one of the most variable factors involved in cycling, at least at our level, is the weather. having lived on the outer edge for over 27 years, i don't have a great deal of experience of any other regions of the uk and their climatic conditions. that, however, is really of no nevermind, for ultimately i'm happy to accept that several, if not all of my velocipedinal perambulations nudge against the upper regions of the protective abilities on offer. were i not in the fortunate position of reviewing a wide variety of cycling apparel, i figure i'd still be happy at these circumstances. however, that doesn't eliminate external meteorological factors.
everytime i pop over to scotland or down south to london village, i find myself overdressed. sometimes rather drastically so, despite having been comfortable at the time i boarded the ferry. and discussions with visiting cyclists lead me to believe that what we in the velo club take for granted, others look upon as verging on the extreme. this doesn't make us special, but it does rather point towards greater demands of our clothing, often leading to my wondering whether apparel designers really have our more specific best interests at heart.
for instance, if our hypothetical designer's office is in central london, is he/she in the ideal location to figure out just where a galeforce wind can deposit intrinsic precipitation? and do they think that opening a window constitutes a headwind? maybe it's my job to find out.
the ashmei website contends that they live by three words (performance, quality and style), though i'm sure that coffees and danish pastries are bound to augment those on more than a single occasion. now entering the well-stocked world of cycling apparel, up till now the ashmei folks have occupied their time serving the needs of the running and triathlon corners of the active world. though the three disciplines share more than just one or two factors, with no shortage of quality, specialist cycle clothing, complacency really isn't an option at this level.
currently the ashmei cycling range consists of bibshorts, merino jersey, socks and a softshell jacket, the latter of which has had the onerous job of keeping me warm and dry in early march. stuart brooke, who heads up the attractively named company, aims to compete with assos and castelli, a factor that might easily be determined by the price of the ashmei bibshorts. the softshell once more re-defines the word from the point of view of fabric. i have several softshells from a number of those i would view as ashmei's competitors, and not one of them is the same as another.
in this case, it's a jacket of two halves, required to satisfy several seemingly contradictory demands. according to ashmei their brief was to build a jacket that might satisfy heat regulation, windproofing, water resistance, stretch, uv protection and breathability. those are either aspirational or unrealistic, for in my experience, the garment that can manage all six has yet to make an appearance, though there surely has to be a first time.
the ashmei softshell is substantially lighter than i'd expected, and the packaging in which it arrives shows careful and clever concern for its presentation when delivered by post. the principal front-facing fabric that covers the arms and the shoulder panel is their ultra breathable softshell designed to offer wind and water protection while not forgetting breathability. the back of the arms and the back of the jacket from the shoulder panel to the pockets is crafted from a very stretchy merino/polyester blend to prevent any overheating.
while that's conceivably the ideal combination, in practice there seems a fundamental flaw in the thinking. or at least there is over here. though the forward-facing windproofing is superb and the water resistance far better than i'd hoped, galeforce winds harbour their own iniquities. these are made more obvious when they form the basis of a tailwind, where the lack of windproofing on the rear, on occasion, had a tendency to cool me down a bit more than i'd have liked. coupled with heavy rain, it means it is eminently possible that you end up with a wet back.
however, in mitigation, softshell material is not the miracle fabric that might emulate the uss enterprise's shields. to be honest, ashmei's combination of fabrics is pretty well judged; on a ride still featuring galeforce winds but considerably less precipitation it really was very, very good. breathability is aided by two zipped side vents which proved surprisingly effective when things became a tad too warm, though i'd have preferred tags on the zips to make zipping and un-zipping easier when wearing winter gloves. the full length front zip features zip garages top and bottom, while its path veers towards the right as it makes its way from bottom to top. though i'd have liked a tag on this zip too, in practice it was easy to make use of while riding, gloved or not.
unfortunately, reflecting one of my pet hates, there is no hang loop inside the collar. am i the only one who hangs up his jackets on a coat peg?
i do have issues with the pockets. over the years of our rich cycling heritage, three rear pockets has become pretty much the norm, but the ashmei softshell features six. these consist of diminishing sizes: a big one, a medium one, a narrow one and an even narrower one that could only harbour a mini-pump. those are joined by an inner zipped pocket and a rather pointless pen pocket on an inner flap inside the front zip. in serious weather, i like to take with me a spare pair of gloves, a stowaway waterproof jacket (just in case), something to eat, occasionally a mini-pump and quite frequently, my compact digital camera.
and on sunday, i had the mighty dave t's belated birthday card to carry also.
no matter the philosophy that reigns at ashmei towers, i'd still prefer my usual three (plus the zipped one) allowing me the luxury of deciding for myself how to arrange the cargo. however, i still think it a better arrangement than those whale-sized single zipped efforts that blemish many other jackets of this ilk. on the plus side, the pockets, bisected by a full-length reflective white strip, are commendably deep. you can actually stuff in quite a lot if you try.
at this time of year, other than the occasional sortie on the cyclocross bike, the principal mode of transport is the cielo, a bicycle that offers the luxury of full wood fenders. therefore, i found no need for the short drop flap concealed above the rear hem by three magnets. those of you with more sporting pretensions aboard your guardless carbon fibre may benefit from its modest protection, keeping those expensive ashmei bibshorts in the luxury to which they have become accustomed.
all in all, this is a rather fine softshell jacket. i'd have been very surprised if it had excelled at every imaginable demand that could have been thrown at it, but in a world of endless compromises, you have to choose your battles. my superficial criticisms aside, this is actually stunningly good.
the ashmei softshell jacket is available in sizes small through xl, in either black or red. cost direct from ashmei and currently with free shipping, is £210
monday 9 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
saturday night, headphones on, probably looking at youtube trying to find some drumming performance that i figure might aid and abet my own percussive endeavours. this is entirely because mrs washingmachinepost is engrossed in that tv programme where four judges, including sir tom jones, face the opposite direction from the stage, occupied by some hapless victim trying to impress them with their singing prowess. some of you will have seen this, an x-factor look-alike entitled the voice. personally, i have no truck with such programmes, hence the headphones and youtube.
however, it would be wrong to imply that mrs washingmachinepost is a tad more involved in the contemporary pop music scene than am i. in point of fact, she is likely no more nor less impressed with the vocal talents on display than yours truly. the reason my better half is glued to the screen is to watch will.i.am, former singer with the black eyed peas where his own vocal talents were permanently augmented by a vocoder. for despite his much lauded perspicacity in all manner of contemporary artistic and technological endeavours, will can't actually sing in tune very well.
several years ago, the black eyed peas formed the bulk of the half-time show at the annual superbowl, and even there, vocoding had been added to his microphone.
but will.i.am has managed to take great advantage of his pop notoriety by making best use of his creative spirit, being the first recording artist to send a song to mars and a founding shareholder in beats electronic a company recently purchased by apple computer.
mrs washingmachinepost loves his eyes.
but his association with cycling is almost as convoluted as the majority of his other investigations, arriving via his association with the coca cola company to raise the importance of recycling, turning waste into valued commodities through his ekocycle brand. folding bike manufacturer tern cycles has contributed two limited edition bicycles currently available from the ekocycle shop in harrods. tern consider themselves to be perpetually looking for ways to reduce waste in their manufacturing process, with at least ten percent of their aluminium frames featuring recycled metal. an ingenious token of this ekocycling arrived from tern's uk distributors, paligap, in the past few days.
and it's rather clever.
though i have yet to be graced by a review sample from the tern range (it will happen sooner rather than later), it's simple to see the company's physis handlepost displayed on their website. this features a substantial lever that allows the elongated handlebar stem to fold. in the process of applying this to their bicycle range and unfortunately trammeled by apparently looming production deadlines tern experienced greater than usual rejection rates.
adhering to the ekocycle mantra of re-using as much extraneous material as possible rather than chucking it in the skip has resulted in a rather idiosyncratic use of a now surplus to requirements lever. in this case, it's a bottle opener that could conceivably peel back the escape hatch on the international space station. the cute card container in which it arrived, advises...
use responsibly. don't drink and ride. recycle what you open.
will.i.am probably has one concealed on that swivel chair.
sunday 8 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i really need to be careful when fulfilling the daily authorship, for i don't really wish to be seen as either pessimistic, uncomplimentary or exhibiting luddite tendencies. but there's every likelihood that i'll fail miserably in this respect.
with the running of omloop het nieuwsblad last saturday, followed by kuurne-brussels-kuurne the following day it would not be too onerous to declare the 2015 classics season well and truly open. it's something of a bonus that stannard outwitted boonen's band on saturday and mr cavendish left everyone behind on sunday.
it was a something of a surprise that the self-styled home of cycling, eurosport televised a sizeable chunk of kbk on sunday afternoon, but saturday was the epitome of authenticity, watching omloop on a less than high-definition internet feed from sporza. not being much of a languages scholar, the flemish (?) commentary added large dollops of atmosphere, but sadly not one iota of information to the proceedings. but it was brilliant.
thoughtfully occasional captions appeared on-screen to advise of hills or towns being ridden and distance left to travel, while the breakaway groups were mostly listed at frequent but not intrusive intervals. thus, despite my lack of linguistic appreciation, i could maintain a rough notion of how the race was proceeding. even the lack of transmission clarity was of little nevermind; for the last 40 kilometres, i well knew that stannard was the man in the sky jersey.
just as they were about to broadcast a post victory interview with the latter, my always dubious internet feed died, but i can't say i was overly disappointed. aftert battering himself silly over a couple of hundred kilometres, outwitting three riders from the same team in the process i think it unlikely there would be anything mentioned in that interview that would have added to the ambience. unfortunately, in this case, i never found out.
i love watching cycle racing, more especially the one-day classics. though i do enjoy the chess-like strategy that infiltrates the grand tours and shorter stage races, there's nothing quite like knowing the overall winner before nipping down the street for the daily newspaper. though it has become something of a cliche (guilty as charged), it really is the beautiful sport, particularly in the case of omloop het nieuwsblad where the uci ranking takes it out of the control of race radios. i wouldn't be the first to point to the possibility of a different result had etixx had communication with their riders.
though i certainly view this radio restriction as a positive, it seems that though technology giveth, it also taketh away.
despite now having apparently reached an age where staying awake long enough for even the half-time show at american football's annual superbowl, it has become an individual tradition to at least make the attempt. in spite of the game's apparent inscrutability, it is surely one of the most graphics heavy sporting events anywhere in the world. some of them are, admittedly, quite ingenious; i figure there must be some serious video masking taking place to superimpose detailed information beneath the players as they run up and down the field of play, making it seem as digital underlay applied to the astroturf.
and on almost every occasion a player finds himself in possession, an animated image accompanied by the number of yards gained, lost, run, missed and avoided by said individual flashes up along the foot of the screen. it seems all but impossible to watch a game of american football on tv without succumbing to information overload.
and it worries me that cycling might be about to head in a similar direction, all in the name of "providing our cycling fans around the world with concise, reliable information on the Tour de France and all our other races by enhancing the content of our TV broadcast and our supporting digital platforms." according to monsieur prudhomme.
in my years of working as a student in airport kitchens, it was a constant mystery to me why the chefs found it necessary to season much of the food that passed through their fryers. surely if, like me, you had a distinct aversion to added salt (i figure there's already enough in food as it is), you were pretty much stuffed? seasoning can always be added to taste, but it's well nigh impossible to remove it. the corollary with aso's much trumped partnership with dimension data to augment coverage of their race portfolio is, i think, one well-made.
if the technology exists to place on-screen information, is it not possible that the ability for the end-user (me) to switch it off should not also be included as part and parcel of the partnership? perhaps mr prudhomme has evidence that the bulk of those watching his races on eurosport, itv 4 et al, are eager to have portions of their screens obliterated or overlaid by reputedly essential information. sometimes i might be one of them, but i'd really like the chance to switch it off when all i want to do is emulate the experience of those standing by the roadside.
it does worry me slightly, however, that the promotional video to accompany the announcement makes frequent visual reference to disc brake rotors. is mr prudhomme indulging in a touch of subliminal information himself?
saturday 7 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
that rather impersonal and not altogether elucidatory title heads the opening page of cycling scotland's annual cycling monitoring report for 2015. the fact that it is also preceded by the words scottish government subtly removes it from the passionate to the dispassionate. the opening paragraph of this 31 page downloadable pdf document is either to be welcomed with open arms or run away from and hid, depending on your personal predilection for statistics and colourful information graphics.
it states "there is a huge range of data and information available that will contribute to greater understanding of cycling participation." a statement that will probably remain somewhat vacuous to the majority of us. for instance, in 2013, cycling as a principal mode of travel in scotland was estimated at 1%, embarrassingly enough, quantified as a 32% increase over the previous ten years. i'm almost happy that nobody pointed out how little the scots population cared for commuting by bicycle in 2003.
few, however, would argue that cycling needs to look to the country's youth as an indicator for the future. if pressure needs to be brought to bear on those in holyrood to sit up and take notice when deciding scotland's future transport strategy, surely pointing to improved numbers of kids cycling to and from school ought to be somewhere near the top of our hypothetical list? apparently the 2011 census highlighted that an average 63% percent of journeys to school are of distances less than 5 kilometres, and it is thus encouraging to learn that in 2013, at least 5% of kids indicated that they regularly cycled to school.
sadly, look hard though i did, i was unable to interpret what sort of an increase that might constitute and whether it related to primary school, secondary school or both.
most of us have a reasonably healthy suspicion of statistics, particularly those that arrive at governmental behest. at present, cycling's a bit like a gluten free diet; popularly trendy. any government that agrees to increase spending on cycling infrastructure, while possibly incurring the wrath of jeremy clarkson, will probably find an improvement in its public relations persona. the cost of installing several kilometres of cycle facilities pales by comparison with building even one kilometre of two lane roadway. that's something that's always going to look good on an election leaflet.
but if we accept that statistics can frequently tell the very story that their commissioning body wishes them to say, it raises a higher degree of suspicion as to how those figures are obtained in the first place. for instance, though i bear no illusion as to my insignificance in the greater milieu, and despite the fact that i have populated the interweb with more cycling pixels than is seemly for one individual, nobody has ever enquired of me as to whether i ride to work, what my daily commute distance might be (zero, as it happens) or any other relevant information.
for instance, according to the self-same report with which i introduced myself, 34.7% of scottish households have access to one or more bicycles, while 30.6% have no access to a car for private use. the number of bicycles in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed hovers around the five or six mark (i am frequently a procrastinating rebuilder every now and again), and i haven't owned a car for over five years. but in the nineteen years that i have written the post, not once has anyone asked me to answer those questions. perhaps there was a tick box in the 2011 census, but the figures presented by cycling scotland are those pertaining to 2013.
i can reluctantly accept that numbers make the world go round. having explanatory figures to hand if it looks like the argument might head in the wrong direction is no doubt something of a boon. and it seems common practice to interpret those numbers in whichever fashion is deemed relevant, but i tend to go with graeme obree who once told me that 94.1% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
a 32% increase in cycling numbers in ten years could be either interpreted as superb news or seriously disappointing. it would be interesting to learn the percentage increase shown by motoring journeys over the same period. i'm willing to bet it's higher. and to how many individuals does the now 1% relate? is that 1% of the entire scottish population, or 1% of those who could reasonably be expected to cycle if the opportunity matched intent? at national level, 11% of adults participated in cycling in the previous month (?) if you relate that to the number of folks on islay who claim to have gaelic, the conundrum merely extrapolates. having gaelic it turns out, extends to being able to speak a couple of words; participated in cycling could mean cycled round the car park to see if the gears still worked.
maybe it's just as well they titled the document in such an obscure manner. it could mean either a reason to hang the bunting out, or simply marvel at the emperor's new clothes.
friday 6 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
rationality scarcely comes into it. there are few of us who would be satisfied with a lack of functionality in our velocipedinal activities. where would be the point in having eleven sprockets on the rear wheel if only four or five of them were available at any given time? or inner-tubes that held air pressure for a morning at a time. we expect the modern bicycle to operate in a prescribed manner, something which even the cheapest manages to achieve for at least a few weeks after purchase.
it is also something of a truism that many a functional component will fulfil the intended function every bit as well as its more expensive brethren, though in many cases it may wear itself out in a shorter period of time. from this knowledge comes the phrase 'buy cheap, buy twice.' however, as manufacturing and design techniques become ever more efficient, those lower cost items may offer their big brothers and sisters something of a run for their money in the value stakes, bringing into question the necessity of choosing campagnolo record over chorus, or dura-ace over ultegra.
but marketing only partially explains the difference.
it is often assumed that professional riders will use whatever it is they are given and to a certain extent that is true. but you need only learn to appreciate the extensive lengths to which manufacturers will go to satisfy those professional demands to realise that their situation is nowhere near as onerous as bald facts might suggest. for the rest of us, owning top-end shininess is a matter of conceit, arrogance or a healthy disposable income.
the so-called 'law of diminishing returns' dictates, in our case, that the less weight we wish to feature about the carbon frames in the bike shed, the more it is likely to cost. there are good, honest reasons for this, mostly allied to the expense of quality materials or increased costs of development. but it would be a hard sell to our better halves to state that we absolutely needed to have that 30 gram carbon chainring or titanium stem bolts to save just over half an ounce. it really, honestly doesn't matter if ascending alpe d'huez takes a few more minutes (or hours) than it took marco pantani.
but that doesn't mean we don't want those things. and i mean really want.
to satisfy our demands in this respect, even if it only amounts to international window shopping, there exists 'like bike monte carlo' taking place over easter weekend, 3 to 5 april. and let's face it, if you can afford to go to monte carlo over easter weekend, the prices of some of the luxuries on display probably won't phase you in the least.
items such as the malle bicyclette by parisian purveyor of luxury luggage, moynat. the bicycle, a fairly standard looking roadster with sprung leather saddle and swept back handlebars features a custom made picnic trunk up front containing porcelain goblets along with plates and cutlery. unsurprisingly only made to order, your bank account will be lessened by a humbling £33,659. and to think i was concerned at the £12 cost of a campagnolo chainring bolt.
naturally enough, there are far more bankruptcy opportunities to be found in monaco's grimaldi forum including a carbon hybrid bicycle by italian designer romolo stanco (no, me neither), a veritable snip at £13,389 and several other machines at less breathtaking prices. some might even use the word economical, were they not to factor in the £200 plus per night room cost at one of the exhibition's partner hotels. and if you need something to take your mind off all the money you've spent/not spent, there's always the accompanying cycle race.
i'm all for a smidgeon of luxury as i wend my pelotonic way across the hebridean highways and byeways, but i believe i might prefer to occupy the lower rungs of the mastercard ladder, thank you very much.
thursday 5 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
only a couple of years after arriving on islay, i obtained a brief 'bout of employment with the census folks, traipsing round the houses of bowmore handing out the necessary forms before returning a few days later to either collect the completed pieces of paper or assist the elderly and uninitiated with any difficulties they may have experienced. a rather fine house just on the outskirts of the village in which an elderly gentleman lived alone was my last port of call. the impressively formally dressed gent invited me in to the study to clear up a couple of census questions and i was pretty much in awe of the filled bookshelves occupying three of the room's four walls.
ever since then, i have hankered after adorning the walls of washingmachinepost croft with something similar. in those far off days, the shelves would have been home to volumes on david bomberg, leon kossoff, paul cezanne, frank auerbach and whoever else in the art world i was impressed by at the time.
but i now find myself in the extremely fortunate position of receiving substantial numbers of cycling books for review on the post. you need only take a peek at the list ending this particular web page to realise how numerous those have become. though i still fail to comprehend the publishing world's need for introducing new books in hardback format when they'd almost undoubtedly sell more in paperback, that's the way it works. so almost every corner and cupboard of my abode creaks under the weight of hardback cycling tomes. though i've read them all, and scarcely have time to re-read any of them, i am extremely loathe to get rid of any of them.
you just never know.
the only practical solution i can think of, until such time as i can obscure the sitting room walls with bookshelves, would be to spend a day or two not only cataloguing the books in my possession, but creating either an index of where these books are located, or perhaps drawing a reasonably accurate map. i believe this is what, in common parlance, would be referred to as a 'round tuit'.
meantime, i was more than pleased to discover that the flemish cycling museum (wielermuseum) has posted a pdf on its website containing a bibliography of those books published on professional cycle racing in english. impressive as this may sound, it's even more impressive in pixelated reality. it features an annotated bibliography of the contents of each and its publishing history. a document such as this is likely perpetually out of date, for there will always be words in production simultaneous to the compilation of this excellent and totally free guide. however, though i have no confirmation that such will be the case, as a digital publication, there's no reason as to why it could not be regularly updated.
and it gets better still.
comprising two parts, the first features cycle racing books by listing them alphabetically by author or editor, while part two classifies titles by theme. i am similarly impressed by the tone of the e-mail i received from wilfried wilms advising me of this publication's existence. for other than mentioning that this is the first decent bibliography of cycle racing books published in english, mr wilms neglected to mention that he is one of the two authors, in tandem with michael gaze.
for any cycle fan with a desire to learn that which has been published on the world's greatest sport, this is a no-brainer. the words 'utterly' and 'brilliant' spring to mind.
wednesday 4 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the current spell of weather has provided challenges all of its own. it's not that sub-zero cold galeforce winds are anything new, but even after two score years and then some, advancing years have made it a smidgeon harder to pedal hard enough in order to keep warm. every time xcweather advises that snow is inbound on those winds, it transpires that a better description would be hailstones (and ruddy great big ones yesterday lunchtime). and even with a peaked winter cap under the helmet, those little white chunks feel like frozen shotblasts.
tough critters that we are, it wouldn't be the first time that old adage 'there's no such thing as bad weather, only poor choice of clothing' is rolled out in order to create an immeasurable degree of superiority over those who decided to spend a morning on the turbo trainer indoors. hopelessly optimistic would be the cyclist with only one weight of cycling apparel in the wardrobe. aside from commercial concerns, there's a reason why the major suppliers offer spring/summer and autumn/winter ranges; across most of europe, the seasonal variations would mitigate against owning only one.
in this respect, it has long been my contention that cycling must surely be one, if not the best catered for activity in the western world. aside from each extensive range advertised online and in the periodicals, there are one heck of a number of international apparel providers, with seemingly more joining the fray each month. let's face it; cycling may be our whole world, but as part of the grand enchilada, it is a very small niche in what i believe to be an expanding universe.
but the $64,000 question has me wondering whether we are alone in our extravagant demands and welcome largesse. are the world's other activities as well provided for? is the sport of golf lacking any shockingly bright goretex plaid trousers or windproof pringle sweaters? are runners simply hardier and less complaining than the ordinary member of the pelotonese, quite happy to chunter along in shorts and a fluorescent yellow jacket? could it be that scuba divers need only a wetsuit or drysuit accompanied by a standard issue face mask?
i honestly don't know. and perhaps i'm insufficiently intrigued to make further investigations. or at least that would have been the case had i not chanced upon genus, a company offering 'performance garden wear'. with no disrespect intended, i was more than surprised to discover that gardening had need of performance clothing in the first place. so, in the interests of placing our own velocipedinal activities in some sort of perspective, i asked genus founder, sue o'neil, in the words of paul carrack, how long has this been going on?
"We set up in business in July 2012, and started the design and development process. We made our first sale in September 2013."
it is the very nature of entrepreneurship to scour the commercial world for what the vernacular would describe as a gap in the market. and if the calling to be an entrepreneur holds an irresistible pull, it may only require an extra sliver of legwork to create a gap where a gap previously didn't exist. sometimes, however, the gap finds you. in the context of gardening, had sue always been a keen gardener, or was this an opportunity that simply presented itself?
"I was a frustrated balcony gardener living in London flats for over 30 years. Eventually I took the plunge and moved out to the Cotswolds, to a 250 year old house and over an acre of garden. The garden had been neglected and I spent three years full-time bringing it back to life. It was during that period, when I was out in the garden for hours at a time, that I realised there was nothing suitable to wear. So I thought I'd fill the gap."
my brother was (and still is) into soccer, though i believe he may have realised the limitations of his athletic prowess and ceased spending every weekend kicking a ball up and down a field with 21 other guys. however, in his heyday (probably his late teens), i recall the kitchen featuring at least two pairs of football boots encrusted with mud and stuffed with scrunched-up newspaper. the washing machine meanwhile was filled with shorts, socks and jerseys, apparel required for the kicking process described above.
rightly or wrongly, i've never considered football clothing to inhabit the performance arena. though modernity may have altered the perspective and reality, polyester jerseys and shorts do not suggest any unique performance qualities that might minimise the discomfort brought on by over-exertion. but similarly, if questioned under duress, i'd have to admit that i never thought there would be a need for something classed as 'performance gardening wear'. does this show my ignorance in such matters, or is this a genre invented by genus?
"Most gardeners wear old clothes, but that's simply because there hasn't been anything that's perfect for gardening. Gardening is a physical activity involving bending, kneeling, stretching, walking and wielding heavy tools, and you do it outside in all weathers, so it's very like many other outdoor 'sports'.
"To give you an example, if you wear jeans to garden and it's wet, the denim becomes heavy, holds the water and chafes your skin. Genus gardening trousers use lightweight, showerproof, stretch fabrics and incorporate damp-proof seat panels, so if you sit on something wet you don't get a soggy bottom. They also have integrated, breathable, adjustable and waterproof knee pads."
if i work diligently all week, and keep up to date with my workload, there is always the possibility that i can play hooky on friday afternoons when the weather's reasonable, and ride down to deb's for a coffee. should i find myself thus fortunate, the ride is predominantly about the coffee rather than the luxury of the ride, so i'm less than endeared to assume my secret identity by changing into jersey, bibshorts and softshell jacket. thus, i generally opt to ride the taurus corinto, a cycle that allows me to maintain a civilian predisposition.
it seems a lot of unnecessary faff to raid the cycling wardrobe for a few moments of froth supping. concomitantly, i find it hard to visualise anyone finding it desirable or necessary to nip up to the wardrobe and change into gardening specific clothing for a sunday afternoon's mowing or pruning. does that actually happen?
"If you were just popping down to the shops on your bike to get the newspaper you might not change into your bibshorts. But if you were going on a 100km ride you would certainly want to be kitted out properly. It's just the same with gardeners. Actually, it's pretty difficult to do gardening in ten minute slots; most gardeners will allocate at least half a day at any one time. So yes, they do put on their gardening clothes."
lately, saturday mornings have been cyclocross mornings. this is not to suggest that my hours thus spent are resulting in any improved ability in that discipline, but just that i rather enjoy throwing myself about the undergrowth prior to heading south for an egg buttie and the desirable froth. though bridgend woods has its attractions, one of them isn't really the amount of mud it can harbour in its nooks and crannies. i agree wholeheartedly with benedict campbell's entitling of his superb cyclocross movie 'for the love of mud', but i'd really rather it didn't adhere with such tenacity to some of my best cycling clobber.
that svelte red softshell, those thermal winter bibtights and ever-fragile polychromatic rudy projects lose a substantial percentage of their 'too cool for school' presence when doused with sticky mud. the same could often be said about gardening (so i'm told by mrs washingmachinepost; yours truly couldn't grow weeds). even a cursory glance over the genus range for both male and female would alert you to its inherent stylishness. i honestly found it hard to believe that gardening could harbour such quality of sartorial demeanour. isn't genus clothing simply too good to get mucky in the garden?
"Not at all. Genus Gardenwear is designed to get mucky. I've noticed that gardeners come in two types: kneelers and benders, although a few will do both. Personally, I'm a kneeler and I will kneel right on the soil. At the end of the gardening day, I throw my trousers into the washing machine and because they're so quick drying, they're ready to go back out in the garden with me in the morning."
we have a relatively long-ranging, not entirely innocent banter that rages between those of us with the total lack of restraint to refrain from riding out in weather conditions that would be better viewed from indoors in front of a warm fire, and those with more sense. it all comes down to those who walk the walk as opposed to those simply intent on talking the talk. if you see what i mean. though i'd hardly classify the mighty dave t, lord carlos and myself as athletes, we do have a greater degree of perseverance than those afflicted with affectations and turbo trainers.
it would be unreasonable to suppose that gardening is composed purely of perennial enthusiasts, those for whom gardening is the be all and end all. there must surely be those for whom gardening is simply a means to an end, something to be endured rather than welcomed with open arms. in an effort to discern the genus customer base, what would be the difference between someone who simply potters about in the garden, and a performance gardener (so to speak)?
"I wouldn't suggest to owners of small patio gardens that Genus Gardenwear is the absolute must-have kit. The Genus gardener spends a lot of time gardening, so they often have large gardens in the country which they look after themselves; Genus customers are garden designers, they have garden maintenance businesses, or they own plant nurseries.
"We have customers who are volunteers at National Trust gardens, employed gardeners at country house hotels, and lots of allotmenteers. And we sell all over the world, particularly to countries that have a strong gardening culture such as the United States, Western Europe and Australia and New Zealand."
so, if sue has made it a bit clearer as to the folks likely to purchase genus clothing, by what criteria would she judge an item of gardening clothing to inherit the mantle ascribed by the word 'performance'?
"Clothing for gardening has to have features and functionality that makes gardening more comfortable and enjoyable. So, for example, the Genus 3-Season Gardening Trousers for Women and the All-weather Gardening Trousers for Men have the fabric, kneepads and damp-proof seat panels that I mentioned earlier.
"They also have lots of pockets, in particular two stab-proof pockets on the thighs that can hold sharp tools. I work in the garden with a pair of secateurs in the right-hand pocket and a very sharp hori-hori knife in the left-hand pocket, I can bend, kneel, and move in all directions and still feel perfectly safe, while the tools are near to hand and I don't lose them.
There is an ingenious mobile-phone pocket tucked into the small of the back, rather like cycling clothing I suppose. That way, the phone is accessible and totally protected if you're bending, kneeling or sitting. The other pockets are specially designed to take gardening paraphernalia such as string, seed packets and labels. The trousers have a raised back waistband so when you bend you don't get 'builders bum' and also press studs on the bottom of the trouser legs so you can cinch them to get into Wellington boots more easily."
i recall joining a twitter conversation last year that centred around whether it was socially acceptable to go shopping of a saturday morning dressed in a football jersey. the majority maintained that though commonplace, walking into debenhams dressed in a rangers or celtic top was hardly a demonstration of sartorial elegance. however, it appears it may be more tolerable or seen as less eccentric than wearing an endura movistar team jersey. quite why, i know not, though it may be due to football's impingement on seemingly every aspect of daily life, particularly when compared to the cycling milieu.
however, the genus range of garden clothing only subtly advertises its true purpose in life, featuring niceties that would likely only be apparent to a fellow gardener. it strikes me that the entire range would look every bit as good when worn in full public view as it would concealed behind hedgerows and fencing, or following a motor mower around a great expanse of grass. is that deliberate?
"Yes. Our challenge is to convince gardeners to chuck out their old clothes and wear Genus Performance Gardenwear. The more stylish we make our clothes the more persuasive they are. And we don't sacrifice any of the performance."
washingmachinepost croft is not possessed of acres of garden. that at the rear offers enough space to hang out the washing, while the front affords those children in the care of mrs washingmachinepost enough room to bounce on a trampoline, throw balls at a basketball hoop or kick a football. our most extensive garden-based expedition involved weatherproofing the garden fence during sunnier days last august. i don't mind offering the opinion that, had i come across genus at that point, i'd have leapt at the opportunity.
if the hebridean weather has proven intractable for potential cyclists, it would be true to say it is hardly making itself amenable to the gardening fraternity. but i'd be willing to suppose that amongst the greater peloton, there are those who will occupy at least a weekend or two past easter digging about in the garden. if we're often accused of being overly concerned with our performance apparel and style on the bike, it's only a short step to extend that to the apparently disassociated activity of gardening.
and that's oddly comforting.
tuesday 3 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................