a cycling café on arran

velo cafe lagg

those were not the days of comfort, particularly during the winter months. to be more specific, between end october up until easter. those were the very months when a smidgeon of coffee induced warmth would have been more than welcome after the sunday ride. disappointingly however, though the perambulations belonged solely to the mighty dave t and yours truly, the end-of-ride salutations were brief, stood shivering outside the main gates at bruichladdich distillery.

the mighty dave lives in port wemyss at the southern end of the rhinns; i live in bowmore. as near as dammit, bruichladdich is the mid-point between both locations. so if we met each other outside the distillery, rode somewhere and ended up back at the blue gates, by the time we eventually made it home, we'd both have cycled an equal distance. that seemed the only fair way to do it. between easter and october, we could pop a few more miles south for a coffee at what was then known as the croft kitchen. but when debbie started selling coffee in bruichladdich and stayed open all year round, the decision wasn't a hard one to make.

velo cafe lagg

it is purely accidental that debbie's has ended up as the velocipedinal attraction it has become. we simply took advantage of a blank wall to festoon it with cycle-related memorabilia. the rest is local history.

now, however, the cycling café has moved from a period of idiosyncracy to that of commonality and onto verging on ostentation. rapha's pop-up on london's old street has subsequently become a string of cycle clubs across the world, not to forget the inimitable look mum no hands!. glasgow has siempre and edinburgh has ronde, to name but two north of the border, while the cyclists' association with coffee and cake has led to a proliferation of the blighters all across the land. and when i say "all across the land", i'm including the velo café lagg on arran.

not strictly one of the inner hebrides to which islay, jura and colonsay belong, arran pretty much shares a latitude with islay, but is separated by the kintyre peninsula. it has been frequently described as 'scotland in miniature' due to the north end featuring the peak of goat fell, at 874 metres, the island's highest point. the southern end, however, is a tad flatter, ultimately just like the highlands and lowlands of scotland.

velo cafe lagg

the isle of arran is close enough to the scottish mainland to be served by a frequent, 55 minute ferry trip from ardrossan, a ferry journey that has recently benefited from ret or road equivalent tariff, a government initiative that has lowered the cost of ferry travel on scotland's west coast. thus arran, as with islay, now receives a tad more visitors than was once the case. arran's proximity to the mainland encourages just a few more than islay and jura, though they have only a single malt whisky distillery at lochranza, managed by a former employee of bowmore distillery.

yet, while a proportion of those increasing numbers of visitors arrive on or with bicycles, you'd wonder why anyone would install a cycling specific café on the island. but someone has, and one of those someones is christopher hogge, so i posed the question to him.

"The seed of the idea to opening a cycling café was really sown in France, in the cafés of the Col du Croix de Fer, the Col du Galibier and Roubaix.
"A dozen or so like-minded cycling friends from Arran, Ayr and Cambridge would go and ride these cols and end up drinking strong coffee and eating good, simple food to get us on our way. We would at some point always say how it would be great to have a similar place on the island and turn it into destination.
velo cafe lagg  "That conversation went on for roughly four years. Finally, this year, we did something about it.
"Velo Café Lagg is actually the old public bar of the Lagg Hotel, at Kilmory on the south end of the Island."

that the trend and demand for cycling cafés is alive and well and living in the firth of clyde is pretty much proven by the fact that arran's velo café opened as recently as march of this year. the car ferry arrives from ardrossan at the port/town of brodick, approximately fourteen miles north east of lagg.

though debbie's on islay currently sports a sizeable bicycle rack 'neath the ground floor windows and features the corner wall replete with all manner of attractive cycling paraphernalia, strictly speaking, it was never designed as a cycling café from the outset. the imposition of velocipedinal activity has been a (welcome) retro-fit. however, the very marriage of the words velo and café would tend to suggest that the example on arran was a bit more specific in its business plan. in which case, what does it offer the resident or visiting cyclist?

"We aim to be a destination café that is welcoming , as well as enthusiastic about what it is and what it does. A cyclists' café for cycllists, run by cyclists.
velo cafe lagg "We have tried to create a unique location that is more than just a café with a few bikes hung on the walls. We hope we are all inclusive and tap into the history and myth of the sport. Most of the mementos in the cafe are either ours or have been given on extended loan from my friends and supporters. We haven't bought things in to fill the space, apart from the flags and a few caps from Prendas. We have signed jerseys that we have picked up along the way, vintage mementos from local ex-racers, a wheel that we broke doing the Roubaix Challenge and the loo wall papered with pages from the Gazzetta Dello Sport and L'Equipe and more.
"We have really good coffee, great home-made cakes, home-made soup, local sourdough baguettes, home-cooked ham and local cheese. Peter and I are life-long cyclists, having both followed Le Tour for as long as we can remember."

from christopher's comprehensive description, it's easily apparent that this is hardly a group of folks jumping on what i might disparagingly describe as the band wagon. arriving in cleated shoes on a polished floor is unlikely to result in disapproving stares from behind the counter.

few and far between are the instances of modernity without their own attendant social media pages and in this respect the velo café is no different, sporting both facebook and instagram pages (we can't all be perfect). when perusing the latter, it is hard to avoid a short series inflected with the assos clothing logo, most obviously plastered all across a motor vehicle. does this mean that the velo café is geared (sorry) towards those inhabiting this end of the cycling spectrum, or do they offer an all encompassing welcome to anyone on two wheels?

velo cafe lagg

"Velo Café Lagg is really for all those who love to ride and I think that comes across in the way we present ourselves on Facebook and Instagram.
"We enjoy our 'Rider of the Day slot, as it really does tell the stories of those that pop in. Our youngest visitor so far was 13 and the oldest was well over 70. We get as many men as women and as many tourers as we do mountain bikers or roadies. There have been no fixies yet!
"I love the fact that some retirees have gone into their sheds and dragged out their old Geoffrey Butler bikes and popped in to say hello. There have also been some great characters who have dropped by; stories of racing on bamboo wheels and an ex-racer who actually rode in the 1984 Milk Race that visited Arran. He still rides the same bike and now lives round the corner from the café.
"What has also come across in conversation is just how deeply rooted and embedded cycling is in the west of Scotland. It seems to have transcended generations and continues to permeate today.
"The Assos connection comes via Peter, who has worn Assos forever and knows them personally. I, on the other hand, am happy to mix it up, but obviously more dedicated to This is Cambridge (I have known Andy for more than 30 years), but I'm also happy to wear Assos, Rapha, DHB etc., though I generally stick to Rapha pro-team bib shorts!
"Assos came to the café at the end of April, bringing their team car to support an 80km ride, incorporating 1200m of climbing. We also held an evening shindig where Assos' UK sales manager, Philipp Schwedthelm, gave a talk about the brand's history and their products."

velo cafe lagg

as i mentioned above, scotland's west coast islands have benefited in recent years from a substantial increase in visitor numbers, including those on bicycles. it has been more than noticeable on islay and jura, so christopher must surely have observed a similar trend on arran?

"Since moving to Arran in 2007, I have seen a massive increase in cycling generally. That may be due to various factors; Britain's track team successes, Sir Bradley's 2012 victories, Glasgow's 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Tour De France in Yorkshire, the Tour of Britain in Glasgow, Moffat, Dumfries etc.
"As you said, Road Equivalent Tariff has had a huge impact on the number of visitors coming to Arran and the isles. The number of cyclists is incredible. Arran often sells itself as 'Scotland in miniature'; an island loop is 56 miles, with over 1200 metres of climbing; we have three main climbs that really are challenging. Arran really is the cyclists' perfect playground, with many well established trail and mountain bike routes too.
"This year there will be at least three sportives, two triathlon weekends plus Grindura, an on/off road event. The only other Grindura event is held in California, so yes, remarkably, Arran is on the cycling map. We'll be helping out as a water stop/feed station for all of the above listed events. Velo Café Lagg really is almost at the end of the world, but thanks to social media, people now know where the end of the world actually is."

velo cafe lagg

cafés are perhaps not identifiable as the progenitors of an exciting future. once the art of a masterful double-espresso and moist carrot cake has been achieved, the principal challenge would surely be to maintain both those features. but given that around a decade or so ago, the idea of a cycling café would have been laughed out of 'the lion's den' by anyone with the temerity to ask for a few pennies more, perhaps the idea of planning for a more ambitious future is not out of the ordinary. in which case, what are the future plans for velo café lagg?

"Our immediate plans are simply to continue as we have started, to provide a real experience, a quality of reception as well as great coffee and good food.
"We are also hoping to do more café-centred ride-outs, plus a ride along the lines of the 'Ride of the Falling Rain, but ours will recreate the route of the 1984 Milk Race that was staged on Arran."

grindup arran

monday 22 may 2017

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pro rider cycling

prorider cycling

painful though it is to admit, the velo club suffers muchly from a lack of definable ambition. that may not be specifically true on an indvidual basis; one or two of our number have been known to enter a sportive or two, but collectively, you'd scarcely hold us up as paragons of velocipedinal virtue. this is not to deny that speculative conversations have not taken place of a sunday morning; jura has received more than its fair share of mention and we have even considered a weekend expedition to the island of arran.

this notable lack of ambition is demonstrably visible in the fact that conversing is pretty much as far as it's got. though individually we may have had a pub meal or two in jura's solitary hotel in craighouse, the pelotonic visit has yet to take place.

as a less than notable fact, our lack of apparent motivation is scarcely worthy of mention, but by comparison with some of the visiting cyclists who have joined us recently, it verges on the embarrassing. while trying valiantly to impress with the kilometres that have passed under our wheels over the previous weekend, the riposte seems invariably to consist of rides in tuscany, provence, belgium, the french alps and even the spanish side of the pyrenees.

you have to admit, a quick perambulation of loch gorm, taking in the phone box at carnduncan, scarcely compares.

prorider cycling

the off-putting factor, certainly from a personal point of view, given that i do not own a motor car and would really rather not drive, is not just the faff of travelling from here to the mainland avec bicycle, but the increased level of faffing that follows when attempting to travel further afield. though i may be in a minority wishing not to try manhandling a race bag containing more kit than strictly advisable along with a not altogether minimally sized bike bag, the fact remains that so doing threatens to undermine the joy to be had on arrival. to say nothing of attempting the return journey.

you see, very little in the way of foreign travel is particularly scottish-centric. a few years past, when attempting to book a flight from either glasgow or edinburgh to marseille, the sole option was to fly to london and wait for anything up to 19 hours for a connection to france. perhaps surprisingly, there are no direct flights from scotland to cezanne's favoured part of the french nation. but our nationalistic woes may have now been at least partially remedied with the surfacing of prorider cycling. though involving no air travel, prorider cycling features a state of the art coach rivalling sky's deathstars and a trailer in which that fragile and exorbitantly expensive carbon fibre can be safely transported.

as with many cycle-related enterprises north of the border, prorider cycling involves the almost ubiquitous brian smith, twice british road race champion and currently gaining an enviable tan as a eurosport pundit on the giro d'italia. a scottish-based venture such as this is all but unheard of; what was the premise behind setting up shop?

prorider cycling

"I was approached at the end of last year by a friend who had set up Prorider with a colleague. They had come up with the idea between them and just needed someone experienced in cycling. The idea was unique and interesting, so I thought 'why not?' To make it easier to take your own bike on holiday in Europe in the comfort of a luxury bus is a great idea. Airports can be so stressful."

mr smith is a busy fellow, with a finger in a number of pies that have cycling written all over them. aside from an uncanny knack of being able to read a bike race from more than 50km out and a neat line in on-air punditry, he has what might be described as an entrepreneurial spirit, which would probably be why he's a busy chap. however, this is not a solo venture.

"My role in the set up of the company was through my experience in cycling. Both Kieran and Paul have an interest in the sport, but don't have either the contacts or knowledge I've gained over the years. However, between us we have the right combination of experience to deliver that which we are promising. It has taken almost a year to put the bricks in place to deliver something quite unique in cycling."

though it's an episode of which i am not proud, and i'd really rather you kept this to yourselves, after attending a concert in strathclyde university student union many years ago, when driving home through glasgow city centre, i took a turning the wrong way down a one-way street and met a parks of hamilton coach coming the other way. parks are a sizeable coach hire company based in hamilton near glasgow with links to almost every part of scotland, so their involvement in this venture, along with that of caledonian travel would suggest that prorider is a predominantly scottish enterprise?

prorider cycling

"I don't think we are setting up just as a Scottish enterprise, but due to the relationships that Paul has in the Glasgow area, it has all pretty much fallen into place. Paul lives in the Glasgow area and currently works with Parks of Hamilton so it was a bit of a no-brainer to have them involved.
"Both Parks and Caledonian Travel have considerable experience in the travel industry, so this made it much easier when setting up this new project. There's no point in reinventing the wheel when we have experienced companies that are as excited about being involved with this new concept as we are."

which sort of leads me back to the sunday morning peloton. as the years roll by, aside from our highlighted lack of collective ambition, we're much more likely to be swayed by any venture that makes life simpler. and an advertised departure from buchanan bus station in glasgow city centre counts as simpler. but in truth, who would brian consider to be prorider's target market?

"We want to attract cyclists from all areas of the sport. Initially we have geared up for road cycling, but we're currently looking at MTB along with shorter trips to sportives and track events. We have kept the price of our packages down to attract the masses, but made sure that everyone is well looked after. We have a luxury bus with a bespoke trailer to carry the bikes. We have both clothing (Endura) and nutrition partners providing all customers with a set of kit and nutrition for their trip and enough luggage space to avoid the dreaded overnight luggage costs of all major airlines."

if i conducted a quick, one-off poll amongst those currently reading, regarding bike-specific mechanical abilities, i figure there would be fewer 'yes' hands raised than who me? i'd expect a similar response from those who might have a clue as to how to conduct their own training needs. so after transporting the great unwashed across the english channel, will they be left to their own devices on arrival?

prorider cycling

"We are testing the market at the moment, but looking at adding some things to our 2018 packages. This may include current and/or ex-pros. When you have a bus full of 40 cyclists it is hard to define what every customer likes, so with time we will look at adding on different things to look after the needs of all our customers.
"We have already talked about mechanics and massage therapists, but there's a perceived need to get the basics right first and foremost. We'll have the basics covered on the mechanical side and have a company representative on each tour."

in my experience, however, in any collection of cyclists comprising more than one, there will be an individual who knows everything there is to know about programming super-record eps or di2. but to return to the aspect of prorider cycling that first brought the venture to my attention; departure points. does the combination of brian smith, caledonian travel and parks of hamilton mean that a scottish departure point was a primary consideration?

"We want everyone to have access to this new business in the UK; start in the north and travel south. I always found it difficult to access Europe directly from Scotland in my youth and i know with cycling's popularity in Scotland and northern England, many cyclists will now have access to this service without the dual problems of airports and the transportation of their bikes. We have planned pick-up points the length of the UK, so access is available to all"

there's no doubt that all the above provides great enticement for the intrepid cyclist of northern domicile, even those of admittedly little ambition. but in order that at least one or two of the rides at point of destination might just confer a minimum of bragging rights, will mr smith be on board the happy bus?

prorider cycling

"Currently i have many commitments that would make that difficult, but I'll definitely be looking at the possibility of joining some of the trips. I don't mind travelling in a luxury coach because I know the atmosphere between fellow cyclists will be good. The travel will also provide the opportunity to build new friendships with like-minded people.

The biggest plus from my point of view, is that the stress of travel is taken away, plus the knowledge that my bike will not only be safely transported but will definitely be there when I arrive. With airlines increasing their costs for travelling with sports equipment it makes this all worth it. We have spent a lot of time choosing destinations and hotels to make sure our customers are happy.
  "So what are you waiting for? Book now and enjoy riding your own bike around some the best roads in Europe without the usual stresses of travel!"

prorider cycling

sunday 21 may 2017

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rawvelo energy bars

rawvelo chocolate brownie

in common with many strains of life in these modern technological times replete with twitter, facebook and the ubiquitous smartphone, to name but a few aspects of modernity, the business of nostalgia is booming. proffering items, notions and designs from a whole range of bygone eras, we now have the opportunity to relive past delights that frequently benefit from modern build methods. there are, of course, the originals, frequently offering a level of quality rarely seen nowadays and every bit as operable as was the case when they were considered new.

although this can be easily seen from the number of outlets currently peddling (see what i did there?) vintage steel bicycles and frames, it's every but as much en vogue in the drum industry, something of which i was reminded when my online copy of not so modern drummer arrived at my inbox. though i do harbour certain misgivings over the fragility inherent in a 1940s slingerland radio king snare drum, to say little of the prices such vintage percussion can command, a more recently built, yet vintage looking snare drum at less than a quarter of the price once joined my percussive armoury, albeit briefly.

rawvelo peanut butter

announced at the january edition of namm (national association of music merchants) a few years back, pacific drums brought to market 6" and 7" deep wood snare drums, featuring wood hoops such as those seen on the field drums of yesteryear. since this approximated the look of several vintage snares i'd come across in photos, i pestered the living daylights out of pacific's pr department, along with sending pleading e-mails to my nearest pacific dealer as to when such drums might arrive on british soil.

though taking longer than expected, i did eventually acquire such a drum, one which fulfilled every aspect of my snare-based percussive desire, at least from a visual point of view. sadly, when it came to the auditory experience, it left a great deal to be desired, though it may be that my expectations were pitched several levels too high. hopefully 'tis an experience i'll not repeat, though in mitigation, i was able to trade it in for only a few pounds less than i paid for it.

all's well that ends well.

rawvelo chocolate orange

though you'd hardly call an enterprising mixture of organic and vegan ingredients moulded into soft and chewy energy bars a throwback to more halcyon days, there is every reason to believe that the forthcoming range from rawvelo are in line to create some halcyon days all of their very own. i recently brought these to your attention by way of a recently announced kickstarter campaign to put their own brand of energy bars into full-scale production.

at the time of writing, with a dozen days of the project left, the monies pledged have reached a smidgeon over half the amount required. and without wishing to appear less than partisan in the circumstances, i thought it might be prudent to enlighten you as to the results of that in which you might be encouraged to invest. jason evans of rawvelo was kind enough to send over a few samples of the flavours on offer, all of which are easily consumed by way of their soft chewiness. a far cry from some of the reinforced concrete offerings that used to populate the vintage years of cycling; the items that were nigh on impossible to release from their wrappers without a multi-tool and consume with less than jaws of steel.

rawvelo chocolate & raspberry

i am a firm believer that energy bars are of no use whatsoever to the average cyclist, no matter that which they proffer, unless they taste good. it's a bit like that snare drum; it's no use just looking the part. though medicines aren't necessarily supposed to taste good on the basis that they do you good, i'd be very reticent to apply the same philosophy to energy bars. joyfully, each and every rawvelo recipe tasted precisely as described on the label: chocolate orange, peanut butter, chocolate walnut brownie, and chocolate & raspberry, plus a couple of others that i ate before i looked at the labels (sorry).

i am not sufficiently scientifically or dietetically aware to know whether any or all of the above made any noticeable difference to my velocipedinal performance. quite probably not, since i'd imagine there'd have to be even a hint of performance there in the first place. however, on the basis that any cyclist worth his or her salt will have to take sustenance on-board at some point of the journey, rawvelo's bars are pretty much as good as it gets.

rawvelo kickstarter project

saturday 20 may 2017

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shooting the breeze

strava athlete posts

regular inhabitors of these pixels will be reasonably well-acquainted with my rather disparaging view of strava, a digital platform that i have frequently compared to facebook for cyclists. i might also point out at this juncture that i consider facebook, along with powerpoint to be the spawn of the devil and ultimately beneath contempt. i'm also well aware that though john donne argued that 'no man is an island, i believe in this respect, i might be.

it would be hard for me to construct a convincing argument against obsessive use of strava, or at least one that would convince its many adherents to get a life and just ride their bicycles, for it seems that the bulk of contemporary pelotonese are possessed of a considerably greater competitive nature than am i.

in line with my haphazard training schedule (such as it is), for this year's hot chillee londres-paris, i took the opportunity of a smidgeon of extra time to increase my kilometreage, all the way up to 100 in a single sitting. well, almost a single sitting; i did still have lunch at debbie's. i comfortably managed every one of those kilometres at an average speed of 25kph, pretty much on target for the end of july. i cannot deny that this information was garnered from the garmin gps unit affixed to my handlebars, partly because i do not wear a watch when riding and also to confirm the actual distance.

the ability to figure out an average speed was simply an incidental by-product.

however, several of the velo club have (mis)spent many an indiscreet moment apportioning strava segments to the highways and byways of the principality, though my knowledge of the location of these is rudimentary at best. but the principal thrust of my perambulations was simply to acquaint my unsuspecting legs with riding the distance mentioned above. on return to the croft, i simply discarded the ride data prior to switching off (or powering down, in modernspeak) the garmin. there are those who take great joy in repeating the "if it's not on strava, it didn't happen" mantra, but i'm happy to relate that i don't actually care.

however, as if the ability to record ride data and broadcast it to the world were insufficient to keep the pelotonese satisfied, strava are about to augment their current service, bringing them closer to that of facebook, and all but fulfilling the basis of my castigation outlined above.

strava athlete posts

currently they have made available a service known as 'athlete posts', a means of creating and sharing content on strava. for the time being, they've identified and commissioned three dozen strava 'athletes' to pop photos, questions, gear tips, race reports and workouts online in addition to their regular cycling activity. one of those identified as a strava 'athlete' is the inestimable illustrator and podcaster, richard mitchelson. and with no disrespect intended, rich would not be the first name that would spring to mind if was asked to name an athlete; in mitigation, however, i've no doubt that he's a tad more athletic than yours truly.

chief product officer at strava, aaron forth explained, "Our opportunity is to help athletes have conversations beyond their daily activities, sharing everything from favourite gear to injury recovery tips to travel recommendations. To open up those conversations, we are introducing the ability for members to post new types of content. Ultimately, when you want to engage with friends who share your passion for cycling, Strava is the place to do it."

will there still be time left to ride our bikes, or are we all doomed? i know which one my money is on.

sunday 14 may 2017

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i cannot speak for all the nation's student population, particularly those currently fitting that description, but there's no doubting that, from time to time, students do some pretty silly things. things such as attending music concerts well outside the genre more readily ascribed to those undertaking further education. uk readers of a certain age will surely recall the band mud, whose particular claim to fame revolved around a hit single entitled 'tiger feet'. theirs was a pop music that pandered to the nation's lowest common denominator, offering mindless pap in return for a few shillings in the record shop. it seems almost superfluous to mention that none of their recorded output exists on the corporate ipod.

nonethelesss, as a wizard wheeze, several of my erstwhile student colleagues and i, drawn from the ranks of both the musical and non-musical, attended a gig by said band in a local cinema. and as if to lessen the effect of being seen queuing to get in, we attempted to stand as close as possible to the teenyboppers in the same queue to give the impression we were their elder siblings, being kind and thoughtful enough to chaperone them to an evening of mindless drivel. i'm sure we thought it worked a treat, but in retrospect, that was probably very far from the case.


though the world is populated by a highly visible number of extroverts, these people are all the more noticeable due to this particular predilection. tautologically speaking, few folks ever notice an introvert. and such is the state of play within the velocipedinal world, specifically, in this case, those who are approaching from afar.

and acquaintance of mine, perfectly used to public speaking and even guilty of having conducted frequent online masterclasses was recently presented with a brand new, shiny road bike for his birthday by his wife. this is a gent on whom i have once or twice impressed the opportunity to join us for the sunday morning ride, though admittedly at the time, his only two-wheeled transport consisted allegedly of an ageing mountain bike. however, on learning that a set of bendy bars and skinny wheels was now his for the riding, i reiterated this invitation to his wife in the hope that she might remind him of his obligation as a new roadie.


apparently, however, his reticence to do so seems to revolve around a reluctance to adopt the road-going way; in other words, lycra and polyester. baggy shorts and a t-shirt seem to fulfil his current sartorial needs, the aforementioned dress-code being seen as a step too far for the moment. his wife did query whether such garb was truly necessary to which i replied that she'd hardly send him swimming in a pair of levis and a cagoul. and thus it is, apparently, that those approaching from afar fail to see the connection between softwear and hardware.

this is not an affliction that can be levelled at the recently announced partnership between italian cycle manufacturer passoni and stuart brooke's ashmei cycle clothing. this collaboration has resulted in six beautifully understated garments consisting of a softshell jacket, two short-sleeve jerseys, a long-sleeve jersey, bibshorts and a t-shirt, all of which are resplendent in blacks and greys, complementing passoni's immaculately conceived metal bicycles.


danilo colombo, passoni's sales manager said "The bikes we create offer a classic italian style, which we think is perfectly reflected in the range of clothing designed in conjunction with Ashmei." ashmei's stuart brooke concurred; "The collaboration is a natural organic fit; we are incredibly proud of the results."

though i've not yet ridden anything from the passoni range, i have had the pleasure of reviewing several products from the ashmei clothing range. i can but assume that if danilo and stuart are happy with the results of their collaboration, you and i will be too.

if either hardware, softwear or perhaps both are of interest, as of 9 may, a pop-up store has populated ham yard in london's soho district where the delights of both ranges are currently on show. definitely worth a look. just have someone else stand guard on your credit card.

passoni - ashmei collaboration } ashmei cycle clothing

saturday 13 may 2017

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café du cycliste boubou collection zahira diamant s/s jersey

cafe du cycliste zahira diamant jersey

we, as cyclists, have benefited greatly from the upsurge of interest in cycling, both as a sport and a participative activity. i can recall the bad old days when one would scour the back pages of the comic for a jersey that might be acceptably worn in public, as long as the speed was kept at a level that precluded close inspection. almost without fail, these would be team replica garments, thin enough to see through even on a cloudy day and advertising a foreign product of which i knew little or mostly, nothing at all.

cafe du cycliste zahira diamant jersey

i would dearly like to claim that the jersey du jour was chosen on the basis of it representing a team with which i held affinities, but truthfully, in most cases it was simply whichever price was most amenable and in a size that (allegedly) fitted. the difficulty with making any choice at all was compounded by my status as a confirmed newbie; in short, i had no idea of what i was getting into. however, very much in my favour, even then i knew that a team polti jersey was likely to have me estranged at the back of the peloton.

if only there had actually been a peloton in those days.

cafe du cycliste zahira diamant jersey

but with the advent of the mamil, the theoretical existence of a bradley bubble accompanied by the continued success of team sky along with an apparent improvement in the number and fortunes of british domestic teams, there are more and more bums on saddles. and in order to pander to this 'new money' not only has the standard of the average cycle jersey improved dramatically, the majority of apparel providers seem every bit as keen to keep the ball roling (if you'll forgive the inappropriate metaphor)

gone are the days of team replica kit being the only party in town; nowadays, there is not only an incredibly wide choice from which to pick, but at price points to suit more or less every individual enamoured of carbon fibre. gone are the days, surely, of moaning that it is well-nigh impossible to find a jersey to suit? examined from a distant perspective, cycling must be one of the most favoured sports/activities when it comes to choice of garmentage.

cafe du cycliste zahira diamant jersey

however, it cannot be denied that this increased popularity has brought on a certain ubiquity of design. in similar manner to the recording industry, if one label has a successful boy band, all the others want one too. thus, with certain jersey purveyors enjoying apparent unbridled success, more than one or two others are keen to become status quo. of course, that's not a mindset that afflicts every corner of the market.

one such purveyor with an excellent track record for individuality is côte d'azur's café du cycliste, a trait they have demonstrably continued with the release of this brilliant (in both senses of the word) 'boubou collection' african inspired zahira diamant short-sleeve jersey. constructed from an ultra-lightweight polyester fabric, the breathable jersey weighs a minimal 130g, features a full-length zip as well as safety conscious reflective hoops on the sleeves. but what makes this particular jersey stand out from the crowd are the african inspired patterns applied to front, back and pockets.

cafe du cycliste zahira diamant jersey

of course, there have been brightly coloured stripey, hoopy, dart-infested jerseys around for many a long year, but this is entirely different for one very important reason: you'll actually want to be seen wearing it. not only are the colours particularly well-matched, the patterns themselves appear actually to have been designed by someone with an inkling of graphic ability. as it turns out, i'm to be not the only one who holds such a point of view; the original shipment of the diamant jersey sold out in seven days; café du cycliste have another three weeks to wait before the next batch arrives.

cafe du cycliste zahira diamant jersey

you might want to form an orderly queue.

the rear scalloped pockets are augmented by a zipped security edition, pockets that are happy to swallow the usual excessive amount of stuff carried by the intrepid velocipedinist. the collar is neither too tall nor too low and a quick check as to how easy it was to lower the zip while undergoing the throes of exertion returned a positive result. sunny days on the west coast of scotland are usually inflected with a biting wind, perhaps not the ideal conditions under which to review a jersey expressly designed for warmer climes. yet even when the perfectly tesselated jersey was matched with café du cycliste's integrated bibshorts and baselayer, the latter which sports no sleeves of any description, i was only chilled mentally, not physically.

there's no doubt this may not be the jersey for the timorous; standing out in either the peloton or the coffee stop is pretty much an obligatory stance, but to be quite honest, it is a jersey in which you will be proud to be seen.

only another three weeks to go till you can get yours.

café du cycliste's zahira diamant s/s jersey, part of their boubou collection is available in sizes xs to xxl at an online price of £114.

café du cycliste zahira diamant s/s jersey

friday 12 may 2017

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limar ultralight+ helmet

limar ultralight+

every time i pen a helmet review, for no earthly reason, i feel honour-bound to enter into discussion over the perennial helmet debate. it is, by now, something of a redundant exercise, for i'm pretty sure that everything that could be said probably already has and it's very unlikely that i could add anything significantly meaningful.

however, to offer a brief recap of thewashingmachinepost's stance, i figure that, if you don't want to wear a helmet when riding, that's your prerogative; i always do, in similar fashion to fastening a seatbelt when in a car. as will be seen from this review, modern-day helmets weigh remarkably little and scarcely place an onerous burden upon your head, so if that was your only reason for not wearing a helmet, it may be time to re-appraise the situation.

limar ultralight+

helmets are not a singular solution to rider safety; if a motor vehicle hits you at speed, a sculptured lump of polystyrene on your head is unlikely to make a lot of difference. but, if like me, even after all these years, you're still a tad unsure of your tyre adhesion limits allied to your own bike handling abilities, it might be prudent to increase those safety limits wherever possible.

personally speaking, the above reasoning notwithstanding, i mostly wear a helmet because it makes me look faster.

limar ultralight+

this particular edition of this particular limar helmet accomplishes the latter with aplomb, just as much via the 22 air vents as the particularly aerodynamic styling. this is the same lid as worn by both the astana and direct energie teams and on the evidence of my recent bike rides, with good reason. i'm assuming that i have a pretty standard-size head, for almost without exception, every review model i've received has fitted perfectly over the top of the inevitable casquette (real men always wear a casquette and with the peak down). the limar ultralight was no exception.

their competition+ fit system is not only adjustable circumferentially by means of a well-sized knob at the rear, but can also be adjusted vertically to suit the vast majority of heads. limar claim that the ultralight is "the world's lightest helmet", one which i am not in a position to dispute (175g for the medium and 210g for the large); if testimony were required, i have already cycled away from debbie's convinced i'd forgotten the helmet when i was in fact, already wearing it.

limar ultralight+

i also have to take it as read that this particular dod of aerodynamically styled polystyrene will protect my head in the event of any unfortunate happenstances when riding. though i'm happy to explore the bulk of the helmet's features, i'm none too keen to throw myself over the handlebars to check the veracity of their safety claims. it does seem slightly odd, however, that while several of limar's competitors offer mips (multi-directional impact protection system) versions of their helmets, i could find no reference to this technology anywhere near the limar website. perhaps that is yet to come?

however, a couple of welcome niceties are featured on this rather fetching red and black helmet. firstly, several of the frontmost vents offer a bug net to keep those darned insects at bay, while that tension adjuster at the rear can be retro-fitted with an led rear light. it may be prudent to remove the helmet prior to switching this on, for though it limar ultralight+ takes only a firm push in the centre to operate the light, while it's on your head, there's no way of telling which of the three modes has been selected. and while this edition of the ultralight arrived with a removable peak (why?), apparently the team versions do not.

i've already mentioned its ultralight status in use, but thankfully this is augmented by an excellent fit, despite the availability of only two distinct sizes. though my head size veers perilously close to the lower limit of the large size, the retention system had no difficulty in creating a near perfect, non-restrictive fit with no fore and aft or lateral movement. the chin strap is easily adjusted on the fly, while a limar monogrammed pad prevents any chafing in use. and though i think the astana coloured edition looks a kilometre or two faster than the red/black version under review, there are no velocity-based complaints at this end.

the limar ulttralight+ helmet is available in sizes medium and large in ten colour variations. retail cost is £159.99. limar helmets are distributed in the uk by nrg4.

limar ultralight+

thursday 11 may 2017

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louison bobet porticcio 69 merino pullover & letouquet74 merino cardigan

letouquet 74

i have recently endured an extended bout of wedding preparations of which i was deliberately a very small part. in fact, when time came for my son to make his first speech as a married man, when offering the obligatory thanks to his parents, he should probably have added in metaphorical brackets, that he was thanking his father for keeping out of the way. i am not one who suffers fuss and faff gladly; the past few months have been punctuated by regular periods of both. there were several iterations of invitations to be gone through and the inevitable need to adhere to a somewhat nebulous dress-code.

letouquet 74

while those who had been merey invited to the nuptial celebrations were effectively given carte blanche as to their own level of sartorial elegance, those of us designated as wedding party fodder were the subject of inescapable designation. in short, this being a scottish wedding, it was implied, if not stated, that the males of the group would be expected to wear kilts. as one who spent 13 years in islay pipe band, reinforcing my reputation for being a tad awkward, i refused. in a vain attempt to defuse the heavy silence that followed, i offered to wear tartan trousers, though more in the hope that this would be thought ridiculous and i'd be allowed to wear a normal pair of trews.

as if that was ever going to happen.

mrs washingmachinepost, on the other hand, spent many a frustrating evening, searching high and low for a dress that she'd be happy to wear throughout the happy day. so many were the items sent and subsequently returned, i had offered the helpful suggestion that we might better have the garments delivered directly to the post office and thus cut out the middle-man. i need not elucidate on just how well that suggestion survived.

porticcio 69

at day's end, there was little escaping the fact that jacket, waistcoat, white shirt and tartan trews became order of the day and i (almost) suffered in silence. but oh, how much nicer it would have been had i had the option to choose something that would allow me to be not only comfortable, but indulge my velocipedinal affections.

obviously, those purplish tartan trousers (which, coincidentally, matched the kilts of both the groom and best man quite remarkably) would have been given a large body-swerve in favour of a comfortable pair of cycling jeans, while the t-labs stelvio would have replaced the white shirt and purple cravat (i wish i was joking). but at that point, i would then have come across a bit of a dilemma.

france's louison bobet, aside from a comprehensively admirable range of on-the-bike clothing, also present items of particularly desirable off-the-bike apparel. and two of those desirable items sent in my direction were the vibrant blue merino porticcio 69 and the light grey, ribbed merino letouquet 74 cardigan. the conundrum would have been which to wear for the day ceremony and dinner, then in which option to lounge about in the evening.

letouquet 69

both of these items of quality merino knitwear feature tall collars that can also lie flat when their zips reach just below the neckline. the letouquet owns a fill length zip, adopting every aspect of cardiganhood in a fabulously velocipedinal style. should this ever be in doubt, just take a look at the folded cuffs with their sculpted thumb hole ready and waiting to keep the sleeves from heading towards the elbows when briefly on the bicycle. this aspect is also present on the porticcio; it may be casual attire, but it wears its sporting pretensions on its sleeves.

porticcio 69

the porticcio sports a quarter-length zip, 'neath that high collar and a thin, light-blue hoop around its middle and the name of its benefactor louison bobet embroidered at bottom right at the back. dressed in either, i could have exuded a considered suavity amongst the assembled wedding guests, all the while retaining those subtle cycling proclivities, safe in the knowledge that neither would have looked remotely appropriate with a purple cravat.

for relaxing evenings in front of eurosport's giro highlights, periods of bike fettling, afternoons chasing the kids round the garden or, as alluded to above, family weddings, i can think of few other items of merino apparel that would maintain that relaxed, yet athletic look in the face of marital disapproval.

unashamed quality.

the porticcio 69 is available in electric blue in sizes small through xl at a direct cost of €290 (£245). their grey letouquet 74 retails at €300 (£253) and is available in the same range of sizes.

wednesday 10 may 2017

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food for thought

rawvelo energy bars

like most of us, i am more than willing and happy, to take myself out on the bicycle either at the weekend, or perchance a sneaky weekday afternoon when the office is looking the other way. and though the folks at srm power meters would probably be convinced that any review sample had not been used, i do make my best effort at fulfilling the 'glory through suffering' mantra that we have all been convinced is our birthright.

at least, that's how it all pans out inside my head; i can but admit that things may not appear this way to the casual observer or innocent bystander.

though perhaps less fastidiously, i also make efforts in the direction of bike fettling. a clean, lubricated chain is paramount, even if it mostly appears to make little or no difference to the end result. there may frequently be the odd muddied patch on the downtube or dusty residue in the nook of the bottom bracket, but generally speaking i make at least a decent effort towards bike cleanliness and mechanical efficiency. that hapless, innocent bystander may seem almost impressed on occasion.

but once again, like the majority, i'm a lot less astute when it comes to on-bike nutrition and hydration. at one point in the dim, distant past, at least one jersey rear pocket would have carried a single energy bar. and the bottle fastened to the downtube would have offered greater potential assistance than mere water. however, with regard to the latter, of late i've been returning home with the same amount of water in the bottle as at the grand depart. though all and sundry would attest to the efficacy, nay necessity, of frequent imbibing en-route, on the bike this advice appears to evaporate.

graeme obree seemed to do his best work after a hearty meal of cornflakes and jam sandwiches; not the advertised nutrition that the intrepid velocipedinist necessarily wanted to hear, but that's likely the result of weekly/monthly socialisation. personally, i'd opt for peanut butter, but i'm sure graeme would be more than amenable to the odd variation in his dietary influence. however, i have yet to successfully squeeze a bowl of cornflakes into a jersey pocket and peanut butter is not the ideal riding companion due to its highly stickily viscous nature.

i often wish that i had the willpower to place as much emphasis on my dietary choices as those i seem happy to accept on two wheels. i have been a fairly strict vegetarian since my early teenage years, occasionally flirting with veganism, but either unable or unwilling to take that final step. i've satisfied myself that this is the result of living on a remote(ish) scottish island, where the necessary dietary requirements are occasionally hard to come by, but i'm not entirely sure that's the whole truth.

there are probably more vegetarian cyclists than you'd think, and possibly more vegan cyclists than i'd think. but a vegan diet is hardly a serious handicap for those wishing to be competitive. you need only talk to portland's molly cameron to learn more. but when it comes to pre-packaged vegan-friendly energy products, it's eminently possible that the search might be slightly harder than we'd prefer.

according to rawvelo's jason evans "If you've ever looked at the labels on your energy bars, gels and drinks and wondered what all those weird and wonderful sounding ingredients were, we did too. And we weren't very happy about what we discovered." in order to remedy what they perceived as a somewhat iniquitous situation, rather than just moan, they decided to do something about it, the result of which is currently requesting funding on kickstarter.

rawvelo energy bars feature exclusively natural, organic, vegan ingredients, none of which are processed, contain refined sugar, palm oil, preservatives or additives. assuming, like me, you'd like to extend your sphere of influence beyond pain, suffering and a clean bicycle, this may well be your opportunity to invest appropriately. rawvelo will use the funds raised (they're looking for a total of £35,000) to embark upon large-scale production of their initial product range. in return, they're offering boxes of rawvelo energy bars, water bottles, casquettes, or jerseys depending on the amount of monies pledged.

with summer allegedly almost upon us, when better weather and longer days encourage substantially more kilometres in the saddle, feeding those kilometres will become more of a need than a desire. and it ill behoves us to stuff our faces with stuff, the provenance of which we are scarcely aware.

as bob monkhouse would have said, 'opportunity knocks'

rawvelo kickstarter project

tuesday 9 may 2017

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