Going on three years, we've been faced with an inverted clothing curve, where comfort has been paying a higher interest rate than style.
In fact, we've been wondering: If a person isn't seen all day by a partner, or by colleagues on a Zoom call, did that person actually wear anything at all?
Anyhow, we've taken a deep dive on sweats stylish soft pants — we'll have more on this in an upcoming post — and also organic cotton sweatshirts, mostly from obscure Italian brands found on YOOX. (It probably goes without saying that free-range cotton is significantly softer than cotton grown in cages.)
The winner, by quite a wide margin, is this Classica Cotton Sweatshirt by one of our favorite brands: De Marchi. A few points to note about sizing and taking action:
De Marchi runs ridiculously small for American bodies. Go up two sizes.
As of this writing, it's still 30% off.
Use code XMAS20 for an additional 20€ off.
When you purchase anything from De Marchi you become part of their Ciclo Club, which includes free merch: a water bottle, an embroidered patch "to be stitched or ironed on your favorite jersey," a metal pin, and the official Ciclo Club cap.
If you love soft tops and are even vaguely into cycling, this is a tough purchase to beat.
And it gets better. A glitch in the De Marchi shop's checkout marks them down further, to €40.98. At today's exchange rate that's just $46; an insane deal for what we're pretty sure are the best leather cycling gloves made.
While you probably won't look quite like the Italian model on a vintage Legnano, you can at least feel like him.
Pre-pandemic, the vast majority of our bike miles were strictly utilitarian: getting from home to the office and back in a small fleet of cargo bikes and rugged, studded-tire-clad winter beaters. The remaining miles were pleasure rides: going to the liquor store and back.
While we still occasionally fake-commute, COVID-19 has made most rides for fun, and made us rediscover the joy of going fast on minimalist vintage steel road bikes (Principle of Archaism). This year we're completing the look and going full-on Breaking Away (with the addition of a helmet and a 25% higher BMI):
1.De Marchi Classic Merino Shorts (Principle of Organic Materials)
While they're a tad long — even classic Italian brands are not immune to decades of shorts' expanding inseams — it's nothing our tailor can't adjust (and remove the branding while he's at it). The "Elastic Interface Endurance" pad adds comfort for the longer rides, even if you draft off a semi for a segment.
2.EGi Merino Wool Tank Top (Principle of Organic Materials)
Ever hear of EGi? Us either. We took a flier on this Italian-made tank and we're getting more. Slim-fitting yet stretchy, seamless, super comfy. Cheap. Runs one size small.
3.De Marchi Classic Leather Gloves (Principle of Organic Materials)
Almost a perfect late-'70s period match, top-notch Italian craftsmanship, and like the shorts, padding where you need it.
4.Puma Speedcat Sparco Suede Low-Top Sneakers
We've written extensively about the sneakerization of just about all footwear, but unfortunately road cycling shoes remain largely unaffected. So we've turned the Puma Speedcat into a cycling shoe, and so far, so good. They're light, have a low profile, and rigid sole for good pedaling power. Puma runs one size small. If you have any other strong suggestions please drop us a note.
There is plenty of inventory still available on both pants, and you can take an additional 15% off with discount code MR15. We're loading up on them, and also going to give the M1Z snowboarding pant and the 4-season wool jeans a shot.
To highlight what a great deal this is, the Dispatch jean is now priced at $89, and with the 15% discount just $75.65. When we first discovered these pants in 2016 they were $189, and worth it.
As for sizing, these are vanity sized by an inch, so adjust accordingly.
Someday we're going to post a new feature listing our all-time favorite purchases, and the Makers & Riders Dispatch Rider Jean will be one of the first items on it. We've written about them extensively here, and while their pedigree is riding, they are as versatile a pant as Bill Murray is an actor. As one reviewer says, "These are the best pants out there! I do everything with these! Hiking, Biking, Snowboarding, you name it!"
Despite the Trumpesque capitalization, it's all true.
Is $139 still a lot for a pair of pants? Perhaps. Yet these are in our forthcoming Hall of Fame, and this price is as low as they go. On sale through August 14.
Q: Hi MB, your summer might be over but sunlight never spares me here in Singapore. I am looking for sunglasses for cycling to work. Any suggestions? —Davin
A: We're big fans of Grant Petersen's Just Ride manifesto, which strongly objects to the ubiquitous spandex-infused cycling costume and instead favors "normal" clothing (even woven shirts!) for riding a bicycle*.
While he doesn't specifically address eyewear, we're adding a Just Ride corollary we're sure Petersen would approve of: no matter how long the ride, never wear cycling-specifictoolbagsunglasses.
Now that you're perhaps in the market for a pair of regular sunglasses, our all-time favorites are the Allyn Scura Angelo in Light Havana with bottle green lenses. They're simultaneously retro and modern, and work wonderfully for commuting rides, long rides, daydrinking, sitting around, whatever. Highly recommended.
Regular readers know our affection for Naked and Famous's Snow Pant Denim, indigo jeans designed for the slopes that double as terrific daily cold-weather biking trousers.
Unfortunately, eBay sightings of these long-discontinued pants are rarer than a David Brooks fan at a Donald Trump rally, and here in Minneapolis, winter is sticking around just as stubbornly as John Kasich. We need some more warm cycling-friendly pants.
Honestly, we never imagined we would ever approve of a product made out of "exclusive AeroFleece." But when we saw that Bill Murray was a fan, we figured we'd give them a chance.
Decade after decade, Bill Murray has rarely steered us wrong — and he hasn't this time either. While we don't quite like the Rider jeans as much as we like Caddyshack, we'll put them right up there with Rushmore, Quick Change, and even Groundhog Day. Which is to say, we like them a lot.
They won't work for sub-zero commutes, but with a pair of long underwear we've been plenty comfortable down to 10°F. Without long underwear, we reckon we will wear them into the low to mid 50s, at which they'll be too hot and we'll switch over to shorts.
Like the Snow Pant Denim, the Rider Jeans are versatile. In the same way that Bill Murray was designed for comedy but can handle straight dramatic roles with great skill, the Rider Jeans, designed for cycling, are also awesome shoulder-season golf pants. As Mr. Murray himself has discovered. (You didn't think he was biking to work, did you?).
Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio are going to have to take a lot more trans-oceanic plane trips before they manage to put a dent in the bone-bruising chill that greets us every morning in Minneapolis this time of year. But while there's nothing we can do to avoid the snow, sleet, and ice, we can avoid the even-worse-than-usual traffic and parking-space hunts that come with them. How? By continuing to ride our bikes to work, even in the face of sub-zero temperatures.
How do we pull this off without looking like we're about to engage in some heavy breathing with a couple of broad-shouldered Scandinavian beauties at the Winsport Olympic Luge Track? We lay out our strategy below.
2. Nannini "TT" Goggles. Made for motorcyclists but adopted by cyclists looking for a stylish way to keep your eyelids from freezing shut.
TORSO & LEGS
3. Smartwool Baselayer underneath a 8 Wool Turtleneck. A baselayer under a jacket is all we usually need in anything above 10°F but it was -6°F this morning so we layered with a wool turtleneck. 8 makes a stylish one, with value.
4. Love Moschino Long Down Puffer. Down blazer-style jackets and some days even down shirts work for Minneapolis winter commuting. But not this neo-Polar Vortex shit. At anything below 0°F we pull out the long down puffer. Jack Frost may nip at your nose, but first he nips at your toes, then, surprisingly, your ass. Having goose feather coverage back there helps prevent his bite.
5. Smartwool Baselayer underneath Naked and Famous Snowpant Denim. Naked and Famous is responsible for some of the most important innovations in the history of denim, like scratch and sniff raspberry scented jeans. But their all-time best effort is the discontinued Snowpant Denim, a deep indigo wash treated with a waterproof and wind-resistant coating, and lined in comfy fleece. Look for them on eBay and try to grab them before we do.
6. Wigens Bear Claw Gloves The synthetic lobster claw gloves you see most winter commuters wearing are neither a warmth nor a dexterity match for these Swedish leather and fur marvels. Unfortunately Wigens seems to have stopped making them. Set up an eBay alert.
Minnesota-based 45NRTH makes the popular Wölvhammer commuter boot, but they're nearly as heavy as a pair of Pacs, only rated to 0°F, and don't abide by our un-gear aesthetic. After several years of trial and error we've concocted a 4-step footwear solution that's fairly lightweight and can hold up to a 45 minute commute at -20°F.
Darn Tough Hunting Socks. Not all wool socks are created equal. We've tried a dozen different brands and Darn Tough are the best. Made in Vermont.
When a pair of galoshes is the year's best purchase, it could be argued that 2011 was a pretty lousy year for gear. Either that or Swims' "Mobster Boot" Overshoes are that good.
Whether you wear Chuck Ts or wing Ts to work, these protect them from rain, snow, sleet, (and even hail!), keep your feet warm, and they pair as nicely with a pair of denim as pair of wool trousers. They even have a reflective square on the heel for inclement cycling, which is what we've adopted them for. $149 is not cheap for something that may cost more than the shoes you're trying to protect, but they're totally worth it.
Q: I'm in need of a warm winter jacket I can wear while I bike to work. I've been wearing a North Face jacket and while it's kept me warm and dry, it does not look magnificent. Any suggestions? —William
A: A good winter cycling jacket for urban/utilitarian riding should (a) keep you warm (b) offer some protection from rain (c) wick sweat away from your body (d) be comfortable without flapping all over the place and (e) look so good it will feel a little insulted that you think of it as a "cycling jacket" and not just a "jacket."
That's a lot to ask from a single garment of clothing, especially if you're planning to ride in freezing or near-freezing temperatures and/or major downpours. If you're limiting your riding to less extreme winter conditions, we have two recommendations: Sheila Moon's Red 'Tooth Jacket and Rapha's Tailored Jacket.
The former's a wool/poly blend, the latter 100 percent wool. Wool's not going to repel water like GoreTex, eVent, or other synthetic fabrics so technically advanced they defy the laws of proper capitalization. But wool stays warm even when it gets wet, and we think it works just fine for commuting-length rides. We don't think you can win the Tour de France in either of these jackets, but you would sure look good soft-pedaling down the Champs-Élysées. Or sprinting down Main Street as you race to make it to your Monday morning meeting.
If you're looking for something a little more casual, any full-zip wool sweater will do. We like this one from Khuna. It's made from 100 percent yak wool. And if yak wool can keep a yak warm and toasty on its morning commute, it should do the same for you.
We've got a winner in the "Shoot the MB Masthead" bike giveaway contest, and it's Sarah V.'s entry which best captured the MB ethos. And it looks cool, too. Also, according to Sarah, she is actually driving the rickshaw. For her efforts she can choose from the Broncks Raw, the Broncks Black, or the Breukelen from contest sponsor Bowery Lane Bicycles.
We're taking Friday, July 2 off as we head to our various cabins even further north of our Pulaski, WI headquarters, so we want to remind you that's the deadline to submit an MB header photo to win a sweet bike from Brooklyn-based Bowery Lane Bicycles. It's nearly a $700 value. All entries must be sent by midnight CT. Winning tip: Get your girlfriend, wife, or mistress striking a pose on a bike. Good luck!
For commuting and utilitarian riding we prefer platform pedals over clipless -- that way we don't have to change shoes when we get off the bike. But just because we're not clipping in doesn't mean we don't want shoes with some cycling-oriented features. Moving from dressier to more casual, here are four pairs we like.
2.Dromarti Storica. $237.
We're not sure why, but these shoes make us think of vintage catcher's mitts, and we like that: Catcher's mitts for our feet, crafted by Italian designers. Do you want anything less when you're speeding through the city on two wheels?
3.Chrome Midways Sneaker. $90.
Chrome designs for the messenger demographic, so they know all the features it takes to equip your standard mid-top for heavy-duty bike usage: Reinforced shank to support the midsole, reflective material on the heel cup, a "lace garage" to keep your laces out of your chain, etc. Yep, "lace garage." It's that little elastic thing in this pic, and it works. Synthetics alert: The Midway is made from Cordura nylon. Normally we favor natural materials over synthetic ones, but if you want a tough, scuff-resistant shoe, this is the one to get.
4.Keen Coronado Bike Shoe. $80.
Here's a casual option made with canvas and nubuck leather. Like the Chrome Midway, it's also got a shank in the midsole for more pedaling power than you'd get with a traditional sneaker, plus a "a soft rubber forefoot pod for pedal grip." It sounds like marketing BS, but if you've ever experienced the banana-peel-like slip that can happen when you suddenly start pedaling hard on platform pedals while wearing shoes with slick and/or non-grippy soles, you know why this is important.
Knickers are a great bike-to-work option if you work in a bike shop or play bass for a nu-metal revival band. But we like pants that at least flirt with our ankles.
Just a few years ago, casual bike-oriented pants that met this criteria were virtually non-existent. Now, there are more and more to choose from. They tend to be a little bit pricey because they're not produced in great quantities. But if you want a look that makes the transition from bike to boardroom as smooth as a seamless gusseted crotch, they're worth the investment.
2.Nonetheless Dispatch Rider Pant. $188.
These pants are made out of wool and recycled plastic water bottles, which means you don't have to feel so guilty the next time you buy a liter of Fiji Water. Sure, you're adding to your carbon footprint by drinking water shipped from halfway around the world -- but you're also letting a sheep keep his coat a little longer! Life is all about balance. Other highlights we like about these pants: machine-washability, and "slimmer anti-sprocket leg openings."
3.Cordarounds Bike to Work Pants. $90.
By day, they're mild-mannered khakis. By night, thanks to strategically placed reflective material that emerges when you roll up the cuffs and turn the back pockets inside out, they light up like a Las Vegas casino. Or maybe that's overstating things a bit, so let's say a Reno casino. Either way, we're pretty sure they're going to be the brightest pair of pants in your wardrobe. Unless you're John Daly.
4.Swrve Indigo Denim Jeans. $100.
We don't advise riding long distances in jeans -- but with these, we feel like we could if we had to. Why? The seamless gusseted crotch, articulated knees, and touch of Lycra. For utilitarian riding, they've got pretty much every feature you could ask for -- cell phone pocket, reflective stripe at the cuff, low waist in the front and high waist in the back, and back pockets big enough to fit a mini U-lock.
HEY! We're giving away a brand spanking new ride from Bowery Lane Bicycles ($695 value) and all you have to do to enter is take a hot photograph with a bike (and preferably a girl) in it. Click for full details and then get art directin'.
It's Bike to Work Week, and to celebrate, we've decided to give away a hand-made steel bike from Bowery Lane Bicycles, a $695 value. If you'd like to win it, take a photo that's suitable for our masthead. It must have a bike in it. A pretty girl wouldn't hurt your chances either. Send it to us by June 18, and if we choose yours, you'll get your choice of Bowery Lane's current three models, the Broncks Raw (our personal favorite), the Broncks Black, or the Breukelen.
A while back, a reader introduced us to Bowery Lane. Based on the look of their bikes, we gave them a tentative thumbs-up, but a steel bike hand-made in the U.S for only $695 sounded too good to be true. Then we discovered that Bowery Lane's bikes are actually manufactured in a Brooklyn-based factory that has been making bikes in the U.S. for almost as long as bikes have been being made, i.e., 1898, and has a great reputation for producing durable, dependable bikes. The founders of Bowery Lane, on the other hand, come from apparel industry backgrounds, and count Ralph Lauren, Bloomingdales, Urban Outfitters, and Barneys amongst their former employers and current clients. That combination of bike industry experience and apparel industry style has resulted in a great-looking but functional line of one-speed city bikes, and we're excited to be offering one to one lucky reader in honor of Bike to Work Week.
A few years ago, the cycling apparel industry didn't offer much to anyone who wasn't interested in looking like a superhero moonlighting as a billboard. Then, gas hit $4 a gallon for awhile, and suddenly garment makers realized there was a new customer to cater to: people looking for regular-looking clothing with some of the technical aspects that bike-specific clothing provides -- wicking ability, a close fit without a lot of extra fabric to get caught in gears or catch the wind, strategic pockets, etc. -- clothes in short, that can be worn at the office or anywhere else without immediately tipping off everyone that you've just gotten off a bike.
All week long, we'll be highlighting some of favorite cycling apparel. Today, we're starting with shirts.
1.Rapha Long Sleeve Shirt. $130.
Our first choice for low-key cycling apparel is wool. It wicks moisture well, has natural odor-killing properties, and feels great. This Rapha dress shirt proves that rules are meant to be broken -- it's 68% cotton, 28% nylon, and 4% elastane, three fabrics which involve no sheep whatsover. But we love the gingham check pattern, the smart tailoring, the single pocket on the back, and the nylon and elastane provide the wicking that cotton would not be able to accomplish on its own.
2.John Smedley Merino Jerseywear Long Sleeve Shirt. $149.
Like Rapha, John Smedley is an English brand. This isn't a bike-specific garment, but it's made out of superfine Merino wool, it's got a casual but fitted cut, and John Smedley has been making shirts and sweaters for 225 years. Clearly, they know what they're doing.
3.Nau M1 Polo Stripe. $105.
For a more casual look, and on sunny days, we love this summer-weight wool polo from Nau.
4.Ibex Men's Ace Shirt. $105.
Not every wool shirt is machine-washable. This one is. Like the Nau polo above, it's also made from wool that's soft as your favorite cotton t-shirt.
We're not great fans of work, but we do like bikes. So we've decided to celebrate Bike to Work Week (May 17-21) by giving away a bike from Bowery Lane Bicycles. The catch? You've got to do a little work for us. Check in Monday for complete details.
Q: I am moving into the city (Washington DC) and am looking for a bike to get to and from work and around the city in general. I found Bowery Lane Bicycles (http://www.bowerylanebicycles.com/). What do you think, do they make the MB grade? --Spencer
A: Spencer, we are intrigued by these bikes, especially given their price. A handmade steel frame by an American builder for less than $1000 is virtually unheard of. A complete bike with a handmade steel frame, for just $695, almost sounds too good to be true. Granted, Bowery Lane is not making these things in custom sizes (which is one reason handmade frames tend to cost as much as they do), but we'd still want to look at them in person before recommending them. (While we might endorse, say, a cashmere sweater without ever laying hands on it, we’re not depending on a cashmere sweater to keep us relatively safe in the midst of rush-hour traffic.)
That said, we like the idea that you can get something that echoes the style of a Pashley Guv'nor or a Retrovelo at a price that won't leave you reluctant to let it out of your sight. We're not crazy about the old-timey names and imagery on the web site, but we do like the visible brazing and clear-coated steel tubes of the Broncks Raw -- it's basically the artfully dishevelled version of a bike. It's at least worth a test ride.
Q: Dear MB-- My husband has taken up bicycling as his new fitness routine/hobby. I am distressed every time I see him ride off in his bicycling gear, covered with more endorsements than a NASCAR vehicle. What do you suggest? --Mrs. M.
A: The good news, Mrs. M, is that whatever logo-clad clown suit your husband is frightening the neighborhood children with, it could probably be worse.
The bad news is that if you're doing it right, you can't help but violate key MB principles when wearing cycling attire -- at least if you plan to break 25mph on occasion. To maximize aerodynamics and minimize chafing, cycling clothes are supposed to be obscenely tight-fitting. To maximize visibility and minimize the chance of decorating some texting soccer mom's hood, they're supposed to be garishly bright.
The really bad news is that tight-fitting, garish, but still relatively tasteful gear is easy to find -- so if your husband's peddling around town looking like a graphic designer's resume, it's because he wants to.
To wean him gently from this bad habit, we recommend this Salvarani replica, in 100% merino wool. While we don't care much for even the tiniest logos, never mind ones that can be seen from 100 yards, any logo that requires a $250,000 sewing machine to make is OK in our book.
From one's waist to one's ankles, only solid black is allowed. For a final touch, treat your husband to a pair of Dromarti Sportivos. Five minutes in these handmade Italian beauties, and he will never feel the urge to wear anything featuring a dye-sublimated logo again.
2 oz Plymouth gin
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1/8 oz crème de violette
Lightly shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon twist.