motor racing drivers, at least those who dabble in the single seater variety, can virtually guarantee a high degree of comfort while seated in the car, hurtling about in pursuit of their chosen career. they can do this because they are seated in a bespoke chair, if it can be called such in the confines of such a small carbon enclosed space. it's all to do with polystyrene beads in a bag; plonking themselves down on a heap of the little white balls, while making themselves perfectly at home by way of several bum shuffling moments, the air is then removed from the bean bag until the shape of their posterior is retained for posterity. it is thereby a relatively simple process to mould some carbon into an exact replica. preferably one that fits in the fuselage.
we in the our more exposed and pro-active form of sport do not have the same luxury, at least not in the seating departmenet. a brooks leather saddle comes close, but over a considerably lengthier period of time; but despite the advent of titanium rails, such handcrafted english leather construction is yet deemed more grams than ultimately desirable for those intent on going fast. however, it's not the ultimate consideration for the competitive cyclist: what is, concerns the apparel worn while assuming the position. it cannot have escaped your attention that our bodies assume an entirely different posture when grasping lever hoods, or more aerodynamically, sleekly infused on the drops.
if we follow the logical steps that this implies, it makes a great deal of sense to appreciate that jerseys, shorts and tights that fit and appear sartorial when standing leaning on the counter ad debbie's, may exhibit the odd fluffle or two when in the aggressive pose midst two wheels. le col clothing, from the race tuned mind and design skill of yanto barker has incorporated this anomaly at base level.
cycling must be one of the most provided for sports in the world, at least that's the way it seems from within my ivory tower, particularly when it comes to riding apparel. with so many already clamouring for our pounds, dollars and euros, it's a brave step to decide to enter the fray, particularly in the upper atmosphere where the stakes are already high. the latest to ask for a place at the table is le col.
it's winter, or at least it is where i live, and thus the appropriate section of the cycling wardrobe has been organised to present access to clothing with the seasonal word in its title. the le col winter jacket is, in this case, the bees knees. it is, perhaps, worth pointing out that this is a jacket in the sense that we don't understand the word jacket. my comprehension would infer outerwear that could comfortably enclose baselayer and jersey underneath. however, jacket in this italian sense (yes, that's where it's made) plainly describes a stout, windproof and partially waterproof that can be worn over an appropriately fashioned baselayer. which is exactly what i did.
first wear is almost cause for concern, being that it exhibits just a hint of tightness across the chest; the race fit, and not a worry, even if you're not racing. the perforated textile covering around two thirds of the front and all of the fore facing portion of both arms is windproof and waterproof. remarkably so. the length of the arms is just ideal (medium tested), and the fit flaplessly excellent.
the application of the epithet winter has bearing on all aspects of the jacket: aside from the windproofing, it's warm and cosy inside, with a commendably high, fleece-lined and close fitting collar to keep speed imbued draughts at bay. the construction of the entire edifice looks as if it would vye with campagnolo's oft quoted reputation for being over built. every seam is triple stitched with a rather fetching gold thread; the le col name is gold embroidered on the leaft breast, while the stunningly excellent le col logo is also gold embroidered just below the rear of the collar, just under a white/gold/white tag that emulates (sort of) the italian flag.
stowage space is also well catered for, by way of three open rear pockets in the time honoured manner, and a cunningly concealed zipped pocket outboard of the centre, reflectively striped version (thank you yanto). tabbed all over the jacket are strips of gold coloured scotchlite, just to make sure you can be seen, despite the overall black theme. and just when you thought every nook and cranny had been utilised, there's another zipped internal pocket hidden inside of the main zip, behind the le col name. this latter would appear to be waterproof: i placed a tenner inside prior to scuttering about, a tenner that was still dry when home beckoned.
it's the main zip that gives me the most (superficial) cause for concern. all is themed in black and gold, generally a scheme that works very much to le col's advantage. and therefore a gold coloured full frontal zip would not seem out of context. but the gold colouring, in my opinion, doesn't quite work, the tag in particular slightly devaluing a reassuringly expensive looking item of winter apparel. shiny metal would have been more appropriate i feel. but its functionality cannot be denied.
for all its bells, whistles and promises, it would be worth less than a few buttons if it failed to live up to its billing, but confound me if it didn't exceed them. finding cold and/or wet weather this far out in the atlantic in november is hardly a struggle, and fending those off clad only in a thin jacket over a long sleeve baselayer seemed like folly of a fairly high order. however, ploughing about over ninety or so kilometres in cold and wet convinced otherwise. all that race fit nonsense makes a whole heap of sense when breathing heavily in the drops towards the spedding sprint at bruichladdich (even if i didn't cross the line first).
this must be how jenson button feels at work.
of course, in order to maintain that corporate image at all costs, the lower half should also be winter clad in le col, in this case in a pair of winter bib tights. these too follow the by now familiar le col style, with all seams triple gold stitched, and the name gold embroidered on your backside, just where your principal sponsor's logo would be if racing was the prime motive. the tights are fitted with a very effective and immensely comfortable chamois pad. while many of the latter accoutrements in shorts and tights are of multi-layered and varying densities of appropriately styled foam, the pad in the le col winter bib tights utilises gel injection, at least so one of the swing tags informs me. i can do no more than pass on the information that the shape and consistency does a marvellous job. my bum thanked me profusely.
in accordance with winter expectations, the tights are fleece lined but with a relatively high front bib panel bereft of a zip. this exhibits marginally more frontal comfort than those with zip, but it does make a call of nature a slightly gymnastic affair, though not completely out of the question. there's internal gloopy stuff at the bottom of the legs to ensure they don't ride up even during your more torrid moments, and similarly to the jacket, there are strategically placed gold scotchlite tabs for that all-important visibility. the jenson button effect is in full evidence here too; when standing up straight and to attention, the bibs feel as if they may not have been as generously proportioned as should have been the case. but you're not going to wear these round to the post office for a few stamps: they're cut to allow maximum comfort on skinny wheels and bendy bars, which is very much where they come into their own. and then some.
however, the test did involve sitting on a wooden chair supping a large mug of soya cappuccino, while demolishing an accompanying mini-biscuit with a colnago logo on the top (honestly - who'd have thought?). mission accomplished. and likewise when on the bicycle, where they were comfort and joy in a material sense, with no bunching, no chafing and one of the most comfortable comfy bits i have had the pleasure of sitting on.
if you're going to arrive unannounced at this level of sartorial impression, you need to hit the ground running. le col has managed this with personality to spare; a debut to be proud of.
the le col winter jacket is available in black only, in small, medium, large and extra large at a retail price of £159.99 ($266), while the winter bib tights can be had in the same sizes at a cost of £139.99 ($233). purchases can be made online at lecol.net
posted sunday 8 november 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................