Monday, August 19, 2013

Review of Biking Skirts

This is a semi-cyclist's review of two biking skirts (or biking skorts, if you like word mash ups).

Why wear a bike skirt: Bike skirts are not promoted as serious training gear. They are for women who like to use their bike as transportation when going to far away places. The padded short protects your bum during the ride. The skirt hides your padded diaper butt when you get to your destination.

Note: You can also buy bike shorts that are hidden within an ordinary short. I opted for the skirt because the padding made the seat of the ordinary shorts look a little full. I also could have gone for the baggy style shorts, which would have hidden the padding better. However, my personal look is a bit more fitted/classic, rather than baggy surfer/biker chick. Choose what works for you!

How does the bike skirt work? Easy. The bike skirt has two layers. The inner layer is bike shorts made of spandex with a padded seat and a griping band around the thighs. The outer layer is a skirt. Preferably, the skirt is made of something stretchy and quick drying, so it will be comfortable for riding and won't hold sweat.

Bike skorts reviewed: I reviewed the Flare bike skirt by Terry,
which says they design for women, and the Cruiser Bike Girl skort by Skirt Sports.

The skirt: Both skirts are made of quick-drying, stretchy fabric. Both have side slits. Both are sewn to the short at the wide waistband, rather than being attached at the hips by tethers, like some combo gear I saw. When riding, both skirts blew up, revealing the short. I tucked the hem into the short to keep the skirts in place. Differences:
  • Terry's Flare has outside pockets on the hips of the skirt. 
    • Upside: two pockets that are easy to reach. You might be able to stuff a tennis ball in this pocket so, if your goal is to ride and then hit some balls, this is perfect. 
    • Downside: the pockets aren't reliable when you're cycling because they are loose and don't have closures. Visually, the loose hip pockets also make the wearer look wide.
  • Skirt Sports' Cruiser Bike Girl had higher slits. 
    • Upside: more freedom of movement. 
    • Downside: It was a little harder to make sure I was riding on the skirt, instead of trailing it behind. Also, if you're walking in a windy place, you're more likely to give a show.
The short: Both shorts had just two panels per leg. Better bike shorts have more panels. Both had
Terry's thin shorts materials
padding that the designer claimed was woman-friendly. Both were made of stretchy material. Both had grips around the thigh. However, the differences in the short are why I ended up choosing the skort by Skirt Sports.
  • Terry's material was thin. Aside from ventilation, this is all downside. The shorts are see-thru and don't compress as well as bike shorts should. The thin material allows the shorts to sag so that, when I got off my bike after a 4-mile ride, the padding hung between my legs and required serious adjusting, in public. Charming.
  • Terry's padding was not as sturdy as I like
  • Skirt Sports used traditional bike short spandex for their short. Upside: compressing, stability,
    Skirt Sports' thick shorts material
    not see-thru.
  • Skirt Sports padding has contours that reflect a woman's anatomy. Also, the material feels sturdy and appropriately thick. I have yet to find padding that makes cycling feel like riding on air, but this will do.
  • Skirt Sports short includes a pocket on each thigh that is big enough to hold an iPhone. The pocket is tight - made of the same material as the short - so nothing is falling out of it and it has a low profile when you're walking around. A hole in the skirt allows your phone's headphone cable to reach your ears.
Cost:  I bought both skorts on sale. The Terry was about $45 at REI and Skirt Sports was about $60 from Competitive Cyclist (now on sale even more from Skirt Sports). The upsides of the Skirt Sports bike short made it worth the extra $15. If you don't ride much, the Terry bike skirt's price is tempting, but I think you'll be getting what you pay for - a cheap skort that you won't want to wear.

Summary: I recommend Skirt Sports' Cruiser Bike Girl. It works well and looks good.

Good luck and enjoy the ride!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Running gear: what to look for when trying on

Buying running gear should be easy but it varies in quality, cut and function so much that it's easy to be overwhelmed. Here's a couple of things to look for when shopping for running clothes.

On the rack/online:
  • Function is key
    • Shorts - Men: buy shorts with a liner so your junk doesn't jump around. Women: buy shorts with a liner so you don't have to wear your cute underthings and don't give a show while stretching
    • Top - Everyone should have a quality wicking top. This is the one area where it's worth spending a little more. A lot of companies claim their shirts wick away sweat but many don't. I recommend Nike, Asics, Brooks, Under Armour and sometimes Road Runner Sports.
    • Champion sausage bra
    • Sports bra - ladies, consider these two things: poke through and jiggle. A lightly padded sports bra will handle poke through. If you don't have much to poke, focus on compression. A tight fit will hold you in place and flatten your pokey parts. HOWEVER, too much compression and you'll be squishing out like a sausage. Check the flesh around your armpits to make sure you aren't oozing out (yep, that's as sexy as it sounds).
  • Think big picture
    • This is for the ladies. There are a lot of cute tops out there. Many of them have
      Cute but bad for layering
      interesting tank styles. This is great looking, until you put your sports bra underneath and most of it shows.If it doesn't have a built in bra, go for a slightly more traditional cut.
In the dressing room
  • Comfort is king
    • When trying on your gear, hold still for 30 seconds. Can you feel the clothes? Good gear should sit on your body, almost weightlessly. If it feels tight under the arms, it won't get better and may lead to chafing. If it's pinching off the circulation in your thighs, you'll have a hard time running. Don't look in the mirror, just FEEL.
    • Now, swing your arms, try to touch your toes and squat. Again, feel the gear. Do the shorts ride up? Does the shirt twist or ride up? Are you already getting overheated as if you were wearing a polyester blanket? If it's not comfortable, you're not going to want to wear it.
  • Take look
    • Once you know how it feels, see if you like how it looks. Does seeing yourself all geared up make you wanna run? Do you feel faster already? Jump up and down - are you putting on a bouncy show? Hopefully the answers are yes, yes and no.
If the price is right and your gear meets the criteria above, buy! And then get out there and RUN!

Happy trails.