James Spender

9 Dec 2022

Kit to keep you warm and dry, plus David Attenborough and festive baking

You say ‘Friday’, and I say ‘Hello. Hello, hello’. I don’t know why you say ‘Friday’, I say ‘Hello. Hello, hello.’ Only joking! I know why you’re saying Friday… it’s because it is!

Incidentally, did you know Paul McCartney was disqualified from the London Marathon this year? He was banned on the run. Zing. Right, on to the news. (Funny, isn’t it, that it’s called the news cos it’s all the new bits. Not the nows and definitely not the thens.)

This week I have been mostly reviewing the 1816 L’Enfer du Nord, a gravel bike from the founder of Ashmei clothing with the biggest gearing you will ever see on a dropbar bike. I also test-rode the Mason Definition, a really rather lovely all-road bike that reminds us all why aluminium is not dead, and why we are lucky to be alive.

I’m not sure what’s going on at Campagnolo, but the brand just released a 24K gold-plated version of its World’s Biggest Corkscrew corkscrew and you’ll need to click through (no, not yet for Heaven’s sake) to see how much it costs. I have a regular one though and it is exceptional at opening wine, and equally brilliant at making dinner guests think you’re a proverbial (this is a family friendly site).

However, by a country mile, my fave story of the week has been Cyclist writer Charlotte Head’s piece on a gorgeous steel Mercian that has been drilled out to within an inch of its barrel adjusters to achieve an incredible sub-7kg weight. It’s my kind of project – old school, obsessive, and beautifully pointless. All the things my In the Drops picks this week are not.


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Gore Sleet Insulated overshoes

These overshoes comprise a Gore-Tex membrane and what Gore says is 90% recycled polyester filler, which sort of makes these guys like little waterproof puffer jackets for your feet.

As such they are as warm (maybe even warmer) and slightly lighter than traditional thermal overshoes made from things like neoprene. ‘Why do my overshoes need to be light?’, you crow. Well a wise man from motorsport once told me a 20g weight on the outside of a Formula 1 wheel driven at top speed has a rotating weight of 200kg. 

Now I write that I’m not even sure if ‘rotating weight’ is an actual thing in physics, but it sounded good and it got the point across that even light things, when spinning, need to be accounted for. And what’s spinning more than my feet when wearing the Sleet overshoes?

So happy am I that they weigh 120g. But more happy am I at how warm they are. Dry is another thing altogether – there is no such thing as an overshoe that will keep one’s tootsies entirely dry. Too many entry points like cleat holes and cuffs. Still, being waterproof Gore-Tex, these do the best job they can.

• Buy now from Gore (£99.99)

Chrome Industries Storm 415 boots

I’m seriously impressed with the Storms. It’s been raining loads round my way, and while it’s good for ducks it’s insanely annoying for commuters. I have mudguards and they help a lot, but when it really rains in that standing-surface-water, wheels-making-rooster-tails way, my little feet get a soaking. Can’t be helped.

So I have a choice: One, suck it up; two, take a spare set of shoes; three, flipflops. Now flipflops do me proud quite often, but I can’t recommend them to anyone in the event of a crash. Can you imagine? Spine shivers. Plus it’s too cold. And now aged 38, I’m too old to suck it up, and I’ve had my fair share of athlete’s foot from damp shoes (if you’ve never had this it means you are not an athlete, soz).

So it’s spare shoes then? Not so fast! Because the Chrome Storm 415 boots are genuinely waterproof. Like actually waterproof. Partly that’s because the uppers are leather, and cows are waterproof, but mainly it’s because the Storms also have a waterproof membrane, and membranes are waterproof.

The sole is made by Panaracer, and Panaracer makes bike tyres so obviously it would make good bike shoe soles, and indeed it does – grippy, flexible yet thick enough so I can’t really feel my road bike pedals through them (which they aren’t designed for of course, but who changes their pedals to flats and who isn’t commuting on a road bike?).

The laces are reflective, and you get two sets, red and black, and though the Storms look pretty hefty, they don’t feel clumpy to wear. On that note, sizes run large so I’d recommend going down a half size to get your regular fit.

As I say, though, early testing is good; these have become my go-to waterproof commuter shoes that I’d be happy to wear just anyway, and indeed, I do. Hence the dirty soles and creases. That’s the other thing, I reckon these will age rather nicely.

• Buy now from Chrome Industries (£158)

Assos Johdah Winter Jacket S9 Targa

You might remember the original Johdah (pronounced yoda, obvs) which came in at £575 and enabled the full Assos Equipe RS winter outfit (top, tights, baselayer, rain jacket) to cost £1,265. Yes, that is correct. You can make your owns minds up.

This winter Assos has revised the Johdah, kept it in line with inflation and given it a few new features, dropped one or two others and retained most, and awarded it ‘S9 Targa’ status, which isn’t a kind of 1980s antique dealer’s Porsche, but rather denotes the top of Assos’s apparel tree. 

I’ll test the Johdah and a few extra matching bits here in due course, but for now, fear me in the knowledge I will soon be riding in a jacket that has shoulder valves (they will suck air in to keep me cool, you see). The Johdah also has a mini built-in baselayer a bit like a Castelli Alpha ROS jacket, only mini-er. Almost like a bolero.

Anyway, all the reviews I’ve read of the previous Johdah are pretty glowing, so though I jest, I’m very much looking forward to giving this one a go.

• Buy soon from Assos (£610)

Hi-vis reflective elasticated bands

This week I also received these guys from my dear mother, along with some really excellently festive treats (see below). There are many like them – dozens of versions out there – but they all pretty much do the same thing and cost little more than a fiver for two.

They are brilliant, because winter kit is notoriously dark and so is winter itself, and these little hi-vis bands can strap anywhere to brighten you up like a Christmas tree when headlights hit you.

I tend to go for the right arm and right ankle to give myself some width to cars, but you can put them wherever you like and wear as many as you want. Any vicars out there might want to give them a go round the neck for night preaching. They also (I think) look kinda cool against a black jersey or tights, which is almost as important as being safe.

• Buy now from Amazon (£5+)



What we’re into this week: David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020)

Image: Netflix

So I am very late to the party on this one as Sir David made this documentary in 2020 and it’s currently on Netflix, but basically A Life on Our Planet should be compulsory viewing. Partly as a young Dave with clipped English accent and exposed knees looking at orangutans is one of television’s greatest achievements, but mostly because this paints a warts-and-all picture of where we’re at with climate change and where we’re headed.

Given that this week our great leaders decided we should open a coal mine*, it seems more relevant than ever that we watch things like this and keep talking.

(*Which, it’s alleged, will serve us coking coal, used for smelting in steel production and which is very necessary. Only hang on, 83% will be exported; the coal’s purity is allegedly not good enough – too high in sulphur – for steel smelting operations to want it in this country; and other countries already use electricity to smelt, which is generated by sustainable sources. What. Are. We. Doing.)

• Watch on Netflix if you have a subscription

What we’re also into this week: Mince pies 

And to end on a more cheerful note: this week, as she does this time each year, my mother went into mince pie baking overdrive. In fact, the element in her oven blew because of it, but happily not before I could pick up some of these. Thanks dear! And a Merry Christmas to one and all if I don’t see you before then.

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