the light of the charge brigade


the sunday peloton can be a funny place to be, entirely at the behest of its composition. while the french once complained of the tour being run at deux vitesses, referring to the use of suspicious substances by non-french teams, the sunday ride operates at a wide variety of vitesses, including that of yours truly. not so much at the immediate outward point of the journey, but certainly as time moves on, when the age factor plays its trump card. that can usually be witnessed around the start of the col du rspb. that's the very point at which i formed my theory concerning the increased action of gravity upon the elderly. and, if further evidence were required, at that very point on the parcours during yesterday's ride, we met up with the mighty dave t. his more sedate climbing pace was one i was more than happy to adopt.

but prior to reaching that point, i found myself riding with a visiting velocipedinist, quite some distance ahead of the following pack. concerned that we were perhaps guilty of pushing a tad harder on the pedals than was seemly in polite company, my fellow rider made a quick check of his heart-rate on the bar mounted device, reporting that it showed a very modest 100bpm. by no stretch of the imagination, we concluded, could that have been considered excessive, pushing on regardless, but waiting at the next junction for our colleagues, mostly in order to offset any accusations of unsociability.

and therein is contained a possibly unrecognised aspect of the modern velocipedinal milieu.

as mentioned above, we had come across the mighty dave-t, riding a similar route to that of our own, but at an arguably more agreeable pace. ultimately, we all arrived at debbie's for coffee and toasties (and a doughnut for yours truly, but don't tell anyone). despite that previously reported sedate pace practised by the mighty dave, he still managed to edge me out at the sprint - and i really was trying. as we sat deep in conversation over a cheese and tomato toastie, dave-t showed me an image of his holdsworth road bike from the 1980s, which he'd passed onto his son, who, in turn, had had it restored to its former glory.

the holdsworth featured curved steel forks, brake cables exiting the top of the brake hoods, and downtube gear levers. the very style of bicycle often greatly sought after nowadays, and one bereft of electrickery. as i left the croft on sunday morning, i had checked the battery level of my flashing rear light, something we all attach to the rear of our bicycles both summer and winter. sadly, the level indicator was somewhat pessimistic, but, as it transpired, there was sufficient juice to continue the red flash until i returned home safely. and fortunately, on friday eve, i had the good sense to check the battery level on my garmin, ahead of saturday's 65+km bike ride.

the last time i rode the hot chillee london-paris ride in 2017, the fellow with whom i found myself riding for most of the trip, neglected to charge his own gps device at the end of the first day. on day two, he'd to subject himself to riding without anything attached to his handlebars. i, on the other hand, had opted to leave my garmin at home, relying on the lead cars and motorcycle outriders to get me safely to the end of each day without any specific need to know where we were en-route, or how many kilometres had been covered. at the end of day two, my companion stated that he had found the day most refreshing, with no need for constant recourse to a display of digital information at his command.

last monday's panorama programme on bbc television asked the question 'is britain prepared for the electric car?' the reporter, driving an electric vw minibus from south england to north scotland, stated within the first few minutes, that it was surprising just how quickly driving an electric vehicle gave rise to what i believe is referred to as 'charging anxiety', where the driver constantly checks the battery level and the nearest availability of a charge point. i found myself with a similar set of circumstances when reviewing specialized's turbo vado a few years past. and i've noticed signs of the same behaviour on others aboard e-bikes.

time was, such matters were the very things a bike ride was designed to remove us from. the phrase, nothing's ever worse after a bike ride' may still be true, but the more we hinder ourselves with electrical accoutrements that need to be charged, the more those bike rides need to be planned in advance. though i'd like to think of myself as immune from such circumstances, there's every likelihood that such is a falsehood. to spontaneously decide to take the bicycle from the bikeshed, play hooky from the office and head out into the wide grey yonder, then to discover that the garmin has only 5% charge, confers a potentially awkward set of circumstances.

and though i might be persuaded to leave home without my gps, i'd have second thoughts about doing so minus that flashing rear light which, i feel, is every bit as necessary as wearing a helmet. that's why i have two lights, one of which is always fully-charged.

i think.

monday 19 june 2023

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jura ferry - konrad borkowski

the age of convenience has descended from a great height and now invades every part of our daily existence. no longer is it necessary to wait for any particular desire, especially those that involve consumption of vittles or refreshment; instant gratification can now be found from north to south. when mrs washingmachinepost and i moved to the hebrides many moons ago, the local averagemarket was open six days per week (closed on sunday) and open daily from 9am - 5pm. sunday newspapers were brought to jura by fishing boat then across to islay in late afternoon. there was a sole outlet in port charlotte serving espresso and associated designer coffees, and that, effectively, was that.

so far the principality has remained relatively free from the likes of just eat, deliveroo and similar services, though the village averagemarket, now open seven days a week from 7am until 10pm, does offer home delivery of our online shopping choices from monday to saturday. and yet, despite these dramatically increased opening hours, visitors during the recent whisky festival were heard to complain that it did not provide a 24 hour service.

in the latter part of nineties, when said averagemarket began selling daily newspapers, there was something of a local outcry amongst the village shopkeepers, engendering a wholesale joining of the federation of small businesses in defiance. of course, that had no effect whatsoever; the internet pretty much saw to that. but only in the last couple of months, the averagemarket has had a costa express automatic coffee machine installed near the checkouts, offering a wide range of takeaway coffees and bringing even more controversy to main street, bowmore. (ironically, it arrived on the same day that the billionaire ceo of starbucks sailed his luxury yacht into the bay at port ellen).

from that sole coffee retailer of the late 1980s, progress has brought a substantial influx of industrial coffee machines in all manner of retail outlets across the island. this, of course, has been as a result of the large number of foreign and european whisky visitors, who expect a tad more than a cup of nescafé instant in a chipped mug. in bowmore alone, there are hotels, cafés, peatzeria and a bookseller all offering sit-in designer coffees. however, the averagemarket owner informed me that, aside fom the costa installation being part of the parent company's retail strategy, over which he has no control, the many tradesmen and women who are out and about prior to the opening of said cafés and bookseller, had frequently asked about coffees that might serve them as they head to the daily grindstone.

the service industry is nothing, if not compliant.

i will be most surprised, however, if those shop and café owners who expressed their dismay (over twenty, i'm led to believe) about the costa installation, actually find any difference to their weekly takings. having tried an espresso from the automatic dispenser, while it was certainly palatable, it was never going to stop my weekly thursday afternoon visit to the booksellers for a much more rewarding rocket fuel, particularly when they were kind enough to provide an afogato during last week's heatwave. mr costa does not stretch to such niceties. nor is there any chance i'd opt to substitute a takeway coffee for my saturday double-egg roll and soya latte. a costa machine is completely devoid of ambience (and double-egg rolls) for which i'd imagine many would prefer the sit-in experience.

yet, amongst the substantial numbers of coffee outlets all across the island, and those that inhabit the neighboring isle of jura, debbie's has a reputation that, it seems, cannot be beat.

during yesterday's solo bike ride, punctuated with lunch at deb's (as is my weekly habit), i sat adjacent to a fellow clad in a banesto cycle jersey. it was not hard to put two and two together and infer that it might well be his pannier festooned touring bike parked outside. being the congenial fellow i like to think that i am, i engaged in conversation, during which i learned that he had arrived on friday afternoon at port askaig in the north, following which, he boarded the jura ferry and popped across the water for a visit. it was on the return trip to islay, that the reputation acquired by our favourite velocipedinal coffee stop made itself known, and explained why, in part, i was having the conversation in the first place.

port askaig, from where the council-owned ferry service to jura departs, is around 28km from bruichladdich, yet, as this fellow returned on the mv eilean dhiura, one of the crew members mentioned to him that, as a cyclist, if he wanted a decent coffee, bruichladdich mini-market (the official name for debbie's café) was exactly where he ought to head. that's the sort of publicity that money can't buy.

so, if you're over here during the coming months, you no longer have to take only my word for it. and i'm happy to say that saturday saw the return of precipitation and a lowering of temperatures, something i have been lobbying for all week.

jura ferry image © konrad borkowski

sunday 18 june 2023

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sunrise over the paps - david livingstone

i seriously doubt there are any cyclists in the known universe who have not, at some time or another, been endlessly irritated by an undiagnosed click, creak, or bang apparently emanating from the region of the bottom bracket. in point of fact, the bottom bracket is rarely the guilty party, being simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. no matter the material from which your bicycle is hewn, it is invariably hollow, and hollow internal pathways are well-formed for the transmission of sound. even monocoque carbon frames, which are tubes only in name, if not in form, feature sizeable cavernous areas, particularly around the aforementioned bottom bracket area, made even more cavernous in the case of a monocoque, by the perpetual need to demonstrate inherent stiffness.

thus, it is quite possible for a click emanating from the lower headset bearing to appear sonically as if doing so from the bottom bracket, predominantly at the behest of the hollow downtube. and any noises arising from, let's say, a loose cassette lockring, are capable of travelling the short length of the drive-side chainstay to apparently appear, yet again, at the bottom bracket. of course, the noise could actually be the bottom bracket (one of the velo club peloton is currently suffering at the behest of noisy bottom bracket bearings), but even though that proves to be the case, diagnosing the apparent problem is one of the most elusive in the velocipedinal world.

however, though it should have been more than obvious to yours truly, based on previous experience, there's a contributing factor that might be worth considering, given the present meteorological conditions. according to a report in yesterday's copy of my daily newspaper, the climate change conditions responsible for heating the planet, might make this a more frequent causality. in which case, it's probably going to be hot more often. this at the behest of fossil-fuel burning and some bloke called el nino.

in the dark days before enlightenment dawned, i rode a mountain bike. it's a period of which i'm not proud, but i've successfully put it behind me, and i'd appreciate it if you would do likewise. however, while perambulating the principality during a warm summer, the mountain bike du jour developed an irritating click. in an effort to remove this click from my horizon, i checked the cassette lockring, the crank bolts (square-taper days), and removed the bottom bracket bearings, replacing them with new, along with fresh grease, yet still the click persisted.

eventually, in desperation, i removed the pedals, only for that to be found as the source of the clicking. due to the prolonged period of warm weather, the grease applied when installing the pedals had dried out completely, allowing the threads to move minutely on the crank, and click accordingly. a fingerful of grease on each thread, banished the click for good.

the hebrides have been dessicated for more than four weeks, and though the forecast for the next week would indicate at least a modest amount of rain heading in our direction, the period through which we have just passed, has lowered river levels, bleached the grass and made it insufferably warm at night when trying to get to sleep. i have been cheerfully telling any within earshot that i am bored with this namby-pamby set of heated circumstances, and yearning for the days of galeforce winds and driving rain. i know they think i'm kidding, but i'm really not.

however, such heat and dry conditions are not those regularly experienced by any bicycle in the united kingdom, so it's more than possible that any untoward noises are simply as a result of weather-induced dessication. though i cannot say it's a solution i have tried personally, but assuming you're not yet constrained by a hosepipe ban, perhaps dousing the bicycle in water for a few minutes would prove efficacious, before riding a kilometre or so to determine if the sound has evaporated. i would point out that this is an exercise best employed as either a first resort, or perhaps, a last, particularly if bicycle fettling numbers among one's favourite past-times.

of course, it could be that the bottom bracket will self-destruct during a subsequent bike ride, proving just how little mechanical knowledge i actually possess.

image: sunrise over the paps of jura - © david livingstone, islay (twitter:@davidliv25)

saturday 17 june 2023

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now you really are having a laugh

zwift + vision pro

the recently launched campagnolo super-record wireless electronic groupset, brought more interest due to the removal of the downshift buttons than the fact that the wires have gone. those currently feature on the inner face of the brake levers across the range of vicenza's other groupsets. it was one-third of campagnolo's separate lever for each function ideology that has persisted for many a long year, and, to all intents and purposes, most satisfactorily. unlike shimano, which requires that riders move the entire brake lever inwards to upshift, or sram's double-tap lever that shifts both up and down depending on how far it is pressed, campagnolo's system may have required more convoluted internals, but the end result was, in my humble opinion, a great deal more satisfactory.

oddly, after more years of that inner button than anyone can reliably recall, campagnolo's reputed reason for dispensing with its services, is that it was proving divisive in attracting new adherents to the delights of italian switcheroonie. if that is true, that it took them quite this long to realise, doesn't exactly cover them with glory.

however, a recent e-mail from a regular washingmachinepost correspondent claimed to have discovered the real reason campagnolo removed those inward-facing downshift buttons, an e-mail that was accompanied by an image of zwift's new game controllers. though quite a bit larger than campagnolo's erstwhile button shifters, these controllers, which closely resemble a dismembered playstation unit, attach to the bars/brake levers remarkably close to the former location of campagnolo's shifters.

whether there was advance collusion between zwift and vicenza's engineers, we'll probably never know, but it does seem likely that there would have been interference between the two, at least in terms of ergonomics and actuation. granted, i'd imagine that those able to afford the super-record wireless groupset, would see little financial barrier to the purchase of a differently equipped bicycle to attach to a smart-trainer, but as a portent of things to come, this possibly foretells of those downshift buttons subsequently disappearing from record, chorus and centaur. should that prove to be the case, it would be somewhat iniquitous to learn that the online world has crossed the line between which reality influences the other?

however, though i am only superficially acquainted with the workings and/or purpose of zwift, i cannot deny that my watching of a demonstration video on youtube of those very controllers discussed above, elicited more than a single guffaw. highly reminiscent of my recollection of early versions of sonic the hedgehog, it would appear that, in what i can only describe as game mode, the on-screen cyclist, directed by the pressing of buttons on the controllers, attempted to ride fast enough to clear illuminated clocks suspended in mid-air, along with some similarly constituted but indistinguishable points along the road. presumably even the chaps at zwift headquarters have realised that simply riding fast alongside (or through) the avatars of the virtual peloton, is likely to bring overwhelming tedium to the surface.

and during the perusal of youtube videos, which included sight of zwift's controlled virtual reality, i came upon a review of apple computer's recently announced virtual reality headset, the first of which i am aware, that allows recognition and vision of other real individuals in the room. and during that demonstration, the ability to seamlessly move the computer desktop into a verisimilitude of a very large heads-up display, was an impressive insight into the harnessing of substantial computing power. so who amongst us would bet against the merging of the two technologies at a point in the very near future?

the projected (pun intended) cost of apple's vision pro headset, when it arrives next year, is approximately £2,750, placing it well into the stratosphere as far as the ordinary rider in the peloton is concerned. but it occurs to me that anyone who can afford the £4,500 for super-record wireless, would likely issue a haughty guffaw when faced with the price of admission for virtual reality. and, minus those inner downshift buttons on the super-record levers, there would be ample space for zwift's controllers. therefore, even when joining the sunday peloton, with apple's vision pro 'neath the peak of one's casquette, it would be sneaker pimps to bring along one's worldwide virtual peloton for the ride.

and, even better (a little hebridean humour there) given that velon appears willing to welcome new technologies to the professional road, perhaps one rider from each participating tour de france team could be outfitted with a vision-pro, allowing the great unwashed to ride along as part of an immersive experience, alongside the real cyclists you actually know.

go on; tell me i'm being ridiculous.

friday 16 june 2023

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brazin' days are here again

russell stout hrok

my first visit to portland's fair city in north america's pacific northwest was in may of 2009, and during a week-long stay, i was able, through the kind ministrations of chris distefano, to meet many of the town's premier framebuilders; something of a revelation. the latter part of this century's first decade was steel framebuilding's halcyon days of yore, a trend, if i might phrase it in that manner, that soon spread from north american soil to the uk. the rapha continental, as highlighted in yesterday's monologue, featured identically painted black bicycles fabricated by several of the usa's top builders: richard sachs, jay sycip, tony pereira, to name but a few.

the popularity of steel as a frame material proved to be not only an antidote to the ubiquitous black stuff, but a popular choice by those wishing to ride a bicycle often made to their own dimensions, abilities and velocipedinal predilections. across the pond, it led to the once annual north american handbuilt bicycle show, or nahbs. having originated in portland, is subsequently altered venue each year, drawing in substantial crowds of appreciative cyclists, keen to demonstrate their affiliation with artisinal bikebuilding. in 2012, i flew from portland to california's capital city of sacramento to attend the bike show; a celebratory experience from which i still own a vintage mavic woollen jersey.

not wishing to miss out on this resurgence of appreciation for lugged or tig-welded steel, britain stepped in with bespoke bristol, held in a room that was once station platforms designed by isambard kingdom brunel. despite being rather crowded (leading to the show moving to london's olympic velodrome the following year), i recall the particularly notable augmentation of livingston-based shand cycles stand, in the shape of tunnocks caramel wafers. it doesn't come more scottish than that. i had previously visited the livingston workshop of shand cycles to meet with steven (shand) and his right-hand man, russell stout, following receipt of several bikes for review. these were often advertised in the cycling press as 'grey sky thinking'; bicycles built for scottish roads and weather.

that particular era ended when shand cycles was sold to liberty cycles, and though shand cycles are still handbuilt in a workshop near edinburgh, steven and russell are no longer associated with that particular company. however, it transpires that both are, once again, involved in building bicycles.

russell stout, a man i have not seen for a few years, is now carrying out a non-commercial, one man project to handbuild bicycle frames using aluminium tubing, a material that, since the advent of carbon fibre, has found itself drifting in no-man's land. according to russell, though many have little truck with aluminium, "I personally think it's an overlooked material and easier to work with than steel, lighter and more resistant to corrosion. It's also easier and more cost-effective to machine or CNC short-run parts without resorting to 3D printing and other processes in steel."

and what of steven shand? well it transpires that he too is back in the framebuilding business, under the name of willow cycles. according to steven, "six years after leaving Shand Cycles I've decided to start building bicycles commercially again.", and those bicycles are still constructed in scotland. steven builds one bike at a time; if you're interested in availing yourself of his admirable skills for a handbuilt bicycle of your very own, see the web address below. and while we're in scottish mode, it gives me great pleasure to announce that the nation has joined in the celebration of the framebuilders' art with a glasgow-based exhibition all of its own.

brazin' scotland will take place during glasgow's hosting of the uci world championships in civic house, glasgow on saturday 5 august. sadly, i will be unable to attend, having been booked to play a wedding on islay on that particular evening and riding the 2023 ride of the falling rain the following day. exhibitors already confirmed include, the aforementioned russell stout, ariel cycles, andrew armour, broc bikes, c3 cycles, colin woof, five land bikes, kevin pollock, rothair and the vandal metalworks. visitors are also promised probably the finest collection of vintage flying scot bicycles, once made in glasgow by rattray cycles.

maybe in the era of electronic groupsets, integrated cables and dropped seatstays, scotland might kick-start another resurgent era of the handbuilt bicycle, allowing the modernists to adopt every last innovation, while luddites such as yours truly can specify a cross frame with cantilever pivots. if you attend, let me know what it was like.

brazin scotland | willow bicycles | russell stout

image: russell stout cycles

thursday 15 june 2023

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freedom of the press

rapha continental

my journalistic tendencies (such as they are), have a less free-and-easy outlet in the pages of islay's local newspaper. after spending around twenty-four freelance years trying to avoid becoming the paper's editor, the onset of covid and events subsequent to that, ultimately meant that ducking the responsibility became unavoidable. so, for the past three years, i have rented out my mearge editing talents to the community newspaper, in order to protect both its indpendence, and, to all intent and purposes, its integrity.

however, while it is simply the latter that constrains me from possibly overstepping the mark in these black and yellow pixels, there are more stringent guidelines governing the hebridean printed word. for instance, i am to refrain from voicing political opinion (though i can commission others to do so, provided i make it clear in the byline). this, despite its apparently negative implications, is a lot easier than it sounds, because, personally, i think all politicians (without exception) are all as bad as each other. i am also confined (relatively speaking) to ensuring that the content of each edition is relevant to the isles of islay and jura, a somewhat tautological demand, which pertains to the newspaper's front-page statement that it exists as the independent newspaper for islay and jura.

there are others, but those ought to suffice for now.

though i have likely promoted my lack of affinity for the amber nectar to the point of boredom, it's hard to deny that, in our case at least, whisky tends to sell newspapers. this may be due to the perception that the paper has insights into the machinations of uisge beatha, but no matter the reason, i'm inclined to feature whisky as often as seems prudent. it's all very well being idealistic, but the bills still have to be paid. however, what i am very wary of, is attempting to influence the readership in one way or another, based solely on any predispositions or perceptions i might harbour of the world around me.

the object of the game is simply to inform and allow the reader to make up their own mind.

that, you will surely agree, is a tad different from washingmachine-speak, where i have (obviously) little compunction in continually highlighting my disdain for electric gears, hydraulic discs on road bikes, or the perennial need to predict which member of the peloton is likely to win which particular stage in any given grand tour. the fact that the velocipedinal world has altered its chosen path not one iota as a result, ought to demonstrate just how little sway i have in such matters.

and then there's gravel.

it's a subject on which i feel i have said way too much; to my mind with verifiable justification, but again, words that continue to fall on deaf ears. i have, at heart, no qualms with folks enjoying their cycling any which way they want, but in terms familiar to any self-respecting paranoia sufferer, i think it's undoubtedly an industry subterfuge. as i have stated to the point of drastic over-repetition, rapha's north-american continental project in 2004-2009, made major inroads to the art and practice of riding gravel roads on handbuilt, steel road bikes, outfitted with only 28mm continental road tyres, and caliper brakes.

to quote continental alumni and founder, daniel wakefield pasley, "It turns out that road bikes are a really good tool for adventure. But not many people knew that then. Dudes would come to a spot at the end of a paved road where it turned to gravel and, literally, turn around. Like, nope, can't go any further, not on this bike. Like it (their bike) would explode or something."

the modern conceit would have you believe that potential gravellers have no option but to acquire a gravel-specific carbon bicycle with hydraulic discs, along with couture, footwear and gearing expressly designed for the purpose of not riding on the road. and all this despite the existence of cyclocross bicycles and xc mountain bikes.

but it seems that a great majority of the unwashed have fallen for this industry invention. according to future publshing's cyclingnews and cycling weekly, page requests on their websites for the recent north american unbound gravel event, outstripped those for paris-roubaix, reputedly the single most popular one-day classic road race. pageviews on the comic's website showed an over 90% increase, year on year, while those on were up over 73%.

in and of themselves, those numbers would seem to indicate that, worldwide, it would not be unseemly to say that gravel is trending, though a cynic such as myself would obviously question as to how long the bubble may remain unburst? however, it is the projected strategies of both outlets that have me just a tad concerned. in my mind, it is one thing to reflect this interest with perhaps more comprehensive coverage of the world of gravel, but future has indicated that, 'in 2023, the aim is to increase the number of people viewing gravel content by 60% to six million users.' you might well query by what means they hope to achieve such immodest targets?

in a move that seems likely to place more than the requisite number of eggs in a single basket, future intend to double the number of gravel buying guides on each site by adding 60 new guides, with the avowed goal of achieving the top three search results for all the biggest terms, thereby reaching more active buyers of gravel biking gear than anyone else. i believe this may also be phrased as 'playing to the gallery', but possibly to the exclusion of at least some of their present content. and of perhaps more concern, increasing the number of gravel-related reviews, adding at least 200 new reviews of the leading gravel products in 2023.

quite what this means to those of us who have only the comic to turn to for (currently) predominantly road-based features. no longer can we rely on cycle-sport or procycling, both sadly demised, but ironically closed down by future publishing. one might query why, if future is so convinced of the veracity of their apprehensions, they don't produce either a gravel-specific website or print publication? awareness of the current state of print would inform that the latter may not be a particularly astute commercial move, but on the basis that the web can often turn on a sixpence, pixels would seem a more than approachable option.

giving the customer what they want is a well-respected and tested practice, but jumping on a bandwagon and presenting it as the best game in town might not be the place to stand when gravel turns out to be a short-lived fad, and the realisation dawns that cyclocross was the absolute shizzle after all.

rapha continental

wednesday 14 june 2023

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cask strength

cask finery

we have previously discussed at length the tenuous connection between single malt whisky and cycling. the word tenuous in this case, is in danger of being in superfluous use, since there is, in fact, no tangible connection whatsoever. granted, my tenacious pursuit of an ardbeg emblazoned cycle jersey two decades ago has resulted in a significant numbers of others featuring the brand names of many well-known whiskies, but that was a purely selfish pursuit that definitely worked out in my favour. but given that the distillation of whisky originated over 500 years ago, long before kirkpatrick macmillan pedalled from dumfries to glasgow to knock someone over, any purported connection is presumably entirely moot.

cyclists on islay are somewhat predisposed towards connections of a sort, given that we are, no matter in which part of the island we find ourselves, surrounded by the blighters. around the turn of the century, a european diktat banning any outflow from industrial units into the sea, brought the scottish environmental protection agency (sepa) to classify islay's single malt distilleries as industrial units. that may have subsequently proved to be a highly unpopular designation, but in truth, not entirely incorrect. however, it has meant that, for the last twenty-something years, islay's roads have been blighted by forty-foot articulated trucks carrying the pot-ale (waste product from the distilling process) north to caol ila, where it is deposited into the fast moving stretch of water between islay and jura, known as the sound of islay.

cask finery

these trucks ply their seven day a week route twenty-four hours a day, meaning that pretty much any bike ride undertaken in the centre of the known universe, will, at some point, come upon at least one of these trucks. more often than not, these meetings take place on one of the island's singetrack roads, meaning that one or other will have to give way to the other. considering the size of these vehicles, i'm sure you will agree that for those riding slivers of carbon fibre or steel, it makes logical sense, coupled with the desire for self-preservation, that the peloton give way to these vehicles, whether approaching from the front or rear.

but islay is populated by an inordinate number of remarkably decent and courteous individuals, at least four of whom drive those tankers. so, while we will strain every sinew to get out of their way (they're working, we're playing), more often than not, they will pull the trucks over to allow us safe passage, or sit patiently behind until safe for us to move over. it may not be the connection between cycling and whisky of which most would think, but in the days of more frequent mainland animosity between truck drivers and cyclists, this symbiotic relationship is one worth highlighting.

then there's the trivial; or at least something that might once have been considered so.

i cannot, i'm afraid, recall the name of the american website on which i first caught sight, but a unique bike-build from across the pond, featured, as the icing on the cake, a pair of laphroaig whisky corks as bar-end plugs, keeping the bar tape in check throughout the heat of battle. having a good friend who worked in laphroaig's visitor centre, it was not particularly hard to acquire a bagful of the corks to festoon my own bicycles. once the friends of laphroaig have had their annual dram in rent for their square foot of islay soil, what else would they do with the empty bottle corks?

cask finery

however, it seems that the pursuit of the whisky connection knows no bounds, with east lothian based cask finery now producing bicycle augmention crafted from whisky casks: bar end plugs and headset caps hand-crafted from reclaimed barrel staves sourced from distilleries across the nation. cask finery founder, mark van der vijver, who has reputedly worked in the whisky industry for almost 20 years, said, "The simple design of our Cask Finery accessories, makes the aged oak the hero, providing cyclists with an impactful contrast and one-of-a-kind, natural accent to their alloy bike." one can only assume that he was not deliberately excluding carbon fibre, or his potential market may be a tad less expansive than at first thought.

as with pretty much everything in the whisky world, there is the added attraction not only of provenance, but rarity. celebrating the launch, cask finery has produced a special edition batch of 100 accessories handcrafted from a rare cask used to mature a 1963 vintage single malt from glen albyn, one of Scotland's 'lost distilleries', which closed its doors in 1983 and demolished in 1986. cyclists too can now participate in the smoke and mirrors that comprise the malt whisky industry for decidedly less outlay than bowmore's 52 year old malt placed in an aston martin designed decanter, but still more than the price of a bottle of classic laddie.

cask finery will be donating 10% of all company profits to The woodland trust scotland as part of its ongoing commitment to sustainable growth.

cask finery

tuesday 13 june 2023

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