everything in life has a purpose - well, apart from those little rubber gaiters that shimano fit to their 'v' brakes - and many of those purposes are defined by focus groups and marketing departments that rarely work for the companies that employ them. in a more subliminal manner than often proposed by various government departments, it's the nanny state expanded to the world of commerce; in our case, the world of cycling commerce.
it can barely have escaped your attention that true cyclocross bicycles have little or no need for bottle cage mounts, yet those offered to the rest of us indubitably have. thus, though the caption says cyclocross, most of them would be just as happy being leaned against the wall of look mum no hands!, mud a distant and oftimes non-existent pipedream. similarly those pro-race badged tyres. excellent though they undoubtedly are, most of the pairs i have seen or ridden were as far away from racing as i was from copenhagen this afternoon. so, though it may come as something of a bombshell, it's just possible that one man's team car is another man's shopping trolley.
candy stripes, however, go a long way to ease the facade.
i'm less than keen on mentioning any sartorial indiscretions on the interweb, because the next thing you know, someone will have splattered it all over facetwitter, but i feel honour bound to admit that i first rode those candy stripes on a road bike. a chris king cielo if testimony demands. and though those pink, blue and burgundy stripes professed 'cross at every twist and turn, they're not half bad on the road either. this, therefore, beggars philosophical questions that query the very nature of marketing diktat. nay, of the universe itself; faster than light neutrinos included.
what is ideally demanded from a pair of cycling shorts is that they are all but invisible when subjected to the purpose for which they were designed. invisibility in this case is purely figurative; one has standards of acceptability to which adherence is recommended. the pad, delicately placed for ideal comfort in the saddle, should hardly feel like or resemble a product emanating from the pampers factory; decorum on the podium should not revolve around 'does my butt look big in this?'. freedom of movement and a respectable lack of irritation on those thighs of steel are expectations we all take for granted. but in cases that arise from time to time, these are features that blight the occasional pair. not so in the present case.
but what of the dressing for other than cyclocross? islay is mercifully free from the sartorial police; there is many too many an agricultural distraction hereabouts to worry whether honed athletes such as myself are correctly or incorrectly dressed for the task at hand. in mitigation, this was not an isolated incident, as my devil may care attitude had me succumb to at least one more occasion of road-riding in candy stripes, but i had at least the grace and non-competitive nous to get splattered with mud on more than a single occasion.
the entry to the tracks around bridgend woods open up with a brief, squirrely downhill, followed by a nervous ride across a wooden bridge that shows every sign of becoming rickety sooner than its years would portend. mental attitude counts for all, but that same attitude is laid bare to being undermined when civilian life unexpectedly intervenes. through the muddy excess at the foot of the incline, bursting forth from tree-cover at fractionally less than warp-speed, the existence of two mums, a pram, toddlers and a dog, shattered the bubble with impressive ease. i'm not that good at knee-jerk reactions when unexpected stress rears its ugly existence, so a right turn along the banks of the sorn wasn't the finest choice i've ever made.
while slate olson was content to admit his love for mud, my roadieness eschews its treacle-like consistency. not entirely unsurprisingly, the banks of a river are composed of quagmires of the stuff, cunningly disguised by a surface of green. who knew? it was a matter of mere metres before forward motion became less impressive than that mental attitude had promised, and it was surely only luck that had moved mothers, kids and dog on across the bridge and out of sniggering range.
if any of you have watched the video of cross vegas, where the riders run to the corner before leaping aboard and continue their charge for the podium, i can promise considerably less. the front runners in that particular event re-mounted with ease, but as waves of competitors passed the corner, the quality of leaping diminished in direct proportion to their overall position in the melee. i would have struggled to match even the back markers. it is, however, unquestionably true that the act of leaping and dismounting in even the course of a verisimilitude of 'cross is just as dependent on the flexibility, resilience and integrity of one's shorts as it is on acrobatic skill. in fact, it may well be that the high degree of incompetence with which this lack of skill was approached, tested their mettle more than would be the case for either slate olson or jeremy powers.
the enthusiasm, however, seems likely the same.
i have long maintained that, similar to a pair of gloves, a quality pair of shorts ought to be a bit of a struggle to get on in the first place. thus it is imperative that not only should the garment's construction be pretty darned spot on to begin with, but that the wearer has been circumspect in choosing the correct size. the combination is well repaid. i cannot deny, nor indeed have rapha, that these are essentially the same as the pro-team shorts reviewed only mere months ago. the game is given away by the name patch sewn into the rear of the bibs on which it clearly states forcats de la route. but in the case of the pro-team cross bibshorts, the more recognisable rapha logo is resplendent in cream on each leg.
however, though i have ignored the very directive that accompanied these bibshorts in their traditional rapha envelope, it may be that i am the one with egg on my face. the originals, bereft of candy stripes, made for the road pro-team bibshorts to which i earlier referred, have one important difference. while the road going version features a none existent hem clamped firmly to the thighs of steel by some of that silicon gloop. the 'cross version, tellingly, has a proper hem of a coarser construct, affixed to the remarkably fine cold black lycra. though the underside again features the gloop, this is quite plainly the difference between us soft-as-a-lambswool-rug roadies and the hard-as-nails cyclocross rider. who would have thought subtlety could be so obvious?
and is it just me, or does everyone else fall off more than is seemly in polite company? i'd swear even the dog sniggered.
(rapha's cyclocross pro-team bibshorts, which are not graphically the same as those worn by members of the rapha focus 'cross team, are available in cold-black with the oft-mentioned candy stripes in x-small (small size tested) to xxl at a retail cost of £155 ($220) per pair)
posted sunday 25 september 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................