Thursday, 3 December 2015

Winter Riding: Cross, Kit & Flaps

So that's it. I've had my first ride of winter where the temperature was just above freezing. It was a steady 100K one Monday morning in sunny Hertfordshire, doing that simple, yet classic, Ford Route. After a fairly mild November this ride was rather cold, a strong reminder of how important proper winter gear and layering is. Still, it was a great ride.

With the road & hill climb season coming to and end at the start of November, i've been enjoying an unseasonably warm November and looking forward to crisp winter mornings, blue sky and cafe runs. The realty of course, is always somewhat different, and donning yet more wet gear at the end of a day at work is never a highlight of my week (still better than the tube, no?) however thankfully these days have been not that common.

I've been fully embracing cyclocross, and decided to mainly concentrate on the Central League, simply because these seemed the easiest races to get to, in general. First race (for me) was Round 6 located just outside Hitchin. A very flat and fairly fast course, little in the way of serious mud, and a frankly daft 19 degrees! I was unfortunately, not gridded so started at the back, spent the first 2 laps fighting my way through. A good battle with 3rd saw me eventually take the 4th spot, just off the podium, but it was a great race, I felt strong and really pleased with my position. Plus, now i'll be gridded in my next race.
Next race was the Eastern League in Bury St Edmonds. Damien had offered me a lift, so thought why not eh? Well, the weather was what you'd probably call "proper cross weather" with fairly heavy and consistent rain, and what looked quite a tough course.  I was unfortunately at the back (theme here isn't here) so tried to fight my way through, which I was doing quite well, until I came off on a concrete section and hit my hip quite hard (road rash in a cross race...). I got back on and continued to ride, I was slower, and it hurt. After 2 laps of wondering what to do there was a serious crash on a section, ambulance called and the poor lad off to hospital, so the race was cancelled. Hope it wasn't too serious.
The following weekend was back to the Central League, and Round 7 at Houghton Regis. It was fairly wet, and couple this with freshly cut swamp/grass it was going to be tough. I was gridded this time and bagged 4th again, happy days. More detailed blog here:
That's it for cross so far, there has been a slight break in Central League races, so back on it 12th December. I'll be trying to race as many more central league races as possible until the season ends in January. Expect to see plenty more mud and clogged up rear mechs over the next month...

Now winter is always a good time for silly challenges, in general, you're not racing (apart from cross) so don't need to save yourself for those, plus there is an element of stupidity and hardness about doing a challenge when it's dark, cold and wet outside. With that in mind, I rather jokingly suggested to Lucinda that we should do the Strava climbing challenge in 6 days. That's 6,000m in 6 days. Might sound easy, but when you factor in a full days work it starts to become a little harder... This effectively meant that we had to ride Swains Lane a minimum of 12 times per day. Sounds a bit stupid doesn't it, but Lucinda, Aoife and I managed this, and clocked up over 6,000m of climbing that week. The next challenge, which I might actually do this year, will be the Rapha Festive 500, one of the original Strava challenges. Suspect the Peak District weather might have something to say about that though...

We're now in Decemeber, the weather, thus far, has been quite kind to us. I suspect that will soon change. I've got a few trips plans over the festive period, Glasgow this weekend and then back into the Peak District over Christmas to find some snow and ice to play (fall) on. I'll be racing till the end of the cross season, and mixing this with plenty of longer base rides and a few Chain gang sessions per week and a few turbo sessions. I'm hoping, and suspect that i'll be feeling pretty good once road racing starts again. That said, at the moment the thought of racing doesn't exactly fill me with glee...

During winter i'll be riding and reviewing the new dhb Aeron winter kit. This is dhb's latest performance offering and their top of the range kit. I've always been a huge fan of dhb kit, consistently impressed by the quality and fit. On first impressions, their latest Aeron range does not disappoint, the Roubaix LS jersey is very well fitted, has some excellent features and looks great (especially in fluro) I've worn this a fair bit recently in a mixture of conditions, and it really has performed well. I've got the full range to review and do a longer term test, so roubaix bib tights, ls jersey, lightweight gilet, merino socks, merino cap and oversocks, all, obviously, in fluro. #flurolife It would seem that i'll be fully covered for those winter rides now and will be able to report back with a more detailed review on the range over the coming months.
You can check out dhb's Aeron range (and others) here:

The final piece of any cyclists winter kit, should of course, be the winter bike.. This year i'll be riding the classic Ribble Winter Audax/Winter frame, I firm favorite of many a club rider due to it's price and traditional geometry, ok, so no, it doesn't have disc brakes *Rolls Eyes* but it does have proper mudguard mounts, which as any cyclist should know, are essential. I've taken to somewhat modifying my guards a little though, and whilst they protected me and my bike before (mainly) they still didn't offer any protection to the rider behind. Welcome to the stage, "The Flap"... I'll be taking orders for these over the next few weeks, different lengths and widths available, handmade and sourced in the England, ideal Christmas present for your loved one/winter bike. What more can you ask for eh?  For some additional revenue you can even sell space on your flap for advertising, I just opted for a classic " Stay Awesome" sticker.

Thanks for reading as always, and thanks to dhb & Wiggle for the Aeron kit, stopping me get hypothermia on the bike since Nov 15. 

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