britain's best bike ride - lands end to jon o'groats. john walsh & hannah reynolds. vertebrate publishing softback. 209pp illus. £20

britains best bike ride - walsh & reynolds

the notion that there is such a thing as a best bike ride is one that has hovered in velocipedinal circles for many a long year. the apparent need to have a best of anything, however, pervades the hallowed corners not only of cycling. who is the best drummer has raged for years, even through the staged drum battles organised by promoter, norman grantz, a man who had obviously recognised this apparent human need and found a way to commercialise it.

the same goes for sporting prowess: it's why so many sports hold world championships (as if it really matters). the fallibility of such contests seems not to impinge on either the response of the fans, or indeed, the satisfaction of the crowned victor. remco evenepoel offered a fine display of what it takes to wear the rainbow bands, despite awareness that some of the acknowledged champions of the sport chose not to participate. and if we look askance at formula one motor racing, it appears that driving ability often comes to nought if your very expensive motor car doesn't perform as well as someone else's very expensive motor car. nonetheless, at season's end, someone will be crowned world champion.

britains best bike ride - walsh & reynolds

based on the above evidence, you may think me to be highly suspicious of the claim of messrs. walsh and reynolds that, when time comes to chose a volume guiding you through britain's best bike ride, and that there might be a great deal of subjectivity at play. that, however, depnds on your definition of the word 'greatest'. in an empirical sense, riding from lands end to john o'groats, effectively a 1000 mile bike ride, i would imagine is justifiably the greatest bike ride anyone in the uk is likely to undertake. but as many of you will be aware, there are no end of books, blogs and youtube videos, effectively attesting to the same end result, so why go out of your way to acquire this one?

britains best bike ride - walsh & reynolds

on the first sunday of august each year, we hold the 'ride of the falling rain', a 100 mile ride around the principality. the majority of ride participants undertake the distance in a single sitting, but one couple arrive on the friday and ride the distance in manageable chunks. which is pretty much the approach taken by the authors of britain's best bike ride, meaning, essentially, you can ride from land's end to john o'goats (lejog) one pedal stroke at a time. for instance, if all you could manage this year was land's end to perranporth, the the first chapter will guide you through, with no onus to go any farther till you're ready.

of course, choosing that rather facetious option would immediately remove any bragging rights, turning this best ride, into a disconnected series of pootles. recognising this to be the case, walsh and reynolds have imposed a few levels of pragmatism, by splitting the adventure into what could be viewed as more manageable undertakings. for instance, the more leisurely ranks would surely find the three week itinerary much more to their liking, featuring a rest day and rarely more than 100 kilometres on the others. if challenges are more to your liking, there's the ten day option, where rest days are abandoned as the failing of the weak-willed, and daily distances head more towards the 200km mark.

britains best bike ride - walsh & reynolds

or, perhaps, the middle-way is more suitable for both your cycling abilities and holiday entitlement, once again eschewing any thoughts of a rest day, taking on distances mostly north of 100km and arriving at john o'groats in just two weeks. as reiterated on many a tv quiz show, 'the choice is yours'.

i would imagine that lejog, however you wish to ride it, will take substantial preparation, not only in terms of fitness, but booking accommodation (unless you plan to camp overnight), checking the weather - particularly northern scotland - and making sure the bike is as up for 1000 miles as are you. oddly enough, much of that is covered at the back of the book rather than in the opening pages, but perhaps that's the cunning plan; building enthusiasm for the ride, before hitting you hard with the practicalities.

britains best bike ride - walsh & reynolds

there is helpful information, however, on the different regions of britain through which you might pedal, and even a breakdown of which would be seen as the best stages for climbing, stunning views, food, wild swimming (?), and castles and ruins. it is features such as these that turn this book from a singular approach, to one that might suit a wide range of cyclists. lejog might not be a bike ride that features as one of your boxes needing to be ticked, but if you live in the scottish highlands (for instance), surely here is a manual for the occasional long weekend's cycling? every stage features a comprehensive map and ride profile, along with a panel describing where to stay and eat, where to purchase necessary supplies and a recommended bike shop should you be unfortunate enough to suffer a mechanical malfeasance.

to be honest, this is such a brilliant idea, it's a wonder nobody's framed lejog in this manner previously. and obviously enough, should jogle be more to your liking, simply start from the back of the book.

monday 10 october 2022

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scene in print

pinarello bolide three-d

not so many weeks ago, idly expressing my own ruminations out loud, i queried where bicycle construction might be likely to proceed in the future. steel was effectively de-rigeur for the bulk of the bicycle's first century of existence, prior to being replaced, in short order, by aluminium, titanium and latterly, carbon fibre. at the risk of stating the glaringly obvious, carbon construction has endured several iterations, predominantly based on hand-crafted layup of resin impregnated carbon fibre matting, before arriving at its current state.

technological developments have allegedly improved the composition of the carbon matting, but essentially, the manufacturers still commission high-quality molds into which the carbon is placed to create the all but ubiquitous monocoque format. personally, i could see nothing on the horizon that would supersede both material and method, but i'm very far from being an expert in such matters, so really, that counts for remarkably little.

however, what hadn't occurred to me, was that the next step might not concern the material, but the means of construction.

i'm hardly the foreteller of futures, but a recent daily monologue in these black and yellow pixels also concerned itself with the impending onset of three-dimensional printing, or additive manufacturing as i believe is the preferred terminology. many a bicycle component has been the result of 3d printing, from simplistic handlebar brackets to hold a garmin, to the entire handlebar assembly that helped power prince bradley to his hour record in 2015. i don't doubt that, at each step of this gradual process, the light bulb clearly visible above a boffin's head, has continued to glow brighter and brighter, until the practical realisation that the process of additive manufacture could build an entire bicycle frame.

informed opinion believes that the pinarello track frame as used by ineos' dan bigham to capture the most recent hour record, was likely the result of 3d printing, and now comes the admitted news that the pinarello bolide f hr 3d (you can perhaps see where this is heading) about to be ridden by filippo ganna during his own attempt on the hour record, has definitely been printed. but to briefly return to my original question of 'what comes next after carbon?' who would have guessed that the answer would demonstrate an apparently regressive step?

having read superficially about 3d printing, it was relatively clear that the process of additive manufacturing was very unlikely to cope with carbon fibre matting. some form of carbon resin seemed the most likely substrate. however, filippo's pinarello is made from scalmalloy, an amalgam of scandium, aluminium and magnesium, offering a high-strength, light weight material from which to produce a bicycle frame. and while many of the world's marques have their frames built in one of several hi-tec plants in taiwan, as opposed to italy, germany, or other european-based location, pinarello, so far, have followed this trend of outsourcing for the printing of the frames that bear their name.

in this particular case, they have partnered with the inimitable dimitris katsanis, one time designer of british cycling's carbon track frames, via his british-based metron advanced engineering. there have been well-founded rumours that pinarello are soon to offer commercially available 3d printed frames before the year is out, though whether those will be printed in the uk, or at an inhouse italian-based facility, either nobody knows, or nobody's saying.

aside from the revelation that the top end of the road bike market might be about to relinquish carbon in favour of one of its predecessors, the advent of commercial scale 3d bike printing will undoubtedly give luddites such as myself, great cause for concern. for those who have seen the short richard sachs documentary 'imperfection is perfection', the thought that richard's matchless and hard-won skill of marrying mitred steel tubes with bespoke cast lugs, using solely a brazing rod, might be eventually replaced by a computer-controlled print technology, doesn't bear thinking about.

however, for those who clamour for every last squeeze of the technology tube, adoption of this nascent technology will likely be seen as manna from villorba. relatively speaking, carbon fibre was a tad on the pricey side when it initially appeared in velocipedinal form, and while £16,500 of colnago c68 could hardly be seen as a budget option, it is possible to buy a perfectly good carbon-framed bicylefor a great deal less. naturally enough, pinarello are unlikely to reveal the true price of ganna's printed bolide (around £20,000?), but if and when bicycles of that ilk reach the bike shop floor, they're likely to follow the early carbon era in depleting your bank balance.

yet if, as those better informed believe, 3d printing of bicycle frames becomes almost commonplace, it won't be long before the professional peloton at least, is astride tubeless shod, electronically controlled, reconstituted scalmalloy. and the temptation to add my name to richard sachs' allegedly lengthy waiting list becomes more pressing every week.

and daily, i thank my lucky stars that there's a steel ritchey logic currently sitting in thewashingmachinepost bike shed.

friday 7 october 2022

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rapha trailwear gore-tex infinium jacket

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

all the drumsets in the local secondary school (and there are five of them), feature identical cymbal sets, though not always from the same manufacturer. setup for right-handed students, they feature hi-hats on the left adjacent to a crash cymbal, matched on the right by a ride cymbal. thus, when the music notation demands a crash cymbal, irrespective which particular drum the music has decreed, the students will invariably swing their right hand in the direction of the left-placed crash cymbal, easily identified because it usually has the word crash printed on the top.

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

in the real world, any drummer worth his or her salt would position another crash cymbal to the right, obviating any need to perform gymnastics about the drumset.

however, in order to simplify the lives of the poor unfortunates who have me as their tutor, i have attempted to point out that the designation applied to each cymbal is that of the manufacturer, intent on helping the hapless percussionist choose appropriate metals for their drumset. as possessor of a very heavy, pingy ride cymbal, this principle was amply demonstrated many years ago when a drummer at a previous incarnation of the lagavulin islay jazz festival (this coming weekend, thank you for asking) with whom i shared my drum kit, spent the evening using said cymbal as a crash, a purpose for which i thought it ill-equipped.

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

cymbal semantics.

thus, has gone my tutoring, if you find yourself closer to the ride cymbal when the music demands a crash, simply hit the latter a smidgeon harder than usual to achieve the desired effect. the examiner will scarcely admonish them for such a perceived transgression. this is a percussive example of that practised by many a cycling apparel purveyor, and one superbly replicated here.

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

in the early part of 2021, rapha broke with their tradition of offering solely road-going garmentage, and embraced the darkside; mountain biking. in mitigation, their doing so coincided with the continued rise of gravel riding, a cycling genre that is sufficiently similar that the reputation of this new clothing range could be seen to have leanings more towards the way of the jedi. rapha classified this as 'trailwear', a category into which this latest gore-tex jacket fits quite snugly.

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

the distinctly road-going rapha aficionado has had access to rapha racing gore-tex for quite some time, so i daresay it was time that the muddy crew were given similar access. and to quote a well-worn cliché, they would appear to have hit the ground running, so to speak. but while it definitely offers features that pertain to the mountain biking milieu, those are hardly exclusive.

available in four colours, the trailwear gore-tex infinium jacket is bereft of any rear pockets whatsoever (how does the intrepid offroader carry stuff?), but offeres a zipped external pocket on the left of the full-length front zip, while a similarly sized offering can be found on the inside right. though i am not in possession of any brand of smartphone, i'd take an educated guess and say that you might struggle to contain the larger of the new iphones in either.

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

aside from perfectly judged sleeves that have no trouble whatsoever meeting the cuffs of track mitts or heavier-gauge hand coverings, the jacket features a (very) large hood, permanently affixed at the collar. i do not mind admitting that i am not a particular fan of hoods; detachable versions i can live with, given their optional nature, but having to tuck the hood inside to prevent noisy flappage in less inclement weather, is a bit of a faff. however, given that this peaked augmentation is large enough to wear over a helmet, i'm tempted to temporarily rescind my misgivings.

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

that said, when wearing the jacket as a pedestrian - for which purpose it is ideally suited - the rear-placed drawstring on the hood has need of being pulled as tight as possible. and though rapha advertise the jacket as being a 'cold-weather mountain biking jacket', i should mention that it has no thermal properties whatsoever, other than those generated by an active rider. so far, that has not proved to be any sort of problem, worn over a long-sleeve jersey and a baselayer.

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

there is a well-founded supposition that, if it's gore-tex it will, by its very nature, prove to be both waterproof and windproof (which it definitely is). any explorations by the itinerant reviewer (that would be me), ought best concentrate on its purported breathabiity. the latter is an aspect on which many a breathable jacket has floundered; in short, there seem to be few which breathe as much as a cyclist requires them to. the world in which such trailwear is designed to operate often features all-out bursts of activity, followed by less frenetic riding; in short, the very conditions that would seem hell-bent on trying the patience of a breathable fabric.

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

to aid flexibility (gore-tex is not renowned for its stretch properties), there are strategically located armpit gussets to aid with excessive arm waving.

in order to test the veracity of the manufacturers' claims 'a breathable, windproof, and extremely water-resistant softshell', i re-fitted gravel knobblies to my 'cross bike and headed for the undergrowth. given my persistent lack of aptitude for this style of riding, i fear i may have given the gore-tex infinium a deal more than for which it had hoped. yet despite relatively mild weather and an initial lack of precipitation, the breathability factor was particularly impressive. when rain was eventually discovered (it's the west coast of scotland; how hard can it be?), the outer shell simply cast aside any amount of h2o with carefree abandon.

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

over subsequent days, i have been wet more than i've been dry, all with the same result.

worn over a thermal rapha explore, down jacket (which does have a removable hood), it's been perfect for everyday use, some of which has been bicycle free. and worn on the sunday bike ride, which is nothing if not exclusively a road-going spree, though perhaps a smidgeon baggier than usual, it was just ginger peachy. should you be feeling generous, there would be no shame in purchasing this trailwear jacket for the pedestrian in your life. which sort of brings us neatly back to the definitions applied by the manufacturer.

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

i would agree that i could perhaps have opted for the small size rather than the medium under review (i'm 5'10"), but on the basis that i have slightly longer than normal arms, i'd be inclined to stay put. if you're only going to buy one rapha gore-tex jacket, i'd suggest you start here.

rapha's trail gore-tex infinium jacket is available in sizes ranging from xs to xxl in blue, black, purple (as reviewed) and blue/green. it retails at £275 | rapha gore-tex trailwear jacket

rapha goretex infinium trailwear jacket

wednesday 5 october 2022

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and she cycles


the velo club has been, for better or worse, a male bastion for many a long year, though with one or two brief incursions by female ladies of the opposite sex. the last was a volunteer at the rspb reserve who stayed for one summer prior to the covid pandemic. however, more recently, through no interventions of our own making, those of the fairer sex have doubled in number to two. this is, it has to be said, purely co-incidental, with a girl from the neighbouring isle of jura, who participated in this year's 'ride of the falling rain', and decided to occasionally (ferries permitting), join the sunday morning throng.

you may also recall a recent report of our venture to jura one sunday, which was entirely at her suggestion.

and in addition to this, a young lady who has taken up a probationary position in bowmore, elected to join in the sunday morning festivities. it was only at the conclusion of that first ride did we discover that the 65km ridden was the farthest she'd ever travelled by bicycle. that said, she has shown remarkable fortitude in returning for more of the same, sunday after sunday, though last weekend she unfortunately suffered her first puncture after hitting one of the island's many potholes.

however, there's no discounting the numbers that show the velo club to be a predominantly male bastion. in this, it appears, we are not drastically different from our mainland brethren, and, it transpires, the problem begins far earlier than 10am at the commencement of the ubiquitous sunday bike ride. deliberately construed to equate with 'cycle to school week', the scotland-wide #andshecycles campaign has returned in an effort to redress the balance by encouraging more girls to ride their bicycles.

given that the bicycle is effectively gender neutral, with no appreciable barriers that would disfavour one sex over another, why is it that girls do not feature so highly in the velocipedinal world? according to sustrans, teenage girls have said that they choose not to cycle because of negative stereotypes, a lack of role models and low levels of confidence.

i confess that i'm not entirely sure what is meant by negative stereotypes, but then not only am i not a teenage girl, i'm not in a situation where i might find it possible to learn more about the stereotypes to which they refer. as to role models, i can think of many who ought to encourage female cyclists with as much gusto as remco evenepoel, wout van aert and tadej pogacar (and that's only in the world of road-racing) for the young male population. surely the very fact that annemiek van vleuten was able to win the world title following her time-trial incident that broke her elbow, ought to be succour enough for the allegedly downtrodden?

but then that would depend on any scottish shoolgirls having heard of the world champion in the first place. perhaps, closer to home, there could be female public figures who could step up to the plate (or maybe there's a chance someone could persuade beyoncé or rhianna to ride a bicycle?) according to dr cecliia oram, head of behaviour change at sustrans, "We want girls to feel like they belong in this space because cycling is for everyone. Girls deserve to feel confident and fully in control of their movement and journey when cycling.
"Throughout this campaign, we want them to see themselves being represented and empowered. Being able to cycle to school or the cinema is something to be proud of, and it shouldn't be a big deal for secondary school-aged girls at all."

according to a survey carried out in brighton and hove, a mere 0.4% of secondary school-age girls cycled to school as opposed to 4.7% of boys. i'm sure you don't need me to point out that neither of those figures is particularly admirable. however, amongst secondary school-age children, islay breaks the trend, for exactly the same number of boys cycle to school as do girls. precisely none. it seems possible that there are two simultaneous problems to be solved: making it practical and safer for more children to cycle to school, while paying a tad more attention to why girls find it less acceptable.

i do have to declare a neutral stance at this point, since i can think of no tenable strategy that might positively encourage young girls to cycle, and i'm way too old to understand who or what might prove to be a suitable role model. but on the basis of current research, i wholeheartedly agree that there is much work to be done. sustrans' campaign is designed to create an online community for teenage girls, allegedly improving their confidence (link below), but you will perhaps excuse my cynicism that pixels on yet another a web page can achieve the desired aim. though i use none of them, isn't that predominantly in the hands of facebook, instagram and tiktok?

sixteen year-old baridhi, an #andshecycles ambassador said, "I like cycling because it's an easy way to get yourself to different places. You can go through small paths and you don't have to worry about being in the traffic.
"I think more teenage girls should cycle because it saves energy, it's good for the environment and your health as well."
sadly, and with no disrespect to baridhi, i think it might take a great deal more than that. we already know that cycling is beneficial to the environment, with proven health benefits too, but that hasn't stopped it being ignored by the majority of the uk population, both male and female.

sustrans state that the campaign will also work with teachers and youth leaders, building on the work of Sustrans 'I Bike' programme. they have developed a three-part, interactive workshop to help guide teenage girls and young women to shape and influence their own local #AndSheCycles campaign and develop their own action plans. i fervently hope that their efforts are tangibly rewarded, and sooner rather than later, but my scepticism would tend to suggest otherwise. however, that said, it's probably as well that someone is at least trying to solve the conundrum. and i'm kind of glad that it's sustrans.

#andshecycles support page

tuesday 4 october 2022

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