lanterne rouge

lanterne rouge

between 1998 and 2003, i found myself as the sole cyclist on islay, or at least the only individual who cycled regularly and for the pleasure of so doing. that remained the case until the mighty dave-t arrived at port wemyss and we began our continuing series of sunday bike rides. the shock centred around that very first ride with the mighty dave, leaving from the gates at bruichladdich distillery. heading north, it was very quickly apparent that a man who is 15 years my senior, was a darned sight quicker than yours truly. having won a polar heart rate monitor in a cycle magazine competition, i tended to ride with that on my wrist, disappointed to discover that my effort to remain within touching distance of the mighty dave's rear wheel, had taken my heart rate up to 192bpm. that would account for the black spots i could clearly see in front of my eyes.

that first bike ride ended where it began, with several "hail fellow, well mets" being exchanged before my pedalling squares on the way home.

i'm sure there will be many who can identify with the circumstances that led to that embarrassing trouncing by an elder rider. in the five year period that i had ridden as brian no mates, i had rarely undertaken an outing greater than 40km at speeds that seemed quite healthy at the time, but in retrospect, it appears i had smply been kidding myself. as mentioned above, those sunday rides continued, as they do today, during which time, the mighty dave educated me as to the values of souplesse, where to place myself when drafting in his wheel, and how to become a bit quicker in the process.

islay's never-ceasing winds were invariably an irritation that harshed my buzz on sunday mornings, but dave helpfully pointed out that, if they really bothered me that much, perhaps i should find another activity to occupy my time. i believe chess was mentioned. since that moment, i have embraced the headwind as my friend and spent way too long trying vainly to convince others of my new-found enthusiasm.

the mighty dave's ministrations gradually paid off, helping me become quicker, more 'street smart', as it were and a great deal more confident on the bike. but i have now passed the age at which the mighty dave was when he arrived in the hebrides, and while he still regularly rides almost as quickly as i remember, rarely appearing under duress even on the hills, there's no doubt that age has taken its toll. and it pains me to say that age has had a detrimental effect on my own average speed. where once i would have been first to the top of a climb, i now watch my compatriots, the oldest of whom is still fifteen years younger than yours truly, disappear into the distance.

though i have no scientific basis on which to base my conclusions, i have a sneaking suspicion that gravity acts with greater effect on the over 60s. since i appear, however, to be able to freewheel downhill at the speeds my fellow pelotonese achieve when pedalling (though that could be the campagnolo hubs) i would respectfully submit such evidence to the jury for their considerations. but no longer am i amongst those fighting for position in the sprint for the village sign at bruichladdich, and on the approach to blackrock yesterday lunchtime, no matter how hard i tried, i could not lessen the distance between my front wheel and the nearest rear wheel. in this, i doubt i am alone.

however, with fewer targets left at which to aim, i have found the very objective that will maintain my previously boundless enthusiasm. saturday rides are undertaken solo, where i have no-one with whom to compete, hence my riding the slower cyclocross bike. but on sundays, there is a clandestine target that, so far, my colleagues have found themselves unable to achieve: the lanterne rouge. while they all concerned themselves with that village sign sprint, en-route to coffee and a toastie at debbie's, i silently sat in the background, easily grabbing the metaphorical black jersey unchallenged.

i'm pretty sure i can manage victory again next sunday, as long as none of you breathes a word.

sunday 14 may 2023

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youth is wasted on the young

kids on bikes

up until very recently, i have spent one hour per week at the local secondary school, assisting with a journalism class. i did point out, prior to starting last september, that i was not, in fact, a trained journalist, but given our geographical location, it's quite possible that i'm the closest we've got, and possibly the only one with the time to spend an hour every week at the school.

on my very first visit to the class, my first questions were, how many of the class intended to become journalists?, and secondly, how many of the class read a daily newspaper. the answer to both queries was 'zero'. this, both he class teacher and i agreed, did not bode well for the future. of course, there are many different types of journalist, and not all journalism has need of being directed towards a daily newspaper. with podcasting, online news outlets, blogging and vlogging all needing quality journalism to survive, the possibility that the world would still remain their oyster, was still front and centre.

however, the fact that none actually intended to study journalism in the long-term was of greater concern. you might well wonder why, in that case, they had bothered to sign up for the class in the first place? i have a sneaking suspicion it was the lack of an exam at the end of the year, the course being subject to continual assessment. that said, as the year progressed, i flatter myself by thinking that one or two may possibly have changed their minds.

however, if we perhaps move out of secondary education and move downwards to primary school, it would be interesting to ask pupils from primary five and upwards, how many can ride a bicycle and how many of those were actually in possession of such? if i can recall as far back as my own primary school years, there were always bicycles leaning against one of the school walls, and on reaching secondary school, the entire length of a very long school wall and railings was often to be seen two deep from end to end.

those may have been the bicycle's halcyon days.

the local secondary school has a perspex bike shelter in what used to be the playground, an area now pretty much obliterated with parked staff cars. there are three bicycles regularly to be seen in that shelter, all of which belong to members of staff. there are no pupils at the secondary who cycle to school. there are one or two who ride to school at the adjacent primary, but cursory observation would tend to suggest that most of their bikes need a large soupcon of tender loving care. and no longer are they taught cycling proficency since argyll & bute council disbanded the road safety department several years past to save money.

i might have hoped that cycling would be in ruder health in the principality, given the relatively light traffic that exists compared to the mainland, but it appears that a lack of junior cyclists is not confined to the hallowed isle. according to bicycle association figures, sales of kids' bikes in 2022, were below pre-covid levels, which, according to the association, is a worrying trend. total acoustic bicycle sales dropped by 22%, while kids' bike sales were down by 28% on pre-2019 levels.

those figures are definitely not good news for the nation's bike shops; despite being classed as essential services during the periods of lockdown, bike shops have an uphill struggle against lowering footfall and competition from online retailers, but if sales of children's bicycles are decreasing, that scarcely brings optimism for the future. it would be interesting to learn if recruitment to the nation's cycling clubs is correspondingly in decline. we in the velo club have failed miserably in attracting any adherents under the age of thirty, while football, swimming, badminton and even archery has managed at least a few.

we have consoled ourselves by attributing this lack of youth to an unwillingness to put a bit of effort into it, but i think the real reason is a tad deeper than that, either because cycling is seen as decidedly uncool, or because mum and dad are forever giving their little darlings a lift in the car. there is definitely no lack of teenagers learning to drive and acquiring their own souped-up motors, so it would seem that the dearth of younger cyclists has little to do with a lack of spondulicks.

however, as the world looks to reduce its carbon footprint and move to alternative, less polluting means of transport, it is indeed a worrying trend that the generation likely to be most affected by climate change, is pretty much ignoring the bicycle. and where that generation is too young to be appropriately aware, it seems their parents and teachers aren't taking up the slack. i, possibly you, and the bicycle industry at large, are apparently bereft of answers to this immediate dilemma.

saturday 13 may 2023

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joined up thinking

bikes on buses

i have little experience of public transport across the country, but it seems highly likely that, in urban and city locations at least, the availability of a regular and reasonably frequent service is pretty much taken for granted, either via rail or bus. this observation is based predominantly on the number of folk arriving on the island at one or other of our ferry ports, staring in blank astonishment that they can go no farther without human intervention. effectively, islay's bus service ends at 6pm each evening, and exists not at all on a sunday. should you arrive as a foot passenger on the ferry service at either of those times, it will be necessary either to have someone arranged to meet you, or to attempt to find the phone number of a taxi service willing to assist.

i spoke with a gentleman earlier this week, who, along with his better half, had travelled to kennacraig by car, intending to travel to islay for the week. unfortunately, and i know not which, he had either not booked his ferry passage, or calmac altered his booking, but the couple had had to travel as foot passengers, leaving the car parked at kennacraig ferry terminal. unfortunately, he was in self-catering accommodation situated over a kilometre from portnahaven village on the south western tip of the island. the village sports a pub, but in effect, nothing else. there's no cafe and no shop; the nearest is some twelve kilometres distant, reachable via a remarkably infrequent bus service. though he claimed to be enjoying his island break, he did wax lyrical about its transportational and retail deficiencies, which were very much not what he was expecting.

similar transport problems are likely to afflict some of the intrepid cyclists attempting to reach the western isles.

an office colleague told me recently that, when returning by bus from glasgow in atrocious scottish weather, it had made its regulation stop at lochgilphead, where the coach was met by a couple of cyclists heading west. in view of the devilish weather, they had waited at the bus stop in the hope of gaining passage on the citylink coach. however, despite the weather conditions, the coach driver had declined to carry them or their bicycles. his reasoning centred on the fact that placing uncovered bicycles in the hold would be likely to damage or stain other passengers' luggage.

unfortunately for the cyclists, he was well within his rights to deny them passage on his bus. when researching the cycling on islay and jura leaflet several years ago, i had enquired of citylink/west coast motors whether they would carry bicycles in the bus cargo areas. they stated that they would be happy so to do, dependent on available space, but requiring that the bicycles would need to be bagged or boxed for the very reasons cited above. they were also keen to point out that bicycles were carried at the drivers' discretion. if anyone felt aggrieved at being refused passage, there was no point in contacting customer service, since the driver had the final say.

the glaringly obvious fly-in-the-ointment here would likely be the bag or box. for assuming those would be required on the return journey, or perhaps for further journeys to elsewhere, how could they possibly be carried on the bikes when not required? the simple solution would appear to be the use of so-called bike-socks, consisting of a lightweight, stretch material that fits over the wheels and nether regions of the bicycle, thus shielding any nearby luggage from damage or contamination. from cursory observation, it seems possible that these bespoke coverings would fold small enough to be carried in a pannier, bikepacking bag or backpack. however, cyclists bereft of such coverage at point of departure would be no better off.

citylink allow for booking of up to two bicycles per coach at time of passenger booking, which does seem a rather minimal quantity, but them's the rules. those would of course, be liable to the afirementioned packing regulations. however, this past week, citylink announced that, on six current routes, they would be happy to supply the necessary bike socks for use by booked passengers. these are now available on routes from glasgow to skye or fort william, or inverness to portree, fort william or ullapool.

since islay and jura are often visited by cyclists intending to travel further north, i enquired of citylink whether they would be extending the bike-sock provision to the 926, glasgow to campbeltown service, which stops off at kennacraig for the islay ferry. they replied to say that they were looking at offering bike socks on all of their routes, though at present were unable to confirm if or when that would actually happen. however, the very fact that plans are afoot, is surely encouraging news and another step in creatng a joined up transport infrastructure that has actually taken bicycles into account.

if the opportunity ever presents itself, let them know it's something you'd find favour with.

saturday 13 may 2023

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bikepacking scotland. 20 multi-day cycling adventures off the beaten track. markus stitz vertebrate publishing softback 169pp illus. £20

bikepacking scotland - markus stitz

though i like to think of myself as one averse to the ugly habit of boasting, i think it a truism that i have made plain my healthy suspicions over the whole 'gravel' thing. though many have attempted to explain, i can still see little notable difference between a cyclocross bicycle and one that purports to the apellation, gravel. someone, somewhere, is probably laughing at us.

that someone, however, is not markus stitz. rarely have i come across an individual whose investment in a singular velocipedinal genre, borders on the irrepressive. those of you who, like yours truly, follow markus on twitter will well know to what i refer. scarcely a day goes by that the edinburgh-based german is not promoting a book, blog, video or event related to the act of riding off the beaten track. not even a year has gone by since his first book (great british gravel rides) and here he is once more, every bit as enthusiastic as ever.

this time round, markus is promoting the activity that i believe may have been invented to support the existence of the gravel bike in the first place (i apologise for my cynicism): bikepacking. it's what was once referred to as touring, even if carried out aboard gravel bikes and eschewing, where possible, the metalled roads.

the author has, to put it mildly, done his homework, and how. with a book divided into geographical areas, ranging from a variation on the country's north coast 500, to the scottish borders, it's hard not to imagine mr stitz travelling nationwide with a broad smile on his face and a notebook in his hand.

bikepacking scotland - markus stitz

"I had my official introduction to bikepacking in 2014 [...] Back then I was unprepared for what lay ahead of me, bit I loved the the spirit of the community of riders that enveloped me."

but before any of the book's readership sets sail towards the hinterlands, there's the small matter of denying any suspicions over the veracity of the bikepacking meme. across several introductory pages, stitz describes "...many reasons for choosing Scotland as a bikepacking destination...", including sections on accommodation and shelter, the outdoor access code, midges, weather, and the fact that scotland's many estates have a tendency to shoot deer at certain times of the year. it may be that the concept of gravel riding is to leave behind the trappings of civilisation, but there are always a few that are going to get in the way.

and then, of course, there's you and the bike: what to wear, and what you might need in order to maintain forward motion. quite why anyone would want to live the free and easy life aboard an e-gravel bike is beyond me, but markus is obviously of a more generous disposition than i. then, assuming you've little inclination to ride from the borders to the start of the north coast 500 (loch carron), there's the not so small matter of how to get to your choice of gravel using public transport. and the author also recognises that it might be a prudent notion to check your agglomeration of bikepacking kit.

"Find the saddle that suits you best, discover the food that makes you happy, check that your waterproofs really do keep you dry and work out what's missing from your toolkit."

bikepacking scotland - markus stitz

some of this might seem a tad obvious, but based on years of experience with touring cyclists and the essentials that few of them seem to have either considered or remembered, it's an aspect of adventure cycling that i doubt can be overstated.

the routes are delightful in and of themselves; it's an adventure just reading and viewing the copious illustrations. and unlike many a guidebook, the included multi-page maps are of a quality that would obviate any need to carry an ordnance survey version, or continually refer to a smartphone app. the sidebars offer brief advice on accommodation options, any other nearby routes, relevant warnings, and where refreshments might be found.

as an armchair adventurer, i cannot verify the latter, but when it comes to dining and supping opportunities on islay, i count myself as a local expert. and it is here that i might point out a difference of opinion. regular readers will be well appraised about debbie's in bruichladdich, the home of the island's finest coffee and double-egg rolls. yet, despite chapter 13, bikepacking argyll's islands describing the parcours around islay, including a route taking in the mixed-use path between bruichladdich and port charlotte, a route that necessitates passing debbie's en-route (probably in both directions), the velo club's favoured watering hole remains totally anonymous.

perhaps the author could update this fact in the reprint? i'm unsure how as to how many local cyclists were consulted on such aspects, but it might be an idea.

bikepacking scotland - markus stitz

that is, however, a minor and entirely parochial irritation which in no way detracts from the excellence of bikepacking scotland. as brief respite from planning a next adventure over the next decade, the author provides spotlight features on riders who have adventured a great deal more than either you or i, such as jenny graham, mark beaumont, alan goldsmith and ross o'reilly. i presume it was only modesty that excluded the author from including himself and his round the world trip on a single-speed.

i'm more than happy to indulge my occasional failed impersonation of wout van aert on my cyclocross bike, and i cannot deny that i have occasionally traversed several of the islay routes included in this book. however, despite my embarrassing lack of a sense of adventure and a thinly veiled contempt for the gravel trend, this is scottish adventure at its best, writ large with a capital 'a' (if i actually employed capital letters in the first place). markus' unbridled enthusiasm for his metier shines out of every page.

highly recommended inspiration.

buy the book

friday 11 may 2023

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are we still in love, but just not as much?

share prices

as the saying goes, 'there are lies, damn lies and statistics', a statement that can be applied to pretty much every aspect of commercial, social and governmental life in the current era, some of which is predicated on offering a strategic point of view, but more often, the result of a snapshot of an ongoing situation. i'm not one equipped to comprehend every last financial twist that the markets promote, but i do find myself fascinated by the business pages of my daily paper, predominantly on the basis that they describe a world in which i live, but not one of which i find myself a part.

in my student days, a summer job required the acquisition and storage of commodities required by the firm of airline caterers for whom i worked. on one notable day in early january, fog closed literally every uk airport other than the one at which i worked, necessitating an endless stream of diverted aircraft, many of which required catering. other than food demands, in order to clean vast amounts of crockery and catering equipment, the supplier of cleaning products ultimately had to send a fleet of trucks to maintain standards and supplies.

come the same time the following year, when no such errant weather patterns were to be seen, the hapless salesman whose job it was to service our requirements saw his monthly sales targets balloon to numbers he hadn't a hope of achieving. therefore, at his monthly assessment, he was berated for being well shy of expectations. not unlike recent happenstances in the bicycle industry.

i, and the rest of the cycling media, have filled many a column inch and pixel, with tales of the apparent rapid increase in adoption of cycling for both transportation and leisure during the covid pandemic. for whatever reason, folks wished to avoid public or personal motor transport, the humble bicycle provided an immediate and economic solution. as we have discussed at length, the industry appears to have fallen into the trap of believing in this second-coming, bolstering stocks where possible, and increasing advance orders where it felt necessary. the fact that bicycle shops were categorised as essential services gave governmental credence to the situation.

however, as with pretty much all situations, particularly those that often seem too good to be true, this one came to, if not quite an abrupt end, one that arrived sooner than hoped for. according to recent reports, many shops and distributors have a substantial quantity of unsold stock, much of which needs to be moved sooner rather than later, to accommodate the bicycle industry's inclusion in the world of fashion, where it has become customary to introduce new models on an annual basis.

firstly, there was the world's largest component manufacturer, shimano, reporting a 16.8% drop in bike-related sales for the first quarter of this year. then there's go-pro, purveyors of action cameras, many of which find their way onto a set of handlebars near you. their revenue dropped by 19% over the same period. and fox, suspension suppliers to the offroad world have shown a 30% decline during the first quarter, and expect a 20% sales reduction across the year.

of course, it's not all doom and glom, despite industry figures demonstrating flat or negative growth in pretty much every one of the cycling sectors other than that of the e-bike. orbea for instance, showed a 20% increase in profits in 2022. others have also found themselves with more money than they expected.

but does this mean a state of negativity exists across the board? is it possible that these figures are all relative? if i earned £1,000 last year because i found extra work, but this year turns out to be 'normal', and i only earn £800, does that actually mean a downturn in my fortunes? could it just be that the world is every bit as in thrall to the bicycle as it was before the pandemic (or even just a little bit more), and has now returned to its previous state of entropy?

i might cite as evidence of the superficiality of the financial markets, the vagaries of which seem to affect industry independent of any natural logic, the situation at apple computer. on achieving the distinction of being the frst company in the entire history of the universe to reach a valuation of $1 trillion, their share value dropped noticeably. this, i'm led to believe, was at the behest of analysts, an anonymous, faceless group of people whose clandestine judgments can bring a company to its knees. apparently, their contention that it was unlikely that apple could surpass such financial heights, made investment of share capital less attractive to those with spare pocket money.

therefore, i don't necessarily think that those of us who ride bicycles because we love riding bicycles, should ignore profits, losses and share prices, but we should never let them get in the way of a bike ride. casual observation would tend to suggest that there are every bit as many folks in love with the bicycle as there has been over the past decade. there could be all manner of reasons as to why shimano's profits are lacking; perhaps the average cycle lover simply doesn't break stuff as often as they did, or maybe, due to a coincidental cost-of-living-crisis, we don't buy new bikes at the rate we did during the halcyon days of yore.

just remember, every day is a good day for a bike ride.

thursday 11 may 2023

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the cycling bible: the cyclist's guide to physical and mental training and bike maintenance. chris sidwells. vertebrate publishing softback. 256pp illus. £25

the cycling bible - chris sidwells

in the early 1980s, shortly after i purchased what turned out to be an ill-advised road bicycle, the name of which is a closely guarded secret because it was crap, i came upon a paperback copy of richard's bicycle book, an edition published in 1983. the author, richard ballantine, passed away in 2013, but has been credited as the man who made the case for asserive urban cycling prior to it becoming fashionable. he was also very well versed in all aspects of the bicycle and the life that went with it. had i read a copy of his book prior to the errant cycle purchase, not only would i not have purchased that particular brand, i'd have been a bit more choosy (and educated) about its specification.

you can still pick up second hand, well-thumbed copies of richard's bicycle book on amazon, but much of the content is now mechanically well out of date. which leaves the cycling world in something of a quandary. how would the modern-day me have survived?

well, this recently published volume by author, chris sidwells, while not necessarily designed as a replacement for mr ballantine's contributions, would be a particularly good place to begin. for, to be honest, it wasn't only the knowledge gained from mr ballantine's chapters, but the irreplaceable inspiration thrust upon a young velocipedinal acolyte who had no idea about what might lie ahead. mr sidwells, intentionally or otherwise, has stepped up to the plate.

"Cycling ... (is) an escape from the day to day, as well as a vehicle for adventure, for healthy competition, for taking on challenges, for independence, gaining confidence, discovering places and experiencing the delight of movement under your own power."

the above quote comes from the opening paragraphs of a chapter entitled 'a manifesto for cycling'. it is a preamble to the author's immediate narrative discussing the physical aspect of cycling. as he outlines in the introduction, "a large section of the book focuses on fitness...", a facet that, if memory serves, was more rarely mentioned in richard's bicycle book'. however, cycling life has changed substantially since the early 1980s, and the version of the latter publication acquired by yours truly was simply an updated account of an earlier edition. nowadays, cycle sport has a far higher profile than was the case in 1983.

it wasn't until the following year that robert millar accupied the highest placing by a brit in the annual tour de france, taking the polka dot jersey in the process. and it was the year following that before channel four began their half-hour tv reports throughout those three weeks in july. nowadays, wall-to-wall coverage, not only of the three grand tours, but even each and every european cyclocross championships, provides instant gratification, and quite likely instills a desire, if not necessarily to participate, to at least follow the fitness and nutritional paths of the pros.

if that's what floats your boat (so to speak), mr sidwells is your man.

the manifesto can be considered a gentle introduction to the remainder of the book, followed by helpful advice on buying a bike. depending on your chosen cycling genre, it might even help you decide which one would best suit your aspirations. assuming the latter choice to have been made, the author details many of the accoutrements frequently omitted at point of entry, such as shoes, helmets, bottle-cages all of which are leading towards the chapter on 'what to wear'. i can sure you that this particular chapter harbours far more importance than it did in the 1980s. should the type of cycling in which you wish to apprentice need further clarification, mr sidwells provides a short but comprehensive précis of today's 57 varieties, including even the relatively recent gravel bike.

but, as the author has already intimated, a sizeable portion of the contents are geared (pun intended) towards training yourself to become quick and adept at your chosen path. naturally, the many cycling options on offer have more than just a few commonalities. i'd imagine that, if i trained hard-enough for road cycling, i'd probably still be pretty quick at cyclocross, provided i spent more than just an hour or two on my bike handling skills (also covered by the author).

the training advice is not, however, exclusive to speed, fitness and nutrition; after all, the results have still to be applied to the bicycle. "Use lower gears to conserve energy when climbing the first few slopes of a hilly ride. Always have one extra-low gear ratio for super-steep sections of hills, or for if you unexpectedly fatigue on a long ride." for those of us who have been riding for more years than we'd care to admit, that might seem a tad obvious, but, though there are still nuggets of wisdom to be found for the long of tooth, we're scarcely the book's target audience.

as mentioned in my opening paragraphs, richard ballantine's was a book that would have not only saved me learning stuff the hard way, but some ill-afforded expense. i foretell a similar gainful employment for the bicycling bible. it may come up slightly short in the maintenance stakes, but given the complexity of the modern-day bicycle, i'd be inclined to agree that there are fewer opportunities for the home mechanic nowadays. i for one would scarcely know where to begin with electronic gear systems, and i'm still a tad reticent to get my hands dirty on hydraulic braking systems. plus, in 1983, there was only one style of bottom bracket, and the brake cables still came out the top of the levers.

worth every penny.

buy the book

wednesday 10 may 2023

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that was the week that is

colnago gioiella

in my post-college employment, i spent a while working for flight catering at prestwick airport, responsible for purchasing the plastic food on which passengers would subsequently dine from the plastic trays in which the food was presented. thankfully, i had nothing whatsoever to do with the cooking of said 'nourishment', and very little to do with the operations department that delivered the meals to the aircraft. unless, of course, my early morning services were required to save the operations staff the bother of getting out their beds. thus, when concorde spent a week at the airport for training purposes, guess whose job it was to deliver the morning catering detail?

almost every department, in any business you care to mention, will figure that their counterparts invariably do far less work than do they and are far less effective in so doing. and so it was with the operations department, leading to the common remark, "what's the difference between a week in operations and a week's holiday". i'd imagine the answer is glaringly obvious.

colnago gioiella

islay is home to many varying organisations, one of which is the 'islay motor club', comprising a number of, mostly men, who have refurbished elderly tractors, trucks, or a variety of vintage cars. these are exhibited annually at the islay agricultural show, but also participate in what is referred to as 'drive-it day'. given the uk's apparent obsession with the motor car, and the fact that, even on islay, way too many folks drive a matter of a few metres to get to work, the question has often be raised, 'surely every day is drive-it day?'

however, given the parlous state of the uk economy, following not only the pandemic, but also brexit and a highly ineffective government, the very notion of a period of several days being dubbed luxury week, ought surely to exist as something of an anachronism? yet over several days in the month of may, sotheby's geneva (the very name suggests luxury) has announced itself as pleased to present luxury week, a sales series that 'showcases the best of the best in each of the luxury division's disciplines.' those disciplines consist of jewellery, watches, collector cars, designer handbags, books & manuscripts, sneakers, spirits, wine and more. the very things that none of us have any spare money on which to spend.

colnago gioiella

under the heading of more, sits the colnago gioiello numero 1, the first instance of the official bicycle of the giro d'italia, a concept i completely fail to comprehend. this particular model in a limited edition of 50 is enhanced with an 18ct gold artefact atop the steering tube, embedded with a 2.03ct diamond. according to colnago, an artisanal technique was employed to decorate the entire frame with gold leaf, for which cambiago worked alongside specialist partners. bidding for this particular bicycle doesn't open for another two days.

from my point of view, it's a tad disappointing to learn that this example of italian craftsmanship is outfitted with shimano's dura-ace di2, but since i don't believe i've ever experienced a personal luxury week, it's a bicycle that is highly unlikely ever to grace the interior of thewashingmachinepost bike shed. of course, we'll probably never know, since no-one is citing even so much as a reserve price at present. i tend to think it will be a few pence more than the £3.48 i have in my pocket.

the inestimable richard sachs, builder of some of the finest lugged steel frames in the entire world, has always maintained that, despite receiving regular plaudits for his craftsmanship, the bicycle is simply a tool. no matter the use to which you put your own individual or collection. it's a hard stance with which to argue. every sunday morning, thousands of pelotons across the nation head out to perambulate their own particular parcours. though it's a tautologically moot point, without the bicycle, those pelotons would resemble little more than a group of joggers or pedestrians. similarly those who use the bicycle as a means of transport, without any inherent like or dislike of the bicycle itself; it is indeed, a tool.

colnago gioiella

the jury, therefore, must be considered 'out' on whether the humble bicycle, festooned or not with gold craftsmanship, constitutes a luxury item, worthy of gracing the salerooms of one of the world's premier auction houses. does this foretell that the bicycle is about to become akin to bottles of malt whisky, employed as a means of financial investment, rather than remaining, as mr sachs maintains, a tool. many of us on the hallowed isle think it inordinately bizarre that a drink that actually costs as little as 75p for the contents of one bottle, should be changing hands for several hundred thousand pounds, rendering it a liquid unlikely ever to be poured into a glass.

will we soon be looking at an entire peloton of bicycles upon which no-one has ever ridden? and should that prove to be the case, will the owners remember to charge the di2 battery?

sotheby's luxury week colnago gioiello

tuesday 9 may 2023

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