i have carefully observed the behavioural pattern of the modern-day individual, specifically with regard to their mobile phone habits. this takes on a different perspective from my point of view, because as i have reitertated to the point of boredom, i am one of only two people in the world who do not possess a mobile device, smart or otherwise. i am led to believe that the other is elton john, but since he never phones, i'm not able to confirm that assertion.
aside from perpetually checking their phones for reasons i can only surmise (are schoolkids really so important that they receive a constant stream of urgent messages throughout both day and night?), it's possible to notice the frequent checking that they still have the phone on their person. heaven forfend that home should have been left without a smartphone in a jacket or jeans pocket. the specialized prevail encourages a similar mode of enquiry. no doubt many of islay's motorists have held a quizzical look upon their faces, querying why it is i often ride these days, apparently patting myself on the top of my head?
i am not sending a subliminal and hitherto secret signal to others, but simply checking that i have indeed remembered to put the helmet on before departing home or debbie's. i have paid careful attention to where i leave it when supping froth; a misdirected sneeze could conceivably blow it clean across the room.
hebridean observations this far south most often concern either the island's birdlife or its distilleries. the sunday rides of recent time have been punctuated by barbour-jacket-clad visitors arranged neatly behind an array of telescopes and binoculars. no doubt a peloton of lycra-clothed cyclists looks every bit as odd to them as they do to us. this ornithological backdrop does, however, have a starting point and an endgame. the distilleries are of a more permanent fabric.
the disconnect affecting the amber nectar concerns its maturity. the marketing of pretty much each and every islay dram consists of the believability that it spends at least the first ten years of its life stored in wood casks in close proximity to the salt sea air of the atlantic. this construct reputedly makes it far more open to affectation of sea-borne tastes and aromas. i have read of more than one of islay's drams offering up seaweed as part of the incongruous nosing ceremonies indulged in by the majority of the liquid's aficionados.
in reality and to avoid islay's green hills being obliterated by concrete warehouses, much of the whisky is despatched in tankers to the mainland where it will spend the bulk of its maturing period in glasgow-based warehousing. the odd part of all this concerns the fact that those selfsame whisky geeks are perfectly aware of the situation, but simply choose to believe the official line promulgated by distillery led social media.
to a certain extent, the same can be said of helmet reviews. i do not contend that anyone's marketing department is attempting to pull the wool over our eyes, but from a reviewing point of view, we are probably all guilty of ignoring the ultimate point of wearing a helmet in the first place. while i can inform you as to the fit, comfort, colour, weight and several other helmet-related factors, though i'm more than willing to suffer for my art, that does not stretch to the possibility of self-inflicted concussion. for in no helmet review that i have ever read, has the reviewer deliberately thrown themselves over the handlebars to test the efficacy of the design and veracity of the safety sticker inside.
we must surely hope and trust that all the testing procedures that preceded the affixation of that sticker were as effective as we all hope they are. of course, narcissistic individuals that we generally are, to a greater or lesser degree, it is often the case that no matter the portended safety aspects, unless the helmet in question makes us look the way we'd like it to, it probably would be left at home.
the usual associated faff with any new helmet is the to-ing and fro-ing of the chin strap, attempting to create a tight yet comfortable fit, one that does not leave one side flapping in the wind while the other side cuts a deep channel in your cheek. specialized's fabulously bright matt orange prevail was subjected to no faffing whatsoever. it is rare that a helmet can be lifted from its box and fit perfectly first time, but this one did precisely that, allowing me to leave the specialized 's' precisely where it was meant to be: over the side adjusters.
it would also not be contentious to say that a helmet is worth less than a hairband if it refused to stay securely attached above the eyebrows at all times. not only is the buckle/clip simplicity itself to fasten and unfasten, but is very unlikely ever to become inadvertantly opened. the thin-ness of the helmet's matching orange straps makes them comfortable to the point of invisibility. it also arrives with a replacement for the comfort pad featured round the front portion of the helmet's interior circumference.
at all times of year, i wear a casquette beneath the helmet du jour; at this time of year it's a cosy winter version, sporting elasticated ear flaps. when the weather gets warmer around mid-july, i'll revert to the standard version. this factor was easily accommodated by the prevail, the medium-sized review model being versatile enough to protect both a casquetted or un-casquetted head. the fine tuning adjustment, as with almost all contemporary cycle helmets, is by means of a dial at the rear. if i'm honest, this is the single factor that's theprevail's weak spot. it's not that it doesn't work; in fact it works exactly as designed. but in practice, not only is the dial a tad on the small side, but it's effectively too close to the lower part of the back of the helmet to allow a gloved finger to make adjustments while riding. this makes it necessary, in my opinion, to make sure the fit is adjusted prior to the grand depart.
i am, of course, willing to accede that specialized's mindset, five position height adjuster may offer relief from the latter, but since i could never quite get the hang of this and the manual seemed not to cover its operation, i fear this says more about me than it does about specialized. from a personal point of view, the fit was nigh on perfect.
referring back to my earlier statement regarding its incredible lightness of being, from that point of view, the prevail is a masterpiece of the compromise between safety engineering and ventilation. i counted 35 separate vents, including the four in the mouth at the front, and two subtle little blighters towards the rear of the side, yet the overall rigidity seems not to have been adversely affected by all of this open space. granted, the ambient temperature in the hebrides at present means that none of us relies upon the potential ventilation afforded by our headgear, but neither was i inconvenienced by an excessively cold head even in sub-zero windchill.
it is, without doubt, one of the best fitting and comfortable cycle helmets i have had the pleasure of wearing, while the matt neon orange colour means that should i ever have to ditch in the sea, the helicopters will find me first.
and it makes me look fast.
the specilized prevail road helmet is available in navy, white, black and neon orange in sizes small, medium and large, at a retail cost of £160.
monday 7 march 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................