rouleur annual 2011

rouleur annual volume five

pretty much everything is, subjectively, of concrete constitution or remains in the abstract. i say subjectively because one man's abstract is another man's ceiling, and it very much depends on how you approach the world before you; which end of the spectrum are you coming from? objectively, all is abstract, in the sense that everything you see before you has benefited from a human ability to impose naming conventions on anything that stands still long enough. to make matters worse, all the foregoing shifts hue, saturation and lightness depending on the context in which it is presented.

television was supposed to have whipped the carpet out from under radio; digital should have completely dispensed with anything in the analogue realm. see how many books on how to achieve everything in photography have been re-titled to explain how to achieve everything in digital photography without succumbing to the obvious embarrassment. whether film or digital is really of no nevermind. photography is photography is photography. the method of delivery is of incidental convenience.

olaf unverzart

'in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king', an epithet that lends itself rather adeptly to a wide variety of situations. the very fact that digital photography relies on pixels rather than silver bromide, that the dial on top of the camera can be set to auto and simply left there, and the average sd card will now comfortably hold sufficient attempts at imagery to apply a second salutory epithet: 'throw enough mud at the wall and some of it is bound to stick'. place a digital camera in my hands and that becomes my unshakeable mantra. take that one stage further and simple selection of so-called burst mode means that i can hold the shutter button firmly in the 'down' position and there's bound to be at least one subsequent image that displays no camera-shake and a commendable degree of focus.

i have enough contact with those who actually know of what it is they do, to be aware that i am no photographer and would bristle at the thought someone would classify me as such. sadly, many of those with a compact in their pockets or handbag along with those who have had the savvy to look up the acronym dslr on wikipedia are of the impression that the apellation photographer is theirs for the taking.

say it isn't so.

paolo ciaberta

if ever there was evidence that photography is still firmly in the grasp of those for whom the word professional barely does their imagery justice, the 2011 rouleur photography annual is surely it. there are those who fill the pages of the weekly and monthlies with their well-crafted imagery, who admirably wear the mantle of 'cycling photographer'. with beautifully exposed pictures of the professional pelotonese describing important moments in the race of the moment, they more than adequately illustrate any accompanying words or captions. rouleur's photographers have long since left such conventionality behind if, indeed, they ever inhabited that space in the first place.

would any of us ever enter the rarefied atmosphere of the abstract to the extent of submitting images of closed roads, bereft of human or velocipedinal occupation? i think it very unlikely. yet olaf unverzart provides us with a series of imagery consisting of barriers denying further progress along metalled roads. on occasion, mounds of snow provide adequate reason as to why this may be the case, but several only serve to intrigue. if i may be so bold to quote from the rouleur website; "Our photographers and writers have once again travelled to bike races far and wide to find the wonderful - along with a smattering of the weird - for the fifth Rouleur Annual...". "a smattering of the weird" is good in my book (pardon the pun).

gerard brown

it is hard to pinpoint a specific triumph throughout the annual's 320 pages, for truly they all fit that description, but for adding another dimension to the atmosphere of track racing it would be hard to top the imagery of the berlin six-day by gerard brown, consummately supported by graeme fife's literary observations. while even the spectacle of the one-day classics provides an endless landscape in which to place the world of the racing cyclist, 250 metres of siberian spruce is of considerably smaller stature and, by connotation, photo opportunity. yet gerard brown embraces the concrete and abstract, adding a third dimension to two-dimensional imagery; atmosphere you could package. herbie sykes provides a superbly constructed treatise on parochial italian politics, setting the green hued images of the bizarre tour of padania by paolo ciaberta in an unassailable perspective.

i wish not to list photographers and authors in any sort of random order, attesting to the prowess of each. the rouleur logo on the cover should be guarantee enough. however, this is photography that seeks to educate, whether those responsible had such intentions or not. similarly the accompanying narratives; rouleur magazine has a richly deserved reputation in featuring the best of the best, and you would expect no less from volume five. but released from whatever constraints a periodical magazine might impose, the annual's contributors have achieved a gestalt in which weak links are all but impossible to see.

guy andrews

i make no apology for resorting to superlatives; having eagerly awaited volumes one, two, three and four in preceding years, i genuinely expected that volume five would inhabit the realm of the same old, same old. nice but unremarkable. new ground was broken with issue one of rouleur and subsequently enhanced and solidified with volume one of the photo annual in 2007. each intervening year has left me pondering on the possibilities of further enhancing and improving something that it seemed impossible to enhance and improve. the arrival of this year's substantial (in every sense of the word) hardback volume left me breathless, and for this i am truly grateful.

if you have doubts about spending £37 on a book of words and photographs in these straightened times, sod the expense: just order a copy and have a very happy new year. brilliance.

rouleur annual volume five

posted monday 19 december 2011


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the mince pie ride


as a confirmed vegetarian of many years' standing, the notion that one would consume mince pies goes somewhat against the grain. even more so that mrs washingmachinepost should send me out midweek to buy two jars of mincemeat; not a combination of words i find much call for throughout the rest of the year. though i have cordial relations with billy the butcher in shore street, crossing his shop doorway is not a commonality for yours truly. disturbingly, he is wont to tell innocent bystanders that his pork and apple burgers are personally endorsed by myself.

like heck they are, but he will have his little joke.

i am much in favour of one of the earlier names applied to what we would now refer to as mince pies: shrid pies. so much more eccentric and far less predicated towards upsetting those of us less than keen on meat eating. the original mince pies, originating in the 13th century did, apparently, contain meats of varying pedigree along with suet and spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. the part of the tradition that has survived virtually unaltered is their being served around christmas time, when they had yet another name change, being often referred to as christmas pies (rather tautologically) and becoming associated with religion during the english civil war. by the victorian era, the fillings had become considerably sweeter and the pies had dramatically reduced in size; happily, the addition of meat had become pretty much an afterthought.

mincemeat pies

thank goodness for that.

for the past few years, we at velo club d'ardbeg have been ever conscious of the need for tradition such as the regular sunday ride, more often than not almost never accompanied by a boxing-day ten. our excuse for the latter is one of membership; there are simply not enough to time the event and ride in it too, though we are experimenting with a form of self-assessment, whereby each rider becomes responsible for recording their own time. despite many ruminations over cappuccinos, we cannot see any serious problems with such an arrangement. on reaching the festive season we have held, for several years, a mince pie ride, now that it has been determined they are suitable for the sole vegetarian. this is usually scheduled for the sunday nearest to christmas day, in this case, this morning.

fortunately, with the exception of a modest hail shower, the event passed by in fairly acceptable weather conditions, something of a relief given the storms that featured earlier this week. the only real fly in the ointment was much-a-plenty sheet ice on the road travelling via mulindry: the abattoirenberg forest to be precise. mincemeat pies the mighty dave t, as a pensioner, was less than impressed. though all passed without undue hassle, the sharp reduction in speed (we were passed by several neutrinos) meant that hands started to freeze inside even thermal gloves. one or two of the peloton whose feet were not encased in cashmere socks felt the temperature drop at both ends of the spectrum

at times like this, even the stalwarts amongst us have occasion to wonder what on earth we're doing out there in the hail, the freezing temperatures, the ice and every so often, wind. the answer is, of course, quite simple. as soon as the turn is made at the junction of the abattoirenberg forest and the high road, we are heading towards coffee and mince pies, and the faster we go, the less chance there is that mr and mrs hastings will have scoffed the lot.

it's the real meaning of christmas on a bike.

posted sunday 18 december 2011


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you must remember this

ten speed

the early days of just about everything can be remembered as either embarrassingly funny or, in most cases, just embarrassing. as one who now lives inside photoshop seven days a week, recollection of my early attempts to appear proficient at using the software brings new meaning to the word inept. filling the intervening years with endless use and more than just a few training videos (why don't adobe package each release with how to videos anymore?) has led to more competent usage and an appreciation of how each insurmountable problem should be approached. though i cannot but admit to many a stifled laugh, some of the photoshop work i receive in my daily employ brings back many of those embarrassing memories.

same goes for my cycling. the early days of paper rounds and travel to and from school were carried out on the much vaunted raleigh twenty; the one with a sturmey archer three-speed. as is perhaps all too obvious, given the gear nomenclature of the above, there were none too many gears to manage. changing was by means of a handlebar twist grip that worked perfectly well except when it didn't. complicating the cycling mechanicals in my mid twenties with the acquisition of a ten speed racer was, at the time, just a stage too far.

gretsch drums

for instance, unlike the raleigh, the racing bike had two chainrings at the front (sorry to be seen stating the obvious). what would happen if i changed from the inner ring to the larger outer ring? did this mean that the chain would make its way back to the largest sprocket at the back in order to start all over again? after all, driving a car meant starting in gear one and working through the intervening ratios to reach number four (yes, cars at one time survived quite happily on four gears. that said, at one time, as witnessed above, bicycles made do with a total of ten), surely bicycles worked in similar fashion? believe it or not, it took more than a couple of weeks of ownership before i plucked up enough courage to press that front derailleur into use.

who knew?

in retrospect, it may have been a more pragmatic way of approaching this with baby steps by not having the chain in the 14 sprocket; in old money, now equivalent to an 11. oh how the knees suffered.

cashmere socks

yes, i can laugh at it all now in these modern times of electronica, when gears shift at the touch of a button and the derailleurs talk to each other to make sure they're singing from the same sprocket. but at the time it was a question of great philosophical debate. it seems, however, that there are several stages of newbieness to plough into head first before attaining a state of almost permanent je ne sais quoi. for having acquired a ten-speed racer, or the modern equivalent with far too many sprockets at the rear and a wheel dish that strains the laws of physics, it was time to seriously consider the not unimportant question of suitable attire. at this point it is necessary to decide whether, as with lord carlos of mercian, one is content to be merely a bloke with a bike, or whether one has aspirations to be considered a cyclist.

at the time, with a copy of the comic on order at my local newsagent, it would have been unseemly and doubtless disrespectful to plump for option one. how would i maintain any degree of integrity with the local populace if i continued to wear a pair of levis and a woolly pullover on board a red, 531 frame enhanced with campagnolo chorus trinketry? thus it became necessary to consult the back pages of the aforementioned publication to find clothing that might fit the bill. thankfully cycle clothing has progressed in leaps and bounds since those halcyon days of yore, as has my knowledge and perception of what was appropriate in a conservative rural community. all because the lycra tights that arrived from parker mail order resembled nothing less that those psychedelic wraps proffered by the gretsch drum company in the mid-seventies.

cashmere socks

while i still have a hankering for owning one of those gretsch kits, i have no desire to revisit my sartorial faux pas in the leg covering department. however, one soon learns that the three points of contact (seat, bars and pedals) are the ones to which attention should be paid. i had already failed miserably on the first, and memory will not reconcile how i fared with the second, but i do remember that with regard to the third, i was well south of the mark. those were the days of toe-clips and straps for the rest of us; trainers were the order of the day, coupled with a pair of socks of the type that my mother gives me for christmas.

a sartorial and ergonomic failure.

cycling socks come in many different flavours, everything from flimsy little polyester things topped with blue, red or yellow all the way to flimsy little polyester things topped with blue, red or yellow. oh how things have changed in the intervening years, culminating in the pair of endura equipe cashmere socks sent a matter of days ago. yes, in the interests of comprehensive reviewing, i should wear these for weeks on end, washing frequently for reasons of hygiene of course, and scientific perception of wear. but these are just so cotton-picking fabulous, i have to tell you about them now, if not sooner.

cashmere socks

midst the freezing cold imbued ride this morning, when i couldn't feel any of the fingers in my right hand for over an hour, and the thumb not even on returning home; when i'd to stop along the high road and face off the golf-ball sized hailstones with my back to the wind (hailstones on the face are less than enjoyable), my feet were consummately warm. i'd go so far as to say cosy. that this should be seen as a not entirely standard state of affairs was brought to my attention upon meeting a cycling colleague in debbie's. he, having cycled a similar distance to myself was complaining of frozen tootsies, at the very point in the conversation when i was singing the praises of the cashmere socks.

it looks like we may be in for a long, cold, lonely winter, when cold hands, cold noses and cold feet will be largely unremarkable. do yourselves a great favour and obfuscate the latter by ordering a pair of such luxurious footwear. nobody but you will ever see the along the soles, but others might just see the lime green 'e' atop the rear. so much more sophisticated than blue, red or yellow, and one heck of a lot more so than thin polyester.

i'd still like a set of those gretsch drums though.

endura equipe cashmere socks can be purchased from any equipe dealer in either small/medium or large/extra large at a retail of £15.99.

endura equipe

posted saturday 17 december 2011


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isobel has left the building


bicycle boxes are of varying sizes, depending not only on how big the bicycle inside is, but essentially, how the darned thing has been packed. it will come as little surprise to most of you that the hardest part of setting up a brand new bike is getting rid of all the bubble wrap that covers every last square inch of framery and componentry. i jest not when i say that there have been deliveries to washingmachinepost cottage where the colour of the review machine received has been all but undiscoverable until the bubble wrap starts to come off.

this agglomoration of polystyrene tubing, masking tape and bubble wrap, frequently aided and abetted by a plethora of zip-ties is probably the end result of careful research into just how much protection a bicycle needs from the hands and forklifts of your average haulage contractor. for surely several thousand bicycles crammed into one of those ribbed maersk containers forming much of the upper portion of large seagoing container ships wouldn't have a great deal of room to move about?

maersk containers

i have had bicycles brought to me for repair after many years of use, still bearing those large, flat circles of plastic on the rear hub bolts. designed to prevent the bolts from punching through the side of the box, they should be discarded on delivery, but for some unknown reason, many too many appear to see them as an integral part of their shiny new velocipede. yet it is possible to have cycles delivered right to your door without a single fragment of packaging to be seen, other than the box in which it arrived. yet cycles delivered in this manner (yes wiggle, i'm looking at you) seem bereft of any untoward damage. wiggle send out their cycles in ready to ride fashion; well, sort of. though both wheels are in position and the seatpost firmly clamped in place, the fly in the ointment (you can see this one coming) are the bars and stem which, to fit in a narrow box, are left zip-tied parallel to the top tube.


i'd have thought the latter feature more likely to cause concern for the new owner than having to figure out how to fit a seatpost. but then i don't make a habit of sending new bicycles to folks.

though boxes delivered in this fashion are large enough to warrant a council tax bill, how come they manage to keep the bicycle free of damage? if wiggle had the savvy to leave the seatpost and saddle zip-tied to the down tube, the box could be a lot less tall and might actually fit in my bikeshed. based on the evidence i have before me, either wiggle are winging it and have just been lucky, or those that cocoon wrap every last square centimetre are guilty of gross over-protection. i think more intrinsic research is required.

however, while attesting to the rudimentary yet highly effective method employed by wiggle, i gave the impression that nothing was left to randomly wander the inside of their gigantic boxes. i fibbed. a good number of years ago, on receiving a particularly high-end carbon fibre machine, decorated with shimano's electronica, a small, black cyclindrical item was conspicuous by its hiding in the corner after the cycle had been rolled out into the sunshine.

a bell.


though you no doubt think this as humorous as i did, had it not been there, the joke would doubtless have been on someone's shoulders, though definitely not the recipient. as a result of the government's rules of idiocy, it has been a legal requirement that all new bicycles, including the professional carbon model referred to above, be accompanied by a bell. in most cases, a reluctance to affix said bell to the bars of the new cycle is something that applies to the majority of us. in short, we chuck it away, for there is no legal requirement for the owner to have a bell on the bike. somewhere or other there is likely a large repository of unloved and unwanted bicycle bells that are there due to bizarre legislation.

however, as part of the government's red tape challenge, representations have been made to scrap this iniquitous legality, and it seems likely that such a surreal demand will be confined to history.

this should mean that those wiggle boxes will have no moving parts (if you see what i mean).

posted friday 16 december 2011


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where to hang out this noel

cervo rosso

doug was quite a small bloke who looked as ill at ease in a suit as i figure i'd look myself in similar attire. his shoulder length hair and substantial beard (though not quite of zz top standards) gave the impression that he'd be happier in jeans and a t-shirt. who wouldn't? in all the time i knew the guy, i never found out whether he played any particular instrument, or whether he was more the sort of bloke that drove a scrappy transit van, acting as roadie to yet more no-hopers around the north east scotland circuit.

we spent all our spare cash in thomson's music; the agreement within the band was that we'd not pay ourselves any wage, but put all the gig money into a tin (literally), and spend it on bits of equipment that would suddenly become necessary. these were the days when two distinct rates of vat applied, around 8% on acoustic instruments and 12% (if memory serves) on electrics. this gave rise to the philosophical question over what rate of tax to charge on a plectrum depending on whether it was to be playing an acoustic guitar or fender stratocaster.

cervo rosso vw bus

financial largesse on our behalf was the key to hanging out, mostly on saturday afternoons, but occasionally midweek if art college failed in its attempt to intrigue at any given time. hanging out in this fashion brought even more delusions of grandeur to designer scruffs ready and willing to show scotland and the world that rock'n'roll and an unassailable level of musicianship could be equal bedfellows. doug knew our names, and we knew his, creating a suitable breathing space that allowed inveterate tinkering with the expensive instruments strung around the shop. you could always tell the real musicians from the civilians because we'd be drinking coffee out of mugs from the shop's kitchen.

unfortunately, unlike the intriguingly named happy trails round on rosemount viaduct, thomsons music shop had as much atmosphere as the dark side of the moon (doug's tolerance notwithstanding). downstairs was a showroom of cookers, fridges, washing machines and other kitchen implements that attracted 12% vat. the music emporium was up a flight of stairs opening onto the main display and leading through a faux archway to the service counter and the cash register that swallowed most of our money.

cervo rosso

despite its conservative decor and middle class ambience, you could tell that the wearers of loon pants and crushed velvet t-shirts were the principal inhabitants. above the range of electric guitars and fender amplifiers was a hand-written notice decrying any feeble attempts at either stairway to heaven, smoke on the water or all right now. strangely, there were no such restrictions applying to the drum sets.

as our musical status improved (depending on who you talked to) it became less seemly to be seen frequenting thomson's music shop. if i recall correctly, doug moved on, and the management were less than keen to encourage a clientele that might scare off those intent on a philips television or hi-fi. we became far too cool to hang out in music shops anyway; megastardom will do that to a person.

a similar philosophy can likely be applied to bike shops, many of which are doubtless the ideal hang-outs for cleated shoes and logo'd casquettes. just ask rapha condor sharp's jamie mccallum. or more to the point, perhaps ask the guys at ronde who seem incapable of getting rid of the man in black. coffee and almond croissants are hard taskmasters. many of us can only dream of such congregational abilities. there is no cycle shop on islay, at least not in the manner described, and i'd venture that many a scottish rural location suffers from the same malady. south of the border too.

cervo rosso vw bus

so where, at this time of year, can we expect to find velocipedinal solace while perhaps thinking of lightening that burgeoning wallet? web-based retail has become adept at satisfying our every whim, patiently stating positively the last date by which any of their fancy goods may find themselves wrapped and under the tree, kindly offering free shipping to ease the financial burden and compensate for the inability to set foot across a bike shop doorway. the odd snowflake or pixel emulated tinsel certainly adds to the joy of festive acquisition, but rarely quite hits the spot.

there are, of course, exceptions to such blandness; you and they know who they are, but on my pixel infested travels the other evening, intent on just hanging out for a while, i came across the graphic that tops this article. how cool is that? the site belongs to carlyle ware's cervo rosso, and though he has been kind enough to supply enough apparel for review that i had no need of a purchase at that point, that's sort of what hanging out is all about.

isn't it?

the appropriateness of the graphic, aside from its fifties colour scheme, is pointed by the vw minibus in which santa and rudolph(?) are sat, hailing season's greetings to the cyclist at the keyboard (witness the red and white casquette between rudolph's antlers). you will perhaps recall my bearing witness to the impending arrival of the cervo rosso vw bus earlier this year; it is now a reality and about to undertake more than a few miles across the bulk of 2012. hi-tech apparel meets old skool.

that, however, is where it's going to be; for now, santa in a vw bus is where it's at. a comfortable place hang out for a moment or two on the flight path to christmas.

cervo rosso

posted thursday 15 december 2011


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vittoria diamante pro radiale tyres

vittoria diamante pro

kids are quite impressed by road bike tyres and wheels. "wow, those are really skinny" is the phrase that more than i must have been regaled with on return from an amble around the countryside. that a grown man would spend much of his spare time riding the byways of islay on such narrow sections of rubber is obviously worthy of junior amazement. mind you, as albert einstein theorised, everything is relative, and by comparison with the wide and knobbly rubber on most full suspension mountain bikes, something as narrow as a road bike tyre must seem positively anorexic.

road bike tyres are also rather impressive to adults too, though often more from the point of the pressures to which they are inflated. in weather such as currently experienced, i tend to sit around 100psi, but in those languid summer months, i usually add another ten to twenty psi. just because i can, you understand. if automotive tyres usually demand only 35 to 40 psi, squeezing 100 into something considerably smaller, must seem tantamount to sorcery. but adults are also just as impressed with the skinniness, now that you come to mention it.

vittoria diamante pro

for all of the aforegoing, we must surely applaud the world's tyre and tube manufacturers, for if we stop long enough to consider, it does seem similar to the guys that walk the high-wire, that we can birl about on skinny bits of rubber and silicone inflated to pressures that would probably make a stupendous espresso. surely the ability to be safe on such a narrow strip somewhat denies credibility?

width matters, or at least i must suppose it does since there are clearly defined zones attached to the offerings from the world's tyre purveyors. yet vittoria seem intent on confounding the accepted norms. it's not so long since i reviewed vittoria's open pave clinchers inhabiting the space between the more regular 700x23 and the 700x25 that cushion the pothole blows on my cielo. a 24c tyre is not your common or garden tyre width. and here, yet again, vittoria seek to undermine the standard by offering their diamante pro clinchers in 700x22 dimensions.

rarely would i ever quibble over one millimetre, and i tend to think i'm in the majority as far as that's concerned. though i cannot claim to have actually measured any of the tyres sent my way (where would i measure from and to?), i have read anecdotal evidence regarding one mtb tyre manufacturer's 1.9" being another's 2.125". happily, none of this makes one real jot of difference, as far as i could make out, when riding the darned things.

vittoria diamante pro

one less millimetre does, however, have its implications; there is a whimsy of additional harshness or stiffness (whatever you want to call it) on each ride, one that can be separated from the characteristics of the wheels. i'd fitted the diamante pros to a pair of mavic r-sys exaliths, wheels that have previously been home to mavic's own tyres as well as the aforementioned open paves. under these circumstances, i knew how the wheels behaved, allowing that factor to be filtered out. riding hard (something else that subscribes to relativity) provides inklings of professionalism, or at least in the manner i imagine the consummate professional experiences each daily distance.

for the diamante pros are ultimately race tyres, items that will be ridden more by the great unwashed, but developed for and with the professional racer in mind. thus notions of harshness, subjective description though it is, are to be embraced and harnessed in the pursuit of unbridled speed. granted, i'm not sure i'd like to attempt the paris-roubaix sportive on a pair of these, but then that's what the open paves are for (the clue is in the name). the diamantes are also available in a 24c width, and feature a 220 tpi corespun casing and the almost inevitable twin tread. the radiale version is subsumed by its compatriot in the rotating weight stakes, the diamante pro light which shaves around 30g.

vittoria diamante pro

similar to the open pave, the tyre has a taller profile than its peers which may just explain that harsher road surface appreciation. however, that disparaged feature is also likely the very bit that makes these tyres so fast; perhaps losing that millimetre has added benefits that are a well-guarded vittoria secret. or maybe i was just fooling myself. what was not in doubt was the speed. even across seriously crappy roads, of which almost everyone has a myriad of examples, though every bump, dip and gravel section was experienced to the full, retardation was not one of the boxes finding itself ticked.

that taller cross-section engenders notions of scary cornering, something i'm none too good at in the first place. yet after watching out for the first one or two experiences in case prognostications turned out to be true, skittishness was completely forgotten and the remainder of each ride enjoyed to the full. the smoothness of the tread isn't the ideal accompaniment to climbing on less than pristine, wet roads bearing more than their fair share of loose gravel, but i cannot deny that grip was better than i'd expected. however a bit of slipping and sliding was unavoidable. in fairness, i'd be very unlikely to fit tyres of this flavour at this time of year. these should undoubtedly be at their best come late spring, early summer and i'm quite happy to hang them on a hook in the shed to eagerly await these days.

though the diamante pro radiales are perhaps better suited to differing and less harsh conditions, it is very much to their credit that they fared so well throughout less than ideal conditions. but that's the best time to test tyres; take them out of their comfort zone, do everything you really shouldn't and see whether they come out smiling.

this pair are grinning like a cheshire cat.

vittoria tyres

posted wednesday 14 december 2011


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a selfless resolve

domestique city

i'm at the point in my cycling career (i like to call it such in order to provide extra gravitas) when it's possible to sit of a storm-force beleaguered evening and reflect on what might have been. had i, when of an age where it would perhaps made a difference, investigated further those chaps in lycra plying their pedal strokes along the prestwick by-pass, i may now have been occupying the driving seat of an appropriately decorated team car. having amassed an impressive palmares over several seasons at the very top, i would be now finding myself in great demand as one who could read a race with a white stick and dispense race strategy to the newbie pelotonese while conversing on two smartphones simultaneously.

those years in the peloton would rarely have been edged with top place on the podium; i do not have the legendary killer instinct that would bring me to the front of the bunch in those last few kilometres. instead, i would likely have selflessly devoted my trials and tribulations to a more deserving cause, one that garnered an entire mantlepiece of of silverware over a similar length of time amongst the great unwashed.

domestique city

the careers of those who have rarely been seen in any sort of leader's jersey, yet are required to take care of the team leader by sheltering him from the wind, taking the rain cape back to the team car in which i'd now be sitting, and collecting an entire shelf's worth of bottles for the return journey. exciting times that would have undoubtedly have resulted in a warm feeling in the peak of my casquette. for what better way to enjoy one's cycling than to assist those with more speed and determination to reach the white line in first position.

as it is, i had no idea whatsoever as to why those blokes in prestwick seemed hell-bent on reaching the monkton roundabout before the guy on a bike behind them. it never dawned on me up until the early nineties that bike racing was something in which mere mortals could participate. oh, indeed, i watched entranced as the great robert millar left his compatriots standing as the angle of ascent increased in the pyrenean mountains, but such deeds of derring-do seemed far removed from the heavy steel viking racing bicycle that mrs washingmachinepost had ordered from a mail-order catalogue.

as an aside, at this point, it never occured to ask at the time why an off-the-shelf bicycle for the mere unpractised civilian, should feature 52/42 chainrings coupled to a 14-21 freewheel. few of us are born with the ascendant powers of mr millar, nor the thighs of chris hoy.

domestique city

those years are now long gone; the competitive urge has developed not one whit; i'm still happy to come last as long as i've enjoyed the ride. but now that i have a small peloton on islay of which i can consider myself an integral part, the opportunity to fulfil at least a smidgeon of those dreamlike aspirations can be brought to bear in the service of either lord carlos or, more likely, the mighty dave t. this past weekend, it was the latter who almost benefitted from my largesse. i say almost because, as in the words of the scottish bard, the plans of mice and men gang aft agley. for those less well versed in northern dialect, not everything always goes according to plan.

as i sit in front of my macbook air, by the light of the corner lamp, the current gale is gusting across thewashingmachinepost bikeshed at around 100kph. it has already removed substantial amounts of roofing felt, and the replacement material sits rolled up on the coal bunker waiting for an opportunity to effect repairs. last year we were knee deep in snow around this time, but this december, there has not been a single day that has seen respite from the atlantic breeze. hurrican bawbag last week was the crowning glory. though the mighty dave-t and i managed out for 60km on sunday, i cannot pretend that it was plain sailing.

with a bit of skill and forethought, every road on islay leads to debbie's. dave-t lives in port wemyss, at the end of the bridgend/portnahaven road, necessitating our cycling through bruichladdich as a matter of course. the wind, though slightly less than gale-force, was steadily increasing and in our face as we headed towards at least two cappuccinos. my return journey would have the benefit of a tail-wind; dave-t would have another 15km of headwind when froth-supping had ceased, therefore it seemed the decent thing to slide to the front of our two man peloton and act as lead-out man for the sprint at bruichladdich.

domestique city

i am well practised in this particular art, and though unlikely to find a slot in cav's train for 2012, it suffices for the bends leading to the bruichladdich village speed signs. gradually increasing the pace at a gentle rate so as to ease the transition from comfort to eyeballs out, as we rolled down the final short hill with the village in view, i clicked down one more sprocket and pushed as hard as i could knowing the pace would need to be sustained for another kilometre or so. as the speed signs hove into view, i left it to the last few metres, backed off slightly and waited for the mighty dave-t's front wheel to ease past and take the sprint.

unfortunately, the expected tyre, rim and spokes failed to materialise, and as i turned round to see where my captain had positioned himself, i realised i'd dropped him quite some distance back.


posted tuesday 13 december 2011


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