replacement therapy

assos app

on my solo saturday bike ride, as i turned off the loch gorm perimeter road, heading over towards the rspb reserve at loch gruinart, i encountered a couple of touring cyclists, one of whom was stopped and looking intently at his mobile phone. though i cannot deny that i was somewhat surprised to see touring cyclists on the isle a good two weeks prior to easter, ever willing to help, should assistance be required, i enquired whether they had an idea of where they were or where they needed to be. it transpired that the bloke, at least, had a rough idea of proceedings. he intimated that they were heading towards saligo bay, though their pronunciation was not that in common usage round these here parts.

pointing out just where they would find saligo bay, i wished them an enjoyabl ride, and headed on my merry way. however, though i was clad in bib-threequarters and a lightweight, waterproof jacket, they appeared to be clad for either an arctic expedition, or a long weekend in belgium. that, however, bears no criticism, since this is the outer edge of the west coast of scotland, where the forecast rarely seems to equate with any experienced reality. while i was expecting rain of some degree as the afternoon progressed (an expectation that was soon fulfilled), i had a only a few kilometres until home and a warm shower. their ultimate outcome was possibly not quite so favourable, and they were hardly heading in the right direction for comfort and joy.

add to that the fact that kilchoman distillery, with its excellent visitor centre and café, remains closed on saturdays, they had a reasonable distance to pedal, debbie's being the nearest re-fuelling stop, some ten or twelve kilometres distant through darkening skies.

my own cycling wardrobe, which occupies more square metreage of the bedroom than mrs washingmachinepost finds equitable, consists of quite a large proportion of wind and waterproof garmentage, clothing that gains substantial use on an annual basis. if goretex didn't exist, we'd have to invent it. and i think it fair to say that, even during what passes for summer in this beautiful part of the world, each member of the sunday peloton is inclined to ride with a scrunched up waterproof in one of those three back pockets. the outlook may well have prophesied wall-to-wall sunshine, but i swear i've been rained upon with nary a cloud to be seen for miles. as with real estate, it's very much a case of location, location, location.

such is scotland's reputation for precipitation, on a visit last decade to portland, oregon, when it rained as i rode to the hotel with friends, they were keen to point out that, as a scot's resident, they felt no need to apologise for the weather. and happening upon two cycle-tourists on a saturday afternoon, apparently well prepared for any eventuality, sent at least a modicum of brownie points in their direction. and perhaps the advent of the common saying 'there's an app for that' might finally prove itself of some use in the realm of velocipedinal meteorology, as swiss cycle clothing supremos, assos, make an announcement of their own smartphone app.

though cycle-based apps are nothing new, even within the cycling realm (rapha have curated several of the blighters, though few of which have been geared towards weather), the included assos' weather system recommendation tool promises succour to the downtrodden. according to the company, this particular aspect of the recently launched app is able to locate the city (?) where the app is being used and, "...based on a detailed weather forecast of temperature, rain and wind, recommend the most suitable equipment for the rider for that day."

while i cannot count myself as an assos customer, though i believe i may have a couple of their products in that sprawling wardrobe, i believe i can see a fatal flaw in their strategy, which definitely applies to the hebrides and doubtless other west coast locations. islay and jura are situated a mere 30 odd kilometres from northern ireland and a two hour ferry journey from the scottish mainland. yet rarely does our weather system match forecasts for either of the above options. of course, the fact that i still do not own a smartphone, makes all of the above somewhat academic, but based on practical experience, i'd be far happier to figure out the day's apparel selection based on looking out my kitchen window in the morning.

there's no doubt that app technology is highly advanced, but i'm firmly of the opinion that the weather is even more so.

the assos mobile app is available for both android and ios devices.

monday 27 march 2023

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something you hoped would never happen

islay ploughing match

as the creature of habit we already know i am, saturday and sunday have an unwritten, but essentially unwavering sequence of events. for instance, on saturdays i make exclusive use of my specialized crux cyclocross bike. though there are a number of bicycles allegedly at my disposal, i make greatest use of the above mentioned 'cross bike and my steel ritchey logic, the latter to help keep up with the rest of the peloton during the sunday morning ride. on saturdays, when flying solo, the slower pace of the crux is thus in no way of a disadvantage.

yesterday's ride demanded a bicycle with offroad capabilities.

firstly, on the avonvogie road, dunlossit estate previously cut a wide path through the woods, originally when farming pigs, but latterly as somewhere to graze a herd of highland cattle. in order to prevent the latter from wandering aimlessly about, each end of this wide cutting sports a tall gate, mostly to prevent deer from accessing the ground. obviously enough, those gates are closed when the cattle are in place, and when grazing elsewhere, the gates are open, allowing interlopers such as myself, to indulge a modicum of offroad cycling while still heading in the same direction of travel.

disturbingly, during yesterday's ride, the first gate was wide open; an invitation if ever there was one, and an invitation i gratefully accepted. however, while thundering along the mixture of gravel and grass (a guy can dream can't he?), i came across the aforementioned herd of highland cattle feeding from the troughs roughly half way through. highland cattle are, i'm led to believe, fairly docile, but with sizeable horns that could do a great deal of damage if they were to look up as i raced past. discretion being the better part of valour, i opted to turn round and head back to the open gate, now wondering why it had been left open in the first place.

further round saturday's parcours i intended to take photographs of the annual ploughing match on the starchmill slope, a field that my ride would pass as a matter of course. since the tractors were well inside the field, a cyclocross bike proved ideal to get me closer to the action (a word employed in its loosest sense).

following lunch and my regular saturday perambulation of loch gorm, i decided, while i was out and about and in the neighbourhood, to visit the recently opened oyster bar past craigens farm on the shores of loch gruinart. the visit, however, was not to enjoy a substantial repast, but once again, to take photos for the local newspaper. though i failed to mention this at the outset of today's monologue, over previous weekends, the 'cross bike has emitted a series of loud clicking noises whenever i stood up to pedal uphill. though these clicks gave little cause for mechanical concern, like every other cyclist on the planet, unknown noises irritate the heck out of me.

through a mental process of elimination, i narrowed the noises down to one of three things; either the pedals, the press-fit b/b bearings or the cassette. since the easiest of the three to investigate first was undoubtedly the pedals, those were swapped on friday afternoon, and i'm more than happy to report that it appears the preceding set of pedals were indeed the source of the clicking, since it raised its ugly head not at all throughout saturday. for those of us possessed with at least a basic grasp of bicycle mechanics, this is pretty much how all of us figure out what appears to be 'wrong' with the bike, when such noises appear unannounced. not for us the need to head down the diagnostic path as has become pretty much the sole option for our motoring brethren.

but for some, that might be about to change.

this past week has seen the taipei cycle show, essentially the first velocipedinal expo of the year, at which many manufacturers are keen to show the fruit of their recent labours. and no cycle show would be complete without a slew of awards presented to those whose technological initiative shows great promise for the future. winner of this year's green award was french repairable battery manufacturer, gouach (i'd have given them an award for their name alone). recognising that the sustainability of batteries used in micromobility, for instance, and that includes the ubiquitous e-bike market, is hardly exemplary, the gouach battery features removable components, allowing a degree of repair, rather than having to dispose of a bust battery.

however, this level of technology can scarcely be consigned to the category of 'what if...' diagnosis, given that very few of us are battery specialists, explaining why the award winning battery employs bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity for remote diagnosis and troubleshooting, while 'internal algorithms further optimise battery life.'

that, i would imagine, is the nub of a conversation none of us ever thought we might ever have, while standing at the counter of our local bike shop. but i might try it out first in the sunday peloton.

i'll let you know how i get on.

sunday 26 march 2023

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nostalgia is yesterday's thing

vintage bicycle

like many, the daily travail involves copious use of the interwebs, at present, particularly to keep track of just what's going on with calmac's ferries. just when i thought all had been cleared up regarding sailings over the easter period, even if woefully inadequate, the promise of reprieve once again disappeared yesterday morning. though you're probably as fed up reading about such matters as are the majority living on the scottish islands, and probably those who are now rightly concerned about the possibility of spending easter time on one of them, it seems it's one of those tales you could scarcely invent, yet a reality that shows little sign of ending.

the main protagonists in this west coast drama are the island of arran's regular boat, the mv caledonian isles, a ship which entered drydock for its annual refit in january. it is accompanied in this tale of woe, by the eponymously named mv isle of arran, the mv hebridean isles (the latter two are the oldest vessels on the calmac fleet, both approaching their fortieth birthdays) and islay's regular vessel, the mv finlaggan. during its scheduled time in drydock, the caledonian isles was substituted by the isle of arran and the hebridean isles, both smaller boats than that which they replaced. unfortunately, shortly after joining the route, the hebridean isles began to suffer a litany of problems and was subsequently withdrawn from service and sent to drydock in birkenhead, leaving the isle of arran to cope on its own.

the latter two boats were expected to feature on the islay route in early march, while the mv finlaggan went off for its own refit, but with the caledonian isles unexpectedly delayed due to unforeseen technical problems, the finlaggan's refit was repeatedly postponed. however, since it is a legal safety requirement that the ships undergo this refit period, the finlaggan is now scheduled to leave the route on 7 april. unfortunately, and preventing the isle of arran from joining the islay route, the caledonian isles will not return to the arran route until 13 april, leaving a short period during which islay would be devoid of any ferry service whatsoever.

however, earlier this week, and promising to solve the conundrum, calmac announced that the hebridean isles (you are following all this, aren't you?) would leave birkenhead, now fully repaired and undergo sea-trials on thursday 23 march, berthing trials on 24 march, then join the finlaggan on the islay route util the latter left for dry-dock on 7 april. sadly, the hebridean isles, a thirty-eight year old vessel, broke down during sea-trials and had to be towed back to birkenhead docks. this leaves calmac with a short window of less than two weeks to have the ship properly repaired before taking over as the sole vessel on the islay route, at least until the caledonian isles rejoins its scheduled service and allows the isle of arran to head round the kintyre peninsula and solve all our problems. as you can imagine, there are few on the island who have any faith in the hebridean isles being up to the task.

now wasn't that fun?

but while i was keeping an eye on the drama revealed above, i came upon a list, entitled, do you remember? and detailing fifteen things that were once a part of everyday life, memories that will only apply to those of a certain age. for instance, do you recall fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, or party telephone lines, or police on the beat both night and day, or even general practitioners who made house-calls? other fond memories comprising this list included scouts and guides bob-a-job-week, conductors on the buses and usherettes at the cinema. embarrassingly enough, i can even recall number three on the list: 78rpm records (though only just and from my father's record collection.)

though never sure whether i approve of nostalgia or not, this particular list did inspire recollection of several aspects of velocipedinal life that have now been subsumed in favour of what is arguably recognised as more complex replacements. for instance, how many recall the threaded headset and the oft missed ability to raise or lower the stem height? and what about those brake levers with the cables exiting the top of the hoods? and downtube shift levers; and square-taper bottom brackets, or crank bolts, or shiny polished alloy components? in several cases the subsequent replacements for many of those did little to add to the enjoyment of cycling, though doubtless encouraged the spending of more money on the latest of gizmos.

perhaps it should become incumbent on some of us who regard ourselves as the cognoscenti, to keep a running list of all those niceties that simply and often quietly disappear? of course, many of the above technologies are still available on vintage bikes, to be enjoyed by those exhibiting luddite tendencies. not that i'm admitting to anything you understand.

saturday 25 march 2023

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are you seated comfortably?

fizik saddles

when i was a young teenager, in the pre-driver's licence days, in the company of at least a couple of friends, i'd walk the road between my home town and the next in order to visit the showrooms of the several car dealerships sited along the way. despite my present day velocipedinal interests, in common with many teenage boys, i was fascinated by cars, though predominantly the technical and mechanical side of proceedings. but that didn't stop us making nuisances of ourselves opening car bonnets, doors, sitting in the drivers' seats and purloining every brochure within sight. i've often wondered why the sales staff in those dealerships tolerated these frequent visits, without once berating us or physically showing us the door.

i often wonder if the same tolerance bears any fruit nowadays.

in my defence, we did occasionally visit the two cycle stores available, but invariably our presence was considerably less welcome. and to be honest, you could only look at a bicycle, we were all of us too small to sit upon the adult ten-speed racers on display. strangely, it seems that many modern-day cycle dealerships tend to exhibit a similar lack of welcome; if you don't intend to purchase, they often prefer that you take your lack of business elsewhere.

an acquaintance of mine purchased a new motor car but a couple of years past, one that to my uneducated eyes at least, seems very similar to many others on the road. at least, not to sufficiently so that it would be seen necessary to swap its presence for an alternative. however, she claims not to hold a favourable opinion of the vehicle; the seats aren't 'right', the switches are in the wrong place, the fuel consumption is not what it could be, and a lengthy list of other moans. yet despite pleas that she has no intention of acquiring an alternative, that didn't prevent her placing an order last year for a different vehicle, a deposit securing first refusal following a test-drive.

and despite the many downsides to owning a motor car, whether petrol, diesel or electric, the sale of motor vehicles still has one inalienable advantage over cycle sales; the aforementioned 'test-drive'. or, to be more specific, a 'test-ride'. and before you raise your hands, eager to point out that many a cycle store allows pre-sales rides, as long as you leave some sort of security with the sales staff, it's still not the same. a car test-drive will be frequently accompanied by a salesman, made difficult in the case of a bicycle ride, by the presence of only one saddle. the obvious solution might be to have a member of the staff accompany on a second bicycle, but that would presume that any given cycle store employs sufficient staff so to do.

cars, at least as i recall, come in several flavours of the one model, often denoted by the appending of a series of hierarchical letters (l, gl, gxl, etc.) and a graduated increase in cost. and cars generally come under the heading of 'one size fits all'. depending on manufacturer, one model of bicycle can be offered in simple terms of small, medium and large, or in incremental steps of two or three centimetres. but then, suppose i want it with sram red, or force, or rival, or campagnolo super-record/record/chorus (delete as applicable) or any one of a large number of shimano variants. maybe i fancy carbon wheels, or handbuilts. with so many variations in the possible specification of a bicycle, how can it ever be possible to learn from a test-ride, unless your choice is a factory spec model?

that said, it's generally possible to get used to whatever you have to ride. i have featured many review cycles on the post, every one of which varied from its predecessor, even when similarly sized. and on three rides from london to paris, i rode 500 kilometres in three days on bicycles i had not seen or ridden prior to arriving in london. but in all those three cases, i took my own saddle.

if there's one aspect of a bicycle that gives cause for lengthy discussion and inveterate moaning, it's the saddle. i am fortunate to possess an agnostic posterior, one that seems to find approachable comfort from almost every saddle on the market. granted, there have been two occasions i can recall, where the saddle affixed to a review bicycle proved more than that with which i could cope, requiring an immediate saddlectomy to ensure survival and avoid a damning review. but from my point of view, it's not a big deal. and in mitigation, it's always possible to have the dealer swap the saddle at point of purchase.

but suppose the discomfort engendered by a test-ride turns out not to have been at the behest of the saddle?

though the latest offer from fizik saddles and uk distributor extra uk is not the first of which i've come across, it's certainly a welcome move in the right direction. between them, they have announced a 30-day comfort guarantee, allowing fizik customers to return or exchange any saddle they have purchased by returning it to the store up to 30 days later. assuming this to be the case, distributors, extra uk, will send the retailer a replacement saddle free of charge. naturally enough, there are a few conditions: the saddle must be returned in the original packaging, and it shouldn't damaged or scuffed, though minor marks, such as those likely on the rails when fitting are apparently acceptable.

the downside for those of us domiciled in the more remote regions of the uk, is that this does not apply to online retailers, apparently on the basis that you and i cannot be properly consulted or advised prior to purchase. i have to say that, the very few occasions on which i have physically purchased a saddle from a bike shop, there was precious little in the way of consultation or advice being dispensed from the sales counter prior to entering my card pin number.

still, baby steps are always welcome in a forward direction when it comes to ride comfort.

friday 24 march 2023

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aesthetically challenged

sram eagle rear derailleur

i doubt there is a cyclist in the world whose tuesday youtube feed wasn't clogged with videos concerning the lauch of sram's eagle transmission in which anyone who is anyone appears to have received advance groupsets about which they might wax lyrical in moving pictures. it seems only fair to say that i do not come within the category of 'anyone', since i found out pretty much when everyone else did. that said, since the triumvirate of eagle launches affects solely the offroad brigade, the lack of a parcel on my welcome mat is hardly surprising.

for those who refrain from perusing the goodies available on youtube, allow me to digress every bit as much as usual.

as expected, all the eagle transmission variants (xx sl, xx, and xo) are wireless electronic, twelve-speed and feature a single front ring, pretty much de rigeur for adherents of the knobbly tyre. there's also a flat-top chain, reputedly designed to maximize shifting performance and robustness, which leaves me wondering why nobody else appears to have adopted the sculptless sideplates before now. but the piece de resistance comes in the shape and fastening method of the completely redesigned rear mech.

in the dim, distant days of yore, rear derailleurs were affixed directly to the frame via a threaded tab appended to the rear, drive-side dropout. however, the times to which i refer were populated almost exclusively by steel frames; should any damage have accrued that bent the rear gear mech and the droput tab out of shape, 'twas but a simple matter to straighten it with an adjustable spanner. if the worst came to the worst, and the tab was broken from its dropout, any competent frame builder could braze or weld a replacement for riding to continue.

however, it is many a year since steel was flavour of the week, and neither aluminium nor carbon respond well to attempted truing of a damaged derailleur mount. thus was born the replaceable gear hanger, oddly enough, more often manufactured from aluminium than more repairable steel. however, adhering to the cycle industry's total disdain for compatibility, there are, by a recent count, not far short of 1000 variants of these hangers, designed to fit the completely non-standardised shapes afforded by frame manufacturers who, it appears, could care less about any form of compatibility (even within their own ranges).

however, no matter how frustrating such devices might be, there's little doubt that they work very effectively; were they not to exist, one can but imagine the substantial numbers of otherwise perfect bicycle frames that would have had need of being discarded long before their time. other than the time taken searching several websites to find the hanger ascribed to your own bicycle, i have heard no disparaging remarks about such useful appendages. they work exactly as designed and are relatively inexpensive to buy. sram, however, seem to have taken a particular dislike, and attempted to solve a problem that didn't actually exist.

the new eagle gear mech fits, it would appear, directly into the drive-side slot usually reserved for the thru-axle, cleverly leaving threaded space for this highly necessary fitment. the bracket by which the eagle gear mech is attached to the frame effectively sandwiches the dropout between its two mounting plates, which form the dramatic part of sram's marketing strategy. the company has released a video showing the rear of the bicycle being dropped through ninety-degrees onto a hard surface to demonstrate the reputed indestructability of the mech; likely a strong sales point for the average and not so average mountain biker.

i viewed one or two review videos in which the presenters laid the bicycle on its side, before placing (in some cases) their substantial weight on the dropout mount to show its effectiveness. as i have explained on many an occasion, i hold no engineering qualifications or perspectives whatsoever, so i confess that the point made by the qualified engineer on peak torque had passed me by completely, as i imagine will be the case for the majority watching the other mentioned videos. but as he was keen to point out, should the gear mech receive a substantial clout from an otherwise immoveable object, all that energy has to go somewhere, and indeed it does. it goes into the frame itself via (in the case of a suspended mountain bike) the suspension bushings, the chainstay and any form of seatstay. more often than not, at the eagle's price point (i have seen in excess of £2,000 mentioned for the cassette, derailleur, chainset and actuators. the xx sl gear mech alone is priced in excess of £600) the frame to which it will be attached is most likely to be carbon.

i can understand why the average roadie would wonder why i provide so much pixel space to componentry that, to be quite blunt, surely doesn't affect us? at present, that is precisely the case, but cycling history should teach us that technology that begins life offroad, has a sneaky habit of inflicting itself upon the innocent road bike. if you're looking for evidence, how about a-headsets, hydraulic disc brakes, suspension etc.? and if i understood the gist of several of the videos, the tooth count on the cassette needs to be an even number on every sprocket to ensure the sort of seamless shifting sram have promised.

personally, i am unaware of any roadie who has found fault with the ubiquitous gear hanger, or indeed, anyone who has suffered damage to same. were sram to impose the same technology upon their road bike groupsets, it would surely be yet another case of an expensive solution looking for a problem. but there's one aspect of sram's new eagle derailleur that was never mentioned in any of the videos, a property that may not, in fact, impinge upon the offroad psyche...

it's as ugly as sin.

thursday 23 march 2023

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is this the future?

buffalo mechanics

founded in 2005, bike charity, world bicycle relief has spent the last eighteen years providing copious numbers of its sturdy buffalo bicycles to underprivileged communities in rural africa. in regions where the word 'road' has an entirely different meaning than the one we're used to disparaging in the western world. many are the schoolchildren, health workers and owners of small businesses whose lives have been turned around by the gift of a bicycle, allowing them to travel along the aforementioned 'roads' for educational ends or to allow small rural businesses to get product to the masses or materials to the workshop.

but wherever machinery congregates, there will, at sometime or another, be the need for repair of said machinery. this is not a situation that has bypassed the operators of world bicycle relief; in fact, it has long formed an intrinsic part of their overall strategy. enabling the disadvantaged ultimately reinforces small communities, both industrially and educationally, but the need for servicing of those buffalo bicycles has allowed the charity to train thousands of mechanics capable of maintaining a nationally very large fleet of bicycles (wbr aim to have donated one million bicycles by 2025), thus providing even more employment.

across the globe, world bicycle relief employs more than 50 individuals to assemble the bicycles prior to delivery, and more than 3000 trained mechanics to service them. as the charity revealed on its website, "To ensure that Buffalo Bicycles stay on the road, we train one mechanic for every 50-100 bicycles distributed through our philanthropic programs. Our five-day training program ensures our mechanics are prepared for real-life situations. Repairs, troubleshooting, building a Buffalo Bicycle from scratch, and customer service skills - our mechanics training program covers it all."

the principle itself is simple enough, one that can be seen throughout the world in the shape of vehicle garages where car and van owners can take them for servicing, upgrading and straightforward fettling. even on islay, there are a number of car garages that specialise in offering mechanical services, entirely divorced from any desire to sell new or used vehicles. aside from necessarily benefitting the local motoring residents, rarely has a visiing motorist been left high and dry when suffering a mechanical malfeasance while on holiday. sadly, the same cannot be said for the cycling public.

though i was once in a position to offer mechanical assistance to any cyclist in distress, whether by way of a repair, or sale of a suitably-sized inner tube, current work commitments and a lack of suitable space, has meant that those days are long gone. however, islay is hardly alone in experiencing that situation. if cycle touring in the hebrides, it's advised to arrive as well-equipped as cargo space and mechanical ability will allow. there are several remote parts north and south of the border where a similar situation exists. but in the more populated areas, things might be about to become a shade more favourable, particularly, it seems, if you happen to ride an e-bike or operate an e-cargo bike.

i mentioned last year that cyclists in the netherlands already had the ability to experience the ignominy of being unable to remove either quick release skewer or thru-axle, following a visit to one of the nation's kwik-fit centres, which had expanded their services to incorporate bicycles. of course, given the prevalence of bicycle ownership and usage by the dutch, this was doubtless a particularly well-thought out commercial move. but what of bicycle-agnostic britain?

though i know not whether the dutch experience informed that of the united kingdom branch of kwik-fit, it seems that they have moved to team up with fettle to offer bicycle servicing, beginning with three of their 600 strong network. however, though there is the potential to expand the partnership beyond those initial locations In the immediate term, fettle's operations will remain separate from kwik fit with the former providing all staff, products and services for bicycle customers.

it transpires that this partnership might have been inspired by fleet operators who have begun featuring e-cargo bikes for last mile operations. according to mark slade, kwik-fit's managing director, "a growing number of our customers who operate vehicle fleets have been asking if we can support their expanding cargo bike operations. bikes and cargo bikes, especially electric models, are increasingly being used for short urban journeys. however, the fragmented nature of the industry's current network of largely independent bike shops makes it hard for manufacturers and fleet operators to secure reliable and consistent high quality servicing across their operations."

so, just in case you happen to ride one of the cargo bicycles being serviced in a kwik-fit centre, just check that you can still remove the wheel without renewing your gym membership.

wednesday 22 march 2023

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passing distance

on arrival at the designated starting point for sunday morning's bike ride, the third member of the western peloton to arrive informed us that he had just been run off the road en-route to joining the happy throng. having ridden along what is locally known as the high road, a single-track highway punctuated with conveniently situated passing places, a following driver had apparently been impatient enough to pass, apparently unable to wait until the fellow reached the nearest of those passing places, driving past in any case, forcing my velocipedinal colleague to run onto the grass verge.

bearing in mind this was at 09:30 of a sunday morning in the hebrides, when nothing is open and there is no ferry for which to rush, the driver's impatience must surely be hard to justify, even for him or her.

this followed a brief, but dreich, excursion by yours truly on saturday to debbie's for the weekly double-egg roll and soya latte, midway through televised coverage of milan-sanremo. midst heavy drizzle and breezy winds, with my bright orange and fluorescent green cyclocross bicycle, outfitted with very bright flashing front and rear lights, while garbed in a fluorescent pink gilet. let's just say, i'd be hard to miss even on a dark night. yet as i grovelled my way along uiskentuie strand, with no approaching traffic in sight, a blue renault passed close enough that, had i been wearing a thicker jersey, there would have been physical contact.

i fully realise that such incidents occuring at the rate of even one a day are but grist for the mill for mainland cyclists. i'd imagine that situations such as the above probably affect a sole cyclist several times per commute, to the extent that they have become unremarkable to the point of non-comment. but if you'll pardon the supposition, that's probably in urban or inner-city areas, not the midst of the 'rural idyll'. such incidents are supposed to be almost non-existent on the outer edge. after all, this is the very island where once it was possible to buy bumper stickers that claimed 'islay - and it's goodbye to care'. now it's beginning to reach the state where that might be replaced by a similar decal stating 'cyclists - and we just don't care'.

the hebrides are supposed to be a series of locations where it's possible to leave behind the worst of the so-called rat-race, to adopt a slower, more patient demeanour behind both steering wheel and handlebars; after all, isn't that why the ferries are fully-booked at easter? it would offer some succour to the downtrodden velocipedinist were this state of affairs confined to the visiting motorist; that way we could occupy the moral high ground, safe in the knowledge that the problem would eventually subside.

unfortunately that seems not to be the case.

though i do believe the two incidents referred to above were, in fact, at the behest of visiting motorists, i would be fibbing if i were to contend that such is always the case. and that, quite frankly, is somewhat concerning. the islands of islay and jura comprise relatively small communities, jura far more than islay. and the latter is notorious as the home of the 'islay wave' an endearing trait that has local drivers and cyclists offer a friendly gesture when encountering each other on the islands' highways and byways.

though it may have once been a truism that everybody did, in fact, know everyone else, that's probably a bit less true these days. however, every island motorist is aware of the small peloton of cyclists; if they don't know us by name, they certainly know us as individuals, frequently courteous to a fault, in making every effort to get out of their way when safe to do so. it's rather sad to discover that a growing percentage seem less than concerned as to our wellbeing while we're out and about indulging in the sort of physical exercise that they are quite plainly avoiding.

based purely on anecdotal evidence from fellow cyclists and from even casual observation, the standard of driving seems to have taken a bit of a nosedive in recent years. this, of course, has to be seen in the perspective of our excellent relationship with the island's truck, bus and van drivers, the majority of whom often go above and beyond to ensure our safety on the narrowest of roads. and it should also be said that the majority of local and visiting drivers are as careful and courteous as you would hope; as in many comparable circumstances, it's the minority that cause the problem.

however, i'm somewhat aggrieved and embarrassed that such a state of affairs has extended this far.

tuesday 21 march 2023

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