Saturday, 14 July 2012

Gear Notes from France Cycle Tour: Clothing

Its now six weeks since I returned from my fortnight cycling across France from Valance in the Rhone valley to Rosas on the Spanish Med coast. I made notes on my gear as I rode and when I finished, generally I find it best to reflect on ones thoughts before commenting. Much of the gear I used was walking/backpacking equipment I have used over the years. So below there is a rather wordy blog on what I took and weather I thought it worth taking again.
 Clothing:- 2 pairs Altura Airstream Cycling shorts, I only actually wore one pair as I was able to wash them every night and although some mornings they were a little damp it wasn't to bad. They are extremely comfortable, the pad is synthetic so stand the best chance of drying. Added to this they are reasonably priced and one of the pairs is several years old and show no wear at all.
Smartwool T shirt, the lightest weight) again worn and washed every day, warm enough in the breeze and cool in the sun. Excellent! It never stunk in-spite of profuse sweating on some of the climbs, except when washed when it smelt like a wet dog until it dried.
Montane windshirt, actually a running cut. Worn at some point almost every day over the T shirt because of the winds I experienced for a lot of the trip. Not alot I can say about this that others haven't already said, I always have either a Montane windshirt of one type or another in my sac or pannier.
New Balance tights synthetic and possibly a bit warm for this trip, mainly worn very first thing in the morning until the muscles warmed up, they also did sterling service under.....
Golite Reed Overtrousers, these are the older model no ankle/leg zips! They are totally waterproof, still, after 7 or 8 years. I bought 2 pairs of these, one pair is virtually unused. Because they don't have a zip at the ankle they have a really fitted cut, great on foot and on the bike. When out with other folk its often perceived that taking your footwear off to put waterproofs on is a hassle but in reality its almost as quick as the more "normal" option.
Mountain Hardwear 100 weight "grid" fleece, just a short zip type. Like the tights only worn first thing in the morning. What sort of a gear list would it be without a fleece!
 Patagonia down vest, in case it went cool, it didn't really, it was also a large part of my pillow when sleeping. On reflection this could have been left behind.
Karrimor KIMM Paclite jacket, well it kept me warm and the rain out. But god was it rubbish on the breathability front. This was one of only two gear "failures". It is perhaps unfair to damm this jacket as it was being used for cycling rather than walking/running/backpacking, and two hours of constant climbing in heavy rain is a rigorous test for any garment.
Ron Hill Hilly offroad socks, these are superb, good value, comfortable and dry quickly when washed, I took three pairs but only used two, and could probably got away with one pair.
Trekmates Goretex socks, I use these in trainers for walking and so it was a no-brainer to take them on this trip, they were a godsend on the wet days, not a drip through them. they'd already done a number of Munros and many days in the Lakes and Dales.
Specialized Tahoe cycle shoes, very comfortable, no hotspots with SPD pedals, and they dried pretty quickly too.
Outdoor Designs waterproof gloves, these were a disappointment, they failed very quickly and meant wet hands until I replaced them with a pair of Super U washing-up gloves in a tasteful powder blue! In their defence they have been used for a number of years for Motorcycling/Cycling/Skiing/Snowboarding, I've probably had my money's worth really.
Aldi cycle mitts, these were incredibly comfortable and were used every day except the very wet day. Great value for money.
Crocs, other than my cycle shoes these were all I had with me and filled the brief well. Quick drying, light and comfortable. The only downside is the bulk, more of a problem when backpacking than cycletouring.
 Patagonia Fennic trousers, these have been on many trips including being used for 10 days on the HRP. I don't know if there still made but if not they should be. They have spent much of their life in the sun and haven't even faded.
Rohan X static briefs, I took 2 pairs of these, again an easy wash and dry. and comfortable. What more do you need?
Craghopper shorts, I've had these for years, they did the job but I will look for something a bit more packable from the Montane range.
Berghaus X static zip poloneck, taken for any cool days/evenings but in the event only worn on one wet day. this could have been left behind as I also had....
Smartwool zip polo (lightest weight) this is a more usable shirt for me at least. It also takes up very little space and dries very quickly.
Berghaus Synthetic long sleeve shirt, (I've forgotton its name!) used for travelling in and for exploring in the evenings. Dries almost instantly it seems and has proved durable, again used for 10 days on the HRP as well as many other trips with no ill effects.
For Headwear I had a Buff, an Inov8 cap and a Specialized Align Helmet all good no complaints from any of them and all proven kit having stood the test of time. I took and used a pair of Bolle sunglasses and a cheapy pair of Aldi cycle sunglasses. No complaints here either.
 That pretty much sums up the clothing I wore and carried, it sounds a huge amount, but packed small and didn't weigh too much, although I take a good deal less when backpacking!


  1. I don't do cycle touring but interesting to look at the gear and see the cross-over. What about an eVent smock like the OMM Cypher for cycling, although the hood might flap

  2. Yes Robin, the cross-over with my gear is probably greater than many cyclists. Its quite interesting to read forums such as the Cycle Touring Club (CTC), to see that lightweight gear and thinking is a mystery to most people. I have looked at the OMM Cypher, it has attractions for off bike use, but in the end I have bought a Montane Photon, incredibly light, and incredibly fragile! However I don't wear a sac on the bike when touring so hopefully it will last a fair while.