Pro Vis Reflect 360 Jacket Review

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My new cycling jacket is completely, completely reflective, which means it’s a bit like wearing a disco ball. As shining any light on the jacket makes it glow it means its easy to perceive me as a person, my shape and outline are clear, as is my direction of travel. I’ve been wearing this on my commutes for a while now and it’s interesting to see the slight difference it makes. I am so much more visible, and look so different I do find cars give me a bit more room and leave space for me at the advanced stop space in front of lights. Friday was the real test of the jacket. It was pissing down buckets of rain. This usually means that drivers have diminished vision and leave you less room. This time, I found I was left lots of room and I felt safer than I have done in such wet conditions. However, on the last hill climb near home, a driver in a silver sports car drove way too close to me, frighteningly close, and just stared at me out through the passenger window to get a good look–maybe he was fascinated by the jacket? Drive on, mister, keep your eyes on the road and not on me!

This new jacket is really great. The cut is slightly more fitted and less boxy than my Altura hi-viz jacket. It’s a flattering cut but can go over the top of layers too. The arms are cut long with the hand holes tapered so you get more cover on the top of your hand. The front zip is enclosed in a black rubber and I found on the rainy ride, it’s completely waterproof. Two breast pockets are a great idea at the front, and there’s an inside pocket on the left too. There’s a large zipped pocket at the back with a flap over the zip. Also at the back is a large vent, and a long dropped bottom.  There’s two large zips underneath each arm for more ventilation too. The shape, cut and pockets makes this perfect for commuting where you want your keys, phone and money in easy reach. It looks good on too–it’s obviously a cycling jacket, but I do feel I look cooler than I did in my hi viz jacket.

Wearing the jacket in the rain I expected the water to leak through, I did feel a bit moist in it and quite warm. As I unzipped the jacket, I was surprised at how dry I was from the rain–the moist feeling was mainly from my heat and sweat! My shorts were soaking and  water did come in through my shorts they were so drenched. My shoulders, back and top of my chest were surprising dry though. From my other rides I notice, the jacket is great at keeping me warm, windproof, and rainproof. It can feel hot and sweating and is not as breathable as wearing Goretex. However, I am impressed with the jacket, it’s well made and well cut and makes me more visible than anything else and that’s why I’m wearing it. It’s a really impressive all-round commuter jacket.

To balance this review out, it’s worth mentioning that a friend of mine warned me against the jacket. He said that he’d read on a range of cycling forums that being too visible is a magnet for cars. I don’t buy that rationale myself–I think it’s a good thing to be visible–why do we have to have lights on our bikes after all? And lights can be misleading when you see dots of light in isolation. I thought I’d jot down my friends warning as that seems to be what happened with the silver sports car that got too close. That was one response to the jacket when the rest of the rainy ride home I reaped the benefit from being so visible.

Here’s the link to Proviz jackets and products. I notice that they also have more elite cycling products, for the days when you want to ride far and don’t want that boil-in-the bag feeling.

 

Peaty’s Steel City Downhill

Today I went to watch Steel City Downhill races in Grena woods. This is Steve Peat (Peaty’s) local event that is fast becoming an institution here. It was amazing to see the crowds and support. Of course, it was great to see the racing–first we were by the end, the bomb hole, and we could here the announcers naming each rider and their place etc. That was good, but we had a limited view really. It was totally freezing and I bought a 50to01 woolly hat–that I have to share with Jedi as there was a confusion of who owns it (I bought it with his money).
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We relocated to further up the track, to the Hecklers Corner, but the gap-jump.
As we watched the boys and men come down, those that took the chicken line, not the jump were jeered and heckled. The crowd were supportive of all the women regardless of whether they jumped. One woman rider came down and all the way there were people shouting ‘come on Pat!’, there was so much love for her. I glimpsed someone’s running order and saw it was Pat Horscroft, granny mcgnarly. I remember seeing Peaty talk about her on a TV interview when Lady Cannings Plantation trail opened last year. I think she’s in her 60s. I was bowled over by her–it takes a lot of guts to ride in front of that size crowd. And seeing her cemented my dream to one day take part in the event.

Later, we saw one woman, a professional, I think, come off line after the gap jump. She sort of whiplashed her head before crashing it down. She curled into a ball on the track until help came along from the Mountain Rescue service. It was very swiftly done but nail-biting to watch, I hope she’s ok.

The day was full of so much love for mountain-biking and enthusiasm from the crowds, it felt really good to be there.

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Mother Clucker!

I love biking, and I love reading blogs and magazines on all kinds of cycling. I love seeing how friends who got into riding are growing and developing. Some are turning their hobbies into business ideas, others are entering races.

Initially I lost weight through riding bikes–though I do not know how much because my policy is I never, ever weigh myself. All those forms of self-surveillance are so toxic for me. I actively work on loving my body, I see this as personally and politically important. If you want to be free, happy and feel like an agent of your own life, I see it as key to rid yourself of negative beliefs about your body. This is not an easy commitment given our cultural preference to performatively vilify our own bodies. Even at my yoga teacher training, a woman there is always saying negative things about her body. So it’s with a mix of respect and a touch of caution I observe intense training regimes and shifts in diet. I know that for now, that’s not the approach I wish to cultivate in riding my bike. Not because it’s wrong in any way, but that what I want riding to do for me, is different.

And I remembered what it was that mountain biking does for me.

We went to Sherwood Pines for a ride. I’m still unfit which means the relatively flat Sherwood Pines is ideal, and we went for a 30 mile ride, doing the red trail three times. I did put Strava on to have a look at if I improved each time round, and will Strava my commutes coming up to. I have an ambivalent relationship with the app as you can tell–but it does provide motivation to pedal when you know you are being watched by it.

Anyway, on the red trail is brief rocky descent, just a rocky drop really, and to warn people unfamiliar with riding that it’s coming up, and if they are not used to rocks, they should take the alternate route there’s a sign with a skull and crossbones. Well, that sign has been a psychological barrier for me. I think this was a forth time at Sherwood Pines and each time I took the alternate route. Even after Jedi made me watch him do it multiple times on our first visit, him explaining to me that it’s nothing worse than I’ve ridden already. This trip, on the second spin around, Jedi just told me to do it, and I did it! I couldn’t believe it! The elation of doing something you’ve dodged, you’ve created a psychological limiting belief about it immense. As soon as I got down it, I started to shout out my expletive of choice ‘Mother-‘ and seeing there were children and families in the vicinity ‘-clucker!’

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Me celebrating with a cup of tea and flapjack.

Panic and Riding

2016-02-07 09.29.38Last Sunday I spent the day in A&E. I couldn’t breathe and this was very, very, very distressing and I thought I was dying. Turns out it was panic. This is difficult for me to get my head around–apparently anxiety is repressed emotion and that feels resonant. I can’t fully access what it is that has triggered this, though friends are suggesting plausible scenarios.

I’ve taken the week gently, and will continue to do so. The feeling of struggling to breathe hasn’t gone, nor the feeling of being broken in some way. (I know, who’d write about being broken on a biking blog? Oh… yes, that would be me).

IMG_20160214_124803A very badly sprained ankle has stopped me from riding since November. It’s time to get on my bike and ride, to find out if I am still alive. So, off me and Jedi go to the Tissington Trail. We thought, that’s nice and flat, be a nice way to ease back in to ride.

 

2016-02-14 12.56.122016-02-14 12.56.17 It was bloody freezing. As in, it started to snow at one point. It was lovely though. We rode 13 miles away from the car park, we both just rode and rode without stopping–both feeling the cold.

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We were testing out some new clothing layers to see how warm they were, turns out they were not up to today’s 0 degrees. At 13 miles we stopped, we both mentioned we were too cold to enjoy ourselves, and seeing a sign for The Old Dog, a nearby pub we went and found something to warm us up–a cup of tea and some soup. Lovely!
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We loved the pub, and filled with soup we braved the return journey. I’m so unfit I was slow, but I didn’t stop in an effort to keep warm (it didn’t work!). Crucially, I did it. I rode 26 miles when, psychologically at least, I wasn’t sure if I was dying. Jedi said, if you can ride in conditions, you can ride. And yet again, through being on my bike, I find myself again.

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Guess Who Fell of Her Bike? (Me!)

That’s right. I was on my way to work, to lecture actually. I was cutting it fine on time, and on the path into the woods, which is a mud bath at present, I thought, good idea not to break, I’ll carry the speed as I normally do. Turns out that was a bad idea. I stacked it pretty well, and the peak of my helmet prevented me from doing and entire face plant. Ah well, lessons learnt etc.