on my own two wheels. back in the saddle at 60. malachi o'doherty. the black staff press softcover. 176pp £8.99

on my own two wheels

"My failing is in that I think the bicycle is for me when I should be living for the bicycle."

i doubt it only happens to me, but to many another vegetarian too, and it happended last week at my daughter's wedding. she's been a vegetarian since she was born, and though both mrs washingmachinepost and i have given her every opportunity to become a carnivore should she wish to be, she's steadfastly adhered to the meat-free way. it would never do for the bride to be stuck with a salad or macaroni cheese, so the bridal menu offered two vegetarian alternatives: nut roast or mushroom risotto. both of us opted for the nut roast of which we were served two thick slices accompanied by an appropriately viscous spicy tomato sauce.

those sat either side and across from us, took a peek at our portions and despite being carnivores themselves, announced that they would have happily been vegetarians for the day.

i am meat-free out of choice, i make no attempt to proselytise and rarely, if ever, bring up the subject in polite company. yet when dietary choice does become the topic of discussion, i fnd most meat eaters almost falling over themselves to apologise for their carniverousness. many will protest that they hardly ever eat red meat anymore and if push came to shove, could survive heartily as a vegetarian. these overly clamourous protestations are then somewhat undermined by the next question which is almost always 'so what do you eat?'

it is a situation that transfers well to any conversation regarding cycling. we all know folks who either live without a bicycle, or have a rusting hulk in the shed that hasn't turned a wheel in anger for many a long year. yet when sat on one of the new tall stools at debbie's coffee bar, dressed, as is my wont, in sportwool and lycra, someone invariably pipes up that they used to cycle a great deal in their youth, even though i have made no accusatory glances in their direction. again, methinks they oft protest too much. if cycling had been uppermost in their minds, we would have been riding together up uiskentuie strand instead of listening to excuses they and i both know they are straining to fabricate.

i started cycling when i was nine, had a paper round when i was twelve and cycled everyday of life up until i was seventeen. the college years were devoid of velocipedinal activity, but when working life commenced, i again acquired a bicycle and have not done without since. thus, as i approach sixty from mid distance, i am probably the fittest and healthiest i have ever been. not so, malachi o'doherty.

in common with many of those who find it necessary to explain that cycling was an intrinsic part of life in the early years, malachi o'doherty cycled in his younger years. dad was a cycle racer, a man who transferred his racing ability to that of commuter when working in belfast while his family lived further north. his father was not keen on young malachi owning or riding a bike because he said the roads of belfast and northern ireland were too dangerous. but in those years, it was all but impossible to keep kids off bicycles; they were as ubiquitous as the playstation appears to have become in modern days.

however in keeping with many an individual formerly dependent on two wheels, when prosperity and a busy work schedule begin to infiltrate daily life, the bicycle is left in the shed to rust, while public transport or the demon motor car take over. that's pretty much how malachi o'doherty found himself at the age of sixty, overweight and facing type two diabetes brought to fruition by his lack of exercise and calorie heavy diet.

"i was a sixty-year-old man who wanted to be young again. i wasn't going to try and win the tour de france. but i was going to try to do what i had been able to do at thirty. i was going to be a boy again, and, what the hell, i was going to be a fitter, trimmer and happier old man at the end of it."

were it possible to have been paid a pound for everyone who has expressed similar sentiments in the past year, i would have a whole shed full of colnagos. malachi o'doherty is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. by actually carrying out that which he portended, he lost over two stone and rediscovered cycling. he did not, however, rediscover cycling in sportwool and lycra, but more by means of pootling as he would have it. riding a bike as both a means of travelling from a to b for whatever purpose, but also for the joys both of cycling and becoming more aware of his surroundings. this he did both solo and occasionally in the company of a friend, but in most cases, dressed in civvies.

it's what the inestimable lord carlos of mercian would defiantly refer to as 'a man with a bicycle' rather than that of bona fide cyclist.

on my own two wheels leads us gently into malachi's background; where the bike fitted into early life, where it withdrew from that life, and what brought about its renaissance. once we are appraised of his born again status, the chapters astutely describe many of the outings undertaken; a travelogue if you will, but always accompanied by an appraisal of his ever-growing ability on the bicycle and how it was infiltrating both day to day life and his own psyche.

i have only briefly ridden a few of the roads of northern ireland many of which instilled a similar quietude to those of islay, a mere 24 miles further north across the water. o'doherty's style of writing calmly fulfils those norhtern irish miles, detailing stumbles, hurdles and joys without ever becoming excitable. in this sense it is a most equanimous and pastoral read, all the while inviting the unconverted to become the converted. there are, however, one or two glitches in the firmament that equate to finding after the advert break, that you're watching an entirely different programme. in chapter thirteen he heads out with two panniers on a rear rack, yet midway through i am greeted with a gap in the page then "On a gorgeous bright day in the niddle of November, i drove into Westport, with my bicycle strapped to the back of my car."

the previous sentence gave no indication that the narrative to which it was attached had ended so abruptly. and for a man of letters, one who has written a book that is a joy to read, where did the word 'triathaloners' spring from? i doubt the world itself truly exists (triathletes would be the more common usage), but if it does, would triathloners' not be a more likely spelling, given the nound from which it is derived?

that said, i figure any book more than worth the price of admission that can provide at least one phrase worth quoting. malachi o'doherty has succeeded in interspersing several into his narrative, convincingly and uncontrivedly. "the beauty of the bike is that it is purely mechanical and that it is, even so, a sufficient vehicle for a healthy human." whether this book will be bought and read by others in malachi's pre-bicycle situation is a moot point. there is always the likelihood that the majority of bicycle books are preaching to the converted. however, as testament to not leaving the bike alone when cars and relative financial security happen along, i doubt this book could be bettered. and for those approaching their autumn years, this volume ought to be available on prescription.

a worthy addition to the panoply of cycle literature.

"I have not recovered the level of fitness I had achieved cycling in my thirties... Not all of one's destiny is manageable through diet and exercise, but the answer to that is that when you are out on your bike,... you're enjoying yourself in the moment and not thinking about how long it lasts."

saturday 11th august 2012


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the price of admission

price of admission

it probably says more about me than the current state of play with regard to the cycling bubble, but i feel the occasional moment of neurosis when citing britain's cycling successes over the past few weeks. it's in all the papers, including those who, only a couple of months back, would have been hard pushed to tell a keirin from a raspberry flavoured ice lolly, and i don't doubt there are still one or two sub-editors who experience dizzy spells when queried as to what exactly a derny is, let alone what it does. and how come that guy never wins anything?

i have no intention of reprising my rant of yesterday regarding the better provision of cycling facilties, but i do have sights firmly set on recruiting the eager and fresh-faced to the ranks of the velo club. it is no real whimsy to imply that the ride of the falling rain is indeed the principal (only) four domestic riders off on a ride around the principality with an open invitation for others to join us if they wish. for many a long year, the numbers meeting at debbie's on a sunday morning have varied pretty much not at all. this is decidely not because we are insular and elitist, quite the contrary in fact, but i fear there are one or two factors weighing against our attempts at inclusivity.

in my younger years, i had the pleasure of watching the great buddy rich playing on the michael parkinson show, demonstrating a skill on the drumset that left me, and pretty much everyone else looking as if incompetence was our middle name. buddy was, however, just a bloke the same as i, so it is not without credibility that were i to spend every spare minute of every day slogging over a hot practice pad, i too could demonstrate a similar percussive armoury. applying the same belief system to that of the keirin, team pursuit or any other track event or, perchance the tour de france provides two choices. either you believe you can achieve the same, or you subjugate your willpower and regretfully accept that such sporting heights are beyond personal ability.

price of admission

so when the accusations arrive that joining us on a sunday morning is excluded because of our speed along uiskentuie strand, it is necessary to point out that were others to join us, we'd cycle at their speed. assuming it is one or other combination of the 'elite' four, why would we not cycle at a speed that is comfortable to ourselves? ever since i moved to islay, i have been given the same excuses; you're too fast and it's too windy. these are indeed excuses, not reasons. and i don't doubt that countrywide, there are others who proffer similar reasons for not cycling apace, despite the inspiration recently provided.

the only way round this diversion that i can see is persistent and tenacious persuasion on our part.

the second barrier to our open-armed inclusivity is that of price, one that is not insurmountable, but can doubtless be something of a tangible disincentive. my first steel colnago amounted to around £1500 worth of racing bicycle, a velocipede that was usually to be found sitting on the workstand when not in frequent use. a friend of my neighbour, a man with an annual income that makes mine look like pocket money, thought this an alarming amount of money to pay for a bicycle, despite having arrived in a range rover with every trimming on offer. i do not know where the cost of membership became a dogmatically large number, for in truth, it is possible to experience the same level of joy aboard an ageing steel peugeot as when riding state of the art carbon fibre.

islay not only has a leisure centre with a high quality and well-maintained swimming pool, but an 18 hole links golf course of international repute, two pony trekking centres, endless opportunities for water sports and several football pitches. many of these require an annual fee for participation; i believe even the amount tendered to the golf club is less than the price of a sporty pair of mavic wheels. interestingly, bringing the kids into the fold at any of the above activities often requires the attentions of mum and dad, if only to transport the little darlings to and from the participatory locations.

price of admission

the possibility exists that the same may be said of the sunday morning ride, but it would surely be not too long before they acquired the perambulatory skills to bring themselves to the coffee point all on their own. and to briefly return to my second point, purchasing a bicycle provides many more benefits than just a ride to nowhere in particular once a week. other than perhaps becoming an integral part of individual transport, perhaps trying to ride just that wee bit faster will bring them into line with the persuasive nature of the recent team gb olympic and tour successes.

cycling is finally cool; perhaps even cooler than football, a sport that has become so much a part of the fabric of daily existence for some in the uk, that any perceived coolness has surely been negated a long time ago. maybe the opportunity to wear sportwool and lycra while whistling along on space-age carbon will outweigh the perception that it might be hard work. as my mother continually re-iterated while i lived at home 'pride bears no pain'. you only get out whatever you put in; maybe the current cycling bubble will act as a suitable catalyst for others, and preferably younger others, to have the gumption to persuade mum and dad they want a racing bicycle for birthday or christmas. the velo club has a tradition to maintain and a future to provide for; right now, sadly, it's achieving neither.

friday 10th august 2012


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did i miss the memo?


i am somewhat dazed and confused, if i might borrow the led zeppelin song title for a moment or two. dazed by the glare from all those cycling gold medals acquired in the london olympics, but confused by the interpretation of what it all means. i think it unlikely that even those of a contrasting nationality would deny that sir chris and his band of merry men and women have excelled themselves in the past few days. michael hutchinson tweeted as the medals accumulated, (the) 'UCI must be pleased at how the rule changes have opened up the competition and stopped one nation from dominating.', and their domination has brought many a tear to a british eye at all those medal ceremonies.

yet all this success has been at speeds unseen by most of us not treading the boards at the pringle. chris hoy's closing 200 metres at the keirin were clocked at over 70kph; translated into old money, that's a smidgeon under 45mph, not much more than the speed at which i used to drive my motor car (when i had one). the chances of most of us achieving such speeds on a bicycle in day to day travel, or even during the sunday morning procession are a bit remote to say the least. so, that being the case, why are there so many calls for all the recent successes, including that of bradley in the tour de france, to translate into better conditions for britain's cyclists on the road?

i do not wish to come across as negating the efforts made up till this point to improve the habitat of those who either out of necessity or choice, occlude motorised transport and utilise two wheels and pedals. unlike the international waterways of the world, the notion of steam giving way to sail rarely cuts the mustard when it comes to cars, trucks and buses mixing with bicycles. it is a vain protest to point out that we all share the same stretches of tarmac, with neither one or t'other having priority. yet by the very size, speed and weight of the average motor vehicle, it all becomes no contest; it would be nice to think we could stand our ground in the face of the infernal combustion engine, but in reality that is a less than pragmatic approach.


i wholeheartedly agree that something needs to be done, something that can truly only be implemented at government level, whether that of whitehall or holyrood. but i cannot truthfully see what it is that a boxful of gold medals achieved riding exorbitantly expensive carbon fibre round and round an oval wooden track has to do with safe cycle routes. most certainly all those medals and a yellow jersey in paris have raised the profile of cycling in the eyes of the british civilian, while the cycle industry trumpets a vast increase in bike shop receipts in the past couple of weeks. but i'd be willing to bet that much of the money filling bike store tills is not being spent on what we'd describe as proper bikes. much of it will have come from the pockets of bradley and sir chris wannabes, on machines that would probably disappear like snow off a dry stone wall if left parked in any of our inner cities.

on the periphery, creating a safe environment for youngsters to cycle to school or nip out with their pals at weekends could conceivably introduce a new generation of kids to the joys of the bicycle, but i'd be keen to ask laura trott if she has a pashley in the bike shed that she rides down to the supermarket for milk, cheese and a loaf before she pedals the same velocipede to the daily training schedule at manchester velodrome. and last time i saw sir chris hoy arrive at october's braveheart ride he and his minders had not arrived by brompton. i'd think much the same factors apply to bradley. state of the art ugly and a yellow pinarello are the professional cyclist's equivalent of a coal lorry, a bus or a digger. they are the vehicles that allow those and such as those, to practise their profession. there's nothing that says they can't enjoy riding them, but daily life probably precludes more practical use.

can you really see brad, cath and the kids riding a series of dawes galaxies with panniers and camping gear, heading to a delightful corner of the countryside for a fortnight's holiday this september? me neither.


much as i'd hate to be thought of as a killjoy, i find it immensely hard to equate chris hoy's victory in the keirin with an increase in the number of cycle tracks through the busier parts of britain's inner cities. nor, for that matter, a curb on the number of large trucks sharing the roads with vulnerable cyclists. and bearing in mind i am a cycling obsessive, well-versed in the iniquities of the bicycle commute, if it's just a tyre width too far for me, consider how it will appear to even the most well-meaning of politicians.

bluntly put "we deserve better cycle facilities because we won the tour and a bucketload of gold medals" makes about as much sense as 'strawberry bricks'. by all means capitalise on the publicity, use the winning personalities to lobby on our behalf, but do not confuse competition with pragmatism. so far the only words of protest voiced by sir chris were directed at the uci and their idiotic one rider per nation per discipline rule drafted after beijing. and bradley hardly covered himself in glory by calling for compulsory helmet use.

enjoy the success, but bear in mind that euphoria often quickly fades and only exists for politicians when accompanied by a tv camera or press opportunity.

thursday 9th august 2012


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the eagle of toledo. the life and times of federico bahamontes. alasdair fotheringham. aurum press hardback. 281pp illus. £16.99

the eagle of toledo

He is a formidable rider - he gets formidable wins, then formidable defeats.

it's the all important second album that's the problem. there are many too many who have become the victims of the public's fickleness; we want success upon success, every step an advance on those already taken, judged not by the perpetrator but adoring followers. except, more often than not, that isn't the way things work out, because progression or not progression is entirely subjective. and quite frequently, progression is the last feature that is required. i need only cite status quo as evidence for the prosecution. that old schoolboy joke about them having learned a fourth chord is still reiterated to this day.

there are, no doubt, parallels in other walks of life, but it is the artistic amongst us that suffer the most. witness the recently completed track events in the london olympics. prior to this century, a silver medal would have been looked upon as a major success, yet we collectively breathed a sigh of dismay when poor queen victoria lost sight of the gold through no real fault of her own. our expectations, however, were all coloured gold, and had team gb failed to acquire a similar number as in beijing, we would not be currently basking in a warm, comfortable glow.

admit it, though you may not have voiced it in public, you expect bradley's sideburns to win the 2013 tour de france and perhaps a few more after that?

such were the pressures inflicted upon the great federico martin bahamontes, a spaniard who possessed the same panache and prowess held more recently by scotland's robert millar, yet one whose career is placed in what could legitimately be seen as an unfair perspective. for bahamontes, the eagle of toledo, like many a pure climber tended towards the eccentric, individualism and frequent sparks of brilliance. but the latter grew to be something that his fans came to expect more frequently than was often the result. strangely, those results seem not to have bothered federico quite as much as those guilty of adulation and those responsible for team selection.

it is a fact of cycling life in the early part of last century, that penury invaded most would-be riders' formative years. the relative financial security and material comforts that many of us take for granted nowadays was a stranger to most. how often have we read that a future tour or giro star learned to ride not on a new bike received for christmas, but astride the top tube of a father's or uncle's bicycle? for many, it was not a career choice picked from a list of alternatives, but a way out of a struggle for existence.

bahamontes was born on july 9th 1928 in val de santo domingo, a province of toledo, spain, the son of a road mender responsible for the stretch of road adjacent to the rent-free house that came with the job. in 1936, a job came up for a foreman on the duke of montoya's estate, increasing his wage to 3.5 pesetas per month. federico attended a charity school in toledo. 'It was as boring as hell'.

unfortunately, on 21 july 1936 the spanish army declared war upon the very republic it was sworn to protect. general franco claimed that 'spain's constitution had all but disintegrated and anarchists were stalking the country.' this resulted in the three year spanish civil war and effectively ended the bahamontes family's life on an estate that was now under threat from the socialists and anarchists. by 1939, when the war ended, federico was ensconced in villarubia de santiago, having been sent to live with relatives to avoid the destruction meted out by increasing air-raids during the hostilities.

bahamontes seems to have become a wheeler-dealer at an early age, and his first bicycle was purchased for the princely sum of 150 pesetas, a means of transport employed to pick up 'illegal loads of bread, beans and flour' from a series of villages before selling them on in toledo. it was a similar method of self-employment as admitted to by bernardo ruiz, winner of the 1948 vuelta espana. as bahamontes is quoted as saying 'it's all part of the legend'. his parents were less than enamoured with his purchase, but on realising it had been bought for nefarious ways of making money, they gave their approval. the original bicycle gave way to a racing bike with drop handlebars to aid a speedy getaway should he be seen by the civil guard. they were intent on clamping down on rural crime and watched the roads keenly.

bahamontes made the transition from black marketeer to that of bicycle racer on 18th july 1947, anniversary of the start of the civil war. two friends invited him to join in a bicycle race in the village of minasalbas. racing in a borrowed baseball shirt and his usual trousers, bahamontes finished in second place over a distance of 45 kilometres. the rest, as they say, is history.

alasdair fotheringham's the eagle of toledo is a marvellous testament to one of the sport's greatest characters, a rider possessed of the skills we'd attribute to the pure mountain climber, the ability to alter tempo when needed on the ascents and to jump off into the distance with the expectation of leading until the finish line. as the castillians would have it 'the eternal tilter at windmills'. undoubtedly fotheringham has had the advantage of being able to speak to bahamontes in person, though bearing in mind his apparent eccentricities, i doubt this was as easy as it perhaps ought to have been. it is not with just a little amount of satisfaction that federico bahamontes is still around and about, able to read the very words that have been written about his career.

that bahamontes won only one tour de france should not, i feel, be used in judgment of his racing career. for in the manner of the referred to second album, fotheringham's narrative would lead one to believe that bahamontes rode his own race, one that existed independently of any expectations that might have been foisted upon him by his fans. as l'equipe asserted, his style of racing bordered on the artistic; the bohemian.

'it is almost an anti-sporting way of racing a sport. climbing up mountains at the head of the pack just because they are there, not because of what you can gain, underlines the fact that sport is ultimately an exercise in futility, albeit a fascinating one.'

this single-mindedness seems not to have endeared him to the rest of the peloton, but it seems most unlikely that such a state of affairs ever lost bahamontes any sleep. the eagle of toledo is an intriguing insight into the life, the mind and the career of one of the true greats, not just of cycling but of life in general, someone who may have benefited from a tad more direction in his life (as he did under the managership of coppi in the late fifties), but in truth, played the game by his own rules. alasdair fotheringham's 281 pages are filled with well-researched, well-written and equitably paced chapters that will subtly educate those of us who knew little of bahamontes beyond his reputation and nickname.

'there were riders before him who were important, but bahamontes was the tour pioneer. he was an impulsive, very fiery rider - and that's still the case now.'

wednesday 8th august 2012


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strange but true (well, maybe)

velobici van dapper

theo van dabber was born in hoorn in the netherlands in february 1919, just after the the end of the first world war. his father, bram van dabber was an importer of tea and coffee, something he had managed to continue through the war years, and a business that was now heading towards a more lucrative future as europe began to get back to normal. thus theo had a relatively privileged upbringing, one that provided him with many of the luxuries of the day, but mostly without over-indulgence by bram and his wife marianne.

van dabber senior had always been a keen observer of the new-fangled bike racing, following the tours de france up until they were interrupted by the great war, and though he rode his own bicycle to and from his warehouse office, he had no real desire or ability to indulge in competition himself. theo, however, was an altogether different matter. though the van dabber household income was above average with the prospect of improving further, bram was keen that his son learn the value of money. as he grew up, theo's own affection for the bicycle began to match that of his father, but shielded from the privations faced by several of his eventual italian peers he had no need to learn on an oversized bicycle belonging to a long lost uncle.

velobici van dapper

theo had his own.

cycling in north east holland was less popular than in the south, so while the youthful van dabber was keen to exercise his prowess in the peloton, in truth, there were fewer opportunities than he or his father would have liked. this led to van dabber senior having to buy a van in order to take his son south to gain greater racing experience. the boy was showing promise which bram was keen to support. he had, however, a need to maintain his status, particularly when outside his regular domicile, and to that end, both he and his son dressed with a superior sense of sartorial eloquence.

as these journeys south increased, so did young theo's victories, leading to a mixture of respect and resentment from those he raced against, many of whom did not have the van dabber's wherewithal and up until his regular visits, had been more used to winning the prize money. it was, therefore, perhaps not unusual that this resulted in theo being disparaged due to his fine dress sense and becoming commonly referred to as 'van dapper' his opponents adopting, for the situation, the colloquial word for one so eloquent of garb: 'dapper'. theo would soon find himself referred to in this manner even in an official capacity.

velobici van dapper

his constant pressing from within the peloton had brought him to that attention of the dutch racing authorities. theo was being seriously considered as a rider who could represent his country at national level, most likely in the grand tours of italy and france.

by the time theo turned 20, europe was embroiled in the vicissitudes of nazism and the onset of the second world war, a situation that effectively put paid to the cycling career that, up till that point had looked so promising. it was a situation that would affect many a professional cyclist across europe. italy's gino bartali had won the 1938 tour de france. it would be another ten years before he won another.

during germany's occupation of france, the nazi propaganda machine was keen that life ought to at least maintain the facade that all was well and good. to this end, in 1942 they coerced goddet and his entourage to issue team selections for a tour de france to be held over two weeks in july. at that time, the tour peloton was composed of national teams rather than the trade teams of today, so letters of intent were sent out to the official cycle bodies of each respective country.

unsurprisingly, every one of them refused to fall into line with goddet's requests, well aware that the invitations were sent not on his behalf, but that of the nazi occupiers. but even in wartime, administrative errors take place, so in june of 1942, a letter addressed to mr t van dapper (sic) arrived at 36 hoogstraade, hoorn in the netherlands, inviting the twenty-three year-old theo to join his team-mates in brittany come july for the start of the tour de france.

velobici van dapper

presuming that the letter would not have been sent had the intent not been genuine, and bearing in mind the almost total lack of verifiable news or information that existed in this time of war, van dapper made his way to the appointed start at saint brieuc on the 4th of july 1942. despite the letter appointing him as a member of the dutch tour de france team being as good as a free pass across europe, on arrival at saint brieuc, accompanied only by his bicycle and the requisite issue jerseys and tubs, he found himself completely alone apart from a twelve man german team.

the germans, however, seemingly unaware of the wholesale rejection of their diktat, had made jacques goddet continue with all the usual preparations. when theo arrived alone, goddet felt compelled to continue with the race, rounding up as many frenchmen as he could find to take the place of those who had failed to turn up. all were complicit in this facade, some fearful of german reprisals, others keen to expose the pretence for what it was.

velobici van dapper

it likely doesn't take too much of a stretch of the imagination to realise that theo van dapper rode all but unchallenged, for his competitiors were anything but. the german team were hardly the pinnacle of aryan sportsmanship, having suffered from unfavourable privations at home. the finest german riders had been conscripted to the german military leaving them unable to train in any constructive manner. goddet's doppelgangers were most being drawn from the surrounding farmlands and many of those dispossessed by the rigours of the occupation. thus it was that a dutchman now officially recognised as t van dapper emerged on the parc des princes as the token winner of the yellow jersey. though the german high command were less than impressed at the defeat of their own team by a sole dutchman, they were even less inspired with the knowledge that second and third places on the podium were occupied by those to whom goddet had provided bikes, tyres, lodging and a modicum of food.

the highest placed german rider arrived in fifth place, over six hours behind the winner. far from wishing to trumpet the '42 tour de france as a victory for the german occupation, hitler's generals contrived to ignore and subsequently bury the farce that very few had witnessed; van dapper never received the accolades he perhaps deserved, but it remains fact that he was the unsung winner of the 1942 tour de france.

velobici van dapper

in recognition of this pyrrhic victory, uk cycle clothing maestros, velobici have introduced the van dapper range to their recently released roadwear range, trimming the jersey with yellow inside the collar and the storm flap behind the full length zip on the jersey. this continues around the back, featuring across the top of the capacious rear pockets. and it is the latter that may, for a brief moment, provide cause for concern. surely some mistake? yet, no; the rear pocket arrangement on the van dapper jersey is one of the smartest and most pragmatic i have yet come across, consisting of no less than five. on each side is a waterproof zipped pocket, the left larger than the right and just ginger peachy for the purpose of concealing a veritable wardrobe of gels. the open pocket to which it is adjacent is huge, swallowing an entire showers pass double century jacket without chewing.

the yellow trimming describes a profile not unlike that of a ski jump. thus the pocket on the right is smaller than its neighbours (though still more than adequate) but has spread itself onto the side panel, making for unbelievably easy access on the bike.

velobici van dapper

the jersey is fashioned from a mix of lycra and meryl providing a beautifully soft yet strong and stretchy fabric which, rather uncharacteristically is knitted in nottingham before gaining its jersey personality in leicestershire. quite how they achieve the three-d logo effect on the side panels and across the back, i really have no idea, but it is both subtle and unique in the same breath.

a drop tail under those sloping pockets is held in place by very grippy silicon gloop, a substance also inhabiting the inside hem of the short sleeves, rounded out with a thin sliver of scotchlite reflectivity. the full-length front zip terminates in the now ubiquitous zip garage, a feature also yellow trimmed. theo van dapper's jersey is both stylish and practical in one package.

of course, no cyclists, whether possessed of dapper tendencies or not, can do without a matching pair of bibshorts to continue any pretence of dapperness, and thankfully the chaps at velobici have already thought of that. these too are fabricated from meryl flavoured lycra (i know, not the best of descriptions to apply to a pair of shorts, but it was the best i could do at short notice) providing a fit that easily ranks amongst the best on the market. i am still (at my age) the owner of a narrow enough waist to continue wearing a small size in bibshorts; the velobici van dapper's were no exception.

velobici van dapper

i did feel that the bib straps were just a tad lacking in tension, giving the impression they were designed for someone of greater height than myself. even honed athletes such as myself are forced to indulge in a modest amount of rest and recuperation while the support crew ready the colnago. this would almost always involve making a plate of scott's old fashioned porage oats, topped with peach slices and partially drowned in unsweetened soya milk. during these moments, the right bib strap kept sliding off my shoulder under the jersey. however, i can lay claim to no such irritation while riding the now prepared colnago.

the leg length is on the long side of short (sean yates need not apply), and held in place by more of the aforementioned gloop. the outer panel on each leg has more of those three-d velobici logos, all but invisible at speed, but allowing the smugness that comes with intrinsic knowledge. i can imagine how theo must have felt when folks called him dapper.

velobici van dapper

as a drummer of the parish, i am aware of the phrase 'timing is everything', a phrase that brought its own resurgence when the van dapper jersey and shorts arrived the day before this year's ride of the falling rain, surely the ideal testing ground for jerseys and shorts of any hue and cry? one hundred miles round the principality in excellent company, fending off heat, overcast conditions and even a modicum of rain while avoiding any coffee stains at debbies and trying hard not to spill any clootie dumpling and ice cream at ardbeg, can only be regarded as the ultimate test for any form of road-bike apparel. and simply to add insult to injury (so to speak), i took a flying kilometre (or two) down to debbie's and back the following morning.

theo van dapper may not have inherited the success he truly deserved, undoubtedly being in the saddle in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he has engendered a stunning heritage in both these garments. truly, the van dapper jersey and shorts are amongst the very best that money can buy and athletic physique can ride in.

an all-british triumph.

the van dapper jersey is available in sizes xs to xxs at a cost of £140. the van dapper bibshorts can be had in sizes xs to xl for £130.


tuesday 7th august 2012


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