there is, most likely, a fine line between a controlled sense of adventure and sheer stupidity. though at its upper levels, this would incorporate such activities as climbing k2 and/or mount everest, making one's way to the north pole accompanied only by those inner thoughts telling you not to, or jumping out of aeroplanes with only a thin sheet of silk between joy and a train wreck. other examples of similar folly are likely to be considerably less impressive.
yesterday, scotland was battered by winds above and beyond the call of duty; certainly for the latter days of may. islay is served by two ferries at present; the mv hebridean isles and the mv isle of arran, one sitting at this end of the route, the other safely ensconced at kennacraig on the mainland. in stupid winds as witnessed yesterday, they are probably better staying put, but for reasons best known to at least one of the captains, they set sail for their respective destinations. though i have experienced less than calm crossings in my time, i'm very glad i wasn't on either boat yesterday. according to one of the crew aboard the boat that arrived at islay, they'd recorded a gust of 128mph on the journey across.
for visitors spending a few days on islay, things can only get better.
shifting this adventure/stupidity quotient down several levels, we arrive at me on saturday morning. vittoria in italy were most kind in sending over a pair of open pave cg 700 x 24c tyres for review over islay's roads. these are pretty much identical in tread pattern and construction to their similarly monikered tubulars. they are also identical in intent, being the very item vittoria sponsored riders would fit for races such as paris-roubaix and the ronde van vlaanderen. in other words, crap roads.
due to agriculture, a more severe winter than experienced for many a long year, and a roads budget that would likely struggle to cover a few coffees and some carrot cake at debbies, islay's roads now resemble a network of potholes linked by scraps of tarmac. my thinking here is that these would provide the ideal hunting ground for black tyres with a bright green stripe down the centre. while many of the latest offerings from the world's more prominent bicycle tyre companies are totally bereft of tread, the open paves feature a fine criss-cross file-like tread on the centre strip, supported by an angled tread on each shoulder. this is the stuff of which legends are made, and i cannot deny an overhwelming air of superiority after fitting them to a pair of mavic ksyria on an aszure team issue bicycle.
this is where the adventure and stupidity hove into view. though having been forecast for several days, incessant pouring rain on saturday past turned out to be perfectly true. one wonders why it is that the forecast is never wrong when malevolent weather is on the cards? still, pretty much any tyre will behave correctly in the dry; if this test was going to mean any more than a simple perambulation of the estates, looking at least 15kph faster than i actually ride, taking the paves out in the exceedingly wet and subjecting them to the crappest roads kept for special occasions, seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
so that's what i did.
consoling myself with the mantra once you're wet, you're wet., i proceeded to make an idiot of myself for the next 50 kilometres. but aside from smiling often at the lunacy of it all, i'm happy to say that the vittorias failed to join in the idiot making. in a word (well, several to be precise), they were absolutely superb. i am extremely glad that i have had the opportunity in the past to ride wheels shod with tubulars, otherwise i would be scrabbling aimlessly for words to support this contention; these have to be the nearest thing to a set of tubs it is possible to ride without actually riding tubs.
this is something of a contradiction however, at least from a visual point of view. the open paves have somewhat of a tall profile when viewed from the front (which i try not to do when i'm on the bike). i'd be inclined to equate this with a less than natural cornering tendency; surely a more rounded profile lends itself more to confidence when leaning round corners and bends? seemingly not. those special roads are currently if not permanently gravel strewn, making for skittish riding even in the dry. couple that with perpetual rain, large but irregular potholes, and the beginnings of small rivers, and that sense of adventure begins to look so much more like stupidity. oh, did i mention a herd of cows on the road?
yet skittishness was conspicuous by its absence, and a total lack of control on my part once or twice was courageously forgiven by the tyres; down scrabbly hills and round even more scrabbly corners. gravel is not your friend, whatever its publicist may tell you. at least there was no-one around to see me suffer.
from the viewpoint of getting about in a hurry, weather conditions be damned, the green and blacks are a delight. i may have convinced myself that travel was carried out at a more alacritous pace, but in the face of so much precipitation, there had to be a more pressing reason for that ear to ear smile. of course, the proof of the rubber is just as much in how long it continues to provide those sensations, puncture free, as in how enjoyable when new. i am not unaware of such requirements, and will thus be extending my devil-may-care attitude to weather conditions over the coming months, intent on finding out how well a pair of vittoria open pave tyres survives in the very conditions they were designed to revel in.
i'll get back to you.
posted tuesday 24 may 2011