e's are good (maybe)

e-bike + audi

yesterday morning dawned cold and clear, with a heavy frost on the grass and many of islay's roads similarly afflicted. the wimp within dictated that i ride the cyclocross bicycle, which, though fitted with wide road tyres, promised a smidgeon more stability and tractability should we find ourselves faced with untrammeled ice. as it transpired, i'd have managed just fine on the road bike, but better a few kilometres off the average speed than having to call the office tomorrow morning because i fell off on the sunday ride.

according to the garmin, on the first half of the ride, the temperature was around minus two degrees, rising almost to three degrees by the time we found ourselves perambulating loch gorm. incidentally, the surface of the loch was as if glass topped; not a ripple to be seen. and when we stopped briefy at the top of foreland hill, looking towards the north, we could clearly see colonsay and mull, while a customer at debbie's claimed to have seen the upper reaches of ben nevis, quite some distance away on the mainland.

the bright, yet low sun at this time of year, meant a peaked cap was pretty much a necessity, and we frequently had difficulty seeing oncoming traffic. and though generally, motor traffic on islay is particularly courteous towards cyclists, we had the misfortune of meeting two examples of the opposite philosophy, one of whom failed to slow down at all, as its extended wing-mirrors almost brushed our elbows. still, the scenery here never gets old, a fact to which i can testify after over thirty years domiciled in the rural idyll.

however, on reaching the foot of foreland hill, turning onto the main bruichladdich road and catching up with the mighty dave t, we passed two cyclists heading in the opposite direction to whom we offered felicitations. yet, as we sat outside at debbie's, supping the weekly froth, those two cyclists passed heading the other way. given the time lapse, they really hadn't pedalled particularly far, which was the point at which we realised, both were on e-bikes.

if you'll allow me to place this in some sort of perspective, the mighty dave t is in his late seventies and had already ridden from port wemyss on islay's extreme southernmost point up to foreland and returned to the main road via rock mountain and the rspb's aoradh farm. by the time he returned home, he'd have covered about 65 kilometres. though i've no idea to where the two e-bikers were headed, but if i assume port charlotte, their trip couldn't have been more than about 14km. i'd figure the two riders in question were probably even younger than yours truly.

though it's nice to see people getting out on bicycles no matter the genre, i can't help thinking that there are many e-bike owners who are perfectly fit and healthy enough to ride 'normal' bikes. but on the basis of figures recently announced by the bicycle association, since march of this year, in the uk alone, e-bike sales have more than doubled, with £1 in every £5 spent on bicycles during the current pandemic having been spent on e-bikes. optimistically, the association claims that, by the end of this year, britain's cycling market is expected to be worth £2.2 billion.

i can but suspect that the sales of e-bikes fit into a similar category as those who have adopted the sentiment expressed by kevin bacon in the ee television adverts. "get the new iphone 12 and be the envy of everyone". the basis for my suspicions rest upon the eagerness to accept that an e-bike price tag in excess of £2000 is quite acceptable, while paying more than £300 for a 'real' bike is way outside any standard form of logic.

there has always been a certain joy in turning up at the start of the sunday ride on an eye-wateringly expensive carbon road bike, a frisson that has, until now, pertained solely to the pelotonese. however, i have a sneaking suspicion that an e-bike is beginning to surface as the ideal accessory to the family audi or bmw. it has allowed those in thrall to the battery, to proffer an active lifestyle, while demonstrating the sort of financial acumen that can accommodate several thousand pounds of bicycle. yet, at the same time, based pretty much on yesterday's observations, no real physical demands that might prove tiresome.

cynical? moi?

monday 7 december 2020

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i did it my way


it is but a matter of 18 days until this year's festive 500 challenge commences, though as previously advised, i'll be minimising my efforts and riding just under half that distance, arithmetically devised to equate to a mere 30 kilometres per day. and, as previously mentioned, by strange coincidence, that's almost exactly the kilometreage comprising a return trip to debbie's. what a stroke of luck.

in the lead up to this year's event, rapha have scheduled a number of online advisory sessions from professional riders who may or may not have had previous experience of riding the festive 500. these come under the headings of winter training, winter clothing and bike preparation and even a session from a chef concerning fueling for winter riding. far be it for me to undermine their largesse, but they may be overthinking this just a tad. so, as someone who has ridden the event for the last ten years, missing the target only once (due to weather and a wedding), i figured i'd offer my own advice as to how to get through to new year's eve on target.

for those of you who think this is a somewhat arrogant display of misplaced self-confidence, i'd probably agree with you.

though numbers are hardly my strong point, if you take the 500 kilometres tautologically targeted by the festive 500 and divide it by the eight days, it equates to 62.5 kilometres per day. however, rather than faff about with the half-kilometre, i'd round it up and aim for 63 kilometres riding each day. assuming you have a better half who's about to become a cycling widow or widower over the holiday period, if i were you, i'd reduce the distance ridden on christmas day to gain a few brownie points. i was inclined to aim for 30km on christmas day, leaving the other seven days to cover the remainder. 68km per day ought to about cover it.

then, if you live somewhere similar to yours truly, it makes sense to factor in at least one day when weather will prevent any riding at all, leaving six days to undertake 470 kilometres; about 78km each day. i tended to round that up to 80 kilometres per day. so, to recap, you're going to ride 80 kilometres each day, apart from christmas day, when you're going out for a mere 30km. if by chance the weather remains glorious throughout, then you'll complete the task with time to spare, which is always a nice feeling and a bit of a bonus for the widow or widower.

so, assuming you've decided to follow my expert advice, let's move onto the practicalities of getting out and about. for starters, it makes excellent sense to head out as early as you can; i arose at 8am each day with the intention of being on the road by 9am, when it had started to get light. make sure that you lay out the necessary garmentage the night before, and put it on before going for breakfast. that way you're far more likely not to procrastinate if the weather turns out to be less than clement. check the weather forecast the night before, but don't look out the window before getting dressed.

ensure that you have layered correctly. assume that the weather will be crap and that over the course of an 80 kilometre ride, you might suffer at least one puncture; will your apparel keep you warm and dry while you change the inner tube or curse the fact that you fitted tubeless tyres? make sure you carry at least one spare tube, a tyre lever and a mini-pump. unless you're in the tropics, or riding on zwift, wear overshoes and take a spare pair of gloves in a back pocket. if you're planning on stopping for coffee (compulsory, by the way), it feels much better to don a dry pair of gloves for the post coffee portion of the ride. you can thank me later.

i have this mental picture of everyone reading being in possession of a pristine, state of the art bicycle, with accurately adjusted gears, correctly inflated tyres of at least 28mm and, with luck, some sort of mudguards/fenders. if that's not the case, i'd really rather not know. clean your chain within an inch of its life and make sure its well-lubricated. believe me, this has far more to do with surviving than aesthetics. during my second year attempt, when cleaning the chain, i discovered a crack in one of the side plates. sods law dictates that, were that to have broken during the following day's ride, it would have done so as far from home as possible. cleaning the chain every day will alert you to any irregularities.

always fit a flashing tail-light, make sure you switch it on before you ride, and charge it every night along with your gps device.

as for fueling for the ride, a large plate of porridge and a small glass of orange juice for breakfast generally got me as far as the coffee stop. if you've no plans or no opportunity to partake of froth supping, it might be worth sticking a big chunk of christmas cake in a back pocket, and get one of those insulated water bottles into which you can pour some green tea or coffee. salted caramel gels are not quite within the christmas spirit.

500km in eight days is fairly hard pedalling, without the added bonus of any crappy weather. however, make sure you enjoy it. christmas time is supposed to be one of good cheer, and there's no point in ruining yours and everyone else's christmas by overdoing the whole thing and working yourself into a frizz over the possibility you might not complete the challenge in time. if that happens, there's always next year, when you might be better prepared. that's why it's called a challenge.

and just bear in mind, if i can do it, anyone can.

rapha festive 500

sunday 6 december 2020

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getting in the way

car on railway

not entirely uncommonly at this time of year, overnight thursday brought a substantial amount of a hail and a thunderstorm to the principality, leaving a light, but slushy, covering over roads and fields. this was accompanied by a remarkably cold stillness that pervaded the morning walk. all i can say is, thank goodness for showers pass waterproof trousers and winter beanie. if anything, the cold was magnified by the inisistence by other members of staff, to have the office heating pretty close to its maximum. cosy and comfortable indoors, but by golly did i feel the difference when popping out at lunchtime.

it scarcely improved overnight friday; in fact, if anything, it became worse, with rising gale force winds pulling the chill factor closer to zero and, as it trasnpired, cancelling all ferry sailings for the day. however, what calmac do is not the same as what the intrepid cyclist might undertake. there are still local newspapers to be delivered to debbie's on friday afternoon, come hail, wind or shine, encouraged by thoughts of a soya latte and one of those little caramel biscuits.

so, while the ferries remained berthed at the piers, i loaded up my pink rucksack and grovelled my way into a 60kph slog down uskentiue strand. it was an activity i inadvertently advertised when visiting the secondary school before lunchtime to provide drum tuition. jokingly mentioning that the central heating in the car park appeared not to be working, the school secretaries thought i'd be glad that i wasn't out cycling in such conditions. when i mentioned that, on the contrary, i would be doing so in a matter of an hour or so, i quickly learned what incredulity looked like at first hand.

the northerly gales, thankfully, created a crosswind down the strand, blowing me off the road rather than into the path of any passing vehicles. for just this purpose, i'd chosen to ride the cyclocross bike, for if push did indeed come to shove, it would have been a simple matter to nip onto the grass and continue my journey south. grass is so much less injurious than tarmac. thankfully, the wind was less onerous than it could have been.

since days like yesterday err very heavily towards grey, i wore an orange helmet, and a pink, polka dot waterproof jacket aboard a fluorescent orange and lime green bicycle. there's no way i was going to suffer the iniquity of not being seen.

on dismounting and entering debbie's to deliver the papers and sup some froth, a customer already installed on the leather sofa, enquired that surely i had not cycled to bruichladdich, despite garmentage and a helmet that suggestd otherwise. it is, at best, a confusing set of affairs, for not only am i well-known for cycling pretty much everywhere (it's a small island), but i believe it is also common knowledge that i do not own a car. i am, however, fairly incredulous myself, that so many healthy people find it all but inconceivable that i should choose to cycle in less than favourable weather.

though the advent of the electric bicycle ostensibly removes the previous barrier of riding into omnipresent winds, even those in possession of such velocipedes seem less than keen on doing so.

and then comes sight of a mainland problem that makes the art of cycling in any weather, considerably harder than it needs to be. while scanning twitter over the course of friday morning for press information, i came across a posting of a short bike-cam video in which the cyclist was attempting to commute along a clearly designated cycle path. the first minute or so failed to portray the problem the accompanying words suggested was prevalent, but by midpoint, all became manifestly apparent.

the marked cycle path shared space with an adjacent pavement for pedestrians, separated from the roadway by a kerb, alongside which was a yellow line indicating parking restrictions. yet more than just a few cars, vans and trucks had parked half on/half off the cycle path, forcing the cyclist to ride on the adjacent pedestrian area. i have little doubt that this is a situation repeated all across the country, where the needs of the motorist seemingly outway any legal courtesies to which cyclists are entitled.

this forces something of a conundrum, where the fact that riders such as myself are quite happy to ride in less than amenable weather conditions, perhaps receiving grudging admiration for so doing, yet in many inner-cities and towns, deliberately and ignorantly blocked from facilities that would make the journey a tad easier.

according to research by both the government and the major cycling organisations, many who currently drive or take public transport, would be more inclined to cycle if suitable cycle facilities existed. yet, in locations where facilities, such as they are, already exist, there seems to be no attempt by the authorities to keep them clear of unwarranted parking. central government is frequently happy to trumpet the investment made towards cycling and walking, but it seems that investment ought surely to include funding towards the policing of same? otherwise, it becomes little more than a marketing tool that does none of us any good.

no doubt there would be a major outcry if those along the route of the controversial hs2 railway project, took to parking their cars on the track. that might sound a bit far-fetched, but the principle is exactly the same.

saturday 5 december 2020

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a few words with illustrator steven johnson

 steven johnson 2020

my studies at art college led eventually to the practice of the graphic arts, with tendencies towards illustration. but the disadvantage to that (in pre-computer days) was my inability to successfully draw certain subject matter. for instance, i'm absolutely rubbish at drawing horses, and though bicycles did not feature at all in those halcyon days of yore, i have subsequently discovered that i'm pretty terrible at drawing them too. i frequently take a look at the works of brooklyn's taliah lempert and marvel at her ability to make bicycles look greater than the sum of their parts.

 steven johnson 2020

then, following my review of isabel best's 'raincoats are for tourists', steven johnson's fabulous pencil illustrations only but reinforced my confirmed suspicions that avoiding illustration as a career was probably the right option. not only that, there's the not inconsiderable problem of being afforded the ideal gig in the first place, which brought me to ask steven how he managed to land the job of illustrating the words of raphael geminiani and isabel best in the first place?

"I had worked with the mighty Taz and Guy from Bluetrain Publishing last year to illustrate the front cover of the EF Cycling Annual. I must have done something right to be asked back to do this book, which I was delighted to undertake. It felt like the job you see big wig illustrators get. I still shake my head that I got the chance to work on it."

you see my concern would always have been that, given my confessions as to items i surely would struggle with, i'd have ended up being employed by tom ritchey to draw his bicycles, or the local pony-trekking business to illustrate their brochure. in steven's case, how much freedom did he have to 'do his own thing'?

 steven johnson 2020

"Taz and Guy at Bluetrain are so encouraging and supportive, almost insisting I do my own thing. They were on hand to guide and direct and always give a truthful, positive opinion. The original remit of the book was something similar to a sketchbook diary, as if someone was with Geminiani along the way, documenting his moments in drawn form. I play 'Red Dead Redemption 2' a lot, which has a sketchbook journal in it, so this was something in my mind when I was given the brief."

'raincoats are for tourists' stretches to well over two hundred pages, featuring more quotes from the book's principal subject, than you could shake a mini-pump at. no matter whose choice it was, matching words with pictures was probably a bit of a gargantuan task. did that task fall to steven, or was that already prescribed?

"I was given the book and, again, Taz and Guy asked me to read through and see what came to mind. Isabel's words were fabulous and so engaging, that they didnt fail to help conjure up images a-plenty, so I was able to come up with a lot of ideas. It was a lot of fun. I was asked to think about various levels of detail in the images. Some where full scenes (slipping in the rain) others were smaller, isolated images (ashtray). Most scenes are quite literal, but others took a bit more creative licence, making things a lot of fun. One of my favourites is all the Geminiani's giving grief to the modern racer."

 steven johnson 2020

to digress just a tad, through the month of december, our local newspaper goes weekly for three issues (it's normally fortnightly), hopefully taking advantage of increased advertising at this time of year. however, while it's been difficult to fill the pages at the best of times, it's even harder with so little taking place on the island. so, in order to fill those pages, i have taken to writing articles on subjects i know little about. those have necessitated a substantial level of research. after reading and reviewing, i now know far more about geminiani than was originally the case. having more than successfully illustrated the book, had steven been aware of geminiani's place in cycling's firmament before embarking on the project.

"I am afraid I was not aware, but it was great to learn more about him and his journey from racer to directeur sportif, to commentator on the sport. He came across as the guy everyone knew in the race, from the other racers to the team soigneurs. Whilst researching I watched a few of his interviews and he had such presence; I loved the feel of the tour in the 1950s.

watching agatha christie's poirot on the telly box, it often occurs that the producers surely struggle to find enough art-deco locations across the nation, to preserve the era in which the action is supposed to take place. particularly when the narrative requires an airport setting, there surely cannot be more than a couple of suitable terminal buildings left in existence? the problem likely remains the same when illustrating an era with which the illustrator is less than familiar, and depicting scenes that no longer exist in tangible form. did steven have to study the period style before embarking on the project?

 steven johnson 2020

"Yes, lots of pictures of 1950s Tours de France, a lot of French and Italian towns and villages, and a lot of times, just a picture of a guy on a bike. So it was the things around them that needed to dictate the period. But it was nice that the book didn't just exist in the time of Geminiani's racing career. I enjoyed the different instances where there was a time-change.
"The difference in bikes then to now was striking. They had a bit more style back in the 1950s. One of the trickiest pictures to draw was the one featuring Sagan, because his bike jarred next to the others, as it was a different configuration. I wanted the images to capture the time as best as possible. Of all things, it took a long time to find reference to a 1960s French police car for the image where Geminiani forces one off the road into a ditch. And again, I invented a bike shop from Geminiani's earlier life which involved a lot of looking about and guessing. Unfortunately I had no direct references of his father's, shop so I just used a combination of photos of old bike workshops and mechanics, to create something that would fit."

as i mentioned in my opening paragraph, i have had little success attempting to correctly render bicycles, either by way of pencil or charcoal drawings, or even less successfully, through the media of watercolour or oils. however, steven seems to have it nailed. did he find it easy from the outset, or was it a labour of love?

 steven johnson 2020

"It definitely took some time to get it right. The key to drawing is measuring. It can be quite a technical process; if you measure a person to a bike, you'll know the proportions that work to make sure it looks right. Ultimately it was just practice. Also, 1950s bikes are a little easier to draw as they all have pretty similar sized tubes. Modern day bikes are a little more involved, with the curves in the frame. The toughest thing I find to replicate, is actually drawing spokes. If you fill them all in, they're very precise, yet adding them all in, can actually over-complicate the image or take motion away from a moving bike. It's trying to find a way of conveying a spoke that works."

on opening a copy of 'raincoats are for tourists', before reaching the title page, steven's artwork meets you in the form of a full colour painting, the medium of colour being one arguably more associated with his metiér. He's less well known for his pencil drawings, so was it his choice to go down that road (pun intended), or by request? is it a medium he'd like to explore further?

"It's because ive never had much call for pencil drawings commercially. I actually prefer pencil drawings, as painting is a much harder skill. Painting is all about using shapes and colours to build a story contained in a visual moment. The success of the painting is determined by how pleasingly and effectively the story is conveyed. I always like paintings which suggest details so that I don't have to paint every detail. However, I also find that really hard.
"A drawing can be a little more forgiving, because the suggestion can be communicated via line or shade. I'd very much enjoy doing a lot more projects like the Geminiani book, as I love the freedom of a sketch. The energy in the line can really dictate what happens in the picture. It's great fun."

 steven johnson 2020

as mentioned above, steven's first appearance in the book is by way of a coloured image, twinned with a second at the book's end. would he like to have done more of those?

"I love drawing, but I'm really starting to enjoy painting as I do more of it. I'd love to have done further colour images in the book, as I would have learned so much from doing so. I learned a lot painting those two; they were a lot more successful than previous paintings and I'd have enjoyed doing more. I think it would have pushed me more and more. Ultimately this was such a wonderful project on which to work, I'd have loved to have just kept going for weeks, months and years."

isabel best's 'raincoats are for tourists, published by rapha editions and bluetrain publishing, is available from the rapha website, or you can try the competition appended to yesterday's review.

friday 4 december 2020

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'raincoats are for tourists' the racing secrets of raphael geminiani. isabel best. rapha editions/bluetrain publishing hardback. 225pp. illus. £25

"The Tours they do now - I could have done eight in a year."

raincoats are for tourists - isabel best

in my previous life on the scottish mainland, i was employed by a firm headed by a thoroughly unpleasant manager. it was more or less a standing joke that, if he greeted you with a "morning, b**stard", then he was in a good mood. much of that was pretty much down to an inflated sense of his own self-importance, frequently expressed as arrogance. however, rather this being borne of reputed managerial experience, the latter seemed more a case of finding scapegoats for his own poor decisions.

drummer and bandleader, buddy rich, suffered from a (probably well-deserved) reputation for soundly berating band members for unsubstantiated misdemeanours. however, his overstated arrogance was fully backed up by an enviable ability both as drummer and bandleader. the only way was his way. i'm sure similar aspersions could be cast in the direction of famed cyclists from cycling's rich heritage, aspersions that could also be extended to several directeurs sportifs.

but midst some or all of the above, there are those who are invariably right, even if the delivery of this 'rightness' sometimes leaves a bit to be desired from the point of view of the recipients. just such a fellow might well be raphael geminiani.

born in 1925 and racing professionally from 1946 to 1960, he won the polka dot jersey at the tour in 1951 along with six podium finishes across all three grand tours. he won seven tour stages in his career, wearing the yellow jersey for four days, was french national champion in 1953, took the mountains jersey in the 1951 giro d'italia and landed third place overall in the 1955 vuelta. he was also the rider who gave rapha ceo, simon mottram, persistent nightmares when launching the clothing company in 2004 as expressed in his foreword to isabel best's latest book.

"...when I was launching Rapha, it took me a while to secure a trademark for my new brand. [Raphael Geminiani used] his first name as a proxy for the drinks brand St. Raphael. Surely he would be outraged if he discovered what I was doing with the shortened version of his name?"

'raincoats are for tourists' is not, however, simply an appraisal of an outstanding cycling career by an enthusiastic third party, superb writer though isabel best is. for in this book, she had some help: raphael geminiani. "Cycling is something I know a little bit about." in her introduction, isabel enlightens the reader that the contents of this compact, bijou and compulsory book was compiled over the course of many conversations with the great man.

" will find Gem's own fireside tales, his wealth of wisdom accumulated over the decades, his essential tenets on what it takes to be a champion and above all, his passion for this, most romantic of all sports."

and, as if the above were scarcely enough, the narrative is superbly illustrated by the redoubtable, steven johnson, last viewed as illustrator of rapha editions, ef procycling annual.

the book's title, 'raincoats are for tourists' emanates from geminiani's opinion of suitable apparel to wear during inclement weather. "Riders wear too many jerseys in the rain. What's the point of too many wet jerseys? None at all - you're carrying around three extra kilos and you're still going to get cold." it seems a tad trite to point out that geminiani's career ended long before simon mottram contributed to solving the latter problem in 2004. it would be something of an understatement to state that geminiani was a highly opinionated rider and subsequently, directeur sportif, but it's hard to argue against many of his observations. and while many contemporary cyclists would consider themselves more advanced than their antecedents, geminiani holds a contrary and controversial position, opinions which are apportioned their own chapter, entitled "everything that's wrong with modern racing."

the basis for this, is his concern that modern-day racers have become too specialised, targetting specific events and racing over far fewer days than their predecessors. "If you think about the palmarès of Merckx, Coppi, Bobet, Anquetil or Hinault, you will notice that today's riders win just one race a year." however, he does seem willing to make exceptions for peter sagan, current world champion, julian alaphilippe and new kid on the block, matthieu van der poel.

isabel best shows an admirable ability to thread geminiani's conversations together in a transparently orderly fashion, allowing the man to speak for himself without undue critical comment. it would likely have been all too easy to express an opinion, thus colouring the reader's own approach to raphael geminiani. ste johnson's pencil-drawn illustrations fulfil a similar function, bringing to life many of the incidents and anecdotes without uneccessary interjection. this collaborative approach is highly enagaging and compulsive.

brownie points are also due to bluetrain and rapha. as isabel told me, "The great thing about Bluetrain (and Rapha by extension) is that they're willing to take on projects other publishers might be wary of, and then bring on lots of brilliant collaborators to make their books really lovely objects as well. I love all the details that have gone into the design of this book, from Ste's quirky illustrations that really picked up on Geminiani's sense of humour, to the page layout and paper stock and cover. It just feels like everyone really got into the spirit of it." she's absolutely right.

i'm quite happy to admit that, though i was peripherally aware of geminiani's career as both cyclist and d.s., i knew very little about its specifics. but i do now.

and thanks to the generosity of rapha editions and bluetrain publishing, i have one sealed copy of 'raincoats are for tourists' to give away to the sender of the first correct answer to the question, 'in what year did raphael geminiani retire from cycle racing? e-mail your answers to along with a postal address to which the book might be sent if you win. closing date is monday 7 december

raincoats are for tourists - isabel best

thursday 3 december 2020

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velobici cobalto thermal jersey and thermal bibshorts

velobici cobalto thermal kit

since the original government lockdown in march of this year, the daily travail for many has revolved around the insistance that non-essential offices remain closed. disappointingly, despite asking those in a position to know just what constitutes a 'non-essential' office, the answer remains as elusive as ever. does the non-essential component refer to its non-essentiality to the general public, or to the business of which the office forms a part? though throughout those months, i have been able to continue walking to work each day (it's very difficult to produce and print a newspaper from the bedroom), but the premises have remained closed to the public.

velobici cobalto thermal kit

however, at the point when furlough was orginally designed to end in october, the decision was taken to open once again, though with restricted hours.

so the office population has increased in size once again; the two of us who 'held the fort', so to speak, during the various lockdowns and levels implications, are now having to get used to having less space and more company. we're also having to get used to an office that tends to err on the side of excessive heat. or at least, one of us is. for, in order to keep the public at bay, and socially distanced from the staff, the only access point is the front porch, entailing a closing of the doors to the two adjacent offices. no more does a cooling breeze enter the room when the front door opens.

velobici cobalto thermal kit

however, as i am constantly reminded 'it's just as well we're all different', meaning no specific agreement on what constitutes a comfortably heated office. the obvious solution, now that you point it out, would simply be to remove my christmas jumper while at work. i did think of that. but the iniquitous part of the equation is stepping outside at lunchtime, when even relatively mild days can feel chilly in comparison to the convector switch on the storage heater.

it's a conundrum that seems only to have ever more complex variables when time comes to get out on the bike. i have long paid attention to the advice imparted many years past, to the effect that, if you're comfortably warm within the first five kilometres, you're overdressed. equating with this dictum obviously assumes that i have sufficient grasp on the ambient temperature, to make an informed decision regarding the apparel du jour. and lately, it has become necessary to factor in a two degree drop in temperature between the east side of loch indaal and the west (where debbie's is).

velobici cobalto thermal kit

to prevent any others suffering from a similar dilemma, might i heartily recommend the cobalto kit from leicester's velobici. the full set comprises both men's and women's options consisting of a thermal long-sleeve jersey, thermal bibshorts and a thermal baselayer. chris puttnam kindly sent an l/s jersey and bibshorts for review, coincidentally first worn in ideal conditions. according to my garmin, the temperature down uiskentuie strand was a cool 6.5 degrees, lowered to nearer 3 degrees with windchill.

velobici cobalto thermal kit

the 'cobalto' moniker comes from the colour of the jersey, a hue not shared by the nonetheless pleasant grey of the bibshorts. the jersey sleeves are of a well-judged length, sufficient to ease over the cuffs of a pair of thermal gloves. the front of the jersey ends in an inverted 'v' shape, tapering from the zip downwards to allow for an extended tail at the rear. velobici are unique in offsetting the the three rear pockets, the rightmost of which extends round the jersey side panel. this means any item you may require to access quickly while riding comes more easily to hand. despite filling all three pockets with more cargo than was truly necessary, the offset pockets felt perfectly balanced throughout.

velobici cobalto thermal kit

the raised, luxurious collar had need of being accessorised with a richard sachs buff, due to the covid face-mask restrictions in place at debbies, but in terms of thermality, the collar would have easily sufficed alone. the large, embroidered 'vb' logo on the left chest and 'cobalto' on the right sleeve are nice touches, while the breathable, windproof and water-resistant fabric creates a gloriously expensive feel to proceedings. despite an increase in windspeed during the second part of the ride and a definable lowering of temperature, my core remained expressably cosy.

velobici cobalto thermal kit

when the mercury drops to single-digits, i'm a bit reticent to ride in bibshorts alone, but when the number is midway between one and ten, kneewarmers are compulsory. however, other than gloves, those were the only accessories required.

velobici's cobalto thermal bibshorts are amongst the finest in which i have ever had the privilege to ride. in similar fashion to the jersey cossetting of the torso, they are probably amongst the greatest luxuries to which you can treat those chris hoy thighs. and unlike the majority of bibs, those on the cobaltos appear to spring from the shorts as one piece, offering an unheralded level of comfort. there is a wide back panel, protecting from unwanted chills, only separating between the shoulder blades as they head for your shoulders. the curve on the front makes taking a comfort break more than comfortable, while the leg length is ideal for a pair of shorts designed to keep you cosy. the black hemmed leg grippers keep them right where they're supposed to be, without exerting any tangible pressure.

velobici cobalto thermal kit

in the northern hemisphere at least, the temperatures can only head in one direction. as i write this, scotland's west coast is under a snow and ice warning (both unlikely on islay, but you never know), when it would be foolish to head out on saturday or sunday morning without dressing in thermal garmentage. i have yet to augment velobici's cobalto kit with an outer jacket, needed when riding through galeforce driven rain, but i doubt it will be too long before i have such an opportunity. however, in my experience, performance clothing of this quality, continues to perform under almost any conditions thrown in its direction.

very impressive.

velobici's british-made long-sleeve cobalto thermal jersey is available in sizes 1 to 7 (xxs to xxl - size 4 reviewed) at a cost of £200. the cobalto bibshorts are available in the same sizes (size 4 reviewed), at £190.

velobici cobalt thermal clothing

velobici cobalto thermal kit

wednesday 2 december 2020

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form follows function

white bicycle

the inimitable richard sachs, pre-eminent north american frame-builder, has mostly refused to share the awe and adoration of many of his customers, when time comes to admire his finished handiwork, maintaining that his frames are first and foremost, items of function, rather than atoms of delight. i can see where he's coming from, particularly when his skills are compared more to those of a sculptor than a provider of transport, though i tend to side more with the acolytes than agree with richard's own opinion.

but he does have a point; irrespective of the artistic values apportioned to his frame-building skills, a bicycle is ultimately destined as a means of transport, whether that entails pragmatically moving from point a to point b in an efficient manner, or simply riding in circles of a sunday morning, with no particular destination in mind. transport is a remarkably flexible word, under such circumstances. the skills of the velocipedinal artisan are, however, arguably more greatly appreciated under the latter set of circumstances, than when designating the bicycle as a tool, rather than a transport of delight.

this, more than likely, countenances the variety of shapes, profiles and proffered style of the current crop of road bikes. where once tubing was functionally round, it can now be made to emulate any shape you darned well like. the squiggly forks and chainstays once beloved of pinarello were likely more form than function. i base this conclusion on the knowledge that ferrari's engineers are renowned for having pointed out to ernesto colnago that, contrary to original thoughts, straight forks absorbed road-shock more efficiently than did a curved fork. it seems unlikely that squiggles would undermine such mathematical principles.

even the ornate lugwork applied to many a steel frame in the forties and fifties, served greater functional purpose than that of decoration, providing a level of individuality to distinguish one builder from another. (think 'curly hetchins'). though steel tubing came in a variety of butted flavours, essentially, one steel frame looked like another when the only reliable means of joining them together involved the aforementioned lugs.

carbon, however, is seemingly possessed of almost infinite malleability, though despite decreasing costs, it's not yet the first choice of the commuting or leisure cyclist. aluminium looks to be intent on retaining its crown even as pedal power becomes battery assisted. what has changed in recent times is the apparent subsuming of art and engineering to the vicissitudes of computer software. i cannot claim to have even the faintest inkling as to the input variables required of computer aided design, or computer fluid dynamics, but since many bicycles are born from a need for speed, whether the latter is held to be true throughout the entire food chain, i would tend to suggest that, if everyone is asking the same questions, the software is likely to be providing similar answers.

evidence for this conclusion can be seen not only in the world of the road bicycle, but perhaps even more so in the automotive world, where differences between models often seems based entirely on the radiator grill and badge. i'm hardly au-fait with the offroad world, but the often 'agricultural' appearance of many a fully-suspended mountain bike, may be closer to the 'form follows function' paradigm than the (aero) fashion conscious world of the road.

outside the front of debbie's café in bruichladdich, is a quite substantial and rudimentary bike-rack, donated by the local builders' merchant a few years past. its tubular construction is made use of by the velo club each and every sunday morning, when pedalling is interrupted by a need to sup froth. however, on saturdays, i am more often than not, flying solo, and tend to lean the ritchey against the porch wall. except, last saturday, on arrival for lunch, i was confronted by the small, white, ornate and perfectly formed bicycle shown above.

a timely reminder that, as an icon, the bicycle exists outside the constraints of both form and function. long may that continue to be the case.

tuesday 1 december 2020

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