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.

Wye Valley Warrior report

Last Sunday saw me take part in the Wye Valley Warrior sportive organised by UK Cycling Events.

When I went to bed on the Saturday night the rain was lashing down and I seriously considered switching off the alarm and not bothering with the ride. Fortunately good sense kicked in and the alarm went off at 6 am which always makes me think of the Robin Williams line from Good Morning Vietnam “What does 0600 stand for- ‘ Oh my God it’s early’!”

Back to the weather – it was still raining. After a quick wash and breakfast (double porridge) it was in to the car for the drive to Chepstow racecourse (bike packed in the car the night before). After registering, changing into cycling shoes and wet weather gear it was off at 8 am.

The ride was over new routes for me. Raining, windy, slippery roads – basically all pretty horrible. The good news was that I had attached clip on mudguards to the bike which kept the worst of the spray off me – no wet backside – a result.

The 92 miles was tough with over 7,000 feet of climbing. Yes the rain did stop, to be replaced by mist and drizzle. The wind kept up which was energy sapping on the flat into headwinds. There was also a long climb at 80 miles and a short sharp climb at 86 miles when I was very grateful for a 34 tooth rear cassette to just keep moving! Unfortunately the conditions weren’t conducive for taking any photos of the scenery – sorry!  To make up for it here is a photo of the bike I’ll be using on the big ride taken in my mother’s garden just over a week ago.

Trek Domane for the big ride

I was glad to finish in under 6 hours 30 minutes. Unfortunately, I got back to find a flat tyre on the car – that’s another story!  This week has a couple of light recovery rides before a few longer rides at the weekend. A massage at Agile Therapy on Monday evening certainly helped ease the muscles and is really recommended.

There is now less than four weeks to go before the start of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, so it’s starting to get serious with checking the kit list and buying the final bits and pieces that I don’t already have.  At some point I’ll have a practise pack to make sure I’ve got everything and it all fits in the kit bag.

I have increased my target for my Dementia UK fundraising to £4,000, having smashed my initial £3,000 target, and hopefully I’ll be able to achieve this target. You can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here if you would like to sponsor me and help the great work carried on by Dementia UK

Wet Weather Riding

I’m the first to admit that I’m a fair weather rider and try to avoid riding in the rain. However, as the Deloitte Ride Across Britain 2017 involved 8 out of 9 days of rain, I’ve decided that I’d better get used to wet weather riding and test out my kit. The weekend just gone (16-17 June) gave me the perfect opportunity! Fortunately, both rides on Saturday and Sunday started out dry before the heavens opened with some serious rain showers together with fairly strong wind.

What did I learn?

  • I still don’t like riding in the rain!
  • My rain jacket from Rapha works – as it should considering how much it cost
  • Good lights are useful to make sure cars and lorries can see you. I’m not a great fan of the “stealth black” cycle clothing look.
  • Disc brakes are more efficient that rim brakes in the wet, at least on the bikes I’ve got and slower riding speeds are a good idea
  • I need to get some better waterproof over-covers for my cycling shoes as I don’t want to be riding for 6 or so hours with wet feet

Apart from the weather, training is going well although I have had a bit of tendinitis in my left foot. This has been my first “niggle” of the year and a combination of ice, elevation and ultrasound is having a positive effect. Hopefully all will be well next weekend.

I’m taking part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain to raise money for Dementia UK. You can sponsor me by visiting my Virgin Money Giving page here