review: blow it out your ass-os

I've recently reached that point in life - maybe that was a few years ago but I was only willing to admit it now - where my body mostly only makes sense in a kit. I've been genetically gifted with quads that will grow...and grow and grow...with the calves [and okay, ass] to match. This makes me the envy of the bodybuilders at my gym who refuse to do heavy squats, but also makes me look like a tree stump in skinny jeans.
It's a sad reality for someone who used to love denim. The trade-off was that I discovered Lululemon and Assos.

Though the designers at Lululemon have come up with a way to make even my ass look, well, spectacular, in yoga pants, Assos has been the real game changer. It's been almost a year since I purchased them, but my Assos T.FI. Lady S5 bibs have become one of those garments I try to "save" for special occasions. I'll grit through the relative discomfort of my worn down Capo shorts on shorter rides, just so I won't have to risk my Assos bibs coming under more wear and tear. Sure, they were bulletproof enough to come away with only a small scrape when I crashed back in October, but like the favorite pair of killer heels you generally keep on ice, you can't ever be too careful.

And like those heels, these bibs The difference being that they're also extremely comfortable. The fabric is similar to that of Rapha's [mens'] bib shorts [circa 2010] - silky smooth and supple - but a touch better. It feels good to slip into, and unless you're stupid enough to lose a few kgs after purchasing them, these shorts won't ride up, despite the fact that only the back half of the leg hems have rubber grippers. Everything molds to your body and moves with you in these bibs, including the just-right, infamous, light-blue chamois. You feel naked, but awesomely, confidently so, like how great boyfriends can should make you feel even after you stuff yourself with way too much food.

Even new, the chamois was never obtrusive, either. It's thick enough to provide comfort for those mega-long trainer rides or anything that involves lots of time in the saddle, but outwardly appears low profile. I never got the feeling that I had two giant diapers on, or that I was walking around with a pillow precariously attached to my already bodacious ass. As an added perk, the bibs are cut rather generously in the hips and thighs. Which means I easily fit into a size small (win!!!).
The best part, though? The slightly strange between-boob strap.

I consider myself a fairly creative problem-solver, but never figured out how to drop the bibs to pee without taking off my jersey and trying to find a place to hang it. Assuming there's a hook provided in the bathroom, it never works out well because my pockets are inevitably stuffed with tubes, tire levers, a multi-tool, food, phone, earphones and whatever else. This means I end up battling various layers of Lycra in a fight to drop the bibs and juggling discarded layers so they won't touch the floor, all while crammed in some small public restroom. Yeah, I'm sure there's a porn genre for that, too, but listen, I'm not getting paid for this.
With the Assos bibs, I can unhook the strap, pull it over my head, and slip it down my back, all with my jersey still securely hooked to my shoulders. I'm flexible enough to be able to link my hands behind my back, so the strap gets shoved up my back with one hand, and grabbed with the other. All with my jersey securely on my shoulders. Even if you're not that flexible, you only need to shrug the jersey off one shoulder, not both. The guys probably won't get it, but this has been a total game changer.
Oh yeah, and for someone who is less than endowed totally flat, the strap also gives some illusion of boob-age. Which is cool because I can use all the help I can get in that department, too.

After losing a few kgs, those bibs are starting to creep up my thighs on rides. It's a shame, because it's barely been a year since I purchased them. I'm saving up for another pair, though, even with the other womens' bibs options that are popping up.
Because you've been there. Racing towards the nearest bathroom mid-ride, unsnapping your helmet before you even get off the bike. And who seriously has the time to be taking off a jersey when that happens?
Details Price: 24,780 yen [Note: I got the 2012 model last fall, on sale, for about 19,000yen at the Tokyo Assos Pro Shop.]
[And yeah, you're welcome for having no shame and posting these unflattering pictures of my butt on the Internet.]

2011 christmas gift guide for the female cyclist

Less than a week until Christmas, and derailed by the shock of Kim Jong-Il's death, I'll understand if you haven't bought that definitive, perfect present for the female cyclist in your life. Be it wife, girlfriend, mother, sister, or friend, here's a quick list [you're extra lucky if you're in Japan for some of these items] for the last-minute shopper...
If she trains through the winter...
Pearl Izumi Battery-Operated Heated Gloves and Booties

Available in Japan, these battery-operated lobster-claw gloves and booties are Pearl Izumi's latest winter product. Heating panels keep fingers and toes cozy enough and there are three levels of warmth you can choose from. Gloves and booties cost 15,540yen apiece, but if your giftee rides hard through the winter, these just might be worth the hefty price tag.
Craft Zero Extreme Women's Base Layer

Gifted a Craft base layer last Christmas, I am not embarrassed to say that I lived in it for the duration of an extremely cold, Boston winter [is that redundant?]. The new Zero Extreme looks even warmer and more comfortable. Being machine-washable doesn't hurt either...because who wants to hand-wash yet another item after a cold ride?
Sufferfest Training Video

Because sometimes a girl just wants to stay inside. And do intervals. You know?
If she likes to ride in the city...
Nantucket Bike Baskets

Gorgeous and adorable, I would happily buy a city bike just to get one of these baskets. I'm partial to the Jetties collection, which allows you to release the basket [which comes with a handle!] and stroll through a farmer's market in style.
Outlier 6-foot Scarf

What casual bike outfit is complete without an Outlier item? The long, merino scarf by the masterminds behind this awesome brand combines light-weight comfort and colors to lust after. One look and you'll want one in each color for yourself, too.
Pearl Izumi City Ride Winter Gloves

When I first saw these gloves, I imagined them curled around mustache bars on a stately yet simple city bike. Casual enough to be deceptive, but functional enough to keep digits comfortable, I wish I had had these instead of my leather, cashmere-lined gloves which I half destroyed by using them as riding gloves last winter. [Available only in Japan.]
And if you're looking to splurge...
Garmin Edge 800 GPS

It seems everyone has one of these, and for good reason. If the cyclist in your life loves to discover new rides but has a tendency to get woefully lost, this just may be the ultimate gift. With a waterproof screen and the ability to conjure up a phantom rider to ride at your "goal parameters," the only thing this doesn't do is tell you to stop for good coffee. But you already knew how to do that, right?
Have a great Christmas, guys!

drawing new [tan] lines

“Nice size 36 shorts,” Mike said as he tugged on the back of my jeans shorts. The waist gaped open.
With a little wiggling, I probably could have slipped out of them without undoing the fly, but convinced that a wash would cure it all [I’m pretty sure it didn’t], I insisted that they were just a little stretched out. Besides, being a little too big for me also meant that the legs were a little longer. Almost long enough to cover my tan line.


“Is that your tan line?”
“...Yeahhh...Wow. Damn. Yours are so nice.” Jared had pulled up his shorts and pressed his thigh next to mine.
“Well, someone’s gotta be!” He laughed as I protested that my shorts were not optimal for clean-tan-line-creating. Andy just shook his head and told me that I had to ride more.
Which is true. But, in a way, I’m still sort of convinced that my Pearl Izumi Sugar Shorts aren’t going to give me the kind of tan line that makes your thigh look like it was taped off, then spray painted with tanning lotion. Being a touch too big, the padding would sometimes catch on my seat, making me stumble awkwardly. Despite the gripper elastic, the legs would creep up during my ride, too, blurring that melatonin tattoo attesting to solid time in the saddle. Never mind my jeans shorts, I needed new cycling shorts stat.


Enter Capo to the rescue. After seeing the review of the Cortina jersey, the super nice guys at Capo offered to send me a matching pair of shorts. I wanted to virtually hug them.
Let me back up. Having worn the jersey on more than a handful of occasions, even without extensive jersey experience, I can say that it is definitely super comfortable. The pockets are made of full Lycra, and while there are only two, they’re deceptively deep. Extremely soft and form fitting, there’s no flap-age, reducing the jersey to something you just don’t have to think about while you’re riding. It even passed Coach DS’s zipper test [if you can unzip it with one hand easily - no biting the collar allowed!], and the guys appreciated the attention to detail, like how the label isn’t just screened onto the Lycra. Even my fairly critical, style-conscious sister commented on how nice it looked.


All this meant that I had high expectations for the shorts. I mean, I know they’re going to look good; but Capo’s set the bar high in terms of functionality as well. When I received them, I jumped out of my jeans and immediately tried them on. The first thing I noticed was the segmented padding [ignore how phallic it looks, please], which meant the Diaper Effect was significantly reduced. The padding is comparable in thickness to my Pearl Izumis but it felt sleeker and more efficient. No more feeling like I was sitting on a Maxipad - we’re in tampon territory with these babies.


Not to mention the crossover waistband that is a godsend to those with Lycra muffin tops. It’s so thin, too, that there’s virtually no visible line under the jersey...and that jersey doesn’t hide much. My only initial doubts stemmed from the elastic around the legs; instead of gripper elastic, the shorts use a thin, slightly stretch-resistant compression elastic. The shorts clutched onto my keirin thighs and I wasn’t sure if I was going to lose circulation in my toes as a result.
But like the jersey it matches, the shorts look really good. It's dark enough that you don't have to worry about looking chubbier than you are [and what woman wants that when she's in full Lycra?], and in a weird way it almost deludes you into believing - truly believing - that you're bringing sexy back [to the bike]. Maybe I was just in a good mood, though.



But potential sexiness aside, I was concerned about how it would stand up to a decent ride. So I suited up and clipped in to drag the Cross Monster out on an easy 30 miler.
When I sat down on the saddle, my first thought was, weirdly enough, that it was slippery. The next thought was that I could definitely feel the saddle underneath me, a lot more than when I’m wearing my other shorts. Not in a bad way; I was just more conscious of it. There was no need to rock back and forth trying to figure out where my sit bones went. For once, I knew exactly where they were and I had them right where I wanted them.
To be honest, after those first two revelations, I hardly noticed what I was wearing for most of the ride and had to force myself to concentrate on whatever signals my butt was sending to my brain. The one thing that really stood out, though, is that these shorts will not budge. The compression elastic around the legs that I wasn’t so sure about wasn’t uncomfortable or distracting while riding; in fact, they held everything down and refused to creep up. There was no adjusting or pulling down because white skin was emerging from the bottom of my shorts. Unless I forcibly pulled them up or down, those things weren’t moving. At all.


Which meant that when I came home tired and happy, and peeled off my gear, the longer Capo shorts had already left a sharp, clear tan line. Like the kind that looks comically fake but has turned into a point of pride for those of us who are obsessed with bicycles. Never mind the fact that my thighs now legitimately look like candy corn, and that mini skirts might be out of the question for the rest of the summer. Those shorts are going to make me look pro, even without clothes on.
And really, what more can a girl [on a bike] ask for?