Tackling the Mistral - Why Windproof Matters
Wind and rain often work together, hitting you like a Madison pairing in full sling and with only taped rain jackets or beefy winter wear up to this challenge the humble windproof jacket can sometimes be left on the shelf. But what about those blustery days where the sun still beats down but cold starts and headwinds cut through summer kit? Windproof warmers, wind stopping base layers or a breathable, vented jacket or gilet can make the difference when cold winds roll in.
A visit to southern France after Xmas illustrated the need for such flexibility perfectly. Despite sun and steady weather coupled with bright blue skies, the infamous Mistral, a Mediterranean wind that blows through France to the Southern coast, had its claws out, forcing the local French riders to do their best Alpine explorer impressions when it came to layering up. Riding north into the piercing breeze was energy sapping whilst southerly rides zipped by with baffling efficiency. It is these conditions where astute, packable layers came in handy.
Too warm for taped seams or fleece lined jackets (not that the locals agreed) but cool enough to warrant the popular Windstopper or Windtex Fabrics which made battling the headwinds all the more bearable. Comparable to climbing, riding into headwinds means an easy gear and turning those pedals - a motion that can really get the temperature rising.
Pieces such as Craft's Windstopper Base Layers, Castelli Nanoflex arm and knee warmers and gilets and jackets from Cafe du Cycliste, Morvelo and Cadence blocked out the chill with their windproof fronts, whilst allowing heat to evaporate. Then, during more sheltered parts of the ride, these lightweight pieces were easily packable into rear jersey pockets, re-emerging when northern roads beckoned. With more and more riders sneaking away in the bleaker part of the year to sunnier, although perhaps not warmer climates, be sure to include lightweight, flexible windproof kit for the hidden chills that await.