mrs washingmachinepost and i figured that a christmas movie would be the very entertainment to while away several hours on a virgin pendelino when returning from our hollybags. sentimentality to which we are both more than happy to admit, dictated that we download white christmas, an act that took several hours over the fragile broadband connection in our holiday abode. thank goodness, therefore, for apple's ipad on which we shared a pair of white earbuds, while the gents sat opposite discussed the iniquities of their employment situation just a tad louder than was absolutely necessary.
though danny kaye seemed fairly adept as a dancer, it was notable that the real dancing star was vera ellen, partnered in the principal dance scenes by a gent who was neither bing crosby nor danny kaye. and though it ill behoves me to have noticed, in each of these real dance settings, not only were ms ellen's shoes colour co-ordinated with her dress, her gentleman dance partner was similarly co-ordinated. however, if any of you mention i said this, i'll wholeheartedly deny it.
it was a cleverly orchestrated ploy that demonstrated impressive attention to detail by director michael curtiz, one that will broker no disagreement from the majority of female viewers who are presumably more than used to colour matching items such as shoes and handbags along with other decorative paraphernalia. those of us of the male persuasion, who have studiously observed rules five and nine throughout our weekly pelotonic activity, will obviously have no truck with such superficial fripperies. after all, which of us would check that our helmets matched our saddles, or bibtights paired accurately with softshell gloves?
or maybe one of those winter hats that clicks with your socks?
oddly enough, that is precisely the shine that this-is-cambridge have placed upon their latest omloop winter hat coupled with an impressive pair of cosy socks. both of these feature black and a pink that verges on fluorescent, all but hidden on the footwear (let's face it; this is winter. socks are inevitably concealed beneath shoes and thermal overshoes), but unmistakeable on the omploop cap's thermal ear covering. with the exception of the pink bit, the rest of the cap pays great tribute to the efficacy of merino wool.
most of the summer and winter caps on the market feature peaks that gain their rigidity from a thin plastic insert. daphne and andrew at tic insist that the peak be constituted purely from merino thus avoiding any untoward pressure on your furrowed brow. as far as i can tell, they may well be right on the money. the cap's really comfy under a helmet and the ribbed ear warmer can be folded up when in the warmer, coffee imbued atmosphere of debbie's. in the bite of an atlantic headwind, even mr spock's ears would have been more than just tingly.
under more normal conditions, the matching lycra and nylon reinforced merino socks could retain a sense of stoic anonymity during any perambulations of the hebridean estate. however, recent and unprecedented rainfall has endowed many of our usual haunts with a depth of standing (and flowing) water, depths that have need of being traversed on two wheels. naturally enough, even synthetically reinforced merino wool cannot claim to offer anything like a waterproof countenance, something that i conclusively proved on the corner just down from the phone box at carnduncan (just before you turn off for the art gallery at sanaigmore).
those holes in the sole of thermal overshoes rather mitigate against waterproofing too, just so's you know.
it's barely even mid december at present and i think i'd be safe in saying that there's a lot worse to come yet, meteorologically speaking. this portended worseness won't go away, but it can be somewhat ameliorated by equipping yourselves with an omloop winter cap and a pair of matching omploop winter socks. if you're a bit of a show-off, you can always remove your shoes in the café.
this-is-cambridge's handmade omloop winter cap is available in sizes ranging from xs to xl in black/pink or black/grey at a cost of £55. the socks can be had in 35/39 40/43 or 44/47 in orange, pink or yellow for £19
monday 7 december 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
ideally, a few days away from the coal-face, so to speak, ought to offer a few moments for reflection on the daily travail which, in my case mostly concerns the life and times of the bicycle. mrs washingmachinepost and i paid a return visit to a holiday location we first enjoyed some twenty years ago, just to see if much, or anything, had changed in the intervening two decades. similar to the advice never to meet your heroes, looking for the same sensations and features of yesteryear was probably always going to be something of a lost cause, if not only because we had kids in tow way back when.
but, in the little shop that offered necessary supplies for essentially a self-catering holiday it was currently possible to purchase a copy of the comic, something that could never have been achieved in the 1990s. and though bicycle hire was every bit as prevalent in the contemporary world, still rented by those with less than even a small clue as to how one ought to conduct oneself aboard a bicycle, the change that has been in the air since 2012 presented even more tangible results.
though i do have to seriously wonder at the market being aimed for, the adjacent gift shop stocked not only bicycle themed wrapping paper, but a selection of wall signs, bicycle bells, trouser clips (yes, really), puncture repair kits and other assorted velocipedinal paraphernalia. and here's the rub; there's a long standing joke proving that majority adoption might not be all it's cracked up to be by pointing out just how many folks have microsoft windows installed on their computers. so, while we would dearly love to prove the power of the bicycle, by publicly signalling the ever increasing numbers of bicycles sold and ridden, it might just be prudent to be careful in what we wish for.
in a perfect world, motor traffic would yield to the bicycle which, in turn, would do likewise to those on foot. the first of those hopes is pretty much in vain. i did come across such gentlemanly conduct when last in portland, but i daresay there'd be a queue of portlandians eager to point out many examples to the contrary. the bit that currently has me bothered, however, is the somewhat blatant disregard for the safety of pedestrians by apparently recent converts to the ways of the saddle.
it is, i believe, illegal to ride a bicycle on the pavement/sidewalk for rather obvious reasons. in the case of young children keen to avoid the dangers of the open road, it's a law worth turning a blind eye to, but in the case of those riding adult-sized bicycles; well, they really ought to know better. the problem is that they probably don't, especially those on hired bicycles who mostly ride at no other time of the year and are thus not a part of our greater family.
either through the world-weary club system or equalled by the learned camaraderie offered by such as the sunday morning ride, many of us have served our cycling apprenticeship. unfortunately the bulk of this involves those on skinny wheels and bendy bars or perchance the world of the sprung farm gate, yet excluding those on three-speed wicker baskets. however it is most likely the latter who will eventually rise up and demand to be given back the roadways (come the revolution etc.) their apparent lack of demonstrable etiquette could conceivably undermine the loudness of their clamour. that would not be a good thing for any of us.
so maybe, rather than criticise the recently arrived cycling publications that the cognoscenti (self-included) tend to consider beneath their radar, but are in truth aimed at the very folks i have decribed above, we should welcome anything that might result in a potentially enlarged and enlightened peloton?
as long as they keep off the pavement.
sunday 6 december 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
rumour has it that, to have any pretence at being serious about your cycling, be it road, offroad or cyclocross, there is no substitute for carbon as the preferred frame material. you'd probably struggle to find anyone to disagree with that statement, but it's one that is genuinely applicable to a very small proportion of the cycling public. it's also a statement or notion that has connotations accepted under false premise. while i can fling myself here, there and everywhere on a cyclocross bicycle, there's not a chance in christendom that i could ever be considered for even a part-time competitive career. heck, even my training schedule, laughable though that concept might appear, can be seriously undermined if there are no small caramel biscuits to accompany my soya cappuccino.
in that respect, nice though it is, i have no real need of carbon fibre (want, however, is whole 'nuther basket of hurdles). therefore, the fact that ridley's x-ride 20 disc bicycle features a smoothly crafted aluminium frame entertains more of an esoteric objection rather than a practical one. the only apparent concession to carbon fibre is by way of the oryx fork and even that has a tapered alloy steerer.
the front portion of the ridley frame follows the tried and tested method prevalent in 'cross for many a long year, featuring more or less roundish tubing with a traditionally level top tube. in contradiction to that statement, the top tube is a bit flat. thankfully, the rigours of cyclocross mitigate against the adoption of sloping tubes, in order to accommodate the all-important shoulder. cable routing is intermal. where the ridley displays its modernity is at the rear stays; the seatstays pretend to adhere to normality until midway to the dropouts at which point a subtle kink interrupts the flow southwards. the chunkier chainstays exhibit a quite pronounced outward flair midway along their length, seamlessly curving to become one with the seatstays.
in these days of confusing bottom bracket standards and colossal bb frame joints, that on the x-ride is conservatively small, holding onto a more or less standard fsa bottom bracket with outboard cups. componentry is a bit of a mix and match, but one judiciously chosen to offer the best of compromises. the fsa chainset sports an inner 36 ring matched to an outer 46, combining with shimano's 105 front and rear derailleurs for changing duties. the levers, however, are sourced from shimano's ultegra range with enlarged top sections to take care of the hydraulic pots for the discs. the latter are 160mm diameter rotors attached to a set of fulcrum racing sport cx wheels. rubber is taken care of by challenge's excellent 32c grifo clinchers.
the functional items such as stem. bars, seatpost and saddle are all forza branded, but it's worth noting that the seatpost is of a most practical 27.2mm diameter. as with pretty much every sports bicycle these days, pedals are not supplied, so i fitted a pair of crank brothers re-vamped candy pedals. though ridley describe the colour as black, due to its inherent mattness it generally appears closer to slate grey. it's scarcely the most endearing of colour finishes, but assuming its days will be spent thickly coated with mud, it hardly seems worth moaning about.
the 'done in sixty minutes' decal on the seat tube was a pleasantly humorous touch.
there was a time that my material prejudice would have shunned aluminium as a suitable means of containing two wheels and a gearset, when sage advice would have recommended that even triple-butted 7000 series alloy were better suited to the larger figure. one or two rides on aluminium in previous years have only mildly ameliorated that opinion. maybe the ridley x-ride 20 has changed my mind for the better.
strictly speaking, a true cyclocross bike would be bereft of bottle cage bosses, for how else would riders shoulder the bike when faced with scrabbly climbs? the ridley featured not only a couple of bosses on the downtube, but another two on the seat tube. true to my mythical cyclocross background (ie, all but non-existent), i left the cage bolts in place without need of employment. but nonetheless, ridley are positioning the x-ride series as appropriate vehicles for riding 'cross and it would be a naive reviewer who didn't at least give it a shot.
i've ridden and reviewed the challenge grifos on a previous occasion and thundering through the varying terrain offered by my favoured route in bridgend woods gave no cause to alter my favourable opinion. the rubber is important because no matter the expertise of the frame designer, if grip is compromised, it all comes to nought. ridley's frame designer's expertise is probably deserving of a pay rise; the balance and predictability of the x-ride 20 led me to have a far more exciting time in the undergrowth than its weight (almost 10kg) initially promised.
if this were mine in perpetuity, i'd probably opt for a slightly longer stem, but the bars seemed pretty much the ideal width, providing a decent compromise between comfort and a narrowness that allowed passage between closely spaced bushes and trees.
unfortunately, the frame being a tad overweight offers undesired side-effects in a 'cross bike. i know i'm not the only rider who has need of shouldering their bike when completing several training circuits and it would be hard to dismiss the major shoulder discomfort when necessarily lifting the x-ride. a cross specific jersey with a padded right shoulder eased the situation only minimally. it's perhaps natural to place the blame for this squarely on those shimano hydraulic disc brakes, but short of stripping the bike down to its metal tubing, that's hard to consolidate.
what the brakes did perpetrate under pretty much every set of circumstances was two distinct howling screeches. whether wet or dry, i failed miserably to prevent them doing so. the noise made no difference to the impressive braking prowess, achieved, it should be noted, with less than onerous input from the brake levers. the howling banshee imitation did seem to be peculiar to the pair of disc rotors fitted to the fulcrum wheels, for when riding the bike on a pair of wheelsmith aeros, the shimano rotors attached to those only exclaimed loudly in the first couple of kilometres, remaining generally fairly quiet after that point.
i have every faith that continued riding and braking would lessen this problem to the point of inaudibility, but i'd have preferred it to have done so a bit more quickly. the wheels to which the disc rotors were attached performed most admirably, perhaps contributing to the weight problem, but easily compensated for by their trackability and often impressive acceleration.
brake noise is, however, a relatively superficial complaint, one that scarcely detracted from the sheer joy that the x-ride provided under pretty much every situation. fitted with a pair of crank brothers candy #7, pedals leaping on and off, chuntering up and down rocky and muddy climbs, it was hard not to smile even if it resulted in muddy teeth.
from my point of view, the 46/36 fsa chainset seemed rather well judged, even when riding on-road rather than loose gravel and mud. with a galeforce tailwind and clicked into the outer ring and a smallish sprocket, i'd be fibbing if i claimed to be undergeared at any juncture. perhaps rather predictability, the 105 mechs never missed a change. nor did those hydraulic discs ever once lock up, though that may have been more through my inability to suffer the howling any longer.
the sturdy alloy chainstays which head straight back from the bb shell, describe an outward kick about halfway to the dropouts on which i oddly kept catching my right heel every now and again. however, after a couple of weeks riding, this only occurred very occasionally. in other words, you'd get used to it.
as i've mentioned on more than a single occasion, i am in possession of a saddle agnostic posterior, one that easily warmed to the ridley badged seat on the x-ride. not once did i experience any discomfort no matter the tactility of the ground under the tyres. that included a lengthy period of once more practising my mounts and dismounts in a secluded corner of the woods where there was no-one around to laugh.
i realise it's something of a cliché to state that a bicycle rides lighter than its weight ought to dictate, but in this case, that's perfectly true. i have used the x-ride on a couple of sunday morning rides, joining my fellow velo club members one of whom rides a colnago c60. i can't say i left all behind on the climbs, but i wasn't riding shotgun at the back. aluminium may be regarded as the 'has been' of frame materials by those more inured to the luxuries of carbon, failing even to offer the retro caché of steel, but on the strength of this particular strain of ridley, i wouldn't dismiss it out of hand. its big brother, the x-ride 10, is only about half a kilo lighter.
ridley base much of their reputation on a belgian heritage. i'd say this bike comfortably justifies the implication.
the ridley x-ride 20 disc edition retails at around £1600 and is available in frame sizes ranging from 48cm to 58cm. the model reviewed was 54cm. thanks to uk distributors sportline/madison for supplying the x-ride.
thursday 26 november 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
my not always fully engaged participation in graphics class at college at least demonstrated a more than passing interest in the printed word. and not just words; lithographs, etching, engraving and, believe it or not, stone lithography. in the true character of a teenager who knew it all and holding the innocence of disrespect for one's elders and betters, stone lithography seemed about as relevant as learning to paint the walls of caves. in the mid to late seventies, laser printers costing the price of a small house were gaining favour in the more elite reprographic houses across the world. why on earth would those earnest, yet obviously deluded lecturers spend even a small portion of their time teaching us how to make pictures from a large lump of polished stone?
letterpress too. who in their right mind would spend the better part of their academic day sliding individual back to front letters into a wooden frame, frustratingly attempting to have them float past the woodcut completed yesterday? bear in mind this was several years before apple gave us the macintosh computer and aldus accompanied their largesse with a copy of pagemaker 1.0.
letterpress and stone lithography are niche crafts these days, promulgated to cater for those who appreciate such artistic anachronisms. but despite the prevalence of illustrator and photoshop in favour of lino cuts and monoprints, and the inexorable rise of the interweb, print has refused to die. in fact, some might say that, in similar manner to the vinyl record album, it's resurgence has made it a stronger medium than when it was just print. granted, there is an aura of doom and gloom about the newspaper industry which continues to haemorrhage print sales almost on a weekly basis, but that has more to do with the way that news is distributed and disseminated nowadays, rather than any symptoms of disaffection with the medium.
it takes only a brief saunter along the shelves of any large branch of w h smith to realise just how many pages are offered for our delectation every month or week. the internet may be considered king as far as news is concerned, predominantly due to its immediacy, but for reading and viewing satisfaction, there's very little beats ink on paper. and that includes the delightful aroma emanating from the heavier-weight, artier publications.
like rouleur for instance.
rouleur is often held up as a quality cycling publication that still offers some of the finest cycling photography and writing currently available, a periodical that found such favour amongst the pelotonese, that its initial quarterly publication schedule very quickly grew to the eight issues per annum that we currently enjoy. but, for those who are perhaps unaware, rouleur was born in the original imperial works in kentish town, a collaboration between originating editor guy andrews and rapha ceo, simon mottram.
guy is no longer the editor and rouleur is no longer a part of the rapha empire, having been sold to gruppo media a few years past. yet, almost like british telecom who sold off o2 in the early part of this century before realising that actually, having a mobile network was rather a spiffing idea, rapha have entered the world of print once more with mondial, a twice yearly publication, the second issue of which will currently be in the hands of rapha cycle club members.
what several of us are wondering, however, is why on earth the new imperial works has renewed its acquaintance with print so few years after dispensing with its first, highly successful foray. i asked this very question of rapha's head of brand and central marketing, james fairbank.
"Creatively we wanted to do something that was entirely ours: conceived, art directed and commissioned by Rapha. Financially, Mondial's an integral part of the Rapha Cycling Club. We also wanted to make a statement, to produce something that's a physical testament to the company aims of honouring the sport and trying to help it become the most popular sport in the world."
early adopters of the rapha mindset may recall with an appropriate level of fondness, the carefully designed and printed rapha catalogues, featuring the monochromatic imagery of ben ingham. these exuded the aroma of print that is sadly lacking in the modern idiom often on a weight of paper that offered a very fine and pleasing textural tactility. since those heady days of yore, rapha's marketing intent has spent more time occupying the pixels of online and the moving imagery of vimeo. yet if rapha now shows such enthusiasm for print, is this perhaps predicated by the decline in paper-based marketing material?
"That was certainly a factor. I remember getting hold of one of the elite brochures shortly after I started at Rapha in 2010. There's no way to financially justify that kind of print expression but, brand-wise, it was so potent. For a plethora of reasons we stopped doing brochures in a broad sense in 2013. Perhaps Mondial's overcompensating a bit for that."
however, with all that prompted my opening paragraphs, it would be foolish to think that rapha have re-entered the world of the printed periodical purely for reasons of nostalgia. everything happens for a reason and with many a quality cycling publication vying for committed readers, imperial works surely must have something in mind other than an overweening need to print pink covers. apart from healthy sales figures, is there a specific target at which mondial is aimed?
"There are a few. We need it to stand alone financially, it can't be supported by a marketing budget. We're also using it to broaden our creative network and there's nothing like a magazine to make you better at planning. Online's very forgiving when it comes to publishing, but there's a rigour to print that you can't ignore if you want to make something good."
so, those are the whys and wherefores. but the greatest of intentions and design room plans don't necessarily prove that there's any commercial point to the original notion. to paraphrase the old-time cnd slogan, 'suppose they gave a magazine launch and nobody came.' was the first issue of mondial well received?
"We're up for a couple of awards with Stack: magazine of the year and cover. It was important that the design press noticed. The Rapha Cycling Club feedback has also been positive."
the biggest difference between rouleur and mondial is perhaps signified by james' statement "conceived, art-directed and commisioned by Rapha..." though rouleur was once owned by rapha, commercial constraints dictated that at least a portion of its pages contained advertising. and that advertising could be somewhat restricted if seen to be curated by imperial works.
with mondial, however, there is no need to appear or be independent; any slant towards black and pink can be celebrated with impunity. does this relative freedom allow the magazine to feature a more in-depth approach to specific rapha products within its pages?
Definitely. It's also great place to blood upcoming new product and dig a bit deeper into the production and design side of our business."
throughout the time that guy andrews was editor of rouleur, i continued to chide him about when it was likely to go weekly. not unnaturally, his repeated answer was "over my dead body". though not necessarily an in-house measurement of success, the great unwashed (that's you and me) are likely to view an increase in publishing schedule as a measure of success linked to undeniable demand. though i can appreciate that it's early days yet, is there any intention to bring mondial to an endearing public more than twice a year?
"Simon's (Mottram, Rapha CEO) ambitious, and has mentioned going quarterly, but the financials don't work unless we start printing and selling, thirty thousand copies of each issue. We'd also have to employ a lot more people to help, or outsource the work. We aren't very good at outsourcing and good people are very hard to find."
the fact that we're even having this conversation proves that the printed word still means far more to each and every one of us than the modern age of technology would suggest. it's a situation that really makes no sense whatsoever; by now we should be reading everything either online or on our ipads and kindles, but those stacked shelves in w h smith would surely seem something of a contradiction? does james have any answers as to why print is still so important to us all?
"It's tangible and timeless. It's a stake in the ground, a rallying point and something to agonise over. Someone also said it was dead..."
james also asked me to point out that, although he provided the business justification for mondial, it was delivered creatively by editor, mark mackenzie and art director, jack saunders. "It could not exist without them and it represents a colossal amount of work on their behalf."
wednesday 25 november 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the story so far: over a year ago, derek at scotland's wheelsmith posted a photo on twitter of his latest aero build. so impressive looking were these deep alloy rimmed wheels, that i suggested it might be a whizz bang idea if he were to kindly send over a pair of thes for a brief holiday on islay. to this he readily agreed and only a few days later, a tall, narrow cardboard box arrived by carrier at thewashingmachinepost croft. more impressive though this wheelset was in the flesh (so to speak), it took only a moment or two to realise that a) there was no braking surface and b) there were six bolt holes on each hub for the affixation of disc rotors.
these aspects were not in themselves a disappointing feature of a particularly inviting set of wheels, but in view of my not possessing a disc equipped bicycle on which to fit them, my only pragmatic option was to apologise profusely to derek for my short sightedness and offer to return them forthwith. mr mclay is obviously a more optimistic gent than myself, declining their return and willing to wait until either i purchased an appropriate bicycle, or a suitable applicant arrived for review.
that moment, as described above, arrived only a matter of weeks ago when a bicycle, yet to be reviewed, turned up at the croft in a surprisingly large carboard box.
i have recently described the next hurdle that required to be overcome on discovering that the freehub was configured for a ten-speed cassette and the review machine was an eleven. once again, derek saved the situation by sending a shimano pattern eleven-speed freehub. simplicity itself. in order to ease the wheel transition from the factory builds to the wheelsmith aeros, i purchased an appropriately sized pair of disc rotors (160mm) at which point, we were good to go.
even after so many years of reviewing various items of cycling paraphernalia, i still have frequent cause to doubt my own abilities as a competent witness to the efficacy or otherwise of that under scrutiny. the wheels fitted as standard to the anonymous bicycle (which will be reviewed later this week) were actually rather spiffing, achieving greater heights than i was expecting. thus, i had grave doubts that fitting the wheelsmiths would elicit any notable difference. fortunately the wheels were far more impressive than my scrutineering skills. it is remarkably difficult to put into words just how much of an edge the wheelsmith aeros provided over the stock wheelset.
there's a sprightliness and sure-footedness that announces itself in a totally unfussy manner. many of you might consider that, weight being equal, one set of wheels will be pretty much like another, but take it from one who thought he wouldn't notice, that is very much not the case. i am, by personal admission, something of a wheelaholic; very much of the persuasion that proabably the finest upgrade you can ever make to your bicycle(s) is to fit a better pair of wheels. i'd love to say that choice can easily be made on the basis of price, that more expensive is always better, but several of derek's wheelsets speak to the contrary.
it's possibly not giving too much away to mention that the bicycle in question is of the cyclocross genre, so the wheels have experienced both on-road and offroad. in my opinion, they excel on both smooth and rough surfaces, but if anything, i'd favour scrabbling about in the undergrowth. on road and off, the wheelsmith aeros wore an excellent pair of challenge limus clinchers, with only the pressures altered to cope with the different impositions on traction.
allegedly, deep rimmed aero wheels are consituted to cut through the air at impressive speed, with a possible downside being susceptibility to strong crosswinds. however, the wheelsmiths have been ridden in nothing but strong to galeforce winds, acquitting themselves impeccably in each and every instance. not unsurprisingly, aero really has little place in cyclocross, but the deeper rims offer greater strength and less deflection in the face of adversity.
now that i've mostly got the hang of the offroad habitation, these provided a greater dollop of confidence to the temeritous amongst us. built on wheelsmith branded, sealed cartridge bearing, disc hubs and sporting two-cross 24 sapim x-ray spokes (brass nipples) both front and rear, these are a testament to the wheelbuilder's art. the disc interface is the international star-shaped six point standard fitting, onto which i bolted a pair of shimano deore 160mm rotors. they're also available with 15mm thru-axle up front and a similar style 12mm at the rear.
as it turns out, despite the length of time these have rested in thewashingmachinepost bike shed, they are to all intents and purposes, prototypes, not quite yet to be found on the wheelsmith website. however, the sharp intake of breath comes with the price; a mere £480. that's the sort of number at which you'll be continually refreshing the page, just in case it's an error likely to be hurriedly corrected. but no; four-eight-zero it is.
whether you're a confirmed roadie who cares not one whit for the rough stuff, or a rider who feels the mission has failed unless arriving home under a thick coating of mud, these truly have to be one of the finest upgrades you could offer any disc-equipped bicycle.
tuesday 24 november 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................