Category Archives: Bike gear

My new favorite cockpit

Yes, I am a brilliant blogger, capable of winning #twitter #contests with a mere 6 words.

(or 8 words, depending on how you look at it). Because of this awesome tweet, I won a sweet helmet light system from Light & Motion, courtesy of Bike Safe Boston.

Selle-Anatomica recently had a twitter drawing for one of their perineum-friendly seats. I like a good perineum-friendly seat as much as the next guy (possibly more), so I was happy to enter. But you know who won?

Oh well, Bike Safe Boston giveth, and he taketh away.

Speaking of contests, BikeSnobNYC recently held his kinda-annual cockpit photography contest. (I believe he calls it the “cock-off.”) For those of you who are not insufferable bike dorks like me, “cockpit” refers to the handlebar area and all of the crap that a bike dork can cram onto it. The prize for the cock-off is a couple of lights. It would be unfair of me to compete for a prize that I clearly do not need, so I will present my contest entry only in this venue.

I present to you, the greatest use of duct tape on a bicycle cockpit:

I am truly impressed with how the duct tape is fully integrated into the cockpit. Not only that, but the pilot of this cockpit has included an entire roll of duct tape – I’m assuming this is for any additional repairs that may need to be performed on the road.

truly spectacular

Not only does has this bicycle’s pilot developed a way to take a roll of duct tape with him where ever he goes, there’s even a small decorative element. Hanging down from the right side of the handlebar is a small curl of duct tape, hanging proudly like a silver peyos.

In other news, I was boring yet another friend with the tale of how I won my helmet light when he whipped out his home-rolled helmet light:

He even put a tail light on there…

…attached with duct tape, of course.

Locked Up: Liquid Metal

Although I’m often scoping people’s bikes, I try to control this habit while I’m riding because I need to pay attention to important matters like pothole avoidance (or proper water-bottle replacement technique). Now that I’m getting around at the slow pace provided by my feet, I feel more free to sniff some butts check out other people’s bikes. However, I’m a little reluctant to take a picture unless the owner isn’t around. I guess I just don’t have the guts that Bike Fancy does. Here are a couple of recent bikes of note that I’ve found on the streets of Providence:

That’s a 100% chrome fixie, no logos. Is it a Bianchi Pista, stripped of all decals? Hard to tell without checking out the serial number underneath the bottom bracket, and I’m not sure if I’m willing to go there. The only clue is the Bianchi saddle. I’ve seen another fixie regularly parked here – maybe this is the same guy’s spring ride?

It’s not a bike I would want for myself, but it does look pretty cool. I almost expect it to melt into little droplets and reform in the shape of Robert Patrick.

I found a single speed (or possibly fixie) down by Coffee Exchange the other day with a completely different look:

The hot-pink Velocity Deep-V rims are pretty standard fare, but I certainly don’t expect to see an adjustable stem and front basket on a bike like this. I’m not criticizing the owner by any means (I have an adjustable stem on my Cannondale and I’d like to get a front basket for my Raleigh), I’m just saying it certainly is unusual.

3 weeks down, 3-5 weeks to go until I’m back on my own haphazardly curated bike.

How to wipe that smug smile off my face

In which our hero learns that one problem with smugness is that too much of it can lead to some serious come-uppance.

If you read bike blogs, or talk with avid cyclists much you’ll know that there are three topics that never fail to bring out people’s opinions. I’m not talking boring technical roadie stuff like steel vs. carbon vs. titanium or Campy vs. SRAM vs. Shimano. The topics I’m talking about are Critical Mass, Bike lanes (and other infrastructure), and the advisability of everyone wearing a helmet. Here are (briefly) my takes on the first two. I’m rather grumpy today, so I’m prone to extreme positions. Also, I’m now incapable of shrugging my shoulders, which means I can’t really equivocate. I’ll explain my grumpiness when I get to helmets.

Critical Mass: (wikipedia if you need a definition). I participated in two CM rides in Edmonton. At first, it was kind of fun, riding in a big group, letting most of the traffic go by. Later, it seemed like the mass was just there to block traffic and piss people off. The most often expressed point of CM is that it is a “celebration of cycling.” I suppose that’s true in the same way a loud, drunken tailgate party is a “celebration of school spirit” in that it makes everyone who’s not on your side hate you even more, and embarrasses the people who are ostensibly rooting for the same team. If you go with the “spontaneous protest” justification and the point of CM is to convince people that “bikes are traffic” it’s a stupid fucking way to do it. Instead of CM, ride your bike everyday, everywhere you need to go. Encourage other people to do the same. CM is for bullshit wannabe revolutionaries.

Bike Lanes: Some bike lanes are good, some bike lanes are bad . I don’t need bike lanes in order to feel comfortable riding in the street, but it’s kind of nice to have them. I’ve biked in cities that have more lanes than Providence and it was pretty sweet. I’ve biked in cities with hardly any bike lanes and while it was certainly manageable, the worst part was the 45 MPH speed limit on some streets. A grid street pattern allowed me to stay off of those streets for the most part. Bike lanes (when constructed properly and kept clear of debris), can encourage more people to ride. When built incorrectly, they are a hazard. And the Park Slopers suing to get rid of the lanes on Prospect Park West are full of shit because those things make everyone safer.

Helmets: If you read about biking much, you’re bound to come across the “great helmet war.” The anti-helmet crowd says stuff like, “The Dutch don’t wear helmets, and they have some of the best cycling safety statistics.” Good for them, they also have the best cycling infrastructure and culture in the world. “That one guy in England found that when he wore a helmet, cars passed closer to him” Nice sample size there. “Bike helmets aren’t designed for the common types of accidents” Well then, let’s make them better. “Requiring helmets convinces people that cycling is unsafe.” Some people are stupid, what are you going to do? I’d keep going, but I think that this post does a better job of breaking down the arguments for wearing a helmet.

In the last year, I’ve sort of skirted around the edges of the “helmet wars” as I’ve read various bike blogs. I’m a bit conflict-averse, so I’ve avoided reading much of it. But I’d heard some of the intriguing counter-intuitive arguments and I’ll admit that they appealed to my scientific curiosity. Earlier this week, I found the video below on a bike blog called DFW Point-to-Point, and I thought, “well, maybe I’ll take a look at this anti-helmet stuff.”

I’d proceed with my usual frame-by-frame mocking of the video (a skill I picked up by spending too much time watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 in my youth), but I’m typing with one hand and don’t quite feel up to it today.

On Friday, I wiped out while riding my road bike on the East Bay Bike Path. It was a beautiful day, with a high predicted to be in the upper 60′s. I had a comp day coming to me, so it seemed like the perfect time to take the day off and enjoy a casual ride with Spouse. I even wore shorts. We were on a flat, straight section of the EBBP, completely  devoid of any gravel, twigs or debris. I had just mentioned to Spouse that we could ride side by side since there was so little traffic. I took a swig from my water bottle, and as I replaced it, I lost my balance. My bike got sideways, and I hit the ground hard, mostly on my left shoulder, but also on my left hip. My head also hit the ground, but I’m not certain of the sequence. I heard a snap, at the time I thought it was my helmet, but it was most likely my collarbone. I didn’t black out, but the pain took a few minutes to catch up with me. Spouse kept a level head and helped me get to the side of the path. She called our friend (and faithful commenter) Vanessa to help with the bikes, then we decided it was best to call an ambulance.

X-rays confirmed that my collarbone was broken on my left side. I won’t bother you with the details of the ER right now (I have 4-6 weeks of no riding ahead of me, so i’ll need to stretch out the stories). I’ll just say that I’m glad I always carry with me: my ID, credit card, and insurance card. I didn’t have anything with emergency contact info on it, but I’ll be adding that to my kit for my next ride. Something else I always have with me: my helmet. Did it save my life yesterday? No, that would be an exaggeration. But it probably saved me from a concussion.

 

It's hard to see the crack, but it goes almost all the way through.

Fortunately, you can’t see the crack in my clavicle, but I can assure you that it is protruding much more than the other side. I’m not sure why I’m smiling, maybe it was the percocet.

Do you think it's kind of flirty how one of the straps keeps falling down?

I’ll be wearing this for the next several weeks, thus the one-handed typing. And one-handed eating. And one-handed just about everything else.

At the end of my recovery, i’ll get to buy a new helmet. They’re not perfect, but they’re the best thing we have for protecting our brains (along with not riding like an idiot). I can’t blame this accident on anyone but myself, really. I suppose I could try to blame it on the extraordinarily strong pull of the lunar perigee on the water in my bottle.

The so-called “Supermoon” woke me up around 3 AM this morning just to mock me as it passed across my window.

I’ll try to keep up with the blogging in the next few weeks, concentrating more on walking and transit. Until then, ride safe!

in praise of the LBS

Back in July, I read this post on the Albany Times-Union Bike Blog. It’s a group-edited blog, and Bob Anderson is one of the best contributors. He outlines the reasons why a cyclist should buy their bikes and gear from the Local Bike Shop instead of ordering online or buying from a big box or big sporting goods store. Basically it comes down to this: When you buy something at a place other than the LBS, you are basically voting with your dollars to no longer have an LBS. Is that worth the 5-15 % savings?  I’ll have to admit that I’ve ordered the occasional item online instead of buying a similar item at the LBS. But after reading this post, I’ve curtailed my online shopping significantly. These days, I only order something online if my LBS just doesn’t carry it.

The view from the LBS during a downpour on the day I ordered my road bike.

Spouse’s rain bike (a mid-90′s Cannondale MTB) had a little shifting problem recently. I took it to the LBS recently with the thought that I’d drop it off to be fixed and pick it up in a day or two. One of the mechanics took a look at it and said he could fix it in just a few minutes. He also pointed out that the pads on the grip shift had worn off and they could order new ones for me. I replied that it was just the rain bike, so no need to go all out for it. While the mechanic worked on the bike, I took a brief test ride on a Linus Roadster:

(The Linus is part of a wave of retro-inspired bikes that have come out recently. It’s design is very similar to my ’68 Raleigh Sports. I liked the very upright posture, and it’s a pretty good price considering that it comes with fenders, a rack and the Shimano 3-speed hub. I’d recommend taking a look at it for anyone who wants a no-nonsense city commuter bike. It’s also the right size for me, unlike my Raleigh. Hmm… maybe in a couple more years….) back to the point:

The mechanic fixed the Cannondale’s shifting cable and brought it out to me saying there was no charge. On top of that, he had wrapped some bar tape around the shifters so they would be more comfortable. It was a great little touch; something that made me say “wow, what a great shop.” Now, I’m sure that he recognized me as a regular customer and I’m guessing that not everybody gets the same treatment. But when I had a similarly small problem on one of my bikes a few months ago (before I was a real “regular” at the shop), the repair was done right away and only cost me $5. Of course, the LBS knows that by giving me this sort of service, I’m sure to remain a loyal customer. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that.

So like I said earlier, I’m voting for this LBS with my dollars, because if it goes away, I’m pretty much shot outta luck. I could go back to ordering things online, but there’s only so many things that I can fix on my own.  There’s no other bike shop that I can walk to, and I’m lucky that this one is so good.

For Reals This Time: A New Bike

As we get older, our birthdays take on less and less meaning. There may be the occasional bump in excitement every 5 or 10 years, but gone are the sugar fests of our youth or the stronger substances fests of a few years later. We go out to dinner, maybe have a few friends over, take a day off from work if we can swing it.

I celebrated my 36th birthday a couple months ago. To me, 36 somehow felt more significant than 35. I think it was the fact that it was 18 years after my 18th birthday (when I was finally able to vote – Yay!) Earlier that week, I had arranged to meet the owner of the Raleigh in the afternoon of my birthday so I could check it out. I woke up that morning a little bit excited that I may get a “new” bike by the end of the day. I thought it would be fun to have an old steel 3-speed to cruise around town on while I researched what kind of road bike I would get. My plan was to take more test rides and maybe buy something in 2-4 months.

Spouse had other plans.

She surprised me with a gift certificate to the LBS saying that she didn’t think I should have to miss riding a new bike in the summer. I was gobsmacked. No more setting aside a little bit of money each month, no more test riding dozens of different bikes all over town. I could get a new road bike right away. I was speechless. Spouse is quite a woman. I’d list the many ways in which she is a wonderful woman, but that would be a little embarrassing. I’ll just say this: check out what she cooked for us recently:

I'm not going to even describe this dish because it would just make you cry.

Now it was time to pick a bike! Before the arrival of the gift certificate, I was starting to feel the pressure of the “paradox of choice.” Briefly, that’s what happens when there are so many choices available, a consumer just feels unsatisfied with all of them.  Spouse helped solve this problem for me by getting the gift certificate for Small LBS#1. This shop may only carry a few brands, but I knew that I’d be able to find something I liked out of what they carried or could order. Time for more test rides!

I knew that I wanted to check out what Surly had to offer, but the LBS only had one in stock (a Steamroller that they’d built with a 3-speed fixed hub. It’s a pretty sweet bike, but not what I’m looking for right now.) Small LBS #2 had a Long Haul Trucker in a reasonable size, but I also wanted to try out a Pacer and a Crosscheck. Luckily, there’s a Surly dealer in Boston. I emailed them to check their stock, then reserved a Zipcar for half a day. Turns out, what their computer was showing as “in stock” meant “in a box” for the Pacer in my size, but I was able to check out the Crosscheck, LHT and a too-big Pacer. I was also able to compare them to aluminum bikes that would be similar to what I could get through the LBS. I did feel a little bit guilty for trying out bikes and taking the staff’s time when I knew I was not going to buy a bike there. I relieved this guilt by buying a pair of gloves. After my bike sin was absolved; my smugness level went up from “occasional recylcer” to “uses composting worms.”

There were some things I liked about the Crosscheck, but it just felt a little cumbersome compared to the aluminum bikes. If I were buying a new grocery-getter, all-around commuting bike (or a tourer), I would seriously consider it. However, I was looking for a road bike, something fun for the weekend. I’m sure I could have fun on a Crosscheck, but it would basically replicate a niche that’s already filled by my Cannondale. Also, I don’t really like the lack of options on the Surly bikes. Most manufacturers these days offer one frame with 3 or 4 different component levels. This lets you find the frame that fits you, then decide on the component level you want. Surly just keeps it simple with one level of components for each of their complete bikes. If you want something different, you have to buy just a frame and pick out the components on your own – but that starts getting more expensive than buying a complete bike with the same components.

My other choices for a road bike were from Fuji and Jamis. I tried out an aluminum Fuji (ahem, at a different LBS). It had some aspects that I liked, but it felt like a bit of a grab-bag of parts, and I didn’t really like the look of it or the feel. It may seem silly to worry about the look of one’s bike, but if you don’t like how it looks, you are less likely to ride it. The most important part of my test ride at the big LBS is that I was able to directly compare it to a touring bike. I was reminded of my post “Put your weight on it.” That tourer was probably 10 pounds heavier than the Fuji Newest 1.0, but you could really feel the difference! When I started the search for a road bike, I was certain that I wanted something with rack mounts. The Fuji fit the bill on that front, but as I continued my search, that became less and less important. I didn’t want to mount a rack to my future road bike all the time, I just wanted the option to do it at some point.

On the Jamis side, I tried out a few of the steel bikes in my size. I found that I really liked the geometry of the bikes. They were fairly upright, but not completely “slack.” There was just one thing I didn’t like: the level of componentry. Although I’ve been happy with my Cannondale, I felt like I wanted another step “up” in components for my first road bike. The Jamis Satellite has pretty much the same components as my Cannondale (but in “road” version as opposed to the performance/hybrid version on the C’dale). The Satellite also has Sora shifters, and I don’t really like how those feel at all. The next step up from the Satellite is the Jamis Quest, but that seemed like a larger step than I wanted to take. The Quest certainly looks like a nice bike – the stand out features include an Ultegra rear D and some fancy-schmancy looking wheels. I was tempted by this bike, I knew that it wouldn’t leave me much money left over for the various accessories I would want to get. I wish that Jamis had something in between the Quest and the Satellite, but they don’t. So I went for the….

Jamis Ventura Race


You can go to the full spec sheet if you’re interested. Here are the highlights:

Aluminum frame, carbon fork, carbon seat stays.

Shimano 105 for the Front and Rear derailleurs, brake levers, and STI shifters

50/34T crankset, 11-25T cassette

Alex AKX 2.0 wheels 24/28 spokes with Vittorio Zaffiro 700 X 23 tires in RED.

That’s right, RED TIRES! This seems to be the feature that gets the most comments from my friends. The frame is silver and white, so the red tires and cables really pop out. Let’s check the photos.

Spouse enjoyed seeing me working on my new ride, so she took a few overhead shots.

The first thing to do was remove some superfluous parts.

ich don't think so!

unh-uh

remove ya!

yeah, right

warning: this is a quick release lever, learn how to use it.

that's a big pie plate!

Bikes in RI are required to be sold with certain reflectors. I think most states are like this, so the manufacturers always include them. Cyclists then promptly remove them and put on lights which are far more effective. That last picture features the dreaded “pie plate” aka the spoke protector. Just for fun, after I removed the parts, I dutifully weighed them to find that I’d saved myself 100 grams! Then I installed my Planetbike headlight bracket and a Cateye Strada double wireless cyclometer. I did not weigh these items prior to installation. Also, I always ride with a saddlebag containing a tube, patchkit, tire levers and a multi-tool. Plus, I have two water bottle cages plus a small frame pump. I think that pretty much eliminates me from the weight weenie category.

That reminds, me I’ve forgotten to make my italicized list of upgrades:

Cateye Strada Double Wireless

Tektro “interrupter” brake levers

Shimano A-520 SPD pedals

Topeak Medium Aero Wedge Pack

Planet Bike 2w headlight with superflash

Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle Trunk

Spongy Wonder Bike Saddle

Lenzyme HP Road Drive mini Pump

The Ventura came with a San Marco Ponza Power Saddle in red and white. It looks great, but it’s a total taint crusher. (I mean, it’s a fantastic saddle, just not for me, I can’t really handle the performance it delivers – anybody want to buy it?) As previously stated, I’m a big fan of the Spongy Wonder, but I thought I’d try out a few other traditional saddles to see if saddle technology had improved much. I tried the stock saddle for 20 miles before dropping it. Small LBS #1 has the WTB saddle “test ride” program. You can leave a deposit and try out one of about 10 different saddles. Don’t like it? Bring it back and try out another. I tried 2 different types on the Jamis and didn’t really like either one as much as I like the Spongy Wonder. So I ordered a new Spongy Wonder!

So that’s all the stuff. The question is, how does it ride? Well, I’ve never had more fun on a bike than on this one. It wasn’t too hard to get used to riding with drops, and they are great once you are out on the road. However, I have several miles of stop-and-go city riding before I can get to any sort of open road or bike path. This means I’m often up on the flat part of the handlebars. I don’t like the idea of trying to reach for the regular brake levers in an emergency stop situation, so I had the interrupter brake levers installed. It was just $30, and gives me much greater confidence while biking in the city. They are also good to have in just about any other riding situation. The only drawback (aside from weight, ha ha!) is that they make it almost impossible to attach most larger handlebar bags. Oh well, I still like them.

What else do I like about this bike? Damn near everything. I know I don’t have much of a base of comparison, but this bike has been fantastic. I couldn’t tell you the difference between laterally stiff and vertically compliant, but the ride has been plenty comfortable for the several 30 mile rides I’ve taken so far. I haven’t had the opportunity for any serious climbing yet, but I can definitely feel the ease of acceleration with the Jamis over my Cannondale. Really, I don’t have the vocabulary to give this bike a proper review. That would be like my dad reviewing the latest Luomo album. All my dad can say about that and all I can say about my bike is that both are dope.  Here’s some more pics:

oh how those red tires pop!

Maybe I should try to find a red cover for my spongy wonder. Although according to “the rules,” it should match my bar tape.

What you'll see when I'm about to pass you.

What you'll see when you are about to pass me... I mean, after I drop you.

The Cockpit. I don't usually have the headlight mounted, I just wanted to give you the full effect. The bell is necessary when riding on narrow bike paths with Sunday drivers going 6 MPH.

One more shot as it glints in the sunlight with the Beavertail Lighthouse in the background.

If you want to hear someone give it a more detailed review, Bicycling magazine gave it the full video review treatment for the 2009 model:

He's saying, "Yo, this bike is dope! All it needs are red tires and red cables and it will be off the hook!" Actually, the review is informative and rather subdued.

This review was an interesting look into the standards of a roadie. It’s a positive review, but you can tell he’s thinking, “it’s okay for an entry-level bike.” In fact, he makes an off-hand reference to it being a “heavy” bike at 20 pounds. Well, it is certainly light enough for me.

A few weeks after I bought the bike, I noticed a CBS Early show clip was linked on the front page of the Jamis website (yes, I’m still going to the Jamis website even after I bought the bike. That’s so I can look at my bike while I’m in my living room and it is down in the basement.)

They were looking at the ladies’ version, but you get the idea. I like that there’s a helmet hanging off the handlebars – almost like it’s a police bike.

So I’ve had the bike for about two months now and I’ve put about 350 miles on it. I haven’t done anything more than 40 miles in a day – I haven’t really had the opportunity. I’d hoped to pull off a century by the end of summer, but I don’t think that will happen until next spring. I should be able to swing another metric century at some point, we’ll see.

So that’s my bike. I love it. I’d keep going on and on, but I see that I am well north of 2000 words, so I’ll end with this thought: At the start of July, I only owned one bike, by the end of July, I owned three. Every morning, I get to think, “which bike shall I take to work today.” It’s like I’m a millionaire choosing between a variety of cars. Shall I take the utilitarian hatchback (the Cannondale – although what kind of millionaire would own a hatchback?) Perhaps I should roll in to work in the classic convertible (the ’68 Raleigh Sports). I don’t have to carry anything to work today, and I don’t have to stop for groceries on the way home, so maybe I’ll take the sports car (which in this scenario is, of course, the Jamis). Three bikes, together worth a little more than the price of the car I sold a year ago, but to me they are worth a million.

Pulling the Trigger

I know, it doesn’t have quite the flash of a full Alberto Contador “fingerbang.” But I immediately thought of the Spaniard when I saw the display hanger for these Specialized bike gloves. For those of you not in the know, Alberto Contador is a Spanish cyclist who won some sort of big multi-day race recently. This is his logo:

That's right, the man has a logo.

He uses this logo because he is often seen giving this salute to any photographer present:

If you look closely, you’ll note that on his hat, there is an image of a hand giving the same salute.

I bought the gloves above(s) first of all, because there is an issue with my old gloves. As you can see, they sport a nice retro-style (this style is known as “roman,” I believe.)

In addition to their stylez, these gloves also sport some nice gel padding. Bike gloves can always be sort of hit-or-miss. The gel might seem good in the store, but it could completely deteriorate on the road. These gloves held up quite well to my daily commute and occasional longer trip. The mesh backs did get a little stretched out, but that’s to be expected. What I did not expect was this:

Kinda hard to tell from this picture, but the gloves gave me an intense tan line. I had big dark ovals on the back of each hand where the gloves are open to the sun. You can kind of see the contrast with my watch tan line a little further up my wrist.

To explain the second reason I bought new gloves, I must first make a bicycle confession. I visited a bike shop and took several of their bikes on test rides when I had no intention of buying a bike there. The shop in question is in a neighboring city and it carries a brand that I could order from my LBS, but said LBS is too small to keep them in stock. So I called around and found a store that had them in my size. I set aside some time on a Saturday, reserved a Zipcar, and headed out. I did feel a little bad about it, wasting the employee’s time and all. So I bought a pair of gloves to assuage my guilt and get rid of my tan lines. I would have bought some other accessories, but they didn’t have anything else I needed right then.  It turns out that the bike in question was a little too much on the retro-grouchy end of the scale than what I want right now. The new gloves are pretty sweet though. By the end of the summer, I should have lilly white mitts, dark arms, and a hard line where my jersey sleeves end.

Other stuff I did as I wrapped up my bike-purchase decision:

Gearing chart for the Cannondale (current ride)

Gearing chart for choice #1

Gearing chart for choice #2

I even made one of these:

Frame Geometry Chart

The gear charts were a little silly. I just wanted to see how the gearing compared to what I’m used to. Basically, the high-end of the bike I chose is a little higher than my Cannondale, and the low end is not quite as low. Pretty much what I expected. The geometry chart was a little more interesting. What I learned from that is, all other things being equal – a longer head tube makes for a more upright, relaxed ride. I guess I could have probably read that somewhere, but it was interesting to try out the different bikes, then look at their numbers.

I was intent on studying the numbers because the bike I settled on was not in stock at my LBS, nor any LBS in a reasonable driving distance. Said LBS had a bike in stock with almost identical geometry numbers that I liked the feel of, so I went off of that. Why not just get that bike? Well, I kind of wanted a step up as far as components went. I’m still not ready to reveal what I bought. I want to ride it a little more before I give my full opinion.

Bicycle Clothing

It’s time we address an important topic: What does one wear while riding one’s bicycle? The answer, of course, is just about anything you want. There seems to be a whole movement of people who are adamant about wearing regular clothing while cycling – actually, they seem to take it a step further in their admiration of people (mostly women) who look especially dashing or fashionable while riding a bike. (Lovely Bicycle just had a post about the problem of wearing a skirt while cycling, what with the Male Gaze and all.) Well, I’ve never been much for fashion, so that doesn’t interest me so much. Nonetheless. People should ride for transportation wearing whatever they like. For my commute (in dry, moderate weather), I just wear whatever clothes I’m planning on wearing at work. For hotter temperatures, I wear my work clothes on the way to work (it’s usually cooler, and my ride is almost 100% downhill). I bring a pair of shorts for the ride home when it’s hotter and I need to work a little to make it up the hill. There are some times, however, when one wants to ride for the enjoyment of riding, or even for exercise. These times are often in the warmer months, thus causing the rider to sweat. In times like these, it’s a good idea to wear something appropriate for an exercise activity.

Like these Polish gentlemen:

Thanks to Beany at Brown Girl in the Lane for posting this on her blog. Thanks also for sending me straight for the eye bleach

Ummm.

So, maybe you don’t want something quite so… clingy.

I’ve never felt like I needed cycling shorts like those pictured above. Because of my special seat, I don’t need the additional taint-protection afforded by some types of cycling shorts. Instead, what I need is some support and something that wicks away sweat. These two things are well accomplished by your average pair of running shorts.

This pair from Target does the trick okay, but they kind of stick to my legs.

I prefer this pair from EMS. They are obviously of a higher quality and they allow enough freedom of movement for me to even practice yoga in them.

A t-shirt will get the job done for me when biking while exercising, but with some significant sweat, they can tend to stick a little bit. Plus, it’s not comfortable to carry a wallet, cell phone, etc. in one’s pants pockets on a long ride. So I finally broke down and got myself a proper bike jersey. Again, from EMS – it’s pretty no-nonsense:

BTW: the color for this men’s bike jersey was listed as a “princess blue” which is an odd choice from a marketing perspective. Note the lack of sponsorship logos. Just a little reflective EMS logo on the sleeve.

Bike jerseys are useful for wicking away sweat and all that sort of stuff you’d expect from athletic apparel. The best part are the three drop pockets in the back. These are useful for holding your cell phone, camera, wallet, cliff bar, etc. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to grab something quickly and not have to fish around in a saddle bag. If one is a blogger, it’s especially useful to be able to whip out a camera to take a picture of that awful bike parking place (once one can wake up the iPhone, go to the camera app and wait while it loads -arrrgh!)

I just bought this jersey about 6 weeks ago, but I’d actually owned a jersey for a few years. For some reason, I bought a long-sleeve bike jersey which is an item of clothing with a very narrow temperature band in which it is actually comfortable. I bought it while living in Canada, so I guess I can blame my preconceptions of the climate there for this purchase. Then again, maybe I’ll find myself cycling this fall when it’s 50-60 degrees out, you never know.

Finally, a confession. I haven’t told you about a purchase I made about 2 months ago that has changed my cycling. It all started when I was cleaning out the boxes of cycling bits and pieces that have accumulated over the years in our basement. In one of these boxes I found this:

Hmmm. What could be inside?

Clipless Pedals! To be fair, Spouse had told me that she had a pair of these kicking around, but I had forgotten. She hadn’t used them much because she had stopped doing much distance riding right around the time that she got them.  I’d talked with a few people about the advantages of clipless pedals, but I was a little reluctant to try them out. After confirming with Spouse that they didn’t fit her style of riding and I could feel free to install them on my bike, I headed down to Large LBS #1 to see if I could find some shoes that I liked. I ended up with a basic pair of Shimano SPD shoes.

The shoes have recessed cleats, so they are pretty easy for walking around when I’m not on the bike.

The clipless pedals that I installed have the cleat platform (or whatever they’re called) on one side, but they are flat on the other side, meaning I can ride my commuter bike in any pair of shoes, if I should so choose.  But ever since installing the pedals, I’ve worn the shoes 98% of the time. I know that the retrogrouch school would heartily disagree, but everything just feels much more connected when I’m using the clipless pedals. I can’t prove that I’m more efficient, but it feels great, and more fun than the old pedal clips.

For the uninitiated: the metal cleat you see in the picture above “locks” into a spring mechanism on the pedal – not unlike a ski boot locks into a binding. To remove your shoe from the cleat, simply rotate your heel outwards from the bike. Ah yes, “simply.” Everyone will tell you this fact about clipless pedals: you will fall at some point during your first week of riding – but it will be a low speed fall. The problem comes at stop lights and stop signs – do you remove your foot from the pedal? Or hope that the light turns green so you can keep it in? If you come to a complete stop and you have not yet removed your foot, you can get in trouble.  For me, this happened on my second day of riding clipless. After mounting my bike behind my house (heh heh), I clipped my left foot in, but left my right foot free. I rolled to the end of my driveway and slowed to check for traffic. I started putting my right foot down so I could wait for an opening, when I noticed that I was off balance and slowly tilting to my left. I panicked and tried to pull my left foot out, but no luck, I fell to my left side, my cleat popping out of the pedal as I hit the ground. Since then, I’ve had a few close calls, but no real falls. At first it seemed a little inconvenient to be constantly clicking in and out of the pedals in order to stop and start. But it makes commuting more fun.

I’ve come to realize in the two months that I’ve been riding clipless that I have crossed a particular line: I bought specialized footwear for an athletic activity. This is something I haven’t done since I last played basketball in 8th grade. Shortly after getting the pedals I went on my first metric century and since then I’ve been lusting after road bikes. I have a couple more suprises I haven’t gotten around to blogging about yet. Basically, I’m a bike nerd now. As a friend of mine would say, a VSB – very serious bicyclist. I may have made fun of bike shorts at the beginning of this post, but I’ll have to admit – they might not be far over the horizon.