leaves are dastardly little blighters. oh, their everybody's best friend when still attached to a tree, employing clorophyll to suck up all the sun we never get, building forests and woods to attract the weekend walkers and, in this case, weekend cyclocross amateurs. but reach the aptly american named fall, or autumn, and their stamina leaves them wanting, they succumb to the inevitability of gravity and form a picturesque carpet on the floor. except picturesque is simply a romantic notion spread by the same photographers who think a sunset makes for a decent picture.
any kind of sunset.
for the unwary, however, and in this particular case that means yours truly, they have a hidden agenda. and that's not the only thing that is hidden. turn off the track in bridgend woods that leads from whin park to islay house, and the unwary had better beware. mountains, or rivers of precipitation make for regions of mush, normally visible to the observant, allowing for navigational discretion; ride through the mud, or ride not through the mud.
those leaves however, in all sorts of attractive shades of gold, red and brown, form a thick carpet under overhanging branches and doubling the uncertainty of passage. for while i am dodging from left, right and overhead, the front continental tyre is doing its manful best to continue on as straight a trajectory as momentum will allow. excitement for sure, but randomly arranged until the main pathway to and from the big house is reached. at staging points along the way, i have continued my verisimilitude of a 'cross rider by attempting dramatic remounts.
you know just what you can do with your heatwave. it may well be that cleethorpes was as warm as havana, and central london breaching similar mercury rising as in remote points of the gobi desert; the hebrides are neither. yes indeed, it was milder on the rock this past week than one would normally expect at this time of year, but an intended ride on friday afternoon had to be forgotten due to an abundance of torrential rain. not sure if it was warm rain.
discrimination may be too strong a word, but it seems that the media and meteorologists are concerned only with the weather as far north as watford. those delectable ladies standing in front of an animated map of the uk are always keen to accentuate afternoons in shirt sleeves and summer dresses in hyde park, while glossing over the downpour simultaneously obscuring much of the west coast of scotland. we're tough. we don't care. we're the flandrians of the west.
the only real subject of concern today therefore, was that of appropriate dress. it's one thing for rapha's lookbook to show images of jeremy powers leaping tall buildings in a single bound, while wearing a demonstrably attractive short sleeved rapha 'cross jersey, quite another to attempt likewise on the outer edge. mr powers undoubtedly has the stamina and power to shrug off any drop in the ambient temperature. hebrideans are, in this sense, considerably less fortunate. i however, have those television adverts for week by week scale models of the titanic to be thankful for.
it may only be a phenomenon that afflicts the united kingdom, but intermittently the ad breaks on telly invite us to pay only &1.99 for part one of a 452 week series (parts 2 - 452 retail at £5.99) and week by week, our scale model of the most famous boat under the sea will begin to take shape. at those prices, the finished item will have taken just as long and cost almost as much as the real thing.
the same principal, spread over a far shorter period of time, bears comparison. rapha have almost unwittingly, provided us with cyclocross clothing that, over whatever duration, assembles into an entire co-ordinated candy-stripe pizzazz. the very latest pro-team 'cross jersey has longer than normal short sleeves, long enough for the professionals, but hardly geared towards the less than distinguished amateur. more leniently, the jersey is everything you'd want it to be; the fit is exemplary, with an elasticated, gloop-laden hem that does its job so well, taking it off provided reluctance in more than one sense.
the centre pocket has an internal elasticated loop to grasp a mini-pump, and the rightmost conceals a small zipped pocket; superb attention to detail, for where else is one's cappuccino money to reside? i do not know what rapha have done to their polyester, but it does not look or feel like polyester. i love my sportwool, but this is sublime. the zip is all but concealed and of exceptional length without reaching the hem of the jersey. the collar is low cut.
maybe it's just me, but i figured i'd layer, but without eschewing the candy. who'd have guessed that rapha's long-sleeve sportwool cross top could easily and comfortably be used as a jacket along with the new pro-team jersey? matched with the pro-team 'cross shorts, it's an ensemble to be proud of, and when the temperature drops even further, the team cap can be replaced with the 'cross winter hat, and the shorts with the bib-threequarters. it truly does not get better than this.
and it really works. spiritedly scrabbling around the woods, followed by my ubiquitous rumble along the dunes of uiskentuie, the combination of sportwool and pro-team showed versatility to be its middle name. too hot, and the sportwool can be stuffed in a back pocket; medium hot, and there are two zips to combine; cold, and both combine with gusto. i do not know if this is what perren street intended; if they didn't, then the idea is all mine and i claim the royalties when they satisfactorily point it out on the website.
i have made some slow inroads in the leaping aboard while moving forward scenario, not enough to trouble the more adept, but one has to start somewhere. the bum is meeting with the saddle in a sort of slow-motion dance, but i'd swear someone is moving those pedals. sadly, momentum is rarely conserved by the time my feet connect, but progress is being made.
at least i am impeccably dressed as i explore the undergrowth at close quarters.
rapha's pro-team cyclocross jersey is available in six sizes, from xs to xxl (medium reviewed) and retails at £120 ($170). the long-sleeve 'cross jersey in sportwool sells for £130 ($210) and the pro-team shorts at £155 ($220)
posted saturday 1 october 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................