self-sufficiency is precisely what we strive for. though the rules would throughly mitigate against fitting a seat pack below the saddle, the prudent pelotonese will always find one or other secure place to carry at least one spare inner-tube and a tyre lever. depending on your own personal level of obsessive compulsive disorder you might also pack a pair or two of those blue park tool mechanics' gloves. however, much more in either the hypothetical seatpack or the inevitable three rear pockets and you might as well go the whole hog and book a yellow mavic skoda to follow along behind the sunday ride.
it's only a matter of weeks since the mighty dave t blew out a tyre descending the admittedly heavily tactile road that passes the rspb reserve at aoradh farm. the mighty dave would never have made a career as a team mechanic, but he's more than adept at replacing an inner-tube in the middle of (almost) nowhere midst less than equitable weather conditions. a mere matter of days later, i suffered the same fate in worse weather, though thankfully on smoother ground. however, standing about in pouring rain and a stiff wind is something that has to be planned for; riding fast (everything's relative) is bound to engender a raising of one's central heating level, a clammy warmth that comes crashing down all too quickly when stationary for more than a few minutes.
stuffing a waterproof in one of those rear pockets is an indisputable option, but don't you find that tends to squish the two flavoured gels you'd forgotten you'd placed there only a couple of minutes earlier? consternation, disappointment and the onset of hypothermia can arrive very quickly, probably undermined by the fact that the waterproof was donned several kilometres earlier. which pretty much brings us back to the following mavic or team car. i don't doubt there are one or two well-heeled clubs who can afford to have a guy follow the peloton in a car sponsored by the local motor dealer, but the velo club is not one of them (though you'd figure ardbeg distillery could lend us their van; it's not as if they use it on a sunday).
professional cyclists have it easy by comparison. aside from the oft mentioned mavic skoda, there are usually at least two team cars somewhere abouts with not only spare bicycles and wheels, but a veritable cornucopia of eatables, tools and any spares considered desirable.
need to nab a dry pair of armwarmers? pop back to the car. puncture a wheel (or two)? wait for the car to arrive. need to change those shoes or jersey? pop back to the car. the only true difference between us and them, is that they can doff a pair of shoes and replace them with others without losing their place in the bunch. or perform similar aerobatics with a rainjacket. that and a greater turn of speed. but assuming a team of nine guys has made the effort to pack sufficient spares to avoid freezing, overheating or becoming saturated in the rain, that's one heck of a lot of kit rolling about in the back of a jaguar, volvo or skoda. and in the heat of the moment, wiggo is hardly going to maintain his mod-ish sartorial elegance if handed eddie higgs boson's jersey.
the aforementioned potential problems have obviously been magnified over the years by making so many clothing and kit options available, and grabbing the wrong jersey or pair of shoes is hardly likely to fit into the constraints of marginal gains. and in the pursuit of such, these are possibilities that have evidently been paid close attention to by both rapha and team sky, resulting in the eponymously named team sky wet bag
there's only a skittering of a difference between that available from the rapha website and those handed out to the guys with the blue stripe down their backs. while the retail version offers a small transparent window in which to make your presence known, each sky rider has his name individually embroidered on the tough cordura that comprises the wet bag. however, we are also party to the bulk of the embroidery; signalling each of the zipped compartments is thick grey embroidered lettering: shoes, arm and legwarmers, jerseys one and two and a waterproof. the bag, in the flesh, so to speak, is a great deal more impressive than it appears in the photos, and though simplicity itself, its design borders on the stunningly clever.
suddenly, the very reason why team sky asked rapha to develop such a product becomes all too clear. though we've been able to purchase team sky kit for over a year, now that the former perren street residents are well into the second year of their partnership with sir brailsford, the fringe benefits are beginning to trickle in our direction.
had this been available a year ago, those of us on rapha's provence retreat would have been well sorted for several rainy days on the bike, and brad sauber could have dropped back to the black jag for some more rapha clothing that he himself had packed the night before. instead, the californian was cooler and wetter than he'd have liked. whizz forward to april 2014 and here i am with personalised team sky jersey and shorts and the ability to be all dressed up with nowhere to go. as one demonstrably bereft of team car, soigneur and any desire to race at all, i'd be very hard pushed to find any sane reason to buy one of these.
so does it make me a bad person that i really, really want one?
the rapha team sky wet bag can be ordered direct from rapha's website at a cost of £135
tuesday 08 april 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................