Survival of the Fittest: The Evolution of Man. (And Bib Tights…)

Responsibly designed from recycled materials, Pearson’s new cold-weather bib tights offer exceptional comfort and performance. They are built around a unique pad, whose construction is informed by a decade’s worth of bike-fitting data, accumulated at Pearson Performance, our Sheen store. This information has helped us continually adapt our designs, to give our customers the best riding experience possible.

Pearson ‘Survival of the Fittest’ bib tights: 100% recycled insulated fabric, pad developed by taking notes.

The man who inspired our new tights, Charles Darwin, is synonymous with evolution. The story begins in 1831, when Darwin took the position of naturalist, aboard a British naval expedition to survey the coast of South America. The voyage was to last two years. Their vessel, HMS Beagle, set sail on 27th December, and headed first for Tenerife. Unable to put ashore in the Canaries due to a cholera outbreak, the Beagle sailed instead for Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa, then on to Brazil.

Epic scale: Darwin’s discoveries aboard the Beagle would alter human thinking.

Throughout, Darwin was almost pathologically curious, taking an interest in everything from the colour of the sea, to the respiratory systems of fish, to weather patterns and dinosaur fossils. He gravitated towards the latter, like so many of his interests, on the grounds of health. For Darwin suffered from terrible seasickness; so severe in fact that, in The Voyage of the Beagle, his celebrated account of the trip, Darwin calculated he spent as much as 60% of the expedition on land. In February 1832, the Beagle reached Rio de Janeiro. In South America, Darwin’s enquiries would extend yet further, to Inca culture and systems of government.

Natural selection: Giant Galápagos tortoises square up.

Yet it was not until 15th September 1835, nearly four years after setting out, that Darwin made the first entry in his journal regarding the Galapagos Islands; his observations of the archipelago’s giant tortoises would prove key to his theory of natural selection. The Beagle arrived home in 1836. A voyage that was meant to last 24 months had spanned half a decade. And yet, the seismic conclusions Darwin was to draw from his investigations were not published immediately. In fact, Darwin spent the next 20 years studying his collected data, until the events of June 1858 compelled him to publish. That was the month he received a paper from Alfred Russel Wallace, a young naturalist whose own research centred on Malaysia’s birds of paradise. Wallace was heading toward similar conclusions to Darwin — that species most likely to survive were those best able to adapt to changing environments.

Ruffling feathers: Russel-Wallace’s theories on birds of paradise startled Darwin.

In what became an intellectual arms race, Darwin’s research was presented to the Linnaean Society, an august body of Britain’s finest scientific minds, on 1st July 1858. Darwin himself was absent, due to ill-health, and perhaps just as well — his findings received a decidedly lukewarm response. The work those findings became, On the Origin of Species, was published in 1859. Contained within its pages are the theories which secured Darwin’s legacy. That mankind had evolved from apes; that humans were no less subject to the rules of nature than other species; and that adaptation was the key to survival. And because more animals are born than will survive, Darwin concluded, “All nature is war”.

Hey, hey, we were monkeys: A less than flattering portrayal of Darwin from 1871.

Perhaps his most challenging theory was on God’s involvement in nature. Or rather, Darwin’s refusal to acknowledge it, given the lack of hard evidence. In mid-19th century England, what Richard Dawkins would later call, “the most important thought to occur to a human mind”, was no less than heresy. To believers, Darwin was the man who killed God.

The voyage of the Beagle prompted discoveries that would transform our understanding of humanity. But it still only lasted half the time Pearson has spent gathering fit data for our bikes and bib tights. (Just saying.)

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