i know i have made mention of this before, but it might not have been out loud. when easter hoves into view each year, or sometimes just a bit before, the world's cycle clothing manufacturers alert us to the existence of their spring/summer ranges and attendant look books. it is a well-known fact that, if your product launch is not accompanied by a look book, you risk serial sniggering on the part of your intended customers. but while it may have begun to appear like spring (summer would be stretching credibility just a smidgeon too far) in the far south, up this end of the world, we're still wearing merino winter collars, thermal gloves and belgian style winter caps.
as if that were not too much of a potential suprise, this sort of garmentage wear will continue for a good couple of months past the look book date.
therefore, it would seem only right and proper, seeing as we're all in this together and still a markedly insistent united kingdom, that the launch of anyone's spring/summer range ought to be staggered, with final shipments and marketing being featured in the north and west of scotland some two or so months past the intial mention being made in the cycling media. of course, with this firmly in mind, the autumn/winter collections ought first to be on sale in reverse order, beginning up here around mid-july (or earlier).
it is for this very reason that a galibier.cc ultimate foul weather gilet received in early may, saw far greater use than its constitution would perhaps suggest. in fact, the very day after i had wrenched it carefully from its packaging, in which it was accompanied by a rather fetching pair of galibier.cc socks and water resistant toe covers (about which more later), it saw sterling service in zero degrees windchill.
galibier velo are based in omeath, county louth in ireland, so while that places them on the wrong coast to experience an atlantic squall at first hand, it does perhaps provide them with an inkling of what their more northerly cousin (me) is likely to sustain by way of foul weather.
the gilet, which may or may not be the ultimate of its species, certainly does everything in its power to live up to the name, constructed from an impressively thin softshell material that possesses a marvellous level of insulation. in short, it keeps you warm. and given that it's a softshell, you can laugh heartily at any number of atlantic gusts heading in your (my) direction. the gilet's water-resistance is also mightily formidable, smatterings of precipitation simply running off the surface with regulated impunity.
its total blackness is alleviated by one or two reflective tabs and a very bright and extremely yellow stripe from collar to hem down the back and at the shoulders.
however, you do sort of have to wonder about the wisdom of naming a sleeveless garment with an ultimate foul weather apellation, for in the midst of this tangible agglomeration of wind and precipitation, won't my arms get wet? coupled with a lack of taped seams, maybe ultimate is just a tad optimistic. but in point of fact, this offering from ireland's galibier velo does its job pretty darned well in my opinion. so much so, in fact, that i've been almost persuaded to leave the waterproof jacket at home.
i say 'almost', because the gilet has three capacious rear pockets and it would seem a shame not to make use of at least one of those to carry a waterproof jacket. this is the west coast of scotland, after all. additionally, there's a fourth, zipped internal pocket for phones, valuables, race radio, coffee money etc. of course, as the months roll by and summer does become a real thing, as opposed to a hypothetical horizon, wearing a jacket even in heavy rain, is as likely to soak your arms internally as precipitatively. horses for courses.
and let's not obscure the fact that the price of only £47 makes this less of an option and much more of a compulsory purchase, one that i expect to be still wearing come the corporate releases of the autumn/winter look books.
as to the water-resistant toe covers, perhaps they portend the same lack of total coverage as espoused by the gilet? but in point of fact, there are more than just a few instances when it's not raining in the islands (a little hebridean humour there), but the roads are still awash from the last shower. in such cases, given that many an item of velocipedinal footwear is vented at the front, even a smidgeon of protection is more than welcome. these have a cutout to accommodate your cleats and work better than their abortively minimal appearance might suggest. and they're cosy.
the galibier ultimate foul weather gilet is available only in black/yellow in sizes small through to xxl at a cost of £47. the pro-lite socks retail at a superb £7 in small, medium or large, while the mistral toe covers are only £8.90 in small, medium, large or extra large.
monday 9 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
we've been here before. well, sort of. you may recall a couple of weeks ago joe and i made our very necessary reconnaissance mission to ardtalla, with a view to extending that trip to the abandoned village of proaig on the shores of the sound of islay. it's very difficult, unless you work at yonder journal, to adventure full-time, hence the gap between then and now. this time, we'd planned to set off a bit earlier, miss out all the distillery faff en-route and head straight to ardtalla farmhouse to make our progress onwards to proaig.
the portent of this adventure (all terms are relative) was the current possession of a specialized awol elite, the very agglomeration of steel, racks and mudguards that personified the adventure without limits espoused by the californian bicycle fabricators. in order that the preceding might be made even more user friendly, i had appended the previously reviewed ortlieb bar bag and seatpost bag. those were now host to the mechanical necessities that such a step into the unknown demanded, along with a larger camera than usual, spare gloves, a garmin gps and a brace of peanut butter sandwiches.
you can never be too careful.
i am very poor at drinking. even the girls in the office hassle me about this, to the extent that i have had to commence preparing my very own espresso of a weekday afternoon, just to ameliorate their pro-liquid stance. however, this promised to be a cycle trip of gargantuan proportions (that relativity thing once again) and the knowledge that it's very hard to eat two crunchy peanut butter sandwiches without something flavourable and wet with which to wash them down. in this case, the flavouring extended to a smattering of ribena.
though i am keen not to foretell the intrinsic nature of our expedition, there was a flaw in my (our?) cunning plan, one relating to the hypothetical path that led from ardtalla to proaig. legend has it that the junior residents of this abandoned village were in the habit of walking to the school not too far from claggain bay, past which we had cycled to reach ardtalla farmhouse. thus, on the basis that if a few kids could get to and from from the sound, how hard could it be for a couple of intrepid cyclists?
that initial foray of a few weeks past had apparently shown what looked like the beginnings of a gravel path commencing on the other side of the 'please close the gate' farm gate. of course, the perspective from which this was duly noted at the time, turned out to be not the ideal viewpoint to make assured judgment. in fact, though a few feet of gravel could be found, the majority of travel was beset by considerable pockets of mud and marshy heather concealing more of the very same mud.
joe was better prepared than i; he had brought along a more detailed map than i had found in the office, a map contained within the clear plastic window on his carradice handlebar bag. though the map definitely described a dotted line pretending to be a path, in truth, reality was somewhat different. yes, a path did exist, but in the words of captain james t kirk "not as we know it". of course i should have paid attention to the fact that everyone to whom i had mentioned the propensity of this adventure, had immediately queried "on a bike?" with the additional implication of an exclamation mark.
this meant that past the aforementioned farm gate, cycling was completely conspicuous by its absence. and after a kilometre or so of pushing and carrying the bikes over small swampy bits and the occasional stream, the ten mile slog into a headwind that had preceded our arrival in port ellen village some 15 kilometres earlier, began to take its toll.
in short, unless possessed of the bike handling skills of danny macaskill and a suspension travel of a few metres, it really isn't possible to get from ardtalla farmhouse to proaig by bicycle. maybe next time we'll ask specialized if we can borrow a couple of fatboys. had we been better prepared with regards to our footwear (joe was walking through deep heather with feet clad in a pair of castelli overshoes), it would have been a relatively simple, if lengthy, task to walk to proaig and back again. but we had abandoned the cycles as we attempted to find traces of the path once more and after successfully doing so, couldn't find the bikes again.
had it not been for the bright red of the ortlieb bags, we'd probably be still searching even now.
there's no doubt that an adventure occupies the same theoretical space as does the digging of half a hole. whether you reach your ultimate goal (and we most markedly didn't) is really neither here nor there, provided the journey was enjoyable in and of itself. as joe and i sat in the annexe at ardbeg distillery's old kiln café scoffing cheddar cheese paninis augmented with sun-dried tomato relish and some fizzy drinks, we tacitly agreed that, the slog into a headwind notwithstanding, we'd had a grand day out.
and we had the unique luxury of supping double-espressos hand-crafted by ardbeg manager, mickey heads. as ever, it's not what you know, but who.
sunday 8 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if i had a second home, it would probably be portland in oregon. it's an altogether different prospect than living in a village of some 100 souls, given that portland's population is a smidgeon over 600,000; islay can manage only just a few north of 3,000. with islay's acres and acres of sky and a view south to rathlin island and north to mull on really clear days like yesterday, portland offers an altogether different skyline.
but buildings and their concomitant skylines are only a small part of the equation; the essence of home has a great deal to do with people, or more specifically, friends. i have no plans ever to depart the hebrides, because it is a wonderful place to live. how on earth would i adjust to the comparative lack of galeforce winds prevalent in the pacific northwest? and domiciled such a great distance from belgium, surely my claim to flandrianism would appear a trifle weak?
but on the other hand, portland has an amazing cycling community, one that encompasses pretty much every strain of velocipedinal life. and, much more importantly, there are friends, many too many to list here. but if you will bear with me for a few paragraphs, i doubt any of my portland colleagues would complain if i only introduced you to chris distefano.
formerly with chris king precision components and subsequently with rapha north america, cd has now joined portland's river city bicycles as marketing and public affairs officer. rcs founder and owner, dave guettler said "Everyone at River City Bicycles is familiar with Chris's work within the bicycle business but also as an advocate for cycling and the City of Portland."
however, i do not intend today's post to be a tribute to chris distefano and i'm pretty sure chris will be greatly relieved that such is the case. but amongst the many messages that chris has intimated to the cycling public, the following, reprinted from jeremy dunn's the athletic community is a great deal more important. i would struggle greatly to word the following any better than cd, so i'm simply going to let you read wot he wrote.
"It usually begins with the delivery of a single envelope by U.S mail. Not long afterwards a text or call comes through, "You get anything in the mail today?" The voice on the other end belongs to Jim Brown - executive director of Rad Racing NW Junior Cycling. Jim served in the United States Coast Guard so it can be said that he runs a tight ship. The following day a dozen or more envelopes arrive and the day after and so on until the final ones trickle in and then, the Rad Racing NW team is complete. They are not racers gathered at the finish line, this is a stack of holiday cards to team sponsors. It is a team tradition, an obligation for each rider, and a joy to receive. Jim calls a second time, "Are they all there?". "Yes," I tell him, though I really don't know how many to expect. With such a big stack - well over 30 cards - it sure seems as if they would all be there.
The Rad Racing kids send holiday cards to every sponsor at year's end. Most are photo cards and any that aren't have rider photos included. Each card includes a handwritten note, a big, bold signature, and often times a little drawing. I refrain from opening even one until they have all been delivered and then gather my colleagues around to open them. I have cried every season when reading the cards aloud. This past year the one that read "I will race hard for you at Nationals," is the one that did it. It's actually happening again now as I type this. In my roles at three separate companies over the past two decades I have sponsored or supported Rad Racing NW in some capacity. For all their victories, National Championships, and National Team placements, the greatest thing the team does is the small act of writing those cards.
But hold on a minute, look at the team jersey in that photo. That's a lot of team sponsors, so that means a lot of holiday cards for each rider to send. Do you recall how much your parents had to 'encourage' you to send a single thank you card to a relative for a birthday gift? Or for that holiday card with a cash bill or two in it? It's no small act when you're in middle school and you have to write to a bunch of grownups you don't know all that well. Jim and the dedicated legion of Rad Racing coaches make it happen year after year.
I've been around Jim and Rad Racing long enough now that the kids have grown up into adults. Many continue to race through secondary education and beyond with some even making it into the professional ranks. Rad Racing kids learn hard work and determination from Jim Brown, he learned it from his father. It was his father's passing in 2011 that prompted Jim to tattoo the nautical term HOLD FAST on his knuckles, a physical reminder to bear down and stay the course through any storm. The kids have never been a storm to Jim even though there's a lot of them and they are kids after all. Working a race weekend is a hurricane of energy and emotion but the team ship, often weighted down with a treasure chest of trophies, always returns to port.
When lung cancer arrived as a hurricane in Jim's life last summer, the kids of Rad Racing took to the writing skills they've honed through those holiday cards and they crafted an inspiring message to their Captain - HOLD FAST. They drew Sharpie tattoos on their own knuckles for races, rides, or just to send a note through social media. Parents soon joined in and the HOLD FAST double knuckle salute became a common site in the Rad world.
Jim has recently completed Round 16 of chemotherapy treatment for adenocarcinoma lung cancer with the results showing the disease minimized and stabilized. Jim continues to work as Captain of Medical Services for the Olympia, WA Fire Department while wrangling his own three kids in addition to all the Rad Racing NW Juniors. He recently completed the Sea Otter Classic Gran Fondo and until we're badass enough to get real knuckle tattoos, these gloves are pretty damn close to being Jim Brown.
i told you i couldn't do any better.
saturday 7 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
for those adherents of velominati's rules, the following may come as a bit of a shock. in fact, if you live your cycling life by those particular commandments, maybe you'd better not read this at all. rule #31 clearly states that 'spare tubes, multi-tools and repair kits should be stored in jersey pockets', somewhat forcefully implying that appending any bags to the body of the kirk (so to speak) would be tantamount to excommunication. i'm going to keep this to myself, so i'd be really appreciative if you would too.
however, there are moments of extreme flandrianism applied to the non-racing milieu, when an array of rear pockets will simply be insufficient. moments of uncharacteristic adventure, for instance, when there could conceivably be seen to be a need to carry a garmin gps (which will no longer fit on the handlebars because there's a bag there now), a spare pair of gloves, some money for coffee and, perchance, a panini, along with a rather bulky digital camera because i broke my little blue one and a couple of peanut butter sandwiches.
as if that were insufficient to garner frowning disapproval from the keepers of the rules, in case of unexpected mechanical malfeasance, a couple of spare inner-tubes, a multi-tool, a pink and a yellow tyre lever and a mini-pump surely wouldn't go amiss? don't tell me all that's going to fit comfortably in three rear pockets along with a waterproof jacket? yes, i think i can exclusively reveal that the excellent chaps at velominati are not members of the cyclists' touring club, otherwise they would have seen the potential error of their ways (under certain circumstances).
thus, still with the potential of untrammeled adventure invited by current possession of specialized's awol elite, the very kind delivery of an ortlieb ultimate6 handlebar bag and a similarly coloured seatpost-bag promised that, during any inadvertant adventures, i could cycle with an impressively flat back, those three pockets unsullied by awkwardly shaped accoutrements.
the ultimate6 bar bag, manufactured from a polyurethane coated cordura fabric portends to be a waterproof container for all that i have described above, along with many others that i should probably have thought of, prior to going adventuring in the first place. and waterproofing it truly is; it will surprise you not at all to learn that scottish west coast weather has a propensity to dump large and frequently unexpected quantities of precipitation solely on cyclists on an adventure. during those mostly unwelcome moments, the contents of the bar bag and seatpost bag remained steadfastly dessicated.
the ultimate6 bar bag affixes to the bicycle's handlebars via an included bracket featuring an ingenius and convoluted wire clamping system. doing so does tend to squish those gear and brake cables just a tad, but they're big and tough and strong and can handle that sort of thing. the bag slots onto the bar bracket and can be locked in position. at this point, i thought well of this facility before thinking that, while the bag couldn't be pinched, it would be simplicity itself to open the top and wander off with the contents. that, of course, was before i realised that the rear facing tag on the lid could be slotted under the clamp, rendering the entire edifice as safe as is likely possible.
ortlieb do not recommend attaching to carbon handebars or stem.
the convex nature of the bag's magnetically closing lid allows a sizeable amount to be crammed inside, as long as it doesn't exceed 3kg. there's also a detachable shoulder strap and an internal zipped compartment for passport, papers etc, if your adventuring stretches to international borders. the only potential disadvantages i came across were the previously mentioned disbarment from fitting your garmin via the usual bar mount and with such a short stem fitted to the specialized, mounting it atop the stem wasn't really much of an option. however, it turns out that a garmin works every bit as well when sat inside the bag for the occasional peek, every now and again.
it also seemed a smidgeon odd that there was no clear map pocket applied to the top. though i would scarcely class myself as a seasoned cycle tourer, those i have met on the road less travelled all seemd to have maps front and foremost atop their bar bags. it would be possible to bungee cord a clear plastic envelope to the bag for the purpose, but that would ultimately interfere with regular opening and closing.
the ortlieb seatpost-bag, once again not carbon fibre friendly, clamps securely to a wide range of steel or aluminium seatposts by means of an easily adjustable ratcheted clamp/strap. it did take one or two moments to adjust the strap to the correct size, but once in place it scarcely moved (apart from the letting-the-bike-fall-on-the-moor manoeuvre, but i'd rather not talk about that, if you don't mind). the seatpost opens commendably wide at the rear and features an inner zipped compartment and a substantial amount of space for tools, tubes, pumps or other unspecified mechanical oddities. the opening flap bears two rubberised seals which are rolled over on each other before being attached by two elastic straps to small brackets, one each side of the bag. more than sufficient to exclude the elements.
it also sports a nifty little adjustable, elasticated doohicky on the top, neatly sized under which to stuff a spare jacket. or perhaps to dry one or two items in the fresh air if perchance one stood in an unseen boggy pool. (who me?)
for occasional ventures onto the wide open road or obscure portions of the hinterland, the combination of the ultimate6 bar bag and seatpost bag have proved ideal. though the specialized awol elite sports a front and rear rack, in recent cases, those have proved temporarily unnecessary. the combination of both bags is ideal if, like me, your touring/adventure requirements are somewhat minimal. or if you'd like to to dip a toe in the world of touring without spending a fortune or just to see if you'd like it. their construction implies they'll be around for a lot longer than you and i; and if you don't like red in natural surroundings, the bags are also available in green, black or blue.
the ortlieb ultimate6 handlebar bag and seatpost-bag both retail at around £80 each.
friday 6 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on the return portion of yesterday's yet to be read (or written) adventure, joe and i dropped in at ardbeg distillery's old kiln café if for no other reason than we really needed to be plied with a smattering of food and drink. three-course lunches were never on our radar, but a panini and some fizzy stuff in a glass hit the spot just nicely. as is mostly the case with cyclists, and we're determined not to upset the apple cart, we rounded this off with a finely crafted double-espresso. well do we recognise that the effectiveness of an espresso has as much to do with the barista as it has with the blend, grind and machine from which it transpires. and that's just where mickey heads excels.
mickey has been manager at ardbeg distillery for more than just a handful of years, having previously been in charge at jura distillery. as a non-drinker, there's no way i can attest to the quality of the amber nectar produced under his tenure, but i don't mind sharing the knowledge that he can pull a mean double-espresso. and therein sort of lies the problem, because mr heads is a distillery manager and not the chap at whom you snap your fingers and ask for a bit of speed with the coffees.
yet another case of who you know rather than what.
in just over a couple of weeks, islay will be seriously inundated with thousands of whisky enthusiasts, keen to attend every masterclass, feast on every whisky-oriented dinner, follow each manager-led tour and generally involve themselves in every arcane aspect of whisky distilling that they figure fits well within their own self-imposed limits. and some of those visitors will arrive here on bicycles, though more often from a transportational point of view rather than for pelotonic reasons.
the islay whisky festival or fèis ìle as it sometimes likes to be referred follows a tried and tested format, with each distillery holding a pre-determined open day in a sequence that pretty much mitigates against the logical means of visiting each and every one in turn. for instance, the week will commence with an open day at lagavulin on saturday 21 may, followed by bruichladdich's celebratory courtyard event on sunday 22 may. even a quick glance at a map of islay will make you aware that neither of the above are anywhere near each other.
that monday will open with tours, tastings and masterclasses at caol ila simply compounds this velocipedinal estrangement even further. just look at that map once again.
the way to treat a bicycle tour of the distilleries, even if spread over a day or so, is to follow the route employed by the fellows from the scotch malt whisky society prior to the beginning of last year's festival. as the fourth member of that particular peloton, i might point out that we left from ardbeg distillery and visited in turn; lagavulin and laphroaig before heading north east along the glen road to take in caol ila, then bunnahabhain. subsequently we headed south west to kilchoman, then to bruichladdich and finally, bowmore.
granted, we omitted jura distillery at craighouse on our neighbouring island, but in truth, unless you're physically fit enough and have more than just a few hours to spare, that's one for another day.
of course, the flaw in this cunning plan is/was a total absence of whisky. aside from the possible inebriation that would follow downing a satisfying (so i'm told) dram at each port of call, time is of the essence. thus, though the above has proved the most efficient means of taking in each amber nectar repository, to actually enjoy the product, it would make more sense to ask for a miniature of whisky and sip at your leisure when the pedalling is done for the day. drunk in charge of a bicycle does not look good on your curriculum vitae.
however, there will still be the intrepid members of the cognoscenti who visit, if even only for a few days, by bicycle. most will rely on islay's scant public transport, employ the services of a local taxi firm, or have a nominated driver rota for the hire car.
but cycling to each is definitely the picturesque way to go when it's not the whisky festival.
thursday 5 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
last friday, as i was about to commence the working day, i was overcome by the pressing need for a peanut butter sandwich. none of your namby pamby smooth peanut butter you understand; real men only eat crunchy. in order to avoid both the friday rush in our local averagemarket and the thought that by lunchtime i might well have forgotten, i popped down main street to acquire the necessary ingredients.
as a minor aside prior to my continuing the original thread, why has it been found necessary to add sugar to peanut butter, particularly in the light that most brands already contain a detectable amount of also unnecessary (in my opinion) salt? surely one counteracts the other? and in so doing, ruin a perfectly good jar of peanut butter.
at any rate, on entering the shopping facility, i made note of a gentleman by the door, standing adjacent to a display promoting 'guide dogs for the blind'. assuming he was collecting on behalf of the charity and at that point having no loose change that would even cover the cost of a collar, i made good my shopping purchases, then headed in his direction, newly acquired loose change in hand.
it turns out, however, that i was slightly mistaken. the gentleman had no desire to relieve me of my jingly coins, but to entice me into signing a direct debit that might aid the training of a cute little labrador puppy, the cost of which would bring tears to your eyes. i am nothing if not occasionally charitable, so i readily succumbed to his ministrations, having agreed to provide a small monthly amount to eventually benefit a member of society who will probably never have the joy of riding a bike.
in this particular instance, the phrase a puppy isn't just for christmas' rings particularly true. and at the risk of seeming contradictorily superficial, it's an epithet that might just as easily apply to certain cycle jerseys.
the days of acquiring a cycle jersey for the sole purpose of pragmatism in the sunday morning peloton are seemingly behind us. ordering a shade of polyester that might fit well with your athletic considerations may well have been in vogue during yesteryear, but the modern day cycle jersey, always keen to carve out a life of its very own, may well have more historical or celebratory pretensions, a factor that could conceivably raise its position in the pecking order, either by way of fabric, design or most often, both.
this, the second in rapha's recently released rivals series, pays tribute to fausto coppi and his great adversary, the pious gino bartali, the two having fought long and hard against one another, even if it meant letting a third party take victory from their very toeclips. fashioned from 100% merino wool, this particular pastel coloured jersey, eschews the more usual zipped neck and collar in favour of three buttons and a collar more usually found on the modern-day polo-shirt.
its impracticality for many modes of riding can be plainly seen in the two buttoned chest pockets, neither of which is overly capacious and neither of which seemed keen to play host to a stowaway waterproof jacket and a mini pump. thus, assuming the mavic skoda to have the weekend off, you'll either have need of a frame-fit pump, a small rucksack or charge at the peloton on your touring bike with panniers. personally, i sidestepped the problem altogether by wearing a gilet provided with its very own rear pockets.
but, as my mother was often wont to proclaim "pride bears no pain"; if you have either coppi or bartali pretensions, quite honestly, who gives a fig if you have to put the price of a cup of coffee and a gluten-free, belgian chocolate brownie on the slate for once? and if a puncture strikes, you can walk, can't you?
impracticality aside, this is a beautiful jersey, not only to admire, but to wear. for no particular reason, folding my arms while sat staring into space elicited a feeling of velocipedinal superiority, none of which was related to athletic prowess. with no 'story label concealed about its person, the jersey arrives with its own unique story card, one side of which bears a small, matching coloured ice-cream cone, making manifest the gelato wording featured on the back as well as on the underside of the complementary casquette.
both are marked by their neapolitan colouring and distinctively italian influenced typography, the latter factor, in my estimation, every bit as important as the length of the jersey sleeves. the three button-holes on the jersey front have a strong cotton reinforcing strip along the back to maintain their composure in the face of such fine merino wool. each sleeve bears embroidered, flock-style lettering paying tribute to both riders (il pio and l'airone). neither might mean a lot to the young lady behind the counter at costa, but that's no less reason to appear smug when ordering a cappuccino with a faux italian accent.
though i figure it's perfectly acceptable to purchase the cap as a solo item, it behoves you well to acquire both if it's the jersey you're after. though rapha have not specifically earmarked this as a limited edition, i would be a tad surprised if there were containers full sitting in the forecourt at imperial works. while the jersey is every bit as comfortable and well-fitting as all other garments in the rapha range and ought to be worn with pride, there's also no doubt that it is also worth appreciating as a collector's item.
with the giro commencing this weekend, surely that's all the excuse you'd need to avail yourself of such characterful luxury?
the rapha gelato tricolore rivals jersey is available in sizes xs to xxl at a price of £130. the matching water resistant cotton cap is an additional £25.
wednesday 4 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
yesterday morning, in order that i might transport a couple of items to our beloved leader, the mighty dave t, i cycled the 30 kilometres from washingmachinepost croft in bowmore, all the way to the grand metropolis of port wemyss and that delightful whitewashed cottage that is the residence of the man himself. what seemed like a cunning plan at the time, turned into something of a badass slog, with a galeforce headwind and occasional heavy showers featuring head-on from bridgend all the way to the southernmost westerly tip of the island.
i had hoped to have enough time to indulge in conversation and metaphorically shoot the breeze with our directeur sportif, but so long did it take me to slog my way south, that on arrival i had little option but to carry out the delivery task in hand before immediately setting of to return home, via a timeous stop at debbie's café for a soya cappuccino and double-egg roll as some much needed sustenance.
the tailwind on my return was more than welcome and even though i was aboard the specialized awol elite, a rather heavy means of transport on 42mm tyres, i was not long in reaching the welcoming village of bruichladdich.
as you can perhaps imagine, after being sandblasted and rained upon, as i reached my back door ready to slump onto a kitchen chair, i could hardly avoid catching sight of my reflection in the kitchen window. regular visitors will be well aware that i have an aversion to hairdressers and though my greying, scraggly locks are always clean and shiny, i cannot recall the last time upon which i was commended for my neat and tidy appearance. in fact, give me a worn alpaca jacket, a woolly hat and an empty starbucks takeaway cup, and i could easily pass for the guy sat opposite the entrance to buchanan bus station, late on a saturday night.
sartorial may be a word often read, but scarcely inhabited in these black and yellow pixels, but it's very much a case of 'do as i say, not as i do'. however, surprising though it may be to hear, ever since i have entered the fray of velocipedinal commentary, a whole host of folks have seen fit to not only have yours truly turned out in a more respectable manner, but many another cyclist too.
where once we would have been satisfied to appear at the sunday morning ride in a replica motorola jersey thinner than most toilet paper, matched to a pair of shorts that only once resembled that which they purported to be, the intervening years have seen a more holistic approach to cycle clothing, an approach intent on having us appear more an integral part of society, than the pariah's we are often portrayed to be by those who are behind us in the queue for coffee and a piece of lemon drizzle cake. not least of these stalwart entities is britain's john smedley.
i am embarrassed to admit that until relatively recently, john smedley was a name i had not once come across. had i met the man in bowmore main street i would have known neither he nor that which he did for a living. but smedley's is one of, if not the oldest manufacturer in the united kingdom, having been founded at lea bridge, just outside matlock in 1784. and that wasn't yesterday.
if you take a moment to peruse the john smedley website, you will be introduced to a substantial range of highly prized knitwear, a fair proportion of which is fashioned from the cyclist's favourite; merino wool. this salient fact has obviously not by-passed the keen eyes at matlock, with one or two offerings casting more than a passing nod towards velocipedinal styling, an example of which can be seen within this feature in the style of the hugh merino sweater. as a dishevelled scot, i would be happier categorising this as a jumper, but whichever apellation by which you address it, there is no denying its style and quality.
though john smedleys do not specifically quantify this as pertaining to the inner-cyclist, it's not hard to make the connection via the half-length zip and stand-up collar. the only feature missing is those three rear pockets. it is constituted of a very fine merino knit, a superbly judged length in the sleeves and a warmth that easily belies its lack of bulk. this was made perfectly clear when heading to bruichladdich aboard my stately italian steel taurus, having need of opening the accompanying jacket just a tad to feel that cool prevailing south-westerly. rarely has such finely crafted luxury been nudged in the direction of the cyclist with taste and elegance (yours truly excepted, obviously).
but lest you think that all need have a pelotonic connection to be featured on thewashingmachinepost, i might also point you in the direction of the john smedley jig pullover, a teal coloured hooped jumper that takes me back to my late teens when i owned a scrappy, but much-loved acrylic jumper that i wore until it literally fell apart. of course, the crew-necked jig is of an order of quality far above that of the jumper of yesteryear, but its blue stripes evince the same vibe, if that doesn't come across as too pretentious?
the jig (a range currently at sale prices) is every bit as desirable as the hugh, perhaps more so if you prefer to keep your velocipedinal life separate from your civilian identity. i cheerfully wore this to the office every day for a week (it is merino after all), as well as one or two coffee inflected travels. though i am more than enamoured with the styling of the hugh jumper, i've a feeling that the jig will, just like its predecessor, be worn until there are only a couple of merino threads remaining.
stunningly fabulous. and that's not a phrase that can be applied to many entirely british made products these days.
the john smedley hugh pullover is available in a range of colours and in sizes that range from small through xxl at a price of £175. the jig pullover in three differing colourways is currently on sale at £75 in the same sizing range as the hugh.
tuesday 3 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................