though you might find it hard to comprehend while participating in the sunday ride in early january, islay is characterised by its lush green fields, providing excellent feed for the plentiful sheep and cattle that walk ignominiously in front of your bike on uiskentuie strand. the island has a great history of dairy herds, but one which came to an abrupt end after the closure of the island's sole creamery several years ago. with no local outlet for their milk, farmers sold off their herds because the economics of shipping the milk to the mainland made no sense at all.
all this greenery, however, is due to the island being situated on the gulf stream (or at least it was up until the oddities in the weather last winter). if you ride about thirty miles north of washingmachinepost croft, aside from a wet bit in the middle, you'd reach our neighbouring isle of jura. and directly across from the distillery in craighouse, there is a rather healthy clump of palm trees. in fact, there's a similar, but smaller tree of the same ilk in my neighbour's garden. the upshot of all this is a relatively benign climate, one that rarely becomes stiflingly hot, but one that also tends to keep snow and frost at bay in the winter.
granted, we do get a lot of rain (you can't make whisky out of thin air), and we sure as heck get more than our fair share of winds, the latter not confined solely between october and march. but in the main, our cycling apparel tends to revolve around wind and waterproof jackets, long-sleeve jerseys or short-sleeve with armwarmers. and it doesn't do any harm that this island climate provides an ideal environment for reviewing the latest from our illustrious clothing providers.
however, a thin, mesh jersey would, under more normal circumstances be well outside my remit. hypothermia is never a good look.
yet at the time rapha were kind enough to send a medium sized, team sky climber's jersey, i think the whole of the uk was enjoying (or enduring) temperatures verging on thirty degrees. not something normally on our menu, and certainly not something for which i have much in the way of appropriateness in my cycling wardrobe. at least, not until now. it may or may not be self-evident, however, that this mesh fabric won't shield one from those dastardly uv rays, so it is little wonder that rapha advise smothering oneself in suncream before venturing out in the midday sun. and since coffee will eventually be a part of every velocipedinal equation, it's worth my pointing out that this particular garment is bereft of a zipped security pocket.
last friday's ride, with commensurate tailwind from bowmore to bridgend, verged on the surreal; it was hard to catch breath in the heat, and there didn't appear to be too much in the way of air-conditioning en route, but switch to a southerly direction in the inevitable direction of debbie's and i cannot deny that there was a pleasant sea-breeze pervading the black and blue sky logo'd mesh jersey. several of my fellow froth supperers in the coffee house enquired as to quite how i had the energy and fortitude to pedal at speed (all is relative) in the all enveloping heat. the answer was, in fact, staring them in the face.
there are remarkable similarities between rapha's team sky climber's jersey and their mesh baselayers; for all i know, they are from the same family. either way, it acquits itself remarkably well in the conditions for which it was designed, particularly with a full-length zip. but lest you consider it a one trick pony usable only on days of excessive heat, it has other strings to its bow.
after all, cutting edge technology or not, £150 is a lot to pay for a jersey that might only see the (bright) light of day on sporadic summer occasions.
as is frequently the case with the local firmament, after watching glorious sunlight and experiencing stifling heat for five days in the office, come the weekend (how does it know?) it is almost inevitable that the weather will change for the worse. and it did; at least partially. saturday and sunday morning experienced often torrential rain, precipitation that was slightly ameliorated by little reduction in ambient temperature. more often than not, this leads to the particular conundrum of whether or not to don a rainjacket. frequently this leads to becoming almost as wet inside due to perspiration as would have been the case had i continued al fresco.
however, with my new found sartorial expression, i was able to clad my torso in mesh climber's jersey beneath a rapha pro team race cape, gaining easily the best of both worlds. when islay finally returns to its more usual climatic state of affairs, i have ideas of wearing this jersey 'neath sportwool, and eventually both under a hard shell or softshell. despite its rather breathtaking price, the team sky climber's jersey may just become one of the most versatile garments in their entire range.
oddly enough, despite having no chris or brad for the vuelta, sir dave still isn't returning my calls.
wednesday 30 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................