on the whole, reviewing stuff is a rather excellent way to spend time on the bicycle. it does, however, bring with it an inability to switch off, meaning even bicycles, componentry and apparel that has been around for a while, is still subjected to velocipedinal scrutiny, even when the review was written weeks previously. i tend to look upon that state of affairs as a means of honing my limited abilities and hopefully leading to better and more pertinent features in these black and yellow pixels.
over the course of many years, i'm rather hoping that the necessity of discovering a set of upper and lower limits specific to that under review has improved not only my cognitive function, but that of my adeptness on the bicycle. for instance, in the quest to check the veracity of any manufacturer's claims regarding tyres, bringing into play those roads kept for special occasions has brought trials and tribulations of its very own. islay was once more dependent on agriculture than is currently the case, having fostered all manner of minor single-track roads conjoining farms that have been absorbed into the greater good.
a surprising number of those tributaries are trammeled only by heavy farm machinery nowadays, leading to severe degradation of the surface. ally this with a considerable depreciation in the island's roads budget, and many have not seen a lick of tar for many a long year. this may be of some concern to summer visitors less than adept at map reading, expecting to have found a shortcut to nowhere in particular. potholes and nice new cars are rarely comfortable bedfellows. but on the plus side, thundering over these parcours on tyres still sporting those little prickles that arrive with all new rubber, is an ideal means of giving them a rude awakening.
and once again, the island's endemic climate offers the ideal testing ground for that which purports to fend off the elements. for not only is it possible to experience rain that would have given noah cause for concern, but no nook and cranny is safe from an atlantic gale. i have no doubt that any provider of garmentage worth their sea salt has already scared their apparel within millimetres of its taped seams, but it never does any harm to offer a hebridean fright just to make sure.
and that, charlie brown, is how the reviewing thing works.
except, of course, when the conversation turns to helmets. though i'm more than amenable to finding the cornering limits of a cyclocross bicycle and yours truly, i'd be less than inclined to tip myself over the handlebars in order to report on the protective parameters contained within the warranty leaflet. for should the manufacturer have been fibbing ever so slightly, the ability to speak and/or write may well have been subject to substantial deterioration. so unlike most of the stuff that passes through washingmachinepost croft, a helmet has to bear comparison with that of an insurance policy; you live in hope that you'll never need it.
yet it turns out that though we've accepted those terms and conditions as every bit as valid as the paragraphs in the average home insurance policy, there may have been a minor glitch in the firmament. while hitting the ground head-first is never going to end particularly well, it appears that historically our helmets may have lulled us into something of a false sense of security.
getting marginally technical at this stage, it appears that the majority of real-world impacts impress both linear and rotational forces upon the human head. such a combination of forces is the most common cause of brain injuries as a result of falling off, or over, your bicycle. as you would expect, the helmet industry, once aware of the above, took steps to remedy the situation, resulting in what is acronymically known as mips, or, in our language multi-directional impact protection system.
simply put, a mips equipped helmet consists of three separate constituents: the outer polystyrene shell, an inner, low-friction liner and an elastomer interface between the two. in practice, this allows the inner liner to rotate independently of the outer shell, reducing the severity of the rotational forces incurred by a crashing head and reducing the likelihood of concomitant brain injury. but once again, short of throwing myself over the handlebars on a grassy descent, we'll have to take their scientifically tested word for it.
not every helmet on the market (yet) features this advanced form of head protection, but one of those that does is giro's well-respected synthe on which rapha's first foray into the helmet market is based. the collaboration between the two is nothing particularly new; rapha's current shoe range was also developed with giro's footwear department and their chief of design, alex valdman previously worked for giro's parent company.
though imperial works may have a very big handle on cycle garment design, as a far as i know, there are no boffins beavering away in a darkened corner, fashioning mips equipped helmets from sportwool and egyptian cotton. therefore, the rapha helmet is an exercise in minimal design couture applied to giro’s expertise in the field of head protection. not surprisingly, the giro logo is (mostly) missing in action, replaced by the rapha script logo atop the outer shell, while two of the topmost vents have received textured, vented inserts.
other than that, all remains as it once was. the helmet features easily adjustable straps and the dial-in roc-loc system at the rear. the review model was classic shiny black, though without any sign of a contrasting pink, even on the straps. the weight is an almost invisible 254 grammes and the fit has already convinced me on one occasion that i'd left home without it.
yes, i did fall off once, but at a rather low velocity and onto thick, soft grass. i figure the only rotational forces on display were demonstrated by the front wheel and a left foot that failed to rotate free from its pedal. there is no shame to wish for unhindered sartorial co-ordination on the bike. we already have rapha jerseys, jackets, caps, gloves, socks, bibs and shoes; a helmet was the obvious gap in the imperial works firmament, one that has now been more than adequately plugged.
the rapha helmet is available in black, white or chartreuse in small, medium and large, at a cost of £230. there is also a light grey/white version available to rapha cycle club members.
tuesday 27 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................