No such thing as bad weather…

When I first started couriering, back in autumn 2008, I was quickly informed that you’re not a real courier till you’ve done your first winter. And I realized that winter was going to be very very hard. I told myself that I had four months to get through: November, December, January and February. So once I got past Christmas I breathed a sigh of partial relief, knowing I was at least halfway through.

I was wrong. November and December are just the appetizer. November’s not that bad really, and December’s all festive and exciting, and ends quickly. January and February are where winter really happens – they’re long, bleak, unforgiving, and absolutely bloody freezing. Last year there was a huge snowfall at the end of January, which meant all the roads were packed with solid ice for the next week, and I slid around all over the place. And the weather’s really hard on the bike – I’ve lost count of how many bottom brackets and ball bearings I got through last winter. And wearing so many clothes is expensive, and they get in the way of riding, and make me look like a tramp. (A tramp offered to buy me a cup of tea the other day. I didn’t know what to say.)

And I’m expecting this year’s winter to be even worse, given that it started snowing even before Christmas, and everyone’s muttering darkly about a Big Freeze over the next few weeks. It’s working its way down the country, apparently. We Londoners have been bracing ourselves for days.

But I’m optimistic. I can’t avoid winter, but I’ve worked out there are ways of making it more bearable – it’s all about having the right kit, and making sure every single part of me is protected from both the cold and the rain. The Swrve Milwaukee hoodie (with at least three jerseys underneath) keeps my core warm and dry, I’ve got Sealskinz for my hands and feet, and last night I paid a visit to Chris (the Swrve guy) at his office in Brixton, shared a bottle of wine, and tried on all the shiny new kit. Chris and I have a friendly agreement: he gives me shorts for peanuts (or sometimes even for free), I return them after wearing holes in them (usually takes a month or two), he gets all excited about how my patterns of wear differ from those of his other testers (all men), and he gives me more.

It was very interesting to see all the latest gear, and to hear just how well Swrve are doing at the moment – demand is far outstripping supply (which makes me feel a bit less guilty for accepting his generosity). A few of the designs have been updated – including the Milwaukee, which no longer comes in Gore-Tex, but in some other high-end fabric. It looks a bit more porous though, so I’m worried it won’t be quite as waterproof as mine, which Chris hailed as ‘one of the old school’, and which I’ve been boasting about, to anyone who’ll listen, ever since I bought it.

I came away with a new pair of the softshell knickers (which I reviewed (and quickly wore out) last winter), a pair of the men’s skinny jeans (an experiment), and a couple of caps. I wore the knickers today, and immediately wished I’d gone up a size. Swrve women’s shorts are cut in such a way that they fit nicely round the waist, but are far too tight on the thighs – to the point of actually affecting my pedalling. When I’ve tried going up a size to accommodate my supersized quads, the waistband’s so loose it doesn’t even touch my body. The men’s tend to fit me a lot better, but for some reason (well, probably the wine), it didn’t occur to me to try those on too. Hmmm.

But the one huge advantage of the knickers is that they keep me warm. I decided today that I’ve finally cracked ‘dry cold’ – as long as it’s not precipitating in any way, I can keep myself warm. It remains to be seen whether I’ll cope equally well with ‘wet cold’. But I won’t have to wait long to find out. According to Metcheck, it’s going to be snowing for the next two days, and the temperature will drop as low as -12 °c on Thursday.

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