What the hell!

For quite a while now I’ve been debating about getting a pair of knickers for cycling. A couple of thoughts have prompted this debate, not least of which is a dislike for the oh-so-stretchy-and-skin-tight Lycra look and feel.

When I first began to consider knickers, someone pointed out to me that you could get wool army knickers on eBay. I think they came from Switzerland – but that is of little matter. They looked like a hot, heavy, and far from flexible apparel alternative: in other words, the antithesis of what I would hope to don for any sort of cycling excursion. After attempting to ride in a pair of vintage military jodhpurs, it was abundantly and immediately clear that they would have only been suitable (maybe) for a sort of vintage “look.” And believe me when I say that there’s not enough Guinness served at a tweed ride to get me to try that experiment again. The score on that front was: tweed fashionistas one, comfort and functionality zero.

I kept looking.

I received a beautiful brochure in the mail from Rapha and got a little excited about their product line. It looks exquisitely made, purpose built for shitty weather conditions, and – as I quickly discovered – priced accordingly. I suspected that their marketing plan was selling the perception of a lifestyle – what we used to refer to when I ran my ad agency as “aspirational marketing.” Nevertheless, the product looks great. Maybe someday I’ll cough up the scratch to try an article of their apparel. But that probably won’t be until we begin to pay teachers a salary closer to our actual worth… but that’s a completely different beef, and we won’t go there.

Other options seemed to me to be shortened versions of road cycling tights. I’ve already got a couple pair of those, and while they are excellent, they are also still firmly in the “second skin” Lycra category. I figured why bother?

This left me feeling a bit frustrated, but every once in a while I’d do a quick Google search to see what else was out there that I’d missed, which is where I found myself one evening about a week or so ago. The usual suspects, of course, popped up again. But there was a new one I’d somehow missed in past searches, something called the Zoic Reign Knicker, and it was classified under mountain bike clothing. Now I’m not in the least interested in dirt or trail riding, but I’ve had good luck in the past with duds designed for mountain biking. The price seemed reasonable enough that I figured if they didn’t work out it wasn’t going to be a terrific financial loss. Hell, I could probably put them up on Craig’s List and completely recoup my investment.

So I checked out the feedback, figured out a size that would work for me, and ordered a pair. Like I said: What the hell. Closed my browser and checked my email.

What the hell, indeed. A completely different company, Club Ride Apparel, had caught my attention a few weeks earlier (or months maybe, I really don’t recall with any certainty.) They were offering the Zeal Knicker – not yet available, but I could sign up to get a notice when they were. I did, and they were now emailing me to let me know the product was in stock.

So I ordered a pair of those too.

And then? Well then I promptly forgot about both until yesterday. A box from Outside Outfitters was sitting on my doorstep and it contained the pair of Zoic Reign Knickers I’d ordered. I was on my way out to a class reunion, but had enough time to try them on and assure myself that I’d sized them correctly. I thought, too bad the Zeal Knickers hadn’t arrived today as well. But as I’ve already noted: What the hell. 

This morning I pulled on a pair of padded liners (the Zoics are an exterior only) and my new knickers. It was cool outside, so I also pulled on a short sleeve wool jersey and arm warmers. Grabbed a spare tube, tire irons, and my iPhone, and started to stuff them into the tiny rear pocket on my jersey.

Now I really hate stuffing those back pockets. The crap I carry is important to me, but it tends to shift all over the place, and that bugs the hell out of me. So it was pretty cool to explore all the pockets and storage areas on the knickers. They’re well placed and very secure – and don’t bang around on your legs as you pedal. It was a lot like wearing luggage on your legs … well, you know, without all the luggage, so to speak.

Out on the road, the leggings were flexible and roomy, didn’t catch on my saddle in the awkward way that some other garments tend to do, and blocked the wind exceptionally well. And they are light, unlike those WWII woolens I tried a couple of years ago.

After about ten or fifteen miles, the arm warmers became unnecessary. (In fact, they had become a bit oppressive.) I rolled them down to my wrists for a while, then pulled ‘em off entirely. And hey! There’s more pockets to accommodate them! This morning’s forty-ish mile ride was enjoyable, and I can at least partly attribute my enjoyment to the comfort of the Zoic knickers. Where the hell have you been all of my riding life, Zoic?

According to the specifications, they should also function well in much warmer conditions. Well, thank goodness we only topped out in the low 70’s today and I didn’t get the chance to test that claim, but I live and ride in Missouri: I’m confident Mother Nature will give me a chance to do so sometime soon. I’ll also be discovering if these have the sort of longevity that will really appeal to my sense of thriftiness (translation: total cheapness.)

As the day began to wane, the mailman came and went. The Zeal Knickers have not yet arrived, but I have high hopes for them as well. What the hell, I’ll find out for certain soon enough.

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14 thoughts on “What the hell!

  1. Rod Bruckdorfer says:

    You “hit the nail on the head” when you wrote, “I suspected that their [Rapha] marketing plan was selling the perception of a lifestyle – what we used to refer to when I ran my ad agency as ‘aspirational marketing’.”

    • I think you’ll find that to be true of nearly every athletic apparel or piece of gear. Rapha is just doing it at a much higher price point.… Sort of like Lexus. I don’t think that it means the product is a bad one necessarily, but one needs to understand what one is purchasing!

  2. I’m no “fashonista”, but don’t share your aversion to the heavyweight military wool, as I have a pair of those knickers. (Actually, they were Swiss wool pants that I had hemmed to become knickers, but whatever.) They are quite roomy, and work well for Northwest winters, which are not that cold (40s highs, generally) but are of course wet. I also know the Italian military knickers tend to be of a lighter weight than their Northern European brethren.

    As for functional knickers, I’m currently wearing a pair of Bicycle Fixation wool knickers. http://www.bicyclefixation.com/prod_wool_knickers.html While they are on the more “dressier” side of things, they do work well for functionality too. And made in the US. My complaints about them is they lack a gusseted crotch, which I would think would be an “automatic” for pants designed for biking. Also, I wish there were more and better pockets. (The rear pockets are small and lack a closure.)

    For more of function over beauty, I like my Rivendell MUSA knickers.http://www.rivbike.com/product-p/ab2.htm Yeah, synth not wool, but made in the US. I like using these for touring because of how lightweight and packable they are. Seriously, they take up less space than some of my t-shirts!

      • Rod Bruckdorfer says:

        Thanks, I have not received my issue yet. I did have another letter published in a past issue of BQ. Jan Heine has done much for cycle touring in the French and English tradition. It was because of BQ that I ordered a 650B Boulder Brevet. It was a leap of faith at the time. Looking back, it was the right decision for my style of riding. The bike is fast and comfortable to ride.

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