the new bicycle effect

price tag

as a famous cycling journalist with a modicum of space left in the bikeshed, i am often in great demand by the world's bicycle manufacturers to cast an experienced eye over their latest carbon or aluminium creations. i realise this is hardly of surprise to many of you, but if you believe that, then i'm better at this than i thought. however, that does not obviate the fact that occasionally across the space of a year, i do from time to time have something nice and shiny on which to perambulate the principality in the quest for velocipedinal knowledge on your behalf.

i would dearly love to give the impression that these infrequent occurrences put me neither up nor down; it is simply the way of the cycle blogger's existence and is scarcely one to be other than simply tolerated. but we both know that is very far from the truth. the arrival of a large, cycle-branded, cardboard box at washingmachinepost croft is as much the signal for celebrations to begin, as would be the case at any other cycle-obsessed abode anywhere on the planet.

granted, the ritual has changed over the span of years since these yellow and black pixels invaded the interwebs. nowadays, boxes on which it is probably necessary to pay council tax, dwarf the front door (and the bikeshed, now that you come to mention it) yet contain a bicycle bereft of any notable packaging. it is mostly a case of straightening the bars, setting the seatpost to the correct height and riding of into the sunset.

in days of yore, the experience was more akin to christmas morning. opening the box revealed not a pristine bicycle, but uncanny amounts of bubble-wrap, polystyrene wrap, foam pipe-wrap, cardboard and a truckload of zip-ties (how did we ever survive without those?). the anticipation as to whether the carriers might have managed to either bend or scratch the bicycle concealed 'neath such an inordinate amount of packaging was almost palpable.

the modern way is no doubt as it ought to be, were it not for the fact that i have need of finding somewhere to store such enormous boxes until it's time to return the bicycle to its rightful owners.

the expectation, so i am led to believe, is that this latest velocipede added to the collection (everyone has a collection of bikes, right?) will address the previously noted lack of definable speed at the coffee shop sprint. new wheels, slicker tyres, featherlight gear changes and a chain that still looks like shiny metal will hopefully deliver every bit as much as they promise. it is a recognised fact that bicycle speed has little or nothing to do with the chap or chapess in the saddle; it is, as someone so delicately put it, all about the bike.

actually this situation might depend greatly on the placebo effect, the notion that if the rider believes the new bicycle to be faster, then it actually is (whereas everyone knows that speed depends almost entirely on the colour of your socks). and as things go, i think i may have incontrovertible evidence that this is precisely how the universe really works.

probably the most recent member of the velo club has renounced all claims on his golf clubs in favour of joining us for coffee and a bike ride on sunday mornings. having greatly enjoyed a portion of last year's ride of the falling rain, he is now as much a part of the weekly peloton as the rest of us, to the extent that yesterday morning, he arrived on a brand new cannondale road bike. though there is little doubt that this is an impressive improvement on his previous bicycle, in the grand scheme of things, the disparity ought not to have been as great as it turned out to be.

this is a fellow who more often than not, would be hauling up the rear on the ascents, yet sunday morning had him reborn as robert millar on the hills and fabian cancellara on the flat. i offer as my own excuse for tardiness on the pedals, the fact that i'm still riding a cyclocross bicycle (i can if i want to), but that does not excuse the fact that with one notable exception, all others were left trailing in his wake.

i offer this not as a means of pandering to my un-named pelotonic colleague, but as propaganda to which you may wish to refer should there appear to be any potential family opposition to your adding another, obviously necessary bicycle to the collection already resident in the bikeshed.

why would anyone argue with the words of a famous cycling journalist and his friend with a new cannondale bicycle?

monday 28 march 2016

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

different is as different does. unfortunately

cycling in london

the recently released 'human streets, the (london) mayor's vision for cycling' states that cycling in london has seen remarkable growth of late, much of which was initiated prior to any provision of cycling infrastructure in the nation's capital city. at the turn of the century, vehicle traffic in the city outnumbered the cycling population by a disappointing 11 to 1. taking a look at the same ratio in 2014 produced the far lower and more promising ratio of 1.7 to 1. considering media reportage of the number of fatalities suffered by london cyclists over the past few years, that seems quite surprising; but highly encouraging.

unfortunately, i have no comparable figures for britain's other major conurbations, but it would not seem too outlandish to optimistically extrapolate across the country, accepting that bicycle transport is on the increase. well, perhaps excluding the inner hebrides where the same number of boring old farts still meet up at debbie's café each sunday morning for a pootle about the principality.

but it's hardly what you'd call commuting.

cycling in london

granted, with the continuing demise of the shop in portnahaven, a village adjacent to the home of the mighty dave t in port wemyss, our directeur sportif has now greater need to pedal to the nearest village of port charlotte for any provisions that he and mrs mighty may deem necessary. in view of the infrequency of islay's public transport system, it's probably the quickest and most efficient method of doing so. but if i'm refreshingly honest, he's possibly the only member of the peloton who utilises his bicycle for pragmatic means.

i'd be guilty of wearing blinkers if i figured that this is a problem confined to islay. i'm fairly sure the hebridean islands north of here suffer from a similar lack of bicycle use. the next few weeks will doubtless see the thin end of a seasonal influx of visiting pedallists, but at season's end, there will still remain the faithful, meeting up with each other at debbie's on a sunday morning. there's no doubt that there are still too many folks driving to work or the shops in islay's principal villages, none of which are more than a mile from end to end.

cycling in london

with what an outsider (me) would probably regard as an impressive public transport system in london, i figure london's residents would have more reason to leave the bicycle at home, the drudgery of queuing for the bus or the underground notwithstanding. yet, aside from my own efforts to persuade islay's population to leave the car at home and walk or cycle, along with the occasional regional initiative, nothing has changed in the last thirty years.

as a naive incomer all those years ago, enquiries as to why nobody was intent on following london's lead were most often met by citing the wind. i cannot deny that this is something of a legitimate excuse/reason for not cycling on a regular basis, but to be honest, there are few days on which it would not be possible to ride within a single village. in the hebrides and other rural areas, the bicycle was once the sole means of transport, a fact that could be levied all across the cycling in london country. however, while the advent of motor cars cheap enough for individual ownership allowed mainland residents to travel further afield in search of employment, the hebridean islands have remained identical in size. if the bicycle was once king, the question remains not as to why its importance has diminished, but why it has pretty much disappeared altogether.

it is encouraging, even for one resident in such a far flung location, that bicycle use appears to be substantially on the increase, whether only in the cities or not. but would it not be possible for a small portion of governmental largesse to be directed into sussing out why i passed sixteen cars yesterday on the road to kilchoman distillery and not a single bicycle?

photos © transport for london

sunday 27 march 2016

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

rapha wool windjacket

rapha wool wind jacket

i don't do much of my city riding at gartbreck. at one time a working farm, most recently it has been purchased by a frenchman intent on providing the island with yet another malt whisky distillery, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale than the likes of bunnahabhain. currently, the farmhouse is empty and the surrounding land is a tad derelict, viewed only by a herd of woolly cattle and the inevitable sheep.

the building and modest grounds are only a few metres from the waters of loch indaal and around one kilometre from the nearest dwelling house at aldarach, yet again a former farmhouse now modernised for contemporary living. the village of bowmore is nigh on rapha wool wind jacket five kilometres distant, reached via a single track road and one or two cattle grids. even on a bright, sunny day, it's perhaps not the most idyllic of bike rides; once past the council recycling centre, the road degenerates into a surface suitable in the main, for 'cross bikes and those springy farm gates that i'm always on about.

what the road to gartbreck does offer, even on a sunny easter friday morning, is a bracing breeze, simmering ever so close to freezing point and more than adept at seeking out gaps in one's armour. bright sunshine and a view to die for notwithstanding, there's always the likelihood of at least a couple of shivers along the way. unless, of course, you partake of your city riding clad with sartorial elegance in rapha's latest addition to the city riding range, the wool wind jacket.

rapha wool wind jacket

apparently constructed from japanese wool, its incredible lightness of being would have had me believe that my easter friday perambulation to the great city of gartbreck might be one of folly. it is quite hard to believe that wool of this thinness could fend off perhaps not the worst that a cold atlantic front can manage, but a ruddy cold wind nonetheless. of course, in truth, it's not only the wool that fends off the breeze. the jacket is well lined, the front portion of which conceals a synthetic windproofing panel.

the latter works immaculately. with the full-length zip closed to the neck and the collar pulled up, there is a concealed tab that keeps the latter in defence mode. the wind remains satisfyingly on the outside, while a comforting warmth remains within the wool exterior. the only downside to this arrangement is the incredible faff that all but prevents fastening of that concealed tab. it features a small hole at one end designed to pop over a small stud normally concealed 'neath that collar.

rapha wool wind jacket

try doing so without a mirror.

the sizing has been well thought out, in my opinion, given that many of us are given to wearing thick merino faema embroidered jerseys over a rapha poloshirt. even in the face of such bulk (if you see what i mean?), cycling along the shores of loch indaal was a delight. the sleeves, which initially appeared a smidgeon on the short side, comfortably reached all the way to the cuffs, brushing the handlebars with aplomb. and the shoulder articulation made hand signals and faffing about with the brooks brick lane panniers mid-flight, as simple as they probably ought to be.

rapha wool wind jacket

having described the cunning with which the wool jacket keeps the wind and cold at bay up top, it behoves me to point out that the lower portions are catered for by means of a cinch cord along the hem while a mesh panel on the back reduces the chances of steaming up inside.

but surely the finest aspect of this stylish wind jacket is how closely it rides to haute couture. there really is now no justifiable reason to dress in fluorescent yellow, pudding bowl lid and the scarf that auntie margaret gave you for your last birthday. a spacious, zipped internal pocket is carefully hidden inside on the left, while there are two zipped front hand pockets, ideal for feigning insouciance as you attempt to remember the combination for the bike lock. granted, its waterproofing abilities are close to non-existent, but in essence, that's what the rapha pack jacket is for.

if it survived my form of city riding, it ought to be a doozy for the real thing. (i'd like to point out that, while taking photos to accompany this review, i had an entire flock of sheep as an audience.)

rapha's wool wind jacket is available in navy blue and in sizes xs to xxl. the retail price is £250 because high fashion coupled with velocipedinal pragmatism costs.

rapha wool wind jacket

saturday 26 march 2016

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

then there's an app for this too: introducing crossa

crossa cycling app

the world, we have been continually informed, is our potential oyster, a mantra that fails to take into account whether or not the individual has a particular liking for oysters in the first place. though you may have the ability to cycle the surrounding kilometres day after day, rarely repeating any one section of road, given the size of the globe as seen from the international space station, the potential is truly substantially greater.

and then you have stay-at-home folks such as yours truly, making the occasional foray into the world's cycling niches, but on the whole, just as happy riding around the same roads that have been called home for the last thirty years or so. and though cycling has been much touted as an activity within the reach of the great majority, perhaps its greatest claim to fame is an ability to be socially inclusive, yet simultaneously allow for almost unfettered solitude. whichever heading you think you should be filed under, the bicycle remains the same.

however, the advent of so-called social media over the last few years has often meant that even the apparently isolated velocipedinist is rarely a ring-tone away from interruption/inclusion (delete as applicable). earlier this week i reviewed a pair of american cycling jeans that featured a double-lined cell-phone pocket, while many a cycle jersey nowadays makes provision not only for safe carriage of a mobile device, but allows the internal routing of earphone cables should you wish to listen to tunes while awaiting the important call from your stockbroker.

crossa cycling app

topography, however, is rarely an aspect of this oyster of a world that does the cyclist much good. if it's not a case of struggling manfully over a series of ascents, then road, hill and dell can obscure the presence of other like-minded individuals scurrying in similar direction, quite probably with the same level of hardship. how often have you arrived at the coffee shop to find several other individuals with whom you might have shared adversity?

worse still, all those gravity-defying exertions may have come to nought, as an important mechanical component chooses one such moment to expire. that's the point at which solitude begins to lose its allure.

the intrepid ned boulting, he of telly box and book fame, has apparently found himself facing such uninvited adversity and been moved to act, not only on his behalf, but altruistically, on ours too. in the company of luke deering and agata tomaszewska, mr boulting has released an iphone app entitled crossa which aims to put cyclists in touch with cyclists based on their immediate proximity and ability to administer bicycle first-aid.

once downloaded from apple's app store, the sign-in process is a very slick affair, bringing you immediately to the land of the matrix. crossa cycling app

an on-screen verisimilitude of a radar sweep will alert you to cyclists within a ten mile radius. pressing upon their avatars will introduce you to their proxy personalities and you (and they), can pretty much take it from there. it is, to put not too fine a point upon it, social media for cyclists including the ability to display the weather and temperature for the region in which it is accessed. i asked ned whether crossa had been conceived as a result of mechanical or social need, or was this a means of heading them off at the pass?

"Absolutely. Agata had experienced the misery of isolated breakdown once too often. I, too, have witnessed the aborted ride (snapped chain, faulty gears etc), and wondered wether the cycling community, which likes to offer help and advice, could be connected in some way."

unfortunately for many of those bound by the saddle, social media ends with a bar-mounted gps unit and a strava page. with no intended disrespect to the latter, its philosophy is less centred upon sociability, more upon an estranged combativity. witness the fellows and fellowesses who will strain one last sinew in an attempt to reclaim a king of the mountains, or beast the record time for any given section. whatever else that entails, it is surely less than conducive to high-fives all round.

with crossa, is there a deliberate intention to recruit those for whom strava seems too much like hard work?

crossa cycling app

"Certainly. There has to be a mild corrective to the 'me and my targets ethos of Strava. I understand its popularity (I think), but I also know there are plenty more cyclists out there who are simply using the bike for utilitarian reasons, or just to enjoy a ride."

currently, the definition of isolation has rather locked me out from the potential pleasures of connecting with other crossa users. the principal barrier would obviously be my total lack of a smartphone, but it seems that scarcity of population may also work against my attempts to be gregarious. after signing in, i received a notice informing me that i had need of finding another nine individuals before the service would be available. what's a honed athlete to do? i'm not sure i even know another nine cyclists over here. i asked developer luke deering.

"You have touched on a very important but sensitive part of the launch process. For the first month or so of launch, the app will not launch for users unless there are at least nine other users within ten miles of their location.
"One of the most destructive things that can happen to a social network during its early hours, is that new users expect to see others, only to see no one else is there. They then uninstall the app.
crossa cycling app "This can really hurt growth if they share their negative experience with others. We do all we can to get new users to register in that particular user's location, encouraging others to join, but if we can also provide the right incentives to invite others to the app, we can increase the speed of adoption in each area, therefore enabling us to get to the desired user experience as quickly as possible.
"After a month or two, depending on adoption, we'll launch the app for all users regardless. However, in some parts of the country we'll just have to face that adoption will struggle."

as with the entire bike industry, progress rarely stops still for more than a few minutes. i asked ned if crossa would be adopting the same stance. in other words, will the app progress or will the code remain state-of-the-art for the foreseeable future?

"No. Far from it. Our hope is it evolves with the user base, and responds to how people see it working for them."

currently the app is only available for apple devices such as the iphone and ipod touch, but ned assures me that his cohorts are beavering industrially to bring to market a version for android thingies. and with the race season now getting into its stride, ned boulting will soon be occupying the commentary chair for the grand tours, or at least one or two of them. in which case, has he handed out copies of crossa to some pro riders?

"Wouldn't that be good? Getting your brakes realigned, roadside by Fabian Cancellara? Mind you, Cav did just that the other week, when he helped a woman change her inner tube. So he's an early adopter of our ethos!"

crossa is available entirely free of charge from the apple app store.

crossa website

friday 25 march 2016

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

there's an app for that

scottish cycling ipad app

long time ago, when melody maker was a music newspaper and one worth buying on a weekly basis, they held an annual rock/folk contest. as with most competitions of this type, regional heats led to area heats, led to national heats and ultimately a final. the band of which i was a member while at college had no chance whatsoever of reaching the latter placing, but we figured it a decent excuse to pop down from aberdeen for a weekend, take in an eric clapton concert at glasgow's apollo theatre and live the rock'n'roll lifestyle before going back to college on monday.

the event was held in strathclyde university students' union and was supplied with backline amps, pa system and even a stainless steel ludwig drumset (which wasn't as much fun to play as you might think). we played a song of our choosing reasonably competently, but devoid of any degree of pretension or flash. however, one or two bands were intent on making their mark more than just musically, several dressing for the occasion and one particular group who walked on, each with written scores placed on music stands.

scottish cycling ipad app

the effect was only let down by the knowledge that they couldn't actually read a note, save for the lead guitarist who paid no attention to his music stand throughout their performance.

though experience has taught me that a (very) basic knowledge of the dots, as we musicianly types are wont to refer, would scarcely go amiss, i would be fibbing if i stated that sight-reading was as second nature to me as pedalling. thus, when along came the jazz professionals from edinburgh at each year's islay jazz festival, it was prudent to gratefully accept the sheets of music proffered by the pianist and at least look as if making visual reference during rehearsal and subsequent performance. even better if i had a stand on which to place my copy of the dots, instead of unceremoniously lying them on the floor neath the hi-hat stand.

then modernity arrived in the shape of drum workshop's snappily named dscph1, a holder attaching to the nearest cymbal stand and grasping hold of an apple ipad, presumably displaying a pdf of the necessary score. that, in essence, seems like very much the way jazz, if not rock'n'roll, might be heading, along with midi, sequencers and pink drumsticks. at least, until drum workshop discontinued the item.

scottish cycling ipad app

had this recent hiccup not taken me almost entirely by surprise, i would have been eagerly awaiting the release of a handlebar mounted ipad holder, possibly only for the ipad mini, lest the weight weenies become upset. north of the border, we now have good reason to sully the ends of our bar tape with clamping devices. scottish cycling, (the magazine, not the national cycling body) have recently released an ipad app that brings to pixelated life, several of the bike rides featured in their free magazine, copies of which can be read alongside state of the art froth at debbie's in bruichladdich.

this promises not to be the last in a series, the title appended with the text volume 1, offering bike rides all across the scottish nation including the isle of arran, islay, culzean castle and burns country, annandale near the borders, carradale anad far more locations that you'll actually wish to read about just now. each ride can be swiped up and down to reveal a description of the ride, a few photos by way of illustration, a scalable map and necessary details such as distance, terrain, which os map to carry as a backup and a sole eating location.

scottish cycling ipad app

unfortunately and, by our standards, inexcusably, the gent responsible for the islay section recommended the pub in portnahaven instead of debbie's in bruichladdich. you can imagine our caffeine-fuelled consternation.

your side to side swiping of innocent pixels will alert you to the fact that this app has been produced in conjunction with sustrans as well as an advert for billy bilslands cycles in glasgow and several other items and purveyors of velocipedinal interest. there is a scroll bar which appears along the foot of the screen, sliding of which offers a thumbnail view of all the pages enclosed with the app. however, i would quite like to have had a home button to refer me to the start of the process accessible from anywhere in the app.

in mitigation of that last wish, i have to admit there is a clickable arrow on each ride, returning the viewer to the beginning of each section. from here it is possible to return to the opening contents; maybe i'm just lazy?

the app is freely available from the ipad app store and i do believe they're working on a version more suited to the iphone and ipod touch. currently it seems only the ipad is supported; no sign of anything for android devices, but give them time. the pr for this collection of 50 rides makes mention of videos and image galleries; i found the latter without trouble, but i'm afraid i didn't come across the moving pictures bit. ideally, considering the lack of wi-fi in most of the locations described, the app needs no internet connection to work.

the very solution to scottish wanderlust.

scottish cycling app

thursday 24 march 2016

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

it's your loss


when i was little, i lived almost 2.5 kilometres from my primary school. unless the heavens had opened to let out great swaths of precipitation, propelled by strong westerly winds, my brother and i walked to school each and every day. when we grew up a bit more, we moved onto the secondary school, around a half-kilometre further towards the edge of town. by that age, walking was no longer the preferred mode of travel, my brother having pressed a ten-speed racer into use while i rode the same route on a far more sedate raleigh shopping bike. with a dynamo and an ostentatiously large saddle bag.

fashion is as fashion does; though the raleigh featured everyday as a means of my delivering newspapers in order to earn an honest crust, walking to school became so much cooler. it was difficult to carry girls' books home on a bike, if you see what i mean, saddle bag or no saddle bag. subsequently, walking and bus travel became de rigeur when spending a few years further north at art college.

of course, on my return from academic study, i was now a grown person with vehicular needs, a mode of transport that soon became a substitute on the same route over which i used to walk to school. this is one of those points when it might be worth offering the rhetorical question as to whether getting older truly infers greater wisdom? for where is the logic in burning expensive fuel to travel the same distance that once was traversed on foot?

drivers licence

oddly for me, this realisation took not too long to dawn, at which point i ordered a bicycle shaped object with bendy bars from mrs washingmachinepost's mail order catalogue and left the car at home. though it's somewhat of a cliché, i have never truly looked back since.

as i believe myself to be conversing with the converted, i'm sure i'm not the only one to have observed a duality in the attitude of young adults not only of my era, but those filling in the gaps between then and now. the majority, by quite some margin, view either walking or cycling to be simple stop gaps until they become old enough to acquire a provisional licence and access to a motor car. mostly the blokes, it has to be said. at that point as a rite of passage, walking and cycling are unceremoniously cast aside, rarely to be revisited.

i'm sure i must have mentioned on more than one occasion, that the distance from washingmachinepost croft at one edge of the village to the furthest point in the opposite direction is around 1.6 kilometres. in my opinion, save for those suffering an infirmity, pretty much everyone could manage to walk such a short distance. you could all but freewheel 1.6km on a bicycle.

drivers licence

at this point, i really have no earth-shattering point to make, at least specifically. but i'm sure that, if you've read this far, you're probably no stranger to the idea that the physical exercise of walking and cycling probably confers greater physical and health benefits than upon those using wheeled metal boxes. it is, what i believe the realists amongst us would refer to as, fairly obvious. yet such obviousness, it appears, is no barrier to conducting a survey to inquire as to whether those who walk, cycle or use public transport are of a healthier disposition than the average motorist.

admittedly, the title of the survey in question is the lancet diabetes and endocrinology study, making it sound a tad less spurious than its results would perhaps indicate. the huge sample size of 150,000 adults in great britain ultimately told us the things we were pretty sure we already knew. that cycling is the finest of activities for staying trim, additionally contending that the average male motorist would be approximately 5kg lighter were he to cycle to work rather than drive. the average woman driver would save 4.4kg.

car driver

however, the question i am somewhat at pains to squirrel to the surface is quite why it was necessary to conduct such a survey in the first place? is it not blatantly obvious that walking and cycling will burn a greater number of calories and tone muscles that would remain dormant in a car seat? or would that still be considered a prejudiced point of view when bereft of the numbers on a spreadsheet?

as one possessed of an inherent percussive nature, i am aware that in many cases, timing is everything. sadly that sense of timing seems not to have brought chancellor george osborne into timeous contact with the results of the lancet's survey, prior to providing several million pounds for more roads.

it's a bit like printing with white ink on photocopying paper.

the lancet survey

wednesday 23 march 2016

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the internet won't fix your bike

local bike shop

i should have heeded the warning. twitter's mac population warned that i ought to have continued with my present edition of twitter for mac, but i rather nonchalantly clicked the upgrade button on the app store and there, staring back at me from the dock, was a new, round twitter bird icon where once it had been square. streamlining of my social media visual experience had obviously taken place and no doubt every bit as many spanners had been wrenched under the hood (as we creative types are want to say), but as one with a distinct aversion to code (not to mention almost total incomprehension), i didn't expect to know anything about that.

however in the process of using the app in the manner to which i had become accustomed, i found what appears to be something of an awkward flaw. according to twitter's online help file, should i wish to send a direct message to one of my social acquaintances, after typing the message i ought (tautologically enough) to click send. though that may come as less than a surprise, what did indeed come as a total suprise was a complete lack of any button bearing such a legend. i do consider myself as reasonably adept in this department, but in order that i might receive a second opinion on the matter, i asked a mac savvy colleague to follow the same procedure.

still no send button.

local bike shop

twitter makes allowance for their faithful followers to submit a note of any potential flaws in the software, which i duly did. but the company then points out that such submissions will not necessarily be acted upon. that would rather seem to undermine the efficacy of such a procedure, but such is life.

the occasional foray into what i believe is termed the twittersphere is mostly a joyful experience. i am aware that there are those who suffer at the hands of online bullies, but since i tend only to use it for smartass one-liners, most of my tweets can be filed under the heading deep and meaningless. facebook, however, has been kept at far greater than arm's length. though i do have the occasional need to access one of its many pages, i still fail to comprehend pretty much everything i see.

and though it may not have been mr zuckerburg's original intention (but we may never know), the facebook empire is making unwelcome inroads into what we used to regard as the real social media. there are at least a couple of facebook pages in use by members of the islay community to advertise situations vacant, items for sale, upcoming events, menus etc. etc. this has traditionally been the province of the local newspaper, my principal source of income, now that i come to mention it.

local bike shop

you can see the attraction; placing adverts and notices on an internet platform that is allegedly viewed by a large number of islay's community and at no personal cost, is hard to argue against. there's not much we, or any other community or even national newspaper can do about it, other than attempt to make our more traditional services (which have so far survived for over 40 years) seem more attractive, dependable and hopefully of greater value than a bunch of free pixels.

not only is there nothing as sure as change, but it is a predictably fruitless task attempting to stop progress. that, however, doesn't mean we shouldn't be trying. i have faith that structures such as facebook and twitter are but mere blips in online fashion, every bit as likely to be gone tomorrow as they are here today. if they manage to kill off the bulk of the world's more traditional outlets in the process, what's going to happen then?

there's no doubt that the very same internet is in the process of doing exactly the same sort of thing to the independent local bike shop.

local bike shop

i am a long-time customer of ireland's chain reaction, a fact that i have no shame in admitting. however, if you're willing to take into account that a trip to my nearest bike shop begins with either a two hour ferry journey or a 35 minute and relatively expensive flight to glasgow, i'm sure i now seem less of a hypocrite than you may initially have thought. however, the latter online store has now become part of the wiggle empire, creating a conglomerate that must give many bike shop owners several sleepless nights per week.

modern society often seems to place low cost, several rungs above that of customer service. that's not to say the latter is every bit as uppermost in the minds of the online retailer as it is in those surrounded by bricks and mortar, but as my heading re-iterates, the internet won't fix your bike. unless you are a reasonably adept mechanic, there's a strong possibility that fitting items of componentry to a new or existing bicycle will need to be carried out by a qualified shop mechanic. the latter is very unlikely to take kindly to your having purchased the items from the nearest website and placed them expectantly on the shop counter.

there are many of us in the highlands and islands who are more than grateful for the likes of wiggle and chain reaction and there's little doubt that their prices are often notably lower than achievable by your local bike shop. but consider the predicament you might find yourselves in if you continue to buy bits and bobs online and there's no nearby mechanic left to fit them.

not as outlandish as it may seem.

tuesday 22 march 2016

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................