you'll be as fed up with me saying this as the mighty dave t is, but after the annual islay show (second thursday in august), we're heading downhill towards winter. it's a remark so often repeated on islay, that it is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, if that hasn't happened already. adopt this particular stance, and all around are drooping shoulders, collars turned high and a resignation that islay's best days are behind it, for this year at least. of course, this is demonstrably not true; yesterday morning certainly fitted the picture with clouded sky and intermittent drizzle, as indeed did the same time today, necessitating a rainjacket for several kilometres, but in both cases an ambient shininess inflected the majority of the daylight hours.
you can perhaps imagine my embarrassment last sunday during the ride of the falling rain; the latter was so minimal as to be almost non-existent, and having built up this rugged picture of islay as a wind-battered rock in the atlantic, one stage separated from total calm rather undermined our position as the flandrians of the west. today, however, though relatively dry and sunny, restored my faith in our climate, featuring as it did a southerly wind that foretold of the winter now incumbent due to the passing of the islay show.
so how do you ride in the wind?
the mighty dave will corroborate my narrative when i inform you that several years past, not long after the mighty had moved permanently to port wemyss, we experienced a winter on which virtually every cycling day was blighted by a nagging wind. mr thomas is more sage-like than yours truly, and accepted the weather as if we had no choice. i, on the other hand, found this need to slog back and forth into a virtual mattress most oppressive, and i was less than sage-like in my continual moaning. the mighty dave pointed out that few received the degree of character building exercise, such as we were unable to avoid, but i confess at the time it was not my idea of fun. then suddenly one day it clicked, and the wind was no longer something to berate, albeit pointlessly, but a force of nature to be embraced.
and such has it been ever since. folks who live in mountainous regions have the opportunity to slog up and down fearsome ascents the likes of which others would pay good money to do likewise, even if only for a few days at a time. with islay's bumpy bits all round the outer edges of the isle, the bulk of our cycling is relatively flat, if a deal picturesque; the wind adds that extra je ne sais quoi. headwinds that can reach 60kph (they do reach considerably higher, but no-one's daft enough to go out in those. well, almost no-one) can be dealt with simply by grit and determination. there is a bizarre satisfaction to be gained from grinding down uiskentuie strand with teeth on the stem, hands on the drops and a pair of thighs that would give sir chris cause for pride. if more incentive is needed, thoughts can be absorbed in the tailwind that will have me back in bowmore almost before i've left debbie's in bruichladdich.
crosswinds are where the artist's technique can be most brought to bear. with a series of obstacles that can include passing articulated trucks, low bridge walls and randomly sited buildings, it takes a practised nous to adjust the degree of corresponding lean to avoid wiping out. this latter skill is modulated by subtle change of road directions, altering the angle at which the wind troubles bicycle and rider. i've noticed on occasion that visiting riders do not anticipate these changes, while the resident peletonese accord with unconscious deliberation. it is not necessarily worn as a badge of honour, but an enlightening observation.
with these freshening breezes probably an intrinsic part of the forthcoming months, there is a necessity to ensure that one is suitably clothed, and though many variations on the theme of cycling dos and don'ts warn against the inculcation of the bicyclist's equivalent of a lucky rabbit's foot (not lucky for the rabbit, you understand), i can see little problem in wearing a favoured pair of shorts. i am happy to accept that favourite/lucky jerseys and caps can enter the mix at varying stages, but shorts play a more active and potentially hindering role in the rider's battle against the elements. it is unwise to raise one's behind from the safety of the saddle while grating into the teeth of a headwind, thus the comfy bit had better live up to its name. and returning however briefly to those thighs of steel, a modicum of lateral support would not go amiss to prevent lactic acid from being victorious in battle.
i am happy to say that i may just have found your favourite pair of shorts.
the mystery in this is compounded by my review earlier last week of the replica team endura kit, for the shorts under consideration are not considered by endura to be a part of this replication, despite their higher price and ostensibly greater performance. endura offer their uber bibshorts in parade pony white, or stealth black. given the option for reviewing purposes, i opted for the black on the basis that i am no parade pony. i can understand why cipollini may disagree with my choice, but i think boring suits me oh so much more.
the lycra hails from italy and is of the power variety, offering not only muscle support but sun protection of factor fifty plus (which also applies to the white version). the stealth imparted to the black option is not merely an improvisation by endura's marketing department, but incorporates technology regaling in the name of coldblack, reducing heat absorption to a more than acceptable level. rather surprisingly, the pad is not lime green; in fact, apart from the 'e' logo'd silicon gloop on the inside of the elasticated leg grippers, there is a complete dearth of the almost trademark colour. the website blurb would attest to this being one of the most technically advanced pads available, and i will readily admit to it having been most efficacious in easing pressure between backside and saddle.
the shaping and panelling, carried out in stealth-like matt lycra is subtly enhanced by either black or white equipe logos in a shiny print, an effect that i am very much in favour of. the bibs are of commendable width, exering no undue pressure across the shoulders, following a similar pattern to their lesser team replica siblings by joining at the back in a single mesh panel just below the neck. i reviewed the small size, which edged the team replica shorts into the margins of shade, by virtue of a superb fit, with one exception.
the legs on these shorts are noticeably longer than on many others eager for a slice of the same market. i have no problem whatsoever with dispensation of the sean yates look, particularly if the quality is in the region explored by endura's uber shorts, but i think these may just be a smidgeon too close to the knee. many in the shorts business (sic) have eschewed a separate elastic gripper on their shorts, preferring to go the route that endura themselves have employed in the sleeves of their team jersey. this features thin lycra with a thin film of gloop on the inside, obviating any bulk or seams in an area where neither are welcome.
the hem of the uber shorts is a bulkier and more restrictive solution, featuring a thicker seam just behind the knee. why or how a company in the business for nearly twenty years can offer a pair of shorts with a seam that all else have strived to omit, is slightly beyond me. the only mitigating factor is that, having done so, endura have contrived to make it all but insignificant in use. i confess that the only time i found this seam an irritation was while supping coffee at debbie's. (i must add at this point that in a subsequent conversation with jim mcfarlane of endura i was told that "leg length has been shortened by 5mm at the front and progressively to 2cm at the rear." on all current iterations of these shorts. i would expect this alteration to all but remove the essence of my criticism, but i feel it worth stating as present on my review pair.)
why these are not the garment offered as the lower half of the replica team kit, i know not. however, there is nothing to stop customers ordering the jersey and pairing it with a pair of uber shorts, for these have received extensive input from the race team and may conceivably be official team issue. undoubtedly heading for the position of most favoured shorts in the garment library, this is the very pairneeded to face a searing headwind, though obviously just as happy in a more sedate environment.
the low key graphics make it far easier to match with a competitor's jersey or jacket without a visit from cycling's fashion police, or accusations of being a cycling weekly cover model.
endura's uber shorts are available in parade pony white or stealth black, in sizes from small to xxl amd retailing at £139.99.
posted sunday 14 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................