New Kit

At this morning’s ride, lots of club members were sporting our new kit. For several years, we’ve had a design that emphasized blue, yellow, and white — sometimes with blue dominating, sometimes with white the most prominent color.

But this year, the powers that be came up with a new design. It’s mainly white, with black and red trim. The “legacy” club logo remains in yellow. That bothered me, because I’ve never been a fan of yellow on white. But the finished kit looks pretty good.

The new kit. Hard to see, but the one it replaced is at back right.

The new kit. The one it replaced is at back right.

I showed up at the ride wearing my 2010 jersey, with blue as the dominant color. You can see it in the picture at the top of any Bike Noob page.

And here’s my dilemma: While I enjoy being part of the club, and the social benefits that have accrued from it, I don’t feel compelled to buy the latest new set of club kit that comes out.

It seems a new design comes out almost every year. Some members have every iteration in their collection. I, however, am content with one version.

Why? I’ve just got too many jerseys, that’s why. Cycling jerseys hold together pretty well, and ones that I bought five years ago are still in regular rotation.

“How many jerseys do you own?” asked a fellow club member, when we met on a ride a few months ago.

“Seven, I think,” I said. Let’s see…there’s the 50-Plus, the MS 150, the club jersey, the Hotter ‘n Hell, the old yellow one, the Penn State one, the old white and blue one, the red long-sleeved one, the summer weight short-sleeved one…why do I need another jersey?

Or should I suck it up and show my loyalty and pride in the club and pop for one of the new ones?

What “Look” Do You Go For?

The recent post about being visible got me thinking about jerseys in general. I think it’s time the Bike Noob got some new duds. The newest jersey I own is almost two years old. And most of my jerseys lack…je ne sais quoi… panache.

But what to get? There are always team kit jerseys. I could get one for a team that competed in the Tour de France. Katusha’s is colorful. But who would I be kidding? This is the guy who leads the club B rides, then always finishes off the back — behind the slow riders. For a rider of my caliber, wearing a team jersey would be presumptuous.

Or, I could go for a jersey touting an equipment company…even a bike brand. Heck, I ride a Specialized bike…what about a Specialized jersey? But on second thought, it would look too much like a racing jersey. And would Specialized appreciate the fact that a rider as slow as I am is carrying their colors?

You can still find team kit from defunct teams. Some jerseys worn in past years are kinda cool. Some are really obscure. Many are really colorful. For example, I always liked the Mapei kit. It stands out, and not a lot of people would know what it was all about.

There seem to be lots of beer jerseys around. I drink beer. Therefore, should I wear a beer jersey? A lot of them are for obscure regional craft brewers, so they don’t appeal to me. A lot of them are overdone, in my opinion. But this Molson jersey might be a possibility. The jersey is not outrageous, Molson beer is distributed widely in the US,  but it’s not that popular — it could be a nice choice.

A rock ‘n roll jersey? Here’s a Grateful Dead skull and roses jersey.

Nah.

How about going the other direction, and choosing a plain solid color jersey? Well, that’s the reason I’m thinking about adding to my collection as it is. I’ve got some plain solid color jerseys. They’re okay, but they’re boring. I want something with a little color to it. I may have found the compromise.

Jerseys that feature a main solid color, but have enough trim to add a little dash to the look. I found these on eBay. They’re new, not used, and based on recent auction prices I’ve seen for them, they’re inexpensive as jerseys go. In a few weeks, you might see the Noob sporting something along these lines — styled like bike jerseys, but not overwhelming.

What do you think? Am I too boring? Should I shoot for something entirely different? What kind of look do you like to project when you’re on the bike?

Being Visible

I’ve been riding along some pretty busy roads lately. Most of the time, they have shoulders. Sometimes, they don’t. And shoulders and bike lanes usually end at intersections. So being seen is something I’m always aware of.

It seems whenever I hear of a collision between a car and a bike, the driver often says something like, “I didn’t see you!” Now, that’s generally because the driver was not looking for a cyclist. They were looking for motorized traffic, so didn’t expect to see cyclists.

So I decided early on that I would try to wear clothing that is visible.

Different colors show up differently. Below is a shot from the start of a group ride I attended about a year and a half ago. (It’s kinda nice to see evidence of cooler weather — I’m sure it will be back, eventually!)

Anyway, some colors jump right out. Hi-vis green, for one. On this overcast day, the screaming color makes the cyclists wearing it stand out from the crowd. Another good choice is bright yellow, also obvious in the picture.

Less of a standout — white and black. Again, the overcast sky has an effect. White might work on a day like this, but not as well when the sun is low in the sky. Blue is a popular color. It’s one of my personal favorites, and I have three jerseys that feature blue as a dominant or prominent color. But I don’t think blue is a great choice for visibility. Note the cyclist in blue top and black shorts in the right third of the picture. Not exactly a stand out.

Red and orange show up well. I was following a group several weekends ago, and all were wearing different shades of those. My wife was in her salmon pink and orange jersey, and was riding with a woman in a red flower print top. I could see them clearly well before I could determine who they were.

So I’m at a loss to figure out why black seems to be such a popular jersey color these days. Cyclists in black seem to me to blend in with their surroundings.

In addition to being less of a standout, it strikes me that black jerseys absorb too much heat. I own a jersey with black shoulders and a blue body. I wear it often, but during this hot sunny summer weather we’re having, it is not my first choice. I pick it when my other jerseys are in the wash. Both the Sky and Leopard-Trek teams in the Tour de France wore jerseys that were predominantly black. Ugh. I can’t imagine going more than 100 miles for days on end in the summer, in black.

A lot of cyclists prefer to go the understated way, though. They don’t like to dress in high visibility colors. Why? Often, it’s because they’re engaged in cycling for reasons other than sport. Commuters, for example, would like to wear their work clothes on their bikes. Touring cyclists might want to stop and visit attractions or shops on their routes, and darker clothing makes them less conspicuous in a crowd of non-bikers. Some might think the bright colored cycling jerseys themselves are dorky looking.

Other cyclists argue that color is not important — it’s how you cycle that matters. Make yourself prominent on the road. Take the lane when necessary. Make eye contact with drivers. Just because you’re wearing high-visibility clothing doesn’t mean drivers will see you.

See Me Wear jersey

As in most issues, there can be extremes. A line of cycling gear called See Me Wear is available that — well, see for yourself:

There’s even talk of requiring high-visibility colors when cycling. New Zealand is going through a debate along those lines right now. Proponents say anything that makes cyclists more visible is a good thing. Cycling advocates argue that making mandatory a type of clothing that some might see as “dorky” would discourage some people from riding — and could lull others into a false sense of security.

You wouldn’t find me wearing one of these warning chevron jerseys. But at the same time, I’m not going to take anything for granted. I’ll do what I can to ride safely, and to make myself known to drivers. But I’ll also do it in my red or yellow jerseys, and my hi-vis green jacket. And as I add to my cycling wardrobe, I’ll favor brighter, not duller, colors.

Hand-Me-Downs

The other day I came home to find a plastic Target bag on the bed. I first thought my wife had been out shopping and picked me up some boxer shorts. But when I opened the bag, I found something completely different.

Two bike jerseys and a pair of bibs.

“Cynthia stopped by today,” said my wife. “She thought you might like these.”

Cynthia is a friend of ours, who took up biking last year. This year, she joined a local team – the Tough Cookies – and started training seriously. For her, it was all about losing weight. Cynthia, like my wife, has had trouble finding bike clothes that fit. Her solution was to get men’s clothes.

But her training is paying off. Last week, she completed the MS 150 from Houston to Austin, which features a 100-mile leg on its first day. Her training is paying off in other ways, too.

“She’s lost enough weight that she doesn’t need to wear men’s clothes anymore,” said my wife. “So these are now yours.”

The mountain bike jersey and the bibs. The long-sleeved jersey was in the wash.

Cool. The two jerseys are technically for mountain bikers. The long-sleeved one has no pockets and a simple V-neck. The short-sleeved one has no elastic around the hem, and two zippered pockets. I’m no mountain biker, but I’ll be wearing these on shorter weekday rides.

The thing that left me a little uncomfortable was the bibs. They’re great. They’re Castellis, and I’ve always wanted a pair of those. They’re a little garish, with a broad red stripe down the leg and “Castelli” in big letters down the side. They’ve got the distinctive Castelli chamois pad, which is thinner but denser than most other pads.

So, the big question: Do I accept and wear the bibs, knowing that they’ve been cushioning someone else’s bottom? A female someone else, at that?

I hemmed. And I hawed. I found little nit picky things wrong with the two jerseys. My wife stood glaring, hands on her hips. “You’re over thinking this,” she said.

I wore the short-sleeved jersey for a short trip through the neighborhood. It fluttered in the wind, but that was okay. I wasn’t in a time trial. I was just getting in some miles on the bike.

Under the jersey, I wore the bibs.

They fit like a glove. I’m going to keep wearing them.

Cycling Gear…Why the Cost Difference?

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel looks at the difference between the high-end stuff and inexpensive cycling gear.

It’s a question any bike noob has likely asked when stepping up to dedicated cycling clothing — just where does the money go? As in, why should you spend $100 or more for a skimpy jersey or shorts when countless cheaper alternatives can be found?

I put the question to two manufacturers — everybody’s favorite bargain choice, Performance, and the industry’s biggest player, Pearl Izumi.

Here’s what they had to say about where to spend your money.

Supply and Demand

One of the biggest differences between a high-end outfit and an economical alternative is the materials involved, and where they came from.

For their part, Performance looks at what the market is demanding, then goes to existing manufacturers with a laundry list of requirements — weight, type of fabric, chamois type, etc. They have a target price point in mind, one that reflects where the outfit matches up against those from Performance’s branded partners.

“They (brands like Pearl Izumi) spend a lot more time in the development side of the business, developing proprietary materials,” explains Performance’s Brett Lamm. “We basically go out to places that make the materials and take what’s off their shelf.”

“We sell a lot of product, we make a lot of product, but we don’t own our own factories, we don’t do a lot of proprietary development in the individual materials. That saves a lot of money for us.”

For example, Performance’s Elite series uses a chamois from an Italian manufacturer that supplies a number of worldwide brands. “We just happened to pick one that worked for our shorts,” explains Lamm, “and we’re able to hit a certain price point with those.”

In contrast, Pearl Izumi designs a chamois, and then asks a manufacturer to fabricate it. They choose the specific top fabric for comfort, and arrange multiple layers and densities of padding how a designer intended. That research and development is expensive, and that’s reflected in the price.

Performance Elite pad, left, and Pearl Izumi high-end pad, right

“There’s a lot of development time, effort, money and manpower in something as simple as a chamois, a leg gripper, a fabric, the thread used to stitch,” explains Lamm. “We do a lot of stuff right off the shelf, so that saves a lot of cost.”

“We take a lot of pride in covering the fine details,” offers Pearl Izumi’s Geoff Shaffer. “How do you make sure a leg gripper stays up in place, and how do you integrate with your shorts so there’s not a gap between short and leg? We don’t sell at super low price points, so we don’t have to cut a lot of corners.”

Balancing Act

How does the ‘noob balance the desire for the best clothing with the desire to hold on to his money? Consider a few key areas.

Does one short have more panels than another? Chances are it will hug your body’s contours better, provide more flex, and prove more comfortable. The weight and type of fabric can also mean the difference between a sturdy short that will offer some compression, and a flimsy one that will soon be showing your derriere. Examine the stitching. Like its name implies, flatlock stitching lays flat, and will prove sturdy and reduce chafe. Does the leg gripper use silicone bands, dots, or a separate piece of stretchy fabric? It will stay in place better and prove more comfortable over time. Cheap shorts with a simple elastic band sewn into the hem will squeeze your thighs to stay in place.

Cheap elastic leg grippers, left - PI silicone dots and logo, right

For the rider putting in a lot of miles, however, it’s likely the chamois that can make or break the ride.

Don’t be fooled by a cheap short’s simple, one-layer pad. It may prove comfortable in the short term, but painful after you put some miles under you. Likewise, don’t think a fat pad is the key to comfort.

“Number one, you’ve got to have a soft comfortable top fabric,” explains Pearl Izumi’s Geoff Shaffer. “Number two, multiple density paddings. You want a couple different things when you sit down on a bike saddle. Initially you want it to feel soft and comfortable. But over the course of an hour or two hours, you need a second density or firmer foam that kind of holds up under that pressure long-term so that your butt doesn’t get sore or, worse, numb.”

Most experts suggest you get the best shorts you can afford. This is the gear you need the most. More wiggle room can be found with jerseys.

Like shorts, functional differences are mostly found in materials and construction. Most any jersey will pull moisture physically away from your body. High-end fabrics do it through costlier construction methods. Cheaper ones often rely on sprayed-on applications, which wear out over time. More expensive fabrics also commonly feature more stretch, which translates into a more comfortable ride. Balancing moisture wicking and stretch, however, can be costly. “In the past it was sometimes hard to have a real good moisture-managing fabric in a very stretchy fabric,” reveals Shaffer. “When you add stretch you add nylon typically, and sometimes those two don’t work very well together.” High-end materials have now evolved to offer more stretch and better moisture management.

Performance Classic jersey, left, $34.99, sale price: $19.99. Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Leader jersey, rt., $199.99

More subjective differences in jerseys can be found in graphics. Sublimation is commonly used to put graphics on high-end cycling jerseys. It transfers the graphic into the actual fibers of the garment, rather than layer it on top. That produces more stylish graphics and retains the wicking properties of the fabric. It’s cool, but costs. Companies like Performance will use it sparingly, and avoid combining it with the best fabrics to keep costs down. High-end manufacturers will combine the best sublimation with the best fabrics for great looking, but expensive, results.

Descision$, Decision$

In the end, it all comes down to getting the best gear you can for the money that you are willing to spend.

“Ultimately the top thing you’re going to get out of a bigger investment in your gear is better comfort as you go up the food chain,” suggests Shaffer. “If someone’s riding up the bike path for an hour, hour and a half, twice a week, our entry-level cycling short is going to be perfect for them. But if they start getting more enthusiastic about the sport and they start riding three to six hours a week, then that changes their interaction with their equipment.

“At that point, it probably makes sense to invest in a jersey that’s closer fitting, and a fabric that’s a little bit more technical, gets moisture away, keeps you drier and more comfortable, and a chamois that’s better as well.”

Tighty Whitey

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel tries a new look.

Today I rode in a white kit.

Not just a white shirt, not a colored outfit with some white accents, but a white kit — white jersey, white shorts, heck, I even had on white socks. What’s the big deal? I’m not quite sure, but I can tell you it was the most self-conscious 30 miles I’ve ever spent on a bike.

Jeff tries a white kit. What's your take? Would you ride in this outfit?

Before this goes any further, let me clarify. No, I didn’t buy it. I’m working on a story on cycling gear, and Pearl Izumi sent this particular outfit. And truth be told, I really like it. The fabric is super comfortable, everything fits well, and the chamois is awesome.

So what’s the problem? I don’t know, but I just felt like, well …a poser. It was bad enough worrying about what people in their cars were thinking about a guy clad in a skintight white outfit, but the idea of coming upon another strong, legitimate cyclist? I was getting chills just thinking about it. (Well, not literal chills, but give me a little artistic license here.) As to what would happen had I needed to change a dirty tire or fix a greasy chain…I won’t even go there. The ridicule that would ensue should my tighty whiteys get slathered in grease might damage me for life.

So yes, the pressure was most definitely on. I skipped the call to a friend I ride with on weekday mornings and opted to go solo, I purposely chose a route where I wouldn’t see many people I knew in traffic, and I prayed I had timed everything right so that most people would be anywhere but on my intended route. If my name were Ted King or Mark Cavendish, I’d be wearing this outfit with pride. Heck, even if I was just the fast guy in the local club I might be confident enough to pull it off. But just Joe Average cyclist? I wasn’t worthy.

Silly? You tell me. I love the look of these outfits on the rack, or on pro race teams, but I just don’t think I could pull it off on a regular basis myself. Yeah, after a while I started to actually think I looked kind of cool, but don’t tell anybody, because I’ll deny it. My story is I was mortified…even if I did notice how tan and strong my legs looked offset by all that snowy white fabric.

Long story short, I love the gear, but I’ll probably mix-and-match from here on out. But I do have to admit, being the dude in the tighty whiteys did make me ride a little faster. Over the course of 30 miles, on a windy day with three bridges and three stoplights thrown into the mix, I averaged nearly 20 mph, probably an all-time best on this particular route when riding solo.

It’s amazing what a little embarrassment can do…

New Jerseys – the State of Our Kit

Attended a meeting of my bike club tonight. The main item of business on the agenda was to figure out what to do about our club kit.

Bob

Unfortunately, the bottom third of the jersey was obscured in this shot.

Last year, the design of the club jersey was modified radically — a complete departure from earlier designs. The idea was to create something that was highly visible — so a diagonal “sash” of our club letters (CCRCC, for Circle C Ranch Cycling Club) dominated the front. They’re in bright yellow against a black background. There’s also a picture of a biker figure in blue against black. Meh. The blue and yellow stripes on the sleeves work, though, in my opinion, and the red stripes are a holdover from earlier versions. We’ve got matching arm warmers, which carry through the stripes, and look pretty good. But it’s been apparent that the jersey needs a makeover.

Bob3

Black and blue aren't a great color choice, even on sunny days.

They’re just not as visible as had been hoped. The back — which one would like to be seen by motorists at enough of a distance that they have time to react and avoid hitting the cyclist — features rays of blue emanating from the Circle C logo. The logo is the only thing that’s yellow, and it’s kinda thin. It just doesn’t stand out. If you completed the kit by buying the shorts, they have a wide yellow band across the butt. However, way more people bought just the jersey instead of a jersey-shorts combination.

I never even got in on the jersey purchase, and other club members joined too late this year to get in on it, either. So, we had the option to place another jersey order, using the template on file at the custom jersey company. Or, we could redo the jersey for the fourth time in four years, and see what we could do to make it stand out more.

We decided to go for a redesign. Instead of a bunch of us all contributing different ideas, and resembling the committee that was commissioned to design a horse but came up with a camel, we turned the job over to the member who had honchoed the last jersey order. He knows the folks at the jersey company, and he’ll work with them to come up with a new look, while preserving the feel of our current kit.

We should get the new ones in mid-January.

If you’re in a bike club, have your jersey stories been like ours? Are you happy with the look of your team kit? And while we’re at it, how has customer service been from the custom jersey company you do business with?

Dressing to ride during Indian Summer

It’s not Indian Summer in Texas yet — we haven’t had our first frost, although we’ve come close. But it’s in the low 60s now when I start my morning weekend rides, and it will warm up to the 80s for the rest of the week.

This is the beginning of the time of year when dressing for my rides becomes a guessing game. It starts cool, then warms up. This morning, I wore a long sleeved jersey and a base layer, along with my bibs. A stiff breeze from the southeast made going south difficult. The part of the route that heads east is mostly downhill, so it’s not too bad.

Usually, on a cool morning that promises to warm up, I’ll wear arm warmers, which I like a lot. They give you a lot more adjustability as conditions change than a long-sleeved jersey.

I have a rule of thumb for dressing, which I violate with frequency. If it’s above 65 degrees, I just wear a short sleeved jersey and shorts.  If 55-65, I wear arm warmers, or maybe a long-sleeved jersey.  Below 55, I’ll wear the long-sleeved jersey, and add tights.  Below 50, I add a windbreaker with zip-off arms.  I don’t bike when temperatures are below 45 degrees (Hey, this is the South!).

My clothing today erred on the warm side. I really worked up a sweat, but still remained comfortable throughout the ride. The wind countered the warming temperatures.  Still, if I had thought about it more, I probably would have gone with just the arm warmers.

Do you have a formula for dressing for the weather?