i am not normally known for any degree of sartorial elegance, either on or off the bike, but it seems that it may be harder to avoid this situation when pedalling around these days because of ever improving design, albeit at ever higher prices. strange to relate, in this context, that most of us would think little of spending vast amounts of the folding stuff on carbon fibre and titanium bits (me, me, me) but baulk at the thought of a jersey costing more than about £35, even though some of the stuff on the market at that price is well nigh transparent with a few logos.
main contenders in the 'how much did you say it cost?!' up til now have been swiss clothing manufacturers, assos, who seem to have all the bases well covered, from a pair of gloves through to a jacket that seemingly stops all weathers known to mankind, and could probably be worn on the moon without hassle (and that carbon bike would weigh less). and to top all that, their clothing is well designed, well made, and fits like a glove (or a jacket, or a pair of tights etc. etc.)
look through the bike test pages of procycling or the comic and you see that most of the guys who do the testing are wearing at least one piece of assos kit, and they are likely to be the ones who have tried pretty much every piece of kit on the market. and this is what they wear out of choice.
however, it looks as though assos may not be having it all their own way, though it seems only fair to include etxe ondo and castelli in this bracket. alerted to the name 'rapha' from an article in the comic the other week, it seemed a good idea to take a look at their website to find out what it was all about and why i'd never heard of them before. now i'm not that sure if much of their stuff is actually available right this minute because there are 'pre-order now' buttons on several of the pages, but it looks like practical stuff, not least because of the zip on their cycle jersey.
have you ever been frantically scraping your way up a gentle slope (but telling everyone it was a mountain) and tried to pull down the zip on the jersey? yeah, me too, and i've ended up putting one part of the collar between my teeth to hold the thing straight in order for the zip to move anywhere. rapha have fitted a 'bite grip' to their zips that means this shouldn't happen. i'm entirely in favour of this for one principal reason - laphroaig distillery used to run advertising many moons ago to the effect that you can experience all four seasons in one day on islay. this, surprisingly enough for a piece of advertising copy, is very true, and as such means a great deal of manoeuvering of zips and items of wet weather gear during even a brief cycle on the island. to be able to pull the zip up and down without looking like houdini trying to egress from an assos sack is, in my humble opinion, a good thing.
even, in this case, the lowly cycling cap, which we usually buy for around a fiver with all sorts of trade names across it (mine's a landbouwkrediet colnago) has been brought up to standard, though it costs four times more than the ones mentioned above. actually at the moment it maybe doesn't, since rapha are offering a freebie if you pre-order a jersey from their website (www.rapha.cc) just now. tempting, isn't it.
in all the years i have been doing bicycle repairs, i have only met one guy who was obsessive about not liking logos. a canadian cyclist of many years ago who popped his bike in to have the gear mech repaired, had removed all the logos from all the cycle clothing (and for all i know, all items of clothing) he owned, right down to the shimano shoes. his logic was that he had paid for the clothing so why should he give the manufacturers any free advertising? an admirable stance perhaps, but not one to which many of us subscribe, and to be honest, not one to which many of us could.
there is a degree of status to wearing an assos or castelli top, just as there is a similar, implied status to riding a colnago c40 or a pinarello prince. however, much of today's clothing has the logo embedded. i'd be riding with a sleeveless vest if i tried to remove all the assos logos from my roubaix jacket. the rapha stuff, however, reverts to a bygone age, when fausto coppi ruled the roost and nobody was big on logos. while i can see the rapha logo on the cap, i haven't found it on the jersey yet, and they are only available in black or white, complete with arm warmers.
as this is beginning to sound like a commercial, i should perhaps point out that i have no connection with the company, nor do i own any of their clothing (though i am thinking about it) - i was just rather impressed with their attitude towards cycle clothing and its function, (and while i'm at it, they're running an exhibition 'kings of pain' in london during the tour de france) in the same way that colnago, pinarello and bianchi impress with their bikes. and it has given thought to what i mentioned at the top of the page, that we all endlessly discuss this and that bike, those wheels, that widget, but rarely consider the value of having rather decent clothing. touring cyclists are not excepted from this equation as i have met many a tourist wearing the cheapest and ill fitting of rain tops and cycling tights or trousers that are equally ineffective. if you're going to cycle from the mainland to islay (or anywhere else for that matter) for goodness sake, get some decent cycling gear and an inner tube while you're at it. surely you want to enjoy yourself?
if you're going to spend a while on your bike or intend to cover a decent mileage over the year, you're going to spend quite a while zipped inside something while you do so. doesn't it make sense to be zipped inside the very best that you can afford? you pretty much get what you pay for these days and if it lasts a long while, it could be cheaper in the long term. i'm still pedalling happily with a pair of carnac shoes i bought in 1995. they cost me around £100, but they've lasted for nine years and show every sign of managing a few more. this is almost the equivalent of £10 per year, and you can't argue with that for comfort and value.
while were here, now is probably a very late time to mention the gran fondo bruichladdich, the annual one hundred mile ride round the ever disintegrating roads of islay. true to previous years, this will take place on the first sunday in august, which this year is the 1st of august. we'll leave from bruichladdich distillery at 10am in the morning and generally make it back around 4pm in the afternoon, or thereabouts, having passed bowmore distillery and visited ardbeg distillery en route. if you're interested in joining us, simply e-mail to let me know.
this website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine.
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek) there are also links to cycling weekly reviews of the colnago c50 and colnago dream b-stay. i have also found an excellent review of the colnago c40hp here
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to. here's the link.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, and imac computers, using adobe golive cs and adobe photoshop cs. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.