in the halcyon days of yore, when morecambe and mcwise were the ideal commentary pairing on cycling tv, i paid a visit to the ctv studios in london, on the top floor of a somewhat anonymous building that was a considerable distance from the nearest tube station. when you're walking in a part of london that you really don't know, looking for offices you're not sure of, there's a not altogether unwarranted sense of expectation and expedition. and sore feet.
the building was eventually found, and i spent an interesting afternoon with anthony mccrossan who was kind enough to explain how his world worked and offer a seat in what passes for a commentary booth. i remember pointing out that the time, that i'd been in larger elevators in new york. the tv monitor from which commentary is made almost makes an iphone look big. in days when some of us can sit in front of a 27" computer screen, all the better to manipulate pixels, i did rather wonder why the unfortunate dynamic duo had to suffer with such a small field of vision.
which makes their collective skills, and in this i refer to all cycling commentators and not simply messrs. mccrossan and smith, all the more impressive. for the spring classics often run the gamut of inclement weather which, assuming the helicopters can fly in the first place, offers the hapless folks in the broom cupboard, a less than distinct vision of a fast moving peloton, often clad in team waterproofs that obscure the numbers pinned to jerseys that very morning. i confess that i have no idea how they do it.
in an effort to discover whether this might be a career path worth following, given my extensive knowledge of the professional metier (no sniggering at the back, thank you very much), i replayed a recording of just such a spring classic, but with the sound turned down. sadly, i think the age of the comedic scots commentator has yet to arrive, and while i could occasionally identify one rider out on their own, basically i was utterly clueless (no change there, then). as if that were not enough to have me on a broadcast blacklist, the number of 'ands', 'errrrs' and 'emmmms' numbered far more than regular conversation would bear.
though it's possibly the same for those commentating on other sports, i can't help noticing that participants in games such as football/soccer and rugby more often than not have their surnames emblazoned on the back of their team jerseys. though it almost seems like cheating to have the answers displayed on the tiny screen, in truth, it's a darned good idea, and one that has eased itself into the professional peloton. i can recall that pantani's mercatone uno team emulated the soccer players by having their surnames at the top of the back of theose yellow jerseys. that may have been more than adequate for the hairless pantani, but a rider like robert millar would have obscured the name behind a well-maintained ponytail.
it's a fact with which i have some sympathy.
team sky, however, may have hit upon the ideal solution, presenting not only the surnames of their riders on each jersey side panel, but also their associated national flags. granted, it helps not one whit when seen from the helicopter, but is more than easily recognised when seen from a motorbike or roadside camera.
however, if you have ever stood in a supermarket queue, or paid heed to those careening about outside a hostelry offering alcoholic beverages, it cannot have escaped your attention that many have either the names of their displayed up top, or, perchance, their own. it is surely the ultimate offering to the confirmed fan or cognoscenti (should the latter be appropriately applicable to the sport under discussion). so why can't we have that too?
well, actually, we can. from april 26th until 5pm on friday 10th may, rapha are offering a limited number of team sky replica jerseys for personalisation. they'll cost £95 each and will be subsequently delivered by june 28th in time for tour de france supporting from the safety of your living room couch. to rapha's knowledge, no other professional road cycling jersey can be personalised this way. i think they may be right.
i'm well aware of the code of conduct that discourages riders from wearing team jerseys when not only are they not contracted, but do not have sir dave's iphone number on speed-dial. but quite frankly, that's codswallop; it's a free country and you can wear whichever jersey takes your fancy, more especially if it's got your name on it.
go on, give perren street a call. you know you want to.
monday 22nd april 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i think i'm correct in stating that 3/5ths of our planet is covered by the oceans, making water one of the more abundant features of the earth. water is necessary to maintain life, and was apparently instrumental in bringing it into existence in the first place. it can thus be stated with some confidence, that we have a great deal for which to thank the existence of water. of course, there are occasions when there is also cause to curse the darned stuff, either for there being too much in places where we'd rather there was less, or, as in my current predicament, being rather annoyed at its absence.
call it what you will; bad luck, sod's law, murphy's law, it makes little difference. things unfortunately don't always work out according to some hypothetical plan. it has been oft said that while the rest of the world has climate, we in the united kingdom suffer from weather. yet every now and again we plainly don't. it's a condition that has occurred on previous occasions, and is none the better for its recurrence in the present. in fact, to put it quite plainly, it is downright annoying.
over the course of a year, i have the great good fortune to receive many an item of cycle apparel for review in these very black and yellow pixels. though each differs from the previous, there is at least the outline of a system in place to maintain a level of personal integrity and consistency when telling the world of their benefits and disbenefits. not least of this is pedalling across the principality to not only see how the garment fares when subjected to that which it was designed for, but to find appropriate stopping places in order to take photographs with which to illustrate the subsequent review.
in keeping with the sequence of release dates from the major clothing producers, winter clothing is mostly reviewed in winter, and spring/summer at a similarly appropriate time of year. though britain is not a particularly enormous country, it does suffer from parochial regionality. it may well be spring/summer in the southern end of the country while we're still experiencing winter on the inner hebrides. i am, i believe, no different from any others when it comes to reviewing cycle clothing (though i may have a tendency to employ a few more words than most), but that surely doesn't stop me from bending to the vagaries of the seasons, and attack the problem from the opposite end of the spectrum.
it's surely the way of the modern world.
many will recall this year's milan-sanremo debacle where fearsome winter weather not only shortened the longest one-day classic of the season, but interrupted it by way of team buses. the turchino pass was all but blocked by snow and deemed too dangerous to be raced; if you've seen the footage, i think it likely that few would have disagreed with the decision. however, when the race was restarted, it was of little surprise to see riders clothed in possibly every piece of winter clothing issued by the team at the season's commencement. what was slightly surprising and confusing was the sight of certain riders clad in a weatherproof top that was most certainly not team issue for most.
castelli's gabba jacket.
the jersey/jacket was developed in conjunction with former garmin rider gabby rasch, currently riding for team sky, and is a black short sleeve jersey made from a breathable and highly water resistant material, with the regular three rear pockets and a substantial drop tail edged with reflective material. i think it likely that if professional riders faced with highly inclement weather conditions, reach for this particular garment to help make it to the finish line, we can pretty much take it for granted that it does exactly what it says on the tin. and given that it is an item with short-sleeves, a pair of castelli nano flex armwarmers are conceivably the ideal accompaniment in order that winter protection be maximised.
which brings me very much to the query, why on earth am i reviewing it? though ensconced in one of the more precipitous regions of the uk, what can my riding around in the rain possibly tell you that milan-sanremo hasn't already done so?
i'm glad you asked.
for starters, since the gabba jacket arrived over three weeks ago, i have singularly failed to get it wet. yes, it blew a gale and rained heavily last saturday, but i was getting wet in bristol at that particular juncture, and scarcely a drop of rain has fallen on the isle since my return. but it is not for lack of trying on my part.
on wednesday evening, just as i harboured thoughts of making myself a cup of green tea accompanied by a custard cream or two, heavy spots of precipitation coloured the sitting room window. wasting not a moment, i ran upstairs, clad myself in the gabba jacket, nanoflex armwarmers and everything else that would hasten speed and cover my modesty. grabbing the colnago from the bike shed, i sped (all terms are relative) through the streets of bowmore, only to be disappointed by the rain ceasing before i even reached the outer perimeters of the village.
thus i have been forced to take a different approach to the problem of reviewing a waterproof and windproof jacket without the benefits of inclement weather. for if we are bluntly realistic about such a situation, how many of us are content simply to retain that genre of garment in the wardrobe solely for crappy weather? is it not possible that a jacket such as the castelli gabba might conceivably have value over and above its advertised purpose? turns out, it does.
bringing value to the epithet, jacket, though there is little or no doubt the castelli is conceived as a race-fit (if you have bumps in places where there ought not to be bumps, this may not be ideal), it's not only possible, but desirable to wear a baselayer and jersey underneath. the gabba is constructed of a material with a comfortable level of stretch, so the heaviness of jersey beneath seems not to offer it too much in the way of concern. i know; i tried several.
the full length front zip ends in a commendably high collar, while the short sleeves are a very tight fit indeed over the nanoflex armwarmers, excluding all but the most minute particles of bad weather. and even they'd have real trouble. since there is a measurable difference between standing around in a coffee bar trying to look fast, and sitting on a road bike doing exactly what the bicycle demands, the jacket feels distinctly awkward when not on the bike. which is, of course, exactly as it should be. behind each shoulder seam on the short sleeves is a form of gusset that makes stretching for the bars the comfortable experience it truly ought to be.
in a change from many a cycle jersey or even jacket, the three rear pockets are positioned low enough on the back to be easily reachable when riding, though i cannot deny that i have no idea why each pocket features an eyeletted hole at the bottom. nor, it seems, does any other member of the velo club. i do so love a bit of intrigue.
though the ideal conditions in which to test the veracity of a garment such as the castelli gabba are gale-force winds and driving rain, they are hardly the most conducive to identifiable images taken to accompany these words. so in order to offer a better level of visual appeasement, i wore the jacket more than just several times overlooked by cloudless blue skies, albeit clad in almost sub-zero temperatures. since amelioration of temperatures such as the latter are part of the jacket's armoury, it gives great satisfaction to mention that this it carried off with aplomb.
though officially it is spring, my rides are still inhabited by long-finger gloves, bib threequarters and up until a week ago, winter caps. ideal conditions, it turns out, in which to wear the gabba jacket. its flexibility, breathability and thinness of constitution are its three secret weapons, and whether castelli and mr rasch had it in mind during the stages of conception that it would harbour such excellent and remarkable versatility is of no nevermind. the end result speaks for itself.
i will not, of course, be truly satisfied until i manage to offer the jacket a good and thorough soaking in the line of duty. this is the west coast of scotland; it cannot remain this dry for too long (and if it does, the distilleries are going to be in dire straits), and when the ultimate finally happens, i'll be back to tell you how i and the gabba fared in the throes of inclemency.
sunday 21st april 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
a few years ago, a colleague and i visited as many of the island's primary schools as possible to proselytise the delights of the bicycle. the intention was not one of brainwashing, but simply to point out the virtues of two wheels and a set of pedals. to this end, we asked the kids to tell us about varying details of the modern velocipede, beginning with the shapes you'd come across while considering just what a great piece of engineering it truly is.
what we refer to as the double-diamond is rather obviously constructed from a series of triangles, one of nature's more robust polygons. extending this observation, we moved onto the conventional tangentially spoked wheel which, with youthful exuberance they pointed out that these too were constructed from a myriad of triangles (i should point out that as primary school children, they did not, in fact, use the word myriad). strictly speaking this is not entirely true, though as one spoke crosses over its near neighbour on the way from hub to rim, it does create the shape of a triangle.
an astute observation, we thought.
in the process of learning about the rudiments of wheelbuilding, i recall the salient point being made that a four-cross spoking pattern had a tendency to offer the strongest of wheel constructions, principally why such a specific method was used in the building of wheels for tandems or touring bicycles. this was based almost entirely on the knowledge and physical fact that any spoke pointing straight up, was appropriately countered by another pointing straight down, something that can possibly only be equalled, visually at least, by the radially spoked wheel.
shift to a three-cross pattern and the opposite number of the straight-up spoke will point slightly skew-wiff, thus ostensibly offering a less strong construction. i have no real technical evidence to support this contention, but it does logically make a modicum of sense, so i'm inclined to believe in its virtues.
as mavic have been keen to point out with regard to their carbon spoked r-sys wheels, conventional steel spokes can only work in traction, but never in compression. in other words, you can stretch a steel spoke by a certain amount without ruining its elastic properties, but attempting to compress it will only result in a bent spoke. it is the tangential departure of a spoke from the hub flange and the crossing pattern as it heads to the rim, that gives a well-built wheel its resilience and resistance to the forces forced upon it. not quite suspension, but a darned sight more comfortable than the solid wooden wheels of mediaeval times.
bicycle suspension did not arrive with the mountain bike; the idea of offering some suspended comfort on a velocipede has seen more than just one attempt over the years, but it cannot be denied that both cross-country and downhill offroad bikes have refined the methodology to a more than appropriate degree. however, in respect of contemporary commuting bicycles, particularly those with a need of folding, it's a tad incongruous to attempt to squeeze springs, gas/air cylinders and other suspendables onto a minimalist folding frame.
there's really very little room to accommodate that which poor road surfaces and roadside kerbs threaten on a small commuting bicycle. unless, of course, you find somewhere else to put the suspension.
nottingham engineer, sam pearce has spent a number of years developing that which is now known as loopwheels. a trio of carbon loops take the place of spokes that intervene between hub and undrilled rim, currently in a 20" wheel, the very size beloved of the compact, bijou and folding bicycle. maybe even of the bmx too. though a sizeable kerb would still offer a level of immediate discomfort if approached at speed and without an appreciable level of wheel-lift just before impact, the loopwheel offers a spring in its step that might alleviate the teeth jarring effect of dismembered tarmac.
were it mavic, campagnolo, zipp or shimano that had this under development, we would already be ordering them from our local bike shops, or online. but in this respect, mr pearce is at a distinct disadvantage, being bereft of the financial wherewithal required to put his excellent invention into production. he has elected to do what many modern entrepreneurs find an appropriate method of fund-raising; kickstarter. as per usual, there are a legion of rewards on offer in exchange for increasing levels of monetary commitment.
as pearce explains "Most folding bikes do not have suspension because conventional suspension forks add weight and bulk to the bicycle. That is particularly unwelcome in a bicycle which needs to fold down to a compact size. Replacing the spoked wheels with Loopwheels provides full suspension in a bike which hasn't got room for a traditional suspension system, but each loopwheel weighs only about 300g more than its spoked equivalent. So you get a much more comfortable ride with no impact on folding, and only a small weight gain.
"Unlike suspension forks, loopwheels provide tangential suspension: that is, they work in every direction. So they respond to a force hit head-on in the same way as they do to a force from above or below."
if you figure your daily commute on a small-wheel bicycle might be aided and abetted by a pair of loopwheels, there is really only one way to ensure they see the light of day in quantities that might allow you to purchase a pair.
saturday 20th april 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there's a quick, easy and remarkably economic way of printing most everything you could think of that needs printed. it exists in two complementary, yet mutually exclusive formats. actually, to qualify that statement, the printing process itself is exactly the same in both cases (litho), but the method of delivery differs. in fact, if i include a current, yet marginally outdated method, that would bring the total to three. this counting thing is much easier than it's made out to be.
during my apprenticeship in the art college graphics department, i always thought it somewhat antiquated that we explored the fabulousness of stone lithography when, in a xerox lab nowhere near us, the miracle of the laser printer was about to cost ludicrous amounts of money to those keen to be at the cutting edge of the print world. this is a technology i still use on a daily basis, outputting my carefully crafted page layouts to a hewlett packard postscript monochrome laser.
these laser pages are passed to the printer (the person), who sits them on a flat bed where they are photographed by a process camera, a device that still includes a set of bellows to exclude light as the lens moves in and out to focus. having snapped a scaled image of the page, it transfers it onto a silver-master flexible plate that can be wrapped around the print cyclinder on our offset litho printer (the machine). it's an archaic method of working because quality is lost (however minimally) at each stage.
the smart money would be on replacing the aforementioned technology with either computer to plate or computer to print, the latter presumably making the very best of digital technology by absolutely no loss of quality up until the point of printmaking. however, in the romance stakes, it's right up there with a wet weekend waiting for a delayed flight at heathrow.
letterpress is where it's at for output with character. of course the latter is the neolithic predecessor of even the linotype machine, and so far behind computer page layout software as to invite accusations of cumbersomeness; it's an accusation that simply cannot be denied.
the end result, however, bears more integral character than an entire month of pedalling furiously into an atlantic headwind. a book, newsletter or poster printed on a flatbed letterpress is an object worthy of adulation, nay of worship. for here is the ultimate connection between paper, ink and image, one that owns many an unrepeatable imperfection. but as we all know from the philosophy of richard sachs imperfection is perfection.
patrick brady is the mastermind behind red kite prayer a highly respected cycling blog with far more visual style than that of the post, a man who lives with wife and child in the united states of america. and as a resident of said country, he is a man not unfamilar with the vicissitudes of the american health insurance scheme. this familiarity has been all too pressingly brought home by his recently born son matthew, better known as the deuce suffering from a potentially life-threatening condition. in order to assist with the somewhat astronomical costs incurred in treatment, even with medical insurance, patrick has brought together some of his finest writing with the intention of publishing as a limited edition letterpress book, hand-printed by norman clayton of classic letterpress.
when all costs and expenses have been cleared, patrick will use the profits to aid the medical costs incurred by his son's illness. it is, i'm sure you'll agree, a laudable quest; the ultimate expression of necessity being the mother of invention. and though printing costs are rarely as exorbitant as those charged by the american health service, they are still another barrier that has to be crossed. in order that these costs may be ameliorated yet still deliver the expected profit, patrick brady has inaugurated a kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000.
as is the case with any kickstarter campaign, there are varying levels of reward offered in return for varying amounts of monetary pledge, rewards that i do not propose to reveal here and delay your visit to patrick's kickstarter page one moment longer. if ever there was a singular good cause depending on your generosity in return for the beauty and delight of letterpress printing, this is probably it.
don't necessarily do this for you, do it for the deuce.
friday 19th april 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
we are, by definition, a practical lot in the uk, often defined as having a lack of inner vision that sees the fairy tales in every day life. the old stiff upper lip attitude that has little truck with colourful alternatives to the daily grind. it is, of course, something of a generalisation, for many a region or locale has its tales of mystery and imagination. but in general terms we are rarely viewed as suffering from flights of fancy.
i might offer as evidence the cottingley fairies, a series of five photographs that surfaced in the early part of the 20th century, reputedly depicting real fairies. rather than delight in this apparent insight into the land of small people with wings, a debate raged for many a long year as to whether these were genuine or fake. a pragmatism to win the day.
however, the two sisters responsible for the images kept tight-lipped until the early nineteen eighties when they both admitted that the photos had been faked using cardboard cutouts, though one of the sisters maintained that the fifth and final image was genuine. for those wishing to either demonstrate their belief or disbelief, the photos and cameras used are currently on display in the national media museum in bradford.
central europe is far less suspicious of such tale telling. stories of vampires, big bad wolves and little girls with red hooded jackets infest the childhoods of many. this is not to suggest that many of these middle european provinces are peopled with folks more gullible than the more stoic and restrained brit. it is most unlikely that they are any more prone to implicitly believing in little folks with wings than we are, but generally seem more willing to accept the joys of fairy fiction.
it should, therefore, be of little surprise that these flights of fancy should make their way into the contemporary legend of the bicycle, the very vehicle predisposed to physical flights of fancy on a daily basis. daniel merenyi, a hungarian frame-builder bearing an impressive palmares as a former assistant to the great dario pegoretti, has incorporated several hungarian graphic flourishes on the paintwork of his beautiful lugged steel frames. and he also produced a catalogue especially for bespoked bristol the likes of which has not been seen before (probably).
contained within one of the hardcover's inner two pockets is a beautifully illustrated (by merenyi himself) booklet entitled a hard day's night. the tale, written in rhyme and translated by eszter nyitrai, concerns a framebuilder who has, most uncharacteristically, fallen behind in the completion of a customer's frame. though he searches vainly for the agreed measurements before setting frantically to work with torch and flux, eventually he succumbs to sleep.
however, in this deep sleep, he dreams that three beautiful fairies appear replete with the necessary framebuilding skills to complete his unfinished work. as he awakes with a start and several uncouth words in the morning...
he sees the frame, a work of art
all done, aligned, without a scratch
as if it just stepped off his sketch
and beside it, its fork seems to yawn and stretch.
not unnaturally, he now wonders whether there were indeed these three beautiful fairies, or whether he completed the work himself. perhaps his acute weariness having clouded his senses, had left him blissfully unaware that he'd actually finished all before falling asleep? it's a clever little tale and the accompanying illustrations are well conceived and executed.
brochures and catalogues, however dinky doo, have a specific role in life, namely to sell some product. and though the second inside pocket features a more regularly conceived catalogue of merenyi frames, the final verse of the tale contains the hard sell...
"once upon a time,
on the edge of a once-great steel town
it came to pass that fairly hands tender
left magic on steel tubes slender.
come, be part of the miracle, not just a bystander."
thursday 18th april 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"It's never scared me. In the end it's just a race. You have to keep on riding and hope that nothing happens to you. It's a race of natural selection: the strong and the lucky survive." Michele Bartoli, 2004.
it has always seemed a tad strange to my velocipedinal constitution, that the cobbles of paris-roubaix are not as well kent as the hills and roads of the tour de france. having commenced its existence seven years prior to those three weeks in july, it has everything that the tour occasionally does not. granted, three weeks is a greater period of time for the latter event to invade the psyche of the civilian population, but surely the deeds of derring-do, cobbles, mud (occasionally) and folks standing with wheels held aloft ought to hold greater sway.
the branch of the sport with which it holds closest ties, that of cyclocross, has been oft recommended as the ideal form of cycle racing to hold a limited attention span. races of a mere hour ought to offer a level of visibility guaranteed not to create consternation amongst the average couch potato. rustic, gritty racingness in a one day event would surely only dent the cushions for a trifle longer.
yet there are more books written about the tour de france and the history of same than that of malt whisky. (actually that's stretching credibility just a smidgeon too far. there are squillions of the latter, all saying much the same thing.) paris-roubaix, despite the fact that it hasn't left from paris since 1967, has a history that easily tracks the integral history of the sport, ostensibly in a more graphic manner than the highways and byways of the tour de france. surely it is indicative of the spark provided by paris-roubaix, that many of those risking life and limb in the early days of april subsequently shun the smoothness of le tour.
yet it has the same parent as its lengthy counterpart.
since 1968 the race, one of cycle racing's monuments, has begun its northward trundle from the city of compiegne, but still finishes in the town of roubaix, admittedly not one of the jewels in france's crown. "And so it goes for the town of Roubaix. For cyclists it is the end of the rainbow. For the rest of France, it is an embarrassment, a rundown place so close to Belgium that you wonder they don't push it across the border. If an enemy again invaded, nobody would defend Roubaix."
les woodland is one of british cycle writing's best kept secrets, for despite having written gems such as the unknown tour de france, cycling heroes, cycling's 50 craziest stories and this island race, there are authors whose names roll off the tongue more readily than that of woodland. this is, in itself, something of a travesty, for he has one of the most relaxed, chatty styles of writing to appeal to not only the cognoscenti, but the more casual reader. in fact, he is one of the few writers (along with richard moore and herbie sykes) who transcends the genre about which he is writing. you wouldn't need to have a specific interest in cycle racing to enjoy paris-roubaix; the inside story.
the race has its origins in the vision of theo vienne and maurice perez, owners of a textile mill in roubaix's rue de pays. according to reports, both had seen and perhaps organised races in the parc barbieux, and had seen the commercial possibilities. "Anybody could watch races in a park for nothing; put them in an arena and money could change hands. According to one account, they bought 46,000 square metres at the junction of the rue verte and the route de hempempont. There they would build a velodrome."
the race had its idiosyncracy in travelling from paris, rather than to the city, and had its beginnings as a training race held three weeks before the far longer and more strenuous bordeaux-paris. woodland describes the initial running of the race in superb, atmospheric detail, offering character studies of the principal protagonists accompanied by an intriguing narrative following "La Course Velocipedique Paris-Roubaix"
"'The crowds from Hempempont onwards hindered the riders considerably', the Journal de Roubaix reported, 'obliging them to ride on the cobbles. The cars, bicycles, tandems and triplets which crowded the road were a serious nuisance.'" zydnek stybar would, i'd warrant, find much sympathy with that latter observation.
this is history, jim, but not as we know it. woodland traces the event's past in characterful detail; were the book to have been illustrated by other than period photographs, the works of pete english, to which i recently paid tribute, woould have been an excellent choice. it makes for compulsive reading, even in the kindle version from which i have made my review. it is perhaps a telling indictment, if i may make so bold, that this volume is published by an american publisher, and rather perspicaciously if i might say so. thus one or two spellings are less than european, though i mention this by way of observation rather than any minor form of criticism.
it must surely be a fitting testament not only to the contemporeneity of the book, but to its most recent victor to leave with the following 2008 quote from fabian cancellara
"The closer we came to the Arenberg forest, the more alone I was. I was already a few minutes behind in the forest. I was going, like, 5 kilometres per hour on the rocks and going bump, bump, bump. It was so bad. I was so upset about how I rode that I stopped at the second feed zone.
a beautiful book about the sport's most beautiful race.
wednesday 17th april 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
coming up very soon on my horizon is a period of cycling-related travel, the very nightmare that more often than not predicates any enjoyment that might subsequently be a central and very necessitous part of the expedition. for surely you would not disagree that, if cycling pleasure in foreign parts is to be partaken of, ostensibly without a care in the world, then the proof of the pudding is in the preparation. or words to that effect.
the sensible time to start laying aside appropriate clothing and other accoutrements would likely be now, leaving more than plenty of time to consider which items in my extensive wardrobe would best fit under the helmet sat on top. shoes, of course are a definite as are the pedals that conjoin with the sole mounted cleats. it's supposed to be warm abroad, but then it was supposed to be warmer here, so should i take long-sleeve baselayers and jerseys, or might it be sufficient simply to lay carefully folded short sleeve jerseys and shorts? or maybe armwarmers? and will i need only one cap or might it be more sartorially adept to have one for each day's riding and a spare to wear while relaxing over a real fruit smoothie of an evening?
see what i mean? already the act of cycling has been completely sidelined, and logistics have surreptitiously filled their place. it's really not supposed to be like that.
in this case, and unlike my recent mammoth expedition to bristol, air travel is involved, a mode of travel that brings with it its own considerable baggage. for though it is almost simplicity itself to arrive at glasgow's buchanan bus station a mere fifteen minutes prior to departure, folded ticket in hand, airlines don't work that way. airport security demands that passengers enter the terminal at stupid o'clock in order to leave at an early hour of the morning. if i'm departing at 7:30am, there's every likelihood i'd be invited to check-in around two hours prior, meaning the need to get up and about at least an hour and a half before that.
and all this to check whether i and my fellow passengers harbour thoughts of either carrying items of which the authorities disapprove, or diverting the aircraft from its intended route. why are these not concerns applicable to train or bus travel? and why, yet again, has the pleasurable act of cycling been sidelined by more pressing considerations. let's face it, all this isn't heading in quite the pelotonic direction you and i had both hoped.
we've all either participated in, or considered a sportive or two across the season, either in the uk or abroad. for two distinct reasons, it is right and proper that we consider the bicycle, whether our own or that supplied on the start-line. or perhaps, rather than a sportive, the focus has been laid upon a training camp, either to see us through a competitive season ahead, or the ability to seem effortless when riding one of the aforementioned sportives.
if we find ourselves in polite company, the appearance of both individual and bicycle is surely not above consideration? the former has been pretty much considered during the bestowing of apparel in the kit bag with which we opened our discussion. the bicycle is slightly more of a problem; of course, we could be lucky and have a mechanic ready and waiting for the daily aftermath, but this is the real world, and the likelihood is that we'll have to make our own arrangements. for pragmatic reasons it's a good idea to keep kit and velocipede as near immaculate as possible, but add in the soupcon of polite company, and one has to be seen to keep up appearances.
but if you recall an earlier thread in this discourse, i mentioned airport security, a subsection of human beings that prefers to exclude any container of liquids that might exceed 100ml. for why, i do not know, but as the saying goes, them's the rules. and in observance of such rules we ought surely to be extremely grateful to the chaps at purple harry who now offer a travel pack of black and purple bicycle pampering that will not only easily fit amongst those short/long-sleeve jerseys (delete as applicable), but satisfy both the caa and the faa at the same time.
to be more specific, the travel pack consists of 100ml bottles of bike cleaner & degreaser, maintenance spray, polish & frame protector and a 50ml sanitiser spray for gloves, shoes and helmet. since none of these are pressurised, not only are they ozone friendly, they don't fall foul of airline regulations. all these products have been previously reviewed on the post, so there's no need to revisit their impressive purple properties, but suffice it to say these will keep the whole kit and caboodle in impressive nick until it's time to come back home and wonder how you could possibly have forgotten to take (enter your own answer here)
i appreciate that this does little to ameliorate the endless choices and failed recollections as i consider what and what not to pack for my days in the saddle in the sun, but at least the bike will be shiny.
that's exactly how hippo technology works.
travel packs can be made using differing combinations of the above, with prices ranging from £9.99 to £14.99.
tuesday 16th april 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................