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Wool Wednesday: Basic Black with SWOBO pt. 1

This Wool Wednesday is a real treat, not only are we reviewing a killer product but Stevil from Howtoavoidthebummerlife answers some questions about Swobo and wool! First, the review!

SWOBO Men’s Short Sleeve Merino Jersey

The Look
When this jersey came in, I was all oohs and ahhs. The black version of the jersey is a no nonsense sharp looking jersey. It’s classy and low-key with subtle contrast stitching to create the lines of the jersey. Restraint seems to be the guiding principal here. No giant Reese’s Pieces on this baby.

The left sleeve has SWOBO embroidered on it and that’s it. This jersey has nothing to prove but gives you a little wink to let you know you’re wearing some quality threads.

The Wool

The feel of the wool is soft right out of the bag. No breaking in or washing in necessary. I’ve owned some older wool jerseys and some early jerseys from Portland Cyclewear that really took a wash or two to get the wool soft. Not so here. The hand is smooth and plush without being overly thick.

The weight of the wool makes it pretty flexible. I did a few long rides in the jersey in temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to the upper 70-s and it performed well. Again, it really depends on your riding style. You could probably wear it lower if you hammer and keep your body-heat up. The nice thing about wool is that even if you’re sweating in it, it will keep you warm. You could also wear it into the 80’s and 90s if you have the zipper down and aren’t completely hammering.

The Fit

For me, I ordered a size larger so the fit is a little looser. I’m not a racer. I’m a commuter and a bike tourist. This really makes it flexible. The extra room lets me wear a featherweight or midweight wool baselayer underneath and coupled with some arm warmers and gloves, I’m good to go into the 40s without the bulk of a jacket.

Does this make a great commuter jersey? Heck yeah. Its flexibility with temperature, coupled with the fact it won’t stank when you get to the office is a great mix. Plus, it doesn’t look like Photoshop vomit. You can ride in the street without feeling like a big sweaty billboard.

Am I going to bring it on my next bike tour? You better believe it. You can wear wool for several days without washing and it won’t be odoriferous like your plastic tuxedo jersey. Plus, it’s black, and it won’t stain as easily 🙂 The jersey also has pockets on the back to carry your phone or snickers for the long ride home.

Pros and Cons

Pros:
-All around great jersey for racing, commuting and touring…can’t go wrong with basic black
-Stank protection…nuff said
-Soft out of the bag…no breaking-in needed
-Performs great in a wide temperature range
-Nice, understated styling you Philistines…

Cons:
-Wool ain’t cheap…price may be a bit of a barrier, but this could be mitigated by the fact you don’t have to buy as many jerseys since you can wear it over and over

Get yours here.

Guest Article: Keen Commuter Sandal by Alan Barnard

Alan Barnard runs Recumbent Blog…really nice photos if I may add. He sent me his review that should get commuters’ attentions.

keen commuter

Cycling sandals have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and for good reason: they’re comfortable, light, convenient, and walkable. I’ve been wearing Shimano sandals for the past 18 months and I find them to be far more comfortable than traditional cycling shoes, both on the bike and walking about. As Sheldon Brown put it, “These are my very favorite footwear. In the summertime I go for weeks on end without ever having anything else on my feet. Far and away the most comfortable cycling footwear ever.“

I too love my Shimano sandals, but I always felt they’d be better with a closed toe box (a la Keen) to keep my toes a little warmer in the winter and provide some protection in the event of a crash. Consequently, I was excited when I caught wind that Keen was coming out with a “Shimano Killer�? cycling-specific sandal.

Called the Commuter, Keen’s new bike sandal features a full length SPD compatible plate, a thermoplastic urethane cleat tap plate, and an upper that is nearly identical to Keen’s ever-popular Newport H2. (The Newport H2 is half sandal, half trail running shoe, with open straps and a treaded sole similar to traditional sandals, but with an enclosed toe box for protection.) The Commuter goes a step beyond the Newport with a stiffer sole and more compact tread pattern to narrow the overall profile, resulting in greater crank clearance and a more positive pedal/shoe interface (don’t let the narrower outsole scare you; both sandals are built on the same men’s “D�? width last).

The narrower profile is key. My Brompton is outfitted with platform pedals (a necessity due to the nature of the little folding beast) and I found the Newport outsole to be far too wide, with crank interference on the inside and a feeling of tipping off the pedal to the outside. The Commuter, on the other hand, with its narrower profile and stiffer sole, perfectly mates with a standard width platform pedal. There’s also ample clearance with clipless pedals, even on low “Q�? cranks like I have on my Tour Easy (this was a bit of a problem with the Shimano sandal). So, whether you’re of the clipless persuasion or, as Grant Petersen puts it, you prefer to pedal “free�?, the Commuter is a good fit.

Even with an enclosed toe box, the Commuter feels more like a sandal than a shoe. It’s well ventilated and the upper is supple and easily adjustable using Keen’s unique “bungee cord�? lacing system. They can literally be slipped on and off in seconds while being plenty secure for road riding. You do pay a price for the Commuter’s cycling-specific features. Even though it’s not a bad sandal for short walks and even a bit of light (very light) hiking, the wider and more supple Newport is far better for long walks and more demanding conditions. That said, the Commuter is probably the most walkable cycling-specific shoe on the market.

The Commuter successfully combines the ease of use, comfort, and walkability of a sandal with the stiffness and toe protection of a cycling shoe. Because they’re built with the same high quality and attention to detail that is typical of all Keen products, they should provide many seasons of trouble-free use. And who knows, with their enclosed toe box, you might even be able to get away with wearing them around the office!

For more information: www.keenfootwear.com

Jack’s Got a Walz Cap, Too!

Well, I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon and get me one of those dashing Walz Caps that everyone raves about.

Moe’s got one.

Jeff’s got one.

Lance has got one.

Russ has at least one…and probably more, since he’s the one who turned us onto them in the first place!

And now I have one:

Walz front view

The one I got is a lightweight cotton model…too warm here for wool. It’s black with a jaunty grey racing stripe down the middle. It fits like most cycling caps — snug without any binding or pressure. I have bone spurs in several neck vertebrae…as strangely as it sounds, baseball hats or most other headwear (except helmets, oddly enough) create tremendous pain, but I can happily say that this Walz Cap sits on my head like a feather, and I don’t feel any pain.

Where Walz has improved the traditional cycling cap is in the bill. All the vintage caps you see folks wearing these days often have a plastic insert to give the bill its shape, and these crack over time. Walz uses double layers of fabric and tight stitching to maintain the bill’s shape, and this is vastly superior. It also makes washing the cap that much easier (and less potentially damaging).

I also like the way that this cap fits under a helmet without me having to adjust my straps — and the cap helps banish “helmet hair”.

With the bill up or down, this cap is understated and stylish:

Bill up

As I wore this cap around and saw pictures of myself wearing it, I started to realize that I have a little bit of a Brad Quartuccio thing going on. Could we have been separated at birth?

separated

Check out Walz Caps…they’ve got a snazzy cap for everyone out there. They’re inexpensive, well-made and individually crafted in the United States.

Gear Review: Swobo Gloves….best gloves ever?

I’ve been wearing my Swobo gloves for about a week and thought it was a goodly time to write a review. If you haven’t heard of Swobo (you live under a rock), you’re not alone. I did a quick tour of all the local bike shops in Long Beach, CA and no one carries their gear and when I asked some people if they had heard of Swobo, they thought I was trying to score some wacky tabacky.

In all seriousness, I think their apparel is nicely designed and doesn’t look like the typical photoshop vomit you see on other cycling gear. They’re also big fans of wool which is enjoying a little renaissance with the help of companies like Rivendell, Portland Cyclewear, and EWR (Earth, Wind, Rider). I like to think that wool is the new “high-tech” fabric, it keeps you warm in the winter, cool in the summer, it wicks moisture, it resists odor and it isn’t made from oil. In fact, it’s a renewable resource.

Anyway, back to the gloves.

They’re wool and on the outside of the right hand is a nice square little brown tag with yellow stitching that says Swobo. Understated. Classy. Sweet. Left to a lesser designer and they would have put racing stripes or flames.

On the flip side there are yellow sticky dots and an awesome little design detail, a sticky hand (hanging loose)! How awesome is that?!

Here’s a detail.

The glove fits…well, like a glove. It’s warm and toasty and has been keeping my hands warm on my morning commutes. The thermometer on my computer has been reading upper 40s and low 50s in the morning and these gloves have been keeping my hands warm. Anything in the low 40s and 30s though, I might use these as liners for another pair of gloves.

The sticky dots (and hand) do their job. They grip the Salsa tape on my road bike and the shellacked cork grips on my touring bike with equal fervor.

The nice thing about these gloves are they’re not too “sporty” (although they do have a sense of humor). They wouldn’t be out of place on your hands while you’re hitting the town, unlike some of the funky designs with multiple colored panels and palm implants. These are just great everyday gloves for on and off the bike.

Another great thing about these gloves is that you can wash them without plastic parts getting all weird. I have yet to wash mine, but I do own several articles of clothing that are made from wool. I would suggest washing it with this because it has lanolin which reconditions and softens the wool. Wash it in cool water in the sink and for godsakes don’t wring it! Do a light squeeze to get some excess water out, then wrap it burrito style in a cotton towel and stand on the towel. This will force the water out of the wool and into the more absorbent towel (this technique works for wool shirts and jerseys as well). Then leave it out to dry.

I have been riding with the gloves for a week and love them. The yellow sticky things aren’t so yellow anymore, and no doubt with time they will chip away, but probably not until I’ve gotten good use out of them.

All Swobo products (at least the ones I’ve purchased) have come with this enigmatic tag. On the flip side it says:

We’ve decided that hang tags, in all their dangling glory, are a waste of paper and natural resources. If you’re in need of extra information concerning Swobo products, or do indeed have a hang tag fetish, visit Swobo.com to get product information. Do what you can….when you can. This isn’t hippy banter, this is old school actions applied to real time issues. Thanks for listening.

You got to love a company that’s willing to put that on all their products.

I highly recommend these gloves because it’s a good product coming from a good company. They do what they’re suppose to with style and humor (who knew gloves could be so funny?). A+