as i have brought to your attention on a previous occasion, islay was once a predominantly agricultural isle. to a certain extent, it still is, but with farming faring less and less well these days, there's possibly a statute of limitations on that. the local creamery closed at the turn of the century, having once had its output banned by the vatican. the pontiff reputedly thought it to be an aphrodisiac. since then, there have been no dairy herds on islay; with the deregulation of the dairy industry some years ago, it became completely uneconomic to transport islay milk to the mainland.

added to that, mechanisation has taken its toll on agricultural employment within the local farms. you need only witness the size of the tractors perambulating the single-track roads, to figure that they can likely accomplish what two tractors did previously. there are probably more folks employed by bruichladdich distillery than on all islay's farm added together. and then there is the thorny subject of government and european union subsidies.

reputedly, the last substantial amount of cash given by the eu to the scottish government for devolvement to scotland's farmers, was not disbursed in full. when you consider that the amount of money paid to annually shear the island's sheep is greater than the income gained from the sale of the wool, it's not hard to see that every last penny of subsidy is probably required just to stand still. ever helpful, as he charges thousands for public speaking, former prime minister tony blair told the nation's farmers that they ought best to diversify, though he stopped short of offering any specific solutions.

diversification is all very well if you've options that might fit the bill; many converted barns and outhouses into self-catering, began pony-trekking or several other variations on a theme. on an island with close to nine single malt whisky distilleries and another two possibly on the way, bed and breakfast or self-catering is always in demand, though at the back of everyone's mind is quite how long the whisky bubble might last.

and at least two of those distilleries have assisted with the regeneration of at least a small portion of local agriculture. both bruichladdich and kilchoman are quite intent on offering single malts that are thoroughly islay from start to finish, encouraging many a farmer to grow barley for just such a purpose. the isle has never been traditionally known as a home for arable crops, relying more on livestock as its mainstay, but if there's a ready and waiting customer, intent on proving the value of terroir and it pays for even bigger tractors, who's arguing?

as velocipedinal residents of this hallow'd isle, we feel honour bound to ingratiate ourselves into the fabric of the place. we courteously get out of the way of the pot-ale and grain trucks, while painstakingly avoiding any conflict with the tractors we meet along the many singletrack roads. most of the latter only exist in the first place due to local farming tradition and since they offer a welcome escape from much of the island's increasing number of distillery visitors, we have a vested interest in their continued use.


however, unlike rules and regulations that apply on the mainland, there is little in the way of requirement for any farmer to fence his/her sheep or cattle off the roads. i have been reliably informed on more than one occasion, that if it is necessary for the contrary to be the case, they need to be fenced out, rather than fenced in. therefore there are many, many occasions when, during the sunday morning ride, the peloton comes across seemingly random flocks of sheep either tramping along the road, or, on summer evenings, lying on the tarmac to enjoy the heat.

that alone has given many a visitor an unexpected fright as they drive home from the pub or restaurant. but, in sympathy with those diversifying farmers, we in the velo club occasionally figure we should perhaps do likewise, adding another string to our bow, while trammeling the less than pristine highways and byways on our way to coffee and cake.

sunday past dawned wet and very windy, with frantic text discussions taking place prior to the grand départ as to whether going out at all was a particularly clever idea. the results of this can be witnessed by the fact that only two of us subsequently left for a pummeling at the hands of galeforce winds and the occasional hail shower. while this made for some particularly enjoyable tailwinds - one of which assisted my compatriot to the successful capture of a strava sector - it also led to some serious grovelling in the opposite direction, leading to the morning's ride being somewhat curtailed prior to froth-supping.

but, as we wended our merry way from rock mountain towards carnduncan, we came across a flock of sheep lying comfortably on both sides of the road. with lambing season not too far distant, they were likely taking a well-earned break from whatever it is that sheep usually do. we were intent purely on passing by, en-route to aoradh and gruinart flats, but not only are sheep stupid, they are predictably the most unpredictable animals in existence. even though we both advised them to stay where they were, that we were only passing through, they ran anyway, along the road in front of us, offering no passage on either side, should that headwind have allowed unbridled acceleration in the first place.


however the predilection for a flock to follow each other has been well-documented. it needs only one sheep at the head of the parade to decide to shift to one side or another and the others are guaranteed to follow. disappointingly, in our particular flock, it was one in the midst of the parade that dipped out. all those behind followed, but those in front missed the body-swerve and continued on, joining up with another, smaller flock ahead.

in the light of this unwarranted, yet unrewarded shepherding, excellently carried out, even though i do say so myself, we have decided to apply for one of those currently retained government agricultural payments. i will be contacting the national farmers' union of scotland later this week for the relevant forms and applying for team sponsorship from massey ferguson or john deere.

not that it's something i intend to shout about (much), but tony blair would have been proud of us.

photos courtesy of the go-pro fitted to the front of joe marshal's colnago.

monday 11 march 2019

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decisions, decisions

strade bianche 2019

many years past, when i was still a member of the all conquering islay pipe band, practice night was generally each and every tuesday. this, it appears, coincided with football matches played by one of glasgow's principal teams, resulting in two members of the pipe corps being awol on every second tuesday. i am not a fan of football in any shape or form, so i was apparently naive in suggesting that they record the matches and watch them after band practice. that was when i learned what the word 'heresy' meant, for it was obviously of deep concern that someone would let slip the result before the match had been watched.

i can partially sympathise, for during major cycle races, i generally try to avoid twitter until i have watched the evening's highlights on eurosport. however, i'm not always entirely successful. of course, my situation is undoubtedly a tad more amenable than that of soccer supporters, for there's not a velodrome's chance in heck that i would meet someone in bowmore main street who would let slip the result of a spring classic, or stage of the giro or tour.

but while i'd prefer the identity of the winner to be left to my own witness, it's the racing that i enjoy watching, for unlike those in thrall to the so-called 'beautiful game', i have no real favourites for any event. whomsoever crosses the line with arms held aloft, quite probably was the fastest or smartest on the day and deserved to win.

over the course of the last few days, mrs washingmachinepost and i have noticed that our superfast broadband speed is very far from that advertised or promised by british telecom, a fact verified by their very own online speed checker. therefore, i endured one of those online chats, where the chap on the other end asks for information he already has, before getting down to the nitty gritty. on investigating our line, the agreed that there appeared to be a problem and decided that it would be most advantageous to make an appointment for an engineer to pay us a visit.

as many of you will know, these appointments are very far from being precise in their timing, thus we were advised that the fellow would arrive sometime between 8am and 1pm. thus, mrs washingmachinepost and i waited in all morning, eagerly awaiting the technician's arrival. of course, no-one turned up, but on enduring yet another online chat, i was informed that the engineer had been in attendance and the fault would be corrected by day's end. despite my having spent the entire morning out of doors swapping wheels and tyres on bicycles, i caught no sight nor sound of a bt openreach engineer.

and, rather obviously, i was manifestly unable to partake in my regular saturday bike ride.

for those who follow the professional peloton, you will be aware that saturday saw the annual running of the strade bianche across tuscany's white roads, a race that i hold in high esteem and had looked forward to watching. but the quandary in which i found myself was whether to go out on the bicycle for even a short ride, or remain indoors and watch the strade bianche. well, what would you have done? it was cold, wet and windy outside, so sitting in a nice, warm house with eyes glued to a computer screen, a stance that informs my everyday existence, did seem somewhat enticing.

however, i am big and tough and strong, always willing to suffer for my art and a decent soya cappuccino, so the bike won the argument. at the time of writing, i am still ignorant of the winner of this year's 'strade bianche'. on the plus side, the tailwind on uiskentuie strand took me up to 51kph on the return trip, so that was a bit of a bonus for an old bloke. as the season progresses and the classics begin to clump themselves around the weekends before the stage races gain the upper hand, this sort of decision-making is going to, once again, become a major part of the velocipedinal milieu. what's an intrepid cyclist to do?

as the saying goes, 'i used to be indecisive, but now i'm not so sure.'

sunday 10 march 2019

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we're doing it all wrong

tubeless tyres

cyclists are regularly accused of having no meaningful upper-body strength, an accusation that is generally found to be true. realistically, there's no real need for muscles up top, because, as demonstrated by the mighty dave-t, the upper body ought best to remain as motionless as possible. the late lord carlos of mercian often appeared to be wrestling with his bicycle even on the flat, never mind the gymnastics to be witnessed as he climbed even the shallowest of gradients. our strength ought best be concentrated in the thighs and calf muscles, all the better to destroy the opposition in the sprint at debbie's each sunday.

however, all that might be about to change.

i recently posted a review of goodyear's all season eagle tubeless tyres, which, to all intents and purposes offers a superb set of rubber on which to emulate peter sagan, riding a specialized allez disc, fitted with big carbon wheels (yet to be reviewed in detail). however, in my timid pursuit of excellence and variance, those tyres were to be removed for placement on an alternative set of wheels, while a new set of tubeless rubber took their place. and that, boys and girls, is where the house of cards began to look decidedly shaky.

many of us will have experienced aching thumbs when trying manfully and womanfully to fit a new set of tyres. i have no idea if this is due to slight variation in wheel diameter or of tyre circumference, but were i to have had a secondary career as a classical guitarist, i'd have had need of proffering a sick-note. there have been occasions when pressing the button on my ipod would have been beyond the strength of either thumb.

tubeless tyres

that, however, was very far from being the situation in the tyre swap under discussion. the goodyears slid from the rim with little in the way of effort, but signs of the tubeless realm were highly visible by way of the white gloop running freely round the tyres' interior.


the brand new 700x28c replacement tubeless tyres, which will, for the time being at least, remain nameless, took to the carbon rims with alacrity, once again leaving the thumbs as fresh as they were first thing in the morning.

the usual tubeless scenario is as follows: fit the tyre to the rim, inflate to around 10-25psi to seat the bead, then deflate. remove the valve core, drip in the specified quantity of sealant, replace the valve core, rotate the entire wheel to move the sealant into every nook and cranny, then proceed to inflate the tyre to its operating pressure. that, as they say, is the theory.

failing at the first hurdle, the front tyre simply would not inflate. i removed it, cleaned off the interior of the rim, replaced the tyre, removed the valve core and dripped a modest quantity of sealant inside. with the core replaced, i pumped that track pump for all i was worth and eventually, if a tad reluctantly, the tyre began to inflate. laying that aside for a moment, i began a similar procedure on the rear wheel/tyre combination.

tubeless tyres

i would look away now if you are of a nervous disposition.

again, the new tyre fitted easily, but once topped up with the recommended amount of sealant, that tyre simply withstood every magnificent effort to inflate it. after 45 minutes, i had to admit a temporary defeat, as i simply had no more upper body strength left to continue with the track pump. during that threequarters of an hour, i attempted twice to re-seat the tyre, checked the chuck on the valve, pressed down manfully on the valve section when inflating, all to no avail.

had my need for percussive activity been this weekend, rather than last, i'd have been in real trouble. so i left the tyre in an uninflated state and headed off to design menus instead.

i persevered after work; i once again removed the tyre, cleaned the rim, re-fitted the tyre and went back to pummeling the track pump. the tyre did eventually inflate, though with one part of the bead apparently still leaking air, i wasn't holding out too much hope that it would be rideable come morning time.

i seriously doubt i'm the only one to have experienced this situation with tubeless tyres, but my point is not to set myself up as one of the great oppressed, but to query quite what the point of tubeless tyres is in the first place? arguably, you might think that it is one of weight, since rotating weight is something all cyclists would like to minimise, whether they realise it or not. an average 700x28c tyre/tube combination arrives at around 375g, while the goodyear eagles at 700x30c, weigh a nominal 326g each. however, add a few millilitres of sealant and you're probably looking at between 330-335g, leaving a disparity of 40g (about 1.5 ounces in old money).

tubeless tyres

so while there's a numerical weight-saving to be had, it's hardly one likely to make any meaningful difference, even to sir dave's marginal gains. so does that mean that we're looking at the emperor's new clothes, one that the world's tyre manufacturers have fallen for, hook, line and sinker? much as i'd hate to say 'yes', i think the answer probably is 'yes'.

had i followed the more usual, historical tyre fitting procedure, i'd have had the rubber fitted in minutes, popped a tube inside each, inflated to pressure and put the bicycle back in the bike shed, all before breakfast. i can, therefore, but conclude that we're doing it all wrong. tubeless tyres work perfectly well in use and they do make a nicer noise on tarmac than regular clinchers, but sadly, i really don't think it's worth the faff for the sake of a gram or two. so couldn't we just look upon tubeless tyres as an experiment that didn't work out and go back to inner tubes? please?

now, about those electronic gearsets...

saturday 9 march 2019

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type casting

rapha typeface

at one time there existed a type club (and it may still exist, for all i know), whose motto was 'whoever dies with the most fonts, wins.' given the colossal number of digital typefaces currently available, it may well be a life's work to achieve that status. i own a copy of linotype: the film, a documentary about ottmar mergenthaler's incredible machine that provided a line of type at the behest of a mechanical typesetter, churning out hot metal for newspaper and magazine production from simple typewriter input. mechanical and manual typesetting is responsible for much of the terminology still used in digital typesetting, despite many of those terms having been now superseded by pixels.

'lower case', for instance, which i use pretty much exclusively in thewashingmachinepost, previously referred to the metal letters residing in the little boxes, or cases, on the lower portion of the typesetter's desk. i'm sure you can figure out where capitals, or 'upper case' were kept and the space between each line of type could be varied by the insertion of thin strips of lead, hence 'leading', the term still used in software such as adobe's indesign and its competitor, quarkxpress.

rapha typeface

the principal function of type, whether in print or on the web, is to convey meaning, narrative and information to an eager, reading public. a relatively simple and straightforward situation, you would tend to think, and one that could surely be implemented by a single typeface. so why are there so very many variations available from a seemingly endless number of digital foundries? and more to the point, what is the point?

i have a long-running discussion with the teachers of the local primary school, who insist on contributing articles to the newspaper typed in comic sans, often in several colours. i am reliably informed that use of this typeface offers particular reading and legibility benefits for primary age schoolchildren, but, as i have often pointed out, that scarcely justifies the need for the teaching staff to use it for each and every missive. as the poster states 'comic sans is never an acceptable font unless you are an eight year old girl, writing a poem about unicorns.'

'nuff said.

rapha typeface

thus, there are fonts/typefaces that are suitable for some purposes, and highly unsuitable for others. this has led to an entire world of typeface ephemera, about which many of us are blissfully unaware. there are more than a few individuals who could care less about such matters, as long as they can read the message. but studying your intended audience in relation to the image you wish to portray, will almost inevitably lead to perusal of as many typefaces as the corporate psyche can withstand. or, just maybe, you can design a typeface all of your very own, something that london's rapha cycle clothing have just accomplished.

but in 2004, simon mottram, founder of the company, stated that his reason for so doing was an inability to find the style and quality of cycle clothing he had in mind. at the time, that was probably true, and since then, i have viewed with suspicion any cycle clothier who trotted out the same mantra. with the wide-ranging current availability of many different types of cycle clothing, anyone who still finds mottram's epithet to be true, must be ruddy hard to please. yet, despite oh, so many commercial typefaces available at the finger tips of their apple macs, rapha decided to commission their very own font. i asked rapha's director of central marketing, james fairbank, if this meant they were particularly hard to please?

rapha typeface

"We view type as a key device used to communicate our brand's character. Looking back, Luke and Simon's decision to use Adobe Caslon and Trade Gothic appears prophetic, but arguably that's partially the result of the ubiquity resulting from the wider success of the brand. Since our 15-year history has featured consistent use of type across multiple platforms, we felt that moving to something new, but already in existence to solve the issues we've identified around communication hierarchy, would be to abandon some of the values we've built upon over the years. It also makes sense to own typefaces. It's good to know that we won't have to pay license fees to use Trade and Caslon any more.
"But to answer your question more directly: yes, we are hard to please. We love the sport and try to honour it creatively and that sometimes means we take the long way around."

as james mentioned above, rapha are now fifteen years into their cunning plan for world domination and in many parallel cases, this could be seen as a bit too early to start messing with the formula. however, it could just as easily be said that imperial works has been doing so since day one, particularly in the apparent absence of a cycling-specific formula in the first place. but messing often takes time, so when was the decision taken that a new typeface was required and how long did it take to reach this point. and did they develop this in-house, or was this an external commission?

rapha typeface

"We kicked-off the work properly in April 2017, but we'd been discussing it for a couple of years prior to that. The WIGGINS wordmark that Ultan (Coyle - now at Canyon bikes) designed in conjunction with Dalton Maag back in 2015, helped focus attention on the limitations of Trade Gothic. Jack Saunders took up the project and we broadened it to include a complete overhaul of our type. The project's been delivered by Pat Mafham and Arabella Swan produced the animated sampler (from which the accompanying illustrations have been culled). The new typefaces were designed by Commercial Type and we're hugely grateful to Paul Barnes for his help with this project. Paul's one of the partners at Commercial and a very passionate fan of the sport."

so what do you use a typeface for? at one time, it would have been print, print and only print. but while thewashingmachinepost relies on typefaces that already exist on your computer (because i'm not clever enough to do it in any other way), it has long been possible to embed specifically designed web fonts to carry forward the corporate message. so doing not only underlines the company image, but improves consistency across all forms of media employed by, in this case, rapha. i asked james if the new fonts were purely for use on the web and in print, or will they find their way onto rapha garmentage?

rapha typeface

"It's a full overhaul. The changes will be trickling out over the next 18 months, as care-labels and clothing are changed."

not everyone likes change, though i've often heard it said that there's nothing as sure as death, taxes and change. and occasionally, just occasionally, changes are effected for no other reason than simply because they can be. and changes do not always work in the desired manner; how many recall new formula coca-cola, pepsi-cola and one or two chocolate bars of repute? what, therefore, apart from a possible corporate refresh, are the perceived advantages and/or benefits of the exercise?

"Corporate refresh didn't come into it. The main drivers were two-fold: clearer hierarchy across a variety of devices to serve a much-changed communication landscape and the avoidance of licensing costs."

rapha typeface

though i have no wish to reveal rapha's web-font licensing costs which are based on the number of website visitors, they are somewhat eye-watering and a factor of which i seriously doubt many members of the peloton are aware. to return to a previous meme, david carsons' much lamented raygun magazine aside (where once an entire article was typeset in 'wing dings'), typefaces are supposed to clearly transmit the message without ambiguity or obfuscation. so doing often requires more than a single 'weight' or 'style', such as bold, condensed, black, italic etc. with rapha's type re-design, how many styles does james now have via his computer keyboard?

"We now have more than 30 bespoke fonts at our disposal. The Rapha typefaces are made up of two families; sans and serif. The sans is a customized version of an unreleased typeface called Caslon Doric in two cuts: regular and condensed. Both of them are available in three weights with matching italics, and were designed for both print and screen usage. In style they are a modern, in-proportion variant of the old-style model, with a larger x-height and shortened ascenders and descenders. The italic was designed to have character, but also retain legibility. The fonts were designed to be a development rather a reinvention of the current font vocabulary."

those well-versed in the art of proofreading will well know that changing a single word or phrase can often presage a necessity to re-write a lot more than you'd bargained for. similarly, the simple act of changing a typeface could conceivably highlight a need or desire to poke at more things under the bonnet. in which case, does james see any other planned image updates in the near future?

"Nothing as fundamental as a change of typeface."

friday 8 march 2019

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assos equipe rs bibshorts s9

assos equipe rs bibshorts s9

i know i shouldn't compare. not only am i over double the age of the average cycling professional, i was never particularly fast when i was the same age. granted, in the seventies and eighties, no-one had ever heard of or thought of marginal gains and the notion of a brit winning the tour de france was probably a favoured joke amongst stand-up comedians. however, surprisingly enough, that's not quite the comparison i was thinking of.

bringing comfort and joy to the cognoscenti, this past weekend saw the opening salvo of the 2019 'spring classics'; omloop het neiuwsblad on saturday, followed quickly by kuurne-brussels-kuurne the very next day. granted, collection of heavy percussive items on sunday pm allowed appreciation of only the last 40km or so of k-b-k, but the appetite was appropriately whetted. from now till late april, i prefer to be referred to as gerben de knecht, while practising my race-face in dubious weather.

assos equipe rs bibshorts s9

the difference, which i am truly loathe to point out, is that my race-face sits atop a seriously waterproof jacket, while my summer-weight bibshorts were accessorised with leg warmers. would that i bore the chutzpah and thorough belief in rule#5, to ride with bare arms and legs and an insouciant smile. just like the pros. of course, we all know the truth to be very much at odds with that idealised state of affairs, to say nothing of being bereft of a deucininck-quick-step team kit.

however, what i did possess and wear, despite the 'summer' classification boldly described on the box, was a pair of assos 'equipe rs bibshorts s9', featuring a natty red hem on the right leg, to match my assos mille gt hashoogi winter jacket. see what i mean? there's immediate mention of a winter jacket, rather than a short-sleeved jersey, as if i could possibly encourage you to think even less of me.

assos equipe rs bibshorts s9

but, while it may be necessary to cosy up in the face of freezing galeforce windchill and perpetual rain, to keep that core in battle-ready mode, you understand, the same ministrations are less necessary for the perambulating limbs. i confess that there's no way on this planet that i'd have been out with only shaved legs to show for my efforts; leg warmers are pretty much de rigeur on the outer edge for the foreseeable future, but that doesn't actually mean that bibshorts are persona non grata.

aside from the solitary red hem on one leg, the most obviously unique aspect of assos' latest bibshort release, is probably what would normally be referred to as the 'bib' section. in this case, the upper section of the equipe rs shorts resembles little more than a pair of braces, apparently crossing each other as they do on the back before attaching themselves just above the pad section. disappointingly, the only one to see this well thought-out idiosyncracy, was mrs washingmachinepost. none of our mirrrors are long enough, and i couldn't quite twist my neck that far round.

assos equipe rs bibshorts s9

the shorts employ what assos refer to as their 'a-lock engineering'. the s9 range feature but two panels; one wraps the legs, while the other takes care of the pad section. it's worth pointing out at this juncture, that the pad has surely to be one of the most comfortable on the market, if a tad more noticeable in use than several of its peers. however, please know that this is a good thing. the crossover straps form a part of assos' race-car metaphor, where they liken the construction to that of a roll bar, stabilised by the unique bib straps. of course, whether you take assos' word for this or not, really makes no nevermind. even in thoroughly inclement weather conditions, the shorts perform every bit as well, if not better, than you'd expect from switzerland's premier cycling apparel provider.

though the rearmost straps describe an 'x', in truth the lower 'a' section is cast from a single section of elastic. by constructing the bib straps in this fashion, they have limited the vertical stretch at the rear, thus increasing stability.

assos equipe rs bibshorts s9

as mentioned above, i was perhaps more aware of the existence of the pad than has been the case with other assos bibs, but, to be honest, the comfort on offer bears being noticed. the fit is exemplary, without noticeable restriction, yet on receiving a thorough soaking, the incorporation of the previously listed new technology kept them firmly in place, ensuring that the term 'rock'n'roll remains solely applicable to a genre of music.

given the lengthy heritage presented by the humble pair of cycle shorts, you'd be forgiven for thinking there is little room to manouevre when time comes to invent previously unseen improvements. yet, the equipe rs bibshorts seem to have managed the improbable with panache and style, even if a portion of the latter is mostly hidden from view.

the assos equipe rs bibshorts s9 are available in black with red detailing, or all black and in sizes ranging from xs to xl at a retail price of £175.

assos equipe rs bibshorts s9

more rough than smooth

assos trail range

though i would generally leave the world of offroad to those more qualified, it's hard to ignore an apparent crossover between universes, with the ever-increasing popularity of cyclocross and the ubiquitous gravel bike. from a roadie's point of view, taking into account this weekend's strade bianche and a preponderance of cobbles and gravel seeping their way into once pristine road races, i fear that my continued disregard for the rough over the smooth, may be in danger of appearing as ignorance at best or arrogance at worst.

though it may seem hard to believe, the inhabitants of offroad appear to have differing apparel needs, than that applicable to ourselves. for example, two of the more obvious variations revolve around a lack of rear pockets (which somewhat mystifies me to this day) and sleeves that offer little grasp of wimp-like biceps. however, it ill behoves the intrepid cycle clothing apparel purveyor to ignore this apparently pressing need amongst the genre's aficionados.

to this end, assos are today unveiling their trail kit aimed squarely at the mtb/gravel market, a range consisting of jerseys, cargo shorts, arm and knee protectors and gloves. for those of you who have a predilection for this sort of cycling, and i don't entirely discount myself from that realm, pop over to for a squint at all that's on offer.

thursday 7 march 2019

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rapha custom

rapha custom

cycling strikes me as one of the few sports/activities designed to scare the heck out of all those who decide to indulge. let's face it, if you're a soccer player, 'tis but a simple matter of wearing the jersey of your preferred team (with your own name on the back, obviously) for kicking a ball about. if you play for a team, there will be jerseys available for the corporate image. few of us intent on following the antics of our cycling heroes find the price of admission to be quite so simple.

the obvious solution would be to acquire a yellow jersey for pootling about with the sunday morning crew, but only if you are willing to suffer the slings and arrows of adherents of velominati's rules. unfortunately, those rules usually extend to the wearing of team kit, so despite championing the early season victories of the impossibly named deceuninck - quick step, there will always be one midst that sunday peloton who takes a dim view of team kit on non-team members.

but then, there's always the apparel rails at the back of the nearest bicycle shop; but where to start? we've all been there, and it's not just jerseys. my first pair of cycling tights made the rapha/education-first jersey look like a drab pair of your grandmother's curtains. going out riding at the end of a long day was less a means of relaxation and more a way of hiding from the gaze of any who might see me. and in the case of footwear, should one head straight to the clipless and bypass the toe-clip altogether? and if so, road or offroad? do you even know what kind of pedals the bike shop recommended?

rapha custom

we've all been there, even if we don't all admit it.

but let us assume that perseverence has got the better of us; we've either resorted to jeans and a tee-shirt, pretending that we know no better, or simply listened to the bike shop advice and arrived idiosyncratically clad, but willing to indulge in velocipedinal perambulations. however, at some point in time, it is going to occur to the great unwashed that here gathers, each and every sunday morn, a group of like-minded individuals, spearated only by a wide disparity in speed. and wouldn't it be a wizard wheeze if everyone was dressed in similar fashion, even if that extended purely to the jersey region.

i'm tempted once again to say 'we've all been there', but that might be very far from the truth. the velo club, having commenced battle in an ardbeg distillery jersey, decided to become less generic and are currently on the second iteration of a debbie's jersey. however, based purely on the club rule book (there are no rules), any form of dress code is very far from being formalised. i do not recall that last time more than two of us were to be seen in team kit.

rapha custom

let's face it, heading down the "why don't we design our own jersey?" path can be fraught with as many problems and foibles as the faux pas of wearing a yellow jersey. it's hard enough to get two cyclists to agree to anything, let alone a whole peloton and even if someone's a dab hand with a graphics software programme, how do you all come to a collective decision? and can you even agree on a singular means of letting everyone see the design possibilities?

and then there's the branding. on my first visit to portland's fair city, i was introduced to members of hup united, whose jerseys were manufactured by vermarc in order to maintain the faux belgian persona, beloved of the hup peloton, across road and cyclocross. so when time comes to design and order a new team kit, you may wish to acquire garmentage that sports the logo of your preferred apparel provider. until today,were your affections to have resided solely with the chaps and chapesses in london's tileyard road, to put it bluntly, you were out of luck, unless your local peloton happened to be education first or rapha canyon.

rapha custom

launching today is rapha custom, a curated online opportunity to not only acquire a full set of custom rapha kit, but squirrel through the many design options and colours available. not only can you choose from plain, stripes, hoops, diagonals, patterns, pantone colours, upload club logos and add text here, there and everywhere, but you can keep checking the possibilities until you arrive at something on which everyone appears to agree. one mouse or trackpad click will then tell rapha to go ahead and make as many or as few as you need.

and its not just jerseys. though there are both pro-team and classic jerseys available, you can currently accessorise with accompanying gilets, bibshorts and arm warmers. aside from jersey and bibs, the press kit arrived with socks, musette, cap and essentials case, all of which are likely to arrive sooner rather than later (these appear not to be available at launch). and though the minimum order of five s/s jerseys at pro-team or classic level will cost a minimum of £110 each, that price drops dramatically to £75 if you head north of 100. if those prices currently give cause for a sharp intake of breath, coming soon is the lower-cost core range along with leg warmers, knee warmers and long-sleeve jerseys. the most obvious omission at present would appear to be bibtights and jackets, none of which currently appear on the price-list.

as you can see from some of the accompanying illustrations, i have taken advantage of previewing the online design module (if rapha want to send me one of those to try, i promise to wear it on as many sundays as i can).

rapha custom

rapha custom has been a long time in the works, often promised, but never quite arriving. i have come across many rumours over the years and i even have a personally customised team sky kit in the wardrobe, featuring my name on the side panels along with the scottish saltire, that was sent to promote a launch that never quite happened. but it is here now, something for which many a sunday peloton and wednesday evening chain gang has been clamouring.

some lucky folks were kitted out by rapha custom last season, one of which was the richard sachs cyclocross team. according to richard...

"The goal was to get the correct materials, the optimum fits, and the exact colours and graphics dialled. Everyone on our side of the pond has been extremely happy with the style, durability, and technical aspects of each garment used throughout the season. I've lost count of how many people have turned to compliment us, only to mention how envious they were that we looked so darned elegant from head to toe."

knock yourselves out.

rapha custom

wednesday 6 march 2019

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this is cambridge rain/wind cape

this is cambridge rain/wind cape

the technological developments evident in every nook and cranny of cycling garmentage is readily apparent. as an extreme, those woollen jerseys of yesteryear, prone to dragging on the rear tyre at the faintest hint of precipitation, are but distant memories. modern-day wool is culled from an altogether more weather-friendly breed of sheep. agreed, a merino wool jersey is no more likely to keep you dry in the rain than its predecessors, but for now, at least, that rear tyre is safe from woolly fluff.

but, when it comes to weatherproofing, the horizon is less inclement than was previously the case. the good old 'sou'wester' will undoubtedly continue to keep the elements at bay, just don't mention the word breathable. for that, we have layered membranes, durable water repellency and flexibility that the old skool could only dream of. but, if you're anything like me, donning a new waterproof jacket prior to heading into the maelstrom, is still an act filled with trepidation.

this is cambridge rain/wind cape

no matter the marketing blurb that accompanies any new waterproof jacket release, rarely does the professed breathability equal that of even the least active cyclist. and even if it does, there's the not insignificant possibility/likelihood that the water outside has now become the water inside. creating a truly breathable/waterproof jacket that lasts well past the first few washes, must surely be considered the holy grail of garment research.

despite my recent protestations regarding the apparent serial release of bibshorts so early in the season, when the more prudent amongst us are keeping those calf muscles well covered, in at least one corner of the uk, sense continues to prevail. daphne and andrew at this is cambridge have just released their first waterproof jacket and are no doubt experiencing similar trepidation to that which preceded my first outing, clad in their (very) bright pink and reflectively spotted jacket.

this is cambridge rain/wind cape

the tic italian-made, yet un-named jacket (i'm going to refer to it as their 'omloop jacket' because there are other products in the tic range that share that name. given that it's classics season, that seems most appropriate.), is fabricated with a direct-vent membrane. this means that its breathablity never switches off and is not dependent on the outer fabric first becoming wet. i will point out that my initial outing did not take place in sweltering heat, so i did not overly trouble the breathability factor, but i did give the waterproofing a really hard time.

i am very much in favour of suffering for someone else's art, so the notion of heading out into galeforce wind-driven horizontal rain for a couple of hours or so, is not something that i experienced for the first time. to place all this in some sort of perspective, the bicycle currently wearing a pair of 64mm carbon-rimmed wheels, was quite literally preparing for take-off and had to be swapped for a more conservatively wheeled bicycle. and even that gave occasional cause for concern en-route to a good soaking. far from easing at any point of the parcours, the rain simply became heavier and heavier, while the wind strengthened mightily.

this is cambridge rain/wind cape

up here, it's called weather; down south, it was known as 'storm freya'.

on arrival at my lunchtime feed-stop and divesting myself of big pink, the long-sleeve tic jersey beneath was dry. yes, actually dry, with no sign of rain ingress or perspiration. the journey home was, if anything, considerably worse, heading pretty much straight into a 75kph headwind with attendant horizontal rain, not to mention the seriously drifting spray from passing vehicles. i apologise for the melodrama, but it really was wet and windy.

that eye hurtingly pink jacket (also available in black) will dispel any propensity for a smidsy situation. the fit is particularly good, allowing excellent freedom of movement while obliterating any likelihood of flappery. the full-length front zip hides an internal storm flap towards the top. this is cambridge have apparently omitted any rear pockets in favour of a flap that allows ease of access to jersey pockets beneath. i see where they're coming from, but the phrase 'ease of access' is an entirely subjective term. personally, i'd prefer three rear pockets, but if i'm honest, i'm not sure they're an absolute necessity on a rain jacket in the first place.

this is cambridge rain/wind cape

once again, on a personal note, i want a rain jacket that can be carefully and neatly folded to fit in a rear pocket when the weather clears (a little hebridean humour, there). tic's omloop jacket facilitates that desire to perfection.

having given it a thorough thrashing, this is a jacket that's brilliant in every sense of that word (always assuming you opt for the pink edition).

this is cambridge's (omloop) wind/rain cape is available in bright pink or black, in sizes ranging from xs to xl at a retail price of £185.

this is cambridge rain/wind jacket

tuesday 5 march 2019

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