the girl's guide to life on two wheels by cathy bussey. ryland peters and small hardback. 129pp illus. £14.99 ($21.95)

the girls guide to life on two wheels

though i've no intention of instigating a full-blown exam, i wonder just how close attention you've been paying over the years to these incessant scribblings? would you, for instance, be able to tell me how many constitute the average velo club outing on a sunday morning? and to move just one step further, how many of those are of the female persuasion? it's an easy answer to the last one, one which most of you will probably have guessed.

absolute zero.

i cannot deny that, on occasion, we have been joined by a female cyclist from time to time over the course of the years, but rarely are they drawn from the indigenous population; on almost every juncture, the girls have been visiting the principality. now this is not because we are misogynistic in our collective outlook, nor for macho reasons that have us afraid of being hammered in the sprint by a slip of a girl on a tatty road bike. it is purely and simply down to the fact that there are virtually no female ladies of the opposite sex riding bicycles on islay. and i don't just mean riding bicycles that would encourage them to join the hell for leather (a guy can dream can't he?) sunday morning ride.

were you to stand on the corner of main street and flora street in bowmore, holding a blank notebook on any day of the week before holiday season starts, it could be weeks or months before you had need of making any pencil marks to indicate having seen a lady on a bicycle.

my efforts to encourage islay ladies into riding bicycles may not have been strenuous, but they've been the best i could manage short of being slapped, and sadly to no avail. therefore, perhaps i'm precisely the wrong chap to be offering the benefit of my cycling experience to any women who may be considering a life on two wheels. happily, i have been exonerated by the inestimable cathy bussey who has produced the ideal introduction to a velocipedinal lifestyle for the fairer sex. copiously illustrated with colour photos of ladies on a wide variety of bicycles, i have struggled long and hard to think of any aspect of such a venture that she may have missed, but without success.

ms bussey's qualifications for authoring such a comprehensive and attractively designed volume are perhaps ideal. though perhaps over idolising team gb's female trackstars, this is not a background from which she hails. "It was only once I moved to London that I changed my outlook. I started noticing cyclists far more. I would have myself onto packed trains to spend a tedious, uncomfortable, overheated hour travelling to work. All around me, people were whizzing into work in half that time on bikes."

though her narrative is occasionally overburdened with hints of 'born again cyclist' it all comes across as genuine enthusiasm, and by midway through the book has become undeniably infectious. were it not for the weighting of certain chapters towards the decorative, celebrity and fashion aspects of riding two wheels, this would serve as the ideal introduction to anyone wishing to join the pelotonic lifestyle, male or female. peppered with quotes from women who have already embraced the art of pedalling, ms bussey still has her head well and truly screwed on via her repetitive implorings to be seen and to remain safe. there's perhaps a slight danger of accentuating the occasional perils of riding a bicycle in the big city, but it would have surely been grossly negligent to have glossed over their existence.

it has long been my contention that, whenever the subject of cycling arises in non-cycling company, aside from the flurry of protestations as to how many years were spent on bicycles during those early years of school, most will spend far more effort on finding excuses as to why cycling is not a current part of everyone's lives than figuring out just how simple it would be to ride a bike. cathy bussey has taken pretty much every reason for not cycling and offered a cogent, persuasive and often curt answer that undermines such blatant silliness...

'It's a bit cold and dark for cycling at the moment, I'll wait until the weather improves before I start'. "Don't be a wimp. Wrap up warm and light your bike up like a Christmas tree. Just a short cycle will raise your heart-rate and warm you up, burn calories and help justify a hot chocolate at the end of your journey."

there are, of course, one or two chapters that are implicitly female. i doubt that too may of us macho sprinters are too concerned over whether to ride through pregnancy, nor will we be rushing to read the ultimate cycling beauty regime. i'd hate to invoke the wrath of cycling's gods by stating that if the girls are not persuaded by the contents of these 128 pages, there's no hope. but i'm probably right.

i would, however, wish to take ms bussey to task on one or two aspects of her text. in the choosing a bike chapter, she states with regard to our beloved road bikes, '...their super-thin tyres are prone to punctures and the wheels are delicate.' as one who has ridden on super-thin tyres and delicate wheels for more than twenty years, i beg to differ. despite the state of islay's ever deteriorating roads, i've yet to break even a spoke and suffer, on average, about one puncture a year. perhaps she ought to take a long look at martyn ashton's 'road bike party 2'. i'm not saying there aren't members of the road bike fraternity that do not suffer as mentioned, but her assertion is somewhat of a generalisation.

and in the actually rather good basic maintenance section, the above is compounded slightly in the description of how to mend a puncture/replace an inner tube. try as i might, i cannot fathom why it is necessary to remove the tyre from the rim completely. generally it only requires one side to be flipped from the rim to remove and replace an inner tube. and though i can comprehend the idea of turning the bicycle upside down to oil the chain (though surely just as simple when the bike is upright?), oiling the outer side of the chain is a bit counter intuitive when it's the inner side that comes into contact with the chainring and sprocket teeth.

nit-picking aside and accepting the over preponderance of pretty girls on bikes (innocuous but a tad unnecessary), this is a truly excellent book. no stone seems to have been left unturned in the aim to persuade today's thoroughly modern girl to adopt the way of the spoked wheel. if you're of the female persuasion, buy it. if you're a bloke, buy a copy for your significant other, even if she already cycles.

copies of the girl's guide to life on two wheels can be ordered from

monday 13 january 2014

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viva la vuelta (2nd edition). lucy fallon and adrian bell. mousehold press/sport and publicity paperback. 416pp illus. £17.95

vive la vuelta

you wouldn't think there would be a hierarchy.

it's no surprise that the tour of britain, given its chequered past, doesn't inhabit the upper echelons of road racing popularity, for in reality, it's little more than a series of one day races joined by a common interest and more often than not, a finale in london. of course, in truth, even the three-week grand tours are also a series of one day races, but such are the parcours encouraging various strategies for victory that the whole is often greater than the sum of the parts. the iniquity, as i see it, is that the tour de france overshadows both the giro d'italia and the vuelta espana, not necessarily in terms of race quality, but most certainly as regards popularity and resemblance to a circus with bicycles.

the archetypal man in the street will undoubtedly be aware of le tour (apart from perhaps one or two regions of the tibetan platueau and obscure parts of the brazilian rainforest), but is quite likely completely unaware of the other two, even if prince bradley did publicise the italian job rather well by failing to descend in the rain. this is an even more puzzling conundrum with the advent of the world tour and its predecessor, the pro tour; these guaranteed the attendance of the top ranking eighteen or nineteen teams in each race. no longer were sponsors excused simply because they had no real commercial interests in either italy or spain. yet it would be hard to argue that, with le tour at the top of the tree, it is followed by italy and then spain in that particular order.

i am insufficiently versed in the backroom dealings of international cycle sport to offer any explanation for this unseemly situation. if we count ourselves as cycle sport fans of an equanimous disposition, surely we ought to embrace all thre with equal enthusiasm? yet such is not the case.

in 1995, the vuelta espana was moved from its previous month of may location in the sporting diary to a place midway between the end of august and the beginning of september. it's possible that this may have been the saving of the race, for now a poor showing in france can often be redeemed in iberia, while those intent on challenging for the rainbow stripes at the end of the month are offered the ideal spanish training camp. previously it was locked in battle with the giro, and there was every sign it was a losing battle. not content with changing its place in the firmament, rumours have surfaced in recent years that the vuelta might find itself shorn of that third week. not too encouraging.

however, no matter the regard with which the current incarnation is held, it's a race that holds every inch as great a heritage as both the tour and the giro, a factor that has been superbly and comprehensively documented by authors lucy fallon and adrian bell. viva la vuelta was originally published in 2005, augmented a year or two later by a short supplement. the 2013 edition, with a foreword by sean kelly, incorporates the years from 2005 to that of 2012, if nothing else, surely a testament to its enduring place in the competitive cycling psyche, particularly in a year that has already seen copious volumes celebrating one hundred editions of its nemesis.

"Nobody had been in greater need of that opportunity (to redeem a poor tour de france) than Roberto Heras. After yet another disappointing performance in the 2005 Tour, where he finished 45th, he ruefully concluded: 'The Vuelta gives me prestige, and the Tour takes it away.'

fallon and bell are to be applauded not only for such meticulous research, but for offering it in a fashion that almost reads itself. the language is remarkably informal without ever undermining the importance of the event. it is copiously annotated and indexed at the back, including a commentator's view from david harmon. the book also not unnaturally highlights the race's internal rivalries; every grand tour has them, from coppi and bartali in italy to anquetil and poulidor in france. spain, amongst others, had bahamontes and jesus lorono, the latter almost unknown outside of his association with the vuelta.

"His rivalry with Bahamontes marked an era of Spanish cycling, with 'Loronistas' and 'Bahamontistas' trying to convince each other that Jesus was a more complete rider or that Federico was a better climber."

the conversational nature of the writing, expressed as a single voice despite emanating from two distinct word processors, confidently avoids an obvious year by year dissemination of the race. there's never any doubt as to which edition is under discussion, but the narrative reads particularly coherently over the eighty years of the race's existence. rather cleverly, this makes it a very hard book to put down; i spent way too many occasions thinking just one more page..., a difficult position when reviewing more than one book simultaneously.

even if you have the original issue from 2005, believe me it's well worth getting hold of the second edition and reminding yourself of just what a marvellous race this has been and, indeed, continues to be. if you missed it first time round, save the embarrassment of folks crossing the road to avoid meeting your stare and turn yourself into a confident expert on the history of spain's major tour. a more than worthy addition to the bookshelf.

mousehold press

sunday 12 january 2014

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leave the car at home

the big pedal

at the time, i considered it something of an embarrassment, but more recently i've taken to wearing it as a badge of honour. this despite the fact that virtually nobody is the least bit impressed. i am, of course, referring to my unilateral decision to dispense with the services of my motor car after its constitution was thought to be not of suitable status to pass the annual ministry of transport test. that, however, is not what i thought impressive, but the knowledge that i had travelled less than 2,000 miles since the same test the year before. according to the automobile association, the average annual mileage covered by motor cars in the uk is 12,000 miles; more than six times that of my own vehicle. in terms of the depreciation, insurance, road tax, fuel costs and servicing, continuing to own a car was indeed, something of an embarrassment at the time, but with the passage of time, features that i'm inclined to think of as my super power.

the big pedal

thus, during lunchtimes such as in the office yesterday, when discussion turns to the relatively high cost of petrol and diesel on the island in comparison to scotland, i either drift off into mid-day reverie or utter a well-worn smartass one-liner that endears me to nobody whatsoever. though it has been all but forcefully pointed out that the compact and bijou-ness of islay makes it relatively simple to be a cyclist hereabouts, this is rather contradicted by the fact that none of them have followed my example. and neither has anyone else, come to that. however, my confident riposte is centred round the fact that more urban locations often have a far more amenable public transportation system which, if coupled with a bicycle, makes getting about simplicity itself.


the big pedal

i am possessed of sufficient arrogance to posit that, if it's possible for me, in the middle of a wet and windy rural habitat to survive almost five years without a car in the driveway, then it's pretty much doable for anyone. however, taking into consideration the number of locals who drive only a few yards rather than walk, including many who really ought to know a lot better, the example being set to the island's impressionable youngsters is not what i'd consider a good one. however, all may not be entirely lost.

during last year, a notable increase in the number of children cycling to the local primary school, a route that crosses my own path to the office was sufficient to warrant remark. it turned out that they were participating in what was grandly titled 'the big pedal'. this was a venture backed by the industry levy bike-hub to encourage kids, parents and teachers to eschew the promoted comforts of the motor car in favour of their bicycles. sadly, the only individuals i observed on the latter were the aforementioned kids; parents and teachers seem not to have taken note that the big pedal was also applicable to themselves.

the big pedal

no surprise there, then.

the event takes the form of accumulating cycle miles and operates as an inter-school competition, effectively to see which school can cover the largest number of cycling miles, pro-rata the school's pupil role. by signing up to participate, the schools receive lesson plans, posters, maps and ideas on how to increase the involvement of as many individuals as possible. my only caveat would be the length of time over which the big pedal lasts, for there was a distinct decrease in the numbers travelling to school by bicycle when last year's initiative ended. the hope would be that cycling to school would have become so much a part of the daily agenda, that it would continue until the end of term.

the big pedal

executive director of the bicycle association, philip darnton, said "There's a very real risk that a large proportion of the next generation will not know how to ride a bike safely. That's why it is so important for us to continue to encourage young people to cycle.". sustrans chief executive, malcolm shepherd pointed out that "The average primary school journey is just one and a half miles, which is the perfect distance to walk or cycle." i certainly wouldn't argue with that.

though the goalposts of just when the world might run out of fossil fuels have been moved constantly since the fuel crisis of the mid-seventies, i figure there's just a tad too much emphasis and funding being leveraged towards electric cars at the expense of the humble bicycle. many of the reviews i've read concerning the practicality of the current crop of electric cars mostly point towards their adaptability for local use, advising owners to consider maintaining a 'regular' car for longer journeys. aside from the considerable expense and impracticality of so doing, even taking into consideration the government's generous subsidy for purchasers of a battery powered vehicle, many of these short, local journeys could surely be undertaken by pedal bicycle, a mode of travel that seems mostly to miss out on the government's largesse.

to quote once more from philip darnton "children love to cycle and scoot", and perhaps through ingenuities such as the big pedal, it's something that might hopefully continue into adulthood.

the big pedal 2014

saturday 11 january 2014

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there's an app for that

it's a wonderful life

watching one or two movies over the festive season brought repeated comments from the couch, along the lines of "they don't make them like that any more." a phrase that is true on so many different levels. when jimmy stewart was telling his guardian angel clarence, in what a wonderful life, that he wished he'd never been born, it's very unlikely he would have considered doing so in 3d, given that the film was made in 1946. in fact, it's doubtful he'd even figured on making movies in colour at the time.

apple's ios7

but other than the technological advances that have been made in the realm of film-making, not least of which was the inevitable conversion to digital in movie-making, as well as projection of the end result, modern society seems far less willing to accept particularly twee or unlikely concepts in what was portrayed as regular life of the times. however, even nowadays, i have always been envious of the stars of westerns and the occasional mediaeval films who, on having defeated an all but insurmountable enemy, have simply to whistle and the obedient steed appears as if by magic from behind a rocky outcrop.

in fact, taken to its extreme, the horse would arrive in perfect place for our hero to leap into the saddle from above, before hurrying off into the sunset. don't you just wish it happened that way with bicycles? i can imagine arriving at debbie's of a sunday morning, removing helmet and gloves before moseying (one simply has to mosey if adopting a western stance) inside for a cup of froth. when the bill has been paid and platitudes uttered, why, oh why is it not possible to emit a loud whistle and find the bicycle eagerly waiting at the front door, ready for the return trip to the croft? surely in these times of di2 and eps, voice or whistle recognition ought to be do-able on a grand scale.

campagnolo eps battery

if each of the moseying peloton were to call simultaneously, the world of consumer electronics ought to be able to differentiate and call only the necessary bicycles.

which rather neatly brings me onto the current smorgasbord of uneccessary wiring currently taking place in las vegas at the consumer electronics show (which, bizarrely, is not the manner in which the folks at ces would like us to refer to it). i have scoured the exhibitor list in vain for shimano, campagnolo and even sram, yet by some odd twist of fate, and despite being rather obviously involved in the production of consumer electronics, none of the above appear to be present. not for us an influx or outpouring of en-vogue wearables that would allow our pathetic whistling noises to be 'heard' by the bicycles, prompting them into devoted action on our behalf.

shimano di2

all, however, is not completely lost, for situated in south hall number four, on stand 35812 are our old friends garmin, perhaps gaining a march on their gear-actuation cousins in the world of velocipedinal activity. as is perhaps all too obvious, i find myself still sitting in an armchair in the scottish southern hebrides as opposed to trawling more acres of digital technology than you could shake a tyre lever at in the village of las vegas. thus, i have not a dicky-bird as to whether garmin have a display stand festooned with gps technology that could link to one of the much vaunted wearables in order to pinpoint the exact location of its owner. that ought to make it simplicity itself to emit an electronic whistle, safe in the knowledge that the world's global positioning satellites have our best interests at heart.

and for those weight-weenies who are way too aerodynamic to indulge in wearables, there's bound to be a mobile phone app that could take care of the mechanics of this system. should it be, however, that the folks at garmin and the absent gearheads have yet to think of such obvious cycle-related technological peachiness, i think it only fair that at least a percentage of the profits should be forwarded in my direction for having alerted them to the possibilities.

it's a wonderful life.


friday 10 january 2014

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never underestimate the power of the dark side

on reflection

aside from the hopefully obvious fitness benefits to be gained from regular cycling, getting out and about on a bicycle offers collateral advantages that augment eventual thighs of steel. having paid brief attention to the current range of lemond indoor trainers, featuring a built-in cassette to allow removal of the rear wheel, they may confer a similar pair of thighs, but in the process of so doing will likely drive the hapless cyclist to seek an alternative activity in which to participate. like draughts (checkers) or dominoes for instance.

even in the process of being blown to kingdom come and half-drowned over the past month or so, there's always an ever-changing landscape to act as a natural and intriguing backdrop to pedalling activity. couple that with copious amounts of fresh air and vitamin something or other, and i find it very hard to comprehend why anyone would closet themselves in the garage with a heavy-metal soundtrack (sadly a jazz trio just doesn't cut out enough pain and suffering) and a towel, for more hours than are publicly acceptable.

on reflection

of course, i could simply be taking this stance because mrs washingmachinepost has banned me from owning a turbo trainer after i wore a hole in the kitchen lino several years ago.

what i refuse to participate in, however, is any serious level of night riding. though i have had attempted coercion from colleagues to join them on an evening's perambulation of bridgend woods; they on mountain bikes and me on the 'cross bike. it not only strikes me as a slightly eerie pastime, even with lights every bit the equivalent of the landing illumination employed by boeing on their dreamliners, but it would inevitably entail a three mile ride along islay's roads in the dark. with surely an excess of youthful exuberance enclosed in matt black corsas intent on emulating their version of formula one, that's a three mile trip i'm less than keen to take.

aside from my confessed nervousness of cycling in the dark, any evening velocipedinal activity would surely entail missing an evening's writing for the post. and there's no way you're getting off that lightly.

on reflection

yet despite the possibility of retina ripping illumination affixed to the bicycle and clothing that features more reflective capability than the space station's solar panels, i could conceivably find myself at the wrong end of the law's long arm. for not a single pair of pedals in my possession is decorated with reflectors, all the better for signifying my existence to those corsa pilots. thankfully, today's police force is possessed of sufficient savvy to ignore a rather antiquated paragraph of the law, provided the cyclist(s) within their sights is/are suitably illuminated in other ways.

however, such may not always remain the case if the current antisocial behaviour, crime and policing bill makes it through parliament unscathed or unaltered. aside from a myriad of other bits and bobs less associated with cycling attached to this law, it appears that there is the danger of police community support officers acting on the letter of the law and fining gloriously illuminated cyclists who nonetheless have no bs6102 refelectors affixed to their clipless pedals. having looked at the most recent mavic/time collaborative pedals threaded onto the c40's carbon cranks and, indeed, the eggbeaters and candies from crank brothers, i can see no suitable part of these pedals on which a reflector could even be attached with a substantial dod of blu-tac.

on reflection

so if i had ever taken a notion for nocturnal pedalling, the passing of such a law may well provide food for second thoughts, though currently the island is thankfully unpopulated by any community support officers who may be on the lookout for missing reflectors, rather than taking action against speeding sports car drivers. however, those in more urban, mainland settings may be less fortunate were it not for the countering of lord berkeley. apparently he holds such a law with similar contempt as undoubtedly do we, and has tabled amendments that would offload such illuminative nonsense into whichever room in the houses of parliament is designated for legislative rubbish.

one of the positive benefits that may incur from these tabled amendments is to require the aforesaid community support officers to not only receive cycle-awareness training, but perhaps and preferably 'actual cycle training'. that would be, as they say, ginger peachy.

the dark-side is a worry sometimes.

(not long after this piece was written, the house of lords defeated the government bill on the basis of it being 'poorly thought through' and likely to breach civil liberties in certain cases. however, that doesn't mean to say the government won't rethink bits of it before presenting it once more.)

thursday 9 january 2014

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future perfect?

electra bikes

i recently received an e-mail from yet another whisky auction startup enquiring about advertising in our local newspaper. the happenstance is not at all unusual, for i believe the market in collectable bottles of whisky is rather lucrative, if overpopulated these days, offering a bandwagon on which many are keen to jump. with more than just a few distilleries about the locale, there may be more than one or two of the local populace with interesting and ultimately valuable bottles stashed away under the mattress, in the attic, or on top of the wardrobe. there are already several whisky auction sites or companies of which i know, a number that seems hell-bent on an exponential increase.

electra bikes

ignore the fact that single malts seem to have transformed from drinks of luxury to items worthy of financial trading, and instead of looking at valuable bottles from the past, perhaps we should be looking at the whiskies of the future. well, actually, we shouldn't, but somebody undoubtedly has to. kilchoman distillery, on islay's western reaches has yet to reach maturity; the ten year old. though the mixture of water, yeast and barley can be referred to as whisky as young as three years, the majority of the world markets are less than interested in malts aged less than ten years.

therefore, somebody, somewhere, in a darkened vault is surrounded by spreadsheets and the sayings of nostradamus, calculating just how much of the amber nectar the market will stand come ten years from now. not only would i hate to be the person responsible for such prediction, i'd hate to be the company accountant who has to bear the brunt of considerable outward expenditure before any serious income can be seen flowing into the single malt coffers.

electra bicycles

just prior to christmas, news/rumours surfaced regarding a new compact and bijou distillery to be created on the shores of lochindaal, a mere two miles from bowmore city centre. aside from the fact that none of us can think from where they'll source their water supply, the proprietors of this latest addition to islay's existing eight distilleries can presumably look forward to a decade of penury before becoming rich and famous.

always assuming, of course, that the market of 2025-29 isn't already saturated with the stuff.

and what, by way of minor digression, is today's cycling aficionado concerning him/herself with? the past is often more than superbly dealt with by the inestimable herbie sykes, while the present covered more than adequately by the likes of eurosport and itv4 in the uk and by others further afield. but if any capitalisation is to be made on the so-called wiggo effect, what would be the concern of cycling's future ten year old malt?

electra bikes

currently questions abound regarding fernando alonso's projected world-tour team and will they indeed be riding colnagos? note has been taken of prince wiggins's beard, the subtle change from sky procycling to that of team sky, a change of bicycle and team kit supplier at movistar and ultimately why chris froome received not so much as a benevolent nod in the new year's honours list. all those, however, concern the act of riding bicycles rather quickly, almost entirely for commercial and entertainment reasons yet for ultimately pointless purposes.

what of the future of the bicycle, not so much in technical terms but for transportational purposes?

my sunday mornings consist of arising at 08:30 and spending the next ten or fifteen minutes clambering into sportwool, lycra, merino and other accoutrements designed to ease the pain of riding well outside my capabilities while being windblown, wet and, if all goes according to plan, exhausted. those who may well form the future of cycling will almost exclusively find all that not only surplus to requirements but far too much faff to be bothered with. there are remarkably few car drivers who change into specific clothing prior to taking the car from the garage.

it's also unlikely that the future of cycling will be too concerned with speed; perhaps only just as far as making it to work on time each day. it often seems to be a closely guarded secret of velocipedinal activity that slow can be every bit as effective and enjoyable as fast. not for the more sedate amongst us the need for twenty-two gears, drop bars, carbon frames and a pair of skinny tyres. uppermost in the minds of those less than well informed as to the parcours of liege-bastogne-liege is likely to be comfort, practicality and a lack of oil stains on the left trouser leg.

electra bikes

so who, amongst the captains of the industry, is fulfilling the role of that distillery psychic, concerning themselves as to the nature of production ten years hence? well, suprising though it may seem, the trek corporation might just have beaten me to these queries and prognostications of my own. though already providers of cycles that might fulfil the needs of the less than sportingly inclined, they have recently purchased the electra bicycle company, a manufacturer renowned for its cruiser bicycles.

electra was originally formed twenty years ago in california by a swiss (benno banziger) and a german (jeano erforth). graphic design graduate, banziger said "When I looked at cycling in the US it seemed that everything was some kind of sport, but very few people used bikes for fun or for transportation. I wanted to introduce the 'having a bike in your life' factor, as opposed to 'being a cyclist.'"

it would be hard to deny that the current range offered by electra is anything less than colourful, substantially in contrast to the often drab schemes offered by the world's carbon stable. additionally, there isn't a drop bar to be seen, plenty of curvey metal tubes and the sort of riding position that promises visibility that would be the envy of the islay coastguard. the short answer would be practicality, a feature that is conspicuous by its absence in the ranges offered by colnago, pinarello, canyon, btwin and the like. of course, practicality has much to do with intent of purpose, and there would be little point in the un-honoured chris froome riding any of these across the yorkshire stages of the 2014 tour de france.

pronto gara

trek's perspicacity in purchasing electra, however, is probably less concerned with the grand tours or spring classics than with the overall future of the bicycle in a rather grander sense. their announcement of the acquisition unfortunately said very little, other than their intention to keep out the way while offering "financial, supply chain, distribution, and sales support that will help Electra take its business to the next level", a cliche that will hopefully not be repeated in public. electra, meanwhile, are simply offering similarly vacuous platitudes; "We're thrilled to have a great new partner in Trek. t's going to give us the resources to grow the Electra brand and get more people everywhere riding and loving Electra."

nevertheless, i find it most encouraging that this aspect of cycling is not being ignored at the expense of the minority sporting interests that seem to grab an inordinate portion of the cycling media's attention and research and development budgets of many of the world's cycle manufacturers. though evans cycles are assisting with spreading the cycling word across the uk, opening glitzy, shiny and incredibly well-stocked superstores here, there and everywhere, a substantial percentage of their showrooms displays consist of the more sporting projectiles. it might just be left to chaps such as pronto gara's malcolm glass to put their finger on the prevalent growth factor of the next ten years, filling their sales floors with proper bikes for the masses.

trek have often been the butt of unfair humour and criticism, some of it in these very pixels, but in the light of their reaching for a ten year malt (so to speak), you wonder if they know something we've all been too obsessive to notice.

electra bicycle company | trek bicycles

wednesday 8 january 2014

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the voice of experience

saligo bay

a ride round loch gorm, on islay's west coast, taken in an anti-clockwise direction always ends with a descent of the hill at foreland. more often than not the opportunity to descend really quickly, hands well clear of the brake levers, is ruined by meeting a motor vehicle ascending in the opposite direction. with little spare room on this single track road, and a couple of blind corners, the onus is very much upon the cyclist to keep an eye open for safety's sake.

however, just as the lower entrance to foreland house is reached, the surroundings open out a bit, it's easier to see any oncoming traffic, and the prevaling south westerly offers a nudge from the right. this 'nudge' can be anything from deep breathing, all the way up to a physical shove in the direction of the deer fence. it was repeating this manoeuvre in non-local company that first alerted me to a method of riding endemic to the domestic rider that apparently remained a well-kept secret to our visitors.

perhaps there really is an acquired knack to riding in strong to gale force winds. (storm force draughts, however, are strictly for thrillseekers with substantial life insurance policies).

you see, just as the road opens out at foreland, it was notable that the domestics rather naturally placed themselves at the extreme right of the road, knowing only too well that the strong gust from that direction would push bike and rider off to the left. the most graphic demonstration of failing to do so was watching a visitor run off the left side of the road and into the fence, seemingly helpless to prevent it happening.

and only a couple of weeks ago, when two of us were hit by a sudden atlantic squall, i unclipped and put my right foot to the ground as my foreign compatriot rode off into the ditch.

up until the week or so prior to christmas, i would have placed myself at the top of a very short list of uk riders with the chutzpah and arrogance to make pronouncements on coping with riding in severe winds. however, such has been the hammering received by many locations across the kingdom, that i figure i have been joined by one or two more. it has been almost humorous though, to read on twitter how the weather has forced riders to resort to the turbo trainer when i've just returned from a ride in, shall we say, more exacting conditions.

if there is a secret to riding in gale force winds, i'm not entirely sure i know what it is. well, that's not completely true; obviously i do know the secret, but can it be put into words? i really don't know. headwinds are pure simplicity which can only be categorised as grunt work. basically, put it it in a gear you can handle, hunker down on the drops, and pedal for all you're worth until either arriving home, or turning a corner with a change of wind direction. crosswinds, however, are a whole different bucket of stem bolts.

passing several buildings can often be harder than riding in wide open spaces: wind, no wind, wind, no wind. leaning into the crosswind risks falling over when interrupted by periodic dwellings. open spaces, however do often pose a greater risk, particularly when the wind is gusting. if i take a peek at the xc weather forecast for monday 6 january, i am entertained with average windspeeds of between 29 and 38 mph, gusting to a maximum of 52. that's about a force nine. it's maybe a tad obvious to point out that riding in a crosswind of 38 which very suddenly increases to 54, then drops back to 38, is slightly more than an irritation.

there's no practical way that i can think of to prepare you for riding in those conditions, other than ignoring the turbo trainer and getting out and about. there will be many amongst you who consider riding in winds such as these to be sheer idiocy, and i can't say i disagree. but it doesn't stop me from doing so nonetheless. i was recently asked what i'd regard as the sensible maximum, to which i recall answering "anything above 40mph", but having ridden in winds well over that speed in the past couple of weeks, i'm no longer sure i have the definitive answer to that question. however, i'm still willing to stand by the remark i popped on twitter during the festive 500...

i have discovered the secret to riding in gale force winds and torrential rain: stupidity.

tuesday 7 january 2014

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