released on august 17 1959, but recorded in march and april of the previous year at columbia records' 30th street studio, miles davis' kind of blue has become the most successful jazz album of all time and not just purely on the basis of record sales. featuring trumpeter davis, saxophonists julian cannonball adderley and john coltrane, pianist bill evans, drummer jimmy cobb, and bassist paul chambers, it was a follow up to the modal experiments first heard on the previously released milestones album of 1958.
on october 7, 2008 it was certified as a triple platinum record based on sales figures and at the time of writing it was sitting at number 14 on the itunes jazz charts. quite an achievement for an album released fifty-six years ago. in this respect, it doesn't seem to stretch credibility too far to consider kind of blue as smooth jazz, mostly on what appears to be its continued appeal to such a broad church of contemporary listeners and its non-aggressive musicality. however it is several levels above albums from the likes of spyrogyra and george benson, perhaps more traditionally regarded as smooth jazz.
davis went on to become arguably the founder of jazz rock or fusion music, much of which does little for my jazz sensibilities, even if i wouldn't deny its influence on what could truly be regarded as contemporary jazz music.
in mid-september each year, the lagavulin islay jazz festival takes place over a weekend of idiosyncratic venues (a lighthouse?) across the island. remarkably few locals attend any of the concerts on offer, mostly on the basis of "i don't like jazz.", a phrase that sounds every bit as idiotic as "i don't like pop music."
jazz covers such a wide experience of differing styles and instrumentation, that i'm willing to bet that everybody would be capable of finding at least one corner of jazz that they'd find to their taste. there's a strong possibility that kind of blue would make an excellent starter for ten. but, on the basis that we generally discuss matters of the bicycle, you may find yourselves wondering whether you've typed the wrong url into the web browser's address bar.
but fear not, i offer this paean to a prime example of modern jazz in the strong likelihood that you might avail yourself of a pair of svelte clothing bibshorts. not, i assure you, as bizarre a notion as you might at first think.
svelte's classic bibshorts are made in italy, a country with a reputation for fabricating cycle clothing to fit no known human being, other than tiny professional cyclists. this is, in my opinion, often a very good thing, for i firmly believe that cycle shorts ought to offer a bit of resistance when pulling them on pre-ride. with pretty much every cycle clothing company on the face of the earth, i take a small in bibs and a medium in tops, so when svelte offered to send items for review, those are the sizes i listed. the shorts are definitely small of stature.
however, though offering a smidgeon more resistance than usual to being worn, they did fit spectacularly well. and i know, through all the foregoing, you're still wondering how kind of blue fits into all this. well, to be totally contrived, they are basically navy blue with sky-blue edging, but for once, reading the washing instructions is pretty much compulsory, to wit...
"machine wash ideally with a little smooth jazz in the background. like colours only, but never with teal. it hates teal. warm iron with affection."
this rather entreats the prospective owner to ensure they have a copy of miles' kind of blue on the ipod in the kitchen, ready and willing to be played whenever the svelte bibshorts require washing. conceivably, the lack of jazz might make no difference whatsoever, but do i really want to risk it?
i'm not completely sure that matching the blue shorts with a dark green heritage svelte short sleeve jersey was likely to endear me to the fashion police, but since i mostly wore them while thrashing about bridgend woods on my cyclocross bike, there's a better than evens chance that the dappled light filtering through the trees prevented the dog walkers and the woman participating in what appeared to be nordic walking from noticing my potential fashion faux pas.
the jersey is fabricated in london from what the rest of us would know as sportwool, though presumably not under that particular trademark. predominantly a danish merino wool/polyester mix, it is what svelte describe as an athletic fit. suffice it to say, if you have one or two variations from the eponymous athletic and svelte (see what i did there?) figure, you should choose your sizing carefully. to place it in some perspective, flappage is not an iniquity from which you're likely to suffer.
thus dressed in classic bibs and green heritage jersey, i opted to go cyclocrossing, partly on the bais of my new found mounting/dismounting skills, partly because i rather enjoy riding cross anyway and partly because i figured it would give my new svelte wardrobe the very workout it least expected. a very close fitting pair of bibshorts would surely show up any scary bits when continually thrown on and off a brooks saddle with yours truly comfortably sat inside. and would that jersey, with stuffed pockets retain its composure through all that constant twisting and turning? and ultimately and perhaps most importantly, would the combination still look good when seen devouring a double-egg roll and soya cappuccino at debbie's on saturday lunchtime?
the answers to all the foregoing are remarkably positive. in the face of undergrowth thrashing, the shorts were magnificent, if nothing else, reinforcing my long-held contention regarding sizing. the legs remained firmly affixed to my lower thighs, just above the knees no matter the incompetence with which they were faced. despite my description of them as small, their proportions were immaculate, offering none of those sean yates moments, nor experiencing any slip sliding of the bib straps on my shoulders.
the jersey features the expected three rear pockets, accompanied by a zipped security pocket and a more than welcome fifth sitting outboard of the leftmost rear and closed with what appeared to be a sturdy loop wrapped round a medallion. i carried an extra multi-tool in this pocket which came in very handy for some emergency cantilever toe-in mid ride.
at £90 for a british-made 'sportwool' jersey, svelte offer good value for money. this fabric as an alternative to a regular polyester example is always a bit of treat, and i really couldn't find anything to fault. and believe me, i looked long and hard. the bibshorts too similarly priced at £90 are excellent value. the pad was all but invisible throught my test rides and the fit, assuming you choose wisely, is nigh on impeccable. however, the one feature that lets them down is the height of the front bib section. when taking what we professionals like to refer to as a natural break in the toilet at debbie's i had almost to enrol in a yoga class to achieve the contortions necessary to relieve oneself.
i'd hate to attempt a similar manoeuvre from the saddle (i'm not sure it's possible, to be honest). svelte either need to reconsider the necessary height of the fron mesh panel or to install a zip. currently, this undermines what are otherwise a superb pair of bibshorts at a very attractive price.
svelte classic bibshorts are available in sizes xs to xxl in either blue as reviewed or with a pink edging on the hem. the jersey is available in green heritage as reviewed or burgundy or navy in sizes from xs to xl.
monday 2 november 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
hallowe'en really only works well when it's dark. if any of you have seen the movie e.t., you will surely agree that watching kids dressed as ghosts roaming the streets when it's still light is hardly the scary experience promised on tv and in books. allegedly, all hallow's eve was the time of year when a door opened between the spirit world and our own reality, letting in all manner of ghouls, ghosts and beasties to wander the streets round your neighbourhood with carrier bags. as if that weren't horror enough, when those spirits enter your cosily lit sitting room, they line up in front of the fireplace (or central heating) and threaten us all with jokes that your own father used to tell you when you were a kid.
and they weren't funny then.
mrs washingmachinepost rather enterprisingly, i thought, ordered in brighly lit fingers to give to the kids in her care to use on the night of 31 october. these fingers simply clipped over one of their forefingers and lit up in green, blue or red. scary or what?
i, on the other hand, rarely venture out after the hours of darkness, partly because i have nowhere specific to go that would require a nocturnal journey, and partly because there are more than just a few boy racers determined to emulate lewis hamilton around the local byeways. i'm determined not to become the mascot on the grille of a vauxhall corsa. but there's always the exception to the rule and on occasion, autumnal evening travel is unavoidable, meaning it becomes necessary and legal to hang some lights on my bicycle.
rear lights are seemingly the simplest of devices, for their role in the world is purely to announce our presence on the road. they have no need of blinding any following motorists and according to studied research, they are far more visible in flashing mode than in static. germany's led lenser offers a vast range of illumination of all shapes and sizes and for several different purposes.
their b2r mini light not only offers several different flashing modes, but also the obligatory static option, all accessed by pressing the red lens. the battery is rechargeable via a hidden usb port, the cover of which is curved to attach to a seatpost by means of the detachable rubber strap supplied. it will not have escaped your attention that the majority of seatposts tend to sit at an angle, a factor catered for by the shaping of the rear of the light. make sure you pay attention, for i naively fitted it upsude down and rode briefly with the light pointing downwards. and i call myself a professional.
the b5r front light is an altogether different set of lumens. with the ability to accept three aaa batteries or a slimline solid state rechargeable battery (supplied), it is of more substantial constitution than its rearward facing partner, though still attached to the handlebar by means of a stretchy rubber strap. its sophistication allows for the upward and downward angle of the light to be easily adjustable, while an external bezel alters the light's focus, a facility that can be implemented while riding. switching the light on and off is by means of a top-mounted button; each subsequent press alters the flash or static mode, the latter offering more than one level of brightness up to 180 lumens.
there's also a semi-transparent lit section on the top advising the rider which mode has been selected. unfortunately, in daylight, albeit of low visibility or simply a wet, grey day, this light panel is difficult to see, really only coming into its own after dark. however, i'd be inclined to stick a bit of tape over this as i found it a tad irritating when riding in the dark and especially when it was raining. holding the activation button for three seconds extinguishes the white front light and activates a small red led, allowing the b5r to act as an emergency rear light should such be required. even this has several flashing modes.
but in most cases, when considering front lights for cycle use in rural areas, there is a fundamental problem that mostly remains unaddressed. if i might draw your attention, for example, to the five kilometres that constitute uiskentuie strand. cycling that road after the hours of darkness is fraught with danger, predominantly due to the lack of white lines along its centre and the fact that sheep and cattle often wander unhindered hither and thither.
the lack of white lines poses something of a problem for the itinerant cyclist, for in darkness it becomes very difficult to figure out just where you are on the road. the majority of bicycle lights are constrained in their ability to alter direction; the led lenser, however, is fitted on a curved bracket, allowing it to be pointed left, right, or centre, all of which can be accomplished while riding. combine this with the up and down motion as well as beam focus and this is surely the world's most versatile front light?
it's certainly the finest example of versatility i've come across.
according to led lenser's website, the light offers a maximum of 20 hours run time, though it neglects to mention whether this is in static or flashing mode. i kept the lights permanently switched on (flash mode) for two three hour rides with no visible diminution of brightness.
though the front light would hardly replace those on the wing roots of a boeing 747, it is bright enough for commuting use, even along uiskentuie strand. i should point out, however, that if used for the latter purpose, debbie's café is likely to be closed.
the pairing of the b5r and b2r is a well thought-out combination; light and relatively compact while easily removable from the bike when necessary, requiring no permanently mounted brackets. cost wise, the b5r currently retails at £42.46 direct from the led lenser online store, while the 30 lumen rear b2r is also on offer at £16.99 each.
sunday 1 november 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i know of at least one or two folks who comfortably refer to their bicycles by name. not as in 'colnago' or 'pinarello', but with names like lex luthor or jemima, the latter being a light blue women's specific machine with a wicker basket up front. who would ever call their specialized venge jemima? in essence there's probably nothing truly reprehensible about so doing, but it verges very close to anthropomorphism and treating the bicycle as a member of the family or a pet.
we all do that anyway, right?
however, while i've not conducted an exhaustive survey of this sort of thing, those of whom i know all own, shall we say, elderly, machinery and exclusively built from steel. this is not to say that those in possession of state of the art carbon fibre are not guilty of similar practice, but it seems the terms of endearment are seemingly more appropriately applied to bicycles ostensibly built with human care and attention.
i am not naive enough not to realise that carbon monocoques rely almost exclusively on the deftness of far eastern gloved hands, but somehow their more futuristic and dare i say it, chunky demeanour offers a less human face to the velocipedinally inclined. thus carbon mostly remains nameless, if you see what i mean.
regarding the bicycle as a member of the family won't seem too ecccentric to most of us, but single bike owner, jobst brandt, author of the bicycle wheel mentioned this as being the main problem he had with "the bicycle faithful. they collect these religious symbols and treat them as near human icons." he could possibly be right; but the human touch ought not be ignored. if nothing else, it's one of the salient factors that separates us from the owners of the mass-produced motor vehicle.
but if you'd perhaps consider, even for a brief moment, a handbuilt steel bicycle frame sporting a pair of handbuilt wheels. i'm not necessarily suggesting you rush round to your nearest framebuilder and place an immediate order (though don't let me stop you), but there is definitely a je nais se quoi about the handbuilt combination that often appears to be missing with far eastern carbon, riding a pair of factory built wheels. that, of course is an entirely subjective and highly emotional response and one with which many of you may wish to take exception.
however, if you'd bear with me for a few more paragraphs, i'm really not suggesting a wholesale adoption of luddite principles. cycling has frequently underlined its connection with the upper levels of the sport; that we as mere mortals can ride the same machinery as our heroes, while often ridiculously dressed as a member of their team. this is a stance adopted by many, recently encapsulated by the acronym mamil. and once again, whatever gets you through the sportive.
i was recently asked to contribute to a feature concerning jude gerace of sugar wheelworks, principally regarding her stoic, yet tenacious inhabitation of the world of the handbuilt wheel. i ended with "i have been presented with many sets of wheels for review, both factory and handbuilt. there aren't many that have a heartbeat." as i smart from the guffaws of laughter at my literary pretentiousness, it really doesn't seem too contentious a statement to defend. though there are many excellent factory-built wheels available at pretty much every price point, it's hard to deny the joy of riding a pair of expertly made, handbuilt wheels.
the disappointing fact is that there will be many contemporary cyclists who have no idea of which i speak.
the care and attention that a wheelbuilder foists upon a collection of spokes, hubs and rims is something that cannot be equalled by a machine. this is not to undermine the efficacy of the latter, but simply to note that the parameters to which a wheelbuilding machine is programmed, cannot take specific account of any variations in the wheel's components. the contrary is the expert wheelbuilder's lifeblood.
so, when next you figure you can put one over on her/him indoors when taking account of velominati rule #12, perhaps have a wee think about a steel frame and some handbuilt wheels, or possibly even just the latter to begin with. if for no other reason than to safeguard the skills that will bring floods of tears if they disappear. i'm not so sure richard sachs would wholeheartedly agree with me, but like i mentioned above, this is an area of great subjectivity.
but promise me you won't give them a name.
saturday 31 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i very rarely partake in air travel. i've a feeling the last time i was on an aeroplane was over three years ago, and that wasn't even the flight that plies between islay and glasgow. which is of some solace when i caught the tail-end (no pun intended) of a tv programme investigating why the tailplane of an american airlines passenger jet came off mid-flight resulting in a fatal crash. rather worryingly, one of the initial theories concerned possible catastrophic failure of the carbon fibre tail root that held the whole assembly onto the fuselage, whiledealing with all the stresses and strains that the tailplane suffers during normal service.
fortunately, the air-crash investigators quickly obviated this as a factor, having traced the problem to that of an incorrect training procedure for pilots when experiencing the turbulence caused by another aircraft flying in proximity some small distance ahead.
though there is a substantial difference between the mechanical vicissitudes experienced by carbon fuselage components on a modern passenger aircraft and those applied to a carbon monocoque bicycle, we can surely take succour from the strength and resilience demonstrated by the carbon monocoque structures featured in the chassis of formula one racing cars. many a driver has good cause to be thankful for such demonstrable strength when visiting the infield at great speed. maybe carbon road bikes are far stronger than i give them credit for.
however, every so often the question of longevity raises its ugly head, something that would prove considerably more onerous for the likes of airbus, boeing and lockheed than for colnago, pinarello and specialized. there's also einstein's theory of relativity to consider. relatively speaking, if a modern bicycle frame lasts more than a dozen years, i'm sure most of us will be more than satisfied. in point of fact, my original colnago c40 is around sixteen years old and the carbon looks every bit as good as it did when ernesto put it in the back of a fiat van in cambiago. relatively speaking, that's quite encouraging.
however, carbon is a devious material, one which guards its secrets well and almost always below the surface. it also has something of a propensity to shatter unexpectedly rather than advertise any potential weakness ahead of time. thankfully, the only problem that c40 is currently showing signs of experiencing is corrosion of the rear alloy dropouts, a disease that finally put paid to its younger c40hp sibling not so very long ago.
but, as leicester's future cycles have discovered, very much to their benefit, oldies are truly goodies when it comes to decades old and refurbished british-built steel workhorses. though future tend to concentrate on standard, three-speed hub-geared machines, previously featured glory days cycles are experiencing much the same level of success with similarly aged racing bikes. the question thus asked by this state of affairs is just how many of today's racing machines will still be serviceable in 2065 (always assuming global warming hasn't killed us all off by then).
speaking as someone with no emery paper or steel wool in the bike shed, it strikes me that even elderly steel tubing will suffer hardier, if largely incompetent refurbishment than will the average length of burnt plastic. ruckus composites of portland, oregon seem to have a good handle on keeping carbon in fine fettle, but to the best of my knowledge, they're amongst less than a handful with such commercially available fettling skills.
future cycles also have a stash of much sought after chater lea chainsets and chainrings, some of which have never left the box. in many cases, the perceived lack of serviceability of such componentry has less to do with any design failings and far more to do with the inexorable march of technology, one which appears to rely more on built-in obsolescence than any pretense of longevity.
of course, these are modern times, considerably different than the years in which those old steel bikes were brand spanking new. carbon was unheard of as were aerospace technical skills, so it would be thoroughly iniquitous to make like for like comparison. but i still harbour a sneaking suspicion that we ought to be keeping a steadier eye on the future rather than what colours might suit the 2017 models which will be ready before midway through 2016.
and what if the revolution has already happened and we missed it?
inspiration for the above came from an article on 'future cycles' by carlton reid, published in bikebiz magazine and online. credit where credit is due.
friday 30 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
prior to my shifting lock, stock and barrel over the sea to islay, i had a job that involved buying stuff on behalf of my employers. i was quite good at it, though after a few years at art college, it was hardly a creeer choice and to be quite blunt, i hated every minute of each working day. in that, i very much doubt i was alone, as the principal cause of this dissatisfaction was the fellow in charge whose management style was midway between attila the hun and the texas chainsaw massacre.
one of the chaps with whom i worked came in one day stating he'd heard on the radio that we spend 82% of our waking hours at work. "and", he continued, "if you don't enjoy it, what a total waste of time." (actually, he didn't use the word 'total'). it was hard to argue with such a sensibility, even though i'd no real thought of so doing. a few weeks later, he handed in his notice and moved onto pastures new. being slightly less volatile and with a mortgage to pay, it took me a lot longer to do the same thing. but here i am.
the law of averages would dictate that not all of us can have gainful employment. and those averages would also mitigate against every one of us enjoying each and every minute of toil. of course, the same law tautologically means that at least some of us will.
my current means of earning a living wasn't entirely by choice, but in truth i rather enjoy what i'm doing. the opportunity to earn a living by racing a bicycle is highly unlikely to be either a spur of the moment decision, nor is it likely to be something entered into because there was no other option. professional cyclists are there because they're able to combine a great love of riding their bicycles with an inherent ability to do so particularly quickly. at the risk of stating the obvious, not everybody was born to be a racing cyclist, let alone a tour de france champion.
sky's geraint thomas is seemingly enjoying almost every minute of his 82%, a fact that has had him collaborate with tom fordyce in creating 'the world of cycling according to g'. i have seen reference to this book as being thomas' autobiography, but while there are autobiographical notes throughout, strictly speaking this book is well outside of that particular genre. it is, however, an enjoyably self-effacing celebration of one man's love of his day job.
"No extra efforts, no need to look at our power meters. Three decent hills, then a drop down into Italy for a Parma ham and mozzarella piadina and the best coffee in the world."
the book also escapes the formality of an autobiography by not only rebuffing easy categorisation, but allowing the reader to dip in and out with scant regard for the more usual linear approach. Its almost 400 pages are subdivided into sections headed by titles such as Living It, Doing It, Feeling It, interspersed with other self-explanatory examples such as People, Places and The Rules. Those are subdivided into discrete sections, allowing even greater choices within those headings. thus, the chapter on people includes the likes of Brad, Dave B, Hoy, Froome and one or two others besides.
"Dave got chatting to (Sergio Henao) in broken English in the hotel reception. After a couple of minutes of small talk - journeys, weather, that sort of thing - Sergio decided to take it further. 'So, what do you do here? What your job?' Sir David took it well."
the problem with books that are ghost written is not knowing just who wrote what. i'd imagine that the contents are the result of detailed conversations between thomas and fordyce, but i'm rather hoping that it wasn't thomas who saw fit to mention his win at e3 harelbeke earlier this year quite so frequently. not unnaturally, it's the opening gambit in the Bossing It sub-section entitled Winning. and it is right and proper that thomas be immensely proud of that win, but i think it may have inveigled its way into the narrative just once or twice too often.
that, however, is a minor niggle, one that scarcely distracts from the unnervingly cheerful aspect of the whole book. thomas obviously revels in the role of professional cyclist, seemingly more than equal to the task of taking on the hardest of training, balanced against the plaudits of success.
"To those who believe that the life of a pro-cyclist is one long succession of thrilling sprint finishes, freebie £8,000 bikes and pecks on the cheeks from podium girls, let me tell you this: I once did a three-hour turbo session in my conservatory in Newton-le-Willows." that from the chapter entitled Boredom.
'the world of cycling according to g' is a welcome break from a never ending stream of autobiographies from the great and the good. though encapsulated as a personal view from inside the world tour, the book cheerfully straddles the line between being informative and entertaining, managing to be equally faithful to both. the world of cycling according to tom boonen or fabian cancellara would probably be two entirely different and far less entertaining books.
if one were to be cruel it would surely be justifiably possible to point the finger of light froth at the treatment of a sport that geraint's clothing sponsor likes to portray as pain and suffering in black and white. the inclusion of a chapter in which thomas posits his own rules of cycling would probably be the prosecution's principal evidence, no matter the occasional moments of humorous intent...
"There is no point in the cycling year at which ordering an ice cream while out on your bike becomes acceptable."
thomas, however mitigates such criticism with some excellent and pertinent observations on being an olympic medal winner and the whole olympian experience. he's also very good on brad, chris, cav and on the whole team sky experience. his observations on majorca, belgium, italy and the champs elysées from a cyclist's perspective are pretty much worth the price of admission alone.
"This is a bloke (Hoy) who packed his own espresso machine in his suitcase for the Beijing Olympics, because he couldn't stand the idea of getting all the way to the most important competition of his life and having to put up with substandard coffee."
according to geraint, the upper tier of the cycling world is one that we are all entitled to know more about and in a manner apparently free from any sense of ego. it's an easy read, packed in a format that will likely see it returned to far more often than any bona-fide cycling autobiography. if you thought you liked geraint thomas before, this will undoubtedly confirm it. if you were undecided (which i'd find hard to believe), read and join the fan club.
'the world of cycling according to g' is published today, 29 october by quercus.
thursday 29 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
unlike the allegorical ubiquitous scotsman, i have no great love of hogmanay. true, in part this is due to my teetotalness which not only excludes me from the bulk of the seasonal celebrations, but most often finds me marvelling at the state some folks get themselves into. it has therefore been something of a welcome diversion to have been frequently asked to play drums at a local hostelry on new year's eve. that way, i get to wear my sobriety with far less peer group disapproval and protect myself from inebriated happy new year kisses and cuddles.
disappointingly the last few years have been devoid of such celebratory percussiveness due to a change in policy invoked by said hostelry. however, in the days when end of year fun and frolics were still in vogue it was salutory to witness the number of visitors who had chosen to spend their new year on islay, presumably enticed by eight distilleries, but also by a not altogether deserved reputation as the place to be at new year.
never was this more clearly demonstrated by the preponderance of the male visitors who arrived with their nether regions clothed in tartan kilts. while this is hardly inappropriate dress for hogmanay celebrations, it was more the surprised look on their faces when discovering that the local revellers were not similarly dressed. a classic example of national typecasting, one that i will agree is often despicably reinforced by national tv over that particular holiday period.
it's a suspicion i may have briefly harboured on witnessing the scottish winter cap proffered by canada's red dots cycling. the immediate reaction, though well-versed in the sort of winters that can be experienced in northern north america, was to question just what made red dots cycling au fait with the sort of winters experienced by kilt-wearing, billy connolly anunciating scots cyclists. in fact, i believe it may have been my impertinent tweets concerning its consitution and weatherproofing that led to richard sending a finely crafted example of canadian tartan to the homeland for the purposes of review.
the winter cycling cap is hardly a recent invention. the very epitome of a cosily fabricated casquette, featuring an entirely necessary peak (for winter days of bright, low sun and others with driving precipitation) thoughtfully coupled with a rear flap to pull down over the ears on colder days. the flexibility of such headgear is the ease with which that flap can be flipped upwards in warmer conditions.
what's not to like?
however, hand-building an example from a bamboo cotton/wool mix, woven into a dark tartan does not necessarily qualify the scottish winter cap as a requisite head-covering for a scottish winter. i'd be fibbing slightly if i characterised our current climatic conditions as being the depths of a scottish winter, but there's no doubt that things are certainly heading that way. in the process of gauging the effectiveness of the recently reviewed endura overshoes, i wore the cap under my bright green helmet, peak down as demanded by our faux flandrien heritage.
i'm not the archetypal hard man that i'd like others to think i am, but there's little doubting the efficacy of riding in windchill enforcing, gale force winds and heavy showers with a winter cap, peak down. and there's no denying that the tartan material is an effective wind barrier; additionally, the frequent showers failed to permeate its cotton/wool fabric, though it's eminently possible that a sustained downpour might not be so kind. temperature wise, it's hard to fault the concept.
that ear flap was most welcome when struggling into an atlantic headwind and every bit as versatile on reaching debbie's where the indoor temperature demanded a cooler approach. flipping the flap, while probably breaking one or two sartorial rules, was immensely practicable. i may possibly have to come back to you over the course of the ensuing months, when winter bites just a little bit harder, but on current evidence, my concern level is sitting at zero.
it's also a cap that works every bit as well when ridden al fresco (gaelic for, without helmet) when in stylish commuter mode. mind you, whether its tartan persona works quite as well south of the border (or even in british columbia) i'm probably not well qualified to judge. but just like those kilts worn on hogmanay, perhaps it will confer all the favourable aspects of tartan culture upon the wearer.
maybe i'm reaping the benefits of scottish typecasting.
wednesday 28 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
you must know the phone box at carnduncan? it has been immortalised in the pages of graeme obree's training manual, though if memory serves, it is incorrectly captioned as being on jura. rurality has not suffered the same set of iniquities as the mainland; we still have one or two original red phone boxes dotted about the locality where the new trendy, polished-steel-but-with-no-front-door versions simply won't cut the mustard. or any other condiment for that matter.
carnduncan is an occupied and recently refurbished amalagmation of cottages overlooking loch gorm on islay's west coast. if it weren't for the curvature of the globe and less than perfect eyesight, on a clear day the occupants would be able to see the eastern seaboard of canada. as to the phone box, after years of wishing i'd have a legitimate excuse to make use of it (you did remember i don't own a mobile phone, right?) when the opportunity arrived, the darned thing didn't work. its money box was so full, it refused to accept any inserted coins. and on a dark, rainy and windy night, i could really have done with it to be operational.
for those who enjoy these tales of hebridean rusticity, i'd to drive four miles to the rspb reserve at aoradh to find another public telephone that also didn't work.
this red anachronism stands at a fork in the road, just past the houses at carnduncan. take the rightmost road and you'll eventually reach sanaigmore bay and the art gallery and café. that's assuming that the road doesn't get you first. follow the road to the left and you begin the circumnavigation of loch gorm (gaelic nomenclature that means either blue or green, depending on the context in which it is used. no, me neither.)
ride downhill to the first bend on the loch gorm road and reaching off to the right is a gravel track that once led to a stone cottage. that, like so many former dwellings about the island, is now a ruin. this gravel track heads uphill, meaning that under heavy precipitation, rainwater runs down the track, fills up the shallow ditch at the bottom and spills out onto the road. from now until next march, it will probably do so quite frequently. under really heavy rain, it would not be the first time a passing car has become stuck due to the engine flooding. it's a deep, wet walk back to carnduncan, or even the phone box to call for help.
what about using a mobile phone for that purpose? don't be naive; phone reception that far west?
i was out that way on saturday, and probably would also have been on sunday had our substantially enlarged peloton not decided on an alternative route. the road had also been flooded at springbank, midway between bowmore and bridgend, admittedly mostly on the inward side of the road, rather than the half on which i was riding. still, naked footwear would not have been the best option.
i sort of knew the loch gorm road was likely to have flooded; flowing water across the road at springbank, i have learned, would generally point to that. but because the deepest part tends to occur past the apex of the corner and it's too good a downhill to clutch the brakes, not only can the water reach well towards the wheel hubs, but the rush of speed causes a smidgeon of unwarranted spray. once more, naked footwear is hardly order of the day.
i cannot deny that the temperature, while cool, was never likely to lead to ice or snow, so wearing a pair of endura's latest freezing point overshoes may have seemed to lean just a bit too far towards overkill. but you know what? i couldn't give a monkeys. these are the finest pair of waterproof overshoes my happy feet have ever had the pleasure of inhabiting.
the freezing point bit is engendered by a thick fleecy lining which cleverly wraps all the way round to velcro in place on the inner face of the outward facing panel. the bottom to top zip than holds everything together before closing a second velcro flap across the outer edge. all seams are fully taped and the sole section surrounding the holes for cleat and heel looks more likely to wear tarmac to a smooth finish rather than vice versa.
so what of their implied thermal properties? as i previewed, the temperature last week would hardly have fostered a grab for some clean t-shirts, it certainly wouldn't have been used as the backdrop for a christmas movie. however, it was cool enough to force me into bib-threequarters and the first of the season's softshells. both feet were warmly cossetted, but never to the point of overheating, not an entirely expected result given the outer layer of thick neoprene.
my attempts at photography demonstrating their superb ability to slough off even vast quantities of water all came to nought. so effective is the outer neoprene fabric, that i couldn't even get them to look wet, never mind depict them with droplets of water baubling on the surface. that will never get old.
at the risk of predicting the future, i see every likelihood that if there's even a hint of precipitation, these will be the essential 'garb du jour' for my feet. at an advised retail price of £39.99, i strongly recommend you do the same.
as mentioned on a previous endura product "if you think the spring classics are bad, try scotland."
tuesday 27 october 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................