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galloway cycling

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the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"my most extravagant purchase? a summer house (shed) in the hebrides."

©2017 the mighty dave t, is a prendas sponsored rider and le patron of the thoroughly decent fellows.


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this is cambridge

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ritchey outback ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

rapha classic rainjacket ii

rapha classic rainjacket ii

a few years ago, i was in sacramento, california attending the north american handbuilt bicycle show (nahbs). a remarkably decent friend of mine, who operates a bicycle hire business further south, kindly brought along a bike for me to ride on the saturday morning. sacramento is blessed with around 34 miles of totally segregated, two-lane cycle track that allows the bicycle aficionado to ride to his/her heart's content for up to 68 miles, without ever coming into contact with motorised traffic.

rapha classic rainjacket ii

as we lined up with the local cycle club to head out for a ride, i figured it a prudent step to pay a visit to the toilet prior to departure. the only location i could spy that might offer the appropriate facilities was a nearby fitness club to which i made my way directly. on asking if i might use the facilities, i was presented with a two-page form to complete, indemnifying the club from any misfortune that might befall me during the extent of my necessitous visit. i confess that i originally thought this was a californian prank, but that turned out not to be the case.

rapha classic rainjacket ii

i mention this because argyll and bute council, in an effort to reduce costs in the next financial year, have proposed closure of the majority of the region's public conveniences. and by way of lessening the blow, they indicated they would encourage local businesses to make available their own toilet facilities for those who find themselves in dire need. it would be a sad day were i to find it necessary to print out indemnity forms for completion, prior to allowing anyone caught short to use the office's rudimentary facilities at the back of the building.

rapha classic rainjacket ii

being caught short as i mentioned above, is a common situation for many a peloton, but in our own case, since we are mostly cycling on the outer edge, 'tis but a mere matter of findng a nearby bush behind which one can answer that enforced call of nature. i realise this is hardly an equitable state of affairs for any female members of the peloton, but in the case of g.c. ristorante debbie's, the fairer sex are mostly conspicuous by their absence.

getting 'caught short' however, has more than one definition when it comes the way of the velocipede. finding oneself on the island's atlantic coast when a heavy rain shower hits from seemingly nowehere would fit the bill most admirably. unlike many a mainland rural idyll, over towards the west provides no shelter whatsoever; through the centuries, the wind has pretty much seen to that. it would therefore be a highly iniquitous situation to venture forth without convenient recourse to some sort of waterproof jacket. the lack of available shelter makes this all the more necessary, for should a mechanical malfeasance inflict the bicycle, that lack of shelter will cool you down quicker than you can say gluten-free mince pies.

rapha classic rainjacket ii

the market proffers many jackets that promise varying degrees of waterproofing combined with a natural ability to be scrunched up in a back pocket should push come to shove. the more waterproof, often the harder it is to scrunch to the necessary degree, but we have generally come to the conclusion that we'd willingly sacrifice a smidgeon of scrunching in favour of weatherproofing, a desire that the upgraded version two of rapha's classic rainjacket seems destined to fulfil.

over the past week or so, i've worn the jacket as an outer shell over a pro-team long-sleeve baselayer and core-range winter jacket because, to be quite frank, it's a tad chilly out of doors, not to mention interspersed with chilling and often heavy showers.

rapha classic rainjacket ii

embarrassingly enough, on saturday past, after being caught in one of the aforementioned chilling showers, when but a few kilometres from coffee, as i divested myself of the jacket prior to froth-supping, the accumulated rain simply rolled off the surface and onto aileen's recently swept floor.

i don't think anyone noticed.

the most satisfying part of the equation was not only a bone-dry, red winter jacket, but the ease with which the jacket could be stuffed into one of the three rear pockets for the homeward journey. of course, i was once again caught short (in the rainy sense) while riding up foreland hill; retrieving and donning the rainjacket was the piece of cake i neglected to scoff at debbie's.

rapha classic rainjacket ii

featuring taped seams throughout and a breathable membrane of apparently excellent constitution, considering the impending weather regime between now and paris-roubaix, a quality rainjacket would seem like a particularly sensible addition to your christmas wishlist. aside from a fully taped full-length front zip, there's also a neat little concealed zipped pocket just above the leftmost adjustable hem cord in which coffee money can be secreted. yes, there will be times when a more permanent arrangement proves necessary, but to paraphrase velominati's rule#12, if you're a uk resident, the correct number of waterproofs to own is n+1.

you know the rest.

rapha's classic rainjacket ii is available in sizes ranging from xs to xxl and can be purchased in dark navy, dark olive or scarily bright red at a retail price of £180.

rapha classic rainjacket ii

monday 20 november 2017

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the hallelujah chorus

campagnolo chorus groupset

i can still recall the days before taiwan, those halcyon times when a new bicycle was steel and not all in one piece. the road-going cognoscenti thought nothing of ordering an appropriately lugged frame often in a hue that could be chosen from a substantial range of colours. 'twas then a simple case of choosing the componentry that fitted the available budget and either getting down and dirty in the bikeshed, or handing everything to the local bike shop mechanic (remember them?) and eagerly awaiting his phone call.

campagnolo chorus groupset

there is, however, really little means of stopping change; in tandem with death and taxes, it is apparently quite inexorable. nowadays, even the cognoscenti choose next season's bicycle from the illustrations on a website. if we're lucky, there might be a couple of colours to choose from, but more often than not, the choice is restricted to take-it-or-leave-it. in the grand scheme of things, this is not as iniquitous as i may have made it appear, for economies of scale and far eastern labour charges can offer an often far more amenable purchase price. add to that the fact that two of the big three component providers are based in the region, costs can be ameliorated even further.

campagnolo chorus groupset

but, i hear you ask, whither campagnolo?

still based in vicenza, italy, but a stone's throw from padua and venice, that stone would need a sturdy heft to have their excellent componentry reach the outskirts of taiwan. which pretty much answers the question as to why very few new cycles originating from the chinese republic, feature campagnolo as original equipment. it's just the way the world works nowadays.

however, it doesn't have to be that way, depending on your velocipedinal perspective. it's still entirely possible to acquire frame and componentry in different boxes before joining them together, or finding someone who can do it for you. i mention the latter option because particularly in the case of campagnolo, the thick paper books that fill a sizeable portion of their boxes, strenuously underline the fact that every last bolt, screw and clamp ought to be fettled by none other than a qualified mechanic. in view of the complexity of even the mechanical side of things, that's perhaps not an altogether unsavoury state of affairs, but this far west, on the outer edge, campagnolo certified mechanics are few and far between.

campagnolo chorus groupset

for those in a similar situation, i'd love to say "there's an app for that", but there isn't really. and though i like to think of myself as quite knowledgeable about bicycle-related mechanical matters, there's no escaping the fact that i'm not an accredited campagnolo mechanic. however, i do have e-mail access to one, a gent whose patience seemingly knows no bounds. thus, when ritchey bicycles sent me a steel logic frameset for review and campagnolo were kind enough to supply a chorus groupset to complete the package, i fearlessly set the workstand in place.

however, if anguish and frustration (albeit with a very happy ending) are amongst your allergies, you may wish to skip the next bit.

campagnolo chorus groupset

as a self-confessed cynic, i generally take all manufacturers' warnings of potential death, should every part not be sourced from their factory and subsequently fitted by a mechanic wearing their overalls, as rather overwrought marketing. however, in this case i'm happy to eat humble pie, while still castigating vicenza under my breath. for instance, campagnolo's chorus rear mech is affixed to the frame by means of a torx bolt, yet the two limit adjustment screws require a tiny allen key. the height adjustment screw is indeed a crosshead screw, while the cable clamp bolt is an allen bolt. vicenza only offers a braze-on front gear mech; in the case of the ritchey, i'd to source an appropriately constituted adaptor. and though the cable clamp is an allen bolt, the two adjustment screws are crosshead screws.

the front brake caliper arrives with a fitted torx bolt, but the two alternatives, should the fork necessitate a longer version, are both effected by a 5mm allen key. and as you eventually clamp the brake cables in place via their allen bolts, take time to notice that the brake shoes are held in place with torx bolts. i'd also like to point out that the ergopower clamps are tightened by means of rather soft metal torx bolts. though the bicycle industry is notorious for its complete lack of compatibility, it doesn't really help that campagnolo seem intent on being incompatible with themselves.

campagnolo chorus groupset

that's not quite the extent of the bad news, but the remaining two items are rather more explicable. for starters, the ultra-torque chainset joins in the centre of the bottom bracket shell by means of a hirth-coupling. once the splines are lined up and slotted together, joining is completed by means of a substantial allen bolt, requiring a very long 10mm allen wrench to tighten, which not everyone has to hand. so far as i'm aware, there are few, if any, bicycle applications for which one of these might be necessary.

and then comes that chain...

campagnolo chorus groupset

while many chain manufacturers have moved to the relative simplicity of the ubiquitous power-link, rendering the efficacious chain tool all but redundant, campagnolo have remained faithful to the latter. in the days when ctc members claimed that even eight-speeds were three too many, bicycle chains could be fitted by even the incompetent, wielding one of those cheap little cyclo chain tools. though i have often treated with a modest degree of circumspection, any compulsion to use only the tools listed in the manuals, when it comes to campag's eleven speed chain, there really is no practical alternative to its rather heftily priced chain tool.

campagnolo chorus groupset

the joining rivet arrives with a light alloy guide-pin that slides into the available hole. if using a non-campagnolo chain tool, the pressure required to push the rivet home generally forces the chain links upwards and with nothing to stop it doing so, the guide pin inevitably snaps off, leaving you with a rivet that it is all but impossible to press squarely (or roundly) into place. believe me, i spent many fruitless hours attempting to do so. once that rivet is in place, it requires to be peened (flattened) at one end to cement its place in the firmament. this can be achieved by other chain tools, but not quite as simply as with the campagnolo version.

after a frustrating afternoon managing not to fit the rivet that arrived with the chorus chain, i contacted velotech-cycling's graeme freestone king to vent my spleen and implore him to advise vicenza to implement a power-link as others had done. he replied that "Campag are adamant that a rivetted join is best - with which I have to agree, having seen any number of broken joining links over the years - but almost never seen a properly rivetted junction come apart." to further raise his reputation in my eyes, graeme loaned me a campag workshop chain tool; this fitted the rivet in a matter of seconds.

campagnolo chorus groupset

it would be grossly unfair of me to leave you with the impression that the so-called iniquities described above suggest you should avoid campagnolo at all costs. my advice would be precisely the opposite. the mixture of bolt types is a mere irritation and has no bearing whatsoever on the groupset's effectiveness and the majority of purchasers are likely to quite rightly leave the job of assembly to a qualified mechanic. shop mechanics are more likely to have both a 10mm allen wrench and campag workshop chain tool easily to hand.

not only is campagnolo's componentry arguably the most beautiful on the market, the engineering and functionality is quite superb. and faint heart never won fair componentry; i am unashamedly of the opinion that having campagnolo fitted to your bicycle is something more than worth having, no matter the trials and tribulations involved in so doing. the two best mechanics i know (graeme freestone king and rohan dubash) will, i'm sure, back me up on this. i know of which i speak, having ridden all the way to paris on super record without even so much as a slipped gear. as the late steve jobs was wont to encourage "think different."

a review of the ritchey and chorus groupset will follow in due course.

velotech-cycling | campagnolo chorus

sunday 19 november 2017

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campagnolo

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pryde and joy on two wheels

wheelsmith pave wheelset

you may recall my recent review of the rather excellent neil pryde bura road bike that has provided unlimited joy and happiness over recent weeks. it's one of those bicycles that it's all too easy to underestimate, delivering a good deal more than it seems to promise when, as marcel wust would have said, 'lifting it straight from the box.' i cannot deny, however, that the modern trend for ever stiffer frames is one that ageing bones such as mine take just a few more minutes than usual to adapt.

prior to the bicycle's arrival in the hebrides, my mainstays in the road-going department had been a rather tasty, steel colnago master or its carbon brother, the original c40. both of those are a tad less stiff to ride than colnago's present day c60 and definitely more resilient (if you see what i mean) than the very squared cross-section bura. however, there's little point in my castigating any manufacturer for this state of affairs, because it's the law.

wheelsmith pave wheelset

if i might quote from the neil pryde website, "The bura transcends being a featherweight, stiff race bike", it's plain for all to see that the folks at neil pryde see stiffness as a plus. the complete bicycle features fulcrum racing 5 wheels, possessed of reasonably minimal alloy rims and remarkably few, straight-pull spokes. top this off with a fast looking fizik arione saddle, and the road will always tell you just how stiff and race-like the bura really is.

but, at the risk of appearing to remove myself from a race-based equation, this is not necessarily the sort of bicycle i would have picked for myself off the shelf. as one with a distinct prejudice against the mores of strava, coupled with a distinct reticence to pin any sort of number on a back pocket, though i do enjoy the sensation of riding such a race-oriented bike, when traversing dishevelled single track hebridean roads, punctuated by the odd cattle grid, my honed physique often yearns for a smidgeon more comfort and joy. yet, to all intent and purposes, there seems no means of achieving velocipedinal nirvana with neil pryde writ large on the downtube.

wheelsmith pave wheelset

or is there?

i'm more than old enough to recall the days when saddles featured a tad more comfort than professed by fizik's otherwise superb arione. and i cannot deny that i lie awake at night, feverishly concerned over the distinct lack of spokes proffered by the current breed of factory-built wheels. do not misunderstand my line of questioning here; were it not for the demonstrable ability of machines to build respectable wheels with straight-pull spokes, it's doubtful if the price of admission would be quite as enticingly low as it is.

wheelsmith pave wheelset

however, the sagely wisdom of gents such as the mighty dave t would have you believe that the very best accessory you can purchase for any bicycle, is a quality set of wheels. we all have our own ideas as to quite how that quality might be defined; mine leans heavily towards regular, double-butted stainless steel spokes with the traditional j-bend at one end to thread through a quality pair of hubs. i'd recommend a minimum of twenty-eight of the little blighters per wheel and i'm a firm believer that those spokes ought to cross each other at least twice before they reach a flat-profile rim.

wheelsmith pave wheelset

i count myself extremely fortunate that the above description is easily and superbly filled by scotland's wheelsmith in the shape of their pavé wheelset. according to master wheelbuilder, derek mclay, "There is no point in a rigid deep carbon rim or low spoke count for cobbles or rough roads unless you are riding 27mm or 28mm silk tubulars and have back-up. At amateur speeds, you will bounce about and put static load shocks through the entire bike. A rim with a little bit of 'compliance' is the way to go." in this particular case, derek is preaching to the converted.

so, in order that i might verify the truth of his statement, i removed the fulcrum wheels from the bura and replaced them with a pair of wheelsmith's pavés. the review pair feature 28 spokes up front, laced two cross onto miche hubs and replica ambrosio anodised rims. the rear wheel adds four more spokes, laced three-cross once again onto a miche rc2 hub and the same rim. to keep everything ship-shape and bristol fashion, i transferred the clement strada tyres. that way my comparison test would mean the only difference would be the wheelset.

wheelsmith pave wheelset

in all honesty, though i expected there to be some noticeable difference, i really hadn't expected it to be quite so dramatic. before i'd turned a pedal, simply rolling across the car park that borders the croft, provided me with the sort of bicycle that the distributors will probably have to drag kicking and screaming from the bike shed when they want it back. while the frame has lost none of its vitesse, none of its professed stiffness, and none of its exhilarating handling, the comfort level has been immeasurably improved.

granted, there's something of a price premium involved, but it's hardly as great as you might imagine. the average retail price of the fulcrums is around £190, only half that of the wheelsmith pavés, but believe me, they're worth every penny. islay has more than a few roads that we really only bring out for special occasions, where being thrown about, courtesy of all that stiffness, is an occupational hazard. the wheelsmiths remove those unpleasant sensations almost completely, yet retain those hard-won average speeds often seen on strava.

wheelsmith pave wheelset

the neil pryde bura is very agreeably priced at £2250 and it would be hard to criticise the ultegra/fulcrum package on price alone. but if i might assume for a moment that you agree with me wholeheartedly, i would encourage you to add another £400 to your budget and do as i have done to augment the bura with this second, high quality pair of wheelsmiths. i hardly need point out that this is the way wheels used to be built and with good reason. just ask eddy.

come the revolution, all wheels will be made like this.

wheelsmith pavé wheelset

saturday 18 november 2017

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rapha pro team l/s thermal baselayer

rapha pro-team l/s thermal baselayer

despite having recently switched on portions of the central heating, scrabbling out of bed on a sunday morning at half-past dawn to get changed ready for another morning's velocipedinal battle, never really becomes any less onerous. snuggling under a whole host of duvet togs while the wind rages outside, is a hard habit to break. and the fact that one's outer apparel promises every level of thermal, scarcely accommodates the lower layers which may not be quite so externally adjusted.

just to underline this distraught set of circumstances, there is no heating in our kitchen and until the porridge has been heated and dished, sweat will be very far from my brow.

rapha pro-team l/s thermal baselayer

appropriately enough, my first experience of real waffles was when staying with former rapha north american manager, slate olson (now at chrome industries). having shrugged off a disconcerting level of jet lag, the delightful aromas emanating from the olson kitchen made the shuffle from bedroom to table a great deal more amenable. that visit to portland took place in early may, so there was no chill to endure. while i'm content to heat a saucepan of green city jumbo oats each and every morning, mr olson had set up a waffle production line on the kitchen table with fresh fruit to accessorise.

british idiosyncracy had already introduced me to the dubious delights of frozen potato waffles, but what could reasonably be described as belgian waffles are several orders of magnitude more delicious, though you'd hardly have thought that the dimpled pattern might also offer insulating properties. but as already seen on the thermal lining of rapha's pro-team winter bibtights, a pattern such as described above seems to do precisely that. and as an antidote to those cold sunday mornings, that selfsame waffle pattern features on the inner layer of rapha's long-sleeve pro-team thermal baselayer.

rapha pro-team l/s thermal baselayer

and believe me, it is a cosy sensation to rival that of the heavily togged duvet.

however you adjudge the suitability of any cycling garment for the trouble it's about to get into, there is little that compares with donning a baselayer adorned with the legend trouvée d'arenberg about its person and immediately warming to its personality. no matter the garmentage applied on top, there's really nothing that can take that away.

its impressive length all the way to the bottom of the drop tail is equally matched by a collar that can be rolled all the way up and over the chin and mouth. though the phrase "hey baby, it's cold outside" is one that has been frequently used of late, those lowered temperatures have yet to enforce a collar rolled quite so high. however, its versatility will allow it to be adjusted low, medium and high, depending on the severity of the incoming breeze. i have, so far, opted for a just-below-the-chin stance with waffled comfort.

rapha pro-team l/s thermal baselayer

but once again, my concentration has directed itself to the length of the sleeves, the extent of which approaches not only the wrists, but veers ever so close to the back of my hands, if i'm of a mind to let them. i've ridden to the outer-edge wearing solely a jacket over the waffles with no apparent loss of therms and i've wimped out completely by accommodating a jersey between jacket and baselayer, during which cosiness was of an order i'd be more than happy to get used to.

rapha's pro-team long-sleeve thermal baselayer can be acquired in three colourways: a rather dramatic black and yellow that only the bathroom mirror is likely to see, plain black and the dark olive green as reviewed here. sizing ranges from xs to xxl. for a mere £70, you too can enjoy the benefit of waffles and the fact that the thermal baselayer exits a full wash darned near bone-dry.

rapha pro-team long-sleeve thermal baselayer

friday 17 november 2017

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a thingumy

thingumy

around the turn of the century, the previous owners of california's ibis cycles exhibited a steel-framed, single-speed mountain bike known as the ibis single malt. not necessarily currying favour with ibis founder, scott nicol, allegedly he dogmatically insisted that it be painted to match his favourite islay dram, that of lagavulin. and in order to enhance its personality while on display, they created a custom bottle cage to accept a bottle of the distillery's finest.

if you've ever attempted to fit a bottle of whisky into a regular bottle cage, you'll well know why the standard issue is of little use. this iniquity is compounded by the fact that none of islay's distilleries offers a bottle bearing any comparison to that of its neighbours. some are tall and elegeant, while others inhabit the world of the small and dumpy, no matter the shade of the amber nectar contained within.

thingumy

though the mighty dave t always alleges that his water bottle contains several drams of lagavulin each and every sunday morning, the practice of carrying any form of alcoholic beverage as a mid-ride refreshment is generally not to be advised. aside from the likelihood of being pulled over by the police for slaloming through the dotted white lines, i fear the carbo qualities of the average dram are fairly negligible.

and don't even think of dropping by islay ales at islay house square on the way home to acquire a bottle of ian og ale; their bottles are no less well-formed to fit the average road-going bottle cage.

thingumy

but my well intentioned advice concerning the transportation of alcoholic beverages (can single malt truly be described as a beverage?), whether of islay origins or otherwise, singularly discounts the situations when carrying alcohol from shop to home is a necessitous state of affairs. a bottle of ardbeg 'an oa' refuses point blank to be safely ensconced in a jersey rear pocket (and yes, i've tried it) and when rapha announced their appropriately decorated rcc canyon road bike earlier this week, i failed to note any sculpted crevices that might keep a bottle of single-malt safe and secure during a finish line sprint.

which leaves the whisky or real ale aficionados within our midst flailing helplessly in the peloton. but, as agatha christie might reasonably have said "or does it?"

thingumy

nestling comfortably on a shelf in the kickstarter building, are packs of yannick read's thingumys, ready, willing and able to carry pretty much any shape of bottle you may have in mind. if the distilleries of the isle had any real sense, they'd be selling these over the counter, or giving them away with each and every bicycle-related purchase. ecologically fashioned from recycled inner tubes and aided and abetted by a soupcon of velcro, a brace of thingumy can take care of pretty much any minimalist cargo demands such as lights, bananas, and possibly even drumsticks or maracas.

currently, via kickstarter, one pair of thingumy will relieve you of £6, considerably less than a bottle of 17 year-old lagavulin. if you're still dithering over what to get for whom this christmas, once more, i've at least partially solved the problem.

and once more, you're welcome.

thingumy kickstarter campaign

thursday 16 november 2017

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the case for the defence

shokbox

things happen at airports that probably shouldn't happen, but they do anyway. silly stuff that really ought not to occur and often results in very expensive repair bills, but with so many people involved in servicing inbound and outbound aircraft coupled with the pressure to have aeroplanes remain on the ground for as short a time as possible, as the saying goes, 'sh*t happens'.

no doubt the film crews responsible for those fly-on-th-wall documentaries about airports and airlines have miles of footage that should never be seen by the travelling public, but from personal recollection, i can think of only a couple of representative examples.

i believe that the process of loading catering trollies onto an aircraft is basically the same as ever it was, but during my brief period of being associated with air travel, the catering trucks drew up at right angles to the fuselage raised the rear of the truck in line with the aircraft door, before proceeding to roll everything onboard. it is/was a system repeated several hundred times per day without incident, but every now and again, the driver's tolerances slipped just a tad. in the case of which i speak (write?), the driver did the same as he'd done for months or even years before: stopped the truck and raised the back of the truck in line with the door.

shokbox

unfortunately, he'd failed to align the truck cab directly under the doorway and as the rear of the truck rose higher, it caught the underside of the aircraft door and ripped it from the fuselage.

oops.

prior to the current practice of boarding aircraft via adjustable corridors leading directly to the doorway, it was common for passengers to reach the plane by stairways positioned at the front and rear. this is still the case for smaller aircraft, such as that which plies its twice daily route to and from islay. since this largely compromises access for the disabled, boarding them in the past involved wheeling the chair into the verisimilitude of a fibreglass hut with one wall missing and raising it to the rear doorway by means of a large forklift truck. hardly the most dignified means of boarding an aircraft, but needs must.

shokbox

once again, it's a procedure that, at the time, had been safely carried out on many an occasion without any undue problem, but during one such personally witnessed occasion, that forklift was a smidgeon too close to the aeroplane and as the forks rose towards the cabin, they ripped into the aluminium of the hull, cutting two substantial slots in its metal fabric.

oops number two.

both these situations were, with a little care and attention, completely avoidable, but it's this kind of incident that causes both departure and arrival delays at airports all over the world. which neatly and coincidentally brings us to the world of the baggage handler, an iconic individual who sits uncomfortably in the classification usually reserved for debt collectors, tax officials and traffic wardens. though many of the negative attributes applied to this profession may be apocryphal or even downright erroneous, sadly quite a few are as true as the contention that star wars is a documentary (i'm right, you're wrong).

shokbox

my summertime job positioned me within a matter of metres of one of prestwick airport's aircraft stances on the apron from where it was not only easy to see the goings on with regard to aircraft preparation, but every now and then to converse with fellow students who'd managed to land a job with ground crew for the summer. during one of those occasions, an erstwhile colleague of mine, when taking luggage from the hold (in the days before everything was placed in large fuselage shaped containers) started to place the cases on the back of a flatbed truck that was, in fact, not there. quite a number of luggage items fell to the concrete apron before he realised the iniquity of his situation.

as i said above, sometimes sh*t happens.

shokbox

the problem, as many of us with expensive carbon fibre see it, is that there's an ever present danger of situations such as those described above, happening to our most favoured toy in the whole wide world. i have seen many a touring cyclist spread out on the airport concourse with spanners and allen key, re-assembing a bicycle which has arrived from further afield encased in one of those cardboard boxes used for bikeshop delivery. i doubt that i'm revealing any closely guarded secrets if i inform you that one of those falling from an aircraft onto the tarmac is unlikely to keep everything in pristine condition.

after spending far more money on a state of the art road bike than him/her indoors will ever know, it makes prudent sense to protect that investment each and everytime we travel some distance from home. scotland's airline loganair insists on any transported cycles being boxed, bagged or cased. the citylink bus services from the mainland ferry port to glasgow city centre require a similar method of packaging. this is presumably to obviate themselves from any litigous action should a poorly packaged bicycle arrive at its destination in several unintended pieces.

shokbox

despite almost every portion of velocipedinal life having exhibited technological advancement over the course of the last decade, the humble bike box, according to the makers of shokbox, has remained somewhat static. though a carbon bicycle frame is designed to resist the forces inherent in even highly active pedalling, its forte is not fending off the ministrations of the average baggage handler, whether wearing an airports authority overall, or that of virgin trains.

shokbox have thus developed their contemporary and sturdy bicycle transportation device according to their own demanding criteria: to be multi-disciplined for road, triathlon or mtb, remove the usual complex packing process, track the shokbox using gps and a smartphone app and also be functionally superior to those currently on the market.

as cyclists travel more often and further afield, to manufacture in the uk what is rapidly becoming every bit as important a bicycle component as a frame or wheelset unsurprisingly costs a penny or two, the solution to which is often realised by a concomitant kickstarter campaign. the originators of the shokbox are no exception and early funders can look forward to receiving a choice of coloured shokbox for as little as £249.

if you found my recollections of airport life just a tad unsettling, this might be the very boarding pass for which you were searching. you know the drill.

shokbox kickstarter campaign

many of the above illustrations are of prototype designs.

wednesday 15 november 2017

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duff's fantastic cycling gizmos - the crazy inventions of a bike nut! graham high. cracking books paperback 60pp illus. £9.99

duff's fatastic cycling gizmos

while plying my temporary trade as an art student and very much in order to keep myself in the style and drumsets to which i hoped to become accustomed, i spent those long-past summer months working at prestwick airport for the long-since demised grand metropolitan airport services. this subsequently became a part of modern-day diageo, owners of lagavulin and caol ila distilleries as well as both port ellen maltings and the soon to be revived port ellen distillery. though not germain to the subject eventually under discussion, i feel this an excellent opportunity to lift the lid on just how large and ultimately clueless this monolith has become.

several years ago, i was tasked by the local tourist marketing group to produce an islay whisky trail leaflet. produced with the co-operation of the island's distilleries, it was thus none too iniquitous that they desired their logos featured on the cover. having acquired all apart from the aforementioned lagavulin and caol ila, i contacted diageo's media department in london to request that they sent me the logos in an appropriate format.

disappointingly, they had no idea of which i spoke and passed me onto their irish media department who had even less idea than their metropolitan counterparts. ultimately, i garnered the necessary artwork from the respective distillery managers. if nothing else, this perhaps illustrates the folly of creating such a large corporate entity.

duff's fatastic cycling gizmos

however, to return to my original train of thought, grand metropolitan had a quite impressively pro-active policy regarding the care and betterment of their staff. one example of this was the so-called chairman's prize which, if i recall correctly, took place every second month and offered suitable recompense to the employee who put forward an irresistable idea that might improve the company's profitability in the months or years to come. though hardly worthy of serious consideration, my own nomination consisted of the waterproof tea bag, for which i drew a short cartoon strip to illustrate the extent of my genius, proudly displayed on the staff noticeboard.

drawing cartoons had long been a clandestine ambition of mine, one that rarely saw the light of day due to having convinced myself that i'd probably run out of humorous ideas in a very short space of time. during my years at art college, we were encouraged to keep a personal sketch book in which we allegedly had carte blanche as to the contents. my previously mentioned cartooning aspirations had me copying facial expressions from charles schultz' peanuts syndicated strips, in order to investigate the whys and wherefores of his minimalist, yet highly effective illustrative skills.

rather unexpectedly, on having handed said sketch book in for assessment along with the rest of my year's work, i was somewhat taken aback to discover two pages torn from the sketch pads, pinned to the wall and underlined by the words "a bit less of this please". it appears that my art college lecturers had obviously misunderstood the common definition of the word personal.

duff's fatastic cycling gizmos

ironically, at precisely the time i was discovering that art college was not all diet coke and roses, dundee born graham high was apparently having greater success at edinburgh college of art. subsequently graduating at postgraduate level from the drawing and painting department, graham became the political cartoonist of the scotsman newspaper between 1987 and 2000, winning the scottish press awards cartoonist of the year in 1998. such an impressive palmares heralds the publication of duff's fantastic cycling gizmos - the crazy inventions of a bike nut!, the intent of which is perfectly encapsulated on the cover, featuring a remarkably obree-like velocipedinal invention.

the back cover offers an ideal perspective in which the contents might be considered, comparing the fictitious duff to that of a modern-day heath robinson. apparently duff first made a public appearance in today's golfer magazine, curating a 'improve your game with duff's golfing gizmos', but we won't hold that against the author.

this slim, but highly (see what i did there?) entertaining volume contains several years' worth of bizarre cycling inventions, ranging from a fork adaptor allowing the front wheel to be replaced by your dog in order to cycle while exercising the pooch, to a throne bike for use by the monarch during state occasions in times of austerity. make no mistake, these exhibit an eccentric brand of velocipedinal humour; wonderfully drawn and described flights of fancy, none of which exhibit anything like the pragmatism that would have them feature in a kickstarter campaign.

duff's fatastic cycling gizmos

for the members of your peloton who you think are too enthralled by the inner crevices of strava, this would make the perfect christmas gift, subtly pointing out how easily their idiosyncracies fit with graham high's bizarre imagination. i'm reluctant to pin my flag to the mast by choosing a favourite from the contents, but if push came to shove, i figure the inflatable d-lock bears the hallmarks of the sort of absurdity we all need in our lives.

the review copy will soon take up residence in debbie's café for the further edification of the velo club over froth and custard creams.

priced at a most amenable £9.99, 'duff's fantastic cycling gizmos' can be acquired via amazon, or, failing that, contact graham at crackingbooks@btinternet.com

tuesday 14 november 2017

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tell them we sent you

quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.

club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.

debbie's cafe

bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner.

welcometogreatcoffee.co.uk

port mòr bistro. now that the original debbie's is run by her mum, aileen, debbie has taken over the catering franchise at port charlotte's port mòr centre, where you can have some of deb's famously wonderful coffee as well as a wide range of foodtsuffs. highly recommended.

braehouse gallery, portnahaven. sited at the entrance to portnahaven village, the gallery also offers takeway coffees and a range of cakes. there's also quite a wide range of photos, islay souvenirs and other desirable odds and bits. though you can't sit in for coffee and cake, there is a table and chairs outside along with an adjacent bicycle rack for parking.

and recently opened in islay house square, bridgend in the islay studios photo gallery, a fine selection of designer coffees are now available while you admire the surrounding imagery.

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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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