as of yesterday, we are but three months away from christmas, a fact that brings joy and happiness to mrs washingmachinepost who is pretty much besotted with that particular time of year. yet for many others, judging by the grunts and groans emitted upon mentioning this news, it brings a sense of foreboding. the children's channels on tv are filled with the ultimate in (not inexpensive) pointless toys and games which a phalanx of rugrats repetitively ask me to buy them for christmas, despite none of those kids being ours.
i have taken to getting my requests in first and asking if they'll "buy me that for christmas."
but despite impending formidable expense leading to a less than impressive bank balance in january of next year, there's little doubt that the prevarication commences earlier on each and every subsequent year. why, only a matter of weekends ago, channel 5 advised that on a sunday afternoon they'd be broadcasting an entire afternoon and evening of christmas movies. good grief charlie brown; there's still hallowe'en, guy fawkes' night and harvest thanksgiving to deal with before any thought should be given to christmas.
yet on friday afternoon, to accompany the office coffee break, we had mince pies. "is nothing sacred anymore?" you might well ask.
thus, the appearance on saturday evening (uk time) of jingle cross from iowa city on the uci's youtube channel, though the subject of unbridled joy, was not quite the disconnect it possibly ought to have been. but, as the commentators were happy to explain, when the race was instituted some ten years ago, it was held at the beginning of december. as the event has grown, it culminated this year in the awarding of a round of the uci world championship series, only a matter of days after crossvegas.
this is most definitely the result of strategic planning; the start list consisted of seventeen belgians and a number of dutch and french riders who were now eager to make the trip across the atlantic to take in both uci sanctioned events. these had been accompanied by a third, non-championship race in wisconsin, all three won by world champion wout van aert, despite crashing at crossvegas and breaking a toe, an injury that still allowed him to take victory in iowa by more than thirty seconds from kevin pauwels.
for those who didn't wait up past the witching hour to watch an excellent race, broadcast along with the women's race earlier in the evening, van aert suffered a mechanical problem requiring a brief dismount on the second lap that dropped him to 21st place. the subsequent laps were a masterclass in 'cross racing as he caught and passed all those ahead of him. britain's ian field recorded a superb 11th place after a strong showing throughout the race, finishing behind eight belgians, one dutchman and america's steven hyde.
the inconsistency of the international cyclocross season commencing before september has even ended, culminating with an event entitled jingle cross can only be laid squarely at the door of global climate change. this latter contention was underlined by iowa's "greatest ever sporting event" being run off in temperatures in the upper thirties. this latter fact was, according to the commentary team, leading the cyclocross purists to have internet palpitations due to several riders carrying water bottles either on the bike or in a rear pocket.
perhaps it's not only the climate that's changing?
monday 26 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i am not one given to outbursts of temper; cool, calm and collected would mostly describe my outward persona, even in moments of apparent stress or extreme irritation. in my late teens, an elder and better (a gent formerly an officer in the marines) gave me the excellent advice that, the minute you lose your temper, right or wrong, you've lost the argument. observation has taught me that he was pretty much right on the money with that one.
but i cannot deny that i do a rather convincing line in wild gesticulation.
any lack of application on my part towards any form of training on or off the bicycle rests primarily with no real need to do so. like many, the very act of riding my bicycle is the principal attraction and hours spent on a turbo trainer have no appeal whatsoever, no matter its potential for velocipedinal improvement. additionally, i have come to the realisation, one that i have proselytised to others, that ultimately i am purposelessly riding in circles. yes, i like the fact that it keeps me fit, that it offers a social inclusion found nowhere else and that no matter the weather conditions in which those rides take place, i can have a hot shower and change of clothes on my return.
but, as many others have remarked, i'm actually going nowhere.
however, even on a semi-remote hebridean isle such as islay, there is an undeniable need to share the road with others. now that the summer season is fading into the recent past, those roads are less populated than during july and august. on the less utilised pathways it is now possible to ride cheerfully for miles without meeting or being passed by any form of motorised traffic. but of course, not all areas of the isle are like that.
as an explicit antidote to the very idea of losing my temper with other road users, i have made it a point of order to be as courteous to my fellow travellers as possible. in so doing, i would dearly like to be treated likewise; in the majority of cases that is indeed the result. local drivers, spared the anonymity of the lone cyclist will often pull over to allow my unfettered progress, accompanied by a hearty wave from behind the steering wheel. this is even more the case during bouts of inclement or severe weather, either through reciprocal courtesy or closet sympathy for the mentally afflicted.
but those of us in the velo club peloton are of a general consensus that the standard of driving over this past year has been very much on the decrease, never more demonstrable than yesterday's ride in torrential rain. i'm well aware that the hebridean trials and tribulations are but nothing compared to that of the city, but our relative isolation serves only to highlight them in stark relief.
having left the croft a tad later than originally intended, i opted to head more or less directly to debbie's for a spot of lunch and froth supping. en-route i came round a blind corner just at crosshouses south of bridgend, only to meet a white van driving on the wrong side of the road. by this, i do not mean it was straddling the central white line, but was confidently driving but a few inches from the road verge, only not the correct verge. rather taken aback, i opted to head onto my wrong side of the road to avoid being run over, at which point the driver must surely have noted the error of his ways and done likewise. thankfully, our relative speeds meant nothing serious occurred.
the remainder of my saturday ride was undertaken in torrential rain, often making it hard to see the flooded road ahead through rain afflicted glasses. but as i neared home, first a van overtook me despite a car quite visibly heading in the opposite direction, then a matter of minutes later, the same thing happened once more, but this time on a blind corner.
the heavy rain persisted all the way to the bike shed, but as i entered my home village, i came upon a young mum walking with her small child on the right hand side of the road, quite rightly facing oncoming traffic. however, as i passed her on the opposite side of the road, yet another van decided this was the ideal opportunity to overtake me, thus driving perilously close to mother and child. it would have been a far more judicious demonstration of driving skill to have waited until i was past the walkers before overtaking.
maybe it's time i got angry. and perhaps the sooner driverless cars become a practical reality, the better.
sunday 25 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
perception is something of a fickle mistress, leading us along garden paths that are often not ours and frequently incorporating the odd flock of wild geese. supplied with basic daily needs, most of us would be quite content; a regular supply of food, a roof over our heads and superfast sky broadband. what more could the average citizen need?
the disadvantage to acceptance of the above is that it leaves very little room for rampant commerciality and given the central position the latter plays in our existence, the door to the latter has been wide open ever since the early 1950s if not before. thus has appeared, in no particular order, motor vehicles that can comfortably exceed the national speed limit, box-type computers that have engendered a generation of geeks and nerds and nations whose daily exercise consist of swiping left, right up and down with their forefingers.
the iniquity of the above situation relates entirely to my definition of mankind's basic requirements. the truckloads of ipads, iphones, x-boxes bluetooth headphones and the internet of things, are but mere fripperies on the face of normality. much like first discovering the ability to add a photoshop layer below that currently selected simply by holding down the command key while selecting new layer, many of these toys are items we scarcely realised we needed until someone invented them.
and then sold them to us.
we have been here before, several times if memory serves and not, methinks, without good reason. the signs can, i think, be easily seen, always assuming you're willing to read between the lines or, perchance dig just a little deeper than my superficiality would suggest exists. though thewashingmachinepost was once described in its formative years as being concerned with road-bike culture, i tend to look upon that as a more wide-ranging challenge than the bare designation would suggest.
taken at face value, the term road-bike ought surely to refer to pretty much every genre of bicycle other than those designed specifically for the velodrome? however, i am happy to exclude mountain bikes for what i hope are fairly obvious reasons. therefore, though common usage would skew our cognisance towards the spring classics, the grand tours and many a competitive scenario, what about cycling on roads, dressed in civilian garb and at more stately speeds than evidenced by fabian cancellara and his colleagues.
it was something of a running joke that a fellow in my class at secondary school rode a navy blue bsa, sit-up-and-beg as if he'd forgotten to remove the coathanger from his blazer, yet subsequently went on to university to study aerodynamics. despite our humorous consternation, the very fact that wind-cheating was hardly a necessary part of his daily commute utterly escaped our collective psyche. as mr copenhagenize (mikael colville-anderson) so eloquently put it during a recent 'urbanisation and cycling' seminar curated by shimano, "You're sitting on a gold mine, but you're not digging." by this he was at pains to infer that the majority of cyclists and potential cyclists would far prefer to have a 'dutch-style' roadster in the bike shed, trading nano-fibres for sturdy practicality and reliability.
i cannot deny that i have great sympathies with this assertion, owner as i am of my very own hand-built italian steel, three-speed taurus corinto. something as mundane as the ability to ride to debbie's for a coffee without once having to search for lycra or sportwool, is one of life's simple, yet delightful pleasures. and it's hard not to be aware that so doing is pretty darned practical. granted, the rural idyll, punctuated as it is by the occasional draught from the atlantic, may not be the ideal topography over which to exercise sturmey's three gears, but i fear that has a great deal more to do with the modern individual's lack of application when it comes to getting from a to b.
the hardy folks of the early to mid 20th century throughout the hebrides and western isles, were used to covering long distances on dutch style bicycles with only a solitary gear, a situation that was more than likely repeated across many a rural location. these journeys were mostly of a pragmatic nature; you can scarcely visualise a peloton of latter-day farmers congregating at the local hostelry, discussing which brooks saddle offered the greatest stability when the wind blew from st. kilda. the bike was a tool, not a fashion accessory.
widespread adoption of such velocipedinal pragmatism is hampered, according to mr colville-andersen, by the short-sightedness of the industry, intent as it is "focusing on tech and geek." the latter will always be the whizz that attracts customers onto the shop floor, but for the time being, it often seems that whizz is all there is.
and we all know that practical has always been the new black.
saturday 24 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
while accompanying the flying scotsman, graeme obree, to the islay ferry, the day after he had regaled the velo club and friends over dinner with deeds of derring-do, i said that he must find it quite heart-warming that cycling had become so much more popular than it was when he and chris boardman were trading hour records. ever the unpredictable individualist, he replied, "not really. i preferred it when we had it pretty much all to ourselves."
graeme's not the only chap i've heard make this comment or similar and there has been the odd occasion when i have thought likewise. that, however, smacks of arrogance; i have no recollection of others looking down upon yours truly when clad in psychedelic lycra tights and a trade team jersey of which i had no professional association. in mitigation, at the time, islay was hardly awash with cyclists of any particular flavour and it seems almost certain that there was no-one to fulfil the role of specious denigration.
though i'm not looking for retrospective sympathy at this point, there was a period of time between the late 1980s and the early part of this century when the only cyclist to be seen on the most southerly of the inner hebrides would have been me. that situation was rescued by the arrival of the mighty dave t and whether down to him or i, things have only 'got' better, as d:ream once prophesied.
the catalyst for this new, improved set of circumstances is allegedly not hard to define, most media outlets, whether mainstream or cycling specific, looking directly at the olympic milieu. and our relatively recent olympic success, though possibly begun as far back as boardman's pursuit gold medal, is more directly related to the advent of the national lottery and its subsequent funding. when considering track racing, the principal beneficiary of this increased funding and concomitant medal success, there is little doubt that its controllable set of circumstances identified it as a most appropriate subject for a high-profile renewal. its road-going counterpart, in the olympics at least, has proved less amenable to the same strategy, but substantially ameliorated by first prince bradley's and subsequently chris froome's success at the end of those three weeks in july.
but the oddity of this resurgence of cycling, bringing even some excellent grand tour coverage and commentary from one of the uk's principal broadcasters, has been its definable connection to the sporting side of the coin. very few of us with bicycles in the shed or garage are guilty of being identified as weekend warriors, those keen to pin a number on their back, no matter the slim chances of competitive success. it would have been a tad more comprehensible had the myhtical reality of a wholesale improvement in national and local cycling strategies and infrastructure encouraged more individuals to embrace the joy of a life on two wheels.
however, figures released by ribble cycles' owner true capital would tend to suggest that the latter is most certainly not the case. granted, ribble are scarcely the nation's principal retailers of commuting bicycles, but their improved sales figures of 45%, encompassing road bikes, sportive bikes and incredibly, cyclocross bicycles (a sales increase of over 400%) makes an almost tangible link between britain's cycling successes and the number of drop-bar cycles being sold.
that said, ribbles cycles' chief marketing officer stated "Following the Olympians' recent request for an increase in investment for cycling, we agree and would also like the government to increase their spending in this area. Overall more consideration and funding is essential for cycling to be sustainable in the UK. Being proactive in this area of the industry is definitely a key concern of ours." it's easy to accuse ribble of being somewhat patronising from the stance of their remarkably buoyant financial results; in the light of the style of bicycle leaving their shop floor, increased government investment in cycling would appear to be of little concern.
of course, ribble cycles is but one retailer amongst many; it's always possible that they're simply better at cycle retail than their competitors. not so long ago, edinburgh bicycle admitted things were less than rosy across their retail outlets, a sentiment echoed by evans cycles. but irrespective of sales figures, there is little doubt that cycling in and of itself is more popular than it once was. on a good day, with a following wind, the velo club sunday ride can muster a peloton in excess of a dozen, comparing most favourably with yours truly on a solo campaign during those years in the wilderness.
that doesn't mean, however, that graeme obree was wrong.
friday 23 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
typecasting would have it that the average college student lives permanently in economic distress, always in debt to the bank of mummy and daddy. i cannot deny that such was at least partially the case during my very own college years, though in the days of student grants, my parents were spared many of the frequent handouts that characterise much of present day further education.
in order to prolong this mostly happy financial state of affairs, i mostly tried to behave as frugally as possible, never taking the bus when walking could accomplish the same thing, buying a small hi-bran loaf and jar of peanut butter instead of a takeaway and buying a small drumset without telling either parent in the hope that they wouldn't disown me when they eventually found out.
a poor student has to have some fun.
the process of walking to the supermarket to replenish bread and peanut butter supplies took me past a small, slightly unkempt shopfront, the glass window of which displayed an impressive number of oil paintings. in this case, the word impressive refers to the number and not the quality. for the barely mediocre art on display consisted mostly of portraits of charles and diana (yes, it was that long ago) and a variety of landscapes most of which contained a small lake front and centre.
while the portraiture was almost recognisable, the landscapes all suffered from the same basic technical error. in the centre of each modest stretch of water was a wide shimmer of light, the sort of thing that may have been caused by a moon or sun in the sky above, but in almost every instance, the latter was conspicuous by its absence. whether the gent who arrived on a vespa each morning was aware of this or not, we never discovered. however, presumably in order to better adapt his naive art to prospective customers, the same subject matter was painted in a variety of tones. we figured this would allow choice of purchase to match the sitting room wallpaper.
thus, while our lecturers at college were impressing upon us the various shades of blue most appropriate for skies and the tones that might suggest reflection of same in a body of water, this individualist made canvases with yellow, green, grey and blue skies and had done likewise to the former royal couple. that said, he did have a shop in one of aberdeen's particularly busy thoroughfares, so presumably his painting offered enough of an income to make it all worthwhile.
obviously, as art students who knew everything there was to know about pigment and its potential usage (not), we would stand for many minutes poking fun at the easels in the window.
most often, however, it's hard to find a bicycle painted in a colour that might match an important part of our lifestyle. though team sky ride aboard pinarellos decorated to match their rapha team kit, members of velo club d'ardbeg can only be found aboard a series of velocipedes that bear the colour their manufacturers adjudged to be fashionable at the time of sale. would not it be particularly enterprising to own a state of the art carbon road bicycle painted in a bright yellow to match the citroen 2cv parked in the driveway? or perhaps i could be allowed a bicycle in vintage marine pearl to sit comfortably beside my buddy rich/gene krupa drumset, no matter the potential idiocy of that desire?
custom painting of a bicycle is something that usually pertains only to professional cycle teams, a service cheerfully provided by their grateful sponsors. it is rarely a luxury available to the great unwashed, unless of course they are possessed of an impressive disposable income. but the very nice people at grupetto italia are allowing potential purchasers of their desirable range of bicycles a free custom paint option across all models, a largesse that incorporates the carbon mottarone sl and mergozzo cl as well as the columbus tubed cs maggiore.
i confess that i had rather expected the attached price tags to be only a shade less than stratospheric, but was pleasingly relieved to learn that a frame could be had for less than £1,000 while a complete bicycle only just broke the £1,500 mark. according to grupetto's nat rizzi, you simply "choose the exact colours to fit your template, including pantone or ral swatches." and for a modest upcharge of less than £100, there's even a personal decal service available.
with the rain on the double-glazing suggesting that summer is well and truly over, now is the obvious time to start planning next season's bicycle purchase, a choice that can now possibly include total personalisation of its colour scheme. you can find out more at grupettoitalia.co.uk
thursday 22 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
around 1994, i applied locally for a small grant to allow the purchase of the full retail version of adobe photoshop. like many others, i had what was then termed the limited edition version or le which could do pretty much everything any of us need (and then some) and usually came bundled with a scanner or some such. however, one of the things that the limited edition could not handle was the conversion of rgb images into cmyk. in normal day to day faffing, this is less than a big deal, but take one step inside the house of professional publishing and suddenly it became a factor without which progress grinds to a dead stop.
i received my grant, bought my photoshop and, up until a few years ago, we all lived happily ever after.
much like every manufacturer of eveything throughout the western world, adobe would add incremental features approximately every eighteen months, most of which could be categorised as take-it-or-leave-it, but one of which would have your lower jaw hitting the floor and hurrying to the photoshop shop to upgrade. that all came to an end with the advent of what adobe likes to refer to as creative cloud. no longer is it possible to purchase a copy of photoshop, because now you rent it and via the creative cloud desktop, the user is informed when an update to the software is available for immediate download.
there are arguments for and against this method of software rental, not least of which is the fact that if you stop the rental payments, the program stops working. in the good old days of actually owning something, at least there was software available even if the income gained from its use had seriously diminished to the point of no longer being able to afford the next upgrade.
computer software, however, is less than tangible; it's not the sort of thing that you could drop on the floor, or trip over when you get out of bed in the morning. unlike a bicycle, for example.
more than just a few of us own more than a single bicycle, often tenuously justified by the application of differing uses: road, mountain, cyclocross etc. and you'll have become increasingly aware that, along with the majority of the world, the bicycle industry is now every bit as embedded in the world of fashion as the clothing industry has been for ever and a day. though it may be still a few years away, the day will dawn when it when it becomes an embarrassing faux pas to be seen on last year's bike.
reality dictates that a constantly updating society is also one that is perpetually throwing stuff away, quite often stuff that's still perfectly useable, but in last year's colour. it's the industrial model that encourages what was once referred to as built-in obsolesence and though if pushed, most of us are quite cognisant of this fact, what's a fashionista to do?
in the case of britain's islabikes, at least as far as kids' bicycles are concerned, they've decided to do something about it through the recently announced imagine project. if i might quote: "Ownership as we know it will become a thing of the past. Bicycles will be rented to the user, then when they are finished with, they will be returned to the factory, refurbished and rented to another rider." in that format, it makes perfect sense, always assuming that the original bicycles have been made well enough and sturdy enough to be worth refurbishing in the first place. and it would make more than just good sense to ensure that as many of the materials used in the fabrication process can be suitably recycled when the bicycle reaches the end of it useful life.
the first practical step in fulfilling this lofty, yet practical ideal involves islabikes building a small range of sustainable bicycles in the uk which they have described as utility 'riding to school' bicycles that will complement the existing islabikes range. in order to further this project and take it into the real world, islabikes are looking for a small number of early adopters to help develop the concept. if this sounds like something in which you might like to be involved, click over to the islabikes website via the link below to offer your details.
one day, all bicycles will (hopefully) be like this. islabikes deserve a salutory round of applause for being first to the start line.
wednesday 21 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there are any number of reasons to be found for identifying oneself as a 'cyclist'. notions of environmental profundity, prevention or cure of a propensity to enter the sphere of obesity, celebration of the great outdoors or even pretensions of sporting prowess. how distinctly gratifying it would be to slope into the office of a monday monring with a spring in your step, dispensing tales of derring-do and untold kilometres in the direction of one's colleagues. granted, that sort of thing doesn't always win friends and influence people, but there's always the option to keep quiet and eternally smug.
not for the civilian population are there the mitigating factors of rule #5 and the adulation to be bathed in from a badass rule #9, but delusions of sporting grandeur must be grabbed at all opportunities.
the constant barrage of media reports alluding to encroaching global warming, melting glaciers and ever increasing record temperatures for each succeeding month offer the win/win opportunities of the proverbial double-edged sword. while occupying the moral high ground and contending that noxious emissions will be just that teensy-weensy bit lower due to our adoption of the velocipede, warmer days and balmy evenings offer the very conditions that attract the new recruit along with the seasoned professional.
the foregoing paints an idylic picture of the cycling milieu that is bereft of anything approaching a downside. phrased correctly, it would be child's play to impinge upon the non-believer that simply removing the bicycle from the bikeshed and pedalling as little or as much as eddy says we should will confer only good health and happiness on all who take part. of course, if there's a yin, as proposed above, there has always to be a yang to offer some form of appraisable contrast. in the particular case i had in mind, that would be sunday morning rain.
and rather a lot of it.
'tis a far cry from the latter years of last century and the first few of this one, when yours truly was the sole velocipedinist around these here parts. it took very little effort at all to continually put off the witching hour on sunday mornings until either the weather did dramatically clear, or i'd managed to talk myself out of riding altogether in the face of (allegedly) impending adversity. rules #5 and # had not yet been invented. prince bradley's latter day intervention has, it must be admitted, swelled the ranks by an appreciable factor; if everyone turns up outside debbie's of a sunday morn, i might now be only one amongst a potential peloton of at least a dozen.
aside from the social benefits, cars now pull into passing places to let us past.
but, as every cycling apparel practitioner knows, autumn/winter is not long in coming round, often bringing with it the cold and precipitation that will see those glaciers live to slither yet another day. under such conditions, it becomes easy to identify those for whom the bicycle is close to religion. yes, we've all heard the admonition 'there's no such thing as bad weather, just poor choice of clothing', a mantra surely designed to garner a level of oneupmanship that is closely allied to rule #5?
however, i would like it placed on record that riding in the rain, however tempestuous and however much of it drips down inside the overshoes, is not the worst thing that can befall the eager cyclist. we have been forever informed that puppies are not just for christmas, a philosophy i would like to paraphrase by contesting that cycling isn't just for summer. riding 50 kilometres in drenching rain may well be purgatory at the time, but as long as you've remembered to carry a spare pair of gloves to wear after coffee, it promotes a sense of well-being and bragging rights that can scarcely be equalled by putting your slippered feet up in front of the air-source heat pump and watching another lame episode of the real housewives of new york.
looked at with a perspective of sanity, riding in the rain makes no sense at all, but if for no other reason, i'd like to think that's precisely why we do it.
tuesday 20 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................