the school run

bicco bike school pedal bus

pedant that i am, the last time i passed the local secondary school, i took the time to count how many cars, belonging to the teaching staff, were present in what used to be the playground. granted, teenage kids nowadays are probably way too cool to to indulge in playtime, more likely to be frequenting main street in search of something with chips. however, for a school that boasts an entire complement of pupils around the 250 mark, a total of 28 motor cars seemed a tad excessive. i can fully understand why members of staff who live some distance from the village, and for whom the bus timetables simply don't work, would drive to and from work, but a more than just a handful of those 28 cars belonged to folks who live in bowmore.

bicco bike school pedal bus

i have mentioned more often than is seemly in polite company, that bowmore village is but 1.6 kilometres from end to end (one mile, in old money), the sort of distance that few would think anything of, if in glasgow or edinburgh on a shopping spree. however, it seems that even half that distance is too far to walk (or cycle), hence the area of playgound now obscured by motor vehicles. i have also given substantial pixel room to a primary school teacher who insists on driving a large suv, a matter of metres from house to school, even in the face of bright, warm, sunny weather. to be honest, were she to walk when raining, the distance is scarcely far enough to become even modestly wet.

bicco bike school pedal bus

the secondary school i attended in scotland featured bicycles, often two deep, all along a particularly long railinged, school wall. i cycled to school pretty much every day, come rain, wind or shine, over a distance of approximately three miles, occasionally nipping home for lunch if school dinners looked less than appetising. and i wasn't the only one. but the only time any of the kids ride their bikes to bowmore primary school, is during either cycling proficiency lessons, or the occasional cycle to school week. none of the teaching staff (that i know of), travel to school in ways other than by car.

bicco bike school pedal bus

before covid interrupted my percussion teaching at the secondary school, i was required to be in class for 9am on a monday morning. i had only a short distance to walk to get there, but on more than a single occasion, i had to step sideways to allow a car to pass, where a parent, not content with dropping their child at the school gate, had driven into the school grounds to drop the errant child at the front door, lest they be late for class. when you consider the number of pupils driven to school, including those who live within the village boundaries, it's probably no wonder that parents are less than keen to have their children walk or cycle to school, even in a relatively quiet place like bowmore.

bicco bike school pedal bus

mrs washingmachinepost is a childminder, and occasionally, when the weather is wet and windy, i substitute for her presence at the primary school to collect a child, rather than her having to take two very young children to do likewise. in gusting winds, a buggy is not the most stable means of child transport. the last time i was called upon to carry out such duties, i was appalled at the number of parents clogging the school surrounds with parked cars, many of whom had shorter distances to travel than i had just undertaken. aside from my contention that folks can scarcely walk the length of themselves these days, it seems that inclement weather is pretty much off the agenda nowadays too.

one can only wonder how our predecessors would have coped, and how civilisation ever made it this far.

bicco bike school pedal bus

it has become more than just a cliché to turn to the netherlands for transportational succour, even when it comes to school transport. many of the children attending secondary school on islay, are bussed to and from the school either by the service buses, or by minibus from the more remote areas of the island. that, in itself makes both economic and ecological sense; it's those who stay close enough not to need any form of motorised transport, yet still avail themselves, that are the real problem. in the netherlands, the bicycle is king, but tolkamp metaalspecials has developed a pedal driven school bus in which the children form the bulk of the propulsion unit. these 'bicycle buses' cost around £11,000 ($15,000) each.

each machine features an electric motor that can be engaged when the going gets too tough to cope with by young legs; winter headwinds on islay would probably see that motor earn its keep twice over. the examples i've seen are open to the elements, possibly not immediately practical in scotland, but then the netherlands is hardly without its meteorological trials and tribulations either, and statistics have demonstrated that when cycling to school or to work, the chances of getting wet over the course of a year are relatively minimal, even if you do live in the hebrides.

the question, however, remains as to whether any education authority on this side of the channel, will have the cojones to give it a try.

bicco bike

monday 17 may 2021

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happy trails

rapha performance trailwear

this week's comic features 130 of those described as having changed cycling, whether through the way they raced, volunteered at so-called grass-roots level, or modernised the sport in some other notable way. one of those featured is rapha ceo, simon mottram, for having substantially changed the world of cycling apparel, since rapha's inception in 2004. as ever, there will be those who decry such a nomination, individuals apparently more than happy to have continued to wear often garish looking polyester and lycra, or reproductions of team kit that, to be quite honest, you could almost see through, and which rarely retained their shape for more than two wash cycles.

rapha performance trailwear

rapha's introduction to the world in 2004, consisted of their classic jersey, fabricated from wonder fabric, sportwool, a combination of polyester and merino wool. the notion of using merino wool for cycling apparel appears not to have previously occurred on a grand scale. nor indeed, apart from the giro organisers, incorporating the colour pink. however, though the range of clothing on offer from imperial works occasionally included a nod to the sport of cyclocross, mr mottram's self-declared mission, aside from introducing the concept of pain and suffering, was to make road cycling the most popular sport in the world.

while many of us sympathised with this ambition, i think we're all pretty much inured to the fact that, despite a few recent and significant improvements, that's a bit unlikely to happen. however, you can't blame the guy for trying.

rapha performance trailwear

and road cycling has remained as rapha's sole objective throughout the past 17 years, not only sponsoring their own continental team in conjunction with london's condor cycles, but extending their reach in partnership with team sky, and subsequently ef pro-cycling. for those who have actually visited a rapha cycle club, or even had the opportunity to sup an espresso in imperial works itself, the large, wall-mounted tv screens tend to display uninterrupted road cycling, from the spring classics to the grand tours. members of the rapha cycle club have the opportunity to hire canyon road bikes, should their travels prevent them transporting their own machinery.

rapha performance trailwear

but, from next month, the cycling universe, or at least rapha's, undergoes wholesale change. yes, you and i will still be able to acquire our favourite classic sportwool, but imperial works might find itself with an increasing number of knobbly-tyred bicycles in the downstairs cycle park, following the introduction of their mountain biking, or as they would prefer to phrase it 'performance trailwear'. this is a range that has been under development for several years, one that intially made a deal less sense than it does today. personally, and with no disrespect intended, i'm not sure that mountain bikers have the same tendency to spend as highly on cycling apparel as does the road fraternity. though, as i write that, it occurs that the same state of affairs might have existed in the road world prior to 2004.

however, categorising the upcoming range as trailwear surely places them in the ideal position to appeal to the nascent gravel market, at present, effectively a sub-committee of road cycling's board of directors? i'm not much one for frequenting online cycling forums, but i don't doubt that feelings have already been vociferously expressed by adherents of every genre you care to mention, both in favour and disfavour. the proof of the pudding will undoubtedly be in the selling, for so far we've only been offered teasers from which it's quite hard to apprehend the definitive style we're about to be offered.

i don't own a mountain bike, a state of affairs that's unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, but i do possess a couple of cyclocross bicycles which, i'm inclined to think, come under the jurisdiction of trailwear. i know that in this, i'm not alone. the month of june will tell.

rapha mtb

sunday 16 may 2021

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we know they don't know what we know

omloop van vlaanderen

i know we've discussed this before, but as a perennial benefit to be gained from being a roadie in the first place, it's one i feel is worth revisiting. the meme itself, lends itself to all sorts of differing strains of modern life; i might cite the example of music, insofar as my abilities to participate allow me to comment. if conversations revolve around 'the one', there's a certain satisfaction to be gained from understanding just to what that refers. and if i might stretch to the realm of pre-press, knowing what is meant by trapping or the bleed edge can engender thoughts and displays of smugness.

obviously enough, i am distinctly out of my depth when it comes to the subject of building; for instance, only recently have i discovered what a 'scratch coat' is, though having done so, i'd still exhibit a certain temerity repeating it in public. and where i am definitely out of my depth is when conversation turns to soccer, a sport in which i have no interest whatsoever. during a band rehearsal many years past, two band members talked at great length about the previous evening's soccer match, none of which made any sense to yours truly.


fed up with these constant breaks to our evening's work ethic, i inserted mention of a giro d'italia sprint victory by mario cipollini, at which point, all conversation stopped. it's a ploy i wish i had used earlier in proceedings.

however, where the greatest fun is to be gained from insider knowledge of cycle-sport, is during the spring classics. mentioning the tour de france or the vuelta espana really offers little in the way of kudos these days, but casually inserting the ronde van vlaanderen or brabantse pijl into office tea-break discussion on monday morning is worth its weight in gold, secure in the knowledge that none of my office colleagues have the faintest idea of which i speak. that's what i call smug.

sadly, lycra has all but put paid to those significant oval patches of tanned skin on the back of each hand during summer months. those used to be the intrepid cyclist's calling card, the equivalent of a secret handshake. for no-one other than another roadie, would realise the significance if observed on a third-party making use of the cash machine outside the local bank, or froth-supping at debbie's in mid-august. thus, in order to maintain the integrity of the genre, we have little option but to look elsewhere for succour.

trofeo baracchi

thankfully, the fine folks at prendas are one step ahead of the curve, releasing a range of race -emblazoned t-shirts to maintain the smug attitude we have suffered so long to cultivate. these have been sourced from the forgotten races series that has already provided some excellent jerseys, socks and caps. however, the latter will surely only be seen mid-peloton; preaching to the converted, so to speak. t-shirts are more the sort of apparel worn in the world of the great unwashed, where the greatest effect of our obscure insouciance is to be had. i scarcely have to point out to the cognoscenti, the level of elitism proudly displayed on the front of a t-shirt that bears the capitalised legend 'omloop van vlaanderen'. and just in case the first encounter fails to hit home (as if that's even possible), the garment is available in grey, white or red for colour-based reinforcement of your incomprehensible message.

of course, matters do not end there. bordeaux-paris, the milk race, trofeo baracchi, or peace race are all there to back up your initial statement. screen-printed in the uk with low-waste technology at a local renewable energy powered factory, on 100% organic cotton, the t-shirts are sent out in plastic-free packaging at the extremely amenable price (given their benefit to velocipedinal society) of £25.

now that the weather is set to improve and relaxation of restrictions allow a tad more movement about the principality, i expect to come across a greater number of thusly clad velocipedinists. the trick now is going to be acknowledging such recognition without giving the game away.

prendas forgotten races

saturday 15 may 2021

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how hard can it be?


a long time ago, in a city far, far away, a now defunct bicycle retailer kindly offered me the opportunity to ride around a very busy city block on one of those new-fangled, electric bicycles. i cannot deny a snippet of concern over so doing, but far more due to traffic that seemed less than cycle friendly, than any thoughts of an e-bike accelerating me into low-earth orbit. as those of you who own or ride e-bikes will doubtless be aware, acceleration such as witnessed at santa pod raceway, is hardly the preserve of the humble pedelec, and the slightly rain spattered excursion transpired without incident.

a number of years following this first electrified bike ride, the local leisure centre purchased an e-mountain bike, a very heavy machine on which the motor resided in the rear wheel hub. the employee who should have been on hand to take delivery and test the bicycle being on holiday, as an individual with a professed interest in cycling, i was asked to stand in and scoot about the principality in her stead.

i have previously pointed out that there are two variants of the e-bike, one, legal in the uk and many european countries, which is restricted to 25kph, while the s-pedelec offers an increased velocity capped at 48kph. it transpired that the mountain bike mentioned above was capable of emulating the latter, simply by depressing two of the control buttons on the bar-mounted display, and holding for five seconds. to make matters a tad more dangerous, this machine also possessed a throttle in conjunction with the regular pedal-assist associated with contemporary e-bikes. thus, it was perfectly possible to accelerate to a maximum 45kph without so much as a single rotation of the cranks.

effectively an illegal, electric moped.

so far as i know, this machine lies unloved and unused 'neath the leisure centre swimming pool, midst all the convoluted pipework. the grant that allowed its purchase, bizarrely, prevented the accumulation of income from renting it to members of the community, yet i believe the leisure centre would remain legally responsible for the bike and rider, should they have deigned to lend it. possibly the very definition of catch 22.

my office colleague, who purchased a specialized turbo vado after being offered a ride on the review model i had several years ago, took to riding her electrified transport, like a duck to water. she attempts, as often as possible, to ride with the least amount of pedal assist. on occasion, when faced with an hebridean headwind, the e-bike can find itself married to level three, the corollary being that almost no assistance is required on the return trip. but then, you knew that already. though no doubt there will be a few dissenters, i think it fair to say that there is not a substantial stretch from riding an analogue bike to boarding the digital version.

so why, then, did i find myself reading an online article a few days past, solely concerned with advising the great unwashed, just how to ride an e-bike? surely were there to be any unforeseen difficulties, these would have come to light by now? and i think it safe to assume that there are a greater number of e-bike owners and riders, riding safely on a daily basis, who have read no such article, than those who have. of course, it could simply have been a quiet day in the online office, and nothing else came to mind at the time (and well do i know that situation).

my only concern is that this forms a part of the ongoing cossetting of e-bikers. already there are saddles designed to cope with the alleged fearsome acceleration to which riders may be subjected, cleaning materials that eschew the use of water (!) and many other trappings, purportedly designed to ease the strain of riding with a battery. i live in fear of a cycling apparel provider designing e-bike specific clothing, though i have seen a helmet aimed particularly at the e-bike rider, beginner or otherwise.

cycling has spent many an hour recently creating and subsequently attempting to repair invisible divisions between women's cycling and that of the male of the species. i do understand the physiological differences, but would it be great if we simply had cycling, devoid of gender assignation? it may well be an impractical situation to have women compete against men, but surely both offer a similar level of excitement and should always have been treated equally right from the start? now it seems we might be guilty of doing likewise to electrons; again, it would be iniquitous to mix the two in a single event, but i'm not sure anyone has suggested doing so. certainly not me.

riding a bike is riding a bike, whether it has a battery or not. it takes mere minutes to get used to pedal assist; probably not an entire article.

friday 14 may 2021

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apparently apparel - part four


a few days ago, i made mention of the principles apparently guiding grand tour time-trialling nowadays, few of which seem to have much to do with cycling in the first place. as arguably mankind's greatest achievement, the bicycle is a highly efficient means of transport and when kitted out in race format, it's even quicker. however, you could have been excused for being unaware of any velocipedinal tendencies when listening to the eurosport commentary on the giro prologue last saturday. as mentioned in that previous article, everything seemed to centre around drag co-efficiencies and both saved and expended watts. there's an outside possibility that the science surrounding the latter, is heading towards becoming an end in itself, as opposed to a means to an end.

one of the identified means of reducing the drag factor has long concerned the application of dimples, presumably as a result of golf balls sporting such a feature, enabling them to travel far and fast, assuming they are given the correct means of propulsion from the tee-off. since i know pretty much nothing at all on the subject, i figured i'd have a word with someone who does: james lamont. in answer to my request, he told me, "I always smile when I hear about dimples. Great on a baby, not so good on an item of cycling kit."

the single biggest obstacle to drag-free cycling is usually the person sitting on the bicycle. all those hours in the wind-tunnel perfecting the slipperiness of the bicycle frame, is undone in seconds the minute someone sits on the saddle. thus, cycling apparel manufacturers spend hours and hours and pound notes and pound notes, trying to make their clothing as slippery as the bicycle. as james says, "Aero is easy, and also very complex. We all understand he principles and costs of reducing drag, but it all gets complex very quickly. Einstein has often been quoted as saying that he could never understand fluid mechanics. What is easy on the surface (pun intended), soon becomes complex."

but surely adding dimples to the surface of a jacket, jersey or skinsuit isn't rocket science? "Dimples are often seen on helmets, frames, shoes, pedals. We are told they make a product faster through the air. Fluid flow for cycling is through air, or water (Islay cycling joke), and all based on the Reynolds number of the fluid. Nothing to do with the frame tubing, everything to do with how the fluid flows and reacts. The Reynolds number for a fluid is fixed, or a 'constant' in mathematical or engineering terms, This lets us make calculations on how different effects will change the flow of the fluid, and the drag created by the flow, the results of which can then be used to work out potential speed."

suddenly saturday's commentary begins to make even less sense, but i can sort of see where this is heading. however, surely the notion of adding dimples to the surface of the frame tubing, or clothing surface is simply a cunning plan to undermine that reynolds number, and slip through under the net? "Dimples are added on the leading edge of a product, so we are told, to change the airflow and thus reduce drag. This principle is basically true. However, given the width of a cyclist, helmet, or head tube, the dimple size required to change the flow, to reduce drag and maybe increase the speed, can be calculated based on the fluid's particular Reynolds number. Typically, this means a dimple on a time trial helmet would need to be about half the depth of our heads, even at the 50/55 kph of a World Tour time triallist, and a speed most of us mortals can only reach on a descent.
"So dimples are great on babies, but they are simply not big enough on cyclists to have any noticeable effect."

not that i have any affinity with the sport or activity of golf, but the last time i had sight of a golf ball, the dimples looked pretty small and certainly not half the size of a cyclist's head. so does that mean that the purported connection between golf balls and bicycle wheels (zipp), skinsuits or even carbon frames are simply old wives' tales?

"Whenever I read about 'aero dimples', I also expect to hear about the 'Golf Ball Effect', or dimples on golf balls, as a justification. We are told the raised dimples on golf balls make them fly further and faster. Sounds great, doesn't it? Easy to understand, and picture in our minds. (Cue graphic with a picture of a golf ball.) However, the notion that cycling is the new golf, might be just as unrelated a concept.
"Thing is, golf balls are small, so I might refer you to the above discussion on dimple height to size/ diameter ratio. Secondly, golf balls are spherical; ball-shaped to state the glaringly obvious. Cyclist's heads, not so much. And thirdly, golf balls spin through the air. Unless your surname is Abdoujaparov, cyclists, less so. Bluntly put, the dimples on a spinning golf ball are doing something completely different.
"Dimples just don't work for cyclist, even at World-Tour speeds, but certainly not for slower mortals, like the rest of us. It's one of those persistent myths like being told that we lose 60% of our body heat from our heads. It's simply not true."

so, if the dimple effect is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, given that cycling now has qualified aerodynamicists working in the field, we can but assume that the desire to cheat air resistance has garnered substantial ground (and funding) in recent years, lending greater credence to the knowledge that victory rarely comes cheap these days. but if dimples don't actually work, what does?

"What does work, are trip wires and changes of surface texture. These have been used on fighter-planes, passenger jets, downhill ski suits, Americas Cup winning racing yachts, and even Olympic medal-winning swim suits, the latter of which I am proud to have been a part of developing and commercialising. Sadly, in swimming and yacht racing, these devices were banned, and they have also been banned by cycling's governing body, the UCI.
"That, however, has not stopped some cycling teams turning up at races and trying to use them, all the while claiming they provide no aero advantage."

so perhaps the notion of wind-cheating is akin to the emperor's new clothes? is it simply misperception? evidence would point to the contrary, with cycle races taking place at notably higher speeds than was the case in eddy's day. some of that is undoubtedly down to better preparation and training of the cyclists themselves, and possibly even a greater desire to reach the finish line ahead of other well-prepared and trained athletes. it's often hard to see how making the standard road bicycle allegedly more aero can actually work. for instance, i have a pair of campagnolo bora wto 44mm carbon rimmed wheels on the ritchey. straight into a headwind, it's likely that they have made even me a smidgeon faster than i deserve, but encounter crosswinds, and the effort of riding in a straight line can undo any headwind benefits.

i have yet to witness any world-tour race that proceeds in a straight line into which any headwind proceeds in precisely the opposite trajectory to the cyclist. those flat, narrow tubes would seem to provide the ideal wind trap if the wind is coming at right angles to the direction of travel. eurosport's bernie eisel pointed out only the other day, that the windspeed at the finish line was 10kph, which, he continued, might provide a bit of an obstacle to the sprinters. in the hebrides, 10kph is a draught, yet pinarello, colnago, trek, canyon and the other boys in the band, are just as keen to sell bicycles to hebrideans as they are to the more career-minded. thus all those hours in the wind tunnel were probably not configured to deal with 'real life'.

james ended by saying, "What is very interesting, and perhaps occupies us all, as we grind into a head wind, trying desperately to hold the wheel of a faster rider, or close the gap to friends who have set off early, is how we can make our way faster, or easier, or with less effort. That element of being aero, I can talk about another time. How can we all be more aero, and cheat the drag that costs us more and more energy, the faster we go, or the windier it gets."

james lamont, who describes himself as a sports product engineer and designer, with a special personal interest in cycling and outdoor sports, has undertaken specialist work for the likes of assos, rapha, endura and many others in his career. he has now been arm wrestled into providing thewashingmachinepost with the benefit of his expertise in this occasional and itinerant series, making sense of my daft questions.

thursday 13 may 2021

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pennine bridleway by hannah collingridge. vertebrate publishing paperback. 116pp illus. £15.95

pennine bridleway - hannah collingridge

if nothing else has emerged from the covid pandemic, at least we know that the british still love their bicycles. or at least likes them enough in preference to buses, trains, the underground, cars, and where the distance is too great, walking. those early years in life, when learning to ride a bike was regarded as a rite of passage, have engendered the knowledge that things once learned, are often regarded to be as 'easy as riding a bike', presumably on the basis that it's a skill once learned, never forgotten.

however, where childhood bike riding encouraged idyliic days of exploring the neighbourhood, with little concern for passing time, the contemporary model fields a more pragmatic use of what has often been deigned one of man's greatest inventions. suddenly, the bicycle has been awoken from its slumber and put to good use along hastily constructed, 'pop-up' cycleways, while routing the industry of more shop floor models than it had available. a colleague of mine had to wait almost seven months to have a warranty replacement for a fractured e-bike frame, because the manufacturer was unable to source a suitable substitute. employment in taiwan's bike factories must surely now be guaranteed for many years to come.

pennine bridleway - hannah collingridge

however, imagine for a moment or two, that you are one of these newcomers or adult returners to the way of the saddle. riding to and from work each weekday might just have awakened a desire and the possibility that the bicycle might have a wider range of uses, some of which might seem quite enticing, yet perfectly doable, given the inherent social-distancing fostered by virtue of its historic design. keeping fit is one obvious benefit, but exploring the surrounding countryside, while actually being a part of it, will seem for many, almost too good to be true.

and once the locale has been placed under the velocipedinal microscope, with travel and personal restrictions lifting even as i write, perhaps there are hitherto unexplored nooks and crannies of this country that might offer even greater vistas. the pennine bridleway for instance. this route will take the intrepid cyclist from derbyshire, through the yorkshire dales, north to cumbria. or, indeed, vice versa.

pennine bridleway - hannah collingridge

and though the excitement of discovering things for ourselves is one that extends from childhood, through adulthood, when time comes, a helping hand surely never went amiss? the helping hand, in this case, comes courtesy of author hannah collingridge. a cyclist for more than forty years, with a background in history, archaeology, landscape studies and language, it's hard to think of a better guide to take you from start to finish.

bridleways. almost by definition, are offroad, horses and their riders largely preferring to keep themselves away from motor traffic as much as possible. thus, unless your road bike features particularly stout tyres or you're a dab hand at repairing punctures, this is probaby a route more suitable for mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, or, darlings of the industry, gravel bikes. the book is divided into seven stages, the shortest of which is a paltry 16.1km, extending to a joyful 71.7km. in fact, three of the stages are listed as just over the 70km mark, but in total, from start to finish in either direction, the route encompasses 384.2km.

probably not the sort of distance you'd undertake in a single day, nor, considering the surroundings through which you'll pedal, a distance you'd want to cover quite so quickly. assuming we're in total agreement, there's a not unlikely demand for overnight accommodations, a number of which are thoughtfully listed in a three-page appendix at the rear, along with rail details to get to and from the area. and if your bicycle turns out to be not as up to the task as you'd originally thought, there's a list of bike repairers too.

pennine bridleway - hannah collingridge

each section features a tour de france style profile of the parcours, along with details of which are the necessary os maps. should the latter not fit within your skillset, there is also a set of downloadable gpx files, in case you have had the forethought to make use of a gps computer on your travels. while the maps in the book are quite comprehensive, it would be quite the stalwart who rode all those kilometres depending purely on this compact and bijou volume. the chapters are also impeccably illustrated with photography by the inimitable joolze dymond.

i'll not fib; in any guidebook such as this, the directions are less than rivetting unless you're already en-route in the middle of heavy rain and cold winds. however, directions are not the sole vocation of ms collingridge, with numerous sidebars of local information.

"After 800 metres there is an 80-degree bend at Gotham which was so tight it required a check rail to prevent derailments. It's a further example of how new the technology of building railways was; bends this tight worked on canals, but severely resricted the speed of trains."

either way, whether you're a lifelong cyclist with every bit of bikepacking gear the catalogues have to offer, or one of those identified in my opening paragraphs, who has arrived at cycling by way of the pandemic, there's a great big world out there, just awaiting your knock on the door. assuming you've passed the apprentice routes near home, now it's possibly time to learn the true meaning of the word 'intrepid', just as long as you slip a copy of pennine bridleway into the top of your bar bag, or, at a pinch, a jersey rear pocket.

vertebrate publishing

wednesday 12 may 2021

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not quite the ring-cycle

london sinfonietta

there are a number of popular songs that feature the bicycle in one way or another. founding member of progressive rock band, yes, guitarist steve howe, was previously in a band called tomorrow, who released a single entitled 'my white bicycle', while possibly the most famous, likely as a result of the accompanying video, and david duffield's frequent mentions on eurosport, is queen's 'i want to ride my bicycle'. katie melua was also noted for her 'nine million bicycles in beijing', if only because it was pointed out at the time of its release, that there were probably nearer 12 million in the chinese city.

at the heavier end of the musical spectrum would be the red hot chilli peppers, whose 'bicycle song', appeared as a bonus track on the deluxe version of their album, 'by the way'. the bubblegum end of the pop song was surely ideally filled by the mixtures' 'pushbike song'. for those who may have experienced sticky cassettes or freewheels resulting in intermittent drag, there's always judas priest's 'freewheel burning' from the album defenders of the faith, and for the old skool velocipedinists amongst us, there's viv stanshall's 'terry keeps his clips on'.

i even have a tune on my ipod created by plucking the spokes on a bicycle wheel.

it would not, therefore, be any manner of overstatement to state that cycling and music are hardly strange bedfellows. a number of high-profile rock musicians have been known to hang a road or mountain bike off the back of the tour bus to engage in a little extra curricular activity along the way. talking heads' singer, david byrne published a book entitled 'the bicycle diaries', featuring his pedal borne travels on a brompton bicycle in cities visited during tours. and paul weller's mod friendship with brad wiggins will no doubt have led to the occasional cycle outing, one of which was epitomised in a video by the style council for 'my ever changing moods'.

classical music, on the other hand, is less readily identifiable with the ways of the saddle. there are any number of theories for that state of affairs, none of which tend to favour the bicycle. however, the term 'classical music', just like pop and jazz, covers a multitude of sins; not all flavours are created equal. there's an outside chance you'd have an idea of what you might hear were you to attend concerts by the amsterdam concertgebouw, or new york philarmonic, but who would have expected the orchestra for opera north to feature an evening of classic hits from the 1980s, backing the likes of howard jones, jimmy sommerville, or nik kershaw?

on the periphery, and far more prone to experimentation with the avant garde, is the london sinfonietta. they have presented programmes and recordings by eccentrics such as harrison birtwistle, toru takemitsu and michael tippett. however, an upcoming presentation is entitled 'houses slide' commissioned from composer, laura bowler (described as a 'triple threat composer-performer-provocatrice'). whatever its musical virtues, it also brings tangible comment on the ever-present climate crisis; the stage and auditorium lighting, along with amplification, will be powered entirely by bicycles, including one ridden by mezzo soprano, jessica aszodi, who has set herself the challenge of singing while riding her bicycle on stage.

i cannot deny that i have occasionally been known to sing the very few lyrics i know to the very few songs i can recall, while hurtling down the road leading towards loch gorm, safe in the knowledge that, in that particular space, no-one can hear me scream.

house slide, a 'bicycle-powered world premiere by laura bowler' will take place in the southbank centre's royal festival hall, london on friday 9 july.

tuesday 11 may 2021

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