Romantic notions of the spring – a drama in two parts

As I write this post, I am sitting here fully ‘wintered up’, in long bob tights, thermal base layers, microfleece and my trusty red thermal cycling jersey, plus of course my woolen Walz tartan cap.  I’m about to take advantage of the sunny weather, although the temperature outside is still hovering around 1 degree above freezing point, meaning that ice on the roads will be a factor.  Apart from the bright sunshine, the thought of lazy summer days riding through green and verdant landscapes seems like an impossibly romantic notion.

Fast forward to 49 minutes, 13.6 chilly miles later.  That was a cold ride; average speed around 15mph – ish, due mainly to the patches of ice covering large parts of the back roads. Riding is not as enjoyable when you have such hazards to pile upon the everyday car-driver hassles.  Roll on spring.

And so, as with all missives emanating from this correspondent, is the meaning and purpose of this text.  In the post today was a package that excited much interest in yours truly; it was a delivery containing two items of cycle clothing supplied by Shutt Velo Rapide from Yorkshire.

Now I should say that there is a two-part style to this review.  One relates to the clothing itself, whilst the other relates to customer service.  Let’s dissect the former first.  Looking forward, as I have already mentioned, to those heady, balmy days where the sun warms your back as you pedal, I recently ordered a No 3 Jersey and a pair of Bib Shorts from Shutt’s website.  My reasons for doing so are that first I am getting tired of seeing replica team kits adorning cyclists – the Manchester United team shirt mentality seems to  have infiltrated the sport as a by-product of its’ increased popularity I guess.  Second, I find Shutt’s discrete and well-made aesthetic pleasing as it combines the threads of functionality and quality as well as quiet good looks.  And thirdly, I spent a good seven years living and cycling in one of the capitals of the Yorkshire textile industry, Huddersfield, a town whose grimy mill chimneys are a stone’s throw from Shutt’s base.

A winter delivery of summer kit!

A winter delivery of summer kit!

So it was with some excitement that I sliced open the package and extracted the contents to try on.  And what a discovery I have made.  The no.3 Jersey is the slightly racier brother of the original no.1 – mine is in black with the contrasting light blue sleeve finish and back pocket.  Made in the UK from a material known as Sportwool (whose constituent wool is distinctly Antipodean), the idea is that instead of boiling in the lycra/synthetic bag of a modern team jersey, you breathe through the wool whilst it also wicks the sweat away from your skin and dries faster – whether this be in hot summer conditions or (reasonably) cold ones.

Just out of the bag

Just out of the bag

The jersey fits me beautifully – the sizing is spot on on the website.  Long in the body, with a zipped top that includes a neat flap to stop the zipper chafing your adam’s apple, and with generous rear pockets, the no.3 is a lovely jersey.  I shan’t be riding in it for a few weeks yet, and will update my views once I have had a chance to do so.  But thus far, full marks for quality and looks.  The no.3 is available in black with light blue, olive or red trim, all with the same neat detailing.

Lovely but discrete detailing

Lovely but discrete detailing

The shorts are similarly pleasing.  My collection to date has been strictly utilitarian, limited to all three lengths of DHB Earnley bibshorts, which are the Ford Mondeo of the legwear world as far as most real world cyclists are concerned.  So the Shutts introduced an immediate feel good factor by virtue of their length (they are of a shorter leg length, in the style of older, mid-thigh length designs), the mesh back panel for cooling during warmer weather (which also helps the jersey to regulate heat), and the fabric which is soft and
very comfortable.  A chamois pad will be the interface between myself and my Brooks; again a running report on both will be forthcoming.

Think Sean Yates for the fit, says Shutt!

Think Sean Yates for the fit, says Shutt!

But as the title suggests, this is in fact a drama of two parts.  The products are in a niche of their own in the market – the idea for most people of shelling out £150 plus for a Rapha -level cycling jersey in these straitened times is probably a bit wide of the mark unless you are the kind of individual who can divert such lavish funding to items which, let’s face it, are going to spend their days covered in sweat, mud and rainwater.  For the price of a team kit jersey (and quarter of the price of a pair of team bib shorts!) I have got a summer kit which is in my view technically and aesthetically far superior, and although the textile itself comprises Aussie wool, the company designs, sources, manufactures and markets all its’ products in the UK, which gives me a little bit of a warm glow inside on the Karma meter – instead of a slight but nagging suspicion that far-eastern child labour may have been a contributory factor to a shiny new top.

But the real stand-out factor is that Shutt’s customer service is outstanding.  Not just Wiggle-style good, but worthy of note.  My order went missing in the post, and when I chased it, I received immediate email contact from a Director – not a dismissal from a student working in a call centre to pay the rent.  An immediate replacement was sent, and it arrived within two days.  And as we all know from the increasingly frantic and impersonal world of internet shopping, that counts for a very large, Rheinheitsgebotlich, organic and free range plus in Shutt’s favour.

Assuming, as you’re reading this blog, that you have a similar disposition to me in the bikes/clothing department, I would urge you to give Shutt a try if you’re looking to refresh your wardrobe for the coming year.  Check out their website for some very lovely new additions, I shall be back for a Team Jersey as soon as funds allow!

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