in the modern digital age, we are forever congratulating ourselves on our arguably enhanced communication skills, leveraging the power of all those odd little icons that appear on many a website. even the post has a link somewhere abouts to inform you that i'm also on twitter, though if you were expecting a more concise and intellectual stream of consciousness encapsulated in the brevity of 140 characters, i can assure you, you will be sadly disappointed. however, there is little doubt that our professed media modernity is very much at the behest of a real intellectual.
herbert marshall mcluhan.
a canadian by birth, his work is viewed as the basis of contemporary media theory and he was a shining star of media discourse in the 1960s. however, in the decade leading up to his death in 1980, the media world conveniently forgot from whence they came and his influence correspondingly declined. however, now that the internet is very much upon us, his work has gained a new perspective and interest in his theories is now on the increase.
published in 1964 his best known book 'understanding media: the extensions of man' proposed that it is the medium itself that affects society and thus ought to be the subject of study, rather than that which it delivers to that society. this lead to his famous, yet often unattributed slogan "the medium is the message". the basis of this pivotal statement should not be lost on a velocipedinal society that is bombarded with messages day in, day out, most recently on the jerseys of those who have just endured the three weeks in july.
in our case, there can be little doubt that the medium has quite forcefully become the message.
however, there are arguably lesser forms of media communication that can still benefit greatly from the medium in or on which they are introduced. take a quick visit to the website fontfont to appraise yourself of just how many typefaces currently inhabit only one corner of the typographic world. and within a year's time, there will be very many more that have joined them in typographic heaven or typeface hell. i often pause during any design exercise to question just how many typefaces the world really needs. but then along comes a message described in an idiosyncratic letter or two that easily justifies the continuing quest for the holy font.
most recently just such a happenstance occurred on discovering russ jones' delectable poster for the launch party of hackney gt's 'made in england' range. in a clever use of type, words incorporating the message are repeated on several of the jerseys themselves. a form of velocipedinal synchronicity, if you will. however, this is no random choice of typefaces from an almost forgotten catalogue; ross has begun working with swifty former assistant to typographic supremo, neville brody. the results are impressive.
but enough of the message for now, except to note that the typeface most boldly imprinted on both launch poster and the occasional jersey is entitled mexico 68, an apt choice perhaps in the runup to this year's olympic games in rio de janeiro. hackney gt has, to a certain extent, bucked the trend of many of today's principal cycle clothing brands to source their manufacturing in italy or the far east by keeping it all much closer to home.
england, to be specific.
featuring jerseys that can clothe both roadies and offroadies along with armwarmers (one pair of which would not look out of place in an escher exhibition), socks and baselayers, the launch party is happening tomorrow evening in the launch venue to end all launch venues, that of look mum no hands! in london's old street from 6pm til 10pm. the lettering on the poster promises music, drinks, bikes and one or two promotional offers.
sadly, i am domiciled just a ferry trip too far north to join the merry throng, but assuming you're a darned sight closer, perhaps you'd care to pop along, view the jerseys, admire the typefaces and let me know how much fun you had.
monday 25 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
review bicycles tend to arrive in one of two formats. they are either completely assembled with only the bars to attach and straighten, or they are encased in endless amounts of bubble wrap and polystyrene held together with enough zip-ties to attach the space shuttle to the international space station. additionally, the former is packaged inside a carboard box bearing an uncanny resemblance to a glasgow tenement and which probably attracts a commensurate amount of council tax. they're the ones that give me the biggest headache, because i've nowhere to store the box until such time as the bicycle is due to return to its rightful owner.
the bubble-wrapped version, though quite possibly the more tedious of the two, is the one i prefer. despite the fear that modern cycling technology is beginning to get the better of me, having to fiddle with cables, derailleur clamps, disc brakes, saddles and the like, provides an enticing insight into the operational possibilities that the fully assembled cycle might offer.
long gone (i hope) are the days when an internally routed rear brake cable meant hours of considerable faff and the learning of several (loud) new swear words trying in vain to get the darned brake wire to come out the other end. nowadays, at least in the case of the most recent delivery, there are nifty transparent cable liners pre-inserted into the frame to ease the process. and the whole spaghetti junction can then be hidden from view and from damage by means of a carbon plate under the bottom bracket.
isn't progress wonderful?
there then ensues what i might euphemistically refer to as calibration time when precious minutes of bike riding are squandered, trying to comprehend why the chain runs smoothly from small sprocket to large sprocket, yet stubbornly refuses to head in the opposite direction. in the good old days, affixing the cable to that rear gear mech was simplicity itself; nowadays, in the case of sram at least, there's a short length of wire already in place to describe a more complex routing. but in the manner of the instruction manual accompanying almost anything, i failed to pay any attention before removing it, turning an easy process into an agatha christie mystery.
assuming that all the foregoing does not meet itself coming back in the opposite direction, it is time to saddle up and head off into the sunrise.
but, at the risk of pointing out the glaringly obvious, all the above has been carried out on a workstand, bearing as much resemblance to real-life as does training on the turbo. getting the kilometres in is almost bound to throw up both major and minor deficiencies in my mechanical knowledge, ranging from a few millimetres askance on the saddle height, to a set of handlebars that don't quite point in the same direction as the front wheel. and that's precisely where an appropriately sized multi-tool comes in.
distributed in the uk by edinburgh's 2 pure, unior tools offer the snappily named 1655fh multifunctional bicycle tool set containing the majority of doohickies that the cyclist would need to perform minor mechanical duties. except, there are two items the purpose of which i simply cannot fathom, despite reading the list provided on the back of the sales card.
however, the tools that i can identify, and there are eleven of those, proved invaluable for what might be termed fettling-on-the-fly. there are even a couple of spoke keys built into the chain rivet extractor. couple the 1655fh's versatility with its impressively compact and bijou form factor, occupying one small corner of a rear pocket, you'd need a darned good reason not to own one of these, especially at the particularly attractive price of around £25.
though i generally carry a multi-tool in my saddle pack on each bicycle, unpacking that every time there's a minor adjustment to be made is just too much hassle. reaching into a back pocket is a far more amenable use of energy when there's still cycling to be undertaken.
and the chrome is so shiny, you can check for mud on your face after cyclocrossing, but before coffee.
sunday 24 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it is rarely the subject of dignified conversation nowadays, but it most likely should be. so caught up are we in how many chainrings are required to provide a decent set of gear ratios with the minimum of effort, that the thought of hub gears has evaporated into the ether. yet if logic were followed to its ultimate, pragmatic conclusion, those would be foremost whenever discussion turned to the possibilities of transmission.
let's face it, the derailleur has evolved more or less as far as it can go, despite the very best efforts of today's electricians. it will prove ever harder to cram more sprockets into the space between the hub flange and the dropouts, always assuming no-one suggests moving the latter just a few millimetres further apart in the meantime. though a mechanism of admirable simplicity, there's no denying its exposure to the elements, something not to be taken too lightly when indulging in off-road activities such as mountain-biking or cyclocross.
hub gears, on the other hand, are substantially more robust; it only takes one attempt to lift a bicycle equipped with a rohloff fourteen-speed to find that out. and that, to be less than sparing, is the nub of the problem: weight. the relatively harmless sturmey-archer three-speed only begins to test the patience of the average weight-weenie, but there's no doubt that the more complex, though pragmatic, rohloff displays a greater attachment to gravity than its less well-specced ancestor.
if someone had the ability to merge the lighter weight and relative simplicity of the sturmey three-speed with the gear range of the rohloff and offer it as a package that would scare a campagnolo super record into a corner, the velocipedinal world would be a better place. well, maybe.
yet despite the considerable room for progress in this field, the hub gear remains the poor second cousin, deigned forever to live in the province of the commuting or (even more demeaning) leisure cyclist. allegedly, the latter two denominations are less demanding when it comes to progress, content to ride bicycles that were fashionable several decades ago and for which high modulus carbon fibre continues to seem like a twisted form of alchemy.
i have had the pleasure of riding a beloved city bicycle round the streets of portland's fair city powered by a shimano alfine eight-speed hub gear. combined with the pent-up alacrity of the beloved's high-spec steel frame, this was more than just a simple joy, hinting at the possibilities yet to be discovered on my behalf. sadly, since those rose-tinted days in the american pacific northwest, little headway seems to have been made.
or perhaps i've simply not been paying attention.
however, despite the oft repeated paragraph that a sturmey three-speed never offers the right gear at the right time, it still holds a prominent place in the pelotonic psyche, contributing selflessly to the concept of slow cycling, both philosophically and practically. if i recall correctly, second gear on a sturmey is effectively a direct drive to whatever size of wheel it has been built into. first gear is a thirty-three percent reduction, while third offers a thirty-three percent increase. though apparently less popular, i could foresee a greater lifespan for their eponymous five speed hub, particularly in its lightweight aluminium flavouring.
but when along comes friday afternoon and the now almost institutional playing hooky for a friendly coffee at debbie's, the necessity to perambulate uiskentuie strand at a velocity dictated by those fixed percentages, even the sheep inhabiting the roadside verges are wont to simply stand and stare as opposed to their more scattergun behaviour when faced with a set of drop bars and skinny wheels.
no matter one's thoughts of ascending the ventoux or descending from the cipressa, those three gears provide a similar result to editing the day's news into ten pages; a restriction. rather obviously, when powering a steel, italian built taurus corinto that is far closer to thirty pounds in weight than twenty, alacrity is not a word that features too often. it is a means, however, to rediscovering a form of cycling that has absolved itself from narcissism, a stately mode of travel that stops just short of encouraging the royal wave to passing cattle and visiting tourists.
come the revolution etc....
saturday 23 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
you may wish to infer from my heading that i am, once more, about to break a promise not to mention the race currently nearing completion in a country just across the channel. but for once, you'd be wrong. in fact, just to give credence to my protestations, i intend to begin with reference to douglas adams' most famous book.
in the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy (apparently often referred to as hg2g), characters such as ford prefect, arthur dent, zaphod beeblebrox and trillian are all mere pawns in the overarching scheme that has been set in motion and ultimately revealed by slartibartfast, to answer the question that has puzzled all beings since the beginning of time. what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything? i would attempt to be trite at this point and aver that those of us on two wheels have already discovered the answer, but that would scarcely have serious bearing on the remainder of my treatise.
as it turns out, the answer to this universal query is the number forty-two, a factor that only serves to prove that those posing the question, never quite understood what they were asking in the first place. it is a situation with which most, if not all of us, can identify; coming to terms with an answer with which we are less than familiar.
however, not to become too existential before breakfast, there are velocipedinal situations which appear outwardly to be just a tad on the confusing side. but for those 'in the know', the cognoscenti, if you will, all is as plain as the noses on our faces. though i have made previous reference to rapha's original press advertisement in rouleur magazine, the association of a campagnolo 15mm crank bolt spanner and a jar of crunchy peanut butter (real men never eat smooth) is one with which many a cyclist of a certain era will immediately identify. to have to explain the punchline would only diminish its effect.
i have long castigated bicycle advertisements in the cycling media for their demeaning unoriginality. given that we are all familiar with the form and function of that which we desire, to simply offer us a photograph of the same, scarcely constitutes an entreaty to empty the piggy bank in favour of the manufacturer. if nothing else, it displays an overt patronising of the pelotonese; that we are hardly worth turbo-charging the marketing department to win us over with a pictorial demonstration of like-mindedness.
of course, in the process of attempting to underline my point, specious though it may be at close quarters, i may well have generalised somewhat. there are those who have broken the mold to demonstrate at least a modicum of flair to differentiate themselves from the taiwanese masses. heaping praise upon the un-named, however, in no way lessens my disappointment with those alternate pages in the cycling press.
unless, of course, i might bring to your attention the current double-page spreads placed by specialized bicycles. i think i need do no more than point you towards the illustration heading this feature, because in my opinion, that pretty much says it all.
friday 22 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as a student in the halcyon days of yore, my summer employment was with a company called grand metropolitan, an edifice subsequently absorbed into the large corporate melange that is diageo. in my final season in their employ, they opted to computerise their accounts system, but in order that the house of cards did not come tumbling about their ears, the original book-based structure was run in tandem. at the end of the twelve-month trial period, nothing untoward had occurred with the digital version, so the books were unceremoniously dumped.
this was well over thirty years ago and few are the businesses or homes that rely on pen and paper anymore. even yours truly has relegated those moleskine day-to-a-page diaries to the back of the bedside cabinet drawer, preferring to rely on setting reminders on my ipod. pen and paper is fine, but it's remembering to look at it each day in order that promised actions and events can be fulfilled. the ipod beeps and apple's icloud ensures that the same beep is repeated on my macbook air, just in case the ipod is still in a jacket pocket somewhere.
but, between 17:03 on tuesday 19 july until almost twenty-fours later, british telecom had a serious national outage on their residential broadband servers. i sat on a phone listening to on-hold music for over thirty-five minutes before speaking to a real person in order to lodge this apparently singular fault. on wednesday, i attempted bt's online chat facility to find out if they could tell me when a repair would be effected. at the point when i eventually gave up, i had been waiting twenty minutes and the text advised me that i was in a queue with an adviser expected within a further thirty-five minutes.
not only has modern society come to rely quite heavily on computers (take thewashingmachinepost for example), but the pelotonic niche has done likewise, graduating from those little devices attached to the handlebars that have grown like topsy, informing of all manner of digital information, including gps related numbers that can be subsequently uploaded to strava. not for nothing are the good folks at n+one t-shirts offering a design that prompts "if you see me collapse, pause my strava".
at one time, legend had it that you could tell if you were a cycling obsessive by whether you immediately asked after the bicycle in the aftermath of a crash. now, it seems that nothing matters more than whether a ride's strava information is kept intact.
it would be insidious of me to begin pointing fingers at those who cannot cycle anywhere at all without a garmin, or simlar device, strapped to the bars. yes, indeed, it is a form of obsessive/compulsive behaviour of which those in thrall often remain quite oblivious and in my opinion it seems an unnecessary addition of faff to any bike ride. i am quite content in my own skin without the need to demonstrate how poor is my ability to breach any of the local strava 'king of the mountain' sectors.
it is, however, no more a demonstration of obsessive behaviour than riding in rain peppered gale-force winds when, quite plainly, there is no sane reason so to do. in fact, it is no more obsessive than feeling a compulsion to go out riding each and every sunday morning, except, of course, that strava involves computers. which is sort of where we came in.
so, despite science's constant striving to create the 'internet of things', it well behoves the pelotonese to retain a salient perspective on the pure joy of a simple bike ride, no matter the inherent cost of the carbon fibre on which this takes place. there's fun to be had that doesn't depend on numbers, though the latter can augment on occasion.
the dark side can be sneaky that way.
thursday 21 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i know that it's going to happen; the tricky bit is guessing at what point in islay's summer season it will transpire. for the isles are an ever more common destination for the intrepid and perhaps not-so-intrepid cyclist, encouraged, no doubt, by calmac's largesse in allowing bicycles on their boats for free. couple that with the idea of island-hopping - boarding a series of ferries to visit a number of the western isles on a single ticket - and half the work's already been done for you.
all that remains is the booking of accommodation along the way and the not inconsiderable joy of pedalling.
but while i would scarcely ride from the croft to gartbreck farm a few kilometres up the road without a spare tube, a multi-tool and tyre-levers, it seems that there are those so enamoured with their own sense of independence, that they're happy to cycle hither and thither half-way across the country without so much as a water bottle.
in the past few days, i have already been approached by three unfortunates requiring to be baled out from a series of velocipedinal happenstances. one fellow needed a replacement spoke, a situation with which i have a degree of sympathy, and another chap had a three-day old chain break at the very point when you'd least appreciate it doing so. only good fortune prevented him becoming a boy soprano for the rest of his life.
however, the third unfortunate required a replacement inner-tube, having suffered the second puncture in as many days. prior to popping up to the croft in order to garner an appropriate tube, i enquired whether the male member of the couple was perfectly at ease with fitting the tube himself. it was at this point that he made it plain that not only did he not have the skill to do so, he had no tools whatsoever to help him accomplish such a task. that, you may not be surprised to hear, included a lack of a pump.
in fact, between man and wife, or maybe boyfriend and girlfriend, they were cycling through the southern hebrides with nothing other than themselves and bicycles. and neither of the latter were exactly in pristine condition. as if this situation were scarcely humorous enough (from my point of view), having removed the rear wheel, returned to the croft and effected the necessary repair, on my return, they had padlocked a rear wheel-less mountain bike to a drainpipe. that elicited yet another smile out loud.
i do understand that there are many parts of the uk in which it would be tantamount to idiocy to leave any bicycle unattended or unlocked, but bowmore village centre is not one of them. more especially when that bicycle is minus one of its wheels. as i was keen to point out, i could scarcely pay folks to ride bikes round here; there's very little chance of a one-wheeled bicycle being pinched in broad daylight.
however, security issues aside, there are one or two considerations that need to be assessed prior to any summer cycle tour, irrespective of the distances involved. if you've never attempted to fix a puncture prior to leaving home, might i respectfully suggest that you try it once or twice just in case? once confidence in that area has been underlined, gather together a couple of tyre levers (i find pink or yellow ones are best) and at the very least, two appropriately sized inner tubes with valves that fit the holes in your rims. a puncture repair kit wouldn't go amiss, but please do not attempt to use this at the roadside in the event of puncture. replace the tube, then repair it while cosily ensconced in your overnight accommodation.
lastly, and you'd think most obviously (but you'd be wrong) take a pump that you can successfully use to inflate the tyre to a pressure that will at least get you home. please don't base your choice of pump on how easily it fits into a rear pocket unless of course, you happen to be arnold schwarzenegger. mind you, one of the guys who briefly rode with us on sunday mornings a year or so ago, used to carry a full-size track pump in his rucksack.
yes; on the sunday ride. go figure.
wednesday 20 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
'i ride to stop the voices'
getting the message across is the hard part of any proselytising campaign, as indeed is the subtlety of pretending that there is not only no message in the first place, but that not imparting any of this non-existent message was never part of the deal in the first place. on occasion, i have made a mental note of minor successes along the way, when work colleagues accept the veracity of some obscure velocipedinal statement without so much as raising an eyebrow. or, even better, they claim to have successfully answered a cycling-related question on eggheads or a question of sport.
moments like those verify that all has not been in vain.
of course, it would be a tad self-congratulatory to imply that islay's general public have found this new interest in cycling predominantly through the efforts of yours truly. one must also, of necessity, cite the so-called wiggins bubble, a 2012 related happenstance that arguably brought cycling to a greater audience and not only in the competitive milieu.
raised awareness of cycling on a local level was the founding principle of thewashingmachinepost in the first place. mightily surprised at how few of the ilich pedalled anywhere at all on a relatively traffic-free island, i rather high-handedly decided to do something about it and twenty years later, i'm still at it, though i'd imagine there are very few on the isle in the habit of regular reading.
those of us in the velo club have thus come to the conclusion that perhaps the finest and most obviously subtle means of pledging our cause, is simply to ride our bicycles. and to ride our bicycles no matter the iniquities that might forfend that we do so. however, it may be a vain hope that coming across a phalanx of cyclists in the most obscure corners of islay in all weathers, might give cause for second thoughts amongst the civilian population as to their less than innocuous use of the motor car for journeys of a pointedly trivial matter.
no, me neither.
however, there is an additional means of getting the point across, one firmly based in humour. granted we have velominati's extensive rules, but those are mostly for the cognoscenti, of whom we are an integral part. however, i am thinking here of a self-deprecating humour that manages to point the finger at cyclists in general, all the while underlining just what truly superior beings we really are.
few of us, unfortunately, are gifted with the power of quick-witted, immediate retort in the face of an accusatory tirade. that is what t-shirts are for. and in the grand scheme of things and taking their name from one of those velominati rules (number twelve, now that you ask) n+one currently have an initial showing that not only provides the humorous opening gambit, but a more sober second line to firmly cement the deal. and lest you are of the wrongful opinion that a t-shirt is simply a t-shirt, those offered by n+one are of a seductive quality that your torso may not have come across in its previous travels.
almost custom-built for the mighty dave t, is fausto coppi's "age and treachery will overcome youth and skill", while more pertinent to my linguistic pedantry is the slogan "education is important, but cycling is importanter". both of these retail at a price of £22.50 and are available a variety of colours and in sizes ranging from small to xxl, meaning that even peter sagan and marcel kittel would not be disappointed.
this has not, you must understand, minimised my continued chipping at the edifice in those other offensives mentioned above, but at least i find myself sartorially advantaged while i work tirelessly in the background.
"if you see me collapse, pause my strava"
tuesday 19 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................