let's face it, there are times when a common dress sense is, if not obligatory, at least sartorially desirable. aside from the common or garden, work-related need, there can be public performance to be considered. though we have hopefully moved on from the boy band syndrome, making a favourable impression upon one's audience can be more than half the battle before even a single note has been played.
recently constituted as the islay jazz quartet (having decided that the lack of an old islay jazz quartet meant that appending the word new to the above would be potentially redundant) means that even to the regular islay jazz festival concert-goers, we'd be something of an unknown quantity. appearing in a fashion that would present something of a jazz-inflected gestalt was thus discussed a matter of days prior to our first public performance.
in the finest, yet questionable tradition of the graphics industry, we had unilaterally adopted a black demeanour; shirts and trousers, or in the case of our female saxophonist, a black dress. i had unequivocally agreed to this, but that was prior to the arrival of a pair of vulpine's excellent urban cycling jeans, a garment which excused itself from the pre-agreed uniform by dint of a natural blue denim colour.
however, leveraging one of the advantages attached to being a drummer, i figured few in the audience would catch sight of my lower half while it indulged in the percussive co-ordination demanded by a bass drum pedal and that of the hi-hat. embarrassingly, i had forgotten that, as the group's denoted leader the responsibility for vocally berating the audience between numbers fell squarely on my own shoulders. or rather, that of my new denims.
i doubt that it's passing on an untold secret to inform you that i'm pretty sure no-one noticed. in fact, i have serious doubts that my sartorial discrepancy had even occurred to the other members of the band. no-one ever notices the drummer.
what, you might ask, has any of this to do with cycling? well, tenuously, to play a drumset it is necessary to sit astride a (larger) saddle-styled throne with both feet on a pair of pedals. believe me, for gigs longer than an hour, the absence of that seam in close proximity to one's nether regions is most welcome.
for those that are even remotely interested, the gig was a great success, thank you for asking.
vulpine's jeans feature two deep front pockets and a smaller drum-key sized pocket above the right-hand pocket. there are also two, decent sized rear pockets. if i have any criticism, it would be over the button-fly; nice originality in a sense, but a bit of a faff that, in these days of perfectly adequate zips, is really a tad anachronistic. it's a style feature known only to the wearer and thus ever so slightly redundant, however functional it might actually be.
you would, however, think far less of me if the above were the total extent of my product review. and i would not disagree with you one whit. but fear not, for i am well aware of my obligations in this respect and thus made sure that a later velocipedinal perambulations to watch and listen to my jazz betters, featured those very denim jeans astride a brooks b66 leather saddle. in those instances, they were accompanied by a very fine pair of vulpine merino boxer shorts, featuring a thin and almost inconspicuous cytech pad, alleviating any discomfort that may have sneaked in while i wasn't looking.
this is, to place not too fine a point on it, the ultimate combination for the less ostentatious amongst us. let's face it, a brooks b66 and a sturmey archer three-speed are scarcely fine bedfellows for a race-fit jersey and even a quality pair of racing bibshorts. the boxers, constructed of 100% superfine merino wool, feel as if they aren't there at all. the jeans come in a variety of sizes; my 30" waist resulted in being sent the medium/regular size, offering a range between 30" - 32". according to vulpine, the small-size ought better to fit 28"-30" which may or may not have been a smidgeon on the tight side for yours truly. i'd to wear a belt with the review pair. no hardship, mind.
the relaxed fit is quite excellent, meaning that even uphill exertions are coped with admirably and no loss of circulation to any moving parts was observed. yet even immediately after dismounting, i was still prone to appearing, as my late father would have said, respectable. obviously enough, there is no compulsion to purchase both jeans and boxers; if that's not the way you roll, who's to criticise? but if you're open to persuasion, i'd place both in your online sales basket. the jeans are a most amenable £120 augmented by £50 for the boxers. that's hardly an ominous amount to pay if you want combine your jazz with unremitting velocipedinal activity.
vulpine's urban jeans are available in standard indigo denim in sizes xxs to xxl with long and regular versions available in each size. the extra fine merino padded boxers can be had in racing red, black or grey. sizing is xs to xxl.
monday 12 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
friday's post was missing in action due to my having percussive duties at the eighteenth islay jazz festival, happily (for the audience at least) sponsored by lagavulin single malt. i say happily, because the distillery generously provided bottles of its limited edition, eight year-old malt, especially bottled for the distillery's 200th anniversary this year. during the gig i attended yesterday afternoon, the two trumpet players sneakily nabbed a couple of drams while their rhythm section undertook to supply the impressive entertainment.
for jazz purposes, i own a small, four-piece drumset using only a couple of cymbals, accompanied by a pair of hi-hat cymbals. to lighten my load, some years ago i divested myself of the substantial hardware i had accumulated over the years, replacing it with rather lighter stands that are more than appropriate for the occasion(s). however, with the best will and ingenuity in the world, there's no way those maple drums can ever be transported on any of the bicycles in thewashingmachinepost bike shed.
which poses something of a logistical problem, one that i'm sure you saw coming from some distance. mrs washingmachinepost and i have not owned a motor car for well over six years; though i can drive, i'm one of an increasing number who simply choose not to. and on the basis that it was my specific choice not to own a motor car, i am less than inclined to prevail upon other members of my family (which, in this case, would mean my son and his four-wheel drive whatever it is) or those with whom i was contracted to play.
so i hired a car, the best bit of which was the 6km bike ride to collect it, augmented by a similar return journey when i took it back earlier today.
in the case of friday eve, we were due to play the first part of the concert, followed immediately by fraser fifield and graeme stephen. i did have the opportunity to shift my drumset off the stage, to allow the latter duo a tad more liebensraum, and though i also managed to dismantle into its constituent parts, the opportunity to remove it from the building and squeeze it into the car was not one that made itself immediately available.
in a strategic piece of scheduling, the festival organisers had only allowed less than an half-hour ahead of yet another gig in the same venue. in practice, i had just enough time to case everything and fight my way past an incoming audience to pack everything into the hired vehicle, deliberately parked adjacent to the front door. considering the proximity of each specific concert, i felt i would have been in danger of outstaying my welcome with either the pianist or bass player if i had asked that they stay on long enough to achieve the above, simply because i have no truck with cars.
as a by-product, having a motor vehicle at my beck and call for at least a short period, meant that i was able to attend a late-night saturday gig in the village of bruichladdich. the number of youngsters on islay's roads after dark in their souped-up corsas has long persuaded me that riding my bicycle after the hours of darkness is not an experience i'd wish try, a fear that slightly outweighs my hatred of driving at night. jazz is a great leveller.
however, it would certainly not be in my favour to practice contrary to what i preach, so on saturday afternoon, wishing to attend a concert by trumpeter colin steele (a really nice chap), despite having the hire car still present in the car park, i took the taurus corinto from the bikeshed and rode out to islay's gaelic college about a mile outside bowmore.
though i have no wish to blow my own trumpet (that's colin's job), i can't help wishing that more car owners in the village would do likewise. though bowmore village is no more than one mile, end-to-end, far too many still drive to work or to school, occasionally adding insult to injury by driving home at lunch-time. unless that habit is broken, i fear we're all doomed, captain mainwaring. the presence of a car outside the front door does not demand that it be used on every single, short-distance occasion.
sunday 11 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though i realise that it is not the done thing to blow one's own trumpet, so to speak, but since it pertains to that which follows, i must briefly indulge in a spark of shameless self-promotion. when it comes to adobe's three major publishing software programs (photoshop, indesign and illustrator), i am an acknowledged black belt. through my usual day-to-day machinations, this expertise can be viewed as a vertical gradient. i can handle most anything in photoshop, possibly even in my sleep. my skills in indesign, adobe's flagship page layout program are only a smidgeon below that of photoshop, while i can get by quite well in illustrator, but i'd stop well short of professing unfettered facility with vectors.
as has become endemic in the word of software development, there is a perennial quest to add more features to each dot release while marginally improving others. or, in certain cases, changing them altogether. keeping up with a fast disappearing cutting edge takes a lot of work on a daily basis, though a never-ending arrival of graphic demands help hone abilities i didn't realise i had in the first place.
but sometimes, i'd quite like it all to stop. i'd be very happy if adobe woke up one monday morning and said "y'know what, let's go ride our bikes instead. we can always commence footering again next year." because unlike the salesman always chasing sales targets in the quest for promotion (or job security), i'd quite like a period of photoshop calm, when i can rest on my laurels for an indeterminate period of time. commerciality dictates that, in fact, this will never happen, but a guy can dream can't he?
the annual eurobike show has always posed similar questions. i've never quite figured out whether the boffins have only just completed the newest of new products and technology at midnight prior to the opening of the exhibition, or if it's been done for months and kept under wraps. either way, there is always going to be a slew of new stuff, some of which, like mavic's development of the thru-axle, appears as a variation of a technology that's not even made it to the world of the road bike yet.
once again, i'd like it to stop.
not forever, you understand, but just long enough that when any of us come to replace an ageing velocipede or implement rule #12, there won't be a whole host of features or components that are completely incompatible with what's already in the bike shed. i'm thinking here of having a skoosh of ten-speed wheelsets in the cupboard and buying an eleven-speed bike.
my reputation as a luddite is, i believe, utterly secure and the foregoing probably won't do anything to absolve me of that. however, this is not the kernel of my hope for a temporary halt. in secret, i like new technology as much as the next shmuck, but i'd like more than just a wee while to savour the moment before it disappears into the black hole that is threaded fork steerers, cup and cone bottom brackets and friction gear shifting.
i know i'm right, but i'm too timid to say anything in public. oh wait...
saturday 10 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the media are persistently informing us that britain currently suffers from an obesity crisis. it would be naive to think that this is a situation that has occurred in a matter of weeks; nobody becomes oversize overnight, so we've either been feeding the kids too much for years or the amount of exercise in which we all used to participate unknowingly has drastically diminished. it's easy to blame the advent of xboxes and playstations imprisoning litle miss and mister in their bedrooms till well after their bedtime, but that doesn't make it true.
a few years back, our local secondary school probably in line with local education department demands, introduced a healthy eating policy at lunchtimes. if, for a moment, you're wondering how it is i'm aware of this, it's because the number of kids popping down to the village at lunchtime to buy cheesy-chips and the like from the local takeway, increased quite noticeably. even with the world's best intentions, mum and dad would be hard-pressed to keep an eye on their little darlings' diets each and every lunchtime.
and though i am considerably less than well-versed in the physical education regime in place at any of the local schools, at least a porrtion of the majority of pupils' daily exercise has already been undermined by having received a lift to school in the morning, despite the village being only a mile long end to end. of course, the nature of the island's topography necessitates many of the pupils being bussed in from the isle's various villages. not so very long ago, educational policy dictated that there ought to be a lessening of our competitive nature, creating more of a level playing field. heaven forfend that a small individual ought to feel aggrieved at their consistent lack of victory in a chosen activity.
i'm the very archetype of non-competitiveness, but striving to win at that age is surely the catalyst to improve one's level of fitness?
however, the arguments as to the comparative lethargy of the uk population are legion, perfectly capable of filling several million pixels anad occupying more time than you or i seem to have available at the moment. it is also open to argument whether the crisis truly exists in the first place; it could easily be either a massaging of statistics, or a reclassification of the numbers that place an individual in the obese category in the first place. nevertheless, there are national initiatives in place to alleviate the apparent situation, initiatives that are every bit as laudable whether we've become obese or not.
the first of these, at least the first of which i've been aware in 2016 was national fitness day. this took place yesterday, though many of you may not have been aware of its existence. i only found out by accident on twitter, so i do rather wonder how effective the preceding publicity campaign had been, if indeed it existed in the first place. but national fitness day on a wednesday? when the majority of the country is at work? wouldn't it have made more sense to hold the event at the weekend? might this mean it has been a victim of its own stupidity?
on a more relevant level, next wednesday, 14 september has been designated national cycle to work day. it is indeed another weekday, but on the basis that the idea is to pedal to your work, that makes a great deal more sense. at the risk of stating the obvious, the idea behind cycle to work day, is to encourage folks to use the bicycle as an alternative to the car, bus, train or taxi. but one day out of 365 is less than a meagre drop in the ocean. bike to work week would go some way towards velocipedinal nirvana, but pragmatism and human nature dictates that it really ought to be bike to work month.
until that happens, we're all drowning, not waving
thursday 8 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i cannot deny it; i'm something of a campagnolophile. i well recognise that they cannot specifically claim to be at the leading edge of cutting edge and they've all but dispensed with the iconic script lettering that is tattoo'd on the underside of my eyelids in favour of supposed modernity, but there will always be a large corner of thewashingmachinepost that states 'campagnolo spoken here'.
heck, i've seriously considered purchasing one of those colossal campagnolo corkscrews and i don't even drink.
i recall being told by one who understands these matters far better than i ever will, that the italians have never quite come to terms with just what it is that sets them apart when it comes to matters of the velocipede and are therefore prone to throwing it all away in the quest for what it is they think we want/need (delete as applicable). i have two polished alloy campagnolo cranksets hanging in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed, cranks that harken back to the days of titanium, square-taper bottom brackets and are thus all but inapplicable to modern-day riding.
but those shiny chainsets are built like the proverbial brick outhouse, replete with their totally incompatible bolt circle diameter. and best of all, and totally unlike their japanese or american counterparts, they are awash with style, a factor that has been slipping quietly away over many a subtle year. for even in these days of wall to wall carbon fibre, campagnolo's componentry, particularly the current crop of rear derailleurs and four-arm chainsets still embody a flair that their peers can but look on and admire.
however, embodying all that is campagnolo is akin to remaining faithful to apple computer during their years in the wilderness around the turn of the century. expansion cards that fit nothing but apple macs, plugs and cables that had no place outside of infinite loop and memory chips that cost around twice that of their pc counterparts. campagnolo offer a set of freehub cassette splines that, though considerably more robust than the competition, will only accept cassette sprockets with a vicenza heritage. and despite having produced disc brakes for lambretta in the early 1960s, the italians are still running prototype road-bike versions while the others are happy to sell you some right now.
and don't get me started on that irritating propensity to attach the drive-side bearings to the crankset instead of inside the bottom bracket cup. if it can be done for the left side crank, why not the other?
'idiosyncratic' would not be too harsh a description.
but i'm still of the opinion that their ergopower levers are the finest on the market. one lever for each purpose beats sram's double-tap hands down and compares much the same with shimano's sti levers. their componentry remains just the far side of overbuilt, offering a confidence that probably is tangibly equalled by the competition, but persuades the all important headspace that indiestructability is part and parcel of the little warranty leaflet inside every carefully stickered box.
it was thus with firm leanings towards the rebirth of cool that i eagerly commenced rebuilding the molteni colnago master with a new, all black campagnolo potenza groupset which will subsequently become the subject of a washingmachinepost review. front and rear gear mechs, ergopower levers, skeleton brakeset and the very latest, four-arm alloy power torque chainset are in the process of transforming an example of one of italy's finest bicycles into an all-italian piece de resistance. well, apart from the ritchey bars and stem.
all was proceeding well; despite the previous centaur componentry topping out at ten-speeds, a campagnolo cassette freehub easily accommodates that extra sprocket without need for change, but after that, incongruity reared its ugly head. the front derailleur clamps to the braze-on bracket via a 5mm allen bolt, yet the rear mech attaches to the gear hanger by means of a smaller torx pattern bolt. the age-old centaur ergopower levers also required a torx key to remove them, while the very latest potenza levers employ 5mm allen bolts.
all that, while a tad irritating, reaching for differing tools to complete the task at hand, is relatively easily accomplished. but then we move to the centre of the potenza universe: the crankset. this is a definitive improvement over the earlier power-torque models, in that there is now a self-extractor built into the left crank, dismissing the requirement to acquire a crank puller if and when that crankset needs to be removed. however, the left crank can only be fitted in place via a 14mm hex insert.
i have a phalanx of tools which have been acquired over the years, many of which are now obsolete, but in common with many, the largest hex key in my possession reaches only 10mm. i tried the local hardware outlets, admittedly not overly stocked given my hebridean domicile and none had anyhting larger than the previously mentioned 10mm.
the fsa crank being replaced was easily removed with a 10mm hex wrench, so quite why vicenza thought it necessary to add 4mm of diameter, i simply cannot fathom. the upshot is that installation procedures have currently ground to a halt awaiting receipt of a hastily ordered 14mm hex insert.
i will regale you with italian idiosyncracies in the fullness of time.
wednesday 7 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i like to think of myself as having a history of meddling in affairs of which i have remarkably little experience, not for reasons of insolence, but principally because, to quote sheldon cooper, " how else will they (i) learn?". to shy away from velocipedinal matters quite patently outside my direct experience, would, on the face of it, seem like a smart idea. i make no claims as to the educational value of these black and yellow pixels, nor indeed as a means of misinformation, but sometimes a man's got to do what a man's got to do.
that quote may have come from john wayne.
though the post concerns itself mostly with road-bike culture, i rarely drop my ten cents' worth on the matter of professional cycle racing. yes, there has been the odd feature concerning just such a subject, but you'd have to admit, it's more the exception than the rule. but my current evening viewing schedule has made an hour's worth of room for messrs. boulting and millar and their fine itv4 commentary on the final grand tour of the season, the vuelta.
the only factor missing from this particularly excellent three weeks' of racing has been those massive bull hoardings that used to be visible at the roadside, hoardings that have apparently been designated the spanish equivalent of a listed building. i fear those may populate iberia's more southern roadways, regions summarily ignored by the race across its first two weeks. however, this year, as occasionally in others, it has underlined the fact that the tour de france is cycling's rather obvious grand narcissist, obsessed with its own existence as an end in itself, rather than the means to an end it once was.
going into saturday's stage to end all stages which, coincidentally took the riders into french france, current leader nairo quintana had been quoted as saying he felt it necessary to have at least a three-minute lead on chris froome in order to emerge still in red after stage nineteen's time-trial. rather obviously, this was a blatant underlining of the movistar rider's opinion of his ability against the clock compared to that of this year's tour de france yellow jumper winner. saturday's stage, which took in the impressive gradients of the col d'aubisque, was supposed to be the showdown between quintana and froome, one which ultimately ended in something of a stalemate, the sky rider taking precedence over the finish line, but the time distance between the two remaining pretty much static.
in the words of the commentators and implied in froome's post stage interview, smug seemed a not too distant description of froome's demeanour. after two weeks of racing, the close proximity of each rider seemed likely to continue up until friday's time-trial when we probably all figured froome would emerge victorious and wearing red for the start of saturday's penultimate stage.
sunday changed all that, ironically over what, at 118km was the tour's shortest stage. if you watched the racing, you won't need me to reiterate all that transpired, but the end result now gives the tiny columbian over three and a half minutes of a lead ahead of froome. meaning that, assuming the cat and mouse play continues over the next few days, for once in its life, a time-trial might actually provide some excitement, even if only between the last two starters.
of the season's three grand tours, the vuelta is generally considered the runt of the litter. several years ago there was a rumoured call for the race to diminish itself to a mere two weeks, only a decade or so after suffering the iniquity of having had to accept a later slot in the international calendar. can you imagine the outrage if someone suggested shifting the dates of le tour? so while many of the world tour's heroes consider the bulk of their season over and done with after those three weeks in july, world championships notwithstanding, i don't think it to be overstepping the mark by too great a margin to consider the tour of spain to be the epitomy of 'real' racing, an adjective it arguably shares with the giro d'italia in may.
no matter what happens between now and sunday, those of us watching have enjoyed some of the finest cycle racing on display this year. if the tour de france hadn't happened, according to my opinion, the season would not be lessened by one iota.
but then, as i said at the start, i am well outside my comfort zone, meddling in affairs of which my experience is minimal. probably better to ask the fine fellows at the velocast who do this sort of thing for a living.
tuesday 6 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................