the days of which i'm thinking are probably a long time gone, and show little sign of returning in the foreseeable future. though there is a faint whiff of hope offered in gents' shop windows and online emporia across obscure parts of the world. the joy of returning from a hard day at t'mill, gathering silage, grooming the estate or, perchance just cycling around the principality. those days may be gone, but the weather that encouraged thought of their return has arrived with a vengeance only this morning; gale force winds, horizontal rain, and the cancellation of this evening's port mor wheelers, even though we conduct ourselves with grace and poise in the confines of bridgend woods.
would it not be nice to put the velocipede safely in the bike shed for the evening, remove that clunky footwear, hang up the rain spattered jacket and retire to the warmth and cosiness of the sitting room, a roaring fire providing a focal point for the room. settled lazily on the hearth rug, a bassett hound eagerly drags itself from the edge of slumber and waddles sleepily to the side of the leather armchair, grabs both slippers in its mouth and shambles across to greet its master easing himself into the safety of that chair. you cannot tell me that this optimistically described scenario doesn't call for hot chocolate, a pipe and a grey cardigan to round off the effect?
there is much to consider when the time comes to acquire suitable apparel for cycling. short sleeves or long, lycra, sportwool or simply merino. should it have a full length zip, threequarter or half-zip. a rear security pocket? maybe a high, warm collar.
that last paragraph suggests a rather sweeping generalisation; the minute cycle clothing is considered or discussed by the cognoscenti, we all have a mental picture of just what it is we debate. but in similar fashion ('scuse the pun) to the bloke with the bassett hound and slippers, wouldn't it offer a degree of more homely simplicity if we were able to take some time off from cycling and simply go ride our bikes? should those moments occur, and i am in great favour of them occurring more often than not, though merino may still feature front and centre, there is little call for it to emulate the pelotonese. are we so full of our own self-aggrandisement that there is no time or vision for that which would more readily identify us with the civilian population?
the folks at velobici (an interesting melding of the french and italian for bicycle) are way ahead of us all. born from an agreeable passion for style and comfort both on and off the bicycle, their clothing designs only hint vaguely at a connection with the bicycle when seen divorced from its mechanical company. of course, there's always a giveaway somewhere along the line; in this case, the nomenclature. firenze pullover (another fine use of the word), a milano classic v-neck, san remo classic turtle neck or, and entirely germain to this review, the lombardy classic cardigan.
now there's a word and garment that hasn't featured in my wardrobe for many a long year. it's a garment that has had a chequered past with fashion, moving in and out as times roll by. one minute the darling of the teenage set, the next only seen on ageing grandparents, with or without the bassett hound on the hearth carpet. it has likely even survived the glow of a roaring fire, given that most residences have eschewed such in favour of central heating. whatever its place in the road to eternity, one thing is for sure, it has to be grey. i know that velobici also offer a black cardigan, and very fine it is too, but there's truly nothing like a grey cardigan. this agreeability is more greatly enhanced by the fact that the garment in question is shown on the velobici website in the company of a very fine looking steel colnago.
the grey cardigan features a button-up front, at least as far as half way, giving away its cycling heritage by the small rear, buttoned pocket at bottom left. however, there is a more subtle hint at this velocipedinal characterisation; thumb loops in the ribbed cuffs. those may seem trivial at best, but in cycling use, they're pretty darned pragmatic. and cool.
the merino wool from which the lombardy (maybe i should wear this for next year's ride of the falling rain. i'm sure the connection is glaringly obvious) is constructed is extremely fine, in both senses of the word. in fact its thinness hardly promoted feelings of comfort and joy on arrival; this is the hebrides for goodness sake. boy was i wrong on that score. made in the uk, rather than achieving gestalt through the conjoining of two arms and a body, the lombardy is knitted in one piece (no, i don't know how that's done). its inherent warmth could not have been more noticeable.
merino is the wonder product of modern cycling, and its morphing into a cardigan is conceivably the pinnacle of its career. considering the form factor of your average cardigan, there's rather obviously (in this case) a sizeable gap between top button and collar; huge opportunity for the ingress of cool air. cunningly, velobici have the jump on us once again; the tivoli seamless collar. worn together while sailing freely along moss road on the hakkalugi, not only did i form the picture of sartorial elegance breezing past fields of sheep and cattle, but cosiness was my bedfellow.
and it gets better still.
not one to grasp hold of the handlebars with naked skin, a pair even of leather track mitts would interrupt the seamlessness (again, pun pardoned) form factor, so, under the grey extended cuffs of the lombardy cardigan, i wore a pair of velobici fingerless gloves, fashioned from the very same shade of grey. unlike cycle mitts of more sporting pretence, these sport lengthy cuffs that considerably overlap (or underlap) the thumbholed cardigan. it may all have style and passion at its heart, but it's an ensemble that inhabits practicality to a far greater degree than you'd think possible.
i am under no illusion that such apparel was probably not conceived with hebridean islands as its raison d'etre; we're talking urban commute and evenings on the sofa at look mum no hands! but those are pigeonholes that were not created by me; i'm happy to cast concern to the wind, and care not one whit. when my contract with radioshan't comes through next week, johan will likely not allow the wearing of this favoured ensemble when riding with andy and frank, but its an absolute doozy for trips to and from debbie's of a saturday lunchtime.
next time you have a soya cappuccino, try accompanying with a cheese and chilli chutney roll.
the velobici lombardy merino cardigan is available in black or grey, in sizes small to extra large at a cost of £130. the merino fingerless gloves cost an astoundingly affordable £20 and the tivoli seamless collar (one size fits all) a mere £30.
posted tuesday 6 september 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................