prestwick airport was an odd sort place in the 1980s. nobody really wanted to fly to prestwick (about 30 miles southwest of glasgow); generally speaking transatlantic passengers were more likely to be heading towards glasgow or edinburgh. this was the principal reason behind classifying the airport as glasgow prestwick. government diktat of the age determined that all transatlantic passenger and cargo traffic departed from and arrived at prestwick airport, while the real glasgow airport served uk internal flights and those to mainland europe.
that's all changed nowadays.
with the bulk of the flights westward in the direction of north america, aside from the year-round british airways scheduled services, much of the passenger traffic was centred around the holiday trade, leading to quite a substantial difference between winter schedules and those of the summer timetable. my employer of the time produced all those lovely plastic meals in plastic trays to take your mind off the lengthy flight times. between the end of october and easter, we catered to an average of two or three flights per day, but over the summer season that could increase to well over ten or twelve flights per day.
that might not seem like an overly onerous day's work, but with the majority of those aeroplanes containing around 310 passengers, that's a lot of people in a relatively short space of time. the trouble here was finishing a sunday in late april with only two flights and walking in on monday morning to ten. after a week or so, you didn't notice so much, but those first five days were something of a shock to the system. and that's sort of how islay's autumnal climate has hit over this past weekend.
summer has been long, mild, dry (bruichladdich distillery ran out of water two weeks ago) and relatively wind free. i can scarcely remember the last september that i made all the way to the end still wearing bibshorts. in fact, my autumnal apprehension led to more than just a single recent ride in bib three-quarters, just because old habits die hard. but a friday morning that saw the first two ferries of the day diverted to port askaig at the north of the island, brought back the muscle memory that adores a galeforce headwind.
you see, port ellen in the south, our regular morning ferry port requires the boat to turn a corner as it heads in towards the pier. at this point, it is placed side on to the prevailing west or south westerly wind, making navigation a tad more awkward than it need be. port askaig is a lot more sheltered and without a curve prior to docking. it's the same reason why the arran ferry is disrupted more often than the islay ferry; their entire route is at right angles to the prevailing wind.
however, a weekend that presented those winds we all know and love along with a ten degree drop in ambient temperature, peppered with a soupcon of heavy hail showers (yes, really) means that those bibshorts will be stowed away until late may in 2015. in previous years they would not necessarily have suffered the humiliation of a winter of hibernation, for rapha's bibtights were designed to be worn over your favourite pair of bibshorts. in other words, they had no internal comfy bit. this has been the case for as long as rapha have been offering bibtights; since 2005, come to that.
however, in a subtle launch that really ought to have hit with the same effect as apple making a watch, for autumn/winter 2014, rapha have introduced a pair of winter tights to their pro team range, but this time with a cytech pad that makes those bibshorts redundant for the rest of the winter. if you've been fortunate enough to ride wearing a pair of rapha pro team bibshorts, you're in for an even bigger treat with a pair of these winter tights. to minimise the rhetoric, these are quite simply fabulous.
i have made mention previously that i figure it incumbent on any well-fitting pair of bibshorts that they ought to be less than easy to pull on. if shorts are too easy to wear, there's probably too much leeway for movement in the saddle. the same goes for bibtights (with or without a pad). but to add to this qualification, a good pair of bibtights ought also to be damn hard to remove. for many of the insulation properties accompanying winter tights can really only carry out their job properly if decidedly close fitting. rapha's pro team winter tights tick both boxes with aplomb.
the fit of the size small pair reviewed was well nigh impeccable. inhabiting made to measure territory.
they are also possessed of a high waist that keeps the chill off, and a rear panel that stretches from the lower back all the way to the neck. but they'll still accommodate a call of nature without embarrassing contortions. the bib straps are of a light mesh; i wore them under a team sky climber's jersey (with pro team jacket on top) without revealing red weals across my shoulders when ready to clamber into the shower. and over a merino baselayer, they stayed resolutely in place all day. the pad is identical to that in the pro team bibshorts and is all but invisible in use, still the best compliment that can be paid to this essential comfy bit.
externally, the windproofed front panels have been treated with dwr (durable water treatment), meaning that showers of rain are mostly shrugged off with ease. the tights are not waterproof, as very few are, but the breathable fabric used for the rear panels minimises any tendency to trap perspiration. even in cold weather, that's a boon on lengthy stretches with a tailwind. unlike rapha's other bibtights, these feature no footloops, but their grip on the ankles, whether over or under a pair of socks has made such accoutrements totally redundant; the material never rode up even a millimetre even under hard riding (still not used to those headwinds yet) and their overall comfort factor was little short of marvellous.
the inside front insulation resembles nothing more than a fine corduroy, making an intriguing pattern on your shins when removed. the internal rear panelling looks similar to roubaix thermal insulation.
with a forcats de la route tab on one of the seams, it's no surprise that the lower calves feature the white panelling associated with the rest of the pro team range. the left leg has a prominent, white sans serif rapha logo, while the right leg has similar but in clear gloss. your backside also advises the following peloton that these are a rapha product, but seemingly only if wearing the shorter cut team pro jacket or jerseys. i wore them with a rapha winter jersey for a couple of days and the drop tail obscured those bright white letters. in keeping with the professional connotations implied by the words pro and team, there's a label on the rear bib on which to write your name. it means after the soigneur (mrs washingmachinepost) has laundered the day's kit, i'll definitely get my own stuff back.
easily amongst the very best on the market today.
rapha's pro team winter bib tights with pad are available in black only and in sizes xs all the way up to xxl. they can be purchased from their website or selected retailers for £200
monday 6 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................