allan holdsworth

in 1971, while visiting a schoolfriend's house, he played me the yes album, on which the drummer was a young bill bruford. having found that playing guitar, either six string or bass, was a darned sight more difficult than anticipated, i had decided that my musical future would revolve around drums, since the few occasions on which i'd been able to borrow someone's drumset, had proved relatively successful.

however, up until that revelatory moment of hearing starship trooper, everything i'd played along to, had been simple pop songs, as espoused by the beatles, the rolling stones or possibly even the kinks. yes, however, seemed less than inclined to play in standard 4/4, keen to explore the more exotic time signatures available to what was to become progressive rock.

bruford remained with the band through their breakthrough fragile album, where the replacement of tony kaye on keyboards by the considerably more precocious, rick wakeman, allowed them to move onto the seminal progressive album, close to the edge, the title track occupying all of one side of a vinyl album. fans and the music media were aghast, however, when bruford signalled his departure from the fold, just as the album's release was likely to make him comfortably rich. bill bruford was more intrigued with the musical possibilities afforded by his joining robert fripp's king crimson, an ever-changing musical unit that would prove to be both a blessing and a curse for bruford until the 1990s.

the late 1970s ultimately became the era of the solo album, with the reputed democracy of the progressive genre often leaving its musicians with more material than it was possible to fit on even a double or triple album. solo albums not only suited the record companies, but allowed their star musicians to stretch their talents in other directions. bruford was one of those musicians, releasing his first solo outing in 1978, entitled, feels good to me, on which he recruited the greater talents (bruford's sentiments, not mine) of bassist jeff berlin, keyboard player, dave stewart (but not the fellow who accompanied annie lennox), chanteuse, annette peacock, and on guitar, allan holdsworth.

bradford-born holdsworth had stated that in his youth, he had aspired to play the saxophone, but family finances being what they were, that was never going to happen. his parents subsequently bought him a guitar at the age of 17. holdsworth's guitar style was like nothing ever heard before, reputedly due to the guitarist endeavouring to make the instrument sound and phrase more like a saxophone.

following his appearance as a session player on bruford's solo album, he joined the drummer in uk along with former king crimson bassist and vocalist, john wetton and keyboard player, eddie jobson. dismayed that jobson wanted him to play an identical solo live, each evening, as had appeared on the self-titled album, holdsworth elected to leave along with bruford, joining the latter in his eponymously titled band, alongside berlin and stewart.

i was fortunate enough to have witnessed live performances by both bruford and uk, then a short-lived trio (i.o.u.) formed by holdsworth with drummer/pianist, gary husband and bassist, paul carmichael at the long-forgotten third eye centre venue in glasgow's sauchiehall street. i specifically recall the latter, because it was the first time i'd seen allan holdsworth smile.

following a move to the usa, holdsworth enjoyed (if that's the correct word) a lengthy if not entirely commercially successful career, until his untimely death in april 2017 at the age of 71. he was cited as a major influence by steve vai, eddie van halen, frank zappa, joe satriani, alex lifeson and yngwie malmsteen to mention but a few. by all accounts he was a remarkably friendly individual, with no apparent ego, eternally humble and possessing an excellent sense of self-deprecating humour. and, it transpires, and previously unbeknownst to me, despite being an eager fan of his playing, holdsworth was an enthusiastic cyclist (just in case you wondered to where this was all leading).

in a march 2000 interview with amsterdam's nps radio, he was asked by interviewer paul harvey, "somewhere along the line it must be a great relaxation, to get away from music and maybe just find some inspiration on your bike?" to which holdsworth replied, "Well it is. I've always thought the bicycle... I can go out with a problem and come back with a solution from the bike. It's almost like a 'thinking machine'. It's really great, I mean riding the bicycle - it's like to me, asides from music, it's one of the few times - especially if I'm out alone in the country and I'm alone - I can feel like part of the planet, you know. You're rolling around on this man-made machine but it's still all man-driven - probably man's greatest invention! I love it - it's a good contrast and counteractor to the gross weight increase from too much beer, haha!"

one interviewee in a video tribute to the great man stated that, while allan holdsworth didn't look anything like a racing cyclist, he could outpace the majority who unknowingly, took him on.

guitarist, steve vai, stated in another interview, that while many guitarists played with great emotion, holdsworth appeared to be tapping into something with far greater depth "...and when he did... it was f**cking nuts!". it doesn't seem to be stretching credibility too far to contend that, at least in part, the bicycle may have enhanced that depth, given that the above holdsworth quote has him state that cycling allowed him to become 'part of the planet'.

i woould imagine that the majority of those reading this, were, until so doing, blissfully unaware of allan holdsworth. i'm sure that depends a great deal on your musical sensibilities. but on a larger scale, it's more than possible that those in thrall to his genius, were unaware of his love of the bicycle. but if he was/is correct in his assertion that those two wheels can better connect humanity to the planet, it gives far greater credence to the slogan featured on many an environmental banner:

'this machine fights climate change.'

r.i.p. allan holdsworth

sunday 13 august 2023

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not a statistic

government advertising csmpaign

i have made previous mention of my last trip to portland, oregon in 2012, where, on riding to sugar wheelworks, i came to an impasse with a motorist at a residential crossroads that featured no traffic lights. pretty much anywhere in the uk, the cyclist would be expected to give way, because that's the way that society works over here. in portland at that time, however, the cycling public had gained not only ascendancy, but a reasonable degree of respect in the process, leading to the stand-off between yours truly and the aforementioned motorist.

ultimately, i acknowledged the driver's courteous invitation to carry on my merry way, while he resumed his, once i had moved on. the friends that i had made in portland in those bygone years suggested that the city had reached a critical mass (not necessarily related to the cycle campaign of the same name). with so many portlanders opting to travel by bicycle, and the city leaders acquiescing to that situation by providing hundreds of miles of cycle-lanes, while drivers might still find themselves irritated by the cyclists up ahead, the chances that it might be their neighbour from two doors down, made them a tad more circumspect about potentially making life harder than necessary.

a brief recollection of those acquired values flashed past during friday afternoon's bike ride to debbie's, where one vehicle overtook at the approach to a blind corner on a hill and another passed within millimetres on the entry to bruichladdich village. neither incident was necessary; the first vehicle was someone of my acquaint who really ought to have known better, while the second was a visiting motorist who failed to follow the lead of the car ahead, and leave the requisite 1.5 metres as they passed.

i'm also acutely aware that these relatively isolated incidents may well come across as similar to the comfortably well off moaning that they'd had to trade down to a smaller porsche this year. i'm pretty sure that those of you who live in urban or city areas experience situations such as those outlined above, on a minute by minute basis; so frequently, in fact, that you become inured to their existence. however, and i don't wish to place too much emphasis on a well-meaning government strategy, lest it fail as miserably as many previous considerations, but things might be about to change (though i wouldn't hold your breath).

re-launched just over a week ago, the government's 'think!' campaign will attempt to remind motorists to 'travel like you know them.' this, i believe, is an attempt to replicate the portland situation alluded to above. for instance, according to the campaign, 'people (and by implication, 'people' means 'motorists') are being encouraged to give priority at junctions to those cycling straight ahead, and those waiting to cross, or already crossing the road'. this is followed by urging drivers not to follow the visiting motorist mentioned above, and give cyclists at least 1.5 metres of clearance up to 30mph, and more if overtaking at higher speeds.

the fact that this constitutes a 're-launch', would tend to suggest that it failed miserably the first time round. and though i like to think of myself as an optimist, there's no concerted reason to believe there will be any notable difference this time. the big problem, according to my opinion, is that even though the slogan 'travel like you know them' can be seen to be well-meaning, in point of fact, it's highly likely that it will make little difference. in the uk, there would have to be a substantial change in the average motorist's mindset for that phrase to have any great impact.

i'm sure that, on the whole, it does work in small, rural and island communities such as on islay, but it really needs to work on a far grander scale, one that probably requires more substantial input than a tv, press or advertising hoarding campaign. i will leave you with the apparently un-ironic statement from roads minister, richard holden, who seems to have admitted to the campaign's original failure by stating, "It is fantastic that the Travel Like You Know Them campaign is back to continue to raise awareness of these important changes (to the highway code) and to change behaviour on our roads to help keep those more at risk safe."

what would have been 'fantastic' is that it had worked first time round.

saturday 12 august 2023

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brazed and confused

wheel carrier

for no other reason other than having less time to indulge in reading than i'd like to be the case, i currently purchase only one cycling magazine per month (cyclist). so doing is, i have to admit, a darned sight easier than used to be the case, predominantly on the basis that there are very few from which to choose. i gave up acquiring a weekly copy of 'the comic' many years ago, though i still manage to peruse its pages via the shop copy available in debbie's each week. i have, sadly, lost faith with rouleur which, like several present day publications, is no longer what it set out to be, and most of the alternatives have come to an unfortunate demise in recent years. let's just say that the choice is not a wide one.

and though the majority of periodicals will entice and cajole their readers into taking out an annual subscription, a practice that would undoubtedly save me some 'in short supply' money, i feel it is important to support my local newsagent (something we're all very conscious of in small island communities) by having a monthly copy on order. the latest issue of that publication arrived folded inside my newspaper on wednesday.

i will be travelling to scotland next week via a journey that offers several hours of reading opportunities, but the arrival of my monthly cycling magazine was preceded at the end of last week by copies of downbeat and wired, both of which offer enough words to fill a ferry and bus journey in both directions. therefore, i switched to browse mode, scanning the pages of cyclist for items of future interest, and stopping mid-page to read articles that caught my attention, one of which, by a former shop mechanic, aligned with my thoughts on the advent of integrated cabling and one-piece bars and stem.

however, following that brief period of scrutineering, i settled down to read about a bicycle that features under the posteriors of several world-tour cyclists. the owner of said un-named cycle brand admitted that he constructed a new taiwan factory in order to protect the proprietary carbon construction process developed to give the marque an apparently miniscule advantage over its competitors. i'm sure you can see precisely where this is heading, but if i might briefly head you off at the pass, are we perhaps agreed that races are won by riders; rarely, if ever, by the bicycles upon which they find themselves?

though i prefer not to name the marque of bicycle under discussion (but if you're a fellow cyclist reader, you'll already know) it did not feature in the top five placings in last month's tour de france, which might conceivably underline my point.

i'm aware that the editor of said publication has a healthy sense of irony, so it's possible that the inclusion of the aforementioned mechanic's article in the same issue as the apparent celebration of the extremes to which today's bicycle manaufacturers are willing to go, may well have been deliberate. the bicycle mechanic makes the excellent point, " we really need the world's slipperiest bike for day-to-day riding?" though i do struggle even with the concept of continually refining each and every aspect of professional race bikes, it does seem completely outlandish for the average man or woman in the street.

the professionals ride whatever they're given, but unless you and i subsequently purchase them, the whole process experiences a disappointing economic disconnect. and at a retail price of £11,800, in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, there are probably very few who find themselves demanding or are able to afford the ultimate in 'composite compaction'. phrases such as 'vertical integration' and mentions of finite element analysis, for some of us at least, are probably not the enticements they are meant to be.

but just to offer succour to the potentially downtrodden, a good friend of mine (thank you john cunningham) attended glasgow's recent brazin' handbuilt bicycle show, and was kind enough to send over a few glorious images of the machinery on display.

hope springs eternal.

armour steel frame

photos: john cunningham

friday 11 august 2023

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if it ain't broke, make an electric version

electric water bottle

though decidedly not an option when i began writing thewashingmachinepost, it strikes me as a far more realistic situation nowadays, that the possibilities for either a blog or even a bona-fide print publication discussing the finer points of cycling technology look highly promising. so doing, however, i am more than happy to leave to the keyboards of others, as personally, i have my luddite reputation to embrace. in fact, though i have undertaken no research whatsoever into the subject, it's eminently possible that there may already be a set of technological pixels in existence, where velocipedinal automations already constitute the conversations du jour.

in 1996, when i invaded the interwebs with these woefully uninformed scribblings, it may well have been possible to combine both road and mountain bike interests within the post's infrequent disseminations, but given my own proclivity for the ways of tarmac, such a combination was left unexplored, an option for which there is good and explicable reason.

prior to moving to the centre of the known universe, i had availed myself of an early example of the nascent world of the mountain bike, by way of the original muddy fox courier, ironically and unknowingly purchased from a kilmarnock bike shop in which graeme obree held an interest. with its six-speed freewheel and triple chainset, the gearing more than made up for the slowing effect of fore and aft knobbly rubber, ideal not only for travelling to the four corners of the island, but handy for an occasional bicycle tour in scotland.

that was the era of multiplying mountain biking magazines, ranging from the perennial mbuk from which jo burt's mint sauce was launched, to the long-defunct mtb-pro and several others which were outlasted by the pace. were i to have been of a more perspicacious disposition, i surely would have seen that the writing on the wall would have inevitably crossed the gap between offroad and on, but nowadays i can only invoke my honours degree in hindsight, at the time, blissfully unaware of what was heading in our direction.

the mountain bike was born from the repack descent, where the boys in the band, of whom we have been regularly reminded through the decades, essentially invented the mountain bike. it's a model that pretty much took wings of its own, morphing from heavily modified beach cruisers into heavily robust shapes and forms, acquiring not only a wealth of gears (for the time), but a groove all of its own, remarkably reminiscent of the surfer dude, a persona that still often seems to pervade the downhilling branch of the sport even in today's professionally constituted milieu.

but the bicycle itself became a platform for never-ending and oft-times, dubious developments, straying remarkably quickly from an entirely rigid and relatively heavy device, into one even heavier, with enlarged tubing, suspension everywhere and powered by a tiny chainring allied to a dinner plate with teeth on the back wheel. carbon is now the lingua franca, while the offroad fraternity seems to have more readily adopted that acquisition of battery and electric motor than has the roadgoing cognoscenti.

my own early forays into the world of skinny tyres and bendy bars was promulgated by the apparent simplicity of the road bike, a simplicity that seemd content within its own skin, remaining prudenty consistent from one year to the next. i did not see coming (nor did many others) the cross pollination from the mountain bike, though with many manufacturers producing both variants, it now seems inevitable. the first crossover was probably dia-compe's a-headset, and at the risk of mixing metaphors, it was pretty much downhill from there on in. and though i believe that electrification of gearing has met with resistance from the knobbly brigade, it's surely only a matter of time before the borg's motto (resistance is futile) over-rules their reticence.

there are, however, still small bastions of unexplored corners within the roadgoing velocipede, for which i believe we should be enternally grateful, and i have had serious thoughts before identifying any, lest the big boys run roughshod over their innocence. and while i would dearly like to have been the originator of what follows, in point of fact i must bow to the greater facetiousness of a washingmachinepost correspondent (thank you kevin miller).

the disappointing part of his cleverly conceived missive, is that i think most, if not all of us, can see this actually happening. his observation revolved around his riding along the other day when realising that he needed a slurp of water. "Thinking as how I am a real lazy person and squeezing the bottle is a lot of work, I believe it is time for an electric pump in water bottles. Just think, one push of a button and life giving water will be delivered." there may be those of you reading who have just issued a series of guffaws at the apparent ludicrousness of such a suggestion. but taken at face value, how is kevin's suggestion any more ridiculous than attaching a series of servo motors in the gear mechs to remove the notoriously energy intensive effort of pushing a small lever to achieve the same result?

just think, with the simple addition of bluetooth via the bottle cage, it would be possible to programme that water bottle motor to pump progressively harder the longer any given bike ride continues. after all, who wants to find themselves bereft of the physical power to press a button on the brake levers, through having had to squeeze every last drop of energy drink from a sturdily built water bottle? with the addition of gps, it would be childs play for the world tour teams to track down all those bottles discarded in the heat of battle.

kevin and i are open to financial negotiations with interested parties, but i promise you, we don't come cheap.

wednesday 9 august 2023

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spoiler alert

mathieu van der poel

last sunday once again played host to the ride of the falling rain a 100 mile bike ride around the principality taking place on the first sunday of august each year. although the vagaries of the covid lockdowns worked against a great number of annual events, it enforced no break in the annual rotfr cycle (pardon the pun), with our perambulations continuing on roads with notably less traffic and a concomitant reduction in participative numbers. though the traffic has more than returned to pre-pandemic levels, those joining the local peloton this year had notably decreased.

however, where the latter state of affairs may give rise for concern were we discussing a commercially-based sportive ride, i'm happy to say that the ride of the falling rain proves every bit as effective and enjoyable with reduced numbers as it does with many. and having re-introduced the conversational ride a few years past, while there may be those intent on covering the century in as short a period of time as possible, on a warm sunny day such as last sunday (it did rain briefly, but heavily, for long enough to stave off any intervention from trading standards officers), my own ride with two fellows of similar age, was particularly amenable.

in fact, one of my accomplices had been on the island only a matter of days, blissfully unaware of the event's existence when he disembarked the ferry. encouraged as he was by the "comfortably sedate pace" he rode farther and for longer than had been considered prior to the grand départ. that, in essence, is what it's all about. thanks are due to aileen at debbie's for coffee and for the almost forgotten toastie for the stalwart who managed the full distance in close to five hours. and returning after covid and staffing induced breaks, was ardbeg distillery, courtesy of the ardstream trailer, keeping the velocipedinally inclined both fed and watered.

however, as you might expect, there was mild consternation expressed by several participants, self-included, over the fact that the 2023 world road race championship, taking place on roads between edinburgh and glasgow, was undertaken simultaneously, though over a lengthier parcours and at far higher speeds. i had been tempted to ask the uci whether the ride of the falling rain might be considered as a championship event, but on learning of the date clash, thought better of it. however, on my return, having showered, changed and eaten a hearty meal, i sat down to watch, at the least, the final 40km of the race on bbc iplayer.

disappointingly, and for no discernible reason, the bbc had seen fit to caption the visual link to the recorded race footage with both the final result and the fact that van der poel had survived a crash in the final few laps, yet still taken the stripey jumper. why would you do such a thing? when the bbc upload episodes of recent broadcasts, do they announce that the butler did it, or that the queen vic is in breach of a planning application? i think not. during the recent trnsmt festival on glasgow green, did they publish the complete set list of each performer? no, of course they didn't.

to the best of my knowledge, bbc iplayer is part streaming service, part catch-up, allowing those of us otherwise occupied at the time of broadcast, to ensure we do not miss programming in which we may have expressed an interest. that being the case, it rather detracts from one's not unreasonable expectations, to display the final result prior to viewing. and at the behest of elon musk's huge social media disaster, i enquired of bbc iplayer's social media department if there was any particular reason for this unfortunate state of affairs?

i'm sure it's not a spoiler alert to say that there has subsequently been a deafening silence.

tuesday 8 august 2023

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