in 1933, the new york based clothier de pinna offered a houndstooth pattern as part of its men's suits collection for the spring of that year. it's a pattern that originated in woven cloth from the scottish lowlands; something of a tradition with regard to scottish originated patterns, joining the argyle pattern which found favour in the professional cycling milieu with the garmin team and its antecedents.
according to italian cycle clothing coturier, la passione the houndstooth check pattern dates back to the ..."very origins of cycling". though i have no visual evidence to confirm this, since i'm parochially predisposed towards supporting any evidence for scottish velocipedinal influence, i'm willing to go along with it. a quick perusal of the la passione website on which this particular summer jersey features will elicit their naming of the jersey as pdp, initials that, at first glance, would seem unrelated to the brash, fully-featured pattern on offer.
however, it transpires that a french name for the houndstooth pattern is 'pied-de-poule', hence the pdp apellation and if i'm totally honest, a far better name for such a striking jersey design.
la passione's short-sleeve summer jersey has been in my possession for a few weeks, but in precisely the opposite state of affairs that usually follows receipt of any waterproofs for review (the current spate of warm, sunny days began almost on the very day that i received a rather sturdy waterproof jacket for review), until recently, it has been too cold to ride clad in such a finely crafted jersey.
as with many other itens from the la passione range, the pdp jersey is race cut. in other words, it not only feels a smidgeon odd when stood in front of the bathroom mirror, but doesn't quite look right in the right places either. climb aboard the bicycle, however, and the italian strategy comes home to roost in the shape of a very finely adjudged fit. in fact, throughout the rides, you'd be forgiven for thiking you'd left home wearing only the baselayer underneath.
the jersey is a combination of three distinct fabrics with micro-mesh side panels aiding breathability and moisture wicking. the hem features little blobs of gloopy stuff to keep the jersey in the same position it was when you lifted the bike from the bikeshed. though the world was a warmer place when admitting to short sleeves, i cannot deny that i still had need of armwarmers. those optimistic temperatures espoused by over-eager weathermen do not take into account any degree of windchill. and up here, there's always windchill.
and just to complete a vision of sartorial elegance, there's a pair of matching pied-de-poule socks.
la passione have produced a visually excellent cycle jersey at a particularly attractive price. i cannot deny that i'd have preferred a zipped valuables pocket, something i figure ought to be mandatory whether the garment in question has professional pretensions or not. it would also be nice to have seen a zip-garage at the collar, though it would be unfair to hold la passione to account in this respect, when there are others who do likewise. on the plus side, the sleeves are exactly the length you'd fervently hope for in a short-sleeve cycle jersey
la passione's summer pdp jersey costs a mere £54, so i'd advise ordering immediately before they realise the calculator needs new batteries. it can be had in sizes xs to xxl and is also available in blue. the socks are available in sizes 36/39, 40/43 and 44/46 at a cost of £9
sunday 15 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
cycling weekly has been featuring a weekly series in which they pay a visit to one of the country's cycling clubs. it may be that prior to their arrival, the club president has possibly enforced a three-line whip to ensure each member hoping to appear in the chaingang is dressed in team-issue clothing. for in truth, any clubs i have seen on the road are rarely distinguished by such a comprehensive turnout. some of the designs do rather call into question the practice of graphic design in one or two corners of the kingdom, but generally speaking, the jerseys and jackets are what one might term colourful.
the same can be said for the professional peloton. not only are the leaders' jerseys presented in resplendent pink, yellow and whatever colour the spanish have nominated for any particular year, but also the points and climbers' jerseys. and though black may have become de rigeur for team colours in past years, i'm sure i've detected a brightening of hues over the past couple of years. even team sky have added a white hoop across the front to lessen the effect of black and blue.
similarly, many of the jerseys available to the rest of us, tyres firmly planted in the here and now of strava, feature more than just a splash of colour, freed from the restrictions of sponsors' diktat. thus clad in our dayglo orange or green helmets, cycling eyewear on which the lenses resemble the colours oil makes when you drop it on a wet road and jerseys and jackets designed to alert the drivers of forty-foot articulated trucks, we can be mistaken for the bright and cheery, even though most of us are indeed bright and cheery.
except, of course, for the dour looking group of touring cyclists i passed on the way home from a modest bout of froth supping last friday afternoon. always keen to wave and say 'hi' to those fortunate enough to visit the hallowed isle, every one of the separated group of five failed to even raise their heads from the road to return my salutations.
they were not bright and cheery at all.
despite one or two snatches of colour on the bicycles of the velo club peloton, our velocipedes hardly represent a cornucopia of shades and hues, likely to have passing civilians wish that they too were wearing sunglasses featuring lenses with the colours seen when dropping oil onto a wet road. and when we take into consideration the nature of contemporary componentry and tyres, we really are in the land of the grey and pink, but without the pink.
or maybe there is hope after all, brought in my direction, incidentally, by two travelling cyclists met on the road yesterday, just as i was heading towards bridgend auction mart. in my defence, colourwise, i was aboard the taurus corinto, a bicycle that is dressed in a stately beige (or cream, as i would prefer to refer), dressed in a marginally brighter shade of osloh cycling jeans and a deep blue rapha city riding wind jacket. the idiosyncratic beacon midst this melange of sartorial elegance, was my mint green manual for speed casquette, a garment that itself is worth almost 2kph.
the two visiting cyclists, who appeared to have every single one of their belongings strapped to a pair of fatbikes had bright pink and bright green fat tyres; pink for her, green for him. in direct contrast to those ignoramus's met last week, these two were all smiles and waves and bright tyres.
so why is it that in the second decade of the 21st century, tyres are still black, occasionally with tan sidewalls? yes, i know that one or two prominent manufacturers have dipped a toe or two in the water by featuring coloured portions of tread, but on the basis of their modest success in this direction, why not go the whole hog and make the tyres a solid colour?
seems like a bright idea to me.
saturday 14 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it seems likely that many of us have been made aware that the planet mercury has been making a bit of a journey across the face of our sun this past week. if i've understood the astronomers correctly, it appears that, unlike the earth which spins on its own axis, mercury might have more of a static disposition, apparently offering not only the hottest planetary surface in our solar system, but on its dark side, quite possibly the coldest.
thankfully, in the face of unbridled sunshine, as experienced on the facing surface of mercury, but at a distance of 93 million miles, i have a choice of eyewear. and unlikely though it might seem, the hebrides appear also to have been making their very own journey across the face of the sun during this past week. may is the month in which the islay whisky festival takes place, only one week away as i write and in recent years, with maybe the odd exception, it has been our tantalising introduction to summer.
i use the word tantalising because more often than not, after a week or so of blue skies and mercury inflected sunshine, it all disappears as quickly as it arrived. and we are then back to the more usual wind and rain. though we've been blessed with the aforementioned wall to wall sunshine, until the latter part of the week, the wind has remained, apparently giving cause for concern on the part of a visiting contractor. he caught the headwind at the start of uiskentuie strand and began to wonder if he'd ever make it to the opposite end.
the daily walk to the newsagent and averagemarket has been serially punctuated by the receipt of expressions of delight at the weather, expressions which i have been less than eager to repeat by return. i cannot deny there is a certain amount of deliberate mischief in my contrary retorts, because i well know that, within a week or two, folks will be complaining as much as they're currently celebrating. and you just know that the farmers won't be long in complaining, because that's what farmers do.
that said and admitted, there is something less than character building about sun from morning till night. stowed away are the armwarmers, kneewarmers, thermal bibshorts and long-sleeve jerseys. there is nothing less onerous than heading out dressed in a short-sleeve jersey and bibshorts, matched with socks so short, they would have embarrassed the calf muscles of lance armstrong. and as every astrophysicist knows, hot air is markedly less dense than cold, meaning even a near gale-force wind in mid-may has nowhere near the force of imposition that its winter counterpart imparts.
don't misunderstand me completely; i am more than keen to re-acquaint myself with hitherto forgotten garments in the cycling wardrobe. it will be something of a novelty having the opportunity to cultivate even faint hints of tan lines, though experience has taught us that the centre rear pocket ought still to contain a waterproof jacket.
you have to admit, there's something unnatural about having fought hard to adopt a flandrian personality then not complaining when things turn pleasant.
friday 13 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
this past few days, i've been dipping in and out of the tv coverage of the giro d'italia, debating whether the racing interrupts my work or the other way round. as with all the grand tours, we and the riders are eased into the daily routine (you'll appreciate that the word eased has different relative meanings to both of the above), with many of the early climbs being those you and i could probably manage if push came to shove, though admittedly a lot slower.
most of the early parcours are thus relatively flat, the sort of enticing route that keeps the sprinters happy, long before they have need of forming a grupetto and hoping to survive until milan. the same situation often pervades both the tour de france and the vuelta; business as usual. the downside to this, over a distance of at least 100 kilometres, is less than stimulating viewing. yes, those distances are necessary, as part of the wearing down process to ensure that the entire peloton does not arrive at the finish line en-masse, though sometimes it looks as if that is indeed the case.
what is needed, at least in respect of the entertainment value, is at least one rider with the panache and bravado to hammer off the front with irritating persistance. someone like tommy voeckler, or maybe jens voigt?
the former is still very much a part of the contemporary peloton, having recently won the tour de yorkshire, but voigt retired at the end of the 2014 season and is a rider that will be missed, not least for those who were endeared of using the hashtag #shutuplegs. which, not entirely coincidentally, is the name of his autobiography published by ebury press today. whether simultaneously or not, the book is published in north america by bicycling magazine publishers, rodale, with whom voigt's confidant in this autobiography (james startt) is currently employed.
there is little doubt that jens voigt was one of the professional peloton's individual characters, a man who, either by necessity or preference (quite possibly a bit of both) displayed an eager predilection for making continuous breakaways from whichever peloton he happened to be a part. it's the sort of ability that many of us wished we possessed and many have tried feebly to emulate.
voigt is most definitely a talker, but perhaps not so much of a writer,
"I got nothing done because everywhere I went people said, 'Hello! How are you? ...so I had to talk to everybody in every store I went into for 15 or 20 minutes."
the collaboration comes across as one where jens talked a lot and james startt recorded and then typed a lot. it may also be the reason for the american spellings used throughout and the addition of the word 'super' in front of such as 'motivated', 'important' and 'excited'. however, even if shut up legs is the literary equivalent of jens sitting in your lounge for an evening or two, shooting the breeze, it's an enjoyable distraction for 231 pages.
born and raised in east germany before the wall came down, voigt had already shown promise as a cyclist, an ability that the east german athletic system had already recognised. "In East Germany, my life was pretty much spelled out for me. As long as I continued to perform and get results, I was treated as an elite athlete, a professional basically."
when the wall came down, however, voigt struggled to convince any professional teams to take a punt on signing a rider with a palmares that already included the world cup competition, the peace race as well as the commonwealth bank classic in australia. his big break and for which he informs us he is eternally grateful, came from gan team boss, roger legeay.
"...I came across the CV of rider I'd never heard of: Jens Voigt. And when I looked him up, I noticed that he was already one of the top-50 ranked riders in the world. I was dumbfounded! How does some unknown guy get into the top 50?"
the rest, as they say, is (recent) history.
as inferred from my opening paragraphs, you could pretty much always rely on voigt to get in an early breakaway, riding as if there was no such thing as a cunning plan. oddly enough, though the book contains a comprehensive index at the back, there is no sign of voigt's final palmares. the number of races won, often from one of those characteristic breakaways, can only be gleaned from the narrative.
if it doesn't sound too odd when in print, voigt comes across as every bit as friendly and approachable as his reputation would suggest. many of the chapters commence with views of jens from team-mates and managers met along the way. and it seems genuinely that no-one has a bad word to say about the man. there's also the distinct impression that voigt is secure enough in his own skin to have quoted the less than impressed should such an individual been found.
"Jens, quite simply, extended my career by two full years. By 1998, when he came on board with the GAN team, I was having a tough time. It was getting harder and harder to win anything. But when Jens came into the team, everything for him was an adventure, everything! It was brilliant."
he is very outspoken against the use of drugs in cycling, occasionally finding himself on the wrong side of pelotonic opinion, where his colleagues would apparently have preferred he kept his opinions to himself. and despite being mostly self-effacing and modest in both his claims and personality, chapter 22 came as somoething of a surprise. here he deals with the jensie phenomenon a level of fandom that i would have thought voigt might have treated as entertaining, but hardly one that might stroke an ego, one that to this point at least, had seemed commendably dormant.
"One day during the 2011 Tour of Colorado, I was in a big break, like a 12-man break, when out of nowhere, an official race car pulled up alongside of us, and suddenly baseball superstar Barry Bonds stuck his head out the window and yelled 'Go Jens! ...There were 11 Americans in the group, and Barry Bonds was yelling for Jensie!"
amassing 10,000 twitter followers in one hour seems to have turned his head more than this reader would have expected.
the above mention of baseball superstar barry bonds, along with a later comparison of the conjoining of leopard-trek with radio-shack nissan as being like merging "NBA's Dallas Mavericks with the Los Angeles Lakers" may be two instances that leave european readers none the wiser. though i've already mentioned this to be a book written by an american and published separately across the pond, it seems just a tad incongruous to feature americana in an autobiography of an east german bike rider. points such as this, for your truly at least, rather calls into question the pure definition of the word and concept of an autobiography.
that said, it's an admittedly superficial point that scarcely detracts from the entertaining nature of 'shut up legs'. the writing style is almost purely conversational and thus easy on the eye. even when describing what i assume jens views as his ultimate victory, the hour record, his approach manages to combine both intensity and levity simultaneously.
an enjoyable and lighthearted ride.
thursday 12 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if i might begin this narrative at somewhat of a tangent, i'd like you to consider the state of affairs presiding on purchase of a new snare drum. and on the basis that this might be a situation that many will not have had the joy to experience, i will, for a moment, elucidate.
though there are as many ways to tune (or tension, if you prefer) a snare drum as there are adele fans in the world, every drum company appears to operate a standard tuning procedure, resulting in each new snare arriving in a similar state of percussive intent. i cannot deny that the more than pleasant snap to be heard on striking said drum with a stick that just happens to be adjacent to one's tv chair (doesn't everyone have one of those?) is most agreeable, it's rarely the specific sound i have convinced myself i wish to hear.
new snare drums have more than just a few things in common with new bikes, not least of which is an overwhelming need to go try them out as soon as they're released from the box. both will need personal fettling to suit their new owner, ministrations that inevitably only increase the longing to either pedal or paradiddle. but few would disagree that those ministrations are a necessary part of human development.
the scene thus set is more than applicable to many another pertinent situation, but here i am specifically thinking of bibshorts and short sleeve jerseys. i say this because the way the apparel providers often portray the potential joy to be garnered straight from the packaging, is rarely that which fits with individual circumstances.
though i write this in the middle of an unnaturally west coast warm spell that currently has every window in the croft flung wide open in the quest for physical coolness, this is very much the exception rather than the rule. short sleeve jerseys received in the hebrides at the end of april are almost never going to be worn in such solitary manner. more likely they will be accessorised with armwarmers, a gilet, or more likely, a wind and waterproof jacket. and even if the latter is not worn from the outset, it will have need of ensconcement in a rear pocket.
similarly with bibshorts; it is a brave or foolish fellow who sets out for the sunday ride, confident that his knees will not have succumbed to weather borne cryogenics before froth supping time. the bibshorts will have almost undoubtedly been matched to a pair of knee or legwarmers. and just to be philosophical for a moment, if bibshorts cover a full-length pair of legwarmers, should they not be considered as two piece tights?
anyhoo, with one or two days worth of exceptions, to consider the two rivelo items in any manner other than discrete components of a comfortable bike ride, would seem either naive or foolhardy. for it is every bit an important facet of such garmentage that they fulfil any situation into which they are thrown. thus, a headwind inflected ride of more than just a few dozen kilometres where the rivelo peaslake jersey played the part of mid-layer under a gilet, and the honister bibshorts were matched with an appropriate pair of kneewarmers can hardly be seen as iniquitous.
the burgundy pattern that alternates between flat panel, thin white/burgundy hoops and a couple just a tad more slab-like, is pleasantly odd and quirky enough to commend itself to the pelotonese. the high-wicking properties of its remarkably thin and pleasingly soft fabric are indeed the very characteristics you'd hope for 'neath gilet or jacket. the armwarmers were just plain necessary to keep my arms warm.
the kneewarmers fulfilled a similar function south of the border. i realise that you have me portrayed as a rough, tough hebridean flandrian who wears shorts all year round, and i cannot deny the part i have played in encouraging just such an impression. but in truth, those knees did not adopt chris hoy proportions without an appropriate level of cossetting.
the kneewarmers, however, have little or no bearing on what are a particularly ideal pair of bibshorts. i did have slight misgivings over the height of the waist when considering the occasional natural break, but those proved to be unfounded. the cytech pad provided all the fit and comfort you'd expect from what would seem to be the industry standard.
i have since had the good fortune to ride in jersey and bibshorts al fresco, if you catch my drift and they provided everything they'd promised. but i often find you can discover more about cycle clothing when worn as part of an overall look, one more akin to the real world engendered by a uk climate. in this respect, rivelo are to be commended on both these ostensibly summer season offerings.
after all, were they truly for summer wear only, why would they be any use to me?
the rivelo peaslake jersey is available in blue, grey or burgundy (reviewed), in sizes small to xxl at a cost of £90. the honister bibshorts are in basic black with blue, red, grey or black trim in similar sizes at a cost of £120.
wednesday 11 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it seems a long, long time since i filled at least a few of these pixels with tales of derring-do in the quest for a decent espresso. known as the espresso run, what i took for a reasonable distance each saturday afternoon was, in fact, a mere 35km round trip and i'm pretty sure my speed would barely have troubled the digits on a garmin. however, in those dark and distant days, 'twas the only hostelry offering anything resembling a designer coffee and i had yet to learn the meaning of fast. graeme obree taught me that.
nowadays, however, life is far more luxurious; even the venerable ancestral home at ardbeg's old kiln café has finally, after much pushing and shoving, installed a proper coffee machine, dispensing a tad more than just a cafetiere's worth (good though it was). with debbie now installed at the self-styled bistro in port charlotte's port mòr centre, there is a almost a holiday resort of coffee practitioners, commencing at roy's celtic house in bowmore, punctuated by bridgend hotel three miles away, before reaching the original debbie's in bruichladdich.
that's the south end of the island taken care of by ardbeg, the centre and mid west by those just mentioned and if you're intent on heading north to caol ila and/or bunnahabhain, there's always labels in ballygrant village. it may not be the centre of london, glasgow or edinburgh, but for a tiny rock on the edge of the atlantic, it's pretty ginger peachy, if you ask me.
the geographically alert amongst you, however, will have noticed the obvious gap in the firmament; the south of the rhinns in the region of portnahaven and port wemyss. on leaving port charlotte, whether you choose the coast road via kilchiaran, or settle for the main road along loch indaal, there's pretty much nothing in the way of industrialisation until you can see orsay lighthouse on your horizon. and up until recent times, there wasn't much else to see when you got there.
currently enjoying only takeaway status for the time being at least, the braeside gallery has strayed sideways from its original intention of offering island appropriate illustration and photography. facing the intrepid cyclist with the perspicacity to pedal the seven or so miles from port charlotte, on arrival at the metropolis are two inviting cycle racks outside the gallery. inside, hazel cunningham, the photographer responsible for many of the images on the gallery walls, oversees a compact, bijou and shiny coffee machine ready and waiting to offer takeaway espressos, lattés, flat whites, cappuccinos and perchance, even a normal black coffee.
and, as every cyclist knows almost from birth, coffee tastes so much better when accompanied by a slice of cake or, perchance, a scone. the more ravenous can opt for soup accompanied by home-made bread.
based entirely on passing observation, many of the cyclists heading in this particular direction are riding bicycles festooned with panniers and bags, frequently capacious enough to carry most if not all of their respective houses. thus, the wide array of framed imagery covering the gallery's walls is almost bound to contain something of interest to the visiting pelotonese, sized just right to fit in the small gap at the rear of the nearside pannier. rather obviously, these can be perused at leisure while supping a takeaway coffee and dropping crumbs over the wooden floor. and there's table and chairs outside.
and as the heading clearly states, tell them we sent you.
tuesday 10 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................