"cyclists are not this scruffy lot who are unemployed and who ride a bike because they can't afford to drive cars; but not only do they have money in their pockets, often they have more money in their pockets than their friends who drive." roger geller, bicycle co-ordinator for the city of portland, oregon.
i cannot deny that it was a particularly unusual result. i arrived at debbie's, not any the worse for wear but with a substantial percentage of bridgend woods still attached to feet, legs and the lower portion of my jacket. the bicycle had fared even worse, but the saving grace was it still being parked outside next to the whisky cask. the one that used to have something growing in it, but now doesn't.
mum and dad were sat in the corner along with their young son who was playing with a toy tractor in between the coffee cups and a couple of wrappers from those little caramel biscuits that sit on the saucers. i think a teaspoon had fallen on the floor. mum and dad were known to me, but i'd not seen their son before, at least not since he'd vacated the pram that his gran used to push valiantly around the village. he, on the other hand, could not take his eyes off me. i'd taken off a pair of damp, soggy gloves before removing a bright mavic yellow helmet and sitting at an adjacent table. when mum got in the way of his observations, he leaned forward to conitnue an unobstructed view.
as his parents started conversing with me, mostly about the weather and how my being out in it on a bicycle possibly classified me as in patent need of medical help, he went back to the tractor, doubtless intent on ploughing many a furrow across the cafe table. by the time i was opening my own caramel biscuit, the family made ready to move on, coffee finished and other daily tasks to be taken care of.
i thought little more of this, finishing up my coffee and cheese sandwich for lunch, followed by the inevitable second soya cappuccino before heading off into the wild and windy hinterlands to add more mud encrustment to my cycling uniform. as i recall, the ride home was excellent fun; the rain had abated, and the michelins fitted to the ibis had less than optimal friction across soaking wet grass. that was rather fun.
later that evening, mrs washingmachinepost who, unlike yours truly, has a fascinaton for social media, landed on the facebook page of the couple i had met in debbie's at lunchtime. there, for all to see, was not only the cycling paraphernalia that inhabits two walls of debbie's cafe, but a not particularly small photo of the ibis hakkalugi sat outside against the old whisky cask. like i said in my opening sentence, a particularly unusual result. so far as i am aware, the couple in question have no particular affinity for bicycles of cyclists, and it is rare that anyone other than an obsessive like ourselves takes photos of other people's bicycles and posts them on facebook.
not that i have any truck with facebook, but more's the pity.
launched to great acclaim last march, cycling mobility magazine seemed set to put pertinent cycling matters before the world's public. the german publishers had intended financing the entire operation through sales of the £79 annual subscription, but not enough folks took up the cudgels on its behalf, and despite the launch of an ipad app to ease availability, issue number four, published prior to christmas 2011 will be the last issue. admit it, you didn't even know it existed?
perhaps the subsequent snipe at advertisers could be turned on themselves?
however, the lack of paying subscribers is not being cited by the publishers as the principal reason for cycling mobility's demise. blame is being squarely laid at the door of the cycle trade itself which, they claim, was extremely backward in coming forward. uk based editor, ross ringham explained "The car industry continues to spend billions on advertising. Car adverts attract buyers, certainly, but the advertising revenue does much more; it finances all those shiny car magazines on the newsagents' shelves, the glitzy international motor shows and the car-centric TV programmes. This spending finances a way of thinking, not just a push for products. It acts as a lobby in and of itself."
it's hard not to agree. granted the motor industry has considerably more money to spend than those involved in manufacturing bicycles, but the latter are accused of "shortsightedly insisting that every penny relates directly to sales or specific infrastructure projects". unlike the motor industry which is surely well-entrenched in the majority of world cultures, the campaign to infiltrate love and use of the bicycle is generally left to what we all like to refer to as activists. rarely have we seen evidence of trek, specialized et al spending their advertising dollars effusing the delights of velocipedinal joy without trailing it back to one of their products.
and if we're to examine the situation closer, the gallery is the only audience being preached to; cycle advertising is almost exclusively aimed at confirmed cyclists. yet i can buy my weekend newspaper on a saturday to find the colour magazine peppered with not only car advertisements, but a whole page devoted each week to reviewing one of the latest models. would it not be a prudent move to advertise to the civilian population? for advertising to those already possessed of the faith surely offers less opportunity to 'grow the market'. does myopia prevail?
so despite mr ringham's conjecture that "Voices in every quarter of the cycling world told us that this was the right time to be sharing innovation and best practice via an international media platform. Perhaps we were ahead of our time." it seems that those with largest purse strings failed to wake up and smell the coffee. the bulk of the cycling press concentrates on the sporting aspects of the genre; nothing wrong in that. but it could be that cycling activism and an intelligent take on bicycle advocacy issues around the world were/are seen as an intellectual activity that is best left to the actionable minority. the bicycle industry is happy to accept the spoils of any victory achieved along the way, but they'd rather it was done with someone else's money.
a commercial conundrum.
posted monday 23 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have tried, with some considerable succes i might add, to refrain from chasing the exclusivity banner that might occasionally place thewashingmachinepost at the forefront of velocipedinal blogging (as it is seemingly known). it's all very well rushing through a review of apparel, componentry or cycles in order to be at least a day or two ahead of the competition (though i find the idea of having competition in that sense, to be something of a reduntant concept). for what option would there be but to keep the review period as short as possible, unless a friendly manufacturer is gracious enough to send well in advance of release date? i find book publishers to be the only corner of the world that operates consistently in this manner.
though i have approached this conundrum in a previous post, reviews carried out in this fashion can, at best, provide initial impressions, unable to confirm whether those impressions are long-lasting. how much more relevant would a review be if allowed to take place over several months and onto a year? for by that time, one would know whether those first opinions are built to last. does the headset creak after a month; does the stitching unravel after a couple of washes; does the zip function repeatedly under all circumstances; does a jersey that started out as a medium, take on the mantle of a large after several weeks of riding? all these questions demand answers that most of us would be inclined to ask; the problem is usually that, in order to maintain pace with the real world, time is almost a luxury.
i feel it would confuse the issue greatly were i to pen some words a month or so later along the lines of 'remember i said how good that jacket was, well...'. it would not necessarily be unseemly so to do, but if the subsequent criticism were a small one, it could conceivably undermine everything positive that appeared in the original review. so i don't do it.
however, every once in a while, it is a practical undertaking to extend the review period, where a lengthy investigation would be a judicious endeavour. riding a chris king cielo is one such example. this is principally because the cielos departing nw nela street, portland, are essentially the same as the example currently inhabiting the front portion of thewashingmachinepost bike shed. if you are willing to accept my assurance that this particular bicycle has been my main squeeze for the past two years, i feel my own experiences from its saddle are suitably framed to inform your own, should you be considering just such a purchase.
the bicycle arrived in its ipod box from portland just over two years ago, replete with a fine representation of chris king output, namely aheadset, bottom bracket and wheels constructed around a pair of blue r45 hubs. it may be of prudent note that the latter have been replaced along the way. the originals, the rear of which featured the titanium ring drive, suffered from an isolated case of corrosion last winter, greatly promoted by the corrosive properties of peat dust (who knew?) these were speedily replaced without question, and i have taken steps to ensure this is not repeated.
the original wheels, due to their titanium ring drive, required close auditory attention to identify the famed chris king buzz. the new wheels feature the now standard stainless steel ring drive and i'm happy to say the buzz is back. i paid the originals the compliment of riding being close to gliding; these perform in similar manner, generally out-wheeling all in the velo club peloton on any opportune descent.
having been graciously supplied with a bottom bracket grease port tool, in the last month or so, i have taken advantage of this simple method of lubrication. chris king recommend a six monthly service, depending on riding conditions, but i figure i'm as bad as everyone else in having left it for a couple of years. no greater satisfaction can be had than from the fact that the old grease, unceremoniously ejected past the seals was not much contaminated despite the wet crap in which i find myself riding regularly.
though entirely unrelated to cielo cycles in any pertinent way, the bicycle started out with sram rival components, being replaced around midway by a sram red groupset. though the front mech has recently displayed a tendency not to garage itself when changing from outer to inner ring, in this case, i'd blame the mechanic. the rear shimano dual pivot caliper has also demonstrated a bit of stickiness; that mechanic again. and purely for decorative purposes, i fitted brooks leather bar tape to enhance the appearance (yes, i am that shallow), but the cork bar plugs seemed of less than sturdy constitution (they broke) and have been replaced by laphroaig whisky bottle corks. of these, i have no shortage of supply.
the fullwoodfenders look pretty well as fine as they day they arrived from river city bicycles, and that with only a twice yearly dousing in teak oil. i cannot pretend that all the various bolts and nuts that attach various items of trinketry have fared well in the salt-laden islay atmosphere, but the cielo is neither to blame, nor alone in this affliction. however, the front and rear stainless steel dropouts are as shiny as the day they accepted the wheels, while the trademark stainless seatstay caps still reflect all that goes on around them.
there is a trend, of sorts, to create the finest of steel frames, either lugged, brazed or, as in the case of the cielo, tig welded, then augment them with carbon forks. why? i have nothing against carbon per se, but on the evidence of the ride promulgated by the narrow, curved forks on the cielo, steel is ultimately deserving of its real reputation. despite having plenty of experience relating to a wide variety of carbon forks, i cannot truthfully state that i've found any undue vibration or hand discomfort despite two years of continuing road surface deterioration. surface dressing has a lot to answer for.
baldly stated, the cielo has been an absolute joy to own and ride. the black sparkly paint is as black and sparkly as it was when new, exhibiting no signs of chipping, scraping or corrosion. under the climatic conditions of my geographical locaton, that is no mean feat, though its portland heritage doubtless serves it well in such matters (portland receives only marginally less annual rainfall than islay).
on the basis of everything the cielo sportif has endured, and the huge portions of comfort and joy it has provided these past twenty-four months, i would unreservedly recommend this as a purchase, whether you intend gracing its tubing with chris king componentry or not. in matters such as this, i'm happy to have taken my time and resisted the desire to be first kid on the block to let you know.
and you'll be pleased to know that even after washing, it's still a 55cm frame.
posted sunday 22 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i was brought up with bill bruford.
not literally, you understand; he didn't live with me, and we didn't ever go get an ice-cream or anything, but as an aspiring drummer in my early teens, bill seemed to have it sussed as to what constituted appropriate technique, sound and philosophy. so like any impressionable teenager, i did all i could to copy his style. that matched well with my initial obsession with rudiments, for there is truly little else you can do on an upturned biscuit tin full of rattling coins. however, i was blissfully unaware of the barriers with which i was saddling myself, and 'tis only within the past few years that these have come to light.
for starters, bruford played with yes, prior to easing into king crimson then exiting for his own jazz combo. playing tie a yellow ribbon every saturday at a local working men's club rarely requires the ability to infuse the rhythm with fills carefully worked out in a 9/8 time signature. yet it appears that not only had that not occurred to me, but in truth, it rarely stopped me. true to my adopted percussive roots, i amassed way too many expensive cymbals for the mere act of accompanying a modern waltz, yet still the penny failed to drop.
in retrospect it may have been bill's failing that conditioned my own. on arriving at king crimson, his cohort in noise was a free-form percussionist by the name of jamie muir. his modus operandi encompassed everything that could be hit, and thought little of dangling chains and other industria across his array of lossely named percussion. bruford at no salient point, followed suit; even when muir disappeared into obscurity, leaving bill as sole percussionist in king crimson, the drum sound remained bereft of anything that might sully that identifiable snare drum sound or those all too beautiful sounding toms.
thus, the notion that one could treat one's drumset to produce interesting and ethnic sounds, though well-known to me, remained sitting on the shelf labelled anathema.
and so it has been in those extensive, intervening years. the very thought of placing a towel across the floor tom, or resting a splash cymbal on the snare drum was tantamount to heresy as far as i was concerned. my face doubtless went chalk white on my first recording session when the engineer placed his wallet on my snare before unceremoniously removng the front bass drum head and pushing a duvet inside. where was his reverence for the stateliness, craftsmanship and expert tuning of those instruments? granted, the jingle was only to last 40 seconds, but those were my 40 seconds.
it is perhaps a change i could place at the door of ageing, or perhaps now that bill bruford has retired from public performance, i have removed the blinkers and discovered a whole new world of noise making. over the past few months, the pouch at the side of my trap case has acquired all manner of shakers, bells and interesting looking sticks, and i no longer care if any given performance is without a paradiddle, ratamacue or one of the more obscure stroke rolls. in a word, i am liberated from my own folly.
except, that is not entirely true, for i continue to apply similar retentive parameters to my cycling. it is very much not in order to wear a rapha jersey, paired with dhb tights and an endura softshell. i care not one whit that the cycling fashion police are non-residents of the isle, nor that fellow customers at debbie's are unable to tell the difference between marques. the point is; i know. i confess i am doing my level best to excoriate myself from such practices, and there has been a modicum of success in this direction, however, there is still a way to go.
it extends too, to my bicycles. the cielo arrived with a pair of chris king wheels, and i know it would give me sleepless nights were i to replace those with another brand. it was, for several years, hard to adapt to the fact that a cycle might not own its own brooks saddle (i'm getting over that one) and still i would feel awkward if i'd ever to fit two distinctly different tyres on one bicycle. perhaps i need to look elsewhere for the necessary succour in similar manner to my having adopted the persona of bill bruford.
in which case, it is surely not necessary to look further than warwick, massachusetts?
demonstrating that we don't have to accept things as the manufacturer would have you do so, is beautifully demonstrated in the video below. you will all know by now that richard sachs has been principal sponsor, organiser, general factotum and frame builder to his own 'cross team for more years than he perhaps wishes to recall. it would be a naive person who questioned his undoubted affinity with the sport both from a racing and mechanical point of view. thus his need to saw a few millimetres from the end of the cantilever brake shoes fitted to the team bikes probably strikes a chord with many of us who have observed, yet failed to act.
the length and curve of many canti brake shoes currently purveyed oft times finds them restricted in their braking curve by butting up against the inner face of the front fork. i, like many, have accepted this as just another cross to bear (sorry for the pun); surely the manufacturers of such brake pads would not offer such length were it not needed in the name of perfect modulation? according to richard sachs, modulation has nothing to do with it; sawing off those excess millimetres causes no undue distress to rider or brake shoe. oh to have such confidence in one's metier.
the life of a framebuilder is often a solitary one where sullenness and a degree of unsociability can be easily tolerated because it impinges on no-one else. but it can also be a fascinating one, particularly for those of us who struggle to fit a valve dust cap correctly. measuring, tacking, filing, shaping, brazing and polishing are all techniques bandied about with ease, probably more often by those without the expertise to fully understand their implications in relation to the bicycle frame. the act of ordering a hand-crafted frame is rarely one that improves one's education in such matters. i doubt whether many builders invite the customer to 'drop by anytime'and watch your bicycle take shape.'
that luxury is for the favoured few, one of whom happens to be nick czerula, a photographer and editor who has spent the past year in the shadow of richard sachs, documenting what he sees as the daily, weekly and monthly patterns. he has not solely confined himself to the workshop, but in an effort to clear the head and lens of flux and flame, followed richard to the cyclocross circuits of the eastern seaboard to detail such extra-curricular activity in red and white.
this is surely a moment, albeit a lengthy one, that is worth recording for posterity? if richard sachs' claims are fulfilled, there may well be a thinning out of those involved in the practice of building steel bicycles by hand, simply through economics and the fact that mass produced bicycles are pretty darmed good these days. it is unlikely that the handbuilt bicycle will ever truly disappear, but viewing the working practices of a master is not an opportunity to avoid.
nick czerula's richard sachs bicycle maker is available even as i write. there was a stricty limited edition signed by both nick and e-richie ($69.95) but those have sold out already so the best you can hope for is a copy of the regular edition for $59.95. do not let this opportunity pass you by. (i hope to have a review of the book on the post within the next week or two)
posted saturday 21 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
'is it the whole trip, from when we click in until we click out?'
i recall an american gentleman who was a sometime resident of our neighbouring island, jura, who involved himself in various archaeological and historical matters pertaining to the locale. he is long gone from this neighbourhood now, but left, as testament to his residency, a book of photographs concerning the men of the jura ferry. this is a small boat of similar but contemporary design to wartime landing craft, that plies the short but fast moving stretch of water between islay and jura. i can't say that i envy them their occupation given as it is to repeated crossings of around five minutes shuffling cars and passengers to and from the pier at feolin. under certain sea and wind conditions, it can be a somewhat treacherous journey, not aided at one point, when the front door fell off mid-stream. were it not for the captain executing the nautical equivalent of a handbrake turn, ship and contents may now be residing at the bottom of a very deep channel of water.
sadly, however qualified this gent was at his employment, his photography existed at a similar level to my own; competent at best, mediocre at worst. to compound this failing in the imagery department, the notes at the rear of his book proudly admitted to what must count as a major photographic faux pas; black and white photography in-camera.
i am a great fan of monochromatic imagery as i believe i have mentioned on one or two occasions before, but there is a technical problem with setting the camera to deal with the colour space. black and white film relies almost entirely on its ability to deal favourably with contrast; the space that exists between pure black and pure white. colour film uses, unsurprisingly, colour to achieve the same result. colour digital cameras can do nothing but capture images in colour; it's built-in to their genes. setting these to black and white simply enables the camera to throw away the colour information, resulting more often than not, in a flat toned image bearing little contrast.
black and white combined produce mid-gray, therefore to produce more striking contrast, black and white need to achieve a degree of separation. it is hard to quantify one without the other.
'but what about those moments in your life when you are decidedly not pedalling, even in your mind, and your dreams and whatever you call your soul. and without the not riding wouldn't we never know that we had ever been riding, or had been and might again be doing something that is different from not riding?'
the comparison with photography as described above is surely a valid one? for were it not for the act of not riding our bicycles on those days when work gets in the way, or saturday morning shopping, or weeding the garden or painting the shed in mid-august, with what would we compare the joy of riding? how could any of us ever tell the quality of the long way round to debbie's on saturday lunchtime were it not for the desperate act of having to nip out in the rain to buy the daily newspaper on foot?
tis a conundrum worth the rumination.
'what is it, riding? we are left with all that we have left, and fortunately that is all we need. what it is, is what we like.'
the agonist is nothing if not metaphysical in the act of worldly perception.
posted friday 20 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if ever there was a misleading title, that is probably it. though blue skies greeted the view from the kitchen window this morning, by the time the blinds had been opened on the office window, all trace of that particular colour had converted to a dull, dark grey. hardly lifeless, mind, with voluble quantities of hail rattling the double-glazing and creating their own little personal river down both pavement and road. the preferred option for today had been repetition of a rather pleasant ride undertaken on tuesday, originally as a part of my contribution to mr cameron's big society, but subsequently existing as a large dollop of self-indulgence.
the weather put paid to that.while scraping up the remnants of his hurricane dispersed summer house (bike shed), the mighty dave t was unfortunate enough to slip on saturated wet grass, injuring his back in the resulting fall. originally diagnosed as a cracked rib, it seemed the velo club peleton would be a man down for longer than we'd ultimately have liked. knowing full well how i'd be feeling if the prospect of a bike ride was a distant possibility, i thought i'd nip down and pay a visit. however, the serious side of the pain having fortunately subsided, on my arrival in port wemyss, via a small soya cappuccino at debbie's, the mighty dave was living up to his stage name, suitably attired to accompany me on the return trip.
having lived on this atlantic rock for more than a score of years, you'd think i would have the weather sussed better than seems to be the case. well, not so much the weather itself, but the veracity of those weather forecasts promising endless days of high pressure, slack winds and blazing sun. this is undoubtedly the curse of the optimist; i obviously have a predilection to hope that the promise of good weather is 100% true, only to have the rug unceremoniously pulled from under.
in terms of box-ticking, having already completed one 70km ride, i had fulfilled my eternal promise to refrain from coagulating all bike rides around the weekend hours. however, most of you will sympathise with an overweening need to add to those kilometres, brought on by the aforementioned blue sky surreptitiously decorating those kitchen windows.
i cannot seriously complain, for though several hours of less than back-straining work were completed with the aid of software from adobe, one skype call with someone you'd all be interested in (more of that in a later episode) lifted the oppression of rain and hail to make for a better day. while i admittedly find myself enthralled by the prospect of summer weather in late january, conversely, i hope that the weather forecast for the fothcoming weekend is less severe than prophesied in those dark-red tinged columns on xcweather. dark red always equates to windspeeds that do little for the cyclist emerging from hibernation.
we are, however, still entrenched in the first month of the year which, in the northern hemisphere means less daylight than seems ideal. thus, by the time i find myself resigned to the external tours de force, it gets dark. i realise that many of you turn to these black and yellow pixels for some light relief from the daily toil; something to lift the pall of depression from days without the prospect of velocipedinal activity, so it's as well that remi clermont chose this particular point in time to grace my inbox with images featuring brightness and shadow cast by a french sun. remi is the motivational force behind cafe du cycliste, providers of rather fine cycling apparel with delightful soupcons of gallic flair.
the vision of so much sun all but detracted from the rather fine winter jacket that was the true subject of the images. captured both in sunny nice and the equally as sunny col de vence, it seems only fitting that i share these photos with you all, partially for the sartorial elegance of the cafe du cycliste ginette winter jacket but just as equally for the additional brightenss emanating from your computer screen. it is only fair to mention, by way of thanks to remi, that the jacket itself is both wind and waterproof, while featuring the elbow patches seen on many a garment from cafe du cyclisme.
elbow patches are good; very pragmatic for the inevitable coffee stop, and the patching continues to the shoulders should you find the wearing of a backpack to be necessary on occasion.
it may be several days or even weeks before a comparable ride such as that to the mighty dave's place features on the weather forecast, but i'm willing to make do with the palliative of erratic memory recall, augmented by sun-filled photographs such as those above.
the cafe du cycliste ginette winter jacket can be ordered from their website, solely available in slate grey in sizes from small to xxxl at the not unreasonable cost of £169 ($264).
posted thursday 19 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as the country's roads deteriorate at a rate almost as alarming as the uk youth employment figures, it is worth considering which style of velocipede you choose to entrust your person to for fun and frolics as well as the more sedate perambulations enjoyed by many. the cielo has been shod with 25c tyres all its life, and i see little chance of that altering in the foreseeable future. however, the possibility of building a little extra-curricular activity into the sunday ride or, perhaps the daily commute, is more than just a brilliant idea.
however, bicycles for courses is surely a prudent motto to which to adhere.
if the idea of struggling up even short gradients astride a knobbly-shod springy farm gate seems less than enticing, there is a more than acceptable alternative in a shape remarkably similar to that of the common or garden road bike. or even a less than common model. perhaps that's where the cyclocross bike comes in (when it's not actually cyclocrossing)? in a second bite of the black cherry, christmas and new year on islay were spent in the company of a radar-invisible ibis hakkalugi black lung.
did it make for a happy new year?
posted wednesday 18 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the man with whom i went pedalling at the weekend spends many of his working hours sitting atop the control tower at islay international airport, and is thus more au fait with climatic and weather conditions than most. not unnaturally, many of the weather details, such as windspeed, are recorded by sophisticated equipment dotted about the external cornices of the tower and fed to the authorities and websites that deal in such minutiae. the chap who keeps the streets of bowmore free from unsightly rubbish is regularly on his rounds as i traipse down to the office of a morning and i cannot deny that, perhaps because of his outdoor lifestyle, he is also well versed in approaching weather systems.
of course, such meteorological knowledge and a wicked sense of humour has served to disappoint of a weekday morning. for if office work is the daily diet, while looking forward to some velocipedinal escapism at the weekend, there is little more soul destroying than to be informed on a tuesday morn that one has little chance of sunshine and flowers come saturday and sunday. fortunately, more often than not, it turns out that his warped sense of humour is intent on playing on my desire for a pleasant weekend's cycling.
you can't help but admire blokes like that.
the most recent issue of our local newspaper had many a word to spread regarding the hurrican force winds that damaged rather a lot on the isle at 06:00 on tuesday 3rd january. from the assembled information, i have discovered that winds over 74mph are classified as hurricane force (i did not know that), so the published windspeed figures for that very morning from islay airport confirmed the classification by displaying a gust of 97mph. however, my cycling colleague from the control tower was able to inform me that windspeed figures from the airport are sampled only every half hour, leaving plenty of room to manoeuvre in between.
common consent amongst those of us who failed to sleep through the hurricane is that the wind reached a more forceful trajectory than that recorded by the airport, supporting evidence being at least partially confirmed by the fact that the wind speed recorder on orsay lighthouse, off islay's southwest coast, broke at 120mph. the upshot of all this, as if i hadn't mentioned it before, is that the inner hebrides experience winds that would bring tears to the eyes of a statue.
this is not, however, a plea for clemency on behalf of the battered few, nor is it a long-winded (pardon the pun) attempt to elicit sympathy or admiration from the less breezed upon. it is, in fact, a display of the undoubted credentials qualifying my location as one eminently suitable for reviewing garments described as windproof. i know that you never really doubted me for a minute, but it's always good to reinforce these feelings of goodwill in case one or two of you haven't hung around these here parts too often.
bbb cycle clothing of holland via their uk distributors windwave (colnago, fsa etc) kindly despatched a mistralshield lightweight windproof jacket for review on this draught ravaged isle (and just to be blunt, no matter what you say on twitter, 15mph does not constitute a headwind). as any magician, drummer or humourist will tell you, timing is everything, a factor that sadly mitigated aginst this review for many days too long. for the mistralshield is very lightweight (i have used thinner toilet paper) and advertised as featuring only a water repellent coating. though i have neglected to involve any type of precipitation in my opening monologue let me assure you that large quantities often accompany those searing winds.
thus, with a combination of both wind and rain pervading my christmas holiday riding, water repellent was less than i was willing to leave to experience at that point in time. now that those winds have dropped to their more regular 25-30mph conditions, i adjudged it safe to venture forth clad in the bbb mistralshield windjacket. at this point, the verdict is surely a simple one: is it windproof or isn't it? happily, it is indeed; very much so. slogging into a headwind for 12 kilometres is, by my reckoning, a fairly comprehensive test, and even allowing for the mesh panels down each side and under the arms, such a sliver of material does a remarkably comprehensive job of keeping all manner of winds at bay.
of course, headwind slogging took place more often than just the once, just to make sure.
what it doesn't do, and i must point out that nobody said it would, is keep you warm. fending off a headwind or crosswind will doubtless retain a degree of internal warmth, but those mesh panels allow all that to evaporate the minute pedalisation comes to a halt. it would therefore be a prudent move to ensure adequate cladding below the jacket in order to stave off the chills, should a mechanical or puncture afflict forward motion. however, the clue as to its true purpose in life is contained within the built-in container. the jacket's single, velcro'd rear pocket doubles as a pouch; on a windless day (snigger) the mistralshield can be simply stuffed in a rear jersey pocket for emergencies.
i have singularly failed to get the jacket wet, simply because islay's weather has been uncharacteristically dry over the past week or so. therefore i'm unable to confirm the veracity of that water repellent coating, though since nobody fibbed about the windproofing, i doubt they'd undermine the sales pitch by fibbing about precipitory protection.
when it comes to employing the jacket as a windshell over more thermal cladding, the world is greatly improved by the fit. cycle clothing inhabits one of two styles nowadays: normal or race-fit; the mistralshield coming under the former, yet manages not to act as a sail during those salient moments. if i absolutely have to find fault, it's that rear pocket that gets the blame. the pocket size is well judged, and the outer flap offers to protect the contents from dripping rain, but the velcro fastening is the feature that gives minor cause for concern. reaching into that pocket while riding, the hook and loop fastening had a predatory habit of closing again before any fingers could grasp the hoped-for contents.
yes, it is a minor gripe, but other than that i can see little reason not to consider this excellent item of cycle clothing to shield body and soul from that insidious and perennial wind.
the bbb mistralshield windproof jacket is available in black, blue or white, in sizes small to xl for a retail cost of £49.95.
posted tuesday 17 january 2012