when i were a lad, it was known as majorca with the emphasis on the letter 'j', more often than not, pronounced as in joy. if you were off on a family holiday, the choice was pretty much between the costa brava and majorca, leading to the not entirely unfounded 'blackpool with spanish waiters' anecdote. nowadays it seems that in an effort to underline a more iberian pronunciation of ma-yorca, the 'j' has been replaced with a couple of 'l's. i confess that at one point i thought we were talking about somewhere else entirely.
situated in the mediterranean sea a good few miles off spain's east coast, the name mallorca (big island) denotes its relatively larger size than the neighbouring minorca. it sports a population of around 870,000, around half of which reside in the principal town of palma. depending on how you first heard of the island, it either has a bad rap due to the 'spanish waiters' jibe, or perhaps more likely given my alleged readership demographic, it has been pointed up as a potential destination for velocipedinal activities.
many a club cyclist has been attracted to training camps based on the island, promising an active alternative to sun, sand and sangria, though rather obviously those offer a more relaxing alternative on days off or during early evening after dinner. there's little doubt that at least a part of mallorca's growing favour amongst the early season peloton has been as a result of a concerted and sustained effort on behalf of the local government, intent on turning their island into something of a cyclists' paradise.
the attractions from the saddle are tangible: smooth, well maintained roads, relatively low traffic levels, courteous drivers, fully signposted cycle routes and a number of high mountain passes for those with sharply defined grimpeur tendencies. a temperate if more than occasionally windy climate provides endless opportunities to invoke rule five, added to which, many of the world tour teams use the island as a training base in winter months. teams such as team sky, cannondale, bmc and trek racing are conspicuous during december to february. if it's good enough for them...
while i realise that there are those far more intrepid than yours truly in lugging a bicycle half way across europe for quality miles in the middle of the mediterranean, with the stringent baggage allowances now applied by many of the budget airlines, there may be a reasonable case for considering hiring at the point of arrival. the second part of any journey from islay after the ferry, is a citylink/west coast motors coach to glasgow. loading a bicycle into the under floor hold is entirely at the discretion of the driver; if he figures there's not enough space, you can argue all you like. he has the final say.
i figure this might be a situation that affects more than just me and i'm a great believer that the lighter you travel, the less there is that can go wrong. in this case, liberty sport in the town of calvia west of palma, might just be the solution to a potential problem. granted there's nothing like riding your own carefully constructed and curated sliver of carbon fibre, but for a mere €150 per week to hire a denti carbon bike featuring a sram or shimano compact gearset, who's arguing?
daniela gerola, proprietor of liberty sport pointed out that calvia is but five kilometres from palma. "To get you started, you'd want to know where to stay, availability of bicycle hire and the best times of year to visit. To help plan your trip, at Liberty Sport we can offer suggested routes as well as detailed descriptions and maps of all the island's climbs."
daniela says that liberty sport was born from the idea of helping visiting cyclists to find the right bicycle for a training holiday without need of worrying that baggage handling might deconstruct your pride and joy, or the airline sending it to an entirely unrelated destination. they offer guided tours for the uninitiated, mechanical assistance if needed and a delivery service to save you figuring out how you're going to get from your hotel to calvia in the first place. a feature of which they're particularly proud is their treatment of the intent customer as they would a professional cyclist.
"You'll be treated as a professional. We aim to share our acquired information on training technicalities, cycle maintenance, nutrition and everything about the bike."
versatility of approach seems also the be a second or third string to their bow. though mountian biking is not high on my list of priorities, if you fancied alternating your road training with a few kilomtres scouring the undergrowth, liberty sport also offer quality mountain bike hire as well as less sporting cycles for any non-training partners.
it may be a tad late in the season for any substantial training effort in the mediterranean; if your butt is being kicked, you should have thought about it earlier. however, it's not too early to consider next season. i'm sure many of you have already been promised places in britain's olympic squad and it's never too early to start planning. you just know all your competitors have a hankering after sun, sand and sangria with a few decent ascents thrown in for good measure. (liberty sport even offer their own training camp).
and just in case you do, the spanish for bicycle is bicicleta.
monday 6 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
just along from washingmachinepost croft, twenty housing association properties are nearing completion. the building site is at the junction of the singletrack road on which i take my morning constitutional each day and ease of passage has often been harder than it need be, due to the positioning of what appears to be an entire fleet of vans. these take the shape and brand of almost every style of builders' van on the market, all of them in various states of apparent disrepair. however, taking into consideration the cavalier manner in which many are driven and the state of the road surface surrounding the site, this is hardly surprising.
8am seems to be general meet-up time, during which the site foreman dispenses the various jobs and other island locations at which they are due. following this, the vans scatter to the four corners of the planet (well, islay). in those that remain, it is often plain to see empty coffee cartons and cans of fizz sat in various designated depressions in the dashboards of each vehicle. having never perused any sales literature for such commercial vehicles, i have no idea whether these cup holders are promoted as optional or necessitous extras, but they would certainly seem to demonstrate a group of manufacturers who probably understand their customers rather well.
it is doubtful whether the same can be said of all bike manufacturers. my taurus corinto features a sturdy tubular rear rack which has definitely been of frequent use, but the bike's crowning glory is the newspaper/magazine holder attached to the stem bolt up front. it has often been a delight to stop off at the newsagent's on return from froth supping in bruichladdich, simply clipping my copy of the guardian into this spring-loaded holder before nipping up main street and home.
it's how cycling life ought to be.
but such ancillaries are few and far between, probably because the average carbon road bike offers very little in the way of pragmatism for anyone other than those who race for a living. but it need not be so.
sugru, makers of stuff that seems to do pretty much everything, are intent on bringing practicality to your down tube, always assuming that you are of the ilk that enjoys a brew encapsulated inside a capped bottle. according to instructions posted on the sugru website, it is but a mere bagatelle to stick a bottle opener to a frame tube in case of relaxational emergency. of course, the principle is all but identical should you wish to attach anything else of practical use. (it should be pointed out that the sugru and thus the bottle opener can be relatively easily removed when winter sets in.)
even in our iconoclastic world, pragmatism has not been totally undone. click the link below to view the necessary instructions.
sunday 4 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
ray charles released an album in 1962 entitled modern sounds in country and western music, a collection of songs that, at the time, caused something of a stir amongst both ray charles fans and aficionados of country and western music. it seems that nobody wanted ray charles to be singing country songs apart from ray charles. or at least, that's what the music industry wanted us to think; in fact the album was purchased in such numbers that it became the singer's most successful album to date. released in the summer of '62, by autumn, ray charles was back in the studio recording volume two.
some fifty years later, producer larry klein proposed that he and jazz singer madeleine peyroux re-appraise both volumes of modern sounds in country and western music by incorporating several of the original songs, but augmented by others chosen by peyroux. as she herself stated "i have to have my own understanding of this. i can't just have larry's understanding; i have to have my own approach.". klein has his own favoured musicians that feature on a number of his production projects: double-bass player david piltch, drummer jay bellerose, keyboardist larry goldings and in the case of this most recent madeleine peyroux recording, guitarist dean parks.
the album is entitled the blue room.
it's a recording i've had on my ipod since the day it was released, partly because i appreciate peyroux and klein's sometimes unorthodox treatment of the songs, but in truth principally because i very much appreciate the skill and musicianship of those comprising the band. oddly, this is not due to any demonstrable virtuosity on their behalf, but very much for the opposite reason. not one of those mentioned above draws any unnecessary attention to themselves, playing precisely what each song requires and not one note more.
those involved in the making of music at a certain level will know exactly of which i speak, aware of the difficulty involved of playing in such minimal fashion. there is scarcely a drum fill from beginning to end. very impressive.
mrs washingmachinepost has no truck with any style of music that sits on my ipod. therefore, my principal listening auditorium is in our kitchen, with the ipod sat in a small but perfectly formed, sharp electronics dock. despite its diminutive size, it offers what i formerly regarded as reasonable fidelity and volume, though not quite enough to drown out a boiling kettle.
the very nice folks at london's imperial works were kind enough to send over a pair of their latest collaboration with danish hi-fi experts bang and olufsen, prompting my own re-appraisal of one or two albums (buddy rich sounds really, really good), including madeleine peyroux's the blue room. if i cite no criteria other than her recording of bye bye love (originally recorded by the everly brothers in 1957), it provides a salient lesson in just how good these headphones really are. though i have listened to this album on many an occasion, either via the dock in the kitchen, or those white bud earphones that come in an ipod box, not once in the past three years have i ever noticed that jay bellerose plays a shaker throughout the song. jay also plays brushes on this track, and those have always been perfectly audible. but the shaker...
it's possibly worth my mentioning that i don't actually like headphones. i don't like the sound isolation that is promoted as one of their principal benefits and i sure as heck wouldn't walk down the street wearing a pair; i am definitely not too cool for skool, if you catch my drift. however, this particular pair of b+o h6 headphones have definitely given cause for second thoughts.
they are remarkably comfortable to wear on ears and the top of the head. on my other ipod i have several jazz tunes on which it's possible to mute the drums; ideal for learning just how inept i am on the drumset by playing along. they do, however, offer sufficient external aural response that i can still hear my cymbal clatterings over a decent volume from the ipod. i agree that this is hardly a daily occurrence for the intent velocipedinist, but compare it with sitting in the team bus aprés race with all manner of despondent or victorious conversation taking place all around. though madeleine peyroux's might be the very sounds to which you'd like to relax, you'd scarcely want to miss out on heaped praise from one's peer group.
naturally enough, though rapha are keen to develop their brand over a wider range than simply jerseys and bibshorts, they are hardly the world's premier audio specialists. the h6 headphones are available from b+o dealers minus all the rapha detailing, the trade-off being that the black and pink edition costs no more than the standard editions (a rather eye-watering £329). however, the pink headphone cable, which can be plugged into either ear pad, and featuring a remote volume/on-off/track selector button and jersey clip, marks you out as a cyclist. well, amongst our own kind.
each earpad is also coloured pink internally, with a bold 'l' and 'r' to indicate which way round they ought to be worn. the external pad is covered with african sheep leather, the same material as used on rapha's gt gloves. rapha have also had a hand in the strikingly designed packaging, including two pink tabs that ease removal of the fitted inlay, allowing access to the accompanying carry pouch, cable and instruction manual.
whether you are a sufficiently obsessed audiophile to dispense with those white earbuds in favour of a rather expensive pair of quality headphones is a decision that rests between you and your bank manager. however, i am sorely tempted.
saturday 4 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i promise (i think) that this will be the last specific mention of le tour prior to the grand boucle kicking off (if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor) in utrecht tomorrow. even this simple act of beginning a three week bicycle race is shrouded in phraseology that the average man in the street would find it hard to comprehend. for instance, you and i would bandy about the word prologue, both of us well aware that this is shorthand for the prologue time-trial. for the great unwashed, the last time such a word was used with purposeful intent was at the beginning of the frankie howerd tv series up pompeii.
and simply to confuse matters more thoroughly, this prologue time-trial doesn't actually count as the first stage. that takes place on sunday 5 july, riding from utrecht to zeeland. however, even the recently introduced cycling aficionado may be already struggling at this point to comprehend why it is that a bicycle race that avers to be a tour of france, has its beginnings in holland. in fact, on that particular score, i confess to being a tad confused myself. i was always given to understand that le tour only broke free from its french starting line every two years. yet the grand départ left from yorkshire, england in 2014.
is everybody with me so far?
in the halcyon days of yore, when eurosport was simply eurosport, those three weeks in july encapsulated simplicity itself. in spite of the sports channel's predilection for rarely adhering to any sort of programme schedule, assuming everything to be equal, it was simply a case of turning on, tuning in and settling down with a baguette, brie and a large glass of perrier water to watch each day's stage.
then, at some point, having morphed into the #homeofcycling and a couple of british eurosport channels, the simple act of watching a bike race was made ever longer and less simple by the addition of a studio presenter and a couple of pundits drawn from the domestic cycling scene. they would discuss at length every aspect that could rarely be confidently specified prior to, during and after the live broadcast. this, in my humble opinion, is a total waste of time.
all this is reinforced in the pull-out guides arriving with the monthlies; i have beside me as i write, a copy of that produced by procycling, each stage featuring a little yellow box-out in which gents such as robert millar, hennie kuiper, bernard thevenet, greg lemond and others, offer their opinions as to who might be in form during the stage in question. i will be watching each stage closely, checking to see whether their punditry bears any resemblance to reality.
i'm not hopeful of a close match.
it may also be pertinent to comprehend at least some of the 100 years plus history of the french race, some of which will help during july, but only july. mostly, however, learning at least some of the race's heritage will bring extra kudos and brownie points during the sunday morning ride. many of the peloton will be mightily impressed as you relate how robert millar beat luis herrera by 41 seconds and pedro delgado by a further 20 seconds at the summit of guzet neige in 1984.
but, everyone has to start somewhere when it comes to learning about the tour de france, and i readily admit that thewashingmachinepost probably isn't it. at least, normally that would be the case, were it not for the link provided below to the halfords infographic carefully created to assist with the several steps to becoming a bona-fide member of the cognoscenti.
you can thank me later.
friday 3 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the fun and frolics currently being provided by the contemporary bastions of british cycling have made it every bit as far as the mainstream press. though monday's sports news on radio four's today programme failed to make any mention of sunday's british road race championship, the guardian newspaper devoted half a page and a large(ish) photograph to the victories of both peter kennaugh and lizzie armitstead.
itv4 seems now to devote more of its scheduling to larger events such as the giro d'italia and is currently trailering the le tour like there was no tomorrow. couple that with team sky's predominantly british selection for those three weeks in july, and it doesn't take a science degree and a boxed set of the big bang theory to note that cycle sport in britain is a long way further forward than when i were a kid. and several hundred kilometres removed from the mighty dave t's childhood days.
however, it has often been said that in order to know where we're going, it's necessary to learn where we've been. gaining knowledge of how sparse were british riders participating in international competition in days gone by, places much of the current situation in some sort of perspective. it also goes a long way to explain why books such as robert dineen's kings of the road not only make sense in terms of a place on today's bookshelves, but why it is incumbent upon today's cognoscenti to read all 281 pages.
dineen's first foray into the world of cycle publishing came by way of his biography of sprinter reg harris. however, he is self-effacing enough not to aggrandise his efforts in the saddle and nor does he profess expert status when it comes to the intricacies of an often complex and obscure sport. there is little doubt that, while his athletic prowess seems to have improved during the researching and writing of kings of the road, his personal acquaintance with many of the sport's heroes and heroines will now be every bit as comprehensive as our own, after we've also read from cover to cover.
to partially explain the aobove contention, several of those interviewed for the various chapters were subtly interrogated by the author in an attempt to bolster his own chances of completing an etape du tour. knowledge of this provides an unremitting thread to his narrative, one that is never lost sight of, but yet never impinges itself upon the reader in a forceful manner.
first, however, for the reader less than familiar with the history of strife that featured in the fraught history of british cycling, dineen provides an overview that led to the banning of mass start racing in the uk, while it flourished in mainland europe. though the situation was eventually resolved between the two factional organisations (the national cyclists' union and the upstart british league of racing cyclists), it goes some way to explaining why britain was so poorly represented in the european peloton while the campionissimos reigned over the results and minds of the cycling cognoscenti on both sides of the channel.
if it was hard for the cyclists to participate in international racing, it was every bit as hard, if not harder for british fans to follow the sport.
"At the time Cycling, the predecessor to Cyling Weekly, was the only publication serving the sport and was fiercely supportive of the NCU."
that all was eventually resolved, if not entirely amicably, paved the way for those with the tenacity to move themselves to europe and compete against foreigners with many year's experience and willingness to give the brits a kicking.
the author's inroads to the sport's obscurity and means of improving his own cycling ability was to join a cycle club. many examples of club life seem still entrenched in mediaeval times, where riders who struggle on their first chaingang are all but left to their own devices. such is almost dineen's experience at the hands of east london velo. the club secretary takes the subtle approach: There are plenty of other clubs around here that you might be better suited to... I'd be happy to e-mail you a list of them."
though national byeways stalwart michael breckon's ambitions for the network are dealt with summarily at the beginning of chapter three, by that time, we've already been inducted into the world of british competitive cycling via an interview with scotsman iain steel, winner of the 1952 peace race. subsequent chapters bring the reader into contact with vin denson, alf engers, nicole cooke and father tony cooke - it is a salient point to note that nicole's inspiration to enter the world of competitive cycling was inspired by watching robert millar in the 1993 tour de france - tony doyle, colin sturgess and several other luminaries.
lest this come across as a meander around a gallery of british past successes, dineen's skill as an interlocutor prevents any descent into such depths, eliciting information that it often seems was scarcely destined to become public knowledge, persuading the reluctant to offer an hour or two of their time, or more often than once a seemingly misplaced sense of modesty.
"I'm not sure any of the cyclists now would want to read about me." alf engers.
the one notable oddity amongst this panoply of yesterday's cycling stars is a brief interview with vulpine's nick hussey. i mean not to demean mr hussey, fine fellow that he is, for though his palmares is far more impressive than mine (not hard) his person seems not to equate with those of other interviewees. it's also a chapter that provides dineen with the opportunity to offer a humorous, but largely unnecessary sideswipe at rapha.
"I have always struggled to justify buying a Rapha jersey when you could instead purchase, say, a flight to New York..."
'kings of the road' is a very good teacher; one that educates without ever appearing to do so. it deals with facets of competitive cycling we are unlikely ever to witness again. and while that bygone outlook was always forward looking, taking the fans along with it, i can't help thinking that the british trait of build 'em up, knock 'em down will, in time, be applied unsentimentally to the current crop of protagonists.
to summarise the admirable achievements of those featured, mostly in the face of adversity and a lack of corporate national support, dineen has listed their respective palmares just ahead of a comprehensive index. the tale may have been told by a man who would scarcely trouble the timekeepers in an evening ten, but nonetheless, the boy done good.
thursday 2 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
just to be topical for a moment or two (i promise it won't happen again) the launch of apple's music service yesterday will presumably encourage ever more continued use of items such as ipads and iphones, as if anyone was searching for just such an excuse. no doubt the apple watch will also feature large in the grand scheme of things, bringing to mind the verse from a nursery rhyme and she/he shall have music wherever she/he goes.. for perhaps obvious reasons, i'd warn against participating in the new apple music service while riding a bicycle; but then i'm not your mother.
accordng to the details "everything you've collected lives in one place, and alongside it is the ever-expanding apple music library." i'm still not sure whether this consititutes a promise or a threat. unlike many folks considerably younger than myself, i feel no compulsion to listen to music 24/7, but i figure that's probably an age thing.
i am tempted to sign up for the three month free trial period, because to be honest, i'm not sure i quite understand how this is all supposed to work, but while perusing some of the new inscrutable features of apple radio, i discovered a list of genres to which i might listen, headed 'ready to play when you are.'. sadly, my prospective three months trial has been somewhat confounded by a lack of any jazz in the list.
yes, i'm happy to listen to some blues, possibly just a smidgeon of electronic (kraftwerk's 'tour de france' springs to mind, just to bring topicality into the frame once more) and maybe some americana; not that i actually know what that might be. however, i note that one of the other options listed is that of the mixtape. though cassette tapes have sadly gone the way of the dodo, i can remember finding those tracks on my vinyl albums that i thought i'd like to listen to with greater frequency, and recording them to a c120 cassette. those were the ones that had such thin magnetic tape that, more often than not, they wrapped themselves round the capstan of the player. assuming this didn't totally destroy the moment, it most often totally destroyed the tape.
mixtapes could well be the precedent for what is now referred to as mashup; instead of recording a mix of songs in sequence, digital processing offers the opportunity to mix up several tunes into one track. done well, this can sound a lot better than my description would aver. obviously keen to bring themselves into the second decade of the 21st century by sprinting ahead of the competiton, santini have released their own mixtape/mashup t-shirts featuring the jerseys of mercatone uno, mapei, the maglia rosa, and most favourably and perhaps famously, peugeot.
it's the modern equivalent of those little oval tanned patches on the back of each hand; only the cognoscenti will understand.
all four designs will be available from the fine fellows at prendas ciclismo from the beginning of august, priced at £19.95 each, though if you order two or more, you can have them for £17.50 each. i don't doubt that, in the process of preparing yourselves for membership of the modern velocipedinal cognoscenti, mick and andy would be more than happy to accept pre-orders.
contrary to the current spell of weather, these are really cool, with or without music on demand.
wednesday 1 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm going to make the same pledge as i have done for the last two years: to avoid making any mentions of the tour de france during the weeks of july in which it takes place. this, as i have previously made mention, is not because i have any intrinsic dislike of le tour, but because every other form of cycling media, social or otherwise, will be filled to the brim with previews, team selections, opinions, photos and pretty much every overload you possibly wish you could avoid.
i have often been told that thewashingmachinepost occupies something of a niche within the world of cycling, and while i admit i made no concerted effort to get it there, i'm rather content to sit in that space. therefore, i'm also quite content to let others work themselves into a lather over the time gaps between the leaders, while i simply watch on telly. and for once in my life, keep quiet.
however, contrary to popular opinion, the world of cycling does not come to a complete standstill for those three weeks in july; other strategies are at work. with an improvement in the weather that seems to be studiously avoiding the hebrides and a large portion of scotland, 'tis the time of year when the sportive fraternity goes into overdrive. it's no longer a case of whether you can find a ride in which to participate each weekend, but more a case of which one to choose. though several of those longer in the tooth than yours truly have criticised the upsurge in such events for dismantling much of what was left of the club scene, there's truly nothing surer than change.
but change doesn't have to be all bad. for instance, i seriously doubt anyone ever handed round a sponsor sheet for the wednesday night chaingang. the regular occupants of debbie's café would laugh at the thought of sponsoring any of the velo club for their participation in the sunday morning ride. and not without good cause, i might add. however, undertaking a lengthy and often tremulous sportive ride may well merit a few pounds and pence in favour of a nominated charity. far from devaluing the act of cycling, i tend to consider it a big plus; it seems only fair that others benefit from our potential velocipedinal and joyful efforts.
timeously scheduled to aid tour de france withdrawl symptoms, action medical research for children has organised a charity ride from bristol to london on sunday august 30. while i confess to being a tad confused as to the statement that the ride originated in 1982 when it departed from bath (surely that would make it a different ride?), there's no doubt that 114 miles is a distance when completed that offers particular credibility to potential sponsors. continuing the slickness that is almost as much a part of the sportive scene as feedstations with energy gels, the organisers have provided coach travel and bike transport to repatriate owners and bicycles on the same day.
included in the sign-up benefits are chip timing, food and water stations, lunch, marshals and mechanics who will hopefully refrain form pointing out you should have fixed that dodgy chain before leaving home.
places for the action 100 ride are limited, so if you fancy emulating whoever you may have identified as a potential yellow jersey wearer in paris, entry costs £38, or you can opt for the fundraiser option at £25, committing participants to raising at least £40 for action medical research. more info is available at the link printed below.
i may commit the iniquity of mentioning le tour at least once more before saturday, but then it's only eurosport, itv4 and silence. promise.
tuesday 30 june 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................