Thursday, March 8, 2012

In a Belgian State of Mind

It’s the most wonderful time of the cycling year—bar none.  In my opinion, the spring classics define all that is amazing.  People can extol the virtues of the Stelvio in May, or Mont Ventoux in July, but I will take the cobbles of northern France and Belgium any day.  The 2012 edition of the classics season kicked off a couple weeks ago with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and will gather steam until its high point with the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix—the most famous of the classics—in successive weeks in April.  Off the Rivet will follow a classics related arc leading up to the first monuments of 2012.  We’ll take a look at all aspects of spring cycling from clothing to equipment, and get you primed for the races that can make or break careers. 

The cobbles of Paris-Roubaix

Our first stop on this classics tour is your cycling closet.  Riding in the spring is exciting—feeling the warm sun for the first time since the fall is an amazing feeling, but riding in the spring is also unpredictable.  Rides that start in the mid-30s can end in the mid-60s, and somehow you are supposed to dress to be prepared for both—and look good at the same time.  Don’t forget about the rain either.  All in all, spring time weather is multifarious at best, and this at its worst:

Hincapie gettin' some.

So what is one to do?  I sat down with Cadence’s own cycling fashionisto extraordinaire, Luke Bunting, to get the low-down on dressing to impress in the springtime.

“The springtime sun can be deceiving,” Luke says, “You are surprised once you step outside to find that the sun is warm but the air and wind are still cold. You now have to go back inside and put more clothing on—an hour later into the ride you are now too hot! You start the ride at 32 and sunny and it could end being 50+ and raining.”

Aside from channeling our inner Hincapie and just HTFU, Luke laid out some clever tips for conquering the spring classics season just like the hardmen of the pro peloton. 

Check it out:


Always apply chamois cream before me.

This is a tough one for cyclists to wrap their brains around. Embro is something that I use year around and gives that extra layer of protection that clothing does not give you. Embro is a cream or paste that protects the skin from the elements. Rub it on your legs before a ride. The application acts as a pre-ride massage.  It stimulates the blood within the muscles, brings it to the surface of the skin and gives you an extra layer of warmth from the cold or rain. While you do not feel a "warming" affect when applied you will notice a lack of cold and a nice tingle when the sun hits your legs. Try it on your lower back and it will be a nice surprise when you are 3 hours in and just wishing that the ride would end. 

Castelli NanoFlex:

Bad photography? Yeah right! These arm warmers are so awesome they glow a angelic white light....

Available in leg, arm and knee warmers as well as jackets and tights it will protect your whole body from the wind and rain. NanoFlex is a breathable and stretchy material that is water resistant and wind proof, both elements that you cannot avoid when riding this time of year. The jackets have a nice tight fit and will not flap in the wind like other wind and rain jackets. All of the NanoFlex pieces are lightweight, breathable and well fitted so they will feel great whether doing a recovery ride or a 5 hour Classics race.

This stuff has some serious watershedding abilities.  Check out this video we made:


The Fins make some pretty great base layers

This is an absolute must for any cyclist. Worn under your kit and directly against your skin a good baselayer will keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I don't leave the house for a ride without one! A baselayer (which should fit like a second skin) transfers sweat from your body to the outer layer of clothing that you are wearing. In the winter this will keep you dry so you don't freeze on the decent or when the wind kicks up. In the summer it will pull the sweat from your body so the skin is not saturated. This will let your body continue to sweat, which is the body's natural AC.

Wool socks:

Swiftwick Merino Wool: Coming to a Cadence near you...or not near you--depending on where you live.

Buy them, wear them, live in them, love them!!!! This is the cheapest and easiest way to keep your feet warm in the questionable weather we have. I wear merino wool socks all year as they transfer sweat and breath really well in hot weather as well as cold and rainy conditions.

Cycling cap:

It is one of the simplest pieces in a cyclist clothing arsenal but can make the biggest difference. It will keep the heat in on cold days and the small brim will protect from rain and bugs lodging themselves in your eye. Even if you don't wear it, put it in your back pocket so when you stop for coffee and take off your helmet you don't look like a mad scientist. Helmet off, cycling cap on, sunglasses on top...look like a Pro whenever possible.”

So there you have it folks—straight from the hors…er, Luke’s mouth.  As a general guideline, versatility and adaptability is the name of the game for times like these.  Make sure your kit can be easily modified to fit any number of conditions.  Follow these rules, embrace your inner hardman, and you will be dropping people with your “motor in the seat-tube” cobbles skills in no time.  

Stay tuned next week for a look at the one piece of classics equipment that has been largely unchanged from the beginning of these brutal races—from Merckx to Boonen, this old school technology is still carrying our heroes to victory….


Does the comment button down here ↓↓↓↓ even work? I’m beginning to wonder.  Let me know what you think of this here blog, and I’d love to hear all of your suggestions on how to make it better…..well, maybe not all of them…just the good ones.  Send the bad ones to Luke’s email or something.   


  1. Nice start to a series...good photos, especially. I'd add that my light, packable, mesh-backed Castelli wind vest does wonders for me in those 40-going-to-60 degree days. And yes, the comment button does work.

    1. Good to know that the comment button is functioning. Castelli really has their transitional clothing dialed in. Their vests, long sleeve jerseys and jackets are all well worth the investment.

      Glad you are reading!