i don't do much of my city riding at gartbreck. at one time a working farm, most recently it has been purchased by a frenchman intent on providing the island with yet another malt whisky distillery, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale than the likes of bunnahabhain. currently, the farmhouse is empty and the surrounding land is a tad derelict, viewed only by a herd of woolly cattle and the inevitable sheep.
the building and modest grounds are only a few metres from the waters of loch indaal and around one kilometre from the nearest dwelling house at aldarach, yet again a former farmhouse now modernised for contemporary living. the village of bowmore is nigh on five kilometres distant, reached via a single track road and one or two cattle grids. even on a bright, sunny day, it's perhaps not the most idyllic of bike rides; once past the council recycling centre, the road degenerates into a surface suitable in the main, for 'cross bikes and those springy farm gates that i'm always on about.
what the road to gartbreck does offer, even on a sunny easter friday morning, is a bracing breeze, simmering ever so close to freezing point and more than adept at seeking out gaps in one's armour. bright sunshine and a view to die for notwithstanding, there's always the likelihood of at least a couple of shivers along the way. unless, of course, you partake of your city riding clad with sartorial elegance in rapha's latest addition to the city riding range, the wool wind jacket.
apparently constructed from japanese wool, its incredible lightness of being would have had me believe that my easter friday perambulation to the great city of gartbreck might be one of folly. it is quite hard to believe that wool of this thinness could fend off perhaps not the worst that a cold atlantic front can manage, but a ruddy cold wind nonetheless. of course, in truth, it's not only the wool that fends off the breeze. the jacket is well lined, the front portion of which conceals a synthetic windproofing panel.
the latter works immaculately. with the full-length zip closed to the neck and the collar pulled up, there is a concealed tab that keeps the latter in defence mode. the wind remains satisfyingly on the outside, while a comforting warmth remains within the wool exterior. the only downside to this arrangement is the incredible faff that all but prevents fastening of that concealed tab. it features a small hole at one end designed to pop over a small stud normally concealed 'neath that collar.
try doing so without a mirror.
the sizing has been well thought out, in my opinion, given that many of us are given to wearing thick merino faema embroidered jerseys over a rapha poloshirt. even in the face of such bulk (if you see what i mean?), cycling along the shores of loch indaal was a delight. the sleeves, which initially appeared a smidgeon on the short side, comfortably reached all the way to the cuffs, brushing the handlebars with aplomb. and the shoulder articulation made hand signals and faffing about with the brooks brick lane panniers mid-flight, as simple as they probably ought to be.
having described the cunning with which the wool jacket keeps the wind and cold at bay up top, it behoves me to point out that the lower portions are catered for by means of a cinch cord along the hem while a mesh panel on the back reduces the chances of steaming up inside.
but surely the finest aspect of this stylish wind jacket is how closely it rides to haute couture. there really is now no justifiable reason to dress in fluorescent yellow, pudding bowl lid and the scarf that auntie margaret gave you for your last birthday. a spacious, zipped internal pocket is carefully hidden inside on the left, while there are two zipped front hand pockets, ideal for feigning insouciance as you attempt to remember the combination for the bike lock. granted, its waterproofing abilities are close to non-existent, but in essence, that's what the rapha pack jacket is for.
if it survived my form of city riding, it ought to be a doozy for the real thing. (i'd like to point out that, while taking photos to accompany this review, i had an entire flock of sheep as an audience.)
rapha's wool wind jacket is available in navy blue and in sizes xs to xxl. the retail price is £250 because high fashion coupled with velocipedinal pragmatism costs.
saturday 26 march 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................