while i tend to have a rather wide-ranging portfolio when it comes to subject matter on the post, i have to admit that folding bicycles rarely make themselves known in the panoply of road cycling. that omission, if i might refer to it as such, was recently interrupted by the arrival of a tern verge x-18 folder with a rather fetching set of drop bars up front. it's hardly the style of velocipede that would feature large in pelotonic circles, but that doesn't mean that it should be excluded on such a basis.
more and more riders who would scarcely consider themselves commuters, find themselves with a scarcity of space in which to store a performance bicycle on which to join with the sunday ride. a folding bicycle with a nine-speed cassette and miniaturised aero wheels might just be the solution that one or two have been forever searching. then again, it may just be that getting to and from work as quickly as possible is more of a consideration than you'd readily admit.
either way, the notion of sending a bicycle more used to urban surrounds into the depths of the hebrides was either going to turn out fabulously or result in both parties realising someone had made a mistake. to find out, you'll simply have to read the review
monday 4 may 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
those of you of a certain age may recall the matthews southern comfort version of joni mitchell's woodstock which reached number one in the uk chart in 1970. ian matthews, the founder of the band had been one of those recruited by ashley hutchings for english folk rock band, fairport convention, having formed southern comfort after his departure from the latter. with me so far? as a prolific musician and songwriter, he didn't exactly stand still, and on departing southern comfort in the early 70s, he formed plainsong, a band most fondly remembered for their in search of amelia earhart album released in 1972.
bear in mind that the early seventies were the times of vinyl and gatefold sleeves; even compact discs, let alone digital downloads were a long way off at that time. the first apple macintosh didn't appear until nearly a decade later. when at art college, the album in search of amelia earhart was th subject of much discussion and notoriety, principally because it was darned difficult to get hold of. if memory serves correctly, it took me the better part of six months to track down a copy, bearing in mind this was some four or five years after its release. however, though i was pretty much unaware of what the album would sound like (not much like southern comfort as it turned out), it was pretty good.
two tracks and the drummer stood out most. the latter was dave mattacks, another fairport convention alumni, and the two tracks were diesel and louise. the latter was not only because it was a decent song, but because a girl in my year at college was also called louise, and it turned out that we'd known each other as very young kids when my family lived in aberdeen. neither of us remembered the other from those early years.
i would be very surprised indeed if coincidence stretched as far as remi and crew at café du cycliste who have a louise jersey included in their latest spring/summer range for 2015. it's a fabulously lightweight jersey fabricated from a merino/silk mix that is no doubt the apparel du jour in southern france where café du cycliste are based. unfortunately for me, islay does not benefit from a similar climate, so my days of riding in such unparalleled luxury were sadly not, if you'll pardon my mixed nationalities, al fresco.
fortunately, i have in my possession, a café du cycliste josette waterproof jersey that emulates the criteria demanded by the recent spate of softshell jackets/jerseys. along with a pair of armwarmers and a baselayer this combination perhaps gave the louise jersey more of a workout than it had originally hoped for. you see, their website pays tribute to the silk and merino combination offering greater breathability and temperature regulation than merino on its own. and it seems they're probably right.
aside from an impossibly fabulous degree of soft and cossetting luxury engendered by the fabric, it features a wide mesh centre panel down the back which, in the heat of the mediterranean sun would surely defend the intrepid velocipedinist from the dangers of overheating. in islay sunshine, there's still the overweening iniquity of having to pedal hard enough to generate any heat in the first place. but wearing the louise jersey as a mid-layer provides salient evidence of its catalytic properties, for not only does it offer a level of comfort that surely raises the bar for such a garment, but a degree of temperature regulation (pardon the pun) that probably has to be experienced first hand.
the full-length front zip is, to my mind, preferable to the quarter length more often featured on short-sleeve jerseys; the left breast pocket a pragmatic feature that might even find its uses in the professional peloton. the three spacious pockets at the rear are augmented by a half-size zipped version, a feature that is all but compulsory nowadays. a well-judged length on the sleeves pretty much adds to the jersey's gestalt.
over the period of review, there was no improvement in the ambient temperature. in fact, if i'm perfectly honest, it degenerated from mildly warm and sunny all the way to freezing cold, very windy and ultimately wet; just the hebridean climate you'd expect at the end of april and on into the beginning of may. this suggests that the world's cycling apparel producers perhaps ought to stagger their seasonal releases depending on proximity to the equator. spring/summer on western scotland ought probably to take place towards the end of june, but i doubt that's a major consideration in southern france.
however, jesting aside, i think café du cycliste might be missing a trick by not having released their louise jersey as part of the autumn/winter collection, such is its excellence as a mid-layer. seriously, i can easily find days and days of pelotonic adventure in which this silk and merino luxury would fit the bill below an outer shell. and i'd be more than willing to consider a long-sleeve version (louisa?) come september.
there's probably a coat-hanger in your wardrobe with louise's name on it. amelia earhart would have been similarly impressed.
the café du cycliste louise jersey retails at €155 (approx. £110) available in black only and sizes ranging from xs to xxl.
sunday 3 may 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if i may be so bold as to quote from chipps' editorial in the latest issue of singletrack magazine (yes, i know it's about mountain bikes, but cut me some slack won't you?) "Five years ago, the publishing world was in turmoil [...] News-stand sales of magazines through shops... were in a slow but steady, nosedive, advertisers were spending more money online than in printed pages and paper costs were increasing. [...] But, if that's the inevitable march of progress, then why are the great majority reading these words on a printed page?"
it would be pointless to argue. though more and more money has been invested into online magazines, there is still a sizeable majority who find printed matter to be eminently more satisfying. though it would benefit the less than elastic walls of washingmachinepost croft to receive the majority of books sent for review in electronic format, i somehow find those far harder to enjoy than those constituted of hard or soft covers and finely printed paper.
of course, in such an assertion i risk incurring the same wrath that attacks me when pointing out the grammatical or punctuation errors of others, given that i almost totally eschew uppercase letters. it's almost twenty years since thewashingmachinepost comprised the printed word; as soon as the interweb was deemed ready for my musings (by me), pixels became the sole currency. had i felt the same need to publish in the early nineties, the post would have more than likely occupied fanzine format. typed and printed or photocopied and possibly sold via word of mouth, it would have been all but impossible to update on a daily basis. the internet changed all that, allowing yours truly and thousands of others to impose their meanderings and musings on an unsuspecting public eager to number themselves amongst the digerati.
i'm not sure that it's a massive contradiction to eagerly sit by the letterbox in anticipation of the arrival of either rouleur, procycling or singletrack, only the middle publication of which offers a less than aromatic stimulation of the senses on opening the envelopes in which the other two arrive. it may seem superficial to delineate the smell of ink on quality paper as a major point in favour of reading printed matter, but i know that i'm not alone in such appreciation (even if mrs washingmachinepost is in serious disagreement).
as the guardian newspaper once more increased its cover price only a week or so ago, the fact that the entire contents are available online free of charge would surely favour the cancellation of the daily order at my local newsagent? but no. despite an increase in the weekly spend, i rather favour the fact that a qualified somebody has decided what it is i ought to be reading and in what order (always assuming that i read the paper from front to back). the online experience is a tad more scattergun in approach; there is a whole smorgasbord of information spread across an infinite number of pages, most of which seem to be bordered by an infuriating number of irritating and moving graphics. the fact that magazines and newspapers display only static ads is something to be eternally grateful for.
digital photography has also democratised the process of illustration, one that allows me to snap some pics to accompany my articles and reviews without waiting for any film to be developed. and then to discover that i wasn't standing quite where i thought i was. should any post processing be required, i'd have to scan the prints first. that would greatly impact upon my ability to turn on a sixpence, so to speak.
however, the thrust of my point (if i can say so in polite company) is predominantly directed towards the likes of singletrack and rouleur. though the latter has scarcely strayed from its art publication beginnings, offering unimpeachable photography (much of which is still analogue in origination) and quality writing, the former has slowly morphed into the ideal successor to the late lamented privateer, ostensibly the offroad sister magazine to rouleur. the constitution of both offers more than just a good read.
people once thought that television would kill off radio, while music cds and digital downloads ought to have done the same for vinyl. the resurgence of the latter proves, if nothing else, that new doesn't always equate with better. though i admit to being as guilty as anyone else in the velocipedinal world, the arrival of either of the two recently mentioned magazines still elicits metaphorical screams of delight on twitter each time a new edition lands on the welcome mat. despite the steamroller effect of pixelation, we ought to accord the same sense of admiration towards the publishers of both, as well as those who keep the faith in printed books, as we do the likes of alfredo gios and ernesto colnago and their like for ensuring that the lugged steel frame still exists in the era of nano tech carbon fibre.
come the revolution...
saturday 2 may 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
one of the shops, but a stone's throw from my office was formerly a clothing store, with the upper floor given over to the owner's daughter for her hairdressing business. this was rather tautologically named a cut above; obvious perhaps and more than likely shared with hundreds of other hairdressers, but arguably better than lorna's hairdressing. clever names for shops and businesses are nothing new, but often point to at least a smidgeon of ingenuity and soul on the part of the proprietors. and the best bit is that, even if prospective customers failed to see the significance of the name above the door, it really was of no great nevermind.
perhaps the most obvious example of this in the realm of bicycle retail is chain reaction, a phrase that would more usually describe a process related to nuclear fission, but the inclusion of the word chain provides the link (pardon the pun) to our own little world. the interweb is awash with images of further examples, such as a spanish grocery store juan in a million, a wool shop sew what?, perhaps the obvious fish'n'chip shop a salt and battery and a lingerie business entitled frisky business.
no doubt there are several in a similar vein applied to bicycle shops, though many simply tread the more obvious choices. however, no matter the necessity for quality bicycle shops, the pelotonese are no longer confined solely to hanging out in front of the counter, chatting with the mechanic as he tries to install electrical cable into the appropriate orifices in a carbon frame. in keeping with our italian brethren, we seem wholesale to have adopted the coffee shop as a more comfortable alternative. in truth, who would rather spend hours staring at the same bicycles and componentry week in week out, as opposed to settling into a leather sofa with a cup of froth and a danish?
lately, britain's cycling cafés appear to have seamlessy morphed from those serving hot tea and a bacon toastie to those with a resplendent and shiny italian coffee machine sat in pride of place behind the counter, bordered by a mouthwatering selection of cakes and pastries. additionally, plastic chairs and formica topped tables have been dispensed with in favour of wood and leather and in keeping with this, the pelotonese have adopted sportwool and a wide variety of prendas cycle caps. if they offered italian language lessons at lunchtime, there would doubtless be a lengthy list of applicants.
which is why, in the light of all i've mentioned above, the stunning genius of opening a cycle café in st george's terrace, roker, sunderland called fausto coffee is worthy of a rousing burst of applause.
if you live in the area, no doubt this is all old news, but having only opened on 28 march this year, it's not all that old. the superbly named coffee emporium is the brainchild of louise riddell. i asked her what happens if customers fail to glean the appropriateness of the name?
"It's not an issue if people don't 'get' the name. It's a play on words that doesn't exclude anyone; cyclists get it, and it sparks interest and conversation for others who want to know more."
of course, a café that points its efforts in the direction of cyclists is hardly unheard of. as a breed apart from the civilian population, we are happy enough to adopt a faux italian attitude, one that stretches as far as impressively uninformed critique of designer coffees. it would be hard to choose which came first; the café or the peloton that decided it needed the affirmation of froth and crema. however, aside from the tell-tale bikes leaning against the window, not every establishment embraces the inner domestique quite so readily as fausto coffee.
"On the wall we have a lovely print of Coppi and Bartali sharing a bottle of wine, some great little nik-naks including framed, original razor blade boxes branded with ornate 1950s packaging; Coppi and Bartali, again!
"We also have a fabulous mural depicting the cross-section profile of a Giro stage featuring the legendary Mortirolo and Stelvio passes, and there's a selection of carefully chosen merchandise for sale, including Coppi branded cycling caps."
louise's appreciation of the specific genre that informs her new milieu extends not only to the café's interior but also its external public face. "The exterior of the shop is painted in a blue, colour matched to Fausto Coppi's racing jersey of the time (Bianchi), and we're launching our own kit soon featuring the same shade of blue".
In the space of only a few weeks, between four and two dozen cyclists have begun counting upon fausto coffee as their pelotonic home, some of whom use it as their start, finish or midpoint of a bike ride. if anyone's anywhere near the locale, i wouldn't think any of us would need too much persuading to drop by, say hello and delight in a coffee drawn from a rapha/rocket italian coffee machine, accompanied by one (or several) delectable crumpets, cheese scones, breads, toasties, banana loaf... oh how i could go on. and all in the shadow of the great fausto.
friday 1 may 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's almost hard to come to terms with the knowledge that this time last year, phone calls and e-mails were filling the chinks between work time, arranging a trip to the giro d'italia. with its opening prologue in belfast and subsequent two stages across irish roads, the event's return travel arrangements to italy necessitated a break with tradition and a start on friday. meaning, tautologically, that stage two took place on saturday over the roads of county antrim.
on a clear day, the hills of that very same county can be seen from southern coasts of islay.
that's why it made perfect sense to one or two of us besotted with the competitive milieu of bicycle road-racing, to enquire of islay sea adventures if they'd be willing to allow a charter of their boat across the sea to ballycastle. while such a request might seem perfectly normal to those of you here reading, think of the hapless fellow who owns the company, studying sea charts to figure out how he was to get us to italy and back in a day. perhaps asking him to take us to see a stage of the giro d'italia was not the best opening line of questioning.
this year, just from a sense of mischief, we'd considered e-mailing to ask how long it would take and what would be the cost of sailing to gerona on italy's ligurian coast. our only concern was that he'd agree from the outset, rather undermining our wizard wheeze. so rather than stand by a very wet roadside anticipating the peloton's arrival as soon as the helicopters hove into view, it's back to the old standbys of the la gazzetta website and probably carlton kirby on eurosportplayer. there's really not much wrong with that (apart from carlton).
with the approach of any big cycle race or three week tour, the prognostications have already begun. the monthlies offer a stage by stage account of the race, with informed comment on who's going well, who has targeted which stage and who might be the overall victor. this all smacks of bbc's grandstand from many years ago, when the lunchtime programme would prognosticate and the post match roundup would admit where they went wrong at lunchtime.
as mentioned probably more often than you really need to hear, i have little truck with the outpourings of such punditry. in the good old days of eurosport, prior to the advent of digital and its subsequent division into two channels of british eurosport, the tour and maybe even the giro entailed listening to the dulcet tones of david duffield and sean kelly from the beginning of each day's coverage until the podium presentation. nowadays, for the tour at least, we are treated to three talking heads before, during and after each stage.
can't we just watch the racing without being predisposed to how things might turn out?
personally, i have not made any attempt at reconnoitering any of the giro's 21 stages. i'm happy to take each day as it comes along, without even so much as a favourite for each stage or the overall. but this year there is a rather enterprising means of checking each of the stage routes without prejudice.
for the better part of 85 years, citalia have offered their prospective customers assistance in discovering the finest parts of italy by way of their flexible italian holidays. had the post's budget been up to the strain and i possessed of the forethought to book something in the first place, perhaps i'd be typing this from a penthouse room overlooking the ligurian sea. however, in the absence of the dream and faced with reality, citalia have placed a guide to the giro on their website that shows not only a map of each stage, but offers related information, news and photographs as well as available holidays to each region.
though the latter is obviously the commercial aspect of their apparent altruism, should the race become compulsory viewing it might be simplicity itself to book a holiday to take in the later stages. so if you fancy checking each day of the giro over breakfast without fear of the punditry of interruption, here undoubtedly is the solution.
thursday 30 april 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
before i moved to atlantic heaven, i lived in scotland around five or six miles away from my place of work, with a start time of 7am in the morning. since my distaste for driving preceded any move further west, this daily journey (sometimes seven days a week during the busier summer months) was undertaken by bicycle, initially on a shopping type cycle with dynamo lighting. the latter was necessary throughout the winter months, particularly along a tree-lined road totally bereft of street lights. the bit that bothered me most about that journey in the darker mornings was the predilection of dynamo lights to de-luminate when i'd to stop at the t-junction at the end of the unlit road.
its singletrackness meant that any car turning into the road at the junction might not see me approach, and anything follwing would perhaps suddenly find a cyclist in front, but with no rear light to draw their attention. you could always tell that there was a car in front and be alerted to the junction's existence by a brightening of the rear lights as the brakes came on. though nothing disastrous ever took place, the disparity between the almost excessive illumination provided by motor vehicles compared to the disappearance of any on my bicycle has, to a greater or lesser extent, bothered me ever since.
a sadly departed irish acquaintance of mine spent a goodly portion of his retirement years developing a brake light for bicycles that relied on momentum to move an internal inertia switch. under braking, this switch would illuminate a red light to advise of imminent stopping, switching off again when underway. unfortunately, despite his best efforts, the ownership of a patent and many days trudging round cycle shows hoping to interest potential backers or manufacturers, he died before it ever saw the light of day (if you'll pardon the pun).
in those pre-internet days, there was no such thing as crowdfunding and tautologically, no kickstarter. but even the existence of the latter does not guarantee success. basically, pleas and sales pitches are the best that can crowdfunding can do; after that it's a case of sitting with fingers crossed and hoping that the wee movie at the top has been convincing enough.
lucid-brake 2.0 is just such a product, one that is currently a tad short of its target but with only five days to go. similar in intent to that of my dear departed friend, lucid-brake aims to make velocipedinal life safer for those whose daily commute takes them into the company of motorised traffic. this it does by doubling as a flashing rear light and brake light totally devoid of wires. by means of an integrated accelerometer, the light can distinguish between gradual stopping and sudden handfuls of brake lever. in the latter case, it will flash brightly then remain lit for several seconds.
it has perhaps not escaped your attention that many comtemporary motor vehicles have not only two brake lights contained within the rear light cluster, but generally a third mounted slightly higher on the vehicle. due to the flat back of the lucid-brake and the ease with which it can be attached to various surfaces, it is possible to replicate this behaviour by placing one on the bicycle and another on the rear of your cycle helmet. possibly even a third on a backpack. with ever-increasing numbers of cars on the road, anything that improves cyclist safety can but be seen as a good thing.
with so few days left to bring this innovative idea to market, i'd click the link below and, armed with a minimum of $25 (£16) put your money where my mouth is.
wednesday 29 april 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
a colleague of mine has decided to adopt the mantle of touring cyclist, bringing to the surface a latent sense of wanderlust. the rest of us in the velo club are silently applauding him for his intrepid velocipedinal attitude, for i've no doubt that most of us wish ourselves also trundling along distant byeways bereft of any responsibilities other than rotating those pedals. having once considered the possibility of garnering a custom-built touring frame, both budget and perspicacity prompted the purchase of a considerably less expensive touring machine.
in these modern times, even touring machines have eschewed the old-fashioned caliper or cantilever brakes, replacing them with discs even if only operated with wires rather than hydraulic liquid. despite my less than welcoming attitude towards disc brakes on road bikes, laden touring bikes would seem to be the ideal subject for their improved stopping power. a skinny cyclist on a sliver of carbon fibre should manage just dandy on a set of dual-pivots, but try to stop a laden tourer in a hurry and a modicum of trouble might ensue.
the advent of disc brakes on the upper (financial) reaches of bicycle construction have already been mostly dealt with on a carefully considered technological and engineering basis. it was notable on a recently reviewed shand stoater that steven had brazed on the front dropouts pointing forward in order to counteract the forces generated by a braking disc rotor. others have noted the need for reinforcement around the lower portions of carbon fork legs, as if stiffness were not already more than an afterthought.
but at the more economic end of the bicycle market, not everything can be considered quite so hunky dory. rather obviously, from a marketing point of view, the look and feel of the bike ought best to emulate those with a larger price-tag, but quite frequently the mechanical considerations that lie beneath have been, shall we say, skimped upon. this is not to imply that anything below a certain price borders on the non-functional, but lower remuneration always points to economies at some part of the programme.
this is not a new revelation. i have seen supermarket mountain bikes with cantilever bosses brazed at differing heights, rear dropouts welded squint, bottom bracket bearings bereft of even a smidgeon of grease and wheel spokes held in place purely by wishfulness rather than the application of a spoke-key. the advent of the disc brake brings with it its own set of malfeasances. unfortunately, one of those has manifested itself on my colleague's new touring bike. mildly forceful application of the front brake more often than not results in the front wheel pulling off to one side.
this has been partially remedied by the use of a more robust quick-release skewer, but the problem has not altogether disappeared. however, his legitimate complaint is as nothing as to the reason that trek bicycles have recalled more than one million bicycles due to the discovery of a quick-release skewer on which the lever has the ability to rotate through more than 180 degrees. in case the offensiveness of this situation passes you by, let me point out that a lever opening further than intended can insert itself into a whirring disc rotor with all the scary results you can doubtless conjure up.
the skewer in question could be black or silver, with or without a brand name and has apparently been a part of the bicycle firmament since the turn of the century. it masquerades behind the name qr11. if you believe that your trek bicycle has one of these holding its front wheel in place (this recall apparently affects only the front version), you ought best to contact your nearest trek dealer immediately and cease from using the bicycle until a replacement has been effected.
more information is available here
tuesday 28 april 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................