thewashingmachinepost




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i don't understand

martinez-bernal

in the mid 1990s, there was enough of a motley crew on islay to form a motley peloton, one that indulged in a sunday afternoon ride, rather than the morning outings that have become de rigeur all across the country, including here in the centre of the known universe. however, we were, by recollection, a bunch of fairweather cyclists, less inclined to head out in inclement conditions. those days have long gone, now that the current members of the velo club have discovered the efficacy of dressing the part, replete with skinny wheels and bendy bars.

however, the man responsible for this wholesale change in tradition has been seen only infrequently these past twelve months; the mighty dave t is of that certain age initially demanding a degree of self-isolation, along with mrs dave t who is a smidgeon older and was sensibly doing likewise. the mighty dave has, as i have previously mentioned, been there done it all and worn the t-shirt, experience which has been very much to our benefit. i'm hoping that, by now, i have imprinted upon your minds, that it is frequently a bit draughty out here in the sticks, the very conditions that tend to encourage formation of echelons. and when i say that most of us have mastered the art of the one-man-echelon, you should know that i say so not in jest.

the ability to form proper echelons was taught to us all by the mighty dave t. sad to say, it had scarcely dawned upon any of us that were we to arrange ourselves in the manner reminiscent of one half of a formation of overflying geese, we might alleviate the drudgery of slogging into a hebridean headwind with scarcely any respite. the mighty dave pointed out where we ought best position ourselves in relation to the wheel in front, the secret handshake of cornering and expert use of gears, rather than the constant flicking up and down the block that tends to be the calling card of the innocent newbie.

it is only a matter of years past that even when it came to ascending, the mighty dave could impart propitious methodology that now seems the only proper way to climb, yet without using any actual words. were you to visit the principality nowadays, though our own ageing years might cause gaps to appear, i feel you would be suitable impressed by our velocipedinal abilities to cope with that blowing in our faces, as you struggle manfully and womanfully in our wake as the reality of a galeforce headwind makes itself known. the alps and pyrenees are regularly visited by the great unwashed for the kilometres of climbing; the hebrides are the home of wind and rain, where training to be a one-day classics rider is every bit the equal of the true flandrian, with the possible exception of the an absence of cobbled roads.

the potholes, however, often form a veritable verisimilitude.

i do not exaggerate when i say that we owe it all to the mighty dave t. though we may not have his vast experience, we have learned sufficiently to pass the knowledge onto those who follow in our wheeltracks. but though i have watched the classics, the monuments, and the grand tours, watching domestiques shield their team leaders from the wind and the elements, i have never been able to comprehend how doing the same on a gradient provides any benefit. i cannot deny that it seems highly efficacious, but given that domestique and team leader are riding up the same gradient, one behind the other, at a speed too low for either to suffer from a headwind, how does that work?

on saturday's stage in the giro d'italia, in common with pretty much every other mountain stage, pink jersey wearer, egan bernal, sat second or third wheel behind jonathan castroviejo or danni martinez, apparently benefiting from their tenacity in the face of adversity. but if the gradient were, for instance, 12%, then castroviejo, martinez and bernal were all affcted by the same gravitational pull. i realise that current revelations about dark matter have thrown some doubt on einstein's theories and calculations, but i'm pretty sure none of those suspicions concerned gravitational pull. so how does having martinez ride like a chairlift for nigh on three kilometres, offer any salvation or succour to the pink jersey?

if bernal, martinez or castroviejo happen to be reading, drop me an e-mail to explain, would you?

monday 31 may 2021

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a dram fine excuse

there will be no post on sunday 30 may, for which i have a particularly decent excuse. we are, on islay, at the beginning of the islay whisky festival, which, for the second year, takes place not in real life, but virtually, via the miracle of the internet. each and every distillery on islay will feature on their own open day, but will be posting videos both live and recorded for the benefit of whisky aficionados all across the world. it's hardly the most personable means of doing so, but life is as it is these days. hopefully 2022 will provide a return to some sort of normality.

sunday 30 may is bruichladdich distillery's open day and, for reasons that i simply do not comprehend, a group of us have been tasked with riding around the rhinns of islay, from bruichladdich to port charlotte, to kilchiaran and ultimately to portnahaven, broadcasting live as we do so. since this is likely to take quite some time, there will be little or no time to scribble some words of wisdom, so i'll see you all on monday.

if anything of interest takes place, i'll be sure to mention it at some time in the future.

saturday 29 may 2021

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causing friction

friction shifters

i don't quite know how youtube makes its selection of videos each time i refresh the page, but whatever algorithm is lurking in the background, it has distinctly eccentric and somewhat contradictory leanings. for example, i have not owned a motor car for well over a decade, and have no great interest in such vehicles, other than the occasional investigation into the implications of electric cars. however, such explorations are rarely, if ever, conducted through the youtube portal. yet for the past few days, the video thumbnails presented on screen have contained a veritable peppering of top gear related content and notably, videos proclaiming the features of a very expensive, electric-powered lotus.

aside from the fact that i'm not particularly interested in what lotus do with their electric motors, i am at some considerable distance from the earnings bracke that would have one of these vehicles sat in my non-existent driveway. yet, though i have refrained from clicking on any image containing richard hammond, jeremy clarkson or anything that appears to feature a motor car of any flavour, every day, there they are: more videos about cars.

however, aside from the welcome and most inviting videos about drummers, drumming and jazz, are items proffering cycle-related content, which, purely in the interests of maintaining a smattering of modernity, i am in the habit of clicking. having take a recent interest in the processes involved in removing a sram chainset, there has been a modest inundation of similarly constituted videos. that association i understand, it's the car bit i don't get. nor, to be honest, do i comprehend why elon musk's space-x ought to hold my attention.

but it would be wrong to castigate the fine folks at google owned youtube, for while they're trying to interest me in stuff i'm not interested in, they do occasionally get it right, even if it appears accidental.

for those of a certain age, there was a time when indexed gearing had yet to see the light of day. up until the advent of the mountain bike in the 1980s, gear changing was achieved by pushing or pulling the downtube mounted gear levers just enough to have the chain shift into the desired gear. there was no hyperglide or ergopower sprocket ramps to aid the smooth shifting of that chain; changing under load when climbing was not advised. indexing is based pretty much on the skills that us oldies cultivated by moving the levers just enough to move the chain one or many sprockets at a time, without the concomitant crashing noises that would accompany less accurate shifting. yes, shimano's expertise in fishing tackle had some bearing on matters, but that makes us seem far less heroic than the way i remember it.

the video, of which i watched only the intro, offered the prospect of a return to friction-shifting, a move which, i have to say, i find some value.

on my very first road bike in the early 1980s, there were but five sprockets on the block (a colloquial term for the cassette's predecessor, the freewheel). the gaps between each sprocket hardly made for slick shifting, but now that we've reached twelve or even thirteen, the miniscule spacing surely makes indexing an unnecessary luxury? even the most ham-fisted amongst us can probably slip the chain from one sprocket to the next across a gap of mere millimetres without the aid of indents in the lever mechanism. do not misunderstand me; i am not condoning a shift (pun intended) back to levers on the downtube, but it shouldn't be beyond the technical ability of sram, shimano or campagnolo, to return their handlebar-mounted levers to friction shifting, now that i've pointed out the huge potential demand.

of course, ths presupposes that the future of road cycling might take a detour and unceremoniously drop the electric part. the latter probably depends on switches rather than lever indents, and i seriously doubt that removing the battery from di2 or eps will bring out the finest of friction in the drive-train. but for those of us with distinct luddite tendencies, could things get any better than going back to the seventies, but with more gears?

hello? hello? is anyone there?

saturday 29 may 2021

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told you so

cycle commuting

i have to hold my hand up at this point and admit that this has become something of an annual rant, one that even i'm fed up of repeating. you'd think that i would have woken up and smelled the coffee by now, but just like the average status quo fan, sometimes banging your head against a wall becomes a bit of a habit. beginning this sunday, britain will again pretend that holding a national bike week is actually going to make any real difference to the national aversion to riding a bicycle. on average, 27% of all journeys in the netherlands are made by bicycle; britain can only muster a measly 2%. taking into account that a national uk bike week officially began in 1923, it doesn't take a genius to realise that, all things considered, it hasn't made much of an impression on the nation's cycling habits.

much as i'd like to say i hate to be sceptical, in fact i don't really, because i think the whole affair needs as much scepticism as it can get, provided it is tempered with a smattering of positive suggestions. for instance, on the cycling uk website, promoters of this annual event, are admittedly well-meaning statements, citing reasons why participating ought best be uppermost in the minds of britain's collective psyche. my first point would be to question how many non-regular cyclists find themselves inclined to visit the site in the first place? statements such as ''if you cycle regularly in adulthood, you will enjoy a level of fitness equivalent to someone ten years younger.' or 'If all cycle journeys increased from the current level of 2% to 25% by 2050, the collective benefit would be 248bn.' are hardly those filed under the heading 'compulsive'.

if you'll pardon my cynicism once again, if we've reached only 2% after 98 years of national bike weeks, what makes anyone think we can gain another 23% in less than 30 years? and though definitely a step in the right direction, encouraging participants to use the hashtag #7daysofcycling and ride their bicycles for that length of time seems to err a tad on the conservative side. allegedly any activity practised for at least 21 days becomes habit, so to harp on once again, and repeat my annual rant, why is it not possible to hold national bike month, as do several other countries (notably, the usa)?

when lockdown began in march 2020, the newspapers were full of statements from international governments and regional councils, pledging that they would not allow transport matters to return to pre-covid levels, celebrating the notable drop in inner-city pollution levels as a result of residents turning to the bicycle and leaving the car at home. many were the pronouncements that the bicycle's time had finally come, the vision of the future had been viewed by all, and climate change would be stopped in its tracks. cycnics, such as myself, seriously doubted that would be the case, especially when the first snows/winds/hail/rain/temperatures of winter put in an appearance.

according to research from the british cycling/hsbc uk partnership, 5.5 million britons have been inspired to buy a bike since the beginning of the 2020 lockdown, while one in ten has made a commitment to commute by bike 'some of the time', on their eventual return to work. those of a mathematical persuasion will probably not need me to point out that one in ten is but ten percent, or half a million. that leaves five million of the aforementioned inspired individuals with bikes, effectively going nowhere. and telling them that "cycling to work can mean you have a 45% lower risk of developing cancer, and a 46% lower risk of cardiovascular disease" is unlikely to make one iota of difference. given that a recent study revealed there is no safe limit for alcohol consumption, the national off-licence association must surely be quaking in its six-packs.

the selfsame bc/hsbc survey also made it plain that a wholesale return to work had brought over 20 million brits to admit that they intended to return to their cars, travelling an average of just over ten miles for 3.5 'new age' days per week.

firstly, despite being a famous member of the cycling media, i only accidentally discovered that national bike week was next week. by all means, list all the features and benefits on a website, but surely better to take the message to those who are ripe for conversion. i have seen no advertising of any description in the national press, i have received not a single missive from british cycling, despite being a fully paid up member, and i have yet to come across any advertising on the numerous online news outlets, despite continuously having my reading interrupted by animated adverts for pretty much everything else.

it was never going to be easy persuading non-cyclists to adopt the way of the saddle. we have largely become a nation for whom apathy, lethargy and ease of use have become daily watchwords. why on earth, i am constantly asked, would anyone in their right mind expend all that effort to get to and from work, when there's a car in the driveway? isn't climate change the responsibility of the government? surely my driving a car a mere ten miles isn't going to do much harm? the latter may actually be true, but multiply that by 20 million and 'houston, we have a problem'. if britain and the rest of the world is to survive the effects of climate change, there's little doubt that the bicycle can form a large part of the solution, but sadly, unless something changes, national bike week is unlikely to be joining the party.

success will surely only be assured when there's no longer any need for a bike week in the first place.

national bike week 2021

friday 28 may 2021

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giving it all away

buyrope

in the grand scheme of things, bicycles are a relatively low cost means of transport. that is, unless you fancy owning a pinarello dogma festooned with campagnolo super-record eps and their new bora ultra wto wheelset which, by all accounts, would set you back close on £15,000. i would figure there are remarkably few riders in the world who could do justice to such velocipedinal excess, but i'm sure that won't stop those with a healthy bank balance from owning one in the bike shed.

however, for the majority, less extravagance is order of the day, requiring a more modest set of wheels to get them from point a to point b, safely, reliably and in reasonable comfort. aside from which, a cagoul matched with waterproof trousers and a pudding bowl helmet aboard the pinarello described above is hardly a good look, no matter how many credit cards you possess. but for many others, the bicycle has more lofty, yet no less expensive aims, particularly when that expense is spread over several bicycles and staff to maintain them. or maybe to teach people to ride, or maybe to act as a cycle buddy, or any number of other pragmatic uses to which the bicycle might be put.

many are the cycling charities in the uk, all devoted to bringing pedalling to the masses, whether on road by the way of furnishing bicycles to the less fortunate amongst us, or offroad, providing activities for the underprivileged, for those perhaps with mental health problems or just for the sheer fun of hammering round a series of berms and jumps to gain confidence and skills. it will surprise you not one whit that providing the necessary facilities, training staff and maintaining premises tends to cost money, quite often a never-ending requirement.

this last year has proved almost beyond reproach, that the bicycle is still as valid a means of transport as has ever been the case over the past hundred years or more. with the need for social distancing bringing governments to install pop-up cycle lanes and promise to pour more money into active travel, many an ageing machine has been dragged kicking and screaming from the garden shed and brought back to some semblance of life. however, amongst those who would dearly like to have joined the peloton, will have been many with only an empty space in the garden shed, or worse still, an inability to ride one should the latter be not true.

in order to help those charities who might ostensibly be able to right such wrongs, timi schmidt of buyrope (a company that surprisingly enough, sells rope) is offering to donate 100% of the profits on sales made on 5 june, the end of national bike week (30 may - 5 june) to a cycling organisation or charity focussed on promoting cycling "...as a part of a healthier and environmentally friendly lifestyle." the application is open to any uk charity, and to apply for the funds, buyrope would have you go to their facebook page, find the post about this event and share the post publicly. becoming the lucky organisation revolves around collecting as many likes as you can on that shared post until 5 june. and for bonus points, share this information on your blog (if you have one) and each comment will count double. (buyrope require you to share the post in the comment section of their own blog - link below).

the successful organisation will be that which gets the most likes on facebook up until 5 june, with results announced on 8 june.

buyrope facebook page | buyrope blog

thursday 27 may 2021

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great expectations

remco evenepoel

with the exception of monday's stage, i have watched each and every stage of this year's giro d'italia, though mostly on eurosport's evening highlights programme. though once i seemingly had the available time to feature the live broadcast on my macbook air sat to one side of my workstation (doesn't that make a scruffy desk sound so much more impressive?), those days appear to have faded into the distance. what i have not paid any attention to, and with no disrespect to the participants, is the breakaway, on which the stage is dissected by the exotically named orla chennaoui and various experts from the world of professional cycling, including bradley wiggins, brian smith and sean kelly.

though i'm not a great fan of punditry, this relates more to the pre-race prognostications than post race shenanigans. however, having just watched each day's event for the previous hour, i'm less than inclined to listen to the aforementioned worthies describing the minutiae of that which i have just witnessed. there may have been the odd move or body language that escaped my attention, but since none are likely to affect the day's podium standings, i confess that i'm not terribly interested.

i do enjoy watching cycle racing every bit as much as the next man or woman, but i place the emphasis on the word 'watching'; the strategies that unfold are of particular interest, though i'd concede that the evening's edited highlights might not show those to their best advantage. to learn that the fellow in third place had two victories in the past three years and had been showing good form in this year's liege-bastogne-liege, is not only outside my radar, but to be honest, pretty much of academic interest, probably less than pertinent to the podium du jour.

but it's the punditry beloved of eurosport/gcn, the comic, the monthlies and many an ever-increasing number of podcasts that essentially frames our expectations of any given race. as in professional sporting activities all across the world, there are favourites and there are underdogs, knowledge of which often results in the placement of financial wagers at the behest of said pundits. i have no truck with gambling whatsoever, so even if i was sure that i knew for certain who might win a stage or entire race, i would never bet my hard-earned on that result.

as a famous member of the cycling media, you would surely expect that i would be 'in the know' so to speak, tracking the fortunes and misfortunes of each member of the peloton, scarcely to be found unaware of the exploits unfolding on (in this case) the italian parcours.

sadly, none of that describes yours truly.

so when this year's giro commenced, the touting of deceuninck-quick-step team leader, remco evenepoel as a possible or even likely victor, came not entirely as a surprise, but mostly because i am not at all familiar with who's on form and who, quite frankly, isn't. the portents during the initial stages did appear to warrant such faith in the 21 year-old with the odd name. evenepoel finished the opening prologue in 7th place, rising to 4th by stage 2 and was second behind egan bernal by stage ten ahead of the first rest day. sadly for him and for those who had posited the youngster for italian glory, he lost touch with the pointy end of the peloton during the strade bianche stages, dropping to 7th place once again, and, by the second rest day, he had slumped to 19th place, almost half an hour behind egan bernal.

so were expectations too high? bear in mind that evenepoel is the same age as tadej pogacar, winner of the 2020 tour de france, but that he spent nine months off the bike recovering from a broken pelvis sustained in a ghastly fall during the 2020 giro lombardia. and consider that the poor chap had scarcely had time to test his legs outside of a three-week grand tour. it's one thing to keep up with your colleagues on the way to debbie's café, an entirely different matter to stay on their wheels when perambulating loch gorm. or words to that effect.

i'm well aware that the engineering of animosity between riders or teams often plays well to the financial advantage of those peddling the rumours in print. and we have all come to expect the arbiters of competitive velocipedinal activity to selflessly tell us on whom we should be betting our shirts, grannies or farms. but not only does that not mean they're right, nor does it mean that we should have believed them. however, for poor remco, it now appears that he has failed to perform, to a level that may never have been attainable in the first place. the fact that so many thought him capable of pink in milan, doesn't mean he's not as good as he actually is. let's face it; he's got well over a decade to prove it.

wednesday 26 may 2021

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how to fix our world

go big - ed milliband

i am never very sure whether to be proud or ashamed of my political naivety. at the recent scottish elections, neither of the candidates for which i voted were ever in danger of troubling either the pre-election polls or the election results themselves, though in my defence, i never actually thought they would. to be perfectly honest, in keeping with the opinions of many, i think it far easier to categorise all politicians as complete shysters, and let them prove otherwise. it has long astounded me that, architects, lawyers, accountants, doctors and many other professions require many years of academic study and a concomitant qualification at the end of it all, before even beginning the climb to professional success. yet a failed journalist receives sufficient election votes to become prime minister.

why then, is it not necessary for those intent on following a political career to have studied politics to at least degree level before standing for election by their peers? however, it would be foolish and hardly entertaining to read the musings and ruminations of an individual who confessed to political naivety only a few paragraphs ago.

so why involve politics at all? well, former leader of the labour party, ed milliband, has written a book entitled 'go big', due to be published on 3 june by bodley head. it is, by all accounts, a book of big ideas, some of which were generated during his time as labour leader, but on which he held back because, according to an interview in the review section of saturday's guardian newspaper, "i wasn't bold enough." and in an enlightening admission, he was a cabinet minister before he learned to ride a bike.

however, in his book, he admits that, rather than suffer the embarrassment of using a tricycle as a means of transport during lockdown, at the age of 50, he hired an e-bike while on holiday in the french resort of châtel. that, according to a published extract from the book, "...was the eureka moment", leading to the self-acknowledged "zeal of a convert." he goes on to say that he thinks that government policymaking is frequently out of step with the things that we really want, and that were that not the case, even daily travel could be so remarkably different. though somewhat tautological thinking, milliband contends that "...If town and city planning reflected the lives we want to live, I think walking and cycling would be taken far more seriously."

why is this man not prime minister?

naturally enough, for even a closet cycling activist, rather than a tour de france aficonado, milliband turns to the netherlands as an example of how british transport could have turned out, rather than the motorised traffic nightmare we currently behold. according to the author, the average uk household spends around £60 per week on owning and running a car, equating to 10% of the household budget. even my rudimentary arithmetic shows that to be over £3,000 per year. rather simplistically, mr milliband bookends the above by saying "The beauty of walking and cycling is that they cost next to nothing."

and it probably ought to be said that the latter two means of transport also contribute nothing to measurable carbon emissions, as opposed to current road transport in britain contributing around one-fifth.

of course, i would say this. if mr milliband's book had stated the contrary, perhaps echoing the views of jeremy clarkson that cycling is not a mode of transport that ought to be celebrated, today's words of wisdom (a little hebridean humour there) would likely have been devoted to an entirely different subject. well aware of the fact that i (and probably every other cycling blogger) am preaching to the converted, and any outpouring by a national figure - even if he is a politician - that puts a positive light on the bicycle can be used as if manna from heaven, mr milliband's pragmatism and intellect is quite refreshing.

"Ultimately, the big idea here isn't actually about transport; it's about building a better life for people: ensuring everyone can live in a clean and attractive neighbourhood and giving them more choice about how to get around. When it comes to our society, we cannot leave it to the market to decide. We need to make those choices ourselves."

maybe i ought to be paying more attention to politics after all.

tuesday 25 may 2021

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