i was fortunate to receive an e-mail recently from a cyclist resident on one of the islands a bit further up the coast from here. apart from saying hi, i was asked if cycling on islay was just the same as on his - lousy weather and the same roads over and over again.
now, naive though it may seem, and just as unbelievable, i hadn't actually thought about this until he metioned it. and it's true enough. with the weekly workload not diminishing and the hours of daylight not on the increase as quickly as one would like, the only opportunity to take the colnago out of the bike shed comes at the weekend. about an hour on a saturday due to shopping and childcare (i use the word in the loosest sense, since the child in question is rarely in the house long enough to be cared), but generally a lot more (about 45 to 50 miles) on a sunday, along with my recently moved here accomplice. i should point out at this juncture that this gentleman is not quite in the spring of youth (he's retired) and as fit as a butcher's dog. so the mileage on a sunday is often carried out at something approaching a serious pace.
anyway, given the time of year, there seems a better than even chance that the few hours available on a sunday will be soured by a downpour. while i wouldn't wish to give anyone the idea that either of us are fairweather cyclists (i have been known to get wet on occasion) but since neither of us have any intention of competing in any way, shape or form, the necessity to go out and hammer ourselves in the cold rain and driving wind sort of takes second place to sitting in front of the fire and watching something truly dreadful on television.
in common with many cyclists in our position, we have no fear of getting soaked when we are out punishing ourselves, but are damned if we're going to go out when it's already chucking it down.
now my cohort lives at one end of the island, about 17-18 miles away, and i live pretty much in the middle. so to undertake our weekly sunday pedal, he heads off in my direction around 11:30am, and i head in his direction at the same appointed hour, and we meet up along the way, at varying points along the road depending on who has the headwind. upon meeting, we have to decide where we are going to go to give our legs a bit of trouble.
and this is where the 'same old roads syndrome rears its repetitive head. since both of us have to return to homes that are 17-18 miles apart, we have to bear this in mind so that one doesn't have too much further to go than the other when we feel we've had enough. since there are only a limited number of routes that fill this requirement - the same old roads. actually, since i have travailed these roads for years on my own because there was no-one else on the island to pedal with, i can't say i pay much attention to this as a problem, because it's like re-discovering them when you have company, particularly when that company probably hasn't been along those roads themselves.
it's seems likely that this situation can only get better, since we have a policeman recently posted to the island who is also an enthusiastic cyclist and he stays ten miles in the opposite direction to my abode and thereby about 28 miles from cohort number one. so now we need a degree in logistics to sort out the navigation details, and in so doing we may well increase the sunday mileage, which will be all to the benefit when messrs hunter and webster return in august for the annual century ride.
the increased mileage has, however, thrown up a further 'problem'. no tea stops. i do remember robert millar (we are not worthy, we are not worthy) mentioning that training rides shouldn't concern themselves with tea stops, on the basis that he wasn't aware of any professional (or amateur) race that incorporated a tea stop. i'm sure he's right, but it's advice i've ignored on the basis that i don't race. it's also advice that i've pretty much had to ignore due to the total lack of a proper 'tea stop' on the island.
readers of many years will possibly remember the 'espresso run' which involved cycling from bowmore to port charlotte to the croft kitchen for a doughnut and an espresso, before carrying out the same route in reverse. only about 18 miles but excellent coffee. there was a slight variation round loch gorm which would increase the distancce to about 30 miles. but that was and still is, pretty much the only tea stop around, which rather limits the geography. before christmas we had intended cycling out to the old kiln cafe at ardbeg distillery, not only for the excellent fare but also because it's a nice pedal. it was only open on the sunday before christmas and the sunday before new year and the weather put paid to both jaunts - especially since my fit accomplice would have had about a 62 mile round trip in cold, wet, windy rain.
of course now that the weather has presented us with a better opportunity to carry out this voyage, ardbeg is closed at weekends again.
the croft kitchen and the old kiln are only open on weekends during the summer months, and somehow tea stops don't have quite the same attraction in sunny weather. neither of the aforementioned fit into the traditional cyclist's tea stop image either - one always reads in the comic and books regarding cycling days of yore, that the traditional tea stops would provide half a loaf of bread with a case of heinz beans over the top. i'm sure the regular or even first time visitors to either of the above establishments are more than gratified that the fare provided is a deal more sophisticated than that, and i don't doubt jackie at ardbeg would freak if we asked. (actually on reflection, i'm not too sure that jackie would freak at anything).
so, we do have the same roads week in, week out with sometimes appalling weather at this time of year. and it's ruddy brilliant - wouldn't trade it for the world.
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to, and the next ride takes them from st malo to biarittz and then across the raid pyrenees. so i have. and here it is.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, ibook and imac computers, using adobe golive 5 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.