don't you, forget about me

lion rampant

the above heading was unashamedly pinched from the simple minds song of the same name, one that i believe might be termed 'anthemic', principally from the rather grandiose manner in which it was recorded and subsequently performed by jim kerr and his mates. i've not examined the lyrics too closely, so i'd be fibbing if i said i could tell you what mr kerr was on about. however, due to its aptness to the subject about to be under discussion, i'm sure the simple people won't mind too much.

on arrival home on saturday afternoon after an unexpectedly wet, yet speedy ride, purely for the purposes of feeding my face at mid-point, the day's mail was scattered on the welcome mat; two catalogues for mrs washingmachinepost, which will likely head straight for the recycling bin, and my membership details from british cycling.

the latter irritates me slightly, for as one domiciled north of the border, i'd rather that the envelope was emblazoned with graphics culled from the scottish cycling that i applied to join many many years ago. for those of you who remember with fondness the regular guardian cycling column by the inestimable matt seaton (now at the new york times), you might recall his own personal call to arms, imploring us all to acquire, at the very least, third party insurance. while there is no statutory compulsion for any cyclist to hold an insurance policy, if you inadvertently scrape, bump or collide with a motor vehicle or pedestrian and they sue, you could find yourself seriously out of pocket.

though it is presumably possible to negtiotiate this sort of thing independently, since insurance of this type is included as part of scottish/british cycling membership, that seemed like the simplest option at the time. and it quite possibly remains so. however, though membership also includes the option of a racing licence, for the average cyclist, there seems very little else in the way of benefits that might convince the unconverted to part with the annual fee.

where the aggrieved might find cause for complaint is in the ministrations which, to me at least, seem a tad muddied. if i have applied to join scottish cycling, i'd be happier if they were in charge of their own website, instead of it being a few pages bolted onto the british cycling site. type into a web browser and as the scottish cycling web page loads, you may note that the web address changes to this, i might point out, is not my being vengeful and keen for scottish independence (far from it), but if i join one organisation, i'm a bit peeved when i subsequently discover that i've joined something else.

this sense of disappointment was only underlined this past week when the so-called parent organisation, which also administers welsh cycling, in cahoots with the latter, decided to throw its full weight behind positioning wales as "a world-leading destination for cycling", pledging their support for proposals to make it easier for cyclists to ride in the welsh countryside. i believe the bulk of this call to action is based on freeing up access to paths and land with public access. currently the welsh countryside features around 33,000 kilometres of public paths but less than a quarter of those can be accessed by bicycle.

all well and good, and who could criticise any campaign based on those principles? but surely the attempt to position the country as a major cycling destination rather excludes others from the same benefit? if i'm unhappy that i seem to be a fully paid up member of british cycling after writing to cycling scotland, then i'm every bit as miffed that wales has apparently gained priority over scotland. if they wish to fulfil the apparent remit of being in charge of british cycling, would it not make more sense to position britain as a world-leading cycling destination, rather than be seen to discriminate?

i realise that this victor meldrew episode will change nothing at all; i will continue to pay my annual membership to an organisation that i'm unsure has my best interests at heart, even though i'm assured scottish cycling is still the boss up north. a bit of clarity would not go amiss and i'd be really, really happy if someone from either british or scottish cycling would care to drop me a line explaining when or if the land of wind and rain will have the opportunity to be marketed as the world-leading cycling destination we all know it it be.

rant over.

scottish cycling

monday 18 september 2017

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snek merino kneewarmers

snek cycling merino kneewarmers

jazz on an autumn evening is something of an occupational hazard so to speak, this year's lagavulin sponsored islay jazz festival being my nineteenth in succession, always held around mid-september. its timing has occasionally led to some worrying moments for both musicians and attendees alike, with delayed ferries and at least one occasion of a cancelled flight from glasgow.

many of those years have seen (or rather, heard) me accompanying individuals several levels of musicianship above my own, but this apprenticeship has eventually allowed me to lead (at least, that's what it said in this year's programme), my own quartet for the past two years.

the set lists for both 2016 and this year have revolved round what may acceptably described as standards; the sort of tunes that many jazz musicians would dearly love to play, but a to-cool-for-school approach has them choose material a tad more adventurous. though this is partly down to limited musicianship on our part, it's also tailored to the appreciation of an audience that includes a greater percentage of locals than any of the others played over the three-day weekend.

what i'm blatantly inferring here is that jazz is hardly an acquired taste in this part of the hebrides.

snek cycling merino kneewarmers

this year therefore had our collective musicianship wrap its technique around a bill evans arrangement of the theme from m.a.s.h., duke ellington's take the 'a' train, dizzy gillespie's a night in tunisia (purely for the warmth, you understand) and my first attempt at max roach's famous solo drum piece the drum also waltzes. however, though not as a direct result of the incumbent season, we also played our expressions of errol garner's misty and kosma's autumn leaves from a cannonball adderley arrangement.

autumnal song titles do not, however, come alone. autumn brings with it certain climatic dictates, though it would not be stretching too far from the truth to state that the change in seasons has been scarcely noticeable this far west. to state it forcibly, summer has not been all it's cracked up to be. therefore visitors to the islay jazz festival have been greeted by a chill that certainly wasn't there last weekend. and by implication, those of us intent on the velocipedinal life have faced similar implications. or, to be quite frank, reality.

not unsurprisingly, such a drop in the ambient temperature resulted in a need to cover patches of bare skin that were once freely open to the elements. armwarmers, for yours truly at least, have been a summer-long feature, but the winter of discontent (to paraphrase only slightly) has brought me to accessorise with knee-warmers 'neath my bibshorts. but not just any old kneewarmers; in this case, a luxurious pair of merino kneewarmers from the wardrobe of snek's jonny hintze.

snek cycling merino kneewarmers

prior to the onset of summer (a little hebridean humour there), mr hintze sent me a pair of matching merino armwarmers which i dutifully reviewed with a positive note. these particular armwarmers have seen sterling service over the intervening months, including one of the stages to paris towards the end of july. though i have carped on about the iniquities of an hebridean summer, what cannot be denied is its relative mildness, one that has allowed the g.c. ristorante debbie's peloton to circumambulate the isle almost exclusively in bibshorts over the past few months.

but this weekend's drop in the mercurial height pretty much insisted that those snek merino kneewarmers be forcibly pressed into service. jonny hintze told me that he'd guessed at what might be the most appropriate sizes to festoon about my person; large might not have been the one i'd have chosen for myself, but in point of fact, both arm and kneewarmers in this size have proved to be highly effective. any fears i harboured about my knees looking akin to nora batty's tights were totally unfounded. and in dribbling precipitation swirled by a modest wind they proved not only highly effective, but remarkably efficient at shielding my legs from the fact that they were clad in clinging wetness.

i do like a quality pair of bib-threequarters; that would be my preferred mode of dress as opposed to kneewarmers which i often find to be a tad on the uncomfortable side. however, snek's size choice has perhaps highlighted that i have been misdirected all these years and that that purported discomfort was simply the manifest result of poor size choice. either way, if you have also been of the misapprehension that kneewarmers were not the coolest of choices (sartorially speaking, you understand), i think it likely that a pair of snek merino kneewarmers will convert you to the way of the jedi.

snek merino kneewarmers are available only in blue, in sizes small, medium and large at a retail cost of $72 (approx £54)

snek cycling merino kneewarmers

sunday 17 september 2017

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missing inaction

cycle to work day

i like to consider myself a reasonably well informed individual, specifically with relevance to the cycling milieu. on the basis that i spend a modest period of time each and every day writing copiously about velocipedinal matters, that's probably just as well. thewashingmachinepost has, on occasion, been classified as influential, a remark that i'm taking as a compliment, even if i don't quite see what they're getting at.

i've mentioned on one or two previous occasions that i'm very much in favour of persuading others of the joys of cycling by riding my bicycle as often and as far as possible, ever hopeful that others will do likewise. as the saying goes 'actions speak louder than words', though bearing in mind my daily scribblings, that might seem just a tad contradictory.

however, the more well-meaning amongst our number apparently find it necessary to punctuate the regular day to day, by placing the bicycle front and centre by various and occasionally devious means. for the latter i think we can forgive them; any positive thoughts or actions in this direction, by and large ought to be applauded. well, almost all of them.

if i might refer you to the veracity of my opening statement above, either i have been seriously remiss in my ministrations, or others must be called to account. for wednesday of this past week (philippa york's birthday no less) was designated as national bike to work day, an occasion of which i was blissfully unaware and this despite the working day being regularly augmented by access to twitter. and at the risk of appearing unnecessarily arrogant, i have a sneaking suspicion that if i missed it, so did a whole lot of others.

most likely, if i'm not mistaken, those at which this national farce is aimed.

if we might assume, even for a moment, that the great and good are willing and able to take it upon themselves to avoid the bus, car, taxi, train, underground or shanks' pony, drag the long-forgotten bicycle (since last year at least) from the bike shed and get themselves to work, school or even the supermarket for only one designated day, ultimately, what's the point?

at the risk of stating the glaringly obvious, other than leap years, each twelve month period consists of 365 days, during which a group of hardy optimists think it realistic to ask joe public to forgo a 364 day habit for one single day. to paraphrase the archetypal thespian what's my motivation? will that single day aboard a rusty bicycle have them change their lifestyle? will the lighbulb illuminate and have those one-day-riders decide that this is the very mode of transport for them, lifting the catalytic converter from their eyes?

you will perhaps excuse my cynicism if i answer those rhetorical questions with a resounding 'no'. for where is the incentive? where is the peer pressure to continue? according to common lore, the average chap or chapess has need of undertaking any activity for a period of twenty-one days before it becomes habit and considerably less inclined to revert to their former, misguided ways. assuming this to be correct, national bike to work day is twenty days short of fulfilling its avowed purpose. and to be quite realistic, it will likely always be thus.

i know i've said it before and i have no qualms whatsoever in saying it again; until we have a national bike to work month accompanied by suitable incentives from the nation's employers, the no doubt earnest folks at are quite frankly, wasting their time. and any publicity made manifest needs to be via channels other than the cycling press, who, for the most part, are preaching to the converted.

you know i'm right.

saturday 16 september 2017

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sven cycles pathfinder light

sven cycles pathfinder light

though the handmade bicycle revolution, as we in the cycling media would have had it, seems to have calmed down just a smidgeon in recent times, there is still a hard core of frame builders in britain offering a thoroughly practical and attractive alternative to far eastern carbon fibre. one of those number is ensconced in weymouth, dorset; the distinctly nordic sounding sven cycles have been offering a variety of bespoke steel frames since 2012, garnering a number of bespoked awards along the way. the pathfinder light is arguably their top of the range model, featuring tig-welded reynolds 853 steel, with a faintly sloping top tube, subtly painted in a matt blue-grey with the letter-spaced sven almost too subtly decorating a comparatively anorexic downtube.

sven cycles pathfinder light

the frame scarcely equals the featherweight nature that can be found in contemporary carbon, but it's a very long way from being an anvil. nowadays, steel is probably a lifestyle choice and a highly commendable one at that.

though there is more than sufficient clearance to fit a pair of mudguards, the only concession on this build was a braze-on fitted to the bottom bracket bridge. that, however, could be easily remedied by speccing the necessary at point of order. the frame has no rear brake bridge, since none is necessary.

sven cycles pathfinder light

though certain custom options are available, the bicycle as supplied for review offers contemporary internal cable routing married to the round steel tubing that preceded aluminium, titanium and the ubiquitous carbon fibre, with through-axles front and rear and hydraulic disc brakes. the rear gear cable exits the top tube at the seatpost end and is then guided down the right-hand chainstay to the mech. very much out of favour these days, the bottom bracket junction looks almost spindly in these times of huge monocoque carbon constructions, eschewing any thoughts of press-fit bb cups in favour of the more easily maintained external cups. the non-tapered headtube too is distinctly old school, with a 1.125" external headset giving rise to more than a moment or two of consideration as to why we ever had need of anything more.

sven cycles pathfinder light

there is a modest degree of tube profiling at strategic points, but in many cases, it's almost too subtle to notice. standard fare on this model is generally a pair of columbus carbon forks, but the cockpit kit applied to this top of the range model incorporates a pair of sturdy parlee carbon forks painted to match the rest of the frame, parlee stem and bars, while the carbon brooks cambium saddle sits atop a commendably slim parlee seatpost.

though the 40 tooth single-ring chainset originates from the well-respected and best-kept-secret white industries, the gearing and disc brakes are the work of the sram corporation, all culled from their mid-range force groupset, including a rear derailleur capable of dealing with a sram xg cassette, offering a ten tooth sprocket all the way to a 42. this was screwed onto a hope hub featuring an xd compatible freehub, a factor that ensures the cassette is compatible with nothing else on the market. (i'll deal with this further in the going for a ride section below).

sven cycles pathfinder light

the sturdy hope/dtswiss 700c wheel build (650b is also available) is undertaken in sven's own workshop and though they offer tubeless compatibility, the 38mm tyres as fitted had inner tubes hiding inside. the disc rotors were both 160mm diameter. the dtswiss front through axle sported a ratcheted lever, but the rear was fitted and removed via a 6mm allen key, each end hidden from view by an intriguing rear dropout design.

as is always the case, the review model arrived without pedals, so i popped on a pair of crank bros. candy 7s.

going for a ride

sven cycles pathfinder light

during my original communications with sven coppin, he made mention that he thought this to be the future of the bicycle. that might be a tad optimistic in the grand scheme of things, but it woul be hard to deny that the pathfinder is at least one important strand in the future of the bicycle, offering a setup that would cater to the needs of a considerable portion of the cycling public. at least, the cycling public that enjoys a pair of drop bars.

sven cycles pathfinder light

extrapolating mr coppin's original musings, it seemed like a wizard wheeze to consider how valid a proposition it would be to purchase one extremely versatile frame, accessorised with a total of three sets of wheels? the sven pathfinder arrived with a pair of 38mm tyres that offered an admittedly very wide file tred and a smooth centre-section. these proved highly effective both on road and off, always assuming that the latter featured neither mud nor wet grass, surfaces that scarcely provided sufficient friction to let those 38mm do their job.

sven cycles pathfinder light

both on and offroad, the comfort factor was delightful assuming the pressure remained between 40 - 50psi. the downside to both width and pressure could be felt in both the acceleration properties and the struggle i had keeping up with a pelotonic colleague astride a colnago c60. not entirely unexpectedly, i might add.

however, if i might refer you back to those three pairs of wheels, i removed the supplied set and replaced them with a pair of wheelsmith's finest, shod with a pair of challenge paris-roubaix 28mm clinchers. those are seriously unlikely to offer any greater tenacity offroad, but alleviated the majority of the huffing and puffing engendered when imitating a refugee from the pro peloton.

sven cycles pathfinder light

reynolds 853 steel has the alacrity and responsiveness that makes for a very quick and resilient ride, particularly when quality built in the manner of the sven. the balance has been cleverly considered to allow a high rating on the chuckability scale, something that was readily apparent when haring along a nearby gravel path and including any inherent up and down-ness. the same was there in spades on both islay's unkempt and smooth singletrack roads. (even if the latter are in somewhat short supply).

due to the incompatible eccentricity of the xd freehub, it wasn't possible to transfer the embarrassment of riches that comes with a 42 tooth sprocket, therefore the road-going portion of the review operated with a more peloton-friendly 11-26 cassette.

sven cycles pathfinder light

despite minimising the hardship quotient previously experienced by the sram force rear mech, shifting was clean, quick and efficient. swapping wheels required no adjustment of the cable whatsoever; similarly when switching back. i had hoped to fit a pair of challenge limus 'cross tyres to the original wheels in order to once more take advantage of all those cassette teeth, but try as i might, i couldn't get the 38mm tyres off. so i settled once more for those excellent aero wheelsmiths, though with a slightly more restricted gearing range that didn't quite suit my faux cyclocross activities.

it transpires that, our insatiable hunger for shiny carbon fibre notwithstanding, one superb reynolds steel frame and three sets of interchangeable wheels and tyres really could ease the strain on the space inside the bike shed, to say nothing of the less onerous pressure on the bank balance.

i doubt that it's truly necessary to opt for the parlee accoutrements to experience the quality of the sven pathfinder frame, but there's little doubt that the review was enhanced by their presence, particularly those carbon forks. in this instance, the word pathfinder easily translates as 'versatile'.

the sven pathfinder pricing begins at £1500 for frame and standard forks. the bicycle as reviewed would cost approximately £5,600.

sven cycles pathfinder light

thursday 14 september 2017

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hilltrek greenspot single ventile lightweight jacket

hilltrek lightweight ventile jacket

i'm as guilty as any other of occasional, or even frequent, incorrectness when it comes to the typed word. there's ample evidence throughout the years and years of black and yellow pixels that i may have inadvertently, yet innocently used the same heading on more than one occasion. one of these days, when i have tired of watching paint dry, i might just take an hour or two (or three or four) and rifle through my back issues and catalogue those discrepancies.

but probably not.

hilltrek lightweight ventile jacket

therefore, if you think you are currently experiencing a brief bout of deja vu after reading today's heading, let me disavow you of that notion. i first reviewed this hilltrek jacket in june of this year, but even the most pessimistic amongst you will recognise that the sixth month can be readily seen as the onset of summer. there's a saying round these here parts that summer can be appreciated by the fact that the rain starts to get warmer, but these past few months, though hardly mediterranean in outlook, the hebrides have been mercifully clear of precipitation, at least during daylight hours.

the waterproof review seems to have a similar effect to that apportioned to the rainbow jersey. send me a waterproof and the rain all but dries up; my colleagues have implored me to ask for more.

thus, at the end of my previous review of hilltrek's greenspot lightweight single ventile jacket (aside from appreciating just what a mouthful it is to relate), i said i'd be back with part two when i managed to get it soaking wet and, just like arnie said, i too have returned clad in blaze (orange). though perfectly adequate for my own purposes, i managed only one-and-a-half thorough soakings, but those were enough to prove just what an excellent garment this actually is. not that such was ever in doubt.

hilltrek lightweight ventile jacket

i've been through the origins of ventile as a seriously waterproof fabric on more than one previous occasion, so i'll omit such digressions from this particular article; suffice it to say that in the warmer summer months, the single layer option is not only substantially lighter than its double counterpart, but cooler too. i've worn this jacket pretty much every day since it arrived, predominantly in a pedestrian manner, but every now and then we've gone for a bike ride. in both situations i'd have been grateful for another pocket or two, if for no other reason than to have refrained from bolstering my chest measurement.

though the greenspot lightweight is positioned by hilltrek as a warm weather commuting cycle jacket, a total lack of rear pockets seemed a strange omission, one that i mentioned in my initial review. never let it be said that my words are ignored, for if you were to head over to the appropriate page of the revamped hilltrek website right this minute, you'd note that they now offer the option of two extra zipped rear pockets for an additional £40. if you don't mind me saying so, i find that very impressive.

meanwhile, i have all but come to terms with the fact that the review garment sports only the two zipped breast pockets, particularly since these are capacious enough to swallow an oversized mini-pump whole. one has one's priorities. though it may be looking at the situation from a decidedly askance point of view, but the aforesaid mini-pump remained perfectly dry in the face of precipitative adversity. and happily, it wasn't the only one.

hilltrek lightweight ventile jacket

the only perceptible downside to having ventile keep you dry is a noticeable reduction of flexibility in the fabric; it turns slightly crinkly, a textural metamorphosis that evaporates when dry. however, never remotely stretchy in the first place, wetting it alters this not one whit. the poppers at top and bottom of the full-length front zip, married to that high collar managed to keep the bulk of a day's persistent rain on the outside, though i cannot deny a smidgeon of seepage at the collar when in my version of race position. the wet half-day on the sit-up-and-beg was an altogether more successful outing and arguably closer to the more common commuting experience.

however, at the risk of appearing sartorially arrogant, in this context the style factor can often be every bit as important as the weatherproofing. in short, nowadays nobody really wants to arrive at the office resembling a bin-bag. wet or dry, the greenspot removes that possibility entirely.

i have yet to meet the waterproof, breathable jacket that breathes at the same rate as an active cyclist. some are better than others, and though the hilltrek isn't the best, it's a long way from being the worst. the adjustable cuffs seem to have the uncanny ability of being left virtually all the way open for a cooling breeze, but without letting the rain in. i don't quite understand how that works, but it does. hilltrek lightweight ventile jacket it would be fibbing to state that i resembled a damp cloth after a couple of wet hours in the saddle; there was a noticeable dampening of my forearms (why is that?) and what could be favourably compared to an enveloping misty-ness about my person. neither would have the incumbent ejected from the boardroom.

now that hilltrek offer those extra rear pockets, making it the verisimilitude of a 'proper' cycling jacket, the wet cycling commute is no longer on the uci banned list. dessication is the new blaze (orange).

hilltrek's greenspot single ventile lightweight jacket retails at £220. standard colours are olive, navy, black or more cycling friendly red or blaze (as reviewed). it is available in sizes ranging from xs to xxl and can be ordered with two extra zipped rear pockets at a cost of £40. longer sleeves (recommended for cycle use) can be ordered at a cost of £30 and non-standard length is another £30 it's worth mentioning that the greenspot range can only be dry-cleaned.

hilltrek greenspot single-ventile lightweight jacket

wednesday 13 september 2017

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are friends electric?

nine volt battery

as the saying goes, i'm not often right, but i'm wrong again. i figured that electric bicycles would have been relegated to the christmas catalogues by now.

i like my bicycles; in fact, with very few exceptions, i like pretty much every bicycle. that's because i thoroughly enjoy cycling, probably even more these days than ever before. though sunday's weather left a great deal to be desired by normal standards, always conscious of the fact that i continually position hebrideans as the flandrians of the west, the effort of ploughing through torrential, wind-driven rain has to count as one of cycling's finest experiences.

a certain amount of this acceptance is based on the knowledge that, in truth, we have little option other than resorting to an indoor turbo (and that place down below would have to freeze over first) or look elsewhere to satisfy our athletic aspirations. either of those options are not only unacceptable, but would ultimately lead to bouts of personal embarrassment should i meet pretty much anyone i know.

in short, no matter the conditions under which cycling takes place, it's always going to be fun. cycling engenders the finest of moods; either there's a bike ride to come or one that's just finished.

but i and my fellow sunday morning peleton are mostly blessed with at least a modicum of fitness and health. it's doubtful if we're anywhere near as fast as we think we are, but that's really of no nevermind. we, and thousands like us, are ready and willing each sunday morning at 10am to head off into a battle with the elements, pretty secure in the knowledge that we know precisley who's going to win that particular skirmish.

but as this year's lagavulin sponsored islay jazz festival hoves into view over the windswept horizon, it well behoves me to consider my former musical partner who had, of necessity, to desist from public performance some three years ago. she suffers from cystic fibrosis, an illness that engenders a daily set of trials and tribulations the likes of which most of us have never experienced (and hopefully never will). a shortness of breath curtailed her appearances at the jazz festival, so you can easily surmise what effect that has on any velocipedinal activity.

however, an electric bicycle has allowed her to experience the same sense of freedom, wind and torrential rain as the rest of us. granted, she's yet to appear at debbie's at the appointed hour of a sunday morning, but one step at a time.

batteries have become smaller, lighter and can now offer a range that begins to make them a more attractive proposition, though the majority would still struggle to complete a century ride without plugging in to the nearest hill. and it seems that the manufacturers have cottoned on to the fact that the g.c ristorante debbie's peloton is definitely not their target market. specialized, for instance, have their marketing eye firmly affixed upon the commuter who needs reliable cycle-based transport but are perhaps bereft of the physical attributes needed to make it to and from the office/supermarket in a respectable time-frame. in this they cannot be considered to be flying solo.

the electric bike market has matured from its early days, examples of which frequently resembled penny farthings with batteries stuck on the side. motor racing has encompassed the electric format with an entire championship series. perhaps when he's in his mid-fifties, chris froome can stage a comeback win in the e-vuelta?

tuesday 12 september 2017

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