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chill the f out

during last sunday's bike ride, following the descent to loch gorm, we met up with the mighty dave t, a man who has elected to 'do his own thing' since the advent of lockdown in march 2020. thus, we often find ourselves perambulating in a direction opposite to that of the great man, with only a brief time to catch-up, before heading on our separate ways. during sunday's conversation, the mighty dave alluded to the existence of two visiting cyclists who had been looking for our diminished peloton, with a view to joining the happy throng, if only for a short period on an islay sunday morning.

catching sight of what appeared to be two cyclists approaching from the direction of rock mountain, we delayed the restart of our sunday ride, just in case the two were the very riders mentioned by dave t. as it transpired, we were mistaken; though there were indeed two cyclists, but two middle-aged women, one of whom was aboard an e-bike, while her companion rode a sit-up-and-beg, analogue machine. we let them pass, said our goodbyes to the mighty dave, and headed off in the same direction as the two recently encountered female riders.

barely had we clipped in, than the two ladies stopped at the verge, concerned that their considerably slower speed would hold us back on this remote, single track road. a kind gesture indeed, and one for which we thanked them as we passed. however, this particular happenstance did serve to underline the substantial difference between them and us (and by implication, a situation that exists throughout the velocipedinal world). while we were all to be found riding, steel, titanium or carbon bicycles, with skinny tyres and bendy bars, those are hardly the sort of machinery you would choose to ride if simply popping down to the shops, or aiming towards a quiet picnic in the country. in itself, that is intended as no indictment; the style of bicycle on which you ride has, or should have, no adverse effect on your membership of the world's cycling club.

and though many of us may be aware of this disparity, either taking it in our stride, or simply ignoring it entirely, it has now formed the basis of a campaign initiated by outsize cycle clothing purveyor, fat lad at the back. for the number of cyclists who can slide themselves into the size range offered by the likes of rapha, castelli, assos, endura et al, probably reflects the disparity seen in society at large. though we might be loathe to admit it, according to fat lad at the back, "It's a well-known fact that the cycling industry can be very serious and somewhat cliquey. For a long time it's all been about climbing the biggest hill or smashing personal bests, or showing off on Strava." how often have you heard it said that, "if it's not on strava, it didn't happen"?

and though it may be no more palatable to read, the recent rise in fascination for zwift, has likely only exacerbated the problem, encouraging the stay-at-home crowd to strive for levels of fitness that can truly only be visually expressed by riding like wout van aert on the sunday ride, going to the shops, or alleged leisure cycling towards a quiet country picnic. fat lad at the back hold not unfounded concern that "Cycling as an adult has become much more serious and, for some, much less fun. A lot of that is down to the pressure of performance-based goals."

however, a bit like walking to get the daily paper rather than using the car, it's a situation that we're often inclined to discard; 'it's ok for others to consider, but rather obviously, i'm way too fast to consider 'chilling the f out'. though velominati's rule #5 proposes that we 'harden the f**k up', even if said with tongue firmly planted in cheek, we're possibly in serious danger of taking this rule, and others, far too seriously. i'm not discounting the fact that there are those for whom strava, zwift and a power meter are essential considerations, but they are very much in the minority (not that they'd admit it).

climbing the biggest hill or besting personal bests are indisputably features included in many modern-day sportives or gran fondos, so it is perhaps indicative of the velo club's attitude that the ride of the falling rain eschews the necessity to attempt either. we have frequently been told that the ride has been found popular for those very reasons. but were you to be present at the grand départ this coming sunday, you'd hardly be aware, given the bicycles and apparel featured on the patio at debbie's.

according to the founder of fat lad at the back, "...I realised it doesn't have to be about chasing your PB or Strava segment. Some of my best days cycling have been those spent with good mates, at a steady pace, chatting all the way. It's what cycling used to be like when I was a kid and it's what reignited my passion to get back into the saddle." in truth, many sunday rides are exactly like that described above; i know ours are, even if we dress like refugees from the professional peloton, and breeze past those on hired e-bikes. and though there's competition to hang on for as long as possible on the climb past aoradh farm, on the majority of occasions, those first to the top, are generously inclined to sit and wait for the straggler(s).

for those without a career defining need to emulate richard carapaz or tom pidcock, perhaps it would do us well to take the advice of fat lad at the back, and 'chill the f out' every now and again. if your peloton, like our peloton, struggles to recruit new members to the cause, there might be good reason for that (unless, of course, today's young acolytes are all indoors on their smart trainers, where fun is fast).

fat lad at the back

wednesday 28 july 2021

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rouleur

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signs of life. to the ends of the earth with a doctor. stephen fabes. pursuit books paperback 396pp illus. £10.99

signs of life - stephen fabes

despite the recent finish of the tour de france and the medals awarded at the olympic games, it's worth remembering, at salient points in our obsessiveness, that, at heart, the bicycle is but a means of transport. though it has been frequently pointed out that the minute anything appears with wheels, someone will want to race, the bicycle began life as a mechanical substitute for the horse and as a mechanical alternative to pedestrianism. though its form and essential functions have remained pretty much unaltered over the last hundred years, its ability to transport humans (and occasionally, small dogs) cleanly, efficiently and inexpensively, has rarely been equalled.

it is also a vehicle which confers an almost unrivalled sense of freedom upon its rider. no matter where in the world a bike is being ridden, the rider can experience his/her surroundings in a way that remains a closed shop to those inside cars, buses or trains. arguably motorcycling comes a close second, but riders of such machines are invariably required to wear certain protective attire, and there's the not inconsiderable necessity (and expense) of refuelling en-route.

thus, books such as stephen fabes' 'signs of life' are very much the result of the bicycle's ability to form the core part of the tale, without necessarily becoming an intrinsic part of the narrative. in other words, from the outset, we are aware that dr. fabes is travelling by bicycle, despite the lack of regular mentions throughout. a catalyst, if you will. for instance, while each week's edition of the comic will offer a piece by piece description of a professional's bicycle, dr fabes begins with...

"Bike fine tuned...", followed a paragraph later, by "I wheeled my new touring bicycle towards the tape..."

though the bicycle is occasionally referred to again during the opening chapter, we know not whether 'tis lugged steel, tig welded steel, aluminium or carbon. there is no note of the brand or spec of groupset, or whether it features a double or triple chainset. and though it may seem a tad trite to mention in a cycling blog, none of those points matter one whit. after all, this is a travel book, meaning, it really isn't all about the bike.

stephen fabe's credentials for heading into the wide blue yonder in the saddle, began with he and his brother planning to ride the length of chile, "from bottom to top". despite meeting with a rider who had cycled the length of the americas, a man who offered much in the way of advice, the chile trip apparently didn't go quite according to plan.

"The journey that my brother and I eventually made from one end of Chile to the other was equal parts disaster and revelation."

having qualified as a doctor and working between guys hospital and st. thomas, the beginning of a new decade brought moments of 'what if' and a constant worry that he might wake up one day with "...a passion for quilting and jigsaws". while his self-deprecating sense of humour undoubtedly contributed to his ability to suffer the slings and arrows that any wide-ranging cycle trip is bound to impose, it features sporadically and strategically thoughout this lengthy, but highly entertaining narrative. however, fabes' ventures into the great unknown almost came to a halt before properly started.

when none too far from istanbul, "A chunk of cartilage had opted to go it alone explaining the rogue lump inside my knee." [...] "Go home. Only a surgeon can fix this." the subsequent return by flight to turkey was subsequently delayed due to the eruption of an unpronounceable icelandic volcano.

fabes travels took him, quite literally around the world, cycling down through europe and africa before flying to the southern tip of south america, then heading north to alaska and another flight to melbourne, australia. this resulted in the homeward trip, up through indonesia, and northern india, before backtracking through china, outer mongolia and eventually back to europe before reaching his southern england departure point some six years later. fabes descriptive skills are frequently put to good use throughout such an extensive time on the bike

arriving in the republic of the union of myanmar, he observes, "Down the road was Kawkareik, a small town of dust and nervous dogs. Spidery men pedalled trishaws or sat in the shade of teak, leaf-proofed huts, bare chested, dragon tattoos from shoulder blades to smalls of back. A policeman approached me, stinking of liquor and sending a red jet of betel-nut paste to the ground."

as you might expect, there were many adventures to be experienced along the way, occasionally meeting up with fellow cyclists for part of the journey. There were also the varying climates with which to contend. describing the rainfall in northern india's cherrapunjee, he relates, "On an average year, around twelve metres of rain fell here. Welsh missionaries set up base in Cherrapunjee 175 years ago, but they soon gathered up their dank clothes and mouldy bibles and retreated to Shillong. I'll repeat that: the Welsh fucked off because it was too wet."

and then there was the inescapable reality of different languages and their often inscrutable dialects. one or two of those whom he met along the way spoke both english and the local linguistics, happy to translate, as the route wound through the visited country. however, fabes observations did not let him down even in this respect. "Mongolian, by the way, sounds like someone is waterboarding a Klingon." these humorous asides and observations contribute to an addictive 396 pages of travelogue, in which the bicycle is but an important adjunct to the tale. it may not have received endless mention in dispatches, but both stephen fabes, you and me know that the trip couldn't have happened without it. i'd be inclined to agree with gavin francis, author of 'adventures in human being' who is quoted as saying "A fever dream for armchair travellers..."

tuesday 27 july 2021

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galloway cycling

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mind games

training yet not training

art students are renowned for antics that might be seen as just the wrong side of eccentric (or the right side, depending on your point of view), and for those of us who had formed our own pop/rock band while at college, such antics were invariably aimed at our non-art school bass player. though i am not in the habit of drinking anything alcoholic, a choice that existed even during those alleged reactionary days, i'm led to believe that each individual tends to have a favoured tipple (mine's fizzy water, thank you for asking). our bass player had a predilection for vodka orange.

and in one of those experiments that seemd like a good idea at the time, but one that nobody believed would actually work, at an art school dance, following a single vodka and orange, we filled his glass, for the remainder of the evening, simply with orange juice, diluted slightly with water. it was as much a surprise to the rest of us when he become more and more drunk as the evening progressed, until, at the end of the night, we'd literally to carry him out to the car. it seems that, aside from vast quantities of alcohol, the mind possesses the same ability to turn a regular human being into one completely legless.

acting purely on that basis, my saturday bike ride was undertaken in what the manufacturer designated as a training jersey, despite my self-fulfilled promise that i would, in fact, never knowingly undertake any form of training. to be honest, it's a promise that holds a few unfortunate leaks: prior to joining sven thiele on the 2017 hot chillee londres - paris ride, i rode 100 miles around the principality, simply to prove to myself that the old fart still had it in him. from several points of view, that could be construed as training. and i cannot deny that, just occasionally, on my solo saturday rides, i have put in a smidgeon of extra effort to minimise the amount by which i will trail my colleagues on sunday mornings. that, i willingly admit, could also be appraised as training.

but now there's next sunday's ride of the falling rain, a ride that has, under the current circumstances, provided just one or two problems all of its own. last year, despite various travel restrictions, the ride went ahead with considerably fewer participants than has become common. that, in essence, was not really a problem. however, the original route has, as its mid-point, a brief stop at ardbeg distillery, for a rest and refreshment. as advised only a few weeks ago, ardbeg have revised their catering arrangements over the past twelve months, substituting a converted airstream trailer in the car park, for the indoor facilities formerly known as the old kiln café. thus, i had advised prospective riders that this would be our lot for 2021.

however, ardbeg's five-day opening programme is due to remain that way for the foreseeable future, meaning that on the day when we hope to be riding in rain, they're not open. the possibility existed that we could reprise last year's alternative route, with a refreshment stop at ardnahoe distillery in the north, but having already said we'd be heading along the road more travelled, perhaps there was an alternative catering stop that might fulfil our needs. and it transpires that there is indeed: the wee box.

this is a converted horse box that occupies space between port ellen's ramsay hall and the playing fields, selling highly recommended coffee and paninis. so that's where we're heading, either before riding to ardbeg, or after.

so where does the training bit come in? well, despite being clad in the aforementioned training jersey, these days, i tend to think of training as more a state of mind than an actual demonstration of effort. obviously, it pays to maintain a level of fitness that will not have me keel over on a grassy verge before ever reaching the wee box. thus, combining a cogent mindset with the wearing of a jersey bearing the training moniker, even though miy saturday kilometres were found to be nowhere near 162, i feel suitably constituted to ride 100 miles in what will hopefully be at least heavy rain. (sadly, a quick check of the forecast for next sunday shows only wall to wall sunshine, remarkably little in the way of wind, and comfortable temperatures for the time of year.)

darn.

monday 26 july 2021

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world bicycle relief

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cycling the reivers route - rachel crolla and carl mckeating. cicerone press paperback. 126pp illus. £11.95

cycling the reivers - crolla and mckeating

reivers were probably not the sort of folks you'd invite along on the sunday bike ride, not least because their heyday was long before kirkpatrick macmillan took a bike ride to glasgow and knocked somebody over. but, aside from the lack of a bicycle, reivers were allegedly not the sort of folks you'd want to meet in an alley after dark.

according to history, their glory days were between the 16th and 17th centuries, drawn from both sides of the scotland/england border. the fact that both countries were frequently at war with each other, and the reivers' remoteness from both centres of power, meant there was often little incentive to curtail their activities. livestock was easily rustled and driven by mounted reivers who knew the country well. they were also renowned for removing easily portable household goods or valuables, and every now and again, where they thought there might be money, they'd take prisoners for ransom.

cycling the reivers - crolla and mckeating

thankfully, at least for those who lived each side of the border, there's no longer a need to build fortified tower houses in which to remain safe from attack, or to build stone walls surrounding their properties, within which they might keep their livestock safe from these marauders. in 1609, an act of parliament set a law to deal with criminals in the border region, stretching as far as allowing the trial of an english subject in scotland, if the felony had been committed there. despite calls for scottish independence nowadays, it's currently a great deal safer at the border, to the extent that you can now ride where once folks feared to tread, following in the hoofprints for the reivers.

cycling the reivers - crolla and mckeating

the reivers route as defined in this excellent guide from messrs. crolla and mckeating, stretches from whitehaven in the lake district, all the way across country to tynemouth on the north sea coast of county durham. it's a route covering approximately 275km and thoughtfully portioned into a four day excursion by the authors. but, other than a desire to be your own less objectionable reiver on two wheels, why is this a route worthy of your attention?

according to the authors, "The Reivers Route is a wilder, hillier and more challenging undertaking than Sustrans' other northern coast-to-coast rides. Its remote sections and superb lengthy off-road passages are all part of its appeal." for those reasons, the authors advise undertaking the ride over a period of four days, though i daresay the more intrepid amongst our number may think nothing of riding such varied terrain in half the time. but in truth, how tough is the ride? "(it's) an attainable goal for most people. If you can comfortably ride 40 miles (65km) with 900 metres of ascent and still clamber back onto your saddle the next day, then you will be more than able to tackle the four day itinerary."

cycling the reivers - crolla and mckeating

the above description would tend to suggest that a tadej pogacar limited edition colnago might not be your first choice of bicycle on which to ride from whitehorn to tynemouth. the authors suggest either a rugged touring bike, hybrid or gravel bike. something with clearance for 42mm tyres would apparently be just ginger peachy. however, with that in mind "mountain bikes are not suitable for the Reivers and Borderers cycle tours, as the majority of the miles are done on tarmac." and just in case pogacar was thinking about it, "they are definitely not suitable for road bikes", meaning there's little chance of being beaten to the sprint in tynemouth by wout van aert.

cycling the reivers - crolla and mckeating

as has become common with all of cicerone's cycling guides, the preamble lists the equipment you'd be best to consider, whether to stuff it all inside panniers or bike-bags, what sort of clothing might prove appropriate, and why they'd recommend you wear a helmet. i'd tend to agree that the maps provided in the book are more than equal to the task, while the book's compact and bijou format lends itself to its being ensconced in a jersey rear pocket. according to the last page in the book, the entire route is downloadable as gpx files for uploading to your gps device, in case flicking through paper maps is just not your thing.

cycling the reivers - crolla and mckeating

this sort of bike ride, however, is not really this sort of bike ride, unless you can learn a thing or two along the way. thus, at frequent stop-off points throughout the parcours, there are informative box-outs, just in case you fancy being a know-it-all when you visit relatives after your successful completion. "In 1525, a Scottish archbishop put a curse on all the Border Reivers. For Carlisle's Millennium celebrations in 2000, the city council thought it a good idea to have the 1000-word curse carved as an artwork onto a granite boulder. Some blamed the carving for the city's post-millennial flooding..."

aside from comprehensive maps, turn-by-turn directions, copious colour illustrations and localised descriptions as shown above, each stage is illustrated with a profile displaying the distance and ascending that lies ahead. and if you intend to emulate the reivers' antics, just ensure your panniers are large enough to cope with cattle and sheep.

sunday 25 july 2021

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it's in the bag

in the bag

along with many of you, i regularly receive e-mails from the world's cycling apparel purveyors, advising me of clothing either already on release, or about to be released, that might either appeal to my riding sensibilities, or which might prove ideal for the alleged 'current' climate conditions. at present, the majority concern lightweight or featherweight jerseys that, while shielding my honed physique from an influx of ultra-violet rays, will wick away any thoughts of perspiration, and cool my approach, yet leave any aspirations fully intact.

under more normal circumstances, i would issue a haughty guffaw at their presumptions, safe in the knowledge that a lightweight jersey would see its favour limited to only one or two days per season, and event then, more than likely 'neath an outer shell. but this year's heatwave has reached even the hebrides, removing even the possibility of a headwind, and giving cause for concern as regards the indigenous water table. granted, missives from both scottish water and sepa (scottish environmental protection agency), seem not to share any local concern, but surely, with no appreciable precipitation for nearly a month, we can hardly be as awash with water as our reputation deserves?

i cannot deny that i am particularly well catered for in the way of cycling apparel. a quick look at the clothing review section listed below, will offer proof of that state of affairs. and since pretty much everything on offer these days is of a quality hitherto rarely seen aboard a bicycle, even jerseys that have occupied the denoted 'jersey drawer' since 2005, retain the same constitution they demonstrated when new. this has, on more than one occasion, led to my being questioned as to whether my garmentage is an unnanounced new release, when in fact, i've possessed it for more years than i care to relate.

receipt of any cycling garment, from whichever corner of the country, or continent you care to mention is still, after all these years, something of an event at the croft. whether expected or otherwise, the arrival of a clothing package still elicits a frisson of delight, even over the winter months when well i know that i will have need of riding out in often severely inclement conditions, not only to check the veracity of the manufacturer's claims, but also to photograph and subsequently write about whatever delight i have been given the great good fortune to wear.

as you may recall from a post in march this year, i have been populating these yellow pixels with black letters for twenty-five years, though admittedly it took a few of those years to reach the standard whereby i was deemed worthy to receive items for review. nonetheless, reviewing is a pleasurable task which i have been undertaking for over a decade and a half, during which time i thought that the cheer when receiving a package of cycle clothing would have diminished to the point of my becoming blasé and offhand. thankfully, that has not proved to be the case.

and i figure, if the sound of a package dropping on the porch floor, followed by a shout of "parcel!", is still followed by an overly quick response to open the door, then extrapolation would indicate it's probably the same for all of us. there's no doubt that our own actions have contributed to the climate change threat that hangs over modern day 'civilisation'. consumption has become a way of life; no matter how much we already own, it seems there's always an inherent willingness to acquire more, fabrication of which entails the use of more resources. so while i would hate to be the naysayer who advises restraint when it comes to 'new bike day' or 'new jersey day', deciding whether this consumption is based on need or on want, is something to which we really ought to be paying more attention.

around 27% of britain's greenhouse gas emissions are at the behest of vehicular transport, emissions about which we can feel smug on the basis of being naturally excluded from the club when riding our bicycles. but, if your new jersey/jacket/bibshorts/bibtights purchase is simply on the basis of want, it would help offset this natural desire, by recycling a more elderly member of your wardrobe, either by passing it onto someone less fortunate, or placing it in the nearest clothing bank. replacing worn out apparel can almost always be justified, but when doing so, check the products from many cycle clothing providers who now create their garments using recycled materials. and buy the best you can afford; let's face it, that jersey from 2005 has cost me the equivalent of roughly £6 per year, and it looks like it might last for a further 16 years.

cycling is amongst the 'greenest' modes of transport available, usurped only by walking. pedestrianism, however, does not, however, appear to encourage a coffee habit.

saturday 24 july 2021

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the simple joys

blue sky

in 2023, british telecom intend to switch off all the copper wires to the nationa's businesses, in favour of routing their telephony requirements over broadband. since this affects quite a sizeable number of customers, the strategy to do so began a couple of years ago, when probably the majority of businesses thought 2023 to be a bit too far in the future to be of immediate concern. that included our local newspaper at which i frequently ply my trade. when the pandemic hit last year, calls from bt pointing out that we had but three years left to opt in, were fielded in favour of ensuring the business continued to exist. there seemed little point in being at the forefront of communications technology while aboard a sinking ship.

however, given that commercial pessismism proved to be unfounded, the continued incentive from british telecom was the offer of free telephones to fulfil the requirement of necessitous change. since this is going to happen anyway, it seemed churlish to sit on the fence for much longer.

according to the account handler, such a small business as is the newspaper, would easily fit into the self-install category. now, you'd figure that, since facetime on a mobile phone over broadband can provide excellent picture and voice quality even on a call from the united states, that these new, allegedly state-of-the-art telephones, would connect over wi-fi. but no. according to british telecom, wi-fi does not provide the voice quality they require, entailing the plugging-into the broadband router of six handsets via cat5 ethernet cables. after having removed almost all cabling over the years as our computers espoused wireless connections, we've now had to purchse two, five port ethernet hubs, to enable suitable phone connections across three rooms.

the worst part was, on receiving the telephones, discovering they all featured a wi-fi option, connections strategically omitted by the suppliers.

so, for two bright, sunny and very warm scottish afternoons this past week, a colleague and i have spent almost five hours running substantial lengths of ethernet cable along skirting boards and inside trunking up and around doorways, in order to site the telephones just where they're required. fortunately, it has been possible to check all connections, even to the outside word, prior to bt switching off the old system, and moving us into the world of 21st century fibre. and that's where the second set of problems reared their less than pristine heads.

it transpires that the existing ethernet switch in the editorial office is from pre-history, capable of only ten-base t connections. thus anything past three telephones connected, dropped the existing connection to one other unit. re-setting the router reinstated the dropped connection, but rendered the other two handsets inert. the solution required moving two connections onto the ethernet hub next door. however, the super-duper, touch screen desk phone refuses to connect, no matter to which cable it is attached, even those that work perfectly with other handsets.

with outdoor temperatures considerably in excess of those normally experienced on islay at this time of year, coupled with windspeeds that barely qualified as a draught, spending such an amount of time undertaking work that was in neither of our job descriptions, was not only somewhat iniquitous, but one which we agreed to remedy yesterday afternoon. so while my colleague cycled into work in the morning and home again after lunch, i sneaked off in the early afternoon to take advantage of the current spell of inordinately pleasant summer weather. and to be honest, that's kind of the modern equivalent of 42; the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

i know well that not everyone is in command of their own immediate destiny, but within reason, i have the option as to when i work in the office and when i 'work' from home (in this case, defined as a saddle and two wheels). on the inside hem of my rapha technical t-shirt, it informs that 'it's cooler when you're moving', a statement of which i was happy to prove the veracity, with a quick bike ride to debbie's for a brief session of froth-supping. at present, it's wall-to-wall sunshine, and the garmin optimistically shows around 29 degrees, but the few kilometres between black rock and foreland road-end were unashamed luxury. the windspeed sits around 10kph, so ride any faster, and immediately you have a pleasant, if a tad warm, headwind.

i'm almost certain to receive a follow-up call from bt's cloud voice department, which i can either answer, or hide behind the sofa until they go away. i figure they'll have to replace the touch-screen phone, but that's an outcome i shan't be considering when riding this weekend.

let's face it; if the bicycle didn't exist, we really would have to invent it.

friday 23 july 2021

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roots and fruits

rapha foundation + british cycling

the fact that tadej pogacar won his first tour de france at the tender age of 21 would likely suggest that he didn't just start riding a bicycle in his late teens. through an on-screen interview with an american-based gent, we learned that the slovenian's physical and biological make-up lends itself to achievements such as his two yellow jerseys to date, a physical condition that seems eager to accept further development. that information can't be of much consolation to his competitors. the early birds from a british background are notably tom pidcock and tao geoghegan hart, the latter of whom already has a grand tour jersey to his name, but from whence will come their successors?

rapha foundation + british cycling

rising from relative obscurity and former international disparagement, cycling in the uk has become relatively popular amongst more than simply the cognoscenti. a couple of weekends ago, i was moved to post on twitter that, having stopped in a passing-place to make way for an oncoming vehicle, the driver had slowed, lowered his window and said "what about mark cavendish then?" i need not labour the point that such happenstances are extremely rare on islay's shores. if it's happening here, it must surely be doing so more frequently elsewhere.

rapha foundation + british cycling

so, assuming we want to nurture the next generations of british cyclists, whether in the competitive milieu, or simply confined to the realm of leisure and transport, it makes a great deal of sense that the implementation of infrastructure and training will surely be required. infrastructure is largely the responsibility of central governments and local councils; we can lobby, but we have neither the wherewithal or freedom to instigate such measures by ourselves. what we can do, however, is effect some form of training and/or coaching, to set the cycling public on the right track.

i have moaned on at great length recently about the now ubiquitous e-bike, in particular, how its popularity seems destined to lead to all-ecompassing acceptance by those looking for an easier time than promised by the more analogue of the species. whether they do or don't, is largely not of our immediate concern (though possibly it is), but what we should be concerned about are specific cycling skills and seamless integration into britain's transport system, creating a generation of riders every bit as confident in the saddle as are you and i.

rapha foundation + british cycling

but for the above to succeed, it is necessary to spread the bicycle love across all stratas of british society. obviously enough, there's no immediate need to purchase one of ernesto colnago's limited edition bicycles as mentioned in yesterday's post, but even at street level (metaphorically speaking), there's still a not insignificant cost involved in becoming a cyclist. riding a bicycle offers the ability not only to compete if you so wish, but to participate in one of the world's genuine reactions to climate change, reduction in pollution and move away from fossil fuels.

there are a couple of national organisations who have steadily worked towards these goals for a number of years, but so much more could be accomplished were their financial costs of so doing, to be given a leg-up. which is where this year's rapha foundation donation can play its part.

rapha foundation + british cycling

the partnership that has ensued between rapha and british cycling, will empower more communities to create their own champions of cycling. it will take the form of british cycling city academies, supported by the rapha foundation, helping to improve the gender balance, increase involvement from diverse ethnic communities and encourage greater engagement with young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. the city academies model is a new, localised concept, aimed at removing the barriers to participation and empowering people to champion cycling in their communities. this will be achieved in two ways: city academy hubs and city academy talent centres, via a two-year, pilot project centred in london, but with a national rollout planned thereafter.

rapha foundation + british cycling

the first city academy hubs will be in the london boroughs of hackney and newham, home to the queen elizabeth olympic park. recruitment of two full time city academy coaches was completed in june. over the next six months, the hubs will work closely in partnership with community groups and organisations to establish fun entry-level, skills activity sessions led by those local to the area. these activity sessions will take place in local open spaces, such as parks and commons, with the intention of increasing visibility of cycling in these areas. the first will be initially aimed at children aged 10-14 years, and will be in place by autumn this year.

rapha ceo, simon mottram said, "as a brand with british roots, we're proud to be able to support organisations here on home soil, which is why we are incredibly excited to be working with british cycling through the rapha foundation, an organisation with a shared mission to better the sport and improve access and support for the next generation of racers.
"the city academies represent a fresh new way of nurturing new cycling talent, who represent the future of british cycling. an initiative we are very proud to be a part of."

rapha foundation

thursday 22 july 2021

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that was quick

tadej pogacar colnago v3r

with the possible exception of jonas vingegaard's slipping of the pogacar reigns on the slopes of mont ventoux, the moment tadej nabbed the yellow jersey on stage nine, we were really only interested in the shuffling of positions behind the leader, and to how many stages mark cavendish might add to his impressive tally. i delighted in the irony of cavendish's interview in the comic, published the first week of the tour, in which a pull-quote proclaimed, "i don't think anyone expects too much of me", or words to that effect. by the time the interview was published, he'd already won two stages.

it has often been said that you know you're getting old when teachers and policemen start to look young. added to that duo will now need to be tour winners, with pogacar having won his first at the age of 21 and now his second, a matter of a few months later, at 22. how many folks do you know who had bought their first house in monaco at that age? nope, me neither. and with david millar appearing as ned boulting's lead-out man on itv4's comprehensive coverage of the three week race, i remember reading interviews in cycle sport (yes, that long ago), where he and his peers were often entered into the grand tours, but with no expectations of placing or even finishing, management preferring to settle them into their new roles gently, nurturing, rather than exploiting.

tadej pogacar colnago v3r

training and nutrition must have altered considerably in the intervening years, for i cannot recall a single journalist or directeur sportif concerning themselves that pogacar might be in danger of an early burnout. how such a young fellow has the nous to deal with team leadership at such a young age, is quite outside my experience; i have enough of a struggle coping with my own fortunes on a daily basis, let alone seven other riders and the leader's jersey in the grandest of grand tours. though tom pidcock was let loose to follow a mountain bike programme, and presumably taking a pot shot at the olympics, it's notable that ineos have made no strategic moves to push the youngster into team leadership, despite being the same age as pogacar was when he won the 2020 tour edition.

tadej pogacar colnago v3r

third place ecuadorian, richard carapaz, is now 28.

however, i have long pilloried the bicycle manufacturers who supply various world tour teams with their means of propulsion, principally on a perceived lack of capitalising on what must be a considerable expense. how often have you not come across an advert in the cycling press for the very marque aboard which the yellow, pink, or gold jersey has been won? surely the very reason the sponsorship deal exists in the first place, is for professional bragging rights that your bicycle beat all the other bicycles (in the full knowledge that pogacar would probably have proved victorious on a model from the nearest branch of halfords)? granted, pinarello made a stab at pointing out their connection with team sky, and an only slightly less vociferous proclamation that ineos were doing likewise.

tadej pogacar colnago v3r

when thomas voeckler spent ten days in yellow during the 2004 tour de france, colnago provided him with a yellow bicycle to match his jersey. yet, the only time in the international cycling press that the colnago featured in an advert was one for hutchinson tyres. but this year, not only have they redeemed themselves by supplying bicycles to pgacar's victorious uae, team but followed the final result with astonishing speed, in releasing not one, but three limited edition colnago v3r bicycles in yellow, polka dots and white, to celebrate the three jerseys won by the slovenian now dubbed the little cannibal. and though the yellow edition could have been prepared over a week earlier, it was really only within the last few days that pogacar confirmed ownership of the climber's and young rider's jerseys.

whether these three offerings appeal to your aesthetic senses, only you will know, but the slightly concerning aspect is that they are being marketed as a capsule collection, the inference being that all three would look just ginger peachy in the bike shed. the fact that each retails at around £12,100 might not put you in great favour with your bank manager, should you opt to take advantage of this kindly italian offer. equipped with campagnolo super-record eps and bora ultra wto carbon wheels, there's no decrying their pedigree, and the fact that they had prepared a youtube video depicting pogacar introducing all three models, says a lot not only for the yellow jersey winner, but for colnago's marketing and paint departments.

however, on checking my bank balance, i fear i may have to pass on this one (or three)

colnago tour de france capsule collection

wednesday 21 july 2021

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hot chillee ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

rapha gs imperial sportwool s/s club jersey, bibshorts and cap

rapha g.s. imperial club jersey, bibs, cap

progress is a double-edged sword, for while its forward motion brings us closer to an ideal, almost inevitably, it leaves behind the ideal that fostered the whole process in the first place. granted, there's every likelihood that part two will be a definable success, providing opportunities, incentives and facilities to aim towards the next ideal; the five-year-plan stretched to fit ten years.

rapha, as an ideal, began public life in july 2004, with a singular addition to the velocipedinal realm, in the shape of a sportwool cycle jersey available either in black with a white hoop on the left sleeve, or a white jersey with a black hoop. i first came across this sartorial revolution in the pages of the comic, guilt-stricken that, having considered myself to be well-informed on all matters cycling, this clothing innovation seemed to have sneaked up under cover of darkness. i called the number accompanying the brief review in cycling weekly, and a gent by the name of simon mottram, answered the phone.

rapha g.s. imperial club jersey, bibs, cap

that is one particular ideal that has long since passed into history. you should try getting him on the phone nowadays.

rapha began their commercial life in one side of a characterful perren street building, situated in london's kentish town. this was the original imperial works, a former piano factory around half a kilometre from kentish town railway station, accessed through a close, leading into a narrow lane. almost symmetrical in construction, the building was entered via a central staircase, allowing access to offices on each side. as i recall, rapha originally occupied one half of the second floor, eventually expanding into the other side of the staircase too.

rapha g.s. imperial club jersey, bibs, cap

i first visited in april 2007, when the occupants of the open plan space were current ceo, simon mottram, along with luke scheybeler, simon huntsman, joe hall and rene groot, accompanied by guy andrews, who was editor of the fledgling rouleur magazine, rising from an idea by mr andrews and taken under the rapha wing. mr mottram's desk was edged by the 'wall of pain', plastered with newspaper and magazine cuttings, interspersed with prototype advertising, none of which, as far as i'm aware, ever saw the light of day in print. captions such as 'you're going to die many times. make sure you have right jersey for the occasion', as well as 'your eyes are stinging, legs burning and heart racing. let's talk zips'. and proving that they were more self-aware than many would have thought, 'it's good that you're used to pain. wait till you see the cost of our jacket'.

and, inevitably, there was a pink sofa.

rapha g.s. imperial club jersey, bibs, cap

after ten years in the original imperial works, rapha employed too many people to fit into the confines of perren street, and moved to their current premises in tileyard road, a reasonable walk north-east of kings cross station. the new building is also dubbed imperial works, but it has, in my humble opinion, little of the character possessed by the old piano works (though the coffee machine is an impressive addition). and, as far as i know, the only present-day occupant, who also had a desk at the original, is mr mottram himself.

the spirit of perren street was, once again, in my opinion, substantially different from that of tileyard road. that, as they say, is progress. and part of that original spirit was the instigation of an all but secret cycle club, open only to invitees, dubbed gruppo sportivo imperial (g.s. imperial for short). and to show that those halcyon days of yore are not gone and forgotten, rapha have released a range of suitably monikered apparel for purchse by members of the not so secret, modern-day equivalent, the rapha cycle club.

rapha g.s. imperial club jersey, bibs, cap

true to form, and reflecting perren street's origins, the jersey, with distinctly belgian influenced chest hoops, is fashioned from sportwool, a combination of recycled polyester and merino. the three rear pockets are buttoned at the top, and eschew a fourth, zipped instance just like the original rapha classic jersey. and similarly, the quarter length front zip. but unlike its ancestor, there's ornate, purple embroidered scroll-work on the rightmost rear pocket, embroidery replicated on the side of the quality, lined, matching casquette. and there's a purple embroidered rapha emblazoned hoop on the left sleeve; some things (thankfully) never change.

rapha g.s. imperial club jersey, bibs, cap

i did have a slight issue with the impossibly luxurious (medium-size) bibshorts, more specifically the hem grippers. unlike many modern incarnations, the hems are remarkably solid in construction, as opposed to thin, internally glooped lycra. unfortunately, this rather prevented them from doing their job, by gripping those replica chris hoy thighs. do not misunderstand; when riding, they admirably fulfilled their designed function, but when standing insouciantly next to the coffee machine at debbie's, they had a tendency to resemble, at the knees, a pair of slightly baggy shorts. granted, this look had mellowed slightly following a lengthy ride. aside from that - and your mileage may vary depending on size; thighs and shorts - they were every bit the personification of classic that both versions of imperial works have brought us to recognise, particularly in their regal shade of gold-edged purple.

rapha g.s. imperial club jersey, bibs, cap

it's nice to look back every now and again, not only to remind ourselves of arguably more salubrious origins, but also to see just how far we've come in between. i can't deny that the trip from euston station to perren street's imperial works was a tad more characterful, than that from kings cross to the imperial works of tileyard road (perhaps because it led me past professional percussion and st. pancras baths.)

nostalgia is not only yesterday's thing.

rapha's g.s. imperial collection is produced using recycled materials and available only to rapha cycle club members. the jersey and bibs are priced at £140 each, while the lined casquette retails at £30.

rapha.cc

tuesday 20 july 2021

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endura cycle clothing ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

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as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

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