Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gear Notes Pt. 2 - Wool and Wet

Some more bits of gear that I tested out on the last trip...

REI Wool Hiking Socks
This sock isn't going to win any awards for their looks. Plain-ish. I brought two pairs, one greenish and one blue. Typically not what you would consider cycling socks because of their thickness and length. I wore them with my Keens and they kept my feet warmish and padded while riding and at camp. The loose knit allows plenty of layering opportunities (smaller sock(s) underneath). At $11 (even less sometimes when they go on sale), it's a pretty good deal. Recommend.

Rivendell Wool Semi-Tights
As advertised, these are semi-tight, meaning to say that they're not exactly skin tight, but nor are they saggy Hammer pants. I originally purchased these with the thought that I would ride in them, but ultimately used them as part of my sleeping clothes. I found that I preferred the IBEX leg warmers in the conditions I was riding in, because once we crossed the mountains from the coast, it got warm and I could remove them easily without much fuss. These, however, would be great if it was really cold all the time where you were riding. They allow for great freedom of movement. Recommend.

Rivendell ORANGE Rain Peak Cycling Cap
I have a lot of cycling caps. Some, would say too many. I have some made by Pace, many made by Walz, a few by Swrve, Bicycle Fixation, Kucharik and a Deller cap. I like caps, what can I say. I can't tell you how excited I was when I saw this orange, wool one from Riv (made by Rain Peak). This cap is really nicely made. The wool feels as lush and soft as the wool from Walz (my standing favorite). The orange is a deep reddish orange for orange aficionados. The construction looks top-notch with an 8-panel design that makes for a slightly more Euro looking cap. The bill is shortish and stiffer than the Walz so it looks more natural (as far as hats go) to flip the bill up. To top it all off, there's the sweet Rivendell Bicycle Works logo embroidered on it in a nice contrasting blue. Understated. Classy. But a wink to those in "the know," you know? Recommend.

Kucharik Wool Ear Warmers
I have a love-hate relationship with Kucharik. They've been making wool products for years and are well respected. For me, however, I find they make some things I really like (jerseys!) and a lot of things I don't (caps). It's like shopping at Trader Joes. Those dark chocolate covered ginger snaps sound great in theory, but are a train wreck in your mouth. I admit, I bought it mostly because it was orange. It's a bright orange, more neon-y than red (think brand new traffic cone). It fit over my head just fine, but if you have long-ish hair (as a guy), you will look like a character from Dragonball Z. But, it's meant more for function and not fashion so it works best under a helmet. At first, I was a little irked because the wool seemed pretty thin for the money, but after riding I understood why. Standing still my ears were still cold, but after about ten minutes of riding, everything was nice and toasty. Not having a cap on the crown helped with cooling things off. It also acted, somewhat, as sweatband. So, this makes a great riding ear warmer and not a standing around waiting for the bus looking like an anime character ear warmer. Kinda Recommend.

Campmor Rain Cape (as of this writing it seems to be out of stock)
After a quick ride in the rain, with my friend Chris, we compared relative dryness. He had a Carradice Duxback rain poncho and I had a Jackson Gibbs jacket. Needless to say, he was much drier overall from the waist down. The Carradice stuff is nice, expensive and seems to be out of stock everywhere on this side of the pond. So, I decided to get my feet wet, so to speak, with bicycle rain capes with the Duxback's less expensive, more brightly colored cousin -- the Campmor Rain Cape (Log House Designs). On our trip we got some rain for a few hours so we excitedly stopped under a parking garage to throw our capes on (OK, I was excited, Laura was mortified). The capes come in their own little duffle that is about the size of a large-ish hot dog. The construction is good for something that only costs $30. It's not a particularly complex design, it's more or less a regular rain poncho with loops for your thumbs and this questionable two leg harness in the back. Putting it on, I noticed the hole for the head was a little tight (maybe I just have a big head), so it would have been nice to maybe have some sort of zipper there. The thumb loops worked well. My main problem was the darn leg loops. What a pain to get into since you can't see what you're doing. I plan to modify mine by shortening the loops and putting a small caribiner on one end of the loop and attaching the other to a the belt strap on my pants. This should accomplish the task of keeping the cape from flapping around without the indignity of trying to harness yourself in.

In use, they worked pretty well (again, I didn't have that long to evaluate). They kept the saddles covered when we were at stops. My legs were dry. We were highly visible, perhaps too visible. Laura thought we looked two giant yellow gum drops ambling up the street. Another problem that I hadn't considered was the fact that you couldn't see your front wheel. For Laura that took some getting use to. Also the cape obscures your view of your cycling computer and any handlebar mounted light (fortunately both our lights were mounted to mini front racks). Jury is still out on this one.


Tavis said...

This may be a strange question, but why would you decide to wear sandals for a winter tour where you know you would be facing rain?

RussRoca said...

Ah....good question. Well, a few years ago, I did a tour and got rained on for two whole days. Back then I was wearing some Specialized touring shoes. They were great, but they got soaked and they didn't dry out for days.

Sandals dry faster than shoes because of their open design. You can always get a dry footbed by just changing your socks. This year, I've been experimenting with waterproof socks and sandals during the rain. I don't have any conclusive answers yet, but my feeling is that they should work out better than wet shoes.

2whls3spds said...

I have both capes. I have a couple of the Campmor capes. Excellent value for the price. I hook the thumb loops over the handle bars and sit on the leg loops. I have no clue what is up with Campmor, they listed them in stock yesterday, but are gone again today. I have an ancient Carradice that was given to me over 30 years ago and it still keeps one dry. My biggest issue is the color is not highly visible on a gray day. And given the lack of attention paid by many drivers I want to be as visible as possible!


RussRoca said...

2whls...which part of the handlebars do you hook the loops too? I have drops, would you put it around the brake levers?

2whls3spds said...

I will have to try it on my drop bar bike...the two capes I have live in the saddle bags of my two main upright bikes. On them I just put the thumb loops over the end of the handle bars. IIRC though the last time I used it on drop bars I did have to use the thumb loops on the thumbs.


Rick said...

About the sandals...

I agree! I had the same experience with some shoes that would not dry out. Very uncomfortable and HEAVY! I was surprised at how noticable the weight of the water was. So, I switched to a shoe that was synthetic and will not hold water like that.

I have been using a pair of Sealskinz socks for a few years now. They are pretty good, and I think if you wore them in a sandal, you could avoid the overheating that seems inevitable in a shoe.