last year, when prince bradley was planning his longest hour round the boards of lea valley velodrome, rapha enticingly invited us all to partake of our own hour record (admittedly not necessarily round in circles). since i was unaware of anyone ever having set an hour record specifically for islay, it seemed only right and proper that i undertake to right that wrong. in order that this endeavour might take on a greater sense of grandeur, the very nice people at imperial works were kind enough to send a team-issue long-sleeve wiggins jersey and cap, though as a clean-shaven member of the peloton, i'm pretty sure no-one mistook me for the quickest knight of the realm on two wheels.
the professionals are catered to somewhat differently than us ordinary folk. for starters, that jersey, as you would expect, was a very definitely race-fit which also resulted in it appearing as if sprayed-on. it may have come to your attention that many professional cyclists carry very little by way of spare fat. secondly, not for them small, medium or large; the team issue jersey was size 3. nor is there a zipped fourth rear pocket, an allowable omission since i have yet to view a professional race that features a coffee stop where loose change may be required. and while we're on the subject of pockets, the outer two were professionally scalloped to allow for easy access to mars bars, haribo, jam sandwiches etc.
just over one year later, the industrious chaps and chapesses at imperial works have unveiled a long-sleeve team wiggins jersey, but this time, the sizing is in the more usual small, medium and large of which we are used to. but just to add an element of intrigue to this release, the jersey forms a part of rapha's lower-cost core range, priced at a highly wallet-friendly £85, only a tenner more than the equivalent short-sleeve edition.
the long-sleeve core edition has a cosy, light fleece lining making it almost perfect for the impending autumn/winter months heading in our direction. no doubt little else other than these long-sleeves will be required in the uk's southern regions other than perhaps a thermal gilet for early mornings. up here, i'm rather hoping for a core waterproof and thermal gilet.
just like the team issue jersey, the length of the sleeves is particularly admirable and though there is an undeniable hint of race-fit, the sizing errs just a smidgeon on the more generous. the subtle differences are just that; subtle. the dark blue fabric features a star pattern that is missing from the pro-team edition, while the three rear pockets are entirely unscalloped. i cannot deny that accessing stuff contained in the two outer pockets was just a bit more awkward than i'd have preferred, but let's face it, as a non-professional, i've got time to stop and rummage. additionally the core jersey does have a zipped security pocket for coffee money.
i am, however, being particularly unfair. rapha do not sell a pro-team long-sleeve wiggins jersey, so any comparisons i have made are entirely spurious. and to be quite honest, the long-sleeve core jersey is quite excellent. i am a great fan of long-sleeve jerseys (i may have mentioned this before); this is definitely one of life's best. as the days draw cooler, i'll probably pair it with a long-sleeve merino baselayer and despite my moans about the back pockets, they do carry a substantial amount of stuff, including a rolled up team pro (or maybe a core range?) rain cape.
it is most encouraging to see rapha develop the core range beyond their initial offering. it would have been so easy to leave it where it was, having ticked a box or two before putting all their energies into their higher price products. around the time of the initial core launch, there were murmurings from the pro-team cognoscenti as to the possibility of this range devaluing everything that they (and rapha) had worked for. let me just lay that contention to rest; core range jerseys and shorts continue the level of quality for which rapha are renowned. the price is a bonus, not a compromise.
mind you, i do have certain misgivings about riding with a target on my back, just as deer-stalking season approaches.
monday 15 august 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................