my ritchey screenplay

ritchey logic

i have had this marvellous idea for a movie screenplay, one that is so highly original, that if a film release in the next few years resembles this is in any way, i'll know where to come looking.

the basic notion is simple. there's this american policeman and his partner, who are attempting to shutdown a local drugs cartel. during their investigations, the hapless partner is seriously injured or killed (i've not made my mind up on that bit), leaving our hero minus someone with whom to share coffee and doughnuts. he/she is so fired up with the need for revenge, that when the station captain attempts to pair him/her with a new partner, many remonstrations take place behind the venetian blinds on the captian's office windows.

ultimately, the captain pulls rank and matches the story's hero with a partner who will either be somewhat of a misfit, or fresh out of police academy carrying a superior attitude and a morality that leads them to do everything by the book. our hero is not predisposed to give them anything other than a hard time. the storyline thus concentrates on the friction between the two, until the culmination of the plot (still a work in progress) leads them both to realise that they actually work very well together and the ending sets the scene for at least one sequel to my highly original screenplay.

ritchey logic

all i have to do now, by my reckoning, is check a few facts, proof read some of the more involved scenes, send the manuscript to both steven spielberg and ridley scott, then sit back and see who offers me the most amount of money.

i understand that many of you will be desperate to know from where came this screenplay, the likes of which has never been viewed before? oddly enough, it was inspired by my festive travels on the steel ritchey logic bicycle currently languishing inspirationally in the bike shed. you see the logic frameset sort of arrived unannounced. this was entirely my fault; having not read the e-mail conversations between myself and the excellent fellow at ritchey uk as closely as i had thought, i was expecting a fully-fledged bicycle to arrive, ready to do battle with the hebridean elements.

but in truth, even allowing for the above inadvertent misdemeanour, i already own two steel bicycles, both of which have regularly and valiantly acquitted themselves across the years. why, i have to ask myself, would i really need another steel bicycle, to reinforce my optimistic views regarding the efficacy of steel as the ideal bicycle frame material? granted, the wonderful italians in vicenza saw fit to supply their carbon chorus groupset to offset my self-imposed indignation, but that hardly led me to consider giving the ritchey an easy time of it.

this bike would have to prove itself.

ritchey logic

as part of that elemental baptism, i opted to ride said machine for each and every day of last year's festive 500, a period of time featuring a series of 100 kilometre plus days, riding through galeforce winds, heavy, persistent rain, hailshowers, snow, localised flooding and lashings of belgian toothpaste. obviously enough, the bicycle figured it could cope with this hebridean onslaught, while i paid only lip service to its well-being by merely cleaning and lubricating the chain on a daily basis, accompanied by a quick rubdown with an old oily rag.

the upshot of all the above is now that the ritchey and i are all but inseparable. i have done and continue to greatly admire its tenacity in the face of adversity. it is one of the smoothest bicycles i have had the pleasure of riding and i would have no qualms whatsoever over sharing with it, coffee and doughnuts. during the worst of times, it has kept me safe from marauding potholes, some of them large enough to deserve the adjective lunar in front of them. and its superior handling allowed me to innocently ride several kilometres over icy roads, before gently discovering that the surface offered no grip whatsoever.

it has benefitted immeasurably from the ritchey supplied cockpit kit. the skyline saddle may have emitted one or two creaks and groans, but it has proved eminently comfortable, while the alloy handlebars offered not only the ultimate in navigational abilities, but combined that feature with a resilience that borders on the ideal level of comfort.

in some quarters, steel might be seen as the adoption of a retro personality, carbon fork, or no carbon fork, but that's only because those who view it as such are wrong. and in the manner of my highly original screenplay, this one too will have a sequel and quite probably a happy ending to boot.

ritchey logic frameset

monday 15 january 2018

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nostalgia ain't what it used to be

billy holmes

it's strange quirk of physics that, for any given diameter, a tube will prove stronger than a rod. this is particularly applicable to the humble wheel axle, where the quick-release version as well as the more recently developed 'thru-axle' will, hands down, prove more resilient than the old-style solid, nutted axle. this is particularly true when considering the steady increase in the number of sprockets afflicting that of the derailleur-based rear wheel.

if memory serves correctly, the freewheel system topped out at eight-speeds, with shimano's seven-speed cassette presaging the death of the threaded freewheel. regarding the latter, any axle, whether hollow or solid, was effectively unsupported once it left the safety of the drive-side of the hub. between the hub bearings and the frame dropout, there was nothing that might strengthen its resolve. shimano's freehub was designed to end the calamitous breakages that often resulted from an overloaded touring bike, by placing a third set of bearings on the outboard end of the freehub.

of course, that may well have been a by-product of the cassette system which then offered the more intrepid cyclist a simple means of adapting their gear ratios to suit the terrain du jour. if moving from flat ground to hillier topography, a 21 tooth large sprocket could be easily removed in favour of something larger. disappointingly, shimano pulled the rug from under their own feet by inventing hyperglide, a series of ramps and tooth profiles featured on the cassette sprockets designed to allow changing under load without the usual cacophonous crunching of gears. since each of these ramps required to match the sprockets on each side, no longer was it possible to vary each individual sprocket at will.

riders of sram's red system will doubtless be aware that the cassette supplied is machined from a single billet of alloy.

this faffing at the rear of the bike was accompanied by faffing of a different hue at the front, namely, indexing, whereupon shimano leveraged ratcheting expertise gained from their fishing rod division and applied it to gearchanging. early versions of this in both road and off-road guise, featured the ability to resort to friction shift, should anything untoward happen to the gear mech, but in similar fashion to replaceable sprockets after the introduction of hyperglide, this unceremoniously disappeared within about a year.

my son, currently in his mid-twenties, started cycling just over 18 months ago and has thus never experienced the joys of either downtube levers or friction shifting, a situation that is probably true of the majority of today's riders. soon, there will be an entire generation of road-riders who have no idea that ther were times when gearchanging didn't require a battery.

though i'm not normally one for nostalgia, i recently read a short, self-published and not commercially available book, (written by my good friend, mike breckon), about billy holmes, a rider of no small repute in the 1950s and 60s. a successful time-triallist as well as a road-racer, at the age of only 21, billy was faster than anyone at the time over the 25 mile and fifty-mile distances. the race bikes ridden in those days were the archetypal ten-speed racer with brake cables that exited the top of the levers and gearchanging that had need of being accomplished by the downtube levers mentioned above, while time-trialling was more often restricted to single-speed or a fixed gear.

having just returned from a bit of a slog into a headwind that diverted the ferries and rain that made my kneecaps cold, i have a self-satisfied glow about me that says "yes, i rode my bike in that", accompanied by a personal psyche that has me classified me as a bit of a hard man. sadly, reality scarcely bears witness to that thought. however, in this motor-car obsessed modern society, there is a credibility to be paid lip service to, for at one time, riding stupid distances in harsh weather would have been viewed more leniently than is currently the case.

if i might quote a passage from mr breckon's admirable text (with his permission):

"His (Billy Holmes') Hull Thursday Club was organising a 25-mile time trial on Bill's home roads. His only problem was that they were 240 miles from where he was doing his National Service.
"He was able to get approval for a weekend off from duties and on Friday afternoon Bill left his camp south-west of London, then set off to cycle 240 miles home to Hull which he achieved in twelve hours."

in true boys' own fashion, he not only competed over the distance come early sunday morning, but took two seconds off the course record, clocking 55 minutes 49 seconds. i doubt that sort of exploit is particularly common nowadays

those were the days when club cyclists thought little of riding 60 miles each way to compete in an amateur time-trial, with their race wheels fastened to the front forks. granted, there was often little alternative; car ownership was nowhere near as prevalent as it is now and i daresay if the motorised option had been available, it would not have been discarded in favour of a lengthy ride. however, that is not to minimise the feats of derring-do performed by 'average' club cyclists in those bygone days of yore.

bowmore village is almost exactly one mile from end to end and a substantial number of its residents drive to work. and folks wonder why the national health service is overstretched, type two diabetes is on the increase and we appear to have an obesity crisis on our hands.

it has been pointed out to me by a kind correspondent, that my grasp of physics concerning the relationship between a rod and a tube, may not be quite what it ought to be. if i might quote from his correspondence, rather than ineptly rehash my understanding of the problem -
"Without getting into the boring mathematics of it all, the stiffness of a tube, or rod, is dependent on the distance of the material contained and distributed within it, from the neutral bending axis of the cross section in question.
"The metal in a solid axle, that would otherwise be removed if it were made into a QR axle, is located quite close to the neutral bending axis of the axle so it doesn't contribute much to the stiffness, but it's contribution isn't zero. Therefore, for a conventional 10mm threaded rear wheel axle, the solid axle is stiffer than the QR version."
i stand corrected. thank you mr spence.

sunday 14 january 2018

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by invitation only

balint hamvas cyclocross annual 2017/18

i would imagine that, for the average whisky enthusiast, the ideal of moving lock, stock and barrel to the island home of uisge beatha holds great attraction. probably far more would be inclined to do just that, were it not for the not inconsiderable problem of having to earn a living and pay the bills. i am reliably informed that no amount of whisky tasting will provide satisfactory recompense, though there's always the side-effect of probably becoming insufficiently conscious to care. but aside from the attraction of nigh on ten malt whisky distilleries on an island barely 35 kilometres from top to bottom, there are many more joys worth considering. mind you, a day on which calmac cancelled all the ferries due to breezy conditions (as happened yesterday) is probably not one of them.

balint hamvas cyclocross annual 2017/18

on one of my latter days attempting to fulfil rapha's festive 500 challenge, several heavy hail and snow showers dictated that sticking to the allegedly gritted main roads seemed a prudent choice. disappointingly, my idea of gritted and that of the roads department were obviously not in agreement and long before i reached port ellen village i had need of turning around and heading in the opposite direction, the road smooth with ice from left to right.

balint hamvas cyclocross annual 2017/18

in order that the day's target be achieved, i headed through the villages of both bruichladdich and port charlotte, intent on making my way to portnahaven on the southwest tip of the island. it's a part of the island to which i rarely cycle, but on summiting the hill at octofad, i was greeted with a "hello brian; lovely day" as i struggled to get my breath back. it's just that kind of place, one where everybody knows pretty much everybody else and my unheralded appearance in an area outside that normal comfort zone seemed less than remarkable.

balint hamvas cyclocross annual 2017/18

that sense of community spirit, should it be recognised as such, can also be seen on social media such as twitter, though you will understand that i'd scarcely recommend anyone spend their life hanging out on social media. it has become something of an expected outpouring of alleged humour to randomly tweet just how many days remain between any given date and the next edition of paris-roubaix. were you not of a velocipedinal bent, a tweet such as '92 days to paris-roubaix', probably scarcely merits your attention, but for the cycling community lurking in the background, those words are often treated as manna from heaven. at least, that's the conclusion i've drawn from the number of likes and retweets that follow just such a posting.

balint hamvas cyclocross annual 2017/18

irreverent and irrelevant moments have almost become woven into the fabric of velocipedinity (is there such a word?)

it would be naive to consider cycling as the only platform on which such repetitively favourable occurrences exist. the hypothetical whisky enthusiast desperately looking for a purple bricks e-mail to assist with the sell-up and move to islay has, until now, pre-booked each year's may accommodation in order to attend the annual whisky festival. we, on the other hand, have the spring classics, the poster boy for which is undoubtedly paris-roubaix. and though cyclocross has the national championships this weekend and the worlds at valkenburg in february, we all really know that the pinnacle of the cyclocross season comes not in winter but at the end of summer when balint hamvas publishes his indispensible photo recap of the previous season's racing and personalities.

balint hamvas cyclocross annual 2017/18

often seen as the cyclocross coffee table book to trounce all cyclocross coffee table books, mr hamvas has seen fit over the past two years to fund production of this necessity by way of the ubiquitous kickstarter campaign. this year is no different. if you missed out on last year's publication, remedy that situation by clicking the link below and pre-ordering. then, this year at least, you can once again hold up your portland design works beanie in public once more.

it's what kickstarter was invented for.

balint hamvas' cyclocross annual kickstarter campaign

balint hamvas cyclocross annual 2017/18

all images copyright balint hamvas. reproduced with permission.

saturday 13 january 2018

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blue train publishing: books for the curious

bluetrain publishing

i'm not sure if i mentioned it at the time, but from my perspective 2017 has to rate as one of the finest for acquiring books about cycling. though there was the occasional (and i really do mean, occasional) speck of light in the tunnel, i began receiving books for review shortly before the giro d'italia continuing almost until the end of the season. if, like me,you are an avid reader, particularly words relating to the way of the velocipede, this could never be constituted as a complaint, only one of continued joy.

bluetrain publishing

and thankfully, once again from my perspective, the offer of sending e-book copies for review disappeared entirely. i do not own either an ipod or kindle, though i do have the wherewithal to read most electronic formats on my macbook air. but try as i might, i simply cannot come to terms with the pixelated form, though this might arguably be as a reaction from writing for the very media i am now disparaging. but truly, there is little to compare with holding printed matter in both hands, experiencing the considerable heft provided by the archetypal coffee table book and viewing photographs on heavy art paper, rather than via the screen on which i spend most of my working day. that's also to say little of the intoxicating aroma of ink on paper.

but, there does have to be a downside to almost anything and books are no exception. for one, though i struggle ever to re-read the titles i've promised myself i would, it would be tantamount to villified treachery to throw any of them away once completed and subsequently reviewed. books are objects of desire, items to be venerated; to consign them to the recycle bin just doesn't bear thinking about, particularly when you consider almost all publishers send the hardback edition for review. those take up an awful lot of space in the spare room.

the second averred negative aspect, though i'm aware that perhaps i doth protest too much, is that while reading an almost continuous supply of bicycle-related books is almost joy unbounded, reviewing them is probably the hardest job i have in relation to thewashingmachinepost. irrespective of what i thought of what i have just read, a lot of somebodies put a great deal of work into writing, editing, proofing, printing and publishing the end product. to pen any review that states 'what a lot of crap', would be entirely disingenuous. and even supposing that were to be my considered opinion, there's the not insignificant matter of quoting relevant passages from the book in support of that opinion.

a bold, negative (or, indeed, positive) statement really helps no-one, because what i found to be not to my taste, may be the very thing you were looking for.

bluetrain publishing

but it would be a very simple-minded and reckless publisher who ignored the economics of publishing and the constant threat of pixels. most books are offered in both printed and electronic formats nowadays, but even so, publishing is not what it once was, though based on the number of cycling books released last year, it may be a niche that is either creating a new trend or bucking the older one.

guy andrews, hopefully well-known to the majority of you through his incisive writing, editing and accomplished photography is as obsessed with books as am i. probably more so in fact. i first met guy on a visit to rapha's original imperial works where he showed me a little gem of a photo book published in 2005 by stefan vanfleteren entitled flandrien. it was hard to get hold of then, though i managed to have the author send me a copy from belgium. i note now that it is available new from amazon at a price of over £130. i'm not sure that e-books garner such monetary esteem. guy and his partner, photographer taz darling, set up blue train publishing in 2016, but considering the publishing industry to exist in a not always favourable state of flux, what brought them to take this arguably daring step?

"It started to come together when Greg LeMond agreed to let us publish our biography of him in 2016. During that process we realised that, very like the music or food industries over the past two decades, a real shift is happening in publishing and media too. Currently books are in a pretty good spot and I think how people 'consume media' (apologies for the marketing speak) has changed massively, especially in the past five years. Demand for long-hand stories and indulgent illustrated books is definitely on the up. It's a change which is sorely needed and we want readers to have the choice of something a little more 'free range', if you like. We've also witnessed authors having to sign away so much of the rights to their own work and we think that is a disgrace. Our idea from the start was that we will always look after everyone who works with us and we believe that the creatives who throw a lot of passion into their craft deserve to make a living wage from it."

bluetrain publishing

guy's observation that there is a shift happening in the printed media industry is probably well-founded. though cycling cannot be regarded as other than a niche sport to the world at large, it seems it may be just a large enough niche to have publishers create specific imprints for the genre. i'm thinking here of the likes of 'yellow jersey press' and james spackman's 'pursuit books' amongst others, yet andrews and darling opted to ignore any such tendencies and name their project blue train, the name of john coltrane's 1957 album on blue note records. has guy ever listened to that album, or did the inspiration for the name arise more from the railway connotation? (the logo is that of a speeding steam engine)

"I was brought up on Jazz records, my Dad was a trombone player, I played the tenor sax as a kid and still do, although rather badly. So, yes, Coltrane was and still is an inspiration and I've worn out my vinyl copies of 'A Love Supreme' and 'Blue Train'. Taz, on the other hand, is a little more country and prefers Johnny Cash and his Blue Train song... but we both love a train journey. The main link is in cycling though, I've always loved that in the 1950s and 60s the star riders and team leaders were referred to by the rest of the French-speaking peloton as le train bleu, the Bluetrain. It all just seemed to fit."

even brief perusal of the blue train website will inform the inquisitive that, not only do they publish original, homegrown content, but offer to publish on behalf of third-party clients. the danger there, surely, is one of quality and perception. if i open my copy of the greg lemond biography mentioned by guy above, i'd need a tea-towel on my knee to catch the quality that oozes from its pages. but if some third-rate, failed domestic cyclist with enough of a bank balance felt the need to vent a poorly constituted spleen in print, you can perhaps see where there might be a conflict of interest and quality. so how does blue train decide whether the latter would be in the best interests of their quality image, even if it might help the balance of payments in the short term?

bluetrain publishing

"We're only interested in making beautiful, interesting and well-crafted books, so we look at each project on merit and if it's a quality product and if a commercial client wants that too, well that's all good. We're quite comfortable passing on a project if we don't believe in it though."

"...beautiful, interesting and well-crafted books...", with no disrespect to mr andrews, these are somewhat vague and subjective terms. as i mentioned above, my very reasons for criticising a book might be the very ones that would encourage others to purchase. so, if i might offer the hypothetical situation of my considering a washingmachinepost coffee table annual, were i to knock on blue train's door, what services could they provide, aside from telling me to go away and not be so foolish?

"Anything from advice on subject matter up to producing the whole shebang. We've challenged the traditional scheduling ideas within publishing and can take a book from initial concept to high quality delivery title within an eye-wateringly short space of time. Over the years we have gained experience of all the elements of book production and publishing, plus we work with a pool of exceptionally talented photographers, illustrators, writers, designers and editors. So, whatever you need and if you want it to be beautiful Brian, we can make that happen."

but to once again return to my not altogether contentious contention that the world of cycling occupies a very small niche market in the great big world of publishing, it's possibly one more comfortable with endless jamie oliver cookbooks than it is with portraying the epitome of pain and suffering on a bicycle. popping back to blue train's website once more, it doesn't take long to note that all the publications listed feature cycling or cyclists in one way or another. thankfully for the reading public, i know less than one whit about the whys and wherefores of the publishing industry, but it strikes me that it might just be possible to earn a few more coppers were the portfolio to be diversified. is this something under consideration, or will blue train remain dedicated to satisfying the literary needs of the pelotonese?

bluetrain publishing

"We have always worked well with photography, so illustrated books are an obvious speciality for us and not just in cycling, but in all sports and we're working on some projects outside of sport too. Fundamentally though we always want to work with contributors who bring a bit more to the table, be it first time writers or established authors with an idea they just can't place with a bigger publisher. We want to produce the books that are a bit different, that question and develop stories that go outside of the usual. We like to call them: Books for the curious."

both guy and taz are familiar and well-respected names within cycling's little cornucopia. both have contributed a great deal to the well-being and exposition of the sport of cycling. however, in the midst of the ever-increasingly noisy rabble, intent on filling the world's bookshelves and databases of the online a to z, jumping up and down with one hand in the air, proclaiming quality over quantity would be to risk being ignored. there will always be the informed cognoscenti, but it's not always a given that even they speak to each other.

last year's collaboration between current rouleur editor, andy mcgrath, rapha editions and bluetrain which resulted in the superb 'bird on the wire' biography of tommy simpson seems not only to have been a publishing success, but excelled itself by winning the william hill sports book of the year award. this in itself must have been a feather in the cap for blue train. is it something on which they can capitalise with regard to future projects?

bluetrain publishing

"It's a major coup for Andy too, as it was his first book. I don't think anyone expected it to win the William Hill; it's a genuine competition and a tough one at that. It's not an award that you just have to buy a dinner table at some swanky hotel to get in the mix, so the nomination was extraordinary enough - then we were shortlisted which raised a few eyebrows - so having this massive award for only our second book with Rapha Editions was phenomenal. And it was a total shock.
"As for future projects, it certainly puts Rapha Editions and Bluetrain on the map, and it's a big boost for small independent book publishers too. It opens up some great new opportunities for us and no doubt will help shift some books. It couldn't have been a better start for Bluetrain, although it was an endorsement of everyone who worked on the book itself; the designer Rob Johnston, Andy and myself as editor. But also the picture agencies, the production team and the printers, EBS in Italy, who really made a difference to the final product. Feathers in caps all-round."

perhaps not quite comparable to a first year newbie winning the tour de france at his first attempt, but certainly a more than promising start. however, guy mentioned above that one of the aims of bluetrain was to engender a domain where existing and prospective authors could earn a palatable crust for their efforts. i can't have been the only one to read that only a very small percentage of contemporary authors can enjoy even a modest living from days, weeks, months and years in front of the word-processor. i know from personal experience that the cost of paper has been rising indiscriminately for many a long year and it's not inconceivable that publishing costs alone could begin to price 'real' books out of their hard-won market.

is the publishing of printed matter a healthy place to reside these days?

bluetrain publishing

"Yes. There's an awful lot of interest in cycling by mainstream book publishers right now, but I don't think many have the experience and knowledge of the subject that we have at bluetrain. Our focus is high quality and there is currently a big demand from the consumer for high quality books. People want to invest in something of quality to keep and collect. In my opinion the distribution and sales element to the established publishing industry is a little bit broken. The current market favours the large publishers and, essentially, just one huge retailer, not the book's creators and those who work hardest on them. So to help change that - albeit in a small way - is part of our long term plan."

having published the aforementioned highly praised biography of greg lemond, topped by their association with andy mcgrath's 'bird on the wire' is presumably an enviable position to be in. but, in the great tradition of music album releases, even coltrane's original blue train, it's often a case of being only ever as good as your last release. we've had those and we loved them, but we want to be further entertained and if you don't mind, we'd like that to happen sooner rather than later. yes, quality matters, but we'd like it right now, if you don't mind?

holding onto that thought, are there any current projects in the pipeline about which guy could reveal even meagre details to whet our collective appetite?

"Well, there is something very different appearing for Rapha Editions next month which should cause quite a stir. It's a Getting Started book, a very entry level 'what you need to know to get out on a bike'. We wanted to challenge the idea of what this 'type' of book should be and to reach people who would normally be discouraged by what's already available. It has resulted in a wonderful collaboration with the very talented illustrator Laura Quick and we will definitely be interested to hear what you make of it. It's been tons of fun to make. There are no rules in it either, you'll be pleased to hear."

bluetrain publishing

each morning, as i lie half awake in my bed, trying hard to forestall the moment when i'll actually have to leave its cosy comfort, i usually have occasion to listen to the business news on radio four's 'today' programme. do not be misled; i can comprehend very little of what's being said, but i have come to the concerted opinion that no matter how much profit a business makes, nothing else counts unless that profit is greater than the previous year's. it seems there are no exceptions to what i might arrogantly term palmer's theorem, surely meaning that all and sundry must espouse a cunning plan.

i'm assuming that just such a cunning plan exists in the driver's cab at bluetrain, or is it more a case of 'wait and see'?

"Bluetrain was asked last year to start up the Rapha Editions project for Rapha by Simon Mottram, so many of the books we're making right now are with them. We have a host of high quality contributors, illustrators, photographers, designers and authors working with us on projects for Rapha Editions, including books with; Paul Fournel, Colin O'Brien, Isabel Best, Jo Burt, Marco Patonesi, Isabel Best and Herbie Sykes, amongst others. It's quite a list of quality contributors and some interesting departures too, subject-wise.
"Outside from our work with Rapha Editions, we have some exciting plans with titles of our own for next year and we're looking into better distribution possibilities for all our books. We have some fascinating and original titles coming up with Bluetrain and we have some fantastic projects already underway. But sorry Brian, for now you'll need to be patient and just wait and see..."

bluetrain publishing

friday 12 january 2018

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clever cuppa

richard mitchelson

like many other cyclists and non-cyclists, i enjoy a really good espresso, superlative examples of which seem very few and far between these days. as i have frequently described to non-believers, an espresso worth having ought to bring tears to your eyes and make your kneecaps crinkle. the sort of dark brown strength as purveyed by andrew meo of italy's rocket espresso. many of you attending the last couple of editions of the rouleur classic, may well know of which i speak.

despite occasionally experiencing a floating sensation on the way back from debbie's, perhaps after one espresso too many, the amount of caffeine contained within the average double-shot espresso is considerably less than that in a mug of coffee brewed from a cafetiere or even your bog standard instant. once again, size-matters. the word and the brew are, by definition, italian, the end result of a patent for a 'steam-driven, instantaneous coffee making device' registered in the mid 1880s. unlike hostelries such as coronation street's rovers return, italian coffee bars originally promoted urbanisation; not necessarily by the more common means of alcoholic beverages, though these were often also available. however, an espresso or cappuccino coffee proved to be a popular alternative, one that was unlikely to result in a breath-test no matter how much floating you experienced on the way home.

richard mitchelson

the current world coffee culture, which has resulted in virtually every uk town centre being populated by a starbucks, costa or café nero has resulted in many - for whom nescafe gold blend was once the ultimate in connoisseurship - becoming dedicated followers of fashion and adopting an expresso (sic) as the new black, even though many quite patently don't like the strong taste.

'pride bears no pain'.

richard mitchelson

in order to not only break their own set of rules, but hang onto the part of the wannabe market who don't actually like an espresso, starbucks have recently undermined their mission statement to offer "darker, more flavourful coffees" by introducing a new blonde espresso, one that offers a gentler experience designed to introduce new coffee drinkers to the way of the freshly ground bean. unfortunately, this has arrived with its own tasting baggage such as that which afflicts wine and whisky aficionados. this new blonde roast espresso features 'a bright taste with sweet citrus notes and a smooth body' , whatever the heck that means.

richard mitchelson

but on this side of the channel and the pond, life has not always been this way. several years ago, when filling the drum chair for a holidaying percussionist in a mainland hotel, i would arise early(ish) on sunday morning to catch the bus running between glasgow and the kennacraig ferry terminal. while i waited, several pelotons of cyclists, having ridden alongside loch lomond from glasgow, would stop at the small, flat-roofed restaurant adjacent to the bus stop and order beans or egg on toast accompanied by a strong cup of tea.

richard mitchelson

in recent years, the latter has lost its top spot on the podium, sales dropping by 19% since 2010. outside of the home, the british populace now drink over two billion cups of coffee each year, compared to significantly less than one billion cups of tea. mind you, inside the home, matters may be a tad less dramatic, if only partially because one of andrew meo's rocket espresso machines would set you back more than £1,000, whereas a half-decent kettle would leave change from a twenty pound note. and though espressos, cappuccinos, lattes and americanos may be the designer drinks of the noughties, particularly amongst those of the faux intellectual set, it's likely that a decent cup of tea fuels human creativity every bit as much, if not more, than a tiny cup of strong coffee.

richard mitchelson

if evidence were required to prove the latter case, take a look at richard mitchelson's showreel on vimeo, the opening edit of which shamelessly proclaims richmitch: tea fuelled creativity. it takes only one and a half minutes of viewing to realise that, from his own point of view at least, the man is not wrong. i was first introduced to mr mitchelson's creativity by way of his animated loop of eddy merckx hour record, an iconic piece that can still be seen via the link below. in the interim, aside from (often quite literally) bumping into richard at disparate cycling exhibitions through the years, he has produced a series of classic illustrations for rouleur, assos clothing, science in sport and strava to name but a few.

and who could forget the ever-expanding range of heroes mugs, at least one of which, no self-respecting cyclist would ever be without, to say nothing of last year's giro d'italia activity book. so, as the new year gets into its groove, take a 1 minute 34 second moment to appreciate the tea-fuelled creativity that many of us wish we had at our fingertips.

no milk and no sugar, thanks.

rich mitch showreel | rich mitch eddy merckx animation |

thursday 11 january 2018

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rest in peas

rip lord carlos of mercian

this is a salutory and particularly sad tale that i relate, which i figure i am less than equal to writing in the first place. however, on the basis that such considerations have rarely stopped me in the past, i will proceed unharnessed. this is specifically of importance to the male of the species, given our wholesale reticence to seek medical advice or attention, seemingly based on the unwritten principles of the macho ideal. however, the corollary to that ought surely to be that, if one of us felt sufficiently unwell to make an appointment with a medical practictioner, there's a pretty good chance that there is something unusually wrong. that ought perhaps to entail more thorough and particularly close attention from the doctors in question.

a member of the sunday morning peloton had, for the latter months of last year, begun to drop off the rear of the group often by quite some distance, and i, or one other, would generally drift back in order that he did not spend the bulk of his sunday morning riding alone. of course, as is often the case in such matters, we treated this situation with a hearty soupcon of humour, putting it down to too many executive lunches, though the blame for his tardiness could also be levelled at recurring knee pain.

however, during the velo club's mince pie ride on sunday 17 december, when once more dropped from the peloton after only a matter of kilometres, he admitted to having had occasional chest pains during the preceding week, though generally only during moments of more strenuous movements. as many of you will wholeheartedly agree, climbing short, sharp, steep hills falls squarely into that category and it was noted that the poor chap was losing ground, hand over fist, whenever the road veered upwards and scarcely recouping that loss on subsequent downhills from the need to recover from the induced pain.

on that particular day, the rest of the peloton decided to cut the ride short in order to save him from further suffering from what was, at the time, an undiagnosed condition.

the following day, he visited his local doctor and was subjected to an ecg, which apparently provided clear results the following day. the medical diagnosis was either a viral digestive complaint, or possible angina.

on returning from the festive holiday, he joined three of us for the new year's day ride and though we attempted to mitigate the symptoms and pains from which he was still suffering by avoiding any hills, islay just isn't that flat. after only half of the proposed parcours, he put his hand up and said he was returning home and would see us on our return. unwilling to have him cycle alone in this condition, we all agreed to turn round and accompany him to his house. because that's what clubmates do.

during earlier conversations, it transpired that medical advice had him believe that these chest pains were the result of some form of acid reflux and according to his own readings on the matter, it was a common complaint, from which 70% of those suffering simply accepted it as an uncomfortable irritant, but one that would leave no lasting damage and certainly wasn't life threatening. as it turned out, somewhere along the line, the poor fellow had been misled as to the seriousness of his condition, for after cycling two miles home from work on monday evening, he collapsed and died, apparently from a heart attack.

i did not write the above in order to provide a sad story for the start of the year, but to point out in an admittedly rather macabre way, that if any of you suffer from any form of chest pain while cycling, get it checked immediately. and until you receive a satisfactory diagnosis, whether it's what you want to hear or not, stop cycling in the meantime. men are notorious for leaving such matters unreported in the fervent hope that the symptoms will go away of their own accord.

sadly, in this case, they did.

rest in peas lord carlos of mercian.

wednesday 10 january 2018

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velocipedinal flair in the face of adversity

islay flooding

i think i've made it perfectly plain, on more occasions than is probably deemed necessary in polite company, that rapha's annual festive 500 is something i view as a challenge. i'm sure that's how they too view the whole project, but for me, it's a personal one; for starters, i don't sign up on strava and at journey's end, i never bother asking for one of those delightful sewn patches. and in much the same way that i care not one whit whether i finish an event in last place (as long as i enjoyed myself), if it had turned out that 500 kilometres was not an achievable goal, then at least i'd made the effort.

however, while i was in the process of accumulating a few more kilometres each day, i rather depended on the mechanical efficiency and reliability of my bicycle. it transpires that this end of year challenge offered an excellent opportunity to review various items of equipment under what could euphemistically be termed, 'difficult conditions'. last year's event gave me the chance to ride the campagnolo chorus equipped ritchey logic in not only persistent rainfall, but subsequent localised flooding, disintegrating roads and lashings of belgian toothpaste, ready and eager to inflitrate each and every moving part of the bicycle when given the chance. after spending 118 kilometres in the rain on christmas eve, i figured there was every likelihood of that inflitration coming to pass sooner, rather than later.

islay flooding

in order to keep it in the family, i'd fitted the ritchey with a pair of their home-grown wcs off-road pedals, components that had first found home on a cyclocross bike, but ones that i had judged a more pragmatic choice should i have to make any forced dismounts on less than stable ground. however, in the grand manner of getting 'a round tooit', i'd always promised myself that i'd purchase a second pair of cleats to provide an alternative pair of shoes to wear in the event of the first pair becoming waterlogged. this was a situation only recalled three days before christmas, with no earthly chance of receiving delivery in time.

guess whose giro shoes spent many an hour filled with scrunched up newspaper?

islay flooding

having achieved the prescribed target two days earlier than called for, i think i can say without fear of contradiction, that each and every part of the bicycle and groupset performed above and beyond the call of duty. lest you think it just a tad showy to finish the 500 in advance of the deadline, i might point out that the weather forecast, as predicted earlier in the week, had shown windspeeds reaching mid 80kph, a breeze that would not have been conducive to upright travel. on the basis that this might have turned out to be the case, i'd opted to chuck in a few more kilometres each day, just for good measure. as it turned out, the arriving winds were a bit more moderate.

during my daily meanderings and often while trying manfully to avoid the worst of the potholes, i managed inadvertently to hit big stuff, similar in proportion to several seen on the moon's surface. two of these occasions resulted in a loud crack from the front of the bike, both times leading me to surmise i had just broken the front wheel. thankfully, wheelsmith's ascent wheels appear to be made of sterner stuff than yours truly, cushioned by 28mm mavic tubeless tyres; both wheels continue to revolve without so much as a sideways blip.

islay flooding

i really cannot praise campagnolo's chorus groupset enough. i have still found no need to adjust the gears in any way shape or form and despite the conditions to which they were subjected on a daily basis, that's more than good enough for me. similarly, the skeleton caliper brakes; though discs may be flavour of the month/year/decade/, the old skool was never once found wanting, despite several near-misses from incompetent or inconsiderate driving and descents that more closely resembled white water rafting.

several years ago, during a previous festive 500, i discovered a cracked side plate on the chain. ever since then, i have religiously cleaned and checked both chain and frame after each day's ride, because islay has a sizeable number of middle-of-nowhere locations, at which a mechanical malfeasance would be unlikely to be met with friendly local assistance, especially during the holiday period. that's when it all comes down to good old italian reliability.

islay flooding

that probably wraps it up for the chorus groupset review. though it's unlikely the hebridean climate is likely to take a major turn for the better anytime soon, i seriously doubt there will be a further set of inclement weather conditions to give it any greater hassle in the foreseeable future. the same could possibly be said about the ritchey logic, but i confess it seems now to be getting comfortably into its stride, so there may be further room to feature its unexpected speed, comfort and resilience in a future set of black and yellow pixels.

campagnolo chorus | ritchey logic | wheelsmith ascent tubeless wheelset
mavic yksion ust tubeless tyres

photos courtesy mark unsworth, islay studios

tuesday 9 january 2018

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