as billy connolly was fond of rhetorically querying, "the nights are fair drawin' in, are they no'?" which, for the benefit of those south of the border and across the pond, is generally taken to mean that winter is approaching. not everyone reacts to this salient fact in a similar manner. due to a less than impressive scottish summer, it has been humorous to watch visitors to the hebrides swanning about on bowmore main street in shorts and t-shirts when the ambient temperature quite plainly mitigates against such a relaxed mode of dress. but they're on holiday and one has to admire their stoicism.
though hardly a subtle ploy, it has been hard not to notice that the storage heater that sits precariously close to my computer workstation (that makes me sound so much more professional, don't you think?) has been once again pressed into operation. several of my female work colleagues seem far more affected by the office temperature than is yours truly or indeed, the editor. however, it should be pointed out that the latter gentleman is often predisposed to frequently wear his outdoor jacket indoors.
as cyclists, we tread a very narrow line of acceptability. i can't be the only one who inwardly sniggers at the tough guys who stand around in bus stops dressed in jeans and a t-shirt despite the weather edging nearer to gale-force and only marginally above freezing wind chill. i'm sure this is some form of misguided bravado and demonstration of machismo, but to me it just looks silly. those of us who continue, in the face of far better sense, to wear bibshorts in similar climatic circumstances as delineated above, might reasonably be expecetd to raise similar concealed mirth, but unlike the humble cotton t-shirt, we are blessed with garment technology that laughs in the face of adversity.
such as rapha's thermal bibshorts.
i was, it is only fair to say, of a similar mind to the rest of you. from just above the knee all the way to the top of my rapha long-socks, there is naked flesh scarily exposed to the cruel elements. what possible difference could some thermally backed lycra, in the shape of regular bibshorts possibly bring to the party?
quite a lot, as it turns out. it seems a tad redundant to spend too many text lines discussing the impeccable fit of these shorts, for unless i'm sadly mistaken, exacting fit is something that imperial works is renowned for. in my experience that is a given, while the pad is precisely the same as that featured in rapha's regular classic bibs. the thermal super-roubaix inner fabric that fits between you and the elements offers not only a soft, fleecy comfort that's hard to resist, it maintains an amenable temperature in which those sculpted thigh muscles might climb and sprint through much of what winter has in store.
with a slight nod to my recent review of the long-sleeve club jersey, i can't help noticing that rapha appear to have upped the ante just a smidgeon of late. excluding the impressive softness that is inherent in fleece-backed lycra, the fit and comfort of these bibs is impressive to the point of remarkability.
i cannot deny that even a hebridean autumn chill has not yet reached sub-zero proportions, but it would be naive to think that tenerife's tourist agency need be concerned over a threat to their package holiday business. couple this with the knowledge that several members of the velo club have been wearing not only full-length bibtights but winter ear-warmers over the past few weekends, and it's easy to see why the word 'heat' is currently only being used to describe the coffee at debbie's.
as the temperature continues to drop, i may consider accessorising with knee warmers, but that option is at least a month or so away.
rapha continue to offer a 30 day trial period for any of the garments that constitute their classic range; if at the end of that month you're really not satisfied, they can be sent back for a full refund. which rather beggars the question that queries not why you should order a pair of these, but more why you haven't done so already?
i know it makes sense.
rapha's thermal classic bibshorts retail at a cost of £170, are available in black only and in sizes ranging from xs to xxl.
monday 21 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
for meghan trainer, it may have been all about the bass, but for those of a velocipedinal persuasion it's probably all about the seams. no matter the comfort of the saddle, including those gel-filled helicopter pads, if your trousers are joined together in the middle with a doubled-over super strong seam like those featured on levis or wranglers, then pedalling a bicycle is hardly the most comfortable thing you'll ever do.
this is, of course, a problem that predominantly affects the commuting or leisure cyclist. those of us who like to think of ourselves as of a pelotonic nature are more likely to be wearing lycra, the construction of which totally obviates any means of discomfort no matter how small. but there is a distinct difference between trousers designed for both cycling and presentability in the boardroom, and those of, shall we say, a more athletic persuasion. to place this in the vernacular, i am referring to so-called joggy bottoms.
the fine people at portland's showers pass have slowly but surely begun to creep outwards from their waterproof beginnings, never more so with their latest cascade range, offering apparel that, quite honestly has uses outside out narrow world of cycling. their cascade track pants are described as being most effective for warming up, walking, running or cycling; they're not wrong.
do not for a moment think that i have followed the example of many of my southern friends and accommodated the art of running into my daily routine. it is still very much the case that i couldn't run from this armchair to thewashingmachinepost bike shed and that's barely a matter of a few metres. however, i can attest to their efficacy as a pair of trousers that are ideal for an evening's drumming. it's a well-known secret that a drummer's lower regions are less than visible from behind a drum workshop bass drum, allowing a wide range of options for the less than sartorially inclined.
oddly, there's no mention of this proclivity on the showers pass website.
it gives me no pleasure to relate that over the past two weekends i have had need of hiring a motor car to transport my drumset to and from the places of musicality. fortunately, the gentleman from whom the devil's transportation must be hired lives only a few kilometres from the croft, allowing for a sedate pedal on the taurus corinto. in my opinion, this is the very saunter for which the windproof showers pass cascade track pants were designed for.
with an elasticated, drawstring waist, no seams with a propensity to chafe on the tan coloured brooks b16 and scuff guards on the inner ankle regions, just in case flailing cranks and spattered grit threaten to shred the bottom of the legs. on the outer edge of the same legs, there are calf-length zips, allowing the trousers to be removed without taking off your cleated shoes, should you happen to be wearing them. the seams that do exist are carefully contoured to keep well out of the way of frenetic pedalling activity.
their black anonymity does not extend as far as no-one being aware that you're wearing anything out of the ordinary, for the outer thigh of the left leg proudly proclaims showers pass in a reflective sans serif font. there are other flashes of reflectivity that preclude boardroom wear (unless you work for an athletics or fitness company), but are darned near compulsory for cycling or running use. there's also a showers pass logo centred on the back, but your suit jacket will cover that. additionally there are two deep, zipped side pockets
as to their percussive abilities, i can scarcely praise them too highly. the cut is nowhere near as sloppy as the common or garden couch potato variant, presenting a quality look to the average wedding party but allowing the sort of extravagant movement associated not only with drumset playing, but in setting up, breaking down and packing it in the car at the end of the evening. this is not dissimilar to the praise i mentally heaped upon them both during and after the bike ride that acquired that car in the first place.
it is encouraging to see showers pass branch out from their waterproof heritage. the knowledge gained from providing portland and the world with accommodatingly coutured waterproof trousers has quite obviously been put to good use in these track pants. and before you ask, they are more than equal to being worn to the office all week without incurring curious glances from one's workmates.
showers pass cascade track pants in black only can be ordered directly from the showers pass website (they're also based in the uk) at a price of £69.95.
sunday 20 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
"But men will be men. Fools in quest of the journey that would make them heroes."
i was never much good with geography at school, though i was fairly popular in class because i'd happily draw maps for anyone who asked nicely. sadly, in the process of so doing, i paid scant attention to the positioning of towns and cities so to this day, i've very little clue of where anywhere is. yes, i can find my way to glasgow, edinburgh, aberdeen or even inverness if push came to shove. but on a coach journey to london a couple of years ago, unusually undertaken in broad daylight, i had very little idea as to where i was at any given time, even taking into consideration the fact that the bus stations are clearly labelled at the entrance.
but, as i continually hear from ever so many sources, the world has become a smaller place. and if that's even a tiny bit true, then surely i have the intellectual capacity to piece together a global jigsaw of regions, locations and one or two individual place names.
the charlevoix region, especially when clearly pronounced in a movie voiceover carried with it hints and connotations of france. mental visions of vineyards stretching perspectively into the distance in neat rows, all leading or pointing to blue and purple mountains in the distance. the odd grey painted citroen 2cv van would burble past intermittently while months of sun-dried gravel roads would have it scatter dust to create the very scene that would heat up even the coldest of winter's nights.
part of that may even be true, but in point of fact, charlevoix occupies parts of the north shore pertaining to the st. lawrence river and laurentian mountains in quebec. that, in a nutshell, would explain the french accent. it also means that, unlike my potential faux pas when attempting to pronounce fionnphort, a small village hosting the ferry port on mull reaching to the island of iona, if quizzed in the office next week, i would be able to offer a passable pronunciation of charlevoix.
i have long maintained that the finest way to view the island of islay is by bicycle. it is the ideal way to experience the almost perennial wind, to actually taste the salt inflected atlantic air and if stopping to admire the view is to become a viable option, a bicycle is by far the simplest way to achieve it. and if this means of transport can be regarded as ideal in the hebrides, there's really no reason why its delights wouldn't survive being applied elsewhere.
which is where we find ourselves returned to charlevoix.
the collectif parlee cycles consist of an intrepid peloton of parlee owners who appear to have made it their self-imposed mission to explore their part of the world, one that i embarrassingly have to admit i know next to nothing about. taking a few steps back and opening both eyes will offer little resistance to the empirical notion that we, as adherents to the same velocipedinal passion, may occasionally display eccentric tendencies. particularly in the portions of the nearby topography we often choose to explore and reveal to the civilian population. there is always an inherent danger that we are preaching to the converted, for though i have appended a link to the video that engendered this piece in the first place, it's hard to imagine those other than cleated individuals paying more than minor attention.
more fool them.
"Before the rest of the world, we are trivial"
saturday 19 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i would imagine i've probably mentioned it before, but i'm very much a long-sleeve sort of chap. it's a predilection that morphs into arm-warmer use come the summer months, and possibly on two days (one in july and one in august), i become a thrillseeker and resort to short sleeves. however, the latter for me at least, is the equivalent of tightrope walking across niagara falls without a safety net. because i like long sleeves.
there could be two convincing reasons for this, the first being linked to the feeling of security engendered by a long-sleeve cycle jersey. i have long watched the likes of tom boonen and johan museeuw compete in the spring classics wearing shorts and short sleeves, knowing only too well that would never be me. no doubt psychiatric help would help cure this and convert me to the hard man that cowers inside. but...
meanwhile, though in reality the difference is probably quite minimal, getting caught in the rain in short sleeves is not a sensation i particularly look forward to. and donning a waterproof jacket over bare arms is every bit as uncomfortable as getting wet in the first place. either of those can easily be ameliorated by wearing longer sleeves, particularly in the latter case where any potential clamminess can be offset by the extra material from elbow to wrist.
the icing on the cake that shifts favour inevitably towards the more extensive form of apparel, are the cuffs themselves. for if the jersey has been thought through to its logical conclusion, they will not abruptly end prior to the wrist bone; the feeling of security is substantially lessened if this is the case. i'm sure i need not tell you that any sort of gap between the end of the sleeves and the beginning of track mitts or winter gloves is tantamount to being caught with your bibtights down.
i definitely like long sleeves. i've no idea if rapha know of this or not, though i'm sure if i've told you, then i've probably told them too.
i have two long sleeve rapha jerseys in the second drawer from the bottom of the cycling wardrobe (it's not a real wardrobe, but for the purposes of our discussion, let's pretend it is), one of which is over eight years old and apart from an inadvertant mark on the left sleeve, it looks pretty much as it did when i took it from the packet. it is not, however, a rapha club jersey, the example of which recently arrived surely puts everything else in the shade (a hebridean joke).
sportwool has never felt so good. though the aspiring professional within is honour bound to appreciate a full length zip, the quarter-length on the club jersey is actually more amenable to my senses and likely my previously discussed insecurity. and if we can for a moment descend into the world of personal aesthetics, the zipless lower-section is generally more flattering to the ageing figure. the svelte are probably quite well catered for also.
while dave brailsford has worked tirelessly on those much-quoted marginal gains, it seems eminently possible that, in a manner not entirely unlike the hypothetical merging evident in flann o'brien's third policeman, some of those gains have rubbed off at imperial works through their partnership with team sky. simply pulling on this latest version of the club jersey is akin to the luxury that cyril lord once told us we could afford. quite frankly, i could have written a highly flattering review without ever having made it to thewashingmachinepost bike shed.
aside from the concealed story label, hidden inside one of the three rear pockets, this heavier sportwool perfection also features a zipped security pocket and an internal mini-pump sleeve in the centre pocket. the fit, comfort and build quality are more than we've come to expect from rapha. aside from an adjustable cord in the hem, a collar that really makes you wonder why the professionals opt for the minimal alternative, the sleeves truly come into their own when in the saddle and reaching for the brake hoods.
this is not the long-sleeve brevet jersey, it's not simply a long-sleeve jersey and it most definitely is not the long-sleeve pro team jersey. it's a long-sleeve club jersey clad in superb new colour options that distinguishes it from those mentioned above. the example reviewed is classed as grey/blue, but there's also the choice of black/grey or dark red/orange in every size from xs to xxl for which a price of £110 seems more than amenable.
for those of you who figure a pro-team demeanour is perhaps just one sprint too far, and there are more than just a few occasions when i'd include myself in that subset of the venn diagram, this is most definitely where winter begins. sheltered 'neath a softshell, hardshell or gilet (delete as applicable) from now till next may, seems far less onerous than could once have been the case.
thursday 17 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
when i was a lot younger than i am today, my parents used to take my brother and i on holiday abroad each year. they usually had an uncanny knack of visiting locations that, only a few years later, became the go to destinations for the european cognoscenti; costa brava, tenerife, ibiza. how they did that, i'll never know, but i figure they were probably oblivious to such geographical skills.
holiday time nowadays involves having online sites such as skyscanner take a comprehensive look across the interweb to find the best prices for whatever destination was flavour of the week. couple that with downloading travel tickets for everything apart from a calmac ferry (they've still not got the hang of the 21st century) and the all but incomprehensible online check-in for your flight(s) and it's easy to see why there are few, if any, travel agents still with premises on the high street.
i do not have a memory long enough to recall whether those european holidays were beset with maximum luggage allowances or specific dimensions for any bag you may wish to keep with you in the cabin. what i do remember is the composition of that luggage; almost without exception, leather cases with two, lockable catches on the front, a similarly constituted handle and impeccable stitching around the edges. by the time the palmer family was into its jet setting age, those cases (two largish ones if i remember correctly) had moved on from plain brown or black leather and featured a modicum of colour.
along with check-in desks, mailed out airline tickets and the days when young lads could visit the aeroplane cockpit when the plane was in flight, those sort of rudimental days of luggage are long gone. the last time i travelled abroad, my belongings were enclosed in sturdy and highly pragmatic cordura bag, accompanied by an appropriately sized rucksack cosseting the stuff that i'd rather they didn't place in the hold.
yet the days of so-called artisanal luggage are not gone forever, particularly in the less far travelled world of bicycling. dromarti has given us back the leather, lace-up cycling shoe, footwear that becomes simply more aesthetic as the years take their toll, and the brooks leather saddle has not only survived, but flourished both prior to and in spite of the digital age.
based in portland, oregon, tanner goods live by the mantra 'worth holding onto'; strivibg to create modern products that respect the past. they offer a substantial range of hand-made leather and waxed canvas goods including bags, belts, wallets and even dogs' food/water bowls. but more recently, and given portland's substantial bicycle culture, unsurprisingly, they've produced an impressive range of bicycle luggage, items that attach to the bike rather than those you'd carry shoes and helmet in when you travel.
made from heavy waxed cotton and featuring substantial leather straps the cycling range consists of a porter handlebar bag, an excursion frame bag and a courier saddle bag that even nairo quintana would covet. the range is available in three subtle colours, all of which look as if they'd last longer than the bike to which they're attached. not entirely without precedence, hand-built quality such as offered by tanner goods does not come without a largish price tag, but not any more frightening than those attached to dromarti shoes or brooks saddles. tanner goods can be acquired directly from their website if you're in the continental united states, but for us brits, items can be purchased from the cleverly named son of a stag sited in the old truman brewery in london's brick lane.
as the winter approaches and we once more search in vain for the stays that ought to be still attached to last year's mudguards, there will be necessitous times when stuff has to be carried hither and thither, preferably remaining dry in between. assuming this may be something that needs to be done well into the next decade, acquiring the correct tanner goods cycle bag would be not only a prudent investment, but complement the dromarti shoes and brooks saddle.
and that goes for the cambium range too.
wednesday 16 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
last sunday's bike ride was a decidedly pleasant affair, complemented not only by the relatively warm and sunny weather, but by the surprising number of local velocipedinists that arrived to make up the morning's peloton. as we have seriously neglected the col de storakaig of late, it seemed the only proper thing to do was plan our perambulations to include this 8% but fairly short ascent. however, for all that it lacks in climbing duress, it makes up for with a road surface that would put paris-roubaix to shame and an itinerant frame of cattle.
in a situation that is not oft repeated, we benefited from a tailwind going up, and into the returning headwind, the gentle slope from ballygrant to bridgend was attacked with alacrity and not just a little puffing and panting. though the sunday morning route takes a variety of forms, depending on numbers, fitness and weather, all roads lead back to debbie's.
that latter fact is the carrot at the end of the stick. no matter the strength of the wind or the density of the precipitation, it's undoubtedly worth ploughing through, simply for the fresh aroma of coffee that can be appreciated as far away as crosshouses.
this is not the metropolis; even when the island is busy, as it was this past jazz festival weekend, it's still a darned sight quieter than many an urban conurbation. therefore when the velo club eventually arrives at debbie's café we plop ourselves down across several tables (avoiding the leather couch; we'd never arise from the comfort of that) and wait 'till coffee is served.
the manifest problem that was all too obvious this past weekend, was the rather large number of road bikes already scattered midst the picnic tables on the patio. as expected, these bicycles had owners, gents who were occupying every available seating space inside and still midway through their coffees and cake. we, however, occupied the moral high ground and sat outside. i have petitioned brian cookson at the uci and fully expect sanctions to be levied.
i'm beginning to see graeme obree's point about how he preferred things when cycling was a minority activity and to be seen speeding about in sportwool and lycra was something upon which the civilian population was pretty much honour bound to comment upon. and not always favourably. now, it seems, we are in danger of being squeezed out of our ancestral home by pelotons of usurpers, a situation that now requires an upgrading of the secret handshake.
as discussed previously in these very pixels, this has, until now, consisted of identifying those little oval tanned areas on the back of the hands, the very region left open to the elements by a pair of proper cycling mitts. alternatively, but far more dependent on curcumstances is observation of clean cut tan lines, something far less prevalent north of the border and all but non-existent in the hebrides.
but if everyone and his/her best friend is going to arrive with pelotonic support, separating the cognoscenti from the great unwashed is going to be a lot harder. and that's precisely where the latest t-shirts offered by prendas and santini come into play. while ostensibly simply dressing in a regular if slightly relaxed manner, the mashup design on the front (in this case, based on the classic and iconic peugeot chequerboard design) is something of a gamechanger. any dyed in the wool cyclist will immediately recognise the connection; a hod's as good as a sink to a blind norse, if you see what i mean?
those in the know will already be clicking the prendas order button, having chosen from peugeot, mapei, mercatone uno or maglia rosa. and if we don't get our seats back at deb's next sunday, heads will roll.
prendas mashup t-shirts are available from the prendas website in sizes ranging from xs to xxl and at a cost of £19.95 each.
tuesday 15 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................