another story

thewashingmachinepost has brought me into contact with a whole bunch of wonderful people, some of whom have become firm friends and whom i have had the pleasure of meeting in person. others i would also count as friends, though we have never actually met, yet correspond regularly. one of those friends is james lamont, originally from my part of the world, but now ensconced far, far away in the land of colnagos and mario cipollini. james is a textile guru and has worked for many of the top sports apparel producers of the world.

but that's another story.

another story

Stuck in a rural area, far from groups to ride with, or only able, because of work and family commitments to ride at odd times of the day and week, or without hours and hours to devote to long group rides. Anyone to ride with and share the pulls sounds great.

You arrive all dressed up, funny shoes and pedals, funny looking road bike. A clash of cultures which rarely works. But you try, always open to the suggestion of neighbours, friends and acquaintances who spot you sneaking out for a ride here and there. Alone. Still perhaps there will be a riding partner.

So when I heard the suggestion about the "guy who rides a bike" who lived in the village 20 minutes ride away, uphill, I wondered if it was the same story. A movie I had seen before, so to speak. Meet at the Post Office in the next village, 8:30 am. This time though, I can spot a road bike and goodness, that bright pink (magenta!) Team Telekom kit from a few year ago. Brave! Actually, looks pretty tall. Lean. Friendly. The bike to go with it too; magenta. Mudguards. Great! Old Eddy Merckx. Looks just like an old team replica bike.

Hello. Hello. Where to? Let's head out this way. Super. Into the wind. Perfect. So now at least if he gets tired, tail wind back. And yet, and yet.

This possible new riding partner. Pedalling style? Fluid. Position? Nice and stretched. Happy to ride side by side. Chatting away already. Hey, this is like it used to be when I had time for group rides. And hair. 20 kilos ago, as I like to say, apologetically.

And two hours have gone by. Chatting. About nothing in particular. And everything. Family, work, weather, food, traffic, roads, bikes (not TOO much though, which is a good sign). Back to my village already. Next time? Sure I find myself saying.

Then it begins. Each ride. This guy never talks about the past. Does not talk about races he has done or places he has been. Chatting on the bike always about now and the future. Always complains of being tired or out of shape, or having never ridden since the last time we rode together. Confesses during one wet weather ride that this is the first time he has left the house to train when it was already raining in many years.

And yet.

another story

As the rides get longer, as the days lengthen, there is just the odd thing that the last hour of a ride seems to get faster. Wearing shorts, you can see a lump behind both knees of solid muscle. Used to be called the 'Russian Fist'  by riders in the Milk Race in the early 1980s. And if we ride three days in a row together, first day I am stronger, second day we are even, but third day, i am tired and good grief my new riding partner seems to have become turbo-charged. Getting stronger rather than more tired?

Same thing when we ride faster, trying to get back faster to avoid rain, or failing light, correspond to a phone call. As soon as we hit 40km an hour, seems like he has another gear, everything slows down in his pedalling, somehow more efficient. And soon I am left asking for a ban that day on further use of the big chainring. Nothing at home to suggest anything to do with sport, apart from his wife's golf clubs.

And then, one day, chatting about bikes we have ridden. Knowing brian at twmp and his passion for Colnago, I remember the Conic SLX I rode for a bit, with a downtube replaced after a friend crashed it. "Ever ridden a Colnago , I ask?" A bit , the reply. And then I see a photograph. Unmistakeble head tube badge, even in black and white. What a bike. And that face and those legs look familiar.

And that's another story.


posted friday 19 november 2010

top of page.


pocket rocket by steve joughin with richard allen. nemesis publishing. softback illus. 185pp

pocket rocket

hudson music usa now offer digital downloads of many of their drum instruction videos, and i have taken advantage of their magnanimity at a lowered price. on tuesday eve i discovered instruction by drummer jo jo mayer on how to develop a rather frightening speed with one hand that, taken to its ultimate conclusion after mountains of practice, can lead to a one-handed roll. not necessarily a great deal of use in scottish ceilidh music, but certainly worth the bragging rights it would provide upon successful display. while the bathwater was running last night, i gave some time to this relatively simple sticking technique, and had still the end result in mind as i climbed into the bath.

i do a great deal of reading in the bath, and conduct many hours of book reviewing in such a manner. last night it was the latter chapters of steve joughin's pocket rocket. it is, i believe, testament to the absorbing nature of this slim volume, that i only remembered about jo jo mayer's one-handed roll on reaching the breakfast table this morning.

born in 1959 in that hotbed of cycling nearest to the british isles, home also to the current darling of the weekly and monthlies, mark cavendish, steve joughin comes from douglas on the isle of man and, by his own account, had little in the way of character traits to recommend him during his formative years. since the isle of man is hardly the largest property in the irish sea, it was hard to avoid its obsession with both forms of two-wheeled competition, that of motorcycles and bicycles. the latter attracted the teenage steve joughin away from his increasing delinquency, that he himself states would likely have led to more serious punishment than that of a good talking to. at that time, application of the birch was still a legal form of punishment in the manx kingdom.

as with many a domestic amateur, the realisation dawned that in order to enjoy a successful professional career, the european continent would need to be breached. some took to this considerable change of pace like a duck to water; to others, like joughin, it was a ferry trip too far, and in order to fulfil the professional dream, it was down to riding in a jersey proclaiming the benefits of a particular brand of air handling.

now retired and proprietor, along with his son ben, of pro vision cycle clothing, some considerable time has passed between joughin's retirement from a successful domestic professional career and the appearance of this autobiography; almost twenty years in fact, though it may well be the profile of other isle of man riders that has presented the opportunity or confidence to relate the story of his career. i only became aware of the pocket rocket around the time of channel four's televising of those kelloggs city centre criteriums in the 1980s, a style of racing at which a sprinter like joughin seemed to excel. it is interesting to note that joughin was a contemporary of robert millar, stephen roche and sean kelly, yet his profile, confined to the british isles, is dominated by those contemporaries.

played by actress alyson hannigan, the character michelle flaherty in the american pie series of movies was ostensibly the straight-laced, goody two shoes who was a prototype nerd; a part of the american school band culture. this led to a number of scenes where conversation with male members of the cast would commence with 'one time, in band camp..., and continue on to relate an anecdote, the point of which would often be lost on those with which she was conversing.

joughin, as a writer, has much in common with alyson hannigan's character. the book is full of brief introductions to joughins peers or team-mates, followed by an almost inevitable i remember one time... or as it turned out... the frequency of which somehow lets him down, lending the impression that we are reading a series of tenuously connected anecdotes, rather than a serious attempt at encapsulating a life and a career. while his initial foray, in 1984, into the world of paid professionals is recounted as far as his early wins as a pro, the next three years seem to have vanished on an imaginary cutting room floor.

this may not be the most literary of works, and i often feel that biographies are more rewarding than autobiographies, if only because there is a greater degree of separation and dispassion by the author of the former, but steve joughin has done little, if anything, to hide the real cyclist behind the words. some of his assertions may be contentious at best, but there's no denying the character that forms a central part of british cycling history.

unfortunately, for reasons i do not understand, this does not seem a complete biography; there are a number of sections seemingly glossed over, while others receive more attention than you might think they deserve. but i fear this may be more to do with the art of writing or recollection than an attempt to pervert the course of justice, if you catch my drift. or, less conspiratorially, it may simply be a reflection of the disjointed nature of being a professional bike rider in the 1980s. given the star status applied to many a modern day rider, it well behoves the cycling obsessive of today to read the story behind one of british cycling's true characters.

thirteen year-old promising manx cyclist, peter berry, was killed while out training in 2005 when a wheel came loose from a truck and struck the young cyclist. steve joughin is donating a percentage of the profits from pocket rocket to the peter berry fund, assisting young isle of man cyclists, in much the same manner as the dave rayner fund, or scotland's braveheart fund. another good reason to purchase a copy and give one to a friend for christmas.

copies of pocket rocket can be ordered direct from nemesis publishers


posted thursday 18 november 2010

top of page.


dhb winter clothing

dhb winter range 2011

i have, not necessarily out of choice, been watching one or two of the christmas advertisements on the telly, and still marvelling at their clinging to the notion of a traditional christmas. those where santa not only exists, but happily trudges through deep snow, cheerfully waving to those going about their daily marks and spencers, matalan, and carpet warehouse shopping. naturally, there are allusions to large draped wooden fireplaces, obviously designed with a rotund fellow in a red jumpsuit hauling himself up and down the flue in mind. there are cards strewn across the mantelpiece, holly, ivy, tinsel and glitter in every place you would expect to find such trinketry and christmas trees intent on competing with the giant redwood. all this is somewhat at odds with the knowledge that a great many of us live in the equivalent of a shoe box with a sloping roof and have eschewed the central feature of a fireplace for that of storage heaters or gas central heating.

still, the object of the exercise is to sell product, and if it shifts faster by association with a traditional, non-existent christmas, who am i to argue? would that christmas were even close to that depicted by a collection of advertising agencies, for aside from the largely pleasant and innocuous looking snow banks, not populated by abandoned vehicles, but just soft and comfy enough on which to land several reindeer, the weather never seems particularly inclement. howling gales that leave ferries in their ports of departure and deposit the wrong kind of leaves on the track are conspicuous by their absence, but the inference that the mercury isn't rising is made by scarves, long coats and woolly hats.

that, if you'll pardon me for being blunt, is the true reality of it all.

winds such as those predicted by xcweather, rain that comes along for the ride, and huddle round the fire temperatures are listed somewhere under the category of character building, and rather than to be avoided in favour of a phalanx of turbo sessions, should be embraced from within roubaix jackets, tights, and breathable waterproof jackets. because that's what cyclists do; at least it's what real cyclists do, but only after having made the appropriate choice of layered winter apparel.

as intimated by a totally different type of advertisement, and the catalogues for which we are often enticed to send, layering is the way forward, and has been so for some time. i should tell you something you don't know. baselayer, jersey and appropriate outer shell, can be accessorised with winter hats, gloves and those fleecy tights or three-quarters, finally covering the shoes with thermal coverings.

dhb winter range 2011

while most cycle clothing providers are what could comfortably be referred to as stand-alone companies, dhb clothing is inextricably linked with online retailer wiggle, having gained an appreciable foothold in an increasingly crowded market, principally by virtue of quality product at sensible prices. merino wool has long been the preserve of the upper echelon, and has now stylishly appeared in the 2011 dhb range in a featured charcoal grey. though winter cannot be denied its presence, it's not yet deep winter, and i'm happy to retain the short-sleeve look, even though hidden from view. merino, i'm sure, needs no introduction here; the dhb variant has flatlock seams to improve comfort that close to the engine, and an ultra-fine yarn that manages temperature to a most effective degree.

worn under a pair of dhb roubaix fabric bib threequarters and a long sleeve dhb momentum winter jersey, its management capabilities were most welcome. if i could be trivially critical, 'id be happy to see the product label stitched on the outside of the baselayer where it could live irritation free, but 'tis a minor gripe in the face of such a pragmatic layer one.

logic has never been one of my finer qualities other than when dealing with computers and their attendant software, but in order to relate to all, i feel the effort here needs to be made to apply a certain logic to the layering description. starting with the baselayer already mentioned, next in the sequence, for me at least, was climbing into a pair of dhb roubaix bib three-quarters. these are not insubstantial in any way shape or form, though i got the impression they were short longs, rather than long shorts. i hope i might illustrate this definition by the existence of a front zip closing a panel over the six-pack, a feature i have not come across before in a pair of threequarter bibs. in fact, a quick check of the dhb range shows that these are indeed referred to as threequarter tights, rather than as threequarter shorts. this makes their cosiness all encompassing, with a mid-weight lycra extending to the straps, finished off with a mesh section at the top of the back.

the seams don't lie quite as flat on the leg as the wind tunnel would advise, though the back of the knee is enclosed in a single panel, thus obviating any discomfort during the sprint to the line. strangely, there is no gloopy, grippy stuff on the hem below the knee, but the elastic employed to to carry out gripping duties works just as well. failing to notice they're being worn counts as a tick in the box as far as i'm concerned, aided greatly by a very comfy, stretchy cytech pad. of course, having already agreed that it's winter, and wishing to stave off hypothermia long enough to stay up till santa gets here, a long-sleeve jersey seemed the next order of the day.

dhb winter range 2011

now there's a bit of a problem when it comes to decision making, for if precipitation is expected, and it seems more than likely, and an outer shell is required, the jersey needs to offer warmth without overheating; in this case, one of us may have erred slightly, for i found the long-sleeve momentum jersey a smidgeon too warm, particularly in the arms where the fleece lining continues unabated. the dichotomy is that the jersey alone is not substantially windproof, and needs covering in the present climate, but it would need to be a lot colder than at present to prevent overheating. in retrospect, my solution ought to have been a gilet, and it seems a mite unfair to level criticism at what is a lovely, soft and cosy jersey. i'm not a great fan of swoopy, contrasting panels on a cycle jersey, nor what appear to be gratuitous patterns on the sleeves, but in all honesty, they wouldn't prevent me wearing unless the colours got out of hand.

the crowning glory of the momentum jersey is the rear pocket assembly; there are four altogether, one of which is zipped, and a waterproofed one with a velcro'd flap featuring a grommet for an ipod/iphone headphones cable. and a veritable first (for me at least) by way of a key clip inside the right rear. gloop along the hem stops the jersey riding up in use, but that is augmented by this being the first jersey i've ever had that may need to take waist size into consideration. while the upper body was just a smidgeon less close-fitting than i'd have enjoyed, and the sleeves of more than adequate length, zipping up might just give cause for concern regarding blood flow below the waist. medium size was that tested, and i am of rather small waist at 30", yet the hem was a bit on the tight side when fastening the full length zip. still, ride up it most certainly didn't.

dhb winter range 2011

so were it to be a cold, crisp and sunny morning, the above layering from dhb would doubtless be more than adequate, but winter is rarely as seen on the christmas cards where blue skies, frost and icicles hanging from branches continue the facade. it rarely happens that way, at least not out here, so there is the inevitable need for some sort of protection from wind and rain, preferably one that won't increase inner atmosphere while doing all in its power to repel the external variant. it is ideal if this outer garment can be removed and stuffed in a rear pocket the minute that christmas card puts in an appearance.

it used to be that the wide breadth in the pricing of cycle clothing pretty much let you know where you stood with regard to the eventual effectiveness of your purchase(s). now, that's become a pretty poor indicator, and the 2011 range from dhb has just thrown another cassette remover into the works. the quality on display here cannot be seriously undermined; on occasion the fit displays the difference in price range, but that's a relatively small price to pay for a relatively small price. the dhb round neck s/s merino baselayer sells for a very encouraging £30 in sizes small to xxl (medium tested). dhb's padded threequarter bib tight sells for an unbelievable £37.99 in small through to xxl (small tested), and the momentum long-sleeve jersey costs a respectable £49.99 in small to xxl (medium tested) and in blue, red or black.

you have to wonder what the world is coming to when quality at this level is available at such embarrassingly low prices, but it may be an astute move to add to basket before someone realises the calculator isn't working properly.

dhb sports | wiggle


posted wednesday 17 november 2010

top of page.


to cap it all


i have little fear in professing cycling to be a relatively non-dogmatic activity; perhaps even the sporting half of the affair, though this merely by external observation. i am not fast enough to compete. i rest my case principally on the notion that i can climb aboard from either left or right, there are no derailleur police waiting to slap me with a ticket for moving off in 20th gear should i so desire (or forget), and if i want a mustard colour brooks leather saddle on my colnago, who's going to stop me? if we temporarily confine this conversation (who said monologue?) to the wheels and deals of active transportation, there is none of the dogmatic sequence required of the hapless motorist involving seatbelts, gearsticks and the like before joining the slow lane all the way to the car park. by comparison, and i acknowledge that i am far from the first person to point this out, cycling is based on the idealism of freedom.

if i might demonstrate my lack of comprehension of that which takes place in the competitive peloton, while some are possessed of a tactical nous to cosset them in the less fattening centre of the bunch, others are more voeckler like, shooting off the front at the least provocation or chink of light between carbon wheels. any dogma, or direction is likely to be at the behest of one's directeur sportif, should one be sufficiently high on the ladder of success to be under such direction. the proof of any pudding consumed is that of the first wheel across the line, and no extra points for how it got there; a parallel exists with the office clock; no-one will offer words of encouragement as you arrive an half hour late, but having cycled impeccably according to the cycling proficiency directive.


why did they ever dispense with those triangular enamel badges.

however, masquerading as our heritage of right; the law according to pain and suffering, and perhaps even of epic (sorry daniel) dogma might just be alive and almost well and hiding in that casquette under the helmet. for in eras past we have discussed a) whether the casquette still holds a favoured place under the helmet at all and b) if we agree that it does, should the peak be up or down? i have no great wish to re-iterate even the basics of that discussion because i know i'm right, but feel no compulsion to share at this point in case i'm not.

our question of the day is of a more mechanical flavour, and something that can easily be accepted or dismissed by even those who with self-proclaimed limited mechanical ability. if you can inflate your tyres without too much fol-de-rol, then this deserves your attention and discretion. although every inner tube, and indeed, tubular, arrives with a dustcap on the valve stem, does it serve any practical purpose; is it seemly to leave the cap in place, given our athletic prowess and need to be seen as giants of the peloton? despite my contention that cycling is scarily free of dogmatic intervention, there are obviously unwritten laws that ought to be adhered to if one is not to be regarded as an amateur, where that definition is a simile for clueless.


many of these (spoken in hushed tones, if mentioned at all), should be simply absorbed by whatever means are available, for you are unlikely to be informed of their existence. the pelotonese will happily let you wear that polti jersey on the sunday ride, and only mention its undesirability over coffee and that little treacle biscuit. or fail to point out that one simply does not wear a polka dot jersey unless one has actually won the king of the mountains in a previous tour de france. but what about those dust caps? it's a tricky situation; leaving the caps off deliberately has a certain macho quality to it, easily giving the impression that the knowledge is simply not open to question or doubt, yet the same cannot be said if both dustcaps are still sitting on the garden path, having been inadvertantly left to fend for themselves.

there is no element of cool or je ne sais quoi about that; even if nobody knows.

but i believe the worst crime that can be committed, unless deliberately done as an act of rebellion, is to leave one dust cap on, yet not the other. this smacks of carelessness, and will have your fellow pelotonese wondering what other points of essential maintenance have been left undone. are there cable ends on those gear wires?; have the brake shoes been checked for wear?; did you proofide that brooks? it takes a steely degree of self-confidence and bluster to pull through this cardinal of sins, something i am hoping to inflict upon you at this very moment, having discovered that the ibis hakkalugi has a red dustcap on the rear, but none whatsoever on the front (just as a point of order, if such a situation is to occur, it is far more forgiveable to have the sequence this way round. perish the thought that it should be the front still bearing the dustcap).


quite obviously, given my superior mechanical knowledge and immersion in cycling lore, there is no possible chance that i have come to this one on-one off by accident, but i am more than comfortable with the rebellious epithet, so we'll just leave it at that.

just you wait until this sunday's bike ride; clock the number of your fellow cyclists who now have an unheralded inquisitiveness regarding your wheels, all the while mentally gauging their status within the pecking order by how many are bereft of dustcaps and how many otherwise. just watch to see if any surreptitiously attempt to remove or replace dustcaps. this of course all hinges on your realising the importance of such apparent trivia to the mindset of the cycling cognoscenti. leaf through velopress' recently issued the spring classics and check whether eddy, fausto (where the hell was he?), jacques or robert had dustcaps during their halcyon years.

on which side of the spoking pattern do you stand?


posted tuesday 16 november 2010

top of page.