Saturday, June 23, 2012

Kit Review - EDZ Inner Shell

Something new for you here, a kit review.
I ride a bike without a fairing, a naked to quote the vernacular and, despite the heavy rain and freezing temperatures which prevailed the day I bought it, was surprised just how cold I was when I first rode it. Not only that, but I wear a vented jacket, the leather full of holes to keep me cool on the scorching days yet to grace us with their presence this year. With this in mind, I need something to keep me warm and so do you if you venture out on a summer evening ride, or find it’s colder than you thought half an hour into your journey. The EDZ Inner Shell reckons it fits the bill. I’ve had one for a few years now and it accompanies me on all but the warmest or shortest rides. According to the EDZ website it’s only 0.6mm thick (should that be thin) so is both incredibly light and very easy to carry. You can fit it under the seat of your bike or in any jacket pocket without it in getting in the way. I fold mine up and carry it in a plastic bag, though since I’ve had it, the company introduced and supply a tiny stuff sack.

It only comes in black, but you’d be churlish to complain about that, as it is intended to be worn under your jacket, and over a tee-shirt, or baselayer if you’re getting technical. Once on, you wouldn’t know it was there, the off-set zipper doesn’t catch on your neck or snag the zip of your jacket. The high, fleecy collar, doesn’t rub, however long it has been since your last shave and is the final frontier between cold and your chest.
So, we’ve established it weighs nothing, stows easily, is comfortable and that we don’t need to care how it looks, but does it work? Yes, it does. Made of Pertex, it’s windproof, which means I can wear my leather jacket over it on my cool daily commutes, then stick it my pocket for the warmer journey home. It’s capable of keeping the wind at bay for far more than a 12 mile motorway journey though, I’ve worn it on long rides across England and Europe, it really is all you need, though at £50 it’s not cheap. In keeping with the nature of this here website, it’s very breathable, so you could quite happily wear it on a push bike ride without melting, though you’d need to wash it more often, something it stands up to well.
Please don't iron it

Monday, June 18, 2012


As it was my birthday on Saturday, the plan was for my wife to take me out for dinner, though in a change to the normal routine, I had decided to treat myself to a road race before the less healthy festivities. I had targeted this particular event as one I could do well in, partly because it would be a great present to myself, but mainly because it was only 35 miles with no significant hills to climb. I trained well, ate appropriately and, like a child ready for weaning watches its Mother’s fork, had watched enviously each time my wife raised a wine glass to her lips: now I was ready to reward my sacrifice. It was not to be. I had hoped to sit in the restaurant with the fingers of fatigue pulling at my eyelids and the deep satisfying ache of exertion burning in my legs. Sadly I had to make do with thoughts of regret and annoyance, wondering what might have been.
The course was tight, I had been told that, but one road in particular was on the verge of un-raceable. Only just wide enough for one car, there was an 18 inch strip of mud and grass down the middle of the uneven, pot-holed and gravel strewn Tarmac, which left room only for one rider either side of the road. To exacerbate the problem, it was a fairly steep descent, with a strong tailwind and a right-angled left turn at the bottom.
The first lap was fairly normal, the speed rising and falling, people getting a feel for the day and the competition. There were a couple of speculative attacks off the front and, on the second pass of that nasty descent, all seemed to be going well, that is until that junction. I scrubbed off enough speed, knew where my fellow competitors were around me, and tipped into the turn. Suddenly my back wheel was sliding out, then flicked back in line, and I drifted onto the grass verge. Someone shouted, “Well held!” as I bounced along wondering if I could get my cleat out from my pedal. Then someone was next to me, touching me and I was down. Stiff shoots of coarse cut grass pricked my skin, the clattering sound of metal and carbon filled my ears, the smell of dust and embrocation flooded my nose. “My bike, my lovely bike!” I thought as I watched others riding and falling onto it. Bollocks!
I leapt to my feet. No pain. Good. Untangling my bike, I set about replacing the chain on the chainring, getting ready to ride off again, but then noticed a rear puncture, probably the cause of the problem. There’s no mechanical support at this level, and my spare wheels were in my car. Race over, eight miles ridden. There was another rider sat on the verge bleeding from his face. I swore, angrily launched my helmet onto a bank of nettles, then set about trying to help him, though was relieved when a first aider took over. The injured racer was bundled into a car, someone sorted his bike and that was that. I swore some more, retrieved my helmet from the undergrowth, removed my shoes so I didn’t damage them or the cleats, and started walking.
Replacing calories I hadn’t burnt, dinner was good. As we ate I bored my wife with yet another blow by blow account of my misfortune. Again I told her how I love the exhilaration, the speed, the burn in my lungs and the pain in my legs, how I long for it. Resolve restored, slowly my sorrows disappeared in the warm haze of fine company and good red wine. 
These things happen I suppose, but I can’t wait to race again. Now would be nice.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

It's a Mini Adventure

Riding to work last week was a pleasure. Everything from pulling on my leathers to parking outside the office felt good. It wasn't cold either, even wearing my vented jacket, my EDZ inner shell was plenty to keep the cool morning air at bay, heated grips took the chill off my hands. It would be warm later. Riding along the A14 I felt as if I was going somewhere, doing something, not the sort of feeling driving a car to work inspires. It felt like an adventure, anything but mundane. Then again, every ride has that aspect to it; a slice of adventure.
The ride felt increasingly like the first morning of my annual motorcycle tour. With the warmth, mist and unusually sparse traffic, I could have been beginning a long day south towards the Alps, or even rolling out of some nondescript Gallic town, leaving behind another cheap hotel and its rough brown blankets, heading for the twisties, waiting for the sun to burn through to reveal huge mountains, their shocking white peaks stark against a deep blue sky.
Talking of which, it’s only four weeks until two of us will roll off the Euro Tunnel train, blinking like expectant children, beginning an epic 550 mile ride to Chamonix. I normally start planning a trip just after the last one has finished, but this year I’ve let things go. I’d usually have the ferry booked by January, the hotels sorted soon after and detailed routes inputted onto Garmin Basecamp by mid Spring. Not this year. I’m not going to bother with routes, we’ll sort them as we go, maybe. Hotels are booked, but we’re staying with a friend for the first two nights and I don’t yet know where. There are some high mileage days and some short days, and even a day we don’t even have to ride anywhere; maybe a lie in, followed by a walk in the mountains. Other than the first day, I reckon the day from Luzerne to Heidleberg is likely to be the hardest, especially with the whole of the Black Forest to negotiate on the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse, the B500. To cement our reputation as international travellers, our last five nights are in five different countries. One thing that is sorted is those who are coming and there’ll only be two of us for the second consecutive year, the price of petrol and the exchange rate mean the cost of the trip has ballooned over the last few years, and in these financially constrained times, the expense is just too great, perhaps even for me; I don’t know if there’ll be a next year.  With most things arranged and the ride visiting some of the most advanced and civilized countries on the planet, it’s not The Long Way Round, or even (better) Mondo Enduro, but it’ll still be an adventure of sorts.
And that’s the point. I know that driving round such a route would be an adventure, I’ve done it, and I assure you it was brilliant. But in a car you are isolated from the World and all it has to offer, good or bad. Cars are humdrum, mundane, boring, normal: home. You can’t smell the patisserie you pass, hear the shouts of playing children in a school playground, feel the heat or cold of the day, or even have to think about the weather other than the rainy walk from the hotel with your cases. You don’t visit, you pass through. Whether it be a ride to work, the opticians or 800 miles in one day to the heart of the Alps, virtually any journey on a bike is some sort of adventure.