Yuletide festivities may bring peace and goodwill to all men, but it is likely that they will also add a few extra inches on your girth! Every time the committed road cyclist reaches for another goose fat laden roast potato or dollops a second spoonful of brandy cream onto his or her Christmas pudding, they do so with a ladle-fill of guilt.
Fortunately, it is that very same guilt that propels us back onto our bikes, even though the riding conditions over the coming weeks can be especially cruel and unforgiving. We shouldn’t be too despondent, however, as advances in fabric technology and increasingly innovative accessories now make winter riding far more bearable for the cyclist who adheres to the saying that there is ‘no such thing as bad weather, just poor gear’.
Below are just some of the winter orientated clothing and accessories that have caught the eye of the Wheelsuckers’ team in recent weeks. So don’t become a slave to your turbo. In fact, do the exact opposite! Embrace the wind, rain and biting cold and those first tentative signs of spring warmth will feel all the more radiant!
Assos TK.tiburu s7 Knickers
The Assos s7 range of bib shorts and tights raised the bar when they were introduced in 2014 and the Tiburu knickers incorporate the same ‘Goldengate’ technology around the pad, ensuring no seams and the insert has to be one of the best on the market. With water resistance and a thermal, dense material on the front, these are perfect for milder winter days and throughout the autumn and spring when the chill wind can bite the unprepared. Expensive, but you will not regret digging a little deeper in your pocket, as these ¾ length tights provide warmth and protection, without feeling bulky or heavy.
Vittoria All-Round Rubino Pro Control G+
That G+ in the name stands for graphene and the Italian tyre manufacturer, Vittoria, claims to have stolen a huge march on their rivals by incorporating the latest wonder material into their rubber compounds. Vittoria claim that graphene makes the rubber harder when rolling straight, thereby offering lower rolling resistance, but the compounds become softer when cornering, accelerating and breaking, thus providing more grip. Favourable reviews of their G+ tyres suggest this is not just marketing talk and the first manifestation of this carbon allotrope in the cycling industry, which is already widely used in the F1 racing, may have a significant impact on the sport over the next few years. Keep an eye out in the New Year for a full review.
Gore Power Windstopper Softshell
Gore have an enviable reputation for developing some ground-breaking fabrics – Gore-tex and Windstopper being the most famous – and many manufacturers use their products. The Castelli Gabba jersey was developed in collaboration with Gore, utilising the latter’s Windstopper X-Lite Plus fabric, and the Gore Power jersey is the American manufacturer’s version of the ubiquitous Gabba. This is a jersey that will fend off rain showers and the chill of a cold autumnal ride, whilst also providing enough insulation for a higher tempo mild winter ride. It’s not just a versatile and innovative fabric though – this jersey has all the usual Gore hallmarks: top drawer construction coupled with excellent detailing and comprehensive features.
GripGrab AquaRepel Arm and Leg Warmers
Danish cycling accessories specialist, GripGrab, recently unveiled their AquaRepel range, which includes arm and leg warmers that provide a high level of water resistance and protection from the wind. The leg warmers have a windproof membrane, but a nice touch is a silicon gripper at both the top and the bottom – the latter ensures a nice tight fit over an overshoe, which will help to protect your feet against water ingress. Like the leg warmers, the arm warmers are simply styled and, for the fashion conscious, could be paired with another brand. Both have a gentle articulated shape for a more ergonomic fit. You can tell these are designed by cyclists - they just work!
Specialized Airtool Road CO2 Mini Pump
The last thing you want to happen on a cold, wet ride is get a puncture, but unless you are riding tubeless or the cycling gods are smiling down on you, there is a near certainty that this inconvenience will visit you when you need it least. Your rapidly freezing digits and your cycling mates will thank you for a speedy tube change, so this is when a C02 inflator really comes into its own. What we love about the Specialized Airtool Road is that it comes with an integrated mini hand pump, should you run out of cartridge. It’s a natty little design and as the name suggests, the pump is small and light enough to pop in a rear pocket, though a bottle cage mount is also an option.
The Specialized Airtool Road CO2 Mini retails at £35 and can be purchased online via Evans Cycles
Endura FS260 Pro Slick Overshoe and Rapha Deep Winter Overshoe
A lightweight and sleek looking overshoe that form part of the Scottish brand’s higher end, performance orientated FS260 range, as used by the likes of Nairo Quintana and his Movistar team mates. These are perfect for guarding against mud, rain and road spray thanks to the waterproof fabric and though they will not provide thermal warmth like a pair of neoprene overshoes, they will help to deflect the cold on a milder winter days and they could well become a mainstay of spring and autumn riding too. A quality pair of overshoes at an affordable price.
If freezing temperatures don’t stop you getting out on your bike, then a more substantial and durable overshoe will provide optimum protection. Rapha’s Deep Winter Overshoe covers those all-important bases: protection from the cold and the wet, yet allowing for a certain degree of breathability. From the Kevlar sole to the robust AquaGuard® zip and velcro closure that will guard against water ingress, these are a pair of overshoes that will kick the worst the winter can throw at you into the verge with contempt.
Rapha’s Deep Winter Overshoes are available to buy exclusively on Rapha.cc and retails at £70.
SKS Raceblade Pro Stealth
Easily adjustable, the lightweight SKS Raceblade Pro Stealth Mudguard is s compatible with tyre widths up to 25mm. Once mastered and after a bit of fiddling, the quick release fitting system is straightforward and intuitive. These guards accommodate the growing trend for disc brakes and bikes with a more aero design and the generous mud flaps will be appreciated by anyone riding on your wheel. SKS even include paintwork protection film for your frame, to ensure your bike is not unnecessarily scratched - a nice gesture!
Sealskinz Halo All Weather Cycle gloves
Integrated lights are very much ‘on trend’ at the moment, made possible by components which are now small enough to be ingeniously incorporated into clothing and accessories.
Sealskinz have a well-earned reputation for offering well made, well designed cycling accessories and their Halo All Weather Cycle Gloves continue that tradition, but they have deftly inserted a small LED light on the back of the glove. Charged by a small CR2032 battery which will provide 200 hours of use, with three settings to choose from.
It’s all very clever, but these gloves are not a one-trick pony. Far from it, in fact. They are not only windproof, but fully waterproof too and provide a decent level of breathability too, though this is always a compromise with a membrane that keeps out water. Comfortable to wear, the pad and fingers are comprised of a synthetic suede fabric, which is a change from the silicon detailing used by many brands. The index finger is kept free of this, however, which allows use of touch screen phones and computers. Padding is more than adequate, likewise the reflective detailing, but what this tester particularly liked was the tight velcro fastening, which sits quite high on the wrist, but is diagonally cut so the fit feels secure and snug.
Knog Blinder Road R70 Rear Light and MOB Four Eyes Front Light
Knog lights combine great looks, quality construction, but most importantly, they belt out a good level of light too. Hitting the scales at a shade under 50g, the Blinder Road R70 Rear Light has an impressive 70 lumen output, courtesy of the four bulbs, and manages to pack in a host of features. The fact that the light can be slotted straight into a USB slot, without the need for a cable, is a real winner and five light modes offer plenty of choice for riding in all conditions, plus the fact that the light automatically adjusts the light output depending on the light levels one is riding in. There is also an integrated slit down the side of the light on both sides, which emits light too – a clever (and stylish) addition which increases your visibility to road users approaching you from the side.
Bright it may be, but the ‘peloton’ setting reduces the light to just two of the lights on a constant mode – again, a great touch, which shows that Knog understand that your cycling mates may not appreciate a light flashing away in front of them. When cycling alone, then the ‘chaser’ and ‘eco’ modes both provide an excellent pulsing output. The latter will last for up to 20 hours, which will accommodate even the longest, lonely winter base ride! Knog also provide additional straps, so that the R70 can be fitted to different seat post sizes and shapes, including aero frames and yet another neat feature is the clasp which holds the strap in place, making it easy to put the R70 on and take off. But there is yet more - it’s completely waterproof too!
You’ve got your back covered, but what about the road in front of you? We would class the Blinder MOB Four Eyes Front Light as a ‘be seen’ light put the four LEDs punch out a hefty 80 lumens, easily lighting up road signs fifty plus metres into the distance, which provides valuable reassurance that other road users are going to see you coming. Like the R70 it can be charged by plugging the light directly into a usb slot and the integrated lithium battery, when fully charged, will run up to 3 hours in ‘Steady High’ mode and a staggering 75 hours in ‘Eco Flash’ mode! Durable and waterproof, the MOB is a well designed light, even down to the stretchy clip, which makes fixing the component to your bars a doddle.
Both the R70 and MOB Four Eyes come in a good range of colours, to match all frames. The R70 retails at £49.99 and can be purchased via Chain Reaction Cycles, whilst the MOB Four Eyes costs £37.99 and is available to buy from several online retailers, including Tredz
Pedros Chain Pig Chain Cleaner
Don’t believe that this is a gimmick for one minute as the Pedros Chain Pig is a clever little porcine-shaped device that will make short work of the grime that can quickly build up on your chain and drivetrain, which left can quickly wear down components.
The little ‘tail’ locks around the lower jockey wheel of your rear derailleur, allowing you to turn the pedals without having to hold the device in place. Stiff brushes get to grips with the worst of the detritus and the sponge at the front end of the pig soaks up and filters the excess degreaser and, in doing so, gets rid of the any lingering grit and grime. Fun and functional, use this and you’ll be squealing like a little piggy yourself whenever you clean your bike.
Gripgrab Cloudburst Gloves
Wet and cold hands can not only make for a miserable ride, they can also have a detrimental effect on your ability to change gear and brake. Keeping your digits dry in the wet is imperative and Gripgrab’s new Cloudburst guard against just that – a sudden deluge that can quickly leave you sodden.
They are not cheap, but you are paying for a highly technical, lightweight fabric – in this case the breathable OutDry membrane that is sealed to the outer shell of the glove, which not only provides ultimate protection, but also means that the gloves are easy to put on and off – no danger of the inner lining pulling away from the outer shell. The Cloudburst also straddles that grey area between a thin winter glove and something a little more substantial, although they don’t feel bulky when riding in them and handling and dexterity are not impaired in any way. Reflective detailing on the back of the hand, a tight elasticated opening and silicon detailing on the palm and fingers (once again aiding grip and control) round off a great pair of winter cycling gloves, plus the fat pad at the base of the thumb will help to nullify road vibration.
GripGrab Cloudburst Gloves are available to buy from Wiggle and retail at £60.
Specialized Defroster Road Shoe
They are a hefty pair of shoes, but if you are looking for ultimate wet and cold weather protection for your feet then the aptly named DeFroster from Specialized is the footwear for you this winter. The neoprene ankle collar is integrated with the seam-sealed internal boot and the thinsulate insulation will ensure your feet are kept warm as well as dry. A Body Geometry outsole and footbed optimises alignment to improve pedalling performance and is more comfortable. Specialized have also cleverly incorporated plenty of reflective detailing on the shoe, which will provide good visibility, especially from the side, but it complements the overall style of the shoe too. It’s also worth noting that these are a wider, accommodating size, unlike some brands, so especially good if wearing a thick winter sock.
At £160 the Defroster comes at a price, but well worth considering if you intend to ride through the storm. Available online at Evans Cycles.
Rapha Brevet Long Sleeve Windblock Jersey
Principally aimed at the long distance, audax orientated cyclist, the Rapha Brevet collection is increasingly popular with road cyclists who want to combine striking looks with some subtle, but emphatic reflective detailing. The Brevet garments, from the socks to the gilet, all feature high-viz stripes to ensure maximum visibility in low light conditions and versatile long sleeve Windblock Jersey is no exception. It also comes in a range of colours to suit all tastes, from the stunning deep purple, with blue and silver grey hi viz stripes across the chest and back to the more minimalist black option.
The fit is snug, but comfortable – think Rapha Classic garments, rather than the more race orientated Pro ranges. And those who like to take a lot of accoutrements with them on winter rides will love the extra big cargo pockets on the rear and the zip pocket on the rear and two small discreet zip pockets on the lower front. This is an ideal jersey for riding long, steady miles on cool winter days, but perfect for those spring and autumn mornings when the chill can bite. It will also guard against inclement weather conditions too – the 89% merino wool will provide the necessary warmth and the front panels and arms incorporate the same wind and water resistant material used in the Brevet Gilet. The jersey is lightweight, slinky in feel, yet the material is robust enough to put up with repeated use and washes and it dries quickly too! A great addition to your winter wardrobe!
The Rapha Brevet Long Sleeve Jersey retails at £145 and is available from Rapha.cc
Helly Hanson Dry Performance Crew Base Layer
Keeping your core toasty is the key to staying warm on a bike, and no brand does a better job than Helly Hanson, who have a fantastic range of base layers to suit all winter riding conditions and tempos. Though not cycling specific in cut, the ergonomic design of the Dry Performance Crew ensures a nice tight fit with no bunching of material, therefore minimising the danger of chaffing. It is also breathable and super-lightweight performance baselayer, which offers just that right amount of warmth on higher tempo winter rides.
It’s wonderfully soft on the skin and performs brilliantly as part of a multi-layer system and this tester has paired it with a sleeveless base layer on a couple of very cold days when the temperature has been just above freezing. Worn in tandem like this with a good quality softshell, the Dry Performance Crew was insulating, but thermoregulation was spot on with very efficient transfer of moisture from the skin outwards thanks to the mesh system of the HH®Dry fabric that the base layer utilises. Unlike some cycling specific base layers, the front of the base layer is standard in length, so can be tucked into the front of your tights, to ensure your torso and kidneys enjoy the insulating properties too!
Not feeling inclined to brave the lashing rain and sub-zero temperatures? Then curl up with a good book. There have been many excellent cycling books released this year. Ultimate Etapes will inspire you and Greg LeMond: Yellow Jersey Racer by Guy Andrews offered a revealing portrait of the first American to win the Tour de France, though the wonderful imagery steals the day and will appeal especially to those who can remember LeMond in his pomp – arguably the most naturally gifted athlete to ever grace the sport.
Cycling fiction is a rare beast, but this year saw the release of The Invisible Mile by New Zealand author, David Coventry, which is based around the 1928 Tour de France and tells the story of five Australian and New Zealand cyclists who formed the first English-speaking team to ride in the Tour de France. The novel documents the highs and lows the five men endured and is already being compared to The Rider by Tim Krabbé as a book that every cyclist should read.
If you a looking for something a little less challenging, then The Bicycle Book: The Definitive Visual History, published by Dorling Kindersley, is crammed full of studio portraits of bicycles, dating from the early 18th century to the present day, and juxtaposed with some brilliantly sourced historical images, including posters, advertisements and a text that profiles famous marques, races and cyclists. The Bicycle Book is a wonderful document to how the sport of cycling and the bicycle have evolved over the decades.
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