On the whole, the summer was great. We had long, light days, beautiful sunshine and were spoilt in opportunities to get out on the road. That said, there is always something quite exciting about watching the first leaf fall to the ground as autumn rolls around again. Fresher mornings and cooler air bring a different dynamic to a ride with the promise of a new start, new cycling goals and new perspectives.
Last weekend I experienced all these emotions as I road-tested the new dhb Autumn/Winter Classic collection on the Wiggle South Downs Sportive, the first autumn ride of the year and a great way to kick off a new season.
It was the first morning in a long time where I actually felt like I would need to pull on more than just a jersey and a pair of shorts. Although this signalled the onset of winter (and no doubt I will moaning about the cold in a few months), I was excited at the prospect of layering up.
Ride Test: dhb's 2016 Autumn/Winter Kit
I tried out dhb’s new Classic jersey, and their Aeron women's halterneck bib tights – complete with matching accessories in true jaunty cyclist style.
This Classic collection, from whence the jersey came, pays tribute to cycling’s proud heritage with an introduction of marl effect Roubaix-fabrics as well as the classic chest stripe. You could say it's nostalgic with a modern twist woven into it. The greeny-grey colourways seemed to tone well with the autumn theme on this ride through the south Downs. It looked understated but confident and the soft grey of the jersey sat well in contrast to the black bibs.
I was particularly impressed with the bibs. I am someone that normally steers clear of them, especially in the winter when the thought of stripping off to go to the loo fills me with abject terror. What I hadn’t realised about this pair was that there is a handy halter neck contraption as opposed to the typical shoulder straps. This enables you to pull your shorts down without having totally strip off - thanks to the elastic quality of the halter strap. This has been available across dhb’s shorts for some time, and is a favourite feature at TWC Towers, but it’s the first time the brand has made it available in a bib tight. The bib upper means the chamois stays put and doesn’t wiggle around when you ride – as might be the case in waist tights - which was a welcome result over the 70 miles.
The Ride: Wiggle South Downs Sportive
The start line of the Wiggle sportive was at Chichester College, a mere stone’s throw from the station which was convenient for those of us who weren’t local to the West Sussex roads. I opted for the 70 mile ‘standard’ course out of a choice of three that included a 40 mile and 100 mile option. With around 4,500 ft. of climbing I thought this was more than acceptable and was mainly concerned with enjoying myself and the surroundings.
It didn’t take us long to reach the rolling countryside of the stunning South Downs with a few little bumps to get the heart rate up and burn off the morning chill. It was definitely a ride for arm and leg warmers to take the edge off, particularly on the descents as the wind rattled through my ears.
The first feed stop came at 36 miles and I gorged on salty crisps and fig rolls. There was something quite ‘old-skool’ and quaint about the vibe at the stops. They were a down-to-earth affair with no pretension, just a group of riders at varying levels of experience out for a solid Sunday ride. I chatted to a woman who had ridden the entire series of Wiggle road sportives this year and was looking forward to completing her last one in Exmouth this weekend.
There were a couple of scenic highlights for me on this ride. The route took us through a patch of thick woodland through Midhurst with imposing polka straight trees that loomed above a rolling path that was a sight for my sore city eyes. By this point the clouds had cleared and made way for an electric blue sky to backdrop the forest and it was one of those ‘ride moments’ when all your worries disappear.
It was one of those ‘ride moments’ when all your worries disappear
There was also a noteworthy climb, the punchy Butser Hill that is apparently a bit of an icon in the South Downs. Wiggle actually close the road and time this segment and also bring a cheering squad in fancy dress to power you through.
When you see a Telly Tubby, Darth Vader and Elvis waving you up, you certainly forget the lactic in your legs.
The classic jersey proved its breathability at this point too as the autumn sun and the gradient made for a sweaty combination.
It was all downhill from Butser and a speedy flat brought me back to Chichester College to collect my sportive medal brimming with the afterglow of feeling the first blast of autumn air.
Later, on the train back to London as I uploaded my achievements to Strava, I marvelled at the maple leaf pattern the route had taken us. I had created my first ‘Strava art’ and with an apt symbol to represent the falling leaves, the end of the summer season and the start of a new chapter.
TWC has a full run down of the new dhb items for autumn and winter here.