classic jersey has a fearsome degree of integrity that easily survives the subtle variation in colour it has just been given. though originally released in white, the jersey settled on black as its principal and is now augmented by a deep red and the same dark blue that constitutes jimmy mac's king of scotland jersey. and all three variations still feature black piped white armwarmers in the box.
and so certain are rapha that their classic jersey will be classic for you, any one of the three colours can be ridden to perpetual victory over the course of thirty days and if you don't find it to your ultimate satisfaction, you can return for a full refund.
wednesday 13th february 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
we had a new ferry. i present this information in the past tense because the boat under consideration is currently not serving the islay route. in fact, it hasn't been here since the beginning of december. in point of fact, it was never truly ours in the first place; it simply suited the caledonian macbrayne marketing machine to present it as such. in reality, all they had done was added another boat to the fleet, subject to be sent hither and thither as logistics decreed. the first clue was a distinct reticence to allow the vessel to be named isle of islay.
it was also a somewhat suspicious feature that, a few months prior to completion, it was almost surreptitiously pointed out that the boat fitted none of the three piers it would require to use when introduced to service.
the reason given at the time for the restriction of name choice was two-fold; firstly, calmac claimed to be receding from the practise of naming their boats after specific islands, and secondly, they claimed that the isle of islay name had been already registered and was thus unavailable. the latter was easily proved to be an untruth, as our local newspaper registered the name and offered it to calmac on behalf of the community. you will be unsurprised to note that this was politely, but firmly refused. the boat currently sails under the name mv finlaggan, voted for by the islay community as being the most appropriate from the presented selection. none of the alternatives proffered had any connection to our island whatsoever, while that chosen was the seat of power for the lords of the isles in the middle ages.
the fact that the boat currently substituting for the absent mv finlaggan is named mv lord of the isles (or lottie to which it is more regularly referred) seems not to bother the powers that be.
there is, of course, a particularly valid reason as to why our boat is currently further north, all to do with substituting for the outer hebrides run while their boat is in for its annual re-fit. though this does, in the grand scheme of things, make perfect sense, it may give credence to the high regard in which the company is held locally, that the majority of us had private bets as to how long we'd be likely to hold onto our boat.
the naming of ferries on the west of scotland must present something of a minor problem. public relations dictates there ought to be some connection between the boat's name and the route it is/was primarily designed to serve, yet presumably not present the level of incongruity experienced when the islay route was served by the mv isle of arran. and you can see a concomitant need to provide naming conventions for many other items and products that sit well within their respective milieux.
though that may be perceived as a logical notion, sometimes it's a premise that fails miserably. a colnago arte, for example, falls somewhat short of the mark, in my opinion as indeed does a carerra vanquish. but the premise is no respecter of category and ought therefore to apply equally to items of cycling apparel. and while i have not a solitary notion as to the reasons behind its nomenclature, the latest jersey to appear from remi clermont's cafe du cycliste bears the impressive epithet marie josette.
i live in hope that somebody asks me the name of this rather striking jersey.
it is, curiously for this time of year, a short sleeve jersey, but one that offers the immeasurable benefit of a fearsome degree of wind and waterproofing. the black fabric of which it is constituted is perhaps more regularly associated with the science of jacketry, yet makes perfect sense as a jersey. even a short sleeve one at that. such is the ambient temperature in the hebrides come early february, there wasn't the faintest chance that it would be worn sans armwarmers. in fact, if i'm bluntly honest, i rather baulked at the idea of riding without an outer jacket in the first place.
however, if ever there were an individual ready and willing to suffer for your art, it is me; the ideal opportunity, i thought to mtfu and go ride in the rain no matter the chilling consequences. i ought at this juncture to confess to a modest lack of faith, stuffing a rainjacket into one of the capacious rear pockets before leaving the croft. and just in case you query the wisdom of a waterproof jersey with waterproof full-length zip featuring open to the elements rear pockets, let me disaffect you of your presumptions. those three pockets are covered by a reflective flap, intent of keeping the worst of the elements at bay.
so far, so good, but i cannot deny that said flap does have an annoying tendency to get in the way of retrieving the appropriate means with which to pay for a soya cappuccino and a cheese and tomato sandwich. and disappointingly, there is no zipped fourth into which defined valuables could be entrusted.
however, wearing the marie josette over a baselayer and thin short-sleeve wool jersey, replete with armwarmers, was cosy enough on a day when the mercury failed to reach double figures. and a day on which it rained persistently from leaving to returning; not a tumultuous rain you understand, but neither was it one that gave up easily. on a clandestine check in the coffee shop (you never know who's watching), there was no sign of any water ingress to the wool below. not anywhere. which, i don't mind admitting, was rather impressive.
the high, fleece-lined collar with most attractive green, blue and white piping on the outside, features the almost ubiquitous zip-garage to protect the nape of the neck. the fit is excellent; the review sample was a most comfortable and form-fitting medium size, offering more flexibility in use than the fabric's tactility initially suggested. and i was most grateful for the space to conceal a thin but warming jersey underneath.
though forced upon me by climatic circumstances, a subsequent ride necessitated an outer shell that might offer an increase in cosiness, thus concealing the light-blue flocked logo on the right sleeve from admiring glances. sometimes needs must. this however presented a potentially inflexible four layer apparel sandwich which turned out to be nothing of the sort. if acquiring a cafe du cycliste, marie josette short-sleeve jersey under trying weather conditions, fear not for your regular constitutionals in the saddle; marie josette's middle name is versatility.
when push comes to shove, come fair and warmer weather, the fabric's breathability will not only prevent overheating, but offer added protection from the sort of invasive precipitation that has a habit of sneaking up unannounced. it is part of the great british tradition, and perhaps rather obviously, given josette's nationality, a tradition that has its moments across the channel too. i did ask remi if he'd considered offering the jersey as a long-sleeved garment? "We wanted it to be a versatile product and thought a short-sleeve version would cover a wider range of conditions. of course it would be good to have at least matching armwarmers in same waterproof fabric or a long sleeve version. maybe in the future."
we're just heading towards the time of year when marie josette makes perfect sense, if that's not already the case. it's a clever idea well executed, at a sensible price that makes me look far more svelte than is truly the case.
i just hope someone asks me what it's called sometime soon.
the cafe du cycliste marie josette waterproof short sleeve jersey is available from the cafe du cycliste website, in sizes from xs to xxl, in black only and at a cost of £139
tuesday 12th february 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................