in my years of living at home with my parents, i recall my father having the sunday times delivered, something of an onerous read at the time, and probably no less the case nowadays. of course, in those days, we lived in mainland scotland, meaning that the newspapers were available pretty much first thing in the morning, allowing for a leisurely afternoon, after he'd been to church, to calmly obscure most of the living room carpet with the various sections that comprise this substantially sized newspaper.
i have no doubt there are avaricious readers who can demolish the entire edifice in the very day on which it is published, but despite my father also taking a daily newspaper, he would continue to read bits of the sunday times up until wednesday of the same week. this propensity to read the so-called broadsheets as opposed to the tabloids, is undoubtledly one that influenced my own reading habits. throughout my years at college, i purchased the observer, though i cannot deny that the habit was as much to do with the magazine publishing charles schultz's peanuts cartoons as for any perceived intellectual content.
in my years of employment at an airport dealing with transatlantic flights, i was fortunate enough to garner copies of the new york times and frequently, the boston globe, the sunday editions of which almost required a larger aircraft and made their uk peers appear like mere leaflets.
however, island life, while offering a myriad of opportunities conspicuous by their absence on mainland scotland, does not offer a sunday paper first thing in the morning, for like most of the island's visitors, they have need of arriving by ferry, stretching their delivery to anytime between mid-morning and lunchtime. this is a distinct improvement on my early years in the hebrides when, in winter months, the newspapers arrived by fishing boat, more usually around 4pm in the afternoon.
thus, less than convinced i could scrabble my way through an entire sunday edition of the observer, i confined myself to saturday's edition of the guardian, and lowered my reading expectations to encompass both days of the weekend. even then, i do not hold sufficient interest in all aspects of this still sizeable publication, to read each and every section. money, travel and sport are either headed straight for the recycle bin, or more often than not, stuffed into a pair of very wet cycling shoes.
my favoured section, other than the colour magazine, is that of the review, a compendium of book reviews encompassing non-fiction, fiction, poetry and the arts. it allows me, if only for a brief period of time, to harbour ideals of intellectuality, vainly hoping that i may be able to introduce the gist of that which i have read into everyday conversation. up until now, that has remained something of an unfulfilled pipedream.
in this week's issue, however, a peter forbes review of a book entitled the switch: how solar, storage and new tech means cheap power for all written by chris goodall, provided much food for thought. according to mr goodall, the sun supplies sufficient power in 90 minutes to meet the world's total energy needs for an entire year. the problem, it seems, relates specifically to that of storage. currently it's still impossible to put sunshine in a bottle. i do not propose to relate the entire content of either the book or the review, but in the light of our new prime minister's delayed consideration of the hinkley point nuclear power station, all may not be as doom and gloom as is being suggested.
there is a distinct possibility that i am alone in making what some may call spurious connections between seemingly unrelated subjects, but on the inside cover of the colour magazine accompanying this past saturday's guardian is a particularly notable advertisement for the hyundai santa fe, a vehicle that i shall classify as an suv for want of a better description (hyundai's marketing department offers no particular definition of their own). from the illustration in the advert it appears to be a vehicle midway between one of those big chunky range rover wannabes and an estate car.
what makes it relevant not only to my discussion on renewable energies and the purported velocipedinal bent of the post, is this particular model's designation as the team wiggins edition. for while ford have all but swamped team sky's pinarellos, it seems that prince bradley is being favoured with one or two hyundais carrying his directeurs sportifs, mechanics and sticky bottles.
i have no precise idea of the cost of a full-page colour advertisement in the guardian magazine, but i tend to think it's maybe a tad more than a few pence. this makes it all the more notable that a company intent on selling a vehicle that still relies heavily on fossil fuels has made such strenuous moves to associate itself with cycling. i assume the perception that they are hoping to imply is one at odds with the reality of vehicles powered by the internal combustion engine. in truth, i can see little wrong with this approach; i'd imagine that the majority of cyclists are also motorists. and if advertisements such as this and the association of hyundai with team wiggins results in the selling of their vehicles to cyclists as opposed to models from competing manufacturers, then more power to their corporate elbow.
but is it not interesting that as cycling's profile on the world's stage increases, the word bandwagon becomes one that lingers at the back of the mind? only this past week, mrs washingmachinepost brought home a bottle of shampoo with a cyclist on the label. and it wasn't alpecin. it is encouraging that renewable energy currently garners investment more than double that of fossil fuels and economically converting the sun's energy into storables such as liquid fuels and methane is but a few years in the future. but it's similarly encouraging that the world's car manufacturers feel they have something to gain by a visible association with cycling.
it may not simply be energy that is experiencing a switch.
monday 1 august 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the vicissitudes of the touring cyclist will eventually come home to roost, though every now and again i am impressed with the ingenuity of those who suffer the occasional adversity while riding hither and thither. many a long year ago when i worked for the self-styled number one car hire company, two americans returned a vehicle with lengths of string tied to each windscreen wiper. when i enquired as to the purpose of these accessories, they admitted that the wipers had broken while driving in skye, so they'd attached the string to each wiper, threaded it through both front door windows and taken turns at pulling in sequence to keep the windscreen clear of precipitation.
an excellent example of lateral thinking, despite the fact that their rental breakdown cover would have had them a replacement car delivered to their accommodation.
so when a gent called me yesterday morning, professing to have suffered a broken spoke, i naively stated that a replacement would not be a problem. unfortunately, the wheel turned out to feature a deeper rim than i'd expected, one that proved of a different diameter than would accept any of the spokes i had on file. meantime, the gent had got hold of a spare spoke, bent one end into a hook to fit the hub flange and screwed the other end into the spoke nipple. this rudimentary fix was actually quite clever and seemed sturdier than it had any right to be, which is just as well, because i'd to re-fit it after messing about with various other non-fitting spokes.
however, one of the necessary steps to replacing a spoke is removal of the tyre, tube and rim tape, not always a simple a procedure as you'd think. it's the fact that the tyre has probably suffered a substantial number of kilometres and weight, all conditions that serve to firmly affix the tyre to the rim and make removal harder than it ought to be. couple this with the propensity of the inner tube to stick to the tyre's inside surface, often due to a build-up of static and the struggle to insert a tyre lever under the tyre bead can often be one of the most frustrating pastimes the intrepid fettler may come across.
this is the point at which one discovers there are tyre levers and there are tyre levers. those with a simple flat edge work well when finally inserted uder the bead, but what you really want is a lever with a curved or hooked end. this style, once under the tyre, is less likely to flip out as removal commences. and if they can't be pink, then a stylish shade of blue is perfectly acceptable. any mechanic worth his or her salt knows of the importance implied by the colour of certain tools. my industrial old-style bottom bracket fixed cup removal tool was red; of course it is; what other colour would it be?
though i had eventually to apologise to the gent with the broken spoke (well, the gent with the wheel with a broken spoke) for being unable to carry out the promised repair, my efforts on his behalf were greatly eased by a pair of blue unior tyre levers. constructed of sturdy plastic, these are easily clipped together for storage and almost as versatile as the unior multi-tool reviewed only a matter of days ago. though tyre removal is scarcely unknown to me, my frequent clumsiness has resulted in more than just a single broken lever. those under consideration are of a more sturdy and rustic constitution.
as if the above were scarcely enough to contend with before popping down to the village for my weekend newspaper and a carton of orange juice (with bits), i decided additionally to swap the 33mm 'cross tyres fitted to my specialized review model (patience, patience) for a pair of challenge strada bianche 33mm road tyres. should you be wondering why, i have plans to ride this excellent bike in next sunday's ride of the falling rain and smooth tyres seem a tad more appropriate.
guess which tyre levers eased the process?
sunday 31 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
by my standards, i'm not one who goes to bed particularly early, at least not as early as i think it behoves a honed athlete so to do. by the time i drag myself up the stairs, i have usually to switch on the light on my ipod, courteously not wishing to switch on the stair light, lest it awaken mrs washingmachinepost. since she has need of arising each morning almost an hour before yours truly, you can imagine the telling-off i'd receive if a sound sleep were interrupted, simply because the nonsense i watch on telly finishes at an inordinate time of day.
though 'tis allegedly still british summertime (something heralded by a chorus of car alarms in bowmore main street and trouble with the ferries), since midsummer's day has now passed us by, to put not too fine a point on it, it's downhill to winter from here on in. locally, the annual statement being trotted out at the beginning of august is that winter begins the day after the annual agricultural show. that takes place on thursday 11th, so there's really not that much of summer left. i should point out that the hebrides have a distinct propensity to by-pass autumn entirely, heading straight to winter.
all the foregoing, as is the case on an annual basis, means that the encroaching onset of darkness means a concomitant lessening of visibility for the hapless cyclist. actually, the word 'hapless' is perhaps a tad incorrect in this instance, for i would vehemently contend that it is an adjective that ought not to apply in these circumstances. there are probably more companies offering bicycle illumination nowadays that at any time in the past, so really, there's no excuse for being 'hapless'. i currently have under review a particularly excellent backpack from showers pass that features four flashing lights about its person and there are any number of jackets on the market specifically concerned with lightening the cyclist's load, so to speak, after the hours of darkness.
so far, however, there's only one that i've come across which offers quite literally 360 degrees of reflectivity, meaning that no matter from which angle a vehicle's headlights bounce off the jacket, you're guaranteed to light up the neighbourhood. the example of which i speak comes from the proviz wardrobe and is rather aptly named the reflect360 jacket. if it were merely a reflective jacket, praise would still be due, but in point of fact, a decent level of waterproofing only adds to its allure. however, in daylight, the reflect360 appears to the naked eye as a less than startlingly attractive neutral grey. when wet, it looks rather odd; not unattractively so, but odd nonetheless.
this is obviously a state of affairs about which the clever folks at proviz have remained slightly uneasy, for they have now released the very same jacket harbouring identical reflective properties but now constituted in blue, red, yellow, black or green, providing a flash of daylight colour and bringing the thus dressed cyclist to the attention of motorists during the day too.
to give some indication of the popularity of such a move, the kickstarter campaign launched by proviz to bring reflective colour to the masses sooner rather than later, is currently oversubscribed by more than twice the amount of their original goal with yet 25 days to go. pledging £65 or more will get you the colour and size of your choice at half the eventual retail price of £129.99. with the dark-side not that far away, it does one no dishonour to steadfastly remain a jedi and acquire chromatic reflectivity, particularly at such an advantageous price.
let sense and safety prevail.
saturday 30 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though i realise this may be of little interest to the majority of you, i'm sure you won't mind too much if i appraise you of the current situation afflicting the hallowed isle. due to the constant influx of summer visitors, drawn to the southernmost of the inner hebrides by a plethora of distilleries, relatively unspoilt beaches and a bucketload of wide-open spaces, the island is regularly served by two ferries. currently those are the mv finlaggan and the mv hebridean isles. or at least that was the case until last sunday when the latter boat gave the pier at kennacraig a sound thrashing.
that boat is now entering dry-dock in greenock, leaving the island to be served by a single ferry.
so far, so bad, but it should also be pointed out that the mezzanine deck on the mv finlaggan, which would normally carry around twenty cars, broke right at the start of the season, meaning the boat is running at roughly half capacity. while this may be causing untold convenience for visitors wishing to travel over here, it's doing much the same for those who'd like to get away. many of the latter are having to drive to the ferry terminal on the evening previous to intended travel and leave their vehicle in the standby lane, hopeful that they might get on the following morning's sailing.
in case you wonder why i'm telling you all this, it is as a result of continual observation while sat on the bench outside port askaig ferry terminal yesterday lunchtime. i had been invited to join mr mark beaumont to cycle from port askaig to port ellen on islay as part of his week long wild about argyll extravaganza. in this case, our cycle was preceded by his running over the paps of jura, an exploit that should have seen him arrive on a calmac ferry complete with an appropriately bedecked mercedes support van. if you've paid attention to the above, you will scarcely be surprised to learn that the van remained on the mainland while mr beaumont and attendant film crew had need of arriving on jura via the jura fast ferry from tayvallich, a rigid inflatable boat that does not have the capacity to carry vehicles.
a representative from the islay and jura tourism and marketing group did say that he'd figured the projected timescale for mark's run across the paps was just a smidgeon optimistic, a remark that proved to be correct. he should have arrived off the 12:30pm ferry from jura, but in point of fact, arrived on the 14:30, thus explaining why i was sat outside port askaig ferry terminal for nigh on two hours.
regular readers will be under no misapprehension that i am in the flush of youth, given to ambling easily up 14% gradients without feeling the need to get out of the big ring. it is more likely that i will already have selected the largest rear sprocket i own, marrying it with a 34 tooth inner chainring before puffing and panting my way up the steep brae at port askaig. i had imagined at this point that all i'd be looking at would be the rear triangle of mark beaumont's carbon koga disappearing several metres ahead. as it turned out, running over hills had tempered his considerable potential speed; thus graeme, mark and myself had a superb, wind assisted bike ride over the 35 kilometres it takes to get to port ellen.
mr beaumont was nearing the end of a week of bike-riding, mountain biking, running and kayaking all in the name of bringing to the attention of the great british public, the joys of the great outdoors to be enjoyed in argyll and bute, hence the reason he was followed by a film crew. all this activity has provided a certain acuity as to the time required to complete each individual stage of the adventure. informed that we would be riding approximately 35km, without having visited islay on a previous occasion, he ventured that the bike ride would take us around one and a half hours. despite having to stop briefly in bowmore for a spot of filming and at islay airport to meet the fire crew, we arrived at the islay hotel in port ellen in one hour, twenty-nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds.
it was a grand day out.
special thanks to endura for additional support in advance of this bike ride.
friday 29 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if you managed to catch any of itv4's tour de france coverage, more specifically, the final result in paris, you may have seen a brief interview with a very busy and in-demand dave brailsford. the gist of the interview consisted of hearty congratulations on having chris froome (now totally homogenised as a british cyclist) win the tour for the third time. when added to prince bradley's victory, this amplifies sir brailsford's originally stark claim that he would put a brit on the podium within five years, one at which we all laughed when first stated.
guess who's laughing now.
however, midst the hasty platitudes proffered by a man who probably had more enjoyable items on his champs elysees checklist to take care of than speaking to television reporters, he offered the now famous soundbite: "We weren't a cycling nation a few years ago. We are now!". however you may wish to look at it, sir brailsford is not wrong. previous successes have only hinted that, midst the run of the mill, were individuals with the tenacity to win stuff by dint of their own bootstraps. brian robinson, tommy simpson, robert millar and sean yates all spring to mind, making considerable headway despite having to swim upstream.
but meanwhile, in the real world, where people ride their bikes for entirely different reasons, rarely connected with speed, this increased popularity has led to blame being apportioned to altogether innocent third parties. in the case in question, that third party is yours truly. though i can't say i'd be less than welcoming of a smattering of sympathy, in truth, my shoulders are well-versed in shuffling off the barbs and arrows of discontent. for in truth, this is not a new situation in which i find myself, simply one that recurs more frequently than was once the case.
though i have no intention of regaling you with each and every pointed criticism that demands my attention, the gist of most of them goes something like this: "i was driving through the village/along a singletrack country road and there were two/three/four cyclists ahead of me, riding two/three/four abreast. despite passing several passing places, none of them moved aside to let me pass, etc., etc., etc.". many of you will be more than familiar with variations on the above scenario, but despite my agreeing with every adverse point headed in my direction, i have seemingly become a spokesperson for what are now apparently 'my people.'
oddly enough, and i hope you'll forgive the pun, this seems something of a one-way street. though i am confounded by the iniquities of errant driving each and every weekend throughout the summer months, i have never felt it necessary to hold my motorist friends and colleagues responsible for the acts of others. i am quite firmly of the notion that there are idiots: some ride bicycles and some drive cars.
and though i cannot deny that my admittedly constant proselytising on behalf of the inanimate bicycle has made me something of an easy target, i do still wonder why i have become the repository for cycling complaints from the civilian population of islay. this despite my strenuous efforts to be courteous to other road users to the point of obsequiousness. for in the majority of cases, i'm really only playing, going nowhere in particular at a speed that i narcissistically like to refer to as fast.
the part that makes many of the accusations verge on the indefensible, is the knowledge that those miscreants about whom most complaints are being made are possibly in even less of a hurry than am i. for why would you find it appropriate to holiday on a west of scotland isle where the word 'manana' is sacrosanct, yet be so intent on arriving at your destination that you've scarcely time to move aside for a vehicle going about its daily business? they've been making whisky here for over 500 years and it takes an average of ten years to mature in its wooden casks.
where's the rush? and whatever happened to good manners?
thursday 28 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
one of my most recent layout jobs on the computer thingy was to re-do the scorecard for the local golf club. unlike previous years, however, this was not a case of looking up the file and reprinting the desired amount. in the interim, the new owners of machrie hotel and golf links have completely redesigned and reconstructed the course, to the extent of removing all those sandpits, referred to in golfing terms as bunkers. or so i'm told.
as one who has only once visited the golf course to take photos for a long-forgotten website, i'd be hard pushed to recollect just what the course looked like in the first place, but i imagine it must have come as something of a culture shock to the club members who have now lost the links course they have known and loved since the 19th century. or perhaps they have come to terms with the modern world and the financial whims of the comfortably well-off? i have enquired of one or two as to whether they view the changes as good or bad, but up till now, most have been diplomatically non-committal.
this uniformity of reply is something of a mystery. not to put too fine a point on it, up till now i have not known golfers to blithely accept factors that might unravel all those years of trying manfully and womanfully to achieve some sort of consistency in their drive and putt. yet here we are with an eighteen-hole golf course utterly devoid of bunkers (of which i was under the obviously mistaken impression were an intrinsic part of any course) and nobody seems to mind too much. or perhaps they simply don't want to upset their new benefactor.
for well i can sympathise with unheralded change and its unexpected effect on a cutlivated pedal stroke. i currently have an eye-wateringly bright cyclocross bicycle in for review (about which more will be said in due course), one that has swept away all notions of following the fame and fortunes to be garnered while riding a three-week grand tour. for in a smattering of weeks, the 2016 cyclocross season will be once more upon us and i have taken it upon myself to get in some secret training while no-one else is looking.
as those with the unrelenting tenacity to read these black and yellow pixels on a regular basis will be well aware, the little corner of the hallowed isle that affords hours of inept scrabbling in the undergrowth is sited nearby in bridgend woods. and having conscientiously and laboriously assembled, fettled and adjusted the newbie from the bikeshed on saturday morning, i paid my first visit for many a long month to the tracks and bushes that i know so well. only to discover that, presumably in the interests of perambulatory uniformity, the estate have indiscriminately peppered the once rocky and muddy surface with tightly packed gravel.
i cannot disagree that the foregoing has evened out a formerly tactile surface, allowing a more consistent pedal stroke and an allegedly higher speed, factors that you would be almost correct in surmising constituted a more agreeable ride. except you'd be only partly right; that formerly rocky pathway was ideal for testing the mettle of any cyclocross bicycle, wheels or tyres that happened my way, both uphill and downhill. it could almost have been described as character building were it not for the fact that a winter of rain and galeforce winds had already saturated that particular ideal.
i'm sure that the elements will not be long in returning the route to its formerly ruinous state of affairs and i will once more glory in the excesses of my incompetence. by that time, there will be wall to wall cyclocross all across the world and i will once more be one of the cool kids.
as if that's ever likely to happen.
wednesday 27 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the bicycle chain, in the case of a new one, presents the intent observer with something of a dichotomy, not to say divided opinion. for those who actually remember and hand the bike over to their local bike shop to have the chain replaced, this might fit into the realm of "i didn't know that." the manufacturers of nice new chains very kindly cover them with a thin coating of grease, mostly to keep them in pristine condition until one of us hands over our hard-earned.
however, this thin coating of grease is easily sufficient to provide at least a minimal level of immediate lubrication for those without the patience to look at alternatives. in fact, there are many amongst us who would contend that the true reason for this film of grease is precisely that, to save scrounging about in the bikeshed for that little bottle of lube that was definitely there on saturday morning.
for those deep of pocket, or with a professional contract in their pocket, the chaps and chapesses at muc-off are more than happy to offer, at considerable expense, a fully pre-lubricated bicycle chain, something that, if nothing else, simply muddies the waters even further. however, what is less open to debate is quite how to deal with the situation in hand whatever your point of view on the subject.
in either case, it would take a true quantity of naiveté not to remove the factory applied coating, prior to lubricating the chain with your oil/synthetic lubricant of choice. grease, in case the effect had passed you by, has a tendency to attract grit, dirt and several other unsavoury elements; if you left the chain in its delivered condition, it would be foolish, would it not, to simply attempt to drip some lubricant on top of all that? yes, the chain will work, but its lifecycle will be a tad less than the purchase price might have suggested.
thus, as technology has improved and tolerances have become ever more precise, that can of three-in-one oil on the shelf at the back of the garage has become less relevant to the bicycle and more confined to the lawnmower. nowadays, a lubricant is simply the final stage in the process, being effectively preceded by a liberal coating of degreaser (and if we're really going to be thorough, a scrubbing with a purple harry pipecleaner). either allow that to dry of its own accord, or wipe the chain and cassette with a cloth or towel, before dripping a spot of lube on each chain roller.
it has been pointed out to me on several occasions over the years, that one of the worst things i could use to 'oil' my chain was a liberal dousing of wd40. that, i am happy to inform, is decidedly no longer the case. for in the past month or so, wd40 have introduced a range of bicycle-related products consisting of an aerosol degreaser, an aerosol lubricant matched with small bottles of dry lube and wet lube, the appropriateness of which is engendered by the name.
as one firmly of the 'remove all grease from a new chain' school of thought, the arrival of a brand new review bike from the specialized stable offered the ideal opporchancity to spray it with the wd40 degreaser then apply some lubricant. though i had already carried out a similar process on the considerably less than new chain on the colnago master, on that occasion i opted to lube with the wet lube, a product that proved every bit the equal of the conditions for which it was designed. and not only that, but it was simplicity itself to indulge my occd (obsessive compulsive chain disorder) by placing only a single drop on each chain roller.
in the case of the specialized's eleven-speed sram chain, i opted for the dry lube; in one aspect at least, this was a bit of a disappointment. wd40's yellow topped grey bottles do not require the tops to be removed completely, but simply to twist them open sufficiently to allow the lubricant to flow. while the wet lube is agreeably viscous, the dry lube has the consistency of water. thus, instead of a single drip on each roller, there was a mini-shower; highly effective, but a tad messy and ultimately wasteful. and my wheel rim did not thank me afterwards.
however, in mitigation, the dry lube did work remarkably well under the circumstances, though lack of a thorough dousing with precipitation has yet to offer a clue as to its longevity in the face of adversity. time will tell.
the spray lube has proved its effectiveness on the likes of sticky front mechs, squeaky gateposts and a recalcitrant back door hinge, though i should issue a disclaimer that the latter two are not actually bicycle-related. aside from the less than satisfactory application of the dry lube, these are more than welcome products from a company that surely has to be far better versed in the art of bicycle lubrication than are most of us. more than worth a portion of space on the bikeshed shelf.
500ml of wd40 bicycle degreaser retails at £8.99, the two 100ml bottles of lube cost £6.99 each and the 250ml can of all conditions spray lube can be had for £6.59.
tuesday 26 july 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................