Words: Claire Beaumont
Pictures: Andy Waterman
I don't hate winter, I embrace it.
It is this mid point in the transition to winter that I don't care for. While everyone is still trying to hang on to temperatures in double figures, I yearn for it to drop and stay low.
Yesterday it was biting and cold, today a little mild. If I wear leg warmers I'm too hot. Should I start in a gilet? Arm warmers aren't quite suitable anymore. Should I go with the 3/4 fleece-lined tights or stick with bib shorts and knee warmers? My glove choice is always off and I end up with sweaty palms after about 40 minutes.
What I want is the cold. I really enjoy ambling along a lane, pulling my buff up around my face and snuggling in.
I have this pair of Endura bib longs that I've had for years. They fit really well, just by chance, I think because I bought them in a rush for about £10 in the sale. The Roubaix fleece comes right up my tummy like a security blanket. There are these foot loops too and they keep the cuffs in place and wrapped around my ankles.
And, you know what else? I love those moments when you stop at a traffic light, look across to your companion and see steam rising off their body.
How about that feeling of when your face is really chilly and your eyes feel a bit strange and you have to blink a bit. Then they go a little watery. That's the cold and that's winter.
I like seeing the fog and mist below me, stuck down a valley or a hill. I like to see a rolling view not blocked by the tree leaves. I like getting up in the morning and riding from darkness to dawn to daylight, watching everyone wake up.
When you finally get to your cafe stop or back home and walk indoors, that whoosh of warm air sweeps over you, cheeks turn pink, nose shines red like a beacon and toes tingle. Most people just take a moment to sit there in their baselayer and tights. I sit there smiling smugly.
"Yeh, I've just been out, in the cold. Now for something hot and well deserved. Maybe a mince pie or bit of crumble."
I find myself perusing winter clothing with great enthusiasm. In the summer I never normally pay attention but the winter presents itself with a real need to be dressed correctly, and as you'd imagine I have a fair collection of winter apparel. But, I want more. I get engrossed in technical features. Maybe I like the winter wear because you get all tucked in, covered up and look rather svelte. Christmas excesses disguised under a thermal wrap.
My winter rides are, as they should be at, base tempo for a couple of hours. However, as a cyclo-cross racer, this is my time of year, I ride like to ride at a fair old lick around Regents Park to keep my fitness up. I meet with my fellow female accomplice on Tuesday evenings for some covert cyclo cross in a dark park. We do a fair bit standing around, working out mini courses. Then we smash about like idiots and stop and decide what drill to do next. Thus my outfit must be breathable, not flap but also be comfy and warm.
For those that dread the season all I can say (and it's such a cliche): there is no such thing as bad weather just bad preparation.