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abstract leanings

the northernline koppenberg

during my tenure at art college, there was a fellow in the year above, in the drawing and painting department, who had set himself the singular task of producing photo-realistic artworks, which, to be perfectly honest, seemed well ahead of their time. using airbrushes and perforated metal sheeting through which the paint could be applied, he created images that, when seen from a reasonable viewing distance, were all but indistinguishable from photographs, despite not copied from any camera produced image.

though personally, i couldn't quite see the point, after all, even in those halcyon days of yore, a decent camera was perfectly capable of producing quality printed images (at a price). why go to such inordinate lengths to develop a painting technique that could be easily assimilated by something from kodak? however, it was decidedly and solely his painting obsession, and i could do little by admire the effort, skill and time invested. however, those faculty members responsible for assessing such output, were very much not in favour of his vision, and though he passed his final year, the usual reward of a post-diploma was with-held.

the northernline tour of britain

that abstract art was more in favour in the college, could have been directly gleaned from the amount of time spent by one lecturer praising a mark rothko canvas in the local art gallery. this image, entitled 'blue square', if memory serves correctly, consisted of a larg(ish) canvas painted predominantly black, but featuring a small, blue square near the top left corner (of course, i could be completely wrong; it was a long time ago). to this day, i have no idea what rothko's painting was intended to represent, but i can't deny, it had a certain obscure, abstract attraction.

in retrospect, abstract composition might have been an easier choice when completing works for assessment. after all, any fool can see how badly i may have painted a fruit bowl, but render the same object in abstract form, and who can say it's right or it's wrong? and, aside from that, if we leverage the common misapprehension that art students are a bunch of lazy loafers, it would surely have consumed less effort to paint anything i darned well like, and call the resulting image 'fruit bowl'.

the northernline tour of california

actually, two of my fellow classmates did precisely that. both elected to become abstract artists, festooning their canvases with strips of masking tape, easing the problem of painting a plethora of coloured, interweaving lines that signified pretty much nothing whatsoever. however, it cannot be denied that the development of abstraction in visual art was - and is - an important milestone in art history. though discussion probably still continues as to who was first to the finish-line, common consent would tend to suggest the russian painter, wassily kandinsky, was the first guy whose paintings made no sense at all.

there have been many followers along the path to asbtraction, some of them derivative, some less so, though once ultimate abstraction had been achieved by kandinsky, there were surely fewer avenues remaining for investigation. that, however, may be open to further discussion, if we're willing to accept that the latest posters from the northern line offer a pretty convincing argument that abstraction is alive and well and potentially living on the walls of cyclists all across the nation.

the northern line offer a variety of cycling posters, celebrating some of the velocipedinal world's most famous and finest events. perhaps that most akin to the works of kandinsky (or paul klèe) would be their depiction of 'de kopppenberg', but the poster representing the tour of california appears to be pushing the envelope pretty close to its unseen edge. this way, we can not only acquire art for our walls that scarcely represent reality, but empowers us as studied art connoisseurs. i'd respectfully suggest that you attempt to convince admiring onlookers that de koppenberg is one of belgium's foremost abstractionists.

you're welcome.

the northern line cycle posters

tuesday 19 january 2021

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pirelli cycle-e wt winter tyres - part two

pirelli cycle-e wt tyres

there are eastern philosophies that succinctly point out the western delusional habit of naming items and concepts, then implying that both or either contain inherent aspects of those applied names. for instance, take the word 'tree'; while we all recognise precisely to what the word refers, it is simply a convenient means of describing an item in a way that allows for national or international communication. but in an abstract sense, a tall growth of wood with branches and leaves owns no inherent 'tree-ness'.

perhaps i might make myself a tad clearer if i invoke the word 'lap', to mean the top of your thighs when in a seated position. there is a zen koan that asks the question, 'where does your lap go when you stand up?, surely a means of pointing out fallacies in our conventional means of nomenclature. the same can be said of a 'fist' when the hand is opened.

pirelli cycle-e wt tyres

but before you figure you may have stumbled upon an open university dissertation on philosophical thought, let me disavow you of that notion. the subject arose when considering the term commuting, one which we, as cyclists, would tend to equate with the daily task of travelling from home to office. of course, this need not involve the bicycle at all; many commuters commute by bus, car or train. however, having hopefully re-established the post's velocipedinal credentials, for the purposes of this discussion/review, i think it best that we think of the word commute solely in relation to the bicycle.

in this respect, i have had the great good fortune to have a duopoly of items for review that both embrace the notion of commuting. recently reviewed, and therefore solely of peripheral association in this instance, is endura's marvellous luminite urban three-in-one jacket, which, for the purposes of clarity, i have worn while progressing with my longer-term review of pirelli's cycle-e wt winter tyres. and it's at this point where we have to consider what might be an appropriate definition of the word 'commute'.

there's no point in my pretending to have a commute to work, for the office is but five minutes distant on foot. however, on saturdays, at least one guiding factor of the day's ride is the necessity of visiting debbie's café for lunch and froth supping. for the purposes of review, i'm designating that ride as a commute. and considering this has continued throughout the festive holiday and into mid-january, i doubt there will be too many arguments over my pre-fixing this as a 'winter' commute, neatly coinciding with the description applied by pirelli.

pirelli cycle-e wt tyres

as mentioned in my initial appreciation of the tyres, i have given them as hard a time as possible, for it would be pure supposition to imagine that at least a few winter commutes do not include wet grassland, gravel paths with a river or two of water running midst the stones, cattle-grids and single-track roads with moonlike surfaces. should you recognise any of the above as pertaining to your own commute, i can but highly recommend these 37mm tyres.

their solidity offers an impressively smooth ride across whatever surface exists beneath the tread. and, according to pirelli's website, these tyres are 'specifically designed to perform like no other in winter conditions that are commonly found around the city: cold tarmac, thin snow layers, iced water splashes and frost.' so, over the course of a weekend, admittedly nowhere near a city, or anything remotely like it, i rode through slush, through ice covered puddles, frosty surfaces and hail, without once experiencing what paul simon once described as 'slip, sliding away'. though the website text might conceivably be viewed as marketing speak, the reality gives credence to its veracity.

pirelli cycle-e wt tyres

though i'm not in the habit of recording my daily kilometreage, a rough, back of the envelope calculation, would suggest that i have completed well over 800km on these tyres; the tread still looks like new. of course, tyres have to be fitted to a pair of wheels before any investigations can be commenced, and in this case, those are a pair of wheelsmith aero alloys which have performed every bit as well as the pirellis. and as i also mentioned in my initial overview, it's a real shame that the sidewall labelling doesn't feature pirelli's iconic logo, a fact also pointed out by one of my cycling companions. (pirelli marketing, take note)

the word 'bombproof' is one frequently overused, and i'm about to overuse it again, for considering the lack of respect i have frequently shown for these tyres, they appear to be capable of surviving pretty much anything you'd care to throw in their direction. admittedly, their weight (almost 800g each) doesn't make for speedy riding, but i'd imagine most commuters would be willing to trade a little top-line velocity for top-line reliability. as a tv police sergeant was once frequently heard to announce at the start of each episode, 'it's a jungle out there'.

highly recommended for winter commuting and quite probably winter touring too.

pirelli city/trekking tyres

monday 18 january 2021

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the headwind is your friend

wave at saligo bay

in the first decade of this century, the persistence of a hebridean wind every weekend for weeks on end, began to take its toll on my velocipedinal enjoyment. it was shortly after the arrival of the mighty dave t on the island, when there was no longer an excuse to procrastinate and stay at home whenever the weather seemed a tad inclement. this seemed not to bother the mighty dave anywhere as much as it did yours truly, escalating to the point where the fact that it bothered me, was more what bothered me than the wind itself.

geographically, islay's on a bit of a sticky wicket, sitting as it does between northern ireland and mull, with no visible means of support against the atlantic gales. the fact that the island is relatively flat may be something of a welcoming hug to visiting cyclists, but that flatness means there's literally nowhere to hide when the west wind blows. i mentioned to mrs washingmachinepost only the other day, that if the producers of channel four's bake-off programme were to have chosen the hebrides as a location for that enormous white marquee, there's not a chance on this earth that it would still be standing beyond episode three.

several years past, the former kilchoman gala day, held in port charlotte during the summer months, raised their tents and marquees on a thursday and by friday night, they'd all gone. the following year, the forecast cancelled the event before a tent-peg was hammered in anger.

but, to return to my displeasure with the inevitable headwinds, at some point or other, it dawned on me that riding in the wind was simply a factor of being a cyclist on islay. the winds have been strafing this island from time immemorial, and were unlikely to cease anytime soon; the sooner i got used to that fact, the sooner i could get back to being a cyclist. since then, the wind really hasn't bothered me much. sure, it's still remarkably hard work to slog into a headwind down uiskentuie strand, or, as was the case only yesterday, from coull farm to saligo bay. believe me, there's no pride to be gained arriving home with an average speed of less than 20kph, having ridden in perpetual 60kph headwinds and crosswinds.

and as if to prove that it's all a question of attitude, this week's comic examines the old school approach to training, including fausto coppi's alleged use of a weighted waistcoat, to make pedalling hard enough to offer an improvement in character and performance. i, and my cohorts have no need for anything heavy in our pockets, for that headwind provides all the training collateral we need. and consider those who live in the hillier or mountainous parts of the world. can anyone recall egan bernal moaning about having yet another mountain to climb?

and it has its plus points, even for those of us whose top-line speed peaked quite some time ago. in 2017, participating in the hot chillee london-paris ride, on the friday afternoon, still heading in the general direction of paris, we met a slight headwind, during which, i went from the back of the peloton right to the front, without placing any greater pressure on either pedal. the following morning, a fellow rider came alongside and admitted he'd been trying to figure out from which direction the headwind was coming. without a word of a lie, i hadn't noticed there was a headwind of any description. mind you, when we were pushed along by a tailwind, i was scrabbling around at the back.

so, very much disparaged by the great unwashed, i have taken to repeating the clichéd epithet, 'a headwind is your friend', a statement repeatedly misunderstood by the majority. headwinds in the hebrides are a darned sight more imposing than so-called headwinds in other parts of the uk, and as i mentioned above, they're very unlikely to disappear anytime soon. in fact, if the climate-change experts are to be believed, there's every likelihood thay're only going to get worse. continually busting a gut in the face of such draughts can only but improve my fitness (such as it is), and it'll do the same for you, whether you want it to or not.

and just think how much power you'd have, when headwind turns to tailwind.

sunday 17 january 2021

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now you really are having a laugh

santini custom indoor clothing

cycle clothing offers something of a quandary for most of us, and not just because of the price. in fact, the latter may be one of the deciding factors, for though that latest, state-of-the-art jersey or pair of bibtights may be the absolute shizzle, the price tag could be just one shelf too high. and then there's the decor, to coin a phrase. in my career as a reviewer, i frequently have little say over that which arrives in the mail, given that the object of the exercise is generally to examine the quality and suitability of the garment in question. but assuming you are the one handing over the cash or plastic, it's not unheard of to exercise a modicum of choice, should such be available in the first place.

of course, there's also the matter of appropriateness for the situation at hand. a sea-blue jacket may possibly be the object of your heart's desire, but if devoid of waterproofing or breathability, colour might not be the deciding factor. there are a couple of brands on the market that offer unparalleled quality and practicality, yet i'd be loathe to choose from their catalogue, since the styles are not those with which i find sympathy. which, i'd imagine, is the reason why several of the world's prominent cycling apparel manufacturers offer a custom option.

many years ago, creating a custom jersey design was pretty much a to and fro situation. unless you happened to have studied graphic design (i did) and have a reasonable expertise in vector art software (i do), designing a custom jersey would usually involve a felt-pen drawing on a piece of paper, mailed to your clothing company of choice. with luck, your design would translate easily across all the panels necessary to create the final garment. sadly, that wasn't always the case.

i recently designed bruichladdich distillery's port charlotte single malt jersey and shorts, as well as the jersey for ardnahoe distillery, both of which were manufactured by endura custom clothing. they offer downloadable templates which can be opened in adobe illustrator or similar software, allowing for the accurate creation of each different jersey panel and pretty much ensuring that the final product will match the idea you had in the first place. in this, they are not alone. the majority of other custom kit manufacturers offer something of similar intent.

however, other than those with an individual sense of ego, the main reason for going down the custom route, is for team kit, identifying a group of disparate individuals as belonging to the same locale, philosophy, or coffee shop. it is, without doubt, created to be seen by others when out on the road, attempting vigorously to resemble an agglomeration of world tour class riders. surely it's only a matter of time before skoda begin offering custom estate cars to match the jersey design (but only if bruichladdich are paying).

but if the last year has taught us nothing else, it's the fact that indoor cycling has become every bit as important to some, as is perambulating the estates to others. it seems to be gratuitously stating the obvious to point out that there is little need for insulated bib-tights, goretex waterproof and breathable jackets, winter gloves or waterproof overshoes, when riding in the garage or sitting room. and as far as i'm aware, custom kit for your on-screen avatar is a less onerous desire and arguably a whole lot cheaper. or at least, it used to be.

announced only a matter of days past, italian cycle clothing provider, santini has launched a full custom indoor 2021 collection for both men and women. this they have justified by saying "Currently, there is a 'make do' attitude to indoor kit with consumers wearing second or third best kit, often worn out. [...] why put yourself through the wringer in uncomfortable kit?"

firstly, assuming you've been in the habit of buying quality kit in the first place, the likelihood of it necessarily being either 'worn-out' or 'uncomfortable' is surely somewhat remote. i have a sportwool jersey that i've owned for 15 years, and it looks and feels pretty much as if it came from the packet only yesterday. likewise, bib-shorts that i have owned for over ten years, are every bit as comfortable as ever they were. if, however, budgetary constraints meant that most of your cycling apparel is closer to the 'economic' end of the spectrum, the possibility that you suddenly have the financial wherewithal to order custom kit for indoor use, would seem to be a tad remote.

additionally, many custom kit suppliers have a minimum order quantity. sometimes it's as low as one, but that usually comes with a bit of a price premium. practically and economically speaking, a minimum number would be closer to ten or fifteen for each individual garment. is there really a market for indoor team kit; are indoor riders in the habit of forming teams? but realistically, is zwift's or rgt's extensive customer base in the habit of riding/training in the best that money can buy?

let's face it, you could be riding on grandad's old delivery bike, clad in a pair of boxer shorts and last year's ardnahoe whisky festival t-shirt, and your online presence would show a honed physique wearing svelte jersey shaped pixels, aboard an s-works tarmac.

santini's uk custom sales manager, offering a unique marketing perspective, said, "As well as clubs and teams and coaching centres, IBDs now have the opportunity to sell indoor custom shop kit either to promote or enhance their trainer offer."

of course, we'll probably never know.

santini custom

saturday 16 january 2021

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galloway cycling

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persistence and persuasion

cycle lane

so, has cycling's destiny been fulfilled? has all the hype and hyperbole come true? are there more people cycling nowadays that there were before the coronavirus disrupted everything all acorss the world?

to be honest, i'm in entirely the wrong place to answer that question, for cycling has never been seen as a transport solution in this part of the hebrides, and scarcely figures at all on anyone's 'what to do with my leisure time' list. in the very early days of lockdown, i did come across a few folks on bicycles who would have struggled to convince me that such was their usual mode of transport, but their newfound mobility on two wheels seems not to have lasted longer than a few days. one bearded fellow oft met near loch gorm looked to be in it for the long-haul, but after two or three meetings, i have not come across him since. but islay, or even the hebrides, has hardly been the poster boy for velocipedinal activity under any circumstances, so it must fall to others to measure its success or failure.

cycling to and from work became a thing, principally in urban and city areas, where it was seen as a viable and economic alternative to the use of public transport. you just never knew who else would be on the bus or train, and where they might have been previously. car-sharing was obviously not an agreeable option, so the bicycle began to reclaim lost ground. and for exercise purposes, with gyms and swimming pools closed, riding a bike, indoors or out, offered a safe means of getting fit while remaining socially distanced (more or less).

cities and towns across the world, noted substantial reductions in pollution, affording their citizens cleaner air to breathe and a reported upsurge in wildlife activity even in city centres. buoyed with this speedy and impressive change in ecological fortunes, many vowed they would do all in their power to resist a return to the previously held 'bad old days', with plans to turn roads over to pedestrianised areas in their town centres, quickly installing delineated cycle facilities right, left and centre.

but, just as there are those who deny the existence of a deadly virus in the first place, contending that it's simply a means of allowing governments subjugate the people, and others vocally and physically protesting against lockdown restrictions, members of the motoring public and certain retail sectors claimed that these 'temporary' cycle lanes were causing congestion and lowering footfall. frequently, this resulted in government-funded cycle facilities being unceremoniously ripped up to give the roads back to the car. no doubt, in some cases, that meant less experienced cyclists may have simply given up and resorted to walking, or reluctantly using public transport.

perhaps, however, this is to paint a darker picture than actually and currently exists. otherwise, why would halfords have reported 35% like-for-like growth in bicycle sales over recent months? But, as transport experts in britain warned of potential gridlock following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, the government announced a £250 million emergency travel fund in may last year, but the question remains as to whether the financial injection has borne fruit? across the whole of the european union, of which we are no longer a member nation, the deputy mayor of paris has predicted that the cost of making cycling more accessible to all, will require a minimum of €10 billion.

frans timmermans, european commission vice-president has said that cycling is, by definition, the best way of solving the emissions problem prevalent in all cities across the eu. he figures that 'bike lanes are a no-regret investment', a point with which uk councils guilty of removing recently installed cycle lanes may wish to take issue. at present, many employees are working from home, leaving public transport systems woefully underused in many towns and cities across the country. the hope remains that, when or if, the pandemic begins to ease, and many, but probably fewer than before, return to the office, they choose the bicycle rather than the bus, train, or, heaven forbid, the car.

but, in the light of recent heavy snowfall across much of scotland and northern england, the bicycle might not be seen as the idyllic solution it appeared to be last may, june or july last year. increased sales of bicycles and e-bikes would surely point to a definable increase in bicycles in each homestead, but we have, i'm afraid to say, been here before. recall the so-called bradley bubble that followed the london olympics, a bubble that was generally agreed to have burst by 2018, if not sooner. and depending on who you ask, the average number of days on which a cycle commuter can expect to get wet could be as low as seven days per year, or twenty, or more, depending in which part of the country you live.

and therein, as i have said before, lies the nub of the problem: weather. any form of outdoor activity is vastly improved by warm, sunny days, and though you and i have more wet weather gear than to which we'd like to admit, eager and willing to ride in rain of all kinds, those attracted to the saddle by circumstances, may be less enthusiastic. i'd be particularly interested to learn how many of those who began cycling during the first lockdown, continue to do so during britain's winter climate.

however, it currently remains a part of common lore, that cycling has seen a dramatic upsurge in the uk. though cycle sales are a useful marker, they do not take into account those who already owned a bicycle and dragged it, kicking and screaming, from the inner recesses of the bike shed. bicycle counters sited near cycling facilities in scotland's central belt showed a substantial increase in numbers on bicycles during last year, undermined slightly by a notable lack of same from the many other counters situated in less populated regions of the country. so, while we and the cycle industry like to adopt the warm, fuzzy feelings engendered by more individuals joining the happy throng, trying to measure whether this has continued, is sustainable, or might just as easily disappear like the 'bradly bubble', seems to be less definable.

that said, what may well have changed, at least in locations other than the hebrides, is a lowering of defences against riding a bike, for commuting purposes, leisure, or both. meaning that, as the days lengthen and the weather potentially improves, we should take advantage by extending our persuasions to all within socially-distanced earshot. currently, it may also be one of the finest means of gaining outdoor exercise.

just ask boris.

friday 15 january 2021

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campagnolo

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how green is our valley?

endura one million trees project

an article featured in yesterday's newspaper stated that 'ignorance and inaction are leading to a ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disrurption upheavals, that threaten human survival...', and they weren't talking about brexit. the inference came from a group of leading scientists, keen to warn that the majority, including the scientific community, had failed to grasp the importance of the biodiversity and climate-crisis. the sad fact is, that they're probably right.

though i believe you'd have to have been a hermit, isolating in a tibetan cave for the last two decades to be unaware of the the threat of a global climate crisis, hanging like the sword of damocles over the heads of the planet's population. there will always be those who continue to deny any such threat exists, but i believe the majority at least accept that we could be in big trouble if we simply sit back and take it on the nose. and rather than leaving the solution to governments alone, perhaps the time has come for a smidgeon of prudency on behalf of us as individuals.

it is the contention of the above mentioned scientists, that the delay between destruction of planetary features and the subsequent impact, means that pretty much all of us will really only wake up and smell the coffee when it's effectively too late. that said, there are more than a few hints that there is worse to come. in the same newspaper issue, but a few pages on from that mentioned above, ran another article concerning measures being implemented to save fountains abbey, near ripon in north yorkshire. the abbey was founded some 800 years past, by 13 benedictine monks, but now its gardens and the ruins are at risk from flooding, a danger that's been on the increase over the past 50 years, and generally reckoned to be the result of climate-change.

incidents such as this ought to be of concern to all of us, whether cyclists or not. of course, all of us have the wherewithal to make even a tiny difference. should we be allowing our dud tyres and inner tubes to be thrown into landfill, do we really need a new cycling wardrobe this year, would merino be a better choice than polyester, micro-fragments of which have been discovered in arctic waters? cycling is generally regarded to be one of life's greener means of transport, emitting no measurable emissions, occupying considerably less space than the motorised alternative, and demanding nowhere near the real-estate occupied by motorways and on-road parking. and though there are occasional queries over manufacturing practices, they scarcely equal those endemic in car, truck, train or aircraft manufacture.

however, it's hardly disagreeable to expect portions of the cycle industry to start the ball rolling, something to which scotland's endura have been contributing for the past year through their one million trees initiative. this ten year project has committed the livingston-based cycle-clothing manufacturer to plant one million trees on an annual basis until 2030. this has resulted in reforestation of mangroves in the maputo bay region of mozambique, which has exceeded the first year's target by 30%. they now plan to continue their sterling work by commencing the planting of trees in scotland. and in addition to the one million trees project, endura have also committed to becoming carbon negative within the next three years.

endura's co-founder and brand director, pamela barclay, initiator of the one million trees project said, "with covid-19 and disruption affecting communities around the world, it has meant so much more to have hit our target this year. but it's just year one." she also added that endura have been removing poly-fluorocarbons, designing for longevity, using recycled fabrics and materials, along with in-house repair services. the company has admitted that the next largest segment contributing to the company's emissions is the transportation of product and goods from the far east. the intention is to reduce the use of air freight by switching to overland rail services, when sea freight proves too slow.

endura also plan to reduce the carbon footprint of their livingston plant by switching to renewables, particularly for electricity. however, as i mentioned above, it is incumbent on the individual cyclist to make a contribution. it appears that frequent washing of cycle clothing contributes approximatey 20% to each garment's environmental impact and endura believe that significant reductions can be made by influencing our behaviour when it comes to washing and extending the product's lifespan. i confess, i'm unsure as to how that part might work; if you're anything like me, your jerseys/jackets/bibs are in need of a serious wash after several hours in the saddle.

however, i might be inclined to ask.

endura cycle clothing

thursday 14 january 2021

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a missed point?

child cycle racers credit: sport scotland

though i've seen only highlights of the recently held european cyclocross events, i do enjoy a cycle race as much as the next velocipedinal obsessive. and like more than just a few, i believe i may have suffered from the overkill of a seriously condensed racing season in the latter months of last year. the often overlapping tv coverage verged on being as much work as that experienced by race team managements, who must have been driven round the twist, scheduling riders, mechanics, support staff and bicycle hardware, all needing to be in a variety of places, seemingly all at the same time. but i'm sure most would agree that it was probably worth it, at least from the point of view of those of us who could merely sit back and enjoy watching it all.

it will be interesting to see how the forthcoming season pans out, given the worldwide arrival of a more virulent strain of the coronavirus, and the subsequent re-imposition of government restrictions. granted, there are still a few months until the advent of the spring classics, and i've yet to hear of any predicted cancellations or postponements, but there's plenty of time for that to change.

however, in 2023, when we will hopefully have put all thoughts of a deadly virus well behind us, glasgow and scotland will host the first all-enveloping world championships featuring a total of 13 different events. this includes the road and time-trial events, track racing, mountain biking, bmx, indoor and the gran fondo world championships (which i always thought was a non-competitive cycling event).

as you can imagine, organising thirteen different competitive cycling events will take a great deal of effort and more than one person to do so, leading to the recent appointment of craig burn to the rather obscure position as director of strategy, policy and impacts. i'm happy to state that i haven't the faintest idea of what that might entail, though i sure hope that someone does. in charge of the whole affair is chief executive officer, trudy lindblade who, not unnaturally, said she was "delighted to have craig join the management team."

however, a bit like motor racing, rather than simply accepting the championships as a celebration of the competitive milieu, there appears to be a subterfuge at play, having us look in the direction of the mythical 'sprint buzzard', rather than at the finish-line. to once again cite the formula one syndrome, motor racing attempts to justify its excesses by aligning its technological developments with the saloon cars driven by most of the population, whether or not there is any direct descendency or not. if that were truly the case, they'd all be racing electric cars.

similarly, it's hard to see the relationship between an £11,500 carbon road bike, and the folding shopping bike available from freeman's catalogue. but that seems not to be a barrier to attempts to do just that. to wit, an "...activity that will give everyone the opportunity to experience the freedom riding a bike can bring to their life." in fact, mr evans, only just in the door, so to speak, stated, "I genuinely believe this event, and cycling in its widest sense, can bring solutions and positive change to individuals and communities across Scotland." i understand where he's coming from, but really?

british cycling membership currently sits at an impressive 145,000, though it's taken quite a number of years to reach that total. during that time, there have been any number of cycling events held in the uk, including the commonwealth games and the british road race championships held in scotland, not to mention the olympic games and the tour de france in london. so quite why ms. lindblade and mr evans figure that holding a slew of competitive events in and around scotland is likely to result in a measurable upsurge in cycling activity, remains a bit of a mystery.

cycle lanes, cycle training, a change in the law to make any accident between car and bicycle automatically the fault of the driver until proven otherwise, and better enforcement against parking in cycle lanes, are surely all more pertinent forms of encouragement than watching a downhill mountain bike race at fort william? agreed, during the sunday morning ride, we're all aboard drop bar road bikes, some of which are carbon and not particularly cheap, but i really don't think we're the sort of people messrs. lindblade and evans had in mind.

cycling uk may have the better strategy, starting with the grass routes and working up, rather than starting at the top and hoping everyone feels like climbing. hopefully i am, once again, completely wrong, but i think recent history is on my side.

2023 world championships in glasgow

photo credit: sportscotland

wednesday 13 january 2021

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the old ones are the best

pension queue

there's no point in my concealing that i am fairly well past three score years of age, but, in my head at least, i'm every bit as fit and healthy as ever i was, though admittedly a tad slower than was once the case. aside from a vegetarian diet and a complete absence of cigarettes and alcohol, the sole reason for my more than satisfactory state of health is the bicycle. though the daily travail has increased the amount of chair time since lockdown appeared last march, thus reducing certain opportunities for extra-curricular cycling, i still manage near 140km each weekend in fresh air that is amongst the finest in the world. additionally, i now have my paper round every second friday afternoon.

though more hours in the saddle would aways be welcome, i don't really have much about which to complain.

however, my own circumstances are as nought in comparison to the mighty dave t. several of you have been kind enough to ask after the great man in the current absence of his infamous 'words of the week', and i'm pleased to say that he is still in the rudest of health and continuing to cycle when the opportunity presents itself. but he is a man in his late seventies and prefers to keep as low a social profile as possible under the current pandemic. to illustrate his current level of fitness, as the three regular riding partners of the velo club approached the sprint point at bruichladdich a matter of weekends past, he calmly rode past us, having unsuspectingly approached from behind. we all harbour ambitions of being as fit as he is on reaching such a salutory age.

i cite the above as comes the news that owner of 17 uk stores, pure electric, has petitioned the government to encourage the over 65s to get back in the saddle by way of a 'cycle in retirement' scheme. this notwithstanding the assumption that any of those within the scope of the scheme might have ever been 'in the saddle' in the first place. nonetheless, pure electric have suggested that the government offer the specified age-group, a 20% discount on a new bicycle bike or e-bike of their choice, through a voucher scheme linked to the state pension. costing an estimated £50 million per year the protagonists suggest that it could bring improved fitness to more than a million participants.

i cannot deny that i fear they may be leaning a touch on the optimistic side.

pure electric ceo, peter kimberley said, "It doesn't seem fair that working-age people have been able to access government support to enjoy the benefits of cycling but retired people can't." he is, of course, referring to the cycle to work scheme, where employees can achieve a reduction on the cost of a new bike, by purchasing same through their employer. however, the essence of this scheme is to enable those employees to acquire a reliable means of transport, capable of getting them to and from work. no disrespect intended to those now retired, but i tend to imagine the impetus to travel anywhere by bicycle is somewhat less than it is for those still in work.

mr kimberley continued, "Cycle to Work has been so successful over the past two decades, and now's the perfect time, particularly given the new lockdown, to build on that by targeting the twelve million over 65s who aren't in work and can't qualify for it." of course, with seventeen e-bike stores throughout the uk, one can't help noticing that mr kimberley's business may conceivably be one of the principal beneficiaries of any such scheme, presuming, of course, that those in receipt of the proposed vouchers, opt for an electric bicycle as opposed to a non-electric machine (though the former would seem the more likely outcome).

assuming there to be one million pensioners with an unresolved need to own an e-bike, perhaps i might be so bold as to assume the average cost of an e-bike to hover around the £1200 mark. a 20% discount will reduce that price to £960, excluding any accessories such as panniers, helmet, lock etc., an amount that i would imagine many pensioners have mentally earmarked for items other than electric bicycles. i can appreciate the sentiment outlined by pure electric's petitioning of government, but having had a work-colleague apply for transport scotland's e-bike loan and the resultant delays, faff and complication that ensued, i can well imagine the bureaucracy that would be involved in setting up and administering such a scheme.

according to research by 'pure electric', apparently only 15% of those twelve million over 65s believed that the government was doing enough to encourage cycling amongst retirees, while 78% of them said they would back the 'cycle in retirement scheme'. however, i am left wondering why it is any government's responsibility to encourage anyone, let alone the retired, to cycle. the mighty dave t has never required any external encouragement and i'm sure there are many more like him.

tuesday 12 january 2021

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

world bicycle relief

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

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