i can understand that an admission such as the following will surely undermine any street cred i may have been fortunate enough to have hung onto up till now. but i think, in the grand scheme of things, it's an admission worth admitting to; if it saves even one pelotonic apprentice from being sniggered at, it has all been worthwhile. and as you might expect, it concerns the minutiae of sartorial elegance while velocipedinally occupied.
when assessing the necessity of lycra and polyester in my early days aboard 531 steel, i experienced the paranoia and self-consciousness that undoubtedly makes itself known to the majority of us. it's all very well knowing that you'd scarcely go swimming in a pair of levis 501s, but an entirely different matter to be seen in public wearing shiny black shorts that appear to have a pampers nappy attached. mind you, such attire more than eased any possible discomfort when sat upon what most of my non-cycling friends still refer to as a razor blade.
i should perhaps point out that this was back in the dark old days of yore, when cycling apparel was considerably more rudimentary than is the case nowadays. but i cannot deny being particularly unsure as to whether, when buying a pair of tights (what the heck were bibtights?), i ought to base the sizing on my waist or height. this unsurety led me to purchase a hideously patterned pair of lycra tights for the winter months, that resembled nothing more than an explosion at the dulux factory. at that point, the paranoia increased considerably, because i'm sure i heard sniggering as i passed on my red 531.
life has changed considerably since those days; it is still of considerable surprise to me that a relatively minor activity such as cycling is able to support quite so many clothing companies, all of whom seem to think of themselves as unique. yes, there are several individual features abounding, but when all's said and done, the majority are simply offering variations on the jersey/jacket/bibshorts/bibtights panoply; they know it and we know it. granted, the price ranges available make it easy to satisfy desires, needs and disposable income, but that's just as it should be.
and then there's portland's wabi woolens.
i do not wish to imply that harth huffman has discovered something of which the others are blissfully unaware, but there's no doubt that his modus operandi is just a tad different than big biz. started in 2008, wabi woolens is a solo flight by mr huffman; product design, materials sourcing, manufacturing, order processing, shipping; you name it, he does it. this may appear less than impressive, for how hard can it be? but it's not his only job. harth teaches at a large high school outside portland village, necessitating a 30 mile round trip and wabi woolens fits in round that.
it's a nice story and just a smidgeon different from the majority, but the end result is 'simply' a jersey, and truthfully, why should we care? i would tend to agree with you, were it not for the fact that in my very first review of a wabi woolens jersey in march 2008, only a matter of months into harth's opening gambit, i described it as "the rolls royce of merino cycle jerseys". i still have that jersey and nothing that has transpired in the interim has given me cause to alter my opinion. yes, it's just a tad careworn after eight years, but it still fits well, it is still eminently wearable and the espresso brown colour has not degraded to a latte.
i'm sure that mr huffman would not disagree if i pointed out that the progress at wabi towers has not been all plain sailing. unlike the mainstream cycle apparel purveyors, the graph has not been straight and true in the years since 2008, but that scarcely matters one whit when the latest, 2016/17 winter weight merino jersey has demoted the original from rolls to bentley.
if there's one thing about which mr huffman can be recognised as an expert, it's merino wool and its subsequent fashioning into the shape of a cycling jersey. the latest edition sports a fit that is darned near second to none. if any criticism may be levelled it's possible it might be a shade too long at the back, but that's in comparison to today's so-called race-fit jerseys; this is the way jerseys ought to built for those of us who think nothing of rolling up to the coffee house, intent on a hour or two of froth supping prior to continuing the velocipedinal activity on the other side. and on the bike, you'd never notice anyway. this is immediately your favourite jumper which can be worn to the averagemarket, bicycle or no bicycle. in fact, if such is your fancy, wabi offer a similarly styled jersey minus the rear pockets.
and since we were discussing those pockets (we were, weren't we?), it's only a slight exaggeration to mention that you could probably carry a couple of spare wheels, tyres and inner tubes and still have space for a multi-tool, gloves and a large bottle of san pellegrino. then there's the zipped fourth for coffee money.
fan as i am of long-sleeve jerseys, the sleeves on this particular edition are luxurious, allowing more than just a few merino ruffles on the sleeves as they approach the cuffs. i do so like that. though full-length zips have become almost de rigeur these days, wabi have maintained a most desirable, quarter length zip fastening atop an admirable collar height. merino is a wonderful material from which to fashion a cycle jersey; it seems most likely that's what all those sheep are bred for in the first place. given that this is positioned as a winter-weight garment, i spent my first ride clad in a long-sleeve baselayer under the jersey with a thermal gilet in one of those capacious rear pockets. i swear there was steam rising from me in debbie's at lunchtime.
yet pop a jacket over the top when conditions outdoors demand and the comfort and practicality diminish not one millimetre. if the uci were to impose a rule restricting us to a single long-sleeve jersey, this is the one you'd want to have in the wardrobe. even when brand new and just arrived from portland, it's the jersey you've lusted after since forever. and immediately it is that jersey.
sometimes a comparison with rolls royce seems so inadequate.
the wabi woolens winter weight jersey, hand-sewn in portland, oregon is available in small to 3xl, with tall versions available in small, medium, large and xl. colours are pacific blue or burgundy (as reviewed) at a cost of $175 (£145). wabi will ship worlwide.
sunday 20 november 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................