an interview with kara ginther

kara ginther

art is a slippery subject. gone are the days when mention of the word simply referred to drawing, painting or sculpture, all of which were reasonably self-explanatory; you knew what you were looking at. over the years, a number of so-called artists have followed the lead of marcel duchamp, who famously explained the artistic value of a gents' urinal by stating that since he was an artist, it was art because he said it was. it's been pretty much downhill from there on in; staring for hours at a shark in formaldehyde, won't necessarily make it any clearer.

at this point, art was purely experiential: the artist created, and we experienced; the two were distinctly separate. but gradually experience morphed into participation, where oftimes the audience became as much a part of the artwork as the fabric of the art itself. this may have been the result of conditions attached to grants provided to artists practising in the eighties, nineties and noughties, or it could simply have been a community schooled outlet for those who could neither draw nor paint. either way, art has become much more about participation than it was when i darkened art school corridors.

however, despite the wide variety of interactive methods dreamt up by many a contemporary artist, i had not heard of anyone being asked to sit on the artwork. until now.

my knowledge of the work of leather artist kara ginther had been totally non-existent until i received a tweed run press release advising of the availability of a number of exclusive items to suit the tweeded cyclist. a limited edition of twenty brooks saddles carved with a herringbone pattern was/is on offer via the tweed run website, and brief investigation led me to the notion of carving intricate patterns on the top of brooks finest was a fascinating, if idiosyncratic discovery.

so i asked more...


posted wednesday 21 april 2010

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dromarti strada

dromarti strada

while i do not feel even remotely responsible, steel has caught its second wind and is making a determined comeback. nobody in the pro peloton is riding anything other than carbon, but at the last count the majority were devoid of professional status, some of us even struggling to make that of amateur. so with no contract sticking out from a rear pocket and the option to discard a frame every few months, it's perhaps not surprising that the very same majority have a bit more flexibility over their choice of velocipedinal transport.

while many sitting astride cheap mountain bikes surely don't need a set of knobblies, likely a good number of us have little need of skinny wheels and bendy bars, but there's a certain frisson and sense of abandon to own and ride such a machine, something that we can all look forward to riding well into our dotage ( a stage some of us are closer to than others). retro is the new modern, something that i do not present as a vacuous and trendy statement, but as an example of the revolution that is taking place in steel frame building. there are modern steels readily available that will satisfy the needs and style of many a rider. italian built just makes it all the more attractive to one and all.

fulfilling much of the above is the latest from the company that proffers italian leather shoes and hand-crocheted track mitts. dromarti is presently a one man band, but one man who has a remarkable perspicacity and the skill to turn this into modern classics that we all lust after. the latest and greatest to bear the dromarti name is beautiful, italian hand-built steel. but looks do not a happy camper make, so how good can a modern, lugged steel frame be midst a sea of carbon?

read the review


posted tuesday 20 april 2010

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number twenty seven

i'm not good at blowing my own trumpet (being more of a percussive chap really), mostly because i rather enjoy writing the post and all the rather neat fringe benefits that go along with it, not least of which is the large number of like-minded folks i have met over the years. there seems no need for any extraneous self-promotion. it's a great journey that i hope continues for a very long time to come. but if i'm really honest, while i am conceited enough to believe that the quality of writing has improved over the years (posting every day will do that it seems), my attitude has changed very little, and i'd keep writing this even if no-one was reading. call it therapy.

but, in point of fact, i do know that there are quite a number of you reading, and very grateful i am for your attention and regular correspondence, but andreas at londoncyclist has independently decided to quantify the world of cycling blogs, by arranging them into a top fifty, and i am all but speechless to discover that thewashingmachinepost occupies number twenty seven in this half century.

chuffed? you bet i am.

london cyclist


posted monday 19 april 2010

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derny clothing

derny cap

there maybe was a time, i really can't remember that far back, when there was at least two distinct sections to my existence: there was civilian life when, allowing for one or two idiosyncracies and rather long hair, i appeared to any outside agency as a regular member of the human race. granted, mrs washingmachinepost would cast the odd aspersion at what she took to be eccentric behaviour, but i knew differently, so it was like water off a duck's back.

but then there was the secret identity, mostly clothed in lycra and sportwool, sporting little caps with flickable peaks that fitted neither one category nor another, and a propensity to walk like a duck and skite across tiled floors with calm abandon. the likelihood that this may be borne witness to was usually alerted to by a bicycle leaning against a wall in near proximity. for whatever length of time the dream could be consolidated, this was just exactly who i was/am.

the secret handshakes we have discussed before: those inexplicable tanned patches on the back of each hand, the words embrocation cycling journal embossed into the ankles if the socks slid down slightly, and, weather permitting, tan lines on legs and arms described by straight lines. a breed apart if ever there was one.

as i have read to you out loud, there was a time when these were two distinct areas of life, but if both you and i are perfectly honest with ourselves, the lines delineating both areas have started to be altered by the gaussian blur filter, until, more recently it's becoming harder to figure out where one starts and the other ends. and vice versa.

derny trench coat

if this has come as a bit of a shock, and i have now seen fit to point out something that should have remained hidden, fear not; it's not entirely your fault. there are those who have been knowlingly complicit in this state of affairs, often quite brazenly so. it comes down to that of daily attire and sartorial nous. i can see the light bulb starting to glow.

day to day and peloton are only one and the same for professional riders, which, daydreaming aside, is not us, leading to either a division in the wardrobe or, in ever more frequent cases, two distinct wardrobes. so what's changed? well, quite a lot in point of fact. thankfully the day has yet to come to when the managing director turns not a single hair as you march to your desk in tweed jacket and bibshorts; just remember that not everyone understands the phrase the spring classics.

it may have been engendered by the acceptance of schoolkids and those who really ought to know better, populating the streets wearing football jerseys in a rather blatant display of affiliation. no disrespect intended to anyone intent on the persuasion of kicking a ball into a piece of netting (you do believe me don't you?), but those of us of a velocipedinal bent are less concerned with such blunt ostentation. not for us the co-op dressed in a liquigas jersey; we are of a more subtle temperament.

derny shirt and shorts

enter the complicit, the latest of which will have your two wardrobes fighting amongst themselves over which side of the carpet the coathangers should repose. solo of new zealand have been plying us with self-styled retro for a number of years: st neith velo sur le, veerhaven, freemont speed shop. you know exactly where i'm coming from. but sidestepping the retro jersey look, paul mason has decided to point a companion clothing range in a direction aimed more at the urban rider.

if you will permit a slight digression at this point, i have in the past made pointed accusations at this epithet ascribed to clothing meant not specifically for the competitive rider, but more perhaps for his leisure moments. or, catering to the rest of us, the type of clothing that wouldn't look out of place in euston station at 11:30 of a monday night (perhaps a bad example, but i'm reinforcing the urban aspect here), but has the wherewithal to accompany said riders on the bicycle too. a blurred line between cyclist and civilian. urban, however, adequately describes the function of such clothing; we all know to which it refers, and my pedantry, while not misplaced, is all but vacuous in this case.

derny polo shirt

i could change my mind though.

this is one of those official sneak peeks at a range of clothing that, if all goes according to plan, should be available on the derny website as of tuesday this week. at present, peeks are all i really have, material and specifications being somewhat thin on the ground. however, judging books by covers isn't always the dead end it's made out to be, as there's a wealth of information and satisfaction to be gained by well observed sneak peeks.

the range's initial offering comprises various tee-shirts bearing the distinctive derny logo, a rather smart looking buttoned shirt, a pair of threequarter shorts, caps, cufflinks, what appears to be a merino, long-sleeve polo shirt, socks, and a particularly stylish jacket, displaying remarkably clean lines and a high, buttoned collar. prices are still in dollars and euros, so you'll have to find your own conversion widget: city shirt: $128/94eur; city shorts: $135/98eur; trench jacket: $225/162eur; mw polo: $135/98eur; merino socks: $25/18eur; cap: $15.50/12eur; t-shirt: $26/20eur; cuff links: $26/20eur.

derny shorts and t-shirt

how and when will you wear it? well, in any way you like, i shouldn't wonder, since my mental gymnastics have already combined like with unlike, and even with regular jerseys and padded shorts. such visualisations have not been found wanting so far, and i think, apart from the sunday ride, there is a huge opening in the cyclist's mentality, eager to embrace and acquire just this sort of sartorial elegance to match with fixed and eleven speeds without discrimination.

solo have been very generous over the past few years by way of review samples, so i can but hope that this will spread to the derny range, and more than just providing this sneek peak, i can enlighten you further as to the specifics of at least a portion of the range. 2010 is looking like a very good year for cyclists with wardrobes.

btw if it's class you're looking for, take a look at the bicycle on the website's front page. nice.



posted monday 19 april 2010

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another upcycled offering from faction

faction upcycled caps

not that one wishes to impinge on your reading time too much, or too often; of all people i am well aware of how many other cycling blogs there are on the interweb to get through in a working day, but in this case you might just thank me for the interruption (so to speak).

mass production is an accepted factor of modern day life; if marketing is to be substantiated, there has to be a reasonable supply of goods to fulfil the demand hopefully created, but mass production rather unwittingly has created its own antithesis. the limited edition: sometimes wholly contrived by simply making very few of an item or product, even though the ability to make many more is well within experience and capability. however, not all are so very cynical, and willing to benefit at the expense of others. sometimes, just sometimes, a limited edition fulfils the ethical high ground, because there really is no alternative to the scarcity of that proffered.

faction cycling's first offering of upcycled caps, made from items of thrift shop clothing around chicago, barely lasted twenty four hours; perhaps not incomprehensibly, thrift shops of whichever geographical location are not stocked with endless supplies of materials suitable for this particular variant of recycling, so only so many individual items can be fashioned for the joy of the greater cycling public (this means you and me). thus uniqueness is all but guaranteed.

the guys at faction have not a cynical bone in their collective body, and have thus been out again round the windy city picking more appropriate fabrics from which to carve a selection of fabulous cycling caps. to this i can attest, having worn a particularly excellent example while tweeding last weekend. and, it has to be said, on several other apposite occasions before and since. but in order that you might join me in the enjoyment of such limited edition casquettes, i feel it only my duty to inform you that a second round of upcycled caps will be available at 11am central standard time (about 5pm bst) from the faction website.

don't say i didn't tell you.

faction cycling


posted monday 19 april 2010

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the hell of the lost, part two

allen keys

while it's creating a stereotype and thus a sweeping generalisation, there are basically two types of cyclist: those who are at least resonably adept at mechanical duties, and those who rely entirely on a following mavic car. unless you are alberto no-mates, and spend the bulk of what is laughingly referred to as training on your own, the act of cycling is arranged along clearly defined rules of sociability. even on this rock in the atlantic, on a good day with a following wind there will be at least four of us moving about frantically, trying vainly to emulate a much larger peloton. you would think on roads such as ours, which almost re-define the definition of off-road, that pumps, inner tubes and puncture repair kits would be more gainfully employed than is actually the case, but perhaps i demean our collective riding abilities, and we are, as a group, more adept at navigating ungainly tactility than we thought.

so while carbon and steel are kitted with under saddle gucci bags, as the mighty dave is wont to refer to them, more often than not the contents remain undisturbed. and though at least fifty percent of a full velo club peloton have more than a passing acquaintance with tools and repair procedures, we'd be unlikely to make much of a living offering our services. most pelotons are made up in this way; there will always be at least one good soul who thinks nothing of dismantling a cup and cone bottom bracket in the middle of a hailstorm in a passing place along an obscure single track road (can you tell i'm writing from experience here?), and it's always a source of satisfaction that he/she is riding shotgun somewhere in the melee.

but this can be somewhat counter productive. what does the lead out train do when the sprinter can't manage of a sunday morn because of domestic duties? or worse, what if illness has befallen? the downside to either of these situations is that of apathy. the first point at which the weekend saviour will be missed is when a mechanical befalls one of the peloton, and it slowly dawns on all involved that the mavic car is missing. because the mechanical maestro is generally self-effacing and ever present (until now), there has never been any necessity or desire for other peloton members to turn their hand to wrenching. thus, it becomes a self-reinforcing situation.

as i mentioned at the top of the page, this is a sweeping generalisation: if the velo club peloton has at least a couple of would-be mechanics, there's a good chance that a solo incumbent exists only in places such as tiree or st kilda. the more urban districts should be better supplied in this aspect; more than one mavic car. but successful continuity of this situation confers a degree of infallibility on the team mechanic; at some point in the never ending march of technology, the marcher will outrun the marchee and broken technology will win the day. it'll happen to us all at sometime, probably in the near future. at one time a derailleur pulled into the wheel could be straightened at the gear hanger with a strategically placed adjustable spanner. don't do this with carbon or replaceable aluminium dropouts.

but suppose, for the sake of a story with a happy ending, the mechanic and technology are still on conversational terms, is there any pressing need to examine the situation any closer? is this all just a storm in an espresso cup, and of no real nevermind to a day in the saddle. well, yes, in a roundabout sort of way. almost every repair relies on anything stretching from the bare minimum of tools, to one of those park tool backpacks covering most, if not all eventualities. here at home there is a piece of heritage on thewashingmachinepost bikeshed wall in the shape of a large, flat board stuck with nails and carefully nurturing a wide selection of specialist bicycle tools, ever-ready for the unfortunate happenstance.

last weekend the comfort zone was interrupted. displacing myself south for rides that would incorporate a bicycle review, required forward planning, an activity for which i am not renowned. if i take these, which tools will i need to fit them to the review bicycle? thankfully, aside from a 16mm spanner to fit platform pedals for tweeding, the only other tool that seemed necessary was a multi-set of allen keys, most especially an 8mm to fit mavic pedals to campagnolo cranks. for a day or two prior to the grand depart, i made a list of everything i'd need, and placed them one by one into my colnago branded luggage. except that having arrived at a location not a million miles from camberwell road, there was no sign of the allen key set.

i emptied every bag, carrier and pocket within the luggage, yet evasion was complete. since returning to velo club territory, i have repeated the exercise several times, but still no sign. however, i have now invoked a guaranteed method of finding the lost tool; i have ordered a replacement. there is no better way to aid a fruitless search than to purchase another of the same, at which point the errant item(s) will surface, static in a location that has been enquired of more than once during the previous week. soon, postal service willing, a neat little jiffy bag will fall through the letterbox, and life will continue as if the firmament had never been unsettled.

but can i get back to you on that?


posted sunday 18 april 2010

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shoes maketh the man - dromarti storica

dromarti storica

faff can be great. relate the notion of faff, or faffing, to last weekend's tweed run in london: waxing of moustaches, donning fabulous looking tweeds, or in the case of one or two of the fairer sex, billowy cotton dresses and red high heels, cannot be seen as anything other than faff, and pretty much of the highest order. but in the context of why such faff was necessary, the end easily exercised the means. the fact that so many like-minded cyclists were willing to partake of such communal faff made the whole so much greater than the sum of the parts.

of course, faff is one of those neutral institutions that can be viewed from either side; the notion of packing clothes and toothbrushes for the whole family to head off for a bank holiday weekend is not a level of faff most of us revel in, and i'm sure that figuring out the level of refund due to airline passengers grounded because of volcanic activity is faff on a scale most of us would likely prefer to avoid. the faffing i was trying to avoid last saturday as i tweeded, was any incessant necessity to clip cleats into pedals and, just as often, unclip. saturday afternoons have a tendency to be busy wherever you live; even bowmore main street has more than its usual share of pedestrians and badly parked cars than is the case on a regular weekday.

the country's capital city, not unsurprisingly, manages this on a much grander scale, and while the tweed run marshals displayed a degree of valour above and beyond the call of duty, by stopping aggressive traffic (is there any other kind?), there were numerous occasions when the flow of tweed came to both a ceremonious and unceremonious halt. it is distinctly unseemly when in pelotonic company to come to a full stop by running into the back of a one hundred year-old rare bicycle and promptly falling onto the ground. it's the laughter and pointing that does it you know.

so what's a newbie tweedle to do? i took preventative action to avoid any unnecessary faff of a pedalling nature, happy to forego clipping and cleating for regular shoe/pedal interface. toe clips will mess with the sveltitude (i made that up) one can present to an ignoring public, so even those were ditched in favour of replica campagnolo pedals devoid of any restraining accoutrements. what of appropriate footwear? given that this was the tweed run, a pair of converse all-stars would likely have ruined the overall matching effect of tweed and argyle; an event featuring so many brooks saddles would determine leather to be the only satisfactory solution, and in this case a pair of dromarti storica leather shoes.

dromarti storica

let's be perfectly blunt: these shoes are to die for, even if they never make it as far as your feet. the workmanship can but be admired both from afar and at close quarters, in similar manner to the sportivo model that i regularly wear clipped to mavic pedals. but in this case, the resin sole has been replaced with leather, featuring raised and stiffened sections where foot meets pedal, as well as at toe and heel. the holy grail of footwear applicable to a cycling environment is to make the sole stiff enough to allow efficient energy transfer through whichever pedals are being used, while allowing for comfortable walking across less than strictly level tarmac or pavement.

the grail is here.

shiny shoes and waxed laces do not a satisfied cyclist make, if the experience falls short of promise. and the experience would also be null and void if such footwear were only appropriate for events of the nature of the tweed run. not so. these shoes are so undeniably fabulous, that even a scruff of no insignificant stature such as myself, has subsequently looked for every angle and opportunity to wear them in public (and i've done not too badly on that score either). after a few pedal revolutions, the fact that my feet were attired in hand-crafted italian leather had subsumed such luxury and entered the world of designer pragmatism. in keeping with each style available from dromarti, traditional is the watchword, but not to the extent of ostentatious retro; the storicas have that delightful ability to blend with whichever mode of sartorial opulence you may have chosen for the day, whether that be lycra shorts and sportwool, or jeans and a merino baselayer. rather more subtly than a pair of mavic yellow zxelliums.

dromarti storica

on the straight (well, almost) and narrow, that occasionally presented itself on london's streets, where a modicum of unrestrained speed was not only possible, but quite likely invited, pedalling suffered not one whit. yet all the stopping and starting, scuffing and flicking and, dare i say it, walking was accomplished with ease. if your cycling demands that the daily commute can encounter almost as much walking as cycling, or the bicycle is a form of transport that takes in a conspicuous amount of shopping, and not always in the one emporium, you need a pair of these very fine shoes almost as much as you want a pair. scruffy as i may be, i'm not averse to owning and wearing at least one item of what common consent would decree is stylish attire, even if, or perhaps especially if it's confined to my footwear. yes, those all-stars would valiantly attempt to fulfil the outline of the job at foot, and may even look quirkily funky in the process, but let's not kid ourselves, these are the shoes for the connoisseur.

in this case, i am that connoisseur.

dromarti storica leather shoes are available in limted quantities from size 37 to 47 at a cost of £169.97, a price that seems somewhat of a steal for such quality and craftsmanship.



posted saturday 17 april 2010

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open source

felice gimondi jersey

there's a worldwide movement, principally associated with software, known as open source. this involves large groups of like-minded folks who work on computer operating systems such as linux and ubuntu ensuring that contemporary software is available to all those who wish to access it. the source code is freely available to all, the idea being that any improvements go back into the melting pot to the benefit of others, and thus the software is hopefully continually improved and diversified. for those of us who wouldn't know a programming language if it offered to oil the chain, we must appreciate these altruistic and obsessive souls willing to help us access rather immodest computing power for very little cost. however, at the risk of being nailed to the sky bus, open source is not for me; i have placed my faith entirely in the boffins at infinite loop.

but the idea of open source is not so new, and nor is it solely the preserve of binary code. music, for instance is possibly the finest example of open source, with musicians throughout the centuries presenting their musical ideas in public, allowing it to be assimilated and provide a dialectic that improves (subjectively) the genre, or at very least, pushes it a few degrees further forward. as a musician (drummers are, of course, the cream of the crop), it is incumbent on my learning process to become aware of what has gone before. my hero may well have been bill bruford, but i then need to know where his influences came from, and further on down the line. there's no need or desire to re-invent the wheel, but in order to perfect my craft, it's important that i know how the greats of yesteryear performed and presented their ideas.

at the risk of stretching the simile perhaps just a smidgeon too far, even the world of cycling could be considered open source: we have the greats of last century such as coppi, bartali, anquetil et al, through whom we can access the past, both to appreciate our heritage, and to inform the future. even now, fausto coppi is heralded as one of the most graceful of all cyclists, a style that an average member of the peloton can but aspire to emulate in the name of efficiency and poise.

likewise, when it comes to designing and building modern bicycles, the circle should remain unbroken; there may be little comparison between the bianchis of the fifties and the svelte and almost contrived carbon fibre of the current century, but the lineage is still there. the various refinements and advances that have informed bicycle design over the years are open to continual development by all and sundry. witness the hefty bottom bracket area first seen on cervelo bicycles, and follow the appearance of similar hunks of carbon on virtually every carbon frame available today. but also pay attention to those individual builders such as ira ryan, richard sachs, tony pereira and their peers, who are aware of these developments yet continue in a different direction with different material needs (in both senses of the word).

open source.

cima coppi jersey

while this lineage continues moving forward, a bit like the history panel in photoshop, it's just as possible to dip into specific points in the past to access ideas and styles that can be presented in a similar, yet different way. one of the foremost protagonists of this type of open source ideating (i nicked that word from daniel wakefield pasley) are the two resourceful fellows at the helm of prendas ciclismo. stunning jerseys with just a hint of retro or celebration are their stock in trade, the latest examples of which portray my point superbly.

the first is described as tutti colori del ciclismo (all the colours of cycling); the official jersey of the gran fondo felice gimondi, highlighting the colours of all the jerseys the great man wore during his illustrious career. a three time winner of the giro d'italia, winner of both the tour de france and the vuelta, as well as world champion in 1973. but it wasn't just three week tours at which he excelled, gimondi also won milan-san remo, paris roubaix and was twice italian road champion. ironically, considering the foregoing, his current position at bianchi places him in charge of the mountain bike team.

the gran fondo felice gimondi takes place in bergamo on 25th april, the 15th running of the cyclosportive, and these jerseys are the official items generally only available to ride participants. however, prendas are able to exploit their excellent realtionship with santini to offer it to those who wish to grab a portion of modernity along with a nod to the past. available in extra small all the way up to 6xl, these short sleeve jerseys retail at £49.95.

the second nod to the past emanating from ciclismo towers concerns arguably the finest cyclist to have graced the peloton. fausto coppi should need no introduction, but should the converse be the case, i suggest you nab yourself a copy of william fotheringham's the passion of fausto coppi and find out why this jersey should take pride of place in your cycling wardrobe. every year in the giro d'italia, the highest climb of the race is branded the cima coppi, a fitting tribute to the great man. the 2010 giro also celebrates (if that is indeed the correct term) the 50th anniversary of coppi's death, making this a particularly appropriate year to acquire this jersey, also produced from the santini range but arriving at almost a fiver less than the gimondi top, in a similar range of sizes.

the 2010 giro d'italia starts in amsterdam on may 8, spending the first three days in holland, before heading down to italian soil for a team time trial. celebrate in front of eurosport dressed in italiana from prendas. they even offer a black and pink jersey and shorts combo to celebrate santini's long association with the race.

prendas ciclismo


posted friday 16 april 2010

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bicycle frames used to consist of lots of tubes and lugs brazed together with loving care, satisfying our every need for practicality and aesthetics whether we realised it or not. in some quarters, that's still how it's done; form follows function and forward motion emerges on the other side of the equals sign. every majority has to be balanced by a minority, and that's currently where the above method(s) reside, though no less effective for being the underdog.

more likely in this world of technological innovation and adoration, the frame under the seatpost consists of two halves of burnt plastic, joined together in a far eastern factory, where aesthetics are more the province of cad and marketing than an artistic eye. these monocoques are no less effective for all their lack of intrinsic fettling, but being born from pre-ordained moulds, they perhaps take less account of the one size doesn't fit all human physiognomy than the tubes, lugs, solder and brass adjudged by the human eye.

so where does this place the innocent cyclist who has acquired his/her beloved velocipede from the colour and size chart proffered on a website, or perchance the archetypal local bike shop? much relies on informed and uninformed guesswork on the part of the customer and sales staff, allied with a modicum of inveterate tinkering back at the bikeshed. the question we should all be asking ourselves here is, "what questions should i be asking myself here?".


many a bicycle arrives at washingmachinepost cottage with size determined by whatever the distributor has available for review. it would be irrational to expect a full range of frame sizes to be at my beck and call, on the basis that the uk media and press representatives are hardly of uniform stature or opinion. the smart money would be on noting down the dimensions arrived at from years of riding one's own colnago c40, dimensions that have singularly failed to twist me into the prototype for some neolithic cgi. when each bicycle arrives, it's this sort of honours degree in hindsight that comes to mind as i raise/lower the saddle for the fourth time along an obscure islay singletrack road.

but even if this were a particularly adept thing to do, how do i know that these long-suffered measurements have their basis in ergonomic or anatomic science? in fact, put this way, it becomes readily apparent that they are anything but. what's a honed athlete to do?


the world of cycling is big enough and strong enough to support any and all ends of the ideas spectrum, and floating through the strains and strata of such variation is a well-known but almost obscure bike shop in macklin street, central london. cyclefit. the two gentlemen eager to welcome you to their particularly high class emporium (at the time of my visit, there was a £20,000+ factor 001 bike sitting on the wall inside the front door), are phil and jules, gentlemen well versed in the art of making sure that you fit your bicycle and that any bicycle they sell (colnago, serotta, glider, mercian) fits you. in fact, phil was rather keen to point out that not only can you not purchase any bicycle from cyclefit without first being fitted, but they will not supply review bikes to press, such as myself, without first having gone through the measurement process.


if this is all going to work the way it's supposed to, it's necessary for the the fitter to know a bit more about the fittee, so before the object of torture could be approached, phil asked me a range of questions about what sort of riding i favoured, how many hours a week feet were clipped into pedals, any injuries, health problems; in fact generally everything pertaining to the art of personal bike riding. the more information imparted at this point, the better, so even if something seems of little significance to you, it may have greater bearing on bike position than you could imagine. let's not mess about here; these guys know a lot more about this than you do: tell all.


although i had taken my set of mavic pedals along in a carrier bag, cyclefit is in fact, equipped with a pair of most, if not all, of the current makes available, so i clicked into a pristine pair aboard the multi-adjustable bicycle verisimilitude in the corner. also clipped onto the wall between the two fitting rooms, are various widths of bars fitted with shimano, campagnolo or sram levers. i'll confess to having been somewhat fearful that phil was about to tell me that my bar width, stem length and crank preferences were all so wrong, that taking up golf may be a simpler solution. but the process isn't in any way dogmatic, nor could it be considered remotely threatening (unlike the dentist); the whole point here is to improve your position and flexibility on the bike, so it makes greater sense for both to work in conjunction with each other.

the adjustabike is of neutral disposition, eagerly awaiting phil to tinker with lengths, heights and other slidey things. but in order so to do, it was necessary to check inside leg, shoulder width, foot size and enough information to build a spare twmp, should the first one get damaged in the process. this is why it's necessary to take along regular cycle wear: a three piece suit or jeans and sweatshirt will not only prove a trifle uncomfortable, but perchance skew some of the measurement data. unless of course you sprint in a suit.


many of our daily aches and pains do not derive from cycling preferences or bike fit, but likely just as many do, depending on how often you find yourself in the drops. in my case, there's a streak of discomfort down my left side, leading from the neck to the foot, mostly brought about by poor position in front of adobe photoshop. it's not a recent revelation, and it's definitely not brought about by cycling, but it does affect my performance (such as it is) and comfort on the bike. i freely imparted this information prior to climbing aboard the now suitably setup adjustabike.

not only is this the opportunity to impress with that oh so smooth pedalling action, but also the chance to become a movie star. pointing directly at the adjustabike is a digital video camera linked to a computer, broadcasting a plethora of statistics and graphs onto a monitor sited in front of the rider. thus, apart from the horror of having to watch yourself pedalling (fortunately, i think they caught my best side), the output from each crank is separately displayed in bar graph format, along with the percentage of effort from each leg, a pitifully low number of watts and a myriad of other data that meant nothing to me, but presumably a great deal more to phil or jules. during my first stint on the adjustabike, it was painfully obvious that my right leg was doing substantially more work than my left. pushing a bit harder with the offending leg balanced the numbers, but that's sort of cheating, don't you think? in order more to replicate an islay headwind, phil switched on the atlantic westerly fan on the floor. luxury.


having been informed of my left-side discomfort, phil was able to see the effect this was having on my pedalling, through simple observation; i have as much knowledge about human anatomy as i have about london's roads, so i'd be lying if i said i could relate what i was told, but let's just say that the left was doing something that the right wasn't, and it shouldn't have been. let's just leave it at that. i also happened to mention that i had an unnerving tendency (pun intended) to curl the toes in my left foot; for why, i have no idea. as stated above, you should tell your bike fitter everything: this revelation immediately led to examination of the footbeds in my dromarti leathers, and another machine being fired up to alleviate the problem.

sitting in the corner of the bicycle display area, is a machine that looks ready for a brass band conductor. two foot sized pads, when stood on by a barefoot cyclist, readily emulate silly putty at the touch of a button. this allowed phil to place two red insoles in the impressions to construct a pair of custom footbeds. cut to size and placed in my shoes it was back onto the adjustabike for more pedalling; obviously my on the bike style was more rivetting than i had thought. combine this with the placement of two angled shims between cleats and sole, and i could see detailed adjustment starting to make itself felt.


the result of this seemingly innocuous step had to be witnessed to be believed. whereas my right leg had been hitting 55% and the left ten percent less, both were now producing almost exactly the same numbers, and the curling toes weren't curling anymore. of course, none of this means a whole lot of ball bearings unless it's recorded for future use, either by cyclefit to ensure that your purchase is clickety-click, or in this case, for me to make sure that the cielo, the c40, and eventually my master x-light all match the same numbers. and from my point of view, it means that it's a tad easier to make sure every test bike matches those in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed.

such expertise doesn't come cheap: if you walk in off the street (having made an appointment, and waited perhaps several weeks), gaining the benefit of phil's and jules' years of experience will cost £350. if you're purchasing a suitably priced bicycle from cyclefit, the cost will be absorbed in the transaction. if we accept that i could talk for britain at the 2012 olympics, and extract about an hour of ruminations as to the effectlessness of bb-30, integrated headsets, and a sea of carbon fibre, the whole process took around three hours (though it felt a lot less). i was also shown a couple of very effective exercises to undertake daily, stretching the lower left back muscles that have been a source of perennial discomfort for a number of years


there's a whole lot of trinkets and gizmos that could be had for that number of pound notes, many of which you could garner from cyclefit, and many of which are likely on your wishlist, but please believe me when i tell you that i can think of no better way to spend your money. i have been home for only a few days, but have implemented as much of the advice, and as many of the measurements and observations provided as i could, and while i think fab would still have got away from me on the kemmelberg, the improvement in posture, comfort and performance have been a revelation.

if you live in or near the capital, an appointment should be mandatory. if visits are occasional, think about it well in advance and book accordingly.

and their rouleur ads are somewhat unique too.

cyclefit colnago eps

subsequent to my visit, i was informed that the rather fine looking matt black colnago eps (see pic) that greeted the hearty traveller on entry to the cyclefit showroom had been stolen. it is one of only ten of that colour code (mtbk) in the country. the frame is a 52cm sloping with the frame number x3d 479. if anyone offers you just such a machine, please inform your local police.



posted thursday 15 april 2010

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