in late 1976, william broad, john towe and tony james individually replied to an advert in melody maker seeking musicians to form a new band around the vocal talents of a singer by the name of gene october. after rehearsing for a week or two, they adopted the collective name of chelsea and began to play support gigs around london and manchester. however, after only a month or so, the singer figured that his backing band were beginning to challenge his creative dominance and that personally, he wasn't exactly hitting it off with his new recruits. while the rock industry is filled with bands splitting due to musical differences, in this case broad, towe and james felt themselves experiencing precisely the same as october but in the opposite direction, so they split and formed their own band.
this new band, named after a book of the same title became generation x, entering the fray just as punk began to take hold of the british music scene. william broad, originally the band's guitarist, abandoned his instrument, took over on vocals and styled himself with the punk pseudonym of billy idol, a name that dutifully reflected his inherent egotism. having recruited a new, seventeen year-old guitarist (bob andrews), a year later they were playing on the same bill as the jam and the police in paris. billy idol subsequently went onto a more high profile and lucrative career as a solo performer and generation x broke up midway through 1981.
however, generation x is not merely the name of a short-lived punk band from london. it also refers to the demographic apellation applicable to the so-called baby boomers. though the term is somewhat vague in its delineation, demographers and researchers generally accept the term as defining those born in the early to mid 1960s and continuing through to the late seventies/early eighties. this is, admittedly, a rather broad sweep of the brush, encompassing a period of almost twenty-years. but generation x (the demographic, not the band) is currently the one garnering the attention of global trend forecasters and data scientists due to their generic philosophy of life and current spending power.
consultants, wgsn, whose tagline styles them as 'the world's trend authority' claims to be 'obsessively decoding the future to provide the authoratitive view of tomorrow.' while most of us live pretty much day to day, there are more than just a few companies (and governments) that rely on 'knowing' just how the future will pan out, all the better to make the decisions that will shape their approach to tomorrow. to provide an example of that of which i speak, while some of us eagerly await rapha's spring/summer lookbook for 2017, many of the inmates of imperial works are already concerning themselves with the products we can expect a year hence.
in fact, rapha are one of the brands featured in a wgsn report entitled gen-x men: key fitness trends for 2017. the subhead at the foot of the front page states 'Affluent and motivated, the Gen-X male is a leading explorer of the physical and mental wellbeing market.' it would doubtless be a tad naive of us to believe that cycling apparel purveyors such as rapha became a force to be reckoned with in the world cycle market by guessing what we'd all fancy wearing on a sunday morning, or simply changing their jersey colours every spring. but i cannot deny that it's mildly disconcerting that some of us at least have been reduced to a demographic category.
whether this is disquieting because, as individuals, we apparently all display a remarkable similarity of thought based purely on the years of our birth, or because the athleisure portion of the industry has had us reduced to a statistical agglomeration. either way, that's how all this seems to work.
however, this estrangement ought to be placed in some sort of context, for generation-x is simply the statistic in a statistical sandwich. those that came before (boomers) and after (millenials) are subject to the same forecasting of future trends. if ever you wondered whether the human race were simply pawns in a universal game of chess, take heart that this seems to be the very truth of the matter. i will bore you not with some of the bullet points pertaining to the x-men, but it appears, from wgsn's report at least, that we behave largely like a shoal of fish, adopting the same twists and turns as that of our global peer group without (until now) necessarily being aware of the bigger picture.
of course, this depends a great deal on the potential spending power of the x-men. if you were born in the mid-sixties, left school at 16 and are currently unemployed, on benefits and living on a council extate, there seems every likelihood that wgsn aren't really that interested. and by direct inference, those who adhere to the divination of the futurecasters will be less than interested too. but in the grand world of commerce, those with shallow musettes are by definition, unlikely to grow the company coffers. it has ever been so.
this could well be the perfect example of the classic chicken and egg situation where those defined as belonging to generation-x are not directly responsible for the trends they are currently assumed to be obsessed with. it seems eminently possible that, if the trend forecasters have informed their corporate clients of emerging trends, then the collective marketing machine will have been geared towards reinforcing those prognostications, effectively defining the trends we hadn't realised were there in the first place.
wgsn continue to inform on their website home page that 'with experts in every major continent, we build locally-sourced, globally relevant content, including daily trend intelligence, retail analytics (and) consumer insights.... bear in mind that this is in the western world, where we, as potential consumers, are continually informed that we are allegedly the masters of our own destiny. and as rapha's uk brand manager, james fairbank, is quoted as saying 'Gen-X men are looking for meaning through exertion, rather than validation in a competitive sense. For brands, this means the emotional angle becomes ever more important and the exceptional accomplishments of normal people are becoming more relevant to a wider audience.'
james is not fibbing. rapha currently offer an annual rapha cycle club membership priced at £135, the motto of which is 'ex duris gloria', latin for 'glory through suffering' or something remarkably similar. whether we have become inured to and thus supportive of such a philosophy through the last thirteen years of imperial works' marketing is a moot point. in a similar manner to the whisky industry's contention that their twice-filled sherry casks are matured in dank warehouses, but a dram's throw from a turbulent sea, most of us are more than aware that our sunday morning perambulations scarcely equate to the black and white exploits of the likes of fausto coppi. that, it would be fair to say, is hardly the point; if i'm breathing through my ears as i summit on storakaig hill, from my point of view, i have exerted myself every bit as much as fausto did on the stelvio.
and it doesn't seem too outlandish to think that others will be of similar mind. and though i have here used rapha as an example, rest assured that assos, castelli, endura, vulpine and café du cycliste all subscribe to the same future intelligence. it's just the way the modern world works.
but next time you peruse the online offerings of the athleisure industry, or perchance visit their bricks and mortar retail outlets, just remember that your choice of cycling apparel has probably already been chosen for you. but you do still get to choose between a double-espresso or cappuccino.
for now, at least.
top photo courtesy of rapha
monday 13 february 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the life of the bicycle has been peppered with more than just a few innovations that, if not immediately recognisable as complete turkeys, have certainly provided cause for concern after one or two rides. as a kid, i recall a fad for attaching several playing cards to one front fork leg in order that i might sound like a motorbike riding round the neighbourhood annoying all and sundry. and one or two girls of my acquaint when at the same age, had multicoloured streamers attached to the end of their handlebars for no discernible purpose.
however, if we're to concern ourselves more with inventions designed to have greater effect on the pedalling experience, perhaps we might consider shimano's biopace chainrings. though rotor have pretty much revived the concept recently, the idea that oval shaped chainrings would improve pedalling dynamics by eliminating the so-called dead spot at the top of each pedal stroke was perhaps more marketing rhetoric than real science. not to diss those currently on offer, they are set at a different angle of rotation than their biopace counterparts. only a few years later, shimano produced biopace ii with less pronounced ovalising before capitulating completely and returning to the round chainrings that feature on all their current groupsets.
then there was those cinelli spinaci bars, allegedly providing a cut-down version of full-length time-trial bars. the basic idea was that by positioning them as close to the stem as practical, they'd reduce the potential drag factor. however, this paid scant heed to the fact that time-trials tend to feature one rider alone against the clock as opposed to several dozen closely packed in pelotonic formation. an agglomeration of riders all with hands on their spinaci bars scarcely enhanced the braking capabilities, given how far both hands were positioned relative to the brake and gear levers.
perhaps it's little wonder that the uci, in their infinite wisdom, banned them from mass start racing.
on receiving my review sample of the rearviz, arm-mounted rear view mirror, i'd be fibbing if i didn't harbour more than just one or two reservations over the efficacy of the device. basically, the rearviz consists of a shaped, moulded plastic mount, featuring a round, hinged mirror that rotates on its mount. this is all held in place by a velcro smothered strap designed to hold the mirror in place on a bare arm, jersey sleeved arm or even over a bulky mavic duvet of a thermal jacket.
once in place, the angle of the mirror can be adjusted via both the hinge and the rotating mount as well as the vertical and rotational placing of the entire affair on your arm. this latter arrangement was initially the most difficult to accomplish basically because you really need to do so while riding your bicycle to ensure that the mirror is ideally positioned to show the road behind without the need to adopt any advanced yoga position. however, once achieved, repeating the process for each subsequent ride is a pretty simple affair.
but the question you're all asking yourselves is "does it work? or is it a device worthy of consigning to ignominy along with the spinaci bars and biopace? as i stated earlier, i had serious misgivings over the rearviz, not least because it looks like the very appendage no self-respecting cyclist would be seen wearing in public.
however, appearances can be deceptive. for starters, the rearviz weighs sod all. despite its less than svelte appearance, after less than a few kilometres, i'd forgotten i was wearing it. secondly and most importantly, it actually works. there's no denying that on less than billiard table roads, the road chatter pretty much prevents you clearly seeing vehicles more than a few metres away, but i figure the point is more to let you see when there's someone hugging your back wheel. additionally, the format and size of the mirror distorts the relative size of a following vehicle; when i'd thought there was a white fiat 500 sized motor driving behind me at blackrock, you can imagine my surprise when a large gleaner fuel tanker edged past on the straight.
however, though size undoubtedly matters, your actions or reactions ought not necessarily to be conditioned by the proportions of that driving behind you. perhaps the most obvious disadvantage, however, is that, having set the position for riding with hands on the lever hoods, when you move to the drops, the mirror simply reflects the grey sky above. in that sense, it seems designed more for those on flat bars than road-going drop bars. that said, few of us spend too long in the drops, particularly in heavy traffic and it's simple enough to move back to the hoods when necessary.
where the rearviz really scored, however, was along singletrack roads when riding into a headwind. though the aforementioned practice may not be one applicable to all, there's no denying that the noise of a headwind mostly obscures the sound of any vehicle approaching from behind. it is thus common practice for the hebridean cyclist to continually look behind on the perennial lookout for the large articulated trucks that serve the island's distilleries. or in the summer months, the many renegade visiting drivers who have scant knowledge of singletrack roads and their attendant passing-places.
the rearviz has reduced the strain on my neck muscles.
so, what initially appeared to be a rather bizarre, dare i say it, laughable australian invention has proved to be close to indispensible. i don't mind admitting that, despite having completed the necessary review period, i'm still quite content to wear the rearviz at the least opportunity. it's not perfect, but it is quite impressive and sturdy enough not to offer any misgivings over its longevity. available in classic, slimline and sports editions, from only 35 australian dollars (approx £21), while not a major necessity in the rural idyll, if your commute takes in urban or inner-city roads, a rearviz is probably pretty close to a compulsory necessity.
i can't believe i ever doubted what an excellent device it has subsequently proved to be.
sunday 12 february 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm only going to mention the following on the understanding that you don't tell anyone else. it'll be our secret.
each day, once mrs washingmachinepost has despatched the last of the children that have kept her unfeasibly busy, the tea has been cooked and devoured, the following day's post scribbled, illustrated and proofed, and as much of the daily paper absorbed as is possible, there are a few moments left in the day to busy myself on youtube. this arguably obsessive behaviour is centred round the unfortunate fact that i have considerably fewer opportunities to play my drums than was once the case.
allow me to explain.
not having need of turning up at a local hostelry on a weekly or two weekly basis, leaves way too much time to ruminate on the myriad of different ways in which to arrange a drumset. should i have the snare drum tilting away from me as preferred by buddy rich, tilted towards me in the style of billy ward, david garibaldi or steve gadd, or maybe i should leave it perfectly level in the manner of vinnie colaiuta, bill bruford and ulysses owens jr? i realise that many of you will be quizzically wondering why it makes any real difference and without delving into the minutiae of drumset ergonomics, let me say that it doesn't really.
over the years, i have had need of occasionally performing upon somebody else's drumset; provided the stool is at an appropriate height the rest is of academic interest, assuming everything to be within arms' reach.
but assuming my consideration of differing setup arrangements insufficient to absorb more hours of youtube study than really necessary, then there's the unanswered question of left-hand grip. after thirteen years in islay pipe band, my left hand displays a particular preference for so-called traditional grip, but applied to the contemporary drumset, matched grip, where both sticks are held in the same manner, seems the more logical choice. but, just to counteract that impression, buddy rich, gene krupa, steve gadd and vinnie colaiuta all play quite magnificently, mostly on sets featuring more drums than set in front of yours truly, utilising traditional grip. however, two drumming legends, namely billy ward and bill bruford, eschew the latter grip entirely.
thus, without a regular series of gigs that would undoubtedly concentrate the mind more on the job in hand rather than which particular drumming legends i should attempt to emulate, i have too many hours in which to overly intellectualise the art of the drummer.
it is, happily enough, a situation that appears to have no direct comparison in the world of cycling. yes, more than just one or two of us have bought a bicycle on the basis that it is (almost) the same as that ridden by peter sagan, brad, cav, nairo or tommy. there's no denying that this is precisely the result the bicycle sponsors of each world tour and pro-continental team were ultimately hoping for. i believe the technical term is return-on-investment.
however, i would find it a tad bizarre if any amongst the pelotonese were given to adopting the mannerisms of their cycling heroes. marco pantani was renowned for climbing with both hands in the drops; chris froome likes to ride while having a staring competition with his stem and tommy voeckler is seemingly involved in a perpetual gurning contest. all are idiosyncracies peculiar to the individuals concerned, oddities that would surely mark out any imitators as short of a connecting wire or two. yet, were i to lay out my drumset in the manner of, say, bill bruford, while i might be marked as a deluded imitator, nobody would be likely to suggest i'd be better off seeking medical advice.
there's nothing intrinsically wrong with owning a molteni jersey and growing a pair of sideburns, nor of having framed images of fausto coppi or jacques anquetil on the bedroom wall (i should be so lucky), but any attempt to ride in the manner of the above mentioned legends would hardly suggest that your mental stability wasn't all that it could be.
but should hero worship have played a major part in your initial introduction to the world of competitive cycling, or be something that has become part of the fabric of cycling life, richard mitchelson has the perfect answer, one that will (almost) allow you to blend into the sunday morning peloton with the nodding approbation of your domestiques.
rich mitch, himself a legend in his own lunchtime, has been responsible for quite probably the best and most successful caricatures of both past and present cycling legends to date. these have been featured on t-shirts, prints, mugs and the like for many a long year and it is now time for pretty much all of these legends to transfer their personas to a cycling jersey, matching cap and snood, thus conferring both status and kudos upon the eventual wearer. available for pre-order in both men's and women's styles, individually or as a legends bundle, the time to get with the progamme would be pretty much right now, via the link below. printed clearly on each item, legends such as alberto, cav, bernard, robert, eddy, jaques et al, will signify that you are not only a connoisseur of the illustrative arts, but a member of the velocipedinal cognoscenti, deserving of protected status within the peloton.
i do wonder, however, if nairo quintana plays with matched or traditional grip?
orders for any or all of the ritch mitch legends series will be accepted up until friday 3 march 2017 with deliveries expected around eight weeks later, just in time for summer.
saturday 11 february 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
ardbeg distillery, like that of laphroaig, is in the midst of some changes of a constructional nature. the latter is about to double the size of its still capacity by shifting the entire affair to overlook the waters of the bay. the existing building has a less picturesque outlook across the distillery courtyard. ardbeg on the other hand, is converting one of its old disused kilns into a home for two large metal vats, while the archaic wooden grain bins are about to disappear altogether, freeing up some much needed space.
if you've been one of those visiting the distillery in the past year or so, you'd have noticed the new increased parking area which allowed for the conversion of the original car park into a rather pleasing courtyard, overlooked by some sizeable outdoor artworks pinned to the outer wall of the old malt barns. but you might also have noted often substantial queues for the daily tour regimen as well as those for a table for lunch or afternoon coffee. it's a remarkably popular stop for whisky aficionados touring any of the three southern distilleries, being the only one with a restaurant.
and as a result, more space to sit, eat and have a coffee is in great demand.
for no discernable reason other than the velo club d'ardbeg connection, i was invited out yesterday to take pictures of the renovation process. i seriously doubt it was on account of my meagre photographic skills. though i would generally disavow any knowledge of a training regime, particularly mid-week, i am bearing in mind that towards the end of july i will be accompanying sven thiele on his hot chillee, london-paris ride, one for which i feel honour bound to demonstrate a consummate level of stamina. that, it seems fair to say, will need more than just a few miles of pedalling to attain.
therefore i was more than happy to accept manager mickey head's invitation and cycle the twenty-one kilometres from the croft to the distillery, a task made more entertaining by way of a sub-zero, galeforce headwind. if i only learned one thing at physics lessons it was that cold air is more dense than warm air, a fact that would explain why the bike ride felt akin to cycling into a mattress. add the fact that i rode the steel-framed specialized sequoia and you will perhaps understand why speed was not uppermost in my mind. aside from its less than flyweight constitution, the wide-rimmed wheels are shod with sawtooth 700x42mm tyres, rubber that one would think at least partially responsible for slower progress than usual.
but in the sense that everything that goes up must come down, every bike ride from bowmore to ardbeg must concomitantly feature a return trip from ardbeg to bowmore. and by the laws of tautology, the ride home was immensely speeded by a headwind turned tailwind during which there were pertinent observations to be made regarding those 42mm of rubber. aside from the rather wonderful noise they make on the road, they're not actually that slow. in fact, if push came to shove, i'd be inclined to say they're not a kick in the teeth off the pace offered by either the 33mm or 28mm road tyres i've been fortunate to have ridden.
granted, they have a fascinating zig-zag tread pattern that places quite a lot of rubber on the road, but their very comfortable smoothness seems scarcely to hinder forward progress. thus my remarkably tardy 15.3kph average speed on the way to ardbeg may have had more to do with that iniquitous headwind, than any untoward friction offered by the sequoia. without having put in any special effort on the way back, my average speed increased by almost 4kph.
what's the point of all this? well i'd be fibbing if i were to imply that islay's roads bore close comparison with that of a billiard table, pretty much in keeping with those of the rest of the nation. the sole mitigating factor in this southern hebridean isle is the fact that several roads are built on peat bogs; should you pull into a passing place to allow a tanker to pass, it's a bit like standing on a water bed. these circumstances continually lead to subsidence and degradation of the road surfaces.
therefore, wide rubber allowing for lower, more comfortable pressures, offers a future with much to like. road bikes have already shifted from widths in the low twenties to the almost standard 25mm preferred by the professionals and perhaps even a few more millimetres than that. the crunch at the moment comes with the available road bike frame clearance which more or less tops out around the 25/26mm point. but the latest roubaix model from specialized arrives with 28mm rubber as standard and the existence of 33mm road rubber would indicate the existence of frames to cope.
i had set my sights on acquiring a velocipede that would happily live with 33mm each and every day, but after the last few days of even wider rubber, i'm inclined to set my ambitions a little higher. i seriously doubt we'll see boonen, cav or sagan on rubber this wide anytime soon, but for the rest of us, wider would appear to offer the best compromise between sturdiness, comfort yet offering little reduction in the appropriate speed required for the sunday morning sprint.
for those reasons, i'm quite happy to be considered a bit of a wide-boy.
friday 10 february 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in either 1984 or '85, the impressive exploits of robert millar in the tour de france brought the sport to the attention of yours truly and probably several dozen others north of the border. the exploits of the diminutive scot against the likes of laurent fignon and bernard hinault were something of a revelation, particularly to those of us with scant knowledge of the whys and wherefores of professional cycling. let's face it, if a rider from glasgow could ride up french mountains at a rather alarming pace, how hard could it be?
buoyed by this inescapable knowledge, mrs washingmachinepost ordered me a ten-speed racer from one of those mail order catalogues and on its arrival, i proceeded to ride up dundonald hill as fast as my legs would allow. it turned out that cycling fast uphill isn't quite as simple as robert made it look. in fact, i'd to stop midway up to prevent most of my tea ending up on the grass verge. however, on learning that the gearing on millar's bike was more advantageous for the purpose at hand, coupled with discovering that plain gauge steel tubing was not the same as that utilised by peugeot, certain aspects of ascending began to achieve some sort of perspective.
i think it more than likely that i'm a slow learner, because until relatively recently, my headspace still contended that i was a born climber. not for me the iniquities of time-trialling or the pell-mell of the finish line sprint. it might well be possible to purchase a t-shirt emblazoned with the legend 'i'm not fat, i'm a sprinter', but there was no room for such in my grimpeur's wardrobe. and then, just to ensure that all my grimps were aligned in a row, i read richard moore's in search of robert millar not once, but twice.
of course, it would be silly of me to base my entire climbing career on a verisimilitude to that of the glaswegian king of the mountains. this fascination with climbing, which even in the late nineties had failed to encompass any real mountains, was given a boost with the arrival of marco pantani and his two grand tour victories in 1998. in fact, i was even stood at a dublin roadside in july '98 to watch the bald italian arrive dead last in the opening prologue. no matter what transpired in the interim, i was a climber through and through.
but then the very nice people at rapha invited me to join them in provence for a few days' cycling, a trip which was to have included an ascent of mont ventoux. thankfully (for me at least), bad weather at the summit put paid to that, for on each day's riding over even relatively small hills, you can guess who was sat well off the back, holding up at least one tour guide from riding off into the sunset with the rest of the party. though my riding in provence was the best ever, i'd pretty much resigned myself to the fact that the only thing i had in common with robert millar was that of our birthplace.
but climbing would still appear to be of major consideration for the majority of the pelotonese, for why else would the world's sportives and gran fondos incorporate quite so many closely grouped gradients? given the thousands who now sign up for anything offering the opportunity to use those compact chainsets, polka dots have rarely strayed far from the (very) average cyclist's mindset.
the inestimable simon warren, a gent for whom flat roads are total anathema and who has regularly demonstrated the uncanny skill of composed conversation over gradients in excess of 14%, authored the first in a series of guides to cycling climbs in 2010 with his road cyclist's guide to britain's hills, following it with several others including one of the finest books in the velocipedinal milieu hellingen: a road cyclist's guide to belgium's greatest cycling climbs. though i for one would be prepared to defend the printed word against all other forms of digital media, i'd be quite likely to make an exception for the 100 greatest cycling climbs app, currently available for both ios and android devices.
as mr warren himself describes this digital offshoot "This is the ultimate tool to help you track down Britain's fantastic hills in your quest to 'ride them all'. the app can be enabled to work in conjunction with your strava account, but if like me, you have no great affinity with facebook for cyclists, it's perfectly happy to app away all on its own.
you can access each of the 100 climbs in one of two ways. either select from a list, or a choose each from an interactive map and on selecting the directions button, there are brief directions, a grid reference and linked access to the device's maps application. though it pains me to say so, it's almost better than the book from which it is descended, including simon's expert narrative and a photo from which you should look away if you are of a nervous disposition. let's be realistic, popping an ipod or iphone in a jersey pocket is a tad simpler than trying to squeeze in a copy of the book. aside from which, it can be really windy atop some of them there hills.
in my case, all 100 still advise that they remain unridden and i fear it will remain so for longer than i'd like to admit. but you just never know... (however, i'm confident that strava will never get a look in)
but in your case, that's the next two years' holiday entitlement accounted for.
simon warren's '100 greatest cycling climbs' digital app is available from apple's app store or the android store for a measly £5.99.
thursday 9 february 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i am comfortable with my self-characterisation as a luddite, even though, strictly speaking, it's not quite true. i spent many a long paragraph firstly decrying the need for headsets in diameters exceeding one inch. (and don't get me started on the follies of having switched from threaded steerers to the iniquitous a-headset system.) and as if that were insufficient to irritate the heck out of the worthy society of luddites, on the arrival of tube diameters resembling drainpipes, the actual headset disappeared from sight to be replaced by pairs of bearings that fitted inside the tubes.
you could scarcely make it up.
i lay the blame for the imposition of such technical unnecessities squarely at the feet of the offroad fraternity, acknowledgment of which lessens their impact not one whit. for despite the fact that road bikes are generally devoid of suspension forks, all and sundry appear to have adopted the knobbly tyre propensity to taper the diameter of the head tube from top to bottom. i still ride a steel colnago master with a one-inch chris king headset and have felt no ill effects or lack of success in the sunday morning sprint. nor, in fact does my flimsily sized bottom bracket give me any trouble when climbing in the big ring, but that's another story, one that i'm about to relate next.
the so-called improvement leading from ye olde cup-and-cone edition, through internal cartridge brackets, to external bearing cups and endless variations in spindle diameter to the press-fit efforts currently blighting oversized carbon fibre near you have almost excluded the word bracket from the equation entirely. it appears, however, that there may be something of a backlash against the press-fit variety, brought on by an endless series of annoying creaks. there is a reason for that, but you'll be highly gratified that i've no intention of delving into that here.
which, en-route to the ultimate point of this article, brings us neatly onto the subject of electronic gear-shifting. two of the sunday morning peloton ride machinery equipped with shimano's ultegra di2, though i'd be hard pushed to explain why. i can't honestly say i've ever found it a major hardship to flick a lever to change gear, but maybe the two chaps are simply saving their efforts for the sprint. as far as i'm concerned, it's just one more thing to go wrong and will for evermore be a solution looking for a problem.
however, my ire had just begun to subside, when the blighters decided that caliper brakes were next in the firing line, to be replaced by discs. and not just cable actuated discs, but hydraulics. from the simplicity of the machinery on which i had taken my first few pedal strokes, we were now being asked to clamber aboard machinery afflicted by electrics and hydraulics. if i'd wanted that from the outset, i'd have bought a motorbike.
but the latter development begat the thru-axle, a development i'll admit i hadn't seen on my horizon at all. though i like to think of myself as reasonably au fait with bicycle technology (even if it greatly annoys me), i recall having to contact the fellows at chris king to beg for an explanation of the thru-axle to educate myself as to the complexities of an apparently inexplicable system.
my first experience of the latter was on specialized's crux elite cyclocross bike, accompanying a set of sram rival hydraulic discs. a reviewer has, by and large, to go with the flow and accept the apparent iniquities of velocipedinal life, along with the concomitant joys, all the while doing his/her level best to comment impartially upon their efficacy. i must, therefore, now devour a sizeable portion of humble pie; thru-axles, despite my misgivings are pretty darned ginger peachy in my opinion. hurtling hither and thither on the crux elite has demonstrated a most desirable improvement in tracking and steering in the face of adversity. what's not to like?
though i don't necessarily envy the world tour mechanics and neutral support when time comes for a quick wheel change, it's not something that's likely to trouble you or i, particularly when the specialized system arrives replete with a ratcheted axle to ease fitting and removal. the downside is that i suppose i must now grudgingly accept the disc brakes that made the thru-axle a necessity in the first place.
i fear that heaven's opposite number might now be showing signs of frost around the edges.
wednesday 8 february 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as i sit in the comfort of my leather armchair typing today's post, the view from the sitting room window is less than encouraging. through the rain streaming down the glass, i can just about see bowmore distillery's bonded warehouses and the sky above is a dense grey, a dour temporary repository for the rain currently soaking the isle. the precipitation is being driven by winds reaching 52mph. according to the beaufort scale, that equates to a force nine gale. you will appreciate, therefore, the scots' incomprehension that weather such as that experienced since mid-day on monday has not been blessed with a name, unlike many of the squalls that affect the south of the country.
we are currently served by two calmac ferries, one of which is a tad larger and more modern than its partner. before 9am on monday morning, sailings by the smaller of the two had already been cancelled and by the time mid-morning had been reached, they'd cancelled all but one of the sailings of the remaining ferry. actor david hayman had been due to appear in a well advertised one-man show in the high school last night, but on the basis that he should have left scotland on the cancelled 1pm ferry, the ferries weren't the only thing cancelled.
as i fought my way into a headwind bearing down bowmore main street on the way home, a member of the velo club peloton pulled alongside in his car to thank his lucky stars that he'd made the decision to get those extra miles in after lunch on sunday. as a fellow with an insatiable appetite for getting out on the bike whever the opportunity presents itself, at the time he stopped by, he'd normally have been heading home to drag the roubaix from the shed and head out for yet more kilometres. naturally enough, had i not already committed myself to writing these very words, i'd have been keen to join him. (my excuse and i'm sticking to it).
as part of my current bicycle review, i'd headed north on saturday morning towards the village of keills, intent on joining the total wreck of a footpath that would return me south to ballygrant. in the light of the path having received not one iota of maintenance since its inception, the severely degraded surface is absolutely ideal for reviewing cyclocross and adventure bicycles. i'd had the benefit of a hefty tailwind all the way to keills, but received something of a rude awakening on turning south when hit by a heavy hail shower that i confess i hadn't seen coming.
that certainly stings the face.
rather obviously, my return trip, although made at a far slower pace than the outward journey, was beset with 40mph gusts, an oppressive wind that came home to roost on uiskentuie strand while heading inexorably towards lunch at debbie's. in mitigation, it's the ideal means of working up an appetite.
but of course, you knew most of this already; the western isles have been beset with gale and storm-force winds since time immemorial. if ever there was doubt about this, you need only take note of the complete lack of trees anywhere near the island's atlantic coast. and on the road between coullabus and uiskentuie there is a small wood where the tree height goes from small to tall having been shaped by those very same winds that i told you about earlier. all across scotland's west coast, cyclists have learned to cope with the draughts; as edinburgh-based cycling apparel provider, endura state on the inner label of their classic jersey 'if you think the spirng classics are bad, try scotland.'
yet, they cancelled stage four of the dubai tour last week due to high winds. though i've been unable to discover at what pace those winds were hitting the desert sands to cause such preventative action being taken, it was more than likely the correct course to take. though the hebrides are surrounded by water, dubai is surrounded by sand, a substance likely to cause far more irritation to a racing peloton than a deluge of rain. on very windy summer days on islay's west coast, it's not unknown for the roads to be inflitrated by sand from the beaches. i can only imagine how much worse that could be in the arabian desert.
but is there a possibility that the hardmen of cycling are in danger of losing their raison d'être? it's been only a few years since the gabbagate at milan sanremo, but the cancellation earlier this year of a cyclocross world cup round (yes, cyclocross) has me wondering if the classics of the future might undermine our hard won machismo. there may soon be calls for the cobbles in paris roubaix and flanders to be fashioned from polystyrene and moves to build a roof over the velodrome at roubaix. and in the approach to the spring classics, where the weather can often resemble that of my home town (remember the 2015 edition of gent wevelghem?), how many first division teams head to tenerife and surrounds for winter training, instead of honing their foul weather skills in northern europe?
at this time of year, we have very little in the way of traffic on islay's roads, probably even less when the weather reaches the heights seen on monday. so if geraint thomas, tom boonen or peter sagan would care to join the velo club d'ardbeg sunday ride and get in some real training, we usually leave from deb's at around 10am.
if only i was kidding.
tuesday 7 february 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................