it will be a repertoire repeated all across the world come sunday morning. unless you have the presence of mind to ransack the cycling wardrobe on a saturday evening, then choice of apparel for the morning's bike ride will likely have to be hastily made in hushed tones. perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a spouse who is either intent on joining you in those weekend velocipedinal activities, or one whose understanding knows no earthly bounds, otherwise he/she will still be blissfully asleep in those by now very inviting and cosy bedcovers.
mrs washingmachinepost has as much interest in cycling as i have in matching handbags and shoes; on sundays she remains in bed, mostly sound asleep. therefore it is incumbent upon myself to have made my choice of a saturday night, well before i have the faintest idea of sunday's climate. add to that the likelihood that the clothing chosen on saturday will have been superseded by an overnight change of mind (usually about 4am, for no particular reason) and cycling in driving rain and gale force winds begins to look like the easy bit.
this sartorial baggage is, no doubt, a partially enjoyable, yet naggingly annoying side effect of the vast ranges of impeccable cycle clothing available to the modern day honed athlete. but it's hard to deny that it has its frustrations. so for heaven's sake, who's idea was it to decide that we needed a glove system? is it not enough that each and every cycle day is fraught with indecision over which baselayer (short, long or sleeveless), whether to wear a short sleeve jersey with armwarmers or a long-sleeve jersey on its own? does the chill factor warrant a neck warmer, should it be a gilet, rainjacket or softshell? this may seem a tad overwrought in print, but honestly, there are so many choices to be considered that it's a wonder the bicycle is ever extricated from the bikeshed in the first place. so who on earth came up with the bright idea of equating a set of cycling gloves with those russian dolls?
in the halcyon days of yore, simplicity was first and foremost; jacket on, grab a helmet, slide on those overshoes and grab a pair of gloves on the way out the back door (or if you are a tad more professional than yours truly, as you step from the team bus). can i honestly be bothered to rifle through endless combinations of gloves based on my snap appreciation of the great outdoors? probably not, but allow me just a minute or two to examine my (possibly) knee-jerk reaction.
as i re-read my paragraph from above concerning choice of kit to wear on the bike, it ought to be obvious that baselayer, jersey and jacket adhere to that which we have inherited from the great outdoors and mountaineering. ever since rohan began to extol the virtues of the layering system in their early catalogues, it is a method of clothing which has become de rigeur amongst the cognoscenti. i've no intention of revisiting the whys and wherefores; you must surely all be familiar with them by now? but examine my subtext just a tad more closely, where i have made mention of overshoes.
implicit in that description is the fact that i am already shod in socks and shoes; pulling on a pair of overshoes has, in fact, created yet another layer system. and in common with the hands, the feet are at the outer extremities and guilty of not doing a heck of a lot unless a gear needs changed or brakes applied. if any bits of anatomy deserve to be layered, surely the hands and feet ought to be uppermost on the list?
does this mean i've just made an idiot of myself? again?
as a part of their 2013 autumn/winter range, perren street's imperial works has positioned a glove system ranging from the thin and woolly to the emulation of walrus skin (almost). beginning with the inner layer, and not intended to ever see the light of a handlebar on their own are the ever so silky merino liner gloves, intended for insulation inside one or other of the remainder of the glove system.
the next in line reminded me of the tailplane of an air new zealand airbus, at least that's the effect offered by the shiny bits on the fingers. on closer examination, it turned out to be a repeating pattern of silicon outlined chain links. appropriate, decorative and practical all at the same time. the palm features goatskin and well-judged protective padding. though i did manage to wear these over the merino liners, in truth, there's not a whole lot to be gained from this combination. however, both examples of merino can be worn with the next stage of layering; the winter gloves.
these bear a passing resemblance to previous glove incarnations from rapha, mostly by way of the softshell material used on the back, in this case coated with a durable water repellent. pittards goatskin on the palms offers the quality and comfort that perren street has at the kernel of all its offerings, winter or summer, while the apellation winter gives some clue as to the true purpose of these particular gloves. this is made manifest by the soft and cosy thermal lining, not only keeping warm hands but assisting with breathability too boot. cleverly, creating your own hand wardrobe by lining these with either of the previously described gloves, saw no substantial loss of dextrous flexibility, somewhat unexpectedly.
though rapha do not offer or pretend that their winter gloves are totally waterproof (water resistance is all that is offered), they turned out to be more successful a line of defence than their description would portend. caught in torrential rain some 15km from the croft, i was just a bit surprised to witness little baubles of water sitting atop the gloves, but no apparent ingress. how did they do that?
slightly disappointingly, the ultimate in hand protection in the shape of the lobster claw overmitts initially turned out not to be as waterproof as i had thought they might be. made from a waterproof, breathable verismilitude of walrus skin (i'm being unfair, it only looks similar but certainly doesn't feel like it), they feature taped seams and the ability to flip back the top of the lobster's forefinger claw to allow the opening of gels, energy bars and the pages of cycling weekly. sadly, this may offer a possible achilles heel, if you'll excuse the mixing of hands and feet.
worn with the merino liners in weather that changed from rain to mild sunshine, resulted in sodden merino-ness on reaching coffee time. though advertised as breathable, in the incident described, there's not a breathable membrane on earth that would have offered otherwise. however, in three hours of galeforce driven torrential rain, with merino gloves worn internally this time, that coffee break yet again unveiled soggy merino, this time at least partly engendered by such a lengthy period of rain. since gear and braking movement cannot help but manipulate those shifting fingers, i've a notion a smidgeon of rain had seeped in when no-one was looking.
the idea of the lobster claw configuration is borrowed from mountaineering and deep-sea diving, where the pairing of fingers is said to better retain warmth. to that i can comfortably attest. the sturdy, gussetted zip along the extended cuff not only fends off any loss of heat, but does its level best to keep the rain at bay. it was when refitting the gloves post froth, that i realised my error may have been in closing the cuff over the top of the race cape rather than inside; the rain had seemingly run down the waterproof sleeve and inside the overmitt while my hands grasped the bars in an attempt to remain upright in a sturdy crosswind.
the only item missing from my review is that of the deep winter glove, again one that can fly solo or find itself lined by either of the merino options, yet versatile enough to be worn inside those overmitts. in truth, the thermal qualities of the missing example are likely way too enhancing for the current hebridean climate, though i could make excellent use of the waterproofing.
it's hard to see how the system can fail. assuming each and every choice made at point of purchase is of the same size, it's perfectly possible to mix and match to your heart's and the weather's content. far from being anything like a silly idea, and despite the not inconsiderable cost of acquiring each and every item, this is the sort of hand security that will see me through all eight days of this year's festive five hundred. sticking either of the merino examples in a back pocket will allow a changing of the guard during coffee, ensuring dry and cosy digits when homeward bound.
i wish i'd thought of it.
the rapha glove system consists of five separate gloves: a merino liner (£40), merino glove (£60), winter gloves (£75), deep winter gloves (£95) and overmitts (£70). all are available in black only and in sizes xs to xl.
in subsequent conversations with rapha, it has been pointed out that their specific recommendations as to pairings with the overmitts consist of the winter gloves and deep winter gloves. due to the inner 'claw' of the mitts allowing the top to be 'flipped' open for specific needs, they cannot be considered completely waterproof, particularly if worn with the merino liners or merino gloves. this is due to the latter two being of insufficient girth to effect suitable closure at this part.
in addition, rapha's website states that the overmitts ought to be worn for 'additional waterproofing' rather than being completely waterproof. this demonstrates the need to read the instructions properly.
friday 1 november 2013