Review: Solo Classique Cycling Jersey

A new player on the cycling-clothing scene is Solo Cycle Clothing, all the way from New Zealand. When they contacted us just before Christmas to gauge our interest in their line of jerseys and other clothing, we were very receptive to what they were offering. As with any new company venturing onto our shores, though, there were some delays in getting a jersey to test. I was hoping for a winterweight jersey to help counteract the chilly temps here in Ohio, but things just didn’t work out that way. Still, Solo sent me a short-sleever from their “Classique” line, and it has gotten quite a bit of use now that spring is here.

First, some of the slickest packaging in the cycling industry:

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Here’s a little bit about the jersey from Solo’s website:

•The Solo design team openly declares its mission: to produce the most beautiful cycle clothing in the world. The Classique range of jerseys pays tribute to iconic nations within cycling’s golden age, with retro styling and accents that will set you apart from the field
•Constructed from Nuovotec polyester; a proprietary polyester blend created for Solo Cycle Clothing, that has superior breathability, wicking, anti-bacterial properties and is super soft against the skin.
•Thoughtful and functional features including an 8″ front zip with oversize zipper pull, four rear pockets, silicon elastic waistband and knitted retro look arm and neck bands
•Retro-inspired design elements including superbly screen-printed (not digitally printed) chest, arm and rear graphics, resulting in bright colors and patterns
•The world’s most beautiful cycle clothing is here. Timeless style inspired by cycling’s golden era. Discover your new favorite jersey within the Solo Cycle Clothing Classique range

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As you can see (and read), the Classique line is geared toward a retro look with modern materials…and they’ve nailed that look with the simple patterns, short zipper, and rib-knit cuffs and neck. This particular style, the “Brouwerij Heuvel“, is an homage to the rich cycling heritage of Belgium, and as many cycling jerseys are, it’s also an homage to BEER. Ironically, this is the second beer-themed jersey I’ve had the pleasure of testing, and I don’t even drink!

The Solo jersey is cut in a near-racer’s form — a little more room than a true racer’s cut, but not as baggy as “club cut” jerseys tend to be on my narrow frame. The quality of the jersey is apparent from the first wearing — the material is supersoft and breathable, the stitching is superb, and the knit cuffs are robust without being constrictive. There’s a thick silicone band at the hem to keep things from riding up in the heat of battle, and that’s always a nice feature. Take a closer look at the cuffs — they’re surprisingly soft and hold everything in place very nicely:

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On the back there are the three traditional pockets, and one smaller zippered pocket for valuables. I really like the extra security of a zipper for my phone and ID cards, so it was nice to see this included.

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As with jerseys from the 60s/70s/early 80s, the Solo Classique line comes with a short 8″ zippered neck. This is my only gripe…yes, it looks retro on this model, but there’s a reason longer-length zippers became standard on modern jerseys: ventilation. My personal preference is for a full-zip jersey, or at least a zipper that goes down pretty close to my belly button. In springtime temps, the short zipper is not a big deal, but as the temps ratchet upward, I will desire much more ventilation than this 8″ opening will allow.

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Not every commuter likes to wear cycling-specific garb…in fact, I would hazard that most simply ride “as they are”, or at most change shirts when they get to work. For those of you with longer commutes, or a penchant for after-work/weekend athletic pursuits, a cycling jersey like this starts to make more sense. Retailing for $139.00, this ain’t no throwaway cheapie — sticker shock for some, but pretty much in line with top-quality cycling wear. To soften the sting of that price tag, Solo is offering a special deal to Bikecommuters.com readers:

URL: http://www.solocycleclothing.com/
Code: GILET50
Offer: Buy a Solo Classique Jersey and use this coupon to get a Solo Equipe Gilet at $49.50 (50% off RRP).
Time frame: Effective now through 31 May

Overall, I have greatly enjoyed the Solo jersey. It won’t be my first choice when the heat of summer comes, but for now it is serving me quite nicely (and making me look incredibly stylish). Take a look at the rest of Solo’s lineup by visiting their U.S. or global websites.

Friday Musings: Leaving Things at Home

I swear I've got better style
Everyone leaves stuff at home sometimes – their lunch, their wallet, their jacket, etc. Us bike commuters are special though, because – especially if we change at work – we have the option of leaving even more things at home!

For example… yesterday I forgot to pack a pair of work socks, and spent all day wearing bright white/red socks with my dress pants and shoes. I usually keep a spare pair of socks at the office for situations like these… but had already used them on another forgetful day.

I’ve frequently forgotten to bring my bike lock or the keys to my bike lock. A few months ago, I did this in reverse… arrived at work only to discover I had taken both sets of house keys AND the car keys… and my wife needed the car keys! I had a nicely doubled commute that morning… and a workday that started closer to 10:00 than the usual 8:00.

And for the worst thing I’ve left at home… last year, I took out my change of clothes only to discover I’d forgotten to bring underwear! And let me tell you… padded bike shorts under dress pants are not particularly comfortable. Fortunately my wife was coming close by on some errands and (once she stopped laughing at me, which took a lot longer than I’d have liked) she agreed to drop by with the necessary item.

So, fellow bike commuters… am I the only forgetful one here, or have some of you done similar things? What were the consequences?

Late to Work: Biking in my Dreams!

Do you ever have a commute where you get to work and wonder, Is this real life!?”  I DO.  I don’t know how it happened, but I ended up uber late to work today, rolling in at an embarassing 1:10pm!  Not to say that I arrive at the dark box of drudgery and sadness (a.k.a. office with no windows) any earlier than 9:30am on a regular M-F… but today was different.  Caught between a nightmare of angry drivers and a dream of ukulele bike advocacy, I thought “Dr. Toothenstein must have gone overboard with the Novocaine yesterday.”  Either that, or now I’m biking in my dreams too.

Fruit!
Gramps keeps it real, he's my posture coach.

My dream started out like this: I groggily flopped out of bed late with no time to shower OR shop for vegetables in Chinatown!  Grandpa yelled my name from the streets below as he waited for a ride on my handlebars over to the acupuncture lady.  We’re cruising down the narrow streets of C-town, as I wait in the middle lane to make a left turn.  Gramps and I are chillin’ completely innocent and unoffensive (well, except for maybe some strong B.O. since hygiene is not my forte), and the nightmare begins.  A jerk-bomb in a truck passes by in the far right lane and yells “Get the FAWK outta tha ROAD!” The truck passes by at full 5 mph (bad traffic makes yelling at cyclists then speeding away kinda hard!)  Gramps gets pissed and starts yelling in Cantonese and chasing the truck down.  Guess I don’t need to drop him off to acupuncture after all.

I call these scones "Forget-Me-Nows" - eat one and forget all bad juju from Jerk Bomb in Pick-up Truck!

I’m a bit stunned from the nightmare, but decide to just crank it out.  There’s only one way to repair the damages from a street-fire jerk bomb: Forget-Me-Now blueberry cream cheese scones from Diamonhead Market!  With nothing but scone on the brain, I zone out for the rest of my ride.  On the way there, I detour through Kapiolani Park.  It’s a beautiful day to take the scenic route to scones, and I  hear the voice of the executive director at HBL calling out my name!  I stop and pull over.

A royal shower tree
Kapiolani Park - a dreamy royal shower tree.

I’ve apparently entered into the Bike Advocacy dream sequence with this kinda hot n’ famous ukulele guy, Chad from HBL and a lady cop.  So much for scones, I guess it’s time to film a dreamy PSA with Jake Shimabukuro on how cyclists have the right to take the whole lane in Hawaii!

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After a couple of video takes, some sweet harmonious tunes, and awkward posing in my HBL tee… I start to think: maybe this isn’t a dream, this is REALITY!  And if it is, am I frackin’ sweaty and smelly.

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Well, whatever is happening here, I just can’t help but throw up a shaka for the camera!  Deputy lady cop so-n-so says “It’s the law!”

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How appropriate that my nightmare and dream revolve around the same theme:  cyclists have the right to take the whole lane if it’s too narrow to share with the car!  Seems Mr. Jerk-bomb is the perfect audience for this Public Service Announcement.  Let’s hope jerk-bomb and other drivers out there will listen up and share the road!  Until this PSA is published on the telly, I gotta go back to Chinatown and find Gramps…  Any of you riders out there have bike commuting nightmares to share?  How do you guys get over those nasty comments from drivers on your commutes?

(For the more literal readers out there, Mir.I.Am was intentionally late to work today to film a Public Service Announcement with Hawaii Bicycling League.  Coincidentally, she did get yelled at by a guy in a pick up truck, but no Grandpas were harmed in the writing of this post.  Blueberry cream cheese scones are baked pure deliciousness itself.  Oh god, they’re so good!)

Fyxation Loop EVA Bar Tape-Review

A few months ago Fyxation sent us a package of Loop EVA Bar Tape to test out. I’ve installed this on my Soma Fabrications Double Cross DC cyclocross bike.

After a few hundred miles of riding, I figured I’d show off the condition of the tape. Below is a photo taken during one of my CX bike rides through the Fullerton Loop of Fullerton, Ca. This shows you that there has been no tearing, slipping, or fading in color.
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Specs:

LOOP EVA BAR TAPE
Inspired by the famous loop in downtown Chicago our Loop EVA foam bar tape offers a great blend of comfort and grip. Avaiable in 5 colors, Loop bar tape lets you customize your ride with other matching Fyxation gear.
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SPECS
– Material: EVA foam with adhesive backing
– Includes 2 rolls of ape, end plugs and end tape
– Available in black, white, orange, green and pink
Price $13.95

The bar tape is easy to install and very comfortable. It wasn’t too thick for my hands and it did a great job in absorbing some trail chatter.

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One of the things that stood out to me was the tape’s adhesive backing. When I first installed the tape, I was using a pair of brake levers that I really didn’t like. I eventually replaced them and thought that if I removed and reinstalled the tape, it wouldn’t be sticky enough to stay put. Well after 3 times of removing and resinstalling, I was pleased to see that the tape stayed in place, it never shifted or slipped. Fyxation also provides you color choices; Black, White, Pink, Green and Orange. I’m a big fan of Pink, and I think pink tape would have looked killer on my bars.

Overall, would I recommend the Fyxation Loop EVA Bar Tape? Yes I would. The quality, durability, low price and color choices make it a great product for any bike commuter to use.

FTC Disclaimer

Commuting in Style (Pint-Sized Edition)

In two of my semi-recent posts, I laid out some of the choices in traveling by bike with kids, and in choosing a helmet for those pint-sized commuters. Since then, we’ve acquired both a front-mounted seat and a helmet for our youngest, R. We’re in the early stages of use still… but so far so good!

First… the seat. It’s a Yepp Mini we got with our REI dividend (yeah, we shop there a bit!), and it is the coolest bike seat I think I’ve ever seen. I’d assumed it would be plasticky, but it’s actually a pretty soft – but shape-holding – rubber texture. R thinks it’s about the coolest thing ever, and couldn’t stop grinning during our first test ride! The only bad thing about it is we don’t have a bike that it fits really well on – right now it’s on my wife’s hybrid, but she has to pedal carefully so she doesn’t bang her knees, the footrests affect her turning radius (although not terribly), and she can’t slide forward too easily when she comes to a stop. So… we’ll see how it works out. We’re huge fans of the seat itself, but not quite as big fans of how it works with us and our bikes. I’ve got my eye out for a bike it’d work better with though – I figure I can find a used city/cruiser-style bike with a friendlier geometry for less than the cost of the Yepp mini! These seats are hugely popular in Europe for use with Dutch-style bikes – but the Dutch-style bikes here come at a prohibitive price point. I’ll be reporting back in the coming months on what we end up doing!

For the helmet, we went with the Lazer BOB infant helmet, and it’s working out pretty nicely. It fits R a lot better than other helmets we’ve tried, though it’s not as easily adjustable as some (you have to remove the helmet completely to adjust the straps, which is less than ideal), and… yeah, it still looks kinda huge! We’re still working on getting the fit 100% dialed (we make a small adjustment every time we put it on her), but overall we’re pretty happy with it.

Post-ride Contemplation