26 December 2006

Wicking and other modern miracles

Back in the last century if I wanted to go out on my bike I'd put my anorak on (well, yes, all right, I'd put my Parka on). If I pedalled hard I became hot and sweaty. If I pedalled very hard I became very hot and very sweaty. In those days we didn't have wicking base layers, we took our jumpers off.

In the 21st Century, like everyone else I know, I have a special outfit for cycling and a quick ride on my bike necessitates going upstairs for a complete change of clothes.

I wear Tardis shorts (perfectly cut on the outside to conceal the middle-aged backside, a close inspection of the contents will reveal within an astonishingly sizeable, completely flexible, self-contained and separate padded layer) and I have choice of two tops: the one thin and short-sleeved, and too cold in the winter, the other thick and long-sleeved and too hot anywhere outside the arctic circle.

Until this Christmas that is! A fruitful piece of shopping yielded no presents at all for my loved ones, but for me: a brand-new, windproofed / shower-proof / low cut back / grey and black, zipped-rear-pocket cycling top. And best-of-all, with that sina-qua-non of sporting clothing, the cleverest invention of C21: zippable armpit-ventilation holes.

How we ever did without these miracles of modern clothing design, I don't know. I have made sure to have them in all clothes worn in situations where over-heating is in a remote danger (ski-jacket, walking jacket, cycling top, interview suit, pyjamas).

On Boxing Day my friend and I managed 16.5 wet and muddy miles along the Crane River and Grand Union Canal in 1 hour 31 mins, average speed 11mph. I wore my new top and, much to the envy of my comparatively ill-clad friend, whenever the going became harder or softer I was able to easily regulate my temperature simply by adjusting the armpit holes. We stopped every 200 metres or so.

My top was a dream: showers bothered me not; my lower back was snug and warm, the wind penetrated my jacket solely through the gaping armpit holes, the only moisture that failed to entirely wick away being the cold, smelly moisture of the River Crane sloshing around in my right shoe (following an, admittedly ill-advised, armpit-hole adjustment on the move. They should put something in the instructions about that). At least it wasn't the GUC.

My top cost just £485. The stretch-fitting (to tell the truth, I'm not totally sure about it) wicking base layer: £79.99. It's good job Mrs Botogol never reads my blog.

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