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ritchey road logic disc ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"remember, social distancing isn't a team sport."

©2020 the mighty dave t, is a prendas sponsored rider and le patron of the thoroughly decent fellows.


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cafe du cycliste

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part of the solution

nurses on bicycles

adhering to government guidelines and sage advice from chris boardman, i have endeavoured to ensure that the bicycle, or mine at least, remains a part of the solution, rather than becoming part of the problem itself. the latter, i believe, was an indirect reference to those who continued to ride in groups, as opposed to the advised solo outings. when social distancing ought to maintain two metres between individuals, that can be hard to judge or even achieve when on two wheels, particularly if traffic conditions are less than amenable.

my own weekend outings are less at the mercy of social distancing, and more related to the principle of self-isolation. when turning right at uiskentuie farm to ultimately head around loch gorm, until exiting at foreland, i'll have covered a distance of approximately 22km, all of which consists entirely of singletrack road, peppered with passing places. last saturday, along the entire length of that route, i met one solitary car. on sunday, that number increased to three. i cannot deny that the islay cycling experience is somewhat different than that which led to london's richmond park being closed to cyclists last week.

i have read in my daily newspaper, and in online articles, that there are many towns and cities across the world, that have begun to install temporary cycle lanes in order to improve their localised transport situation. reports of health workers utilising bicycles to get to and from work, increasing their options of social distancing, have shown greater demand for pathways through the admittedly diminished motor traffic. this is a situation that can but improve with the news that basingstoke-based e-spokes, with assistance from raleigh bikes, has loaned ten e-bikes to the local nhs at basingstoke and north hampshire hospital.

sadly, i have seen little evidence on islay so far, that anyone other than the usual crew has opted to get about by bicycle. granted, distances between villages are considerably less populous and sheltered than would be the case in inner-city or urban regions, but it seems it may take a great deal more than a virus to encourage islanders to leave their motor cars at home.

the government, however, continues to list bike shops as essential retailers and their staff as key workers, demonstrating, if nothing else, that the bicycle continues to be seen as part of the solution during the current covid-19 crisis. as a result of this, evans cycles has opted to temporarily re-open eleven of its stores "...to help keep key workers on the move and provide assistance to people travelling by bike for essential journeys."

subject to strict safety measures, the stores will be staffed by employees who have volunteered to return to work and there will be limits as to how many customers will be allowed inside at any given time. evans will continue to offer a free bike mot for key workers, ensuring that they continue to travel safely. they stated "The bicycle is becoming a preferred means to keep key workers moving. Where it is possible and safe to do so, a selection of our stores will re-open, focusing on essential maintenance or to provide parts that will help people stay safe on the road."

they were at pains to point out that this was not business as usual, and that they would continue to review which stores are open, hoping to strike a balance between providing an essential service while still protecting staff and customers. i've often said that cycling cures everything; it looks like i might ultimately be proved right.

saturday 4 april 2020

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rouleur magazine ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the birth of gravé

rapha continental

arguments have, if not actually raged, certainly ruminated for well over 100 years as to who might claim to have been the inventor of the bicycle. naturally enough, always willing to be parochial for my art, my money is firmly planted on dumfries inventor, kirkpatrick macmillan. according to one of his relatives, in 1839, macmillan had constructed a wooden, steerable, pedal-driven bicycle with iron-rimmed wheels. disputes as to the veracity of his claim as original inventor may still circulate, but what is apparently not in doubt, is his claim to have received the first five-shilling fine from glasgow police, in 1842, for allegedly knocking over a pedestrian. i rest my case, m'lud.

rapha continental

however, doubtless the descendents of baron karl von drais, would beg to differ. in 1817, he invented his laufmaschine which was, in effect, a running machine. branded the 'draisine' by the press, the baron's invention consisted of two spoked wooden wheels of similar size, joined by a length of wood featuring a saddle (of sorts). young dandies of the period would sit astride this device and propel themselves down the cobbled streets with their legs in a running fashion. nowhere was a pair of pedals to be seen. in 1918, von drais patented his invention, commonly referred to as a 'velocipede', but often referred to as a 'hobby-horse'.

rapha continental

though von drais' patent preceded kirkpatrick macmillan's pedal-driven effort by some twenty years, strictly speaking, most of us would be inclined to favour the latter, if only because of the pedal bit. a bunch sprint in the tour de france amongst a peloton of hobby-horses, scarcely bears thinking about.

there's little disputing, however, the orgination of the bicycle more or less as we know it. in 1885, john kemp starley developed the retrospectively named 'safety-bicycle', officially referred to as the 'rover', though oddly an invention that he never patented. resembling the modern-day bicycle, starley's machine bore a steerable front wheel, equally sized to that of the chain-driven rear wheel. combining this with the diamond pattern frame and dunlop's 1888 invention of the pneumatic tyre, eventually encouraged the demise of the high-wheeler or 'penny-farthing', due to greater practicality and comfort.

rapha continental

though hardly pertinent to this discussion, the first electric bicycle was reputedly built in 1897, in case you were wondering.

though pretty much everything that happens in the present is probably stored and searchable on someone's smartphone or the cloud, the early years of cycling activity are considerably less well-documented. take the sport of cyclocross for example. common lore would have us believe that, in the early 1900s, a steeple-chase was employed as a means for road racers of the day, to maintain fitness levels throughout the winter months. these events took the form of a race from one town to the next, where any improvised route was fair game, leading the riders over hill and down dale, across fields, streams, walls, and so-called, because church steeples were the most obvious landmarks by which to navigate.

rapha continental

unfortunately, there is no official record as to whether this is the truth of the matter, or mere supposition based on hearsay. it's unlikely that we'll ever know for sure.

but, despite my contention that the computer-age leaves nothing untouched, or unsaved, the recent rise and rise of the gravel bike has given weight to the emerging discussion as to where such an activity originated. the popular vote seems to be heading predominantly towards the dirty kanza, held in the flint hills of kansas state in north america. this event originated in 2006, sporting an entry numbered in dozens. that compares with a 2020 entry of 4,000, assuming the race takes place on 20 may.

rapha continental

however, around the same time, perhaps aware of the goings on in kansas, portland resident, daniel wakefield pasley, made a proposition to rapha's north american outpost and to former marketing manager at chris king, chris distefano, for what eventually became the original rapha continental. this consisted of a small peloton of hand-picked riders, aboard black, custom-built steel bicycles from the likes of ritchey, moots and richard sachs, amongst others, all of which featured pink chris king components and sram groupsets. the continental's avowed objective was to ride the road less ridden, which, in many cases, consisted of miles and miles of gravel. originally explored through the written word and superb photography, by 2008, dave christenson's excellent cinematography had brought the entire project to an altogether different level.

rapha continental

the bicycles on which the gravel was attacked, featured continental 28mm rubber shod wheels; a far cry from the 40+ mm knobblies that arrive with so-called dedicated gravel bikes nowadays. take heed of as many of these videos as you have time for and witness the advent of 'underbiking' or gravel-biking, long before the industry discovered the bandwagon upon which it has recently and so confidently jumped. though velominati's rule #12 dictates that the correct number of bikes to own is n+1, rapha's original continental convincingly proves that one of those bikes need not be a dedicated, disc-brake equipped, carbon gravel bike.

rapha continental, lincoln, nebraska

thanks to jess at rapha for tenaciously searching for the rapha vimeo collection from 2008. major brownie points have been awarded.

friday 3 april 2020

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showers pass ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

"the captain always goes down with the ship"

cape epic - the race that never was

it hardly seems necessary to point out that, so far, the cycle race season has been decimated. after all those post worlds 2019 weeks and months, eagerly looking forward to the spring classics, in point of fact, the only classics that survived were the unofficial openers at omloop het nieuwsblad and, on the following day, kurrne-brussels-kuurne, both of which now seem a long way in the past. but, as many have already said, "it's only sport"; in the grand scheme of things, the world won't stop turning because we didn't get to see the ronde van vlaanderen, paris-roubaix, flêche wallone, liège - bastogne - liège, or the tour of yorkshire.

cape epic - the race that never was

and while the above races obviously impinge to upon the professional peloton to a greater degree than those of us with a eurosport player subscription, the cancellation of sportives accompanying at least two of the above, will also have implications for the great unwashed. on a more local level, one of the velo club peloton had signed up to ride the étape loch ness (now postponed until late september), while two others were set to continue in the bruichladdich tyre tracks of the late lord carlos of mercian, and ride this year's étape caledonia, organisers of which have stated it will not run this year.

cape epic - the race that never was

i would imagine the lockdown and business closures will also have had a negative impact on the comic's initiative to have us all ride farther this year, unless we've made provision for turbo sessions or laps of watopia. earlier last month, london's sigma sport indicated a 400% increase in sales of turbo-trainers, acquisition of which doubtless encompassed more than a few who had vowed never to affix their back wheels into such instruments of torture. but, at the risk of wearing out a clichéd cliché, necessity has very much become the mother and father of necessity of late.

cape epic - the race that never was

that said, we have had at least considerable notice of cancellation or postponement. that may not come as much in the way of consolation, but imagine if you'd arrived at your b&b, unloaded the bicycle, fitted the front wheel and were just stuffing some gels in a back pocket when the call came through. the latter is pretty much what happened to the two riders from ef cycling, lachlan morton and alex howes. though neither would claim to be bona-fide mountain bike riders, they had accepted the challenge, as part of their alternative race season, to ride the absa cape epic.

cape epic - the race that never was

they, and their support crew, were already there, when the cancellation announcement was made; yet another victim of the pandemic that has turned most everybody's lives upside down. but rather than accept another disappointing notch on the bumper of the team bus, ef cycling along with clothing and media partners rapha, have attempted to turn a negative into a positive, by premiering 'cape epic - the race that never was' on their youtube channel at 9pm bst (21:00) tonight (2 april). both riders will participate in a live q&a session following the movie.

at least this way, we can all go to the movies together and practise social distancing at the same time. will i bring the popcorn, or will you get that? and keep the noise down at the back please.

watch the trailer | cape epic - the race that never was

thursday 2 april 2020

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frame by frame

polished ritchey logic

i was the ripe old age of fourteen before i managed to get hold of a pair of drumsticks and a very solid black practice pad, one that i still own, strange to tell. drumming is one of those musical explorations that seems, even to the appreciative onlooker, a relatively simple skill to acquire. after all, with only one stick in each hand, all you'd have to do is move them up and down fairly fast. keep that up for a week, and you're bound to be invited to join beyoncé's backing band by the weekend.

polished ritchey logic

except, if truth be told, it's a lot harder than it seems. for starters, sit behind even the most basic of drumsets, and suddenly there's at least two other drums to be hit with sticks, and a couple of pedals sat on the floor. it's at that point you quickly come to the conclusion that hitting stuff with both hands, while attempting to play the pedals with your feet, is not a natural human ability. the minute your drum teacher, or youtube points out that your feet might require to play something entirely different than your hands, while each hand plays in a wee world of its own, that's when the crying begins.

however, as i have often pointed out to fellow musicians, in truth, i can never be out of tune, only out of tempo. if you're a keyboard player, a guitarist or a brass player, though both feet can remain still at all times, it's not that hard to be in the wrong key, or play a wrong note.

polished ritchey logic

for those reasons, drummers are often commended to learn a chromatic instrument, if only to better identify with the principles that govern the other folks in the band. that's fine in theory, and might even have been something accomplishable had it been mentioned when i was a great deal younger than i am now. i look on with envy at the pupils i tutor for higher drumming at the local secondary school, who can not only sight read way better than i ever could, but as an educational requirement, are able to play a second instrument as well as, or better than, they can play the drums.

like many an activity, such as computer programming, for instance, or photography, the more i know about drumming, the more i know i don't know. despite the fact that i am rarely asked to play in odd time signatures, other than 3/4 waltz time, i have a pretty good handle on oddities that are not 4/4 standard time. and while i once owned a double bass drum pedal, i eventually sold it, because nothing i played ever demanded such sophistication. but i'd still like to acquire the skill. the long and short of it is that, while i harbour the belief that i could actually learn a second instrument, any such diversions would potentially detract from becoming a better drummer.

polished ritchey logic

if you've read this far, you could be forgiven for wondering what the heck this has to do with cycling, something of which i now hope to appraise you.

despite the seemingly endless bout of inclement weather that may just have ended (for the time being at least), i have continued to cycle at every opportunity, if purely on the basis that i'm determined not to be beaten by the weather. granted, there may have been a couple of sundays when it became prudent to remain indoors for safety's sake, but all in all, i've managed to ride at least once a week for more years than i could say. the downside to so doing is a potential lack of bicycle maintenance, not so much the major stuff, but the minor, niggling details which always seem less important than going for a bike ride.

in common with the majority of britain's cyclists, the roads across which the velo club ride, are considerably less than billiard-table flat. intersperse those stretches of tarmac with the occasional cattle-grid, and it's not only hands, arms and shoulders that feel the strain, but forgotten components like the headset and bottom bracket. my steel ritchey logic turns on a logic zero headset which receives more than just the occasional vertical nudge from the roads as described above. so far, it functions remarkably close to its quality when new, but i cannot deny that it has frequently crossed my mind to offer it a smidgeon of grease at the crown race and the top cup, if only to preserve its modesty.

polished ritchey logic

but that would mean, i hasten to point out, spending time with allen keys, grease, oily rags and a workstand, instead of out riding. and let's be honest, if i have excess grease to wipe from the frame, i might as well clean and polish the whole bike at the same time. it's a matter of maintaining one's credibility as a famous member of the cycling media, even if that means spending less time actually riding, as pointed out above. the catch 22 is the fact that the bikeshed bears an uncanny resemblance to a council skip, so polishing needs to take place out of doors when it's dry and sunny and preferably warm; like yesterday, for instance.

and when it's dry and sunny and warm, what would we all prefer to be doing?

wednesday 1 april 2020

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hot chillee ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

ritchey echelon pedals - the story so far

ritchey echelon pedals

rather humorously (i thought), on sunday i posted on twitter, details of how to replicate on zwift, my weekend ride. this involved placing bicycle and turbo in a refrigerated container with enough space to accommodate two, pratt & whitney turbo fan engines. it would then be a simple case of setting the temperature to zero degrees and firing up both engines. in truth, actually attempting the latter would likely cause serious injury, so i fervently hope that nobody was daft enough to try. that said, spending most of the weekend ploughing into galeforce, or near-galeforce winds that had lowered the temperature sufficiently to create ice at springbank, was a state of affairs that bright sunshine had convinced was unlikely.

i was more than thankful of the opportunity to turn right onto the high road and savour a tailwind for about seven kilometres, affording my hands a set of circumstances allowing them to defrost. perhaps this was not the ideal time to have stowed away my winter gloves in favour of a nice new pair of track mitts?

riding into strong headwinds could reasonably be considered the birthright of any cyclist in the hebrides, north or south, the skills for which have been honed over decades of acknowledged intrepid stupidity and tenacity. and, in order to do so, it is necessary to have the wherewithal, both physical, mechanical and actual, whether trained, acquired or purchased. more recently, very much in my favour, i have had the invaluable assistance of a pair of ritchey echelon road pedals.

ritchey echelon pedals

much like food recipes promulgated by margarine or flour purveyors, i cannot deny that, for those without the above mentioned pedals, there are comparable substitutes. but for those of you keen to accessorise the road bike du jour with suitable accoutrements, on the basis of several weeks pounding decrepit roads into the teeth of disfavourable draughts, i can heartily recommend these as the sole food for which you might be searching.

their predecessors, also from the ritchey stable, were a pair of micro-road pedals, highly aesthetically pleasing in a minimalist manner, but whose cleats shared similarity with their offroad brethren, in using a two-bolt fixing. thus, only offroad footwear need apply. the echelon hardwear adopts a more traditional road-based stance with triangular, red, three-bolt fixings, ideally suited to rapha's latest pro-team footwear. currently, those shoes are the only ones on which i have suitable cleats attached. with a larger cleat, clipped into pedals that dwarf their micro siblings, there is an increased surface area to which one's cultivated power output might be applied, theoretically resulting in greater forward speed.

i'd dearly love to have scientific evidence that supports that particular contention, but any increase in my average speed over the past few weeks appears to have been minimal. what has altered, however, is the ease with which escape velocity is achieved, accompanied by a satisfying, foot-based ritchey echelon pedals sensation of more focussed energy transfer. with spd pedals, such as the aforementioned micro-road pedals, any power input is concentrated over a far smaller area, potentially creating a hotspot on the sole of your foot. though the consitution of rapha's carbon sole is doubtless a contributing factor, over the past few weeks there has been a tangible difference not only in the ease of pedalling on the flat, but particularly when climbing under duress.

if all the above just sounds like an overly detailed account of which many of you take for granted, the most specific and noticeable aspect of riding with feet clipped into the echelon pedals, is the smoothness of operation. granted, the bottom bracket bearings are every bit as responsible, but the combination of the two brings to mind the 'hot knife through butter' syndrome of which many of us are familiar (or not, as the case may be).

if there's a downside to all this, it's getting in and out. the ritchey echelon pedals undoubtedly require a tad more effort to achieve both than the average pair of offroad pedals. i believe i mentioned in my original review that, after a day or two of riding, i felt twinges in my calf muscles and ankles, apparently the result of the necessary unclipping motion. that strain subsided very quickly, but even having set both pedals to near their lowest tension, there is still more effort required than, until now, has been the case.

ritchey echelon pedals

this may simply be a part of the pain and suffering expected of the contemporary road-cyclist.

there's no doubting the fact that three-point road cleats make you walk funny, and are not ideal for descending the stairs at ardbeg distillery, or walking on shiny floors. but in the same way that seals are rarely at home on dry land, cleated shoes were hardly designed for hiking. their forte shines when clipped into pedals such as ritchey's echelons, propelling you at near light speed towards the coffee stop. the red, notched adjusters on the stainless steel axles, are every bit as red as they were out the box, and though the shiny logo'd top plates have more than just a few scuff marks, the composite body remains almost pristine.

if ever you needed an excuse to upgrade your road pedals, consider this your 'get out of jail free' card, or if you need comparable quality to go with a new pair of shoes, the same applies. a truly excellent and smooth pair of pedals, that share look keo compatibility, widening the purchase options for additional cleats.

ritchey echelon road pedals

tuesday 31 march 2020

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campagnolo

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endura pro sl bibshorts

endura pro sl bibshorts

it may be that the fit of cycle apparel has become more standardised than that of more regular, day to day clothing. mrswashingmachinepost is a devotee of the online catalogues for her clothing requirements, a process that i have often suggested might be circumvented by having the goods delivered direct to the carrier for immediate return. apparently, no matter the professed size accompanying the website image, the tangible result of ordering seems to bear little resemblance when it arrives at the croft. even ordering three or four items at the same size, will rarely result in four items that actually fit. thus the process is confounded by having to order several instances of the one garment, in the sincere hope that one of those instances will prove successful.

endura pro sl bibshorts

our porch often resembles a postal sorting office, with many a plastic bag taped up for collection and return.

on the contrary, throughout the many years i have been reviewing velocipedinal garmentage, i have never had to return anything because it didn't fit. granted, i think we're all comfortably aware that regular cycling will maintain that honed physique, but i have found that a medium jersey from any of the major purveyors of cycling apparel will fit just ginger peachy. similarly, that of bibshorts, bibtights and footwear. the only product line that seems to offer more of a variation than desired, is that of gloves. i usually opt for large, but i've had some doozies that would have allowed me to wave to passing motorists, without the glove moving at all.

endura pro sl bibshorts

in this respect, we have a distinct advantage over not only the average human being (remember, cyclists are just like ordinary people, but way more awesome), but the genus usually referred to as 'motorists'. i cannot profess myself to be au fait with the minutiae of contemporary car interior design, but as far as i'm aware, there is not the option to have small, medium or large seats fitted to your 71 plate audi suv. we, on the other hand, can choose from an enormous range of saddles, sporting every width, length and rigidity known to mankind, all of which will fit seamlessly on the top of whichever seatpost arrived with your bicycle. the motoring public is usually only offered a few colour and fabric options.

endura pro sl bibshorts

in the case of scotland's endura clothing, those variations in saddle width are matched by three pad options on their pro-sl bibshorts, depending on the width of posterior you'll admit to. in the possibility that you haven't measured your bum lately, so far as i'm aware, authorised endura dealers have saddle-like devices to subtly inform you as to which pad width is most appropriate. though i have not had access to such a device, my 30" waist seems to have accurately translated to a size small pro sl bibshort, with the narrowest of pads.

endura pro sl bibshorts

endura's award-winning original pro sl bibshort with variable width pad has now been updated with the 'new for 2020 model', based on that original design. according to their website, these shorts proffer 'perfect fit' (always assuming you shoose the correct size) and lumbar support. the latter consists of a panel that 'wraps around your lower back and sides', keeping the shorts firmly in place and taking some of the pressure off the straps. the latter appear, from the front at least, a bit like a pair of braces. anchored at the waistline and of a consistent, elastic width until meeting the back panel just below the shoulders.

the shorts are available in two leg lengths, the longer of the two being around 4cm longer than their shorter sibling. i cannot deny that i am somewhat short of leg, relative to my torso, but endura sent over the longer version for review, and those extra centimetres are just fine and dandy by me, stopping as they do, a smidgeon above the knee. on the bicycle, this seemed a tad more respectable for an ageing velocipedinist, chris hoy proportioned thighs notwithstanding. as i have interminably mentioned for many a long year, i figure a well-fitting pair of shorts ought to be a struggle to pull on; this results in no untoward movement on the bike, even in very wet conditions. the pro-sl bibs were a real struggle to get on, though mostly because the gloopy stuff on the inside of the hem on each leg would probably stick a massey ferguson tractor to the ceiling of the nearest barn. over legwarmers, the process turned into a major engineering undertaking.

i figure that's a good thing.

endura pro sl bibshorts

the cut of the front of the bibshorts raises two points: the waistline is certainly low enough to allow for natural breaks without signing up for several weeks' of yoga classes. but on the downside, aesthetically it's less pleasing than the usual 'u-shaped' merging of the bibs with the shorts. however, i cannot say that, in use, this geometric shaping caused any discomfort. the bib straps, while obviously fulfilling a necessary function, remained 'invisible' in use. there was never any sensation of pressure on my shoulders, and no tell-tale red marks when removing my baselayer.

endura pro sl bibshorts

the body of the pro-sl bibs features coldblack technology, which professes to reduce heat build-up and offers protection from uv rays. you will perhaps understand why i cannot pay testament to this aspect when i point out that i was unable to wear the shorts without leg-warmer accessorising. temperatures hovering barely above zero are not the ideal in which to review a pair of bibshorts; i frequently suffer for your art. though i doubt it would have made for a pretty picture, while riding, i did my utmost to wrest the shorts from their initial position upon my posterior, a task in which i failed miserably. according to endura, these are most comfortable bibshorts they've ever made, a claim that i, for one, would not dispute.

the saddle on my ritchey logic is a narrow width brooks cambium. in combination with the pro-sl bibshorts, it offered several of the most comfortable bike rides i have been privileged to undertake. granted, i was unable to get them wet, but so close-fitting were they, that i seriously doubt any amount of precipitation would engender any untoward movement. even better, the retail price is an astounding £119.99

who said the scots were stingy with money?

endura's pro-sl bibshorts are available in black only, in sizes ranging from xs to xxl in narrow, medium and relaxed fit. price per pair is £119.99

endura pro-sl bibshort

monday 30 march 2020

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endura cycle clothing ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

climate change

gruinart flats

george gershwin composed the music for 'summertime' in 1934, as part of his 1935 opera, 'porgy and bess'. the latter was based on the novel 'porgy' by dubose heyward, whose lyrics are featured in the original song, though also co-credited to gershwin. the famed lyricist, stephen sondheim, commended the lyrics as amongst "the finest in the theatre", along with 'my man's gone now', another porgy and bess aria by gershwin and heyward.

with 'summertime', gershwin was hoping to create his own spiritual in the african/american folk style of the era. however, the song has lent itself to many different styles, predomiantly in the jazz idiom, but even shifting as far as an idiosyncratic version by 'big brother and the holding company', an acid rock band from the late 1960s, featuring janis joplin on vocals. there was even a version by the 'fun boy three'. apparently well over 25,000 recorded versions of the song exist, the most recent of which i've come across is by scots saxophonist, tommy smith on his john coltrane tribute album 'embodying the light'.

it was the latter that emerged as an 'earworm' on my saturday morning solo bike ride, while socially-distancing on two wheels. somewhat uncharacteristically, the day before we magically transformed from greenwich mean time to british summer time, losing an hour of sleep in the process, the weather was marvellous. clear skies, peppered with one or two fluffy clouds and a more than satisfying, marginally above zero, galeforce wind.

and that's the bit that makes no logical sense whatsoever. on friday afternoon, while garnering my daily exercise, the weather was warm, sunny and pretty much windless, and i'm embarrassed to relate that i struggled to accommodate such a dramatic alteration to islay's climate. having spent ride time since before last year's festive 500, clad in waterproofs and thermals, slogging into winds that, in most cases, i shouldn't have been out in the first place, the sudden change is one to which it's going to be hard to adjust.

saturday's bluster was, quizically enough, one that i was wont to welcome with open track mitts. along with bibshorts and a prendas casquette, those were apparel that i was wearing for the first time this year, though i'm not convinced enough to store the thermals, bibtights and winter caps until later in the year.

in stark contrast to reports from other parts of the nation, my solo bike rides have engendered no animosity whatsoever. islay is a wonderful place to live at all times, but in the midst of this pandemic, that thought has been nothing but reinforced. i rode a total of 65km on saturday, and everywhere i went, farmers in tractors, farmers on quad bikes, folks walking their dogs on uiskentuie strand and passing motorists in both directions waved cheerfully and flashed their headlights. only last week, i was told that if i wasn't seen out on my bike each weekend, they'd know things were bad.

i can but commiserate with those cyclists who live in the more populated towns and cities in britain. already, bicycles have been banned from london's richmond park, on the basis that riders were not observing social distancing. it's hard to criticise when you live almost 900km away, but given the number of cyclists living in central london, desirous of popping out for some much-needed velodipedinal exercise, i would imagine keeping two metres between one and another, is probably quite hard.

in contrast to the capital city's population of over 12 million, there are a mere 3,200 individuals on this rock in the atlantic; on my saturday ride, i saw not a single bicyclist.

i hope that the following does not come across as gloating, for that is not my intention, but despite the virus, life in the countryside looks, to quote david byrne, the 'same as it ever was'. the fields have been ploughed, sheep are still meandering along the verges, the cattle still stare as i ride past, and the geese are still conspicuous by their presence. almost the only traffic frequenting our singletrack roads, is tractors.

as of three days past, calmac have dropped to a core timetable, with only two ferries in and out each day, and only one on a sunday. loganair have combined the islay flights with those to campbeltown, and only residents and essential workers are allowed to board either.

and now, it's just like summer.

sunday 29 march 2020

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movie nights

rapha continental

we have, i would imagine, established beyond a shadow of a doubt, that i am a creature of habit, even though i really wish i wasn't. each saturday's bike ride is the same, no matter the wind direction and no matter the weather. i know precisely where i'm heading, i know how long it'll take me (even given variations in the weather) and i know just where every passing place is situated. they're tattoo'd on the inside of my eyelids.

sunday, embarrassingly enough, is every bit as habitual, though it has less to do with the parcours du jour, than associated circumstances. islay is but 39km top to bottom and side to side, populated with more kilometres of singletrack than two-lane roadway, encompassing not the sort of distance that it would take more than a week to perambulate in total. thus, the velo club's sunday rides have a tendency to frequent a selection of pre-defined routes, in either one direction or t'other.

rapha continental

the saving grace from such potential endless repetition, is the weather. it's possible to ride a particular route for two days in a row, yet not experience it in the same way. ride round loch gorm in a clockwise direction before lunch and anti-clockwise after lunch, and you'd scarcely realise the similarity. visiting cyclists, who are generally keen to point out the above limitations, then cheerfully admit that in their own club rides, despite the availability of hundreds of kilometres, tend to follow the same routes, week in-week out.

rapha continental

disappointingly, my secret habit has nothing whatsoever to do with cycling, but rather, its aftermath. following coffee and cake at debbie's (pre- covid-19 shutdown), having arrived back at the croft, showered and had lunch, there ensues a lengthy diet of 'columbo' reruns, from early afternoon till it's time to wash the teatime dishes at 8pm. i've seen every one of them several times before, i know exactly what's going to happen, yet still i sit down in my comfy chair, with a cup of green tea and a digestive biscuit to exercise my habit. mrs washingmachinepost usually trots off upstairs in disgust, to watch netflix.

rapha continental

you would like to hope that this is a winter habit, that when the clocks go forward this weekend, the plentiful daylight might lead to long walks to gartbreck, or even outdoor fettling of the ritchey and its componentry. that might well be the case, but currently, in the arena of lockdown, those are options about which one has to think very carefully. if i've already been out for my designated daily exercise, is it stretching nicola's diktat, to pop out for a second dose? but then, what happens the rest of the week, when columbo's not on the tellybox.

rapha continental

fortunately, there's a solution to that.

rapha were arguably the pioneers of the cycling video, having expanded from imagery and the written word with the original, north american rapha continental, the accompanying music for which usually had me using the search box on itunes, looking for bands i'd never heard of previously. and, in order to satiate any pent up demand for cycle-related watching, they have excavated a number of videos from their past history, placing them in an orderly fashion for our viewing benefit.

invoking the spirit of columbo, even if you've seen them all before, more than just a few are worth watching once, twice or even thrice. it's times like this we can all be very glad that we're cyclists.

pass the popcorn.

rapha continental on youtube | the best of the rapha archive

saturday 28 march 2020

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reserved occupation

essential bikeshops

despite the many protestations that have been issued in these black and yellow pixels, aimed directly at the motor car, as a teenager yet to learn to drive, i was very much in thrall to the idea of owning four wheels, way above my pay grade. the road leading to the next, larger town, was populated by several car showrooms, all of which presented their particular marque as the ideal road to bankruptcy. strangely enough, and highly unlikely to be repeated in the present age, the salesmen in one particular establishment seemed not at all bothered that two youngsters spent their saturday afternoons climbing in and out of brand new, expensive vehicles.

granted, there was little fear of us inadvertently driving off through the plate-glass, showroom window (they had at least the sense not to leave the keys in the ignition). so invested were we in the notion of shiny newness, that we would often bring our own carrier bags in which to transport a plethora of colour brochures on the way home. on release of any new models, the tricky part was hanging those bags on our bicycle handlebars and navigating without jamming them into the front wheel spokes.

those were the days of blissful naivety. not only had it not occurred that the costs of car ownership were likely to be a drain on any income we might eventually gain, but that riding our bicycles hither and thither, visiting any car dealership we thought less than likely to unceremoniously shoo us out the door, was pretty much free of charge. i cannot answer for my peers when it came to carrying out routine bike maintenance, but my parents were insistent to the point of oppression. every week, the bicycle had to be cleaned and the chain fastidiously lubricated with a can of three-in-one oil that sat on the windowsill in our cream and green garden hut.

when it came to the occasional puncture, the world of do-it-yourself was extended in that direction. the inner-tube would need to be removed, inflated within a basin of water while searching for the trail of bubbles, followed by the time-worn procedure of patching. though i do not recall gratefully thanking my parents for their insistence on learning basic cycle repair, in truth, it has stood me in good stead. i cannot deny, however, that today's bike shed is bereft of a puncture repair kit; nowadays, simple replacement of the inner-tube rules the roost.

of course, had my current circumstances not dictated that i become as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to bicycle fettling, i may be more inclined to visit a hypothetical bike shop. in my days of motor-car obsession, i studied how the infernal combustion engine functioned, where the valves resided, whether the engine ran by direct camshaft action on the valves or whether by means of rocker arms. i knew where the starter motor was situated, how to remove the distributor cap and how to replace each and every spark plug. the fly in the ointment, so to speak, was that i was entirely without the confidence to act upon any such carefully studied information.

there would be few brownie points to be gained, informing dear mama, that those oily hands had just dismantled an apparently innocuous section of her car's engine, without a scooby of how to re-assemble any of it.

but, on the contrary, my mechanical knowledge of the admittedly far simpler bicycle, knows few actual bounds. i can dismantle cup and cone hubs with ease, regrease the cups and replace with the correct size of bearings. i can also remove and replace a headset and crown-race, and thanks to the ministrations of velotech's graeme freestone king, i am now aware that a campagnolo bottom bracket spindle features a circlip sat above the cartridge bearing, one that must be removed prior to actuating the bearing-puller.

many of the above skills are necessitous if you hope to keep any particular bicycle functioning. in these immediate days of lockdown and prescribed social distancing, the bicycle has arguably regained the moral highground we all knew it to possess. the safety of travel by velocipedinal means depends greatly on where you live, but with a noticeable decline in vehicular travel even on islay, impediments to safe cycling have probably diminished, even where you live. many cities across the world are recognising the true power of the bicycle, and installing even makeshift cycle lanes. and when it came to designating which retail outlets should remain open during the current pandemic, alongside food stores, newsagents, takeaways, hardware stores and the like, there is the recommendation that bike shops be amongst their number.

i, and many others in the more remote locations across the highlands and islands of scotland, do not have access to a local bike shop. but across the rest of the country, there are more who do than don't. no matter how skilled you are at cycle maintenance, at some point, you're going to need stuff; metal stuff, carbon stuff, rubber stuff, lycra stuff and new stuff. support your local bike shop; few of us are likely to get rich at present, possibly quite the opposite, but if those shops disappear, they'll probably disappear for good.

and then, believe me, we'll all be sorry.

friday 27 march 2020

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this is cambridge

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at last. a silver lining

zipp xplr 70 bar + stem

on their 1991 album, 'out of time', r.e.m. included the song 'shiny happy people', simultaneously released as a single, with the b-52s singer, kate pierson, on guest vocals. she also appeared in the promotional video that accompanied its release. it is perhaps significant - to fans of the band, at any rate - that it was the last of four r.e.m. singles to appear in the billboard top ten, and reaching no.6 in the british charts. i mentioned it as significant because the band were somewhat unconvinced about achieving popularity on the basis of a song they regarded as superficial.

zipp 80 bar

if you harbour any doubts about such a classification, its worth knowing the song featured as the theme music for the pilot episode of the sitcom 'friends', before being replaced by 'i'll be there for you', by the rembrandts. one can only imagine the potential humiliation suffered by the band members, had the switch in theme songs not been made. in an interview, singer michael stipe stated that if one song representing the band were to be sent into space, he would not want it to be 'shiny happy people'.

zipp 80 ergo bar

the subject of this particular song came to light in a recent conversation, that transmogrified into a slightly warm discussion, for i was convinced that the song's title was actually 'shining happy people'. until it was found and played incessantly on itunes, i was less than willing to back down. of course, now that i've been proved wrong, i maintain to all and sundry, that such a mistake never happened. one has one's street credibility to think of.

in the past, i have been known to refer to the modern road bicycle by its oblique name: bright and shiny carbon; there's that word 'shiny' once again. however, i can only claim that this was something of a misplaced affectation. bicycles in the age of steel were decidedly shiny, coated as they were in glossy paint overlaid with the ubiquitous clearcoat. if these were of italian origin, there's every likelihood that the often elaborate lugs were of highly polished chrome; shiny in every sense of that word.

zipp seatpost

most likely on the basis that persistent cold, dreich rain is not often a component of italian weather, their framebuilders rarely halted at chroming merely the lugwork. i cannot be the only one to have witnessed italian steel featuring fully-chromed forks and rear stays. only the main triangle seemed to be the bearer of a deep luxuriant paint scheme. that was in the days before mike burrows' burnt plastic usurped ferrous metal as the professional's favoured material.

the latter offered not only lighter weight, but ultimately, the ability to be manipulated in ways providing directional strength that steel simply could not offer. additionally, and importantly in a commercial world, the tubing could emulate, or exceed, the ability of aluminium to offer large diameter billboards capable of featuring the framebuilder's name or logo at a size that might be easily seen on tv race coverage. but then the shiny aspect all but disappeared with the almost wholesale adoption of 'stealth', in place of 'shiny'. perhaps the pinnacle of this radar obfuscation was a frame of matt black carbon, augmented with lettering in transparent clearcoat.

zipp stem

thankfully, that particular aesthetic seems to have fallen from favour.

but now, as a shiny antidote to black painted or anodised componentry, zipp have released a silver lining in the shape of their service course silver, applied to their 70 xplr and 70 & 80 ergo handlebars along with the service course 80 bar. but it's not only the bars that have received a modest degree of shine, for which self-respecting roadie would not wish to co-ordinate their seatposts and stems with a similar choice of bars? hopefully this will signal a wholesale drift away from matt black, a colour that has a tendency to look somewhat careworn after a few (less than careful) adjustments, or slipped allen wrenches. the cycle industry tends to work that way.

my only caveat regarding zipp's shiny initiative, is their continued use of black bolts on the stem faceplate and the seat cradle bolts. if you're going to be shiny, be shiny everywhere.

zipp silver service course

thursday 26 march 2020

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galloway cycling

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pixel wrangling

rapha online club rides

at the beginning of this week, i mentioned a recent virtual bike ride, curated by a partnership between garmin and italian race organisers, rcs, emulating the final kilometres of the cancelled milan-sanremo race. the digital parcours offered an estimated 4,000 riders the opportunity to scale the poggio and cipressa climbs, before speeding statically towards the verisimilitude of a flamme-rouge and the finish line. perhaps understandably, the ride was not billed as a race; the participation of the likes of vicenzo nibali, dan martin and even ivan basso, may have inadvertently offered bragging rights to a club rider who might have sneaked in a fast one.

it's a scenario that, in the current covid-19 pandemic, threatens (if that's the right word to use) to replace what we once referred to as reality, possibly for the foreseeable future. and though there's no doubting the attraction of joining with some of cycling's big names from the safety of your sitting room or bike cave there's no doubtng that it encourages an altogether different approach to the act of cycling. perhaps it might encourage the likes of apple or microsoft to have their logos printed on a jersey.

and just as there are riders who have never ridden with anything other than indexed gears, or even electronic shifting, depending on the length of the current predicament, we could soon see the emergence of a generation of cyclists whose tyres have never seen tarmac. what value hydraulic disc brakes then?

however, necessity has always been the mother of invention, and it would be a naive observer who poo-poo'd the apparent need to join the 400% increase in smart-trainer sales announced by sigma cycles recently. i can sit here in my elevated and privileged position, surrounded by acres and acres of sky and open roads, on which i can still take regular exercise in my cycling group of one. but having just watched a news broadcast from an english town centre, i can see that such luxury is scarcely available to all and sundry.

thus, despite my continuous snide remarks about the zwifties, at present, online cycling would appear to be a remarkably salient and pragmatic solution to continuation of saddle-based exercise.

race-team mitchelton-scott have setup rides on the zwift platform, while london-based cycling apparel purveyors, rapha, have moved many of their projected cycling club rides in the direction of watopia. specified as training rides, there is the added attraction of 'joining' a selection of professionals drawn from the ranks of the rapha partnered canyon//sram and ef pro cycling. perhaps not surprisingly, the club rides and member rides are open only to those with rcc membership, rides being advertised via their smartphone app.

the pro-rides, however, are open to all. you can sign up via this link here.

doubtless there are many more online rides all across the world, eager to cater for what promises to be a new crop of velocipedinists. i can promise you, however, that you'll never find me riding down watopia main street, but if there's no other way to experience the joys of cycling, while remaining safe, fit and sane, then pixels have their own set of attractions. if that's the only sacrifice you have to make at present, you should consider yourself very, very lucky. nonetheless, i'd suggest keeping a photo of real tarmac pinned to the handlebars as a reality check.

wednesday 25 march 2020

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the joy of sets

one cyclist

i have recently completed design work for a set of labels, one which featured a curved section sitting atop the more usual rectangular shape. given that these were for a food product, it was necessary to include ingredients, storage instructions, as well as the required nutritional and calorific information. all this was provided alongside an illustration and a logo identifying the producer. there were a total of seven different products, all sharing the same label format, differing solely by way of included information and background colour.

where once all the above would have been accomplished with sheets of paper, pens and pencils, designer's gouache and, the bane of every graphic designer, letraset, nowadays, it's really only illustrators who resort to the above. but even that group of artists have embraced the computer and various graphic programmes. the latter makes it a great deal easier to provide appropriate pre-press artwork, suitable for colour-separated printing.

however, certain practices that were a part of good housekeeping, when paper and pencil were state of the art, should undoubtedly continue to be observed when working on-screen. where all associated bits and bobs were once clipped together with a bulldog clip or paper-clip to avoid loss, the various components of the labels as described above, have need of being not only separated, but grouped together.

printing files often need what is called a bleed edge; when the final print is cut to size or shape, the bleed, an area of colour extending usually 3mm past the extent of the final shape, ensures there are not unsightly white edges. so my own practice is to place the bleed on the bottom layer, the artwork on a middle layer and the die-cut shape on the top layer, but to avoid anything being inadvertently left behind when moving stuff around, i tend to group it together.

in graphics software, such as illustrator, indesign and photoshop, items or layers can be 'grouped' by selecting them and choosing group from the appropriate menu. perhaps obviously enough, the smallest number of items that can be grouped, is two, a number that has significance in an arguably more pertinent subject.

cycling outdoors during the current coronavirus crisis.

if you tend to inhabit any form of social media, such as twitter and facebook, you may recently have come across often heated discussions concerning those who still insist on riding in groups. though i'm not sure it's currently strict government advice, the (often self-imposed) authorities on cycling have taken to lambasting those seen out and about, riding in close-knit groups. i tend to agree that, when related to social-distancing, small pelotons such as those are hardly behaving responsibly.

as i originally understood matters, the initial reason behind discouraging cycling of any form, out of doors, was the fear that cyclists might sustain accidents, involving the emergency services in matters other than catering to those suffering from covid-19. should that actually have been true, one wonders why motorists too, were not castigated for having the temerity to drive? however, things have moved along, and it seems now the angst being directed at cyclists, concerns the lack of social-distancing being practised. and here's where subjectivity creeps in.

as one arrogant enough to consider myself as fairly well educated, and i admit i harboured doubts about two cyclists being classed as a group. however, if i heed my own experience with grouping items on-screen, then two does indeed constitute a group. but to veer towards the mathematically existential just a tad, a correspondent (thank you ian smith) pointed out that, if we consider groups to be similar to sets, then two is indeed a group. or set. but then so are both one and zero, the latter described as a null set. in mr smith's opinion, we may have to rethink how we define the term group.

incidentally, quite why it's still regarded as acceptable for several people to be travelling in one car, is a derivative of logic that completely escapes me.

numerological cogitations aside, members of the velo club have tacitly agreed that one is the magic number, and though we might socially distance with a takeaway coffee at debbie's after our individual sunday rides, for the foreseeable future, we're all flying solo.

tuesday 24 march 2020

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wabi woolens ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

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