Yesterday was an auspicious one for Mark Cavendish, who won yet another Tour de France stage. (This is not a spoiler, as the Spoiler Statute of Limitations expires at midnight on the day the stage has been run.) Furthermore, the "Man Missile from Manx" (otherwise known as "Manxwell Smart," "Manx for the Memories," and, to a select few, "Tickles") reached deep into his Suitcase of Esoteric Victory Salutes and delivered one that made his weird phone call thing look like a good old-fashioned arm-raising. As Cavendish crossed the line he took his glasses off and proceeded to clean the lenses as though they were bifocals and he was a dowager about to peruse the society pages over a cup of tea:
My first thought was that this must be Cavendish's way of saying, "Losing? I don't see it. Maybe there's some schmutz on my glasses. Hmmm, nope, still not there. I guess I'm just awesome." However, after the stage Cavendish explained it was a reference to the colorway of his glasses--that colorway being green and one in which Cavendish hopes to be swaddled in the very near future. Hopefully Cavendish doesn't also have a green chamois in his shorts, because that could make his next victory salute not only extremely awkward but also totally unsafe for work.
Speaking of shorts, the clothing company Outlier recently offered to send me a pair to try. If you're unfamiliar with Outlier, they're "about classically tailored garments made with the best technical fabrics around. Clothing that looks great no matter where you are in the day, riding to work, meeting with clients, or out on the town." At least that's how they put it. The way I put it is that they're sort of a hipster Rapha in that they also make expensive clothes but all of it is meant to be worn both on and off the bike except for just some of it. In any case, here's what the shorts look like when worn by a bunch of guys with an aversion to socks who are having a great time with each-other:
And here's how Outlier describes them:
Shorts for a different sort of triathlete. They may not be made for winning races, but you can run, swim and bike in these shorts with style and grace. The OUTLIER Summer Shorts are a classic short that can double as swim trunks. You can ride to the beach, jump in the ocean and ride back to the city without ever having to change. Like all Outlier garments these are shorts designed so you can look good without thinking or planning. Just toss them on, jump on your bike and let the day happen freely.
For the Pale Gray version we used our Summerweight fabric and for the Black our 4Season. Both fabrics are made by Schoeller in Switzerland and have all the great performance properties discussed elsewhere on our site. Water resistant, quick drying, 4way stretch, abrasion resistance, the list goes on... We added supplex pocketing so everything dries down as fast as any swimsuit in the sun. If you need to take a wave, the side pulls cinch up to hold everything firmly in place. The extra side loops let you clip in your keys. The inseam falls at the lower to mid thigh so that you always look proper even in the most compromising situations those late night pool parties bring.
Fit wise, buy your standard size. If you are in between sizes go for the larger. The side pulls will cinch in tightly to take up any slack. The leg opening is a medium lean and the inseams are 7.5". Like all our garments the Summer Shorts are made in New York City to ensure superior quality and construction.
Now, I should say that, while I own plenty of cycling-specific shorts, I cannot remember the last time I purchased a pair of regular walking-around shorts. Instead, when my pants get old I simply demote them to shorts status via the judicious application of scissors. I never really saw the point of having "nice" shorts since any situation in which you'd need to dress presentably would almost certainly call for pants (or of course a skirt). And as far as cycling goes, if I'm racing or doing a long ride I'll wear cycling shorts, and if I'm just riding around town I'll wear my regular conversion shorts. Maybe in certain rare circumstances, such as racing a Smart, I'll wear cycling shorts under regular shorts (with bibs un-bibbed in case I need to do a Cavendish chamois victory salute). As such, the notion of a pair of plain black shorts that require no less than three paragraphs of explanation struck me as both amazing and amusing.
Still, I decided to try them. Perhaps in limiting myself to either full-on cycling shorts or cheap conversion shorts I'd been depriving myself of a sort of intermediary cycling bliss which would allow me to be comfortable in any situation--whether it's palping my Scattante or standing awkwardly at the periphery of some Impassioned Hipster Dancing. Anyway, here's what the Outlier shorts look like on the BSNYS/RTMS Test Sisal after they've been worn for awhile. This is the front where the genitals go:
And this is the back where the buttocks go:
When I first put them on they seemed comfortable, and while they're shorter than I'd like the fact is I'm also a person of many, many hangups and one of these is that I generally refuse to wear shorts that don't cover my knees (cycling shorts excluded). But the fact is that they just looked like plain black shorts, which is certainly not a bad thing as far as I'm concerned.
Next it was time to actually test them, and at this point you may be asking yourself the same question I was: underwear, or commando? Obviously when I wear cycling I don't wear underwear, but when I wear regular shorts, I do. But as you may have noticed in Outlier's description, these shorts are also supposed to function as "swim trunks." Obviously, on those occasions when I do swim, I don't do so in my conversion shorts--instead I wear something more appropriate. Moreover, if I'm going to the old swimmin' hole by bike, I don't find it particularly troublesome to bring a pair of "trunks" along. However, if these shorts are in fact intended to be used for the "hipster triathlon" of riding, swimming, and shallow social interaction as the marketing copy states, then the implication is that one should go without underwear when rubbing them.
Frankly, I found this daunting. ("Rubbing" was exactly what I was afraid of.) Here is the Outlier crotchal region juxtaposed with the crotchal region of an actual pair of cycling-specific bib shorts:
While the pockets of the Outlier shorts are made of soft fabric, and while the frontal flap protects one's "man missile" (assuming you have one) from the horrors of the zipper, there's also a pronounced taintal seam. I don't know about you, but I know which one I'd rather put between my legs.
Still, I decided I'd go the commando route. And with that, I slipped on my Outliers, saddled up the Scattante, and headed to the beach. The beach I chose was Manhattan Beach, and if you're unfamiliar with Brooklyn here it is in relation to the Fixie Hatchery of Williamsburg:
Of course, Manhattan Beach is well within the Hunting Ground of the Lone Wolf, and I was fortunate enough to see a number of them. Here's a particularly proud example I encountered in Sheepshead Bay:
Yes, in the Fixie Hatchery it's all Frida Bars, but the further away from it you get the wider and more splendid the cockpits become.
Incidentally, while I had been concerned about riding commando in my Outliers, in practice it proved not to be a problem and they were perfectly comfortable. So, emboldened by comfort, we crossed the footbridge and headed to Manhattan Beach:
I should mention at this point that there are two things you should never do in New York with people from California: eat burritos; and go to the beach. In both cases you'll be subjected to constant reminders about how crappy they are here compared to how amazing they are in California. Every Californian seems to have an annoying story about some amazing burrito they had one time that was as big as a baby and only cost 14 cents, and every Californian seems to have out-sized and unreasonable beach expectations. It just so happens I was with a Californian, so predictably the beach-denigration began. Ordinarily I wouldn't have had patience for it, but in this case I had to agree, since it turned out Manhattan Beach was in the throes of a sandstorm:
You can't really tell from the picture, but those flags are thrashing about like a mullet at a Testament concert and the haze around the beach-goers is in fact sand. I only wish I had brought a frame in need of repainting, since I could have gotten it sandblasted for free. Still, the good people of New York, woefully ignorant of the vastly superior beaches on the West Coast, were undaunted:
Like Bedouins we trekked through the gale and picked a spot near the lifeguard just in case I began choking to death on "epic" burrito stories and remorse. I then set down the "hipster survival kit," which consisted of this convertible Knog pannier/shoulder bag I recently found buried under a pile of "hipster cysts," as well as a pair of canvas Vans in the ska colourway I had obtained specifically for the occasion:
Here's our neighbor, plugging her ear lest she inadvertently overhear another burrito story:
Here's my accomplice's bag after like 45 seconds, already getting buried:
Honestly, I don't know how the pair of exposed buttocks in the background could stand it.
At this point our patience was eroding faster than the shoreline, so I knew I had to begin the testing immediately. Since Outlier were billing these shorts as something you can wear all day long in any situation, I knew the first thing I had to test was stain-resistance. After all, no self-respecting person would show up at the après-plage soirée in filthy shorts. As such, I set out to determine how the fabric would react to this cheese sandwich slathered in mayonnaise:
Notice that sand is already accumulating on the cheese.
"Oh no! The sandwich guy used too much mayo!" Better wipe some off on my shorts:
Predictably, my shorts were now covered in mayonnaise:
But would it remain there all day long and cause me much embarrassment later? Or to put it another way, would these shorts "hold the mayo?" Only time would tell.
Next, I set about to determine the moisture-resistance qualities of the shorts by administering the Snapple Test:
After a mouthful of sand and cheese, nothing's more refreshing than a cold, oversweetened iced tea:
"Oh no! I missed my mouth!"
Amazingly, though, the Snapple simply bounced off the shorts like insults bounce off an idiot:
Now that I was covered in mayonnaise and Snapple, I figured I should test the shorts out in swimsuit mode:
The swim would have to be brief, though, since our little encampment was nearly buried already:
I approached the water with trepidation for three reasons:
1) Not too long ago, they weren't letting people in the water at Manhattan Beach due to pollution;
2) It was incredibly windy and the water was cold;
3) This guy:
Nonetheless, I girded my mayo-and-Snapple-covered loins and entered Neptune's briny realm:
The shorts were perfectly comfortable for swimming, and they stayed securely on my body in the tumultuous surf, just as the marketing copy promised. Here's a shot of them in action:
And here's a revealing undersea self-portrait:
Not only that, but when I emerged the water beaded right off and the shorts were as clean and mayo-free as you please:
Unfortunately, in the 10 short minutes it took me to conduct the swim test, my accomplice had disappeared. I assumed that she either took up with the hirsute guy from the water, or else was subsumed completely by sand:
In any case, clearly it was time to leave, as my "hipster survival kit" was taking on sand like an alleycat takes on sponsors:
So we assembled our belongings and headed back to the mainland while we still had some skin left:
While my shorts were still wet, they pretty much dried out by the time we reached Avenue L:
So basically, the shorts did everything Outlier said they would. I must confess I did experience some irritation later on, but that is simply because I was forced to flee the beach under duress; under normal circumstances I would have rinsed myself off in fresh water and taken some time to dry out before leaving. Really, hopping on a bike while wet with seawater is a bad idea in any garment (with the possible exception of actual non-ironic triathlon apparel, which is a bad idea for a whole other set of reasons).The fact is that they're comfortable shorts, they deflect foodstuffs, and you can even swim in them if you're so inclined.
Of course, the metaphorical glop of mayonnaise on these shorts is the price: they're $120. That's a lot of mayo, and vastly more than I am willing to spend for casual shorts, which is zero. However, if you're in the market for a pair of comfortable shorts that are made in New York City, are condiment- and beverage-resistant, are stretchy for riding, and can be swum in, please note that Outlier have generously arranged for a special price for readers of this blog (or at least people who can find their way to this blog and click a link) of $97.
Thanks very much to Outlier for the shorts--I'm guessing you won't be wanting them back.