i think it was greg lemond who said that cycling doesn't ever get any easier; the pain and suffering is just as bad, you just get faster. it's a telling statement that i wish i'd been aware of before i embarked on my fast colnago phase, where enormous effort was expended on my part in an attempt to reach the stage where plain sailing would result. think of it this way: if i bust a gut for long enough, up hill and down dale, eventually the magic 32kph would be well within my grasp. once that point was reached, as it surely would, the daily cycle would be a simple matter of climbing aboard the carbon fibre, winding things up to 32 and coasting around with a smug grin under that peaked cap. conversation could be as sophisticated and involved as i liked, because being out of breath would be a thing of the past, as long as i didn't get notions of reaching for 35kph.
the lemond principle kicked in without my knowing, which was somewhat of a disappointment. you will know yourself if you have ever had your own fast colnago phase that there is simply no way on this earth that you're going to get to 32kph and call a halt. the speed will move up to 35 and beyond; cycling will just be as hard as it always was, but now you'll be going faster. this really only applies to cycling alone, or in company aiming for the same ever shifting horizon; come the sunday ride, we're all back to the lowest common denominator, because that's what the sunday ride is all about. if you want pain and suffering, go do it on a saturday.
as is so common in the world of cycling, all is subjective and relative, unless you have sold your soul to the heart rate and power monitors. under those circumstances, there is nowhere to hide, and it's the fun factor that becomes subjective and relative. i say this because it is perfectly normal and acceptable to collapse on the kitchen floor having covered half the distance and expended half the energy than the guy (or girl) on the fast colnago next to you. each to their own. but reward and cossetting is the norm for the pros at the end of both training and racing: massage, enormous quantities of food, mechanics to tweak the bar tape and clean and sparkly leisure kit to wear. we, on the other hand, have probably less to look forward to; i have not noticed any proclivity on behalf of mrs washingmachinepost to rush forward with sponge and soapy water to wash the bicycle, while i partake of the substantial repast awaiting my cleated waddle into the kitchen. heck, i even have to make my own waffle-mix on a saturday eve ready for the return on sunday.
it's hard being a civilian.
however, the transition from cyclist to civilian is often one that you would wish to be a slowburn. returning from several hours of purgatory that subsequently translates as euphoria on two wheels, the possibility of sitting on the sofa, cleated shoes cast to one side, and in no desperate hurry to divest jersey and tights, is often one to savour along with a coffee. and an ideal way to improve this savouring is having a suitably constituted woolly top to throw on, preventing that cooling down way too quickly feeling, that might hasten a trip to the shower. there are obviously times when this intervening state of relaxation is not possible, making it all the more welcoming when time and tired limbs allow.it is this very state of self-reward that apolis activism and rapha likely had in mind when the notion for a hand-knitted cashmere and merino jersey suggested itself. vaguely reminiscent of rapha's merino training top from around five years ago, the transit elite sweater is unabashed luxury that is likely to increase the desire to go out and hammer yourselves on the potholes and byways of wherever it is you reside. hand-knitted by the women of the citta co-operative in khatmandhu nepal, the blend of wools has resulted in the softest and cosiest sweater i can ever remembering pulling on over a baselayer. in fact, despite the low temperatures we are experiencing at present, i had to switch to rapha's v-neck short sleeved baselayer, because the long sleeve version was just too warm.
modeled in similar fashion to that of a cycle jersey, though just a tad looser fitting, the transit-elite features ribbed cuffs, round collar and hem, with a quarter length ri-ri zip in case it gets just too warm (and it did on one or two occasions). the sleeve/shoulder interface is very relaxed, providing the ease of movement that a clumsy cyclist such as myself has to hope for in a sweater. lazing about on the comfy sofa at debbie's mid-ride was the ideal way of relaxing with a large soya cappuccino. and that is no different at the end of the ride, still togged up, sweater on, knifing and forking my way through a pile of belgian waffles with sour cream, maple syrup and a dollop of sliced banana (at least two of my five a day).
i'm more than willing to believe that the excessive luxury can be readily attributed to the skill of the knitters in nepal; the physical experience of wearing the sweater cannot possibly be presupposed from the photos on rapha's or apolis activism's websites, nor from the video appended below. the rapha story label on the inside? a federico bahamontes anecdote. and just because they can, there's token pastel cross-stitch on the back.
the transit elite sweater costs a lot of money, but it is a limited edition, and in keeping with apolis' stated aims 'we believe humanity has a common thread, a common hope for unity, freedom, and sustainability. apolis creates opportunities for developing economies by connecting them to the global marketplace through seasonal stories and products.
"through our activism timeline for the sweater, 50 knitters were employed over a three month process. our goal is creating opportunity through jobs instead of offering charity through donations. we feel this is our way to invest long term in people through product." shea parton.
if you're reaching the peak of your fast phase, or expect there to be a few of these across the season, now is the time to consider what must rank as possibly the ultimate reward for consistency in the face of adversity. if you're as individual as we probably all are, you just know that no-one else has your very best interests at heart.
the transit elite sweater, hand-knitted from 30% cashmere/70% merino, to the best of my knowledge will only be available in 400 pieces worldwide and can be purchased from either apolis activism or rapha online, at a cost of £285 ($396). it's only available in blue/black and sizes xs to xxl.
posted tuesday 9 march 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................