Oakley Jawbreaker Road Prism Cavendish

I checked the rules again. Eyewear must be cycling specific. But that’s all that is required, it seems. Nothing about colour. In fact nothing about whether you need to wear sunglasses at all. Certainly nothing about matching. That’s an interesting omission in a set of rules obsessed with how we look. There is a singular truth about the Oakley Jawbreaker. They are cycle specific, of that there is not a shred of doubt.

My OCD demands that there is some synergy between my sunglasses and helmet. So, as you can see above, the Jawbreakers match(ed) my Kask Vertigo. They now match my Kask Protone. Indeed, my Protone is a little more green and blends all the better with the Oakleys. And somewhere in the middle ground of green there is my Supersix.

Picking out green elements is satisfying but ultimately a little limiting. If I were writing the rules then the colour of your glasses should go some way to matching your helmet. Black with black, white with white essentially. If you have bits of green in your glasses then the only options, it seems to me, are all black or black and green.

But I don’t write the rules. When I tried some different helmets the other day they were rejected on the grounds of comfort but, crucially, had I opted for them and their very non green nature they would have demanded that I change my sunglasses. That’s a piece of expenditure too far. The Protone stayed so my Jawbreakers, in this colourway, stay. I’ve done a very mini review of these before, but it was very mini and you may not have seen it. So consider this a long(er) term test.

Oakley supply the Jawbreaker with the usual hard case and a Cvndsh (sic) branded micro fibre cleaning case. The lens is what gives this variant its road prizm moniker. It’s red and is a very fetching thing.

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The Oakley jawbreaker are apparently Oakley’s response to Mark Cavendish’s request for something that offers an unobstructed field of vision. He felt that his previous sunglasses, the excellent Jawbone and Radar, just didn’t cut it. He has a point. The Jawbone are great and switching out a lens is child’s play. But they are quite small and they can get a little foggy, though the vented ones are a little better in this regard. But peripheral vision is a tad limited. The Radar are better in terms of field of vision and the Radar Lock version make swapping out lenses as easy as that on the Jawbone. You can get away with wearing the Jawbones off the bike (if you have that self confidence). You can’t really get away with wearing the Radar. And you certainly cannot in any conceivable manner of taste or decorum wear the Jawbreaker down the pub. Just do not do it. You will look ridiculous. People will stare and you will be cast out as a fashion pariah.

For the Jawbreaker are feintly ridiculous. They are quite mammoth things. More ski google than cycling sunglasses. There’s a very large nod to Greg’s iconic Oakley Eyeshades here. They looked ridiculous back then, but it was the 80’s. And whilst 80’s retro chic is very much alive there’s no escaping just how in your face these are. If you like subtle the Jawbreakers are not for you.

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The height of the whole shebang is considerable. But the coverage is immense. Unless you go completely bonk eyed you simply cannot see any part of the frame at all. I’ve read that some find that the side section (where the O’s sit) obscure their vision. I don’t experience that at all but we are all different. I find that I tend to move my head to look sideways and on those occasions where I cast a glance left or right I don’t find that the arms or side section get in the way. But I can see if you’re riding a crit and planning a sprint then casting your eye to the side telegraphs your proposed move far less. There is quite a lot of plastic off to the side so that is something to be aware of. I tried replicating this “flaw” earlier today and found that I had to move my eyes uncomfortably off centre to see the section off to the side.

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The real party piece of the jawbreaker is their deconstruction to allow lens swaps and I deal with each stage below.

Step one, you need to flick the nose grippers upwards.

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Step two, you then unhook the top clamp leaving the two parts of the frame free to separate.

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Step three, the jaw hinges away and you slide the lens out.

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It’s a remarkably easy system. You’re then free to swap in whatever other lenses you want to. But, beware, they’re not cheap and the choice is actually quite limited. Most of them cost around £100. Given the price that you can pick up another pair of Jawbreakers, that’s not especially good value. And there’s more, the Prism road lens of the Jawbreaker offers a massive shift in optics from Oakley. You can see some of the difference promised in this comparison.

Prizm Sliding Comparison : Oakley

This begs the question. This version is the Prizm lens and it’s the clarity of the Prizm lens that is one of the real USP’s of the Jawbreaker. It’s fair to say that you may want to swap out to a different colour for different conditions. But the Prizm Road lens seems to me to be incapable of being anything other than spot on. I’ve used it in high sun and I’ve used it while it’s been hammering down (after being caught outside). It copes admirably with all conditions. If MTB is your discipline then there’s a Prizm Trail version with a little more light transmission and a greater ability to pick out features that might cause you to crash your bike. If you want an all rounder then there’s a transitions photochromic version available as well. There’s also a clear lens for winter or dark riding. So, Oakley cater for choice and if you want to choose then swapping lenses is a cinch. Clear lens aside, I’m just not all that convinced you’d ever need to.

There’s more adjustment to be had as well. One of the issues with the Radarlock, at least with Kask helmets, was that they didn’t work particularly well together. The straighter, flatter arms of the Jawbreaker appear to play more nicely with a wider range of helmets and work like a charm with Kask ones. You can also adjust the length of the arms by flipping up the lock and moving the arm to suit your preference.

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I’ve owned a lot of Oakleys and my OCD has seen me regularly swapping colours and models. But I do rate the Jawbreaker, in a cycle specific capacity, as being the best of them.

They are exceptional on the road and on a bright sunny day they filter all of the crap out. They’re actually surprisingly breezy as well, testament to the 6 main vents. They’re not perfect in this regard though. When climbing on a damp day they are prone to misting. I’ve read that they are more prone than other models. I’d disagree with that. They’re certainly less prone than a non vented Radarlock and I’d put them on par with the vented Radarlock. They’re considerably better than the vented Jawbones in my view.

It’s a lot of money to pay for sunglasses. The RRP of these is just shy of £200. Which is pretty ridiculous for a collection of bits of plastic. There’s little doubt that Oakley’s R&D makes investing in them worthwhile though. The thing is that RRP is not a very good guide to Oakley anymore and this version has been discounted pretty generously online. I think I paid around £105 for mine some months ago. Shop around and that’s do-able. If you fancy the non Cavendish road version that comes in white with the same road prizm lens and that’s currently under £100 at Wiggle (though out of stock for a week or so). You will need a white helmet though, clearly.

There are plenty of alternatives out there competing for your money. Rudy Project are always well regarded. If you want to rival the ridiculous look of the Jawbreaker then you can pay an awful lot more  and opt for one of the excellent Assos Zegho range. Rapha have now brought out some lightweight pro team glasses in conjuction (like Assos) with Carl Zeiss lens technology. If the full on look of the Jawbreaker doesn’t float your boat then Oakley’s new frameless EvZero may be what you’re looking for. All the coverage of the Jawbreaker with no frame at all to speak of.

I like the Jawbreaker because they work. That they look ridiculous is fine because there is a function to that form. Just don’t wear them at the Cafe stop without your helmet because you will look like a giant plank. And if that’s not in the rules then it damn well should be.

Sidi Drako, too good for off road

Right, weird one. I’d always assumed this was Italian for dragon. Turns out that’s drago, like that chap in Rocky IV. And I guess if it were dragon that would be weird as Sidi make a shoe called the dragon as well. There’s definitely something dragony going on though as that’s all google throws up. It’s that or sounding like that chap in Harry Potter. So, on that basis, and given I’m Welsh, let’s go with Dragon.

Now, the Drako is Sidi’s top of the line mountain bike shoe. But don’t turn off just yet. In terms of features, tech and performance it’s virtually identical to the Sidi Wire road shoe. So, if you fancy some Italian bling then you can have these on the road as well. I’m happy to report that I’ve ridden in both, including the fetching Froome yellow ones. In terms of how they feel and fit there’s little, if any difference, between the MTB and road versions of these shoes. That’s unusual in some ways as they are different disciplines. But XC off road is very much orientated towards road type kit nowadays so perhaps it’s not a surprise at all.

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Magnificent aren’t they? Just beautiful things. They’re slightly less white in real life than you might expect them to be. Still very white and that includes the inner section. I’ll come back to that later.

Size wise, it’s always very difficult to comment. Once upon a time I was a 46 in Sidi Ergo 2. I was a 45 in most other brands (I’m a UK 10 shoe size). Comparing brands is always tricky. But, with the Wire and Drako I’m the same as in Giro, Shimano, Specialized and Northwave (and Rapha, but then they are Giro). Indeed the only thing I’m a 44.5 in is Gaerne. The Sidi are narrow but, compared to the Shimano R171 only slightly so and no narrower than the XC70. There may be a very slightly smaller toe box and a tiny bit less front toe clearance but these are marginal. As usual, try them on, walk around the house in them a bit.

These Sidi shoes have a full carbon sole. It’s fair to say that Sidi charge a bit more than that than some others and that their cheaper shoes still “make do” with a carbon composite sole. But the Drako are bang up to date in terms of their weight and thickness. That said, on the Wire road shoes at least, the Giro Empire (and possibly Factor) are more lightweight again. To be honest, you’re not really paying for weight with Sidi, you’re paying for quality. And weight is relative. These are still relatively light shoes and, without the additional off road lugs, the road shoes are lighter again.

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One of the things that Sidi excels in is durability and being able to replace parts. Short of tearing the upper or cracking the sole (if you do that what the hell were you doing?) then you can get replacement parts for everything. The rubber lugs on the outsole unscrew. You can replace the cleat housing. And on top you can get new wire if it breaks (it won’t) and you can replace the dials. You probably won’t need to many of these things but it’s good to know that you can.

Let’s be clear. This is an Elite XC shoe. The Pro’s are unlikely to put a dent in them and you and I will safely be wearing them in ten years time. Sure, they won’t look as pristine, but they will still work.

Round the front the Drako differs from the Wire with the addition of a rubber bumper to keep the front of the upper together. Again, you will not kill it. And in my view it’s one of the most effective toe protectors on any shoe out there.

Fit? Well, a few things. The Techno-3 push closure system is about as good as it gets. It’s perhaps slightly more complicated than the Specialized S-Works shoe in that the bottom dial takes care of all of the bottom of the shoe (the S-Works adds a traditional velcro strap) but it works really well. The use of a dial to pull over Sidi’s trademark top strap is perhaps engineering overkill. Looks better though and, I have to say, I prefer the security of it and how it keeps my foot in to other full dial systems I’ve tried.

Getting the right fit by turning the dials is a piece of cake. But rather than explain it I thought I’d add a (professional) video to show you how it works.

These are great shoes. And, of course, they should be given their hefty price tag. Both the Drako and Wire are in excess of £300. Now, naturally, shop around and you can bring that down a lot further. But you’re still looking in excess of £200.

There are some issues with the white ones. They clean up really easily. But that white fabric inner is, imo, a mistake. That’s the bit which gets grubbiest when you’re using these off road or for something like CX. A black inner there would do little to ruin the aesthetic and deal far better with my OCD. On the road versions it’s less of an issue. Of course, if you’re really OCD then you could just go with the black versions. They scrub up incredibly well regardless of use.

And what use should you put these to? Well, that depends. If you’re into SPD on the road then these are the poshest and best shoes I’ve ever used in that regard. They look like road shoes and the added benefit is that you can’t fall over on your cafe stop. They’re really good for XC and I used them very effectively for Battle on the Beach. They’re a little less effective for CX because of their overall stiffness which makes running in them a bit more difficult. In that regard the Shimano XC70 are a better overall shoe. Still stiff but that bit more spring in them. Ultimately, the Drako are best for those types of ride, whatever they might be, when you don’t put your foot down and don’t need to. If you do, have a look at the Spider (if you can find them) which are that bit more flexible. Though it’s still hard to get away from the fact that the properly mouldable Shimano XC90 are almost always cheaper than the Drako as well. Thing is, few things look quite so damn good.

On tarmac, the Wire are exceptionally good road shoes. No hot spotting and on the fly adjustment is a piece of cake. The Wire is now available in 7 colour ways including a very fetching new Fuxia (pink) which would have been very lovely for Lampre Merida if it were not for their defection to Northwave. The Drako is available in a mere 4 different colours the pick of which are the Cannondale (ish) green and white.

Great shoes overall. I sense with the Drako and Wire Sidi caught back up again. But I do think that their cheaper offerings, whilst obviously good looking, have been overtaken by some of their competitors. Giro deserve a standout mention here for producing some really well thought out technical shoes and, at the top end, some pretty damn stylish ones. Still, it’s easy to get a light shoe if you pay for it. It’s easy to get one that works well. It’s not always easy to get one that makes you go, well, hot damn.

 

 

Assos Cape Epic SS Jersey

You might recall that a while back I tested the world’s most expensive cycling jersey. It’s a quite beautiful thing and marks Assos’s halo product in their entry to the off road market. It’s also an expensive thing but, at the time of writing, is a mere £142 at Wiggle. That’s actually something of a bargain given that it includes a very versatile £60 summer base layer. I won my Rally jersey but I’m seriously contemplating getting a second one, in a different colour natch. It’s on price drop so when it hits £120 I might well do it. Sell the base layer on and get the world’s best jersey (depending on what you’re doing with it) for cheap.

Anyway, this review is about the little brother (or sister!) to the Rally jersey, the Cape Epic jersey. It’s named after the multi stage and very demanding MTB race. For details of that see my original review. It’s more than a little hardcore but really is epic.

This is a review of the men’s version so you might wonder why I’ve used a picture of Juliet Elliott, Assos brand ambassador, as the background to my piece. Well, there’s a good reason for that. The first is that Assos get producing kit for women. There’s an extensive range that mirrors the men’s collection and where a bespoke version is absent there’s a unisex item to fall back on. The off road section is entirely mirrored, limited though that range is.

But Juliet arguably represents a very different ethos at Assos which is a far cry from the very controversial manner in which they represented their products before. Assos Girl and Assos Man are very much still present. Assos Man still looks like he could cut steel with his pointed hands. But there’s been a shift away from what was some pretty dodgy stuff. Who can forget this reaction to a rather odd campaign. Ownership of the Assos brand has changed hands and with it comes a modern look and an honest shift away from the portrayal of women that once plagued the brand. Have a further read here.

It’s easy to change something. It’s easy to ignore the past. It’s actually pretty hard to front up. Perhaps being the new boy in charge Phil Duff can do that more easily. But kudos to Assos to facing up to these issues. Shrewd marketing perhaps. All publicity etc……. But I sense there’s more purpose to Assos now. Less rich boys club, more about the cycling. Cycling branding, an interesting thing, and perhaps a piece for the future.

So, the Cape Epic jersey. I guess we should start with a price. It’s £125 RRP which is mid premium. It’s been bouncing into many different price levels at Wiggle recently. If you’re platinum you save 17%. It’s been in the price drop section and Monday evening had reached £75 or thereabouts. Then, inexplicably, it got removed and put back on regular sale. I don’t know why that happens but I suspect they monitor my clicks and like to mess with me. I was thinking of getting the white one……………. though weirdly, if the Rally jersey stays in the price drop section it will soon be cheaper than its little brother. Something to keep an eye on.

Mine’s an XL on my 40.5 chest. I’ve been put on a milkshake diet as well so that’s going to shrink. This is a clingy design so even if I lose a bit of weight it will still fit perfectly.

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Assos have gone for an asymmetric front and rear with what I suppose is an African themed design. Asymmetry is present in quite a bit of Assos’s stuff now, particularly in sleeve colour design. It’s interesting. You’d think the Swiss would be all for regularity and precision. I like it as it’s a bit different. The material in use is, as usual, proprietary but generally speaking a polyester mix. The design is all sublimated.

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It’s not all mesh though. There are smoother, stretchier panels that run around the arm and onto the back. They also run down the side. They’re more breathable than the already really breathable main sections so they give you a bit more venting. That should come as little surprise given the intended use. Is it as effective as the mesh panel at the rear of the Rally jersey? No idea, check back when I’ve tested both at 30 degrees. Probably some time in 2020.

The arms terminate in that same smooth material. No elastic grippers inside and there don’t need to be.

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The back adds even more asymmetry by going for Assos’s now very trademark white pattern sleeve design to contrast against the Cape Epic design on the other side. There’s a wide elasticated gripper running round the bottom of the back. This isn’t replicated on the front which is good old fabric. As usual everything just works.

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The pockets are great on this. There’s a wide elasticated band running along the top of them which means you can load these up for your, well, epic, with no risk of any sagging. There’s a central zipped pocket for valuable and, as you can see, it has some reflective trim. Useful for being seen on the road or the trails though some way short of that on the Rally jersey.

The construction is first rate. What else did you expect? And in use? Well, it’s naturally epic. I’ve been hooning around the gravel trails and bits of gnarlier (sorry) off road sections. And it’s been cool and breathable and never anything other than supremely comfy. Is it the equal of the Rally jersey? To be honest it’s certainly close. In terms of value it’ s definitely the winner. Though much depends on their relative pricing on any given day.

Thing is this is a damn good road jersey as well. That should come as no real surprise. XC is pretty much road orientated kit now anyway. There’s an argument that the rear is slightly overbuilt for truly hot days in the mountains on a road bike but I don’t really buy that. It’s not the coolest jersey, compared to something like the Isadore climber’s jersey, but these things are all very marginal.

So, yes, it’s pretty epic actually. It’s versatile, equally at home on the trails and the roads. It’s comfy. It’s durable. It’s pretty well priced depending on when you buy it. So it may not be the world’s most expensive jersey. But compared to its older brother it gives very little away. I’ve a few other pieces from Assos to review shortly including the Mille jersey and the Neo Pro and Equipe bibshorts.

Velothon Wales 2016 : ride report

I confess I hadn’t planned on entering. I don’t do sportives much anymore having done most of the Welsh ones. I had my sights set on something more chic, more European and with more hardcore climbing. Though I am lured by the promise of closed roads it’s possible to get a little blase about riding in your own backyard and it’s difficult to fork out for something that you can do every day. Or so I thought.

The Sportive industry is now big business. That’s certainly the case for the 14,000 strong entry field to the Velothon Wales with its #ridelikeapro hashtag. Big road closures means big money is needed. In all of the numbers it’s big. In scenery? It’s pretty nice actually. It’s not dramatic, but it’s lush and verdant. There are two very decent climbs, both lungbusters. There’s a bit of post industrial heartland at the beginning but that soon passes.

And then there’s the elephant in the room. The sheer scale of the number of people trapped, neigh, imprisoned in their own homes, being held hostage even, because of the road closures and the trillions lost to some parts of the economy while the City of Cardiff rakes it in. The evocative language of Facebook and Twitter is resplendent with the plight of those who are inconvenienced by this most trifling of sports. But, you know what, this paragraph was originally going to be a bit longer so that I could rant and rail a bit more. I won’t and you’ll understand why later.

This year my very good friend and hugely talented lawyer Paul asked me whether I wanted to ride with the Eversheds solicitors team. I’d been doing some decent training but with no sportives planned thought I’d better stick some long ones in. As the event approach I actually got a bit excited and I’ve not felt that way about organised sportives in a while.

In the week running up to the event the weather forecast was changeable. At one point I’d contemplated doing it on my flat bar commuter with some narrower tyres. I was pretty seriously thinking about taking the CX with it’s 1x gearing at one point. As it looked better and better with only the threat of a shower, the venerable Cannondale Supersix looked like the only choice. Oh, you want to know what kit I wore? Well, that’s to be expected. Eversheds jersey (excellent) and Assos S7 Equipe shorts. Review of those coming soon to this site.

The event itself starts with the Expo. It’s not an overwhelmingly huge experience but it’s slick and well managed with just the right amount of stuff available if you’ve forgotten some kit, need an espresso or fancy a beet-it energy bar. The charities are present as well. The grass is green, natch. The Expo on a sunny Friday in Wales is professional and pleasant experience. For those that attended on the Saturday it was a slightly damper affair.

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Registration took me about 15 seconds. There were minimal queues and enough (volunteer) staff and space on offer to ensure that it all went slickly. One envelope with stuff and some discount vouchers for the expo. The one thing I REALLY like is the race chip. It’s incorporated into the race number on the bike. And the race number is the right size. It will fit between your cables and not look ridiculous. I don’t have to cut it to size. Cable ties are included. Kudos to the organisers. There’s a jersey number and safety pins, it’s a nice fabric effect paper which should stand up to some rain. All good.

Those volunteers are amazing. It’s a well oiled operation and they get it all done with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of efficiency. Without them it would all grind to a halt. So from the people at the registration desks to those of you out there marshalling the course, hats off to you, you did a grand job.

So race day arrived. The sun was out, the roads had pretty much dried out and Cardiff at 7 am on a Sunday morning was throbbing with cyclists. It’s a grand sight to see.

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We left our base at Eversheds Solicitors Cardiff (the main race sponsor) and headed off to the start line at about 7 am. The Velothon is sorted into start pens with start times. Pen A got off bang on time at 7 am and we were in Pen F ready to depart at 7.20 with about 1400 other riders. Getting to the pen was seamless and yes, we got away exactly on time. It takes a minute or so to cross the start line but that’s the price you pay for mass entry. I’ve read nothing to suggest that every other pen didn’t get away exactly on time either and by 9 am all 14000 odd entrants were out on the roads.

There is literally no point during this ride where you don’t have the company of other riders. It’s a seamless procession of being passed and then dishing out the passing to others. It does mean that you have to be constantly alert to what’s going on around you and while you may not be racing per se, it’s a good idea to maintain your concentration. Make sure you shoulder check, shout if you’re coming through a small gap etc. Generally the riding was impeccable from all concerned. There were a few spills and one of them did look a bit serious. So if you’re that rider I truly hope that you’re well this morning and back on the bike soon.

The route is pretty good actually. You do have to exit Cardiff and get to Newport. There’s no truly spectacular way of doing that but as soon as you’ve cleared the Blade Runner dystopian behemoth that is Cardiff’s enormous recycling facility it’s out into quiet, well surfaced lanes. Narrow in places but again the standard of riding was very high. There’s very little climbing in this section. Indeed I measured about 100ft by the time we’d got to Newport some 15 or so miles in. For context I’d climbed that by the time I’d commuted a couple of miles this morning. If you want to put a fast average time in for a sportive this is the boy.

Eventually the flatness is broken by a climb past the famous Celtic Manor resort. It gets a bit congested but it’s pretty easy finding a way through. A swift downhill follows and then it’s just a case of riding the route to the Tumble. It meanders a bit, lanes into main roads and back again. It goes from isolation to small communities many of whom were up early on a Sunday morning to get the street party started. While the route wasn’t exactly thronged at this point the support was excellent and spurred you on a bit.

Then the rain came. You could see it in the distance flirting with the Tumble. You hoped it would go North as you went West. No such luck. While not bouncing of the roads it was pretty grim for a while. Stops were made for jackets and gilets. No such stops for me as I hate carrying anything I won’t need for a considerable period of time. So, hardcore bibshorts, jersey and my one concession to the cold, a base layer. Though I did deploy some Rapha deep winter embroication earlier that morning, just in case.

The rain continued for a while. Then the car on the course arrived. At first I thought it was a motorbike. Then a car passed on the other side and seemingly ignored all attempts to bring it to a halt. Once again well done to the Marshalls who tried their best. I understand that the car was brought to a stop somewhere along the line and that arrests have been made. It was a blip. Not the organisers fault and one of those things.

And then, let’s get ready to Tumble! I’ve never done the Tumble. It’s a bit out of the way for me so I don’t get over there that often. I’ve seen it bestowed with mythical status. And yes, it’s a bit hard. Harder than the Bwlch and Rhigos in my view. It was also a bit damp still so climbing something that peaks at 16% with hundreds of others was tricky. But, once again, I saw nothing other than co-operative riding from all concerned. As a climb I rather enjoyed it. It’s quite closed in but doesn’t have the grandeur of the southern approach (from the Ogwr) valley of the Bwlch. But as tree lined ascents go it was great. There’s a lot of fun to be had threading your way through the field and aiming for a good time to the top.

Top of the Tumble duly despatched I hung around at the top to wait for the rest of my team. The organisers have moved the feed station from the top of the Tumble down the valley. That’s a plus in my view. It’s just the wrong place for it and it keeps littering down to more manageable levels. But, riders, there’s still too much. If something falls out, ok. Don’t drop it. Worried about the gels making your pockets sticky? You’ll be washing your jersey. Cut it out and get a grip, preferably of your litter.

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Back on the ride and there’s a fast descent to Blaenavon. While the Tumble is a harder climb than the Bwlch or Rhigos the descent is not as much fun. The subsequent descent down the Valley was hard and fast. The roads were excellent and the sheer width of the space available for overtaking was an amazing experience. It’s here that the closed roads really come into their own, the ability to take a line that you could never otherwise take. Oh, and going the wrong way around roundabouts is amusingly top fun.

We pulled into the feed station for a bit of a top up and took a bit of time here. It was busy but the queues went quickly and the organisation was top notch. I’ve no strong view of food on sportives as it can be very personal. But fig rolls, oranges, crisps, jelly babies etc is a good mix. There’s water, High 5 gels, tabs and powder. There are no jam tarts or pasties (my personal pick me ups) but there we are. There were many bins for the clear up and many marshalls sorting people out.

Back onto the road and it’s a bit of a slog now. Your only thought is Caerphilly mountain, a mercifully short Category 4 climb. The flat section approaching Maesycymmer was quite tough despite being flat. I looked down at the Garmin and found myself doing 10 mph. So I put the hammer down and kicked on. The route rolls up and down towards Caerphilly county mainly now on main roads. There are a few gentle dual carriageway ascents (and descents) which pull on the already tired muscles a bit. It’s decently pretty but perhaps the most forgettable section.

Then you hit Caerphilly. It’s arguably better to know nothing about Caerphilly mountain. Arguably better. When my mate Jon and I did the Tour of Wales Sportive a few years back he knew nothing about it. I did. We raced the final section together and I let him eke a few yards out ahead. As he turned the corner to see the gradient his face was a picture. Jon won’t mind me saying this. It does come as a big surprise. There are two parts to this climb, you first climb up the hill out of town. It’s fine. You turn a right hand corner and wham, welcome to 18%. Not all the way, obviously, but enough to make you question whether you can do it. It’s not long, not at all. But it’s a nasty little thing. I twiddled up in 36/28 and stuck in a sprint finish on the final bend. I took in a cheeky latte at the top, from the Cafe, while waiting for the lads to re-assemble.

Once we were back together it was a downhill sprint to the finish. And what a downhill it is. Down the other side, past the thronging crowds, through residential roads with claxons and cowbells, barbequess and high fiving kids. Cardiff was alive. And then a Greipel-esque sprint down the finish straight to collect a finisher’s medal. Job. Done.

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It’s a great ride actually. I liked it more than I thought I would. In fact, I loved it. To the organisers, kudos, you nailed it. It’s worth every penny of the entry fee in my view because it’s different. Paying for road closures, signage, and all that goes with it does not come cheap. But it’s the organisation that was incredible. Not a fault, not a hitch. Chapeau.

And the riders. You were great. You rode well and rode strong. As a group you were ambassadors to your sport. Kudos to you as well. Let’s deal with those gel wrappers though.

But the real stars were the people of Wales. Those facebook and twitter whingers don’t represent you. Those of you who were out there with your banners, your flags, your cowbells, those who’d made it a day to remember for us and for you, hats off. You embraced what this is about. It isn’t about cycling. It’s about humanity. People do, people support. A nice sunny day in Spring and you chose to do something that perhaps we should do more often. A day of going nowhere. A day for family. A day to talk to your neighbours. You got it, you got what this is about. It isn’t about us and you. It’s simply about us. Thank you for your contribution. You did us proud.

And a word about my team. Eversheds solicitors were the main event sponsor. I rode for them yesterday in my rather lovely Eversheds kit. You may have seen a few of us, we were hard to miss. A big thanks to Richard Franklin for organising it all, it was a brilliant experience.  The Eversheds charity this year was Maggie’s Centres who provide support for the families of cancer sufferers. If you do fancy chucking a few quid at the charity to reward yesterday’s team effort then the link is here.

The Welsh Government have worked to ensure that the Velothon is part of the sportive landscape in Wales for the next 3 years as well. Will I be there next year? Damn right I will.

The Pedla: socks from down under

Before I wrote this I had to check the rules. I was quite content in my recollection that you can wear whatever damn colour socks you like but I had to check what they say about sock length. It’s a bit controversial apparently.

Let’s start by saying that socks are not optional. People who don’t wear socks generally enjoy a swim and a run either side of their cycling. Those people should be shunned for the rules demand that it is so.

The rules on sock length aren’t quite so clear. They’re lumped in with the rule on short length. Each are required to be Goldilocks. Just right. I like a short(er) short. But I don’t mind a longer sock. Not at all despite my not exactly lengthy legs.

Continuing my desire for my blog to sample a global cornucopia of cycling gear these socks hail all the way from Australia and are produced by the Pedla. In the time that I’ve been writing this blog it’s been pretty eye opening in terms of the sheer number of companies out there competing for our hard earned cash. I guess it should come as no surprise though given just how many of us cyclists there are globally and just now many more of us there are to come.

The Pedla hail from Melbourne and have been around for a few years now. Once again they sit at the more premium end of the market and use some pretty high end stuff in the construction of their garments, fabrics from swiss firm schoeller and italian firm miti along with pads from the venerable cytech. Miti are actually responsible for the brand roubaix and super roubaix, that fleece which you find in your winter clothing and which the name of this blog references at least in part. Indeed given that they are a relatively new start up it’s interesting to see just how the Pedla have used some cutting edge technical fabrics in much of their clothing range.

The range itself is a pretty distinctive one and there’s a clear branding theme running through the lot. There’s a neat line in urban camo (yes, I checked the rules about this) but far better looking colours than some other brands that might be mentioned. There are some plain(er) jerseys if that’s the look that you want to go with. There’s a nice range of “peak motif” clothing as well. The Pedla “dots” are present as a constant design feature across the range.

I’ve been testing these Pedla Spinner’s Socks for a week or so now. I was given the red, pink and blue to test. There’s a yellow, black and white version and also a rather fetching peaks version that matches the rest of the peaks branded range.

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There’s actually quite a bit of tech going on according to the packaging. The overall mix is coolmax, lycra and nylon. A bit eclectic as it goes. But what you’re getting is a fairly lightweight but, ultimately, a durable and supporting sock. Just touching on a few points. The complete absence of seams is great and these are just superbly comfortable. So much so I’ve been wearing them with trainers and jeans as well as using them for cycling. They are marked left and right so don’t get them mixed up as they are anatomically shaped for best fit. And that compression? Yep, all present. These won’t wrinkle, they won’t fall down and if compression socks have any of the benefits claimed then these should do that as well, even if it will only be for 6 inches.

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Before we discuss what they’re like let’s talk about that length issue. These are 6 inch socks. That’s pretty high as you can see below.

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Much will depend on whether you like long socks. As it happens, I do. There’s a nice design running through these from the front dot design to the Pedla logo running down the back. Why are the words at the back of the sock? Because you will always be in front of the people reading them and if you are not, make it so.

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So, they’re very well constructed. They look good. They’re absolutely bang on/off fashion depending on your taste. Are they any good to wear?

Yes, is the simple answer. They have a lovely compression to them and, despite their apparent weight I’ve had no problems with my feet overheating in them. Indeed, I’ve used them into the 20-23c range so far. I suspect, having also worn them at about 10c, they’re pretty versatile in relation to their range as well. In fact I reckon they might make a good spring or autumn sock as well.

They’re probably not a high summer, mountain climbing sock depending on your point of view. Personally I don’t suffer sweaty feet and, for me, the need for mesh lightweight sock in the summer is a little overstated. The coolmax element of these socks will keep you cool in even the hottest conditions. Let’s face it, it would be weird for an Australian company to make a misstep with the temperature range of their socks.

Above all they look like they’ll last for years. Too often that box fresh pristine feel disappears as soon as you wash them. Not here, these look as good coming out of the washing machine as they did going in. I’m taking care, as I do with all my kit, to dry them naturally.

If you want to buy these then you can order directly from Australia, though postage might be a little prohibitive and returns not quite as easy. So my best advice to you is to head over to Always Riding. If you’re not familiar with that company then they do some great stuff that you may not always have heard of. And in terms of customer support and despatch they are up there with the very best indeed.

The price of these is £16.99 and that might make you baulk a little. It is a high price tag for a pair of mere socks. Thing is, it’s not actually all that unusual in the premium sock market. I happen to think that their clear durability marks them out as being worth spending that little bit more.

So, the big question is, which colour for the Velothon Wales this coming Sunday? Well, now there’s a thing. The rules at least imply but arguably demand co-ordination. My charity sponsored kit is purple. I’m definitely wearing the Pedla socks so it’s a choice between the blue and the pink. I reckon I can carry off the latter. Pink it is.

Oh, update, did a bit of research and came across this guide. Nails it and the Pedla are bang on pro.

Parentini Shark.2 bibshorts

Happy 40th Birthday to Parentini. In terms of clothing manufacturers that makes them amongst one of the oldest I guess. So, 40 years ago Gianpaolo Parentini, working in the family factory, decided to move into technical cycling wear. The rest, as they say, is history. When you’ve been around 40 years you learn a thing or two.

Before I crack on it’s worth dealing with Parentini’s naming conventions for bibshorts. Generally speaking most of the top end shorts in their summer range have a “winterised” equivalent.

So, the top of the range (summer) Tiger.2 has a winter roubaix version. Ditto the Shark.2. In addition there’s a Shark.2 k-dry version with added water repellency. Possibly a bit confusing at first but quite a sensible convention actually. What’s good about this is that if you’ve found your summer “one” as it were then, added warmth aside, the winter version of it should provide a similar if not identical fit.

You can see the full set of summer bibs here and the winter ones here.

The Shark.2 that I’ve been testing sit just below the top of the range Tiger.2. There are a number of colours available which appear below. The RRP on these is £110. Given the premium end of the market they are pitched in that’s a) fairly reasonable in terms of this price point and b) they will need to be very good to justify that kind of price.

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Essentially, the intent is that they face off against Assos, Rapha, Castelli etc. Not long ago that was pretty much it but it seems that there are new brands appearing every week with their own take on what a premium product is. Competition is pretty fierce for your hard earned cash. It can be a bit bewildering as well. Given the amount of stuff out there it’s very easy to fall back on what you know and default to the well known premium brands.

My personal view, and I’ve also been testing the new Assos S7 Equipe this week (review on those soon) is that Assos remain the benchmark against how others are judged. Whilst bib shorts are a very personal thing in terms of fit the truth is that Assos don’t make mistakes. They innovate and everything….just….works. When making comparisons therefore the bar is raised very high. In terms of rrp these are positioned against the Assos Neo Pro and Equipe (and come in cheaper than either). The Tiger.2 are, arguably, positioned against the Cento and Campionissimo (again coming in at less). I’m afraid I don’t have those on test but if they offer an exponential improvement then they should be quite special.

Let’s see what they’re like. The lycra of the Shark.2 is a 250g weight for that bit more compression, fit and durability. I’ve not taken a photo of them hanging up as their anatomic shaping means that there’s little that can be gleaned from a photo.

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The first thing to discuss is probably the straps. The back section is a single piece which is then joined to the front section at the shoulders. The front section is continuous all the way from the shoulder right down to the bottom of the shorts. That means less panelling and less possibility of rubbing. The outer edge of the straps is heat bonded to the strap rather than stitched on and runs the entirety of the straps (inside and outside) and around the tummy section. It’s actually a labour intensive process and means less product produced per hour. But in the pursuit of comfort it matters very much to Parentini. Stitching, where it does exist, is first rate. It’s not flat lock but what there is is kept to the absolute minimum in terms of height and width. I’ve stated before that whilst flat lock is welcome I’ve never had an issue with “normal” stitching. And there are no issues here.

If you want to read more about the heat bonding technique click here.

In terms of fit I took a Large for my 35″ waist and 80kg frame. That compares pretty favourably to what I wear in Assos. The fit is quite compressive and that’s not a criticism, it’s how good long distance shorts should be. Similar to Assos the shoulder straps don’t sit entirely comfortably when you’re standing in the kitchen filling your bidon. But, on the bike, and after many many miles, you just cannot feel that they’re there. There are a load of different approaches to straps out there in terms of positioning. These are fairly traditional in that respect. They spring up from just outside mid tummy and go up and over your nipples. There’s been a move to offsetting straps further to the waist. I can’t say that I find any method any better or worse than the other so Parentini have just stuck with what has always worked well here.

So, how many miles have I done? I read the other day that commuting could not compare to sitting in the saddle for many hours. I disagree. The varied conditions I face every day (and the variety of bikes I use) helps me to determine what good kit is. Bad kit makes itself known pretty quickly. But I don’t just commute, I do loads more than that. So, last week, I put about 300 miles into these with a few rides of 3 hours plus. I washed them daily on a cool wash, dried them and used them the next day. We’ll come back to how they perform a little later.

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There are two patterns of lycra incorporated into the short. The majority is “smooth” lycra and the side panels have a waffly effect. Parentini make absolutely no claims for aero performance of that section. That saves me telling them off for making such claims. The waffly lycra occupies two panels which come down from the waist. Again these panels are curved to pre shape the shorts into an anatomical shape. I guess it works. Laid out they don’t fall well. When on they fit perfectly. As a side note, depending on what colour you go for, the two waffle panels aren’t always present. The red shorts, for example, have one waffle panel in contrasting colour and one smooth lycra panel.

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You’ll note the presence of the usual elasticated gripper here. It’s bonded onto the bottom of the shorts. The back of the gripper is entirely rubberised.

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In use the grippers were pretty much invisible in terms of feel. Nothing moved around and you just can’t really feel that they are there. They are, like the rest of the short, compressive. But they disappear entirely when you’re on the bike. There’s never any need to tug them to get them to sit in a different place. If you do have Hoy like thighs you might find that the area where the gripper bonds to the main leg is slightly more compressive. But it’s simply a small visual matter rather than a comfort one.

There are two big reflective strips sewn into the seams at the back of the leg. Once again Parentini ensure that you can be seen.

The pad is once again Parentini’s own C6 HT elastic carbon pad (as seen in the K-Dry bibtights I tested a while back). It’s designed and produced entirely in house rather than being outsourced. It sits below the top of the range C6 Fluo pad. Well, all I’d say is this, that top of the range pad must be some pad indeed as I cannot imagine what improvements it brings. This is easily amongst the best pads I’ve sat on and you can happily spend hours in these shorts.

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In terms of leg length I’d say there were a middle ground. Not quite as short as the Assos Mille (or dhb Aeron) but some way short of longer offerings such as the Lusso Pro and dhb Aeron Race. On my legs I still have some way to go until the knee which is something I personally prefer.

So, I’ve done some miles in these. I’ve also been playing around on different bikes and I’ve experimenting with saddles on the race bike. I’ve done a large amount of climbing and some long hours in the saddle. It’s been pretty warm as well so gauging breathability has been possible. I’ve never really had any real problems sweating in lycra shorts but these definitely have an airy feel to them as a result of the waffly side panels. It also appears that the pad itself is very breathable and I don’t get any sensation of dampness.

These are excellent both for the price and in terms of being a true performance short. The pad is outstanding which is absolutely the main thing that you want in a pair of shorts. That the rest of the package stacks up to what’s within is a bonus.

For a list of dealers click here. A few more have been recently added so if you want to know where to buy then drop an email to sales@zettadistribution.com. If you do have any queries drop a message in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer them.

Lusso Corsa rain jersey

Sorry, another one. They’re all the rage see and it does rain a lot. Indeed, I’m going to put together a round up and discuss the “death of the rain jacket” shortly. So, off the back of my recent Perfetto test, here’s another one. It’s a bit cheaper as well. Can it give the mighty scorpion a run for its money?

I’m actually a bit fed up of rain jerseys now. Not because they’re not any good, far from it. But I need to go out in the rain to test them. I’m fed up of rain……though, just as I’ve written this, we’ve had 2 days of mid twenties heat. Or Summer as they call it in Wales.

Corsa is, of course, Italian for race. When the Lusso Corsa arrived that’s immediately what I thought. It’s more race wear than endurance wear. Not that it won’t do both. But there’s a real lightness to this one. It’s more jersey than any of the others that describe themselves as such. And possibly a bit more versatile. It weighs (size large) a shade over 200g. For comparison the Castelli Perfetto comes in at 257g. That’s a quite substantial saving and gives you some idea of its stated intent and its potential versatility.

Lusso claim that this is an “aero-fit” garment or, to you and I, it’s a tight fit with no flappy bits. It’s also described as being windproof and waterproof, lightweight and breathable. It’s made from “Italian fabric.”

But what fabric? It appears to be our old friend Windtex as seen in Parentini’s Mossa but, this time, a much lighter version of it. As I’ve explained before Windtex is a waterproof membrane. This Windtex lite cuts down on a lot of the weight without sacrificing wet weather performance. It’s a versatile piece and could see you down to single figures (with the appropriate base layer). It’s not intended for wearing at really low temperatures.

Fit on this is excellent which contrasts starkly with my experience of the Castelli Perfetto. (though that may have been a one off). My Large is perfect on my 41″ chest but, crucially, it tapers less sharply into the waist. I measured the waist section at 34″ inches all round compared to the 30″ of the Perfetto. While it’s difficult to compare a brand/size I do feel that the Castelli tapered way too much from the starting point of a 41″ chest fit.

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You’ll note that the arms are quite long. They terminate just above the elbow. The other great thing about the Corsa is that it’s part of Lusso’s nitelife range so when you get caught in car headlights this is what they see.

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It’s remarkably effective and, of course, continues at the rear as well. Sticking an arm out to indicate works as a virtual indicator. Black is the only colour available.

Not all of the jersey is made from windtex. There are fabric parts which provide for greater breathability. You can make them out, I hope, in the picture below. So you have a small fabric section under the arm which then runs down the side of the jersey. Other than that everything is “enclosed.” It’s a good approach, rain is unlikely to make its way to those areas easily because they’re shielded by you. And while it stops short of a full vent it’s still effective in keeping the jersey breathable.

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The collar is quite high and fairly generous. The Perfetto felt a bit tight in this area but the Corsa is a better cut on me. It’s good to see a zip garage present to ward off any chin rub.

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Round the back and it’s all present and accounted for. There are three main pockets which don’t sag at all. The fourth waterproof zipped pocket is a decent size and will take a reasonably sized smartphone but probably not a phablet. Lusso have added a central reflective strip making this one of the better articles of clothing I’ve tested in relation to headlight visibility.

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Taking a leaf out of the Gabba playbook the pockets have drain holes so any water that runs down your back will find its way out. Once again you can see the nitelife strip at the bottom. That strip has rubberised backing on both the waist and arms so there should be no issues keeping everything sitting where it should.

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You can wear it how you like but it does work better with a base layer, so Lusso sent me the one that they recommended wearing with it. It’s a polypro material, specifically our old friend Dryarn and works extremely well even if it does have shades of Bennett from Commando about it. The sleeves are very thin elastic grippers and that works well because the length of the base layer sleeves is more or less identical to the sleeves of the jersey. So the arms on this grip you and the grippers on the jersey grip the gripper section. You don’t have to wear this one of course. If you don’t then you may just find the arms on your existing base layer not quite as long but it will still work perfectly well. I’d advise polypro rather than merino because it has better wicking properties in this setup.

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Obviously this is a short sleeve so won’t keep you totally warm in single figures or driving nasty rain. So, to extend your protection you can partner it with a pair of Lusso repel arm warmers. They’re made from the same material as the main jersey so you’re getting all round water protection. Like the jersey there’s a small fabric insert round the back for added breathability. I found the fit on these to be outstanding and, crucially, not too long.

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In terms of the “bowl” test you can see just how waterproof the fabric is here. And once you eject the water there’s nothing really left on the membrane at all, testament to the DWR treatment.

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None of this really matters though. All that’s important is whether it works. Well, I’m happy to report it does, and them some. It was rubbish here earlier in the week so I had a good opportunity to test it in the conditions it was designed for. It does what it says on the tin. Useable range for this is excellent. I had it on in monsoon conditions (think wet and humid/warm) and cooler damp ones. I never overheated and never got cold. Unlike the Perfetto I could happily move the zip down without my chest ejecting itself through the front. So whilst it lacks the clever back of the Perfetto it’s still very breathable when done up and if you really need to vent it’s easy to pull the zip down for a while. Indeed, it’s just like a proper jersey really though obviously a slightly different overall feel.

The drop tail is excellent. It’s not an additional piece as you’d see on the Gabba/Perfetto where you can tuck it inside if you want. It’s just a longer back. You can sit on it but I prefer to let it drape itself over the saddle. The pockets are good and I found getting stuff in and out a little easier than the Perfetto as well. I’ve no idea why though I suspect much is to do with the elasticity and construction of the material that runs along the top of the pockets.

A colleague remarked that it looked a bit like a seal skin. I think there’s some truth in that and like skin it’s both waterproof and breathable. Obviously anything intended to be waterproof and which attempts to deal with warmth or tempo riding will not be the last word in breathability but it did an excellent job and after a 2 1/2 hour ride (in alternating damp and downpour conditions) I was only slightly damp from my own sweat. The base layer was pretty dry as well indicating that the sweat had moved away from me and out through the jersey. Temperatures look to drop again next week so I can have a look at how this deals with the early morning 6-8 degrees in the rain. I don’t expect any issues and will check out how it works with varying weights of base layer.

In terms of washing there is a DWR treatment so don’t forget to wash it with non bio and re-treat when you need to. In my experience these treatments do last for quite a while. Unlike others windtex remains waterproof so while water may not bead as effectively it still won’t get in.

Top little jersey this and, frankly, good value at a rrp of £95. For virtually 4 season usability it’s a top wardrobe addition.

Click to buy the rain jersey

Click to buy the short sleeve base layer

Click to buy the repel arm warmers (if you didn’t already!)

The start of the Active Travel journey……

So, what are your feelings on tandems? Red Dolan Ones specifically. I mean, I think I’d quite like a tandem, I could go out with the Mrs more and we could have coffee and cake. I could wear my Chapeau Cafe Jersey and everything would be right with the world. I’d never really thought about tandems very much, there were two at Battle on the Beach though.

A week or so ago I saw another one. It was an older couple with matching kit on a big, very red Dolan tandem. Now, that’s not unusual, rare as tandems are, but it was on a cyclepath. The very new, very shiny, very expensive (more on that later) shared use path between Pencoed and Coychurch in South Wales. It’s been immensely popular in the few weeks since it opened, walkers, road cyclists, leisure cyclists and just generally being really well used. And, today, a tandem. And at that point I thought, that cycle path has truly arrived. A link between two places, avoiding a busy dual carriageway. Tandem riders in the sun.

To give you an idea of what used to link Pencoed and Coychurch have a look at this Google Map. It’s the path off to the right hand side. It’s narrow, it used to fill with puddles. In the summer it would get overgrown. If there were two bikes using it there would be no space to pass each other. It was punctuated by a very busy layby where you diced with massive lorries. If your child went to school in Coychurch or if you wanted to walk to the White Horse pub it was challenging. So, many decided against taking up that challenge.

A few years ago the Welsh Government decided to put the concept of active travel into law with the introduction of the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. This was Wales being first, Wales leading the way. It was an Act that would make active travel important. It would make it better and it would lead to real change. At least that was the promise. We’ll have a look later at whether it’s succeeded. But first you need to understand the manner in which it was introduced and what it seeks to do.

The Welsh Assembly is, in effect, the Welsh Parliament. It’s allowed to make law in relation to areas that are within its devolved competence. There are a number of areas in which Wales can make laws for itself and quite a few where it cannot. Unlike Scotland, Wales can only make law where a) that subject is within legislative competence and b) the thing being created is not within a list of exceptions. Wales is able to make law in relation to 21 broad areas which include highways and transport, health, social welfare and planning.

What is active travel as opposed to inactive travel? It’s a slightly odd piece of English but you get what they’re going for. Part of it, quite clearly, means not sitting on your bottom to get somewhere unless that bottom is sitting on a saddle. Or walking, don’t forget walking. It’s overlooked as a form of transport. It’s actually a pretty easy form of transport as well. You just put one foot in front of the other. But there’s more to active travel than that. It also means walking or cycling to get to somewhere but, on arrival, that somewhere is equipped with what you need to make that active travel worthwhile. It needs to be effective en route as well, no point sending you on a 20 mile detour. Active travel as a concept attempts to remind people (i.e. planners!) that a route should attempt to cater for everyone and be useful to the majority.

We’re overly dependent on the car despite the claim of there being a “war on motorists.” There’s a pretty funny tweet going around at the moment. It’s along the lines of “If you’re on a tandem on your own people look at you weird, if you’re commuting in a car on your own….” and they’re right. And then there’s that picture that shows just how much road space x number of cars take up compared to x number of bikes. Let’s be absolutely clear. We need a solution because our dependence on mechanised transport, even public transport, cannot continue. If it does we will kill our planet.

Despite being 160 odd miles from the centre of the Universe (London) we, in Wales, do have roads. We have the internet. We’re not short of culture. We have some of the best riding in the UK along with our celtic brethren. So, at a time when the Cycle Superhighway grabs the headlines, what are we doing with our admittedly limited resources? And they are limited. To create a panacea for all transportation to co-exist requires money. In these post austerity times it is increasingly hard to come by. If roads cannot be repaired how can new roads, new links and new pathways be afforded or prioritised?

I live in a very small village by most urban standards. Our population is less than 10,000. We have two primary schools and quite a large comprehensive school. The speed limit is almost exclusively 30 mph. It doesn’t need to be. It could be 20 mph. But that’s for another day. Despite its relatively diminutive size it is, like other small villages, chock full of cars at school time. A large amount of children are ferried to school in cars, a fair amount of them walk (depending on the weather), very few of them cycle, perhaps due to the fact that there are many cars and a 30 mph speed “limit.” There isn’t much demonstration of active travel on display at school dropping off and picking up time.

But there are changes coming. The lower end of Pencoed has been earmarked for £500,000 improvements to one of the “active travel” routes in order to provide for more safety for its users. A new pedestrian crossing is being built outside the school. Parking restrictions, at least in terms of zig zag markings, are being stepped up. There are incentives to promote active travel and disincentives to reduce inactive travel. But there are problems. Our reliance on cars as a mode of transport is not necessarily based on need. Ask any parent why they drive to school and you will hear that it is because “they’d like to walk but, in their particular circumstances they need to……” The truth, I suspect, is an elusive beast. And the truth of the answer is generally that “it’s easier.” So let’s be honest about this. Indeed, you need to be a particularly hardy soul to brave commuting. My commute is extreme, between 17-20 miles each day. I’m hardened to it. It’s almost a religion to me. I’m actually a fairly lazy person. So if I can do it……

Presently, matters are unbalanced. There are a hardcore of people who would travel actively whatever the situation. There are those who will probably never do so. And then there are the others. Many of them will have excuses. Many of those excuses will be based on fear, or ignorance or a combination of things. We have a vicious circle of a lack of adequate infrastructure preventing people from alternative travel and a lack of people already doing so holds back investment in the future. To break the cycle we need words, we need engagement, leadership and we really need some money.

Active travel.

The  Active Travel (Wales) Act places a requirement on local authorities to continuously improve facilities and routes for walkers and cyclists and to prepare maps identifying current and potential future routes for their use.  It also requires new road schemes to consider the needs of pedestrians and cyclists at design stage. And you can find a link to a wealth of information here National Assembly for Wales : Active Travel (WALES) Act 2013 Documents

There’s a lot to read and a lot to take in. The explanatory memorandum is a good place to start. Ignore the hard bits. Just have a look at the purpose of it. It’s a world first. No other country has ever put such matters into law. It is absolutely right that we should laud it and shout it from the rooftops. But there are issues. There are many countries that have not needed to. The nirvana that we seek is already present in the enlightened ones. There are constraints and exceptions, get outs and caveats. It’s the introductory chapter. We need to start writing the story. We’re only starting out on this new path.

The Act is not one that requires anyone to build anything at all. Not really. It requires local authorities to map active travel routes and integrate them into the network, it requires improvement, enhancement and promotion of the needs of cyclists and walkers and, it appears, requires consideration to new (and improved) active travel routes.

The Act defines an Active Travel route as one which is present in the locality and which is appropriate to be an Active Travel route. And we immediately hit a speed bump. What is appropriate? What is a route? A series of consultations were launched by each of the local authorities to gain feedback from local users about what sorts of routes should be active travel routes. I attended one of these and, it is fair to say, they started from a very low base. That is not a criticism. It’s difficult to know what local knowledge exists unless you talk to people. The Active Travel route in Pencoed was identified, wait for it, as the road system. Not all of it, you understand, for cycling, use those roads, for walking, use those pavements. And the question is a much more complex one. Where are we (active) travelling from and where are we (active) travelling to? And once we’ve active travelled for that purpose what is the next active travel purpose?

And there are other problems, have a look at the explanatory memorandum.

“The Bill has an urban focus, though rural routes might be appropriate for connecting settlements where the distance and gradient make it possible to travel actively. We do not expect the definitive maps of rights of way to be duplicated in producing the maps required by this Bill, unless the routes could be sensibly used for every day journeys.”

The thing is, in this world, humans have located themselves in place (a) because they like it, or it’s cheap, and they work in place (b). So linking those places is actually very important. There’s a divergence here between the idea of active travel and the concept of alternative commuting. There’s an inherent difficulty. You can use the bike to go to the shops, but getting somewhere else?

The main thrust of the Act is mapping both in relation to where current provisions exist (after having consulted and identified them) and where future provision might make things better. Subject, of course, to money.

By September 2015 local authorities needed to submit the existing routes map which identified those routes that were suitable for active travel. In doing so they needed to heed the consultation responses and also the Welsh Government’s Design Guidance.

By way of example, this is the one for Cardiff but you need to read it in conjunction with the statement. Don’t worry too much about that, it’s just the notes in relation to each of the routes and any issues associated with them. If you are unfamiliar with Cardiff, and many of you will be, let me say this to you, the majority of that existing route map is the Taff Trail. It winds its way through the City’s parks. It is a shared use path for the entirety of its route. Cardiff has a population of 340,000 people. There are 145 schools, one major University and a couple of major higher education providers. I have no criticism of the existing route map, it is what it is. But what it shows is the absolute dearth of provision for active travel that exists or, at least, has been identified as existing. And, in my view, Cardiff is one of the better places for getting out of traffic. In Cardiff, so far, so meh.

What’s going to be very interesting though is the Integrated Network Map. This has to be produced by September 2017. We’re a long way off seeing one of them from any local authority and it will be interesting to see what they look like. There’s a plan in place, there needs to be continuous improvement. The plan has to be re-submitted every 3 years to ensure that it is accurate and, one imagines, being acted on.  In preparing the plan the local authority has to take reasonable steps to enhance the provision made for walkers and cyclists.

It’s great in theory. But there are still problems. There’s no minimum requirement. There’s a lack of any additional budget to go with it. There’s no real penalty for doing the minimum. In essence it’s all about hope rather than real substance. For real substance can only occur when there is money to make it a reality. Traditionally road schemes are funded by any money left over at the end of a financial year. And schemes for walkers and cyclists are generally low on the list.

It’s a grand idea but it might just work, depending on the level of buy in. My experience to date, at least of Bridgend Council, is that they have bought in. They may not have the budget for grand plans in these post(?) austerity times. But there’s been an engagement at their level and a plea to buy into it at ours. Here’s a link to their presentation. I attended one of those sessions and the enthusiasm of those who led it was good to see. As I said earlier the awareness of the local authority in relation to where active travel routes were was lacking. But, how are they supposed to know? That’s what consultation and engagement is about. It’s for local people to identify how they travel that’s particularly important.

Let’s pause for a moment and come back to our new cycle path. I asked Bridgend Council for some details about it and was given the following information:

  1. The cost of the works was approximately £375k;
  2. The scheme was delivered through the Welsh Government’s Local Transport Fund but very much sits within the context of the Active Travel Act and forms one section of a route identified in the active travel network plan for Bridgend and Pencoed developed previously by the Council;
  3. The expenditure was planned and wasn’t a case of spending what was left over.

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Before I’d asked the local rumour mill was of the belief that this 1/4 mile section had cost a cool £1.5 million. In fact the cost was much less. To be frank, the cost in my view is pretty cheap for a 16 week duration of works. What’s interesting is that while this does not arise as a result of the local authority’s obligations under the Act it’s clear that something is being done to improve active travel even now. While the budget for the works may not exist within the authority, the Welsh Government might appear to be putting its money where its mouth is in relation to implementation.

I asked Matthew Gilbert, Transportation Officer at Bridgend CBC for his views on a number of issues and he told me that:

“I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that funding is, and will continue to be, one of the key barriers to implementing the Act. However, I think that the production of the Integrated Network Maps by local authorities will ensure that the planning of cycling and walking networks are given sufficient thought and should allow whatever funding is available to be used in the most effective way. I would also suggest that there is a need for a more concerted effort to publicise and promote the Act and walking and cycling in general, particularly at a national level. This could include the benefits from being more active and tie into the health agenda and link to other WG legislation (Health and Well-being of Future Generations for example).”

And I agree. It’s actually quite simple. For too long we’ve dreamed of the idea of active travel and how it would be lovely if someone could build something to make it possible. The problem is that no-one ever really thought that you cannot run (or cycle) before you can walk. And to be able to make those decisions of how to improve matters you first have to understand how all the stuff you already has fits together. This is Bridgend Council’s Existing Route Map. I live in Pencoed. It’s a bit isolated from the rest and doesn’t appear to have much in the way of active travel at the moment. That will change. For a start our new path will form a black line towards Bridgend and link communities. But what’s startling about Bridgend is just how much existing linkage there is. Indeed, starting at the Brewery Field in Bridgend one can cycle all the way to the Bwlch almost exclusively on a shared use path. As long as you still have your head intact.

On a local level things are going well. There’s a decent network now and enthusiastic individuals in the authority and among the local population. But at National level things aren’t that rosy. The National Assembly’s committee has warned that a lack of funding and leadership are holding matters back. And I’d agree with that view. Both of those matters are key to moving forward. That leadership has to start with the First Minister and the Minister with this portfolio. No Ministers have yet been appointed following the recent Assembly Elections. The committee has helpfully provided a report into the progress of the Act so far. Assembly Report.

There’s a lot to take in there. But one thing really stood out for me and it’s this line “It was noted that highly motivated individuals in local authorities can make a big difference.” Never has a truer word been said. It’s interesting to note that while the Welsh Local Government Association are mentioned in the evidence gathering section, only Bridgend CBC are listed individually. Chwarae Teg to them (that’s Welsh for fair play). Unless there is engagement from those responsible for delivery then nothing will happen. It won’t be quick, to change attitudes rarely is, but that level of enthusiasm is required for what is a daunting task given the lack of any real budget. We really are talking about rabbits out of hats.

But the real sadness are the findings in section 1. Local authorities don’t have the money, they have to bid like everyone else. We’re spending less than the UK per head on active travel, a piffling £3 per person. The committee recommends a culture shift from motoring towards active travel. A message. But that message comes at a time when we’re looking at an M4 relief road and a Metro project. Will the latter feature active travel provision given that it crosses local authority boundaries and joined up mapping is still another dream?

I’m hopeful. Hopeful that a Government with a 5 year term will do something that needs to be done, even if it’s likely to be a minority Government. The Active Travel Act was a rocket underneath the apathy of our travel choices. They lit the touch paper. The main question now is whether they treat that rocket as fire and forget or whether they have the engagement to carry this one through.

END NOTE: I was just about to publish this when we had high drama in the National Assembly. It’s normally really boring. Today they voted for the new First Minister. It was expected to be Carwyn Jones (again) and a labour minority government. It didn’t go that way and the vote was tied between Carwyn and Leanne Wood. There’ll be another vote in a week. What will happen? No idea. But we might be living in very interesting times where controversial stuff like active travel and open access get buried. Let’s hope it isn’t so. UPDATE: Fortunately it looks like this will be resolved. Plaid Cymru have had an input into the legislative programme I hope. I do hope that the plans for the Welsh Government continue to put active travel at the forefront.

UPDATE: In England it’s even worse. There’s no plan to bring in an equivalent Act to Wales. Indeed, once again it’s down to committed individuals in the regions to ask for money and then spend it. There’s not even a duty to do very much, if anything. So in the absence of those individuals I fear nothing will get done. There is a budget though. £315 million, the problem being that’s over 5 years so and works out at about £1.40 per head. If we proceed at this glacial pace we’ll catch up to the Dutch around the time that we’ve invented the hover car and clean sustainable energy.

Coffee and Cols Cups

EDITOR’S NOTE: I love writing those words. Makes me feel special. Anyhow, thanks to my good friend and climbing waif Jon (twitter.com/jonnarbett) for this review. Coffee is one of the things that, generally, unites us cyclists and, I have to say, I have a bit of penchant for a nice cup. That a nice cup comes with a cycling theme is to be welcomed. If you’re interested in the products reviewed here then head over to Coffee and Cols for a browse. (I’ve allowed Jon some latitude with his inclusion of certain musicians though, of course, the natural complement that he was looking for was Freddie Mercury and stage.)

Fish and chips, Morrissey and Marr – the list of things that pair naturally is almost endless. Coffee and cycling have been similarly associated for decades. Pro riders have graced the roads of Europe and beyond bearing the names of Faema, Saeco and Segafredo. Join any club run and the chances are that you’ll end up at a favourite café to discuss the ride over an espresso, an Americano or (morning rides only please) a cappuccino.

If, like me, you enjoy a pre-ride shot before leaving the house then look no further than the Coffee and Cols range. This London-based company makes a range of espresso, cappuccino and latte cups in eye-catching cycling-related designs. They also supply a variety of freshly roasted coffee in bean and ground form.

The man behind Coffee and Cols is Guy Elyahou, sometime lawyer, airline pilot, veteran of several Haute Routes and a qualified BC track coach. I asked Guy about his thinking in setting up the company.

‘The inspiration came from wanting to have some subtle way of being a cyclist in the home’ he said.

‘We wanted each cup to look great on its own (we sell a lot of the World Champion cups to non-cyclists!) but to a cyclist and his friends and family they signify something special that is part of cycling heritage.’

Guy and his team do the designs themselves – cycling friends and colleagues make ideal focus group members!

I have four of their cups – two espresso cups and saucers and two mid-size cappuccino cups. All four are impressively thick and weighty yet very well balanced in the hand.

The designs are certainly striking. My first purchase was the Velodrome espresso cup, inspired by the coloured tape that marks the racing line on indoor tracks. The inside of the cup has a cheering crowd motif. To guarantee their quality all the cups are individually handmade in England and each motif is applied to the porcelain by hand.

All the cups are then kiln fired, which results in a high quality gloss finish which is still as new on my two-year-old cup.

I also have a velodrome cappuccino cup and a similar sized cup celebrating the spring cobbled classics (with races including Paris-Roubaix, the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Liege-Bastogne-Liege etched on the inside). My newest arrival, appropriately delivered last Friday, is a special edition Giro d’Italia espresso cup and saucer in traditional maglia rosa colours featuring the names of some of the famous climbs, including Passo Dello Stelvio and Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which have graced the Giro over the years.

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As I mentioned before, Coffee and Cols also supply the coffee to fill their cups. There’s a choice of four freshly-roasted blends, ranging from mild Columbian to strong Continental and their rocket-fuel Coffee & Cols offering. I’m a big fan of the latter – very strong, good and bitter and not at all watery even with my feeble home espresso machine. Again, all are available either as beans or pre-ground.

‘All our coffee is roasted in London in small batches, around 5kg a time,’ explained Guy. ‘The coffee roasting machine dates back to the 1920’s so the process is local, controlled and family run.’

Delivery is via Royal Mail and tracked and the cups come in a sensible sized box and very well protected. And if you’re quick you can be enjoying a cup of their secret blend before this weekend’s rides!

 

Castelli Perfetto, it’s got to be perfect……

You will remember that I was fairly gushing in relation to my praise of the Castelli Alpha Jersey. I do think it’s one of the great pieces of clothing from any manufacturer. It does all that it claims to do and goes beyond. You can easily use it for 3 seasons of the year.

You may be aware of the Perfetto jersey and, if you are, you know what comparison is coming. The Gabba, again. For all things must be judged against the Gabba. But, as I’ve also said before, it’s unfair to do that. It’s unfair because not everything needs to be a Gabba and it’s not necessarily the Goldilocks garment that the collective subconscious believes it to be.  And I lay the legend of the Gabba squarely at the feet of the internet. Castelli never made the healing of the sick properties that it now appears to be imbued with.

So I approach this review with that comparison in mind. It’s fairly clear that this is truly intended as Gabba lite. Even Castelli make that claim this time around “It was the pros who first asked for a Gabba that’s not as hot as the Gabba but warmer than the Fawesome Vest. So we started from the Gabba and made the back in Nano Light fabric — the same fabric as our Nano Flex tights but without the brushed fleece inside. This gives the piece a lot of breathability and keeps you from overheating inside. We further lightened it up by using a lighter weight of Windstopper® (a full 25% lighter than the one used on the Gabba) on the front.”

Ok, I have a bit of a problem. They took the Gabba then ditched the Gore X-Lite and replaced it with Gore 150. They took out the back and replaced it with nano light. Umm, thematic approach to foul weather aside, what’s actually left of the Gabba other than the look of the Gabba?

See, the thing is, that lighter Gore windstopper, that comes from the Alpha. Nano light? It’s the light version of the nano warm from the Alpha (but we’ll return to that later). In terms of genetics this is an Alpha minus its inner insulation and half of its sleeves. But then genetics is weird anyway, you and I share 50% of our DNA with a banana.

Does this sound negative? It’s not meant to. When I reviewed the Alpha I said that, in my view, it was actually better at keeping the rain out than the Gabba. I know that goes against Castelli’s 5 dot rating for both garments but I still consider it to be true based on my experience. And remember that any windproof membrane that’s described as water resistant will hold on a hell of a lot longer than you might give it credit for. So I’m actually delighted to find the Alpha’s windstopper 150 in use here as it’s a terrific piece of fabric. I don’t know how much of a success the Alpha has been, though I suspect its sales are nowhere near the Gabba, so perhaps Castelli’s description of this as a “Gabba lite” (my spin) is a shrewd marketing one.

Anyway, Perfetto. It means perfect. It’s a grand claim and I wonder where it fits into new consumer legislation. It’s also a new direction for Castelli. The Gabba is dead, sort of. Only the short sleeve Gabba, the “original and the best,”, will continue to exist. The long sleeve Gabba becomes the Perfetto long sleeve and the short sleeve reviewed here is the, umm, Perfetto short sleeve. The Fawesome vest will become the Perfetto vest. And that’s all a bit confusing as well given that the long sleeve Perfetto (Gabba) will be quite dissimilar from the short sleeve Perfetto.

So, we’ve got all the confusing stuff out of the way. Let’s have a look at this new beast. It claims to be perfect so it damn well better be.

The Perfetto comes in 5 colours and retails for £125.00. That’s a little cheaper than the short sleeve Gabba. Whatever colour you choose the back is always black. It’s light. Really really light. 257g apparently for a large. Save that mine comes out at 247g for the XL. You could actually scrunch it up pretty small as well, though I’ve no idea why you’d want or need to.

And sizing? OK, it’s tight. No, really really tight. I mean, I ordered an XL which is described as for being up to 41.5 inches. I am currently 40.5 inches. There should be room. But this is Castelli who are, of course, on the Italian side of sizing (with apologies to those Italian brands that are not!). At the very least I should be able to buy an XL and get a similar fit to the Gabba or Alpha. Nope. It’s race fit. Just be aware of that. I’ve said before that it doesn’t matter to me whether I am an XL, L or M in clothing just that I should expect to be the same thing with the same company where possible. If you want a race fit version of this get your normal Gabba size (assuming you have one). If you want a bit less fitted get the next one up. If you’re between sizes definitely get the next size up. By way of comparison I’ve laid the XL Perfetto over my L Parentini Mossa. And when I finally found my measuring tape it comes out at just under 20 inches from pit to pit. Bear in mind though that the 150 will stretch side to side quite a lot and the nano fabric is insanely stretchy. You will get a good fit, it just depends what you want that fit to be.

I had a look at the pictures on Wiggle, that’s a tight fit but with some wiggle room (sorry). The review on road.cc is much more my experience of the fit. Painted on.

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Of course, the point to a garment such as this is that it should be fitted. With it against your skin you will perspire against the garment and it will breathe out that sweat. Similarly the skin tight effect will help the garment shed water as there will be no wrinkles in which it can collect. The added bonus to sizing up is that you will squeeze a base layer in but, for me, this is a jersey and should be able to be worn without. So that’s how it will be tested.

It’s a striking looking thing, particularly in the red I chose. It screams performance from its very fibre. Despite its limited colourway I think it’s a good looking thing. The requisite amount of scorpione are present.

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And there are some nice little details as well. More scorpione on a really good zip and a reminder, just in case you forget, that this is foul weather gear, sorry, race equipment.

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As stated the back is black. Now, it’s a bit of a quandary if you like your visibility. But the nice reflective stripe is present along with yet another scorpion. I don’t think it’s possible to have too many of them personally. That nano lite fabric is proprietary. It’s amazing. It has a slight but perceptible squash to it. It’s DWR treated of course so, for a while at least, water should run off. While it is nano in name I’m not actually sure, contrary to my earlier statement, that is shares much DNA with the nano warm of the Alpha. Whatever it is, it’s great.

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Like the Gabba the pockets are perforated with mesh underneath and this will allow  any water, which has run down your back, to get out. I liked this about the Gabba, asked for it on the Mossa and it’s good to see it present here. Now, I don’t know what kind of torrent it takes for such a thing to be necessary but it can’t hurt. The back pockets are also made from the nano lite. They are very elastic and sometimes getting stuff in and out isn’t as easy as it could be. They look like they will stand up to punishment though.

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Like the Gabba, but unlike the Alpha, the front is a rouched elastic section with grippers. It’s similarly tight but it’s comfortable once done up. You may have noticed that there’s no protection for the zip either by way of a storm flap or reverse sealing. That’s fine, in practice whilst it may be that tiny bit less water resistant or windproof it’s going to be very small margins.

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The collar is lined with a fabric mesh to provide a bit more warmth and some comfort away from the main material. It’s free to move around as well being only sewn in at the seams.

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Anyhow, minor irritations aside in relation to naming, description and sizing, I think it’s pretty great looking and really does make you want to get out there and ride in (foul weather) in it. Because the windstopper 150 is a bit less stretchy overall there’s a one more sizing niggle and that is the arms. They’re super tight, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that once you put your arms out the under arm section stretches out flat rather than moving with you creating a small pocket of air. I wonder whether further extending the nano light fabric into this region would have been more comfortable without sacrificing any performance. The neck is very good but perhaps slightly looser than it might need to be which is a little incongruous given the sizing of the rest of the garment.

But here’s the thing. For all my little whinges above, and they are little, once on the bike it fits like a shield. Personally I’d prefer it to be a cm or so looser but that’s very personal, so get the one you like the fit of after trying on the available sizes. If you do want to wear a base layer (and I don’t think you need one) then you may well need to size up. None of the tightness is in any way constricting and the arm issue is irrelevant on the bike. It just goes to show that you really need to try stuff on the bike to know. Thing is that’s often quite difficult with a bloody great set of windstopper labels attached to the front zip. Once they’re off you’re left with a used garment.

Castelli’s “comfort range” indicator claims that this is a jersey that should work from 10-20 degrees C. So that’s what I used it in. Pretty much. True to form I wanted to see how low it would go and when I set out for work it was about 6 degrees. In that it coped admirably. It’s windstopper, by Gore, what did you expect? I caned the commute in and averaged about 18mph. A quick commute by most day’s standards. What often happens is that I need to put whatever I’ve worn by the window to dry out. But not the Perfetto. It was bone dry in every area that normally gets a bit damp. Shoulders and arms were dry, the back section was dry, chest was dry. There were a few water droplets on my phone which had been in the back pocket. That was it. In terms of breathability at low temps (the ride warmed up to about 12 degrees by the end) it does what it claims, bit of insulation, tons of breathability.

But it was the way home that I wanted to try. 18-20 degrees, the top of the range. Can you really wear something that will keep you dry in a shower in, essentially, average UK summer temps? Can it still breathe? Do you die in your own sweat?

Surprisingly you really can wear this in high (by our standards) temperatures. Now, I would never ever set out on a 20 degree dry ride in the sun in this, I mean, why the hell would you? But if it’s that spring/summer day with big temperature variables the fact that you won’t overheat at 20 degrees is what swings it, though much depends on how long it stays 20 degrees for. You can stow it, but, really, why would you? So, on the way home I caned it even more. 20 degrees, 19.5 mph average, just under 1000 ft of climbing. Sure it was warmer than a normal jersey, sure I would have preferred a normal jersey. But it was fine. Better than fine in fact when I took it off, there was absolutely no dampness at all. That’s pretty incredible really and I guarantee you won’t get that on the Gabba at those temps. If the day is mid temp, with some dampness and you think it might get warmer, fine. If it’s forecast to be 20, just take a gilet in case you need some protection.

If you wear it tight and don’t wear a base layer I could see how, for example, the arms might start being a bit sticky, but that can be mitigated by size choice.

So far, so good. So far, not perfect, depending on what you want it for, but close to being so. The real genius to the Perfetto isn’t the gore windstopper, it isn’t the fit, it’s actually that stuff round the back. That stuff is incredible in terms of ventilation, really properly good.

One more thought? Is it warmer than the Fawesome. Now, you’ve got me there. The Fawesome is X-lite rather than 150 and I always found the Fawesome to be pretty warm actually. So I don’t know I’d agree with that and, given how small a Fawesome can bundle down, it remains a damn good option in the spring/summer/rain. In fact I’d say the sizing on the Perfetto is a bit like the Fawesome which always ran a bit small(er) as well. In fact I wonder whether sales might get a bit carved up across the board. If you want a long sleeve Gabba for the cold times (and I still think you’d be better with a Mossa for those) then what’s the short sleeve for? Racing? Perfetto should do that. It may be that these little niches within niches are getting a little too nichey.

So, what’s missing from my review? Well, rain. Sorry, you’ll have to wait till Monday/Tuesday for that when I will venture out once more and suffer for my art. We know it’s going to work, it’s a windstopper with DWR. The question will be whether it can balance the warmth, perspiration and incoming rain. I will update when it’s all done.

UPDATE: Any good in the rain? Yeah, I wore it for a ride of just over 2 1/2 hours in on and off rain and temps of about 16-17 degrees and it works exactly as described really. It will keep rain off for ages and, eventually, while it might find its way in you will remain warm and, crucially, not too warm. What’s very interesting is just how water “proof” the respective fabrics appear to be.

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The top picture is the Gore150. As you can see it just won’t pass through, I left it like that for about 1/2 hour and it was still pooled there. What really surprised me was the the rear which is not really a windstopper or membrane. Again the water just sat there, no leakage. It’s not a particularly high tech approach to embedding rain repellent, just a coating, but it works. It will eventually wash out a bit but you can always re-proof it. Any good for rain riding? Yep. Does exactly what it sets out to do. Though, don’t expect magical properties here. Eventually you’ll get wet from the inside and the seams will show signs of ingress.

But, that sizing. I’m going to have to speak to someone about it. Mine measured just under 40 inches on the chest as stated above. I couldn’t figure out why it was tight. But the waist, claimed to be for a 36 1/2 waist measures only 30 inches all round. That means that the taper from chest to waist is a little un-natural (on me). Worse still I asked someone with a large to measure theirs and theirs appears to be bigger (particularly in the waist) to my XL. I will see what Castelli have to say.