kilmeny guest house sits midst kilmeny farm just outside ballygrant village. it has five exceptionally well-appointed guestrooms, reflected in the price of a night's stay, but if you'd ever taken a wander through the sitting and dining rooms, let alone the bedrooms themselves, all would become stunningly clear as to why the charges are as they are. from the road it is hard to miss; they've recently installed a colossal wind turbine several hundred metres from the white painted and recently re-roofed guesthouse. i occasionally have business with the proprietors of a graphic and pixelated nature, and today was one of those days.
in order that i might fit in with the decor and the standard implied, i left my proletariat personna at home and dressed accordingly: rapha + paul smith, merino polo shirt, softshell trousers and though it seems contradictory to say 'and to top it all off' a pair of dromarti leather shoes. the sportivo version to be precise, allowing the use of crank brothers candy pedals on the cielo. thus, divesting myself of helmet, cap and outerwear on arrival, attire was very much in keeping with my temporary environment, and there was no need to perform the usual travesty of having to remove a pair of race shoes with bright red cleats. a brief period of poignant sartorial elegance in the middle of my more usual designer scruff.
and my shoes were shiny.
even in the face of adversity, a sense of decorum has to be maintained at all costs. if we are to impress the great unwashed with our dedication to cycling anywhere that it's possible to go without falling off, then i feel we ought to be stylishly if not smartly dressed for the occasion. there is more than narcissism or self-importance at stake, for it is conditional that the non-cyclists met along the way, take more notice than simply how quickly they can get out of the way.
a constant mindfulness of such was exercised in the rain on saturday past. apparel was selectively different than my visit to kilmeny, as conditions demanded, and even though sartorially comfortable, i was greatly undermined by the novelty act heading in the opposite direction. scurrying about in the undergrowth is not a minor consideration when faced with my propensity for both wimping out and falling off, though not necessarily both at the same time, and i am keen that my feet are clothed in footwear up to the task, and that will let me bale in and out as quickly as possible. up till now, that task has been unequally catered for by a pair of vans-like shoes that were never designed to have done what i was doing to them.
however, feet ensconced in the very same pair of dromarti sportivo shoes mentioned earlier, i was thundering (a well chosen adjective) along a muddy and bepuddled path through the woods when the novelty act appeared in the distance. a fad at the time several years back, kids of a very young age were offered mini-quad bikes, complete with petrol engine to rumble about on the dunes. here, driving in the pouring rain, on a blue, yellow and white mini-quad bike was an elderly gentleman clad in raincoat and cap, knees sticking well out on each side.
not wishing to alert him to the fact that i thought this was strange behaviour (bear in mind i was cycling through the woods wearing a lime green jacket, in the same deluge), i simply waved my acknowledgment and proceeded to thunder some more. the lady walking her dog several yards behind simply smiled and shrugged her shoulders. the dog said nothing.
had this debacle not occurred, there's two people who would have been as impressed with my footwear as i was.
dromarti have single-handedly revived the joy of wearing hand-crafted leather shoes specifically for the purpose of cycling. i have previously reviewed both the brown and black race versions of these with soles designed to accommodate the three-point fixing employed by the majority of road cleats, and have also given air-time to the storica version in which one can comfortably walk down streets paved with gold before leaping aboard a quill pedal equipped velocipede. those are saved for particularly sartorial moments, such as garden parties or royal investitures.
making up the trio of offerings however (in both black or brown leather), is the sportivo version, with soles slotted to take the spd type cleats. two parallel slots containing threaded steel inserts allow a substantial degree of adjustment when fixing the cleats in place, including a modest degree of angle either way. these are surrounded in this latest version by a black tread that allows almost slipless walking in mud, grass and variations inbetween, while preventing the cleats from wearing away on hard surfaces.
mud, gloop and incessant rain, are perhaps not the best showcase for leather style such as this, and if style were all that were being paid for, moments for wearing would need to be more aptly chosen. however, the soles are impressively rigid enough to allow an encouraging amount of power transfer, yet flexible enough to walk unhindered, whatever the terrain. clipping in and out of a pair of crank brothers candy pedals was so easy, i had initial doubts that i'd clipped in correctly in the first place.
waterproof, in the all encompassing sense, they certainly aren't, factored mostly by the myriad of decorative yet functional holes in the leather uppers. however, despite the soaking they received during first test, the shape remained intact, and an evening stuffed with the sports section of friday's guardian newspaper, had them fit and well enough to do duty again on sunday morn and subsequently shined for my kilmeny visit this morning. and unlike a few pairs of shoes i've walked and ridden in recently, they didn't hurt any part of my feet's anatomy.
in days when cycle shoes either look like hiking boots or women's ice skate uppers, the dromarti leathers are all the more individual in approach and appearance, at a price that undercuts a substantial portion of the synthetic market. however, i'm not sure i'd wear them on a quad bike.
dromarti leather sportivo shoes retail at £153.17 per pair in brown leather, sizes 37 to 47, or £163.39 in black and red leather in sizes ranging from 39 to 47. they are available to purchase from the dromarti website.
posted tuesday 18th january 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................