the classic years

winter jersey + bib threequarters

rapha founder, simon mottram's rationale behind creating the business in the first place, was a lack of the kind of cyclewear in which he himself wanted to dress. from what i can recall of the early noughties, i can see from where he was coming. it was eminently possible to acquire team-replica jerseys, with the caveat that the material from which they were carved was considerably less than 'technical' and was rarely any thicker than the toilet paper to be found in the average bathroom.

winter jersey + bib threequarters

the alternatives were possibly from santini, assos or castelli, the designs of which was not necessarily conducive to wearing in the sunday morning peloton, unless you exhibited exhibitionist tendencies. mr mottram's inspiration came from a book subsequently republished by rapha, entitled kings of pain, a book that conditioned the early rapha imagery by the inestimable ben ingham, leading to all manner of parodies, but which evoked the roadie spirit from the 50s and 60s. pain and suffering in black and white, matched by the original classic jersey that appeared as if from nowhere in 2004.

that was also the beginning of merino wool's popularity, featured as a component of those classic sportwool jerseys. it's a range that rapha continues to offer today, though substantially outweighed by companion ranges that often appear to replicate the bright and sparkly jerseys that brought mr mottram to create rapha in the first place.

winter jersey + bib threequarters

the other principal feature of the classic range was a more relaxed fit than the race-fit offerings brought to market by the likes of assos, castelli, santini et al. the recognition that, though we may be inspired by the context of pain and suffering and obsessed with the spring classics, few of us were built like the average professional whippet. this not to suggest that those early rapha products were baggy, but there was no need to pull tight to fasten the zip, as is often the case with their expansive pro-team range. not 'fat lad at the back', but style without having to adopt mathieu van der poel's diet.

winter jersey + bib threequarters

in 2007, imperial works, as was, kindly sent me a pair of their bib-threequarters, the so-called bibknickers as frequently worn by the hardmen of cyclocross and the spring classics. bearing in mind my contention that hebrideans are the flandriens of the west, these constituted the very personification of pain and suffering, clearly identified by the appearance of white rapha emblazoned patches below each knee. and given that islay's weather tends to vindicate billy connolly's contention that scotland has but two seasons, july and winter, the bib-threequarters gained more than just regular use. so much so that, after five or six years, they wore out.

winter jersey + bib threequarters

and only one year following the introduction of the bib threequarters, rapha added to their attraction by releasing a classic winter jersey, constituted a tad more heavily and cosily than the standard issue classic jersey. it was black, with regulation pink trim, a warm, high collar and the authentic white hoop on the left arm. and aside from its thermal properties, it seemed to garner an unprecedented level of casual wear. while attending city centre racing in edinburgh's grassmarket a couple of years later, i happened upon two attendees wearing said jersey simply to ward off chilly evening temperatures, with no intention of riding.

so here we are, in 2023, fifteen years after the original release of this particular winter jersey, and sixteen years after perren street's bib-threequarters were first introduced. as mentioned, my original pair of bibs went to the great cyclocross course in the sky over ten years past, ultimately leading to my desire to turn back the years when the modern equivalent appeared with an enticing discount in the recent winter sale.

winter jersey + bib threequarters

though i have no wish to brag, sixteen years after the event, i still fit into a size small in everyone's bibs, tights etc., ordering that very size in the latest edition of bib-threequarters. no longer do they feature a small rear pocket in which one might conceal one's race-radio, and disappointingly, gone are the identifying white patches on the shins. the rapha logo is writ large in white on each thigh, though i cannot recall whether the originals did likewise, and my review photos from 2007 do not provide verifiable evidence.

but perhaps the most notable factor, given what i imagine was a cornerstone of the 'classic' philosophy, is the fit. don't get me wrong; the modern-day bib-threequarters offer an impeccable fit, but they're a tad harder to put on than their original predecessors. perhaps more akin to the pro-team experience. lest you think that i flatter myself by continuing to order size small when perhaps i have grown in recent years, two of my sunday colleagues also ordered the same bibs from rapha's sale, in medium and extra large, and both report similar constraints when kitting up in the morning.

winter jersey + bib threequarters

mrs washingmachinepost, while tidying out a wardrobe in the croft, came across the original winter jersey of which i have spoken. though the black colouring is a smidgeon less dense after all those years of wearing and washing, the jersey is pretty much immaculate, offering a fit, comfort and degree of insulation that seems unavailable from rapha in the present day. they do indeed offer a classic winter jersey, but it follows the pattern of the successor to that of which i speak, a jersey that garnered internal windproofing panels and two vertical zips to allow ventilation.

i also own such a jersey, though happily bereft of the rather large rapha logo across the shoulders. but in terms of style and pragmatism, i fear it does not compare to the original. that was a garment the likes of which we will probably not witness again, unless rapha decides to revisit its roots as part of next year's 20th anniversary (which i presume is currently the subject of deliberation in the disappointingly monikered 'rapha works', having dropped the word 'imperial' originally applied to the ex-piano factory in kentish town in which they were born).

but then, i don't suppose they still have the pink sofa either.

monday 6 february 2023

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unaccustomed as i am


this past week was but a few hours old, when a video appeared on youtube, offering a gopro view of the world cyclocross course at hoogerheide, several days ahead of the event. and in order to appear up-to-date and topical, i might offer congratulations to the gb team's second place behind the netherlands in the team relay event. this was the first 'proper' edition of the event, following last year's trial version in fayeteville, usa.

a cyclocross relay race team consists of an elite female and male rider, along with another two male and two female riders to make up the six allowed by the rules. thomas mein, gb 'cross champion from 2022 and zoe backstedt topped and tailed the team, mein eventually finishing 31 seconds behind fem van empel. however, i would hasten to point out that this is one of the few times you will read even a remarkably brief précis of a cycle race within these pixels. far better coverage can be found elsewhere.

and while we're discussing 'elsewhere', that's also where you'll find a wide array of prognostications as to how sunday's men's race might play out. the past season has seen regular battles between mathieu van der poel, wout van aert and tom pidcock, but with the latter having mysteriously opted not to defend his world champion's jersey in hoogerheide, punditry seems concentrated on which of the other two will take top honours. i really must question how much of a difference to pidcock's classics season, one 'cross event was likely to make, as opposed to continuing with a southern spain road training camp? perhaps, while the uci considers how to ruin yet another aspect of cycle sport, they might instigate a rule requiring jersey holders to defend that jersey, unless illness intervenes. it's a rule that ought to apply to all disciplines.

statistically, i'm led to believe that, of the races in which both have participated, van aert leads the way with outright victories, but i'm sure i can recall a previous world championship in which mvdp was expected to walk off with the jersey, having been pretty much victorious throughout the preceding season, yet come the day of reckoning, van aert rode off into the sunset, winning by some considerable distance from his reputed arch-enemy.

the latter has also been the subject of discussion in the peloton; are they truly 'arch-enemies', or is that simply the cycling media drumming up interest that, to be honest, was already there? isn't it just a tad more likely that wout and mathieu join the same sunday morning ride, taking turns to pay for coffee and a double-egg roll? and it seems quite possible that wout pops round to mathieu's bike shed to borrow a track pump before nipping out for a training ride.

i don't doubt that no centimetres are given in the heat of battle; in benidorm, mvdp hardly left a lot of space against the barriers for wout to begin his sprint. but just because you want to win a race, there's no good reason to take a dislike to any of your competitors.

pidcock, however, was proved entirely correct when he prophesied that he'd struggle to stay within the tyre tracks of van aert and mvdp as the season progressed. though the brit has enviable bike skills and a tenacity rarely seen in the modern sport, he lacks the impressive power and acceleration of his belgian and dutch peers.

so that brings us neatly back to this weekend, and who might stand atop the podium on sunday afternoon. though i have frequently found the women's racing to be closer and often more exciting, there simply isn't the level of close rivalry that has featured throughout the current cyclocross season in the men's racing. i apologise if you only read this far in the hope of discovering my inside tip for victory, but quite honestly, i have no idea. and, also to be perfectly honest, i don't really care. yes, i do have a favourite between the two, but i am firmly of the opinion that whomsoever crosses the line in first place tomorrow, probably deserved to win.

the unfortunate fact is, that, while the majority of online velocipedinal outlets fill pixel space with lengthy features, offering a blow-by-blow defence of their reputedly informed choices, i appear to have done precisely the same thing, without offering succour to the strategically bereft in the process. in which case, do as i say and do as i do; watch the racing on sunday and enjoy it for its own sake.

you'll thank me for it later.

saturday 4 february 2023

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joi de vivre


there is a slight downside to remaining independent from the review side of the velocipedinal milieu, and that can be categorised as choice of subject matter. i always promised myself that i'd only write a daily article if i felt i had something worth saying, though as i type, i plainly see the subjectivity of such a statement. however, in order to discover if such is the case on a daily basis, i am prone to perusing the trade and cycling press in order to gauge whether my previous statement might prove to be valid. i would be guilty of a particular strain of narcissism were i to think i hold all the answers, but just as guilty were i to consider that my own, remarkably small sphere of knowledge could provide me with daily inspiration.

no man is an island, and that sort of thing.

the fatal flaw, as i have discovered, is that, in the present economic climate at least, many items that feature in my research (such as it is), tend towards the negative. such topics as have been recently explored in these pixels have incorporated the current state of the cycling industry, including staff layoffs and necessarily reduced prices. then there's the self-generated negatives, such as my public disdain for indoor, online training platforms, electronic groupsets that displace and disavow their mechanical predecessors, and the current trend for stuffing every visible cable inside the frame.

you see what i mean?

cycling, in my opinion at least, ought not to be like this. imagine, just for a few ethereal minutes, that a cycling aspirant happens, by chance, upon thewashingmachinepost, earnestly seeking cycling inspiration or knowledge, despite the aberrant title of the blog. i think there is every danger that my recent tone would be likely to send them elsewhere for succour, such as golfing websites or magazines such as 'when saturday comes'. that is not to deny, however, that the machinations of the cycle industry incur lengthy philosophical perturbances, nor indeed that many offer glaring opportunities for comment, either affirmative or negative. to paraphrase 'the big bang theory's sheldon cooper, "how else will they learn?"

but, at the risk of over-simplification, those are surely of mere peripheral interest? the cycle industry exists to fulfil an often heartfelt need, that of a hopefully endless series of bike rides, whether conditionally necessary or simply for the sheer heck of it. once in the saddle and both feet firmly planted upon the pedals, any thoughts of groupset deficiencies, overly loud freehubs or illogically dropped seatstays are surely of incidental importance, and if aesthetics are uppermost on your tick box order, a lack of visible cables is less apparent to the rider than the innocent bystander.

so for any who may have stumbled here in the quest for knowledge, eager to embark upon the pelotonic ladder, i suggest you ignore everything you've read up until this point and step away from the golf clubs. just know this: there is truly no better activity in which to become involved than that of the velocipede. aside from its perfect positioning as an efficient and pollution-free means of transport, it harbours the ability to unravel any endemic mental health issues, while keeping you fit and healthy as you discover a sense of enjoyment and entitlement that promises to last far longer than the attraction of watching columbo repeats on sunday afternoons.

as a friend of mine was always keen to point out, 'nothing's ever worse after a bike ride', while another has been quoted as saying, once you've got the bike, 'outside is free'. and we're all well aware that cycling cures everything. negativity will always inveigle its way into every situation, even when you don't go looking for it; to this, the world of the bicycle is no exception. but every now and again (definitely more now than again), the bicycle, however yours is constituted, deserves veneration and celebration.

but you probably didn't need me to tell you that.

friday 3 february 2023

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will the tide turn?

gear wires

one of the sunday morning peloton recently recruited, experienced slight shifting difficulties with his mechanical groupset on a relatively new bicycle. as expected, the fundamental problem was that of cable-stretch, where everything had worked precisely as designed when new, but as the cables bedded in through constant use, the amount of stretch incurred meant that the lever was taking up the slack before moving the derailleur. consequently, the chain rattled a bit on the sprockets as it attempted to shift to the adjacent gear. a couple of turns on the barrel adjuster and all was well with the world.

those of you who are converts to electronic shifting will have no doubt issued haughty guffaws, with little sympathy for the mechanically inclined. the algorithms in campagnolo, shimano and sram electronic groupsets are perfectly adept at ensuring everything stays just ginger-peachy, adjusting everything on-the-fly without so much as a bye-your-leave. this is indeed a step forward, since from personal experience, very few cyclists have even the faintest idea as to where to begin, should their mechanical groupset fail to perform its singular duties.

but it's an undeniable truism that the more complex systems become, the more there is to go horribly wrong. and if, as i have known happen, the electronics malfunction at any point, there is very little that you or i can do, other than take the bike to the nearest shop authorised to work on the specific system in question. however, that in no way undermines the relative simplicity of indexed gear changing in the first place.

at the risk of teaching my granny to suck eggs, the amount of cable pulled by a single press of the gear lever, equates to the space between each rear sprocket. thus, if the chain currently sits in the third largest sprocket, pushing the lever in the intended direction will either pull the desired length of cable, or release the same, where it is pulled by the spring tension built into the rear derailleur. when the cable stretches, as mentioned above, the lever simply takes up the slack before pulling any cable, hence the mis-shifting usually experienced at that point. the adjuster on the cable entering the rear of the mech should then be tensioned further to remove the slack.

if you've done this more than once, knowing how far to turn becomes second-nature.

but shimano and sram have effectively electrified all the groupsets with which most of us harbour desires to affix to our prides and joy. and in the process of so doing, they have sidelined their mechanical antecedents, while also removing a rim brake option. campagnolo, on the other hand, have kept their italian electrons special by confining them to super-record; record and chorus join the lower orders by existing as mechanical-only options, along with vicenza's successful ekar gravel groupset. however, the italians continue to offer every which way: it's possible to purchase super-record eps with either rim or disc brakes and unlike shimano's dura-ace, you can still have super-record mechanical in either rim or disc guise.

granted, it has been pointed out that mechanical 105 is likely to be around for a wee while longer, but ultimately it will evaporate from sight.

for me, remaining true to my ingrained luddite tendencies, it's mechanical all the way, a sentiment that would appear to be shared by cyclist editor, pete muir, who has penned a pro-mechanical article in the current issue of the magazine. and only yesterday, i watched a video by the inestimable dave arthur (just ride bikes), wondering whether shimano might have shot themselves in the foot by removing a mechanical dura-ace option. presumably he intended that conclusion to apply to ultegra and 105, but his revelation arrived following a comparison between his electrified colnago c68 and a more elderly colnago c50, the latter of which featured a 2017 dura-ace mechanical groupset.

pete, dave and i are not the only ones who think this way. i have come across others bemoaning the lack of a mechanical option, but i'm also aware of the feature in pointing out the glaringly obvious: that we're in a diminishing minority. as a confirmed campagnolo aficionado, for the time being at least, i'm alright jack, but if what says is true, shimano and sram don't actually care, easily able to afford to live without our miserly pennies, because everybody else is completely sold on electronica.

however, i might modestly point out that pete, dave and i come into the category known as influencers (far more them, than me) as do many others, and if we're less than impressed with the electronic compulsion, maybe those we supposedly influence might eventually constitute a backlash?

but now that i see that written down, it just seems as stupid as it probably is. oddly enough, following years of weight-weeniness, the fact that electronic groupsets combined with hydraulic disc brakes are heavier (and considerably more expensive) than their mechanical rim brake ancestors, seems not to matter anymore.

perhaps we could form the velocipedinal equivalent of the flat earth society? we could call it 'wire-weenies'. after all, vinyl is experiencing a practical and economic resurgence.

thursday 2 february 2023

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you have to be kidding me?

scottish highlands

in 2013, i travelled from civilisation across to scotland (glasgow, to be precise) to attend the british road-race championships, the parcours negotiating several of glasgow's inner city streets, starting and finishing from glasgow green at the east end of the city centre. as was my wont in those halcyon days of yore, i had applied for a press pass, ostensibly to allow access to the parts that other audiences could scarcely reach. the hard part was accessing the restricted area from which passes were being distributed.

as i attempted to reach the portakabins, believe it or not, i was asked to show the pass that i was attempting to acquire. it's a funny old world.

however, in the days prior to the event, i had chanced my arm and enquired of rapha jlt team manager, john herety, whether i might occupy the passenger seat in the team car for a lap or two. (if you don't ask, you don't get). disappointingly, mr herety advised that a noted cycling journalist had already been offered safe passage, along with one or two notable sponsors. but then, as my departure date approached, i received an e-mail enquiring whether i liked fish, because 'there's a place for you'.

it turned out that the journalist had been despatched to an alternative event elsewhere, and the sponsors had both indicated they'd be no shows. so, far from gaining only a pedestrian's eye view of the race, i was treated to white-knuckle inside the peloton view of proceedings from start to finish. i can but relate that it was easily the fastest trip i have ever experienced round central glasgow.

and while glasgow had been nominated as 2013's host for both road and time-trial events, there may have been a smidgeon of subterfuge, allowing the city to put all its ducks in a row for the following year's commonwealth games road cycle events, the parcours for which was due to have closely resembled the route used in the road-race championships.

one can only assume that the scottish city's handling of both years' velocipedinal events impressed the blazers in aigle, for later this year, glasgow is due to host every uci cycling championship you care to mention (always assuming you think of fort william as a suburb of the city). it is highly likely that work commitments here in civilisation will preclude me from having to spend a veritable fortune in the attempt to find accommodation befitting a famous member of the cycling media for the duration of the aforesaid championships.

however, it seems that, were i to disavow every one of my deeply held principles, there would be no real need for a ferry and bus trip to the heartlands of scotland this august. yes, those stalwart fellows and fellowesses at zwift have taken care of everything by releasing scotland as a virtual scottish playground for their possibly misguided acolytes. and though scotland is home to five and a half million people spread over thousands of square miles of relative emptyness, it appears zwift had only a sufficient number of scottish pixels to offer a total of just under 59 kilometres. that's roughly the distance from port askaig on islay to port ellen and back again.

fortunately, for the armies of zwifties studying kevin bridges and billy connolly videos to bone up on their colloquialisms, those 58.8 km are divided across five often embarrassingly named scenarios: rolling highlands, city and the sgurr (gaelic for 'rocky peak'), glasgow crit circuit, loch loop, and a paraphrasing of billy connolly's nickname, the muckle yin (the big one). i will spare you the descriptions of pixelated scotland by querying the veracity of their verisimilitude.

for instance, though situated in the central belt, glasgow is more westerly than central, a part of the uk renowned for its rainfall (even in august). and while the so-called muckle yin, reputedly takes indoor aficionados "...out to the sheer cliffs on Scotland's west coast..." if you've been reading thewashingmachinepost for longer than five minutes, you should have learned by now that those cliffs are often strafed by galeforce winds. so unless zwift have perfected the virtual reality experience to include horizontal rain and the feeling of riding into a mattress for 58 kilometres, perhaps i should alert trading standards?

markus stitz and mark beaumont have done a remarkably good job of highlighting some of the best locations to ride your bicycle north of the border, so i'd be inclined to advise you check their twitter feeds and youtube channels, and arrange to visit scotland in person.

rules #5 and #9.

wednesday 1 february 2023

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who knows?

passing distance

i am currently reading a biography of scots poet, humorist and eccentric (though he would dispute the latter), ivor cutler, recently published by equinox publishing, and written by freelance music journalist, bruce lindsay. in hardback format, it consist of 208, tightly packed pages of narrative, followed by a copious bibliography and comprehensive index. though not aimed at thewashingmachinepost, i am reading it for review purposes, something of a pleasure, as i have been a long-time fan of cutler's work. he died in london in march 2006.

at the time of writing, i'm a shade over two-thirds to completion, and expect to have my review completed by the end of the week, in time for publication in early february. and though it may come across as a rather blunt statement, when i've read it, a very much doubt i'll read it again. in fact, with the possible exceptions of bill bruford's autobiography, a biography of buddy rich and the late richard moore's 'in search of robert millar', i rarely re-read any of the books i own.

i like to think this is the fault of domestic circumstances, but in truth, i fear that is something of a construct to hide the truth. until relatively recently, mrs washingmachinepost held gainful employment as a childminder, a sitation that has altered as she now plies a similar trade at two of the local primary school nurseries. however, during the twenty-odd years that the croft rang with pitter-patter of tiny feet, situating a bookcase (or several) in the sitting room would have been signing a death warrant for any publication sat upon its shelves.

the thinking behind this long-held desire was not only to affect a status befitting my assumed learnedness, but to allow random picking of any volume of choice, immersing myself in chapters or paragraphs, in the search for wisdom, or simply to fill the occasional hour between compulsive television (the latter is intended as a smidgeon of hebridean humour). thus, the rather large collection of predominantly cycling literature i possess, is spread across two of the upstairs rooms, in no form of sequential order, and almost impossible to access, even if i could recall which titles i own.

this situation, if nothing else, surely parallels that applicable to the oft-maligned and occasionally updated highway code, setting out the rules and law to which britain's road users ought to adhere. a first reading of the highway code usually commences with young children learning small sections prior to sitting what used to be known as the cycling proficiency test. chances are it was not revisited until those same children, now allegedly more grown-up, began to learn to drive, during which time it was necessary to learn sizeable chunks to pass the legally required driving test.

as i not only passed my cycling proficiency test, but subsequently the uk driving test (at the age of seventeen), i freely admit i have not looked at a copy in the large number of intervening years. and i'd be willing to bet that the majority of drivers are in a similar position. after all, i hold a valid current driver's licence, as do almost 40 million others, so why would i bother to read the highway code again?

but, as many of us are aware, the information in the highway code is updated from time to time, most recently in january 2022, when constant lobbying by cycling uk brought a swathe of changes in favour of cyclists. such as the introduction of a 1.5 metre gap when passing in a car and the introduction of a new hierarchy of road user, placing pedestrians at the top and promotion of the 'dutch reach', a way to open car doors limiting the risk to passing traffic, especially cyclists.

the latter is the very reason i avoid bowmore main street when heading out on a saturday morning. it's easily possible to reach over 28kph freewheeling the descent towards the harbour, yet there are many who open their car doors with impunity and scarcely a look over their shoulder or in the rear-view mirror. using the side road is convincingly safer.

my contention that reading a book more than once is not a common situation can be almost conclusively proven by the knowledge that 25% of those questioned by yougov, were unaware that the highway code had been updated. that's a not particularly impressive ten million drivers unaware that they should leave the designated space between their cars and you and i on our bicycles. unsurprisingly, this has led to calls for a long-term awareness campaign, with the cycling uk ceo saying that "...the lack of understanding and knowledge of the changes is alarming."

i'm sure there's scarcely one of us who has not been passed a lot closer than 1500cm since the code was upgraded. even over here, it's a weekly occurrence, even on blind corners and summits. the mitigating factor in the hebrides is the distinct lack of surrounding traffic making matters any worse. it does, however, call into question just why rural drivers find it necessary to pass in close proximity when there is frequently no oncoming traffic that would prevent them leaving buckets of room.

so, though i don't expect you to read this again, i'd commend it to any motoring colleagues who had no trouble seeing the whites of your eyes when passing you on the road. and get them to read the highway code once again.

tuesday 31 january 2023

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