The Bike List

AnaNichoola Smuggler Neck Warmer £18.50

Tested by Julia Murfin, tester for The Bike List

When is a Buff not a Buff? When it's a neckwarmer?

Whatever the answer, Buff has become so much the scarf-type of choice that the company name has (almost) become a generic word. Arguably one of the greatest inventions in recent times for the physically active, Buffs are much impersonated and it's hard to see how that basic design concept could ever be bettered.

The Ana Nichoola Smuggler Neck Warmer - part of the brand's Style Your Ride range - tries to give a different twist to a Buff. It works, but it's not as good as a buff - and I'm talking in the generic sense.

But that's not to say it is not without merits. The Smuggler offers more draught exclusion than a buff and its soft fleece fabric is incredibly comfortable. The main difference is that it has this skirt-like extension, called a "dropped chest" by the manufacturer, which tucks into your top to provide extra warmth around the top of the lungs which is a fantastic idea for those cold winter days. But there is none of the versatility of a buff. If it isn't a cold winter's day the Smuggler cannot really offer you much - it won't double as a headband, it is the wrong shape and too thick to use under your helmet and once you have warmed up it will spend the rest of the ride in your pocket.

I wore the Smuggler for the Cumbrian Cracker sportive, a 57-mile trip around the Lake District starting and finishing in Grasmere. (now, if I were reviewing events, this one would come highly recommended!) As you may recall, late November up North was grim. The day of the Cracker dawned stormy, but calmed down and warmed up to a balmy 4C by the time we set off at 9am. The Smuggler was firmly tucked in. I also wore my Bike List buff under my helmet to beat the chill. For the first hour or so I would have growled at anyone who tried to take my Smuggler away. It was long enough to pull up over my nose, and it was snug, warm and wicked moisture really well.

But by the end of the ride, the Smuggler was in my bumbag having been carried over the last 30-odd miles of the route - it was just too toasty once I'd got warmed up and was the first layer to be shed. It did the job, but my issue is that in a marketplace with plenty of multifunctional neck attire to entice your hard-earned cash, this neckwarmer is only good for warming necks. It does exactly what it says on the tin. But then comes a Full Stop.

The brand, pioneered by racing cyclist Anna Glowinski, aims to make girls on bikes more stylish, giving a designer tint to lycra. Browsing the website, I like the look of the armwarmers and gloves, the tops seem great; but the Smuggler is just trying too hard to reinvent a classic. Although it does look very nice!

Ultimately, it's difficult to see why you would spend £18.50 on a Smuggler when a much more multifunctional and useable buff is your's for around £15 or less.

Buy from www.ananichoola.co.uk

At a glance

Verdict Stylish, fun and comfortable, does everything it promises but lacks the versatility of its competitors.
Value
Performance

AnaNichoola says:

At AnaNichoola we recognise that starting a ride in cold weather can be eye-watering, every exposed bit of skin feels the sting of the air, but after a few miles your face warms up, breathing becomes easier and your lungs stop tasting like blood. Our neck warmers are designed to accompany you throughout your ride, making it more comfortable the whole way. The dropped chest tucks into your jersey, covering you lungs and not allowing any drafts, and the neck is long enough to pull over your nose and ears. We think it also looks cool enough to be combined with an office blouse for your winter commute.

TECH SPEC:

  • 100% Italian ThermoRoubaix ™ fleece backed, lycra fabric
  • Breathable fabric will wick away moisture during respiration
  • Dropped chest to be tucked under outer garments
  • Long neck that can be pulled over nose and ears
  • Super-soft
  • Embellished with our signature Style Your Ride embroidered hoops

Supplier: AnaNichoola, www.ananichoola.co.uk, info@ananichoola.co.uk