the buff concept

bluewater kent

with only a brief nod towards yesterday's feature, while in the process of trying to demonstrate to my self-appointed betters over the choice of computer platform, i phoned apple's uk office to ask if they might be able to provide evidence that they weren't about to go the way of the dodo. prior to being reborn again under the stewardship of the late steve jobs, apple computer was not in the rude health it inhabits nowadays. they were happy to comply with my request, but on the bottom of the fax sent through was the slogan "if james bond were a computer, he'd be a mac." i doubt if that was the clincher as far as eschewing any future association with the dark side, but it was certainly a humorous moment in rather serious proceedings.


in the mid-nineties and the immediate following years, while it was possible to purchase apple mac computers, rare was the occasion when you could walk into a high street store, examine all those on offer and receive a demonstration from a knowledgeable member of the sales staff. in the branch of dixons that once inhabited glasgow's argyle street, the three macs in stock were still in their boxes, and unless you had ready cash or flexible plastic, there was little chance of seeing anything other than those boxes.

buff store

in order to overcome this dependence on mail order outlets, something that favoured specialist industries such as publishing, or the more knowledgeable individual, apple started opening its own shops all across the world. there are few cities these days that do not contain at least one apple store, though edinburgh is a notable exception (glasgow has two). the majority of you will have visited at least one of these often grandiose outlets, signified merely by a large illuminated white apple logo above the main entrance, and more often than not a patented glass staircase inside. the wi-fi is free, and the store assistants seem totally unconcerned over those checking their e-mail or facebook pages without any deliberate intention to buy anything.


and just to underline their difference from the run of the mill, instead of having to queue to pay for any purchase, each assistant carries a double sided iphone that comprises a card reader and a means of e-mailing the invoice to your mail address. it's very slick and impressive.

of course, apple's choice to go it alone, rather than trust their products to the inquities of the high street electronics retailer is not a singular example. specialized bicycles already have specialized only stores, or stores within a store. trek have followed suit, and rapha have brought their own take on individual retail therapy by way of their cycle clubs, offering state of the art coffee, large screen cycle sport and the entire range of rapha clothing to view or purchase. it's obviously a successful retail model that is in the process of trickling down to the more individualistic clothing retailer.

buff store

the folks at buff who started the whole trend for wearing tubular fabrics round a chilly neck, over the head, under a helmet and several other unique means of keeping strategically warm, have now opened a solo store within a store at the large bluewater enterprise in greenhithe, kent. it's never been too hard to get hold of buff items, but not so easy to decide which particular one is ideal for your needs. and i don't mind admitting that i'd to watch their videos more than just the once to figure out all the differing ways in which they can be worn. if only there were somebody could demonstrate this in person...

the bluewater store follows on from successful openings in barcelona. they've partnered with original creative design to produce sympathetic surroundings to show the buff range to its best advantage. this pop up store will offer the 14/15 autumn/winter styles that will see us all through the least sympathetic of cycling months, when we're all embracing velominati's rules five and nine and building so much character, it'll last at least until mid-june.

if kent's bluewater complex is within cycling distance, pop over and augment your already substantial character.

buff wear

monday 3 november 2014

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green clean bike cleaner

green oil green bike cleaner

in the early nineties, due to circumstances outwith its control, the newspaper at which i ply my graphic trade on occasion, ended up with two windows based computers, neither of which were in the best of health at the time. rarely do computers improve with age, and these were no exception, eventually getting to the stage where they were in dire need of replacement. though the board of directors were intent on replacing like with like, those of us who actually have to work with the blighters on almost a daily basis were much more in favour of acquiring apple computers, for that was what had initially brought the paper into the computer age in the first place.

happily, sense prevailed, and we are forever thankful that we've never had to deal with microsoft's operating system ever since. however, when considering the main machine, now a recently purchased 27" imac, it has almost daily need of running adobe indesign, photoshop and illustrator simultaneously, along with scanning software, a word translator, e-mail, web browser and one or two other necessary programmes. therefore, whenever a new machine is purchased (every couple of years), we load it up with as much ram as it will hold. in truth, it's the only sensible thing to do.

green oil green bike cleaner

apple are notorious for charging alarming amounts of money to fit the memory at the time of ordering. it is far more economical to accept the computer with the base amount of memory and purchase the rest independently. for those unfamiliar with the form factor of random access memory chips, they're surprisingly small, even when offering several gigabytes of usable memory. you could easily fit four of the little chaps inside the average dl envelope (though padding would be a good idea to retain its intergrity while in the hands of the royal mail).

but more often than not, when the memory chips arrive in the office, they've been placed in a cardboard box several orders of magnitude larger than is absolutely necessary, cossetted by either miles of scrap paper or enough bubble wrap or airbags to line a formula one race circuit. i'm sure that, somewhere along the line, the customer is paying for taking up all this excess space in the vans and trucks of the average haulage contractor or mail van. surely economy of space would be miles more pragmatic?

it would, however, be unfair to single out the retailer of computer memory chips alone. only the other day, mrs washingmachinepost received two dvds (we have yet to embrace anything marked blu-ray) from a well-known online retailer, contained within a rather substantially sized cardboard box inside of which was miles and miles of brown paper, occupying a lot more space than taken up by the dvds. one has to wonder where it will all end. or maybe more to the point, where a more sensible degree of compactitude will begin. and just so's you know, i made that word up.

green oil green bike cleaner

it is of perhaps significant notice that the first i've come across to adopt this common sense approach is simon nash at the green oil company. oil is oil is oil, whether 'real' or synthetic; there's little that can be done to minimise the space such a liquid occupies, but bike cleaner offers an entirely different kettle of chainring bolts altogether. as mr nash pointed out, "most cleaning products are 80-95% water. to reduce the carbon footprint of transport, this latest version of green oil's green clean contains only 300ml of concentrated cleaner."

i was eternally grateful to mr nash that he included this information within the delivered jiffy bag. for when removed from its packet, i had fears that the cleaner had leaked, and fully expected to see thick green liquid dripping onto the sitting room carpet. however, the clever bit, and i do wonder why others have not adopted a similar practice, is that the container need simply be filled with that 80 - 90% water, making it up to a litre. so cotton pickin' obvious now that someone's taken the first step.

green oil green bike cleaner

however, a lowered carbon footprint is really of no nevermind if the end product is found wanting. the idea here is to replace the standard bottle cap with the included spray nozzle, then smother the errant bicycle (in my case, a rather dirty ibis hakkalugi. getting it very dirty was great fun in the first place) with the green cleaner. it's then a simple matter of leaving it for a couple of minutes before rinsing the bike with water and watch the dirt run off the frame, wheels and tyres. any really grotty bits can be nudged with an eco sponge, then dried off with a handy towel that i found in the bathroom cupboard. end result: one shiny, clean bicycle.

adhering to the mantra that art lies in the details, the two rubber bands holding the spray nozzle to the container are hand cut from reclaimed inner tubes, while the bottle top is also recycled from old containers. i'm glad to see that someone has our best interests at heart. the product does exactly what it says it will, while lightening the postie's delivery load. and i've never heard a postal delivery operative complain about that.

green oil's green clean bike cleaner contains only 300ml of concentrate at point of purchase. retail cost direct from the green oil website is £7.99 with free uk postage.

green oil green bike cleaner

sunday 2 november 2014

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bellroy waterproof leather travel wallet

bellroy wallet

i'm informed by my colleagues in the office that the rapid disappearance of days, weeks, months and years are simply a sign of getting older. in which case, though i'm admitting to nothing, if i've recalled the wrong year with which to start this review, then you will perhaps look fondly and kindly on the failing memory of the more mature cyclist.

i believe the first time i took part in hot chillee's londres-paris bike ride was in june 2007. despite paying at least lip service to the ageing process above, this was my first unaccompanied cycle expedition anywhere other than islay or scotland. as to the intricacies of european travel, i was but a mere novice, unsure when i'd be likely to have need of foreign currency or, perhaps more importantly, when to have my passport to hand.

the latter fact was one that almost tripped me up before even leaving the safety of the golf club start (yes, really). somewhat fearful of my ability to hang onto anything important in the face of potential adversity, i thought it better to leave my passport safely ensconced in my kit bag, an item carefully stacked in the back of a truck, ready for onward transport to our port of departure. however, conversation with those more adept at this sort of thing led me to believe that it might be more prudent to have the item about my person just in case it was asked for or required en-route.

bellroy wallet

this turned out to be sage advice.

the problem, however, was quite where to place the passport in order that i did not find an empty pocket on arrival at customs. though i nowadays pretty much expect any properly constituted cycle jersey to feature a zipped security pocket about its person, in those far off days of last decade, very few jerseys were built in this fashion. what was the international traveller to do?

of the jerseys i'd packed for that first trip to paris (well, if truth be told, it was versailles that particular year), two had zipped rear pockets, just large enough to carry a passport, but unfortunately, precious little else, and i'm ever so glad i was sat at the front of those jerseys, because i dread to think what sort of a shape my international identity papers imposed upon that pocket. in deference to our sponsor, i carried an ardbeg single malt wallet, one that was enturely the wrong shape and bulk to be carried in any sort of jersey pocket, so that did indeed travel in the truck.

however, every year, on the occasion of the ride of the falling rain, conversations with fellow pelotonese bring to the fore just how many of them sign up for endless numbers of foreign sportives. in retrospect, i think it very likely that many will suffer the same set of incongruous circumstances as my own indecisions and iniquities that are wallet related. with so much by way of security at airports and ports, it would be less than prudent to be caught card, cash, licence or passportless.

bellroy wallet

and just in case there were insufficient liabilities to contend with, every now and again, it rains.

living the sheltered life, it strikes me as verging on the eccentric to consider there's a company whose sole purpose in life is to scour the four corners of the earth, sourcing all manner of fine wallets that might benefit those , like me, who had no real idea we needed such excellence in the first place. but that's just what the chaps at lombres do each and every day. and while your first impressions of australia might not contain allusions to large amounts of precipitation, that is exactly where bellroy fashion their water resistant leather elements travel wallets. these large biscuit shaped wallets hold not only cash, cards, licence and, believe it or not, a sim card, but also the aforementioned passport.

in fact, when unzipped via the ykk waterproof zip, inside the right hand side of the bellroy wallet is a verisimilitude of a passport. in this case, it offers false hope to customs officers, for 'tis truthfully a rather handy notebook, one that can be written in with the tiny ballpoint pen cossetted in a similarly tiny pocket on the wallet's inner spine. it even comes with a spare refill. there are three stitched and perfectly sized slots to take care of credit and debit cards as well as a driver's licence. according to lombres, there is also space to hold an iphone or similar; in the absence of such a device, i rode about during one wet bike ride with my ipod touch inside, during which it suffered no ill effects.

bellroy wallet

though i have perhaps unkindly referred to the elements travel wallet as a large biscuit, in point of fact, it fits very neatly into any one of a jersey's three rear pockets, keeping cards, money and ipod protected from the big, bad, wet, galeforce world. in fact, just to give it a harder time than its quality and price surely deserve, i popped it in the rear pocket of my rapha hardshell for a rainy two hour bike ride. when it came time to pay for coffee, my five pound note was as dry as it was when i placed it there the previous eve.

unfortunately its shape prevented it from being placed in the chest or inner pockets of several of the jackets i own, but the same argument could (and has) be levelled at it's ardbeg predecessor, and several others i can think of. of course, quality doesn't come for free, and £99 might well be considered a tad on the expensive side to carry cards, money and passport. however, i'd venture that this might rather pale into insignificance when trying to contact the british embassy in a foreign land on discovering your passport isn't where you thought it was.

several years ago, i travelled from glasgow to kansas city to learn how better to apply the art of pipe band drumming (don't ask). with more than a few of us heading off on the same flight, one poor fellow had to remain behind, because he'd allowed his passport to get wet and delaminated the covering over the photograph. passport control wouldn't let him travel. if it can happen to one, it can happen to any. because this situation was adjudged his fault, he lost the cost of his ticket and kansas hotel accommodation.

a £99 wallet seems rather modest expenditure by comparison.

even if you travel as infrequently as yours truly, you'll likely more than appreciate the quality and practicality of the bellroy elements travel wallet. and you'll appreciate its water resistance all the more if you live north of watford.

the bellroy elements travel wallet is available in slate grey (as reviewed) cognac or black at a cost of £99 direct from

saturday 1 november 2014

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bikmo bicycle insurance

"my greatest fear is that when i die, my wife sells my bikes for what i told her they cost." anonymous

bikmo cycle insurance

it is a commonly held misconception that children are far more adept at using modern computer technology than adults. in years gone by, i used to hold an after school computer club at the local primary school, something that elicited a decent level of interest until it became little more than cheap babysitting. during those one hour sessions, it became all too apparent that one or two of the teachers were asking the kids to help them with the occasional task on the imacs. when i made mention that surely the process ought to be the other way round, i was told "but they're so much better at this than i am."

bikmo cycle insurance

whether that should be or is still the case is something of a moot point, however, my theory as to why that situation has occurred has little or nothing to do with a more youthful approach to modern technology. in the case of schoolkids, were they to press the wrong button or combination of keys and trash some part of the computer in front of them, it's not their responsibility to replace or repair it. any remorse is likely to be concealed in the phrase "miss, this computer's not working. can i play with the lego?"

the same pretty much goes for bicycles in that age group. though bikes tend to float in and out of favour, there have been many occasions when i've had to negotiate abandoned machines on the pavement outside our average market. and almost without exception, those full-suspension lead weights with wheels have been lying derailleur side down, probably dropped without ceremony on the way to buy some crisps. that would likely explain why i used to have a queue of the little blighters asking me to fix their gears. "i don't know what could have happened to it."

we are fortunate, however, that dropping your bicycle unnanounced outside cafes or shops on islay does not result in an empty space on return. cycle theft is almost unknown, while relatively sparse traffic and conscientious drivers (both cars and hgvs), coupled with barely a complete peloton of cyclists means there are rarely damaged bicycles and injured riders left scattered about our roadways.

however, i am under no illusion that in these respects, we are remarkably favoured on the outer edge.

bikmo cycle insurance

we are but a corner of only 3,200 people, around five of which (on a good day) ride bicycles; hardly representative of the world at large. or, come to that, even the uk. bicycle theft on the mainland it seems, knows few bounds. despite endless improvements to the design of cycle locks and purpose built cycle racks, those folks intent on separating owner from velocipede still manage to make off with untold numbers of bicycles, usually never to be seen again. and a friend of mine had two reasonably expensive bicycles removed from their shed overnight, despite the door featuring three padlocks and the bikes being cabled together.

to be honest, this situation is unlikely to change for the better. as cycles become lighter, more popular and more expensive, they are only ever likely to become a more attractive target for thieves. all we have as a means of defence (such as it is) is the opportunity to insure against loss. however, i cannot be alone in owning several cycles, and insuring all of them at the prices quoted by most brokers would undoubtedly mean no pocket money left for coffee on sunday mornings. bikmo cycle insurance presume to be slightly different, or at least more in touch with the needs of today's pelotonese. but starting with that name, i asked ceo david george where the heck that came from?

"The name Bikmo was the name that stuck out of many possibilities and was derived from our slogan of Ride More which changed to Bike More then finally Bikmo. It's a nonsense word, but the one most people remembered the day after an ideas session over a few beers."

bikmo cycle insurance

the last time i took a look at the cost of insuring my bicycles, the broker with whom i checked seemd only to have two rates: city address and not city address, and there didn't seem to be much of a difference between the two. if you take my points mentioned above as to the almost total lack of cycle theft on islay and as little by way of traffic danger, surely those factors ought to be reflected in the premium offered? i put the same query to david, as the bikmo website allows the potential customer to input postcode details. does the postcode feature on the website calculator really make any difference? i input my parent's postcode in prestwick (a town on scotland's west coast), and my own on islay for the same bike value and there was no difference in premium.

"We've kept the rating as simple as possible and the only weighting we apply is for London as the level of theft in the capital is significantly higher than the rest of the country. Though I appreciate there's far less theft on Islay (great location by the way), it would make our system a lot more complex to start tweaking every postcode. Plus there's not always data available for every single area.
"The approach we've taken in reducing risk because we focus on cycling enthusiasts, makes our policy the best value, yet still the most comprehensive on the market."

on a couple of my trips to london town, i have espied a van offering a mobile cycle mechanic service, whether to repair gears, brakes or a puncture while en-route to somewhere. this is similar to a service that bikmo have included in the price of their insurance. effectively a breakdown service that will either repair your bicycle, or get you to where you're going. but surely that's something that would only apply to inner-city or urban areas? does the breakdown cover apply in the wilds of scotland (or england and wales, for that matter)?

bikmo cycle insurance

"Breakdown / get your home cover is worldwide, as are all our policy benefits (aside from third party liability in the US & Canada), so you can still claim if you're in a remote spot in the Highlands and break down."

it's quite a long time since i owned a motor car, but i've been driving since i was seventeen and never had an accident that was my fault. add to that the fact that i have never indulged in alcoholic beverages, and i held the ultimate in no-claims bonus discount. yet, the insurance on my volkswagen was still not a kick in the teeth off £300. oddly, when last checking the cost of insurance for my colnago c40, a bicycle that i'll admit would be harder to replace than one of their new models, the annual premium was higher than that of my car. though bikmo's premiums seem to be very competitive, why is it that cycle insurance, in some cases, costs almost as much as that for motor cars, despite the latter being often considerably more expensive to replace?

"This is exactly what I found when doing research and one of the reasons many people don't take out a cycle policy. Insurance is based on risk against claims value; if you get a lot of bikes being stolen and the overall cost is high, then insurance premiums will rise. It's the same process as with young drivers. Statistically they have more incidents than more mature drivers, therefore they pay more to insure their cars.
bikmo cycle insurance "Though we don't change our premiums according to age, we've taken a similar approach in that as cyclists we understand the market, which led to a couple of decisions;
"1 We don't insure riders whose maximum value away from the home (normally your most expensive bike) is below £1,000. This means our customers don't pay for cheap bikes which are left in cities, stolen and make up a large number of claims. Our policy is focussed on cycle enthusiasts like us.
"2 You don't pay the same premium on all your bikes. I own four bikes, but can only ride one at once. Most thefts / incidents happen when bikes are away from the home, so as cyclists, we shouldn't pay the same rating for bikes we leave in the garage. That's why, with Bikmo Plus, we can offer up to 50% multi-bike discounts, reducing the cost of insuring all your bikes."

though perhaps not the ideal statement to include in an feature on cycle insurance, i don't actually know of any cycling friends who insure their bicycles. most seem content to wing it and hope that their house insurance will pay up if they don't admit that it costs almost as much as a small car. but are cyclists beginning to see the value of insuring their bicycles, or as a species are we still pretty much a lost cause?

bikmo cycle insurance

"It's going to take some time to convince all cyclists that having a specific policy is right for them, as the balance between policy cost and bike value needs to be right. However, with the ever increasing value of bikes, I doubt many people spending £2k up to £12k on their bike would want them stolen the next day without any protection.
"One current issue for some cyclists is believing they're covered under their home insurance policy. Though it may the case in certain circumstances, there are a number of restrictions with many house insurance policies, some with a £500 excess, and if you claim on your house insurance for your bike then it's possible that your premium for the following year will increase.
"I approached Bikmo Plus as a cyclist, with the aim of creating one simple to buy and well priced policy that covers you whether you're riding trails or road, in the UK or overseas, for competition or pleasure. And I hope we've done just that. I do however, welcome any thoughts or comments on our policy as I'm always looking to improve."

bikmo do offer a comparison chart on their website that shows what they're offering as against their nearest competitors. it's a bit of an eye opener in some cases, but it's definitely the most comprehensive and cheapest option i've come across.

and they didn't pay me to say that.

friday 31 october 2014

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jlt, condor and mavic

john herety

last year, the british road race championships were held in glasgow, not only the first time the championships had made an appearance north of the border, but allegedly as a precursor to the commonwealth games road race held this past august. not being particularly well informed regarding such ventures, though i had viewed the par cours on the map thoughtfully provided along with my press accreditation, it was sort of difficult to visualise just how the route played out, even allowing for my fairly comprehensive knowledge of glasgow city centre.

to see argyle street barriered along as far as buchanan street, before heading up this pedestrian precinct and turning left onto st vincent street and out towards kelvingrove park was quite something else, compared to its more usual claustrophobic and frighteningly busy setting. however, as fortune would dictate, i had the very best of views of the entire course over every single lap, from the seat of the rapha condor jlt team car driven by john "did i ever tell you about the time..." herety, often at speeds nearing those practised by most of the formula one grid. this extremely fortunate state of affairs was a combination of john herety's largesse on the day, and team sponsor jlt's charlie pearch having made me aware that the passenger seat was likely to be vacant.

jlt condor

if ever you get the option to view any race from the shotgun position, grab it with both hands. it might be scary at times, but boy is it thrilling.

the british road race championships in 2013 are now a matter of record, but suffice it to say that kristian house surprised everyone, including his directeur sportif by nipping away from his own small group to take sixth place as the first domestic rider to finish. it is also now a matter of record that title and clothing sponsor rapha have decided to bow out from direct team sponsorship, having formed the whole team with condor cycles at the start of the 2006 season. eight years is an impressive length of time to sponsor a uk domestic cycle racing team, even if doing so coincided with britain's seeming wholesale adoption of cycle racing. imperial works, it seems, now have bigger fish to fry at world tour level along with a considered change of direction in this particular realm.

jlt condor

that potentially would have left john herety's band of merry men high and dry were it not for the fortitude of the team's most fervent supporter, the aforementioned charlie pearch. he has been not only the supporters' club president in previous years, but instrumental in bringing jlt in as co-sponsor and now title sponsor for the 2015 season.

"JLT is delighted to continue its support of the UK's leading domestic cycling team in partnership with Condor who are an iconic part of British cycling's heritage." condor's grant young was equally as committed to the team's future, saying "The team will remain a testing and proving ground for our new technologies and bicycle models. Our Super Acciaio and new Leggero SL models are direct results of rider-based research."

so that's the team remaining in the safe hands not only of manager john herety, but of an enthusiastic sponsor and bicycle supplier. but rather obviously, if rapha have left the fold, there's the pressing need to clothe the riders in competitive cycle clothing that will also retain their deserved reputation for style in the peloton. and that's precisely where mavic have stepped into the frame. as mavic's François-Xavier Blanc said "The new partnership will allow us to develop further our striking new technologies designed to improve performance, both by reducing aerodynamic drag and helping the athletes to perform in all weather conditions.
jlt condor "We are happy that Team JLT Condor gives its whole trust to the Mavic Head-to-Toe helmet-apparel-footwear range for the coming year"

happily, though inevitably tinges of yellow were bound to infiltrate the new team kit, the men in black remain resolutely sartorially sombre in their latest apparel. aside from anything else, this means that charlie pearch at least won't have to alter his twitter persona as mib supporter. the team for 2015 will consist of graham briggs, dante carpenter (under 23), david mccarthy (under 23), ed clancy, mbe, mike cuming, felix english, kristian house, richard handley, richard lang, ed laverack (current british under 23 national champion ), luke mellor (under 23), joe moses (under 23), tom moses (under 23) and harry tanfield (under 23).

until january 1, the team website and social media contacts will remain as rapha condor jlt. the new livery will debut on 2 january at the team's first race in australia.

how long before mavic start offering a john herety signature yellow and black tank top?

thursday 30 october 2014

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bike mechanic; tales from the road and the workshop. guy andrews, rohan dubash and taz darling. bloomsbury hardback. 272pp illus. £30

bike mechanic - andrews and dubash

some of you may have seen a recent episode of david attenborough's latest wildlife documentary series in which some remarkable footage was shown of baby barnacle geese jumping out the nest, at a height of 400ft, and falling down a sheer cliff to their parents waiting below. not unnaturally, not all survive this extraordinary right of passage, and those that do, have often then to run the gauntlet of arctic foxes along the shore on which they have arrived. for all the gasps and tears on behalf of the tv audience witnessing this debacle, it's obviously a birthright that is more successful overall than you might think, for every october, around 60,000 geese arrive on the island of islay to create havoc on the lush agricultural ground for which the isle is famous.

apparently the barnacles don't simply munch on grass, but pretty much pull it up by the roots. scottish natural heritage, currently debating the likelihood of culling at least a few of these sizeable locusts, pays out substantial amounts of cash to the local farmers by way of compensation. depending on who you talk to, it arguably costs them more to winter feed their cattle and sheep, as well as re-seed their fields than they receive by way of compensation.

however, despite their colossal numbers (the goose count was only 24,000 when mrs washingmachinepost and i moved here in the late 1980s), or perhaps because of them, large numbers of birdwatchers (twitchers) arrive almost simultaneously to observe the birds (there are also whitefront and greylag geese making up the numbers) from the windows of their hired minibuses and overly large telescopes and binoculars. from my point of view, there are only two types of bird: geese and not geese. but in the true style of the blase philistine, my wind battered face has always to smile as i pass considerable numbers of twitchers on sunday mornings as i head to the velo club rendezvous point at debbie's.

why in heaven's name would you get up so early on a sunday morning, be confined to the seats of a volkswagen minibus, while dressed in the compulsory barbour jacket uniform just to look at geese that can be seen from pretty much every stopping point round the island? but then, if i might turn the situation on its head, let's look at it from their point of view.

on a wet and windy sunday morning, while harmlessly studying birdlife that is not native to your own location, on the trip of a lifetime, some idiot passes at a speed he probably thinks is quite impressive, wearing a lime green helmet and other ludicrous garb, astride a sliver of carbon fibre that probably cost not a lot less than the minibus. horses for courses i suppose.

however, it's not even as simple as that, for that selfsame sunday morning cyclist has a hidden secret that turns the appreciation of items designed for specific purposes into something approaching an art form. then just in time, messrs andrews and dubash come along with a book possibly designed specifically to satiate such closet realities. their latest publication, bike mechanic, manages to be at least three things inside one set of covers. firstly, guy and rohan provide us with first hand experience of what it's like to be a pro mechanic on the world tour race circuit. the unsung heroes of the peloton, or perhaps even more accurately 'the roadies of the cycling world'.

it's a career that pays scarce heed to a regulated number of hours per week, that embraces early mornings and late evenings, and is interspersed with interminable hours cooped up in the back seat of a skoda. and it's not one that is open only to the team mechanic. necessity and marketing have decreed that shimano, vittoria and mavic provide a similar, but neutral service across all of the grand tours and one day classics. it's also a career that has little truck with academic qualifications.

"I just gave them my CV, but in this job a CV doesn't mean shit, really, does it? And then, a month later, I got an email - here's your contract."

aside from the writings and literal observations by both excellent wordsmiths, the imagery of taz darling, much of it in the monochrome style of rouleur, provides easily as great a point of interest as the paragraphs and sentences. in fact, on finishing the book, i returned to page one and simply enjoyed all the photos.

but documentary is but one facet of bike mechanic, for the middle section indulges those of us who take as much pleasure in drooling over beautifully photographed campagnolo workshop tools as in applying their features to intrinsic parts of the bicycle. probably every bit as suspect a pastime as watching geese from a minibus. however, part three is arguably the finest feature of this truly excellent book. for not only does rohan dubash easily (and visibly, courtesy of ms darling's imagery) walk the reader through the steps of assembling, repairing and fettling a range of bicycles and componentry, but shamelessly displays the ocd that is part of his fastidious demeanour.

"As always, the devil is in the detail, so align any relevant logos or graphics, separating a bike that looks like it has been thrown together from one that has been assembled with care."

the only conceivable way this book could have been improved would have been to print it on greaseproof paper and ring bind the pages allowing it to lie flat on the workbench. but then it would have been an altogether different edifice altogether. guy andrews is both an accomplished writer, editor and mechanic, and while rohan dubash is no mean writer himself, he ranks amongst the uk's finest bicycle mechanics. there is much to learn within these 272 pages, pretty much all of it in a style that educates and never preaches.

if you think you know everything there is to know about bicycle mechanics (both the process and the individuals), this is the very book for you, as indeed it is also even if you can't tell the difference between a bb30 bottom bracket and a quick-release skewer. for those of us who could spend hours simply staring at a campagnolo peanut butter spanner, it is manna from heaven.

wednesday 29 october 2014

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le col rain jacket

i must apologise to readers and to le col for the lack of 'real' photos to accompany this review. this was due to a camera malfunction.

le col rain jacket

my original, yet ultimately pointless slogan for thewashingmachinepost (why on earth would a blog need a slogan in the first place?) was 'cycling on the outer edge', words that i rather hoped would be understood for their deliberate double meaning. though possibly less true nowadays, at one time these daily scribblings were somewhat different in character to the so-called (by me) mainstream cycling media. this was not a deliberate ploy, and i do not wish to make it a point of apparent self-aggrandisement, but with really only one string to my bow, that's the way it happens to be.

the second, more geographical meaning was brought home on some of my early rides around the western approaches of the principality. stop off at saligo bay on the island's atlantic coast, and were it not for the earth's curvature and the lack of a (very) powerful telescope, you could see canada's eastern seaboard. nova scotia, to be more precise, and thus, the outer edge.

it is the latter physical fact that drops large quantities of rain and wind on the island, something that has recently begun once again, and will be our birthright until late march/early april next year. velominati's rule five is the only real way of looking at cycling in such rugged elements, on an island that offers little by way of shelter. across the west coast, there are few trees that will cheerfully grow in the face of a howling gale, meaning that anything heading in off the atlantic is faced with few, if any, physical hurdles. of course, this is true not only of islay, but of pretty much the whole of scotland's west coast.

le col rain jacket

it is very easy to become blase about riding in these conditions, but just how different it is to the norm was graphically pointed out on saturday. when it's very wet and very windy, i often nip out on my cyclocross bike around bridgend woods. it's relatively sheltered there and i can cycle myself silly for a couple of hours without having to face too mch in the way of inclemency. however, when the fun's over, there's still the exposed six mile stretch of road to get to debbie's for lunch and coffee, where the stability of a cyclocross bicycle is a distinct boon.

however, descending the short hill at blackrock, about to swing off onto the machair and dunes at uiskentuie, i overshot my exit point because a sudden gust from the left engendered huge understeer and i couldn't turn in where intended. the plus side to such weather conditions is in providing an ideal stage for the testing of winter cycling apparel. with frequent horizontal rain accompanying the practice of cycling into a galeforce mattress, any garment found wanting will probably do so quite early on in its career. on saturday, i protected my torso with the rather stylish le col rain jacket; all black trimmed with fluorescent yellow cuffs and inside collar.

le col rain jacket

this rain jacket is fashioned from event fabric, a highly breathable ptfe membrane installed on the jacket's inner face. the cuffs appear to be of lycra which has always struck me as an odd choice, not only by le col, for lycra may be many things, but waterproof isn't one of them. the jacket features a le col branded elastic hem around its even length, but with a poppered fold-down-tail to protect your posterior from tyre and road spray. though this flap is a welcome addition to the jacket, i figure it would not only be more effective if the jacket was longer at the back by a couple of centimetres, but if the flap was made of a heavier material. in galeforce winds it flapped about a bit too much, undermining its potential effectiveness.

though many a rain jacket is devoid of pocket space, the le col version provides a small zipped inner pocket for coffee money, keys or possibly a mobile phone. however, i think the jacket's overall value would be greatly enhanced by featuring two or three outer pockets at the back. in order that it is effectively employed, the close fit is very welcome, not doubt aiding the breathability, however, if you've already stuffed those jersey rear pockets with all manner of paraphernalia (and, let's face it, who doesn't?), the fit is compromised by having to accommodate such cargo. le col are not alone in this; i can think of several others who offer similarly pocketless waterproofs, but it would be a nice touch.

le col rain jacket

but despite its impressively stylish countenance, wind and rain are less than impressed by aesthetics. the bottom line is, does it do what it says on the tin? to the very best of my rainsoaked cycling abilities and observations, i'm pretty sure the jacket keeps the rain at bay, even after two hours in frequently heavy rain. what it does not do, and i've yet to find a breathable waterproof that does, is manage to equate its moisture management with that of an energetic cyclist's moisture output.

my first exploratory ride took place in beautiful sunshine, in direct contrast to the day's weather forecast. on arrival at the coffee destination, my jersey was a trifle damp at the waist abd back while both armwarmers were decidely so. however, in such mild air at the time, it would be slightly unreasonable to expect otherwise. try the same trick in pouring rain, however, and though the condensation was still evident to a greater or lesser degree, there is little doubt that rain was being kept confidently at bay. riding six miles into a galeforce headwind in the pouring rain left the upper two thirds of my jersey impressively dry.

i've no doubt there will come a day when waterproof, breathable fabrics display 100% of both factors, but until that day arrives, the le col rainjacket, minor gripes aside, occupies the upper reaches of both style, practicality and weatherproofing.

the le col rain jacket is available in black with fluorescent yellow trim only and in sizes small to xl. it can be purchased for £260 direct from the le col website.

le col

tuesday 28 october 2014

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