Cyclists are constantly in pursuit of perfection. We strive to turn our bodies into lean, toned cycling missiles. We search for ever-finer bicycles. We yearn for a 12th sprocket, for we know that even if the ninth, 10th and 11th were a bit of an anticlimax, the 12th will be the God sprocket.
We demand better roads. We want to save the planet from climate change. And we know that if we post enough helmet cam footage on YouTube we will finally be able to make the peoples of the world live in peace and harmony.
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But I will tell you what I see in my dreams, and it is none of these things. It is a shining pyramid, and at the top, lit by a shaft of golden light, two gloves. Two good gloves. Two gloves that I could wear for a winter ride and not want to feed into the office shredder when I get back.
Here’s where we are at the moment with glove technology: warm, waterproof, supple… pick any one.
You can’t have two. You certainly can’t have three. For example, my first winter gloves were left over from a skiing holiday. They were warm. That was the only thing that was good about them. They were a horrendous bright red, and they were huge. I looked like I was making fun of all lobster-kind, and I had the manual dexterity of a man in boxing gloves.
They prompted me to pre-empt the Chris Froome ‘arse-on-the-top-tube’ position 20 years ago, because the only way to press the button on my computer was by smacking it repeatedly with my forehead until I got what I wanted. If it rained, the gloves soaked up several kilos of water each and the wind chill transformed them into little freezers.
Like most gloves, they stank. Washing them had no effect other than to infect the washing machine and everything in it with the same stench. The three days they spent drying on a radiator almost prompted Mrs Doc to pack her bags and leave. But, like I say, at least they were warm.
The Marigold conspiracy
Waterproof is perhaps even more troublesome. My friend Bernard was once so appalled by his leaking gloves that he threw them into a river mid-ride.
He stopped in the next village shop and bought a pair of yellow Marigolds, which he wore for most of that winter.
They were waterproof, and he could almost work his computer with them. They also gave him the clammy, grey hands of a corpse, and one February afternoon they caused him to crash into a rain-filled ditch because his dead-man’s fingers were so frozen he couldn’t pull the brakes.
The only bit of him that stayed dry were his hands. I thought this was a lot funnier than he did.
I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy by the manufacturers. I think the glove-makers gather covertly (perhaps in a secret glove-nest) to plot against us.
“Make ’em rubbish, and the suckers will have to keep buying ’em,” they cry, while mercilessly repressing anyone who makes warm, waterproof, supple gloves.
The clinching proof of this theory is, I think, a pair I bought in an obscure shop in Suffolk many years ago. They were warm, dry and (yes!) supple. They were the gloves from the shaft of sunlight.
They were made by a company that I’d never heard of before and of which I’ve never heard since. A week later, when I returned to buy at least another 10 pairs, all remaining stock of the gloves had “sold out” never to be replaced.
Under sustained questioning, the shop owner was distinctly shifty.
I still have them, but I can’t use them, because they are holy relics.
If I wear them out I’ll have destroyed the only true gloves that have ever existed. The irony is almost too much to take.