Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Team Kit

This weekend my riding plans were stymied by the weather (and my son's soccer game), but mostly the weather. Have I mentioned that I am frustrated by the weather? We had a spot of sun this morning, prompting me to begin composition of an ode to the golden orb, but at the same time it was below freezing and the sun is gone as I write this. I have begun to obsess about the difference between our "normal" temperatures and our current temperatures. Shall I go into extraordinary detail for you? How about a spreadsheet with hour-by-hour variations? No, then I will proceed with something else.

This weekend, I hit the trainer both Saturday and Sunday. I did so, however, in a different fashion than normal. When I ride my trainer, I tend to grab shorts that I like the least. I think that I am saving my favored shorts for outdoor rides, but I'm not sure I can really explain this. I also usually ride in a jersey. A little while ago I decided to just ride in the t-shirt I was wearing and I remembered why a jersey is nice. It turns out that cotton t-shirts and poly/lycra jerseys react differently to sweat. It's almost as if someone thought about this and made the jerseys that way on purpose. Anyway, as with shorts, I tend to grab older or less favored jerseys.

Saturday morning, however, was very different. I was pleased, nay proud, to pull out my brand new Team Two Wheel jersey and a brand new pair of Giordana Carbon Red bib shorts. These were passed out at the first ever Team Two Wheel Family Appreciation Night. Our TTW family appreciation dinner could use a blog post of its own, but it will have to wait for another time. Suffice it to say that more food and more wine was consumed that was appropriate for training cyclists. In my rowing days we used to have a motto we kept in mind, "Live Like a Monk, Train Like a Madman." In this case, we were living like a sect of monks who find divine inspiration in a bottles of Leonetti wines. You can see, however, after that evening that the training portion couldn't be ignored even though rain/snow/sleet/hail/frogs were all forecast. So, it was with great joy and anticipation that I pulled on the new team kit and hit the trainer.

Here is the e-mail that I sent out to Rider 1, Rider 2 and Two Wheel Transit's owner after my trainer time:
I rode my trainer for 90 minutes this morning and our team kit is awesome. My power output was huge, I was hardly breathing and the wheel started to smoke.

Well, not really, but the jersey is comfortable and the shorts are really nice.
We are going to post some pictures of the new kit and our t-shirts (available by e-mailing us) very soon (Hey, I'm looking at YOU Rider 1!), so I will save the details, but I really like the Giordana shorts. I don't know why I have had almost every other brand, but never tried the Giordana. I was missing out on some very nice shorts: solid construction, great placement of seams and fabric types, awesome pad - the whole package. Among the three of us, we got different kinds of shorts, so we will have to weigh in on all of them, but I love the Carbon Red bib shorts.

So, after that experience on Saturday, on Sunday morning I looked out the window at the newly fallen snow on my lawn, the slush cascading out of the sky and the 34° temperature and decided a bit more trainer time was in order. It also occurred to me that I had another piece of team kit: a skinsuit. Now, before those of you who ride with me turn your eyes in horror, I promise two things. First, there are no pictures below, and second, I have arranged for lead and trailing vehicles to be with me at all times I would ride outside in the skinsuit. While "Wide Load" vehicles would work effectively, these trucks will have flashing lights and customized signs stating, "Warning - Skinsuit on unsuitable body type ahead!" This may prove to be an unfair advantage at a time trail if these vehicles motorpace me to the front like a Belgian race official when a Frenchman is out front, but trust me, the UCI will find a loophole to justify it for the safety of the other riders and innocent bystanders.

Now, of course, you are wondering why would I get a skinsuit at all. Fair question. Here is the answer: I was tricked into it. Maybe peer pressured into it is a better way of looking at it. And despite all the advice that middle schoolers shouldn't make decisions based on peer pressure, I have had a lot of experiences I wouldn't have had otherwise if not for peer pressure. How can you know it isn't a good idea to ride your bike down the slide at the park unless you try it? Anyway, Rider 1 and Rider 2 are the type of folks who are fast and can conceivably benefit from skinsuits, so they wanted them as part of the team kit. They said I had to have one if I was going to be on the team, so what the hell, I got one.

I have watched a lot of professional cycling on television. Being early to this game, I probably have seen most of the professional cycling that has ever been shown on american television. You think I'm using hyperbole to make a point, but it is really true. Anyway, I have seen pro riders putting on or peeling off the tops of skinsuits and now I know why they look so damn foolish doing it. It is an absurdly difficult thing to do even when you are a 5% body fat pro, so my physique combined with my flexibility and lack of experience made for an interesting process. At one point I was wondering what the paramedics were going to say.

After I got it on, it was frankly just as perplexing. I find it interesting that if I buy a nice shirt they want to know my neck size and sleeve length. If I buy a sport coat they want to know my chest measurement and offer me a coat in various lengths based on that. When I got this skinsuit, I had a choice between five total sizes. I think that even five people my same height would have different needs, much less finding five people my same weight. When your shorts and shirt aren't connected, you can make due with some variation, but I think that when you make them one-piece, it might need some more sizing consideration.

The other thing that is completely normal (I suppose) for a skinsuit is that it really fits when you are in the riding position and less so for the standing-up-walking-around-the-kitchen position. Either that or the skinsuit model for the XXXXL model is shorter than I am, at least in the torso. In either case, mine didn't feel that comfortable for standing (let your imagination help you understand the problem), but I was surprised at how comfortable it was when I got on the bike.

The skinsuit is also from Giordana. The pad is different from my shorts, it is a bit less fancy from appearance, so I would guess it goes into shorts at a lower price point from the Carbon bibs, but it was also very comfortable. I only spent an hour on the trainer Sunday, but I got in some intervals (I know they work, but do they have to make you feel so miserable? They do have to? Oh.) to make up for the short time I had to devote to it. The skinsuit felt very sleek and interesting and was comfortable once I got into it. I did have one issue with the skinsuit though, beyond the body contained in it. That is that the lower portion is the correct color for all cycling shorts (you don't have to ask, do you?), but the top is white. The color and fabric combine for the effect you want to have at a wet t-shirt contest, but it is not a pleasing effect for a hairy-chested, middle-aged, large male cyclist. I'm just saying. And, unfortunately, so did my kids. Don't worry though, they're in therapy.

Blog post synopis - TTW Team Kit - Awesome. TTW Team Skinsuit - Awesome in theory; On Rider 3 - minimize exposure to sensitive individuals and children.

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