a current point of discussion in the office has been the discovery that one or two new-build houses on the island have been directed to include dummy chimneys in order to remain in keeping with the so-called conservation area in which they sit. this despite the fact that the majority of contemporary houses have air-source or ground-source heating included and not a fireplace to be seen. this led to us questioning the sanity of argyll and bute's planning department and wondering at what point in historical proceedings was development frozen in time?
taken to its illogical conclusion, the houses round here ought still to have thatched roofs with a hole in the centre to allow smoke from the fire built in the centre of the mud floor. and it surely ought to be incumbent on the island's residents to keep their sheep and cattle in the very same house. bowmore high street comes under this conservation area, yet though there are stone-built cottages along one side, they are faced by council houses built in the early sixties that bear no physical resemblance to those opposite. and next to the former church at the far end is a monstrosity of a two storey house that would even look out of place on an estate agent's website.
several years past, when the village's sheltered housing received new windows, those facing out onto main street had to retain the look of those they replaced. the houses round the corner could apparently have been fitted with anything the owners of trust housing deemed appropriate.
yet, despite the inconsistent and highly questionable actions of the planning department, on an island such as islay, recipient of more than its fair share of atlantic gales and precipitation, it is surely the right of any resident to remain safe and warm? if the neighbours have double-glazing made from plastic, then why ought it to be deemed necessary for the house in the middle to fit wood frames? and why fit chimneys that don't actually do anything but which might conceivably be blown down in the wind?
this need to be safe and warm extends to the velocipedinal milieu. in fact, given the outdoor nature of pedalling activity, it may be seen as more of an absolute necessity rather than a simple need. cold weather creates its own demands, but also offers the opportunity to defy low temperatures by the simple act of pedalling harder. if your cycling day is anything like mine, no matter the ambient temperature, nothing ever breathes as heavily as do i. but warmth thus achieved is subject to theoretical non-interruption, an ideal not always achievable, whether stopping for tractors, flocking sheep or mechanical deficiencies.
there is, therefore, a physical demand for even the average cyclist to remain cosy and warm, the very equivalent of being wrapped in a breathable, weatherproof duvet at all times. what is needed is obviously the wherewithal provided by a multi-tog duvet but without the bulk, precisely the properties offered by rapha's brevet lightweight thermal jacket. building on the success and popularity of the brevet thermal gilet, this garment leads one to rearrange the words sliced bread, greatest thing and since into a well-known phrase. in short, it is very close to lightweight insulated perfection.
available in either black or grey, with two highly reflective hoops across the front and back accompanied by a similarly constituted trademark hoop on the left sleeve, the active ingredient in the jacket is polartec alpha, an active insulating material that is designed to regulate your body temperature, by adaptively breathing and dispensing with the need to add or shed layers during a bike ride.
as with many a garment claiming the ultimate in breathability, i'd be inclined to argue the toss with the folks at polartec. my first outing, in admittedly milder conditions than were expected, tested the jacket's breathability to the extreme, ultimately resulting in rather damp arms at the coffee stop. however, subsequent rides in cooler conditions have allowed the brevet jacket to proffer its particular qualities unhindered. i've yet to get the jacket wet (believe me, i've tried), so i'll have to take it on trust that it dries as quickly as polartec say it does.
what it does do remarkably well is compress into a small enough size to stick in a rear pocket. exactly like the brevet insulated gilet, there's a stretchy napkin ring at the high collar into which it can be squeezed to keep everything ship-shape and bristol fashion. and as any jacket should, it features a loop at the collar to allow hanging it on a coat-peg in the café. though time will tell whether the fibre-migration prevention works, on the basis of my continual mishandling having had no perceivable effect, i think we have a result here.
however, the question that most often springs to mind when out riding, is quite how something that does so much, manages to weigh so little. though i have previously averred that other cycling garments make themselves known by their invisibility, in the case of the brevet jacket, unless you look down intermittently there is no way on this earth you'd ever know you were wearing it. i have ridden like a bag of spanners where the brevet jacket kept body and soul together long enough to get home. i've sweltered in temperatures that bore no resemblance to those forecast, yet felt no appreciable discomfort and i've ridden through cold, near gale-force winds and felt as warm as an evening by the fire.
there's a modest drop-tail for those, does my bum look wet in these? moments, along with a small zipped rear pocket that cossets an ipod and probably a mobile phone (assuming it's not one of those half-way to an ipod sized objects). or perhaps just enough money for coffee and carrot cake. the jacket's stretchability allows it to sit comfortably over everything plus the kitchen sink in a jersey's rear pockets.
i try ever so hard to affect a non-partisan stance when it comes to the art of reviewing, but since i'm just exactly like everyone else out there, there are times when my enthusiasm gets the better of me. one such instance featured a couple of days ago, in my words regarding the rather excellent specialized crux elite. rapha's brevet insulated jacket has to be the second example in three days. it brings yet another definiton to the word brilliant, mostly preceded by the word utterly. don't even think of attemting the festive 500 without it.
sunday 18 december 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................