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Review: Faction Cycling’s Metro Flatlander Jersey

A couple months back, Hector from Faction Cycling Co. sent us a jersey to test out. All of their jerseys are made in the U.S.A. and the company is based in Chicago, where folks know a thing or two about living with two wheels.

Flatlander

Here’s a bit about the jersey from Faction Cycling’s website:
• 100% Polyester Micro Denier Yarn
• Comfort Fit Design
• Pocket-less Construction
• 3/4-length Invisible Zipper
• Made in the U S of A

Faction Cycling describes the jersey as “Club Cut”, and while it is roomier than a race-cut jersey, it’s not quite as roomy as other club-cut jerseys I’ve tried. I give that a thumbs-up — I don’t like excess fabric flapping in the breeze — but others looking for more room may want to try a size up.

You may have noticed in the above description that there are no pockets. Faction says:

Since we were already packing all our junk in a bag, we ordered up a club cut jersey, and said hold the pockets. We kept the rest of what we liked in a standard jersey and lived comfortably ever after.

rear

It’s true that many (most?) commuters and other cyclists carry a saddlebag to hold their goodies while riding, so it would seem that going pocketless is a good thing. In practice, though, I actually missed the pockets that I’ve become accustomed to having…my saddlebag isn’t that big, and I often carry a couple of extra C02 cartridges, my cellphone and snacks in jersey pockets. If you’ve got a bigger bag (saddle- or handlebar-bag) or routinely carry a messenger bag or backpack, you won’t miss the pockets as much as I did.

The detailing of the Flatlander jersey is subtle…thin white stripes against a charcoal grey background, with only a small company logo on one sleeve and a small Municipal Flag of Chicago adorning the left breast (Windy City represent!). It doesn’t scream “LOOK AT ME!” the way many other cycling jerseys tend to and as such fits the needs of commuters who want to keep a bit lower profile out on the roads. And, it doesn’t look out of place with other clothing…you want to wear a pair of regular shorts or jeans with it? Go ahead: the neutral color and subtle ornamentation won’t clash with “street clothes”.

The fabric is of top-quality…all of the features (durable, moisture-wicking) one might expect of a cycling-specific garment. Construction is top-notch, too; the stitching is great and there are no odd puckers in the jersey. A 3/4-length zipper lets you ventilate as needed on hot days.

hangstill

Overall, I think this is a great jersey — with a price of $75, it is in keeping with other brands’ jerseys and it’s refreshing to see a U.S. made product. If you really need pockets, you’re in luck: Faction Cycling makes a few jerseys with traditional pockets as well. Check out their site for other jerseys, caps and cool t-shirts.

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

Review: Chrome “Kursk” Shoes

Several months back, the wizards behind the wildly popular Chrome messenger bag line announced that they would be coming out with several models of shoes, all named after famous WWII battles. Fast forward a couple months and they sent RL a courtesy pair of their “Kursk” shoes to try out. With RL’s beefy physique and matching wide feet, those shoes just didn’t fit, so he passed them over to me.

kursk

Here’s a bit about the shoes from Chrome’s site:

•Made of our Weatherproof 1,000 denier Cordura with back-padding
•100% vulcanized construction
•Low profile design to better fit into a toe cage
•Re-enforced nylon/glass fiber shank to support the midsole
•Board lasted sole to eliminate pedal hot spot
•Skid resistant contact rubber on the sole
•Polyurethane contoured crash pad insole
•Durable rubber heel cup with reflective safety hit
•Lace garage so laces don’t get caught in your chain
•Steel aglets to keep laces from fraying

The Kursk shoes are very reminiscent of the classic Converse All-Star, which has long been very popular for urban riders of all stripes. Right off the bat I’ve got to say that Chrome took the general styling of those classic shoes and made them WAY better.

First, the construction — the shoes are made of lightly-padded Cordura nylon and vulcanized rubber. The Cordura is incredibly durable and blows traditional canvas away. It doesn’t stretch, it doesn’t rot and it shakes off a ton of abuse. Same with the rubber toe cap and bumpers on the Kursk shoes — despite some heavy riding and daily kick-around wear, these shoes still look new.

Second, the details — this shoe has several features that make it ideal for urban riders. I especially like the “lace garage”, a loop of elastic that holds the tied laces parallel to the sides of the shoe. No more annoying (and dangerous) windup from a loose lace getting caught in your chain!

garage

The laces have steel aglets (endcaps) to give an extra measure of durability…no more fraying. Also, there are small but effective reflective inserts in the heels for a bit of nighttime visibility. That’s always a nice touch.

reflect

The logos are fairly subtle, and the color combo is one of my favorites…black with red accents. I showed them to my friend David when he was visiting — he’s a longtime Chrome bag user and jokes that his black-and-red Metropolis bag was the inspiration for building up a black-and-red fixed gear bike…after all, the bike has to match the bag, right? Needless to say, he was quite envious. These shoes are understated, yet they catch people’s attention in a positive way. I received quite a few compliments on them.

How do they ride? Quite nice, in fact — the stiffened sole eliminates the hot-spot issue many Converse/Vans/Adidas Samba wearers experience when riding with traditional cage pedals. One simply cannot feel the edges of the pedals digging in to the bottom of your foot with the Chromes on. And the shoes aren’t so stiff that they make walking uncomfortable — Chrome did their homework and found a good balance in that stiffness.

sole

The sole is plenty sticky…perfect for platform pedals like the BMX models I favor, and the shoe’s overall profile lends itself to riding with toeclips, slipping easily in and out of the clips without hangups.

Perhaps the only negative thing I can say about the Kursks is that they’re cut rather narrow. I have fairly bony feet and even I found the toebox a bit cramped. Unlike canvas shoes that will stretch with enough wear, the Cordura fabric of these shoes remains unyielding — that may change with more wear, but I’m doubting it. If you’ve got wide feet, you may consider purchasing a half-size larger than your normal shoes (they DO come in half-sizes from 4.5 to 11.5, with whole sizes in 12, 13 and 14). Or, you may want to find a place locally to try them on before pulling the trigger.

These shoes have become my default “casual Friday” work shoes — they look great and they’re great to ride in. For $70.00, you’ll get a well-made and well-thought-out pair of shoes that will dazzle your friends. Thumbs up!

ride a bike

Check out Chrome’s online store for these and other models of shoes, including the Saipan, the Arnhem and the Midway.

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

Review: Shmaltz Brewing Co.’s Microbeer Jersey

Some of us bike commuters prefer to wear cycling-specific gear to and from work…for long miles, training rides before or after work or just for the increased comfort such garments may provide. On the very hottest days here in Florida, I’m more than happy to bring a change of clothes — nothing looks (or feels) worse than sweaty professional wear. Sometimes this means a jersey, other times it is simply a tshirt and shorts.

And, when I DO wear a jersey, I tend to go for somewhat garish designs — no team kit for me, but I have a soft spot for “off-kilter” artwork.

When World Jerseys/Microbeer Jerseys offered us a chance to test one of their new Shmaltz Brewing Company jerseys, I snapped at the chance. Cycling-specific? Check. Garish artwork? You betcha:

front

This is a modern jersey all the way…high-performance wicking fabric, three elasticized pockets in the rear and a 3/4 length zipper. This jersey is cut in what I’d call a “generous club fit” — the small size was just a little baggier than I like (I don’t race, but I’ve got a racer’s upper body). Slim folks with a little more meat up top will fit fine in the small size.

The pockets are deep and secure — plenty of room for snacks, a spare waterbottle and tools/inflators for roadside repairs:

pockets

The 3/4 length zipper is awfully handy on the hot days…lots of ventilation when you need it and easy to zip up when you’re going fast or start to cool off:

zipper

The fabric is a bit heavier than some other summerweight jerseys I have on hand. I compared the thickness to a Voler, a Santini and a Northwave, and in all cases the Shmaltz jersey “feels” a bit more robust. On the bike, I really didn’t notice too much difference, but I think I’d prefer this for warm, not blazing days. I never felt like I was roasting, but I did tend to feel that the jersey wasn’t quite as breezy as others in my collection. Part of that may be that this jersey’s primary color is black, which isn’t the best choice for daylight riding in Florida’s summers.

Construction of the jersey is top-notch — tight, even stitching and no pulls or odd gathers. The elastic hem and cuffs seem to be stout stuff and should retain their shape with a little washing care.

action

Synthetic jerseys aren’t for everyone, as we’ve discussed recently…but for those among us who like such things, these Microbeer jerseys are a pretty good choice. Now, I need to see if I can track down a bottle of the Coney Island Lager this jersey represents!

Check out the Microbeer Jerseys website for more style choices, and also pay a visit to World Jerseys (who is affiliated with Microbeer?).

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.