thewashingmachinepost




..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

interviews & features | dvds | equipment | clothing | books | videos

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

built from life ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

cycling by numbers

giro d'italia prologue 2021

i'm generally not much of a fan of prologue time-trials; they seem somewhat at odds with the racing that follows over the three weeks of a grand tour. i understand that there are those who specialise in the discipline, but there would surely be little need for such specialisation were it not for the existence of the time-trials in the first place? and i very much doubt there are many who would ascribe a particularly high entertainment rating, either when viewed from the roadside, or on the telly box. however, given that yesterday's opening time-trial (one of only two in this year's giro) provided the perfect excuse to curtail a separate afternoon engagement, i felt honour bound to watch, just in case that excuse came back to bite me.

giro d'italia prologue 2021

it may also be the case that stages such as those are less favoured by the commentary team, for though the event offers an indication as to how well certain riders have prepared, there's little doubt that the chaps likely to feature on the podium in three weeks' time, are simply watching each other, and have no real need to over-extend themselves at this early point in time. thus two or three hours of individual cyclists perambulating a relatively short, but identical parcours, is, as many have been keen to point out, often akin to watching paint dry.

i believe there to be a similarity between time-trialling and free jazz, purely on the basis that i think both may be of greater interest to the participants, than they are to those watching or listening.

giro d'italia prologue 2021

however yesterday's giro opener elicited a notable change in the racing firmament, possibly enlightening, but from my point of view, a tad disappointing. the initiator may have been the accompaniment of on-screen telemetry, providing details as to the highlighted racer's power output in watts, his speed and cadence, along with an indication of how long he may have spent in the red zone (?) since leaving the start ramp. ultimately, the guy who crosses the line with the fastest time will be crowned winner of the stage and eligible to wear the pink jersey the following day. numbers rarely describe everything.

a good few years ago, the people at srm kindly lent me a power meter for review. to be honest, the device was wasted on me, particularly in light of its somewhat expensive price-tag, but it also pointed out the substantial difference between the professional rider and those of us who are really just playing at it. suffice it to say, when time came to photograph the head unit to accompany the review, photoshop was my friend, for the real numbers on display were positively laughable.

giro d'italia prologue 2021

midway through this past week, two friends of mine (david brodie and brian smith), were to be found on twitter, briefly discussing who they saw as favourites to take the pink jersey overall. my supercilious comment showed not only my lack of interest in joining the party, but also demonstrated a complete lack of expertise in knowing which riders could actually be in the frame. (i stated that i'd wait till the finish line in milan to provide my own answer). i have said on countless occasions that i am very much in favour of simply watching any bicycle race you care to mention, to witness who comes out as winner. guessing in advance seems surplus to requirements and just a smidgeon redundant.

prophesying who that might be has become an industry all of its own, one perpetuated by the monthly and weekly magazines, along with a host of online cycling news outlets and a surprising number of blogs and podcasts. there's no doubt some of them might prove to have chosen well, but i think that more likely to be by accident than by design. an awful lot can happen over the course of three weeks, not all of which is at the behest of the proverbial good form.

and then there's the not inconsequential notion of panache.

giro d'italia prologue 2021

i'd be the first to accept that yesterday's winner (fillipo ganna), embodied the very essence of the word, but it seems that, for yesterday's commentators, that was of mere bagatelle. there were more important factors to be considered such as cda, power output, width of the base bar, and veracity of equipment. the latter came as something of a surprise to me, in the mistaken apprehension that, at world tour level, the difference in equipment between bike sponsors would be so minimal as to be unaccountable. it seems i was mistaken, with one of eurosport's commentators acknowledging that several riders were aware that, no matter the effort they expended, other teams were better equipped.

that hardly seems like the level playing field that cycling likes to project (though it may be more psychological than actual).

giro d'italia prologue 2021

and then there's the numbers. i find it just a bit sad that commentary on even a time-trial, has become more about the relative drag coefficencies and power outputs than the spectacle of a rider throwing his bicycle into the corners with abandon, catching his minute-man, or getting out of the saddle and sprinting for the line. there are now specialists who can analyse individual rides and disseminate them in terms of the extra watts gained by using narrower bars, or the watts lost due to an ungainly hand position on the tt bars. and why do they fit disc brakes to time-trial bikes?

for the most part, cycling is still a visual spectacle, despite the incongruous looks of the average tt bicycle. rapha made it all about pain and suffering; eddy merckx made it all about attacking, pantani made it mostly about panache, whatever the nature of hs extra-curricular diet, and peter sagan has made it all about character. to reduce cycle racing to the level of who might be wearing the fastest skin suit, who might have the most aerodynamic base-bars, and who might have the greatest power to weight ratio seems, to me at least, to have missed the point of the exercise.

and to have missed it by several kilometres.

(i did, however, snigger at sean kelly's inadvertent statement, that "hopefully (egan bernal's) back problems are behind him")

saturday 8 may 2021

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

rapha ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the devil's in the details

aldi 3d printer

if you care to scroll down a few centimetres, you will come across a portion of the post populated with links to my first visit to portland, oregon, in 2009. during this visit, i had the good fortune to meet with framebuilders, tony pereira, sacha white, jordan hufnagel and natalie ramsland, along with jude gerace at what was originally named epic wheelworks, subsequently altered to sugar wheeworks, as a result of a cease and desist letter from specialized's legal team. most of the above had in common a predisposition for building bicycles from steel tubing and, in most cases, similarly constututed lugs, while jude, following extensive research, had set about the task of creating top flight handbuilt wheels.

the majority worked in what were commonly referred to as spaces, as opposed to workshops, and at one time there were reputed to be as many as 21 builders in the portland area, marking it out as the artisan bicycle capital of north america, if not the world. this state of affairs brought attendant cycle industries to the area, with rapha originally staking its claim in the upper floor of a wooden building, accessed by walking through a brood of chickens and ascending a wooden staircase. chris king too, had relocated to a large building in west nela street, where i believe they still produce anodised componentry for the cognoscenti. on my original visit to chris king, any notions of photography were firmly frowned upon.

but they too had joined the merry throng of bike builders via their cielo brand, chris king himself having originally entered the bike industry as a frame builder. sadly, the entire cielo affair was disbanded, though i still have a fine example of their tig-welded product in the bike shed.

the upsurge in handbuilt bicycles, fostered the north american handbuilt cycle show (nahbs), an edition of which i visited some three years later when held in the californian capital, sacramento. i was led to believe that portland had expected the show to be based in northwest pacific town in perpetuity, and following the realisation that it had a more nomadic future in mind, created the oregon manifest; slightly more wide-ranging, but still centred around the state's framebuilding propensities.

it wasn't too long before the resurgence of steel crossed the atlantic, offering a reprise for those who had continued to plod along those lines for generations, and encouraging a few others to join the band (wagon). since the expense of transporting their artisinal crafts across the pond was likely an expense too far for many living a hand-to-mouth existence, brought bespoked bristol, which not only brings recollections of fine british skills, but tunnocks caramel wafers on scotland's shand cycles stand.

whatever happened to them?

so while the bulk of the world's velocipedinal output was emanating from the far east, fashioned from carbon and scraped from the inner recesses of expensive molds, steel was trying very hard to stake a claim to its own popularity via the handbuilt meme. there's no doubt that monocoque carbon depends on skilled human labour to complete the layup in each mold, but the common misapprehension is that carbon frames made in taiwanese factories command less in the way of artisinal credibility, than one created in steel, via brazing rods and hand files.

i cannot deny having a predisposition towards lugged steel frames, if only from an aesthetic point of view. i currently ride a tig-welded steel ritchey logic that almost certainly wasn't fabricated by tom ritchey in a wooden garage behind his house, yet the steel is real mantra is easily applied to any frame constructed in that material, whether built in the far east, portland or an industrial unit in livingston, near edinburgh.

but no matter the sense of character imbued by ownership of handbuilt steel, or a dansette record player augmented by a pile of vinyl, modernity cares not one whit for such nostalgia, intent as it is on spreading digitisation from coast to coast. which is where three-d printing enters the room. originally confined to the plastic brackets on which to affix a garmin to your handlebars, printing componentry is beginning to turn the cycle industry on its head, making use of both carbon and titanium in the process.

already, extremely light, three-d printed prototype titanium pedals are the subject of a kickstarter campaign and bastion cycles have created an integrated disc road fork, stem and handlebar to augment its three-d printed titanium lug and carbon tube frames. it may be that the contemporary artisan demonstrates his/her skills in the programming of the computer and printer to effect the above componentry and bicycle, though that may be stretching credibility a tad too far for the present. however, though i'm generally unfamiliar with the technology that fosters three-d printing, considering the danish have already produced entire houses in this manner, i doubt there are any aspects of the velocipedinal realm that could not 'benefit' from the process. (if you think the process to be one occupying the financial stratosphere, i note that you can now buy three-d printers from aldi).

nonetheless, i cannot deny that the thought of a 'north american three-d printed bicycle show' or 'three-d printed bristol' elicit similar constrained levels of enthusiasm. let's see how long that lasts.

saturday 8 may 2021

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

wheelsmith ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

drawing on experience

madonna_del_ghisallo

having spent four years at art college, more years ago than i'm willing to admit, i occasionally feel pangs of guilt that i don't make better use of my purported skills more frequently. though i moved to the hebrides to carve a career as an artist, disillusionment with the art world that reputedly exists to serve the commercial side of such a career, eventually led me to other means of earning a living. granted, the daily grind still makes use of my meagre design and colour skills, but the act of actually drawing something on paper with pencil, charcoal or ink, is one of which i make scarce use.

aside from intrinsic feelings of self-reproachment, i realise that i am also a bit of a hypocrite. many are those i know who studied one subject or other at college or university, yet are now employed in an industry substantially removed from the degree thus obtained. it's a situation that pretty much applies to yours truly.

however, more or less once a year, when i take my week's summer holiday in november, i pop into the art shop in glasgow's queen street, and arm myself with the basic essentials required to emulate a starving artist in a parisien garrett, despite being neither starving, nor in paris. if nothing else, the lamentable scratchings i produce during those few days serve to convince me that there's still a kernel of artistic ability inside, however well hidden it may be.

kate wagner

inspired by the excellent bicycle and component drawings of daniel rebour, on a few past occasions, i have considered illustrating my cycle and component reviews with drawings made to the best of my ability. i have even gone so far as to start several such drawings before realising the impracticalities of just such a situation. for starters, i fear i may have to spend several months honing my draughtsmanship to a standard that might garner the approbation of the reading and viewing public. secondly, assuming i managed to reach this hypothetically appropriate standard, the time taken to draw a derailleur, a wheel, a pair of handlebars, or even a saddle, is considerably greater than the time occupied by snapping a few photos. and given my ability in photoshop, any deficiencies in my photographic abilities are easily remedied in post production.

sadly, despite having read and enjoyed ian cleverly's excellent feature on 'slow cycling'in the current issue of rouleur, it still comes down to the speed of execution on a daily basis. thus, you have been spared the dubious pleasure of my velocipedinal artistic expression.

however, though cycle sport must surely be the best served sport when it comes to photography, it appears there may still be room for the individuality of the artist, even across the three weeks of a grand tour. derailleur, the cycle sport website ('devoted to telling some of the greatest stories of contemporary professional cycling in an unconventional, narrative-driven way') of kate wagner and jackson roman has decided to undertake the rather daunting prospect of bringing coverage of this year's event in both words and multi-media, including drawings similar to those featured here.

derailleur

as kate says,

"Once the race gets underway, there will be something created every day of the Giro d'Italia for paid subscribers ($5 a month!) and these posts will span a number of different forms including derailleur'-style race recaps, illustrations, analysis, multimedia content, experimental fiction, vignettes, rider profiles and more.'

it's easy to become embroiled in the same-old-same-old, watching highlights on telly each night, reading reports in the comic, keeping tabs on online reports via the usual suspects, and finally reading recaps of the entire race in the monthlies published after the event. but it strikes me that this simply panders to the conformity that cycle sport appears to have adopted over recent years, turning it into an almost corporate affair. and though i'm pre-supposing much of that which kate and jackson might present, for those already suffering from giro weariness before the race has even begun, this seems like a viable alternative.

derailleur

friday 7 may 2021

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

campagnolo

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the hole in the middle

tour de donut

i believe i may have brought this up on at least one previous occasion, but in a copy of mountain bike magazine, a north american publication which, i believe, was subsequently absorbed into bicycling magazine, was an article enlightening readers to the joys of single-track riding. the author gave an active description of his ride, involving berms and other associated offroad language, the likes of which the average roadie would scarcely repeat in polite company.

the full-page article continued thusly (as sheldon cooper would say), until the last few paragraphs, upon which the reader discovered that the art of riding single-track was not simply an end in itself, but a means to an end. for having ridden hard and skillfully across this wild, natural parcours, the reward was an ability to scoff more than just a few doughnuts and coffee with scarce concern for any additional calories consumed.

i will not fib. i generally dislike chocolate chip anythings; biscuits, cookies, cakes, pretty much everything with chocolate chips, not solely due to a general dislike of chocolate, but the tactility of eating those little bits of chocolate embedded like parasites in a larger host. howeve, on one particular saturday, i rode a tad farther than i'd intended, simply because i was enjoying the ride, and on reaching debbie's for coffee, there was a desperate need for sustenance of the calorific type. the only cakery on offer turned out to be double-choc chip muffins; needs must.

at that point in time, that double-choc chip muffin was utterly glorious, hitting the spot without too much trouble. buoyed with the thought that my aversion to chocolate chip had gone the way of the dodo, i indulged once again the following day, only serving to prove that the previous day's enjoyment had been a one-off, presumably brought on by over-exertion. the majority of the second muffin ended up in the bin.

however, there is no doubt that any excess calories burned over and above the average 2,500 for men or 2,000 for women, will operate in a similar manner to the way that carbon offsetting is supposed to work. as i understand it, if i need 2,500 calories each day, and my garmin indicates i've burned 3,000, i end up with a 500 calorie scoffing bonus, over and above my regular daily intake. as we've seen, a double-choc chip muffin can prove particularly effective (your mileage may vary). if for no other reason, that ought surely to prove an ideal reason for the ordinary man and woman in the street to take up cycling (as long as you ride more than 160km each weekend).

obviously enough, this is fairly common knowledge amongst interested parties, one that is shamelessly exploited by the world's energy bar and gel purveyors. so why not, you might ask yourselves, capitalise on this for all it's worth? as it happens, someone in ohio, usa, has beaten us to it, and turned that knowledge into a tangible experience: the 'tour de donut'. ranging from a ten-mile version to the full-blown 62 mile 'double d challenge' and including a kids' challenge too, according to the website, 'it's a unique event where your ability to eat donuts is just as important as your ability to ride your bicycle fast.' the rational behind the tour de donut is that for every doughnut eaten at each doughnut stop, five minutes is deducted from your finishing time. the only other requirement is that you don't vomit all your doughnuttery before crossing the finish line (possibly harder than it sounds).

i would, however, take issue with the organisers' simplistic statement, that 'the ride is just like any other bike tour, except we have donuts.'

the 2021 tour de donut takes place in troy, ohio on saturday 28 august. - tour de donut 2021

thursday 6 may 2021

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

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

selfless contribution

west kernow way

our annual 'ride of the falling rain' started out as my vain attempt to ride 100 miles in a single sitting, an undertaking that, on the face of it, seemed like simplicity itself. it's amazing how wrong one cyclist can be, an observation with which mrs washingmachinepost would doubtless agree, having had to help me in the back door on my arrival home. however, in common with many bike riders, i simply don't know when to call it quits, otherwise we'd no longer have the annual ride around islay's disintegrating roads.

in the early days, as numbers began to increase on an annual basis, i would generally contact the local police office to inform them that there might be a few more cyclists perambulating the isle on the first sunday of august. to be honest, they seemed less than interested, but it seemed prudent to make the call anyway. nowadays, however, i no longer bother, for in all the years the ride has continued, there have been no genuine complaints, other than the individual who once claimed to have been late for church, despite the fact that, at the appointed time, none of the riders would have been anywhere near their location.

however, rather than complaints, there have been a number of commendations over recent years, for glaringly obvious reasons which i admit i hadn't considered. though the blunt instrument that is single malt whisky is the main contributor to islay's tourism, the overall figure is agglomerated by many other attractions, such as a book festival, jazz festival, annual agricultural show and, yes, the ride of the falling rain.

the majority of ride participants arrive from elsewhere; over the years we've hosted australians, americans, canadians, czechs and nationalities of which i'm probably unaware. all of those folks will have to get here by plane or more likely car ferry; they'll have to stay somewhere for at least a couple of nights, and once again to state the glaringly obvious, they all have to eat somewhere. accomplishing the latter contributes at least a penny or two to islay's economy, thus marking it as an event that ought to garner at least modest praise. true, the numbers scarcely bear comparison with those running the annual half-marathon, but any contribution ought surely to be welcomed.

the opening of the youth hostel in port charlotte many years ago, effectively opened the door for a modest increase in cycle tourism, encouraged, no doubt, by calmac's island hopping ticket. such a ticket allows riders to reach islay and jura via arran, onward travel to mull and beyond taking place several days later. with the addition of a large catamaran to the jura-tayvallich route, it's now possible for cyclists to omit the return ferry trip to kennacraig, by riding north from tayvallich to oban, from where the calmac ferry leaves for mull and tiree.

timetabled and ad hoc transport networks such as those described have been a boon to the intrepid touring cyclist, intent on spending a two-week summer holiday that will ultimately end on the outer hebrides. however, though the roads on the isles are relatively traffic free, some of the mainland routes to get there are a tad less cycle friendly. and it's knowledge of the latter that has undoubtedly brought an increase in offroad cycle routes, not necessarily for mountain and gravel bikers, but for those who fancy a few days away from cars and buses, riding through the countryside, offroad can be every bit as a ttractive.

following the success of the great north trail, leading from the pennines to john o'groats, came the 350km bikepacking route across the mythical state of wessex. entitled king alfred's way, the route guide is written by the inestimable guy kesteven, author of 'being gary fisher'. and soon comes the west kernow way this autumn, 150km of predominantly offroad riding, beginning and ending in penzance. cyclinguk has been involved in developing this route for more than a year, one which will lead riders along bridleways, byways and quiet stretches of country roads.

the importance of all these routes is not only to those who have recently discovered cycling during the pandemic, but to the economies which have suffered at the hands of the very same pandemic. cycle tourism, unlike may of those who get about in motorhomes and campervans, tends to be populated by folks who actually spend money along the way. 'the west kernow way' is intended to be ridden over the course of four days, during which riders will need either overnight accommodation or camping facilities, and undoubtedly a few morsels of sustenance. according to cyclinguk, cycle tourism generates £520m to britain's economy each year, unfortunately not a fact that seems uppermost in the minds of drivers who often tell us to "get the f**k off the road".

the revolution might already be here, but keep it to yourself for now.

cycling uk west kernow way

photo: matt jessop/visit cornwall

wednesday 5 may 2021

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

prendas ciclismo ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

gaussian blur

spring

following the sequential purchase of two successive, cheap road bikes in the 1980s, i graduated to the new kid on the block; the mountain bike, newly arrived from california courtesy of tom ritchey, charlie kelly, joe breeze et al. the story of the repack downhill run and the evolutionary development of huffy beach cruisers to survive the purgatorial descending forced upon them, is a well-worn tale which i will refrain from repeating here. having suffered the iniquity of rivetted 42/52 chainsets on the road bikes, realising that i should perhaps have undertaken more research prior to purchase, the possibilities promised by a triple chainset were too intriguing to pass up.

thankfully, muddy fox, a new name amongst new names, profferred their original courier as something of a loss-leader, priced at exactly £300 (in the days before £299.99 became the psychological alternative), a price-point that the mountain bike magazines suggested was the minimum the apprentice mountain biker ought to consider. the original offerings in the genre were rigid steel bicycles, with 18-speed indexed gear systems and cantilever brakes, but such was the forward momentum harboured by mountain biking, scarcely a week went by before new widgets and frame changes made regular appearances. probably the most significant of those was the advent of front suspension, a feature that cyclocrossers had survived without, for a lot longer than mountain bikes had existed.

modern-day mountain bikes are almost unrecognisable by comparison with their ancestors. most of the current crop feature full suspension, despite the fact that it's really only serious downhillers who have need of such springiness. steel has all but disappeared in favour of carbon fibre, a material once thought too fragile to survive the rough and ready world of offroad riding. and though disc brakes on bicycles first surfaced as early as 1987, it was ten years later that the hayes mag disc brake ousted v-brakes and cantilevers for good. though i've done no amount of research, i'm pretty sure that it's impossible to find a production mountain bike without disc brakes nowadays.

if you're wondering about the point behind this temporary shift away from the road, please bear with me for just a few more paragraphs.

in june of this year, rapha will introduce their first range of mountain bike clothing, presumably at the behest of their american owners, both of whom are well-known for their offroad propensities. how that will square with imperial works' avowed intent to make road racing the most popular sport in the world, remains to be seen, but the advent of the gravel bike and a reported boom in e-mountain bikes might conceivably make rapha's entry into this market sector more logical than had it happened around three years ago. but not for the first time, it's the gravel market that seems unable to avoid blurring the lines between genres.

i, and others, have already pointed out, some more forcefully than others, that a flat-bar gravel bike is nothing if not a reincarnation of those original mountain bikes. granted, the technology has moved on quite a bit; gravel bikes are disc brake straight out the box, and the majority are fashioned from carbon from the off. but essentially, there are very few differences, however loud are the protests to the contrary. leave them with their drop bars, and it's hard to see much in the way of difference from the long-standing cyclocross bicycle, though i've read many an article claiming otherwise. methinks they doth protest too much.

but either way, the gravel bike sits between a rock and a hard place, and subsequent attempts to avoid supposedly iniquitous comparisons, seem only to succeed in digging a bigger hole. cannondale, whom i'll mention again in just a minute, have gravel bikes listed as a sub category under road (as indeed is their cyclocross range), despite also featuring a mountain category. yet their gravel range features two lefty variants, offering a single-leg, 30mm travel suspension fork, combined with modest rear suspension integrated into the carbon frame. other than the drop bars, surely that's just a mountain bike? i've a strong suspicion that rather than a blurring of the technology featured on these bicycles, we're now playing fast and loose with semantics.

as i have previously pointed out, gravellousness was very effectively highlighted by rapha's original north american continental featuring a compact and bijou peloton of riders aboard custom-built steel bicycles, kitted out with chris king components, sram groupsets and identical 28mm road tyres. they successfully negotiated north-america's miles and miles of gravel tracks aboard such hardware, documenting their travels by way of words, imagery and video. granted, those chaps possessed a hefty chunk of derring-do, and an innate willingness to ride the roads less travelled. but minus any suspension, big knobbly tyres and thirteen-speed gravel-specific groupsets.

it's a blatant case of the emperor's new clothes, only this time, a straightforward reinvention of the mountain bike with a new name and marketing. anything that gets more bums on saddles is to be roundly welcomed, but if cycling was a tad confusing when i surfaced as a newbie some forty years ago, imagine how confusing it is now, with road bikes, hybrid bikes, e-road bikes, e-mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, hard-tail mountian bikes, full suspension mountain bikes and so on and so on. the only category missing, as far as i can see, is that of the electric cyclocross bike.

perhaps i should patent the idea before anyone else notices?

tuesday 4 may 2021

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

world bicycle relief

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

rouleur

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

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

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

galloway cycling

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

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

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

top of page.

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... thewashingmachinepost

top of page.

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

book reviews

top of page.

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................