when i was barely knee-high to a grasshopper, my ambitions in life could be summed up by the sight of my matchbox cement lorry. and not just any cement lorry; a blue circle cement lorry. and when i grew up, i was going to drive one of these. of course, it was pretty much a regular flatbed truck filled with cement bags, possibly even one that, on tuesdays, wednesdays and thursdays, delivered something entirely different. since it's a long, long time since i inhabited the airspace of a cricket, i really can't remember.
though i do not recall any of my pre-school friends harbouring thoughts of career paths that involved space rockets, steam engines or fire tenders, it seems wholly ironic that despite carrying a current driver's licence in my wallet, i prefer not to drive anything at all, let alone a vehicle that would necessitate gaining a heavy goods vehicle licence. however, the fact that childhood career aspirations rarely match with those we ultimately end up inhabiting is scarcely a surprising or acute observation. after all, i'm pretty sure that in my tender years of yesteryear, i scarcely even knew what cement was, let alone that truck driving might not be my ideal metiér.
it would be to unnecessarily obfuscate matters were i to imply that subsequent years brought a hankering after a professional cycling career. though mrs washingmachinepost kindly bought me a ten-speed racer in my early twenties, at that point, i still hadn't grasped hold of the fact that fitter folks than i took part in competitions, success in which might possibly lead to higher-grade pelotonic activity. and believe me, it was all too plainly advertised by the numbered individuals hammering along the by-pass early on the occasional sunday morn.
a bit like discovering that attending music class at school could conceivably result in academic qualifications, by the time i realised that cycle sport existed at club level, i was too old and altogether too far away to make use of such information.
in point of fact, i'm pretty darned sure that a professional cycling career would have been well beyond my meagre abilities. had the peloton beckoned, i've a feeling that it would more likely have involved replacing cassette sprockets, glueing tubulars and washing dirty bikes post roubaix. that, or standing at the roadside holding several team-emblazoned musettes.
there's no denying that watching sagan, van avermaet, boonen and the other guys in the band cope with rough and ready sections of cobbles is inspirational. subsequently comparing the unkempt surface of the abattoirenberg forest with the carrefour l'arbre may be a tad idealistic, but the geographically estranged have to make do with whatever is on their doorstep. and interspersing a mere 90 kilometres with a double-egg roll and a soya cappuccino at debbie's is not something often seen at the tour of lombardy.
fortunately, a signed world tour contract is not a pre-requisite for those wishing to experience the simple luxuries of life as a professional. many a bicycle manufacturer is more than keen to provide the great unwashed with the same weapons grade carbon as ridden by their heroes. and it has become common practice for the professionals to be clad in precisely the same apparel as available to you and i, though with perhaps a smidgeon fewer logos. such is almost definitely the case with rapha's tautologically named pro team range.
with renewed vigour, imperial works have upgraded pretty much their entire set of bibshorts, from the recently reviewed second edition of the much-favoured classic bibs and encompassing not only the women's bibshorts, to the brevet bibs and version two of their pro team bibshorts. though it might seem a bit adventurous to figure that the originals could have been noticeably improved, practical experience would have me believe otherwise.
i have long contended that a quality pair of shorts, assuming the correct size has been chosen, ought to be just a wee bit of struggle to pull on. opting for the size small of the all-black pro team bibshorts, these imparted an aura of professionalism from the back garden start line. the shorts can be purchased with black, pink, chartreuse, teal or white bibs, matching the shiny rapha lettering on the legs with the same colour. the hem, if that remains an adequate description, is several inches deep and offers the ultimate grip without irritation (assuming you shave your legs of course). to accommodate those longer of thigh, each size is available in regular or long leg. but as with any pair of bibshorts, the focus necessarily descends upon the pad.
eschewing the previous practice of utilising the same size and thickness across the range, rapha now vary both depending on the size ordered, providing an improved and tangibly superior fit. over an initial 150 kilometres, i can but concur with the copywriters. in fact, despite being exposed to inordinately mild march weather for the hebrides, interspersed with the sort of rain that we're more used to, the performance of the pro team bibs was pretty much immaculate (which is more than could be said of their wearer).
it is not, however, merely the pad that has been upgraded, with the bibs and matched mesh section having been given the once or twice over to provide a greater degree of stretch without creating undesirable pressure points. the styling also gives greater support, something that nowadays is probably referred to as compression. during my strenuously inaccurate peter sagan impersonations over the more obscure parts of the island, these were most impressive bedfellows, yet oddly enough, despite feeling slightly under the weather at one point, a triumphant return to the croft was accompanied by my highest average speed of the year.
that couldn't possibly have been entirely down to me, so i believe that the new pro-team bibshorts and i have cemented a fine, new relationship.
the second edition of rapha's pro-team bibshorts are available in sizes ranging from xs to xxl in both regular and long leg, with bibs in chartreuse, pink, white, teal or black. price is £195.
tuesday 14 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................