the name game

allvit derailleur

i have a couple of coureur sporting cyclist magazines from the early sixties, magazines which are easily as interesting for the advertisements as they are for the articles. it doesn't take too many page turns to realise that the uk's advertising has improved immeasurably, though it's still worth bearing in mind that those of the sixties were products of their time, along with the reproduction capabilities of the presses of the day.

many of the products advertised are now highly sought after, and it would likely make your kneecaps crinkle to see the prices they originally sold for. weinmann side pull brakes from 33 to 45 shillings; an atom five-speed freewheel for 19 shillings and sixpence; a pair of christophe toeclips for a mere six shillings and sixpence. i have no idea how to manipulate the real cost of money to translate those prices into the relative expense were they on sale new today, but you have to admit, those prices are rather quaint.

mind you, there's always something that breaks the rule a bit, with a huret allvit gear ensemble (why does no-one sell an ensemble of gears nowadays?) costing 110 shillings; that's £1 ten pence of trinketry.

but aside from the laughable prices of long-forgotten gear and cycle components, another feature has subtly come to light, a feature that obviously owes its existence to modern marketing. i refer to the naming of many of today's cycle products, something that was either in its infancy in the sixties, or completely non-existent.

made in smethwick, england, and now totally defunct, as far as i know, were edward williams chainwheel and crank sets (for every form of cycle sport). these, according to the advertisement, bore snappy names such as the c.1232, the c34d and the almost unforgettable b.100. one can almost imagine the orderly queue round the corner from every bikeshop.

airlite hubs

the british hub company (where did all britain's cycle manufacturing disappear to?) offered a 16 ounce hub (448g) monikered the racelight while carlton cycles produced a reynolds 531 tubed frame complete with campagnolo q/r hubs, weinmann 999 brakes, pump adaptor, allvit gear, five speed t.a. chainring and brooks b15 saddle for the mind-bending sum of £32 and four shillings. should the devil be cossetted within, you could shell out an extra £5 and 15 shillings for a campagnolo ten-speed cottered chainset. ostentation at its best.

but we all know that prices have changed considerably in the last five decades, and that many items have gone the way of the dodo; it's called nostalgia. a nice reminisce now and again never did no-one any harm, but reverie is for those cold, lonely winter nights sat in front of the central heating with the original three star wars movies on dvd. it's today that is of concern most of the time, so where did it all go right; or wrong?

that carlton bicycle alluded to above (the accompanying, captioned photo showing a carlton operative hand-brazing a cycle frame) was apparently named the carlton criterium; it seemingly made little difference whether it was five-speed allvit or ten-speed campagnolo. eddie soens advertised a frame as the all-chrome campionissimo, and holdsworth offered a campagnolo italia, though also available were the strada, a strada speciallissimo and for those sunday mornings dressed in a black alpaca jacket, the cronometro. i am now surely labouring the point.

carlton down tube

so where did pinarello get the name dogma, colnago the rather impersonal m10 and pegoretti the responsorium? what prompted campagnolo to dispense with croce d'aune and then alter daytona to centaur, several years after the latter had been a member of its defunct off-road range of groupsets? and surely someone must have queried why shimano have the step below ultegra and dura-ace numbered 105. and what the heck is a tiagra?

are we so much more sophisticated nowadays that we need to be pandered to in such a lexicological manner. or is it that we have actually become less sophisticated, and need this to be smoothed over by a veneer of sophistication? i knew when i started out on this dissertation, that i did not have the answer readily to hand; the more i examine the modern degree of appellation, the less i understand. certainly, providing such identifiable naming will surely aid conversation shouted during that sunday ride; 'the c40 has record, but the master is on centaur, and i've put red on the cielo.' there will be few reading the foregoing who know not of what i speak. perhaps that's the whole idea; it's certainly a tad clearer than mentioning the strada speciallissimo.

pinarello dogma

but as more and ever more products appear on an all but saturated market, where is all this heading? do our favourite component and bicycle manufacturers employ an entire office of staff whose sole daily task is to think up ever more bizarre names, ensuring immediate indentifiability? with ergopower, hyperglide, and exact actuation all being nameable constituents of componentry that effectively provides the same service, maybe names are all that separates the men from the men. as the computer becomes ever more adept at providing the numbers necessary to create the optimum everything in either alloy or carbon, surely, much like the modern motor car, convergence cannot be too far away? and maybe the carefuly crafted lettering on that box or down tube will be all that gives a clue or acolyte status to the hardware handed over by way of receipt for that hard-earned.

still, there is at least one consolation for our contemporaneity; the very same magazine proffered embrocation and athletic medicated bath salts branded curacho, apparently intended to be pronounced cure-ache-o.


posted friday 1 october 2010

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a cavernous problem

i am, i freely admit, a grumpy old man. it's a persona i've worked on over a number of years by concentrating on the things that are wrong with this picture, rather than adopting a glass half full outlook. it bothers me that there are two different freehub spline patterns, that a mix of hex bolts and torx bolts appears in places where i'd rather they didn't, and don't even get me started on the motor car. many of you likely take a far more laissez faire attitude; that's the way things are, so why lose the rag over what are, in the grand scheme of things, rather superficial incompatibilities and moans and groans. still one has a despondent outlook to maintain, and there's no point in becoming optimistic while the world has still to be put to rights.

there are, however, commonalities that affect us all, features that are hard to escape and in, to quote a rather too well-worn phrase, the current economic climate, there is a specific moan and groan that is unlikely to get a lot better in the near future, which co-incidentally affects those in motorised tin boxes too.


during the recent jazz festival, one of the lunchtime concerts was held in outback art gallery at sanaigmore. the latter is one of the more remote locations on the island, sitting as it does, just a few metres from the atlantic coast. there's nothing else there apart from the gallery, so the road sees little maintenance, but more than its fair share of farm traffic. tractor tyres are not in the least similar to a pair of michelin pro-race.

though the concert was well received, many of those who visited, and be advised that the bulk of the festival audience are mainland based, were more than a little concerned over the integrity of their vehicles' suspension. for the road to sanaigmore would be more adequately described as a mile long pothole with some vestiges of road and grass. we are often pressed to report any potholes to our local roads department, but in this case, it would take several pages of a4, or a long time on a website to report each and every unkempt dip in the road surface.

fill that hole

but then pothole reporting was not really designed to apply to roads such as this, given that it's hardly the main artery to anywhere in particular. and perhaps, just perhaps, the extra effort to get there makes it just a tad more worthwhile. add to that the fact that argyll and bute roads department have fulfilled at least a portion of their duties by chucking some tar in the direction of the mini caverns; surely one of the few councils who can repair a road and make it worse?

but if fairness enters the equation, perhaps, given the strictures applied to council budgets, i should constrain my moaning and groaning to any largish craters on the island's principal arteries. feel free to join me in this display of altruistic equanimity with regard to your own location. however, this is where at least a part of the problem rears its ugly head. imagine the phone call to the local roads engineer;

and whereabouts is this blemish on the landscape sir? i'm glad you aksed me that. you know where the foreland road end is? well, if you go past that by a few metres or so, just over on the left hand side... no the left hand side as you're going to bruichladdich, not the other way to bridgend. anyway, just as the road curves, a wee bit out from the big clump of grass near the drain cover, there's a big hole.

if the roads engineer is going to act upon my well-intentioned and public service oriented information, he's going to have to be little short of telepathic to find just the spot on the road that i noticed from the bicycle, and he's going to have to find from the comfort of his car. thankfully, technology has yet again come to my aid. well, to be honest, it has not come to my aid specifically, for it is in the form of an iphone app, and i am bereft of anything that approximates even the hint of a mobile phone. at this point i become even more aware of my uniqueness in this respect.

launched as a joint effort by the cyclists' touring club (ctc) and aggregate industries, the fill that hole iphone app uses the phone's gps capabilities to allow the photographing of the offending gap in the firmament and simultaneously recording its geographical position. it is this latter feature that helps prevent the faux pas i discovered when perusing the fill that hole website, where those of us without the benefits of any gps can redeem that left out feeling and join the party. checking to see if any potholes had been reported in the area of islay and surrounds, i found two flags on the neighbouring island of jura.

fill that hole

there is only one road on jura which travels from the extreme south all the way to george orwell's house at barnhill. the latter part of this trip is surely excluded from reporting, as it is merely a track and has likely not seen any tarmac in its lifetime. one of the flags is located on that one road, a few miles north of craighouse village, but the other is located on jura's west coast where there is nothing even approaching civilisation, let alone any resemblance of a road. yet according to the info attached, it was repaired by argyll and bute council in 2008. the fly in the ointment is that the location is, in fact, at the end of a suburban avenue in glasgow, and someone has apparently misread the latitude and longitude.


if nothing else, this proves the point of the iphone app; since the gps unit is unlikely to mistake the west coast of jura for that of a glasgow suburb, any reporting ought to be a darned site more accurate. the app works with seemingly every version of the iphone since the advent of the 3g, and is freely available from apple's itunes store. if, like me, you do not own an iphone, then reporting can be made via the ctc's dedicated website listed below; just be sure you have the correct co-ordinates for the offending hole.

fill that hole iphone app | fill that | aggregate industries


posted thursday 30 september 2010

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clif choc chip bar and shotblock

choc chip clif bar

every oat has its day (a well-known scottish saying that i just made up). every morning, for my breakfast i have a plate of porage oats, usually decorated with either sliced banana, peach or nectarine. it's how the other half live, you know, even if i pinched the idea from bob's red mill in portland. during the six nations rugby prior to the summer and tour de france, scott's of porage oats fame proffered boxes on which the kilted shot putter had been replaced by scottish rugby players (not that it did them any good). the contents were not of standard fare, but instead, massive big oats that dwarfed their siblings by some margin. now that the rugby has gone, so have the rugby fronted packets, and we're back to the more normal size. not a lot of difference in taste, but more manageable in the bowl.

lexicographer, samuel johnson famously wrote of oats, when compiling a dictionary of the english language 'it is a grain which in england, is generally given to horses, but in scotland supports the people.'. it warms the heart no end to discover that the scots had an appropriate riposte; 'england is well known for the quality of its horses, and scotland for its men.'. damn well said. and in order to uphold this national heritage, i have taken it upon myself to fill at least one of those back pockets with one of clif's new choc chip bars.

now i should make it perfectly clear at this point, should some of you be taking notes and checking them regularly, that anything with chocolate chip in its name would normally be persona non grata. i have no great love of chocolate, and would normally decry its chips as the spawn of the devil. but combinations and circumstances can oft times cause one to renege on previous dogma and diktats, and i am confused to say that such has been the case here.

choc chip clif bar

had the options been presented to me far enough in advance, i would perhaps have plumped for the crunchy peanut butter, or, perchance, the oatmeal raisin walnut, in which case at this point in my diatribe i would be extolling the great virtues of either of the foregoing with a grin on my face. and what am i doing instead? well, actually, i'm extolling the virtues of the choc chip clif bar with a grin on my face. last saturday, in the newly realised cold weather, trying desperately to keep up with my colnago master, i had occasion to stop briefly at saligo bay overlooking the atlantic coast, for a bite to eat. carbo loading you understand, for us oat-fed scots would never ever stop merely as a result of tired limbs.

boy was that welcome munch.

at that point in a hard ride (all relative you understand), a mouthful of oats was graciously tempered by the smattering of chocolate chips, tasting unlike almost every other energy bar sent my way. if i'm as honest as you hope i might be, you could easily chomp on one (or two) of these along with a cappuccino, perilously nowhere near a bicycle. the following day, with my generosity knowing no bounds, i handed one to the mighty dave-t in order that he might savour the same sustenance. thus the choc chip clif bar received the mighty dave's seal of approval, and let me assure you that those are not handed out willy-nilly.

clif shotblok

containing a total of 240 calories per bar, a 68g snack contains a mere 5g of fat, and a generous 10g of protein. there's a whole host of clif stuff available if your aversion to choc chip is greater than mine was, and one of their completely oat-free offerings was contained within the same package as the oat bars.

the clif shot block

this is a squirmy gelatinous texture inside a plastic wrap, which was, quite frankly, a bit scary. the idea behind it is perfectly sound; bars and carbo drinks satiate the calorific requirements of the hardened scot (apparently just as applicable to other nationalities too), yet while this hardening and atlantic proximity tends to restrict any propensity to become swot and hetty, there is a need occasionally to replace salts and minerals, along with a carb or two which is sort of where isotonics come in. these are normally ingested by way of perhaps that second bottle on the seat-tube, but clif have devised an alternative: jelly cubes.

clif shotblok

for yes, that lengthy jelly stuff is separated into little squares inside the pack, easily assimilated by the chewing cyclist. who knew? mountain berry is joined by several other yummy flavours and it's a snip (if you'll pardon the pun) to open the top of the pack before the off, stick it in a back pocket, and throw a square into the lion's den as you ride. highly pleasant, if truth be told.

clif products are distributed in the uk by 2pure, but i'd have a look at the clif website to see just what a plethora of on-the-bike nutrition is available after you've had your porage in the morning.

and it's porage, not porridge. just saying.

2pure | clif bars


posted wednesday 29 september 2010

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an unfortunate twist

torx drivers

scan your eyes over any technical info that accompanies the modern cycle frame, and there will be much reference to torsional load, twisting forces, vertical compliance and any number of euphemisms apertaining to same. thankfully, the fact is that most of these appellations, numbers and concepts need concern us little, for the proof of the pudding is in the riding, and if the engineers have done their jobs properly that'll be the only judgement required on our part. much of the foregoing concerns carbon layup and monocoque moulds nowadays, that there is strength where needed and pot noodles are a thing of the past. we are anything but concerned by this point.

the scale of our problem is, both fortunately and concerningly, a much smaller matter, and as progress is trumpeted, one that seems confusingly confusing. i refer to the nuts and bolts that perform sterling service to the modern day cyclist.

nuts and bolts

i could be far from having perfect recollection, and i would willingly accede to better memories amongst any mechanics reading, but i seem to recall that the little nuts clamping many a wire in place were of a standard size, most usually 8mm, though the advent of the mountain bike caused a 2mm increase to ten. the reason i bring this up is because thewashingmachinepost bikeshed, being somewhat compact and bijou, has no spare space in which to carry out the odd spot of 'wrenching'.

gone are the days when a hapless velocipede would be leaned against the fence while i contorted myself into shapes that no self-respecting mechanic would entertain. now that the bones are ageing and the muscles not that far behind, it well-behoves me to adopt a more professional stance and pop the cycle on a workstand allowing total flexibility of position; for the bicycle, not me. i am even prone to clamping via the seatpost. referring back to the bikeshed for a moment, such agile behaviour requires more space than it affords, so bicycle maintenance and its offspring are now conducted al fresco.

torx bolts

while the great outdoors is indeed an environment conducive to cheerful spannering (which is surely the uk equivalent of the american 'wrenching'?), it's just a smidgeon too far from the toolboard (yes, it is a real toolboard), enforcing a continual trudging back and forward. i believe you may well be able to see my problem. the workshop multi-tool has reduced a significant percentage of wear on the old shoe leather, but even this has been usurped on more than one occasion.

the bicycle has been, for many a long year, the spiritual home of the allen bolt; everything from the seat clamp to the centring adjustment on a dual pivot caliper made excellent employ of an ever widening selection of sizes, perhaps annoyingly so at times, but reasonably efficiently. however, just as the confidence and acquaintance was building, left field puts in an appearance.

a number of years hence i was lucky enough to have a campagnolo record equipped review bike arrive at the same time as a pair of carbon chainrings, allowing for a swift exchange in order to fell two birds with one stone. my entire past and acquired knowledge was built around 5mm allen chainring bolts, only to discover that vicenza had now set store in the more recently introduced torx headed bolts.

stainless bolts

how come i never received the memo?

thus, while having the temerity to think of oneself as amongst the more competent of mechanics, capable of re-engineering the titanic before breakfast, the toolkit necessary to maintain this facade becomes ever more comprehensive, and for those not encompassed within the confines of the multi agglomeration, it does not improve the ratio of work vis-a-vis journeys to the toolboard. i realise that the cycle industry is not the sole aggravator in this respect, since i have come across many an amalgam of fixing devices in other obscure locations. computers have a great deal to answer for too.

rants against the machine are not something new to these pixels, a number of which have concerned a lack of compatibility. a variety of bolts, screws, nuts and allen keys hardly constitutes a lack of affinity, but a reigning in of the wide variety of dimensions would not go amiss. can i start the ball rolling by suggesting that the seat clamp bolt be set at 4mm all across the board, and if you must use a nylok nut somewhere abouts, please make it a ten millimetre?

that'll do for now, but i'm not finished. not yet.


posted tuesday 28 september 2010

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it's the same, only different

ibis hakkalugi

the eighties and early nineties featured knobblies, scraping the mud off the bike to justify having lavished a small fortune on featherweight doohickies in an effort to approach road bike floating. and there would have been just as much justification for calling this thewashingmachinepost bearing in mind the amount of time my cycling gear spent whirling behind that thick glass window. mud, sweat and gears was the motto of the day, and it all looked like fabulous fun in the magazines; in this i may well not have been deceived, as those halcyon days looked just as good in the recently previewed launch issue of privateer. unfortunately, the mess at the end of the ride began to pall somewhat, not encouraged, i must say, by the treacley ride there and back on chunky tyres.

i've not seen a mountain bike that looks fast, no matter what they may say at singletrack magazine, but at the time, italian steel, with those slender tubes, bendy bars and razor width saddles were the very epitome of clean and speedy (good name for a firm of lawyers, now that you mention it). at the time, i was ill-informed as to the heritage that came along with any venturing into the world of skinny wheels, but was well aware of the legend that was repack and that everything needed to be purple anodised.

ibis hakkalugi

but the offroad world had been pre-dated, and the skittering downhill of coaster braked beach-cruisers became something else entirely by the time it reached british shores. compare the battle-ready armour of today's downhillers with the jeans and long-hair of messrs breeze, fisher, ritchey et al, and it's possible that something has gone amiss. there is, as there almost always is, a middle way.


i have raved about this before, the partially empty raving of fandom if i'm completely honest, but that may all be about to change. i have met with members of hup united, i have watched sven nys justify my predilection with colnago, and i have leafed through my copy of dirty pictures until the pages have started to curl. and last night i spent an enjoyable hour watching the us gran prix (no idea what they did with the missing 'd') of cyclocross on if luck and a following wind are with us, cycling radio (used to be tv) will grace us with coverage of the best of european cyclocross once again this season. it's just a different part of the heritage of pain and suffering.

ibis hakkalugi

however, all has so far been from the sidelines, watched on crosstube, confused by my digital subscription to cyclocross magazine, and playing the part dressed in rapha cross gear but riding a colnago master. but when it comes down to the crunch, it may still be the fault of scot nicol.

scot is the founder of ibis cycles, a company that first made a connection with these pixels around the time of the millennium. the chaps involved with the previous incarnation of ibis had produced a single speed mountain bike painted in lagavulin green, and named the ibis single malt. one such bicycle did make it as far as islay for a brief period and thus commenced sporadic correspondence with mr nicol that has spanned the last ten or so years. and though it may take a bit of time, i love it when a plan comes together.

2pure in edinburgh are now the authorised dealers for ibis cycles; the whole range, from their carbon mountain bikes, through more carbon for the road, ending in a fabulously phelgmish lime green cyclocross bike, just as fabulously named 'hakkalugi'. one of the latter currently sits, almost ready for action, in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed.

yes, i am about to get cross.

ibis hakkalugi

before the guffaws of laughter have died away, let me point out that the hakkalugi will not feature a number zip-tied to the top tube, and nor will the new rapha cross kit have a number pinned on the rear pocket. there will be those who maintain that a bicycle cannot be truly tested outside the rigours of competition, and i'm not about to deny them their perspective, but that doesn't alter the fact that the majority of cycles sold never turn a wheel in competitive anger. therefore, i can see little wrong with, and indeed a lot right with, having fun on a cyclocross bike far from the jingle of cowbells, lugging it over farm gates and running up sketchy hills. i'll not win anything, but it's only entertainment after all.

the ibis hakkalugi arrived in a total of three boxes; one for the frame, one for the wheels, and one for the bits that turn it into a bicycle. i love testing bicycles, and i love it even more when i get to build them first, and as an approachee to the world of cyclocross from the inside (for once), the build part is the education that many miss.

ibis hakkalugi

cross frames are visually similar to their road-going brethren, much more so than to the mountain bike, a similarity reinforced by a pair of bendy bars in that third box, but the tyres are wider and less smooth, and braking is by cantilever; not caliper, not disc and not v. so when a pair of crank brothers egg-beaters are finally mated to the 46/36 fsa chainset, that washing machine will be on overtime. it's nearly done; there's only a few cables to be mated to whatever they need to be mated to, and a chain to wrap over that 28 sprocket. have already started posting photos from the start of this year's cross season and already it looks like fun.

it's all just the same, only different

2pure | ibis cycles |


posted monday 27 september 2010

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santini 'slice' bibshorts

santini slice shorts

i have little knowledge regarding the female readership of the post, but since some of my best friends are female ladies of the opposite sex, i am keen to expand coverage of products aimed at an ever-expanding section of the cycling population. despite the ponytail, however, i am ill-equipped to be the arbiter of fit or style pertaining to this sector of the market.

but i know a lady who is.

once again, gem atkinson has stepped up to the track-pump with a prepared dissertation on santini's 'unisex' slice bibshorts, and once again, i am grateful for her assistance.

Santini lycra has long adorned our favourite race kits within the professional peloton. Right up to the Pro Tour level, the Santini SMS logo has become synonymous with race-ready and stylishly made cycling attire, with that hit-or-miss European flavour to it.

I was intrigued to receive from Santini specialists, Prendas Ciclisimo, a pair of Santini's new 'Slice' bibshorts to put to the test. I say intrigued because this was the first pair of shorts I have known to openly bill themselves as 'Unisex'.

Usually in a female specific pair of shorts we can expect to see a shorter leg length in comparison to men's shorts, with the main usp being a dedicated chamois designed for the female anatomy. So it was with particular interest that i looked at these bibshorts.from a female perspective

I'm perhaps a bit peculiar that, in most cases, I actually prefer to sport a men's pair of shorts (until Rapha recently turned my head with their luxury ladies waist shorts, convincing me that truly excellent ladies' short swere out there). My preference is due to liking bibs to keep the shorts secure, in turn holding the padding in place; a rather important factor for me on those long days in the saddle. I've also previously mentioned that I'm particularly averse to the trend by apparel manufacturers to offer shorts in very short 'hot-pant' style leg lengths. I like to have a leg length akin to those riders I idolise in the professional peloton. In fact, part of the joy of 'suiting up' in my cycling uniform is that I love wearing similar kit to the pros; I even love having a radio pocket on the back (though it's only ever an iPod or house-keys in mine). I like bibs made from high-tech mesh, and also partial to good quality Lycra. Working within these three criteria, the Slice shorts were already holding up well, (pardon the pun) and ticking some important boxes.

But what of the ride? That's obviously the most important part of this review I hear you say! Pulling them on, the luxury of the lycra was well-noted. It feels thick and almost compression-like, pulling in all those bumpy bits around the ttop of the thighs where one would like  a bit of extra support. They didn't feel restrictive but were certainly firm in the way they grasped the legs. The length could be described as 'European' in that they're certainly shorter than their American counterparts (Pearl Izumi, Nike etc). However it was a nice length, not too short, but exposing my short tan by around an inch or so. In fact I rather like this length, it seems perfect for either male or female, and manages to please both camps simultaneously. Double elastic grippers with the Santini logo adorn each leg, allowing the wearer to flip them up, should they really be keen to eliminate the lower tan line of traditional shorts.

santini slice shorts

I found the chamois worked particularly well. This is Santini's new  wonderfully complex sounding 'Intech Gel Slice'. In a nutshell, they have taken their popular Twistgel chamois and tweaked it for improved performance when using a cutout saddle. I don't use a cutout saddle, but found the chamois performed nicely with my Fizik Aliante. The placement is perfect; I've found with shorts such as the Assos f1 Mille, that the chamois is placed a little too far back for my liking. However on the Slice shorts the padding sits perfectly in place, helped no doubt by the close fitting bib straps. In the middle of the 'TwistGel' chamois is a gel centre that claims to absorb and dampen road vibration. I cant vouch for this, but i will say is that it feels very comfortable, without being overly cushion-like. It did its job very well, because, to be honest I didn't particularly notice it.

A good sign indeed.

I wore the shorts in a variety of situations this past week, subsequently washing at low temperature with non-bio in between each ride. On my relatively quick seven mile commute, they felt comfortable, though I have to say I was impressed at their performance over longer distances. I took a 100k jaunt into the hills of Surrey and found they performed very nicely indeed, on a par in fact, with much higher priced shorts. (For example, I much preferred them to the Assos Mille, costing almost twice as much).

Coming in at just under £70, I can't fault the Santinis on a performance level. With simple looks, plain black lycra and nice contrasting leg grippers, these are shorts that I assure will complement most jerseys and jackets, from the subtle muted palette to the downright crazy, technicolor retro jerseys from years gone by.

In offering a unisex short, Santini have recognised that ladies are quite often looking for something similar, if not identical to their male counterpart. It's wonderful to see other manufacturers follow suit and offer products in this vein. The Santinis look equally as smart on both men and women, and I would certainly give them the Bianchista stamp of approval. For any ladies out there looking for just such a pair of shorts, these are them. They have been elsewhere described as 'Mid-range price but with high-end quality', and frankly I couldn't agree more.

The Santini Slice Powerlycra bibshorts are available in Black or Blue in sizes xs-xxxxxl from Prendas Ciclismo. Drop them a line if unsure of your sizing.

prendas ciclismo | bianchista


posted sunday 26 september 2010

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rapha skincare range

rapha skincare

to illustrate the concept of jijimuge, the ultimate principle of the buddhist interpretation of the kegon sutra, the metaphor of ten mirrors is often expounded. set them up at the eight points of the compass and at the zenith and nadir. then place a lamp at the centre. it is observable that each one of the ten mirrors reflects the light. pick any one of the ten, and it can be seen that this specific mirror reflects all the other mirrors containing the light, together with their reflection of itself. each one of the other nine is in the one chosen, and it, in turn is in the other nine. this metaphor describes the way kegon philosophy conceives the world of ji.

the concept of jijimuge is the negation of independent existence, existing independently without need. dependent origination, on the other hand, implies that there can be absolutely nothing whatsoever that is real or eternal beyond this world, and beyond the interdependence of everything. because of that interdependence, all that exixts is inherently empty. to you and i, mountains are mountains, rivers are rivers. after gaining a degree of insight into this emptiness of everything, one perhaps sees that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. makes sense in the light of the foregoing. however, gain true understanding of reality, and mountains are once again mountains, and rivers are rivers. are those three understandings the same, or different? jijimuge.

so why would i wish my nether regions and exposed limbs to smell like a mountain? mont ventoux to be precise.

packaging, on the other hand is everything. well, not everything, but a good approach to the notion; pink and black, with a sealing tape over the box lid adding a frisson to the embossed tin held within. 'winds of 320kph have been recorded at the summit of the 'peak of storms'. even on relatively benign days, sudden gusts can catch riders unawares.'.

the ventoux.

a straightforward plastic tub would have no doubt have sufficed, but that just wouldn't have been rapha, and most certainly wouldn't have created the same intrigue and ultimately, satisfaction. the geant of provence engenders echoes of the film 'picnic at hanging rock', though to my knowledge no rider has ever disappeared without trace.

rapha skincare

the ultimate sacrifice took place on the lower slopes with the death of tommy simpson; from then on its fate was, to coin a phrase, sealed. the there was the no more gifts approach of larry after perhaps allowing marco to cross the line first, meaning that the former has yet to win atop the ventoux. but if we put the joys and horrors that have taken place on its moonlike slopes, remove it from the panoply of road racing, and it is just a mountain with a moonlike surface on the upper slopes and seemingly barren of life at this altitude. but of course, it's not barren altogether; the opening gambit is sheltered by a myriad of trees from which it is possible to find strains and scents of atlas cedar, lavender, pine needles, rosemary (whoever she is), juniper berries, lemon, cypress, cistus and patchouli.

it seems perhaps strange that the father of impressionism, paul cezanne, who spent so many years painting in aix en provence preferred to obsess over mont sainte victoire, yet never put brush to canvas to identify with mont ventoux.

each black metal tin, when extracted from a box on which three sides are replete with pete drinkell's photos of the col des tempetes, bears the pyramidal logo applied to this skincare range making an impressive debut at just the very point in the season when at least the winter embrocation is especially welcome. despite my complete lack of any racing pedigree whatsoever, i have managed to pedal a bicycle in a semblance of anger (with a smile upon my face) for over twenty years, without coming into close contact with the sort of embrocation that has warmed many a belgian classics and cross rider. and i have watched, mystified and intrigued at the accolades bestowed upon the confection in that subset of cycling life that is portland, oregon. jeremy dunn, you have much to answer for.

there are, in this initial offering, two more less contentious siblings; chamois cream and a cube of green soap, the latter engraved on one face with that pyramid logo once more. (a shame it all but disappears after one or two cleansing operations.)

rapha skincare

my opening paragraphs were not merely a device, not an unrelated digression. for nothing in this world - and here i refer to the act of cycling - exists in and of itself. the fortunes of a company producing some of the finest cycle shorts in the pedaling firmament, do not directly depend on them offering their own chamois cream, but it comes as little surprise that they have chosen so to do. that the celebration of pain and suffering has been a core feature of perren street since its inception over six years ago, allied to the observance of cycling's rich heritage and character gives little cause for further surprise that an orange embrocatory gloop inhabiting a self-important black tin should be proffered in our direction. to embrocate or not to embrocate is no longer a question.

both the above are for temporary use; one would rarely, if ever, visit friends of a weekend evening still bearing the traces of chamois cream and winter embrocation, so a crafted cube of green soap, wrapped in a tissued map of the mountain which has lent impetus to the range is a welcome third. it cannot be a total coincidence that the same soap is apparently a highly effective method of cleaning leather riding gloves. i like that idea.

so, the scene is set, the characters have been introduced, their curriculum vitae made manifest to the audience, colours nailed to the flag. do they work?

i do know of several riders who undertake and complete each ride, irrespective of length, without bringing either bum or comfy bit in the shorts into contact with any form of chafing retardant; chamois cream. they are bordering on the insane. i had a brief conversation with rapha's slate olson last year regarding the efficacy of the modern chamois insert in contemporary cycle shorts, and the considerably decreased requirement for the slathering of creams. for the original, real, not synthetic, pad in a fine pair of shorts took on the mantle and texture of crazy paving after drying, subsequent to a good wash. without the benefit of chamois cream, very many more of us would be walking like john wayne before and after saddletalk. however, its efficacy is still in demand, for no longer are we the hard men of yore, and we do like our home comforts, particularly down there.

as i constantly, to the point of irritation, told the pipers in the band, timing is everything; the appearance of this triumvirate at the coldest point of the season so far provided a click track to today's ride. with one exception, my applicatory chamois creams over the past two decades have been squeezed from tubes. but there is a certain something more satisfactory about chamois cream in a proper metal tin. i am perhaps shallow enough to be impressed by this method of delivery, and even more so with the consistency. i think i need say no more.

you will laugh, or at least jeremy dunn and joe staples will. the application of the orange ventoux winter embrocation was tentative to say the least. rubbing new stuff on legs unused to having their own central heating, one has to be a tad careful lest fire extinguishers should be required. tingling would be a good adjective, and if you will forgive the filmed in supermarionation epithet, i swear it was an orange tingle.

rapha skincare

the saturday ride was at race pace (my race pace, that is). 60km on a heading to the atlantic coast along belgian road in the big ring with only a brief respite for a clif oaty choc chip bar, and eventually, as is necessitous, a soya cappuccino (and i'd to bring my own soya milk). the chamois cream works to the limits you would expect; i'd be lying if i said it was so much better than everything else on the market, but it is damn good and achieves this result on a modest application. and it makes your bum smell like mont ventoux.

park the bike against the faux whisky cask lids nailed to the white wall outside debbie's and click-clack into the inner sanctum, bottle of soya in hand, that orange tingle pops up and says hello again. ok, so i'm not as hard as my business card attests, and i wore bib-threequarters, but shins and calves had not complained of cold once throughout the multiple kilometres. in fact, alone amongst the extremities, they had not noticed the cold at all. i have no idea if it was cold in debbie's or not; coffee for the upper half, orange frizz for the lower.

soap, is soap, is soap. but on the understanding that the less than aromatic cyclist (ventoux chamois and embrocation notwithstanding) must use some form of soapy suds, this stuff isn't half bad. perhaps a cube isn't the optimal shape for a bar of soap, but in view of an inherent aroma of ventoux and that packaging, i'm willing not only to forgive, but to embrace.

rapha's foray into the skincare arena is not the be all and end all of the cycling experience. you could use e45, wintergreen and carbolic soap, none of which would be out of place in the showers at roubaix. but we are nothing if not a smidgeon more refined and less animalistic than that, are we not? if i have to smell like a mountain, i can think of only one other that would cut the mustard, and that one has twenty one hairpins. since we have our own mistral at far lower altitudes in the hebrides, i am happy to smother myself in ventoux and wash it off afterwards.

rapha's ventoux chamois cream (£15), embrocation (£20) and soap (£7) are the first three of a range that will be continued into 2011 and beyond with shaving cream, lip balm and sunscreen. all are available online from the rapha website.


posted saturday 25 september 2010

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crank brothers m19 multi-tool gold

crank brothers m19

in the early nineties, i can remember not which year, i travelled to the big city for the first time, to attend the london cycle show which, at that time, was held in olympia, not too much of a stone's throw from the current venue in nearby earl's court. that was the year i had made the trip specifically to visit the folks at muddy fox bicycles, only to discover a large gap in the middle of the exhibition centre where muddy fox should have been. phone calls were made, and answers were concealed, but the upshot was that muddy fox had effectively gone bust. too much expansion too soon. the brand has gone seriously downhill (if you'll pardon the offroad pun) since those days, being little more than re-badged universals these days; unsuprising perhaps given that universal bicycles currently own the brand name.

it's sort of the equivalent of being taken on one of jez hastings' wilderness trips where you are shown the methods of survival and then left on an offshore island to fend for yourself for a day or two, except at this particular point, i had not been taught the necessary survival techniques. i knew i'd arrived at euston station, but quite where it was situated relevant to olympia i really knew not. in fact, i can't remember how i got from a to b. it's a bit like going to watch paris roubaix to discover it's not on until the following weekend.

i can remember visiting one or two of the stands, or perhaps more, but ensconced on an hebridean island, not only were there few items of interest to the population, but even fewer suppliers who would have been happy to send one item at a time for my retailing attempts. you see, at this point i had not commenced any serious attempt at washingmachineposting, and the interweb was not something for the rest of us. no scribbling was intended nor resulted.

however, i did stumble across one stand, the name of which i cannot recall, but i do remember they were the uk serotta distributors at the time, a brand i recognised from my copies of bicycling magazine, and of which i was rather desirous. they did have, i remember, a yellow serrotta frame with red lettering on the downtube, something that would have been more than welcome in thewashingmachinepost bike shed had there been even a scrap of spare finance at the time.

crank brothers m19

but it was not just serrottas that caught my eye. these folks were distributing probably the first multi-tool to appear on this side of the atlantic; the cool tool. this consisted of a mini adjustable spanner, two double-ended allen keys which slotted into the end of a crank bolt remover, which itself was sited at the wrong end of a chain rivet extractor. this handy little mini tool kit slipped inside a cute little pouch with a velcro flap. this is not the product of memory, because i still have the cool tool strapped inside my rapha continental tool roll under the brooks saddle, on whichever bicycle is the mode de jour. i have lost many a useful and irreplaceable item in the last nineteen years or so, but never the cool tool.

but bicycle technology has moved along quite some way since the early nineties; how many have need of a crank bolt remover these days? and, of course, cleverness threatens to outdo itself, whereby a multi-tool containing nineteen different this's and thats is accepted without so much as batting a barrel adjuster. aesthetically too things have improved. the cool tool may have served me well over nearly two decades, but it was never in danger of winning any design awards for its looks.

bearing one of the coolest logos in the business, weighing a scant 175 grams, and cossetted within a flask that would do credit to ferdinand porsche design, a crank bros. m19 is about to relegate the cool tool to the realm of vintage curiosity. for as i discovered to my surprise, more than one component manufacturer has left the safety of the allen bolt for the trendiness of the torx variety. how is a luddite to cope?

allen keys abound even up as far as a stubby 8mm, almost unversally the size needed for that self-extracting crank bolt of the 21st century; and it really works rather well despite its size. but whither a chain rivet extractor in these modern times of power-links and the like? well, the chances of having just such a link when the chain breaks at the furthest point from home are rather slim; a rivet tool will at least allow me to get home without wearing out my cleats on the tarmac. there are two sizes of spoke keys, two sizes of wrench for the nuts still about the periphery, a flat blade screwdriver, two sizes of philips style screwdriver and all those handy and useful torx and allen keys.

crank brothers m19

i am amazed, in the light of what is now spread before me, that i have survived all these years with considerably less; there always seems to have been someone within borrowing distance when obscure maladies crept up unannounced. i'm almost excited, and it's not often that happens, and i may just turn into eddy merckx and adjust stuff incessantly just because i can. oh, and did i mention that it was gold? not real gold, but the rails holding everything together are favoured with that colour, matching perfectly with the style i have convinced myself is mine all mine.

crank brothers multi tools start at £9.99 for the multi-5 topping out at £27.99 for the multi-19 as tested. distributed by edinburgh's 2pure, they should be available from most good bikeshops and likely online too.



posted friday 24 september 2010

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