Although I do like living in Tokyo, I’m incredibly thankful that I have somewhere as nice as North Yorkshire to call home as well. The views alone make coming back, even if it is just for a couple of days this time around, absolutely worthwhile. Washing a moody, mud-covered dog after a walk isn’t so great, mind.
Of course, having to stop to check where I am every five minutes is pretty annoying. I tried a few handlebar mounts to try and get over the problem but they were all horribly clunky and, frankly, useless.
Last week, however, I finally came across a simple iPhone case/mount combo from Topeak (above) that screws in to the stem and actually works.
Excellent. But there is a bit of a problem: the Topeak mount obscures the stem mount for my Garmin. So, Rather than mount the Garmin on the handlebars, I decided to get a very nifty mount from Tate Labs that places it in front of the stem. This actually puts it in a pretty much perfect position for reading while on the drops, and has been very stable so far.
Now all I need to do is haul my carcass out of bed tomorrow morning and head for the hills.
iPhone mount: Topeak Ridecase for iPhone 5 with stem mount.
Garmin mount: Tate Labs Barfly 1.1
If there’s one thing that ruins a winter bike ride, it’s having hands and feet like blocks of ice. Decent gloves, wool socks and overshoes certainly help, but there are days when even they aren’t enough. In Japan kairos, or pocket warmers, can be picked up pretty much anywhere. The best ones are the heated soles (top), which fit nicely inside my shoes, and the mini hand warmers (bottom), which I slip inside my gloves.
After an epic amount of snowfall in Tokyo on Monday (well, relatively speaking), and rather nippy temperatures expected for the next few days, now seems like a good time to review Rapha’s Winter Jersey, which came to me last month courtesy of our lad Santa.
The Winter Jersey is made from a more synthetic-rich blend of fabric than the Classic Jersey. It’s quite thick and brushed on the inside to help trap warmth. This and the windproofing – which I’ll get to later – makes it quite heavy, weighing in at 563g for the medium on my kitchen scales. You won’t really notice the weight that much when you’re wearing it, but it is noticeably bulkier and, size-wise, a fair bit larger, than other long-sleeve jerseys I’ve seen.
Rapha’s sizing guidelines state that a medium should fit those with a 93-99 cm (36.5-39 in) chest. However, if like me you have a large drop between chest and waist size (in my case, a 98 cm chest and 79 cm waist), you might want to size down, as the stomach area is generous. I guess the average Rapha buyer must be rather portly, as I have acres of free fabric around the midsection. In hindsight, I should have bought both the medium and the small to try on, as I’m pretty confident I would have fitted the small.
Windproofing has been achieved by sewing synthetic panels into the front. They do seem to do the job quite well, as the parts of the jersey that aren’t windproofed, such as the sleeves, feel much colder than the chest area when pedalling into a stiff breeze or embarking on a fast descent.
With a long-sleeve base layer or two underneath, I’ve found that the jersey is certainly warm enough for -2 to +8°C winter conditions. However, I’m talking about Tokyo winters here, which tend to be cold but sunny, dry and not all that windy. On overcast, windy days, I’ll usually start out with a wind jacket on top and take it off once I’ve warmed up.
When the temperature approaches 10°C on a sunny day, this jersey is pretty toasty. To help avoid overheating – and subsequent blowing of head gasket – Rapha has put in vents on the front, which can be opened and closed at will. When closed, they aren’t even noticeable, but when open they do help to funnel the wind into the chest area quite nicely.
My only gripe with the vents is that the zips are small and can be fiddly to use when wearing thick winter gloves. The same goes for the zip on the little key/cash pocket on the rear.
Speaking of pockets, instead of the usual three-pocket system on the rear, the Winter Jersey has two cavernous elasticated ones, a vast ring-pull-zipped one and the aforementioned key/cash one.
You could fit a camel (well, in this case, a bottle) into each of the elasticated pockets and have room to spare. Probably.
The ring-pull-zip pocket actually goes inside the jersey itself, meaning that anything you put inside it will sit very close to your body. Be careful when putting phones in here if you’re planning on riding so hard that you spew your brekky over the road, as it could well get drenched in sweat… and spew, if you’re not careful. (Top tip: put your phone in a small, re-sealable freezer bag. You can use the touchscreen through the plastic.)
The sleeves have plenty of length in them, which is always a useful property for sleeves to have, really.
The “Rapha band” on the left arm is reflective, and there is also a strip of reflective material on the back. For those of you who prefer even more reflective bits, the black jersey has a whacking great reflective Rapha logo across the back, as well. (Mind you, if you wanted to be more visible, you’d be unlikely to go for black in the first place.)
In conclusion, the Rapha Winter Jersey is nice and warm, and well-made enough to last for many winters. However, it is generous in terms of sizing, so if you can’t try it on in a shop then consider buying your normal size and a size smaller, and then returning whichever one doesn’t fit right.
The best wind jackets should be hard-wearing, packable, breathable and also able to fend off the occasional shower. Rapha’s Classic Wind Jacket does all of these things admirably.
The fabric has more of a matte finish than most polyester clothing. It’s not plastic-bag noisy when you move about, or when it’s unzipped and the wind catches it.
As you can see, it’s very thin. You would think that it would provide no warmth at all, but it manages to keep hot air in quite well without too much of that boil-in-the-bag feeling. I’ve worn it on chilly mornings (between 7-10°C), with a no-sleeve synthetic base layer, arm warmers and short-sleeve jersey and it was enough for me. When combined with a long-sleeve winter jersey, merino base layer and bib tights, I imagine that it would be fine for all but the very coldest winter days.
The jacket is easily pocketable should you get too hot wearing it.
The main zip is off-centre and sealed with a plastic covering. This helps to keep the wind out nicely.
The cuffs are elasticated and very snug. The sleeves are a good length, which means that they don’t ride up when you’re in the drops.
There is a small pocket on the front. It’s bordered by a reflective strip.
Speaking of reflective strips, two run down both sleeves.
There’s also a reflective Rapha logo on the penguin-like rear.
Even though this particular version is grey (it’s also available in pink-as-eff, navy and baby blue), all this reflective…ness makes it really stand out in car headlights.
The (raglan) sleeves are taped to stop both wind and rain getting in. The general consensus on its rain resistance seems to be that it’s good for a shower but not a torrential downpour.
In terms of fit, I’ve found the medium to be fairly generous, especially around the stomach and lower back. It provides plenty of room for base layers and thick jerseys in colder weather.
And finally, there is the price. Is it worth $260? At present it’s hard to say, but it seems well-made enough to last for several years. I’ll have to come back and re-review it in three or four years’ time. If I’m still wearing it then, then the answer would be “Yes”.