a lad with whom one or two of us used to cycle in my faux mountain biking days, had a predilection for lusting after the next great thing, even though the word great was used in an advisory capacity. he could convince himself, with only modest assistance from the rest of us, that rather than simply wanting to own the latest in trinketry, he actually needed to. such a state of affairs was one ripe for good natured jesting (or so we all thought), allowing us to suggest saddles covered with aircraft-grade lycra and the like.
oh how i'd have loved to have been the sales assistant listening to that request on the phone.
however, there may have been some grace due for his need of instant gratification. in the late 1980s and early nineties, aluminium, (preferably of an aircraft grade configuration) assumed a different anodised colouring almost every second week, each subsequent hue rendering the previous one null and void. and decidedly uncool. as one distinctly uninformed in the intricacies of metallurgy, i have no idea whether the usurper in the form of titanium, could or was ever anodised. perhaps its brushed sheen was enough in and of itself.
however, as the sway of metal diminished as the latter stages of the 20th century progressed and burnt plastic, as mike burrows once described it, occupied the top spot in all things bicycle, the overwhelming picture was one of black. granted it could be viewed with an outer laminate of tidy weave or perhaps more of a marbled effect, but with one or two exceptions, in the manner of henry ford, it could be any colour you like as long as it was black.
this rule of carbon has remained prevalent for a considerable length of time, inflitrating many aspects of the cycle world, from brake calipers to saddle tops, from handlebars to bottle cages. considering the material is employed in holding wings onto jumbo jets, there seem few applications to which carbon fibre is not suited. britain's ashmei cycling apparel has even managed to have it infiltrate the fibres of its excellent merino jersey, though the colour black is conspicuous by its absence.
ashmei, along with many other cycle apparel providers, pay great tribute to the benefits of merino wool; excellent wicking properties, warm in winter and cool in summer, almost impervious to odour and properly constituted, very comfortable next to the skin. however, in a clever twist, ashmei have incorporated carbon filaments which, according to them, speeds up the moisture wicking and drying process.
given that, up until very recently (yesterday, in fact) the hebridean ambience has been less than sweltering, the only sensible means of putting their claims to the test was to subject the short-sleeve jersey to several score kilometres over a winter baselayer and under ashmei's own softshell jacket. add a bit more welly than is seemly in public view, and even in cooler atmospheres, the jersey had its work cut out to keep me in the manner to which i wished to continue.
i will not kid you on, or tell fibs; the back of the jersey did become a trifle damp, but in truth not only was this to be expected, but it was no more nor less than any other merino jersey in my possession. actually, it was probably a bit less, but that might just have been because i wasn't trying hard enough. though it may not seem like it, the fact that its merino/carbon-ness was hardly noticeable, strikes me as something of a positive result.
though the existence of that softshell over the top rather alleviated any necessity to occupy the jersey's rear pockets, once more i find myself slightly at odds with ashmei's pocket philosophy. the two open pockets, divided by a black decorative stripe are generously proportioned, and capable of swallowing even a stowaway rain jacket with ease. however, as a creature of habit, i rather prefer the standard three pockets. additionally, though i'm a stickler for a zipped pocket somewheres about, i really can't see the case for providing two of the little blighters.
on the face of it, quibbling over pocket arrangements may seem a tad superficial, and i'd probably agree with anyone taking me to task, but i'm none too sure of any convincing reasons for messing with the tried and tested.
my only other quibble, and it's one that affects not only the ashmei jersey, is the need for a zip garage at the bottom as well as the top. as one who has nipped the skin on his neck on more than one occasion, i need no convincing of the reasoning behind the one on the collar. however, i cannot for the life of me figure out what one at the foot of the zip is preventing. in this case, as in others, it simply added an unnecessary level of faff into zipping up in the first place.
i have become used to it, but i'd really rather not have had to in the first place.
however, neither of those supposed deficiencies can detract from the fact that this is a truly superb jersey. in similar manner to their recently reviewed softshell, this is a very stylish piece of kit, one nicely complementing the other. it's also a jersey that tends not to look too out of place in the coffee shop. ashmei contend that it's a bike-specific fit, one with which i would not argue, but it's also a reasonably relaxed fit, obviating any possibility that you'd be mistaken for a refugee from the peloton.
the added carbon seems to have had a convincing effect on the jersey's constitution, not only in the fierce heat of battle, but also after washing, a process it has survived with aplomb. in a parallel with flann o'brien's the third policeman, when i ride my colnago c40, it's now difficult to view where colnago's carbon ends and ashmei's begins.
monday 23 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................