life and cycling (not necessarily in that order) are all about choices; sometimes we make good ones, sometimes we make poor ones, and sometime those choices are made for us. in most cases it's not the choices that maketh the man/woman but the nature of the reaction to those choices. the choice of bicycle is of a more permanent nature: few of us have the financial wherewithal to change on a whim if the colour's not right or the size isn't quite what you thought it to be. there are enough expressed opinions on the web and the cycling press to aid the pre-purchase choice, so i must be concerted in my opinion that the majority of you have a suitable velocipede sitting in the bike shed. if not, you've likely only yourself to blame.
clothing is an entirely different matter altogether. the bike is going to be the bike irrespective of the outside temperature, rainfall, snowfall or headwind. unless you are of the irrepressible variety, chances are that clothing is donned head to toe before a single digit has experienced the great outdoors, and i figure you're telling me lies if you insist that your choice of apparel has never been remiss. it helps to have an extensive wardrobe at your disposal: something for every conceivable situation. but even then...
so you will perhaps sympathise with saturday's choice of outerwear being not quite what i thought it would be.
craft are a swedish company responsible for a substantial range of appropriate clothing not just for cycling, but for running, cross-country and skiing. it seems likely that there will be a suitable crossover between those disciplines, informing all to the benefit of those participating in each. it's winter, it's still cold and the correct choice of clothing is a very good idea; it's a lot harder to get away with the wrong choice at this time of year than during those warm, balmy days of summer (or so it says in the holiday brochure).
i was sent an elite windstopper long-sleeve jersey, and a crew neck wool/polyester baselayer, providing an apparently impervious upper layer. or so i thought. saturday morning dawned so misty that bowmore distillery's bonded warehouses, only a hundred metres or so from the kitchen window were all but invisible. it took much of the morning to clear and when the cielo was taken from its place of repose, the temperature had not risen as far as i'd hoped.
strangely, the craft baselayer features the polyester section on the inside, and merino wool on the other. craft claim that the polyester 'lining' is to prevent itching, while those who offer full merino make great play of the lack of itch. i'm with the latter. additionally, one of the main selling points of merino is the lack of acquired odour when worn for any given length of time. placing the polyester next to the skin would seem to nullify this feature on the craft baselayer.
that said, the garment was a good, warm fit, though without the softness i'd associate with all merino, and i did rather like the higher neck than is the case on competing products. craft speak positively of their bodymapping ergonomics, and i must confess that, assuming you don't have bumpy bits in places where honed athletes shouldn't have bumpy bits, you could wear this to less formal social events.
the elite jersey oozes build quality, with even the splashes of colour making sense in the overall design. many is the jacket/jersey that has completely inexplicable and inappropriate flecks of colour about its person; not necessarily to the detriment of function but hardly the epitome of style. the windstopper fabric infiltrates the entire front of the jersey, each side of the full zip, continuing across the shoulders, and across the top of the back. the windproofing does not extend to the fleece lined arms, but as my arms are the first appendages to get swot and hetty, this seems a logical step. when new at least, there's every likelihood that you'll be mistaken for the brown paper cowboy, and arrested for rustling.
the sleeves are my kind of sleeves, with length in abundance leaving no naked gaps between gloves and wrists. and they're soft. pockets extend to two small(ish) outers and one substantial centre container which will swallow an entire team car. outboard of this is the mandatory zipped version for the cappuccino money. the hem has monogrammed gloop to keep everything in place while waiting for the last man in the lead out train to peel off, and the fabric's elasticity ensures that fitting over the crewneck baselayer flatters the slimmer figure. if push comes to criticism, i thought the jersey (medium tested) just a smidgeon on the short side, though in mitigation, i must confess that bunching was entirely amiss. fit across the chest was amongst the best. the collar is bereft of windproofing, but it is of commendable height, and fashioned in a cunning dart shap towards the zip.
the downside to this all is that of choice, mine, and perhaps just a little mis-comprehension. i have a couple of merino jerseys that would have warmed me well in saturday morning's chill, and with the windstopper badge on the craft's fabric, i thought this too would serve me similarly. within the first couple of miles, i wasn't heating up as much as hoped, (windchill took the temperature to a couple of degrees below) so i stopped and put on a thin windshell. that did the trick, warmth was achieved, and the outer shell was removed a mile or so later. however, in the conditions, i needed to keep pedalling persistently to keep the chill at bay, and i have to admit that the elite wasn't as cosy as it promised.
choice is a funny thing, and the key to it all is to realise that you may have opted for the wrong one, and learn from the episode. i cannot fault the craft jersey: it may not have been as warm as i'd hoped, but craft make no wild claims in this direction, and there are outer shells as part of the elite range, meaning i should probably have paid more attention. day two, and an outer covering was most defintely required due to a smattering of precipitation. in this case, the temperature was even lower, and the craft windstopper proved itself the equal of the imposed climate: not too hot, not too cold.
winter is now tapering towards the finer days of spring, though still a few weeks off, and the opportunities to comfortably wear a jersey such as the elite will be on the increase. the baselayer is equally personable and practical, though i'd like to reserve the choice to pick 100% merino more often than not.
the craft elite long-sleeve jersey is currently available from always riding reduced from £102 to a satisfying £81.73 in black/grey or iron/red (tested) small to xl. the wool/polyester crewneck baselayer retails at £40, again in small to xl
happy birthday rabbie burns
posted monday 25 january 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................