talking of the festive 500 as we were, the years have proved that there is a strategy of sorts to be implemented; all is not quite as straightforward as it initially seems. five hundred kilometres divided by eight days results in an apparent 62.5km per day, a target easily attainable by the majority of us, some more quickly than others. but that assumes that conditions are going to be identical each and every day between christmas eve and new year's eve. i don't know much about your festive season, but in mine, that is rarely the case.
for starters, there's the inescapable existence of christmas day. having occupied virtually each and every sunday morning this past year with velocipedinal activity, there's no doubt that mrs twmp would be less than forgiving if i spent more than my indefinably allotted time in the saddle on christmas day. so the cunning plan as of this moment is to put a few extra kilometres in the bank on christmas eve, a strategic decision that, if carefully managed, ought to see me commence on boxing day morning at just the right point on my timeline. or, if i'm really lucky, a few kilometres ahead.
but it then becomes necessary to take the weather into account. i have no problem whatsoever with riding in the rain. previous years have seen me spend all but one day of the 500 riding through perpetual precipitation. waterproofs 'r' us. but up till now, we've been spared the usual influx of atlantic gales, a luxury that is more than likely to come back and bite us on the bibshorts. only one year in the past six has allowed pedalling to take place on each of the eight days. two years ago i lost two days to unrideable winds, necessitating a few more kilometres on the other six, than originally planned.
so far, so normal. but suppose that, in the process of garnering a few extra kilos on christmas eve, i do actually get wet. i haven't actually calculated how many hours are involved in achieving, let's say 80 kilometres, but if it's raining, even if i optimistically manage 25kph that's over three hours in the wet. i am well supplied with overshoes, but it's impossible to discount the inevitable foot ingress resulting from having legs sticking out the top of my shoes. what's needed is a pair of waterproof socks.
pop a pair of those on, cover them with shoes and ultimately a pair of overshoes and no longer is there any need to spend over three hours with a swimming pool sloshing about my tootsies. as it happens, the lovely people at dexshell provided a pair of their ultralite biking socks in order that i might attain that which i seek for my feet. featuring a porelle membrane sandwiched between a nylon/elastane knitted outer and a rather comfortable cotton/nylon inner sock, these have festive 500 written all over them (metaphorically speaking, you understand?)
consituted as ankle length socks with a chartreuse hi-vis cuff, it would be less than vaguely scientific of me to have ridden with overshoes, for how would i have discovered whether or not they did what it said on the tin (a card box, actually)? thus, feet clad only in a pair of rapha climber's shoes, i braved wind and rain for several hours peppered with showers of varuing intensity and the inevitable constant road spray. due to both the socks' breathability and their waterproofing, i arrived back at chez washingmachinepost with comfortably dry feet (though i'd to stuff newspaper inside the shoes to dry them out).
applying this knowledge to my cunning festive plan, i can now safely aim for those 80 christmas eve kilometres and earn subsequent christmas day brownie points.
dexshell ultralite biking socks are available in sizes from small to xl at a remarkably reasonable £20.
monday 12 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as i pointed out in a tweet to andy storey (prendas) this past week, i may not be renowned for much, but i was amongst the 94 individuals who undertook rapha's first festive 500 way back in 2010. that was the year that islay received its most substantial drop of snow in almost twenty years, a fact that required a last minute change of route because a major part of my daily kilometreage was under several inches of the white stuff. hardy individual though i like to think i might be, despite being aboard a cyclocross bicycle, i could not ride fast enough to keep warm. aside from falling off twice in short order, my fingers were so cold, i couldn't feel either the brake or gear levers.
i did successfully apply for my sew-on patch on the culmination of those first 500 kilometres, but in subsequent years, i've considered it more of a personal challenge and i sure as heck haven't signed up on strava for this year. though rapha are offering a rather magnificent prize for the individual who best documents their festive ride, i'm quite content to watch the numbers accumulate on my garmin just to make sure i'm not cheating. i'm sure imperial works will find out in due course.
according to rapha, over 72,000 riders signed up for the ride last year, though only 13,311 completed the full distance. lest you figure the latter is a compressed simile of the fate that befalls most gym memberships, i have the greatest of sympathies with at least some of the hapless dnfs. because i live on the outer edge, a matter of metres from the north atlantic, there have been more than a few festive days when the windspeed was well above that which would engender safe cycling. i've always been really lucky that days such as those have appeared strategically, allowing sufficient time to garner a few extra kilometres before running out of time.
but it's been close more than once.
it is, however, worth recalling that the festive 500 is a challenge, public or personal; even if the garmin fails to rack up the full 500, provided you make every effort, there is no shame in failing to finish. as rapha lead designer and the man responsible for the whole experience, graeme raeburn said "For me it's not a mile chasing, head banging, bar chewing, macho thing. It's really about getting out there, enjoying being out on your bike and being with other people or visiting other people. It's about the spirit of Christmas."
and this year, for the first time, rapha have provided us the ideal apparel in which to experience the fun and frolics. available in both long and short sleeve, imperial works has augmented their core range once more with appropriately decorated jerseys, matching casquette and contrasting socks. with the core range occupying the lower cost rankings, this means that you'll have more cash left to buy an impressive present for your nearest and dearest who will probably be left on their own rather a lot between christmas and new year. either that, or the very same individual might consider buying the kit for your christmas present.
though perhaps not applicable to the san francisco rapha cycle club, or any of those down under, the festive period is often fraught with precipitation on a grand scale, in which case you might wish to avail yourselves of the core rain jacket, described as "an extremely lightweight and packable outer layer designed for rain and wind." to put not too fine a point on it, when they said"lightweight', they weren't kidding. 'diaphanous' might be a more accurate description. impressively still featuring a hang loop at the collar (you'd be surprised how many jackets are devoid of this compulsory feature) and an adjustable cord at the hem, you can scrunch this into almost insignificance to stuff in a jersey rear pocket. and having done so, there's still room for a skoda in the same pocket.
by the very nature of being waterproof, the jacket is also windproof, but neither that nor its compactability would be worthy of praise were its force-field properties to be found wanting. fear not, for even 70 kilometres in wind and frequent heavy showers were insufficient to get my festive 500 jersey wet. since the specialized crux has not acquired the mudguard/fender habit, all that road spray from the rear tyre simply dripped off the back onto the road from whence it came, leaving the festive 500 core jersey dry once more. and as an intrinsic factor that is something of a deal-breaker for yours truly, the sleeve length is perfectly judged.
i cannot deny that i still breathe a smidgeon more than does the jacket, but that's a holy grail yet to be mastered by almost everyone. still, you probably shouldn't leave home without it.
rapha's core range festive 500 jerseys are available in sizes xs to xl with prices starting at £75 for the short sleeve and £85 for the long sleeve. the casquette is priced at £15 and proving that art lies in the detail, features an outer tab with the dates of this year's eight day challenge. the socks can also be purchased for £15 in sizes s, m, l and xl.
the core range rain jacket is available in sizes xs to xxl in chartreuse, red, navy or black at a retail price of £100.
sunday 11 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i realise that the following will seriously undermine my track cred, but in point of fact, i have only attended two indoor track meetings and one out of doors. the latter was a rather excellent afternoon at alpenrose velodrome in portland, oregon some seven years ago, but my exposure to the joys of the wooden boards has been confined to an edition of the revolution series (thank you charlie) and the recent scottish round of the uci world track championships. both the latter took place at the sir chris hoy velodrome in glasgow's east end, though for sponsorship reasons, i'm sure i should refer to it as the emirates stadium.
but i won't.
track cycling must be one of the few strains of the sport which is every bit as accessible in real life as when watched on the tellybox. though many of the contemporary cyclocross circuits appear to have been architectured to allow visibility from pretty much any point on the course, i still figure any particular race is better appreciated on the small screen; at least if you wish to view every twist and turn. i doubt there's even any argument over which would be the better means of approaching any of the big tours or one day classics, no matter the atmosphere to be absorbed at the side of the road.
but i can't help feeling that, with specific reference to the world of the velodrome, it has recently been a case of 'out with the old and in with the new'. glasgow was the grateful recipient of a rather dashingly impressive indoor velodrome for the 2014 commonwealth games. but at the time, there was still the outdoor velodrome at meadowbank in edinburgh, constructed for the 1986 edition of the same competition, a mere 30 miles distant. and while the uci track championship, the revolution series and other national and international competitive events are held in glasgow, poor old meadowbank exists principally to serve the needs of edinburgh road club.
likewise further south. though the headquarters of britain's entire cycling strategy appears to be housed in manchester velodrome and, truth be told, the nation's current success in velocipedinal matters probably began with its existence, there is now also the lea park velodrome in london, a legacy from having hosted the 2012 olympic games. however, it seems that the track cyclists of yesteryear were perhaps of hardier stock, with meadowbank in edinburgh and south east london's herne hill both devoid of any weather protection.
one of the world's oldest cycling tracks, herne hill was built in 1891 and played host to the olympic cycling events in 1948. at one point, it was the only cycling track in london. in 2010 there was something of a scare that, despite its great heritage, it might disappear forever, but after successful negotiations and an equally succesful funding drive, it has lived to ride another day. in fact, herne hill has been the subject of a resurgence in recent years and will soon be the proud owner of a new pavilion. but as anyone who has moved into a new house will know only too well, though you may have purchased the exterior, the inside has still to be suitably kitted out.
in the case of herne hill, it is estimated that the cost of so doing will be around £75,000; mere pocket money in the grand scheme of modern velodromes and probably only a fraction of the cost spent by british cycling on developing the carbon track frames that have now been mysteriously replaced by cervelos. in order to achieve this magic number, the friends of herne hill have initiated a crowdfunding appeal on crowdfunder which, at the time of writing had reached over one-third of its target.
geographical locations are as nothing in cycling; the fact that herne hill is well south of the border and definitely not in ireland or wales is really of no never mind. it is our duty as cyclists to do the decent thing and send a few pounds in their direction before the end of january 2017. if cycling really is experiencing its veritable day in the sun, that means there are even more of us to keep the faith. if every one of the post's readers were to pledge a tenner, they could probably build a second pavilion at the other side of the track.
as captain picard was oft quoted as saying "make it so."
saturday 10 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though you may think it a strange notion for a holiday, every year, mrs washingmachinepost and i choose at least a couple of dvds to take with us, movies that we might watch in the luxury of our apartment (darling) of a dark winter's evening. one of those was roald dahl's rather intriguing bfg, but the other was the latest from the star trek franchise which bizarrely commences with the destruction of the uss enterprise. not only did i not see that coming, it was akin to killing off the principal character before the main narrative has begun.
star trek, the original series, was first broadcast on nbc fifty years ago and it is surely testament to its enduring qualities that it can still attract a substantial paying audience so far into its dotage. the original storytelling was based on classical mythology with just a soupcon of cowboys and indians added for good measure. but almost ignored by the average trekkie, the movies' continued popularity at the box office has more to do with commercial success than an overwhelming desire to satisfy the world's science fiction aficionados.
star trek beyond, released in the uk at the beginning of the summer, is a product of universal studios. as with all large corporations such as universal, the bottom line is the number at the foot of the annual accounts. if star trek fans avoided the movies in droves, you can be sure that j j abrams would have to find himself another paymaster. it's the same all across holywood and i doubt i'm telling you anything you didn't already know.
it's friday afternoon, the end of a busy working week leading towards the biggest anti-climax of the year. but all over the country, nay, the world, folks like you and me have only one thought in mind, a thought that is focused purely on the weekly activity of getting out on the bike. naturally enough, just what this consists of will vary widely across the spectrum. some of us are more than happy to simply pedal in the direction of caffeinated froth, while others will scoff heartily at such minimal mileage as they prepare the team car for yet another marathon excursion.
in a recent article appearing on the business of fashion website, author limei hoang reported on the new mantra 'feeling good is the new looking good.' one based on sound economic reasoning. why else would a large conglomerate such as louis vuitton moet hennessy have purchased such a large stake in team sky's bicycle supplier, pinarello? though separated as much by distance as by commercial intent, this puts the italian cycle manufacturer in the same cupboard as islay's ardbeg distillery, whose parent company glenmorangie is a part of the lvmh empire.
it is a situation about which we possibly ought to be genuinely outraged; here's a longstanding family owned firm that is now a smallish cog in a business, the name of which would scarcely have you believe they had much in the way of interest in matters of a velocipedinal nature. unlike some of the world tour sponsorship deals which rely on the enthusiasm of a wealthy benefactor, an individual who is as obsessive about cycling as are you and i, but with the financial wherewithal to indulge more deeply for at least a year or so, lvmh have no intrinsic interest in cycling. but the fact that we have, is that which has garnered their (financial) attention. as long as we innocently, yet enthusiastically abide by the 'feeling good is the new looking good' mindset, big business will be inclined to take note.
whether that's a good thing or not is open to debate.
it would be naive of me to pretend this is a malady (if such it is) pertaining purely to the world of cycling. many other activities with a large or growing number of adherents are likely to find themselves subject to changes both desirable and undesirable over the coming years. the article to which i referred above goes on to mention that the overall global market for health and wellness reached $701 billion last year and is ecpected to reach $833 billion within the next half-decade. cycling will doubtless play only a minor part in achieving those numbers, but it's a 17 percent growth which overshadows the mere one percent growth demonstrated by the personal luxury goods market in the past year.
so while you and i look forward to the weekend in order to free ourselves from the shackles of the business week and notionally improve or maintain our fitness levels, there are folks in the boardroom who are counting on it.
friday 9 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it is ironic and just a bit like the proverbial london buses; you scarcely see mention of numerical information for months, then all of a sudden they are the discussion du jour for more than just one jour. i'm still not persuaded, mind you, and will continue my luddite ways, lost to modernity when modernity could hardly care less.
but, for the great unwashed, numbers are their daily bread, veritable manna from heaven. i spend most of my sundays in an almost peloton (see yesterday's article) alongside velo club members with all manner of digital trickery fastened to their handlebars, trickery that extends as far as go pro cameras recording each and every kilometre in order to review at our leisure on somebody's iphone. personally, i'm more interested in the froth and a jammy dodger, but there's no accounting for some folks.
and as has become de rigeur with many of the lycra clad, at least one of those devices strapped to the bars is also recording every one of those kilometres before being uploaded to strava later that same day. i have been known to disparagingly refer to strava as 'facebook for cyclists', a comment by which i stand without regret. but then, i have no time for facebook either, so that likely says more about me than it does about the pelotonese at large.
but while pretty little maps of those sunday morning exertions are being shared amongst family and friends, coming perilously close to an evening looking at someone else's holiday photographs, the elves at strava headquarters are gathering all those numbers into an array of little red boxes, before collating them into a handy little book, a copy of which has recently made its way into my track-mitted paws. and despite any misgivings i might have over the point of the whole construct, some of the numbers are actually quite interesting, while others elicited more than just the occasional wtf?
for instance, and it may well be worth dropping this into conversation the next time you're in a lengthy queue at the averagemarket, did you know that, in the united kingdom, 2016's most active day was sunday 8 may, yet worldwide it was sunday 11 september? church attendance must have been a tad lower on both those days. the average ride distance for british men is a rather lowly 41km compared to the fairer sex's even lower 34km and at respective speeds of 25.6km/h and 19.8km/h.
and just for the record, the most popular commuting day was tuesday 19 july. and no, i have no idea why.
assuming your appetite for numbers has diminished little over the past few paragraphs, strava's worldwide cycling adherents uploaded a total of 161 million rides of which 27 million belonged to the brits. and somewhat disappointingly, glasgow (19.9km) and edinburgh (20.3km) edged out the country's capital (21km) as hosts to the shortest average ride. fear not that i have exhausted strava's numerical largesse; there is a whole landscape of numbers that i have left untouched for reasons of both brevity and sanity.
what does all this mean? darned if i know.
thursday 8 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i believe i may have partially broached this subject on a previous occasion, but given its relevance to the discussion about to make itself known, i'm going to pretend to regale you with information currently not in your possession. once more, my monologue concerns the preponderance of numbers in our happy little world of cycling. i am not in favour of numbers per se, relying a great deal more upon the written (or typed) word and a wide variety of image formats. the latter and former are of greater comfort in my own little bubble, but i rather reluctantly deal with numerical values when they impinge upon reality, such as it is.
not so very long ago, the cutting edge of clincher technology made this entirely necessary, though happily, the world of skinnyness is a tad less complex than that facing the offroad fraternity. those unfortunates have to spend three times as long on the bicycle shop floor, endlessly debating the relative merits of standard 26", twenty-niners and the more recent 650b standard. other than the all but extinct 27 x 1 1/4", our skinnyness embraces merely the oddly named 700c. the variations, such as they are, simply concern the width. the once uniform and mandatort 23mm has been supplanted by 26mm, 28mm and, fitting no known road bike but remarkably comfortable nonetheless, 33mm.
my weekly (should that be weakly?) bicycle rides resemble those of marco pantani insofar as they feature not a computer or gps strapped to the handlebars. (i'm still working on the italian's propensity for gravity dismissal). that will shortly change with the advent of this year's festive 500. though it was pointed out to me earlier today that i must surely be in possession of full recall of the length of each and every stretch of tarmac on islay (which i am), i prefer to employ the services of mr garmin as unassailable arbiter between christmas eve and new year's eve.
rather obviously that will involve a certain degree of digital interpretation about which i'm less than enamoured, yet willing to suffer for my art.
however, as some of you may have already inferred over the years, my apparent obsession with matters velocipedinal occasionally spills over into the daily workplace. thus, individuals of my acquaint have been known to correctly answer questions on eggheads, complete obscure crossword clues and even catch the odd stage of the tour de france (though that was apparently due to the batteries in the tv remore choosing that particular moment to find themselves in need of replacement. so they said, anyway).
thus, during afternoon coffee break only the other day, a colleague was heard to mention that they had passed more than a single peloton of cyclists en-route to the ferry. having inadvertently employed the correct nomenclature, the question then arose as to just how many cyclists were required to constitute a peloton. it is a question to which i do not have a definitive answer and apparently neither does twitter. several seem convinced that it is a term exclusively applied to the competitive realm, though i would stoicly advise otherwise.
a friend who is a former professional rider advised that a peloton ought to consist of at least 40 individuals, but it would depend on how many began the race. however, in the absence of a definitve ruling from the uci, if anyone would like to weigh in on the discussion, you know where i am.
wednesday 7 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i am absolutely rubbish at joining clubs of any form or function, whether of a velocipedinal bent or otherwise. this has been the case for many a long year and i think it likely i am now past the point of no return. groucho marx is oft quoted as having said that he would refuse to join any club that would have him as a member, though my own lack of enthusiasm rests not upon such self-deprecatory reasoning. many club members are delightful people, but i frequently have my suspicions about those for whom nothing other than the robes of office will suffice.
yes, i may have often regaled you with tales from the velo club d'ardbeg archive, but in truth, the latter is something of a facade; it is indeed a club of sorts but perhaps not as we know it, jim. according to our unelected president, the mighty dave t, the rule book consists of rule one: there are no rules, followed quickly by rule two: see rule one., at which point the edict comes to a sudden halt. though there exists a well-publicised team jersey, at present there is no accompanying wardrobe of similarly decorated garmentage that would see any of the club members safely through an islay winter.
as a result, the self-styled sunday club run is but a kaleidoscope of contemporary cycling apparel. the only outward display of affiliation with a higher order is a series of flashing red tail lights and an ordered proximity of skinny wheels and bendy bars. as such, things are just the way we like them; no annual subscriptions with which to deal and an annual dinner dance held in the phone box at carnduncan. it has been this way for more years than i care to recall and will doubtless continue along similar lines for many more to come.
but on returning to the hallowed isle on the citylink coach from buchanan bus station, it is hard to avoid passing the ordered, team-clothed pelotons belonging to one of glasgow's more notable cycle clubs joining the dubious pleasures of a dual-carriageway on a saturday morning. and though all that can be seen from a coach seat is a series of backs and rear mudguards, the fact that there are an impressive number of the latter would tend to suggest at least a modest number of happy campers. and also that i'm probably in the minority.
if you see what i mean?
though i'd love to use modern parlance in order to demonstrate my familiarity with contemporary social media ('there's an app for that'), the reality is even better, courtesy of british cycling. irrespective of gender, there are two initiatives to not only encourage more folks in their first tentative steps (sorry) on the bicycle. for though we are all congratulating ourselves on the growing importance of our sport/activity, the pelotonic reality from the outside is often just a tad more daunting. british cycling's breeze programme for women accompanied by the more generic 'ride social' both aim to remedy that reality, perceived or otherwise.
using the dedicated websites for either of the above, the prospective cyclist can check for buddies, groups, clubs or rides that they may find welcoming in their locale. and though both initiatives state an affiliation with sport england, you don't have to be south of the border to take part, for according to british cycling's callum o'toole.
"Both programmes operate in Scotland but aren't as widespread as in England and Wales."
so why am i telling you this? after all, we are members of the cycling cognoscenti, rarely given to conversing with those other than our immediate peer group. as acknowledged experts in the velocipedinal arts, can you seriously imagine that any of us would have need of pixels to find cycling companions? well, as mr o'toole went on to say "Both initiatives depend on how many ride creators there are in any given area, so it can be a bit of a chicken and egg scenario in some ways." and that is precisely where you come in.
irrespective of your country of domicile, click onto the website most relevant to your gender and take a look to see if there are any rides or available groups in your area. if there aren't, it's surely a simple matter of you contacting british cycling to offer your services. think back to those dark days of cycling solitude, when you'd have sold your last copy of cycle sport to find someone to ride with.
remember, 'tis the season of goodwill.
tuesday 6 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................