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Review: Outlier Summer Shorts

The folks at Outlier Tailored Performance Clothing recently sent us a pair of their “summer shorts” to try out.

Outlier “is 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.” Basically, athletic clothing that doesn’t LOOK like athletic clothing — stuff that is just as presentable on a bike as it would be in a casual office atmosphere. Best of all, they’re sewn up right in New York City. Sounds intriguing…but what are these shorts all about?

The pair of shorts I got to test were in the grey “summerweight” fabric — a Swiss fabric called Schoeller 3XDry. It is stain- and water-repellent on the outside with a subtle woven feel and look, and perspiration-wicking on the inside. This fabric stretches and feels incredibly lightweight, yet is surprisingly durable. The pockets are made out of lightweight Supplex and feel great next to the skin…smooth and cool. The shorts are impeccably stitched — nice, even stitching and flawless construction throughout. There are handy waist tabs to cinch the shorts a bit tighter if needed.

front

The inseam of the shorts measures a bit over seven inches…which to me felt scandalously short (at least initially). I’m more of a knicker-length cutoffs sort of guy — with about 20 pairs kicking around the house and year-round wear here in Florida, I felt like I was wearing hotpants at first. Once I was able to spend some time in them and noticed just how much cooler they felt than heavy, canvas-y knickers, I didn’t mind the shortness at all.

back

Outlier claims that these shorts can be worn as both cycling shorts and as swim trunks…and of course they claim they are presentable in the office. Well, MY office wouldn’t allow such a thing, but I was able to test the shorts on the bike and in the pool. I wore them on several hot commutes (changing into work clothes when I got to my office) and to a couple of pool parties. Although the shorts have seams in all the usual places and no “cycling liner” to speak of, I didn’t notice any chafing on rides up to about 10 miles. I would not want to pedal all day in such shorts, of course — longer rides necessitate some sort of chamois or padding down there for most people. Even on hot days, the shorts never felt stifling — the moisture-wicking effect of the shorts sure seemed to work on some very steamy days.

In the pool, they served admirably as swim trunks. Outlier claims that these shorts dry really fast, and while they did dry quickly, it wasn’t nearly as fast as Outlier’s ad copy might suggest. Despite the lightweight construction, I felt a bit clammy down below for a bit longer than I like. The weirdest thing about the shorts is that even when soaking wet, water still beads up on the outer surface. Freaky!

Perhaps my only real gripe with the construction of the shorts was the waist tabs…particularly the material used to make them. The grosgrain webbing used is really lightweight and a bit prone to slipping through the chromed D-rings. Since the webbing is so lightweight, the D rings would also rotate and jam up the works…eliminating the quick-adjust feature without considerable fiddling. A slightly thicker/stiffer webbing would cancel that problem and wouldn’t add appreciable weight to the shorts.

On the way to a jam:
webbing jam

Here’s the other, perhaps more important kicker: the price. Many of our fellow commuters tend to be fairly thrifty. Spending $120 for a pair of non-cycling-specific shorts is a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of us. Sure, the shorts are made in America, exquisitely crafted and incredibly comfortable and lightweight, but still… I do know that here in Florida, where on-the-beach weddings are a common occurence, I will have a finely-tailored pair of shorts to wear to the ceremonies (and I’ll bet I’ll be the best-dressed guy there, groom included). It’s a tough call for the rest of you…

dapper

So, if you’re looking for a well-made pair of shorts that performs like athletic wear should…but without the athletic-wear “look” — go no further and visit Outlier’s web store. If you have a hard time stomaching such a steep price tag for summerwear, you may want to look elsewhere.

Outlier also makes full-length trousers in the same lightweight fabric…and these would be completely acceptable for most office applications. I may just look into a pair when the cooler weather comes.

And, if you’re on the fence about these shorts and want another opinion, please visit our friend Bike Snob NYC for his irreverant take on the shorts review. It’s a hoot!

An Early Birthday Present — Steel Toe Studios Cyclone Buckle

Knowing that I’m a huge fan of artwork made of recycled bike parts, my wife got me this great belt buckle for my upcoming birthday (I’m gonna be 25…yeah, 25. And I’m sticking to that number). It’s called the “Cyclone Super Cog” buckle…

super cog

Crafted by Steel Toe Studios in Seattle, blacksmith/artist Erica Gordon makes these buckles out of recycled cassette cogs. Shaped with heat and a big hammer, the cogs are then finished with a variety of distressing and surface-treatment techniques.

If you look very closely, you might see that the cog is an old Campagnolo…my wife knows me too well, indeed, and she made a special request for one from the studio. Awesome!

The buckle is sturdy, yet very lightweight, and helps hold up my “manpris” when paired with a studded belt — you can call me a hipster all you want, but if I hear you, I’m gonna swing my Super Cog right upside your head!

Check out Steel Toe Studios on their Etsy site or at their homepage.

A Great Commuter Bike by KHS Bicycles

Ok here’s something that KHS Bicycles came up with for 2009, its the TR-101. We’ve posted a video of this bike from Interbike 2008. Vince Calvillo mentioned that this is a new model for KHS and I really think they built an awesome bike that could be used as a great commuter.
khs tr 101
Here’s the specs:

Frame
Reynolds 520 Double Butted full Chromoly w/carrier and cantilever bosses
Fork Full Crmo w/rack bosses
Headset Cane Creek A-Headset
Rims Weinmann SP17 Alloy Doublewall
Hubs Formula Sealed Bearing cassette, QR
Tires Kenda Kwest 700x32c, w/K-Shield Anti-puncture
Spokes 14G Black 36°
Front Derailleur Shimano Tiagra
Rear Derailleur Shimano SLX Shadow
Shifters Shimano Dura-Ace 9-Speed bar ends
Chain KMC Z9000 w/Missing Link
Crankset Shimano FC-R453, 50/39/30, Octalink
Bottom Bracket Shimano Octalink cartridge
Cassette Shimano HG50 11-34, 9-Speed
Pedals Shimano PD-M505
Seatpost Alloy Micro-adjust
Saddle KHS Ultra Comfort, Soft Shell
Handlebar Alloy Butted, 31.8mm
Stem Alloy 3D Forged, 31.8
Tape Cushion Tape
Brake Levers Dia Compe #287 for linear pull brakes
Brakes TektroLinear Pull
Color Black
Frame Size 17, 19, 21, 23, 25″

Just refresh your memory, here’s the video.

Arctic Heat Cooling Vest in Florida

Moe received an Arctic Heat Cooling Vest last month to test, and the technical specs, activation and his impressions of the vest can be found by reading his article.

After he got a chance to test this vest, he sent it over to me. You see, I had a theory that in a place with higher relative humidity, the vest would stay cool longer (more moisture equals more cooling). Well, we’ve got humidity in spades here in west-central Florida…today’s reading was 75% humidity coupled with temps in the low 90s. It was a perfect day to try out the vest!

As soon as the vest came in the mail, I activated it by soaking it in water for about an hour. Then, once the fabric was fairly dry to the touch, it went into the freezer…where it remained for the next four days.

Here it is straight out of the freezer — oooh, frosty:
frosty

I tried the vest without a shirt underneath at first, but MAN was that cold! A summerweight cycling jersey was the ticket to initial comfort, and the jersey helped to spread any moisture out over my torso.

Sure enough, my humidity theory seemed to pay off — I got about 50 minutes of active cooling from the vest (about 20 minutes more than Moe’s experiences), and the vest could have passively cooled me for another hour or so due to its dampness once the viscous gel had reverted from a hard-frozen to a mushy state. My bike ride was fairly low-intensity and slow-paced, but faster speeds would have only meant more evaporative cooling — it would not have affected the “frozen time” of the internal gel.

I rather liked the vest — on a day like today, the cooling definitely took the edge off the heat, and I was pretty comfortable for most of my recycling ride. The extra weight (almost three pounds) was unnoticed — I was expecting to be aware of a heavy weight surrounding my torso, but that just wasn’t the case. Plus, I got to rock Moe’s “blue Power Ranger” look:

power ranger

I wonder how many freeze/thaw or activate/deactivate cycles this vest will withstand? The reason I ask is that some of the internal channels didn’t feel full of gel, despite a vigorous and lengthy soaking to plump up the dry crystals. In those channels, the fullness tended to congregate over spine and sternum, so that turned out to be the best cooling location anyway…

Anyhow, if you live in a hot, sticky climate, this vest might be just the thing for rides of up to 90 minutes or so. It will definitely keep you cooler!

Hoss Sienna Plaid Ponderosa Knickers

I wasn’t much of a fan of knickers…that is until I tried the Hoss Ponderosa Knickers. I’m a huge fan of their Ponderosa shorts; I own 3 pairs and I use them to commute and to mountain bike. So, Hoss sent me a pair of their Sienna Plaid Ponderosa Knickers to ride with.

Here’s some technical info about the knickers:

* 8 panel microfiber polyester outer shell is lightweight and durable
* 6 panel polyester/Spandex liner with CoolMax for moisture management and comfort
* CoolMax sanitized chamois with multi-level technology improves comfort by relieving the pressure points between body and saddle
* Adjustable bungee cord closure on legs
* 6 pockets, including 2 side cargo pockets and a rear cargo style pocket with Velcro closures
* Partial elastic waistband with extra secure belt and buckle for comfort and fit
* Rear stretch panel for comfort and flexibility

The biggest reason why I like these knickers is because they cover my knees and they shield the cool morning breeze . Having arthritis, this is a big plus; my knees don’t stiffen up and become sore when I get to work. So how do they feel in the hot afternoons? The Ponderosa knickers breathe rather well, and riding in the hot afternoons is not an issue for me. The chamois is also top notch — it absorbs the sweat and keeps my derrière very comfortable.


Bonus Blue Power ranger Picture

The adjustable bungees do a great job in keeping the knickers’ pant leg away from the chain. I also like their style; they are not super tight and they are not too baggy — the Sienna plaid fabric give these knickers a subtle touch of class.

The knickers are priced very competitively at a MSRP of $69.95, but frankly, for all the features that these knickers offer, I think that the Hoss Ponderosa knickers are an excellent buy.