it's no wonder i don't drink

kilchoman distillery and loch gorm

having coined the ultimately vacuous phrase, 'the sunday ride is the sunday ride', in order to prove the veracity of my untrammeled power as a cyclist, i (along with others in the velo club), have resorted to going out of a saturday and hammering myself silly. or, sillier.

though i've had sufficient training manuals in for review over the years to learn one or two so-called 'tricks of the trade', but my ultimate demise seems to hinge on not implementing these tricks in the advised manner. for instance, any lengthy and ultimately speedy bike ride ought to begin with what might be termed a warm-up. everyone knows, or should know, that cold muscles rarely perform at their optimum level, thus the first ten to fifteen minutes ought to be taken gently, gradually increasing the speed and effort in order to presage a sustainable ride, ending with a hopefully impressive average speed.

yet, despite being clearly aware of this set of circumstances, by the time the first brief downhill has passed by, i've adjusted my psyche to accept this gravity-aided velocity as the norm. thus, before the first five kilometres have transpired, i'm already pedalling for all i'm worth, vainly hoping that i can sustain the effort till i reach coffee time. and, to be honest, that's just silly.

and so it happened this past weekend, that i successfully perambulated the loch with the garmin displaying highly impressive numbers for an ageing velocipedinist such as myself. unsurprisingly, this lead to delusions of grandeur and a rather smug grin as i avoided the gravel on the corner turning onto the kilchoman road, which is where the house of cards came tumbling down.

those of you enamoured of the amber nectar would doubtless find it more than amenable to have your cycling route interspersed with the occasional malt whisky distillery, pepperings that i'm afraid we are guilty of taking pretty much for granted. however, the farm distillery at kilchoman has given cause to raise our hackles (if we were actually in possession of such), particularly when the calendar passes easter each year. for this small, but expanding distillery is situated a few hundred metres from the single track road that encircles loch gorm, a road that welcomes visitors to machir bay and saligo bay. and past easter, saturdays and sundays are fraught with visiting whisky enthusiasts in either minibuses, motorhomes or larger examples of the motor car.

thus, my healthily impressive average speed, of which i have no qualms about being justifiably proud, took a substantial nosedive in every (and i mean every) passing place east of kilchoman distillery.

i have no real need of training; at my age, there's nothing more that needs to be proved and as long as i can maintain pace with the back of the peloton, quite frankly, all is well with the world. but, despite my healthy disdain for the turbo trainer, the above situation does give greater credence to graeme obree's contention that using the turbo is the only convincing means of gauging one's progress. one of our number lives in close proximity to the road described and has cause to use at least a part of it as his daily cycle commute. the latter, as he put it, can take 15 minutes or it can take 35 minutes. come the whisky festival at the end of the month, it'll probably take all day.

so the 'leave no-one behind' philosophy that frames the sunday ride is all well and good; it's one that's very unlikely to change anytime soon. but lest you think that we live in the rural idyll, far from the madding crowd (we do), just remember that, in the long run, too much whisky is bad for your health.

kilchoman distillery

top image: islay pictures photoblog

sunday 13 may 2018

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hunterston b nuclear power station

there can be few cyclists who have not come up against the "why don't you pay road tax?" syndrome, eliciting the well-rehearsed answer that such a tax was dispensed with in the 1930s and that the uk's road network is financed through general taxation. if it appears like you might be on a roll, with little chance of untoward repercussions, it's always worth pointing out that the motorist who has asked the question, pays a car tax, not road tax; since there's currently no such thing as a bicycle tax, we're, quite literally, home free.

at the risk of generating a modicum of ire amongst the motoring public, it's hardly a great secret that bicycles create far less wear (if any at all) upon a metalled road surface than does the average car. many of the larger vehicles available nowadays, with somewhat gargantuan tyres, cannot be considered as totally innocent in such matters. yet, irrespective of the potential wear factor associated with any particular motor vehicle, those promising to deliver low emissions appear to get off every bit as tax free as does the peloton. in which case, you rather have to wonder why the notion of the pollution-free cyclist paying tax has even become a 'thing' in the first place.

and then there's the electric car. allegedly, either for environmental reasons or to help kickstart the electric car market, the government currently offers a subsidy of up to £4,500 for purchasers of such a vehicle, or up to £8,000 towards an electric van. granted, the subsidy does not apply to electric vehicles costing in excess of £60,000, but to employ the vernacular, i should bloody well think not.

however, the electric car market currently (pardon the pun) suffers iniquities of its own, mostly centreing around the lack of a comprehensive charging infrastructure. several hybrid vehicles apparently charge their batteries when the driver switches to the regular engine, but for the totally electric car, the further they stray from the city centre, the less likely they are to find a charging point. the ideal situation would be garages that hold stock of charged batteries, meaning a swap rather than several hours sat recharging. but that could potentially turn out to be similar to the situation suffered by stockists of the ubiquitous, yet endlessly variable inkjet printer cartridge. and if everyone switched to electric cars overnight, our roadsides would be clogged with stationary vehicles and endless cables stretching across the pavements. funny, but hardly practical.

the same situation potentially applies to the owners of electric bicycles, but at least if the latter runs out of juice, the bicycle can still be pedalled, albeit slowly, homeward. however, there may be a somewhat divisive situation appearing on the horizon, one that risks creating creating a them and us separation between riders of what we might refer to as standard bicycles and the so-called e-bike.

the bicycle association contends that e-bikes and e-cargo bikes will potentially play a major role in how people and goods are moved around in the future. the more gridlocked become our city centres with motor cars, hybrids and pure electric cars, the more attractive, the association figures, will the idea of an electric bicycle become. additionally, as an alternative to using even small vans to permit city centre deliveries, the electrically assisted cargo bike has much to commend it. however, to describe either as pollution free is to be guilty of massaging the truth. until britain's power network benefits from 100% renewable energy (not something that's likely to happen anytime soon), e-bikes and e-cargo bikes cannot be considered totally innocent in the pollution stakes.

the bikes themselves may not emit any noxious fumes, but the same cannot necessarily be said for the power stations that produce the electricity in the first place.

yet, despite having been party to the completely emission free standard bicycle since 1973, the bicycle association has now found it necessary to petition government to introduce subsidies for e-bikes and e-cargo bikes. to an extent, that makes sense; why should prospective purchasers of electric cars benefit financially, while those intent on a more pragmatic, two-wheeled alternative, simply don't? but if we look at the bigger picture and frame all bicycles within the realm of the low-emission panoply, to be perfectly fair, should any potential granting of subsidy by central government not be extended to all bicycles?

and to create total, relative parity, there could easily be an upper limit placed upon the value of standard bicycles. for instance, those about to drop £10,000 on a colnago c64 are probably not going to employ it getting to and from work and obviously have pockets not really in need of government assistance. while i tend to support the bicycle association in its lobbying, if it truly represents all cyclists, restricting the question to e-bikes seems a tad unfair and somewhat disingenuous.

i have contacted the bicycle association with a précis of the above. i'll let you know if i get an answer.

the bicycle association

sunday 13 may 2018

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allegedly, having learned to ride a bicycle, your muscle memory doesn't let you forget it, hence, when wondering whether we'll be able to achieve something we'd managed when younger, the implications of the phrase "it's just like riding a bike". and it's for those very reasons that so-called 'newbies' find themselves unable to ascend the stairs at night after an exploratory bike ride, or indeed, walking like john wayne the following day. unlike walking, of which we, on the whole, do scarcely enough of, cycling uses muscles on which little emphasis is placed in the daily travail.


the conspiracy theory is heavily weighted towards muscle definition being the primary reason for cyclists shaving their legs. where is the point in developing chiselled calves and thighs, if they're hidden behind hirsute pursuits? yet legs, ankles, back and gluteus maximus muscles are not the only ones to be given a thorough workout during the sunday morning perambulations. infrequently thought of as a muscle with the potential for strength and development, the heart responds particularly well to the considered effort of a lengthy, eight percent ascent. you may not be able to converse in more than a single syllable at a time on reaching the top, but ultimately, your heart will thank you for it.


for that very reason, the british heart foundation are keen to publicise the fact that heart disease in the uk kills more than 150,000 people a year in the uk. yet, the very act of something as simple and enjoyable as cycling to and from work can reduce the risk by an eyewatering 46%. it should come as little suprise, therefore, that evans cycles are partnering with the heart foundation to improve britain's health by encouraging a further 250,000 people to cycle to work within the next ten years.


perhaps rather obviously, the first step in doing so would be to have the bikeless alter their status to that of cyclists, the first tentative, persuasive step of which, oddly enough, is musical. well known to those within the genre of electronic music and as a member of orbital over the last 25 years, paul hartnoll has produced some electronica under the name of heartwork, a track freely downloadable via the link below. by methods i don't begin to comprehend, mr hartnoll has used the data from over 20,000 rides to work to create the three-and-a-bit minutes of musical synthesis.

in return for the free download, evans and the british heart foundation would be most welcoming of a donation to the cause, monies which will be used to continue medical research into preventable heart conditions. though not all of us here necessarily cycle to work, i'm pretty sure we all ride our bicycles more often than mr and mrs average and probably have healthier than normal heart muscles. but a few pennies in the coffers most certainly wouldn't go amiss. lord carlos of mercian sadly succumbed to a heart condition earlier this year, so despite my having no need of a bike to work, i will certainly be donating to the cause.

the tune is already on my ipod.

heartwork by paul hartnoll

artwork by alex rutterford

saturday 12 may 2018

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eddy merckx in the vicinity of a cup of coffee*

prendas faema cotton cap

i have what might reasonably be termed, a substantial and varied collection of cycling caps (casquettes), few of which regularly see the light of day. this is not, as you might think, because they are inordinately valuable and thus necessitating their indoor protection, but predominantly due to their being stored in a box, just out of easy reach. granted, one or two have what i believe is known as sentimental value, and those have little to no chance of being worn al fresco. however, there are many that were acquired on the basis that i rather admired either the design or the affiliations described.

prendas faema merino jersey

the latter, ostensibly existing in rotational decree, are ceremoniously placed under the helmet du jour, usually with some sort of personal significance, but rarely in an attempt to impress any innocent bystanders i may encounter while supping froth. by way of illustration, only a few weekends past, i was sporting my white and world championship striped eddy merckx casquette. the belgian's name sported on the peak attracted the interest of more than one or two coffee drinkers, most of whom expressed their ignorance of the champion to which the cap paid tribute. apart, that is, from one gent, who said "aha! the other famous belgian".

the implication was that i would be well acquainted with the 'other' belgian's name, not displayed upon my cap, but to be honest, the only other famous belgian i could think of that that point was agatha christie's hercule poirot, admittedly not one known for his exemplary palmares. nonetheless, though i scarcely expect the civilian population to have expert knowledge of the velocipedinal world, i was rather suprised that so few had heard of eddy.

prendas faema merino jersey

encapsulated in the title of the superb velopress publication, merckx 525, the belgian's 525 career victories place him at the head of the peloton whichever way you like to look at it. and entirely unlike his modern-day contemporaries, eddy raced from the beginning of the season until its end, even though the latter was usually regarded as october in those far off days. nowadays it's customary for the so-called favourites to target victory in specific races, common lore being that it is no longer possible to be competitive throughout the season. i'm not denying that that is conceivably the case, but it's a point often trucked out to underline the cannibal's domination of his era.

though entirely subjective, it is also arguably the case that the jerseys worn by merckx and his peers were a tad more attractive than the polyester, dye-sublimated versions that serve as modern-day advertising hoardings. the jerseys that punctuated edward's career are regarded as amongst the most iconic in a sea of iconic jerseys, many having extended their original days in the sun by way of modern iterations, proudly worn by the cognoscenti and aficionados. solo-superia, peugeot, and molteni rank atop a range of the finest display of heritage apparel available from dorset's prendas ciclismo, but during the years 1968 to 1970, merckx captained the italian faema team, a red and white jersey that has, until very recently, been missing from the prendas portfolio.

prendas faema cotton cap

that omission, however, has recently been remedied and in a manner that effectively raises its presence above those it may now potentially accompany in your cycling wardrobe. the demarchi made 1970 faema jersey is crafted from a luxurious merino wool blend and features embroidered logos, a short metal zip and buttoned rear pockets. yes, such craftsmanship and materials comes at a price in excess of the popular polyester jerseys, but at least when next asked about eddy in the coffee shop, you'll have the opportunity not only to bore for britain about merckx, but do so in authentic, heritable style.

and by a less than strange coincidence, there's a matching cap available too.

the demarchi merino blend faema jersey is available from prendas ciclismo in sizes ranging from small to xxl at a retail price of £159.99. the 'one-size-fits-all' cap is £7.99

faema merino jersey

*the title of today's scribblings originates from an early film made by 'sunday in hell' filmographer, jorgen leth.

friday 11 may 2018

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yet though more economic and possibly easier to care for

urban circus

urban circus

you will, i hope, forgive me for invading your pixel space with a tale about golf, even if it is intended to lean heavily on the humorous side. it concerns two gents out for a friendly game of golf, one of whom drives the ball straight down the fairway towards the first hole, while the other slices his into the rough to the right hand side. scarcely put out by this turn of event, he withdraws a small device from his jacket pocket, pulls out a small aerial and presses a red button on the front. immediately it emits a loud beep and as he walks deep into the long grass, the sound becomes more persistent until he stands adjacent to his golf ball.

urban circus

the ball itself is glowing bright green and the chap makes ready to continue the game. his companion expresses more than just a passing interest in just such a golf ball and asks if it harbours any more features. "yes, it's completely waterproof and if it lands in the river, it'll float to the top and use small, discrete motors to maintain its place until found. if i hit it into a bunker, it'll raise a small flag above the level of the sand enabling it to be seen. and should it become buried at any point, a gps receiver will alert me as to its precise location."

urban circus

his friend, immeasurably impressed by this, enquires where on earth he managed to purchase such a fabulous addition to his golf bag? "i found it." he replied.

of course, no matter how diabolically poor your golf might be (always assuming you're man or woman enough to admit to playing in the first place), nothing like that described actually exists. allegedly, golf is a game of practised skill and a golf ball with so many features would almost certainly be outlawed in any case, and rightly so.

urban circus

no such restrictions pervade the world of cycling; our handlebars could very easily become festooned with electronica. apps to programme electronic gear-changing, gps to advise of speed, location, time and any number of other slightly less intrusive data and a small display to embarrass us in front of the pelotonese by accurately demonstrating just how alarmingly few watts those legs can manage over even a humpty back bridge. many of the aforementioned are even legitimate aids in the competitive milieu.

urban circus

but, with so few of us here party to a professional contract, such ephemera need scarcely overly concern us. such worries, however, are often made manifest when considering the day to day garmentage and just how versatile one item might purport to be. when riding midst motorised traffic, the need to be seen is often uppermost; any brightness over and above the norm is to be welcomed with open arms. but, on the downside, bright and sparkly doesn't always go down well in more sober circumstances, so there might be need for a second garment.

urban circus

naturally enough, fabrication is not a distant concern; if we're not averse to overdoing the budget when it comes to the bicycle, it would seem a tad tight fisted to skimp on the price of a good jacket. and what about waterproofing? who amongst us has enough space on the bicycle to carry a stylish jacket, a bright and shiny jacket, one that would look completely at ease in the boardroom and another sturdy enough to fend off the worst of the weather?

but, much like the golfer with the super-duper ball, i may just have found you one jacket that purports to cover all the bases. going live on kickstarter today is an accomplished item of jacketry from canada's urban circus. subject to the funding campaign being successful, early funders can acquire a lime-green, white and black weatherproof, reversible unisex jacket for a mere 85 canadian dollars (approximately £50) as opposed to an expected retail price of 170 canadian dollars (approximately £100).

and thankfully wholly inappropriate for golf.

urban circus commuting jacket

thursday 10 may 2018

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preaching to the converted again

cycle commuting

i bought my first motor car around the age of 21 for the princely sum of £350. it was a rather dingy blue, two-door ford escort, but rather than 'needing' a car to drive incessantly up and down the main street with my elbow out the window and some dreadful rave music deafening all within earshot, on a more mundane level, i needed some means of transporting a drumset to frequent weekend gigs. for that purpose, it was ideal, even though the front windscreen leaked water when it rained.

for mechanical reasons, the ford was replaced sooner rather than later, but it soon dawned on me that i was now driving to destinations that were once undertaken on foot. and while technology has marched ever onward, distancing the carburettor and replacing it with electronic digital engine management systems, in those bygone days, the replacement car spent the daily trip to work with the choke fully employed and using an inordinate and ultimately, unnecessary, amount of petrol. the car had to remain for the percussive reasons outlined above, but meantime, i bought myself a bicycle and undertook the daily to-ing and fro-ing on that.

having ridden a bicycle on a daily basis from the age of nine, up until i left home to attend college, getting back into regular velocipedinal activity was not the onerous business the so-called newbie might experience. in fact, it was positively enjoyable, not to say highly pragmatic.

like many, i originally adopted the bicycle for practical reasons and certainly not as a less than subtle means of proselytising to my unsuspecting friends and colleagues. while that admittedly may not be entirely the case nowadays, i figure it's quite likely the reason many adopt the way of the bicycle in place of arguably more convenient means of getting about. cycling is a mode of transport that seems to become quite addictive amongst its adherents. the latter is the very reason i keep moaning to the national bike week that the event needs to be extended by a further three weeks.

however, what is rarely in doubt are the health benefits to be gained from cycling, though few of us could quote actual figures if push came to shove. so, for those without such statistics in their armoury, researchers based at glasgow university, studying the commuting habits of over 250,000 british workers over the course of the last five years, have shown that cyclists have 41 percent less chance of dying than those who drive to work.

riding to work or the shops also promoted a far lower risk of contracting cardiovascular disease, cancer or any other form of prevalent mortality.

while i'd heartily recommend that you memorise as much of the above as you figure you might need, should the office conversation turn in your disfavour, there's unfortunately every chance that no-one apart from the other cyclists in the building, will pay much attention. well do i know of many individuals in the small village of bowmore, who instinctively opt for the motor car to travel considerably less than quarter of a mile down the road. and many of those who do so are not only a lot younger than am i, but are regularly treated to my aged persona frequent departing the croft by bicycle.

you'd really rather hope that this would serve as the equivalent of a transportational lightbulb. but it hasn't and it doesn't. because as far as i can see, we're still guilty of preaching to the converted. the press release announcing the research results was probably only sent to the cycling media, who, like me, then reiterated it to more cyclists. and we already know.

don't we?

wednesday 9 may 2018

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"if you think the spring classics are hard, try scotland"

25 years of endura

the mighty dave t and i were reminiscing only the other day about the dearth of cycle jerseys available, firstly when he were a lad and, slightly more recently, when i were one too. the adverts at the back of the comic in the eighties and nineties were filled with all the goods we now shop for online. many of the businesses that filled those pages are now no more, mostly killed off by the rise of t' internet and probably a concomitant rise in business rates.

one of those retailers was mel bentley of leeds; i have no idea whatever happened to mr bentley, for we lost touch several decades ago, but his cycling weekly advert often featured replica team jerseys for sale, frequently produced by companies other than those that supplied the actual teams, and often manufactured from a strain of polyester that had much in common with tissue paper, including its thickness. the pride demonstrated when riding in a newly acquired team jersey was usually seriously undermined after only a couple of washes, when it more closely resembled a used cement bag.

though there was always a soupcon of quality gear available from the usual suspects, in general, cycling apparel has moved on considerably since those days. no longer are we constrained to choosing from the colours of the giro d'italia peloton; it's now entirely possible to sit comfortably in a coffee shop without looking like a refugee from a bahrain merida training camp. and assuming you keep the slurping to a minimum, there's the possibility nobody would even know you were there.

25 years of endura

at the risk of demeaning my country of origin, it was something of a surprise to discover that the more salubrious end of the cycle clothing market was more than adequately provided for by a scottish company based on the outskirts of livingston, near edinburgh. i am, of course, referring to endura, currently the official clothing supplier to spain's movistar world tour team, as well as that of the recently formed movistar women's team. 2018 sees endura's 25th year of trading, so it seemed a reasonable idea to have a few words with founder, jim mcfarlane, a quarter of a century after he cut his first piece of lycra on the kitchen table in edinburgh and decided to see if he could make a go of creating a cycling apparel brand.

what are the main changes he's observed over the intervening quarter century?

"There have been waves of change. We have seen the mountain bike emerge in the early nineties and then develop into more and more sophisticated technology with carbon, full suspension, disc brakes, dropper seat posts etc.
25 years of endura "For road, we have seen the rise of the MAMIL in the UK as road cycling evolved into a more mainstream sport in the late nineties and noughties, in part driven by Team GB's success in cycling, in successive Olympics, that made riders like Chis Hoy and Bradley Wiggins international household names, in a way that had never happened in British cycling previously. This peaked in 2012 with the London Olympics and Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France.
"In the US we saw the dramatic rise of road cycling popularity with every Tour de France win that Lance Armstrong made from 1999 to 2005 and have seen it decline again over several years after his fall from grace.
"And through all of this, we have seen the dramatic rise in cycle commuting in urban landscapes across Europe, partly due to improved infrastructure and an increasing sense (which is perhaps misguided) of safety in numbers, when mixing with other traffic.
"All of these things have had an impact in the cycle industry and while the UK has been at best patchy for the past four or five years, and the US has been positively distressed, most European markets have continued to grow steadily. More recently, the introduction of the E-Bike is having a profound and positive effect on markets where it has gained traction. The other really positive story in the past few years, has been the rise of women's sport cycling, nowhere more so than in the UK."

it's perhaps poignant that jim began with a look at the world of offroad, the bikes for which i have often disparagingly referred to as 'sprung, farm gates', the sort of comment that could only come from one mired in the ways of skinny tyres. but like many cyclists of my generation, it was the rise and rise of the mountain bike that made it a practical and desirable reality to become involved in the first place. the image of road cycling in the eighties compared disfavourably with the image of this new flavour of cycling originating in the workshops of joe breeze, tom ritchey and gary fisher.

25 years of endura

endura was once renowned for producing mtb kit, a situation that arguably shifted in favour of road cycling in the early 2000s. recently, the company's mtb range seems to be making a comeback. is this as a result of external trends, or are endura astute enough to subtley create their own trends?

"I wish we were that smart. Endura's greatest strength and weakness is arguably that it isn't just one thing. We are heavily involved and innovative in MTB and we're just the same in road. And commuting. And triathlon. It's possibly easier to have simpler marketing when all you do is one thing like Castelli, or Assos, or Rapha in road cycling, or with Fox or Troy Lee in MTB.
"But ultimately, it's all cycling and people who work at Endura generally ride road and mountain. So while it's perhaps tougher for us to be recognised as specialists in road cycling when it's clear we also do other disciplines, the truth is that we put in just as much effort in each discipline (or 'tribe') as our more narrowly focussed competitors, because we invest so heavily in product development and R&D.
"The positive is, that, having that breadth of exposure means that we are less vulnerable position when the market swings from road to MTB or vice versa and that's something that is inevitable, even after several years. People get bored with what they have been doing and want something fresh and new, or as new technologies make a different discipline more appealing."

i recall my early reviews of endura kit, shortly after the turn of this century and if i'm brutally honest, it was good, but not what you'd call outstanding. however that may conceivably have been the transition period between mtb and road. with the release of the more innovative equipe range, developed in conjunction with their own sponsored domestic road team, there was a dramatic improvement in quality, giving credence to the theory that professional cyclists are a demanding lot. does jim miss no longer having his own road team and does he harbour any aspirations to revisit the project in the future?

25 years of endura

"I have absolutely no regrets about having had our own road team. It was an adventure and it was renegade and authentic for us to do it ourselves, because making things up as we go along is part of what I love about Endura. It was fun and it was exciting.
"Would I do it again? I don't think so.
"Partly that's simply because we did it for several years, so we know how it works from the inside out and in order to want to do it again we would have to think that we were going to learn something new. I'm not sure that that would be the case; at least not in the next few years.
"Also, it is hugely time consuming and horribly expensive. If you think that almost all teams are owned by companies who do nothing else but run a team and find sponsors to pay for it, then remember that we are trying to be the best cycle apparel and helmet company in the world, you have to realise that running a team is a massive distraction to the job at hand. I think where we currently are, as a clothing sponsor to men's and women's WorldTour teams, is a more natural place for us to gain all the relevant learning. From this level of racing in road and in downhill racing and Enduro with the Athertons and Trek Enduro teams, it keeps us absolutely focussed on the product and how it needs to perform at the pointy end of elite racing. It's then for us to see what we can learn from that and bring it to our principal clothing ranges.

though allegedly nothing succeeds like success, there's no denying that success at world tour level doesn't happen overnight. it may even be possible to alter that maxim just a smidgeon to reflect that, just possibly, 'nothing succeeds like experience.' after 25 years in the business and firmly ensconced at what jim described above as "the pointy end of elite racing.", can he offer any personal insight as to how he sees cycle clothing developing in the future?

25 years of endura

"Well, it will of course keep on developing and becoming more sophisticated. I think materials technology advances will continue to be the biggest driver. That can be through environmentally reactive yarns, leading to 'intelligent' fabrics that, for example, allow air to pass through the fabric when you are warm and shut it off when you get cold. It may also allow luminescence within the yarns, but without doubt, it will all have to become more environmentally friendly.
"Wearable technology has been talked about a lot lately and has been for many years; there is no question that this is coming, however I think we are still ten years or so away from seeing the breakthrough in integration between technology and materials, allowing the practical, affordable and durable coupling of sensors with cycle apparel for everyday use.
"From a manufacturing perspective, robots are going to start making clothes in a significant way in the next decade and that will help with accuracy and costs in the longer term."

as i mentioned in my opening paragraphs, once less well-versed in the mores of cycling apparel, it was something of a surprise to learn not only of endura's scottish heritage, but also its physical location on the east coast. i had presupposed an italian and swiss domination of the market; britain itself did not feature highly on the horizon. that a country with less than ten percent of the uk population had not only provided a tdf king of the mountains, but harboured a cycling apparel provider rivalling the very best, gave further cause for national pride.

however, the fact that endura are the sole flag bearers in this respect, does make me wonder about the commercial benefits of starting commercial life in scotland. does jim feel that being based north of the border since day one, has provided endura with a commercial advantage over their competitors, either in marketing or technical development terms?

25 years of endura

"Yes and no. In practice, we don't need to be in Scotland to develop wet weather gear or MTB clothing. However I have always been surprised about just how simple the messages has to be, in order to resonate with people in general. So it was an advantage when we first launched with MTB and foul weather clothing, because people immediately said "you guys are from Scotland, so you know about really bad weather. And you have mountains, so your MTB kit must be dialled in".
"The further we were from Scotland then the more that mattered.
When you then go on to sell high-end, lightweight, hot weather road gear, then that's when it works against us and the Italians have the advantage. We can develop that product just as well as any Italian company, but the story is so much harder to make stick. So really it's about perception rather than reality. But I can't knock, it as it helped us in the early days with MTB kit when it was critically important to have something to get us established. The 'pigeon-holing' of the brand is something that we're slowly making progress with and obviously the fact that we sell most of our products outside the UK, has helped. As, indeed, has our associations with Cervelo Bigla and Team Movistar.
"Ultimately, however, we are forward-looking as a brand; we focus on progress and the technological advancements in cycling. Though we have now been around for quarter of a century, we'd never try to compete on heritage, always assuming Scotland had the same perceived historical association with cycling as does Italy."

if i might, for a brief moment, digress in the direction of the drumming world, there are no drum companies of which i am aware, who also offer a line of cymbals. many feature their own hardware ranges, but none have diversified into sonorous metal discs. nor, indeed, do any manufacture their own drumheads. cycle clothing companies, however, seem to exhibit greater leeway in the constitution of their ranges.

25 years of endura

pretty much all, including endura began with shorts, jerseys, jackets, socks etc., but over time, footwear and helmets inevitably find page-room in the catalogues. jim almost began endura as a cycle helmet business, rather than clothing, so after twenty-five years, has he any plans to develop the non-apparel image of endura?

"Absolutely. 2018 is the first year we have been serious as a helmet company. We now have a much broader range that includes high-end Koroyd road and MTB pieces as well as the patented Aeroswitch helmet, with detachable rear tail that hits the shops next month. We believe this to be the fastest aero helmet in the world.
"It's nice to be involved in hardware products because there is more control over the final shape and form of the product than with apparel, but our roots remain in the latter and I am sure that clothing will remain the major part of our business for a long time to come."

though i'd prefer not to be accused of over-egging the pudding when it comes to repetitive mentions of jim's 25 years in the business, when he was cutting that first piece of lycra on his kitchen table, at around the same time that another famous scotsman was doing likewise with washing machine parts, he had (metaphorically speaking) a lot of room to manoeuvre. cycle shops of the day were less chokka-blok with racks of jerseys, jackets, tights; in a nutshell, consumer choice was a tad more restricted.

since such halcyon days, however, there has been a veritable splurge of those intent on entering the market with 'unique' cycle clothing, born from an inability to 'find just the style of clothing' that eluded their credit cards. if that is still the case, they must be near impossible to please, personally, i think the market must be close to saturation point, but does jim think there's room for more at the coffee shop?

25 years of endura

"Honestly, I think that it's beyond saturation and now into distress in many markets, including the UK. For road that is partly to do with micro brand start-ups, trying to be Rapha 'me too' brands on the back of the perceived boom in cycling, coupled with the fact that it seems cool to be working in cycling at the moment.
"The other factor is that sublimation printing has become digital; so it is quite easy to design graphic jerseys and bibshorts and have 50 or 100 pieces made. Twenty years ago it just wasn't economic to produce detailed graphics using screen printing. So it's now quite easy to set up a website, produce a dozen or so different print designs and pitch yourself as the cool new thing, selling direct to consumers. In practice not many people are managing to really build businesses. Beyond the print design, the product usually isn't that special; that takes time and costs money to do. But there are so many of these micro brands that provide a living at least for the people working in them, that they are quite significant in aggregate. I think we'll see a significant number of them disappear over the next decade, but undoubtedly some will go on to grow and professionalise. They will be our competition in the future."

with world economics arguably less stable than was the case in 1993, coupled with an apparently endless desire or need to geographically change the face of design and manufacture of pretty much everything, surviving and prospering in the niche and fickle market of cycling is no mean feat. for those of you have met jim mcfarlane, well will you know that he is the antithesis of the corporate high-flier (and i mean that as a compliment). the atmosphere at endura's livingston headquarters is amongst the most relaxed i've found anywhere, something that almost certainly comes from the top.

this points to a man at ease with his own philosophy, so how would he describe that?

"Stay true to what cycling is all about, don't get distracted by other people (and brands) who try to tell you that it's now something else, and never lose the confidence to try something new that just might make peoples rides faster, funner or more rewarding. It's what we refer to as 'Renegade Progress' at Endura."

endura cycle clothing

tuesday 8 may 2018

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................