there are, as you are no doubt aware, certain inexplicable oddities in life, some of which add a certain pizzaz to things and others which are little other than irritating. a few years ago, the very nice people at dorset's muc-off, sent me a can of stuff professing to re-waterproof any cycling jacket i cared to think of. and they were right on the money; this stuff, though erring a tad on the aromatic side and necessitating a bout of outdoor spraying, returned those delightful little baubles of water on the surface of my rainjacket.
this can of delight retails at around a tenner and assuming you're not too profligate with the aerosol, it'll take care of two jackets per can. that's something i find more than equitable.
now, if you bear in mind that the folks at muc-off were pleased to send a can of this reproofing spray to my island location via the regular postal service, you would no doubt comprehend my confusion verging on disappointment, when i tried to order a second can recently in order to revitalise another jacket. it appears that, due to some vague prohibition order on the carriage of goods offshore (which i undoubtedly am), muc-off were unable to fulfil my order. under these circumstances, i did what any other right thinking individual would have done and ordered a can for the very same product from amazon.
it arrived in a few days.
do not misunderstand me, i am not blaming muc-off for this debacle; i think it only right and proper that they adhere to the rules that they find it appropriate so to do. but it does seem strange that i can receive the stuff when they're keen for a review, but not when i change hats and become a customer.
nevertheless, thewashingmachinepost considers itself a fan of the products offered by muc-off, including that blue coloured synthetic lube that arrives with its very own black light to check whether the lube has infiltrated each and every link in the chain. it's a dinky little device i have had attached to my house keyring for nigh on two years and it still works even now. whatever you might think of their excellent products, you could never accuse them of shoddiness.
like many a contemporary cycle-related company, muc-off have not stopped short at offering prelubed, low-friction chains at somewhat eyewatering prices, the very same as supplied to prince bradley's hour record success. intent on becoming as much a part of our velocipedinal lives as seems polite, muc-off are now on strava. i am well aware that this is probably not the earth-shattering news that you might have hoped to hear, but for those who live by the gps records of their every move, it's possibly quite welcome.
though many of us are in the habit of spending sunday morning discussing why peter sagan really shouldn't have taken on the bulk of the workload towards the end of milan-sanremo, in this modern age, cycling can offer a far wider peer group than those we ride with locally. if you ever need a specific example, i'd be happy to raise my hand. given my somewhat estranged location, thewashingmachinepost has provided me with an international peer group of cyclists to which i would never have otherwise aspired.
aside from the regular benefits to be had from strava membership, muc-off intend to place exclusive content on their strava club page, along with a number of club challenges. if this sort of thing is your 'bag' as we jazz musicians are wont to say, click the link below and muc-off to your heart's content.
monday 20 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i rather liked the ideal of being a touring cyclist. there's something invitingly relaxing about riding a bicycle through the countryside at a pace of my own choosing, making last minute decisions about which fork in the road to take and when to call it a day. for a week or so, i thought this would be the very form of rest and recuperation that the doctor ordered. or at least, would have if i'd ever asked him.
my original touring bike was a muddy fox courier converted with an alarmingly tall stainless steel stem, a pair of touring handlebars and front and rear racks. to complete the look, i acquired a karrimor (remember them?) bar bag and a set of front and rear panniers, fitted a set of 1 inch road tyres and prepared to be the mark beaumont of the early 1990s. the part of the equation at which i failed miserably was what i like to refer to as economy of scale; in other words, i took far too much stuff with me, most of which remained unused or unworn.
naturally enough, any bicycle touring trip commencing from islay has need of a two hour ferry trip, with the overloaded bicycle tied to a railing on the car deck of the boat. i've pointed out on a previous occasion that my non-existent map reading skills brought me to unexpectedly scale a 14% climb on the road to claonaig, where another ferry would carry me to lochranza on arran and fifteen miles later, a bigger one took me from brodick to ardrossan.
in the early nineties, cycle routes on the west of scotland were a mere twinkle in a strathclyde region planning officer's eye and i can tell you that the planning officer was definitely not a cyclist. less than a mile from the ferry port, my first acquaintance with the ardrossan to irvine cycle route consisted of a six inch kerb, necessitating a dismount and a manhandling of a heavy bicycle with luggage to continue forward progress. aside from the fact that the initial part of the route was in close proximity to a less than salubrious council estate where i was narrowly missed by a section of copper piping thrown in my direction.
matters only became worse on the approach to sections of the path meeting the local road network. to prevent myself, or other velocipedinal itinerants blissfully careering into the path of motor traffic, a series of half-barriers had been fitted, but unfortunately too close together to allow a loaded bicycle to navigate through passage. to get the bicycle past these barriers, i'd to remove the front panniers, get the bike through, then go back to collect the panniers. if i might refer you to the attempted violence on passing the nearby council estate, this was a far from equitable situation.
it's a long, long time since i've undertaken bicycle touring of any description. as i understand it, the cycle route now reaches from ardrossan to ayr and beyond and i'm sure the minutiae of the route have been long since amended. however, not only has the cycle route undoubtedly been improved, but cycle touring has undergone something of a sea change in the interim. karrimor, despite at one time producing some of the best cycling luggage in the world, are no more. and though panniers and barbags are still an integral part of cycle touring for some, the new buzzword on the street or gravel path is bike packing.
this form of luggage carrying no longer depends on fitting racks to your bicycle, something of a boon if said velocipede is bereft of brazed-on fittings for so doing. the common set required now consists of a bar pack, seat pack and frame pack, items readily available from ortlieb, amongst the finest purveyors of cycle luggage in the world. though undoubtedly funkier looking than a set of panniers, ortlieb's bikepacking gear is completely waterproof to the tune of a five year warranty.
it's worth pointing out that ortlieb are rather late to the bikepacking party, having introduced their current range towards the end of 2016, but it's clear that they've listened and learned. i received a bar pack and seatpack for review, the latter apparently modelled on their more regular seat bag (previously reviewed on thewashingmachinepost). the latter consists of essentially a very large ice-cream cone of a bag, rigid at the seatpost end, but highly flexible at the other. the pack affixes to the bicycle by means of two adjustable straps that thread through the saddle rails and two substantial velcro straps that hold the entire affair rigidly to the seatpost.
by filling the bag with everything you've decided to carry, the bag is then rolled up towards the bicycle and fastened to the body of the bag by means of yet another two adjustable straps. so doing, effects a waterproof seal. i'd be fibbing if i said the end result looked particularly attractive, but the bag does safely carry a substantial amount of kit and that, i'd imagine, is the ultimate point.
the bar pack is, in effect, a long tube of waterproof fabric festooned with a daunting myriad of adjustable straps, but in fact, fitting the pack to the handlebars, though a bit of a faff, isn't that hard. basically, there are two substantial velcro straps that hold the pack to the bars; these feature four removable foam pads (two each side) to accommodate the inevitable brake and gear cables by keeping the body of the bag away from the underside of the bars. in my case, leaving the pads in place forced the bag onto the 42mm width of the specialized sequoia's front tyre, so i removed them.
the instruction manual stated that there ought to be nine of these pads, but the review sample featured only the four fitted. once the bag is filled to perfection, the ends are rolled inwards before clipping the ends together, providing a watertight seal.
to pull the pack tight to the bars, there are a couple of clipped orange webbing straps and a third to fit around the bicycle's head tube. all this in place, the bag remained impressively steady. unfortunately, having packed in all the stuff i thought i'd like to have with me, the resultant width and bulk rendered the brake levers unusable, despite the sequoia's bars featuring a noticeably outward sweep. there are other straps with oddly shaped buckles to help not only with adjustment, but the addition of an optional accessory pack which fastens to the front. there's also a criss-crossed adjustable elastic cord in which it would be possible to stuff a garment or two to dry while you cycle. the seatpack features a similar affair on the top.
much as i'd love to regale you with tales of my international travels, i'm afraid the ortlieb equipped sequoia never left the isle. such is the versatility of this particular specialized bicycle however, i made a trip along the rough gravel track leading to islay's community wind turbine, took a flyer along the abattoirenberg forest road, headed along an abandoned logging track and ultimately threaded my way through a flock of sheep on the grass at uiskentuie. some of the foregoing was conducted under cover of invidious, wind-blown precipitation. despite such a baptism of fire, not only did the packs not move a millimetre, but their contents remained completely dry.
pretty much the desired result i'd say.
i'm very much in favour of this style of cycle-touring. the addition of a frame bag would surely cover the majority of needs of the intrepid cyclist, all the while preventing some of the negative handling aspects a set of panniers on a low-rider tend to cause. riding as if on rails has a distinctly negative definition under those circumstances.
this is already the future of cycle touring.
the ortlieb bar pack retails at around £85, while the seatpack is priced around £100.
sunday 19 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though i prefer not to emulate bbc alba, scotland's gaelic tv channel, in being found guilty of repeating myself, i once more find need of citing a particular sketch from monty python's flying circus. not the bicycle repair man as praised in yesterday's post, but in this case, john cleese' ministry of silly walks. as the title suggests, this was a reputed ministerial department whose purpose revolved around the creation of embarrassingly silly walks, the logic of which i don't recall being fully explained.
many of us saw this particularly humorous episode as being a comment on the very european union of which britain is currently in the process of extricating itself. superficially at least, many of the edicts emanating from brussels had all the hallmarks of totally bizarre ideas that may have surfaced over the course of a weekend, ostensibly in order that the perpetrators may prolong their long-since obsolete functions in european government. legislation affecting the shape of the bananas and carrots on sale in our averagemarkets were often viewed as practical jokes taken just a few steps too far.
of course, it's not just brussels that is guilty of outpourings that have little basis in sense. rare would be the cyclist who has not come across at least one incensed motorist, intent on castigating them for not only impeding their progress, but being free to do so without paying road tax. aside from the fact that road tax was repealed in the mid 1930s and currently the roads are funded from general taxation, the statement fails to take into account the number of allegedly clean motor vehicles with low noxious emissions that are exempt from paying car tax.
if we are willing to accept that the average cyclist, eating a less than gratuitous number of brussels sprouts and baked beans, is entirely free from noxious emissions of any form, then it is hard to see why he or she would find themselves the subject of onerous taxation based purely on the basis that they occupied less than quarter the space taken up by a motor car. still, despite the obvious logical failings of the argument, it has become a self-perpetuating myth amongst many of the motoring classes.
it was therefore more than just a little confusing to learn that employment lawyer jessica learmond-criqui, had co-ordinated protests by allegedly intelligent london parents against pollution near their children's schools in london's hampstead and highgate regions. the protests themselves are scarcely what one would refer to as news, but given that they are blaming cyclists for causing the pollution, were it not mid-march rather than the first of april, you'd be forgiven for thinking this were an elaborate practical joke.
i'm willing to admit that it took me more than a few minutes to reason quite how emission free cyclists were causing pollution that allegedly has individuals resorting to wearing face masks. however, their argument seems to revolve around transport for london having installed cycle lanes in the more congested parts of london, leading up to almost 500 cars per hour to use the city's narrower residential streets. and tautologically, more motor cars inevitably means more pollution. remove those cycle lanes, the argument goes, and more cars could use the principal arteries, leaving those residential areas bereft of noxious fumes.
i'm all for logical reasoning, but even mr spock might be confounded by this one.
saturday 18 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"if a bicycle can be useful in a place where there is no transport, it becomes useless if the bicycle you have can only last 90 days." - brian moonga, world bicycle relief country director, zambia.
there will be those of you under a certain age for whom the genius of monty python's flying circus is merely the stuff of myth and legend. though there are endless re-runs of friends and the big bang theory, monty python has not fared so well in the repeat television stakes. john cleese might be best known for his flaying of a police car in an advert for an eyecare specialist, while michael palin, star of the spanish inquisition sketch has entered the contemporary psyche as a gent who makes travel documentaries. but amongst their many contributions to british comedy history and the english lexicon is a fondly remembered sketch entitled bicycle repair man.
the humorous basis behind the latter is a world filled with superheroes; gents and women who populate society wearing their underpants on the outside and with cloaks flowing in the breeze. during the day to day interactions of modern super hero society, there transpires a bicycle crash and once again, the aforementioned michael palin disappears into a nearby phone box, dons a flat cap and brown overall to reappear as bicycle repair man, ready, able and willing to come to the aid of the unfortunate super velocipedinist.
maybe you had to be there.
beijing was once renowned for featuring at least one bicycle mechanic on every city street corner; there were so many millions of cyclists in the chinese city, that the statistical chances of a number of repairable breakdowns kept many such maintenance technicians fully employed. that is far less likely to be the case nowadays, with the chinese economy have been boosted by millions of cars replacing the flying pigeon bicycles, though at the expense of a continuous supply of clean air.
with today's bicycles encompassing technological advancements such as electronic gear shifting and hydraulic disc brakes, it would be a brave or rich individual who attempted to maintain their own state of the art carbon fibre via the rather pricey tools required to carry out the job properly. it was once a relatively simple matter to carry out cycle maintenance, for if trial and error emptied hundreds of impossibly small ball bearings all across the bikeshed floor, sorting the problem was more of an irritation than the need to memorise circuit diagrams for campagnolo's super-record eps.
when my good friend graeme freestone king spends most of his working day travelling the length and breadth of the country teaching shop mechanics the intricacies of vicenza's mechanical and electronic shifting systems, it is surely something of a conceit to think you and i can do so on a trial and error basis. however, rarely would the lack of consistent gear changing be regarded as a major travesty in the western world.
there are, however, regions of what we conveniently refer to as the third world where gears on a bicycle would be seen as something of a luxury. where the difference between a decent standard of education and living can depend almost entirely on ownership of a bicycle.
in regions of africa, the attitude towards children, particularly girls, is substantially different from our own. though boys are less likely to have need of carrying out chores before heading off to school, many young girls miss out on education because there simply is not the time to complete their daily workload and walk the several miles to school. that is why world bicycle relief has spent many years donating their famous buffalo bicycles to women and girls and men and boys, to encourage the desire to attend school on a regular basis and encourage village industry by facilitating improved means of transport. those bicycles are built like the proverbial brick sh*thouse, all the better to ride over rough, unmade roads and carry payloads that would quite likely bring tears to our western thighs.
but, despite the fortitude displayed by both riders and velocipedes, those paths humorously denoted as roads eventually take their toll and it would be a naive organisation indeed that splashed out on thousands of bikes without considering how they'd be fixed when (not if), they eventually break. world bicycle relief therefore, features a mechanics' training programme with the aim of matching every hundred buffalo bicycles to a single trained repairer. and perhaps unlike many of us who only visit the bike shop when something ceases to function, many of these wbr mechanics are provided with a maintenance schedule that sees them visit schools during the working day to carry out preventative as well as remedial servicing.
of course, the side benefit of teaching a whole generation of bicycle repair men, other than keeping the wheels of learning in motion, is the provision of gainful employment for many who would otherwise be left on the fringes of their society. while for the western world the bicycle is often an expensive luxury, for many parts of africa, velocipedinal life is a far less trivial affair for riders and repairers alike.
these world bicycle relief mechanics receive comprehensive training that includes a small but comprehensive toolkit, an identifiable uniform, wheelbuilding skills and, perhaps most importantly of all, a real purpose in life. but as with almost everything in the world that is considered worthwhile, this all costs money, money that many of us seem to have plenty of if judged by the carbon fibre sat patiently waiting outside the coffee stop. to say nothing of the several hundred pounds worth of sportwool and lycra clustered round the leather sofa.
if the bicycle means more to you than just nano-fibres and electronic shift levers and i sincerely hope that it does, please consider keeping that frayed merino baselayer for another season and donating the cost to world bicycle relief to help train at least one more bicycle repairman on the african continent.
friday 17 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
suspend belief for just a moment or two and humour me for a paragraph or so.
let's just suppose i am a mechanic sat in the back seat of a yellow mavic skoda. the hypothetical race we're driving behind is really of no nevermind, but since paris-roubaix is my favorite event of the year, let's go with that one. and back to the action. it's not the most comfortable place to be on an april sunday afternoon, but them's the breaks and after all, it is paris-roubaix. one of the riders up front has suffered a puncture just after the arenberg forest and the team cars are still snagged up behind the following pack, so i have the door open, a pair of wheels under my arm and heading speedily towards the unfortunate rider.
disc brakes with their attendant thru-axles sort of slow things down a bit, but oddly, the wheel seems not to be fitting as easily as i'd hoped. everything seems pretty much ok, but i can't get the hub to line up properly with what used to be called the dropouts. at this point, there are more than just a few folks watching, the rider is banging his hands on the handlebars with impatience and the driver of that yellow skoda has started shouting at me.
i just want my mummy.
unfortunately, my bout of total fiction has its basis in truth; the reason why the wheel is refusing to join hands with the rear triangle is one of compatibility, something cycling has never been particularly good at in the first place. hopefully, it's an iniquity that you and i will never come across, except, i already have. in my construct above, there is a mismatch between disc rotors; the punctured bicycle has been racing on 140mm and the spare wheels grabbed from the rear of the skoda were fitted with 160mm.
visually, there's not a whole heck of a difference and the size marking on the rotor is not always overly visible and probably blurred out of existence to a mechanic sat in the back seat of a yellow skoda driving over the cobbles at paris-roubaix. it's a problem i have already come across last friday afternoon, when i decided to find out whether a set of challenge paris-roubaix 700x33mm road tyres would fit between the chainstays of a specialized roubaix.
as it turns out, there's every likelihood that they will, but i'll get back to you on that one sooner rather than later. however, the wheel failed to fit properly because of the problem outlined above.
sat in the bike shed for the past year or so have been a pair of wheelsmith disc ready aero wheels, but constituted with regular hubs featuring the standard quick-release skewers. with every disc-equipped review bicycle arriving in the last twelve months coming replete with thru-axles, the wheels were sorely under-employed. that is, until derek at wheelsmith suggested sending me a thru-axle-conversion-kit, something i had no idea existed. this entailed the simple act of removing the existing q/r axle and replacing it with a thru-axle compatible with specialized's proprietary standard.
with all that done and ostensibly the 33mm road tyres in place, i was more than eager to fit these to the roubaix and head off into the wide grey yonder, only to be foiled by those extra 20mm. i'm happy to accede to your point that surely this couldn't possibly happen to the non-professional with only a bicycle or two in the shed? well, assuming you've been paying attention in the bike shop or in your web browser, what could possibly go wrong? but i'll let you into a secret; life's not always like that.
last year, i simultaneoulsy had two different disc-equipped bicycles from two different manufacturers on review, the sort of situation that could easily have occurred for real if my bank balance had more zeros on the end. one bicycle had 140mm rotors while the other had 160mm, thus any comparison between wheels would have needed a bout of wrenching with a suitable sized torx wrench. which is where the second problem came into being; one set of wheels featured six-bolt fittings and the other a centre lockring. it's a situation that is happening even as we speak.
currently in the bike shed is a brightly coloured and utterly fabulous specialized crux elite fitted with sram rival and its rotors attached via the centre lockring method. adjacent to said 'cross bike is the current bicycle du jour, the specialized roubaix with shimano rotors fastened to each of the hubs by six torx bolts.
i'm sure you can see my greatly laboured point.
it would appear that there's a plethora of finer details to be settled other than sliced shoes or shins, before discs are truly road ready. and it would be prudent to research thoroughly any upcoming disc-equipped bicycle purchases, because you just never know when you might have to swap a wheel or two.
thursday 16 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i am not a politically motivated person. i hold the same opinion as that expressed to me when i was a student, that those who wished to stand for student council ought to be banned from doing so. it is an incontrovertible fact that individuals who feel strongly enough to stand for election to anything usually have some form of agenda of their own. this does not preclude that agenda being for the common good, but experience has taught that quite frequently there's more than just a smidgeon of self-interest to be taken into account.
of course, i'm also an adherent of the well-founded advice that one should refrain from discussing religion or politics in public. though we have held light-hearted conversations in the office regarding both of the above, there's nothing like the intervention of one with deeply held and publicly displayed views to reinforce why it wasn't a good idea in the first place.
scotland will hold local council elections in the coming months and like many a region, we have individuals keen to court our marks on the ballot paper. the incumbent who has held the position for as many years as i can remember, has begun throwing his hat into the ring by means of some well-aimed press-releases, allying himself with some high profile, council-led projects in the area. but the young gentleman keen to unseat the current councillor finds it hard to contain his youthful enthusiasm. an adherent of westminster's prime minister, he lost no time at all in telephoning the office to alert us to the fact that theresa may, addressing scottish conservatives recently, had made specific mention of islay's whisky industry.
the thrust of his opening gambit was to ask if i had heard her publicly announced words, to which i had replied in the negative, just as keen to point out that i had little interest in such matters. to the rest of the world, the fact that the prime minister of the uk saw fit to mention a cluster of single malt distilleries might not seem worthy of great note, but if you factor in the £10 duty applied to each bottle of whisky sold, at least part of her economic clout depends on those eight sets of pagodas.
the bigger picture, of course, is of considerably more serious concern. with the european referendum of 2016 committing the country to a retreat from europe, so doing has now convinced scotland's first minister that the situation has become less equitable to the extent of announcing yet another "once in a lifetime" independence referendum. irrespective of the eventual outcome and the politics involved, i can't say i'm looking forward to another round of the divisiveness that surfaced in a small community such as ours.
despite my long-held contention that hebrideans are the flandrians of the west, i have little or no knowledge of belgium's internal politics. yet it would take only a brief search on google to find images of paris-roubaix and ronde van vlaanderen where the roadside crowds are almost obliterated by flags depicting the lion of flanders. in my naivety and the fact that i have that very lion displayed on the seat-tube of my ibis hakkalugi, i'm taking that to be a good thing and not necessarily a subliminal political statement. very unlike the number of scottish saltires that appeared on flag poles overnight in islay gardens in the summer of 2015.
according to common lore, the scottish flag that most closely resembles that of flanders, the so-called lion rampant is not on offer for use by the proletariat. historically used by the king of scotland, apparently its correct use is restricted by a scottish parliamentary act to only a few officers of state; any unauthorised use is an offence under this act. ironically, the scottish national party has previously received admonishment for 'improper and non-authorised use' of the flag. as indeed, has glasgow rangers football club. that would appear to prohibit use of same while standing aside the cobbles during the spring classics and for any prospective adoption of the banner by hebrideans who may wish to blend in with the flandrian crowd.
admittedly, in 1934, king george v issued a warrant during silver jubilee celebrations, authorising public use of the lion rampant, but restricting it to small, hand-held flags for 'decorative ebullition'. in an interview with scotland's sunday post in 2007, lord lyon robin blair pointed out that its use at sporting events was probably not envisaged in 1935. which leaves us hebrideans in something of a quandary.
i will admit that while neither a visit to the belgian heartlands nor the roubaix velodrome is on the cards for 2017, that does not preclude such a happenstance in future years. and should that come to pass, i would feel all but disenfranchised were i to be prevented from waving my red lion midst the black lions of flanders. on the bright side, it does leave me room in which to manoeuvre my own particular agenda, petitioning for the legalising of the lion rampant in order that it might be waved exuberantly at european cycle races.
the snp can (and probably will) indulge in their own manoeuvres; they're not having any of mine.
wednesday 15 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
when i was barely knee-high to a grasshopper, my ambitions in life could be summed up by the sight of my matchbox cement lorry. and not just any cement lorry; a blue circle cement lorry. and when i grew up, i was going to drive one of these. of course, it was pretty much a regular flatbed truck filled with cement bags, possibly even one that, on tuesdays, wednesdays and thursdays, delivered something entirely different. since it's a long, long time since i inhabited the airspace of a cricket, i really can't remember.
though i do not recall any of my pre-school friends harbouring thoughts of career paths that involved space rockets, steam engines or fire tenders, it seems wholly ironic that despite carrying a current driver's licence in my wallet, i prefer not to drive anything at all, let alone a vehicle that would necessitate gaining a heavy goods vehicle licence. however, the fact that childhood career aspirations rarely match with those we ultimately end up inhabiting is scarcely a surprising or acute observation. after all, i'm pretty sure that in my tender years of yesteryear, i scarcely even knew what cement was, let alone that truck driving might not be my ideal metiér.
it would be to unnecessarily obfuscate matters were i to imply that subsequent years brought a hankering after a professional cycling career. though mrs washingmachinepost kindly bought me a ten-speed racer in my early twenties, at that point, i still hadn't grasped hold of the fact that fitter folks than i took part in competitions, success in which might possibly lead to higher-grade pelotonic activity. and believe me, it was all too plainly advertised by the numbered individuals hammering along the by-pass early on the occasional sunday morn.
a bit like discovering that attending music class at school could conceivably result in academic qualifications, by the time i realised that cycle sport existed at club level, i was too old and altogether too far away to make use of such information.
in point of fact, i'm pretty darned sure that a professional cycling career would have been well beyond my meagre abilities. had the peloton beckoned, i've a feeling that it would more likely have involved replacing cassette sprockets, glueing tubulars and washing dirty bikes post roubaix. that, or standing at the roadside holding several team-emblazoned musettes.
there's no denying that watching sagan, van avermaet, boonen and the other guys in the band cope with rough and ready sections of cobbles is inspirational. subsequently comparing the unkempt surface of the abattoirenberg forest with the carrefour l'arbre may be a tad idealistic, but the geographically estranged have to make do with whatever is on their doorstep. and interspersing a mere 90 kilometres with a double-egg roll and a soya cappuccino at debbie's is not something often seen at the tour of lombardy.
fortunately, a signed world tour contract is not a pre-requisite for those wishing to experience the simple luxuries of life as a professional. many a bicycle manufacturer is more than keen to provide the great unwashed with the same weapons grade carbon as ridden by their heroes. and it has become common practice for the professionals to be clad in precisely the same apparel as available to you and i, though with perhaps a smidgeon fewer logos. such is almost definitely the case with rapha's tautologically named pro team range.
with renewed vigour, imperial works have upgraded pretty much their entire set of bibshorts, from the recently reviewed second edition of the much-favoured classic bibs and encompassing not only the women's bibshorts, to the brevet bibs and version two of their pro team bibshorts. though it might seem a bit adventurous to figure that the originals could have been noticeably improved, practical experience would have me believe otherwise.
i have long contended that a quality pair of shorts, assuming the correct size has been chosen, ought to be just a wee bit of struggle to pull on. opting for the size small of the all-black pro team bibshorts, these imparted an aura of professionalism from the back garden start line. the shorts can be purchased with black, pink, chartreuse, teal or white bibs, matching the shiny rapha lettering on the legs with the same colour. the hem, if that remains an adequate description, is several inches deep and offers the ultimate grip without irritation (assuming you shave your legs of course). to accommodate those longer of thigh, each size is available in regular or long leg. but as with any pair of bibshorts, the focus necessarily descends upon the pad.
eschewing the previous practice of utilising the same size and thickness across the range, rapha now vary both depending on the size ordered, providing an improved and tangibly superior fit. over an initial 150 kilometres, i can but concur with the copywriters. in fact, despite being exposed to inordinately mild march weather for the hebrides, interspersed with the sort of rain that we're more used to, the performance of the pro team bibs was pretty much immaculate (which is more than could be said of their wearer).
it is not, however, merely the pad that has been upgraded, with the bibs and matched mesh section having been given the once or twice over to provide a greater degree of stretch without creating undesirable pressure points. the styling also gives greater support, something that nowadays is probably referred to as compression. during my strenuously inaccurate peter sagan impersonations over the more obscure parts of the island, these were most impressive bedfellows, yet oddly enough, despite feeling slightly under the weather at one point, a triumphant return to the croft was accompanied by my highest average speed of the year.
that couldn't possibly have been entirely down to me, so i believe that the new pro-team bibshorts and i have cemented a fine, new relationship.
the second edition of rapha's pro-team bibshorts are available in sizes ranging from xs to xxl in both regular and long leg, with bibs in chartreuse, pink, white, teal or black. price is £195.
tuesday 14 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................