I took up cycling in winter, because my first proper road bike was a Christmas present. In those days I had exactly one cycling jersey.
It was a Motorola pro team jersey bought, not out of fandom, but because that January it was quite literally the only top that my local bike shop had to offer. Most cyclists wore club kit in the 1990s, so the selection in shops was, by contemporary standards, extraordinarily limited. This jersey came at a 10 per cent discount because they’d been using it to lag a pipe.
I put on my one jersey every time I went cycling for about the first six months of my riding. Sometimes I was too hot. Sometimes I was too cold. Sometimes I was about right.
These days I have more winter kit in my collection. Much more. Jerseys, jackets, base layers, fleeces, windproof mid-layers, gilets and vests. Anything up to five layers can be involved, and even the same layers don’t have to go in the same order each time.
There are more permutations to my winter cycling kit than there are possible games of chess. And guess what? Sometimes I am too hot. Sometimes I am too cold. Sometimes I’m about right. There is no aspect of my cycling life where so much time and resources have resulted in so little improvement.
Part of the problem is that above-the-waist cycling clothing never wears out. Shorts, tights, and overshoes regularly fall apart, so you discard them. Jerseys and base layers are indestructible. After the apocalypse it’ll be a world of cockroaches wearing cycling jerseys. (More or less how the average Daily Mail columnist views a group of bike riders at the moment, of course.)
Over the years so much kit has accumulated in my house that it seems to obey its own physical laws. A jersey gets washed and put away at the top of a drawer. Then as if pulled by the rolling currents of an ocean, it gets drawn into the depths.
Two days later I can search for an hour, and find no trace of it. It will have vanished completely. But maybe a year later the jersey will suddenly appear, in an upwelling of Lycra from the depths.
I will find it sitting, neatly folded, at the top of a drawer as if it had been there all along. Sometimes it can take longer — last week the swirling drawer of mysteries threw up a burgundy-coloured fleece I had no recollection of ever having seen before, which had an energy bar wrapper in the pocket with a best before date of December 1998 on it.
Gloves are a special case, by the way. They vanish according to a strict rota. All my left gloves are currently basking on a Caribbean beach, dreading the day that they have to swap places with all the right gloves in my glove box.
All of this means that when something finally reappears, I’ve forgotten what temperature range it works best in and have to find out again by a process of trial and error. Even when I’ve got a nice bit of kit out of the lucky dip, I don’t even get the chance to enjoy it at its best before it needs to be washed and put away.
This winter I was determined that things would be different. Since the spring I’ve been sorting stuff into two different drawers — the good and the bad. It seems so sensible.
Instead I’ve made an alarming discovery. Jerseys can teleport from one drawer to the other. Truly there are forces beyond my understanding at work in my wardrobe.
I may have discovered the secrets of quantum coupling, I may be about to win a Nobel prize for it, but I’d settle for a warm left hand.