The road season might be under way in the southern hemisphere, but there’s still plenty of winter to come up north, and the cyclocross world championships are still a wee bit away. There’s ample rain, mud and wind to test yourself, and some cold weather kit.
On the sort of day where the north wind makes your bones feel like the marrow’s been replaced by newly poured concrete and your skin feel like you’re in a wind tunnel, I decided to find out how the Schlamm range shaped up ….. the quick answer is very nicely.
This kit is made in the UK, and with the current value of the pound sterling plunging faster than the winter temperatures, the range is a very attractive proposition for buyers in North America and Europe.
Whereas the makers of this kit tested it in England’s peak district, north of the border is an equally challenging place conditions-wise. Just as well that the Schlamm kit is as good as it’s creators believe. In fact, one of the guys behind the range is Simon Burney, UK cross guru, who’s coached at the top level with British Cycling and with pro teams. His book ‘Cyclocross: Training and Technique’ is as close to a Bible as you can find on the sport.
Starting out with the top layer the Chaos jacket repels the showers like a geek who doesn’t shower repels the ladies. It’s neatly cut with enough back coverage to keep me dry, and you can pick it up in men’s or women’s specific cuts. Simple translucent material with red piping on the cuffs and collars gives clean lines and a nice fit. The easy-grip tear drop zipper offers simple mid-ride removal possibilities. The red mesh side panels keep things breathable. Most importantly it is super-light and when stuffed into the back pocket it’s barely noticeable.
The ‘Chaos’ is the ideal companion to the Wetzikon jacket which feels like riding with a favourite duvet wrapped around you. It’s named after the legendary venue east of Zurich where many a crosser’s hopes foundered when the Swiss ruled this sport.
I’ve tested the Wetzikon out a couple of times now and it’s a cracker: the super warm fleece lining kept me snug. Even with its reassuringly long back and a high neck collar, it’s not as ‘overwhelming’ as some kits I’ve tried which seem to leave me feeling smothered.
The zip cuff closes once gloves are on – none of this fiddling around trying to lever a too-tight cuff over a glove to keep the drafts and drips out. Best of all, it allows a little ’70s Vegas’ Elvis-style posing action. Uh-huh!
As expected these days, there’s a nifty weather-repelling phone/MP3 player/whatever pocket on the chest with a little aperture to run ear plugs to keep the tunes playing. And three deep back pockets for stowing Scooby snacks. You’ll even find a smaller zipper pocket for keeping cards/cash/etc dry and secure. The triple row of raised gripper dots stops the jacket riding up. Nice.
It looks good too with the simple red decals on white, and a reflective shimmer on the silver piping helps visibility in the gloom.
The build quality is excellent on all the garments I tested: the strong stitching indicates this stuff isn’t going to come to pieces after a hard season or two, and the zippers are all easy to grip whether gloves are on or fingers are chilled to the marrow.
The Portland Rain Pants are a simply designed but effective warm-up tool: lightweight, breathable and waterproof they keep racing colours shiny as you prepare for the start. With zippers running up to knee length, they’re easy to whip on and off. No wrestling to get them over your shoes.
The outstanding highlight of the range is a piece of kit so cunningly ingenious I could pin a tail on it and it’d outsmart a fox. The Koksijde bibtights are the last word in pre-race comfort- for me anyway.
The fleecy lining backs a windproof outer that kept me super cosy. The bibs cover my back and also ensure that I don’t suffer any gravitational accidents – so no cold kidneys like you’d get with bibless kit.
All I need to effect a Clark Kent-style transformation from ‘Warm Up Boy’ to ‘Start Line Hero’ are four zips: two full length leg zips running up each side, and two short zips across the front of the bottom of the bib straps. Simple, and simple is always best. The briefest of Full-Monty style flourishes and you’re primed for action.
In fact, they were so good and the house was so cold, I simply put them back on when I went home!
The Schlamm range is comfortable, easy to wear, and designed for purpose by people who know what ‘margins’ really mean in top-level competition. The difference between winning or losing, between going top 10 or top 5, or between a good performance and a great one might only be minimal.
Those extra few percent might actually come from not having to fiddle with kit that’s OK but not perfect, before you’ve even reached the starting line. That’s what really sets this stuff apart. So well made, this kind of quality won’t go out of fashion in a hurry. A Pez-approved thumbs up for the guys at cyclocross-stuff.com for coming up with the goods.
As it says in the publicity blurb: “Schlamm. It’s Swiss for mud. But it’s English for some of the nicest clothing you will ever find.” Just about right I’d reckon.
For more info on colours, sizes, products and prices check out: Cyclocross-Stuff.com. In fact, if you really like the stuff, they’ll even make custom colours for you!