the advent of autumn allows me to better exercise my take on islay's birdlife, a popular attraction to the island all-year round, but particularly at this time when thousands of geese nip south for the winter from greenland. though the population of said birdage is apparently suffering a cyclical decrease, it is still possible to witness huge numbers overhead in their trademark 'v' formation, moving from one feeding ground to another. it's the principal reason why the velo club wears helmets.
when i moved here almost three decades ago, i figured it was incumbent on me, as a newbie, to learn to identify each and every bird that i might encounter along the way. disappointingly, though the observer's book of birds is quite explicit in its differentiations and illustrations, almost all the birds amongst its contents looked pretty much identical when seen in their natural habitat. therefore, i have evolved my own categorisation; there are geese and not geese, knowledge that will get you through any seven day visit to the isle between now and next may.
however, should you be more ornithologically inclined than yours truly, the ideal way to see more than you ever thought possible would be to contact my friend, gary turnbull. an experienced twitcher, as i believe is the correct terminology, and proprietor of wild islay birding, gary is well-placed to educate the civilian population to the contrary and inadequacy of my own view of the subject. i mention this because gary was sat in debbie's last sunday lunchtime as the bedraggled peloton dragged itself in from the cold, partaking of a coffee and a rather tasty looking toasted sandwich, with his monogrammed minibus sitting outside.
we had headed out optimistically at the witching hour of 10am into the teeth of a rising galeforce wind, one which bore the portent of rain at almost precisely the time specified by the forecast. judging by the apparel on display, most of us had raided the winter portions of our cycling wardrobes in anticipation of being the very embodiment of velominati's rule nine. as it happens that is precisely what transpired.
though not waterproof, i had taken advantage of endura's latest pro sl biblongs (as livingston likes to call them), or bibtights to you and i. never a truer word was spoken by endura's product director, pamela barclay when she stated "Our Scottish heritage has always left us ideally placed to produce weather-defeating garments." this particular garment features wind-defeating panels on the front, accompanied by a cosy, thin fleecy lining to garner benefit from having pushed aside an atlantic gale. additionally, endura have extended the windproofing round the back of the thighs, helping to resist road spray, a feature that works remarkaby well. were that thought insufficient, there are reflective panels on the calves to ensure visibility of a darkened evening.
the pro sl bibs come highly recommended by vuelta winner, nairo quintana, though perhaps less for their weatherproofing as for the apparently unique variable pad width, previously only available in the pro sl bibshorts. this aspect offer a choice of narrow, medium and wide pads depending on the perceived size of your posterior. should you be consciously unaware of this particular dimension, each authorised endura dealer is equipped with a saddle-like device that will alert you to which option to choose. though islay has a fellow like gary to point out the wonders of hebridean birdlife, we are totally bereft of an endura dealer, so in my case, i guessed.
and i guessed right.
at least the evidence of a series of pro sl clad rides would tend to suggest so. however, in all honesty, i'd really have need of wearing the medium and wide options just for comparison's sake. but on the basis that my bicycle rides on either a brooks cambium carved or the specialized saddle atop their crux elite have given no cause for adverse comment, i think it safe to say that endura have our backsides well covered (if you see what i mean).
as one ideally placed to judge the efficacy of any proposed windproofing, i can testify that these are pretty much as good as it gets. in the reasonably mild temperatures still inflicted upon the hebrides, i cannot deny that there were occasions when i felt just a tad overdressed, but that augurs particularly well when the mercury no longer rises. and from the point of view of requiring to take a natural break, the admirably low, square-section front panel features an easily manipulated zip. as well as specifying the narrow width pad, i opted for the small-size pro sl, subsequently experiencing no red grooves on my shoulders when heading for the shower.
on leaving for home into ten kilometres of galeforce headwind, we did consider asking birding gary to drive ahead of us with the rear door of the bus wide open on the pretence of motor-pacing, but with the thought that he might be inclined to point out itinerant birdlife along the way, we decided to keep the suggestion to ourselves.
thankfully, i have it on good authority that no amount of windproofing will devalue the effect of rule #nine.
endura's pro sl biblongs are available in sizes ranging from smal to xxl with three pad widths: narrow (green pad), medium (red pad) and wide (blue pad). retail price is £139.99.
monday 17 october 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though not specifically pertaining to that which follows, i have found it necessary to make mention nonetheless. as i travailed along the section of pavement between the office and one of bowmore's local hostelries only the other day - purely in the process of moving a drumset from one location to the other, you understand - i noted a sign fastened to a garden gate along the way. i have paid cursory attention to this sign on previous occasions, but the oddity of its wording had not entered the psyche at those times. to clear matters further, let me inform you thus: ' no parking. 24 hour access required at all times'.
some of you will recognise immediately that which has me confounded, but for those who now bear a quizzical look upon their faces, some elucidation may be required. surely the fact that access is required 'at all times' is implied by the first part of the sign, rendering those three words semantically redundant? if, in the process of moving the drums back to their original resting place, i come upon the resident of said abode, i will point out this anomaly.
or not, as the case may be.
mrs washingmachinepost tells me that it is highly presumptious of me to expect the owner of this garden gate to have realised the iniquity of their highly visible message, but surely it is not over-examining the situation to expect that the producers of the sign to have thought long and hard before committing to production?
and while we're on the subject of things people ought to have known in advance, a classified advertisement appearing in one of the current cycling periodicals provides yet another salient example. if the individual concerned happens to be reading this, i apologise profusely for making light of your situation, but anonymity surely counts for something?
at any rate, the advertisement concerns a cycle for sale which, according to the wording, has travelled a mere 25 miles from new. no doubt you will be thinking the same as did i; how can you form a derogatory opinion of any bicycle after a mere 25 miles? if it were possible to achieve this in real life, the cycling periodical concerned would have little difficulty in reviewing around twenty bicycles per issue, and i'd likely include a fair few more of my own in these very pixels. however, on further reading, it transpires that the reason for sale is due to the bicycle being of an incorrect size.
it strikes me that this is the very travesty that the trek bicycle company sought to remedy by their insistence that none of their product range be sold over the internets. if it's a trek that you desire, it is necessary to visit an authorised trek dealer to ensure that the bicycle of your desires is correctly fitted before delivery. when the original announcement was made a few years past, i contacted several other bicycle manufacturers to query whether they intended to follow suit. though i fully understand the thought process behind trek's commercial diktat, it scarcely takes into account individuals such as myself who would need to endure a three-day trip, with the concomitant expense, simply to satisfy any inclination to own a trek. happily, from at least my own point of view, no others have thus far followed suit.
but that still leaves little excuse for purchasing an ill-fitting bicycle. even in remote and less than cycling-obsessed locations such as an hebridean island, it is simplicity itself to ask those more experienced in such matters, or even ask to sit astride a friend's bicycle and gauge appropriate comparison. of course, bicycle manufacturers do not help matters by failing to adhere to any standardised criteria. though my two colnagos are 54cm traditional frames with horizontal top tubes, when requesting review models bearing sloping top tubes, it was necessary to subtract 4cm and ask for a 50cm.
my suggestion to ease the situation across the board would be to measure from bottom bracket centre to the top of the seat tube. since the latter measurement is the lowest point to which any saddle could be set, whether the top tube sloped or not would be of academic interest. the only other consideration necessary would be the length of that top tube. no doubt i have missed some major loophole in my cunning plan, otherwise i'm sure everyone would already have adopted this solution, but in the meantime, it's still no excuse for purchasing any bicycle that is so inadequately sized that it has to be sold after a mere 25 miles.
but the really worrying part was the included admission that the frame had suffered one or two scratches in such a short distance. maybe prospective purchasers ought first to have need of passing an ownership test? purely in the bicycle's best interests, of course.
wheel bicycle courtesy brooks england
sunday 16 october 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
alpenrose dairy is situated in shattuck road in southwest portland, oregon and this year celebrates its 100th anniversary. it is of specific interest to portland's cycling contingent due to the incorporation of an outdoor, concrete velodrome, one of only 25 similar venues across the united states. as i am more than willing to testify, at 43 degrees, it has one of the steepest bankings in north america, featured on a 268.43 metre track. on my first visit to portland in 2009, i spent a happy afternoon sitting on the grass watching track racing with one of my goodest friends, chris distefano and his family.
though alpenrose still sells some of the finest dairy products in the country, rather eccentrically, it also hosts dairyville, a replica of a western frontier town, including false-fronted shops, an ice-cream parlour, a doll museum, music shop and a six hundred seat opera house with a 4000 pipe organ. without intending any disrespect, it's just the sort of thing you'd exepct to find in portland, a town that reminded me of nothing more or less of being back at art school.
and it will probably surprise you even less to know that a town with an outdoor velodrome, an explicit connection with the wild west and only marginally less rainfall than the west of scotland, is also a hotbed of cyclocross obsessives. this has resulted in the world famous river city bicycles sponsoring this year's annual cross crusade, a race series that includes events that wend their merry way through that frontier town, around the infield and up the steps of alpenrose velodrome.
while scotland's west coast has experienced something of an indian summer over the past few weeks, portland has gained an early start on its annual rainfall statistics, with the 2016 cross crusade beginning in gloriously muddy conditions. according to mr distefano "I read a report that 19 trillion gallons of water will likely fall in the region over the next three days."
cyclocross in the pacific northwest, as you would expect, takes on a slightly less serious portent than races featured in either the uci world championships or super-prestige series. according to chris "We've told everyone to keep an eye out for the River City Bicycles Black Knight who takes to the course throughout the day, with prizes to be won by catching and tagging him/her on course. It's not always as easy as it sounds, though; the Black Knight likes to race!"
i've posted a link below to the river city bicycles' video of the two most recent 'cross events held at alpenrose. and it's worth noting that not only are they sponsoring the 'cross series, but supporting local portland bands by featuring their music as the soundtrack on this and future videos. in this case, 'i am the sun' by poison beaches. with cyclocross season now well under way, both across the pond, in the uk and in continental europe, it's nice to see how the other half races.
saturday 15 october 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in 1998, myself and a compatriot took the ferry from campbeltown across the water to ballycastle (the very same location more recently visited to witness a stage of of the giro d'italia), heading south to watch the prologue and first stage of willy voet's tour de france. it could not be said that either of us were particularly adept at the principle of cycle touring, both being wannabe roadies for whom attached luggage was complete anathema. however, pragmatic necessity demanded that we not only carry a tool or ten, but at least one change of clothing.
though i have witnessed many a cycling fan at the roadside cheering everything on two wheels, yet still dressed in their club kit and cleated shoes, i'd lay odds that theirs was a day trip incorporating no overnight stays. as it transpired, my colleague broke a rear wheel spoke as we climbed the road from ballycastle, a northern ireland coastal town several hundred miles from our dublin destination, but i had fortunately packed not only a few spare spokes, but a cassette remover too.
and yet i was never a boy scout.
it would be foolish to criticise; broken spokes can happen to anyone and at least one of us was prepared. however, were that not tempting fate just a smidgeon, he had opted to ride on tubular tyres, carrying two spares. one of these failed to make the grade on the outward trip, quickly and easily changed by a fellow well used to the occasional iniquity visited by tyres of the tubular variety. however, as if one broken spoke and a punctured tubular were not enough of a spanner in the otherwise carefully planned works, the second tubular opted for voluntary redundancy on the homeward trip. despite riding on a sunday, we scoured each village for a bike shop that might be open, fervently hoping that, should we happen upon such favourably disposed premises, they would turn out to be a stockist of 700c tubulars.
it will not come as too much as a surprise that we saw not a single bike shop all the way from dublin to ballycastle and fortunately had no more tubular punctures. just to even matters up a tad, i too suffered a puncture, relieving my luggage of one of its spare tubes.
i cannot deny that my friend's choice to ride such a distance over territory unknown on tubular tyres, one of which was attached to a zipp carbon wheel (yes, really), struck me as optimistic at best and perhaps just a bit foolish at worst. even supermarkets occasionally stock puncture repair kits for inner tubes, but i seriously doubt that racing tubulars (vittoria open corsa) were designed for trammeling the rubbish-strewn periphery of the dual-carriageway leading to dublin.
in a recent issue of rouleur matt seaton was moved to sing the praises of the tubular tyre on cyclocross bicycles, a luxury i have yet to experience. according to both mr seaton and jeremy powers, tubular 'cross tyres allow far lower pressures than do clincher tyres when the ground scarcely resembles the surface of a billiard table. this aspect is reflected in the reason that roadies are better disposed towards the tubular tyre than the clincher, as when deflated, it is possible to continue rolling until the team car arrives with a spare.
additionally, the constitution of the average racing tubular allows for impressively greater tyre pressures than a similarly styled clincher. and as a part of the modern idiom, tubulars live far more comfortably with carbon rims, a necessary paragraph to have on the modern curriculum vitae.
all the forgoing would be of purely academic interest, were it not for the salient and oft reported news that the 2017 world time-trial champion achieved his rainbow bands riding on clinchers. now, just to place this in some sort of perspective, the dangers of so doing in a time-trial are considerably less than during a road race. for starters, a puncture would result in a bike change rather than a wheel change. and secondly and just as importantly, the team car is a darned sight closer during a tt than is often the case in a road race, meaning little need to ride any distance on a flat tyre.
it has been known for a while that clinchers on their tyre specific rims are less prone to deformation, resulting in lower rolling resistance and thus marginally higher speeds. but in tony martin's case, the tyres fitted to his s-works shiv were just a few brownie points above those you and i are probably riding. specialized provided a pair of their turbo cottons, featuring a cotton casing impregnated in latex. and tony martin is not the only rider to place his faith in clincher tyres with riders on the tinkoff team doing likewise but without martin's impressive success.
this is great news for those of us who adeptly follow velominati's rules of cycling. though frank strack's brainchild does not expressly recommend that we ride tubulars on the sunday ride, you just know that this is a ninety-sixth rule just waiting to be written. but now we can ride our tawdry clinchers on the way to froth supping via the sprint at bruichladdich, safe in the knowledge that, if they're good enough for tony, then they're far too good for us.
friday 14 october 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have owned and ridden a couple of road bikes that featured internal cabling, even if that extended solely to the rear brake cable wending its functional way through the top tube. several manufacturers, particularly those of a more salubrious nature, generously provide a spaghetti tube brazed inside the tube to ease the process of replacing the cable when such becomes necessary, however, my first experience of internal cabling was bereft of such assistance. as you can perhaps imagine, spending anything up to an hour frustratingly trying to push that thin little wire through the rearmost exit of a steel tube, gradually wore a tad thin. which is why i came up with an annoyingly simple solution.
necessity being the mother, etc.
wishing not to lose any more hours of my life, it dawned on me that if i removed the internal wire of the defunct version before subsequently replacing it with the new, i could then remove the outer cable and thread the new one over the top. it sounds very much like the sort of operation that should have suggested itself on first approach, but some of us are slower on the uptake than others. and should anyone else have been struggling with this maintenance problem without having happened upon this solution, let's just make it our little secret.
nowadays, however, internal seems to be the way forward, whether most of us want it or not. in truth, this aspect of modernity seems to have more to do with external aesthetics than easing the situation for professional and home mechanics. the culprit, as far as i'm concerned, is electronica. the first review bicycle i received with dura-ace di2 arrived with a frame ill-equipped to cope with the fragility of electrons, the electronic cables being zip-tied to the downtube. never have i been so careful with a bicycle, lest i had to make that phone call.
only a few years after the unveiling of shimano's button push, colnago featured a c59 on their stand at earls court with a battery hidden in the seatpost. that pretty much demanded that the attached wires inhabit the inner sanctum of ernesto's carbon tubes. but then fast forward to the most recent of visitors to thewashingmachinepost bike shed, a mechanically equipped specialized crux elite.
this bicycle arrived in its raw state; cossetted in all manner of card, polystyrene tubing and bubble wrap, all held in place with an array of zip ties. fortunately the hydraulics were already fitted, but i had the pleasure of attaching both front and rear gear cables on the inside of the bicycle's brightly coloured, oversized carbon downtube. specialized had deliberately made life pretty simple in this instance, placing thin opaque straws through which the wires could be easily threaded. and to ensure those straws were still in situ on arrival, each end had been fitted with masking tape to prevent them falling out or disappearing inside. once cabled up, these little straws could be easily removed and retained, ready to adopt a variation of my original solution (as detailed above) when the wires need replacing.
so far, so good, though i still regularly make the acquaintance of both roadies and offroadies with less than salutory comments to make about internal cable routing. however, since it seems to be here to stay, until fashion changes once more, there is little point in moaning.
however, while internal cable routing does provide an external smoothness that simply cannot be replicated by your average steel l'eroica entry, one of the advantages that l'eroica has over contemporaneity is that of obviousness. in a perfect example of out of sight, out of mind, hidden cables can be prone to a distinct lack of necessary fettling, while those on less fashionable velocipedes cannot hide their inevitable decay. and with the end of british summer time when october becomes november, this is the very time of day that closer inspection of any cable is more than justified.
i'm telling you all this because next time you hit an upward gradient and the rear derailleur remains steadfastly in the one sprocket, you won't blame me. and on the basis that all wires degrade in the face of adversity, if you bear electronica, that hardly lets you off the hook.
electrons are people too you know.
thursday 13 october 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i cannot deny that i'm not the biggest fan of the olympics, even though i spent as much time as seemingly everyone else watching the track racing over a period of evenings, also taking time to watch both the men's and women's road races as well as the men's time-trial. which makes it now a lot harder to deny any specific interest. having said that, the cycling was the only discipline i took any interest in, though i saw a few snippets of the trampolining while waiting for the track cycling to commence.
a bit like ice-dancing in the winter olympics, i'd find it very hard to defend the inclusion of events such as those which involve bouncing into the air and attempting all manner of twists and turns in the process. this is not because i have any disdain for the effort required or the number of hours involved in training to be amongst the very best, but rests more specifically on the means of judging the winner.
sports such as cycle racing, athletics, javelin, swimming et al simply rely on a first past the post. no matter your opinion of the individual who achieves such a victory, it's hard to deny that the first to cross the line is the winner. even in three week stage races such as the tour, giro or vuelta, there's a time element that will anoint an ultimate winner. but in sports such as trampoline, diving and the aforementioned ice-dancing, there is a panel of qualified judges deciding which of the presented candidates best fits the bill. no matter the avowed expertise of those judges, subjectivity is bound to creep in somewhere along the line. surely the competitive milieu, such as it is, ought to rely purely on objectivity, at least as far as the olympics and any particular world championships are concerned?
which is perhaps an appropriate moment to discuss the current road world championships taking place in doha, a modern city on the peninsula of qatar sited on the persian gulf opposite the shores of iran. despite temperatures that are likely a tad higher than that of my office, a week's worth of racing including road races, team time-trials and individual time trials is probably testing riders, bicycles and lightweight clothing to their collective limits. but eventually and once again, no matter your opinion(s) of each rider, someone will win the right to wear a jersey with a set of multi-coloured bands across the middle, the paramount accolade for those involved.
except the point of so doing is, in my opinion, somewhat questionable. only a matter of years ago, tom southam and charly wegelius were severely censured while allegedly working for the italian team during the men's road race. in the opinion of the british team, their efforts would have been better applied closer to home. if memory serves correctly, both riders were members of italian trade teams at the time. and that's where the efficacy of a world championship can be seen to have a few cracks around the edge.
for starters, a number of riders have maintained that their season-long sponsors are less than desirous of any team member being fortunate enough to win the road race. this is based purely on commercial grounds; if you've won the right to wear the championship bands, that means the star rider will rarely be seen in regular team colours, potentially meaning disappointed sponsors.
though understandable, it still seems a tad short-sighted. however, my real concern with the world championships rests on a distant similarity to north america's baseball world series. for how can it be called the word series when those taking part are exclusively drawn from america's 52 states?
it would be nuts to claim that the road world championships are as iconoclastic as baseball, but taking an average of the last decade's world's event, it might seem more accurate to re-name this sunday's event as the sprinters' world championships. in my defence, might i cite one online article impressing upon us the riders we may wish to keep an eye on in doha this sunday afternoon. cavendish, greipel, kittel, bouhanni, viviani; i'm sure i have made my point quite clearly. and though the current incumbent, peter sagan, is not exclusively a sprinter, you'll have a hard time finding his finishing time in the first ten atop mt ventoux or alpe d'huez.
so, imagine yourself to be a world tour level professional who has all the sprinting ability of michael rasmussen. unless your country's governing body has insisted that you ride in support of one of the above, are you going to travel to doha? and if you've already had decent success at any of the season's grand tours, none of which fell to acknowledged sprinters, why bother? all of which is comprehensible, but rather devalues the contention that the road race is a true world championships. until each national selection process includes all the world's top riders irrespective of their avowed specific riding abilities the word 'championships' is somewhat in doubt. but it is also incumbent on the host country to devise a parcours that will test the mettle of all and not just those with a sprint train.
that said, i'll still be watching, cheering the victor, then keeping an eye on the mythical curse of the rainbow jersey throughout 2017.
wednesday 12 october 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
oddly enough, this past summer has been somewhat light on the precipitation front. that's not an oft-repeated statement that finds much favour on the west coast of scotland. though summers here are rarely arid, more often than not rainy days constitute a frequent array of punctuation midst sun, sea and sand. such a situation as has been experienced this year is most certainly nothing about which to complain. yes, there has been rain, often in quite large quantities, but favourably, it's often done its worst during the hours of darkness, when i have been cosily tucked up in my bed and certainly not even thinking of being out and about on my bicycle.
it is, of course, the garment reviewer's curse. on more occasions than i'd care to recount, a period of dessicated climate has followed the arrival of waterproof apparel destined for review in these very pixels. it is something of a double-edged sword; my office colleagues have pestered me to request even more waterproofs in order to prolong the shiny stuff as long as possible. with regard to the garment currently under discussion, i had cause to contact hilltrek on two separate occasions to apologise for the dearth of review paragraphs, but considering its position in the community as a bona-fide waterproof jacket, simply wearing it in less than a downpour seemed an ultimately pointless exercise. nobody buys one of these to simply look good in costa coffee.
this situation dragged on a tad longer than expected (when you take my location into account), eventually engendering a review in consideration of its fabric, constitution and general fit. but despite a weather predicament we might reasonably apportion to that of climate change, there has since been at least one or two (or more) situations in which i have managed to achieve at least a partial drenching. well, ok, i got thoroughly soaked.
only, the implication of that last sentence is somewhat skew-wiff. yes, i had rain pouring out the vents on my shoes and my cycling denims took more than just a few hours to dry on the bathroom clothes-horse. but the hilltrek jacket, in all its bright orangeness, remained impressivley dry on the interior. in fact, on one occasion, having forgotten to remove my ipod from the upper-left front pocket, despite rain of a fervent nature, its demeanour remained unsullied by even a hint of precipitation and i could still listen to my buddy rich and louie bellson albums.
the relative shortness of the sleeves still remains a minor quibble, though as explained in my initial review, it's possible to request extra length at the point of ordering (which, i believe, my friend jack thurston had the perspicacity so to do). however, the incessant baubling of water droplets about its person, even in the face of a summer breeze (a little hebridean humour there) and persistent rain remains a source of juvenile joy.
ventile as a fabric, consists of very tightly woven cotton threads which expand when wet, thus restraining rain from entering, but allowing perspiration to escape. however, as with pretty much every waterproof breathable jacket on the market, it doesn't breathe quite as quickly as a straining cyclist can. this particular jacket features double ventile; it constitutes both the external face and that of the internal lining, a factor that doubtless mitigates against the ease of breathability, but is doubtless responsible for a level of waterproofing that's pretty much in a wardrobe all of its own. in truth, assuming circimstances allow, the hilltrek is best worn in conjunction with waterproof trousers, for its aversion to precipitation predicates a minor waterfall heading towards your knees.
the lack of an applied durable water repellency (dwr) coating results in a stiffening of the fabric when fending off the worst of the elements. this is a notable alteration in the state of garmentage to be sure, but not one that would give any cause for major concern. there is a point at which the ventile reaches peak repellency and thus stiffness in the face of adversity, but a point that is not really of major concern to the thus-dressed cyclist. once again, i must reiterate my query as to why this material is not found more often in cycle-related apparel?
though we are but a matter of weeks distant from the end of british summer time, the temperature has yet to trouble the lower digits of the thermometer. as such, i am reluctant to categorise this as my final word on the subject. should i find myself in the chilly eye of the hurricane, so to speak, while clad in bright orange, i reserve the right to wax lyrical once more at a later date.
tuesday 11 october 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................