After realising what I had let myself in for on accepting the ‘challenge’, yes the very same thing tens of thousands of cyclists do every day with no complaint, of riding to work every day, something struck home with me.
Spring in England can be cold. It can be very cold. Though luckily we have now got over the worst of the weather. That said, most of the kit I got from Evans can be used all year round.
In time-honoured fashion, I’m going to deliver my assessment of the kit I have been riding with in descending order of greatness. A bit like the Oscars. Or something.
Lights:Cateye EL530/LD110 Light Set
As I often leave work in darkness, yes even now the clocks have gone forward, lights are an important piece of kit for me.
Previously I have tried out the cheaper entry-level Cateye sets that can be picked up for around £25 a pair, I’ve also used the trendier Knog lights – though I wasn’t overly impressed by them.
However, after attaching the massive Cateye EL530/LD110 Light Set to the commuting I was knocked back. I was like a moving lighthouse and I felt I must have been visible from outer space. Never have I felt safer on a bike before. If a car doesn’t see you when these are fixed to the bike then the driver must be blind.
At £71.99 they are quite a bit more expensive than the average light but, in my opinion, worth every penny. Absolutely brilliant.
I do, though, have one complaint about them. After trying to attach them to my road bike which has a larger seat stem I found there was no way for the original bracket to fit and no spare adjustable bracket included. I’ve since seen others with the same lights attached to the rear of their saddle bags which isn’t ideal.
A while back I had the pleasure of riding with a couple of professional riders. You know the type, dead fast and all wearing matching kit with their sponsors’ names emblazoned on their chests, legs, gloves and arses.
One particular rider, who will remain nameless, opted to ride sans helmet – naughty boy – wore a piece of kit that tickled me. A skinny little skull cap. The type you’d expect to see on Ian Thorpe’s bonce. To me he looked ridiculous. That is until I finally got hold of one myself.
At just a penny under twenty quid the Castelli Thermo Skull Cap was, and still is, one of the most treasured pieces of kit I own. Ok, it won’t earn me any awards in the fashion stakes, but when the temperatures drop this tiny little skull cap made all the difference to riding or jumping on the tube. An absolutely priceless bit of kit, even now as we enter British Summer Time.
Unlike the thicker wooly hats there is no problem with fitting it under your helmet. I hope I’ll not be needing it too much over the next few months but I’m sure it will be packed into my rear pocket just in case the weather turns.
Gilet: Mavic Vision Vest
Despite having done a few decent length cyclo-sportives that have taken in some rather large mountains I’ve never actually seen the point of the gilet. Not for total amateurs like myself who doesn’t have the luxury of a support vehicle or a trusty domestique to carry any extra kit on my demand. For this reason I’ve just always carried a lightweight rain jacket for any early morning chills or big descents.
On the daily commute the Mavic Vision Vest is used mainly for safety reasons. Coupled with the lights this luminous orange gilet – essentially a waistcoat – with plenty of reflective strips is the perfect bit of kit to wear over a jersey to let drivers know I’m on the road. I’ve even taken to wearing it during training when the weather has resembled a Flandrian morning.
Overshoes: Altura Airstream
The Altura Airstream overshoes I opted for look ridiculous. There, I’ve said it. Dressed in these I look more like a scuba diver than a cyclist. That said, they’re very warm and 100 per cent waterproof which, I guess, is the point of them.
At just £20 they’re a bit of a bargain considering my road riding overshoes cost about £50. However, they don’t appear to enjoy being walked around in. Already after a couple of months’ wear holes are appearing below the toes and around the heels. Still, at £20 I reckon a pair would last a winter and that, for any cyclist, is a worthy output for warm and dry toes.
Jacket: Altura Night Vision Evo
Probably, no definitely, the least stylish bit of kit I got was the Altura Night Vision Evo (red, in case you were wondering) jacket. An unattractive looking, but functional, jacket with plenty of reflective strips that also included a flashing light to attach to a neatly placed piece of velcro on the lower back.
It does keep you dry from heavy downpours but at the same time the breathability isn’t brilliant. Ideal for short commutes and at £99 fairly affordable for most commuters as it is likely to last you a good few years.
The numerous pockets (five) also mean that for short rides you don’t need a bag as you can stuff the sizeable pockets with spare kit like gloves, hat and overshoes.
Helmet: Giro Monza
After using a Giro Ionos for the past two years the Monza, at first, felt heavy. But in all honesty I’ve never been a huge fan of wearing helmets. That is until I crashed at high speed into the back of a stationary van.
However you dress helmets up as high-spec, carbon-infused aerodynamic life savers they will never be most cyclists favourite piece of kit. That said, I never ever leave the house without one nowadays. Not cool, not fashionable, but vital.
What can I say about the Giro Monza? Not much, it does what it says on the tin.
Flying home with these wrapped around my fingers – even only on a short ride – was akin to riding naked on the colder days. They may claim to be ‘windstoppers’, but even just on a short commute my fingers almost froze on more than one occasion. Luckily though the sizing of them was big enough to slip a pair of wooly gloves beneath them. In summary they were pretty rubbish through till the end of February, which coming from such a well known brand surprised me.
Now we’re in spring though they are perfect pre-mitt kit. I’ve still only braved the elements in fingerless mitts on a handful of rides.
And what I forgot to get . . .
Through experience you’d have thought I’d not have made the schoolboy error of forgetting to get a saddlebag packed with inner tubes, a puncture repair kit and, of course, a bicycle pump.
Sadly I did. Please, please, please don’t ever be as stupid as I was and forget that bikes get punctures. Especially if you decide to ride in cycle lanes which, bizarrely in my experience, are the worst places to ride a bike. Or, even worse, you decide to ride down a canal path. Four punctures in one day saw me lose my cool and look a very silly and unprepared cyclist.
Next month: Surviving the ride, how to get to work and home alive