I know this is meant to be a triathlon blog, so probably should contain some swim-bike-running posts. The off-season has meant those have been replaced with travel and food posts and hopefully you don’t mind those too much!! Normal service will resume shortly as the off season is about to end for me…
The weather in the UK took a dramatic turn towards winter at the end of last week, dropping almost ten degrees towards freezing in one day. When I cycled to work yesterday it was literally freezing (and only a little above that when I cycled home). And yet I was pretty warm, almost too warm on my cycle home! I have some pretty good gear that is perfect for winter commuting and I thought I would share it with you all in case you’ve been feeling a little chilly or are considering some bike-related Christmas presents!
Firstly I would note that this gear keeps me warm through a British, London winter where it rarely gets much below freezing. I doubt it would work in the much colder parts of the world! And secondly – nobody has paid me to write this and I haven’t received any free kit – although if you want to give me some then please go ahead!!
I have two pairs of Rapha merino wool socks and I absolutely adore them. I wore my first, short pair for almost every run of a marathon training cycle and the marathon itself and I didn’t get a single blister. You could argue that £15 is too much for a pair of socks – but I would pay much more than that to guarantee no blisters! I also have a long pair of Pro Team socks in bright green and it is these that I wear cycling in the winter. They are ridiculously comfy and keep my feet reasonably warm.
I love the dhb winter tights. Dhb is Wiggle’s own brand and they are a wonderful budget option that really isn’t budget in terms of quality and use – only in terms of price. I have the dhb classic roubaix bib tights (£38). They are fleecy on the inside (look out for descriptions that say “roubaix”) and have a thick, comfortable chamois. Admittedly I have never cycled long distance in them, but have never had any problems on a commute or slightly longer cycle. The zips on the ankles make them easy to get on and off and the bib section is a full-on vest that zips up the middle (the women’s version) so is firstly very comfortable for those with boobs and secondly, so ridiculously warm that my base layers become redundant throughout most of the winter.
However, it is here that I would add that further gear might be necessary. If I was to cycle in much colder weather, I might decide to shell out for more expensive tights with slightly more technical features, as my thighs were a little cold before I warmed up properly yesterday morning and I reckon if you were cycling in -10C you might appreciate something extra!
On those really cold, freezing temperature days, I pull on a dhb base layer (£33) under the bib of my tights. I have a few of these on the same style, in black, grey and pink. The high neck keeps my neck warm and the zip means I can cool myself off if I get a bit too over-exuberant on my cycling. Merino-wool is sweat-wicking – I am sure there is a tehnical description but for my purposes it means it doesn’t get wet with sweat and is dry and (relatively) non-smelly when I pull it on to cycle home again! There are obviously much, much more expensive base layers out there but these do the job really well.
Here is where I shell out….. I have a Rapha long-sleeve jersey (£105). I LOVE it. It is so comfortable, it is thick, warm, good selection of pockets, and it’s merino wool (see above re sweat wicking). Of course there are cheaper jerseys, but for me the comfort and warmth I get from this one more than justified the price. Especially as I bought it in the sale – Rapha has really, really good sales online so keep an eye out for them as you can always bag a “ridiculously expensive” piece of kit for just an “expensive” price.
This was another expensive piece of kit but in terms of wear, may well actually be the best value item I have. You always read about how cyclists need a light summer jacket that can tuck away into a jersey pocket, a fully waterproof jacket, a reflective jacket for nights, a warm softshell… And I look at these (especially the softshell) and think how nice it would be to have one. Then I remember my jacket, and how it does all of those things already – a Gore windstopper convertible MTB jacket. (£100) Sadly Wiggle doesn’t seem to sell it anymore but I am sure you can find it online somewhere!
It is waterproof – in all but the heaviest, longest of downpours you will be completely dry and even then only my lower arms get a little bit damp. It is warm despite not having any fleecy-ness. It has nice little wrist cuffs so it can be wrapped tightly around your arms and can be zipped up high to keep your neck warm and dry. It has two side pockets and one large rear pocket. It also – and here is where it comes into its own – has removable sleeves that can easily be unzipped (including on the go) and shoved into a pocket. If the sun comes out and it’s really warm, the whole jacket can be taken off, tucked into its own pocket, and then there are two straps that clip around your waist. It is my favourite piece of kit and I wear it year-round. Sadly meaning I have no need for any other jacket!
I have a Rapha one and one I got free when I entered a race, but my favourite is my dhb neck warmer (£8.77). The right size, warm, soft. I am pretty sure that’s all you need in a neck warmer.
I pull my neck warmer right up and then I pull a dhb headband over the top (under my helmet) to keep my ears warm. This particular one is relatively thin, so it easily fits under my helmet, but quite wide and very warm.
I wear two pairs – a thin, black under-glove from (guess?!) dhb (£12) which tucks underneath all my arm layers and then the more waterproof blue ones over the top of everything. I bought these in my mum’s tri shop so I don’t even know the make but they are great.
Last but not least, overshoes are REALLY important. In fact I would go so far as to say they are one of the most important things in keeping you warm (and dry) through the winter. They come in all different materials, including ones made fully out of wetsuit materials but you pull them over your cycle shoes and are looking for something that will fit snugly and keep you warm and dry.
I use Castelli Narcisista (£41) mainly because I got sucked in by the look of them and I though bright white overshoes might help with visibility through the dark London streets. I forgot they would get dirty very quickly and so are no longer that white… They also ripped pretty quickly and so are less waterproof now as my toes show through (I bought them just last winter). James has had a pair of dhb overshoes (£20) for a few months now and they are still looking good so I would buy these ones next.
It is slightly scary when you add all that up, plus the cost of my helmet and my sports bra and realise just how much the clothes I am wearing cost when I cycle home! But despite the freezing temperatures I was toasty warm last night cycling home so it is all definitely worth it!