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Clothing

Preview – Lululemon Lust… Fall Commuter Duds

This goes out to all my straight-BALLER-status Cycle Ladies out there: the post goddess has delivered a lovely package from Fedex including three items to review from Lululemon’s Fall Commuter line.  Elizabeth and I will be testing them out as-soon-as-flippin’-pasta-bowl to get the product reviews up there since the collection has a “limited [online] shelf life”…  Dang, apparently the Lululemon Pedal Power Fall line is in demand like the line outside the club at Night at the Roxbury, so get ’em while they got ’em, Cycle Ladies!

Enough with the ridiculous similes, you say, Lululemon baller Fall Collection, what have they got in store for us Bike Commuters? I received three pieces in the mail yesterday and my first impressions/stream of consciousness went a little like this:

Whoa, these materials are slinky and sexual.  How the crap do they make this stuff… spin the golden saliva of Aphrodite!?  Maybe I should have ordered a size down, they seem flowy and scarfy.  Wait, is this a SCARF?  Must make extra efforts not to choke myself with scarf while cycling… Need scarf guard for rear wheel.

Actually, the scarf is something like a she-necktie for a lovely blouse that could transition nicely from two-wheels to office and heels!  And after throwing on the duds and perusing photos on their website – I am actually now wearing ALL of them as I type here on the futon – the sizes are NOT too big and fit as the Lululemonites must have intended.  What exactly did we receive to review?  Oh yes, oh yes, that’s a list coming up, and I LOVE lists!:

  1. Pedal Power Wind Shirt (in dense purple) – $128.00

    Lululemon Pedal Power Wind Shirt in Dense Purple

    I hope I can look as straight ballin' as this Lululemon model!

  2. Pedal Power Pant (in black) – $128.00

    Lululemon Pedal Power Pant in Black

    And yes... I chose the butt shot. I hope the inseam works for my short stature!

  3. Pedal Power Longsleeve (in Currant) – $108.00
Lululemon Pedal Power Longsleeve in Currant

Red is the new Neon Orange over at Lululemon - points for striking visible color!

And for those of you who may be stunned by the price tag, you’re not the only ones.  My fashion price range may be skewed, considering my stylists (read: stylish older sister and stylish best friend) give me their best hand-me-downs for $free.99.  Here’s a quote from RL in an initial email about the Lululemon products to review:

One of our guys on the race team bought a $700 wheel set, his wife was so mad that she bought a $300 Lululemon jacket in retaliation….but she raves about their products all the time.

Time to hit the road and see if we rave about them too!  I’m excited to test out these Fall Pedal Power duds – if only it would cool down just a tad.  Long sleeves and long pants are still a bit much for September in Hawaii, bring on the rainy season, already!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Review: Solo Classique Cycling Jersey

A new player on the cycling-clothing scene is Solo Cycle Clothing, all the way from New Zealand. When they contacted us just before Christmas to gauge our interest in their line of jerseys and other clothing, we were very receptive to what they were offering. As with any new company venturing onto our shores, though, there were some delays in getting a jersey to test. I was hoping for a winterweight jersey to help counteract the chilly temps here in Ohio, but things just didn’t work out that way. Still, Solo sent me a short-sleever from their “Classique” line, and it has gotten quite a bit of use now that spring is here.

First, some of the slickest packaging in the cycling industry:

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Here’s a little bit about the jersey from Solo’s website:

•The Solo design team openly declares its mission: to produce the most beautiful cycle clothing in the world. The Classique range of jerseys pays tribute to iconic nations within cycling’s golden age, with retro styling and accents that will set you apart from the field
•Constructed from Nuovotec polyester; a proprietary polyester blend created for Solo Cycle Clothing, that has superior breathability, wicking, anti-bacterial properties and is super soft against the skin.
•Thoughtful and functional features including an 8″ front zip with oversize zipper pull, four rear pockets, silicon elastic waistband and knitted retro look arm and neck bands
•Retro-inspired design elements including superbly screen-printed (not digitally printed) chest, arm and rear graphics, resulting in bright colors and patterns
•The world’s most beautiful cycle clothing is here. Timeless style inspired by cycling’s golden era. Discover your new favorite jersey within the Solo Cycle Clothing Classique range

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As you can see (and read), the Classique line is geared toward a retro look with modern materials…and they’ve nailed that look with the simple patterns, short zipper, and rib-knit cuffs and neck. This particular style, the “Brouwerij Heuvel“, is an homage to the rich cycling heritage of Belgium, and as many cycling jerseys are, it’s also an homage to BEER. Ironically, this is the second beer-themed jersey I’ve had the pleasure of testing, and I don’t even drink!

The Solo jersey is cut in a near-racer’s form — a little more room than a true racer’s cut, but not as baggy as “club cut” jerseys tend to be on my narrow frame. The quality of the jersey is apparent from the first wearing — the material is supersoft and breathable, the stitching is superb, and the knit cuffs are robust without being constrictive. There’s a thick silicone band at the hem to keep things from riding up in the heat of battle, and that’s always a nice feature. Take a closer look at the cuffs — they’re surprisingly soft and hold everything in place very nicely:

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On the back there are the three traditional pockets, and one smaller zippered pocket for valuables. I really like the extra security of a zipper for my phone and ID cards, so it was nice to see this included.

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As with jerseys from the 60s/70s/early 80s, the Solo Classique line comes with a short 8″ zippered neck. This is my only gripe…yes, it looks retro on this model, but there’s a reason longer-length zippers became standard on modern jerseys: ventilation. My personal preference is for a full-zip jersey, or at least a zipper that goes down pretty close to my belly button. In springtime temps, the short zipper is not a big deal, but as the temps ratchet upward, I will desire much more ventilation than this 8″ opening will allow.

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Not every commuter likes to wear cycling-specific garb…in fact, I would hazard that most simply ride “as they are”, or at most change shirts when they get to work. For those of you with longer commutes, or a penchant for after-work/weekend athletic pursuits, a cycling jersey like this starts to make more sense. Retailing for $139.00, this ain’t no throwaway cheapie — sticker shock for some, but pretty much in line with top-quality cycling wear. To soften the sting of that price tag, Solo is offering a special deal to Bikecommuters.com readers:

URL: http://www.solocycleclothing.com/
Code: GILET50
Offer: Buy a Solo Classique Jersey and use this coupon to get a Solo Equipe Gilet at $49.50 (50% off RRP).
Time frame: Effective now through 31 May

Overall, I have greatly enjoyed the Solo jersey. It won’t be my first choice when the heat of summer comes, but for now it is serving me quite nicely (and making me look incredibly stylish). Take a look at the rest of Solo’s lineup by visiting their U.S. or global websites.

Review: Planet Bike’s Blitzen Shoe Covers

As with last week’s Planet Bike glove review, I waited and waited for some gnarly winter action in which to test the Planet Bike “Blitzen” shoe covers…alas, an unusually mild midwestern winter left me with chilly temps and some rain, but hardly any snow. No matter, really — my feet get cold very easily and I’ve been in the market for decent shoe covers even before I moved to Ohio. Yeah, even Florida gets chilly enough that shoe covers can be used from time to time…

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Here’s a little something about the Blitzen shoe covers straight from Planet Bike’s website:

-Windproof fabric with microfleece lining
-Neoprene front panel for added warmth around the toe box
-Durable bottom with open design for a variety of pedal platforms and cleats
-Full Velcro back closure for greater adjustability and sizing
-Toe box retention strap keeps front of cover in place
-Reflective side logos

The Blitzen shoe covers are a fairly simple affair — a windproof, fleece-lined bootie with an open bottom and Velcro closure along the back to secure the bootie over one’s shoes. The cuff and toebox include neoprene; the former to help protect against cold and the latter to offer better sealing (and a little stretch) to the ankle area. The bottom is open and in reinforced with a rubberized coating. There’s a sewn-on “strap” of sorts to help hold the two sides of the bootie against the shoe inside. This opening also allows the cleat system of your choice to poke through with no interference. There’s also a smaller opening at the heel to allow the sole to poke through. This protects the shoe covers’ fabric from being worn away if you find yourself walking instead of pedaling.

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The shoe cover material only has a tiny bit of stretch in the main body, so shoes with aggressive knobby soles can be a tight fit. My Adidas MTB shoes were a bit of a squeeze getting into the size “L” (the Blitzen covers come in sizes S through XXXL, but the site doesn’t indicate exactly what shoe sizes those letter designations actually cover). Once snugged on, there is no excess material flapping and everything was tight to the shoe. Regular “street shoes” may or may not fit within the Blitzen shoe covers; I would imagine something low-volume might fit, but you’d have to try your own shoes to see for sure. These covers are designed for cycling shoes, not “universal fit”, and if you don’t wear cleated cycling shoes, there may be better cover options on the market out there for you.

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The covers come in basic black with constrasting-color reinforced stitching, and there’s a handy reflective logo on the side. I’d like to see some additional reflectivity on the back of the shoe (a reflective patch or piping along the Velcro closure). Here’s a shot of the reflective in action:

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One thing I discovered is that with shoe covers having an open bottom, wind and cold can enter around the cleat area. The metal cleat and screws can transmit cold right to a sensitive part of one’s foot. My quick remedy for that was remove my shoe’s insoles, then I cut squares of felt to cover the cleat interface from the inside and taped it all down with a couple layers of duct tape. BOOM! Cold transmision conquered!

The covers are not waterproof, but they shrugged off some of the rain I experienced. After longer rain rides, my shoes and feet got pretty wet, but for the shorter stuff it wasn’t too bad…a little dampness here and there that I could live with. I wore these covers down to around 12 degrees, and while they didn’t keep my feet toasty warm throughout, the cold they DID let through was bearable. For me, the low temp for these covers is around 20 degrees…lower than that and I really wished for something more insulated. Not everyone can afford (or needs) a pair of Lake or Sidi winter boots, so these Blitzen shoe covers offer some of the benefits of a dedicated winter cycling shoe without the astronomical price. The Blitzen shoe covers retail for about $45.00, and serve best as a good cover for moderately cold, mostly dry conditions. If you need more insulation, Planet Bike also offers a full neoprene shoe cover called the Comet.

I am so glad Planet Bike took pity on me and offered to let me test both the shoe covers and the Borealis gloves…they made my first real winter in over 20 years a bit more bearable — thanks, PB!!! As always, Planet Bike offers a wide range of products for all types of cycling. Swing on over to their website to take a look for yourself!

Review: Planet Bike’s “Borealis” Winter Gloves

It seems that spring has sprung for most of the country…and so this review may seem a bit late for those of you looking for winter gear for your cold commutes. Since this was MY first real winter in over 20 years, I was expecting a ton of snow and ice in which to test Planet Bike’s “Borealis” winter gloves — I wanted to run these gloves through the worst conditions I could find, even snowball fights and epic sled rides. Alas, it barely snowed here and the longer I waited for Mother Nature to do her thing, the closer to spring it got…

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Here’s a bit about the gloves straight from Planet Bike’s website:

-Windproof back panel and forchettes
-Removable liner for quick dry time
-Ultra-soft Fleece thumb
-Reflective piping for night visibility
-Water resistant, reinforced Serino palm
-3-in-1 design allows flexible temperature range by using liners, outer shells only, or outer shells with liners
-Neoprene cuff/pull tab with hook and loop closure

This 3-in-1 system is pretty handy…wear the liners on cool days, the outers when you need windproof protection or liners and shells together when things get really nasty out there. I was on the cusp between sizes L and XL (I chose the large size)…so the liners are a bit snug but the outers, strangely, have just enough room to wear other liner gloves in my collection. The stock liners are fairly lightweight fleece, so a heavier liner was pressed into service when the temperatures really bottomed out. Here are the fleece liners:

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The fleece liners don’t have any grip-enhancing goodies on them, so they can be a tad slippery all by themselves. I didn’t spend too much time riding with just the liners — when it was warm enough, I had other full-finger gloves that I prefer using, and when the temperatures dropped I grabbed the outer shells (which have plenty of grip). Take a look at all the grippy stuff and reinforcement patches on the palms:

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Feature-wise, these gloves have a lot going for them…good reinforcements on the palm, a generous (and soft!) nose-wiping area on the thumbs, a neoprene cuff and simple closures that did a really good job of sealing out chilly drafts. And, despite their seeming bulk, I had no trouble manipulating the brake and shift levers on any of the bikes I ride. Even the small thumb-lever on Campagnolo Ultrashift levers was no trouble. Seeing as how this was my first time with lobster-style gloves, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these gloves really didn’t interfere with the operation of the shifters as I had feared prior to riding with them.

The grey piping on the gloves is highly reflective, so the Borealis gloves are a good choice for nighttime riding or when extra visibility is key.

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(Don’t let the bright sunshine fool you…it was 15 degrees F when I took this picture!)

Although these gloves are not fully waterproof, they fended off most of the rain and spray from my rides. If you’re heading out into a downpour, however, there may be better choices in gloves for you…something with a vapor-permeable waterproof liner and taped seams. As far as temperatures go, I was comfortable down to around 10 degrees F…with temps in the teens, I could get about an hour of riding before my fingers started to tingle with cold, but below that, I would have to invest in hand-warmer packets, pogies or something else to keep my digits warm.

At a retail price of around $42.00, these gloves are a pretty smart choice for cold-weather commuters. The Borealis gloves are substantially less expensive than other similar “lobster” gloves, yet have most of (if not all) the features in those pricier gloves. And, of course, Planet Bike has you covered for other protective gear and accessories, no matter what season you ride in. Swing on over to their website to take a look.

Coming up later in the week, we will be reviewing some cold-weather shoe covers from Planet Bike. Stayed tuned for that!

Commuting in Jeans – Why I can’t be a hipster.

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BIKING IN JEANS! Do you do it?! Image Courtesy of Cycle Kyoto.

Helloha saucy  Bike Commuters!  Since it’s only Wednesday, I don’t know if this counts as a “Friday Musing” but we’ll post it anyway.  Let’s just say if you’ve been reading anything authored by Meeee.r.I.Am this past year, then you’ll know that you are headed down WTF road, and there’s no turning back – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

I often joke with my family that I can never wear skinny/hipster jeans because I have a “calf-top” – that’s to say a pair of skinny jeans in my waist size can never make it up to my muffin top, because my calf top gets in the way!!!  My brother agrees, he too cannot fit a calf through a skinny jeans leg!  This has prompted today’s musing up for debate: Commuting in work clothes vs. packing them in a bag, or more specifically Commuting in Jeans. I don’t know how many of you out there have casual work environments where jeans are appropriate for a work day like Jack, but I do!  As a bike commuter and a more utilitarian fashion-person, there are several things to consider each morning when I dress OR pack my bag for work in the morning.  Let’s consider my inner monologue on any given work day:

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Me posing in my fave straight leg $35 jeans. With three pair sacrifices thus far to Bikelonius, I’ll be ready for some women’s Levi’s commuter jeans soon!

SLUM IT, OR JEAN IT!?

  1. Do I have any meetings first thing today? – Sometimes, if I am about to see a client upon arrival at the office.  In the morning, I’ll get dressed in office clothes first, make up etc., then ride “no-sweat speed” to avoid arriving in spandex or T-shirts with funny sayings on them only meant for commuting.  For me, “dressing” for work can mean jeans or business casual.  (Depende de… Numero 2!)

    LGRAB’s Dottie has got it down!

  2. What’s the weather like outside? – Of course, it’s been hot, showering, pouring, windy, and cold within the past few weeks of Oahu’s “Wimpy” winter.  If it’s wet butt commuter time, it’s jeans/dress clothes in the bag and Vanya chrome or anything quick dry on the bike.
  3. Laziness factor, do I really want to change clothes again?! – This one can go both ways, sometimes clean bike commuting outfit can double as PJs the night before (don’t call me a dirty hippie!) OR I can be too lazy to change at work and will therefore put on my jeans/dress and do the no-sweat speed thing to work.

    BIKELONIUS!!!

  4. Holes in my pockets factor: Sacrifice your jeans to the bike saddle gods? – Everyone has heard of  Bikelonius the greek god of bike commuters, who requires periodic denim sacrifices.  Whether it be chain grease smears, cuff snags, or inconvenient  and embarrassing holes in the lower saddle butt area, forcing the Bikelonians to make repeated pilgrimages to the scary Gap clearance rack/local thrift store/etc.  I have sacrificed three pairs of jeans to Bikelonius over the past 6 years.  Anyway, sometimes I don’t want to ruin my jeans so I’ll change clothes at work to avoid the holy butt scenario.

Got an extra $205 to spare? How about some Rapha Cycling Jeans?

Sometimes, it’s more convenient to show up in jeans and already be dressed.  Sometimes it’s worth the jeans-seam crotch pain if it’s a short ride.  And sometimes I wish I could be a hipster and fit my big-o-calves into some friggin’ skinny jeans so they don’t snag on the chainring!  (You gotta admit, skinny jeans or leggings ARE the best for snagless commutes!)  I dunno about you Cycle Gentlemen out there, but for Cycle Ladies, a commuter jean would need to be women-specific (AHEM! Listen up, Levi’s!) and bike specific before I would consider shelling out mas dinero for commuter pants…(Considering some of these “cycling lifestyle” jeans from SWRVE or osloh would cost me halfway to a new bike.)  Can you grind it out on your commute in a pair of your fave blues and roll up the cuffs?  Or would you rather stick to bike-specific/workout gear?