Category Archives: gear
Many of you know I have a passion for merino wool. You may remember a post I made last spring about my upgrading wardrobe. I also have talked about the GT goods on the Team Mega Tough blog. If it’s wool, there’s a good chance that I love it. But I have particularly strong love when it comes in Icebreaker form. I’ve been keen to this company ever since 2004, while living in New Zealand for 6months. Now I may be a bit of an elitist, because wool is wool, right? But not all wool is created equal. Icebreaker goes above and beyond quality and design. They do a really great job of making sure their clothes fit right, their socks last forever, and their lines are temperature specific. I would have never dared to wear wool in the summer, before I was introduced to Icebreaker’s Travel and GT lines, that is.
Recently, Natureshop contacted me and introduced me to their online retail shop. They have just about everything awesome that is wool. Wool slippers? Check. Wool sweaters? Double check. And best of all, they carry the best: Icebreaker.
There are many things I appreciate about Icebreaker, but what really makes this clothing company rad is their transparency, their versatility and their passion for the environment. Anyone who has ever been to New Zealand knows that the country is on top of their game when it comes to being green. And understandably so, it’s an absolutely amazing place:
Which is why when Natureshop approached me about the potential for working with them for clothing reviews, I couldn’t say no. They, too, are on top of their game when it comes to environmental awareness. Natureshop is a CarboNZero company, which means that they aim to reduce their carbon footprint by measuring, managing, and mitigating their greenhouse emissions. Natureshop is selective in the clothing/shoe companies they carry for this reason. Luckily for me and the environment, Icebreaker makes the cut.
Now what about their clothing? Well, if you haven’t seen it before, Icebreaker’s clothing line is 1) comfortable, 2) stylish and 3) versatile. Their sweaters, dresses, even t-shirts can be dressed up or down. Take the Villa dress for example:
It’s smooth and stylish, and can be used as business casual or for a first date (or a night out with the girls). It’s made from the Lite 200 merino, which makes it comfortable to wear on really hot, toasty days (or while dancing all night). It has a summery feel, with short sleeves and a wistful tie. But, hold on- that doesn’t mean its only a hot-weather outfit… The great thing about Icebreaker is that all their stuff can be layered. Grab a sweater to wear over top, or a pair of tights to wear underneath, and you’ll be comfortable even in cooler temps.
My friends at Natureshop agreed to send me the Villa dress, as well as a few other items from my yearly wish-list. Oh. My. Gosh. Really?! What an amazing treat. Along with the dress, I received a pair of the Pace Legless capris and the Zenith top.
At first I was fooled that these were wool. They are thin and light, which I was sure meant that I was going to be cold while out cycling in 40F weather. But of course, I wasn’t cold. Ever. Even though the tights were sheer and thin, they kept me warm and I could not have been more impressed.
The Pace Capris are a great example of layering from Icebreaker. They are in the 200 Baselayer line, but that doesn’t necessary mean they have to be used as a baselayer. I felt comfortable wearing them by themselves while running and biking, and the seams and GT wordmark make me feel like that was a-ok. I have actually worn them over bike shorts, as a way to keep my knees warm while mountain biking. I don’t have to readjust them while I am running, which is a chronic problem I’ve had with most other capris I’ve used for running, so that is a bonus, too.
And, I ran with them yesterday, on a very Spring-in-Saint-Louis day (where the temps soared to 80F and the sun shined brightly), and I felt comfortable. Although, I probably could have used some shorty-shorts to tan my very pale legs…
OK, this is hands-down one of the most stylish tops I own. Although I asked for a small, my friends at Natureshop sent me this top in x-small, which I was hesitant about but I am really glad that they made the executive decision. It fits perfectly. Its as if it were tailored to me. The color, cosmic, is a rich blue hue that is great for wearing year-round- I can wear it with a skirt, a pair of jeans, or a nice pair of slacks. I especially love the tie around the neck- not functional, but stylish, and that’s what makes Icebreaker stand apart from other wool clothing companies. The delicate worksmanship of their seams softens the look of their clothing, and even adds a bit of elegance. It’s amazing what a good sewing technique can do!
This is a dress I have wanted ever since the Icebreaker 2010 catalog came out. It is such a cute dress that I was sure I could justify spending $110 on it. Then I looked in my closet, and saw that I already have four (count em, 4!) other black dresses. So I talked myself out of it. Granted, I could have just donated my other dresses to Goodwill and felt appeased with the Villa dress… but I didn’t quite do that. Hell, I probably could have donated ALL of my dresses and felt glee with just the Villa.
Needless to say, when asked what item I really, truly wanted from Icebreaker, the Villa dress was my first choice. But, at first, I had a hard time justifying when I was going to wear it. I’m not much of a dress-wearing gal, but I really like wearing dresses. If that makes sense. I guess I am not big on dressing up for normal things like work and socializing. And the Villa dress… it seemed too nice to wear around town, to work, to normal things. But then I realized how silly I was being. First of all, this dress is comfortable. It was designed to be worn for normal things. Heading to the coffee shop? Wear the Villa. Going out to lunch with friends? Sure, where this dress. I’d probably run in it if I didn’t have a bunch of other Icebreaker stuff to run in. I wear it to work, I wear it to the grocery store, I even wear it on the bus… It is machine washable, after all. This dress has reconnected me with my hidden style, too. I went to Urban Outfitters and bought three different kinds of colorful tights to wear underneath, when the temps a bit cooler. Otherwise, I don’t even wear it with pantyhose, because that detracts from the smooth merino against my legs (ooh lala!). It’s just a black dress, after all, but it’s much less than simple. It has a very elegant neckline, and the tie around the waist adds to the beauty of this dress. The length is perfect, I don’t feel like its too short or too conservative, and it doesn’t ride up even though the fabric is light. And just like all the rest of the Icebreaker casual clothes I own, the stitching is well done and offers the dress its own bit of class in and of itself. In four words: I love this dress. [By the way… Anyone need a black dress? I’ve got four I have no use for anymore!]
Natureshop hooked me up with this really swanky gear that I’ve had on my I-really-want-that-someday list. I appreciate their support, and hope you support them by checking out their online shop. Right now, Icebreaker’s winter 2010 gear is on clearance at 30% off, which means you can get the sweet stuff listed here on sale.
The holidays are coming! Eek! My list hasn’t even been tackled yet. Double eek!
If you are like me, you already know what to get your significant other who 1) likes to ride his bike, 2) is in grad school and 3) lives in a snowy, cold place. Ok, so I have this one a little easy. But other than buying him a case or two of Pamela’s lemon shortbread cookies and a 5lb bag of Snowshoe Brew, I might be at a little bit of a loss. Endurance athletes aren’t really all that hard to shop for, if you have a billion dollars to spend on them. I thought I’d make it a little easy for those quirky endurance athletes on Santa’s list this year, no matter what your budget.
- Energy-o-rama: A nice variety of energy treats will bring a smile to their face. It will also give them an opportunity to restock their supply for the upcoming season or give them something new to try. I bought Baberaham a grab-bag of energy foods a few years back that had all sorts of awesome stuff, and it gave him an opportunity to try new things that he otherwise may never have tried before. My pics: Kona Kola Nuun, a flask of First Endurance Liquid Shot, a Larabar or two (coconut cream pie and pb&j, perhaps?), and some Honey Stinger chews.
- Gift cards! Good places include:
Now if only Active.com had gift cards, too…
- Chamois cream – whether they use it already and have a favorite, or they haven’t yet dabbled in the down-under cream, a new tube or tub might get them rolling. If you don’t know where to start, check out my chamois cream review from a few months ago to narrow down some options. Want to give them comfort without getting too personal with their privates? You could get them a can of TriSlide or a few bottles of the TriSwim shampoo and body wash.
- Snapfish their season! My mom makes me really awesome collages every year. This year, after Rev3 Cedar Point, she made me the collest race recap ever. It had photos from their day as spectators, the course, and me on the run and at the finish. You can make all sorts of cool things with Snapfish, like calendars and stationary. Think about a two-in-one type of present: make them a calendar that they can use to log their training!
- New headphones– If they are like me, they go through headphones faster than they go through swim suits. OK, maybe that is because I don’t swim as much as I should… but I digress. H2O Audio has a pair of waterproof headphones for $45, and there’s these new tri-geek-gadget headphone covers called Yurbuds that lots of people talk about. The warranty of the Yurbuds is 90days which is longer than some headphones last…
- Underwear– No, not underwear like your mom gets you at Christmas. How about: a new sports bra? or windproof briefs? or a pair of compression shorts? Seriously, serious underwear. And if you think its weird to give your Secret Santa who also does marathons a pair of windproof briefs, then you obviously don’t know him that well… unless you live in Florida.
- Cross training gear– Get a medicine ball, Bosu ball, or a yoga mat. I’ve always wanted one of those at-home pull-up bars because I never can predict when the mood will strike and I’ll want to do Feats of Strength. It could be in the middle of eating pasta (but it’s usually NEVER in the middle of eating ice cream).
- A nice bottle of whiskey– I know I’m not the only endurance athlete that likes whiskey. Right? Right?!? Phew, at least I know Maggs does. My recommendation? Well, I have a lot of recommendations in this price range. But, particularly, I *love* Eagle Rare for a bourbon, Macallan 10yr Fine Oak if you like single-malt, and I’d personally love to try Hirsch 10yr in honor of my new coach, even though he’s not from Canada.
- New bike shorts– Who doesn’t need new bike shorts, anyway? Or tri shorts? or running shorts? Heck, it’s cold now; get ’em a pair of tights, like these ones from Louis Garneau.
- Miscellaneous gear– Do they have a nice bike pump? How about an at-home fix-it kit? Baberaham helped me put one together before I moved since we’d no longer be sharing gear. It included: a multitool, several new tubes, Bontrager tire levers, CO2 containers, a 3-4-5mm Y-type allen wrench, and all sorts of other useful stuff. Trigger Point is a sure-win for endurance athletes, since they are tools to aid recovery. Go to their Individual TP Products tab on the left to see the Quadballer (if you are gonna get one thing from Trigger Point, it should probably be this). If they are more run focused, get them gear to keep them running safe after dark, like a nice headlamp, a decent runnable reflective vest, and a hat/gloves designed for running.
- Sweet clothes– Whether its running clothes or every-day normal clothes, which for some reason endurance athletes don’t usually have a lot of, it’s safe to say that most everyone will appreciate the finer stuff. Take merino wool, for example. It’s warm, but very fashionable. Check out Icebreaker for some extraordinary active wear (that will seriously keep you warm with less layers and weight than polyester) and also for some stylish stuff, too.
- A few good cookbooks and some cooking tools– Get them started off on the right foot for 2011 with a few healthy-eating cookbooks and some new utensils they probably don’t have. There’s plenty of cookbooks to choose from, but make sure your choice is personal. If they are new to following a gluten free diet, get them something like Gluten Free Gourmet Cooks … series by Bette Hagman might be nice. I personally love the Comfort Foods book, but Baberaham isn’t such a soulful food person. And, if they don’t already have one, get them something nice for their kitchen to cook food in. I love my new Calphalon stainless steel multi-purpose saute pan. It has a lid, which is one giant step up from what my last saute pan had. Also check out their knife collection; everyone should hvae three good knives in their kitchen: a santoku or chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife.
- A different bottle of whiskey? This is probably the best bourbon I’ve ever had:
- While this is more the special person(s) [eg significant other, son/daughter, or kiss up to your boss because you majorly screwed off this year] gift, it’s still one that is difficult to tackle for most people. In fact, I can think of a million things to get my running buddies, but we can’t spend this much moolah on each other (if we spend anything at all, because- alas – we are either all or recently recoverying grad students). So, if your special person(s)’s an endurance junkie like me, here’s a few gifts they might just eek about in glee.
- New kicks ($100-150)- This is something that I know I can always get great use and appreciation out of. If you go this route, get ’em a new pair of their ol’ standbys. Don’t change it up, and if they aren’t happy with their current shoe, don’t make the decision for them. Instead, offer to take them to their favorite running shop and buy their new pair of shoes after trying them on.
- A new bike trainer ($150-1200)– Even for people who can train outside year-round, having a bike trainer gives an athlete the freedom to train when they want to, whether its 5 in the morning or 9 at night. I have become very fond of using the trainer, because I don’t have to worry about bundling up, being seen by cars, or even wearing a shirt (yes, I wear a sports bra… sheeeesh). CycleOps is *the* name when it comes to quality bike trainers, and they make such a wide range that it can fit almost any budget. Now if only I could get my hands on a Powerbeam Pro…
- GPS watch ($150-300)- If they don’t already have one (which I’m 99.8% certain most dedicated endurance athletes do at this point), upgrade their Ironman Timex watch to a shiny new Garmin 305.
- TYR Torque swimskin ($250)- For those tri-geeks out there- Got a significant other that aspires to qualify for Kona, or is doing any southern, warm season triathlons in 2011? This swimskin is WTC and USAT legal, and it has a wee-bit of compression to help keep things tucked in and streamlined. I had a few close-calls in triathlon over the last two seasons, where I wasn’t sure if the water would be cool enough for my wetsuit. It wouldn’t otherwise be a big deal, but my two-piece tri kit can act like a chute in the water. Plus, I hope to do some warmer-weather races in 2011, and having a swimskin would help me in my weakest of the three sports.
- Cover (some or all of) a race entry fee ($80-600)- Nothing says “I love you” than encouragement, and what better way to encourage your special person than by being an enabler?! I love enablers. They make me happy because they are just listening to the person they care about and helping them get to where they need to go a little easier.
- Want something a little better than just covering their race entry fee? Register for two people; make it a special day! Of course, that other person is you. Not only will you be showing your support of your favorite endurance athlete, but you’ll also be saying “I’m with you on this one!” And, if you reallllly care about that person… make it a Rev3 race. 😉
Of course, there’s lots of things you can get for an endurance geek. I’d like to think we’re the easiest people to shop for. But if you’re stuck, hopefully this list of ideas will help. You could also try to win a box of LARABARS for whoever is on your list, and I won’t tell… Hurry tho, the contest ends on Monday.
The temperatures are dropping and the November winds are gusting. Yes, it’s not yet November. But it’s the U.P. And that means, gusts of up to 50mph.
Oh yes, I will miss this place when I move. But until then, I am really excited about doing some serious trail running. I absolutely love the sound of leaves crunching under my feet. I love the smell of the dirt, the clear, cool air, the everything that comes with a late October run in northern Michigan.
But, of course, autumn running means I can no longer run in just a sports bra and shorts, unless I am confined to the treadmill. And although that can be fun, I’m just not ready for that yet. Where I live, there is really no shot in heck that the weather is going to deliver any sort of Indian Summer-like awesomeness. And that’s ok. I’m ready for the cold.
Of course, my excitement has something to do with some new additions to my wardrobe and gear stack.
For starters, I am getting by (both running and every-day) with my new favorite long-sleeve top: the lucy Distance 1/2 zip. The bright color matches the awesome Northern sky, and it brightens up my day now that all the leaves have fallen from the trees. Not only that, but the shirt comes equipped with so many cool features, it’s hard not to notice. For example, the sleeves have thumbholes, which I’ve come to the conclusion make for awesome cool-weather tops. The fit is perfect; it is the longest top that I own for running, but its not baggy whatsoever. The Distance Zip has the classic lucy fit, which for me is like a glove. This top also has a stash pocket and venting, so my temperature stays pretty well regulated. It even has a hood, something “bonus” that I’m digging after coming off my previous fave, the Propel jacket. All in all, this is another hit for lucy activewear.
While I’m on the subject, I’ll point out my love for layering, too. My favorite base layers are the Icebreaker GT Dash crew and the lucy seamless Motion top. Not to mention, I’m proud of my friends in Team Mega Tough for rockin’ their Icebreaker tops in their ultras this season. The Dash crew has yet to get stinky, and it is washed a lot less than anything else I own. In fact, I think the last time it was washed was in August, and that was at least four long runs ago. And yes, at this exact moment, it is sitting in the bottom of my locker…
Another new fave of mine are the Saucony Kinvaras. Yes, they are hunter orange. Yes, this was a strategic color choice. I love running on the ORV trails around the Keweenaw, but unfortunately these trails are often used by hunters. So, I went with the obvious choice: Hunter’s orange. Actually, Saucony dubs this ViZi-PRO, which is good for road running, too- keeps the cars alert of your whereabouts. I’m looking forward to owning a pair of the ViZi-PRO Elite arm warmers, just in time for rifle season, of course. Anyway, the shoes are rad; lightweight, minimalist shoe, but I don’t feel like I’m barefooting it whatsoever. My feet feel happy and comfortable, and I can rock these shoes without socks (and without blisters!). I use them mostly for shorter runs and intervals, since my body likes a more stable shoe for the long haul; but I have taken them out on a few long runs to see how they fly (and boy, do they fly). I’m tempted to try them in a marathon next year… they’ll at least make a debut on my feet for a half marathon sometime in 2011.
And lastly, I am digging my new Nathan handheld, the Sprint. This little darling is perfect for longer races. For long training runs, I’m going to stick with my Nathan Quickdraw Elite and Nathan Storm waist pack, but the Sprint is my go-to race gear. I had some issues earlier this summer with lugging around my number belt, my Trail Mix belt, and having stuff in my jersey pockets… so I simplified things for Rev3 FullRev in Cedar Point to now only carrying a handheld. For fall running, it’s going to be great, because I’m building back up with a lot of 1-2hr runs where I don’t always use all the hydration that can be carried with my waist belt.
Aside from the notion that I haven’t had time to sit down and plan out my race-day strategy for the FullRev at Rev3 Cedar Point, I’d say things are going well. I’ve been all over the midwest, and August flew by faster than me on my Plasma. Interviewing, racing, writing, dissertation-ing, powerpoint-ing, yearning-to-throw-computer-down-the-stairs-ing, and all sorts of other ing-ing going on in the Land O’ Endurance Meg. Luckily, I have kept my sanity. And I am not convinced that distractions from races like a FullRev are a bad thing when the taper lurks.
One quite glorious distraction is that my Plasma got a few upgrades. One of these included a new wheelset that I ordered individually from The Bike Shop in Houghton. I saved up, bought the front Sram S60, saved up for another month or two and then bought the rear S60. Luckily I know the owners so they didn’t think I was some neurotic, crazy, insane-o triathlete that was indecisive about what wheels to get (in reality, I could only afford one at a time).
Psychologically, the new wheelset has been a huge boost. The hubs are smooth as butter, and they wheels aren’t heavy or cumbersome. I am pretty sure that my new tires help, too. A friend, follower, and former Tech alum – who tests bike tire rolling resistance – pulled a few strings out of the kindness of his heart and a set of Bontrager Race X Lite Pro clincher tires wound up on my doorstep. These are awesome handmade (290 threads per inch) tires with a treadless, supple rubber. Since there was a dramatic change from my Shimano R500s to the SramS60s wheels, it might have been hard to notice, but the smooth, freeing, and speedy feel of the tires could hardly be ignored. I never had to look down to see if I had a flat, like I did constantly when I was riding Gatorskins. And the Race X Lite Pro tires connect to the road in a way I’ve never experienced before with any other tire. They feel responsive, but also a little like ice-on-ice.
So the Bonty RaceXLite clinchers are the third fastest clinchers out there, which makes me feel a little gear-whorish, only because “it’s not about the bike.” But, when the difference between RaceXLite Pros (MSRP $64.99) and the Bontrager Sports (basic tire, $12.99) are the price and nearly 10 watts per wheel, well… I’ll take it.
Go figure, with the recent rain/traffic/weather, there is an influx of gravel on the roads up here, and I’ve already successfully got a small gash on one of my brand new tires. Luckily, it doesn’t appear to be spreading… But I am keeping an eye on it. Plus, the tires at least appear to be non-directional, and since my front wheel was on backwards (my roommate is a roadie/bike mechanic), I just flipped the wheel and now the gash will likely stay put for sure.
Tweaking is pretty much done, and I only have two more key workouts before the big dance. I am excited to race the FullRev at Rev3, and the more I think about it, the more excited I am. There’s less pressure, since I’ve already experienced the distance a year ago. But then again, there’s more expectation, because since I now know what to expect, I can at least ponder ways of how to improve. I’ve worked on my swimming more. I have focused more on intensity on the bike. My run is stronger than last year. I am excited to see what will happen, how the day will unfold.
And I am risking things more this year than last (eg. by running faster but less puncture-resistance tires, by having a more aggressive position on the bike, and by not racing with an aero drink bottle- I’ll be using regular caged bottles instead). I’ve raced more this season, I’ve traveled more to both race and spectate, I’ve been reminded of the joys of the word Team, and I’ve been more involved in the sport than I ever thought I would be. Each day, I have come to love the swim-bike-run more and more. Am I a triathlete? You betcha.
A few posts ago, I blogged about my solo ride through the Keweenaw. Looking at that post made me want to run to the living room and caress my gorgeous steed. Yes, I know. I’m talking about my bike.
But really, it’s gorgeous.
As I finagled with the bars (in hopes that they won’t let me down on my ride tomorrow) and readjusted the elbow pads (so that I could possibly be more aero, or at least more something instead from sucking), I couldn’t help by glow when I saw the beautiful lime green and blue paint and the gorgeous white saddle. The shiny top coat, the blue bar tape, and The Bike Shop sticker. The integrated cable routing and the special bottom bracket that is so beefy… (screeeeeaaach!)
But, even though I could fantasize all day about this beauty, I was longing for more. Something… something was missing.
And then this bad boy showed up at The Bike Shop.
It’s like I bought it a sexy new outfit. Not that it needed it. Seriously. I mean, really.
But you can see my point.
So now I have a single, front race wheel (still saving up for that rear one, ya know; grad student stipend and all), and I’ve got a fancy new tire to go with it. I’m even considering rocking some latex tubes.
Wow, this post just got out a little of hand.
I just bought three pairs of shoes.
Now before you go all willy-nilly about “Oh how can she spend so much money on shoes when she’s a poor lil’ graduate student who always complains about not having any money?” Well, first: I don’t have any money. Second: I find the deals. Third: I do NOT compromise when it comes to running shoes. When my old ones are hitting retirement, I’ve got new ones on deck.
I’ve never owned a pair of the Saucony Originals. I usually turn my retired trainers into my every-day shoe, and since I didn’t quite fit the mold for the ProGrid Omnis, they’ve been my around-the-lab shoe. But I feel kinda silly sometimes wearing running shoes to the office. And since I can’t wear Chacos (open-toed shoes), I thought I would check out the Originals. These babies were only $40 on saucony‘s website. They are Vegan Jazz Low Pros, and they are rad. Even with two sets of laces, these are totally granola-shoes, and they feel like slippers. I couldn’t resist.
My other two pairs? Training and racing shoes, of course. I’m stickin’ with my ProGrid Guide 3s, because they have just the right amount of support without being too pushy, and they are fairly lightweight. And my new marathon racer? I’m going to try out the Tangents. The Fastwitch 3s and 4s, which I’ve been racing in all summer, are blazing fast, but I am worried that I’ll fall apart around mile 21 like I did last year at the Columbus Marathon. So, I’m going with a little more support but sticking to a lightweight trainer. I’ll get a few MP runs in them before race day, of course.
Oh, yeah- and by buying a pair of shoes, I got 20% off apparel. So I couldn’t help buying a new pair of running shorts, too.
I’ve never really thought of myself as a fashionable runner. I train in whatever is clean, and when I previously lived in an apartment that didn’t have a laundry facility, that would mean I was training in whatever was clean. Since Baberaham and I have moved to a house and I bought a washer and dryer, I get to cycle through my running clothes more frequently (and am notably less stinky because of it).
And since we’ve moved, I have started to put more thought into what I wear when I am training. And being more color-coordinating-conscious has become a part of my garment-selecting process. For example, I like to run in my Saucony meadow-colored Empress shirt and matching Run Lux shorts, but rarely reach for my bright yellow shorts from college and a mismatching tee.
So, obviously, I’ve become more and more into the gear from Lucy activewear. The really sweet PR folks sent me some apparel to preview before their June release, and I am loving it.
But what I really love, most of all, about this stuff is the comfort of the fabric and fit. The new print, In Motion (azure), is super-stellar too!
The new Propel line, which has just been released, has some really flashy looks. The In Motion block patterning on the Propel Tank camouflages my tube-shaped torso, and gives me a more feminine look. It even comes in a berry-color too! Sure, I really shouldn’t care about what I look like when I run, but what really impresses me about the lucy clothes is that I don’t have to wear them just-to-run. They are nice enough to wear anywhere, and I have been known to wear my spandex to work (and even out to the movies with B).
What’s even more impressive, is that the Propel tank is fitted just-so that, for a small-busted gal like myself, I can get away without wearing a bra. Seriously. There isn’t a built-in bra (which is often hit-or-miss with tank tops), but its fitted and seamed just right to provide support and comfort without any extra underwear. I dig that. Granted, when I wear the top for running only, I wear a sports bra out of habit…
I also dig the coordination of the tops and bottoms. I have a legit running outfit when I get some lucy stuff. The Color Blocked Propel Knee pants have a wide waistband that matched the tank, so I don’t have to worry about low-rise belly popping out when I am jogging along. The seams on the capris are both functional and fashionable, and the colors are bright but not obnoxious. The drawstrings are not chinsy, and won’t get eaten by my dryer after round one. Plus, reflective piping keeps me a little more visible by the cars at dawn or dusk.
The tank top has a slit in the back that aids in venting, and the capris have a stash pocket for keys, goo, or my ID. The capris don’t ride nor are they low rise, and I am not worried about looking good when I am running through downtown, I just run.
In one word, lucy clothes are FUN. They are well constructed and modest, and absolutely functional.
Check out lucy’s new summer line here.
I started biking about two and a half years ago. My friend, Ben, convinced me the day before to roll out on a long ride with him. He was signed up for the Copper Country Color Tour – a 50, 100, or 200K ride that cruised the leafy-tree-lined roads of the Keweenaw during peak color-change. Of course, I didn’t have a pair of padded shorts, or a road bike, so I borrowed my boyfriend’s spandex and rented a bike with clipless pedals and a pair of shoes from Downwind Sports. And, of course, we went big- signed up for the 200K – and had a sort of epic-fun day.
I discovered a lot from that one day of riding, including a passion for road riding and the way seven hours of riding can lead to an odd craving for pickles and Snickers. I also learned the importance of having a good pair of shorts and anti-chafing cream.
Known to the masses by many a name, chamois cream (or butt cream, butt lube, anti-chafe cream, butter, etc. etc) is an important staple for any newbie rider, but its also key for many riders in keeping comfortable (even when they’re on their 8000th mile of the season). Yes, you can get used to riding without chamois cream. But why not just use it and save yourself the pain and suffering? Saddle-soreness is mitigated with the use of chamois cream, and it can also provide anti-microbial and cooling effects. Besides, if reduced chafing on the inner thighs isn’t enough, chamois cream alleviates chafing on the, um, unmentionable areas, too.
I am a huge proponent of chamois cream use, but I know of a few tougher-than-nails people that don’t use it very often. If I am going out riding for more than half-hour, I am lubed up (ok, call me a wuss… I don’t care). But the truth is, I didn’t realize its importance until I started Ironman training, and I realized very quickly that comfort in my nether-regions wasn’t entirely due to having the wrong saddle or the wrong shorts. Using the right chamois cream made rides much more tolerable and now I don’t want to cry after every 100-mile ride (at least, not because of that).
Earlier in the season, I contacted practically every butt cream company I could find. The mission: to test out chamois creams and provide my readers with a thorough review, a side-by-side comparison of the biggest names in the business. The tubes and jars started rolling in, and I must admit I was a little overwhelmed. I had a lot of biking ahead of me…
Here’s how the review worked.
Step 1. Read the ingredients. Is it something I would have bought anyway?
Step 2. Look up the price on Google Shopping. Write down the lowest price equivalent (not on eBay) listed. Again, is it something I would have bought anyway?
Step 3. Try out the chamois cream on a trainer ride that lasts between 45min – 1.5hours. Note the thickness, scent, feel, etc.
Step 4. Try it out on a longer ride (at least 2hours, but more like 3-4). How did it feel?
- Wash the bike shorts in between rides.
- Use the same pair of bike shorts for each comparison (Craft Active)
- Use approximately the same amount (a dollop on the end of my index finger)
- Apply directly to skin, not chamois pad.
- If the trainer ride didn’t go well, I didn’t wear them on a long road ride
Note: I didn’t get every anti-chafe product out there, and although I have a few bottles, I’m not including the anti-chafe sprays or sticks in this review. There are some really slick (har, har) products out there, like SBR Sport’s Tri-Slide, that can be used as chamois lubes, but I wanted to (fairly) review products that were explicitly intended for the same use (that is, lubing up the crotch/chamois).
And the results? I made a table to describe each product in detail. See below for more information.
And to preface my review, I use a lot of the same words that have some weight-
Parabens – a common ingredient in chamois creams that fend off bacteria, but might be linked to breast cancer.
Chamois– (pronounced shammy) if you haven’t caught on yet, the chamois is the pad inside bike shorts that provides cushion and reduces friction between the saddle and your crotch.
Tingly– Yes, I mean tingly. Think Icy-Hot (only not *always* as strong).
My first chamois cream was Paceline Product’s Chamois Butt’r. Baberaham bought me a tube from the Bike Shop soon after I had major issues on a long ride. Although it was my first, it wasn’t my first love. Although it did the trick, I’d still complain after about two hours. Granted, it could have been because I was just a beginner biker, but at the end of rides I was not very happy. I also found it to be sticky. On longer rides, I felt like someone had put gum in my shorts. More recently, I used it on a hilly 30-mile ride, and must have missed a spot (by the way, blisters are rarely, if ever, good). Good news about Chamois Butt’r is that I can get it through my local bike shop and its not very expensive. Overall, I give this chamois cream a C.
My pops bought me a jar of Assos from Machinery Row in Madison the day before IMoo last year, mostly because I just wasn’t confident that the Chamois Butt’r would survive for 112 miles (or, rather, that I would). Assos has the reputation as one of, if not THE best chamois creams out there. I didn’t read the ingredients, but I tried it out while sitting in the hotel room to make sure I didn’t have any allergic reaction to it. I knew to expect a tingling sensation, but boy-o-boy did I experience one. It was a little exhilarating, to say the least. I really liked it, so I rolled the dice and used it on race day. I am very glad I did. For the entire 5hours and 49minutes in the saddle (not to mention the hour fifteen in the water beforehand…), the cream stayed put, and the tingling managed to keep things cool even though the temperature was busting into the 90s. The Assos cream has been my go-to cream, and I have set it as the gold standard of chamois creams in my little collection. It does contain parabens, which is a downside. And, of course, its on the more expensive side, which in part is why this awesome cream only gets an A- in my book.
The Century Riding Cream by Sportique is interesting, to say the least. It’s really thick, and somewhat difficult to squeeze out of the tube, but that might be a good thing. It is a little more tough to put on, but once its there, it stays put and doesn’t leave a nasty residue behind on my chamois pad. The scent is pretty strong and spicy. It lingers, too, and I could smell it even after a few hours in the saddle. A downside to this cream: B doesn’t like when I use it because of the smell. The cream isn’t tacky or sticky, though, and I love that the ingredient list has so many things that I can recognize, including olives. Also, it tingles (which I like). I’m a fan, indeed, but I still find myself reaching for the Assos instead (maybe because its easier to apply?). I give this cream an A-.
Booty Balm is nice, but another tricky one to apply. The balm in the jar is solid, and I have to scrape to get to get it out. Like the Century cream, though, once its on, it stays put and isn’t tacky. It doesn’t transfer at all to my chamois pad, either. According to the website and rep, it’s designed to “work with the heat of your body” – and it does become much more compliant once its applied and worked in a little (otherwise, though, it can be sort of chunky if I don’t rub it in; but it doesn’t take long to rub in!). The scent is not overwhelming and quite pleasant (think lemon and summer), and there isn’t any tingling sensation (likely because its specific for women; the Ballocks cream is the men’s version). It’s a little on the expensive side, but a little goes a really long way. I give this an A- as well.
Beljum Budder is something I first became aware of because Selene Yeager talks about it in her Fit Chick section of Bicycling Magazine (My First Ironman, December 2008). I then saw it on Loopd.com, but I never did try it until Beljum sent me a tube per this review request. I was expecting it to be a step up from Chamois Butt’r, with some tingling like Assos, because it contains witch hazel. It didn’t tingle, though, but I was impressed with how smooth and silky it was. It literally sparkles, and it goes on thin without leaving a residue. It’s easy to apply, and it isn’t tacky either, so I didn’t stick to my chamois. It was moisturizing, too! The price-point is pretty pleasing. Since it’s probably ok to not ride every ride with the tingling sensation of menthol or wintergreen, this cream is pretty high on the list. I give it an A.
Dave Zabriskie’s brand, DZ Nuts, recently released a women’s specific version of their chamois cream called Bliss. The neutral scent and thick cream are pleasant to put on, and it’s nice to know that companies are taking notice of women’s needs. The cream was easy to apply and stayed put without transfering to my chamois, and I didn’t notice any hot spots after a few hours of riding. However, I wanted to reapply or wished I would have laid it on a little more thick, but I didn’t want to use too much because its so dang expensive. I think I’ll buy the regular DZ Nuts next time and leave the Bliss for women who don’t want the tingles. Bliss gets an A-.
Udderly Smooth makes a chamois cream, along with a plethora of other farm-hand products that are amazing at relubricating skin (…udder, get it?). Their line is creamy and thick, and really gets into and moisturizes dry skin. Unfortunately also loaded with parabens. The chamois cream smells like baby powder, but it stuck to my chamois (and took a few washings and scrubs by hand to get it all out). It was also a pain to get off my skin because it was a little greasy. It is, however, the most economical (and readily available) chamois cream, because its stocked at stores like CVS and costs a quarter of the price of most other chamois creams. Because of the stickiness and the parabens, Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream gets a C-.
One of my new favorite creams is Friction Freedom, which is practically the same as Assos – only without the parabens. It feels the same, smells the same, but it costs a little less and is safer. I wore this in the half at Rev3 Quassy, and it worked like a charm. My only qualm is that I needed to reapply it to my bike shorts during a 70mile ride, but that could be because I was wearing bike shorts on my tri bike… But I now reach for the big Friction Freedom tub before I reach for Assos, which is really saying something. I give it an A.
So which one do I like best? Well, that doesn’t really matter. It’s important to remember that not everyone likes the same thing, and what works for me might not work for you. The intent of this review isn’t to tell you what chamois cream to buy next, but to give you my take on the side-by-side comparisons so you can make a more educated decision next time you try a new chamois cream. So take this review for what it is, my opinion and my analysis of a wide range of products. I tried to be systematic about it, but it’s hard for me to quantitatively assess something so qualitative as the happiness of my … well you get the point.
I’d like to thank the following companies for sending me their chamois creams (and other products) for free, so that they could be included in this review: Sportique, Chomper Body, Beljum Budder, Udderly Smooth, DZNuts, and Friction Freedom. Although they sent me their creams for free, they didn’t pay me to review their products, and the text written in this post are my own thoughts and assessments.
I could go on and on about dialing it in. Start out conservative, get a feel for the terrain and route. Listen to your body and know when to engage and when not to. My training partners and I do a lot of “dialing in”- especially when we do hill repeats and k-repeats on the track. My old cross country coach used to heed us warning with Lahti repeats: “Just dial the first one in … (and give’r on the last five)”.
But today, I’m talking about a different kind of dialing: Dialing in the bike. I know only a little about sports physiology*, and I can’t really coach you to having the best race strategy or even training philosophy. I do, however, know quite a bit about sports mechanics. Dialing in your gear is just as important as dialing in your mental psyche. Having a good bike fit is key to having your bike dialed in. Poor mechanics can translate into poor efficiency, poor alignment, and put one at a higher risk for getting injured.
Last year, I went to ProFit Bikes in Sylvan Lake, Michigan (inside Peak Performance), to get my QRoo Caliente fit for me. Prior to the fit, I had ridden it on the trainer once or twice, very uncomfortably, and took it to the road once. The road ride was a complete disaster, as halfway through the ride the aerobars shook loose, and about a mile from home my saddle fell completely off. There’s nothing quite like stopping at a four-way stop to feel your saddle fall out from beneath you.
Ok, before I get too deep into this: Yes, you can adjust your bike all by yourself. Everyone at least has an idea about what is comfortable for them. If your hip hurts on one side, your saddle might be too high and you might want to drop your seat post a smidge. If your neck hurts when your on an hour-long road ride, you might be too stretched out and want to try a shorter stem. Whatever the case may be, using your best judgment to get the bike to where you feel good is key. However (here’s the caveat), if you want to get the most power and advantage out of your bike (or rather, out of your body), you really should consider getting a professional bike fit. The biggest thing I got out of having my bike fit: I used the fit basically as my first step (soon after the new bike arrived, especially since it was my first ever triathlon bike, I had itpro-fit to me alleviated the headaches of small tweaking that would have come with small self adjustments).
So, I got the new triathlon bike. I had never had one before. I had no idea what was a good position and what was bad. Baberaham would watch me on the trainer before we went for our fit and say: “You need to raise the seat a smidge, your knee is less than 90 degrees” (as my knee ached and I felt my menisci extrude- not really) or “you might want to pull your aerobars back a bit, you look a little stretched” (as my neck craned and my trapezoids cramped up). But, the actual dialing part came when I went and saw Chad at ProFit.
He set me up on my QRoo (on the trainer) and used videography to map out my time-zero fit. It was obvious there were issues, but we had to start somewhere. He asked me what my goals were (comfort first, and then the best aerodynamics I could get with that comfort level- hey, I was training for a long course!) and made a few changes from there. A few hours later, I watched myself on the screen and felt like I was watching Ironman Hawaii on NBC. I looked good. But most importantly, I felt so comfortable. No tightness anywhere. My legs felt strong and I felt power pushing the pedal throughout the entire stroke. I felt my weight being supported by my elbows and not my shoulders, and I didn’t feel like I was crushing my lady-parts with the nose of my saddle (a serious issue I have had for my entire biking career). He wrote down my measurements and handed them off to me for safe keeping (luckily he kept a copy himself, as I am known to lose things).
Jump forward several months: I had raced IMWI, felt strong and comfortable the entire 112 miles (and passed a lot of dudes, I might add), and spent significant time on the saddle. But I sold the QRoo frame pre-season in hopes of getting my hands on a flashy and fast Kestrel 4000 LTD frame. A month goes by, no word on when I’ll be getting the frame. No biggie, I could get a road bike to spin on. Another month goes by,… and another… and then its March, and I hear through the grapevine that my beloved 4000 will not be released in my size until August. Dragging my feet around town, I am at a loss of what to do. Do I call the guy I sold my QRoo to and ask for it back? No. Should I get a Guru because it will fit me out of the box? Hmm… nah. Luckily, my LBS dudes are the best, and they found me a deal on a Scott Plasma Contessa. Since it was the bike I had originally wanted in 2009 (but couldn’t get because they were sold out stateside), I felt good about the purchase.
But there’s a problem. See, the Contessa isn’t the bike that I was fit on. It’s heavier (albeit sturdier, and faster once it gets rolling) and the bike just feels different. It came with different bars, a longer stem, a different saddle. Worse than that, there’s a seat mast- not a seat post. Uh, crap.
Luckily I had the measurements that Chad gave me. B and I set up the bike to the best we could, but cutting off the seat mast with a hacksaw is only so accurate (and nerve-wrecking; it’s very nerve-wrecking, that is when you’re dealing with several thousands of dollars worth of carbon). Granted, the Plasma came with a handy cutting tool that aligns the saw up perfectly with the mast so there are no uneven cuts, but there is also no room for error (in cutting it too short)…
We got within a quarter of an inch for the length between the bottom bracket and the middle of the seat that Chad had written on my cheat-sheet. That’s close enough, right?
Not right. I went out for a spin and felt – uncoordinated. I couldn’t get into aero position for the life of me. I was going to fast, but I couldn’t go any slower or else I’d fall off my bike. My toes were pointed and my neck hurt for days afterward. I had to get on my pursuit bars to change gears, and eventually I just gave up altogether and sat up the last ten miles. I learned something I didn’t want to ever know about a tri bike: extra tape on the pursuit bars makes them more comfortable.
Had I forgotten how to ride a tri bike in just four months? Really?! Why did I feel like I could fall over at any minute, and why do the sides of my shins ache so bad?!
Well, simply, the bike wasn’t dialed. I got back home and put the bike in the rack, riding my road bike for the next few outings. Was I scared of my tri bike? You bet. Did I want to ride my tri bike? Not one bit.
This was a serious problem. So serious, that a week later, B shaved off less than quarter of an inch from my seat mast. What the heck could that possibly do?
Well- It brought a smile to my face. I took the Plasma out to McLain and back, and sat aero the whole way. I felt in control. My feet were pushing through and powering me forward at the bottom of each stroke. My cadence was high and I felt strong. I could feel my weight through my elbows. I could change gears from my aero bars.
Welcome back, aero position! Seriously, riding aero is necessary in the Keweenaw when you head out by yourself (20-30mph winds are not always easy-peezy to ride through). Now, I just want to ride the Plasma all the time! Hopefully I get over this Funk that I got when I was in SLC (cough, sore throat, etc)… only two weeks until Rev3!
Speaking of Rev3– want to meet up in Tennessee? I will be racing the Olympic distance tri on Mother’s Day, but I’ll be in Knoxville all weekend. Find me at the Trakkers Booth on Saturday! If you’re not already signed up, get on it! Get $10 off using my code: trakkers118 . Registration for the Knoxville races closes on April 30th.