There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.
It’s been a little while since I posted and that just reflects how busy life seems to always be. Been away for a couple of weeks with the family and caught what might of been the best of the weather this year. Ribs all but forgotten about following my bike car interaction and so am look towards the next sportive at the end of next month.
One question though that I find I or my friends are deliberating on is what do you pack and wear for a sportive? This got me to thinking about what I was planning for next month and the following is what I came up with. I will warn you that when I tried to write this my OCD kicked in and I ended up trying to accommodate all eventualities (even sun). As I have yet to do enough sportives to get to grips with what I really do not need; so please bear with my naivety.
So this covers what I would pack and take, with a weather check just before helping to whittle it down to what I am wearing and what is going to get stuffed in the back of the jersey. I would like to add a note here that I put spare tubes, levers and multitool in a saddle pack rather than stuffed in my jersey so you will not find them included here. Any way on with the list:
Depending on the temperature you are likely to need a good base layer. Your going to be on the bike for a while (unless your good or doping; in either case your not likely to be reading this) so your looking for something that is going to wick the moisture away from your skin (so no cotton). You have two main choices to consider; sleeves and material.
- Long, short or wife beater? Â Simple choice this one; long, short or no sleeves. Long sleeves in winter with shorter sleeved variants all year round. Personal choice here.
- Merino or synthetic? Â I have and use both; I am definitely a merino person, but you can pick up base layers for so little (check out Lidl or Aldi if you don’t believe me) that it makes it a little harder to justify merino.
- Options: Â I will add a small potential selection throughout this article. There are endless options you can go for and I have tried to give you an option from either end of the cost scale. I have added a small listing of potential sites you can check out for deals towards the end. Please also check out your local bike shop (LBS) as they may also be able to help.
Mid, Thermal, or Additional Layer
This is definitely one layer to consider if its cold and gave me the most hassle deciding upon when I did the Etape Caledonia earlier this year. Your likely to be starting early with cooler weather and the weather outlook is the only thing that will give you any indication if it is going to stay that way or warm up. Just remember you are going to warm up quickly and one more layer is going to hold more moisture in. There are several ways of tackling it:
- Nothing: Your hard and who needs a mid layer; it’s more weight that will only slow you down.
- Recycled tee: One of your old wicking running tees that you got from your local 10k. This is what I have opted for in the past as generally you have one lying around and it does not cost you any more.
- Another baselayer (see above)
- Gilet: The lesser spotted gilet is still around and a good choice both as mid layer and as a waterproof. Lots of choices around these days so it this is your style then go for it.
This is your mainstay of clothing between you and what ever the weather and road is going to throw at you so think about what your game plan for the ride is going to be. You will need to think about some of the following:
- Pockets: How well supported is the ride? This will determine how much you need to carry and therefore how many pockets you might need. Also consider the material and the construction of the top; if its well loaded but very thin then it might not weather so well. If your not planning on stopping or your stomach doesn’t cope with the gels they are providing then your going to be loaded with anything from 5-10 gels, a pump, a packable waterproof (see later) and maybe keep room for arm/leg warmers (again see below) and the odd banana. So try and think about what you might need and pick a jersey that suits you.
- Short vs long sleeves: If the temperature is going to vary a lot during the ride you are going to want to consider using arm warmers. This means you can regulate your temperature without any additional weight; when you get too warm just throw then in your jersey pocket. It took me years to discover the benefits of this and is great when the morning ride to work is cold but the evening commute is still warm. My choice is definitely short sleeved jersey and arm warmers. If its a winter challenge then go for a long sleeve jersey.
- Weatherproof: Finally, if the weather is guaranteed to be wet you may want to consider a jersey that has weather protection built in. That way you going to stay as dry as possible without an additional layer; check out the Castelli Gabba as this is the main choice of top for this.
Your going to be on the bike for a while so comfort is something you need to focus on. This is the area that will be most active and see the most contact and rubbing during the ride, so think on the following points and as with all of the above see if you can try a couple of options before heading out on the day to make sure it works for you.
- Material: As with the base layer you want something that is going to wick away any moisture and reduce any friction. Chamois cream is a must, however if you going to wear a pair of cotton boxers your still going to be walking like John Wayne at the end of the ride so find something that fits, does not compromise circulation and will reduce rubbing.
- Padding: A lot of under shorts come with additional padding to give you an extra layer of comfort. This one is personal choice, I started off wearing padding under shorts years ago and for me I find it gets in the way more than it helps.
Putting aside what sort of saddle you have it is always good to spend a little time selecting what your going to wear on your legs. I have made a huge presumption in all of this so far that your going for a tight fitting option and your not adverse to lycra; you may well be a baggy mountain biker but flapping along for 70-80 miles is no fun. Based on this prime assumption you will need to consider the following:
- Length: You have three choices here; shorts, 3/4 length and longs. The decision here is pretty much the same as with tops. If temperature is variable then maybe go for short with knee/leg warmers. This is a great way of making the most of your kit. If the temperature is cooler but fair settled then 3/4 may well be the best option. In winter go for longs, if its really cold look out for a roubaix option.
Bib vs Elasticated:Why on earth do you want braces anyway? Unless you on a sit up and beg or mountain bike then your going to be curled up over the handle bars in an attempt not to be blown backwards in that wind. Furthermore all that extra material from those layers your wearing is compromised by all that pasta from the night before so wearing a bib version of the shorts means a little less elastic getting in the way and cutting off circulation. Bib shorts are my choice (they also do a great job of hiding that middle age spread too).
- Options :
It is not only rain you need to think about, as most sportives will take in the odd hill here and there to make things exciting. So having something to help content with wind and keep you warm is also something that needs considering. Your choice of top needs to consider the following:
- Format: I briefly mentioned in the mid layer section above that Gilets may also be used as an outer. If its not freezing, the fact that your arms are wet may not be an issue so consider gilets ion this section as well. You may also want to consider a showerproof jersey rather than a separate waterproof.
- Packablility: There is no domestiques to run back and forward to the team car so think about the top you need. If its raining cats and dogs you are going to want something substantial and so size is less of an issue. If, however, your looking at occasional showers you are going to want to stash this top into your jersey pocket so make sure it packs down nice and small.
- Weather: Depending on where you are you need to factor in wind as well as rain at this point. A lot of shells are windproof and showerproof but not waterproof so read the small print.
- Breathability: With all the hard work your doing you are going to sweat (in the case of our female contingency translate that as “perspire”). This is one area where a little more money will mean you get a more breathable jacket and get less condensation on the inside of the jacket. Be realistic with what you need and check out the reviews. There are some really good jackets out there for sensible prices.
If your accustomed to “The Rules” then you will know that ankle socks are for running and not cycling. However there are loads of socks these days so find something that fits and is going to keep your pinkies warm whilst you thread your way through the countryside.
- Material: You can have a little fun here, normally you would go a synthetic or wool mix which is very much up to you. Some manufacturers also make a waterproof version which work great and help to keep your feet warm and relatively dry.
The choice you make here is going to be linked with the pedals you have on your bike. I am not going to go through the different lacing mechanisms, sole material etc here. The only thing I would challenge you on is if you are still using toeclips and trainers.
- Clipless vs Flats/Toeclips: Over the years we have gone from flats to top clips to clipless pedals. If you are still running on flats or top clips I would urge you to consider changing to clipless. Clipless pedals provide a much more efficient transfer of power from you to the bike and due to the more rigid nature of the shoe are much more comfortable to your feet. They do take a little while to get used to so no not make the switch on the day of the race. If you are thinking of changing them you might want to consider Shimano SPD type pedal as these come in a two sided version that are easy to get in and out of and can be bought pretty cheaply.
- Cleats: Just a point to note here; you need to make sure your shoe is compatible with the cleat that locks into your pedals. There are three options available: two sliding bolts for SPD type cleats (often used for mountain biking but great starter pedals), thee bolts locations for Shimano SPD SL, Look, Time etc format, and finally a four bolt pattern for Speedplay. You can get convertors but they add stack height which compromises fit, comfort and effects performance so try and match accordingly.
- Weather: Most cycling specific shoes are made to be breathable and so get both cold and wet very easily. You can get winter shoes with extra insulation but you will overheat if not careful and really do you need two pairs of shoes? Best way of getting round this is with overshoes or socks; they fit over your shoe and provide a level of weather protection. If your not cycling all year round and need dedicated shoes this is the best and cheapest solution.
This is fairly simple; your racing in the UK, you are likely as dictated by the rules to wear a lid, live with it. Make sure it has the appropriate certification which will be noted in your race rules, make sure it fits and that it is not too old. I looked around a while ago to see what I could find out about the degradation of foams etc and did not come across anything definitive. Most manufacturers tend to say you should replace your lid every 3 to 5 years. Personally my last lid was still looking pretty good at 10. If your lid as damaged in anyway or getting on in years then please do the right thing and replace it. I am not mention any more about lids here, but I do want to talk about what you keep under it.
- Ventilation: Lids are intentionally well ventilated and so you will need to consider the temperature before you ride. If it is cooler or wet some sort of skull cap or hat will help keep you think tank warm.
- Sweat: Most lids have pads inside that help keep it secure as well as absorb some of that moisture your going to shed. After a few hours though this gets pretty saturated and a light weight cycle cap under your lid does a good job of mopping that up and keeping the sweat out of your eyes.
- Neck: One useful addition I throw in my bag is a buff or neck collar. These are great at keep the breeze out of a slightly loose collar or keeping the rain from slowly dripping down your back.
This one is a mix of personal choice vs protection. I cycled for years without dedicated cycling glasses and never had any real issues at all. More latterly I have started to wear them as they do provide a good amount of protection.
- Wildlife: In other words bugs. There is nothing worse than getting a fly in your eye whilst doing 35 mph down a hill. One of the benefits of glasses is avoiding this.
- Debris: Over the years I have been peppered by gravel and who knows what from passing cars as they rumble past. One of these in your eye is going to hurt so glasses are a good idea, you also need to consider that you are potentially going to be riding behind someone’s back wheel and you can bet your bottom dollar they will not have mud guards. That brown streak up their back will match the one up the front of your face. Need I say more?
- Light: Most glasses come with a small selection of different lenses that range from clear for overcast conditions, amber lenses for low light through to tinted lenses if the sun blesses you with its tender touch. For the UK you are unlikely to need anything too dark.
Your hands may not appear to need much but it is surprising how much of a beating they get when your hammering down some of our finely maintained roads (did you get the sarcasm there?). You can pick up a pair of fingerless cycling gloves anywhere these days.
- Weather: There’s nothing worse than trying to get some feeling back into your frozen hands knowing that you have a couple of hours left to go. There is a vast range of gloves to chose from for all weather conditions.
- Size: Check the size of your gloves before ordering, gloves that are too tight will make riding uncomfortable.
Your still reading then? Well that is pretty much everything that you need for most weather conditions. Failing to plan is planning to fail so make sure you look into the route you are going to take, check the normal weather for that time of year and the forecast closer to the date of the ride. Make sure your bike is well maintained and race worthy. Plan your feeding and hydration and make sure your body is happy with it. Oh, one last thing, don’t forget the chamois cream. Oo, one last thing I said I would put a few links to online sources for some of this stuff.