during this past summer, such as it was in the hebrides, we of the velo club have been fortunate to be accompanied on the sunday ride by a wide cross-section of the cycling public. those who have found their way to the happy isle of single malts either aboard their very own bicycles or aboard a velocipede or two rented from islay cycle hire in port ellen. mr lutomski, proud owner of a distinctly less than scottish name, has grown his hire fleet consistently over the years, beginning with what could best be described as utility bicycles and ending up with some fairly impressive road bikes with carbon forks and only two chainrings.
it was on precisely such machinery that a father and son were found waiting on the patio in front of debbie's café one sunday morning, ready and willing to discover hitherto unknown regions of the loch gorm perimeter road. while it is possible to witness a display of quality cycling garmentage on the shoulders of the club's regular members, intent on suffering in style, the two gents in question were clad in running shorts and cotton t-shirts, with perhaps one cagoul between them should inclement weather intervene en-route.
it is, or rather, was, a salutory lesson in the perspective with which varying levels of cyclist view the requirement for appropriate apparel. though i have often been heard to point out just how incongruous it would be to go swimming in a pair of levis, there's no doubt it could be done, but just because it can, doesn't mean it should. the same rule could be said to apply to any cycling activity. not for nothing does a pair of bibshorts sport a padded insert, expressly to fend off the more usual complaints of a painful posterior.
that is hardly to say that riding a bicycle in running shorts and a cotton t-shirt is an impossibility; it quite plainly isn't as evidenced by the two gents mentioned above. and to call into question any sartorial impropriety would depend greatly upon a subjective point of view.
the ride itself was most amenable. both gents were reasonably well-informed as to the relative flatness of the isle, interrupted only by the short, sharp steepness of the col du rspb (as strava has named it). that said, their slightly dishevelled appearance on the return for a swift bout of froth supping at debbie's could hardly be laid specifically at the door of their perambulatory exertions. for both, the bike ride had apparently been one of those things you choose to do while on holiday, but not one that would be repeated on a frequent basis, perhaps explaining why neither appeared to possess appropriate clobber for the purpose.
those of us who are followers of the faith are somewhat inured to the need for specificity in our velocipedinal activities. on a purely superficial level, this can be illustrated by the variety of ardbeg cycle jerseys on offer. the original and the recently introduced retro versions wear their road-going credentials on their short sleeves. close-fitting cuffs and the obligatory three rear pockets. the third variation is geared more towards the offroad fraternity, with loosely flailing sleeves and not a pocket to be seen.
rapha, purveyors of excellence for just over a dozen years, are well acquainted with the need for specificity, with recent releases catering to those riding the road less travelled (brevet), close-fitting skinsuits (time-triallists) and the sartorially elegant, yet highly practical polo shirt in which i am currently attired (city-riding). perish the thought that i should arrive for the daily grind dressed in a tight-fitting skinsuit. i have no wish to engender yet another reason for my colleagues to snigger (and not behind my back either).
on my first visit to portland, oregon, the sunday morning bike ride featured a gentleman sporting the latest hup united cycle kit, with a jersey stating, on the right shoulder 'top tube goes here'. to quote from a portion of the rapha website, 'cross is coming' evidenced by a cornering masterclass by the inestimable jeremy powers. and just like hup united, the folks at imperial works are also well acquainted with the tradition of carrying the bicycle on the right shoulder while manfully (or womanfully) slogging your way up an undergrowth festooned incline.
such is the purpose of the lightly padded, yet beautifully decorated quited panel adorning the right shoulder, a minimal contrast to the deep blue of rapha's new, long-sleeve cross jersey. fashioned from rapha's performance merino, this jersey is a prime example of sublime luxury, one that advertises its munificence by appearing scarcely to exist. perhaps more so on the shoulders of the terminally inept, such as yours truly, any distraction provoked by one's attire is cast aside in favour of a pragmatism born of its couture.
were i to have ascended to the ranks of the professional, i fear i may be perceived as an individual remarkably hard to please. my hypothetical professionalism would scarcely allow anything other than short-sleeve jerseys, but personal preference would demand that of a pair of long-sleeves. thus my temper tantrums would be aimed at wishing for the latter, but with the function of the former. as a rapha rider, such as the aforementioned mr powers, i would have landed on my feet, so to speak.
rapha contend that this latest incarnation of their rpm150 merino fabric is "insulating against cool weather, but breathable enough to remain comfortable during hard efforts." there is a strong possibility that they have here, undersold themselves just a tad. though their cyclocross range features also a race-fit jersey, this particular item would seem ideally suited to the training milieu, (very) comfortably coping with the exertions of trying very hard to become better at the discipline of leaping across untoward obstacles and scaling any height that gets between me and a double-espresso.
as a lover of long-sleeves, the length of those under question is unquestionable, the collar finely judged in its height and the fit as exemplary as it's surely possible to achieve. if i have one criticism it must centre on the depth of the jersey's three rear pockets, or rather the lack of it. i can appreciate that those suffering their own purgatory in the mud for an hour have little need of cargo-carrying properties, but rank amateurs (my hand is firmly in the up position at this point) have greater needs. though my essentials case and a thermal gilet were swallowed whole, the mini-pump was more out than in (no double-entendre intended).
a fabulous jersey that is more than equal to the task set for it, and probably not averse to the occasional extra-curricular activity every once in a while.
rapha's long-sleeve jersey is available in deep blue with light blue trim, in sizes ranging from xs to xxl at a cost of £130. a review of the long-sleeve cross race jersey will follow soon.
wednesday 14 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................