okay, for the first time since 2010 i failed to capture each and every one of those 500 festive kilometres. i was doing ok by christmas day, having nabbed 97km on christmas eve and augmenting that with a further forty while everyone opened their presents from santa. but then storm connor arrived overnight monday, featuring wind speeds that would potentially have had me using each and every muscle to remain upright. i am a firm believer that cycling ought to be enjoyable for the most part and monday had all the hallmarks of being otherwise.
however, in a serious effort to bring all up to par, ready to continue from a position of superiority, i undertook a more strenuous than expecetd 102km on tuesday, making my running total only a few kilometres shy of where i ought to be.
assuming you're still awake and still reading, the need to play my rather fetching drumset at a friend's wedding on wednesday eve placed an insurmountable obstacle in my way. though the average gig lasts between two and three hours, that discounts the inevitable packing of the drumset into a vehicle, unloading it at the other end, setting it up in its designated floorspace and making a few passing attempts at a soundcheck which always takes a lot longer than it really ought to. add all this together and there is precious little time left for any meaningful cycling.
not willing to subject myself to another 100 kilometres plus day on thursday, purely on the basis that i had once more to carry out the percussive ritual on friday, i opted to aim for a more conservative 300 kilometres, a distance that was completed at debbie's by lunchtime yesterday.
you, of course, will have breezed through all five hundred of those little blighters and celebrated with the dance of the victor and a large glass of san pellegrino at last night's hogmanay celebrations. now that day has dawned, it's time to take a peek inside the bike shed and take note of the dishevelment that has been visited upon the velocipede of choice. if your location is anything like the agricultural environment that surrounds yours truly, there will probably be the equivalent of an entire field plastered round the bottom bracket and the underside of the downtube.
on the basis that each year's resolutions ought surely to include the ideal of commencing as we mean to continue, drag that bicycle kicking and screaming from its repose and give it a good scrub. and when that's all done, chain degreased, dried and lubed, it's time to make it all shine. i well know that of which i speak, for i did precisely that on wednesday morn prior to percussive activity and believe me, that wickens and soderstrom bike polish restored the original lustre like you would not believe and without resort to elbow grease that might conceivably interfere with the evening's paradiddles.
though the bottle offers no advice as to how the pale pink polish ought best to be applied, i removed the aerosol cap from a companion bottle of w&s bke cleaner and sprayed the nooks and crannies of both the specialized crux and the colnago master. a poignant note at this point is perhaps to pop a cloth over the saddle if you wish to avoid embarrassing squeaky noises from your posterior on the following day's ride. after this spray-tan emulation, 'tis but a simple matter of polishing the living daylights out of it.
boy does it shine.
monday 1 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
you have to admit, it's too good a heading to miss out on, particularly on new year's eve. or as those of us north of the border like to call it, 'hogmanay'. presumably by now, most of us in the northern hemisphere will have participated in the last bike ride of the year, drunk the last double-espresso of the year and demolished the last carrot cake of the year. while mrs washingmachinepost has a tradition of vacuuming everything in sight before the new year hoves into view, any thoughts i may have had of cleaning and polishing the specialized or colnago before the new year's day ride have been forcefully banished.
apathy is the new chartreuse.
for my last post of the year, i'm trying manfully to be economical with my words, sentences and paragraphs because to be honest, who has time to read black and yellow pixels when there is revelling to be prepared for?
many of the so-called mainstream cycling press, both print and online, tend to finish the year with lists of either the best road bike, best jersey or best rider of the year, few of which will ever agree with each other. though i'm sure most of them have more clout than have i when it comes to requesting an entire peloton of bicycles from which to choose, they also have staff. as i have only me (and sometimes even that's in doubt), even if a truckload of bicycles arrived at washingmachinepost croft, it would probably take me all year to ride them and rate them.
then, based on previous experience, i wouldn't be able to make my mind up in any case.
so in the great tradition of one who sits comfortably on the fence most of the time, you can thank me later for deliberately avoiding a list of any sort. yes, there's stuff that i like to wear whenever the opportunity presents itself and i have my favourite bicycles, but in truth, that doesn't necessarily mean that my opinion is of any relevance to anyone else. what i would like to do, however, is thank all those who have taken the time to correspond over the past year, whether to ask questions, offer some criticism or even (more rarely) agree with my point of view.
i'd also like to offer my grateful thanks to the companies and individuals who have provided products for review, assisted with articles, advertised or succumbed to a squall of spurious questions to form an interview or keep me suitably informed. i'm hoping that many of you will be agreeable to doing more or less the same in 2017. and if anyone else has signed up to ride the three day hot chillee londres-paris next july, feel free to drop me an e-mail stating that you figure you're much slower than i am. that'll make me feel better.
have a happy hogmanay when it arrives.
saturday 31 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the modern day cyclist is, in essence, a spoilt brat. whereas once upon a time all was lugged steel, the variations of frame materials available to even the clinically inept would scare the brass buttons from a commissaire's jacket. not content with monocoque carbon, there is also the occasional foray into lugged carbon, wrapped carbon and probably one or two other means of joining that have slipped under the radar. even carbon fibre is not what it was, now incorporating all manner of nano-fibres and sophisticated resins that only a few years back would have been categorised under the heading of magic.
the reason for this expansive display of toys can be placed squarely at the door of popularity. though regional variations apply, even in eddy's day, cycling was scarcely this popular on a worldwide basis. now televised live across so many nations, it seems all and sundry have taken at least one leaf from the book of formula one and relied upon hi-tech to propel the stars ever faster to summits and flammes rouge. that such technology is also available to the watercarriers (you and me) too is merely a fortunate by-product.
however, employing the perhaps mixed metaphor that water always finds its own level, advancements in bicycle technology have spawned a concomitant modernisation of the necessary fripperies. necessities like componentry, which have undergone a wholesale electronic and digital makeover are joined by a matching upgrade in cycling apparel, whether for the pelotonese or the less alacritous but no less worthy commuting public. gone are the days when it was necessary to sit in the office still clad in a baggy jumper and damp jeans while the aroma of wet dog wafted to the water cooler.
with renewed reference to just how spoilt we all are, i can think of few other sports or activities that can support such a large number of purveyors of appropriate apparel. it took me less than fifteen seconds to name more than ten. in essence, the majority are covering all the same bases, though even within our little niche, there are specialists, some concentrating on the commuter, others quite markedly catering to the peloton. within the latter category sits yanto barker's le col clothing. established in 2009 and offering high quality, italian made cycle clothing, it didn't seem too out of the ordinary to ask yanto why he'd felt the need in the first place?
"I started Le Col because I was looking to finish my racing career around ten years ago; I was trying to find something I felt confident I could do. This business excited me and as I looked into it more closely I truly believed I could produce something technically better then was already on the market."
you will perhaps allow me a latitude of circumspect over that last sentence, for almost every new cycle clothing provider i have spoken to since 2004 has offered some variation of that particular concept. but then yanto barker had what could be considered an unfair advantage, because he continued to race at a particularly high level and was very much aware of the technical demands of the sport from within, a relatively uncommon personal combination nowadays. did he figure that continuing as a competitive rider helped grow le col from the start?
"I think it could have been seen both ways. Some may have said I should have concentrated fully on the business sooner, but it equally benefitted from the awareness my profile brought. Either way, a business succeeds because it gets what it needs. I was constantly told for years that both can't be done. I kind of like it when people say that, as I take it as a challenge to prove them wrong and I love a challenge."
if nothing else, you have to admit to at least a modicum of admiration for that point alone, since, financially at least, there was obviously a lot more at stake than simply proving wrong the naysayers. however, i cannot deny that the many items of le col clothing which i have had the pleasure of reviewing have lived up to both the marketing rhetoric and the style factor that is demanded nowadays. but yanto has now hung up his professional wheels, so was this a situation engendered by the company's success?
"It was a combination of factors. Actually my decision to retire was as much about being content that my racing career had come to a natural end and it was time to move on. This coincided with a step change for the business and who better to lead that, than me the founder?
"However, though the business has been run remotely by me for years, I have always encouraged and empowered everyone to be able to run it without me. My retirement also coincided with the birth of my daughter; I felt that i couldn't manage both family business and racing, so the latter was the natural one to be replaced."
i have always admired those who are able to competently play several music instruments, folks who can knock out a tune on the piano, then patiently proceed to demonstrate how the same composition can be played on guitar and percussion. i have spent a large proportion of my spare time over the years simply figuring out how the drumming thing works without complicating matters by having to learn harmony and composition. and were i to have been blessed with the ability to ride a bicycle quickly enough to have made a living from it, i seriously doubt i would have had the physical and mental wherewithal to manage and market another business simultaneously. obviously yanto possesses a greater degree of ambidexterity.
"Genuinely, everything is tough. I am never deterred by this; spending very early cold mornings, racing in world tour events is tough to the point that you think you have already given the most you can give and yet there is still so much further to go.
"The interesting thing I found is that different kinds of tough do not require the same strength; you can do more than one tough thing at a time. Physically tough challenges need drive and determination, fuelled by the desire to succeed. This helps you to keep going.
"Business tough is more intellectual and mental, requiring the search for solutions and answers to challenges and problems you encounter. They can be a welcome distraction to each other."
so what happens next at le col? there's no denying the past seven years have shown continued growth and there has been no dereliction of duty when it comes to maintaining an ideal marriage between technical prowess and sartorial style as it applies to the faster amongst us. the decision must therefore be whether to accept le col's hard-won place in the mind of the pelotonese and be content with that, or barker could embark on expanding his clothing company both literally and in the minds of those who populate his target audience.
as you might expect, yanto has accepted the latter challenge, having initiated a funding pitch on crowdcube with the aim of realising one million pounds to help elevate le col's position in a uk cycling apparel market estimated to be currently worth around £1.8bn.
"It's all about expansion, I intend to build new relationships in our international territories, help recruit new staff to deliver and scale the business, while maintaining my work with product development. I see this as becoming a busy time with plenty for me to do."
funding, of course brings demands as well as opportunities both for yanto barker and those of you who may feel possessed of the financial wherewithal and circumspect to invest in a growing company. if you feel this might be the very opporchancity for which you have been looking, click through to le col's crowdcube page via the link below and make it potentially a happy new year for both you and yanto.
friday 30 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in my third year at art college, the graphics department set us a task to design a poster for shelter, the charity which concentrates on providing accommodation for the homeless. disappointingly, in retrospect, most if not all of us, were guilty of overthinking the project, finding ever more obscure means of bringing the charity to the attention of the general public.
as i recall, my own poster centred around the slogan 'campaign for larger umbrellas', wordage that accompanied an illustration depicting more people than could comfortably fit under a single umbrella. though this made perfect sense to me, apparently the same could not be said for the judges charged with choosing a winner ultinately destined for print. in fact, when we eventually saw the winning entry, we could scarcely conceive that they'd seen fit to choose a monochrome poster, when ours were collectively more colourfully impressive.
however, the salient lesson we'd all missed out on was the nature of the charity and the relative costs of producing a poster campaign in black and white as opposed to full colour. yes, it would have been more than helpful if the third year graphics lecturer had informed us thusly (as sheldon cooper would say), especially since i'm not at all sure that this was omitted in order we learn the lesson on our own. still, the very odd spelling of yogurt by one of my fellow students did at least offer more than just a single humorous moment.
you will think me admirably disconnected that i was brought to remember all this while cycling along the eight mile straight-as-a-die stretch of low road between here and port ellen only the other day. to be bluntly factual, there is not one iota of shelter to be found along any one of those miles, something to which i will readily testify. on saturday morning i was favoured by a cross-tailwind, peppered quite liberally by heavy hail showers, while on my similarly constituted route on christmas day, the wind had swung round to offer a headwind, also featuring a rather painful set of hail showers.
over the years, i have been fortunate to have received several different pairs of allegedly waterproof gloves for review, all of which promised much, but mostly failed to deliver. one unsung and unmentionable pair were wringing wet through over the same route in heavy rain despite a name that encouraged the wearer to believe dessication would forever be their birthright. therefore, on past experience, i now have less than 100% faith in any pair of gloves the name of which is preceded by the word waterproof.
you might, therefore, forgive me for prejudging these bright orange dexshell thermfit neo gloves, given that they are built from thermally padded seamless merino wool. once again in my experience, merino wool is not renowned for its water repelling properties, though having worn these for several weeks, i can vouch for their remarkably cosy internal terry loop piles. in fact, given the relatively mild december so far, they may just be a smidgeon too warm; a complaint i rarely voice.
on the down side, though the palms and fingers feature a very effective grip pattern, for cycling purposes, they'd benefit greatly from the activity specific padding seen on most other cycling mitts or gloves. over long distances, the lack of same meant that i had need of moving my had position more often than i'm used to.
however, that minor quibble aside, the dexshell thermfits proved to be pretty much totally waterproof so far as i could ascertain. on arriving home after a 100km wet ride, the gloves' interior was a tad damp, but i'm fairly sure this was due more to their thermal properties outweighing that of their breathability. despite my intial misgivings, it would appear that dexshell have created a pair of brightly coloured gloves that are every bit as waterproof as their socks.
granted, the long cuffs may err just a bit too much on the long side, particularly if attempting to wear jacket sleeves over the top. however, to mark this as any sort of deficiency would surely leave me wide open to accusations of nit-picking. available in four sizes and at £35 a pair, they're remarkably well priced.
who needs umbrellas?
wednesday 28 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the festive 500 was always positioned as a challenge, whether you decide to sign up via strava or not and irrespective of any application to rapha for one of those embroidered patches in early january. the latter was something i did in 2010, its first year of challenging dafties like me to ride a darned sight further and more often than would normally be the case over the festive season. if strava existed then, nobody was making corporate use of it.
now that imperial works has expanded to all four corners of the globe, rather than the mere 94 individuals who notionally signed up six years ago, there are now thousands. but instead of the icy, wintry conditions experienced by graeme raeburn in 2009, not just a few of those countries are on the southern half of the earth's two hemispheres where it's summer, not winter. and one or two other locations have traditionally enjoyed a more favourable december climate than much of the united kingdom.
yes, san francisco, i'm talking about you.
in my first year of participation, having settled on what seemed the ideal route to provide the necessary 63.5 daily kilometres, i was somewhat confounded by a substantial and totally incongruous snowfall across the island. while the main roads were largely passable by the intrepid rider aboard a cyclocross bicycle, the network of singletrack roads were still several inches deep in snow, slowing that same rider to the point where it was all but impossible to keep warm enough to continue.
the following year, the isle was hit by the more common gale and stormforce winds, intangible hurdles that i though myself more than well acquainted with and all but impervious to. salutory lessons rarely arrive in the comfort of your own leather armchair; mine arrived only a matter of metres from the atlantic ocean. having perambulated much of my intended route relatively unscathed, by the time i'd reached loch gorm on the west coast, invincibility was my middle name. idiotically, rather than quit while i was ahead and turn left to head to debbie's for comforting froth, i carried on regardless.
thankfully i survived to inform you that a plus sixty mile an hour atlantic squall will pretty much stop a cyclist in his/her tracks, particularly in a location where the word 'shelter' simply doesn't exist. i had managed to unclip and get my left foot steadfastly on the ground to prevent being blown into the roadside ditch, having to remain there for a scary five minutes longer, unable to get off my bike nor move forward or back. the same happened only a few kilometres further on at kilchoman distillery, where i'd to take shelter behind a dry-stone-wall.
like most of us, i'm not the greatest at learning from my mistakes; it might take a few burnt fingers before the remedy begins to dawn. however, only three days into this year's festive challenge, with a mere extra ten kilometres stored in the bank, i had to take that particular lesson into account, stay home and watch 'phileas fogg', 'seven brides for seven brothers' and live cyclocross from zolder due to the arrival of storm connor.
though i think the southern hebrides got off rather lightly in comparison to lands further north, the windspeeds were still high enough to give serious cause for reconsideration. though i'm determined to complete the challenge, i'd far prefer to remain physically able so to do. cycling obsessed i might well be, but i like to think i've learned when enough is enough.
for one day, at least.
tuesday 27 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................