Here an open question: what’s been the biggest improvement in cycling technology over the last 50 years? We’ve seen indexed gear shifting, clipless pedals, wearable helmets, carbon frames and Campagnolo today offers an 11 speed cassette. Well, my answer would be clothing.
I was out for a long ride yesterday in the mountains behind Monaco and Nice. Passing through a tiny ski resort – a glorified car park – the afternoon sun began to dip behind the ridge above me and I saw cross-country skiers loading their gear into cars, the last of the winter snow still there. But I was totally warm. I’d climbed uphill with my long-sleeved jersey unzipped and zipped back up to pedal past snowy pastures. For the descent I reached into my back pockets to pull out a tiny rain jacket to use as a windproof barrier and some light gloves to keep the fingers warm. But on my legs were just standard bibshorts and legwarmers.
Now if I’d wanted comfort I would have stayed at home and watched the Nokere Koerse via the internet but all the same, three layers on the upper body and only millimetre or two of lycra on the legs clothing was enough to be able to ride uphill and downhill in relative comfort.
For me, this is impressive. Maybe we take it for granted today but clothing that is light and flexible, yet warm and dry, is essential for spring riding. I’m a big fan of wool, it’s very warm but if it gets wet then you’re doomed, so it’s not in my cycling wardrobe.