tell them we sent you (part one)
somewhere in the world it's always going to be sunny, and the honed athlete will thus always be in need of an appropriate choice of designer/sports sunglasses. this link ought to do the trick...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"he's a well balanced individual, with a chip on each shoulder."..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in the world of printing methodology, screen printing possibly offers the easiest access for even those with little by way of experience. 'tis but a simple matter, subject to having access to ink, screen and squeegee, to cut out some letter shapes and print onto a cotton t-shirt. that makes you not even close to a master of the craft, but at such early stages, wearing the resultant shirt is probably of more importance. with few exceptions, all other methods of transferring ink to substrate will undoubtedly involve some form of heavy machinery such as a letterpress, flatbed litho or chain delivery offset litho. these are not the sort of items that can be squeezed into a spare bedroom or stowed in the cupboard when you're finished.
however, my wholly inadequate description of the print method belies the sophistication possible. though stencils of increasing complexity can indeed be created even from simple sheets of paper, printing of fine detail or photographic material is easily possible by resorting to a light sensitive coating on the screen and subjecting it to strong, bright light over imposed artwork. and by affixing a series of screens to bolted brackets, it's possible to achieve pretty much perfect registration of several colours, often more than possible by even six colour lithography.
a bit like the proper names dropped upon the hapless pups at crufts, the technically correct name for this printing process is silkscreen, even if silk has been pretty much replaced with a very fine nylon mesh.
of course, as many of us might already have discovered, it's not the method that makes the art. in this case its the chap or chapess with a snippet of vision and a squeegee to hand. such a visionary, if he will allow me to describe him as such, is dan mather, a man i first came in contact with when he sent me a beautifully screenprinted musette that had formed a part of a rapha exhibition. like many successful artists/craftsmen, dan has progressed notably since that musette, recently having realised three years of silkscreen editioning. to celebrate the occasion, dan has now opened an online shop for all his printed matter.
the first item to occupy its virtual shelves is an exclusive print in three colourways, representing mather's company mantra 'for the love of print' (see final image below). this is a large format print reminiscent of bridget riley's optical illusions, printed individually in one of three colours. i asked him how he started in the medium?
"Since first discovering screenprint at the Arts Institute Bournemouth, I've loved it. You could print on everything I'd dreamt of; acrylic, cardboard, bubblewrap, glass, even carpet underlay. I tried it all, resulting in a weird book entitled 'Retro', treated with more finishing techniques than you can shake a stick at, but lacking any decent content. Fast forward to university at the esteemed LCP, I practically lived in the print room, screening every outcome for all three years, mastering a vocation I wasn't even studying. I played with halftones, multiplying colours, blends, overprinting, registration, even printing PVA and throwing gold dust down. It was incredible to realise the quality of print achievable at a relatively low cost.
"After I graduated I was hooked, but scared. So I took the path many did, and embarked on a career in graphic design with my honours. I lasted a couple of years but it wasn't for me, so I returned to the squeegee (part-time) just printing my own work again. Then two good friends of mine (birch) recommended me to an established graphic designer I respect greatly (Mash Creative). After printing three editions of Mark's work, I hit the ground running. Three years later, 100+ editions, 70+ clients and enquiries every day.
edinburgh's chris sleath has achieved the notable status, in my eyes at least, of producing an endless series of must-have letterpress outings, while others have flaunted impeccable, cycle-related litho prints, some of which grace the corner wall of debbie's in bruichladdich. dan, however, opted for screenprinting. what is it that attracts him to this particular medium?
"Aside from the richness of colour, ink consistency, quality and tactility you get with screenprint, It's a beautiful medium.
"From a business point of view it's about investment. Choosing screenprint is installing faith and confidence in your design, not just printing one out every time someone likes it. Sure, the process is premium; it's more expensive than digital and more cost-effective than litho for low-volume, but it's also a process with risks; mis-registering layers, getting the colour wrong, not meeting the edition etc. I see these as obstacles which only present themselves with silkscreen and for designers to have the trust and judgement that their work is worthy of the squeegee, and the confidence it will sell, is a great investment I love to be involved with.
"With print-on-demand ever increasing in popularity, there's a certain appreciation I find when a client has invested their income in having a limited edition printed with me. I like that.
as i mentioned above, there are several other methods of transferring imagery to a variety of materials, though it's undeniable that the most common is often paper. when at college, i had the luck of experiencing everything from stone lithography, letterpress, etching, engraving as well as screenprinting, but i now wish i had paid a lot more attention than was actually the case. in my case, letterpress still holds great interest, but i wondered if dan had dabbled away from the squeegee?
"Through my university days, I picked up the nickname 'Materials Man Dan'. I scavenged for the reflective, the holographic, the ultraviolet and the fluoro. I loved experimenting with all sorts of materials; if it could go under a screen, I printed on it. Through this I developed a fascination with process. Whilst peers were swapping books on Emil Ruder and Crouwel, I had both volumes of Experimental Formats permanently out-on-loan from the library.
"I may have not graduated with a first in Graphic Design, but I did leave with a great understanding of the print-process, which in this day and age seems to be lacking. I've digressed I know, so to remount; yes. All manner of print and production excite me, and I'm keen to experiment further as I grow older, always getting wiser."
in the words of zen buddhism, we should be careful not to confuse the pointing finger for the moon itself. likewise, we ought not to confuse the ability to undertake a printing process with that of creativity. there are many printshops around the country which will happily output creative work to a high technical standard, but without any creative input of their own. what inspires dan's prodigious output?
"Ha. Good word Brian. I never intended to be quite so busy. It just happened and seemingly never slowed down. I think of way too many ideas all the time every ride I go on. I suppose harking back to my uni days, I always thought of how to produce something first before designing it. Much against my tutors' advice, I always thought of the production first, so I probably can't help but produce work once I've had an idea.
"I must say that I now give more time to planning and designing, I've become extremely meticulous and critical of my own work. It has to be worthy, so I rationalise my ideas, and believe it or not a there's a great deal of strategy that comes into a release now. This in turn promotes the editioning side of the company, so the more I do, the more clients see and the more work that enters the inbox.
"It really is for the love of print."
all this is not just to deny that the uk is now only emerging from several years of economic turmoil, years that encompassed dan mather's three solo years. making a living from artistic endeavour has always been something of an uphill struggle, without the country's economy slapping you in the face while you get on with it. is making a living as an editioning screenprinter getting any easier?
"I still consider what I do to be design, not art. Design in my opinion has always been a more profitable path to pursue than art; it's more commercial. So as designer or printer, or both(!), earning a income is sporadic. Some jobs are good, others not so.
I enjoy my collaborations with lookmumnohands! those began with screenprinting my 'spoke patterns' wrapping paper and more recently applying it to some musettes. Those were fun to make and profitable, though I didn't print them (I only print on paper).
"Rouleur are a lovely client to have too. Wiggo & Froome were both great editions to screen, designed by the infamous Rich Mitch. Paniagua.cc are a fantastic client too. I love looking after relationships with clients; it's more than just a print-job for me, it's a friendship. I remember catching the train to Somerset with x50 A1 Giro d'Italia screenprints under my arm, just so I could meet Jamie. From there we've created seven editions together.
"In London, things are always expensive and although doing 'well' for my chosen career, there's never a consistent salary like I've had in the past. I honestly wouldn't be where I am without the support of my love, Ellen. I'll forever be in debt to her for such support and compassion for the path I've chosen. Just don't tell her about the Royce hub in the post. :-)
though i've paid testament to the proliferation of quality photography applied to our beautiful sport, it's also an activity that seemingly delights in graphic representation of the print kind. dan has skirted the fringes of cycling via the screenprinting process on several previous occasions. is this a theme he intends or would like to return to in future work?
"Every ride I take on my Moser, I'm inspired to produce more cycling work. Even the other day I was intermittently overtaken by time-trialists on a new route near the M25. I spent a good 15 miles after my return home thinking about the central alignment of the dossards on their skinsuits riding into the sunset, and how it would make a nice print.
"But referring back to my point about rationalising ideas, nowadays the idea has to be worthy. I have a habit of having to better myself and my work. There's plenty more cycling pieces of work that just need refining before committing to print. I set the benchmark quite high for myself with my Hors Categorie, and Echelon. I've always had a thing for educational or posters that mean something, inspired by the great Tom Eckersley. I want my work to educate or prompt someone into thinking, not just be pretty.
"Echelon and Hors Categorie both share simple typographic footers bringing a definition to the graphic. Most recently was my design and print for Colours May Vary in Leeds to celebrate the worlds greatest bike race coming to Yorkshire. Note the subtle gloss varnish spokes in the petals of the white rose. That was a great piece to make.
"One idea I will share is my fascination with the the association newspapers have with pro-cycling (beyond the obvious). I'm keen to produce a piece on this, but haven't enough confidence in the idea yet. We'll see how it develops."
all through my own art college years, there was never any codified direction. i pretty much fell from one project to the next, with no cohesive structure to any particular body of work. subsequently the material sitting quietly in my portfolio showed little developmental progress. if i knew then, what i know now... dan, however, is already well past that point, but is there a cunning plan (as baldrick would have said), or does the rarefied atmosphere of artistic endeavour demand that he takes pretty much whatever comes his way?
"There's always a plan. I'm too organised to not have one. Keep your eyes peeled for #PrintedMather', that's the next release after #fortheloveofprint."
dan mather's online shop can be viewed at here
thursday 31 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though you might find it hard to comprehend while participating in the sunday ride in early january, islay is characterised by its lush green fields, providing excellent feed for the plentiful sheep and cattle that walk ignominiously in front of your bike on uiskentuie strand. the island has a great history of dairy herds, but one which came to an abrupt end after the closure of the island's sole creamery several years ago. with no local outlet for their milk, farmers sold off their herds because the economics of shipping the milk to the mainland made no sense at all.
all this greenery, however, is due to the island being situated on the gulf stream (or at least it was up until the oddities in the weather last winter). if you ride about thirty miles north of washingmachinepost croft, aside from a wet bit in the middle, you'd reach our neighbouring isle of jura. and directly across from the distillery in craighouse, there is a rather healthy clump of palm trees. in fact, there's a similar, but smaller tree of the same ilk in my neighbour's garden. the upshot of all this is a relatively benign climate, one that rarely becomes stiflingly hot, but one that also tends to keep snow and frost at bay in the winter.
granted, we do get a lot of rain (you can't make whisky out of thin air), and we sure as heck get more than our fair share of winds, the latter not confined solely between october and march. but in the main, our cycling apparel tends to revolve around wind and waterproof jackets, long-sleeve jerseys or short-sleeve with armwarmers. and it doesn't do any harm that this island climate provides an ideal environment for reviewing the latest from our illustrious clothing providers.
however, a thin, mesh jersey would, under more normal circumstances be well outside my remit. hypothermia is never a good look.
yet at the time rapha were kind enough to send a medium sized, team sky climber's jersey, i think the whole of the uk was enjoying (or enduring) temperatures verging on thirty degrees. not something normally on our menu, and certainly not something for which i have much in the way of appropriateness in my cycling wardrobe. at least, not until now. it may or may not be self-evident, however, that this mesh fabric won't shield one from those dastardly uv rays, so it is little wonder that rapha advise smothering oneself in suncream before venturing out in the midday sun. and since coffee will eventually be a part of every velocipedinal equation, it's worth my pointing out that this particular garment is bereft of a zipped security pocket.
last friday's ride, with commensurate tailwind from bowmore to bridgend, verged on the surreal; it was hard to catch breath in the heat, and there didn't appear to be too much in the way of air-conditioning en route, but switch to a southerly direction in the inevitable direction of debbie's and i cannot deny that there was a pleasant sea-breeze pervading the black and blue sky logo'd mesh jersey. several of my fellow froth supperers in the coffee house enquired as to quite how i had the energy and fortitude to pedal at speed (all is relative) in the all enveloping heat. the answer was, in fact, staring them in the face.
there are remarkable similarities between rapha's team sky climber's jersey and their mesh baselayers; for all i know, they are from the same family. either way, it acquits itself remarkably well in the conditions for which it was designed, particularly with a full-length zip. but lest you consider it a one trick pony usable only on days of excessive heat, it has other strings to its bow.
after all, cutting edge technology or not, £150 is a lot to pay for a jersey that might only see the (bright) light of day on sporadic summer occasions.
as is frequently the case with the local firmament, after watching glorious sunlight and experiencing stifling heat for five days in the office, come the weekend (how does it know?) it is almost inevitable that the weather will change for the worse. and it did; at least partially. saturday and sunday morning experienced often torrential rain, precipitation that was slightly ameliorated by little reduction in ambient temperature. more often than not, this leads to the particular conundrum of whether or not to don a rainjacket. frequently this leads to becoming almost as wet inside due to perspiration as would have been the case had i continued al fresco.
however, with my new found sartorial expression, i was able to clad my torso in mesh climber's jersey beneath a rapha pro team race cape, gaining easily the best of both worlds. when islay finally returns to its more usual climatic state of affairs, i have ideas of wearing this jersey 'neath sportwool, and eventually both under a hard shell or softshell. despite its rather breathtaking price, the team sky climber's jersey may just become one of the most versatile garments in their entire range.
oddly enough, despite having no chris or brad for the vuelta, sir dave still isn't returning my calls.
wednesday 30 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
with no disrespect to those who plied their trade over the wooden boards at the ignominiously named emirates stadium at glasgow's commonwealth games, there's still a single aspect of the 2012 london olympics that outdoes pretty much everything we've seen over the past weekend. that aspect concerns a medal winning keirin ride concerns the man whose name really ought to be front and foremost above the commonwealth games velodrome's front door (according to prince bradley). having doggedly hogged the inside line even when challenged by german, maximilian levy, on the outside through the last corner, as a cheering scotsperson on the edge of my armchair, i always knew chris hoy would collect gold at the end.
sadly, not only can i not emulate sir chris's speed (though i did once hold his bike at a braveheart ride to let him pump up his tyres), i doubt i'll ever get the hang of riding one of those fixed wheel thingies in the first place. unless there's a wall to hang onto at the beginning and another at journey's end to allow me to stop safely, i'm completely stuffed.
freewheeling is good.
you'd figure that hoy's days of travelling fast on a bicycle might well be behind him, given that he seems now slightly besotted with fast cars. however, all is not lost. there now comes news of a singular addition to the range of hoy bikes distributed by evans cycles. and the forthcoming range of clothing next year via his latest partnership with nick hussey's vulpine clothing is one more thing to keep his cleats firmly entrenched in the world of two wheels. the range of hoy bicycles on offer from evans however, if they don't mind me saying so, bear little resemblance to the sort of velocipede that accounted for many of those olympic golds. of course, that's part of the point of the exercise.
in something of a surprise yet eccentric move, an amalgam of sir chris, evans cycles and edinburgh's shand cycles has produced a one-off handbuilt steel keirin bike to celebrate those olympic golds. the surprise is possibly not that this unique bicycle celebrates hoy's main claim to fame, but that of its provenance. i asked the frame's builder, steven shand, how, apart from the glaringly obvious scottish connection, where did this hoy/shand collaboration come from?
"James Olsen, designer for Evans own brand and previously Genesis bikes, and I have know each other for many years. When the idea for a flagship Keirin bike for the HOY brand first came up, it seemed like there was a need to do something a little different and I'm guessing a wee lightbulb came on in James' head. He made contact to see if we'd be interested in talking. We were and we did. The fact that we're but a stone's throw from the Livingston BMX track where Sir Chris started his racing career is a nice little sidestory.
having ridden several of steven's handmade bicycles, and enjoyed a day's visit to the workshop, i cannot recall having seen even one single-speed bicycle hanging on any of the completed or 'to-do' racks, let alone one that might stand a fair chance of winning an olympic medal. the bikes employed in japanese keirin are all built from steel tubing, a style that this shand-built hoy admirably emulates. modern day olympic and world cup competition has long-since eschewed metal construction in favour of the ubiquitous carbon fibre, but there's little doubt that steven's latest creation owns a great deal more panache than burnt plastic. in the light of such a fabulous looking machine, might i surmise that he's built at least one of these before?
No. We get asked quite a lot for track bikes but we don't have much experience with track cycling in the company. It's always been pretty important to us that we're 'honest' about what we do and that when you're buying a bike from us, you're buying experience and the result of many, many long miles of cycling on the type of bikes we're producing. I just didn't feel we could offer a track bike and still hold true to those values.
"Interestingly, about three months before we were approached about the HOY bike, I'd had a conversation with another well respected Scottish Commonwealth track cyclist about getting his help in maybe working together on a track bike design. I'm slightly embarrassed to say we sort of dropped that project when Sir Chris came to see us!"
currently, shand cycles offer three off-the-shelf bicycles: the stoater, skinnymalinky and stooshie, all of which contain a few unique elements, but as a group, are designed to satisfy the more adventurous amongst us in our favoured genre of riding. as steven mentioned above, these are the result of many hours of both trial and error framebuilding and bike riding. however, as atated above, the workshop wasn't filled with track bikes on my visit, so did the keirin frame involve any factors that would not normally be a part of the shand cycles's day?
"No, not really. The design process was a little different, as you'd expect from a more collaborative project, but the way we built the bike was very much the same way we build all our bikes."
the bike, beautifully painted in-house by russell stout, was not a solo venture; sir chris is unlikely and unwilling to have his name painted on any downtube without personal input. add to the equation james olsen, the designer overseeing the entire hoy range for evans cycles and i wondered how much input steven had to the design?
"The design was pretty much done, in so far as Chris's position on the bike was a given. That was non-negotiable. The other factors, BB drop, trail and chainstay length were also pretty much decided before we got to it. Our job was to take those parameters and make sure the tubing we wanted to use would work for the intended use.
"There's actually another HOY track bike hanging up here unfinished. This was my first attempt at building a bike that I felt reflected the HOY brand, but to be honest I didn't like how it ended up. The current range of HOY bikes have some design elements that I'd tried to bring into play, but ultimately it felt a little compromised in my eyes. The final bike we built was much more a Shand than that first bike and James Olsen was happy that I built a bike that was clearly a Shand."
as can be seen from the accompanying photographs, the frame is, if anything, understated, beautifully sleek and undoubtedly steel. the chris king headset is a nice touch too. to reflect the bike's inspiration, sir chris's name is detailed in japanese towards the rear of the top tube. its existence is something of a step outside the style already set by the current evans hoy range, but as designer james olsen said, "Sometimes costs and timelines have to take a step aside to allow for new methods to shape the brand's product development. It's a process that is different to our usual production bike design and realisation methods, and one that we're excited to see the end results of."
so of what tubing has steven crafted this iconic frame? "The tubing is a mix. It's mostly Columbus MAX with a single Reynolds tube in there too. I have some ideas on tubing that I'd like to pursue if we build more of these, but it wasn't practical on this one-off.
which beggars the question, is this a style of 'fixie' that shand will now be able to offer to his customers without a knighthood? "No. We have no plans to offer a Shand track bike or fixie. If we do more in this vein, it'll be alongside Chris and the HOY brand." in a similar vein, i asked evans cycles' marketing manager, gareth evans if this was the first of many.
he didn't say no.
tuesday 29 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it was a few weeks ago now, not a process or vocation i intended (or intend) to make a career of, but if someone offers pennies to take his pals cycling, i have a tendency not to argue. after all, if the intention was always to go for a bike ride anyway, where's the harm in accepting both company and recompense?
my only misgiving was over the choice of route. i was originally informed that my party of ten would comprise mostly leisure cyclists, but their host for the weekend chose a course that involved a 14% climb. not too long, but over a less than impressive road surface; i didn't quite see the endless fun in that for those who had little choice in the matter. had it been left to me, i'd have headed round the loch, but a booking for lunch midway round the day's route seems to have made the decision irreversible.
when originally asked some months ago to conduct the day's event, i had been asked what would be the procedure should it rain. tactfully, i replied "we get wet". in fact, on the very morning of our brief expedition, the weather was indeed less than clement, but by the time i'd made it to debbie's for the 11am start, the rain had ceased, and the temperature warmed up a tad. so while i had the resident cyclist's presence of mind to commence riding with rainjacket stuffed in a back pocket, my accomplices made a series of frequent stops en-route to lunch to divest themselves of various items of clothing, some of which wouldn't have been out of place on an islay winter ride.
the hotel at portnahaven could be described in estate agent speak as compact and bijou, particularly when trying to cater for 22 europeans and a scotsman. the coriander and chickpea burger in a bun was rather scrumptious, but as i stuffed my face midst much other face stuffing, the rain arrived with a vengeance and became only heavier as we rode back up the sole road to debbie's. it would be hard to imagine being any wetter than we were on our return to froth and carrot cake. makers of the small gps unit strapped to my handlebar, bryton, portend that their rider 20+ is waterproof.
they are not wrong.
of course, there would surely be little point in offering any little black box that affixes to a bicycle with anything less than complete waterproofing, but this was darned impressive to put it mildly.
bryton offer a substantial range of cycle gps units stretching from that under review, to substantially more able and expensive pieces of kit. the 20+ offers no mapmaking or viewing, and eschews any form of on-screen graphic display, other than the logo that appears when it's switched on.
in a similar moment to the stonehenge scene in spinal tap - the movie, i had gained the mistaken impression that the bryton would be of similar size to the arguably more widely used brand of cycle gps, but in fact it's scarcely any larger than the common or garden cycle computer. the display, which offers permanent, temporary or non-existent backlighting will show either two or three fields simultaneously depending on user preference.
i'm not much one for footering when it comes to setting up such devices; like every red blooded male, i only resort to the manual if all else has failed. in this case, there's really not much of a manual to be read in the first place, basically just enough to get you started. if you need a more comprehensive introduction to the inner secrets of the 20+, you'll need to resort to the support section of bryton's website. even then i'm not sure i understood all of the niceties (but i figure that says more about me than bryton's support department).
the mounting bracket affixes to the handlebars by means of a small bungie cord. several are included to account for different bar diameters, though it might be nice to have the option of a bracket that sits the gps device ahead of the bars. that would make it easier to see when in the saddle instead of having to frequently deflect viewing directly downwards. it would also have been a welcome addition to have included more than one bracket, particularly since the settings allow for two bikes. to have to swap the mount from one bike to another with any degree of frequency is a bit of a faff. you can, however, purchase more if you need them (£12.99 for two).
according to bryton, the internal battery, most easily charged by plugging it into the usb port of your computer, will last 17 hours with the gps switched on. the 20+ is ant+ enabled, offering a few additional accessories as separate purchase options, such as a speed sensor (used to counteract any loss of gps signal), cadence sensor and a heart-rate chest strap.
there are three buttons at the base of the unit: a big blue one most often used for confirming a selection as well as switching the device on and off. the two smaller and smoother grey buttons are used to navigate what seem like an endless series of menus, depending on either what you want to achieve or just how lost you get in the process. i got lost quite a few times. however, like most modern devices, familiarity breeds content.
after basic setup, aside from the standard displays of speed, distance, ride time, elapsed time, average speed, maximum speed, calories, sunset (yes, really), and clock, it's possible to use the bryton in training mode. this can be set to distance, time or calories expended; i'd love to say that since i never actually train, i left this bit well alone, but the truth is, i never quite figured out how it works. well, not entirely. i chose my training discipline and set the numbers to those i thought might prove effective, but i must have missed a step somewhere along the line for the results never became clear.
however, i was quite happy clicking along with the standard numbers on the bars, recording my every move. despite the more than effective waterproofing, in heavy rain, it is quite difficult to read the display without constantly flicking water away with a gloved finger. though the same could be said of any bike mounted display in the wet, smaller lcd displays suffer disproportionately. happily, inadvertantly leaving the device running when stopped does not impact upon average speed or ride time. it is possible to effect a pause, but i only managed that by accident.
of course, having ploughed through inclement weather at an average speed greater than truly ought to have been the case, the conscientious, not to say exhibitionist individual, will want some way to analyse all that transpired. bryton offer downloadable software that allows the user to save the digital record in a number of formats before uploading to either bryton's own dedicated web presence or to the ubiquitous strava. though not specifically pertinent to this review, i was rather amused at the latter's naming of any mild bump in the road as (for example) the col du foreland or col du rspb.
i'm not much of a numbers sort of chap, so popping a 90km ride on strava or brytonsport is not something i'd find myself inclined to do on a regular basis, but i get the impression that i may be in the minority with this one. it is, however, the only satisfactory means of taking a long look at the day's ride, should you have need of figuring out how to get better, or perhaps merely for public embarrassment, should you be into that sort of thing.
if simply used in the manner i have described as pertinent to my own riding (to be honest, nobody needs a gps on islay to find their way about), £100 is rather a lot to pay for what effectively becomes an expensive wireless computer. however, i am firmly of the belief that it is better to have and not need, than to need and not have. were the bryton to be a permanent fixture on my cielo, i'd be inclined to spend a few more investigative minutes figuring out all that it does and how. i'm sure i could find some means of pretending it's not training. we have very good satellite reception in this rural idyll; throughout the review, it never skipped a beat, though on occasion there was a demonstrable few seconds lag on displaying a reduction in speed; not something that i could make a big deal of, even were i to try harder.
if you're intent on joining the strava generation, this brings rather excellent entry level membership in a small package. adding a heart-rate chest strap adds £50 to your budget but that hardly places it outside the reach of many when you consider what it costs for a decent pair of cycle shorts these days. despite my misgivings about too many numbers getting in the way of a decent bike ride, i'll miss the little chap when he's gone.
monday 28 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there are objects in this world that have influence beyond any superficiality they might simply appear to own. the word iconic might readily be applied to many, but often as not, such an adjective becomes something of a cliche, thus devaluing its influence over more important details and objects. as an example, those cobbled roads in northern france, laid purely in the absence of tarmac to allow the farming community to travel between villages and their own fields.
though these large and unwieldy stone roads are still used to this day, the modern day tractor is a tad larger than those of yesteryear and may not find them as apposite as once they were. however, their relative innocence takes on a far more important role over one weekend in april each year, when we forget about the moaning we've done regarding the potholes on our own roads and cheer unreservedly at those participating in one of cycling's great monuments.
philippe brunel's kings of pain is not a new book. in fact, the title appears to have been one created by imperial works; brunel's original work was entitled le tour de france intimes. however, in his introduction, rapha's simon mottram pays tribute to having first opened the french edition around the turn of this century, almost 100 years after some of the book's photographs were taken. its significance bears relevance to rapha recently having celebrated their tenth anniversary, having occupied the original imperial works in 2004.
several years ago, in the original rapha cycle club in london's old street, i had arranged to meet with mr mottram to discuss rapha's prodigious and exemplary print output, a subject that i had intended to feature in the pixels of the post (it's an article that has yet to appear; the subject matter has turned out to be a lot larger and complex than i originally thought). simon had been given a copy of le tour de france intimes by rapha investor and board member, tim ashton, perhaps accidentally but undoubtedly setting the tone for ten years and counting of pain and suffering crafted from sportwool.
when time came to suffuse rapha's branding in its archetypal (some might say cliched) black and white format, a copy of the book was passed to photographer ben ingham, along with instruction to "make it so", as captain picard would have said. looking through this fabulous treasure trove of photos from the tour's early days, i'd say he did a darned fine job. rapha's re-publication of brunel's original, ten years after making sportwool a household word, pays tribute to that original philosophy, one that is still very much in evidence today.
despite the technological improvements that have imbued the world of photography, ultimately leading to several of the original film and camera companies going out of business, and the almost wholesale adoption of digital over film, there is a character and delight to early black and white film photography that arguably has never been superseded. looking longingly at a 1921 photo of swiss cyclists colle and parel taking a break in dalstein, moselle, it's hard to see the evidence that suggests a 24 megapixel nikon or canon has brought anything better to the party.
my review copy of kings of pain contained a short but excellent essay by grame fife in the box. entitled ex duris gloria it embodies, as only fife can, the philosophy and reality behind the phrase 'glory through suffering'.
"The history of cycle racing abounds with stories of endurance, willpower and sheer courage on an epic scale. The capacity of bike riders to drive themselves relentlessly, day after day through the pain barrier and way beyond makes them a breed apart."
if ever a collection of images was able to display the essence of graeme fife's words, those within kings of pain's 160 pages must surely be in with a fighting chance. tour riders receiving their after stage massage, being doused with a fire hose to lessen the effects of the heat, kneeling down to drink from a roadside bucket of water and desperately trying to remove a tyre with his teeth (bottecchia) in 1924, combine to define the meaning of convicts of the road. such imagery is very much at odds with the daily galleries accompanying this year's nibali showcase.
the book's cover has as its centrepiece, a photo of an irate ferdi kubler in 1949 brandishing a bicycle pump "in one of the towering rages for which he was famous." kubler is one of twenty-six of cycling's great heroes included in a book featuring metallic copper headings to each of brunel's chapters. bartali, coppi, van steenbergen, bobet, anquetil, poulidor, bahamontes, gimondi, merckx all feature, along with hinault, fignon, chiappucci and indurain amongst others. the only notable, conspicuous by his absence is surely luis ocana?
printed on heavy art paper, the photographic reproduction is peerless, as indeed is much of brunel's commentary.
"We may have thought we knew everything about the Tour and its cast of actors - racers, organizers, directeurs sportifs and reporters. But we never see champions the way we see them here: stripped of their glory, out of the spotlight..."
those of us who hold a long-time interest in the sport of cycle racing, who delight in its great history and the lives of those who created it, will find much here to gladden the heart. those of you more recently arrived at this most beautiful of sports, unaware of what preceded electric gear shifting and race radios, this truly ought to be compulsory reading. the very book that should come with every new road bike. your opinions of rapha are pretty much suprlus to requirements here; the inpsiration is clear to see, but one that applies to far more postcodes other than n7 9ah.
this might not be how we roll, but it's almost certainly why.
sunday 27 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
mrs washingmachinepost is, as i have mentioned on previous occasions, a childminder, and during the current school holiday, is followed by at least two young children from monday to friday. the two youngsters, aged three and five are brother and sister and currently attending swimming lessons at the local leisure centre each morning. the unseasonally warm, sunny weather and sweltering temperatures have led to an enforced daily visit to the small beach adjacent to bowmore harbour, where sand drawings, paddling and fort building have been the order of the day.
on their way home today, after dropping into the restaurant nearby to acquire lunch, the two kids popped into the office to taunt me with their vittles. prior to playing hooky for the afternoon to review a highly appropriate cycle jersey, i had been watching the commonwealth games women's pursuit qualifying on bbc iplayer on my web browser. as mrs washingmachinepost was keen to get home not only for lunch but also because she had a younger child in a buggy, i implored the older two to follow me outside. except on reaching the bright and sunny outdoors, i turned to find i was alone.
peeking round the office door, it was most encouraging to see both children sitting on my swivel computer chair eagerly watching the track cycling. calling on them to come on out, i heard only "but we want to watch the cycle racing!". these are the very words any childminder's husband wishes to hear, particularly since they were still grasping their lunch in a brown paper bag.
you can never start them too young.
in order that we might collectively start the process of brainwashing our offspring, and perhaps those of others, it gives me great pleasure to recommend eric's big day the latest offering from velopress, a book written and beautifully illustrated by author rod waters. originally published in france as 'le grand jour d'eric, the book has now been translated into english for which we ought to be eternally grateful.
at 28 pages, it hits the ideal spot for reading to the future sir bradley or katie archibald before they put their heads on the pillow at night. it is also a fine alternative to reading how tom beat captain najork and his hired sportsmen the night before.
i have no intention whatsoever of giving away the storyline - that's what your £9.95 is for - but suffice it to say, eric has been invited to emily's house to watch the cycle race and intends to get there by bicycle. not only does he prepare well for this relatively short trip, but has also need of taking a bunch of flowers to thank emily for the invitation.
now buy it (even if you've no kids to read it to).
saturday 26 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the word progress is generally accepted to denote improvement of one sort or another, though not unnaturally, it's a term not always accepted in the same way by everyone. not so many years ago coca-cola brought to market a new improved version of the age-old drink which, as it turned out, nobody preferred in place of its predecessor. and how often have you purchased edible goods with new improved size on the label, only to discover that the slogan is a euphemism for smaller?
in a convoluted manner, that's almost exactly what has happened, and is still happening in the field of super-dooper carbon racing bicycles. with the influx of money into the top level of the sport along with those oft-quoted marginal gains, every effort is made to provide the best riders with bicycles that will meet their every need, particularly when it comes to offering the greatest resistance to any waste of effort. it's a situation that has led to the cliched 'vertical compliance and lateral stiffness', a phrase quite often quoted without either thought or even comprehension.
i have no doubt whatsoever that the world's top professionals and even those occupying the lower slopes of the sport are most grateful for these endless improvements. when you spend inordinate periods of time training to be at your very best, the last thing on the list would be a frame that flexes at the mere hint of extra watts. but without wishing to state the glaringly obvious, those for whom such features have been developed are not the chaps or chapesses who hand over their hard-earned in return for just such a velocipede.
that's where we're supposed to come in.
the average cyclists fall into three groups: those for whom the latest in aerospace nano fibres is the very reason for their existence; those who rather enjoy the benefits of whizz-bang technology along with a token old skool frame or two in the bikeshed; and lastly, those for whom the bicycle is an object of either transport or nostalgic delight. no doubt you could subdivide those three classifications even further, but i'm here dealing with wide-ranging generalisations for the puproses of brevity.
the resurgence of individual framebuilders both in north america and, more recently, in the uk has offered succour to those who felt estranged by acres and acres of very similar looking carbon fibre. for most of these have adopted an approach towards the work ethic displayed by richard sachs, though perhaps eschewing the lugs in favour of tig welding or fillet brazing. it's hard to avoid contemporary groupsets when time comes to complete the assembly, and in point of fact, succumbing to elderly, non-indexed gearsets could legitimately be described as a tad eccentric. a beautiful steel frame will still exhibit the same traits when clad in campagnolo eps as it will draped with polished nuovo record.
in my estimation, you can take enthusiasm just a smidgeon too far.
however, very many of the world's great marques have either dispensed with the retro aspect of their ranges, or retain a singular example for reasons of commercial heritage. except one of the more notables has decided on a more intriguing route. gios, a brand with every bit as much attachment to a specific colour as is/was bianchi. there can be few with a decent sense of perspicacity who do not find themselves at least tentatively besotted with gios blue, a gloriously glossy shade that either features not at all on their contemporary carbon range or in diluted form. up till now, an all-over colour on an italian carbon frame is something of a rarity.
in 2009 aldo gios split the company in two; the gios brand remains unaltered, though judging by their 2014 catalogue, mostly in thrall to the art of burnt plastic. the second part of the company has been renamed prodigiosa and concentrates on continuing the heritage of handbuilt, lugged steel for those of us particularly enamoured of the genre. though i have carbon and several variations of steel, the prodigiosa frames in trademark gios blue are little short of fabulousness.
in this day and age, when the majority of the big players seem devoted to the carbon monocoque and learning chinese, it is most gratifying that aldo gios has the cojones to continue such impressive and artistic craftsmanship. it's interesting to note on the prodigiosa website, aldo states: 'a steel frame is like a gold coin. it keeps its value as the years pass by' as well as 'the frame is the heart of the bicycle, and the groupset merely the clothes it puts on.'
from others less well-versed in the art of steel, that may come across as just so much rhetoric. it is heartening to learn that at least one historic italian frame provider is perfectly in tune with his prospective clientele.
friday 25 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
having completely failed to observe my own rule not to feature the tour de france on the post while the race is in progress, i doubt another careless mention will go amiss. after all, who's counting? thankfully, in my eyes at least, i have not descended into punditry, partly because i'm totally rubbish at that sort of thing, but mostly because there are others far better prepared and qualified than i.
and to risk more obvious pun-ditry, i have no wish to reinvent the wheel.
those two days in yorkshire over the weekend of 5 and 6 july now seem like ancient history, and though that's exactly what they'll become part of in due course, the beginning has already started, if you'll eventually see what i mean. even though i made complaint towards the number of press releases arriving in my inbox, advising me as to the myriad of activities with even the most tenuous of connections to the tour de france, the reception given to the bike race was little short of miraculous.
if you consider that a sizeable proportion of those gathered at the side of the roads, possibly had little idea of what they were about to wave their union jacks at, it cannot be denied that yorkshire provided every bit as impressive a welcome to le tour as any french village or mountain you care to mention. for that, they deserve a hearty slap on the back. as gary verity, ceo of welcome to yorkshire said; "We made history that weekend, and it's only right that there should be a record that people can keep and look through over the years to remind them of the excitement and the spectacle."
official photographer simon wilkinson appears to have been the catalyst for the production of this official record of sun and marvellous crowds. as part of their preparations for the tour's arrival "We drove the route a few times, with stunning locations like Buttertubs popping up across both days. I mentioned the idea of a coffee-table book to Gary Verity and his team at the beginning of this year. We all thought, in principle, it would make a great memento of the Grand Depart, but I had some doubts if we would actually have the material to fill a book, especially if the weather went against us. Now, two weeks on, we've been blown away by the images we've seen and they are all in this book."
'two days in yorkshire' is the title of this 144 page hardcover coffee table book written by peter cossins and the chap from welcome to yorkshire', andrew denton. it features over 200 images from a glorious yet brief period in britain's cycling history. if ordered prior to the end of the tour this sunday, the price will be £27.50. after that point, it's likely to cost a tad more. if this is something you'd fancy adding to your bookshelves of tour de france publications, pop over to twodaysinyorkshire.com
thursday 24 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if anything might genuinely be classified as the bane of the cyclist, no matter which genre one prefers to call one's own, it is the less than humble puncture. there really is no time at which such a deflationary happenstance might be considered fortuitous, though perhaps a sudden egress of air just as you arrive home to the bikeshed could be thought of in a more favourable light. even then, however, having to fix the darned thing is still a bit of a faff. i wonder these days if anyone still carries a puncture repair kit when out and about, for the pragmatism of going down that route thoroughly escapes me. who amongst us would be happy to stand at the side of an obscure country single-track road, in pouring rain and wind, trying manfully or womanfully to not only find where that flipping hole is, but then attempting to stick a patch over it?
the smart money is on packing at least one spare tube, preferably of the correct size for the bicycle you happen to be riding, as well as a tyre lever. though several combinations of tyre and wheel rim seem designed these days to be mutually exclusive when time comes to either fit one to t'other or in this case, separate the two, there's no chance that forward motion will be regained until there is air inside both inner tubes. i need surely not additionally point out that aside from the aforementioned repair duo, a bicycle pump comes in remarkably handy. i have been in the company of fellow members of the pelotonese who deign it necessary to carry the tube and tyre lever yet leave home without a pump.
there's nothing really to compare with the average track pump; the effort required to reach the higher numbers of pounds per square inch is vastly eased compared to either the full length frame-fit version and manifestly simpler than using those tiny little pocket pumps. however, aside from the sartorial exigencies of riding with a track pump in your back pocket (never a good look), in this universe, doing so could never be thought a practical solution. thus, smaller but ever increasingly efficient pocket pumps have become the saviour of the modern velocipedinist.
on my first venture abroad to participate in a large group ride, the advice prior to departure was to carry one of those little pumps that ultilise carbon dioxide cartridges to inflate. as it turned out, a following van with mechanic and spare wheels rendered that advice somewhat superfluous, for which i was truly grateful, for at that point i had yet to risk inflating a tyre in this manner. it was something that seemed a tad scary at the time.
since those days, and despite security at gard du nord being inordinately suspicious of four little brass coloured tubes in my luggage, inflating tyres via co2 has become a common practice.
however, no matter how efficient inflatory technology becomes, the faff is still in unhitching the wheel from its fork and all the subsequent gubbing about with tyres, levers and inner tubes. what we really need, in the absence of a following team car or mavic neutral support, is the cyclist's equivalent of those street angels, groups of well-meaning individuals who patrol the highways, byways and underground rail stations of the world, safeguarding the hapless against those who mean them harm.
would not it be particularly joyous if, at the point of an unexpected puncture along one's merry way, a group of these un-named and unidentified individuals appeared as if from nowhere and took charge of the situation?
sort of like this...
wednesday 23 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i cannot tell a fib; i was under the impression that kali was the hindu goddess of death, and that seemed somewhat of an odd name to append to a company making helmets. in terms of branding, surely the precise opposite of the message that those in the business of offering protective headgear would like to send to its prospective customers. thus the phrase kali protectives appeared to be something of an oxymoron. but closer investigation proves me to be if not completely wide of the mark, certainly a smidgeon off to one side. for it transpires that the hindus place an altogether different interpretation. recent movements within the religion apparently now consider kali to be a benevolent mother goddess. that gives me a tad more confidence in this particular branding exercise.
for i rather like my head. aside from providing me with my rugged handsomeness, it also provides me with a pair of ears on which to place my rudy projects. in the midst of the current, yet uncharacteristic sunny spell we're having this far out in the atlantic, a pair of tinted shades are as much of a necessity as is a cycle helmet. and that brings us very neatly round to the phenom from california based kali about whom we have just held a brief philosophical discussion.
kali protectives is the brainchild (if you'll pardon the pun) of brad waldron, a man who started his career in aerospace research and development before re-setting his sights and values on translating his skills and learning towards the consumer. in other words; us. not that one ought to be taking anyone to task over their use of the english language, especially when instigated from across the pond, but on the kali protectives website, the hapless mr waldron is entitled as a literal rocket scientist when i think they might more correctly have labeled him as literally a rocket scientist. there is a pedantic yet symantic difference.
however, kali have the susbtantial saving grace of having a rather fabulous logo, one that features strategically on this, their latest road style helmet. i'm generally in favour of helmets that look as if they're travelling fast even when sitting in the box, for though looks offer no indication as to effectiveness, it strikes me as a good start. on looks alone, the admirably named phenom offers at least an extra 5kph. what it also unexpectedly offers is a removeable, clear aeroshell should you have little desire to shell (sorry) out for a separate time-trial helmet.
despite the phenom aggrandising my potential velocity, i'm not sure i have sufficient nous to know when to keep the aeroshell on, and when to remove it. however, the fact that the helmet arrived mere moments before i was about to head off into the wide blue yonder meant that my cack-handed attempts to remove the clear, shiny bit had it remain in place for the duration. i'd be fibbing if i were to say it got me to debbie's any quicker, but it did seem to reduce the wind noise and heat up my head just a tad. i subsequently discovered that removing the shell is more easily achieved from the rear of the helmet rather than the front.
that didn't work at all.
as far as the current crop of road cycling helmets go, the kali phenom is not the lightest in class. however, that rather fills me with more confidence than you might think. for despite their web-based protestations that mass x acceleration increases force, a more substantial and well-constructed mass (within reason) atop my cranium, i consider to be a very a good thing. ironically, the very thing for which the phenom was designed is the one thing that most reviewers (self included) hope never to find out first hand; the safety certification sticker on the inside will suffice for me.
the construction technology is referred to by kali as composite fusion plus, combining two different polystyrene foam densities eliminating any gaps and providing an internal structure that offers greater protection in the event of a crash. however, there's little point in offering the ultimate in head protection if your head overheats while conducting normal day to day velocipedinal activity. to prevent this being the case and still offering a high degree of rigidity, the phenom is well specified in the number and size of air-vents, even offering commendable venting when the aeroshell is in place.
fitting of the contemporary cycle helmet is no longer a case of mixing and matching different thicknesses of internal pads. sizing is now achieved by means of an adjustable cage, altered by means of a wheel at rear dead-centre, turning clockwise to pull the internal band around one's temple. it's very effective in practice, though the wheel's tactility is a bit uncomfortable on the fingers. however, in its favour, it can be adjusted on the fly while riding.
i always wear a cycle cap under my helmet, a factor that the phenom (medium/large reviewed) handled with ease and aplomb. the front of the helmet provides a commendable overhang, a feature that wouds surely offer greater protection to that rugged handsomeness i talked about earlier should a face plant unexpectedly present itself. if caps are not your thing, the phenom comes with a replaceable internal hairnet to keep the bugs at bay.
the strap and buckle are, in essence, no different to others on the market; comfortable in use and easy to fasten and release. the bumperfit pads are composed of 'memory foam' to provide more effective and repeatable comfort. i'm also impressed that the foam pads velcro in place; that way, when the rear pad failed to clear the back of my cycle cap, it was simplicity itself to pop it back in place. not something that has always proved to be the case with those stuck in place. the phenom is available in white, black, black/yellow, red/black or black/green, and in two sizes: small/medium or medium/large.
the kali phenom is comfortable, stylish, well-ventilated and offers this particular wearer encouraging feelings of confidence. and in return for all the above, it requires only £139.99 to make it yours.
tuesday 22 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.
club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.
bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading...........................................................................................................................................................................................................