Craft Performance Bike Tour Jersey

When I received this lovely, white, short-sleeved and well-vented cycling jersey from ProBikeKit to review in the middle of winter I wondered how I was going to manage to do a proper job of it. A big ride would be the best way to test it I thought, and luckily I had one planned.

Unfortunately the ‘big ride’ in question was the Strathpuffer 24 hour race, so to be honest I was worried about how well the jersey would cope both during and afterwards….


The race is sufficiently cold to warrant wearing a jacket for the duration but I didn’t need a base layer this time as the temperature was unseasonably mild.

The jersey in question is made by Craft, so I expected it to be a quality item. I’ve got a lot of Craft gear already and it’s all very, very good.

The Craft “Performance Bike Tour” jersey looks like a fairly-standard, snug-fitting cycling top with a few nice touches. The sleeves are cut at a slight angle so that the ‘outside’ doesn’t ride up and look like a sleeveless top (or one that’s just too small). There’s a nicely-placed mesh vent at the back of the neck – just where you want one in warm weather in fact.


There are the usual three pockets at the rear but one of them has a zip – so there’s somewhere to stash your keys and cake money.

There’s a full-length zip. I like full-length zips. I’m off for a ride somewhere hot and sunny in a few weeks so I’ll use the full-length zip quite a lot then.

So, I wore it at the Strathpuffer. For 24 hours I wore it. It didn’t chafe or rub or start to cause any unnecessary discomfort. I carried a tool, gels and some other stuff in the pockets and it didn’t get stretched. It was subjected to 24 hours’ worth of my sweat and toil. It got splashed with filthy mud a fair bit in the parts that were showing from under my jacket and then after all that it was dumped for hours and hours in a washing bag in the back of the van.

When I put it in the washing machine at 40 degrees with all the other almost-ruined kit I feared the worst. I thought that that lovely white top would be a murky beige colour from now on but surprisingly, it’s as good as new.


ProBikeKit USA:

ProBikeKit Australia:

Strathpuffer 2014

The start of the Strathpuffer this time was unusual. It was unusual because nobody was slipping on the ice onto their backside during the run at the start. It was unusual because whilst it was cold, it wasn’t really cold like it should be. It was also unusual (for me at least) in that the pace in the first few laps was very high. So high in fact that I could actually taste blood in my throat during the first lap. I expect to taste blood in the first couple of laps of a cyclocross race, but in a 24 hour race? Crackers.

Keith Forsyth was off in front and was caning it. I was keeping up with him, just. I was riding a singlespeed again – I did ok on it last time after all  and while Keith’s full suspension and gears-equipped bike arguably handed him some advantages on the bumpy and rigid fork-unfriendly course, there really was nothing between us for a good few hours.


photo: Colin Henderson

It was obvious that this kind of pace was unsustainable for the duration. I wasn’t sure if Keith was comfortable with the pace but I knew I’d not see the end of the race if I didn’t ease up a bit. Much to the relief of Debbie (who in fairness had been telling me to slow down for the past 2 hours) I slowed down a little bit and decided to see what would happen. Maintain my second place for a while, occasionally catch Keith on a climb (and cheekily hold his wheel for a bit) and ‘just hang around’.

A few hours of hard riding later and somewhat inevitably, Keith slowed down too. I sat in second place for a few more laps, Debbie keeping an eye on the gap to 3rd place (Guy Martin) and updating me from the pits.

Eventually I lapped Keith while he took an extended break and I set about trying to consolidate the lead and build up a cushion of sorts.

The early pace and the fact that my rigid and quite-tall-geared singlespeed was becoming less of a good idea by the minute meant that I’d not be tearing off into the distance but I knew I just had to maintain the current good pace to stay in the lead. By now Guy had moved into second and while I knew that I wasn’t going to lose out on the climbs, it was obvious that Guy would make up some time on each lap by riding ridiculously fast downhill.

With four or so hours to go and with my back and legs really starting to feel the full effect of a 34:17 gear ratio on a hilly course, I decided that I’d probably done enough to afford myself a nice cup of tea. I sat down, drank my brew and thought about how difficult it had been last year to ride 28 laps, while at the same time contemplating the prospect of riding over 30 today. That didn’t make me feel any better, but I thought I should probably get on with it….


photo: Simon

I was still praying while I descended towards the finish line for the final time. I wasn’t 100% certain that I didn’t have to ride another lap, so I’d have to wait to see if there was any cheering going on….

There was. I’d ridden 31 laps in 23-and-a-half hours and that was enough to secure a second consecutive Strathpuffer win.


photo: Budge

Thanks as always to kind sponsors Exposure for the amazing lights, Jungle Products for sorting me out with amazing Niner bikes to ride, Mount Zoom for unfeasably lightweight parts for the bikes, 2Pure for the equally-amazing Rolf wheels and to Team JMC for the van and support. Thanks to the organisers of the Strathpuffer for yet again sorting out a truly epic event. Thanks to Dave, Budge, Phil, Rich and Andy who all helped me during the race – all of whom had their own races to contend with, but most of all thanks to Debbie and Angela for travelling all the way to Inverness with us just to spend their weekend in a dark, damp forest while I repeatedly roll up to the pit area and grumpily whinge and moan about being a bit tired/hungry/not hungry/ill/etc. *love*

Same again next year?

not quite done with this yet

2 weeks to go until the Strathpuffer, again. At the end of the ‘puffer last time I vowed never to do it again – I’d won it and for me that was very much a tick in the box – it’s not that it’s a bad event, quite the opposite in fact. It’s brilliant. Nope, the problem is trying to stay focussed on preparing for the damn thing while I should be relaxing and enjoying Christmas rather than spending hours and hours riding my bike in horrible weather. Preparing for 24 hour races is hard enough – doing it in the middle of winter and over Christmas is often a pain in the arse.


photo: Privateer Magazine

However, everyone I know seems to be barmy enough to go up and do it again so I was hardly going to knowingly miss out, was I?

The training, as usual, has had some quite significant good points  – while I’ve done my fair share of solitary suffering I’ve done some big rides with Dave and Guy a few times and the collective stoicism (and lots of laughs) in the face of miles of freezing headwinds and knee-deep moorland bogs has helped maintain a reasonable level of sanity.

Anyhow, here I am again, thinking about what bike, what tyres, how many brake pads I’ve got, long-range weather forecasts and all the other tricky decisions that need to be made that almost always conclude with “sod it, take everything”. I’m not in the form I’d hope to be in the summer but apart from a persistent cough I’m in reasonably good shape (which illustrates one of the advantages of doing the Strathpuffer – a good level of fitness in winter) and I’m quite looking forward to it.

Or perhaps I’m simply looking forward to the end of it…