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Book Review – Indian Horse

7 Jan

As a fun game this year, I decided I would play along with Canada Reads.  I have always liked reading, but like most things in my life, I seem to do better at it when there is a goal involved.  I remember as a very young child hitting the 1000 book mark in the Edmonton Public Library’s Summer Reading program.  Getting to fill in the book lists was enough to make me voracious – and the free erasers and pencils meant I spent the full summer with a book in my hands.  I think I still have the bump on my head from when I hit a bus stop sign when trying to walk and read.

If Malcolm Gladwell’s Outlier theory is correct, reading might be the one and only thing I hit 10,000 hours at.  As a result, I am able to digest books like a hot dog eating champion, easily finishing a novel on the 2.5 hour flight from Whitehorse to Vancouver.  When I read, I gorge myself on books.  But, then I seem to hit long blocks of time, where I read nothing but blogs and briefing notes.

My desire for goal oriented reading happened to coincide with 2 short week-end trips.  The first to Portland, Oregon where I was able to collect all my books from the famed Powell’s bookstore.   The second to Miami, where I was able to lie on a beach for 2 days and finish all the books.

My  plan is to participate in as much Canada Reads stuff as I can.  But, I quickly became frustrated with the 140 characters or less limitations of the twitter dialogue.  So, for the first time ever, I am writing a book review on a mainly biking blog.

Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese is the first book up for review.  This book is being defended by Carol Huynh who (name drop), I actually knew a bit at SFU when one of my room-mates was on the wrestling team.

The book is focused around the life of Saul Indian Horse, a young First Nations man who is taken from the land and put into a Residential School.  He finds an outlet in the world of hockey, where he demonstrates the same gifts that he possessed when living on the land.

And here is where the spoiler alerts start, so bookmark this if you want to read the book first….

To me, this book was really about the Canadian Dream – because, let’s face it, there’s nothing more Canadian then Hockey.   Despite the fact that Saul had all the skills he needed and was even able to use some of his aboriginal knowledge and traditional skills to enhance his game, the dream was unobtainable.  In the end, systemic racism at every turn meant that talent and drive was not enough

The book left me wondering a couple of things.   Was the Canadian Dream, the all-illusive shot at the NHL, actually Saul’s dream?  Or was Saul happy with a different ending, but trapped in the swell of what everyone thought he should want.  The atrocities of Residential Schools are undeniable, but the intent seems was that First Nation children would receive the education needed to participate/integrate and ultimately succeed Canadian culture.   It seems based on an idea there is one “right life” for all Canadians that involves being able to get a good job, have a nice house, drive a reliable car, etc…  Is the real tragedy, not that Saul didn’t make the “Big Leagues”, but that everyone assumed that it was what he wanted.  As far as I can tell, Saul would have been very happy to stay living on the land with his Grandmother; or even playing hockey on the rez with his friends.

I thought this book was interesting, but there were a couple reasons that it’s not at the top of my Canada Reads list.  First of all, I felt that, at times, it tried to hard.  There was so much tragedy in it, that some of the Residential School vignettes felt more like shock factor than an enhancement to the story.  Don’t get me wrong – I think the truth about what happened to people at Residential School should be told, I just didn’t think it always fit.

My other challenge with the book was the descriptions of hockey.  I read the words that described how Saul felt, and how happy the game made him – but I never felt them.  Somehow, they didn’t touch my bones, they just glossed across my eyes.  Maybe it’s because I’ve never played a game, but I have read stories of adventures that I’ve never experienced, where the author’s made me feel like I was there.

That’s my Indian Horse review – please tell me where I’m wrong!


Snow Drop

18 Feb

It is no secret that I love bikes.   My love does not translate into an ability to do anything practical with them.  A few years ago, I found a beautiful pair of pink, rhinestone levers.  I loved them and as soon as they arrived, I begged Mr. to put them on my bike immediately.   When he didn’t drop everything to do my bidding, I was left with only one choice – attempt to put the levers on myself.  It took me hours.  I had to take my bar ends, shifters, levers off the bar, then put on the new levers, and color-matched bar ends.  When I was finally finished I was ecstatic.  When Mr. came home, I showed him the results of my hard work.    Overall I did a great job, there were only a few minor problems.  The first was that I’d mixed up the order of brakes and shifters – I tried to convince Mr. that this was simply a matter of personal preference.  The second, was that I’d re-assembled everything with the front wheel 180 degrees in the wrong direction.

This was a turning point in our relationship.  It was the moment that Mr. realized he should just do what I ask immediately, so that I do not have time to screw it up more.

So what could possibly motivate me to throw caution to the wind and attempt a DIY upgrade on my bike?  Only one thing – a knocked box.   My last ride, on a particularly soft trail, I hit my kitten so often that I was afraid the SPCA might charge me with animal abuse.

I tried to draw a hilarious cartoon to illustrate the problem, but I failed art class for a reason.  I’ll try my best to describe the scenario.  Normally, when you have to stop your bike, you simply extend your leg and stand on one foot.  Easy peasy,  you’ve probably never even thought of it before, because when sitting on your bike your foot almost touches the ground, so there is no need to think about it..  Now, say you are on a snow bike, on a single track trail.  You decide to stop, and put your foot down.  But, ZOINK, your foot breaks through the snow and comes to a stop 4 inches below the surface.  Approximately 4 inches too far to stay on a bike seat.  What would have been a graceful move, is suddenly transformed into an awkward fall that results in knocking yourself against your seat OR even worse, losing your balance and knocking it against the top tube.

I decided that the perfect solution was a dropper post that would let me adjust the seat height when riding on super skinny singletrack.  Especially singletrack with soft shoulders.

The Mr. was coaching basketball this afternoon, so I decided to install my dropper post all by myself.  Step 1 was locating it, in and amongst a closet full of bikes.


Step 2 was to phone the bike shop and get Tristan to give me step by step instructions on what to do.

Step 3 was to try it out on an awesome ride.  I am thrilled to report that I was not ejected from my bike, nor did the seat spontaneously fall off.  In other words – enormous success!


I had this seat post on my all mountain bike, but never used it much.  I’m finding that on the snowbike there are far more opportunities to adjust seat height then on a regular mountain bike.  As the trail thins, or become soft or slippery, the lower seat can save your kitty.  But there’s also the regular dropper post advantages for climbing and descending.  Last, but not least,  I use the snow bike for commuting as well as singletrack riding.   I’ve often found myself aggravated when I start my morning commute and half way down the street I realize the seat’s too low, but I’m too cold to fix it.   On this ride,  I went from climbing to descending, hard packed to soft, double track to single track, and found myself taking advantage of my new toy.

The seat post I’m using is a Rase Black Mamba.  Not only was it conveniently sitting unused in my closet,  it also seemed like a good winter choice because it is fully mechanical.  That, and it sounds like something you’d buy at Adult Temptations, which never ceases to amuse me.   I was hopeful it wouldn’t be affected by the cold weather, but  this proved to be only partially true.  As I rode, the seat did become less responsive.  It still worked, but didn’t pop up at the same speed as when it was indoors.  But, even with this small hiccup, I really enjoyed it.  I’m confident that after a few additional modifications, including setting the correct seat height, this seat will become a permanent addition to my bike.

How to Dress for Winter Biking: -15 to -28 C (5 to -18F)

5 Feb

This is Part II of my dressing series.  It’s also the category where most riding occurs… if you’re lucky.  The difference between -15 and -28 is significant, but the basic parts are the same.



Layer 1

X-bionic Underwear – Same deal as before, this is just the base layer that I usually use.   It does the job and keeps me warm.  I actually have 2 versions of the top, one which is slightly thicker.   You can see in the pictures that there are patches of different colors.  These patches are thicker, for areas you lose more feet.  The nice thing about X-bionic is that the women’s versions, aren’t just different colored, but are constructed differently, so that when you put on the long underwear it’s built for your body.

Wool socks – There’s pretty much no reason to wear anything but wool socks if you live north of 60.


Layer 2

Long sleeve shirt(s) – This is where I have some differences.  When it’s a bit warmer, I usually wear a Helly Hansen additional long underwear style shirt.  It’s thinner, but I like the colors and it will keep me toasty.  If it’s a bit colder, I’ll throw on a thick merino wool Icebreaker or equivalent.  This is also the layer that I adjust during my ride if I get too hot or cold.  I often bring an extra long sleeve in my bag  just in case the temperature drops mid-way through the ride.  Also, if I take off a layer in the middle of the ride, I’m never going to want to put it back on, so I like to have a dry, unworn one in emergencies.

Pearl Izumi tights – I have a collection of these tights.  My favorite are the ones that have gone through a few seasons and lost their elasticity.  I wear those when I want to pretend I’ve lost weight, when in reality I’m in a mid-winter cheese-athon.  The thing about tights is they are just easier to move in.


Layer 3

Halti jacket – I picked up this jacket from Icycle exclusively because I liked the hot pink zippers and my friend Monika had one.  I had a mini heart attack when I realized the price, and thought I’d be experiencing some major buyer’s remorse.  But, it turns out that it’s one of the best jackets I’ve ever had.  Ridiculously thin and light, I can’t believe that I’m able to ski/bike in it when the temperatures dip into the -20s.  Yet, despite the holes perforating the back, it does the trick for keeping me warm.  This jacket seems to exemplify the concept of keeping you dry in the cold.  The mesh portions move sweat quickly off the body, so that there’s no chance you’ll become an ice cocoon.

The other great thing about this jacket is that it looks good.  It’s a flattering cut, and there’s some well place reflective bits on the back to increase visibility.

My only complaint about the jacket is that there’s just 2 pockets in the front of the jacket, and nothing on the back.   This is not ideal for night riding, because you end up having to put the battery in your chest pocket, or backpack.



Skhoop Skirt – The love for down skirts is alive up above the 60th parallel.  Alaskans, ex-Alaskans,  and Yukoners are extolling its  virtues.   Nobody likes getting arctic ass – and yet, keeping your butt and thighs warm seems to be an endless battle.   In the past this meant layers and layers of pants, slowly cutting off mobility in the desperate hope that it would keep your tush warm.   But, now there is the down skirt – the perfect outer layer that focuses on the one part of your body that want the extra protection.  Geargals recently reviewed the Sierra Gnar skirt, which I’ve never tried.  I’m a huge fan of my Skhoop.  The side zippers allow you to move the zippers up and down depending on your activity.  For biking, I leave them about half zipped, which gives me enough room to pedal.  If I’m off the bike, eating a snack or chatting, I zip them back down to get the extra few inches of warmth.


Pearl-Izumi Infernos – Unlike colder temps, you need the ability to shift and brake in this type of weather.  The Pearl-Izumi lobster mittens are perfect.  The free index and thumb make it easy to shift and prevent 4-finger braking.  The joined ring and pinky fingers keep your most delicate digits toasty warm.   My hands don’t love cold weather, but these things do the trick.


Smart Wool Balaclava – I need a face cover.  Without one, my lungs shrivel up and turn into Archie’s jalopy – a gasping, hacking, mess.  My face quickly develops two white circles, which grow with every passing minute.  And, my one root canal starts to throb – an instant reminder of my failure to floss regularly.  Why specify my balaclava?  Because the difference between a balaclava and a buff is ridiculous.  And in the world of face covers, material makes all the difference.  A cotton/synthetic buff takes approximately 10 minutes to become soaked in moisture.  Soon you are riding with what equates to a wet washcloth, over your mouth.  If you go down a fast hill, that washcloth freezes and you are stuck with a frozen, stinky, piece of fabric glued to your mouth.  Not good.  The wool balaclava is much more effective and getting the moisture away from your body and the top of the balaclava will help warm the top of your forehead that peaks out from underneath a helmet.

Pro-Tec Snowboard helmet – These things are golden.  Designed for snowboarding, they are great at keeping you warm, without getting your head wet.  The fur lined ear covers are soft and comfortable, the chin strap is covered with additional fabric; and the colors are awesome.  As long as you have something to help reduce forehead exposure, this helmet is perfect.


Dressing it up!

I used to be obsessed with Cosmopolitan magazine.  It didn’t matter that I was 15 and hadn’t kissed a boy – there was something about the big bold headlines promising to teach you how to pleasure your man that seemed grown up.   Let’s face it, until I had a chance to take a practical exam, I might as well do as much theoretical research as possible.

One of my favorite articles was the fashion tips – I’ve never been particularly fashionable – I needed all the help I could get.   Cosmo used to have a running series on how to take a daytime outfit and make it “pop” for a night out.  Western shirt?  Tie it up into a belly shirt, add a jeweled belt buckle and you’ll be ready to dance your night away!

I love dressing up for bike riding.  I can’t walk 5 minutes in heels, but I have no problem riding around in 2 inch stilettos.  There’s something special about looking good on a bike; and with a few small modifications, you can take your exercise outfit and turn it into an outfit that will stop cars (hopefully).

Scarf or Cowl –  Any nice neck warmer, or scarf will do the trick.  My friend Alexis made me my favorite purple  cowl.


Joan of the Arctic Boots – Replacing my plain black boots with the slightly more fashionable Joan of the Arctic’s makes me feel fantastic.

Nice Grown-Up Girl Jacket – I’m lucky I get free nice jackets from my sister, a fashionista living in Aspen, Co.  If it were up to me, I’d still be wearing my 1997 red duvet jacket, kept together with duct tape.  Any nice duvet jacket will do.



Solution for Cold Feet

4 Feb


Cold feet are awful things.  When your feet get really cold, they actually begin to feel like they are hardening – like the blood is thickening into slush.   Even though moving your toes may be the only way to warm them up – the colder you are the harder they are to move.  As far as I’m concerned toes are quitters – they get cold and they’re happy to surrender to frostbite and get a quick ticket out of footville.

In my dressing for cold weather article I thought about getting a pair of Bunny Boots.  But, I found a cheaper, easier solution, the Intuition Boot Liner.  The liner can replace any other regular boot liner in a Sorel, Acton or Baffin boot.  There’s also a couple people around town that are using them inside Neos or Mukluks.   I can fit them in both my bigger black Sorels or my fun and fashionable Joan of the Arctics.  In both cases, they increase the temperature threshold by at least 10 C.  They are also comfortable, light and make me feel like I’m walking on foam (in a good way).

The bestest part is that they are at the local bike shop Icycle Sports for $25!!!  They only have sizes 5, 6,7, 8 (men’s) left, which is perfect for the ladies.   Famed Antarctic explorer Devon is the guy who originally brought them in – and you know if they work for someone who’s traveled Antarctica by foot and Greenland by kite, they’ll be perfect for the less extreme adventurers.

How to Dress for Winter Biking: -28 to -40C (-18 to -40F)

27 Jan

Dressing incorrectly is the easiest way to ruin a good winter bike ride.  I’ve had to abort many rides because of frozen fingers, and a frostbitten face.  Riding with too much on is equally uncomfortable – nobody likes being steam cooked from inside a parka.  So how do you dress for success?  First of all you have to remember some key points about winter cycling:

  • Biking involves periods of high intensity/high energy (climbing) followed by times without any movement.  The danger in this, is that you can easily work up an awesome sweat, just to head down a hill and turn yourself into an icicle.
  • There’s not a lot of upper body movement in cycling.  Things that aren’t moving, are more likely to get cold.  Most notably, your hands, that stay still and are the first contact with the wind.
  • Certain parts of your body are connected to your bicycle.  Most parts on a bike are made with metal.  When it gets cold – metal gets super-cold.  So, your boots (sitting on your metal pedals); your hands (on your metal handlebar) and your ass (on your metal/synthetic seat) are at risk.

At the end of the day, the other important thing to remember is that everyone is different.  I have had too many years of trying my luck in sub-zero temperatures, resulting in a tendency to frostbite my face.   And despite living up here for a couple of years, I haven’t adapted the same way as the Mr. who wears dress pants and a windbreaker in -35.


Dressing for -28 to -40 C (-18 to -40 F)

The first thing I have to say about riding in this weather, is that I’m mostly riding to commute, or going for fun rides that are under 2 hours in length.


Layer 1

X-Bionic long underwear – I wear this long underwear most days of the winter.  One of its best qualities is that it has anti-smelling properties, necessary if you are going to exercise in it for multiple days in a row.  I’ll admit, by day 4 it’s a bit crunchy, but who doesn’t appreciate a little crunch?



Wool socks – once your feet are frozen, any hope of an enjoyable ride is over.   It’s ideal if you can find a pair of beautiful striped socks that will make you giggle every time you look at your toes, but in the absence of that, any wool socks will do.



Leg hair – Insultation is the key to success, I’m not the 5 time hairiest leg champion of the Yukon for nothing.  Guess which leg is mine, and which is my friend Sam’s; and keep in mind this is still 4 weeks before the competition.



Layer 2

Here’s my secret – I don’t wear a second layer when it’s really cold.  The outer layer is enough to stay really hot.  Plus, it’s too cold to remove a mid-layer mid-ride, so there doesn’t seem much point.


Layer 3

Skookum jacket – These are jackets that are manufactured in Dawson City, Whitehorse.  I have no idea why they are so warm.  They are only a couple centimeters thick; and they’ve got no down.  The absence of feathers is good – I find that the down jackets soak up sweat.  The outside is windproof, but not plastic; and there’s plenty of reflective strips.   The jacket was designed for dog-sledding, so there are convenient pockets for keys and lights and anything else I might need to access.  I have never been cold in this jacket.  I can not imagine ever being cold in this jacket.  The only problem with this jacket is that it’s just too warm.  Even in -40 I open up the pit zips to keep a temperature balance.


Snowpants – I got these sweatpants when I participated in the Fulda challenge a couple of years ago.  They are not attractive at all, but they are super warm.  They also have reflective stripes on the bottoms, which is good for visibility


Re-breather –  Years of exercising in frigid weather, coupled with a bad set of lungs have made winter air an enemy I can’t seem to defeat.  The cold air leads to lung infections, and the lovely nickname “Barky the Seal”.  The re-breather face mask keeps the air I breathe warmer and more humid.  But, the more comfortable air comes with a price.  It’s hard to get a lungful of air with a re-breather and the additional breathing effort results is a reduction in energy output.



Mittens – The Mr. bought me an amazing pair of traditional fur mittens made by a local woman named Lena White.  These things are amazing, they are warm and comfortable.  The thick fur keeps the harshest of wind away from my hands.  The idiot strings allow you to throw off the mittens in order to adjust a zipper or fix a cable, and then slip them back on to rewarm your fingers.   These are big mittens, and they do impede gear shifting and braking; but when it’s this cold that doesn’t matter.  In the cold, cold weather, your bike slows so much that you are going to find yourself spending most of your time in your easiest gears.  As for the braking – when you move that slow, stopping isn’t as important.


 Sorel Boots – This is another piece of clothing I got through Fulda.  They are tall, plain Sorel boots.  They easily fit over my snowpants and in most cases they keep my feet warm.  I’ve been tempted to buy a pair of “Bunny Boots”, which are the ultimate in arctic gear.   Someday I’ll get a pair and find out if they really are as warm as everyone says.



Hat – I stole these two hats from my Mother’s closet a couple years ago.  The felted hat she got it in Cambridge Bay, back when it was in the Northwest Territories.  I have no clue where she got the bomber hat, but they are warm and awesome.  I got myself in a lot of trouble with my friends when I said I didn’t wear a helmet in the super cold, so we came to a compromise.  When I’m riding to work or on any city streets, I will wear an oversized helmet, which can fit an additional hat underneath. When I’m riding on the trails behind my house at less than 5 km/h, I’ll wear a hat.



Here’s what happens when you put it all into action:

I’ve noticed lots of other people sharing their tips for winter dressing.  My bike-wife Jennoit recently shared her dress for work tips, Jill shared her favorite winter gear, Geargals has ongoing reviews,  and I just found Winnipeg Cycling Chick – all with some cool info.


Next week I’ll post the -15 to -28C wardrobe.

A Vacation before you Vacation

14 Jan

Airport accommodations usually means trying to find arm-restless seats, or a quiet corner to sleep away a 10 hour layover.  But, sleeping at the airport doesn’t have to be horrific – in fact in can be a terrific place to enjoy your first night of a long trip, especially if your flying through Vancouver.  The Vancouver Airport Fairmont is simply my favorite hotel in the world.

To start, the rooms at the Fairmont are beautiful.  The beds have nice white sheets, and a feather duvet.  But, it’s the bathroom I love most.  In addition to a stand up shower, there’s a big bathtub with a window-like opening that lets you watch trash tv, surrounded by a force field of bubbles.



Staying at the airport has plenty of advantages.  First off there’s a plethora of food to choose from at every hour of the day/night.  Whether you want to hit up Flying Wedge pizza, Starbucks for a 5:30 am latte, or some Toshi Sushi, it’s all just a couple hundred feet away.  No need to put on a raincoat – or even change out of your pajama bottoms.



If you are looking for something a little more delicious, the Fairmont’s restaurant features drinks and dinners that rival any downtown eatery I’ve been to.  Carly and I particularly loved their honey, and pear puree cocktail.  If it weren’t for the prohibitively high price ($12/drink), I may not have been able to stop drinking them.  The food’s ridiculous – I had a signature salad full of crab, ahi tuna, and shrimp.  Easily beating the nacho cheese as the best meal of my trip.



Another nice thing about staying at the airport, is that it greatly extends sleep-in time.  Gone is the time budgeted for taxis, and buses.  Instead you can wake up 2 minutes before check-in time.  Roll yourself and your suitcase to the counter – get your bags tagged and head back to the room for a short nap and a shower.  This is priceless,  especially when check-in time is 5 am.

You’re probably wondering how I showered without the luxury of bags.  That’s the final fabulous thing about the airport.  Once you’ve cleared security, there’s a world of make-up, face cream, and more waiting to be applied.  By the time you hit your gate, you’re smelling like a Vogue magazine, and looking a bit like Dolly Parton.



So next time your dreading an overnight layover at YVR, book a night and enjoy plane watching from the comfort of a bubble bath.

Welcoming Wednesday

28 Nov

For weeks the house has been abuzz.  We’ve been cleaning out the garage, putting away bike parts and generally nesting in anticipation of the new arrival.  Finally she’s here! 

Sierra's Fatback

Introducing Wednesday, my brand new Fatback.   This year, I decided to find my all-white Pugsley, Snowbitch, a new home.  As much as I loved Snowbitch, I couldn’t overcome the underlying bitterness I still felt after custom painting my Pugsley, only to have Surly come out with a “Snow White” version the next year.  Thankfully, I found a fellow fat tire ballerina who I knew would love Snowbitch.  The best thing about selling a bike to a friend is that you also get a guaranteed fat biking partner. 

Sierra's Fatback

Over the summer, I planned out my both fashionable and functional bike design.   In early November, my bike finally arrived and the wonderful men at Icycle, the local bike shop, built her up.   A couple weeks later, I picked up 45 feet of reflective tape (turns out it was only about 44.5 more feet than I actually needed), in order to give Wednesday a bit of extra shine for the early morning commute.

Sierra's Fatback

So far, Wednesday is perfect.  I love the lower, curved top tube, which significantly reduces the chance of splitting the kitten.  I adore the handling, which is closer to a mountain bike than the Pugsley.   I’m mesmerized by her twisted top tube  and the reduction in weight seems to help in extracting her out of deep snow.

Sierra's Fatback
Wednesday and I went with Jennoit and El Guapo for our first real trail ride last night.  And despite a flat tire, I couldn’t get over just how much I love this bike.  Don’t get me wrong – I love ALL my bikes, but I think I just might be IN love with this one. 
P.S – If you don’t know why she’s named Wednesday, ask her brother Pugsley.

Women’s Bike Shorts – Warning Graphic Content

11 Nov

This is an uncensored review of bike shorts, so if you don’t like reading about lady parts – stop now – you will not enjoy the rest.   The truth is, when you have a bike short problem, the consequences are significant.  One time my skin suffered chemical burns thanks to poor reaction to a chamois (or the detergent it was washed in).   The result was sores, shaped in the heart-like pattern of the bike short – that eventually completely peeled off.  It wasn’t all awful, my quads benefited from the iso-squat I was forced to perform for the better part of a week.

Everyone who rides has stories of an angry beaver and I know the better part of our all-female Dirt Girls rides are spent talking about our lady bits.  That being said, how often has the word vagina appeared in a bike short review?  And yet – why do I wear bike shorts – it’s not because they are fashionable.   I say, it’s time to be honest about bikes shorts – because at the end of the day all I want to know is:  will I be able to ride after my ride?

1.  Pearl Izumi – P.R.O Short


After looking at the webpage, my review of this short may be a little outdated, as I can see that Pearl Izumi seems to have Lillith Fair-ed their short.  The version I have still features a drawstring that gives phenomenal muffin top; and tight elastic bottoms that complete a sausage look.   The white stitching going  down the middle of the short also does a great job of creating the illusion of a camel toe .  The new photos show a women’s short that has a broader waist and thigh elastic – which will definitely increase the attractiveness quotient.    If I’m going to walk around in spandex, it should be as flattering as possible, because let’s be honest – spandex is only flattering if your name is Olivia Newton John and it’s 1983.

I’m not fond of the length of these shorts either, they are Catholic school girl size.   Which I find creates the most unattractive tan lines and sticks out from underneath my baggy mountain bike shorts.

But, my biggest beef for the Pearl Izumi’s is the chamois.  It’s thick, which both feels and looks like an extra large, super absorbent maxi pad, and it’s got a funny texture to it.  It’s almost as if there’s some kind of plastic fibre in it – or another artificially created textile that gives it an unusual stiffness.  This is problematic because the starchiness can cause serious labial chafing – and subsequent post-ride burning in the nether region.

2.  SheBeest S-Pro

SheBeest only makes women’s clothing, giving them an obvious advantage in the bike short challenge.   Their shorts have a nice thick waistband which requires no string cinching to keep it in place.   This is a fabulous feature if you like bikecationing.  I have a hard enough time working up the courage to get in a bikini – the last thing I need is that bright red imprint around my stomach where my bike shorts were dug into my “insulation”.  They also have thick thigh bands that keep the short in place, without leaving any evidence.

The SheBeest’s are shorter than the Catholic school girl – but not Britney Spears’ short.  They sit almost exactly mid-thigh, slightly higher than my average work skirt, which conveniently means no weird tan lines.

The chamois does not feel or look like special space-aged material, but instead fairly plain cotton – according to their website this is: SheLastic Vita di Carbonio which I believe is Italian for “soft vagina blanket”.  The chamois is also quite thin and smooth, and while it’s still a bit maxi pad-like, at least it’s just regular absorbant.

The best part about SheBeest – the shemazing way they just add “she” to make sheverything more feminine – it’s shetastic really.

3.   Assos S5

I was kidding – but wasn’t, $200 is a lot of money to pay for shorts.  But, Assos has a pretty smart tag line – Sponsor Yourself.  For people like me, who will never be sponsored by anyone else, the idea of being sponsored, even by your own wallet, is appealing.

Like SheBeest, Assos has a fabulous waistband system, that keeps the shorts firmly in place, without a drawstring.  They also have similar thigh bands to the SheBeest and are almost the exact same length.  So why pay the extra money for them?  The secret seems to be in the chamois.

Assos’ chamois is thin and dimpled – at first I wondered if I’d accidentally bought “special” Euro bike shorts designed for a different kind of ride.  But it turns out these weird dimples, or “waffle pattern” are supposed to increase airflow.  It’s not just a gimmick – it actually works.  At most, these shorts feel like a panty liner – but most of the time, you actually forget they’re there.  On hot days – like my one mountain bike race, the shorts are noticeably cooler.   The only better option is riding bottom half naked – which is frowned upon at most events outside the Yukon.

The best part about Assos – their entire website looks like it was styled by Derek Zoolander – so hawt.

So there you have it, my review of shorts.  At the end of the day, everybody’s vagina is different, so you may completely disagree with my ass-essment (that was my clever pun of the post).  So, if you have a favourite pair of shorts – let me know!

A La Lohan (or How I Set Myself on Fire)

22 Oct


How is he still in shorts???


Last year, the Mr. requested one thing when I went to Portland, some embrocation.  What’s that you ask?  It’s a lotion that heats up your skin – cyclists use it to keep their legs warm when the weather gets cool.  Think of it like fire in a jar.  I successfully located some Mad Alchemy Embrocation which the Mr. used for early Spring riding and is now using to prolong the season of mountain bike shorts.

Last night, after watching a movie, I crawled into bed with the Mr., approximately 2 hours into a wonderful deep sleep, I felt an insane burning on my legs, like someone had snuck a blow torch underneath the covers and was attempting to weld my  hamstring to the Mr’s quad.  In a sleep induced haze, I had a mini panic attack – what had caused my legs to suddenly burst into flames?  Thankfully, before my imagination took over and I ended up in the Emergency room, unnecessarily draining precious health care resources , I realized the problem – the Mr. had applied embrocation before his ride and I was suffering the consequences.

Applied incorrectly, embrocation is a swarm of fire ants hell bent on revenge.  The first time I used it, I followed the Mr.’s application instructions – spreading a thin layer onto my legs before an early Spring road ride.  After I’d successfully coated my legs, I applied my chamois cream and HOLY SHIT!!!   I have my suspicions on how Lindsey Lohan acquired the moniker firecrotch, but this was the real deal.  With no choice, but to suffer through the agony I went on my ride – which changed from a relaxed road ride, to a power workout featuring 100% standing.  To add insult to injury, I had also filled my water bottles post-embrocation, so my gatorade had taken on a nice cayenne flavor – imagine gulping jalapeno juice post intervals…not good.

Since that experience, I’ve learned a couple of key things; the first being that you should always apply embrocation last.  The second (and a very key piece of information that the Mr. never explained), embrocation does not come off with water, so washing your hands makes no difference. The desperate shower post-ride when you are trying to cool your legs off is an exercise in futility – embrocation is stronger than sweat and dirt and requires rubbing alcohol for relief.


Spokesdogger Starbuck with the Mad Alchemy


If you follow proper instructions, embrocation can be that extra boost that keeps you in shorts for a little while longer.  The Mad Alchemy Embrocation comes in different levels of heat, I can only stand the  “Mellow” and I wish I had the Gentleman’s Blend or Warm Weather variety.  All of the embrocations smell delicious like cinnamon and cayenne, and definitely produce results.  My reaction is much stronger than the Mr’s, so I do suggest testing it out on a small patch of skin, before slathering yourself in a fire bath.  As a more experienced embrocator, I asked Mr. to contribute to this review.  His professional opinion is: “It’s f*(ing awesome and the afterglow is the best part”.  Not sure if by afterglow he means torturing his wife in the middle of the night and then laughing at her in the morning.

The only place I’ve found embrocation is Portland, which seems weird given that Portland is not actually cold.  Maybe northerners just aren’t willing to admit they need some help.  In any case – if you need some assistance with Rule #5 –  HTFU then:

“Two, four, six eight, better start to embrocate” – GO TEAM!