the act of training for whatever sport or activity you find yourself participating in is, to a greater or lesser extent, a matter of practicalities and working by the numbers. every manual i have ever come across has eventually succumbed to the necessity of providing a day by day list of things to do, how long to do them for, and how to record the numbers admitting just how well or otherwise, the method is working. but if training for success were simply a matter of the above, then we could likely all partake dispassionately; there would be no real need for immersion in the activity of choice. each activity could be trained for, completed and ticked off from a mental list.
however, we all know it doesn't quite work like that. preparation has to be undertaken, and an appropriate level of external and internal psychology applied to make sure that our heads are in the correct place (metaphorically speaking) to follow through with the training programme in question. deep flange carbon wheels may give several seconds advantage over a competitor, but that final nth degree often comes from a psychological advantage, perceived or otherwise.
last week i published the first extract from graeme obree's forthcoming training manual, the obree way, in which graeme invited us to consider just exactly what training is, or what it means to us. in this, the second extract, (from chapter six) obree looks at the psychology of preparation: "everything we have and do began as a thought."
'the obree way' will be published later this month via graeme's website obree.com. i am indebted to graeme obree and charlie milarvie for allowing publication of the two extracts.
posted monday 12 september 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
not that i've ever watched an episode, but i believe there is a television programme entitled myth busters, the purpose of which, unsurprisingly, is to call time on long held myths. as i said, i've yet to view any of it, so i'm less than assured as to quite what level of myth is in fact busted, but i'm sure something like 'most of your body heat is lost via the head' would come into that category. as is the wont of television, it's unlikely that the presenter simply states the myth is wrong; doubtless there will be deep and meaningful investigations to conclusively prove the error of someone's ways.
so in the true spirit of this programme i have never seen, i have no intention of venturing into either video or television for the purposes of my investigative review of endura's pak-a-jak. there are a couple of reasons for this, not least because i hadn't truly expected to be wearing it in the first place.
you will scarcely believe that this compact and bijou rain jacket arrived at washingmachinepost cottage at the same time as the replica team kit, yet today was the first time there has been any decent rain. at least rain that i found myself riding in. though the leading edge of hurricane katia was transgressing hebridean shores, the point of departure was graced by bright skies and gale force winds. the latter are something of an occupational hazard, so there was little problem in saddling up the cielo and heading out for a solo ride, the remaining ardbeg peleton being otherwise engaged.
over-confidence is a less than attractive feature, particularly when applied to the length of a sunday bike ride. the winds are neither here nor there, but rain seemed reasonably unlikely in the immediate vicinity, so i rode a tad further than originally planned. had this not been the case, i'd have reached debbie's without so much as a spot of precipitation on my cielo jersey. life, of course, is rarely like that, and just after avoiding a flock of sheep wandering aimlessly on the tarmac, the rain arrived just before grainel farm was reached. islay's back roads are well peppered with passing places, most convenient for stopping en-route, pulling the pak-a-jak from a rear pocket, and cossetting self in white wind and rain protection.
or so i thought.
it would be a mite unfair to criticise endura for my getting soaked inside and out. at the point of pak-a-jak donning, the road had started to veer into the wind, and as i stated at the outset, hurricane katia, due in person by tomorrow, was having a dress-rehearsal this morning, sending a concentrated downpour in substantial horizontal quantities, all of which were very definitely in my direction. it's going to be a long, hard, lonely winter, with lots more where that came from, therefore the best (and only) policy is to knuckle down and accept it. if you learn to love a headwind (even those of gale force proportions) not only will unlimited dollops of character be yours to own, but thighs of steel will result from continued exposure to the draught.
the criticism levelled at endura consists of a total lack of waterproofing; both jersey and armwarmers may not have been saturated by coffee time, but were at best, unpleasantly wet. however, a quick scan of endura's website elicits their own description as showerproof. without taped seams, no garment can be legally referred to as waterproof, and the pak-a-jak most certainly does not have tape anywhere in sight. and though the definition of a shower opens up some interesting semantic discussions, i'd be more than willing to concede that today's weather was well outside such a definition.
which calls into question the efficacy of the jacket itself. windproof it most certainly is; there was more than enough of that to prove the point, but the west of scotland, in my experience, rarely suffers from the sort of shower that would lead to the pak-a-jak being considered sufficient protection from such elements. alter the definition just a smidgeon to that of 'windproof' jacket, and i believe all would again be well with the world. though there are mesh vents to aid breathability, such was the quantity of rain encountered, i've no idea how well this aspect worked. wet, is wet, is wet.
of course, at one penny under forty quid, it would be a major optimist who expected unbridled elemental protection. that is more the province of endura's equipe softshell; now there's a waterproof.
as far as i'm concerned, as of today, the pak-a-jak's winter is over. it will now reside with the stored until next summer apparel in the west wing; a well-made product that stows in a pocket easily, takes little effort to put on, but should not be counted on in a serious climatic emergency.
horses for courses.
endura's pak-a-jak retails at £39.99, in sizes ranging from small to xxl and is available in yellow, green, red, black and white (reviewed)
posted sunday 11 september 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's when it came time to wash my hair after the ride was over that i realised why the woman on the couch at debbie's seemed in somewhat of a hurry to drink her cappuccino and leave. at least, i think that may have been the reason. of course, it could be simple paranoia. i seem to have brought a substantial portion of bridgend woods home in my ponytail. imagine the embarrasment of munching my cheese and pickle roll looking like a body double from the beechgrove garden. the reason was all too obvious; that little climb to the old cottage was approached with way too little speed, and it was a foregone conclusion i'd end up exploring the undergrowth from a horizontal aspect.
soft and green.
heading into the woods from bridgend stores (after the bus had moved out the way), i wouldn't usually pull on the brakes. a slight gravelly uphill is immediately followed by a turn to the left and a short downhill to the bridge over the river sorn (great title for a movie). my legendary bike handling and steely reputation would obviously have me speedily freewheeling through the tunnel of trees and patchy mud with fingers discarding any propensity to touch the sram brake levers. i laugh in the face of danger.
however, mindful of my responsibility to thoroughly test the trp cantilevers under every conceivable condition, i reluctantly (honest) grabbed handfuls of lever and gently rolled through grass and mud. there are no spectators; my reputation for pushing the envelope remains spotless. say anything out of school, and i'll deny every word. nor, come to that, is there any judder or propensity to lock wheels. smoothly approaching that rickety wooden bridge across the river, it looks as if it would benefit from a by-pass.
you have to get into the woods early on a saturday morning because it is later over-inhabited by dog-walkers, with rarely a restraining leash to be seen. at that point, brakes are not so much a luxury but a necessity. dogs have a curiosity for bicycle wheels that borders on rudeness, as their owners politely nod greetings, nervously returned without taking eyes off pooches in dangerous proximity. again, no juddering, squealing or wheel-locking. nor barking, come to that. at this point, i'm not sure who is interrupting whose saturday morning.
unlike formula one, the correct mode of riding offroad seems to be a laying off from the brakes entirely, judging corners and downhills with exacting ease, leading to a smooth circuit and little lost time. but that's for racers; bereft of a number on my back, i'd really rather take in the scenery when the sun shines. the eurox magnesiums behave just the way i'd prefer; i can recall being regaled by a rider many moons ago who felt that discs were a necessity because he was unable to lock the wheels when the situation demanded. i, however, cannot foresee any situation where a locking of wheels becomes necessary or desirable.
a serious scrubbing of speed i can come to terms with, and that was accomplished with ease; it may be an improved setup on behalf of my mechanic (me), but the alloy version of the same brakes gave a tad less bite coupled with a bit more effort at the levers. having recently reviewed a pair of magnesium road calipers from trp, i am not unnaturally ascribing this improvement to the material, which appears to own an improved degree of rigidity. i cannot deny this is a subjective judgement, but it has proved repeatable over the period of this review, so i feel confident in underwriting my statement.
and since we were almost discussing brake setup, that is something else that has improved over the alu alloy the magnesiums have currently replaced. my previous experience with cantilevers has involved setting the straddle wire to give me the degree of stopping power and clearance i'd prefer to have. however, in order to leave enough slack for wheel removal, this has often meant a compromise between too close and not close enough. trp have solved this dilemma in one fell swoop by providing a lockable barrell adjuster at one end of the straddle wire, allowing the length to be set for tyre clearance, then adjusting for proximity to the rim. i've no idea if this is a trp invention or not, but it's one of those stunningly obvious features that should be on every set of cantilevers in the world.
setting of the pads is a double bolt affair, where the rotation is altered via the principal allen bolt above the pivot frame bolt, backed by a 13mm nut. to adjust the pad angle, there's a 4mm allen bolt at the end of the shoe stud. not being one to read anything resembling a manual, it was a lot less than rocket science to figure out how it worked, though true to form, mechanic error on the rear setup produced a screech that i believe called out the local coastguard. even in the middle of nowhere, it took mere seconds to effect correct adjustment.
and once set, there are a couple of mini-bolts to hold the straddle wire in place, and another mini allen bolt to hold the lever wire in situ. this latter is, to my mind, an immense improvement over the clamping for the alloys; these use a 5mm allen bolt with a nut at the rear to do the necessary which is, quite honestly, a total faff. rarely do i have a suitable spanner with me when ploughing perilously close to flocks of sheep on uiskentuie strand, should adjustment become an immediate necessity. user-friendly would be an appropriate apellation.
aesthetics have not been forgotten, for though they may well spend much of their working life covered in gloopy mud, those reviewed were bright white with gold anodised hardware, though strangely the trp website shows only a red/white option. even fitted to a lime green hakkalugi, they both blend in and stand out at the same time, which has to be some kind of achievement in itself.
though the uci have relented and allowed disc brakes in cyclocross competition, i'm of the opinon that braking of such ferocity is a requirement only of downhill mountain bikers. it may well be that discs remove the rim from the stopping equation, but discs introduce problems all of their own, to say nothing of increased complexity if hydraulics are involved. cantilevers will continue to do it for me, and doubtless many others. these are pretty much all you'll ever need, whether the 'cross bike is used for racing or just flinging yourself about scrubby bits of bridgend woods. they even come with a set of carbon specific pads should you abide in the upper regions of cyclocross.
a set (two pairs) of trp eurox magnesium cantilevers retail at £219.99 ($349.99). i am very much indebted to paddy at upgrade bikes for supplying the review set.
posted saturday 10 september 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
even though there seems a bit of a trend for wearing so-called pudding basin helmets amongst those who you'd assume to be better informed regarding sartorail elegance on the bicycle, i am still less than convinced. with a new range of helmets due from mavic anytime soon, most roadie helmet providers err towards the stylish, with highly aero vents and a shape that encourages the view that the helmet looks incredibly fast even when the rider is at rest (as i usually am). those vents are often wind tunnel tested to gulp in substantial quantities of cooling air before chucking it out the back into the face of anyone silly enough to be following too close.
perhaps there's a market for bike stickers bearing the legend if you can read this, you're face is probably too warm, or something equally trite.
however, after all those hours of technical briefings and fluid dynamics experimentation, pratts like me come along and insist on wearing a casquette underneath, thereby negating much of the proposed benefits mentioned on the side of the box. a degree of cap wearing under the helmet is borne from notions of weather protection; at one time, rapha used to offer cotton casquettes made from waterproof cotton (which really worked, you'll be pleased to hear), and not so very long ago, it was possible to purchase one made from waxed cotton a la barbour jackets. thus one could retain the flandrian spirit while keeping precipitation at bay.
for whatever else those vents in the polystyrene do for airflow, while gulping air, there is a predilection for grabbing quantities of moisture too.
however, in similar manner to the over advertised car insurance, a helmet is something once purchased, you hope you'll never have to use for the purpose designed. though i have reviewed many a fine example in my time, i have thankfully never had to discover just how surly they can be when meeting tarmac head-on (pun intended). comfort, joy and colour are more than adequate for my purposes. however, i lose sleep over the thought that passers-by will mistake me for a sportive rider or a member of radioshan't, should there be not a peak peeking from under my helmet. (i'm more than willing to re-enter the argument over peak up or peak down.)
however, it seems that recent surveys as to the great british public's reasons for not wishing to cycle a few hundred yards rather than take the motor car, rest upon somewhat spurious reasoning. the universities of lancaster, leeds and oxford brookes (it must be a serious body of work to involve three universities) have done just what trios of universities are renowned for doing. conducted a survey.
according to this study, a significant proportion of people won't leave the car at home because cycling is not seen as 'normal'. which beggars the question, where does that place us in the perceived social strata? arriving sweaty at work does seem a somewhat unarguable rationale; if only everywhere had facilities the equal of chris king's in portland.
but aside from the former and the latter reasoning, the third most quoted reason for not wishing to adopt a velocipedinal stance, and i think most answers in this category were from female ladies of the opposite sex, was the inhertitng of helmet hair. as one with still a substantial length of jet black hair (don't believe all you see in the photographs) to ensconce under cap and helmet, i think i have at least a modest degree of concurrence with the female of the species in this respect. yet it bothers me not one whit; have they not heard of a hairbrush? (actually, i am frequently asked that very question).
the results as stated therefore, would encourage the view that rather than save a bit of money on fuel and associated vehicle running costs, and possibly the planet in the long term, respondents to the survey would prefer to maintain their carefully cultivated coiffure. unfortunately this is perfectly believable, having heard similar protestations even from folks whose hair is too unruly to be seriously affected by something as inoffensive as a bicycle helmet. can it be that there are a similar number who refrain from motorbiking or scootering for the same reasons? have the universities in question attempted a similar survey in this direction?
however, it's the lack of 'normality; that might prove worthy of discussion. though there are only a mere third of a dozen cycling practictioners between here and portnahaven, i'm confident enough in my lycra and sportwool to consider myself and associated peletonese as perfectly conventional members of society. is the converse regarded as true because we all inhabit a small closed sect intent only on discussing carbon fibre and bradley wiggins, blissfully unaware that the world at large is sniggering behind our backs?
i think i feel a complex coming on.
posted friday 9 september 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
'the probability of an individual adopting any belief increases in proportion to those who have already done so.'
it's hard to deny that humanity has rather unconsciously adopted the herd mentality; that unrelenting need to adopt the activities of others. i have lately had discussions with the local school regarding their apparent lack of enforcement of the uniform policy announced at the commencement of last session. observers other than i have also found it difficult to avoid commenting on the fact that schoolkids are generally averse to wearing a designated uniform. they'd rather all wear the same thing instead. it's a feature, however, not confined to those of school age. when reaching the upper reaches of teenage years merging into the twenties, the word fashion becomes the catch all.
the world of the cyclist is not immune.
you may recall the initial demise of steel as a frame material, being replaced by refined bauxite before eschewing metal altogether and entering the world of burnt plastic. and the latter has become our bread and butter over the last number of years. as the quest for light weight and stiffness continues to obsess the marketing departments' copywriters, we have wholesale bought into the whole experience, despite the majority of us having little or no need for anything like the level of equipment required by those who make a living from their cycling ability.
we're all mostly and massively guilty of jumping on the bandwagon.
it only needs an individual or group to lead in a particular direction, and hey presto, we're all there in a less than orderly queue, line astern. take the phenomenon of the sportive ride. at one time these were the province of the italians and their gran fondos, stultifyingly hard yet beautiful rides through more italian mountains than were probably healthy, before descending to a tour round the campagnolo or pinarello factories. in a strange move for the world of cycling, denying an obvious opportunity for pretension and pomposity, pretty much all have settled on the name sportive. this in itself is a contraction of the word cyclosportive.
it really didn't take too long before this burgeoning part of the cycling market was invaded by the world's principal cycle manufacturers, many of them offering so-called sportive models designed to accommodate the apparently different style of riding required for such events. the fallacy here is that many taking part are hell-bent on showing off their finest peletonic carbon fibre; this is perhaps the most appropriate opportunity to show just how close to a professional contract one had reached. joining the assembled throng is merely a case of slumming it with the great unwashed.
chris sidwells, sad to relate, is no exception to this velocipedinal cascade, having just penned a book that (mis)appropriates the title cyclosportive +. i'm not too sure whether the little plus sign is indicative of anything extra, but for the purposes of the review, i will pretend it's not actually there.
i tend to despair of any cycling book that impresses upon its readership more than one page of training plans, particularly those headed training plan for an 80km cyclosportive. chris sidwells provides two of these; the aforementioned and another for double the distance. these often seem to take no account of the fact that most of us have other facets to our lives other than riding bicycles all day, despite the temptation to do so. perhaps i'm just not organised enough to follow these sort of things past the first day or two.
two page, six week training plans are scary.
the book is particularly well illustrated with quality colour images, but i do find the necessity and relevance of some of those to be questionable. surely a sequence of three photos showing how to remove a bottle from its cage, take a drink, and replace it is rather trite and patronising? if this is not already an accomplishment, thoughts of riding anywhere other than to the shops should not be a serious consideration. nor can i see the value in full page photos of domestic professionals doing exactly what professionals do, other than to fill a few extra pages.
it is a bit of a shame really for there are many nuggets of wisdom contained within, particularly in the shape of case studies featuring the likes of richard newey, a veteran of the race across america. it is extremely unlikely that the intended readership have this particular event in mind, but newey's approach has a certain relevance. and there are several pro tips scattered throughout the book's 159 pages, such as this from robert millar; "keep something in your pocket that you really enjoy eating, and save it for when you go through a bad patch and need to restore your morale."
the introduction commences, rather bizarrely, with a section headed what is a cyclosportive?; surely it is already knowing the answer to this question that led the reader to pick the book up in the first place? and the chapter entitled 'getting started' then asks 'what kind of bike do i need?' and proceeds to highlight the verenti kilmeston as an entry level machine, and the boardman 9.2 as one to which the reader might aspire. aside from dating the book rather quickly (given the rate at which models are superseded these days) it seems a tad unfair to the myriad of other manufacturers with offerings of their own. would it not have been better simply to describe what it is the prospective cyclosporter should be looking for in an appropriate cycle, and leave brand choice to the individual?
and do we seriously need a series of photographs showing how to clean a bicycle with soap and water?
the cyclosportive skills chapter is perhaps the one most open to criticism related to jumping on the bandwagon. pace judgement, cadence, pedalling technique and bike handling are surely all skills that pertain to every form of cycling and not simply the world of the gran fondo? do not misunderstand me; most of these chapters will be of interest to many entry level cyclists across the globe, but it is the re-packaging of information under the cyclosportive banner that grates most of all.
perhaps, however, i protest too much. as i inferred in my opening gambit, cyclosportives have all but taken over the cycling world, and it is not entirely unheard of for an enterprising publisher to take commercial advantage of that fact. however, £20 seems quite a lot for a few salient words and an over preponderance of photos, many of which are unquestionably surplus to requirements. i'd be far more inclined to wait for graeme obree's the obree way which contains around 99% less faff than this volume and eschews the fault of over illustration.
i can but advise that you have look through its pages before choosing whether it is an appropriate choice of training manual or not. maybe i just have differing needs; though often riding a cielo sportif, i'd be be somewhat distraught if referred to as a cyclosportive rider . it's a bandwagon i'm happy to leave to its own devices.
posted thursday 8 september 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm not old enough or that much of an historian to know when the change was made, but there is little doubt that it happened. probably not too long after the camera was invented, illustrations in books, newspapers and perhaps the forerunners of magazines gradually disappeared from view. well, almost. those that survived were less concerned with illustrating the moment, used perhaps more for effect than reportage. this is perhaps due to photography's reputation as a portrayer of the truth. though still technically true even to this day, the phrase "the camera never lies" has come to be a somewhat vaccuous statement.
such are the opportunities for digital manipulation (who me?) that police photographers are apparently required to submit the camera's memory card along with any photographic evidence to corroborate its veracity. but we have become inured to the vicissitudes of photography as a medium for recording accurate detail, despite the continued existence of those artists' sketches from courtrooms, where the camera lens is still persona non grata. perhaps there is still some unused mileage in the illustrative approach after all.
maybe now's a good time to exploit the power of illustration for the parts that other images can't reach. for in a landscape of monochrome and colour imagery, a solitary drawing can act like the red kite above the final kilometre, flagging up features that may have been overlooked on the first cursory pass. and though i have come to realise that photography has many more facets than i'd have initially thought possible, a pen or pencil drawing reminds far more of the human touch and skill.
in which case, i refer you to the drawing reproduced above. this skillful portrait of mint sauce progenitor jo burt, was created by my friend jon knight for page 76 of the latest issue of privateer mountain bike magazine (i know, i know). does it bear an uncanny resemblance to the man in question? i have no idea, since i have never seen a photo of mr burt, nor have i had the pleasure of meeting him in person. however, it is less than presumptious to assume that the drawing is a reasonable facsimile; in common with those consummate behind the lens, an adept artist has the uncanny skill of depicting the salient features of whatever lies before them, bringing to the surface the character as well as the likeness. (jo burt apparently figures it doesn't look as handsome as he does in person, while a member of privateer staff who shall remain nameless, thinks the drawing makes him look about five years younger. subjectivity at its best.)
jon's not really studied art formally. "My Mum is a painter and printmaker, so art was always in our house as I was growing up." and this isn't the first time his illustrative skills have appeared in the pages of privateer, though the previous edition was less human: a pair of suspension forks. "I still love drawing and would dearly like to be doing more.".
hopefully that may prove to be the case, and sooner rather than later.
however, as if to bring my argument (such as it is) to a finer point, the very same issue features a panoply of images from photographer john gibson, whose dramatic image pelicans (above) graces the front cover. it is no disservice to hand-drawn illustration that gibson's photographs are spread across eleven pages of privateer number five, followed by an insight as to what makes the man click. for the simplicity of jon's drawing, coupled with its subject benefits greatly from its isolation in a sea of photography, sandwiched as it is between many a page of quality photography and writing.
should i consider it a worry that a magazine dedicated to all aspects of mountain biking (editor tym manley has been quoted as saying "mountain bike syndrome they call it; privateer is just a symptom.") has me currently reading from cover to cover? and this in spite of the knowledge that i have two books in for review at present, neither of which is garnering necessary reading time in the light of the pages of privateer. i know this will not bring me to the dark side when it comes to placing cleated shoes on pedals, but it does seem a bit of a blow to my roadie street cred.
it's all jon knight's fault. and tym manley's come to that.
posted wednesday 7 september 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the days of which i'm thinking are probably a long time gone, and show little sign of returning in the foreseeable future. though there is a faint whiff of hope offered in gents' shop windows and online emporia across obscure parts of the world. the joy of returning from a hard day at t'mill, gathering silage, grooming the estate or, perchance just cycling around the principality. those days may be gone, but the weather that encouraged thought of their return has arrived with a vengeance only this morning; gale force winds, horizontal rain, and the cancellation of this evening's port mor wheelers, even though we conduct ourselves with grace and poise in the confines of bridgend woods.
would it not be nice to put the velocipede safely in the bike shed for the evening, remove that clunky footwear, hang up the rain spattered jacket and retire to the warmth and cosiness of the sitting room, a roaring fire providing a focal point for the room. settled lazily on the hearth rug, a bassett hound eagerly drags itself from the edge of slumber and waddles sleepily to the side of the leather armchair, grabs both slippers in its mouth and shambles across to greet its master easing himself into the safety of that chair. you cannot tell me that this optimistically described scenario doesn't call for hot chocolate, a pipe and a grey cardigan to round off the effect?
there is much to consider when the time comes to acquire suitable apparel for cycling. short sleeves or long, lycra, sportwool or simply merino. should it have a full length zip, threequarter or half-zip. a rear security pocket? maybe a high, warm collar.
that last paragraph suggests a rather sweeping generalisation; the minute cycle clothing is considered or discussed by the cognoscenti, we all have a mental picture of just what it is we debate. but in similar fashion ('scuse the pun) to the bloke with the bassett hound and slippers, wouldn't it offer a degree of more homely simplicity if we were able to take some time off from cycling and simply go ride our bikes? should those moments occur, and i am in great favour of them occurring more often than not, though merino may still feature front and centre, there is little call for it to emulate the pelotonese. are we so full of our own self-aggrandisement that there is no time or vision for that which would more readily identify us with the civilian population?
the folks at velobici (an interesting melding of the french and italian for bicycle) are way ahead of us all. born from an agreeable passion for style and comfort both on and off the bicycle, their clothing designs only hint vaguely at a connection with the bicycle when seen divorced from its mechanical company. of course, there's always a giveaway somewhere along the line; in this case, the nomenclature. firenze pullover (another fine use of the word), a milano classic v-neck, san remo classic turtle neck or, and entirely germain to this review, the lombardy classic cardigan.
now there's a word and garment that hasn't featured in my wardrobe for many a long year. it's a garment that has had a chequered past with fashion, moving in and out as times roll by. one minute the darling of the teenage set, the next only seen on ageing grandparents, with or without the bassett hound on the hearth carpet. it has likely even survived the glow of a roaring fire, given that most residences have eschewed such in favour of central heating. whatever its place in the road to eternity, one thing is for sure, it has to be grey. i know that velobici also offer a black cardigan, and very fine it is too, but there's truly nothing like a grey cardigan. this agreeability is more greatly enhanced by the fact that the garment in question is shown on the velobici website in the company of a very fine looking steel colnago.
the grey cardigan features a button-up front, at least as far as half way, giving away its cycling heritage by the small rear, buttoned pocket at bottom left. however, there is a more subtle hint at this velocipedinal characterisation; thumb loops in the ribbed cuffs. those may seem trivial at best, but in cycling use, they're pretty darned pragmatic. and cool.
the merino wool from which the lombardy (maybe i should wear this for next year's ride of the falling rain. i'm sure the connection is glaringly obvious) is constructed is extremely fine, in both senses of the word. in fact its thinness hardly promoted feelings of comfort and joy on arrival; this is the hebrides for goodness sake. boy was i wrong on that score. made in the uk, rather than achieving gestalt through the conjoining of two arms and a body, the lombardy is knitted in one piece (no, i don't know how that's done). its inherent warmth could not have been more noticeable.
merino is the wonder product of modern cycling, and its morphing into a cardigan is conceivably the pinnacle of its career. considering the form factor of your average cardigan, there's rather obviously (in this case) a sizeable gap between top button and collar; huge opportunity for the ingress of cool air. cunningly, velobici have the jump on us once again; the tivoli seamless collar. worn together while sailing freely along moss road on the hakkalugi, not only did i form the picture of sartorial elegance breezing past fields of sheep and cattle, but cosiness was my bedfellow.
and it gets better still.
not one to grasp hold of the handlebars with naked skin, a pair even of leather track mitts would interrupt the seamlessness (again, pun pardoned) form factor, so, under the grey extended cuffs of the lombardy cardigan, i wore a pair of velobici fingerless gloves, fashioned from the very same shade of grey. unlike cycle mitts of more sporting pretence, these sport lengthy cuffs that considerably overlap (or underlap) the thumbholed cardigan. it may all have style and passion at its heart, but it's an ensemble that inhabits practicality to a far greater degree than you'd think possible.
i am under no illusion that such apparel was probably not conceived with hebridean islands as its raison d'etre; we're talking urban commute and evenings on the sofa at look mum no hands! but those are pigeonholes that were not created by me; i'm happy to cast concern to the wind, and care not one whit. when my contract with radioshan't comes through next week, johan will likely not allow the wearing of this favoured ensemble when riding with andy and frank, but its an absolute doozy for trips to and from debbie's of a saturday lunchtime.
next time you have a soya cappuccino, try accompanying with a cheese and chilli chutney roll.
the velobici lombardy merino cardigan is available in black or grey, in sizes small to extra large at a cost of £130. the merino fingerless gloves cost an astoundingly affordable £20 and the tivoli seamless collar (one size fits all) a mere £30.
posted tuesday 6 september 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................