Apr 252022
 

So, over the week leading up to the Easter long week-end, a package I ordered way back in late January made its way from northern Finland via Perth to Brisbane and landed on my door-step the Thursday we headed to Imbil.

That’s timing for you… thankfully not that wet this last week-end, and in any case, I had a stomach bug which precluded me from wearing any single-piece clothing as I was running to the loo on a frequent basis. With that week-end (and the stomach bug) behind me, I finally had a close look at this outfit. These are some detail shots of the suit I ordered, there’s of course more general shots on the supplier’s website. The outfit is made by AJ Group who are based in Konin in the central-west of Poland.

I haven’t tried going for a ride in it yet, but it had been raining this morning, and I needed to clear a couple of clogged drains. This outfit is perfect for the job even in Brisbane’s somewhat humid weather.

Weather conditions this morning were overcast with light showers, 20.1°C and 84% relative humidity. No action shots on this occasion. I felt warm, but didn’t feel like I was going to start sweating heavily. That said, I probably wouldn’t want the temperature up much higher than it already was. In intermittent sunny/showery weather, I’d get steamed, no question.

In my case, I needed to clear bundles of leaves that were blocking the water from clean flow, ordinarily I’d be trying to do it with my foot, but here I could just kneel right in the gutter and get stuck into it. Drain was cleared in seconds and I stayed perfectly dry.

I found the hood, due to the thicker material, benefits from wearing a cap of some description underneath for head tracking. Or you can pull a helmet or something down over the top of the hood then it’ll track without issues. The hood can be pulled down but it’ll want to sit up and interfere with anything you’re wearing on your head, so you’re better off just leaving it up unconditionally unless it’s really bothering you.

Mikko (who runs rainwear.store) comments on his site that the gloves generally mean the wearer isn’t able to operate capacitive touchscreens. I guess mileage may vary. First time I tried it on, I did a brief check and found indeed, while my tablet touchscreen worked fine, the phone was unresponsive. However, on subsequent (longer) trials, I’ve observed the phone does in fact work.

The trick seems to be not having your hands too dry when you put the outfit on — a little moisture on your hands helps the conductivity needed for the touchscreen controller to sense your finger. Mileage of course may vary: I don’t use screen protectors or covers on any of my devices, which may be helping the sensitivity of the capacitive sensors, but in general I found I was able to do most things I could do with bare hands. The gloves could be a size smaller to be honest, size 9 (the smallest offered) is on the big size, but thankfully not too big to make things clumsy. They’re made by Showa, not sure what exact model they are or where they are made (they appear to be EU-based as well).

Typing on a physical keyboard is slowed down, but not impossible, multi-touch pointing devices still work (or at least the one on my Panasonic CF-53 does).

The boots are reasonably comfortable — in fact I think they fit better than any other boots I own. I wear orthodics for a high-arch and these fit well. I’m not sure who manufactures them, but they have “Made in the EU” stamped on the sole, so they’re somewhere in Europe.

The fabric is heavier than what I’m used to with the other rain overalls I have, but it’s not unbearably heavy for the task. This suit has pockets on the outside of the legs — this is a special extra.

The thinking was it’d be somewhere to keep a phone/wallet/keys if I’m out on a check-point in the weather. If I go wading into water, obviously I’m going to have to empty these pockets, and in fact, punching a couple of small drainage-holes on the outer wall of each pocket may be prudent so that they don’t fill with water… but in practice it’s rare that I’d be entering that depth of water. The positioning of them is perhaps lower than I’d like, with the ideal being waist-height — but given most come with no pockets at all, this is a big bonus. Another position I guess would be a large pouch across the stomach like some hooded jumpers. Next time I guess.

In short though, very much worth a look. I’ll know more when I try them out on the bike.

Jan 222022
 

Well, some might recall a few years ago I was trying ideas for cycle clothing, and later followed up with some findings.

My situation has changed a bit… the death of a former work colleague shook me up quite a bit, and while I have been riding, I haven’t been doing it nearly as much. Then, COVID-19 reared its ugly head.

Suffice to say, my commute is now one side of the bedroom to the other. Right at this moment, I’m in self-imposed lockdown until I can get my booster shot: I had my second AstraZenica shot on the 4th November, and the Queensland Government has moved the booster shots to being 3 months after the second shot, so for me, that means I’m due on the 4th February. I’m already booked in with a local chemist here in The Gap, I did that weeks ago so that the appointment would be nailed to the floor, and thus currently I’m doing everything in my power to ensure that appointment goes ahead on-time.

I haven’t been on the bike much at all. That doesn’t mean though that I stop thinking about how I can make my ride more comfortable.

Castle Clothing Coveralls

Yes, I’m the one clad in yellow far left.

They had quite few positives:

  • They were great in wet weather
  • They were great in ambient temperatures below 20°C
  • The pocket was handy for storing keys/a phone/a wallet
  • They had good visibility day and night
  • They keep the wind out well. (On the Main Range, Threadbo Top Station was reporting 87km/hr wind gusts that day.)

But, they weren’t without their issues:

  • They’re (unsurprisingly) no good on a sunny summer’s day (on the day that photo was taken, it was borderline too hot, weather prediction was for showers and those didn’t happen)
  • They’re knackered after about 30 washes or so: the outer waterproof layer peels off the lining
  • In intermittent rain / sunshine, they’d keep you dry during the rainy bit, but when the sun came out, you’d get steamed

To cap it off, they’re no longer being manufactured. Castle Clothing have basically canned them. They’ve got a plain yellow version with no stripes, but otherwise, nothing like their old product. I wound up buying 4 of them in the end… the first two had to be chucked because of the aforementioned peeling problem, the other two are in good condition now, but eventually they’ll need replacement.

Mammoth Workwear do have some alternatives. The “Supertouch” ones I have tried, they’re even shorter lived than the Castle ones, and feel like wearing a plastic bag. The others are either not night-time visible, or they’re lined for winter use.

So, back to research again.

Zentai suits?

Now, I know I’ve said previously I’m no MAMIL… and for the most part I stand by this. I did try wearing a stinger suit on the bike once… on the plus side they are very breathable, so quite comfortable to ride in. BUT, three negatives with stinger suits:

That got me thinking, what’s the difference between a stinger suit and an open-face zentai suit? Not a lot. The zentai suit, if it has gloves, can be bought as a “mitten” or (more commonly) a proper multi-finger glove version. They come in a lot more colours than a stinger suit does. They’re about the same price. And there’s no logos, just plain colours (or you can do various patterns/designs if that’s your thing).

A downside is that the zipper is at the back, which means answering calls from nature is more difficult. But then again, some stinger suits and most wetsuits also feature a back-entry.

I’ve got two coming to try the idea out. I suspect they’ll get worn over other clothing, I’ll just duck into a loo, take my shirt off, put the zentai suit on, then jump on the bike to ride to my destination… that way my shirt isn’t soaked with sweat. We’ll see.

One is a black one, which was primarily bought to replace one of the stinger suits for swimming activities, but I can also evaluate the fabric too (it is the usual lycra material).

The other is a silver one (thus a lycra/latex blend), to try out the visibility — it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s somewhat water-repellent due to the latex mix in the material, and see what effect this has on sweat.

Both of these are open-face! You should never try swimming with a full-face zentai suit. I can’t imagine getting caught in the rain ending well either, and the ability to see where you’re going is paramount when operating any vehicle (especially a bicycle)!

They’ll turn up in a week or two, I can try them out then. Maybe won’t be the final solution, but it may answer a few questions.

Heavy Wet/Cold weather gear

So, with the lighter-weight class out of the way, that turns my attention to what to do in truly foul weather, or just bitterly cold weather.

Now, let me define the latter: low single digits °C. Possibly with a westerly breeze carrying it. For some reading this, this will feel like a hot summer’s day, but for those of us in Brisbane, temperatures this low are what we see in the middle of winter.

The waterproof overalls I was wearing before worked well in dry-but-cold weather, however I did note my hands copped the cold… I needed gloves. The ends of the legs also could get tangled with the chain if I wasn’t careful, and my shoes would still get wet. Riggers boots work okay for this, but they’re hard to come by.

I happened to stumble on Sujuvat ratkaisut Oy, who do specialist wet-weather clothing meant for Europe. Meeko (who runs the site) has a commercial relationship with a few manufacturers, notably AJGroup who supply the material for a lot of Meeko’s “extreme” range.

The suits are a variant of PVC, which will mean they’re less breathable than what I have now, but should also mean they’re a lot more durable. There’s a decent range of colours available, with many options having the possibility of reflective bands, attached gloves and attached wellington boots. It’s worth noting the BikeSuit (no longer available) I was looking at 8 years ago was also a PVC outfit.

In the winter time, the big problem is not so much sweat, but rather, sweat being hit by wind-chill. Thus I’m ordering one of the Extreme Drainage Coveralls to try them out.

I’ve seen something similar out of AliExpress, however the options there are often built for the Chinese market… so rarely feature size options that fit someone like myself. Most of the Chinese ones are dark colours, with one “tan”-coloured option listed, and a couple of rubber ones that were lighter colours (a dark “pink”, and a yellow). Some of the rubber ones also had a strange opening arrangement: a tube opening in the stomach, which you pulled yourself through, then clamped shut with a peg. Innovative, but looks very untidy and just begging to get caught in something! I’ll stick with something a bit more conventional.

The coverall I’m ordering will be a 500g/m² white fabric… so about twice the weight of my current Castle workwear overalls (which are about 330g/m²), and will have the gloves and boots attached. I’m curious to see how that’s done up close, and see how it works out in my use case.

Being a white rather than a yellow/orange will make them less visible in the day time, but I suspect this won’t be much of an issue as it’s night-time visibility I’m particularly after. Also, being white instead of a “strong” fluro colour will likely be better at horse endurance rides, as horses tend to react to fluro colours.

The zip arrangement intrigues me as well… it’s been placed up high so that you can pretty much wade into water up to your chest and not get wet. There’s a lighter-weight option of the same suit, however with fewer options for colours. If the extreme version doesn’t work out for cycling, I might look at this alternative (the bike doesn’t react to strong colours like a horse does).

There’s about a 2-month lead-time on this gear because it’s made-to-order, a reasonable trade-off given you get to more-or-less get it made exactly how you want it. Looking around, I’m seeing off-the-shelf not-customisable outfits at AU$400 a pop, €160 (~AU$252) is looking a good option.

The fact that this is being run as a small side-hustle is commendable. I look forward to seeing the product.