The last few days have been surprisingly cool. I'm clearly getting soft and like my Canadian passport, my tolerance for the cold has apparently expired. Staying warm is all about your head, core and knees. Your head because science and our mothers tell us that's where we lose heat most rapidly. The core because once you've lost that heat on a ride, either the sun comes out or you're miserable for the duration. And then there are our knees. This exposed complicated joint performs better when it's kept warm. The older I get the more temperamental my knees become.
This morning I opted for the Winter Hat over the my regular Rapha cap. As advertised it's plenty warm and fits comfortably under my Giro Ionos and Atmos helmets. I can't help thinking with the ear flaps down I look like I'm ready for duck hunting season, but they certainly work. I wondered if they'd compromise my hearing, but I didn't notice any difference picking up cars approaching from behind. When I'm in traffic I feel my hearing is as important as sight when it comes to staying safe.
This is a great hat if you've got a big head like mine. It has a fair bit of stretch. The merino wool, polyester, Elastane blend is itch free and dries quickly. Important if you're commuting and don't want to put on damp kit for the journey home.
The Softshell Gilet took care of my core. The moment it appeared on Rapha's site I knew this was going to a constant companion for the next few months. The Summer Gilet still sits on top of my favorite kit list, yet there have been many times I wished it was warmer. For my money and your money the Gilet family's versatility can't be beat. The two Gilets dramatically increase your layering possibilities. The winter Gilet won't fold up like it's temperate cousin, but the heavier construction won't flap around as much if it's kept partially zipped.
The generous rear pockets have the carrying capacity of a small suitcase without spoiling the clean lines of the tapered cut. If you've not managed to get your body fat down to single digits (and who has) then this is a flattering garment.
As for the knees... if you thought I was simply going to recommend Rapha's Knee Warmers, we're still a few degrees away from that inevitable selection. Instead I wanted to put in another good word for Mad Alchemy's Cold Weather Embrocation. I've tried a number of warming products (for the legs, for the legs) and this is far and away my favorite. The bespoke preparations are made in small batches from natural ingredients by proprietor Peter Smith. This morning I covered my legs from mid thigh to mid calve with the stuff. It has a rich, dark color not unlike the sauce you'd find in a good order of hot wings (and that might be the Mad secret) so I wouldn't recommend you wear anything white like Rapha's BKW Knee Warmers over it. You're completely safe with black however.