Cycling Kit Choices

A couple of cycling Sportive events brought home to me the importance of getting kit choices right when setting out on the long rides of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.

I took part in the Dragon Tour in South Wales at the beginning of June which comprised three days of riding varying distances. The first day (Friday) comprised torrential rain from start to finish. I worn my rain jacket and although it kept the worst of the rain off me I ended up getting soaked due to a combination of the rain and perspiration – I’m not sure that any rain jacket would have kept me dry ! I did manage to stay warm due to the rain jacket keeping the rain off me and my base layer (merino wool) maintaining temperature.

Saturday was dry but windy – a combination of arm warmers and gilet did the trick, keeping me warm and allowing me to regulate the temperature by unzipping or removing the gilet when required.

The forecast for Sunday (and the Dragon Ride) was dry – rain should have finished by the start of the sportive. I thought arm warmers and gilet would be sufficient. How wrong could I be. There was a heavy rain shower just as the 300 km route riders were setting off. In retrospect I should have gone back to the car and picked up the rain jacket. I didn’t and paid for it. Although the rain shower stopped before my starting wave, within 20 minutes another heavy rain shower came through and I got wet. The climb kept me sort of warm but I soon got cold on the descent and the next climb didn’t warm me up. There were a couple of short rain showers later on. I didn’t get warm until 20 km from the finish when the sun finally made an appearance. I ended dropping down to the 150 km route rather than the planned 223 km because I couldn’t warm up.

On the recent L’Etape UK sportive round the Chiltern hills I stuck with a gilet in the back pocket as no rain was forecast. I didn’t need it as the weather was kind to us.

On the Deloitte ride Across Britain I only got caught out once with kit selection. Day 6 from Penrith to Edinburgh turned into a wet, windy and cold ride – lots of shivering at the second feed station. I had a rain jacket but hadn’t put on the leg warmers so the legs got very cold as did the hands in fingerless gloves. The next day I wore my winter gloves but the hands soon got too hot. The best purchase on the ride was a pair of full finger thin gloves (Bontrager) from Crightons bike shop in Blairgowie – right on the route. The gloves were great for keeping off the wind and stayed on for the rest of the ride. I also kept the leg warmers on and the rain jacket to act as a wind jacket more than anything (along with arm warmers). The jacket did get taken off for the climbs on Days 7 and 8 but it was comforting to know it was there in the jersey pocket just in case.

My top tips:

  • Keep your rain jacket with you the further north you go unless the forecast is certain to be dry with no strong winds – unlikely in the UK in September.
  • Buy a thin pair of full finger cycling gloves. You won’t need your winter gloves – the thin gloves got me through the start of Day 8 with sub-zero temperatures.
  • Do have a look at the weather forecast before you set off each day and dress accordingly. It is much easier to remove kit than end up wishing you had worn it in the first place.
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