A Season of Stuff: weekend roundup, techno jock gear

A Season of Stuff is a writing challenge that I will be doing for the length of Spring 2016.  The plan – to pick some object from within my personal possessions each day and write about it – its history, its significance, etc.  Come on in – check out my stuff.

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Ok, I didn’t write over the weekend because I was busy being a jock.  Got up at 6am Saturday morning.  Went and ran my first official 5K (31:39 was my time).  We came home, scrubbed up then drove 2.5 hours to Saxton, PA where Emma and I attempted to do a fully-loaded bike expedition up the Terrace Mountain Trail, a 29-mile trail running up along the eastern side of Lake Raystown.  Turns out about 5.5 miles in the trail disintegrates.  We tried bushwhacking through some multi-flora rose but got scratched the hell up after about a 1/4 mile.  Retreating back to the trail proper, we opted to return back the 5.5 miles to the car and get a hotel instead of camping.  Then Sunday morning we got up and spent several hours at the Alligrippis Trails on the western side of the lake.  After this, drove back home, scrubbed up again and then drove to Butler to spend some quality Easter time with Emma’s family (non-jock time).

If you had asked me 15-20 years ago if i’d still be biking in my 40’s, I probably would have said yes.  If you had asked if I would ever run a 5K, I’m sure I would have said no.  Had you asked if I would be buying specific types of technical gear for any of these activities, I can assure you I would have said a definitive NO.  I’m sure I imagined myself in my 40’s wearing Dickies, a black Carhartt hoodie and some Vans…and while that isn’t too far off from reality in many ways, the other part of my reality is that I own many pieces of clothing that were purchased specifically for their jock appeal.  For my Saturday/Sunday stuff, we’ll discuss two such pieces.

Pearl Izumi “Screaming Yello” Elite Thermal Tights

As a general rule despite diving deeper and deeper into bicycling culture, i’ve largely avoided the spandex look.  When riding, whether mountain biking, longer road riding or touring, I do have padded “chamois” bikeshorts, but i’ll generally wear them under regular shorts or pants with t-shirts and button-down shirts.  I generally look like a pretty normal guy.  I do have some long-sleeve wool cycling jerseys but they are just flat colors, no crazy patterns or anything.

But this winter I figured it might be time to try out some tights for riding in the winter, so down to REI I went to see what I could find.  Using my normal strategy of not choosing the cheapest option and not going for the most expensive, I landed on these Pearl Izumi tights which just happened to have these bright-yellow reflective sections at the bottom portion. Not really my style, but neither are tights, but they seemed to align on the proper segment of the price/quality continuum, so I got them.

They worked out pretty well for mountain biking and also for the occasional run, helping to keep the legs warm but not being too warm once you got going.  I still wear some regular shorts overtop to keep me looking a little more Grunge-y than Spandexman.  I’ve tried to match them with one of my new flannel shirts on top to accentuate that 90’s look.

So, really, not too much to say about these tights. They’re tights.  They work ok, but in January Emma and I were going over some budgeting stuff and looking at everything we bought at REI in 2015 and the one item was just listed as “Screaming Yellow” and we were like “What the hell is that?” and of course that is these tights.  So “Screaming Yellow” has become quite the warcry around here.  SCREAMING YELLOW!

Adidas Outdoor Fastshell Mid CH

Four years ago I bought some Adidas black and red hightops on Zappos.com because I was going for some late-80’s/early 90’s hiphop look without wanting to go with some classic Jordans (or something to this effect, who know what I was really thinking).  When I got them in the mail, they were kinda this weird plastic-y material and when I wore them they were hot as hell.  I didn’t really wear them that summer but that fall into winter it became obvious that they were actually super good at keeping the feet warm and dry in the winter.  They were especially effective on my bike because both my Doc Martens and my big Keen winter boots were difficult to engage with my pedals since I have pedal straps on my bike.  So for three years these things were heavily in my cold weather rotation.  Kinda ugly but uber functional.  But unfortunately the sole started peeling off in the Fall of 2015.

Then Eric the Red posted this:

And I said “Wait.  They actually make sneakers that are boots?  My sneakers that worked like boots are almost dead.  Let me see what’s out there.”  And oh shit, Adidas has this whole “Adidas Outdoor” line of insulated sneaker-style shoes with grippy soles.  Once again frequently towing the line between kinda cool looking and ugly as sin, but I found these guys that were pretty much ALL BLACK (viva bike ninja!) with just a blast of bright orange around the ankle.

These bad boys ended up working really great.  Kept the feet warm (but not too warm that I had to take them off inside.  So no need to swap shoes when I got to work, for example)  Just enough knobby tread to make walking in snow, mud, etc not so bad, but not too much tread that they really interfered with planting my feet on my bike pedals.  With a pair of regular pants on, the bright orange cuff was mostly covered so they even were fairly subdued for just looking like a regular dude.

*  * *

Anyway, the point here is that about a decade or so ago I made the realization that there really is something to some of this technical gear.  Sure a lot of it is bullshit but there is something to be said for a good pair of winter boots that keep your feet warm.  A good waterproof rain jacket really will make all the difference as you bike across town in a storm.  Warm tights that you can wear while mountain biking that won’t get caught in your drivetrain are a pretty good idea.  So, you know, they say that “stuff” can’t make you happy, but it’s probably worth noting that some stuff can help keep you from being miserable, and I’m putting stuff that keeps you warm and dry during a Pittsburgh winter high up on that list.

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