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this is cambridge

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condor cycles ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"at last, a smattering of real weather."

©2016 the mighty dave t, is a prendas sponsored rider and le patron of the thoroughly decent fellows. the mighty dave t recommends purple harry products

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in and out those dusty blubels

blubel

a good few years ago, i had notions of participating in rapha's hell of the north bike ride in london town and had usefully engaged the services of designer, graeme raeburn, to guide me from my accommodation to the ride start near highgate cemetery. it transpired that my watch was more than just a few minutes ahead of itself, so the apparent time at which we had agreed to meet passed, but without any sign of graeme. foolishly, thinking that he lived along my direction of travel, i set off expecting to meet him en-route.

blubel

of course, graeme lived in entirely the opposite direction and i had headed off into the big city, not only with no idea of where i was going, but more importantly, without the guide on whom i had intended to rely. still, i wasn't totally unprepared; prior to leaving home, i had copied a few pages from google maps just in case. however, anyone who has attempted to find their way about a bustling metropolis such as london's city centre, will know that a few folded sheets of photocopied paper in a back pocket are most certainly not the way to go about it.

blubel

to cut a long and potentially dangerous story short, i never quite made it to highgate cemetery and the subsequent london parallel to paris-roubaix. in fact, as the ride was due to commence, i had only just made it to oxford street, having circumnavigated a few roundabouts more than just once and found myself heading down a one-way street in the wrong direction. not the sort of situation anyone wants to find themselves in and made all the more frightening by having no idea where i was at any given time. the return trip was every bit as fraught as the abortive outward expedition.

blubel

those of you who regularly navigate the roads of the country's capital on a daily basis will doubtless be concealing more than just a few sniggers, or even a loud guffaw. but remember that i am more used to obscure, single-track roads and fending off stray sheep and the odd errant hired motorhome. it would be very hard for me to get lost on islay even if i put a bit of effort into it.

gps is hardly the latest technology on the block, but assuming i could be persuaded to acquire a smartphone in the first place, there can be little argument over the visibility of the average touch-screen when affixed to a pair of handlebars. even less so if necessity dictates that it be pulled from a pocket at regular intervals to pinpoint precisely how lost i really am. but short of learning the knowledge (impractical if only in town for a brief visit), or having a guide positioned on every appropriate street corner, i can see little alternative.

blubel

thankfully, the latter option might just be a smidgeon closer than i at first thought. brokering on kickstarter only a matter of days ago is blubel, launched with the assistance of the european space agency and ibm. blubel consists of a slightly oversized bicycle bell (that can actually be rung in the accepted manner), which attaches to bicycle handlebars and points to the way home. positioned around the top of the blubel's circumference are a series of leds which illuminate at the behest of a smartphone app into which you have previously typed your destination. as the kickstarter page describes...

blubel

"Every time a Blubel is rung, it indicates an alert point in the supporting app and cloud technology. These location points and other journey data are gathered and analysed to calculatesafest routes and highlight any potential hazards on your selected route. Because we believe in the collective wisdom of the cycling community."

a bit like pretty much everything nowadays, the blubel is charged via usb with a projected battery life of two weeks, while the device itself is removable whenever the bicycle is parked. the most obvious advantage of the device is its simplicity; there's no need to strain eyes in the middle of traffic attempting to get yourself out of the maze. those lights around the edge of the blubel, in conjunction with the smartphone secreted about your person, will continually indicate the direction of travel. using cloud technology, it can route you past any potential snarl ups and will even recalculate your journey should you get lost.

in my case, i would imagine the latter feature would find itself working overtime.

the simplicity of blubel's design and its implementation are remarkably commendable. assuming yourself to be wholly in agreement, i have thoughtfully placed the kickstarter link below.

blubel kickstarter camapaign

friday 24 june 2016

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shand cycles ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

hilltrek greenspot double ventile jacket (part 1)

hilltrek greenspot double ventile jacket

though i can only attest to the current technological developments in the world of velocipedinal apparel, i know from a process of osmosis that it stands not alone. only a matter of days ago, a news item concerned whether it was an appropriate use of a government funded antarctic research vessel to guide a cruise ship through the northern passages, a debate that may not yet be resolved. but if there are sufficient numbers of tourists wishing to brave the sub-zero temperatures of the arctic or antarctic, it seems more than likely that they will all be in need of appropriate attire.

that need will doubtless have kickstarted an entire series of new ranges from the outdoor folks, keen to outfit all those well-heeled tourists in sore need of colourful, stylish outdoor-wear with an entire array of technical features that can be discussed over a cooked, on-board breakfast. so aside from the possibility of improved sales to a hitherto non-existent market, there will be a pressing need from the various marketing departments to populate the hang-tags with all manner of technical jargon.

hilltrek greenspot double ventile jacket

yet, almost like the resurgence of merino wool, now positioned as one of the ultimate technical fabrics, there is a material originally developed as far back as the 1930s, designed to replace a perceived national shortage of flax for fire hoses and water buckets. the research into just such a replacement centred around the use of cotton threads, but woven in such a way as to keep water in. this research was subsequently diverted towards the complementary feature of waterproofing demanded by wartime pilots required to ditch their hurricane aircraft in the sea (there was no means of landing them on the decks of the merchant ships from which they had been catapulted.)

trials commenced at manchester's shirley institute eventually resulted in a woven cotton fabric which they termed ventile. military clothing manufactured from this new material was begun in 1943 and extended those pilots' life expectancy in the water from a few minutes to almost twenty. the association of ventile with the military continues to this day.

hilltrek greenspot double ventile jacket

ventile is made from 100% cotton fibres, neither coated nor laminated. it's the combination of the material's woven density and a propensity to swell when wet that provides its excellent waterproofing abilities. naturally enough, the weave also provides the ideal level of windproofing and comfort as well as a concomitant degree of breathability.

so why don't we use it for cycling jackets then?

that is a rather excellent question, but unfortunately one that i'm unable to answer. what i do hope to answer is how well a greenspot double-ventile jacket from hilltrek of aboyne, aberdeenshire fares as a cycling jacket, given that its original purpose might not have been cycling specific. it's quite probably also worth pointing out that this is not the sort of jacket that chris froome would pop back to the team car for, in the event of a sudden bout of inclement weather. hilltrek's greenspot seems more the jacket to be worn for commuting or touring purposes.

the epithet double-ventile most likely refers to the jacket's construction, featuring a ventile outer along with a ventile inner lining, though it's not without credibility that the latter might impact, however subtly, upon the jacket's ultimate breathability.

hilltrek greenspot double ventile jacket

the reason that this review will occupy two distinct parts, has a great deal to do with the weather that the hebrides has experienced these past few weeks. the curse of the waterproof review is well-known; receive a waterproof jacket or jersey through the post and there's every chance that the weather will be bone-dry for longer than i can reasonably get away with, yet not send an e-mail of apology to the supplier. so far, i have sent two e-mails of apology to hilltrek.

that's not to say that i haven't managed to get it wet on more than a solitary occasion, nor that it hasn't been worn while meaningfully pedalling somewhere, but i'm sure you'd agree that a jacket of this provenance deserves a thorough soaking, preferably in the teeth of a howling gale, climatic conditions that have been conspicuous by their absence of late. that particular set of circumstances will have to wait until part two.

though available with a detachable hood (at extra cost), that would seem an unnecessary appendage from a cyclist's point of view, given that a substantial number of us would be inclined to wear a helmet in any case. if you intend adding one of these superlative jackets to your walking gear wardrobe, you may wish to take this under advisement. despite the double-ventile construction, the jacket is impressively light weight, meaning that wearing it even in humid conditions is far less onerous than its genre would suggest.

hilltrek greenspot double ventile jacket

from a cycling perspective, the greenspot has a number of features in its favour, the most obvious of which is the existence of two rear (zipped) pockets. though sticking a mini-pump in one of those necessitates leaving it unzipped, in practice that's hardly much of a problem. ventile offers no stretch whatsoever, but that's hardly something unseen on a number of cycle jackets. and though the jacket displays no excessive degree of flappage even into a headwind, there are two adjustable straps to pull the torso a smidgeon tighter should you experience any while pedalling.

my blaze orange review sample is medium-sized, offering an excellent compromise between closeness of fit and the ability to add layers later in the year (when it's not quite so sunny and warm) it's perfectly comfortable in both the sit-up-and-beg position and on the drops. the latter position, however, showed up the one noticeable flaw; the sleeves are just a tad too short; another centimetre wouldn't have gone amiss. in mitigation, hilltrek offer the option of custom-length sleeves (at extra cost). definitely worth considering in my opinion.

in addition to the two rear pockets, the greenspot offers another four on the front: two vertically zipped editions up top, and two zipped hand pockets lower down. the collar is impressively versatile, allowing it to be positioned up or down depending on the prevailing weather conditions. the sleevs can be effectively closed to the elements by way of velcro straps. this is a handy and convenient method of controlling ventilation other than by way of the full-length two-way front zip. this hides a similar length ventile baffle behind to maintain the weatherproofing. it would have been nice to see a drawcord at the hem, but until the weather deteriorates, i can't say whether such a feature might be necessary.

hilltrek greenspot double ventile jacket

i have managed to get the jacket wet, but not quite in the proportions that it is capable of sustaining. even in a brief, yet heavy shower, the rain simply beads on the surface and rolls off. pretty much any waterproof jacket worth its salt will display similar properties, but usually only as far as the first couple of washes. despite being of cotton construction, the washing instructions supplied by hilltrek do not allow for throwing the jacket in the nearest washing machine. dry-clean only at least promises that the waterproofing properties are likely to remain for the foreseeable future. it does, however, provide a minor problem for those of us who live nowhere near a dry-cleaner.

but i can't expect to have everything. right?

with a bit of luck, the heavens will open sometime soon, accompanied by at least an afternoon's gale-force wind and i can gain some quality time with a quality jacket that i really, really like. part two will be here when that happens.

hilltrek's double-ventile greenspot jacket is available in sizes xs to xl and a range of colours including bronze, red, black, olive, navy, stone and cinnamon as well as the blaze orange reviewed. price is £235. a detachable hood costs another £45. | hilltrek double ventile greenspot jacket

thursday 23 june 2016

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#challenge95

world bicycle relief #challenge95

at least within the confines of our sitting room, my aversion to numbers is all but legendary. this is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, for the more this aversion manifests itself, the more i manage to convince myself that numbers are not my principal forté, and the truer it becomes. thankfully, this does not overly impinge on my ability to maintain a decent and accurate set of annual accounts, though the bulk of that task has been delegated to a rather efficient spreadsheet. assuming its operator inputs the correct numbers, all is well with the world.

world bicycle relief #challenge95

this has occasionally become an awkward dichotomy, for i have long been enamoured with douglas adams' tale of ford prefect, the two-headed zaphod beeblebrox, arthur dent and marvin the robot with a brain the size of a planet. despite the cover of the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy advising the reader not to panic, the fact that the central premise of the book results in the answer '42' would seem, this, in my case at least, to be counter-intuitive.

world bicycle relief #challenge95

this disinclination to align myself with the meaning of life, the universe and everything is countermanded by my early percussive career. i can deny it no longer that i am one of those individuals who displayed an early infatuation with so-called progressive rock, despite some of it scarcely being recognisable as rock and not always as progressive as its proponents would have had me believe. in the case of this particular musical genre, the bands concerned would rarely play in 4/4 when there was such a plethora off odd time signatures available to spice up at least one or two of their progressive manipulations.

world bicycle relief #challenge95

it took only a few recordings from yes, genesis and king crimson to have my paradiddles inhabit bars of seven, nine and even 13 beats in the service of music that was probably only described as such by those on this side of the foldback monitors. sadly enough, i note that of late, my vic firth sds4 drumsticks seem to be once more expressing themselves in odd subdivisions.

but one particular number that has recently gained particular significance in relation to the world of the velocipede is '95'. this is not, as you would be forgiven for surmising, the speed in kph experienced by chris froome during a fast descent on the way to victory in the dauphiné, but the cost in pound notes of a world bicycle relief buffalo bicycle. one of those incredibly sturdy, yet immensely practical machines that the charity distributes to those in need within the african continent.

world bicycle relief #challenge95

though you and i have the ability and often the wherewithal to festoon our slivers of carbon fibre with devices that will return any number of meaningful and yet meaningless numbers, such devices can rarely substitute for the sheer joy of riding a bicycle. in the case of those proud african owners of buffalo bicycles who can now ride to school, cycle to work, collect water on a daily basis and even nurse those in their immediate communities, 95 is the only number that seriously matters. however, it matters more directly to you and i, for world bicycle relief's latest challenge95 campaign is designed to persuade us to undertake any sort of fundraising activity, wheeled or otherwise, to achieve as many multiples of £95 as is practicable, providing them with the opportunity to deliver more buffalo bicycles to africa.

wbr see no need for you to do so all on your lonesome, providing online facilities to aid the setting up of a suitable fundraising page. with summer allegedly on the horizon, why not go out on your bike, enjoy yourselves with the aid of any gps, cadence or powermeter you care to mention and have friends and family empty their piggy banks in favour of your efforts and ultimately in favour of more buffalo bikes for the less well-favoured in africa. if nothing else, why not join us on august 6 for the ride of the falling rain and make the recommended voluntary donation of 10 to world bicycle relief?

one of a number of options.

photos: matt pierce

world bicycle relief #challenge95

wednesday 22 june 2016

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"smashed it!"

jimmy mac's ride for charlene

i mentioned at the beginning of last week that the king of scotland, jimmy mccallum was undertaking a 517 mile ride around the north of scotland in order to raise funds for thrombosis uk in memory of a young family member who died last year of the disease. i confess that, at the time, quite what that distance looked like on a map hadn't quite clicked; when the pr blurb referred to a route across the north of scotland, i had in mind something far less onerous than is/was actually the case.

starting and finishing in inverness, jimmy mac, assuming he was taking advantage of the usually prevailing south westerly winds and rode clockwise, headed across the country to applecross before heading north through gairloch, poolewe, ullapool and ultimately to kinlochbervie and durness before turning east towards john o'groats via dounreay and thurso, then south once more to reach inverness and the end of this particular purgatory. if i've misinterpreted the direction of his ride, simply read that lot backwards.

the fundraising target was a not inconsiderable ten thousand pounds of which a creditable £9,191 had been raised at the time of writing. however, if you read on for a few more paragraphs, you may feel encouraged to pop over to jimmy's just giving page and offer a few more shekels for the coffers.

my first meeting with jimmy was in the esteemed premises of rondebike in edinburgh's stockbridge. at that time he was a fully paid up member of the rapha condor jlt race team, and only a particularly well-timed remark from claire beaumont of condor cycles prevented me from making even more of a fool of myself than i ususally do. for i seriously wondered if this fellow wasn't taking fandom just a tad too far, arriving on a rapha condor jlt team bike and kitted out in every item of team clothing i believed was available at the time.

i hadn't recognised mr mcallum and was about to put both feet in my mouth when claire greeted the chap who had sat down opposite to join me in a cup of coffee, while he explained that he had just completed the day's training session. having met the fellow once more at a glasgow round of the revolution series and again at the british championships in glasgow, i can attest that his training regime appeared to be paying due benefit.

jimmy mac's ride for charlene

though now retired from active service and currently a directeur sportif at one pro cycling jimmy has obviously not let up on the maintenance of speed, undermining mark beaumont's existing record for the north coast 500 on saturday past by just over nine hours. the record stood at 38 hours; jimmy mac completed the route in an incredible 28 hours 57 minutes. though it does not lie with me to persuade you to contribute to jimmy's fundraising effort, if you have not already contributed, it would be a noble gesture to acknowledge this superhuman effort and at the same time support a charity involved in promoting awareness of a little recognised disease.

i have once more appended jimmy's just giving web page below. you know the drill.

donate to the king of scotland's record breaking ride | ride for charlene

tuesday 21 june 2016

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old habits die hard

rapha shadow jersey

i have a retired next door neighbour who is perhaps less actively occupied than was once the case. and like many on the island, the weather has taken on a greater significance than is perhaps the case for the rest of us. this is not, you will understand, because it is of any great significance to the day's activities, but probably because the day affords a greater amount of time to check a variety of online forecasts for the area.

unless i am planning on departing the island by way of a calmac ferry, i generally pay very little heed to the weather forecasts, particularly at this time of year. for starters, we are going to get what we're going to get; no amount of flipping from one weather report to another is going to alter that fact. additionally, islay seems to occupy a weather niche all of its very own. rare are the occasions when either the forecast for northern ireland (25 miles to the south) or that projected for south-west scotland will actually agree, let alone feature any degree of accuracy.

rapha shadow jersey

similarly, if we take into account the above mentioned task of checking the weather, or more specifically, the windspeed for a projected ferry sailing, i have my doubst as to whether the word 'forecast' is really the most appropriate. more often than not, the weather and wind shown for any given weekend will have altered dramatically between first look on monday morning and that viewed by saturday morning. due to this particular feature, we have learned not to take any online weather forecast at face value until the evening before.

like i said, 'forecast' is probably not the correct term.

however, resigning myself to the knowledge that no matter in what weather i would like to go riding, it's going to be what it's going to be. it also behoves me well to recall the well-worn epithet that there really is no such thing as bad weather, simply poor choice of clothing, a mantra that pertains to every cyclist worldwide. and those involved in the realm of cycling apparel will currently be beavering feverishly on our behalf, intent on bringing the very latest available technology to keep us warm and dry when announcing their autumn/winter ranges later this year.

rapha pro team race cape

these will feature a photo shoot or lookbook that exists in a contradictory climate space. for perhaps obvious reasons, we would scarcely wish to view a thermal jacket and winter tights photographed in bright, sunny conditions; we want to see rain, wind, snow and gloom. but the months preceding the product launches are usually the best we get all year, meaning that while the velo club rides in sultry conditions, some poor souls are ensconced in a region promising the crappes weather that the art director could find.

one of the products launched at the beginning of january this year was rapha's shadow jersey and bibshorts, oddly enough in short sleeve format at the very point of the year when short sleeves are the last thing you'd intend to wear. however, the shadow fabric lived up to every promise included in the press release and now that short sleeves are far more de rigeur, when there is the promise of a downpour (as advised by my neighbour on saturday night and first thing sunday morning), it would seem the natural choice.

so why, then, did i stuff a rain jacket in the back pocket?

monday 20 june 2016

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eat some food, ride your bike

eat some food, ride your bike

in 1932 the cine kodak eight motion picture format was introduced, oddly enough using a special 16mm film that featured double the number of perforations on both sides. though we're all used to simply pointing the current crop of smartphones at any moving object nowadays to capture ultra hi-definition video, this particular format entailed running the film through the camera in one direction, then opening up the camera, reload the film and expose the other side. once processing was complete, the developing lab would have to split the film lengthwise resulting in about 50 feet of finished 8mm film.

eat some food, ride your bike

that level of faff continued until 1965, when kodak introduced their super 8 format. this was the more convenient means of movie-making that turned a whole slew of individuals into their own personal steven spielbergs. the fact that the film was now encased in a plastic cartridge meant no more having to thread the film into the camera. it was darned near foolproof and pretty much eliminated jamming, something that could not be said about the preceding 16mm format. and now the whole length of film could be shot without interruption.

eat some food, ride your bike

it was 1973, however, before a magnetic strip was added to the side of the film, allowing synced sound recording with the image.

at the risk of emulating my hero, victor meldrew, today's potential film-makers are the very folks for whom it has been considered necessary to place crossing signals on the road surface, so intent are the majority at staring downwards at their touch-screens. it would take major surgery to separate most of them from their dear, darling smartphones. it often seems that life might as well and here and now if leaving the phone at home means more than an hour or so without checking every friend's facebook status.

eat some food, ride your bike

you can tell, i daresay, that i have neither a mobile phone nor a facebook status.

however, anachronistic though it might seem, not everyone has adopted 4k resolution as their modus operandi. some are happily entrenched in the past, so to speak, continuing to capture facets of contemporary life on celluloid; that kodak super 8 format, now that you come to mention it. shot on a single cartridge of kodak vision 3 200t super 8 film is a thoroughly delightful three minute movie entitled 'eat some food, ride your bike'. though there are any number of non-linear editing software options available for next to no cost nowadays, this particular film, depicting the habitual riding of an apparently self-sufficient cyclist, features no editing at all. filmed in sequence, the only aspect of post production was the addition of a non-synced soundtrack.

eat some food, ride your bike

it cannot be denied that star wars it most certainly isn't. if anything, it's rather mundane, but it does capture the essence of what it's like to repetitively cycle a bicycle for days at a stretch for the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle. i think we can all identify with that particular aspect of velocipedinal life. and at the risk of appearing as the retro-loving curmudgeon that i have (happily) become, there's something intangible imparted by film, that a series of high-definition pixels simply can't replace.

a delightful diversion from today's all-enveloping modernity.

eat some food, ride your bike - the movie

sunday 19 june 2016

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powered by hippo technology

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sales pitch

vinnie colaiuta and gretsch drums

one or two of you may recognise the name, vinnie colaiuta. he is generally reckoned to be probably the best technically capable session drummer in the world, certainly the finest at reading extremely technical parts; colaiuta is one of the few drummers in existence who could navigate their way through frank zappa's the black page #1, so-called because the density of notes all but obscured the parchment on which it was written. i first came across his drumming on the joni mitchell song, 'wild things run fast' and tried in vain to master the drum-fill that features in the song's middle section.

a vhs video (yes, that long ago) of the buddy rich big band with steve gadd, dave weckl and vinnie had them all playing yamaha drumsets, a situation that continues to be the case for all but colaiuta. he shifted his endorsement from the japanese drum company to that of gretsch, but only for a year or two before upping sticks and moving over to ludwig. this latter move was made all the more notable within the drumming community when he also left the zildjian cymbal company for whom he'd been an endorser for many a long year and joined switzerland's paiste. the ludwig endorsement lasted a remarkably short time.

the majority of top drummers are keen to garner endorsements with major dum companies because it means that not only do they often pick-up occasionally lucrative clinic tours, but are provided with suitable drumsets all across the world wherever they might be playing, saving a considerable amount of money on airfreighting often substantial-sized kits to far flung corners of the world.

after leaving ludwig, for a while, colaiuta played a set handmade by an american drum builder before recently announcing that he had returned to gretsch. i confess that, if i was gretsch's man at the top, i'd have told him precisely where he could put his pair of drumsticks, but commercial considerations often contradict knee-jerk reactions. vinnie has been welcomed back with an embarrassingly twee video demonstrating the unboxing of vinnie's new, larger and bright blue drumset.

but these endorsements, particularly in cases such as the above, often seem utterly pointless and ultimately valueless. former weather report drummer, peter erskine also left yamaha a few years back for america's drum workshop. then only a matter of months ago, he shifted to japan's tama drums claiming it had nothing to do with money, but everything to do with sound. quite why these drummers think that the majority of us will place any faith in their subsequent platitudes about how [insert current brand here] drums are the very best they've ever played, i really cannot fathom.

professional cyclists occupy an altogether different situation. in the case of those sitting on world tour saddles, it is most often the manufacturers who are responsible for making any claims of brand superiority. after his unexpected win in this year's giro d'italia, specialized ran a full page ad in the cycling monthlies showing a victorious vincenzo nibali aboard his specialized bicycle, accompanied by the caption 'inconceivable'. though i do not follow post race commentary as closely as perhaps i ought to, i have not seen any quotes from nibali attesting to the make of bicycle on which he rode as at being least partially responsible for providing him with a pink jersey.

that is mostly because professional bike riders rarely, if ever, have any say on which brand of bicycle they challenge for victory. to place this in perspective, nibali could likely have won the giro aboard one of halford's finest. the majority of us are aware of this, the manufacturers know that we know and the riders, by and large, could care less, yet marketing budgets worth millions are still spent on persuading us that if it's good enough for vincenzo, it's good enough for you and me. in reality, that is undoubtedly true, but the same is also true of pinarello, colnago, canyon or pretty much any world tour, pro-continental or continental bicycle you care to mention.

the same goes for clothing. it would be hard to deny that the information gained by the world's top cycle clothiers by sponsoring the world's top teams, has not benefitted the great unwashed, but do not believe that geraint thomas or ian stannard wear rapha out of choice. next year, that choice will be removed, at least in the competitive realm.

marketing has always occupied a space remarkably close to that of statistics in that they often feature "lies, damn lies and..." well, i'm sure you can figure out the rest.

sadly, i never thought to ask which make of bicycle vinnie rides.

saturday 18 june 2016

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did eddy actually say that?

eddy merckx

the machrie hotel on islay, situated well off the main road around halfway between the village of port ellen and islay international airport, closed for business some five years ago, when the previous owners effectively ran out of money. it has since been purchased by new owners who are in the process of knocking down substantial chunks of bricks and mortar prior to a total refurbishment and a comprehensive building programme. though the hotel itself might not be world famous, the attached golf links apparently is and despite the renovations and building work, the course has remained open throughout.

recently, however, the island's golfers have had to play over a curtailed course of nine holes as the current owner decided to effectively revamp the whole enchilada. thus, the golf course that exists today is nothing at all like the one everyone was used to playing on. as a confirmed non-golfer, i have no idea whether this is a welcome change or not; i'm sure there are those who will view the changes as inspirational and others who will rue the day the bulldozers moved in.

as you can imagine, this has rendered the previous score cards completely redundant and a new version has been handed to me to produce for the coming season of hitting a ball onto a series of flagged holes. it seems a shame that the new course is bereft of odd names for each hole as did the previous scorecard; all the new ones are simply signified by the numbers one to eighteen. how disappointing.

it has also meant that the rules of the club, printed on the back of the old scorecards, are now about as much use as a chocolate fireguard and have thus been removed. though i have not examined the minutiae of the originals, i do recall that the opening gambit revolved around playing between the bunkers. since i can only assume that the sandy bits have been re-arranged too, no doubt someone has been tasked with re-writing the rules. but in view of a pressing need to have the new cards ready, those will have to wait until a later date.

simplistic though it may seem, the latter is one of the aspects of golf that will forever remain anathema to yours truly. though velominati have provided us with a current list of ninety-five rules, the majority are, if not advisory, certainly intended to be taken with a pinch of salt. while an infraction of golf club rules can ultimately lead to expulsion from the clubhouse, ignoring any of the ninety-five will, at worst, mark you out as a rebel without a cause. the local velo club rule book simply states "rule 1: there are no rules. rule 2: see rule one." and that's pretty much it.

however, that is to provide a largely simplistic overview of the mentality that pervades the average cycling obsessive. though we like to come across as happy go lucky pelotonese, in reality, everything leads back to eddy. the very fact that merckx was an inveterate footerer with every minute aspect of his bicycle, reputedly carrying an allen key in a molteni back pocket has conferred upon us all the right to do likewise, even though most of us are bereft of any mechanical knowledge whatsoever.

eddy merckx

the fact that eddy wore leather shoes has undoubtedly aided and abetted sales of martin scofield's superb dromarti footwear. if any member of the peloton finds it preferable to persevere with toe-clips and straps in preference to clipless, eddy provides eternal validation. and those of us who dream of owning a skinny-tubed steel frame with the rear brake cable held in place by polished chrome cable-clips have effectively no case to answer, even in the face of high-modulus carbon nano tubes and electronic shifting. the fact that eddy would probably have wholeheartedly embraced the hydraulic disc brake is, dare i say so, neither here nor there.

so while the cannibal may have been the bête noire to many of his contemporaries and an icon of standardisation for the uci, for those who need a nod of approval for their, shall we say, less than modern approach to velocipedinal life, eddy merckx truly is god.

even if he never actually said everything attributed to him.

friday 17 june 2016

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challenge tyres ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the benefits system

office bike parking

we in the velo club have decided that, in order that we might escape the dastardly dealings of murphy's law, we will organise a rota dictating who amongst us on each sunday ride is due to suffer a puncture. for months, nay years, we have undertaken the weekly perambulation of the estates with scarcely a rumble 'neath the varying widths of tyres fitted to the velocipedes du jour. yet, in the past month, i believe each one of us has been on the receiving end of deflationary procedures.

this past sunday, while chuntering along the lowers slopes of the glen road, it was my turn to have the front rubber take on the texture of the road below. surely a pre-arranged rota will cure the problem? it will, i fervently hope, undermine the unwritten cyclists' law not to mention punctures out loud, lest the deflationary gods inflict their wrath upon one's tyres. we figure it might be worth a try.

there is also, i believe, a similarity of purpose in failing to question the veracity of one's health, particularly if it happens to err on the remarkably good side. since suffering nine months of relative inactivity in 1994 as the result of a road traffic accident, including two weeks in hospital and a smidgeon of plastic surgery, i have not had a single day off work due to illness. the last doctor in bowmore surgery retired without my ever having need of making an appointment.

bully for me.

i'm happy to put this down to my inveterate cycling, being a keen supporter of the contention that cycling cures everything. i know it's not specifically true, but it mostly suits my two-wheeled proselytising. you would be forgiven for thinking that my employers would be highly grateful that my cycling activity has proved of great benefit, never once having had to consider the need to find a replacement in a village where there probably isn't such a person. however, i am more than grateful for this unbroken run of good health, so it seems everything has worked out for the best for both parties.

i somehow doubt, however, that my employers have grabbed the corporate calculator and worked out just how this situation has benefitted their coffers. yet, odd though it may seem, the cycle to work alliance, responsible for provision of an amenable means of employees in the uk purchasing bicycles, have managed to conjure up a number that not only justifies riding to work, but presumably makes it look like it's financially worthwhile.

according to this rather dubious sounding survey, the scheme generates £72 million in economic benefits for the uk economy, outweighing the estimated cost to the treasury of lost tax and national insurance payments. this, of course, depends entirely on the premise that those purchasing the lower cost bicycles actually use them for cycling to work. in my experience, that's not always the case. in fact locally, it's a rare occurence, one that, statistically speaking, must be repeated elsewhere. and the theoretical nature of the survey's result rather calls into question the magic number 72.

according to the cycle to work alliance: ..."the research further illustrates the crucial role the scheme plays in increasing how much people cycle. It confirms that the cycle to work scheme is a vital mechanism in meeting the government's objective of doubling cycling activity by 2025.

i fear the reality and validity of that statement bears close comparison to the benefits arising from the velo club's projected puncture rota. i fervently wish that were not the case, but you know what they say about statistics.

cycle to work alliance

thursday 16 june 2016

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rapha pro team windjacket

rapha pro team windjacket

many years ago now, i had a small portion of a cunning plan, one of which rapha's simon mottram might well have approved. he has frequently alerted me to the fact that 2004 was the beginning of his first five-year plan for rapha, the majority of which guided the company's successful entry into the cycle clothing market. thewashingmachinepost, having reached a point in its career where it was almost self sufficient, entreated me to look slightly further afield for items that might well introduce a series of product reviews for your general edification. always assuming, of course, that i was any good at reviewing cycling products in the first place.

rapha pro team windjacket

though the jury is still out on that latter notion, i figured that were i able to obtain a rather salubrious product for consideration, one with an appropriately stratospheric price tag attached, then others in the habit of offering shiny stuff a few weeks' holiday on islay might be persuaded that there was some intrinsic value in so doing.

with that in mind, i approached germany's carbon sports for a potential review of their lightweight standard carbon rimmed and laced wheels, a request to which they readily and rather surprisingly acceded. despite the pennies invested in such a stunning pair of race wheels, particularly when pre-fitted with a pair of continental race tubulars, these arrived in a large, wheel-sized cardboard box all the way from germany and i still recall arthur, our postie, popping into the office to tell me he had a box in the back of the van but concerned that there was nothing inside it.

rapha pro team windjacket

a verisimilitude of that precise situation occurred a matter of days ago, when one of those enticing black delivery packs arrived from imperial works. not only was the pack remarkably thin but it transpired that the delivery note weighed more than the contents. rapha's pro team windjacket is as close to non-existent as it's likely possible to get in the world of cycling apparel. i have read of sub atomic particles that are totally devoid of any appreciable mass and i believe it likely that rapha have cornered the market in such particles with which to fabricate this stealth black jacket.

rapha pro team windjacket

at least a part of this featherweight existence can be squarely laid at the mesh panel that constitutes the back of the jacket. hold it up to the light and you can probably see the filament in the bulb. of course, that's entirely the point; this is a windjacket, one that can be (very) easily stuffed into a back pocket (actually, you can squeeze it into an essentials case without breaking sweat. i know, because i tried). the mesh takes care of its breathability. meanwhile, the front part, and that includes the sleeves, constitutes a stunningly effective windproof barrier, carved from a fabric that is surely only a single atom thick, atoms composed of those massless sub-atomic particles.

as luck would have it, the review period consisted of some real weather, climatic conditions that differed substantially from the past few weeks of wall to wall sun and blue skies. so different, in fact, that i had the opportunity to discover that, while windproofing may be its rugged forté, waterproofing definitely isn't. but then, nobody ever said it would be. granted, a smattering of precipitation in the morning had been shrugged off with nonchalance, but when a smir had turned to proper rain, i got wet.

rapha pro team windjacket

it should be pointed out, however, that even when close to saturation point, the windproofing was still every bit as effective as it had been when dry. and that darned near non-existent weight undoubtedly aided a predilection to dry remarkably quickly when the rain ceased.

currently the jacket is only available in black and i cannot deny that i would have welcomed something a tad brighter as an alternative such as rapha pink or team sky blue. it may be that the teamsky chaps in collaboration with whom this jacket was designed are either quite happy on the dark-side or were suitably enamoured with the stealth look (i cannot deny; it is pretty cool). i would dearly love to extend the cool by having the bike handling skills that would allow divesting myself of the jacket when warmer winds blow, without having need of stopping so to do.

but i haven't.

this jacket can be viewed as a more consummate alternative to a gilet, with a breathability that easily rivals the latter, whether worn for a few minutes or all day. in view of its designated nomenclature, the pro team windjacket is guaranteed almost permanent use in my hebridean enclave.

rapha's pro team windjacket retails at £120 and is available in sizes ranging from xs to xxl

rapha pro team windjacket

wednesday 15 june 2016

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the king of scotland needs your help

jimmy mac's ride for charlene

several years ago, charlie pearch, a gentleman that i am proud to call my friend, invited me to accompany him to the then recently opened chris hoy velodrome in glasgow to witness the scottish round of the revolution series track event. the nature of this vip invite, aside from a rather excellent helping of food and (in my case) non-alcoholic drink, included the opportunity to access the track centre, a location that offered an upside as well as a downside.

jimmy mac's ride for charlene

the latter was the realisation that watching riders speed their way round the boards would eventually lead to bouts of slight dizziness, something unlikely to have afflicted those sat in the stands and with a grand overview of proceedings. the bonus was, of course, the opportunity to converse with one or two of the riders while waiting for their chance to make me dizzy once more. since mr pearch is a senior partner at jlt insurance, all the cheering was diplomatically aimed at the men in black, one of whom was another good friend of mine and former king of scotland, jimmy mccallum.

jimmy is, to one of advanced years such as myself, the equivalent of a younger brother. he not only hails from my home city of glasgow, but displays every bit of the garrulousnesss associated with glaswegians the world over. over the years, when i have found myself in either a coffee frame of mind, or at the british championships at glasgow green, there's been jimmy displaying no airs and graces and always happy to chat when downtime allows. heck, the man even wrote a review of the ibis hakkalugi disc 'cross bike for the post a couple of years back.

jimmy mac's ride for charlene

since his racing career ended, he's been involved in one or two affiliated positions, resulting in his current appointment as a directeur sportif with one pro cycling. considering the non-scottish nature of the latter, it's been a while since we've met, but as with every silver lining, there's an occasional cloud. at the end of last year, jimmy mac's family suffered the loss of charlene doolan, a young family member who died at the age of 36 as a result of thrombosis.

not for nothing is/was jimmy known as the 'king of scotland', resolving to use his years as a highly-trained cyclist of some repute to raise awareness of thrombosis. this condition remains a major cause of death in the uk, yet the majority of us know sod all about it and how we might prevent it affecting our own lives and that of our families. thrombosis uk is a small charitable organisation working to create awareness of the dangers associated with the condition and like many, if not all, charities, it needs money to continue its work.

jimmy mac's ride for charlene

so, i hear you ask, what exactly is jimmy going to do?

scarily enough, this saturday 18 june, jimmy mac is going to take on the 517 mile non-stop cycle record around the north coast 500 route in north scotland. the current record stands at 38 hours and is held by fellow scot and professional adventurer, mark beaumont. quite frankly, if anyone can do it, the king of scotland is the very chap.

jimmy's got the hard part. all we've got to do is click over to his just giving page and pledge a truckload of money. and next time i see him, i'll thank him on your behalf for affording us the opportunity to do something good with so little effort.

donate to the king of scotland's epic ride | ride for charlene

tuesday 14 june 2016

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tell them we sent you

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.

debbie's cafe

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.

welcometogreatcoffee.co.uk

port mòr bistro. now that the original debbie's is run by her mum, aileen, debbie has taken over the catering franchise at port charlotte's port mòr centre, where you can have some of deb's famously wonderful coffee as well as a wide range of foodtsuffs. highly recommended.

braehouse gallery, portnahaven. sited at the entrance to portnahaven village, the gallery also offers takeway coffees and a range of cakes. there's also quite a wide range of photos, islay souvenirs and other desirable odds and bits. though you can't sit in for coffee and cake, there is a table and chairs outside along with an adjacent bicycle rack for parking.

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

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