Brian is the author of the longest running cycling blog in the world, The Washing Machine Post. Written from his home on the beautiful isle of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides, Brian's unique style of writing illuminates subjects as diverse as Robert Millar to the annual local ride that he organises, as well as product reviews for everything from some of the world's most sought after bikes to books and DVDs about the sport. We talk to him about all of the above, with a bit of Government spending policy and what we can learn from the US thrown in for good measure.
Between the Washing Machine Post and your work at the local newspaper, The Ileach, you spend a lot of your time in the publishing world. What do you enjoy reading?
I don’t read the big cycling magazines anymore, and I make a conscious effort not to read other people’s blogs. I just think that I’d end up thinking “Oooh, should I be doing that?” or “That’s much better than anything that I’m doing” and that it would influence what I’m writing. I do read Modern Drummer magazine, I’ve been drumming since I was 14 years old and still spend way too much money on new drums and cymbals. Other than that it’s just a bit of Wired magazine and the Guardian.
Quite honestly, the club came about because I spotted some of the guys from the distillery who had done a 24 hour mountain bike race for charity wearing the Ardbeg jerseys and really wanted one. I pestered the distillery for ages to make some more and when they finally gave in we adopted them as the club jerseys. The name Velo Club d’Ardbeg sounded suitably bizarre and just stuck. There are usually five or six of us riding out on any given day. The Ride of the Falling Rain was inspired by an article in Bicycling magazine about doing your first century. There is a half marathon on Islay the first Saturday in August that people travel over from the mainland for, so the plan was that I would have some people to join me the next day for the ride. That first year was pretty lonely. When the ride became more popular, with more folk taking part, it rained from morning until night so it named itself really. It’s a marketer’s dream, if it rains then you can say “We told you” and if it’s sunny everyone’s happy. There’s no entry fee and it’s really just a 100 mile informal social ride but we’re getting around seventy to eighty people coming along which is a nice number.
Ride of the Falling Rain (thankfully failing to live up to it's name on this occasion)
One of the things you’re passionate about is making cycling more accessible, if you could wave a magic policy wand to help, what would it be?
It would just be to spend a bit more money on it. Our government spends something like £1.39 per person on cycling every year, in Holland they spend more like £24 to £28. It feels like over here we pay lip service to it; it’s nice to talk about but we’re not spending on it. Portland in Oregon is a good example – years ago the local city council decided to make cycling a priority so now their roads have parking on the inside, then a segregated bike land, then the road. One bridge over the Willamette River was clocked having 24,000 cyclists going over it in one day. Portland made a concerted decision to encourage cycling and went for it. It would be nice if we did the same.
You have a whole area of your site devoted to Robert Millar, how has that come about?
Robert was the inspiration for me and lots of other Scottish and British cyclists thanks to him winning the King of the Mountains jersey in the 1984 Tour de France. Here was just a wee guy from Glasgow, taking on the world and succeeding, not at all like me. A heck of a lot of people got into cycling because of him; he would have been a superstar if he was around now. In those days he did it all by himself with no support mechanism and none of the nice big team houses in Italy that the current guys have. I have never met him, because he’s a really private guy and it means when asked if I know where to find him that I honestly have no idea.
Robert Millar, 1990 Tour de France - working for Ronan Pensec in yellow
What was your first ever bike?
A green Raleigh 20 Shopper with a tartan saddlebag, 3 speed Sturmey Archer gears and a dynamo.
Which bike do you ride now?
Where do I begin…a Colnago Master, a Colnago C40, a Chris King Cielo, an Ibis Hakkalügi cross bike and a Taurus Corinto roadster.
Which Velominati rules are you most guilty of breaking?
Rule #30 (No frame-mounted pumps) and Rule #31 (Spare tubes, multi-tools and repair kits should be stored in jersey pockets) – mine are all in a seat pack.
Which Velominati rules do you stick religiously to?
Given the climate here on Islay, it’s probably rule #5 (HTFU) and rule #9 (If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.).
If money were no object, what would you buy for yourself?
A Richard Sachs cyclocross bike; firstly because I really like the look of his ‘cross bikes and secondly because he’s a good friend of mine and a truly lovely bloke.