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interviews & features | dvds | equipment | clothing | books | videos | portland 2009

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this is cambridge grimpeur cap
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tell them we sent you (part one)

somewhere in the world it's always going to be sunny, and the honed athlete will thus always be in need of an appropriate choice of designer/sports sunglasses. this link ought to do the trick.

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house industries
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the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"i'm reprising the heritage of the isle by erecting a few standing stones in the garden. and the one at uiskentuie."

©2014 the mighty dave t, is a prendas sponsored rider and le patron of the thoroughly decent fellows. the mighty dave t recommends purple harry products

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dromarti ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

vulpine dogtooth merino silk socks

vulpine dogtooth socks

there is a point in a chap's life when he has the opportunity to sit back, relax and reflect on the fact that the worst is well behind him. an opportunity to rest on one's laurels and take a sensible overview of all that has been successfully achieved. things like shoe size for instance. for there comes that inevitable moment of dawning realisation that one's feet have stopped growing. no more dithering over whether the available footwear in any given shoe shop is available in an appropriate size, when one can confidently order online, safe in the knowledge that when the package arrives, both feet will be satisfactorily catered for.

well, sort of.

i have a number of pairs of cycling shoes in the cycling cupboard, all with the same number stamped upon the outside edge of the box. size 44, as it happens. some of these have fixings for crank brothers cleats, some for the now defunct mavic engendered pedals, and a couple of pairs to fit the latest mavic/time collaboration. i even have a sole pair (see what i did there?) that are for ordinary pedals. most are leather, but one or two feature man made uppers married to carbon or resin soles. the fitting of each varies slightly by make; some have a narrow fit, others the opposite and it will surprise you not to learn that despite all stamped with 44, they're not all the same foot length. but in general, they all fit pretty well.

vulpine dogtooth socks

knowledge of my feet in this manner has vastly simplified the auditioning process when being sent review samples.

however, the fly in the ointment raised its head just prior to christmas 2013 when mrs twmp thought it an excellent idea to purchase a pair of burgundy coloured brogues for everyday wear. wishing to maintain the suprise that is christmas morning in the sitting room, she diligently checked those numbers at the gable end of my cycling shoe boxes and ordered accordingly, then sat back to wait for christmas day.

unfortunately, it appears that the makers of brogues clearly have never worn cycling shoes, preferring to think that mavic is simply the lettering applied to the bonnet of a yellow skoda during the tour de france. the size 44 burgundy coloured brogues were/are just a smidgeon too big. in fact, were it not for the fact that i remembered owning a pair of cushioned insoles, i would resemble one of those circus clowns with large, floppy clown shoes. i am advised that is not a good look.

and if that is truly the case, any pair of socks that i might choose to match with said brogues has need of maintaining comfort, style and, with a bit of luck, a smidgeon of temperature regulation. for on the days when i leave the carbon fibre behind and opt for a more urban approach to both velocipede and attire, i would prefer not to lose the benefits conferred by the more racy pelotonic apparel.

vulpine dogtooth socks

having recently reviewed vulpine's excellent new lightweight thermal jacket, it seemed a highly appropriate move to to top and tail by wearing their also new dogtooth pattern merino and silk socks. in the grand scheme of things, socks are often a less than considered aspect of cycle clothing. it's more usually a case of grabbing whatever happens to be sitting at the front of the drawer, rather than a conscious effort to dig out a specific pair. however, i have no need of being convinced as to the merits of merino, whether constituting a baselayer or footwear. marry that with silk, even in a modest 10% quantity, and the picking of socks may become less of a lottery.

of course, apart from catering to the comfort desires of those tootsies, there is more than just rhyme and reason as to why merino and silk have been brought together in these admittedly fabulous looking socks (is it wrong of me to be so enthused?) for both are ideal for maintaining a comfortable tenperature even in the face of weather inclemency. and in substantial off-the-bike testing, they have also proved to be more than capable, proffering an impressive demeanour when the trouser leg heads north of a finely honed ankle.

vulpine advise matching with one of their storm caps, but mr hussey never was possessed of much in the way of sartorial nous. for who in this day and age matches hats with socks?

vulpine dogtooth merino silk socks

wednesday 1 october 2014

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

proviz reflect360 fully reflective waterproof cycling jacket

proviz 360 jacket

not that it's a regular occurrence for me, but as part of a separate writing assignment, i went on a tour of a distillery just before last weekend. in fact, if truth be told, i toured three distilleries, but it was a singular aspect of my tour of ardbeg that brought up the most bizarre of circumstances.

after we'd been given a brief history of the distillery to the present day under its ownership of glenmorangie who in turn are owned by moet hennessy, we ascended some wooden stairs into a remarkably small stone-walled room containing one of the original spirit stills and walls hung with photos of the former residents of the village of ardbeg. the latter is now all but defunct, a situation for which the closing of the distillery in the early eighties is mostly responsible. through an open doorway, this room led to the original wooden, grain storage bins, still in immaculate condition and surrounded by a peaty aroma left behind when the bins were retired from regular use.

proviz 360 jacket

their retirement, however, was the specific instance that i found somewhat at odds with several subsequent processes involved in making single malt whisky. the reason that these wooden storage bins were now lying empty, was apparently due to the intervention of either environmental health or health and safety (i'm afraid i was too far back in line to pick up on which was responsible).

the contradictory nature of this state of affairs revolved around wood; apparently it was considered either unhealthy, unhygienic or both to store barley in wooden receptacles. yet only a few more steps down the line, we were introduced to a room filled with large, oregon pine washbacks in which the liquid that's about to become whisky resides for more than just a few minutes. and unless i'm very much mistaken (and i'm not) the new-make spirit ends its maturing life sitting patiently in a wooden cask for at least ten years.

shurely shome mishtake?

proviz 360 jacket

it is, i'd venture, a case of singularity of purpose. those grain bins were designed in the distillery's early days (ardbeg was established in 1815; around quarter past six) for a specific purpose, tailored to the space available in the building and rather obviously fulfilled that function with aplomb. that an over-zealous official many years later failed to share that original vision seems something of an oddity. to a certain degree, and i'll admit it's a bit of a stretch, provision's new 360 jacket is of comparable status.

granted, even the jacket's three pockets would never store sufficient barley to make even a miniature of ardbeg, but it does need to fulfil one salient function while occupying an altogether different space. this is where those wooden bins make a reappearance, for having been designed for a primary function, they are now occupying a different space, forming an anecdotal part of distilling history.

proviz 360 jacket

you see, as a cycle commuter with need of travelling to and from sonewhere or other during the hours of darkness and perchance in conditions of less than pristine climate, there is a specific need for a jacket of some description. due to the onerous conditions that pervade even the shortest of commutes, a breathable, fully-waterproof jacket would be most amenable to most.

darkness, however, imposes its own conditions, often separate to those mentioned above. there is little point in remaining cosy, warm and dry if that pedalling commute is the equivalent of running a dangerous gauntlet due to being less than visible to the other constituents of that gauntlet. the majority of cycle apparel these days contains at least a few flecks of reflectivity, with winter jackets being often more generously endowed. but never before have i come across a winter waterproof jacket with an outer surface composed entirely of reflective material. and there is often good reason for this.

proviz 360 jacket

examine the reflective stripes, darts or dots that infest any of the softshells, hardshells and windproofs that occupy space in the cycling wardrobe. in the day to day world of normal light, that reflective material could rarely be described as offering an attractive finish. to cover an entire jacket in the stuff would surely be unlikely to win any pulchritudity awards. but proviz went ahead anyway, and it is of great testament to their faith that the end result isn't half bad after all.

admittedly, when others are releasing bright orange, blue, mustard and red jackets for the purpose of riding one's bicycle with a degree of sartorial elegance, a neutral grey jacket hardly offer much in the way of visible competition. but smother that jacket with car headlights and it's very much a case of "holy christmas tree, batman!". seriously, if it were a case of looking good in the office canteen (if we had one) or advertising my presence in the face of motorised blindness, i'd take the second option everytime.

proviz 360 jacket

though september has been a notably dry and mild month, the opportunity to spend an hour or two in heavy drizzle elicited no precipitation passing the fully taped seams, while the high collar is a very welcome feature. as with almost every breathable cycle jacket on the market, the breathability is never as good as you'd like it to be, though i fear we may be confounding the laws of physics to expect more.

the sizing is generous; my medium sized review sample was the ideal size, but with adequate room to cover regular office day wear, should that be the management's diktat. aside from the aforementioned three zipped pockets (two chest level and one large rear, zipped and flapped), it bears a hang-loop at the collar, something often mysteriously absent from all too many commuting jackets. it's also fully lined and with velcro adjustable cuffs.

if there was one repeatable fault, it revolved around the drop tail, a feature that, while protecting your posterior from wheel engendered spray, managed to snag itself on the rear of my saddle every time i moved forward and off when stopping. granted, that would not be the case if performing a cyclocross dismount, but that's rarely a practical option at traffic lights (not that we have any of those either). other than that, the proviz reflect360 is a nifty response to a perennial problem, one that might now consider itself satisfactorily solved and at a remarkably favourable price.

the proviz reflect360 cycling jacket (also available in a women's style) is available in sizes small through to xxl, at a retail cost of £79.99

provizsports.com

tuesday 30 september 2014

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pronto gara ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

brainy bike lights

brainy bike lights

not to be confused with the supernatural movie of the same name, the british astronomical society's campaign for dark skies is, in their own words, a campaign to restore our natural, starry skies by reducing inefficient lighting. of course, the word inefficient is something of a subjective term; inefficient by whose standards, one might be prompted to enquire? the campaign, however, elucidates in the following manner 'to preserve and restore the beauty of the night sky by campaigning against excessive, inefficient and irresponsible lighting that shines where it is not wanted nor needed.'

it would be prudent to bear in mind, however, that this is the british astronomical association who have an agenda not necessarily in keeping with the rest of british society. their principal beef, as may be gleaned from even the above brief precis of the strategy, is street lighting that remains in the on position throughout the darkness of an evening. for the car driver, a lack of street lighting may not present much of a problem, while for both pedestrians and cyclists it can lead to feelings of insecurity and possibly even disorientation, and all because some folks with telescopes wish to better see the universe around them.

i don't wish to seem disfavourable towards this campaign, for i am a firm believer that everyone ought to have a hobby of some sort or another. scanning the heavens is surely one of the more innocuous pastimes that can be carried out in the hours of darkness and leading into the wee small hours. however, the bulk of the serious astronomical research takes place on the higher points of the andes mountains and that of tenerife where nobody else lives and thus has no real need of street lighting. and were that insufficient, there's the hubble telescope floating in earth orbit, far from any form of artificial light and able to see light years into the distance. i know, for i receive an endless succession of press releases from the european space agency advising of the latest discovery several thousand light years distant.

brainy bike lights

and in case your wondering why, i have truly no earthly idea.

but for the hapless cyclist, a decent spread of artificial light in the more urban of britain's towns and cities is probably something to be applauded. there is little point in knowing that a new star is appearing in alpha centauri when you've just been knocked down on the way home from work by a fiesta driver who adhered to the smidsy get out clause. but there's every reason to believe that the plethora of light in such areas, whether static or flashing, could well be as much to blame for such accidents after dark, as they are responsible for preventing them.

take a look at any city landscape at night and it will be filled with traffic indicating forward direction, intermittently glowing brake lights and orange hazard lights atop industrially associated vehicles. add to that the almost inevitable passage of speeding emergency services, and it would be a tad unfair to apportion sole blame to the average motorist midst this melange of ever-shifting light sources.

however, though it is a legal requirement to affix appropriate lighting to each and every bicycle, there is no real demand for that lighting to offer the kind of illumination that would allow the velocipedinist to find their way in complete darkness. thankfully, much of this task is handled by the motorist and that street lighting so abhorrent to the british astrnomical association. therefore, it is incumbent on the prudent cyclist to purchase lighting that will make them as highly visible as possible. far better to appear as a mobile christmas tree than risk yet another smidsy.

brainy bike lights

many current cycle lights offer to flash brightly, preferably in the faces of following and oncoming traffic, but as described above, this risks merely becoming a contributing part of all that contradictory urban lighting noise. such a situation has come to the attention of the intelligence behind brainy bike lights, based on the findings of research conducted by the department of psychological research at oxford university. this effectively brought to their attention that lighting which advised of that to which it is attached would conceivably stand out more dramatically from the surrounding flashing, flickering and brightness.

in honouring that research, brainy bike lights consist of a pair of square boxes with a white cyclist on bicycle up front and a red outlined cyclist on bicycle for the rear. when the button is pressed on either, a brightly-lit cyclist appears pointing front or rear. press the button for a second time, and the graphic flashes; press for a third time and a brighter static image is revealed, while a fourth press elicits a brighter and quicker flashing light.

the front light is impressively shiny, though never the sort you'd need to find your way down uiskentuie strand of a dark evening. the rear light will brightly identify you as a cyclist, hopefully rescuing you from the surrounding luminetics that can prove so confusing to driver and cyclist alike.

brainy bike lights

though i can find no obvious downside to the lights themselves, i do have slight concerns over the mounting brackets. these take the form of oversized rubber watch straps, intended to fit round the handlebar up front and apparently the seatpost for the rear. i tried the front bracket on several different handlebars, all of which it fitted, but the need to slide the light in sideways often meant that it fouled on cables, bar tape or other device mounts. granted, the intention is for fitting to commuting cycles rather than those of pelotonic intent, but i can't help feeling that the ability to slide the light in from the top (as with the rear bracket) would make it more user friendly.

if your bicycle is anything like mine, there's just an outside possibility that you have an underseat pack fitted to carry a multi-tool and spare inner tube, thus obscuring any light you may choose to fit to the seatpost. and the rear bracket requires that the light be fitted vertically; a tad awkward if there's none too much seatpost showing. the saddle might conceivably get in the way. i do, however, have a substantial tubular rack fitted to the rear of the taurus, but mounting the bracket on this fits the light sideways, and nor does it offer much in the way of stability round this narrower tubing. the lights may well be brainy, but the brackets could do with a smidgeon more thought in my opinion.

however, with christmas looming on the horizon, there is little doubt that a pair of brainy bike lights would be a very welcome choice as stocking filler for one whose need outweighs that of the british astronomical society. and while i'm here, i'd advise their speaking to a good brand consultant; the choice of brainy bike lights as a marketable name doesn't strike me as their finest hour.

brainy bike lights can be purchased for £45 direct from their website, or via the british science museum website

monday 29 september 2014

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purple harry ultimate rider care

purple harry chamois cream

the noticeable change in the weather made itself known on saturday. though patchily sunny, it went all grey before i made it as far as nipping out on the bike and in true sod's law fashion, it stayed that way until i stopped for lunch at debbie's, when the sun came out. however, the grey stuff and a rising wind contrived to chill the air, making my choice of bibshorts perhasp a tad optimistic. still, we're all well enough practised over here not to leave home without a rain jacket, even at the height of summer.

as i write, there are smirs of rain on the sitting room windows and it's getting harder to see the fields only a few hundred metres from the croft. this means autumn at best or perhaps even the early onset of winter. which unfortunately reminds me of all the bicycle maintenance i had promised myself to undertake before the weather closes in for the next few months. the bike shed is currently so infested with bicycles and one or two boxes in which at least two of them arrived, that any fettling need take place outdoors on the workstand, for there is no space in the shed.

it is surely somewhat iniquitous that many of us take a serious interest in the state of our velocipedes, happy to click one of the online bike stores and order alloy doohickies and cables to ensure smooth transport into 2015. but what of the individual? what of the cyclist who will pedal from now into next year? aren't we in need of some fettling too?

few will have answered 'no' to that last question, even in blissful ignorance of how it might be achieved. it is surely no coincidence that those who have gained fame and fortune from cleaning, polishing and lubricating our prized possessions should now offer the wherewithal to keep the engine in a similar state of health. this has been achieved with the release of purple harry's ultimate care products contained within three identically sized dispensers.

purple harry warming cream

it is, i will readily admit, not particularly common to find chamois cream in a press-top dispenser; more usually it arrives either in a squeezy tube, or a small plastic or metal tub. as you might imagine, there is a perfectly good reason for the purple harry method according to co-founder, richard hargreaves. "I've always thought that putting this type of product in a pot like many companies do is a little unhygienic, especially for chamois cream. If it's applied direct to skin, and you've not put enough on, you get some more. There's no double dipping with these containers." additionally, unlike many on the market, the chamois cream, which is constituted more like a dense foam, is unscented. "This is one of the best ways to ensure it is suitable for all skin types, as it's often the fragrance that causes irritation."

i'd be lying if i testified to any special qualities offered by harry's chamois cream. most, if not all, carry out their task every bit as well as the rest of their peer group, but i am rather in favour if the method of dispensation (if you see what i mean) because i'm a messy fellow at the best of times. though each of the three products is clearly labelled, it would be a prudent move to make doubly sure before application. though bearing an orange stripe across the label, the muscle warming cream would not prove a comforting alternative to the chamois cream.

what the muscle warming cream does do that i've not often come across before, is carry out its specific task with an impressive subtlety. there will be few amongst us who have not slathered those chiselled calf muscles with embrocation (as we in the trade prefer to call it) and immediately wished we'd waited till just before bum cheeks hit the saddle. harry's warming cream approaches the subject with a greater degree of circumspection; dispensing a small amount either directly or onto your hand before massaging onto those rock-hard muscles does not result in a watering of the eyes and a subsequent wild grabbing for ice or a fire extinguisher.

purple harry muscle cooling cream

at first i thought i'd perhaps been too sparing, for there seemed little effect, but once i'd headed out into the wide grey yonder, that dispensed duvet for my legs fended off any untoward chilly temperatures. and it did this for hours on end without complaining.

not that i've tried doing so, but harry's muscle cooling cream, also contained in an identical pump dispenser would probably add something of a frisson in the nether regions should it also be mistaken for the chamois cream. in which case, never carry out any of the above noted applications while wearing spectacles in a steamy bathroom. on having divested oneself of pelotonic garments and had a refreshing shower, the cooling cream (a transparent gel) was gratefully welcomed by my chris hoy look-alike thighs, while offering a menthol aroma to anyone standing within conversational range.

each of the plastic dispensers is pragmatically limited to 100ml, meaning those friendly, uniformed officials working in airport security will have no recourse to confiscation before you've even made it as far as that overseas sportive ride.

purple harry have an excellent track record of releasing products that dispense with unnecessary rhetoric; basically, they do precisely what it says on the tin (or plastic pump dispenser) and do so rather well.

each of purple harry's ultimate rider care range can be purchased individually at a cost of £9.99 each.

purple harry rider care range

sunday 28 september 2014

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portland design works ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

keep dancing, or you'll fall off.

rac personal accident insurance

several years ago, the guardian gave away a dvd of the superb scottish movie gregory's girl, a film that formed a substantial part of many a scottish childhood, including mine. the stars were john gordon sinclair (who followed up this starring role by riding a motorbike back and forward along a village main street throughout another scottish movie local hero), dee hepburn and clare grogan. the basic premise of the narrative involved the insecurities and eccentricities of scottish schoolkids, offering many a humorous moment along the way.

numbers play a significant part in the storyline, particularly when gregory finally gets his girl and goes on a date to the local park. lying down on the grass with clare grogan, he points out that the earth is hurtling through space at just over 1000 miles per hour, and the only way to make sure they don't fall off is to start dancing, something they both do while lying on their backs on the grass.

this fixation with numbers is presented as something of a juvenile obsession, allowing the adult population a wry smile either at the recollection of the same obsession or its having passed them by completely. however, this presents us with something of a dilemma, for either the preoccupation with numbers spreads wider than the junior percentage of the population, or we as cyclists are still remarkably juvenile.

rac personal accident insurance

i'd figure the jury's still out on that one.

if evidence of such numerical behaviour were required, you need only look as far as the numbers appended to the carbon fibre from which that bike in the shed is fashioned from. or, perchance, the endless digits that can be garnered from a garmin, srm or simple heart-rate monitor. for some folks riding bicycles, those numbers have taken on a level of importance that threatens to over-ride the simple joy of riding a bicycle in the first place.

however, numbers have their place under certain circumstances, and oddly enough some of the more intriguing or, dare i say, important have been brought to light by the royal automobile club (rac). for instance, dates when related to important points in cycling history, are surely numbers with which few would argue against. in 1830, scottish blacksmith kirkpatrick macmillan was credited with building the first mechanically propelled, two-wheel vehicle, no doubt a contentious statement all of its own. a fellow in whose company i was on friday (hi james) contends that other than the wheel and fire, scots invented everything, though special dispensation was awarded the australians for socks that remain up and whirly-gig clothes driers.

rac personal accident insurance

statistics, however, offer a substantially different viewpoint of the cycling fraternity and may well be a set of numbers that have less efficacy than their originators intended. in fact, frequently, they are all but meaningless. 43% of the population owns or has access to a bicycle; 8% of the population cycles three or more times a week; 34% of the population cycles at least once a year. unless specifically placed in context, such numbers don't really mean a whole lot of spoke nipples, but every now and again, they can come in remarkably handy.

it does seem rather odd that a motoring organisation has collected these cycling facts in an impressive, but lengthy infographic, the full force of which can be see via the link below. naturally enough there is some method to their madness, in this case, advertising their personal accident insurance, but to be quite honest, i think that's a quirk for which we can forgive them, in return for such a plethora of cycle-related numbers.

view the entire infographic here

saturday 27 september 2014

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pulling the wool over our eyes

campaign for wool bike ride

it would have been a few sundays ago, as we rode between the rspb centre at aoradh farm on loch gruinart, heading as is our wont, to loch gorm on the atlantic coast. after a bit of a climb, the road levels off offering excellent vistas all round, assuming the weather to be clear enough in the first place. as we descended towards the single-track road that circumnavigates the loch we came upon a not entirely unexpected flock of sheep running in front of a jeep sort of vehicle that had obviously seen better days.

the question that rippled through our minimal peloton was 'is the jeep herding the sheep to somewhere more appropriate, or is it simply stuck behind them?'

campaign for wool bike ride

sheep are stupid. that may seem somethng of a sweeping generalisation, but every word of it is true. i have that on very good authority from those who farm the little fuzzy blighters, and boy do they seem hellbent on denonstrating it at every opportunity. you see, on that particular stretch of road, there are no fences whatsoever; open fields abound on both sides, full of green, chewy grass. yet a spooked flock of sheep will run for endless miles along the roadway at speeds that can rarely be good for their health. why don't they just nip into a field and get out of the way of whatever danger they perceive is there in the first place?

exactly.

campaign for wool bike ride

however, such rampaging herds of sabre-tooth sheep often reach infestation proportions, to the extent that you wonder why the local farms bother creating fields, fences and walls in the first place. lambing season is the most dangerous, for newborns have an uncanny ability to hide midst the roadside gorse, opting to join mum and siblings at the very last minute. always on a fast descent. it simply has to be genetic.

however, despite their perambulatory nuisance value at pretty much any point of the island, they are naturally selfless animals (almost) desperate to shed their wool in our favour as winter turns to spring, turns to summer. in keeping themselves cool and ready to create a substitute fleece for the following year, they provide the worlds velocipedinists with an almost endless supply of woolly warmth. granted, current fashion would dictate that such fabric ought to be hewn from merino, a particular strain of wool that is conspicuous by its absence from this part of the hebrides.

the principle, however, remains. there are still folks with our best interests at heart happy to create jumpers and jerseys from good old-fashioned regular wool. and bobbly hats; don't forget the bobbly hats.

campaign for wool bike ride

but there are those who hold a different view of wool than that seen from the confines of a saddle and handlebars. unlike our miniature peloton, they are less concerned with the little maltesers that pepper the road in front of us, having created the charity campaign for wool with prince charles some five years ago. to celebrate this anniversary, there is not only an impending wool week, but a fully constituted wool ride leaving potters fields next sunday (5 october). at only just over thirteen miles in length with little activations along the way, the free to participate wool ride is aimed more at the family group than the cvndsh wannabes.

expected to last around two hours and conveniently also finishing at potters fields, the ride passes london bridge, buckingham palace, westminster, knightsbridge, park lane and regent park. on arrival at the finish there will be live music, food, stalls and other entertainment.

campaign for wool are hoping for an entry of around 500, so if your diary page for sunday 5 october currently stares back as a completely blank page, pop over to the campaign for wool website and add your name to the list. the tour and vuelta are finished, the world's will be over and done with, so what else are you going to do on an october sunday afternoon?

meanwhile we will likely be enjoying a very different wool ride all of our own in the hebrides.

campaign for wool bike ride

friday 26 september 2014

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rouleur issue 49 ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

24 bottles, stainless steel water bottle

24 bottle

i did something decidely non-urban this afternoon, the sort of thing that could get a guy the reputation locally of being something of a maverick.

about two miles from washingmachinepost croft, at gartbreck point, there is an empty farmhouse, recently purchased by frenchman jean donnay and designated as the site of islay's ninth malt whisky distillery. in a similar fashion to the so-called farm distillery at kilchoman, this will be a very small affair, with two copper stills sat upon a stone-built platform. unlike the other eight distilleries, these stills will not be electrically heated but by peat fires from beneath as was once the case throughout the island.

monsieur donnay owns a comparably sized distillery in brittany that has been in production for a few years, with condensers that sit on the outside of the still room running their coiled copper piping into water-filled, purpose built barrels. from the photos i have seen of the french setup, it all looks rather funky.

24 bottle

the geographical location of the intended islay distillery at gartbreck is charmingly remote, though during my distinctly non-urban foray to the farm buildings on wednesday afternoon, i can't say my first thought would ever have been to build a distillery in place of the ruined outbuildings. these are witness to a more populated time in islay's relatively recent past, when farms employed a lot more folks than they do now.

however, construction is not due to commence until mid-march 2015 with a view to commencing limited production by early 2016. therefore, once past the council's recycling repository, the road less travelled is little more than a gravel track. in fact, it is a gravel track, with luxuriant grass growth down the centre and several water-filled sizeable potholes on both sides of the newly fitted cattle grid and galvanised gate. however, as i continue with my lengthy digression, you're more than likely wondering to what end purpose was my rough and tumble foray into islay's outback.

24 bottle

in truth, it was not really to take a peek at gartbreck farmhouse before it becomes a distillery, nor indeed was it a means of getting away from it all for a quiet afternoon. the principal reason was to have a drink of water.

i habitually like to compare and contrast the urban melee with the rural idyll, gaining some self-satisfaction from riding bicycles and wearing clothing originally designed for traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and bus lanes rather than farm tracks, cattle grids and a small herd of cows that cast a suspicious eye over my rural presence. but the rather fabulous italian taurus corinto, curator of many a princely ride round the estates is completely devoid of bottle carrying capacity. nowhere about its person are there any bottle cage bolts, and metal brackets clamped to its downtube would be in serious danger of damaging the ornate paintwork.

24 bottle

however, tippy toeing back to italy, it's possible to discover the rather eccentrically and mysteriously named 24 bottles, progenitors of explosively or subtly coloured stainless steel water bottles with screw tops. all well and good, i hear you murmur, but how does that help the intimated predicament when there's still nowhere to place said bottle? the italian answer to that question is porta bottiglia, a form of cotton canvas hammock that grasps the bottle tightly to its bosom before wrapping round any particular available tube on the double diamond frame.

24 bottle

in my case, i opted for the sand coloured bottle in order to closely match the paintwork on the taurus along with a natural-coloured porta bottiglia. the section of porta that nestles closest to a bicycle tube, bears two rubbery patches to hold the entire affair steady while the velcro equipped straps are wrapped to hold everything steady.

allegedly.

and that, to be more precise, was the specific reason for my cross-country jaunt, for as i have advertised on more than one occasion, i have no truck with alcohol, least that of single malt whisky. having filled the orange topped 24 bottle with water, i was intent on poking holes in the contention that nothing would move when seriously troubled by a less than pristine road surface. i cannot promise that this journey was made at breakneck speed; the taurus does not live life on the edge, but that's a situation every bit as true in the city as it is in the country.

24 bottle

and what of that screw top? surely water bottle technology has centred upon easing the means of slurping while in motion? how ever is that going to work if the top has to be unscrewed mid pedal stroke? well, the corinto is really not the sort of velocipede to encourage such behaviour; the taurus velocipedinist is of a more refined nature. it is said that gentlemen do not run, and nor do they take swigs from a plastic bottle while attempting to run a red light or avoid sheep on the road.

hopefully one of the photos above will advertise that i reached my remote destination, and might prove of interest to those who favour the islay malts. though the road was rough enough to make billiard tables seem flat, on my return to thewashingmachinepost croft, that bottle was only mildly askew under the top tube, but still tightly fastened to the bicycle. i consider that to be the desired result and a great boon to my rural inner city travel expeditions, both now and in the future.

i am grateful to pronto gara for providing the taurus corinto. they are also the sole uk distributors of 24 bottles (£16) and the accompanying porta bottiglia. purchased together the cost is £32.

24bottles

thursday 25 september 2014

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just my type

excuse me just for a moment while i interrupt your world of cycling with brief foray into the world of typography. those with an eye for such things may have made note of a blatant, yet subtle change within these four browser walls. in which case, allow me to elaborate.

as yet i have had no truck with webfonts, an apparently welcome addition to web style sheets that allow the web designer (if i may be so bold) to incorporate the typeface of their choice into the web page(s) of their choice. my failing in this respect has less to do with my limited abilities in such directions than the conviction that the message is hopefully more important than the messenger. in this case, the latter would be the typeface. currently, in whatever typeface you see these words is dependent on having the preferred font (georgia) installed on your computer, tablet or phone, and having a browser that is willing to obey my explicit instructions.

however, the banner atop the page, featuring logo (yes, that's what that is) and the word thewashingmachinepost are constituted as a graphic, so that you will view them exactly as intended. thanks entirely to the graciousness of rich roat at house industries, (responsible for the recent richard sachs redesign), that word now appears in their soon to be released typeface family velo.

aside from the typographical beauty of this font, its appropriateness for velocipedinally connected discussion is beyond reproach. this is the very same font that featured on rapha's tour of california stage caps reviewed not so very long ago.

feel free to appreciate at length.

house industries

wednesday 24 september 2014

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vulpine ultralight quilted thermal jacket

vulpine quilted thermal jacket

the storage heater in the office used to be situated behind my chair. though i'd never go so far as to claim myself impervious to the cold, it would appear my imperviosity (new word) is greater than that of my female accounting colleagues. the elderly woman who occupied the book-keeping position almost a decade ago would signify the need for the convector option to be switched on, by stating "it's chilly this morning," when entering the office each morning. unfortunately, this regularly failed to take account of the fact that i might be quite comfortable thank you very much.

at the end of each winter's day, i had scorch marks up the back of my jumper.

her successor is no better in this respect. though the heater has now been moved to the left and away from directly behind my seated position, she still complains of feeling cold (like yesterday, for example), puts the booster on and stands in front of the heater for five or ten minutes until fully thawed. in winter months this is a rather iniquitous situation, for having cooked most of the morning, popping out at lunchtime for a newspaper and a couple of rolls leads to something of a shock to the system, unless one is prepared for the near sub-zero onslaught.

vulpine quilted thermal jacket

preparation can come in one of two ways: either nip through to the toilet before departing, where the ambient temperature would satiate a family of polar bears or, more commonly, have to hand an appropriate form of sartorial defence. something like one of the new vulpine quilted jackets.

gone are the days when owning or wearing a quilted jacket would lead to continual comparison with michelin's bibendum. i was reminded of just such a situation when a large gentleman arrived at the office only the other week to purchase jazz festival tickets. though there was nary a cloud in the sky and the temperature more favoured short sleeves, this moustachioed fellow, wearing a flat tweed cap and a heavily quilted jacket seemed quite oblivious. the latest offering from the fine fellows at vulpine bares scant resemblance to such a mental picture.

vulpine quilted thermal jacket

the cosy bit that would not only be of great benefit to my accounting colleague, but allows the jacket to own a sylph-like constitution that not only redefines the hyphenated adjective paper-thin, but has on one occasion given into sudden panic that i had left it behind at the coffee shop. to put it in a nutshell; it's thin and weighs next to nothing. but apart from those admirable features, it also has a malevolent character that has seriously called into question my abilities as a reviewer of proffered sartorial excellence.

allow me to explain further.

any jacket created for the purpose of velocipedinal pragmatism, other than out and out speed, ought to bring with it several day to day benefits. many of these are catered for with aplomb: two zipped hand pockets, full-length quality zip, full lining, a tough cotton/canvas shoulder panel (of contrasting colour) to fend off rucksack straps, and a small, unzipped rear pocket in which those of you chained to your mobile phones can keep the device close to hand. there's even a loop at the collar to hang on the coffee shop coatstand.

vulpine quilted thermal jacket

but i have need of carrying a rather bulky wallet, or on occasion some odds and ends that i'd rather not talk about at the moment. where the flipping heck am i supposed to put those? shouldn't a rather classy jacket offer a touch more cargo space than the three pockets described above? that's precisely what i thought too, so while the fit and construct are mightily impressive, i was set to lambast the vulpiners over this gargantuan missing detail.

and that is precisely where the jacket's evil twin had me fooled. for hidden in behind the main zip at chest height is a concealed, zipped internal pocket, one that comfortably swallowed my bulky wallet (if only the bulk was created by wads of cash, i'd be so much more happy). imagine the detrimental effect on my career and standing in the community if i had gone public with this supposedly glaring omission? the man hussey would have laughed on both sides of his face.

vulpine quilted thermal jacket

but alls well that ends well. the jacket has acquitted itself well in the sparse quantities of drizzle and mizzle that have interrupted our hebridean indian summer, and i can more than witness the efficacy of that primaloft gold in chillier moments. though i have only ridden it on a bicycle with copious mudguards, the inclusion of a drop tail will not only keep out any untoward chills, but prevent wet gloop form infesting your posterior.

you might wish, however, to pay close attention to the garment's sizing. as a matter of course, whe asked which size of jacket or jersey i would like to review, from any cycle clothing provider, i would mostly devolve to medium. without to much fussing about, that is most often the delineation that fits me to a tee. however, having given the same answer to vulpine headquarters, that which arrived was clearly marked small. however, 'tis obvious they know better than i, for the small jacket fits superbly without any tendency to restrict blood flow to the outer limbs. (for the record, i'm a slim 5'10" with a 38" chest).

vulpine quilted thermal jacket

vulpine do not advertise the quilted jacket as being fully waterproof. there is not a taped seam in sight, but its minimal constitution promises a relatively quick dry should you be caught in an unexpected thunderstorm. the two zipped front hand pockets are well judged in size, coping with a piles of loose change i'd swear weren't there on friday and keeping hands warm on a chilly morning constitutional. zipping them up before hanging it in the overburdened hall cupboard ensures that loose change stays where it is. and not that i'll have the opportunity or need this coming weekend, but if traipsing round the national cycle show in birmingham's national exhibition centre in insufferable heat, having to carry the jacket would be a less than onerous task.

i confess this isn't the garment i'd have expected from vulpine, but now that i have a bright red example hanging close by, i am mightily impressed. it now seems like exactly the jacket i should have expected.

maybe i'm losing my touch?

vulpine quilted thermal jacket

wednesday 24 september 2014

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the way we used to be

prendas colnago jerseys

becoming involved in any new hobby or pastime is always a dangerous step to take, because knowledge of the subject is rarely comprehensive. as a graphic example, my first road bike was a townsend (yes, the very company currently moaning that its profits are down midst a cycling boom), a grey plain gauge steel ten-speed racer. i figured i'd quite like to undertake the odd weekend tour aboard said bicycle, but found out too late that a complete lack of mudguard or rack eyes made that slightly more awkward than ought to have been the case. and many of you will be more aware than i was at the time, that a 52/42 chainset married to a 14/21 freewheel is not what the intrepid traveller really needs.

a comprehensive read of richard ballantine's bicycle book made it all too clear where i had gone horribly wrong, but sadly after the fact and not before.

though less onerous but conceivably of greater sartorial import was the need to choose a cycle jersey when my velocipedinal aspirations became more mature. unlike modern times, the early nineties were infested almost solely with trade team jerseys, at least as far as the adverts at the back of the comic were concerned. and as a newly paid up member of the cognoscenti, for what alternative would i have searched?

motorola, banesto, ceramiche ariostea, mapei and the like were the most high profile, but self-contained arguments with self led purely to long bouts of procrastination. the situation was hardly alleviated by a need to purchase a pair of cycling tights (who the heck knew what bib-tights were anyway?). though it pains me to admit it, i ordered a pair of psychedelically coloured lycra tights from deeside cycles and simply made sure to only ride out at night when there were fewer people about.

prendas colnago jerseys

it may be somewhat nostalgic to poke fun at my cycling naivety in days of yore, but in truth, the options available were nothing like on offer today. with less than neon options from rapha, vulpine, dhb, castelli et al, there is every likelihood that the modern-day newbie could dismount their cycle and enter a branch of starbucks or mcdonald's without giving the game away. and we should be eternally grateful that such is the case.

prendas colnago jerseys

however, while brightly coloured polyester holds an often undefinable ability to offend the senses, its predecessor in the cycle jersey stakes could surely offer no such distress. in similar manner to those wonderful (really) christmas jumpers that are all the rage (or were), a woollen cycle jersey embroidered with inscrutable italian sponsors and logos of bicycles all but unattainable to the pelotonese could not possibly be considered passe. coming across any unworn examples of such cycling nostalgia holds parallels with the search for the holy grail and plays very well to your standing if you can actually wear one in the first place.

everyone knows that team riders of the seventies and eighties had their skelotons removed at the first training camp of the season.

it's hardly a closely guarded secret that personally, when it comes to italiana, ernesto colnago is my main man. colnago may well have improved their availability by bringing lower-priced models to market, though still retaining the financial high ground by way of the latest c60 and v1-r models. they may also be of predominantly carbon fibre construction these days, and in one or two cases, left their italian heritage behind in the move to the far east, but they still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention when windwave send a review model in my direction.

prendas colnago jerseys

in years gone by, ernesto seemed hell-bent on featuring the assos di fiori on as many prominent jerseys as was economically possible. perhaps it's the very reason that the marque is still held in such high esteem. and if you doubt my word, take a look at the jerseys illustrated hearabouts. sadly, these do not occupy space in my cycling wardrobe, but are part of a collection of new old stock in the catacombs of prendas ciclismo. never worn, they are testament to a bygone era, and one that still informs several of the cycle clothing purveyors of today.

glorious.

many thanks to andy storey at prendas for bringing these to my attention.

prendas ciclismo

tuesday 23 september 2014

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powered by hippo technology

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evans cycles

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tell them we sent you

quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.

club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.

debbie's cafe

bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner.

welcometogreatcoffee.co.uk

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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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