1. I painted some people I know

    This is Ali. She is Scottish. 

    This is Jordan. He wears a POC helmet.

    This is Ben. He’s more northern than Fred Dibnah drinking some tea. 

    This is Rob. He’s large and in charge. 

    And this is everyone. Too many in jokes to go into here, but rest assured I am being between moderately and slightly below moderately funny. 

  2. Things that are fucking ace

    Part 2: Cycling caps

    Every sport has it’s thing that is unique to that sport. Swimming has those ridiculous fucking migraine creators that keep hair out of the water or whatever, horse racing has its eating disorders, university rugby has buggery and so on and so forth. 

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    Top left hand corner. Couldn’t even pause for the photo. Renegades. 

    What cycling has is something so unbelievably fucking balls out cool that it’s still worn by elite athletes during the biggest races in the world despite not really helping them in any way. The simple fact of the matter is, cycling caps are fucking ace.

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    His cap genuinely has more personality than he does

    Think about this: cycling caps suit what, 10% of the people that put them on? At most? And yet look at all the people who wear them! Everyone wants a piece of that fucking insouciant, what-the-fuck-ever, peak up stylishness that even when completely fucking redundant is a key component of ‘looking pro’, the ultimate goal of everyone who pulls on Lycra, whether they admit or not. 

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    "Well, errr, what I did there was ride through some mud, and the results of that was that I got my face and clothes dirty"

    Cycling caps are a relic of a distant era when men on bikes made from scaffolding took prodigious amounts of amphetamines in order to ride those bikes up mountains in the snow and looked cool as absolute fuck throughout the entire process. Cycling caps belong to the sport and to the practitioners thereof, and that makes them something pretty fucking special by any measure. 

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    "Did I say you could take your fucking hat off? Take your hands off me you no hat prick"

    A portly guy from Maidenhead gets out of bed on a Sunday morning, trying not to wake his wife and kids. He rubs chamois cream onto his apprehensive gooch, click-clacks down his hallway on his cleats looking as streamlined and sexy as a bison that somehow learned to walk on its hind legs. He gets to the door. He stands in front of the mirror. He places a cap on his head, arranges it so the peak bisects his eyebrow line and fucking BOOM! He looks like Fausto Coppi had a kid with Miguel Indurain and called him Eddy Merckx. How much more pro can one man be?

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    None more fucking pro, that’s how much. 

  3. Things that are fucking ace

    Part 1: Beer

    Look at this outrageously sexy bastard. Look at him. He knows you’re looking, he wants you to look. He is 0.568 litres that represent the pinnacle of human achievement. He is beer. And he is fucking ace. 

    Let’s preface this with the absolutely incontrovertible statement that beer is one of the greatest things mankind has ever invented. It’s somewhere between the wheel and spectacles, each of which beer ironically renders pointless after a certain level of consumption. 

    There is an honesty about beer, a rejection of frippery and pretension. It’s the Leatherman of drinks, a universal pleaser that slakes the thirst of people who don’t even fucking like beer. Beer is the trusty labrador who pisses on your neighbour’s front lawn because fuck that guy. Beer is your constant companion who never lets you down, and even on the rare occasion it does, you blame the person who sold it to you for not looking after it correctly. 

    Whether you’re drinking to get drunk or drinking because you’ve just knocked a wall down for absolutely no reason and you’re feeling super fucking macho, beer is there for you. In any situation, the correct answer is beer. Case in point: let’s say you prefer wine to beer, whatever, but you’ve just walked for three days through a desert, you’ve run out of water, you’ve got no food. The paramedics find you and for some reason - maybe they’re not actually paramedics - all they have is an ice cold can of generic foreign lager and a small, room temperature glass of Malbec. How much do you prefer wine now? That’s right. Walk away, wine. 

    "I’ll take a negroni because I’m a fucking dickhead. Thanks"

    Thanks to guys with beards who all seem to have the exact same tattoos, good beer is now fucking everywhere. There are more varieties of beer than there are pounds spent by the NHS on treating chronic alcoholism. In living memory, we didn’t have lager on tap. Imagine that shit. Now we have pale ales, amber ales, lagers, weiss, porters, kriek and so much other fucking amazing liquid to imbibe that it doesn’t matter that we’ll all get so fat that we won’t be able to see our penises, because they won’t really work anyway. 

    I don’t know what the fuck this means, but I’m livid

    A world without beer would be a world without the refreshment of a pint on a hot day, or an ale in the depths of winter. A world with less people falling over hilariously. A world where beer gardens would just be…gardens. That is not a world in which I want to live, my friends.  

    Well done beer. Well done for being so magnificently fucking ace. 

  4. I went to the London Bike Show

    With kindling eye and a fluttering heart I skipped throughout the entirety of the journey to the ExCel Centre. What excitement awaited! Bikes, free samples, caps, LOADS OF SHIT TO BUY THAT I CAN’T AFFORD AND DON’T NEED. 

    But no. It was, as I should have expected, a massive trade show. There wasn’t anything worth buying, unless you’d popped along to drop £4,000 on a Titanium frame. I did get a free cap from Rose, but since I ride a Rose I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to wear that delightful piece of kit. 

    Anyway, I took some photos of the stuff I saw that was relatively neat. They’re here. Whatever.

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    Movistar’s ridiculously good looking team issue Canyon Ultimate CL SLX 9.0 with Campag Super Record

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    Planet X’s ridiculously ugly but well priced TT bike with wiggly chain stays and SRAM Rival

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    This beautiful Singular track bike

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    The Rapha broom wagon. It is impossible to photograph this thing from any angle without a kid or fat guy walking into shot. Absolutely out of the question.

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    BILF

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    Trek Factory Racing’s Speedconcept TT bike replete with Dura Ace and loads of go faster stripes

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    Never seen one of these before, the Passoni Nero XL Dura Ace. 

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    See?

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    S-Works Shiv, photos of which are soon to be banned under Cameron’s new pornography laws.

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    There was an indoor crit, which frankly was more depressing than anything else. Like an Eastern European circus.

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    This is a steel Starley, which was very, very nice. Assembled in Cheshire as well, which means…erm…nothing

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    A new line from Australian brand Creux, this being made from Merino. Great quality, snazzy looking, alas it was £65 for one t-shirt, and that’s daft. Also it’s ‘directeur’. 

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    Obligatory ‘made a bell end of myself on something made for kids’ snap.

    Not shown:

    • All the free Clif Bar samples I pilfered whilst a-wandering. Avoid Builders’ Bars. The almond chocolate Clif were delightful. 
    • The free samples of alcohol free Erdinger, which claimed to be Isotonic
    • The stationary swimming pools, in which triathletes swam on the spot. These were hilarious. 
    • The French woman who told me I wasn’t allowed a medium jersey and had to buy extra large, thus denting my feelings. I didn’t buy anything in the end, save for a kilo of nougat to cry into on the way home
  5. Rejected article

    When you’re portfolio building, you write an awful lot of rubbish for an awful lot of people for an awful lot of zero pay. There’s also something tingly about seeing your name next to an article on a website, no matter how flimsy the (written to brief) article is. 

    Obviously not everything can be accepted, sometimes an article is too flimsy to register a flicker on the give-a-fuck scale of even the people with the most fucks-given-per-minute ratios on the entire internet. 

    This is one such piece. I’ve left my notes in. I remind you this was written to brief, it wasn’t my idea. 

    Being a Mancunian Red in ‘That London’

    Like a lot of the growing Mancunian diaspora in London, when the going got tough up North, I got going down south. As a lifelong Manchester United supporter moving to a bustling city packed with supporters from every corner of the world, I was in for something of a culture shock when I arrived, and had to learn a few things on the fly. If you’re a young Manc reading this and planning your own dash to the Smoke, here’s a few of the things you should know. 

    Hardly anyone likes us

    INSERT HILARIOUS AND VAGUELY RELATED GIF HERE, POSSIBLY JENNIFER LAWRENCE OR EMMA STONE DOING ONE OF THOSE FACES THEY DO ON A CHAT WHEN IT’S LIKE ‘SAY WHAAAT’ THAT SOMEONE HAS INEXPLICABLY SUBTITLED

    I know, right? The club that gave English football the greatest manager it has ever seen, the infinitely inspiring tale of the Busby Babes and a bona fide Mancunian calypso, are not very popular. That is, other than amongst Southern Reds, but we’ll come to them later. 

    It is for this reason I’ve found it useful to have a ‘second team’. You don’t have to support them, or even know very much about them, but a lower league team will get you out of all sorts of predicaments. Mine are Stockport County, and they come in handy when confronted by the maniacal gaze of a drunken Chelsea fan whose line of enquiry will invariably run as follows: 1) place of birth 2) red or blue. My beloved County have escorted me out of innumerable scrapes, as I extol the virtues of a front line that contains Phil Jevons to a late night train filled with suddenly bewildered and crestfallen fight fans. 

    Everyone has one or more uncles from Manchester

    INSERT GIF THAT SOMEHOW CONVEYS THE IDEA OF SOMEONE HAVING A LOT OF UNCLES. MORMONS?

    It is a fact that lots and lots of Manchester United supporters come from that dark and mysterious place known only to you as ‘Outside Manchester’. It is also a fact that lots of these supporters are from the south of England. Now, I wouldn’t like to cast aspersions on the veracity of a non regional fan’s support. Mostly because life genuinely is too short to worry about it. However, state in a public place that you are a Mancunian, and do in fact belong to the red half of the city and then stand back as countless Cockney Reds emerge from every corner, feverishly justifying their support based on the fact that their Mum’s neighbour, so basically their uncle, visited Salford Quays when he was in the merchant navy, and so their support is completely acceptable. 

    In order to accommodate the sheer number of these uncles, aunties, parents, cousins and other ancestors, Manchester has to at some point in history have been the size of Russia. Why is no one’s uncle ever from Huddersfield?

    You will hear the same joke, a lot

    THAT GIF OF KANYE WEST WHERE HE’S ALL LIKE ‘HAHAHA’ BUT THEN HIS FACE CHANGES REALLY QUICKLY AND HE JUST LOOKS ANNOYED. OR THE ONE FROM FATHER TED WHERE HE DOES THE SAME BUT THE RESULTANT LOOK IS CONFUSION. 

    Other Mancunian exiles already know of which joke I speak. They’re inwardly mouthing the words right now, preempting the absolute hilarity you’re about to experience for the first time. This is how the scene plays out. You’re in a social situation. The conversation turns to football, as it often does. Someone asks you which team you support, and you answer honestly. Eyes will widen in the group, the tension will be palpable, and then some complete card will say - possibly for the first time that day - ”And you’re from Manchester? You must be the only one!” 

    Rapturous applause and hilarity ensue as all agree this to be the finest jape this side of the West End. If (when) you find yourself in this situation, don’t try and argue your point. Your point isn’t important here, you’re a punchline to a joke that is older than serfdom.

  6. Christmas gifts for cyclists

    When I’m not engaging in shitty book challenges that make no sense even to myself, I can often be found riding a bike. I’m a member of a cycling club, and a sizeable chunk of my ‘disposable’ income is frittered away with alarming regularity on a wealth of objects I convince myself that I need. 

    In trawling the internet for the best prices for these definitely useful, definitely necessary, definitely not too expensive things I’ve noticed that not many people are dishing out advice on what frivolous shit people should buy for the cyclist in their lives. Well, I’m addressing that here. It’s about to be addressed. Look at the title, you knew what you were getting into. 

    The issue, of course, is that only people who ride bikes understand what people who ride bikes actually need. It’s a different world, and one that takes too much work to comprehend. If you buy mudguards, will they fit? What’s a hub, and why are those orange ones so expensive? Is it bad luck to buy someone wheels? Why does he go through so much chamois cream? Don’t buy technical stuff, buy something from the list below, I’m giving you consumer advice. Good christ that was a long introduction. 

    Stuff to buy cyclists for Christmas which, lamentably, isn’t that far away now. 

    Magazine Subscriptions

    If there’s one thing cyclists like almost as much as the physical act of bike riding, it’s reading about others doing the same thing. It’s like the relationship between sex and pornography, however for the cyclist the act of indulging in ‘solo time’ can frequently end up costing a lot of money. 

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    The most ‘coffee table’, nice gift magazines you can get are, in my opinion, Cyclist Magazine and the inimitable Rouleur. They’re wonderful, visual and feel like nice things to own. Other magazines are available, they’re just not really as good. 

    Mugs

    Seems like a boring suggestion, granted. However, the relationship between cycling and coffee is long established, and what better way to look like you knew that than the purchasing of a coffee delivery system?

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    The internet is stacked with cycle-specific muggery, there’s a collection on the Rouleur store that includes the Eddy Merckx mug above. Chapeau have a nice gift bundle that offers mug, coffee and chamois cream for £20. Rapha have a small range. Cycling Souvenirs have a few with the profiles of famous races, such as this Paris-Roubaix number, as well as this outrageously cool collection of vintage team branded espresso cups. Super cool bike cafe Look Mum No Hands do nice ones as well, but if you’re not in London this probably won’t mean much to you.

    They do sell nice cake though, if you’re ever in the area. 

    Prints

    Someone comes round to a cyclist’s house, how do they know they’re a cyclist? Yes, there’s a bike in the lounge, but it has to somehow be made clearer. If only there were some sort of sign. 

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    Luckily, cycling as a sport has inspired artists for decades, and pieces have been produced that a) don’t look like you ripped them from a magazine and b) don’t make you look like some nerdish shut-in feverishly rewatching a poor quality VHS of Liege-Bastogne-Liege 1988 over and over again.

    Neil Stevens does good work, as the Anquetil print above shows.  You can grab some frankly gorgeous prints up from Handmade Cyclist. As much as I hate to keep bringing them up, the newly launched Rouleur print shop also has a few good examples. 

    Books

    If the cyclist in your life has caught the cycling bug, there’s a very strong chance they enjoy reading about cycling, then boring the absolute living shite out of you talking about all of the things they’ve learned whilst reading a book in which you have no interest whatsoever. 

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    Become a book enabler, load them down with so many books they don’t have time to tell you the story of how Greg LeMond soiled himself during a stage of the Tour. William Fotheringham is the Guardian’s resident cycling expert, and has written excellent biographies of Laurent Fignon, Tom Simpson, Eddy Merckx and Fausto Coppi. David Millar’s Racing Through The Dark is a bit by the numbers, but a good account of one man’s journey through doping. The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton is an excellent glimpse into how much of a dick Lance Armstrong has been over the years. Also worth reading are Rough Ride by Paul Kimmage, The Death of Marco Pantani by Matt Rendell and Boy Racer by Mark Cavendish. 

    Rapha Gear

    Rapha is a byword for quality and the uniform of the MAMIL. The gear is good, it’s a bit overpriced, it’s a bit exclusive and a lot of the people who wear it have bought it not because of its quality or its innovative design, but because it says Rapha on it. And Rapha are good. So there. 

    Buy your cyclist something they would never, ever buy themselves. The following are things I personally would love to own, can more or less afford, but would cringe at how unnecessary the expenditure would be. When it’s a gift, that’s a non issue. 

    First, this delightful essentials case to keep your stuff warm and dry whilst on a ride. Yours for 40 quid. 

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    What’s that? You don’t need a £30 notebook with ‘race notes’ written on the front? Shut up. 

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    This is probably the most ridiculous of all. It’s an espresso tamper made in collaboration with legendary hub builder Chris King. And it costs £95.

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    Another list will be forthcoming nearer to Christmas, during the season when I wish to deliver hints via the means of one of these articles. Also, the wait will give me chance to buy a coffee machine so I can use some of this stuff. 

  7. The Olympic World European Championship Cup of Books - Lebanon

    I see you, sitting there, reading this, knowing full well that the reason this is only the third review in 8 months is because I bit off far more than I could chew, and that adhering to a prescribed reading list over a 12 month period would not only be boring, it would make me despise my book shelf, giving it subtle digs when I walk past so my girlfriend doesn’t notice what’s happening to me. 

    Anyway, as the challenge drags on, my demeanour becomes more and more that of one who has physically survived a harrowing tragedy but is yet to discover the full mental effects of what I’ve witnessed. I’m still here. Reading books I decided on 8 months ago in a fit of pique. 

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    So, The Rock of Tanios by Amin Maalouf, winner of the 1993 Prix Goncourt, France’s equivalent to the X Factor. This is the Lebanese entry to this godawful, tear drenched marathon I’ve signed up for. 

    The book itself is a modern(ish) retelling of a tale that influenced life in the narrator’s village for a century, charting the tumultuous upbringing of its eponymous hero and erstwhile protagonist. There’s deceit, murder, adultery, prostitution and war, but somehow the almost folksy style of narration gives you the sense that these things happened so far in the past that they’re a part of history, not something to get upset about. They all exist as a necessary part of the story, not as shocking as if they were in the first person, but significant nonetheless. 

    Tanios is born under a cloud of uncertainty as to his parentage - either the Sheikh or his major domo fathered the child - but unaware that such a cloud existed. When he discovers it, the story unravels in a rich, beautiful fashion. Maalouf writes poetically, seamlessly weaving together historical anecdotes with written evidence expressed via his narrator. Nothing feels out of place, it’s wonderfully constructed and conceived, drawing you in and immersing you in a world of sticky dates, sand, feudal rule and colonial stuffiness. 

    This book is genuinely beautiful, an absolute privilege to have read. If I hadn’t elected to include it in this challenge, I probably never would have come across it, which is conflicting. It’s like falling out of a plane, passing the hostess trolly with your mouth open on the way down and accidentally discovering your favourite new cocktail. 

    Lebanon, you have done yourself proud. A slow start followed by a flurry of late goals. The surprise package of the tournament so far. 

    3 (three) goals

  8. Huzzah For Nutcases!

    On June 6th, the Manchester United Official Fanpage on Facebook posted a picture of the home kit for the 2013/14 season. Those of you familiar with the shirt will know that it has a ridiculous button down collar, for the benefit of rotund Essex-ites who wish to look that little bit smarter in nightclubs. 

    I commented on the picture - it was a rush of blood to the head, I don’t really care that much - expressing my disappointment at the collar, suggesting that without it, the kit would have been essentially perfect. 

    A wave of anger flooded my way. Comments from Scandinavians, Malaysians, Indians, a veritable Bennetton of ire, insulting me personally on my appearance and so forth. 22 friend requests came from various corners of the earth. Manchester United are a global club, it’s to be expected (though perhaps not the vitriol). 

    What I’ve just discovered in my ‘other’ inbox on Facebook, however, is gaspingly pathetic. I pop into that inbox maybe once a month to clear away all of the fabulous offers of a happier life between a Latvian’s thighs. On looking today, I had a delightful message from June 6th, simply saying ‘GIMP’

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    The time of the message syncs perfectly to when the deluge of REALLY IMPORTANT anger was heading my way. This chap was so INCREDIBLY ANGRY at the sartorial taste of another that he messaged him privately to let him know. Ah Adam, you are a treat. 

    Oh, and what’s that, Adam?

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    You’re Welsh! Amazing. A man has insulted the team you arbitrarily chose to support and dear God in heaven, you’ll make sure he eventually notices how angry you are if it’s the last thing you do. 

  9. Got the idea from rich kids of Instagram. Photograph your flash watch whilst driving your fast car. Pretty much nailed it.

  10. The Olympic World European Championship Cup of Books - ECUADOR VS GERMANY PART 2

    When I concocted the Olympic World European Championship of Books, I had in mind a whimsical journey through literature, an enlightening process that would give me a greater understanding of cultural nuances, an appreciation of intercontinental writing styles and would eventually spit me out the other side of its polished innards a better, more rounded person.


    Then, Huasipungo happened. It happened hard.

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    We’re currently 5 (five) months into the challenge. By this stage, I should be through 14 and ¼ books. I have just finished my second. My second book. In 5 months. Fuck you, Jorge Icaza.

    I can only imagine that the reams of positive reviews on Good Reads for this book are by Ecuadorean people instigating some sort of cultural sabotage, ensuring more people go through the unbelievable ball ache of sourcing a book with ONE translation, of which maybe 40 copies are in the UK. This book cost me £14, and in every sense other than the literal, I was mugged for it.

    To give a brief synopsis of the book; fuck you, Jorge Icaza, for wasting my sweet time. It’s a tale of subjugation of a simplistic indigenous people, who live in villages called Huasipungos. Everyone who isn’t an Indian in this book is a complete dick, and at some point will rape, accidentally kill or just be incredibly rude to someone who is an Indian. That’s the book. There’s some other bullshit about a road that seemed significant, but by this stage I wanted to call Jorge Icaza’s remaining family and give them a piece of my mind, so I wasn’t concentrating.

    If I was a completely fair and rational person, I’d say that this book isn’t badly written (though the translation was apparently a very difficult task). I’d say it’s packed with pathos and strong emotions and - credit where it’s due - it does have a beginning, a middle and an end. It is a very worthy book, and it’s an incredibly significant piece of art in Ecuador’s history.

    However, I am not a fair and rational person, I am an idiot who conceives of badly named book challenges. When I was on the tube with this book, I opted for reading adverts about supplements for pregnant women and emergency payday loans. It took me THREE MONTHS to read this book. It’s about 215 pages long. I have never experienced less compelling fiction.

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    (Better than Huasipungo despite not even technically being a book)

    I would literally rather read the instructions for a Baxi Duo-tec 28 HE Combi boiler over and over again for the rest of my natural life and throughout the afterlife than read another page of Huasipungo. Huasipungo may be an incredibly significant piece, historically, however I hated it so much I have plans to dropkick it into the ocean next time I’m near the coast.

    To stick to the football theme of this challenge, this book gave an insipid, Spain-esque performance where - though undoubtedly impressive - they bored the living shit out of millions of people globally. Final score, Germany 3-1 Ecuador.


    Next, Switzerland vs Lebanon ffs