the tour according to g - my journey to the yellow jersey. geraint thomas with tom fordyce. quercus publishing hardback 292pp illus. £20

the tour according to g - geraint thomas

we're almost back where we were a few days ago in respect of next year's tour de france. having announced the route of the 2019 event, prognostications have already begun in earnest as to who the parcours might favour over those three weeks in july. and in what we have all come to recognise as changed days, british riders have their names firmly in the frame for overall victory. except, where once those names included prince bradley and froomey, there is another team sky rider with his name on the list of aspirants; welshman, geraint thomas.

with chris froome having at least half expected to equal the greats of the sport, by capturing his fifth tour victory, team sky's strategy was pretty much based on that particular outcome, once again assembling a team of riders who were expecetd to sacrifice any ambitions of their own to ensure mr froome stood atop the champs elysées podium. the fact that this turned out not to be the case was possibly a bit of a surprise to all those concerned.

this blow by blow account of the 2019 event in which he emerged victorious, offers a remarkably self-effacing insight into the daily travails of a rider coming to terms with his own remarkable abilities. and over the course of those 21 days, thomas had not only to deal with the fact that he was homing in on victory, but that he was doing so at the expense of his annointed team leader. the tour according to g however, begins with the 2017 tour, where thomas was sitting in second place, behind froome and having already worn the yellow jersey in the race's early stages.

then..."...the next, my bike is on (Majka's) and the road is slamming me from the side. [...] Get back on and ride. Except this time, I can't get up."

so the 2018 race was thomas's opportunity to redress the balance; ..."we come here reduced. You know you are ready for the Tour de France when you pull on your belt and find you need to make another hole." logically, if the book were confined simply to the racing line, there's always the possibility the narrative would have become remarkably dry. aside from which, we all know the result and thanks to itv4 and eurosport, we've seen pretty much every kilometre of every stage. though, as peter sagan mentioned, every rider has a different story to tell from the fellow riding alongisde in the peloton, so what we'd hope for amongst the almost 300 pages, would be geraint's tour; in other words, filling in the gaps between one stage end and the next day's start.

that's precisely what we get.

however, reinforcing what most of the daily post race interviews tended to underline, thomas did not necessarily have his sights set on yellow from the get go. "I wasn't thinking about Paris in three weeks' time. I wasn't thinking about a win, or a podium, or even a top five finish. It was the journey rather than the destination." if chris froome was aware of this, it was doubtless of great consolation. a team leader likely has to assess the competition and it surely makes life easier if you don't have to factor in one of your own team.

though thomas may arguably have been a more welcome victor than chris froome as far as the french fans were concerned, thomas was undeniably aware of the portions of ill-feeling directed towards team sky even before the first wheel had turned. "At the team presentation, there were boos from a section of the crowd when we Sky riders rode onto the platform." but even at this point, thomas may have felt a certain sympathy for those jeers, given that his aspirations for the season had already been altered both by his team and team leader.

"The plan at the end of 2017 had been that I would be given another shot at the Giro. The Tour would be Chris's. I would ride for him there if I still had the legs. Then it all changed."

due to the delay in starting the 2018 tour to avoid a clash with the world cup, froome decided that he'd give the giro a shot, it being the only grand tour missing from his palmares. "The Giro is for Chris. You can ride for him, or you can go to the Tour and race there." [...] I couldn't pretend I wasn't disappointed. [...] Why has he got to do that." it appears that froome may have had cause to reconsider the direction from which his challenges might arise.

directeur sportif for team sky at this year's tour was nicolas portal who gave thomas an answer similar to that espoused by dave brailsford when asked how he might fit into the team strategy. essentially, everyone was there to escort froome to the yellow jersey, but as a token gesture, it would seem, thomas was free "to ride as you like around that." froome and thomas apparently did not discuss the situation at length, but the former saw no reason why the latter couldn't join him on the podium. "If you ride for me, G, then it would only be at the death, right towards the top of the toughest climbs."

as it turned out, thomas took the yellow jersey on stage eleven, with froome in second place, a situation that continued until stage 17, when froome was deposed by tom dumoulin. confusion reigned; was froome still the team leader, or did that designation now belong to thomas? that the same question had occurred to thomas after stage six, when he rose from fourth place to second, behind greg van avermaet is demonstrated after an air transfer to lake annecy.

"There was a big air-conditioning unit in the (hotel) corridor that I could drag into my room. [...] Tonight I wanted it. We all did. Unfortunately, when all eight riders turned their units on, the power surge was so great that it cut the hotel's electricity. Consternation in the corridors [...] Only one rider can have it on. That rider is Froomey."

at that early stage of the race, thomas was more than one minute ahead of froome, a situation that appeared not to carry too much sway with the team sky management. "Sometimes it's the smallest clues that tell you where you really stand." In the real world, that's probably the equivalent of being overlooked for promotion at the expense of a colleague whose sales figures were less impressive than your own.

newspaper features in both the national and cycling media have paid heed to the alleged disquiet felt by thomas with team sky's tour strategy during the race, but aside from the above quibbles, i'd find it hard to agree with this appraisal. granted, thomas's daily assurance in post race interviews, that he wasn't thinking of still wearing yellow in paris, pledging his allegiance to his team leader, may simply have been a case of toeing the party line, confident in his own abilities and waiting with glee to laugh in the face of implied adversity. however, froome hardly blotted his copybook.

much later in the race, when thomas was almost certain to take victory,"Chris definitely wanted to win that day and to win the Tour. But he wasn't attacking to stop me winning. He was doing what great champions do. [...] Geraint, he told the worlds media, is now our number one. For the next three days, I'm riding for him."

when you consider quite how many hours of television were devoted to this year's tour de france, to say little of the column inches in print and the untold kilometres of pixels too, a book that not only has you looking that the race with fresh eyes while all but equalling the excitement of the original race, is a not inconsiderable achievement all of its own. add to that a well-written, well-paced narrative and you have a publication that, in my case at least, exceeded expectation. when the press release arrived in early august, my cynicism figured this to be a blatant attempt to add to thomas's tour winnings at the expense of gullible fans.

nothing could be further from the truth.

granted, there is evidence of mild literary padding and i'm afraid i found the short interspersions from sara thomas, rod ellingworth and tim kerrison a tad unnecessary. nonetheless, thomas thoroughly deserves more than his fifteen minutes of fame, of which this book forms a salutory part. and aside from my well-meant plaudits, for some of us, the fact that a book about the tour has been published a matter of months after its conclusion is almost a revelation in itself.

a very good book about a very good rider in a very good tour.

friday 9 november 2018

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gravel voiced


perhaps your cynicism will have matched my own when certain portions of the bicycle industry announced the arrival of the gravel bike some years past. weren't those simply cyclocross bicycles under a different name? and if so, why invent an allegedly new category of bicycle? the smart money would surely be on marketing departments that had added an extra double-espresso to the day's menu; if mountain bikes had apparently settled down into their own particular groove, road bikes were all departing the fluid dynamics software looking unnervingly similar and cyclocross was, well, cyclocross, what's a marketing fellow or fellowess to do?

up to a point, they might have had a valid point. i know of many a roadie who has little, if any, interest in 'cross, so any likelihood of sales increasing from that direction might not be all you'd hope. however, a gravel bike, for now at least, brings with it no connotations of the competitive realm. succinctly put, probably in the form of advertising copy, a gravel bike encourages thoughts similar to those engendered by the first crop of so-called play bikes fostered upon the mountain bike community some years ago. the word 'gravel' instills thoughts of unfettered freedom along the (off) road less travelled, with tyres capable of bounding across potholes in their entirety and no loss of traction should real gravel actually feature along the a to b.

it may be that such a prospect alleviates any feelings of guilt attached to appearing like a proper roadie. after all, race-fit kit, three-point shoe cleats and a svelte physique rarely describe those possessed of a devil-may-care attitude. a gravel bike at least features a set of drop bars to maintain some semblance of roadworthiness, while allowing an incumbent the luxury of denying any cyclocross affiliations. ultimately, what's not to like?

however, all the foregoing scarcely hides the fact that gravel bikes and 'cross bikes are not really that different. in fact, were you not to read the heading atop the web page, you might even mistake a gravel bike for a plain, ordinary road bike. the current trend in the latter is to stop the seatstays half way up the seat tube, a fashion (no doubt technically justifiable) that seems to have infiltrated the gravellers. and by way of differentiation from its cross brethren, tyres are often anywhere between 38 and 43mm, while the uci mandate that cross takes place on a maximum width of 33mm. not that anyone really understands why.

however, it appears that the inmates of aigle have become enthralled by this power of marketing and bolted on a some shortcuts into several of the season's road parcours. this years paris-tours featured several gravel sections which, if nothing else, managed to annoy quickstep's patrick lefevre, who was quoted as saying that even had they taken victory at this year's event, there was no way they'd be returning in 2019.

obviously not a fan.

apart from the obvious strade bianche and paris-roubaix, next season, omloop het nieuwsblad, e3 harelbeke, gent wevelgem and others, including the ronde van vlaanderen are due to feature at least a smattering of offroad sections of a gravelly nature. granted, the only change to the world tour bikes may well be the width and tread of the tyres, but it's a development that could conceivably foster a change in the average road bike within the next few years. i have, somewhere or other, a poster of robert millar in z garb reaching the summit of a tour stage on an unmade road, proving there's nothing new under the sun.

the recent resurfacing of the road leading to kilchoman distillery has certainly brought many a welcoming remark from the pelotonese, but in truth, it may well encourage notions of southern softness amongst the velo club. adversity and potholes are our birthright, probably shared with much of the rest of the uk, signalling adoption of a natural hardman attitude. it's this sort of thing that could drive us into the welcoming arms of the gravel bike which, i fervently hope, is sufficiently different from 'cross in the mind of mrs washingmachinepost. otherwise, how will i justify one more bicycle in the bike shed, after wholesale admission of an active cynicism.

thursday 8 november 2018

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t-lab 'angliru' t-shirt

t-labs angliru t-shirt

in my humble opinion, the route of the tour de france ought to be kept a secret until the day it starts. yes, i don't mind if mr prudhomme passes on a few sheafs of paper to the directeurs sportifs round about now, as long as they don't tell 'cycling weekly'. there was major confusion in debbie's last week as we scrabbled around for the comic to accompany a serious bout of froth supping. for there, in full view of the civilian population, let alone the confirmed velocipedinists, was a magazine featuring a yellow cover. granted, the civilians paid (very) scant heed to this unexpected burst of front page colour, but the rest of us mistook it for an old copy from past july, badgering the staff for the current issue.

you can imagine how embarrassing that was.

thus, the bulk of the magazine's contents revolved around the recent announcement of next year's french parcours, with a blow-by-blow account of its summit finishes, time-trials and flat transitional stages. all this was interspersed with quotes from the great and the good, who are either wishing to offer the portent of bravado, or an attempt to play down their chances of a podium finish on the champs elysées, hoping at best, to fool their competitors into a false sense of security.

good grief charlie brown, the race has been all but tried, tested and been occasionally found wanting and it's still only november. why can we not all contain our heartfelt anticipation until saturday 6 july next year and watch how the considered route plays out, either in person or via ned, david, carlton and sean? announcing the twists and turns this far in advance, leaves way too much time for endless discussion amongst the so-called practitioners of punditry. and i really can't be doing with that. there's still the remainder of the cyclocross season with which to contend and the not insignificant matter of the spring classics and the giro d'italia, before yellow becomes the sole object of obsession.

yes, yes, i know; you all want to complete your travel arrangements, accommodation and the largest motor home that dirk hofman has left on the lot, but think how much more fun and cutting edge things will be when you only learn of the route on the day the circus begins. you can thank me for it later.

but eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that, despite an apparently comprehensive guide to the early part of the cycling season reprised above, i have failed to mention what has become one of the season's finest multi-day tours: the vuelta espana. it's the only grand tour that seems to have a bit of an identity crisis over the colour of its leaders' jerseys, making it necessary to watch far more closely than the other two, if only to understand what the heck is actually going on at the top of the various leaderboards. with the start of next year's race well over ten months away, we find ourselves still uninformed as to the prospective spanish parcours; and so, thankfully, does cycling weekly. however, there is a way to give the impression that you are 'in the know' so to speak.

t-labs angliru t-shirt

the excellent folks at t-lab t-shirts in barrowden, oakham, have released a rather splendiferous tee, celebrating one of the vuelta's celebrated climbs: the angliru. and very much in its favour, this is not a cotton garment featuring an artist's impression of the hill, or a line-screened photographic image. the design screen-printed across the front of the natural white tee, not only reflects the colours associated with spanish spain, but has them constituted in an almost abstract fashion with a bike. in the fine manner we velocipedinists tend to prefer nowadays, the fact that very few of the non-believers will have the faintest idea of what an 'angliru' actually is, offers endless opportunities for proselytisation of the cause.

priced at a mere £27 and available in small, medium, large and xl, it may not be the ideal garment for the impending doom of winter, but if they can announce the route of the tour de france this far in advance, i can see no real argument against purchasing a t-shirt that advises of your prescience regarding the last grand tour of the 2019 season.

t-lab angliru t-shirt

wednesday 7 november 2018

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crankalicious pineapple spray wash and frame sealant

crankalicious pineapple and enduro

the bike shed is definitely not what it was. the resilience of such wooden constructs is almost always compromised when dismantled and reconstructed, which is exactly the process undergone by the edifice sat in the back garden. granted, the bike shelter (ostensibly what it has become) has given almost thirty years of sterling service, made all the more remarkable by the annual galeforce winds suffered over time, along with a (thankfully) solitary hurricane of just over 120mph. though the latter did manage to remove a portion of the roofing felt, the crammed interior remained relatively dry.

i can blame no-one but myself, a concomitant lack of attention to its manifest needs and a total lack of any meaningful diy skills. it now transpires that there were remedial actions that could have been taken, but my ignorance in such matters, means it is now a tad late to apply any of them to the sad building that i have immortalised in pixels over the years. it was perhaps an error of judgment to place the window facing the incoming weather; leakage around the glass perimeters, rotted the wood surround over time, leading to partial disintegration. there is now a total lack of daylight visible from the interior, having fitted a large panel of plywood over the exterior, a remedy that itself is now showing signs of weather wear.

crankalicious pineapple and enduro

"so why don't you replace the bike shed?" i hear you ask. indeed, that would seem the socially acceptable thing to do, but as you would expect, there's an obvious hitch in such a strategy. as a none car-owning velocipedinist, i have no pragmatic means of transporting to the dump, all the years of crap that are still ensconced within the shed's four disintegrating walls. though car hire is available on the island, sadly, none offer van hire. number one son, though in possession of the latter, has it carefully arranged with the many tools of his trade. throwing bicycle stuff inside would hardly endear me to my offspring.

crankalicious pineapple and enduro

there is hope that he will soon acquire a small open trailer, which could probably be press-ganged into use for removal purposes, but that is to obviate a more considered difficulty. were i to purchase a new shed, i would have need of dismantling the current incumbent prior to assembling the newbie. thus, everything would need to be removed and stored safely until such time as the procedure is complete. that would, not to put too fine a point on it, require several rain and wind-free days.

do you really think that's likely to happen in my lifetime?

however, while i might demonstrate alarming negligence when it comes to the bike shed, i'm considerably more conscientious when it comes to maintaining that which it contains. as a 'for example', during last week's affixation of a campagnolo record twelve-speed groupset to the ritchey logic, i enforced an intervening ritual to protect the frame's integrity through the coming winter months.

crankalicious pineapple and enduro

having stripped off the existing groupset, removed the wheels and bar tape, i liberally sprayed the entire frame with the attractively named and aromatic pineapple express spray wash from the fine people at crankalicious. in common with many other bicycle cleaners, leaving the frame dripping with tropical freshness loosens any accrued belgian toothpaste, making it a relatively simple matter to skoosh it all off with either a pressure washer (careful with those bearings, eugene) or a well-constituted sponge.

once the shine is readily apparent and you're now infatuated with the smell of pineapple, though not expressly (see what i did there?) recommended in the instructions, i mostly dried it off and performed a semblance of polishing with a substantial 'fur rouge buffing cloth', prior to applying crankalicious enduro frame sealant. this latter product is intended to protect the frame surface while prolonging that glorious lustre that is the result of your incessant polishing activities (you do have incessant polishing activities don't you?). that frenetic buffing was aided and abetted by the aforementioned square of 'fur rouge'. application of the frame sealant lessens the opportunity for crud and guff to attach itself to the clearcoat, making it simplicity itself to dab off anything that makes it that far.

crankalicious pineapple and enduro

after a dirty weekend (if you see what i mean?), that belgian toothpaste does seem to be more easily removable than was previously the case. and the frame is impressively shiny even in the face of adversity.

this is one of those long-term reviews that pretty much demands a part-two, preferably as easter hoves into view next year. that, i figure, ought to determine the efficacy of the crankalicious protection, though i'm not ruling out one or two more applications in the intervening period.

i can only hope that the bikeshed lasts long enough to store the results.

crankalicious pineapple express spray wash can be purchased in a one-litre or 100ml spray, or, alternatively in one-litre or 250ml concentrate form. the one-litre spray, as reviewed is priced a particularly economical £10. the purple endura frame sealant can be ordered in either a 100ml or 500ml spray bottle. the latter, as reviewed, is also priced at £10. a single 30cm x 30cm fur rouge buffing cloth costs £4.

crankalicious bike care products

tuesday 6 november 2018

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rapha tweed softshell

rapha tweed softshell

in common with several of scotland's west coast islands and the bulk of the highlands, islay is divided into individual estates, owned by what i believe would correctly be termed, the landed gentry. here, we have dunlossit estate owned by bruno schroder, ardtalla estate under the jurisdiction of sir john mactaggart, laggan estate which is owned by an irish family, islay estates in the possession of lord margadale and the smaller foreland estate in western islay. no longer is it a simple case of owning such land for bragging rights (other than that more recently purchased by a wealthy investment banker on jura); these parcels of land have to earn their keep. this is mostly achieved through shooting and fishing rights accompanied by often stately accommodations that might be rented by those wishing to participate in such 'sport'.

rapha tweed softshell

though the majority of the above still employ gamekeepers and ghillies, the lord of the manor, in many cases, no longer requires a doffing of the cap upon meeting him in the wild. at one time, until its alacritous demolition several years ago, there was a bridge across the road leading from bridgend in the direction of port askaig. it was allegedly built in order that the ladies of the manor (islay house: currently an hotel, but one time ancestral home of the margadales) could take their daily walks in bridgend woods without inadvertently coming in contact with the villagers. nowadays, there is open access to the woods for both pedestrains and chaps such as yours truly scrabbling about in the undergrowth on a specialized crux elite.

rapha tweed softshell

on occasion, i have met the gent who will one-day inherit islay estates, driving through the mud in his range rover, or returning from a morning's fishing. he was most cordial and remarkably well-informed about the tour de france, a subject we discussed for a surprisingly lengthy period of time. unfortunately, though deference to the landed gentry is no longer demanded or expected in this day and age, given that i was conducting a bicycle review at the time, my apparel was not of the sort that has one invited to afternoon tea in the big house. i've never had any misgivings about improving the reach of one's social circle, so perhaps i ought better to consider my dress code aforethought.

rapha tweed softshell

a friend of mine, who once was a gamekeeper on one of the estates, was required always to wear tweeds: jacket, plus-fours, cap etc., therefore, perhaps were i to continue my perambulations of the woods, dressing in similar manner would not be an inordinate order of the day, if only that i no longer spook the deer that frequent such parts. since several of the tracks within the woods lead to the aforementioned stately accommodation (this i know, having once taken a wrong turning), you just never know who you might meet; i'm sure there's still time to infiltrate the new year's honours list.

rapha tweed softshell

therefore, in the spirit of my immediate surroundings, it seems only right and proper that i dress accordingly. such as rapha's very limited production of the anniversary release tweed softshell.

presented in a charcoal coloured garment, featuring a prince of wales check design (how appropriate, don't you think?), the tweed softshell was first released in 2008; water resistance for wear both on and off the bike, a garment which looks every bit at home matched with a pair of (cycling) jeans as it does with classic winter bibtights. on wednesday evenings, i teach drumming to members of the community pipe band, lessons which take place in the local gaelic college (appropriate n'est pas?) about a mile from the croft. cycling there and back offers the perfect opportunity to dress smartly and in the scottish tradition (aside from every other useful artifact, the scots invented tweed); i've always found that kilt has a tendency to catch in the spokes.

rapha tweed softshell

this updated version of the tweed softshell offers water resistance that is a mere smidgeon below total waterproofing, evidence based purely on a very wet, wednesday evening round trip to the college. lycra cuffs keep unwanted draughts at bay, as indeed does the front zip and cosy, soft collar. the tailoring follows rapha's usual impeccability, meaning there's every likelihood that you'll outdo the usually worn sartorial appearance of the gentry to which i referred above. and better still, that sartorial elegance is every bit as excellent and pragmatic on the bicycle as it is when slumming it in a nearby stately home.

there's also an angled, zipped pocket at the right rear, with sufficient space to accommodate an essentials case, or digital camera or one of those distinctly proletariat smartphones. one hesitates to undermine such tweed gracefulness with unwarranted and conspicuous bumps in the fabric. and on those carefree days, when you'd like to hang out with your homeys, the relaxed fit easily accommodates a red specialized hoodie (the latter not necessarily recommended for palace investitures).

on current evidence, it may well be another ten years before this opporchancity happens along again. order one while you can.

the rapha limited edition tweed softshell is available in sizes ranging from xs to xxl at a reassuringly expensive retail price of £400.

rapha tweed softshell

monday 5 november 2018

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rapha milano-roma collection

rapha milano-roma collection

i'd actually forgotten it was there. every time i'm looking for tunes to play on my ipod, i rarely make it as far as the letter 'p'. on occasion, i'd revisit my youth by flicking straight to the letter 'y' and listen to 'close to the edge' or, perchance, 'the yes album'. i never actually owned the latter on vinyl (yes, my teenage years were that long ago), but a schoolfriend of mine did; we pretty much wore out the grooves on 'starship trooper', demonstrating as it did the precise drumming of bill bruford.

rapha milano-roma collection

anyhoo, i digress somewhat. the letter 'p' is where a live rendition of 'celebration' by the eponymously named 'premiata forneria marconi' or 'pfm' resides and on friday eve, i bumped into it accidentally (to be honest, i thought it was on my old ipod). i'm tempted to say that it still sounds as fresh a piece of music as it did when first released in 1973, but i daresay that depends a great deal on your point of view and what you'd define as contemporary music. i'm more inclined to spend my listening time accompanied by the mel lewis sextet from an album recorded in november 1956.

rapha milano-roma collection

at any rate, the reason i mention 'pfm' is because rather than offering an italian profundity, premiata forneria marconi' apparently translates as 'award-winning marconi bakery', which, in milan of the 1970s, was probably every bit as progressive as pink floyd, gentle giant, or led zeppelin. in the true tradition of progressive rock bands that you thought had faded into their flared jeans some years past, pfm still exist, though i believe the only remaining original is the drummer.

rapha milano-roma collection

cycle races, perhaps thought of as progressive at the turn of the 20th century have not all fared so well in the longevity stakes. several have gone under in the wake of the uci's so-called mondialisation of the sport, a rather draconian inquisition that seems to uphold that only the strongest survive. thus our early season viewing often consists of straight roads disappearing into a horizon of sand dunes, rather than winding their way through quaint old european towns and villages. such is progress.

rapha milano-roma collection

but one particular race that not only disappeared from view before the 20th century was properly into its stride, but in point of fact, took place on only two occasions, some twelve years apart in 1906 and 1918, was milano-roma. it must surely be recorded as something of an oddity that both editions were won by the same rider (carlo galetti). and i think it safe to say that, had rapha not released an immaculate collection in tribute to the 100th anniversary of the event, you and i would never have heard of it. in fact, the only person i can think of for whom this is hardly news, would be herbie sykes, who has penned an essential paean on the rapha website.

rapha milano-roma collection

it almost goes without saying that, when imperial works does tributes, it doesn't do them by half. the entire collection, featuring items strictly limited in number, offers a merino wool jersey with matching, ribbed armwarmers, a merino roll-neck sweater, a double knitted merino wool track jacket, a t-shirt, cap, essentials case and silk scarf. the embroidered lettering on the jackets and jerseys is in a typeface reminiscent of the era, while the colours, even on the essentials case, are distinctly autumnal.

rapha milano-roma collection

there have been period jerseys released by rapha in previous years which, though every bit as desirable as those currently under discussion, could hardly be viewed as 100% practical. while those surfacing in the early years of the 20th century, often with buttoned chest pockets, are particularly iconic in this respect, it's not the ideal location for a 10mm allen key and a mini-pump, to say nothing of a digital camera or smartphone. the milano-roma jersey eschews such ephemera, preferring instead to offer the standard three rear pockets. the only concession to the past is a button fastening on each.

rapha milano-roma collection

my only carping about the latter would be that they seem a tad high when trying to retrieve that essentials case in the queue at debbie's. the weather has rarely been clement enough of late to ride sans waterproof, so its possible that the positioning is just ginger peachy when reaching for munchies when in the saddle. it's a theory i've not been able to verify.

the track jacket, far from being simply a vacuous offering, with no real practical application, is a well-judged piece of kit. having returned from my twelve-speed exploratory ride, it was a welcome option to don the zipped jacket while i proceeded with attendant, twelve-speed fettling. and on those less than balmy milano days, there are a couple of front pockets just where you need them. should any uninformed, civilian onlooker fail to make the velocipedinal connection, the back features the embroidered words 'milano-roma'. make sure to read herbie's words in case this proves to be a conversation starter.

rapha milano-roma collection

a cycling collection would be breaking the law if it didn't arrive with an appropriately themed casquette. milano-roma is no exception, with an item of cycling headgear that matches the jersey in both its colour incarnations, as well as the track jacket, should you cast regulatory process aside and wear it when not riding, but fettling (guilty as charged). if this collection proves as popular as i think it might, there's an evens chance that most of the stock will have gone by the time you read this. however, assuming your in luck, the link's printed below.

highly desirable.

the rapha milano-roma merino cycle jersey is available in black/pink (brown/orange/red seems to be sold out), in sizes ranging from small to xxl. price is £160. the merino track jacket can be had in black/white or brown/orange in limited sizes. price is £215. the merino roll neck is available in dark red or black again now only available in limited sizes. price is £180. the two variations of merino t-shirt are £60 each. the one-size-fits-all casquette is not yet available but will retail at £30, while the silk scarf retails at £50 and the essential essentials case is similarly priced at £50.

rapha milano roma collection

sunday 4 november 2018

rapha milano-roma collection ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the road book-a cycling almanack. edited by ned boulting with cillian kelly. road book publishing. 896pp illus. £50

the road book - boulting, kelly

there will no doubt be sharp intakes of breath when i inform you that i have an o-level in statistics, a word that several of my classmates had great difficulty in even pronuncing correctly. allegedly, therefore, i am able to regale any agglomeration of individuals as to the intricacies of the arithmetic or geometric mean, point out the efficacy of either the median or the mode while intelligently discussing the three axioms of probability. thankfully, i do not recall learning any of the above principles, preferring instead to rely on inspired guesswork or ignoring the problem in the hope that it might go away.

but, in a manner similar to the obsession we all display regarding the velocipede and its immediate surroundings, there are those who display all the same symptoms towards statistics. heck, there's even an office for national statistics, producing a wide range of mostly incoherent and unintelligible (to me at least) figures relating to economics, society and population. yet we may all have come into contact with this mathematical discipline through the latter aspect of the phrase 'lies, damn lies, statistics and marketing'. politicians are generally in thrall to such numbers, if only on the basis that interpretation appears to be 9/10ths of the law; you can use statistics to prove pretty much everything.

who amongst us has not witnessed product advertisements on the telly, claiming that 85% of customers agreed, only to discover that the sample from which the percentage was gleaned, numbered only 54? i tend to side with graeme obree, who once told me that 92% of all statistics were made up on the spot.

i fear it would be overstating the case to infer that statistical representations, even when presented in a graphic and colourful manner are intrinsically interesting to anyone other than the perpetrator. but that's not to say that the world would be a better place were it bereft of statistics and if proof were required, perhaps the finest place to begin would be the newly released road book, edited by ned boulting with statistical assistance from cillian kelly, a software developer who is a contributor to the highly respected velocast and a total geek when it comes to acquiring statistics relating to cycling's competitive milieu.

if that post ride coffee-shop discussion dissolves into a heated argument over who took the points jersey in last january's 'la tropicale amissa bongo', the wind speed and direction on stage one of the 'vuelta a san juan' or whether there actually is such a thing as the 'gp industria & artigianato', cillian kelly's your man. to imply that a colossal book such as this contains the results of every official race that took place on the 2018 international calendar is actually not that hard to believe, but i really wouldn't want to have been the individual responsible for fact checking and proof reading.

however, having introduced the subject of statistics with less than overriding enthusiasm, it would be true to say that not everyone will find themselves compulsively glued to each and every one of the book's 896 pages. at least, that would surely be the case were it true that each and every page turn brought even more lists of names and numbers allied to the year's competitive realm. judiciously, mr boulting has decreed that cillian's numerical prowess be interspersed with highly entertaining essays. despite the road book's £50 price tag, i'd be inclined to argue that those essays are worth the price of admission alone.

education first directeur sportif, tom southam explains why modern-day cycle racing is a tad different than was once the case, while philippa york offers her thoughts on why being number one in the team may or may not be all it's cracked up to be. meanwhile, regular contributor to rouleur, morten okbo provides a dane's insight into what we brits need to learn about winning. there are also brief appearances by chris froome and geraint thomas, while ned boulting offers an overview of the season we've just witnessed. harry pearson explains why niki terpstra rarely wins any popularity polls in the peloton, marianne vos points out that she hasn't actually gone away after all and tom dumoulin's israeli domestique, chad haga recounts life in this year's giro d'italia.

other details that help place much of the foregoing in some sort of perspective, include lists of world tour and pro continental teams, historical world tour results for both men and women, principal uk domestic results, such as the spring cup, grand prix, energy tour and national circuit series, along with the women's national road and energy tour series. there's also a respectful section featuring obituaries of those who passed away in 2018, including andy rihs, armand de las cuevas and michael goolaerts amongst others.

editor ned boulting has been quoted as saying he doesn't really expect anyone to read the road book from cover to cover. it's more of a (very large) reference book that can be used to settle the arguments that pepper any sunday morning peloton, or scoured for some of the most obscure cycle racing statistics, in order to bolster your standing in the clubhouse or on twitter. however, it might be worth getting a surveyor's report on the structural integrity of your bookcase.

the road book

saturday 3 november 2018

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campagnolo record twelve-speed

campagnolo record twelve speed

re-using a name that they already owned, in may of 1962, the triumph motor company released the triumph vitesse, based on their herald model and featuring bodywork designed by italian giovanni michelotti. for those who can remember that far back in time, the 1600cc six-cylinder engine operated through the ministrations of twin carburettors; the days prior to electronically managed injection systems. the vitesse 6 was followed by a two-litre version and the almost inevitable vitesse mark two. nine years later, the last triumph vitesse rolled off the production line.

campagnolo record twelve speed

the word vitesse, translated from the original french, means 'speed', hence its appropriation for the chromed badge on the boot lid of a triumph motor car. it's a word often seen applied to the number of gear sprockets that constitute a cassette, as in ten or eleven vitesses. or, in this case, twelve vitesses. campagnolo took a lot of spinal tap schtick when they made the move to eleven sprockets, as reviewed here by way of a carbon chorus groupset, but why twelve?

according to vicenza, it's not been just a case of adding another sprocket, offering not only even less of a jump between gears, but providing, on the record groupset under consideration, larger, large sprockets. the cassette featured on my chorus setup topped out at 27, based predominantly on my thoroughly enjoyable experience with a super-record groupset during the 2017 hot chillee, london-paris ride. this was matched with a standard, 34/50 compact chainset. the record twelve offers yet another two teeth at the big end, providing 29 to ease my ascending pain.

campagnolo record twelve speed

but in this particular case, campagnolo giveth, and campagnolo taketh away. so that 11/29 cassette finds itself coupled with 36/52 chainrings, easing closer to the 1990s 39/53, but effectively providing similar gearing to that of the chorus eleven.

sadly, vicenza's products are rarely fitted as original equipment to new bicycles, meaning those of us with an italian predilection have either to replace the standard issue subsequent to purchase (a less than economic option), or purchase a frame and groupset and join them together. in this case, campagnolo's twelve vitesses are being applied to a ritchey logic steel frameset, replacing eleven chorus vitesses. in situations such as this, the sane option would be to deliver both packages to the local, campagnolo authorised bike shop, before eagerly awaiting the phone call. as i may have mentioned at least once before, i do not have a local bike shop, but i do have graeme freestone king of velotech cycling.

campagnolo record twelve speed

gentlemen, start your 10mm allen keys.

much as i figure it might come across as unsubstantiated arrogance, if you've just paid out the recommended retail price of marginally less than £1800, i'd thoroughly recommend taking advantage of the bike shop option. though it may be considered easy to fit a set of bicycle components, by that very definition, it's also very easy to fit them incorrectly. for starters, don't even think of affixing a campagnolo twelve-speed chain without campagnolo's eyewateringly expensive rivet tool. and if you thought setting up a rear derailleur was close to child's play, the record carbon twelve might give cause for a rethink. because the operation of that sculpted carbon is one of the major changes in the move to twelve gears.

campagnolo record twelve speed

at the time of writing, aside from the aforementioned chain, all components have been successfully fastened to the frame, with only the gear and brake cables remaining. the chain's going on last, after i measure the chainstay length.

there are a few notable differences in appearance from record eleven-speed: the outer plate of the front derailleur, once fashioned from carbon, is now of alloy. a similar fate has befallen the outer jockey cage. and that derailleur now sports a hanger as opposed to the previous direct mount. the brakeset still features two, dual-pivot calipers, but gone is the skeleton appearance. and where once there was the option of a single-pivot rear caliper...

but perhaps the most obvious visual change and one that also pervades super-record, is the all-enveloping carbon on the right-side crankset. where once you could see from one side to the other, before the bolt was fitted to the hirth coupling, now there's only a hole on the left crank, allowing insertion and tightening of the aforementioned bolt. the latter still requires a long 10mm allen key.

lest you fear for the safety of both yours truly and the record twelve-vitesses, fear not, for i have consulted at length with mr freestone king and i'm in possession of appropriate and necessary literature from italy. once all is over and done with, after i've sat and drooled over it for a day or two, i will have the best job in the world reviewing every vitesse.

campagnolo recrod twelve speed

friday 2 november 2018

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coloral stainless steel water bottle

coloral bottle

progress is mostly portrayed as a good thing; standing still for any length of time, it would appear, is regarded as a manifest failing of society, of technology and perhaps even of civilisation itself. thus, no matter the marketing campaign that convinced you product 1.0 was the greatest thing since sliced bread, product 1.1 will have marmalade on it. the inevitability of version 1.1 was never in doubt, and nor indeed, is the impending arrival of version 1.2 and so on, ad finitum. if ever you had doubts that such is the case, i might point you in the direction of apple's recent introduction of the new macbook air.

i am typing this particular day's article on what can now be confidently referred to as the old macbook air. if i take a look at the sides of its incredibly thin, aluminium casing, there is a socket into which the charging plug might be inserted, alongside a usb socket, matched on the opposite side by a second usb socket, augmented by a thunderbolt port and a highly convenient sd card socket. the latter removes the need to hunt amomgst my computer bag for the transfer cable that arrived with my digital camera, when time comes to get photos onto the macbook.

however, were i predisposed to make a bee-line for my nearest apple store (a little hebridean humour there: it's in buchanan street in glasgow) to acquire a brand new, rose gold coloured macbook air, i'd need to ask for a slightly bigger carrier bag. for the new machine sports only two thunderbolt 3/usb-c ports into which none of my current accessories will plug. should i wish to continue using any of the usb 3 items in my possession, i need to look at spending around £70 for an appropriate adapter. there's then the possibly futile search for a usb-c compatible sd card reader; should i be able to find one, you can bet it won't be particularly cheap, especially when, at present, it is totally unnecessary.

coloral bottle

progress in the world of computers is always promoted as not only good, but ultimately necessary if we wish to take advantage of their ever-increasing power. the same can be said of computer software. i have spent several years as a member of a prerelease community, trying out new features before any of them reach the public eye. reputedly, several of those features will never see the commercial light of day if the majority of this community give them the thumbs down. sad to say, for one reason or another, that's not always the case.

it's not much of a leap to transfer those perceived misgivings to the velocipedinal world. if you take a look at the cost of a mechanical shimano dura-ace groupset against the price of the electronic di2 version, it seems you'd be paying the better part of £800 to alleviate the major physical demands of pushing a lever as opposed to pressing a button. that £800 would buy you a shimano ultegra groupset with enough change left over for some decent cycling apparel. but according to common consent, electrics are the benevolent result of progress.

sat amongst my rather large collection of books upstairs, is a delightful hardback from velopress entitled 'goggles and dust - images from cycling's glory days'. this compact and bijou publication features images culled from the famous horton collection. the cover photo is that of demuysere and rebra in the midst of battle during the 1929 tour de france. both gents' bicycles are each sporting two metal water bottles carried in bar mounted cages, arguably a more practical location than the current downtube and seat tube positions, brought to us courtesy of progress.

coloral bottle

yes, i'm well aware of the fact that there would be scant space available for your srm power meter display, but one thing at a time; the bar mount position is always open to negotiation. but those metal bottles, that's another matter altogether, one that has recently surfaced in a persona that straddles both retro and modernity simultaneously: the coloral fluted, food grade, stainless steel water bottle.

to quote from the coloral website, "In the golden age of the 40s and 50s, a time of legends and bitter rivals, a metal 'bidon' was the container that riders used to carry water. The most recognisable bidon was Coloral, a fluted alloy bottle with a cork stopper and tooled cap signed off with a scripted logo. Riders didn't just reserve them for bottling water, but also to preserve a simple blend of milk and sugar that kept energy levels high during competitions, and even wine when celebrating victories."

we have, however, moved on from the middle of last century, to sup from logo'd plastic water bottles which the professionals can throw away with impunity, an act for which we can be fined if we try the same thing en-route to the coffee shop. the original coloral's popularity, however, dwindled as the 20th century wore on, until production ended in the mid 1950s. its revival in the 21st century has been at the hands of enthusiasts, intent on reviving the coloral bottle using modern materials and fashioned to fit today's bottle cages. having referred to the disposal of plastic bottles by the professionals, concurrently pointing out that such a practice is frowned upon if emulated by our goodselves, takes care, i feel, of the plastic versus steel argument.

coloral bottle

but, if you're in need of a clinching argument in favour of the latter, might i broach the ephemeral subject of insulation. for, in addition to the coloral's fluted magnificence, were you to fill it with 14 fluid ounces of hot green tea (for example; other teas may be available), there's every likelihood it will still be hot green tea a few hours later. lest you think i jest, i should point out that the steel screwtop fits an opening which easily allows the removal of the green teabag popped inside earlier in the recipe. having completed the first part of my saturday perambulations while making my merry way to debbie's for lunch, it was but a simple request to have a double-espresso poured into the bottle for perambulation part two.

i can attest to the smiling joy attained when consuming a temperate espresso after slogging a nearby ascent. this bottle is going to be well-used throughout the coming months, bearing in mind that there's the not insignificant matter of rapha's festive 500 before the end of the year. but then, when cold turns to not quite so cold, on its way to warm(ish), the coloral will be put to good use keeping cold drinks cold (how does it know?). it is, as i believe is the colloquial term, a win, win situation. it would be simply the icing on the cake were the fine folks at to find the time to fabricate a handlebar-mounted double bottle cage for the full modern-retro experience.

with moves afoot to ban the use of power meters in the tour de france next year, 'twould then be a simple matter to outfit team sky's pinarellos in similar fashion to the machines of demuysere and rebra.

the 14 fluid ounce, food grade, fluted stainless steel coloral bottle is available form either or

thursday 1 november 2018

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let there be (red) light

portland design works tail light

i don't follow formula one motor-racing; i've not done so since my teenage years, when my peer group watched every twist and turn. not to do so would have meant being left out of conversations at best and total exclusion at worst. i admit that those early years consisted of a greater interest in the mechanical aspects of the sport than obsessive following of its stars, though i cannot deny that a world champion scotsman (jackie stewart) was almost as great an attraction as a scottish king of the mountains would be so later in life.

i recall the first aerofoils fitted to the cars in the era of graham hill, consisting of negative force wings sat atop what can only be described as thin clothes-poles; one above the engine and another high above the front wheels. pictures of those bring to mind the engineering marvels drawn by heath robinson. and when any of those clothes-poles broke, as they inevitably did, heath robinson must have been what today's kids would encapsulate as rotfl. like the majority of sports that depend upon technology, the latter has moved on considerably, featuring developments that have been subsequently refined, or dispensed with altogether.

though little of what happens on the racetrack can be said to have infiltrated the world of cycling, it strikes me that the current crop of monocoque carbon frames may owe at least a smidgeon of a debt to lewis hamilton's antecedents.

but even the simplest of formula one devices are loath to remain as once they were. at some time in the indeterminate past, it was decided to introduce a regulation requiring all race cars to fit a centred red rear light that would be switched on in poor visibility. this mandate was as a result of several crashes where a car in front may have slowed for any given reason and subsequently been rear-ended by a following vehicle, the driver of which was unaware of the other's presence. with the spray thrown up by such large rear tyres, it's not hard to believe that at formula one speeds, the more warning, the better.

however, those red lights have now morphed into a grid of bright leds that not only act as a bright signal to following cars, but, when flashing in dry conditions, signifies that the energy recovery system is in operation and that the car might be a tad slower out of corners than usual. and after tentative tests on world champion lewis hamilton's car this season, for 2019 it seems likely that vertical lights on each edge of the rear wing will become mandatory.

throughout this past weekend, my ageing legs appear to have made a full recovery from their miserable performance a week previously. thus, any tarrying at the back of the peloton, was done so on purpose, as opposed to being the only place left to hide. nonetheless, even at their very best, i'd have been hard-pressed to equal even the pit lane speed of sebastian vettel's ferrari. and though i have a quite superb campagnolo eleven-speed groupset on the ritchey logic, the only recovery system in evidence has froth on the top accompanied by a small caramel biscuit.

but yet, i have a flashing light securely fastened below my brooks saddle.

it's a choice in which i am hardly alone; there are more members of the velo club peloton sporting flashing red light emitting diodes on their seatposts, than those who don't. and, at the risk of appearing profligate, those lights flash even on a morning blessed with clear blue skies and sunshine that required tinted glasses. even here, on the hallowed isle, motor traffic is on the increase, particularly during the summer months, but in numbers that show little sign of decreasing at even this time of year. ally that with increased production at islay's current eight working distilleries and there's also many a large truck joining the merry motorised throng.

unlike the displeasure often directed at the drivers of trucks on the mainland, those servicing the island's distilleries are courteous to a fault, something for which the entire peloton is truly grateful. it is, however, incumbent on each and every island-based cyclist to be at least partially responsible for their own safety, including maintaining as high a visibility as possible. hence the flashing rear lights in even bright conditions. though it's not legally mandatory in daylight conditions, i'd humbly suggest that we make it at least strongly advisable. according to my opinion.

it's not so many years ago that flashing led lights on bicycles had legally to be augmented with a battery powered electric bulb light, an exemplary case of legislation lagging far behind technological advancement. but even though front and rear lights are mandatory on any bicycle after the hours of darkness, given the low energy demands of contemporary leds, should we not do ourselves a favour and never leave home without an operating, rear-facing, flashing red light, no matter the time of day?

i know many, if not a majority, of commuting cyclists already do so, but perhaps cycling's principal bodies (british cycling and cycling uk) could impress upon their substantial memberships that so doing, not only makes a great deal of sense, but ought to be considered an absolute necessity. with a government that often pays scant heed to the needs of britain's merry band of velocipedinists, a situation that pertains to many another first world country, maybe in this case, it's time to self-regulate without clamouring for the need of legislation? with a bit of co-ordinated effort, we could ensure that peer-pressure influences the inevitable naysayers.

illustration courtesy portland design works

wednesday 31 october 2018

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rapha classic winter bibtights

rapha classic winter bibtights

the late eurosport commentator, david duffield, in the course of relating the finer points of the previous evening's dining, would occasionally offer words of wisdom concerning the practicalities of cycling. duffield's career had included more than just a few outings on racing trikes, a discipline in which i believe it true to say, he had at one time or other, held several records. it's an aspect of cycle sport that has all but disappeared from view, but, having occasionally ridden an adult three-wheeler in the past, not one that's as simple as it seems. riding on three wheels entails pretty much the same effort as does two, and you'll not be at all surprised to learn that climate and the ambient temperature are of every bit as much concern to the tricyclist as they are to the bicyclist.

rapha classic winter bibtights

though the mighty dave-t is wont to emit loud guffaws each and everytime i raise the subject, mr duffield would frequently pepper his early season commentaries with advice to prevent the onset of 'easter knees'. oddly enough this appears to be a condition not solely constrained by the months of march and april, but more of a generic term relating to cold knees in general.

though i'd dearly love to be a cyclist with a strict, seasonal regime, that is sadly very far from the case. were that to be true, in much the same way that we have just moved the clocks back by one hour, there would be specific dates in the (non-existent) diary, instructing when i should tidy away the bibshorts and make bibtights the order of the day. the flies in the ointment would appear to be the introduction of bibthreequarters - neither tights nor shorts - kneewarmers and thermal bibshorts. let's face it, who is organised enough to factor those into their transitional periods, whether at easter or come hallowe'en.

rapha classic winter bibtights

ask anyone round these here parts and they will readily attest to my scant predilection for any form of organisation. thus, any possibility of easter knee prevention is likely to be somewhat ad hoc, no matter the forlorn hope that i be seen as one of cycling's hard-men. therefore, i have no shame in informing you thusly (as sheldon cooper would say), that i have already moved well past bibshorts and the bibtight drawer is being given laldy, to put it in the glaswegian vernacular.

the latest addition to that bibtight drawer is a rather smart and effective pair of thermal bibtights from rapha's classic range. insofar as it's possible to completely re-design a pair of bibtights, rapha have made a particularly good job of so doing. the most obvious part of this re-design is having moved the seams away from the front of those easter knees; one join behind the knee means each of the lycra panels are now a bit bigger, offering a noticeably better fit. on the back of each calf section is a substantial pair of panels to enhance visibility: left is reflective, right is bright white.

in keeping with what appears to be the modern way, the ankles are a very close fit with no zips to ease the donning of socks after the fact. and before you've covered the bibtights with a jersey or jacket, there's time to luxuriate in an extended, thermo-roubaixed back section, fending off any potentially cold draughts (or galeforce winds, depending on your place of residence).

rapha classic winter bibtights

however, if you're in the market for bibtights with a pad, it's probably the latter that will be of major concern and it's at this point i may have to report a certain dereliction of duty. any review ought to be inflected with an endless series of observations relating to the item under inspection. but over the course of several, reasonably long rides, i can only infer that rapha's classic pad has to be amongst the very best of the very best.

because i never noticed it.

several years past, i was sent a helmet for review, the chin strap of which irritated the heck out of me, no matter how i strived to set my mind on other matters. based on such evidence, i can only assume that, were the classic pad to have been found wanting during my cold and often damp perambulations, i'm sure i'd have been made more than subliminally aware of any seated discomfort. and i wasn't. ever.

so, assuming you have the same desire to prevent 'easter knees' and you're thinking of adding an annexe to the bibtight drawer, you could do considerably worse than acquire a pair of rapha classics for winter.

rapha's classic winter bibtights are available only in black, in sizes ranging from xs to xxl at a retail price of £200. | rapha classic winter bibtights

tuesday 30 october 2018

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