12 January 2010
Bicycle Fixation Classic Wool Knickers & John Fluevog Westerly Shoes
Gentlemen cyclists this one's for you, courtesy of my friend Cris:
For the last few weeks, I have been commuting to work with a pair of knickers from Bicycle Fixation as my main leg garment. Normally I've ridden with standard lycra bike tights or shorts and just changed when I arrived in my office, but lately I've come to miss having pockets. I'd ride with pants, but have never been fully happy with ankle straps and, before you ask, I am not in the market for a chainguard.
To this end, the Classic Wool Knickers from Bicycle Fixation have been a welcome addition to the wardrobe. Made of grey wool gabardine, they blend well into a downtown office setting and the burgundy satin gussets add a welcome bit of visual flair along with some practical benefits. The gussets allow the wearer to pedal a full stroke without feeling like the clothing is binding or restricting, and this makes them more comfortable than a pair of pants that have just been cut to 3/4 length.
I've owned these pants since November, and have worn them through a wet, cold and windy December. Like most wool garments, they are not waterproof and will retain some water if rained on, but they do dry relatively quickly and cleanly. The garment blocks wind rather well, but I have had to swap my knee high socks for tights over the last couple of freezing winter weeks since these knickers lack any sort of insulation aside from the thin wool fabric.
The only complaints that I have about these pants are the back patch pockets, which aren't quite as elegant as ones that are set in, but that's a relatively minor quibble. I suspect that filled set in pockets might tend to be uncomfortable while pedaling, anyway. With all that said, I love these knickers and they've rapidly become one of my standbys.
I was wearing these knickers when I had stopped by the John Fluevog store earlier this month. The staff at the store were intrigued by the pants and when I was rhapsodizing on their utility for bike commuting, one of the salesperson pointed me to one of their shoes, known as the Westerly.
The Westerly, they explained to me, was a shoe designed by Mr. Fluevog during one of his bike commutes. Like a standard bike shoe, the Westerly has a very stiff, hard sole for optimal power transfer on the downstroke, but unlike a bike shoe, it has no fittings for cleats to let your foot pull on the upstroke -- which is all just as well. Eventhough I have bike shoes with SPD cleats, which are very walkable, I've never been particularly fond of the way cleats scrape against concrete or wooden surfaces. If I expect to do a lot of walking, I'll just ride in regular shoes.
To that end, for regular dress shoes that perform well on a bike; the Westerlys are a good start, but they aren't perfect. They do have some nice features for the fashionable cyclist. The upturned toe naturally places the ball of one's foot on the pedal spindle for optimal pedaling position. The softer leather between the lace and cap is also well suited to work with toe straps on the pedal. As walking shoes they also perform as well as any dress shoe might, especially since the stiff sole is augmented by a strategic use of rubber in the heel and base of the foot.
Still, for life on a bike, I would prefer a monk strap buckle to laces; if only because a strap and buckle are less likely to come undone or get caught in the drivetrain while pedaling. I would also like to see a little more stiffness or reinforcement at the cap and toebox. Cyclists spend an extraordinary amount of time standing on their tiptoes while waiting at a light, and a reinforced cap makes such waits a little more comfortable. Overall, though, while the Westerlys are not a must have by any means, they are a nice selection if one is in the market for dress shoes.
(Can I just add how much I LOVE that the color scheme of the knickers matches his beautiful ANT bike? -Charlotte)