at the onset of the national covid lockdown in march 2020, british cycling advised that cyclists ought not ride in a group, partly for the purported health reasons, but also by way of deflecting any potential criticism of cyclists flouting the regulations, or acting as if the virus was not applicable to them. i confess that, personally, i was of the impression that two cyclists riding side-by-side would hardly be considered a group, but on checking the official definition of the word, it transpired that any number greater than one could conceivably be considered as a group.

thus, my cycling colleague who lives but a stone's throw from the croft, and i, decided that we would perambulate the same parcours, but some ten minutes apart. on reaching debbie's (usually around the same time, since he is a tad quicker on the pedals than yours truly), we would sit at different tables outside and carry on a distanced conversation before heading homeward with a respectful gap between our wheelsets. it should be pointed out that this was by way of a public relations exercise, rather than any thoughts of either of us catching covid from one another.

after a period of time, fastidiously carrying out the above procedure, we realised that, in point of fact, nobody on the island harboured any ill-will or concerns towards two or more of us riding together. if you're as slow a cyclist as am i, the natural gap between my front wheel and my colleague's rear wheel was likely greater than two metres in any case. therefore, when the government diktat arrived that suggested exercise should be constrained to one's locale, we interpreted that to mean 'not off the island', and carried on as before.

if nothing else, we now considered ourselves educated as to the definition of a group. that said, while one might consider the eagles or king crimson to fulfil the description of a group, i'd be very unlikely to describe the proclaimers or the two guys in tears for fears in the same manner. in fact, for next saturday's lagavulin islay jazz festival, the bass player and i have been listed in the programme as islay jazz duo, and definitely not the islay jazz group, so it may be that this situation equals that of the zen koan; 'what is the sound of one hand clapping?', or 'where does your lap go when you stand up?'

though i readily admit that we're usually playing fast and loose with the definition of a peloton, it has become habitual to refer to those joining the sunday ride as such. granted, yesterday, the seven riders taking part may have approached such a description, but should we devolve to the usual three or four, so doing might be stretching credibility a bit further than the elastic was willing to go. so how then could a number of cyclists be described? though this may seem to be flirting with the edges of philosophy, due to humanity's need to pigeon-hole or classify absolutely everything, the need for a collective noun is probably a great deal more pressing than it might at first seem.

domiciled as we are in an agricultural community, we are surrounded by collectives; herds of cattle, flocks of sheep, gaggles of geese, murmurings of starlings, schools or pods of dolphins (which can frequently be seen from the deck of the ferry), and, as was announced in the lunchtime conversation outside debbie's, a romp of otters. to add to that, we are about to be on the receiving end of a nuisance of twitchers. so why, in matters such as this, should a collection of cyclists be immune from official categorisation?

though it pains me to admit, the lady who served us with our coffees on sunday lunchtime may have hit on the very word, despite the faint thought that it was probably intended as a slightly derogatory remark. since the seven of us had been joined by one or two family members and the fact that we were sprawled across two tables, she made mention of an 'onslaught' of cyclists. subject to uci approval, i believe that should now become the official designation.

as long as there's more than one.

monday 3 october 2022

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with no beating about the bush (a particularly apt turn of phrase given the subject matter of today's monologue), i am quite content to be described as a roadie, almost entirely due to my place of residence. i have noted on social media this past week that acquaintances of mine on the mainland were comparing stories of motorist originated grief, a conversation that i would have had difficulty joining, had such been deemed necessary.

there are miles and miles of singletrack roads on islay, and quite literally nothing but a singletrack road on the neighbouring island of jura. provided you keep at least one eye out for approaching vehicles, and have the location of every passing place tattooed on the inside of your eyelids, riding a bicycle over here is dleightful simplicity personified. and that situation is even more true, now that the bulk of the holidays season is over and done with. granted, the fields and skies will soon be infested with over-wintering barnacle and greylag geese arriving from greenland, which will bring an influx of what are often referred to as twitchers, birdwatchers intent on stopping whever they spot a lesser-spotted something or other, often blocking one of the single track roads mentioned above.

the thought of using a nearby passing place seems not to have entered their thought process.

and, of course, there's the distilleries, up and running pretty much all year round and regularly visited on that basis. however there's little doubt that road traffic has quietened down for the autumn and winter, leaving the few cyclists, of which i am one, well enough alone. already, kilchoman distillery has opted to remain closed on saturdays, meaning an almost traffic-free ride round the perimeter of loch gorm for yours truly once a week. sadly, for us at least, sundays still feature several vehicles heading in the direction of kilchoman at the tail end of the sunday ride. but you can't have everything. and, despite my admission of roadie status, there is still room for the occasional bout of extra-curricular every now and again.

with an item of offroad-related garmentage to review, my saturday this weekend was spent at least partially in the undergrowth, a location that i have scarce visited for many a long month. i'd like to think this latent alternative was curated by the knowledge that the european cyclocross season has already begun, and that is indeed what i will relate to anyone who asks, but having completed one roadless excursion, i'm of the opinion that it might be soon repeated.

i read with interest, an article on the cycling in the south bay website, enticingly entitled the death of gravel racing. for thoe of you similarly intrigued by such a headline applied to what i took to be a nascent sport, i have published the link below, but i cannot deny that it provided some interesting and worthwhile reading. the author, on the basis of the evidence provided, undoubtedly has a point. but the article was exclusively concerned with the competitive side of a sport that gave every indication of being anything but. the impression given by the cycling media with relation to gravel riding, was that it had inherited the laissez-faire attitude reputedly prevalent in mountain biking, that gravel was all about exploring 'the road less travelled', exploring the great outdoors at a pace dictated by the pastoral nature of one's surroundings.

unfortunately (or not, depending on your point of view), the edict that whenever anything is invented with wheels, someone will have to race it, proved to be eternally true. in the case of gravel, the uci were also not slow to join the happy throng, undoubtedly for fear of missing out. but the article referred to above contends that, despite the relatively recent arrival of gravel racing, it is already on its uppers. and it appears to confirm something i've maintained for many a year, that gravel riding has already changed tack in an effort to justify its existence: bikepacking.

based on no evidence whatsoever, i still believe that traditional touring, with panniers and a bar bag, will be around long after it has been realised that bikepacking luggage has been identified as the ugly emperor's new clothes. that, however, i can but admit, is simply the opinion of an over-opinionated cycling blogger who doesn't know when to keep his opinions to himself. that said, despite my singular contentions, there is undoubtedly a place for scrabbling about on muddy or gravel roads every now and again, just for the sheer hell of it. quite why we needed a completely new genre of bicycle so to do, is somewhat beyond my ken.

my specialized cyclocross bike is currently shod with a width of gravel tyre that would have it rejected on the starting line at any official 'cross event, and i can assure you that my velocity would certainly not have troubled the timekeepers if it weren't. but in the pursuit of 'chiarascuro' to place both road-riding and offroading in some sort of supportive contrast, taking time off from either every now and again, strikes me as a particularly ginger peachy idea.

gravel racing is dead

sunday 2 october 2022

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beginners hi-viz

along with my percussive tutoring at the local secondary school, i have been assisting with the journalism course held in the english department. not because i am a journalist per se, but re-iterating the big fish in a little pond maxim, i'm possibly the closest approximation the village had at the time. where once the profession of journalist would have been solely apportioned to the newspaper world, the expansion of social media, pr companies, blogs and online news sites means that, while the nature of the occupation hasn't greetly altered, the method of delivery sure as heck has.

part of the teaching schedule involves ensuring that the pupils are aware of the audience for which they scribe. for instance, if penning a news article for the islands' local newspaper, it is only to be expected that it will have need of relevance to the local populations of islay and jura. however, if written for the oban times, a larger publication based in the mainland town of the same name, it should address a more wide-ranging readership. but even there, it is a salient point that one should avoid playing to the gallery and preaching to the converted.

for instance, in the last edition of our local newspaper was published a feature article originally written by a resident of tiree, an island northwest of the isle of mull. in this, she offered advice for those who may recently have moved to a scottish island, or were perhaps consideriing so doing. obviously enough, such advice is of little use to those who have lived in just such an offshore location for more years than they can recall, but the degree of humour and insularity with which the piece was written, took the form of an in-joke, entertaining as wide an audience as possible, without seriously insulting either.

yet, the very fact that you're reading these black and yellow pixels would tend to indicate that either you are of a velocipedinal persuasion or desperately searching for a new washing machine or tumble dryer (it has happened). in the main, that's perfectly acceptable, for you are likely the very readership for which i believe i'm writing this stuff (apart from the washing machine bit). but in that particular spirit, there are bound to be occasions on which the content also inhabits the world of the in-joke, so to speak, where many of the subjects or references imply a certain degree of specialist knowledge to comprehend.

while i have been known to criticise primary school teachers for speaking in riddles, utilising any number of specialist acronyms the meanings of which they have long been in possession, yet forgetting that the average-man/woman-in-the-street is not of their world, it's eminently possible that my behaviour is no different. that aspect has also been pointed out to the journalism students.

what of those who have either inadvertently or even deliberately approached thewashingmachinepost in the hope that their enjoyment and knowledge of the bicycle world will be surreptitiously advanced? is this a comfortable place to live while you try to fathom the obscure references and inferences that populate my daily scribblings? or would you have to have achieved a verifiable level of experience before graduating to the post? personally, i would hope that this is a friendly enough place to hang out (as the kids would say) between bike rides, but i fear that may be more of a lofty ideal than actual reality.

despite graeme obree's tongue-in-cheek protestations, nothing would gratify me more than adding to the panoply of bike riders, no matter of which persuasion, though i doubt avid bmxers will find much of interest. there are, according to informed sources, sixty-million uk residents who would not admit to being cyclists. many of those will have no intention of changing that particular lifestyle, but there will be a few on the periphery who, for whatever reason, would be keen to explore the foothills of cycling, and for whom some well-meaning encouragement wouldn't go amiss, encouragement that they quite possibly find to be missing in action in this happy place.

but this offers a bit of a conundrum, for in order to dispense any helpful advice a tad further than pixeldom, those transients would need to be attracted to visit, otherwise i might find myself guilty of, once again, preaching to the converted. only this time i'd also be guilty of teaching my granny to suck bottom bracket bearings. so, after lengthy consideration, it seems like a ginger peachy idea to flag up any features or articles that are specifically geared towards the aspiring cyclist. quite how i might proceed with that idea, i honestly haven't a dicky bird of a notion.

we might have to talk about this later.

saturday 1 october 2022

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we're not in kansas anymore

yamaha e-bike

my weekly drum tuition visits to the music department of the local secondary school regularly result in my sitting in the recording studio for most of a wednesday afternoon. this particular room is not as soundproof as i had hoped it would be, so despite closing the outer door and the control room door, there is little respite for the remainder of the school from the often loud percussion that emanates through its walls. though i doubt the school would have had the necessary finance, this particular problem could have been solved by constructing a room suspended within a room, a relatively common procedure in the building of soundproofed studios.

the problem is exacerbated by the use of backing tracks to which the pupils have to match the written parts. depending on the volume at which the latter play the drumset, the backing needs to be a tad louder in order to be properly heard.

the drumset on which tuition is carried out is a very attractive amber wood finish yamaha, on which the veneer wood grain is clearly visible. a few years ago, its arrival replaced a cheaper yamaha drumset which now sits in the main music room, a kit that embodied the trend for deeper rack toms in force at the time of its purchase. yamaha also manufacture electronic drum kits, an example of which sits close by to its acoustic partner in the same music room. as many amongst you who are involved in music-making will be aware, the japanese giant makes more than just drums, including keyboards, guitars and brass instruments, sales of which amounted to almost £300 million in 2021.

but yamaha are not solely known for their musical instruments. they also produce motorbikes, outboard motors, jet-skis, golf carts, inflatable boats, studio mixing desks, and dvd players. that, you would imagine, would be more than sufficient for any japanese conglomerate, but apparently not.

there are a number of one-time bicycle manufacturers which surfaced in the early days, and subsequently moved into alternative forms of transport as the 20th century grew older. rover, for one, comes to mind along with humber and even the forerunner of mercedes benz. but since the 1950s, the roadie market has had more than its fair share of reputable marques, from colnago to pinarello, to basso, joining bianchi and others, many of which found themselves responsible for the majority of european and american cyclists fawning over a desire for italiana augmented with a campagnolo groupset.

that particular idiosyncracy was ultimately diluted by the advent of american-based bicycle companies, some of which were born from the 1980s mountain bike boom. several of the established names seem to have found themselves on the backfoot when it came to appraising the nascent e-bike market, finding themselves rather late to the party, while companies of which we've never previously heard, have appeared all across europe offering well-developed electric bicycles, ostensibly increasing the entire cycle market. the e-bike has become ubiquitous, positioned as it is to be the solution to almost everything, from obesity to climate change, despite the continued existence of the analogue bike which needs no more than human power andoften remains at the technical cutting edge.

and it is the former set of circumstances that have seen many car manufacturers reversing the early twentieth-century trend, and turning to e-bike production, construction of which is often subcontracted to those more entrenched in the industry. and it can surely only be the attraction of growing sales in a market that shows no current limits (pun intended), that has caused the yamaha corporation to enter the fray with an initial range of three e-bikes. and not just frame manufacture, but just like specialized, yamaha's e-bikes feature their own motors.

the moro 07 is an e-mtb, the wabash rt is designed for gravel riding, while the crosscore rc offers a versatility that makes it ideal for "...everything from urban commuting through to relaxed leisure riding and fitness training." there are now so many different marques of e-bike, essentially offering similar benefits at varying price points, that if and when the market stabilises, it seems quite possible that there will be winners and losers. but it seems just as likely that the bigger manufacturers, such as yamaha, will still be there when the almost certain thinning out begins to take place.

all i need now is a yamaha e-cargo bike with which to transport a yamaha drumset.

friday 30 september 2022

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chain of command

campagnolo chain

last saturday morning, following breakfast, i removed the chain from my ritchey logic, ready and willing to replace it with a factory fresh campagnolo twelve-speed chain. this was a happy occasion for two distinct reasons; firstly, i rather enjoy the occasional bout of bike fettling, and secondly, it provided a relatively rare opportunity to make use of my frighteningly expensive campagnolo chain tool. if and when circumstances dictate that campagnolo bring a thirteen speed groupset to market, and i am fortunate enough to benefit from same, i fully intend to mount the chain tool on a wooden plinth and place it on the mantelpiece. it is too fine a device to leave mouldering in the bikeshed when it has to be replaced by a tool capable of handling the extra sprocket.

as i may have mentioned in my review of green oil's agent apple degreaser, it would surely be a grave error to affix a new, shiny chain to a less than pristine trio of derailleur, chainset and cassette, hence the liberal use of agent apple degreaser. however, having carried out those velocipedinal ablutions, i stopped short of applying the same powerful liquid to the newly sited chain. because surely the manufacturer - in this case, campagnolo - would not immerse the chain in their thin film of grease were it not for a specific purpose? and is that purpose not to protect the sideplates and rollers from external afflictions, such as grit, and, round these here parts, the hebridean version of belgian toothpaste?

this is, i'm led to believe, is the very $64,000 question that has been asked since eddy merckx were a lad. in truth, that thin smear of grease is really there to protect the chain while it sits in its box. throughout the distribution process, the average bicycle chain will meet with a whole variety of conditions, not all of which will prove favourable; temperature and moisture could conceivably wreak havoc on those 114 links, leading to experessions of disappointment when the customer opens the box to find a rusting edifice that no-one in their right mind would fit to a shiny bicycle.

i admit that, until earlier this week, i would have procrastinated over any answer, had i been asked if the manufacturer applied grease ought to be left in place until the chain advertises that a smattering of 'proper' lube might be required. however, i am occasionally in the habit of reading lennard zinn's column on the velonews website, a man who seems to know everything there is to know about the technical aspects of the modern bicycle. it appears that the question of whether to degrease or not, is one that straddles the atlantic ocean, for mr zinn, having apparently answered the same question only recently, had been asked the same once again.

in this case, he deferred to adam kerin of zero friction cycling a gent who has made it his life's work to investigate the relative merits of various lubrication systems and products. i have published a link to the original article below, for those who enjoy a good read, but the shortened version is never to rely on the manufacturer applied grease, not even for a single bike ride. either bathe the chain in a degreaser before fitting, or use a chain degreaser when fitted. even if chain manufacturers protest otherwise, mr kerin maintains they should be ignored. degrease the chain and apply your favourite lube.

however, though i have now made a mental note to clean and lube my chain this weekend, perhaps a question that ought to be asked is why, long after the bicycle celebrated its 100th anniversary, we are still asking this question? it's one thing to have endless discussions over sock length and whether the peak of a casquette ought to be worn up or down (always down), but those are mostly aesthetic concerns of a subjective matter. if you wear knee-length socks, you might be laughed at, but it will not cause undue wear to any componentry, increasing the cost of cycling in the process.

where it has become necessary to apply decals under the clearcoat advising that the q/r skewers or thru-axles ought to be fully tightened before riding, surely affixation of a similar decal near the bottom bracket or on the right-hand chainstay demanding that a new chain is fully degreased before setting off, ought to be every bit as mandatory. or, a bit like health warnings on cigarette packets, perhaps each and every chain box could feature a grease warning?

just saying.

lennard zinn velonews column | zero friction cycling

one more city

thursday 29 september 2022

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one more city

early yesterday morning, while updating the office twitter feed, i came across a well-meaning statement from an executive at transport scotland, ostensibly endorsing the notion that cycling has, to date, played a major part in scotland's active-travel plans. the purpose of this statement was to persuade others to participate in this apparent 'success', encouraging others to undertake short, local journeys by walking or cycling, thus reducing car use and helping the scottish government towards its goal of net-zero by 2040.

i fear it may be a forlorn hope; despite continual advice not to judge books by their covers, i cannot deny perceiving this executive as one who may be unable to distinguish one end of a bicycle from the other. i might be well wide of the mark, but the gentleman looks as if he might be more comfortable behind a steering wheel. however, ignoble perceptions aside, i doubt his few words will make one iota of difference, particularly on the basis that the only rationale behind his persuasions seems to be 'do the right thing'. i was under the impression that it had been conclusively researched that specifically benevolent incentives were the one sure way to change aberrant behaviours.

the bicycle has featured as a force for good over several decades, transforming itself from one of the world's more basic methods of transport, to one that ticks a sizeable proportion of the desired boxes. with climate change uppermost in the minds of many a government department, the bicycle is as manna from heaven. here's an affordable means of getting about (as long as you weren't thinking of a replica tour de france winning colnago v3r at £450,000) that is effectively pollution-free, noiseless and very unlikely to cause inner-city or urban congestion. what's not to like?

but it's also a vehicle for forging friendships, breaking down invisible barriers, and raising charitable funds, through a universally acknowledge truth that riding from a to b is likely to incur energy expenditure greater than that of the average man or woman in the street. on that basis, rapha's original 'one more city' project in 2017 involved three cyclists riding from london to paris in 24 hours to raise awareness of breast cancer.

christine o'connel, a keen cyclist and rapha cycling club member was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer after suffering a seizure while cycling to a meeting. she has since teamed up with rapha, to help direct the proceeds of this year's one more city ride towards funding a phd studentship at the institute of cancer research (icr), seeking to improve the outlook for secondary breast cancer patients. alongside the charity ride, rapha clubhouses in london, munich, amsterdam, san francisco and singapore will be hosting day rides enabling more cyclists to support the campaign.

rapha have also produced a themed collection including men's and women's jerseys, socks, a cap and a musette, all profits from which will go towards cancer research funding. said christine, "I'm delighted that this year in collaboration with Rapha we are expanding One More City, with one-day rides happening in the US, Europe and Asia during the month of October, the global Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The goal is to engage with many more riders and supporters around the world and make an even bigger contribution to the future of treatment for secondary breast cancer, so ultimately more cancer patients can live better and longer lives."

leading the breast cancer functional genomics team at the institute of cancer research, london, dr rachael natrajan, said,"We're really grateful to have support from Christine and the 'One More City' team. Our research is constantly moving forward, and we're starting to see great progress in the treatment of secondary breast cancer, but there's still a long way to go.
"The new jersey design may have been inspired by the work of our scientists, but we take inspiration from all those who will be wearing it. Helping to create better treatments, and a better future, for people like Christine, is the reason we keep going. As 'One More City' take on their next cycling challenge, we're moving forward in ours, to improve the outlook for people with advanced breast cancer."

previous years' rides have taken place between paris and amsterdam and amsterdam to strasbourg. during the covid years, the challenge was restricted to this side of the channel, with riders travelling from london to london via the peak district and reading to penzance via land's end. 32 riders will participate in this year's 600km event.

2022 jersey is inspired by scientific images illustrating cancer cells 'on the move' and the story they tell.
rapha one more city |

wednesday 28 september 2022

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joined up thinking

brompton + barbour

bowmore distillery is one of the oldest in scotland, but certainly the oldest on islay, having been 'founded' in 1779, a mere eleven years after the village from which it takes its name was established. i have placed the word 'founded' in italics because it's highly likely that there had been a distillery on the site far earlier than 1779, but effectively illegal prior to this date.

when i moved to the island in the late 1980s, it was known as morrison's bowmore distillery', for the simple reason that it was owned by the morrison family. they subsequently sold a shareholding to japan's suntory, before finally relinquishing control altogether in 1994. and despite the current owners being known as beam suntory, evidence would suggest that it was suntory that took over beam in 2014. that has effectively placed another two of islay's single malt distilleries under single ownership. laphroaig distillery was previously owned by beam, the acquisition mentioned above having now placed both distilleries as part of the beam suntory portfolio.

with whisky having taken on many of the facets formerly applied to wines, there are now more whisky experts than at which you could shake a cask bung. and it has become increasingly difficult to ascertain specific sales figures for each of the island's single malts, partly due to limited editions and partly due to a plethora of top ten lists based on expert opinion, rather than hard and fast sales figures. however, a cursory check would tend to indicate that laphroaig outsells its partner in bowmore.

but in a commercial world where there is arguably little that can be employed to distinguish one single malt from another other than creative marketing, many a distillery has resorted to external sources to create associations that might be seen as an endorsement worth investigating. bowmore are one amongst several, having forged a partnership with luxury car maker, aston martin. thankfully, i am immune from the charms of either, neither owning a car, nor being predisposed towards drinking alcohol in any of its many forms, hopefully offering the ability to view such spurious cnnections a tad more dispassionately.

bowmore have released several bottlings (expressions is the preferred term) featuring historical aston martins on the packaging, along with an aston martin designed decanter of futuristic shape containing a 52 year-old single malt. asking price is a few thousand north of £70,000.

and nor is this type of partnership entirely unknown within the bicycle industry, and i do wonder if there is actually any worth in these often inscrutable conjoinings from a sales point of view. i have been unable to discover whether the presence of an aston martin suv at the distillery has made any inroads into the sales figures of either company. and then there's brompton and barbour.

technically, the latter two may be closer bedfellows than a whisky distillery and a car maker, and they may even have evidence to support that sales are likely to benefit both a maker of outdoor clothing and that of an iconic, british-made folding bicycle. but it does lead to moments of rumination. though the scales are scarcely comparable, there's no doubting that such partnerships seem to exist between makers of items at the luxury end of the market. lest you think my viewpoint is slightly skewed, leaving aside the fact that the brompton/barbour t-shirts have been created in conjunction with 'renowned fashion artist and illustrator' fei wang, £46.95 seems a tad on the expensive side for such a basic garment.

the price of a barbour waxed jacket will probably not surprise you in the least (£379), but £1895 for a six-gear brompton was a bit of an eye opener, given that the image showed a barbour bag, accompanied by the legend 'bags made by barbour fit on the bike...' and learning that doing so will add another £199 to the bill. i am not necessarily decrying the prices (other than the t-shirt), but up until now, brompton had been viewed as a more ideal partner (if such is actually necessary) with brooks, who have also produced custom fit bike bags for the company.

one wonders how many approaches were made by who to whom before a loud 'click' was heard. and the second part of my wonderings are whether these situations exist in parallel with technological research and development, or are offered as a substitute.

brompton + barbour

tuesday 27 september 2022

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