an interview with keegan dewitt

keegan dewitt

the interweb has brought us an ever increasing panoply of goodies. we began with websites that could, and sometimes would, tell us stuff we wanted to know. when bandwidth started to open up a smidgeon and connection speeds started to achieve usable velocities, there were pictures and images sprouting up all over the place, and at a size that exceeded that of the postage stamp. at one time it was all but imperative that the latter were kept to a practical minimum, that eager browsers could view them all on the same day as the website was clicked in the first place.

some of you here present will know not of all the foregoing; citizens of the unlimited download. from a cycling point of view, rapha have made excellent use of this still burgeoning technology, illustrating the initial forays of the rapha continental with photography that would make you go weak at the knees (i still have a superb collection of early continental images sent by originator, daniel wakefield pasley). nothing, however, stands still for long, and static images were joined by movies. watching those produced by the maverick dave christenson had me hooked, and resulted in a number of e-mails sent in his direction, inquiring as to the soundtracks by bands and musicians i had never heard of. many are still evident on my ipod.

the latest batch of movies featuring the ever-shifting continental peloton concerned a comprehensive riding of several stages of the only just finished, tour of california. for these, rapha contracted the services of portland's droptree productions to follow in the rapha bus and capture every pixel of pain and suffering (and there were many). though i have no doubt rapha have learned much over the years the continental has been in evidence, one of the most obvious manifestations of this learning has made itself known in the movie credits; they now tell you who provided the soundtrack.

in the case of the tour of california series, music came courtesy of portland exile keegan dewitt, currently resident in nashville and seemingly quite prolific with regard to his musical output. very generously, for those of us in love with the rapha continental (and i make no apologies over this), keegan has allowed free download of all the pieces from his californian compositions, and those too now enjoy pride of place on the twmp ipod, alongside his most recent commercial release nothing shows.

i was intrigued, so i asked.

read the interview

posted monday 23 may 2011


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building cycling cultures

understanding cycling and walking

my son is currently learning to drive, and while it surprises more folks than i thought, as a licensed driver (yes, i can drive) i am required a few evenings a week to sit quietly in the passenger seat of his little car while he attempts various manoeuvres around the village. pointing the vehicle in the opposite direction by means of forward and reverse gears (a three point turn, to you and me), hill starts (preferably without burning out the clutch) and so-called parallel parking, the trendy name for reversing into a space slightly too small for the car one is driving.

the two main villages on islay have both more or less the same population of around 1,000 persons, and were you to accompany us on our evening motoring soirees, you would be forgiven for thinking that the number of cars comfortably outnumbers that of people. granted, evenings will mean parked up cars ready and waiting to drive a couple of hundred yards to the place of work in the same village (a village that registers only, at most, a couple of kilometres end to end). with the exception of one village road, the rest are nowhere near wide enough to accommodate such a vast number of cars. and a penchant for illogical parking means that, were it a part of the driving test, my son would be an expert in negotiating chicanes, possibly with his eyes shut.

as a cyclist and occasional pedestrian, i find this state of affairs positively horrific. granted, islay's public transport system verges on the non-existent, but this number of cars in a tiny village is quite frightening. i had forlornly hoped that my example of cycling everywhere, coupled with a similar intent by my editor at the newspaper, would have caused folks to step back from their motor dependence, reflect on what it was doing to the village's aspect (what must visitors' think?) and adopt the bicycle en masse. i'm sure i am not the only one in the world who has valiantly but vainly hoped for the same.

cycling culture

while i feel guilty about bringing the word into conversation yet again, probably much to the admonishment of the many, having seen the example set by portland, oregon, it makes me even more distraught at the way things seem not to be happening on this side of the pond. it is undoubtedly verging on naivety and stupidity to compare the happenings in a city of around 600,000 with the huge spread and low population density of argyll & bute (of which islay forms a part), but currently there seems little momentum on the part of our council to deal with the ever encroaching motor car, and create a more cycle friendly region.

in this way, i show myself up to be a person with an enlarged lexicon (no sniggering please) and little action, for surely if i want change, actions will always speak louder than words. perhaps i should find like-minded activists around the region and descend en masse on the council headquarters in kilmory, ringing our bicycle bells until changes are made. or perhaps not. on an island where there is barely enough money to fill in potholes in a manifestly amateur fashion, i think it unlikely that there will be the political will to improve the cyclists' lot. it's quite likely that, as in portland and other locations worldwide, such change needs to come from within the halls of power, and that's likely to take a long time.

a petrol price on the island that is generally regarded to be the highest in scotland, seems no deterrent to those in their shiny four-wheel drive vehicles (which, incidentally, seem to take up more parking real estate than more practical and economic motor cars.)

cycling culture

that's the inner hebrides written off in a few paragraphs, and unless a driving test is passed soon, my life will continue to feature being aghast at the number of cars and lack of parking skills owned by the population of my village. however, my doom and gloom is mediated by happenings elsewhere in the country. islay may be past saving for the time being, but a bit of momentum from out of town could conceivably impart thought for change. it's generally regarded that one is rarely a prophet in one's own country (island).

in this sense, writing black and yellow pixels on a daily basis can often be the source of its own salvation, for i was informed during this past week of a couple of initiatives that, though in a land far, far away, offer enough of a glimmer of hope that i may be persuaded to take my soap-box down to bowmore square and address those who currently could care less. on 4th and 5th of june, the university of east london, looking at cycling culture in bristol, cambridge, hackney and hull (all of which have relatively high levels of cycling in the uk) will present cycling cultures (phoenix square film and digital media centre in leicester's city centre). often such events promise/threaten a rather serious and formal look at a subject that most of us inhabit in a far less constrained fashion; on the basis of advance information, building cycling cultures may buck that trend.

cycling culture

according to andy salkeld of leicester city council "there'll be something for everyone; talk, debate, film, artwork, bike rides, kids' activities, music, networking and loads of ideas for change. the people behind this event are a mixed bunch; academics, enthusiasts, activists, local government workers and policy-makers, reflecting our belief that the business of building cycling cultures involves us all."

sociologist of cycling at lancaster university (how come some folks get all the good gigs?), dr dave horton figures cycling's time has come. "this event is about building support for cycling while working to make it accessible to all".

one would hope that the thousands of words likely to be voiced over the two days will translate into meaningful actions, hopefully, eventually (i'm not holding my breath) bringing unequivocal political peer pressure to bear on our beloved argyll and bute council. as a wannabee cycling consultant, i am ready, able and willing to receive that official phone call.

meantime, i'm off out in that passenger seat again for more scary manoeuvres.

building cycling cultures | cycling cultures | understanding walking and cycling

posted sunday 22 may 2011


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someone needs their head set

nitto craft stem

at the beginning of last season (a vague term perhaps, but i know what i mean), the local cycle hirer, at my behest, ordered ten single speed bicycles for the hire fleet. from hers and my point of view, it was one of the sanest things that has happened for technical reasons which i will now divulge. previous cycles have all had multiple derailleur gears, and i could almost set my watch by the first phone call of the season relating to a broken chain.

an all but inexplicable set of circumstances.

people who hire bikes on holiday are rarely 'cyclists', in the sense that you and i would regard the definition of the word. proper cyclists tend to bring their own bikes, unwilling to let fate decide the quality of cycling on offer during their only break from the humdrum. thus, those hiring are more often than not, slightly inexperienced. when sturmey archer hub gears were de rigeur for all but sporting cyclists, it was not uncommon to learn to either lift off pedalling for a a revolution, or even back pedal slightly while changing gear, thus releasing any pressure on the system.

strangely, folks who i would class as being too young to ever have experienced a sturmey gear system, continue with this slight back-pedalling when confronted with an eighteen or twenty-one speed gearset. with all current freewheels or cassettes featuring ramps cut into each sprocket to aid shifting, back pedalling just as the chain is half on one sprocket and half on the next, would seem to be the principal reason for chain breakages, and something that was becoming ever more common. single speed has cured that altogether.

nitto craft stem

but the other throwback to the days of yore was far easier to deduce; raising the handlebars. modern aheadsets have removed this possibility almost entirely, unless you're willing and able to play chinese puzzles with the spacers above and below the stem. aheadstems can be easily problematical for those armed with an allen wrench. for starters, rarely are the bolts all of the same size; inexplicably, the bolt in the top, which used to be a 6mm, has reduced in diameter to a 5mm, but the clamp bolts are regularly 4mm. to be honest, this is a ruddy nuisance, even when armed with a multi-tool. whatever was wrong with the quill stem?

many a hire bike has returned with a curiously loosened headset or handlebars that vary noticeably from the straight ahead. quite how a week's cycling could have been enjoyed under those circumstances, coupled with a total inability to change gear properly, i will never know. but the loose headset and skew wiff bars were easy to deduce; someone had tried vainly to raise the handlebars.

the aheadset was sold on the ease of adjustment for mountain bikers; an alternative to carrying a substantially sized headset spanner in case things became shoogly in the field. an allen key and reputed lighter weight were both written on their business card. for reasons best known to someone other than me, the highly aesthetic quill stem was unceremoniously given the bum's rush in favour of an ugly chunk of aluminium which, despite years of opportunity to perfect, still smoulders on the lower slopes of acceptability. headset adjustability is now arguably easier at the expense of handlebar height adjustment. i am bearing in mind the unlikelihood of ever being able to successfully thread a carbon steerer, but the loss of those beautiful cinelli stems is something for which i think cycling should be apologising, for many more decades.

nitto craft stem

however, all is not totally lost. there may be far fewer machines on the market capable of living with proper headsets, but it is surely significant that chris king, godfather of the indestructible version, still offers the real mcoy, and in more than one colour. the revival (if that's not too strong a word) of steel has presented at least some the opportunity to invest in aesthetic and practical beauty.

eccentricity in the shop shape of tokyo fixed has allowed co-owner max lewis to persuade japan's nitto to produce the craft stem. in his own words; "In 2010 we met with Nitto to discuss collaborating on a series of handle bars. On Nitto president, Mr Yoshikawa's table, we saw the Craft stem's headbadge. Sitting there alone as an ornament with no stem. I asked if it had ever been used on a stem. His answer was that they had done similar stems up to the 1970s, but had always wanted to bring it back. My obvious reaction was, well let's make one now. And that's what Nitto did." i doubt if the market for these is going to be huge, given the number of unthreaded steerers populating the world, but if i'm aiming kudos at chris king, it seems only right and proper that the same is directed in the direction of nitto and tokyo fixed.

max lewis again; "The Nitto Craft is the ultimate statement of Nitto's art. No other company can mass produce a fillet brazed stem with this kind of quality. And for at least 20 years I don't think anyone has. I expect this stem will find its way onto some very nice builds, road or track".

nitto craft stem

personally, my only regret is that thewashingmachinepost bikeshed is bereft of anything to which i could fit such an item. and as encroaching years dispense with the little amount of flexibility i have retained (i can still ride in the drops for longer is truly advisable; it's a headwind thing), i'm sure i will begin to regret a slew of steerers cut to accept the minimum number of spacers. assuming i hadn't cut the front brake cable shorter than i should, it was always a thoroughly pragmatic delight to be able to raise the handlbars at will.

the nitto craft stem is available from tokyo fixed in 90mm and 100mm lengths at a cost of £155.

tokyo fixed

posted saturday 21 may 2011


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the powers that be

pat mcquaid

i am, by and large, comfortable with progress, particularly when i can see the point, or the advantage conferred. the bicycle, while still adhering fairly closely to the double diamond of the late 19th century, has moved on in bits and starts, being pulled by the manufacturers on one side, and the uci on the other, the latter seemingly determined to remain stuck as close to a couple of centuries ago as possible. while various trademarks and patents are held regarding many innovations on two wheels, it costs nothing but carbon and glue (perhaps an over-simplification) to bring to market a new bike. basically stated, there's no patent on the shape of a bicycle.

the worry here is that, unable to impose any sort of levy on the premise of the double-diamond, the uci (cycle sport's ruling body) has decided that all frames that may conceivably be presented at a start line near you, need to have a sticker on them: approved by the uci. effectively, this amounts to a tax on bicycles, levied by an unelected body, whose only premise seems to be curtailment of anything that smacks of forward thinking. there are far more of us who don't race than do, yet this latest sticker scheme means that even if only one of us wants to, the manufacturer has to have the frame approved anyway.

my understanding is that if you turn up at the start line of a uci administered event with an unstickered bike, you won't be allowed to start. since active competitors are now more likely to blame the manufacturer than the uci, they will likely vote with their flexible friend, and purchase a machine that will allow them to compete. though this may be seen as a retardation for the few, bear in mind that the uci are beginning to sanction sportive events across the world, and it seems more than likely that the same sticker entry will apply.

uci frame sticker

the cost to each manufacturer varies, depending on how many different bicycles they make, and according to richard sachs, the cost of having his frames approved was relatively minimal, though definitely an expense that he didn't have to take into account in previous years. and even if you figure it will never affect you throughout any part of your career, the additional costs of uci approval are unlikely to be altruistically borne by the manufacturer. if you thought carbon fbre was expensive before...

not content with meddling in affairs that they may or may not have any right to do, the blazers in switzerland have not seen fit to stop there. bont shoes of australia have managed to acquire a sticker all of their own, except this one features the uci's disapproval rather than the contrary. their crono aerodynamic time-trial shoe has been deigned to be an aerodynamic aid that falls outwith the approved assistance of the power that is. the specific rule applying in this instance is 1.3.033:

"It is forbidden to wear non-essential items of clothing or items designed to influence the performances of a rider such as reducing air resistance or modifying the body of the rider (compression, stretching, support).
bont_crono_sticker Items of clothing or equipment may be considered essential where weather conditions make them appropriate for the safety or the health of the rider. In this case, the nature and texture of the clothing or equipment must be clearly and solely justified by the need to protect the rider from bad weather conditions. Discretion in this respect is left to the race commissaires. Equipment (helmets, shoes, jerseys, shorts, etc.) worn by the rider may not be adapted to serve any other purpose apart from that of clothing or safety by the addition or incorporation of mechanical or electronic systems which are not approved as technical innovations under article 1.3.004."

i'd like to think i have a well developed sense of the ludicrous, but quite patently (pun intended) this is ludicrous. bont obviously consider that their crono shoes provide an aerodynamic advantage, otherwise they'd hardly have gone to the bother. but in the true fashion of all possible or proven benefits to the time-triallist, if that turns out to be the case, you can be sure that others will follow. however, to ban these shoes on such a premise calls into question why other items are paid less attention. next time there's a time-trial on the telly, take a look at the darth vader helmets with dimples favoured my many. would you not consider those as aerodynamic aids? and what of the rubberised skinsuits; why no ban there?

contradictory, n'est pas?

catlike aero helmet

the uci is not, as are our national associations, a body to which you can pay an annual subscription and thus have even a teensy-weensy amount of influence over the decision making process. in fact, the great unwashed have no say whatsoever over who actually runs the darned thing in the first place. up until now, their many draconian diktats have really only affected those racing, considered by many (including me) to be bad enough. but in such circles, it's very much a case of like it or lump it. however, if they're starting to move into the realm of the sportive, that might conceivably affect a lot more of us.

sadly, while i may have become, on this occasion, a self-satisfied complainant, i am under no misapprehension that my few words on the subject are likely to make any difference. several will mentally recite the words 'hear! hear!, and cycling life will continue as before. and i'll go back to being relatively trivial. until someone in a blazer comes back from an agreeable weekend, walks in through the office door on monday morning, and announces to his uci colleagues 'you're going to love this one. i came up with an absolute stoater this time.' and proceeds to explain the next round of dictatorial bureaucracy with a three part number attached.

this is hyde park corner isn't it?

posted friday 20 may 2011


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fit like?

jersey sizes

as a schoolboy, the secondary school in which i was enrolled as a pupil, placed more emphasis on the game of rugby than it did on the more usual fare of soccer. several of my friends from primary school were a smidgeon larger than i and had inculcated me in the ways of the oval shaped ball, and i, like the good little sheep i was, followed on obliviously. i regularly attended saturday morning practice, at which time i would be flung from pillar to post and have bits of my anatomy trodden on by lads around double my size. it seemed somewhat of a cruel joke to categorise me as fly-half, a position that seemd to garner more than its fair share of aggravation from opposing teams.

however, nothing was going to deter me from inhabiting this new sporting world, and i subscribed to rugby world magazine and bought annuals showing how the game should properly be played. i even travelled with the school to murrayfield to watch scotland being soundly defeated by some other national team, the nationality of which i simply don't remember.

jersey sizes

at this time my naivety extended far beyond thinking that i could actually play rugby, stretching as far as inquiring after a pure wool rugby jersey, the wearing of which i was convinced would indubitably state my seriousness as a future international star. of course, these things are generally aimed fairly and squarely at the adult market, something i would have realised had i paid attention to the exorbitant price tag attached. this rather decreed that the jersey kindly sent by the innocent jersey producers was, to coin a phrase miles too big. it looked, to all the world, like i was wearing an off-white woollen dress; not the most becoming appearance on one so young and only beginning one's academic career.

though i did run around the back garden once or twice, wearing this jersey, my sniggering and well-meaning parents made me send it back.

i have long been of the opinion that cycling has to be one of the best supplied in terms of clothing fit for the purpose. no matter the time of year or the type of cycling in which you indulge, someone somewhere makes a suitably technical garment to ease the pain and suffering. this runs the whole gamut from full-length zipped jerseys to windproof shirts that would not look out of place on the father of the bride. unlike the mike burrows approach to sizing bicycles with varying length seatposts, the majority of those anonymously referred to above offer more than a simple choice of small, medium and large. standard availability these days seems to start around xxs, and in several cases makes it all the way to xxxxxxl, for those long of torso.

jersey sizes

the same often holds true of garments intended for below the waist.

if, however, you own cycle jerseys or jackets from more than one manufacturer, you may just have noticed that one man's small is another man's extra small, complicating the process of ordering online. gratifyingly, most nowadays offer the opportunity to return garments that fit not, usually happy to replace with a larger or smaller size. but that can often be a faff, and certainly less than welcome for those of an impatient nature (moi?). so how do the world's cycle clothing manufacturers gauge their sizes; in other words, how do they know what size is medium?

paul mason of new zealand's solo "Yes ­ a tricky one this... The question is really: what size is a medium size cyclist? Once you've decided that, the rest is quite straightforward; just make a jersey that fits them. In our case we are basing our sizing on a medium size New Zealand male cyclist ­ and they tend to be a little larger than a medium Italian."

carlyle at switzerland's new kid on the block, cervo rosso, has his own differing ideas on sizing. "Firstly, when it comes to sizing, fit and patterning, nobody in history can beat the Italians! The best dressed people on the planet! In the office or on the bike, Italians have impeccable dress sense and style!  I therefore would start with an Italian sizing grid any day over English, American and certainly those weird and wonderful charts from Asia!"

jersey sizes

those are a couple of ways of looking at the problem, but it was only a few years ago that at least one italian clothing manufacturer was forced to take account of humanity's expanding waistline, and shift everything down a notch. thus what used to be medium was now re-badged small, muddying the waters even more. think of it this way; if you woke up tomorrow with a sure-fire plan on how to revolutionise the world of cycle clothing, how would you know what size to make your medium jersey? (i have chosen medium, lest you ask, because that is generally taken as the initial stance on which larger and smaller sizes are based.)

of course, there's always the exception that proves the rule. wabi woolens' harth huffman; "It is amazingly scientific, as you might imagine. First, I determine the correct measurements of a size Large to fit me perfectly, then I have my pattern maker grade it down one size and stick an M on the label.  Seems to work." there's a strong probability that (pun alert) harth is pulling the wool over our eyes, but since his jerseys do fit rather well, maybe he has a point.

jersey sizes

rapha's graeme raeburn, a man with an honours degree in obsessive compulsive is a mite more philosophical and scientific; "Huge amounts of data are studied and collated to chart regional and demographic sizing statistics. Getting and keeping customers happy with your sizing is an essential part of a clothing business. We're in an interesting situation, using 'British' sizing which is seen as not as generous as US, but not as slender as 'European sports sizing (ie Swiss or Italian)"

perhaps that eureka moment on waking is starting to lose its allure, because this really isn't turning out as simple as you'd figure it might be. surely, in the same way that there is a dod of metal buried in france, defining the kilogram standard, there is a set of measurements available from amazon's bookstore to initiate the newbie and unwary into the world of clothing manufacturer. i'm willing to accept that amazon might have to stock different editions for each country, but what i'm looking for are the search terms i'd need to find it.

scotland's endura has a longevity in the business that is surely the envy of many, so perhaps owner jim mcfarlane would be the very person from which to learn the secret. "I would love to enlighten you but I think that may well be beyond me. We generally benchmark based on sizing that people find on the high street and come to expect to be their size. jersey sizes If we were to follow the cycle industry sizing specs I think I would have lost my hair a long time ago (much of the Italian and Swiss sizing seems to run to XXXXL and their size small stuff is only good for pre-school, from what I can make out).". levity aside, he continued; "We use a "standard" size fit model (which is known as Squeezable Simon by our product development team) which is the basis for our size medium and we then use standard grading to increase and decrease from there for other sizes. After that we match against known "fit" models to check that the sizing is, in practical terms, consistent with our other clothing of the same size."

it may just be me at this point, but i'm not sure i'm any the wiser than before i asked the question. jim is sympathetic; "Confused? Welcome to cycle clothing sizing... paul at solo, however, seems to have struck gold. sort of. "We have a lot of friends that cycle, so it was quite easy for us to get a consensus on what they considered to be a standard medium size. Our original measurements for a medium jersey were based on one of our original Solo models. Luckily after nearly six years, he is still the same size and weight, so we still employ him for fittings and new product development. All our garments start with a design and prototype in medium as it's in the middle of our size range. From there we grade the sizes up and down using a standard grading scale."

jersey sizes

flying in the face of british pragmatism, carlyle at cervo rosso is sticking to playing the italian card, aided and abetted by a modicum of philosophising over the arcane and often inscrutable process of building a jersey. "My view is that performance jerseys need to be sculptured yet still allow freedom of moment. From the collar to cuffs we like to see well fitted closures, minimizing the creation of any air pockets that can sneak into the jersey and sit between the fabric and skin.  We also recommend Italian sizing and patterns." definitely salient advice, but advice that really only makes sense at the point of delivery, rather than while dithering over a plethora of images and sizes online.

it's a point not lost on graeme raeburn. "As a largely online business, sizing is something we need to get right to to minimise returns. We've been working hard recently to review our fit and sizing to ensure 1) good fit, 2) consistency of sizing 3) and good communication of our sizing." jim mcfarlane concurs; "we do make a major effort at following our process for consistency, particularly in the last four or five years with the increasing importance of on-line retail. Consistency is now paramount."

jersey sizes

geography plays its part, and is likely to do so more commonly as cycling in its european form spreads amongst those in the far east. based very close to this part of the world, paul at solo says "There's been quite a demand for smaller sizes from our Asian distributors. We have two new Classique jersey designs released in early May and for the first time the jerseys are available in XXS size. A 'medium' size Korean or Taiwanese cyclist is likely to be quite a bit smaller than a 'medium' cyclist from Germany or the USA. Which I guess is why there is that big variation is sizing and disagreement on a standard 'medium' size jersey."

however, rapha, solo and endura are sizeable companies within the cycle clothing world, now with sufficient resources to research the subject and make the necessary alterations should they occur. but how does the one man band, bereft of these resources, but intent on offering the finest sized clothing possible while having to rely on the internet for the bulk of the nice number at the bottom of the spreadsheet, reach sizing nirvana? harth huffman again; "I sweated it out the first time around, scouting the interwebs for sizing charts of other jersey makers, determining how I wanted Wabi fit to fall into line with the others, trying to pre-determine just what type of cyclist might want to purchase a Wabi and what that person's body type might be, worried, sweated, re-sized, lost sleep, etc."

this seems the point at which most of us would click away from amazon and debate the finer points of derailleurs instead. at least they're pretty standard in dimension, and i'm sure mrs twmp has enough lego to get me started. harth's experience doesn't sound like the way i want to spend my evenings and weekends, so how did he get round the problem(s)? "I took a chill pill.  Seemed to work."

jersey sizes

the advent of the oft quoted mamils (middle aged men in lycra) has perhaps skewed the validity of many measurements that have, till now, stood the test of time. no longer is pummeling yourself into a pile of froth over a weekend, the preserve of the stick insect on carbon and lightweights. if a clothing sommelier is to survive in the world of executive lunches and bankers bonuses, it would serve them well to take account of the ever shifting demographic, while keeping an eagle eye on their existing customer base.

endura, for the reasons already espoused by jim mcfarlane "don't consider other cycle clothing brands to match sizing against". that's not a restriction favoured by at least one other of the major brands. though the lead times of design and manufacture preclude an immediate implementation of anything they discover, constant checks are made against other brands, and a constant referral as to how their current garments fit their long-time customers.

however, something that all do, even if they're loathe to admit it, is continually keep an eye on information provided by customer service. we may all individually have an idea of our ideal size, and there is likely little less frightening than discovering that the medium bought last year, has turned into a small. if that happens often enough all across the customer base, it'll lead to a stream of returns; customer service will be the first to know.

jersey sizes

i confess that in asking the question of just how cycle clothing is sized, i never expected to receive the same answer from each of those asked. it's hardly an exact science, and i'm sure many of us have pre-lycra jerseys in the wardrobe that will attest to that fact. and possibly a few from the modern age. in the face of such adversity, it is great testament to those currently inhabiting the marketplace, just how often they get it right. my jersey and jacket size has remained medium as long as i've been cycling; pedalling will do that for you. it's not at all unusual to find wide variances in each retailer's definition of the same size. but most are close enough for jazz, if you know what i mean, to the extent that, assuming all else remains equal, it has become far less of a lottery to order online.

i'll let graeme raeburn finish off "I guess it comes down to what's in one's backyard really - like the way uk mountain bikers scorn components designed and made in the dry Californian climates." you pays your money and you takes your choice; it's just nice to know there are folks working hard on that choice.

just in case you're wondering; the title of this piece is the embodiment of an aberdonian greeting, equating to the the more common 'how are you doing?'

thank you to carlyle at cervo rosso, simon huntsman and graeme raeburn at rapha, paul mason at solo, harth at wabi woolens and jim mcfarlane at endura for their considerable assistance with this article.

cervo rosso | solo | endura | wabi woolens | rapha

posted thursday 19 may 2011


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how i won the yellow jumper - ned boulting. yellow jersey press 315pp illus. hardback. £12.99


in the halcyon days of yore (2008 i believe), when was the revelation, promise and future of interweb cycle racing coverage, their studios on the fourth floor of west point in warple way, london, consisted (and, for all i know, still consist) of a proper studio with a large flat screen monitor, comfy chairs and a couch. the commentating took place in little more than a cupboard, closed off from all extraneous sounds and interference, regularly inhabited by the morecambe and wise of cycling commentary; brian smith and anthony mccrossan.

the studio was the province of rebecca charlton, now working for ipc at cycling weekly and cycling active, who regularly held court with luminaries from the world of cycling who would be sat on the couch and grilled prior to the live action. this was the scary bit, or at least it would have been for me. it's great to come across from the depths of anonymity as an expert in all forms of cycling and most knowledgeable about the more arcane aspects of the genre; but i'm not.

those invited to take part in those pre-race gambits seemed regularly at ease, discussing the finer merits of oscar freire's sprint, bertie's climbing prowess, or whether the par cours under investigation would suit the skills of tom boonen. i, on the other hand, haven't a clue about such things, and went so far as to say so in an article on the post. it doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to figure out what happened next. at least it doesn't if you are familar with the dry wit of brian smith.

as sunday, april 21st 2008 approached, i received the following e-mail from rebecca charlton 'it's time for the request that you've been dreading - how would you like to make a guest appearance on the liege-bastogne-liege show?'. poor ms charlton had no idea that i lived some considerable distance from warple way, but glasgow's mr smith did. i made my apologies by phone, thus avoiding my one potential brush with fame and fortune.

though i'm sure i could have mugged up a few relevant facts with which to avoid embarrassment, it is pertinent to bear in mind that i am a cycling obsessive, and was therefore well versed in the logic and language of the sport. the hapless mr boulting, author of the volume under question, by his own admission, wasn't. ned was, and to all intents and purposes, still is a football commentator, and not one well versed in the world of cycling. or to be more specific, with that of the tour de france.

ned boulting

the scene opens in paris, france, july 2003. mr boulting has been despatched by itv to join the crew covering that particular year's tour de france, and is being briefed by long-time stalwart of the race, gary imlach. it was he who used to stand in obscure locations of the countryside, microphone in hand, relating many of the bizarre exploits of the tour, when channel four commenced tour coverage in the early eighties. particularly knowledgeable regarding all aspects of the tour, imlach is trying to pass on the salient points that ned will need to know when carrying out direct to camera broadcasts.

'lance armstrong. he's the american cancer bloke isn't he? keeps winning it,' i said, feeling that i'd got off to a flyer.
it wasn't that long before i'd exhausted my scant knowledge and was out of my comfort zone. gary had suddenly started talking about the team time trial.
'they have teams?' i offered, genuinely surprised. 'i didn't know that.'

you could say that it's downhill from there on in, and i terms of how ned scraped through his first tour, that would likely be a fairly accurate assessment. in the prologue, close to giving brad mcgee a run for his money, scotland's david millar embarrassingly unshipped his chain while a couple of seconds up on the australian. the director impressed through crackling earphones, that they would be switching over to ned for a poignant roundup of the situation once the prologue was complete and mcgee was in yellow. for his debut words on that tour of 2003, caught like a rabbit in headlights, boulting uttered words like 'some sort of thing with his bike, followed up with the killer line 'kissing goodbye to his chance of winning the yellow jumper.'

there have been many films and sitcoms that gain the bulk of their laughs from placing otherwise competent people in situations where they're quite obviously out of their depth. in this case it's all true. one does have to wonder why independent television saw fit to place mr boulting at the heart of a well oiled and impressive operation covering the 2003 tour de france and subsequent editions. yes, despite his reference to the yellow jumper, mr boulting has been asked back every year since, and is currently working alongside matt rendell, phil and paul on itv 4's coverage of the giro. more power to his elbow.

we should all be extremely grateful that itv had the perspicacity or folly (delete as applicable) to continue sending ned boulting to france every july. the chapters that follow the yellow jumper incident are, in equal measure, fascinating and hilarious all at the same time. boulting seems just as much at ease inhabiting the written word as he is thrusting face and microphone in front of a camera lens. his fluid, self deprecatory style never talks down to the reader, and never assumes that we know more or less than himself. and in the manner of a true comedian, he has a well-honed sense of observation.

as with the great sprinters, despite being the face on camera and the named author of this book, boulting is generous in his praise of those who help him in the day to day, particularly the renowned writer matt rendell, with whom boulting podcasts the real peloton, a similarly irreverent look at the world of professional cycling. such an attribute, amongst others, forestalls any likelihood of this book descending into an ego trip, despite plenty of opportunities to do so. even the hapless david millar, subject of boulting's initial on-screen faux pas is quoted on the cover as saying 'i thought ned was an old hand at the tour. evidently he was clueless.'

lest you think that this is one long joke from beginning to end, boulting is far too experienced a broadcaster/writer to run that one to ground. he deals with the armstrong/simeoni incident, brad's elevation to fourth place in the tour of 2009, and the friendly intransigence of mark cavendish, though recounting each with a degree of panache i would gratefully have as my own. it did come as something of a surprise, however, to discover that though chris boardman is a man of few, well-chosen words, he exhibits just as concise a sense of humour.

who knew?

every july, those of us with the time and opportunity are glued to the broadcasts of either itv4, espn, or eurosport to watch a blow by blow account of the subsequent three weeks. all we get to see are the stages themselves, interspersed with little vignettes rounding up team tactics, strategies and the personalities of those taking part, whether it be behind the scenes or in the saddle. we take it for granted that if the call goes out for an on-screen interview with one of the favourites, all are singing from the same hymn sheet; rider, publicist and interviewer.

that, it seems, is rarely the case, and a great deal of intrigue and pursuit carries on over a period of anything up to several days in order to gain those few words spared for the fans. and not always in the native language of the interviewer. it takes a certain kind of person to live with that inside the cocoon that is the tour de france circus, and come back for more the following year. and the following year. and all the while, observing little kernels that will give rise to great mirth when recounted in print.

my one hope is that the reproduction of the numerous, and sometime irritatingly placed photographs (not always relevant i'd have thought) will be a tad better in the final published copy. it may just have been better, from a reader's point of view, to have gone the way of the majority, and bundled all the pics into several glossy pages in the middle. however, i guarantee over three hundred pages of enthralling and regularly humourous narrative that will prevent you from watching the tour de france in the same way ever again.

and that's a good thing.

how i won the yellow jumper by ned boulting is published on 2nd june 2011

i'm sure that ned won't mind my stealing just a part of his thunder by pointing out that 'olympic gangster' by his good friend matt rendell, is due for release in paperback on 9th june. propitiously, my review copy arrived this afternoon. £8.99

posted wednesday 18 may 2011


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don't remove them just yet


in my mountain biking days, about which i keep as quiet as possible, i made every effort to fulfil the potential that the activity offered; riding offroad in sand, mud and grass with big knobbly tyres, just to let anyone within viewing distance know that i wasn't messing around. i meant every tyre track. the sad part about this is that, not only was i not very good at it (gravity got the better of me on many an occasion), i wasn't particularly enamoured with the coating of muck that permeated most of the nooks and crannies on the bike, and most of the lower half of my clothing.

had such detritus remained below the waist, i figure i could almost have enjoyed myself, but there was always that thick brown stripe up the back of any appallingly decorated jersey i had found in the wardrobe. the general appreciation of the day was very much against fitting mudguards, perhaps inadvertantly promulgated through the mountain bike magazines of the day, and seems to continue to the present. it's hard to argue that a lump of carbon or aluminium with strategically placed springs, doesn't lose some of its portrayed aggression when mudguards of some description are appended.

very much form over function.

of course, the sleek lines of a modern road bike can just as easily be sullied by the affixation of guards/fenders about the front and rear wheels. though i have more recently come to favour the practicality of shielding feet, legs and back from the spray not only thrown up by my sometimes excessive speed (a fellow can dream can't he?), but blown into less favourable locations by a persistent atlantic wind.

the habit was fostered by the desire and subsequent acquisition of a pair of full wood fenders to complement the cielo. who would have thought (no pun intended) that such decorous accessories could be such a pragmatic solution to minimal weatherproofing. the original intention had been to remove the fenders when summer came along, but my naivety showed no bounds; what summer would that be? both are still in situ and due for their next frequent dose of teak oil.


however, the above guards require a modicum of clearance built into the frame, and it was extremely good fortune that pete tomkins of crud fame, produced his excellent and minimalistic roadracers, almost invisibly blending into shiny carbon surrounds. when it comes to the offroad world again, this time in the guise of cyclocross, i have gained no more desire to become a muddy splodge than was the case almost twenty years ago. thus crudguards have become the order of the day, an order i thought had seasonally passed.

at the last port mor wheelers' session, two weeks ago, the weather was looking up, if you know what i mean, and in order to increase my street cred amongst the younger cyclists of the isle, i took the guards off. for the summer, as i would have it. there's no doubt that my sven nys persona was considerably enhanced by a bare hakkalugi, though i did fall off yet again.

additionally, the aszure team issue which is having an extended holiday in the hebrides, has remained bereft of any form of mudguard; because it's summer, and surely there would be no need for rain protection of any kind? i'd love to think that was the case, but only a few weeks past, on the sunday ride, i'd to swap to the wood fendered cielo so that the mighty dave t wouldn't berate me for showering his glasses during domestique duties.

rain again.

i hope you're laughing along with me rather than at me. sunday is the first time we have had to cancel the sunday ride due to rain, since around october last year; we rode all through the gales, the ice, the snow and intermittent precipitation, and here we are in mid-may, a few days away from the 2011 islay whisky festival, and the weather is crap. we're not the only ones. california shifted their tour from february to mid-may in order to gain a smidgeon of half-decent weather, but after stage one was cancelled due to snow on the tracks, it seems the guys from rapha had much better weather when riding their four stages.


this is tuesday eve; it's port mor wheelers time again in bridgend woods (however contradictory that may sound). i extracted the cross bike from the depths of the bikeshed, affixed pedals and refitted the crudguards; precipitation was swithering. come 5:30pm, we cancelled because that thick, heavy drizzle arrived out of nowhere again. well, not strictly nowhere; it's been grey all day, and it was only a matter of time. the adults are willing to venture, but kids are such softies nowadays.

allowing for the salient fact that cycle dealers make a greater margin on cycling accoutrements than they do on bicycles themselves, perhaps it's time, given global raining, that more bicycles were designed with mudguards/fenders in mind. they don't actually have to be fitted at birth, but maybe, as michael hutchison has averred, it's time that these were accommodated, even if they aren't cool in the way that a brown stripe up the back of a cycle jersey apparently is.

of course, now that i've said that, we'll have a heatwave (humour).

posted tuesday 17 may 2011


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