those of you of a certain age may recall the matthews southern comfort version of joni mitchell's woodstock which reached number one in the uk chart in 1970. ian matthews, the founder of the band had been one of those recruited by ashley hutchings for english folk rock band, fairport convention, having formed southern comfort after his departure from the latter. with me so far? as a prolific musician and songwriter, he didn't exactly stand still, and on departing southern comfort in the early 70s, he formed plainsong, a band most fondly remembered for their in search of amelia earhart album released in 1972.
bear in mind that the early seventies were the times of vinyl and gatefold sleeves; even compact discs, let alone digital downloads were a long way off at that time. the first apple macintosh didn't appear until nearly a decade later. when at art college, the album in search of amelia earhart was th subject of much discussion and notoriety, principally because it was darned difficult to get hold of. if memory serves correctly, it took me the better part of six months to track down a copy, bearing in mind this was some four or five years after its release. however, though i was pretty much unaware of what the album would sound like (not much like southern comfort as it turned out), it was pretty good.
two tracks and the drummer stood out most. the latter was dave mattacks, another fairport convention alumni, and the two tracks were diesel and louise. the latter was not only because it was a decent song, but because a girl in my year at college was also called louise, and it turned out that we'd known each other as very young kids when my family lived in aberdeen. neither of us remembered the other from those early years.
i would be very surprised indeed if coincidence stretched as far as remi and crew at café du cycliste who have a louise jersey included in their latest spring/summer range for 2015. it's a fabulously lightweight jersey fabricated from a merino/silk mix that is no doubt the apparel du jour in southern france where café du cycliste are based. unfortunately for me, islay does not benefit from a similar climate, so my days of riding in such unparalleled luxury were sadly not, if you'll pardon my mixed nationalities, al fresco.
fortunately, i have in my possession, a café du cycliste josette waterproof jersey that emulates the criteria demanded by the recent spate of softshell jackets/jerseys. along with a pair of armwarmers and a baselayer this combination perhaps gave the louise jersey more of a workout than it had originally hoped for. you see, their website pays tribute to the silk and merino combination offering greater breathability and temperature regulation than merino on its own. and it seems they're probably right.
aside from an impossibly fabulous degree of soft and cossetting luxury engendered by the fabric, it features a wide mesh centre panel down the back which, in the heat of the mediterranean sun would surely defend the intrepid velocipedinist from the dangers of overheating. in islay sunshine, there's still the overweening iniquity of having to pedal hard enough to generate any heat in the first place. but wearing the louise jersey as a mid-layer provides salient evidence of its catalytic properties, for not only does it offer a level of comfort that surely raises the bar for such a garment, but a degree of temperature regulation (pardon the pun) that probably has to be experienced first hand.
the full-length front zip is, to my mind, preferable to the quarter length more often featured on short-sleeve jerseys; the left breast pocket a pragmatic feature that might even find its uses in the professional peloton. the three spacious pockets at the rear are augmented by a half-size zipped version, a feature that is all but compulsory nowadays. a well-judged length on the sleeves pretty much adds to the jersey's gestalt.
over the period of review, there was no improvement in the ambient temperature. in fact, if i'm perfectly honest, it degenerated from mildly warm and sunny all the way to freezing cold, very windy and ultimately wet; just the hebridean climate you'd expect at the end of april and on into the beginning of may. this suggests that the world's cycling apparel producers perhaps ought to stagger their seasonal releases depending on proximity to the equator. spring/summer on western scotland ought probably to take place towards the end of june, but i doubt that's a major consideration in southern france.
however, jesting aside, i think café du cycliste might be missing a trick by not having released their louise jersey as part of the autumn/winter collection, such is its excellence as a mid-layer. seriously, i can easily find days and days of pelotonic adventure in which this silk and merino luxury would fit the bill below an outer shell. and i'd be more than willing to consider a long-sleeve version (louisa?) come september.
there's probably a coat-hanger in your wardrobe with louise's name on it. amelia earhart would have been similarly impressed.
the café du cycliste louise jersey retails at €155 (approx. £110) available in black only and sizes ranging from xs to xxl.
sunday 3 may 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................