i'm somewhat confused over the current nomenclature for what we are informed is climate change. the fact that i have had no need as yet, to store the winter clothing till later that same year, is not only something of a disappointment, but on occasion, also a hindrance. check the press releases and you will find all this arriving under the auspices of global warming, yet you and i know that it seems to be getting colder.
how can we have any confidence that the arctic ice cap is melting at a rate hitherto unseen when i'm still wearing armwarmers under my pro-team jacket? this is now june; midway through the year and only a matter of weeks away from midsummer's day (which, by some quirk of fate, is only a day or two after the official onset of the summer season); it ought to be warmer, and at one time it was. but now, i'm sure we're all agreed, it isn't.
two years ago, during the islay whisky festival (this year's edition has only just come to an end), i took the ferry across to our neighbouring island of jura, and cycled the 14km to craighouse in order to get in the way of the open day tours to acquire photos for our local newspaper. despite being back at the ferry slipway well in advance of the point at which the crew told me i might not gain my return to home, i'd to sit in the waiting room for over four hours while gale force winds and excessively strong tides prevented the ferry from making a landing at jura. i admit that, at the time, i was trying to think of who i knew on the isle that might offer me a bed for the night.
the winds stripped the few trees on islay of most of their leaves and burned those remaining. the island's foliage in june looked more akin to that we'd expect in autumn. the following new year, we were hit by hurricane force winds that removed three tiles from our roof and broke the windspeed indicator at 120mph on orsay lighthouse. then this year, 85mph chucked another tile into the back garden. i need not mention, i believe, that much of this was accompanied by torrential rain.
yet they call it global warming.
fortunately, we are continually well-equipped to fend for ourselves in the midst of all this. for fend for ourselves is exactly what we must do, otherwise we may as well take up dominoes or chess. in many cases, the current strain of cycling apparel, while technically up to the taks demanded of it, is showing tendencies of aligning itself with the realms of fashion, in the very manner of the racks seen in most department stores and couturiers. this truly ought to be an almost unremarkable situation.
attend any of the myriad cycle shows now inhabiting each year, and fashion is everywhere to be seen; and i don't mean clothing. though more than just a few of today's cycle manufacturers would have us believe that the oddly shaped carbon fibre with which we are plied has intrinsic purpose, much is mere smoke and mirrors. and each year sees a wholesale change in the manner of decor applied to said shiny carbon fibre, accompanied by not just a few changes in componentry.
fashion by another name.
just as technical breakthroughs depend on someone somewhere taking a chance on being different and not just for the sake of it, technical cycling apparel relies on a similar process. it would be naive to expect the world's cycle clothing designers to ignore the civilian world; should that have been the case, we'd all be clad in fluorescent yellow with distinguishing swoops and swirls purely for the sake of differentiation. and britain's clothing industry, such as it has survived, would be all but dormant if a larger proportion of garments were built in the far east.
rapha's decision to recruit chinese manufacture for much of their current range received a veritable barrage of exclamations as a simple and crass means of increasing their margins. in point of fact, the reasons were a tad more mundane; british manufacturers had offered commendable samples, yet fallen at the hurdle of supplying similar in the required quantity. china seemingly fared better in this respect.
however, brothers christopher and graeme raeburn, fashionistas to a man, heaped substantial praise on coopers and stollbrand of manchester. praise not only for the quality of the end-product personified by their recently released windjacket produced in conjunction with rapha, but for their admirable expertise in finding solutions to manufacturing problems that had to be achieved at point of production.
the windjacket is produced from military parachutes, a material with which christopher raeburn has previous experience, one that appears rather diaphanous but is stronger than it looks. and perhaps in the 'judging a book by its cover' stakes the jacket's looks are as important as the service they provide. the windjacket is available in three colour schemes, all of which are related to the colours in which the parachutes arrive. these are miltiaristically designed to offer those using them for their true purpose the opportunity to camouflage themselves or advertise their presence depending on which combination of green, white or orange is used.
principally, the rapha/raeburn range is aimed at the stylish commuter, not a mode of cycling i'm in the habit of assuming, though rather obviously, the features of the jacket would benefit cyclists of any particular hue. at the risk of coming across as stunningly boring (moi?) there are few better locations in which to test the windproofing of any particular garment; on a scale of one to ten, the jacket eased in for a maximum ten.
that diaphanous constituent when applied to the white version reviewed offers all and sundry the option to see the nature of the jersey worn underneath. though hardly commuting fare, i continued the rapha theme by wearing a rapha condor jlt pro-team jersey, advertising my wannabe race pedigree to a less than interested public. it's not waterproof in the manner that the race cape or hardshell are (no taped seams here), but it will fend off the occasional shower.
the front offers two zipped pockets to contain a set of keys, puncture repair kit or perchance a mobile phone. they are also of a size that would allow leaning against the bike rack, affecting a disinterested yet visible air. though i have an intrinsic dislike of hoods on any form of jacket, this is easily taken care of by a poppered loop at the collar allowing the hood to be rolled up out of harm's way. there's a nice high collar, as indeed there ought to be on a windjacket, along with the design feature of substantially sized reflective spots across the shoulders and continuing down the front of the sleeves. on this particular version, the rear of the sleeves are constituted of a particularly loud orange.
conveniently enough, the parachute material allows careful rolling up (or frenetic scrunching if faced with winds of a certain speed) when unrequired, for stuffing in a bag or rear pocket. additionally, one of those front pockets has a double-sided zip that allows it to pack inside itself (if that doesn't sound too much like an impossibility).
however, perhaps the most salient factor regarding the rapha raeburn windjacket is the impeccability of the construction. to place not too fine a point upon it, immaculate would not be too strong a word. all those words of praise heaped upon the abilities of coopers and stollbrand were not simple platitudes on behalf of rapha's marketing department. i have known graeme raeburn for many a year, and i'm well aware of his almost obsessive attention to detail and exemplary fit. as this can be considered the business card of the raeburn brothers, they have done themselves proud.
the fashion styling is not entirely to my taste, and it's likely that i will be not alone in this, but if all is not to stagnate, we need to be open to this form of visual experimentation. i'm 100% behind this form of development, the more the better. and though in a global market with its global warming, i think it matters less where any given item is manufactured, i think it's just as important that british manufacture be allowed to shine and show to best advantage.
british design, coupled with painstaking and skilled british manufacture ought to receive deserved plaudits. perhaps only the price tag will bring home to the many detractors of overseas production exactly why so many are offering their business to china. make no mistake, this is of supreme quality, and such quality must be paid for, particularly when applied to limited production such as this.
a round of applause.
at the time of review, the orange version has sold out, the green is available in only small and xs, and only the version reviewed has decent availability. the jacket is available in sizes xs to xxl at a retail price of £300.
monday 3rd june 2013