now that the large hadron collider has found mr higgs' boson, and more are probably being manufactured in taiwan, it must be really hard to come up with new stuff. presumably there is some sort of a limit to how many things we, as a race of beings, actually need, but i'm not sure that's ever been any sort of drawback to the never ending quest for truckloads of things. japan and italy have brought us electric gears over eleven sprockets when most are agreed that clicking cables was never the most onerous task in the first place. then along comes the american lot pretending to have wires, before removing the false boxes with a resounding 'tarrraaa!' to reveal wireless gear-changing.
and in yet another case of 'follow my leader', japan adds another crank arm providing the ability to switch easily between standard and compact gear sets, an innovation now followed by italy. despite a brief lull in proceedings, common consent seems to indicate disc brakes becoming 'legal' by 2016. i find myself hiding behind the couch, wondering where it will all end?
arguably the last innovation in cycle clothing arrived via sportwool, the ideal mid-point between traditional wool and the polyester clothing of the professional peloton. various claims have been made regarding the comfy bits fiited into our bibshorts, but in truth most are simple variations on a theme, more often than not subjectively decided by the form of our bottoms. yet here we are only four years into the second decade of the noughties and the cote d'azur sun-blessed folks at cafe du cycliste have come up with what could be regarded as a welcome innovation.
their claim is that they have invented the ideal combination of bibshorts and a baselayer. i can't honestly say i've ever come across this sort of thing before, so they could very well be correct in their assertion. and in keeping with their french eccentricity of attaching female names to even blokes' garments, these are known as antoinette bib shorts and base layer. thankfully we in the velo club to not inhabit a clubhouse, for i'm not sure i'd ever get used to hearing "pass us my antoinettes would you?"
the announcement of the antoinettes brought to light a pertinent query with regard to sizing. all my bibshorts are size small, but the majority of my baselayers are medium, recalling thoughts of a cat with a sheet of buttered toast strapped to its back (it would take too long to explain). remi clermont at cafe du cycliste indicated that my query was something that had featured highly in the development process. "when deciding to go with it or not this was my main concern: how to solve the fit issue and will this be too much of a problem when bringing Antoinette to market!
"I then spent hours at my Italian factory with the development team where we made several prototypes. We decided to slightly over-size the upper section and include very stretchy side panels to allow for a wider range of upper body sizes. And damn, once we had the prototype in hand, it was too good a product to be stopped by the fact that it might not fit every single customer."
so was he right? thankfully, from both remi's and my point of view, cafe du cycliste seem to have hit the nail squarely on the head. as a sleeveless baselayer it is a very good fit, and though i do find it a tad weird with no sleeves, adding them would probably have brought all sorts of fitting problems that are best left elsewhere. if i had any concerns over an ability to take a natural break, the baselayer section features a full-length zip, one that offers no untoward friction in regular use. though i'm a definite fan of merino baselayers, in the alleged warmer summer months, a lightweight polyester sleeveless proved itself ideal, even on a sunday morning that turned out to be a tad cooler than at first thought.
though it may not be a pretty sight, i tried wearing a regular merino baselayer underneath, should i ever find myself in the bizarre situation of needing to wear bibshorts in the depths of winter. a smidgeon bulky i'll admit, but practical nonetheless.
however, this talk of baselayers is all very well, even when it's antoinette's unique selling point, but what about the sitting bit? just before we get to the posterior details, i'd like to point out the stickiness of the silicon gloop on the interior of the hems. so keen was it to demonstrate its suitability for the position, that i had to take a few moments to separate front and back in order to get the darned things on in the first place. such tackiness (if you catch my drift) acquits itself every bit as well when preventing either leg from riding up in the heat of battle, and that despite its paper-thinness.
i'm still firmly of the opinion that the quality of the comfy bits can be assessed by how much notice you pay when riding your bike. in this case, you'd never know it was there, even on remarkably unforgiving saddles that you wish you'd never bought in the first place. not wanting to show any favouritism towards antoinette, not only did i take her out on the road for over a hundred kilometres, but just for good measure i went to play at cyclocross. just to demonstrate how unseasonably fit i'm not. this latter series of contortions in the undergrowth offered little by way of respite for the dear french lady, yet she acquitted herself remarkably well.
perhaps there is no need for baselayer assisted thermo-roubaix bibtights in the 365 days of blazing sunshine on the cote d'azur, but i have every faith in remi clermont and his band of merry chaps that they are currently working tirelessly to satisfy the winter demands of the less favoured. if it works this well on a pair of bibshorts, i'm more than willing to beta test future developments in the face of an atlantic gale or two.
clever, appropriate and idiosyncratically french.
a pair of cafe du cycliste antoinette bibshorts and baselayer can be had in sizes ranging from xs to xxl at a cost of £160.
monday 16 june 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................