The weather today was foul. That’s pretty much par for the course for a British February day. Grey. Wet. Cold. It was that kind of rain where you can’t see it raining on the puddles, but the water is pouring down your face. That fine rain that soaks you through. And it was 2-4°c most of the time. Bloody miserable.
But if you let that kind of thing put you off, you’d not get out half as much in the UK. For the kind of riding I love, that’s bad. I love to go for long, hilly rides.
Now, you can do that by training on your turbo indoors. You can get your FTP up on Zwift. You can build your ability to work into the red and smash a hill. But it’s harder to build the stamina and more importantly the understanding of your own body that you need to be able to roll off on a 100 mile hilly ride knowing you’ll get it done and not feel like death on the bike.
So you need to get out in all weathers, and that means having the right kit.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.Alfred Wainwright, A Coast to Coast Walk
I’ve had a lot of cycling kit over the 7 years I’ve been road riding. I’ve always been out in all weathers, and I know that there’s a huge range of kit out there all promising it’s awesome. And some of it costs an absolute fortune. This morning I got my February Grand Fondo in, despite the wet and the cold. I’ve picked up a few new pieces of kit recently, and was trying some of them out today and they worked really well. Today, I went with the following kit:
- Galibier Mistral 4
- Planet X Pro 365x Long Sleeve Base Layer
- Shutt Velo San Remo Bib Tights
- Sealskinz overshoes
- Sealzkins UltraGrip Gauntlets
Now, the Planet X base layers are a long term favourite. I’ve got a couple of short sleeve ones and a couple of long sleeves. They’re made from a synthetic alternative to Merino wool. Same antibacterial and wicking properties. They have some compression. They fit really nicely and work really, really well as a base layer, particularly the long sleeve in cold conditions. And they cost around £10. I say around because the short sleeve is cheaper than the long sleeve, and it’s Planet X, so if you wait long enough they’re half price. Absolutely brilliant. No point in ever paying more for a warm base layer!
The Sealskinz overshoes are also a long term favourite. They have a nice reflective strip down the back, fit well and keep the water out. I ride in my “summer” shoes year round. All I do is sling a pair of overshoes over the top and tape up the vents on the bottom. Sometimes I also wear thicker socks than usual cycling socks. Today I forgot to tape the vents and got cold wet feet. But, when I don’t forget to tape the vents… works perfectly. No need to splash out on “winter” shoes when a pair of £20 overshoes converts your summer shoes!
A long running battle I’ve had in cold weather is the sleeve/glove interface. I always seem to end up with if not a gap, at least a chink. I always seem to end up with a cold wind blowing on my wrists. I’d been looking around for gloves with a long cuff that would go under my jackets for ages. I spotted the Sealskinz Ultragrip Gauntlets by chance on Amazon for £40 and was very tempted.
Reviews from car detailers saying they used them to wash cars, with their hands plunging in water and staying dry sounded pretty awesome. Nice long cuffs. Grip stuff on the palms and fingers. Merino lining. Sounds brilliant. But my last Sealskinz “water proof” gloves always leaked and were generally rubbish.
I spotted some recently though in the bargain clear-out in store at my local Halfords for only £18. So I grabbed a pair!
They are magic. A little tricky to get the cuffs under the narrow wrists on a few of my jackets, including the Galibier Mistral. They have narrow wrists so other gloves can go over them I assume and keep a good tight seal on your wrist. But a bit of a fiddle and they sat in place. My hands stayed dry all ride, despite water running off me every where and being able to squeeze water out of the outer material! My hands were mostly warm enough too, but it was pretty cold out at points and I was aware they were a bit cooler than I’d like for part of the ride. But so was the rest of me so maybe if I’d worn another layer on top I’d have been OK as my body heat would be higher.
The Galibier Mistral was a gamble. I bought a Castelli Perfetto a couple of years ago in the sale. They’re magic. Really nice fit. Really nicely made. Block the wind. Keep you dry in all but the wettest of weather (and then only failing if you’re out long enough). I got mine on sale 40% off, and it’s been worth every penny. But they are expensive items. And I got a lovely deep burgundy colour which isn’t the most visible on dull days.
Galibier make similar claims about the Mistral as Castelli do with the Perfetto. But the Mistral is only £69! It’s a nice grey colour, bright orange and some very well placed reflective in a decent amount. So I took a chance and bought one, can’t have enough options, and today was a good day to try it out.
It kept me dry. Paired with the Planet X baselayer, when climbing I was lovely and warm, and the wind proofing meant on the descents I was staying warm.
Today though was mostly a flat ride, after the brief hilly segment at the start it was steady pace. You don’t have the efforts of climbs and recovery of descents. It’s a different game riding on the flat, and generally harder to stay warm. It was mostly 2-3°c riding, warming up to 4-5° in the last hour. Mostly, I was just about warm enough. Because I’d not taped my shoe vents, my feet were cold and wet. And the Shutt Bib Tights don’t have any water proofing at all so my legs were cold and wet. But my core was ok most of the time. I could have done with another layer. But it wasn’t awful. It was OK.
Which is really impressive for a £69 soft shell jacket paired with a £11.99 base layer! Especially the fact I stayed completely dry, despite the really, really wet conditions.
I did find the pockets a little concerning. Generally, I put my phone in the left rear pocket, pump, lock etc in the middle and food in the right pocket. The side pockets don’t seem to be deep enough to keep my phone (OnePlus 6T) sitting well in the pocket and feeling secure. It was peeping out. It’d be fine in the middle pocket, but that’s the least accessible pocket and my phone does come out on rides!
The San Remo Bib Tights from Shutt Velo are REALLY comfortable. But today was a bit too cold and wet for them. The forecast was 6-8°c and for the rain to stop about 10. If we’d had that weather they’d have been fine. But we didn’t and I could have done with my DHB Deep Winter Bib Tights which have DWR and are seriously warm!
That said, with the combo of kit I had on, I was just about warm enough, mostly dry and had a really great ride. Good steady pace, few efforts here and there to warm up and see how I was doing. If I can keep this up, it’s going to be a good year on the bike!