totally cyced

around the world in eighty days - cyced

i am geographically challenged. it's a situation of which i have been aware since second year geography lessons in the makeshift classroom in our high school playground (adjacent to the maths/statistics room). i do believe geography lessons have changed somewhat since those early days, now a tad more concerned with political and social aspects of a country, rather than where the towns and rivers exist. nonetheless, my only benefit to the class as a whole, was a demonstrable ability to draw maps, a skill of which many of my classmates took advantage. i'm happy to say, the subject abandoned me long before i had need of sitting any important exams.

however, in terms of where i am at any given moment, nothing has improved. i know where edinburgh, glasgow and aberdeen are located and i'm pretty sure that london is down south somewhere, but there would be no point in my attempting to join a university challenge team, just in case an unwanted, locationally-based question surfaced. in 2007 and 2008, i rode from london to paris, with absolutely no idea of where i was at any given moment. ten years later, that ignorance hadn't changed. when rapha invited me to scoot around provence, though my finest day's cycling ever brought me along the la nesque gorge, hand me a map of southern france, and i'm sure i'd fail to find the scene of my velocipedinal joy.

which is why the service provided by manchester-based cyced (psyched?) would have been ideal. mind you, as one who tends to discard the recorded garmin information on returning, i may well have been too late. for those who, like me, have not heard of cyced until now, i might point out that they offer to create large posters featuring any particular ride of note you may wish to recall in graphic terms. in addition to this printed output, they're also keen to create cycling hubs; not the type to which you'd attach spokes and a rim, but localised amalgamations of cyclists. currently these exist in shropshire, gloucestershire and south wales. still a bit unsure of what all this amounts to, i spoke to cyced founder, angus king, to find out more. for instance, how long has cyced been in existence?

"We've been going for two years now, but it was a little different back then. It started out during my time at the University of Gloucestershire and being part of the cycling club there really drove my passion for cycling and the industry as a whole."

as i have probably pointed out to the point of irritation, thewashingmachinepost has been invading the interwebs for just over 22 years, something that happened pretty much by accident, having arisen originally as a means to an end. yet, while i like to think of myself as a tiny corner in the cycle industry building, i've rarely found the impetus to create anything directly velocipedinal, something that might change the world forever. however, there can be little doubt that this status quo, if i may refer to it in such a manner, exists almost entirely due to a total lack of ambition on my part. happily, i believe i'm in the minority in that respect, otherwise we'd still all be riding penny-farthings. angus king is one possessed of this higher level of ambition, yet, from where did the cyced idea arise?

 cyced print

"As I mentioned before, Cyced had a different focus when it first began. I'm sure you, like many others, were like me when you first started cycling; telling every man, women and dog about two wheels and the thrills to be had. So Cyced was created originally as a blog to share my passion and things I learned about along the way. It soon became apparent, however, that there was an opportunity to bring something to life in Gloucestershire and so Cyced became a cycling hub for the area.
"Cyced's cycling hubs now cater for several areas and we're busy right now increasing that. When I say 'we', I refer to myself and Evan who showcases his incredible talent for writing and his passion for cycling through the content on the site. But back to the hubs; these were created to stitch the fragmentation of the cycling community in the area, to help newcomers and beginners discover cycling routes, bike shops, events and cycling clubs. And I really think that this is a problem across the nation where there's lots going on, but not a single source or website to tie it together. That's what we are still trying to accomplish alongside our cycling art.
"The bespoke Cyced cycling art was born out of apathy for the apps. You do your biggest cycle ride, create many a fond memory, and all you have to show for it, is a few kudos on your phone screen? We're trying to drive a notion that if you complete something that stretched your limits and is an incredible achievement, then it deserves to be celebrated! I think long and hard about how we pass things by, or compare ourselves to others way too much; we should stop and pat ourselves on the back sometimes. Hopefully our artwork offers a platform helping people do that. It's also a smashing conversation piece at that next dinner party."

as with most excellent ideas, it's the sort of thing that, despite my admitted lack of ambition, i'm kicking myself for not having thought of myself. no doubt there are at least one or two of you thinking exactly the same thing. however, my lack of ambition has brought a measure of questioning that tends to stop too many ideas dead in their tracks. maybe i too could make nice maps of favoured rides, but am i sure the perceived demand would be sufficient to keep me in the manner to which i've only just become accustomed? don't get me wrong, i meet a lot of cyclists, but i don't always get the impression poster maps are uppermost in their minds. is it possible that the dramatic increse in the number of uk cyclists has made a service such as cyced more of a viable concern?

"You know, it's really hard to say. We're bridging several pillars here: those that are interested in art, cycling, and data. Currently, data and cycling seem to go hand in hand, but we don't really know the percentage of UK cyclists who'd appreciate an artistic souvenir of their accomplishments. I think it's certainly quite high, however and the more sportive, Audax and cycle holiday enthusiasts there are, the more opportunity we'll have to help bring their accomplishments to life."

 cyced print

if i might briefly return to my opening dramatisation, i have pointed out that throughout my continental cycling adventures, i was totally ignorant of my place in the firmament. one of my cycling companions on last year's hot chillee london-paris, having forgotten to charge his garmin at the end of day one, was surprised to admit just how freeing it was to ride without any possibility of information overload. it became simply a case of following the maserati up front. thus, had i bumped into angus on my return and he'd offered to encapsulate my rode for posterity, we'd have reached something of an impasse, resulting in an empty space on my sitting room wall.

however, i realise i'm in the minority when it comes to recording any pertinent ride information. what sort of data does angus need to create a print?

"On our website we have two options: a single-day cycling art print, or a multi-day one. We ask for a Strava link/s (or GPX file) and then a personalised line as the title of the ride. However we have had all sorts through, including a JPEG image of a trip from London to Paris, and while it's a lot harder for us to produce it like that, we get the job done. It's also our promise to create art you'll love; we never go to print without approval from the customer. We always get a few amends or additions that they'd like to customise and I hope we always go that extra mile/Km to make sure it's right. Free of charge, of course."

though i no longer have the discovery channel on my telly box, i've watched enough travel documentaries to witness the hours, days and weeks of planning that go into getting from a to b, even if the convoluted parcours demands endless pen scribblings on a map. suffice it to say, the results to be gained from a cyced mapping are a darned sight more attractive than anything seen on a bothy table. presumably angus has more sophisticated means of translating that gps data into a poster worthy of admiration? is there software to take care of business, or are the maps created by hand?

"I could bore you with all sorts of API and map data talk, but essentially its a bit of both! We use offline mapping software that provides us with generated map styling (colours and place names etc.) and from there we work that into our design software to take care of the personalisation and graphic aspects of each piece of cycling artwork. Each map requires bespoke elements to make it work."

you will not be at all surprised that the thought of tracing a route on a map is an act that would fill me with dread. even a simple ride from lochranza at the north end of arran to lagg on the south, along the only road capable of getting me there and back created more awkward moments than it really should have. i'm a great believer in simply reading road signs, well aware that i could be miles off the desired route before realising. had there been need of sitting a map of islay side by side with one of kintyre and another of arran, it's more than possible i would have subsequently had to spend at least a few hours in a darkened room with a damp cloth on my forehead. the thought of a multi-day bike ride, planned solely by yours truly does not bear thinking about. do these provide any particular limitations? for instance, how would cyced have coped with mark beamont's round the world in eighty days?

 cyced print

by way of an answer, angus pointed me to the map shown at the top of the page.

we are fortunate, in the principality, to be visited by a number of cyclists for whom a ride on islay equates well with their continental excursions. as we ride past our ever increasing number of distilleries, most are happy to relate not only the locations to which they have travelled overseas, but the height of the climbs grimpeured with relish. it would be remiss of me not to mention that not all of those bicyclists are of uk domicile. given this mondialisation of cycling as both sport and activity, are cyced posters available solely to uk-based velocipedinists, or is this a worldwide venture?

"Right now we only ship to the UK, but we're looking at expanding. We have many UK cyclists choosing cycling routes abroad and our system does allow us to plot a route anywhere (as shown in the 80 days print). I anticipate Europe being a brilliant market for this, but right now there's work to be done by us in the UK. We're based in Manchester and as a small unit there's a lot of growth potential here."

at the risk of being the resident cynic, the chap who happily assumes the mantle of devil's advocate and asks what happens after angus has sold double-glazing to everyone (if you catch my drift), are there plans to expand upon the cyced portfolio?

"We're reviewing colours and styles currently and looking at other ways we can bring data to life. There is so much scope here and we're so excited to continue hearing cyclists' stories and seeing where theyve been!"


monday 13 august 2018

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brooks pickwick cotton backpack

brooks pickwick linen  backpack

i'd be hard pressed to convince anyone that islay is a playground for the rich, in the same way that monaco is. yet to observe the number of brand new, expensive range rovers and porsche boxsters parked outside holiday accommodation, or met on the road to one distillery or another, there's no doubting that the queen of the hebrides is still considered an appropriate destination for the well-heeled. there's a certain validity to the argument that, were our roads a tad less incongruous, those porsches would be joined by ferraris and lamborghinis. one of the local hoteliers owns a race-ready alfa, the sort of thing you'd put on, rather than climb into, but it's restricted to the main roads due to a distinct lack of ground clearance.

brooks pickwick linen  backpack

while i'd be the last person to make valid comment on motorised transport, there's a certain satisfaction to be gained seeing some of those expensive vehicles put to good use by fielding at least a couple of bicycles on their roofs. if evidence were required, for the past few days, a silver porsche 911 has sat gleaming outside one fo bowmore's holiday cottages with two bikes up top. yes, really. my pedal around the principality yesterday brought me past at least thirteen cars bearing bicycles, a situation that had me wondering why those bicycles were not being ridden rather than driven.

it's a common observation, leading me to think bicycles on cars are seen as a necessary accoutrement when on holiday, if only to convince observers that the car's inhabitants enjoy an active lifestyle. continued observation would suggest that this is a ruse, rather than a lifestyle choice.

brooks pickwick linen  backpack

it would be hard, however, to deny that motor vehicles have their uses and not only when on holiday. aside from offering roof space to several bicycle shaped objects, motor cars usually have space for stuff. it's why the professional peloton is increasingly in danger of being outnumbered by following teams cars, replete with spare wheels, sticky bottles, spare kit and all manner of other guff that only a professional cyclist would understand. in the absence of a team car, or friendly, well-meaning relative, the civilians amongst us are more often than not, responsible for carrying our own stuff, whatever you might deign that to be.

brooks pickwick linen  backpack

i am relatively fortunate in that my workplace is but a matter of minutes from the croft, necessitating simply a pair of feet to get there. the bicycle gets to remain in the bikeshed, a situation for which it is undoubtedly grateful when the weather becomes less clement. however, that is not to say that i have no need for cargo carrying capacity at anytime during my frequent velocipedinal moments. wednesday evening's pipe-band drumming lessons demand sticks and pads, items that are not the simplest to grasp when pedalling into a winter evening's headwind. and though drumsticks suffer not at all from even the heaviest of rainfall (yes, it has been put to the test), the same cannot be said for a macbook air computer.

when such onerous cargo-carrying duties impose themselves, the modern-day cyclist is hardly bereft of backpack options, but few complement a cultivated sartorial elegance better than the range of cotton canvas pickwick backpacks from brooks. coated in similar fashion to a waxed cotton jacket, the hard-wearing canvas fabric is more than adept at fending off precipitation, even that which most of us would describe as 'heavy'. the version under review has a capacity of twelve litres, internally separated halfway down its height, by a pocket capable of comfortably swallowing and caring for a 13" macbook air, or similarly dimensioned laptop or digital tablet.

brooks pickwick linen  backpack

that divider also bears a large zipped pocket along with two open pockets for tickets, booklets or anything else that you find it necessary to cart along for the ride.

the open top can be popper fastened at each side before rolling the top to prevent water ingress and held closed by an adjustable strap with an innovative and easy to use clip. the strap sports a leather pull-tab and the adjustable shoulder straps are cordura-like, but fabricated from what appears to be a strong natural material. once in place, there is a chest strap to prevent untoward movement when in use, no matter how substantial the pack's contents. this chest strap makes use of the same clip as seen on the roll-top closure. i found it quite ingenious, but your impressions may vary.

brooks pickwick linen  backpack

of course, as with all measurements of volume when applied to amorphous containers, twelve litres is something of an intangible quantity, so let me make it more tangible. i stuffed the aforementioned macbook air into the made-to-measure pocket, alongside a thermal jacket, a rainjacket and the obligatory 3kg bag of green city jumbo porridge oats. if i'd removed the two jackets, i could have easily fitted two packets of oats. not only is the pickwick backpack capable of swallowing that much porridge, but the resultant weight, including macbook, not only remained steady and sure when climbing out the saddle, but felt nothing like its true weight when positioned on the back of my cycle jersey.

there's also an external zipped pocket that sits at lower left when in situ. this ould be ideal for a mobile phone and or keys to which access is required without having to remove and open up the backpack.

while i'd hate to be the one to apply innocent classifications, though the pickwick adapted well to rural life, i feel its true raison d'etre may lie in more urban environments. it would look not one inch out of place on the back of a brompton pedalling commuter and its fabulous linen construction promises to wear every bit as delightfully as a brooks leather or cambium saddle.

the brooks pickwick backpack is available in twelve and fourteen litre versions as well as new hi-tech linen, leather and reflective leather editions. colours available are maroon (as reviewed), dark blue, goose beak, green, grey, black, stone and yellow(. the review version retails at £180.

brooks pickwick cotton canvas backpack

sunday 12 august 2018

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the artist as cyclist - nick higgins

binda and girardengo

the late dennis creffield, commissioned by the south bank board in 1987 to draw every cathedral in england, set off from brighton in a campervan, waking early each day to ensure the minimum of audience participation while he drew. creffield had became a member of the so-called borough group, while attending david bomberg's classes at london's borough polytechnic, along with such luminaries as leon kossoff and frank auerbach. bomberg's teachings encouraged his students to seek the 'spirit in the mass', a philosophy wholly embraced by creffield in each and every one of his cathedral drawings.

these charcoal masterpieces were exhibited in the winchester gallery in 1987 and camden arts centre in 1990 before embarking upon a tour of 13 other venues. his images were not what you'd call 'prissy' or even 'comfortable'; to quote from the guardian newspaper's obituary "Canterbury Cathedral is rendered as a series of sparse dashed lines, Durham Cathedral is barely visible in a smog of charcoal clouds. the catalogue for the exhibition is a treasured possession of mine. if i could draw that well, that's how i'd want to draw.

it is the mark of a true artist that, within reason, no matter the commision or the self-appointed subject matter, he or she has the ability to observe facets of which the 'ordinary' man or woman in the street is aware, but simultaneously 'unaware'. in other words, ' the spirit in the mass.' it's an ability that could be legitimately applied to illustrator nick higgins, recently appreciated in these very pixels by way of my review of his laurence king publication'racing bicycles - the illustrated story of road cycling'. creffield had the benefit of bomberg's eccentric teaching methods; was nick the result of academia or is he a self-made man?

early cyclists

"I am trained, I studied illustration at St Martin's. I did start late though, in that i didn't draw until I was in my twenties. Most people seem to believe it's something that you do as a child or never at all, but I learned late."

it would be unfair to categorise dennis creffield's career simply on the basis of one series of drawings, no matter how superb those may have been. subsequent commissions followed to draw the houses of parliament, to tour welsh and english castles as well as french cathedrals, while his paintings rivalled those of roy oxlade, yet another who learned at the brush of bomberg. however, in the absence of direct commissions, each and every artist exists at the behest of his or her own visual predilections. in this particular case, the subject matter concerned the racing bicycle, but of all the wealth of topics available, why bicycles?

"I am an illustrator most of the time, and as such, work in the service of a subject, rather than just creating artwork that satisfies me in some way. I am usually commissioned, and work on subject matter that is given to me; book jackets, magazine articles, portraits etc. This time however, I chose a subject that interested me, that i was passionate about, and was charmed by. That makes it harder, when you have an emotional connection with what you're working on. I think you care so much more about getting it right, and have so much more to say."

campagnolo delta brakes

one of the main quandaries facing any artist, is that of stylistic intent; not every subject lends itself to a similar treatment. it's quite likely that, had dennis creffield been commissioned to draw council housing schemes, his approach to the subject may have proved entirely different. or had the commission insisted upon oil on canvas, rather than black charcoal on white paper, the subsequent exhibition would surely have taken on an altogether differing persona. yet, in the case of the 'true' artist, the latter's identity shines through whichever medium is employed. in the case of nick higgins, there's a delightful contradiction in the illustrations featured in 'racing bicycles'; some are loose in concept, some edging more towards the technically precise. are those two styles fighting each other?

"I have always varied between different styles. It can be a problem, in that people never quite know what they'll get from me, but I think that can also be a strength. I can offer a response suitable to the material I'm illustrating. In the book, I was sometimes telling stories, which suit a looser, more painterly presentation, and sometimes illustrating componentry, which I wanted to be technically correct. I think makes a more interesting book if it varies in approach over 127 pages.

early cyclist

it would, no doubt, be something of an uphill challenge to describe bicycle componentry in the less than technically applicable media of oil paint, gouache or watercolour. if you have even a modest comprehension of the mechanics of artistic rendering, i'm sure you can see from where i'm coming. the paragon of bicycle component illustration is surely french artist, daniel rebour, who filled the years from 1945 until his retirement in the early 1980s with meticulous renderings of all manner of bicycle bits, a style of which some of nick's illustrations are reminiscent. was rebour's work an influence?

"I only discovered them when I was well on my way through making the book. I admire them greatly. I think we meet in the middle. He approached from a highly technical direction, while I come from a looser illustrative origin."

many a contemporary publication offers a distinct separation between narrative and illustration. the standard approach would be, as nick has alluded above, for an illustrator to be commissioned by either the author or the publisher, to enhance the finished publication by a series of appropriate drawings or paintings. this might be a collaborative effort, such as that recently seen with guy andrews and laura quick, but more frequently, the two disciplines work independently of each other. nick's 'racing bicycles' places the reader in something of a quandary: is this a book of illustrations with accompanying words, or the latter accompanied with suitable text?


"It was the first time I've supplied text, apart from some very short, comic-style pieces that I made some time ago. The origin of the book was my fascination with the stories of bicycle racing, so the writing is important. I do think it was generous of the publisher to let me take on the writing, and I've been very gratified that it has been well received.
"I really hope that it's read as well as being looked at. People always ask 'Who is it aimed at", and i felt that there are so many people taking up cycling these days, that there was room to tell these stories and present those team kits again, but I had to avoid the obvious, or at least add something to the familiar. And to be a bit opinionated, making the text a bit more personal. There are many straightforward collections of cycling facts and figures; I wanted this to be less formal."

thewashingmachinepost began life in the mid-1990s, long before the word 'weblog' had been coined and subsequently contracted to the word 'blog'. at that point in time, i considered the post to be a bona-fide website; anyone who referred to it as a 'blog' was given short shrift, or a withering stare. i often wonder whether the same applies to those who consider themselves 'artists' or 'illustrators'. and in real-life, is there any appreciable difference other than the relative scales which each inhabits? for instance, it strikes me that nick's paintings of the riders of yesteryear would feature well on large canvases. are they indeed of such dimensions? can any of the book's contents be acquired in print format?

fignon & lemond

"They are all about A2 size, mainly acrylic on paper. A few of them are bigger, A1; large bikes. I have had prints made, and showed them at 'Look Mum No Hands', and currently some hang in Seabass Cycles in Peckham. I haven't got it together to open a printshop yet, but really I suppose I ought to."

it's quite possible that dennis creffield was a strong advocate of charcoal as an ideal means of picture making; much of bomberg's teachings favoured just such a medium. however, no doubt it was percieved as the ideal medium with which to depict those substantial monuments to religion. it well behoves the contemporary artist to be flexible and competent enough to work in several differing means of artistic expression. does nick have any favoured media amongst those which he appears to be a consummate practitioner? oils, pen and ink, gouache?"

"I used to use enamels, and could do some lovely things with them. They are very 'active'. I started using them because I love Sidney Nolan's work, but I stopped using them because my wife hated the smell. I use acrylics instead now. i love to work with Bic biros. I have just discovered Posca pens as well, very opaque, wet felt tips. Like paint, but easier to carry around. The beginnings of the book were in a series of pencil portraits I undertook of, every winner of the Tour de France. Which reminds me, it needs updating!"


the work of the illustrator is more greatly appreciated nowadays, rather than simply being regarded as something of a second-class citizen. but the notion of the illustrator being the sole author is relatively uncommon. now that nick has 'broken the ice' so to speak, can we look forward to a 'racing bicycles ii'?

"Good question! I sort of made Racing Bicycles quite comprehensive: places, people, bikes, jerseys. I didn't leave myself much to cover. I thought perhaps I could do a book about football, mostly because I don't care about it at all, and could bang it out quickly. I think it might be a first-time writer thing, not defining a tight concept to work through, but tackling the whole subject. Having said that, I'm satisfied with the 'encyclopaedic' feel of Racing Bicycles. It has had a very good reception so far, so i certainly hope there are more to come!" | racing bicycles

saturday 11 august 2018

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happy anniversary

endura twenty-five

the latest edition of wired magazine features several pages devoted to europe's 100 hottest startups, groups of people who have seen the light, so to speak and formed compact and bijou companies to enhance our lives. and, obviously enough, their's too. the fact that they are in the pages of wired magazine ought to provide a clue as to the genre of startup about which we speak: banking security, app-based flower delivery, real-estate imagery classification, online conversational forms and, not before time, someone who wants to reinvent microsoft's powerpoint. none of those concerned seem to have any notions of starting a cycle clothing company.

endura twenty-five

depending on your point of view, that may seem quite acceptable, or perhaps something of a surprise. i have mentioned several times that i think this particular area of modern commerce is beyond the point of saturation, a concern with which i've rarely found disagreement, other than from those who have just started their own cycle clothing companies. granted, there are those who have merely dipped their toes in the water, requiring another full-time job in the background to keep the wolf from the door. and i can think of at least one relatively high-profile european clothing firm which has closed its doors in the last couple of years.

the old jazz joke "how do you make a million from playing jazz? start with two million." seems quite pertinent to the cycle clothing industry.

endura twenty-five

but just suppose you had awoken this morning with a light bulb above your head, a shining light that encapsulated your utterly brilliant idea to start a cycle clothing business. what form would that business take? would it be a simple case of having a third party print the design to end all designs on lycra and polyester, one which you have convinced yourself will sell by the truckload? or are you likely to be more interested in product development: the ultimate in technical fabrics, cutting edge sartorial design and colour choices the likes of which have rarely been seen this side of a milan catwalk? or perhaps you'd take the more long term view, producing a simple initial offering, but betting your investors' farm on being around quite some years in the future, with growth based on strategic planning, quick reaction to the prevailing market and an intelligent overview of market trends.

endura twenty-five

of course, if you think the latter would be the most prudent plan of action, you're probably be already sufficiently well aware of the economic pitfalls involved in vying with the 'big boys' on their own ground, to become involved in the first place. because, as mentioned above, it's an all but saturated market.

however, that was not always the case. look back to the early nineteen-nineties and the bulk of our replica team kits and 'standard' apparel of often questionable colour co-ordination frequently emanated from italy or switzerland. however, both of those countries were more traditionally steeped in road-racing than the new-fangled mountain biking that had invaded from across the pond. though there's demonstrably some sort of a crossover between the two disciplines when it comes to garmentage, in practice, mountain bikers tend to be a tad baggier than the more wind-tunnel obsessed road market. but wearing a pair of road bibshorts on a downhill run is unlikely to have any great influence on the finish line result.

endura twenty-five

bearing all the foregoing in mind, starting to produce cycle clothing on the east cost of scotland, even in the 1990s, scarcely seems like one of those light bulb moments about which we've already spoken. though we'd heartily appreciated the king of the mountains victory by robert millar some ten years earlier, scotland was hardly considered the hub of modern-day cycling, either on or offroad. yet jim mcfarlane, at the time, recently returned from down under, did precisely that. the fact that 2018 celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversay of endura cycle clothing, proves, if nothing else, that jim was in it for the long term.

their initial reputation as a mountain biking specialist, morphed more towards the road side of the world with the 21st century release of the technically advanced equipe range, developed in conjunction with their own domestic road team. that long-termism has seen them continue a productive partnership with winners of the tdf team prize, spain's movistar team and the development of some of cycling's most aerodynamic kit in conjunction with drag2zero. oddly enough, despite those two score years and five, sometimes endura could almost be considered as cycling's best kept secret, so in order to change that situation for the better, take a peek at the video linked below.

endura-25 years of speed

friday 10 august 2018

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where it's at

wright brothers store

jim in port ellen has a few bits and bobs for bikes, along with a surprisingly large selection of hire bikes, one or two for sale and he fixes stuff too. last week, i was contacted by one of islay's taxi firms which employs an enclosed trailer in which to transport bicycles, while their owners sit in the comparative luxury of a mercedes minibus. unfortunately, one of those bikes had inadvertently fallen out the trailer and bust the rear gear mech. a quick phone call to jim to check that he had a replacement and the driver took passenger and bike ten miles to the south to remedy what was obviously an unfortunate and embarrassing situation.

apart from jim and yours truly with the odd gear and brake cable and a few inner tubes, islay, along with many other rural and island locations on scotland's west coast, is bereft of what might be termed a bike shop. thus, when the bicycle association presents a convincing case for patronising local cycle stores, however much we might support their ministrations, we are ultimately sans ibd. it used to be a choice between chain reaction or wiggle, but nowadays, considering they're pretty much one and the same, it is really of no nevermind.

even those of you within easy hailing distance of a local bike shop will have undoubtedly made use of an online store at sometime or other, either for convenience's sake, for price considerations, or simply because the bikeshop doesn't stock the bits that you want/need.

in the majority of cases, that online store will advise whether the item is in stock before you place an order, offering the potential purchaser the option to look elsewhere. such is not necessarily the case after traipsing halfway across town to the previously mentioned bikeshop only to find out that they do not have the specific item under consideration. in such instances, it's not unusual for the shop to offer an alternative and for the customer to accept that recommendation, rather than face another possibly pointlessly quest to yet another shop. for, what happens if the latter is also devoid of stock, but without a viable alternative.

do you really want to head back to the first shop?

at the risk of reprising an oft-quoted cliché, now 'there's an app for that'. bearing the less than obvious name of 'pointy', this particular smartphone app allows the shopkeepers to connect their inventory to the app which, via a unique page on, links into google's 'see what's in store' feature. to an extent, this capitalises on the allegedly prevailing relaxed mindset of the modern-day shopper, finding just what you need by lifting only a finger, rather than taking the electric bike from the shed.

unfortunately, for those of us domiciled in the civilised part of the country, this is likely to make not one jot of difference; rather obviously, one needs a local bikeshop before the process can work as designed. mind you, since i still have no smartphone, it's hardly a factor that's likeley to impinge upon my day to day. and also, every bit as obviously, it's a system that is not confined to the universe according to bicycle grommets and widgets.

it's called progress and in truth, it might well be.

thursday 9 august 2018

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bargain hunting

ride of the falling rain 2018

on sunday past, those members of the velo club resident in bowmore arrived at debbie's in bruichladdich a tad earlier than is usual. this in order that we might avail ourselves of an espresso or two prior to undertaking this year's 'ride of the falling rain'. in an attempt to have the ride remain pretty much as is, i cannot deny that i refrain from overdoing the publicity aspect of the event. we are all more than happy for as many as wish to participate to arrive at deb's at the appointed hour, but i'm always fearful that, should its popularity run away with it, there's a risk of destroying what several folks have described as an anti-sportive.

however, there is always the not insurmountable 'problem' (if i might encapsulate it that way) of a couple of hours on a ferry, combined with the latterly obvious problem that there is only islay and 'not islay' when it comes to seeking accommodation. if, for instance you were to undertake a bike ride in stranraer, for instance, should all of the latter's accommodation prove to be fully occupied, it would still likely be possible to find alternatives within striking distance. not so after that two hour ferry journey. therefore, while attempting to undersell the 'ride of the falling rain', i prefer to at least make life a tad more obvious for those intending to travel.

dolan preffisio

yet, despite my reticence to exploit the mores of social media, on arriving at the bike rack, it was somewhat heart-warming to find an already considerable number of cyclists supping froth and sipping rocket fuel, a number that dramatically increased over the following thirty minutes. in terms of events like ride london, the etape caledonia, or any number of other well sponsored and professionally organised sportives, a peloton of 90 might seem somewhat tinsy by comparison, but from our point of view, the number counts as a major success in the face of potential adversity. rotfr is never going to be the sort of event you can undertake in a day and still be home for the 6 o'clock news.

unless of course, you happen to live here.

the second comforting factor was the wide range of machinery to be found leaning against the walls surrounding debbie's café. indeed, there was carbon fibre that would probably result in a stern face from a meeting with your bank manager (there were even six bromptons), but there were also bicycles, the price tags of which would be far more amenable to the majority, cyclists or not. this at least partially flies in the face of a perceived high price of entry which many cite as good reason to take up swimming or running as an alternative. golf, however, is an altogether different proposition.

dolan preffisio

i do like to think of myself as impartial and fair, at least as far as it's possible to be nowadays. there's always some stuff that i like more than others, but when it comes to reviewing, i like to base my write-ups on whether the product under consideration performs as designed, irrespective of its cost. the latter is entirely a matter between you and the previously mentioned bank manager. however, while claiming not to be one of those susceptible to the enticing racks of goodies placed adjacent to an averagemarket checkout, my eye was arrested by a marketing e-mail from dolan cycles, offering a discount of £75 on their aluminium preffisio frameset. this means that, for a contemporary, double-butted, 7005 aluminium road frame, complete with carbon fork, headset and seatclamp, your smiling bank manager will see a mere £149.99 leave the safety of his vault. when you can nab a groupset for less than £300 and a pair of wheels for £100, there's now no need to save several thousand for a replica geraint thomas pinarello.

i've no connection with dolan cycles whatsoever, but in the interests of public service, i thought you might like to know. for those with pragmatism uppermost in their chequebooks, the frame is also capable of wearing a pair of mudguards and supporting a rear rack, allowing dual use as a sprint winner before sunday coffee and a practical means of getting to and from work, school or shopping. the link is below

just saying.

dolan preffisio aluminium frameset

wednesday 8 august 2018

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a sight for sore eyes

everysight beam

i cannot deny that today's column (a keyword inserted early in my narrative to enhance my chances of becoming a bona-fide columnist), serves a dual purpose. as ever there is a long-winded and oft-times convoluted diatribe, but in order that these pixels serve a more useful purpose, can i ask if anyone participating in sunday's ride of the falling rain lost a garmin edge 705? one of the velo club found it while riding unbelievably fast along the high road. if you're still on islay, i have it in the newspaper office in bowmore; if you're now at home, drop me an e-mail and we'll see about having it returned.

and, in one of those happy coincidences, bicycle telemetry plays a part in today's conversation, about which we'll get to in the fullness of time. meanwhile, i might briefly refer to david sumpter's recently published book concerning 'algorithms that control our lives'. the principal word in that title is one that has become endemic in modern parlance, so much so, that many of us implicitly figure we understand what algorithms actually are. as many of you have previously pointed out, this is a cycling column (another gratuitous mention), so i will not dwell on the definition of the word. suffice it to say, an algorithm is a piece of code that takes a problem and solves it, always assuming it has been correctly formed in the first place.

sadly, at least from my point of view, such pieces of code surround us on a daily basis. most of the bicycles we ride nowadays exist in their shiny carbon format as a result of algorithms; computer aided design and fluid dynamics are the influencers when it comes to the shapes and layup of that carbon fibre. i'm surely not the only one to have taken note of the similarity between the majority of today's formula one bicycles, as seen in the recent tour de france. i have a sneaking suspicion that many of those bicycles are painted the way they are in an attempt to disguise these similarities.

approached with a healthy degree of logic, it's a situation that could hardly be othwerwise. since the algorithms swimming around inside the computational formulas are entirely ignorant of the purpose to which they have been applied and the name above the factory door, there's no way that one can be aware of its brethren. if everyone's asking the same questions, using essentially the same software, the answers are likely to be remarkably similar.

and they are. the same conditions apply to the modern day motor car. it's why you can scarcely tell one from t'other.

but it's not so much the results of algorithm application that are what might be termed 'insidious', but more our complacent acceptance of their existence and complete faith in the information provided, the latter which seems to be eagerly lapped up, as long as there's always more of it available and in a different format than it was packaged in yesterday. otherwise, why would people eagerly form lengthy queues outside an apple store every time a new iphone is released? or, perhaps to be more pertinent, why does my garmin say 830, while the one found on the high road feature the number 705 and that used by mark cavendish bear the number 1000? does this not denote a hierarchical precedence?

when the amount of information displayed on ever larger gps screens increases to the point, not only of overload, but threatens to tip the entire algorithm designed bicycle forward under its own weight, where next do we go? in a moment of informational megalomania, i set the screen on my edge to display way too many digits to be absorbed during the average bicycle ride, even though it's only affixed to the handlebars because i don't wear a watch when riding. what use is such an incredibly average, average speed?

yet strava and arguably zwift have selflessly encouraged our adoption of algorithm overload, so that we can attain so-called king of the mountains glory even on perfectly flat roads. similar to the fact that few folks use their mobile phones to actually talk to people, few strava addicts pay any visual attention to their gps units while riding, perhaps mitigating against the existence of ever clearer, larger and colour screens. maybe the situation has need of re-appraisal, with screeds of this endless velocipedinal information displayed in a more novel format. something like a heads up display inside a pair of cycling

tuesday 7 august 2018

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