the bicycle reader issue 2

the bicycle reader issue 2

indulge me if you will for just a brief moment in time while i enter the region of the hypothetical. let us assume, hypothetically, that i have had an award bestowed upon me by my peers; most tedious and long-winded wordsmith of the year award 2013. it is, i am sure, an award with which i am sure few will argue. naturally enough, as is often the case with awards, there will be a concomitant ceremony, held, quite conveniently, in the phone box at carnduncan. laid out night club style, there will be a dinner followed by the awards.

awards are all very well, offering an attractive trophy for the mantlepiece and perhaps a framed certificate for the bathroom wall. however, on the basis that there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, there is the not altogether small consideration of my acceptance speech. unaccustomed as i am, i'd rather hope to offer a few words that might sound more off the cuff than painstakingly composed over a lengthy period of time. and as any of you who have read these pixels for more than a couple of weeks will know, i am pretty much at the mercy of what transpires by way of information supplied by others.

otherwise i'd have to think of stuff by myself.

who to include? where to stop? rather obviously i need to include thanks offered in the direction of graeme obree for inadvertantly providing the name on the masthead, to robert millar for getting me into this cycling thing in the first place, and brian smith for accompanying me on my first and only ride up the champs elysees. but there are so many others to whom tribute ought to be paid, and i'd hate to step out of that phone box at carnduncan at the end of a splendid evening with someone feeling unattributed.

in any perticular genre, there are those who remain almost unsung. we're all aware of them, for they are an intrinsic part of the surrounding fabric, and were they not to exist, it would be necessary to invent them, and though i could roll off a list of names right this minute, the gentleman that need concern us here (we've left the hypothetical realm now, you'll be pleased to hear) is jack thurston. not only the progenitor of the bike show on resonance fm, but also regular host of the rouleur podcast which follows each new issue of our favourite cycling periodical.

mr thurston is, however, perhaps less known for his contribution to the world of the cycling e-book by way of the truly excellent and remarkably inexpensive bicycle reader. i have paid tribute to issue one not so very long ago, and within the last month, the second issue has become available on amazon's website in kindle format. such was something of a godsend during a recent saturday evening power cut on islay during which i read the entire issue from cover to (metaphorical) cover on my ipod.

as was the case with issue one, the contents are an eclectic mix of the old and new, words only and uninterrupted by photos or illustrations. perhaps the principal feature of issue two is a collection of reminiscences by several (former) owners of raleigh bicycles, an attractive walk down memory lane for the majority of us in the uk who also owned one of nottingham's finest. i was, however, rather disappointed to find the raleight twenty on which i delivered newspapers for over five years, described as a lady's bike.

paul lamarra pedals (safely) through the less salubrious parts of glasgow, the town of my birth, while dave horton deals with the perceived fear and dangers of cycling that often deters the would-be pelotonese. mr thurston himself pays tribute the joys of having company while cycling, taking issue with those who delight in the solitude ofered by the solo excursion and john foster fraser recalls one of the earliest circumnavigations crossing from europe to asia, an expedition that took place in 1899. all this and more is available for a paltry £1.53, readable on ipod, ipad, iphone, mac, pc or android device via the free kindle app for each of the above.

so, though jack thurston may not be the chap at the top of everyone's mythical acceptance speech, i dare anyone to leave him off altogether. and i'm happy to attest that the second edition of his bicycle reader is the ideal diversion for an evening without light or power.

the bicycle reader

monday 8th april 2013


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garmin edge 810 gps. social media on the bars

garmin 810 gps

i have spent many a long year protesting that i have no great affinity for children. my own are grown up and happy to ignore their father, but mrs washingmachinepost is a child minder, so our sitting room is still home to inordinate amounts of lego, fire engines whose sirens go off unannounced in the middle of the evening and half-eaten biscuits lying in concealed corners of the sofa. most of the kids she used to look after would either burst into tears on my arrival home from work (and few were enamoured of a long-haired man wearing a cycle helmet and a pair of very dark rudy projects; you can sort of see their point), or would cuddle up to mrs twmp and hope i wouldn't look in their direction. neither response was particularly encouraging to one with a professed dislike of children.

however, much of that has changed, and rather than running away, the current sprogs running around the croft seem rather enamoured of the cyclist in the house. and i have developed something of an innate skill with multi-coloured lego.

as an adjunct to this formerly professed child-avoidance scheme, i have also considered myself to be somewhat unsociable or, to be more precise, unsocial. i do find it reasonably easy to get on with others, and could probably find myself considered for the british olympic conversation team, but i rarely put myself in positions of sociability. i can honestly say, i have never willingly visitied a public hostelry for the purpose of spending an evening surrounded by pints of beer or lager and small glasses of single malt. i live in constant fear of being invited to social occasions on the basis that i may have nothing in common with other guests and being unable to find common ground for amenable conversation.

garmin 810 gps

i have yet to meet the person who is entranced by discussion of layers in photoshop or spoking patterns on rear wheels, outside of normal cycling circles.

so though i apparently write a daily blog (i prefer to think of it as a website, but few are of similar mind). and though i do like a swift bout of tweeting of an evening, you will not find me within one hundred paces of facebook. despite my portland friends having arm-wrestled me onto instagram, i have yet to comprehend the social aspects of my rather inept photographic skills. there can be little less endearing sight than a bedraggled cyclist stood at the edge of the high road, one glove on the ground, trying manfully to think of an humorous caption to a photo of a sign that says passing place.

i'm not sure that sociability in the virtual world is meant to be such hard work.

which, i fear, makes me completely the wrong customer for garmin's latest edge 810 gps unit. this in no way reflects badly upon the technology contained in such a compact and bijou package, it's just that me and it are not a match made in heaven.

you may already have seen the trailer on garmin's website, or on youtube, where ryder hesjedal connects his smartphone to the garmin 810 via the inbuilt bluetooth on each device. he then nips out for a training ride, garmin connected to the phone in his back pocket, having e-mailed david millar to let him know that the ride is now in progress. millar picks up on the connection, sees the route ryder is following on a garmin map on his own smartphone, and heads out to meet up. meanwhile, jonathan vaughters is sat in front of two large screen monitors back in the states, keeping an eye on the training rides of both.

garmin 810 gps

from the point of view of a professional team, it is a point well-made. from a personal point of view perhaps less so, but that depends greatly on your circle of real and virtual friends. add to that, i somehow missed the bit about having to take the mobile phone along for the ride, mistakenly thinking that the edge 810 itself was bumping the data to the gps satellite network for others to view. an elementary error i'll admit, and in retrospect a slightly embarrassing one at that.

therefore, on receiving the 810 for review and being still without a personal smartphone of my very own, i had intentions of persuading my son to install the free garmin connect app on his iphone 4s (also available for android phones) that we could better investigate the features of the device. however, those of you who have children of a certain age will be more than well aware that it would take surgery to separate them from their phones. so the chances of my borrowing his iphone for my jersey back pocket even for a modest length of time was totally out of the question. and therein lies the problem.

i am willing to accept that i am in a minority of almost one, in not owning a phone that will connect to the garmin, but it's also worth noting that there are many regions of islay and, by implication, the west coast of scotland, that suffer from limited or non-existent mobile phone coverage. so had i been in possession of just such a mobile device, there's every likelihood that my hypothetical facebook invitations to follow my lack of progress would have offered a less than ennervating and frequently broken experience. i very much doubt that i'm the only one subject to this experience.

i would also seriously doubt that there are too many friends, relatives and colleagues who have little better to do than follow my meanderings via facebook, twitter or garmin connect. in that, i think i may be comfortably ensconced in the majority. and though this may be the thrust behind the release of the edge 810 and its younger brother the edge 510, i can't help thinking that it is a feature that exists because it can rather than due to customer demand. admittedly, apple computer have been most successful in offering devices and features that none of us knew we wanted, until placed on a plate in front of us, but i'm not sure i see this in the same light.

garmin 810 gps

however, i did point out earlier that i was hardly the most sociable of people.

the edge 810, however, is a fascinating piece of technology with more bells and whistles than anyhting i have come across before. the 810 arrives with a handlebar bracket that allows mounting in front of the stem, a position that is far more user friendly than the previous method of attaching to the stem itself. its initial placement was on a colnago c59 disc with campagnolo super record eps, a bicycle that had the eps interface unit zip-tied to the stem, making it difficult, if not impossible to place the edge in a similar position. the bracket makes the displayed details far easier to keep in the field of vision.

the edge is very simple to use, but slightly less so to set up, depending of course, on how far down you wish to drill into its myriad settings. cats are animals well-known for their ability to land on their paws no matter from what height they leap or fall and irrespective of their vertical disposition at the time of falling. conversely, it is a well-known fact that a sheet of buttered toast will always fall butter side down if dropped. therefore, taping a sheet of buttered toast to the back of a cat would surely have it hover indefinitely above the ground. that's exactly how i felt after switching on the 810.

i say this because the two default settings are either train, or race, and i can confidently say that i indulge in neither. so what's a guy to do? well, in actual fact, there are a whole slew of options. by selecting the tools icon on the home screen, you can then access activity profiles admittedly leading to two options; race or train (back to the cat with toast on its back). i opted for train and from the subsequent menu options, i could change the name to any form of non-effort labelling i might find appropriate. there are a number of other parameters that can be altered or chosen at this point, but opting for training pages offers up a total of five pages that can be independently set with a wide range of different display settings.

garmin 810 gps

i think it would take a serious megalomaniac to set all of those for daily use; i settled simply for page one, choosing a total of eight display options (you can set a minimum of one and a maximum of ten): distance, speed, average speed, clock, calories, temperature, elapsed time and heart-rate. the latter is easily wirelessly connected with the supplied chest strap (once you realise that the heart-rate setting is off by default). though i'm sure it's a feature that varies depending on location, but the map of islay on which my routes were displayed looked as if it had been drawn by one of the kids mrs twmp looks after.

in order to have access to the data recorded, the rightmost button at the foot of the unit must be depressed to start the recording procedure (having already switched the unit on). i make no apologies for being disappointed at the end of my first ride with the garmin fitted to the colnago. after many kilometres of riding, i not unusually stopped at debbie's for a coffee. disappointingly, the garmin didn't stop in sympathy; therefore my average speed, had it been of much interest in the first place, steadily dropped as i supped froth indoors.

it is possible for the 810 to auto stop every time no movement is detected, but it is not a feature switched on by default, and it's not the easiest of panels to discover. i had to watch the demo video three times to figure it out. surely it's something that should be set to on in the first place?

in use, each window can be selected by swiping with even a gloved finger, though i cannot deny that this didn't always work as designed. thankfully, a screen overlay pops up with an arrow that allows window access from there. however, initially i would spend too much time checking the display rather than watching where i was going. fine on the open road, but not advised in traffic.

garmin 810 gps

i initially set the angle of the excellent mounting bracket with the colnago on the workstand, an angle that was subsequently seen to be too steep for aerodynamic sleekness, though one that allowed a clear view of the display under most lighting conditions. this was mostly because the glass reflected my jacket. when set to a flatter angle more in keeping with the style of the bicycle, there were many occasions when it was all but impossible to view the display in detail due to ever shifting reflections of the sky above. in fairness, this is hardly something confined to garmin devices; i have the same problem viewing images on the screen on the back of my digital camera.

there is little doubt that i am not garmin's ideal customer. i like going for a bike ride unfettered by an eyeful of numbers; under regular conditions, i don't even have a computer on the bike. but though i consider myself a fully paid up roadie, i have no need of specific training schedules, no need to use the rather brilliant training partner facility (a partner who always beat me, sad to say), and not entirely convinced i need to know how many calories i've burned, or what my heart-rate is doing as i pedal oh, so slowly into the sunset. i'm not even that bothered about what my speed is.

however, most of my riding is on islay. i have little need of the micro sd card loaded with european maps, and i have no directeur sportif constantly looking over my shoulder. but in the same way that i am in a minority of about three with regards mobile phone ownership, i think i might also be in a minority regarding the use of a bicycle gps unit.

garmin 810 gps

the garmin edge 810 is a very sophisticated computer, and one that demands that you read the manual or at least view each and every video on the appropriate pages of garmin's website. being able to download all your recorded information to a computer for detailed analysis is of potentially huge benefit to the training cyclist. it may well be that i have been somewhat cynical about the social media aspects of this particular model, and i don't doubt that there are many for whom this is just what they've been waiting for. its ant+ compatibility means that it is simplicity itself to pair the device with a compatible power meter.

considering all this computing power fits in something not that larger than an ipod, albeit a tad thicker, has touch sensitivity, a colour display and appears to be completely waterproof, any criticism cannot be reasonably levelled at what it does. i find it hard to conceive of a rider who would make use of each and every one of its features, but then i think its principal strength is that of fulfilling the ability to be all things to all people. at not much more than the cost of an ipad, it's pretty much up to you as to whether you need all the options or not.

in truth, it costs not a lot more than its predecessors with far more options. maybe when i'm eventually forced into the smartphone era, i'll think of it as the veritable bees knees of cycling augmentation.

garmin 810

sunday 7th april 2013


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going round in circles

wheelsmith race 23 wheels

i have, on occasion, thought it a bit of a wizard wheeze to ask my research team to look into the most popular method of acquiring a road bike in these contemporary times. it may be that the age-old tradition of ordering a set of frame, forks, groupset and wheels and then assembling all into a velocipede, has all but entered the anals of history. or, for all i know, this could still be the most popular means of maintaining one's roadie status.

then again, as testified by the ads in the cycling press, the majority may have side-stepped all that potential decision-making and potential hard work and simply opted for a ready-made bicycle, ready to roll out of a ginormous cardboard box, straighten the bars, fit a couple of pedals and head of into a glowing sunset. aside from the rather obvious differences between the two methods of acquisition, the second method risks the vicissitudes of commerce. if that which you are about to click buy on a nearby website features a price ending in .99, there's every chance it has been assembled to fit a pre-defined price-point.

wheelsmith race 23 wheels

this in itself, is not a visible sign of condemnation. bicycle manufacturers can benefit from economies of scale and trade prices that are all but barred from the average civilian. but somewhere along the line, the specification of something will likely have suffered just a smidgeon in order to avoid entering the realm of the expensive. it has oft been said that the first consideration when upgrading any bicycle ought to be that of the wheels, and quite frequently those are the very items on which pennies have been saved in order for the .99 to finish off the advertised price.

meaning, of course, that after a few months to a year, when the initial shock of expense has ameliorated slightly, it might be safe to come out of the cupboard and take a look at a new and lighter set of hoops.

wheelsmith race 23 wheels

the mighty dave-t has a pair of factory builds on his focus that have provided sterling service for a number of years, and it is certainly a truism that factory builds are a particularly economic option for any bicycle. i have ridden and reviewed a number of such wheels and on only one or two isolated occasions have i found cause for complaint. but i am also of the pre-factory build generation that thinks a pair of handbuilt wheels cannot truly be beaten. my conversation with the mighty dave revolved around the fact that, should one of his spokes decide that it no longer felt obligated to mediate between hub and rim, it could be a lengthy wild goose chase to source a replacement.

the same is considerably less likely to be the case if you own a pair of wheels built with loving care by your friendly local wheelbuilder. in my case, that gentleman is not quite as local as i'd like, but larbert is at least in scotland, and easily within striking distance.

wheelsmith race 23 wheels

i have had a pair of wheelsmith race 23 wheels, handbuilt by sole proprietor, derek mclay since september last year, wheels that have frequently had to bear the brunt of islay's winter weather and deteriorating roads. if you add the minimal handling skills of their present owner into the equation, you might infer that they have had a less than easy ride, if you'll pardon the misappropriation of a common metaphor. and yet, in all that time, one which included offering a hitherto undiscovered alacrity on behalf of steven shand's skinnymalinky, they have not budged one millimetre.

though i cannot compare my meagre wheelbuilding skills to those of mr mclay, i do have a rudimentary ability to match hubs and rims in semblance of torsional efficiency. this allows me to true any set of wheels i own, review, or have sent in my direction by members of the velo club. i am competent with a spoke key to a mediocre level, thus i like to think i know just what makes a successful pair of wheels.

wheelsmith race 23 wheels

the wheelsmith race 23s inhabit that realm.

it is but a simple matter to closely view the rims as they pass the brake shoes, though as i tend to have my brakes set quite close, there's every likelihood that i'd have felt any ill-effects before any visual examinations were required. but the true test of a pair of wheels is just how big a smile they incur as the rider (me) carves their way through itinerant flocks of sheep that occupy the road and roadside round by loch gorm.

i make no apology for once again mentioning that shand cycles skinnymalinky, a bicycle that arrived with an alternative set of handbuilt wheels, but which revealed its inner colnago when fitted with the wheelsmiths. you can imagine the joy and happiness that the selfsame pair of wheels engenders when fitted to a real steel colnago. though emulating the factory-build genre in sporting a minimum of spokes and a radially built front wheel, there is a spring in their step that is frequently absent from the former at a similar price point. in fact, for a £450 set, these have proven themselves to be rather excellent value for money.

add to that, derek is more than capable of taking a spoke, or spokes, from the shelf behind his workbench to effect any repairs should you experience any breakages in regular day to day riding. now that the cold weather may show signs of lifting in the near future, there's a heavy programme of riding on the horizon; the ideal opportunity to give your best bike a new pair of wheels for what may well be your best season to date.

i really cannot recommend the race 23s highly enough.


saturday 6th april 2013


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yaya round your neck 'tubular' scarf

yaya round ya neck scarf

we don't know we're born really. we have almost everything handed to us on a plate, or at least the modern day pros do. to parody the monty python sketch regarding the hardships of yesteryear, 'you tell the kids nowadays, and do they believe you? do they heck.' there's a couple of blokes on a yellow motorbike holding up a blackboard (very high tech) detailing the gap between the breakaway and a chasing peloton, a team car always eager to manoeuvre alongside with a ready supply of sticky bottles, while sleeping in the back seat, is a mechanic with a truckload of wheels, almost ready and willing to leap out the door at a moment's notice to replace a punctured tubular.

remember that last bit, because we'll return to it later.

and were all that not sufficient in the way of cossetting, that liveried team car contains a veritable wardrobe of technical clothing to protect them from any unsavoury meteorological elements. what it is to be waited upon hand and foot. would that the story were the same on the sunday morning ride. but, of course, it quite plainly isn't. we cannot surely be the sole sunday ride that has experienced the iniquity of a hauling along an itinerant visitor who turns out not to have any means of repairing a puncture. and in a variation of sod's law, if a puncture is to be had, it will be they who suffer it.

yaya round ya neck scarf

what usually adds insult to injury is that the aforementioned hypothetical incumbent will possess not one iota of skill to fix a puncture even in the face of the generosity of members of the velo club. this has on at least two occasions i can recall, of the ill-equipped standing cluelessly in an islay passing place, while three of us do our utmost to effect an appropriate repair.

that we can offer such unasked for, yet necessary aid has much to do with that which is handed to us on a plate, though to somewhat of a lesser degree than that afforded the professional rider. i own a park tools adjustable frame fit pump which moves seemlessly from underneath the longer cielo top tube to the shorter one on the colnago. and strapped under each saddle is an original rapha continental seatpack and one of the more recently improved versions. these contain a tyre lever, appropriately sized inner-tube and a multi-tool. everything the stranded pelotonese needs in a crisis.

yaya round ya neck scarf

but as quite often pictured in illustrations accompanying each year's l'eroica' testament is paid to the halcyon days of yore, when riders of both professional and amateur classes alike had need of wrapping one or two tubular tyres about their person in case of a flat. in my humble opinion, it is a look to be cultivated, and i have often considered fitting tubulars to at least one of my velocipedes just in order that i might ride with spare tubs arranged thus. sticking them under the rear of the saddle is so unostentatious.

i am, however, a complete wimp. what if i rode tubulars and punctured in the middle of nowhere? how would i cope? it's all very well pretending to ned boulting that i'm the very paragon of all that is great and good in the name of cycling, but though i've fitted a tubular straight from the packet, i've never had to do so more than a couple of paces from thewashingmachinepost bike shed. i'm not good at coping on my own.

yaya round ya neck scarf

however, all is not lost. for only a matter of days ago, i was graciously sent a beautifully hand-knitted scarf, deliberately mimicking two intertwined tubular tyres, even though just a smidgeon of imagination might help. though these can be worn in the method illustrated, in point of fact i think it likely that such would miss out on the cosy warmth effected by re-arranging the tubs around one's neck rather than torso.

hand-knitted from 50% acrylic and 50% wool, the tyre round ya neck retails at $60 (approx. £41) and can be ordered in a myriad of different colours. yaya's etsy site also features a rather fabulous belgian classic involving three tubulars, one in each of the belgian national colours. isn't it great when you find a knitter with a penchant for cycling? fear not that this is a gimmick; the scarf has immense practical value and cosiness, simply one that comprises a tad more velocipedinal style than the average neck cossetter.

i'd leave it at home when time-trialling, however. aerodynamics are not its strong point.

yaya's knitting

friday 5th april 2013


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it'll never fly. portland designworks bird cage

portland design works bird cage

what we all regard as a bicycle is, in truth, simply a collection of bits and bobs that comprise a bicycle shaped object, each component part playing its individual part in this marvellous agglomeration. certain of those components play a greater part in the grand scheme of things than others, some being necessary evils, others occasionally wearing the surplus to requirements badge depending on the intended purpose of the velocipede in question.

for instance, most of us would be hard pushed to live without a seatpost for reasons that your posterior would be quick to point out if you ever tried. similarly, handlebars make it a darned sight easier to get round corners than steering by willpower alone. you'd know this if you'd ever tried it. the list could be perceived as somewhat limitless, but as demonstrated by bicycle couriers and sir chris hoys the world over, a set of electronic gears is something that can well be lived without. alejandro valverde, however, may be inclined to disagree.

portland design works bird cage

but there are fairly obvious add-ons that, should you be remiss in adding them on, would be unlikely to seriously curtail any pelotonic ventures you may care to undertake. handlebar tape, for instance, may enhance one's comfort just a smidgeon, but the bike will still ride well without. mudguards are perhaps an easy target, for who amongst us would deny that those pinarello dogmas, colnago c59s and trek madones would look a trifle less sleek were fabian, tommy and brad forced to protect not only their own footwear and bums, but the oakleys of the inseguitori. the reasoning is surely that, if they can live without, we can too.

i think i could also produce a fairly convincing argument that the humble bottle cage is also a component surplus to essential requirements. but in so doing, this might possibly be an argument with precious little to back it up. inside the last twenty kilometres of any uci sanctioned event, riders are prevented from taking drink or food from a team car, a fact that might be extrapolated and inverted to suggest that surely these selfsame riders could simply garner liquid sustenance from the team cars alone during the preceding racing kilometres instead of carrying their own. it doesn't seem outside the realms of possibility that twenty kilometres is a short enough distance to survive without a quick slurp of sugary water.

this is, as occasionally mentioned before, my bete noir, for i am utterly crap at taking a swig from my bottle when out for a ride of any distance up to and including the 65 kilometre mark. it is a serious failing i am sure, yet it seems not to have had any seriously adverse effect on my cycling performance. however, before someone else has need of pointing it out, it may well be necessary to display some demonstrable performance in the first place.

portland design works bird cage

however, on a ride that may well soon be duplicated to some degree in the near future, i managed to seriously underestimate the amount of liquid consumption that would keep me travelling at my meagre average speed over a 200 kilometre distance. i almost never ride with two bottle cages affixed to either the cielo or colnago, mostly due to the aforementioned propensity not to drink when i should be so doing. but in such an instance, at least one bottle cage on either bike can be viewed as a necessity rather than an optional extra.

since i would think it unlikely that i am the only one who eventually finds himself with a desperate need to slurp, thus rendering the humble bottle cage ultimately necessitous, you do have to wonder why no-one has previously thought it an object worthy of more specific attention. creatively artistic attention at that. over the years, many a bottle cage has passed through thewashingmachinepost bike shed: stainless steel, flake titanium, anodised aluminium and resin masquerading as carbon. with the possible exception of the latter, they have all fulfilled the shape and form you'd expect to find in a bottle cage; well-crafted but rarely little more than utilitarian in design and appearance.

portland design works bird cage

until now, that is.

constituted in the city of portland, oregon a mere five years ago, portland design works has shown a design pragmatism in their cycle offerings to date that suggests a collective of minds looking more obliquely at the more common affixations to the modern bicycle. the legend that greets visitors to their website, pretty much encapsulates their philosophy in six words: 'beautiful simple gear for everyday cycling, and their bird cage is no exception.

crafted in the shape of a winged bird from lightweight alloy it looks neither ostentatious or understated. nor has there been any tilt away from practicality simply to satisfy artistic expression, for the folded wings securely grasp a standard water bottle, while the angled tail prevents it sliding out the other end. vaux's swifts are a well-known feature in portland, a substantial audience congregating every september at chapman's school to watch enormous numbers of the birds gathering to roost in the school's chimney. it is also an image that adorns the bicycle frames and clothing of portland's ira ryan. pdw have now made it seem the obvious choice of shape for a bottle cage.

portland design works bird cage

however, their logical genius stops not just at the cage, for the packaging itself is worthy of mention and attention. though the cage is minimally packed by effectively bolting it to its display card, rather than the more ubiquitous zip-ties, each cage bolt is held in place by a nut on the underside of the card. thus, when removing the previous cage from the bike in order to replace it with one of these beauties, it is a simple matter to affix the outgoing cage in similar manner, ensuring that those elderly and retiring cage bolts will not be lost in what mrs washingmachinepost describes as that rubbish skip of a shed.

sorry, did i say that out loud?

portland design works products are distributed in the uk by paligap. the bird cage is available in black or silver sandblast (£13 - $20) or chrome finish (£15 - $23)

paligap | portland design works

thursday 4th april 2013


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dennis horn - racing for an english rose. peter underwood. mousehold press. 83pp illus. £8.95

dennis horn

the rich and vibrant heritage regularly associated with cycling (more often than not by yours truly), is, by its very nature, somewhat generic and frequently more biased towards the countries of mainland europe. legendary exploits by gino, fausto and jacques are the stuff of legend, quite possibly in a literal sense. britain's obscure, bizarre and often nonsensical relationship with road-cycling more or less removed it from the equation. virtually nocturnal time-trial starts frequented by gents dressed in alpaca jackets are rarely the stuff of which great legends are made.

however, our delight in all things european is most likely a substitution for our lack of indigenous deeds of derring do taking place on an unmade road at the summit of a french or italian mountain. and though edinburgh's grassmarket is still festooned with cobbles, no feasible stretch of an over-active imagination would ever have a peloton of flandrien wannabees racing towards meadowbank velodrome. however, that is not to say we did not have our heroes, however subdued in the international pantheon they may be.

one who is readily deserving of such an appellation is dennis sutton horn, a track sprinter born in rural fenland, july 1909. along with brother cyril, a sibling who, albeit inadvertantly, provided the impetus for dennis' eventual successes. they all but dominated their chosen track events throughout the 1930s. for it was brother cyril who was instrumental in bringing national champion, jack sibbit, to their village home. in those days, the national track champion was entitled to wear an english rose emblem on his sprinter's jersey, and dennis was so taken with this emblem, that he resolved to win one of his own.

at the age of twenty, that's precisely what he did.

'The rules of amateurism were very strict and the merest hint of a cash prize could result in a minimum of one year's suspension. Nevertheless, riders with improbable (and almost certainly fictitious) names raced for cash in the Scottish Highland Games.'

with a uk ban on massed start road-races, a situation that existed until the formation of the british league of racing cyclists in 1942, the culture of clandestine, early morning time-trials was overseen by the road racing council until 1938 when the road time trial council took over. in complete contrast, track racing was party to far more widely spread publicity. these events ranged from small village fetes to large-scale international racing on purpose built (outdoor) tracks. and despite the above mentioned citation regarding the sport's enforced amateurism, track racing was where money could be surreptitiously earned.

english rose

'...the lucky few might win the prize of a joint of meat or string of sausages from the local butchers. This could be the ration for a family of four for a week.' however, it was also the case that many of the trophies and medals presented to the winners could be exchanged for cash, superficially maintaining a stoic amateur status, yet all the while managing to put food on the table.

brother cyril became captain of the cambridge track team, proving as competitive at bike racing as he had been at speed ice-skating, and was often included as a member of the british track team for international events. at five years younger, however, dennis began to prove himself the stronger of the two in the saddle, first featuring in the results of grass-track racing in the late twenties when still only 19. in 1929, at the same discipline, he finished in the top three at a total of 33 grass-track events, winning eight of them.

though his career continued its upward trajectory throughout the 1930s until the onset of hostilities with germany and subsequently italy, the personal emphasis of both brothers lay in the number of trophies they could win in the uk, refusing to be chosen for the olympics or commonwealth games, mostly due to the time spent away from home, in order to compete in wholly amateur events, potential glory or otherwise. however 'Track racing was effectively the only branch of the sport in the 1930s in which British cyclists could hope to measure themselves against international opposition. In the years to come, Dennis Horn was to earn numerous opportunities to do so...'

this international competition, whether played out at british or european track meets created the perfect rivalry between horn and german rider toni merkens. though the most competitive of rivals on the track, they were good friends off it, even competing as partners in tandem racing. it is thought that merkens often stayed with the horns when riding international events in the uk.

though our recent spate of track successes over the past decade or so has seen britain's riders display mastery of the genre, in the twenties and thirties, british tracks differed substantially from those of europe. the latter were often a tad shorter in overall distance, but with banking that was considerably steeper than those of britain. thus, despite having acquired a fitness and tenacity that proved them equal competitors with the european riders, a lack of overseas racing for british riders often had them at a distinct technical disadvantage when coping with such steeply banked tracks.

cyril and dennis were also provided with the opportunity to capitalise on their commerciality, being supplied with bicycles by claud butler, a company unable to directly attribute their support in advertising the brothers' many successes due to the strictly amateur arena in which they competed. however, the implication was clear to the knowledgeable fans, with claud butler even marketing a dsh model which pretty much said everything in three letters that any expensive ad campaign could have equalled. it is also suspected that the cycle manufacturer was providing more than just bicycles and a jersey.

dennis horn

author peter underwood has done a sterling job in piecing together an almost endless run of results and race reports from dennis horn's illustrious career. despite there being little in the way of constructive background to his life, personal or otherwise, the book is a hard one to put down. disappointingly, i cannot inform you of his school years, personal likes or dislikes, what he did in any spare time he might have had. i can appreciate that many of these can be seen to be superfluous in this context, but it would have been nice to know.

what we do have, however, is a concise insight into the importance of the sport in those pre-war years. ' 1932 a grass-track in wales reportedly had 30,000 spectators; manchester's fallowfield reguarly had crowds of between 15,000 and 20,000; and at london's herne hill, cncerns were raised when gate attendances at track meetings fell below 8,000 people. in this respect, underwood's testament to horn's career must surely be also regarded as of serious historic sporting and social interest.

it is of great credit to adrian bell at mousehold press that this compact and bijou, yet compulsive volume has been brought to our attention. there are whole libraries of books testifying to the european greats of yesteryear, and while that is exactly as it should be, room on those bookshelves should also be made for the riders who shaped our own cycling history.

buy it.

mousehold press

wednesday 3rd april 2013


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who the heck are jardine lloyd thompson?

rapha condor jlt

it's definitely a cultural thing of sorts. i've just finished watching cancellara's domination at flanders, but embarrassingly, rather than paying great attention to his fluid pedalling style, the distance put between himself and the duo of sagan and roelandts, how unbelievably smooth and comfortable he looks on that trek, i was looking at the adverts on the inflatables across the course. i don't know what hbc do or sell, and i haven't a clue what base offer in return for money.

actually, while we're discussing the subject, i haven't a clue what bellisol is either; or does. in real terms, this matters not a huge amount, but imagine wearing an appropriately decorated jersey while supping froth in debbie's, ostentatiously purveying a knowledgeable insouciance thus dressed, and someone will ask just what a particular logo signifies. i have been in deb's coffee emporium for many a year, but i have yet to see anything like a hole in the floor that might timeously swallow a fellow up.

rapha condor jlt

of course, the fact that such banner ads and logo'd jerseys are of foreign origin would naturally lend a certain credence to one's proffered ignorance. however, i can think of few domestic situations where such incomprehension might be thought excusable.

think rapha, condor jlt.

rapha, i would imagine, need little by way of introduction, nor indeed condor cycles of london's grays inn road. however, the acronym jlt is not one that the average or not so average cycle aficionado might have come across too often in the day to day excitement of domestic cycle racing. jlt is the thankfully restricted pronouncement of jardine lloyd thompson, a name that probably wouldn't fit on a jersey front in any case.

but what is it that they do? the short answer is insurance and pensions, though as with many a large multi-national, there's just a bit more to it than that. their sponsorship of the rapha condor cycle team filled a gap on the jersey and the budget when sharp moved upwards to the world tour, to sponsor jonathan vaughters' garmin team. though perhaps not of great consolation to the men in black, this step-up was promulgated by their successful partnership with rapha condor over the previous three-year period.

the president of the rapha condor club is a tall, graceful chap by the name of charlie pearch, a gent i met recently at the final round of the revolution track series held at the sir chris hoy velodrome in glasgow. he also works at jardine lloyd thompson, and though not necessarily germane to the discussion, what is it that charlie does at jlt? "I am one of the Senior Partners at Lloyd & Partners, which is a 100% wholly owned subsidiary of JLT. This entity specialises in American derived business. Personally my clients include some of America's finest and most prestigious academic medical centers."

rapha condor jlt

he has been a fervent supporter of the team through all its previous incarnations, so did he see a specific sponsorship opportunity when sharp signalled their departure, or was it more a case of wishing to improve upon that personal support?

"A bit of both actually. When Sharp announced that they were going to sponsor Garmin they did not say that they would cease their relationship with the MiB, but I had my suspicions. At about the same time I became aware through the rumour mill, that Rapha were doing a deal with Sky.
Immediately my antenna started to buzz. I was putting two and two together and coming up with 16. My biggest fear was that the team would lose the support of both Sharp and Rapha and as such, would fold naturally or morph into something else. To be honest, I had no concerns about the club because it, through the strength of its members, will continue to thrive, but my concerns were as a team supporter, and frankly I was worried for John, for Kristian for Jimmy Mac for Dean, and the youngsters.
I really like these guys; they are straight, loyal, talented hard-working professionals. Then one day, having a coffee with Grant Young of Condor, he confirmed that Sharp would not be the 2013 title sponsor but that, as far as he was concerned, Condor passionately wanted to continue. Simon said exactly the same thing immediately thereafter thus dispelling my irrational fears.
"So yes, at that time I saw an opportunity, which, to cut a long story short, led to a lunch being arranged between John Lloyd (Lloyd & Partners CEO), Simon Mottram, Grant and myself. John, who is on the Group Executive committee of JLT, quickly came to realise that there was a good opportunity for us."

rapha condor jlt

most of us intent on riding our bikes as fast as age and lack of training will allow, are perhaps less concerned with the reasons why any business would pay varying amounts of money to have their names plastered all over a team's worth of polyester. just as long as they do. it has been pointed out more often than once that, though soccer teams have sponsorship logos emblazoned across the front of their jerseys, the team's name doesn't change when the sponsor does. yet the team known as rabobank for many a long year has now become blanco and what was once mapei is now quick-step. you can perhaps see the potential dilemma.

at world tour level, television coverage is pretty much guaranteed across the length of a season. shift down a few rungs (and rapha condor jlt are two rungs separated from world tour level), and apart from the aforementioned revolution series, the tour of britain and likely the weekly tour series, jlt and their fellow sponsors cannot expect quite the exposure that the world's top professionals can ostensibly provide. but in this case, for such a large international company, why have we not been aware of jardine lloyd thompson until their logo appeared on the rapha condor jerseys?

rapha condor jlt

"Exactly! It is a perennial issue that many of us in the insurance sector face. Buying an insurance policy, while a necessity, is hardly glam! Everyone involved in insurance knows who we are, but the man in the street will not know of us.
"But actually that's fine, as we only sell policies to him through targeted brand products. For example, 'CycleGuard' is our product. We also stand behind the insurance product that you can purchase from quality retailers like Evans Cycles, and we are keen to utilise our expertise in this arena to support other specialist companies in the cycling industry.
"Our involvement with the team shows those in the industry that we are a responsible platform willing to put something back into the sport. Further to that, we already have a valued relationship with British Cycling, and again we would rather be seen as a supporter of BC and its goals serving a burgeoning membership."

that explains at least partially why jardine lloyd thompson are keen to place their initials on those cold-black rapha jerseys. but could there be more? long-term world tour team sponsors cofidis have reputedly increased their public profile quite considerably via their involvement in cycling. was it a similar notion that convinced jlt to sponsor rapha condor? presumably the commercial considerations added up to a favourable proposition?

rapha condor jlt

"In a very small way, yes. It would be nice if we could tangibly associate commercial added value to our involvement as title sponsor to the team, and we are convinced that this will come in the due process of time. Doors are already opening to us, but we are not necessarily trying to batter them down.
"What is amazing is that certain of our existing clients have contacted to say how proud they are to see our name on the shirt. What we are finding out is that there is considerable support for British racing at this level from many commercial insurance buyers who already know of JLT and its expertise.
"I witnessed a wonderful example at the team launch, where we were able to invite an important client and her cycle-mad husband, providing them with unique access to the entire team. She was thrilled, and I am convinced that it only served to enhance the positive bond that already existed between our two organisations. Of course, we recognise that we have to conduct our business in a professional, efficient and cost-effective manner, but it helps when we have a common love of something like this. It helps to oil the wheels."

i've already mentioned the apparent fickleness of commercial sponsorship, where the sponsored team or individual is frequently seen as a product that exists to serve the commercial desires and aspirations of the sponsor. team sponsorship is rarely for life, particularly when after a period of time, the analysts claim there are few more kudos to be earned by continuing for 'one more year'. is jardine lloyd thompson in for the long-term, particularly when curating such a young team?

rapha condor jlt

"That is an astute, valid and topical question.
"Ideally we would like to see the partnership exist for a three-year term. As a company we understand that partnerships should exist for the long-term, serving nobody's interest to dart in and out of a market. We would like to see continuity. The issue though, is that the JLT board needs to see the value. This is a new venture for us and as you can imagine our 6000 staff have varied interests.
There are many within the company who would like to see us get behind their sport, and there will be detractors who question why we should invest in a sport such as cycling, a sport that has struggled with its own scandals. The reason that we signed an annual contract was due to the Armstrong situation coming to a head just as we were in discussions. These revelations nearly derailed our involvement, but assurances from John Herety, and quite frankly the wonderful reputations of both Condor and Rapha helped, as did Rapha's arrangement with TeamSky. The vicarious link to Sir Dave and Sir Brad and their public zero-tolerance policy provided us with some comfort.
"So we are waiting; sitting-in to see how things develop. The early success of the team has been a massive boost and justifies our support. We paid our sponsorship up front in early January, allowing John to take the team down-under, which in turn helped the youngsters gel and develop fitness. This has led to quality early season results, helping to put JLT's name on some podiums. An example of doing the right thing, playing the game and reaping the results.
"We are monitoring feedback from our customers and the hope is that we will be able to grow our business by expanding on a specialist expertise within the cycling industry.
"This is key. In theory, ironically, we should succeed. Partnering with JLT to sell specialist cycle-related insurance products can positively help our partners' bottom line, by way of revenue sharing agreements.
rapha condor jlt "JLT is the world's leading aerospace broker; Qantas is a client of ours. On 4th November 2010, Qantas flight 32 suffered an uncontained engine failure, which could have been catastrophic. However, through the skills of the A380's captain, the aircraft was able to make an emergency landing in Singapore.
"JLT was proud to present the captain of QE32 - Richard Champion de Crespagny - with a silver plaque in recognition of his outstanding airmanship. The man who made that plaque is a mad cyclist, a long-term Condor customer. His work is currently featured by Condor Cycles, a random example that our connections stretch from one of the worlds leading (and safest) of airlines, to a small specialist foundry east of London."

unlike the senior personnel employed by a number of cycling sponsors, charlie pearch has a longer-term interest in the team of which he has now become commercially involved. as thus, he is quite familiar with many of the team's riders, method of operation and support staff, one of whom he has been an unfailingly fervent supporter. pearch is on record as having praised manager john herety as currently the best team manager working in british cycling. does john agree with him?

"You'd need to ask John this question. I stand by my point though. I have spoken with a large number of pro British riders, all of whom who speak highly of John. He is direct and firm, but with a heart of gold and is both fair and honest. There are no games played on the team with respect of bonuses etc. I have heard it said that John has dipped into his own pocket on occasion. He stands by his friends and by his team.
john herety "His high standards and his high ethics are values that JLT consider very important. I remember doing the support race at Blackpool Nocturne a few years back, and after being lapped by the Eagle rider who ultimately won the race, I stopped and dismounted. But I did so in a manner incurring the displeasure of the commissaire. I was technically in the wrong of course, but John, who was getting Dean et al ready, came across and gave the commissaire an earful in my defense.
"I won't forget his support, nor his private rebuke to me; "Eh, Charlie; don't do that again". Speaking for myself, I actually think that John deserves to be employed at a higher level. His knowledge and value is immense."

there has been many a cycle sponsor over the years, remaining unimpressed by one of their riders winning a national championship. in many cases, this necessitates said rider wearing a non-standard team jersey and thus conceivably lessening the sponsor's profile in the peloton and on tv. if a pertinent example were needed, one need only look as far as teamsky's eddy higgs boson. watching the ronde van vlaanderen's peloton from the aerial shots on eurosport offered no vision of a black rapha jersey with a blue stripe down the back. so far as the casual viewer (me) was concerned, sir dave's boys had missed the cut.

rapha condor jlt rider, jimmy mccallum has, over recent month's basked in the twitter hashtag #kingofscotland, having won the scottish national road championship in 2012. an appropriate, but disappointingly not commercially available champion's jersey was provided by rapha condor sharp, and i heard it said that specifically at charlie's behest, the king of scotland jersey was continued into the new sponsorship regime. true?

rapha condor jlt

"Who knows? Rapha may well have already decided this, but yes I did make a specific request of our friends at Perren Street to provide a jersey for Jimmy one which they were very quick to acknowledge. Many argue that this is undeserved, because Scotland is classified as a region by British Cycling. I wholeheartedly disagree with this. We are, of course, one nation, but it does no harm in my view to spread goodwill to recognise the feats of our Scottish, Welsh, and Irish brothers and sisters. Further to this, the Jardine dynasty was formed by two Scots and until recently, we had a thistle as our logo. I just felt that it would be right that Jimmy should have his own jersey in much the same way that Kristian had his."

it is an inarguable truism that nobody gets nothing for nothing, and when that enters the level of international commercial concerns, somebody somewhere is looking for the nth degree of accountability. though i spend way too much time posting mindless smart-ass one-liners on twitter for no reason other than i can, those operating corporate accounts would most likely prefer to see economic results arriving from all those tweets, facebook likes and dishevelled instagram photos. presumably jardine lloyd thompson would like to see bigger numbers at the foot of the spreadsheet. is there a specific set of criteria by which success will be judged?

"Absolutely not. In our view, the team has already been successful, winning the Revolution, and by following this up with a number of victories in the season openers has exceeded our expectations. We know that the other teams will catch us up, but I am seriously impressed with the youngsters' achievements to date.
"They are, under John's influence, leading by example. Many of them suffered at the hands of the French in Normandy the other week, but they have all come through the experience hopefully older and wiser. We are very proud of them.
"I would like to finish this however, by saying that the sponsors' names that appear on the jerseys are not the only sponsors. We should never forget the parents of the youngsters; they are the real sponsors of these young riders. If it was not for their time and dedication, they would not be riding on the platform that is Rapha Condor JLT."

you can follow the fortunes and efforts of the rapha condor jlt cycle team at here |
jardine lloyd thompson | cycleguard insurance

revolution winners' photo copyright chris maher; john herety portrait by kristof ramon

tuesday 2nd april 2013


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