might we, for a short period of time, discuss the philosophical concept of pain and suffering when related to velocipedinal effort? it is, by its very nature, something of a subjective concept; your pain and suffering might not be my pain and suffering, while vincenzo nibali's pain and suffering would kill both of us. it rests predominantly on how old we might be, coupled to the level of fitness we own. riding a distance or level above both of these factors is pretty much guaranteed to bring on large dollops of pain and suffering.
but it is a coupling of sensation that improves with both age and distance. i can slog myself to within millimetres of foaming at the mouth while breathing through my ears, but by the time i'm home, showered, changed and sat with a custard cream and a cup of green tea in front of the telly, such lack of fortitude will have been converted into selfless heroism.
life's like that.
a common saying on the island concerns the immediate onset of winter after august's annual agricultural show. always taking place on the second thursday of that particular month, by 15 august this year i will be searching for bibtights, overshoes and hardshell jackets. a winter cap and thermal gloves probably wouldn't go amiss neither. winter's hebridean effect almost always includes horizontal rain, galeforce winds and an oft interrupted ferry service. pedalling in such circumstances, after a summer of delight usually takes the breath away for the first couple of weeks before the epo (extra porage oats) kicks in, then it all settles down till next march.
though public relations would have us embracing the pain and suffering that might result from our exertions, in point of fact we will do pretty much anything to lessen its effect. tweaks such as a slightly larger rear sprocket, a compact chainset, in fact anything other than plain old hard work. even the apparel worn during those heroic struggles can often make considerable inroads into alleviating undue stress and strain, leavng us to concentrate on the black spots in front of our eyes.
common thought until recently would have us believe that the more panels used in construction of a pair of bibshorts offered the greatest bang for buck. however, consider the salient fact that a plethora of lycra panels brings along a comcomitant number of seams, and flatlocked or otherwise, there's the inevitable possibility of chafing or irritation at those myriad points. scotland's endura with their latest equipe infiniti bibshorts have adopted a contrary stance, intent on minimising the number of seams to improve comfort and create a barely there sensation.
the infiniti shorts are constructed from only three panels of italian power lycra, a material that sounds as if it ought to arrive with go-faster stripes and seat belts. such is the advanced modelling of these shorts, that the legs are formed from a single panel of this power lycra. i'm firmly of the belief that a well-fitting pair of bibshorts ought to be darned difficult to get on, a tighter fit lessening the chance of untoward movement while ascending the col du foreland. however, the equipe infiniti shorts are close to impossible to get on, and believe it or not that is, in this case, a very good thing.
the silicon gloop on the inner hem of these shorts is tackier than a very tacky thing, sticking to every square inch of finely shaved leg as i wiggled my bum into place. this means, of course, that there is no ungainly elastic hem with a chunky seam to irritate the heck out of those powerful thighs. flipping brilliant if you ask me. couple that with featherweight bibs, and i cannot but agree with endura that these are verging on not being there at all.
though i have already averred to winter's impending arrival, i will agree that christmas is some way off. however, endura have not ignored the possibility that their infinti shorts might make a particularly ideal gift for the cyclist in your life. the bibshorts arrive in a card box containing not only a pair of shorts, but a mesh laundry bag and tub of endura chamois cream. bear that in mind as december approaches.
though the infiniti shorts can be worn with whichever jersey you deem suitable, there's little denying that coupling them with an endura equipe helios comp jersey is rather a good idea. though i'm more often than not, less impressed with coloured panels that seem to have no function other than to simply exist, the contrasting black panels on this white jersey have jobs to do revolving around body fit and and mesh inserts to aid breathability. like many a competition level garment, the jersey's close fit is less than tolerant of squidgy bits you'd rather not display in public, but it does cater for frantic and athletic movement in and out of the saddle.
pain and suffering, if you will.
the three rear pockets appear a smidgeon baggy when parading around the kitchen trying to find that misplaced track mitt, but all becomes as it should when assuming the position on the drops or on the brake hoods. the three main pockets offer lashings of room for whatever it is you usualy need lashings of room for, and they are aided and abetted by a lime green, zipped coffee money pocket and one for stowing used gel wrappers. lest you mistake a common parentage between both garments, the subtle ribbing created by the silicon gloop on the shorts is carried through to the sculpted sleeves. a neat, if subtle touch.
unfortunately for both items of endura equipe apparel, many of their reviewing hours were spent midst continuous rain. there were a couple of hours when the sun shone, but this is a hebridean summer, rarely precipitation free, despite weather reports to the contrary. this may be a distinct advantage to be gained by wearing clothing designed and built in scotland; mr mcfarlane shares our climate.
ever since making a bigger splash in the road-going apparel market though their own team sponsorship and now that of movistar, endura's equipe clothing has improved in leaps and bounds over the years, resulting in what might happily be referred to as state of the art. it may be something of a cliche, but there has to be a time when that phrase is entirely apposite.
like now, for instance.
endura infiniti bibshorts are available in sizes ranging from small (as reviewed) through to xxl. cost is £139.99. the equipe helios jersey is available in either black or white and sizes small to xxl (medium reviewed) at a cost of £79.99.
monday 4 august 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
three of us had a most pleasurable ride from bowmore all the way to debbie's in bruichladdich on friday afternoon. a mild tailwind all the way in glorious sunshine with no need for armwarmers and certainly no waterproof in a back pocket, something that may just have been slightly remiss as it turned out. however, after dining al fresco, shooting the breeze and conversing about cycling subjects that truly marked us out as three nerds in lycra, unwarranted clouds appeared from the south, blocked the sun and lightly peppered us with precipitation.
it continued thus all the way home, though that light wind was now in our faces. in itself, this was a less than onerous situation to be in, but having slid to single file from bridgend onwards due to an increase in traffic, the conversation dried up entirely. pedalling in this fashion makes it necessary for the rider at the front (me) to continually check behind to make sure both my companions were still line astern and that i hadn't inadvertantly dropped them by having increased my pace a smidgeon. it wouldn't have been the first time that's happened, in the process, doing little for my sociability standing.
it's the principal reason i would never ride with an ipod and headphones. to be honest, i was never that keen on driving my car with the radio on, a practice that seems every bit as distracting as using a mobile phone from behind the wheel.
we're extremely fortunate to have little in the way of traffic on the island. sure, it gets busy at times, but nothing that might compete disfavourably with mainland levels. as a corollary to that statement, our roads are often a bit narrower than your average urban passageway, and though there is often sufficient room for cars to pass bicycles without undue trouble, on occasion it can be closer than we'd like. however, in the course of this discussion, i might point out that i am specifically referring to drop bar cycles capable of riding reasonably fast when the occasion permits.
i include not in these circumstances, velocipedes such as my three-speed taurus corinto, a far more sedate and regal form of transport on which i cannot disagree it would often be rather pleasant to roll along listening to joe henry, madeleine peyroux or perchance, steve earle. even on such perfectly formed italian steel, i'd be less than inclined to don headphones of any description, and what i figure is most required is a decent soundsystem affixed to the top tube. granted, it would interrupt those flowing italian lines, but, as my mother always says 'pride bears no pain.'
currently featuring on a kickstarter funding campaign is the nude audio super m, $99 bluetooth enabled, 360 degree sound box that is not only waterproof and grit proof, but can be safely attached to the top tube of whichever bicycle is the day's choice. however, this is not something that peter and tom of nude audio wish to impinge upon the hapless velocipedinist without further consultation. if i might quote from their kickstarter page "Since it hasn't been designed yet, it's a wonderful opportunity for a collaborative design project. Join us for the ride by pledging $139 which includes the bike mount plus Super-M."
it's not too often that the opportunity to contribute to an as yet, unformed idea, one that ought not only to improve your own cycling audio pleasure, but conceivably that of your fellow pelotonese. if you are of sound mind (see what i did there?), pop over to nude audio's kickstarter page and pledge your dollars.
it's only rock'n'roll, but i like it.
saturday 2 august 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
several years ago, the rather excellent matt seaton, now ensconced at the new york times but previously of the guardian newspaper, chose as his topic for the late lamented two wheels column, that of bicycle insurance. though we as cyclists have no legal requirement to pay what is most often mis-referred to as road tax (that was abolished in the late 1930s), neither is there any judicial necessity to append any form of insurance to our activities. that, in my opinion, is something of a major faux pas, one that could easily come back to bite us on the padded bibshorts.
i am extremely fortunate to live in a part of the country where insurance against the theft of any of my bicycles is a largely pointless exercise. though the occasional bicycle has gone astray, more often than not, it's the result of inebriated borrowing the previous evening. granted, i therefore have no insurance against any damage that might befall my beloved velocipedes, but i'm almost confident enough that i'll be careful enough in that respect.
however, should my confidence overspill in the process of surveying the estates, there's always the possibility that i might over-reach my meagre abilities and cause an inadvertant bicycle/motor car interface. and knowing my luck, it'll be something expensive. so i have third party accident insurance just in case that happens.
my premium for this is included in my membership of british cycling, but i could just as easily have effected the same cover by joining the cyclists' touring club (ctc). the latter, however, not content with simply looking after our best interests on a daily basis, have concerns over our cycling proclivities further afield.
sportives, if i'm not too critical in saying so, are ten a penny these days. this is not to decry any of the genre, for the majority are quite superb with organisation to match. but no matter your views on the subject, you have to agree that they are rather plentiful in supply. and along with the huge numbers available in this country, there are rather a lot across the european mainland, not to mention any that exist in north america. and though i know we're all a bunch of optimists here, statistical averages would tend to suggest that something will go wrong for at least one or two of us.
with a bit of luck, it'll happen to those with insurance.
research by a leading travel company has pointed out that cycling accidents while on holiday abroad, frequently cost a tad more in medical bills than pretty much any other common accident. if you need to be scared anymore than absolutely necessary, while cycling accidents in greece cost the unfortunate an average of £1104, those falling over across the pond can look forward to having their bank account relieved to the tune of £18354. if that doesn't cause a sharp intake of breath, then you're obviously a lot better off than i am.
andy hawes, the ctc's insurance specialist was keen to point out "Obtaining insurance to cover your cycling trip here or abroad is a little more complicated than shopping around for a normal travel policy. Britons planning a cycling holiday will need to check the small print of their policy carefully. And don't assume that the annual family travel policy or the one provided through your current account will cover your two-wheeled adventures."
though we might be midway through a british summer (or a couple of weeks away from winter if you live over here), those of you planning a day or two of international pain and suffering would do well to take a long, hard look at the tiny little words that are often all but incomprehensible, because they may very well be the paragraphs that could separate you from your present and future earnings. believe it or not, there are insurance policies that apparently exclude riding above certain altitudes, such as the alps or pyrenees.
in comparison to the average motorist, we as velocipedinists can often come across as a tad smug when the subject of insurance rears its less than perfectly formed head. i still maintain that at the very least, every cyclist of every description, ought to hold third party accident insurance such as that included with ctc or bc membership. but if your summer is likely to include overseas pedalling, the prudent man will looketh well to his going, to slightly misquote an old proverb. yet apparently only about 12% of us actually read all our insurance documents, and 17% figure that they've no need of insurance when travelling in europe. though that ehic card will cover medical emergencies, it doesn't include getting you back home if you're unable to travel.
you can thank me later.
photographs courtesy rapha travel
friday 1 august 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in the world of printing methodology, screen printing possibly offers the easiest access for even those with little by way of experience. 'tis but a simple matter, subject to having access to ink, screen and squeegee, to cut out some letter shapes and print onto a cotton t-shirt. that makes you not even close to a master of the craft, but at such early stages, wearing the resultant shirt is probably of more importance. with few exceptions, all other methods of transferring ink to substrate will undoubtedly involve some form of heavy machinery such as a letterpress, flatbed litho or chain delivery offset litho. these are not the sort of items that can be squeezed into a spare bedroom or stowed in the cupboard when you're finished.
however, my wholly inadequate description of the print method belies the sophistication possible. though stencils of increasing complexity can indeed be created even from simple sheets of paper, printing of fine detail or photographic material is easily possible by resorting to a light sensitive coating on the screen and subjecting it to strong, bright light over imposed artwork. and by affixing a series of screens to bolted brackets, it's possible to achieve pretty much perfect registration of several colours, often more than possible by even six colour lithography.
a bit like the proper names dropped upon the hapless pups at crufts, the technically correct name for this printing process is silkscreen, even if silk has been pretty much replaced with a very fine nylon mesh.
of course, as many of us might already have discovered, it's not the method that makes the art. in this case its the chap or chapess with a snippet of vision and a squeegee to hand. such a visionary, if he will allow me to describe him as such, is dan mather, a man i first came in contact with when he sent me a beautifully screenprinted musette that had formed a part of a rapha exhibition. like many successful artists/craftsmen, dan has progressed notably since that musette, recently having realised three years of silkscreen editioning. to celebrate the occasion, dan has now opened an online shop for all his printed matter.
the first item to occupy its virtual shelves is an exclusive print in three colourways, representing mather's company mantra 'for the love of print' (see final image below). this is a large format print reminiscent of bridget riley's optical illusions, printed individually in one of three colours. i asked him how he started in the medium?
"Since first discovering screenprint at the Arts Institute Bournemouth, I've loved it. You could print on everything I'd dreamt of; acrylic, cardboard, bubblewrap, glass, even carpet underlay. I tried it all, resulting in a weird book entitled 'Retro', treated with more finishing techniques than you can shake a stick at, but lacking any decent content. Fast forward to university at the esteemed LCP, I practically lived in the print room, screening every outcome for all three years, mastering a vocation I wasn't even studying. I played with halftones, multiplying colours, blends, overprinting, registration, even printing PVA and throwing gold dust down. It was incredible to realise the quality of print achievable at a relatively low cost.
"After I graduated I was hooked, but scared. So I took the path many did, and embarked on a career in graphic design with my honours. I lasted a couple of years but it wasn't for me, so I returned to the squeegee (part-time) just printing my own work again. Then two good friends of mine (birch) recommended me to an established graphic designer I respect greatly (Mash Creative). After printing three editions of Mark's work, I hit the ground running. Three years later, 100+ editions, 70+ clients and enquiries every day.
edinburgh's chris sleath has achieved the notable status, in my eyes at least, of producing an endless series of must-have letterpress outings, while others have flaunted impeccable, cycle-related litho prints, some of which grace the corner wall of debbie's in bruichladdich. dan, however, opted for screenprinting. what is it that attracts him to this particular medium?
"Aside from the richness of colour, ink consistency, quality and tactility you get with screenprint, It's a beautiful medium.
"From a business point of view it's about investment. Choosing screenprint is installing faith and confidence in your design, not just printing one out every time someone likes it. Sure, the process is premium; it's more expensive than digital and more cost-effective than litho for low-volume, but it's also a process with risks; mis-registering layers, getting the colour wrong, not meeting the edition etc. I see these as obstacles which only present themselves with silkscreen and for designers to have the trust and judgement that their work is worthy of the squeegee, and the confidence it will sell, is a great investment I love to be involved with.
"With print-on-demand ever increasing in popularity, there's a certain appreciation I find when a client has invested their income in having a limited edition printed with me. I like that.
as i mentioned above, there are several other methods of transferring imagery to a variety of materials, though it's undeniable that the most common is often paper. when at college, i had the luck of experiencing everything from stone lithography, letterpress, etching, engraving as well as screenprinting, but i now wish i had paid a lot more attention than was actually the case. in my case, letterpress still holds great interest, but i wondered if dan had dabbled away from the squeegee?
"Through my university days, I picked up the nickname 'Materials Man Dan'. I scavenged for the reflective, the holographic, the ultraviolet and the fluoro. I loved experimenting with all sorts of materials; if it could go under a screen, I printed on it. Through this I developed a fascination with process. Whilst peers were swapping books on Emil Ruder and Crouwel, I had both volumes of Experimental Formats permanently out-on-loan from the library.
"I may have not graduated with a first in Graphic Design, but I did leave with a great understanding of the print-process, which in this day and age seems to be lacking. I've digressed I know, so to remount; yes. All manner of print and production excite me, and I'm keen to experiment further as I grow older, always getting wiser."
in the words of zen buddhism, we should be careful not to confuse the pointing finger for the moon itself. likewise, we ought not to confuse the ability to undertake a printing process with that of creativity. there are many printshops around the country which will happily output creative work to a high technical standard, but without any creative input of their own. what inspires dan's prodigious output?
"Ha. Good word Brian. I never intended to be quite so busy. It just happened and seemingly never slowed down. I think of way too many ideas all the time every ride I go on. I suppose harking back to my uni days, I always thought of how to produce something first before designing it. Much against my tutors' advice, I always thought of the production first, so I probably can't help but produce work once I've had an idea.
"I must say that I now give more time to planning and designing, I've become extremely meticulous and critical of my own work. It has to be worthy, so I rationalise my ideas, and believe it or not a there's a great deal of strategy that comes into a release now. This in turn promotes the editioning side of the company, so the more I do, the more clients see and the more work that enters the inbox.
"It really is for the love of print."
all this is not just to deny that the uk is now only emerging from several years of economic turmoil, years that encompassed dan mather's three solo years. making a living from artistic endeavour has always been something of an uphill struggle, without the country's economy slapping you in the face while you get on with it. is making a living as an editioning screenprinter getting any easier?
"I still consider what I do to be design, not art. Design in my opinion has always been a more profitable path to pursue than art; it's more commercial. So as designer or printer, or both(!), earning a income is sporadic. Some jobs are good, others not so.
I enjoy my collaborations with lookmumnohands! those began with screenprinting my 'spoke patterns' wrapping paper and more recently applying it to some musettes. Those were fun to make and profitable, though I didn't print them (I only print on paper).
"Rouleur are a lovely client to have too. Wiggo & Froome were both great editions to screen, designed by the infamous Rich Mitch. Paniagua.cc are a fantastic client too. I love looking after relationships with clients; it's more than just a print-job for me, it's a friendship. I remember catching the train to Somerset with x50 A1 Giro d'Italia screenprints under my arm, just so I could meet Jamie. From there we've created seven editions together.
"In London, things are always expensive and although doing 'well' for my chosen career, there's never a consistent salary like I've had in the past. I honestly wouldn't be where I am without the support of my love, Ellen. I'll forever be in debt to her for such support and compassion for the path I've chosen. Just don't tell her about the Royce hub in the post. :-)
though i've paid testament to the proliferation of quality photography applied to our beautiful sport, it's also an activity that seemingly delights in graphic representation of the print kind. dan has skirted the fringes of cycling via the screenprinting process on several previous occasions. is this a theme he intends or would like to return to in future work?
"Every ride I take on my Moser, I'm inspired to produce more cycling work. Even the other day I was intermittently overtaken by time-trialists on a new route near the M25. I spent a good 15 miles after my return home thinking about the central alignment of the dossards on their skinsuits riding into the sunset, and how it would make a nice print.
"But referring back to my point about rationalising ideas, nowadays the idea has to be worthy. I have a habit of having to better myself and my work. There's plenty more cycling pieces of work that just need refining before committing to print. I set the benchmark quite high for myself with my Hors Categorie, and Echelon. I've always had a thing for educational or posters that mean something, inspired by the great Tom Eckersley. I want my work to educate or prompt someone into thinking, not just be pretty.
"Echelon and Hors Categorie both share simple typographic footers bringing a definition to the graphic. Most recently was my design and print for Colours May Vary in Leeds to celebrate the worlds greatest bike race coming to Yorkshire. Note the subtle gloss varnish spokes in the petals of the white rose. That was a great piece to make.
"One idea I will share is my fascination with the the association newspapers have with pro-cycling (beyond the obvious). I'm keen to produce a piece on this, but haven't enough confidence in the idea yet. We'll see how it develops."
all through my own art college years, there was never any codified direction. i pretty much fell from one project to the next, with no cohesive structure to any particular body of work. subsequently the material sitting quietly in my portfolio showed little developmental progress. if i knew then, what i know now... dan, however, is already well past that point, but is there a cunning plan (as baldrick would have said), or does the rarefied atmosphere of artistic endeavour demand that he takes pretty much whatever comes his way?
"There's always a plan. I'm too organised to not have one. Keep your eyes peeled for #PrintedMather', that's the next release after #fortheloveofprint."
dan mather's online shop can be viewed at here
thursday 31 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though you might find it hard to comprehend while participating in the sunday ride in early january, islay is characterised by its lush green fields, providing excellent feed for the plentiful sheep and cattle that walk ignominiously in front of your bike on uiskentuie strand. the island has a great history of dairy herds, but one which came to an abrupt end after the closure of the island's sole creamery several years ago. with no local outlet for their milk, farmers sold off their herds because the economics of shipping the milk to the mainland made no sense at all.
all this greenery, however, is due to the island being situated on the gulf stream (or at least it was up until the oddities in the weather last winter). if you ride about thirty miles north of washingmachinepost croft, aside from a wet bit in the middle, you'd reach our neighbouring isle of jura. and directly across from the distillery in craighouse, there is a rather healthy clump of palm trees. in fact, there's a similar, but smaller tree of the same ilk in my neighbour's garden. the upshot of all this is a relatively benign climate, one that rarely becomes stiflingly hot, but one that also tends to keep snow and frost at bay in the winter.
granted, we do get a lot of rain (you can't make whisky out of thin air), and we sure as heck get more than our fair share of winds, the latter not confined solely between october and march. but in the main, our cycling apparel tends to revolve around wind and waterproof jackets, long-sleeve jerseys or short-sleeve with armwarmers. and it doesn't do any harm that this island climate provides an ideal environment for reviewing the latest from our illustrious clothing providers.
however, a thin, mesh jersey would, under more normal circumstances be well outside my remit. hypothermia is never a good look.
yet at the time rapha were kind enough to send a medium sized, team sky climber's jersey, i think the whole of the uk was enjoying (or enduring) temperatures verging on thirty degrees. not something normally on our menu, and certainly not something for which i have much in the way of appropriateness in my cycling wardrobe. at least, not until now. it may or may not be self-evident, however, that this mesh fabric won't shield one from those dastardly uv rays, so it is little wonder that rapha advise smothering oneself in suncream before venturing out in the midday sun. and since coffee will eventually be a part of every velocipedinal equation, it's worth my pointing out that this particular garment is bereft of a zipped security pocket.
last friday's ride, with commensurate tailwind from bowmore to bridgend, verged on the surreal; it was hard to catch breath in the heat, and there didn't appear to be too much in the way of air-conditioning en route, but switch to a southerly direction in the inevitable direction of debbie's and i cannot deny that there was a pleasant sea-breeze pervading the black and blue sky logo'd mesh jersey. several of my fellow froth supperers in the coffee house enquired as to quite how i had the energy and fortitude to pedal at speed (all is relative) in the all enveloping heat. the answer was, in fact, staring them in the face.
there are remarkable similarities between rapha's team sky climber's jersey and their mesh baselayers; for all i know, they are from the same family. either way, it acquits itself remarkably well in the conditions for which it was designed, particularly with a full-length zip. but lest you consider it a one trick pony usable only on days of excessive heat, it has other strings to its bow.
after all, cutting edge technology or not, £150 is a lot to pay for a jersey that might only see the (bright) light of day on sporadic summer occasions.
as is frequently the case with the local firmament, after watching glorious sunlight and experiencing stifling heat for five days in the office, come the weekend (how does it know?) it is almost inevitable that the weather will change for the worse. and it did; at least partially. saturday and sunday morning experienced often torrential rain, precipitation that was slightly ameliorated by little reduction in ambient temperature. more often than not, this leads to the particular conundrum of whether or not to don a rainjacket. frequently this leads to becoming almost as wet inside due to perspiration as would have been the case had i continued al fresco.
however, with my new found sartorial expression, i was able to clad my torso in mesh climber's jersey beneath a rapha pro team race cape, gaining easily the best of both worlds. when islay finally returns to its more usual climatic state of affairs, i have ideas of wearing this jersey 'neath sportwool, and eventually both under a hard shell or softshell. despite its rather breathtaking price, the team sky climber's jersey may just become one of the most versatile garments in their entire range.
oddly enough, despite having no chris or brad for the vuelta, sir dave still isn't returning my calls.
wednesday 30 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
with no disrespect to those who plied their trade over the wooden boards at the ignominiously named emirates stadium at glasgow's commonwealth games, there's still a single aspect of the 2012 london olympics that outdoes pretty much everything we've seen over the past weekend. that aspect concerns a medal winning keirin ride concerns the man whose name really ought to be front and foremost above the commonwealth games velodrome's front door (according to prince bradley). having doggedly hogged the inside line even when challenged by german, maximilian levy, on the outside through the last corner, as a cheering scotsperson on the edge of my armchair, i always knew chris hoy would collect gold at the end.
sadly, not only can i not emulate sir chris's speed (though i did once hold his bike at a braveheart ride to let him pump up his tyres), i doubt i'll ever get the hang of riding one of those fixed wheel thingies in the first place. unless there's a wall to hang onto at the beginning and another at journey's end to allow me to stop safely, i'm completely stuffed.
freewheeling is good.
you'd figure that hoy's days of travelling fast on a bicycle might well be behind him, given that he seems now slightly besotted with fast cars. however, all is not lost. there now comes news of a singular addition to the range of hoy bikes distributed by evans cycles. and the forthcoming range of clothing next year via his latest partnership with nick hussey's vulpine clothing is one more thing to keep his cleats firmly entrenched in the world of two wheels. the range of hoy bicycles on offer from evans however, if they don't mind me saying so, bear little resemblance to the sort of velocipede that accounted for many of those olympic golds. of course, that's part of the point of the exercise.
in something of a surprise yet eccentric move, an amalgam of sir chris, evans cycles and edinburgh's shand cycles has produced a one-off handbuilt steel keirin bike to celebrate those olympic golds. the surprise is possibly not that this unique bicycle celebrates hoy's main claim to fame, but that of its provenance. i asked the frame's builder, steven shand, how, apart from the glaringly obvious scottish connection, where did this hoy/shand collaboration come from?
"James Olsen, designer for Evans own brand and previously Genesis bikes, and I have know each other for many years. When the idea for a flagship Keirin bike for the HOY brand first came up, it seemed like there was a need to do something a little different and I'm guessing a wee lightbulb came on in James' head. He made contact to see if we'd be interested in talking. We were and we did. The fact that we're but a stone's throw from the Livingston BMX track where Sir Chris started his racing career is a nice little sidestory.
having ridden several of steven's handmade bicycles, and enjoyed a day's visit to the workshop, i cannot recall having seen even one single-speed bicycle hanging on any of the completed or 'to-do' racks, let alone one that might stand a fair chance of winning an olympic medal. the bikes employed in japanese keirin are all built from steel tubing, a style that this shand-built hoy admirably emulates. modern day olympic and world cup competition has long-since eschewed metal construction in favour of the ubiquitous carbon fibre, but there's little doubt that steven's latest creation owns a great deal more panache than burnt plastic. in the light of such a fabulous looking machine, might i surmise that he's built at least one of these before?
No. We get asked quite a lot for track bikes but we don't have much experience with track cycling in the company. It's always been pretty important to us that we're 'honest' about what we do and that when you're buying a bike from us, you're buying experience and the result of many, many long miles of cycling on the type of bikes we're producing. I just didn't feel we could offer a track bike and still hold true to those values.
"Interestingly, about three months before we were approached about the HOY bike, I'd had a conversation with another well respected Scottish Commonwealth track cyclist about getting his help in maybe working together on a track bike design. I'm slightly embarrassed to say we sort of dropped that project when Sir Chris came to see us!"
currently, shand cycles offer three off-the-shelf bicycles: the stoater, skinnymalinky and stooshie, all of which contain a few unique elements, but as a group, are designed to satisfy the more adventurous amongst us in our favoured genre of riding. as steven mentioned above, these are the result of many hours of both trial and error framebuilding and bike riding. however, as atated above, the workshop wasn't filled with track bikes on my visit, so did the keirin frame involve any factors that would not normally be a part of the shand cycles's day?
"No, not really. The design process was a little different, as you'd expect from a more collaborative project, but the way we built the bike was very much the same way we build all our bikes."
the bike, beautifully painted in-house by russell stout, was not a solo venture; sir chris is unlikely and unwilling to have his name painted on any downtube without personal input. add to the equation james olsen, the designer overseeing the entire hoy range for evans cycles and i wondered how much input steven had to the design?
"The design was pretty much done, in so far as Chris's position on the bike was a given. That was non-negotiable. The other factors, BB drop, trail and chainstay length were also pretty much decided before we got to it. Our job was to take those parameters and make sure the tubing we wanted to use would work for the intended use.
"There's actually another HOY track bike hanging up here unfinished. This was my first attempt at building a bike that I felt reflected the HOY brand, but to be honest I didn't like how it ended up. The current range of HOY bikes have some design elements that I'd tried to bring into play, but ultimately it felt a little compromised in my eyes. The final bike we built was much more a Shand than that first bike and James Olsen was happy that I built a bike that was clearly a Shand."
as can be seen from the accompanying photographs, the frame is, if anything, understated, beautifully sleek and undoubtedly steel. the chris king headset is a nice touch too. to reflect the bike's inspiration, sir chris's name is detailed in japanese towards the rear of the top tube. its existence is something of a step outside the style already set by the current evans hoy range, but as designer james olsen said, "Sometimes costs and timelines have to take a step aside to allow for new methods to shape the brand's product development. It's a process that is different to our usual production bike design and realisation methods, and one that we're excited to see the end results of."
so of what tubing has steven crafted this iconic frame? "The tubing is a mix. It's mostly Columbus MAX with a single Reynolds tube in there too. I have some ideas on tubing that I'd like to pursue if we build more of these, but it wasn't practical on this one-off.
which beggars the question, is this a style of 'fixie' that shand will now be able to offer to his customers without a knighthood? "No. We have no plans to offer a Shand track bike or fixie. If we do more in this vein, it'll be alongside Chris and the HOY brand." in a similar vein, i asked evans cycles' marketing manager, gareth evans if this was the first of many.
he didn't say no.
tuesday 29 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................