slow rise. a breadmaking adventure. robert penn. particular books hardback 227pp illus. £17.99

slow rise - robert penn

there are many different recipes for energy foods professing to satisfy the needs of the average cyclist. the chaps and chappesses we watch on the telly box, racing at professional level do not, perhaps obviously, fit into the category of being average, so the food carried in the team car, in musettes or in rear jersey pockets, is aimed at physiologies that scarcely compare with our own. few can have watched saturday's strade bianche and not marvelled at the speed and energy with which mathieu van der poel left bernal and alaphillipe on the climb into siena's town square to take race victory. there's every likelihood that not only does mathieu consume a different recipe than you can buy in the shop at debbie's, but probably a great deal more than required for the average sunday ride.

i'm probably not giving away too many secrets to inform you that my three pelotonic colleagues, yesterday, finished off the first part of the ride by munching on double-egg rolls along with their coffee. doubtless, mr van der poel would have enjoyed similar repast at the finish line, were it not for the team nutritionist advising otherwise. of course, this has to be tempered with the knowledge that flying scotsman, graeme obree, is known to have favoured cornflakes and jam sandwiches during his heyday of victories in the pursuit and hour record. but then graeme was always just a bit different to the rest of us, but in a different way than van der poel.

personally, jam sandwiches sound a tad more appetising than rice cakes, carbo gels and the like, but only if made with brown bread. it has long been of concern that, wherever there are pre-built sandwiches available for purchase, for some reason, it seems to be the carnivorous varieties that are constructed with the healthiest of brown breads, while the vegetarian options are on white bread almost devoid of character and nutritional value. i base this purely on the assumption that vegetarians are often more concerned with their health and wellbeing than meat eaters.

it is of note that most of the breads to be found in today's supermarkets are baked in substantial batches, to uniform recipes seemingly designed with a lengthy shelf-life in mind, rather than any uniqueness or unbridled flavour. whether there is a nascent reaction against this soul-less uniformity or not, i confess i'm unsure, but i believe that lockdown may have brought a certain number of closet bakers out of the woodwork and into the kitchen with their panasonic breadmakers. for them, and those amongst us who have aspirations to join the merry throng, robert penn's latest publication slow rise may be a remarkably timeous release.

robert and i first came across each other when he sought minor assistance with research for his sunday times best seller 'it's all about the bike', research that also formed the basis of a tv presentation. he has since written 'the man who made things out of trees' and 'woods: a celebration', all of which i have reviewed on the post purely on the basis that i can, and anyone who could write a highly praised book about bicycles, is alright in my book (pardon the pun). robert, as described on the back cover of 'slow rise' as 'obsessive' is exactly that, but in a very good way. while you and i would probably take an interest in bread-making simply as far as ordering a bread-maker from amazon, robert decided to research the heck out of the subject.

in his opening chapter, usefully entitled flour, yeast, water & salt after the basic ingredients of a loaf, we find the author making his way along the road to siverek, a town in the eastern region of turkey. what makes mr penn's books worth reading, aside from the intrigue of his subject matter, is a grasp of the more descriptive aspects of the english language.

"We thundered down the road to Siverek. The peaks of the Taurus Mountians gleamed white against the azure Anatolian sky. Storm clouds were gathering to the south over the Harran Plain, a great sweep of rich, agricultural land with biblical resonance."

penn was in turkey to search for wild wheat on the slopes of karacadag, a mountain range that rises over the so-called fertile crescent, the sickle-shaped territory thought to be the cradle of civilisation, embracing modern iraq, western iran, south-east turkey, syria, lebanon, israel, jordan and egypt. some 15,000 years ago, this region was the home of the 'natufians', not a people from an episode of star trek, but a community of hunter-gatherers, allegedly the first people on earth to bake bread. discovery in 2017 of charred flatbread remains made from cereals and plant-roots at shubayqa, were dated to around 14,400 years ago.

did i mention that the author was a tad on the obsessive side?

though the advent of lockdown may have encouraged home breadmakers as a means to occupy furlough time, robert penn's interest was piqued by illness. "I read more about the stability of bacteria in the gut and foodstuffs that disrupt it. I started to look at my diet, which I had always thought to be balanced and nutritionally wholesome. One day my wife wondered out loud if I had coeliac disease."

as it transpired, robert tested negative for the disease, but, rather than attempt to give up gluten altogether, as seems quite trendy these days, he gave up eating bread and "...the era of my stomach ailments ended." serendipitously, a neighbour presented the penn household with a tub of natural 'sourdough starter', which mrs pen used to produce sourdough bread. though the kids ate it eagerly, robert opted to bake his own bread. "Miraculously, it did not upset my stomach."

this revelation which highlighted the difference between the factory made bread to be had from the supermarket, and that baked devoid of any additives to enable an increased shelf-life, was sufficient to attract robert down the rabbit hole, to further investigate the history of breadmaking, of the grains and its social importance. "Bread is kneaded into economics, politics, human biology and religion. The availability of bread has significantly influenced demography and population growth. Its story is the story of humanity."

having learned all of this within the book's first nineteen pages, the narrative continues in many, threaded directions, which the author's skill as a writer subsequently draws together into what can only be described as a successful conclusion. there is much intriguing digression through history, underlining the reference in that last quote, to the story of bread being that of humanity. a farmer friend lends the author an acre of land for a year in which he expects to sow and subsequently harvest sufficient grain to bake bread for the penn family for a year. it would spoil the story if i confirmed whether this aspiration is granted, but the journey to find out is endlessly fascinating, including as it does a visit to the plains of central america to witness state of the art machinery used to harvest and thresh grain on an industrial scale and a summary of the technological advancements that brought us here.

"Jim lives in Colby, Kansas. He leaves home in the second week of May each year, at the head of e 3km-long convoy, comprising six combines, grain carts, service trucks, lorries and mobile homes for his seasonal crew..."

obsessives such as robert penn can be fascinating people to meet, or, as in this case, read. he takes us through pretty much every process that forms a part of bread-making, from the sowing of seed, harvesting, threshing, milling, kneading and baking (naturally, in a brick-built oven). i almost feel a responsibility to inform the manager of our local averagemarket, that he should plan on increasing the availability of their daily, in-store baked bread, sales of which i have already made inroads following my reading of this wonderful book.

and if further justification for its review within these pixels is required, robert penn is still an enthusiastic cyclist, which makes him one of us.

monday 8 march 2021

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many happy returns

birthday cake

in 1990, a few years after moving to the hebrides, i petitioned the then editor of islay's local newspaper, to allow me the luxury of submitting an article about cycling. but far from featuring specific training requirements, number of gears, or the best of frame materials, the contents revolved around swapping the car for the bike.

having moved from scotland, in my previous employment, i had been in the habit of cycling to and from work each day, part of the route taking in the a77 dual carriageway. it's a stretch of road that's considerably more busy nowadays, but it wasn't exactly underused in the 1980s. yet, on moving to the hallowed isle, where rush hour consists of three buses and half a dozen cars, nobody rode a bicycle at all. the house to which we moved was immediately adjacent to the island's secondary school, around the walls of which was not a single bicycle to be seen.

granted, it would have been a considerable undertaking for many of the island's children and young adults to ride from remoteness to school each day, but those domiciled in bowmore could have managed it with ease. by comparison, the secondary school which i had attended in scotland, featured several walls of bicycles, often two deep along their length.

so i figured i would make a cost comparison. i'd find the price of britain's most popular car (at the time, the ford escort at around £9,000 for the basic version), and compare it with the cost of purchasing four decent bicycles for the nuclear family, along with quality waterproofs for all, replete with rack and panniers. the total for the latter came close to £3,000, meaning many thousands of pounds of savings to hire a car when time came to go on holiday.

i thought i argued my case rather well, without going overboard on the proselytising, and naively expected within the next six months, that i'd find i had company on the road. sadly, nothing could have been further from the truth. it was the mid-nineties before islay accumulated enough cyclists to form a sunday ride, and most of them had moved on before the millennium. i did persist with a few more articles designed to encourage more islanders to take to the saddle, but all to no avail. i was about to give up on submitting these articles, when i happened to meet an elderly lady in port ellen, who enquired of me what the following week's column would be about.

at this point, i discovered that i actually had a substantial readership, none of whom had any intention of going anywhere near a bicycle, but who read for the entertainment value. this had been an incidental strategy all along, for i think there's little point in making your point, if you can't attract a readership in the first place. so the column continued, and islay folks continued to read it, and nobody else cycled. one survey carried out by the newspaper in the early 1990s found that more people read thewashingmachinepost (as it had become), than read the regular gaelic column, a point that was unfortunately made in the scotsman newspaper, following an interview with one of their correspondents ostensibly writing about island matters.

when the internet became available to the rest of us, without too much in the way of technical knowledge, i transferred my writings to these black and yellow pixels. the yellow was chosen purely because it was the colour of the leader's jersey in the tour de france. my readership grew rather quicker than i had expected, leading me to move the column to my own hosting rather than piggybacking on the newspaper's own hosting, following one or two monthly demands for extra payment due to having exceeded the nominal bandwidth available at the time.

the move to the internet took place in march 1996, meaning that, as of now, thewashingmachinepost is twenty-five years old. it began about a year before jorn barger had coined the word weblog and before it subsequently contracted to the word blog. for years i took umbrage at those who called it a blog, maintaining that it was a cycling website, but ultimately i had to concede when the art of posting words on the web became colloquially known as blogging.

i was unaware at the time, whether others were also posting veocipedinal blogs, but if they were, they're not doing so today. according to my brief and unscientific research, thewashingmachinepost is the oldest cycling blog in the world, and certainly one that has survived continuously for the longest period of time. probably to the dismay of many, i have little intention of stopping anytime soon, so i'd just like to wish thewashingmachinepost happy 25th birthday.

if i'm actually allowed to be so narcissistic.

sunday 7 march 2021

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leading by example


yesterday lunchtime, i received a phone call from the local hospital, inviting me along, at admittedly very short notice, to receive the first dose of my coronavirus vaccination. since the office is a mere five-minute walk from said hospital in bowmore, i accepted the option, resulting from a last minute cancellation, and made the short trip to what is normally the a&e department.

i'm assuming that everyone gets the same preparatory explanation of what was about to transpire, the difference in a small place like islay being that, socially, i well knew both the retired doctors charged with carrying out the vaccination process. therefore, rather than the formality that doubtless pervades the process throughout most of the country, yesterday's prevarication was more like a chat amongst friends. which, to all intents and purposes, it was.

therefore, in the process of asking whether i had walked to the hospital, the doctor checked herself mid-sentence, exclaiming, "what am i saying? of course you did." and following the necessary querying of my state of health and whether i was party to any current or previous illnesses, came words almost muttered under her breath, "that's disgustingly healthy". i have been known to describe myself in similar terms whenever the subject of health and fitness has arisen in conversation, a state of affairs that i continuously blame on being a lifelong cyclist.

whether that is indeed the reason for my enjoying excellent health (my vaccination was the first official interaction with a member of the medical profession since 1994), i know not, but it suits my purposes to cite that as the reason. the odd aspect of this is tacit acceptance amongst my non-velocipedinal colleagues and friends that this is indeed the reason. and it's scarcely a state of affairs unique to yours truly. not only has the mighty dave t reached one year shy of four-score and still able to cycle far and wide with great alacrity, but there are many elderly female and male cyclists throughout the country in similarly fine fettle.

the odd part of the equation revolves around acceptance that cycling has indeed promoted my own level of fitness. yet strangely, most seem unwilling to adopt it in their own lifestyles, all the while saying that cycling probably would be of benefit. it's a similar state of affairs that echoes my non-ownership of a smartphone. more often than not, i find myself being congratulated on what, to me at least, was a particularly easy decision. of course, there could be an inherent degree of sycophancy involved.

and as if to underline this velocipedinal aura that can be seen by others, and yet not by me, on my walk back to the office following the jab in the arm, a gent reversing his transit van into the council vehicle parking, asked if my bicycle was broken, given that i was on foot and not in the saddle. this mirrors the regular experience of a velo club member who is the proprietor of one of the island's village shops. while serving customers with their grocery needs, he is apparently often asked "are you not out on the bike today?", when quite obviously that is far from the case. there's nothing worse than such a remark when outside is sunny and windless.

i'm not much one for activism, particularly when related to cycling. in my opinion, activists frequently garner more bad press than good, often creating more bad feeling than goodwill. were i to continually harp on about cycling and propound its undoubted benefits to all and sundry, it wouldn't be long before folks were seen to cross the street in avoidance, rather than listen to yet more cycling rhetoric. my cunning plan has always been simply to ride my bicycle as often as humanly possible, and let others decide if they'd like to be as 'disgustingly healthy'.

however, it's not quite working out in quite the manner i had hoped. if i might paraphrase a recent conversation relayed to me by another during a 'bout of serious islay weather in which i had chosen to ride. "i see brian out riding in this weather. he's f****in' mental." my correspondent, wishing to uphold my honour, replied "i think perhaps you mean 'dedicated'? after a moment's thought, they responded "no, he's definitely f****in' mental".

so much for leading by example.

saturday 6 march 2021

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brainy bikers

brainy bikers

tim hilton, in his iconic tome 'one more kilometre and we're in the showers', made mention that cycling appears to attract more artistically inclined personalities than any other sporting activity. granted, he offered no statistical evidence to support this contention, but from personal observation, i believe he might be right on the button. after all, artistic ability often revolves around an innate ability to deal in abstract concepts, frequently regarded as a means of measuring intellect. of course, considering that i, with definitive artistic tendencies, struggle to add up the loose change needed to purchase my daily newspaper, 'clever' is rarely an adjective i'm likely to hear within earshot. that said, one member of sunday morning's peloton is a maths teacher, so perhaps i ought to take lessons.

brainy bikers

of course, this beggars the question, as to whether the less velocipedinally inclined amongst the civilian population, perceive us as fast, or irritatingly slow moving members of society, deeply immersed in intellectual and philosophical discussion, as we echelon along the road at uiskentuie. do we come across as individuals, collectively examining the greater philosophical questions that have long troubled mankind? or even whether completing a painting-by-numbers image, confers a hitherto unrecognised artistic ability? is it possible that the great unwashed regard us as 'brainy bikers'?

brainy bikers

well, probably not, if only because that particular epithet has been adopted by peter and eoghan in the quest to offer the national peloton a range of 'fun, well-designed, knowledge-based cycling products'. if you and those in your club are fearful that the fun thus described, might entail some form of training regime, you might not be too far from the truth, though even the training might result in a modicum of fun. and it's even possible that, in a break from the norm, the more 'nerdy' you are, the more fun the training might be.

brainy bikers

according to eoghan, "Both of us at Brainy Bikers are keen cyclists. We met on a club ride a few years back. We're also both a bit nerdy about cycling. Combining our nerdiness with our backgrounds in graphic design and marketing, Brainy Bikers was born."

the nerdiness began as a result of last year's lockdown, when the two brainy bikers organised a few 'zoom'-based quizzes. "2020 was a tough year for everyone. We were really happy to be able to run the quizzes, bring people together and keep people interested in cycling. We're hoping for better days ahead when people can get together in person and have some laughs over a quiz." to this end, the two fine fellows have released a range of card games and posters about which eoghan said, "Secretly, the posters remind me of Andy Warhol's Electric Chair prints. Many collectors collected the prints in different colours and arranged them together. When they're hung together, they become an even bigger art installation. Our posters, because they have similar design dimensions, but come in different colours too can be hung the same way. Alone, it's going to look cool. But, three to six together and framed; they look great!"

brainy bikers

"Everyone needs a little inspiration to get on the bike or stay on the bike. For the life of me, I cannot get on the turbo. It's hot, there's no one to talk to and nothing to look at. Most of my friends have their indoor training set up in a corner in their gym or the conservatory."

the brainy bikers card games consist of three titles: tour de france, cycling mishaps and famous cyclists. each one features 140 accurately-researched questions, making these games the perfect gift for the beginner and experienced cyclist alike. in fact, were it not for the fact that islay book festival is in talks with british telecom to adopt the red phone box at carnduncan, the former velo club clubhouse, and scene of the annual dinner dance, i'm sure we'd subscribe to all three quiz sets for the hypothetical bookcase, while festooning the remaining three walls of the phone box (the door fell off) with brainy bikers posters.

there is, allegedly, the likelihood of sunny horizons ahead, and a lifting of the restrictions that have confined many to that turbo in the garage or conservatory. that doesn't mean, however, that extra-curricular fun has to be removed from the menu altogether. would it not, for example, be a pragmatic notion to install a set of card games at debbie's café (susbstitute your own coffee stop at this point), ready for a few questions post sunday morning ride? and should there be any non-cyclists undertaking their own froth-supping alongside, they too could be roped into the quizzical parcours by way of a recruitment drive.

a set of cards sells for £9.99. each of the six posters is priced at £15 each.

brainy bikers

friday 5 march 2021

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return on investment


in the early 1990s, a friend and i setup a bicycle repair shop in the unused garage of bowmore post office. the gent who owned and operated the latter, had recently acquired several bicycles to offer for hire, needed someone to maintain them, and thus offered us free use of the garage on condition that we undertook to provide regular maintenance of his hire fleet. initially, having acquired a smattering of spare parts and enough tools to look as if we knew what we were doing, repairs were all we offered, but it wasn't long before we were asked if we'd be able to sell bicycles too.

thus began a brief interlude of entrepreneurship.

we were able to arrange credit accounts with two major bike manufacturers, though with free carriage to the island limited to five bicycles and above, it meant we had little room to manouevre around the listed recommended retail prices. however, from tiny acorns, allegedly, great oaks will grow. as it transpired, they summarily failed to do so, but that proved little disincentive to our loosely-based future strategies. it's worth my pointing out that, despite a population at the time of well in excess of 3000 souls, bicycle sales scarcely approached 0.003% of that number.

despite the much-vaunted increase in cycling numbers since britain entered lockdown in march last year, i wouldn't hold out too much hope of that number being exceeded to this day, were we to have been still in business. that garage subsequently received a makeover by another former owner of the building, but the post office is now sited in shore street, and the scene of our early aspirations to become major players in the bicycle industry, is now a fish and chip shop. it is still possible to purchase bicycles on the island, but i harbour grave doubts that sales figures have shown much, if any, improvement in the interim thirty years.

this would tend to suggest that the island faces a substantial quandary when it comes to transport and energy use in the near future. with ford having declared it will end the manufacture of petrol and diesel cars by 2025, followed by jaguar landrover's similar declaration to follow suit five years later, now volvo have decided to follow the lead set by ford. this promises likely to create cable mayhem across the island villages as adopters of electronica try to figure out how to charge their vehicles in the face of on-road parking. for bowmore main street is listed as a conservation area, presumably disallowing the option of planting a charging unit on the pavement outside the front doors of the road's houses devoid of driveways or even gardens.

the only option any of us can visualise, is a a knitting pattern of cables exiting the windows and doors, snaking across the pavement to the power sockets of their newly acquired e-vehicles.

of course, this is hardly a situation likely only to be endured on the islands, but sight of solutions for many modern-day problems have a history of taking longer to reach the outer edge, than could be said about urban and city locations. and while many in the aforementioned dwelling areas comprise many of those counted amongst the new wave of lockdown cyclists, islay and jura have shown no such tendencies whatsoever. to compound these differences, the islands have a habit of being on the receiving end of more than their fair share of power cuts, many of which originate with the mainland supply.

though we have a 2mw generator on the outskirts of the village, usually quick to provide interim power quite quickly, it operates on diesel, one day's supply of which would power 40 - 50 similarly powered island vehicles for a year. i'm sure you can see where this is heading. given that energy demands are unlikely to decrease anytime soon, faced with a burgeoning electric car fleet across the island, one that experiences all the foregoing hurdles, and an island generator that may soon be less than equal to the task imposed upon it, it's perhaps easy to see why there are urgent ministrations taking place to discuss and solve these potential difficulties.

meanwhile, the cycling revolution that is taking place elsewhere across the country, has produced tangible results. for many a year, we have accepted that such a revolution is real and not optimism, principally because it suits our purposes to believe that to be the case. but now it is possible to put a price on this optimism (something that seems to be a necessary factor in legitimising anything these days), with halfords announcing that the bicycle boom has increased its profit margins to the extent of enabling the company to repay £10.7 million in furlough money to the treasury.

it might be worth mentioning that in the office tomorrow morning.

thursday 4 march 2021

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shapeheart smartphone handlebar mount

shapeheart smartphone mount

sat in the office, i am but an arm's stretch from a telephone, and the situation is no dfferent when sat at home. when i'm out on my bike, i'd really rather that no-one phoned me. that's at least one of the reasons as to why i do not own a smartphone. and while i have tried not to appear smug in my ludditity, i cannot deny that, on learning of my smartphone-free existence, more than just a few have been moved to express admiration for my stance. sadly, it's not a stance of any import. but just to redress the balance, almost as many have enquired how i manage to exist without such a communication device.

to be honest, it's really not that hard.

shapeheart smartphone mount

given this singular failure to join the rest of you in the 21st century, you might well ask why i would concern myself with a bicycle accessory that promises to safely fasten a mobile phone to either stem or handlebars. well, man of the world that i pretend to be, i'm not unaware that many others have either chosen or been required to fasten their careers and leisure time to the strictures and advantages of the modern-day smartphone. it has scarcely escaped my attentions, that fellow members of the velo club peloton are wont to draw such devices from a rear pocket to snap a photo of the waves at saligo, an overhead sea-eagle, or the slice of cherry cake accompanying the coffee du jour.

for my sins, i generally tote a compact digital camera for such tasks. more fool me.

shapeheart smartphone mount

however, for those who have no wish or need for a dedicated gps device fastened to the bars, there are more than just a few smartphone apps designed to record speed, distance, location or any other amount of pointless data on which strava thrives. and there are others for whom more than a few minutes spearated from their phone, would likely result in uncontrollable palpitations. and then there are those who actually have need of a phone for undefined but necessary reasons. in which case, carrying a smartphone in a rear pocket might not be the easiest means of keeping an eye on that data or answering calls and/or texts. and indeed, if the speaker on the phone is of sufficient volume and quality, it would surely be possible to listen to an art blakey or king crimson album en-route?

there are, to be fair, a sizeable number of brackets, slots and clamps designed to clasp a phone close to their hearts. what separates the shapeheart bracket from its peers, is probably the use of a magnet to keep the phone pointing in the direction of travel, or set at right angles for information that requires a smidgeon more screen space. the shapeheart kit consists of a fabric pouch, featuring a clear plastic window on one side and a large, round, metal plate affixed to the rear. an envelope flap at one end allows the owner to place and remove the phone. shapeheart state that this 'envelope' is weatherproof, though i'm none too sure that it would survive a galeforce-driven hebridean downpour. still, many modern-day phones feature their own levels of waterproofing, so your mileage may vary.

shapeheart smartphone mount

the stem/handlebar bracket, contains a remarkably powerful magnet onto which the metal plate on the rear of the case is placed. the bracket fits to either handlebar or stem by means of a small, yet sturdy bungie cord. the kit arrives replete with a spare bungie and a thin spacer to fit 'neath the bracket should its circumference be less than optimal. everything can be placed inside a small, shapeheart monogrammed carrying bag.

i tried the windowed case with three different iphones, all of which fitted easily into the envelope, even when they themselves were cossetted by protection cases. one phone failed to respond to any finger-based input, though it transpires this had more to do with the protective screen on the phone, than any failing on behalf of the constitution of the shapeheart window. the others worked perfectly, switching on and off with ease, opening, closing and operating apps without a hitch. i even placed an admittedly smaller ipod inside, which worked exactly as i'd hoped.

but the whole point of the shapeheart casing and bracket, is surely to safely retain your probably very expensive smartphone, on which your entire life resides, safely upon your bicycle's cockpit, not only in clear view, but easy to operate in most situations. i confess i had no rain in which to test (honest, i really didn't), but to give it a very hard time in the retention stakes, i fitted the bracket to the stem of my 'cross bike and headed, at speed, across 5km of rough and ready farm track. during this process, i made no attempt to avoid any shallow, deep or medium potholes in the gravel, bouncing through them all with unabashed glee.

shapeheart smartphone mount

the phone moved not a single millimetre, which is more than can be said for the rider. and so powerful is that magnet that, to remove the phone at the end of the test ride, i'd to grasp hold of the bracket and manhandle the encased phone sideways and slide it free. though cyclists are not renowned for their upper body strength, i simply couldn't pull the casing directly off the magnet. that ticks every relevant box that i can think of.

the shapeheart casing is available in three different sizes, each with an attendant list of smartphones that fit. with free delivery on offer at present, the complete kit for one smartphone retails at €29.95, with spare cases available separately. though i'm very unlikely to acquire a smartphone of my very own in the foreseeable future (mrs washingmachinepost's iphone was the guinea-pig for the duration of the review), for the majority who are already thus tethered, this strikes me as a highly pragmatic and economical solution to what may be a problem for many a cyclist, sporting or commuter alike.

shapeheart smartphone bike mount

wednesday 3 march 2021

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mission improbable


in a double-edged effort to not only fill some space in our local newspaper (under current government restrictions, there's not a heck of a lot going on these days), but also engender a modicum of local interest in cycling, i invited a member of the velo club to write several hundred words describing his favourite islay bike ride. and, exhibiting a smidgeon of entrepreneurial flair, i invited a local e-bike hirer to sponsor the article (which they readily agreed to do). included in the modest amount of editorial accompanying said article, i was happy to mention that the cost to residents for a day's e-bike hire, was a piffling £20.

though the issue in question has scarcely been in circulation for long enough to gauge any favourable or disfavourable response, i have heard it mentioned that perhaps hiring just such an electric means of transport, might actually be not such a bad idea. had i featured these particular writings in the previous issue two weeks ago, i feel certain that those words of editorial would have fallen on not so much deaf ears, as ears which questioned my sanity in publishing in the first place. for since the previous issue was foist upon a largely dispassionate community, there has been a dramatic upturn in the hebridean climate.

friday afternoon was too warm for thermal winter clothing, saturday and sunday, apart from a brief smattering of precipitation were every bit as clement, and though yesterday morning framed the loch's opposite shore as a hokusai painting, with wisps of freezing fog apparently causing frozen car doors, first thing in the morning, the rest of the day featured wall to wall sunshine and more than welcome temperatures. it's all very well spouting forth the old adage "there's no such thing as bad weather, simply the wrong choice of clothing", when the cycling wardrobe contains garmentage suitable for every conceivable meteorological happenstance, but few of those on the receiving end of my encouragements own so much as a cagoul.

possibly the best way of getting bums on saddles would be several weeks of blazing sunshine.

thus, receipt of an e-mail from a friend and colleague, intimating that she had ridden her bicycle to work, was welcome news. that was admittedly offset by an office colleague bemoaning just how early she would have had to arise in order to ride her e-bike the ten miles to work, but considering just how tired i felt, i cannot deny a certain sympathy with her plight. and after saturday's publication of the newspaper, i had at least two innocent enquiries relating to the apparently equitable fee being charged for e-bike hire, and whether i thought the purveyors might deliver to their home.

of course, i am sufficiently well-acquainted with the human condition to realise that this weather-related situation is not one confined to a small island off the west coast of scotland. after suffering winds that no-one thought were ever likely to end (my neighbour, who works on a fishing boat, suffered several weeks of inactivity due to the serious risks to life and limb of attempting to sail a small boat out of bowmore harbour), relatively calm and sunny conditions, not surprisingly, have acted like cat-nip on the local population. with mainland scotland and england less at the mercy of the atlantic breeze, it seems highly likely that such weather appears particularly encouraging to those in urban and rural settings.

therefore, from now onwards, as we head towards spring and subsequently, summer, those of a proselytising nature, will probably find it less of an uphill struggle to spread the word concerning the joys of adopting a velocipedinal lifestyle. who could resist the possibility of a daily case of helmet hair and a sore backside when the sun has got his hat on?

the trick, of course, is to circumvent the knowledge, that, given our geographical location, sooner rather than later, a plague of frogs and locusts will dampen that recently gained, velocipedinal enthusiasm. the year-on-year membership of both british cycling and cycling uk has shown an increase since the early part of the last decade. i harbour no doubt that many of those early joining enthusiasms will have been, periodically, subject to fade amongst many of those new cardholders, when sun turned to rain or worse. however, your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to bolster any nascent zeal amongst innocent bystanders, ensuring that they laugh in the face of mere breeze and precipitation, when summer turns to autumn and subsequently winter.

it's surely the only way the species will survive.

tuesday 2 march 2021