playstation wallpaper

my heading is perhaps somewhat duplicitous, given my island location and the recent spate of planning approvals to land on our doorstep. if you're in any way an aficionado of the amber nectar, you will probably be aware that, at present, islay is home to nine working distilleries, but only students of the subject will likely be aware that planning was recently approved for a thirteenth. reputedly opening next year, is the revamped and substantially modernised port ellen distillery, only a decade or so after diageo demolished the last vestiges of the original buildings (apart from the two pagodas).

the irony of that situation is that the chap in charge of port ellen's resurrection, was the very same individual who signed the original's destruction orders.

and only a half-mile or so round the corner at the other end of the village, portintruan distillery is under construction, a complex that promises to be quite sizeable as modern distilleries go. the ferries situation and a lack of accommodation has held up construction of the latter, the steelworks of which were expected to have begun in march this year, but had to wait until autumn. according to local lore, portintruan will open in 2024.

but those of you who consider themselves accomplished arithmeticians, will have noted that, if we add on the two distilleries mentioned above, that brings the total to only eleven. however, the islay boys, owners of islay ales received planning approval a matter of months ago, to construct not only a new brewery opposite islay international airport, but also a small distillery. the two fellows at the top of the tree also own a whisky bottling company, and have pointed out on more than one occasion, that brewing beer takes you around half way to distilling whisky; so why not go the whole hog?

then, of course, thee's the small matter of the ili distillery to begin construction at gearach farm near port charlotte village next year, bringing the grand total, so far, to thirteen. do we need thirteen dstilleries? of course we don't, but so popular is the region (islay has a single malt classification all to itself), that all and sundry appear to be clamouring to include an example in their range of bottlings. and the fact that it's so popular means that the original distilleries no longer have casks available for sale to independent bottlers. what i believe is referred to as a 'perfect storm'.

though you may think of this to be the ideal opportunity to grow the local economy, languish midst year-round tourism and full employment for all, the latter aspect, is the veritable fly-in-the-ointment. for, prior to this untrammeled spate of distillery building, the employment rate on the island was a mere whisker short of 100%. those who are without employment, pretty much want it to remain so. thus, the local tradespeople are more than fully occupied, meaning construction workers have to be imported for the job. and when those distilleries are complete, there is going to be the not inconsiderable problem of finding staff to work in them. and, as seems highly likely, if those workers have to be recruited from elsewhere, where they're going to live is a whole 'nuther bucket of frogs.

but islay, as i have constantly reiterated, is an island of rare beauty, with cycling opportunities bereft of heavy traffic, wonderful vistas and singletrack roads. the very attractions that might bring cyclists and visitors here in the first place. but one of the downsides to whisky production is the need to store the liquid output for a practical minimum of ten years (many international markets are uninterested in whisky matured for any less time). that, to be quite blunt, demands warehouses. and if you happen to produce a great deal of whisky each year, as does laphroaig distillery, for example, you need a lot of very big warehouses. eight to be precise, the first of which are currently under construction adjacent to the roadside leading to laphroaig, lagavulin and ardbeg.

has that enhanced the distillery's popularity locally...?

and it's not only laphroaig. at the north end of the island, ardnahoe distillery, still at least six years from producing its first ten year-old single malt, has commenced construction of ten warehouses. suddenly, what was once a rural idyll, is slowly morphing into a remote industrial estate.

but, as i mentioned at the outset, my heading offers the opportunity for differing interpretations, and to be honest, it wasn't whicy that i had in mind when i typed it. it is, or rather, was, christmas. the time of year that embodies the art of gift giving, of school end-of-term concerts, breakfast with santa and a crowded local averagemarket despite the knowledge that it is closed only for a single day. what i had in mind was querying whether parents still gave their children bicycles for christmas? at one time, impractical though it may have been, a bicycle for christmas was remarkably common; search 'bicycle for christmas' on google to see what i mean.

i used the term 'impractical' because those domiciled in the uk, and particularly scotland, will be well aware that weather conditions around 25 dcember are hardly particularly clement, meaning that the fortunate offspring who receive a bicycle for christmas are unlikely to gain much in the way of opportunity to ride it until the months approach easter. and by then there's every chance that it will prove to be too small.

however, i'm not entirely sure that the apparent reduction in wrapped bicycles to be found under the tree on christmas morning has much, if anything, to do with the weather. nor, indeed, might it have a great deal to do with cost. though not intended to be any sort of recommendation, evans cycles currently offer a full suspension, 24" wheeled mountain bike for the princely sum of £129, while even a 24" wheel chris hoy hardtail mountain bike with disc brakes from the same retailer, commands a price of £439.

my admittedly limited research revealed that a nintendo switch with oled screen, sells for a shade over £300, while an x-box series h with games bundle costs £40 more than the hoy mountian bike. the admittedly stylish looking sony playstation 5 with games bundle commands at least £100 more than the hoy bicycle. granted, there are cheaper versions of all the above, but still at prices that don't make the bicycle option look too expensive.

of course, there's really little point in buying your child a bicycle for christmas if they have their sights set on a games console, but at the risk of making a tautological statement, the latter is not what one might consider an outdoor activity, nor one likely to encourage an improvement in fitness or appreciation of the great outdoors. when mrs washingmachinepost has targets set to have the youngsters in her charge spend nigh on 50% of their week out of doors to enjoy fresh air and to devise activities that improve their motor skills, a bicycle would seem the ideal solution to help the average parent encourage such practices at home. neither a nintendo switch or playstation 5 quite fit the bill.


monday 25 december 2022

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buying your way in (and out?)

cycling investment

i have previously given credence to the fact that i take great delight in reading the business pages of my daily newspaper, continually intrigued as to why the heading recently altered from financial to business; as if there was any difference. for while you and i have need of cash, or a card that can be swiped way too often and way too easily, the world of finance/business rests far more upon stupidly large numbers and share prices that alter for no clearly explicable reason. this leads to the odd situation where the (former) world's richest man can lose the top place because the share price of his electric car company took an unfortunate nosedive.

the man who gained from elon musk's misfortune, was apparently not amazon's jeff bezos, but bernard arnot, the ceo of louis vuitton moet hennessy (lvmh). for those of us not particularly well-versed in the vagaries of financial acumen at the stratospheric level, the combination of a company that proffers expensive handbags and one that makes champagne and brandy may seem a tad incongruous; fear not. it is.

but the title of this multi-national conglomerate hides a multitude of sins, for lvmh is also the owner of glenmorangie, makers of whisky at tain distillery, far north of inverness. (disclaimer: they very kindly sent me a bottle of whisky for christmas). drill down a little further, and you discover that glenmorangie owns ardbeg distillery on islay, a brand that recently purchased the islay hotel in port ellen village. and, as if that were insufficient to provide even tenuous relevance to thewashingmachinepost, lvmh also owns pinarello bicycles. have asked on more than one occasion why they have yet to produce a limited edition ardbeg liveried dogma.

i'm still awaiting an answer.

but contained within the above diversionary tactics, i have hidden in plain sight, a smidgeon of relevance to today's discussion. cycling is, and will quite possibly remain (at least in western society), something of a minority activity or means of transport. if you're happy to accept that as unassailable fact, it's probably not too much of a jump to also accept that the competitive portion of that minority activity is but a tiny percentage of the whole.

yet, true as that undoubtedly is, it is obviously seen as a safe yet expansive market, in which to invest by the likes of lvmh, a company that acquired a turnover in excess of €64 billion in 2021. and the same must surely be said of chimera investments, the abu dhabi based financier that owns colnago, or sweden's grimaldi industri who own cycle europe, who, in turn, own bianchi.

though, as admitted above, i have a less than cogent working notion as to how big finance operates, owning one of the premier cycle manufacturers makes a bit of sense even to me. but it's not only the big stuff that has become the subject of ownership by investors who, on the face of it, are hardly the sort of folks you'd see at the roadside during those three weeks in july, wearing polka dot t-shirts and fighting for every last packet of haribo thrown from the cavalcade.

recently, private equity inverstors, telemos capital, acquired a majority shareholding in vittoria tyres, while yanto barker's le col cycle clothing company, having raised £2.35 million from puma private equity in 2018, has just received a further £5.5 million from the same source. my grasp of economics and finance is astute enough to realise that investors rarely hand over substantial amounts of cash without expecting to benefit from a healthy dividend at some time in the foreseeable future. lvmh would hardly have purchased pinarello if they figured they'd lose money, and presumably their investment consultants will have studied the market with care, to ensure that they're not throwing money away. similarly, the abu dhabians at chimera.

but given that none of the above appear to have any specific association with cycling per se, other than on their investment portfolios, i think it highly likely that, should the sporting side of life show any signs of decline, the wall street journal and the financial times would receive a boost to the contents of their for sale pages. the part of which i'm far less sure, is whether this state of affairs is a good thing or a bad thing for cycling and/or cycle sport. for instance, it was pointed out by many, that colnago's c68 bicycle was the first to be seen bereft of ernesto's signature on the top tube. when questioned, ernesto said "i will not sign projects that do not belong to me."

make of that what you will. personally, i'm still troubled by the fact that the roland corporation bought drum workshop.

saturday 24 december 2022

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i do think it's good

king crimson - discipline

"the more i look at it,
the more i like it
i do think it's good.
the fact is, no matter how closely i study it
now matter how i take it apart
no matter how i break it down
it remains consistent.

the above words are spoken, rather than sung, by adrian belew, on a track entitled 'indiscipline' featured on the 1981 king crimson album 'discipline'. quite what mr belew might be describing or discussing is never actually revealed, though no doubt all king crimson fans (self included), have their own theories. up until yesterday, i would have conjectured that adrian has a rubik's cube in his hand as he stands in front of the microphone, but now, if you'll pardon the pun, i might have changed my tune.

though we who consider ourselves a part of the cycling cognoscenti would scarcely be so crass as to think of ourselves as influenced by any aspect of the sport, independently minded as we are almost to a man or woman, the truth is, that's probably a whopping great fib. only this past week was i on the receiving end of a missive from wout's jumbo visma team, offering me the opporchancity to get in on the ground floor by pre-ordering next year's jersey. it is, as others who received the same e-mail will know, remarkably similar to this years, but with at least one small, yet important difference.

amongst the logos atop the writ large, jumbo visma text, is that advertising sram. pedants and acolytes alike will have noted that this replaces the word shimano, due to the team having switched allegiance for the 2023 season. now, it could well be that their contract with shimano extends until new year's eve 2022, and thus compels them to remain loyal at least in current communications, but at the foot of the e-mail in question, is a collection of logos advertising those associated with the tour de france winning team. and amongst those logos remains that of shimano, while sram is conspicuous by its absence.

given my long standing allegiance to vicenza, such manouvres are of academic interest to yours truly, but either way, my independent thought is at least theoretically compromised. were i truly independent, i would care not one whit about any such trivialities, but having once tweeted that 'i want to be wout van aert when i grow up', that would appear not to be the case. this hits two immediate, but related sets of circumstances: firstly, i am really not in favour of wearing the jerseys of teams of which i am not a member, and secondly, given that my ritchey logic is outfitted with a campagnolo groupset and wheels, advertising a competing product seems not only a tad duplicitous, but contradictory into the bargain.

yet, as a member of the cognoscenti (should such a velocipedinal social strata exist), my independent train of thought should have me rise above it and wear whatever i darned well like. after all, though i've never received a single penny from jumbo visma, neither has my bank balance been increased at the behest of vicenza. thus, i am essentially free to be as contradictory as i like. but, i'm ashamed to admit, it gets worse.

influenced heavily by watching tv coverage of the grand tours, i do all within my power to ride with a shiny chain and relatively clean cassette. this, i expect, will hardly be news to most of you. but this professional verisimilitude occupies a deeper core, though sadly not in the manner of replicating the average speed of a world tour rider. despite matters changing of late due to the inexplicable rise of the tubeless tyre, i have always admired the tan sidewalls of the average tubular, along with their more minimal and conservative tread patterns. such admiration has seriously influenced my choce of rubber, currently settled on a pair of challenge strada 700 x 27c, tan-wall clinchers which feature a remarkably satisfying herringbone tread.

but while my thinly disguised luddite tendencies, masquerading as sufficient independence of mind to prefer rim brakes over discs, still persist, i cannot deny that my braking preferences exhibit an adverse effect upon those tan sidewalls; more specifically, the rear tyre. for during the wet winter months of plodding through the hebridean equivalent of belgian toothpaste, what was once identified as brake pad dust, has conspired with the rain and mud to sully the appearance of my once magnificent and professional looking tan sidewalls. yet despite it possibly being (the) only one beneficial outcome of disc brakes, i stand by my choice.

but to further quote from the same king crimson song...

"i carried it around with me for days and days
playing little games
like not looking at it for a whole day
and then, looking at it
to see if i still liked it.
i did.

friday 23 december 2022

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open house

rapha + campagnolo

several years ago, when undertaking yet another of rapha's annual festive 500 events, i was fortunate enough to have been sent a ridley cyclocross bicycle for review, a machine that offered two distinct approaches when time came to publish my thoughts. first and foremost, i rode the ridley as a cyclocross bike, attempting, with no end of hilarity, to emulate a 'proper' cyclocross rider, which, in my case, meant more than just a few explorations of the undergrowth. suffce it to say that the bike was far better at its designated vocation than was i.

but the second part of the equation was its facility as a road bike of sorts, carrying me through those 500 festive kilometres without so much as a tyre change. if memory serves correctly, that particular year was fraught with strong winds and persistent rain, eased by the fact that i was to be found aboard a 'cross bike. generally, the latter are a tad more stable than your average road bike, undoubtedly more sturdy, and as was the principal point of the review, a smidgeon more comfortable. that last facet had become an important part of this particular seasonal journey, as islay's roads were displaying greater tendencies to dishevelment, not only with agricultural detritus, but gravel created from the ever-increasng number of potholes.

the previous year's attempt at the festive 500 had been marked by a physique pummelled by the road conditions, leading to greater tiredness than i would normally have expected over the distance. in an effort to prove that conjecture right or wrong, it had occurred to me that riding the distance on a 'cross bike might not only save those weary bones, but prove my contention to be correct into the bargain.

it turned out to be one of those moments where the saying 'don't you just love it when a plan comes together?' held a certain resonance. the only real distraction from the joy of riding a regular road bike was a not unexpected degree of tardiness from the slightly wider and chunkier tyres, which was hardly what you might call a hardship. whether it actually answered the question as to whether a 'cross bike was more appropriate for island transportation purposes, is something of a moot point.

i do not know gerard vroomen, the fellow originally responsible for the cervelo bicycle. he and i have never met, and i have a strong suspicion that matters will remain that way. however, it's possible that, at one time or other, mr vroomen undertook a ride similar to the one outlined above, finding an almost identical result, because he has now partnered with former bmc ceo, andy kessler in open bikes, carbon framed machines that have been well reviewed, with positive comments relating to the tyre and wheel capabilities.

i should, therefore, probably be largely unsurprised that rapha's international network of clubhouses has adopted open bikes as those available to be hired by rcc members. and, according to information recently received from campagnolo, those bicycles are being outfitted with the highly recommended ekar 13-speed gravel groupsets and their matching levante wheelsets.

the photographs accompanying campagnolo's words show rcc members riding said bicycles equipped with said groupsets, but rather than featuring gravel under tyre, there is tarmac. that being the case, with no specific notification stated by either rapha or campagnolo, has it actually come to be an accepted state of affairs that, irrespective of in which country an rcc member happens to hire one of gerard, andy and valentino's bicycles, there's a better than evens chance that the roads will demand gravel-equipped bicycles rather than the road bikes previously offered by rapha's clubhouses? by implication, this may also include you and i.

and though i'd love to feign surprise at this turn of events, i'm actually not.

thursday 22 december 2022

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spline for a change


i, and many others, have railed for years over the insidious incompatibility of many bicycle components. though it might be viewed as a hypothetical situation that one brand's componentry fails to match in any way with that of a competitor's products, if we're to follow the marketing and endless warnings from any one of the big three, attempts to mix and match would exists purely as ideals, but never tested by means of 'actual' swapping of bits.

at least, not amongst the cognoscenti. but an acquaintance of mine, when road bikes were still his mode of transport du jour, had a strange hankering to conjoin two entirely different products, for no reason other than misguided obstinacy. when it's perfectly possible to purchase shimano nine-speed dura-ace shift levers and match them with a bona-fide shimano nine speed rear derailleur, it's hard to comprehend why anyone would decide to opt for ten-speed sram levers instead. and on the frequent occasions that he enquired whether i thought this to be a technical match made in heaven, it transpired that this was less pre-emptive than reactive; in other words, he had already bought and fitted both incompatible items, and failed miserably to get them to work with each other.

to say nothing of the warranty problems created in the process.

but for all the professed incompatibility, some problems (encouraged by threatened warranty violations) are more a matter of perception than actual reality. for instance, on my first visit to portland's fair city, chris king components were kind enough to lend me a prototype cielo (now sadly discontinued), outfitted with campagnolo chorus, in favour of my preference for the italian brand. however, at the time, chris king made only shimano freehubs, which left me wondering how they'd effected such unassailably precise gear shifting?

the chris king chappie who brought me the bicycle made it plain that, having reached a stage where ten sprockets had to fit within a specified gap between hub and dropout, there really was very little space in which to manouevre. judging by the fact that the gearing never missed a shift, i could only conclude that he was correct. and that being so, as we move up the numbers ladder to eleven and twelve sprockets, the theory must surely remain consistent.

and that is, apparently, very much the case.

however, the fly-in-the-ointment would then rest upon the fact that the twelve-speed freehub patterns applicable to campagnolo, shimano and sram are all substantially different. so despite consoling ourselves that the cassette spacing scarcely differs, still, nothing fits nothing else. but for once, it might not be campagnolo users that are left out in the cold, if we shift our gaze to vicenza's subsidiary wheel company: fulcrum. less hidebound to stick to campagnolo pattern freehubs than campagnolo-branded wheels, fulcrum currently offers not only sram xd compatible freehubs, but eleven-speed shimano pattern freehubs which, i'm led to believe, are compatible with the latest 12-speed shimano cassettes.

thus, if you're the owner of a 12-speed campagnolo groupset and less than chuffed at the cost of replacing that cassette once or twice per year, you might find it cheaper to purchase a fulcrum shimano compatible freehub (which allegedly fits campagnolo wheel hubs) and fit either an ultegra or 105 12-speed cassette. however, the truth is, velocipedinal life really ought not to be this complex.

wednesday 21 december 2022

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electric cycle land


though tv coverage tended only to show the final few metres of each stage, this year's giro d'italia was preceded daily by the giro-e, raced by competitors aboard, obviously enough, e-bikes. and, it transpires, the 2022 edition was the fourth such electric giro to take place, featuring the likes of gianni bugno, three-time analogue world champion, oscar freire, the redoubtable andrea tafi and even the controversial mario cipollini. aside from the batteries and the motors, the format is slightly different from the stage racing to which we have become accustomed.

though the event is described as a team event, there were several special teams that only took part in specific stages. and given the assistance provided by the 'e' part of the bike, some stages featured gradients of 15% on a race that covered over 1,000km and almost 25,000 metres of cimbing. however, due to the distance restrictions imposed by current battery life, each stage averaged under 60km. as far as i know, there is currently no tour de france equivalent, nor have i heard any plans to alter that state of affairs. and despite the giro-e being organised under the la gazetta dello sport banner, their webiste gives no hint of the possibility of a strade bianche - e or an e-lombardia.

director of the event, roberto salvador, said, "With the introduction of EXPO-E, which debuted in four major cities, the Giro-E is confirmed as the most important event in the e-bike world and one of the strategic events of zero-impact mobility, not only in two wheels"

cycling, however, has generally been considered one of the less invasive sports when it comes to discussing its carbon footprint. that's a claim not entirely borne out by reality; while the bicycles may be emission free, the substantial motorcade that accompanies virtually every major professional race most certainly isn't. there have been moves afoot to replace at least the commissaires' vehicles with electric versions, but for the most part, fossil fuels rule. formula-one motor-racing, given its pressing need for ultimate performance, still persists with petrol engines, the fuel consumption of which averages about seven miles per gallon. hardly a number that approaches net-zero.

but the world of motorsport has also made approaches to the electron, currently (pun intended) via formula e, coincidentally described as a 'high speed game of chess'. oddly, photographs show the cars, apparently capable of around 200 mph (i'm too scared to ask why?), featuring mudguards over front and rear wheels, augmentation that has occasionally been suggested for world tour bicycles, though likely only in humour.

despite occasional references in these pixels, predominantly at the behest of the uci, who once hoped to globalise the world tour a la formula one, i have no truck with motor racing. yet my awareness is sufficient to know that there are no specific plans to remove those thirsty petrol engines and replace them with wires. or are there? according to the chap in charge of formula e, formula one could either become all electric by 2035, or exist as a niche product, retaining its petrol dependency in the face of pressing electrification.

i still find myself regularly surprised by the number of folks who confide that they are now bicycle owners, but are drawn to apologise for the electric nature of those two wheels. it's not the almost wholesale adoption of motors and batteries that surprises me, (though many recent e-cyclists are considerably younger than yours truly), but the fact that they seem quite comfortable with the cost, despite having disparaged many of the velo club for their extravagance of road bike purchase. though only gleaned from anecdotal evidence, i figure that there are more individuals adopting the e-bike than there are motorists going electric. i'm aware that i'm comparing apples and bricks, but is it possible that should the e-bike adoption continue unabated, will there be pressure brought to bear to alter the classics and grand tours to the world of 'e'?

could it be that the tour de france as we know it, and as it has been since 1903, will be sidelined in favour of electricity? though we're constantly informed that battery and motor technology is only at the embryonic stage, with great leaps and bounds yet to come, what if that doesn't happen according to hopeful predictions? is the spectacle of teams aboard e-bikes, traversing minimal distance stages going to be any substitution for the likes of last year's 'actual' tour de france? after all, as robert millar/philippa york told me years ago "never forget it's all entertainment".

is it possible that, in the quest for pragmatism, we might lose sight of the analogue bicycle's ability to entertain, but more importantly, to transport? i sincerely hope that the idiosyncratic efficiency of the analogue bicycle continues to be recognised and venerated, despite what is rapidly becoming the ubiquity of the e-bike. instead, let the motor industry clean up its act to continue to populate the motorcade behind the peloton.

it might be a knee-jerk, unconsidered reaction, but the notion of watching a peloton of e-bikes ascend alpe d'huez does not find favour in these black and yellow pixels.

tuesday 20 december 2022

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