october selection

All the treats from last month...
- I've never been into wooden bikes, but a Tokyo shipwright making pretty bikes? I like this man's versatility. [via T Magazine]

- "Ride with people who are excited, happy" and lots more food for thought in this interview by Velonews with Tim Johnson.

- The Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com Team has a video out, with more coming soon! It's really well done. Go watch.

- And because I could happily live in Lululemon for the rest of my life, even if I'm not an indoor spinner [if only these Ride Inside Crop pants had some super invisible low profile chamois...]

- And if yoga pants don't turn you on, this should:

On to November...!

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.]

being sold short

Dear sirs [and I mean sirs] in the cycling industry,
I am a 26 year old female law student who is in love with bicycles. I commute to school in all kinds of weather, sweat it out on the rollers in the winter, and ride outdoors every chance I get. I’ve grown accustomed to the sweaty rides, messy hair, and the image in the mirror when I manage to squeeze myself into Lycra. Arguments could be made that I’ve completely let myself go. However, like most women, I still want to look good while I’m pushing those pedals.
When I got wind of Rapha’s new women’s line, a [male] source told me that it was “only” going to be a pair of shorts, a jersey, and a jacket.
Only?,” I responded, “at least they’re making some women’s stuff!”


I think he shrugged in response, or possibly nodded. I was excited, and couldn’t see why my source expected me to be disappointed at the limited nature of the new line. What I failed to realize then was that my own statement was an admission that, since I’ve started cycling, I’ve gotten far too used to selling myself short.
In an industry where most of the consumers are male, it’s not surprising that women are asked to take a backseat. I understand market demand and enough economic concepts to realize that asking every bicycle company to devote half of their resources into development of women’s specific gear/bicycles/accessories borders on the insane. But there’s a big middle that you guys are missing here, and I’m pretty sure the women are getting restless.
Take a look at Competitive Cyclist [a site I frequent because I know they only carry quality products]. There are 7 jackets/vests listed for women, under 5 brands. Compare that to the 35 jackets/vests listed for men, under 10 brands. At 39 for men vs. 29 for women, the split for short-sleeved jerseys is marginally better; but the latter also includes 9 sleeve-less jerseys. Sure, tank tops are great for hot summer rides, but you can’t legally race without sleeves.
Yes, there are brands like Terry and Luna Gear who only cater to women, and that’s great. But just because I’m a girl, doesn’t mean I want to always look like one when I’m drenched in sweat and struggling. Besides, how am I supposed to be taken somewhat seriously with flowers festooned on my back, chest, and shoulders? It’s bad enough when the only [road] bike that comes in my size also includes some terrible vector graphics of hibiscuses...why do I have to be forced to wear the same print all over my body?


Given this dearth of women’s cycling gear without the pink, the too-bright colors, or the rounded standing collars that make me look like a linebacker, I’m prone to jumping up and down happily when any company decides to produce some stuff for the fairer sex. But when you compare the options available to men, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the industry has consistently thrown us [women] a bone, with the mild expectation that we should be happy with whatever meager offerings we get.
And you know what? That’s insulting. It’s insulting that I’m expected to be happy with it, and it’s insulting that I’ve come to accept this as a given. I’m far from unique; there must be hundreds [if not thousands] of women out there who love to ride, who will eagerly open their wallets for gear that flatters but doesn’t simultaneously dumb down, that looks sharp but affords all the technical aspects the guys get in at least 10 different forms. And you are - for the most part - ignoring us.
That said, I’ll probably drop a pretty penny on some Castelli gear later this week, and resist the temptation to forcibly adopt running gear to work on the bike [but with Lululemon around, it’s hard to resist]. But, it did take me two weeks to find a jersey I think I might be happy with, and there’s no guarantee that other women aren’t just giving up. Or worse, settling for being content with something that should be expected of good cycling gear.
Female cyclists are a tough bunch. But being human [and female], we sell ourselves short in too many other areas of our lives; we shouldn’t have to do the same every time we get dressed for a bike ride.
Give us the credit we’re due. You may be surprised at what it might do for you, too.
Sincerely, Kaiko S.