i get the reflective thing. festoon a regular jacket or jersey with patches of reflective material and should the owner find it necessary to ride out after dark, car headlights will pretty much do the rest. but, if you are of the same mindset as yours truly, you may more than occasionally be left wondering whether the individual responsible for designing the darts, squiggles, blobs or lines of reflective material might also double as the building janitor. for rarely, in my experience, does there seem to be rhyme nor reason applied to either style or positioning.
granted, there probably is some logic behind where the scotchlite detailing is placed; there really would be little point in placing too many, if any at all, on the front of a jersey or jacket. that would simply be a tad superfluous. and it would be a remissive purveyor of after dark clothing indeed who didn't make at least a few checks on whether the reflective detailing was visible when caught in car headlights.
but that still leaves the uncomfortable fact that, despite the hours of research and development put into the styling of the garments themselves, the reflective bits resemble little more than an afterthought. before you accuse me of unbridled superficiality, i must hold my hand up and admit to being guilty as charged. however, that doesn't minimise the irritation factor of riding behind lord carlos staring at an inexplicable series of dots applied to the hem of his waterproof jacket.
thankfully, this is not a universal travesty and i live in hope that now that the chain has been broken (so to speak), others will follow suit with ever more imaginative graphics. for the inestimable folks at portland's showers pass have brought to market their atlas jacket, deftly screen-printed with reflective street maps of eleven international cities (yes, in true spinal tap fashion, it goes up to eleven) renowned for their cycling culture. and though the pattern continues onto the jacket front, in this case, there's a very good reason for that; continuity.
this is not a jacket geared towards pelotonic activity, far more pointed in the direction of the intrepid commuter who might have need of wearing it over more than a merino baselayer and a polyester jersey. as well as wearing it on my recent frequent trips to ardbeg distillery, i have taken to wearing it to work each day, where its decorative appliqué has elicited a greater than usual admiration from my non-cycling colleagues.
however, no matter the coolness factor engendered by the atlas jacket, all would be of little consequence were it not to confer at least one or two practical benefits upon the wearer. in true showers pass style, as you would expect, the waterproofing is darned near second to none. i cannot claim to have been caught in a thunderstorm of biblical proportions, but at least one return journey from the ancestral home was inflected with the sort of heavy showers that a fellow has need of being prepared for. with a tall collar, velcro adjustable cuffs and a detachable hood (which is big enough to fit over a cycle helmet), there is litte opportunity for precipitation to make its way past the hardshell outer.
as cyclists, we are all more than well aware that the downside to impeccable waterproofing is often a propensity to become a boil-in-the-bag velocipedinist through less than adequate breathability. the showers pass boffins have not forgotten us in this respect. aside from being constructed from a three-layer breathable fabric, there are two almost full length taped zips, one each side of the main zip, that augment the jacket's inherent breathability. the adjustable cuffs can also aid the breathability should your exertions prove to be over and above the norm.
pocket space has also been carefully considered. there's a vertically zipped chest pocket and two zipped front hand pockets as well as a mesh internal pocket where i've decided to keep my permanently empty wallet. i cannot deny that at least one rear pocket would have been welcome (if only to carry a mini-pump), but that may have been seen as heading slightly too far towards the racing milieu.
as can be seen from the accompanying images, the reflective street maps would be hard to avoid in evening traffic, but even in broad daylight, their apparently abstract design is most pleasing to the eye as well as rather a fine conversation piece. unfortunately, i am insufficiently well acquainted with the topography of those eleven cities to distinguish one from the other. still, those riding behind me after dark will have plenty to keep themselves occupied.
the showers pass atlas jacket is available in grey with reflective appliqué in sizes small, medium, large and extra-large at a price of £210.
monday 13 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though cycling often adopts a self-congratulatory attitude towards its allegedly impressive sartorial elegance, in point of fact, nothing could be further from the truth. in this instance, i am referring specifically to those of a pelotonic persuasion, the very chaps and chapesses who ready themselves for an all-out sprint at some point of the working day. however, much of their dress du jour is at the behest of the sponsor, not so much in the shape of the jersey, but certainly with reference to the dye-sublimated colour scheme. step off the bicycle and into the nearest coffee stop and there's little chance of blending into the background.
though i would hesitate to refer to snooker as a sport, there's no denying that a shirt, bow-tie and waistcoat is more acceptable in polite society than bright polyester and lycra, though perhaps no more invisible amongst coffee beans. or, at the risk of incurring the wrath of the bunker people, take a look at the dress code for teeing off with your bank manager (not too early) on a sunday morning. though club rules will surely dictate that jeans and a t-shirt are not welcome in the club room, try as i might, i cannot fathom why so many opt for a lime green pringle jumper and perchance a pair of phil collins chinos.
tartan trews appear to be optional.
of course, cycling is a far more exertive sport or activity, one where a mere matter of a few kilometres in the saddle demands wicking and breathability. sort of like squash, tennis or marathon running, though none of the foregoing seem infiltrated by quite so many commercially obvious logos.
but with the continual advancement in garment technology, there is little doubt that cycling garb could surely be fashioned in a more socially acceptable manner, one where the definition of mamil would evaporate into recent history. it would not, therefore, be too much of a stretch to conclude that professionals and pelotonese alike, are beloved of the svelte look conferred by the current range of shorts, jerseys and jackets on the bike store clothing rack. in itself, that is nothing to be ashamed of; it's occasionally quite pleasant to portray one's velocipedinal leanings in public, particularly if seen at speed.
the disappointing aspect of the latter is a propensity for several incumbents (and you know who you are) to maintain this particular dress code when the weekend has gone and it is time to commute to the office. though not an aspect of cycling life that has infiltrated this particular region of the hebrides, on my occasional visits to the great metropolises of the nation, i have observed a growing number who seem quite at ease, riding to work on several thousand pounds of carbon fibre, clad either in club kit or a verisimilitude of chris froome and alejandro valverde. thankfully (for them at least), rumours of a cycling fashion police are just that.
though domicile in a free country is allowing of such sartorial infidelity, i cannot help but wonder why, when there is a more than stylish and pragmatic range of city cycling clothing available from raphaand several others. according to statistics, you have a 35% chance of getting wet when cycling in glasgow, a number only outdone by those needing to get to work in galway. yet, there's a less than a 10% likelihood of the same happening in london.
mind you, those numbers constitute a monthly average, probably quite irrelevant when you arrive at the office dripping all over the receptionist's carpet or being told to stay outside by her indoors on returning from a hard day at the office. the ideal would surely be a garment that offered all the je ne sais quoi of the average chief executive officer, yet shrugged off precipitation as if it never existed in the first place.
that seemingly unattainable ideal has just been fulfilled in the shape of rapha's new shadow fabric blazer.
for those unfamiliar with the fabric, each thread is coated with a durable water repellency before being woven into lengths of fabric. that fabric is then shrunk to minimise the gaps between threads before being coated with dwr once again. rapha already offer both long and short-sleeve shadow jerseys, along with bibshorts, armwarmers and legwarmers to great effect. i would likely cycle into the back of parked cars, watching little rivulets of rain pouring off the sleeves and torso, so effective is the level of waterproofing.
this sartorially elegant blazer is fashioned from a lighter version of the same fabric, though with apparently no reduction in the level of rain protection. while it can be worn in the manner to which the well-dressed are most accustomed, there are poppers fitted on the collar that allow closing it all the way to the neck, should the precipitation prove fiercer than shirt and tie can readily cope. often the failing point on jackets purported for velocipedinal purposes is in the length of the sleeves, particularly for those of us with arms just a tad lengthier than joe average. rapha's blazer features a finely adjudged sleeve length, meaning that there is no sign of bare wrists even when grasping the bars on an italian taurus corinto.
there are two zipped front hand pockets along with an internal ipod pocket (imperial works have designated this as a phone pocket, but since i do not own one...) and a zipped pocket that has the ability to accept a passport or document of similar size. cleverly, there is also a small zipped pocket on the left sleeve that might see service as a credit card, keys or coffee money repository. though its principal super-power is that of waterproofing, the construction also ensures a high degree of breathability in order that steam is not seen to exude as you enter the boardroom.
though it would be amusing to see riders return to the team cars during this year's milan-sanremo (assuming it inherits the weather conditions of four years ago) to grab shadow blazers, legwarmers aside, it would ensure their ungrudging acceptance by the patrons of many an italian coffee bar. quite simply put, this is state of the art when it comes to cycling normality and a garment i plan to wear at my son's wedding.
rapha's shadow blazer is available in black only and in sizes ranging from xs to xxl (medium reviewed) at the not inconsiderable price of £400. the blazer arrives with a specifically cut travel bag, the operation of which i confess i'm still trying to figure out.
sunday 12 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have, only within the past few days, completed updating a poster for a local organisation. as has become disappointingly common since the advent of powerpoint, adjoining the poster's principal message was a series of bullet-points advising the interested reader as to several of the advantages they might gain from joining the organisation at its regular meetings. however, rather than simple black dots signifying each point made, the committee preferred to use a series of ticks (not the irritating insects found in tall grass in the countryside).
though i have at my command a slew of design software packages that would have allowed me to design the appropriate marks, i had already been beaten to the line. though i cannot testify on behalf of those who prefer to use microsoft's windows operating system, macintosh users have long been favoured by an included font known as wingdings containing all manner of useful crosses, ticks, numbers, and other marks that might make good the occasional necessitous graphic. there are many other typefaces that offer variations on the theme of wingdings, but not all are free of charge and some are positively eccentric in their themes.
the downside to wingdings being included with each and every macintosh computer is that there is a real and present danger of overuse. a bit like the word art that for all i know, might still infect editions of microsoft word, there have been posters rendered all but illegible due to overuse of both the above. and though i may be guilty of engendering a somewhat tenuous link between little digital icons and carbon fibre, it's an observed similarity that i'd like to think is as obvious to me as it is to everyone else.
a friend of mine recently took delivery of an eyewateringly expensive road bike that features hydraulic disc brakes, electronic gear shifting and carbon rimmed wheels. within thewashingmachinepost bike shed are several different wheelsets, expressly designed for a variety of uses, but the one thing they have in common is aluminium rims. these are of a variety of depths and widths and all perform to the best of their ability. i have, in the past, reviewed wheels featuring carbon fibre rims, none of which have been found wanting in the discipline for which they have been designed.
but carbon has become ubiquitous, verging on overuse.
carbon fibre is a fabric which has a chequered past, though to be fair, the days of catastrophic failure seem thankfully to be in the past. if you consider that it is a material used in the wing roots of boeing and airbus aircraft, it would not be too much of an assumption to assume that the technology has well and truly come of age.
and then gianni moscon's carbon tri-spoke front wheel apparently disintegrated before his eyes in last week's tirreno adriatico team time trial. according to team sky's geraint thomas, two other sky riders experienced less dramatic carbon wheel breakages, news of which hardly increases the general confidence in the material as suitable for bicycle wheels. team sky ride shimano's pro wheels and it is only fair to say that shimano were as surprised by the breakages as was gianni moscon. it should also be pointed out that it's more than likely the wheelsets concerned were designed specifically for racing, and expertly maintained by professional technicians and mechanics. it would not be a surprise to learn that the same components are probably not those available to you and me.
ernesto colnago was once asked why his carbon frames were notably heavier than the competition, to which he replied "because i like to sleep at night.", something of a barbed comment aimed at those who aim for the lightest and not necessarily the most resilient.
carbon fibre is a notably strong material; after all it's saved many a formula one racing driver's life by surviving high-speed crashes. however, as can be seen from this past week's wheel disintegration, it's not infallible. that's the very reason why there are torque settings adjacent to any carbon/bolt interfaces. it's not quite as forgiving of mistreatment as aluminium or steel, never mind the fact that they build full suspension mountain bikes from the stuff or that it holds wings onto aeroplanes. in normal road use, we're probably as safe on carbon fibre as we ever were on its predecessors in the frame material stakes, but when it comes to storing your bicycle(s) in a busy shed, it pays to exercise a modicum of care. or when carrying out maintenance that involves carbon bits, if you're not entirely sure of what you're doing, take it to a bike shop or a qualified mechanic.
it's what marvin would have done, in spite of having a brain the size of a planet.
saturday 11 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i am not knowingly aware of the percussive prowess of a gent by the name of kenny aronoff. in an interview with billy amendola in the march edition of modern drummer magazine, the list of folks with whom he has performed, ticks few, if any, of the boxes relating to my own musical choices. that should not, however, be taken as any comment for or against his abilities. renowned as something of a hard hitter, he has obviously impressed those who have employed his services and he's definitely not short of work. however, contrary to expectation, the following will not be yet another treatise on a subject i'm sure you could care less about, but a means of framing the quote that appears by way of introduction to the feature.
'this is one of life's simple truths: the more you learn, the more you realise how much you have to learn.'
it is an epithet that can be applied to almost every walk of life, other than by those who already think they know it all. i have certainly found it to be true in relation to my own percussive abilities, but every bit as applicable to the art of riding (or even reviewing) the often less than common bicycle. the nub of this particular quote is not only its empirical truth but, like those cute little russian dolls, the fact that even the smallest part can be utilised by individuals who'd prefer to adhere to only a small piece of its credibility.
for instance, in common with many a sunday ride, that of the velo club generally ends with a de facto sprint for the impressively large and noticeable 30mph signs at the entrance to bruichladdich village. i can occasionally get lucky at this point, particularly if feigning an inability to sprint, which, in fact, is not something i have to try very hard to make believable. so despite the painful knowledge that sprinting is not an arrow i have in my cycling quiver, it is not something i have any real desire to fix.
similarly with the intrusion into velocipedinal life of hydraulics, electronics and a plethora of numbers affixed to the handlebars. those have become inescapable facts, some of which i need to keep abreast, all the better to inform my occasional reviews in these very pixels. but when i have a few minutes to myself, i like to think i have more in common with fausto coppi's bianchi team of the 50s than with modern day team sky. aside from the fast bit, of course.
however, but a few months ago i was happy to introduce you to the bike computer app which lives happily on both apple and android smartphones. for those with a predilection towards such numerical outpourings, it seemed like the very set of numbers with which to decorate that bar tape. in order to offer grateful thanks to the community that has built up around this app, one which has not been slow to offer its suggestions as to how the software could be improved, the folks at bike computer are offering an enticing array of competition prizes.
these consist of an aluminium bike mount for your smartphone of choice, a rechargeable usb bike light and lastly, an ultra-light silicon bike mount. every week, these prizes will be given away to the best photo posted on instagram with the hashtag #bikecomputer. though i cannot testify as to the practicalities surrounding the instructions, it's apparently a simple case of taking a cool photo on your bike ride, use the overlays or stickers available within the app before popping your favourite image on instagram.
assuming you've remembered to attach the #bikecomputer hashtag, the folks at the other end will choose their three favourite images and notify the winners in the manner of their own choosing. not unnaturally, the winning images will be shared with the rest of the cycling community via bike computer's social media pages.
it is, i am assured, the modern way.
there are of course a series of rules that condition the competition, but the ones you really need to be aware of are an entry age of at least 18, the fact that your name and/or image can be used in any publicity material and if they can't get in touch with any winner within a couple of weeks, you're stuffed and the prize goes elsewhere. and it should be noted that the competition has nothing whatsoever to do with either facebook or instagram.
so, provided that bikecomputer enabled smartphone is attached to the bars - on your bike.
friday 10 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"From 1915 to 1918, Paris-Roubaix was not run and it was on its resumption, while surveying the war's devastation of the muddy flatlands, that a newspaper correspondent coined the name 'Hell of the North'.
it seems to be the way of the modern world that soon to be married, would-be grooms, head off to continental and other far-flung parts of the world to experience nights of unashamed debauchery, all in the name of what used to be referred to as a stag night. granted, the word stag suggests the tradition to have emanated north of the border, but such is the cosmopolitan demeanour of brexit britain, that i'm sure that doesn't count for much nowadays.
with washingmachinepost jr. soon to wed his fiancée in less than two months' time, he and his fellow revellers have left the principality to board an aircraft en-route to a european destination which must, for the time being at least, remain a closely guarded secret. they may not yet have landed and it wouldn't be wise to alert the natives.
having managed to avoid such pleasantries prior to marrying mrs washingmachinepost, i cannot offer any first hand knowledge of precisely what transpires during such expeditions (which, at one time, took the form of a simple pub crawl). but prior to departure from islay, a couple of his friends enquired whether i might possess gaudy items of cycling apparel in which they might dress him, all the better to embarrass in public. it may or may not surprise you to learn that, midst the drawers of velocipedinal sartorial excellence, there were a number of items that, should a cyclist have had need of ditching in the sea, the helicopters would have had no trouble in rescuing him first.
those very items are currently on their way to the previously mentioned undisclosed location, safely ensconced in the best man's suitcase.
historically, cycling appears to have had a love/hate relationship with dye-sublimated exuberance; i can think of more than just a few pelotonic jerseys that have necessitated the wearing of heavily tinted spectacles and i'm pretty sure you can think of a few more. but, despite the invention of colour photography, things were not always so, despite portraiture of the era existing almost exclusively in monochrome.
max leonard, rightly renowned for his 2015 publication, 'lanterne rouge' has delved into the archives of france's national library to retrieve an array of original glass negatives produced by sports photographers of the late 19th and early 20th century. the images are of those who participated in the world's finest one-day cycle race, paris-roubaix. produced as a superb, pocket-sized book of detachable postcards, the opening image is of those ready to do (quite literally) battle with the cobbles on the first running of the race in 1896. however, many of the subsequent photographs are of individuals in either their sunday best, or posed with very heavy looking velocipedes before the cobbles had taken their toll.
in black and white, it's always possible that one or two of them were clad in fluorescent orange or lime green, but to be honest, that seems highly unlikely. what is particularly of note is the astounding quality of the imagery, reproduced here on quality munken 330gsm paper. in a modern age when the smartphone has conferred photographic prowess on all and sundry, it is something of a revelation to once again appreciate what quality portrait photography really looks like. these are masterful and we owe a large debt of gratitude to mr leonard for not only bringing them to light from relative french obscurity, but having the smarts to publish them in this desirable format.
though it is a simple matter to detach each postcard and blu-tac it to the office or bedroom wall, i will retain the format in which the book was delivered and have it resting on the arm of my chair as i delight in this year's paris-roubaix. i doubt if the word exquisite makes itself known in book reviews very often, but in this case, it would seem wholly appropriate.
thursday 9 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i am renowned within my own living room and possibly even the peloton of my acquaintance for disparaging anything that looks like it might be new and cause disruption in the force. disc brakes, press-fit bottom bracket bearings, electronic gear shifting; you name it, i have been guilty of its castigation. but the technical innovation that started me off in the first place was the a-headset. it's a component that has been around for what seems like forever and there will be those amongst you who have no idea there was ever any other means of conjoining headset and stem.
over the years, at least one or two of us have had cause to regret the passing of the quill stem. with direct concern towards those who have hired bicycles from the post office round the corner, those less used to saddle-sitting have often been sorely disappointed that the handlebars cannot be brought closer to their chin. like you could once have done with a quill stem.
but excluding that particular ergonomic part of the equation, the stem fulfils a secondary function; placing the desired load upon the headset. the previous threaded version, for those below a certain age, featured a large locknut with attendant large spanner to fulfil the same function. in this modern age, the steerer cap is tightened against the stem which, in turn, presses down upon the top headset race, keeping everything ship shape and bristol fashion. it is thus possible to hare down alpine descents, safe in the knowledge that should any play develop up front, 'tis but a matter of seconds with probably two different sized allen wrenches to make the world safe once more.
but nothing in the bicycle industry stands still for very long. though extraneous to the life of a roadie, i have recently come across one or two adverts promoting the existence of eleven-speed cassettes with a 50 tooth large sprocket. if ever there was need to exclaim 'good grief charlie brown!', that was probably it. gravity notwithstanding, it seems more than possible that a fit cyclist could ride up the side of a house with one of those on his/her back wheel.
yet inside the headtube of the 2017 specialized roubaix comp parked in thewashingmachinepost bike shed, things have taken a turn either for the better or worse, depending on your point of view. the roubaix, which takes its name from the race with which it was designed to cope, features a modest level of suspension, effected by a sprung cartridge placed within the fork steerer. the exterior looks every bit the same as any other road cycle of our acquaintance; the stem has a 4mm bolt on each side with which to clamp it to the steerer, along with apparently a bolted steerer cap. except the 'bolt' in the middle, when removed, more closely resembles a grub screw and in fact exerts no pressure on anything.
due to the vicissitudes of the suspension technology, the stem plays no part in excluding any fore and aft play in the headset. instead, on each side of the top steerer assembly is a 2.5mm allen locknut, all but concealing a smaller 2mm allen bolt inside. on the roubaix, in order to adjust the headset it is necessary to loosen the outer two 2.5mm allen locknuts before tightening the smaller bolts. once everything is as you would prefer it should be, the 2.5mm nuts are re-tightened. it does work, but the word 'aaaaargh!' springs to mind.
concerning the suspension bit, the bicycle arrives with three springs: strong (yellow), medium (black) and weak (blue), with the yellow one factory fitted. replacing the spring to effect the desired level of suspension is simplicity itself, always assuming you own a 20mm cone spanner (you do have one of those don't you?). after removing the stem, it is necessary to unscrew the cartridge top cap (into which that grub screw fixes), remove the incumbent spring and replace it with your colour of choice.
and to think charlie brown's biggest problem was lucy removing the football at the last minute.
wednesday 8 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i think we've probably discussed my aversion to a dirty chain at greater length than is seemly in polite company. but at the risk of overstaying my welcome, as i prepared to clip myself in on sunday morning, ready and willing to play the part of the weekend warrior once more, catching brief sight of a chain that would have precluded faithful reflection of my ever lengthening hairstyle had me pause briefly to debate whether i ought to clean it prior to departure. thankfully, rational logic dictated that i'd be late for the sunday morning rendezvous and if there's anything i hate more than a grubby chain, it's lateness, so i did my level best to exclude dirty links from my internal conversations.
i do not mind stating that, on occasion, i am happy to make use of an aerosol spray with the number forty in its title to clean and degrease my bicycle chains. but it would be a tad iniquitous to follow this with a liberal dousing of bona-fide lubricant. therefore, after running the chain through a nearby oily rag, i generally leave it overnight to allow the 'forty stuff' to evaporate. the culmination of this singular process would be the measured application of proper lube a few minutes prior to the weekend warrior scenario described above.
except, in keeping with owning a memory somewhat akin to a sieve, i usually remember the finer points of this process mere seconds before the point of departure. thankfully, i also possess a can of 'spray-on' lube, use of which at least partially absolves the need to deftly apply a drop of lube to each link, before wiping clean and spinning the pedals a couple of revolutions. now you comprehend why there's a distinct possibility of lateness at the appointed hour. and that is why, for the benefit of those succumbing to the pressures of modern life, chain lubricant in aerosol format is every bit the life saver it purports to be.
however, many an aerosol contains even modest levels of polytetrofluoroethylene or, as it is more commonly known ptfe. and, if the environmentalists are to be believed (and they are), that's really nasty stuff.
rather helpfully, and in response to customer demand, green oil's simon nash has produced an ecospray lube to benefit miscreants such as yours truly, who more often than they'd like to admit, are required to spray their bicycle chains.
"Green Oil EcoSpray Lube has been a long time in the making. Simply, people asked for it. It's an important step to stop people breathing in PTFE, in bike shops and cycling cafés, which often smell like the products they use"
it has, however, always been the way that new products cost money to bring to market in sufficient quantities to satisfy pent up consumer demand. that said, contemporary culture has invented the art of crowdfunding, a feature that mr nash has taken full advantage of, launching a kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary green stuff (see what i did there?) and bring us cans of plant-based green oil ecospray lube. the bicycle has often been promoted as the ultimate method of green transport and i think it behoves us well to ensure that as many aspects of velocipedinal life adhere to this philosophy.
i doubt i need to remind you of the next step.
tuesday 7 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................