the post

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style guru

around about a year or so ago, i wrote about clothing from a new london company, rapha performance roadwear, but until recently i hadn't had the opportunity to do anything other than look at pics of their stuff in the monthlies. however, i have recently had the opportunity to wear some of this high quality (and, let's face it, rather expensive) cycle clothing myself, and i'm inclined to think that the cost is probably justified. (well, maybe)

up until recently, if you wanted to spend a fortune on high tech cycle clothing, assos was your only option, and while i'm very much in favour of clothing that gives me visibility on a level with a lighthouse in coal cellar, i'm not too keen on some of the assos colour combinations. couple this with the reticence to look like a mobile advertising hoarding (i'm thinking here of my landbouwkrediet colnago jersey) and the somewhat quality retro look purveyed by rapha becomes most appealing.

mortirolo_club_jersey

the rapha club jersey has given me problems - nothing to do with fit or quality, but the fact that i chose the 'mortirolo' option which comes in tour of italy pink, a colour much maligned by members of my family when worn by those of the male gender. particularly if, in the words of a neighbour, i have the physique of a racing sardine. the main reasons i chose the pink were a) its high visibility and b) the mortirolo was the late marco pantani's favourite climb, and a mountain on which he still holds the ascension record. excellent reasons as far as i'm concerned.

the club jerseys exist as a 'set' of four, each in a different colour, and each bearing the lettering of a famous climb on front and rear, as well as the very appealing rapha logo on the left breast. aside from mortirolo, the choices are brive-agen (new one on me), aubisque and croix de fer. cunningly, a brief text referring to said lettering is stitched to the zipped 'cash' pocket at the rear (on the opposite side are the washing instructions).

in a very pleasing contradiction to the retro look, the back pockets number a total of five. there are three of the 'normal' size, one narrow one in which to stow the 'never leave home without it' mini-pump, and the aforementioned zipped penny pocket.

and as perhaps is suggested by the price (90 if you have to ask), the jerseys are not produced in the ubiquitous lycra, but in a combination of sportwool and polyester. if my forays into the wide grey yonder are anything to go by, there is the distinct impression that this material is a touch more windproof than a regular jersey. in fact, i'm not entirely unconvinced that it may be a tad better blocker than my assos roubaix jacket. (still, it's way too warm at present to wear the latter, so i may well be mistaken in this).

the jersey has already been washed and come through unscathed and just as pink as when it went in, though it does take slightly longer to dry than a standard jersey, and you do have to exercise a bit more care in washing. the only downside i could find, and in the best tradition of thewashingmachinepost it's a highly trivial notion, is that it tends to cling to the thermal vest worn underneath when you're putting it on, whereupon an impression of two rabbits in a laundry bag is necessary to become decorous prior to cycling.

merino_socks

rapha also make cycling socks, but they cobble them from merino wool, they are marked left and right and they are, without a shadow of a doubt, the best cycling socks on the planet. if you wish to emulate mr armstrong, you can purchase them in black in a long version, but since the nearest i can get to emulating armstrong is to watch the discovery channel, i opted for the short, white version. the only visible marking when worn is a thin, grey line around the top so if you like anonymity on your ankles, these are for you. since the right sock circles in close proximity to the chainset, the inner ribbing is reinforced to combat any grit, road splash or wear in a localised area. these really are a quality product - i cannot believe that this rather insignificant part of a cyclist's kit can make so much difference to the pleasure of cycling. in fact, so impressed with these socks was i, that i was moved to telephone rapha to inform them of such, and then apologise for being such an anorak enthusing about a pair of socks! while some of the rest of their range might provoke a sharp intake of breath when looking at the price tag, these are worth every penny, and then some. buy some now and thank me later.

criterium_gloves

fitting the 'sharp intake of breath' category are the two styles of leather cycle mitts. at the top, and very much in the holy sh*&!@ category are the grand tour mitts at the princely sum of 80 (scream!). these are individually hand made from leather purloined from african hair sheepskin, and are a beautiful example of retro style cycle mitts, but at only ten pounds less than the cost of the jersey reviewed at the head of the article, you might have to think long and hard (probably more than once) before purchasing a pair. further down the price bracket, crafted to the same degree of sophistication as the grand tour gloves, but at more bearable 45 (yes, i know, i know) are the criterium gloves. these are made from quality pittards leather returning the long lamented hole on the back (which will hopefully lead to the 'cyclists' tan' over the summer) and holes at the knuckles, very retro, very cool.

rapha recommend that you purchase a smaller size than normal and allow them to expand to fit your hands. unfortunately my first pair were size small and i couldn't even get them past my fingers, but the replacement mediums, even though a struggle to get on initially, have bedded themselves in just nicely

for those 'off-bike' moments, the rapha cotton t-shirts exude the same quality as all their other kit, with a slick rapha logo screened on the front, and there is a story supposedly 'relating' to the t-shirt colours screened on the inside of the shirt. i say supposedly, because interesting as the brief diatribe on the inside of my racing green shirt was/is, i have no idea what the point is relative to the shirt. still, same could be said about the post.

the entire range currently available can be viewed and purchased from their very stylish website at www.rapha.cc. in fact rapha seem to have gone out of their way to make sure everything about the company exudes style. every item of clothing comes encased in a hardy clear bag, embossed with the rapha logo on the flap (and joyously, on the bag containing the mitts, sealed with a sticker portraying the citroen broom wagon as seen in the movie 'belleville rendezvous' - apparenty rapha actually own one of these vehicles). last month's cycling plus contained the product brochure to end all product brochures - monochrome, limited colour and almost cryptic photos.

if you take your cycling seriously, and have already spent stupid amounts of money on carbon and titanium, (sorry, i was holding my hand up there) you owe it to yourself to look at the rapha range, both current and promised. i'm sure my cycling wardrobe will experience a few more rapha expansions in the near future.

i'd always said i'd try my best to inject a bit of attitude into road cycling, similar to that prevalent in mountain biking, but it looks as though rapha beat me to it

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if you missed the ardbeg jerseys when they were available at the distillery, you can order online at www.thecyclejersey.com. if you missed the pics of the ardbeg cycle jerseys, click here for a look see.

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this website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine

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as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.

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previous book reviews

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