summer quite rightly brings out veritable pelotons of cyclo-tourists, many of whom finish or commence their island-hopping on islay, having been up north or about to head in that direction. none of this should be confused with the veritable plethora of estate cars (oddly, mostly audi or bmw) bearing at least four cars on the roof rack. no doubt as a fashion accessory these give rise to the mistaken notion that the occupants are of at least modest athletic prowess, but i rarely see the bicycles anywhere other than atop the cars. rare are the occasions when they can be met along the road.
however, the serious cyclo-tourists can be identified by their no-nonsense approach to both cycles, clothing and luggage; the cycle tourists association can hold its head high with pride. the newbies, and i mean no disrespect to those upon whom i have afflicted this apellation (at least they're getting some exercise), are far more contemporary in their choice of velocipede, and seemingly with a predilection for brightly coloured panniers, matched, if that is the correct word, with a high-visibility, fluorescent vest.
while i figure the latter to be somewhat uneccessary around these parts, unless perhaps given to riding late in the evenings, i perfectly understand a need to be seen. it just seems a shame that this need is often satisfied by means of an unsubtle, and substantially un-sartorial solution. there are a number of jerseys and jackets available that advertise themselves by means of colour more than others, but they have not always proved themselves to be proficient in their promise, and more often than not remain just the right side of hideous.
it cannot have escaped your attention that some of the more recognisable brands receive their fair share of criticism for sticking to blacks, browns and more autumnal colours, rather than protecting the wearer from the iniquities of the motorised commuter. that is sort of where hultra come in. keen to inhabit the degree of elegance many of us have come to expect these days, hultra have adopted the bright and shiny, giving rise to an elegant jersey with a less than subtle splash of colour. the range currently consists of a choice of three brightly countenanced hues: blue, orange and green. and all this for the princely sum of £39.95 including uk postage.
for the money, you receive a finely crafted polyester jersey, featuring a full-length ykk zip, a wide hoop of your chosen colour on the front , complemented by a similarly wide, full-length stripe on the back. the colour choice is also repeated in the collar. as stated on the hultra website, this jersey is not designed to look good when down the pub, it's designed to look good when on a bike. as if the finely tuned athlete would be seen within kilometres of a drinking establishment.
the usual complement of three pockets adorns the rear, happily augmented by a zipped fourth, something that, at the risk of being endlessly repetitive, ought to be mandatory on any modern cycle jersey. the high visibility aspect of the jersey is enhanced by full-length strips of scotchlite at the join of each side panel, and along the top of the pockets.
so that's what it is, but how well does it do what it's supposed to?
the latter is sort of hard to quantify; there is no doubt that its visibility is in the upper reaches of the spectrum, and those bits of scotchlite cannot but attract the beams of car headlights in the early mornings or late nights. in similar manner to an insurance policy or cycle helmet, you hope its efficacy can be entrusted wihtout actually having to find out.
however, the thickness of the unlined material renders it usable mostly on warm, sunny days, though i did manage to retain a degree of heat on a warm(ish) cloudy day. i cannot, however, pretend that a smidgeon of chill did not encroach during an 18km ride in the rain. you should also pay particular attention as to the quality and visible state of the bibshorts and baselayer worn underneath, for the white part of the material does not conceal its semi-transparency particularly well (particularly when wet).
though the hem is liberally coated with silicon gloop to prevent it riding up in use (which works rather well, since you ask), it might have been a nice idea to drop the tail just a tad for increased protection of the lower back. and while we're in the area, i confess to finding the pockets just a wee bit too high. i'm all too well aware of my lack of flexibility, but trying to extricate a munchie bar when in the saddle must have looked, to the innocent bystander, as if i were undertaking a course in calisthenics. the pockets are deep enough to swallow a pickfords removal truck worth of ancillaries, but it's a bit hard trying to get them out again.
these are, however, but relatively minor details, ones that may well work themselves out as the company eases itself into fame and fortune. the jersey fit is impeccable, with the medium size reviewed giving rise to no undue flapping in the wind, and commendable closeness around the chest area, a malady that affects many a more expensive garment.
hopefully, as autumn and winter head in our direction, the guys at hultra will have a look at providing gilets, a long-sleeve version and perhaps wind or rainjackets. the current offering is of too fine a fabric to offer much protection in the later seasons, and covering it with protective clothing will surely render its high visibility redundant. meantime, it's a startlingly obvious solution to modern cycling attire that promises to work exceptionally well at a price that it's hard not to like.
hultra jerseys are available in three distinct colours: blue, orange or green on a white body, and in sizes ranging from small to xxl (orange is available in xxxl for some reason) at a uk price of £39.95 including postage. overseas orders will attract postage costs dependent on destination. ordering is via the hultra website.
posted saturday 16 july 2011