providing a decent name for a rock band is a lot harder than you'd think. jazz bands have it delightfully simple by comparison; simply count the number of folks in the band and name accordingly. like thewashingmachinepost quartet for instance. that sort of naming convention has never really entered the psyche of the contemporary rock or pop musician, unless you're willing to accept the dave clark five as the exception to the rule. (just while we're here, mr clark played a rogers drum kit that i would have given my right shoelace for).
a trio such as emerson, lake and palmer never showed a great deal of creativity when it came to the wording for mr palmer's bass drum, but then in complete contrast was the almost unpronounceable premiata forneria marconi, an italian prog rock outfit allegedly named after a milan bakery. those in the know sidestepped the pronunciation problem by referring to them as pfm. keith moon was reputedly the progenitor of the name, led zeppelin, purely on the basis that he figured that's how they'd go down in concert.
my own musical involvement in my late teens/early twenties, never quite reached such heights. not for me my very own pantechnicon with palmer writ large on the side, though i'm sure carl would have been happy to lend it out for those gigs at aberdeen's treetops hotel. one of the local bands when at college, drawn from several different further educational institutions, came up with the rather superb rue de remarx (think about it) only letting themselves down on their gig posters by referring to themselves as la rage. this, it turns out, is french for rabies.
still, musically i recall they had it more together than the band of which i was a member.
we deliberated long and hard over those metaphorical letters on the bass drum head. looking at concert posters appearing around the locale, we considered calling ourselves support, since we could then produce a highly impressive palmares. the name cancelled also seemed like a novel idea, culled from one or two other posters, but we finally settled on original copy, a name that spawned a caption on the posters get xerox off baby. pathetic, i know, but in our defence we were young and naive.
the same difficulty must surely raise its head in other strains of modern life. rarely is there a single company that has its portion of the market all to itself, so the label on the product has to stand out from the crowd. that in itself must offer a bit of a challenge, but if that logo professes a superlative, it is all but imperative that the product fulfils its marketing promise.
such is the wonderful sock company. you will note, perhaps, that the definite article is contained within the name; these are not just wonderful socks, they proclaim, but the wonderful socks. the implication here is that no other socks are as wonderful as these. the website claims they were conceived adjacent to mont ventoux, and though i have no reason to disbelieve this assertion, i must confess in the shadow of such a terrifying mountain, socks would not be my first (or last) thought. however, it's hard to argue with the mantra "much like the pedals or the correct gear, the socks need to be perfect too."
the wonderful sock company are also in possession of a wonderful logo. and on opening the black monogrammed envelope that arrived with the impressive pair of black socks, with a letter proclaiming 'dear brian, you are wonderful.', it's very hard not to warm to these people.
their made in italy socks feature polypropylene for breathability and resistex carbon for insulation. though i've not had them long enough to gauge their wearability, i can attest to both of the previous notions as being more than adequate in the heat of battle (all terms used are relative). the others in the range are a tad more brightly coloured than the black version reviewed, but i rather liked their understated quality and suprisingly, the mid-calf height; i always considered myself more of an ankle sock person.
probably the best that can be said about any sock is its level of invisibility when riding a bicycle, in which case, these wonderful socks score eleven out of ten. i quite fancy the pink giro version, but matched with either a bright blue pair of rapha climber's shoes or the more sedate dromarti burgundy leather, the black logo'd version acquitted themselves commendably well. however, might i respectfully suggest that the words 'follow us' over the toes on each sock, be turned to face the wearer? that would seem more logical to me.
monday 29 june 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
when mrs washingmachinepost and i got married all those years ago, we made a catering pact. she would do the cooking and i would take care of the washing up; it's a situation that has continued until the present day and there's every likelihood it'll carry on that way for a long time into the future. mrs twmp is a good cook. i most certainly am not.
i can manage my porage each morning; soak it overnight, then heat it up in the morning, pop it into a bowl and plop three peach slices on top. i have managed an omelette every now and again, though none would have won a prize for aesthetics. i will admit to being a dab hand at opening a tin of beans when necessary and i make a mean peanut butter sandwich, but sadly, that's about as far as it goes.
on saturday mornings, while i'm getting bits and bobs ready for nipping out on the bike, on occasion the tv shows a cookery programme. unfortunately most of the recipes and demonstrations concern meat dishes, none of which will ever be suitable for my palate, but come the revolution etc. however, those doing the cooking make everything look so darned easy, though in mitigation, all the ingredients are easily to hand for, in most cases, professional chefs or cooks. everything i'm not, as many have pointed out.
taking all into consideration, my culinary palmares hardly qualifies me as the most apposite individual to review a cook book. even one whose cover features a wheel and sprocket and mentions the words grand tour.
author hannah grant is a professional chef whose career concerns the nutritional wellbeing of professional cyclists. well aware of the calorific intake of such individuals, she has devised a twenty stage book of recipes designed to satisfy the demands of the toughest of world tour cyclists. employed as she is/was by riis cycling/tinkoff saxo, it is not altogether surprising that bjarne has written the introduction.
"In 2006, the team decided to employ a professional chef to accompany us on the road and ensure the quality of all our meals. Ever since, we have consistently increased our focus on diet and the impact it has on performance."
it's relatively well known that the recommended daily amounts shown on the majority of foodstuffs concern the average and let's face it, sedentary individuals. those of us who ride our bikes even on only a few days per week do not quite fit into that category and there's little doubt that a few more, well-chosen calories per day probably wouldn't go amiss. however, it would hardly be scientific or even advisable simply to eat a lot more of what is already on the table. the combination of carbohydrates, fats and protein allied to visual atractiveness has to be taken into consideration.
in her own introduction, ms grant states "Since many people have a slight intolerance to dairy or gluten, most of the recipes have been devised to suit a dairy or gluten free diet." sadly this does not extend to those of us who favour vegetarianism; the majority of main courses feature pork, veal or chicken, rather excluding those from any practical examination by yours truly. however, not wishing to fall at the first hurdle, the presence of a focaccia bread recipe towards the back of the grand tour cookbook took my fancy and i figured i might feasibly manage this italian style loaf. doing so would surely enhance my qualifications for reviewing in the first place.
having purchased as close to the ingredients list as island shopping will allow, i did in fact manage to bake a particularly splendid looking loaf. disappointingly the inside was still a bit doughy, a state of affairs i was willing to accept the blame for, since i'm fairly sure i hadn't kneeded the dough long enough or well enough. oddly, the ingredients included four tablespoons of olive oil, but the instructions failed to explain what to do with them. the next attempt will be a whole lot better i'm sure.
the grand tour cookbook suffers from something of an identity crisis. pop a wooden leg on each corner and it would make an excellent coffee table. the photography pertaining to each meal is quite exemplary. printed on heavyweight art paper, the illustrations will have the reader salivating over several, if not all of the examples shown. throughout there are cameo interviews with riders such as roman kreuziger, micheal rogers, alberto contador, ivan basso and others where ms grant asks for their opinions on her progressive culinary project.
not that any of us can quite identify with such luminaries, but several comments are quite enlightening. for instance, did you know that peter sagan enjoys pancakes or waffles with organic jerusalem artichoke syrup and organic jerusalem artichoke and blueberry jam? i think i'll stick to green city jumbo porage oats if it's all the same to you.
but referring back to that alleged identity crisis, is it a coffee table book or a bona fide cookbook?
i confess on requesting a review copy of this book from musette publishing, i had no idea it was such a substantial tome. i'm a tad disappointed that the vegetarian cyclist isn't catered for to any great degree, but there are still several starters and desserts that i could scoff wholeheartedly for twenty days without diffculty. there's no real reason why a cookery book shouldn't inhabit the coffee table genre, though it does require sizeable table space on which to open and it's not quite as convenient as an a5 spiral bound recipe book. perhaps musette publishing are in the process of defining their very own category; on the basis of this example, one that ought to be welcomed with an open oven door.
the serious contemporary cyclist spends a large fortune on carbon fibre, virtually spokeless wheels and apparel that all but defies aerodynamic drag. this might all amount to very little if the engine isn't firing on all cylinders in the first place. perhaps the grand tour cookbook's £40 would be the best investment you ever make.
sunday 28 june 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
a month ago, islay was still in the throes of invasion by throngs of whisky aficionados, spending their days and money traipsing round one distillery after another in thrall to a bevy of tour guides, some of whom had been drafted in for the occasion. this is not to imply that the islay whisky festival is the only time of year in which this situation occurs, but things are certainly more concentrated at that end of may. various estimates abound as to how many visitors there are at that time; anything from 15,000 (surely an exaggeration?) down to a more realistic four or five thousand. either way, there are one heck of a lot of people treading the village streets, often leading residents to feel out of place if not holding conversations in german.
several years ago, bruichladdich distillery preceded their open day with a run from near bridgend to the distillery courtyard, along with a bicycle ride taking in the west coast road between kilchiaran and portnahaven. neither event has recurred in subsequent years; one or two locals participated, but the whisky drinkers had other things on their mind.
in the years prior to the distilleries joining the party, i had attempted to organise a festival bike ride, rather unhumorously suggesting we might do so in gaelic in order to attract copious amounts of funding. once again, a few locals took part, but festival goers en-masse completely avoided the entire velocipedinal affair.
however, there is something intrinsically attractive about riding a bicycle round all eight distilleries, either in a single day which leaves very little time to imbibe in the product on offer or even take in a tour, or more slowly over two days or more. perhaps someone with more marketing nous or acumen than yours truly could proffer such a trip as a regular affair? but then, islay's a tad on the small side to be in any danger of anyone getting lost when trying to find caol ila distillery after leaving laphroaig; why on earth would anyone need a guide?
well, for those less aware of the island's back roads or the precise situation of each whisky mecca, someone who might keep them to a schedule and able to join the dots in the nearest trajectory to a straight line might find themselves at least in occasional demand. i'd hesitate to say that i am that person, nor to imply that the three visiting members of the scotch malt whisky society were in any doubt as to a pre-planned route at the start of the festival, but there's no denying that the accompanying video crew lost us en route from the above mentioned distilleries.
completing the distillery route, as i mentioned, is very do-able over the course of a single day by reasonably fit cyclists with a desire to visit the home(s) of the amber nectar. doing the same with a photographer and videographer in tow is substantially harder. as those who may have endured a similar filmic undertaking, calls to continually ride the same steep section of roadway just to gain the right shot start to pale after a few repetitions. and if it were not sufficient to do so for the purposes of a stills camera, having to go just once more for the benefit of moving pictures makes that smile on the face a tad more strained.
and then, when the finished work is posted to youtube, to discover that all those repetitive knee-breakers have been dispensed with at the editing stages starts to bring back memories of the pain and wheel-pulling efforts of the day. i would be fibbing if i said it wasn't fun; granted, the bulk of the morning was wet and windy, but it's always nice to introduce visitors to the nature of islay's climate, even at the time of year when the only discussion ought to be about which brand of suntan lotion was keeping those cycling tanlines sharp.
in subsequent discussion with richard goslan, the man to blame for the entire single malt infused enchilada, it appears that there are tentative plans to repeat the process in 2016, though not necessarily with lights, action, camera following behind. and there may even be yet another tour de islay cycle jersey. if you fancy acquiring your own example of the one seen in the movie, contact brian gibb at thecyclejersey.com; i can't promise, but indications are that he might just be able to help if you cross his palm with appropriate amounts of silver.
saturday 27 june 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
like it or not, professional cycle jersey design hasn't evolved quite as far as you might have hoped. you wouldn't consider the process to be a dialectic, one in which the amalgamation of several years' mutations result in a piece of garment design that would make your knee caps crinkle (in a good way). the problem can be squarely laid at the feet of the sponsor(s), the folks with the cheque book who assume every right to have the corporate colours and logos often garishly on display. granted, there have been some effective graphics over the years that thoroughly deserve their iconic status, but more than just one or two of which i (and others) despair.
in 1983, the zannier group, headed by self-styled clothing maverick roger zannier launched the 'z' brand of children's clothing. four years later, as a promotional lead, the company sponsored roger legeay's peugeot team (now there's an example of an iconic jersey), garnering joint billing with z-peugeot. scots rider, robert millar won the 1989 tour of britain overall allegedly on the basis of having been told greg lemond would be joining the team the following year. leaving the peloton behind on one of the tour's climbs, he disappeared into the distance, retaining the gained lead until the final stage.
millar's sense of joy was not unrequited, as lemond won the tour de france in his first year with the team in 1990, only by now they were riding tomasso frames. the clothing company took over sole sponsorship for the final two years of the team's existence, which morphed into gan in 1993.
the z team's highly recognisable jersey design would appear to owe much to the artwork of roy lichtenstein, giving the impression that the letter 'z' was effectively a shortened version of the exclamation zow! or something remarkably similar. this contention was aided and abetted by the bright colouring. in the middle of a multicoloured and multinational peloton, the team members stood out remarkably clearly. a tribute to roger zannier's graphic contribution to professional cycling by esteemed illustrator, richard mitchelson was featured on the cover of rouleur magazine number 16, an example of which has now been made available as an a2 size giclée printed on 308 gsm hahnemuhle art paper.
as if ownership of a piece of rich mitch artwork were not in itself, enough, these a2 posters have been printed in a limited edition of 500 at an individual cost of £70. in other words, a collector's item.
coincidentally, a 'z' print is not the only tribute to such a successful team appearing in the summer of 2015. though a team z jersey has been previously available from the masters of retro, prendas ciclismo, along with an authentic casquette, from july of this year, there will be a reprise. santini supplied the official team clothing from 1987 to 1989 (greg lemond fans need not apply, but as a robert millar aficionado, this is truly excellent news) and have now presented andy and mick with both a vetements z jersey and matching bibshorts.
the rich mitch poster is available even as i type, while i'm sure prendas would be more than willing to entertain pre-orders for the replica team kit.
it's what summer is all about.
friday 26 june 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the state of virginia is south of delaware and new jersey, bordering maryland, and west virginia and north of north carolina. in short, it's more or less midway down the east coast of the usa. its capital city is richmond, a town continuing the confusing nature of north america by having nothing whatsoever to do with richmond county which is about 80km distant to the north east.
richmond was originally settled by the english following their april 1607 arrival in jamestown, a town sitting on the shores of what was rather obviously named, the james river. richmond's principal claim to fame was as a result of patrick henry having made his 'give me liberty, or give me death' speech in 1775, setting a course for both revolution and ultimate independence from the old country.
modern day richmond has a population of just over 200,000, and features several recreational parks, one of which includes trails used for the xterra championship mountain biking course. however, it displays no specific preference for road cycling. in fact almost to the contrary, the city houses richmond international raceway, home to nascar racing since 1953. yet for 2015, the city of richmond has been chosen as the setting for the word road race championships. according to the official webiste, there are only a mere 85 days and counting (september 19-27) until the world's top professionals arrive to give each other grief round the town's streets.
having read only yesterday that alberto contador was out reconnoitering bits of this year's tour de france route, it occurred to me that it would be very unlikely that many of those touting for world championship bands and a top podium step, will have too many opportunities to check out the parcours of richmond's world championship route before september. in the heart of the world tour season, popping across the pond to attempt riding through busy city traffic would be unlikely to go down too well with the directeur sportif.
so what's a professional to do?
currently there are any number of sports encapsulated on the small screen which, digital controller in hand, participants can allegedly smell the atmosphere of tennis, cricket, archery, soccer and a whole host of others, competing against friends and family for little in the way of athletic reward. zwift, self proclaimed progenitor of social cycling for the solo cyclist have partnered with richmond 2015 to produce a digital representation of the world championship circuit. this, they claim, will allow pro riders as well as the push-button amateur to pre-ride the course without ever having to apply for an american visa.
according to zwift the intrepid amongst us can connect power meters, heart-rate monitors and all other manner of number counters to 'enhance the experience.' though i can sympathise with the hard-pressed, would-be world champion in trying to find a gap in their busy european schedule, i do so hope this is not the thin end of the wedge. perish the thought that we find ourselves in the future choosing the latest in pixelated carbon fibre and a less than tangible route as an alternative to getting the bike from the shed and going out to get wet and windy.
if it happens, remember where you were when i warned you.
thursday 25 june 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
islay's nearest neighbour is the isle of jura, sited but a five-minute ferry journey across a turbulent stretch of water known as the sound of islay (which, incidentally, is known as caol ila in gaelic; just in case there are any whisky drinkers reading.) in comparison with islay's population of 3,200, it compares disfavourably at an official 196, but if it's isolated solitude you fancy, this may be the very place of your dreams.
the principal village is that of craighouse, home to the island's single malt whisky distillery and a few palm trees that grow opposite the courtyard. oddly enough, for such a small place, it is famous for several reasons. if you ignore the fact that prime minister david cameron is a not infrequent visitor due to his friendship with lord vesty, the three large hills known as the paps of jura host an annual fell race on the last saturday of may, as well as being a dramatic backdrop to the calmac ferry berthing at port askaig.
it is also home to an enormous population of red deer (the norse for which, the island's name is derived), barnhill cottage in which george orwell wrote the bulk of 1984. and not too far away is the corryvreckan whirlpool which, for some reason or other, a number of people have felt compelled to swim across. not too sure exactly what that proves. but then again, it seems comparable to running over the paps of jura every may for fun.
though the ferry from islay lands on the ramp at feolin, there's another eight miles, mostly uphill before reaching the outskirts of craighouse with its single hotel, community owned shop and the distillery. oddly enough, when heading back in the opposite direction, perhaps to catch the ferry back to islay, it seems every bit as hilly as it did on the inward trip. five kids from islay's secondary school recently pedalled their and back to raise funds for macmillan nurses.
sadly, though i'm sure you found such knowledge a great boon to your contemporary education, the isle of jura has nothing whatsoever to do with the jura cycle clothing company. their sights, though based in east sussex, seem to have been trained on the european mountain range of the same name. which, to a certain extent, makes a bit more sense. for though a bike ride to the isle of jura is definitely one of those boxes to be ticked before you reach sixty years of age, a mountain range predominantly situated in switzerland, france and germany might be more deserving of a range of exquisite merino cycle jerseys.
though the past couple of days have featured wall to wall sunshine, i had asked the folks at jura clothing to send a long-sleeve jersey as something of a preventative measure. it turned out i was half-right. the medium example sent for review resembled (deliberately) the italian flag, though there are a number of other designs available in case you identify with an alternative nationality (currently this jersey is on special offer at £75, reduced from its more usual £90).
the italian fabricated merino jersey is impossibly soft, featuring a quarter length front zip and a delightfully high ribbed collar. i do so like a high collar, but i am also endeared of favourably long sleeves, of which this is a particularly fine example. the torso is longer than would be expected nowadays, giving rise to thoughts that jura's cycle jerseys may be aimed more at the leisure market than the pelotonese. couple this potentially unrequired extra length at the front (bunching up when in the drops) with a single rear zipped pocket, and this train of thought gathers a bit more credibility.
however, though pretty much every race-fit jersey nowadays is notably longer at the back than the front, not all of us feature bodies that are comparably race cut. there have been more than just a few odd days when i would have preferred a more relaxed dress code during my velocipedinal perambulations. particularly, i might add, if i intend riding to craighouse on jura. refugees from the peloton stand out like a sore thumb outside jura stores.
that sole pocket is surprisingly capacious; i managed to contain a mini-pump, an essentials case with a digital compact camera inside, and a tightly rolled waterproof jacket yet still have a few empty corners left. the downside to this relates back to the length of the jersey. though there was easily space for all the above, the weight kept it all hanging about my posterior. in truth, this is not too much of an imposition when in the saddle, but leads to an ungainly manner when stood in the coffee shop, debating whether to have another slice of lemon drizzle sponge or not.
i cannot deny that i'd prefer the tried and tested three rear pockets, an arrangement that allows more equitable distribution of cargo.
however, assuming all has been devolved to the following mavic neutral support car, the jura jersey is pretty darned brilliant. the extra length is reminiscent of the halcyon days of a woolly peloton, the sleeves are easily rolled up in those warmer moments and the neck zip can be undone with ease while riding. the fact that it's made from quality merino means it's warm when it needs to be, yet cool enough to be worn in a hebridean summer.
maybe that's really why they're called the jura cycle company?
should you wish to be a tad more individualistic in your merino cycle apparel, the jura cycle company are happy to embroider wording of your choice on the white chest hoop that features on each and every design. i figure that one of these with thewashingmachinepost writ large across the front would be every bit as cool as swimming across the corryvreckan (in the 'none too warm' sense rather than via 'hip dude' connotations).
aside from the pocket quibbles, (the short sleeve design features three buttoned rear pockets) this is an undeniably excellent addition to the cycling wardrobe.
the jura cycle company's jerseys start at £80 for the short-sleeve versions and £90 for the long-sleeve. embroidery adds £20 while flock lettering costs £10 per placement. all are available in small, medium, large and xl.
wednesday 24 june 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
years and years ago, the mountain bike industry invented the full-suspension, downhill bike. though i personally have no truck with or need for suspension on any of my bicycles, under the circumstances, it was probably quite a good idea. if you accept that, when hurtling downhill over a series of rocky outcrops at over 70 kilometres per hour, the concomitant jiggling might conceivably make it rather difficult to pedal with any comfort.
however, if you add springy bits front and back, that theoretically leaves the wheels free to bump up and down over those rocky outcrops, isolating the rider and allowing reasonably forceful pedalling in order to ride even faster. i say theoretically because you and i both know that the rider is still likely to be both shaken and stirred all the way from the top to the bottom. admittedly less so than would have been the case had springing not intervened.
it's also where the idea of placing hydraulic disc brakes on bicycles started to become acceptable. and we know now where that's leading us.
like many a technical innovation, there are development costs, something that formula one motor racing has become almost inured to, despite the ever-increasing number of zeros on the sponsor's cheques. though winners' trophies in the cabinet can go some way towards justifying such commercial largesse, at one indefinable point, financial return on investment reaches top of the list.
the mountain bike industry circumvented awkward questions from the accounts department by means of a deft and surprisingly well-considered body swerve. what had, till then, been expensively well-built downhill bicycles were transformed into play bikes. this became a hitherto unheralded sub-section of the genre which clever marketing was able to position as the very style of bike you simply could not live without.
there are very few natural downhill landscapes within gravitational distance of the average urban dweller, and not necessarily that many more close to even the average rural individual. trying to sell downhill bicycles to any of the aforementioned might be akin to marketing freezers to the eskimos. but the play bike concept breaks that strategy in half and adds it to a more than attractive price tag. and thus it was that mountain bikes got a full set of suspension and hydraulic discs for no real good reason.
the road bike market is seemingly less advanced than its offroad brethren. this year and next the uci are allowing their road people to mess about with disc brakes, even though there's really no justifiable reason for doing so. however, it is not the road bike in its purest form that need concern us here, but the altogether slippier matter of the cyclocross bicycle. here's a style of road bike that occupies a very small niche in an overall small niche, yet offers many practical benefits and, dare i say it; fun.
but the cyclocross bike has something of an image problem. it can accomplish many of the same tasks as a mountain bike, but lacks the latter's je ne sais quoi. granted, it does have disc brakes, but at that point, all comes to an unceremonious halt. i am not currently aware of any bragging rights conferred by cyclocross unless you are jeremy powers or sven nys. but once more, those clever marketing people have achieved the ultimate body swerve.
they have effectively taken the 'cross bike, jazzed it up just a smidgeon and rebranded it the gravel bike. everybody has some gravel here or thereabouts, even if it doesn't amount to a lot more than a few hundred metres of the stuff. though bragging rights may not yet appear under the delete as applicable section, it does confer a certain rugged macho-ness while pragmatically dealing with the current parlous state of britain's roads.
for some of us, however, strains of rural life depend a lot more on the cyclocross/gravel genre than our city-dwelling compatriots. though our tarmac is no less iniquitous than anywhere else, there are farms and even distilleries (kilchoman) which eschew smooth tarmacadam with a more than cavalier attitude.
as part of my extra-curricular activities, i am frequently in the position of making visits to such establishments in order that i might pursue literary and photographic ideologies on behalf of those with the pennies. there are very good reasons why farmers drive land rovers and tractors, something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, since both are rarely used to smooth passageway to and from the farmyard. as a confirmed roadie, with nary a springy farm gate to be seen in the bike shed, my preferred means of reaching said farmyards is by way of a cyclocross bike wearing wheelsmith hoops and 38mm gravel grinders.
naturally enough, it seems this places me well to the fore of the velocipedinal cutting edge. as if there was ever any doubt.
tuesday 23 june 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................