just one of those days

vintage racing cyclist

though i persistently refer to the sunday ride as i it were a commonality throughout the velocipedinal world, i have very little evidence on which to base my generalisation. granted, when i have occasionally had occasion to return from glasgow to islay on a sunday, i cannot deny having seen the glasgow chain gang on a sunday morning, riding the dual-carriageway close to the erskine bridge, split into different groups, presumably decided by notional average speeds. and many years ago, when i travelled to arrochar from islay to play drums for a few weekends, while i awaited the arrival of the coach to kennacraig, there was always an almost constant stream of cyclists arriving to partake of baked beans on toast along with a cup of tea.

since many a shampoo or cosmetic cream advert claims nowadays to have had 75% of respondents agree that it achieves what it set out to do, i figure i'm in good company. for if you read the small print at the foot of the advert, invariably the polled sample totalled only a handful of people. oddly, as a brief digression, if you apply the advertised percentage to the number surveyed, you'll usually end up with a decimal point of a person. how does that work?

anyway, if major cosmetic firms can base their conjecture on what amounts to passing observation, perhaps it's ok for me to do likewise when concluding that the cycling world is populated with regular sunday rides. in the mid-1990s, islay's sunday ride took place commencing at 1pm, but i believe constant aggravation from 'widowed' spouses had the time changed to earlier in the morning, allowing the post lunch period to include a visit to a beach or a distillery café. for the sake of a peaceful life, i believe the adjustment was probably well worth it.

however, there was a time when the velo club sunday ride commenced at 9am during the summer months to take advantage of an earlier sunrise. when autumn arrived, the start time would revert to 10am to avoid riding in darkness. after all, the avowed point of the ride in the first place was unfettered delight in the islay landscape. at some undefined point in time, come summertime, the change was not made, but nobody can recall when that failed to happen. however, as a group of boring old farts, that extra hour in bed has seemingly become too attractive to relent.

my next door neighbour was once a regular practitioner of the game of golf, islay being home to one of the most revered links course in the kingdom. however, achieving consummate and regular skill in the game seemed to elude him, as, i believe, is often the case for the majority of golfers. speaking to him on a saturday, he would relate that he seemingly could do no wrong, reaching each successive green with admirably few strokes, outplaying his colleagues without appearing to try. meet him on a sunday, however, and that day's game could apparently not have gone worse, losing several balls and finishing so many strokes over par, that he needed a calculator to work out the difference.

thankfully, cycling often seems less prone to such dramatic differences in performance. perhaps one week i might be off the back on the climb at aoradh farm, yet the next week i'm not quite so far off the back. some sundays, in a phrase made popular by the mighty dave-t, my riding is akin to the proverbial 'bag of spanners', or perhaps 'a sack of potatoes', but other weeks, such as yesterday, 'smoothness' is the watchword of the day. do not misundestand me; there's not a chance in christendom that yesterday's smoothness would have brought sir dave or patrick lefevre to offer me a contract, nor, indeed, does it advise that i held sway at the front of the velo club peloton all morning.

but despite an increased speed of perambulation, i had little trouble in keeping up. and the ritchey logic felt as a hot knife must feel as it cuts through butter.

yesterday's qualitative improvement, however, could not have come at a better time. aside from our childish practice of emulating a team time-trial as we slowly and choreographically passed a field of sunflowers for the faux tour de france photo opportunity, we happened upon a larger peloton of touring cyclists near kilchoman distillery, one of whom wore a hawaiin shirt that had me thankful i wore tinted cycling glasses. having discovered that kilchoman distillery's visitor centre is now closed on sundays and mondays, they were in search of coffee and sustenance, for which we pointed them in the direction of debbie's, around ten kilometres distant.

for reasons which most of you will recognise, it would have been unseemly to be riding like spanners or potatoes in proximity to cyclists whose bicycles were festooned with panniers, bar bags and a hawaiin shirt.

they did eventually arrive at debbie's en masse, exchanged a few "hail fellows, well met" as they ordered coffee and cake, and i was forever thankful that i clipped in seamlessly as we readied to depart for home. since it appears that touring season is still in full flow, should next weekend's perambulations look like they may resemble spanners, i may have to resort to thespianism, acting as if the converse were true. one must always remember that style is in the eye of the beholder.

monday 30 august 2021

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pay as you go

used cars

in the days when thewashingmachinepost household subscribed to sky tv, along with whatever bundle we had inadvertently chosen, came eurosport, which ultimately morphed, on this side of the english channel at least, into british eurosport, initially, not that much different from the original eurosport. but, following a new year hurricane which topped the bill with winds of over 160kph, our satellite dish ceased to point in the right direction to receive the signal sent from space. despite having paid insurance to cover just such an eventuality, sky were unable to send an engineer for at least six weeks, during which time, they insisted on continuing to collect the monthly subscription.

in remarkably polite terms, i told them just where they could stick their subscription.

that left me without access to eurosport's live cycling coverage, an omission that was conveniently remedied with a subscription to eurosportplayer, an online service that was once renowned for interminable on-screen buffering, but which, more recently, has provided excellent service and frequently, excellent commentary on the grand tours and one-day classics. the subscription price has risen a pound or two over the years, but that's hardly unexpected. but it's not just the viewing experience that has become subscription based. though netflix and amazon prime require a monthly direct debit to access their wall-to-wall box sets, several other aspects of contemporary living have followed suit.

my daily grind involves three major pieces of software to achieve an end result: adobe's photoshop, indesign and illustrator, all of which were originally purchased independently at each eighteen month upgrade cycle. these came in tidily decorated boxes, originally with very thick users manuals, but which eventually slimmed to a compact disc or two, containing instructions in pdf format. but a quick google search would often reveal any one of the above packages available for a mere pittance, as long as the purchaser remembered never to call tech support. for each and every package came with the same activation code, no questions asked.

obviously enough, this allegedly upset adobe's bottom line, a misdemeanour that their accountants were keen to obviate, the solution purportedly being what they now call adobe creative cloud, and for which the customer signs up, provides a username and password tethered to a monthly direct debit payment, and any incremental software upgrades can be downloaded immediately. disappointingly, the day after the release of creative cloud, someone hacked the system, proving, if nothing else, that this means of charging for software was no more secure than the cds in a box with an activation code.

however, the subscription service has persisted; everytime the software is activated, it checks with adobe's servers to validate the user's credentials. no payment - no software. many others have followed suit, and it's becoming harder and harder to find major software packages that can be purchased outright. and though i've not investigated too closely, mostly because i don't need a car, many tv adverts nowadays for new cars would seem to indicate that the preferred method of acquiring an automobile, is effectively that of a subscription.

in the grand scheme of things, this is hardly a brand new initiative; my employers have, for instance, leased a colour printer from xerox for many a long year. the rental period is usually over five years and after three years, they advise that they replace it with the latest, all singing, all dancing model, for which they sign-up for a further five years. and so on. of course, though many of us can moan about this means of acquiring something that we'll never own outright, to a degree, it makes perfect sense. take the above mentioned printer, for instance: we always have the latest model, it's always accompanied by a service contract included in the price and all toners and consumables are delivered when needed as part of the package.

the same goes for the motor car. the usual length of the lease is three years, frequently including servicing, meaning you're always driving a new vehicle, it's always under warranty, and rarely do you have to subject it to an mot test, before it's replaced with the latest model. so why hasn't the bike industry followed suit?

it's possibly not a method of purchase that would suit the more demanding amongs us. for instance, should i wish to own a ritchey outback gravel bike, outfitted with campagnolo's ekar groupset, that would hardly constitute an off-the-shelf solution. but many of the major - and some minor - suppliers feature complete bicycles, as delivered to your local bike shop. assuming they take on the financial burden, this could work in precisely the same manner as the printer lease outlined above. you and i pay our monthly subscription to a finance company, probably owned by the manufacturer, who in turn, reimburse the bike shop the full retail price along with the agreed service contract.

no doubt there is a gaping flaw in my cunning plan, but start-ups such as buzzbike seem already to have an operating service, not a great deal different from my above assertions. granted, their operation is geared more towards the 90% who don't already cycle, and who are likely to be a lot less demanding than you or i. effectively, their customers simply want a bicycle on which to get to work, along with a guarantee that if it breaks, someone will fix it, and if it's stolen, someone will replace it. and, as with almost everything nowadays, they'd be quite happy if all this can be achieved via a smartphone app.

it's a method of acquisition that might be most pertinent to the e-bike market, where motor and battery development is likely to continue for a long time to come. you can but imagine the disappointment of the recent e-bike purchaser on discovering that next year's model will be lighter and more svelte than the model on which they have just spent a not inconsiderable sum, with far lower battery replacement cost. and were the government to allow the use of the faster s-pedelec models...

according to latest government statistics, currently 55% of the uk population live in cities, a figure that is destined to increase to 70% within the next thirty years. add to that the younger generation who are arguably less in favour of outright purchase and more used to a subscription service, and buzzbike say they're "convinced we are at the beginning of the end of urban bike ownership." there's every likelihood that the folks at buzzbike are correct, but the bit that nobody seems ever to have explained, and that includes the printer and car companies is, what happens to the old printers and cars, particularly the latter when petrol and diesel vehicle sales are to be ended within the next nine years? if subscriptions really are the way forward, why would anyone look at second-hand?

i'm sure we'll find out sooner, rather than later.

sunday 29 august 2021

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row of e-bikes

in plato's phaedrus, he relates a myth portrayed by socrates that, when the egyptian god theuth, the purported inventor of writing, presented this as a gift to king thamus, the latter was distinctly unimpressed. though theuth stated that writing would "...make the egyptians wiser and will improve their memories", king thamus was of the opinion that "this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practise their memory." you can partially see his point, in much the same way as unlimited use of calculators has produced more than one generation that offers no reliance on mental arithmetic.

the counter argument would surely be that, allowing for the existence of both writing and calculators, reliance on memory or mental acuties are arguably no longer required to the extent required prior to the emergence of both inventions. extrapolating this would surely indicate that walking need no longer be practised when bicycles are available, and cycling should have become redundant on arrival of the motor car. our own experiences and perspicacity can see the flaw in the latter argument and, by implication those previously introduced above.

the arguments against are predominantly qualitative; from an empirical point of view, substituting a bicycle with a car may seem a sensible option, at least until we consider the impact the motor car has had upon the planet and, indeed, daily life. it's possible, depending on your point of view, to consider that the disbenefits outweigh the benefits, though i'm sure jeremy clarkson would take issue. but if we backtrack by one level, and intersperse the e-bike between the analogue bicycle and the motor car, could that be a half-way meeting point between minds?

of course, history is replete with claims that the emergence of a new technology would likely have a negative impact on human existence. gutenberg's printing press, for instance, when appearing in the 15th century, was apparently likely to make people lazy, weak-minded and less studious. and the advent of the typewriter was claimed to have had a detrimental effect on the written word due to the intervention of its mechanical processes over the relative freedom of the written word. on closer examination, these claims may have some substance, but it is substance that is almost entirely subjective and tends to ignore the benefits we see today. for instance, 'quantum computing' can provide answers in minutes to complex questions that conventional computing would take years to solve. rather obviously, relying on mental (or even written) arithmetic would require centuries of calculation.

but, back to the e-bike. a colleague of mine recently attempted to demonstrate that, despite offering motor assistance to the pedalling action, riding an e-bike could (and i'd like to stress the word 'could') provide every bit as many exercise derived benefits, as would riding regular 'analogue' bicycles. he based his contentions on potentially riding further and faster, supported by 'back of the envelope' calorific calculations. once again, it's a claim that may well have a degree of substance, but is subjective from the point of view that he appeared to have modified his riding patterns essentially to prove his point.

but what of the demographic who currently purchase e-bikes? are they intent on proving themselves to be superior to the average analogue velocipedinist in both energy expenditure and distance travelled? based purely on conjecture, i would tend to think not. another colleague of mine owns a quality e-bike, on which she has proved herself keen to rely upon the motor as infrequently as possible. her reasoning revolves around having to work harder than the bike in order to improve her fitness. this rather flies in the face of the original notion, where the argument centres around using the motor to its fullest extent.

those are, i would think, two opposing extremes; from a more cursory appreciation of current e-bike sales and my own experience of riding just such a machine, its seems highly likely that e-bikes are being purchased, or hired, on the premise that they're going to considerably lighten the load, making pedalling life more than just a tad easier than riding an analogue bicycle. i recall one forlorn prophecy, made at the outset of the e-bike phenomenon, that riders of said battery power, would find the experience so attractive, that they'd soon consider the purchase of the 'analogue' version. needless to say, there is scarcely any evidence that this is happening or is ever likely to in the future. i don't doubt that there are many who have welcomed the e-bike with open arms, using it as they would a regular bike, but with tangible enhancement. the majority are likely to squeeze every last gram of available battery power in preference to puffing and panting.

it's probably far too early to appreciate whether the e-bike is likely to make us lazier than would have been the case had nobody ever thought of adding an electric motor to a bicycle. for starters, the very idea of riding a bicycle in the first place would probably not have occurred to many for whom the 'analogue' bicycle was a complete non-starter. it's quite possible that for many, more car miles would have been the order of the day. but ultimately, the question of whether the e-bike is curating a less physically active population is probably not the one we ought to be asking.

irrespective whether you choose to ride e or a, the fear remains that britain's (and many other nations') roads are not safe for cyclists of any hue. instead of concerning ourselves with decisions that rest with the individual, and not with a pedantically outraged 'cognoscenti', we should all be directing our argumentativeness at the powers in charge of improving cycling's infrastructure. and with that, i mean both on-road and offroad. just remember the maxim: "two wheels good...". you can complete that statement depending on your own prejudices.

saturday 28 august 2021

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charlie's legacy

chariie watts

a couple of years ago, one of the secondary students subject to my percussive ministrations at the local high school, displayed an intriguing technique when playing the hi-hat. though the music she was directed to read had notated each eighth note to be played by the right hand, when playing the backbeat on beats two and four, she would avoid the matching hi-hat beat, lifting her right hand to allow the left hand more space. on enquiring whether the music teacher had pointed this out, or tried to enforce the written directive and lose this eccentricity, she claimed that not to have been the case.

in point of fact, this mode of playing is immensely pragmatic. firstly, leaving out the hi-hat note does indeed allow more space for the left hand to provide a solid backbeat, and secondly, more often than not, the snare backbeat would drown out the hi-hat note in any case, making it of dubious musical value. provided, as in this case, playing in this manner did not interrupt her timekeeping, i was more than keen to have her continue. sadly, due to her youthfulness, she had never heard of rolling stones drummer, the late charlie watts, whose style of drumming she had unknowingly emulated.

watts, who died on tuesday at the age of 80, was similarly unaware of his unique hi-hat 'technique' until fellow drummer, jim keltner, asked him how he played like that. there are many videos on youtube demonstrating how charlie played with the rolling stones in this manner. it is also sad that, given the lifelong substance abuse practiced by the stones guitarists, ronnie wood and keith richards (police drummer, stewart copeland has been quoted as saying "...they're the bad boys who stay out late and have three sugars in their tea"), watts should be the first of the rolling stones to depart this life.

praise for watts' drumming has been quick in coming; though there are many drummers with far more technique, the latter is not something of which the rolling stones' music displayed a great deal. charlie kept it deceptively simple, offering an intangible 'swing' that came from his great love of bebop jazz, a genre of music that could never have offered him the fame and fortune he earned over the course of his sixty plus years with the rolling stones, but one that remained the object of his desire.

i think it a crying shame that the captains of the bicycle industry are apparently not great fans of charlie watts.

for starters, watts played a four piece drumset throughout his career, unlike many others who opted for the 'two up, two down' six-piece setup, or rush drummer, neil peart who sat inside a drumset that completely surrounded him. such simplicity is not only commendable, it is eminently practical. witness the hulabaloo surrounding the release of ribble's 'most aerodynamic bicycle in the world' at the beginning of the week. already there are many commenters pointing out the fallacy of many of ribble's claims; though this particular bicycle doesn't visually differ greatly from its peers, the number of hours spent in the wind tunnel has undoubtedly added to its invisible sophistication.

a bit like disc brakes on road bikes, this seems to be almost entirely manufacturer led, as opposed to being the result of repeated requests by the ordinary cyclist in the street. complexity, rather than simplicity seems to the be the current watchword, with an ever-increasing history.

charlie watts played just what the music required - no more, no less. even police drummer, stewart copeland, said "I'm afraid I've been slow to learn that lesson!" personally, i am constantly of the opinion that this is something that the cycle industry will (hopefully) eventually learn before it's too late. ten years from now, i can imagine the illumination of a light bulb in a corporate cycle headquarters nowhere near you or me, when the realisation that aerodynamics, tubeless tyres, electronic shifting, hydraulic discs, single chainrings and internal cable routing were simply a series of dead ends, on which a great deal of money was spent with ultimately, no appreciable result.

a bit like the world's drummers, many of whom field more technique in one hand than charlie watts managed with both, and on whom it has now dawned that 'less really is a great deal more'. i'm well aware that comparing the playing style of the rolling stones' drummer with the follies of the bicycle industry is like a comparison between strawberries and bricks, but there's always room for a smidgeon of lateral thinking. which is probably a tad contradictory, when my point is mostly that there's probably a bit too much thinking going on within the velocipedinal realm.

it's only rock 'n' roll...

photo: reuters

friday 27 august 2021

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the matrix

when i attended art college, the head of the graphics department actually told us that, as art students and thus apprentice artists, we were, effectively, superior to most of those around us. we, he said, saw things that the ordinary man or woman in the street failed to observe, providing an extra level of sensory appreciation of which the great unwashed were bereft. of course, that's total nonsense; granted, anyone with an artistic disposition is likely to see the world in a different manner than those less predisposed to aesthetic appreciation, but that scarcely makes us superior in any way, shape or form.

i can only assume that the gent in question actualy believed this, exemplified by his distinctly arrogant and narcissistic temperament.

there's no doubting, however, that at least a portion of his observation was/is partially true. i do have a tendency to approach matters differently from those with whom i work, and i cannot deny that, when operating in musical mode, i see songs and tunes as a series of shapes, though i'd be hard-pressed to describe any of them. an artistically inclined guitarist with whom i once played for a number of years, admitted that he too viewed songs in similar manner, having kept this to himself in case it was seen as 'odd'. that said, there's no empirical evidence to suggest that artists or art students who possess enhanced vision as described, are in any way superior to those who don't.

as an esteemed colleague of mine said only the other day, "if you want to see skill at work, just watch an hgv driver reverse a truck into a confined space." that very comment echoes the words of a truck driver who attended an evening photoshop class that i taught several years ago. he continually referred to me as an 'expert', until i pointed out that i would struggle climbing into the the cab of an articulated truck, never mind reverse it out of the warehouse. i may be particularly skilled at photoshop, but it pales into comparison with his own expertise, which i would categorise as of a darned sight more use than any amount of pixel wrangling.

but do we, as cyclists, occupy a similar ground as proposed by my art college lecturer and outlined in my opening paragraph? are we, essentially, superior beings when it comes to the matter of motivated perambulations? it's an obvious question to ask in the context of a cycling blog; the chances are that most of those reading will be disinclined to disagree, given that such a statement is playing to the gallery. after all, the velocipedinal ego is likely to be gratuitously massaged by such a display of sycophancy.

however, the question is at least tendentiously serious, based on many years of observation. i do not, however, include the competitive milieu, a strain of cycling life that is extraneous to either sunday bike rides or the daily commute. i base this exclusion primarily in the knowledge that those speeding towards the finish-line have outliers taking care of business; team cars, commissionaires, soigneurs etc. this is not to deny professional riders and less well remunerated competitors from the gist of my proposition; simply to conclude that these particular cycling superpowers are rarely required in the heat of competition.

so, is this a superpower with which we are born, or one that is acquired as a result of experience? i think probably the latter, an acuity gained through kilometres and kilometres of dealing with the joys and vicissitudes that cyclists experience pretty much every day. but there's an outside possibility that those who choose the way of the saddle, feature rare qualities that led them to the bicycle in the first place.

though i possess a driver's licence, and at one time, owned and drove a car, recent motorised outings when hiring a vehicle to move a drumset, have reinforced the fact that not only is the island considerably better off that i rarely drive, but that the act of driving emulates the experience of watching a movie. the happenings that appear through the windscreen, are those simply to be witnessed, but certainly not those with which i feel particularly engaged. that is not a state of affairs that is to be encouraged when manouevring a tonne of metal capable of alarming turns of speed.

several car drivers, however, have innocently admitted that they have often driven the length of uiskentuie strand without any real cognition of having done so. the construction of the modern motor car places great emphasis on isolating the occupants from the elements, both sonically and protectively, a situation that seems to bring about a worrying lack of engagement with the immediate environment. this is not a situation that equatesl with those recognised by many cyclists.

perhaps it's by way of self-preservation; cyclists tend not only to be acutely aware of their surroundings, but intuitively know how to live comfortably within them. we know when it's windy, when it's wet, when it's cold, and are more appreciative of the dangers brought about by certain actions, both personal and external. obviously enough, there are various sensors populating the modern-day automobile that will inform a car driver of the same, but i doubt many would argue that those are quite the same thing, or encourage similar results.

based on the 'rabbit in the headlights' expressions seen on the faces of passing motorists, car drivers seem less inclined to check the road ahead of them; one can only imagine how this will translate should autonomous vehicles ever rule the roads. however, my contention regarding the supposed superpowers possessed by cyclists extends far beyond the mores of observing the highway code. if i might return briefly to my previous mention of photoshop, the more exacting practitioners of the software, will surely agree that more often than not, layers are key. similarly, cyclists often seem aware of layers above and below those that might be described as 'tangible'. a bit like keanu reeves in the matrix, only probably not quite as grungy, and rarely in slow motion.

of course, this is not something that is necessarily applicable to all cyclists, and it's certainly not something for which i have extensive files of evidence. but you don't need to take my word for it. the next time you're out riding your bicycle, just take a check on how adept you might be in your velocipedinal ministrations. don't tell me that's not a real superpower?

you're welcome.

thursday 26 august 2021

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it's your turn next

glen road

cyclists have a chip on their collective shoulder, a chip that works in a similar manner to the apocryphal, self-fulfilling prophecy. it's a bit like my problem with numbers; the more i realise that i'm not good with numbers, the worse i become with numbers. and cycling on the queen's highways engenders a similar reaction from many of us with regard to the motoring public. judging by the reaction of visiting mainland cyclists, even the summer level of traffic on islay is as a mere walk in the park by comparison, so it's worth my pointing out that any complaints that may emanate from the hebrides are of a magnitude lower than those generated elsewhere. however, as ever, all is relative.

i have, sad to say, moaned incessantly about the trials and tribulations that beset the loneliness of the long-distance cyclist over the course of an islay weekend, and given the different type of staycation visitor we've had this summer, those trials and tribulations have often become slightly exaggerated. this has been brought into closer perspective by a contributor to this week's edition of the local newspaper. this particular correspondent lives near islay's atlantic coast, where, they claim, the council has but removed all road signs (or failed to replace the more derelict amongst the remaining few) advising where the nomadic visitor might be at any given time of day. couple this with almost non-existent mobile phone coverage in that part of the island, and you have the ideal conditions for a replay of the tv series 'lost'.

the latter point has often been well-made about the principality. only a matter of a few weekends past, the velo club pulled over, en masse, to allow a black jaguar with one of those upturned boats on the roof, the unmistakable identifying signifier of a visitor. that particular part of the island features single track roads almost exclusively, and the parcours on which we were travelling was not the ideal route to go anywhere meaningful for the roaming holiday-maker. thus, on being passed by the jaguar, i was heard to mention that we were likely to see that car pass in the opposite direction within five minutes.

we did.

however, moaning about drivers who pay scant attention to the needs of cyclists has become something of a kneejerk reaction for cyclists all over the world, frequently with some justifcation. why, for instance, is it deemed acceptable to pull over for the two cars ahead, yet pull out onto the road when i have still to pass? and why is it, considering that many cars are advertised on the basis of their acceleration, when we pull in to let a distant car pass, the driver continues to progress at around four miles per hour? but most of all, why is it (nearly) always the cyclist who has to give way to oncoming traffic, even after the latter has ignored two passing places? it certainly nothing to do with relative speed.

we could, no doubt, while away several months and drink a tanker of soya lattes, swapping stories of grief and tribulation, because, like i said in my opening paragraph, cyclists have a chip on their shoulder. yet, it transpires that we may have a definable point. an office colleague, new to the ways of the saddle aboard an e-bike, has been taking advantage of the warmer days and lighter nights to ride quite impressive distances, mostly along the island's single track roads of an evening. previously a confirmed motorist, she has taken to highlighting the iniquities experienced on meeting cars during her perambulations. situations where she has had to pull off the road in order to allow intransigent drivers to pass, vehicles overtaking her on blind corners and summits, and vehicles which refuse to give way at junctions, despite not having right-of-way.

sound familiar?

it was suggested not so many years ago, that a part of the driving test ought to include learner drivers being required to spend an equitable period of time riding a bicycle in traffic, thus learning what it's like on the other side of the steering wheel. accumulated experiences, framed by the revelations of the recent cyclist, advises that this may not be a particularly outlandish notion. it's unlikely to serve as some form of velocipedinal recruitment drive, but it might encourage more drivers to pay a smidgeon more consideration for those on two wheels.

meantime, i can feel the ire of those cyclists who, of necessity, are required to suffer the slings and arrows of driver malcontent on city and urban roads, who, justifiably, figure that those of us domiciled in the rural idyll don't know we're born. you're probably right, but as i also mentioned earlier, it's all relative.

wednesday 25 august 2021

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buena vista social club

in 1996, the original recording of the buena vista social club was organised by world circuit records executive, nick gold, with assistance from renowned guitarist and songwriter, ry cooder. the group to which the album title referred was named after a popular 1940s club in the buenavista quarter of cuba's capital, havana. to create the recording, they recruited several veteran musicians, well-versed in cuba's most popular styles of music, despite many of the musicians having been retured for several years. released the following year, in 1997, it met with considerable international success, a surprise state of affairs eventually leading to concerts in both holland and new york, subsequently the subject of an award-winning documentary by german film director, wim wenders.

the release and success of buena vista social club led to an increase in popularity and interest in cuban music, followed by the successful releases of several solo albums.

that was twenty-five years ago, a quarter century which is soon to be celebrated with the release of a special, deluxe edition of the original album which includes several previously unreleased and unheard tracks, along with re-mastered versions of the originals. the two lp, two cd version comes replete with a 40 page book including new liner notes, photos, artist biographies, song notes, lyrics and two special art prints. whether anyone actually pays attention to the latter following an initial perusal at point of purchase, i know not, but on 17 september, you and i will be afforded the opportunity to find out. and if you're as impatient as am i (despite owning the original version), there are already three tracks currently available on itunes.

the term, re-mastering appears to be somewhat subjective in its definition. ostensibly, it involves taking the original recordings and attempting to remove any flaws from the material and provide a cleaner, sharper and more refined listening experience to a contemporary audience, arguably less willing to suffer the quality considered state-of-the-art, in this case, twenty-five years ago. however, it's still a case of one man's floor being another man's ceiling; several re-masters have fallen foul of the listening public, opinion suggesting that the enhancements have often ruined the inherent value of the original. it's worth pointing out, however, that quite frequently, the un-remastered versions are still available to those who hold such opinions.

so, what has this to do with bicycles or cycling? essentially, not very much, but as the velocipedinal world moves ever distant from its roots, conferring one technological advancement upon another, often with scarce concern as to the desires of the cycling public, is it maybe time that the bicycle industry considers re-mastering one or two of its past successes? obviously, i'm scarcely the first to come up with such an idea; the renowned chater-lea, founded in 1890 by william chater-lea, has seen a revival in recent years, the new owners intent on bringing the design and craftsmanship of the original to a new, ostensibly less forgiving public. thus their pedals and chainset may be entirely devoid of carbon, but promise a longevity and function that will probably outlive their modern-day contemporaries.

the concern, of course, would be whether there is a market for 21st century versions of curly hetchins, king of the mountains winning peugeots, or raleigh bananas. thankfully, i believe that question has already been at least partially answered; raleigh bicycles, despite a complete lack of uk manufacturing, have previously released re-mastered editions of their steel race bikes to at least modest acclaim. and i am in the habit of receiving regular updated e-mails from the german-based steel vintage bikes, who rarely seem to hang onto any of their advertised vintage machinery for long. granted, the market may not encompass the numbers sold by canyon, trek or specialized, but it's more than likely that the re-mastered buena vista social club recordings will find fewer cusomers than did the original.

or maybe not. perhaps, twenty-five years later, there's a whole new audience for this traditional cuban music, now brought up to date for today's apparently more demanding audience.

as we move further and further away from the machinery ridden by fausto coppi, eddy merckx and tommy simpson, maybe there's a new, younger market for the joys that lugged steel once provided to the intrepid riders of yesteryear. not everyone wants to return to five sprockets and a freewheel. not all fancy having to reach to the downtube to change gear, and not every bike rider has his or her sights set on thirty-six spoked wheels. but re-mastered, as explained above, does not necessarily entail replicating every original nuance.

of course, that's just the sort of outburst you'd expect from a luddite.

tuesday 24 august 2021

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................