i regard myself as a perfectly normal human being. i live in a nice house, i have a relatively fulfilling mode of employment, i get up every morning and have breakfast, and in the evening i have tea/dinner (delete as applicable). so far so good, and much the same as everybody else, but my obsession with bicycles apparently removes me from the norm and places me squarely in the category of slightly eccentric, aided and abetted by the fact that i do not own a motor car, and i don't particularly care for driving, though i do have a driver's licence (which, i confess, i haven't seen hide nor hair of for the better part of fifteen years). i daresay it is a feature of eccentricity that i don't figure such an appellation applies to me, but then, surely that goes for everyone? after all, if you think you're going mad, you probably aren't; mad people are not noted for their perspicacity as regards their state of mind.
i can, of course, muster a degree of sympathy with those who view me, and others of the larger peloton as being of an eccentric nature. stepping into debbie's most saturday afternoons, i'm relatively unlikely to meet anyone else supping their lattes and cappuccinos, dressed in lycra and sportwool and walking across the lino in a manner more befitting a duck. contrary to popular opinion, dressing in this way is not specifically to draw attention to myself, nor to reinforce the smug knowledge that my transportational means is one of choice rather than convention or enforced conformity. few people go swimming in jeans and a t-shirt, and i haven't noticed many of the local rugby club wearing slippers and smoking jackets; we wear the most appropriate clothing for the job at hand. shorts with a comfy pad, jerseys with back pockets and shoes with cleats make the act of cycling marginally less about pain and suffering.
however, in this way, i have taken cycling out of context, since my regular trips to debbie's or a mustering of kilometres into a headwind are generally by way of enjoyment, however eccentric that might make me appear. were the act of cycling, in my case, to have more affinity with the need to be somewhere on time, in order to carry out a task for which i had been employed, then clippy, cloppy shoes, lycra shorts and a contrasting hoop on the left sleeve may not be quite the attire that lets one blend in with the surroundings. i'm not denying that this could be the case, simply pointing out that it has its moments. it is, therefore, a great boon to be able to clothe oneself in fabrics and style that would not look out of place at the local chess club or community council meeting.
so today, matthew, i was the model of sartorial deference.
ok, so maybe i didn't manage the whole nine yards, but i managed close enough that the huddle of three at the neighbouring table merely glanced in my direction before continuing their hushed conversation. the white catlike helmet doubtless undid much of the heavy disguise; well, that and a pair of rudy projekts with yellow lenses, but in my mind no worse than a pair of driving gloves and a cashmere scarf. rapha's merino polo shirt arrives in black only, continuing the stealth persona by allowing the left sleeve hoop and logo to employ the very same colour. should it be necessary to advertise your cycleness in a crowded room, the lining inside the three button collar is pink gingham; necessary at present because there is no sun strong enough to create those little tanned patches on the back of the hand. to aid the notion of normality, i wore the polo under a rapha bomber jacket which, to all outward glances is normalness itself, though the orange lining does rather frighten the horses.
going back to an article of a week or so, you don't have to wear these clothes the way ben ingham has crafted them in the photos. yes, ben has insider information as to the psyche of the peloton, but he was in sardinia when he did so; this is islay in march: while the sky may well be blue, the mercury is not rising. therefore it does one's street cred no harm whatsoever to wear the short sleeves over a long-sleeve contrasting merino baselayer. coupled with a merino winter hat, this ensemble would likely garner a gig with chris 'daddy' dave. there would be no eyebrows raised if wayne shorter's speak no evil were playing on the ipod. however, cyclists are nothing if not traditionalists, and thus loathe to dispense with pockets at the back altogether. where else is the five pound note and the debbie card to go? rapha's merino polo has that well in hand, with a single rear pocket on the right.
in practice, clad in the above, and sporting a pair of fixed shorts and quoc pham leather shoes, the cycling experience is no less enervating for all that. sure, bertie the accountant is unlikely to swap his astana kit for the final parade into nice, but then he really is eccentric, and he hasn't been seen at debbie's for a week or so.
the rapha merino polo shirt retails at £90 ($125), is available in black only and in sizes from xs to xxl.
posted saturday 13 march 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................