vulpine long and short sleeve merino polo shirts and cotton/cashmere socks

vulpine merino polo shirts

the village of bowmore sits almost centrally on the island, with its nearest neighbour being that of bridgend, a far smaller conurbation around five kilometres north. in anyone's parlance, bridgend could reasonably be described as close to bowmore. by bicycle, it takes around ten minutes in either direction, depending on the strength and trajectory of the wind. astronomers and astrophysicists, on the other hand, have an entirely different concept of close.

vulpine merino polo shirts

but a few days past, the european southern observatory announced the discovery of hr6819, a black hole which can be viewed with the naked eye from earth's southern hemisphere. based on current astronomical knowledge, this black hole, part of a triple star system in the bizarrely-named constellation of telescopium, has been described as the closest to our planet; travelling at the speed of light, it would take a mere 1,000 years to arrive. that's a tad farther away than bridgend village; in fact, it's farther from bowmore than new zealand.

vulpine merino polo shirts

astronomers contend that the universe is home to millions, if not billions of black holes, a phenomena that continues to keep its secrets well-hidden. though current knowledge would predict that black holes are collapsed, incredibly dense stars, whose gravitational field allows not even light to escape, science fiction has frequently contended that they offer tunnels to far distant portions of the universe. it's highly unlikely that we're unlikely to learn the truth in our lifetimes.

vulpine merino polo shirts

the nature of black holes is but one of those unanswered questions that continue to pervade modern existence. others, such as what length of socks would defy good taste, quite what the point of electronic gear systems truly is, and whether carbon-fibre would be quite so desirable if known as burnt plastic, are every bit as quizzical. but, pertaining to the review under discussion, a question we must all be asking ourselves is this: should polo shirts be buttoned to the neck, closely resembling the predilections of david bowie, or a member of kraftwerk, or ought they to be left unbuttoned in a more devil-may-care fashion?

vulpine cotton-cashmere socks

sadly, this review is unlikely to offer any definable resolution.

the rationale behind vulpine cycle clothing leans more heavily towards the style-conscious commuting cyclist, in preference to those of us happy to don polyester and lycra for a weekend's stravaiging about the countryside. though the company offers a range of merino-blend jerseys, replete with the necessary three rear pockets, you will not find any bibshorts midst their products. there are two basic types of commuting cyclist: those who prefer to shower and change on arrival at the office, having ridden there clad in the finest of pelotonic apparel, and those who seek clothing that is both practical on and off the bike. their excellent merino polo shirts will satisfy either, or both.

vulpine merino polo shirts

vulpine has changed hands once or twice during the course of its career, but on the evidence of both polo-shirts and socks, they have now discovered their true metiér. the fabric is almost impossibly luxurious, providing both comfort and sartorial elegance. i wore both to sit imperiously in front of photoshop and to pedal my way hither and thither. neither aspect ruffled their countenance.

on the bike, a dropped rear hem keeps untoward draughts at bay, while a single, buttoned pocket at bottom right, offers solace for keys, phone, or coffee money. this is far preferable to the flapped breast-pocket of yore, on which the flap resolutely refused to sit flat. carefully adjudged space around the shoulders offers ideal versatility, whether your bicycle features flat or drop bars. merino wool is renowned for its exclusion of the niffs associated with hot and sweaty cyclists, and for remaining sartorially presentable even after an intrepid battle with traffic and the elements.

vulpine merino polo shirts

as to the perennial question of whether the top button ought to be securely fastened or left casually adrift, i have tried both without alighting on a definitive answer. perhaps the best answer is to leave the neck unbuttoned during the bike ride to aid ventilation and composure, before closing prior to entering the boardroom. however, i can but offer my thoughts without resorting to dogmatic assertion.

socks bear close affinity to that of the bottom-bracket; both are necessary components of the cycling milieu, yet both are the subject of scant regard from their users. probably the best compliment that can be paid to both, is that they remain all but invisible in use. should that be an acceptable judgment, vulpine's 'three-dash' cotton-cashmere socks reflect the luxury of the matching polo-shirts (always assuming you find it necessary to match your shirt and socks). i have no idea whether cashmere has the same odour-free properties as merino, but nonetheless this italian-made luxury will cosset your hard-working feet all the way from home to the office and throughout the day's travail.

vulpine cotton-cashmere socks

vulpine cycle clothing may be a marque that has escaped your attention of late, particularly when considering less frantic cycling apparel. however, based on my experience with the clothing under discussion, it's a brand that you ignore at your peril, particularly at present when many items from the range are currently on offer with a 40 or 50% discount. let's face it, if vulpine's merino polo-shirts can make me presentable without resorting to suit-and-tie conformity, just think what they can do for you.

vulpine's long-sleeve polo shirt is available in eight colours, (biking red reviewed) in sizes ranging from small to xxl, currently reduced from £90 to £54. the short-sleeve version is offered in seven different colourways (grey heather reviewed) in sizes from small to xtra-large at a retail price of £80. the socks are available in six colour patterns in sizes small/medium and large/extra-large, currently reduced from £15 to £7.50.

vulpine cycle clothing

monday 11 may 2020

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balmamion - herbie sykes

balmamion. herbie sykes. rapha editions/bluetrain publishing flexicover. 224pp illus. £25

a colleague of mine is currently typesetting a book of short stories, all of which have been written by a group of amateur writers. in the grand scheme of things, these are not the sort of brief essays that would be considered by any commercial publisher, and there has been the occasional scream of agony on reading through some of the attempts. if anything, the experience has proved that the phrase 'everyone has a book inside them' isn't entirely accurate.

i well know that, despite writing several thousand words each week, there is no book inside me, and i have strongly resisted the temptation to prove myself correct. herbie sykes, on the other hand, once supposed himself to inhabit a similar space. as he informs us in his introduction to this re-printed edition of the thoroughly excellent, 2008 mousehold press publication, 'the eagle of the canavese', recounting franco balmamion's two successive victories in the giros of the early 1960s.

eager to ask balmamion for one of his pink jerseys to add to a grwoing collection, he invented the subterfuge of writing a book in order to have a friend facilitate a meeting. "I set about pretending to be a cycling journalist. I bought one of those voice recorder things, and wrote a load of facile questions on a piece of paper. Then I flew to Turin." of course, though the subterfuge worked, following their meeting, in order not to alert others to the nature of the hoax, he wrote the book, for who could hold any grudge if the book was subsequently rejected by publishers?

except it wasn't rejected.

balmamion - herbie sykes

he sent an e-mail to adrian bell at mousehold press. "I didn't think for one minute that it would appeal to a wider readership, but he hadn't (quite) said no. He agreed to look over a couple of chapters, and... he emailed me saying he liked them." the rest is (recent) history. and now, twelve years later, rapha and bluetrain have re-published the book, simply entitled 'balmamion'.

franco balmamion, riding for carpano, won both the 1962 and 1963 editions of the giro d'italia before reaching the age of 24. it's a feat that no italian cyclist has emulated since. and, as the author is keen to point out, despite the praise usually heaped upon grand tour winners, balmamion remains all but unknown. born in 1940, in nole canavese, north of turin, franco balmamion entered a world of poverty, mitigated only slightly by an impressive local cycling heritage. an industrious child, he adored gino bartali, and though bereft of a bicycle to satiate this passion, eventually money was found to acquire one, a bicycle on which he rode to work at the fiat spares department. falling in love with racing, he was an all-rounder with no specific skills as a racer.

" He lacked the power to ride away from the others, and the speed to win a sprint. He was quite good at everything, but not quite good enough at anything."

gaining a place on the fiat factory team, he trained heavily to overcome his apperent mediocrity, then signed up to ride and win the coppa val maira. this victory proved his strength and confidence. by intelligently taking a strategic victory at the 'corsa san pellegrino', where the winner's jersey was presented by his hero, gino bartali, he effectively sealed his future as a professional cyclist. but, rather than sign for bartali's 'san pellegrino' team, he reckoned that he'd be better as leader of a more lowly team, than a domestique in one of the more prominent squads. thus, he joined bianchi, who promised him leadership at the giro d'italia. sensibly testing the water as a professional, he asked for, and was granted, a year's unpaid leave from fiat.

the 1961 giro was won by arnaldo pambianco, balmamion having missed an essential break and finished well down the general classification. however, he was successful enough throughout the rest of the season to maintain his confidence and take a second year's unpaid leave from his job. with bianchi opting to pull out of professional cycling, franco joined carpano in advance of the 1962 giro d'italia.

balmamion - herbie sykes

herbie sykes is one of the most important authors in contemporary cycling, even though his writing tends to favour the bygone years of italian racing. though my review has concentrated on the principal subject of the narrative, herbie's chapters place all the foregoing in a carefully and astutely observed perspective. however, his importance (with which i doubt he'd agree) revolves not only around an impressive historical accuracy and perception, but is every bit as much due to his writing style. balmamion is a book that can be read on a least two levels, one of which is purely based on his use of language.

" An even more brilliant talent, the Norman, Jacques Anquetil, concentrated on time trials and stage races. For all his extravagant gifts and his five Tour wins, Anquetil's palmarés makes for curious, lopsided reading. Aside from his victories at the motor-paced marathon Bordeaux-Paris, the semi-classic Ghent-Wevelgemand at Liège-Bastogne- Liège, he too failed to distinguish himself in the muck and nettles of the classics over a 16-season career."

the author's confidence in the treatment of his subject(s), inspires the reader to place confidence in his assessment of proceedings, while the conversational manner of the narrative makes comprehension of the historically complex, as clear as if discussing the weather. even more admirable is the naturalness of his writing; there is no indication that hebrie sykes is overly trying to impress us with either his knowledge or his almost care-free ability to pass it on, page after page.

and let's not discount the efforts made by guy andrews and taz darling at bluetrain. though untold credit must be offered to adrian bell, the book's original publisher, bluetrain have created a volume worthy of both your approbation and your money. the copious illustrations, and the pink gazetta dello sport front covers that accompany the majority of the 1962 giro stage analyses, means that to simply describe 'balmamion' as a book, risks being guilty of serious understatement.

having read and reviewed the original publication in 2008, the narrative seems not to have aged one whit in the intervening twleve years. i asked herbie sykes if he expects this new edition to appeal to a whole new generation?

"I suspect all the ageing had done by the time I started writing it, 45 years after the fact. I'd like to think that it will find a new audience, but I'm not deluding myself that it will sell tens of thousands of copies. I think they've made a really beautiful book though, and it's quite a bit better than 'The Eagle of the Canavese'. I decided not to make wholesale changes, but some of the grammar is a bit tidier and there a few really interesting new bits and pieces."

given that herbie almost 'unintentionally' wrote the book in the first place, if bluetrain/rapha editions had offered him the opportunity to start again from the beginning, would he have approached it differently?

balmamion - herbie sykes

"Not really. I'm aware of its limitations - I was just starting out, after all - but I'm comfortable with it as is. I wrote it as well as I was able back in 2007, and I'm proud of having completed it and finding a publisher in that cycling paradigm. I also think that the stories of Carpano, post-war Italy and the race itself are really interesting."

with news released this past week that a majority shareholding in colnago bicycles had been acquired by abu-dhabi-based 'chimera holdings', there have been many paeans to the marque, describing it as amongst the most sought after in the world. such praise could just as easily have been directed at italian cycling. though arguably past its sell-by date, italiana still holds considerable sway over the cycling aficionado. what does herbie think is the reason that italian cycling still carries such a fascination, not only for him, but for those of us eager to learn of an all but unknown winner of two giri, almost sixty years ago?

"Well, it's easy to be seduced by Italy, and to fall in love with the 'idea' of Italy. This is a beautiful country architecturally, geologically and culturally, and for Northern Europeans it's extremely other. It also had a unique journey through the twentieth century, and bicycle racing was an intrinsic part of it. We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the Giro, like the Tour, is a wonderful, quixotic idea. It also tends to be a very good bike race, and by definition its winners are extraordinary human beings."

finally, i asked herbie, if he were commencing his writing career today, are there as many riders of interest, as there appears to have been in balmamion's era?

"That's a slightly abstract question. Human beings are no less interesting than they were back then, but most people would agree that the more 'professional' sports become, the less human they seem. I don't doubt for one minute that thre are great stories around today's bike riders, but the Giro is in glorious, 24/7 technicolour now. There's a massive amout of media, it's very carefully stage-managed, and perhaps a bit less esoteric as a consequence. The guts of it are, however, the same. The Giro is still the Giro. It's still a beautiful concept and, for me at least, the young men who do it are still heroes."

betwixt the twenty-one stages describing balmamion's 1962 giro victory, the author features many of the individual protagonists of that year's race. riders such as imerio massignan, balmamion's relationship with his team leader, nino defillipis, marino fontana, bruno mealli and several others. aside from adding to our three-dimensional appreciation of the italian racing scene in the early 1960s, they serve to offer a welcome interruption of the stage by stage account of the race.

2008's 'the eagle of the canavese' was the first cycling book i had come across that i felt could be appreciated as both literature and history. nothing about this edition undermines those thoughts.

but this time round, it's immeasurably better.

purchase a copy of 'balmamion'

sunday 10 may 2020

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the fundamentals

campagnolo super-record rear derailleur

in my regular perusing of matters pertaining to the bicycle industry, i have noted that those responsible for observing the numbers game, have intimated a certain confidence in the e-bike genre. this acquired knowledge has been shared in the form of graphs describing the relative trends between analogue and digital, the former being what you and i might refer to as 'a bike'. these revelations seem to be based on search trends on the web over the past half-decade, revealing that searches for e-bikes have grown by 57% over the past year.

statistics, of course, is hardly an exact science, nor are the results entirely objective, remaining open to subjective interpretation. hence regular use of the phrase, 'lies, damn lies and statistics'. however, if media reports are to be believed, the e-bike market is certainly in the ascendancy, and at a rate that is expected to increase when the current covid-19 restrictions are relaxed. however, though currently flavour of the month, and despite several marketing claims to the contrary, it is hardly making use of cutting-edge technology.

the notion of using an electric motor to propel any sort of vehicle has been around for many a long year. patents for electric bicycles were first registered in 1895, and in more recent times, an american company founded by lee iacocca, produced an e-bike (the e-bike sx) in 1997. in fact, around 20 years ago, an elderly lady who lived close-by, owned an electric tricycle, a machine that featured a car starter motor to provide motion, and was powered by a very heavy car battery, sited in a large plastic bin, affixed behind the saddle. i always maintained that, had the motor and battery been removed, the trike would have been light enough for her to pedal unassisted.

but, since the early days when i built my first road bike, predominantly on the basis of simplicity and few, if any, annual upgrades, a whole skoosh of technology has been thrown in its direction; some welcome, some less so. indexed gearing, cassettes replacing freewheels, brake lever gear-changing, frame materials morphing from steel, to aluminium, to titanium, and ultimately to carbon. even the latter has scarcely remained static, with differing matt layups, improved resins, nano fibres - the list is almost endless in a quest to improve stiffness and reduce weight.

then there's the faff with more bottom bracket standards than at which you could shake a stick, a similar number of headset variations, frame-mounted caliper brakes, cable-operated disc brakes, hydraulic disc brakes, electric gear changing and even wi-fi gear changing. that this level of development has been aimed at a means of transport entirely sidelined by the motor car, is testament to both its staying power, and the marketing departments' endless need for new product to sell.

yet, even with gear-changing subjecting itself to the whims of battery power and many explored alternatives to the humble derailleur, the latter has survived with its basic principles intact. arguably, the last major alteration to actuation of a rear derailleur, was suntour's invention of the paralellogram, a mechanical improvement over its predecessors made use of by all and sundry after the patent's expiration. despite all the foregoing technology, much of which can even be found on entry-level bicycles, we still change gear by pushing the chain upwards and pulling it downwards, simply controlled by means of a spring.

similarly the front derailleur, one of untramelled simplicity, a device that is the very epitome of the word 'derail'. whether actuated by cable, wires, or wireless, the front mech simply lifts the chain from inner-ring to outer-ring and pushes it back down again, once more, at the behest of a simple spring.

shimano's development of their hyperglide sprocket ramps (intriguingly employed in a sword-wielding highlander sculpture 'neath the central stairs on calmac's ferry, the mv finlaggan), have eased the upward movement of the chain, obviating the former crashing of gears that were once the bane of the unwary, and allowing for changing under load. and despite modern hub gear systems, such as rohloff and shimano's alfine, displaying efficiencies that are practically identical to that of the derailleur, it is the latter that has persisted. of course, if you've ever had cause to dismantle a sturmey-archer hub gear, and witnessed its complex swiss-watch internals, suddenly the visual and technical simplicity of the derailleur holds great attraction.

the specialized turbo-vado e-bike reviewed in these very pages last year, featured a state of the art (for the time) battery and motor, along with hydraulic disc brakes, but still employed a derailleur gear system. the very technology that pushes the chain up the block and pulls it back down again.

the more things change, the more they stay the same.

saturday 9 may 2020

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rouleur 20.3

several years ago, i was asked to deputise for a young local drummer who had applied to join the royal air force as his chosen career path. this was a fellow whom i had been teaching the art of hitting things loudly, for a number of years, and who, as a result, had joined a band who played everything loudly. my regular reader will, over the course of the years, have identified me as one with distinct jazz leanings, entailing a drumset of more modest proportions and sizes. if i was to bail the youngster and his band from their impending predicament, even if only for the matter of a few gigs, at the very least, i was going to need a bass drum of more macho constitution.

as luck would have it, before any pertinent decision required to be made, i received an e-mail from an online drumstore, advertising the availability of a suitably sized kick-drum (as the americans are wont to call it) at a more than equitable price, clad in vintage marine pearl, a la buddy rich and gene krupa. despite my jazz set sporting a natural maple veneer, i nonetheless ordered it immediately, safe in the kknowledge that one thump on its magnificence was sufficient to incapacitate small animals at fifty paces.

of course, pride and wanton idiocy, meant that i subsequently ordered two larger tom-toms in the same finish, so taken was i with the buddy rich meme.

this particular marque are more than welcoming of orders for additional drums, building them to order on america's west coast, before shipping them to the dealer through which they were ordered. as you might imagine, the wait time is near three months from paying the deposit, until the glasgow-islay carrier deposited them at my front door, during which time, the anticipation quotient had steadily risen on its own parabolic curve. the reality of ownership was not one that disappointed.

the actual disappointment came when the drummer for whom i was to substitute, failed his medical and did not, after all, join the air force. however, by that time i was already besotted with my new, larger drumset, so much so, that i charged the drum store with ordering a custom snare in the very same buddy rich finish-ply, necessitating another three month wait and concomitant anticipation. though i still own both drumsets to this day and love every tension rod and counterhoop, i cannot deny that the wait for delivery was every bit as enjoyable as paradiddling the night away on vintage marine pearl.

this heightened sense of anticipation, however, is not one solely applicable to the percussive arts. published last friday, arrival of the latest issue of rouleur magazine, has been trumpeted by many over twitter, a fact that has offered me little in the way of comfort. with calmac ferries operating only a lifeline service to the islands at present, deliveries of many items by way of royal mail and packages via carriers have slowed considerably. logically, there is no salient reason behind this, as the mail always arrived off the morning ferry, the only sailing still in operation each day (apart from sunday), yet each day, as i rush home from (essential) work, there has been no rouleur-sized package lying on the welcome mat. that serves purely to increase the anticipation.

and on matters more practically velocipedinal, i, along with most of the country's cyclists, look forward to the day when, once again, the sunday ride consists of a peloton of more than one. adept as i am at the practising the art of the one-man echelon, i would prefer that there be someone else's back wheel onto which i might latch into a headwind down uiskentuie strand. hopefully it'll be sooner rather than later, but for the time being, the anticipation is both sweet and sour.

rouleur magazine

friday 8 may 2020

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traffic congestion

tour de france

i am not a great fan of name-dropping, quite possibly because i do not inhabit the social circles that would bring me in contact with those whose names would be worth dropping in the first place. however, if you happened to be an aficionado of the scottish jazz scene, then i have an entire list of names with which you might just possibly find yourselves impressed. that said, i'd imagine, if shown on a venn diagram, it would be a very small portion of the information so presented.

however, tommy smith, probably scotland's foremost saxophonist, but almost certainly the hardest working promoter of the scottish jazz world through his work with the scottish national jazz orchestra, the scottish national youth jazz orchestra and his own duos, trios and quartets, is a friend of mine. a couple of years ago, having flown in from amsterdam to appear with his quartet at the islay jazz festival, he said to me that, if i happened to be in glasgow during the first week of november, i was more than welcome to attend his concert in glasgow's royal concert hall, and he'd be happy to put me on the guest list.

by a happy coincidence, tommy's gig took place on the saturday night and i had a ticket for a king crimson concert in the same venue (but the larger concert hall) on the monday evening. staying over an extra night or two could not have been considered any hardship, particularly when it offered the opportunity to earn brownie points by visiting my daughter and grandsons while 'in town'.

the idea of attending two concerts over the course of a weekend, may be a regular occurrence for many of you, but for those of us who live in the back of beyond, that two events worth attending should happen along in such close proximity, is a notifiable and celebratory situation. imagine how galling it would have been had they both arrived on the same date. in fact, somewhat like the uci's revised race calendar for the mid to late part of this year.

in truth, it can't have been easy. if the opportunity to hold professional european races is to safely present itself, there will undoubtedly have been a clamour of organisers making a case as to why their event should take precedence, if solely on the basis that the sponsor and the fans wish it to be so. whether you think it a good idea to re-arrange the season in this manner is probably a moot point, but i have heard from several that, in truth, it might have been better all round, to have simply accepted the seriousness of the situation, and cancelled everything until 2021. but few, if any of those, have been people with a vested interest (financial or otherwise), in their continuance.

opening matters on 1 august, will be italy's paris-roubaix, namely, the strade bianche, and even the prudential ride-london event has gained a slot on 16 august. but the event for which most eagerly await, is the tour de france, cmmencing on 29 august and carrying on until 20 september. i do recall suggestions that the three grand tours have their parcours shortened to one or two weeks, but it seems those calls have been ignored, or have fallen on deaf, commercial, non-spanish ears. for while le tour and the giro retain their 21 days, the vuelta has suffered the iniquity of shortening to 18 stages.

and here's where the hypothetical tommy smith/king crimson clash becomes something of a velocipedinal reality. beginning on 3 october, the giro will wend its merry way around italy until arriving in milan on 25 october. should any of the favourites fail to achieve in italy, that which will undoubtedly be predicted in the european cycling press, their chances of redeeming their curtailed season in spain, have been effectively ended by the uci's decision to hold the spanish prologue five days before the pink jersey is won. la vuelta begins on 20 october, ending on 8 november, obviating any opportunity for spanish contestants to compete across the cobbles of paris-roubaix on 25 october, or even the ronde van vlaanderen the previous weekend.

for the professionals, it seems they're going to be unceremoniously dropped from the great height of a racing famine, into a fiercely contested feast of racing.

and don't we just love it?

image © a.s.o./ pauline ballet

thursday 7 may 2020

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the cunning plan ahead

great british bike rides

in the years during which i created websites for island-based accommodation providers, there was always the advice that the best time to have a website, was when you didn't need a website. in the majority of cases, the day following uploading of the brand-new shiny website, i would receive an e-mail or phone call advising that they'd searched for their site on google, but found nothing. the implication was usually that i had missed a step somewhere and failed to fulfil their specific requirements.

i would be fibbing if i said i could currently relate how long it takes google to catalogue a website, but it's certainly a tad longer than a few hours. on that basis alone, creating and uploading an accommodation website, is best done in the summer months, for that's generally when folks are on holiday, and not looking in great numbers, to book one. cycle trails the time when you really need an online presence in this sector, is late autumn, through the winter months, when the weather battering off the sitting room window, encourages the downtrodden to seek virtual solace for the summer months to follow.

we are, to employ a currently over-used simile, suffering those winter months at present. consider, if you will, the hapless jack thurston, whose latest publication lost lanes north, arrived on the country's bookstore shelves only two days ago. it is, as i stated in my review 'a gem of a book', yet only those domiciled in the region covered by his chapters, are currently able to avail themselves of his discovering the lost world. paragraphs informing us when best to visit, how to get there, and where to stay, have currently no meaning, when government advice presses upon us the need to stay indoors.

cycling in the peak district

i would encourage you, however, to get hold of a copy, for such is the strength of mr thurston's narrative and photography, that it makes not only for an ideal armchair read, but allows for a glimmer of hope for when this is all over. with that philosophy firmly in mind, and to paraphrase jimmy cricket, "there's more."

outdoor books and guides specialists, vertebrate publishing have recently uploaded a whole skoosh of free cycle routes and guide book extracts to "help inspire outdoor adventures, once lockdown restrictions ease." these include traffic-free cycle trails, great british bike rides, a bicycle ride in yorkshire, and cycling in the peak district, links to which are included below.

a bicycle ride in yorkshire

naturally enough, the entire lunch is not free, but the above entrées currently are. should you find yourself hungry for more, all the books on vertebrate's website feature a 25% discount, including free uk postage. unless, of course, you have preceded me and pre-ordered from their site, in which case the discount is a generous 30%, still with free shipping.

you now have two options. you can download any of the free guides, huddle round the warmth of your laptop and argue over which route will be undertaken first. or, if you're more of a traditionalist, download the guides, print them on the largest sheet of paper of which your printer is capable of handling and strut around the kitchen table in pairs, arguing the case for one or t'other.

you know it makes sense.

traffic-free cycle trails | great british bike rides | a yorkshire bike ride | cycling in the peak district

wednesday 6 may 2020

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strange to relate

pop-up cycle lane

as i have communicated on several previous occasions, my grasp of economic matters leaves a great deal to be desired. given the decidedly gratuitous nature of thewashingmachinepost, this is hardly an insurmountable hurdle to future progress, but, just like the cycle industry, the financial markets seem to have a language and logic all of their very own. i have often cited my lack of comprehension of money matters, using apple computer as an example. they became the first business in the history of the universe to have a net worth of one-trillion dollars, yet at the same time, their share price decreased.

by way of explanation, having reached such admirable status, analysts had fears that the only way forward, was downward, hence the drop in share price. of course apple has subsequently surged to a value of 1.3 trillion dollars, so there's a possibility that those faceless analysts may not be as clever as they thought they were. however, the financial markets have deteriorated somewhat since apple's august 2018 ascendancy, and i daresay those analysts might have more onerous tasks at present.

the corona virus pandemic has had, and will continue to have, far-reaching effects on all aspects of modern life and across every nation on the globe. not all of those, it must be said, are negative in their intent. only this past weekend, i spent time reading a a feature entitled 'making safe space for cycling in 10 days: a guide to temporary bike lanes from berlin'. this was accompanied by a multi-page, online document offering advice to councils and or governments how to practically make space for cycling on their existing infrastructure, to help with social-distancing and safe transport for key workers. this guide is produced by 'mobycon', a netherlands-based organisation founded by johan diepens in 1987.

i'm tempted to forward the link to argyll and bute's road planning department, but on the basis that they disbanded their road-safety department just over a year ago as part of cost-cutting measures, i fear it would fall on deaf e-mail boxes.

as far as islay is concerned, no matter the number and range of organisations that have plied our small community with transport strategies that included cycle awareness and planning, those of us with deeply held interests in such matters, have been at pains to point out that any such facilities are largely unnecessary and unwanted. aside from anything else, the majority of our roads, in common with many hebridean islands and small scottish rural communities, are single-track, with scarcley a spare few metres on which to implement any form of cycle lane. and though the likes of bowmore village features wide main roads, there are so few indigenous cyclists as to render any investment rather pointless.

but, with the nation's schools and many businesses currently closed, many bored schoolkids and furloughed staff have dragged the bicycle kicking and screaming from the bike shed, and put it to good use for a daily dose of recommended exercise. i have witnessed this first hand, frequently having met islanders never before seen astride a bicycle under any circumstances. and, so far as i can tell, these are not one-off examples, as my regular weekend perambulations will testify.

which once again leads me to concern over matters financial.

according to missives from the bicycle industry, in the uk alone, there are in excess of 20,000 bicycles awaiting assembly for subsequent delivery. cycle shops such as evans cycles, have put out a call to arms for those with skills in cycle assembly to contact them in order that this velocipedinal deficit be reduced sooner, rather than later. yet, shimano, who are the most common oem for bicycle componentry, have announced a decrease in sales of 15.4% in comparison to this period last year.

sales of complete bicycles, particularly electric bikes had initially been strong due to a milder than usual winter. but sales apparently dropped sharply around mid-march due to the impact suffered as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. yet, in the uk at least, bicycle stores were exempted from closure, and key workers encouraged to make use of bicycles for social-distancing and safety reasons. it would also be safe to assume that, if european cities are successfully installing pop-up cycling facilities and taking the time and effort to prepare an advice leaflet for governments elsewhere, there is both perceived and actual demand. and where there is perceived demand, presumably there are also concomitant sales to those who have only just realised that neither exercise nor transport are well-served by the lack of a bicycle?

the fact that i'd have expected shimano's financial results to display even a modest increase, only goes to prove that i am the very last person from whom you should ever ask financial advice.

image: peter boytman

tuesday 5 may 2020

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