A number of years ago I met Graeme Raeburn who is one of the lead product designers at Rapha and the inspiration behind the Rapha 500 (which for those of you living in a cave is a challenge where you ride 500km from Christmas Eve to New Year's Eve).
Graeme is an incredibly talented yet humble guy - who is also a beast on the bike. Knowing him he will be mortified by the commercial beast this 'festival' has become. Initially he did 1000km in a week, and the reason was Rapha was designing 'Pro kit' for the first time and this Graeme wanted to live like a Pro for a week and test the prototypes…..
Now the distance has halved and lazy journalists (desperate for content at this time of year) are writing articles such as "5 tips for the Rapha 500", with nonsense like "try to do flat routes as it's easier".
Here's a newsflash; 500 km in 8 days is 62.5km a day. Its not hard at all, barely 2.5-3hrs a day on the bike. Compare that to the summer events such as Haute Route which will be 6-8 hrs a day for a week over dozens of mountain passes.
So I refuse to get involved in this; but did love the idea of riding loads over Christmas and properly testing lots of kit. My original plan was to do Graeme's initial challenge which was 1000km in the 8 days. When I told my wife I would likely be on the bike for 6 hours a day she gave me the same look of disgust she had when our littlest one has disgraced himself in his potty training. So that was off….
Plan B was to do 500 km a week throughout December, but the first week was a write-off with lots of travel.
So it became the current plan which is The Bespoke 1500; three weeks of riding 500km a week, no matter what the weather, starting December 11th and leading all the way to New Year's Eve. The aim is to test as much kit as I can in that period and give some reviews.
The weather has been diabolical this week. Its rained so much here that our house in France was briefly flooded !
Below is an example of what I have faced; constant rain with 30km/h winds, and 75 km/h gusts. Living the dream…. But a great test ground for kit:
On one of my rides it was not raining heavily, just a light drizzle (that seemed to increase over time). One hour into the road and I looked at my arms and they were completely and utterly soaked…. but they did not feel cold. So the jersey is water resistant to a degree, but very windproof.
Wearing this with an Oro rain jacket was a dream. I loved wearing the PNS top on faster rides; it feels so snug and race cut that you feel like a winter Pro. Your mind-set changes from base mile slog to "this is early prep for the classics!".
A genuine life-saver. The weather has been so bad that you would be soaked in 30 seconds. My hands and legs are drenched but my core is dry.
The following WhatsApp discussion with David Arthur (our Features Editor) is all you need to know about this jacket:
Me: Mate its going to be p***ing down here all week, Proper biblical…..Is this Oro a legit rain jacket, or emergency use only?
Dave: Don't be fooled by light weight - amazing performance in the rain, super breathable means you can wear it all ride when it's raining. Even works if it's not raining, so ideal for cloudbursts and showers etc. Keep in pocket all winter !
And I have taken his advice - its either been on me, or in a pocket for 500km this week.
My go-to winter gloves. Amazing in the cold; but these are not waterproof (and don't claim to be!). But soaking wet was a nightmare and hands got very cold. The other issue I have is because they have a liner, if you take your hands out quickly you can tangle the inner finger liner and it's a mission to get them back on again. Definitely for the cold, but not for the wet*
*although in fairness to Assos - they do have just the thing for rainy days
I am a late convert to leg warmers. I have long worn knee warmers, but never 'got' leg warmers; when it gets that cold I normally move to full tights. But tights are a faff, and they do feel restrictive.
The Tiburu shorts are just a classic; amazingly comfortable and very warm. I was astonished at how warm the leg warmers were.
One of my rides was 75 km in -2° C and I was fine. My ears and
toes were freezing, but legs were perfectly happy.
(Editor's Note: Bazza, we need to send you one of these, and a pair of these!).
Luigi at Q36.5 is obsessed with fabrics and technical performance. He defines his clothing as 'equipment' and not 'apparel'. A good winter jacket is a huge technical challenge; it needs to be warm, windproof, offer an element of water resistance all whilst not overheating
The Termica is designed as a winter jacket for more intense riding, rather than Sunday bimbles. As soon as you put it on you are aware it's a superbly technical and well thought out piece of kit. It feels like a warmer version of a race long sleeve jersey
The parts of the body most exposed to the wind get greater protection, whilst the sides and back are more breathable. I have done four hour rides with lots of climbing and never felt too hot. This is incredibly important, if you over heat it turns to sweat and there is nothing as unpleasant than ending the ride with a cold, wet back.
The double collar is a stroke of genius and traps the warm air in.
Even though its very warm its exceptionally low volume - that's why it costs as much as it does. But its incredibly versatile; you can go from -5° C to 12° C just by changing base layers.
The bike has been an absolute god-send; riding in pouring rain for 3 hours with carbon wheels would have been lethal with caliper brakes. The Domane's Discs have been faultless (though do squeak more than I expected). The real eye opener has been the 32mm tyres. Sure they feel slightly sluggish when climbing out of the saddle. But they are exceptionally comfortable and give awe inspiring traction in the wet. I have done 500km on roads with stones, gravel and all sorts of debris. And they have been bomb-proof; which is crucial. Getting a puncture when you are soaking wet is no fun, especially if your fingers are so cold they can hardly take gloves off let alone swap out tubes.
Week Two of the Bespoke 1500 seems some drier, colder weather and some poorly family members - can Barry keep getting those kilometres in? Read on...Read more
In stock this week, the 7mesh Oro is the ultimate waterproof jacket- sub 100g, packable, breathable and waterproof using GORE-TEX® Active fabric. Very limited stock...Read more
Barry gets a new winter steed - perfect for epic base mileage as the weather gets nasty !Read more