Gear Briefs

These are some notes on pieces of gear I’ve used and liked over the last six months.

Giro SS Merino Polo

I’ve had several merino polos. I prefer polos because the collar earns a bit of respect (and exhibits it) off the bike and I actually do appreciate the sun protection on my neck.

This one has a trim fit that feels right for riding without the flapping material of, for instance, Ibex’s in the same size and with longer, more sensible sleeves than Icebreaker’s. The construction is excellent, the material is thicker than some brands, and it has shown itself to be durable enough for wearing day after day while bikepacking. A smartphone or wallet pulls and bangs around disagreeably in the one small zippered pocked on the back lower right, so it isn’t particularly useful for anything beyond a few folded up bills, though that can be  handy. Four buttons provide acceptable temperature adjustability.

The Giro polo does not itch and I do not usually overheat in it except on the warmest days. I cannot tell whether the vents on the top seam along the collarbone make a difference, but they look  cool and give the polo a slightly military look. Riding in merino feels different from lycra or cotton, as it is very slightly abrasive and some report that it is cloying. I no longer feel these things and I appreciate wool’s other virtues of not subjectively feeling so cold when it’s damp and, especially, not stinking.

This is my go-to riding top for anything from riding around Central Park to multi week/month off-road touring. I would instantly buy it again if something happened to this one.

Giro Ride Jersey

This is a comfortable, great looking jersey with an excellent fit. Just as with the polo, above, the shoulder vents allow a little airflow and they contribute positively to the aesthetic of piece. The wool blend fabric has a very different feel from other sport wool brands. It’s smoother against the body, and, for me, more comfortable. Giro has gone to great lengths to make the rear pockets functional and non-saggy, but there is only so much that can be done with wool. Another limitation of the fabric is that it just won’t do in humid, mid-summer East Coast conditions. Where the humidity is less this is fine even for warmer conditions.


Challenge Parigi-Roubaix open tubular clincher tires

These are marked 27, and are considerably bigger than the tires they replaced, Michelin Pro Race 4 Service Courses 25mm. They are on my   Look that I use for training in New England, a bike that more often than not is ridden on the dirt roads of southern Vermont and Western Mass. What jumps out is how supple these are: on the asphalt they are notably buttery and fast, and the ride on hardpack is comfortable. I’m very impressed.

It is hard to say whether the fine file tread makes much difference in rougher conditions—I find traction issues are not the main ones when comparing tires for mixed conditions riding. Instead, I look for durability, volume, and reasonable performance all around. The Challenge Roubaix’s so far offer all three, within the context of it not being a special puncture resistant casing. For fast training and fun in varied conditions, I now prefer them over the Michelins or Conti Gran Prixs (which I find less capable in wet cornering). I’ll still race on the Michelins.

It is widely reported that the Parigi-Roubaixs are difficult to mount. I can confirm that it took extra work to get these on the rim.

Clement LAS clincher tires

These are on my ‘cross bike, which from November to March is the bike I am on most often on group rides. The comfort and traction are decent for mixed hardpack and asphalt conditions. I appreciate the predictable handling from the rounded cross-section and the uniform raised diamond tread. They are not especially terrific or poor on snow and ice, though lowering pressure substantially will improve things. They’ve proven durable.

Search and State S1J Riding jacket

This is a model of a functional, well made, great looking piece. Very trim fitting and versatile in wind, rain, and cold. Bad ass.

Bunyan Velo winter wool cap

Made by Randi Jo Fabrications. Comfy, warm, stylish. I mostly wear it as a casual cold weather hat. That’s actually a testament to how good it looks. I have no doubt that it would be great for riding, though the construction is enough bulkier than the most streamlined caps so that I myself would reach for other headgear to wear under my race helmet.

Soda Can Alcohol Stove


I complained bitterly at my last experience with an alcohol stove, the cat food can type. In Guatemala I was doing minimal cooking (but not none) so I with some skepticism committed myself to trying an alcohol stove again that I would make while there. That turned out to be dead easy the first time even with only a tiny knife. I officially apologize to Nick, Lael, Gary, and Cass about my bad attitude before. I’d remain reluctant to try to cook in hard conditions or a big meal with this kind of stove, but for this it worked admirably.

99% pure alcohol was easy to come by at the pharmacy and was inexpensive. This stove design was easy to work with as long as I had enough fuel in it to cover the inside lower outflow channels. Everything that is said about the agreeableness of the fuel seems true. I’d make another one of these and happily use it.