So the prodigal son (he always is when he returns home from Hong Kong but he’s not due until 2012 which gives me plenty of time to locate a calf and make sure it’s suitably fatted) gave me a nice chunky Evans voucher for my birthday.
There’s a bit of a sale on at Evans Cycles at the moment and I can’t pretend I deserve yet another bike (well I need to leave a respectable interval before whining about a racing bike, I think, but that’s *strictly* classified information) so my attention has all been on clothes.
Women’s cycle clothing is really rather nice these days. They have tops in pink and purple and black with racy white patterns on and rather lovely sugar pink cycling shorts – the baggy kind, not lycra.
It’s a nice treat having a bit of colour in your cycling kit. For a long time when I started mountainbiking I didn’t wear anything special except a baggy T shirt and cycling shorts under Ron Hill tracksters. The mountainbiking seemed to demand baggy T shirts with suitably obtuse (Banana) or rabidly competitive slogans (Second place is the first loser, Eat My Dust, that kind of thing). Mine was of course Banana, over an image of a banana. I still have that shirt and treasure it, although it has a little hole in one of the short sleeves where I caught it on barbed wire lifting my bike over a locked gate somewhere in the Cotswolds.
But as far as designer cycling gear was concerned, I spent no money on it. That was for people with sleek racing machines, people who could wear a team strip and do a passable impression of a pro cyclist. If it was wet, I wore a waterproof. If it was cold, I wore a fleece. Simple as that. But how I was missing out….
A waterproof that’s not cut for cycling has to be quite long to avoid riding up at the back and exposing a little strip of naked flesh to the cruel elements. A fleece which is perfectly good for a dog walk in a stiff breeze just doesn’t stop the freezing effect as the winter wind rushes through the fleecy holes straight on to your chest, ruining a brilliant downhill run.
The cycling jacket that I bought five years or so ago changed my world view of cycling clothing. Yes, a lot of cycling clothing is ridiculously priced and accompanied by equally ludicrous descriptions, claiming all sorts of pseudo-scientific fabrics that wick sweat, allow ventilation, prevent rain coming in and wind getting out and generally promising to make you feel, on a challenging ride into wind and rain, as comfortable as sitting on the sofa in your jammies with a mug of cocoa.
BUT (and that was a big fat ‘but’) some of it actually does work a bit. A jacket that keeps out wind and rain AND makes you very visible in traffic on dull rainy afternoons is worth every penny – especially if it fits well.
Shorts that are lady-specific means less padding usually but it’s in the right places and they feel incredibly comfortable. I used to wear cheap cycling shorts – the first ones were mens. They chafed like hell in the Lake District. And, no that isn’t a euphemism.
Tops that are sleeveless, light and made of a technical fabric that really does wick away the lady-glow are perfect for what we laughingly call summer. Actually I must stop whingeing about the lack of summer as I had the perfect cycle commute today, passing through little windless micro-climates of warmth and calm. They might have been exhaust fumes at the lights but I prefer the poetic image.
So ok, I have had a little look at the Evans website. My shopping basket currently holds £407.93 worth of stuff. Yeah, I know. I can’t have it all. Must whittle it down somehow to include only the extremely useful and gorgeous.