there is something of a technical fallacy that appears not only in the original series of star trek (the one with william shatner and leonard nimoy), but in the subsequent star trek: the new generation. in fact, now that i think of it, the same inexplicability (i just made that word up) exists throughout the entire star wars franchise, though i may have to amend that claim when i finally get round to seeing the force awakens. we all suffer from deprived childhoods over here.
the oft-used command "shields up!" barked by any number of characters in any of the above, usually indicates an incoming barrage of photon torpedoes or phaser or blaster fire. these invisible shields have the capability of repelling the majority of incursions for at least a short period of time, before a science officer informs the captain that the "shields are down to 30%, captain...". that, in future science fiction terms, is the equivalent of announcing there may be something worth worrying about.
the glaring problem with all this is based on a question of individuality. for if it was possible in the orginal series of star trek to protect not only a starship with such a device, but those cute little shuttles mostly used to visit distant planets populated by peoples such as the vent-axians (think about it), surely technical progress could have made them smaller? therefore, instead of leaving themselves wide open to personal attack by such as the vent-axians, each member of a star fleet landing party could have access to a personal version. that would have meant captain picard, commander riker, han solo and luke skywalker could have attacked any empire stronghold they fancied without fear of personal harm?
meanwhile, back in the 21st century, force-fields are still the construct of science fiction; personal protection still resides with the wearing of a so-called stab-vests by many police forces and soldiers across the world. in a sense, those are a tad more believable, for i have always been concerned as to how the star trek/star wars force fields know what to keep out and what to let through. for instance, though they seem perfectly capable of repelling phaser fire, i'm pretty sure that any craft would get wet when it rains.
it's a problem that afflicts all of us with the temerity to venture out in weather that will immediately bestow rule nine certificates on the clubhouse wall. i know of many a so-called cyclist who will very rarely go cycling when it's raining. in fact, michael hutchinson attests to that very fact in the current issue of the comic. though it's a situation that is hard to avoid for pretty much anyone in the uk (or portland, for that matter), it affects some more than others.
what we need is cycle clothing with its own built-in force field, but one that has the ability to repel a swift or persistent dowsing of precipitation.
i have to admit that we're not quite there yet, but the recent release of rapha's shadow jersey and bibshorts goes quite some way towards the sort of thing i'm looking for. though you may already be tired of hearing it, bear with me while i explain further. the fabric used in both current items of the shadow range originally consists of nylon thread which is coated with a durable water repellency. it is then woven into lengths of fabric before being shrunk to achieve minute gaps between the threads, spaces that could not be achieved by regular fabric construction.
as if that were insufficient to offer an effective barrier to the elements, the fabric is then given a second coating of water repellency before rapha's italian producers create a rather stylish jersey and bibshorts.
the shadow material is very unlike anything you've met before, though i can perhaps think of a singular exception to that statement. as with pretty much all rapha's pro-team range, the fit is not only impeccable, but remarkably close to being sprayed-on. if you have lumps and bumps you'd prefer to keep to yourself, either move up a size, or stick to sportwool. though you really do have to question the logic of releasing a short sleeve jersey in the first week of january, in mitigation, the sleeves are neither short nor long, reaching just past my elbow joint.
in the light of the above, i have come to choose my armwarmers carefully. a pair of rapha softshell warmers offered a smidgeon of discomfort at the inner arm joint, while the original black and white version was just ginger peachy. the bibshorts share the bib portion with rapha's thermal bibshorts, while the shorts themselves offer the same very close fit of the jersey, but a level of comfort that goes a long way towards justifying the rather thigh watering price tag.
the jersey features a full-length front zip as well as the usual complement of three rear pockets, each of which is augmented by an eyeletted hole at the bottom to allow the water to exit. it's the sort of feature that i often think is added more to reinforce our waterproofing expectations than for any real practical purpose. i may, however, have cause to rescind that opinion.
however, despite all my technical and fit-specific meanderings, what you all really want to know is: does it work in the rain?
on almost every occasion i have had the opportunity to ride an electronic gear equipped bicycle, the slick way in which the front mech shifts from the inner to outer ring has become my mojo. i could ride for endless kilometres staring down at that front mech; the sort of behaviour that crashes you into parked cars with alarming frequency. however, that mojo has now been replaced by dint of the shadow kit. to watch heavy rain simply pour off the front of the jersey and the shorts is a marvel to behold, made all the more dramatic by the fabric's deep black cover.
many of my initial forays into the hebridean hinterland, clad in shadow from neck to knee were, of necessity, carried out under cover. both the pro-team softshell and rapha's hardshell were pressed into service, for let's not be shy; it's far too ruddy cold to be riding around in a short sleeve jersey, albeit with armwarmers, in the freezing rain. the bibshorts were paired with a pair of rapha's thermal legwarmers and it is probably the shorts that fare less well out of the two when confronted with persistent, driving precipitation. while the jersey features a liberal peppering of internally sealed seams, that's a less than practical concept when it comes to shorts.
so i cannot but admit that there was some water infiltration around the nether regions, most likely through the sewing that keeps the pad in place. this was, however, considerably less than was the case in a pair of rapha's regular thermal bibshorts (i did a thoroughly unscientific comparison) and even after an hour in the rain, the exterior of the shorts was mostly dry to the touch. no mean feat in itself.
the jacket, however, was something of a marvel to behold. i should state that, when ridden under cover of the pro-team softshell for a few hours, even when the latter eventually soaked through, the jersey remained completely dry. when i did pluck up the courage to ride for about twenty-five minutes, al fresco (with no outer jacket), the water just rolled off. on return, the underlying baselayer was totally dry.
even though those 25 minutes were highly impressive, i'd be particularly keen to ride for much longer in driving rain to find out just how good the shadow jersey might be. but no matter how badass i become, how much character i build, nor how often i use the #braverthantheelements hashtags i use on twitter, it's still too flipping cold to ride without a waterproof or thermal jacket. impressive windproofing, however.
though the fabric is apparently not equitable to dye-sublimation, it has already been put to good use during last season by both team sky and team wiggins. admittedly, they don't have to pay for theirs and there is little doubt that a combined price of £480 is a lot more than some 'ordinary' folks would think of spending on a bicycle, let alone jersey and shorts. the cutting edge in any walk of life is always going to be more expensive for the early adopters; new technology rarely comes cheap. however, as i have often been at pains to point out, if this is what you want, that's what it costs; moanng about it won't bring the price down.
and as far as i can see, it does precisely what it said on the attractive black box in which my shadow jersey and shorts arrived.
rapha's shadow pro-team jersey is available in sizes from xs to xxl at a cost of £220. the shadow bibshorts are also available in xs to xxl at a price of £260.
tuesday 19 january 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................