july selection

It's been a struggle - physically and psychologically - to readjust to Tokyo after a week in Paris [really, can someone just import me there?], but here's some good stuff from this month, mostly inspired by Paris...
- This didn't happen in Paris, unfortunately, but so, so cool. [via Bike Rumor]

- The green [Sram] red goatee. Just because I got to see it. [picture by Brakethrough Media]

- Bicycle Spring Rolls from The Garum Factory? Oh, my YUM.

- Nico mentioned Spinlister when we did a little 4-year reunion in Paris. For cities without bike share programs, it looks like a fun, easy way to get around town while traveling. Fingers crossed they have some tiny bikes listed...

- And because my trip wasn't all about cycling, I stumbled on a little taste of Japan while I was there too, in the form of Claire Naa's jewelry. I've fallen in love with her stuff.

More soon!

watts and a wardrobe

In all the notebooks I'm scrawling into on any given day, the random, disjointed thoughts are broken up by half completed designs for garments I'm going to get around to making. Once I finish my ride, do the laundry, run to the grocery store, clean my bike, edit that blog post, I was going to get to it. You know, eventually.
While I continue to prioritize the riding, in the beginning, I used to have mixed feelings about it. I wanted the bike to make me a waif-ish climber, but despite what Rapha ads might promise, the opposite happened. Though pedaling for hours might gift some women with narrow hips and gazelle-like physiques, the kilometers built me up into what would be considered, by Japanese standards, to be similar to a brick shithouse. It makes sense - for every Contador, there is a Cavendish - but I can't say I was elated at this discovery. I'd be lying if I said that the projected restriction of my already limited wardrobe wasn't a part of that disappointment. [Skirt below made and embroidered by me, tan lines from last year. Someone in NYC will hate me a little for this so...um...sorry?]

Growing quads, glutes, and calves made it easier, though, to convince myself that my abnormal proportions had exiled me from shopping like a normal person.The voluntary disqualification from consumerism also stemmed from the fact that I never liked to blindly throw myself into trends. Scallop-edged shorts that make me look both blubbery and like a pedophile's wet dream are in? No thanks, I'll pass. The temptation to conform lingers, but I'm still vain enough to refuse to wear anything that makes me look worse. I'm also, unfortunately, funny about clothes in the same way I am funny about bikes: I can't bring myself to buy anything that isn't [reasonably] well-crafted. It's unfair to compare stock welds to those that now grace Fireflys, but the exposed zippers and cheap, hurried seams of everything offered at Forever 21, Zara, and H&M ensure that I'll never go into bankruptcy via fast fashion. Learning how to use a sewing machine and an appreciation for impeccable tailoring have resulted in a perversion of the Diderot effect: I can't, in good conscience, buy anything that I could make - with my limited skills - better, and so I end up refusing to buy anything at all. [And yes, those ridiculous tan lines help, too.]
Unconsciously - and perhaps to my bank account's detriment - I've somehow grown into my cycling body. I like knowing that I'm stronger than women with smaller legs and nonexistent calves. On doing the usual personal physical assessment that every woman does at least once three times a day, I caught myself wishing that my glutes were bigger. Quad separation seemed like a reasonable goal, too. With that, I looked at my closet, sighed, and went shopping.

Unfortunately, self-acceptance doesn't mean that the world automatically embraces your proportions and starts producing things that fit just right and are incredibly flattering. And because I refuse to trade watts for a wardrobe, I dusted off some French curves, pulled out drafting paper and ironed out rolls of muslin. Since then, I've been working on a couple of projects, post-ride, when my legs don't work so good. Because what girl doesn't want to [try to] be [as Zoolander put it] really, really, really, ridiculously good-looking, tan-lines and all?

[I'll be posting progress updates and completed projects that hopefully don't make me look like a vertically challenged blob. Keep those fingers crossed for me!]

excuse my beauty

Catching a glimpse of my reflection in the train window the other day, I realized how much I used to dislike my face: the boring, brown eyes that weren't big enough [or some exotic shade of blue or green], my Asian nose, cheekbones that didn't seem to exist, and a face that lacked angles and looked too much like a spotty, brown egg. I never had expectations to be truly beautiful, but there's always some adjustment required when you're told to live with something you had no part in acquiring. My adolescent-into-young-adult wish to look more...whatever obviously never materialized, but for a while there, I really wanted it to. It wasn't for a lack of trying, because I did try. Like, really hard. In the way that is unique to that lethal mix of vanity and insecurity. I was skinnier back then, too, but predictably unhappy. [Yeah, that's me, circa 2005.]

Then sometime after I turned 25, I stopped caring so much.
In hindsight, the change was fairly abrupt. The exhaustion from wanting so much, from feeling that if I just had this shirt/beauty product/pair of jeans/handbag/shoes, my life would be better, wore me down. It helped that I was barely employed, and thus unable to afford anything I wanted. It also helped that I was in Japan, where appearances seemed to rule everything. The impossibility of keeping up, the unhappiness implicit in any obsession with appearances, the superficiality of what I was buying into simply became too much.

I think of those years when I tried on vanity, then discarded it as a bad fit, as kind of like a 12 minute interval. There's discomfort felt at your own perceived physical inadequacies, and even a sense of rejection at first, while you feel sorry for yourself, before you settle into the pain. It lasts longer than you'd really like, and quite honestly, you're not very attractive while you're in the midst of it, but you arguably come out a better person. You could dope via plastic surgery, but to me, it's never seemed worth it.
I'm tempted to say that it's not ideal, that you deal with the face and features you're given, and you make the most of it. That that's the best you can really do when you're not gifted with the right balance of genetics. I think that can be true, but these days, I'm fortunate enough to forget what I look like. I only manage to remember when I catch startled, horrified stares from strangers. What are they looking at? I sometimes wonder, before tugging down the sleeves of my t-shirt ["oh, yeah, that"]. If they're staring a little higher, at my face, I don't even bother. I mean it's not like someone drew a penis on my face while I was asleep last night, right? .......Um....Right...?

Because, really, I'm okay with it. My physical appearance - the freckles I'm secretly proud of, the tan lines that limit my wardrobe - is the cost I pay for doing business in the life enrichment industry. Like the millions of "I'm sorry"s and "thank you"s that are due to loved ones, they're signs of kilometers imperfectly traveled. Admissions of guilt or gratitude never kept me from wearing a strappy dress, but the frustration of living in a t-shirt filled fashion hell is easy to forget. I know every time I slip into my [Lotto-Belisol <3] jersey, that I'm printing my skin with another declaration, tattooing lines that will take multiple winters to fade away. I look at my chipped nailpolish, stubborn chain grease hiding under one fingernail, a cut on a finger from working on my bike. None of that ugliness ever matters enough to trade it away for appearances' sake. And once the legs are turning over the pedals, my face, my imperfections, my insecurities about my facial imperfections, all slip away.
All that extra shit just gets in the way, anyway. They are excuses to cling to something that signifies acquiescing to obligations to appear a certain way, to live life as someone else has described it for you. A perpetual Plan B, an escape route for when your efforts don't pan out, that foot out the door just in case you fail. It may give you a multitude of empty "could"s ["well, I could be better at cycling, but sweating makes my eyeliner run..."], but ultimately, you get short-changed of your full potential.

Since letting go of the silly, sometimes extreme, self-consciousness, I've found that there's much more to life than sleeveless tops, strappy dresses, evenly tanned legs and wearing shorts without shame. For me, there are pro jerseys, Assos bibs, and a bike that has yet to fail me. There are places to discover, foreign countries to visit and pro races to see, with eyeliner or without. The latter would never fit into a life as it should be lived for a single Japanese woman. Obsessions with beauty products and fulfilling empty social duties to look pretty seem like a shitty way to live, though.

Looking back on my vain era, I think I've figured something else out, too. That when you can live life in a way that you end up forgetting what you look like, when you can get out of your own fucking way and stop tripping on your ego, then, well, you're finally doing it right. And that's something worth hanging on to, because that's what makes you a stunning kind of beautiful.

so ludacris

[Because I couldn't say it better than Luda...]
Just bought me and my cars bikes all some brand new [okay, used] shoes

And the people just stare so I love to park it

And I just put a computer in the glove compartment

With the pedal to the floor, radar in the grille

TV in the middle of my steering wheel

[Like that [finally] slammed stem? More soon, as always!]

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 feel...sexy. 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.]