with mrs washingmachinepost off visiting our grandson, mylast two saturday mornings have offered hitherto unseen vistas, pleasingly free from the ritual of weekend shopping. thus unshackled, there is no impediment to my bringing the colnago smiling from the bike shed and heading off into what will eventually become a sunset. always presuming the cloud cover recedes in time. and the rain stays away. ok, so no sunset then.
in a break with tradition, i opted to head south to the ancestral home at ardbeg distillery, the exterior of which has recently been given an expansive facelift. aside from an impressive array of bike racks at the gable end on arrival, the cars have been banished to their very own clearly marked car park, leaving the monogrammed courtyard for the benefit of pedestrians and cyclists such as yours truly who failed to notice the bike racks until departure time.
after more years than would be considered a good idea in polite company, the old kiln café has acquired a proper coffee machine, one that dispenses quality espressos and other designer brews. though the old kiln is some fourteen miles from washingmachinepost croft, who's counting? distance is no equaliser when it comes to a perceived need for a (relatively) early morning strong coffee in a small cup.
i'd love to say i stayed and hung out with single malt whisky's equivalent of the doobie brothers, but always keen to underline my status as a cyclist of the parish, i made my apologies and took swift leave of the premises, heading in the direction of debbie's, bruichladdich for a foamier coffee and double egg roll.
the better choice of route towards the west is what is locally referred to as the high road, several miles of single track road that ends its journey just half a mile short of bridgend. at this time of year, islay's traffic is of an order greater than could be said to be the usual level, so on a single-track road, there's a better than evens chance of meeting traffic heading in the opposite direction. since my saturday objectives had already been partly realised with that ardbeg double-espresso, i was in no hurry; my courtesy level was, i figured, admirably high.
therefore, on viewing a car heading in the opposing direction, but some distance away, i pulled into a nearby passing place, unclipped and stood awaiting its arrival. the high road features large blue signs advising drivers and cyclists to use passing places to allow overtaking and thus not to impede progress of those travelling faster. and ultimately the trucks and tractor drivers who are involved in work as opposed to leisurely pastimes such as cycling to debbie's for a soya cappuccino.
as the car passed, i half expected a polite wave of acknowledgment for my utterly selfless act of chivalry, but in point of fact, the driver and passenger rolled past without even so much as noticing i existed. i'm aware that many motorists think that the onus is on the cyclist to allow them to drive unimpeded, and i do have certain sympathies with those driving behind; in such cases, i will pull off (on singletrack roads) as soon as it is safe to do so. but with regard to oncoming traffic, i figure the onus of courtesy rests with whomsoever is closest to a passing place. sadly, this is rarely the case, despite the drivers of the 40 foot distillery tankers often adhering to this unwritten rule.
i have moaned almost incessantly about the predilection of visiting cyclists to refrain from acknowledging our common hail fellow, well met when passing on uiskentuie strand, but it seems that the age of chivalry is in danger of meeting an early death amongst all road users. so to prove we are the bigger man/woman, i would urge you all to acknnowledge with a short wave, all those drivers who pull over to let you past, and indeed those who remain behind the peloton waiting for a safe opportunity to pass without endangering our safety and wellbeing.
it will be our subterfuge designed to restore the natural order of things.
monday 20 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"It's not surprising Boffo wins all his races."
a friend from school, with apparently more perspicacity in the realm of contemporary rock music of the time (early seventies, to be appropriately vague) owned a copy of the yes album. this did occasionally lead to quizzical enquiries as to why any band would name themselves yes. if in answer to a specific question, i never found out what that question might have been. my father, more inured to the world of classical music with little tolerance for 'a bunch of long-haired louts' insisted on referring to them as the yes, even though the album cover categorically omitted the definite article.
however, i bring this to the conversation because it led to my first real hero, if such an apellation can be related to a musician who became more famous for later leaving the band than for his subsequent progressive (in both senses of the word) career.
bill bruford played the drumset in a manner i hadn't come across previously, though i'll readily admit that my record collection of the time had only one stand-out percussionist; joe morello on dave brubeck's take five. that was jazz; this wasn't.
i followed bruford's career throughout my years at art college and well into my fifties, through various incarnations of king crimson, occasional reunions with members of yes and his own constantly changing line-up of earthworks. i stayed and admired throughout the days of playing melodies on recalcitrant simmons electronic drums, to his ultimate idiosyncratic setup prior to retiring a few years back. i never quite embraced the stage of having posters on my bedroom wall (then or now), but i do have one or two signed dvds, and i was introduced to the man by his bass player after a concert on glasgow's renfrew ferry.
i won't bore you with my odd attempts to emulate his singular style of playing despite my own gigs most often consisting of 40 second radio jingles or the first dance at a wedding. it takes some of us longer to adapt to reality than others. of course, there have been other drum heroes since, but bruford's the chap that made the biggest difference to my own percussive aspirations, even if you'd be hard-pressed to notice.
cycling heroes i've had none, at least not in the same sense. robert millar was and still is a great influence, but the only thing i have in common with robert is a ponytail and having been born a glaswegian. i'm somewhat ashamed to admit that during the time that eddy merckx was earnestly earning his cannibal nickname, i was totally oblivious to his exploits. coppi, bartali and anquetil were all before my time; though i hold all three in great esteem, i was too young at the height of their careers to be in any way aware of their greatness.
with reference to the merckx era, i count myself in the same class as many i have observed during europsort's coverage of the grand tours, stupidly turning away from the racing to wave to the camera behind them. having stood on a mountainside pretty much all day, when the opportunity to appreciate today's heroes, they squander it all for a few seconds of dubious fame. perhaps hero worship isn't what it once was?
it is likely something of a truism that heroes are identified in the years of innocent youth, before we all grow up (well, some of us) and realise that the great champions aren't born in cradles with the word hero engraved on the headboard. by the time realisation dawns, the act of hero worship has already accomplished its purpose. first published in 1973 the great boffo lays waste to the oft repeated advice that you should never meet your heroes. illustrator frank dickens, progenitor of the record-breaking cartoon strip bristow (it ran for 41 years) was apparently an outstanding cyclist as a young man, with aspirations towards the professional milieu. however, drawing cartoons proved a potentially more successful career move.
the great boffo is so brilliant in concept and illustration that i'm seriously considering petitioning brian cookson at the uci to make it a compulsory purchase for anyone with the faintest notion to become involved in road-cycling. who hasn't at sometime or other (only yesterday, in my case) coveted "...the most beautiful bicycle the boy had ever seen. It was painted red, the handlebars and the wheels gleamed in the sunshine, and it had the name 'Boffo' written on it."?
it would surely be tanatmount to informing all and sundry that the butler had indeed done it, to reveal the whole story line, but suffice to say that the young boy (whose name is oddly never revealed) does not suffer unrequited hero worship and inadvertantly not only saves the day, but indirectly causes the problem from which the great boffo requires to be saved. for those of a nervous disposition, it does contain mild reference to broken lemonade bottles and a delivery bicycle with a basket on the front.
pursuit's james spackman has published this beautifully presented edition "for the Wiggo generation."; it is prescient that dickens foresaw the naming terminology for one of cycling's heroes of the 21st century. surely it cannot be coincidence that boffo and wiggo both refer to two of cycling's great heroes?
in 1973, i was just a tad too old to have the great boffo read to me at bedtime, though as my parents had no cycling tendencies whatsoever, it's stretching credibility to think they might have done so in any case. however, i do have a two year-old grandson who will be indoctrinated into the ways of the great boffo before he gets anywhere near three years old. and the kids under the care of mrs washingmachinepost on a daily basis will grow up watching eurosport, hoping to identify the great boffo from the helicopter shots and wondering why carlton kirby hasn't yet made mention of his sterling efforts.
i fully expect james spackman's pursuit publishing to issue an a3 sized poster of the great boffo and his gleaming red bicycle for mounting on the wall above the bed. though ostensibly a children's book, i'll admit to having read it three times (out loud) already, but you musn't tell a soul. order a copy immediately and organise public readings in the clubhouse or coffee stop.
"The machine is not as important as the man." the great boffo.
sunday 19 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there have been times when the thought of reviewing a brooks saddle would have brought tears to the eyes of a bronze statue, though it's a reputation that was not always deserved even when we're discussing their leather-based seating products.
in my misbegotten days of mountain biking, i did own a brooks leather saddle, the model number of which i'm afraid i cannot recall. this may or may not be due to subconscious posterior trauma, but either way, for the first few months, it rode with all the comfort of a coal bunker. however, always one to attempt favouring style marginally ahead of pragmatism, i persevered until, like flann o'brien's third policeman either part me became part of the saddle or vice versa.
in my opinion, not only did that leather masterpiece look every bit the biz atop my muddy fox mega, but when broken in, i doubt there was a more comfortable saddle anywhere this side of easter island. foolishly however, and very much as a result of being convinced i knew what i was doing, i would regularly add a few turns to the nose bolt on the saddle to retain tension on the leather. i say 'foolishly' because there was obviously no real need for the number of turns i applied with my proprietary brooks saddle spanner.
i had obeyed the laws of the firmament by regularly applying proofide both top and bottom (whatever happened to that little tin?), safe in the knowledge that i was proving a fit and proper guardian for my seated heritage. the saying 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing' was never more true. within two years of purchase, i had successfully split the leather about an inch back from the nose of the saddle, rendering it all but useless to man and beast.
i still own several brooks leather saddles, all of which have remained intact after years of use, but despite having enquired further of the experts at smethwick, i still harbour feelings of inadequacy augmented by mental squirming if ever called upon to apply a twist or two to the saddle nose bolts.
it may well be that in the interim period my backside has become more macho, for the 'cross bike is shod with a brooks colt, a leather saddle that his given scarcely one moment of discomfort since it was attached to the ibis seatpost. and the brooks b16 atop the stately taurus corinto, despite one or two complaints from the springs, is every bit as comfortable as the armchair in which i sit and type. perhaps the brooks reputation for engendering posterior discomfort has been heralded entirely at the behest of the less than practised cyclist?
maybe we'll never know.
however, only a few years ago, the folks in smethwick's downing street introduced their first ever non-leather saddle in the form of the cambium c17. this consists of an organic cotton canvas top, melded to a gum rubber base, offering all the benefits of brooks' engineering but without the need for a tuning key. similarly, no longer was it necessary to construct a marquee around the latter section of the bicycle in order to keep the saddle protected from the elements. cotton canvas and gum rubber simply laugh in the face of climatic adversity.
as an added bonus, in my opinion, that canvas top fades gracefully and authentically as the weather and cycle shorts work their magic.
the cambium c17 begat the narrower and ostensibly racier c15 (a saddle already being used by one or two cyclocross competitors), a seat more forgiving of the stretched-out-on-the-drops position and aesthetically more pleasing when affixed to a colnago c40. the cambium range needs no breaking-in period as required by the brooks leather range; it is no longer necessary to circumnavigate the globe in order to have the saddle just right for an august sportive ride. they're already just ginger peachy as far as i'm concerned.
but saddle science bears more than just a singular approach, already paid testament to by the more than extensive brooks leather range and by their recognition that the c17 was not the be all and end all of organic cotton tops.
at almost regular intervals, one of the weekend newspapers will point out that the latest bike boom is endangering the virility and comfort of one's undercarriage, a practice if not halted that is likely to see the end of the human race as we know it. though common advice is to ensure that you raise your athletically honed personage from the saddle every so often, there are proponents who recommend using a saddle with a hole in the middle to relieve pressure on the perineum, thus ensuring the longevity of human kind.
brooks already offer the flyer imperial, a leather saddle with just such a cutout, but with the cambium range proving extremely popular, the addition of the cambium c15 carved was probably a prudent step forward (there is also a cambium c17 carved version). very much of the opinion that the c15 is every bit the right stuff to attach to the very best of road bikes, i fitted a review model of the c15 carved to my colnago master where it looks as sleek as the bike itself. if only this were an attribute that could be conferred upon its rider.
i have ridden one or two holy saddles on previous occasions, and though i couldn't testify to being greatly uncomfortable, they failed to offer the advanced comfort that i perhaps mistakenly hoped they would. this may be at least in part due to the rigidity factor; the transition from the gap to saddle top was a rather abrupt one at best. and here's where i believe the cambium carved may have at least partially solved this dilemma. canvas and gum rubber are inherently more pliable than many of the plastic-based options available. manually manipulating the saddle top results in a degree of flexibility that could be seen as either a liability or a benefit to seated comfort.
as it turns out, certainly in my case at least, it's the latter aspect that made the cambium carved a pleasure to ride. just to be sure, i remained seated when traversing cattle grids (i have plenty to choose from) and opted to ride across roads that often seemed to have been borrowed from paris-roubaix for the occasion. i mentioned during my recent review of the ashmei bibshorts that they alone seemed to have a disagreement with the cambium's cutout, one i presume that results from the idiosyncratic shape of the chamois pad. however, i have ridden wearing shorts from endura, rapha, mavic and castelli all with no adverse sensations down below.
i am fortunate to have a bum that is predominantly saddle agnostic; only a few examples have elicited discomfort on a level that demanded comment. i find both the standard c17 and c15 cambium models to be perfectly comfortable and thus no real demand for one with a hole in the middle. however, after several weeks and hundreds of kilometres riding the carved version, i may have created a metaphorical rod for my own back(side) when returning to the safety of solids. maybe i'll take a gap year.
if you experience frequent discomfort on a regular sadddle, or like me, find other slotted models to be less favourable than you'd hoped, might i suggest you at least try the brooks cambium c15 carved? hopefully you'll be as pleasantly suprised as i have been.
saturday 18 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"A gyrfalcon is the north wrapped in feathers and made into a bird. It is the largest of all falcons, and found around the globe in the bald and shivering head of the far-northern hemisphere."
on april 3 2010, apple computer launched the first ipad, a digital computer tablet that confounded all previous attempts at a similar device, by selling in unprecedented quantities. other companies who wished to be seen in this market sector have released similar devices, on the whole offering similar capabilities. along with amazon's kindle series, the tablet invasion was at one time seen as a major competitor to the printed word. no longer, we were told, would it be necessary to line the sitting room walls with bookshelves and magazine racks. retailers such as w h smith would soon have need of redesigning their sales space, for no longer would we purchase printed magazines in the quantities that had hitherto been the case.
as previewed by wired magazine, the appetites of the very near future would be sated by a plethora of interactive digital publications that would transform the way we read our monthly magazines. there would be no longer any need to carry an extra bag of glossy paper to read on the train, the bus, the ferry or the aeroplane. all would be contained on our tablets or even phones in glorious, interactive pixellation.
some of that has undoubtedly come true. many of amazon's books are available in digital format for immediate download, providing yet more instant gratification even that of the occasionally impulsive spend. but print has not disappeared from view with the alacrity proposed by the tablet makers. admittedly, much of their proselytising was at the behest of a rush for lucrative market share; the conversion to digital was never going to be as fast or as total as their marketing departments would have us believe.
bluntly put, many of us still prefer ink on paper, for convenience, for tactility and because several decades of reading the printed word on paper were never likely to be wiped out overnight.
however, given the inexorable rise of the ipad and its peers, it would be a brave man who committed valuable resources to launching a new print publication, albeit one that appears only twice per year. and though cycling has undoubtedly increased its world market share in recent years, it still remains a niche activity; not all of its new adherents share the obsession of that one man.
rapha's simon mottram.
you may recall that rapha has been down this road before, or at very least, a road of similar ilk. as mr mottram testifies in his introduction to the first issue of mondial, rapha's new publication available as of today (17 july), they first offered us rouleur at the co-instigation of former editor guy andrews in 2006, before selling it in 2012. you would wonder then, why it has been deemed necessary to apparently repeat the process only three years later? the answer, according to rapha is "We believe it's time for our sport to show more confidence and ambition, and take another leap forward. Road cycling is the greatest sport in the world but it's so much more than that."
that latter statement may be the real key to mondial's future success. when was the last time you opened your cycle magazine to be met with advertisements for paul smith, timothy everest, vitra furniture, usm furniture, and a feature on birds of prey? i asked rapha's jack saunders, the magazine's principal designer what was his inspiration when designing the magazine?
"From the outset of the design process we were acutely aware that we were more likely to create something unique and quintessentially Rapha by looking back over ten years of the design and content we have produced ourselves. Early catalogues and posters through to the most recent expressions of our brand in-store and online provided a rich pool of creative work to reference and reinvent in Mondial. It is much easier to see the design cues of a 1970s Gazzetta Dello Sport or Miroir-Sprint - two titles synonymous with the sport of Road cycling - in Mondial, as these publications have also been an influence on the aesthetic of our brand."
it is also indicative of rapha's acute understanding of not only its own position in the world of road cycling, but that of its fans, customers and adherents that the pink cover features no illustrations but simply textual references to the magazine's contents.
"Black text on pink paper is a direct homage to the front cover of the Gazetta Della Sport, the Italian newspaper responsible for the creation of the Giro d'Italia in 1909. Famed for its pink paper, the Gazzetta, with its strong connection to the sport of road racing, has always been an influence on the overall design of our brand. Also, as a members' magazine which is sold online and shipped directly to our customers, we would not appear on news stands. This gave us the opportunity to break away from conventional considerations, which was namely to omit imagery and place the masthead in the centre of the page as a means of giving Mondial a distinctive identity."
the contents of mondial are many and varied. lest you fear that this will simply be rouleur mark two, let me disavow you of that misapprehension immediately. the making of a jersey, the origins of the rapha continental, a gallery of superb ben ingham photography in which the bicyle is almost conspicuous by its absence, an interview with architect jan gehl and timm kolln's portraits of the legs of the peloton. the avowed intent of mondial is 'to bring a cycling viewpoint to broader cultural subjects and to help expand the sport's reference points.'
that may seem high faluttin' to the point of pretentiousness, but i might refer you to my earlier point that, for all its increased popularity, cycling remains a niche activity. unless we (or someone on our behalf) grab the opportunity to make cycling more relevant to those not possessed of our own velocipedinal obsessions, it could just as easily sink back ino the mire as quickly as it has risen. mondial magazine is very unlikely to achieve this all on its own, particularly in view of its twice yearly publication schedule, but then rouleur started out with only four issues per year...
however, what mondial brings to the table over and above its philosophy and content is a commitment to the finer nuances of style, photography and typography, the latter resulting in the commissioning of a bespoke typeface with which to headline its pages. jack saunders very kindly set thewashingmachinepost in this typeface that i might use as an example (see above). what prompted the apparent need for a new typeface when so many are already available from the world's digital foundries?
"The custom font displays heavy influence from typefaces found in La Gazzetta circa 1970s. We worked with Colophon Foundry to develop the Mondial masthead and headline typeface. Our brand fonts, Trade Gothic and Adobe Caslon have always served us well, but we felt that there was space to do something new for Mondial; editorially we wanted to bring more character to the pages.
"The final font is a dense condensed typeface with lots of quirky characteristics. It has an almost woodblock style with slightly rounded edges. Again, as with the other design cues in the Mondial, there is an Italian influence. Lots of our research was directed at the Gazzetta and some old Italian type specimen books that we have in the studio.
"We think the end result gives the magazine a distinct and bold identity."
it would be a tad sycophantic to say that the appearance of mondial is just what the world of road cycling needed to bolster its new-found fame (i've been advised by three, previously non-cycling friends this week alone that they have purchased or intend to acquire a road bike by month's end). however, mondial's apparent desire to encompass the world beyond strava, srm power meters and sportwool is a bold move. we may soon be wondering why nobody had thought of this before.
and for those who need to know, yes, it does have that wonderful rouleur aroma.
the first issue of mondial is on sale from today (friday 17 june) price £10 (159 pages). rapha club members will already have received their copies in advance as a part of their membership benefits. mondial is not available in high street retailers.
friday 17 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
blessed are the hebrideans, for they shall have two days of summer in july. and that has now come to pass. tuesday and wednesday were sunny, a tad breezy at times but sporting a temperature in the mid teens celcius. that is positively balmy for round here. though i have made previous mention of a propensity to play hooky from work on a friday afternoon, i took the opportunity for a 40km ride on wednesday pm, since the forecast for today was less clement. granted that forecast altered somewhat by the time thursday dawned, but you can never be too sure.
the atlantic ocean can be a real swine at times.
however, even on days when loch indaal could easily be mistaken for the playground of the pirates of the caribbean, you will find members of the velo club riding in formation (peloton or echelon; both are almost interchangeable) with the central rear pockets stuffed with a rain jacket. too often has the crowded house hit record four seasons in one day acted as a pelotonic earworm for much of the sunday ride. it may be bright and sunny in bowmore, but approach saligo bay with anything less than a tentative cadence, and you could be looking at hailstones in july.
i really wish i was kidding.
the old adage that there really is no such thing as bad weather, only poor choice of apparel is pretty much anathema up here. it would be hard to find anyone who'd pay even lip service to such a southern pronouncement. we have indeed been occasionally remiss in our choice of outer garb, but it's a mistake you don't make twice. bad weather exists and w all have the scars to prove it.
thankfully, for the so-called summer months the remedy is simple. stuff a folded waterproof jacket in a back pocket and hope that there is never any need to find out how well its waterproofing abilities are versus its breathability. those south of the border may view 17 degrees celcius as a chilly day, but we'd be inclined to spray on the ambre solaire prior to departure. on such a day, were it to rain, it might be every bit as comfortable simply to get wet as opposed to donning a rainjacket. but not always.
the iniquity of spending a small fortune on any waterproof, be it the type that truly qualifies as a jacket, or the lightweight folders, is that the proofing eventually ceases to be as effective as it was at point of purchase. we've all experienced that childlike joy at watching rain collect as little droplets on the sleeves, harmlessly rolling off onto the handlebars. it can look quite impressive, but after a few washes, those droplets are more likely to soak into the fabric, not necessarily invading your inner space, but not appearing quite as weatherproof as the few hundred pounds had offered.
there are many products on the market that promise to re-proof pretty much any such garment while maintaining the breathability that came with the price tag. i have no evidence to contradict the latter contention, but plenty that would undermine the concept of re-invigorating those little droplets of water on the sleeves. many consist of a two part treatment: one to wash the garment and a second to apply during the drying process followed by a brief tumble dry on low heat.
i know i'm not the only one who has experienced less than impressive results with such products. muc-off, however offer no wash product, simply a can of fabric protect that is sprayed onto the offending jacket, preferably in the great outdoors. this, i presume, is due to its chemical composition that seems likely to leave you walking a few inches above the ground if inhaled in an enclosed space.
i took my team sky blue rapha race cape, pegged it to the washing line, and sprayed every inch of it with the muc-off fabric protect. leaving it to dry for ten minutes or so, as per the instructions, i did it once more, and again following a second ten minute interval. when all is dry, muc-off advise leaving the garment for a 24 hour period to allow it to completely infuse into the fabric.
i confess, based on previous experience, i really wasn't expecting too much when a tiny velo club peloton opted to circumnavigate the loch. but it had started raining even as i left the croft and continued to do so until only a few hundred metres from debbie's. i'd scarcely noticed the intervening kilometres, obsessed as i was with watching the aforementioned little bobbles of water run down both sleeves, an event that hadn't been witnessed for many a long winter's day.
with heavy intermittent showers all morning we had jackets on and off about five times between leaving deb's and returning for lunchtime coffee and cake; muc-off's fabric protect worked seamlessly (forgive the pun) throughout. the best bit is its particularly reasonable price; a 400ml can retails at only £10 and if you're a bit more careful than yours truly, you can probably manage to proof two jackets per can. it also offers the added benefit of protecting the jacket against undesirable stains. while attempting to fold the jacket in a windy passing place, i managed to have one of the sleeves rub against the big chainring, leaving an oily smudge near the elbow. on returning home, this was easily removed by wiping with a water-infused piece of kitchen roll.
now that's what i call a result.
thursday 16 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i cannot deny it, i'm as much to blame as anyone. having moved to this rock in the atlantic almost three decades ago, i held this vague notion that i ought best to fit in with hebridean society by adopting one or two traits i thought might best field acceptance. for starters, this is not only an island, but a particularly rural island, famed as much for its bird and wildlife as it is for its malt whisky distilleries. the obvious thing to do was to acquire a copy of the observers book of birds with which to dazzle my intended peer group.
books such as this are remarkably well illustrated, in this case by a phalanx of artists with greater and more realistic powers of draughtsmanship than i. but while it is simplicity itself to distinguish between each species from the pages in a book, real life is not like that at all. i can demonstrate how well i took to this new found interest in ornithology by admitting that nowadays i have classified islay's birds as geese and not geese.
there was also the perceived and not altogether innocent need to fit in by means of one's sartorial dress sense. bright red rohan jackets and light grey bags seemed somewhat at odds with the estate gamekeepers who apparently favour tweeds and barbour jackets. the latter was just a strain too far on a limited income at that point, so a common or garden generic waxed cotton jacket was next on the list, augmented by a waxed cotton cap that i can now freely admit, i never wore.
of course, simply because i'd decided that island life was the thing for me, there really was no need to take things quite so far. to be honest, nobody in the villages cared that much, and when out in the sticks armed with cartridge paper and charcoal, there was no-one to see me anyway. what had escaped my attention at the time was that, as the island's sole cyclist in the late eighties early nineties, it didn't matter what i wore; i already stood out like a sore thumb.
thankfully, i have not been the only individual to adhere to a misplaced sense of narcissism. for a good few years, it was possible to observe the summer visitors attempting to fit in by doing pretty much as i had done. the unheralded giveaway was their continually incorrect pronunciation of place names and those of the more linguistically challenging distilleries. try pronouncing bunnahabhain if you're from the home counties.
nowadays, as with most trends, things have moved on. rarely will you see anyone, local or otherwise dressed in a waxed cotton jacket and flat cap. nowadays, in order to give the impression of fitting in while on holiday, it is necessary to arrive in a range rover (the bigger the better), or either an audi four-wheel-drive or a similar model from bmw. the oddity of such a notion is that it seems also to be an unwritten rule that whichever vehicle you happen to be driving, it has need of at least two bicycles hung about its person, either on the tailgate or the roof.
i'm sure i need not point out that on an island where the velo club annual dinner dance is held in the phone box at carnduncan, driving about with bicycles on the roof is something of a faux pas. the curious part is that those bicycles seem always to remain on the vehicles. no matter which part of the island on which they are met and its eminent suitability for cycling, we will meet those enormous cars with bicycles still attached. nobody ever rides them.
if i had a mind to, coupled with less of a sense of mischief, i could easily write a guide that would allow visiting cyclists to fit in seemlessly to local velocipedinal life. granted, it's too small an island for such a deceit (however confident) to be pulled off with aplomb, but you just never know. the thought of so doing comes to mind on discovering a rather informative and light-hearted graphic of advice on how to cycle like a local in amsterdam, the world renowned hub of european cycle activity.
though past successes on alpe d'huez would seem to testify that not all dutch cyclists ride city bikes with a girlfriend sat on the top tube or rear rack, there's no doubt that the velocipede has gained greater ground as a pragmatic means of transport, than is the case on this side of the channel.
perhaps the most obvious giveaway that dutch isn't your first language, apart from an inability to spell gert jan theunisse is dilly-dallying at low speed without any indication that you know where you're going. stopping mid cycle path to look at a map is very unlikely to endear you to the dutch travelling at speed with no need for a map. and don't be tempted off the cycle lanes onto pavements or pedestrianised areas. both or either will simply educate you to a variety of dutch swear words. and something we're very guilty of not doing in the uk is offering decent (or any) hand signals. amsterdam expects every cyclist to do their duty.
however, rather than me, who has only seen photographs of cycling in holland, providing an endless list of doubtful advice, i can happily point you in the direction of a very helpful infographic compiled for the true purpose of easing your summer holiday life on two dutch wheels. meanwhile, i intend to consider how best to approach the same problem for the southern hebrides.
wednesday 15 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in 1997 apple computer's advertising agency tbwa/chiat/day originated the think different campaign principally to encourage those who considered themselves modern day thinkers to look at an alternative to the microsoft windows computing platform. leaving aside the fact that it should have been more correctly formed as think differently (advertising agencies rarely let something as trivial as correct use of the english language stand in the way of a campaign), any long-term apple user would have been already inured to this approach of having to think different(ly).
once categorised under the heading not invented here, products emanating from 1 infinite loop had rarely been seen to conform to any notional standard. apple used processors that would not support anyhting windows-based, video card slots that varied from the more common denominator and featured expansion sockets that demanded proprietary hardware (scsi anyone?). it was doubtless something of a great irritation to those providing third-party items for the apple market to have need of manufacturing and offering two distinct flavours of the same product.
and every bit as irritating for those of us who had hoped to purchase an example of said item for a similar price to those using a windows-based computer.
however, all is now a tad rosier in the computing garden, with current apple models containing intel inside and even the real practicality of running the windows operating system on an imac or macbook air. yet thinking different(ly) is not confined to the world of zeros and ones, though not all fancy the expense of a large advertising campaign to proclaim so as loudly as apple. in the case currently under discussion, take sports apparel company ashmei.
i have previously reviewed their excellent softshell jacket and merino s/s jersey, but while perusing the ashmei website, i was scared enough to come across the price tag on their bibshorts. given the quality of the previously mentioned two items, that their bibshorts would be every bit as efficacious was never really in doubt. but £235 for bibshorts from a company that is hardly a household name? you would seriously have to wonder how they came by such a hefty price tag.
i will admit that, generally speaking, thewashingmachinepost is somewhat price agnostic for the following reason: if we accept that ashmei's bibshorts do indeed cost well north of £200, we must also accept that no amount of jumping up and down is likely to change that fact. granted, if they failed to live up to those numbers, there may be cause for concern either on our part or theirs, but the folks at ashmei are very unlikely to knock a few quid off just because the advertised price has made our eyes water. if it's a pair of ashmei bibs that you desire, that's what they cost.
i'm pretty sure aston martin wouldn't bring their prices down just because i couldn't afford one.
so what's different about ashmei's bibshorts that separates them from the likes of rapha, assos and castelli? according to ashmei's stuart brooke "The fabric has 40% stretch instead of the standard 16-20% so that we can compress your thigh muscle to help drive fresh blood and maintain your performance.
"Additionally this micro fibre also resists wind so that your muscles stay warmer, again providing better performance. And we have laser cut the hem and left off the silicone grip; this is not required as our short is much more compressed. Being so tightly woven, the material is water resistant so if you get caught in drizzle it will bead off and the spray from the back wheel will not soak into the fibres."
could all that really be true? would i, of all people, actually notice if my muscles were being compressed and if so, would it make any difference?
the ashmei bibshorts really are somewhat different to the others i have in my cycling wardrobe. for starters, that compression fabric is nothing at all like lycra; it's almost paper-thin and rustles quietly when you lift the shorts from the packaging. and true enough, there is no gripper of any description inside the hem, meaning they're a lot easier to get on than several i could mention. i own a couple of pairs where the silicone gloop is so tacky, that the shorts scarcely make it past my ankles without physical assistance. however, in all other cases, that tackiness means the leg never rides up when cycling. surely no gloop at all would be left wanting?
stuart also advised me that the bibs would feel very tight for the first few rides, taking a few washes to soften them and relax the fibres. he was of course correct, leading to an almost embarrassing situation where i thought i might just have requested the wrong size (small). however, when stuart is right, he's right, and after about four rides and subsequent washings, they have started to adopt the demeanour of a second skin. the shorts do profess a waistline of sorts which could offset the more usual svelte profile engendered by others should you havae bumpy bits where you'd prefer not to have bumpy bits, but i'm presuming that may tie-in with their compression ambitions.
either way, the overall fit was close to impeccable.
visually, the fabric does not offer the flexibility that you'd expect with lycra (some more than others), but appearances can be deceptive. in this case, they certainly were; while i would never recommend riding without shorts (unless on a naked bike ride), it was only a matter of kilometres before i forgot they were there. and the lack of any gloop on the hems seems not to have impinged on their ability to keep the legs precisely where you'd want them to be. (nor did i have red marks above the knee on removal).
ashmei's bibs feature a bespoke chamois pad, apparently built from 3d moulded high-density foam that doesn't absorb moisture. it's a long time since i experienced any discomfort from a chamois pad, and i'm pleased to say this one looks like continuing that trend. oddly enough, and it may be simply due to a meeting of discombobulated shapes, the shorts did not play too happily with a brooks cambium carve saddle (the one with the hole in the middle). though the latter has proved perfectly comfortable with other makes of bibshort, and the ashmei bibs have been delightful with standard saddles, this particular combination hasn't quite gelled (if you'll pardon the pun).
of course, it may be that brand new shorts on a brand new saddle might take time to get to know each other. i'll get back to you on that one.
otherwise, these have been a great joy in which to cycle. the fabric is indeed water resistant; having been caught in more than just a single shower over the past weeks, it's oddly comforting to watch beads of rain settle on the fabric before running off harmlessly. of course, a subsequently torrential downpour spared neither rider nor riding apparel.
i cannot truthfully testify to the averred compression feature. i tend to think that it's something that ought really to work away in the background rather than making me feel as if my legs were being strangled, in which case, it was quite likely doing so. i am not a competitive nor particularly fast rider, so it would take a team of scientists and a truckload of equipment to check the veracity of their contention. i'm happy to accept their word for it.
at the risk of breaking my own reviewing checklist, do i think the price is a little on the high side? quite probably yes, but the very best never comes cheap. the ashmei bibs are certainly different enough to make you look more than twice, and they're easily amongst the best on the market. if you've got the money, i seriously doubt you'll be disappointed.
and it's always another conversation for the coffee stop.
tuesday 14 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................