10,000 miles of use. What we wear ‘on the bike’.
When we got our first Apple Mac we took out a subscription to Mac User. For some uncertain reason, it used a review system that awarded ‘mice’. Five mice symbols for a good bit of kit and one or two for some miserable bit of rubbish that did not show up on the desk top when you pushed in its USB cable. Back then there were a surprising number of peripherals that promised compatibility and failed miserably. Even now that little Mac icon on the box is no guarantee of future joy.
We loved the mouse system. We still refer to a good thing as being ” five mice”. So, that is what we will do here with five mice as high praise.
When we were deciding on what we were going to wear we concluded that we wanted to wear bike clothing as we are used to technical stuff for our long rides. So, that is the cyclist ‘Lycra’ look. But we did not want to be quite as logoed and loud as we are on our race bikes. Many touring cyclists are unhappy with this look, preferring to wear more normal clothing and blend in a bit more. This we may have to do in other places, but in New Zealand and the USA we did not mind standing out a bit. As it turned out, we had many invitations and conversations from people because they could link us with the heavily laden touring bikes standing outside the cafe, bar or shop. This was a great help.
We chose Merino wool blended clothing whenever possible in an effort to keep things smelling sweet. In all our equipment we spent money if we thought the product was the optimum available. ‘Buy cheap and you buy twice’, is our motto on this, to which could also be added, ‘Buy cheap and end up standing at the side of a very remote road miles from anywhere with no possible hope of reaching your destination for that day. “Mechanicals”, as these unscheduled delays are called, can make a very big dent in moral. In nine months and 10,000 miles we had none of them. So you see, a bit of research is a good idea.
Let’s start with what we wear on the bike from pedal up.
SHOES – SIDI DOMINATOR MEGA RANGE. These are possibly the widest bike shoes in the known universe, which is what I was after. They are hard wearing footwear with a mountain bike sole and recessed cleat. This means that you can walk around Wal-Mart without sounding like a horse and producing sparks. The tops proved to be indestructible, the soles less so. Esther changed to these in the USA and we both love them. SIDI USA gave me a new pair when I wore out the soles after 9,650 miles. They are the best and cost as much as a two bedroom house in Bulgaria. 4.5 MICE
SOCKS – Ice Breaker Merino. These are the hardest wearing socks I have ever worn and I kill socks. Go for black rather than the white that you would wear out on your Carbon road bike. This breaks many rules of bike etiquette and style but you will be the happier for it. I do have a feeling that black lasts longer having not needed to be bleached and I will start that myth right here. 5 MICE
SHORTS – Having made the decision to ‘GO LYCRA’, there is but one manufacturer to steer towards. ASSOS every time for me. I can remember when we first took up proper cycling, picking up a pair of these and snorting “Who the hell pays that much?” Many race miles perched on a bike doing Audax endurance rides have taught me the value of buying the best in this area. Luckily, the cheapest ones in the range are the ones for me F1 UNO bibs.
Having been dressed in bike shorts every day for 9 months I have found that I do forget to do up the fly on trousers, having got rather out of the habit. ASSOS were very nice and replaced two pairs that suffered fade during the C2C USA section after 4,500 miles. It has to be 5 MICE
RAPHA COUNTRY JERSEY. If you, like me thought that ASSOS are expensive, then this manufacturer set new levels of pricing structure. Stupidly expensive, but gosh do they look good. The blending of Merino helps to reduce the number of times when you smell like a damp gun dog. That I only had two bike tops for 10,000 miles is impressive. That they would probably go on for 3 or 4 times that is sensational. I have had an issue with light fade and Rapha has replaced the jersey with an even more expensive one. First rate customer service means that they get 5 MICE
BASE LAYER. This area is still a bit up in the air. I do very much like Odlo stuff for this, which is synthetic. I have tried a number of Merino blended ones but without total satisfaction. They are all better than the good old blue with white arm striped Helly Hansen that I used to wear and smelled questionable even straight from the wash. Odlo it is then at the moment 4 MICE
RUDY PROJECT RYDON GLASSES. Esther wears glasses and the inset system with these work perfectly ( as long as your technician matches the tight curve of the glasses ). They have interchangeable lenses, and we carry the photo chromatic and the mirrored mega dark. The photo lenses will go clear for dull days and keep you fresh eyed and safe. They have limitations, and for appallingly bright desert conditions, we click in the mirror lenses when welding goggles are in order. Again, slightly silly price but great customer service. Replacement specs sent after a car collision in the past and saved my site when a tent pole snapped into my face. 5 MICE
GIRO ATMOS HELMET. I do get all dewy eyed when I talk about Giro helmets, and a bit pointy of finger as well, if truth be told. This helmet saved my life when I was hit by a car. The skid marks indicated about 50 mph, so job well done. I was stationary and waiting to turn right at the time – not nice ( the lady driver went down for 8 years for drug offences shortly after). So light, you do find yourself reaching up if you are wearing a hat underneath, just to check it is still there. 5 MICE
SPECIALIZED BODY GEOMETRY GLOVES. Now, you can if you want moan about the loss of feeling in both of your little fingers that is spreading across your hand. Or you can get a pair of these, get the angle of your saddle right and use a properly fitting bike for something as demanding as weeks of bike touring. Many do not, and have a turgid time. A mountain bike is for mountains. There is a clue in the title. It will never fit perfectly for long road tours for a number of reasons. The bottom bracket is designed to clear rocks and is high up. The bars are wide, so cut them to your shoulder width with a plumbers tool. Still you will wince turning those wide knobbly tyres. Never send a Weasel to do a Stoats job. BG gloves 4.5 MICE
ALTURA NIGHT VISION WATERPROOF COAT. If you have ever been unfortunate enough to be on the spinning bike next to me you will have noticed two and possibly even three things. I have a spinning cadence that is happy to sit at 100 rpm. Lots of fast twitch muscle you see, which means that should we resort to cannibalism, I would taste of chicken. Ten minutes into a hour session you will be aware of the puddle forming under the bike I am on. It will grow bigger and bigger. I sweat a lot. This is a sign of adaptation to being fit so lets face up to it. No GORETEX, PERMETEX, SEMI PERMEABLE Layer is going to cope. What you need are ‘pit zips’, which are under arm vents. This coat has them and they work one handed. It is a great coat, and for the first time in this list, quite cheap. The coat has lots of 3M strips that light up when headlights hit it. This does require the drunk to have remembered to put his lights on in the first place.
A top bit of kit that lasts very well and re-proofs nicely. 5 MICE
RAINLEGS. Now as I have just said. I do become frighteningly moist as I pedal. These are the answer if you find that full legs make you just too hot of crotch. They are not often seen for sale, which is a bit of a shame. Similar in concept to Cowboy chaps, but without the need for fly swotting tassels. They pack small, weigh little and work a treat. Down side -looking like member of ‘village people’ with a hint of SM possible drawback. 4.5 MICE as they do have durability issues.