'tis a valid discussion i believe, to consider whether twitter has simply gathered all the valid comments along with the inane (yes, i cannot deny) that have always been made in homes across the globe while watching a cycle race, or whether its existence has fostered such discussion? the internets rather obviously pre-date the advent of tweeting by some considerable number of years, but it follows closely behind the welcome opporchancity to view many an oddly-named european one-day race on a small box in your web browser.
to give it its due, cycling.tv, in the experienced hands of anthony mccrossan and brian smith, brought all manner of cycling wonder to the web browser. however, its ascension was short-lived for commercial reasons that i don't pretend to understand. ant and smiffy used to broadcast from a small cupboard atop a building in an obscure part of london, one that was some considerable distance from the nearest tube station. nowadays cycling.tv is apparently owned by a canadian concern and spends most of its time broadcasting to north america, having either relinquished, lost or unable to afford the rights to show moving pictures of cycle racing to the uk.
the interweb box having been opened, it was unlikely to ever be closed and with the praiseworthy existence of both cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv it is now a far less onerous task to find a decent web feed on which to watch races we can only aspire to pronounce. this past weekend i had the great delight to watch both omloop het nieuwsblad and kuurne-brussels-kuurne on a sporza feed that was not only of pretty decent quality, but mercifully free from advertisements. granted, the commentary was in either dutch or belgian (who can tell?), but in my opinion, that only adds to the excitement and authenticity.
you will, no doubt, be asking yourselves why, in the case of kuurne-brussels-kuurne, i did not avail myself of eurosport's online player? they were broadcasting the race after they'd stayed at the downhill skiing for too long and shown a plethora of advertisements. clinging to a broadcast schedule is not something that the #homeofcycling particularly excels at. and though they had brian smith in the passenger seat, the pilot's seat was occupied by carlton kirby.
the latter fellow i confess i have never met and while he's probably a thoroughly decent chap, his commentary style drives me (and more than just a few others) round the proverbial twist. mr smith, however, has an uncanny knack of reading a race as if he'd written the script, something that his fellow scot, robert millar, is also quite adept at doing. disappointingly, both are also rather good at studying form and announcing the winner when there are still around 40km to go to the finish.
fortunately, that's something less well finessed on twitter. the number of folks who figured sagan was going to win on saturday will attest to that.
as a rule, i prefer to find out which particular butler did it at the point on which he straightens his jersey, points to the sponsor's name and rolls across the line with both hands in the air. for me, that's not only the essence of watching cycle races, with whatever jumble of consonants they are named, but the whole point. i serve the same attitide when watching crime drama on the tellybox; i never try to figure out who the bad guy is. i figure they're bound to tell me soon enough.
since i do not know the provenance of most of those inhabiting my twitter feed, i feel quite secure in ignoring any prognostications of victory. couple that with watching a foreign internet broadcast which only lapses into english with the words "helicopter shot" once in a while, i am free to sit back and enjoy the racing unfettered by knowing the result before it happens.
i hope you had as good a weekend's viewing as i did.
monday 29 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
new bike, first day out, clear morning and time to play with. mrs washingmachinepost had headed off into the sunrise on the morning plane to glasgow, leaving me as a batchelor for the weekend. i've no idea what other batchelors do, but i get out on the bike as much as possible, then listen to jazz in the evening, unfettered by comments such as "what in god's name is that you're listening to?"
anyway, back to the bike ride. having only received the bicycle a few days ago and, as mentioned yesterday, having had need of assembling one or two bits and pieces, this was effectively its shakedown ride, just to check that everything was exactly as expected. needless to say, that is very rarely the case, and yesterday was no exception. however, the adjustments required were fairly minor, mostly concerning a rubbing front disc rotor.
it being a cyclocross bicycle, my planned route would commence on what we optimistically like to refer to as tarmac eventually being traded for the gravel path through ballygrant woods. to create a circular route, i had intended to deviate onto the caol ila - ballygrant footpath (you'd realise how ironic a statement that is if you'd ever seen the path). however, only a few kilometres into the woods, i hit something big, yet unseen, with the rear wheel and it was only a few more metres before realising that i now had a punctured tube.
since the footpath is considerably rougher on tyres and bikes than that through ballygrant woods (hence my choice of route for the morning), i was loathe to continue in that direction, being now bereft of any more spare inner tubes. i retraced my tyre tracks to the wood's entrance and continued on tarmac to deb's for lunch.
many will have anticipated as did i, the proper start to the racing season yesterday with the superbly named omloop het nieuwsblad (though i do miss the days when it existed as omloop het volk). disappointingly, the self-styled home of cycling deemed the race unimportant enough not to broadcast any live coverage, but again, like many, i was easily able to find a rather excellent sporza internet feed to satisfy my pavé requirements.
it's as well that i had been left with incumbent batchelorhood for the weekend as i arrived home a smidgeon too late to have a shower and get changed prior to race coverage commencing, so i sat in my leather armchair in full ride kit, including a 'this is cambridge' omloop winter cap and watched, fascinated by my complete lack of comprehension of the authentic belgian commentary.
however, one of the added attractions of watching online is the ability to monitor my twitter feed at the same time, interspersing moments of action or inaction in the race feed with smart-ass one-liners. utterly pointless but quite frequently resulting in brief periods of excellent banter.
i would use the words spoiler alert at this point, but i figure the majority who needed either to know the result, or watch race highlights will have done so by now. the final group contesting the victory over the last few kilometres included team sky's luke rowe, world champion peter sagan, bmc's greg van avermaet, the rather excellently named tiesj benoot and alexis gounard from ag2r. with women's world champion lizzie armitstead having won the women's edition of omloop earler in the day, all hopes were on sagan to complete the double, if you see what i mean.
you will, by now, be aware that van avermaet emerged victorious, with sagan in second place. however, watching my twitter feed just after the line had been crossed, the number of folk who tweeted 'sagan 2nd!' was and is something of a mystery to me. poor greg rides an excellent race to nab victory when everyone's eyes and faith were on the world champion, yet the the poor bloke scarcely received any twitter plaudits for having done so.
come on folks; if the same thing happens at kuurne-brussels-kuurne, give the winner some. even if it's sagan.
sunday 28 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i regard myself as reasonably mechanically competent. up until recently i was more than confident in dismantling a bicycle to its individual components without worrying that i'd never get them all back together again. sadly this professed ability seems not to be transferable; various items of flat-pack furniture have suffered massively due to constructive incompetence, though that could be due to a complete lack of interest in small pieces of dowel and tubes of wood glue.
however, as the years have rolled by and bicycle technology has become more complicated in order to simplify matters for the rider, i find myself with a lack of confidence when it comes to attempting service procedures on contemporary bicycles. thankfully, i do not currently have in my possession, a cycle with electronic shifting, for though i'm reasonably adept at remedying apple macintosh software problems, i'm pretty sure that's yet another of those non-transferable skills. so, for the time being, it's mechanical shifting all the way.
i see many of you raising your hands, eager to say "why don't you just take it to your local bike shop?". sadly, while i appreciate your advice, effectively i am my local bike shop. though i've not done much in the way of research, i'm fairly sure that the closest bike shop with the ability to either advise or service electronics and/or hydraulics is probably in glasgow. and that's a two hour ferry journey and 125 miles by road, hence the reason why i am my local bike shop.
to place my present predicament in some sort of perspective (i did mention i had a predicament, didn't i?), i have a very recently arrived review bicycle fitted with hydraulic disc brakes. on arrival, the cycle did require a modicum of assembly, specifically the handlebars, rear brake cable and the front disc caliper. thankfully, the hydraulics for the latter were already in place; it was merely a case of bolting stuff to other stuff.
however, on completion of assembly, while the front brake lever exhibited the degree of movement that you and i would both agree to be 'normal', the rear brake scarcely requires any pressure to actuate. in other words, lever travel is almost non-existent. while this presents merely a logistics problem in my remembering not to squeeze the left lever too hard, it would be nice to even up the pressure in line with the right lever. the problem is that i have not a dicky bird of an idea how to do so.
remember if you will, that this is a review bicycle, one that i am reluctant to fettle with too much gusto in case the review comes to a rather sudden halt before it has truly begun. but i am left wondering if there is a simple trick that would be the hydraulic equivalent of loosening the cable at the pinch bolt on a standard pair of cable operated calipers.
you'd think it would be simplicity itself to click onto sram's website, select the service menu and the innermost workings of sram's road hydraulic levers would be revealed in all their simplistic glory. but if that is the case, then i don't have the secret password, for the manuals i was able to find were of considerably less assistance than i'd hoped they might.
part of me hopes that the problem will alleviate itself while i'm out riding over the weekend, but that is most likely optimism attempting to triumph over reality. i fear that blame for my predicament, such as it is, can only be placed squarely at the feet of the eternal quest for technological superiority in the world of the velocipede.
i bet this doesn't happen to jeremy powers.
saturday 27 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have lived on islay for nigh on thirty years, during which there are few, if any, portions of road that remain untrammeled by at least one set of my bicycle wheels. i've even indulged in one or two sections of offroad, just to place all in perspective. however, most of the hebridean isles, particularly those clearly exposed to the worst of atlantic breezes, are largely bereft of trees, all but destroying the forlorn hope that we might somewhere harbour a few lost lanes of our own.
aside from the salient fact that islay is a land mass approximately 21 miles end to end and edge to edge, with a population of just above 3,000, its minimal road system leaves precious little scope for a fully-formed cycling guide book. you will perhaps be aware that i have composed a few internet pages on this very site regarding that very subject, pages that i well know are devoid of illustration; it's a situation i have oft promised to remedy. one day soon. but ultimately it exists as a means of preparation for those intending to visit.
you'd hardly refer to it as a travelogue.
i think it important to make the distinction between travel writing and travel guides. though there can be considerable crossover between the two, essentially the latter is concerned mostly with providing a series of directions, illustrated with details to be viewed along the way. some of these are considerably better than others, but survive at the hands of the author's particular predilection.
by this i refer to whether he or she is absorbed more with the acts of riding, walking or simply travelling, than they are with the process of writing. as mentioned above, there are those who excel at both and those who are considerably better at one than the other. how this affects you, the potential reader, depends on whether you're simply looking for someone to point you in the right direction, or hope to enjoy some quality writing along the way.
at the risk of offering more praise than is seemly in polite company, the bike show presenter jack thurston exceeds on both levels of expectation. i have previously brought his exemplary style to your attention via the first volume in what i fervently hope is a continuing series, where mr thurston described more than just a few lost lanes in southern england. the geography may have changed under wheel in this second volume, but the quality has remained at very much the same high standard.
travel writing, as a genre, offers up many different aspects, from the parochial to the international, most taking us to places we've only dreamed about visiting, or helping us realise just what was under our very noses; right on our doorstep so to speak. despite the professed nature of lost lanes, strip out the directional attributes and you are left with a quite superb narrative that transcends the very reason you'd probably have purchased the book in the first place.
though i always hope that my own writings might portray me as an intrepid fellow of derring-do (admit it, i had you fooled?), but in all honesty that is very far from the truth. i have already admitted to mr thurston that the likelihood of my ever visiting or riding any of his lost lanes is rather small. however, the likelihood of my reading his books from end to end, including any further publications is pretty much guaranteed.
there are those for whom the act of writing seems as simple as breathing, even if they may have spent many an anguished afternoon in front of the word processor. jack thurston is such a one.
"The route starts in Llanrwst, a gutsy market town that hasn't yet succumbed to the tourist hordes that have turned the likes of Betws-y-Coed and Beddgelert into year-round resort towns. Things immediately get off to a good start with the ride over Llanrwst's architectural glory: the 1636 stone bridge, allegedly designed by I|nigo Jones, that spans the Conwy in three exquisitely proportioned arches."
the book commences with a map of ride locations and a compilation of 'at a glance' information for each ride. this is followed by an overview of what we are about to receive.
"The old joke goes that if you flattened Wales out it would be bigger than England, and it's true that Wales is considerably hillier than its larger neighbour [...] By far the best way to see Wales and the Borders is to travel at the speed of the land. By riding a bicycle, you'll be following in the tyre tracks of Edward Elgar, who rode his fixed wheel machine around the Malvern Hills and Herefordshire, composing music as he went."
jack thurston also demonstrates an uncanny empathy with his readership by providing a thematic preface to the lost lane rides themselves. there are rides defined as more approachable for those intrigued by history, ups and downs, weekends away, gourmets, and the almost obligatory pubs, along with several other reasons to ride.
though there are maps and downloadable gps files to accompany each of the three dozen rides, the book's rather obvious secret weapon is that of thurston's photography. "I'm an amateur really and there's lots of flaws in my technique, both with the camera and the post processing. But spend enough time riding your bike and you'll get some good light and interesting scenery, so you just need to keep riding and keep looking." in fact, he is way too modest; his keen eye has seen fit to accompany a lucid and entertaining writing style with a series of photographs that makes lost lanes greater than the sum of its parts.
even if, like me, the lost lanes of wales are probably a sturmey archer gear change too far, grab yourself a copy of this book. it provided me with several hours of excellent reading and viewing that bear comparison with the writings of matt seaton, herbie sykes and bill strickland. don't let the simplicity of the title fool you.
"Mountain biking, so the story goes, was invented by a gang of hippies in 1970s Marin County, California. In plaid shirts, ripped jeans and sporting extravagant facial hair, they raced heavy beach cruisers with coaster brakes down steep, rough mountain tracks ...But off-road cycling actually goes back much further, to the very earliest days of the bicycle.
"In Britain this kind of riding has traditionally been known as 'rough stuff' and this ride (No. 8) includes a classic rough stuff route first popularised in an article in 'Cycling' magazine way back in 1919."
friday 26 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on march 2 and april 22 1959, miles davis, wynton kelly, paul chambers, jmmy cobb, cannonball adderley and john coltrane enjoyed two recording sessions at columbia records' 30th street studio, new york. those recordings were subsequently released on 17 august of the same year as 'kind of blue'. it has subsequently been referred to as the best-selling jazz record of all time. in fact, as i write this, the album is sitting at number one on the itunes jazz chart. i can think of few other albums of any musical genre that can lay claim to such popular longevity after fifty-seven years.
the album was a considered follow-up to 1958's milestones, during which davis began his first experiments with so-called modal jazz. though many of you will be unfamiliar with the strictures of jazz composition and in most cases, could honestly care less, the music's improvisatory aspects had traditionally been based on a song's underlying chord sequence. davis's modal experiments effectively dispensed with those. his'kind of blue' compositions were based on sets of scales. while this change may not be the specific reason for the album's success, there's no denying it to be a major contributing factor.
it would not, therefore, seem to be stretching credibility too far to refer to 'kind of blue', an album that was certified quadruple platinum in 2008, as a classic.
in 2004, on having seen a rather striking white cycle jersey with a black hoop on the left sleeve in a july issue of the comic, i phoned rapha. as one who has often been able to convince himself that there are few, if any, aspects of the cycling world that slip by unnoticed, i was rather annoyed that i had not previously heard of mr mottram's new baby. and it was also hard to deny that the name had a strangely familar ring to it, subsequently found to be entirely without foundation.
that jersey was the rapha classic jersey, available in short-sleeve only, in either black or white and built from a hitherto unheard of sportwool fabric. then, as now, the pricing was reassuringly expensive and it was over a year before i was able to afford my own rapha sportwool jersey, though sadly, not a classic.
over the years, rapha's product range has ebbed and flowed, but ultimately displaying an ever-increasing product range, many of which endure for a season only, others which transmute into new and improved versions of the original. the classic jersey is amongst that latter number, but i believe i'd be correct in saying that it is the sole garment that has lasted from its inception in 2004 until the present day. and recognisably so.
though it has yet to achieve the stamina displayed by kind of blue, the fact that 2016 has seen the latest update of the classic jersey, would rather point to its being on the right track. anything that continues to exert an influence on a contemporary market years after its origination, has surely earned the right to be considered a classic.
as a fledgling company, rapha was confined to specifying fabrics already available on the open market. those days are fast disappearing, evidenced most recently by the release of the new core range, one that is directly the result of a greater acquisitive stance enjoyed by imperial works. this state of affairs has markedly benefited the latest edition of the classic jersey.
the white has gone; the range endures in black, navy, grey or purple, now constructed from a new merino-based fabric that continues the sportwool legacy by improving upon it. known as rpm150 it is, according to rapha, 'lighter, softer and more breathable' than its predecessor, a contention that is borne out in the wearing of. notable differences are the replacement of the inner pump pocket with a pump-loop, the formerly embroidered rapha logo on the left sleeve hoop now appears in debossed guise and the internal security pocket now features a stretch mesh. however, in the interests of sizing accuracy, the accompanying arm-warmers are no longer a part of the deal.
but other than that, it's the same classic jersey that it ever was; the fit remains impeccable, the comfort all but immeasurable and it continues as an oft copied icon of simplicity and style. you can wear it with pretty much any accessory, jacket or gilet you care to mention and far from looking out of place, it confers a welcome je ne sais quoi upon them all. well, almost all.
the clever part is that you don't actually have to take my word for it. as part of rapha's classics guarantee, you can test ride a classics jersey ii for thirty days and if you really don't love it, you can return it for a full refund. (i'm led to believe that rapha rarely have to issue any refunds. the guarantee extends to the classic wind jacket, classic bibshorts and classic winter tights.)
you just know that if miles davis had been a cyclist he'd have opted for the blue one.
thursday 25 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
topography is an important aspect of cycling life, no matter your geographical location. the middle of the french alps would perhaps be a blatantly obvious illustration of that, as would somewhere like the middle of the sahara desert, though i'm willing to accept that the latter would be a tad awkward for cycling unless you own a phat bike.
though islay, with the bumpy bits sited all round the edges, is relatively flat (though oft times, not as flat as one might think), topography still has great influence over the morning's, afternoon's or day's cycling. the oddity is that, while it is rarely a specific subject of study required for the intrepid rider, we all seem to know more about it than each of us hitherto realised. next time you're out on the bike, pay close attention to your behaviour when cycling past hedges (or similar roadside verdage). unless on a sloth-like perambulation along one of jack thurston's lost lanes, it's likely that any untoward sideways draughts perforating those hedges will have a distinct tendency to move the bike in vectors less than amenable to forward motion (you'll get blown sideways).
just check how you deal with that. from personal observation, most riders anticipate the breeze and take subtle avoiding action.
and that selfsame topography can also harbour dramatic shifts in temperature that might well adversely impinge on a comfortable morning's ride. that, as it happens, is precisely the state of affairs that existed on yesterday morning's scuttle round the parish. a morning on which the windchill was barely above zero, every direction appeared to harbour a headwind and the sun never quite achieved altitude in a blue sky.
that sort of morning.
you see, due to the persistence of clear skies overnight, port ellen in the south was apparently under a blanket of thin ice (or at least their car windows were), and the roads less-travelled featured sporadic regions of slushy ice. the low sun dictated that many trafficked areas remained mostly in shadow and thus what we professionals like to call cold.
days such as this pose something of an all but unsolved conundrum as to quite what to wear. option one involved rapha's pro-team softshell, but morphed to a pro-team race cape, augmented by their latest (very) lightweight thermal gilet.
the mighty dave t has no truck with gilets of any flavour, while i, on the other hand, find myself strangely drawn to their sleeveless versatility. this particular example, available in black/grey, or (in the land of) grey and pink, has a thin layer of polartec's alpha insulation sandwiched between the inside and outside layers. while offering a level of warmth and windproofing that truly is hard to believe, it also exhibits a breathability that verges on alien. the outer fabric is of the tidily water-resistant genre thanks to its durable water repellency coating, one that was thankfully a bit more impressive than i'd expected.
having opted for a ride down uiskentuie strand with only a double-espresso in mind, having covered the gilet with the race cape, too much heat had me stuff the cape in a rear pocket, over which the gilet stretched easily to accommodate the increased localised bulk. embedding a two-way full-length zip meant that necessary stops to acquire photographic illustration was a bit of a doddle when the camera was in one of the other jersey's pockets.
darned clever, you have to admit. the return trip was undertaken sans jacket; you'd scarcely believe how warm you can remain in continuing zero degree windchill.
though as one of islay's more untidy residents, i was guilty of scrunching the gilet and unceremoniously stuffing it in a pocket, there's actually a wide, elasticated loop at the neck into which the garment can be squeezed for tidier storage. though predominantly grey in hue, there are several reflective details squandered about its person, topped by that bright, hi-viz pink hoop front and rear. the dropped tail is also remarkably effective at fending off wayward slush. at least one rear pocket would have been a nice touch, but i suppose we can't have everything.
though i have recently become more aware of a topographic awareness as relates to my velocipedinal wellbeing, carrying a brevet insulated gilet will add immeasurably to my professed versatility. it will now be in a rear pocket (or several) permanently, no matter what the mighty dave says.
rapha's brevet insulated gilet is available in six sizes, from xs to xxl and in black with grey hoops or grey with light grey/pink hoops. cost is £130.
wednesday 24 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i had a zyn cymbal and also a krut, neither of which were particularly great, but they made the right noises at the right time. i can't recall what make my hi-hat cymbals were and if i'm totally honest, i've no memory whatsoever of what they sounded like.
the woman who managed the newsagents in which i was employed to deliver daily papers, rather decently invited the whole group of paper boys to the reception after her wedding. in those early teenage years, this seemed the ideal opportunity to spend an evening un-harrassed by eagle-eyed parents and most likely ignored by the adults who would be otherwise engrossed. in other words, there would be beer and lager available in copious amounts, unfettered by imposed restrictions.
this was the first notable moment in my life when i discovered that i had no appreciable appreciation of alcoholic beverages, thus the only paper boy without a devil of a hangover the following morning. however, of far greater importance was the existence of a band. discos had yet to be properly invented, thus the first dance between the new husband and wife was undertaken to the sounds of real musicians.
the drummer sat towards the back of the small stage, easily stalked by an aspiring teenage percussionist. i watched every stroke on that snare drum and every glancing blow across shiny cymbals. though i have no idea the make of drums (they may have been ludwig), i do remember the shiny cymbals having paiste clearly stencilled across their circumference. as is my won't, at the first break, i engaged the drummer in earnest conversation.
during this conversation, where i proudly announced the names stencilled upon my own cymbals (see above), the fellow gently pointed out that those were hardly amongst the armaments required by the bona-fide (aspiring) drummer. better to relace them with swiss metal disks that said paiste. for though i might be blissfully unaware of krut and zyn's shortcomings, should i find myself in the recording studio, frowns and furrowed brows would be seen behind the mixing desk.
my initiation into the world of the percussionist had not gone smoothly up to that point. purchasing my first pair of drumsticks, blissfully unaware of the plethora of different profiles and bead shapes, when asked by the music shop sales assistant what sticks i desired, i replied "wooden ones please". he probably still dines out on that one to this day.
the thing is, paiste cymbals are not cheap. schoolboys who have to rifle through their pocket change to afford a half-pint of unwanted lager at wedding receptions are not in the habit of purchasing a crash, a ride and a pair of hi-hats of the quality recommended by the unknown wedding drummer.
nowadays, that is no longer the case. paiste and virtually every other major cymbal manufacturer on the planet offers a budget range which arguably sound almost as superb as the top line 602 range advertised by vinnie. if megastardom passes you by, obviating any need to play large american stadiums supporting bon jovi and the re-formed journey, so-called budget cymbals will often more than suffice.
cycling has long been an imitator of this percussive trend, but while a set of budget cymbals will still sound the same after a world tour of the local hostelries, budget cycle clothing has/had an unenviable reputation of sagging in all the wrong places after only a few rides and even fewer wash cycles. it would be unfair to tag all lower cost cycle clothing with this potential iniquity, but while it may not be true elsewhere, in my experience, when it comes to cycling apparel, you pretty much get what you pay for.
and that, dear reader, is sort of where the moaning starts. or in certain regions of the faith, quite plainly doesn't.
despite a colnago c60 being a darned sight more expensive than a dawes giro, nobody shouts at ernesto. despite a campagnolo eps rear gear mech being a lot dearer than a shimano tourney, tullio's heritage remains unblemished. rapha have long suffered from a deduction of one or two stars in cycle magazine grouptests due to the size of the number on the price tags, an iniquity that seems not to apply to many of their competitors. i'm not here as a rapha apologist; they're big enough and tough enough to argue their own corner without my ten cents.
several years past, a correspondent to the comic suggested that rapha might consider producing a lite range. one that would feature the rapha name on the sleeve, but with prices more amenable to the destitute amongst the peloton. it is a sad fact that the majority of those decrying imperial works for inhabiting the stratosphere, do so simply on the basis of being unable to immediately afford a jersey, jacket or pair of bibshorts. this is, after all, the age of instant gratification.
yet as of today, it seems rapha may have capitulated, releasing the first items in their new core range, consisting of bibshorts and jerseys in both men's and women's styles. the word budget holds different meanings for different folks, but at £70 for the jersey and £100 for the shorts, you could almost purchase two of each for the cost of one set of pro-team kit. but, and i know you're desperate to ask, could budget be as budget does?
or something like that.
as rapha's head of design, alex valdman said "I, like many here at Rapha, thought that this is something which has been missing from our repertoire. I wanted the touch and feel to be rooted in something quite comfortable, but it had to feel like performance wear too."
having covered a reasonable distance in somewhat testing conditions while clad in a bright pink core jersey and black on black core bibshorts (they're also available with white bibs to look less obvious under the lighter coloured jerseys) i'm struggling to see the join (as eric morecambe would have said). i gained my first introduction to the range during a recent visit to imperial works; if i hadn't been told it was rapha's budget range, i'd have been none the wiser. and, mid-peloton, i'm pretty sure no-one else will either.
the jersey is fashioned from a fabric built up to a price point rather than down. the fit is, as usual, impeccable. the trademark hoop on the left sleeve is the same colour as the rest of the jersey, but is raised proud of the surrounding fabric. and it doesn't bear the rapha logo, in case you were wondering. a full-length zip ends at the mid-height collar in a welcome zip garage, while those three rear pockets can carry far more than they were probably designed to. and there's the mandatory fourth zipped edition too.
the hem features the same silicon gloopy stuff as found on the inside of the laser-cut hems on the bibshorts. the latter bears exactly the same chamois pad as found on the classic bibshorts, surrounded by a dense knit, but relatively lightweight, black (only) fabric. it's very hard to see where the economies have been made. infact, it's quite hard to see where any economies have been made.
it has long been my contention that any half-decent pair of bibshorts ought to be somewhat of a struggle to get on, a factor that doesn't always make itself apparent in lower priced garments. the gloopy stuff on the inner hems makes that process even harder. thus, when finally in place, they fit like a second skin, always assuming you've ordered the right size in the first place. perhaps the only notable differences between these and their pricier brethren, are marginally more substantial bib straps and a noticeable waistband; the fit is all rapha, for those who know what that means.
i would and will wear this combination at every available opportunity, possibly more so when the weather pretends to heat up. me being me, i'd have loved a long-sleeve jersey, but i'm sure that will arrive in due course, along with other items in the range. the only thing budget about either the jersey or the bibshorts is the price tag. i wore these combined with leg warmers, armwarmers, a brevet insulated gilet and both a pro-team softshell and hardshell (at different times). everything looked, felt and performed like rapha. there is no visual or performance weak spot that highlighted any difference.
a gentleman in debbie's did say he couldn't hear what i was saying due to the loudness of that pink, but i figure that's a feature, not a bug.
at the risk of paraphrasing rapha's marketing department, this could actually be a new standard.
the rapha core range consist of short-sleeve jerseys available in pink (as reviewed), black, navy, white, grey and light blue. i'm led to believe white will soon be an option. the women's range offers black, pink, white, cherry red and navy. sizes range from xs to xxl. all cost £70. the bibshorts can be purchased with black or white bibs at a cost of £100 per pair. the women's range also features a pair of non-bibshorts.
tuesday 23 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................