A Reordering of Bike Stuff

The deep freeze that has spread across so much of the country has made its way down to Texas. We’ve had a few nights where the temperatures hovered around freezing, and we’re due for another tonight. Meanwhile, the dayside conditions have been miserable, too — with a persistent mist and a chilly dampness that you can feel right through to your bones.

So I was neither surprised nor upset when my pal Maggie texted me this morning to say she was not riding. That suited me. Although it meant that I would be off the bike for more than a week, I figured I could give it a rest and do something else.

It turned out that something else was bike-related — sort of. We’re redecorating the house a bit, and my wife wanted to give the bedroom some attention. One of the problems I faced was the big basket of clean clothes from the laundry that needed to be put away. Many of them were my biking things. But my “bike” drawer in the dresser is way past being full. So I made that my immediate task.

First, I unloaded the whole drawer onto the bed. Then, I picked through what I had, and started to cull. A couple of old jerseys are being retired, along with an unused cycling cap, some bandanas, some headbands, some socks — you get the idea.

Even with that, I couldn’t fit everything back into the “bike” drawer. The socks and bandanas and arm warmers and such get packed into a large shoebox, and that moved to another drawer. I culled some items from that drawer and added them to the discard pile. When I was done, everything fitted perfectly.

A place for everything, as they say. Jerseys on the left, base layers in the middle, shorts on the right. Arm & leg warmers lower left.
A place for everything, as they say. Jerseys on the left, base layers in the middle, shorts on the right. Arm & leg warmers lower left.

But my bike stuff has now expanded to a second drawer. I suppose that was inevitable — and overdue. I also suppose I should rethink how I store my bike stuff. Maybe a large plastic tub that sits in the closet might be a better way to handle it.

Well, as I said, we’re redecorating. That means what I think our bedroom will look like is going to change a time or three before we actually start shopping for new furniture. So I might have the opportunity to “design in” some storage space just for biking gear. And in the interests of open-mindedness, I’m going to solicit your input: How do you store your jerseys, shorts, jackets, and other biking clothing? Maybe I can add your ideas into the final product.

Can I get a one-handed zipper?

Finally, we’re getting a real Texas summer, with daytime temps getting into the 100s (38+C). Not that I was looking for that kind of heat, mind you. But the really hot stuff has held off much longer than usual, and I’m grateful.

Now that it’s here, though, we still find ourselves out riding. It doesn’t take long before I start heating up, and I’m looking for relief.

Besides cold water (which doesn’t stay cold long at 100 degrees), I like to pull down my jersey’s zipper to get some air down my front.

Running unzipped on a hot Texas day.
Running unzipped on a hot Texas day.

But there’s a problem with that. On most of my jerseys, I can’t simply grab the zipper pull and give it a yank. Nothing happens.

I tug the zipper pull out from the body, but that still doesn’t work.

A sample of my jerseys. Clockwise from top left: Champion Systems, Hincapie, Sugoi, Primal. I can pull the Hincapie zipper with one hand, because of the long pull tab.
A sample of my jerseys. Clockwise from top left: Champion Systems, Hincapie, Sugoi, Primal. Only the Hincapie unzips easily.

Sometimes, it’s a project to pull down the zipper with two hands — one on the zipper, and one on the collar, tugging in the opposite direction.

Of all my jerseys, only two can be unzipped with one hand while riding — my least expensive jersey, an old cheap Nashbar thing, and my most expensive jersey, by Hincapie. The Hincapie number has a nice cloth zipper pull extension that seems to make all the difference.

A close look at the run-of-the-mill zipper on my Nashbar jersey. But it's the smoothest sliding zipper of them all.
A close look at the run-of-the-mill zipper on my Nashbar jersey. But it’s the smoothest sliding zipper of them all. The zipper pull broke off a week ago, and I can still slide the thing up and down using one hand.
The pull tab on the Hincapie zipper. I wish there were holes on my other zipper pulls so I could thread some tabs on them, too.
The pull tab on the Hincapie zipper. I wish there were holes on my other zipper pulls so I could thread some tabs on them, too.

But most of my other jerseys’ pulls don’t have a hole where I can thread some kind of longer pull extension.

Yeah, it’s a first world problem. I’ll do my best to live with it.

Shorts — Old and New

Over the last few months, I have finally acquired some new bike shorts. I’ve been riding the same ones for about four years now — no, wait — five. It’s time to replace some of them.

In our family, the biking clothes of choice are Pearl Izumi. We know they’re not the cream of the crop, but they’re pretty good quality and have served us well. This time though, I wanted to try something different, just for the sake of being different.

Performance Ultra.
Performance Ultra.

My wife gave me a pair of Performance Ultra shorts for Christmas. These shorts, and the Performance Elite, have gotten good reviews online for several years. Furthermore, several members of my bike club wear them, and like them as well.

I was pleased with them from the first ride. The only thing I noticed was that they are a bit snug fitting. They compress my waist so that I look like my belly is even bigger than it really is. They do a nice job of compression of the thighs, too. And they’ve got a feature I hadn’t seen before: the leg grippers are about two inches above the bottom of the leg, leaving the bottom two inches feeling looser. Neither I nor my wife, who also got a pair, liked that at first. Now, we’re used to it, and it feels fine. The Performance shorts also have a feature I really like: a modesty panel. That is a piece of material that extends forward and up from the chamois and flattens your, uh, package, so it’s not as obvious when standing around in mixed company at a coffee shop or convenience store stop. I wish all short makers would include one of these.

My second new pair of shorts, which I bought as a birthday present for myself, was the Top Shelf by Aerotech Designs. I’ve read favorable reviews of Aerotech’s products for several years, especially in  regard to big and tall sizes. So, I thought I’d try a pair to see if they worked as well for a guy who has a belly, but would like to think he’s not fat — yet.

The Aerotechs are closer to true sizing, and don’t have the tight feeling of the Performance shorts. The leg grippers are in the traditional spot, at the bottom of the leg. But the biggest difference between the two is the chamois pad.

Aerotech Design Top Shelf.
Aerotech Design Top Shelf.

The pad in the Performance shorts is what I would call a traditional size and shape. It’s similar to the pad in the Pearl Izumi shorts and bibs I own. But in the Aerotechs, the pad is a pad. It’s a bit larger, and feel something like a thick diaper is between your legs. Some cyclists wouldn’t want that. But it suits me just fine. Maybe it’s my old guy flat butt, but I need extra padding in my shorts, or I’m uncomfortable after the first hour in the saddle.

The subtle differences in the two shorts came to the fore during rides this week. On Tuesday, I wore the Performance shorts on an 18-mile cruise through my neighborhood. Despite their tightness when I stand in them, they feel fine when I’m in a more aero position over the handlebars.  I do move around on the saddle more often during the ride, but I would grab this pair anytime.

I wore the Aerotechs for a 32-mile ride Friday. Here’s where the big pad separated itself from the rest. I was comfortable throughout the ride, climbing tough hills, roaring down others, riding tempo, and just rolling along easily. After two-plus hours on the bike, I was as fresh as when I started.

It might be unfair to review biking shorts after such a short period of use — three months for one pair, one month for the other. If the shorts are not comfortable that soon for whatever reason, there’s a problem. It will be interesting to see how they hold up over time. I have a nice pair of Sugoi shorts that also have a large, thick pad (although not quite up to the standard of the Aerotechs) that I like to wear on longer weekend rides. But the Sugois are separating along the seams where they connect the legs to the pad, and these shorts will not be around for much longer. My Pearl Izumi shorts have just about run their course, but the pad is still in great shape. So even though they look terrible, they still feel good on the bike, so I’ll keep them around a little longer.

Anyhow, if you’ve been considering a new pair of shorts, you can consider either the Performance Ultra[/compare] or the Aerotech Designs Top Shelf. Choose according to your preferences for padding, and remember that the Performance shorts run a bit tight. I’m sure you’ll be happy with either kind.