Friday, January 9, 2009

Gear Notes - Woman's Perspective

Hello Epicurean Cyclists! This is Laura, Russ’ partner-in-crime. Russ has been posting reviews on all of his gear, prompting some curiosity in what I take, so I thought I’d write a review of some of my gear. Consider this bike touring from a woman’s point of view.

One thing to note… Unlike Russ, I grew up in Oregon, where I went camping on summer vacation, dealt with rain on a regular basis, learned about poison oak at an early age, etc. Which isn’t any sort of weird superiority claim, just a bit of back-history to explain why a lot of my gear has been with me for awhile, and why it’s not in the following list. For example, my black Moonstone fleece jacket, which I adore, has been in my possession for close to a decade.

Also, I’m just now getting into wearing wool. It took me awhile, because I already had all this capilene stuff, and because I’m a big fan of cotton. But, after watching Russ look more and more stylish than me on the road, I started to change my tune.

Oh, and one more quick note… Even though I’m not one of those women who endlessly primps, I do try to look pulled together most of the time. I care about things like fit and style and whether a garment flatters. Which makes it a bit tough to go shopping, because oftentimes technical gear isn’t so stylish. So, my reviews on items are liable to be as much about how I look in something as how it performs. Sorry, guys, I am a girl after all. Merino Zip T-Neck Shirt
For those of you not familiar with, think of it as a smaller REI, although I’m not sure if they have brick-and-mortar stores. I’ve ordered several items from them and they always ship lightening-fast and arrive in great shape. They also have great sales, so I hunt their site frequently.

When I found this shirt, I figured I’d give it a shot. It was on sale, it seemed to be constructed well, and the pictures make it look like it has a longer torso (important to me because I’m tall and garments with a longer torso look better on me). I’m happy to report that I have been thrilled with this shirt! It is easily one of my favorite garments. It’s roughly a mid-weight wool, very soft. It has thumb loops, a thoroughly functional zipper, long torso (hooray!), and a very flattering style (although, ladies, be advised that it is a bit snug, so consider ordering up a size). Highly Recommend.

Icebreaker Atlas Tank
This shirt is my new favorite bottom layer. Mostly because it has a longer torso, so I can pull it down and layer shirts like I do when I’m off the bike. But, also because it’s thin, snug, and soft. The neckline is a high scoop-neck, which means that it keeps you modest without choking you. The shoulders are set in a bit, so that you have a greater range of motion. Be advised that the fit is very snug, so order up a size or two. I’m already plotting to get several more. Highly Recommend.

De Soto Rapida Low-Rise Triathlon Short
When I bought these shorts in the summer of 2007 for our Oregon Coast tour, you could find them all over the internet. Now, they seem to be only available on Amazon. Go figure. I guess I better snatch up another pair quickly.

I love these shorts for riding. I never thought I would ever own any spandex, and I really resisted for a long time. But, as soon as I started wearing these, I never looked back. One of the things that really turned me off of traditional bike shorts is that you feel like you’re wearing a diaper. So, in looking at triathlon shorts, my logic went, if they’re constructed so that you can run and swim in them, you must be able to walk around off the bike and not feel like a total dork. And, in practice, this is exactly the case. I can wear these on the bike and enjoy the freedom of movement that you get from spandex, along with the wonderful wicking-ness of the chamois. And I can wear these off the bike, throw on a skirt or a pair of shorts or knickers over them, and feel like a totally normal person. And, that’s the greatest thing about these shorts, they’re extremely versatile. Especially if you get the short short version, which hides even better under a pair of shorts. Recommend (if you can find them).

Icebreaker Poppy Beanie
I think Russ is tired of hearing me say how much I love this hat. But, I can’t stop, I just love this hat. I’ve never really been much of a hat person, mainly because I have a small head and big ears, so hats look silly on me. But, with the cold weather, I needed to break down and get one. And I’m thrilled that I picked this one. It’s a nice snug beanie, which means that it fits under my helmet. It’s also reversible, which means that it has two layers of knit wool and keeps my ears nice and toasty. I can also pull it down really far and it doesn’t ride up. My ears have never been happier. And, amazingly, I don’t look like a total goof in this hat. Highly Recommend.

Smartwool Stripeuccino Socks
My accessory weakness is socks. I have more pairs than I can count and Russ is trying to cut me off. But, I’m just really drawn to brightly-colored and fun-patterned socks. They just seem to liven up everything. So, imagine my thrill upon finding knee-high, brightly-colored, striped, wool socks. I now have two pairs of these, and they are worth every penny. And not only because, when I pair them with my biking shorts, I look like I’m part of the roller derby. Wear these with a pair of capris, and your legs are toasty warm. Since I’m not a big fan of leg warmers, these are my stand-ins. And while not meant to be highly-padded hiking or biking socks, I think they are actually quite comfortable. Recommend.

As I’m still building up my arsenal of wool, I’ll stop here and return later with more reviews. If there are any women out there who read this site, put a note in the comments so I know if I should keep giving Russ content to post.


GhostRider said...

Great stuff, Laura...I especially like the Poppy Beanie -- that might be just the thing my wife is looking for for those chilly days when she's got to wear something under her helmet.

Just a note about base layers -- they're supposed to fit snugly in order to "do their thing" with the sweat and don't want them too loose, although a little looseness is also a bit more comfortable.

jayhay said...

Great reviews. Some of this stuff applies to men as well, so definitely keep it up!

Dottie said...

I'm with you on the wool sock obsession. I'm pretty sure I own those same high striped Smartwool socks :)

Nancy said...

Hi Laura, I just found your site. Very nice. I commute by bike most days here in cold Kansas City. I discovered wool last year and bought some ibex woolies and a couple of half zip tops (ibex also). also got a wool top from Nau that I love. I can't stand to wear my old microfiber stuff from my running days any more since I found merino wool. I'm a wool convert for sure!

Megan said...

There's not enough of them so keep up the women's gear reviews. I'm a fabric blender; some technical fabrics, some wool, but wool is definitely my favorite.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your review, Laura! I have a weakness for cute socks, too. I also really appreciate hearing about a pair of shorts with a chamois that doesn't feel like a pillow strapped to your back side when you walk around. I always feel a little dorky in my bike shorts...not that that keeps me from wearing them. ;)

Constance said...

Yes, definitely keep posting reviews, Laura! Love the female perspective (although I'm gonna read the blog whether you post or not).

I love socks, too, which is a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because I knit, as well as bike, and socks are my favorite take-along project, and a bad thing because my legs are long and--ahem--curvy. I have to be really cautious about buying knee socks, since they *normally* end about two inches short of my knee once you factor in the extra curve and length, and that means slippage.

So, one thing I'm curious about--is there calf shaping in the socks? Maybe with socks designed for bikers it's different.....

And what fabulous links for girls' biking layers! I will definitely be checking these out.

Laura Crawford said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one with a sock obsession!

Constance, the SmartWool socks have a pretty good top band that keep them from sliding down. But, even so, I notice that I have to stretch them a bit to get them to actually reach my knees, so they do shrink up a few inches over time, and I just yank them back up again.