"as befits a rider of my standing, i had my own personal mechanic this week, with a spare bike."
islay is somewhat cycling agnostic. if everybody i know with a road bike were to turn up at debbie's on a sunday morning, the numbers might just top a dozen. if we spread ourselves out quite a lot, we might possibly constitute a mobile traffic jam, if only there were enough cars about at that time on a sunday to be bothered. though the bradley bubble has all but stopped the villagers crossing the road to avoid becoming engaged in a conversation about cycle races of which nobody but yours truly has ever heard, i still occasionally feel like a stranger in a strange land.
if i might frame things more blatantly, there's not a lot to be gained by instigating a discussion during office lunchtime, concerning the relative merits of electronic versus standard shifting, or whether roadies have any real need of disc brakes. believe me, it only leads to name-calling when your back's turned.
unless we're well out of the ordinary, the lack of velodipedinal discussion on a sunday morning is scarcely an unusual occurrence. though i have rarely, if ever, ridden with pelotons other than my own, i'm fairly sure that, with one or two exceptions, most of us talk about matters that do not directly relate to the cycling milieu, unless of course, there's been a particularly entertaining stage of one race or another on the previous day.
i'm assuming that this is hardly uncommon behaviour, for even when involved in percussive matters of a public nature, discussion amongst fellow bandmates seems rarely to centre around whether the bass player favours roundwound or flatwound strings and just which type of pedal it is that provides the guitarist with such impressive sustain. in fact, i spend most of my time continually advising the bass player to avoid knocking over my glass of san pellegrino sat next to the hi-hat.
taking a logical and generic overview of such situations, i'm pretty sure that there is much rolling of eyes and unconcealed sighing if i even hint at incorporating aspects of cycling into any dialogue that originated around an entirely unrelated subject.
however, according to common lore, every dog has its day. i recall many years ago being called during a weekend evening by an old acquaintance, convinced that i would be the very person who would immediately know which record-breaking cyclist had built his machine from washingmachine parts. there were promises of sharing in the gargantuan prize to which this correct answer might lead, but since my financial situation has scarcely improved by much, i must conclude that at least one of the accompanying answers may not have been found to be as correct.
and that day can also be arrived at when inescapably found in the company of those with whom one would prefer not to be. it has often been maintained that neither religion or politics should be discussed if cordial relations with the civilian population are to be maintained. in my case, that is excellent advice, for i am scarcely well enough educated in either subject to ensure both a healthy respect yet a concomitant clearing of the room. however, i've frequently noted that by embarking upon a dissertation on the comparative rolling resistances associated with differing widths of tyre, or whether wheels built in a cross pattern as opposed to radial work better with discs, suddenly most of those round the coffee table have found various things they had previously forgotten to do.
under normal circumstances, that would be not only embarrassing, but just a smidgeon offensive and rude on the part of others. but when using cycling as a weapon in this fashion to bring about a desired exodus, i'd count it as something of a result. i daresay it's a situation applicable to other genres of eccentricity; any discussion regarding quantum mechanics or gravitational waves would surely achieve similar results. having said that, my educational level pretty much excludes either from my own sphere of influence, so when push comes to shove, tonight matthew, i'm going to be the obnoxious cyclist.
feel free to join in when you know the words.
saturday 21 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
when i was much further north of my current home and just a few hundred miles east, in the early, but ultimately vain pursuit of my artistic career, there was a record shop (selling a musical format that is now making a more than welcome comeback) idiosyncratically named the other record shop. this may be of less than remarkable note nowadays, but at the time, there's no doubt that it piqued the interest of your (very) average student.
as if that were scarcely enough to identify it as the record store of choice, the fact that all purchases could subsequently be carried in transparent carrier bags was simply the icing on the cake as far as most of us were concerned. it was then possible to parade the length of aberdeen's union street, carrying the latest pink floyd, 10cc or king crimson album on clear display to impress considerably less than interested members of this north-east population. of course, if you happened to have a predilection for abba or the bay city rollers, that clear bag would most likely be concealed under a heavy overcoat, recently purchased from the local oxfam shop.
though the other record shop as i have described it is no longer in existence, the practice of attempting to demonstrate one's innate superiority over others in an alleged peer group continues to this day. not so many years ago i was, for no discernible reason, in receipt of a regular copy of management consultant magazine (or something remarkably similar in intent) which, for totally spurious reasons, i would occasionally carry demonstrably in full view of colleagues and passers-by who expressed as little interest as did those aberdonians in the 1970s.
around this time, in possible need of a business card, i thought it a wizard wheeze to append somewhat inept qualifiers after my name. thus, as a gent of advancing years, i thought it about time i adopted the title of senior publishing executive. this was subsequently expanded to senior publishing executive (northern hemisphere) principally on the advice of mark reynier, former ceo of bruichladdich distillery. this did indeed render the business card some considerable distance from reality, but on the premise that few, if any, in receipt of a business card actually read it, i figured i'd get away with it.
perusing the pages of my copies of management consultant enlightened me to the existence of those described as knowledge management consultants, terminology the meaning of which evades me to this day. however, figuring that this might play to my advantage, purely on the basis that perhaps others would be every bit as confused, it is a vocation that i one day hope to adopt as my own.
you try proving that i'm not.
the importance of becoming a consultant rests entirely on the impression that such individuals appear to be capable of being infallible. it seems that no matter the veracity of that which they advise, they are subsequently untouchable even if proved to be well-wide of the mark. since much of my proffered advice tends to fit snugly into this category, it seems possible that the consultant epithet has already been applied on my behalf.
none of the foregoing, however, seems to prevent my being frequently asked to advise on the purchase of a new bicycle. i'm happy to say that the most recent instance concerned the portended purchase of a quality road or cyclocross bicycle, but that is very much the exception rather than the rule. in the majority of instances, when i enquire as to the particular price-range under consideration, the number quoted is often less than you'd pay for a brooks cambium saddle.
i imagine that it is the job of a consultant to comprehend the needs of a prospective client without appearing demeaning by way of one's answer. the fly in the ointment, so to speak, is my being particularly poorly informed as to the specification and (lack of) quality exhibited in the lower regions of the online cycle store. though many of you will have realised that i am trying manfully to refrain from classifying myself as a bicycle snob, there is perhaps value to be gained from adopting just such a stance.
each thursday morning, for around an hour or so, i attend the local secondary school to better educate those studying higher drumming in the ways of the percussionist. disappointingly, it is all too obvious that the drumset is the ugly duckling of the music department; the set on which instruction takes place features a bass drum with almost an inch of dust on its topmost surface, gaffa tape across all three tom tom heads and a snare lever that requires the fortitude of schwarnold arzenneger to either apply or release. as if that were not sufficient insult to injury, the appended cymbals have all the sonic characteristics of bicuit tin lids.
in order to bring a little sonority into their musical aspirations, i have taken to carrying in my own set of zildjian cymbals each thursday morning. when i recently offered to lend these for their prelim exam earlier this week, the music teacher quite rightly accused me of being a cymbal snob (if the cap fits, etc.) however, on arriving at the music department after school on monday afternoon to retrieve said cymbals, the music teacher was hard pushed to conceal a favourable expletive when describing how incredible he'd found those cymbals to be.
in percussive terms, i am now totally insufferable and quite possibly infallible (according to my opinion).
this particular situation has now encouraged me in my velocipedinal snobbery. no longer do i feel pangs of guilt and superiority when advising prospective cyclists to pay a smidgeon more than they had previously considered sufficient. do not mistake my evil intent; if the inquisitor has no more in mind than cycling to the shops every now and again, those sterling house bicycle shaped objects will do just nicely, thank you very much. however, on the supposition that the future may hold even tenuous membership of the velo club, i'd be inclined to err towards something which may trouble their bank account just a bit more than they'd at first thought.
i consider it my responsibility as a bona-fide cycling consultant.
friday 20 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"I'm just one bike ride away from figuring it out."
drummer bill bruford led at least three variations of his jazz group earthworks for a period of almost thirty years, morphing from a band that explored many of the melodic aspects of the new-fangled simmons drums, before settling on the more tried and tested acoustic format for the latter two editions. but you will rarely see his name appended with those particular jazz credentials; more often than not, he is known to the world at large as bill bruford (yes, king crimson).
despite a career of some 41 years prior to his retiral at age 60, bruford is more famous for leaving the progressive rock group yes in 1972, than he is for any other part of his successful career. he departed for the arguably more percussively textural pastures offered by robert fripp's king crimson just as yes released the concept album close to the edge, their fifth album, bringing them into the big time of commercial success.
bruford said that after the oft times traumatic process of recording the album, he couldn't face the rest of his career having to play the piece live. bruford is a drummer i have always admired, not purely for his percussive abilities, but every bit as much for his credibility as a musician, often eschewing the prospect of commercial success in favour of musical integrity. there are not too many who choose the latter option.
bruford has now retired, admitting that he may have fallen out of love with the drums, having commenced his career as a teenager who knew everything and ended as a sixty year-old who knew nothing. it is fairly unusual for any musician to actually retire; the majority simply keep playing for as long as they can physically manage, though it has to be admitted that there are more than a few who should probably have resisted the temptation and faded away gracefully into fondly remembered obscurity.
though unrelated to drumming in any way, having reached three score years i have no notion of retiring anytime soon, but then i've scarcely had a career particularly worthy of note. but another gent of far greater notoriety and one sharing my age, despite having packed more into those sixty years than most of us could manage in twice that period, shows little sign of slowing down. he still admits to riding close to 10,000 miles each year in pursuit of his current, self-nominated vocation of one man development department.
tom ritchey was one of the founding fathers of the mountain bike, having been inducted into both the mountain bike hall of fame in crested butte, and the united states bicycle hall of fame in davis, california as well as having won the uci mountain bike world championships and several other major competitions.
while all this transpired, he was building his own company, one responsible for marketing many of his engineering innovations and one that still offers a full range of steel road, mountain and 'cross bikes, a range that pays lip service to carbon fibre via a single model. you'd be forgiven perhaps, for thinking that an accomplished sixty year-old tom ritchey would now be happy to sit back, rest on his laurels and watch the rest of the cycling world roll by. yet he still remains faithful to his own personal mantra "my bike is my office" and that office is still very much in daily use.
having recently reviewed an excellent pair of ritchey logic offroad pedals attached to a specialized 'cross bike, i did wonder, on the basis that the bicycle has been around for more than just a minute or two and with most of its bits having come under close scrutiny at some time in their lives, where would you even begin to consider how the humble clipless pedal might be improved?
"I consider the pedal one of the most important parts of product development. If you look at my line of pedals, I've tried to keep them low profile and I've made the jumping on and off, mounting, dismounting and reconnecting to the pedal a design goal of mine, so that the pedal is easy to slap your foot on and off. I would say the holy grail is a one-sided mountain bike clipless pedal. All clipless pedals today are two-sided but the need for a rotational momentum to clip in would be done away with if it was one-sided, off-centre and off-axis. I've made prototypes in the past and I've set myself a future goal to learn how to do that.
It's going to require a number of changes which might include doing away with the old 9/16" thread and some other changes. It's a system that I think will come to fruition soon and change a lot of things associated with the standard clipless pedal (a component) which has been around now for about 25-30 years."
but surely there will come a time when everything currently associated with bicycle design will have been refined to the point of redundancy, not to mention the fact that eventually tom ritchey will have to hand over the reigns of his department of one to someone younger, albeit less-experienced. in the light of this, does tom see his role in product development ever coming to a natural end? is it not likely that the law of diminishing returns will eventually come home to roost?
"I would answer that in a number of ways quite carefully. If anything, at 60 years old, I need product development more than anybody. I'm kind of an old-time dinosaur on the bike these days. When I'm trying to keep up with the young guys, I need every possible advantage I can come up with and I'm more motivated by that than anything. The other thing that I think is important is that the older generation that designed components is almost non-existent today. Nowadays they're young, having graduated from engineering college, which is valuable in bringing ideas to production, but they're not always remaining true to simple, classical values. (They need to) value the past, value the heritage, value the shoulders that were stood on in order to get where we are today.
"Having done this for 45 years I've seen, heard and talked to people before me, like Jobst Brandt and my father. Both of them had analysed designs during the 70s and taught me about the reasons for and values of those designs which had reached around 70 years of design evolution. It's a unique position to have in product development.
"But to return to my point, very few of the young bucks arriving on the scene fully understand how we got to where we are now. A lot of them don't factor much of that into what they're doing. So there's always a value to having that deeper history of understanding, experience and miles, allied to any unintended cause and effect of design and what happens in the real world. I now have almost half-a-million miles in my legs and often ride in environments that truly and deliberately push everything to the limit.
"So my riding alone many times into the wilderness, knowing basically that it's going to be a long walk home if there's a problem with the part or design, means I have a lot at stake personally. It's a result of the way that I started out and the way that I continue to ride and want to ride in areas that don't have cell phone reception.
"Only a few people would know that I'm missing.
the modern world of the bicycle has all but dispensed with materials such as steel and aluminium. even titanium gets a bit of a raw deal these days, all in favour of what mike burrows once described as "burnt plastic"; carbon fibre. framebuilder richard sachs once said that he continues to work with steel because that is what he knows. if he were starting out today, there's every chance that he'd be more immersed in the carbon world.
however, with only a single carbon frame in the catalogue, tom ritchey has remained faithful to steel, allegedly being the man responsible for the "steel is real" tagline. is there any reason why he's remained faithful to that material and why has that faith not followed through to the forks on his road and 'cross frames?
"If any material has re-emerged without a due amount of understanding, it's steel. Carbon gives you a very wide playing field to organically shape and create structures that will surpass and improve upon formability factors that you could never achieve with steel. The metal is wonderful in a lot of ways, but it's got its pluses and its minuses.
"I don't know if you know about the history of Ritchey Logic tubing, but back in the 80s, some 35 or 40 years ago, the formability of steel hadn't changed since the turn of the century. When I visited Columbus (tubing) in 1983, they showed me a steel tube that was identical in every way in butting, formability and heat treatment to a spec. sheet from 1899. And when I originally asked them to make Logic tubing, they were unable to do so.
"The formability characteristics, the pushing of the material into more differential, taper and off-centre butting and all kind of things that I asked them to do, no-one had ever tried to do with steel. That was the beginning of the Ritchey steel story with Logic tubing and continued until aluminium and carbon fibre became popular for a lot of reasons, not only in the pursuit of performance and light weight, but basically because manufacturers could have the largest billboard. If you try to put a billboard as big as that on a steel bike, the steel tube would be too heavy.
"Steel lost a lot of momentum, but now it's back with a lot of new builders who don't know the truth about the material, its diameter equation and formability, plus all the things that went into thinking out of the box with steel. So, if there's ever a reason to continue to play in my sandbox with steel and pushing the material to its limits, it's now.
"I enjoy it, and I'm still working on steel forks, with new models coming out, though there are steel forks on some of the current models. But I would also say that because of the characteristics of carbon, the steering column integration with a fork blade is one of the uniquenesses that makes for quite a successful product. But the trade-off that people don't truly appreciate or understand, is that despite less weight and the performance you can get from it, there are some disadvantages; there are pluses and minuses to every product.
"It's always going to be that way. You can't take away weight and add stiffness without consequences. If your goals are a lightweight carbon structure with added aerodynamic features, you're going to give up ride quality characteristics, clearances and things that are very important (such as) the jacking up of the front end. There are all kinds of stories I could tell about the success of my stem, bars and seatpost that are in direct correlation to the growth of aluminium and carbon fibre and how those materials dictated positions on bikes that were taken for granted. For generations of racers and performance riders, (none of) that could be achieved without the selection of stems, bars and posts that kind of fell into my design challenge lap. There's a lot of back story to the use of materials and (their) cause and effect."
it is not, however, just about an impressive number at the bottom of the balance sheet. the bicycle, if you overlook certain aspects of the manufacturing process, has a reputation as a green machine, one which positively encourages social repsonsibility, an aspect of velocipedinal life that has not escaped tom ritchey. take even a quick peek at ritcheylogic.com and there is plain evidence that the company has forged relationships with many bike-related projects such as nemba, plus 3 network, imba etc, but most notably with project rwanda. does tom still maintain close relations with the latter and is all this a means of giving back to a sport that has offered him so much?
"I do maintain a relationship with (all) the projects. The team (Rwanda) was the first effort that I initiated and invited Jock (Boyer) over along with Alex Stieda. Jock was the one that stayed on, but is now transitioning away from team coach. The picture that I've sent you (right) is kind of a unique story; the current coach of Team Rwanda is Sterling Magnell who I sponsored as a junior and who won the national championships with Team Ritchey in 1995 (he's fifteen years old in the photo). Anyway he's now 34 or 35 and went through becoming a professional cyclist and managing a team and now he's living in Rwanda and loves it. I do stay in touch with him and with Jock and I'm very excited to see them continuing."
It is something of a tautology to mention cycling and coffee in the same breath. from the double espressos consumed in the village depart prior to each stage of le tour to the soya cappuccinos consumed after the sunday ride, the beverage and the sport are all but inseparable. Ritchey was the man originally responsible for what came to be known as the coffee bike, a long wheelbase cargo-style bike developed in response to Rwandan coffee farmers needing a more economic yet pragmatic means of transporting their crop. was the latter purely happenstance in its connection with coffee?
"The Coffee Bike Project was something of a coincidence; it turns out that the Texas A&M (an agricultural and mechanical college based in College Station, Texas) people that were in charge of improving the coffee quality in Rwanda when I arrived in 2006, were headed by a cyclist named Tim Schilling. And it was because of him and his background in cycling and his involvement in the country, plus his attendance at the first 'wooden bike classic' in 2007, that he challenged me then and there to develop the coffee bike.
"So Texas A&M and Tim Schilling, along with some help from the government, brought this to fruition and it was subsequently employed as a utility bike for others, such as potato farmers and anyone who needed a human-powered pickup truck at the time."
though the coffee bike is of a distinctly utilitarian hue, a brief scan of the ritchey logic website will result only in cycles pertaining to the road, cyclocross or mountain bike disciplines. though it would not be out of the ordinary to utilise any of these for more mundane and less sporting pretensions, it would be stretching credibility a tad too far to consider any of them as sitting at the cutting edge of utilitarian bicycle pragmatism. one of ritchey's co-conspirators in the invention of the original mountain bike was joe breeze, a gent who currently offers an impressive range of practical commuting bicycles. has tom deliberately avoided this particular genre of utlilitarian cycle?
"The length and breadth of specialty that's come into the bike design market is too wide for me to take on everything. I applaud Joe in his efforts and I know that Joe has done likewise to me in the development of the long wheelbase coffee bike.
"However, I think that bike design is based on geography and if you live where I live and you experience the kind of challenges that have to do with adventure cycling in California and places that I like to go, it leads you to designing the kind of products in the Ritchey range. If I'd lived in Holland, in places such as Amsterdam where the utility bike is king, I would probably have developed a product more along those lines."
as tom ritchey pointed out in his introduction, he's now reached the young age of sixty, having achieved an enviable reputation within the cycling industry, amongst his peers and within the cycling community at large. much of contemporary business relies increasingly on plans and consultations, both to guarantee continued investment and to offer a template for the future. thankfully not everyone adheres to this particular modus operandi. in the case of tom ritchey, is there a cunning plan in place, or is it more a case of refining the present rather than wholesale adoption of the future?
"I'd circle back and basically explain once more that my bike is my office. If you know who I am, you'll know there has never been a cunning plan. There's always been an effort to innovate, though not necessarily invent, on the shoulders of previous wonderful designs that have come to my starting point. I have a need for good product and for good people basically my age who need good product. I'm excited to look into the future and to see how long I can continue to ride a bike in places that I want to ride a bike. In reality I'm just one more bike ride away from figuring it out."
i'd like to thank tom ritchey for the considerable time he gave to answering my questions and for the speed with which he returned the answers. i'd also like to offer my gratitude to ritchey's uk brand manager, simon beatson for his considerable assistance with this feature.
thursday 19 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
for no fathomable reason, i have a particular affinity for science fiction, with fond memories of awaiting the latest paperback issue of america's analog magazine to arrive in the newsagents at prestwick airport. it is the principal purpose of this distinct strain of literature to take a no-holds barred approach to any number of projected futures, in order to explore a series of likely and altogether unlikely scenarios involving the human race, aliens or the robot population expected to land upon us from a great height anytime soon.
the unintended comedic effect of this most often centres around our reaching a one-time future date once seen as the harbinger of a utopian or dystopian fate. consider, if you will, george orwell's 1984, a date that has now passed into the annals of history without impinging its depressing prognosis upon a cowering population. less serious science fiction such as the animation series the jetsons, a cartoon vision of the future originally broadcast in 1962, visually proposed that at an unspecified date in our future, we'd all be travelling through the skies in mini-spaceships with glass bubble tops. yet here we are in the second decade of the 21st century with rubber still firmly planted on the streets.
one present day consternation, which once may well have been considered the subject of science fiction, is the inevitable interaction between autonomous motor vehicles and distinctly more random cyclists.
the advent of the driverless car, models of which are under development by several different agencies, introduces the potentially dubious control of programmed digital electronics which many claim (mostly those with a vested interest) will be the progenitor of reduced vehicular collisions accompanied by a concomitant lowering of insurance premiums. this is all framed by the likely increase in remuneration amongst the legal profession, as lawyers occupy the courts more frequently to argue just who should accept the blame if a motor vehicle under its own control comes into contact with same, or perhaps more likely, an irritating pedestrian or cyclist.
in the recently reviewed m.i.t. publication reinventing the automobile, it was proposed that a combination of intelligent digital control systems and the internet of things would see each and every driverless vehicle connected as part of a traffic network. this network would know or learn where was each individual node, allegedly preventing congestion, learning of any accidents to be avoided and other network infractions that might affect the smooth passage of the day's traffic.
under current conditions, this still remains science fiction, for each manufacturer of a driverless vehicle would have need of agreement on the protocols to be adopted in order that such communication would have at least a semblance of being seamless. consider cars made by apple and google attempting to talk to each other.
but we, as cyclists, are prone to less predictable behaviour and though it is a life-saving necessity that we are aware and beware of current traffic conditions, a report by engineers wsp/parsons brickerhoff in association with the architects farrells, proposes a commuting nirvana populated with high streets free from clutter, roads edged with cycleways and city centres running smoothly due to a plethora of robot cars. however, in order to maintain this idealistic mobile existence, it seems quite likely that itinerant cyclists and pedestrians may have to become yet more nodes on the network of the future.
as the report quite clearly states "...we will all have to get used to a new etiquette for AVs (autonomous vehicles) to match the logic and behaviour of the vehicles." it would be less than fair to pre-judge science fiction, but if the foregoing comes to pass, some of the idiosyncratic freedoms that we currently take for granted on foot or two wheels, may rapidly disappear into history, with the potential of us becoming even more subservient to the whims and fancies of the motor vehicle.
it's utopia jim, but not as we know it.
read the full report: making better places: autonomous vehicles and future opportunities
wednesday 18 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
you may have seen the tv advert. it revolves around the realisation that the kids of today have a far better grasp of technology than those of us who are often characterised as 'older but wiser'. i'm inclined to attribute the wisdom part to knowing when i'm beaten, but in this instance, the basis of the tv advert (for virgin tv if memory serves) is that seven year-old kids can access any of the plethora of modern-day television in a heartbeat while we're still vainly searching some website or other for the instructions.
several years ago, i voluntarily taught a school's extra-curricular computer class after work, during which time i attempted to have the children design and ultimately print a poster for their forthcoming christmas pantomime. due to my being in school for about an hour after classes had finished for the day, several of the teachers took advantage of this fact to complete additional work. during this time, they would frequently ask one of the kids to assist them with one or two computer tasks on the basis that "they're so much better at this stuff than we are".
i did point out that, as teachers, using the above as a get out clause really wasn't an option in this day and age. if computers were to form an ever-increasing part of the current education curriculum, it was surely in their best interests to become more acquainted with the digital realm?
i've not taught such a class for quite some time, principally on the basis that my own predilection leans towards apple macintosh computers, while the school has now demonstrated a greater investment towards microsoft windows, an operating system i prefer to keep at arm's length. the fact that i have also eschewed any association with the smartphone means that my own computing knowledge is now concentrated on more specific tasks utilising specialised software.
however, that has scarcely put a dent in the avowed confidence and surety of the younger generation. this state of affairs, however, is occasionally put to the test in the velocipedinal realm. my son, now in his mid-twenties, has finally seen the light and adopted the pelotonic path with great gusto. as with many an individual, this originated in the desire to improve a non-existent fitness, but repeated exposure to the sunday morning peloton has proved a tad more addictive and i now have a young man who is every bit as keen to get out on the bicycle as am i.
however, there are specific niceties that will hopefully arrive with experience, niceties such as carryng a tyre lever in his on-bike toolkit. this particular omission came to light after a particularly gravely descent past the rspb farm at aoradh. as i was aboard the rather sturdy specialized crux at the time, the road surface was more or less of no nevermind, but the lad was on a colnago which featured 25mm road tyres, one of which was so upset at the surface, it decided to let go of all the air in its tube.
as an allegedly responsible parent, i thought i had impressed upon him the necessities of cycling life, not least of which was the carrying of at least one tyre lever. sadly, this appeared to have fallen on deaf ears; though there was an inner tube and a mini-pump at his behest, a tyre lever was conscpicuous by its absence.
this would have been one of the ideal moments to bring his attention to the particularly brilliant and stunningly clever ritchey barkeeper lever, a tom ritchey invention that is so simple and effective, you have to wonder why no-one has had the perspicacity to think of it before. as the name would suggest, the barkeeper lever fulfils two necessary functions; firstly, it fills the hole at the end of a pair of drop bars, whether fashioned from alloy or carbon, and thus keeps the bar wrap from inconsiderately unfurling in use.
but secondly and more importantly, the barkeeper lever forms a practical and sturdy tyre lever, one that's arguably less likely to go missing in action. the fact that these levers arrive as a carded pair has the potential to make airless life in the wilderness far less of a problem than would have been the case had my son been out for a bike ride on his own. currently, these occupy bar space on the ibis hakkalugi, where they are far less prone to distancing themselves from the bicycle than in the more usual space reserved for the purpose in the seatpack.
no bicycle should leave home without them.
recommended price for a pair of ritchey barkeeper levers is around £15.
tuesday 17 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
at the risk of stating the glaringly obvious, there are distinct advantages to be gained from a smidgeon of co-operation between members of the peloton. i use the latter word here to describe a motley bunch of velocipedinists driven south at an ever increasing pace purely on the mistaken notion that you can smell coffee from more than a few kilometres distant from debbie's. i'm sure many of you can identify with that particular scenario. and additionally it would not surprise me one whit to learn that more than just a few velo clubs across the world have one amongst their number with a propensity to launch themselves off the front in an almost always futile bid to be first on the leather couch.
it is the classic principal on which greyhound racing is based. as long as there's a moving target, someone is duty bound to slip into the big ring and give it enough wellie to catch that distant rear wheel. it has always struck me as odd that a group of several disparate individuals will happily ride alongside each other virtually all morning, stopping every now and again to allow backmarkers to once again make contact, but as soon as there is the portent of a mythical finish line somewhere in the distance, that camaraderie is thrown to the wind and it becomes every man (or woman) for him/herself.
however, we probably all well know that the spurious effort of closing a sizeable if not insurmountable gap into a headwind can prove more testing than originally thought. i can't be the only one who has reached the point of exhaustion all the while thinking that it seemed like a good idea at the time. a lone rider faces the same iniquities as the achtervolger or inseguittori, tempered only by the knowledge that they may well have been doing so for a greater length of time, thus testing the limits of their stamina.
however, such disparity can often be lessened should at least two of those in the peloton decide to co-operate in the pursuance of the hare. while one would not wish to brag, the perennial winds that afflict islay have long ago taught us the art of the echelon; there is not a rider amongst our number that is not at least familiar with the principles. the majority of hebridean cyclists are born with the ability to manage an individual echelon should there be no-one else with which to ride.
however, since currently we are all at differing stages of in our pursuit of the riding ideal, some of the nuances are yet to be honed to a fine point. thus, on occasion the man at the front, intent on shielding his compatriots from a westerly wind, will ride too close to the road's edge to allow a favourable degree of shelter. but, in mitigation, we are nothing if not quick learners and a gent on the sunday ride who had made this fundamental error while riding to the start, had impressively modified his road behaviour when it came tme to ride down one of our number who mistakenly thought he'd garnered a sufficient advantage to be first across the bruichladdich finish line.
to manage just such an imperious chase, i must admit we are not in the habit of peeling off the minute one of us hits the front. ours is a more moderated attack formation, allowing the front man to hold that position for several minutes, before the thin lad at the back, moves up to assume the strike position. though several of our number, while rooting for the junction of chasers and chasee, were content to meander more soporifically down the length of uiskentuie strand, three individuals with scarcely the sense they were born with (my hand is firmly in the up position here), rode bit and bit till one pulled out after a last burst at the front and the remaining two slid past the usurper to take a well-judged victory.
you would scarcely think that there could be so much unscripted co-operative action from within one velo club, but such are the joys of the sunday ride, that it is not at all difficult to pity the couch potatoes and the lethargic who will probably never know what it means to be lead-out man just in time for a soya cappuccino and perchance a small slice of lemon drizzle cake.
the future's bright, the future's an echelon.
monday 16 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i was recently listening to an interview with one of my favourite drummers, a chap by the name of jay bellerose, who i'm sure i have mentioned before. for those unacquainted with his palmares, he has drummed on albums by hugh laurie, robert plant and alison krauss, the late allen toussaint and joe henry to name but a few. however, he was relating a story from his early years at berklee college during which, on returning to his locker, he discovered that someone had nicked his nice, shiny five-piece tama drumset.
while somewhat distraught at this state of affairs, he figured that he simply needed drums and cymbals of any hue and cry to continue making music, a situation suitably remedied by a friend of his lending him a rather beat-up old set that he had no further need of. unlike many a contemporary drummer, bellerose has no cymbal or drum endorsement, preferring to play upon a range of vintage drumsets including an all-wood slingerland rolling bomber set from the war years when metal was rationed and even the tension nut boxes were fashioned from rosewood.
there are few of us in the percussive milieu who would have taken such a pragmatic and philosophical view of a similar situation. i have two very nice american drumsets with attendant quality cymbals and i'm enough of a snob to have offered to lend a set of those cymbals to the high school students sitting their drumming higher grade prelim, because to me, those on the school kit have much in common with dustbin lids.
and i tend to think that, as cyclists, we'd be inclined to demonstrate a similar attitude should our pride and joy go missing in action. it is hard to countenance any practical similarity between the latest in carbon fibre and something fished out the nearest skip (dumpster). were we to be talking of the competitive realm, i would readily understand any major consternation, but in truth, where the simplicity of a bike ride is concerned, pretty much anything that works will do. this can, i believe, be easily demonstrated during a period of review concerning, at the time, the state of the art in carbon fibre bicycle design.
on riding towards debbie's after an enjoyable sunday bike ride, i found myself in the company of another cyclist riding an ageing steel road bike with friction-shift downtube levers and a mere six gears. try as i might as we reached the end of uiskentuie strand, i could but watch him disappear into the distance. granted, as always, it often has more to do with the rider than the bike, but it was a pertinent lesson that you don't always need the very latest to be fast or to enjoy the ride.
but we are here discussing the vicissitudes of the realm of the roadie, rather than the more pragmatic environment of the commuting cyclist. the latter more likely has little need for out and out speed and while it's largely true that any bicycle will get you to and from work, there are certain features that can enhance the experience given that the five days a week are frequently permeated by less than clement weather. that is particularly noticeable during the current months. therefore a bicycle that offers an appropriate level of manoeuverability, decent cargo capacity, fixings for mudguards/fenders and either the ability to be folded and carried inside or sufficiently drab in appearance not to attract the attention of would-be thieves, seems the most desirable of specifications.
drop bars or flat bars are often a matter of personal preference, but it seems not too pernickety to hope that the riding position allows for the best visibility in the midst of ever-increasing traffic, allied to a decent amount of comfort. there is little worse in the week to finish a hard day at the office only to suffer like a peloton refugee on the homeward journey.
assuming we're all generally agreed on the above, you can imagine the consternation being voiced at road.cc's commuting bike of the year award going to a £2,150 whyte wessex road bike, replete with disc brakes. while neither the price nor the choice of brakes exactly disqualifies it from the potential attention of the commuting fraternity, it is distinctly categorised by whyte themselves under the road bike heading and not within that of their fast urban/commuter series. in fact, if i may quote from whyte's website "The all new Wessex is conceived to be the ideal British road bike." however, the dissatisfaction with road.cc's choice seems to revolve around the fact that they only rate bicycles reviewed during the previous year and given that the website is specifically geared (sorry) towards the roadie fraternity it ought to be of little surprise that the bulk of their reviews concern bendy bars and skinny wheels.
perhaps they'd have been better to have eschewed the category altogether; it could be seen as the equivalent of singletrack magazine featuring a road bike of the year when all that chipps and co. test all year are mountain bikes.
but ultimately, a bicycle is a bicycle is a bicycle. not all cyclists are favoured with a bikeshed stuffed to the rafters with a varied choice of veocipede; many have only the wherewithal or storage space for a single machine and if your preference is to blast the highways and byways each weekend, maybe a brompton is not your ideal option, no matter its aptitude for the daily commute. and in truth, simply because the fine fellows at road.cc have decided upon the wessex as their ideal commuter doesn't mean that everyone is thus compelled to follow suit.
i'm inclined to adopt the mantra of portland's ira ryan: 'work hard, ride home'. choice of bicycle is optional.
sunday 15 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i was, almost by tradition, an avid consumer of bicycle magazines, predominantly in order to keep myself informed as to the whys and wherefores of the cycling world, whether from the world of touring, offroad, racing, commuting etc. however, as the years have rolled past, this consumption has minimised, partly through the disappearance of certain publications and partly due to the realisation that i might be conceivably spending rather a substantial portion of the non-existent washingmachinepost budget. i recall buying my copy of cycling weekly every week for many a decade, only ceasing when, in my opinion, the quality dropped below a (personally) acceptable level.
however, one of the principal reasons for my apparently odd reduction in cycling-related reading material is that of literary insecurity. similarly to perusing youtube of an evening in order to better acquaint myself with the expected standard of drumming these days, it only serves to underline my percussive shortcomings. i feel the same way about cycling blogs etc.; everyone else seems to write more fluidly and lucidly than do i.
mind you, having made it to the post's 20th birthday in the early months of last year, i presume i must have been doing something right.
anyhoo, there's really no argument over the fact that so-called traditional media in many cases is in decline. whether this decline is terminal depends greatly on your point of view and whether you have a vested interest in digital. but even the latter appears not to be immune from the vicissitudes of modernity. while many looked to the ipad editions of their publications to lead the digital charge, in point of fact, this has failed to make the great inroads into modern-day publishing originally forecast. many either discontinued this particular avenue or simply offered it as an accompaniment to their print editions.
i fear a lot of money may have been spent on the emperor's new clothes.
earlier this past week the pro-scottish independence website bella caledonia announced that it may well have to close due to a severe lack of funding. maybe digital isn't as future proof as was once thought. earlier this year, cycling weekly's monthly sister publication, cycle sport ceased publication, despite british cycling announcing an incredible growth in membership to over 125,000; you'd figure there would be sufficient takers within those numbers to offer viability to all three of britain's sporting cycle magazines (the other two being procycling and cyclist).
yet still the dissolution continues with the recent announcement of the end of velovision magazine. founded in 2001 by peter eland, velovision was purchased in 2015 by howard yeomans, who unfortunately was unable to achieve profitability and thus called time on the presses. according to the magazine's website, the contents dealt with "all innovations and a devotion to the use of bikes" but mostly eschewing the sporting milieu. oddly, i'd have expected the latter to have brought it a far wider audience than those mentioned above.
and only a few days after citing immediate media's ownership of bikeradar, cyclingnews, 220 triathlon and bikely, it appears they have been subsumed into the fold of german publisher hubert burda media. and it's not just their digital outlets that have gone east; the printed pages of mountain biking uk, home of jo burt's mint sauce cartoon, procycling, what mountain bike, cycling plus and urban cyclist have shared their lufthansa flight.
please do not misunderstand me; i am not attempting to place myself in such esteemed company; a minnow in an increasingly large corporate pond would be about right. and nowadays there's nothing particularly unusual about one company being acquired by another. but though the early part of this century saw a veritable explosion of titles in both print and digital along with more cycling blogs than you could shake a stick at and despite cycling being arguably more popular than ever, it's a shame that the sport/activity's accompanying literature seems unable to follow suit.
saturday 14 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm proud to relate that the decision to create a car-free washingmachinepost household was entirely mine. granted, mrs washingmachinepost does not have a driver's licence and works from home, so the vehicle that we did own was, not to put too fine a point on it, of little practical use to her. the office in which i ply my daily trade (so to speak) is a mere five minutes walk from the croft, so on a daily and almost weekly basis, i had little need of a motor vehicle either.
where it did come into its own was usually on saturday mornings when we would both drive a matter of a few hundred metres to bowmore main street in order to stock up the cupboards, fridge and freezer with the weekly shop. i cannot deny that, on occasion (usually a sunday afternoon) we'd pop over to the ancestral home of velo club d'ardbeg for a coffee and a panini, but it would be foolish to pretend that the latter was anything like a justifiable reason to pay car tax, insurance, mot, servicing costs and petrol.
so, when the car finally failed an mot, accompanied by prospective remedial costs of several hundred pounds, i made the decision to leave the car at the garage and cycle home. though it's something of a cliché, i've really never looked back since.
however, in so doing, i have not lost sight of the fact that this was not a decision that entailed my attempting to cadge a lift from the currently motorised at each and every apparently necessitous opportunity. this extends to the transportation of a small but oddly heavy drumset. it has always been a conundrum how items consisting mostly of empty space manage to weigh so much. i'm fortunate that the majority of my percussive engagements take place in an islay hostelry within easy walking distance of the croft and, with the aid of a small trolley, shifting the aforesaid drumset is a relatively innocuous procedure.
but there are occasions when that trolley has its limitations and there is need of renting a motor vehicle. to my mind this is a necessary evil and one that i am keen to avoid as often as possible. sadly, having spent six or more car-free years means that i have missed out on what i'm sure the motor industry most likely refers to as 'technological developments'. little lights that appear on the dashboard telling me to change gear, despite my still trying to fathom the complexity of the heating controls to demist the windscreen rather than my socks. a fifth or sixth gear when my last car had only four; when do i change up, or even down?
my first attempted drive in years almost failed at the first hurdle when, after filling every available space with drums and cymbals, the car simply wouldn't start. all the lights were coming on, everything seemed to be in working order, but there was nary a sparkle from the engine. a quick phone call to the rental office elicited the hitherto unknown information that the clutch pedal had need of being depressed, while turning the ignition key. who ever would have figured that one out?
believe me, though the rental cars served their purpose most admirably, i doubt there was a single driving moment when i could honestly have claimed to be enjoying myself. especially when unable to find the switch for the rear screen wiper. the tangible relief on climbing aboard my bicycle upon returning the car was udoubtedly the high point of the week. that and being paid to play my drums in the first place.
it therefore offers me a smidgeon of disappointment that the bicycle industry occasionally seems hell-bent on following their motoring counterparts. as one who still views the advent of the electronic groupset as a solution looking for a problem, the news that a chinese cycle company is offering bicycles featuring an integrated power meter and touch-screen computer has not made 2017 one that i cannot wait to unfold. i well understand that there is a velocipedinal strata that has undoubted need of such technology; those imbued with the athletically sporting gene, keen to overtake their peers by any legitimate means possible.
with them, i have no quibble.
however as one who has had the pleasure (?) of reviewing power meters in the past, my worry is that such technology dribbles downwards, eventually resulting in a full page advert in the weekend colour supplements for a a similar machine, constructed from plain gauge steel and selling for £49.99. though my review periods were mostly to ascertain whether the meters on test were simple and accurate to use, at the end of each ride, i still had a substantial quantity of data with which i had no idea what to do. and let's face it, unless you're a qualified coach or a well-informed professional rider, those power readings are simply a set of inscrutable numbers.
it would be naive of me to pretend that the chinese bicycles previously mentioned are anything other than tools designed for those in the know, but how many years is it since formula one cars had six gears operated by little flip levers on the steering wheel and how many standard saloon cars now feature something similar? i mean, who really needs six (or more) gears on a car?
mind you, come to that, how many of us really need eleven sprockets on the back wheel?
friday 13 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
after moaning without result about the total lack of live coverage of britain's national cyclocross championships, i felt compelled to watch the us nationals being broadcast later that same day on 'youtube' via cyclingnews.com or cyclocross world. congratulations to stephen hyde on a finely judged win, despite a late puncture and apparently a bust derailleur hanger. due to immediate circumstances, i'd to watch the coverage with the sound switched off - i didn't have the chance even to wear earphones - and it has to be said that between the nature of the course, a substantial covering of snow and some very odd camera choices, it was very hard to follow what was going on.
just for future information, should anyone from british cycling have heeded my moaning, it would be a very good idea to follow the uci's lead by displaying on-screen, at least the top ten placings across the line on each lap, unlike the usac coverage (just saying).
disappointingly and probably more so for him than for us, last year's champion, jeremy powers, finished well down the field in 24th place.
the new champion, a former student at the jeremy powers backed 'apprentice' scheme and current training partner of powers was, according to a recent interview, unaware of the beatles, probably the sign of a deprived childhood of a kid who's music idol is elvis presley. presumably, assuming he has read a copy of balint hamvas' 2015/16 cyclephotos annual, he has now googled the beatles and is possessor of a more rounded musical knowledge.
the (almost) 30 year-old moved from florida to oregon to further his 'cross career, the latter us state far more imbued with the cyclocross gene than its much warmer and sunnier east-coast cousin. his presence in several of this season's european races has presumably brought him the skills and experience that allowed him to escape to victory after being caught up, as was powers, in a first lap bottleneck at the connecticut nationals this past weekend. as he says in the nicholas lemke interview...
"These (European) guys are the real deal and I have nothing but massive respect for them and the sport. I have no illusions of becoming a world champion and I don't go to the races thinking that's my next step."
of course, you'll already know all this, if last year you were a kickstarter subscriber to balint's photo album. unlike previous years, when the photographer financed the project himself and subsequently offered it for sale via his website, the current superb and arguably compulsory edition was only available to those who pledged in advance. aside from one or two hiccups along the production way, including balint's laptop being stolen, this method of production seems to have proved most satisfactory for photographer and adoring public alike.
so much so, in fact, that the gent has decided to follow a similar pattern for his 2016/17 photo album. i need scarcely mention that my pledge is already in place; cyclocross simply would not be the same without this annual (not rhetoric; fact) and in case the knowledge of this opportunity has passed you by, i feel it my duty to point it out.
for those who have yet to experience the luxury of enjoying page after page of 'cross imagery that will frequently have you wondering where on earth balint was standing when pressing the shutter, i'd seriously advise pledging at least sufficient dosh to ensure that one of these arrives through your letterbox in late summer.
thursday 12 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"many of the rules in the code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you are committing a criminal offence. you may be fined, given penalty points on your licence or be disqualified from driving."
thus runs the introduction to the highway code, the book of commandments that pertains predominantly to the motoring public, but which contains a section relevant to those of us on bicycles (59-82). rules of the road that may constitute a legal requirement are identifiable by use of the words 'must/must not', though it should be said that many of the code's contents are advisory. for instance, rule 59 states that cyclists ought to wear a helmet conforming to current regulations, but you and i both know that helmet wearing is, as yet, not a legal requirement in the uk.
the same rule goes on to elucidate the code's subjective preferences as regards appropriate clothing. yet move on one rule to 60 and the code points out that it is a legal requirement to have both front and rear lights affixed to the bicycle after the hours of darkness. without wishing to beat about the bush, anyone who ignores that part is an idiot. oddly enough the same rule insists on front and rear reflectors as being mandatory if the bicycle was manufactured after october 1985. i can think of many who, whether aware of this diktat or not, are guilty of ignoring it (self included).
however, what happens to the credibility of the highway code if it appears to be wrong? though the following is not specifically aimed at the pedal cyclist, i figure there are grounds for at least a quizzical expression on one's face.
i am currently in the throes of designing a leaflet on behalf of islay community council to impress upon visiting camper van and motorhome drivers, the potential iniquities of perambulating islay's single-track roads. those of you who have visited the highlands and islands of scotland will likely be familiar with the concept of the passing place, a brief extension of the road width to allow two vehicles to pass each other on narrow roads.
the most obvious application of the average passing place is to cope with two vehicles passing in opposite directions. it is customary for the vehicle first reaching the passing place to move in and allow the other(s) to pass relatively unhindered. once past, this temporarily stationary vehicle can rejoin the roadway and continue upon its merry way. it is also perfectly permissible to stop adjacent to a passing place and allow the oncoming vehicle to use it, though this is less than practical if the oncoming vehicle is a 40-foot articulated truck.
so far, so good, but here's where the house of cards starts to fall apart. according to the highway code, should you find yourself meandering joyfully along a singletrack road, followed by a vehicle obviously keen to get on with life at a more alacritous pace, you may use a passing place to allow them to pass. should the passing place be situated on your left, you should pull in, but if that selfsame passing place happens to be on your right, you should come to an adjacent halt, allowing the following vehicle to use the passing place to overtake.
though this at first may seem a rather tautological description, in practice it doesn't quite work like that. the most obvious error concerns any vehicle coming to a halt adjacent to a right-hand passing place. have they done so to allow you to pass, or is there an oncling vehicle they are attempting to allow passage in the opposite direction, one that you are unable to see becasue you're sat behind? rather obviously, if this is the case, you'd risk an accident if you pulled in to overtake. in practice, based on personal observation and a brief survey of local driving habits, any driver wishing to allow a speedier vehicle to pass on a singletrack road is far more likely to pull into the passing place themselves, no matter on which side it is situated, and allow a following vehicle to continue on the road.
granted, the foregoing is one of the advisory parts of the highway code. there is no legal requirement whatsoever to pull over and allow a tractor hauling silage reach the farm gate in timeous fashion. i have collated many individual reports over the years of locals having been stuck behind dawdling visitors for the full ten-mile length of the high road. and i am also the very repository for stories from moaning motorists who sat fuming for many a long, slow mile behind cyclists who paid scant attention to their existence.
ultimately, there's no real point to my diatribe, other than to prove that the highway code frequently cited in court during cases concerning an untoward motor car/bicycle interface should not necessarily be thought of as the final word. yet despite the advisory note about wearing of a cycle helmet, it often amazes how frequently the non-wearing of one is cited as dereliction on the part of the cyclist. heaven forbid the price to be paid for having no reflective clothing when using a passing place.
wednesday 11 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
prior to gaining the opportunity to review all manner of bicycle-related items, i cut my teeth (metaphorically speaking) on books. on several occasions i had the great good fortune to receive pristine hardback copies of recently released publications and all i had to do was read them while making mental or scribbling notes on whatever came to hand. believe it or not, i still class book reviews as the hardest part of writing the post, but despite that, i still rather enjoy the whole process.
as you would perhaps expect, a substantial quantity of hardback books takes up a not inconsiderable space on the croft, even after passing some of them on to cyclists of my acquaint. the majority occupy a specific area set aside for the purpose, but i recently discovered several of my early subjects sat neatly in the bookcase on the landing at the top of the stairs. one of these is the velopress publication, a paperback as it happens, entitled 'base building for cyclists', by thomas chapple. those of you intent on siting a new garden shed or garage on your property should be made aware that the base building refers to base fitness and not a shuttered area of flattened concrete in the driveway.
as i recall, this book made the biggest impression upon me of any of the training manuals that have appeared in these black and yellow pixels over the years. sad to say, this had nothing whatsoever to do with the rather bland cover, but pretty much all to do with a small, specific portion of the contents. all too many such 'training manuals' spend paragraph after paragraph describing threshold levels, periodisation, metabolism, hydration and many other concepts that are pretty much guaranteed to take all the fun out of cycling. from here it's pretty much all downhill to cadence monitors and power meters from which there is no apparent escape. ultimately, this book was no different.
however, if i may quote from my original review of 2006...
"...too many cyclists go out hard all the time and never give their aerobic system a fighting chance. apparently the australian national team had their finest (training) hours at heart rates below 120. there are even charts showing how cyclists who go out hard, gradually deteriorate in effort and finish considerably more slowly, whereas us snails tend to stay at the same level from a to b."
you will forgive me if i perhaps misinterpreted mr chapple's intent, particularly if i raise my hand to being guilty of ignoring pretty much all of the other chapters in the book. however, as the owner of a polar heart-rate monitor at the time, i opted to train for my first attempt on the hot chillee london - paris ride in 2007 by spending the kilometres between new year and easter riding abysmally slowly and attempting to keep those heart-rate digits lower than 130bpm (i cannot remember why i settled on that particular number, but there it is...)
depending on your level of fitness, it can often be a darned sight harder to ride so slowly than it is to complete sprint intervals. 100 kilometres at around 16-18kph makes for a very long day and many an irate following motorist along single-track roads. however, despite being convinced that so doing would be less than efficacious in the long-term, when easter rolled into view and i could legitimately ignore the preset on my polar, the improvement in performance was particularly noticeable. those three days leading from london to paris (actually, in 2007 the endpoint was versailles) while not all plain sailing, were far less onerous than i'd expected them to be.
thus, with a reprise of my attempt to ride from this nation's capital to that of france scheduled for july this year, i figured it could do no harm to implement a similar training regime, the opening salvo of which began this past weekend.
you will be satisfied to learn that my progress was every bit as tardy as that of ten years ago and once again, there was more than one slightly pissed-off driver on the singletrack road encircling loch gorm. i'm sure they were ultimately happy to have been a part of honing my new year physique.
as time goes by, i may regale you with my progress; or lack therof. always assuming anyone's interested.
tuesday 10 january 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
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.
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...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading...........................................................................................................................................................................................................