art for good's sake. an update.

you may recall my article posted on saturday about the son of illustrator jon grant who was suffering from leukaemia. sadly, i was informed by joe bartoe of synaptic cycles on monday eve (islay time), that jon's sone passed away early monday morning. joe is continuing to sell jon's beautifully drawn cycle componentry on his website and pass on the proceeds to jon's family for the foreseeable future. as a result, i'd still encourage all those thinking of purchasing a print for christmas to click over to synaptic as soon as you can.

jon grant's prints

posted monday 5 december 2011

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acronymically speaking

hubble telescope

there is every likelihood that at some time in the past i inadvertantly subscribed to nasa's hubble telescope press release system. i say inadvertantly because i have no recollection of having ever done so, and while i'm as fascinated by the night sky and the concept of those specks of light being several million light years distant as any other star trek fan, i have not even the vaguest comprehension of much of which they speak. this is because nasa speaks with forked tongue and in a series of acronyms.

highly appropriate for this time of year, the one that most recently came to light (if you'll pardon the pun) is c.a.n.d.e.l.s., letters that are an abbreviation of cosmic assembly near-infrared deep extragalactic legacy survey. nope, i have little or no idea what that means either. however, the press release of which this information formed a part was principally concerned with the use of the telescope's near-infrared vision to take a look back nine billion years in time. i though for a moment this past weekend that time travel had indeed been invented, bizarrely by argyll and bute council.

they were issuing updates on twitter over the weekend regarding a landslip on the a83, rest and be thankful which has caused disruption to the main road artery to islay. though it turns out the council was, in fact, listing the time at which the update was issued. missing a colon between numbers gave the impression the year was 2030 rather than late 2011. all sorted now, though not without a certain degree of humour.

hubble telescope

anyway, to return to the more serious business of acronyms employed by america's national aeronautics and space administration. a few more that inhabit the space age firmament are w.m.a.p. (wilkinson microwave anisotropy probe); gamma-ray bursts are referred to as grbs (not entirely unsurprisingly), while the sloan digital sky survey shortens itself to s.d.s.s. we should, no doubt, think ourselves extremely fortunate that there is no external compulsion to attend seminars related to the hubble telescope. well, apart from those of you who work in that particular section of nasa.

reading these periodical but fairly regular press releases from the depths of the hubble cupboard partially inures one to this geeky practice, while offering endless possibilities of conversing with one's work colleagues, secure in the knowledge that they will have even less idea of which i speak. but then, having baffled us with science and an impressive predilection for obscure acronyms, they spoil the whole facade by almost casually bursting the bubble. have an educated (or obtuse) guess at what the letters v.l.t could possibly be willing to impress upon the great unwashed? the imagination, now operating in obscure nerd mode, takes pleasure in running riot, only to be severely let down on discovering that those three letters mean nothing other than very large telescope.

hubble telescope

that is, when all is said and done, an incredibly obvious and tautological statement. if it took the might of something akin to a saturn v rocket to transport the necessary bits and pieces into space for assembly, there's a pretty good chance that the hubble is a smidgeon larger than that often seen pointing from a bedroom window. the latest observation, issued at 2pm this afternoon, concerns the discovery of the fastest rotating star in the known universe. v.f.t.s. (which i believe is an acronym for very fast turning star. honestly) spins on its axis at one million miles per hour. fortunately, it is situated 160,000 light years from earth.

the use of acronyms, as we well know, is hardly confined to the offices of nasa, having invaded the crevices of the bicycle industry more than just a few years ago. the disappointing factor here is that many apparent abbreviations applied to bicycle framesets are entirely without merit. colnago have, for several years offered a frame or bicycle entitled the clx, an explanation of which has, to my knowledge, never been satisfactorily made. pinarello and not just yesterday, initiated a series of accoutrements and accessories under the moniker f.a.s.t. i cannot relate just exactly to what those letters refer, but i have a notion that they thought of the acronym first, then built in the back story to fit.

richard sachs casquettes

one who has not been backward in coming forward when it comes to speaking in forceful abbreviations, is premier frame-builder, richard sachs. i have in my wardrobe, a black and yellow t-shirt sent to me last year by mr sachs which rather brazenly accompanies the letters c.f.r with just exactly what that means. and if you are one who receives any form of e-mail correspondence from the great man, you will perhaps be familar with the signature a.t.m.o. though the latter may, at one time, have been used in its purest sense, it has now pretty much become mr sachs' call sign. indeed, both c.f.r. and a.t.m.o. have made their presence known on his cyclocross team kit for the 2011/2012 season, and for the first time on a bona-fide, extremely desirable richard sachs casquette.

the casquette is, i am pleased to relate, not solely confined to signed-up team members, and available for purchase from the richard sachs website at a mere $20. with the extensive waiting list for one of his precision steel frames, wearing one of these caps is perhaps the nearest most of us are likely to get to being associated with the marque. should you be in any mind at all as to what would constitute an excellent christmas present, those who would not openly welcome one festively wrapped under the tree, must be few and far between.


richard sachs

posted monday 5 december 2011

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spoty and woolie boolie

mark cavendish

i am mildly concerned that television programmes in which i have no particular interest seem to have a disproportionate impingement upon my daily thoughts. it seems hardly worth mentioning that these are those garnering the bulk of saturday evening viewing figures and generating a substantial amount of twittering on the web, where all and sundry have free reign to argue themselves into a corner and back out again. during the moments when both the x factor and strictly come dancing fill the airwaves, i am usually deeply immersed in writing more words to fill these black and yellow pixels, trying desperately to obliviate all, in order that i might concentrate more fully on the world of cycling instead. it's a hard battle to win.

i'm sure i need not point out that mrs washingmachinepost is addicted to both programmes, despite vehement denials to the contrary, thus explaining why it is not possible to write constructively in comparative silence. as i may have pointed out in my review of matt rendell's salsa for people who probably shouldn't, dancing is the very last activity on which i am qualified to comment, but in the realms of music, as one who, albeit briefly, was involved in a professional basis, however many years ago, i feel i have at least minimal countenance. thus the drivel that occupies the stage in front of four disturbingly misled, yet arrogantly assured judges, is surely worthy of a serious degree of ignoring?

woolie boolie

i have little complaint over the prospective talents of at least one or two of those performing, but the show's format seems seriously at odds with the intended result. particularly when one examines the methods by which an ultimate winner is chosen. it would seem that each of the four judges (and i use the word in its loosest sense) is appointed caretaker to thematic sections of performers, and thus responsible for the choice of material performed each week. quite simply, their taste remains firmly positioned within their boots. however, though given ample opportunity to voice their vacuous opinions, the choice as to who leaves the contest each week is devolved to the great british public, a decision that throws the future of hopeful individuals on those even less qualified to choose than the likes of gary barlow and louis walsh.

bluntly put, the contest has no more to do with a vaguley defined x factor, than it has to do with fly-fishing; it is a popularity contest.

rainbow strip lmkh mug

while this will come as no revelation to most of you, it was another weekday tv show that placed the whole mess into a semblance of perspective. i really have no idea of the programme's title, but the inestimable aberdonian, annie lennox, was guesting and being asked her opinion of the weekly saturday evening travesty. ms lennox was keen to forcefully point out that, in the days when she and dave stewart were intent on making a living as professional musicians, they played every venue that would have them, from aberdeen to london, to manchester to liverpool. all the while they were building a following and hoping to catch the eye of any visiting artist and repertoire agents from the major record companies.

it's generally known as paying your dues.

so surely, if those entering the audition stages of the x factor were truly as passionate about a career in music; if it were indeed what they were 'born to do' they would have already embarked upon this travailing the working men's clubs, university unions, village halls and anywhere else that would have them, instead of leaving their fate in the hands of a popularity show.

and thus we find ourselves in the weeks leading up to the twitter hashtag #spoty; otherwise known as the sports personality of the year. unsurprisingly, those of us with an inkling of interest in the world of professional cycling are being barracked into voting for mark cavendish. a not altogether inglorious burden, given his green jersey success at this year's tour de france and subsequent garnering of the rainbow jersey at the world's in copenhagen; certainly achievements worth voting for. however, cycling, as we are all well aware, is a minority sport in the uk. one need only flick through the sports pages of the daily papers (even the broadsheets) to see which sports they see as befitting of importance. so despite the effusive number of #spoty tweets in favour of cav, let's not kid ourselves that if there is a formula one driver, footballer or cricketer in the frame, adherents of those sports can mobilise one heck of a lot more votes than we could muster even if we all voted three times each.

woolie boolie

thus, yet again, something purporting to choose the best of the best is, in reality, a simple popularity contest that has little bearing on the abilities or achievements of those contending for the award. though i would hardly denounce any cyclist from voting for cavendish in this year's event - it would be hard to mitigate against him having the necessary palmares or qualities to assume the mantle - it is in fact, something of an empty exercise. it would surely be more fitting that we celebrate mark's seasonal successes by purchasing a rainbow striped mug from look mum no hands. it will surely be a constant marker of his 2011 performances whether or not he does or does not win the sports personality of the year award, and it does contain a salutory quantity of green tea to have with a digestive biscuit in the early eveinng, and sufficient hot chocololate prior to beddy byes.

on a no less trivial matter, while you find yourself in the vicinity of old street, or perchance, their website, you would do well to look at their socks. not personally, of course; that sort of behaviour rarely wins any long-term friends, but an incredibly cosy pair of lmkh monikered, de feet woolie boolie ii winter socks. since earlier this week the outside temperatures have taken a nosedive, and it is a negligent cyclist who would skimp on cosy toes.

as my primary five schoolteacher was wont to advise 'the prudent man looketh well to his going'. i'm sure that applied just as equally to women.

the rainbow stripes mug retails for £8 while a pair of woolie boolie 2 socks cost £15

look mum no hands

posted sunday 4 december 2011

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art for good's sake

jon grant illustrations

it has long been a source of regret that, while at art college, i had, sad to admit, little or no interest in bicycles. from the age of twelve i'd had an early morning job delivering newspapers round the town in which i lived, and i had managed this on a raleigh twenty. then, as now, this could achieve little more than the description of shopping bike. in this disposition, it did offer a rather large plaid covered box on a rear rack that aided greatly with the size of the sunday papers (even then), but it was a truly unremarkable bicycle. when college days called, it was confined to my parents' shed, and i truly can't remember what happened to it after that time.

a bicycle would have been the ideal form of transport when at college, were it not that the city of residence had the cheapest bus service in the uk. though not adjusted for inflation in any way, the cost of travelling from digs to college was a miniscule two pence each way, and even then, i often chose to walk in fine weather.

one of the unexpected facets of artistic life, so to speak, was the necessity for a wide or concentrated range of subject matter, something i confess i had not taken into account. at school, the subject of drawing and/or painting was usually provided by the art teacher and it was then simplicity itself to forge ahead with pencil, pen or brush. at art college, the subject was now my concern, and there wasn't really much, if anything, in the tank. had i been as obsessed with bicycles as i am now, there would likely not have been enough time in the day to draw everything that came to my attention. i might even have been good at it.

jon grant illustrations

there have been many with a great deal better perspective on life than i, who have managed to incorporate their love of the bicycle into their artistic vision. ironically the renowned frank patterson whose pen and ink drawings have decorated many a greetings card over the years, had little truck with cycling at all, far preferring to drive to a designated location, then spend the evening in the local hostelry. perhaps the most famous of all is frenchman, daniel rebour whose work i first came across in a succession of var tools catalogues, items i believe that still lurk at the back of the cupboard under the stairs.

in similar vein, and equally as good in my opinion, is american artist jon grant. those of you with perhaps less of an obsession with the world of racing bicycles may recall some of his work decorating the offerings from rivendell bicycle works. as with pretty much the entire world of freelance artists and illustrators, earnings only arrive when you're working (good title for a blues album), and anything that precludes that work makes life a bit harder than perhaps it ought to be.

in jon's case, life is even worse than that. his young son has been diagnosed with leukaemia not only placing an additional and substantial financial burden upon jon and his family, to say nothing of the emotional distress, but will make it very hard for jon to continue to work as regularly as he'd like. one of the best things i've found about the cycling world is the open friendliness of those involved in the many different aspects of it; there's almost always someone willing to help. in this case, it's joe bartoe of synaptic cycles.

jon grant illustrations

joe and jon are friends who have never met, and joe has been kind enough to place prints of jon's work on his website for sale, with all the proceeds going to jon's family to help them through their current situation. i know it'll soon be christmas, and we all have additional expenditure at this time of year, but i figure that lots of you will be scrounging for ideas as to what to give that significant cyclist in your life. this covers both situations with ease. the prints are roughly 7"x7", eminently suitable for framing and cost $25 each with free postage (though if resident outside the united states, do the decent thing and add a few more dollars more). there is also the option to purchase prints on archival matt paper at 8"x8" for $30.

give santa a helping hand this year.

jon grant's prints

posted saturday 3 december 2011

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the dating game

prendas calendar

i have always been in love with the idea of carrying a notebook or diary. not the actual carrying, you undertsand, for that would just be obtuse, but having one to hand seemed, well, bohemian and literary for want of better terms. pablo picasso, vincent van gogh and ernest hemingway all committed pen and pencil to paper within the original moleskine notebooks and diaries, so why not i? thus, in the manner that riding a colnago will quite obviously turn me into thomas voeckler, having a bulky, page to a day, red diary in one's jacket pocket would undeniably make my non-literary scribblings and pencil scratch marks into laudable literary output and art of an adulatory nature. for obvious reasons, one's diary could not be revealed to any innocent bystanders, therefore, strictly speaking, no-one would know it was there, but simply owning one was sufficient to bolster notions of superiority, vacuous though they may be.

unfortunately, emotions of glee and apprehension lasted little longer than the first week. after diligently filling in my name, address, phone number and e-mail address, followed by marking important dates and appointments across the year, i was never fully able to educate myself to pay attention to all those reminders. it's a great feeling to sit down and write appointments on a pristine lined page, but somewhat pointless when you then leave the diary at home on top of the sideboard.


prendas calendar

though i am now a child of the age of information technology, a part of me wishes this were not so (stupid really, since if that were truly the case, neither of us would be having this conversation). leather bound diaries are undeniably in the same league as steel colnagos, quill stems and toe-straps; when the world was a friendlier and more nostalgic place. i have maintained strength in the face of adversity by refusing to the point of stupidity not to own a mobile phone. however, as the years roll by, it seems that the memory serves less well, and there is no denying that some system of remiders need necessarily be in place.

i have pixels to manipulate, compliments slips to print, adverts to insert and bicycle parts to adhere to the parent frame. add to that a pressing need to send christmas cards without missing out anyone important, and marks on paper would be a total boon. yet i no longer have confidence that i will remember to look at the very page that would bail me out of any predicament i could doubtlessly drop myself in. you know this to be true.

many years ago, when the now ubiquitous electronic diary come address book in the shape of the original palm pilot happened by, i was lucky enough to win one of these in a competition i did not know i had entered. at this point, i thought all my memory problems had been prendas calendar answered; it would beep at the appropriate date and time, while containing my entire address book. what could possibly go wrong? well, inadvertantly putting the batteries in the wrong way round is what can go wrong, in the process losing every bit of information i had entrusted to my new electronic companion.

it was at that point that i put my misplaced faith in moleskine. don't get me wrong, the ability to store names and addresses on honest to goodness off-white paper likely cannot be bettered, even if i've popped a few of them onto my ipod touch, an electronic pal that precludes the possibility of fouling up on the battery front. but why not a calendar?

a calendar would, in fact, be the answer to a large part of my self-imposed predicament, for there is no necessity to carry one around in a jacket pocket. and provided the calendar at work is studiously paralleled on the one at home (hanging by the bed, since you ask) i should have all i need right where it needs to be. i did, in fact, carry out this procedure in the past; otherwise what are those little white numbered squares for? i love those cycle calendars that bear the dates of all the spring classics, grand tours, stage races and end of season trials and tribulations. so much so, that i find it almost a desecration to write something along the lines of 'fit new chain' over the top. thus calendars have been voluntarily excepted from my demanding appointments schedule.

prendas calendar

though i use the calendars at my disposal for checking dates and working out periods of time, they remain mercifully free from my calligraphic scribblings. i just like looking at the pictures. and when it comes to the 2012 prendas calendar, those are pictures worth looking at. for those currently bereft of such an item, due to the generosity of mick and andy, i have two of their 2012 offerings to give away. to win, simply send an e-mail to with the answers to the following two questions, and the first correct answers chosen by mrs washingmachinepost will receive a calendar each. please don't forget to include your postal address.

which two scottish icons are included in the prendas 2012 calendar, and on which months are they featured? (you can find the answers on the prendas website). in order that these might be sent out in time for christmas, the closing date will be 6pm next wednesday, 7th december.

posted friday 2 december 2011

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all those hills

british airports authority

logos are the bane of my life. with the number of funding bodies in the modern world, each seems to have its own poorly designed logo (witness the appalling creative scotland logo; formerly the scottish arts council) which must, at all costs, be incorporated into any advert that may appear in public. that latter demand rarely takes into account any notion of advertising space, which means that the funders' pennies are often spent on advertising that's double the size actually necessary. whether any of these funders bother to check if those necessary logos have been placed where they need to be is open to debate.

to give an indication of the size (literally) of this problem, a now defunct local access group found it necessary to insist on the incorporation of fourteen separate logos within any published ad, almost rendering any text surplus to requirement. had any of these logos been of a stylish nature, the visual appreciation may have been immeasurably enhanced, but as it was (and is) this was rarely the case.

in the days when graphic art was part of my official learning process (some would say that it still is), and before the advent of photoshop, with its ability to create bitmap images, those of us working on logo design were advised to fax a copy to ourselves. if the logo still maintained its integrity when subjected to being rendered purely in black and white, with no midtones, then the design was on the right track. with technology having shoved the fax machine to a dusty corner of the office, it is less likely that any graphic representation will suffer such iniquity, but for me, the principle still holds true.

cent cols challenge logo old

still my favourite and to my mind, most successful logo, aside from the unmistakeable apple icon, is that of british airports authority. the success of a logo image is greatly enamoured if it becomes recognisable without accompanying acronyms or text, and i figure this one incorporates those salient points. i can accept that i may be the only one holding this particular opinion, apart, perhaps, from the ceo of britiah airports authority, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

though not even approaching that level of identity, the logo for thewashingmachinepost was a lucky hit, depicting as it does (or is supposed to) a washingmachine and using the letters twmp as the wash door handle. other logos, however, require a great deal more sweat of brow to achieve. several years ago, a good friend of mine you may know, (phil deeker) sent me several variations on a logo for his new enterprise: the cent cols challenge.

these consisted, if memory serves, of several triangles arranged to relate to mountains, as well as variations on the letters ccc. none were particularly outstanding, but i confess to having been short of ideas that might have seen any improvement. the website for cent cols challenge was designed by another friend of mine, simon clayson, who, with obviously greater graphic skill than my own, rearranged those triangles into what was a particularly apt and successful logo for this new method of ascending purgatory.

cent cols challenge logo new

the success of the cent cols challenge was greatly boosted by the involvement of rapha, and along with that assistance came the graphic skills of the inimitable ultan coyle. from conversations with others who work at perren street, mr coyle seems almost to churn out graphical excellence as if it were really that simple to achieve (which, for him, it probably is). witness his graphic for last year's festive 500. or even his rapha colleague, jack saunders' logo for the turkey takeoff. at this point, everything eased comfortably into place.

'comfortable' is not a word often used in the same sentence as the cent cols challenge, for that is surely an emotion or state of affairs that arrives at the crest of only the last summit. the preceding altitude gain of riding 100 cols in only ten days can rightly be justified as the ultimate cycling challenge in the mountains. 200 kilometres a day and 4,500 metres are not necessarily to be sneezed at. however, your host for the epic endeavour (surely one of the few times when the word epic can be used with impunity?) is the previously mentioned phil deeker who, at only a few months younger than yours truly, is still sprightly slogging his way up the sort of climbs that he probably shouldn't.

phil is the very chap that you want at either the front of your cent cols peloton or even at the back. having been one of the stalwarts who not only recce'd the gran corsa route earlier this year, but also subsequently rode the whole giro d'italia route. on the zoncolan, having reached the summit, phil went back down in order to shepherd some of the suffering stragglers to their own summit. that's the guy i want to be riding with.

cent cols challenge

for 2012, phil will happily and cheerfully drag you through the alps, the pyrenees and the dolomites; all three if you're of a mind. each trip is limited to a peloton of twenty-five. in a rather obvious situation of having to man up, is this the sort of expedition you could see yourself doing? more to the point, are you good enough? doubts? if i may quote from the cent cols website "Phil, thank you again for your patience with us in the back. We rode as hard as we could. Please know that our experience at the back was as rich and sweet as those up front. It was a tremendous experience, that would not have been possible without your vision (route planning) and more importantly your organization."

that perhaps may answer your question.

cent cols challenge

run in conjunction with la fuga, the cent cols challenge in the alps leaves annecy on the 19th of august and returns to the very same place on 29th august. that leaves you just enough time to recover before heading for perpignan in the pyrenees for a 17th september departure, perhaps unsurprisingly getting back to perpignan again on 27th september. the dolomites ccc provides the meat in the sandwich, which could be used as either a recovery ride (i'm joking) or preparation for the pyreneean raid. san pellegrino terme is the choice of departure location on 3rd september, arriving back on 13th september.

the rides are all fully supported, with mechanical support and luggage transferred on a daily basis to the evening's accommodation; all you have to do is sit and look at phil's back tyre for most of the day while trying hard not to become too sunburnt in the process. with numbers limited in order to provide the best cycling experience for all, if the horizontal rain and sub-zero temperatures outside have moved your thoughts to sunkissed mountain slopes and summer 2012, now's the time to ease the credit card out of its moth infested wallet and put your money where your training plan is.

you know you want to.

cent cols challenge

should you wish to avail yourself on some pragmatic thoughts on the winter training (or not) to come, you could do worse than read joe hall's salient words on the subject.

posted thursday 1 december 2011

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squaretree woodguards

there are intelligence tests i have seen that consist of presenting unfortunate victim(s) with disparate and seeminlgy unrelated items which have then to be combined in some way or other to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. now when it comes to be my turn, unless those objects are a wheel, a tyre and an inner tube, i can imagine myself sitting staring blankly into space for a longer time than is ideal for a member of the contemporary pelotonese. for surely, though modern conveniences are at our very fingertips, it is a factor of modern cycling that we should be at least modestly resourceful. the ability to construct an electronic derailleur system out of some fishing twine, an egg cup and an empty yogurt carton ought to be as easy as falling over a cyclocross hurdle.

happily, amongst us there are those who would not only sail through such tests, but laugh in the face of such distraction before turning it into a business. those would be the folks at squaretree in edinburgh who are happy and content to offer startlingly fine re-claimed timber married with formica in the shape of bicycle mudguards.

i recall many years ago when the inestimable matt seaton provided weekly entertainment by way of his two wheels column in the guardian, my protesting against his endorsement of mudguards on road bikes. in the winds we regularly receive hereabouts, i protested, any rain that might be dispersed by way of fenders would likely be blown about one's person. such exuberant ignorance, however, was brought to book by michael hutchinson pointing out that mudguards on a road bike were not cool in the way that a brown stripe up the back of one's jersey obviously is.

suitably chastised.

squaretree woodguards

my cielo has worn a pair of full wood fenders for almost two years, sourced from river city bicycles in portland. while the bicycle itself is quite superb, its visual appeal is immeasurably enhanced by wearing its wooden accoutrements. portland is into this stuff; i figured scotland and south of the border likely wasn't.


stacey hunter and simon muir formed squaretree earlier this year. simon is a furniture designer and stacey is involved in design and architecture, so it doesn't seem too bizarre a question to ask where the idea came from to build bicycle mudguards. "The first idea wasn't wood actually" says simon. "it was simply to make a brightly coloured pair. I intended to make a red pair for my city bike, but I saw some wood mudguards on a trip to Portland, and although I liked them, they were a bit 'crafty'. I set about designing a pair that were more streamlined with colour added."

most of us couldn't craft a pair of woodguards out of cardboard, let alone formica and wood, so presumably there is some sort of similarity between designing and making wood furniture and crafting two slivers of wood for a bicycle? "There are similarities in the design process and the techniques used in furniture making. Woodguards are shaped and finished by hand; there isn't as much of a requirement for machine tools as with furniture." stacey muir says that "We both admire the minimalist forms and beautiful detailing of mid-century modern designs by people like Alvar Aalto, George Nelson and the Eames. The similarities between the furniture and the bicycle products is the attitude towards design - noticing the 'ordinary'. The materials, colour and surface are integral to the products and we think that woodguards meet Dieter Rams' (legendary Braun designer) ten principles for good design, in the sense that you can take something quite humble and ordinary and really turn it to something special."

squaretree woodguards

my own full wood fenders are constructed entirely from wood, the accompanying instructions detailing only that they should be treated with teak oil at least a couple of times a year to keep them in the conditions to which they wish to be accustomed. squaretree's woodguards however, have a formica laminate along the splashy side. what made simon add this to the mix? "Formica performs really well at deflecting water and mud and it is really easy to clean; in addition, it comes in so many colours that it's possible to pair lots of different timbers with complementary colors that suit your bike. For instance we put a Sweet Chestnut (stained black) with a color called Arctic Blue on to our friend Andy Fraser's Bob Jackson which is subtle and adds to the bike rather than detracting from its looks.
"Formica is thin but strong so when you add it to timber you can keep a nice streamlined form."

as simon mentioned above, formica is available in almost every colour you can imagine, so colour co-ordination with a much-loved frame ought not to be a problem. wood, however, obeys far fewer rules when it comes to decor. according to stacey "The timber we use is reclaimed from local companies who manufacture on a large scale so it varies. At the moment we have a range of mostly European and some African timber, for example: Macassar Ebony [pictured above], Rippled Ash, Walnut, Teak, Cherry and Sweet Chestnut. We're a very small business and we've tried to develop a product that gives people some really nice choices to finish off a great bike. But you know, we're not Amazon! So, the selection will always be changing to an extent. It's a bespoke, unique product and that's part of the charm of it."

squaretree woodguards

with the addition of the formica to the underside of the guards, is there any requirement to douse with teak oil or similar in the fashion i have already mentioned above? "All the guards are finished with yacht varnish (which is really durable)" says simon, but that's not to say in future, with certain woods, I might switch to teak oil. It's an ongoing process, but at the moment no, there's no requirement to treat the guards."

not that one would wish to suggest for one minute that scotland's east coast has it any easier than my own side of the country, but is it safe to assume that the woodguards are ready and willing to shrug off the substantial amount of precipitation that the country endures? stacey says they have been thoroughly tested in edinburgh, but if that's not wet enough for west coasters, we have had a pair in a bath of water for six months too!" and do they come with a warranty? "Yes, one year. They will obviously last considerably longer with a bit of care. I don't think that folk will take them mountain biking; this is really a product designed for city bikes."

half the problem with niche products (not that i'm necessarily suggesting that mudguards are only for the select few) is managing to get hold of the blighters. though islanders and others in remote locations have come to rely upon the web for such access, it's nice for those in larger conurbations to simply walk into their nearest local bike shop. according to stacey "They will be available in selected cycling shops; we'll stock in cities known for design and cycling [Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London, Reykjavik]. Our identity and e-store is being designed by Graphical House but until then people can order from our blog at

squaretree woodguards

all this, however, is predicated on the notion that we'd want mudguards/fenders on our streamlined road bikes in the first place. for nowhere that i've ever seen have there been beautifully posed and photoshopped photographs of next year's steel and carbon fibre with guards in place. a similar charge can be pointed at mountain bikers. that said, it does seem to have become increasingly more cool to be seen fully fendered. has simon any idea why this may be the case? "Maybe cyclists thought they were uncool because they were rattly and plasticky; basically they looked horrible. That might be changing as people are looking at their bikes and considering the whole package.
Mudguards are a necessity for urban cycling and people want something that looks good and performs well. Not an afterthought. An accessory that complements their bike."
stacey concurs "Basically people who care about what kind of bike they ride aren't going to want to a) get wet or b) shove a piece of garbage on their bike."

with all credit to the bike shops that have inhabited scotland's capital city for many a year, along with the local cycle lobby, there does seem to be a sea of change happening in edinburgh. this may have been apparent to city-dwellers for sometime, only now more obvious to the casual observer. with the august opening of ronde in the city's stockbridge area, where the cyclists' obsession with coffee has been seamlessly integrated with that of bicycles, along with exhibitions by scott mitchell, andy shaw and dynamo works, is there a possibility that edinburgh is starting to take on the mantle of portland?

squaretree woodguards

having visited portland, simon avers that"Portland has everything nailed. Here, a lot of things are not right and we've got a long way to go before we can compare ourselves to Portland but all of the people you've mentioned are certainly making a big difference to the culture. Maybe Edinburgh cyclists are trying to make up for something councils can't seem to do!" as a student of urbanism, stacey figures "Portland is a landmark city for urban scholarship; its Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) makes it a compact, high density city which in turn makes it easier for local government to tailor an efficient transport system that includes provision for cyclists. Edinburgh is also a landmark city for its rational New Town and elegant architecture. But in stark contrast the local government has sadly failed to learn from the successes of cycling cities and has instead, heavily invested in the infamous tram system. The best way to instigate change is to establish a community, and places like Ronde offer a hub which is critical."

have squaretree any idea why the bicycle is assuming this degree of 'underground' importance in the city? simon:"I think we're only 'underground' because the car reigns supreme. But the voices are getting louder; hopefully in time Edinburgh will place more importance on the bicycle than the car (as we witnessed on a recent trip to Aarhus and Copenhagen) but in the meantime I can only see the emerging trend for city biking to increase because it just makes too much sense to ignore." stacey is perhaps a tad more forceful "If Edinburgh's transport planners cared to notice, urban cycling is on the increase and the appearance of more cyclists on the roads can be interpreted as an index to a bigger picture that is made up of a complex mix of economics, fashion and education. Cycling can be interpreted as tribal; an 'us and them' binary between motorists and cyclists but with many car owners (us included!) taking to their bikes for shorter journeys in the city, this is changing. The 'underground' importance will eventually emerge as an 'everyday' importance with a critical mass that can't be ignored by the city."

if you have an overwhelming need to fit a stylish, yet practical set of homegrown wooden mudguards on your racing or commuting bicycle, you need only click as far as squaretree. judging by the photos mrs twmp was showing me of flooded glasgow streets only yesterday, sooner rather than later might be a good idea. price is around £142 per pair, plus postage.

posted wednesday 30 november 2011

squaretree woodguards ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

swinging the world by the tail

ufip cymbals

scary moments do not consist of finding yourself approaching a pyreneean corner with screaming brakes and a distinct lack of deceleration. nor do they comprise being caught in a bunch sprint with no desire to be there in the first place, and no chance whatsoever of avoiding the mobile scrum unfolding up ahead. at a pinch, dismounting the cross bike and forgetting to unclip as the right foot hits the ground might just be a tad scary, but in the grand scheme of things, possibly not.

what is scary is the prospect of spending a rainly saturday in glasgow, being subjected to some serious christmas shopping in the company of mrs washingmachinepost and primary school teaching daughter. that frightened me to within an inch of my ergopower levers; so i made a tactical bodyswerve and took the train to perth instead.

ufip cymbals

when i was in my early twenties, glasgow was awash (well, not quite, but it makes for good copy) with music shops. emporia such as mccormacks, the band room, biggars, thomson's, sound control and a couple of others the names of which escape me for the time being. during my last flying visit to glasgow, with an hour or two to kill prior to catching the bus back to kennacraig, i nipped down to bath street for a brief perusal of the laughing stock that had become mccormacks' drum section. slapped in the middle of a disturbingly empty looking display window was a notice of impending liquidation. and on the very saturday i opened with, drum central, an offshoot of edinburgh's parent drum central was holding the last day of its closing down sale.

i have no inside knowledge as to why so many music shops have closed in central glasgow, though economic blight would be my educated guess.

perth, on the other hand, contains a couple of music stores, one of which holds an online presence as the cymbal centre, but is locally more readily known as r w j music and run by kevin smith. kevin has a high regard for all things italian, but in particular, ufip cymbals. though zildjian, paiste and sabian cymbals are all privately owned companies, ufip is an acronym for unione fabbricante industrie pistoia, or words to that effect; a co-operative of italian cymbal manufacturers based in pistoia.

ufip cymbals

i realise that this is supposed to be a collection of words and pixels pertaining to the world of the bicycle, but i would ask that you bear with me for a few more paragraphs while i unravel today's meanderings.

kevin smith's enthusiasm for italian craftsmanship extends to being the sole uk importer of ufip cymbals, and currently the only location in scotland where it is possible to either purchase or, in my case, place a wide variety of ufips on a stand, then beat them soundly (d'you see what i did there?) with a drumstick or two. this in effect was my escape from intense shopping in a rainswept glasgow. a far preferable option, i'm sure you'll agree. all my kit cymbals are from this italian agglomoration whose claim to percussive fame is that they rotocast their cymbals, unlike the more standard process used by every other cymbal manufacturer.

perth is reached remarkably easily via the aberdeen train from glasgow queen street station in a little under the hour. as a naturally untidy person, i greatly favour bike shops and drum shops that have only a faint semblance of organisation about them. there's always the possibility that some undiscovered goodies may lurk unheralded in the corner. rarely the case, i'll admit, but a possibility nonetheless. the cymbalcentre, as it shall be heretofore known, sits on the periphery of perth town centre. were it not for the mapex drumset staring from the corner window, it would remain somewhat anonymous to the passing percussionist.

modern bike shop

inside, however, is a whole different kettle of rimshots, with the doorway framed by four tier racks of ufip cymbals, displaying something from pretty much every range sent out from pistoia.


though my prime reason for the visit was to explore hi-hat cymbal options, kevin started me out with some utterly glorious natural series ride cymbals. you'd really have to hear these to believe; a kneecap crinkling experience.

to cut an already long story shorter than you know i could manage, after two hours of chatting and cymbal hitting, i said my goodbyes and left with a heavy but delightful pair of ufip bionic 13" hi-hat cymbals. on return to a very wet glasgow, the number of store labelled carrier bags that both mrs twmp and daughter were womanhandling through the crowds more than justified my excursion to perth.

my point?

well, basically it boils down to customer service. kevin smith was more than happy to spend however long it took for me to satisfy my cymbalholicism, to make sure that when i eventually did decide to head back to the railway station, even were my arms to be devoid of cymbals, i would fulfil the description of a satisfied customer. how many of us have experienced the same treatment in a bike shop near you recently?

pearson's bike shop

hopefully i am so wide of the mark here, that the foregoing is all but redundant; that thousands of you will be aghast that i should have even the temerity to suggest that bike shops would treat potential customers in a fashion other than my experience at the cymbalcentre. perhaps it's just a myth that ye olde bike shop, barely able to breathe under the boxes of componentry, tyres, frames, bicycles and accessories offered a level of service all but dead and gone. in the more contemporary arrangement of ready to ride cycles, neatly arranged componentry in glass cases, clothing arranged by colour and size and mechanics working in full view of an adoring public, perhaps all is ginger peachy.

i have experienced some superb service and attention in bike shops, establishments i am more than happy to recommend. but like most of you, i have been ignored, belittled and ill-advised in others. as the bicycle becomes a more common commodity in a land berated by increasing fuel and transport costs, it has already been shown that more and more civilians are approaching their friendly local bike shops for advice and perhaps ultimately, a sale or two. these could be friends for life.

i never thought to ask kevin if he liked italian bicycles.

posted tuesday 29 november 2011

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................