there are mixed messages at work here; last year you would have found this jersey listed under the fixed section at rapha.cc - this year the nomenclature has changed and it's now the merino jersey. to my mind, this is a smart move, since such as myself struggle manfully to come to terms with a rear sprocket that doesn't freewheel, and the association that accompanies anything with fixed in it seems woefully misplaced in my case. additionally it implies - rightly or wrongly - a garment worn in an urban setting. if you had been out with the ardbeg peloton this fine sunny sunday morning, urban settings would have been very far from your mind. yet take a look inside the merino wool and you'll find that the washing instructions still proclaim this to be a fixed jersey.
still, there are many items of componentry, clothing and otherwise that are ear-marked for a certain portion of whichever market is targeted, that the rebels amongst us can cheerfully ignore. so what, if perren street are gear conscious in their clothing ranges? if it suits me to ignore, i am all for the rebellious state.
of course, changing the name of a jersey doesn't necessarily alter anything other than the connotation, so if it's a merino jersey, then it had darned well better live up to its new found status, and the intrepid amongst us (in this case, it's my job) need to check the veracity of its new identity: simply put, can it be worn as a cycle jersey for other than dodging buses, taxis and pedestrians?
it would indeed be a sad world if we were strictly governed by semantics, and i can (metaphorically) hear most of you questioning my sanity and doubt. it's a jersey, it has a quarter zip and three rear pockets: where's your problem? merino wool is a major constituent of rapha's more regular sportwool, but the secondary component gives cycle jerseys in that fabric an integrity that retains its shape no matter how much stuff you need to carry with you in those three back pockets. wool, on the other hand, conjures up pictures of tail feathers dragging on the back tyre and adding a nightshirt profile when stepping off for a coffee. so, in order to dispel any notion of this affecting the rapha merino jersey, i piled in a stowaway, blackburn airstick, panasonic digital stills camera, a flip video with mini tripod and a couple of chewy bars.
the outer two pockets do not exhibit the scalloping that is an almost trademark feature of their sportwool jerseys, but merino is, as previously mentioned, a bit more flexible than most jersey fabrics so hands in and out can be accomplished more easily. missing in action is the all but obligatory zipped pocket, and i intend to take that up with the rapha design department; there may be a perfectly good reason for this, but i can't think of one offhand. despite my shopping list of accoutrements stuffed into the baggage hold, there was still sufficient room to cram in a bit more if at all necessary. there's no denying that the jersey is a looser fit than that worn by the rapha condor team, but it is this feature that leaves you all but unnoticed when dining al fresco at debbie's on a saturday afternoon in september. were it not for the colnago ace leaning against the whitewashed wall, nobody would know.
the details have, however, changed, though the logo'd zip tag is one that you might miss. a contrasting hoop on the left arm bearing the rapha monogram is new: the hoop has always been there, but until now, has been of the same colour as the rest of the jersey. for autumn/winter however, perren street seems to have become undeniably proud of their sleeve hoop, as it has now sprung to life on a number of garments on which it has been previously missing. i cannot deny that wearing a cycle jersey or top with that sleeve hoop, fills one with an inexplicable sense of satisfaction akin to the suntanned oval left by certain brands of track mitts.
but maybe that's just me.
there's no gloopy stuff inside the hem to stop the jersey riding up while exerting oneself on the bicycle, but in practice this seems not to have mattered one jot. merino over lycra displays a level of frictionlessness that renders the gloop unnecessary. it's also easy enough to roll up the sleeves while in motion if heat build-up dictates so - you may recall james lamont's advice from a week ago relating to the cooling effect enjoyed by the forearms - and zipping up or down at the neck is easily accomplished. my saturday ride took in 65km of scenic islay countryside with hills and harder pedalling in order to finish off a bout of bike testing, rewarded by a coffee at end-up. it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it. and due to merino's well advertised resistance to niffing a bit, when home was reached it was an easy task to park the bicycle and trudge off down to the city for a packet of sugar puffs.
so, irrespective whether rapha wish to call this a fixed jersey, which i believe they don't, or a merino jersey, the title is immaterial: the jersey does its job in a manner not unbecoming whatever the dictionary definition. it's perfect for winter or summer training, perfect for that salutary amble to the coffee shop or the supermarket, and sartorially suited to wearing in front of the television or in the office, should your dress code allow for other than shirt and tie.
the rapha merino jersey is available in black with grey sleeve hoop, or grey with black sleeve hoop at a cost of £120 ($200) in sizes from extra small to extra large.
so that's that fixed then.
take a trip over to velodramatic later to read michael's take on the merino jersey and view some vastly superior photography
posted sunday 13 september 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................