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This summer, just about any minute not spent writing has been spent pedaling and camping. From Pennsylvania to West Virginia, Vermont, and Colorado, I’ve relied on a small selection of clothes to keep me comfortable in and out of the saddle. I chose to bring a short-sleeve Shower’s Pass Inline wool jersey, a long-sleeve Shower’s Pass Trailhead bamboo-merino hoodie for camp, my favorite “lucky” tank top (a glow-in-the-dark Word Salad tank made by one of my best friends when he was in high school), as well as the Showers Pass IMBA shorts and three pairs of Elite Light Cushion Feetures wool socks in crew, quarter, and no show tab as a pair for sleeping and mornings at camp.
The Inline Jersey is much sportier than I typically wear, much snappier. It has a collar! And actual snaps! The material is so soft, almost silky. My initial prejudices were proven wrong, as this shirt was very lightweight and felt great to put on even on those mornings where it was already nearing 80 degrees Fahrenheit at 8:00 a.m. After one particularly rainy night, I put this shirt on for what promised to be a muddy, muggy day. Even though I had also worn it the day before, I felt no shame wearing this jersey into town for lunch. It did a great job at wicking my sweat without holding onto bacteria, and I smelled much better than if I was wearing a typical lycra jersey. Plus, with the snazzy collar and muted grey color, the only thing that gave away that I was on a bike tour was my bike shoes, helmet, and overloaded bike. It does have a rather square cut to the torso, considering it’s a women’s shirt, but the soft fabric falls light enough to not be too unflattering. I wore this Jersey for three days in a row and it never got funky. It only felt damp when it rained, and dried overnight so I didn’t feel like I was wearing the same shirt every day. Even after three days of intense riding, I wasn’t embarrassed to hang out in a bar for a celebratory pint with friends. The mud on my legs and my sweaty hair made it obvious that I’d spent the past three days outside, but my shirt was as clean-seeming as it was on day one.
I also wore the same Showers Pass IMBA shorts every day of that trip. While these shorts do look a bit more like riding gear than the jersey, they fit better than other baggy shorts I’ve worn. The back is heavily contoured for a woman cyclist’s body, with enough room in the back to support a muscly booty in riding position, with rubberized texture on the soft waistband to minimize rear slippage. There are velcro straps for a more specialized fit that won’t slip, and the cut in the thighs is form fitting. The front pockets are pretty standard, and the back pockets have snaps; one back pocket has a sub-pocket with a zipper, for securing a few bucks and an ID safely. I felt comfortable on and off the bike in these shorts. I did hear from one rider who owns these shorts that she felt they get too hot. I was riding in 90 degree Fahrenheit days with about 80% humidity, so the heat of the shorts was hard to notice compared to the general heat I was experiencing, and I can’t imagine another pair of shorts feeling more comfortable in that regard.
However hot it got during the day, evenings still tended to get cold at night, especially after a long day of riding, once my body temperature finally dropped. Similar to the Inline Jersey, the Trailhead Hoodie was alarmingly soft. The cut is more flattering than the jersey while still being roomy, perfect for hanging out by the campfire or curling into for a morning cup of coffee before packing up for the day. I kept expecting this shirt to have built-in thumb holes, but it’s too classy for that. Instead, it has an oversized hood, zippered hand pockets and a zippered rear pocket, so you can wear this while riding around town and not worry about your keys flopping out of your pocket or dropping that secret love letter before you get to your sweetheart’s bike where you plan on leaving it (just a suggestion; I carried some cookies very safely in these pockets myself). This hoodie is made out of bamboo, and didn’t get funky after multiple wears.
Finally, put to the biggest challenge were the socks, and they championed. I thought these bike tours would be a great way to test the theory that wool socks are the superior socks— that they dry faster, don’t get stiff, and resist getting funky even after multiple wears. For my two-, three-, and five-day bike tours, I wore one pair of socks for riding, respectively. I brought a second pair to wear while hanging out at camp. I’m no dummy, so I brought a third emergency pair on the five-day backcountry mountain bike trip, just in case. I didn’t need them, though, because these socks did, indeed, stay soft and dry for the entirety of these bike trips. I wore the light-compression socks, and they stayed true to the shape of my foot and offered the same amount of compression every day. I simply put my riding socks out to dry after riding and put on the camping socks at night once the temperature dropped, then switched back into the dirtier socks in the morning when it was time to hit the trail again. These socks are side-specific, meaning you put the one marked L on your left foot and vice versa. This small detail probably helps significantly in their ability to hold their form and size. I wasn’t sure how much I’d have to say about these socks when I got them. They look like socks. We all know how socks work. But I was legitimately impressed that after wearing these extensively, crashed and bled in them, they didn’t get gross and I didn’t feel self-conscious wearing them on the plane. After all that wear, there are no holes and are still the first pair I reach for when I head out.
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Author: Carolyne Whelan