playing with the big boys

cycle to work scheme

beginning in the 1970s and continuing into the eighties and even the nineties, the world green movement solicited the attention of the great unwashed to think global, act local. it was a sentiment fostered by james lovelock through his gaia hypothesis or paradigm, proposing that living organisms interact with the earth's inorganic environment to form a complex, yet self-regulating system, that would perpetuate life on earth. thus, while lovelock's theories concerned the planet as a whole, rather obviously, acting locally would make the most sense; those persuaded of his arguments would rarely be in a position to influence outcomes across the planet.

it's a concept that has found varying favour amongst politicians throughout the decades, whenever the potential outcomes could be seen to to suit their party manifesto. however, politics being as they are nowadays, the pragmatic outcomes were rarely followed through when potential conflicts looked as if they might undermine political authority. thus we frequently found that the larger local authorities could find themselves split into component parts, or just as easily recombined into monoliths. if a current example were required, take a look at police scotland, the amalgamation of smaller, arguably more practical units. time will tell whether this is a good idea or not.

the converse can be seen in the distribution of cycle clubs throughout the uk. for example, g.c. ristorante debbie's could be seen as a semi-autonomous gathering, pertaining almost exclusively to the road between bowmore and debbie's. were we to become fascinated with the competitive oeuvre, we would come under the jurisdiction of scottish cycling, in turn beholden to british cycling. when it comes to international speed, the latter doff their casquettes to the uci in aigle. i think i have perhaps laboured my point to the extent of exhaustion.

and so, you would think, would be the ideal similar model operated by the nation's cycle to work initiative, always assuming you have any faith in the veracity of this in the first place. i personally know of three friends who were able to acquire decent road bikes at reduced rate, via the cycle to work scheme. it will perhaps come as no surprise to learn that not one of them cycle to work and two of them never had any intention of doing so. however, to judge the nation as a whole on the evidence of three individuals hardly makes it an iniquitous situation.

whether or not any of those who purchased bicycles in this manner subsequently made any attempt to ride them to work, is not altogether germane to the situation. though the initiative was engendered by the government via the 1999 finance act, it wasn't until the incorporation of cyclescheme in 2005 by the owners of bath's avon valley cyclery, that the tax incentive began to make ground. essentially many potential cyclists were able to take advantage, while sales often benefited the nation's independent bicycle shops. however, the business was sold to a hertfordshire services company in 2010, a company who have now issued a dictat to those selfsame independent bicycle shops, stating their exclusion from the cyclescheme in favour of placing all their business through the big boys, namel tredz, chain reaction and evans.

at a time when uk bicycle sales are on the decrease, leading to the closure of many independent bike shops and bringing many others to the brink of financial difficulty, this exclusion of around 1800 independent bike dealers can hardly be viewed as good news. james lovelock, now in his late nineties, would surely disapprove.


monday 12 february 2018

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pedal ed essential jersey and team winter bib tights

pedal ed essential jersey

a worthy individual was once quoted as saying "the jersey maketh the man", though now that i come to think about it, that was quite possibly me, so you can probably dispense with the 'worthy' bit. however, even if 'twas i responsible for such a profound epithet, i doubt that makes it any less true. and when i said 'man', please be assured that, in these enlightened times, i was also referring to female ladies of the opposite sex. within the velocipedinal realm, jerseys are pretty much 'it', though for reasons of modesty and propriety, i also think bibshorts/tights maketh the man/woman.

pedal ed essential jersey

though i have seen the unenlightened, those naive in the ways of the bicycle, wearing a bona-fide, three-pocketed jersey matched with whatever pair of shorts or leggings they found hanging in the wardrobe, most of these have been of the archetypal team replica variety. (please note that i do not here refer to the particularly excellent retro jerseys available to the battle-ready.) though i can thankfully claim not to have indulged in anything that could be held representative of any contemporary race team, recollections of the genre bring to mind fabrics through which it was possible to see the rest of the world.

let's just be clear; those are not the jerseys that maketh anyone at all.

pedal ed essential jersey

a jersey that does fit the bill is one of the latest to appear in the pedal ed wardrobe, one which they have had the perspicacity to name their essential jersey. it follows a pre-set trend to construct cycling's haute couture from a merino-based fabric. this not only aids its cosiness and, in my opinion, its form factor, making it the ideal companion for both autumn, winter (with a bit of help from a waterproof jacket) and the time of year in which i have been riding the principality, dressed thus.

i would surely be wasting your valuable reading time were i to relate the capaciousness of the expected three rear pockets, however, in this day and age, it seems something of a glaring omission not to have included a fourth, zipped example. sad to say, it's the one minor discrepancy that undermines the title 'essential'. however, i am willing to acknowledge that this hardly renders the jersey any less efficacious; the full length front zip ends satisfactorily in a zip garage, closing the commendably high collar to fend off unwanted draughts when push comes to shove.

pedal ed essential jersey

i revelled in the length of the sleeves, the cuffs comfortably meeting the elongated cuffs of pedal ed's thermal gloves and offering luxurious comfort 'neath the recently reviewed nachi jacket. this comfort is immeasurably enhanced by the fabric's stretchability, easily fitting smoothly atop a thick, winter-weight merino baselayer. and in similar manner to that baselayer, the merino percentage of the material provides an integral odour suppressant. just what the peloton (and other lunchtime customers in debbie's) ordered.

pedal ed essential jersey

but no matter how essential pedal ed wish this jersey to be, there's no denying that it is also essential to match it with appropriate netherware which, in this case, meant an essential pair of pedal ed team winter bibtights. it is only a matter of days since i was bemoaning the current trend for particularly close fitting ankles on modern-day race-fit bibtights, purely on the basis that they all but excluded the ease with which it was once possible to don a pair of socks. rolling up the legs from the ankles, generally stopped blood flow to those honed calf muscles, while wearing the socks prior to the bibtights elicits all manner of groans and puffing and panting from the early morning bathroom.

pedal ed do not mess with such iniquity; the ankles of their winter bibtights feature most welcome garaged zips, easing the aforementioned sock problem as well as divesting oneself of these insulated, windproof nether garments when a hot bath beckons. the more than comfortable pad, which hopefully only you will learn is two-tone grey, dances to the same groove as do you, while assuming the province of being all but invisible in use. the outermost front windproof coating, in addition to fulfilling its primary objective seemed also pre-disposed to fending off light showers. the bib section did seem rather highly placed at the front for the purpose of making an essential call of nature, but such is their impressive stretchiness, that in practice, it was a problem that didn't actually exist.

pedal ed team winter bibtights

an unexpected bonus.

i cannot deny that the essential jersey received some essential assistance from the waterproof nachi jacket during the review period, a situation about which i could do little. winter in the hebrides is no respecter of al fresco garmentage, no matter its autumnal colour presence. and i can't help thinking that pedal ed ought also to apply the essential description to their winter tights.

japan is evidently in its ascendancy.

pedal ed's long-sleeve essential jersey is available in black with black hoop, grey with black hoop, blue gray with maroon hoop and (as reviewed) maroon with blue grey hoop. the contrasting hoop colours also feature at the cuffs, as does vertically placed japanese writing between the shoulders. available in sizes from xs to xxl, the retail price is £105. the team winter bibtights are available in black only, in sizes xs - xxl at a price of £153.

pedal ed team winter bibtights | pedal ed essential jersey

sunday 11 february 2018

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justified snobbery?

commutng cyclists

taking the bus from glasgow's buchanan bus station to meet the lunchtime ferry at kennacraig is a most pleasant journey, heading ever westerly and, for me at least, heading home. it is a constant delight to gradually leave behind the city and its suburbs, passing through neat little villages bordering the shores of the many sea lochs on the argyll coast and one in particular where the road narrows for a few metres and requires a set of lights to moderate traffic. once past loch lomond and tarbet, the coach frequently stops at arrochar, where, predominantly at weekends, several passengers intent on climbing the trails around the infamous rest and be thankful, alight for the purpose of doing precisely that.

a bit like the pelotonese, these individuals are easy to identify, dressed as they are in bright red or blue breathable jackets, accessorised with woolly hats, jack wolfskin backpacks, stout walking boots and invariably those paired walking poles that assist with the steeper gradients. in pleasant weather, it is surely what wallace and gromit would refer to as a grand day out. timed well, the campbeltown - glasgow citylink coach service allows for several hours of purgatorial wilderness scrambling, before returning to arrochar for the coach back to glasgow.

as averred to above, it is rare that practictioners of this particular hue of weekend warrior-ness are found to be less than sartorial and pragmatic in their mode of dress. should it be found necessary to spend an hour or so in a local tea shop while awaiting arrival of the bus, one would hardly look seriously out of place sat round a formica topped table.

the same could, i believe, be said of those who find jogging to be a satisfactory means of embracing the great outdoors in the process of keeping fit and destroying any remaining cartilege in their long-suffering knees. from the sitting room window of my temporary mainland residence this past week, i could view many a jogger making use of the footpath on the other side of the (alarmingly busy) main road. very few had simply donned an old t-shirt and nike badged baggy shorts. mostly it seemed that the unwritten dress code was being adhered to, offering a more svelte look to their athletic ministrations. if you're hot, sweaty and on the point of exhaustion, it's probably better not to appear that way.

for those of us with nothing else in mind other than heading into the big wide world, aboard the finest carbon fibre that money can buy, we are exceptionally well provided for. you need only scan the extensive list of cycling apparel reviewed in these very pixels to note the extent of the available choice, even at the lower end of the economic barometer. thus, there is scarcely an excuse for riding, even as a one-person peloton, appearing as if to be the loser in a finish line scramble between cavendish, kittel, sagan and our unfortunate selves.

as the velocipedinal world has developed over the last two decades, peer pressure alone strongly suggests that careful choice of garmentage is every bit as necessary as finely honed grimpeurship and a killer sprint. should this prowess on the bike extend through to the working week, there are more than a few cycling apparel purveyors offering appropriate clothing tailored for both the commute and the boardroom. in short, there really are very few excuses that will accommodate looking shabby, whether climbing the hills of argyll, running between golf course and salubrious home sweet home, or pretending to be on sabbatical from the professional peloton.

so why is it, then, that from my selfsame sitting room vantage point do i view commuting and leisure cyclists dressed in fluorescent yellow bin bags, ill-fitting waterproof trousers and helmets more akin to pudding bowls than well-ventilated head protection? though you may think i doth protest too much, i really think that snobbery doesn't come into such an argument. while faded fluorescence might once have been a forced option, there are many different colour choices available nowadays that advertise one's presence every bit as much, but do far less to offend the sensibilities of polite company and lamp post mounted cctv.

well do i know that more cyclists employ their bicycles in transportational mode than like to pretend they're riding the ronde van vlaanderen. which is precisely as it should be, in my humble opinion. it's often hard to see past the tinted windows of contemporary vehicle design, but i feel sure that the present day motorist has not resorted to boiler suits and wellies, so why do so many commuting cyclists feel it necessary to dress as if they really don't care?

unless, of course, they really don't care.

saturday 10 february 2018

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oh, good grief charlie brown (yes, again)

zwift and strava

it is our custom to meet at debbie's on 10am each and every sunday morning for velocipedinal purposes. we are more than grateful that debbie's does not open its doors and switch on the coffee machine until 11am, or there is considerable danger that a swift espresso prior to departure, would procrastinate into something a lot lengthier and less active. though i would lead you to believe that checking the weather forecast is advisable at this time of year only, in point of fact, that is not the case. it has become prudent to take a quick peek at xcweather of a saturday evening throughout the year, if for no other reason than to decide on appropriate apparel for the following morning.

sadly, we don't always get that right.

in the dim, distant, days of yore, when i was the sole bicyclist in the parish, i could easily talk myself out of a bike ride simply by eyeing up the likelihood of rain. "i'll maybe just leave it for an hour and then see what it's like", i would say, a statement that would often repeat itself until there was little in the way of daylight left in which to perambulate. the advent of meeting at deb's of a sunday morning all but cured me of that; having arranged to meet others, it has become a case of saving face by turning up in all weathers in order not to appear beholden to wimpish tendencies.

however, that said, but a few weeks past, a phone call from number one son, querying the sanity of heading out in 80kph winds and driving rain, rather burst the impenetrable bubble. one of our number failed to receive the retreat call until he'd arrived at the appointed meeting place, while the others had presumably managed to answer the question themselves and remained indoors.

having remembered those sad bygone days, i was reticent to capitulate; it didn't seem that windy to me and if i took the specialized 'cross bike, if push quite literally came to shove, i could pop onto the grass at uiskentuie where, if blown over, i'd have a soft(ish) landing. as it transpired, those 80kph gusts were more the average than the exception and riding to bruichladdich was a slog of substantial proportions. however, constituted as a headwind as opposed to a crosswind, there was never any danger to life. that is not to say, however, that riding conditions were anything other than diabolical.

having met up with the other stalwart, left unceremoniously to his own unexpected devices, we accepted the tailwind to bridgend, before once more ploughing into a mattress of wind back home. during the latter portion of our windswept and interesting journey, he was (almost) heard to mutter "you don't get this on zwift". subsequent news has rendered this to be a particularly pertinent remark.

last week, strava, facebook for cyclists and the aforementioned zwift online virtual reality cycling app, combined their virtual worlds in an act of unanimity, announcing that miles accumulated on the latter would qualify for challenges on the former. in effect this means that should they so choose, any member of the peloton can now undertake rapha's festive 500 (for example), without ever leaving the safety of their own television room.

due principally to weather conditions, i was unable to complete the 500 challenge in 2016, and was to be found acquiring over 100km per day in 2017 because xcweather had forecast meteorological doom and destruction for the two days leading up to new year's day. as it turned out, they were well wide of the mark with such prognostications, but by that time, i'd already finished my 500km with two days to spare. such is the nature of this particular challenge, otherwise it would be held in the first week of august when conditions are arguably warmer, drier, less windy and unlikely to blow me into a ditch.

however, it now seems that for the less intrepid amongst our number, official dispensation has been given to divide 500km by eight and ride 63.5km per day while our long-suffering partners stand by the handlebars feeding us porridge and holding the coffee. there would even be time to step from the bike at around 32km and watch miracle on 34th street before continuing with the virtual challenge.

i am moved to question where it is we went so horribly wrong? going for a bike ride used to mean embracing the great outdoors and whatever that meant in your neck of the woods. people are already being handed professional contracts on the basis of riding in front of a television screen for hours, probably not even with the window open. have the spring classics taught us nothing? will the world's cycling apparel providers soon offer waterproofs and windproofs purely as made to order specials, with no longer any valid application the real world?

i fully understand that there are those amongst us with a perceived need to train and with possibly insufficient spare time in which to do so, out of doors. the announced alliance between strava and zwift may seem like the answer to their prayers, but bear in mind that similar situations must also have existed back in the fifties, sixties and seventies, when cyclists would often ride up to 200 miles to participate in a club time-trial, before pedalling home the next day. there's every possibility they too were family men and women with busy day jobs. and that's to say nothing of those riding turbos in front of zwift who have nothing to train for, plenty of time, but just enjoy the gentle hum of the central-heating boiler.

i've asked it before and i'll ask it again: "whatever happened to going for a bike ride?" | strava

thursday 08 february 2018

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the first signs of madness

traffic madness

it was a schoolboy joke, one that gave cause for endless mirth, but only if you were of a certain age. "what's the first sign of madness?"
"i don't know, what is the first sign of madness?"
"hairs growing on the palm of your hand."
"what's the second sign of madness?"
"i don't know."
"looking for them."

definitely one of those 'you had to be there' moments, but often accompanied by the so-called 'unfun' first revealed by noel edmonds during his two hour sunday morning radio show, broadcast from the fictional crinkly bottom. unfuns were 'not' jokes that sounded as if they might be. something like "when is a door not a door?" "when irish eyes are smiling." it's not even remotely funny, but most kids would laugh if you laughed because it sounded as if it should be funny and no-one was going to admit that they 'didn't get it.'

but there is a tangible sign of madness that has been occurring for far longer than it really ought to, yet the majority seem oblivious to quite how unfunny it actually is. observation of this madness is quite possibly conditioned by the fact that, in this case, familarity has bred content. i seriously doubt that i am the only one to have observed its insidiousness, for far cleverer individuals than i have made strenuous attempts to point it out, yet continue it seemingly does. and far from having settled at a comfortable level, this madness shows every sign of becoming worse as time rolls by.

i have made frequent mention of the dimensions displayed by the village of bowmore. give or take a few yards, it's pretty much one mile from end to end, a distance i'm sure even the most confirmed couch potato would agree is easily do-able on foot, or at a stretch, by bicycle. yet a comfortable majority find it necessary to drive to work, even short distances over which it would have been quicker to walk than to find the car keys. and heaven forfend that there be more than one of them in each vehicle.

and that is precisely the sign of madness about which i speak.

this particular week, for a few days at least, i am in scotland, a journey undertaken initially by ferry and subsequently by bus. the last part of my first day's journey involved leaving glasgow by the latter method of transport at a time that unfortunately coincided with what i believe is known as rush hour. it was easy enough to distinguish from normal life, by the fact that the bus rarely moved faster than a few miles an hour for the first half hour as it negotiated traffic lights, the kingston bridge and subsequently numerous junctions.

while all this transpired, there was little else to be done other than watch the traffic come to a standstill on glasgow's inbound carriageways and observe that the vast majority of vehicles contained only the driver. in a perfect world, where car sharing was the norm if not actually compulsory, that all but stationary traffic would be reduced by a little under 75% percent and would thus move itself closer to the speeds for which many of these vehicles were designed. surely it makes little or no sense to populate strangled roadways with expensive motor cars carrying only one person? that is surely what public trnsport was created to undertake? for instance, i am constantly in awe that anyone would choose to drive in london, given that the city's public transport system would seem to have pretty much all the bases covered. one person in a car makes no economic sense at all and basically, it's killing everything some of us thought we were working towards.

i'm not necessarily suggesting that the bicycle is the (sole) solution, but i'm pretty sure that riding one is not the first sign of madness.

wednesday 07 february 2018

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pedal ed nachi waterproof jacket

pedaled nachi waterproof jacket

for the third time over the last few years, the bbc's natural history unit visited islay to present winterwatch on television last week. previous visits have offered springwatch and autumnwatch, meaning that they've only to pop back once more during the allegedly sunny days of summer to complete the set. we're well enough acquainted with the hebridean climate to have learned that our winter lasts a tad longer than the more southerly parts of the country. thus when presenter gillian burke was moved to tweet that it was 'blowin' a hoolie' (meaning it was a smidgeon on the windy side), the surprise was more that she'd found it worthy of mention rather than the fact that the weather was as it was.

pedaled nachi waterproof jacket

i am therefore confident that the g.c. ristorante debbie's peloton gains far greater benefit from the garment industry's winter clothing ranges than many others. as an example, i was still wearing insulated waterproof clothing well into june of last year and that was hardly for reasons of fashion. yet oddly enough, it is less than unusual to witness japanese couples dressed to the eyebrows chittering their january way around islay's villages, ostensibly intent on visiting as many distilleries as possible during their seasonal visit.

pedaled nachi waterproof jacket

you might think it unusual that i would make mention of this, but the oddity from the island's point of view, is that they would choose to make their whisky pilgrimage at what might be considered the worst possible time. aside from frequently cancelled ferries, hail, galeforce winds, torrential rain, bbc film-crews and plagues of locusts (i might have made up that last bit), the temperature is often close to freezing. despite my oft-repeated contention that hebrideans are the flandrians of the west, most of us would think twice before booking a holiday abroad if those were the conditions we were likely to experience when we got there.

pedaled nachi waterproof jacket

yet japan has demonstrably made it clear that they are no strangers to winter weather conditions, if only by way of the nachi waterproof jacket featured as part of the impressive range from japan's pedal ed cycling apparel. and while, as a country, it is scarcely deficient in the aesthetic department, pedal ed have had the great good sense to rely on italian know-how when it comes to fabrication. thus, the nachi jacket offers a style and level of waterproofing that made it all but impossible to photograph in the process of undertaking its primary function. heaven knows i tried, but any precipitation simply rolled off its black surface before i could grab photographic evidence.

pedaled nachi waterproof jacket

though most cycle clothing nowadays rests firmly on the right side of both aesthetically pleasing and impeccably functional, rarely is it an object of desire during strenuous effort. yet during my day in black, i cannot deny that the delightful way in which both rain and hail rolled off the nachi's surface was not only a constant source of amusement, but of smug satisfaction. the transparent inner membrane offers visual access to the fully-taped seams, and though it's possible to view an eventual absorption of water by the outer shell, it does a darned fine job of keeping it on the outside. this breathable layer, like many of its peers, is not quite as breathable as the intrepid cyclist would prefer, but it certainly reached the upper level of keeping me dry enough to resist discomfort.

pedaled nachi waterproof jacket

the nachi's other secret weapon is its incredible lightness of being. when entering the nearest coffee hostelry, it is customary to remove one's outer layer so that, as your mum always told you 'you'll feel the benefit when you return to the great outdoors.' this jacket all but undermines such sage advice, purely on the basis that by the time froth supping commences, you'll have forgotten you're even wearing it. the sleeves are well judged in both length and girth and my initial misgivings over its having only two mesh rear pockets were undermined by their undeniable practicality. yes, i'd still have preferred three, but a change is as good as a rest.

my mum used to tell me that too.

pedaled nachi waterproof jacket

there has been much criticism levelled at modern-day cycling apparel purveyors for their predilection in favouring black as an almost staple colour offering in outerwear. according to legend, this has as much to do with customer demand as its does with any misplaced stealth proclivities, but there's no denying that something a tad brighter might be more appropriate during this darkened season. however, should that be the sort of thing that gives you cause for sleepless nights, the nachi jacket is also available in grey with a wide, white hoop across chest and upper arms, more than capable of advertising your excellent taste in cycling apparel to the nearby motoring public.

the jacket offers some neat little touches, such as reflective tabs on the rear to aid visibility, some cool japanese characters between the shoulders, attesting to its far eastern origins and a style that while hardly unique, is certainly noticeably different. and despite its italian build, which can only be described as close-fitting, it is far from being restrictive in its stretchy composure. there is a small two-tone tab below the collar on the back, which i daresay could be intended to allow hanging the jacket on a (very) small coathook, but in truth i'd have preferred the usual loop inside the collar. yes, i'm nitpicking, but considering pedal ed's close attention to detail throughout, it would have been a neat and consistent touch.

pedal ed have been a part of the cycling firmament since 2007 and are currently the clothing sponsors of britain's jlt condor cycle team. tokyo has many things of which to be proud; now they have one more.

the pedal ed nachi waterproof jacket is available in black or grey/white in sizes xs to xxl at a retail price of £170.

pedal ed nachi waterproof jacket

tuesday 06 february 2018

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