Just before my last post on the subject of winter gloves revisited, I had a period of enforced no-cycling because of Christmas and as a result ended up on eBay, as one does. A midnight frenzy ensued and I became the proud owner of a vintage Raleigh Wisp, which I’ve spent the last few days fixing up. It’s a mixte, which means that the top-tube is composed of twin lateral stays which continue round the seat tube and join the seat stays at the bottom of the diamond frame, like this.
As you can see, it has drop bars and road bike proportions. If you want you can read about it on my personal cycling blog.
My first ride of 2011 was in Brighton, on my Wisp. I was wearing jeans, a Rapha Winter Hat and Soft-shell. I was meeting friends for lunch and trying not to look as though I’d just ridden 30km. But I was extremely uncomfortable, especially on my new Brooks saddle. Unlike on an upright, the forward riding position and jeans do not mix together. So, considering my winter leg wear options, it seems to me that I have three winter cycling situations to deal with.
Rides for sport, for recreation and for my commute.
Recreationally, I try to wear my normal clothes. For sport, when I ride the Wiler, my other road bike, I wear Rapha 3/4 bib tights or a pair of Castelli Tenoro tights. For my commute, on an upright bike, I wear a mixture of skinny black jeans, tights and wool leggings and a skirt or a dress, depending on the weather, the time of year and not all at once, obviously.
Winter Leg Wear for Warmth
Recreation: I try to wear my normal clothes, like the picture above. In winter this is almost always a combination of jeans or leggings, a skirt and boots, just not the same ones that I wear for work.
Sport: The Rapha bib tights are really comfortable for long rides with a great pad and good length, finishing just below the knee, but one disadvantage is the removal at cafe stops, especially in the rain or the cold. The last time I wore them was on a 40 mile training ride when it rained the whole way and I had to go to an outdoor loo. Struggling to get them off, I had to remove my soft-shell, top and base layer in the freezing cold. It was almost more than I could bear, so they’ve been relegated to the back of the drawer until the spring.
They’ve been replaced by the Castelli tights which, I admit, I bought last year because I saw someone else wearing them and they made her behind look reasonably good, which is quite something for a pair of padded tights. Clearly, they don’t make me look like Kate Moss from the back but equally, they don’t make me look like I’m wearing a nappy! Or maybe they do? It cannot go without notice that both of these options are hugely expensive, but they’re not as expensive as some, ASSOS, for example, and they wash and wear after every ride. So, if I go out at least once at the weekend all through three or four winters, then I think I’ve got my wear out of them.
Commute: When it’s cold I wear the jeans and change into my skirt at work, or I wear an a-line skirt and tights. In the autumn and winter, I wear a skirt or a dress, tights with black Icebreaker or Smartwool leggings over the tights and my winter boots. (Fashion boots just don’t keep me warm enough, but that’s another topic entirely). I tend to buy these leggings from ski shops because the big cycling retailers tend to stick to lycra.
I find that I’m warmer with this combination of tights and leggings than I am in anything else. I just remove the leggings and boots when I get to work and put my normal shoes on. I’m lucky enough to have an office of my own, so I keep all sorts of things there, mostly a spare skirt, tights and shoes so that I can always look smart for meetings when I have to.
These are the winter leg wear options that work for me at the moment. I’ve tried and tested dozens of winter leg wear variations and found these to be the most comfortable and, more importantly, warm. But they are only my current choices.