After pondering over whether to buy some new Ortlieb panniers (see previous post), my mind remained focussed on the general theme of ‘equipment’. I really need to set some kind of budget for getting hold of what I need to buy. After having cycled across Europe twice already, I have most of what I need in place (bike, accessories, tent, camping equipment etc…) and panniers apart, I have no intention of replacing the stuff that served me well when I cycled to the southern tip of Italy and then from Greece to Portugal along the Mediterranean coast. But this third European crossing is slightly different to the others in that it will be starting in April, albeit April in Spain, and finishing in late summer in northern Norway. Up until my arrival in Oslo, I can’t imagine that Mother Nature can throw at me anything that I haven’t become accustomed to already, especially back in 2010 when August – the month during which I had chosen to cycle to Italy – was the wettest on record in western Europe. The final country on my 2015 itinerary does concern me however. Here is the historic weather record for the town of Bodo which is roughly two-thirds of my way through Norway to Nordkapp, my final destination.
The average high temperature in July is 16 degrees, the average low is 12. For the sake of comparison, the average high in London in July is around 24 degrees, the average low is 16. So although it won’t get drastically cooler than London, is will be drastically less hot if that makes sense. The precipitation is interesting; 92 mm on average in Bodo compared to just 45 mm in London in July. The upshot of all this is that I need to be prepared to experience longer periods of cooler weather than I would back at home and expect twice as much rain.
Looking at the trip as a whole, I need to be prepared to layer my clothing; fewer layers when it’s warmer, more layers when it gets chilly. But rain is rain. Whether it’s hot or cold, it’s always just as wet. Now let me first say that as an experienced cyclist I know that getting wet on a bike is just one of those occupational hazards that you need to get used to. If you can’t get used to it, you’d be better off driving. But cycling and rain is not so simply. Keeping rain off your skin when cycling is done not so much to stop you getting uncomfortably wet around the edges (that will probably eventually happen) but more to keep the skin as dry as is reasonably possible. On a cool day (such as those in Norway in July?) dampness on the skin leads to evaporation of the water. In order to evaporate, energy is needed and, as the sunshine is not there in abundance, it is taken primarily from the body of the cyclist leading to rapid cooling of the skin and the person underneath. So it makes sense to have a good rain jacket. If you are cycling to work, any decent jacket will do. The chances are you’ll be able to sit on a radiator at work in half an hour or so (I write from experience). That won’t be the case in the northern Norway where if I do get wet I could potentially be in a tricky position getting warm again. What I need is a very good quality rain jacket that is relatively lightweight, is very breathable, is just as useful in spring in Spain and in the heat of summer in France and Germany and works as a cycling jacket should allowing me full movement of the things that need to be moved. I think I may have found it in the shape of the shape of the Mountain Equipment Firefox Jacket.
I walked down to Cotswold Leisure in Reading earlier this afternoon to see if I could find anything suitable. I tried on a few of the jackets they had on display but as soon as I did I felt more of a walker than a cyclist. Then I tried on the Mountain Equipment jackets (fear not, they are not paying me to write this or indeed giving me a jacket although if they do, I won’t turn it down…). I could immediately imagine myself on a bicycle in Norway. There was little restriction of movement, the back of the jacket was slightly extended just as tends to be the case with cycling jackets, the material was long in the arms so extending the arm itself didn’t lead to the wrists being exposed and the cuffs were broad to allow a substantial glove to be worn if needed. The three styles that were in stock were the Aeon jacket (£170), the Firefox jacket (£250) and the Changabang jacket (brace yourself… £400). Let’s discount the latter option – it was a little too heavy duty for the valleys of Norway – but the other two were definite possibilities. The Firefox was, according to the excellent Cotswold salesman, significantly more breathable and decidedly more protective against the rain… I think I was being convinced. Time for a little video from Richard Talbot, product manager of Mountain Equipment. I’m afraid there are no 1960s Batman-style ‘pows’ etc… in this video (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go back and read the earlier post about the Ortlieb pannier bags) and Richard does that annoying Channel 4 thing of not looking at the camera when he’s speaking but I’ll forgive him, shut up and let him speak. Over to you Richard:
Did you hear that? He described it as their “lightest, most packable, and most breathable waterproof jacket“. I think I may just have found the answer to my waterproof jacket problem. I’m also quite taken by the green.
Now, back to the budget that I mentioned earlier. I have set myself a maximum spend of £1,000 to purchase anything I need that I don’t currently have. The panniers will set me back £200 and this jacket another £250 leaving £550 for all the other layers. I shall not be a happy man if when I start cycling north of Oslo I experience the driest and hottest July on record (although it will give me something to write about in the book…).