Author Archives: Rustypants

Cycling Jackets: A Learning Experience

It’s only taken me about 3.5 years, but I think I’m learning.

When I really got into cycling (for fun, for commuting, for health), I didn’t have a lot of money to spend. Several years later I still don’t. Now, it’s been obvious to me that despite the amount of money I had to spend to get a couple of good bikes and outfit them, I’m saving money in the long run on gas / wear & tear. I don’t skimp on the equipment I buy to outfit the bikes, because I know that if I buy the best gear now, they’ll last longer and perform better.

So why in the name of all things velo do I attempt to skimp on clothing??

Truth is, “cycling clothing” has always struck me as ridiculous, both in pricing as well as design. I didn’t take up cycling so I could attempt to pack my 45 year old, 230lb frame into skin tight lyrca team kits and spend more on them than on either of my bikes! I wanted to be able to climb on the bike and go, not worry about whether I needed to look like Lance Armstrong to go shopping or to work.

But the realization also hit me that I needed something other than just a hoodie, my jacket of choice for many years. So the hunt for a cheap cycling jacket that could be used in all situations (even off the bike) began.

The Jackets

Four cycling jackets in three and a half years.

 

#1 – Izod XFG Packable Jacket

Almost 4 years ago, this jacket was seen at the local Izod outlet store with a normal pricetag of almost $50. It was on sale for $25, plus a promo was running, knocking it down to $15. “Waterproof” and windproof, it seemed like the perfect answer to my needs as a cyclist here in Pensacola. I sweet talked the salesperson and she sold me a second one (bright orange) so that together I spent $25. How could I go wrong with this, right?

The Problem: While this jacket is mostly waterproof and windproof, it also doesn’t breath even a little bit. It’s like wearing a thick plastic trash bag. On top of that, the back hikes up, exposing your shorts and the end of your shirt. In the end, I may as well have not been wearing a jacket at all, as I wound up as wet from sweat and the encroaching rain. I still wear this jacket occasionally as just a windbreaker, but it generally just takes up space in the closet now.

#2 New Balance 360 Degree Jacket

Waterproof. Windproof. Lined sleeves. Vents in the front and large vent on the back. Reflective strips. Packable. Front-pocket MP3 player slot. 2 zip pockets. It seemed perfect. On top of that, it was $20 down the street, marked down from $90. A dream come true! All my questions answered! It was perfect! We danced and sang together, rode together in the rain, braved the brisk air and everything was great

Until… The Problem: It’s a very loose fit, which I was initially ok with, but that got to be a bit irritating, having everything flapping about willy-nilly. But then, the real problem: As with any piece of clothing, it eventually needs to be washed. Whether it was the washing machine or the jacket, that sucker came unthreaded at the seams, shredding at 2 large spots. This was a month after getting the jacket. And of course, this was bought on the cheap as it was the previous years’ style. There would be no returning the jacket. I did go back to where I bought it and found an XXL (my normal size is an XL) marked further down to $15. Bought it, but this thing wears like a tent (which means it doesn’t get worn at all).

#3 Alpinestars Night Mission Jacket

For almost a year, I’d been without a specific cycling jacket. Always on the lookout, always shocked at the prices, I’ve settled for old hoodies that do a barely decent job as long as it’s not raining. Then, in my quest for cheap, I saw this jacket on The Clymb. Now, I should know better than to try and order clothing online, but the deal was so good ($30, down from $110)… So I did some research on it, looked for information outside of The Clymb’s site, and from what I could tell, it was going to be a winner! Waterproof, windproof, and a hood that could be removed, and apparently 2 vents (under each arm). The only size they had left was XXL, so after some agonizing, I pulled the trigger.

The Problem: Where to start? Hah. Well, to begin, this thing weighs several pounds. It’s crazy heavy. It’s also hot as hell. No reflective strips. There are also no vents in the jacket (apparently only the current version of this jacket has vents, the one I was buying was the previous years’ style). I figured I’d just do the best I could with it, but having gotten it in September when the temps are still in the 80-90 degree range, I couldn’t really test the thing out. Then it got chilly. That’s when I realized this: IMG_2393

I must’ve not only gotten last years’ style, I also got last years’ “slightly irregular” cast-offs. That zipper doesn’t close all the way because the other end has been sewn in wrong and can’t be undone. Furthermore, the top of this jacket is crazy stiff – the zipper top jams into my neck causing extreme discomfort and irritation. And, of course, two months later there are no returns on this jacket. Looking at Alpinestars’ website convinced me not to even bother contacting them. Yet another useless jacket taking up space in the closet.

#4 Louis Garneau Kamloops Jacket

Waterproof. Windproof. Breathable. 2.5 ply nylon ripstop. Large back pocket. High fitting collar. Rear vent flap. Mini-light tab. Reflective tape front and back. Pro-fit. Nevermind that I didn’t understand what several of these things meant, it looked slick. At $47, it was almost $100 less than the MSRP, got good reviews, and I felt that given all the research I did on it before I took the plunge, I thought I’d be ok getting an XXL from Competitive Cyclist’s website, and even if it was just a little too big, that’d be alright.

The Problem: Oh, goodness. Well, this beautiful jacket arrived in the mail and as I pulled it out of the box, I thought, “Damn, son, that’s the noisiest jacket I’ve ever heard… is there cellophane inside this thing?” Alas, there was not. It was then that I understood what Max 2.5 Nylon Ripstop meant. No problem, I thought. It just needs to be broken in, right? So I put the thing on and suddenly understood what pro-fit means: Dudes with broad shoulders and long torsos should probably not buy an XXL, as it will be too small. Yep. The fabric jams right into my armpits, and extends just barely an inch below my stomach. And the noise it makes while it’s on? I mean, I’m deaf and it’s loud enough to be annoying to me. None of this is the company’s fault, however: it’s my own.

What I’ve Learned: 

Having now spent almost $200 on these four jackets, I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • I’ve always had difficulty buying shirts due to a very long torso – at 6′ tall, I have a 29-30″ inseam – most of my size is up top. This will also cause problems with cycling clothing as well.
  • Ordering online from closeout / clearance websites or from clearance bins on normal websites is probably not a good idea, as the ability to return this stuff is near non-existent.
  • A corollary to the previous two points is that I cannot try these items on, and now know from experience that it’s difficult to measure for dimensions when different styles have different fits (even within the same company).
  • I didn’t / don’t understand some of the terms that come with these jackets, and even after researching them, I really needed to have seen it rather than just read about it. Cycling obviously has many categories, from recreational to professional to commuting to sport. Some of the “fits” are not going to apply to me, either because of my “category” or because of the long torso / less-than-muscular physique.
  • Cycling jackets are insanely expensive. Deal with it. I need to buy a jacket I can actually try on first, and have the expectation that I’m going to be spending an insane amount of money (for me) but with a jacket that will actually fit and do what I want it to do.
  • For $200, I could have gotten a good, appropriate jacket (or two) by now. (This, of course, also has to be tempered with the understanding that I don’t have $200 lying around and we use credit cards for emergencies only, not so we can keep up with the neighbors).

Now: I still need a jacket! The hunt continues…

Scenes that remind me I’m watching a movie…

Tonight, while watching the movie Argo, a scene from my past caused me to suspend time for about five seconds, think hard, and have a mental dispute with the filmmakers.

IMG_1653
When they drop the needle onto the record, it looked like they dropped it on track four of five. When the song started and John Bonham’s familiar boom, tap, boom boom-boom, tap intro to When The Levee Breaks kicks in, I thought, “Wait. Waitwaitwait… that ain’t right. That’s the last song on side two.” Lise saw the look on my face as I backed up the film and watched it again. As I explained to her what was going on, she said, “Get out. You remember that? I don’t believe it.” “Oh, REALLY?!?” I replied, having already decided I needed to hit the garage and dig through my LP’s and find the proof.

I thought hard as I found the album, wondering how they could’ve made such a simple but fundamental mistake.

And naturally, they didn’t. As I looked lovingly at the LP cover and slid the album out, I realized: This sucker only has eight tracks on it.

And two things struck me:
First, I’m old. The fundamental mistake was mine.
Second, I am become my father.

Except he probably wouldn’t have forgotten that there are only four tracks on each side of Led Zep IV.

Still waiting for Hurricane Isaac

In the week+ since we were warned that a tropical storm was brewing down south and looked to be heading towards Pensacola, we’re still waiting for the effects. Heck, we’re still waiting for just about anything from this system that doesn’t look like any other day on the Gulf Coast / Florida Panhandle.

On Sunday night our school district cancelled classes for Monday and Tuesday. I hopped on the bike that night and went around taking pictures of the clear skies and beautiful sunset down by the water.

Monday night, Lise and I went out and took more pictures – what a contrast! The clouds and strong winds are about the only thing that tell you that there’s a hurricane out there, but the difference between the top and bottom picture, taken almost exactly 24 hours apart, is striking!

Still waiting, Hurricane Isaac!

Regarding the Chick-Fil-A Gay Marriage “Controversy”

I wonder if part of the extreme reaction to (CFA president) Dan Cathy’s words aren’t necessarily from what we already knew (that he is Christian, that he opposes same-sex marriage, that he runs his company by Biblical principals), but from the words he chose, that people advocating for same-sex marriage are “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.”

“As it relates to society in general I think we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake out fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’” Cathy said. “And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.” *

It smacks of Pat Robertson and others who place the blame for things unrelated at the feet of a this or that group of people. It also smacks of folk who continue to insist that America is / was a Christian nation, and that somehow our state / federal laws are all derived purely from the Bible or that Christian standpoint.

Does that make sense? I’m not saying that this is exactly what was intended, or that this is what people are reacting to, but this is what I take from the articles I’ve read in a couple newspapers since last night (I’ve been completely out of the loop on this). Nothing else about the situation surprised me except the extreme nature of Cathy’s comments regarding God’s judgement against America because gay people want the right to be legally married.

It seems that there would be a more graceful way of saying: I (and by proxy, my company) oppose the right for gays to be legally married.

But even as I type that, irony washes over me as I begin to wonder, “Which company will be FIRST to come out and say, ‘We completely support gay marriage! Come, eat our chicken sandwiches instead!!'”

McD’s is my bet.

*(I took Cathy’s quote from this article in the Washington Post:  http://goo.gl/3LC0A)

____________________

(an aside): The question of marriage in America in regards to this issue seems to come down to whether we’re a religious (Christian) nation or not. If we are, then by golly, we shouldn’t let gay couples marry. But if we’re gonna champion equal rights for all (and most other areas that are controlled by the government are, at least in theory, set up this way), then gays should be allowed to marry.

Are we a Christian nation? No.  Therefore, gays being allowed to marry in America should not come down to a question of religion.

 

Stormy Skies: A Study in Contrasts

It’s difficult to explain the enormity of some of these storms that pass through Pensacola and the speed at which they develop. A panoramic might be the only way to show it, and even that won’t show it correctly. This sucker is moving over the top of us right now. I saw it in the distance, jumped on the bike, went to the closest decent vantage point near the house (2 miles away) and shot a few.

Being a Yankee from Ohio, I’m used to slow developing storms that, when they hit, they envelop the entire area and take all damn day to move through (if not longer).

Here in semi-tropical Pensacola, scenes like the picture above are commonplace. One section the sky is blue, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, etc. etc. and a half mile away, foreboding storm of death, doom, and destruction.

Ain’t complaining. Personally, thunderstorms are my favorite things to sit on the front porch and watch.

Haiku for the rain

Rainy day bike haiku

Haiku comes easy for me. I use the process of writing haiku to settle my mind, get focused, or just to have fun.

Today, I needed to run a quick errand. The thunder was already rumbling from a distance as the sky turned black. Rain was visible a few miles away and I thought I might be able to reach my destination in time and get back before the heavens let loose with another deluge. I was half right. I made it, but soon as I turned around to bike back… The Storm. And these weren’t any little pissant raindrops, either – they were full-fledged, fat, heavy raindrops that don’t waste any time soaking you.

The thunder was closer. The rain had come. The sun-blistered roads were steaming from the coolness of the rain. A slight, cool breeze blew.

Haiku. I biked home.
And the poem wrote itself.
“A picture,” I thought.

I ran inside, grabbed the camera and tripod. I set the timer to wait 20 seconds, then take three shots in succession. Boom, boom, boom.

The rain didn’t care.
The road became a river.
Did I smile? Oh, yes.

Bike Commuter vs. Motorist Confrontations

I rarely get the opportunity to confront drivers who lay on their horns, buzz me, or otherwise make my commute difficult. Back in March, I had one morning ride that was different.

As I’m approaching my school on a VERY narrow, 20′ long concrete bridge, a driver laid on their horn for about 10 seconds (before, during, and after passing). As I’m giving my customary middle finger, I notice this woman is on her cell phone, which only adds to my irritation. With my school in sight, I continue pedaling when I notice that the 20MPH SCHOOL ZONE flashers are lit, and I manage to actually catch up to her as she has been forced to slow down. To add to my irritation, she pulls in to the school next to mine and is obviously not a student.

I pulled in after her and, as she slammed to a stop upon seeing me, I said, “Seriously? Laying on your horn at me while you’re talking on your phone and driving? What were you trying to prove?” Her response: “You need to get your fucking ass out of the road!” while wagging her finger at me, STILL ON THE PHONE. I asked her where she felt I ought to go, given that there are no sidewalks and no curb space in this area, when I realized that nothing good will come of the conversation. She continued hollering at me, I said a few choice words at her, and took off. She parked as I continued riding by, and for good measure, she laid on the horn again.

I hate this kind of confrontation for a number of reasons, the biggest being that it accomplishes nothing, and actually may serve to make things worse. By saying it may “make matters worse”, I’m not only suggesting that she will hate all cyclists to the end of time due to my reaction, but also that there is only one way for me to get to school from home – the area is not residential and you’re forced through a narrow bottleneck. Obviously, I’m going to be seeing her again (and there’s little doubt she’s probably already seen me before). This time it was her horn and yelling. Next time might be…?

During my planning period, I put this together: http://goo.gl/1KzIQ and wrote a very brief, unfelt apology for my reaction to the whole thing, rode over and put it under her wiper blades. I expected nothing in return for it (and actually was concerned it might make her more angry, even with the apology).

Two days later on my morning on the ride in, at almost the exact same spot as before, this woman passed me again, but this time there was no horn honking or exchanges of words.

As much as it pissed me off that I included an apology note with the Florida Traffic Laws for Cyclists and put it under her wiper, it apparently did some good. This alone made it worthwhile to me (as long as it continues).

How do you deal with this type of confrontation? Or do you engage this type of driver at all?

“Live Forever!” Thank you, Ray Bradbury.

My heart truly hurts knowing that my favorite writer, Ray Bradbury, died this morning. I first read his short stories back in 5th and 6th grade (and still own those copies of the books I read) and would say it’s not an exaggeration that I learned much about the world through them. His use of figurative language – metaphors, similes, personification, idioms, etc. – is ultimately what draws me to his books. He describes things in a way that few others can.

As I’ve told my students for years: When Bradbury describes running barefoot in a meadow through the dew-covered clover at sunrise, I can see it, feel it, taste it, touch it, hear it. His writing engages all the senses, forcing you to participate whether you want to or not.

For all his excellent works, Dandelion Wine is still my favorite. It’s an annual read for me, usually sometime during spring or early summer. I first read it as a junior higher, about the same age as his protagonist, Douglas, who has several mind-blowing “coming-of-age” experiences and realizations about life, the human condition, and the people around him. It guided me through many of those same realizations, and re-reading it takes me back to that time and those sensations.

Best birthday gift ever: 1st edition of Dandelion Wine, inscribed to me and signed by Ray Bradbury. (thanks, Dad!)

Bradbury frequently told the story of meeting Mr. Electrico at a carnival that came through town when he was a youngster. The magician sat in his electric chair, sword in hand, and, “when the electricity surged through his body he raised a sword and knighted all the kids sitting in the front row below his platform. I had been to see Mr. Electrico the night before. When he reached me, he pointed his sword at my head and touched my brow. The electricity rushed down the sword, inside my skull, made my hair stand up and sparks fly out of my ears. He then shouted at me, ‘Live forever!’” (from an interview with Ray Bradbury, December 2001)

As sad as I am at his passing, knowing that, through his writing, he will indeed “Live forever!” gives me strange comfort.

Recommended reading:
Dandelion Wine
The Stories of Ray Bradbury
Something Wicked This Way Comes

Yoga and Static

Some days there’s just too much static.
Yoga can be difficult on those days because
focus has been pulled in so many directions.

sitting
being still
silent
quieting the mind
controlling the breaths
tuning out the static
tuning into yourself

I’m not always successful
but when I am
it makes
a world
of difference.


Yoga. Static.