i have londoned. in fact, i have londoned on several separate occasions, and i have to say that the underground system i find quite fascinating. though the generic map of the routes is hardly true to form, it provides a clear and logical description of how to get from point a to point b without having to access the train through platform nine and threequarters. as a simple country boy from the hebridean sticks, i will attest that the colossal numbers of people moving unceremoniously in each and every direction are something of a culture shock, but it is still a bit of a marvel that it all hangs together day after day.
it does, however, have its foibles, which those of you who have to london everyday will be far more aware of than i with my infrequent flyer miles. in the interests of maintaining a decorum of economy in the face of metropolitan expense, i normally purchase an all-day ticket on the tube to cater for my diverse visitational needs. such tickets can be had at a reduced rate if purchased for use after 09:30. it is humourous, even though i am as guilty as everyone else, to watch a thin stream of commuters push their tickets through the gate machines on the stroke of 09:30, only to discover that accommodation is only catered for from 09:31.
could such precise exclusion exist in any other part of the globe?
however, i can sympathise with those who have not the option to play at underground commuting for only a few days. were i to be forced into travelling to and from my place of employ by this method, five days a week, twelve months a year, i fear my fascination may suffer an imperious blow. couple that with the ever rising costs of so doing, and it's not hard to see why many take to the bicycle. exercising such free choice, however, brings with it its own baggage.
or rather its own form of needy weather protection.
graeme obree has been quoted as saying that 85% of all statistics are made up on the spot; an awareness of some in the public domain would tend to support that theory. according to a flavour of those inscrutable statistics, there is only a three percent chance of getting wet over the course of a year's cycling in the uk. in which case, i have used up my entire quota in the past few days. it may be that precipitation is less prevalent than perceived, but it ill behoves the regular cycling commutist to attempt to do so without some sort of weather protection.
my place of work is too close for commuting; i have only a five minute walk, but my editor is enough of a stalwart to ride through rain, hail, sleet or snow to work five days a week, racking up a regularly impressive ninety odd miles. this is the hebrides and it is more in keeping with those incomprehensible statistics that the likelihood of getting wet is probably nearer 97%. this makes him, rather obviously, the ideal cyclist to attest to the veracity of a manufacturer's claims as to the weatherproofing qualities of garments designed for the art of the commutist. in this case, it is madison's stellar ii jacket.
it is, however, always worth maintaining an independent control subject; not everyone is a commuter, and the price of this jacket has its attractions to those of a more sporting facade. for the purposes of the present investigation, this task fell to the mighty dave-t. the editor wore black, mighty dave more visible in red. the opening review is that of the former.
"A decent winter jacket is top priority for we commuters here on the outer edge. As my previous jacket, with two long, hard seasons behind it, has the waterproof characteristics of your average sieve, I was delighted to be offered the chance to road test the latest offering from Madison. Divested of its polythene bag, the impression is rather smart. I had the black variety, with fluorescent green zippers and plenty of luminous detail which is important when you average eighty plus miles a week on totally unlit roads. My car driving friends tell me I can be seen for literally miles. The fluorescent detail is placed on the front of the sleeves as well as the back.
"I was impressed by the generous length at the back, similarly the length of the sleeves, and the quality of the wrist closures. I point out this last detail because the wrist closures on two of my previous jackets were somewhat obviously rubbish, and failed within weeks. The neck closure is impressively close while the collar is made of a nice soft fleece; comfy and looks good, but does of course take longer to dry.
"The pocket arrangement is also sensible. There are no side pockets (which fill up with water), but there's a deep front pocket that takes loads of stuff (I regularly carry camera phone and wallet) and a whopper of a back pocket with decent rain baffle. A real kitchen sink job.
"The fabric of the jacket gives the impression of being tough and hard wearing. Only time will tell, of course, but it certainly feels resilient; slightly stiff perhaps, even waxy. There is certainly the impression of being impermeable. Hmmm. More of that later.
"Sadly, my new Madison and I did not get off to an ideal start, although not entirely the jacket's fault. My regular commuting bike, a Thorn, was broken and back home in the shed. I had cycled to work on my trusty old Marin hybrid, and was there presented with my new garment by Mr washingmachinepost. I had however forgotten that the Marin did not have a rear light bracket. No problem, thought I, I will attach the lamp to the light loop on the back of the jacket. Ah. There isn't one. That's a real shame. I am a four light man. Two front, two rear. I like to have one rear light on the bike and another attached to my nether regions, for which one needs the loop. So, please Mr Madison, can I suggest you add one? The lack of a loop meant I had to revert to my old jacket that night, fix the Thorn, and add a second rear lamp bracket to the seat post.
"Ok, with that sorted, I was able to try again the next day. My new outerwear had its first taste of a regular eleven mile commute round the loch. The wind was a steady 30 knots gusting to 40. The rain was torrential, and at one point it turned to hail, covering the road at Bridgend in about an inch of ice. I kept warm. Very warm in fact. I was wearing a merino base layer and a thin polyprop fleece under the jacket.
"Dry however, I was not. I was soaked in sweat. Now I am a big bloke, six foot tall, and fifteen stones. I sweat a lot. I am yet to find a garment that is waterproof AND breathable. I don't care what it says on the label. The concept of such a waterproof yet breathable fabric has yet to convince. That's not to say that the Madison is any worse than the others of its ilk, but it certainly is not the one to crack this particular problem.
"The jacket is warm however. This may be due to its robust construction, but I actually suspect it is because of its rather clever string-vest-style feature. It has an inner, loosely attached polyprop mesh lining, which must trap a layer of warm (sweaty) air, ensuring that you may arrive home soaked, but a cosy sort of soaked.
"I have now been using the jacket for about a month in some pretty grim conditions. It has been a rough year with very high rainfall and I am pretty confident that water ingress simply isn't happening. It is hard to be absolutely certain; commuting on the outer edge does not lend itself to empirical experimentation. In most cases, you just wanna get home and into the shower.
"I like my Stellar. Only time and half a dozen washes will determine just how good it is, but I have high hopes. This is however, the fifth jacket of this type I have tried and all the others have given up after a maximum of two winters in these conditions. Some have not even lasted that long. All have had the breathability of a plastic bag except one, which was highly permeable in both directions from day one. As my review sample came courtesy of thewashingmachinepost I am blissfully unaware of what it might cost, but I understand that it is by no means the most expensive of its type. Which is good to hear because next time I will probably have to buy one..."
the mighty dave t has a less punishing schedule than the esteemed lord carlos of mercian. he is, after all (as he rarely tires of informing us) a pensioner and is perfectly happy to remain indoors when the weather turns foul, having no pressing need to be anywhere else. however, if at this time of year one were to remain indoors until the rain dispersed, long periods would be spent climbing the walls. it is therefore an occupational hazard that one will experience rain at sometime or other, when out for a recreational perambulation. shelter is hard to come by in this exposed landscape. here are the words of the professional.
"I have the Stellar jacket in red size XL, a particularly good fit for my six feet and one inch. the body of the jacket was of excellent length, while the dropped-tail at the back was more than long enough to give good protection against the rain, hail and wind encountered on my first ride.
"I arrived home warm and dry.
"I no longer commute to and from employment, having stepped off that treadmill some years ago, but do ride out in all weathers to sample excellent island produce. Mostly coffee. I particularly liked the red variation, it being the colour of the football team I support. There is no prize for guessing which Nottingham team that would be.
The jacket is easily as good as many more expensive options available and provides excellent protection for the realistic price of around £70. It can be had in a choice of red, black or yellow. The two zips featured on both sides below the arms are an ideal method of regulating body temperature. Leave them open during a ride of exertion and a cooling, if not freezing, waft of air aids the garment's breathability. The angled, zipped pocket front left is ideal for carrying coffee money, while the cavernous rear is ideal for caverns.
I would recommend the red or yellow for winter riding, although the reflective strips on all colours should make traffic markedly aware of your presence even in the unlit darkness of Islay. I certainly spooked some wildlife on my way home in the gathering gloom."
and i said all that without moving my lips.
the madison stellar ii waterproof jacket has a recommended retail price of £69.99, is available in red, black or fluorescent yellow and in sizes small to xl in red or black, and from small to xxxl in fluorescent yellow.
posted tuesday 27 december 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................