prestwick airport was an odd sort place in the 1980s. nobody really wanted to fly to prestwick (about 30 miles southwest of glasgow); generally speaking transatlantic passengers were more likely to be heading towards glasgow or edinburgh. this was the principal reason behind classifying the airport as glasgow prestwick. government diktat of the age determined that all transatlantic passenger and cargo traffic departed from and arrived at prestwick airport, while the real glasgow airport served uk internal flights and those to mainland europe.
that's all changed nowadays.
with the bulk of the flights westward in the direction of north america, aside from the year-round british airways scheduled services, much of the passenger traffic was centred around the holiday trade, leading to quite a substantial difference between winter schedules and those of the summer timetable. my employer of the time produced all those lovely plastic meals in plastic trays to take your mind off the lengthy flight times. between the end of october and easter, we catered to an average of two or three flights per day, but over the summer season that could increase to well over ten or twelve flights per day.
that might not seem like an overly onerous day's work, but with the majority of those aeroplanes containing around 310 passengers, that's a lot of people in a relatively short space of time. the trouble here was finishing a sunday in late april with only two flights and walking in on monday morning to ten. after a week or so, you didn't notice so much, but those first five days were something of a shock to the system. and that's sort of how islay's autumnal climate has hit over this past weekend.
summer has been long, mild, dry (bruichladdich distillery ran out of water two weeks ago) and relatively wind free. i can scarcely remember the last september that i made all the way to the end still wearing bibshorts. in fact, my autumnal apprehension led to more than just a single recent ride in bib three-quarters, just because old habits die hard. but a friday morning that saw the first two ferries of the day diverted to port askaig at the north of the island, brought back the muscle memory that adores a galeforce headwind.
you see, port ellen in the south, our regular morning ferry port requires the boat to turn a corner as it heads in towards the pier. at this point, it is placed side on to the prevailing west or south westerly wind, making navigation a tad more awkward than it need be. port askaig is a lot more sheltered and without a curve prior to docking. it's the same reason why the arran ferry is disrupted more often than the islay ferry; their entire route is at right angles to the prevailing wind.
however, a weekend that presented those winds we all know and love along with a ten degree drop in ambient temperature, peppered with a soupcon of heavy hail showers (yes, really) means that those bibshorts will be stowed away until late may in 2015. in previous years they would not necessarily have suffered the humiliation of a winter of hibernation, for rapha's bibtights were designed to be worn over your favourite pair of bibshorts. in other words, they had no internal comfy bit. this has been the case for as long as rapha have been offering bibtights; since 2005, come to that.
however, in a subtle launch that really ought to have hit with the same effect as apple making a watch, for autumn/winter 2014, rapha have introduced a pair of winter tights to their pro team range, but this time with a cytech pad that makes those bibshorts redundant for the rest of the winter. if you've been fortunate enough to ride wearing a pair of rapha pro team bibshorts, you're in for an even bigger treat with a pair of these winter tights. to minimise the rhetoric, these are quite simply fabulous.
i have made mention previously that i figure it incumbent on any well-fitting pair of bibshorts that they ought to be less than easy to pull on. if shorts are too easy to wear, there's probably too much leeway for movement in the saddle. the same goes for bibtights (with or without a pad). but to add to this qualification, a good pair of bibtights ought also to be damn hard to remove. for many of the insulation properties accompanying winter tights can really only carry out their job properly if decidedly close fitting. rapha's pro team winter tights tick both boxes with aplomb.
the fit of the size small pair reviewed was well nigh impeccable. inhabiting made to measure territory.
they are also possessed of a high waist that keeps the chill off, and a rear panel that stretches from the lower back all the way to the neck. but they'll still accommodate a call of nature without embarrassing contortions. the bib straps are of a light mesh; i wore them under a team sky climber's jersey (with pro team jacket on top) without revealing red weals across my shoulders when ready to clamber into the shower. and over a merino baselayer, they stayed resolutely in place all day. the pad is identical to that in the pro team bibshorts and is all but invisible in use, still the best compliment that can be paid to this essential comfy bit.
externally, the windproofed front panels have been treated with dwr (durable water treatment), meaning that showers of rain are mostly shrugged off with ease. the tights are not waterproof, as very few are, but the breathable fabric used for the rear panels minimises any tendency to trap perspiration. even in cold weather, that's a boon on lengthy stretches with a tailwind. unlike rapha's other bibtights, these feature no footloops, but their grip on the ankles, whether over or under a pair of socks has made such accoutrements totally redundant; the material never rode up even a millimetre even under hard riding (still not used to those headwinds yet) and their overall comfort factor was little short of marvellous.
the inside front insulation resembles nothing more than a fine corduroy, making an intriguing pattern on your shins when removed. the internal rear panelling looks similar to roubaix thermal insulation.
with a forcats de la route tab on one of the seams, it's no surprise that the lower calves feature the white panelling associated with the rest of the pro team range. the left leg has a prominent, white sans serif rapha logo, while the right leg has similar but in clear gloss. your backside also advises the following peloton that these are a rapha product, but seemingly only if wearing the shorter cut team pro jacket or jerseys. i wore them with a rapha winter jersey for a couple of days and the drop tail obscured those bright white letters. in keeping with the professional connotations implied by the words pro and team, there's a label on the rear bib on which to write your name. it means after the soigneur (mrs washingmachinepost) has laundered the day's kit, i'll definitely get my own stuff back.
easily amongst the very best on the market today.
rapha's pro team winter bib tights with pad are available in black only and in sizes xs all the way up to xxl. they can be purchased from their website or selected retailers for £200
monday 6 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it was robert millar that got me into cycling. not personally, you understand; i didn't know him at all in the early eighties, but the fact that a diminutive glaswegian could mix with the hoi polloi of international racing, finishing in paris in fourth place while wearing the tour's polka dot jersey was, to put it in a nutshell, pretty damn impressive. and since i happened to have a ten-speed racer in the garage, quite obviously i too could ride up hills every bit as quickly because i was also born in glasgow.
sadly, my city of birth hadn't granted me with the same qualities of grimpeurship as had been bestowed upon mr millar. my fierce attack on dundonald hill resulted in my pulling to the side before the summit and almost being sick.
however, i have no recollection whatsoever of realising that, in the early 1980s, robert millar was one of very few british riders racing at the highest level. this was at least partly due to total ignorance on my part, confounded by an almost total lack of interest in those three weeks in july by the mainstream press. who knew there was also a three week tour of italy and a similar period of time spent in spain? it was many a long year before i discovered that robert almost became the first brit/scot to win the vuelta in 1985. second place was doubtless scant recompense for millar, but scarcely worth mentioning in my daily newspaper.
though a volume that would have been a darned sight thinner had it been published around the time of robert's king of the mountains jersey, ellis bacon's great british cycling would have been a very handy book to have read to lessen my ignorance of britain's role in cycling's rich heritage. it might conceivably have been a tad more accurate if the publisher had entitled it a history of british bike racing, rather than using an alternative definite article, for great british cycling is truthfully one man's vision of british cycle racing achievements since james moore's beating of 118 others in a french race, allegedly the first ever road race between paris and rouen.
and to be honest, it's all the better for it.
i'll readily confess that the prospect of reading over 300 pages of britain's historical racing legacy was one i expected to be somewhat hard-going. our occasional bursts of sporting prowess should hardly be ignored, but surely it would take a highly skilled and imaginative author to bring this to us in an entertaining and readable fashion. thank goodness for ellis bacon.
in an e-mail i received from mr bacon only last week, he offered the following "Rather than re-tell, for example, Robert Millar's story (a favourite of yours, I know!), which has already been told by various people, not least by my esteemed colleague Richard Moore, I've tried to take a slightly more alternative look at things.". true to his word, that's exactly what he's done. and regarding such a voluminous edifice "It took a good year to complete in the end, as it turns out that there's rather a lot of British bike-racing history. Who knew!? Enough for multiple volumes, really."
other than those who are steeped in this sort of thing, the fellows who used to appear on eurosport's pre-tour stage couch for instance, i figure the majority of readers will find many an unknown nugget of information within. rather than simply provide an overview of each success (or lack of), ellis bacon has sought out some of the lesser known protagonists for chapter length interviews. gents such as tony hoar "Well I knew you were supposed to hang around and then jump at the last minute...but that was about all I knew [...] why they put me up against (local sprint champion) Gobber Fleming, I'll never know - and I jumped him. I guess he thought he was going to be able to catch me, but he didn't."
there are also words from tom simpson's room-mate during the 1967 tour de france, welshman colin lewis, who retired from racing in the mid-seventies. "At the side of the road up ahead, Lewis says, softly, he could see that someone had fallen off their bike.
"As I got closer, I could see that it was Tom."
[...] Lewis remembers the team manager, Alec Taylor, saying to him 'Tom's OK, so just keep going and keep looking back."
more recent winners also come under mr bacon's scrutiny, riders such as mick bennett, tony doyle, chris boardman and david millar. even the ever impressive michael hutchinson gets his own chapter. however, i can't help but point out the slight iniquity of ellis bacon's avoidance of retelling robert millar's story (though there is a precis of his career during a chapter featuring robert's protege, brian smith), on the basis that richard moore has already covered all the bases. robert's namesake, david receives a chapter dealing with his drugtaking misdemeanour and subsequent rehabilitation, despite making mention that the selfsame story "is documented in marvellous detail in (millar's) 2011 autobiography, 'Racing through the Dark."
however, that could conceivably be simply my scottish prejudice coming to the fore. there is, however, no mention of robert's subsequent involvement with british cycling. as robert told me "I was National Road coach from March '97 to March '98. (but) During that time I had no influence on the race program. All that was decided before I arrived." in the light of the post retirement activities relating to uk cycling by many other cyclists being featured, this seems an unfortunate omission, given that until the 2012 tour de france, robert millar was regarded as britain's most successful cyclist.
however, ellis more than redeems himself by offering a restricted summary of the more recent years of british success. for this we ought to be thankful considering the number of books that have already covered the past two or three years to the point of exhaustion. sure, there are riders whose contribution to britain's ever upward march towards cycling history are given fewer paragraphs than they likely deserve, but as ellis bacon made mention previously, that would take at least another volume to remedy. rather him than me.
aside from my admittedly prejudicial remarks above, this truly is a book well-worth reading. though it may have been a brit who won the world's very first road race, who amongst us thought dave brailsford's confident prophecy that he'd win the tour with a british rider within five years of fostering team sky would result in it happening twice? things may be very different nowadays; no longer is it seen as entirely necessary for stalwart brits to go it alone in europe, supported by dreams of not only surviving, but winning. britain's successes on the track and the road make for inspiring reading.
maybe in another five years, mr bacon will be able to fill another 300 pages
sunday 5 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"Find an old picture of Roger de Vlaeminck. Stick it to your bedroom mirror. Put your bike alongside it and sit on it until you get it juuust right."
it must have been a bit of a leap of faith to launch a series of books entitled (something) for dummies, if only on the basis that it's generally never a particularly great idea to insult your audience. or even your intended audience, come to that. for instance, starting an online business (for dummies); though presumably nobody would setup a business simply to sell to dummies, you would figure you'd have to be at least a couple of levels above dummy status to start a business of any kind.
and i should think that the number of dummies hoping to master html5 and css3 would be very few and far between. a risky undertaking i shouldn't wonder. however, the oft repeated phrase 'as simple as riding a bike...' would rather mitigate against any sort of manual describing how one coud become a cyclist. surely it's simply a case of waiting until dad, mum or childminder's husband has let go of that saddle and you're off and pedalling solo. after that point, there's no real need to look back (in fact, looking back might seriously compromise that recently learned stability).
however, the possible iniquity of releasing a book entitled 'how to be a cyclist' obviously never occured to either john deering or phil ashley, since they pushed ahead with publication nonetheless. and thank goodness they did. this is one of the most brilliantly entertaining, yet informative books on cycling i have ever had the pleasure of reading. granted, some of the philosophy behind its chapters may bear more than a passing resemblance to velominati's rules of cycling, but in truth, the latter is used more as inspiration; plagiarism it certainly isn't.
the narrative takes the form of several question and answer sessions, alphabetically arranged according to subject heading. the cycling newbie is throughout referred to as pilgrim, a satisfatory epithet which denotes aspiration without resorting to deprecation. the voice of authority we learn is the guide
"Invincible health, devastating erudition, unimaginable wealth and prowess with the ladies are all there for the taking, providing you listen to me and follow my instructions with care and deference."
"Well might you 'Wow', Pilgrim. I'm not fucking about with the little stuff here, son."
"Aren't they (bikes) easier to fix upside down?"
Oh yeah, much easier. That's why all garages turn cars over before they start work on them."
however, lest you think the contents of the book resemble little more than a pub conversation, there are plentiful nuggets of wisdom contained within, nuggets that, should we as pilgrims pay attention, will serve us well in our velocipedinal careers. subjects such as attitude, bike, etiquette, gears, kit, legs and mileage are all discussed in similar and often humorous language. but like my daughter's english teacher who she assumed spent each lesson telling jokes, yet provided the wherewithal for her to gain an excellent pass in her higher, the learning is endemic throughout. if you don't quite get some of it first time through, at least you'll have a very enjoyable read in the process.
"Bikes! Brilliant, yes! That's what I'm here for."
"Woah, hold your horses there boy. You're not here for bikes, you're here for cycling. An easy mistake to make, granted, but a mistake nonetheless. "
john deering entered the publishing fray with team on the run, an excellent treatise on the rise and fall of the linda mccartney cycling team and has worked with photographer phil ashley previously on the acclaimed '12 months in the saddle'. the latters images pepper the entire book, and though not specifically necessary for the premise of the book, they are a particularly welcome feature. think of the bass guitar in a band; you might not notice it's there, but you'd sure as heck notice if it wasn't.
and while we're on the subject of phil ashley's photos, it's not simply the narrative that leads to many moments of humour, but veritably the image captions. an picture of a casquette bearing italian on the upturned peak (tuttociclismo poggiali scandicci) is subtitled 'A cycling cap older than your teeth. Respect.'.
the subtle cleverness of the mode of narration is exemplary. whoever purchases this book, or receives a copy for christmas (now there's a good idea) will doubtless adopt one or other persona. you would, of course, expect a world famous cycling media person such as myself to adopt the stance of guide, whereas the less well-versed can happily assume the title of pilgrim without losing face in the cafe stop.
the only downside i can find to the whole publication is the guide's seeming infatuation with the band rush. neil peart may well be something of a cyclist himself (though more usually to be found on a motorbike), but they most certainly are not, as described, 'the greatest music ensemble of the twentieth century.' a minor failing in an otherwise superb book.
"You see, Pilgrim, not everybody will be as lucky as you to be so well-informed in the dark arts of bunch riding. And those (other) tits will likely make some other poor sod fall off before they do."
saturday 4 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
at the tail end of last week, rapha offered their latest city riding range, not too far behind the autumn/winter range from vulpine. no matter your particular opinion of clothing that seems to meld fashion off the bike with pragmatism on it, you pretty much have to admit that we've come a long way from ron hill leggings and yellow capes that hooked onto the ends of the handlebars. the counter argument would surely run along the lines that there is no real perceived need to dress up for cycling in the first place?
as mentioned yesterday, my teenage years were spent aboard a raleight twenty shopping bike, and i cannot recall ever having need of wearing anything other than my school uniform on weekdays, and anything that came to hand on the weekend. my primary three teacher used to ride to school each morning on a sit up and beg wearing a very smart, pastel coloured suit. i'm sure she probably wore some sort of waterproof on more inclement days, but i have no recall of precisely what. those were the days when probably fewer folks rode bicycles than is currently the case, but there were also less and slower cars on less congested roads.
every month i receive a trade magazine entitled bikebiz which is designed principally for owners of bicycle shops, informing them of the items that may possibly encourage greater profit margins at the end of a hopefully none too lonely day behind the counter. but it also contains articles relevant to those involved in other areas of the trade, many of which make pertinent points for either future discussion or simply to make a point. however, every now and again (as in the current issue) there are paragraphs that leave one's lower jaw solidly on the table top.
i have oft made the point that, unless the non-sporting side of the equation begins to show even modest growth, cycling will remain at the position it has struggled to retain to date. many words have been expended concerning the so-called wiggo effect, the upshot of which has been a sizeable increase in british cycling memberships, sales of carbon road bikes and the number of largish fellows you might pass on the open road wearing full team sky kit. but such has always been the case; cycling is, if you'll pardon the pun, cyclical. cycling has been referred to as the new golf, but how long before golf once again becomes the new golf?
however, to return to the article in bikebiz entitled is everyday cycling just a novelty? written by stuart newlands of bikelands, he posits the question "whether we should concern ourselves (the bike industry) with normalising cycling and selling that image to those holding off two-wheel travel?". just prior to my reading of this article, i received an e-mail from a gent well positioned in the distribution side of the business stating simply "it still baffles me that this is seen as a revolutionary concept.". and i could not agree with him more.
i don't own a bicycle shop, though i was briefly involved in selling cycles in the early nineties. at the time, my principal brand was giant who would regularly supply me with catalogues of their entire range. at the time, this included just what i was being continually asked for; a proper bike. so, as a result of more than just one request, i asked whether i could order one for stock. the answer was not positive, for according to the sales department there was 'no demand in the uk.' even in the early nineties this seemed something of a narrow minded approach; if the bicycles were in the warehouse in amsterdam, where was the problem in selling me one?
so it seems it may be the apparel providers who are left holding the baby, so to speak. rapha have placed as much emphasis on their city range as on their more regular sporting fare, while vulpine have made no secret of the fact that their entire range is geared towards the more serious commuting or leisure cyclist. the ability to leave the bike at the coffee shop door and sit on their leather sofa without drawing undue attention to oneself is surely the desire of the many, not the few? and while i would never propose to tell anyone which type of velocipede they ought to be riding, i'd be willing to bet that the majority of the civilian population are not lusting after carbon nano-fibres.
the essay in bikebiz makes a number of salient points in this direction, but i and several others, wonder why the questions are even being asked in the first place. surely a case of build it, and they will come?
monochrome images by ben ingham from rapha's autumn/winter city range. colour images from vulpine autumn/winter range.
friday 3 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
my schooldays were arrived at by way of a raleigh shopper operating a sturmey archer three-speed hub gear. i always fancied owning a ten speed racer like my brother, but anytime the subject was approached with mr benzie, owner of the local bikeshop, he'd advise my dad that derailleur systems were fraught with technical instability. so was left with the raleigh up until i went to college and spent a few years away from the bike.
though the derailleur has been around for over 100 years, it's still proving to be possibly the most efficient gearing system for even the 21st century, however, its ubiquity has made it a prime target for development; though the basic principal remains the same, brake lever shifting, matched sprocket ramps and the advent of electric shifting has helped it remain the easy option for most, including the professional end of road, offroad and cyclocross racing.
but that doesn't mean there aren't those intent on querying that ubiquity. despite something of a chequered history, the humble sturmey archer hub gear (now owned by sunrace) is still alive and well and living on the back wheel of my taurus corinto. oddly, over all those years, it still mostly offers the wrong gear at the wrong time. compared with multi-gear derailleur systems, three isn't a whole lot. how about fourteen? and hows about we get rid of the chain and replace it with a belt drive?
that's precisely what edinburgh's shand cycles currently offer as a top level option on their excellent and well respected stoater. the frame is one i have reviewed in previous incarnations, but this one promised to be something different. but different doesn't always equate with good.
thursday 2 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there is a point in a chap's life when he has the opportunity to sit back, relax and reflect on the fact that the worst is well behind him. an opportunity to rest on one's laurels and take a sensible overview of all that has been successfully achieved. things like shoe size for instance. for there comes that inevitable moment of dawning realisation that one's feet have stopped growing. no more dithering over whether the available footwear in any given shoe shop is available in an appropriate size, when one can confidently order online, safe in the knowledge that when the package arrives, both feet will be satisfactorily catered for.
well, sort of.
i have a number of pairs of cycling shoes in the cycling cupboard, all with the same number stamped upon the outside edge of the box. size 44, as it happens. some of these have fixings for crank brothers cleats, some for the now defunct mavic engendered pedals, and a couple of pairs to fit the latest mavic/time collaboration. i even have a sole pair (see what i did there?) that are for ordinary pedals. most are leather, but one or two feature man made uppers married to carbon or resin soles. the fitting of each varies slightly by make; some have a narrow fit, others the opposite and it will surprise you not to learn that despite all stamped with 44, they're not all the same foot length. but in general, they all fit pretty well.
knowledge of my feet in this manner has vastly simplified the auditioning process when being sent review samples.
however, the fly in the ointment raised its head just prior to christmas 2013 when mrs twmp thought it an excellent idea to purchase a pair of burgundy coloured brogues for everyday wear. wishing to maintain the suprise that is christmas morning in the sitting room, she diligently checked those numbers at the gable end of my cycling shoe boxes and ordered accordingly, then sat back to wait for christmas day.
unfortunately, it appears that the makers of brogues clearly have never worn cycling shoes, preferring to think that mavic is simply the lettering applied to the bonnet of a yellow skoda during the tour de france. the size 44 burgundy coloured brogues were/are just a smidgeon too big. in fact, were it not for the fact that i remembered owning a pair of cushioned insoles, i would resemble one of those circus clowns with large, floppy clown shoes. i am advised that is not a good look.
and if that is truly the case, any pair of socks that i might choose to match with said brogues has need of maintaining comfort, style and, with a bit of luck, a smidgeon of temperature regulation. for on the days when i leave the carbon fibre behind and opt for a more urban approach to both velocipede and attire, i would prefer not to lose the benefits conferred by the more racy pelotonic apparel.
having recently reviewed vulpine's excellent new lightweight thermal jacket, it seemed a highly appropriate move to to top and tail by wearing their also new dogtooth pattern merino and silk socks. in the grand scheme of things, socks are often a less than considered aspect of cycle clothing. it's more usually a case of grabbing whatever happens to be sitting at the front of the drawer, rather than a conscious effort to dig out a specific pair. however, i have no need of being convinced as to the merits of merino, whether constituting a baselayer or footwear. marry that with silk, even in a modest 10% quantity, and the picking of socks may become less of a lottery.
of course, apart from catering to the comfort desires of those tootsies, there is more than just rhyme and reason as to why merino and silk have been brought together in these admittedly fabulous looking socks (is it wrong of me to be so enthused?) for both are ideal for maintaining a comfortable tenperature even in the face of weather inclemency. and in substantial off-the-bike testing, they have also proved to be more than capable, proffering an impressive demeanour when the trouser leg heads north of a finely honed ankle.
vulpine advise matching with one of their storm caps, but mr hussey never was possessed of much in the way of sartorial nous. for who in this day and age matches hats with socks?
wednesday 1 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
not that it's a regular occurrence for me, but as part of a separate writing assignment, i went on a tour of a distillery just before last weekend. in fact, if truth be told, i toured three distilleries, but it was a singular aspect of my tour of ardbeg that brought up the most bizarre of circumstances.
after we'd been given a brief history of the distillery to the present day under its ownership of glenmorangie who in turn are owned by moet hennessy, we ascended some wooden stairs into a remarkably small stone-walled room containing one of the original spirit stills and walls hung with photos of the former residents of the village of ardbeg. the latter is now all but defunct, a situation for which the closing of the distillery in the early eighties is mostly responsible. through an open doorway, this room led to the original wooden, grain storage bins, still in immaculate condition and surrounded by a peaty aroma left behind when the bins were retired from regular use.
their retirement, however, was the specific instance that i found somewhat at odds with several subsequent processes involved in making single malt whisky. the reason that these wooden storage bins were now lying empty, was apparently due to the intervention of either environmental health or health and safety (i'm afraid i was too far back in line to pick up on which was responsible).
the contradictory nature of this state of affairs revolved around wood; apparently it was considered either unhealthy, unhygienic or both to store barley in wooden receptacles. yet only a few more steps down the line, we were introduced to a room filled with large, oregon pine washbacks in which the liquid that's about to become whisky resides for more than just a few minutes. and unless i'm very much mistaken (and i'm not) the new-make spirit ends its maturing life sitting patiently in a wooden cask for at least ten years.
shurely shome mishtake?
it is, i'd venture, a case of singularity of purpose. those grain bins were designed in the distillery's early days (ardbeg was established in 1815; around quarter past six) for a specific purpose, tailored to the space available in the building and rather obviously fulfilled that function with aplomb. that an over-zealous official many years later failed to share that original vision seems something of an oddity. to a certain degree, and i'll admit it's a bit of a stretch, provision's new 360 jacket is of comparable status.
granted, even the jacket's three pockets would never store sufficient barley to make even a miniature of ardbeg, but it does need to fulfil one salient function while occupying an altogether different space. this is where those wooden bins make a reappearance, for having been designed for a primary function, they are now occupying a different space, forming an anecdotal part of distilling history.
you see, as a cycle commuter with need of travelling to and from sonewhere or other during the hours of darkness and perchance in conditions of less than pristine climate, there is a specific need for a jacket of some description. due to the onerous conditions that pervade even the shortest of commutes, a breathable, fully-waterproof jacket would be most amenable to most.
darkness, however, imposes its own conditions, often separate to those mentioned above. there is little point in remaining cosy, warm and dry if that pedalling commute is the equivalent of running a dangerous gauntlet due to being less than visible to the other constituents of that gauntlet. the majority of cycle apparel these days contains at least a few flecks of reflectivity, with winter jackets being often more generously endowed. but never before have i come across a winter waterproof jacket with an outer surface composed entirely of reflective material. and there is often good reason for this.
examine the reflective stripes, darts or dots that infest any of the softshells, hardshells and windproofs that occupy space in the cycling wardrobe. in the day to day world of normal light, that reflective material could rarely be described as offering an attractive finish. to cover an entire jacket in the stuff would surely be unlikely to win any pulchritudity awards. but proviz went ahead anyway, and it is of great testament to their faith that the end result isn't half bad after all.
admittedly, when others are releasing bright orange, blue, mustard and red jackets for the purpose of riding one's bicycle with a degree of sartorial elegance, a neutral grey jacket hardly offer much in the way of visible competition. but smother that jacket with car headlights and it's very much a case of "holy christmas tree, batman!". seriously, if it were a case of looking good in the office canteen (if we had one) or advertising my presence in the face of motorised blindness, i'd take the second option everytime.
though september has been a notably dry and mild month, the opportunity to spend an hour or two in heavy drizzle elicited no precipitation passing the fully taped seams, while the high collar is a very welcome feature. as with almost every breathable cycle jacket on the market, the breathability is never as good as you'd like it to be, though i fear we may be confounding the laws of physics to expect more.
the sizing is generous; my medium sized review sample was the ideal size, but with adequate room to cover regular office day wear, should that be the management's diktat. aside from the aforementioned three zipped pockets (two chest level and one large rear, zipped and flapped), it bears a hang-loop at the collar, something often mysteriously absent from all too many commuting jackets. it's also fully lined and with velcro adjustable cuffs.
if there was one repeatable fault, it revolved around the drop tail, a feature that, while protecting your posterior from wheel engendered spray, managed to snag itself on the rear of my saddle every time i moved forward and off when stopping. granted, that would not be the case if performing a cyclocross dismount, but that's rarely a practical option at traffic lights (not that we have any of those either). other than that, the proviz reflect360 is a nifty response to a perennial problem, one that might now consider itself satisfactorily solved and at a remarkably favourable price.
the proviz reflect360 cycling jacket (also available in a women's style) is available in sizes small through to xxl, at a retail cost of £79.99
tuesday 30 september 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................