Friday, October 25, 2019

The Fred-peror's New Clothes

Sorry for my absence, but I've been positively drowning in luxury bike products!  I mean you know about the Trail Butter, but that's just the gooey tip of the sticky iceberg.  I've got tires, a bike lock...but what I'm going to talk about first is clothes:

These are not the clothes in question.  Indeed, times have changed since Rapha came around and ushered in a new age of monochromatic, vaguely fascistic garments.  (Yes, armbands are fascistic, but we're talking about road riding here, so it works.)  Now there are two basic sartorial approaches to dressing yourself for a road ride:
  • Muted earthtones with some Dayglo accents
  • Super over-the-top colors and intentionally cheesy patterns
The latter is generally the domain of younger people who discovered bikes three years ago via the Radavist and then started irreverent cyclocross teams, whereas the former is slightly more pan-generational.  Sure, you still see people wearing their 20 year-old Discovery kits or their finely aged charity ride jersey, but for the most part the post-Rapha and post-gravel cycling world is decked out in olive drab like the rebel army in Star Wars.

I should stress this is not a bad thing.  Remember stuff like this?  

I mean obviously we're a lot better off.  Anyway, all of this is by way of saying that Pearl Izumi came to New York City not too long ago to show their fall apparel to the press and they gave me some clothes to try.  So that's what I've been doing.

Before I move onto the clothes, I should probably give you an inside glimpse into the fabulous life of a semi-professional and semi-retired bike blogger.  The Pearl Izumi press event consisted of an early morning weekday ride around Central Park.  Alas, with seventeen (17) children to ship off to their respective learning institutions and factory jobs I could not join said ride.  So we made arrangements to meet in the park later in the morning, and I took them up to the popular local route known as "River Road."

I should not have to remind you that I'm slow.  However, people who live in Colorado and work in the bike industry are not slow.  Furthermore, it was a freakishly hot 80-degree October day (much to the chagrin of the Pearl Izumi people, who had come to New York expecting crisp autumnal conditions in which to debut their wares).  The upshot of all this was that I spent like 40 miles sweating my pants yabbies off and watching my new acquaintances vanish up the road.  Upon our return to Manhattan I pointed them downtown and figured after seeing me in action they wouldn't want me associated with their brand, but to my surprise a package containing some fashionably subtle au courant apparel soon turned up on my doormat.

I was very careful to snip the tags and put them aside so I'd know the actual names and prices of what I've been wearing.  Obviously I immediately lost them.  However, thanks to the Internet I've pieced it all together and here's the ensemble my sweat earned me:

I'm sure you know the line on Merino: it's warm, it's comfy, and it doesn't stink.  This makes it a great material for cycling clothes, especially base layers.  I know this because I had a Merino base layer I wore for years until I left it in California at the last L'Eroica ride, goddamn it.  (It did, however, develop a hole in it, possibly due to moths.)

At the same time, I got that base layer for free just like this one, which retails for $80.  (Trips to California, free base layers...sometimes I step outside myself and marvel at what a rarefied life I lead.)  To be perfectly honest, I'd never pay $80 for a base layer.  In fact, the base layers I wear most often are Uniqlo Heattech undershirts, which cost like $15--and even those I got for free, because they were giving them away one time I went shopping at Uniqlo.  ("Hmmm, these things would probably make great base layers," I thought to myself--and they did!)

So while the Merino base layer from Pearl Izumi is extremely nice, and while I'm very happy to have a new one to replace the one I left behind, I'm also not going to sit here and tell you to run out and buy an $80 base layer--unless of course $80 simply isn't a lot of money for you, in which case good for you, go crazy, or unless you're just a Merino snob, which some people seem to be.

The jersey is also a very fine garment, and after about 100 miles in it so far I like it very much.  However, it's also expensive at $195.  It's obviously a lot easier to justify an expensive jersey with zippers and pockets and stuff than it is an expensive undershirt, but yes, it's still a luxury item.  I will no doubt wear the hell out of it this winter, but it's also the sort of thing I'd be unlikely to buy myself, and would instead tell someone else to get for me for Christmas.

To me the real standout item is the vest:

In keeping with the theme it is not cheap, but it's outerwear, and if you're going to put money into anything it should be your outerwear.  (This is true on or off the bike.  Your outerwear should be lasting you decades.)  It's quite comfortable and warm, and of course it's got that rebel army look that's So Hot Right Now.  

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "Please don't show me a picture of you wearing this stuff."  Well, I'm afraid your request is denied:

I took this photo in a River Road restroom, and as you can see, after your ride you can just throw on some designer jeans and some body spray, slather your helmet hair with styling gel, and hit the club:

By the way, not only was I decked out in Fredly finery, but I was also wearing the deerskin gloves Barry Wicks sent me:

I just thought they were funny at first, but I gotta say I'm kinda into the deerskin gloves now.

I may pick up a few more pairs at Home Depot.

And not only have I been busy testing clothes, but I've also been busy tweaking my crabon Fred Sled:

Since taking delivery of this bike almost a year ago now I've been resigned to the fact that, while overall I love it, I'm just not that crazy about the shape of the bars.  I figured eventually I'd get around to changing them once the bar tape needed replacing, but the other day I decided enough was enough and instead rolled the bar tape back just enough to play with the lever position--and wouldn't you know it, with a little bit of fiddling everything feels great now!

Clearly the fact that it's taken me almost a year to figure this out means I have too many bikes.

Alas, between switching to a longer stem awhile back and moving the levers further down the bar I managed to take up a decent amount of cable housing slack, thus tightening the bend of the cable where it crosses the front of the stem.  I realized this was not ideal and that it could cause binding, but I was also disinclined to re-cable the bike or run the cables under the bars where there's no groove for them--and anyway, how many sharp turns are you making on a road bike?  Well, today I was navigating the notorious hairpin turn on the George Washington Bridge when the rear brake cable got hung up on the stem bolt.  You can see how that would happen here:

This had the effect of locking up the rear brake, which in turn had the effect of dumping me onto the pavement.  I've now got a scuffed shifter lever and saddle, as well as a large black and blue mark on my dignity.  

But hey, at least I didn't rip the clothes.


Chazu said...

I have a short sleeve merino wool jersey from Swobo. It fell victim to moths, and now has several holes.

And my merino wool socks from Swobo are wearing thin.


HDEB said...

That gear looks very nice! I still semi-regularly wear a hand-me-down long-sleeve Swobo jersey and another short-sleeve Swobo jersey that I bought new last century. Both jerseys are over twenty years old, have been used heavily and I believe they have twenty + more years on them. Those Pearl Izumi Merino threads look real nice -- I've got Pearl Izumi gear from last century that still has miles left in it. Although that gear is not cheap, if it lasts many years, the amortized annual cost become low. You get what you pay for!

Yourrealcousin said...

Levi's commuter pants. . .wish they would bring them back/re-issue

Anonymous said...

I generally ride in whatever I happen to be wearing. Or I used to. Entering my fifth month, post-injury. Apart from some relief from my chiropractor, which Workmans' Comp doesn't pay, the medical "profession" has been about as much use as tits on a bull.

Beck the biker said...

Well, there's the thing - the wool and leather gloves kit just works really well. Dry, not clammy, grippy, versatile, super comfy (try Kucharik's retro cotton 70's jerseys for the hot weather, superbe). Maybe the gravel stormtrooper influence will bring practical kit mainstream. But will it stick before the bike industry circles back to 21c @ 140psi? However, it's tough to be a snob about shlubby but practical kit, the 'bike curmudgeon' look, always so declasse on those group rides. Because lets face it- wool's baggy, and riding a road bike with leather gloves declares a rider's affiliation with the shopping cart sidecar team. Even though the stuff works really well. It's in the no-BS book of cycling rules, the book the curmiudgeons keep in their Carradice saddlebags while they're tooling around esprit de Rivendell.

dop said...

I have a number of eighty dollar merino wool base layers. They started life as sweaters from the Brooks Brothers Outlet, that I wore to work until they were eaten by moths

Billinrockhill said...

I don't know why you had to pick my Dr. Crankenstein jersey as an example of bad style (not that it isn't.) I happen to have worn such jersey within the last 30 days. I don't know why. I have lots of other jerseys that are way less offensive, but somehow it called out to me. I still remember buying my first bike jersey (as plain as possible, because as a new rider graduating from the t-shirt I wanted to remain inconspicuous) and how great it turned out to be compared to the soon-sodden cotton garments I was wearing in the summer heat. So getting suitable stuff can improve comfort on the bikes. And I have had good luck with Pearl Izumi things lasting forever. Glad to have you back at the keyboard.

Anonymous said...

Thin merino wool sweaters may be available for $10 at your local resale shop. I have accumulated several. They are my favorite for cool and cold weather riding. In the dead of winter I'll wear two in size L, and a one or two in XL, with a down vest over that, great combo for below freezing, even below zero when paired with mittens, balaclava, and ski goggles etc...Even when its fairly warm out, one thin merino sweater with no undershirt is comfortable, they breath somewhat.

huskerdont said...

There is a third option: all black.

Wish I could do merino on my torso, but I can barely wear it on my feet/ankles. Did finally pick up a vest last spring, and it's been great for, say, 48- to 56-degree mornings--those temps too warm for a jacket but chilly without.

Those Pearly Izumi pieces may be a tiny bit steep, but someone will put them on sale in the spring at a more affordable price. Seems to me that Pearl Izumi is generally good stuff at a reasonable price, compared to the likes of Castelli or Rapha.

Ellie said...

I wish that I had your job! or non-job, whatever! Cheers.

mikeweb said...

I also have to vouch for the wonders of Uniqlo Heattech. They also have 2 or possibly 3 weights of it (heavier weight is dubbed Heattech+ I think). I have also re-purposed a wool half zip sweater as an underlayer that works quite nicely. For years Pearl Izumi was my go-to brand of gear, and I still have a long sleeve thermal jersey in a colourway that is decidedly un-hip by 2019 standards. By which I mean that it is neither black with pink details nor earthtone/camo.

JLRB said...