and erstwhile drumming friend of mine produced a rather good tutorial dvd several years ago, making manifest the basis of his enviable skill around the drumset. pertinently, though at the time this set consisted of six pieces, his percussive philosophy made practical sense no matter the number of drums and cymbals at your disposal. the only factor that would leave itself open to discussion would have been his employment of a double bass drum pedal, but that was scarcely an intrinsic part of the learning process.
the basics of rock/pop drumming, assuming the incumbent to be right-handed, more or less demands that the righthand cross over the left to play the hi-hat cymbals situated on the left of the drumset. this is mostly a matter of mechanical necessity, as those two hi-hat cymbals have need of being opened and closed by means of the left foot. since the right hand is generally more flexible and stronger than the left, the latter is relegated to playing a single beat on the snare drum, once or twice in each bar, depending on the rhythmic requirements of the song.
what my friend perceived as the problem with this setup was an increasing reluctance to take the right hand away from the hi-hat during a song. this right-hand-over-left position became the percussive equivalent of a comfort blanket; a safe place to be where very little could ever go wrong. this is not a particularly reactionary observation, but not one that the majority of us on the drum stool are keen to admit to. when the opportunity to play an audience impressing drum fill, that comfort zone often wins out and the fill remains wholly theoretical.
keen observation from within the peloton will elicit a number of comfort blankets on behalf of one's pelotonic compatriots. personally, i favour riding on the brake hoods unless the road heads steeply downwards, but i note that others seem happier in the drops at all times and one or two seem largely more comfortable grasping the tops of the bars. functionality would dictate, however, that we alter our hand positions frequently to avoid any static discomfort. that really doesn't seem to happen quite as often as would appear pragmatic.
but my own particular comfort blanket has nothing to do with how i sit on the bike, where i grasp the bars or whether i stand up to climb. my comfort zone encompasses a pair of long-sleeves on my jersey(s). i know i have brought this to your attention on previous occasions, but in terns of this specific time of year, i'd be inclined to point it out as a necessity rather than a desire. i cannot even lay it to rest by describing long-sleeves as a style choice, though that has more to do with a complete absence of the latter on my part.
it is not so long ago that i reviewed a sportwool style short-sleeve heritage jersey from the fine people at svelte, one that fulfilled its function and expectations most admirably. yet at the time, armwarmers notwithstanding, i really felt that its potential was being slightly undermined by the shortness of the sleeves. similarly to comparable jerseys on the market, i really find long-sleeves to be far preferable.
in mitigation, i feel i ought to point out that this has a great deal to do with my featured climate. were i to be domiciled in the tuscan region of italy, perhaps my views would be substantially different. however, italian sunsets are very unlikely to impinge upon my velocipedinal activities anytime soon, so until then, long-sleeves it is.
i also have a distinct partiality to the merino/polyester combination that i'm inclined to refer to as sportwool simply for an uncharacteristic bout of brevity. compared to the good old polyester on its own, there's a substantiality to the merino fabric that is distantly related to a 13 tog duvet. in the case of this latest and welcome addition to the svelte range (mine is a rather attractive shade of burgundy) the fit is quite impeccable. it is tailored in a manner that lives up to its brand name, with a full-length front zip, a well-judged height of collar and long sleeves that really are long-sleeves, refraining from exposing any fraction of wristbone to the elements.
however, if i might be allowed a single criticism, it's the narrowness of the cuffs. this makes it a tad difficult to put on, especially if trying to hang onto the cuffs of a long sleeve baselayer to prevent them ending half way up your forearm. when it comes time to remove an ever so slightly damp jersey, it's darned near impossible without allowing the sleeves to be pulled inside out. this is hardly a travesty in the grand scheme of things, but a modicum of manoeuvrability would be most welcome, particularly considering i have quite narrow wrists.
that said, the svelte l/s heritage jersey is a more than welcome comfort zone. the three main rear pockets offer sufficient space for stuffing totally unnecessary guff, while the buttoned (more like a small medallion) version eagerly accepts coffee money with open arms. it's the ideal cycle wear for chilly days and fits well under an outer softshell or rainjacket, while its price of £110 is unlikely to trouble the pertinent apparel investor, particularly when you learn that the heritage jersey is built in london.
there are few cycling apparel companies that have that on their palmares nowadays.
the svelte long-sleeve heritage jersey is available in burgundy, green or navy in sizes ranging from xs to xl (medium size reviewed.
monday 28 december 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it was recorded by the infamous rudy van gelder in his hackensack studio on 30 october 1958. they did things differently in those days as opposed to several noted modern day recordings which have occupied many months, if not years of studio time. art blakey's album 'moanin' was his first for the eponymous blue note label (4003) for several years, released in january 1959. for music that is now fifty seven years old, it has stood the test of time remarkably well.
the title track was penned by pianist bobby timmons, though the remaining original tracks were by saxophonist benny golson. such was the popularity of the album's original compositions, that with the exception of blakey's drum thunder suite, all remained staples of the jazz messengers' repertoire even after timmons and golson had moved on. the fact that the recording was identified by critic scott yanow as one of hard bop's essential albums is not only testament to the album's popularity, but likely something that equates to our own predilection for having a good moan now and again.
which is precisely what i'm about to do here.
though i do not own a motor car and would sincerely prefer that i never have need of driving ever again, i do find myself amused by the motoring reviews in the guardian's weekend magazine. so brief and effectively inconclusive are the majority, that i find it hard to believe that anyone would make their choice of new vehicle based on the brevity of these weekly features. and given the superficiality of the content, it's a wonder any motor manufacturer is interested in supplying review samples in the first place.
i'm pretty darned sure that if i treated a review bicycle with such flippancy, the infrequent stream of large cardboard boxes would dry up altogether.
one of the criteria by which modern-day vehicles are judged would appear to be their alacrity in moving from a static position to 60mph, though why the latter speed has become the defacto standard measurement, i really have little idea. i'm assuming, therefore, that this particular number, expressed in seconds rather than minutes, holds as much importance as does which shade of metallic paints are on offer and whether the upholstery is in leather or cordura.
i am insufficiently well-versed in any aspects of the motor car to know whether this is indeed the case, but assuming it to be true, why is it that drivers of such modernity seem unwilling to make any use of such a feature once the vehicle has been purchased? i ask this as a result of having ridden across several of islay's single-track roads on both christmas eve and boxing day.
i am nothing if not courteous towards other road users, particularly those approaching from behind. though we are encouraged to make the road our own, staking a claim to every inch to which we we feel entitled, there is no doubt that in the majority of cases (certainly all those pertaining to yours truly), a bicycle travels more slowly than a motor car or truck. thus if there is a car behind, i will endeavour to sidle into the nearest passing place and allow them to pass.
however, for vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, the same criteria ceases to apply. though they will still be travelling quicker than i, it is not my speed that is likely to get in the way, but my singular existence on the same stretch of road. in a perfect world, equity would rule; in other words, whoever reaches the passing place first would be expected to give way. unfortunately, not only is that not a versimilitude of reality, but i know that to be the case in advance. therefore, in order to save myself from any detrimental close-calls, i will dip into a passing place rather than wait for the car which probably isn't going to.
however, those of you who also ride bicycles along single-track roads with passing places, will perhaps recognise where i'm coming from. it would be preferable not to have need of unclipping, rolling gently along the length of the passing place in the hope thet the vehicle will pass prior to any requirement to remove the right or left foot from its pedal.
on the rare and infrequent cases that the above circumstances are reversed, and a car has stopped to let me pass, i will generally speed up so as not to inconvenience them any longer than necessary. however, despite the previously referenced 0-60mph timings quoted in the guardian's motoring reviews, very few, if any, seem keen to make any use of such available acceleration.
perhaps if i were a skilled master of the trackstand, i would remain untroubled by what seems to be a lack of courtesy on behalf of certain motorised road users. but i'm not.
that's why i'm moanin'.
sunday 27 december 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though i've never quite figured out quite why, christmas has become the de facto time of year to try manfully or womanfully to wrap a bicycle as a present. i imagine this is marginally easier to accomplish with a small child's bike than is the case for an adult's machine and up until relatively recently, the latter would have been scarcely a consideration inflitrating the yuletide miasma.
but ever since prince bradley brought the world of the velocipede to the fore, via his tour victory and olympic gold and perhaps more recently with the world hour record, owning a bicycle has become somewhat cooler for your average adult person to have cluttering up the hallway, sitting next to the car in the garage, or more importantly, in a bespoke bike shed. it is therefore not altogether outwith the bounds of incredulity that several of you may have received a nice new shiny bike yesterday morning, wrapped or otherwise.
however, much like a puppy, a bicycle is not just for christmas. and every bit like a puppy, a bicycle, or the associated habit, needs to be continually fed. just ask anyone here. so having acquired, by whatever legitimate means, a new bicycle, where do you go from here?
the more entrenched roadie, simply adhering to the n+1 rule of cycle acquisition, will be already well-provided for in the practice of accessorising, but the newbie may currently be riding that new bike round the car park with the saddle way too low, without a scooby as to how to effect a gear change, dressed in jeans and a cagoul. though it may not be currently recognised, all that really needs to change.
there will be those who have already identified just where they'll be looking and shopping for velocipedinal fripperies, confident in the sense of style they wish to portray to the neighbours and local bus drivers, but for the ignorant (no disrespect intended), there's really little better than some big conglomerate having let its design department run wild with the crayolas. in this particular case, halfords have once again come to the rescue, providing a lengthy paean to the sort of doohickies on which to spend that winter fuel payment.
items such as a helmet, padded bibshorts or tights, baselayers and some pedals. the latter may in fact be the very first purchase made, since the modern-day road bike frequently arrives with only crank arms and no pedals at all. choosing the latter along with a pair of shoes on which to bolt a set of cleats might be something better taken care of in-shop, rather than over the interweb, unless you've already done the research.
halfords coloured pictures, once you've scrolled past the mountain bike section, covers both summer and winter apparel before bringing up the concept of cycle commuting, something that might not have been thought of at the outset. either that, or a cycle commute was the very excuse employed to justify the expense of a new bike in the first place, santa claus or no santa claus.
and though i feel i need scarcely make mention, aside from halfords, other cycle retailers may also be available.
saturday 26 december 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
collectively, we've never quite figured it out. the local schools, like many others, brought the kids into school for all-day monday and tuesday morning only, before breaking up for christmas. though i would scarcely argue against the commonly held belief that school holidays are already several weeks too generous, it seems a tad daft that the term was not brought to a close on friday of last week. not only are the pupils scarcely interested in undertaking even remote cormers of the curriculum at this time of year, but i doubt very much whether the teaching staff are any more exuberant.
but even if we allow for the notional necessity of a full-day's education on monday, you cannot tell me that there is any practical benefit brought by attending school for a few hours of a tuesday morning? certainly there were at least a few pupils that made the effort, though probably as a result of parents who still had work to go to, yet no feasible opportunity to arrange childcare. the majority would likely have had the good sense to ignore the three-line whip and start the christmas holiday on tuesday morning.
yet, for all our criticism of the iniquities of educational timetabling, the office in which i frequently ply my trade assumed a remarkably similar mantle, choosing to open for wednesday morning and close at half-past mid-day. i can reliably witness the fact that there were very few customers over the door, aside from a predictable last-minute scurry for a pair of 2016 calendars.
the advent of an unoccupied wednesday afternoon, other than at least partially filled by attempting to avoid a truly awful animation of the nutcracker fairy tale, provided sufficient free-time during which to swap the garmin handlebar bracket from the last bicycle that made use of it, to the model that will hopefully see me across all eight days of the festive 500. though i have lived on islay for long enough to learn pretty much every distance of every road on the isle, i prefer to employ a garmin gps for verification and peace of mind.
just in case rapha's inspectors come a-calling.
though i will hopefully have completed my opening kilometres by the time you read this, the annual festive 500 is an edifice that seriously deserves every column inch of praise it receives. in similar manner to that of the sunday ride, a prior arrangement to go for a ride no matter the weather conditions, is one that supersedes any lack of willpower on behalf of the pelotonese. though rapha are offering the usual selection of rewards for those who not only complete the planned distance, but document it in the most enetertaining fashion, most of us simply accept the challenge on a personal basis, completion being its own reward.
therefore, having to lay out clothing and footwear for the following day as well as having retrospectively cleaned and lubed the chain after each ride is all part of the process, one that, if you will forgive my previousness, eases the transition from holiday mode back to work mode when the festive vacation ends in january. this is every bit as much a part of the challenge as the riding of the 500 kilometres in the first place, providing a daily means of resisting the inherent lethargy that the holiday often promotes.
if incorporating the festive 500 into your cycling year has not previously occurred, might i respectfully suggest that you do so? ok, you may have missed out on the first day's distance (an average of 62.5km per day), but that only makes it more of a challenge, as is trying to persuade your significant other that it was his/her idea that you should partake in the first place.
there are a couple of days currently showing on the weather forecast that might make it more of a personal challenge than it really ought to be, but that's an iniquity that has to be fought pretty much every year. and in the truest sense of the statement, it really is the taking part that forms the bulk of the challenge. it's a decidely fine feeling to reach every last one of those 500 kilometres; but it's every bit as much fun trying.
thursday 24 december 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have, over the past month or so, received a number of e-mails from a variety of public relations companies on behalf of their clients, offering me a veritable panoply of products that might be included in a christmas gift guide, should i be providing my readership with the benefits of same. in truth, it is quite some number of years since i composed such a seasonally appropriate list, all the better for the divesting you all of some more of your hard-earned. though the last gift guide episode was not at the behest of any pr company, i confess my naiveté might now give cause for a few moments' hilarity, were you to discover its whereabouts on the post.
it has also dawned on me that a more pertinent time to write about perhaps the year's best products, always an apparently clever association with a festive gift guide, would be during the latter part of next week, as the great unwashed prepare themselves for an evening of drunken debauchery that we north of the border affectionately refer to as hogmanay. if you have never experienced a scottish television hogmanay experience, believe me, you would be far better off reading a desultory list of stuff you don't really need.
but once more, i digress.
though i do appreciate the efforts of the average public relations company, initially offered on my behalf, there is a salient reason as to why i have kept a barge pole's length between me and a possible end result. those who have, for whatever reason, found themselves to be regular readers of these pixels, will be aware that its pages are quite frequently populated with my version of product reviews. these might be described as my personal investigations into the veracity of the manufacturers' claims, at least, that's the way i like to think of them. the items on the purported christmas lists, however, are largely untested by yours truly, meaning i'd be rather reticent to offer any recommendations given that i've rarely used any of them.
so i think therefore, that i find myself in complete sympathy with apple computer's current tv ad. this features stevie wonder and andra day singing an arrangement of the 1967 hit 'someday at christmas'. though the video shows mr wonder configuring apple logic on a mac laptop, complete with the occasional glimpse of the apple logo on the computer lid, i confess that the first time i viewed the ad, i was unaware of its provenance until the apple logo appeared onscreen at the end.
though apple have a far higher profile in the world of commerce than any bicycle company, component manufacturer or cycle clothing provider, i can but roundly applaud their bravado in releasing an advert that essentially fails to mention any of the items from their catalogue in which you might find yourself interested. so, despite scarcely having reached the dizzying heights of obscurity, i'm intent on taking a page from apple's book and offering this (almost) christmas column that makes no mention of any cycling-related items whatsoever.
after all, christmas has surely become overly commercial of late?
wednesday 23 december 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
'tis the season of fripperies, of that there is little doubt. how many amongst us have agonised for hours or perhaps even days, trying to find the very best present for someone who already has pretty much everything they need or want?
admittedly, this is not a difficulty related to children or maybe even teenagers. they will happily accept anything to which the apellation gadget might be applied. as a disinterested adult, i see no earthly reason why anyone with an x-box would also need a playstation and nor can i distinguish between a ps3 or 4. don't they all accomplish the same function? and if you already have an iphone, why would you need an ipod? you see what i mean?
it is perhaps not any simpler to find the present of choice for the avid cyclist, particularly if on a limited budget. there are a number of accessories that might conceivably fit the bill, but assuming the present-giver has as much idea about cycling as do i regarding game-stations, that realm of choice is fraught with pitfalls. it is possible to purchase a pair of 25mm tyres for around £25, but would those offer the sort of rubber on which you'd like to travail the highways and byways? and perish the thought that someone might wrap a budget saddle on the grounds that it was "almost the same colour as that bike we saw you on last week."
in the light of the above evidence, a scenario that is easily transferable between disciplines and activities, suddenly fripperies begin to take on a new and more appealing light. the heck with whether auntie madge really needs a merino wool hot water bottle cosy; the choice is already made.
it is, therefore, of some comfort to come across a brand of cycling apparel for which the word frippery has been dropped from the corporate vocabulary. rivelo are a cycle clothing company which has not previously crossed my hebridean radar. currently offering a limited range of products, i was sent a waterproof/windproof langcliffe jacket, a pair of winnets winter bibtights and a pair of symonds softshell winter gloves.
if i might be so bold to commence with the latter, these are a streamlined and extremely well-fitting pair of softshell gloves retailing at a very amenable £30. they couple well with the langcliffe jacket, offering a sizeable velcro fastening cuff that can be closed over the inner cuff of the jacket, while being protected by the waterproof outer. the only discrepancy here is perhaps in the definition of the adjective winter. there is no questioning their windproofing, or indeed their water-resistance under light rain conditions, but a modicum of insulation would have been nice. hands will often lead the charge into a windchill of minus two degrees, at which point, your symonds encased fingers will still be cold.
however, i fear i may be nit-picking, for they do offer a hard-wearing constitution, an appropriately padded palm and a substantial and well-placed section of soft towelling to ease that snotty nose.
having already made mention of the langcliffe jacket and its symbiosis with the rivelo gloves, it seems only pertinent to pay tribute to its overall propensities. hebridean weather being as it is, it did take more than a few rides to get the langcliffe wet, though only a few minutes to appraise myself of an excellent degree of windproofing. and matching the latter, the breathability of the porelle dry membrane was actually quite impressive, a feature that advertised itself over several tens of kilometres. however, according to rivelo's website, one of the purported advantages of porelle dry is its remaining dry to the touch.
with this, i'm afraid i would have to take exception. though the inner lining of the jacket's torso was only marginally clammy after an 80km ride in galeforce winds, the same could not be said for that in the sleeves. the internal clamminess made it not only tricky to remove the jacket without pulling the sleeves inside out, but somewhat tacky when putting it back on. one of those lightweight mesh liners might be a possible solution. in my opinion, it is impossible to purchase a 100% breathable cycling jacket, but the langcliffe is certainly in the upper regions.
with taped seams, drop tail, a weatherproof full-length zip and a very handy single rear pocket it's a well-fitting and ideal jacket for the weather conditions at which it is aimed. rolling it up and stuffing it in a rear pocket was not quite as straightforward as i'd hoped, with a larger portion visible than i'd have liked, but to a certain extent, it depends on the jersey du jour.
as this is the west coast of scotland in december, remaining dry was never going to be a permanent option and the langcliffe did indeed meet its wind-driven waterloo. i did have my concerns after a mere thirty minutes of admittedly heavy rain and a galeforce headwind. the ever-attractive array of water droplets rolling off the sleeves rather quickly turned to that soaking wet look as the outer fabric gave a remarkably accurate impersonation of becoming waterlogged. however, impressively enough, very little of that precipitation made it through to the other side and when the rain desisted, the fabric dried impressively speedily.
several hours in a similar level of inclement weather might be a less than desirable situation, but to be honest, a wet sunday morning on islay in mid-december will scare the living daylights of many a waterproof garment.
the winnats bibtights, lined with thermo-roubaix and with a durable water repellency coating on leg and seat panels were very much the icing on the cake. several rides ago, i wore my showers pass waterproof socks and stupidly did so over the top of the bibtights i was wearing at the time. when it rained, as it has a habit of doing, the water ran inside of the socks, totally negating their efficacy. however, part of the reason for my sartorial faux pas was brought about by a difficulty in rolling up the tights legs far enough to fit the socks.
obviously the same thing has happened at rivelo headquarters, for they have thoughtfully provided rear, calf length zips, not only easing the process of getting the tights on and off, but simplifying the wearing of long, thick waterproof socks.
the fit is marvellous and the high front panel that magnifies the winter description features a zip, once again easing the act of wearing and removing as well as those moments when a call of nature becomes a living necessity. though that dwr coating is scarcely designed to have your internals remain dessicated, that on the seat panel went a long way to ameliorating the soaking provided by a cyclocross bike with no mudguards. at only £130 per pair, these most certainly do not reside under the heading fripperies.
for a cycling apparel provider without too many ageing calendars in the ceo's bottom drawer, rivelo seem to have hit the ground more or less running (or pedalling, if you prefer). my minor criticisms notwithstanding, the three items under consideration offer remarkably good value for money with the added bonus of being particularly stylishly designed, yet immensely practical. it must surely be something of a struggle to not only make a name in an all but overcrowded cycle clothing market, but both survive and progress. rivelo may just have found the right strategy.
the langcliffe jacket costs an impressively economic £130.
tuesday 22 december 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................