rapha pro-team softshell jacket

rapha pr-team softshell jacket

it's either a positive or a negative that the festive holidays encourage a total disregard for the usual sequence of days. in the working week, deadlines, meetings and tasks pretty much demand attention to detail, but when there's simply no need to be anywhere or do anything according to a pre-determined schedule then it's oh so easy to lose track of any sort of time. these are the very days when an apple watch would seem completely superfluous, were i even to own an iphone to match.

and the weather varies remarkably little: each end of december day last year looked pretty much like the one preceding. grey, rainy and windy. so you will perhaps excuse if i cannot recall on precisely which day i poured into debbie's a smidgeon on the damp side. there was a couple sat on the leather sofa, confronted by half-empty coffee cups, smiling sympathetically at my bedraggled plight. "why," i was asked, "don't you just wear one of those yellow cycling capes?" considering the strength of the wind from which i was taking refuge, i believe my answer revolved round the contention that, such being the case, somebody would presently be required to collect me from tiree, an island some considerable number of miles to the north.

rapha pr-team softshell jacket

thankfully, garment technology has moved us on from such days. i can remember watching a tv programme from many years ago when singer/comedian mike harding embarked on a british cycle tour on which he immediately donned one of the aforesaid cycling capes at the first sign of precipitation. but much like umbrellas and full length raincoats, these are scarcely items that are of much use in the hebrides. and i'm pretty sure that a peloton fighting the crosswinds experienced in last year's gent-wevelghem would have made it past the neutralised zone if dressed in yellow cycling capes.

rapha pr-team softshell jacket

nowadays, in the majority of outdoor activities it's all about layering and breathable fabrics. however, i think it likely that the majority of us have come to the conclusion those breathable waterproofs rarely breathe at a rate commensurate with our propensity to perspire. it's a very fine line between keeping the average cyclist dry on the outside as well as the inside. common thinking has thus arrived at the point where, within the limitations of current garment technology, neither are 100% possible. so the very best that can be achieved is maintaining warmth and comfort when we eventually get wet.

rapha pr-team softshell jacket

such is the philosophy behind rapha's second edition of their pro team softshell jacket, now utilising a polartec power shield pro fabric that is purportedly more effective than the first edition of the jacket released around this time in 2014. in an effort to clarify the difference, i spoke to rapha's head of product development and r&d, simon huntsman. for surely if the improvements were predominantly cosmetic, there was little point in my scheduling a further review? while confirming that applied durable water repellency (dwr) coatings are not all created equal, simon outlined the procedure rapha employed to evaluate the materials used in the softshell jacket.

"We weighed each version of the jacket, prior to sending a poor unfortunate volunteer out to ride in some lousy weather. The jacket is then weighed once more on its return to determine how much water the fabric has absorbed. Obviously the lower that number, the better. but we're also interested in the fabric's thermal properties as well as its breathability."

rapha pr-team softshell jacket

we've all enjoyed the sight of precipitation forming little droplets on the sleeves and jacket front, before rolling off harmlessly onto the bicycle or the road. however, there comes a point for every fabric or dwr, when that process begins to suffer from saturation, and the jacket begins to absorb water. every breathable jacket will eventually reach a point where it's absorbing more water than it's shedding. that's when we get wet inside. how long that takes and how comfortable and warm it can keep the rider when that happens is currrently the holy grail of waterproof garment technology.

rapha pr-team softshell jacket

last years' pro team softshell was a delightful fire-engine red, a colour that has almost tangible properties when it came to highlighting my existence on the road. for reasons i cannot determine, rapha have dispensed with such visibility in favour of mid-grey or black options. the item reviewed was of the former colour and though very stylish, i'd still have preferred the red option. but apart from the colour change, you'd be forgiven for recognising very little similarity between the latest version and its predecessor. gone are the laser-cut holes on the the armpits, a feature that surely gives credence to an improved level of breathability. however, all the seams are still fully taped.

rapha pr-team softshell jacket

added, however, is a feature that i think ought to become as compulsory on a long-sleeve jacket as the ubiquitous additional zipped rear pocket; zipped gussets at the cuffs. though these can prove reasonably effective as ventilation, their strength lies in the ability to zip the cuffs over the top of a pair of gloves. considering how clumsy a process this can usually prove to be, i would like to initiate a campaign for zipped cuffs to appear on everybody's long-sleeve waterproof jackets.

that apparently gimmicky plastic-coated central rear pocket is not only still there but, in fact, remarkably effective. my velocipedinal accompaniment for the festive 500 was bereft of mudguards, so that coating protected several slices of mrs washingmachinepost's christmas cake from unbridled sogginess. there are a total of three rear pockets plus the aforementioned zipped security version. the fit of the jacket also seems to have undergone a beneficial renaissance; the first version was a very close fit, while the latest softshell appears to be less restrictive, yet has gained a few brownie points on the overall fit stakes.

rapha pr-team softshell jacket

however, all the above are just so much window dressing if the jacket fails to perform to its avowed reputation.

it will surprise you not one whit that those 500 festive kilometres brought new meaning to the phrase 'wet and windy'. the softshell offers almost unparalleled windproofing and initially performed very impressively in wind-driven heavy showers. the worst that happened to the micro-grid lining was the absorbing of moisture from a pair of soaking wet pro-team bibtights, a factor that would undoubtedly affect any make of jacket and only on the lower portion. i rode day after day with the jacket over a s/s merino baselayer and long-sleeve jersey. and just so's you know, it comfortably fits over a sportwool jersey as well as the recommended pro-team polyester variant.

rapha pr-team softshell jacket

on the penultimate day of my festive 500, after fending off showers all morning, i got caught in two hours of heavy, persistent rain and i did, in fact, become soaked right through to that baselayer. i'd to empty water from my shoes on returning home. however, i figure that the jacket fulfilled its promise, for despite sub-zero windchill, i remained comfortable enough to ride home unhindered. in weather conditions such as those, i fully expected to get wet; all jackets have their limitations. but the deciding factor, for me at least, was having retained a core temperature that allowed me to ride a total of 91km in relative comfort.

simon huntsman did point out during our conversation that it is possible to ruin the dwr coating by washing with the wrong detergent, not unsurprisingly recommending rapha's apparel wash. however, mrs washingmachinepost has cleaned the softshell twice using only non-bio powder and it appears to have suffered no ill effects. the pro team softshell is arguably the current state-of-the-art, though i've no doubt that technological development continues apace, meaning that i might well be saying the same thing about a newer jacket this time next year.

meanwhile, this will do very nicely, thank you, but could i have a brighter colour please?

rapha pro-team softshell jacket

monday 4 january 2016

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brooks carbon rail cambium c13 saddle

brooks cambium c13

due to having departed a day or so early for our summer holiday last month, mrs washingmachinepost and i had an extra 24 hours to spend in glasgow city. personally, i'm not a great one for dragging myself round the shops; i usually have an itinerary and once completed, i'm not interested anymore. so, in order to waste a bit of time, i paid a visit to hmv in argyle street, heading immediately to the basement where they display a substantial collection of jazz compact discs.

in an effort to procrastinate even further, i found several racks of vinyl long-playing records, a medium that seems to be experiencing a substantial resurgence of late. it will give some idea of the era during which i experienced the bulk of my musical education to mention that the sheer joy of leafing through racks of jazz vinyl was one of the most satisfying bouts of nostalgia experienced for many a long year.

brooks cambium c13

it will surprise you not at all, therefore, that i walked out of hmv carrying an art blakey's jazz messengers record under my arm, sporting the endless delight of a proper album cover, originally released in 1956, complete with comprehensive back cover liner notes. this purchase was joined by a crosley record player with speakers for my christmas, offering the undeniable joy of listening to 1950s jazz in the lo-fi manner that is our birthright.

this was contrasted dramatically by my other christmas present of an ipod touch and bluetooth speaker that offers digital clarity in faux surround sound with nary a connecting cable in sight. in fact, so compact and bijou is the speaker system, that it survives on a rechargeable battery. if i felt like it, i could carry ipod and speaker all the way to saligo bay on my bicycle and listen to state of the art music by the shores of the north atlantic.

brooks cambium c13

a major contrast between the old and new faces of music appreciation.

it's scarcely a verisimilitude i'd expect to find in the world of the velocipede, yet, as mulder and sculley were keen to relate 'the truth is out there.'

my taurus corinto italian sit up and beg bicycle features a brooks leather b66 saddle, one of their more historic designs sporting rear springs and rivets. it's a brooks design that has existed since 1927, an era when weight-weenies were either few and far between or totally non-existent. this is perhaps just as well, since a b66 weighs fifty grams more than a kilo. in short, though one of the most comfortable saddles on the planet, it's not the ideal choice for an attempt on the galibier or alpe d'huez. in fact, there are more than just a few carbon frames on the market today that weigh quite a bit less.

brooks cambium c13

brooks, however, would probably remain dear to our hearts if they were quite content to continue crafting their wide range of leather saddles as per john boultbee brooks' original ideology. the world is already awash with sleek, lightweight racing saddles, all the better to speed mr froome and his pals summitwards every july. but presumably on the basis that nostalgia ain't what it used to be, brooks have more recently brought us the non-leather cambium range, culminating in the c15 carved, featuring a cotton canvas top, married to a gum rubber base, undermining the weight of a b66 by well over 600 grams.

brooks cambium c13

though the technology of manufacture may be on a parity with the leather of old, the rails that sit between saddle and seatpost are of precisely the same material: steel. now whether the folks at brooks felt the need to offer even less weight or to take advantage of aerospace developments, i know not, but a few months ago, the cambium c13 was born, still with the same canvas top and gum-rubber base as on the rest of the cambium range, but replacing metal rails with a continuous carbon rail. unlike the leather saddles built in the smethwick factory, the c13 is made in italy, from where my review sample was despatched.

brooks cambium c13

though scarcely the most important feature from my point of view, the weight has now dropped to an almost svelte 259 grams, most likely due to the carbon rail. to place this in perspective, when the postie popped the box into thewashingmachinepost porch, on retrieving it, you'd have thought it was empty. the stylishly woven carbon fibre rail is of substantial constitution (9mm oval), prompting brooks to place a warning on their website that it may require a seatpost adapter. i'm not sure where i'd even find one of those.

i'd elected to fit the cambium to the seatpost on a ridley x-ride 20 for the duration of my festive 500 attempt. the knurled section of the carbon rails fitted easily with no complaint whatsoever. a sheet of paper inside the box invited me to test the saddle by participating in either an imperial century, a 50 mile time-trial or some other arduous undertaking which i have now forgotten since i misplaced the sheet of paper. i'm sure, however, that folks at brooks would be every bit as satisfied with my riding 500 kilometres over the course of a week.

brooks cambium c13

unfortunately, i rather marked my report card on a pre-500 ride. with the great outdoors inundated by inclement weather, i fitted the saddle to the post while removed from the ridley, but re-fitted it at the wrong height. thus, on my return i had a somewhat uncomfortable posterior. it did take a few days for my bum to forget the discomfort, none of which could seriously be attributed to the c13. and while i'm here, it seems worth mentioning that brooks have followed the racing tradition of placing the number 13 upside down within the letter c that forms part of the logo.

a company that understands its market.

brooks cambium c13

in keeping with carbon fibre's reputation for stiffness, the c13 is noticeably less squishy overall than its cambium predecessors, though i could find no distinction between the flex offered by the saddle top and either the c15 or c17. by logical deduction, the increased solidity must be at the behest of the carbon rail. though road chatter is a common hebridean complaint, even such a modest injection of carbon seems to offer a welcome degree of buzzkill.

i'd be lying if i said i'd experienced eight days of parker-knoll comfort. there were hours of slogging into galeforce headwinds that forced me to stand every now and again to relieve the discomfort, but in mitigation, i've yet to find a saddle with which that is not the case. in this respect, the c13 was no better or worse. at those points, i'd have more than welcomed a carved version, something that i'm pretty sure is in the brooks pipeline. however, despite a couple of very wet and windy days of around 100 kilometres apiece, i cannot deny having acquired a great affinity for the c13's proffered comfort.

brooks cambium c13

the other area in which the carbon railed cambium offers a degree of excellence is when the ridley was actually being used as a bona-fide cyclocross bicycle. having learned at least the basics of leaping aboard a la nys and powers (albeit more slowly and clumsily) a previous criticism of the cambium range was an inherent and undesirable flex that made them less than specifically suitable for the competitive 'cross rider. though you'd probably have to ask sven and jeremy directly, for my cyclocrossing purposes at least, the c13 was a distinct improvement.

considering just how crap many of islay's singletrack roads have become and peppered as they are with frequent cattle grids, the cambium c13 was really rather good. there may arguably be a greater degree of specific comfort to be found in the c17, with its wider base, but as brooks' first entry into the lightweight performance market this carbon-railed version could very well be the one your posterior has been searching for so long. and if you've traditionally avoided brooks because of the weight factor, that excuse has now evaporated.

though brooks has an enviable and lengthy heritage, it's very encouraging to note that they seem to have no desire to rest on their considerable laurels. the cambium c13 is but the latest step along that heritage trail, maintaining an expected level of quality while adopting relevant portions of contemporary cycling technology.

a promising start to the new year for bums everywhere.

the brooks cambium c13 was issued as a first batch of 259 at a cost of approximately £190. it should become more widely available in 2016.

brooks cambium c13

sunday 3 january 2016

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colnago disc rotor

in march of this new year, thewashingmachinepost will become twenty years old. as far as i'm aware, it's the oldest cycling related blog in the world and there's really little chance of that changing anytime soon. depending on your point of view, that's either a prompt for visible joy or constitutes threatening behaviour. for the past few years, these yellow and black pixels have been updated every day, excluding the times when mrs washingmachinepost and i take time off for rest and relaxation.

though many of you will have already deduced that there is no grand velocipedinal strategy at work in the hebrides, i'm happy to confirm that such is the case. it's simply a matter of yours truly enjoying his work. however, not that i know how it came to pass, but somewhere along the cycle path, i have had occasion to prove somewhat opinionated, a feature at one time strenuously denied, but more recently graciously accepted, though one that i still prefer to avoid if i can.

colnago disc rotor

some of those opinionated bits have concerned components of the bicycle, ones that i figure are being meddled with unnecessarily. considering i neither manufacture nor design componentry or bicycles, these ruminations unsurprisingly have had little overall effect on the machinery available in your nearest independent bicycle dealer. in fact, it would not be stretching matters too far to admit that they have had no effect whatsoever.

firstly there was the great headset debacle; after surviving with a one-inch diameter edifice since time immemorial, suddenly we have become saddled with integrated machinery that bears a larger diameter at the crown race than atop the head tube, accommodating a tapered steerer. i still don't see any real need. similarly with bottom brackets. after informing us that placing the headset inside the head tube improved torsional rigidity, the very same people moved the bottom bracket bearings outboard of the bb shell for apparently the very same reason.

i fear that one of those contentions must be incorrect.

colnago disc caliper

you know i'm always a day behind with these discussions, right? so mentioning that as of yesterday, disc brakes became legal on road bikes puts me only a smidgeon behind the curve, so to speak. happily, it seems that i am not alone in my belief that this rule change is wholly unnecessary, driven by the manufacturers rather than riders they are attempting to serve.

this past month i have been riding an hydraulic disc-equipped cyclo-cross bike on every occasion (about which, more next week). i cannot deny that they have behaved impeccably, aside from a propensity to emit howling banshee screams every time the rotors get wet. which in the present weather system is always. however, i would refrain from describing their effect as jaw-dropping. to my mind, a decent set of good old-fashioned dual-pivot calipers are every bit as effective. mind you, tan sidewall tyres retain their impressive looks for a lot longer than their caliper inflicted brethren.

colnago disc caliper

i might state that i can sort of see the point on a cross bike when used for the purpose for which it was designed. i can also see the advantage of discs fitted to downhill mountain bikes, tandems and touring bicycles, but the need for such stopping power on featherweight carbon road bikes escapes me completely. i can already see one or two of you fidgeting at the back, eager to tell me to get over it; discs are here, so i should just shut up and accept the inevitable. in light of my previous misgivings detailed above, you're probably right.

but in similar manner to having imposed a hitherto unseen degree of frame stiffness upon an unsuspecting pelotonese, all because tom and mark like it that way, discs on road bikes seem principally a means to have us all invest in one or two new frames and wheelsets on exactly the same basis. if sagan, froome and valverde are seen to be endorsing discs, whether voluntarily or otherwise, how long before an orderly queue has formed outside your nearest bike shop?

and that before even considering the trials and tribulations about to be experienced by the neutral service crews this coming season. forget not that as yet, campagnolo do not offer disc brakes of any flavour. i'm all for progress - even if it doesn't look like it - but where necessary, not simply for economic gain.

saturday 2 january 2016

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new year revolutions. a lot of cobbles

a load of cobbles

it probably ought to be a top ten list of the products of the year, but that would be a tad redundant i fear. suppose, for the sake of argument, i were to place the ridley x-ride 20 as the season's finest (and please be assured that i'm not saying it is and i'm not saying it isn't), who's got any money left after christmas to buy one solely on my recommendation? if you've already got one, you might well take my endorsement as confirmation of your own. if you bought another brand of cyclocross bicycle, you'll only think i don't know what i'm talking about.

the worst bit about the latter is that i'd probably agree with you.

thus, the only advantage i have over my readership is that i have the temerity to hold a subjective opinion and a blog on which to express it. the same goes for any print publication or any other online cycle dissemination. which is a very long-winded way of explaining why there exists no washingmachinepost product of the year award. so let's concentrate on new year resolutions instead, because those are a darned sight cheaper to enact and if everything goes to form, none of us will keep any of them anyway.

for the last goodness knows how many years, i, along with many others have promised myself that i will ride my bicycle more frequently. it's an easy resolution to make and relatively easy to justify at year's end. however, the main reason for listing this particular empty promise is one that afflicts many of us. mostly, i only ride at weekends and i'm quite keen to alter that situation for the better.

however, there are a couple of stumbling blocks virtually guaranteed to undermine this philosophy. for starters, i only live five minutes walk from my regular place of work, meaning it would take longer to extricate the bicycle from the bike shed than it does to walk to the office in the first place. that rather obviates a daily commute by bicycle. secondly, since my services are generally required during what we like to term a production week, something that occurs only every second week, it makes it very difficult to get out at all during every alternate monday to friday.

unfortunately, that's the aspect that i'd like to remedy. if the weekend rides prove to be pleasantly onerous in one way or another, it would be prudent to capitalise on any improved level of fitness they may have fostered. unfortunately, sitting in a very comfortable chair in front of a large screen imac is all but guaranteed to offer a contrary situation. sure, i could endorse rule five and either knock out a few kilometres in the morning before breakfast, or do likewise on arriving home at day's end. but to put not too fine a point upon it, that sounds a bit too much like either hard work or worse still, training.

so, though on waking this morning i will still have mouthed the same annual mantra, you and i both know it ain't gonna happen. and i'm pretty sure i will not be standing alone in this.

however, my resolution to win paris-roubaix is looking far more realistic.

happy new year.

friday 1 january 2016

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it's a breeze

warning. this article may contain blasé indignance and more than a modest degree of arrogance.

blustery day

i, along with many of my cycling and non-cycling colleagues, am becoming a touch disillusioned and exasperated with the modern meteorological need to name every breeze and shower of rain by way of male or female names in alphabetical order. though it has been common practice to do so when discussing hurricanes that inhabit the coastal regions of north america, those are of an order of magnitude greater than what the met office seems to consider stormy.

no doubt there is some deep-rooted psychological reason as to why so-called storms need to be anthropomorphised, but even assuming that to be the case, there really ought to be some level of enormity applied before names are scattered at random.

blustery day

i do have great sympathy with those in the northern regions of englandshire who have seen their homes inundated with huge quantities of flood water. i really can't imagine how devastating that can be. but subsequently blaming it on something called frank scarcely seems like any kind of excuse or remedy at all. britain has a long-standing reputation for inclement weather at this time of year. the recent propensity of building houses on portions of land that have apparently been liable to flooding for more years than local knowledge can often recall, is of no appeasement to those who moved in, blissfully unaware of such an habitual influx of water.

blustery day

however, it is not the above that i wish to discuss; those are matters well outside the scope of an opinionated scotsman.

aside from the contemporary storm naming procedure, my argument concerns the wind, as in a strong breeze as opposed to that incurred by munching too many brussels sprouts at christmas dinner. i have recently made note of a number of articles appearing in the mainstream online cycling press often entitled something like 'ten things you need to know about riding in the wind'. aside from the rather convenient number applied to the subsequent list, i am intrigued to know what particular qualifications or experience is owned by those penning said articles?

blustery day

in all the years i have been trammeling the highways and byways of the island, i have not once come across an unknown individual exhibiting a level of flair and skill in the face of an atlantic storm that would bring me to seek out their considered opinion on the subject. my perception is that of southern-based cycling journalists filling column inches without being ultimately aware of that of which they speak.

i have watched more than one visiting cyclist blown into a roadside ditch and seen others inadvertantly blown off the road due to being caught unawares by gusting winds. at the same time, i've observed the local peloton avoid both of these iniquities simply through experience.

so let me be quite plain; there is no list of attributes that will ease your experience of riding in the wind. headwinds simply demand gruntwork; plod into the wind for as long as you have the stamina. there is ultimately going to be a strength of headwind with which you cannot cope. this will vary by individual. crosswinds are the dangerous ones, particularly in exposed areas. my rule of thumb is that if the average forecast windspeed is above 38-40mph it's verging on stupidity to head out. though such speeds are rideable, if that's the average, then the gusts can top 60mph and being hit sideways by one of those could take you off the bike or into the path of oncoming traffic.

would i lie to you?

winnie the pooh and the blustery day images © disney pictures 1968.

thursday 31 december 2015

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rapha merino winter collar

this is cambridge thermal socks

i can only but apologise to andrew and daphne at this is cambridge. it was, i can only surmise, an error made in haste. this current fashion for socks that reach half way up one's chiseled calf muscles has made the art of dressing in a hurry a lot harder to accomplish when still in the throes of awakening from the slumber of the gods. you may also have found it a tad incongruous to roll up the leg of your bibtights far enough to pull the socks to the full height of their pink-edged significance. i know i do. so i blame it on both socks and tights combining to create a single iniquity.

to compound matters, i failed to notice the error until my return from a lengthy bike ride, one featuring a constantly rising wind that eventually became the frankenstorm. so after dragging my pathetic frame all the way up the stairs for a shower, i noticed that i'd worn the left sock inside out. instead of saying, it merely displayed a raggedy set of stitches.

rapha winter collar

my apologies.

the best part, however, of committing such a sartorial faux pas is that it's one of the less obvious ones. to demonstrate, i sat for half-an-hour in debbie's at lunchtime, scoffing a double egg roll, soya cappuccino and a chunk of mrs washingmachinepost's fabulous christmas cake. and nobody sniggered; at least not at my socks. of course this could have been because my feet were encased in a fine, thermal pair of neoprene overshoes.

however, in my defence, such an error driven, somnabulent dressing regime had not been a total failure, for i had deftly managed to wear my thermal merino winter collar with the rapha logo front and centre. you'd scarcely think this to matter a great deal, but i'd be a little less tolerant if the logo were upside down or at the back. unlike the inside out sock.

rapha winter collar

i'm assuming that the western version of the latter item (western as in the john wayne, clint eastwood definition) is worn predominantly to protect the incumbent from sandstorms, as can often be prevalent in desert regions of the midwest. (though i doubt clint ever received the benfits of merino). in late december in the hebrides, sandstorms are conspicuous by their absence, whereas cold, rain saturated, galeforce winds most definitely are not. in fact, as of the end of october, they've been remarkably common, a feature that makes the wearing of a winter collar not only an arguably stylish accessory, but an immensely pragmatic one.

there is minor disagreement, however, over just how it should be worn. joe generally places his outboard of a pro-team softshell, while i am very much of the opinion that a merino collar ought to be placed atop the jersey prior to the softshell being donned. rapha winter collar the former method does make it simpler to push and pull while in flight, but leaves it dangerously exposed to the elements. my own preference seems to repel all untoward draughts while keeping neck and upper chest perfectly toasty, even when the zip is lowered for ventilation.

what we are agreed upon, no matter the colour or style we have chosen to wear, is that it is every bit as essential as a decent pair of softshell gloves or waterproof overshoes and hardly a purchase that will frighten your bank statement. even at its regular price of £30. it's now even better when you consider that rapha have reduced that by £10 in their winter sale.

no need to apologise for that.

rapha winter collar

wednesday 30 december 2015

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gracious in defeat. sort of.

festive weather

rapha's festive 500 first saw the light of day in december 2010. this was the sanitised public version of designer graeme raeburn's winter sojourn from the previous december when he elected to ride 1000 kilometres between christmas eve and new year's eve, firstly as a challenge and secondly to avoid watching endless repeats on the telly.

subsequent runnings of the annual event have proved that even the intrepid raeburn fellow may have been slightly conservative in his kilometreage, since there seem plenty of presumably unmarried or terminably unsociable individuals who have run up bigger numbers on their garmins. personally, i find the 500 kilometres just about right in order to balance cycling life with the gaining of and possible losing of, brownie points from mrs washingmachinepost.

however, reaching the eventual goal with little disturbance would only occur in a perfect world.

in my second year of festive perambulation, the hebridean weather, fresh in from the atlantic, made the week and a day's worth of bike riding slightly more of a strategic exercise, planning at which point of the day it was prudent to head out, without incurring the wrath of the weather gods. that, of course, is assuming i was able to get out at all.

but on one of those days sitting on the borderline between insanity and sheer stupidity, my initial kilometres were particularly wind-flecked but do-able. just. since all roads eventually lead to debbie's, i had figured on riding the circumference of loch gorm over on the atlantic coast assuming i made it that far in the first place. the trouble with riding in weather such as currently experienced is that you eventually and incorrectly figure yourself as being bulletproof.

this feeling of invincibility had me very foolishly carry on towards saligo bay, the final step between islay and the eastern seaboard of canada; that was my biggest mistake. only a matter of metres passed ballinaby farm, a 60mph + squall blew in from the sea and i only just managed to unclip and put my left foot on the ground to prevent self and bicycle being lifted into the roadside ditch. due to the ferocity of the wind, i was unable to dismount for at least five minutes in fear of the bicycle disappearing eastwards.

the very same situation occurred only a few kilometres later at the entrance to kilchoman distillery, entailing my eventual arrival at debbie's both shaken and stirred.

therefore, on monday of this very week, when calmac cancelled all ferries to and from islay for the day and xcweather was recording average windspeeds in the upper thirties, with gusts some twenty miles an hour faster, i'm afraid i capitulated, pulled up the duvet and listened to some dexter gordon on my ipod. with tomorrow's forecast not promising much relief from such strong and persistent winds, it seems more than likely i'll struggle to achieve a fifth consecutive festive500.

i know it's supposed to be a challenge, but be careful nonetheless.

tuesday 29 december 2015

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