the artwork of simon scarsbrook

simon scarsbrook sketchbooks

on occasion, technology takes two steps forward and one step back. millions of years ago the process of providing so-called camera ready artwork involved laying out the design work in a desktop publishing programme, then collecting each and every graphic, image and font into a virtual folder to send off to the pre-press bureau for printing. though this was something of a simple affair due to most software featuring a collect for output option, there was still the pre-flighting to take care of.

despite the fact that computer screens display in rgb (red, green, blue), the printing process requires cmyk (cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black)), so each graphic used in a publication destined for print must be first converted to cmyk before collection for output. thus the pre-flight process checks that everything is just dinky-doo and provides a report. it's then a case of optimising anything that falls outside of the required format before having the computer throw everything in the aforementioned virtual folder.

i am not a book designer, though i have designed one or two in my time. designing is one thing; illustrating another. however, the awkward factor of book cover design is not necessarily the front or the back, but that of the spine. both front and back dimensions are pretty much set in stone, but the spine has to be accurate enough to contain the number of pages. too narrow and the cover will stretch round corners; too wide and it will spill onto the covers themselves. either of these two errors will rarely commend to you to either the publisher or the author.

simon scarsbrook

all those millions of years ago, when the entire file was despatched to the bureau by way of a cd, the width of the spine could always be altered by the bureau staff should the mock-up prove inaccurate. however, with the advent of adobe's portable document format (pdf), it is now possible to take a file of mixed colourspace and have the pdf process convert everything to an appropriate cmyk profile, often creating a file that can be e-mailed to the printer direct. as compare the meerkat would say "simples".

i cannot deny that such simplicity from within the selfsame dtp software has been a boon, but the one step backwards is that such a file can rarely be altered at the other end. get it wrong, and it's a big oops. no doubt for those practised in the art, such foibles are taken in their stride.

for this reason, i doubt there were any such difficulties with the covers for either of birnie's and bacon's first two volumes of the cycling anthology. both were not only designed by the excellent simon scarsbrook, but superbly illustrated into the bargain. though it is often the case that illustrators are called upon to provide artwork for subjects very far from their own desires, in scarsbrook's case, is there a specific affiliation with cycling?

"I've raced since my early 20s (am 49 now), some road, some time-trial but mainly cyclocross. I've also toured a bit and I ride the bi-annual Paris-Roubaix Cyclo, as I seem to have an affinity with cobbles and mud!"

simon scarsbrook

i've come across interviews with designers and illustrators over the years where the interviewer has posed the question as to whether there is any particular subject for which they would not sell their souls. the majority of answers revolve around ethical considerations, and once or twice included personal dislikes, but to be honest, it's usually only the more in-demand of the breed that have the option to turn down paying work. for a confirmed cyclist, designing artwork for a cycling related publication must be close to the ideal commission. was simon asked to tender for the job of cover design for the cycling anthology series, or had he previous connections with messrs birnie and bacon?

"I work for 'CycleSport' and 'Cycling Weekly' magazines as a Picture Researcher, which is where I met Lionel and Ellis, (where they are also both freelance writers) although I really got to know them at the Tour de France, where I have been lucky enough to travel as a driver/picture person for the journalists (Ellis and some of the younger journos don't drive, so I drive/photograph/sketch, etc).
"Lionel mentioned the idea of the book, and the co-operative idea, one cold, boozy evening in Kortrijk, before the tour of Flanders. I knew he liked some of my illustration work, and I agreed to produce some visuals (an easy decision on my part, after seeing and hearing their enthusiasm for the project)."

both editions of the anthology have so far demonstrated something of a retro vibe, a feature that is strangely in keeping with the arrangement of the contents, even though it is obviously a contemporary project. did lionel and ellis have a specific style in mind for the series, or was that simon's idea?

simon scarsbrook

"At the time we discussed how we liked the look and feel of the old Penguin paperbacks (I think the sizing is based on them), and the way that illustration was used on the covers, very graphic, with limited palettes, and a strong styling throughout the range. Lionel and Ellis (and myself) also liked old cycle racing posters and advertisements, and we would e-mail examples back and forward. I adapted the typeface for the title and they sort of left it up to me on the style and content of the illustration.
"I thought it should look quite fluid and dynamic (like the posters), and produced the visual in the way I would approach the artwork, more to see if it would work than anything, and they liked the visual enough for it to become the artwork! (if that makes sense)."

in drumming circles, a technical feature on which many advanced percussionists spend more than an hour or two is that of metric modulation. this technique is generally employed where the drummer or perhaps even the entire band wish to play in a given time signature while having it sound as if they're playing something different. or playing fast yet appearing to play slowly.

don't ask.

but look closely at scarsbrook's illustrations on volumes one and two; on the surface they appear convincingly vintage in appearance, yet look more closely and they are entirely modern. is this a considered feature of his work? "Partly an unconscious thing I think, but I am glad that they are seen that way. I think that is probably the feeling we are after; I would be happy if my work were viewed that way. I would guess it is due to some of my influences; at the moment I am looking at a lot of British illustrations/prints from the 20s-50s, which never seem to date."

simon scarsbrook

at the risk of alienating a readership who may be happy to appreciate the end result of graphic output without acquiring a working knowledge of same, does simon work with pen, paper, brush and ink, or are photoshop and illustrator more his forte and modus operandi?

"All. I think the computer is just another tool/medium. I do think that drawing is everything though. I have been lucky to have the talent, but am learning/adapting all the time. I have always kept sketch books and all my illustrations start off (usually in the sketchbook) on paper, and are then scanned to either Illustrator or Photoshop.
"For the Anthology series, I liked the idea of producing the illustrations as if they were done in an old fashioned print process. Volume 1 was four solid black and white artworks, which were 're-assembled' once scanned, each artwork being a different colour or tint. Volume 2 featured a black and white drawing on textured paper, with portions separated in Photoshop for the tints/colours."

the wholesale adoption of the computer and the ever-decreasing cost of software means that nowadays everyone considers themselves an illustrator, a photographer, or writer. for surely something as sophisticated as the modern computer would never allow sub-standard material to reach the inkjet printer? this state of affairs has often meant that those whose metier and professional existence depends on such trained skills have to offer more wide-ranging ability. is simon scarsbrook solely an illustrator, or are there other strings to his bow?

simon scarsbrook

"After art college I worked as an illustrator/visualiser, mostly full-time in studios, but I have always adapted with the work. For a long time I was an in-house illustrator in a design company, but also did a fair bit of design, artwork, retouching etc. I went freelance for a while, which did me a lot of good, but I became a bit stir-crazy.
"A good friend, Ian Cleverly (now of Rouleur magazine), suggested I apply for a job advertised at the Weekly for a picture researcher, which is where I am now. The funny thing is, when they discovered I could draw, and, more importantly, also originate the ideas for illustrations, they would just give me text, and the rest would be up to me. It has lead to me doing more illustration here (out of hours freelance for them, separate to my day job), than I ever did when I was freelance.
"I also work here as a photographer and do a bit of writing, but if pushed, I would say I am an illustrator at heart."

if you haven't already availed yourselves of the cycling anthology volume one or two, you have only yourselves to blame. aside from their collectability, and some of the finest writing available today, there's the not insignificant benefit of simon scarsbrook's cover artwork. to repair your absent mindedness, i've offered a link below that ought to solve such a dilemma.

the cycling anthology

monday 10th june 2013


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prewd and prejudice. a norfolk exile. chris sugden and sid kipper. mousehold press paperback. 206pp illus. £7.95

prewd and prejudice

these days, rod stewart inhabits the same airspace as singers such as elkie brooks, bonnie tyler and many others who find themselves on the busy end of radio two's playlist. but in 1971, riding high on his popularity as a member of the faces, he released a solo album entitled every picture tells a story, containing the almost immortal track maggie may, a song i have played many times in my percussive career with a wide variety of bands and with just as wide a range of competency.

the album's title was taken from, perhaps tautologically, the title track, detailing a series of misadventures that may or may not have been autobiographical. in the seventies, many an album was released with an intriguing or clever title, a practice that seems to have gone the same way as the dodo. every picture tells a story is a phrase or sentiment that applies to a variety of subjects, and further investigation often explains a situation that was previously hidden from view.

adrian bell's mousehold press is a sterling example. offering an eclectic and often eccentric twenty-two cycling titles, mousehold press also publishes historical titles and a range of publications concerning norfolk, a bizarre collection, i'm sure you'll agree. however the title that provided the concrete base on which to stand, is the comical and fictitious diary of miriam prewd, who left london society in 1904 for the norfolk village of st just-near-trunch.

her husband, dorian prewd, had died in 1903 leaving her penniless and in need of a means of earning a living. a publisher suggested that one form of narrative that may become something of a future earner was the diary of an edwardian woman living in the country. sadly for her, an edwardian lady living in town was deemed unworthy of printed matter.

according to adrian "if it hadn't been for my publishing this book, mousehold press may not exist in its current form or indeed, at all." you can almost see what he means by checking the publisher's info at the front of the book, for prewd and prejudice was first published in 1994 and has been reprinted five times, the last being in 2006. that, i believe, testifies to its lasting popularity. and on reading its 200 plus pages, it is relatively easy to see why.

'Oh Martha, this Trunch is a terrible sight;
There's nothing much happens by day and by night.
There isn't a street lamp in all of the town,
And they're digging for what they call 'spuds' in the ground.
It looked awfully simple, despite all the mud,
So I gave them a hand at this digging for 'spuds';
Now my aching back makes me wish I could stand
Where the Charing Cross Road runs down to the Strand.

the narrative of the widow prewd is offered in diary format, mostly by way of commentary on the country ways of her new enforced neighbours, including the grandiosely named Doyley Quinton Ferdinando Silver-Darling, a man who not only took a keen interest in the current affairs pertaining to life in st just-near-trunch, but was frequently involved in many of them. interestingly, doyley's butler later published two volumes of his autobiography entitled 'I Did It', and 'What I Saw'.

as would have been common in such times, the village had a church and the church had its vicar; the reverend mullet, a man who selflessly worked amongst fallen women, aided and abetted by the younger reverend rudd whose life's mission was to preach against the evils of the devil drink.

'Ralph Rudd was the youngest son of a once wealthy family and as such he inevitably entered the church. He stayed there for several weeks before his mother found him hiding in the organ loft and packed him off to theological college.'

the book's humour may be considered somewhat on the obvious side, and on occasion can become a trifle tedious, as it seems all but irrepressible. however, prewd and prejudice has a trick up its sleeve, and it is a subtle one, despite the upfront nature of its humorous narrative. it is insidious. the more you read, the more you become involved in the village life that miriam prewd relentelssly criticises. in fact, it's not long before you're almost forced to take the side of the villagers against her arrogant, naive and admonishing perception. as her uncle was apparently won't to say "all men are descended from apes, but some have descended further than others."

i make no apology for those who have read this far in the hope of being appraised of the book's relevance to the world of road cycling. i appreciate that it is tenuous at best, though i do wish to offer something of an apology to adrian bell for having dithered so long over this review. for i initially shared your diffidence in this matter, unsure has how to proceed.

reviewing books is by far the hardest thing i have found to do in these black and yellow pixels, made a tad more simple when they have a kernel of cycling as their raison d'etre. prewd and prejudice is not such an animal, but in the spirit of its having provided us with the inestimable mousehold press and a range of cycling books that our world would be all the poorer without, i feel comfortable in my choice to publish this review. i thoroughly enjoyed the book, and i'm confident you will too.

"How can he get wisdom... whose talk is of bullocks"
Apocrypha, Eccelsiasticus, Chapter 38, verse 12.

sunday 9th june 2013


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a new career path

chris hoy bicycles

many a professional bike rider continues life after racing in the selfsame industry that first brought them to our attention. it's not an unnatural choice, for after many years of racing bicycles, following team strategies, specifying the exact manner in which you prefer to have the velocipede du jour set up, it would perhaps seem something of a travesty to walk away from it into another realm altogether.

hoy sa calobra

of course, there are likely just as many who do exactly that. there's a something of a difference between having begun racing because you enjoyed it, and having done so because by some strange quirk of fate, you have found yourself particularly good at it. to read several of the chapters from herbie sykes' maglia rosa is to understand that many of our post war italian heroes adopted the bicycle as a way out of working the fields for the remainder of their natural. though nobody ever saw bike racing as an easy option, hard work allied to innate ability surely brings greater financial reward over a shorter number of years.

the worst part, however, must be the apportioning of plaudits by those of us entranced by all aspects of the sport, from amateur to world tour, via continental and pro-continental. it cannot be an easy transition from tour de france rider to that of salesman, taxi driver or even barman. i have no wish to denigrate any of the latter means of employment, but i think we'd all agree they're hardly the stuff of childhood dreams.

hoy sa calobra

for those in the upper echelons of any sport, the choice is surely a tad simpler, for status at this level tends to have an almost infinite bankable aura. those who have won, and won well, may even have several choices open to them and a comfortable amount of time in which to make up their mind. take sir chris hoy for instance; only a matter of weeks before he announced his official retirement from competitive cycling, he had started to appear on the back pages of the cycling press advertising an energy drink.

given that his future lack of competitive pedalling will hardly require him to consume large quantities of the product he now endorses, his selling power has obviously remained intact. and similarly, though perhaps less onerous, in conjunction with evans cycles, he has just released a fine range of bicycles to a hopefully eager and adoring public.

hoy shizuoka

though there is more to come, the initial offering consists of seven bicycles: in the road bike range of three sa calobras, the 105 and ultegra models seem to share the same 6066 triple butted aluminium sloping frame, augmented with fsa chainsets and a mavic aksium wheelset on the ultegra and shimano rs10 at the 105 level. below these two is a similarly styled 6061 triple butted aluminium frame. this opens the batting at £850, reaching £1300 for the sa calobra .004.

more practically perhaps, in light of the greater cycling public, is the hoy shizuoka, each of four models sharing a 6061 triple butted aluminium frame and hydraulic disc brakes featuring 160mm rotors operated from flat handlebars. gearing on these comes from sram and prices range from a commendable £550 through to £900 for the range topping .004.

it's an eclectic choice with which to launch a new range, for i think we probably all thought there would be not only a track bike (there will be eventually) but that the road versions would have been more carbon fibre than aluminium, a material that is no longer what might be described as cutting edge. though it ought not to have any real bearing on reality, sir chris was renowned for riding very fast on a state of the art sliver of carbon fibre, developed at great expense to suit his proclivities by team gb.

hoy shizuoka

there are also bound to be comparisons with the similar path currently inhabited by chris boardman, and whether the world truly needs yet another bike brand that could be perceived as yet more of the same old same old. however, i have it on good authority that sir chris has greater interest in the construction of bicycles than which colour would match his cycling shoes. if we can accept that he more than likely learned a thing or two over the length of his impressive career, it would be verging on the criminal to let that all go to waste.

if chris hoy knows as much about bicycles as i think it likely he does, then perhaps yet another bike brand is just exactly what we need. the days when former racers brazed their own lugs to their own steel tubes are long gone. modern commerce no longer works that way, and marvellous though sir chris undoubtedly is, i think he probably has the same acuity with a brazing torch as do i. which is to say, none at all.

hoy bicycles

saturday 8th june 2013


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the world according to islay

paps of jura

i need prevaricate for a moment or two in order that i might offer some background to that which follows; first off, a geography lesson.

islay sits in the atlantic ocean on the western approaches to the kintyre peninsula around 25 miles north of northern ireland. it's pretty much on the same latitude as glasgow, but considerably further west. the most southerly of the inner hebrides, it is but a short five minute ferry trip to our neighbouring island of jura. due to a network of caledonian macbrayne ferries, it is but a simple matter (allegedly) to travel between the most northerly of the outer hebrides, all the way to islay by way of skye, mull, colonsay and, germane to this narrative, the isle of jura. many cyclists take the opportunity to visit the isles in this manner.

on tuesday afternoon, i took a phone call from a cyclist visiting on jura, informing me that he had broken his chain, and he'd been told via the tourist information office that i might be the very chap who could assist. i told him i probably could.

bowmore round church

at one time, a bicycle chain was a bicycle chain. the same set of links would fit any number of rear sprockets. but then along came nine-speed groupsets, then ten and now eleven, each bringing along a proportionally narrower chain, and in one case, specific tools required for fitting. the advent of the easy-fit joining link obfuscated the need for a specific rivet tool; or did it? since the majority of chains can be a few links too long, a chain tool is still required to take out those unrequired. and those easy-links are one time use only. allegedly.

as a result, i rarely stock chains anymore, since i cannot afford to keep four differing sizes on the off chance someone might need one. i do have a couple of stretched tubulars though.

however, to return to my potential customer with the broken chain, still ensconced on jura. rather obviously unable to cycle the bicycle from the pier at feolin across the sound of islay and the subsequent eleven miles from port askaig to bowmore, his plan of action was thus: alight from the jura ferry and kindly ask the bus driver if he would take he and his partner and their bicycles onto the bus for onward transport to the island's capital. i should point out that the island's buses are ill-equipped to carry anything other than passengers and often refuse bicycles.

bowmore round church

in this case, however, the bus driver is known to me (he lives just round the corner) and took pity on the chainless cycle tourist. for not only did he take both riders and bicycles, but delivered them to bowmore's round church, more specifically to the bench sited in front of the surrounding wall. mrs washingmachinepost's uncle is now retired, and on days such as this, when the weather is warm and dry, he and his cronies are won't to sit on this bench, taking in all that transpires around them.

as the driver pulled up to the bench, he opened the bus door, and told the poor uncle to take the two cyclists to my door. this, in fact, was not a particularly onerous task, for the church can be clearly seen from our sitting room window. uncharacteristically, he put in the supreme effort and moved his backside sufficiently to guide the two to my front door.

probably only on islay.

friday 7th june 2013


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cycling anthology volume 2. edited by lionel birnie and ellis bacon. peloton publishing paperback 319pp £7.99

cycling anthology volume two

gaelic, or gaidhlig to give its correct scottish spelling, is an important factor in the history and heritage of scotland's west coast, though it now finds itself something of a minority language in modern times. perhaps one of the more confusing aspects of its continued presence is the knowledge that it is more a verbal language than written. there are many of islay's elderly, indigenous population who still converse in gaelic, yet are unable to read its written form.

in common with many a minority, there are factions intent on imposing its usage upon a largely disinterested public, their enthusiasm equalled only by their belligerence. locally, we perhaps rather unfairly refer to them as the gaelic mafia, though their numbers have depleted over recent years.

in the early 1990s, while fulfilling a temporary position as relief editor at islay's local newspaper, i received a letter for publication that began 'dear sir, as you well know, the bard of islay, duncan johnstone...' and continued to inform the reader of some aspect of mr johnstone's position in the grand firmament of gaelic interest. at this point, i had lived on the isle for around four years, but not only was i unaware that we had a bard of any description, but i had never before heard mention of duncan johnstone, nor was i aware as to his status; deceased or living (it turned out to be the former).

concerned that this may be simply a gap in my local education, and not wishing to undermine the sanctity of the correspondence, i enquired around the office as to the popularity of the aforesaid mr johnstone. it turned out that i was not alone in my ignorance, as none of my colleagues had ever heard of the guy either, therefore i altered the letter's introduction to read 'dear sir, as you may well know, the bard of islay, duncan johnstone...'. this seemed an altogether more satisfactory and accurate solution.

unfortunately, this was not equitable to the writer, and on the monday morning following publication, i received a lengthy and irate phone call, loudly pointing out the error of my ways and castigating me for having done what many an editor would likely have done. the clue is in the job title. ever since that day, i have avoided the phrase 'as you may well know' like the plague.

that is, until now.

as you may well know, at the end of this month, somewhere on the island of corsica will commence the 100th edition of the tour de france, a situation that has not gone unnoticed by the publishing houses of europe. keen to contribute to the sense of occasion and grab the occasional pound note into the bargain, more than just one or two volumes have reached the nation's bookshelves celebrating and commenting on those 100 years of velocipedinal circumnavigation of french france.

those i have had sight of so far have been most impressive in a grandiose sort of way, the very publications that can be stored as souvenirs of the tour's century of races. for as i have previously remarked, i doubt any of us will be around for the 200th edition. however, for startlingly obvious reasons, most are presenting the same information packaged in differing ways; i offer this not as criticism but a simple statement of fact. that which has almost eccentrically defied this form of typecasting is the utterly essential cycling anthology volume two - tour de france special edition.

measuring fully four and three-eighths, by six and seven-eighth inches, its one inch thickness barely begins to advertise the delights contained within. and should you have wonder as to why i offered distinctly imperial measurements rather than metric, it is principally because the impeccable cover illustration by simon scarsbrook, similar in style to that decorating volume one, implies a bygone era without direct imitation. this is the very book that you would wish to be seen carrying when boarding the train, bus or underground, later curating its own special location on the bedside table. a constant companion, if you will.

there are fourteen highly distinctive contributors to this edition, including the two editors (and publishers), lionel birnie and ellis bacon, all of whom write about the tour de france both directly and by inference. as stated in the introduction "It is not intended to be a history of the race: rather, it is a series of essays that, hopefully, combine to enhance your understanding of the Tour." not only does it fulfil the editors' promise, but, in my opinion, it achieves a success possibly greater than the sum of its parts.

again, according to the selfsame introduction, the original daily stage reports from the nascent tour were compiled from whatever the journalists were able to see on the road. "Their stories were polished and, embellished before being delivered to an increasingly hungry public to consume with their morning coffee and croissant.. if i may be so bold, this edition of cycling anthology would also be the ideal companion for morning coffee and croissant, particularly for those three weeks in july.

it would be somewhat superfluous of me to list each individual contributor/essayist; you'll be able to find out for yourself when you buy your own copy, but a little pick and choose taster surely wouldn't go amiss.

ned boulting, a man whose writing is commensurate with his broadcasting skills, uses this latter aspect to portray the man who brought the tour de france to our terrestrial screens in the mid-eighties. brendan gallagher, in an excellently titled 'it's all about the car' describes the harum scarum days experienced by a journalist on the tour, while the unknown (to me) klaus bellon gaitan documents the rise, fall and rise of colombian riders in the tour de france.

one of the most experienced scribes on the tour, william fotheringham, brings a chapter entitled 'napoleon' concerning itself with one of the tour's most successful directeurs sportifs, cyrille guimard. and living dangerously, lionel birnie provides a concise overview of the drug trail since the festina affair of 1998. it would be a very pernickety and awkward reader who could find nothing of interest in the book's 319 pages.

the final author featured in this edition, not only experiencing the onerous task of providing his first literary contribution midst such illustrious company, is also the only contributor to have actually ridden the tour de france. dan lloyd, now retired from professional racing, was a part of the cervelo test team line-up in the tour of 2010.

"When I told people I was a professional cyclist, they always asked the same question. They still do.
"Have you ridden the Tour de France?"

on the basis of his chapter - a domestique's tale - he is primed for a similarly successful career as a writer. if i hadn't mentioned it, you'd figure he'd been doing this all his life. in which case, who asked who? did he nudge lionel and ellis for the chance to contribute, or did they search him out? "I had a call from Lionel at the end of March asking if I'd consider writing about my experience of racing the Tour. I was actually a little reluctant to start with, as I was so busy at the time, but in the end I really enjoyed it. It brought back some great memories."

as mentioned above in a quote from the book's introduction, reporters on early editions of the race had to be happy with the sights and sounds they could grab hold of in the days long before electronic communication and pragmatic transportation arrangements. for a rider ensconced in the heat of battle, ready and willing to offer due service to his team leader, how easy was it to recall specific details from this particular chapter of his career?

"Some things were just there in my thoughts, while others came to me as I was writing.  I'd always thought that if I ever happened to write an autobiography I'd struggle, as my early memories are quite vague. But I did find that things started coming back to me as I went through it."

the one aspect of which the reader is blissfully unaware while reading any of the included contributions, is what level of anguish was experienced by the authors in the process of cajoling their words into the shape and form seen in the end product. it is not only the riders of the tour who endure pain and suffering. is writing something that comes naturally to dan, or are buckets of sweat involved? "A bit of both I would say. Some of it seemed to just flow very quickly, other times I was just staring at the page, unable to think of how to word something."

granted there is a substantial leap from a chapter consisting of 39 pages to that of a fully constituted autobiography, but could this first step be a precursor to a dan lloyd writing career, perhaps including the alluded to autobiography? "I honestly don't think there would be enough demand for a Daniel Lloyd autobiography, but in terms of other writing, I would certainly consider it again."

i previously worked with an editor who not only took an age to write relatively short articles, but spent more than twice as long reviewing that which he'd written, fussing over minute details and altering tracts of text in order to say exactly the same, but using a different arrangement of the words. others write quickly, confidently and when done, move onto the next project without ever looking back. is dan a writer who prefers the latter mode of working, or does he fuss over what might have been on re-reading the finished version?

cycling anthology volume two

"The latter. But I understand from the more experienced journalists that that's normal. I have thought of a couple of things that I missed out, but I'm still happy with the end piece, and I really hope that people enjoy reading it.
I guess that's one of the reasons that I enjoy commentating so much. Once you've gone off air you can't change anything; it's all done and you can't go back. With writing, you can continually add and edit until the due date, so it hangs over you a little more."

you may be one of the few individuals with a penchant for cycle sport, on which the tour de france does not impinge. more likely, love it or hate it, you'll be glued to eurosport, itv4 or standing by the roadside when the tour comes to town. either way, and with due respect to the authors who already have their own tdf 100 offerings on sale, this edition of cycling anthology is the finest tour de france reading you will get this year.

consider this a compulsory purchase order.

grateful thanks to mick and andy at prendas ciclismo for assistance with this review.

cycling anthology

thursday 6th june 2013


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cafe du cycliste cotton cycling cap

cafe du cycliste cotton cap

while in my sixth year at school, i applied to scotland's art colleges in order that i might further my burgeoning art career at a more prestigious institution. aside from supplying a coherent list of my academic qualifications, it was also necessary to send a competent selection of artworks in a large folder, constructed from coloured paper and card, to support my claim of having any artistic ability at all. bizarrely, the only qualification actually required to enter art college was higher english; it wasn't even necessary to have passed higher art, though i can't say i met anyone in that particular situation.

naturally enough, art schools do not possess unlimited storage space, so after having been accepted as a student, the folder was duly returned. such was the superior build of the folder, it not only survived being utilised for my sixth year studies offerings, but was retained at home for any subsequent needs. and lo and behold, just such a situation arose on leaving college.

cafe du cycliste cotton cap

as is often the case in life, it's who you know rather than what, and a friend of my father owned an interior design company with whom he had arranged an interview. in support of my personal appearance, i had been asked to bring along a selection of my work, that they might better assess my eminent suitability. so once again, the large orange folder was pressed into service, containing an agglomeration of sketches, graphics, illustrations and the like.

the interview such as it was, took place in the company boardroom, and pretty much failed at the first stop due to my presentation, or rather, lack of. according to the gentleman who let me down gently, the previous hopeful had arrived with videotape in hand (remember those?) and proceeded to impress the minimally assembled multitudes with sound and vision. by comparison, my bits of coloured paper with pen and ink sketches loosely arranged between the card covers seemed positively rudimentary.

cafe du cycliste cotton cap

needless to say, i was not afforded employment.

it was, with my honours degree in hindsight, a salutory lesson, one that has subsequently stood me in good stead ever since. for no matter how new, shiny, or revolutionary your latest product, it often comes down to the presentation, particularly when in competition with similar new, shiny and revolutionary products. this is quite obviously a concept well understood by remi and emilie at cote d'azur's cafe du cycliste.

carefully ensconced within the packaging containing their marie-josette waterproof jersey, previously reviewed in these pixels was a tin of extra virgin olive oil from the cafe du cycliste neighbourhood. nothing at all to do with the jersey, but a very nice prezzy nonetheless. this time round, the henriette jersey arrived with what i took to be a sizeable round of camembert cheese, though indisputably lighter than one would have expected. the round, wooden box contained the cotton cycling cap.

cafe du cycliste cotton cap

now i feel no embarrassment about airing my prejudices, but to be honest, unless the cap fell apart on lifting from its receptacle, there was no way this was going to receive a chilly reception. not only was the container immaculately formed in true camembert fashion, but the round sticker atop the lid bore a verisimilitude of just what you'd expect on the cheese. excellent in the way only true excellence can be presented.

you would hardly expect a cycle cap to be reviewed in the manner of a jersey, jacket or bicycle. if the cap fits, etc. the eight panel, italian made cap is a rather apt, one-size-fits-all casquette, with a white dots on grey top to the peak, and an underside featuring tricolour stripes on white. this, sadly, is an aspect of a stylish piece of headwear that few will ever see round these here parts, for i am a firm believer that real men ride with the peak down.

however, the alliterative cafe du cycliste cotton cycling cap deserves at least a few words of attribution. aside from being a well-judged one-size-fits-all, the peak is of decent proportions to shield from the sun (or rain), while not giving the impression of an incoming flying saucer. furthermore, it fitted well under my selection of helmets without interference or discomfort. what more can one demand of a casquette?

the ancestral lineage is demonstrated by a white silk-screened cafe du cycliste on the right, and there's a logo'd red tab to the rear. it is a truism that one can never own too many casquettes, preferably of impeccable heritage; this is one such. available in blue, grey and cream, as of writing, the blue seems to be strangely out of stock. our appropriately good taste, however, will easily allow us the luxury of ordering one or both of the alternatives.

ideal for wearing while munching on oatcakes and camembert.

cafe du cycliste

wednesday 5th june 2013


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but is it good for you?


several years ago i had the great good fortune to undertake a complete bicycle fit at cyclefit in london's macklin street. this technically and electronically measured each and every one of the salient points that makes a difference to how comfortable and efficient i might be on my bicycle. the results were eye-opening to say the least, pointing out that basically i had made wrong assumptions in the first place and religiously stuck with them for years. much to my discredit.

i'd be pushing credibility just a smidgeon too far to portray myself as efficient on any marque of bicycle, but i cannot deny that the degree of comfort, always taking into account my ageing bones, is a susbtantial improvement. though such sessions are undeniably expensive, they're no more so than the carbon fibre doohicky you've had your eyes (and credit card) on for the past few weeks. i know which i'd spend my money on.

which brings me rather pointedly to the efficacy of some of the so-called improvements we are forever imposing upon our velocipedes. though acquiring the correct size frame and hopefully the appropriate crank length is the absolute minimum that ought to be achieved, many other choices tend to be influenced far more by the accompanying marketing campaign than the efficacy promised by the copywriter.

carbon stems/bars

it is a valid comparison i believe to include the photographing of shiny and glittery drum sets. many of us would-be percussionists in the early stages of our careers were won't to setup the drums, stands and cymbals as seen in the catalogues, oblivious of the fact that the photographer probably would struggle to play the paper and comb. it turns out that these catalogue sets are arranged to show each and every drum to its best advantage, irrespective of any ergonomics that might make them easier to play.

thus, choosing the same saddle that pippo pozzato found very much to his liking in the giro d'italia, or the shoes that bertie used to drop the competition on any climb you care to mention, might conceivably not fulfil your every wish. or perhaps that one-piece carbon bar and stem set may look mighty impressive in the hands of thomas voeckler, yet the angle of the flat top section...

as members of the non-professional peloton, are we really clued up enough to make the best choices? because if we get them wrong, not only is the bank balance unnecessarily lighter, but who amongst us is going to admit to having done so? it's quite possible that, after phil or jules have impeccably matched you to your bicycle, all is undone by an inappropriate component choice.

30mph speed sign

you'd think that, over the years, we'd all have become inimitably wiser and less prone to the vicissitudes of marketing speak. but even grumpy cynics like me can turn the page in this month's choice of magazines and emit a silent wow!, an exclamation completely divorced from any notable benefit the said item may confer upon my personage. and i'm willing to bet i'm not alone.

perhaps, therefore, those in the business of matching rider to bicycle could expand their services both physically and online, providing impartial advice as to what might be sooper dooper and what may just prove a hindrance. we are mostly too much in thrall to the professional metier to be allowed to cross the road on our own.

so, despite a feeble pair of thighs, anyone got any idea if i can turn 53/11 on the approach to the 30mph signs at bruichladdich? and would titanium make it any more likely?

tuesday 4th june 2013


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