Full length

Calves covered

That’s it: I’ve cracked. Yesterday (Tuesday) morning’s ride in from south west London to the Angel was cold – damn cold. Despite wearing a Helly Hansen extra thick long-sleeve undervest, Sugoi jersey and gloves, a woollen hat and serious foot insulation, I was in shrivelled, shivering discomfort by the time I got to the Pantone Palace. The reason? Lack of leg coverage.

Now, I’m old and ugly enough to know better than to ride with exposed knees at this time of year but for reasons to do with not liking to feel too ‘bundled up’, I generally favour bib-knicks over full-length tights even in mid-winter. The former offer a bit more pedalling freedom and don’t suffer the gravity-induced tendency to fall slowly and steadily down a few millimetres over every bump, at the same time forming a saddle-snagging pendant gusset between the thighs. The latter, on the other hand, are a lot warmer…

Amazingly, bare knees were evident on some of London’s cyclists last night and again this morning, when the air temperature was low enough to require not just tights but a really thick pair of Lusso ThermoMax tights that only get worn about twice per year, although the way this one is shaping up they may see several year’s service in one winter.

Is it simple machismo that compels these push-bike riders (for ‘cyclists’ they are not) to ride along in, in one instance seen yesterday, football shorts and a tee-shirt? Years ago, when working for a food distribution company, I had to start work at 4 o’clock in the morning, which meant leaving home at 3:15. One morning the air temperature was a punishing minus14degC and I pulled on pretty much every item of warm cycling gear I could muster.

Even so, I was still chilled to the marrow within minutes, unlike (apparently) the person tackling Denmark Hill on a nasty old Puch Ten-Speed, bare-headed, while wearing a thin lounge suit flapping open to reveal a shirt with the top button undone, his trousers tucked nonchalantly into thin socks and his bare hands resting on that thin rubbishy plastic tape, thankfully long disappeared from the UK market, embossed with a vague imprint of herringbone fabric and offering the insulation capacity of tin foil.

In a moment of clarity, I realised that, rock-hard as I then was, I was not really that hard at all. Maybe wearing bib-knicks is some kind of attempt to make amends but, if so, it is not very convincing or I’d surely have been wearing them this morning.

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