I’m contemplating winter with a mixture of trepidation and denial. I passed my first anniversary as a courier last week, so from now on I know exactly what’s to come, because I’ve done it all before. And what’s to come right now are four, probably five, months of freezing cold, frequent rain, sharp winds, icy roads, dark mornings, dark evenings, and general misery and suffering. I know that I’ll get used to wearing all the clothes I own, all the time, and looking and smelling like a tramp by the end of the week; I know that my body will ache in a whole different way at the end of each day – from the strain of keeping the bike straight on wet and/or icy roads, as well as all the usual effort; I know that my horizons will narrow so dramatically that for hours all I’ll really be able to think about is how much my hands and feet hurt, or when I’ll next have time for a hot coffee.
But hopefully this time round I’ll have learned some valuable lessons. Certainly, I now appreciate what a difference good kit can make. In summer it barely matters what you wear – even if it rains, you’ll never really get that cold, and might even come home slightly cleaner than usual. But winter’s a different matter. The only time I’ve ever shed a tear at work was a bitter day in January when both my gloves and my shoes were soaked through, and had an icy cold wind blowing through them. So this year I’ll be investing in winter boots and Sealskinz gloves (I already have Sealskinz socks, and they changed my life). I can hardly wait.
I reckon the promise of new kit to keep me warm and dry will be one of my main incentives as the days get shorter and colder. Because new kit makes me happy, and being warm and dry makes me happy – and being warm and dry when it’s raining cats and dogs and everyone else is riding around shivering or calling in sick makes me extra-specially happy (because there’s nothing quite like schadenfreude). And after all, keeping the morale up is just as important as keeping the feet dry.
Today I broke out my trusty Swrve Milwaukee Hoodie, which has been keeping me warm and dry for the past three winters, and is officially my favourite piece of kit ever. I discovered it through Minx, who very kindly sent me one to test, and I realized its magical powers one dark and rainy January night, when I was riding along the A10 between Cambridge and Royston, and found I was so warm and cosy that I didn’t want to stop! Wearing the hoodie in inclement weather is reminiscent of being curled up in your sleeping bag, listening to the rain falling on your tent, and knowing it can’t get to you. And it’s perfect for sweaty types like me, who don’t get on with the plastic-bag effect of lesser waterproofs. The hoodie’s made of gore-tex with a fleecy lining, so it’s quite stiff, and stands away from your body, giving the air a chance to circulate. (That didn’t stop me creating new organisms in mine last winter, but most people won’t be wearing it 12 hours a day for five months.) And it’s got decent pockets (I love pockets), including an internal one for your phone. And it doesn’t look like an anorak. And I’ve never met anyone in a Swrve hoodie who doesn’t love it. In fact, if two people meet for the first time, and realize they’re both wearing a Milwaukee hoodie, the first ten minutes of their conversation will be spent singing its praises. This is a fact I have observed time and time again.
And another thing making me smile at the moment is my brand new Ibex merino base layer. I tried on one of their outer layers last winter, and wasn’t impressed enough to buy it – the wool felt a bit harsh and stiff, compared to the other two jerseys (Sugoi and Swobo) I ended up buying. But this top is totally different – it’s soft and cosy, and because it’s made of merino, it doesn’t smell, even after several days. (I’m aiming to create fewer organisms this winter.)
And, naturally, the pink stripe both keeps me warmer and makes me ride faster.