Thursday, June 28, 2012

Plugging the Gap


When I first entered the world of 'blogging' my friends and family were very supportive.
Why wouldn't they be?
They have an unwritten commitments to uphold like 'Thou shalt support thy friend or family member whatever daft idea they may think of next'
Despite such allegiances I did detect an  degree of uncertainty.
You know the  quivering lip, lack of eye contact, and swallowing without food.
I deduced that there was some doubt in the air which transcended into  questions regarding its sustainability, and my stamina.

Having been in my 'Mid life Crises' (MLC) for a few years at that time, I had certainly provided some evidence to support such  thoughts.
My very first symptoms came with a declaration that I would like to 'Fly like a bird'
Or to be more exact I poetically declared that I wanted to learn to para glide, to soar over the cliff tops with  Jonathan Livingston Seagull  
Within months the impressive collection of books and videos that  I had purchased were gathering dust as a new distraction had entered my consciousness.
In a complete 180 degree turn my desire had plummeted as I now wished  to 'Swim like a fish'. My adapted OCD had now turned to diving.

At the end of the 'Phase' Neither the heights or depths were ever pursued, although I did learn to 'fly' by the seat of my pants and achieved notoriety in finding assorted piles of mire in which to dive into.

Yesterday eyebrows were certainly lifted as this blog-site reached its third anniversary.
Now three years may not seem a lot, but in blog years it is a mark of true sustainability.
It also seemed to coincide with my metamorphosis from an occasional cycle user to a real cyclist.

Three years is not insignificant................People acknowledge the concept that dogs have a different ageing process  to their masters, where 1 dog year equals 7 of ours.
Well a blog year is similar to a dog with 1 year equalling about 8 normal years, so my blog at 24 years old is in its prime.
 It has been through kindergarten, school and a variety of editorial growing pains.
Graduation was achieved and University was expensive.
So  its now time to be all adult and grown up.

The perceived maturity of the blog seems to have been reflected with an increasing number of manufacturers and PR Companies asking me to write reviews, or to try out various new products.
Although this was never the intention it is not something that I am adverse to - providing that whatever I am evaluating I support.

I have recently been asked to review 'Just Ride' by Grant Petersen.
For those of you who have never heard of him he is a bicycle designer and the founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works. He was U.S. marketing director for Bridgestone Cycle (U.S.A.), Inc. during the 1980s and 1990s, where he designed the XO series of bicycles.

Petersen is widely known in the cycling community for opposing complicated design and manufacturers apparent obsession with speed, light weight and racing-led fashion — over tradition, comfort and durability. He specializes in bicycles intended for all sorts of riding outside of competition. His trademarks were lugged steel frames, leather saddles, downtube or bar-end shifters in place of brifters, and the use of "moustache" and "cruiser" type handlebars. It would be fair to say that he is a no nonsense sort of guy were he seeks products that are "simple, practical and proven."

Petersens book follows in the same vein which he describes as 'A Radically Practical guide to riding your bike'.
It covers four main areas 'Equipment', 'Health', 'Safety' and 'Attitude'.

Prior to receiving the book I knew very little about Peterson and my my first reaction on its receipt not welcoming. I presumed that this would be yet another publication regurgitating advice that I have already read in countless other cycling books and monthly magazines.
As such it was disrespectfully tossed into 'The Basket' which contained cycling magazines and assorted suppliments from weekend broadsheets.
The Basket holds a unique position within my house situated at arms reach within its smallest room, its importance within my daily routine should never be underestimated.

During the course of one such laborious visit I was compelled to reach for it knowing that I had an obligation to make comment.
Thankfully at that time there was no other demand for the use of  this particular room as if this had been the case, I swear that a mishap may have occurred.
After I had emerged the big hand on the clock had cycled around its circumference at least one and was well into its second lap.

All of the 89 articles are informative, most of them are radical, and the majority of them left me either agreeing with the content or thinking 'Ill adopt that too'.
Sanderson is such an obvious cyclist. He is also practical, insightful and inventive.
He deals with all of the obvious subjects from a position so outside the box, that there is no cardboard in sight. He also deals with issues that are never featured in main stream cycling literature because nobody has thought of them.
Even though Peterson appears to scoff at 'lycrists' who have a need to use racing type road bikes I found his  approach a total breath of fresh air. I would highly recommend this book as an ultimate, no nonsense guide to riding your bike.

He has also ensured that my visits to the smallest room in the house remain regular and deliberate which can only be good for my health too.


On the subject of reviewing products there are a number of manufacturers whose products I adore and need no invitation or incentive to wax lyrical about.
One of those is Rapha Performance Roadwear 

I have been a 'new raphaelite' for as long as I have been blogging and have now amassed such a good cross section of their clothing that I am able to choose which item to wear.
With their understated designs based on traditional patterns and a unique logo, their products are instantly recognisable through their subtlety and their quality. 
Another feature of Rapha wear is their cost.
There is no point beating around the bush here, their clothing is not cheap, but neither are their products -  like most things in life, you get what you pay for.

When I first reached adult hood I was advised that when buying clothing that there are some essentials that you must not skimp on, where opting to go cheap is false economy.
'I still own my quality suit, dress shirt, blazer and brogues' which have out lasted my proportional changes.

In cycling you also need some good quality essentials.
For me these are:- bib shorts, base layers, and jersey.
All come from Rapha

Bibshorts
A comfortable pair of cycling shorts is the most important clothing purchase any rider can make. Get them right and you can spend hours in the saddle without even noticing them. Get them wrong and every kilometre will feel like a hundred. The Rapha Classic Bibs have been designed for total comfort.
The most important component in any bib shorts is the pad and Rapha shorts use the top of the range pad from specialists Cytech. It has slim, body-contoured padding and a soft, chamois finish.
The shorts are made from a soft, matt-black Lycra with great stretch. The bibs are made from a luxury mesh material with a large cutaway section in the back to prevent overheating. For extra comfort in the saddle, Rapha’s bib shorts have flatlock stitching throughout to prevent chafing and are finished with soft gripper around the legs. The shorts also have a small key pocket and black-on-black Rapha logos and are cut low at the front to make it easy to answer calls of nature.

Baselayer
Any experienced cyclist knows the value of a good base layer. It will keep you cool on scorching hot cols in July and warm on freezing descents in January. A good base layer helps regulate body temperature whatever the weather, transferring moisture from the skin and proving a vital aid to performance.

Rapha base layers are made from 100% merino wool and are naturally anti-bacterial and odour resistant. Wicking moisture vapour extremely quickly, they are soft on the skin and itch free.
Rapha’s merino base layers come in three styles; sleeveless, short and long sleeve. All the seams have flatlock stitching so they won’t chafe and are positioned behind the shoulders to avoid bag or bib straps rubbing while cycling. The base layers are close fitting and cut long at the back for a better fit on the bike.
"Base layers are incredibly important in winter to help regulate the body's temperature, but they also keep the body dry without it getting too hot. Rapha's base layer does this superbly, something that the mention of wool might normally have you doubting.”




- Cycling Weekly

"There's a soft pliability to Rapha’s wool that makes it a joy to wear as a layer against the skin. The wicking… is outstanding. It's the best base layer I've ever worn [and] was equally pleasurable at both ends of the temperature spectrum."


- Competitive Cyclist
Despite the rave reviews I was initially put off this product by the word 'Wool'. I could not for the life of me reconcile how something that was made of wool could keep you cool!
For me wool was something that you wore when your bike had been wrapped up for the winter.
How wrong I was.
I love these merino base-layers so much I wear them for casual use with jeans or shorts and as nightwear.



Jersey

For road cyclists, a high-performance jersey is indispensable and performs multiple roles. It protects the rider from the elements, helps to regulate body temperature and stores vital cargo such as food, tools and valuables.
The Rapha Classic Jersey has received numerous plaudits since it was first launched in 2004. The jersey combines functionality and cycling performance with Rapha’s trademark styling. It can be worn on its own or as an additional layer.
The jersey has three main cargo pockets and an additional pump sleeve in the middle pocket. The right rear pocket has an eyelet to run headphone cables inside the jersey and an additional zipped, valuables pocket keeps contents secure.
They come with a set of complimentary arm warmers, designed specifically for use with the Classic Jersey, are perfect for cold mornings and feature a brushed fleece inner and contrast piping.


Reviews:
The best bike jersey the world has ever seen.

- Bill Strickland, Bicycling Magazine

I do have lots of cycling clothing for spinning, commuting, and sportives.
They are grabbed rather than selected.
They will be worn, but eventually discarded, through wear and tear or because they have lost their appeal.

My Rapha gear is like my suit, dress shirt, blazer and brogues - quality that lasts the test of time.
An assortment of clothes for any occasion.

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