January Morning Rules
There’s no better excuse for buying some new items of kit than finding yourself in the middle of the Cornish countryside on a beautifully cold, crisp, sunny January morning with your bike in the boot of your car and realising you have forgotten to pack a number of integral pieces of kit. Most things you can work around; borrow a pair of gloves, ride without a helmet (if you have to), go ‘data-free’ without your bike computer, even throw on a ‘normal’ jacket, but a pair of bibs in winter (or any time of year for that matter) is probably an exception to this rule.
So after chastising myself which went something like “you !?%?*%$ Ash” onto Google I went, and was pleasantly surprised to find a concept cycling store within 10 minutes’ drive – bonus! So it is with a serendipitous smile I find myself (within 20 minutes I might add) no longer dealing with the prospect of having a very chilly ‘bottom half’ but content in the knowledge of an impending toasty version and a front seat next to me housing a pair of Castelli Nanoflex™ bibs and matching leg warmers.
The Merchant of Cycling
Now, those of you who have ridden with me, or spied my Instagram feed for any period of time, will have no doubt noticed I do have a penchant for Castelli merchandise. Maybe it has something to do with its Italian roots, or the fact that like Campagnolo group-sets or a Colnago bike it’s just something special that makes you quietly feel a little superior, even if it’s not the case. Maybe it’s just continental kit beginning with ‘C’, who knows… all I know is I love the stuff; and by the number of Gabba jerseys, gloves, overshoes and various items of Nanoflex™ that can be seen on any Baroudeurs club ride, I’m not alone. It’s not cheap kit, but it’s by no means Rapha prices, and you certainly get what you pay for.
Having coveted the Nanoflex™ kit for the majority of the last eighteen months, but never ‘taking the leap’ expectations were high and I was not disappointed…far from it.
Not the Quasimodo you were looking for
The first thing you notice about Nanoflex™ is that, unlike the majority of ‘high-tech’ materials I’ve come across, the Nanoflex™ has a very satisfying natural, fleece feel to them on the inside, with a very comfortable fit both in length and circumference (or girth, depending how you feel about the nomenclature), along with gripper strips at the top to keep them in place they were quickly forgotten about, like all good kit should. Combined with the bibs, there is a good overlap which encompasses the entire quad depending how high you dare go with your leg warmers. The bibs have the standard comfort level I’ve come to expect of Castelli bibs and a nice feel over the shoulders, where I personally find some brand of bibs tend to try to introduce your shoulders to your waistline in a Quasimodo style pose.
Having bought the obligatory black versions, the styling is good and under-stated, particularly the bibs, and do nothing to reduce your winter season ‘cycling ninja’ look. For the commuters out there they aren’t reflective as far as I can tell, but if you can afford these pieces, you should be able to afford a good set of lights so I don’t think this should be a stumbling block if considering them.
The Coastal Test
Now there are a number of places that would put both the bibs and leg warmers to the test, but I think a windy ride along the Cornwall coast and into the moors is probably a pretty decent test of their thermal properties. This ride, thankfully, did not involve testing the ‘waterproof-ness’, water resistance or hydrophobic (for the scientist out there) properties of this kit, but I’ve since had plenty of ‘opportunity’ to test their robustness and they do ‘what they say on the tin’ with gusto. For those who are dubious about just how waterproof the material is, think trying to pour water through a yellow washing up glove; I’m not exaggerating.
These have also been tested as a single layer on morning laps of Regent’s Park in temperatures pushing minus seven degrees and provide sufficient insulation to be able to ride for three hours without any discomfort, which from experience is something worthy of note.
I have since invested in the matching arm warmers – verging on looking slightly like I’m sponsored by Castelli – I wish! (…and if anyone from Castelli is reading this, I’m open to offers, please comment below and I’ll be in touch). The arm warmers perform just as well, with the high performance you’d expect; although one suggestion, if you are like me and have slightly more arm mass than a chicken wing (or Chris Froome), then don’t be afraid to order a size bigger than you would normally think as correct as, like with most pro-level arm kit they can get a little tight up near the armpit.
So after a gentle afternoon exploring country lanes, getting stuck in one way systems in Cornish villages finding some smugglers coves, and attacking a few rolling climbs to take advantage of Strava’s new annual KOM competitions; this kit never failed to deliver its promise, comfortable and warm, not much more you could ask for given the circumstance. The only question I found myself asking at the end of this test was, why-oh-why didn’t I buy them for last winter?