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for all my friends · why I love

why I love

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why I love…

arm warmers.  quite possibly the next most important cycling clothing item past the essential jersey, bibs, and socks.  most arm warmers have a thin fleece lining to help keep the warmth in, and the cold out.  there are others that are much thinner to help block out harmful uv rays.  there’s even wool arm warmers.  with so many options out there, keeping your arms warm never came so easily.  out here in san francisco and marin, temperatures can easily fluctuate up to 20*F through the morning, while you’re out on a ride.  and nothing is worse than being under dressed for mother nature (hmm, don’t read too far into this one).  the best part about arm warmers is that even if you’re wearing them, and the temperature begins to rise, the tight-fitting fabric element is made to wick sweat away from your skin, evaporating it on the surface of the material itself.  your arms remain in their optimum temperature range, and you are comfortable  – obviously, comfort is a subjective feeling, but you get the idea.  it’s the equivalent of having a second skin to help your body breathe.  and if there comes a point where the arm warmers need to be stashed away, they fold into a neat pile that can fit in your back pocket.  they’re so compact and convenient.

back when I had my track bike, I came across a clothing layering combination that worked perfectly for city riding.  a regular (cotton) t-shirt with arm warmers, and a northface venture jacket (gore-tex lined) with the pit vents unzipped.  the arm warmers would help retain body heat, wicking the sweat away from my skin, and evaporating it from the internal draft created from the air traveling from the arm holes out towards the pit vents.  and the same concept worked on yesterday’s rainy ride.  I was wearing my arm warmers (and wind vest) underneath my rain shell, and the arm warmers did a stellar job keeping my arms insulated, dry, and comfortable.  I’m particularly fond of voler branded cycling clothing because they’re durable, fit well, and they’re located in california (support your local!).  prior to this, I had a couple pairs of capoforma arm warmers, but I found that they faded and stretched out over time.  either way, arm warmers are key for layering when it comes to cycling clothing.  and they come in a plethora of colors, if matching is your thing.

and not that I condone crashing, but in the unfortunate event that a cyclist goes down, having a bit of insulation around the arms probably wouldn’t be a bad thing.  in the end, I just don’t like being unnecessarily cold while riding a bike.  it’s as simple as that.

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why I love…

chamois cream.  believe it or not, there was a time not too long ago where I would’ve been perfectly okay with riding 30+ miles in denim on a bike with 1 gear, no brakes, and a saddle designed in the 1980’s.  I even rode down to santa cruz with cutoffs, chrome milo slip on shoes (man, I miss those…), mks fit alpha single straps, and a hed3 front wheel on my pista concept…ah, those were the days.  after dying denim on every single piece of underwear I had, I think I came to the conclusion that there were better options out there.  enter the realm of modern day road cycling.  with a advent of the synthetic chamois, cycling shorts evolved into something that could actually be worn for long periods of time in relative comfort.  and since padding was also introduced to the chamois for increased comfort, road saddles became less padded and more ergonomic.  but there was still a missing element.

while you can increase your comfort on the bike with a modern saddle and a pair of good bibs by 10,000% (rough estimate), chaffing your crotch raw is still somewhat of an issue.  this is where chamois cream comes into the picture.  I’m a bit ashamed to say that the first cream I ever bought was from competitive cyclist – did you know they got bought out by backcountry.com (yea I know, read the acquisition for yourself)?  it was a container of the ‘infamous’ assos chamois cream.  I only say that because assos claims they were the first to create a mass produced synthetic chamois, so it would only be fitting that the cream they designed to go along with it would be equally as ground breaking.  honestly, I don’t think I could distinguish awesome chamois cream from something cheaper or less thick, not back then at least.  the bottom line was, anything was better than nothing, seriously.  I bought the next set of creams through the bike shop, and so begun my exploration of all things creamy.

chamois cream is all about reducing friction, increasing comfort, and preventing saddle sores.  I’ve been slowly perfecting my application technique in the mornings.  I mean, it’s not the most difficult thing in the world, you’re basically spreading a thick lotion over your chamois.  but when the sun isn’t even up yet, and you’ve woken up from a weird default chime on your cell phone after hitting snooze on it 5 minutes prior, it’s not the easiest thing in the world, either.  I’m decent at it now.  when you’re sitting on a small anatomic seat for a couple hours a day, comfort matters.  tom boonen wore a hole in his skin ‘down there’, and had to quit the 2011 vuelta (read the delicate issue on inrng).  it’s a big deal.  and with so many options out there, riders can pick and choose what they want to be sitting on – everything from their saddle, chamois brand, and now chamois cream.  more expensive isn’t necessarily better.  like many things bike related, personal preference comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.  I’ve asked cat1/2 heroes connor and travis for their opinions regarding the various creams they carry at the shop, and thus far, I’ve been riding slick in the pants.  the only downfall is how much I seem to put on – I really need to start spreading it on like there’s no tomorrow.  level up, so to speak.

embrace the spin and protect your crotch from excessive friction.  cream it.

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why I love…

mixing gel.  I’m the first one to admit that eating/sipping gel isn’t the most pleasant experience while riding a bike, but energy wise, it works.  while in an interview, a person asked me what I ate on rides for fuel and I answered with something along the lines of, “ah you know, some water mixed with powdered supplement and gel”.  a face of confusion and disgust started back at me.  what can I say, it’s not ‘real’ food, but it works for me so I can’t complain.  back to the main topic, mixing is a great way to break up the uniformly bland flavors of gel.  I remember when I first started using gel, I thought the flavor choices were superb: “mmm, liquid huckleberry, raspberry, and apple cinnamon.  my favorites”.  side note: ‘using gel’ makes it sound like a drug…hmm.  I began just dreading the flavor of apple cinnamon, over and over again on rides.  paired with the fact that I usually sip on gel in the same places going out and coming back in from rides, having the same flavor just made it seem like deja vu (matrix style though, meaning, not good!).

I mixed raspberry with huckleberry for a little while, and that was really stellar.  it reminded me of a jelly filled donut, minus the donut.  apple cinnamon huckleberry was also good.  recently, I picked up some vanilla to mix with my raspberry, and it’s probably the best combination I’ve had thus far – definitely a do-again.  if you’re adventurous enough to try out gel, take it to a reasonable next step and try mixing up flavors.  some combinations are pretty good.  hammer nutrition has a lot of flavors, and I’m not sure if I’ll be getting different ones down the line, since I’ve only really tasted 4 different flavors that I like.  I guess I’m not the adventurous type when it comes to trying out potentially bad flavors like espresso or orange…though orange does seem appealing on some days, I might try it out next time.

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why I love…

cycling laundry.  granted, the initial feeling of having to do a bunch of cycling laundry seems like a bit of a pain.  but the best part of doing a load of cycling laundry is two fold: by washing your cycling clothes by itself, you ensure that all your riding clothing is only coming into contact with other ride worthy clothing.  there might’ve been a time (a very long time ago), where I would’ve been okay with mixing regular clothes with cycling clothing, but those days are long gone.  I find myself doing cycling laundry every 2 days, once I’ve gone through both my matching kits, and two different sets of hats, gloves, base layers, and warmers.  I think the only articles of clothing I wear back to back are the wind vest and the cordura shoe covers, and even then, I almost dread it.  they lack the fresh feeling (probably in my mind) on the second day, even though they didn’t even touch my skin.  I think I’ll pick up another set of both soon.  and when I’m at the laundromat, I usually hover close by the washing machine, ensuring nothing goes wrong (in the rare occasion that the top loader has an unbalanced drum), and so that no one steals my clothes.  this load of laundry is kind of a big deal.  and then after the load of laundry is done, people around seem to be dying to see what I’ve been eying so closely during those silent, 26 minutes of washing.  as I pull various bits of damp non-normal looking clothing from the drum, they’re curiosity turns to confusion, and eventually they give up trying to understand all together.  victory.

the second cool part about doing cycling laundry?  hang drying.  I’ve seen what commercial dryers can do to some of my regular clothes, I don’t think I ever want to see what it could do to the wafer-thin cycling clothes, even on a low temperature setting.  usually, hang drying regular clothes tends to give them a stiff, abrasive feeling.  this might be because of the moisture/air content and lack of a bounce anti-static fresh smelling sheet, but even still, it’s just weird.  but somehow, with cycling clothes, it makes them feel brand new.  there’s nothing better than waking up before the sun rises to put on starchy feeling riding clothes.

putting various bits of clothing around my room has also become a strategic game that I’m progressively getting better at.  I’ve learned that hanging the bibs I’m going to use the next day next to my arm warmers, off to the side, tends to give them more air from my hepa filter (which pulls air from the window), thus giving me perfectly dry bibs in less than 14 hours.  the jersey to match gets draped over a small stool – this was a technique I started using just a couple weeks back, and it really does wonders for drying time.  that jersey is probably the fastest one to dry out of the bunch.  the wind vest can hang below the second kit, which doesn’t need to be dry within such a tight time constraint, and since it’s the thinnest piece of clothing, it dries pretty quick just on its own.  the 4 gloves hang off to the side, soaking up the air that passes around from the backside.  cycling caps tend to take longer, depending on where they’re placed, but I’ve seemed to have nailed down the hammer nutrition one on the arm warmers hanger, and the red stripe on near my computer, where the air is warmer (it’s hanging with the gloves in the photo, though).  the defeet base layers dry quickly as well, and hang up above.  I have 4 pairs of socks which are always going in and out of rotation, so their drying time isn’t as big of a deal, since I always have 2 pairs that are fully dried and ready to go.

the art of cycling laundry is not to be underestimated.

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why I love…

nutella.  now, I know last week’s item was honey, and though nutella falls under the same edible category (kind of), it’s in a completely different league.  nutella is made with dozens of hazelnuts, which are low in unsaturated fat, rich in protein, and contain a rainbow of vitamin b.  vitamin b helps the body absorb and metabolize energy.  and nothing beats a big serving of nutella after riding.  nutella is great on fruits, particularly bananas and strawberries.  it’s great to spread on toast.  it has such a distinct taste, and though it contains a hint of cocoa, it tastes nothing like chocolate.  plus, even if it did taste like chocolate, I wouldn’t be complaining.  I have a big sweet tooth.

granted, nutella comes at a premium price, but that just adds to it’s mysterious deliciousness.  the pro peloton is also a fan of nutella.  I remember early in the season, when mechanics and soigneurs were getting ready for the classics and other races, someone took a picture of their kitchen supplies.  a case of nutella was out in the open:

oh, there’s the picture.  it was from team sky.  anyway, nutella is made in canada and distributed worldwide.  speaking of, I think I might have some now.

second photo from cycling news.

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why I love…

I’m starting a new weekly series post called, “why I love…”.  it’s going to encompass a broad range of topics and products that I find to be fascinating and somehow linked to cycling in some roundabout way.

this week, the subject is honey.  about 90% of my love towards honey is purely for the taste.  the other 10% is dedicated to the process it takes to make honey. you’re telling me that a bee drank flower nectar, and threw up at the hive to make this stuff?  that in itself is epic.  granted, I was stung twice by a bee on paradise loop a couple weeks back, but I forgive the bee, because honey is so lush and delicious.  it’s good on everything, too.  I used to put honey on my salads.  I moved onto putting it on fruits.  now I just cut straight to the chase and started to pour it right into my mouth after riding.  honey is nature’s gu.  it’s chock full of antioxidants and natural sugar, which makes it much easier for your body to metabolize and digest.  it doesn’t have much water in it either, so there’s less chance that bacteria and other microorganisms will contaminate it – honey also contains an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide which aids in keeping it pure.  to top that off, honey has an enormous shelf life.  honey also comes in a plethora of flavors, as you’d expect, and always tastes like victory.  hell, honey stinger makes cycling food, and all their products stem from honey.

sometimes I wish there were big, mutant, domesticated bees that people could have in their homes as pets.  then, when you want some honey, you could just walk over to your mutant bee, and have them fill up a jar with some.

these are the things I think about while riding.  deep.

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