i'm not altogether sure just where i read it, it may have been the comic, or it could just as easily have been some other essential cycle news outlet, but the advice proffered concerned the choice of chainrings. not, you understand, anything relating to bolt circle diameters or even number of teeth thereof, but advice that is tenuously related to the time of year.
having popped the clocks back one hour over the weekend, a fortuitous train of events that had me in bed by 10:45 on saturday night, despite having undertaken an hour or so's drumming at a local hostelry, if nothing else, advertises the onset of winter. during the coming week, the calmac ferry timetable will relegate the summer schedule and adopt the less frequent winter sailings. it's a change that has further reaching consequences than simply dispensing with a late evening sailing, for sunday past was the last time the sunday newspapers will arrive at lunchtime. and the removal of the wednesday morning sailing to the more northerly isle of colonsay, means the bread and newspapers will arrive more timeously midweek.
this might seem either distinctly odd or incomprehensible to those of you more used to twenty-four hour supermarkets and a daily newspaper on the way to work no matter how early that might be, but on the isles it is something woven into the fabric of hebridean society. some of the smaller isles are even less fortunate in this sense than are we. i recall that, on moving to the isle several decades ago, the sunday newspapers would arrive late on a sunday having been brought down through the neighbouring isle of jura after arriving on a fishing boat. the twenty-first century has at last brought us all into the twentieth century.
however, if i may digress back to my original point, as yet unmade, the onset of winter has a clear and present effect on those who train on their bikes. this as opposed to those of us who find the latter something of an unecessary interruption to the natural order of simply riding and surveying the estates from a brooks saddle. it appears that, in the absence of a contemporary wholsesale adoption of a fixed gear bicycle the need to gain souplesse over the winter months means a season-long ban on the big ring.
pedalling throughout the end of october and on into november, december, january and february means that the leftmost lever has been granted a holiday. unless the weather provides a galeforce tailwind on the way home from debbie's, the outer ring is now persona non grata. this happily coincided with my reverting to the chris king cielo as my velocipede of choice throughout those selfsame months, if principally due to the existence of a pair of full-wood fenders. with the exception of the taurus corinto, none of my other bicycles feature mudguards of any shape or form, and i have no great desire to encourage a muddy stripe up the back of my jackets.
the cielo features a not altogether up to the minute sram red groupset sporting a chainset with a 53/39 chainring configuration. as age takes its inevitable toll (on the rider, not the groupset), going anywhere, even on a flat island such as islay while clicked into that 53 ring is a far more onerous undertaking than my legs are willing to accept. so the printing of apparently serious advice to use the inner ring only for the next few months allows me the luxury of explaining, when necessary, that my spinning legs (oh i wish) are a part of my winter training regime.
and why is it that the word souplesse sounds like a light, frothy and creamy dessert?
monday 26 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
dave rayner was one of britain's more successful cyclists in an era when we were hard pushed to star on the european and world stage. having won the national junior road race championships in 1984 he moved to italy, joining the snappily named g.s. porcari-fanini-berti team, staying until 1986. in 1987 he won the under 22 award in the milk race before turning professional with the even less snappily named interent-yugo team. the following year he joined the eponymous and still famous after all those years raleigh-banana. rayner won the under-22 award in both the 1988 and 1989 milk race, joining banana-falcon in 1990 and winning the scottish provident criterium series.
in 1991, jan raas' buckler team teased him over to belgium, subsequently shifting across the pond to the usa two years later and joining ime-health share for a largely unsuccessful season. he moved back to britain for 1994 as a member of the lex-townsend team with which he took second overall in the national criterium championship.
sadly, in november of the same year, rayner had an altercation with a bouncer outside the maestro nightclub in bradford resulting in his death. in january of 1995 the dave rayner fund was set up in his memory to assist young british riders with potential racing careers on the continent, the first beneficiary of whom was the recently retired david millar.
mick and andy at prendas ciclismo started business around the same time that thewashingmachinepost first saw the light of the interweb (we both celebrate our twentieth anniversaries next year) and have always supported individual riders with the odd piece of free kit since the beginning. in 2014 they collaborated with the makers of arguably the finest coffee machines on the planet, rocket espresso, to donate profits to the dave rayner fund via sales of appropriately branded cycle clothing. these include the rocket espresso cap illustrated here, as well as the prendas/rayner fund cap, and santini-made long sleeve jersey, windstopper gilet and bibshorts.
rocket espresso founding partner (and national masters champion) andrew meo, expressed his continued support through the association with prendas "While we currently support some 30 Pro-Tour riders, it's nice to give something to those who are making their way up the ladder in the professional peloton."
prendas' mick tarrant pointed out that "...if we assembled a hypothetical team of the aspiring young riders we've supported since the 90s, we'd have a competitive male and female World Tour team!"
dave rayner fund representative, joscelin ryan added "The Prendas Ciclismo/Rocket Espresso initiative has proved to be a huge success... Sales of the clothing range... has generated donations totalling more than £12,000 to date for which we are very grateful.
rather obviously, you can still assist in placing more young british riders in the big wide world of professional racing by purchasing one or more items from the prendas/rocket clothing range. to ease your pain, there's a direct link listed below.
you know it makes sense.
sunday 25 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
despite our not having yet reached the end of october and its concomitant hallowe'en celebrations, nor indeed the fifth of november and all those fireworks in the sky, even islay's shops have begun to instil one or two smatterings of christmas. a dod of tinsel here, sheets of wrapping paper there, christmas cards carving their own corner of the card rack and the inevitable selections of tinned biscuits. rumour has it that there's a house in one of the outlying villages already bearing christmas decorations in the window, but so far that remains unconfirmed.
images of winter seem based on a mythical forest in bavaria, with thatched roofs creaking under the weight of powdery but heavy snow, a golden glow seen in small, square-paned windows and carol singers surrounding a doorway. deep footprints pepper the foreground and snow covered pine trees feature heavily in the background. the glitter apparently only appears on greetings cards.
in actual fact, if the most recent winters are anything to go by, the days will be short, dark grey, probably windy and almost inevitably wet. and if you've any sense, the cycling wardrobe will be well stocked with breathable waterproofs, preferably more than just a single example if there's any expectation of riding on successive days. the lower torso can sort of fend for itself, though nowadays there are any number of waterproof/water resistant bibtights on the market to ease the burden of wet weather pedalling.
but, cast your mind back to those allegedy halcyon days of summer, when weekends were spent not just mowing the lawn, but breaking your back holding onto the saddle of a small child's bicycle. those endless hours of zooming up and down the car park hopefully eventually resulted in that child being self-sufficient on said bicycle to the point where they vainly but pleadingly asked if they could join you on the sunday ride. there's a sense of achievement on both parts when a child learns to ride a bicycle, one that really ought to be continued all-year round.
would we not be socially remiss in leading them to believe that only the sunny, summer months are suitable for cycling?
so there we are, dressed to the nines in waterproof, breathability while the kids suffer in a shiny bright yellow replica of a sou'wester which doubles as a painting top when the watercolours are shared. that hardly seems equitable, particularly when portland weatherproof supremos showers pass offer quite superb, scaled down versions of their adult artex hardshells. starting at age four with the xs, the showers pass little crossover jacket, available in boys' and girls' colours cater for kids up to eleven years (large size).
there's a full length front zip that ends in a zip garage with a nice high collar and a drawstring hood. there are also two zipped front hand-poclets and velcro adjustable cuffs. though the jackets are available in nice bright, child friendly colours, their visibility is enhanced by several highly reflective logos and logo'd strips of scotchlite. in keeping with the adult jackets, there's a drawstring controlled hem and a drop tail. while the fully taped seams and breathable membrane make sure that, even if mum and dad are knackered from running up and down, holding onto the saddle, the kids will be dry both inside and out.
with a pink jacket for the girl and a sky blue for her brother, my two athletic models needed no untoward persuasion to don the crossovers even in the face of several rather wet and windy outdoors. add to this a price of only £59, and there's really no reasonable excuse not to outfit the kids in the same manner to which you've become accustomed. the girls' jacket is also available in red, while the boys have an alternative of orange.
apprentices in waiting, even in winter.
saturday 24 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
now that the road season has eased itself into winter and a subsequent lack of racing until it's time once more to head to the antipodean south, the alternatives have surfaced. these take the form of european track racing, the revitalised and probably much missed london six-day racing and the joy of the year (according to my opinion); cyclocross. surely enough competitive cycling activity taking place to keep any fan happy?
but, though it may come as something of a surprise to many, there are those who truly could not care less, far more concentrated on using their bicycles as mere utility, or perhaps more enthusiastically, as an excellent and addictive outdoor leisure activity. bicycles for such purposes need not feature skinny, 23mm tyres, nor indeed is there any desperation for such rubber to be fitted to wheels bearing less than twenty spokes. the bars don't have to curve downwards at the ends, frame material doesn't have to be of burnt plastic and adhering to a lower weight limit of less than 6kg is wholly unnecessary.
there are folks with little or no idea who fausto coppi might have been and are more than likely to ask the question "who? if the conversation turns to bradley wiggins or chris hoy. i truly have no idea of the statistics illustrating the number of bicycles at large in the world, but it would be a fairly safe bet that the majority were not designed to emulate those used in the tour de france, though many are sufficiently well-built to withstand riding the cobbles at paris-roubaix.
feelings of despair do tend to infiltrate the psyche on witnessing full-suspension kids' bicycles that weigh more than two and a half pinarellos, but that has far more to do with fashion and marketing than with cycling as any of us might recognise it. fashion, however, is a fickle mistress and one that scarcely inhabits a single instance. travel from place to place and country to country and it's plain to see that fashion in bicycle usage varies quite considerably across the continent.
and there, under the heading of bicycle fashion, hides a great deal of pragmatism, not least that seen in the city of portland, oregon in the pacific northwest of america. it's a town that has a worldwide reputation as a cycling friendly city, something i've witnessed at first hand, augmented by more frame builders per square kilometre than possibly anywhere else in the world. perhaps unsurprisingly, velocipedinal pragmatism is alive and well and living in stumptown, allied to as many micro breweries and artisinal coffee roasters as there are framebuilders.
at the risk of stating the obvious, the existence of the latter, along with farmers' markets and the like, means that stuff, however you wish to categorise it, has need of being moved from one location to another. with portland's predilection for bicycle use, the town's framebuilding community is not only happy to leap to the challenge (witness the regular oregon manifest design competitions), but actively offer utilitarian bicycles not only to the portlandians, but to the world at large. and in the process of doing so, they demonstrate some breathtaking ingenuity.
witness ti-cycles cleverly named CarGoAway, a titanium framed cargo bike that can carry a not insubstantial level of stuff in all shapes and sizes. but, i hear you say, cargo bikes are hardly breaking news; the blighters have been around for many a long year before portland got its hands on the genre. this is undoubtedly true, but i'd be hard-pushed to point the finger at one that not only features a high-quality, aerospace frame, but a sense of speed and fun that few of its peer group could equal. additionally, because the ti-cycles CarGoAway exists purely as a custom-build, there are many individual options available depending on need and budget.
the prospective owner can even choose from an auxiliary electric motor to aid with those heavy-objects-up-a-hill moments, a motor than can be charged via optional fold-out solar panels.
i need scarcely mention that i've never ridden one of these bicycles, but it would appear from the example seen in the video linked below that the secret may be one of balance. many of the CarGoAway's predecessors seem to have placed the rider at either the front or the rear. in this case, the lucky owner is pretty well sat in the centre of the bike. hence the versatility demonstrated by its downhill prowess.
there's no specific price tag applied in view of its build-to-order nature, but if this looks like the very machine that's missing from your bike shed, drop eric herboth an e-mail (email@example.com) and open the discussion.
i wonder if i could get a drumset in there?
friday 23 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
who can forget victor kiam, the man who appeared on television many years ago to inform us that "i liked the shaver so much, i bought the company."? the company of course was remington products which kiam famously acquired after his wife bought him his first electric shaver. those advert appearances made him famous enough to subsequently appear on 'wogan' and david frost's 'through the keyhole'. as a graduate of harvard business school, his early career included working as a salesman for lever brothers and playtex.
kiam's entrepreneurial largesse extended to purchasing the benrus watch company in 1968 as well as owning both ronson and travelsmart. in 1994 he sold a controlling interest in remington products, but extended his fame by purchasing the national football league's new england patriots for a not insubstantial $84 million, though his business acumen may have have been on sabbatical since he eventually lost money on the deal.
kiam's multiple purchases. it has to be admitted, are a financial world away from the sort of numbers that appear at the foot of our own bank accounts. i am assuming that in victor's case, those numbers weren't printed in red ink. it is not, however, absolutely necessary to have attended business school and have at least six zeros following the number in your savings account. nor is it necessary to look outside the bicycle industry to follow in kiam's footsteps, for nick hussey is offering you the opportunity to own a small piece of vulpine cycle clothing.
on the face of it, this seems like a rather good deal. vulpine are offering a total 9.09% equity in the company, a number that doesn't really mean that much to me i'm afraid, but it would appear you can invest as little as £10. according to vulpine, they're the leading brand in the sector that offers cycle clothing that looks every bit as stylish off the bike as it does on. they must also revel in the knowledge that despite there being many suitors, olympic champion, sir chris hoy chose vulpine as his partner when launching his own brand of cycle clothing.
though numbers are definitely not my most welcome bedfellow, a business that has increaed its turnover from £200,000 after only one year to £1 million in their third year would seem to be fairly consistent and promises well for the future. figures for the hoy/vulpine range are every bit as cheerful, reaching £305,000 to date.
according to ceo, nick hussey "After three years of growth I've decided I want to get Vulpine's fans involved as owners." the ultimate aim over the next 25 days is to raise a total of £500,000 from individuals rather than involve any of the large equity investors. at the time of writing, the amount pledged was over £340,000, so mr hussey will no longer have to worry about sleepless nights.
so, what does nick plan to do with his expected windfall? according to vulpine, the cash will enable expansion in both the usa, japan and south korea as well as facilitating a made in britain range built in blackburn and expansion of the hoy/vulpine range. "Cycling is growing as a lifestyle choice for so many people and we're determined to show them just how good stylish cycle clothing can be. We're committed to building on our success."
if you have any spare cash sitting about in a bank account, under the mattress or in a piggy bank, money that's really not working as hard as it possibly could be, maybe giving it to nick would be a worthwhile solution. however, as with all good health warnings, it behoves me to point out that crowdcube on which the equity offer is being made advise "Crowdcube is targeted exclusively at investors who are sufficiently sophisticated to understand these risks and make their own investment decisions." in other words caveat emptor.
that said, vulpine's recent history would suggest this to be a pretty sound investment opportunity, especially when it means you can wear a vulpine harrington while saying "i was so impressed by the jacket, i bought (a bit of) the company."
thursday 22 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
unusually, in this case, it's bianchi wot did it. they've recently announced a special edition l'eroica bicycle fashioned in that darned attractive celeste blue which recalls those halcyon days of yore, the days when the brake cables exited the top of the brake levers and changing gear meant reaching for a downtube lever. they have completely eschewed carbon fibre in all its flavours, opting for lugged columbus steel. even the aforementioned rear brake cable is guided along its route atop the top tube by polished chrome cable clips.
to be sure, it's not modernity as we know it, though perhaps an encroaching change is on the way.
the original italian-based l'eroica has subsequently spawned british, spanish, japanese and american variants which, if nothing else, would indicate a growing popularity for the ethos of yesteryear amongst the pelotonese. the originators chose 1987 to draw a line between the days of so-called classic cycling and the modern era, thus all bicycles ridden in any of the events must have been built prior to this date. the bianchi l'eroica as mentioned above has received the necessary permissions to join the party.
admittedly, rumour has it that bianchi will produce only 500 of these worldwide, with a current uk price of £2,500 for the whole enchilada. that compares remarkably favourably with colnago's recently unearthed arabesque which i believe retails at the same price for frame and fork only. campagnolo have conspired to outfit the italian built frame with modern, yet vintage derailleurs labelled with the original script logo as opposed to their current block typeface. it's hardly going to feature on the pages of weight-weenies, but that's really not the point.
the peak district's glory days hire out a whole slew of lovingly restored pre-1987 steel bicycles, predominantly of british origin and there are more than just a few specialists dealing exclusively in vintage bicycles where more often than not, demand outstrips supply.
so why, when the market is awash with lightweight carbon fibre road bicycles at prices that would scarcely have been believeable only a few years ago, is there any interest at all in pre-1987 bicycles? one member of the velo club owns a modern-custom built steel bicycle on which he had downtube levers fitted, but in comparison to the rest of the peloton's seamless and all but invisible gear changes, his look and sound a tad clunky. and the addition of a colnago c60 to our number has not only removed sight of any external cable routing, but arguably eased the shifting equation even further with shimano's electronica.
granted, the red and black colnago cost a chunk of money more than bianchi are charging for their modern retro, but such disparity at the behest of personal choice seems something of a conundrum.
i'm sure that many of us have been at least partially swayed with waves of nostalgia on viewing a beautfully restored flying scot or machine of similar era, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we'd all willingly swap our dual pivots and eleven indexed gears for centre-pulls and a five speed block. or maybe it does. pretty much everything available to buy nowadays, from the cheapest road bike up to the frighteningly expensive exotica, has arrived on the shop floor via the machinations of the professional racer. and at the risk of repeating myself once too often, their demands are a world apart from our own.
road cycling has always cruised on the knowledge that any one of us, assuming an appropriate bank balance, can own a verisimilitude of that ridden by our heroes. this is not a feature available to your average formula one motor racing fan. but perhaps the perennial accolades foisted upon the likes of bartali, coppi, anquetil et al, have provided an alternative peloton of heroes, who wear the mantle of pain and suffering far more fittingly than those currently ferried about in coaches large enough to get stuck under a tour finishing gantry. this is not to diminish the skills and abilities of today's professional peloton, but perhaps the man in the street identifies more readily with the former than the latter.
maybe the transformation has already begun: bianchi with their l'eroica retro bicycle and the realisation that campagnolo appear to be concentrating more on their mechanical groupsets than the electric ones.
come the revolution etc., etc.
wednesday 21 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i am not now of the sporting milieu, nor indeed have i ever been. running the school cross country circuit was merely a long-winded way of avoiding having to participate in anything potentially more strenuous in the school p.e. hall. unaccompanied by any teaching staff, i could sit on a strategically placed log until the second part of the loop could be adjudged appropriately timeous to reach school just too late to join in anything already underway.
i'd be fully justified in asserting that i could barely run the length of myself, something that could be seen as at least a slight disadvantage when it comes to cyclocross. or at least it would do if the competitive edge were needed.
but it isn't.
running is certainly an activity that seems to have become surprisingly more front and centre for several of my friends in london town, seemingly as a result of their more serious involvement in the seasonal art of cyclocross. almost disappointingly, what i would view as an ancillary procedure seems to have overtaken the parent and lets face it, more superlative sport. it seems churlish to criticise, but i don't quite get it; the bicycle bears all of the weight while doubling as a pragmatic form of transport.
running sort of doesn't.
but as with many a sporting activity, there are gradations of effort and specialisation, a factor taken to its ultimate conclusion in track and field where it is apparently possible to carve a career running as short a distance as 100 metres. that's the sort of measurement few of us would take the bike from the shed to ride. but jamaican born usain bolt not only succeeds with repetitive ease over such a distance, he has brought the discipline into the homes of even the athletically agnostic via his bonhomie, good humour and often extrovert behaviour. and by all accounts, he's making a perfectly decent living in the process.
however, the statistic paraded on the back cover of richard moore's latest publication the bolt supremacy pays tribute to the salient fact that of the ten fastest 100 metre times in history, eight of them are held by jamaicans. in the bolt supremacy moore sets out to discover whether there are any specific and discoverable reasons for this being the case. is it due to unique training methods, could it be in the genes, or could it be the unmentionable as perfected by a certain texan cyclist?
bolt is quite obviously the poster boy not only for the 100 metres competition, but for his country. not since the days of bob marley has a sole individual encapsulated the hopes and dreams of the jamaican nation. "He's beautiful to watch... His stride, I mean, it's poetry in motion. [...] He's like a gazelle.
in characteristic fashion, moore leaves no stone unturned. it is not only his remarkably compulsive writing style that endears itself to the reader, but the feeling that he has not only asked every question that any of us could think of, but several others we'd scarcely have concocted on our own. additionally, the jamaican coaching scene seems a tad convoluted, operated by a series of individuals almost at odds with each other's methods, offering inscrutability as its watchword.
in the early days of cycle racing, becoming a professional cyclist often meant an escape from the drudgery of the factory, the farm or some other ultimately dead-end, yet onerous means of employment. the success of bolt has only accelerated a similar desire in the schoolkids of jamaica. "All these kids, the good ones, are recruited by their high schools... They understand that track and field can be their way out. And they're really easy to coach."
it's one of many possibilities for the continued jamaican successes explored by moore. 321 pages would advertise that the author has not skimped on his investigations. some may be perceived as slightly overwrought, but are saved from becoming impenetrable by his skill as a writer. but does it all come down to drugs?
several jamaican athletes have tested positive, but rarely for anything that would be considered serious by cycling's often despicable standings. the overall impression gained from reading about several tenuous but apparently successful training methods would reel with incredulity if it were subsequently proven a systematic doping scam were in place. with no disrespect intended towards jamaican athletics, they just don't seem capable. but then if such a system did exist, isn't that just what they'd want us to think?
in the final chapter, moore asks coach dennis johnson why he thinks his country produces so many top sprinters. johnson turns the tables on moore. "You have been travelling around, speaking to people. Why do you think we have these sprinters in Jamaica?". there is indeed a purported answer to this success, one that the author perhaps realises and one with which johnson agrees. it would be iniquitous of me to reveal that here, but if you decide to forsake the world of cycling during the road season's downtime, the bolt supremacy offers food for thought, an insight into a sport that quite plainly isn't cycling and a narrative that occasionally rivals the finest crime writing.
and it all takes place in jamaica, so a couple of marley albums on the ipod while reading will only add to the drama and enjoyment.
tuesday 20 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................