vous etes des assassins

rapha pro team base layer

the poor relation in the world of cycling apparel is, i would tender, the unfortunate, unloved black sheep of the family, the undervest. or, as us style icons prefer to call it, the base layer. hanging out slightly longer than absolutely necessary midst the wooden tables at debbie's is not an activity designed to alert others to the quality of the garment under a stylish jersey. there's every likelihood such would be seen as perverse behaviour, and certainly not one becoming of a lady. therefore, though discussions over froth supping range from the germane to the undoubtedly bizarre, i cannot recall any ever centring around the quality of one's undergarment.

yet few, if any, would deny ownership of such an essential garment. i did, many years ago, ride with a chap who swore by the efficacy of the cotton t-shirt, preferaby one decorated with cycling related graphics; campagnolo would be a good start, though in his case a more pertinent slogan would have been 'i'm not fat, i'm a sprinter'. but cotton t-shirts are hardly in the technical sphere, whatever the screenprint inhabiting the front.

though cotton has its thermal properties in the face of adverse weather conditions, it is not only not renowned for its wicking attributes, but has a tendency to acquire not nice niffs in a very short space of time. add to that, it doesn't take long to find out out how a sponge feels when immersed in water. in short, wearing a t-shirt under a cycle jersey is not to be recommended.

rapha pro team base layer

but let's for a moment, suspend reality and pretend that we live in a climate where heat is refelected from each passing gorse bush. where the sun is clearly visible at every angle of the sextant, and the west of scotland is a location much visited for its sun, sea and sand. yes, i realise it's entirely fictional, but bear with me. in hot, sunny conditions such as those hypothesised above, why on earth would anyone wear a baselayer in the first place? cosiness is surely guaranteed by that flaming orb 93 million miles away, and all would be clamouring to order the jerseys described as summer or lightweight.

however, that would be to ignore, dismiss or remain ignorant of another salient feature apertaining to the garment. those of a squeamish disposition should probably close their eyes. suppose one of those chutes should befall you on the sunday ride, or perchance, you choose a highly frictional chair at the coffee shop patio. the movement existing between outer and inner layers will absorb that which may cause irritation or road rash, thus ensuring we all survive to fight another day. that, in my opinon cannot be other than a good thing.

but, back to reality. though the salving properties of an appropriate baselayer can still be relied upon even in a chilly disposition, the principal reason for wearing a baselayer is for a modicum of insulation allied to those wicking properties previously mentioned, neither of which ought to be underestimated.

till now, i have entrusted all to merino wool baselayers of varying thickness of knit depending on ambient temperature. the reasons are twofold: the warming factor has been already discussed; the second - a propensity to remain as fresh as a daisy for days on end - (i have investigated this purely in the interests of science). merino has been below all my jerseys for more years than i care to remember, though i have refrained from the discussion of same in polite company. but as of rapha's release of the spring/summer range a month or so ago, there is a new kid on the block.

rapha pro team base layer

rapha's pro team baselayer resembles nothing more than a string vest, decorated with the words vous etes des assassins attributed to octave lapize on the sleeveless version, or merci roubaix, franco ballerini's 2001 farewell message in the velodrome at roubaix on the short sleeve version. this is a part of the spring/summer range, so long sleeves need not apply. according to rapha's website, the garment is intended for hot conditions and elite-level racing. at this point, i must put my hand up and admit to a degree of impostership, since islay sports neither hot conditions, nor would i know elite-level racing conditions if my life depended on them.

however, the sleeveless version, assuming a few days facial growth, confers a modicum of lion king (by which i mean mario cipollini) associations in poor light conditions. it also owns a couple of the features experienced by wearing merino, namely breathability and moisture wicking. side panels of lycra make sure that it hugs every last centimetre of that finely honed physique, a feature that might just give cause for concern under certain circumstances. rapha's web page offers, in bold print, the admonishment that 'the pro team base layer sizing is race-tight. please select your regular jersey size, or if you want a more relaxed fit, move up one size'

the rigours of reviewing product bring with them untold baggage and conditions that one would not meet in every day life; i feel i'd be doing you all a disservice if i had relented and opted for the relaxed fit, for i know the majority are possessed of elite-level skills and aspirations. thus, the sample that slid easily from its diaphanous presentation bag was of the figure-hugging variety. placing over the head is the least troublesome stage of operation; popping both arms through the missing sleeves was not the easiest thing i've ever done, not least because i worried the entire vest might rend asunder in the process. i'd be lying if i said taking it off was any easier.

and when rapha say 'race tight', they really mean tight.

rapha pro team base layer

however, tight does not mean discomfort, and assuming you do not have bumpy bits where bumpy bits should not be, the vision in the mirror may not be entirely unflattering. and contrary to the impressions foisted upon me by the reality of race-tight, over the course of several bike rides, it actually turned out to err on the rather fabulous side. though no-one other than mrs washingmachinepost will ever read octave's admonishment, i can see rapha's string vest replacing those short-sleeve merinos from now till cold time. i may even take a serious look at a 'merci roubaix' to alternate during my elite-level trips to the coffee shop.

rapha's pro team base layers are available in xs all the way to xxl, only in white and with either short sleeve (£45) or sleeveless (£40) versions from rapha's website and select rapha stockists.

rapha pro-team base layer

posted monday 9 april 2012.


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argyle armada by mark johnson. velopress hardback. 207pp illus. £29.95 ($39.95)

argyle armada

you'll be exceptionally pleased to hear that one of the sureties in life is that i will never publish my autobiography. granted, there wouldn't be that much of interest between its hypothetical covers, but that is not the point i wish to make, more that i do not have much of a memory for landmark events in my life and just where they fit into the continuing timeline. in this context, at some point in my past, i inadvertantly ordered a book from one of those mail order newspaper advertisements entitled how things work. i'm now hoping that nobody puts their hand up and asks for examples from its chapters. i can't remember. but it certainly did have words and diagrams explaining either the glaringly obvious or the hitherto incomprehensible.

'twas a fine book, but sadly, it is no loner in my possession.

it's an interesting observation that those of a more artistic bent are often less concerned with the operational values of machines and accoutrements; it's the use to which they can be put that is of greater interest. obviously i was a confused child of my time. this has now reared its less than pulchritudinous head at the photoshop and digital photography course i teach midweek at the local college of further education. there is a discrepancy between what the course entails and what the prospective particpants were told by the college, the result of which was a group of quizzical faces seemingly determined to learn the arcane camera operations as directed by all those dials and buttons that bejewel their picture boxes.

while i have a certain degree of sympathy with their mystification, my contention is that many of them have little to do with how successful their subsequent picture making might be. the art of composition is one that surely ought to be learned long before the wiles of the macro setting as described by that little black flower? i fear, however, that convincing them of this may take more than a few weeks.


but it cannot be truthfully stated that learning how things work is of no value in the world. for starters, if you don't know how it works, it'll be a devil of a job to fix it when it stops working. but it is also of great interest to comprehend how an aglomeration of rules and strategies makes a collection of bicyclists, bicycles and hordes of support staff intent on racing at the highest level into a coherent whole that can actually achieve that which it sets out to do. such is argyle armada by mark johnson. he had the good fortune to be embedded (it says so on the back cover) with the garmin cervelo team throughout 2011, with pretty much carte blanche and access all areas, the results of which can be seen within this book's 200 plus pages.

it is of large(ish) format, giving credence to the notion that its contents may comfortably attract the epithet coffee table book, but in a different context, i might quote the buyer beware maxim. for despite certain misgivings on reading its opening pages, johnson's observations both written and visual are far more important than as a vehicle for coffee stains. firstly, johnson is a fine writer with, at times, almost too intellectual an approach, though it is with temerity that i enlist such as a gentle form of crticism. secondly, he is a truly excellent photographer in both technical and observational senses. there are one or two exceptions to this (a photo of a track-mitted hand entitled, 'hesjedal's hand' which seems to have little relevance to anything in the accompanying text), but by and large the illustrative part of this volume is finely judged and highly entertaining.

the relevance and timeliness of the book almost defies comprehension; rare indeed is a volume of this breadth and depth that arrives so soon after the period of time it depicts. most cycle racing books tend to arrive displaced by at least a season or two, so both johnson and velopress are to be congratulated on a job very well done. its logical train of thought is simple to follow, commencing with the initial winter training camp and following the sequential nature of the 2011 and every racing season: cobbled classics, ardenne classics, tour of california, tour de france. i'm sure i need say no more.

thor hushovd

jonathan vaughter's team (he provides the book's foreword) has the self-promulgated task of racing clean, not only publicly eschewing any drug culture, but making sure all their rider testing is clearly published on the internet. though i see nothing wrong with underlining this fact at the outset of affairs, johnson does occasionally become slightly tiresome in his re-iterations. he also, on occasion, becomes too embroiled in the sound of his own word processor, but since i find myself identifying with such literary lavishness, it would be tantamount to throwing stones while living in a glass house. however, phrases such as 'his patience suggests a kinship, a propinquity in common cycling values that melts the ceremonious space the kids at first keep between themselves and a man who is, in their eyes, a god.' are rather more florid than either i could manage, or, indeed, the book requires.

it is, however, a book to be recommended for even those who only wish to look at the pictures. aside from a rather dodgy use of photoshop's motion blur filter on the cover photo, i figure you'd find much of interest and enjoyment in a book that substantially and comfortably bucks the coffee table ideology.

argyle armada can be ordered direct from cordee books in the uk, or velopress in the usa.

posted sunday 8 april 2012.


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the grand parade of lifestyle packaging

rapha grand tour packaging

i'm sure i'm not the only one to have previously said 'i like stuff', because there are lots of us who do. the greening of the world dictates that we ought to consume less, rather than acquire more and more so-called ethical products, but unless possessed of a steel-like constitution, it is hard to resist the onslaught of marketing to which most of us are relentlessly exposed. as the years progress, the advertising and marketing worlds find ever more subtle and subliminal methods of convincing us to acquire that which we undoubtedly do not require. it is the way of the western world.

but ultimately, there is nothing drastically wrong with burying ourselves under a morass of shiny trinketry that may not promote an increase in speed and fitness, but sure as heck makes us feel oh so much better with the diminishing speed we already own. that, however, is a rather simplistic view; in the manner of most of rapha's photography and team jerseys, somewhat black and white. do not take this as a disparaging of green values; but unless there is a wholesale change in individual and collective attitudes worldwide, all those little sacrifices are but rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic. they may bring a salving of the conscience on at least a temporary basis, but world changing they certainly aren't.

rapha grand tour packaging

though the marketing machine is designed to show all the latest desirable finery in its best light - perhaps several best lights to account for differing tastes - there is a factor often excluded from the catalogue or website surely designed to enhance the anticipation by several orders of magnitude. i am, of course, referring to packaging.

this is an accoutrement that could arguably be dispensed with, because on many occasions, that's exactly how it is treated at point of receipt. generally speaking, packaging is gratuitously overdone these days; is it truly necessary to enclose herbal tea bags inside a foil pack inside a recycled card box, when the bog standard variety are carelessly chucked inside a larger, yet flimsier box? so many products are double-wrapped for no truly apparent reason. perhaps consumerism at its very worst, but just as likely, at its very best.

though many a cycle related product will prove not only the rule but the exception to that rule, i have in mind for the present, the manner in which rapha has presented its forthcoming grand tour shoes.

rapha grand tour packaging

a number of years ago, en-route to london for the cycle show, i had need of presenting myself at a glasgow shoe emporium to purchase some suitable footwear. i had a good idea of the style i wished to purchase, so it needed only a few moments to target my intended purchase and ask the assistant to bring a matching pair in my size. though i have remarkably little experience of shoe shops and the trials and tribulations of the staff therein employed, i obviously had upset some ritual expected of the average customer. i had no wish to view the shoes in a nearby mirror, nor did i wish to check out some complementary styles. the hapless attaendant seemed even a mite put out that i had eschewed visiting any other shoe establishments in the area prior to arriving at his domain.

my pinpointed choice would have been presented to me in a plain looking cardboard box, placed inside an identifiable carrier bag, but i had purchased the shoes in order to wear them from the shop, stopping short of asking the staff to dispense with my old pair (i do have a modicum of decorum). the assistant with impossibly gelled hair was less than impressed at having to retain both carrier bag and storage box. i, on the other hand, was left wondering which specific part of the retail experience i had transgressed.

rapha grand tour packaging

i can assure you, the packaging in which rapha have ensconced their grand tour shoes is not only something not to be dismissed out of hand, but to be retained at all costs.

the brown cardboard outer is simply labelled in trademark fashion, but performance roadwear has become performance footwear a substitution easily overlooked in an eagerness to get at the real packaging. stones have not been left unturned in the process of ensuring that the luxury which awaits within is well worth the wait. the shoe box itself (somehow such a description seems less than fitting) is unmistakeable in its all black with a white stripe encircling two thirds of the way along. the flap is held in place by magnet, providing the reassuring heft at point of opening and a solid click upon closing.

rapha grand tour packaging

the inner face of the lid features a fine example of the black and white photography for which the marque is famous and to which i referred earlier, but it's the pink faux newspaper wrapping that attracts the eye ahaead of this imagery. it's a graphic that rapha have used before, initially on a stripe down the back of a giro d'italia special edition gilet from several years back. though perhaps unintentional (or perhaps not), it may be an affirmation of giro's part played in the production of the carefully wrapped shoes.

carefully unwrapping the pink tissue paper reveals not one, but two cloth bags, closed by means of pink drawstrings and appended with a small rapha label at the opposite end. i would not for one minute disagree if you have come to the conclusion we are talking over the top at this point, but it's very hard to ignore the fabulous attention to detail. in common with many a pair of shoes, each one has a (rapha branded) card folded inside helping maintain an appropriate shoe shape.

rapha grand tour packaging

the grand tour shoes are not cheap; in fact, they may be the most expensive pair of cycle shoes in the firmament, but the experience of receiving and unburdening a pair from their designer packaging is equally expensive, if you follow my drift. in short, you're not just buying a pair of shoes. almost overlooked at this point is a slim dark grey package nestling in one side of the box. the flap of this is secured by a pink thread wrapped around two circular tabs. inside is a beautifully produced owner's manual pressed against a bag containing two thicknesses of arch support inserts to further enhance both comfort and performance. and most unusually included with a pair of shoes, a set of bolts to affix whichever cleats match your pedal system of choice.

truly, none of this is ultimately necessary. as the owner of a pair of rapha grand tour shoes scythes their way around the highways and byways, the packaging should be a distant memory. but it probably won't be.

rapha's grand tour shoes are available from april 10th. a full review will follow soon. this article is a small part of a long-term and ongoing appreciation of the 'rapha school of design', one which will eventually see the light of day in its entirety at some time in the future.

rapha grand tour shoes

posted saturday 7 april 2012.


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transition stage

dromarti la grande 2

though i err heavily on the parochial side, it is a noticeable fact that those visiting islay for easter are hoping for fine weather. though i doubt anyone expects cloudless skies and temperatures warm enough to fry eggs on the pavement, given that it's a few days off work with the mrs and the kids, a lack of rain and a deal of clement weather would surely not go amiss. however, should the weather continue with the smirry (excellent word) rain and cooling wind that featured today, i fear all may not be well in the land of guesthouse and self-catering accommodation. and it is the presence of this unpredictability that tells heavily on any memories taken back on the ferry.

we're all guilty of the same thing; no doubt many who have visited locations abroad when the weather has been less than fine, will make a mental note not to visit there again, predicating everything on the climes experienced at the time. of course, weather does not work that way; if it's wet and windy on islay this easter, there is no telling whether that will be the case in april 2013, yet the experience colours the visit, and supposedly logical human beings make illogical decisions on this basis.

dromarti la grande 2

this unpredictability of the weather gives rise for pelotonic concern. those of us who are office-bound during the week, particularly when sharing with colleagues who would find the sahara a touch on the chilly side, lose all sense of perspective, meaning more than just a few wardrobe malfunctions on saturday and sunday. if the office is warm and you sit but a few centimetres from the storage heater, popping outside to purchase lunch and a newspaper feels a lot colder than it really is. by the weekend, it's a case of guesswork through the kitchen window. the long-held belief that one is overdressed if comfortable in the first few kilometres is of no real help.

in this period of transition, overnight changes in temperature are even harder to deal with, often meaning riding with steam emanating from the jacket collar, or brazenly stepping out to the bike shed with shorts, short sleeves and darkly tinted rudy projects. you know this to be true.

dromarti la grande 2

of course, some of us dither endlessly, bringing a total lack of decsion making to the level of a skillful art, thankfully aided by one or two jackets which feature zipped vents. last saturday and sunday were cold, or at least cold enough when stepping out to the bike shed prepared for a few score kilometres with froth supping mid flight. the low temperatures made it a simple decision to wear long finger winter gloves, but just in case those blue skies became as warm as they were sunny looking, i popped a pair of dromarti's latest string-backed leather mitts in a rear pocket and headed out, confidently portraying a cyclist in full command of his capabilities.

sometimes it is possible to fool most of the people all of the time.

i have reviewed the dromarti la grande mitt in years gone by, both that imbued with a cognac hue and the black/red version, and worn both with alarming frequency throughout my summer riding. leather palms and a crocheted string back with knuckles keeking out are but the apparel of the cognoscenti, subtly demonstrating a knowledge of cycling's rich heritage while protecting those gear-shifting digits. but good things often come to an end, in this case thankfully replaced by something even better in the shape of the la grande 2, a glove that has inherited everything that was great and good in the first version, but surpassed it by featuring a more finely crocheted back, while losing the knuckle holes.

dromarti la grande 2

when the weather is fine and the sun is blazing, i cannot but state that two sets of tanned knuckles looked just a smidgeon on the weird side. the all important oval tanline is that which confers the necessary honours in polite company, and that is still present just above the dromarti embossed velcro closure. in short, these are everything their predecessors were only better. the padding is superbly judged, excluding much of an ever-increasing road buzz while providing grip in all of the salient points, whether on the hoods, the drops or the tops. smooth would be an apt choice of adjective.

the dromarti la grande 2 leather cycle mitt is available in small through extra large, in a glorious shade of cognac at a cost of £101.11. as it says on the website 'the essence of good taste and style'.

i only wish that's a description that applied personally.


posted friday 6 april 2012.


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show and tell

scottish bike show

christmas in the northern hemishpere must be the most ludicrous time of year to give a bicycle as a present. with all the electronic gizmos invading the psyches of children nowadays, i know not whether a bicycle is still the done thing, but assuming it to be so, then it's obviously an idea looking for a place to stay.

let me explain.

while innocently plying my trade as a festive 500 participant between christmas eve and new year's eve this past december, i was forced by inclement weather (and then some) from getting even as far as the bike shed on the wednesday mid-week. the following day, using my degree in unbridled stupidity, i covered around 80km in squalls of up to 85kph, before being shot peened within centimetres of a ditch near kilchoman distillery. though the latter act somewhat abrogated any level of responsibility i may have at one time thought i possessed, i am a cyclist of long-standing, equipped with the wherewithal and honed physique that suggests i might have an inkling of what i'm doing. (mrs washingmachinepost would vehemently argue the contrary on that last point.)

on tuesday of the following week, january 3rd, islay and much of scotland was hit by hurrican force winds that removed one or two slates from washingmachinepost cottage, distributed the mighty dave-t's summer house to the four corners of the globe and broke the wind speed recorder on orsay lighthouse at 120mph. it would not be telling a fib to say i did not venture out that day. actually, i think i may have remained indoors on the following day too. i will not enter into the lengthy description of just how long it took to secure a tradesperson to repair my roof, but will point out that the mighty dave t's summer house has only just been rebuilt (in stone this time) during last week.

scottish bike show

so, in the face of such inclement weather, an experience that is not unprecedented in this part of the world, what chance has a five year-old of getting out and about on that colourful, shiny velocipede that santa delivered on the 25th? though a hosepipe ban has been recently visited upon the more southern regions of the uk within the past week, our reservoirs are full to overflowing due to weeks of incessant rain after the gale-force and hurricane-force winds. my next door neighbour can exploit his obsession with power-washing with impunity.

a far more practical time to bestow the gift of a bicycle upon a deserving kid (and what kid isn't?) would be as easter approaches. in fact now, to be calculatingly precise, just when an appropriately timed bike show happens along.

the rest of the cycling world has a similarly bizarre notion of appropriate times to roll out the so-called major cycle shows of the year. eurobike happens along at the beginning of september and is swiftly followed by north america's interbike while not too far behind is the english bicycle show, now moved to birmingham (ah, earls court, thou served us well). these are, of course, predominantly trade-based shows, for rare is the occasion when you can take home your carbon fibre of choice in a carrier bag or musette. in fact, rarer still is the occasion when you can order the very latest model seen on the luxurious european or american stands from your nearest friendly dealer on return to the fold. commercial promotion, for reasons best known to itself, seems hell-bent on announcing stuff that it hasn't yet built or even had delivered from taiwan in anything like practical quantities.

scottish bike show

so if the stuff launched last september is the kit we're all looking forward to riding, wearing or just owning this coming season, doesn't it seem a tad incongruous that the cycle shows invade our sensibilities so late in the year prior to the weather that might prevent us from doing so? and wouldn't the ideal time to hold a cycle show be, well, round about now? and in all honesty, wouldn't you prefer to see, touch then proffer some plastic while the spouse is still traipsing up and down sauchiehall street?

i believe the solution is called the scottish bike show, and it pokes us in the arm next friday, saturday and sunday, replete with its own sportive around loch lomond on the sunday. a darned fine idea if you'd like my opinion.

organiser of the very first ever scottish bike show at this time last year, is rowan mackie of magdala media, the very chap responsible for increasing two days in 2011 to three in 2012. is that due to a brief episode of megalomania, or as a result of consumer demand? "The extra day is there for a couple of reasons.  Firstly to use the Friday of the show as a press / trade day for showcasing new bikes, new products and providing the general public with a preview of the weekend to come.  Secondly, because the Sportive is on the Sunday, I wanted to use the full three days to encompass both events."

as mentioned above, many of the existing cycle shows are either trade only by design, or effectively by intent. the birmingham show does provide punter access on three days, but it's still not possible to purchase other than the select products in the retail park. it's prudent to point out that many of the stands at last year's scottish show had large stashes of carrier bags under the counters. does rowan think it might be the consumer aspect of the scottish show that has made it successful in such a short space of time?

scottish bike show

"We had a good start last year with a strong footfall of 5,000 +.  I think the fact it hadn't been done before was a reason for people to attend and check out a new event.  Lots of new exhibitors this year and exciting new product which the public may have not seen before."

the third day of this year's show incorporates two distinct lengths of sportive ride on the sunday, as ridden and commented on by rapha condor sharp rider and habituee of the coffee and croissants in ronde, edinburgh, jamie maccallum. though a number of cycle shows have a ride of sorts appended to the menu, this is the only one i can think of that has a sportive of its very own. not only that, but at the time of writing, all places are darned near filled. where did the idea of a sportive arise. "A brand manager who used to work for a well know distributor said, "why don't you do a bike ride around the show?" So i did.  Currently there are over 770 entrants and we are nearly to capacity.  Next year, if all goes well, the sportive will be on the weekend after the show and be its own event."

the uk national show started out at cyclex in london's docklands before moving to earls court for several successful years. then, apparently in an attempt to break the london-centric nature of this show, it moved north to birmingham in 2011. with edinburgh not that far away, does rowan intend to remain faithful to the show's glasgow location? "Yes - I don't know if there is a venue elsewhere which could provide the location, facilities and space the show requires."

scottish bike show

without wishing to belabour the point about trade-only access, has there been any forceful indication of interest in allowing the great and good (irony alert again) to wander hither and thither, untroubled by the civilian population? "Not particiularly, although there seems to be a lot of trade visitors coming this year." so does he feel there is any section of the show that is not fully represented? "More manufacturers would be good as well as distributors to come and showcase.  I'm delighted with this year's line up and would like to add to this for next year. If we show growth and have another successful year, hopefully that will be taken notice of in the trade."

having gained useful employment both now and in the past serving the accommodation providers of islay with menus, brochures, posters and the occasional website, i have been indoctrinated by visitscotland's propaganda and lingua-franca, much of which is self-serving and more their equivakent of geek-speak. the buzzword, or even buzz acronym that has arisen on several occasions is usp or unique selling point. to put rowan on the spot, what would he say is the scottish bike show's unique selling point?

"It's in Scotland! What more could you want?"

if you're interested in what might be on show or on offer at this year's scottish bike show, click through to the website. i'll see some of you next saturday."

scottish bike show 2012

posted thursday 5 april 2012.


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spray that again

purple harry

mrs washingmachinepost is a childminder, an occupation that has its happy moments accompanied by its screaming brat moments too. the latter are ameliorated, however, by the knowledge that they can always be handed back to their respective parents at the end of the day. on the occasions when my work finishes before mrs twmp's, there are endless games of hide and seek, ring-a-ring-a roses and running down the big hill accompanied by splatterings of yogurt all over the clean pair of rapha jeans i put on that very morning. those of you still in possession of young children will know exactly where i'm coming from. often just what you need at the end of a long, hard day in the office. (ironic statement alert).

as this childcare is offered as a professional service, there are a number of routine duties that seemingly require to be undertaken at the break of each day, the most impinging of which is the clearing and subsequent disinfecting of every surface the little darlings are not supposed to be allowed anywhere near in the first place. periodically the same care and attention is lavished upon boxes and boxes of toy animals, lego, model cars, construction kits and a dishevelled array of books in an effort to forestall cross contamination between different familes of children.

purple harry glove

it's probably an occasional routine we could readily apply to aspects of our cycling habit, but let's be honest, most of the incidents with grime and contamination experienced from the saddle are of the glaringly obvious type. these can either be embarrasingly concealed, where possible, or worn as a badge of honour where appropriate. as a for instance, the cyclists' tattoo, consisting of half an oily chainring on the calf of a right leg should be hidden at all costs from the pelotonese, yet placing on display for the civilian population, blissfully unaware of the shame such confers upon the happless individual, is almost tantamount to glove tanlines on the back of the hand in pelotonic company.

these are often, however, a tad more obvious than invisible bacteria on a kitchen worktop. putting the chain back on after a schleck moment provides a pair of hands that would not be out of place on a miners' strike picket line.

purple harry biocide spray

but, if we assume that all goes undemandingly well on the sunday bike ride, the worst that could conceivably happen would be a dishevelled pile of swot and hetty, slouched in a wooden kitchen chair wondering just what's for lunch. at that particular point in a grand old day, it's often a case of changing from superman into nondescript civilian life as quickly as possible after a hot shower. considerations are few and far between beyond the above, yet we ought to be paying a smidgeon more attention to the small things in life, and for once it's not all about the bike.

if i may refer you to the swot and hetty of the previous discussion, those cushioned pads at front and rear of the helmet, the long-suffering insoles in those svelte leather shoes, and the cushioned inners of a pair of leather track mitts have all inherited squillions of little bacteriums over the course of a couple of hours riding. if i might bring up the pertinent question, what are you going to do about it?

well, up till recently, not much. when i remember to do so i give the gloves a scrub in soapy water, shoes have occasionally been treated with febreze i found in the kitchen cupboard, and if the helmet's lucky, the straps get something resembling a passing scrub. it's barely adequate, i admit, but i'm no different from anyone else, so stop looking at me like that. the exceptions to this are richard and dean at purple harry. purple harry biocide spray buoyed with the success of those scratchy pipecleaners, they have not for one minute rested on their purple laurels, releasing a whole slew of scrubbing products for the velocipede, including a second edition of the three fingered polishing glove which is thankfully now the appropriate shade of purple.

the latest product, to be officially launched at the scottish bike show next week, concerns our personal hygiene in a way that will not result in a red face. the smelly aromas that result from all those exertions can now be immediately dispersed by means of the purple harry helmet, shoe and glove sanitiser, a biocide spray that not only banishes niffs, but pretty much kills them stone dead at the same time. though its effectiveness can only be truly appreciated over an appropriate period of time, so far, it's not doing too badly, particularly with regard to the inner recesses of my shoes, and i'm hoping, a brand new pair of leather gloves will feel the immediate benefits of my repetitive purple spraying technique on their textured innards.

price on opening is likely to be £5.99 for a 250ml spray, though if you're attending the scottish bike show, there's likely to be a special price on offer. an essential purchase for all sorts of reasons.

purple harry

posted wednesday 4 april 2012.


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get a grip

crank brothers eggbeater

pedals used to be quite big, or at least, big enough. i mean in respect of the area provided to place those two gallumphing great plates of meat, ready and able to do battle in the middle of the peloton. it is arguable that campagnolo's dainty little polished alloy affairs prior to the onslaught of clipless could hardly be described as enormous, but if you take into account the toeclips and straps, they were, relatively speaking, sizeable additions to the sleek velocipede. removing the need for the latter retainers in effect, freed any career pedal designers from having to provide an affixation point for the toeclip, resulting in an altogether more compact and bijou device.

however, the most common of connections between rider and pedal comes in a triangular shape bearing three slots to match corresponding holes on the sole of the shoe; more regularly referred to as a look compatible cleat. though enormous strides have been made with regard to the soles of the pelotonese - installing carbon into everything for stiffness beyond compare - these cleats, for, i suppose, reasons of backwards compatibility, have remained not only much the same size, but pretty much the same colour.

though i doubt there are many pairs of look's original ski-binder pedals still in contemporary use, it would be futile to criticise look for continuing with the original plan. however, the spacing of bolt holes that feature on every compatible pair of shoes has pre-disposed each subsequent entrant to the pedal market to remain true to that triangular cleat shape, if not to the archetypal red colouring. to use mavic as an example, they bounded into the shoe and pedal market only a few years back; their zxellium shoes feature the three threaded holes on the sole, and the pedals and cleats have a remarkable similarity to those from look. and the mechanism providing the clip in and clip out has altered little if at all.

but not everyone is going to stick to the tried and true. someone is always going to have a better idea, and the heck with tradition.

one of the perceived difficulties with the standard look type pedal is the single sided point of entry, and with the release mechanism being on top of the pedal, gravity is always going to pull it upside down. a darned footer if trying to make a speedy getaway (incidentally, all terms of velocity are relative). shimano's spd pedals, designed for offroad riding, relied on an altogether different cleat shape and size, along with the method of affixation. this style seems to have been a more adaptable design which other manufacturers have seen fit to alter to suit, with no apparent obligation to remain compatible with anything from shimano.

crank brothers eggbeater contact sleeves

though entirely devoid of any precedent whatsoever, speedplay have upended the principle entirely, turning the cleat into the pedal and vice versa. the latter, however, seems to have acquired an inportant following in the pro peloton while the spd fitting has remained true to its offroad roots.

most of us are not professional cyclists, and even during a sportive of indeterminate length, it's possible that we may wish to dismount for a moment or two without the likelihood of walking about like a duck. there may well be advantages to the standard road-type pedal and shoe combination that have passed me by in my weekly kilometres, but in the grand scheme of things these seem based more in tradition than any serious degree of pragmatism. however, a smidgeon of fudging enters the fray when comparing the two.

road shoes, particularly those in the upper reaches, have fantastically stiff soles, specifically for the efficient transmission of power from those athletically honed thigh muscles. yet taking a peek at a pair of shimano spds or crank brothers eggbeaters, it is immediately noticeable that they are of minimalist design and construction, yet the shoes offered for the cycling activities in which such pedals feature require a touch less rigidity. so what's a pedalist to do?

using the crank brothers eggbeaters as a pragmatic and currently reviewed product, there is precious little real estate for the knobbly parts on the sole of any appropriately accompanying shoe to gain purchase on what is essentially a thick axle. of course, this is not necessarily a factor that affects all brands of this type of footwear, but just in case you find this a problem, at least one of those crank brothers (and i've no idea how many there are. there may even be a crank sister for all i know) has come up with a darned clever idea. and better still, this darned clever idea is retrofittable to eggbeaters you may already own.

tread contact sleeves.

purchased in sets of three sets of four, looking for all the world like the missing part from an airfix kit, the sleeves are of varying thicknesses, ranging from nice and thin to several thicknesses thicker, depending on how much of a gap exists between pedal and sole, after the cleat has gained purchase. the trial and tribulation is guessing just what this gap might be, or whether there is one there at all. putting the outboard sleeve in place is a relatively simple operation, particularly with the aid of a towel and a soft rubber mallet. the inboard sleeve, however, - and i could find no practical way round this - seems to demand that the axle be removed from the pedal body.

eggbeaters are disarmingly simple to dismantle, purposely so as all crank brothers pedals are designed to be rebuildable without return to base. i have already had necessity of rebuilding a pair of candy pedals using the easily obtainable redbuild kit, so it is easily doable. therefore, though it seems a major travesty to remove the axle from a brand new pedal, there is little need to worry if possessed of even very little mechanical aptitude.

this brings us back, rather neatly, to knowing whether the tread contact sleeves are of necessity in the first place. with a few thicknesses to choose from, i plumped for the second from thickest which, as it turned out, was a completely inept decision. having fitted the new eggbeater threes to the cielo and clambered aboard i was completely unable to clip in. at all.

one of those back to the drawing board moments.

crank brothers eggbeater

it turns out that the very thinnest of sleeves were the ideal option, and though i'd had no complaints about the effectiveness of the eggbeaters prior to fitting the sleeves, there is a noticeable difference when they are added to the pedals. eggbeaters and their candy brethren are remarkably simple to clip in and out of, every now and again, perhaps just a tad too easily. the sleeves offer a more reassuring grip on affairs, and are made from a plastic that will survive any disaster movie you care to name.

i cannot truthfully state that the addition of the sleeves makes up for the rigidity not present in the more regular shoe/pedal combination, but they do take small steps towards addressing a problem some of us didn't realise could be alleviated so easily and cheaply. candy pedals are differently shaped and do offer more area for the foot, but it is possible to acquire differently shaped tread contact sleeves for those too.

there is a time, place and a sportive for regular road shoes with big triangular cleats, and there probably always will be, but for those (and i include myself) with need of more formal walking duties, a pair of candies or eggbeaters are ideal. and if my excursions into the hinterlands are anything to be judged, those contact sleeves come into their own when valiantly tyring to imitate a real cyclocross rider. almost total banishment of slip sliding away.

i cannot find any prices for the tread sleeves in the uk, but it seems likely that the $10 charged in the usa will translate into a tenner on this side of the pond. crank brothers products are distributed in the uk by 2pure

crank brothers

posted tuesday 3 april 2012.


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