btr waterproof hi-viz jacket

btr hi-viz waterproof jacket

around a week ago, my cycling accomplice and i undertook the sunday morning ride in warm sunshine, allowing for short-sleeve jerseys and the opportunity to sup froth outside on the patio at debbie's (still open for takeaways). even though it's scotland, it was the very last day of may, ostensibly what could be said to pass for summer round these here parts. that it was warm enough for short-sleeves might be considered a notable state of affairs here, but ventilation was ably assisted by the persistent wind that never quite manages to permanently go away. we may moan, but in truth, it has its uses.

btr hi-viz waterproof jacket

while the hebridean weather has never been entirely predictable, what can be counted on is that it will often change drastically from one day to the next, a fact that was proved in the latter stages of last week, when the temperatures sunk to those of which november would have been proud. this downhill slide culminated in a saturday that ignored the forecast and pretty much rained all day, despite meteorology dictating that we'd have seen the sun by noon. in sympathy with the rain, the persistent galeforce northwesterly drove the temperature to somewhere between seven and ten degrees.

for once, the curse of the waterproof was conspicuous by its absence. in my experience, every time i've been sent waterproof jackets for review, the weather brightens immeasurably, and i have been known to contact the provider to apologise for the time taken to offer a published review, entirely due to a total absence of precipitation. this time round, fortune was distinctly in my favour: a wet and windy day and a waterproof jacket.

btr hi-viz waterproof jacket

based in chichester, btr (bike, train, run) offers a wide range of high-visibility garmentage to suit individuals undertaking any of the activities presaged by their acronym. in this case, the garment under discussion is a very bright fluorescent jacket that would fulfil the waterproofing and visibility requirements of cyclists or runners, but, to be honest, the cut lends itself to anyone who wants to be seen and remain dry. there are two zipped front hand pockets, and a flapped rear pocket that features a drawstring closure. in addition, the hem sports two adjustable drawcords to offer a closer fit, and the cuffs can also be adjusted via velcro straps. the high collar is lined with a soft fabric to avoid any chafing, while the front closure is by way of a full length zip with a clever locking mechanism.

btr hi-viz waterproof jacket

my only beef with the latter, is one that i've come across on many another jacket. a few centimetres below the collar, there is an internal windflap that almost inevitably became caught on the zip when attempting to close all the way to the top. hardly a deal-breaker, but certainly an occasional irritation.

the jacket is lined with a loose mesh, almost too loose inside the sleeves, the excess of which almost inevitably appeared past the cuffs when donning over a cycle jersey. what should be stated is that this waterproof jacket is not breathable, a fact pointed out by btr on their website. it does feature a rear vent to aid circulation, but at a retail price of £34.99 (currently reduced to £24.99), the lack of a breathable membrane is quite understandable. it does, however, have a drop tail to keep road-spray from the back of one's shorts.

btr hi-viz waterproof jacket

that this particular jacket is probably not aimed at the pelotonese would likely be advised both by the two front pockets and the lack of any specifically defined breathability. additionally, though every jacket i have in my wardrobe is medium size, this particular example was just a tad on the loose side, encouraging a smidgeon of flappage while traversing the parcours. i have borne all these in mind while compiling my review.

for the price, it would be hard to not to praise this jacket. its fluorescent brightness had cattle and sheep grasping for sunglasses, while oncoming cars would slam into roadside ditches, their drivers blinded by my presence (ok, i might have made that bit up, but it is a very bright jacket - nobody is going to claim they didn't see you). aboard a bicycle with a lengthy top tube and drop bars, i'd have liked perhaps one more centimetre on the sleeve length, but i think it likely that the designer had a more upright posiiton in mind, with hands grasping flat bars.

btr hi-viz waterproof jacket

the waterproofing is, to all intents and purposes, beyond reproach; water simply beaded and rolled off the surface throughout my three-hour bike ride in less than clement conditions. however, what the garment gained in resisting precipitation, it lost out in preventing perspiration. even though the ambient temperature was unseasonally low for the time of year, on reaching my coffee stop, the underlying jersey was decidedly damp about the sleeves and the shoulders, neither caused by rainfall.

however, i'm pretty sure that my regular mode of riding quite fits into the jacket's customer profile. this is a rainjacket for a commute of up to five or ten kilometres, or for popping down to the shops. a road bike ride of near 70km incorporating galeforce headwinds, was probably not in its job description. nonetheless, bearing this in mind, it never quite reached boil-in-the-bag proportions, though a warmer, yet wet day might well have provided a different conclusion. looking at the brief reviews on the btr website, one customer posted that they were new to cycling and wanted to be safe, while another posited that it was a good waterproof at a good price.

i'd be inclined to wholeheartedly agree with both.

btr hi-viz waterproof jacket

monday 8 june 2020

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cummings and goings

tour de dom

wednesday past was designated world bicycle day by the united nations, acknowledging that the bicycle "is a simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation, fostering environmental stewardship and health." though undeniably true, i seriously doubt that many of us had those particular words in mind as we headed out for a weekend of cycling to dispel the stresses of a working week, or the stresses of not having worked for several weeks. most of us are selfish enough to ride our bikes because it's fun, keeps us fit, and means a few extra buns with coffee without having to watch the calories.

the calendar is now full to the brim with national and international days or weeks, or even months, celebrating one thing after another. i recall receiving a press-release a few years ago, inviting me to flag up national sandwich week, while i believe that motorists also have the opportunity to participate in national drive-it day, though quite how that's different from any other day of the week, i simply cannot fathom.

of course, exactly the same could be said of world bicycle day. if you ride a bicycle to work or to the shops, or simply for leisure and fitness, a designated day is unlikely to have made much difference. and for those who don't subscribe to any of the above, its existence probably passed them by unnoticed. as, indeed, did sandwich week for me.

the national apathy towards world bicycle day will doubtless have only been multiplied by a wholesale ignorance that we are now at the beginning of another uk bike week (6-14 june). now firmly entrenched in the early part of the sixth month, national bike week has existed for longer than i can remember, yet, in the grand scheme of things, it appears to have achieved pretty much nothing whatsoever. in my more enthusiastic days, i would have organised several events to coincide with the national designation, having previously applied for my event pack offering stickers, fluorescent bicycle clips, posters, badges and even balloons.

a healthy dose of realism now has me pretty much ignore the week altogether. this year's #7daysofcycling is being held online, mostly via strava, instagram, facebook and twitter, all because of the coronavirus pandemic. it is perhaps ironic that it is likely the latter that has encouraged more folks to take up cycling in the last few months, than national bike week has managed in a decade. those of us in thrall to bendy bars and skinny wheels need no encouragement, but the virus has managed to demonstrate a previously undefined pragmatic relevance that the two national cycling organisations appear not to have underlined in quite so dramatic a fashion.

however, the website, an online portal to not only cycling events, but triathlon, swimming and running too, has excelled itself in the relevance and humour stakes, by creating a virtual cycling challenge entitled the social distance. the solo option, achievable on a turbo trainer to exclude the likelihood of inviting the attention of durham police, is sub-titled the tour de dom and replicates the recent unwarranted 610 mile (1000km) journey undertaken by mr cummings and his family. in other words, london-durham-barnard castle-durham-london. according to the folks at findarace, this requires 'strong lungs and legs, a strong mind, and ideally, decent eyesight.'

for those of you who have recently received your state-of-the-art rapha custom team kit, but subsequently had nowhere to go, there is also a 'virtual lejog' where a socially distanced peloton of friends, can combine their efforts to ride the equivalent of lands end to john o'groats (1000 miles or 1600km).

i'm sure we can all gather the relevance and benefits provided by either of the above, particularly when the duration of both is limited till the end of national bike week next sunday. to do this properly and see some benefit for those unable to undertake a challenge of any kind, £2.50 from each entry will be donated to the alzheimer's society. all entrants who complete either challenge by bike week's end date, and submit appropriate evidence, will receive a limited edition t-shirt to go with their social distance medal.

so whether, like me, you have uninterrupted access to the great outdoors, or are confined to a garage, bike shed or spare room, keep your motivation up and running, while helping to fight dementia. one can only hope mr cummings feels enthused to repeat his public indiscretion from the saddle, offering at least some reparation for his arrogance.

findarace tour de dom | findarace virtual lejog

sunday 7 june 2020

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what's up doc?

endurance tv - zwift e-racing

i have always been fascinated by the cartoons on the tellybox and cinema screens, when i were a lad. though i admire the impressive computer animation available nowadays quite often indistinguishable from real life, on discovering that the artists at walt disney would draw each frame on clear cell, came as something of a revelation to a young fellow with artistic pretensions. learning that a second set of artists would subsequently colour them in, prior to filming each individual scene one frame at a time, strained my concept of patience and diligence to bursting point.

if you consider that film generally runs at 24 frames per second, a single minute of cartoonery would require 1440 scenes. and though many of the backgrounds might remain stationary, each incremental character movement would have to be hand-drawn. if you tend to spray-lube your chain, rather than add a drop of lubricant to each link because you lack the patience, might i suggest you never apply for a job as an animation artist.

the reality of the above situation arrived in second-year graphics class at art college. though i've no wish to alert you to my ancientness, the original apple mac had probably not even been thought of in those bygone days of yore. as a design task, we were tasked with creating a storyboard for an animated newspaper advertisement, featuring only the key frames that would demonstrate the gist of the proposed animation. as a long-time cartoon aficionado, my sketchbooks were often full of charlie brown facial experessions, gleaned from the weekly charles schultz strips that appeared in the observer colour magazine.

it took a considerable length of time to work out the key points of the advertisement i was proposing, and i was quite glad to learn that we would not subsequently be required to create the entire, sub one-minute animation.

computers have changed the above state of affairs quite considerably, mostly by means of what was referred to as tweening, the ability of software (such as adobe's flash), to take the key stages and create the inbetween drawings to offer the illusion of movement. my first foray into the intricacies of this particular realm of on-screen movement, was by way of a programme called toon boom studio, the instructions for which i never quite got the knack. and, in old school terms, i found it easier to draw my images with a pen or pencil, than i did with the aid of a mouse. i like to think i'm a tad more competent in the latter arena nowadays, but i no longer have animated aspirations.

endurance tv - zwift e-racing

computer animation has now become the default position, leaving bugs bunny, elmer fudd, and tom and jerry, looking cuddly, but delightfully archaic. though many desktop computers have the necessary processing power to produce half-decent realism, for me, there wouldn't be the same pride in the finished product. additionally, i'm not sure why there's such a desire to create a verisimilitude of realism.

of course, the latter has proved something of a necessity, now that many are dependent on that pretend realism to allow the simulation of cycling with others. what does seem a tad odd, to me at least, is that watching a group of cartoon characters on cartoon bikes, race each other through cartoon scenery, has become an entertainment that features on the big screen. but than, until relatively recently, i had no idea that huge youtube numbers were keen to watch others play computer games. paint, dry, and watch, are three words that come to mind.

but, as usual, i betray my luddite, bugs bunny mindset, through my confused reaction to a press release from endurance sports tv that arrived only yesterday. 'live televised sport is on screens now' it proclaimed, in all capital letters. this was a revelation arriving a couple of months earlier than i had anticipated. that was until i read further "...some of the best cyclists, joined by the world's best triathletes in the Z Pro Tri Series, Zwift racing, is now growing as a spectator sport with live audiences tripling in the last year." assuming the actual competition to be taking place at the time of broadcast, i can well understand their use of the adjective 'live'.

however, i take a smidgeon of issue with describing e-racing as 'live', if only on the grounds that the competitors might not be in the same place at the same time, and are being represented by avatars for the duration of each event. that said, even after the current pandemic has been resolved, and the world returns to a new version of reality, i don't doubt that this form of 'live' cycle sport will continue unabated. if you consider how much money it costs to field a full complement of helicopters, motorbikes and static cameras for one 'real' cycle race, the minuscule price of admission for an entire series of e-racing could easily offer a far greater return on investment.

our own enthusiasm for the major events, such as le tour, il giro, and the monuments means many of us are willing to invite penury, simply to travel abroad, stand by the roadside for hours and watch an entire peloton pass in seconds, all for love of the sport. tv companies, no matter their own love for cycling, are in business to make money, as indeed, is zwift. if that love can be exhibited while reducing financial outlay, so much the better.

somewhat disturbingly, the organisers of the e-racing series, based on a growing live tv audience, have suggested that it might even be considered as an appropriate olympic event. endurance tv's paul shanley stated "The quality of the coverage is great and as you can watch it all live, you really immerse yourself in the action as it unfolds."

it's a computer-generated jungle out there.

endurance tv - zwift e-racing

saturday 6 june 2020

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in a fix

inner tubes

years and years ago, my daily concentrations centred around fixing bicycles. unlike my mother, i cannot knit, but i have a sneaking suspicion that bike fettling, even on a professional basis, offers the same sense of tranquility. always assuming, of course, that the crown-race has no direct need of being walloped with a mallet. lifting a heavier-than-it-ought-to-be bicycle onto the safety of a workstand and proceeding to repair, replace or diagnose, offers a strange sense of satisfaction, one that was rarely reflected in the daily takings, but as no-one probably ever said, 'happiness can't buy you money."

the bottom more or less fell from those halcyon days of reverie, when several mail-order retailers started selling bicycle-shaped-objects at two for less than £100 in the weekend colour supplements. the majority of these were less than mechanically sound, but the low cost of ownership frequently meant that repairs plus labour, often came in close to or above the purchase price. add to that the fact that the seller was likely to simply replace the bicycle free of charge, meant that few repairs were reaching my door.

sadly, the daily musings came to an end.

islay has never been, nor become, a cycling nation. many of the bicycles purchased here in the nineties were as a result of prospective fitness regimes which never actually took place. following assembly of the bso, the majority remained in porches, garages or sheds with nothing in the way of a second-hand market to offer relief. for the last twenty years, it has remained thus; until recently.

a few weeks past, i was asked if i'd be willing to take a look at someone's bicycle, with a view to them using it for either recreational purposes, or possibly even transport. the guidelines were followed to the letter, with the cycle being left in a relative's garden, retrieved by yours truly, fettled, and returned to the aforementioned garden. granted, the frame featured more sawdust than you would likely expect, but overall, its condition was pretty sound, needing only a few adjustments here and there, and the tyres inflated.

uncharacteristically, i received a second, similar phone call only last week, to undertake the same procedure on yet another long-lost bicycle. once again for reasons of transportation. i'm wondering if this is the beginning of an islay-sized avalanche of bicycle fettling? and if that's the case, a bit of extrapolation would suggest a far larger rock-fall of cycle resurrection nationwide.

we do, of course, know just what has caused this sudden resurgence of interest in cycling, and while it would be far more amenable if it were taking place under more favourable circumstances, beggars can't be choosers. and, it would appear, there is evidence to confirm my suspicions., is a web platform that specialises in finding (and i quote) 'the white space in google'. in other words, it helps businesses promote online sales by means of 'intelligent shopping ads'.

i confess it's something of a mystery as to why they've specifically concerned themselves with cycling, but according to their data research, carried out since lockdown, sales of inner tubes have increased by 1800%, online searches for bicycles have increased by 500%, while searches for and sales of saddles has shown a 300% increase. and, to prove that we might be fixing our own bicycles despite bike shops remaining open, bike tool sales have increased by 500%. their interpretation of the above, logically enough, is that 'as a nation, it seems our focus was not so much on big expensive purchases, rather more on getting our existing or second-hand bike purchases road worthy.' it's a conclusion that would seem to be borne out by my very limited experience.

of course, in this, cycling is not alone, with all manner of diy products showing substantial sales increases.

i've said this before, but like it or not, it probably bears repeating. the proof of the pudding will be just how much of this persists when lockdown is but a distant memory. it would be nice to think that the recent upsurge in cycle lanes will have encouraged many to make cycle travel a part of their daily lives. couple that with many governmental desires to maintain the presently lowered levels of pollution, allied to the phasing out of petrol and diesel fueled cars, cycling does make a lot of sense. however, we should not lose sight of the fact that this is essentially british summertime, with weather conditions that make cycling most pleasurable.

autumn and winter might yet have something to say about that.

friday 5 june 2020

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gears for queers. abigail melton and lilith cooper. sandstone press paperback. 356pp £8.99 (e-book £4.99)

gears for queers - melton and cooper

this is possibly going to get me in all sorts of trouble, but since this book provides me with two basic kinds of problem, i might as well hit them head on right from the start.

i like to think of myself as a tolerant individual, with little in the way of prejudices, unless it concerns headsets or bottom brackets. people's sexual orientation is entirely their own business, and though i'm not entirely sure what each abbreviation in the lgbtq sequence represents, i'd like to think i offer no discrimination towards any of them. however, along with many others, i don't quite understand why certain folks wish to be defined by their sexual preference; why can't they just be people and leave it as that?

however, as you can perhaps gather from the title of the book under review, its two female authors constitute a lesbian couple. but that, in itself is not what bothers me. abigail (hereafter, known to as abi) is happy to be referred to as she or her, but her partner lilith (hereafter known to as lili) prefers to be classed as non-binary and thus referred to as they or them. that gives me a problem. the pronouns, they or them, are designed to refer to more than one individual, and whether or not lili wishes to be (rather pretentiously, i fear), thought of as non-binary) does not escape the fact that she is as much of an individual, as you, me, or her partner abi. i can but imagine the communication problems that would occur, should any one of us decide to redefine, not only ourselves, but the world around us.

just think what a conversation would be like if you called it a tree, but for no sane reason, i preferred to call it a giraffe. as i have said for years, there's the queen's english and then there's mistakes. it all but smacks of arrogance to alter the definition of two perfectly good pronouns.

and then there's the second problem, in that neither of the authors admits to having had any great cycling experience prior to their stated aim of riding from holland to spain. "Abi had never cycled more than the 20 minutes to and from work, while Lili had spent more time in psychiatric hospitals than away from their hometown." (their, in this case, referring to the non-binary individual - see where the confusion arises?)

it's easy to accept that both "...felt uncomfortable staking claim to the identity of 'cyclists', and struggled to feel our trip was legitimate." since there's no exam to be passed or authority to confer the status of 'cyclist', abi and lili are every bit as entitled to write a book about their travels as is anyone else. the term itself, is purely arbitrary. but then to claim, in the same introduction that, "Gears for Queers can be read by anyone, but it is written specifically for the queers, for other fat, disabled, trans, female, femme and non-binary people who are curious about cycle touring."

i'm afraid i can think of several books on cycle touring that i would recommend to the above categories of people before this one. their distinct lack of experience rather undermines the notion that anyone might learn from the pages that follow. and while i'm on that particular subject, there is little in the narrative that lends itself specifically to would-be cyclists who define themselves as 'queer'. after all the foregoing, it might come as something of a surprise to learn that, irrespective of gender or sexual preference, we all pretty much ride bicycles in the same way.

to add insult to injury, purely on the basis of their professed cycling ambitions, their preparation for the trip did not rest on acquiring bicycles designed for the job. i would defend to the last, the notion that cycling can be undertaken in regular clothes on bicycles bought from a hardware store or supermarket, but i doubt either of the above retail outlets would recommend their products as suitable for a journey extending over (a direct route of) 1500 kilometres. "...our bikes, Patti and Paula ... Steel-framed, bought second-hand from Gumtree..."

consider also, that this book extends to 356 pages, including the fact that neither of them actually made it to spain, ending their trip at montpellier, unable to carry on. mark beaumont's published and illustrated record of his 'round the world in 80 days' is only 60 pages longer.

after getting lost on their way to amsterdam, on day four, the authors purchase a perfectly legal 'joint' in a city coffee shop. "It's pure weed... The guy said to take it very, very slowly and only take one or two tokes." the rest of the chapter details how high and disoriented smoking the joint had made them, to be honest, not something i'd have thought of particular interest to those ...curious about cycle touring." in point of fact quite how abi was able to recall the day with such clarity of detail, is quite beyond me.

i apologise to any who might either have considered purchase of this book, or who have already pre-ordered and find themselves in complete disagreement with my appraisal. i know well that there's nothing that says it should be 'all about the bike', and obviously nothing to prevent the inexperienced from writing about their travels. getting them published, however, might be a different story for some. sandstone press ought perhaps to be respected for publishing outside the box, and for timing publication to coincide with 'pride month', but other than the vegan recipes that punctuate the narrative, i'm afraid i can find little to commend in this.

thursday 4 june 2020

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it's a steal


for someone who dislikes cars, doesn't own a car, and perennially moans about the way people park them, it does me no favours whatsoever that i can still recall the registration number of my mother's sky-blue mini-traveller (the one with the wooden augmentation). despite the fact that i can scarcely remember what i had for tea last night, and i went to work the other day having forgotten my lunch, remembering a car number plate from over fifty years ago, seems distinctly odd. that particular vehicle had sliding front windows, large bins inside the doors, and pull cords above the latter to open the door from the inside.


it also featured a double-dip ignition system; after putting the key in the ignition, it was necessary to press a button on the floor to have the engine start. that particular mini's replacement was another mini, only this time a clubman saloon, in which the windows wound up and down, the doors were opened by a regular handle, and the ignition button was conspicuous by its absence.

the last time i drove a car, for my annual appearance at the islay jazz festival, it was the key that had gone amiss, diminished to a mere key-fob. pressing a button on the latter, locked and unlocked the doors, while inside, the fob slotted into the steering column and a button was pressed on the dashboard. of greater concern, was the disappearance of the handbrake; another tactile device replaced by a push-button. and quite what i was expected to do with six gears, merckx alone knows.


yet, despite the continued development of car security systems, allied to the starting procedures, there are more and more cars stolen every year. as the saying goes, whenever something becomes idiot-proof, they build a better class of idiot. thus when cars are unlocked by means of digital codes, car thieves simply resort to wireless detection devices that can intercept those codes. a far cry from the days when the little guy at avis car rental used to get into vehicles with lost keys, using a straightened coat hanger, then start them by hotwiring the ignition.

but the current coronavirus pandemic has, at least until lockdown restrictions were relaxed, encouraged more and more individuals to eschew the car and move their transportational needs to the bicycle. the end result has seen a dramatic upsurge in the number of pop-up cycle lanes in cities all over the world. however, though human nature has received a shot-in-the-arm under the same lockdown conditions, with altruism at the head of the queue, the dark-side, beloved of darth vader, has hardly taken a back seat.


only a matter of days into lockdown, with many front line health workers dependent on their bicycles to ride safely to and from work, twitter users began to see reports of those selfsame bicycles being stolen, either from outside workers' homes or from the fringes of hospital car parks. unfortunately, it's still a great deal easier to nick a bicycle than a motor car. and though mobile locking devices have definitely improved, surely the ultimate solution would be to pin the cycle to the ground, making it all but impossible to move?

welsh hill farmer, gareth davies and his engineer partner at bison security have developed what they claim might be the ultimate bicycle anti-theft device. as can perhaps be gleaned from the illustrations accompanying this article, the pedalvice grasps the cycle securely by the pedal and crank which can then be locked in place. the feature that distinguishes this from any other, is the ability to bolt the entire unit to the ground, or add a side-plate over which a car wheel may be placed. always assuming you brought the car along when you parked.

the pedalvice is bicycle agnostic; road, mountain, cyclocross, gravel, triathlon or even e-bike, can all benefit from its security. due to ship later this year, the inventors aim to help reduce the 376,000 annual uk bicycle thefts. if your particular velocipedinal transportation is fraught with the threat of being illegally removed in your absence, and circumstances will allow the installation of a pedalvice at work or home, take a closer look at
bison security pedalvice

wednesday 3 june 2020

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the bicycle clip diaries. nick raistrick 368pp £12.99 (kindle edition £1.99

the bicycle clip diaries - nick raistrick

there are many innovations that have become part of the clichéd 'cycling's rich heritage', a few of which which have but passed into the great bike shop in the sky, but many still form a part of contemporary velocipedinal life. for instance, we still refer to the various parts of the double-diamond frame as 'tubes', despite the majority of carbon frames consisting of two halves stuck together. almost gone, yet not forgotten, are the lugs once beloved of framebuilders worldwide. it is entirely conceivable that there young cyclists amongst us who believe the word lugs solely to be scots slang for ears.

if the industry has its wicked way, it won't be too long before continued use of inner-tubes will probably categorise the user as a dinosaur, in the same manner as guitarists who fervently defend the valve amplifier as every bit as worthy as a vinyl, long-playing record. and though having taken advantage of such benefits myself, in my younger years, i cannot recall having seen any cyclist wearing cycle-clips for many an aeon.

for those of you currently sporting a quizzical expression, let me advise that cycle-clips, in their original form, consisted of two open-ended circles of springy steel, employed to keep trouser legs away from oily chainrings. the advent of cycling-specific 'skinny jeans' has all but removed any need for cycle-clips by even the least sartorially aware commuter. but there may be a case for celebrating the existence of cycle-clips, particularly when they serve as a catalyst for the worldwide cycle trips of author, nick raistrick.

assisting his father to tidy a house that has grown too big for his parent, while perusing the many items stored in the attic, he comes upon an envelope left by his grandfather and addressed to him. "It contains two items. The first is a tourist guide to Japan [...] The second item is a pair of bicycle clips. ... There is no accompanying letter to explain the significance of these items, nor whether they are linked in some way."

it's doubtful that the author is the only one amongst us querying "Why bicycle clips? What's the Japan connection? but their existence and the fact that thay appear to have been aimed in his direction, forms the basis of the next 300+ pages. "Naturally, I will try to solve the mystery of the envelope. I will document the journey. More than this, I will allow myself to be guided by the discovery, which I take to be a sign."

though the author never quite defines quite what he does to pay the bills, the chapter heading following the envelope's discovery, pays tribute to a joni mitchell song: 'paved paradise, put up a parking lot', taking us to africa, or, to be more precise, tanzania where, ostensibly, our journey begins with raistrick's apparent obsession with a phoenix bicycle. "..."I couldn't get it out of my head. It's an old-fashioned, 'sit up and beg' kind of bicycle, solid and sensible, with a wide, sprung saddle and upright riding position."

if the book's title had not already appraised you that it would contain little in the way of lycra and twelve-speed gear sets, the appearance of the phoenix will surely have sealed the deal.

for those of you (us?) who consider ourselves to be the bees-knees when it comes to cycling apparel and state of the art carbon-fibre, the bicycle clip diaries will act as the perfect mirror to our pelotonic aspirations. for though the author willingly admits to occasionally inhabiting our midst, it is the more utilitarian approach that floats his boat. and in the quest to discover the connection between cycle-clips and japan, he artfully highlights the foibles of those in danger of taking themselves too seriously and those in thrall to the car.

"Over the years there was an increase in motor vehicles at the hostel and the ambient noises changed. ... I was teaching a few yeards away, along with the higher pitched sound of ... battered Toyotas and Datsuns with questionable service histories."

from the hostel in tanzania, his documented quest takes him to zanzibar and the acquisition of a bubble-wrapped 'phoenix' bicycle, to yorkshire, where he visits relatives who might just be able to shed some light on the envelope's contents. this trip includes confirmation that, though no longer aboard a phoenix ("...because I have a feeling that [it] wouldn't like it"), he has not sold his soul to the mamils. "What kind of barbarian would use energy gels when there's the option of a flapjack?"

nick's bicycle explorations include musings on the brompton ("Non-cyclists think they are overpriced novelties for the smug, elitist, metropolitans"), a trip to berlin ("It should therefore come as no surprise that this is a place where cycling with cycle-clips - or Fahrradklammer - is still fairly normal.") and onto colombia, where he introduces us to Ciclovía, an event when they ban cars so that people can cycle on car-free streets.

the diaries, however, do not end there. nick raistrick takes us to the caribbean, to china and ultimately to japan, where he encounters the very antithesis to commuting on a phoenix, the rapha club. "It's a bit rich that you can call it a cycling club...that a company which started out in 2004... referencing a 'golden era' of cycling it had nothing to do with, calls itself a cycling club."

i'd love to tell you whether the author's travels bring him closure over the matter of that envelope with its japanese brochure and cycle-clips, but that would inevitably spoil your own journey. this is a truly excellent book, written in an easy going, easily read style, with more than enough features to keep even the most restless intrigued. he has a delightfully self-deprecating sense of humour and is every bit as enthusiastic about bicycles as any one of us. this is one of those gems that could easily have been missed, a state of affairs that would have left every one of us so much the poorer.

"Perhaps the bicycle clips were meant to teach me a lesson. Slow down."

the bicycle clip diaries is available in paper back from, while the kindle version is available from amazon

tuesday 2 june 2020

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