The Shield In Your Pocket

The Shield In Your Pocket

Gilet

/ˈʒɪleɪ,ˈʒiːleɪ/

noun

A light sleeveless padded jacket.

All of us bike riders will know what I mean when I talk about the inner monologue. It’s part of the experience. I think it’s why many of us do it, cycling gives us time to gather our thoughts and think differently – sometimes the best conversations happen in our head. It’s the same reason we dream; it’s a clearing system for our brain.

That’s not all we do, we set ourselves little challenges while we ride, not just sign-post racing, more often these days it’s about hitting numbers or accomplishing micro goals that allow us to breakdown the macro challenge we’ve set ourselves. I have a long list of these, today I want to share one in particular, and it happened over the top of climbs.

 

“Tour de Romandie, it was the wettest race I’d ever been in."

 

"It wasn’t normally like that; we got a bad year. We’d wake up in the morning and know it was bad, the curtains were closed yet the light was dim and the weather obvious. Our tech wasn’t that good back then, compared to today, we didn’t have many options to choose from. I decided to race quite hard one day, the joy of stage racing is that we can pick and choose what day we chase. I started with a rain jacket; I had my gilet in the pocket of my race jersey under the jacket. About halfway through the stage I took off my jacket and gave it to a team mate to take back to the car, I was entering go-time mode. Over the top of the final climb, we had a long enough descent to freeze, I knew if I didn’t get the gilet on I’d freeze and be useless in the final. As we went over the top I sat up, I reached behind and pulled out my pocket shield, I can remember to this day how important it was that I got it on before the rapidly approaching corner, I remember having the zip connect less than a second before my last braking moment. The relief...”

  

This is why we made the Pocket Shield, what’s commonly known by its French name, gilet, in the cycling dictionary: what non-cyclists call a vest. Yet it’s so much more than that, it’s the piece of clothing we’re taught as novices never to leave the house without. It is designed to live in your back pocket, each of us has our own style of folding, for some it’s folding, others it’s rolling, occasionally it’s a folding x rolling combo, maybe it’s just the panic crunch and smash into the pocket.

 

 

Like everything in cycling we each find our own style.

 

 

I was a folder x roller, I was also a be-prepared type of rider/racer. I liked to have everything in order. It wasn’t just about having the right tools for the job, more importantly it was about knowing how to use them at the right time. This may sound crazy, yet one of the trickiest challenges in a bike race is effortlessly taking on-and-off a gilet/vest under extremely stressful situations, mostly over the top of climbs when you switched from an over-threshold-cooking-up-effort at slow speed to high-speed-low-effort meaning your body was slowing down as your velocity increased and the temperature plummeted. You had to protect yourself from the elements. There is a process:

  • About 50-100m from the summit of the climb sit up and reach into your back pocket.
  • Pull out the Pocket Shield.
  • Feel and watch it unfurl like an opening parachute.
  • Get one arm through.
  • Get the second arm through.
  • Zip it up.
  • Hands back on the handlebars

 

Sounds pretty simple, it’s not. More often than not you’re tired and the conditions are not conducive to relaxed stress-free-straight-line riding, and as you go over the top you pick up speed exponentially while heading towards the first of many corners. In a bike race you were surrounded by others enduring the same stress. No picnic. And here was born my personal challenge: connecting the zip before the first need for braking, because if the zip wasn’t zipping by then I knew it wouldn’t get easier to do it up.

Every training ride I’d practice putting the Pocket Shield on as I went over the top and would stress test myself to get it done up as quickly as possible. This often meant near crashing as sometimes the first corner was approaching so fast it seemed impossible I’d make the connection, yet it didn’t stop me, and I’ll admit they were some of my scariest moments on training rides, seeing how late I could get my hands back on the bars and in contact with the brake levers at which moment massive late breaking would happen and with it a rush of adrenalin that would serve as a bonus for over-coming the fatigue and entering into descending mode.

It was maybe over the top to take it to that extreme, yet it’s necessary. For this reason the CHPT3 Pocket Shield uses Pertex Quantum Air fabric. It is designed for alpinists, those individuals who choose to climb the highest mountains. We figured cyclists deserve the best.

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