"storm thomas thought it better to stay indoors."..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there comes a time in every blogger's career when the daily update takes over much of their existence. to a certain extent, that has been the case here at washingmachinepost croft for several years and though 'tis a lot of work and words, it becomes necessary to take a step back for a while.
thankfully, that day has not yet arrived and i'm ever so hopeful that it won't do so for quite some time to come. however, i will be away for a few days; people to see, things to do. and one of those things will be attending the london cycle show on friday of this week.
though my standing in the cycling world is hopefully as obscure as i think it to be, if any of you happen also to be wandering aimlessly past bicycle stands and other velocipedinal paraphernalia at the excel centre on friday, do please say hello.
failing that, i ought to be back in the hebrides by the weekend.
tuesday 9 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"I grew up in the '30s with an unemployed father. He didn't riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking till he found it."
the above is a 1981 quote from norman tebbit in reaction to young conservative national chairman, iain picton, who suggested that rioting was a natural reaction to unemployment. tebbit's reputation deriving from that comment, mostly by way of his statement being widely misquoted, was of an employment secretary who had simply told the unemployed to 'get on their bikes'. it's a phrase that, in common parlance is most often used in a forceful and derogatory fashion, implying that the recipient ought to 'go away'.
a great many of us with a hidden or manifest obsession with the bicycle would take it more as a call to action, one that would be accepted with open arms. i can assure you that if my boss (if i had one) told me to get on my bike, i wouldn't hesitate in dropping my wacom tablet and doing precisely that. however, no matter the purported increase in cycling's popularity, my perception is that it has infiltrated the mamil section of the population more than the youth of the parish.
over the years, islay's junior population has been offered rugby, football, swimming, shinty and several other particpatory sports; in most cases, they have taken to these like ducklings to water. yet no matter the attempts on behalf of the velo club to swell our sunday morning numbers, the peloton still consists of the same boring old farts with dubious taste in coffee. whatever happened to the youthful spirit of adventure on two wheels?
it's possible that tom allen of janapar fame has had similar thoughts. but rather than continually whinge about it, like what i'm doing, he's actually arranged to do something about it.
launching very soon will be the janapar grant, a bequest providing both equipment and mentorship for one 18-25 year-old to "set out into the world on a bicycle." according to tom "its purpose is to help young people begin a rite of passage journey at a time in their lives when it will benefit them most, with the fewest possible strings attached."
the lucky applicant will receive a complete package including an expedition-standard bicycle, luggage, camping and cooking gear, plus tools and clothing. mentorship will be supplied by tom allen, alastair hunphreys, emily chappell, tim moss, laura moss and leon mccarron, all of whom have substantial experience in the practice of cycling huge distances across the world. the janapar grant has been made possible due to generous contributions from oxford bicycle works, polaris bikewear and carradice cycle luggage.
of course, the grant doesn't just come in the form of free kit; there are certain conditions that have to be met, such as setting off alone into the big wide world this year for at least six months. it's necessary that you are between 18 and 25, free of any other contractual obligations and intend to make full use of the equipment and mentorship. "We are looking for applicants who expect their journey to involve elements of adventure, challenge and uncertainty."
tom allen says that the grant's aim is to promote journeys that involve immersion in unfamiliar places, cultures and ideas. additionally "Preference will not be given to journeys associated with a charity, record attempt, or other 'cause' which would detract from the immediate experience, nor for journeys obliged to focus on specific destinations, themes, objectives or achievements."
there is only one grant available this year, and i think i'd be correct in assuming that the majority of us here would find ourselves well outside the age qualifications. however, that doesn't mean that we do not know of a person or persons in the first flush of youth with an unbridled sense of velocipedinal adventure. in which case, it would only be responsible to point them in the direction of the link below.
you can but hope for a signed copy of the book they write on return.
tuesday 9 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it is a perpetual effort and a similarly constituted conundrum. my percussive career is currently in the doldrums and has been, if i'm quite honest, for some considerable number of years. this, for once, has less to do with with any lack of effort or ability on my part, but a great deal to do with where i live. though islay holds an annual jazz festival each and every september, and has done so for the last sixteen years, amongst the local populace, there is remarkably little appreciation of this genre of music.
i have been very fortunate to have played each and every one of those festivals - the only musician to have done so - yet few of those years have seen my drumset fulfil the same function. not only have i played behind a consummate blues band, but i have done so with a piano trio, a trumpet led quartet, as a pipe band drummer and latterly with a more rootsy blues group featuring fiddle and accordion.
but that occupies only one evening per year, not always preceded by weeks of rehearsal; more often than not, a couple of hours. thus, in order to keep percussive body and soul together, necessity has frequently become the mother of invention, leading to outings with ceilidh bands, pop bands, the school wind band and even heavy metal, a genre considerably distanced from that of jazz.
so, with so much downtime on my hands (and feet), coupled with a long-term desire to feature in a jazz piano trio, i spend way too much time considering quite what would be the ideal drum setup and mode of playing with which to be involved should the mythical piano trio miraculously come into being. my reasoning goes that, were i to be more frequently occupied in beating the skins as the vernacular would have it, my two quandaries of setup and technique would effectively solve themselves.
however, in the pursuit of this endless quest, i quite often seek out relevant drummers and jazz band performances on youtube, not only for suitable material, but in order to seek out self-defined deficiencies in both equipment and playing technique. it is a thankless task, for quite what i expect to gain from watching vinnie, steve, buddy et al is anybody's guess.
or is it?
only this past week i found myself watching a full concert of the steve gadd band from a large stage in germany (as opposed to the postage stamp afforded the same band at ronnie scott's in london). gadd has used the same yamaha setup for more years than there are ways to leave your lover, as well as having remained faithful to zildjian cymbals throughout his impeccable career. that's more than can be said about vinnie.
however, by watching closely, i was able to at least partially solve why his hi-hat cymbal sound is arguably more impressive than many of his peers; the bottom cymbal features a full set of sizzles. impressed by this discovery, i e-mailed zildjian's customer service to ask if this was something that could be purchased, or did gadd benefit from endorsement privileges? their prompt reply advised that placing rivets in any zildjian cymbal was a service offered to all their customers, and the fellow thoughtfully included a form that i might complete and send along with my cymbal to the zildjian factory.
those sufficiently well-versed in the ways of the percussive industry will have not been slow to note that, while i am domiciled in bowmore, islay, zildjian are in fact based in norwell, massachusetts, not quite neighbours with, but at least in the same state as richard sachs. despatching a 14" hi-hat cymbal across the pond to have eight sizzle riverts fitted would scarcely be considered a particularly economic or pragmatic undertaking.
it's a situation that must also have encroached upon the cycle industry, given its never ending quest for globalisation. the british safety standard as applicable under bs6102 advises that the right brake lever ought to actuate the front brake (disc or otherwise), while the left lever works the rear. but many of the cycles we now purchase via mail order, often from non-british retailers adhere to the opposite cabling procedure. no doubt there are quality control strictures in place to prevent the wrong bike heading to the wrong country. and if something goes wrong, the bike has a few more miles to return than to your local bike shop.
of course, the same can be said of pretty much any item purchased online and not from the country in which you were sat at the computer on which it was ordered. i fear i may be guilty of scare mongering, based on no knowledge whatsoever of any problems that might have been suffered by international customers, but it may be much ado about nothing that has the potential to become distinctly otherwise.
during this past week, i received a press release from an individual, keen to advise me of the efficacy of what was admittedly a rather intruguing product. in order that i might satisfy myself as to its professed quality, i asked to receive photos rather than drawings and inquired as to the possibility of a review sample. the latter request was duly requited, though subsequently undermined by my learning that he lives on the west coast of america and his learning that i lived just off the west coast of scotland. neither realisation had impinged on our previous communications.
of course, now that the world has become one great big bicycle market place, i'm pretty sure that entrepreneurial devices will ensure all runs smoothly nation to nation. that way, the money will flow with ease in the appropriate direction. still, if you're planning a future purchase that involves a bicycle, item of cycle clothing or desirable component, resist the temptation to be unnecessarily impulsive. do a bit of research first, if only to avoid customer services informing you that the frame requires to be returned to taiwan for a replacement dropout or the creaking press-fit bottom bracket to be silenced.
so far, no-one has offered to fit sizzle rivets in a 53 chainring.
monday 8 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i was once a member of the bridgnorth stamp club, a mail order sort of a club that relied on monthly postings. each and every 30 days, a small booklet filled with all manner of international and and occasionally allegedly valuable stamps, would arrive through the letterbox. inside would be a small-format book; the chairman's recommendation would appear at the front of the book, followed by various sections with a variety of other postage stamps. i do recall this being the time of my life when i learned what the word 'thematic' meant.
the idea behind this stamp club was that we'd retain the stamps we wanted to buy, before returning the book and payment for those we'd kept. i'm pretty sure i still have two stamp albums plus a tin full of loose stamps in the bedroom cupboard somewhere. of course, it wasn't a real club; there wasn't a wood-panelled club room with leather chesterfields in which we'd all sit wearing quilted smoking jackets, frequently hailing the maitre d' for one more glass of courvoisier. nor did there ever seem to be an annual general meeting offering the opportunity to elect a different chairman, even if we thought his monthly choice of stamps to be decidely on the wrong side of rubbish.
i've generally been one of those people, and i know i'm not alone, who sort of adheres to groucho marx' maxim 'i'd never join a club that would have me as a member.' i say sort of, because i've really never been one for joining any form of club. i did once join our local tennis club when i was a kid, but on discovering they'd put me down for a tournament the next day, i've stayed well away from clubs ever since.
there are, of course, a myriad of benefits to be had as a club member of anything, so long as you never find yourself as an elected member of any associated committee. that, in my opinion, is when the disadvantages start to outweigh the advantages, though i'm sure there's many a committee member would disagree with me.
now that cycling has apparently supplanted golf as flavour of the month, coupled with an encroaching globalisation of the sport/activity, it makes a certain amount of sense to perhaps join a club that offers benefits for those who travel a darned sight more than i do, or perchance enters more cycle events which, to be honest, wouldn't be hard.
with the latter in mind, only a few days ago i received an e-mail from mr sven thiele, grand overseer of the eponymously named hot chillee, inviting me to submit an amenable quantity of pennies to join a club of the same name. in return for my £95 annual membership (£65 if you sign up right this 7 february minute) i and any other paid up member can gain access to exclusive hot chillee events, 10% discount on the world-renowned cape rouleur, dunkerque-roubaix and alpine challenge events and guaranteed entry to the annual londres-paris ride for the first 100 members to apply.
naturally enough, there will be other attractive offers brought to your attention during the coming year, but assuming any of the above finds favour with yourselves, stop reading right this minute, sign-up before midnight tonight and save £30. i doubt very much whether you'll find me in the leather sofa'd club room, but that's purely because i'm an unsociable so and so who likes marx brothers' movies and doesn't join clubs.
did i mention that before?
sunday 7 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
mrs washingmachinepost, like many of her gender, continually orders items of clothing from either those huge doorstops of catalogues, or from the websites of those who used to distribute such gargantuan publications. i have often said, only partially in jest, that she ought to put our local post office as the delivery address so that catherine can send them back directly, thus cutting out the middle-(wo)man, if you catch my drift.
she is not totally naive; both catalogues and websites make their best attempts to make each garment look more than inviting, hoping for the all-important click-through or order form return. yet when the ordered packages arrive, with very few exceptions, they look or fit nothing like the catalogues promised. and they are thus unceremoniously re-wrapped and returned. it is a ritual repeated almost on a weekly basis.
it more or less sums up the problem of online sales. the internet has allowed many businesses to form and survive, including those in the cycling world, without the need of retail premises fronted by the all-important shop window. in the main, this is good news, not only offering the pelotonese the luxury of acquiring goods that would otherwise have remained unavailable or uncreated. but looking at carefully curated photographs of your prospective purchase(s) is really no substitute for touching, feeling and trying on whatever it is you fancy spending your money on.
and this is not purely because photoshop allows the realistic creation or digital manipulation of something that doesn't quite exist in the manner that marketing would have you believe it does.
despite trek's restriction on the online sales of its products without first being correctly fitted, buying a bicycle online, assuming you've paid attention to the manufacturers' sizing charts, is relatively straightforward. clothes and footwear, however, suffer greater iniquities. in pretty much every instance, when requesting garments for review on the post, i have adhered to listing size small for shorts and bibtights and medium for jerseys and jackets. when shoes are involved, i've stuck rigidly to size 44.
you will be not at all surprised to learn that there are often quite surprising variations between each manufacturer; on one or two rare occasions, i have had to return items to trade up or down a size. similarly with footwear. though my sizing has been reasonably accurate, there are several differences when considering the width fittings. many modern-day cycling shoes are constructed with synthetic uppers, materials that rarely vary in fit, no matter how often or in what conditions they are worn.
martin scofield at dromarti sells handcrafted leather cycle shoes, originally from a small office in london, with boxes of product stacked against one wall. things have moved on considerably since then, but initial sales were all completed online. however, as he himself points out "Online, is great for information and to see what others think. Moreover, it enables people to order when they just have a few moments to spare. However, if people have the time, you can't beat seeing and trying the shoes in person."
to this end, dromarti leather shoes first became available in person from chris puttnam's velobici in market bosworth, leicestershire. but for the first time, martin's shoes will be available in central london, with dromarti having partnered with brompton junction in covent garden's, long acre. i asked martin whether this recent placement was the continuation of a planned strategy, or just a one-at-a-time sort of thing?
"Strategy might be overplaying it, but when opportunities come up for us to work with people that are totally committed to their customers and are leaders in their field, then it's just obvious we should work together.
We don't want to be just another shoe on the rack, so in this case Brompton was perfect at every level. As is Velobici. Chris Puttnam lives and breathes his business. A life-long cyclist with a very special range of clothing and a beautifully crafted store."
it seems a tad unlikely, however, that martin found homself wandering aimlessly through covent garden and thought "you know what...?" in that case, who approached who?
"David Millar introduced me to Will Butler-Adams. We both thought that the shoes would fit perfectly in the Brompton Junction store at Long Acre and it all happened pretty quickly from there. It's a super space in a great location and the Brompton has really created its own category. It's just a perfect place for us to be."
he's probably right. on my one and only joining of london's tweed ride several years ago, martin provided me with a rather stately pair of dromarti shoes and the loan of a dromarti steel bicycle for the event. it's possibly the only time in my life that i have approached some degree of sartorial elegance. the shoes themselves are ideal for the cycle commute; aside from leather being the archetypal shoe material, a pair of dromartis lessens comparisons with the peloton, looking every bit as stately in the office as on the bicycle.
and talking of bicycles, the brompton folding-bike is every bit as much of a british cycling institution as brooks saddles. so does martin now ride to work on one?
"I would absolutely love one. It's my birthday in April (orange please)."
saturday 6 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the recently undertaken festive 500 in december last year featured fairly average weather as far as this hebridean haunt is concerned. granted, there was one day on which i remained at home and the ridley in the bike shed because the wind speed was really not one to be experienced from the brooks saddle of a bicycle. other than that, the only real travesties were slightly less extravagant winds and a tad more precipitation than i'd have liked. still, given that i made it to the magic 500, i really shouldn't complain.
however, i do recall pleading with rapha to impose some form of weighting allowance that paid particular attention to one's location. during the festive 500 of 2014, i chanced upon one or two photos posted online by the chaps and chapesses based out of rapha's san francisco cycle club. in place of grey skies and persitent rain, they appeared to have wall to wall sun and blue skies. and rather than find themselves clad in pro team softshells and winter bibtights, it seemed that short sleeve jerseys and bibshorts were the order of the day.
not once did i see the remnants of a ragged peloton huddling round a soya cappuccino for a mere squeeze of warmth.
that said, i'm sure those in the antipodes were faring even better, taking into consideration that as we northerners experience the vicissitudes of midwinter, those in the southern hemisphere were enjoying beaches in summer. like i said, there needs to be some sort of handicap system to mitigate for the lost opportunities of windswept days. yet even in the throes of gale driven despair (i may be laying it on just a bit thick here, but please accept it as artistic licence) photos of happy-go-lucky san franciscans in idyllic sunshine provided every bit as much incentive to go ride a bike as did the thought of achieving those 500 kilometres.
and as if that were not sufficient to warm the cockles of my crank brothers' pedals, the stalwarts of imperial works have found it in their heart of hearts to release a new 2016 collection in the immediacy of a february lunchtime. i may have taken them mildly to task over bringing the shadow kit's short sleeves and bibshorts to our attention in climes not suited for either, but they have once again defied the contemporary notion of climate change by offering such iniquities as a super lightweight jersey (in admittedly rather pleasing colours) and one or two other re-vamped products that really have little or no place in the hebrides during february.
however, the reality is that rapha's principal market is no longer the uk, and to base annual releases on britain's weather probably makes less economic sense than we'd like it to. thus to see ben lieberson, cole maness et al riding into the sunrise, clad in the new super lightweight jerseys is not quite as anachronistic as it may at first appear.
but even when rapha's new collection contains very little that any sane scot would wear in early february, it's the accompanying movie that maintains the ultimate desire to go ride a bicycle, a feature for which they are renowned. and not just at the weekend, but right at the very minute that the titles run when the movie ends. not that many of us will experience the same terrain or weather anytime soon, but kuurne-brussels-kuurne is but three weeks distant and a bloke has to garner his optimism from somewhere.
the rapha continental is alive and well and living somewhere near you.
friday 5 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
while my appetitie for cycle racing has scarcely diminished over the years, i find my tastes out of step with the uci's programme of mondialisation. which is a roundabout way of saying that the current spate of antipodean races easing gently into one or two others in the middle east have been and are in the process of passing me by entirely. this is not to deny the joy and excitement that such events have doubtless fostered, but my old school approach has me patiently anticipating the approach of kuurne-brussels-kuurne on the penultimate day of this leap year month. that's when the real season starts.
and by my reckoning, it's only 65 days until paris-roubaix.
it therefore concerns me that it may well be my relative inattention that has had me utter one or two gasps of surprise at the apparent increased profile of women's cycling. now, this may be something that has happened before now and i've simply been too self-absorbed to notice, but either way, it's a more than welcome alteration to the regular pattern of the velocipedinal firmament.
the announcement this past week of endura's partnership with the cervélo bigla team is yet another big notch on the enterprise front for women's cycling. in a perfect world, there would be no discrimination between men's and women's cycling; every international world tour race ought to have a quality event for each. until that happens, however, every little step will surely combine to make one giant step forward.
watching the live broadcasts of the cyclocross worlds at the weekend on the uci's youtube channel was a bit of an eye opener. rather than displaying the total number of folks who had watched the races, the live broadcasts displayed how many were watching at any given moment. on saturday, the elite women's race peaked at around 8,500, while on sunday, the men's elite event was well over 26,000. though the men's race was longer and decidedly faster, both were particularly entertaining to watch.
some of us ought to be hanging our heads in shame.
endura's founder, jim mcfarlane said of the partnership with cervélo bigla "We'll be using the team's riders as an elite group of high mileage performance product testers to help build our range of market leading performance wear for female riders." the obvious spin-off is an increased interest from an expanding women's cycling market, one which sponsorships such as this, allow enterprising cycle clothing manufacturers to better serve by way of improved garments. "We're bringing these developments through to products that are on the market right now for all riders to benefit from, with more exciting stuff to follow."
scotland's endura, based in livingston near edinburgh, are easing towards a quarter century in business, during which they have become an intrinsic part of cycling's fabric (if you'll pardon the pun). founder jim mcfarlane recently appointed david pritchard (above) as sales director saying "We are delighted to have David join us in such a key position." pritchard, perhaps ironically, previously held down senior sales positions at adams golf and market leader taylormade. i say ironically, given the recent contention that cycling is, in fact, the new golf.
in the light of his new appointment, it seemed relevant to as david where he saw endura's current position in the increasingly congested world of cycle clothing?
"It clearly helps to be one of the best globally known brands in a busy and often confused marketplace, where manufacturers are screaming for the attention of the consumer. One of our strengths would be our own very clear understanding of what we do and what we are capable of. We have heritage in certain different areas and have forged a path into newer spaces via the development work we are able to do through our various sponsorships, allowing access to some of the world's top riders. This strong identity leaves us well placed in a challenging and often confused environment."
it's no secret that endura's initial offerings to the market were strongly rooted in the offroad mountain bike market, in the early 1990s, that's where the pennies were to be made, with road cycling a very poor and distant relative in this respect. however, since the early part of this century, the poor relation has become ascendant, a trajectory that may have flattened off somewhat, but still appears to be rising. has david found that endura is still perceived as leaning towards the offroad cycle community, or have those days truly gone forever?
"We are known for our heritage in mountain biking, but we've accomplished so much in other areas of the sport and our credentials as a multi-discipline proposition are now well established. Our work with the Movistar team and new partnership with the ladies Cervélo Bigla team both attest to an ability to work at the very highest level in road cycling. At the same time, we're making serious inroads into the world of triathlon and other advanced areas, through aero-dynamic research with Simon Smart and Drag2Zero."
historically, cycle sponsorship has rested more with businesses eager to have their name displayed to an ever-growing international market. there was little strategy beyond this simple equation; no need or attempt to use the situation to further develop the product range being promoted. however, more recently, technical partnerships have been forged almost exclusively with research and development uppermost on the sponsorship proposal. how has endura's sponsorship of the movistar world tour team impacted upon their own technical development?
"As you know, we work with the Movistar Team in developing the performance apparel used by its riders, with almost all of the clothing provided to the Team being produced in Endura's own production facility in Scotland. If the truth be told, it works a little bit in both directions; Movistar's high level of expectation keeps everybody here at the top of their game in terms of delivering everything they ask for. And conversely, these partnerships only ever work where the teams truly believe that they are working with a manufacturer capable of delivering what they need. Thankfully, we go to this with a strong reputation for delivering at the highest level."
one notable international cycle helmet manufacturer has chosen to enter the fray with a clothing range of their own, but there are few that have gone in the opposite direction. according to endura's jim mcfarlane, the first endura product way back in the early nineties was to have been a cycle helmet, but it took until recent years to realise the ultimate release of an endura branded helmet. this was subsequently superlatively upgraded within the year. are there any plans to further develop the helmet range, or is it currently achieving its set goals?
"There are plans in place and we are working via various collaborations to deliver a step change in helmet technology beyond anything that is already out there. Some of this chimes well with projects we are already involved with. For example, the work we are doing in aero to drive meaningful gains at the limits of performance."
twenty-four years is a long time to be involved in the cycle industry, during which endura have weathered the fickle changes thrown in their direction. they continue to be scotland's premiere cycle clothing manufacturer (possibly the sole representative north of the border). they've seen the wholesale shift from mountain bikes to road bikes, seen competitors come and go and others recently appear to occupy some of their own hard-won space on the shop floor.
next year will see them celebrate their 25th anniversary, something of a milestone in arguably the world's finest yet toughest sport. it must be hard to come up with the next best thing, accompanied by devising the best way to simultaneously improve and increase their profile. where does david see endura heading over the next few years in relation to the competition. in other words, is there a cunning plan or two hidden in the cupboard?
"We are not always the best when it comes to shouting about ourselves, but we are proud of the work we've done to deliver successful contributions to major modern day milestones such as Alex Dowsett's hour record and more recently, the women's equivalent with Bridie O'Donnell. Equally, our work in triathlon, backed up by winning performances on the global stage, has drawn a staggering level of attention from some of the world's top athletes and eventually the benefits from this will be handed down to the consumer. In summary, innovation is very much a part of the Endura blueprint and we are naturally excited about where we can go with not only an appetite to continue this innovation but a proven track record in delivering it."
thursday 4 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the almost mythical construct of velo club d'ardbeg was originally a collusion between yours truly and a gentleman from ardbeg's parent company glenmorangie. after spending at least two years trying to convince him of the sanity of creating an ardbeg cycle jersey, the subsequent impressive sales numbers and publicity brought the suggestion that those of us on the island loosely agglomerated as a peloton might pedal under the heading of the velo club.
i cannot deny the pleasing implications of presenting ourselves to the world under the partial banner of one of the world's famous distilleries, and it would take only a superficial glance at the velo club home page to note the number of cyclists who have cheerfully allied themselves to the iconic banner. however, it is hard to escape the knowledge that the fabric and cut of the ardbeg jerseys is a few points removed from the cutting edge. it is a factor that is applicable to very many so-called club jerseys the length and breadth of this land as well as several others.
this is not to disrespect those cycle clothing producers who offer dye sublimation of their leading ranges, but in light of the number of garment producers currently touting their wares in our direction, the latter situation occupies a disappointingly small percentage of the whole.
castelli usa have, for a number of years, offered a bespoke service that has seen many clubs and teams have their riders and members kitted out with quality castelli cycle clothing emblazoned with the corporate style. you may recall my recent review on thewashingmachinepost of the colourfully dramatic jersey and socks from jeremy dunn's the athletic in portland as well as the infrequent mention of bill strickland's kappelmuur independent whose team kit and caps have originated from the castelli stable.
it seems that this fame from across the pond has now reached british shores, with castelli's servizio corse available to the intrepid club member via uk distributor saddleback. the man responsible for ensuring the efficacy of this most welcome and ever expanding diversion from the regular castelli catalogue is darren gumm. with saddleback having been castelli's uk distributor for a good number of years, has darren been aware of pent up demand for a custom designed and printed option?
"Castelli Custom has been on many clubs 'want list' for a few years now. The feedback and interest over the past seven months has really substantiated this. Perfecting our offering has been key to its recent launch in the UK."
riders in amateur or professional trade teams are conditioned to wear whatever their employer decides best suits the sponsors' respective business, a situation that has led to some design disasters reaching the public gaze, from polti lookalikes to the far more mundane. the problem with clubs is often democracy. or far worse, the committee. though the latter is an elected body bound to represent the wishes of its members, if they're anything like the committees i have experienced, they probably couldn't make a decision of their lives depended on it.
this means when considering the possibility of new team kit, somebody probably knows a graphic designer who's a friend of the chairman's daughter, eager for the opportunity to design the peloton's new clothes. i'm sure the recipe for disaster is making itself readily apparent? in order that the end result does not alarm the sartorial police, does the prospective servizio corse customer require to have all their ducks in a row before contacting, or are there castelli designers who can assist?
"We take projects from all walks of life. In many cases a few words are all that's needed to get the ball rolling. We can formulate a design from the minimum of source material. Vector logos (such as Adobe Illustrator files) and colour references are key if we are matching to a brief."
of course, one of the features inherent in many team kits is the relatively low cost of purchase. it's not rocket science to comprehend why those at the cutting edge of garment technology tend to attach higher prices to their products; someone has to pay for all that r&d. with no disrespect to castelli, their product range is often perceived to lean towards the higher end of the price scale, so does having it custom printed perhaps make it a little heavy on the musette, so to speak?
"No, our custom kit is very competitively priced. Custom prices are comparable to trade for 'inline product. This even enables shops to have a unique kit made and still achieve their retail margin."
darren very kindly e-mailed me a copy of the current castelli custom clothing catalogue, an extensive range of products consisting of more than sixty pages and more items of clothing than could be easily enumerated midst writing a coherent article. this pretty much answered my own question regarding just which items of castelli clothing could be custom printed. for instance, if i wanted an alpha jacket with twmp all over it, is that doable, or are we confined to jerseys and shorts?
"Servizio Corse has a select, focused range that still covers all the bases. There are five different S/S Jerseys, four bib shorts, bibtights, L/S Jersey, Gore Windstopper jacket, gilet, a full range of accessories and even a custom Gabba. Female specific cuts are also available."
i cannot deny that a custom printed gabba in black and yellow with house industries velo typeface emblazoned on front and back isn't a tempting thought. but then, there's only one of me and with the best will in the world, there's only so many gabbas that will fit in the cycling wardrobe. in point of fact, the minimum order number is ten pieces; in other words, if you wanted a jersey, shorts, bibtights and a winter jacket, you'd need to order ten of each. but additionally, is there a setup cost involved?
"It mostly depends on the size of the initial order. We subsidise this as much as the order will allow, but If a customer just wanted ten jerseys then yes, a small setup cost would be charged."
as the saying goes 'other custom clothing suppliers may be available', but how many of us would happily arrive for the sunday morning ride clad in stylish and effective custom designed and printed cycle clothing with the tell-tale scorpion logo proudly displayed for the envy of others? smug gits 'r' us
assuming many of us are now simmering with anticipation, how would the intrepid cyclist get in touch when custom seems the inevitable way to go?
"Simply email us at email@example.com."
very many thanks to darren gumm, martin astley and richard mardle for assistance with this feature.
wednesday 3 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the underlying philosophy behind the original, daniel wakedield pasley curated rapha continental, back in the early days when solely based out of portland, was to ride the road less travelled which, in many cases across the continental usa, often meant lengthy stretches of unpaved, gravel roads. what was seen as pioneering at the time, was the traversing of such less-travelled roads on regular, steel road bikes, fitted with rubber of 25mm and 28mm widths. it was a concept that subsequently saw it included in many a rapha gentlemen's ride, though not without hidden consequences. you need only reprise several of the accompanying videos to see how often the camera dwelt upon puncture repairs.
it was posted on twitter last week that, essentially, all bikes are gravel bikes, presumably in defiance of american cycle manufacturers classifying the gravel bike as a clearly defined genre, one that would so take the fancy of the pelotonese, that bicycles labelled thus would become the season's 'must have'. to be honest, i have no real idea whether this has proved to be the case, but the differentiation between gravel bikes and cyclocross machinery is surely remarkably slim?
however, nomenclature is often subject to the whims of marketing, and quite how such bicycles are referred to is of little consequence provided there are suitable routes on which to ride them. recent innovations in the realm of city centre 'cross, have all but proved it takes only slight invention to find ideal locations for appropriate velocipedinal activity. but there's no denying that the original mountain bike craze rarely relied on riding offroad; many so-called mountain bikes rarely made it further than the local off-licence or supermarket.
for those of a more adventurous nature, however, things are looking more optimistic with the recent announcement of this september's la resistance ride in the french alps. based in talloires on the shores of lake annecy, the ride, consisting of both road and off-road sections over a distance of 130km was conceived in honour of the resistance movement during the second world war. the route passes both the national monument to la resistance and the necropolis and museum at morette. for those less than desirous of the full 130km, there is a shorter, 90km ride that ends at the necropolis but involves less climbing than its big brother.
the only real condition of entry (costing €95) is that either ride must be undertaken on a bicycle fitted with drop bars, thus favouring road, cyclocross or gravel bikes.
many bike rides have been constituted to celebrate various events or to aid charitable foundations, but it's the first time i've come across an event of this stature that pays testament to the heroism of the wartime resistance. so i asked organiser and alpe sporting events director, ross muir what had prompted this particular bike ride?
"One of my co-founders of la resistance lives in Talloires and had mapped out a few different routes in the area. When meeting around this time last year, he mentioned this amazing route and the historical links behind it. I saw the potential straight away and we started working to refine his ideas.
"The concept combined two ideas that seemed very current. Firstly the idea that people are now looking for their next challenge. They have ridden the Etape, done an Alpine Raid and taken part in Ride London. What's next?
"Venturing into unknown territories would seem the next logical step; the ability to enjoy the undisturbed nature that mountain biking brings combined with the elegance, efficiency and long distance capability of a road bike.
"Secondly, the plight of our armed services is very topical at present and we are encouraging participants to use the ride as a reason to raise money for French and UK-based military charities. Putting the history of the Resistance at the heart of the event, differs from the multitude of current sportives. We want this to be a ride (not a race), where people enjoy the challenge, but also take time to enjoy the company of friends, the beauty of nature and the sacrifices that were made."
it turns out that this september's event is not entirely without precendent. "We held a pioneers event in October last year and received such overwhelmingly positive feedback that we decided to throw it open to everyone for 2016."
that explains the rationale behind such an enterprising and challenging bike ride, but still leaves the recommendation of a cyclocross or gravel bike as a notably different factor for a ride in the french alps. why?
"We felt that some kind of road bike is best suited to the event. It's long and with two challenging road climbs, would be a tough undertaking on an MTB. It is, however, quite possible to ride the route on a standard road bike with minor modification. For the Pioneers ride last year, I rode my standard carbon road bike on 25mm tyres rather than my usual 23mm. Others rode a mixture of carbon road bikes, sportive bikes, and steel touring frames with disc brakes."
the famous italian ride, l'eroica restricts bicycle choice to steel frames built prior to 1976 and featuring downtube gear levers. and though not compulsory, the organisers encourage entrants to dress appropriately in wool jerseys and goggles with a pair of tubulars criss-cross wrapped across the torso. similarly, the organisers of la resistance have recommended that their riders choose period dress. by this do we presume cycle clothing of the era?
"We encourage people to wear period dress for La Guinguette, our after party on the shores of Lake Annecy. La Guinguette relives the glorious riverside parties that took place in Paris in the early part of last century with live music and dancing, and the best of local food and drink for people to enjoy.
"The finish line of La Resistance will be right in the heart of the party and we hope that riders will hang up their wheels and enter into the spirit of the evening. It's perfect for friends and families to enjoy themselves while waiting to celebrate the arrival of their loved ones.
"Each entry to La Resistance includes free entry to La Guinguette including a drink and some tasty food. Tickets just for entry to La Guinguette are available for friends, family and anyone who wants to come along and have a good time."
one of the many benefits that make the modern-day sportive or cycling challenge a tad different from the usual weekend bike ride in the country, is the existence of almost immediate technical support should such misfortune befall even the well-prepared. in the case of la resistance, road support is being provided by mavic, the very folks who keep chris froome and his buddies safe and sound during those three weeks in july. is the same level of mavic support available to la resistance riders?
"The spirit of the event is very much one of self-sufficiency. Riders are required to carry a minimum amount of kit to allow them to deal with mishaps out on the course. But bigger problems such as broken wheels or running out of tubes might happen and it is for this contingency that Mavic will make themselves available. They will mainly be posted along the gravel sections where mechanicals are most likely to occur, with spare tyres, tubes, wheels and even bikes. Mavic have their HQ just a few kilometres away from the start of La Resistance and have really got behind the event."
the entry cost of £95 seems a particularly amenable amount to spend on what promises to be an enjoyable and challenging day on the bike. however, noting that there is a shorter la petite ride of 90km available leads me to query whether the price of admission is the same in the latter case?
"The entry fee is the same for both routes. This keeps things simple from our point of view and also allows people to change routes on the day if they suddenly feel super-human, or had one too many red wines the night before. The cost of entry includes a customised event jersey by Mavic worth €95 and free entry to La Guinguette (normally €25) so we feel it is good value."
in the light of my isolated location, it is no great surprise that i have very little experience of riding in larger groups. eight or nine is the usual islay maximum. i don't doubt that a lack of confidence pertains to a good number of cyclists outside of the professional peloton, even allowing for the fact that varying abilities on the bike almost always ensure that large groups on the road (or gravel) tend to be few and far between. in this case, is there a maximum number of entrants for la resistance?
"We are limiting the number of entrants to 350. It's definitely not a race and it's not really a sportive either. It's a unique cycling challenge with a thought provoking back story."
more information or to become one of the first two hundred entrants receiving a free mavic roadie cap, pop over to laresistance.cc. perhaps even better, if you're a facebook user, check the la resistance page for the opportunity to win one of five free places on the ride.
tuesday 2 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.
club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.
bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading...........................................................................................................................................................................................................