it would appear that i am a victim of a variation on sod's law, a common spoiler of expected circumstances that does just what john lennon's book of poetry stated, putting a spaniard in the works. you cannot think the less of me for touting my home as an excellent location in which to test the veracity of so-called windproof items of cycling apparel, nor for that matter, those that profess to not only shield from endless precipitation, but allow a proficient degree of breathability. it is what the west coast of scotland is famous for, though i doubt you'll find visitscotland highlighting this in any of their tourist literature.
this denial of service mysteriously surfaces in virtually all levels of officialdom. it seems only a few years ago that i was commisioned by argyll and bute council to create a leaflet entitled cycling on islay, something i was more than happy to do. i was also particularly happy that the lady with whom i collaborated in the council's road safety department was a more than adequate firewall for the less than considered thoughts of those who demanded to be consulted on the contents. islay is wet and windy; it would seem remiss if not downright negligent not to point this out to prospective cycling visitors. it may put one or two off, but on the other hand, it may just provide that extra challenge for the stouter of heart.
at any rate, on at least two separate occasions, the proof copies were returned to both myself and the lady at the council, complaining that the wording blatantly paid tribute to the zephyr that blew from the west, south-west, north and all points in between. this was regarded as potentially detrimental to attracting cyclists to the island, and would i please rephrase the offending passage, that it might exclude the possibility of any breeze from any direction. i cannot pay enough tribute to the lady from the council, who sent me an e-mail stating " i said we would consult. i didn't say we'd pay any attention to the results of our consultations." the outset of this was free reign to print the leaflets with my original text. no changes were made.
however, just as bradley wiggins has seriously tempted fate by happily agreeing with all and sundry that this year's tour de france is his for the taking, by chiselling in print the likelihood of inclement weather, i doubtless invoked sod's law and any celtic spirits that may be loosely associated with same.
though we are plainly sailing along the route to summer, late march and april can reailistically be considered on the cusp between two seasons; the ideal conditions for rain and wind providing the last vestiges of a less than clement winter. until, of course, i am sent waterproofs for review. a mere smattering of days past, i reviewed a craft active rain jacket, a garment which arrived only two days before a similarly named, yet altogether different item of cycling apparel from nick hussey's recently launched vulpine clothing. it is also my solemn duty to inform you that another rain jacket waits in the wings.
vulpine have done a chris 'daddy' dave with regard to the format of their waterproof jacket. chris has all but re-written the rules of contemporary jazz and hip-hop drumming, and seen in the context of most waterproofs hanging in the wardrobe, vulpine are either at the forefront of the cutting edge, or nick doesn't get out to cycle shows as often as he might. for release upon release of breathable waterproofs extol the virtues of fabric technology that makes the space shuttle seem like a lego toy. hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties are allied to micro-porous, active fabrics that will shun all contact with h2o while demonstrating the breathability of a string vest.
if only it were all true.
in this respect, the vulpine rain jacket is decidedly low-tech. though all pocket closures and the retainer for a hidden rear rain-flap echo those of its softshell sibling in the use of magnets, the fabric itself is cotton. not a space-age fibre to be found. however, though a word that has found itself vastly overused in the context of cycling, this is genuinely referred to as epic cotton. in order to transform a natural fabric (how dry does your t-shirt keep you?) into one that laughs in the face of adversity, each thread of is coated with silicon prior to being woven into an appropriate cloth. this almost by definition, retains a substantial degree of breathability (because the silicon is not coating the outer fabric as a single unit), but at the same time, professes to keep all beneath its indigo mantle as dry as the day it was unpacked.
it is certainly a very fine jacket, one that has no aspirations to be handed up by a world tour directeur sportif as the peloton hurtles into a rain shower at the tour of lombardy. i have little doubt it would fare rather well in pelotonic urgency, but its ambitions lie closer to home and closer to work. it is, of course, directed at the cycle journey in between, its remarkably understated style (a word that would be evinced in capital letters were i ever to use any) has had me wearing it to and from work, to and from several clients' premises and at least two separate froth supping sessions at debbie's. the giveaway was the yellow mavic helmet.
it took nigh on three weeks from receipt of the vulpine rain jacket until it first had the opportunity to get itself wet while keeping me dry. truly a sad reflection on not only the weather forecasters, but the prevailing climate. give it a few weeks and nobody, but nobody will ever believe i stayed dry for so long sitting on the edge of the atlantic. and even when the professing of lashings of inclement weather were made plain on every checked website and each and every television weather forecast, i was still left bereft of rain on the jacket. leaving home at 9am to brave the expected onslaught, it was 2pm in the afternoon before i managed to verify the jacket's credentials. happily, after such an extended period of impatient waiting, the deluge failed miserably to pervade the epic cotton, simply occupying the outer surface in the form of baubles of water which ran off harmlessly to the unkempt road surface below.
a result, i believe is the correct terminology.
to reinforce the waterproofing qualities, each and every zip is taped against ingress, in all cases, shielded behind a magnetic flap. though my cielo is well fendered, i did lower the storm flap at the rear purely in the interests of experimentation. in the absence of mudguards i have little doubt it would protect an exposed bottom. that more or less takes care of the external duties.
breathability verges on being a subjective calibration, for it depends greatly on how much you perspire and just how many layers of clothing are concealed beneath that indigo exterior. having subsequently been caught in the rain on several occasions, there was a subtle but measurable difference on each one. i am of the distinct opinon that nothing is as breathable as the manufacturer either says it is, or would like it to be, and never as breathable as i'd like it to be. however, i think this may have more to do with the laws of thermodynamics than with marketing. i doubt i'll ever see the truly breathable cycling jacket in my lifetime.
however, as cotton is, as i previously dictated, a natural fibre, and though serious exertion will create a backlog of inner heat, the rain jacket refused to become clammy, something that can rarely be said for the more technical, man-made fabrics. i cannot truthfully state that my jersey did not suffer from heat-induced damp patches, mostly along the arms and across my shoulders, but at no time did i feel as if i were ensconced in a plastic bag. it was mostly noticed when stopped or making one's way indoors, rather than when hurtling along the road to kilchoman distillery.
i think it unlikely the vulpine rain jacket will appeal directly to those of a sporting nature. there is no way on earth this jacket could be scrunched up and stuffed in a rear pocket. however, for those with more sedate (or not) transportational requirements, which have the added demand of an appropriate degree of sartorial presence, it is hard to praise this jacket too much. with an internal drawcord across the inside back, one also on the collar, and a pocket on the right sleeve hiding a mini carabiner for your door keys, most eventualities have been taken into consideration.
vulpine are now comfortably heading towards the point where, if the didn't exist, we'd have to invent them.
the vulpine rain jacket is priced at £195 and available in charcoal or indigo in sizes small to xl direct from vulpine.cc
posted friday 13 april 2012...........................................................................................................................................................................................................