it's that time of year when there are daily soundbites from the so-called cream of the world's cycling commentators, paying tribute to riders' hurt lockers, suitcases of pain, facial grimaces and no end of alternative similes. very few of those refer to the injuries and strains that the professional cyclist has to bear in the course of a professional career. though daily massages, hot showers and frequent recovery rides are all designed to mitigate such eventualities, it only takes a moment's inattention by someone to bring down a sizeable portion of a speeding peloton.
while physical injuries such as road rash, broken bones and the like deserve appropriate medical attention, the uci's banned substance list makes navigating the bathroom cabinet all the harder for an injured rider. it may not be something as serious as those injuries mentioned above, but perhaps joint pain from what an office worker would refer to as repetitive strain injury, or maybe just over-reaching themselves once too often in an attempt not to lose the wheel in front.
though a term of rest and recuperation can often be the best medicine, not everyone has such luxury. you can't really see sir dave allowing a team sky domestique a few days off during a grand tour with the words "no problem. just join in when you know the words.". professional cycling isn't like that, and nor is it the place where they can pop into the pharmacy for some magic cream. the latter has a tendency to help fail a test just when it looked like next year's contract was safe and sound.
flexiseq sport is an ointment that can be applied to the body's joints in order to relieve pain, lubricate and protect. the suffix sport identifies it as a form of medication that, according to the packet contians no ingredients that appear of wada's banned substance list (world anti doping agency). therefore, the professional or even domestic rider experiencing joint pain that harbours a restriction in their cycling ability, can cheerfully purchase a 100g tube of flexiseq sport gel and apply directly.
the difficulty of reviewing such a product, even though i'm often prepared to suffer for my art, is similar to that of reviewing helmets. i can tell you about the weight, strap, fit and comfort of the latter, but i'm still not keen to throw myself into an islay ditch at speed to learn of its specific protection properties. and neither would i be willing to strain a knee or ankle joint just to see if this gel would make me better.
however, as luck would have it, i appear to have caused myself a minor level of discomfort on the knuckle of my right forefinger, probably due to attempting a similar ride cymbal pattern as that seen to great effect in the film whiplash. since that was my only physical niggle at the time of receiving my tube of flexiseq sport, it seemed only prudent to apply some of the gel to this admittedly less dramatic joint pain than that effected by twisting one's knee, for instance.
after less than a week of twice daily application, the pain is almost non-existent. i figure recovery time may have been alleviated somewhat had i not caused it further aggravation trying to lift my rather heavy taurus corinto from the back of the bike shed, unaware that the pedal had caught on a tyre. i can already hear the doubters professing that such discomfort would surely have simply disappeared on its own. however, in flexiseq's favour, i had borne this niggling pain for almost a month with no sign of it disappearing prior to applying the gel.
it makes little difference to me whether it contains anything that might upset wada or not, but there will be many who aren't in such a devil-may-care position. as far as i can see, flexiseq sport does exactly what it says on the tin (box), and that's good enough for me. for others adhering to a more rigorous medical regime, it may well be something of a godsend.
a 100g tube of flexiseq sport gel retails at £35. it can be purchased in the uk without prescription from superdrug, the co-op pharmacy and tretments direct.
monday 13 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it is something of a marketing dream; if the sun shines all day, that's a bonus, but if it rains, well, we did tell you. basically we can't lose. depending on unpredictable hebridean weather conditions, it's possible to encompass at least two of velominati's rules: numbers five and nine, but without subjecting participants to the seemingly endless climbing that features in many another sportive across the country. the fact that we all adore the climbing stages of the grand tours is rarely reflected in our own abilities to follow suit.
similarly the raised ire when riders opt for the gutters in the spring classics as opposed to the cobbles we've all tuned in to see. nip out on the bike over the weekend, and the conversation at the coffee stop will invariably concern the textural iniquities of the local roads. there's just no pleasing some folks.
despite the comic vying for a name change to sportive weekly and the recent introduction of david harmon and richard hallett's excellent sportif magazine, the ride of the falling rain has managed to defy categorisation as just such an event. years of honing the more professional versions to the point of few degrees separation from world tour events has brought the sportivist to expect timing chips, wall to wall marshalling, feed stations, jersey numbers and the opportunity to purchase photographs of yourself in a pose you'd really rather was kept away from those of a nervous disposition.
the ride of the falling rain eschews pretty much all of those, but not as a protest against the way the velocipedinal world has evolved. think of it less as a stand against conformity, but more of an example of apathy.
ridden under alternative names as far back as the mid-nineties, the event gained it's current moniker earlier this century when it rained from set off at 10am until finish around 4pm. it has failed to repeat this in the intervening years, though the rain currently dripping down the sitting room windows augurs well for a repeat performance this year. it only needs a smattering of precipitation to keep trading standards at bay.
basically speaking, the regular five members of velo club d'ardbeg are heading off for a 100 mile ride at 10am on sunday 2 august. leaving from debbie's café. if you fancy tagging along, you are more that welcome to do so. we'll even give you a map to make sure you don't get lost. however, if 100 miles doesn't float your boat, we also have a simultaneous mobile conversation departing at the same time, covering a shorter distance, but still visiting the old kiln café at ardbeg distillery for a mid-ride refreshment. if we're really good, jackie may be well disposed towards offering a snifter of the amber nectar while you're there.
we're more than happy if you want to bring the kids, as long as you realise they are your responsibility. the conversational ride works on the basis that we leave no-one behind; either someone will drop back to shepherd the lanternes rouge, or we'll stop en masse and wait for tail-enders to catch up. it's that sort of bike ride. for those who want to pedal themselves to oblivion over the 162km, you're more than welcome to do so.
it's possibly a bit late to consider entering this year's event, purely on the basis of obtaining accommodation, but if it does sound like something you'd be keen on doing, right now would be a really good time to start booking ferry and bed. unlike the apocryphal £80 entry fee (with free t-shirt), the ride of the falling rain has no cost of entry, but we generally recommend that you voluntarily donate £10 per person to world bicycle relief. (however, we don't check; we just hope you'll do the decent thing.)
it's only fair that someone benefits from our grand day out.
sunday 12 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
you may note from the review heading, that this book claims to be concerned with food for training and competition, both specific aspects of cycling of which i am less than acquainted. i would imagine the last time i indulged in anything like training (competition has never featured on my horizon), was in 2008 when i undertook hot chillee's londres-paris for the second time. this was never truly for reasons of speed, but purely distance; i had no inclination to embarrass myself by running out of steam several dozen kilometres before day's end.
it never once dawned on me that this process might benefit from my placing greater emphasis on my diet. the most attention i ever paid towards this aspect was to stuff a couple of energy bars and perchance a gel in one of those three rear pockets. and in common with many others, by the time i really needed to consume the last of these, i couldn't quite face munching its sickly sweetness.
in recent years, the world tour or even pro-continental teams, always looking for their own version of dave brailsford's marginal gains have augmented the team buses and cars with a state of the art mobile kitchen. just how much of this is due to the mediocrity of the food provided by the hotel kitchens, i know not, but now that the wheels, tyres, componentry and bicycles have been developed to within a millimetre of their career best, diet and nutrition seems to be the current whipping boy. and probably with very good reason.
henrik orre started his career as an 'ordinary' chef, working in bespoke, michelin starred restaurants in norway. his career path seemed predestined to continue in similar manner throughout the early part of his upwardly mobile career. having eventually setup his own company, somewhat obviously entitled kocken henrik (henrik the chef), an early assignment for the norwegian cycling federation led him into the world of professional cycling and ultimately a gig alongside team sky chef, soren kristianssen in 2014.
according to orre's introduction, he expected to be continuing this association in 2015 with greater responsibility. i am insufficiently well-informed to know whether this is currently the situation, but i have no reason to doubt its veracity.
i confess i was rather surprised to note the publisher's details on the spine, for vélochef professes all the signs of being a rapha publication (my review copy having arrived from imperial works). given their association with team sky, that is perhaps understandable, but much of the imagery is in their style, if you catch my drift, even down to a short, illustrated piece on passoni titanium bikes. this latter interruption to the food discussion, however, does come across as a tad incongruous, interesting though it may be.
on rapha's retreat in deepest provence, rather than offering up gels and energy bars from the following jaguars, we were handed home-made rice cakes; even vegetarian editions for those of us of that persuasion. these offered none of the sickly sweetness that the former options contain, yet pretty much all the energy and protein that 120 kilometres in the saddle demands (well, actually i did need to be given a rather large custard tart on reaching the bus). that would have been prior to orre's time of residence, but the recipe appears in this book.
guess what will be in my back pocket come this year's ride of the falling rain?
i currently harbour deep desires for the banana pancakes with blueberry jam, perhaps for breakfast, but in all honesty, for pretty much anytime of the day. and though i have never been a scone sort of a fellow, those illustrated made with rye flour and hazelnuts may well change that opinion. of course, short of being offered a professional contract with team sky (anytime you're ready sir dave), there's no magic phone number to call and have any one of a number of tasty foods delivered to my front door. so baking it is then.
each particular meal or recipe (with no apparent discrimination against vegetarianism) is accompanied by a comprehensive ingredients list and step by step instructions that might have the inexperienced amongst us produce an end result that bears some resemblance to the accompanying illustration. i did rather wonder why recipes for porridge and muesli appear under the breakfast section, since i'd figure even incompetents such as myself could manage either or both. but generally speaking, stuff like buckwheat waffles with banana and almond filling appease any possible misgivings over such superficialities.
lest vélochef come across as purely obsessed with nutritionally and visually delectable munchables, there are relevant yet intriguingly interesting digressions along the way, including (possibly) the previously mentioned paean to passoni bicycles. these include visits to the houses of richie porte, former sky rider (now with mtn qhubeka) eddie higgs boson, and olympic medal hopeful, emma johanssen.
the book's presentation is no less appetising than the food. it appears to have been printed on recycled and slightly textured stock which shows the contents to their best advantage, yet makes the book light enough to sit on a coffee table without causing it undue stress. unurprisingly, there's lots of visual references to team sky and rapha throughout; these scarcely undermine the the principal thrust of orre's foodiness, but do lighten the load for those keen not to come across as born again amateur chefs to inadvertant visitors to the service course.
this way we can all eat right while maintaining our apparent neutrality.
saturday 11 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the mighty dave t, if only on the basis of his status as a pensioner and honorary directeur sportif of velo club d'ardbeg, is a protected rider. at least, that's what he tells us. accordingly, if there's a strong headwind blowing down uiskentuie strand, he ought to be last in the echelon and quite frequently is. though the mighty dave operates as a benevolent dictatorship, with the ever-present threat of him taking a flyer at the bruichladdich sprint, he rarely, if ever, leans upon his star status when it comes to the aprés sprint coffee. in fact, he has on occasion, offered me a piece of tablet to much with my froth.
such a hierarchy is notably transferable to the professional milieu, with each of the world tour teams deciding on their protected riders prior to each grand tour or major one-day classic. this ensures that those with the best chance of victory are given all the support management believe they deserve. no longer is there any need to run out of water and have to roll back to the team car. at all times there will be a designated domestique whose job it is to cater to the leader's every whim; setting a hard pace at the front, taking armwarmers and rainjackets back to the car, or handing over their own bicycle should the leader experience mechanical difficulties with their own.
it's perhaps not what many of them signed up for. it is bike racing jim, but probably not as they expected it to be. of course, the carrot on the stick is the possibility that on one day in the hopefully foreseeable future, this very same status will be gratefully conferred upon them.
however, cossetted though those designated leaders may appear, when push comes to shove, they're the very folks that are expected to perform to a level that will leave their domestiques rolling along at the arriere le peloton. and that's not always the easy option. many will recall bernard hinault's day of hell during the 1980 liege-bastogne-liege, or perhaps andy hampsten's similar freezing foray over the gavia pass in the 1988 giro d'italia. those may be the times when being a lowly domestique seem at their most atrractive.
but then along comes a race like the 2013 milan-sanremo, an edition of the classic that made excellent use of the team coaches to keep both stars and water carriers cosy and dry, with abandoned sections of the race due to heavy snow, and more abandonments than your average boy band. in a race such as this, not only did the domestiques have their work cut-out ensuring the team leaders reach the finish in fine fettle, but had to ride their own battle against the elements in the nether regions of a slowing peloton. though castelli's gabba jacket gained more publicity in that edition of msr than they could possibly have bought and paid for, truth be told, it would have taken a lot more than that to provide a temperate solution for distanced riders.
rapha figure they might have the solution.
subsequent to the 2013 milan-sanremo, team sky's head of performance operations, rod ellingworth proposed some sort of survival jacket that could conceivably used to protect those sitting in the inevitable grupetto. those are, relatively speaking, the faster versions of you and me; not a chance of scenting victory, but determined to reach the finish line nonetheless. in addition to this seemingly reasonable suggestion, ellingworth also proposed that such a garment might be used to commence the recovery process while the riders were still involved in the race.
happily, the professional and semi-professional season encounters such racing conditions very rarely, but with the creeping onset of climate change, it's hard to know whether things will remain that way in the foreseeable future. so, as clothing suppliers to team sky, rapha decided to run with the possibility that such a jacket could be become a reality.
using a number of contemporary materials and technologies, they included a layer built with outlay, a fabric first used by nasa. outlay makes use of what is termed phase change technology. this allows a jacket stored in the team bus or following car to absorb the ambient heat from either and maintain that temperature when transferred to the rider. the jacket's heat can be further controlled via a heat pad bonded to the lower section of each sleeve. either riders or mechanics can control the latter by means of a user-switch that offers three colour-coded temperature settings.
to ease getting the jacket on over potentially thick-gloved hands, it has very wide sleeves bearing oversized velcro straps to allow the mechanics to pull the arms tight and retain internal heat. though i personally have little truck with hoods attached to jackets, i figure that in conditions such as those experienced by andy hampsten, bernard hinault and the msr peloton, i'd be the last fellow arguing the toss. thus, rapha's extreme rain jacket features a japanese-made, close-fitting, peaked neoprene hood that fits under a helmet. responding to requests from team sky riders, the jacket's tail is extra long for enhanced posterior protection.
all this is contained under an outer waterproof shell manufactured from the same fabric as used in rapha's hardshell jacket. having ridden the latter during several days of last year's festive 500 (chartreuse is the ideal means of identification on wet and windy winter days), it's hard to think of a waterproof that carries out its business with greater aplomb.
before you start checking your bank balance in readiness for acquiring an extreme rain jacket this winter, i should point out that not only does rapha have no current timeline for possible release (if ever), but their head of brand and central marketing, james fairbank told me "You'd need a team car following you to store it in..."
though team sky riders have this very jacket in the death stars in france at this very minute, it's hard to recall a day in french july when the temperature has created a need for such a garment. but however long it takes for something more commercially equitable to be released from imperial works, it's comforting to know that someone has our best (winter) interests at heart.
thanks to rapha's chris distefano, james fairbank and jack saunders for assistance with this article.
friday 10 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
competitive cycling contains a myriad of disciplines, many of which are hidden from public view, buried in the shadow of the poster boys: road cycling, mountain biking and bmx. even cyclocross is not seen as one of the major velocipedinal pastimes, despite it preceding mountain biking by several decades. no doubt this is a situation that affects many other sports, but since we're all obsessed with cycling in the first place, we're totally ignorant of such matters.
that's something for other bloggers to deal with.
there are reasons, of course, why there is an apparent popularity hierarchy, some of which has to do with the ubiquitous world of marketing, but which more likely is brought down to seasonal length. this would explain why cyclocross is not uppermost in the minds of the great unwashed; october to january scarcely constitutes a long time, in modern sporting parlance.
the road cycling season, once began with the spring classics and ended with the tour of lombardy (when it occupied its proper place in the firmament). nowadays there really is no off season if you accept that the tour down under scarcely leaves the world tour professionals any downtime away from the training camp. mountain biking traditionally was considered a summer sport, but the art of the downhill and various other aspects, though possibly not as popular as once they were, have made it difficult to see the join.
as far as i know, bmx just happens forever.
hill-climbing is very much the lost boy of the cycling world. all over and done with by the last weekend of october, there are perfectly good reasons as to why nobody knew it was happening in the first place. while we think little of watching a stage of the grand tours over several hours, the average hill-climber can be back in the clubhouse in a little over five minutes. as such, you'd hardly think hill climbing to be the subject of conversation for other than the participants and the apocryphal one man and his dog who stands by the roadside to watch.
"...it's the juxtaposition of climbing theatres: Alpe D'Huez versus the Rake.One takes forty-five minutes, the other takes two and a half."
yet prominent riders and time-triallists such as alex dowsett, malcolm elliot, chris boardman, david millar and michael hutchinson have all submitted to the agonies that comprise the average hill climb. which presumably means there might be more to going uphill fast than we at first thought. but could you write an entire book about the sport?
apparently you can and paul jones has made a particularly excellent job of doing so. i've reviewed previous publications that deal with the more arcane species found in cycle sport and it would be foolish of me to pretend otherwise that i did not approach this one with certain reservations, bordering on dread. i was wrong; very wrong. and this despite protestations from the author at the very beginning.
"It's an event that is not in thrall to contemporary fashion or modernity, the backward looking aesthetic of current cycling garb or an endless obsession with retro reproduction."
it's a clever ploy to subtly denigrate the contemporary world of roadie-ness from a standpoint of relative obscurity. i warmed to the author's narrative from page one, even though i may be one of the individuals to which he is referring. to qualify this statement with the equally demeaning statement "Wearing a self-consciously epic jersey will only get you so far up the Rake or Challacombe."
if, like me, neither of the latter hill climbs hold any meaning for you, there is no option other than to continue with the subsequent 279 pages. and you will be extremely glad you did.
the author not unnaturally begins with a history of the hill climb, placing the championship in an appreciable perspective, beginning with the 95 year-old vic clark. "He's not the only cyclist I've met who still has a recall of events from decades ago, in different lives, but he might just be the oldest." this contrasts graphically with that of chris boardman later in the book "He was the only rider I came across who couldn't remember anything about the individual races he rode."
of course, there are many others starring in 'a corinthian endeavour' apart from clark and boardman. paul jones exhibits not only a love for this end of the sport, but a keen knowledge and appreciation, one that turns the champions about whom he writes into every bit the stars that mainstreamers wiggo, froome, nibali and contador have become. it takes considerable narrative skill to create a compulsive read out of eighteen chapters concerning a few minutes of ascendancy and jones has this ability in spades.
along the way, not entirely content with poking fun at the pelotonese, he has a not altogether unjustified sideswipe at cycling weekly regarding its present day dismissal of the hill climb as scarcely worthy of page room, where once it feared not to tread. "It was an era when Cycling valued and valorised all competitive branches of the sport, identifying the rich, end-of-season narrative of the hill climb as being distinctive and newsworthy, rather than other stories, like the endless self-promotion of their 'classic sportif', with the narcissistic 'suffering' of their staff writers or editor being the narrative of choice."
there's definitely more than a hint of sour grapes in that quote, but as i said, not entirely without cause.
the book is a celebration of individuals such as granville and graham sydney, ralph wilson, joe waugh, graham dangerfield, tevjan pettinger, ann bowditch, sarah helliwell and many others whose names would easily fill as many pixels as i've already used up till now.
but while road riders often protest that it's not about the bike, the hill climbers have no qualms about either discussing whether to ride fixed or not, nor about accepting the huge part each particular hill plays in the proceedings.
"...I didn't use my Zipps either, I would waste power, mental energy and torque by using light wheels. I needed to be solid and it worked, and my wheels weren't actually that light."
thus there are introductions made to the rake, the stang (a whole chapter), long hill, ditchling beacon, the cat and fiddle, cheddar gorge and many other bits of road that go upwards with a vengeance.
adrian bell at mousehold press deserves a concerted round of applause for having the perspicacity to send this to press. though its premise would outwardly seem to consign it to the more obscure regions of the cycling bookshelf, this would be a serious error of judgment. well illustrated and written with good humour, it was an unexpected delight well worth the price of admission.
"As recently as 2012 the Cycling Time Trials Council opened a Pandora's box known as 'internet entry', much to the chagrin of their target audience, who remain happier paying in shekels and pfennigs, delivered by carrier pigeon."
thursday 9 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as i have iterated on one or two occasions previously, the opportunity to play hooky on a friday afternoon is frequently too great a temptation to resist. i'd love to tell you this is due to an overhwelming desire to improve my impressive athleticism, but in truth it's just so's i can end the week sat at debbie's coffee bar, investigating the relationship between soya froth and strong coffee. i've also managed to convince myself that staring out across loch indaal to a hazy looking bowmore village is every bit as enervating as the ride to bruichladdich in the first place.
which, as everybody knows, is perfectly true.
but the ride itself is rarely even a slow motion replica of a mark cavendish sprint. locked in the shed, just behind the so-called fast bikes is the taurus corinto, a marvel of italian built lugged steel with its swept-back handlebars, brooks b66 and sturmey-archer three-speed. its platform pedals and comfy saddle lend themselves to my maintaining a civilian demeanour. in other words, i need only park my computer bag in the sitting room, grab a casquette from the bedroom and head off into the sunset (just adding a smidgeon of atmosphere).
recently this has meant riding dressed in waterproofs, but though i do enjoy the stately pedal this particular bike affords, regally waving to assorted sheep and cattle along the way, it also visually separates me from the pelotonese.
in winter, this is a less than inquitous situation, for there are rarely ever any other cyclists to be seen on either part of the journey. i can also seamlessly blend in with the normal folks drinking coffee in similar manner. well, apart from the pink and black tic casquette. however, now that summer is here (sort of) i find myself in a bit of quandary due to the increasing number of cycle tourists plying the route to and from port mòr campsite.
unlike the confirmed roadie, touring has no dress code. it is apparently not at all unusual to come across a peloton of panniers wearing anything from assos all the way to primark. some wear helmets, some do not, many cannot find it within themselves to raise a hand in salutation, though i've yet to suss whether this is pure insolence or simply a strength of headwind they really hadn't bargained for. the most notable aspect is their perceived unsociability; the majority seem to be couples, yet mr is always several hundred yards ahead of mrs.
just like home, i suppose.
but as i sail serenely by on my italian steel, i feel that i have distanced myself from all manner of pelotonese. that i am now a member of the civilian fraternity simply making use of the cycle for purposes of lethargic gregariousness. and coffee. is the stronger desire that of yours truly to appear more cyclist, or the imagined yearning of the touring cyclists to inhabit my leisurely habit?
many years ago i would have described myself as a cyclo-tourist, though not one given to trans-europe expeditions or round the world trips. just a bloke with an appropriately kitted-out bicycle, a set of panniers and an inclination to travel independently. those are days that have been superseded by the arrival of shiny carbon fibre and robust steel, days that will probably not raise their heads above the parapet again in the foreseeable future. but that doesn't mean i don't occasionally envy those passing on the opposite side of the road.
those friday afternoons playing hooky have occasionally elicited notions of dragging a fast bike from the shed and donning sportwool, but invariably time constraints, pragmatism and the fact that i really like that taurus have won the day. but would the former notion, which takes pride of place on saturdays and sundays be anything like as much fun if not tempered by a friday afternoon coffee?
perhaps the cycle tourists who fail to wave are simply lengthening the very same comparative process. maybe it's the next wave and i'm too engrossed in bendy bars and skinny wheels to realise. or maybe i spend too much time thinking about stuff while avoiding sheep on uiskentuie strand.
cycling's fun, isn't it?
wednesday 8 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though something of a sweeping generalisation, it would be fair to say that if you wish to portray a modern corporate image, a sans serif typeface would be your first choice. a knee-jerk reaction would be to point the finger at helvetica, a typeface designed by max miedinger in 1957 and widely used in logos and signage all across the world. it has become as much a maligned typeface as it is celebrated due almost entirely to its ubiquity. a bit like the remarkably similar arial typeface - still i believe the default font on microsoft word - it is an easy solution for those without the time or knowledge to research a viable alternative.
in the nineteen eighties, an often overused mantra was that of 'no-one ever got fired for buying ibm', which may have an uncanny parallel with use of helvetica. though the latter was scarcely the first sans-serif typeface to arise, many logos and signage prior to its devising used the more common serif typefaces such as garamond and times new roman. tendentiously unrelated to logo design, though the difference may be lost on many, it is reckoned that the serifs (the little feet at top and bottom of each letter) offer a better reading experience at small sizes. it's the reason why the post appears in georgia, though even that may be thought contentious by some.
because each screen pixel is of fixed size, the serifs are not always reproduced authentically on a computer screen. thus contemporary thinking would suggest using sans-serifs for on-screen reading. however with the recent introduction of high-resolution screens to the world of the computer, tablet and phone, this particular argument starts to pale in its authority.
logos fall into two distinct categories; those involving some form of graphic or design, and those constituted entirely of lettering. granted, there are probably many that stand astride both camps, but in my experience, one feature is generally more dominant. for instance, the best of the former category are usually recognisable even if devoid of accompanying lettering. for example, apple, shell, adidas, mercedes etc.
mavic, beloved of those requiring neutral service, and responsible for the ksyrium wheel, at one time every bit as ubiquitous as that helvetica typeface, came into being in 1889 by way of a nickel-plating business operated by léon and laurent vielle. a little later that same century charles idoux and lucien chanel had the clever idea of offering bicycle spares for sale to an emerging and growing market.
léon and laurent settled on the brand name ava, while the other fellows created mavic, (manufacture d'articles vélocipédiques idoux et chanel). the common factor was their president. mavic was born. obviously enough, since the name was effectively an acronym, it made sense for the first of a series of corporate logos to incorporate those letters. mavic's first used the letter 'v' as its central figure, sandwiched between diminishing forms of the others and placed within a circle.
it was forty-two years later that a revised logo appeared, maintaining the proportions of the letters originated in 1923, but effectively losing the serifs. the circle had gone by now and the word mavic was now encased within a diamond shape with a gold background. by 1973, the diamond remained, but now set within a rectangle of red and the letters had taken on a more graphic appearance. five years following the introduction of mavic's first wheelset in 1983, all became considerably simplified with a bold black sans-serif typeface set on a yellow background, remarkably similar to the modern day incarnation.
the only change between then and now was the arrival in 1996 of the ellipse that now owned those five letters, augmented by a top and bottom black swoosh. i once enquired of mavic's press office in france whether it was possible to acquire one of the team polo shirts worn by the very chaps that leap energetically from the neutral support car, wheels in hand. sadly, it seems you need to be employed by mavic to have the honour of hanging one of those in your wardrobe.
however, i do have a zipped jacket featuring an embroidered original 1923 logo that i purchased from the mavic stand at the north american handmade bike show, sacramento, 2012. i have yet to learn the art of leaping from yellow skoda estate cars.
but, there is nothing as certain in life as change. sometimes that change is brought on by necessity, sometimes it's simply a sign of the times (if you'll pardon the pun). at some point in the relatively recent past, mavic began augmenting their logo with a bold serifed letter m, often seen on the front of their helmet range and on the shoulders and sleeves of their jackets and gilets as well as the buckles of the shoe range. occasionally, logos or their derivatives do not travel as well as their designer may have expected.
domestic cycling team jlt condor gained mavic as clothing sponsor and a 'presented by' on the yellow panels on their bibshort legs for the 2015 season. those of us who consider ourselves amongst the cognoscenti in such matters, would inevitably identify that bold m as belonging to mavic. members of the general public (as they like to be called) however, are less well versed in such intricacies and were in danger of seeing that letter as being associated with supermarket chain morrisons. locally, something of a corporate faux pas, if you will.
so, perhaps as a result of the latter, but probably more likely simply a modernising of one of cycling's longest serving benefactors and technology companies, the logo has morphed once more into that seen in the latter stages of this article. it is already writ large across those essential, yellow neutral support cars and will soon make its way onto wheels, tyres, rims, clothing, helmets and shoes. you should see this reflected in the jlt condor team kit from august onwards, every bit the sign of quality that it has been for the last 126 years.
special thanks to claire beaumont of condor cycles/jlt condor and mavic uk's alex coventry for their assistance.
tuesday 7 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................