i think i'm correct in stating that 3/5ths of our planet is covered by the oceans, making water one of the more abundant features of the earth. water is necessary to maintain life, and was apparently instrumental in bringing it into existence in the first place. it can thus be stated with some confidence, that we have a great deal for which to thank the existence of water. of course, there are occasions when there is also cause to curse the darned stuff, either for there being too much in places where we'd rather there was less, or, as in my current predicament, being rather annoyed at its absence.
call it what you will; bad luck, sod's law, murphy's law, it makes little difference. things unfortunately don't always work out according to some hypothetical plan. it has been oft said that while the rest of the world has climate, we in the united kingdom suffer from weather. yet every now and again we plainly don't. it's a condition that has occurred on previous occasions, and is none the better for its recurrence in the present. in fact, to put it quite plainly, it is downright annoying.
over the course of a year, i have the great good fortune to receive many an item of cycle apparel for review in these very black and yellow pixels. though each differs from the previous, there is at least the outline of a system in place to maintain a level of personal integrity and consistency when telling the world of their benefits and disbenefits. not least of this is pedalling across the principality to not only see how the garment fares when subjected to that which it was designed for, but to find appropriate stopping places in order to take photographs with which to illustrate the subsequent review.
in keeping with the sequence of release dates from the major clothing producers, winter clothing is mostly reviewed in winter, and spring/summer at a similarly appropriate time of year. though britain is not a particularly enormous country, it does suffer from parochial regionality. it may well be spring/summer in the southern end of the country while we're still experiencing winter on the inner hebrides. i am, i believe, no different from any others when it comes to reviewing cycle clothing (though i may have a tendency to employ a few more words than most), but that surely doesn't stop me from bending to the vagaries of the seasons, and attack the problem from the opposite end of the spectrum.
it's surely the way of the modern world.
many will recall this year's milan-sanremo debacle where fearsome winter weather not only shortened the longest one-day classic of the season, but interrupted it by way of team buses. the turchino pass was all but blocked by snow and deemed too dangerous to be raced; if you've seen the footage, i think it likely that few would have disagreed with the decision. however, when the race was restarted, it was of little surprise to see riders clothed in possibly every piece of winter clothing issued by the team at the season's commencement. what was slightly surprising and confusing was the sight of certain riders clad in a weatherproof top that was most certainly not team issue for most.
castelli's gabba jacket.
the jersey/jacket was developed in conjunction with former garmin rider gabby rasch, currently riding for team sky, and is a black short sleeve jersey made from a breathable and highly water resistant material, with the regular three rear pockets and a substantial drop tail edged with reflective material. i think it likely that if professional riders faced with highly inclement weather conditions, reach for this particular garment to help make it to the finish line, we can pretty much take it for granted that it does exactly what it says on the tin. and given that it is an item with short-sleeves, a pair of castelli nano flex armwarmers are conceivably the ideal accompaniment in order that winter protection be maximised.
which brings me very much to the query, why on earth am i reviewing it? though ensconced in one of the more precipitous regions of the uk, what can my riding around in the rain possibly tell you that milan-sanremo hasn't already done so?
i'm glad you asked.
for starters, since the gabba jacket arrived over three weeks ago, i have singularly failed to get it wet. yes, it blew a gale and rained heavily last saturday, but i was getting wet in bristol at that particular juncture, and scarcely a drop of rain has fallen on the isle since my return. but it is not for lack of trying on my part.
on wednesday evening, just as i harboured thoughts of making myself a cup of green tea accompanied by a custard cream or two, heavy spots of precipitation coloured the sitting room window. wasting not a moment, i ran upstairs, clad myself in the gabba jacket, nanoflex armwarmers and everything else that would hasten speed and cover my modesty. grabbing the colnago from the bike shed, i sped (all terms are relative) through the streets of bowmore, only to be disappointed by the rain ceasing before i even reached the outer perimeters of the village.
thus i have been forced to take a different approach to the problem of reviewing a waterproof and windproof jacket without the benefits of inclement weather. for if we are bluntly realistic about such a situation, how many of us are content simply to retain that genre of garment in the wardrobe solely for crappy weather? is it not possible that a jacket such as the castelli gabba might conceivably have value over and above its advertised purpose? turns out, it does.
bringing value to the epithet, jacket, though there is little or no doubt the castelli is conceived as a race-fit (if you have bumps in places where there ought not to be bumps, this may not be ideal), it's not only possible, but desirable to wear a baselayer and jersey underneath. the gabba is constructed of a material with a comfortable level of stretch, so the heaviness of jersey beneath seems not to offer it too much in the way of concern. i know; i tried several.
the full length front zip ends in a commendably high collar, while the short sleeves are a very tight fit indeed over the nanoflex armwarmers, excluding all but the most minute particles of bad weather. and even they'd have real trouble. since there is a measurable difference between standing around in a coffee bar trying to look fast, and sitting on a road bike doing exactly what the bicycle demands, the jacket feels distinctly awkward when not on the bike. which is, of course, exactly as it should be. behind each shoulder seam on the short sleeves is a form of gusset that makes stretching for the bars the comfortable experience it truly ought to be.
in a change from many a cycle jersey or even jacket, the three rear pockets are positioned low enough on the back to be easily reachable when riding, though i cannot deny that i have no idea why each pocket features an eyeletted hole at the bottom. nor, it seems, does any other member of the velo club. i do so love a bit of intrigue.
though the ideal conditions in which to test the veracity of a garment such as the castelli gabba are gale-force winds and driving rain, they are hardly the most conducive to identifiable images taken to accompany these words. so in order to offer a better level of visual appeasement, i wore the jacket more than just several times overlooked by cloudless blue skies, albeit clad in almost sub-zero temperatures. since amelioration of temperatures such as the latter are part of the jacket's armoury, it gives great satisfaction to mention that this it carried off with aplomb.
though officially it is spring, my rides are still inhabited by long-finger gloves, bib threequarters and up until a week ago, winter caps. ideal conditions, it turns out, in which to wear the gabba jacket. its flexibility, breathability and thinness of constitution are its three secret weapons, and whether castelli and mr rasch had it in mind during the stages of conception that it would harbour such excellent and remarkable versatility is of no nevermind. the end result speaks for itself.
i will not, of course, be truly satisfied until i manage to offer the jacket a good and thorough soaking in the line of duty. this is the west coast of scotland; it cannot remain this dry for too long (and if it does, the distilleries are going to be in dire straits), and when the ultimate finally happens, i'll be back to tell you how i and the gabba fared in the throes of inclemency.
sunday 21st april 2013