rapha explore lightweight jacket

rapha explore lightweight jacket

the world of advertising is based on creativity and, more often than not, being economical with the truth. the creativity revolves predominantly around ensuring that any particular advertising campaign is seen by those at whom it is targeted, even if that means being criticised for the ludicrousness of their offerings. for instance, many a car manufacturer provides numbers relating to the average number of miles travelled on a gallon of petrol. what they rarely admit to, is the fact that those figures were achieved on a totally flat test circuit while the vehicle was being driven at a steady speed by a professional driver. the likelihood of such conditions being found in daily traffic are minimal to put it mildly.

rapha explore lightweight jacket

likewise, and perhaps a tad closer to home, the advertising of islay single malts has a tendency to imply that they are matured in oak, bourbon or sherry casks in a warehouse, mere inches from the atlantic ocean. the reality is that many have been tankered off the island to spend their ten, twelve or eighteen years in a facility nearer to glasgow or edinburgh. in the latter case, many whisky aficionados are well aware of such matters, yet suspend their disbelief to participate in the dream.

and though hardly the preserve of the advertising industry, only recently, i watched a short video proclaiming that the black hole reputedly at the centre of the milky way, might not be a black hole after all. observation of undefined orbiting planetary gas clouds, would indicate that they experience gravitational drag as they pas close to the so-called black hole. apparently, this is not the behaviour expected under such conditions, leading to the possibility that this may turn out to be a clump of dark matter. so once again, at least for those less terrestrially inclined, what we thought we knew, could have been (albeit unknowingly) mis-sold. the proof of the pudding etc.

rapha explore lightweight jacket

such are the vicissitudes of modern life, perpetuated through many strains of daily existence, including those velocipedinally related. aero wheels, for instance, do work precisely as advertised, but often at speeds you and i would struggle to achieve even with a tailwind on a descent. and i daresay that aero frames work admirably in the wind tunnel, but in real life, the actuality of ploughing into wind conditions arriving seemingly from all directions at once. those i've tried often fared no better than the round tubes of my steel ritchey logic. i have no doubt bernal, sagan and evenepoel would prove me wrong, but amongst the sunday morning peloton, they are in the minority. we're right, they're wrong.

rapha explore lightweight jacket

and then rapha send in their medium-size, lightweight explore jacket for review, hewn from a diaphanous, almost non-existent nylon fabric, yet one that purports to not only block the wind, but offer a decent level of water resistance in the process. and all this from a garment that weights 85g. i held little disbelief concerning the windproofing, for i have come across several lightly constituted jackets in the past to believe that such a feature is eminently possible. however, even with a dwr coating, that the lightweight explore jacket could fend of anything other than morning mist, was surely tempting fate?

rapha explore lightweight jacket

as it transpires, nothing could have been further from the truth. according to xc weather, the local online forecasting bible, rain was not expected until late saturday afternoon, yet precipitation had already begun as i left the croft, and persisted for over one hour, steadily increasing from heavy drizzle to out and out rain. though the object of the exercise was to review the jacket, i was kicking myself for not having packed a proper waterproof (my lightweight shadow jacket). yet, when time came to stop for froth-supping and a double-egg roll, the brevet jersey 'neath terracotta chiffon was impressively dry. and the wind that had driven such rain into the face of the jacket had been turned back at source.

yes, this is supposed to be british summer time and it was the first week in june, but the garmin showed eleven degrees, not including windchill. for the first time in many weeks, i wore long-fingered roubaix gloves all day.

rapha explore lightweight jacket

and then there's the matter of its packability. on the lower left at the rear of the jacket, is a small zipped pocket, which, claimed rapha, the jacket could be unceremoniously stuffed, offering a small loop to allow attachment to bike or backpack. it really doesn't look as if the jacket could possibly fit the pocket, but, once again, the proof was in the stuffing. there are also two drawcords at the hem for a closer 'fit'. sizewise, the jacket (medium-size reviewed) offers a generous amount of inner space, creating a smidgeon of flappage around the shoulders when riding near the atlantic coast (where whisky is matured). but i daresay, when exploring, any excess drag is unlikely to be of major concern.

the jacket forms a part of rapha's explore/brevet range, handy for bike packing. it proved comfortably wearable over the less waterproof explore down jacket, thanks to the generous fit. it's also available in navy and is partnered by a gilet, cast from the same fairy wings. the majority of advertising might err on the wrong side of total honesty, but with the lightweight explore jacket, it appears to do possibly more than what it says on the (metaphorical) tin.

rapha lightweight explore jacket

monday 7 june 2021

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getting cross. again

cyclephotos cyclocross 2020/2021

from a cycling point of view, last year was a bit topsy turvy, to say the least. even making mention of that seems a bit trite in view of the thousands who lost their lives to the covid pandemic, and the very fact that we had any cycle racing at all was a major achievement in the first place. granted, there hasn't been a race from paris to roubaix since april 2019, but in the grand scheme of things, that's probably the least of our worries.

we have been extremely fortunate in the hebrides, with one or two minor exceptions, and certainly a lot better than most on islay and jura, where the three cases of which i'm aware, were all non-indigenous; in other words, the folks who had it, arrived from elsewhere, isolated, and left.

so not only have we remained covid-free, but as of yesterday, and in common with the majority of scotland's west coast islands, we sit at level zero. there are still a few minor restrictions, and we are still advised to wear face masks in shops, cafés and restaurant, but otherwise, life is as normal as it can be under the circumstances. however, the lifting of travel restrictions has meant an almost overwhelming influx of visitors, notwithstanding that social-distancing has reduced the ferry capacity by more than half. and if you watch the ferry traffic arrive, you'd think islay to be now the range rover capital of the world.

from the velo club's point of view, life has barely altered. the march lockdown of 2020 had us voluntarily switch to riding solo for a few months, but on roads almost devoid of even local traffic, restrictions having prevented other than essential travel to and from the islands. while mainland locations suffered a five mile radius restriction, we were all fine, as long as we didn't leave these shores, so velocipedinal life continued pretty much unabated. but while the mainland saw a rapid increase in the numbers getting about by bicycle, no such trend could be seen on either islay or jura.

the song remains the same.

however, if cycle racing was curtailed across europe and the rest of the world, it was also curtailed for those who make their living from its very existence. all those motorcyclists who form a peloton of their very own, reporters, photographers, helicopter pilots, commentators; not quite a endless list, but a lengthy one nonetheless. thankfully, the resurgence of road racing in the autumn and the almost unabated continuance of cyclocross, due mostly to it being a winter sport, brought gainful employment to those who would surely have been a mite worried through the summer months. one such, is balint hamvas.

balint has been a prominent acolyte of the european cyclocross season for more years than to which he would probably admit. and at the culmination of each season, he has produced a photo book of commendable quality to which the cognoscenti have been invited to subscribe. but as he said, "Races were cancelled, there were no spectators allowed at the venues and all involved parties have had more covid tests over the months than we cared to count." so it would come as no surprise that the photographer had serious misgivings about producing the usual photobook recording the season's offroad events. however, " at the end I decided it deserves a memento and so I started to work on it."

this year's photo record of the past season will follow a similar format to previous volumes, but to mark the uniqueness of what many of us have witnessed, the book will be a smidgeon smaller than before, at 20cm x 20cm. "If you have all my books, it will stand out on the shelf, standing as a visual reminder of the odd season." the book is currently available to pre-order at the link published below, price £24.99. there are features by ann braeckman, molly hurford and matt ellis. balint expects printing to commence in around a month, with shipping towards the end of july. for a truly unique record of a unique season, and one we hope will never be repeated, place your order sooner rather than later.

cycle photos cyclocross 2020/2021

cyclephotos cyclocross 2020/2021

sunday 6 june 2021

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shift? maybe

cycling uk shift campaign

in july of 2019, bruichladdich distillery engaged with cycling uk to support their big bike revival, a campaign that attempted to piggy back on alleged new enthusiasm for riding bicycles in scotland. to be fair, the effort was not faint-hearted, with a selection of e-bikes to try - including a folding bike that could scarcely be lifted by one person - a mechanic on hand to offer free servicing along with the offer of guided bike rides to the next village of port charlotte, a mere 5km distant. the e-bikes probably attracted the greatest attention, with several members of distillery staff subsequently opting to purchase power-assisted cycles (two of whom joined us for the return leg of last sunday's festival ride).

however, the day was hardly the rip-roaring success that was probably hoped for; there has been no notable increae in bicycle transport by islay's population in the past couple of years, even bucking the trend engendered by last year's lockdown. though islay is undoubtedly the hub of the universe, it is but a microcosm in the velocipedinal world; i have no idea how successful was the big bike revival across the nation. according to reports, in the first three months of the campaign, over 500 events were held and project manager, shona morris said that they had welcomed thousands of people "...the length and breadth of Scotland."

but the cynic in me wonders how many of those who attended, subsequently cycled anywhere meaningful, pledging allegiance to the merry throng. i'm not sure that islay would be a good example to highlight, but if we assume that it isn't the best nor the worst, things probably haven't changed that much. this assumption would appear to be borne out by the latest figures released by cycling uk as they pretend that hordes of us celebrate the scarcely publicised national bike week. though the numbers state that cycling journeys have risen by 47% in the twelve months since lockdown in march 2020, apparently 34% of journeys in scotland under 1km, are still made by car. take in those between 1km and 2km, and the figure rises to 50%. to place that in some sort of perspective, i undertake a 1.5km walk every morning before work, which takes me around 15 - 20 minutes.

it's a real worry that we need an expensive campaign to persuade folks not to use a car for such alarmingly short distances.

yet, another expensive campaign we now have. funded by transport scotland, cycling uk have announced shift designed to " 20,000 scots get on their bikes for short, everyday journeys." with £390,000 on offer, cycling uk has divided that amount into parcels of between £400-£800 and offered those to any organisation that can meet the aims of the project over the next twelve months. of course, once again, we catch up with the elephant in the room: incentive. if folks are still using cars for such unbelievably short trips, it's going to take one heck of a lot of persuasion to have them either walk or use the bike. so far, i've not caught sight of any such incentive(s)

peer group coaxing doesn't seem to have worked, but an obvious tactic might be to make it either harder, or downright impossible travel anywhere by car under 2km. i confess, i have no idea how that could be achieved, but i'm pretty sure it would take some form of government intervention to make it so. in 2018/19, transport scotland spent over £2 billion on transport, while local authorities spent a further £822 million. though it might be seen as comparing bricks with strawberries, that's a wee bit more than the less than £400,000 that forms the basis of the shift project.

what price incentive? | photo: joolz dymond

saturday 5 june 2021

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all for one...

gravel road

rapha ceo, simon mottram, and by implication, the company itself, has long maintained that he regards it as his mission to make cycling the most popular sport in the world. there's no doubt that, baldly placed in print, that seems not only a lofty aim, but given that the statement comes from a london-based cycle clothing company, perhaps leaning just a smidgeon towards pretentiousness. i'm inclined to think that it would take co-operation from a sizeable number of commercial interests to make that a viable outcome, particularly when rapha, sponsor of ef education nippo, makes the occasional foray into self-aggrandisement.

the company has frequently positioned itself as the disruptor of the status quo, placing its sponsored ef riders in jerseys featuring, to all intents and purposes, donald duck, late last year. when that cost the team more than a franc or two in fines for wearing an unregistered jersey design, this fact was trumpeted as evidence in their favour, rather than the hardly unforeseen error it probably was. to compensate, they engineered this year's jersey design to adhere within one millimetre of the legal specifications. however, it hardly seems a step in the right direction to snipe from the feed-zone, without offering one iota of constructive criticism.

if cycle sport is broken (and it probably is), any attempt to fix it should probably be applauded rather than decried.

however, to a certain extent, the sport is only broken, from the point of view of the intrinsically involved, those who depend on the sponsor's money and ultimately on lucrative television airtime. i'm sure i cannot be the only individual watching all but the final stage of the recent giro d'italia, who never once felt overshadowed by the niggling feeling that here was a broken sport. yes, watching bernal work his way through several domestiques on the way to a mountain top finish did indeed beggar the question as to why nobody else did the same, but that's hardly the sign of a lamentable fracture in the velocipedinal firmament.

but the giro demonstrated two examples of a possible gestalt, or amalgamation of more than a single discipline. though van aert, van der poel and pidcock were all absent from proceedings, there's no doubt that world tour road cycling has benefitted greatly from recruitment of this triumvirate from the world of cyclocross. and while the latter branch of the sport allegedly originated from pros attempting to retain fitness over the winter off-season, specialisation originating in the 1990s has tended to classify riders under single headings. yet this year's italian parcours not only included portions of the strade bianche, but an unpaved summit finish. and pidcock's absence from the giro was at the behest of having successfully gone mountain biking.

to circle back to rapha for a moment, yesterday's release of their mtb range signifies a coagulation of disciplines, one that has long been the preserve of many other apparel purveyors; notably scotland's endura, who arguably moved in the opposite direction almost two decades past. but it could be a sign that cycling might just be getting closer to becoming 'cycling'. of course, there are still a few rough edges and ingrained habits to smooth out; it's still noticeable that visiting mountain bikers seem reluctant to return hospitable waves from the distinctly roadie velo club. but that said, quite a few roadies often seem reticent to join the party too, so maybe i'm concerned over nothing.

but last weekend, with the exception of one-bike-tom, the remainder of the peloton were to be found aboard either 'cross or gravel bikes, despite more closely identifying with skinnier wheels and tyres. could it be that cyclists with only one genre of bicycle in the bike shed will soon become an endangered species? i frequently introduce myself to other members of the percussive fraternity as being a jazz drummer, when in point of fact, i am simply a remarkably average drummer, every bit as likely to play at a ceilidh as in a 60s revival band. so while i, and others, might consider ourselves to be 'roadies', if the prospective terrain features mud, grass or gravel, there's a better than evens chance that the chosen bicycle would reflect the surface under tyre.

meaning that we're probably just cyclists.

friday 4 june 2021

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rapha trailwear

machir bay - kilchoman beach

on sunday 30 may, a group of us on bicycles took part in what bruichladdich distillery had termed the 'islay peloton'. this entailed riding around a stage plonked in the middle of the distillery courtyard, before heading south to portnahaven, then doubling back (so to speak), to ride along the coast road to kilchiaran farm and up the steep gravel track to what is known locally as granny's rock. the name actually comes from the view on the opposite side of the climb, where the profile looks uncannily like the face of an old woman. i can understand how the old lady feels, given that my 'cross bike was woefully undergeared for the gradient just below the summit, forcing a dismount and a walk up the last few metres.

rapha trailwear

i won't relate the specific reasons for all this, for if as an informed participant, i cannot fathom its relation to single malt whisky, i seriously doubt you will either.

however, the track leading from kilchiaran farm gate to the top of the hill bears an uncanny resemblance to gravel, broken only by two, ridged concrete tracks at the point where i'd to dismount, hence the necessity for all but one of the aforementioned islay peloton to be found aboard either 'cross or gravel bikes. this requirement was made even more manifest on the descent, when the gent aboard a hardtail mountain bike, roared past all of us, with yours truly tippy-toeing between the substantial chunks of gravel, ever fearful of incurring a faceplant in the process. needless to say, the mountain biker reached the bottom, long before this author.

rapha trailwear

by and large, we had toed the corporate line when it came to choice of apparel, clad as most of us were in port charlotte single malt jerseys, an imprint of the bruichladdich range. though i can't say i noticed any sartorial deficiencies on the way up, i recall thinking that a less figure-hugging mode of dress might have been less ostentatious and perchance, restricting, on the downhill section that followed. the chap on the mountain bike sported a loose-fitting t-shirt and baggy, knee-length shorts. and for very good reasons, that will be why rapha's latest venture into knobbly tyre territory has done likewise.

rapha trailwear

released today, their trailwear range has been under development for at least the past two years, more recently forming the kernel of a scarcely kept secret, but only now entering the world of actuality. the initial offering consists of both men's and women's apparel, principally baggy jerseys with 3/4 sleeves, lightweight hooded jackets, technical t-shirts, a rapha-badged smith helmet, pro-team glasses and both cargo bibshorts and baggy(ish) trail shorts. i figure the women's colours are a tad less dowdy than the male side of things, but the knobbly tyre brigade are probably a smidgeon more conservative in this department than the average roadie.

rapha trailwear

for those eagerly looking for a review, i fear you may better look towards the mtb press, as, based on the exploits of my mountain biking colleague mentioned above, there is nothing i can do that would ever give the range the serious workout that it undoubtedly deserves.

but, leaving aside that the two americans who bought rapha a couple of years ago, seem to be dyed-in-the-wool mountain bikers, why have rapha opted to deviate from their all-road philosophy after seventeen years? and has the recent ascendancy of gravel made this an even better idea than it may have at first seemed? i asked rapha ceo, simon mottram.

rapha trailwear

"We are launching into MTB for a few reasons.
"First of all, MTB is growing quickly, and embracing it fits with our purpose of making cycling the most popular sport in the world. We would find it pretty hard to make that purpose a reality if we stick to skinny tyres and tarmac.
"Which brings me to the second reason, as you allude to in your question. We have certainly seen a blurring of cycling disciplines over the last ten years, with more and more people drawn to ride off-road to escape the dangers of congested streets and to find adventure.
"In our Rapha Continental films back in 2009+ the riders happily ventured onto gravel (on their road bikes) and we now have a whole gravel scene, with cyclists putting 45c tyres on 650b wheels. rapha packaging Cyclocross, gravel racing, bike-packing and adventure are the most exciting parts of the market today. It's an easy move from there to a hard tail or one of the amazing full-suspension trail bikes now available.
"The final reason is that we believe we can enter the MTB market in a very Rapha way, being true to our brand and offering performance and style in apparel and accessories that is still sadly lacking in the discipline.
"I hope you'll agree when you see the full range."

and while we're in the rapha household, it has been noticeable over the past few months, that imperial works has embarked on a strategy of sustainability, firstly through replacing the polyester in their sportwool mix with recycled polyester, and perhaps a tad more visibly, in their packaging. where once review samples would arrive in their trademark black plastic bags, the most recent was enclosed in a brown paper mailbag, inside recyclable, resealable plastic packaging. it might not seem much, but everything has to begin with small steps.

rapha trailwear

thursday 3 june 2021

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the art of cycling; philosophy, meaning and a life on two wheels - james hibbard. quercus publishing hardback 305pp £14.99

the art of cycling - james hibberd

"A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, 'Why are you riding your bicycles?' The first student replied, 'The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!' The teacher praised the first student. 'You are a smart boy! When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do.'
The second student replied, 'I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path!' The teacher commended the second student, 'Your eyes are open, and you see the world.' The third student replied, 'When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo.' The teacher gave his praise to the third student, 'Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.'
The fourth student replied, 'Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings.' The teacher was pleased and said to the fourth student, 'You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.' The fifth student replied, 'I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.' The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, 'I am your student."

-Zen proverb

there is, i believe, a decent argument for viewing the bicycle in a manner not normally accorded such a masterful invention. walking meditation (kinhin) as practised within several forms of buddhism, generally takes the form of periods of walking interspersed with occasions of sitting meditation. though it's perhaps stretching credibility a tad further than it wants to be stretched, there's surely a case for viewing this as a means of fartlek, where bursts of activity are mediated by concomitant periods of rest. the end result, so i'm assured, is improved levels of fitness.

practising kinhin on the bicycle would, logically, strengthen one's resolve and mindfulness, if undertaken with no concern for the bicycle as a means of transport, of exercise or of thrashing your compatriots at the 30mph sign outside bruichladdich village. in other words, whether you think steel to be real, or carbon to be the be all and end all, it is being in and of the moment, excluding all thoughts of cycling in the way to which we have become accustomed, that might easily equate to the propounded benefits of walking meditation.

i have, i confess, attempted to achieve this state on many an occasion. assuming the parcours to consist of a quiet, single track road, with nary an impending distraction in sight, tendencies to simply concentrate on the act of pedalling, with no thought for which particular gear would be a judicious choice, or whether the chain needs oiled. i grant you, it's not a mental state that's easy to achieve, at least not for very long, before some distraction bursts the bubble. attempts to resolve the world's great philosophical problems will simply have to wait.

however, i am but a mere apprentice in such matters, especially when compared to the writings of james hibbard. his 'the art of cycling', published tomorrow, has already drawn comparisons with 'zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance', while there's no denying that his background as a professional cyclist and philosophy graduate, better qualifies him to analyse such matters of the mind. fans of douglas adams' 'the hitch hiker's guide to the galaxy' might be inclined to proffer '42' in answer to the book's subtitle - 'philosophy, meaning and a life on two wheels' - and it's possible that they might be on the right track.

however, at the risk of requiring a spoiler alert, i'd be inclined to presage my review by pointing out that this is a book that i feel is long overdue. my cycling bookshelf is full to overflowing with volumes relating the lives of the greats, stories of races won, lost and endured, editions of superb photography, fitness manuals and the means of maintaining the velocipede in tip top condition. missing from all of the above, is a moment of quietude and reflective examination of that which we hold so dear.

james hibberd has now written that very book.

following a period as a professional, hibberd became disillusioned with the sport. "I'd decided that the sport I'd once loved beyond reason was rotten to the core." but following a decade of abstention, "Cycling has since regained a different sort of luster - harder won and more complex. With the perspective afforded by the passage of time, I'm able to see not just its shortcomings, but also the innumerable moments of beauty and insight which, regardless of winning or losing, came from my attempt to do something as well as I possibly could."

the principal threading narrative takes the form of a bike ride. "...six weeks from now, we'd ride the three hundred or so miles from the San Francisco Bay Area to Southern California along the Pacific Coast Highway." hibberd reunites with two close friends, though having ridden very little since leaving a cycling career and studying nietsche, wittgenstein and read the works of "Kesey, Wolfe, Aldous Huxley, and Alan Watts...". during the course of those three hundred miles, the author switches seamlessly between descriptive periods of energetic cycling and a discourse on the history of modern philosophy.

it's hard to deny that subjects such as psychology, literature and philosophy tend to err towards the esoteric end of pelotonic conversation, germain to the few, largely inexplicable to the majority. unlike many of us who could bat for britain when it comes to baffling our non-cycling colleagues with arcane and obscure velocipedinal terminology, hibberd not only holds an intrinsic comprehension of the latter, but that of philosophical thought and theory. what separates him from the also-rans, is an innate ability to clearly explain even the most complex of philosophical concepts to those of us who really are only concerned if the chain has been sufficiently lubricated.

while 'the art of cycling' won't necessarily turn you into an overnight sage, it could well alter the way you view cycling as an activity. and should you find that you now have an insatiable appetite to learn more, hibberd has thoughtfully provided a comprehensive bibliography at the back of the book. it might not be the very book for every cyclist, but it probably should be.

wednesday 2 june 2021

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a cyclist's guide to the pyrenees - peter cossins. great northern publishing hardback 240pp illus. £16.99

pyrenees - peter cossins

in the course of my remarkably limited career as a member of the cycling media, i have met many individuals far more conversant with french france than am i. my own experience has been confined to three undertakings of hot chillee's london-paris ride, during all of which i confess i had no real idea where i was until we reached the champs elysees, though amiens cathedral did strike a particular chord. additionally, in 2014, i spent a fabulous few days at le grand banc in provence, courtesy of the very nice people at rapha. once again, i did glimpse the top of the ventoux on my way to ride the lanesque gorge (the finest day's cycling i have ever experienced), but that's pretty much it.

of course, like many, i do watch the tour on an annual basis, and i will confess to the occsional tv foray into paris-nice. but many acquaintances met along the way appear to have ridden substantial portions of the tour's parcours, with photos of themselves at the summit of many an iconic climb, bragging rights with which i cannot hope to compete. disturbingly, more than i can count on the fingers of one hand, have grovelled their way up the twenty-one bends that comprise alpe d'huez. i am, to put it mildly, somewhat ashamed of my apparent reticence to experience the sporting velocipedinal reality.

the arrival of a pandemic that none of us saw coming, served mostly to undermine any tentative thoughts of venturing across the channel (brexit notwithstanding). however, salvation from sitting silent and aghast during coffee table conversation has periodically arrived in small portions throughout the career to which i made earlier reference. and the latest little package of perfection recently arrived from pyrenees expert, peter cossins. peter is one of those authors who has the uncanny ability to leave any sense of one-upmanship in the basement, using his impressive knowledge of the region to educate even the travel retarded such as myself, making us feel as much a part of the cognoscenti as we plainly aren't.

previous publications from mr cossins' word processor have demonstrated his fearsome grasp of cycling's sporting milieu, but as the title of this latest book would advise, its constitution is that of the humble guide book, offering every twist and turn, to take even the least knowledgeable from one end of the mountain range to the other. as he admits in the book's introduction "Once I'd started to explore more extensively, i realised that there are plenty of books and lots of online information about the climbs of the Pyrenees, particularly the most renowned passes, but very little about the terrain all around them and about other climbs that might be just as challenging..."

but, and i did ask myself precisely this question, how good do you have to be at riding up hills to benefit from a guide that promises to describe every nook, cranny and summit on the border between france and spain? having read 'in search of robert millar' at least four times, i once figured i had the makings not only of a grimpeur, but one capable of wearing those polka dots. sadly, the closest i've made it is a pair of polka dot socks and the realisation that being friends with pippa york and having a poster of marco pantani on the wall, do not, in fact, confer the ability to ride up whacking great hills at speed.

however, for others who feel likewise, mr cossins offers a degree of succour. to wit "Ranging from 50-odd kilometres in length to almost 200, these routes have been put together with the aim of providing a wealth of options for riders at all levels." that would be me.

each chapter/climb is well illustrated, not only with images of the region or mountain, but with a tour de france style profile of the route, a rudimentary map accompanied by a literal description of the route and a q/r link to the guide's associated website offering a downloadable file to place on your gps device. all this alongside mr cossins' studied directions from point a to point b. and lest you think that the latter might emulate some of the dry narrative common in other guidebooks, fear not. peter is way better than that.

as the author mentions, "I'm not expecting anyone to carry a book of this size in the rear pocket of their jersey ." (i tried; it doesn't fit). but though there may be a temptation to simply download the gpx files and leave the book on the bookshelf while perusing train, ferry or airline timetables, i would throughly recommend you resist this inclination. a map will show you where to go, but it will not impart the knowledge of an expert. as mr cossins pointed out to me, travel to france opens up on the 9th of june, giving you eight days to plan, read and pack.

over to you.

tuesday 1 june 2021

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