it can surely be no real secret by now that one of my many cycling weaknesses, apart from not being able to descend very well, and the forlorn hope that i could ever leap aboard a bike with the skill of sven nys, is a decent long-sleeve jersey. bizarrely enough this has less to do with any inclement weather, and more to do with a misinformed sense of security. of course, it is more than acceptable during colder summer days and early autumn to complement those short sleeves with a pair of suitable armwarmers, a combination that is socially and sartorially acceptable at least within cycling circles, but you really can't beat a good long-sleeve jersey to maintain that credibility and integrity. the fact that it's also warm and cosy is purely an advantageous fringe benefit.
there can be very few cycle clothing manufacturers who do not offer at least one long-sleeve in their autumn/winter collections, preferably with at least a thin coating of some form of fleecy lining from shoulder to cuff, but i find it hard to beat a jersey fashioned from sportwool, and even harder to beat one that has a pleasing degree of subtlety in the colouring; in this case, autumnal would be a more than adequate description. the jersey under review is in a wintry grey with a contrasting white hoop on the left sleeve, but you can also choose from a rustic shade of red, and a woody brown.
as mentioned when reviewing previous incarnations of this garment, i have had call to commend the length of the sleeves in relation to the statutory cycling position; many's a jersey has sleeves that don't quite reach the wrists, leaving a chilly gap twixt cuff and mitt. and the wicking properties of sportwool, oft under-rated, are felt to their best in this jersey. i've worn it under a rainjacket in mild(ish) conditions and under a softshell in cold, wet and windy weather, and i have never approached the extent where a sauna would have been the drier option.it does, however, have its saving graces as far as ventialion is concerned: the rapha monogrammed zip is full length, always an improvement on the usual quarter version, and the hem is threaded with an elasticated cord that can have the jersey hanging loose, or as a waist tourniquet. luggage is well catered for through the regulation three rear pockets, the outer two scalloped to allow for easier access when on the bike, and as is almost always the case with rapha jerseys, there's a zipped fourth pocket flying outboard of the right rear.
while the collar is of a decent height to ward off cold drafts, replete with the customary foldover to prevent the zip from removing skin if pulled up tight, rapha have provided a cosy accessory in the form of their merino winter collar, to make doubly sure that any internal heat remains, and external nippiness is kept at bay. last year's version was in henry ford black, but this year the colour range has doubled, with the addition of red. this is a colour that has pervaded most of rapha's 2010 autumn/winter range, panels of the colour appearing on the cross jersey and bib threequarters, the new winter tights, and as another alternative to black in the classic softshell.
the merino collar is shaped to fit well under an outer garment or under such as the long-sleeve jersey, matching well with rapha's merino baselayer. it's an incredibly versatile item, lending itself to being pulled well up under the chin and ears to maintain or enhance warmth, but thin enough to squish to a minimum in the heat of a cappuccino. the merino wool is alloyed with a small quantity of spandex to make it highly amenable to stretching where needed. perhaps the addition of some sort of rear fastening would improve this versatility, allowing removal while helmeted and eyes shaded, but i fear this would seriously interfere with its softness and lack of bulk, so i'm happy to live with the design that has seen out the last year, and now promises to do likewise into 2010.
rapha's long-sleeve jersey is available in sizes ranging from x-small up to xx-large, in red, grey or brown for 130 of your pound notes ($210). the merino winter collar is of the one size fits all ilk, in black or red and retails at £25 ($40). winter is not too far removed, and it would serve well to gather reinforcements for the cooler rides ahead, while still maintaining that accustomed measure of style.
posted monday 12 october 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................