Grey, grey and more grey.
No, I'm not talking about the books or films! I'm describing what January is like in the UK for anyone who has not had the misfortune of experiencing it. You wake up [in darkness], drive to work [grey sky], go out for lunch [grey sky], drive home [grey sky], get home[in darkness]. Maybe experiencing this for a quarter of the year, every year, is why we rejoice as a nation on the odd day in July or August when the temperature in Croydon can match that of Corfu.
It also makes it really hard to ride a bike for a decent length of time without becoming uncomfortable. Even more so, it gives the British cyclist one hell of a conundrum in the morning when gearing up for a ride. A base layer is a must but from there on it's the Goldilocks syndrome where you'll either over-dress and be too hot; under-dress and be too cold; or dress perfectly and be just the right temperature. The latter is so rare that when I managed it last weekend I spent the first 10-12km not believing that I'd dressed appropriately and tried to look for any sign of heat or cold ["Oh look, my right knee is a smidgen too cold! Should have put leg warmers on under my bib tights"... that level of pedantic thinking].
As a result, I think the British cyclists wardrobe where his or her kits are stored has to be one of the most varied in existence. Personally, I've got everything from balaclavas and winter gloves with fleece lining, through to mesh wicking undergarments made for 40 degrees C heat and super lightweight bib shorts with air vents all over. With that said, I want to list a few items of clothing that I would 100% suggest you look to buy if you are planning on training through the winter for an event like I am:
Please note, there is no paid promotion here and any brands' products that I mention below have been bought with my own money and I continue to use because I like that product.
- Long-fingered gloves. Personally I have terrible circulation in my extremities so my fingers and toes get very cold very quickly. I wear long-fingered gloves as soon as it gets down around 12-13 degrees C.
- Thick socks. A good idea is actually to look to buy mountain bike trail socks. They're normally warmer and thicker than road socks and keep your feet really warm! Plus they can come in pretty fun designs, like mine with Gorillas all over them :)
- Overshoes. These are an absolute must even if you're going to be riding in the spring and on rainy summer days. Some companies now offer winter shoes which have neoprene incorporated into the outside of the shoe but I've managed to ride through the UK winter using my usual cycling shoes and overshoes with thicker socks and haven't had any problems. I found some pretty cool ones from Sealskinz that have LED lights in the heel to maximise your visibility to cars which I love.
- A Good Jacket. Now there are different types of jackets. Lots of people will swear by a lightweight rain jacket but, while they're very useful, I don't think I've used mine at all in the last 18 months. If I'm out on a warm day then I'll take my gilet instead. What I have used a lot this winter is a heavier, warmer, bad-weather jacket. Now there are a lot on the market for a lot of money but I bought the Galibier Foul Weather jacket for a third of the price of others and haven't looked back since.
- Full Length & 3/4-length bib tights. My brother swears by leg-warmers, and they're probably the cheapest way to keep your legs warm in the winter, but personally I've always preferred just one set of bibs. Either way, you're definitely going to want to protect your knees and upper legs from the cold air if you're out for anything longer than half an hour!
- Clear Lenses. When it's dark and dreary outside the last thing you want is to have sunglasses on with lenses that filter out half of the remaining light. Get clear lenses, or even better get some light enhancing lenses, and you'll never look back. Lots of glasses have lenses that are interchangeable so see if that's an option.
- Finally, A Snood. They may divide opinion but they're pretty darn versatile items of clothing! On really cold days you can tuck it underneath a cap or the rear part of your helmet to create a full face mask, or just wear it around the lower part of your neck to stop the cold air whistling down your top, or anything in between!
They're the items I can think of off the top of my head but I'm sure there are more!
On the subject of kits, I love matching jerseys and bib shorts. Plain black shorts are all fine (yes, the rules blah blah blah) but personally I love a little bit of a deviation... Especially when matched with a matching jersey. Sooooo with that said, I may have massively taken advantage of the January sales on Pactimo UK's website and bought 2 matching kits, along with matching long-sleeve jerseys, before stocks run out. I always find winter is a good time to stock up your summer wardrobe, and vice versa, so now's a good time to grab some deals while you can!
I think I'll keep writing 2 blogs each week [well, until I run out things to say!] where the Friday one will be general advice, thoughts and musings about the world in general and the Monday blog will be the more technical training update. So if you're not too fussed about reading how my training is going training then check in on a Friday but if the training updates are what you're here for then check in on a Monday!
As always, thank you for reading guys and girls, and remember... I'm doing all of this for charity so please, please, please head to the page using the link below and sponsor me to help thousands upon thousands of underprivileged children and young adults across the whole of the UK.