oh no it isn't


islay's roads have suffered greatly at the behest of a cold, wet winter, a period of time when they really shouldn't have withered quite as much as they have. the best guess we can offer by way of explanation is that the surfaces have been so badly cared for over the last decade or beyond, that there is no resilience left in their tarmac. the so-called economic means of keeping the roads free from potholes arrives by way of the roadmaster vehicle that visits ocasionally to our shores, a vehicle shared around the council region in the hope that it can provide just-in-time repairs.

however, i have watched a youtube video demonstrating just how the roadmaster vehicle, with its aerosol tar, is expected to achieve its objective, and it really differs quite substantially from the islay reality. suffice it to say, the majority of pothole repairs carried out by this method tend to have disintegrated after only a day or two. part of the problem appears to be the insistence on filling potholes in the midst of heavy rain, without any attempt to drain the rainwater first. hot tar on top of cold rain is, quite frankly, never going to last.

which brought the pelotonic conversation round to the subject of cobbles, and how it might actually be a more effective means of surfacing many of islay's roads. those seen in flanders and roubaix have survived for many a long year, providing mainland european farmers and their tractors with solid ground on which to ply their agricultural trade. since many of islay's singletrack roadways are, in effect, agricultural (and perchance, distillery) highways, and it is many of those that have borne the brunt of surface degradation, the proven notion of replacing gravelled tarmac with cobbles would seem to be a sane consideration.

of course, while belgium, the netherlands and northern france may be well adjusted to such setts under their wheels, were we to lobby the council to do the decent thing, i'm fairly certain that there would be island motorists with alternative solutions. yet, the council have recently had to increase the roads spending in their annual budget, due to the cacophony of complaints and claims for compensation to damaged vehicles. though i have little first-hand experience of riding on cobbles, it is my unqualified opinion that they seem to be a sturdier option, and possibly easier to maintain; should a pothole appear within a cobbled road, it should be a simple matter of popping another cobble in its place.


but having witnessed the onset of this season's spring classics via omloop on saturday and kbk on sunday, during which jumbo visma demonstrated they have no great need of rolling out van aert in order to take back-to-back victories, i find a second quandary that is not directly related to the type of road surfaces on which the professionals roll.

several times during sunday's kuurne-brussels-kuurne, eurosport/gcn commentators, rob hatch and adam blythe, made frequent reference to the winds, the strength of which they indicated, might give the kop van de westrijd a few difficulties in their efforts to remain clear of the achtervolgers, while concentrating on going for the victory. with eyes glued to the big screen, i squinted in vain to comprehend their concerns, for the roadside trees seemed relatively untroubled, though a few flags placed on the perimeter of a roundabout did exhibit a few flutters.

adam blythe, at one point, classified those winds at between 25 - 28kph, definitely a tad more onerous than those we apparently experienced around loch gorm on sunday morning, advised on xc weather as blowing at 10-12kph. but during saturday's omloop het nieuwsblad, it was mentioned that eventual winner, dylan van baarle, was reportedly riding at 70kph into a belgian headwind. from our point of view, achieving that speed with even the benefit of an islay tailwind would be a major achievement for any of us in the velo club peloton.

which brings me to my somewhat laboured point, that concerns the considerable difference between us mere mortals and the average professional rider. the average windspeed across the year in the hebrides is reckoned to be around 45-50kph, not much more than double those allegedly experienced in belgium over the past weekend. but with the appreciable power available to those with numbers pinned to their back pockets, a 28kph wind ought to be all but insignificant. because i can assure you that winds of that speed on islay would receive short shrift from even the paucity of concerted effort available to the velo club peloton.

though both days' racing was under blue skies and a sunny disposition, the appearance of leg-warmers, bibtights and long sleeves would indicate low temperatures probably commensurate with those experienced in the hebrides over the same two days. so why then, do those riders designated as classics incumbents, head south for the winter, undertaking training camps in the relative warmth of alicante and tenerife? intermarche rider, taco ven der hoorn even mentioned in interview, that he had only two days previously, returned from colombia. surely it would make greater sense to train for the spring classics in regions likely to not only replicate, but perhaps exaggerate the sort of conditions the likes of omloop, de ronde, roubaix and sheldeprijs are likely to provide?

islay residents are renowned for their avowed friendliness and warm welcome, qualities that extend as far as the local peloton. though it may well be too late for this season, we'd be more than happy to accommodate wout, mathieu, edwin, tom and their pals on the sunday morning ride, during which time we'd be happy to pass on the wealth of experience we have accumulated of riding in the wind and the rain, yet still having the strength to consume a latte and cheese and tomato toastie at debbie's afterwards. but if they do wish to join us in the next few weeks, debbie's currently offers flapjacks to die for.

by the way, in the time-trial at the o gran camino, matt stephens claimed that it was quite windy, citing a speed of 15kph in evidence. that's actually a draught.


monday 27 february 2023

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season's greetings

maghalie rochette

every alternate saturday morning, i arise at stupid o'clock (by my standards) to distribute the recently printed copies of islay's community newspaper. my own part involves dropping copies in at the local averagemarket and the islay whisky shop, before awaiting the arrival of a royal mail van to collect the remainder for island-wide distribution. as you can imagine, during the winter months, this can be a less than appetising task, given the darkness of the mornings and usually the strength of the wind-driven rain. however, to employ a railway-based metaphor, it seems there is now light at the end of the tunnel.

yesterday dawned crisp and clear; scarcely a cloud in the sky and much-a-plenty frost on everyone's car windows. the chilliness, despite a drought of wind throughout the day, never actually went away, and though it was cold even in sunshine, when intermittent clouds passed in front of the sun, it was positively shivery. bridgend woods has been resplendent over the past few weeks with substantial white carpet of snow drops and i had taken my camera in a back pocket yesterday, in the hope of capturing a few images of the roadside daffodils on gruinart flats. however, it appears i was a tad previous; there were one or two struggling through for sunlight, but the vast majority seemed quite content to wait until next weekend.

though i may be talking out of turn, i was always of the impression that the seasons remained less prominent in the years i spent in scotland, whereas here in civilisation, things are a smidgeon more obvious, easily seen from the saddle. and with this in mind, i might point out that when recently sending a digital copy of the newspaper to argyll talking newspapers, who record each edition for the blind or those with poor sight, i was wont to point out to the recipient, that the end of february would see the return of omloop het nieuwsblad and kuurne-brussels-kuurne only a week before strade bianche in tuscany.

his reply indicated that this was the first time he'd seen the seasons demarcated by cycle races, while i, in my obsessive innocence, hadn't realised that so doing was in any way unusual. there may have been stage races in australia during the month of january, and others splattered about various parts of europe and the middle-east through february, but everyone knows that the real start of the year takes place over the last weekend of february, signalling the start of spring. meteorologists may contend that winter does not end for almost another month, but we in the velocipedinal arena know that not to be the case.

but the commencement of the one-day classics also flags the finality that was cyclocross season, the last events of which took place last weekend, rounding off what has probably been the finest winter of cyclocross it has ever been my privilege to witness. yes indeed, one has to feel sorry of the michael vantourenhouts, the eli iserbyts and the laurens sweeks of this world, who had the mud all to themselves until mathieu, wout and tom turned up to spoil the party. but the latter's intervention did not disturb the firmament that was the uci world cup series, the exact series, the x2o badkamers or that of the super-prestige. the big three were interested only in annoying each other, leaving the rest to concern themselves with the series' trophies.

and it was brilliant.

many of those riders are set to substitute 33mm rubber for something knobblier and wider for the upcoming season, while others will test their legs on the road. for maghalie rochette, the french canadian cyclocross rider, it's off into the wilds as an mtb rider for the summer season, before she re-adopts a cyclocross manner in the atumn of 2023. maghalie rides with the Luna pro team, the clothing sponsor of which is rapha who have celebrated this partnership by releasing the maghalie rochette collection for both men and women.

featuring jerseys reminiscent of multi-coloured lava lamps, ms. rochette has said that, "looking down at this kit while racing, helps me channel the emotions associated with each of the colours...". and while that may not be your own reaction, she is a rider that bears further investigation, particularly via the series of podcasts entitled fever talk that she has created, looking at different aspects of the competitive milieu by talking to several noted riders on the subjects of focus (miranda miller), happiness (sarah sturm) and inside the mind of a designer (santi roig dinares).

whether the jerseys capture your imagination or not, the podcasts might well provide an insight into the workings of the professionals, always enlightening, even if only to learn where we might be going wrong, or where we were perfectly correct in our fear to tread.

rapha maghalie rochette collection

sunday 26 february 2023

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presca final sale

ofgem, quite rightly, is bearing he brunt of criticism over its handling of the energy crisis, where it presided over the failure of up to 30 energy providers at a cost to the british taxpayer of £2.7 billion (around the price you'd pay for a pogacar replica colnago these days). this has meant a major shakeup of the board, with ministers looking to recruit new directors to fill five of the eight places, including that of chairperson, though inexplicably, the chief executive will retain his position. yet, despite ofgem's failure in the country's time of need, the outgoing chairman received a remunerative package that totalled £180,000 per annum for an average three days' work per week. i am currently polishing my cv in anticipation.

it strikes me, however, that perhaps the bicycle industry ought to follow prospectively in those footsteps, with a regulatory body all of its own. they might then immediately legislate that no longer will they allow any cycling apparel entrepreneur to justify their entry into the velocipedinal garmentage market by citing an inability to find that which they desire from the existing market. as i have said on several previous occasions, the last person who could justifiably have made such a claim, was likely rapha's founder, simon mottram. nowadays, if you're unable to find 'just what you demand', then you've either not looked very hard, or you're unbelievably hard to please.

but such iniquities occasionally have a nasty habit of returning to bite you on the bottom, in one particular case, seemingly innocently presented by one trade media outlet, while another blamelessly let the air out of its tyres.

on 7 february, trade site, conducted an interview with rob webbon and guy whitby of sustainably aware cycling apparel provider, presca. according to the feature, presca was "...born out of the founder's inability to find a product that fitted all their needs." it's a phrase that both parties may be currently rueing ever having said or published. the feature continued to justify the above statement, by pointing out that messrs webbon and whitby wanted to purchase sportswear that met their ideals around sustainability, yet didn't compromise on performance.

those are lofty, yet valid ideals; however, somewhere along the road, the word compromise will almost always intervene. in the case of presca, elastane appears to have been their bête noir. yet, is there any real problem with compromising? this week's comic publishes a few words about training from british cyclocross champion, cameron mason who reveals that, while in the uk, he is "100% vegan", yet, when travelling in europe, perpetuating that dietary ideal is all but impossible. therefore, when circumstances prove disfavourable, he is willing to step down a level to vegetarianism. perhaps mr mason is a gent that presca could have sought for advice?

you may well wonder why i find it necessary to poke and prod not only at a company that promotes lofty, uncompromising ideals, and indeed the media outlet that brought them to our attention. and this particularly when i would tend to share those ideals where it might prove pragmatic so to do. and how on earth can i justify that those same laudable endeavours might now haunt both parties? well, i believe it's most simply a case of inintended, yet not entirely unforeseen serendipity.

the two principal online media outlets for the bike industry would appear to be those of bikebiz and the aforementioned yet, while the latter is happy to publish a lengthy feature on the fortunes and principles of clothing firm, presca, (including an interview with the company's creative director, appointed only last year), yesterday's edition of bikebiz, led with the news that "sustainable british cycling apparel brand presca has announced it will no longer be trading."

i would tender that no blame ought apportion to for their publishing of the feature on this apparently now defunct enterprise. as stated above, this was originally published on 7 february, some eighteen days past. however, i think it highly unlikely that bristol-based presca were unaware of their impending predicament at the time. it is particularly unfortunate that such a state of affairs has come to pass. i am not personally acquainted with any of presca's products, but simply as an educated observation, i would think that the cycling apparel industry was already well populated even prior to the arrival of presca. and many of those whose future predates the rise and fall of the bicycle in recent times, have already made specific inroads into the sustainability paradigm.

perhaps a regulatory body would have been unable to make any difference to the situation, but i would implore any potential entrants into either the cycling apparel sector or even the bicycle sector, to seriously reconsider their reasons for so doing, particularly if they revolve around being unable to find 'a product that fits all their needs'. if sustainability is your calling card, perhaps there are alternative means of assisting the current incumbents to adopt more environmentally-based philosophies. and though not wishing to elevate rapha to a hypothetical podium, i can only assume that presca's founders did not find the time to read the former's impact and sustainability report before running the lycra through the sewing machine.

unsustainable sustainability.

presca sportswear

saturday 25 february 2023

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green oil eco spray lube

green oil eco-spray

i'd imagine there are few motorists who could raise their hand to affirm that under no circumstances had they ever knowingly broken the speed limit. the signs might say 70mph, but that calls into question all those passing in the outside lane when the speedo of the car in which you're travelling indicates that it is observing said speed limit. and though school kids are well aware that having a fly cigarette behind the school bike sheds is against the rules, anecdotally, there are many who push the limits of those rules. similarly having a can of cider or tennents lager while not yet eighteen. there are many aspects of contemporary life that arrive with strict embargoes, yet many an individual still considers that rules are there to be broken.

as conscientious cyclists and bike fettlers, we have been well-warned that lubrication of the chain ought not to be undertaken by liberal spraying as it passes over the sprockets, aided and abetted by vigorous back-pedalling. yet still we do so, particularly early on sunday mornings as we leave late for the bike ride only to recall that necessary bike fettling has, once again, been left undone. however, who could argue that the latter state of affairs is not a better solution than otherwise leaving for the scottish version of meteorology with an unlubricated chain?

i for one, would be inclined to answer yes.

the disparity arises from the fact that spraying the chain with wd40 or comparable light lubricant places it on the uppermost surface, the very one that never actually comes in contact with either sprockets or chainrings. this is why the instructions that arrive with the majority of chain lubricants advise placing a single drop on the innermost face of the chain-rollers. this accomplishes the lubrication aspects of the equation, while minimising any excess appearing on the side-plates or other parts of the transmission that may wish to remain unblemished. in which case, why have the clever people at green oil flown in the face of best practice and produced a can of spraylube?

to be honest, it's all well and good promoting the finer points of chain lubrication, but a degree of pragmatism goes a long way. many will have read of the excessive man hours expended in providing the great and good with highly expensive bicycle chains that have been steam-cleaned within an inch of their side-plates and laboriously hand lubricated with exacting precision to further increase the much-vaunted, and screamingly low frictional co-efficient of the untrammeled bicycle chain, aiding and abetting the pinnacles of the sport to achieve milliseconds of advantage over their opponents or the progress of a one-hour digital timer.

the majority of us, however, just like water, will often adopt the path of least resistance, especially at stupid o'clock on a sunday morning. and it's not just us, for the army of professional fettlers all across the land have need of water-displacement products and light lubricants in their own velocipedinal machinations. many of those contain polytetrafluoroethylene (ptfe), a propellant that is less than kind to the human experience. green oil's eco-spray, which arrives in a 400ml, recyclable steel container, is 100% biodegradable and non-toxic.

the eco-spray can be used to lubricate brake-lever pivots, pedals, gear mechs, caliper brake pivots and anything else that needs a touch of spraylube, including an errant, squeaky chain.

embarrassingly enough, the sunday morning scenario mentioned above was hardly fictional, and nor, sad to say, was it a one-off. dragging the ritchey logic from thewashingmachinepost bikeshed, it occurred that the usual saturday afternoon inspection had been missing in action. i'm sure i have no need of underlining just how humiliating it would have been midst the velo club peloton had an increasingly loud squeak been heard emanating from a campagnolo chain, mere centimetres from those honed calf muscles. i would have been ashamed to impinge upon the ritchey in such a remissive manner. thankfully, close to hand was a 400ml can of green oil eco-spray lube.

at only £10.99 per can, i know it makes sense.

green oil

friday 24 february 2023

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not as i say


at the risk of discovering something that i don't actually want to know (or, indeed, care about that much), i have refrained from contacting the nice people (i presume) at pr agency, vuelio. several years past, they were in the habit of publishing a list of the top ten cycling blogs in the uk, of which, i'm reasonably pleased to say, thewashingmachinepost featured regularly and quite highly. during those periods of time, i was unable to fathom just how they went about defining the pecking order, or how each blog was evaluated in the first place. however, apparently one should never look a gift horse in the mouth.

now, it could simply be coincidental, but the annual cycling blog listing (and other blogs, for all i know) seems to have evaporated. since either 2018 or 2019, i have not been on the receiving end of a nice e-mail from vuelio announcing which position thewashingmachinepost has been placed on the list. of course, there's always the possibility that the post has so fallen out of favour that, in fact, it has been deemed no longer worthy of a place in the velocipedinal firmament. but the likelihood of that being the case seems a tad stretched, since vuelio were also in the habit of sending an independent communication informing the great and the good as to the top ten, whether featured or otherwise. but in case the rules, strategy or choices have extravagantly varied, as mentioned above, i have avoided asking, just in case i find myself disappointed.

however, in the years when a position was awarded, the instigators would send a few questions, the answers to which would serve as material from which to derive a short biography to feature on their website. and midst those questions was the definite implication that i, as writer of thewashingmachinepost, was regarded as an industry influencer, a nomination with which i generally found myself at odds. suppose, for one minute, a favourable review posted about a particularly expensive bicycle or item of garmentage, was not written with unimpeachable sincerity? suppose i'd only offered succour to the great unwashed by way of an extensive, but humourous aside?

in other words, what if i was only kidding?

how then, could i be regarded as an influencer, and more to the point, does this mean that anyone providing an honest opinion about any subject or object you care to mention, also immediately garners status as an influencer? surely, in order to influence someone, it would be necessary to exert a modicum of directed pressure, perhaps exaggerating slightly, or a great deal, in order that they gain a more favourable opinion or appraisal of said item, than they had initially approved? in which case, should i be morally outraged that a previously unknown public relations organisation was effectively accusing me of over-egging the velocipedinal pudding?

however, as i read my daily newspaper earlier this week, i was made aware that the mythical status of influencer was now suffering something of a backlash. in other words, observations had been made that suggested the rise and rise of the de-influencer (always assuming such a word actually exists). here, it would appear, and principally played out on something called tik tok, was the presence of those who seek to undermine the position of the archetypal influencer, while disparaging the sizeable amounts of money that can be earned by those who have been successful at so doing.

(i would like to point out that, should the apellation influencer ever have been appropriate to yours truly, i still eagerly await the large cheques that are presumably heading in my direction even as we speak.)

the present chairman of the scottish national party, michael russell, posted on twitter yesterday, that he had to remain impartial with regard to those members of the party who have opted to stand as potential successors to nicola sturgeon, however, he continued by saying he was keen to hear the opinions of those 'brave' people. that seems a rather overwrought adjective to describe the three candidates; the ukrainians fighting for survival in the depths of winter to defend their independent country from a vicious aggressor can reasonably be described as 'brave. political candidates considerably less so.

in which case, mr russell could likely be categorised as an influencer, paid as he is to oversee the ministrations of scotland's governing party and to proselytise its avowed superiority over other political parties. i, however, far prefer the middle ground; reviews of products posted on thewashingmachinepost are as close to genuine and honest as i can manage, presented in part because i enjoy the writing, but mostly to provide as much information as possible, in order that readers can then make up their own minds.

in which case, perhaps i have become the world's first de-influencing influencer?

thursday 23 february 2023

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drop off


in the early 1990s, aside from repairing bicycles, i branched out slightly and sold bicycles too. as you would likely expect, the number of bikes sold in a calendar year could easily be counted on the fingers of one, or possibly two hands, depending on what was fashionable at christmas in those bygone years. and it was one christmas that provided the oddest, but welcome sale in the few years in which i metaphorically 'stood behind the counter'.

in most cases, due to a severe lack of available capital, i was predominantly in the habit of ordering bicycles by request, having neither the space, nor the financial wherewithal to keep a selection available for perusal. however, on the rare occasions when the supplier was offering a specific model with discount or free carriage, if the money was in the bank, i'd perhaps take the plunge and order what i liked to term, a sales model.

the danger in so doing revolved around two distinct aspects: size and colour. though the latter was often not up for negotiation, each model being made available in a single option, and though i would generally order what might readily be recognised as an average size, there was still the distinct possibility that an overly tall or small person would want a bicycle in an entirely different colour. that said, only a matter of weeks prior to christmas in, if memory serves, 1993, i took a punt and bought in a green mountain bike on spec.

my strategic thinking was that someone was surely likely to need a well-priced bicycle for their offspring or grandchild to place under the christmas tree. disappointingy, by christmas eve, i had received not a single enquiry, disappointing because if the bike had not sold by then, i was well aware that few folks had any money left in january to consider such a purchase. then, at 10:30pm (or thereabouts), as mrs washingmachinepost and i were readying gifts for our own kids, prior to heading off to bed, there was a knock at the back door. it transpired that a distraught parent, who had ordered a bicycle from one of the mail order catalogues, had been left high and dry when the bike had failed to arrive.

that knock on the back door was one of desperation, in the hope that i might actually have a bicycle they could purchase. the strangest part was that, not only was the bicycle the correct size, but apparently in a similar shade as ordered from the catalogue.

though bike sales and, to a greater extent, cycle repairs, are no longer a part of the day to day, my enthusiasm for the bicycle is every bit as strong as it was last century, and though stopping short of activism, i continue to proselytise the cause at every available opportunity. looking back over the past thirty or so years, however, i can see that my commitment to the ways of the saddle have made little or no difference to islay's population at large. there are a few who have acquired e-bikes in recent years, but i cannot claim any credit for that state of affairs.

however, looking at the country as a whole, from the end of the first decade of the 21st century, there have been several occasions when higher profile commenters than yours truly have (spuriously, as it turns out) announced that the day of the bicycle had well and truly arrived. prince bradley's performances in the tour de france and at the 2012 olympics, aided and abetted by chris hoy's exploits on the track, were frequently cited as the beginning of the beginning for the velocipede. and the onset of the covid pandemic took over just as bradley's bubble appeared had succumbed to its last throes.

as i have reiterated on several occasions, the days of lockdown across the world brought the bicycle once again to the fore, though this time, more at the behest of transportational needs, than allied to any sporting prowess. bicycle stores tried to sound despondent that they were selling everything on the shop floor, while struggling to replenish stock with anything they could get their hands on. but the profits perhaps told a different story. and again, the self-styled leaders of the pack proclaimed that the bicycle had, once again, 'arrived', and the world would never be the same again.

i don't doubt that those who said it, wholly believed it, but for the umpteenth time in a history stretching well over a century, chickens may have been counted when still in the egg. and it seems that the latest numbers would tend to support that particular disappointing, but undoubtedly over-optimistic theory.

according to the lates figures published by the bicycle association, sales of bicycles in the uk have dropped to their lowest level in two decades. the numbers show that sales of mechanical bikes have dropped by 22%, placing them 27% lower than they were prior to the pandemic. perhaps less surprisingly, kids' bike sales have tailed off to the extent of being 29% lower than 2019 figures. even the lauded 'saviour of the bicycle industry', the e-bike has suffered stationary growth since 2020.

however, just to prove either how wrong i can actually be, or perhaps how little anyone pays attention to these black and yellow pixels, gravel bike sales were up 8% in the past year, having grown a substantial 59% since before the covd pandemic. in mitigation, however, this is a relatively new section of the market behind which there has been several persuasive marketing campaigns and which may still harbour some novelty value.

the bicycle association was keen to point out, however, that those figures pertain predominantly to the uk, particularly with relation to e-bikes, sales of which are on the increase in europe, helping to grow the overall market. this does rather call into question the existence of carbon road bikes, such as the scott foil, with price tags of £15,899. if the market is in decline, machinery at a lower price point might be more inclined to help out. unsurprisingly once again, it seems that government are being asked to shoulder the blame, with the bicycle association claiming that greater financial support for the bicycle's role in economic growth and net-zero targets, multi-year funding for active travel and motivating an increase in short cycle trips at the expense of the motor car, will help turn things around.

strangely, there seems no blame, if that might be an appropriate term, attached to either the bicycle industry, or the uk population, for a dearth of bicycle sales. that the bicycle and its adherents firmly remain second-class citizens must surely be the result of the public staying away in droves? and when the cycle industry seems content solely to advertise its wares in the cycle press, both print and pixel, instead of thinking outside the box by placing promotions in motoring circles, lifestyle publications, or the daily newspapers, sales will likely remain in circularity, rather than bringing new velocipedinists to the table.

a quandary, wrapped in an enigma, bound up in misguided strategy.

wednesday 22 february 2023

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rapha men's explore gore-tex jacket

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

getting wet most of the year is the birthright of every scot. when the voice-over on the tv series bangers and cash announces that it poured so much that even the scots said it was raining, you know that to be true. it is surely only a matter of time before the scottish government and guardians of scotland's rich heritage announce that the national costume will be hewn from gore-tex. it's the very nature of the country for which the word dreich was invented, and it's more than just partly responsble for the number of distilleries across the country; 'today's rain is tomorrow's whisky'.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

if you're a scottish cyclist, particularly on the country's west coast, getting wet is a state of affairs with which you either come to terms with, or find an alternative activity in which to participate. though zwift claim to have re-invented scotland in pixels, for a more accurate reading of the nation, they would have been well-advised to accessorise the experience with an electric shower attachment for the smart -turbo.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

for those who don't live north of the border, or for those scots who feel the damp demeanour of the country is over-wrought, i'm inclined (occasionally) to agree. but this national reputation for precipitation extends further than uk borders. on a visit to portland, oregon several years ago, as i pedalled my way back to the hotel in a heavy shower, my colleagues turned to each other to say that at least they had no need of apologising for the weather: i was from scotland.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

there is, however, a certain degree of braggadoccio when it comes to such matters, based, i presume, on the process of turning a negative into a positive. as the label on a cycling jersey once claimed 'if you think the spring classics are bad, try scotland.' so while i would scarcely claim that the scots delight in getting wet (and windblown), there's an amount of national resignation about the rain. after all, as the mighty dave-t once remarked, "what can you do about it?"

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

as a cyclist, there's actually quite a lot you can do about it, particularly in the light of rapha's recent additions to its gore-tex based explore range, featuring the jacket as reviewed and a pair of rugged, weatherproof trousers. while much of rapha's other gore-tex apparel is geared more towards the confirmed roadie, the explore range has more demonstrable bikepacking affinities, highlighted by a generous, relaxed fit. in fact, the gore-tex jacket features poppers fitted to the lower corners adjacent to the zip, allowing the lower portion of garment to 'pin-back' around waist height. not only does this allow more freedom of movement when pedalling, but increases ventilation for a long day in the saddle.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

of course, saddling the garment with the apellation 'explore' is possibly more marketing than truly descriptive; as the saying goes, you pays your money and you makes your choice', which, in this case, may result in your choosing to view the jacket in your own singular way. though the inner hem bears the legend 'go until you're lost' (something of a problem on the island on which i've spent over half my life), there's no denying that this is a highly versatile garment, whether you plan to attach baggage to your gravel bike and head into the hinterlands, or not.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

rapha suggest that the explore jacket might be practically matched with the explore down jacket, a combination i tried off the bike, but went more with either my original winter jersey or a core range winter jersey, both offering rear pocket cargo space when riding without succumbing to bikepacking bags. i possess a rapha pro team gore-tex shake-dry insulated jacket, the fit of which resembles that of a second skin. the explore jacket offers far more room to manouevre.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

i can't deny that i would have liked either the regulation three rear pockets, or even a largish zipped rear pocket to augment the two chest height zipped front pockets, but that would likely have added a smidgeon more expense to an already pricey jacket. while the gore-tex brand does bring with it a deserved reputation for offering unparalleled weather protection, amongst its peers it can often be found to lean more than slightly towards the expensive side of the price tag. yet, despite the all-round versatility of this particular garment, i'm none too sure why, in the rapha firmament, it is second only to the shake-dry jacket, mentioned above, for price.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

the two front pockets are the sole concession to cargo carrying capacity, and though both are, indeed, capacious, i'm not convinced that's the best place to position any items you may wish to transport about your person. that is, however, a minor gripe, for even if you wear a hefty thermal jersey 'neath its gore-texness, there are at least the three pockets and plenty of operating space to accommodate sizeable items such as pumps, cameras, step-ladders, spare helmets etc. the extra room can also aid the garment's breathability, which i found to be quite exemplary under a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. it should be mentioned however, that when the front hems are pinned back, it's necessary to unpin them to open the zip to divest yourself of the jacket. the two-way front zip was a particular boon when trying to access items stored in the aforementioned rear pockets.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

i would generally consider myself to be historically averse to hoods, no doubt the result of some childhood incident that i have managed to block from my consciousness. however, matters appeared to be in abeyance on receipt of the rapha shake-dry pro-team jacket, the hood of which i have found to be quite excellent and something of a saviour in foul weather. in the case of the hood permanently attached to the explore jacket, i think i may be cured. working on the assumption that the heavy rain, in which i found myself during the review period, might conceivably trap itself in the gore-tex lined hood, ironically, i wore the hood to protect it from the rain.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

to be honest, it was superb, allowing clear vision both fore and aft when turning to check for following traffic, keeping my head and face protected, and fitting comfortably under my helmet, yet over a rapha belgian-style winter hat. the hood also doubles as a carrying pouch into which the entire jacket rolls up, at which point the whole item can be held together using the elastic loop that closes the hood about your head. however, lest you think that a hood encapsulated jacket might be plonked in a rear pocket, let me disavow you of that particular notion. packing it thus would ease its placement in a pannier or bike pack, but i found no jersey or jacket pockets in which it would fit.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

but all the foregoing would surely be of academic interest, were it not for the weatherproofing prowess for which it surely hopes to be proud. otherwise it would just be a very expensive jacket.

i had the great good fortune to spend close on three hours in a mix of heavy drizzle and outright rain, propelled, on occasion, by an atlantic wind intent on poking and prodding every nook and cranny of jacketage. though i have been reviewing wet weather cycle clothing for decades, the sight of little baubles of water on the sleeves and torso simply rolling off the gore-knit fabric, is seemingly one of which i will never tire. after those one hundred and eighty minutes of precipitation, the jerseys as described above were as dry as when they left the croft. and, having hung the dripping jacket in the porch as debbie's, i had no need of apologising for any pools of water below my seat as i supped froth.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

overall, it's very hard to fault rapha's gore-tex explore jacket. though there would undoubtedly be too much flappage to attempt sprinting ahead of mathieu van der poel, it pretty much excels in every other department. which is probably just as well if you read my opening paragraphs; i expect to get a great deal of use between now and july, before winter sets in again in mid-august.

rapha's gore-tex explore jacket is available in brick red (as reviewed) or navy, in sizes ranging from xs to xxl. the jacet is priced at £395.

rapha gore-tex explore jacket

tuesday 21 february 2023

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................