Diego Caccia demonstrates how to make tights work. Photo: Pedale.Forchetta

The Tightness of Being

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Sprezzatura. Leave it to the Italians to dedicate a word to trying to Look Fantastic without looking like you’re trying too hard. I’ve haven’t spent much time in Italy, but I automatically love a country where an entire nation holds aesthetics in the same high regard that I do. Not to mention their dedication to drinking espresso and wine. A bottle of wine at lunch? I can work with these people.

Sprezzatura for the Velominatus applies to every aspect of the sport; how we set up our bikes, our style and technique when riding, and how we select and wear our kit. Looking good in the summer isn’t very complicated; any fool can look good in short-sleeved kit adorned with tanned guns. Where things start getting tricky is when the cold and wet sets in and we need to add more kit to the equation. How does one control the chaos as leg warmers, long-sleeve jerseys, caps, gloves, rain jackets and overshoes are added to the mix?

The basic concepts have already been covered under the principles of wearing one’s Flandrian Best; always wear as little as possible, never wear an accoutrement below when a complimentary set is not worn above (i.e. no knee warmers without arm warmers), and never – under any circumstances – wear full-length leggings.

Which brings us to today’s lesson: how to wear full-length leggings and still look as Fantastic as possible. Sometimes it is simply too cold for three-quarters and there is no denying the Pro-ness of casually wandering about sipping a pre-ride espresso in sandals, full length leg warmers, and a long sleeve jersey – especially on a warm summer day. Sprezzatura is an art, and it should not be taken lightly.

The fundamental problem with leggings is that they make the guns amorphous; lots of fabric without any points of definition give the eyes nothing to focus on. If you have amazing calves (which I don’t) then you may be able to break up the monotony with your bodacious leg curves, but the rest of us are going to need some help.

  • Always go with leg warmers and not one-piece tights. The reason for this is simple: the legs of your shorts will provide the first visual delineation for the eyes to grab ahold of.
  • The leggings should also always have an elastic gripper around the ankle, not a stirrup. This is Cycling, not ballet. Better yet, the ankles should have a short zipper to ease pre-departure removal of said leggings and also to provide a little more delineation.
  • When it comes to materials, the more matte the better. In fact, I prefer wool. Thick materials are also handy, as they add some bulk and make the guns look less spindly. All good things.
  • Look for some leggings with good, thick seams. Again, this makes wool a strong candidate. Align the seams carefully to accentuate whatever curves your leggs can muster up, and make sure both legs are symmetrical. We are not savages.
  • Wear a contrasting color sock. White is preferable, of course, as demonstrated by Diego above but any color works so long as its not the same as the legging (which should obviously be black).

// Accessories and Gear // Kit // Look Pro

  1. @il muro di manayunk

    I dunno. I have some Castelli Sorpasso bibtights that I think are very comfortable and don’t look bad.

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  2. Appologies to @Pedale.Forchetta: The main shot is your photo and we credited you but somehow the credit/caption is not coming through. So sorry; will try to sort out why the caption isn’t coming through correctly.

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  3. @Mikael Liddy

    @brett

    @VeloSix

    @piwakawaka

    Socks should never go over tights. Thats the equivalent of tights over shorts.

    that’s the truth…. like arm warmers over your sleeves…

    A former Pro I used to work with (Matt Illingworth – Linda McCartney team) would wear his leg warmers over the shorts… looked like shit, but he insisted that was the way the Pros did it and as he is a big, angry Pom I’d not push the point too far…

    IAM Barbie went that way on the weekend…a perfect example of why Looking Pro and & Looking Fantastic are not always the same thing (still no gloves though).

    ‘Tis a fine feeling to see the lessons we be teachin’ be gettin’ learned as well. One might argue to put the legging over both the socks and the bibs in order to facilitate the removal once the race is afoot, but Heinnie is making life outright difficult for himself here. Not to mention that if you require that much kit, surely gloves would be in order? Have to respect a man who holds his brand above all else, I suppose. Imagine what he could do if helmets weren’t compulsory.

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  4. @steelhead

    Ok then Lets just all look fantastic who the fuck cares if were,re freezin our nuts off and thinkin we,re so hard all along the way , fashion rules !!! After all who in the world is tougher and more fashionable than we are .

    Nothing says ,hardcore, like using all the wrong punctuation in all the right places. Beers all around!

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  5. @Dave

    @frank

    @John

    @Dave I love my toe warmers. Great for between 40 and 50F. How do you keep them not visible?

    By never wearing them.

    Ah. By toe warmers I mean the single use chemical ones that give off heat for several hours after begin exposed to air. You stick one atop the tip of each sock, obviously completely hidden inside your shoes. Above 50F shoes alone work. Between 40F and 50F hidden chemical toe warmers do the job. Below 40F when out more than a couple hours I have to add shoe covers. Results without these steps have gone beyond numbness; strayed into mild frostbite with dead skin layers. FWIW I ride below freezing also, though below about 25F the outings are limited to an hour because the bottles freeze. This winter one of my commutes was 20F, and though only half an hour I was pretty glad to get back to the house. I have great respect for our brethren up North who ride in even colder conditions.

    Metric motherfuckers, METRIC!!!

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  6. @frank

    @steelhead

    Ok then Lets just all look fantastic who the fuck cares if were,re freezin our nuts off and thinkin we,re so hard all along the way , fashion rules !!! After all who in the world is tougher and more fashionable than we are .

    Nothing says ,hardcore, like using all the wrong punctuation in all the right places. Beers all around!

    Im sohardcoreI barelyusethefuckinspacebar

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  7. @frank

    @Mikael Liddy

    @brett

    @VeloSix

    @piwakawaka

    Socks should never go over tights. Thats the equivalent of tights over shorts.

    that’s the truth…. like arm warmers over your sleeves…

    A former Pro I used to work with (Matt Illingworth – Linda McCartney team) would wear his leg warmers over the shorts… looked like shit, but he insisted that was the way the Pros did it and as he is a big, angry Pom I’d not push the point too far…

    IAM Barbie went that way on the weekend…a perfect example of why Looking Pro and & Looking Fantastic are not always the same thing (still no gloves though).

    ‘Tis a fine feeling to see the lessons we be teachin’ be gettin’ learned as well. One might argue to put the legging over both the socks and the bibs in order to facilitate the removal once the race is afoot, but Heinnie is making life outright difficult for himself here. Not to mention that if you require that much kit, surely gloves would be in order? Have to respect a man who holds his brand above all else, I suppose. Imagine what he could do if helmets weren’t compulsory.

    What the fuck is Sauceler up to anyway? At first I thought he was removing the tag from his new Dicuts but now I think he might be trying to inflate a gel or using a €20 note to undo a sticky valve….Story please!

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  8. @harminator I think he spotted a used scratchcard on the floor and is checking it to see if he could claim £20.

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  9. I have the same Giordana leg warmers as Diego. They work a treat.

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  10. @DeKerr

    @Dave

    @frank

    @John

    @Dave I love my toe warmers. Great for between 40 and 50F. How do you keep them not visible?

    By never wearing them.

    Ah. By toe warmers I mean the single use chemical ones that give off heat for several hours after begin exposed to air. You stick one atop the tip of each sock, obviously completely hidden inside your shoes. Above 50F shoes alone work. Between 40F and 50F hidden chemical toe warmers do the job. Below 40F when out more than a couple hours I have to add shoe covers. Results without these steps have gone beyond numbness; strayed into mild frostbite with dead skin layers. FWIW I ride below freezing also, though below about 25F the outings are limited to an hour because the bottles freeze. This winter one of my commutes was 20F, and though only half an hour I was pretty glad to get back to the house. I have great respect for our brethren up North who ride in even colder conditions.

    Metric motherfuckers, METRIC!!!

    I don’t know that the Rules intend for all units to be metric. Rule #24 refers to speeds and distances only. I grew up mainly with metric and have trouble working out what’s hot or not on the Fahrenheit scale but… I do get why people like it. In everyday usage Celsius is only good in a narrow range. Zero to 40. After that… I don’t care what temperature the water for my tea is, I just need to know whether it’s boiling or not. If I understood it I think I would probably be happy to go retro on the temperature, just as I still do on height with feet and inches. Although I’m fine with km and km/h, despite being old enough to remember changing over from miles.

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  11. @frank

    @steelhead

    Ok then Lets just all look fantastic who the fuck cares if were,re freezin our nuts off and thinkin we,re so hard all along the way , fashion rules !!! After all who in the world is tougher and more fashionable than we are .

    Nothing says ,hardcore, like using all the wrong punctuation in all the right places. Beers all around!

    We all know the hardcore factor is measured in exclamation points!!!!

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  12. @RobSandy

    @harminator I think he spotted a used scratchcard on the floor and is checking it to see if he could claim £20.

    That’s gold! Damn, I’m laughing my ass off.

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  13. Just move to California where we do not use any of that shit!!!

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  14. @VeloVita Grotesque. Lady Gaga goes bicycling.

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  15. @frank

    Appologies to @Pedale.Forchetta: The main shot is your photo and we credited you but somehow the credit/caption is not coming through. So sorry; will try to sort out why the caption isn’t coming through correctly.

    Shots that cool go without saying. I didn’t even consider it was from anyone besides Pedale.!

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  16. @gilvelo

    Just move to California where we do not use any of that shit!!!

    I don’t think so. My brother has been there too long, clearly. He just bought a Porsche. Yet, he has secured his broken crank arm on his ride-to-go-surfing bike with…duct tape. I need to have a Rule #25 intervention.

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  17. @ChrisO I am inclined to romanticism and retro where aesthetics are concerned but when in comes to that which can be precisely measured then I am for the system that provides the greatest consistent accuracy. There is a reason a crank arm, even on a bro-set, is not measured in fractions of a barleycorn. And so it should be in stating the temperature during a Rule #9 ride. Besides, averaging 25 km/h over 70 km in -3 degree C sounds way better than averaging 15 mph over 40 miles in 25 degree F. (interesting note: the USA is the only country using Fahrenheit as the official unit where you could do that).

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  18. @John Even Sagan couldnt carry that look off.

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  19. @gilly Not even close.

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  20. Well I submitted the tights faux-pas yesterday but as the temp was hovering around 3c with a nice northerly breeze making it feel colder (there’s not a lot to stop any northerlies coming down the north sea through the wash and over the fens) and being a 54 year old who’s joints feel any cold meant this transgression had to be made.

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  21. @fenlander

    Well I submitted the tights faux-pas yesterday but as the temp was hovering around 3c with a nice northerly breeze making it feel colder (there’s not a lot to stop any northerlies coming down the north sea through the wash and over the fens) and being a 54 year old who’s joints feel any cold meant this transgression had to be made.

    I don’t think apologies are necessary. My almost 61-year-old knees tell me the same. High of 3C today with 20+kph winds, high of -3C for tomorrow so I’ll have bib knicks with full tights over to give my knees the protection they need. Oh, and these merinos came yesterday so I’ll be smiling wearing them (even though they’ll be under everything else):

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  22. @ChrisO

    … I grew up mainly with metric and have trouble working out what’s hot or not on the Fahrenheit scale but… I do get why people like it. In everyday usage Celsius is only good in a narrow range. Zero to 40. After that… I don’t care what temperature the water for my tea is, I just need to know whether it’s boiling or not. If I understood it I think I would probably be happy to go retro on the temperature, just as I still do on height with feet and inches. Although I’m fine with km and km/h, despite being old enough to remember changing over from miles.

    I’ll adhere to Rule #24 in discussions, but it’s only after doing a mental conversion. I have no plans on changing the units to km on my cyclocomputers, mainly because I have almost 25 years of hand written training logs all in imperial measurements and I’m going to be consistent. As far as low temperatures and leggings, that’s just a fantasy for where I live. Today it’s 32*C in the southwest desert, perfect conditions for my afternoon ride. Kudos to all of you who kit up and are dealing with the cold.

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  23. @paolo

    Too many words. Looks like you’re all trying too hard. Sprezzatura…not

    Big difference between trying too hard and not trying at all… this shit should just come naturally. It’s the difference between going to work in a suit/smart clothes or a fucking tracksuit and slippers.

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  24. @paolo

    Too many words. Looks like you’re all trying too hard. Sprezzatura…not

    This man is an impostor!.

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  25. You keep using this term leg-warmers. But I think you meant “embro.” And if it’s too cold for embro, it’s either winter break on the beach, or winter training in Mallorca. <Stop>

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  26. White socks over tights, always.

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  27. @Frank, Luca Paolini may be using a very specific interpretation of the rules which you may care to discuss with him. Check photo 4 ( I think) in this collection. http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/gallery/photo-essay-2015-e3-harelbeke_364737

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  28. @PT Disgraceful.

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  29. @MangoDave

    @ChrisO

    … I grew up mainly with metric and have trouble working out what’s hot or not on the Fahrenheit scale but… I do get why people like it. In everyday usage Celsius is only good in a narrow range. Zero to 40. After that… I don’t care what temperature the water for my tea is, I just need to know whether it’s boiling or not. If I understood it I think I would probably be happy to go retro on the temperature, just as I still do on height with feet and inches. Although I’m fine with km and km/h, despite being old enough to remember changing over from miles.

    I’ll adhere to Rule #24 in discussions, but it’s only after doing a mental conversion. I have no plans on changing the units to km on my cyclocomputers, mainly because I have almost 25 years of hand written training logs all in imperial measurements and I’m going to be consistent.

    Nice demonstration of the Masturbation Principle. Apart from the admission, obviously.

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  30. @Ashley Evans

    White socks over tights, always.

    I wish that picture had come through; you can’t drag and drop despite the fact the picture shows up on your end, sadly. @Ashley Evans

    White socks over tights, always.

    I wish that picture had come through; you can’t drag and drop despite the fact the picture shows up on your end, sadly. But the little photo upload button works fine if you are logged in, even from an ipad etc.

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  31. @Stephen

    You keep using this term leg-warmers. But I think you meant “embro.” And if it’s too cold for embro, it’s either winter break on the beach, or winter training in Mallorca. <Stop>

    Yes, of course. It also begs to point out that the “Embro Application Stage” is just as flattering as the “Luca Over the Shorts Bibs”.

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  32. @DeKerr

    @frank

    @Walbly

    “and never – under any circumstances – wear full-length leggings” ??? Are you serious? Why don’t you tough guys come up north and ride when it is 14 degF in your groovy knickers with your frost-bitten calves sluffing off in big black chunks. With two pair of full-length fleece tights and one pair full-length regular tights I still am lucky if I can do 12 miles without feeling like I won’t even be able to get off my bike, much less strut around showing everybody my delineation. Do you ever even wear full-fingered gloves? And you call yourselves tough.

    Two things in life are sure:

    1. If I post a photo of my bike, someone who has not seen me riding it will tell me it does not fit me.
    2. If I propose that tights or saddle bags are for losers, I will immediately receive a nastygram.

    These are the primary reasons I have not yet retired from Velominati.

    I know – right? Although I suspect the reason @Walby can only crank 19.312128 kilometers (enough with the imperial measurements everyone – this is cycling, not Nascar) is due to his enormous ballocks stuffed into that much gear.

    Hah! And speaking of, what the hell’s a degF? Use Kelvin, if you must.

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  33. @frank

    @PT Disgraceful.

    Aaaaaaand he won so suck it/ Aaaaaaand he won wearing those tights over the line. So suck it twice. Aaaaaaand if you think you can ride and never wear full length tights you don’t live somewhere that cold. I’ve started rides at -7c and finished them at -5c. If you want to ride in that shit in knee warmers go right ahead. But you’d be an idiot.

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  34. @minion Winning does not make it right. See Armstrong, L.

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  35. @PT

    @minion Winning does not make it right. See Armstrong, L.

    Also, that gallery was from E3, not G-W.

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  36. @minion @minion

    @frank

    @PT Disgraceful.

    Aaaaaaand he won so suck it/ Aaaaaaand he won wearing those tights over the line. So suck it twice. Aaaaaaand if you think you can ride and never wear full length tights you don’t live somewhere that cold. I’ve started rides at -7c and finished them at -5c. If you want to ride in that shit in knee warmers go right ahead. But you’d be an idiot.

    More or less my thoughts. I had the water in my bidon turn to slush last week. No way I’m doing a ride like that in knickers.

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  37. @KW

    @PT

    @minion Winning does not make it right. See Armstrong, L.

    Also, that gallery was from E3, not G-W.

    Mea culpa. Just saw the photos from G-W. Ugh.

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  38. @frank

    @MangoDave

    @ChrisO

    … I grew up mainly with metric and have trouble working out what’s hot or not on the Fahrenheit scale but… I do get why people like it. In everyday usage Celsius is only good in a narrow range. Zero to 40. After that… I don’t care what temperature the water for my tea is, I just need to know whether it’s boiling or not. If I understood it I think I would probably be happy to go retro on the temperature, just as I still do on height with feet and inches. Although I’m fine with km and km/h, despite being old enough to remember changing over from miles.

    I’ll adhere to Rule #24 in discussions, but it’s only after doing a mental conversion. I have no plans on changing the units to km on my cyclocomputers, mainly because I have almost 25 years of hand written training logs all in imperial measurements and I’m going to be consistent.

    Nice demonstration of the Masturbation Principle. Apart from the admission, obviously.

    Busted! Though, to me it seems like a pretty tame admission. It’s not like I’m using an EMPS, FFS!

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  39. @MangoDave

    Busted! Though, to me it seems like a pretty tame admission. It’s not like I’m using an EMPS, FFS!

    Keepers with EPMSs, classics winners sporting full beards and warmers pinned over bib shorts…

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  40. @frank

    @gilly Not even close.

    Bang on Frank, they are shocking

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  41. As Sep Vanmarcke’s twitter feed shows, being correct in this instance is a case of form follows function. Over both bibs and socks for easy removal whilst racing, and under both bibs and socks for looking good whilst training. Reading for racing https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B_A2XA9VEAAqr6w.jpg:large Looking good in training https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B-EOWXqIcAI4J6Z.jpg:large

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  42. @Joe The easiest part in removing legwarmers on the move is pulling them out from under the bibs. If you’re pro enough to unclip a leg and remove the warmers without stopping, you’re pro enough to wiggle them out from under a bib’s gripper.

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  43. @PT

    @minion Winning does not make it right. See Armstrong, L.

    Winning may not make it right, but it’s easier to swallow, for a while at least.

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  44. @tessar Again I refer you to Sep’s twitter feed. I believe he qualifies as being more ‘pro’ than most. Correct URL for the first photo with warmers over shorts whilst ready for sign on/team presentation and then racing can be found here https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B_A2XA9VEAAqr6w.jpg Though I have to disagree with your opinion that leg warmers are more easily removed whist under bibs. I’ve found the gripper at the top catches the skin more if you try to tug them downwards, and it is easier to take them off from over bibs as the grippers don’t catch the skin.

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  45. @Joe Plenty of pros think otherwise, and don’t find themselves dropped two climbs out from the finish of their goal race. I didn’t say easier – I said easy enough. As in, sure it’s a bit harder, but it’s not so hard it justifies looking less fantastic. For that matter, Kwiatkowski managed to unto his warmers in the hectic run-up to the Poggio without missing a beat.

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  46. @SamV

    @minion @minion

    @frank

    @PT Disgraceful.

    Aaaaaaand he won so suck it/ Aaaaaaand he won wearing those tights over the line. So suck it twice. Aaaaaaand if you think you can ride and never wear full length tights you don’t live somewhere that cold. I’ve started rides at -7c and finished them at -5c. If you want to ride in that shit in knee warmers go right ahead. But you’d be an idiot.

    More or less my thoughts. I had the water in my bidon turn to slush last week. No way I’m doing a ride like that in knickers.

    To those who weren’t looking, here’s the link to G-V gallery. http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/gent-wevelgem-2015/results for tights over bibs. Not suggesting that’s why he won, but you know. If you disagree with me you’re welcome to be fucking wrong. About everything, ever. As you can see living in Australia’s really agreed with me.

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  47. @frank

    @gilly Not even close.

    Nice shot, mate. I’ve got one just like it.

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  48. @Owen

    So what’s the ruling on toe covers for those days when it’s too warm for shoe covers, but cold enough for knee warmers and wool socks? Those toesies aren’t going to stay warm on their own.

    Belgian booties if its dry mate, allow breathing from the inside so don’t get too hot, but shield more wind again. Or double up with a thin liner sock. Toe covers are like condoms for your shoes.

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  49. @minion if we’re expected to mirror everything the pro’s do to achieve their wins, that could be a slippery slope…

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  50. @tessar

    @Joe Plenty of pros think otherwise, and don’t find themselves dropped two climbs out from the finish of their goal race. I didn’t say easier – I said easy enough. As in, sure it’s a bit harder, but it’s not so hard it justifies looking less fantastic. For that matter, Kwiatkowski managed to unto his warmers in the hectic run-up to the Poggio without missing a beat.

    Agreed, if I can fucking do it, anyone can! If you find the grippers grab too much, roll the top over first. I find having them rolled up they go over your shoes easier as well. I’m off to go find that footage of the WC pre-Poggio!

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