Got Mud?

Portraits by Mark Phillips

When two cyclists move in together, there’s the inevitable joining of the things, trying to figure out how to store 14 bikes and three bike boxes, the class warfare of leaving muddy bikes in the kitchen, and that old chestnut: constant laundry. And not just any old load will do. Caked in mud returning from the winter hills, almost every ride seems to merit pre-washes and extra rinsing.

Last weekend was no exception. With 17 friends, I took to the Brecon Beacons for some off-season mudwork. Like a lot of people, I’ve often found myself terrified to shove all my cycling clothing into the wash for fear they’ll lose a certain something (chiefly, the waterproofing). But several washes later there are a few things I’ve learnt.

Kit-washing for winter

One: Get muddy. The mess and grime will wash out. I tend to wash all my Rapha clothes on a cold wash with a good hefty spin session. Sometimes I pre-wash. For lycra or jerseys, a heavy-duty detergent is the best way to go. I use a well known brand. I used to use an “eco” detergent, but found that it’s not really strong enough for super-mud-stains.

However, don’t overfill your washer; there’s nothing worse than discovering an inappropriate muddy patch on a “clean” pair of tights.

Two: Wash your rain kit. I spent several months riding around in a stinky Wind Jacket for fear that to wash it would be to ruin the waterproofing. Now I tend to wash my rain kit with Grangers, but I’m quite careful about the drying process as it’s really high heats which damage the fibers of clothing rather than the actual washing process. Always hang-dry your waterproofs and jackets. In fact, hang-dry everything.

Three: Separate your whites. School-boy error to throw all your muddy kit in together, but this will only result in dingy white merino socks and grey base layers. But separate them out, add a small teaspoon of whitening powder to the wash and you’ll have shiny whites forever (or until your boyfriend does your laundry). I also spot treat oil and grease marks with a dab of cleaner before throwing it all in the wash.

Four: Most people tend to wear a cap in the winter and rainy conditions. It’s good to keep the muck and water out of your eyes and off your glasses, but those caps can be a confusing one to wash. The way I see it: the more expensive the cap, the better it will stand up to a vigorous water beating. Cheap and cheerful souvenir caps from events might last 5-6 washes before they lose their elastic, but a good-quality cap with a strong brim will last as well as any other good piece of kit without losing its mojo.

Five: Merino doesn’t need to be dry-cleaned. I think I grew up with the myth that wool can’t be washed. Bad childhood memories of beloved jumpers suddenly being relegated to the Doll’s dresser left me with a bit of a hangover. But one of the blessings about merino is that it is indeed totally washable. No shrinkage. And the best thing is it just tends to get softer with age.

Six: Turn your kit inside out, zip it up and fasten all velcro. This will protect from unnecessary snags (and velcro pulls) keeping everything where it should be.

So the gloves are on. Go and get muddy.