few of us will have recourse, or perhaps the need, to being owners of bespoke bicycles, lovingly hand-crafted on our behalf, usually from the finest steels, intended to benefit not only our riding pleasure, but usually that of our sense of the aesthetic. if i might quote from richard sachs:
"in the current climate, the value of a custom frame is lessened by the very fact that bicycles that come from the larger manufacturers are so well made, much more competitively priced, so well designed, and so well received by dint of racing successes (among other things...), that the need for a buyer to pursue a custom bicycle as the be-all-end-all of his purchases is not what it once was."
it may be that richard is simply too modest for his own good, that he is less than mindful of the reasons many of his customers are willing to sit and wait for a good few years before receiving the product of his labours. if i were to enquire as to how many of those reading would be willing to swap their current bicycle for a sachs, i figure it would be a time-consuming task to count the raised hands. however, richard's less than sentimental approach to his hard-won skills and beautiful red bicycles may not be entirely misplaced in a modern world increasingly concerned with economics and profit margins.
there will always be room for those with money to spend and status to enhance. it would be a foolish man who chose to vet the motives of his customers before deciding whether to pander to their desires. building a frame for someone with no real appreciation of value is no less a task than for one who understands every lug shape and tube profile.
those of us for whom the phrase 'steel is real' not only has appeal, but underpins the often nostalgic appreciation of our obsession are entitled to our opinion. however, it should be noted that many a modern day framebuilder continues with this ferrous material simply because that is the very one that constituted not only the bulk of their initial training, but the majority of their working life. it is unlikely that the financial rewards for builders such as richard sachs, sacha white, tony pereira and their peers, allows the time and luxury to explore more contemporary elements. we may have raised the level of those red bicycles to that of art, but for richard it is a means to earn a living.
be that as it may, those modern materials employed by the corporates can provide us with bicycles and components we could scarcely have dreamt of only ten or so years ago, and often at prices that are not too outlandish. economies of scale and sometimes the closest to mass production that the cycle industry can achieve, provide not only coroporate profits but battle steeds for the weekend warriors. such economies of scale, however, have a detrimental effect on the one-man and his lathe, accompanied only by a brazing rod and a radio by the window.
in the days when everyone built with steel, the necessary facilitation of such was a global industry. lugs, dropouts and tubing were in plentiful supply, with variations that allowed an impressive degree of individualism on the end product. add a custom paint scheme, occasional flashes of chrome and one's pride and joy could conceivably stand out from all those occupying the bike racks surrounding it. times have changed; aluminium started the process, and carbon effectively put the boot in. those who previously proffered several tubing profiles and a wide variation of dropout choice, turned their efforts to alternatives when the market diminished below the point of appropriate economic return.
those for whom there was little alternative or desire but to continue improving the fortunes of the steel bicycle frame, were often left considering their fate. hand cutting lugs and dropouts is a lengthy and laborious affair, detracting from the principal job at hand; making fine, bespoke bicycle frames.
not everyone, however, is resigned to having such opportunity removed from their personal, or that of their fellow builders' chosen career. if i may again quote from mr sachs "I decided to become a player rather than get played". to this end, and not for the first time, richard has added a set of cast components that will allow not only the continuation of richard sachs bicycle frames, but also those of his peers, should they wish to avail themselves of his ingenuity. "Ten years, five lug sets, two fork crowns, two bottom bracket shells, some braze-ons, and a tube set or three later, I'm happy to add another clue to the treasure hunt. These new RS Piccoli Gioielli dropouts are in production and will be added to the above list so that that all of us can enjoy a wider range of parts with which to assemble our frames."
in the grand scheme of things, those of us with more than a couple of carbon frames sitting in the bikeshed probably won't notice much difference. and to be perfectly honest, those who will never own a bespoke steel frame of any flavour, will be oblivious to any variation in the space-time continuum. nonetheless, it matters, and it matters a great deal. not because it's richard sachs, and not because the steel bicycle has to survive at all costs, nor because of richard's apparent lack of sentiment towards those red steel frames of his.
it matters because someone has had not only the foresight to see the onrush of inevitability, but the pragmatism to do something about it before the player becomes the played. a degree of individuality has been preserved.
and those little jewels are small, but perfectly formed.
posted monday 2 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though my inestimable colleague, the mighty dave t has reserved new year felicitations for his army of followers, i have very commendably kept today's words to an absolute minimum, in order to do likewise. i am only too well aware, from family members surrounding me, that there may be sorry heads today, hardly prepared for reading more stuff about bicycles containing big words and convoluted grammar. minimalism is the order of the day.
however, before i fall asleep in front of the telly, i would like to offer sincere thanks to all those who have supported, assisted, contributed to and corresponded with thewashingmachinepost over the past year. it is of great comfort to say that there are way too many of you to thank individually, without completely undermining the sentiment of my opening paragraph. so i'm hoping that you all know who you are, and i look forward to providing you with far more words than any single person needs throughout 2012.
posted sunday 1 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
'anyone who owns a home, rents, purchases taxable goods, collects taxable income, or runs a business also pays for the roads. if you don't drive a car, even for some trips, you are susidising those who do - by a lot'
i very much doubt i am the only one who has spent many a collective hour expounding the myriad benefits of the bicycle to those who own a car. how much better off their bank balances would be if they reduced their car use, or even, as i have done, dispensed with it altogether. this latter point has rarely been disputed to be honest, but the crunch comes when moving onto the environmental benefits, the reduction in car emissions, the improvement in personal health and anything else that springs to mind in the heat of battle. though i could cite facts and figures to support my over-eager contentions, much of my carefully thought out conjecture falls on deaf ears.
the above rarely exists as a monologue, and who would want it to? however, the corresponding part of the dialogue seems to place greater emphasis on pointing out why bicycle use is all well and good, but only for everyone else. there are seemingly more reasons as to why each individual inhabits personal circumstances that precludes cycle use. there are shopping trips that could not possibly be carried out by any method other than a large four-wheel drive vehicle. or perhaps work demands that several mountains of necessitous paperwork have to be carried to and from work every day, otherwise the national economy will grind to a halt. maybe it revolves around kids who simply could not be expected to walk the half-mile to school. certainly not in these conditions.
having just covered rapha's festive 500 kilometres in what i have little shame in describing as epic conditions: rain, hail, sleet and storm force winds, i do have some sympathy with the weather argument. but in the 1940s, mrs twmp's grandfather used to cycle a 60 kilometre round trip every day, six days a week, twelve months of the year through thick and thin to gainful employment at gruinart dairy. and his bicycle was considerably heavier than the cielo i have ridden most of the week, and was blessed with only one gear. i will freely admit that he di not do so out of choice; motor cars were still the preserve of the upper middle classes, and public transport was not what it has become. at least certainly not on islay.
i repeat the above not in order to place mrs twmp's grandfather on a pedestal, but to demonstrate that such distances can be covered with relative ease when necessary. the concern of the modern age is that the word 'necessary' now has entirely different connotations. it's a word that will morph its definition once again when either the oil runs out, or suffers a price rise that moves the car back to the realm of the more than comfortably well off.
unfortunately, i am preaching to the converted; other than those who have inadvertantly landed here looking for a washing machine, the chances of non-cyclists reading this far down the page are somewhat remote. and the same problem likely afflicts elly blue's bikeonomics. this perfectly formed little forty page booklet is based on ten articles written by ms blue in the early part of 2011, now collected in one place and under one cover. the subtitle of this well-researched treatise is 'how bicycling will save the economy (if we let it)', and it is all too apparent that those words in brackets may be the major stumbling block. i do not propose that elly blue is naive in any of her assumptions, including that of whether the great unwashed will be likely to read something entitled bikeonomics in the first place.
cyclists in the portland, oregon area will likely be well acquainted with the writings and musings of ms blue. she has been previously associated with jonathan maus' bikeportland.org and is publisher not only of the booklet under discussion but of the quarterly 'zine and blog 'taking the lane' concerning themselves with cycling for women and women in cycling. while bikeonomics contains applicable thoughts, propaganda and sensible anti-car sentiment for everyone, taking the lane is far more women specific, particularly the latest issue entitled 'our bodies, our bikes', some of the content of which brought the occasional blush to my cheeks.
the realisation, however, that there's a strong possibility of these writings falling on deaf ears, if you see what i mean, does not mean that they should not be written. information such as that disseminated in bikeonomics is no less valid because of the vagaries of its extended audience. the solidity of reasoning and comprehensive detail within those forty pages provides an ever-increasing body of ammunition for those of us prone to occasional bouts of lunchtime confrontation with the devil. at only five dollars a copy, it may be worth ordering a slew of copies to leave in strategic locations.
the local filling station might be a good start.
though i would prefer to bury my head in the sand and pretend that there is only cycling, with no differentation between guys and gals, that is not the case, either in daily life or on the professional race circuit. for those with more affinity to the former, regular perusal of both the 'taking the lane' blog and 'zine would be a most informative and supportive route to take. and you need not think that because elly blue lives in the pacific northwest of the united states, that the subjects under literary discussion do not pertain to the female cyclist of the uk.
aside from being separated by a common language, the differences are insignificant.
to quote ms blue "Why publish a zine? I do it because I want to get my and others' writing out there in the world, and now. A 'zine is quicker and cheaper to create than a book or magazine, and slower but more satisfying, more permanent, and less commenty than a blog. The final product is a format that thrills me completely. I like having control over the entire process. It's a way to meet and collaborate creatively with a bunch of inspiring people. And it's a way to be true to the cranky, idealistic visions of my 15-year-old self. Also, and more important at 33 than 15, it's a somewhat financially sustainable way to write."
each issue of 'taking the lane' sells at $5 plus postage, and i'm sure elly would be more than happy to garner a few uk subscribers and possibly even one or two contributors. everyobody else should order a copy of 'bikeonomics' as immediately as possible.
posted saturday 31 december 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the velo club d'ardbeg advocation concerning precipitation has traditionally run thus: "if it's already raining, stay in your bed; if it rains when we're out, well, shit happens". it seems remarkably cut and dried, but such is the tenacity of your average peletonese, that much to-ing and fro-ing on the telephone took place before any concerted agreement that we would, in fact, not be venturing out of a sunday morning. even then, the tacit agreement was often to live in abeyance for an hour or so in the (often vain) hope that the rain would cease. at the very least, a trip to deb's for a hasty coffee was the bare minimum one would hope to achieve.
the sunday ride, however, though part of the fabric of weekly life on islay (where else would one observe the mighty dave-t's words of the week) has this inbuilt optionality. it is very difficult to admit a degree of wimpishness by crying off when all others are raring to go, but aside from having to pay for the coffees next time out, such demurring is a part of the honour system. compulsion is not a part of the vocabulary.
if we were organised enough to have a velo club d'ardbeg rule book it would run thus: rule one: there are no rules; rule two: see rule one.. it's a system that has served us well for many a year, and there has been no contradictory notice from head office (one we'd be inclined to ignore in any case.
while rapha's festive 500 is not exactly framed as a specific club event, its existence cannot but be seen as an open-ended challenge, one that we would be much the poorer for ignoring. that so many others have invested time, effort and facebook pages to at least attempt such a satisfactory and notable distance, places even more onus on our participation. the honour system, you understand. but even tacit acceptance of such a specific challenge brings with it an unheralded compulsion that serves to contradict the rule book specified above.
for those without knowledge of the conditions applied to the ride of redemption let me briefly reprise: ride a minimum of 500 kilometres between december 23rd and december 31st. even my rudimentary grasp of arithmetic is able to average this out at 55.5km per day, a not unassailable distance for those possessed of such honed physiques. there are, of course, social issues to be considered, particularly with regard to the incorporation of christmas day into the grandiose scheme. mr hastings and i, as previously minuted, put some extra kilometres in the bank on the 23rd and 24th to minimise the distance required on december 25th and also the inevitable scolding from family members.
what had not been seriously taken into account was the severity and consistency of possibly the worst winter weather experienced for many a long year. the daily average took something of a serious blow by the appearance of a midweek hebridean storm, whose gusts of over 100kph prevented even a few centimetres riding. the following day, if nothing else, proved just how foolish it is possible to be on a bicycle, as mr hastings and i stupidly braved winds in excess of 90kph. it is not a lot of fun being blown off the road on more than one occasion. the phrase 'it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good' is not often heard round these here parts.
and then we get to today, the penultimate opportunity to keep hopes alive of achieving a second year of redemption in the face of adversity. if you recall my opening gambit about not riding when rain is already falling, this advice cannot do other than disperse when confronted by compulsion, even if the latter is self-imposed. sixty-five kilometres were covered relatively easily in the absence of the all but perennial wind that has blighted every previous day's outing. it was raining when i got up this morning and it's still raining as i sit here and write. it is a somewhat tautological and obvious statement to point out that once you're wet, you're wet, but in terms of justifying riding past heavy breakers on islay's atlantic coast, it'll do for now.
though neither of us would attest to an unheralded degree of cosiness, particularly if stationary for any length of time, ploughing on at a steady rate was sufficient to maintain a regularity of body temperature, consolidated by a mid-ride coffee at debbie's. today's ride was, if not predicted, at least partially depicted by the video below.
it never rains but it pours.
posted friday 30 december 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
pay even passing attention to release dates and we can settle on spring/summer and autumn/winter. predictable perhaps, but thoroughly practical from a cycing apparel point of view. global warming notwithstanding, from about september onwards we can expect cold, wet and windy. then come easter time the expectation changes to slightly less cold, wet and windy. apparel is climate specific, though there is obviously a modest crossover for extremes within each seasonal order. i do so like my long sleeves even in august (on reflection, considering the august past, perhaps long-sleeve jerseys ought to be kept purely for that month).
my shorts drawer is liberally filled with bib-threequarters to account for those less than sultry summer afternoons, fulfilling their proper destiny during autumnal and winter months. there are, of course, shorts in there too; what else would one wear under those winter tights?
it may be, however, that we have generated an altogether more character building impression upon the world's cycling apparel providers, one that i think may be a striking falsehood. i have long contended that hebrideans are the flandriens of the west, every bit as hard, determined and doggedly idiotic enough to slog through weather conditions best left on the outside of a warm sitting room of coffee house. such idiocy i inadvertantly demonstrated today (it seemed like a good idea at the time) struggling manfully to remain upright in winds gusting to around 75kph.
please don't try this at home.
such false impression, for which i claim no responsibility whatsoever, has led several to instigate and foist upon the unwary, pairs of winter shorts. surely this counts as an oxymoron in the same manner as microsoft works, or military intelligence? according to a variety of consulted websites, today's windchill on the hallowed but storm strewn island was a not too healthy minus two degrees, and i think i can say, without fear of contradiction, that there is no way on this earth i would have been out riding in shorts, whether deigned to be of the winter variety or not. i would seriously question whether there is a winter anywhere that allows for even fleece-lined shorts.
it has been suggested that shorts of this ilk are more likely for all-year-round wear this far north.
however, always keen to live up to that flandrien ideal, it doesn't seem too unwordly or cowardly to augment those shorts with a pair of knee-warmers. and in the cause of keeping all those chain links in a row, pairing a short-sleeve jersey with similarly tailored armwarmers breathed new seasonal purpose into a previously put away for the winter garment. the clothier to which i refer is the rather fine swiss-based cervo rosso.
i have recently reviewed cervo rosso's winter shorts, but taking into account my less than hebridean approach to naked legs, proprietor carlyle ware was most kind in sending a pair of thermal leg warmers and armwarmers to keep me cosy and safe. i had expected the leg warmers to be of the change-a-pair-of-shorts-into-bib-threequarters sort of thing, but unless i'm a lot shorter than i though i was, those received made me a pair of tights. peachy keen. elasticated at the top, and hemmed with logo'd red elastic backed with gloop, the single full length seam eases fitting to the point of simplicity. though i received the small size, length was possibly too long for words. in order to have the red hems sited at ankle point, the tops came almost embarrassingly far up one's thighs.
if you're planning on owning a pair of cervo rosso winter shorts, i'd say it was all but mandatory to purchase a pair of the leg warmers simultaneously. it is the hebridean/flandrien way. criticism is not, however, missing in action; the rather inordinate length led to a modest degree of chafing where the leg-warmer overlapped the shorts' seat pad. at least it did on one leg. perhaps it's just me. and while i'm all for manufacturers identifying a product of which they are justifiably proud, attaching a rather huge label to the inner face of both legwarmers and armwarmers is, to my mind, just asking for trouble.
if the labels are left in situ, they do provide a point of irritation; not to the extent of distraction, but irritating nonetheless. cut them off, and the tiny stub still affixed to the seam will undoubtedly drive you to distraction. perhaps screenprinting could be considered?
i was very, very unfair to both accoutrements; the weather was cold enough to have made it a major mistake to wear a thin, short-sleeve cervo rosso jersey (albeit, under a waterproof shell), and though the armwarmers performed admirably, the rest of my upper body was not overly warm. the shorts were as brilliant as they initially proved, vying for the title of favourite shorts, but those poor unfortunate leg warmers were repeatedly soaked in hail and sleet over the course of three to four hours. it was necessary to sit almost on top of the heater at debbie's. in their favour, they dried very quickly and did do their utmost to prevent hypothermia of the lower limbs, and i doubt any others could have performed any better.
all in all, thermal accoutrements of the highest standard, matching cervo rosso's already stylish apparel in both function and form. lose the big labels and perhaps shorten the length of the legwarmers and the two would be almost too ginger peachy for words.
cervo rosso legwarmers retail from the website for £53.10 ($88.50) per pair in sizes small, medium and large. the matching armwarmers cost £35.10 ($58.50) per pair, also in sizes small, medium and large.
posted thursday 29 december 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i feel i owe the two gentlemen responsible something of a brief apology, for i took my eye of the ball, so to speak, and missed the approach of a looming deadline. however, i think myself safe in the knowledge that those with more than just a passing interest will have been a touch more observant than i, and have all their dominoes in a row. i refer principally to the rapha continental bicycle purveyed by the two stalwarts not only of the 'continental' itself, but of portland's burgeoning framebuilding industry. tony pereira and ira ryan.
i can accept that it is not seen as my direct responsibility to promote the bicycle in question; that is surely more the province of messrs. pereira and ryan, and their chaperone for the occasion, rapha. however, my recent discussion with another of portland's builders, jordan hufnagel and the appearance of the rather fine little 'dear bar' bag from seattle's swift industries has had an inescapable influence on my current perception of the bicycle and cycling.
happily, i find myself not one who has fixed ideas on what could best be described as a 'moving target'. life's too short for that, as is technology.
it would be hard to dispute that a considerable amount of pennies are spent in the direction of carbon fibre these days, probably in similar manner to the rapid spread of microsoft windows in the early days of personal computing. in short, many too many bought windows because pretty much everyone elese was doing the same. a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will. thus, when carbon is touted by many as the ultimate frame material, few of us are in any position to disagree. and as a corollary to such wholesale choice of material, the marketing machine has then succeeded in persuading most of us that those skimpy slivers of nano-tubing developed at enormous cost for the stars of the three major tours and the occasional classic, are our personal ideal.
this approach can be likened, in a twisted sort of way, to the ordinary man or woman in the street having access to a formula one ferrari. though that may conceivably be a fun way to spend a sunday afternoon drive, formula one cars rarely make provision for the weekly shop, and are difficult to lock securely in a multi-storey car park. i am not, however, completely naive in such matters; the bicycle is an infintely more practical machine in this respect whether fashioned from plain gauge steel, or the sort of carbon fibre that the united states government is reticent to allow out of the country in raw format.
but i'm sure you see what i'm getting at?
i do have mild concerns that this ever-shifting viewpoint concerning the nature of specific bicycle genres is the result of advancing age coupled with an invasive sense of pragmatism. but in mitigation of this admission is the not inconsiderable point that tony, ira and jordan are considerably younger than i and blessed with infinitely more experience of the building and riding of bicycles bereft of sponsors' logos. i can recall not so very long ago, the posting of a photograph depicting one of mr ryan's bicycles bearing a large crate on a porteur rack filled with several rapha continental bicycles. while not entirely unusual in the context of their home city, these frames had been transferred from tony's workspace to ira's for the next stage in the process.
many of us would have simply stuck them in the car/pick-up for the same journey. it all depends on the mentality you are blessed with.
but i have digressed slightly (no change there). for the bulk of my festive 500 kilometres, i have been sat aboard my chris king cielo, complete with that 'little dear' bar bag, full wood fenders and a frame fit pump. i cannot truthfully say that i have felt this degree of utility to have held me back in my efforts, and indeed why would that be even a consideration? those who have followed the exploits of the rapha continental can't have failed to notice that this specific peloton ride exclusively steel frames (though adorned in one or two cases with carbon forks).
if ever there was a good advertisement for the tenacity and versatility of a particular style of bicycle and associated components, the continental is probably it. and thus for the joint venture between tony pereira and ira ryan. should you wish to avail yourselves of just such a bicycle, there are only a mere handful of days to jump aboard the next round of manufacture. by january 1st in fact. a complete bicycle can be delivered by may of next year at an all-in cost of $5250 (plus shipping). that's just under £3,400; around the same cost as a colnago c59 frame and fork only.
if i might quote from a contented owner "best machine I have ridden. my other bikes are gathering dust. it's all I have ridden for six months. do yourself a favour: buy one."
you know we all want to. order from here breadwinnercycles
postscript: shortly after posting, the gentleman fortunate enough to own a pereira/ryan continenta; bicycle from an earlier release, and whose quote appears above, e-mailed to identify himself and to confirm the veracity of the quote. he was also kind enough to send a photo demonstrating the arctic conditions in which the bicycle has spent at least a part of its new life on this side of the pond. richard, i envy you and thank you.
posted wednesday 28 december 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have londoned. in fact, i have londoned on several separate occasions, and i have to say that the underground system i find quite fascinating. though the generic map of the routes is hardly true to form, it provides a clear and logical description of how to get from point a to point b without having to access the train through platform nine and threequarters. as a simple country boy from the hebridean sticks, i will attest that the colossal numbers of people moving unceremoniously in each and every direction are something of a culture shock, but it is still a bit of a marvel that it all hangs together day after day.
it does, however, have its foibles, which those of you who have to london everyday will be far more aware of than i with my infrequent flyer miles. in the interests of maintaining a decorum of economy in the face of metropolitan expense, i normally purchase an all-day ticket on the tube to cater for my diverse visitational needs. such tickets can be had at a reduced rate if purchased for use after 09:30. it is humourous, even though i am as guilty as everyone else, to watch a thin stream of commuters push their tickets through the gate machines on the stroke of 09:30, only to discover that accommodation is only catered for from 09:31.
could such precise exclusion exist in any other part of the globe?
however, i can sympathise with those who have not the option to play at underground commuting for only a few days. were i to be forced into travelling to and from my place of employ by this method, five days a week, twelve months a year, i fear my fascination may suffer an imperious blow. couple that with the ever rising costs of so doing, and it's not hard to see why many take to the bicycle. exercising such free choice, however, brings with it its own baggage.
or rather its own form of needy weather protection.
graeme obree has been quoted as saying that 85% of all statistics are made up on the spot; an awareness of some in the public domain would tend to support that theory. according to a flavour of those inscrutable statistics, there is only a three percent chance of getting wet over the course of a year's cycling in the uk. in which case, i have used up my entire quota in the past few days. it may be that precipitation is less prevalent than perceived, but it ill behoves the regular cycling commutist to attempt to do so without some sort of weather protection.
my place of work is too close for commuting; i have only a five minute walk, but my editor is enough of a stalwart to ride through rain, hail, sleet or snow to work five days a week, racking up a regularly impressive ninety odd miles. this is the hebrides and it is more in keeping with those incomprehensible statistics that the likelihood of getting wet is probably nearer 97%. this makes him, rather obviously, the ideal cyclist to attest to the veracity of a manufacturer's claims as to the weatherproofing qualities of garments designed for the art of the commutist. in this case, it is madison's stellar ii jacket.
it is, however, always worth maintaining an independent control subject; not everyone is a commuter, and the price of this jacket has its attractions to those of a more sporting facade. for the purposes of the present investigation, this task fell to the mighty dave-t. the editor wore black, mighty dave more visible in red. the opening review is that of the former.
"A decent winter jacket is top priority for we commuters here on the outer edge. As my previous jacket, with two long, hard seasons behind it, has the waterproof characteristics of your average sieve, I was delighted to be offered the chance to road test the latest offering from Madison. Divested of its polythene bag, the impression is rather smart. I had the black variety, with fluorescent green zippers and plenty of luminous detail which is important when you average eighty plus miles a week on totally unlit roads. My car driving friends tell me I can be seen for literally miles. The fluorescent detail is placed on the front of the sleeves as well as the back.
"I was impressed by the generous length at the back, similarly the length of the sleeves, and the quality of the wrist closures. I point out this last detail because the wrist closures on two of my previous jackets were somewhat obviously rubbish, and failed within weeks. The neck closure is impressively close while the collar is made of a nice soft fleece; comfy and looks good, but does of course take longer to dry.
"The pocket arrangement is also sensible. There are no side pockets (which fill up with water), but there's a deep front pocket that takes loads of stuff (i regularly carry camera phone and wallet) and a whopper of a back pocket with decent rain baffle. A real kitchen sink job.
"The fabric of the jacket gives the impression of being tough and hard wearing. Only time will tell, of course, but it certainly feels resilient; slightly stiff perhaps, even waxy. There is certainly the impression of being impermeable. Hmmm. More of that later.
"Sadly, my new Madison and I did not get off to an ideal start, although not entirely the jacket's fault. My regular commuting bike, a Thorn, was broken and back home in the shed. I had cycled to work on my trusty old Marin hybrid, and was there presented with my new garment by Mr washingmachinepost. I had however forgotten that the Marin did not have a rear light bracket. No problem, thought I, I will attach the lamp to the light loop on the back of the jacket. Ah. There isn't one. That's a real shame. I am a four light man. Two front, two rear. I like to have one rear light on the bike and another attached to my nether regions, for which one needs the loop. So, please Mr Madison, can I suggest you add one? The lack of a loop meant I had to revert to my old jacket that night, fix the Thorn, and add a second rear lamp bracket to the seat post.
"Ok, with that sorted, I was able to try again the next day. My new outerwear had its first taste of a regular eleven mile commute round the loch. The wind was a steady 30 knots gusting to 40. The rain was torrential, and at one point it turned to hail, covering the road at Bridgend in about an inch of ice. I kept warm. Very warm in fact. I was wearing a merino base layer and a thin polyprop fleece under the jacket.
"Dry however, I was not. I was soaked in sweat. Now I am a big bloke, six foot tall, and fifteen stones. I sweat a lot. I am yet to find a garment that is waterproof AND breathable. I don't care what it says on the label. The concept of such a waterproof yet breathable fabric has yet to convince. That's not to say that the Madison is any worse than the others of its ilk, but it certainly is not the one to crack this particular problem.
"The jacket is warm however. This may be due to its robust construction, but I actually suspect it is because of its rather clever string-vest-style feature. It has an inner, loosely attached polyprop mesh lining, which must trap a layer of warm (sweaty) air, ensuring that you may arrive home soaked, but a cosy sort of soaked.
"I have now been using the jacket for about a month in some pretty grim conditions. It has been a rough year with very high rainfall and I am pretty confident that water ingress simply isn't happening. It is hard to be absolutely certain; commuting on the outer edge does not lend itself to empirical experimentation. In most cases, you just wanna get home and into the shower.
"I like my Stellar. Only time and half a dozen washes will determine just how good it is, but I have high hopes. This is however, the fifth jacket of this type I have tried and all the others have given up after a maximum of two winters in these conditions. Some have not even lasted that long. All have had the breathability of a plastic bag except one, which was highly permeable in both directions from day one. As my review sample came courtesy of thewashingmachinepost I am blissfully unaware of what it might cost, but I understand that it is by no means the most expensive of its type. Which is good to hear because next time I will probably have to buy one..."
the mighty dave t has a less punishing schedule than the esteemed lord carlos of mercian. he is, after all (as he rarely tires of informing us) a pensioner and is perfectly happy to remain indoors when the weather turns foul, having no pressing need to be anywhere else. however, if at this time of year one were to remain indoors until the rain dispersed, long periods would be spent climbing the walls. it is therefore an occupational hazard that one will experience rain at sometime or other, when out for a recreational perambulation. shelter is hard to come by in this exposed landscape. here are the words of the professional.
"I have the Stellar jacket in red size XL, a particularly good fit for my six feet and one inch. the body of the jacket was of excellent length, while the dropped-tail at the back was more than long enough to give good protection against the rain, hail and wind encountered on my first ride.
"I arrived home warm and dry.
"I no longer commute to and from employment, having stepped off that treadmill some years ago, but do ride out in all weathers to sample excellent island produce. Mostly coffee. I particularly liked the red variation, it being the colour of the football team I support. There is no prize for guessing which Nottingham team that would be.
The jacket is easily as good as many more expensive options available and provides excellent protection for the realistic price of around £70. It can be had in a choice of red, black or yellow. The two zips featured on both sides below the arms are an ideal method of regulating body temperature. Leave them open during a ride of exertion and a cooling, if not freezing, waft of air aids the garment's breathability. The angled, zipped pocket front left is ideal for carrying coffee money, while the cavernous rear is ideal for caverns.
I would recommend the red or yellow for winter riding, although the reflective strips on all colours should make traffic markedly aware of your presence even in the unlit darkness of Islay.
"I certainly spooked some wildlife on my way home in the gathering gloom."
and i said all that without moving my lips.
the madison stellar ii waterproof jacket has a recommended retail price of £69.99, is available in red, black or fluorescent yellow and in sizes small to xl in red or black, and from small to xxxl in fluorescent yellow.
posted tuesday 27 december 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................