it has been pointed out, quite probably by me, that a shopping trip to glasgow involves a susbtantial amount of walking, more often than not accompanied by several metric tonnes of carrier bags. such a trip, carried out at periodic intervals across the year, is seen by many as one of the fringe benefits of living on an hebridean island that shares the city's latitude but few of its iniquities. though island life is mostly rather idyliic, it cannot be denied that there a few opportunities for retail therapy especially on the physical level.
the ironic part of such a shopping trip is not lost on me; there are hordes upon hordes of island shoppers who would scarcely walk the length of themselves while domiciled in their own village, yet will uncomplainingly traipse from marks and spencers in sauchiehall street, down the full length of buchanan street before turning left and perusing the delights of argyle street. much of this will be traversed uncomplainingly, and if mrs washingmachinepost is representative of the majority, this will take place more than once.
though glasgow hosts an apparently increasing cycle population, reflected in the recent opening of a large branch of evans and the smaller niche occupied by pronto gara, both sauchiehall and buchanan streets are pedestrianised, as well as a goodly portion of argyle street. though all three may be legally ridden by the city's cyclists, i've not come across too many so doing. but the recent revamp of buchanan street has meant that describing the trip referred to above seems psychologically less onerous than the same distance on islay. surrounded by other pedestrians doing exactly the same things while bordered by tall buildings would make lengthy trips by either bicycle or on foot seem strangely shorter.
and perhaps that explains a lot.
but no matter the length or perceived need of travel in city centres or wide-open spaces, at least two of which i can see from my sitting room window, commuting or travel of another sort, place their own strictures on either the sartorially aware or those subject to the office diktat. both are incorporated into what rapha's simon mottram described as the 15:1 ratio. the average uk cycle commute occupies one hour of the day, but there are another fifteen hours to fill between working and home life. it makes perfect sense, therefore, that any clothing designed for those inhabiting those specific sixteen hours, really ought to be fit for purpose.
many uk workplaces are bereft of appropriate showers and/or changing rooms for the minority cycle commuter, meaning the clothing employed for the bike ride to work has often a need to fulfil a dual purpose. and if you're one of those executives who may have need of popping out to visit clients or have them visit you, to quote from a head & shoulders advertisement 'you never get a second chance to make a first impression.' therefore, dressing for the day in a fluorescent yellow jacket and an inappropriately worded cotton t-shirt may not be the best choice behind a mahogany desk and the ubiquitous dell monitor.
rapha's lapelled jacket is certainly not the item of apparel you would have been likely to find me wearing of an average day. i have, since art school days, cultivated an appealing designer scruff (appealing to me, that is). the very thought of donning a tailored respectable jacket with a breast pocket and lapels is not one that would voluntarily spring to mind; but the life of a cycling reviewer is of varied merit. one takes the rough with the smooth. so despite many misgivings and harboured thoughts of appearing as a fish out of water, i dressed not only in this olive rapha jacket, but paired it with their latest purple hued short sleeve merino polo shirt. i'd to temporarily resign my membership of the designer scruff association.
the odd part of this, given my fifty plus years of dishevelment, was that i rather liked it. in fact, coinciding with an improvement in the hebridean weather, i have worn the jacket every single day since, accompanied with a matching smile. it fits very well indeed, has a plethora of pockets and looks every bit as good with the two buttons fastened as in its open, devil-may-care mode. though my colour sense would scarcely have matched a strong purple with dark olive, in practice, they match impeccably. and leaving open a couple of collar buttons on the shirt keeps a smidgeon of that less than formal persona i'm hoping i still inhabit.
but, take a second look at this feature's title, and you'll note that both these items are offered as a part of rapha's city riding range, meaning that walking to and from work dressed thus is hardly the ultimate method of review. so i cycled.
as i have mentioned on previous occasions, i am a black belt in photoshop, a fact that now and again demands that i travel far from my front door to educate the masses. courtesy of malcolm glass at glasgow's pronto gara, i have an italian built taurus corinto to use as my commuting vehicle, its mudguards, rear rack and enclosed chain offering the ideal conditions for dressing smart but casual. i prefer not to adopt a lycra pose on such occasions, especially now that rapha have offered such desirable alternatives.
the lapel jacket features a breast pocket, two lower pockets for loose change (coffee and a newspaper), three internal pockets, one of which is vertically zipped and a buttoned other. it also caters to the idiosyncratic needs of the contemporary cyclist by means of an external zipped pocket at rear bottom right. leading off from the lefmost internal pocket are bright yellow loops through which an ipod headphone cable might thread. it's a colour repeated 'neath the rear of the collar; turn the latter upwards in a effort to appear cool and following vehicles are alerted to your presence.
though those two front buttons keep the jacket partially closed for pedalling even into a galeforce headwind, i can't help feeling that a topmost fastening would help close out the elements more satisfactorily when the occasion demands. the sleeves are more than adequately sized to remain at wrist length when grasping the swept back handlebars of the taurus with leather town glove clothed fingers. though i'd be fibbing if i said there was no flappage at all, in fact the heft and stretch of the material and its impeccable lining kept it to a minimum, even in the face of that galeforce wind (one that had steadily increased as the day continued).
i cannot deny that i wore a long-sleeved baselayer under the merino polo shirt's short sleeves when riding. for breezy winds and cloudy skies frequently mis-advertise their ambience; i need not have gone to such lengths, as the polo is warmer than its thickness belies, while the jacket's windproofing had not been taken into account at all. those three top buttons not only allow for an adjustment of sartorial elegance, but also for temperature regulation. if this combination works this well in the great outdoors, a similar distance in the city centre or urban habitat will undoubtedly be accomplished with ease.
perhaps the finest recommendation that this attire garnered during my photoshop trip took place in debbie's cafe. sat on the dark red chesterfield in the corner, toastie and froth in hand, i was asked by an acquaintance "are you not cycling today then?" that's a phrase i have not heard in many a long year. add to that the fact that the girls in the office have made more than occasional mention of what they view as a marked improvement in my dress sense, i think rapha may well be onto something here.
when i commenced this review, i honestly thought the end couldn't arrive soon enough. it immediately breached my comfort zone, and though i count myself firmly in the polo shirt class, a smart jacket would have been the very last item on my list.
that list appears to have been turned on its head.
rapha's lapelled jacket is available in dark olive (reviewed) or dark navy in sizes ranging from xs to xxl (medium size reviewed). price is £300. the city riding merino s/s polo shirt is available in blue or purple (reviewed) and in sizes xs to xxl (medium reviewed. price is £110.
sunday 27 april 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................