i realise it is stretching credibility a little too far, but might i ask that you spare a thought for microsoft, apple et al for the difficulties they face on a daily basis? ignore for a short period of your sunday, the billions sitting in their bank accounts, garnered almost entirely from giving us exactly what they told us we wanted. life isn't all plain sailing.
every new version of their respective operating systems and upgrades to office or aperture have to maintain a high degree of compatibility with the previous versions, otherwise those billions might start to flow less freely. having had us invest in both dependent hardware and software, it is not in anyone's interest that the next big thing breaks the genealogical line; folks may just figure that the grass is greener on the other more compatible side, up-sticks and move. keep the customer satisfied.
how then does a prominent cycle clothing purveyor deal with a similar state of affairs, albeit with a more than tenuous link to the past? endura clothing of livingstone, scotland, has been in existence since 1992, meaning it will celebrate its twentieth birthday in the year of the london olympics. in the early nineties, it took a brave man to consider investing time and money to supply nowt but lycra and polyester to keep roadies happy, for at that time, in the uk at least, mountain biking was still in the ascendency. that's where the money was, and where the r & d budget was best spent.
so what would you do when the knobbly notion begins to plateau, skinny tyres become resurgent, and young upstarts have stolen a march on your thunder? arrive at the endura website and the opening motion graphics still emphasise their mountain biking heritage, yet for the past three years, the company has sponsored a top flight british and now continental road team that have punched well above their weight and threaten to exceed this promise come the 2011 season. with the team launch being held in the national capital (london) in early february, you would expect perhaps greater emphasis on the road-going faculty. in mitigation, the endura squad have signed beckingsale and pritchard to continue the long association with mud and downhill, but have they let the upstarts get too far ahead?
were we to timeshift back a couple of years, i would, as a scotsman, have to reluctantly admit that endura may have missed the boat in this respect. the new competition seemed to have taken up more than the slack, paying more attention to fit, detail and materials than seemed to be the case in livingston. however, the sponsorship of a road team has brought a new perspective and a new sub-brand to the world; endura equipe.
i've reviewed a few items from this range previously, pointing out the tangible benefits of their superstretch overshoes only a few days ago. different seasons bring different demands, and this particular winter may have brought more than most. to counter at least some of them, i have been splashing through the undergrowth and traversing the metalled roads cossetted in an endura equipe lime green exo softshell and matching windshield gloves. i'd like to mention at the outset that i am non too impressed with the equipe logo. in fact, to be more specific, it's that initial letter 'e'; a mere triviality i am willing to agree, but it still grates everytime i see it.
the gloves offer a marvellous lack of bulk, so much so, that the wonder is that they provide so much comfort and protection from the elements. they are categorically not waterproof, but there is no pretence that this is the case. however, they are windproof, and continued to offer thermal properties even when quite highly saturated. padding is minimal, but at last endura have realised that in certain circumstances, less is indeed more; there is no sensation akin to holding two sets of handlebars, and grip on the bars is considerably more than adequate.
however, as is made large on the equipe website, and visually in lime green, each finger benefits from a series of lime green silicon dots, presumably to improve finger friction when and where such is required. unfortunately the epithet slippery when wet applied under just those circumstances. i'm sure endura would be well within their rights, in this case, to point the finger (see what i did there?) at sram for missing out on application of a friction surface to those little flip levers on their force groupset. but with the knowledge that such is the case with most of today's shift levers, perhaps the frictional properties of those fingers should have compensated. in the pouring rain, i experienced several consecutive mis-shifts, though i should point out that this was while riding a cyclocross bicycle across less than level terrain. in the dry, there was no problem. annoyingly, endura persist in placing the snot-wipe on the forefinger rather than on the thumb. i have researched locally, and most would prefer thumb positioning. not perfect, but pretty darned good.
if anything could be said to encapsulate the new endura in one garment, the exo softshell could well be it. a great deal of constructive thought has gone into this, and believe me, it has all paid off. the jacket is proffered as totally waterproof, with externally taped seams (hence the exo tag), a claim that i was more than happy to put to the test over a three hour offroad ride in persistently pouring rain on the ibis hakkalugi. keeping it in the family, i wore a baabaa merino l/s baselayer under an equipe s/s jersey, and at the point of stopping for a refreshing and much-needed coffee, these undergarments were close to bone-dry. i say close, because the thin fleece lining places slight restrictions on the jacket's breathability; however, you can't have everything.
this breathability is assisted by two zipped slots on the side/front of the softshell, rather more pragmatically sited than under the arms. as one still bereft of the ability to ride no-hands, i find it nigh on impossible to open under-arm vents while riding. the more frontally placed zips on the equipe were a dawdle to zip and unzip in motion. the sleeves are of excellent length, particularly for the long of arm such as yours truly, with scotchlite refelctive strips on the outer face and ending with commendably long neoprene inner cuffs. matched with the windshield gloves, this is likely as weatherproof as it's possible to be. the other zips on the front of the jacket belong to a very practical ipod enabled pocket, and a full-length taped closure that angles from bottom right to top left, obviating bulky layering of zips between inner and outer clothing. the collar is pleasingly high and close around the neck, though some of that fleece would have been nice around the inner face. still, it's more than comfortable.
the rear pocket arrangement is perhaps more offroad than on. while many a softshell replicates the three pocket story applicable to many a cycle jersey, the equipe version bears two horizontally zipped pockets, one taped, and the upper, larger enclosure featuring a flap over the top. this has a labyrinthine divided inner, sometimes a bit confusing when trying to extricate pump or other artifact from its cavernous depths while hands still gloved. the smaller is easier to access unseen, and big enough to contain a compact camera, money, keys, peanut butter sandwich and an inner tube and multi-tool. even when well-loaded, the pockets remain well balanced, and maintaining a slim profile.
if lime green isn't your thing, the jacket can be had in either black or red, though neither offer the high visibility of the lime green, and the review sample sort of matched the similarly hued ibis. this is a garment that need not apologise for itself under any circumstances; if this is the sort of benefit that results from sponsorship of a successful road team, then it has been money very well spent.
the equipe thermo gloves are available in black with lime green trim or black and red from small to xxl at a cost of £44.99. the exo softshell jacket is available in black, lime green or red with black trim, in sizes small to xxl at a cost of £199.99.
posted sunday 23rd january 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
bicycles are simple creatures with simple demands; feed them a drop of oil now and again, shove some bars of air pressure into those tyres and they'll carry you uncomplainingly from one end of the earth to the other (moot point, but you do realise this is artistic licence: the world does not actually have ends as such). there are exceptions to this statement of fact, but many of those come from a lack of comprehension on behalf of their owners, rather than from an inherent technical complexity.
in the days before i knew much about the bicycle (who said 'last week'?), having purchased a ten-speed racer, an influx of semi-knowledge led me to start upon the upgrade path that we all know never actually ends. quizzically, and i cannot for the life of me remember why, the first item to go was the shimano front gear mech, being replaced in favour of a shinier sun tour specimen (remember them?). i had a copy of richard's bicycle book on my bedside table, and had thus nothing to fear on the mechanical front. except, i coudn't figure out how on earth this component was supposed to work.
all diagrams and gleaned informationed pointed to the cable exiting the downtube lever (remember those too?), heading down the steel towards the bottom bracket shell, under and back up the seat tube to the clamp on the mech. only the suntour i'd purchased didn't seem to work that way. this turned out to be because it was a top-pull version, something that seemed not to be mentioned in richard's book. surely shome mishtake?
that, however, is how learning behaves when applied to the real world, and though few road bikes suffer from top-pull front gear mechs, in my days of wrenching, as the americans are wont to say, their frequency increased in the era of the mountain bike. and i don't doubt that cyclocross bikes are partial on occasion too.
i cannot claim to have had a free-ride on all things mechanical ever since, though if challenged in public, i will deny everything. in my career as thewashingmachinepost, many items of all shapes, sizes and exotic hue have passed through these black and yellow pixels, not all of which have behaved impeccably, but i don't remember being confounded by many, if any of them.
scottishness is contagious amongst scottish people, and i am pleased that the country's premier cycle clothing purveyor sees fit to send parcels of product for review. i am honoured to fly the flag, particularly in the light of their increasingly successful road team, and a quality of product that shows every indication of following suit. the top of the range endura products now inhabit the equipe nomenclature, having been developed in conjunction with the aforementioned race-team. though there are a few items from the range due to feature here over the next few days, i'm literally starting at the bottom with the equipe neoprene overshoes.
such a simple product should present no problems for the experienced rider/reviewer; unzip at the heel and pull them over the day's road shoes. except that, in this case, there is no zip. in fact, other than two holes in the reinforced sole and a rubber edge hole for the ankle, there seemed to be no way to get the reflective equipe logo'd overshoes onto a pair of shoed feet. of course, the clue is in the name: superstretch thermal overshoes. putting the ankle opening over the toe of the shoe (in this case, a pair of dromarti sportivo leather; more on those later), and simply wrestling with the stretchy neoprene, eventually results in an impressively close-fitting shoe/overshoe interface. it's worth pointing out at this stage that subsequent fittings have been a lot easier than the first, and assisted by a cleverly sited pull-tab on each heel.
like most neoprene overshoes, these are water-resistant but definitely not waterproof. to qualify this, if used in the manner of my initial outing on the cyclocross bike, stepping in muddy puddles is wont to let water in through the cleat slot. however, simply riding in the rain for several hours failed to even allow water through the rubber ankle seam. they are, however, very cosy. it's hard to decide whether the industrial strength stitching down the centre, round the sole openings and the ankle top, as well as joining the neoprene to the reinforced sole is to provide an impressive level of robustness for regular use, or to stop the fitting wrangle separating everything into its component parts. it will be interesting to see how these survive through repeatedly being taken on and off. at this point, build quality is impressive, and i can see why this method of operation was chosen (a very close fit), but i can't help thinking that a rear zip fastening would have been a touch easier.
throwing them in the washingmachine after two days of gathering road grit and agricultural output made them bright, sparkly and just like new. a quizzical, perhaps confusing addition to endura's equipe range, but a very welcome one at this time of year. endura have visibly raised their standards over the last year or so and with the equipe range, are now the equal of anything the rest of the world can offer.
a pair of endura equipe superstretch thermal overshoes retail at £34.99 and are available direct from the endura equipe website or from endura dealers.
posted monday 17th january 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................