it's a breeze


as we slogged our way along the singletrack road at gruinart flats, yesterday, we could see a white motorhome approaching along the road we eventually hoped to find ourselves on. the struggled approach, therefore took on a mood of trepidation. though i fear i may be guilty of a sweeping generalisation, drivers of said vehicles are not renowned for their ability to negotiate oncoming traffic (us), on singletrack roads. firstly, we have had many an occasion to wonder if these vehicles are fitted with reverse gear, or whether that particular gear might be hidden from view. secondly, probably through a mixture of arrogance and ignorance, passing places seem to be avoided at all costs, by any number of visiting motorists.

relief reigned for a brief moment, when the motorhome took a right turn, but, as is so often the case, then realised that, lost though they were, they'd just taken a wrong turning. as we eventually reached this large, white vehicle, which had inexplicably simply stopped that the road junction with no apparent intention of moving in any direction, we met two female touring cyclists who enquired of us, directions to kilchoman distillery. i will not bore you with the answer, except to point out that, if you were intent on visiting said distillery, you would not have been anywhere near the point at which they had elected to stop.

after directions were given, they sped off along the road which had brought us there in the first place, aided and abetted by a particularly strong tail wind. and at this point, there followed a brief discussion over quite how we might classify wind speeds for the greater edification of the visiting cyclist(s) to the principality. you see, though i have droned on about the wind on islay for more years than you'd care to remember, there's still this sneaking suspicion that nobody actually believes me; that i might be guilty of exaggeration.

it hurst that you would think like that.

in 2017, i rode from london to paris with a group of near one hundred riders, amongst whom was hot chillee supremo, sven thiele. on the afternoon of the second day, well into the french countryside, as forecast, the wind speed increased a smidgeon to create a verisimilitude of a headwind. i recall this particularly clearly, because i went from the back of the group, all the way to the front, without any increase in my pace. though i pretty much remained where i was on the road, most everybody else went backwards. moaning about that headwind was still rife during dinner that evening, while, i, blasé as ever, was undiplomatically keen to point out that, strictly speaking, it wasn't a headwind at all.

not my finest moment, i hasten to add.

so, for the benefit of those who may be considering a summer jaunt to scotland's west coast islands, from islay all the way to lewis, allow me to offer you some specific numbers by which the velo club regularly abide. firstly, the cut off point for us, partially dependent on wind direction, is 36mph (57kph). the number to which i refer is that of the average windspeed (usually obtained via xc weather) any higher than this and the gusts will be of a strength likely to take you off your bicycle, or blow you into the path of oncoming or following traffic. cycling in winds of that speed is not to be recommended; it's not fun and we would generally only do so if absolutely necessary. ferries would not sail in those conditions.

a more pragmatic rule of thumb is this: anything less than 24mph (38kph) cannot be considered a headwind. it's the law. between 20-24mph (32-38kph) is simply wind. 15-20mph (24-32kph) is a breeze and anything less than that would (locally) be classified as a draught. in much the same way as it serves to mark you out as a newbie when incorrectly pronouncing port askaig, bruichladdich, kilchoman or bunnahabhain, conversing with indigenous cyclists and claiming to have struggled into a headwind of less than 24mph (38kph), will definitely incur the necessity of buying the coffees on retiring to a nearby hostelry or, more likely, simply being laughed at.

remember, rule #5 was discovered in the chapel at finlaggan. it is our birthright, and, by implication, yours too.

monday 15 april 2019

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specialized allez sprint comp disc - long term review

specialized allez sprint comp disc

believe it or not, i possess a higher grade certificate in physics. quite how this happened, i know not, for not only do i have the certificate, but i passed remarkably well. this is unusual because i'm really not sure that i understood the science that i was apparently learning. however, in the intervening years, many of the concepts laboriously taught in fifth year of secondary school have become more readily apparent; newton's third law of motion, for example. simply put, newton confidently stated that every action has an equal, but opposite reaction. and to put that in velocipedinal terms, if there's a galeforce crosswind blowing from the left, an unattended bicycle will have a hard time refusing to be moved to the right.

if we can assume that, in this day and age, bicycles are rarely left unattended, specifically in a crosswind, then the incumbent cyclist, when in motion, will be required to demonstrate their bike-handling skills to maintain a trajectory that vaguely resembles a straight line. this i know, because not only do i have higher grade physics, but i am, all too frequently, that very cyclist.

specialized allez sprint comp disc

physics also dictates that, if riding a bicycle in a vacuum (?), the cyclists need only overcome the combined weight of the bicycle and rider in order to move in a forward direction. given that few of us are in the habit of riding in airless conditions, aside from weight, forward motion must now be gained at the expense of air resistance; the faster you ride, the greater that resistance becomes. it's the same set of circumstances which dictate, even on a windless day, there seems always to be a headwind. ride headlong into a galeforce wind and the energy required to overcome such extremes of air resistance hardly makes for a relaxing ride.

specialized allez sprint comp disc

thus, in order to make life easier and faster, the bicycle manufacturers of the world have spent many of their research and development pennies on hours and hours of wind-tunnel testing, adding so-called aero bikes to their ranges. it's not too hard to tell which machinery has been subjected to this procedure, for they mostly consist of flattened and widened tubes, in order to present as slim a profile as possible to the inevitable headwind (always assuming we have eschewed use of the vacuum chamber).

however, those of you who also have a decent grounding in physics, will perhaps have seen the fly in the ointment. for a slimmed profile gained by such means, cannot do otherwise than show a series of flat, wide surfaces to an incoming crosswind. i have no doubt that forward motion is likely to generate the bulk of the bike's air resistance, but a hefty shove from either right or left, aided and abetted by an increased surface area upon which to act, creates lateral problems all of its very own.

specialized allez sprint comp disc

the above is the very long-winded (pun intended) way of pointing out that my saturday ride aboard specialized's aluminium-framed allez comp disc, was not what one might describe as a 'picnic'. in my original review, i decried the use of an aero-shaped seatpost, principally on the grounds of replacement should it ever fail in operation. however, allied to a similarly profiled seat-tube, those uncouth crosswinds (and believe me, we are frequently strafed by these throughout the year), while ostensibly designed to aid my forward motion, played more than a minor role in casting me asunder all the way from kilchoman distillery till my arrival at debbie's for lunch.

comments such as the above could easily be misconstrued as terminal criticism. you need only read the essence of my review of the specialized roval 64 carbon wheels previously fitted to this very bicycle. had they remained so during yesterday's bike ride, i'd likely be typing this article from somewhere on the island of colonsay, several miles north of here. combine large slabs of rotating carbon fibre with an aero frame and hit them hard with a crosswind...

specialized allez sprint comp disc

need i say more?

however, this is not to ignore the pertinent fact that pretty much any bicycle, in yesterday's crosswinds, would also have succumbed to similar interruptions. perhaps regular, round tubes would have fared a tad better, but there is plenty of evidence to show that, when fighting a direct headwind (coull farm to machir bay), progress would have been slower than specialized's aero frame.

the upshot of all this was greater admiration for the allez's stability in the face of adversity. granted, i have thirty plus years' of experience riding in such weather conditions, some of which is bound to have rubbed off by way of improved bike-handling, but that only makes it easier to recognise which portion of staying-upness is down to the bicycle. those rovals have been removed and safely stowed in their boxes, the original equipment dt-swiss wheels affixed in their place. the weight difference was noticeable, particularly when climbing, but to be perfectly honest, no matter peter sagan's opinion, i think the stock wheels are better suited to the frame than the rotating carbon.

specialized allez sprint comp disc

i'm extremely grateful to specialized for allowing the bicycle to remain in my care for a longer period than is usual for review samples. the usual two or three weeks is certainly sufficient to acquire a feel for a bicycle and to learn enough to pen a decent appraisal, but a period of months allows for almost forensic acquaintance with the plus points and the minuses. suffice it to say that the former substantially outweigh the latter; the allez possesses a chuckability and smoothness of personality that is impressive in a bicycle costing only £1900. the saddle has remained comfortable throughout and though i'd still prefer a longer stem, the cockpit is more than equal to my amateur velocipedinal ministrations.

specialized allez sprint comp disc

though i still maintain that disc brakes on a road bike are a trifle unnecessary, there's little point in continuing to rail against their existence. it would be foolish to deny that they work perfectly well, but they do still have their eccentricities. having switched the discs from the oem wheels onto the rovals, try as i might, i could not prevent the larger front rotor from squealing every time the brake lever was applied. yet, when shifted back to the standard wheels, silence reigns. it seems that every make of rotor has a tendency to advertise its presence when wet, something that seems immune to adjustment. but that's just the nature of the beast.

all in, the specialized allez comp disc is an excellent bike, one that would surely fit within the budget of many. the more you put into riding it, even in crosswinds, the more it gives back, evidence, if required, that it's not always all about carbon fibre.

sunday 14 april 2019

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in a galaxy, far, far away

sound of islay and paps of jura

long time ago, in a land, far, far away, there was me. modesty, however, forfends from admitting to notoriety, eccentricity or having become a straightforward tourist attraction. hard though it may be to believe, i was the sole carrier of the velocipedinal flag (metaphorically speaking). there had been a loose coterie of cyclists around the middle of the decade, but, island life being what it is, people move on, though for the life of me, i cannot fathom why. at any rate, when it came to the sunday ride, there was no need to meet anywhere at any given time, because there were no others.

in the years between 1998 and 2003, i managed to fool myself that all my bike rides were of expeditionary stature and that my average speed during these intrepid journeys, would have given cause for graeme obree to blush. then, the mighty dave t moved to the island and that dreamlike situation simply melted away. on our first ride, after meeting at the gates of bruichladdich distillery, my heart rate accelerated into the red after only a couple of miles and those black spots in front of my eyes remained throughout all 70 kilometres of the ride.

after bidding the mighty dave a fond farewell on our return to bruichladdich, i pedalled squares for every last millimetre of the 14km homeward ride. any thoughts of a professional contract had evaporated remarkably quickly.

those embarrassing days have, thankfully, passed into a locked and hypothetical filing cabinet, obscured at the back of the bike shed. the mighty dave, having been there, done that and worn the t-shirt, continued to educate me in the ways of the intrepid cyclist, maintaining a speed that i eventually matched and perambulating distances that ultimately improved my stamina, till the only thing that separated us was his height and comparable lack of hair. granted, the intervening years have caused both of us to slow our respective paces, and we are now both being distanced by the new insurgents of the sunday-ride.

quite frankly, that's how the world works.

but all this is purely relative; my desultory speed that scarcely troubles the garmin these days, can still be viewed as impressive by those of the civilian population who wouldn't know a presta valve from a schrader. it's a salient fact that was inadvertently pointed out after stage one of my bike ride on friday morning. as i'm sure i mentioned recently, this was the official opening day for ardnahoe distillery on islay's north-east coast, only a mile or so from caol ila distillery on one side and bunnahabhain on the other. though i greatly appreciated being invited to this event, in truth, i've no real idea why. however, given that ardnahoe is only 20 kilometres from bowmore and the sun eventually shone, i opted to cycle to the distillery.

it will surprise you not that the first order of business was to acquaint myself with a double-espresso, and though i figured i was in civvies, it apparently fooled no-one. "did you cycle up here?", asked the girl at the coffee bar, a question to which i replied in the affirmative. "of course, that distance will be nothing to you,", she continued, to which i sheepishly also replied in the affirmative. and, judging by the number of cars parked outside the distillery, i can only assume that it's a conversation that might have been frequently repeated, had i been more socially inclined.

purely for selfish reasons, i do often wish that more of my wider, islay peer group were as comfortable riding to and from work and social engagements such as this, if only to provide conversation along the way. but i do worry about the diminishing sense of perspective that towers over my generation, and in particular, the younger generation too. it is a sad reflection on modern society, that a round trip of 40km is deemed worthy of approbation in others, accompanied by an admission that such a distance by bicycle would undoubtedly be beyond the individual proposing the compliment. has the population become so unfit and unconfident in their abilities, that demonstrably average and ageing individuals such as yours truly are seen as the pinnacle of fitness?

mrs washingmachinepost's grandfather, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, cycled six days per week from his home on the oa, to gruinart dairy, some 40km distant, on a sit-up-and-beg roadster featuring only a single gear. at the time, only the wealthy owned motor cars and public transport on the isle didn't exist in the manner we take for granted nowadays. he wasn't the only one to do so, but in truth, there was little alternative, so islanders such as he, were hardly troubled by having to choose between a bicycle or motorised transport.

nowadays, despite the unparalleled growth of cycling in the uk, it appears that non-ownership of a motor car is still viewed, not only as odd, but likely the result of economic constraints. it seems that to choose not to own or drive a motor car is considered eccentric, very much at odds with the apparent admiration foisted upon those of us who choose to cycle the round trip to ardnahoe distillery.

go figure.

ardnahoe distillery

saturday 13 april 2019

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carrying the steel cross

frischknecht ritchey swiss cross

much as i'd love to apologise for once again reverting to the percussive realm by way of introduction to yet another velocipedinal discussion, in truth, i'm not sure any such apology would come across as particularly sincere. so here goes.

while perusing the selection of videos carefully curated for me by the fine people of youtube, i happened upon one that promised to enlighten me further on the joys of a 6/8 time-signature. whether this actually means anything to you is largely immaterial, but it particularly caught my eye because it is an intrinsic part of the pipe-band repertoire, yet, at the same time, entirely different when applied to the drumset. having just returned from wednesday evening band practice, i watched.

you will be grateful to learn that i have no intention of either explaining the benefits or dis-benefits of six eighth notes to the bar; my diatribe is more concerned with the drumset on which the examples were played. though only viewed from above, the markings on the drumheads indicated this to be a set of roland v-drums; electronics.

but first, some drumset mechanics.

a regular acoustic kit dictates, to a certain extent, the placement of drums, cymbals and stands, due to the nature of their physicality. in particular, my hi-hat stand and cymbals are sited to the left of the snare drum, predominantly because that's where my left foot lives, when i'm sat upon my drum stool. this can be potentially circumvented by the use of a cable hi-hat as in bill bruford's flat setup, but given the expense of such hardware, few of us stretch that far.

however, on an electric drumset, the pedal is frequently linked by wire to the transducer equipped rubber disc that pretends to be a top hi-hat cymbal. therefore, there is no hard and fast reason as to why the latter need be positioned where a conventional hi-hat would normally live. in fact, much the same could be said about other aspects of an electronic drumset, but convention would appear to dictate that drummers have their electronics simulate the acoustic brethren on which they undoubtedly learned in the first place.

much the same accusation could be laid at the feet of the digital camera. camera design was originally dictated by necessitous use of film and how it was exposed to light via the camera lens. that is no longer the case, yet digital cameras almost explicitly emulate the analogue format of old. granted, it could be argued that this is predominantly at the behest of ergonomics, but in truth, much of it is the result of conditioning.

the bicycle, by and large, has remained true to its origins, in terms of shape and, to a lesser extent, profile. having begun life as an assemblage of metal tubes, conjoining of which exerted major influence over bicycle design, even though the world has adopted the black stuff, the very latest bicycles are not an entire world away from maurice garin's 1903 tour de france winning machine. considering the malleability of carbon fibre, aided and abetted by easily manipulated localised tensile strength, there are probably more reasons as to why the bicycle need not resemble its forebears, than why it ought to remain the same.

though no doubt much of the blame could be laid at the regulatory doors of the uci, the evidence of change is already visible in the squaring of the carbon bicycle's tubes, a feature that is far easier with burnt plastic than with less manipulable metal. however, the option to deviate from almost a century of bicycle design tradition, does not mean there was ever anything wrong with the archetypal steel frame in the first place. in just the same way that the existence of electronic gearchanging hasn't pulled the carpet from under levers and wires.

swiss mountain bike and cyclocross champion, thomas frischknecht, is a rider from the 1990s that i doubt i will ever forget. rather superficially, this has less to do with his impressive palmares, and much more to his almost unpronounceable surname. when striving for credibility amongst a distinctly non-velocipedinal peer group, casually mentioning an idiosyncratically named rider in what was regarded as a similarly constituted branch of cycle sport, probably achieved nothing whatsoever, but it seemed worth the effort at the time.

frischknecht's career almost defined the word longevity, having first raced professionally in 1990, yet stood upon the world championship podium as recently as 2004. and definitively in his favour, he is considered a fine example of a clean rider. thomas rode both tom ritchey's mountain bikes (very much flavour of the month in the eighties and nineties) and cyclocross (utterly obscure unless you were belgian) bikes. in fact, after swiss road racer, tony rominger, fell ill during the 1996 olympics, despite having taken silver in the olympic mountain bike event the day before, frischknecht clambered aboard a ritchey 'cross bike and finished the road race in midfield.

though his palmares in cyclocross (amateur world champion and silver in 1997) is hardly comparable to that of mountain biking, he frequently emerged as swiss national champion at the discipline and is closely associated with the eventual rise of the sport of 'cross to its modern-day popularity. such extended adulation is not, however, confined to the great unwashed, for today, his long-time bike sponsor releases a limited edition (100 worldwide) version of their latest swiss cross model in swiss national colours. and true to his own colours, tom ritchey has continued his association with steel for the bike's main triangle, opting only to feature carbon in the front forks.

ritchey swiss cross

breaking with ritchey cyclocross tradition, however, the frame is constructed to accept disc-brakes, componentry which has become ubiquitous in not only the upper tiers of the sport, as well as the thru-axles that are concomitant with hydraulic stopping power. and in order to improve the frame's versatility, rather than simply measure the 33mm maximum tyre width allowed in uci moderated competition, the swiss cross caters to the 40mm beloved of the gravel bike aficionados. no longer will it be necessary to fill the bike shed with one example of each.

the one-hundred limited edition red and white framesets are already in the hands of ritchey dealers worldwide, so for the rest of us who were not first in line, and have difficulty pronouncing 'frischknecht', there's an all-over black version of the same ritchey logic tubed, steel frame. because, contrary to a popular misconception, carbon fibre is definitively not the last word in bicycle construction. the red and white frischknecht edition retails at a heart-warming £1335, while the less colourful standard model reduces that to £1250.

proof, if proof were required, that modernity need not eschew tradition.

rithcey logic

friday 12 april 2019

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choose life, choose bike

endura - choose life, choose bike

i like newspapers.

i realise that printed matter is perilously close to becoming persona non grata, particularly amongst the younger 'social meda' generation, but i rather enjoy knowing that someone has edited the material, with me (or folks like me) in mind. i have had occasion to use the comprehensive website belonging to my newspaper of choice, for it has become uncommonly common for the papers to miss the morning ferry these days, but after staring at a computer screen all day, i've no great desire to continue the habit for any longer than necessary. and to be honest, web pages contain so many hyperlinks, it's way too easy to become utterly misdirected from your originalintentions.

endura - choose life, choose bike

that said, currently there are large swathes of newspaper pages that i avoid entirely; those that concern themselves with the utter mess that is brexit. however, that's not the only bad news in print at present. only yesterday there appeared a comprehensive feature detailing how at least 50% of the world's glaciers are likely to have melted by the end of the century. and, if the article is to be believed (i see no reason why not), there's not a darned thing we can do about it. the global warming that will bring this disaster to pass has been caused by past indiscretions on the part of the human race. we can curb our current-day carbon footprint all we like: it won't stop those glaciers from evaporating into the atmosphere.

endura - choose life, choose bike

though i wish not to be the harbinger of doom and gloom, there is an upside to all this, an upside that can directly and immediately benefit the lot of us, including those not necessarily of a velocipedinal nature.

london's mayor, sadiq khan, is in the process of putting measures in place to curb the air pollution that can affect all those who visit or live in the city centre on a regular basis. though few, if any of us are in a position to implement such a measures in our own locale, by ditching the car and taking to the bicycle for the daily commute, we may not solve the immediate and impending crises, but play our own small part in lessening the effect. and should we be in a position to exert subtle peer pressure, perhaps we might also influence others so to do.

endura - choose life, choose bike

such is the message underlined by the latest video produced by scotland's endura cycle clothing. as they are keen to point out "In big cities like Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, or New York, millions of commuters are stuck in heavy traffic every day. In London alone, roughly four million people commute to work. With the average traffic speed well below 16 miles per hour, they spend up to 1.5 hours on their quest to get to work." those may be the sort of numbers oft quoted by the velocipedinally self-righteous, but that scarcely makes them any less true.

endura - choose life, choose bike

a friend of mine, in the course of his daily travail, has calculated that a motor journey from port ellen village, some ten miles south of here, will incur a carbon footprint of around 800 grammes. thus one day's return journey to and from work, generates 1.6kg of carbon. if we assume regular employment over a five-day week, that's 8kg by friday tea-time. allowing for four weeks' annual vacation, those 8kg are churned out over the course of 48 weeks each year. that's 384kg for only one motor vehicle on a 20 mile commute. spread that sort of statistic all across scotland, and i think it likely we're well into the realm of thousands of metric tonnes.

endura - choose life, choose bike

had our predecessors thought in this manner several decades past, those glaciers might have felt a tad more safe in the future. but more positively, there is every opportunity to feel a tad more enlivened, even in the present. as endura are keen to point out, over a mere six-mile commute (if you're me, that would entail my working in bridgend village), it's possible to burn off up to 500 calories. at the end of the year, that would save the equivalent of a transatlantic flight's worth of carbon. the message, say endura, is clear: choose life, choose bike.

endura - choose life, choose bike

endura's brand director, pamela barclay, said, "If we can play a small part in assisting the revolution that is sweeping through cities across the world, then we'll be delighted [...] Our goal is to encourage and nurture a bike culture well beyond the sports cycle market. We take our environmental responsibility as a company very seriously...". though i have no wish to undermine either endura's or my own optimism and enthusiasm concerning such matters, there is the likely reality that i am currently playing to the gallery, so to speak. based on no market research whatsoever, i figure most of the folks reading this, along with your goodself, are well acquainted with the ways of the bicycle. as indeed, will be those viewing the endura video linked below.

the onus thus falls upon us to utilise the visual wherewithal provided by the fine folks at livingston in the manner originally intended. i'm sure you can use your own ingenuity and devious methods to introduce friends and family to the choose life, choose bike ideology, before proceeding to annoy the living daylights out of them until they join you on the bicycle and the car is left, bereft of attention, in the driveway.

we all know it makes sense.

endura cycle clothing - choose life, choose bike

endura - choose life, choose bike

thursday 11 april 2019

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not been there, but bought the t-shirt

t-labs paris-roubaix t-shirt

as a teenager, aside from girls, the principal obsession in life was that of music. bicycles had not yet impinged upon my horizon, but acquisition of a drumset (any drumset) was uppermost on my hidden agenda. colour and make were immaterial; i was insufficiently well informed as to any pecking order that may or may not exist in the world of percussive branding. the various bell music catalogues concealed 'neath my bed, promoted various concoctions from premier and olympic, but honestly, anything with red sparkle would have been alright by me.

conjoined to that ultimately unsuccessful teenage journey, was the type of music that would be played upon that hypothetical kit of drums. as pupils of the upper echelons of secondary school, we were obviously of superior musical intellect; not for us the musical mores of sweet, mud or even roxy music. those racks of vinyl against the bedroom wall were more likely to contain gatefold sleeves promulgated by the likes of pink floyd, led zeppelin, genesis and yes. it is the latter that provides shape to the central tenet of today's discussion.

the cover of said album, the band's third and most successful to date, at that point, bore a moody shot of the band surrounding keyboard player, tony kaye, with his foot in plaster. added to that sullen image was a white kitchen chair to the right of which was suspended a manikin head, the viewpoint of which all but framed it as a sixth member of the band. however, flip to the back of the album sleeve and that head now appeared to float in mid-air, with an invisible body presumably perched upon the aforementioned chair.

illustrating, as our superior intellect chose to observe, that a change of perspective could show endless possibilities. whether the band, with jon anderson's enigmatic lyrics, were intent on educating us in such a manner, is difficult to say.

there are probably many available hours and column centimetres in which to discuss the existential facets of serendipity, whether such a concept actually exists outside the theoretical is eternally open to debate. but it's more than possible that an alteration in straightforward observation could change whether any given situation is/was serendipitous in and of itself. to frame this in a perhaps more manageable and explicable manner, if you recall yesterday's diatribe involving a dubious comparison between broken roads in bowmore village and the unkempt cobbles of paris roubaix, today's ultimate subject matter could easily be said to be serendipitous in nature.

t-labs paris-roubaix t-shirt

as i write, the official website of the hell of the north, informs the casual onlooker, that there are merely four days, seventeen hours and a matter of minutes left (probably three days, byt the time you read this) before we can sit eagerly in front of eurosport player, belgian beer (san pellegrino in a can) and frites with vegan mayo in hand, to witness the 2019 edition of arguably the finest one-day race on the professional calendar. while i have no truck with supporters of soccer, rugby or any other field sport for that matter, it seems almost trite to mention that many of those would have augmented their traditional form of refreshment by wearing a versisimilitude of their team's colours, preferably with their own name applied across the shoulders.

as i answered to my grandson during live coverage of the ronde van vlaanderen, i had no favourite for the win, preferring instead, to simply enjoy the cycle racing for its own sake. thus, when i have transferred my allegiance to paris-roubaix this coming weekend, it would seriously undermine that assertion were i to be found wearing an education first, deceuninck-quickstep, or bora hansgrohe jersey. it would, therefore, be far more seemly to wear apparel celebrating the race itself, rather than any of its participants, which is where serendipitous matters once again rear their philosophical heads.

for a mere matter of minutes after posting yesterday's monologue, i received note of the well-respected t-labs latest release: a commendably simplistic tee advertising adherence to the cause of paris-roubaix. available in sizes small, medium, large and xl, it can be acquired (in time for sunday, if you're quick) in both short and long-sleeve format (£29 and £34 respectively), thus solving the dilemma of appropriate garmentage for the occasion.

just be sure not to spill any mayo down the front.

wednesday 10 april 2019

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on the contrary

bowmore distillery

in the mid-kintyre ward of argyll and bute council, islay features two elected councillors, both of whom have differing political affiliations. they join a third, mainland-based councillor, who, true to form, is a member of yet another political party. quite how the three manage to carry out their council duties, without endless disagreements, or even why we have three councillors for the one ward, is quite beyond my ken, but as a political naiveté, my lack of comprehension of such matters is hardly something we learned today.

one of the islay-resident gentlemen, having once stood at a general election as a prospective conservative candidate, appears, on the surface at least, to be a tad more active than his compatriots, if only by way of the regular press-releases that cross my path. this is not to say that the others are being derelict in their duties, but whatever concerns on which they spend their time, they maintain a considerably lower profile.

having met the fellow briefly, post bike ride, as i walked to collect my daily newspaper on saturday past, yesterday morning saw my inbox populated with two e-mails, the second of which offered another two of four images, from which i am tasked with choosing an item for publication. his current, poorly punctuated tirade, in research for which i had met him on saturday, is aimed at the council of which he is an active member, concerning the deplorable state of the pavements (sidewalks) and kerbs that populate my home village. having these pointed out is somewhat of a salutory lesson, for most have been in this poor state of disrepair for many a long year, a situation to which the majority of us have become inured.

though hardly responsible for the parlous state of the pavements, many of the deep ruts at strategic points of the village streets are caused by the large articulated trucks which service bowmore distillery. with such tight, right-angled bends to negotiate, these heavy tankers invariably dig up the road surface by way of the differentials controlling four sets of double wheels at the rear. no matter how frequently the roads department fills in such holes, those tanker wheelsets simply scrape it all back out again next day.

following on from my recent intimation of holyrood passing a law, banning vehicle parking on pavements, it is prudent that i point out much of the disrepair into which the village pavements have fallen has been engendered by such parking. with the much-vaunted popularity of the island's malt whisky distilleries, and an increased number of visitors who feel no remorse at parking precisely where they want to, it is little wonder that degradation of the pavement portion of the village infrastructure has become one of the more visible results.

yet, is it possible that we doth protest too much? when vintage has become a modern-day obsession and it's possible to purchase so-called distressed items of furniture, surely this visible wear and tear is only to be expected? though this may seem a rather contrary position to affect, bear in mind what many of us will be doing this coming sunday; sitting glued to eurosport's coverage of possibly the single most fêted one-day classic in the professional calendar.

yes, paris-roubaix, i'm talking about you.

many of you will be aware of 'les amis de paris-roubaix', a voluntary group of enthusiasts who spend much of their spare time ensuring that the many farm roads between the french capital and the velodrome in roubaix, remain as uncouth as we have come to expect, while cycling's official great and good, attempt to stave off any thoughts of burying those surly cobbles under several inches of smooth tarmac. i need scarcely point out the iniquity of the situation, should i consider petitioning my local councillor to leave be, the objects of his well-intentioned actions, purely on the basis that so doing would infringe upon my abilities to indulge in some vintage velocipedinal activity.

no doubt, those who require to use the back roads of paris-roubaix on a daily basis, across the other 364 days of the year, harbour occasional misgivings over the enthusiasms displayed by 'les amis de paris-roubaix'. but i need scarcely point out that french france exhibits a greater appreciation for the ways of the bike, than does the average brit, no matter the region of the british isles from which they hail. i fully support the minstrations of those who seek to effect or lobby for repairs to roads or pavements that might be seen as a danger to life and limb, but i fear we are in danger of being hoist by our own petard, moaning incessantly over the ever-increasing number of potholes and broken kerbs that pepper the byways of our nation, yet hauling out that lion of flanders yellow and black flag, to subsequently enthuse over this weekend's cobbled dramas.

for how else will we acquire the bike handling skills of van der poel, van aert and sagan?

tuesday 9 april 2019

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