i am manifestly not a motorist. i do not own a motor car, and even when i did, my skills (or lack thereof) were probably as much a danger to myself as to everyone else on the road. i'm also not a mountain biker, for almost the same reasons, except for the danger to other road users bit. therefore, in terms of my transportational abilities, to say nothing of my athletic conditioning, i consider myself a roadie. the strange part of that equation is that i find it necessary to define myself in any particular way at all.
of course, i'm hardly alone in that; many an individual has seeming need of defining themselves in all sorts of different ways, and not necessarily as an offshoot of their primary occupation. for instance, there are times when i consider it appropriate to be thought of as a drummer. you can see how this works; when i was due to play at the islay jazz festival, would it not have been ever so slightly out of the ordinary to have been introduced to my audience as a roadie?
i'm sure you can see my point.
such designations are rarely satisfied with pertaining purely to individuals, spreading their wings sideways at every opportunity. for instance, the word luxurious can be applied subjectively to all sorts of items, not solely those concerned with velocipedinity. and tautologically, the word cheap often finds itself in tow with both low-cost and low quality manufacture. the interesting twist to the latter situation is that one definition does not always entail the other.
the bit that concerns me in more than just one way, is a pressing need on behalf of most of us to apply such a definition of economics in the first place. cheap is just as entitled to its market share as luxurious and eye-watering. as an emerging roadie (there i go again) in the early nineties, having built my campag equipped reynolds 531 steel bicycle, i was really not desperately keen to let loose with even more of my hard-earned to clothe myself in a luxurious and eye-watering manner. i wanted cheap.
and if you were to take into consideration the amount and quality of cycling in which i partook at the time, you would have agreed with me 100%. there really was little need to have a word with switzerland for bibshorts (do any newbies really start with bibshorts?) and windproof jackets. disappointingly, at the time, cheap equated very neatly with the word crap. there is a certain poetry there, however, for that adjective could just as easily have been applied to my bicycle riding at the time.
nowadays, however, perhaps due to a raging influx of luxurious and eye-watering, cheap has had to re-arrange its horizons. there are more folks cycling these days, a large majority of whom have no earthly desire to emulate sir wiggins. their less stringent demands have need of quality and at least a modicum of style, but nowhere is it written that a day's cycling will last more than six hours, climb more than 3,000 metres and leave an average speed in excess of 40kph.
the commuting or weekend leisure cyclist simply wants to be comfortable, warm and not prone to eliciting unbridled hilarity from schoolkids passed on the way to work. and for the privilege of inhabiting these conditions, they have little need of emptying the piggy bank. unlike most of us obsessives, they do not travel to and from work in order to earn enough money to clothe themselves for the process. utilitarian rather than demonstrative.
there are many cycling apparel providers keen to cater to this expanding market, but i can honestly think of few who embrace the word cheap more effectively than aldi's supermarket. had you quizzed me about their cycle clothing prior to this review i would have deliberately inferred that i use the word cheap in both senses of the word.
in order that i might further explore both definitions, aldi sent me a long-sleeve winter jersey to wear as i hurtled my honed physique not only around the hebridean highways and byways, but also through the undergrowth and across muddied paths. though not described in terms that many of us would recognise, the fleece lining that pervades every inner centimetre of the jersey, including the sleeves, is remarkably akin to roubaix fabric. the outer material is regular black polyester with contrasting and very tidy lime-green flatlock stitching.
there are a couple of space-age reflective patterns on the arm fronts, repeated left and right on the small of the back. i understand implicitly why those are there, but they do look a tad incongruous, though i may well be looking at these out of context. the obligatory three rear pockets are well-sized and capacious, surprisingly augmented by a fourth zipped pocket outboard of the centre example. this is something irritatingly absent from far more expensive garments.
the screen-printed label inside the collar attests to the brand name being crane, a fact that is underlined by a crane (bird) style logo on the centre rear pocket. though i admit i did not look closely to identify, the hang-tag when the jersey arrived stated that the quarter zip was manufactured by ykk. the collar is commendably high to keep out autum and winter draughts, but it would have been kinda nice if the zip had ended in one of those bizarrely named zip garages, if only to prevent nipped necks. the hem was lined with that gloopy silicon to prevent it riding up when cycling.
it would be overstating the case to aver that the aldi winter jersey was likely to confer the title style icon upon the wearer, but that is truly far from its purpose. i confess i had not expected it to fit quite so well; i opted for the medium size, and though not skin tight, there was truthfully little cause for complaint. a full length front zip would have been a happy bonus to proceedings, and i'd have liked the sleeves to be a centimetre or so longer. but in mitigation, i do have slightly longer arms than average, so the latter comment ought not necessarily to be viewed as a criticism.
in use, worn over a short sleeve baselayer, the jersey was remarkably warm; perhaps overly so on occasion. however, it should be borne in mind that during the review, the hebrides were suffering unseasonably mild weather. it was possible to stuff a digital camera, rainjacket, tyre levers, coffee and toastie money and a large wrapped slice of mrs washingmachinepost's fruit loaf into those pockets without overly troubling the jersey's cargo carrying abilities.
i can think of no other way to describe its functional properties than as decidedly excellent. my cyclocross ineptitude generally means that bicycle and clothing are given a harder time than ought to be the case, yet the jersey remained wonderfully supportive (in a figurative sense) no matter the trials of its wearer. overheating was comfortably managed by the top zip, and unlike some, it was easy to pop up and down single-handedly even when riding.
cheap can also manifest itself after the fact. it would not be the first garment to imply a strength of character on release from its polybag, yet subsequently throw it all away on contact with a washingmachine. happily, no such indignity was suffered in this instance; after several washes, aldi's jersey has retained every millimetre of its shape, every centimetre of stitching, and there's not a bobble of polyester to be seen.
but, in order that i might place my use of the word cheap in context, strictly in the economic sense, i'd like to point out that a jersey remarkably similar to the example reviewed, can be purchased at very odd intervals from your nearest aldi supermarket for only £8.99. that's not a proofing error; it really does only cost £8.99.
thursday 3rd october 2013