Road biking. Hmm. So long a source of conflicting emotions here at Pretty Gritty HQ…..
We actually used to be pretty into road biking a few years back. Climbing cols, drinking small coffees, pretending to be Italian….we were proud of our average cadence and stupid tan lines in those days.
But things change, and just like lycra and middle aged waistlines, horizons have a habit of expanding. All the caper that came with road biking – the punctures, the traffic, the peloton, the RULES - it all ended up feeling a little too claustrophobic and too prescribed.
Before too long we found ourselves falling out of love with the complexities of our skinny tyred relationship and straight into the reassuringly simple arms of mountain running. Rocky summits, dusty trails, Anton Krupicka’s chest – there was a lot to be said for this most glorious and basic of mountain sports. Yet as is the case with many intense love affairs, there were to be some ups and downs along the trail.
You see, running can be a cruel mistress at times, particularly when she waves her evil injury-inducing wand and leaves you with a chronic foot/ankle injury that puts you out of action for a year. But a very clever dude called Einstein once said ‘in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’ and so it has proven to be….
The ‘opportunity’ I’m referring to came knocking this summer in the form of a last minute invitation to join a group planning a 7 day road bike traverse of the Pyrenees. The route looked amazing – a week of cycling from Biarritz to Barcelona through stunning countryside and over epic mountain cols. As far as I could see, there was only one problem. It was a road biking trip.
I scoffed at the idea to begin with. “Road biking? Not for me merci, I’m a wild, craft beer drinking mountain runner thank you very much. I wear Salomon S-Labs, eat chia seeds and worship at the altar of Kilian Jornet.” This was so not my bag.
My robust and defiant resistance lasted for exactly 2 minutes and 28 seconds until I remembered that I couldn’t actually run and the raw need for adventure took over. With 7 days to go and zero training in the legs, I fell to the dark side and signed up. I mean, come on - it was just a road bike ride right? How hard could it really be?
Pretty bloody hard as it turned out.
As in, around 850km and 19,500m+ kind of hard. An average of around 120km and 2,800m+ a day. Every day. For 7 days. In the Pyrenees. In August. That’s pretty bloody hot and hard (stop it).
With a shockingly short lead up time till D-day, I knew I was expecting a lot of my body and would need all the help I could get to have any chance of lasting the course. So I did what every over ambitious and underprepared enthusiast out there does when faced with an epic challenge.
I got the best gear possible in the hope that people wouldn't notice I was a total numpty.
Enter POC – the design-led Swedish brand with a reputation for producing top quality, innovative and protective gear for cyclists, skiers and snowboarders.
With its clean lines, bright colours and futuristic designs, my POC gear would certainly dazzle everyone into thinking I was a good road cyclist but would it stand up to the task?
Here’s how it went down (and up) in the Pyrenees:
POC AVIP Women’s Light Jersey - Multicolour
The super feathery AVIP (Attention – Visibility – Interaction - Protection) Women's Light Jersey was the perfect choice for the hottest days in the Pyrenees.
The first day in the saddle was a proper scorcher with temps in the mid 30’s so I opted for the AVIP Light Jersey knowing that it was designed to meet these conditions head on. The ultra-breathable, mega wicking fabric of the AVIP Light (105g) definitely did its job as I didn’t overheat at any point throughout the day despite not being remotely acclimatized having spent the entire summer in rainy, cool Scotland.
Day 1 was long and it was definitely dusk by the time we rolled into the village where we were staying for the night. The light was fading so it was reassuring to know I was wearing a brightly coloured top designed with maximum visibility in mind.
The Nitty Gritty
Buy this jersey – if you’re facing a day in the furnace
If you buy this jersey – you may need to size up as the ‘race fit’ is definitely for the slimmest of racing snakes
Don’t buy this jersey – if you’re a low key individual. The AVIP technology is designed to attract attention.
POC Multi D Women’s Bib Shorts
Bib – contender for the least sexy word of all time. But then again, sexy and practical don’t often go together……unless you get super turned on by power tools that is.
Woah, how did we get here? Back to business…
Before we embarked on this summer’s Pyrenean ‘odyssey’ (perhaps a little over the top but it was pretty epic), we were bib virgins and proud of it. Something about the total weirdness of the whole all-in-one/swimsuit style had us kind of grossed out but a few days in the saddle with the POC Multi D Bibs for company and things have started to change.
The best thing about the Multi Ds is that they keep everything in place. There’s no drifting ever downwards of bad fitting shorts, no backdrafts or baggy arses, no constantly having to wriggle around on the seat trying to adjust your shorts when you really should be updating your Strava (sorry, we mean concentrating on where you’re going).
Optimised for performance, comfort and breathability, the Multi Ds are made from a warp knitted stretch fabric with compression properties designed to aid circulation and recovery. There’s also a pocket in the rear mesh, silicone leg grippers for secure fit, and reflective print on the back for improved visibility.
All very impressive but does it override the total pain of having to remove your shirt every time you need to go for a wazz? We’re not 100% sure but we can definitely see the merits so are willing to give them another shot…
The Nitty Gritty
Buy these bib shorts – if you value streamlined efficiency on the bike
If you buy these bib shorts – other cyclists will think you know what you’re doing. Normal people will think you look weird.
Don’t buy these bib shorts – if you need to pay frequent visits to the Porcelain Palace. Having to remove your shirt to go for a oui-oui is annoying at best and can leave you pretty exposed if you’re caught short on the roadside.
POC AVIP Women’s Short Sleeve Jersey – Navy Black/Hydrogen White
Weighing in at 139g, the AVIP Women's Short Sleeve Jersey may be over 30g heavier than the lighter version reviewed above but it’s still a super sleek and technical piece.
Everything about this jersey just feels really good – it’s soft against the skin, there’s zero restriction in terms of upper body movement and it’s super stylish. The 4 way stretch fabric used on the body of the AVIP SS offers a streamlined fit without feeling too tight and the 3D structure of the fabric used over the shoulders/back really does deliver exceptional freedom of movement.
Considering the demands of the numerous days we spent in the saddle, the AVIP SS Jersey stood up to the test remarkably well. When the temps hit the roof on the long mountain climbs, it wicked away like a good’un, and the under arm mesh fabric helped to keep us cool, dry and impressively stink-free.
When it comes to features, the AVIP SS is a well thought out bit of kit. In addition to the three rear storage pockets, the AVIP SS has a clever ‘My Info’ pocket for personal info/ID/cash.
The Nitty Gritty
Buy this jersey – if you like clean lines, blocky design and bold style.
If you buy this jersey – make sure you go canny with the suncream application as the white fabric can stain.
Don’t buy this jersey – if you’re into pastels, florals, wimpy handshakes and pink puppies.
POC Fondo Women’s Short Tights
POC’s Fondo collection is designed for ‘adventure…a passion for road cycling and a love for the ride.’ Translation? It’s less about competition and racing and more about going for long rides with mates. Perfect – that sounds like us.
Buying road biking shorts can be a stressful business. Getting the right leg length, fit around the waist, avoiding baggy butts and finding a chamois that actually protects your lady bits can be harder than clocking up a casual 100k on your trusty steed.
There’s a whole load of criteria involved when it comes to buying road biking shorts and most of it really does comes down to individual preference so you simply have to try before you buy. Personally I found the Fondo Women's Shorts to satisfy almost everything I look for in a cycling short.
They’re long enough to keep things looking reasonably streamlined in the thigh area, they come up high enough around the back and the waist without feeling restrictive, and most importantly, the seamless chamois is uber-comfortable and well ventilated.
We cycled 850km over 7 days with some days involving over 10 hours in the saddle and experienced zero saddle sore when we wore the Fondos. Say no more.
The Nitty Gritty
Buy these shorts – if you’re not into Bibs but are looking for a comfortable yet technical cycling short
If you buy these shorts – make sure you get the sizing right. We’re a UK 8/10 and found the Medium a little too big at the back.
Don’t buy these shorts – if saving weight is your ultimate priority. At 180g, the Fondo Shorts are 20g heavier than POC’s other pair of women’s specific shorts - the Multi D shorts.
If you're looking for further gear or route information from our Biarritz to Barcelona adventure then get in touch via the Comments box below.
It was such a great trip that we're keen to chat about it as much as we can!