I’ve seen a lot of things in bike shops. I’ve seen a TV on a cart in front of an easy chair. I’ve seen ashtrays with burning cigarettes. I’ve seen a field of trainers set up for winter survival. I’ve seen bikes so rare that I couldn’t imagine what they were doing in that backwater bottle and tube dispensary.
You know what I’ve never seen in a bike shop? A set of thermal bibs. Never.
At a certain point you have to either shut up about your secret weapon, or you have to go into distribution. RKP was never about exclusion, so I’m going to hit this note again mere weeks after my last review of thermal bibs.
El Niño is hammering Northern California with rain. I rode by a house a week ago that has a collapsing retaining wall due to all the rainfall. Add to that rain the fact that the warmest it gets is into the mid-50s. Compared to the Twin Cities, we’ve got it good, I admit, but riding in snow is different than riding in rain. Cold water goes through you, to quote George Patton, “like flack through a goose.”
The thermal bib is the only sane solution. My go-to is still a pair of thermal bibs combined with a medium embro from Mad Alchemy. Whether you have fenders or not, it’s hard to stay dry on a wet day and nothing does more to keep me comfortable than having thermal bibs on.
The Rapha Classic Thermal Bib Shorts go for $215, a bit less than the offerings from some of their competitors and given the easy availability of their gear thanks to their online store, you don’t have to call every retailer in four counties to see if someone has them or is willing to order them. Availability is its own selling point.
The Superroubaix material is a bit heavier than some roubaix fabrics I’ve encountered, and is used throughout the short and even in the front of the bibs half way up the chest to offer that extra bit of warmth. There’s a small key pocket in back; while I’ve not elected to put anything in it, the pocket is also cut from Superroubaix, so it adds a small second layer of insulation at the small of your back. No downsides.
The back of the bibs feature two reflective tags to increase visibility. Silicone leg grippers encircle the entire cuff. It’s handy when you’re running leg or knee warmers, but for the wet days, when I prefer embro, the grippers aren’t so effective on that creamy shininess. Not their fault; nothing works on that.
Compared to other Rapha bibs I have, the pad in these features a slightly less dense foam; it’s a bit squishier, to use a technical term. The upshot is that I’ve noticed that these seem to have a touch more stretch and give, making them a bit more comfortable than the other Rapha bibs I wear. Considering the thermal bib landscape, these are the best overall value out there.
Riding three or more hours in cold rain is a variety of commitment that is difficult to explain. The endeavor seems less crazy, foolhardy, if you neutralize the elements. Doesn’t make the explanation any easier, though; trust me.
Final thought: Body-hugging thermostat.