the collective approach

collectif parlee

i don't go much for sportives, partly due to incurring travel arrangements that are often two days longer than everyone else's, but also because there seems to be little of the camaraderie that i'd expected/hoped for. even on the couple of occasions i took to sportive roads unknown with a colleague, it wasn't long before either i'd dropped them or, more likely, the other way round. catching up with others who had begun ahead of me had a similar outcome. a few words of greeting were exchanged before either silence or puffing and panting ensued; then one of us left the other behind.

collectif parlee

i appreciate that we all ride at differing rates and there's only so many kilometres that can be trammelled together before one party feels an urgent need to stretch their legs. but i often figure that even those few kilometres would suffice. the difference between a sportive and a club ride would mostly revolve around the alleged training element and the fact that the former rarely leaves you alone at the back to find your own way home unaided.

collectif parlee

the latter situation may not still be the case in the age of the mamil, but many are the legendary stories of newbies joining their local club and being unceremoniously left behind on the first club run. the principle behind this unsociable behaviour is akin to the sink or swim attitude fostered by caribbean island dwellers when throwing their children into blue/green warm waters from the safety of glorious sandy beaches. if the rules are followed to their logical conclusion, the loner left on the road is expected to meditate on rule number five before submitting him/herself to the same treatment the following week.

collectif parlee

the theory behind this seemingly undesirable behaviour is, of course, to encourage a hitherto unknown level of tenacity. it has corollaries in other walks of life too. i have taught drum rudiments for many a long year where the same principle is alive and well, though perhaps without the apparent humiliation. drumming, a bit like cycling, looks pretty darned simple, as indeed does almost much everything when displayed by those who have grasped theory and put it into conjugated practice. however, on discovering that achievement depends on putting in the work (or woodshedding, as we of a percussive leaning are wont to say) more fall by the wayside than continue in the face of adversity.

collectif parlee

collectif parlee cycles proffer that cycling performance is no exception to the rule that everything is relative. and to prove just how true that can be, they have produced an excellent short film to demonstrate their contention. this is explored through the character of nick as a member of this recently incorporated team. to quote: "As a collective, attention and admiration that is directed toward the leaders is fading. The group becomes the leader. The human being has a premium on performance and everyone inspires each other in his own way. There is no longer any weakest or strongest link, only a sum of individuals dissoluble in the group."

i would dearly like to claim that the velo club practises a similar philosophy, but if truth be told, none of us is noticeably any better than the others; it would take a serious amount of effort to leave anyone else behind. and should one of us, in a burst of enthusiasm succeed in so doing, there's every chance they'd fall by the wayside on the route to bruichladdich's 30mph sprint signs.

the parlee collectif movie not only serves a pertinent lesson to the world's pelotonese, but entertainingly makes rather a good point. i'm pretty sure the same alternative bicycle frames are also available.

nick's movie | collectif parlee

saturday 16 may 2015

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rapha cima coppi jersey, cap and essentials case

cima coppi jersey

for those who may be aficionados of the big bang theory, you may recall the episode where sheldon cooper suffers from an alleged lack of closure. for those who are not viewers of the series, or who may not have seen the specific episode under discussion, think of setting up hundreds of dominoes only to have to pack them away before the domino effect can be demonstrated. or to have a jack-in-the-box removed before jack has the opportunity to pop up and say hello. or after making a wish and blowing out the candles on a cake, one candle is shielded to prevent being extinguished. i'm sure you get the general drift.

cima coppi jersey

rapha's cima coppi jersey, featuring a most appropriate ultan coyle designed graphic, has created a similar effect at the croft. imperial works has a lengthy history of secreting story labels about the pocketry of many of their finest jerseys and jackets, occasionally directly relevant to the garment in question, but every now and again, rather cryptically so. maintaining this tradition always lives near the danger of becoming a cliché, but the cima coppi jersey, fashioned from magnificent sportwool (i love sportwool jerseys), hides the characterfully screened names of those mountains that have occupied the mantle of cima coppi in the giro d'italia since its inception in 1965.

cima coppi cap

i am not a garment specialist in the sense that were i to be handed several lengths of material and a sewing machine, i think a parachute may ensue rather than anything resembling a cycle jersey. however, based on observational deduction, it appears the names of each year's highest peak have been screened on the lower back prior to the pockets being attached. if you've followed me so far, you will already have a mental picture of typography which is all but impossible to read in serial fashion. i'm pretty sure that's exactly as rapha intended, and i'm happy to admit it suckered me totally and then some.

cima coppi cap

it may simply be a case of mistaken identity, but each iteration of rapha constituted sportwool seems more luxurious than its predecessor, both prior to and after washing. given its purported heritage, the combination of la gazzetta pink across the chest, shoulders and upper back, combined with a rich brown lower torso and left sleeve hoop which rapha describe as raisin is hard to fault. it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the cima coppi's origination as prize for the first over the highest climb in the race. this year, the col della finestre fulfils that honour; each of its antecedents is applied in raised lettering on the back of the jersey, while the numerals 1965 take pride of place on the centre pocket.

but for those who delight in enunciating phrases in a language they don't understand (like me, for instance), the right sleeve bears the embroidered mantra una scalata superba which, i believe i'm correct in stating, roughly translates as 'the ultimate climb'. the embroidered text and graphics mimic the era of il campionissimo after whom the annual prize is named. cima coppi cap functionally, the jersey emulates many of its predecessors; three rear pockets with a fourth zipped version, quarter zip sliding into a zip garage at the collar and an impeccable fit. the only notable difference is a lack of the two outermost rear pockets fielding scalloped top edges. this fact, however, seems in no way to inhibit sliding the matching essential case in and out as required.

i cannot deny that the naming of the small, but perfectly formed essentials case seemed at first thought, something of a misnomer. on a jersey featuring three sizeably judged rear pockets and that all-important fourth zipped instance (for coffee money), why would a leather case, even with the ability to contain items that might be just as happy in raw pockets, be deemed essential? marketing at its best i'd cima coppi essentials case warrant. or at least i would have had i not decided to place my coffee and cake money in its zipped inner pocket while allowing it the luxury of keeping my digital camera comfortable. by the time i'd reached debbie's, having made frequent stops for photographs, i was beginning to get a handle on this essential status, if for no other reason than the loop on the zip made it simplicity itself to extricate it insouciantly.

the crowning glory, if you'll pardon the allusion, is the matching casquette. once again, perception would indicate that rapha's caps have undergone a creeping schedule of endless improvement. the cima coppi example is certainly a far cry from the simple cotton team caps of yesteryear. the purist may view this as unnecessary enhancement of a utilitarian accessory, but few examples produced to recall the heyday of cycling's greats had need of spending their working day ensconced beneath a polystyrene helmet in the teeth of what passes for summer in cima coppi jersey the hebrides. the date 1965 once more makes an appearance atop the peak. for the more dapper amongst the pelotonese, there is also a cima coppi silk scarf available to match the three items already described.

by the end of this month, the giro d'italia will be over and done with for yet another year, and one rider will bask in the glory of having summitted the col della finestre ahead of his fellow riders. however, the memory of fausto coppi as one of the planet's finest riders of a bygone era will likely remain forever. aside from being a quite superb cycle jersey, rapha's cima coppi sportwool is as much a garment for right now as it is a celebration of a past heritage that is rightly often preceded by the adjective 'rich'.

rapha's cima coppi jersey is available in sizes from xs to xxl at a cost of £110. the matching cima coppi essentials case costs £45 and the cap is priced at £30.

cima coppi

friday 15 may 2015

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drawing on history

dick power

early mediaeval paintings amongst other things, are mostly bereft of perspective. because the principles were either totally misunderstood, ignored or simply too difficult to portray, features such as roadways and rivers did not disappear into the distance, but simply exited the canvas via top, bottom or one of the two sides. in the process of so doing, they remained of constant width, because as we are all aware, that's precisely what reality dictates. and to muddy the waters even further, it was often the duty of the commissioned artist to portray his patron in a more favourable light, altering the proportion of one individual relative to another in order to delineate levels of importance.

children mostly emulate this lack of geometrical knowledge, handing us beautifully scribbled pages to occupy a further place on the fridge. that may be the true reason why today's fridge/freezers are a whole lot bigger than was once the case. oddly, the artistic perceptions of children are amongst the most honestly described; pretension takes several years to become an intrinsic part of their armoury. and yet, if their drawing abilities show little sign of improvement as they head inexorably towards their years of secondary education, educationalists are wont to dismiss the skills they praised in younger years.

taliah lempert disposable drawings

however, perspective is seen as a necessary part of the equation, if the end result is to bear any relation to reality. despite all the efforts of the surrealists, the years of abstract expressionism and cubism, the bulk of contemporary society prefers their art to resemble the subject matter as closely as is deemed possible. the difficult bit is deciding which version of reality would best represent the subject, while continuing to satisfy the eye of the beholder.

from the late 1930s through to the early 1960s, dick power was an important figure on the new york bicycle racing scene. he owned a small shop in queens which he used as a base not only for coaching local riders, but for building his own frames. collector eddie albert, the man behind the vintage bike life website, has loaned an original dick power bicycle to brooklyn artist taliah lempert to use as the subject of one of her excellent bicycle paintings. this has resulted in an intriguing series of sharpie drawings on paper and plexiglass. (for those not in the know, a sharpie is a brand of fibre tip pen) taliah has labelled these as disposable drawings: "I'm looking for a pose that's different, where I can show the skinnyness of the seat. Standing really close to it and looking down, making sketches to figure out what I want."

taliah lempert disposable drawings

if you've taken a look at the illustrations accompanying this article, you might note that though perspective plays a major part in their consitution, and thus bearing a verisimilitude to reality, their sketchiness does not detract from that fact. this specific lack of attention to minute detail is, of course, endemic in the notion of a sketch, but in this case, that we are still well aware of the subject is a pointed underlining of the basic simplicity of the bicycle. though the example depicted in taliah's sketches dates from the early part of last century, the advent of carbon fibre, electronica and other creature comforts has scarcely impinged upon this simplicity of form.

though there is relentless pressure upon the contemporary cyclist to maintain some sense of modernity on the sunday morning velocipede, drawings such as these strip everything back to the fundamentals. it still warms the cockles of my ceramic bearings to note that the bicycle remains the work of art it has always been.

at least, that's my perspective.

taliah lempert paintings | vintage bike life

thursday 14 may 2015

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sold, to the cognoscenti at the back

michael embacher cycle collection

viennese architect, michael embacher has spent more than a decade collecting some of the more unique models of bicycle on the planet, amalgamating them into what has been described as the finest cycle collection on the planet. we're all afflicted by the collecting bug in one way or another, whether it's stamps, coins, bicycle bits, snare drums (don't tell mrs washingmachinepost) or even just bottle tops or beer mats. admission of such is, in itself, not an inquitous situation; there are any number of explanations for so doing, but embacher's modus operandi in collecting so many bicycles speaks well to his integrity.

michael embacher cycle collection

"To use a particular object to demonstrate: What is design? How far can it be reduced? And how many variations does it nevertheless generate?"

it's a question that seems not yet to have received a final answer. though the uci in their infinite wisdom have decreed that the racing bicycle need be of the ubiquitous double-diamond shape, no such constraint exists to govern those of a non-competitive nature. engineering, separated from marketing, will frequently embody the form follows function mantra, shaping tubes and componentry to fulfil whatever its end purpose dictates. and if the engineering principles to support such pragmatism do not yet exist, then there is need of necessity becoming the mother of invention.

michael embacher cycle collection

still frequently described as the most efficient means of transport devised by mankind, the bicycle still contrives to inhabit as many forms as the demands of human transportation find necessary. if ever a good reason were needed to take the n+1 equation to its logical conclusion, that surely is it. and for the first time ever, across those ten plus years, michael embacher's collection has been opened to public gaze since the 9th of this month, leading to an auction of all 203 bicycles from the collection. selections have appeared in various parts of the world and also been enshrined both in the print version of cyclepedia and the ipad version which allowed more of a three-dimensional experience.

michael embacher cycle collection

quite why embacher has decided to auction his painstaking accrued collection, i honestly have no idea, but come tuesday 19 may, in the dorotheum in vienna those of you with considerably larger bike sheds than thewashingmachinepost (and deeper pockets too) will have the opportunity to bid on models such as the italian skoot suitcase bicycle, a one-off collapsible titanium moulton and a german kothke tandem. and were it not sufficient to have visual access to over two hundred fabulous examples of velocipedinal history, they have been arranged in a fan of colours, reflecting the mode of storage used by embacher in his attic.

viewing is currently underway at the dorotheum in vienna with the auction at 5pm on tuesday 19 may. the ipad app is still available from apple's app store should you fancy taking a closer look without need of a plane ticket to switzerland.

cyclepedia ipad app | the embacher collection

wednesday 13 may 2015

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bernard hinault and the fall and rise of french cycling. william fotheringham. yellow jersey press hardback 370pp illus. £16.99

bernard hinault by william fotheringham

i cannot, for the life of me, see the point of the sport of golf. in my younger years, a couple of my friends had taken a fleeting notion to dredge their dads' golf clubs from the hall cupboard and dragged me into the fray (i'd like to say 'kicking and screaming' but that's not entitrely true). unfortunately, my abilities with a golf club turned out to be even poorer than my current skills on the bicycle. the first outing resulted in my having taken 107 strokes after nine holes on a course that featured a par of 84 for the whole eighteen. by the second game, i'd resorted to building sand-castles in the bunkers after only three holes.

i'd like to think this might be considered something of an embarrassment, given that the game was allegedly invented in 15th century scotland. ironically the first written record of its existence was the banning of the game by king james ii in 1457, predominantly becasue it was proving a distraction to those who should have been learning archery. take a good, long hard look at those inhabiting the upper echelons of modern-day professional golf, and you may struggle to find a scot in the top ten.

the french must feel somewhat the same regarding their national tour. while many countries lay claim to having invented the bicycle, there's little doubt that henri desgrange was the progenitor of the grand tour, a stage race originating in 1903 and originally the preserve of the french nation's cyclists. the last frenchman to stand atop the podium at the end of three weeks of gallic sight-seeing was bernard hinault in 1985. since then, the nearest any frenchman has come to repeating any of hinault's five tdf victories was 2nd and 3rd places in 2014 by respectively jean-christophe péraud and thibot pinaud.

william fotheringham's masterful treatise on the career of the badger takes into account this seeming contradiction of the biggest cycle sporting event in the world and the drought of local winners since hinault hung up his wheels in the 1980s. not surprisingly fotheringham offers no solutions, only hope. conversations with marc madiot and dominique arnould place the state of contemporary french cycling in a modern context, offering informed contrast between the exemplary sporting career of bernard hinault and a subsequent lack of yellow jerseys.

"On this, Madiot, Guimard and Hinault spoke with one voice: champions are born, not made."

hinault's rise to fame would seem to confirm that statement. born and brought up in the almost unpronouncable breton village of 'yffiniac', a "country lad who (sought) a career on two wheels rather than till the soil..." his first nickname was 'cerdan' after a legendary boxer of the 1950s, paying tribute to his combative stance as a youth. before cycling took hold, the young hinault was being trained up as a cross-country runner, an activity that occupied his athleticism in the years from '69 to '71 before cycling began to take hold.

"He had been bought a bike at fifteen as a reward for passing his exams; he rode it daily into Saint-Brieuc to technical college, to avoid the two kilometre walk from the bus station...

emulating many of the world's great cycling champions, hinault began winning almost as soon as he began racing. the rest, as they say, is history. hinault's career, a bit like that of merckx and coppi, is reasonably well-known, or at least, bits of it are. almost everyone with an interest in professional cycle racing will have heard at least one anecdote concerning the badger, even if it's only a predilection for throwing interlopers off a tour de france podium. through the pages of this book, the author fills in any (every?) gaps in the reader's knowledge.

fotheringham has made pointed use of his freindship with scots climber robert millar, who features frequently throughout the narrative relating to hinault's career from the early eighties. as a rider closely involved in the annual melée at the tour de france, millar was ideally placed to observe hinault at close quarters. referring to the stage to sallanches in 1980, millar as a first year professional states "It was the first time I saw Hinault in action, the first time I'd been there at the front when he was going for it... It was so hard that there were no attacks. [...] I had never seen anything like that."

the author also pays tribute to richard moore's previously published volume slaying the badger, a book specifically dealing with the episode of hinault's career in which he partnered american greg lemond. this chapter of tour de france history will likely bear continual re-examination; lemond still contends that hinault was intent on working him over despite early season promises to the contrary. hinault's side of the story would have it that, though he could easily have won that sixth tour, he wanted lemond to win having demonstrated his true champion status.

"He did not behave like someone who was trying to set up the win for his teammate. It provoked a total schism in the team."

it's a character trait regarding which robert millar has also been quoted in the high life, stating that while he admired hinault's prowess on the bike, he was less than impressed with his personality off it. merckx had to win every race he entered, where hinault only had to win the races he'd decided he wanted to win. however, if we exclude armstrong (in the same manner the uci have seen fit to do), hinault was arguably the last patron of the peloton; a rider who marshalled those he deemed inferior, and woe-betide anyone who attacked without permission. it's this personality that infuses each and every chapter; like millar, though the reader may not admire hinault's methods, it is very hard to dismiss his tenacity and panache in achieving a palmares, the successor to which france eagerly awaits.

unless, perhaps, your name is greg lemond.

though it's a habit i'm not proud of, in order that i might reprise portions of a book under review, i fold the corners of pages relating to items i may wish to refer to or quote from when writing the final review. the downside to such a method is one of concentration. i have come to note that books which encourage addictive reading, such as this one, often result in a whole chunk of pages devoid of folds. on reflection, i see that the first fold appeared at page 50, and it certainly wasn't for lack of interest.

few published cycling books can truly be regarded as essential; a pleasure to read and to own perhaps, but rarely can it be said that cycling life would be lessened by having passed them by on the bookshelf. william fotheringham's bernard hinault falls into the former category. if you have even simply a passing interest in the sporting side of cycling, here is a book that shines brighter, written in a manner that makes it very hard to put to one side once started. his writing is noticeably finer in each subsequent book; this one is state of the art.

william fotheringham's 'bernard hinault' is published by yellow jersey press on thursday 14 may. through the generosity of the publishers i have one copy to give away to the sender of the first correct answer to the following question.
in which year did bernard hinault last win the tour de france?
answers to and please include a full postal address. closing date is monday 18 may.

tuesday 12 may 2015

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