if life is a bunch of compromises, cycling life will never be seen as anything different. once the dominant british means of personal transport in the 1940s, it has gradually become more and more marginalised by the seemingly unstoppable growth of motorised transport. the latter could potentially become a great deal worse if the driverless car is as successful as google, apple, volvo et al are banking that it will be.
currently, one of the limiting factors in becoming a fully-fledged motorist, other than a prohibitive cost that many seem happy to bear, is that of learning to drive in the first place. this too places an unhelpful burden on the hapless bank account, but also requires that a test must first be passed prior to taking solo control of your very own car. i must admit that my theory that on one random day of each year the dvla hand out free drivers' licences for no good reason is often given greater credence based on some of the manoeuvres seen even on islay's roads. however, legally, it's still currently necessary to pass the prescribed driving test.
driverless cars may challenge that particular tradition. if the car truly needs no driver, will it still be necessary for one of those in the car to be sanctioned as a qualified driver? thus, just when you thought there was scarcely room for any more cars or trucks on britain's congested roads, along comes a wizard wheeze that might challenge the exponential status quo. and if we as cyclists feel a tad downtrodden at present, it can only get worse from here on in.
it thus makes greater and greater sense for mr and mrs cyclist, whether acting as temporary refugees from the peloton, or simply trying to get to and from work/the shops/school (delete as applicable) to ensure that all these cars are aware of our existence, never mind presence. quite how driverless cars will deal with the plethora of fluorescent colours in their theoretical line of sight, i really have no idea. the visibility of a man or woman on a bike may have no real value for the automaton.
the only good i can see from this will be a reduction in such hideous, but often perceivably necessary, colouring in the first place.
however, fluorescence is somewhat less effective during the hours of darkness; car headlights will pick it up, but generally a modest level of reflective material is required to truly make it shine (literally). though there is great danger in disregarding a tried and tested safety feature in favour of a more sartorially acceptable appearance, quite frequently that is in itself something of a necessity or, depending on your level of vanity, just as desirable. though convention has made it more than acceptable for troops of schoolkids to reach school wearing fluorescent and reflective vests (those not driven there by mummy or daddy), entering your place of work dressed thus and accessorised with the once obligatory trouser clips may raise more than a single corporate eyebrow.
i can see one or two of you are keen to point out that divesting oneself of such bright garmentage at point of entry is every bit as simple as it gets, but would it not be more amenable to be clad in apparel that advertises itself not as velocipedinally inclined until required to do so? apparel that, to the civilian population looks every bit as smart and respectable as could be acquired from a visit to savile row? i see heads nodding in agreement.
the aptly named lumo may just be the port of call in a storm that the executives amongst us were hoping for. i am reliably informed that the harrington jacket is a stylish accoutrement, well-respected in the fashion world, having been first popularised by elvis presley in the 1958 movie king creole, though the design itself stretches back to the 1930s. not necessarily one to actively seek out stylish apparel, i cannot deny that lumo's harrington is devlishly presentable and more than just a tad substantial in construction.
available in both men's and women's versions, the lumo herne hill harrington (try saying that after a packet of wine gums) is made from a gabardine cotton twill, a water-repellent schoeller 3xdry fabric that equates rather well with the frequent inclement deluges experienced in the hebrides and possibly even in the region of an inner-city commute. in point of fact, my poorly timed excursion on the taurus corinto coincided with a burst of snow and sleet, driven headwind style into providing rosy cheeks. it's hard to describe both the joy and relief to watch such precipitation baubling harmlessly on the jacket's surface before dripping off onto the steel top tube.
but water-repellency is of little nevermind if the garment itself is bereft of the wherewithal to keep the rider cosy and warm. thankfully, that heavy gabardine cotton is not shy on the central heating front, aided and abetted by inner lycra cuffs preventing draughts from circulating where you'd honestly prefer they wouldn't. the front of the jacket features two handy zipped pockets shielded from the elements by covering flaps lined with a rather attractive white polka dotted pattern on a red background.
this feature, however, gives grounds for minor criticism, stitched as they are to the rear of the pockets. thus when walking in windy conditions, or cycling in pretty much any conditions, the flaps are prone to blowing outwards away from the pockets they were ostensibly designed to cover. lumo's doug bairner said the company was aware of the problem and intimated that it was something that may well be solved in future editions of the herne hill harrington. there is also a helpfully angled and flapped rear pocket which can be relatively easily accessed while on the bike, big enough to swallow a bulky wallet, and a generously sized, zipped internal pocket plays daily host to my ipod touch.
however, given the dark blue nature of this particular harrington, it may appear that i have somewhat strayed from my original objective of discussing that which makes us more visible in the face of mechanisation. and that's where the secret weapon comes in.
concealed within a small internal pocket on the jacket's lower left side, is a small rechargeable battery plugged into a cable sewn into the jacket itself. pressing the white button atop the battery switches on a row of white light emitting diodes hidden vertically, parallelling the full length front zip. at the same time, it also illuminates a corresponding set of red diodes along the rear hem of the harrington. pressing the button for a second time slows the rate of flashing; the choice is yours.
a colleague was wont to point out that he figured this incessant flashing may be something of a distraction when riding during the hours of darkness. though the siting for the front lighting strip renders it concealed from the rider's line of sight, reflection of the regular flash will obviously be seen on the bars and stem etc. in a rural setting such as ours, there's every likelihood he may be right. i cannot deny this possibility based on a ride along a narrow singletrack lane near to washingmachinepost croft, however, it ceased to be too much of an irritation after a kilometre or two. your own level of irritation may vary.
in city or urban settings, the plethora of surrounding scattered light sources will probably render this less of a potential distraction. i asked mr bairner if they had considered offering a third option of a non-flashing mode, but apparently this would kill the battery life rather more quickly than any of us would be happy with.
lumo are keen to point out that these lights are not intended as a substitute for front and rear lights affixed to the bicycle. in fact, legally, you might have a hard time arguing with the nice constable who just pulled you over for flashing loudly but with no bike lights. you have been warned. naturally enough, it's also an excellent idea to remove the battery if you intend to wash the jacket.
the jacket arrives with a usb cable to allow recharging of the battery when necessary. the battery has means of warning you that this ought to be done and soon, but you'll need to get into the habit of checking if you often ride in the dark.
in terms of style, whether in flashing mode or otherwise, it's hard to think of a garment that would confer a greater favourable impression upon your work colleagues or the girl on the checkout at aldi's. i know my personal standing in the office has moved up a degree or so since i took to arriving thus clad of a weekday morning. however, if you choose to leave the battery in place during the working day, please ensure you don't carry two heavy boxes of distillery tour times leaflets to the tourist information office on a friday morning.
the sniggering of passers-by was noted.
the lumo herne hill harrington jacket is available in navy blue with red and white polka detailing and in sizes ranging from xs to xl at a web price of £250
monday 2 may 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................