Showing posts with label bike clothing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bike clothing. Show all posts

Monday, August 25, 2014

Should I feel guilty?

Yet again I see an article drawing the distinction between "cycling" and "riding a bike." As advocates of everyday bike use try to attract participants by differentiating between cyclists and bike riders I get more than a little sense that those of us who wear the shorts, the shoes, the helmets and even moderate, solid-colored jersies because they are more efficient for our particular route and conditions are somehow part of the problem rather than contributing to the solution of putting bike riding into the main stream of transportation (yes, and recreation) options.

Let the thought process run its course. Rhetoric needs to be developed. The whole subject needs to be explored by many minds. And one day in the distant future, if our species has not managed to prevent itself from having a distant future, all pedalers might get along without judging each other or feeling judged, whether justifiably or not. But for now subcultures appear to be trying to define themselves. Or perhaps it is just the one subculture, attempting to become simply culture, that feels the need to distance itself from the despised minorities of snotty roadies and daredevil urban kamikazes.

No one cares what the mountain bikers do as long as they don't spook the horses or run down any hikers. They're not clotting up the streets and highways with their kooky antics. But anyone who gets on those streets and highways will be criticized.

For the sake of inclusion in the transportation mix, the self-proclaimed non-recreational "wheeled pedestrians" make sure that anyone who will read or listen knows that they stand for normal clothes, upright handlebars, dry skin and normal respiration. They ride to get from place to place over rational distances, content to go faster than a walk but slower than a "racer." They don't sweat and you don't have to, either.

If I lived somewhere with distances, terrain and infrastructure that supported casual riding at a sedate pace I would do so. But I've never lived in such a place. From the mid-1970s when I started paying attention to road conditions as an adult rather than bebopping around as a kid, every place I've ridden has had an element of combat. It might not happen every day, but it could happen any day. It could happen on a neighborhood street or one of the major thoroughfares. It could happen on a cross-town commute or a long training ride when I took long training rides. It shaped my riding style to be more aggressive and agile, to wear stiff shoes, even cleats, so I could sprint out of a bind if I needed to.

Interestingly, I did not go quickly to helmet use. I seriously debated the merits of protection against the fact that it made me look like a dork. Whatever the anti-helmet crowd says in its supposedly fact-laced campaign against the brain bucket, looking like a dork is still a major factor. I also liked wearing my wool hat in the winter, rather than the helmet and various liners depending on the temperature.

I find competitive riders pretty annoying. I was not that annoying when I competed, but that may explain why I wasn't too successful at it. While not every top-level rider needs to be abrasive, any intense competitive activity attracts people who like making others uncomfortable. You can't underestimate the psychological warfare. Also, some competitive people tend to be insecure already, which is what drives them to achieve things and stuff it in your face. So I'll grant that the flashy Lycra crowd may not be our best ambassadors, much of the time. But some of them ride other bikes in other ways as well as just the road machine in pursuit of glory.

I suppose a nuanced, inclusive view does not compress easily into short recruiting messages aimed at the general public, a.k.a. non-riders. Indeed, one major factor that propelled the popularity of mountain bikes in the rise of that boom was the idea that you could sit up straighter, wear normal shoes and ride like a kid again. Then the industry and the competitive types managed to technologize all the simple fun out of it. Now they wonder where everybody went, and "wheeled pedestrian" advocates try to drum up the interest without a poster-bike on which to hang the dream.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The kind of problems you don't mind having

Spring will eventually get here. The forecast finally calls for warming temperatures. The next storm mentions snow, but only changing to rain. Barring the usual practical jokes from the weather, I predict an increasing probability of bike commuting.

These are the times that try cyclists' wardrobes. Morning lows in the 20s can give way to afternoons in the 60s. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. Even a more modest swing, from just below freezing up to the vicinity of 50 degrees, calls for fewer layers on the way home than on the way in.

There's no clever solution. You can layer lightly in the morning, counting on the afternoon warmth to come through for you as much as you hope. You can protect yourself adequately against the morning chill and do either of two things in the warmer end of the day: carry the wad of shed clothing or wear it all and sweat a lot.

I know a couple of riders who commute with panniers. Rather than try to hone their kit to the essentials, carried with the minimum amount of rack and bag, they go right to large capacity. Forget any illusion of streamlining, of aggressive agility. Relax! Slow down! Live the good life.

They get up earlier than I do, or at least get themselves out of the house more quickly, so they have the time to spend en route. I keep meaning to try that.

Even a lackluster winter brings cold and darkness. I appreciate the purification brought by winter but I really prefer warmth and light. I welcome its return even if I do have to grunt home with extra weight at the end of a long day. There are worse problems to have.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's not a pad

That thing in the shorts, formerly called a chamois because it was, is not a pad. It never was.

Padded seats kill my ass. Padded shorts REALLY kill my ass.

Synthetic chamois was a great leap forward. It was more washable, dried faster and did not dry to sandpaper the way a natural chamois did after a few washings. But then inexperienced riders started asking for more cush under the tush, thinking that was the key to saddle comfort. With the triathlon boom of the 1980s and the mountain bike boom of the 1990s, the bike industry picked up a huge influx of inexperienced cyclists. There was a lot more money in selling them what they thought they wanted than in teaching them what actually works.

Occasional and short-distance riders can get away with anything between buns and bike seat. If they haven't found the width and shape of saddle that really suits their anatomy fo rthe long haul, padding on seat and pants will guard against the feeling that they had been kicked solidly with a large boot in a tender place. But now the market is flooded with shorts that look like they have half a pound cake sewn into the crotch.

The chamois protects against chafe. The shorts are supposed to have no seam or flat seams in the problem area, unlike most normal street pants, which have a four-way seam junction under there. In the 1970s, cutoff shorts, with their lump of denim digging into that precious anatomy, did more to sell real cycling shorts than any marketing campaign. And in the 1970s people were more than ready to forego their skivvies, as proper bike short use requires. It was the '70s, man.

I'm nursing my last two pairs of shorts that don't make me feel like I've got a mattress shoved in my crotch. I need to do some product research, fast.

Monday, December 03, 2007

CWX + 3SP = 4M

As the weather grew colder, my CW-X Pro Tights weren't warm enough. I'd grown quite fond of the support they provide, especially on the fixed gear, so I added some Sport Hill tights over them as the mercury dropped through the 30s.

At 29 F I had reached the lower limit with the average polyester tight as the outer layer. I didn't know this until I rode at 21 degrees and felt the chill bite through. So the next day, at 16 degrees, I put my Sport Hill 3SP XC Pants over the CW-X inner layer.

The 3SP fabric is a woven polypropylene. The tight weave of the outer surface deflects a surprising amount of wind. The inside is brushed to a fleecy nap that makes them a good single-layer choice for Nordic skiing down to the low 20s, or even colder on days without too much wind. Polypropylene rejects water, making the fabric more moisture resistant than a fleecier fabric would be.

Cyclists generate their own wind chill, so the cold cuts through at a higher ambient temperature for them than for skiers and runners. But for winter adventurers who might be out on snowshoes, skis or wheels, the XC pants are a convenient, versatile item.

On cold rides, CW-X plus 3SP equals mmmm....warmth.

Today we got a dump of snow, maybe as much as eight inches in my neighborhood, with snow showers and cold temperatures to follow, so I won't be out on the bike for a while. Between the schedule, short daylight and rapidly changing conditions, December is always a tough month for outdoor activity.

Come January we'll get into some sort of rhythm.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Garb

Bike clothing sets us apart from normal people. It may be something as simple as a helmet on top of an otherwise inconspicuous ensemble or a full-on pro cycling outfit.

As both engine and driver, a bicyclist has to accommodate a variety of needs. Our clothing has to protect against the weather, provide visibility and allow the engine to work efficiently.

When I commuted in a town over distances of less than five miles, I wore my work clothes, usually jeans or painter pants, a tee shirt or a flannel shirt, and appropriate jackets or vests in season. I couldn't get myself to forgo cleated shoes, though. I kept a pair of sneakers at the workplace, wherever that might be, so I didn't have to lug a bulky pair of shoes for no good reason.

When I moved out of town and rode six or eight miles each way, over rolling terrain and more open roads, I started wearing shorts or tights as the weather dictated. Having done that it was an easy step to jerseys and cycling jackets. It was more of a ride than bopping through the city had seemed to be.

Now my commute is a genuine ride through the countryside. Bike clothing may not be a necessity, but I certainly prefer the freedom of movement, comfort and protection. But I look like a freak when I get off the bike.

People are getting used to seeing cyclists, so it's not a big deal. But the pants in particular can look a little more revealing than I prefer. Tights may be worse than shorts. To the average onlooker, I have chosen to wear the shrink wrap when I could have worn jeans. Freak!

No trousers in the wardrobe of a normal person provide the free leg movement but trim fit at the ankle desired by cyclists. Okay, women and sufficiently qualified men might wear capris, but for guys they still qualify as a social statement at this time.

For the grocery run today I just wore jeans. It was fun. With the loaded BOB, I wasn't sprinting or cornering hard. I wore a please-don't-kill-me-yellow vest and put the yellow dry bag in the trailer to enhance visibility. That way, when I went into the store nothing betrayed my oddity.

Self-conscious people may be encouraged to see that one does not need to dress up too flamboyantly to take advantage of practical cycling.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Working the Bugs Out

Summer brings warm days, even in the early morning. As the mercury rises, the jersey zipper goes down.

Over the years I have encountered a whole spectrum of biting and stinging insects, and spiky-footed beetles. I've had the yellowjacket up the shorts, bees, wasps and hornets down the shirt, and various mites, midges and helicopters down the windpipe.

Generally when this happens I must grab the lower edge of my jersey or tee shirt and shake it to coax the miserable insect to the exit. In extreme cases I might have to execute an angry hornet that won't let bygones be bygones. Those will keep stinging in anger rather than try to escape. One way or another, I get them out eventually.

Commuting, I wear a bum bag strapped around my waist. This complicates the bug situation, because the route to freedom assisted by gravity no longer works. It's led to some funny scenes in which I clench my fist around an angry hornet while yanking upward on my shirt with the other hand, sometimes at 30 or 40 miles per hour on a descent.

This year seems especially buggy. I just zip the jersey and forgo the ventilation when the barrage gets too constant.

A wasp in the helmet vents can be pretty bad, too. Fortunately, the bandanna I wear is just enough to keep stingers from getting through all the way. The flow of air through the helmet vents guides the attacker to freedom soon enough. So far, anyway.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Miracle Pants

Pain will drive a person to desperation. It drove me to try on some weird-looking tights from CW-X.

The CW-X line of athletic wear is built with reinforcing panels that supposedly support the working muscles the way trainers support already-injured muscles. The reasoning is that reinforcement now will prevent injury.

It seems to work. My left hamstring complex has hurt for almost a year now. At times it acted like sciatica. At other times it acted like a pulled muscle. I was holding out for sciatica, because I could rehabilitate that actively. A pulled muscle would require complete rest. I know I would come out of complete rest looking like a manatee -- an impoverished manatee, after having to fill the gas tank for several weeks of unwanted motor commuting.

Miracle Pants seem to have put off the need for drastic rest. If the pain responds to a placebo effect, I was not injured in the first place. If the tights really support the injury in such a way that I can function without pain, they work as advertised. Either way, problem solved. The money was well spent.

The pain did not miraculously disappear completely. In fact, after the first ride I thought I was not impressed. But after I got home I noticed that things did not hurt as much as usual. More rides yielded the same result. Overall, pain is decreasing gradually. For now, I will say these things work.

Now I hope the weather stays somewhat cool for a while. CW-X doesn't make bike shorts. We have some bib shorts with a bike pad, but I don't care for bibs. I'm also not sure the support web will work on a short pant leg.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sugoi Stealth Jacket

After trying it on all spring and summer, I finally bought the Sugoi Stealth Jacket in yellow.

My old Cannondale rain jacket is pretty good, but it's noticeably heavier and bulkier than the Sugoi. It also has Cannondale's chronic sticky zipper, which is why I have it at all. It was returned for warranty and the rep gave it as swag, along with two others similarly returned. Three of us at the shop got them.

I wanted a more visible wind jacket than my Pearl Izumi Zephrr in navy blue. That one had been hanging around the closeout rack for a couple of years before I picked it up one afternoon when the weather turned unexpectedly harsh on a spring day.It's a nice piece, but the dark color wasn't so good on a day when the weather might make things dark already.

I hate shells. They make me sweat, even if they aren't supposedly waterproof. So in cold dry conditions I wear extra fuzzy layers with no shell. But sometimes you want a little extra at the start or end of a ride, and extra fuzz would be bulkier to carry. Then a stuffable shell comes in handy.

The Sugoi rep said that clothing designers are also finally accepting the fact that waterproof breathable fabrics don't transmit heat and body moisture fast enough for cyclists, so we get wet with sweat. The Stealth jacket uses fabric treatments to repel water on the outside, and is very breathable to let moisture escape from inside. This isn't manufacturer propaganda, it's the experience of one actual sweaty cyclist. The Stealth jacket works better, over a wider range of temperature and humidity, than any other shell I have used for cycling.

In an actual steady rain I might still grab the heavier Cannondale jacket, but partly that's because it's older and already scuzzy, whereas the Sugoi is bright and new. Also, the Cannondale has side zipped pockets where I can stick a bandanna to wipe my glasses. The Sugoi has a nice zippered pocket in the back, but it's not as easy to dip into quickly.

The Stealth jacket has extra-long sleeves, so they won't ride up when your arms are forward. The cuffs are cut pretty tight. I haven't enjoyed trying to take the jacket off while riding no-hands. If your hands are smaller than mine, that might not be a problem. I might let out the seams on the cuffs and insert a gusset to make passage a bit easier. I guess Sugoi was trying to avoid the constriction of elastic or the bulk of hook-and-loop closures there.

High Visibility Update

As I was digging out the fossilized comments I discovered stuck in the moderation queue, I noticed this one from Jim Seisfeld, on an October 2005 post about Please-Don't-Kill-Me-Yellow clothing:

The other day while I was being a motorist I observed a roadie in traffic on an expensive DF wearing equally expensive “name brand” lycra from head to toe, and it was all black (including shoes and helmet). What struck me most was, I didn’t see the cyclist until I past him going in the opposite direction. I remember at the time I saw the cyclist I made a mental note that if all black is a new trend, it is a dangerous trend that will result in more vehicle-bicycle accidents, and had he been wearing Hi-Viz gear I would have seen him much sooner. The thought didn’t come back to me until I read your “High Visibility” blog.

As a cyclist, I am aware, and keep the attitude, that motorists don’t see bicycles. As a cyclist, when I drive I am very aware of people on bicycles. As an Environment, Health, and Safety professional in the Transportation and Utility industries, I have seen Hi-Viz strategies help save lives. I advocate Hi-Viz gear should be part of all bicyclists’ safety strategy while on roads that might be shared with motorists and that PDKMY-type gear is a vital.

While I think we are on the same page, I wonder a little about your comment “PRETTY SOON NO ONE PAYS ATTENTION ANYMORE”. Do you think anyone pays any attention in the first place? For the most part, I don’t think motorists pay any attention to bicyclists. I feel bicyclists must make motorists pay attention to them, and Hi-Viz gear is an important part of the attention-getting strategies.

Color choice depends somewhat on cycling environment. I ride in a small town with two-lane streets and overall moderate traffic density. The narrower streets put me into the motorists' field of view automatically. I create my image by how I act there. But I did buy a nice yellow jersey last fall and wore it all summer. I also bought a Sugoi windbreaker in the same nice yellow, and have used it frequently this fall.

Riding in a small town I have the opportunity to hear more extensive reviews than the Dopplered profanity hurled at me in more urban environments. People talk to me in shops and around town. For the most part they are supportive, though sometimes they'll have a suggestion. Seldom are these suggestions unprintable, though some of them display the ignorant fear many people experience when they try to imagine cycling in traffic. I mean some people recommend that I quit entirely, because a gruesome death is inevitable if I keep trespassing in the Kingdom of the Cars.

No one has said they thought I should wear brighter colors. They saw me. Even the ones who get ugly in traffic see me. If they hadn't seen me, how could I have pissed them off?

I don't say that these observer comments weaken the argument for high visibility clothing. You have to make your own decision. But Seisfeld himself says he doesn't think most motorists pay attention anyway. So while high visibility clothing probably can't hurt, it is not a magic shield.

This summer I was as reluctant to ride without my yellow jersey as I was to ride without my helmet, once I got used to wearing that, years ago. But I am equally as reluctant to grab the garish PDKMY wind vest unless the weather is foggy or I will be riding in deep dusk.

If all drivers were gentle, kind, sensible, sober and undistracted, cyclists could wear anything they liked. Such a world will never be, but it makes a nice dream. Meanwhile, I'm a shade closer to PDKMY, while still trying to maintain some aesthetics.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ride Long and Prosper

I love my Sport Hill clothing. It’s wonderfully effective, and a lot of it crosses over well between cycling and cross-country skiing. I just wish it didn’t look so much like Star Trek uniforms.

My Pursuit II top, in black and red, comes from the Sport Hill: The Next Generation collection.

I don’t know if they did anything in Deep Sports Nine. But they do have a Voyage Pant. A sly homage to Voyager by chance? And they have a Nomad Pant. Nomad was a poor, confused little space probe in the very first series, who had decided its mission was to sterilize (i.e. destroy) anything it deemed impure. Get real. What in this cockeyed universe isn’t at least somewhat impure?

If Sport Hill styled things this way on purpose, maybe they’d appreciate someone noticing. If it was an accident, maybe they’d appreciate someone pointing it out. And I guess it’s okay in any case. I’m just sick of getting the Vulcan salute when I run into Trekkies and I’m in my chilly weather garb.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

High Visibility

Visibility is the primary component of traffic safety. We like to assume that if a motorist sees us he will avoid hitting us. For the most part that is true.

Many cyclists choose clothing in the eye-assaulting color I call Please Don’t Kill Me Yellow. While PDKMY certainly demands to be noticed, it has a few drawbacks that may reduce its overall effectiveness.

First of all, it only stands out because so few things in the natural or artificial world are that color, though some are. A certain species of crab spider that hunts on vivid yellow flowers masks its presence by sporting a variant you could call Please Let Me Kill You Yellow. But these spiders are very small.

If every small, underpowered vehicle followed the logic that bright yellow equals safety, anything smaller than a Lincoln Navigator, Hummer or Cadillac Escalade would blaze electric chartreuse. But then the tiny bicycle would be lost in that hideous sea of jangling color.


and when it fades to a gray shadow of its former glory it hardly shows up at all.

PDKMY also makes it impossible to make a clandestine visit to the shrubbery when need arises. Hey! Who’s that over there behind that bush, and what’s he doing!? Oh gross! Call the cops! You’d have to be 300 yards into thick woods to avoid detection. That’s when you’ll be glad if your PDKMY garment is something easily shed, like a wind vest.

In the bright months of summer I believe strongly in the power of the dark side. I wear lots of solid black or – because I got the jersey for free – a snappy black, white and red combo. Visibility comes from lane positioning in daylight and from lights at night. It comes from behaving relatively predictably and logically in the traffic flow, so you are where people expect to see an element of traffic when they are scanning routinely. Why be an eyesore on top of it?

Please Don’t Kill Me Yellow becomes useful in the fall, when days are short and commuters in particular may have to ride in the dusk. It’s also excellent in the fog. I got a PDKMY vest this fall, when we had a string of foggy days. In the dusk, when new, PDKMY garments actually seem to glow. They definitely enhance visibility in low light. At that point, aesthetics take a back seat to practicality. But given the chance I will choose aesthetics when I can.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Itch to go Retro

I’m sorry. I just don’t miss wool.

I know it’s the miraculous natural fiber that inspired all the synthetic under- and outerwear, but it inspired them for a reason. I know it’s the badge of the true retro devotee, but I put up with years and years of nip-rash and pit-chafe, finally resorting to a cotton tee shirt under the wool, which half defeats the purpose.

Protogs gave us Superwash, which was definitely softer than some of the steel wool coming out of the cheaper European clothiers. But I could always tell. Sooner or later it got to me.

I hate putting sheep out of work. But now they can get their haircut to suit their own fashion sense, not my need for cycling apparel.

While we’re at it, natural chamois presented its share of challenges. After one washing it turned into sandpaper without constant lubrication after it dried. And as a natural substance it certainly seemed as if it should happily host all manner of fungus and bacteria.

Natural chamois isn’t enjoying the vogue that wool jerseys are. Retro posturing ends where the pad meets the privates.

The retro jerseys do stir up a few fond memories of times when we all looked like that. I like them on other people. Maybe I’ll dig mine out of the bottom of the dresser and sport around on cooler days. I’ll have an excuse for the undershirt then.