many years ago, before the advent of so-called british eurosport, when broadcasts of the grand tours and the classics came via paris alone, the racing was all we got. and that, as far as i'm concerned, was racing's halcyon days. not, you must understand, because the racing was necessarily any better than it is today, but because there was no faff nor fol de rol associated with live coverage. basically, you switched on the telly box and watched the event unfold in the company of knowledgeable commentators.
however, in the undefined period when eurosport decided that britain was in dire need of its very own dedicated service that showed pretty much the same thing as it had done previously, there seems to have been a conscious decision to impose british conventions upon the live coverage. no longer would a 2pm start result in immediate live coverage. now we were treated to a sparse studio set with the chap usually responsible for italian football discussing and prognosticating along with at least two individuals from the world of professional cycle racing.
these talking heads were either current team members who had not been selected for the tour or race under discussion, or former professionals with an acute insight into the machinations of the peloton. occasionally they'd be asked a sensible and searching question, but that was more the exception than the rule.
this situation harkens back to bbc television's old stalwart grandstand, where the same set of circumstances would be hosted by jimmy hill, and a number of supposedly reputable soccer pundits would vent forth with their forecasts for the afternoon's football matches. that they often re-appeared around 4:30pm that same afternoon to point out just how wrong they had been, seems not to have given forth to great remorse. well, possibly only to those who had supported the losing team.
it is, i'd imagine, something of a palaver specific to the sporting milieu. i have not yet come across an orchestral or pop concert before which respected music journalists have discussed whether or not the bassoonist or lead guitarist might once again denonstrate the versatility for which they are justly renowned. personally, i'd rather they just showed us the racing and we can see for ourselves who is going well or who should seriously not have been selected for any particular team.
this pre-race punditry surely hit an all-time low during this year's tour de france when greg lemond and some italian fellow from eurosport dominated the fore and aft position of each stage, leaning against a steel structure that was neither fish nor fowl. i'd be interested to hear the opinion of anyone who truly thought this to be a pertinent addition to our viewing pleasure.
however, without doubt there are cycling journalists who have greater knowledge and insight than the rest of us by the very nature of the day job. who is talking to whom, who is exhibiting breakaway tendencies and who might conceivably be in the process of converting from a sprinter to a rouleur or even grimpeur is a series of circumstances that may well be more obvious to those with connections than those of us who simply read the result of those connections in book or magazine form.
there is little doubt, however, as witnessed by the extraordinary crowd scenes in both yorkshire and cambridge this past july, that the tour de france has moved on from being something that happens across the channel, to a glorious event that has become of greater note to both the avid british sports fan and the wider public at large. for most of us, who've been watching at least since channel four began their daily half hour show in the mid 1980s, this is almost inexplicable, even if it has given rise to a certain 'told you so' smugness in the coffee stop or office on a monday morning.
to discuss and perhaps enlighten as to how and why this has come to pass, ned boulting, richard moore, lionel birnie and daniel friebe, all yellow jersey press authors, have been gathered together and brought from their more usual suite of darkened rooms to explain this recent phenomenon in front of an adoring audience. twice. such events are being held in nottingham playhouse on monday 10 november and again the following day at manchester's royal exchange on tuesday 11 november. tickets for both events can be purchased for the paltry amount of £12 via each venue's website (listed below).
at least one of the above authors is renowned for his sense of humour, so both events promise to be as entertaining as informative. i'm also convinced that if you're really insistent, all would reluctantly sign copies of the books they've written or contributed to over the past few years. if i were you, i'd simply stand firm with book(s) and pen in hand.
some happenstances are simply too good to let pass by. you can at least say you were there before they grew up and became famous.
monday 13 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
when the first grandchild comes along, consternation will undoubtedly follow for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is as to how the new grandparents will be referred. 'granny' and 'grandpa' would seem the most obvious appellation, but neither are particularly unique, and when there are two sets of grandparents, some means of differentiation would be an ideal introduction at an early age. it'll be a few years before the little prince or princess acquires the ability to voice their own means of addressing anyone withn earshot, but it would seem like good practice to get in there first.
as both mrs washingmachinepost and i are domiciled on an island, granny islay has been brought to the fore during apple 'facetime' sessions. for my part, however, bearing in mind my ambition to become victor meldrew, i have opted to be addressed as 'grumps' which, rather comfortingly, nobody has raised any objections to. in fact, several of the kids in mrs washingmachinepost's care as a childminder have opted to use the slefsame epithet on a daily basis already.
years ago, when still at school, we used to exercise our brains by starting with one word and, by changing a single letter at a time, in a pre-determined number of steps, change it to another comprised of the same number of letters. in the case under discussion, it would be only a single alteration to move from 'grump' ro 'grimp'. though the latter is hardly a fully formed word, it is the precursor to the cycling term 'grimpeur', as in one with a predilection for climbing ruddy great hills.
there are few, if any, ascents fitting such a description round these here parts, but the few short, sharp climbs that do exist, offer at least a tentative opportunity for 'grimpeurship' amongst the local pelotonese, including yours truly. many worthy of such an epithet inhabit the body mass of a small vegetable and a stature that rarely brings them eye to eye with tom boonen. in addition, weight assumes an altogether obsessive importance, for if intent on riding uphill for many a long kilometre, the less mass that has to be transported, the better.
i cannot claim to be a weight weenie in any way, shape or form.
it is rare, in this closeted little world of ours, that items of componentry, bicycles or apparel achieve the promise that commercial sponsorship would seem to claim. for example, if a new pinarello dogma or rapha climber's jersey truly conferred the same properties upon mere mortals as they appear to do for messrs wiggins, froome and porte, there would be queues outside 'imperial works' and the nearest pinarello dealer. of course, in a simplified fashion, that is precisely the notion that the sponsors wish to confer in the first place, and to a certain extent, the mamil generation is happy to comply.
however, when the lovely yet cheerfully eccentric folks at this is cambridge bring out a grimpeur's cycle cap, or casquette, suggesting that the wearing of same might lessen the time taken for any ascent you care to mention, one should surely approach with healthy degree of circumspection? and i did, though it transpires that their nomenclature might possibly contain a greater degree of truth than one might expect.
in effect, this red and white casquette comprises four panels; two white and two red, augmented by the thin strip of ribbon from centre to edge that has pretty much become tic's trademark. in order to lessen the unsprung weight, the cap is unlined, while the underside of the peak bears an idiosyncratic arrow graphic the origin of which i know not. there is an alternative uniform, off-centre squiggle pattern and while neither seem obviously explicable, they are satisfyingly intriguing. the cotton is a tad thinner than tic's regular panache range and more than ideal for wearing 'neath a helmet.
scrabbling up the hill at foreland in the company of a fellow member of the velo club, i was several lengths ahead by the time we summitted, not necessarily a common occurence. since he is usually no slouch on the uphill, i can only surmise that it was the grimpeur cap that made the noticeable difference. what else could it have been?
as a lifelong adopter of the belgian milieu, i would never exit the bike shed without a casquette below my cycle helmet, and as per the unwritten rules of cycling, that peak should always be worn in the down position when riding. disappointingly, this means that the inspired graphics are mostly hidden from view. therefore i would respectfully suggest that any future creations or revisions, place the design atop the peak either instead of, or as well as, the underside. i appreciate that this will make little or no difference to my grimpeurship, but at least it'll look impressive to those descending in the opposite direction, or to the civilian population in the coffee stop.
that apart, this is a handmade delight, that probably also cures dandruff.
this is cambridge's handmade grimpeur cap retails at £23 in sizes xs to xl (small reviewed) in either black or red with a choice of two designs under the peak.
sunday 12 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
a colnago mexico, that's the real draw. a bicycle that was a part of colnago's all-steel range in the early 1970s, named after eddy merckx's hour record at altitude in, surprisingly enough, mexico, 1972. granted, the machine that eddy rode was just a tad lighter and completely gearless (track bikes are like that), but the colnago mexico was a much sought-after machine, and is probably even more so nowadays.
rohan dubash, perhaps known to one or two of you as dr d sold his original mexico to finance the purchase of a colnago master, the very model ridden by 'beppi' saronni to a world championship victory at goodwood in 1982. as rohan makes mention in his article in the latest issue of sportif magazine, this was not because the master was a better bike than the mexico "but the Mexico was something special, and as the years passed and machinery came and went, I always hankered after another one."
the occasion that brought his eventual complete and utterly fabulous restoration of a red and chrome colnago mexico, was the british version of an italian ride over the strade bianche involving pre-1976 bicycles, called l'eroica. the uk version simply appended the word britannia and swapped white gravel for british gravel. all else remained pretty much the same. the inestimable mr dubash joined hundreds of others on 28mm tyres in a journey to the past.
the cover of sportif number two proclaims retro sportif special and includes the aforementioned l'eroica britannia, the amersham classic, rohan's colnago mexico restoration and a feature on buying a retro bicycle.
of course, it would be slightly illogical to fill all 47 pages with yesteryear, and andy arthur's feature on disc equipped road bikes contrasts the past with the immediate present, while editor richard hallett disputes the need for adding rotors to otherwise elegant road bicycle frames. a man after my own heart. if that fails to match the retro content, delving into the depths of ordering custom titanium ought to do the trick, as well as a look at 'essential autumn roadwear'
but surely the very best bit about a magazine that features writing from messrs. hallett and dubash, david harmon and the previously mentioned david arthur is that it's completely and utterly free. that's a phrase you don't hear too often these days. i'm led to believe that sportif magazine is widely available across the country, even now as far as debbie's cafe in bruichladdich as of friday afternoon this past week. i cycled there personally on my taurus corinto with the magazines cossetted within a pair of brooks brick lane panniers.
it's a brave move entering the world of print publishing in the days of electronic publishing for the ipad and the like, but truly there is little better than being able to flick through paper and ink on the sofa of a weekend evening.
retro on a tablet would be far too contradictory.
saturday 11 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the word selfie has made it into the oxford dictionary as a word that can now be used with lexicological impunity. not that it hasn't been given substantial airing up till this moment. i've owned compact digital cameras for a number of years, principally for the purpose of illustrating each day's scribblings in these black and yellow pixels. i'm well aware that i'm not alone in so doing, but oddly it seems not to have occurred to the teenagers and yuppies to snap photos with of themselves proper cameras, to plaster in every crevice of the internet.
such a brief moment of photographic history does more than a smidgeon of disservice to the current protagonists of the selfie. for digital cameras were hardly as well disposed towards such a unique form of photography as is the current world of the smartphone. with cameras both front and back, accompanied by ever increasing screen sizes, snapping a pic of one's own visage has become far simpler than was once the case. quite why anyone would wish to infest the interwebs with this contemporary form of narcissism is quite beyond me, but then from one intent on becoming victor meldrew when he grows up, you'd expect little else.
however, i have to confess to owning my very own history of taking selfies; around seven years at least, if not more. you see as a sole trader (so to speak), i do not have a dan sharp, ben ingham or scott mitchell to snap carefully crafted imagery that might decorate these pages. i have to do so all on my tod. which is precisely where the automatic timer comes into play.
my slightly the worse for wear, blue lumix allows a maximum of ten seconds on the auto timer. i, and no doubt others, would prefer around double that period of time, but one has to work with what one has to work. i therefore have to find a reasonably level surface on which to set down the lumix, press the shutter and hope for the best that the end result will offer imagery that not only shows off the clothing, bicycle or whatever in its best light, but doesn't make me look like too much of a prat in the first place. thank heavens for photoshop.
however, in this respect, i am something of a dinosaur. though the selfie is no doubt the current lingua franca, still imagery is so last year. in fact, though i have dabbled with video in the past, even that has been superseded by motion video. instead of finding a dry stone wall on which to place my go-pro, it is now incumbent on the modern agonist to have the camera move, either along with me, or scoot past in the opposite direction. yes, like it or not, we are now discussing the helicopter drone.
i'd imagine that out of the five million plus who have seen danny macaskill's latest youtube scary movie, along the cuillin ridge in skye, some will be reading this. excellent use of a drone to make large portions of that movie would undoubtedly have kept the budget within manageable limits. would that we could even think of doing the same.
well, now we can.
i have on occasion, produced short movies of yours truly riding a bike for the purposes of review, and i've often thought how much better those would have been if i'd had someone riding ahead on a motorbike carrying a movie camera. but yet again, that brings me back to an earlier point; there is no-one other than myself. however, the hexoplus, a six rotor, remote controlled drone that can carry a go-pro camera would surely solve many a mobile filming problem. granted, it might also incur a separate problem, that of a max'd out credit card. minus the go-pro, the hexoplus drone is available to pre-order at $949 (around £600), though you've a month or two to save before it becomes available in may 2015.
if you're already trying to figure out how you might control the hexoplus while trying to emulate chris froome at planche de belle filles, that smartphone once again rears its ubiquitous head. according to hexoplus.com it is simply a case of "attaching your GoPro to your drone, set your framing in our app and you're good to go." the drone will follow you autonomously, filming as it goes. the smartphone app allows pre-programming of filming parameters, letting you concentrate on your finest cipollini pose. maybe, just maybe, thewashingmachinepost could drag itself kicking and screaming into this still relatively new century with some action video. or not, as the case may be.
just remember, it's christmas quite soon.
have a look at the videos.hexoplus
friday 10 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as far back as i can remember, there have been repeated warnings that the oil is about to run out. this was long before anyone discovered a hole in the ozone layer (which seems mysteriously to have repaired itself), but exercised dire warnings for those beloved of their motor cars. yet some forty plus years later, there's still no battery operated or hybrid powered car that has completely replaced either the diesel or petrol-based internal combustion engine.
in the intervening years, predictions of doom and gloom as the result of global warming have reared their ugly and insistent head, leading to alarmingly frequent summits all round the world to which many a delegate has to fly on aircraft that contribute to the malady they're intent on discussing, but are mysteriously exempt from any directives that attempt to limit the use of fossil fuels. in other words, they're just playing at it.
however, not everyone believes that a) global warming actually exists or b) that human beings are the cause in the first place. the fact that the arctic ice shelf has proven itself to cover a larger area than previously recorded would tend to somewhat undermine the theory.
but even if we exclude such matters from the discussion, there's little doubt that ever increasing car numbers have long had a stranglehold on the world's principal cities. even if looked upon with barely a glance, london's congestion charge would at least pay lip service to that contention. according to hickman's and banister's copiously annotated and highly academic book, the world gained its billionth car in 2011, and is currently on target to acquire the two-billionth around 2020. it would be a foolish town planner who ignored such statistics. writing in 1999, science fiction writer arthur c clarke wrote:
"The car is an incredible device, which no sane society would tolerate [...] millions of vehicles, each a miracle of (often unnecessary) complication, hurtle in all directions, at very close quarters, under the impulse of a few hundred horsepower. Many of them are the size of small houses, with incredible sophistication, yet carry only one person. They can travel at over 100 miles per hour, but usually at no more than 40mph. In one lifetime they have consumed more energy than the whole previous history of mankind [...] the casualties are on the scale of a large war (every year)."
however, transport, climate change and the city is not directly concerned with specifically knocking the car as a means of transport, though it would be pointless to pretend that it doesn't form the main target.
the book opens with a highly impressive, yet academic discussion of the means used to quantify the substantial amount of information and statistics contained within the book's 376 pages. i cannot pretend that i understood every word the authors used, at least not in this context. their contention that aspects of traffic congestion and climate change are thought of as only solvable by technological means, rather than by sociological methods is one that rings particularly true. if we accept the basic premise of climate change as being caused by normal human activity, then it seems more than sensible that alteration of that activity or behaviour might possibly have greater effect that finding a scientific means to minimise its continuing effect.
the basis of the authors' arguments, predictions and advice is conducted by way of specific case studies concerning selected major cities of the world. as the services of both gentlemen are retained at oxford university in the uk, it is not unusual that the book commences its investigations in london, but delhi, jinan and auckland are also dealt with in similar fashion.
academia intrudes, if that is the correct term, not only through the language and terminology utilised in each chapter, but by way of a five page index and stretches to sixteen pages of extensive references. however, i can't help feeling that they might be preaching to the gallery. for all their good works and copious research, it's more than likely that the book will be principally read and dissected by other academics. though we've had it continuously pointed out that humankind is on a slippery slope to self-destruction, nothing much seems to have changed. mass public transport within the city limits, along with catering more widely to the pedestrian and the cyclist seem particularly sane alternatives to daily gridlock, yet apparently this only applies to everyone else.
definitely not to the one guy in an suv.
they also make a good point regarding the uk system of government, whereby the secretary of state for transport tends only to be in position for a few years before being moved to a different cabinet position. his or her replacement has then to get up to speed with transport developments before beginning the process all over again. this is hardly the most efficient manner of dealing with a constantly moving target.
the book is copiously illustrated, frequently with photographs that seem somewhat tangential to the subject under discussion. i'm somewhat unclear as to what film stills from 'being john malkovich', 'dr strangelove' and 'the time machine' have to do with transport, climate change and the city. however, there are much-a-plenty relevant illustrations by way of paintings, drawings and photographs to illustrate the pertinency of much of the text.
cycling is referred to in each case study, simply as a means of diminishing the car's impact; i can't say i'd noticed any recommendation to cycle for the sheer joy of pedalling. but it really isn't that kind of book. perhaps if governments were required not only to read, but to take specific note of many of the solutions proffered by messrs. hickman and banister, the existence of this book would not be in vain. sadly, i doubt this will be the case, and at a price of £86, it seems very unlikely to find a space on the average cyclist's bookshelf. however, if the subject is one that concerns you as much as it probably should, it's well worth a slow and deliberate read.
car owners will likely avoid it like the plague.
"This new form of transport is wonderful! It causes congestion, wastes energy, ruins public spaces, encourages sprawl, kills thousands of people every year and destroys the planet.
"Lets base our whole transport system on it!"
transport, climate change and the city forms a part of the 'routledge advances in climate change research' series.
thursday 9 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
a blues shuffle is at once a relativley simple beat to accomplish on the drumset, and at the same time a master class in complexity. though the backbeat on the second and fourth beat of the bar is no different from what i'll refer to as a standard rock/pop rhythm, it's the hi-hat or cymbal pattern that can be the undoing of the unwary.
the standard hi-hat pattern usually consists of four evenly spaced quarter notes with the right hand (assuming you play right-handed) or perhaps more commonly, eight eighth notes. a shuffle pattern, however, brings us face to face with the dotted note, a means of lengthening any note by half its original value. thus, what would often appear as a group of two eighth notes (or semiquavers, if you prefer), the addition of a dot after the first note, lengthens it by a sixteenth, pushing the second note further away, in the process converting it to another sixteenth. for whatever you might think about written musical notation, it's a stickler for mathematical accuracy.
if the dot has increased the value of that initial eighth note by half, it has now become three sixteenths. thus the following note needs to even things up by inheriting the mantle of another sixteenth. machinations such as this make the second note of the original group of two, closer to the third note than to the first. if you've followed this far, you're doing a lot better than me. there are entire books devoted to the science of improving and mastering the drumset shuffle, which eventually results in that right hand playing a sort of skip beat. all the while maintaining the standard two and four backbeat throughout.
should ambition get the better of you, it's ultimately possible to move the backbeat onto the third beat alone, creating a half-time shuffle, but it's continually necessary to prevent that right hand from reverting to straight eighths, thus losing any trace of shuffling. however, there is a hidden and concealed complexity that can often remain a closed book to the uninitiated, and that hidden factor concerns the triplet.
for those who could truly care less, a triplet is three notes played in the time value of two. thus, our two eighth notes can transform into a conjoined group of three with that very number written above, denoting how they should be played by the ever astute drummer. a substantial coterie of jazz music is based upon triplet rhythms as, indeed, is much of the blues. and should you wish to bare your mettle in the latter genre, it's a confident ability to shuffle that will get you there all the quicker.
now, about those triplets.
by a strange quirk of musical fate, that dotted eighth followed by a joined sixteenth closely resembles a triplet minus the middle note. while this may appear as just so much musical rhetoric and philosophy, with little grounding in reality, chance would be a fine thing. the very best of blues and jazz drummers can spend several years mastering the art of playing the blues shuffle as a series of triplets, rather than those dotted eighths followed by a sixteenth. with a rest note in place of that middle note of a triplet, the latter effectively becomes the hidden factor, implied rather than played. of course, on occasion it is perfectly acceptable to play the middle note as a ghost note, just to advertise to the great unwashed, just how your shuffle is constituted.
and herein lies the uncanny comparison with socks. granted, shuffling in socks is usually constrained to lino or wood effect flooring, but you can't help but notice that any pattern displayed on the heel, toe or foot contains every nuance of meaning, yet is ultimately concealed neath brogues, cycle shoes, or thermal overshoes. and just to bolster my point further, the brand name and specific style embroidered inside the top of the ankle is that middle note of the triplet. whether you continue to think in dotted notes or triplets is your own affair; wear them properly and in appropriate context, and confidence is your bedfellow.
it takes a tad more skill and ingenuity, however, to introduce the rolling triplet, half-time shuffle. that's steely dan and toto territory.
rapha's pro-team socks are now available in short, long and extra-long varieties, in several new colours and in sizes small, medium, large and xl. short and long retail at £15 while extra long add another £5.
wednesday 8 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the italians are legendary purveyors of style. perhaps something of a sweeping generalisation, but those of us besotted with italiana will cast aside any flies in the ointment and accept my opening statement as gospel. the italian campionissimo fausto coppi, expressed such flair on and off the bike that i feel we need not concern ourselves so closely with his perennial opponent, gino bartali who, though a gutsy adversary, could hardly be described as svelte.
there are other hints as to the sartorial flamboyance of a nation, a stylishness that carried through into many other aspects of italian life. ferrari, colnago, gios, vespa, lambretta and even the original fiat cinquecento, recently revived in slightly larger proportions. none of this is to idolise italy and place it on an unattainable platform, but of all the southern european nations, you'd be hard presed to find one through which an integrated sense of design and flair flows like water through the grand canyon.
this is perhaps something of an anomaly, for after 1945, italy was pretty much in tatters, with a decimated road system that made day to day travel well nigh impossible, let alone the prospect of cycle racing. in fact, the bicycle prospered because of this very state of affairs; the roads were in such a state of decrepitude, that the motor car, such as it was in the mid 1940s had a great deal of difficulty traversing what was left of the tarmac. bicycles pretty much saved the day, accounting for its lasting favour even in these modern times of the serie a soccer league and formula one motor racing.
with a year-round climate that attracts many a visiting cyclist, it's not too much of a stretch to consider that this may be the very factor that has fostered such a healthy sense of style. consider the weather that features in more northerly european climes. granted, spain and southern france can be particularly temperate at times, but northern france, belgium and conceivably the netherlands are altogether different. though italy had need of rebuilding a national road network in the 1940s, i doubt it even crossed their minds to do so with cobbles rather than the strade bianche and tougher, more durable substances.
when the average member of the pelotonese thinks of races such as paris-roubaix, ronde van vlaanderen, the scheldeprijs and their brethren, uppermost in their minds will usually be those cobbles. for in the colder, windier and wetter climate that pervades this part of europe, the soft, strade bianche would likely fare less than well. the inherent style in such climes revolves mostly around survival; life can be brutal, influencing northern design in a more pragmatic and, if you'll excuse the tautology, brutal fashion.
however, such endemic features can produce pure gold. cyclocross is a way of life in belgium and holland, with its attendant strong beers and lagers in place of a cheeky little chianti, and paper cones of frites make the british chip seem slovenly by comparison. not forgetting the spring classics. there is comparable joie de vivre that can be shared with those of us on scotland's west coast. our wind and rain may often be a tad fiercer, but released from the violence of the atlantic ocean rather than the north sea, we find ourselves drenched with arguably milder precipitation than our north european counterparts. i have more often than once stated that i consider hebrideans to be the flandrians of the west, equally at home in thermal overshoes, bib threequarters, long-sleeve jerseys and breathable waterproof jackets.
and that's in the summer months.
but when mid autumn brings those atlantic gales, foretelling of more to come when winter strikes, when headwinds become habit and unremarkable, and when badass is a way of life, that's when i'm glad that rapha sell deep winter caps with ear flaps.
rapha's deep winter hat features an internal layer of merino, in one-size-fits-all, either pink or black ear warmer at a cost of £60.
tuesday 7 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................