the fragrance of framebuilding

picolli gioielli

it happens every year, and signals the inevitable and inexorable build towards the biggest anti-climax of the year: christmas. it's as if free rein has been offered to the world's advertising agencies and video directors to either make use of footage that failed miserably on a previous campaign, or to encapsulate several dreams that never made any sense anyway. television advertisements that infuriate everyone i know; indecipherable, inscrutable and thoroughly incomprehensible, made all the more so by the presentation of a previously unheard of brand of perfume right at the very end.

there has to be some collusion between advertising agencies and their sub-contracted video directors, for though the impending festive season seems to have no adverse effect on any other form of televisual advert, each and every perfume advert seems comfortable to inhabit the world of the bizarre.

though there is little doubt that those ill-timed advert breaks in soaps, cycle races or movies are infested with product presentations that prompt an involuntary wtf?, the object of the exercise is to create a memento that will annoyingly worm its way into the cognitive part of the brain in the same way that a britney spears tune played in the supermarket will have you spend the rest of the day trying desperately to forget it. if next-day chat in the office is found to be discussing an advertisement, even if only to castigate its conception, there's every likelihood that it has done its job.

pego richie

this only and singularly fails when the advert is memorable, but the product it's advertising remains haplessly obscure. that might commend the director, but presumably not the agency. quite how the aforementioned perfume adverts fit into this explicable scheme, is quite beyond me. i can honestly relate that the various fragrances on display have failed to lodge in any part of my brain, cognitive or otherwise, but it is more than likely that i'm far from being the target market. and at least when christmas recedes from memory, so apparently, do the advertisements.

what i have picked up from these bizarre interruptions, and i think this perhaps indicative of a brain that is open to shapes more than it is to messages, subliminal or otherwise, is the increasingly convoluted shaped bottles into which these unmemorable perfumes are poured. once was the time when bottles of fragrance were of limited contours, but now, presumably in a concerted attempt to distinguish one from its neighbour/competitor, it seems anything goes. at this point, it may assist my narrative to introduce the nature of my enquiry and just how it all fits into a relationship with the contemporary steel bicycle.


the fertile mind of the inimitable richard sachs predominantly concerns itself with the daily construction of beautiful steel frames, objects of desire that are in sizeable demand, leading to the man's legendary waiting list. however, though steel has been experiencing a resurgence over the past half-decade or so, this has not always translated into a concomitant wealth of resources to keep not only richard, but many of his peers in day to day business. gone are the times when steel tubing, cast bottom brackets, lugs and dropouts were in plentiful supply. rumour has it that production of colnago's master frames, with their personalised, fluted tubing is slightly restrained due to the exclusivity of that columbus tubing. though the frameset may still be in demand, that has diminished considerably with the advent of wall to wall carbon.

that, at least in part, has a bearing on the frameset's ever-increasing price point.

nuovo richie

i have covered this dwindling of framebuilding resources on a previous occasion; indeed, the very items front and centre in the current discussion will perhaps come as no surprise to several of you. piccoli gioielli: little jewels, to render the italian phrase into english. and their purpose has not altered, for the piccoli gioielli constitute perfectly formed front and rear dropouts, as perfectly formed as the late lamented campagnolo dropouts of yore. what is new, however, and a testament to mr sachs' extra-curricular thought processes, is the decal that will adorn graphic representation of the little jewels.

"Now all of my frame parts and pipes have quirky little names and marques to go with them, atmo." yet, now that all has become somewhat clearer, there is still the small matter of why on earth any reference to perfume, fragrance and its associated pre-christmas enigmatic advertising regime. "The Picolli Gioielli marque began with my desire to have something evocative of a label that might appear on a perfume bottle (French, by the way) and use elements of maybe Eisenhower era graphics. I mean, these are dropouts for Christ's sake, and the logo had to work with little cast parts, and the little cast parts had to work with the logo."

piccoli gioielli

yet though the concept behind each of richard sachs' marques as he is endeared to call them emanates from the workshop in warwick, massachusetts and presumably from connecticut prior to that, the final artwork is the result of the considerable graphical talents of chuck schmidt in pasadena, california, he of fame. in a previous life, schmidt taught design at the pasadena art center. it should be made mention of that chuck schmidt is not responsible for the richard sachs logo seen between piccoli and gioielli, nor is his the design of the lettering on the downtube of each red painted frame.

that is another story for another time.

while most are content to invent or produce with perhaps their own pet names for each item or fabrication, richard sachs has made almost a secondary career out of offering up appropriate names and logos for each. in order to provide cast parts that might equitably find use with oversized steel tubing, a saxmax range of bottom bracket castings endorse their own graphic identity. similarly, in conjunction with dario pegoretti, a custom drawn series of columbus tubing emerged to the tune of pegorichie. these are joined in the framebuilder's cupboard by richie-issimo, nuovo richie, newvex and rene singer cast lugs. with the picolli gioielli cast front and rear dropouts, the set is complete, as is each graphic appendage.

rene singer

one or two of the above have adopted the graphical style impressed by their parodied namesakes, and very cleverly too. tim hilton made mention in his excellent book 'one more kilometre and we're in the showers', that cycling seemed home to a greater than average number of artists and graphic designers, for which contention, were evidence required, the partnership of sachs and schmidt is surely highly appropriate? it is also worth bearing in mind, i feel, the connection between the richard sachs cyclocross team and long-time sponsor house industries, a delaware based type foundry with impeccable design credentials.

one can only hope that the perfume bottle remains solely a graphical inspiration and that this excellent new marque finds itself on a t-shirt sooner, rather than later.

richard sachs | velo-retro | house industries

monday 21st january 2013


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cool dudes

team sky mallorca: scott mitchell

it is something of an indictment of the british psyche with regard to the advent of some winter snow, that the bbc found it necessary to insert a thirty-minute panorama special on friday evening concerning the substantial amount that had fallen, primarily south of the border. if i might be parochial for a brief moment, i portend that the same programme would not have been even thought of had the white stuff been found in similar quantities on the other side of hadrian's wall. but i suppose it's assumed we're more used to such weather conditions. either that, or nobody really cares.

team sky mallorca: scott mitchell

however, strange to tell, the only evidence of snow on islay during a saturday morning sortie was in the form a few dustings on the grass verge along the high road. though 'twas easily cold enough for snow, a lack of substantial cloud cover rather mitigated against this being the case, even overnight on friday. of course, a lack of snow has little or no bearing on the wind, this time blowing in from the east rather than our more prevaling southerly direction. that, as you would perhaps expect, makes it a darned sight colder, and very cold weather requires dressing accordingly.

it may be easily possible to pedal hard enough to keep bearably warm, but even on a well-prepared bicycle, it's always possible to experience a mechanical mishap or puncture en-route to the saturday sandwich and froth. with a windchill that was figured at around minus five or six, it wouldn't take long to freeze in the process of either walking home or attempting to fix whatever the unexpected visited upon the unsuspecting cyclist.

team sky mallorca: scott mitchell

i have every sympathy with those who think it unsavoury to dress in the manner of the pelotonese in order to simply go out for a bike ride, but aside from that chameleon-like desire to be thought of as one whom sir dave has his eye on, it's hard to deny that the majority of cycle clothing is rather well adapted for our favoured activity. so, despite the faff of collecting an appropriate array of clothing in order to assume one's secret identity and concomitant super powers, cold weather such as that currently being experienced ultimately makes it all so very worthwhile. throwing on just any old agglomeration of regular, warm, casual apparel may be just the notion for the average civilian, but you may have noticed that lumberjacks rarely head off to the forest on slinky carbon road bikes. warm is essential, but that warmth has to be accompanied by integrated flexibility. the comic decreed many long years ago that suppleness could only be adequately demonstrated by the ability to sit on the drops for a minimum period of fifteen minutes.

i need not elaborate on just how long it took to gather all together and put it all on. if you add in the time required to re-inflate an errantly under-inflated pair of tyres, it's hardly worth my pointing out that elvis left the building a bit later than intended.

team sky mallorca: scott mitchell

the bike ride itself was particularly fine; in wind-assisted sub-zero temperatures, it's simplicity itself to bust a gut without ever breaking sweat, and on the return journey from debbie's, my fellow pelotonese and i offered minimal conversation; our faces were so cold, neither of us could form the words, even if we could grab enough breath to converse in the first place.

team sky, on the other hand, are currently in mallorca (the very island that we used to refer to as majorca, without a silent 'j'), preparing for the season ahead, each according to his designation: grand tour or classics. and a few days later than anticipation would have welcomed, official team photographer, scott mitchell, published the first fruits of his new year labours on the teamsky website. i doubt very much whether anywhere in the northern hemisphere could currently be considered suitable for sunbathing, but it was my perception that pre-season training was predominantly based in warmer climes than experienced in the uk. if you take a look at one or two of scott's images, it would seem such is not the case.

so, for those of us currently bereft of the white stuff, and still able to cycle wherever we please, isn't it nice to know just how much we have in common with the professionals?

all photos copyright scott mitchell/ team sky | mallorca photo gallery

sunday 20th january 2013


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groundhog year

tour down under

it has been said, often by me, i cannot deny, that the newspaper at which i frequently ply my trade (the ileach) has not only given the island its fortnightly local news, but ileach weeks and non ileach weeks. for those domiciled elsewhere, this either seems unfathomably quaint, decidedly parochial, or downright bizarre, but i assure you, it is an intrinsic part of the annual cycle on this particular fraction of the hebrides. you see, on the tuesday of a non-ileach week, the green bins need to be left out for collection, while on fridays, we leave out the recycle bins. this tradition varies across the island, for the situation is slightly different depending on village of residency, but i think you get the idea.

there will be, within this two-weekly print schedule, a wide variety of island landmarks that ostensibly depend on such frequency for immediate recall. were this ever to change, i know for a fact i personally would struggle to get my bearings, so to speak, and i'm sure the same goes for many others. thus, on entering the office under cover of january darkness, one of the morning's opening gambits is to change the date on my ever-lasting calendar; a habit that, in fact, is purely ceremonial, for i guarantee you that a mere five minutes later, i will have no recall whatsoever as to the date or the day.

tour down under

it's possible that such is the onset of advancing years, but on examination, it's more likely to do with a regimented confusion. you see, it has taken me almost six years to get to the point where i am at least one day ahead of schedule when it comes to writing the daily washingmachinepost entry. you may well be reading this on saturday 19th january, but i have to admit to having written it yesterday, on friday 18th. a bit of a let down i'll admit, but corporate administration has its necessities.

for years i toyed with the idea of drawing a daily strip cartoon; the notion had great appeal, but i worried that it would be a short-lived career and i'd run out of ideas after only a few days. i still think that to be a truism, and i'm ever so pleased that, so far, the same has not come to pass with the daily scribblings. thus, being one day ahead leaves a short but vital safety-net, should reviews, inspiration or news fail me entirely at short notice.

this brief period of time-shifting, though practiced on a far more disparate scale by many others, seemingly quite satisfactorily and successfully (and believe me, i envy them) disorientates so pervasively, that in truth, i've not got the faintest idea where it is i am in the grand scheme of things. such a situation has meant that i have only just ten minutes ago had need of searching for the commencement date for the season opener at the tour down under. (20th-27th january)

tour down under

the uci have messed with tradition by shifting the race of the falling leaves forward by a couple of weeks, meaning that the last race of the season is no longer that of lombardy but, if i recall correctly, paris-tours. that is a disappointment and something of a blow to the psyche. i rather enjoyed lombardia towards the end of october; there was something just right about that state of affairs. however, it seems only a matter of days since the 2012 season ended, and (after my quick check) now we're only one day away from the start of the 2013 season. yes, there have been at least a couple of races earlier this month in the antipodes, but i'm not sure that they truly constitute the commencement of the 2013 season (though in truth, they quite probably should).

so, while it may be considered truly bad form to look upon the cyclocross season, soon to end its current reign in louisville, kentucky, as something that acts as a brief, diversionary intermission, those of us with a penchant for road racing have good cause to cheer yet another year of trials, tribulations, cobbles, pink and yellow, all heading inexorably towards those falling leaves yet again.

sort of like groundhog year i suppose, but one to be welcomed with open arms.

saturday 19th january 2013


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think tank

bbb handlebars

hark back to the pre apple ipod days, when mp3 players certainly existed, but the so-called user experience was decidedly less than satisfying. finding online music files was never the hard part, but trying to get the darned things onto the player, always assuming the latter was recognised by the computer in the first place, was not always the epitome of efficiency. then along comes apple, tying their newly released ipod to a piece of software called itunes, and suddenly this new technology was simplicity itself. i cannot disagree that this smoother process was gained at the expense of freedom of choice, for then as now, itunes really only works with apple designed hardware.

market forces.

bbb mtb rider

i'm not aware of any competitors who have managed to make all as seamless as do apple, but despite being a subjective experience, i really haven't explored other avenues.

before the advent of such devices, and topically enough, it was often a case of searching through the racks of hmv either via the alphabetical listing or thematic sections hoping to find that very compact disc that had eluded for so long. one of the niceties of downloading music is no longer having to deal with those plastic cases in which cds were enclosed; that surely must have been the most fragile form of plastic known to mankind. in offering the original ipod and its subsequent successors, apple proved themselves to be masters of providing all manner of technological devices that we'd no idea we needed/wanted until they sat in the window of your nearest apple store.

i find myself similarly overwhelmed by the never ending level of options available in each subsequent version of adobe's photoshop. for instance, using a feature named content-aware fill, i can can almost undectably remove people, animals, lamp posts and windows from digital images and leave no trace. it's a capability that photoshop has had for many a long year, but previously needing several more skilled steps to achieve. to begin with, how did someone at adobe know that i (and others) needed this very feature; and secondly, how do you go about writing the code to have it happen?

bbb waterproof

in the above examples, we as consumers, are being provided with exciting and different items and attractions by commercially interested third parties. i very much doubt there are any amongst us who have received a phone call from 1 infinite loop, asking what we'd like to see in the apple store before next christmas, casually adding if we might have any enterprising solutions of our own we might like to share. i have, however, been mightily impressed by those on software pre-release programmes who submit specific feature requests. why do i never think of these things?

the bicycle world is also something of a closed loop, some areas more closed than others. how often have you read of a journalist's trip to shimano, campagnolo or elsewhere that pointedly mentions the room that was verboten to prying, journalistic eyes? though they've opened up in recent years, on my first trip to chris king precision components in 2009, i was pointedly told that photographs were off limits, and i could be less than specific about that which i was shown on my tour. definitely not a case of asking visitors to offer up suggestions as to which anodised colours might be fashionable or, indeed, a perceived need for a particular product. an italian threaded bottom bracket was deemed unnecessary (and they were probably right).

bbb waterproof

so it came as something of a surprise recently to receive a press release from holland's bbb announcing the advent of a think tank facebook page, instigated as a user platform to gain feedback regarding certain cycling products. it continued 'By joining the BBB ThinkTank, the member does not only get the privilege of having influence on BBB's product development, but also has the chance to win BBB prizes.'. It's nice to know that any altruistic suggestions might be appropriately recompensed. 'For instance, a BBB ThinkTank member can help us pick the best design of new products, or come up with new product names.'

i cannot but view just a smidgeon of this new found openness with a modicum of suspicion. either bbb currently find themselves with a shortage of product engineers, or this is predominantly a rather convoluted marketing exercise designed to make us, the consumers, feel as if we are more important cogs in the machine than we originall thought possible or even likely. i could, of course be completely wide of the mark, and this is a genuine attempt by one of the world's more prominent component manufacturers to spread their inclusiveness more generously across the international peloton.

however, one probably shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth; when the opportunity is offered, it surely can do little harm to grab it by the corners and shake vociferously. if it's for you, click the link below.

opportunity number one concerns the delights of bar tape.

bbb facebook think tank page. you will of course, need to be signed up to facebook to access.

friday 18th january 2013


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the journal

the ride journal issue seven

some of you will be quite familar with glasgow's buchanan bus station. it must surely be the equivalent of heathrow on the ground, with an incessant stream of buses arriving and leaving via killermont street, and dotted collusions of reflectively jacketed traffic controllers guiding coaches out of each numbered stand and directing others into appropriately vacant slots. the most obvious rush of traffic is that of the yellow and blue citylink coaches travelling back and forth between glasgow and edinburgh, a service which, if you've ever travelled on it, must surely have had you wondering at the difference in size between the bus station in scotland's capital city and the relative largesse of glasgow.

in fact, now that i come to mention it, buchanan compares very favourably against that of victoria bus station in london.

there are two distinct methods of travelling from the scottish mainland to the island of islay; via a west coast motors/citylink coach departing from the aforementioned buchanan bus station, or the more salubrious and expensive way by air from glasgow airport. it has to be said that though a tad quicker (half an hour compared to around four hours), the flight involves the endless faff of check-in and security which, particularly from the islay end, can render the word overkill somewhat inadequate. waiting for the bus is an altogether more civilised affair, as is the subsequent journey.

the ride journal issue seven

four hours in a coach, driving past some of scotland's finest scenery with a brief stop in inverarary, followed by a two hour ferry journey strikes me as the ideal way to get anywhere. a harking back to times of yore, when the journey was the journey and not simply a means of getting from a to b. however, it's the pre-boarding process that offers a relatively unique experience.

the islay coach leaves from stance 56, not long after a slightly smaller coach heading further north to oban. though prospectively you'll be travelling to islay, it's necessary to inform the driver (though he'll get the idea from your ticket) that kennacraig is the intended destination, an overgrown islet on the road to campbeltown, some 36 miles further south. always one to arrive early for anything (i even arrived an hour early for a 4am check-in at glasgow airport when flying to portland last year), i'm usually sat on one of the most uncomfortable perforated orange steel bench seats around 45 minutes to one hour before the coach is due at the stance. i like to think of it as a feature not a bug, but i would be remiss in omitting that it drives mrs washingmachinepost round the twist.

the ride journal issue seven

the coach arrives with usually fifteen to twenty-minutes prior to departure, but instead of allowing passengers immediately on board, the driver will more likely don a reflective vest, shut the door and head off into a hitherto unseen corner of the bus station. though most intending passengers, self included, will by now have formed a disorderly queue at the exit from the waiting area, there's at least another five minutes before there's any chance that we might be invited to board the coach. sometimes a traveller has to do what a traveller has to do.

there are a number of equivalent periods of anticipation to that of waiting for the bus to kennacraig, but the one which occupies front and centre at present must surely be the impending landing of the ride journal number seven. copies of this eagerly anticipated and crowd-sourced publication will be despatched in the direction of those who have pre-ordered w/c 11th february, while there's a launch party at look mum no hands! on february 7th (though the latter might just be invite only; i confess i don't actually know). other than that, there's almost more chance of knowing what the weather might be like en route to lochgilphead than the contents of number seven.

the ride journal issue seven

however, leveraging what clout i might think i have, i may be able to offer a few previously unmentioned contributors to whet our appetites. as editor philip diprose put it "Obviously the big hitters are Sir Bradley Wiggins and Jens Voigt (along with) the usual mix of places and experiences. It ranges from Bhutan to New Zealand, across the States and even visits a strange isle called Arran.
"There are road, race, commute, touring, mtbing, cx, xc, dh and bmx all represented as well."
. additionally, i am led to believe there is photographic imagery contributed by the inestimable emily maye, and i would be less than suprised if patisserie cyclisme's louise mullagh was writing about something other than coffee and cake.

it's probably just as much of a surprise to the diprose brothers that here they are still in the saddle (so to speak) with issue number seven, having admitted that the first ride journal was intended to be a single issue publication. if it's any consolation, i and many others will be looking forward to number eight the minute number seven arrives on the welcome mat.

it's the ideal magazine to read while sat on the bus travelling from glasgow to kennacraig.

the ride journal

thursday 17th january 2013


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the whisky trail

velo club d'ardbeg strava

though perhaps little mention is made these days, velo club d'ardbeg is still alive and well and living in the wilderness. there have been few updates to the vc d'ardbeg pages if only because those who have become inadvertant international members of the diaspora are no longer sending their photos in the sort of numbers that would allow me to update the pages. with very few local indigenous members, all possessed of a complete lack of affinity with anything resembling regulations, other than the sunday ride and the ride of the falling rain, not a lot happens. as i may have mentioned on more than one previous occasion, the rule book contains the following two insertions; rule one: there are no rules; rule two: see rule one.

and that about sums it up.

however, let it not be said that we have been totally lax in our attempts to recruit new victims. though many a year has passed since the original attempt was made, we did have a card explaining the membership features that accompanied purchase of an ardbeg cycle jersey from the old kiln cafe. this fetchingly ardbeg green coloured card, bore photographic representation of the mighty dave t outside his summer house (unfortunately the one that blew away in last new year's hurricane). if the vision of this stalwart of the cycling world was insufficient to enhance any sense of belonging, then you're probably not the sort of peletonese we're looking for.

velo club d'ardbeg strava

of course, that was then, and this is now. i doubt jackie has any of these left in a cupboard near the bottles of ten year-old, and though sales of the jersey seem not to have stalled any in the interim, it appears that more recent purchasers are blissfully unaware of our searing demand for photographs of self and bicycle for the club web pages. however, all has apparently not been dormant on the velo club d'ardbeg front in the interim.

this is, as paul weller so eloquently put it, the modern world, a contemporary society that has become entranced with the gadget. it is all but impossible to open a newspaper, web page or magazine without being assailed by yet another electronic doohicky and its attendant benefits. seemingly gone are the days when the trusty dawes galaxy was annually festooned with panniers and a handlebar bag, the latter containing an ordnance survey map kept under a clear plastic covering to prevent inordinate soggyness. those were the joyous days of riding several miles along the wrong road without realising; ah, the sense of adventure.

now, pretty much all the indecision has been removed from the equation, the fearless traveller relying less upon the printed map, but more upon a network of american miltary satellites in geostationary orbit. the now almost ubiquitous gps unit that straps to stem or bars, a device that can point every millimetre of the way. yet that, it seems, is not sufficient. having traversed a particular route, whether obscure, difficult or otherwise, it's possible to upload the details of your meanderings for the benefit of others. and, capitalising upon the human competitive urge, there is more than one where the time taken to traverse set points along the way can be used to record and display just who's the king of the castle.

velo club d'ardbeg strava

fostering this need to be the best is a website service by the name of strava of which more than just a few of you will be aware. in fact, i'm sure many of you have been desperately attempting to outgun each other on anything with more than the gradient of a humpty-back bridge. in the spirit of encompassing the greater good and conjoining the vast geographical spread of velo club d'ardbeg members, david shannon has created a club space on the aforementioned strava (direct link below). both he and i are keen that those of you who ride in the ardbeg colours, either with or without any form of competitive hankering, will sign up to strava and join in the track making. think of it as electronic one-upmanship, always assuming you have the legs to back that up.

and when all is said, done and compared, you can collectively but individually retire to the study for an appropriate dram to celebrate this new oneness amongst an extended peloton.

strava velo club d'ardbeg page (you will require to sign up with strava in order to access the page)

wednesday 16th january 2013


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weather you like it or not


as we all know to our cost, there is breathability and there is breathability. i'm not here referring to the gasping for breath often (that's a euphemism for 'always') experienced as we crest the brow of a hill, having been subject to the obligatory car overtaking at just the appropriate spot to cause a major accident if something were approaching from their blind-side.

guess who'd come off worst if that happened?

the breathability to which i refer is that beloved of jacket manufacturers all across the globe, and not necessarily those intent on providing shelter for the hard-done-to cyclist. i will not have been the only one to have experienced several different attempts at solving the holy grail of waterproofing on the outside, and moisture expellation from within. some are, by all accounts, better than others, but to a certain extent, it depends a great deal on just how hard you make those membranes work for a living.

ambient temperature willing, nipping out for a quick scoot in driving precipitation, clad merely in a baselayer and breathable outer shell, will probably achieve one of three things; you'll get cold, remain dry outside, and more than likely experience a similar level of dessication on the inside. that's sort of the way it's meant to work. unfortunately, both for us and the jacket manufacturers, cyclists have a tendency to perspire at untold levels while gasping for breath on the hill i mentioned earlier. there is truly no suprise at the wide variation in effectiveness on offer.

however, all is not lost, most certainly not at this particular time of year.


on moving to islay some considerable years past, it was something of a suprise to note that the house across the road had two palm trees growing in the garden. these were not only matched, but soundly trumped by those in close proximity to jura distillery in craighouse. it is, to put not too fine a point on it, rather impressive, particularly in light of my positioning of the hallowed isle as the avatar of the outer edge. placing both items side by side, at best, there seems something of an incompatibility.

the explanation offered by those apparently more aware and informed on such matters, was that this particular region of the inner hebrides was rather happily sited on the gulf stream. this river of warm water in a cold atlantic was the very reason why we rarely saw snow or frost and had palm trees in our back gardens. however, only a couple of years ago, we experienced just as big a dollop of snow as the nether regions of the uk, one that lingered for more than just a few hours; an entire week, if truth be known.

those better informed folks from a paragraph or two above, now inform me that the gulf stream has shifted its orientation and region of responsibility, meaning we may now be in for a few more snowflakes and frosty mornings, coupled with letters of grievance from inconvenienced palm trees.

what definitely has not altered is the amount of wind we receive courtesy of the apparently no longer warmed atlantic ocean, a wind that has a concerning ability to bring with it truckloads of rain. and that's not warm either. however, despite the unlikelihood of my being engaged as tourism officer for the region, the latter level of inclemency does have, for the intrepid cyclist, a silver lining.


this shiny bit round the edge made itself abundantly clear on this week's sunday ride. it's still dark enough on arising at 08:30 to conceal just what it is that might lie in wait for rider and bicycle, making it a tad harder to don an agreeable level of apparel to meet with the conditions on offer when the sun rises above the thick grey clouds. there's no beating about the bush; it's not yet quite mid-january and though islay may not be party to even a flurry of snow on its pavements, to slip briefly into the vernacular, it's ruddy freezing outside.

clad in padless winter bib tights over the top of a favoured pair of bibshorts, a long-sleeve winter weight baselayer, long-sleeve winter-weight jersey, merino collar, winter hat with appropriate ear coverings and a waterproof/breathable outer shell, it took longer than usual to extricate a recalcitrant bicycle from the bike shed. let's face it, on a grey, wet, cold sunday morning, wouldn't you rather huddle with others in a forest green shed?

though some of the opening kilometres featured a pretty much unbridled downpouring of rain that had me considering the quest for coffee to be an errant one, a prevailing easterly blew much of it away (though in true weatherly fashion, it also blew several heavy showers in to fill the vacant space). my companion for the morning was neither mark cavendish, bradley wiggins, or even james mccallum, so the pace was not overly onerous. and it was at this point that the benefits of winter became manifest. a two and a half hour ride over a total of 65km barely raised a sweat. divesting myself of the outer shell to hang over the back of a tall stool in debbie's (mum always said i'd benefit when i went out), dry comfort was mine to display.


lest you feel the need to accuse me of having soft-pedalled around the principality, leading to my much-touted dry comfort, i thought i'd trouble the cielo a smidgeon on the trip home, riding as fast as i might, yet still maintaining a dry stoicism that i'm sure impressed the police car that passed on the way to bowmore, and almost certainly raised a mrs washingmachinepost eyebrow as i sat down to remove my neoprene overshoes, and stuff the dromartis with rolled up newspaper.

there is, somewhere in all this, an apparent degree of character-building to be inherited, ample recompense for having the temerity to venture out in the first place. were i to be presenting a breathable jacket review at this very point, my remarks would be extremely favourable, though i can see the efficacy of breathability reducing marginally as the spring classics hove into view in a month or so. meanwhile, i intend to maximise saddle time while the weather's crap, because i can pedal for all i'm worth yet appear neither shaken nor stirred on my return.

who says we have weather rather than climate?

tuesday 15th january 2013


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