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ritchey road logic disc ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"quietest bruichladdich open day for 20 years."

©2020 the mighty dave t, is a prendas sponsored rider and le patron of the thoroughly decent fellows.


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cafe du cycliste

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pump it up

damaged tubeless rim

i've a feeling i have probably overstayed my welcome with regards to tubeless tyres, the flavour of the month that preceded e-bikes. too much faff, to be honest, for the end result, an end result that, to all intents and purposes, seems little different from riding on tyres and tubes. for those who have yet to experience the joys of tubeless, let me offer a précis. for those of you who think i'm utterly and completely wrong, feel free to order a coffee, or simply ride off into the sunset.

though many of the tyre manufacturers offer a range of liquids to facilitate the fitting of tubeless tyres, i have garnered, from watching youtube videos, that the prepared solution applied to the bead of the tyre, easing it onto the rim and helping to provide an equitable seal, is little more than expensive washing-up liquid. so use washing-up liquid.

having placed the tyre on the rim, it is then incumbent on the hapless cyclist or mechanic, to inflate the tyre to a minimal pressure, to seat the bead on the rim, something that we'll come back to further down the page. having done so, the tyre needs once again, to be deflated, and the valve core removed, before pouring sealant into the tyre, through that ever so narrow stem of a presta valve. if you've never faffed before, you're in for a substantial faffing session with this.

my last experience of tubeless tyres involved specialized 700x28c rubber fitted to a pair of their 64mm carbon roval specials, beloved of peter sagan for sprint stages. though the front tyre seated and sealed fairly easily, it took almost three days to finally have the rear tyre remain inflated long enough to go for a bike ride. throughout the review period, that tyre deflated overnight on every occasion. re-inflating resembled a comedy of errors, with enormous white bubbles forming between rim and sidewall. i moved and removed the rear tyre, refitted and re-glooped, as well as swapping front and rear, all to no avail. when time came for the wheels to return home, i still had not achieved the perfect seal.

my frustration with the situation could only have been exceeded, had i actually paid £1700 for them in the first place.

the claimed benefits include weight (not so that you and i would notice or need), rolling resistance (not so that you and i would notice or need) and improved puncture resistance/sealing. i cannot comment on the latter, because i didn't experience any punctures on brand new tyres.

my resistence revolves around the fact that it generally takes a lot less hassle to simply fit a tyre with an inner tube, and i'm more or less inured to carrying a spare inner for a quick-fix if i puncture when out riding. of course, it's easy enough to fit an inner tube into a tubeless tyre if punctured, but that would involve removing the tubeless valve and having to deal with the inevitable amount of white gloop on the inside of the tyre. i did, during the review period, carry a tubeless puncture kit, but this seemed mostly to consist of patches to apply to the inner surface of the tyre, assuming the hole to be too large to be dealt with by the gloop.

my unanswered question was quite how to have one of thos patches stick to a rubber surface covered in white sealant?

however, if i might return to the fitting process, i feel that i should point out a potential problem that tubeless tyres alone might cause. in the case of inner tubes, in order not to incur any popping tubes, it is common practice to inflate the tube slowly to begin with, checking all the while that the tyre is correctly seated on the rim, and the tube is not making a bid for freedom on the opposite side of the wheel. this is considered prudent practice, if only because unexpected loud bangs tend to be frightening. tubeless tyres, however, are different.

to correctly inflate a tubless tyre, it is necessary to provide an initial boost of air to have the tyre bead seat against the rim before the air escapes. with a standard track pump, this can easily turn you into arnold schwarzenegger, before proper seating occurs, but it is doable. to overcome this potential problem, several companies offer so-called boost pumps, which rely on pressurising an integral tank with air, then flicking a lever to have it exhale a substantial amount (possibly in excess of 100psi) into the tyre to complete the seating process. however, it transpires that, on narrower road rims, this sudden shock might not be ideal for the wheel rim.

according to wheelsmith's derek mclay "It turns out some of these canister pumps are blasting 120psi into road tyres designed for much less. just so that they seat into the rim hook quickly. That's not good for light alloy rims, as death (of the wheel rim) may occur."

derek has been expertly building wheels for longer than most of us have been eating pizza-crunch suppers, acquiring an enviable expertise in matters pertaining to the bicycle wheel along the way. he continued, "(Booster pumps may be) great for big volume MTB tyres, but (are) potentially deadly for low volume road tyres. I don't think it's brand specific. It's just not necessary.
I've got a rim (in the workshop) where the guy used a Stans tubeless kit, blasted it with a JoeBlow canister and blew the brake surface off!"
(see the photo at the top of this article)

i do not wish to give the impression that derek disfavours tubeless tyres or rims; far from it. but on the basis that, if a ten-stone weakling such as yours truly can input sufficient grunt to seat a tubeless road tyre with a standard track pump, that would surely bear out his contention that booster pumps (which are fine for larger offroad tyres) are not only unnecessary for roadies, but potentially quite dangerous.

you have been warned.

wheelsmith bicycle wheels

friday 29 may 2020

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rouleur magazine ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the joy of rest

the joy of rest

i cannot tell a lie. on monday past, i rode to each and every distillery on the island. at the time it was purgatory, but by the time i had returned to the safety of the warm bathroom shower, it was positively heroic. the cycling was fine, the honed physique did everything asked of it, but the niggling headwind and utterly crap road surfaces made life a lot harder than it probably needed to be.

positively heroic.

when ascending or descending the stairs at home, i do kinda like to feel it in my legs, just to confirm that i've been out on the bike, being heroic. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. this time it did. in fact, by wednesday lunchtime, my legs still weren't on speaking terms, either with me, or each other. and the same goes for my shoulders.

all the advice i've ever come across in the numerous training manuals and books i've had the luxury of reading and reviewing, have maintained that, if i train hard, i need to rest harder. of course, that rather pre-supposes that my riding a bike constitutes training in the first place. i have therefore hung onto the question as to whether rest should be taken as prescribed, particularly if don't consider a 120km bike ride to be training, or whether that part only applies to 'proper' cyclists?

however, as part of a rest and recuperation period, on tuesday afternoon, i accompanied an eleven year-old and a nine year-old, on a bright and sunny bike ride to gartbreck, some 4km from the croft, half of which was offroad on a gravel farm track. the farmhouse in question, was purchased several years past by a frenchman intent on converting it into a cottage distillery. though he consistently maintains that he has all the finance in place to make this a reality, in point of fact, the house remains empty and the sign at the gate advising of impending whisky, is now sadly well past its sell-by date.

however, the two young kids on mountain bikes were scarcely interested in the latter, far more intent on tiny parcel of beach immediately adjacent to the farmhouse. dropping their bikes sideways on the grass, they played happily amongst rock pools for half an hour or so, before yours truly had the hard task of marshalling them together for the return trip. it's a hardship i would reprise at the drop of a hat; to see two youngsters use their bicycles as a means to an end, and not the final solution as perceived by you and me (or just me, if you prefer). and the pace at which we travelled gave those thigh muscles no cause for complaint.

rest and recuperation.

were this a 'normal' islay whisky festival this week, the community pipe band would have been gainfully employed every evening this week, augmented by the occasional day-gig. but life's not like that anymore; the pipes remain in their bags, and the drums in their cases. or they would do, were our socially distanced birls and skirls not subsequently in demand after playing on kilnaughton beach almost two weeks ago. we have been asked to play at the residential home this saturday pm, necessitating a tuesday evening practice on the lower roof of the local gaelic college.

the latter is but a couple of kilometres from the croft, and the snare drummer transports my bass drum for me. so i needed only to cycle those two kilometres unencumbered. the college sits at the bottom of a small hill, one that still needs to be ascended in order to enjoy the descent. that's the point at which i realised my legs were not talking to me.

so, i have answered my own question. it doesn't really matter whether i consider my bike ride to be training or not; my discomfited muscles don't discriminate. i will now do my best to rest as hard as i can.

thursday 28 may 2020

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this is cambridge

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bits and pieces

campagnolo corkscrew

in the mid part of last century, other than raleigh roadsters and bicycles of similar ilk, the concept of purchasing an off-the-shelf road bike was entirely unknown. the keen club cyclist would choose from amongst the hand-crafted steel available, then choose the level of componentry with which they wished to festoon its person. in the uk at least, so doing was undoubtedly encouraged by the vicissitudes of the purchase tax system. if you bought a complete bicycle, such as the raleigh roadster referred to above, purchase tax was payable on the whole enchilada. acquiring frame and components, on the other hand, left the exchequer bereft of those extra few pennies.

apocryphally, this allowed the intrepid club roadie the opportunity to replace the frame every year, painted in the same colour, and thus escaping the ire of her indoors.

beginning with a frame and componentry led, obviously enough, to a second question; whether to have the bike shop put it all together, or risk botching the same job by doing it yourself? i'd have thought that having the bike shop undertake the work would essentially mean eventual purchase of a complete bicycle, thus incurring the tax you'd hoped to avoid, but my information of this part of british history is insufficient to know the answer.

this traditional means of owning a road bicycle continued well past the point where britain moved to a value added tax system, where no benefit could be had from buying in bits (so to speak), and it wasn't until the influx of mountain bikes from across the pond, that life for the cycle industry began to change. for such was the demand for this usurper, that many of the big players in the mountain bike world sought ever cheaper and streamlined means of building thousands of the blighters. where the steel road bike was concerned, mechanising a lugged construction proved all but impossible, but tig welded mtb frames could easily be handled by the new breed of automated robots. this, in effect, presaged the industry's move from lugs to tig-welding, then to aluminium and titanium which could be similarly built, but now back to hand layup of carbon.

however, by this time, taiwan had gained the reputation and expertise for the quick, economic and quality construction of bicycles, with single factories (often owned by giant), churning out frames for several manufacturers. by and large, that's how life continues at present, a situation that has engendered an unfortunate 'victim'.

along with an enviable reputation for crafting the most sought after lugged steel bicycles in the 1950s and 60s, italy was also home to the king of bicycle componentry in vicenza: campagnolo. many of the innovations we take for granted nowadays, including the marketing of a complete 'groupset', were pioneered by campagnolo. at the time, they did not, however, have the field entirely to themselves; huret, zeus, ofmega, galli, universal, stronglight, omas, t.a., suntour and mavic were all competitors at one time or another. shimano were all but unheard of at the time, more concerned with producing freewheels than gearsets, and with a market more parochially concerned with its own part of asia.

the shimano bicycle company was not consolidated until 1951 and japan spent the 1950s building three-speed, internal gear hubs, a la sturmey archer. though shimano have a reputation as one of the world's more prominent fishing tackle providers, this division of the company was not consolidated until 1971, shortly after shimano america was established and only a few years in advance of the company's creation of a european division. two years ahead of the introduction of shimano dura-ace in 1976, the positron system was introduced to the cycle market, a system that included the first steps towards indexed gears, with experience gained from the fishing reel division.

up until that point, campagnolo had largely had things go its own way, with the majority of professional teams riding campagnolo groupsets and its inherited italian reputation pretty much intact. not until lance armstrong's first tour victory aboard a shimano-equipped (carbon) trek bike in 1999, did the component landscape begin to change. it was only a matter of ten years before new kid on the block, sram, took their first tour victory with alberto contador also on a trek.

however, the rise and rise of both shimano and sram at the expense of campagnolo's market share, had little or nothing to do with race victories, but everything to do with manufacturing. with the likes of trek, specialized, giant, et al having their bicycles built in the far east, the higher cost of continuing to do so in any european country made it all but impossible for event the marques with an impressive history, to compete on price. thus, pinarello, colnago, gios and others, had little option but to move their own production to the east.

and now that the once emergent mountain bike had made common the concept of buying a complete bicycle, road bikes had pretty much followed suit. in order to simplify the production and distribution process in a world becoming smaller every day, this meant that stocks of original equipment componentry, including groupsets, bars, stems, saddle, wheels etc., were now needed at point of origination. this, serendipitously, played into the hands of both american-owned sram and japanese-owned shimano, both of whom had their own manufacturing in the area. campagnolo, who had remained true to their italian roots, were now left out in the cold.

in order to encourage the bike manufacturers to fit campagnolo as original equipment, meant shipping the componentry from italy to taiwan, incurring greater costs than their competitors, thus effectively making vicenza a less competitive player in the market. and yet, though professional race teams are hardly dependent on receiving their bikes from the shop floor, even in the current postponed season, campagnolo sponsor only three teams at world tour level: lotto soudal, uae and cofidis, only one-sixth of those potentially available.

however, the latter may also be constrained by economic necessity; depending on who you ask, campagnolo's market share possibly hovers around the 10% mark, though, as uk service engineer, and chief mechanic for sven thiele's hot chillee events, graeme freestone king told me, this is in a (for now), continually growing market. "The market has grown, driven primarily by good quality, low cost components sold at OE. Campag has grown too, but not at the exponential rate of Shimano."

"I've been logging it at Hot Chillee events over the last 17 years - some years/events more accurately than at others, and it appears to be 8 - 10%, depending, too, on which event. Some are noticeably Campag-heavy (Alpine Challenge) and some Campag-light (Cape Rouleur), as it depends somewhat on the individual market conditions and on how much straight OE there is there, compared to custom build."

taking all those factors into consideration, it is perhaps not too surprising, therefore, that portland-based, chris king components, have decided to end production of their campagnolo freehub model. with a range that must now include hubs for disc-brake as well as caliper brake road wheels, along with apparently endless variations of the mountain bike wheel, no doubt the campagnolo cassette hub succumbed to rationalisation, purely on the basis of limited demand. cycling tips website has also conjectured that the introduction of tabs on the rear of campagnolo's newest 12-speed cassettes, designed to catch the chain before it jams, if subject to over-shifting, may well have been a welcome italian innovation that required american retooling to accommodate on the chris king hub.

over the years, many folks (self-included), have wondered why camapgnolo hasn't just bowed to economic pressure, and adopted the shimano-pattern freehub, just as sram have done. but now that the latter have strayed in their own direction to accommodate a ten-tooth cog on their own 12-speed drivetrain, perhaps vicenza was right to continue to tread their own, singular path. it is arguably, a better and more efficient design, sporting deeper channels, and less susceptible to the sprockets digging their way into the hub surface.

i have read many comparisons between all three manufacturers' products, and almost inevitably, campagnolo gains major brownie points for build quality, followed by the adjective 'clunky' when describing the gear shifting (with which i would exception). but then again, there is also the well-kent phrase, 'shimano/sram wears out, while campagnolo wears in.'

campagnolo's market share may well be a tad on the small side compared to its peers, but there is evidence to show that not only do they play well to their strengths, but rarely seem to spend above their means. campagnolo continues to engender a level of fanaticism amongst die-hard users that shimano and sram would, no doubt, dearly love to emulate. unfortunately, what may be viewed as even more disappointing than the loss of chris king's favour, is the knowledge that eric norris's campyonly website appears to have gone from our browsers.

however, campagnolo has existed since 1933, ever since tullio found himself with cold fingers and an inability to flip his rear wheel. that's 87 years and counting, and i fully expect to be celebrating a 100th anniversary 18-speed super-record, thought-controlled, wireless groupset in 13 years' time.

many thanks to velotech-cycling's graeme freestone king for assistance with this article.

campagnolo.com

wednesday 27 may 2020

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campagnolo

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...and then it rained

ardbeg distillery

the 2019 tour de islay took place on the first saturday of the annual islay whisky festival, or fèis ìle as it prefers to be known. the plan was for hordes of us, including an unidentified american visitor, to depart ardbeg distillery at 09:30 and visit each distillery in turn, getting our scotch malt whisky society (smws) brevet cards stamped at each as confirmation of the trip. every distillery that is, apart from lagavulin, whose open day was held that particular saturday, and none of us fancied standing in the lengthy queue outside the visitor centre, just to get a card stamped.

lagavulin distillery

characteristically for this part of the world, it started raining before we'd left ardbeg's car park, and pretty much persisted for the rest of the day. the american never turned up, probably having looked out his accommodation window, and thought better of it. the same thoughts must have occurred to the rest of the potential horde, since ultimately, the smws peloton consisted of only five.

the plan, as in the best laid of mice and men, was to have turned the 'tour de islay' into an annual event, particularly following last year's, when richard and i received several requests to join the 2020 peloton. apparently the distilleries all still possess those rubber stamps, laphroaig distillery (whether they can find them again, or not, would be the $6 million question) and i dare say there are still a few brevet cards lying about. but then the covid virus intervened, followed by a nationwide lockdown and a lifeline ferry service open only to essential and key workers along with proven residents of the island.

not the ideal conditions in which to form a peloton at ardbeg distillery on festival saturday.

as luck would have it, the weather was horrendous on saturday past, with 80+ kph winds and a cancelled ferry. that would probably have put paid to any who had intended travelling over on the morning boat. with no-one caol ila distillery to join in from afar, i figured i would undertake the event myself, hopefully raising a few pounds for the island's residential home in the process. that way, even in the absence of participants, it'll keep the event alive and kicking until next year. in view of saturday's weather, i delayed my tour until monday.

my intentions were not to enter any of the distillery grounds, since they're all closed to visitors anyway, few of them are in production and i didn't want to appear as an arrogant islander, wandering in where i was probably not wanted, purely on the basis that i know people, and they know me. instead of getting a card stamped, this year i simply took photos of the ritchey around and about each location.

bunnahabhain distillery

though the distance from first distillery to the last turns out to be approximately 100km, there was still the not insurmountable matter of riding from bowmore to ardbeg in the first place. no matter what the forecasts tell you, there's nearly always a lot more wind than the met office says there will be. though it may have been a few kph short of actual galeforce, the headwind that slowed me along the 16 kilometres of low road to port ellen, never actually gave up all day. though it formed a welcome tailwind after visiting the three southernmost distilleries, after caol ila, it just wouldn't go away.

ardnahoe distillery

there are roadworks taking place on the brief descent into ardbeg, so i satisfied myself wth the 'rest and be thankful' bench at the top of that road. lagavulin has scaffolding all round the pagodas, rather lessening the quaintness of its iconic image, and laphroaig has a portable sign informing the intrepid cyclist, that they are closed to visitors. all this creates an eerie quietude at the start of a week that would usually see thousands of whisky aficionados wandering aimlessly but eagerly around anything that looks vaguely like a distillery.

islay high school features a pretend pagoda atop its roof, the better to meld with bowmore distillery a few metres down the road. in previous years, whisky enthusiasts have been seen wandering up school street in search of even more drams.

bruichladdich distillery

the three southernmost distilleries are substantially separated from their northern counterparts, entailing a bike ride of nigh on 30km up the 6% glen road to ballygrant, then onto caol ila distillery. this particular diageo plant is currently undergoing a major re-fit to johnny walker-ise their visitor centre. thus, it's a building site with no public access. that, to be honest, was a bit of a relief, because the narrow road leading to and from caol ila, is a short, sharp climb, and one i was happy to have missed. and just in case anyone is tempted to pop down for a look-see, there are substantial 'closed' banners at the top.

kilchoman distillery

bunnahabhain and ardnahoe distilleries are both to be found on the same road, the entrance to which is but a few metres from the caol ila road-end. last year, we rode to bunnahabhain first and stopped at ardnahoe's café on the way back. that worked fine last year, so i repeated the parcours again this year.

bunnahabhain distillery is nearing the end of being re-modelled, with two large warehouses having been demolished and replaced with a visitor car park, something notably missing from islay's most northerly distillery for many a long year. this lies opposite their new, trendy-looking visitor centre which has not yet had a chance to open, having been only completed just before lockdown took over. i took the opporchancity to be the first to use the adjacent cycle racks.

bowmore distillery

after a pleasantly steep descent to reach bunahhabhain, i had then to plod uphill most of the way back to ardnahoe. lockdown restrictions mean that the café is currently closed, meaning no opportunity for a feed and a coffee, before scaling the 14% climb that added a frisson to my northerly visit.

having thus visited six distilleries in a matter of two hours, i had now to ride 20km southwest to bruichladdich and debbie's café for a welcome double-egg roll, a large chunk of mrs washingmachinepost's fruit loaf, and a soya cappuccino. the laddie gates remain closed, so it was a case of another one of those bike against the railings images. unfortunately, islay's most westerly distillery at kilchoman is about 8km along a single-track road overlooking loch gorm and in the general direction of the north atlantic. it's sort of out on a limb, and features a long, smoothed dirt-track up to the recently expanded distillery and visitor centre. since it too is closed at present, and i preferred not to ride my nice road-bike along the gravel, i stopped at the enormous sign adjacent to the gate.

the only remaining distillery on the list was that of bowmore and home, reached and photographed just before the inevitable rain. if anyone feels they'd like to contribute to the sponsorship coffers, all contributions would be gratefully received (drop me an e-mail). and all being well, maybe you could join us next year.

thanks to rapha, campagnolo and ritchey for taking me safely round nine distilleries.

tuesday 26 may 2020

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endura cycle clothing ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the lost world

endurance tv

sitting in the spare room upstairs are two drum workshop drumsets; a satin maple be-bop set, and a larger, vintage marine pearl set that's easily the closest i'm ever going to get to being buddy rich. both sets are fully cased and vertically stacked, but neither have seen the light of day since last september's islay jazz festival. i should have had a couple of gigs in a local hostelry around mid-april, but lockdown removed those from the calendar. the two gigs scheduled for august may, or may not take place depending on how things progress.

endurance tv

the proximity of thewashingmachinepost croft to other dwelling places rather precludes setting up either set, unless purely for visual satisfaction, and i'm pretty sure that, in any case, mrs washingmachinepost would take a dim view of any attempt so to do. thus, i am reduced to having snare drum on a stand, a cymbal, and a bass pedal attached to a pad. though there's a pair of bopworks mel lewis drum sticks sat on the remo head, i've to wait until her indoors pops out for the shopping, to make any amount of paradiddle noise.

granted, i can still sit each evening in the sitting room, with practice pad on knee and ratamacue to my heart's content, just to ensure the wrists don't seize up. thus, in order to maintain interest and enthusiasm, at least a portion of my evenings are absorbed in the drum section of youtube; the current selection has a distinct bias towards philly joe jones and just how to confidently trade fours (a jazz drumming concept) without sounding like a total dork.

endurance tv

i wasn't going to mention the trap case stood vertically in the porch, but since i'm being more honest than necessary, you might as well know that too.

though the past saturday morning featured winds of over 80kph, i was still able to pop out in the afternoon, when the breeze had dropped into the '70s, to ride to debbie's for a coffee. granted, i'd to use the 'cross bike and spend some time on the grass at uiskentuie to avoid being blown into the middle of the road. but still, it's cycling in the great outdoors, something that i know a great number of cyclists are unable to do at present. come sunday morning, the wind had dropped to the low 50s, and i could once again ride the ritchey around my regular weekend parcours.

endurance tv

as i have reiterated probably twice too often, islay's relative estrangement from so-called civilisation, augmented by wide open spaces and a lifeline ferry service, has allowed more or less unfettered cycling in the great outdoors. so while i miss watching the giro and i'm not yet sure what i'll do come those three weeks in july, there's enough pedalling at the moment to keep me smiling. and for those of you who have no giro, no tour and nothing other than zwift, solace may not be so far away.

endurance sports tv, a tv channel rather tautologically dedicated to endurance sports, has released over 400 videos, including 50 hours of cycling footage, free of charge. according to the channel's co-founder, paul shanley, "We felt that we wanted to give back to our community of cycling by opening up the whole channel for free to inspire and remind everyone in the sport, that we will all be able to meet and race again.
endurance tv "With countries around the world starting to ease lockdown restrictions, we all hope this will be the first step to safe cycling events. However in the meantime, we are here for people to relive those magical sporting moments."

access appears to be relatively easy, by either downloading the app, or visiting the company website. paul also mentioned that "We'll also be adding new content on a weekly basis, so visitors can relive great events, stay motivated for training, watch inspiring documentaries and look forward to future live racing." a subscription to the channel usually costs £5.99 per month, but it has been opened up free of charge during lockdown, with no obligation to continue when life goes back to normal.

as the saying goes, 'knock yourselves out."

endurance tv

monday 25 may 2020

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il pirata

marco pantani - the northern line

i like to think i may have matured a little since beginning what has turned out to be twenty-four years of washingmachinepost-ism. there was once a link in the sidebar to your left that led to what i believed to be a comprehensive collection of facts and figures about colnago bicycles. construction of this ws aided and abetted not only by colnago bicycles in italy, but also peter nisbet of the marque's uk importers, windwave.

but, like all good things, that situation eventually came to an end for a variety of reasons. i still own a steel colnago master and an art decor c40, but in the intervening years i have learned that there are other bicycles every bit as fit for purpose and as exciting to ride as ernesto's creations. i realise this may be seen as heresy by dyed-in-the-wool colnago aficionados, but probably something you have to go through in order to come out the other side, still smiling.

yet, even during those colnago years, i cannot deny having had my head turned by one other italian brand; bianchi. originally closely associated with il campionissimo, fausto coppi, in more recent times that has arguably been usurped by il pirata, marco pantani, who rode celeste blue to victory in both the giro and le tour in 1998. though discussions relating to the diminutive italian could cause arguments in an empty phone box, from an entertainment point of view, few riders could be as inspiring when seen climbing large mountains.

marco pantani - the northern line

and since that inspiration rarely translated into any personal grimpeurship, the next best thing would surely have been to clamber aboard a celeste blue bianchi trimmed with yellow? unfortunately (or fortunately, if you share mrs washingmachinepost's point of view) my bank account would not stretch to the purchase price of such a bicycle, not even when bianchi released a celebratory model a few years ago. so the bike shed remains home to two colnagos, but is bereft of its italian peer.

nonetheless, when visiting my mother on the mainland, i never miss the opportunity to stare longingly at the nearby bike shop, whose window almost always has a celeste blue bianchi on display, still at a price that would give my bank manager sleepless nights.

marco pantani - the northern line

pantani remains a rider who burned brightly, yet all too briefly, possibly a victim of his own success, but almost definitely, a victim of the rodeo of which he found himself a part. it is no consolation whatsoever, to learn that his texan nemesis is still being given worldwide attention for having been a serial abuser of the system that eventually killed marco pantani, at the age of 34. he has been characterised in the same light as jimi hendrix, james dean and jim morrison, and there's probably a lot to be said for that comparison.

for those of you who share my sentiment and approbation, the northern line, in celebration not only of this year's non-existent (but postponed) giro d'italia, but of pantani himself, features an idiosyncratic image of one of the greatest climbers the sport has witnessed. your wall, depending on its size and how much leeway your better half allows, can be home to either an a3 or a2 poster of marco pantani in pink. these are available both framed and unframed, starting at £21 for the smaller size, and £29 for the larger. i hasten to add that one of these would look ideal as a companion to an italian mountain print from michael blann.

marco pantani poster

sunday 24 may 2020

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mr popular

black mountain bicycles

islay house sits just behind the junction at bridgend leading north to port askaig, or south west to bruichladdich and port charlotte. once the home of the campbells, it subsequently belonged to islay estates owner, lord margadale, who, when economics made it plain all was not well in the vaults, sold it to an american pilot and inventor, tom friedrich. sadly, tom died a few years ago and islay house was purchased by two merchant bankers intent on turning the 365 windowed property into a luxury hotel. they have partly succeeded in this venture, but, as the building is grade 1 listed, and thus subject to external scrutiny and permissions, it is evident that the restoration of rooms is consuming more time and money than was originally envisaged.

all around the property is a network of roads and paths to several surrounding stately properties as well as to the nearest islay gets to an industrial park. the principal single track roadway leads from islay house square, (in which can be found islay ales, islay gin, a laundry, carpet fitters and a photography studio), along the rear of islay house, eventually exiting one mile later, at the main bridgend - bruichladdich road. several years past, i had thoughts of organising a beginners' bike ride along this route, subtly entitled 'go the extra mile'. the idea was that, having ridden from islay house square to the above mentioned exit, participants would then return to their starting point, ostensibly covering one more mile.

with very little in the way of motorised traffic, i figured this would offer both adults and kids, the opportunity to familarise themselves with the joys of cycling. once hooked, the world, i fervently hoped, would become their oyster. but, as with many of my ideas, fashioned during my morning walk, while the premise might be sound, the actuality often fails to materialise, either through lack of available assistance, lack of necessary permissions, or the perceived need for risk assessments which i am unqualified to undertake. but at least i came up with a mildly clever title.

my daughter and son-in-law have only recently achieved velocipedinal lift-off with my two grandsons, the eldest being now six years-old. and while i have mildly berated their parents for not putting the time in sooner to have both pedalling hither and thither, in truth, i was nine years-old before i managed to teach myself to ride a bike. watching the videos sent to underline the veracity of their achievements, it is clear to see that both are now beginning to realise the independence that riding a bicycle might bring. granted, the suburbs of glasgow might not be the very place in which their parents might be happy to let their kids loose, but i'm sure you get my point.

unfortunately, though this new-found independence of mobility will undoubtedly stand them in good stead over the ensuing years, i can only hope that the world is not the same when the oldest reaches the age of being able to learn to drive. once teenagers reach fifteen or sixteen, there seems a distinct tendency to eschew the bicycle altogether, either due to a perceived lack of a demonstrable coolness factor, or simply because it's not a car. quite how we go about changing that situation, is probably the holy grail, both from the point of view of at least their grandfather and the town planners of the 2030s.

that there is hope on the horizon, might be delivered by a very recent survey conducted on behalf of black mountain bicycles. parents of children aged from three to 14 across the uk were asked what was their children's favoured exercise, under current covid-19 restrictions. you will already have guessed that cycling garnered top votes (35%), or i'd likely not be mentioning this at all. walking (29%) took second spot, ahead of third-placed adventure trails (25%). however, possibly undermining a round of applause from us all, was learning that four out of five parents felt incapable of correctly fitting their kids with suitably-sized bicycles.

once again, this does not necessarily come as a major surprise. my eldest grandson was given a bicycle from santa a few years past, one on which the saddle had to be raised to its full height on christmas day, allowing for no growth whatsoever. and i have seen many kids locally, riding bicycles that are either plainly too small or too large. or possibly worse, the right size, but with the saddle too low and their helmets (if they wear one at all) on back to front or worn like a stetson.

it's hard to place the blame fo this situation entirely at their parents, for though the kids may have voted cycling as their favourite outdoor exercise, had the poll asked mum and dad the same question, i seriously doubt the answer would have been the same. motorised parents are probably mostly clueless about the finer points of cycling. i'd like to say that this is where we come in, ready and willing to dispense suitable advice to all and sundry, whether they ask for it or not.

but, considering i originally bought my grandson a balance bike, followed by his parents acquiring an incorrectly sized bicycle with stabilisers, i fear we may have to stand on the sidelines, despite the above proffered hope, stifling our exasperation.

black mountain bicycles

saturday 23 may 2020

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rouleur magazine

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another book on the wall

michael blann mountain prints

it is only a matter of days since i reviewed michael blann's excellent book mountains: epic cycling climbs in these very pixels, a volume that pays testament to the great climbs of european cycle-racing in words and pictures. since it's highly unlikely that either you or i will ever ascend any of those cols while being chased by a closing peloton, or at speeds that might frighten the bar-mounted garmin. as sean kelly says in his essay accompanying images of the col d'aubisque:

michael blann mountain prints

"Your genes are what determine if you are a good climber, and that's something that you simply can't change; the natural climbers are lightweight little fellas, the ones who weigh less than 60 kg. [...] Robert Millar was the perfect example of a small guy who made climbing look easy."

but, at the risk of stating the glaringly obvious, a large part of why climbing whacking great mountains is so flipping difficult, is because they are whacking great mountains. the col d'aubisque, referred to above, tops out at 1700 metres; 5,000 feet in old money. the gotthard pass, gloriously featured on the book's cover, is somewhat higher, at 2,100 metres (over 6,300 feet) while even everybody's favourite, alpe d'huez, is a not inconsiderable 1,860 metres (around 5,500 feet). but the height is only part of the equation; the length and gradient play an enormous part in how hard it is to get to the top.

michael blann mountain prints

none of these climbs could be described as 'easy'.

to take alpe d'huez as an example, the road to the top is marginally longer than 13 kilometres, with an average gradient of 8.1%, maxing out at 13%. former professional, alberto contador has held the ascent record of 37.5 minutes since 2010, posted during that year's dauphiné. we'd only be kidding ourselves that us mere mortals could come anywhere close to that sort of speed, knowledge that surely makes those mountains seem a great deal larger to you and me, than to the likes of contador, millar, or even sean kelly. it's always worth reminding ourselves that even the grupetto of sprinters at the back of the peloton can climb quicker than the average civilian.

michael blann mountain prints

so, while michael blann's mountain photography scarcely minimises the enormity of europe's mountain cycle climbs, of necessity, it has to fit within the dimensions of the publisher's chosen format. consider the opening pages of the 2,115 metre, col de tourmalet. the author's stunning vista of the mountain, viewed from the pic du midi, straddles pages 106 and 107. geraint thomas describes beginning the descent, "As you leave the crowd behind and ride over the top, your ears are ringing, and then suddenly there's this silence, and all you hear are the sound of your tyres on the road and your breath leaving your body once more."

michael blann mountain prints

Bernie Eisel perhaps captures just how difficult it can be even for the professionals, never mind those of us whose aspirations but look towards grimpeurship. "Long climbs (the tourmalet is just under 20km) are difficult for sprinters physically, but also mentally. Riders are outside their comfort zone, and mountains have a way of exposing weaknesses.". but that page-split could be a niggle, one that you might wish to mitigate, were the opportunity to present itself. which, serendipitously, it has.

michael blann mountain prints

photographer michael blann is inviting those of us in thrall to the mountains, the opportunity to purchase large format, signed and numbered giclée prints of 'his' mountains. each print is limited to 30 editions in either 675mm x 900mm (£395) or more grandiosely, 900 x 1200mm (£525). simply visit his site via the link below, choose the mountain of your dreams, and await delivery, having prepared suitable wall real-estate in advance.

of course, there's more than just height and gradient to be drawn from the enormity of the alps and cols. actually being there during a stage of a grand tour brings you so much closer to the riders. as philippa york (robert millar) writes: "I can see he's offering up a can of Coke, so just before I grab it, I throw out one of my bidons in exchange. Fair swap. Everyone is happy. [...] A couple of hours later, as we're trying to get to the hotel, I spot him again, in a shiny big camper with Belgian plates. [...] He winds down the window and waves a beer. 'Cold!' he shouts. 'Just like home.'"

michael blann mountain prints

friday 22 may 2020

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discretion, valour and stuff

jura car ferry

probably around twelve years ago, during the islay whisky festival, i used the excuse of needing photographs for the newspaper, to indulge in a bike ride to craighouse on jura. from the ferry slipway at feolin, it's around fourteen glorious kilometres, mostly uphill on a single track road, edged with random sheep and, near craighouse village, highland cattle. the views to be had, however, are quite glorious in good weather, but the cycling is excellent no matter what.

however, on reaching the jura ferry berth on islay, the guys on the ferry told me that i'd need to be back at feolin by 1pm. due to a combination of tides and strengthening winds, they were unlikely to be sailing after that time. bear in mind, if you will, that the festival is held annually at the end of may; i'm not talking midwinter here.

since the bike ride was my first priority and photographs only an afterthought, i said i'd return well before the witching hour and headed north to craighouse in what can only be doescribed as 'blustery' conditions. in point of fact, it took me only an hour and a half to get to the distillery, snap a few pics, and head back to feolin, well ahead of the cut-off time and only just past 11am.

weather forecast 23 may

there's a small waiting room adjacent to the slipway, so i sat in there to await, surely, the imminent arrival of the ferry to take me safely across the sound of islay to port askaig. the only problem was that i sat there until noon, then 1pm, then 2pm, before the small ferry made a valiant attempt to berth at jura. this first attempt failed, and the ferry had to return to islay, waves piling over the top of the car deck on its very slow and thoroughly windswept trip across the short stretch of 'boiling' water. at this point, i was trying to think of whom i knew on jura who might be persuaded to offer me a bed for the night, and how fortunate it was that i'd brought a packed lunch.

however, stalwarts to the last, the two-man crew made a return attempt at 3pm, successfully berthing after a few near misses, and my overnight stay on jura was postponed until some future date. i know i have often regaled you of the trials and tribulations of the long-distance cyclist during islay's winter months, fighting my way through galeforce winds and horizontal rain, but to meet this level of inclemency during the hebrides' apprentice summer month, was largely unexpected.

and, many years later, but obviously non the wiser, here we are again, soon to enter that final week of may, but under altogether different circumstances. the whisky festival of which i spoke above, is taking place entirely online this year, with travel restrictions still in place, to say nothing of social-distancing and closed visitor centres from the top if the isle to the bottom. nonetheless, i planned to undertake the tour de islay by way of a solo ride this coming saturday, reprising the route cycled by several of us last year.

this time, however, there would be no popping into those closed visitor centres to have my brevet card stamped at each, recording the efficacy of my velocipedinal travails. the latter would be recorded by digital camera, while each distillery (and a few individuals) had promised to sponsor me for a modest sum, that i might pass onto the local medical services. that was, until the weather forecast intervened.

now, such is the fickleness of local meteorology, there's an outside chance that, by saturday, things may have changed for the better, but at present, that nine distillery bike ride is looking decidedly frayed at the edges. at almost the precise time of my intended bike ride, the average windspeed is tabled to be near 55kph, with gusts in excess of 80kph. though i'm quite used to these conditions, they are borderline un-cyclable. and at present, i'd prefer not to trouble the emergency services by needing to be extricated from a ditch, or worse.

therefore, unless those forecast conditions change for the better, i'm likely to postpone the ride until monday (because sunday promises to be little better than saturday).

discretion being the better part of valour, and all that sort of thing.

thursday 21 may 2020

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two nations divided by a bicycle

glasgow

just over a year ago, a work colleague of mine purchased a rather luxurious e-bike from a well-known manufacturer. in keeping with the average price of such machinery, it cost midway between £2,000 and £3,000 which she had hoped to finance by way of a transport scotland loan, administered by the energy saving trust, but with money provided by the scottish government. this loan, still currently available, is capped at £6,000 and offers the successful applicant up to four years to repay the interest-free money.

obviously enough, any e-bike purchase cannot be retrospectively funded, meaning that the loan must be applied for in advance of riding it away from the bike shop floor. adhering to these guidelines, my friend duly applied for a loan to cover the cost of her intended purchase, but the approval system took so long (over two months), that she finally bought the electric bicycle with her own money. in a very poor case of timing, only matter of days following the purchase, she was accepted for the loan, and the money paid into her bank account. deciding that she no longer required the loan, it took even greater machinations to return the money to the energy saving trust.

however, trials and tribulations aside, the fact that the loan exists in the first place, puts scotland confortably ahead of its southern neighbours. for posted on twitter only yesterday, was an official reply from the minister of state for transport, chris heaton-harris mp, to ruth cadbury mp following up her enquiry regarding post covid-19 measures to support cycling and walking.

naturally enough, the transport minister was keen to highlight the announced spending of £2 billion on active travel along with £250 million for so-called 'pop-up' bike lanes. he also confirmed his department's continued commitment to bikeability training for all children and cited the revised cycle to work scheme enabling employers to assist employees to purchase bicycles (including e-bikes) worth in excess of £1,000. however, he ended the letter with "The Government has no plans to cut VAT on pedal cycles, or introduce an e-bike grant programme at this time."

considering the widespread media coverage of cities all across europe trumpeting their great desire to see car use remain as low as it has recently become, encouraging the population to either cycle or walk, and thus encouraging continued social-distancing, the uk government's attitude seems questionable at best. and in a somewhat contradictory stance, the selfsame government currently offers potential purchasers of electric cars, a £3,500 grant (admittedly reduced from an initial £4,500 and removal of a £2,500 grant towards purchase of a hybrid vehicle).

though the e-vehicle grant on offer is likely to be a small proportion of the price of an electric car, surely, if the government truly has the best interests of the future cycling fraternity at heart, they could at least stretch to matching their scottish counterparts and offer a comparable loan? and if they hope to get more of the united kingdom workforce onto bicycles, perhaps helping to mitigate against the effects of any future pandemics, would not a reduction or abolition of vat on bicycles be considered a popular, populist and pragmatic move?

saying one thing and doing another has been a trademark of governments from time immemorial. but history has rarely placed us in the predicament in which we currently find ourselves, straightened circumstances that surely call for less conventional, non party-political measures. there's no doubt that rishi sunak deserves our approbation for the financial measures put in place to save the livelihoods of millions; it's just a shame that the minister of transport does not share either his vision or largesse. it is surely not outwith the bounds of economic thinking to encourage adoption of the bicycle as at least a partial solution to past and future transport problems?

with the electric car grant, the government only underlines its bias towards four wheels.

scotland's government has no jurisdiction over value added tax, but has at least had the foresight to assist its population to take advantage of the e-bike revolution and potentially improve transport conditions north of the border. and i have every faith that the procedures involved in applying for an e-bike loan, have now been improved and streamlined, speeding up payments to applicants and getting more bums on saddles.

and putting its money where its mouth says it is.

wednesday 20 may 2020

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wheelsmith ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

it's not happening in real life

feis ile 2020 online

at the risk of sounding seriously over-privileged, the current pandemic and its concomitant lockdown has not affected my cycling time one iota. every saturday and every sunday, i follow the same route, totalling 65 kilometres each day, interspersed with a take-away coffee and on saturday, my usual double-egg roll. fortunately, debbie's is also a post office and a mini-market, and thus also allowed to remain open. and because islay comprises wide-open spaces and numerous single-track roads, i can cycle for kilometre after kilometre and quite literally, see no-one at all.

the latter, casually mentioned fact, is one that really ought to look out of place as we head towards the end of may. for in different times, this saturday would usually see the commencement of the annual fèis ìle, more colloquially known as the islay whisky festival. unlike a rolling stones concert, where you'd scarcely turn up a week early, due to the inevitable crush that results from thousands of whisky aficionados cramming into distilleries that were never built to cope with such numbers, there are many visitors who arrive each year either before or after the festival, to have a less frantic experience.

therefore, more usually, the distillery visitor centres would be functioning close to their limits at present, offering more variations on the distillery tour than you could possibly imagine. since we're talking about nine islay distilleries, you can but visualise the inter-dram traffic that fills the available road space, and in the light of how much of it has arrived from abroad, just what proportion is driving on the wrong side of the road. this latter fact resulted, last year, in the council painting large, white arrows on our two-lane roads near junctions, to remind foreign visitors on which side of the road they ought to be driving.

being passed by motor cars within the width of a coat of paint is one thing, but coming round a corner to be met by a small rental car driven by a couple of bespectacled japanese, on the wrong-side of the road, is of greater concern. the fact that none of the above is happening, is of great joy to all of us who cycle here on a regular basis. i almost feel guilty admitting to this, because, economically at least, if you take the distileries out of islay, you'd be left with st kilda. aside from which, there would be at least six fewer cycle jerseys available to the world.

as is traditional during the festival, each distillery offers special festival bottlings, the creation of all of which pre-date the current pandemic. however, almost all of those bottles are currently stored on the scottish mainland, advertised on their respective websites, and ready for despatch to eager purchasers. though normal practice would encourage the cognoscenti to visit the distilleries in order to purchase their bottles, all the distilleries remain closed to visitors and the majority are not even currently in production.

i could have shortened this feature considerably by simply heading it stay away, but i was concerned you might think the less of me. however, anyone who currently harbours the notion of boarding a calmac ferry at kennacraig with bicycle in tow, please disavow yourself of such a notion immediately. with my prejudicial eye, riding around the principality by bicycle, is one of the great pleasures of life. it's an even greater pleasure if done so in the company of others, including velocipedinists from farther afield, but currently, the sunday peloton are all riding solo, so, in the nicest possible way, we sure as heck don't want you over here.

the roads, the wide open spaces, the cattle-grids, the wayward sheep, the gale-force winds, the rain, the peloton and the distilleries will all still be here when, to use a now well-worn cliché, all this is over. calmac will turn back anyone who cannot prove residence on the island, cannot prove that their journey is essential, or cannot prove to be key medical personnel. if i see you over here next week, i'll be very disappointed, to say the least.

meanwhile, i will be undertaking my 2020 tour de islay on saturday 23 may, (with forecast 60kph winds - no midgies on saturday) visiting each of the nine distilleries in the hope of raising money for local care services. if anyone would like to offer even a modest amount of sponsorship, i'd be very grateful. brian@twmp.net

the islay festival 2020 is being held online. for further details, check their facebook page.

tuesday 19 may 2020

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galloway cycling

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wabi woolens ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

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book reviews

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