Getting clothing right for DW is a challenge mostly due to the unpredictability of the British weather. This isn’t helped due to Easter not being at the same time each year. As such, the intrepid paddler and their faithful Bank Support crew need to be prepared for every eventuality and adapt in real-time if and when the situation changes to ensure the canoeist doesn’t get too hot, cold or wet and is able to remain comfortable and competitive.
Often the day starts out cold, possibility frosty with an annoying little breeze which chills the fingers. Then paddlers get warmed up, the sun makes a welcome appearance, the breeze drops and it can almost be a pleasant Spring day. Later the clouds may build and we are treated to a rain shower, a little sleet and possibly some hail just to finish it off. As the late afternoon moves into the evening, the temperature starts to drop.
If a paddler gets too warm, they need more fluid, too cold and they burn calories trying to keep warm, too wet and they can become uncomfortable, miserable and cold (and cross!).
So how can a clothing system be defined which will cope with all these demands? A layer approach is clearly the best solution. This has been popular in most adventure sports for some years and there are some amazing “integrated layer systems” which work really well but are jolly expensive.
But the principles are straight forward allowing the athlete to choose the type of garments which are appropriate, affordable, comfortable and don’t make their bum look big!
As a racing cyclist I’ve amassed more outfits than Cindy over the years and cyclist have a huge wardrobe to choose from for every type of racing, weather, terrain and conditions. The big pockets on the back of cycling jerseys bulge with arm warmers, leg warmers, knee warmers, gilet, wind proof top, waterproof top, gloves, over-shoes and ear-hole warmers and a mobile phone (to beg for collection if it becomes too nasty!).
As a fully signed-up member of M.A.M.I.L. (middle aged men in lycra) I can personally vouch for the versatility of the fabric and I use similar garments whilst canoeing.
For this DW and Waterside, I have designed a number of clothing items based on typical cycling attire into what I hope will be an affective layer solution for Megan and Isobel.
As this is next to one’s skin it is very much a personal choice. However, it needs to be close fitting and have good wicking qualities to promote removal of sweat away from the skin to the outside of the garment where it evaporates quickly. I’ve started using compression tops which squeeze the torso in specific places to aid blood circulation around the muscles. It is also very good at flattening ones tummy!
This helps trap a layer of warm air within the base layer and I have defined an option for warm weather and one for the cold. The warm option is a short sleeve lycra cycle top made by a German company; owayo custom sports. They are close fitting with a three quarter zipped front.
The pockets in the back are for fluid and emergency rations.
The cold weather option is a long sleeve lycra top but with a fleecy lining.
This also has some big pockets at the back. It can go over the short sleeve top if necessary.
The top layer is the weather proof one, something to keep out the wind and rain or both.
These wind jackets have a full length zip which enables them to be put on or taken off very quickly and will also go over a buoyancy aid.
They do have a small zipped pocket.
The option for rain at the moment is a gilet. As a sleeveless garment it should not impede paddling too much and should keep the majority of the rain out. I did suggest an umbrella but surprisingly this was not enthusiastically supported.
Let’s not forget the legs and I’ve opted for winter paddle leggings from Flatwater Essentials. Close fitting, comfortable and very warm.
I’m leaving this up to Isobel and Megan but I see the need for a peaked cap if it’s sunny, fleecy warm hat for the cold and wet, and perhaps an ear warmer for in-between. However I do put my foot down on any hat which has kayak branding!
Seventy seven portages across the four days, ranging from a short dash around a canal lock to the long run at Croftons. The mud at Fobney, the bridge run at Marsh and slippy rollers at Sunbury, Molesey and Teddington to name but a few. Ideally shoes equivalent to the multi functionality of a Swiss army knife are required.
The choice for kayak paddlers is somewhat restricted as they have to get their feet under the deck and need to be able to feel the tiller bar (except the rear K2 paddler of course). A lot of racers opt for bare feet so they can really emphasise with the boat through the footrest. This is fine but you do get cold feet and risk injury on the portages.
A canoe has an open cockpit so feet size is not really an issue.
In my opinion the ideal compromise is the minimal running shoes which are quite popular at the moment. I don’t mean the ones with the individual toes, but the shoes with very little cushioning and support, with a good grip sole and a mesh upper. Trouble is they are so expensive.
So, in summary we have a top-to-toe clothing strategy using lessons learnt from competitive cycling. Let’s see how it works in “the field”.