This is a guest feature from All Things Ride, a community of like-minded cyclists who create bespoke trips for some of the best and most challenging cycling events across Europe.
‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’, isn’t that what they say? A bit extreme when it comes to riding a bike, however there is certainly some truth in that statement. Think about it though, have you ever been caught out whilst out on the road, not having the right bit of cycle kit at an important time? Maybe it was a torrential downpour, extreme cold or even extreme heat? We know we have!
We all have our season goals, maybe it’s taking on your first sportive like the Tour De Yorkshire, or tackling one of the iconic European events such as Le’Etape du Tour or Il Lombardia. Whatever your target, it pays to be prepared and ready for any curve balls that might come your way, and that often starts with the right kit from your head to your toes.
Kit can be a personal thing but for the team at All Things Ride there are a few go-to items to make life a little easier. Essential items for every ride that, when there is the possibility of several seasons in one day (and a coffee stop) will rise to the occasion and keep your legs happily spinning away.
At the core of any kit should be a quality baselayer to move sweat – the stuff that makes you cold as it cools – away from the skin. Fabric can be a personal choice, with many opting for merino wool, owing to its lightweight warmth, wicking and natural anti-bacterial properties. We personally go down the synthetic material route, like the range from Craft which are available in different weights to fit with any season, as well as long and short-sleeved options.
Bib shorts or tights
There are no prizes for summer shorts when its 0°C right? And, likewise, there’s no point sweating through a summer ride thermal tights! The lesson: make sure your legwear is suited to the conditions to keep your legs warm, dry and comfortable. Key elements for bib shorts are good fit and a quality pad (chamois) that will keep you happy for a good few hours at a time. For the cold and/or rainy days look for longer lengths (3/4 or full length tights) with more warmth and high viz elements.
It’s easy forgot as you sweat your way up a tough climb that the altitude can contribute to significantly colder temperatures, often made worse by wind-chill on the way down. That’s why it’s always a good idea to carry a spare layer to beat the surprise chill. In dry and cold or changeable conditions, a great option is a quality softshell jacket. Typically, with a brushed fleece lining and wind stopping membrane, these jacket keeps you warm and the wind out, whilst still allowing moisture to escape. Whilst they are usually not classed as waterproof, you can typically wear them in light rain and short showers and have no issue with water ingress (and will give you a bit of protection in a freak downpour!).
On the subject of layers that can cover a wide range of conditions, the team at All Things Ride are a big fan of gilets in general. Lightweight, packable and easy to deploy on the fly, they can be proverbial lifesavers. The Rapha Pro Team insulated Gilet for example is a piece that is especially useful on cooler days, when matched with a set of arm warmers. Rapha have used Polartec Alpha Insulation, which looks like a fluffy mess inside. When worn, an air pocket is created keeping you warmer than a standard shell. It sounds gimmicky, but it works and works well. Add in a DWR coating to repel showers, a wind block front, two-way zipper, three pockets and a stylish pro fit that packs down into a jersey pocket, and you have yourself a top-notch gilet.
Being more optimistic, if you’re lucky then many of your miles will be in perfect summer conditions with lovely sunshine throughout. In that case you’re going to need a good pair of shades. Wide coverage helps protect your eyes from the UV and wind, and some models use interchangeable lenses to serve the same purpose in a variety of conditions.
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