it shouldn't happen to a cyclist


islay is the hub of the universe. by altering the place name, i'm sure each and every one of you could substitute the name of your home town or place of birth. however, as british summer time kicks in and easter hoves into view on the horizon, it won't be long before the veracity of my opening statement becomes the unassailable truth for the world's whisky aficionados. pretty much eleven months behind schedule, but with at least a cycle jersey on sale, islay's ninth distillery at ardnahoe, will officially open in twelve days' time. add to that, the looming onset of a revitalised and rebuilt port ellen distillery in a few years time, augmented possibly by an eleventh at farkin, near laphroaig and that hub thing begins to become more concrete.

islay's largest hotel, the machrie, re-opened last year after a substantial and reassuringly expensive makeover, offering the possibility of forty-seven bedrooms and a dining room overlooking its world-famous golf links. the latter has continued in operation throughout construction works and the arrival of the first scheduled loganair flight from edinburgh yesterday lunchtime, is assumed to be an attempt to cater for the nascent queue of east-coast golfers, eager to test their skills on the ostensibly windier west coast.


glenmorangie, owners of ardbeg distillery are also based near edinburgh and with the scotch malt whisky association also domiciled in scotland's capital city, one must assume the the owners of the red tartan-tailed aircraft have done their homework and expect a decent commercial return on this new route. but what, i hear you ask, has any of this got to do with bicycles?

bear with me.

the sunday morning bike ride is, or should be, completely sacrosanct. whatever else is expected to take place at that time of day on a sunday, ought best be cast aside in favour of riding bicycles en-route, ultimately, to coffee and cake. one of our number is owner of the village shop in port charlotte, eager and able to participate during the winter months, because the sunday newspapers arrive off the afternoon boat. however, with the onset of the summer timetable, effective from friday past, there is a lunchtime ferry bringing the sunday newspapers a tad earlier in the day. this provides our intrepid velocipedinist with something of a conundrum, though one that will doubtless be solved in one way or another.


however, if ever there was a dramatic reminder of how those with no interest in riding bicycles on a sunday morning (or any other day, for that matter), yesterday was possibly the perfect example. as i may have initimated on one or more occasions, due to once being in the wrong place at the wrong time, i have become a percussive member of the lately constituted islay community pipe band. this was entirely unintentional; i have been there before and worn the t-shirt and had no great desire to revisit the experience. however, such is life in a small community and it looks like i have little option but to grin and bear it.

you may recall from my opening paragraph, reference to loganair's new edinburgh service, the first flight of which landed at islay airport precisely 36 minutes after its departure from turnhouse, at 13:15 local time. someone, who really ought to know better, had asked if a two pipers and a drummer might like to stand adjacent to the cockpit and welcome the (seven) passengers arriving from edinburgh, while also playing for the (six) passengers returning. this provided me with my own conundrum; the sunday ride commences from debbie's at 10am, invariably returning some two hours later. sadly, on probably the finest, clearest day we have experienced this year, i had to turn off midway through the ride and head homeward for a shower, change into my kilt, grab a pair of sticks, and make my way to the airport at glenegedale.


it may lighten the implied seriousness of the situation if i inform you that, in order to gain access to the apron, all three of us had to put pipes, drums and snare harness through the x-ray machine, pass through the metal detector and subject ourselves to a light body search, before providing photo identification in order to be given a temporary pass for the day. which nobody asked to see at any time. all this at the behest of security people we've known for years. if it's possible to add insult to injury, the pipe major is actually employed with islay airport security. the word 'overkill' springs to mind.

is there a happy ending? well, actually there is. due to the extremely clement weather conditions and the efficiency of the aircraft's turnround, i was home for 14:00, in plenty of time to watch the last 40km of gent-wevelghem. there really is no better time than that of the spring classics, particularly when they bear an inscrutable name with which to impress one's co-workers on monday morning (all of whom remain as bemused as you'd hope they would). thus, i would never refer to it as the tour of flanders, but always insist on ronde van vlaanderen, for obvious reasons. and i can but contain my anticipation of the cobbles that constitute paris-roubaix in two weeks' time.

what a great time to be alive.

monday 1 april 2019

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ritchey classic zeta wheelset.

ritchey classic zeta wheelset

i'm old enough to recall when 'the comic' featured far more advertising across the rearmost pages than it does nowadays. those days are sadly, long gone, the victims of fewer specialist bike shops and the onset of the internet, the latter replacing double-page spreads over which we once deliberated at length, arguing with ourselves whether we could slip another campagnolo component purchase past her or him indoors. aside from a singular advertisement from some hardy soul willing to repair tubular tyres, there would also inevitably be a wide variety of wheelsets on offer, handbuilt to order, with your own choice of hubset and rims.

taking advantage of this, i ordered a superb, yet wholly inappropriate for the task, set of 32 spoke wheels built onto a pair of polished campagnolo croce d'aune hubs. i cannot deny that my choice of hubs was influenced every bit as much by the name as by the reputable quality of vicenza's componentry. these were accompanied by a pair of mavic, polished alloy rims. when the sun shone, tinted glasses were all but compulsory (a little hebridean humour there).

ritchey classic zeta wheelset

mavic were probably the very chaps who signalled the eventual downturn in the handbuilt wheel market, by bringing us the ksyrium. there's a high probability that there are many contemporary cyclists who have never experienced the joys of a handbuilt wheelset, but equally, there are probably just as many who scarcely realise that, at one time, wheels were shiny. in the world of factory built wheels, ritchey are most certainly in the minority of those still offering the aficionado, a shiny pair of wheels in which it's still possible to see one's reflection.

i'm unsure as to whether naming them 'classic' is by way of reference to the heyday of eddy and his pals, or whether tom ritchey simply regards them as classic. personally, i'd be more inclined to think of classic as referring to the croce d'aune set mentioned above, featuring three-cross spoke patterns and a minimum of 32 spokes. however, 32 would probably be frowned upon nowadays, and where radial building was once the preserve of the time-triallist and actively discouraged by vicenza, it is now almost de rigeur.

ritchey classic zeta wheelset

ritchey's zeta wheels sport a mere twenty radial spokes up front, and only four more at the back. the drive-side spokes are built two-cross, while the none-drive side emulates its frontmost partner with radial spoking. straight-pull spokes have become the darlings of the factory, offering a simplicity of machine construction that the j-bend spoke is likely to complicate. ritchey, however, have opted for the latter. according to them, their phantom flange hubs offer a more attractive profile and the reputed efficiency of straight-pull, yet feature dt-swiss, j-bend spokes for improved strength, performance and reliability. there's little doubt that acquiring a spare standard spoke from a nearby bike shop is a tad more simple than finding one with the correct length straight-pull.

in my opinion, j-bend spokes offer more comfort than straight-pull, but i admit that's probably a subjective viewpoint.

ritchey classic zeta wheelset

ritchey specify the classic zeta wheels as 'tubeless ready', but if you've read any of my recent rants on the subject, you will perhaps understand why i opted to occlude that format and fill the goodyear eagles with inner tubes, a situation with which they seemed more than happy. when i received the ritchey logic frameset over a year ago, the specification claimed it could accommodate 30mm tyres, a width i figured perhaps just a smidgeon too wide for comfort. however, the 30mm goodyears confirmed them to be correct. granted, there's very little chainstay clearance at the rear, but sufficent not to warrant any real concern.

lateral clearance at the front fork is marvellously capacious, but i still suffer from the minimal vertical clearance dictated by campagnolo's record calipers. vicenza reared its compatibility head once more, with regard to the cassette freehub. with campagnolo record featured throughout the ritchey frameset, i had requested a suitably compatible freehub to accept the twelve sprockets. however, an initially unidentified rattle from the rear wheel during the sunday ride, turned out to be a loose cassette.

ritchey classic zeta wheelset

in situations such as this, i'm quick to blame the mechanic (me), but on checking when i returned, the lock-ring was fully tightened. ultimately, to cure the rattling sprockets, i'd to place a washer under the lock-ring before fitting, for it would seem that the campagnolo compatible freehub, in this case, was perhaps a millimetre or so too long. with the washer in place, however, the rattle has gone and the gear changing is as precise as campagnolo intended. and very much in its favour, the freehub is almost silent in use.

at one time, when reviewing tyres or wheels, i would seek out the roads kept solely for such special occasions, but such is their prevalence all across the island, thanks to the council's budget cuts, that there is now no need for such a quest. thus, both tyres and wheels have scarcely been spared the travails of iniquity: cattle-grids, potholes, the young farmers' ploughing match; you name it, they've suffered it. and not just in dry weather.

ritchey classic zeta wheelset

the first few rides were undertaken in teeming rain, conditions that i feared had highlighted a distinct lack of braking power. the calipers were gripping the rim, but slowing was hardly as immediate as i'd hoped. the braking surface on the zetas is textured similarly to the grooves on a vinyl record. however, once again, it was pilot error to blame; the previous wheels fitted to the ritchey, sported a wider rim and i had neglected to reset the cables to compensate. once tightened, the braking has almost equalled that of some disc systems; no snatching and modulation to spare.

a few weeks on a set of wheels hardly results in an in-depth review, and i've no intention of pretending that to be the case. at the end of april, i head north to inverness to ride the 2019 edition of the etape loch-ness, an undertaking that ought surely to further test their mettle.

i'll let you know how i get on.

ritchey's classic zeta tubeless ready wheelset is available in shimano or campagnolo compatible format, and in 700c size only. retail price is £430.

ritchey classic zeta wheelset

sunday 31 march 2019

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what is happening?

colnago e64

after my review last year, of specialized's turbo vado e-bike, one of my office colleagues bought one, after i'd loaned her the review model for a week or two. like many, for her, the idea of occasioning infrequent bike rides of a balmy summer's evening, was a tenuous idea that had occured once or twice. however, a long-term back problem made that a more onerous prospect than would have been the case for you or me. however, with the support of an electric motor, such bike rides would now likely prove more frequent, even though the bicycle cost a substantial amount more than she would normally have spent on two-wheeled transport.

now that days are becoming longer and, with the advent of british summer time this weekend, the lunchtime conversations once more touched upon the prospect of summer bike rides. though the velo club would think nothing of ascending the short steepness that is foreland hill, en-route to a perambulation of loch gorm, that very hill is often viewed by others as merely the first obstacle in their path.

colnago e64

electric bicycles, in the uk at least, are legally limited to a top speed of 25kph, one that can be just as easily achieved uphill as on the flat. so, were my colleague and i to undertake a joint ride in the aforementioned direction, there's a greater than evens chance that she would reach the top well ahead of yours truly and considerably less out of breath. riding around loch gorm, the road for which passes along islay's atlantic coast, is a highly pleasant undertaking, passing as it does, kilchoman distillery with its fine café in which the weary bicyclist can refuel.

the alternative, an option taken by the majority, is to drive. but the road, mentioned above, is single-track from start to finish and the distillery generates substantial motorised traffic from easter to autumn, obviating any practical opportunity to sightsee. that's not to say that the same set of circumstances do not also apply to bike riders on the same route, but it's a tad easier to stop along the way and take in the view and the remarkably fresh, atlantic air. in my humble opinion, this is the strength of the e-bike market, offering an attractive alternative to those who would be less than inclined to attempt the trip under their own steam (for whatever reason).

colnago e64

where i do not think an electric motor deserves to be, is somewhere about the personage of a tour de france level, carbon racing bicycle.

though the vast majority who own similar, human-powered machinery will never stand upon a podium, grasping a cute stuffed lion and a bouquet of flowers, those who have such advanced carbon in the bike shed, are most likely to inhabit the 'active sports' milieu, keen to improve their health and fitness via the sunday ride and a smattering of sportives across the year. riders such as these would surely see the ascent of foreland hill (8% at its steepest) as a challenge to be undertaken, finished off with a self-satisfied grin at the top. the very notion of getting there with electric assistance would almost certainly be anathema.

so why, oh why, oh why have colnago announced an electric version of the range-topping, italian built c64? i ask the genuine question, where is the market for such a machine? i have little doubt that colnago have a far better handle on their potential market than do i, but i cannot fathom why any self-respecting roadie would purchase a bicycle such as this with a motor in the rear wheel.

colnago e64

though i have partially undermined my case for the prosecution by admitting that the majority of owners of top line carbon-fibery do not employ it in the competitive realm, the majority harbour pretensions of performance cycling. witness the 43kph average speed of julian alaphilippe in last weekend's 290km milan-sanremo and compare that with the 25kph legal limit of an e-bike. assuming necessitous justification of the presumably reassuringly expensive colnago e64, one would expect any prospective owner to err closer to alaphilippe's speed than the legally limited e-bike.

it must be painfully obvious to any e-bike rider, that once over the 25kph threshold, those thigh muscles become responsible not only for maintaining speed or accelerating, but doing so now hampered by a heavy electric motor and attendant battery. the logical conclusion would therefore point to the owner of this colnago (or comparable models from pinarello et al) spending most of their ride time hovering around 25kph. would that not bear comparison with driving a bugatti veryon in first gear?

in which case, i must reiterate my original question. why?

colnago e64

saturday 30 march 2019

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so demanding

gravel and mud

this monologue was engendered by an ostensibly innocent tweet from america's cyclocross magazine, the relevant section of which i have included here for your reading pleasure.

"Gravel cycling has its own set of physical and mental demands."

this, i should point out, was not quite the bald statement it may at first seem, for the tweet was designed to advertise a conversation between the magazine's editor and 'gravel coach' kirsten legan. on the basis that i generally use twitter as a means of posting smart-ass one-liners, i responded by expressing my reticence to undertake any form of cycling that might engender 'mental demands'. the fact that cycling of any description would be responsible for even a minor degree of physical aggravation, will come as no real surprise to anyone who rides a bike, but i'm inclined to side with canyon's ultan coyle, who once proposed that nothing was ever worse after a bike ride.

since the daily grind will always bring along its own demands, both physical and/or mental, the very possibility that riding a bicycle would add to at least one of those hardly presents an amenable situation. there has been and continues to be, endless arguments and queries over what precisely is the difference between a cyclocross bike and a gravel bike, but none that i can recall which included the prospective rider's state of mind.

though cyclocross has long been a competitive sport, there's a good chance that the majority of purchasers only think they're matthieu van der poel, but never take out a racing licence to prove it. there are uci regulations governing the sport of cyclocross, but it currently appears that gravel racing, as a competitive sport, is primarily contained within north america with events regulated by usa cycling. hence, i must assume, the opportunity for ms. legan to earn a living by coaching those with a gravel-based sporting urge.

perhaps to disassociate themselves from cyclocross, usa cycling's chief executive officer has said "Too many people are showing up to events, thinking they can just use standard cyclocross equipment, which is often inappropriate, and sometimes downright dangerous." i have insufficient experience of the genre to make qualified comment, but i was largely unaware that the events of which he speaks, gravel races of over 100 kilometres, would be considered dangerous. potentially, i suppose, every competitive cycling event harbours danger of one sort or another, but i would be somewhat aghast if riding a 'cross bike rather than a gravel machine would increase this apparent danger.

the bulk of my misapprehension revolves around the seemingly mistaken notion that gravel riding existed on the premise of taking an extended offroad ride on bicycles hardy enough to cope with less than pan flat and glass smooth roads. not that such a description currently applies the majority of so-called 'normal' roads. it bears comparison with the origination of the xc mountain bike, sturdy machinery devoid of suspension and shod with wide, knobbly rubber. uci 'cross regulations dictate that tyres used in competition should not exceed 33mm, while usa cycling specifically exclude tyres of that width, preferring to begin the bidding at 38mm. oddly, they have also specified 700c as the standard wheel diameter; no 26" or 650b.

and recent manufacturer developments have displayed a predilection for suspension forks, making the contemporary gravel bike almost exactly like an xc mountain bike with drop bars. come back john tomac, all is forgiven.

however, on this side of the pond, it appears we're less intent on racing each other across gravel tracks, quite possibly because britain does not possess such inordinate lengths of offroad pathways, or maybe because we don't quite see the point. it does seem that, wherever there is more than one individual with a similar style of bike, competition will duly follow, but wouldn't it just be nice for there to be a single cycling discipline that could be enjoyed purely for its own sake without any concomitant mental demands? when so much is spoken about mental health nowadays, with exercise promoted as a means of lessening its onerous effects, it scarcely seems credible that the cycling powers that be, would inaugurate a nascent discipline that could conceivably exaggerate the opposite.

and in case you're wondering, i did not receive any form of twitter reply from cx magazine, expressing their contempt at my facetious riposte.

friday 29 march 2019

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pedro delgado. a life on the pedals with julian redondo. mousehold press softback 225pp illus. £14.95

a life on the pedals - pedro delgado

though it's not something of which i'm particularly proud, the current crop of first tier professional cyclists remain somewhat of a closed book; a mystery, if you like. i may liken that state of affairs to my current appreciation of the so-called 'hit parade'. it dawns on me that the very use of that latter phrase probably explains quite a lot. recollections of band members, albums, record labels and even producers, remain intact for the late sixties, seventies and the early portion of the 1980s, while i remain totally ignorant of any current trends in music, including that of my beloved jazz.

oddly enough, that's not as odd as it might seem. i infrequently play with a beat group featuring a set list firmly rooted in the period described above, yet the regular audience of teenagers seems every bit as well-acquainted with the lyrics of 'sweet home alabama', 'all right now' and 'brown eyed girl' as anyone who lived through that era. and i'm currently transcribing drum parts for the local secondary school's forthcoming concert, presenting a fifteen minute selection of highlights from abba's 'mamma mia'. there's probably good reason for all this and i certainly have my own opinions, but it's something that makes me feel less self-conscious regarding my contemporary ignorance of the new kids on the start-line.

though i'm not one for posters on the wall, were mrs washingmachinepost to allow such largesse, those would feature the likes of robert millar, greg lemond, bernard hinault, eddy merckx, miguel indurain and marco pantani. and pedro delgado.

the spaniard, who rode for reynolds (twice), orbea-gin mg and pdm concorde during his twelve year career, won the 1988 tour de france, famously snatched victory from robert millar in the 1985 vuelta and stood upon the spanish podium's top step once again in 1989. yet he seems almost to be the forgotten tour victor; a one-off flukish winner of the tour, underlined, perhaps, by his notable lateness for the following year's prologue time-trial. despite the many theories as to why 'perico' was not on the starting ramp, delgado treats it in the matter-of-fact manner that pervades the whole of 'a life on the pedals'.

"I didn't like the warming-up circuit that had been arranged for us [...] I look at my watch and I see that it's time. As I ride towards the Start I realise I have gone too far away." this state of affairs was predicated earlier the same day by a rather draconian police presence disallowing even the previous year's yellow jersey holder to ride on the circuit.

'a life on the pedals' was originally published in spanish, but one year after delgado's retiral from the professional peloton. this current edition, translated by tony fernandez and mousehold's adrian bell is an essential addition to the velocipedinal bookshelf. if i might briefly return to the musical meme, we are often advised that, to comprehend the skills and musicality of contemporary musicians, we ought best to examine who were their influencers. that seems every bit as applicable to the cycling world, even if only to understand the difference between tours and races of yesteryear, keen to place everything in some sort of valid perspective. but one thing that rarely seems to change, is a champion's respect not only for his team members, but that of his rivals.

many of those individuals may themselves appear as the forgotten generation. in the service of their leaders, most of them subjugated any ambitions they may have harboured for their own careers. delgado offers many words of praise in one of the book's latter chapters, confirming the humility which appears to have pervaded his notable career.

"Anastasio Greciano, Jesus Rodriguez Magro, Juan Martinez Oliver, Abelardo Rondón..., the best companions I ever met. They were the best professionals, always ready to give everything for a team mate, without concern for themselves."

but for british readers, or more specifically, scottish, the 1985 vuelta may hold specific concern. led demonstrably by the 1984 tour de france king of the mountains winner, robert millar, right up until the final days, a puncture suffered by the scotsman allowed delgado and pepe recio a sufficient time gap at the finish to put the former into yellow.

"The thought of winning the Vuelta never passsed through my head that day; I only dreamed of winning the stage in front of the people in my home town."

common opinion revolves around the notion that the spanish had no intention of letting a scotsman with an earring win their national stage race, and it's possible there is more than a grain of truth in that contention. however, from the above quote it appears, in so far as pedro delgado was concerned, the likelihood of winning the vuelta was not on that day's agenda.

mousehold press is to be congratulated on making this book available to an english-reading public. pedro delgado was one of the strategically important riders of the 1980s and 90s; a catalyst if you will. but for his unfortunately late start in 1989, he would most likely have acquired two tour de france yellow jerseys. the spaniard certainly lost more time in that prologue than the amount by which he trailed greg lemond in paris. having said that, had such been the case, we'd scarcely have had the dramatic finish for which that particular tour is famous.

delgado seems perfectly at ease in his own skin; his writing style reflects an apparently laid-back personality, the latter seemingly only ruffled in the 1988 tour when he reputedly tested postive for probenicid. there's nothing in his account of that period that would suggest he was masking his taking of a masking agent. in fact, his narrative would suggest that he was as surprised and confused as those around him. as it transpired, the matter was cleared up almost as quickly as it had descended and delgado went on to take victory. whether matters would have taken the same course nowadays is a moot point; 1988 was not nowadays.

'a life on the pedals' is a fine, if unsensational, recounting of a professional career in cycling, slightly thematic in the later chapters, but an attractive read, nonetheless. julian redondo makes an excellent job of being a remarkably low-key interlocutor, prodding just enough, to have delgado tell the story in his own words and in his own time. cycling is often cited as possessing a rich heritage worthy of note: it is riders such as pedro delgado that add to its richness.

"By the way, do you know why greyhounds run so fast? Because they are perricos delgados." (perricos delgados translates lierally as 'thin little dogs'.)

thursday 28 march 2019

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shuffling about

keith carlock - marco pantani

the last time i visited scotland was for a steve smith drum clinic, held, ironically enough, in glasgow's national piping centre. come the revolution, etc. however, having enjoyed the two-hour ferry journey from port ellen, islay to kennacraig on mainland scotland, i proceeded eastwards by citylink coach to buchanan bus station in glasgow. arriving shortly before 4pm. this regular service arrives via great western road, more usually travelling along west nile street before turning left onto killermont street and ultimately into the bus station. but on seemingly random occasions, the bus turns onto hope street, a manoeuvre undertaken in the situation under discussion.

while travelling along renfrew street, i happened to notice a poster plastered to a hoarding, advertising an upcoming concert by vintage band, steely dan. from my vantage point, i was unable to discern the date and venue, but since the path to my hotel for the evening would take me past that selfsame hoarding, i resolved to investigate further at that point.

disappointingly it transpired that the concert was taking place that very same evening in the hydro, on clydeside. i confess that my principal reason for having considered attendance at this now 'off limits' gig was the inclusion of keith carlock as drummer, a man whose ability and sound on the drums is one that i have long admired.

if you frequent the percussive section of youtube as often as do i, you may have come across an extended online lesson by mr carlock, explaining and demonstrating various shuffle patterns. these are an almost mandatory addition to any percussionist's arsenal, and it may surprise you to know that there are several notable variations which it well behoves even an average drummer, such as yours truly, to identify at a distance of several paces. there is the chicago shuffle, the texas shuffle, the jazz shuffle and the despicably hard to master, purdie shuffle, one personified by steely dan's babylon sisters and led zeppelin's fool in the rain.

having paid particular attention to mr carlock's instruction, i now held a shuffle-based confidence like no other. at least, i thought i did, until happening across another video by former guns 'n' roses drummer, matt sorum, who, having begun playing with zz top's billy gibbons, had now found it necessitous to mug up on his own skills with the shuffle. here is where the confusion began, for what mr sorum portrayed as the chicago shuffle was the very technique espoused by keith carlock as the chicago variant. i'm sure you share my pain. as things currently stand, it appears that mr carlock is the fellow in the wrong, but i hope to play down matters by studiously failing to mention the name of any shuffle i might attempt to play.

though i may be alone in finding any commonality between the percussive realm and that of the velocipedinist, find it i have.

my misgivings over stated methods of climbing hills, exhibit a similar degree of incomprehension, one engendered by my recent reading of the rapha editions/blue train publishing publication 'pantani was a god'. author, marco pastonesi paid tribute to pantani's predilection for climbing any ascent with hands firmly planted on the drops.

i confess that i have attempted this very method on several occasions, yet i find it less amenable than with hands on the lever hoods. but given the fact that il pirata appeared to have tamed the law of gravity, should i not attempt to emulate his technique at every opportunity? was marco wrong (i seriously doubt it), or is it me (and not for the first time)? and then there's the periodic masterclasses that appear on the global cycling network or the occasional feature in the comic, where some well-meaning individual, who clearly ascends so much quicker than do i, advises to stand while climbing. or contradictorily, to remain seated, as espoused by the fallen hero, lance armstrong.

granted, these do not suffer from the ignominy of being empirically wrong; let's face it, a texas shuffle cannot simultaneously hail from chicago. however, having attempted to climb, paying close attention to each and every method presented in both film and print, i have found none to be observably superior to another.

but i can play a lethal, half-time, rolling triplet shuffle.

wednesday 27 march 2019

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cycling the camino de santiago. mike wells. cicerone press. 259pp illus. £14.95

camino de santiago - mike wells

i'm not what you might call a great traveller; the extent of my a to b-ness usually concerns a ferry trip, followed by a bus journey. every now and again the latter is followed by time spent on a train, but that's more the exception than the rule. at the end of next month, i'll head farther north to ride my bike along with scores of others, but i'm trying hard not to make a habit of it. despite my contention that the act of travelling is every bit as much a part of the adventure, getting to and from the start of a proposed cycling trip has always struck me as a tad more faff than i'd prefer to accept.

thus, the occasional opporchancity to cycle in locations more salubrious than my home island (assuming such a place exists), is often left to fend for itself, alone and uncared for. but there is, of course, as there probably has to be, the possibility of an exception to this self-imposed idiosyncracy.

the name.

camino de santiago - mike wells

who amongst us could resist thundering mightily along skyline boulevard, or clambering slowly up the gorge la nesque? i don't mind too much if you'd like to substitute your own attractively named location. in the light of this possibly superficial confession, you can imagine my intrigue having been piqued on receipt of the latest cycling publication from the inestimable cicerone press. via the word processor and explorations of mike wells, author of guides to london-paris, the rhine, danube and the rhone valley, amongst others, comes a guide to cycling the 'camino de santiago'. i will not mislead you; until i checked the introduction, i had no earthly idea just where that is in the world.

camino de santiago - mike wells

as it transpires, this is an exploration across the top of the iberian peninsula, from santiago, near spain's atlantic coast, to the fabulously named st jean-pied-de-port, just across the french pyrenean border. i have often commended cicerone publications as the ideal reading for armchair explorers, but currently, unless something else arrives very soon with an even more exotic title, this sits atop the chairside pile.

legend has it that st james, one of the twelve apostles, travelled to spain in the first century ad to preach the gospel and the tenets of christianity. after his death in 44ad, his body was reputedly returned to spain by boat, taken ashore at padron in galicia and buried inland on a remote hillside. discovered almost 800 years later by a galician shepherd, a local bishop identified the bones as those of st james. the church built over his remains, was, after many interim iterations, subsequently rebuilt as a cathedral and surrounded by the mediaeval city of santiago de compostela (st. james of the field of stars). historical magnificence such as this, almost places the act of cycling as a mere backdrop to the scenery.

camino de santiago - mike wells

i did say, 'almost'.

the book's introduction offers an excellent precis of the area's history before progressing to an overview of the prescribed routes. as you may expect, the intrinsic historicity of the region, provides a veritable cornucopia of architecture and art to be seen at various points along the way. a cursory glance through the copious colour illustrations will prove the veracity of which mr wells writes. the book even features an appendix dedicated to spanish architectural styles.

camino de santiago - mike wells

but, we are nothing if not dedicated cyclists, usually of the road persuasion when it comes to cicerone guides. however, this particular publication could justifiably be classified under the heading, 'buy-one-get-one-free'. for contained within its almost 260 pages, are both 770 kilometres of offroad riding, paralleled with a complementary 798 kilometres of road riding. the author suggests that perhaps those less experienced in the world of knobbly rubber, might like to mix and match as their skillset dictates.

rather obviously, almost 800 kilometres is not the sort of spanish distance that even the most intrepid amongst us rattles off in a single day. thus, the author has thoughtfully divided the distance of both routes into 18 manageable sections, peaking at 55km in a single bound. after witnessing almost 300 kilometres of racing from milan to sanremo at the weekend, 55km might seem a less than punishing workout for a self-respecting member of the pelotonese. however, i might remind you at this point, of the substantial dollops of visual and historical attractions to be seen along the way, to say little of the pyrenees rearing up in the last few stages.

if i ever pluck up the courage to tread farther afield than debbie's café in bruichladdich, 'camino de santiago' is now unassailably at the top of my wishlist.

tuesday 26 march 2019

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................