not quite there yet


our local averagemarket, in keeping with many a retail store nowadays, endured a corporate upgrade a few years past, at which time they were able to comprehensively demonstrate that their head-office designers have very little grasp of the reality that is bowmore food shopping. amongst a few quizzical alterations as yet unexplained, behind the off-licence counter they installed a television screen the sole purpose of which appeared to be that of a substitute clock. though a real clock would have been a more economic decision, for a lengthy period of time (apologies for the pun), while stood in an inevitably long queue, bowmore's shoppers were able to check how long they'd been there via the verisimilitude of a timepiece.

american football

even more recently, however, the co-op once more became the co-op, a concept with which most of us live in contemporary confusion. but one of the changes engendered by this latest marketing ploy was most obviously to this television screen. now offering a co-op blue background and a digital clock in the top right corner, it is given over to daily updates that mostly concern the antics of the world's so-called celebrities and allegedly better-known sports personalities.

the upshot of this new visual regime reached what i regard as its ultimate purpose in life while queuing one saturday for a bottle of san pellegrino and a litre of milk. there on the screen, when there was no-one around to whom i might point it out and while the staff had far more pressing concerns on their minds, was a news bulletin proclaiming that cavendish and wiggins had moved into the lead of the ghent six-day. i realise that there are few (if any) bowmore residents for whom this news would be considered life-changing, but good grief charlie brown!


mrs washingmachinepost and i have just returned from a week's holiday at the center parcs holiday facility near penrith. since we last visited, like the local averagemarket, the place has seen an alteration or two. both of us are all but obsessed with experiencing a holiday during which we both do as little as humanly possible. thus, part of the daily ritual is to drag our weary bodies to the sports plaza, sink into the faux-leather sofas and spend an hour or two reading our holiday books. (in my case, phil collins' autobiography 'not dead yet').


considering the professed sporting nature of the location, the flat panel tvs that once hung over the aforementioned sofas, have been replaced by a wall consisting of a very large screen (composed of several smaller screens), bookended by two standard sized televisions. though the multiple artefact showed nothing but endless soccer, the leftmost screen showed sky's cricket coverage while the rightmost was given over to bt sport and mostly seemed to be showing american football.

american football

i have no great love of cricket, probably because not only do i not understand it, neither do i quite 'get it'. but i admit i was greatly amused that a sport during which very little appears to occur was often augmented by (very) many slow-motion replays showing several differing viewpoints and computer simulations demonstrating just why the umpire had made his apparently unpopular decision. on boards sited at each entrance to this area of the sports plaza were a lists of forthcoming televisual attractions, the majority of which appeared to be soccer matches, interrupted by few alternative sports.


despite there being uci world cup cyclocross racing from zeven in germany, i could find no reference on the list to cycling of any nature. and during breakfast one sunny morn, bt sport broadcast several aspects of sea-based sports, such as boat racing, wind-boarding and several tenuously related demonstrations of getting wet with a smile on your face. but no cycling.

thus, it may be that track racing in ghent has made headlines in bowmore co-op, but it appears that cycling has yet to make any visual inroads into a defined edifice given over to sporting activity. it seems we may have to redouble our efforts and almost certainly send a stoutly worded e-mail or two to center parcs management.

monday 5 december 2016

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crapper cycle lanes. 50 more of the worst bike lanes in britain. dvid whelan. eye books mini-hardback. 120pp illus. £7.99

crapper cycle lanes: david whelan

a number of years ago, while participating in the annual braveheart ride, the route took us onto a newly constructed cycle-path alongside the old a77 road that squirrels around the nether regions of kilmarnock. with the latter having been superseded by the m77, it seems that certain aspects of the old route required a modicum of tidying up, one benefit of which was the aforementioned cycle lane.

though the tarmac'd path was separated from the roadway by means of a concrete kerb, the developers had thoughtfully inserted frequent gaps in this kerb, allowing for any necessitous, yet unexpected egress. which was just as well, for plonked squarely in the centre of this reputedly cycle-only passageway, was a contractor's van. naturally enough, this vehicle was unoccupied and strategically placed to prevent anything other than a rogue hamster from passing. at this point, we'd to leave the relative safety of the cycle-lane and join the motorised throng, admittedly a less than onerous option, but that's scarcely the point.

in britain, we suffer from a narrowness of roads. in urban and city locations, this is a heritable condition brought on by those having never been originally considered for motorised traffic in the first place. therefore, now that they have need of coping with such vehicular traffic, attempting to add in some designated cycle lanes is a bit like pouring a quart into a pint pot. and don't we know it. america, on the other hand, and in this case i'm selectively thnking of portland, oregon, not only has a history of larger motor cars, but road widths to match. thus, in downtown portland, both sides of the roads have parking, then the cycle lanes, then the area designated for the motorists.

though i'd have to have words with my portland friends, i believe cars and bicycles tend to co-exist with less friction than is often reported in the british press. the problem on this side of the atlantic is the esteem with which cycle lanes are held; in other words, none whatsoever. and in this i refer to both drivers and cyclists.

i'm sure most, if not all of us, have come across the "why don't you lot pay road tax?" admonishment frequently received from those behind the steering wheel. the non-existence of road tax notwithstanding (it ended in the 1930s; roads are now funded from general taxation), words that, extended to their logical conclusion, are surely aimed at getting cyclists off the road. so you'd think that the existence of a cohesive network of cycle paths and lanes across the country would keep everybody happy. but it transpires that many cyclists are less than enthused about such a prospect, frequently resting on a sense of macho arrogance. "why am i, aboard my di2 equipped colnago concept, relegated to a cycle lane, in amongst schoolkids on bicycle-shaped objects and mums doing the shopping?"

but in essence, the part that prevents a nation of velocipedinists from wholesale adoption of a cohesive network of cycle paths is the almost total lack of any cohesiveness. or network. it's a less than satisfactory state of affairs originally laid bare by the original 'crap cycle lanes' published a decade ago. in those ten years, very little has improved; in fact, there's every evidence to show that things may have become steadily worse, hence this latest publication from eye books 'crapper cycle lanes'. if you're new to the subject, you will scarcely believe some of the howlers incorporated in this excellent little hardback.

the cover shows a green painted cycle lane that lasts all of about ten metres, serving no purpose whatsoever. each illustration is categorised under three distinct headings: hazard level, goof level and remedy. though i cannot deny i found that classifying the goof level as jeremy, govey, boris or nigel as just a tad inexplicable (i probably need to get out more), i doubt anything could completely detract from the ineptitude and humour of the illustrations. perhaps the most bizarre example (according to my opinion) is one from swindon.

"The bike lane does seem to come to a rather abrupt halt, but then it has entered a one-way street going the other way. So. Bollards."

we must fervently hope that the wish of rod king, founder of 'twenty's plenty for us' and author of the book's foreword, does indeed come to pass. "...we hope it will be the last of its kind we ever need to publish."

friday 25 november 2016

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upside down

upside car roof rack

on monday of this past week, islay was smitten by a couple of frosty mornings; one of them a sunday followed by the start of the working week. the weekend is notable for a full car park while the local residents enjoy a lie-in, with no work to go to, but it pays host to greater activity for the subsequent five days. with frost on the monday morning, one or two had taken the less ecological but speedier way forward by nipping out to start their engines and leave them running while the heaters were on full blast, pointed at the windscreens. enduring such cold, still air, the car park featured a bit of a fug from all those smoking exhausts.

upside car roof rack


those who were either less alacritous or more ecologically inclined had waited until breakfast was over and done with, before popping out with de-icer and/or a plastic windscreen scraper. at moments such as those, i make every attempt to endear myself to the motoring public by pointing out that not only does my bicycle start first time in all weathers, but has no need of a can of de-icer or plastic scraper. i'm not too sure of their retorts, but i believe they were thanking me for pointing this out.

after about half a dozen years, i am more than comfortable with my non-motoring stance, finding it not at all onerous to travel hither and thither on two wheels, with scant regard for the weather. but to deny that cars have their uses would be a tad naive. in the years during which i attended the braveheart ride in and around kilmarnock, a friend of mine would graciously transport both of us and our bicycles in his maroon coloured landrover. with no convenient space inside the vehicle for two bicycles, two cyclists and their attendant luggage, it was more convenient to place both cycles on a roof rack.

upside car roof rack

long-wheelbase landrover defenders are not renowned for their diminutive size, so in order that the bicycles be suitably and safely affixed, one of us had to stand on the roof, while the other (me) handed the bicycles up. fortunately, at the time, both bicycles were carbon colnagos, neither of which were in serious debt to the earth's gravitational pull. but had we chosen to ride somewhat heavier steel dutch-style roadsters, it may have been necessary to engage the services of a fork-lift, due to our less than impressive upper-body strength.

though it may seem a tad obvious, even on vehicles of less demonstrable height, safely and carefully placing a bicycle on a roofrack is a smidgeon harder than eating a clif bar. for those who are eagerly suggesting that surely a boot-rack would have required less effort and potential scratching of the vehicle, there is an island caveat of which you may not be aware. vehicles travelling on caledonian macbrayne's ferries are subject to length qualification; should the car be deemed longer than the definitive five metres, the price of a ticket gets more expensive. and with a couple of bicycles affixed to a boot mounted cycle-rack, the measuring tape has further to go.

upside car roof rack

aside from the above consideration, it is illegal for those bicycles at the rear to obscure either or both the license plate or lights. to obviate the likelihood of the local police deciding to have a friendly word with the driver, an auxiliary, and wired lighting board ought to be attached to the outward facing bicycle, along with a duplicate license plate. suddenly, the option to place the bicycles on the roof seems a great deal more attractive. i need not point out, surely, the potential idiocy of the professional peloton's team cars following the race with the spare bicycles attached to the back of their skodas?

but, as alluded to above, roofracks are not without their own problems, which is kind of why stefan wrobel and sean stoney decided to offer an alternative solution. their upside rack turns the very problem on its head, by fitting the foldable rack attachment to the top of the bicycle, prior to flipping it upside down and attaching to two spars on the vehicle's roof. darned clever, if you ask me.

once again, kickstarter has come to the aid of the future availability of the upside rack, so just in case the twenty-two tour de france directeurs sportifs have been reading, i'd nip over the kickstarter page on november 29, before they do.

upside racks

thursday 24 november 2016

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"the challenges are many, but the rewards are bigger"

world bicycle relief: kakamega

unless you happen to live in the southern hemisphere, christmas has always seemed to me to be a very odd time of year to give a bicycle as a present. if you think about it, i have recently successfully reviewed two waterproof jackets and a waterproof jersey, which might be all very well and good for someone who lives by the book of velominati, but perhaps something of a less than inviting imposition on a child full of the christmas spirit. to make matters worse - and i cannot be the only one to have observed this - well-meaning parents seem to purchase bicycles that are either too large (they'll grow into it) or quite the opposite. so when the clouds clear and the birds sing, their knees are hitting their chins even with the saddle all the way up.

world bicycle relief: kakamega

historically, christmas was the time of year when santa gave you a bigger and better present than you'd get for your birthday, a situation for which a bicycle fitted the bill remarkably well. but a recent spate of productivity in the houses of playstation and xbox has rather skewed the situation for the nation's parents. and it would be hard to argue against an overheated teenager's bedroom in the middle of winter compared to an hour or two on two wheels in less than clement conditions. remember, we're not talking about us at this point.

world bicycle relief: kakamega

but the world nowadays is a mish-mash of standards and expectations, not to mention the wide variation in energy infrastructures. though we may now be able to control heating and lighting from our phones (assuming you have succumbed to the apparent need), there are parts of the world where it's not possible to setup a direct debit to cover the quarterly electricity bill. such as kakamega in kenya, for example, a town of just under 100,000 and situated north west of nairobi, 30km north of the equator.

world bicycle relief: kakamega

sadly, girls are seen as being of less value than boys; the latter have a relatively clear path into education and subsequent career path, while the girls must take care of the household chores before walking up to 10 kilometres to school, if they're allowed to attend in the first place. not unsurprisingly, many have difficulty concentrating on their studies as opposed to trying womanfully to keep their eyes open. as if life were not hard enough already, in this third world country, there are many unsavoury situations that can befall a young girl walking to and from school on her own.

world bicycle relief: kakamega

in 2015, 200 students at buckhaywa secondary school received bicycles from world bicycle relief, perhaps not at christmas time, but to be honest, that's not the main concern at present. for many, these bicycles have quite literally changed their lives. in around one month, aside from those of us embarking upon the festive 500, a large proprtion of the top bit of the globe will be watching endless re-runs of only fools and horses (or the local equivalent) while stuffing their faces with more food than is strictly necessary or desirable, having crammed all the festive wrapping paper in the recycle bin after opening the presents.

world bicycle relief: kakamega

for those of you intent on giving or not giving a bicycle as a christmas present, and for those hoping or expecting to receive one, would it not be a thoroughly decent notion to say thank you that we're in a position to give or receive a present that's not just for christmas, by donating five or ten percent of its value to world bicycle relief? that way the young girls of kenya and other regions of africa can look forward to a lifetime's education, safe in the knowledge that the new bicycle they'll receive due to your largesse will transport them to and from school in timeous and safe fashion. and at present, your donation will be matched 1:1 thanks to a small group of private donors.

at the risk of sounding like a moralising american sitcom, that is the real power of the bicycle.

watch 'the way forward' | donate to world bicycle relief

wednesday 23 november 2016

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speclalized turbo cotton 700x26c clinchers

specialized turbo cotton clinchers

these are the tyres on which tony martin achieved his world championship time-trial title. well, not exactly this specific pair - his were a smidgeon narrower than those currently gracing my colnago master - but the principle and constitution were the same. this is worthy of remark because it is allegedly the first time a world title has been won on clincher tyres as opposed to the pros' more usual choice of tubulars. while this pays great testament to the construction and speed of the turbo cottons, it was undoubtedly a safer option than had the rest of the ettixx team ridden the same tyres in the road race.

the choice of tubular tyres for the professional peloton is a long-standing one for very good reason. for one, in the event of a flat, glued-on rubber can still be ridden on, albeit at a slower pace, until the team car or neutral service catches up. in a time-trial, a puncture will simply result in a bike change; even a quick tyre change is unlikely to save a race. though clinchers have been ridden in the peloton long before now, so far as i'm aware, they've never won anything as exclusive as a world championship.

for the rest of us, the faff associated with tubular tyres and all that messy glue is often seen as a step or two too far. and rather than popping a spare tube or two in a seat pack or back pocket, it becomes necessary to maintain a 'here's-one-i-made-earlier' glued tubular in that same under-saddle position. and assuming a crevaison actually inflicts itself upon your tubular, have any of you ever tried to repair the blighters?

specialized turbo cotton clinchers

therefore, in the interests or simplicity, peace of mind and a shed door that hasn't been glued shut, most of us are happy to forgo pelotonic speed and stick to our trusty clinchers of whichever width is in vogue at the time.

that in itself is a whole subject worthy of discussion. in my early days as a clueless cyclist, i had logically deduced that, if 700 x 25 was pretty quick, then even with me aboard, 700 x 18 ought to be positively supersonic. now with an honours degree in hindsight, i can see the flaw in my cunning plan, a flaw that applied every bit as much to 700 x 21. but at one time, it was only budget road bikes that arrived replete with 700 x 25c; those of us in the know and with more informed and deeper pockets, displayed our nous with rubber of 700 x 23. but nowadays, common lore informs us that, in fact, wider rubber runs less restrictively than the narrower of the species.

that same lore would have us believe (and i have no earthly reason to doubt it) that the optimum width might conceivably be 28mm, but having ridden 33mm road style rubber with no apparent reduction in my tardiness, it's possible that the jury may still be out on that one. for 2017, specialized have re-styled their roubaix model to incorporate disc brakes, thru-axles and 28mm rubber, in the supposition that we will not have our paris-roubaix entries returned. but the turbo cottons as ridden to devastating effect by tony martin is available in narrower format, to wit, 700 x 24 and 700 x 26. i was sent a pair of the latter by specialized, mostly because i figured the extra millimetres might better resist the crumbling degradation that is islay's roads.

specialized turbo cotton clinchers

it is rare that even the hebridean climate provides the very conditions with which to assess the proclivities of bicycle related rubber. i just got lucky this time round. but often every bit as important as the speed and resilience on offer, is just how darned simple it might be to fit any tyre to any wheel without placing both thumbs in traction. in the current instance, i applied the cotton pros to a pair of wheelsmith's finest handbuilts and i am more than cheered to report that the words hot, knife and butter were the order of the day. though eventually marred by the muck dispensed by a set of brake pads in the wet, i am very much in favour of what we used to refer to as an amber sidewall. i confess that the colnago looked even faster when simply leaning against the fence. and though i'm always in favour of a fine herringbone tread pattern, i'm willing to bow to the almost treadless minimalism featured here.

my experience of riding tubulars is rather limited, but it is hard to deny that a well-inflated (100psi) pair of specialized turbo cottons offers a remarkably similar ride quality. though i did point out to william watt of specialized uk that my pair were seemingly defective since i got nowhere near the speed achieved by martin, they are impressively quick. even with me pedalling. other than straight-line speed this seems most notable when cornering, where the supple sidewalls offer grip and a smattering of centrifugal je ne sais quoi to flatter the inept amateur.

but aside from my dry velocipedinal activity, i have had the great good fortune to spend several hours not only in the rain but ploughing through more than my fair share of localised flooding. i would figure that my ability to remain upright throughout, even down the gravel and pothole strewn descent past aoradh farm, pays greater testament to the tyres than it does to yours truly. and then, only just this past weekend, islay was smitten by sub-zero temperatures, resulting in unseen pockets of black ice, along with the more obvious friction-reducing frost and ice. once more, uprightness was my bedfellow, though i don't mind admitting this was achieved at a more subtle velocity where found to be necessary.

i'm not enough of a scientist/engineer to make bold statements regarding the efficacy of differing tread widths, but wherever possible, i prefer wider rubber if only for the perceived improvement in comfort. i'm never going to win anything, no matter which tyres are on my wheels, but i do know what i like and why i like it.

i really, really like these.

specialized turbo cotton clinchers are available in 700 x 24c and 700 x 26c both featuring a 320tpi polycotton casing. reccommended retail price is £50 per tyre.

specialized turbo cotton clincher

tuesday 22 november 2016

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