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.
4. Pro Mark 9-Layer Apron Chaps. When you're 30 miles from the nearest hospital, the last thing you need is to rip open your femoral artery. These chaps' 9 layers of cut-retardant material can prevent that, have a handy front pocket, and add an additional layer of warmth.
5. Wells Lamont Winter Weather Work Gloves. We've been through a bunch of winter work gloves and these are the warmest, most rugged we've found. 4.5/5 at Amazon with over 1000 reviews. Runs about 2 sizes small (that's the reason for most of the negative reviews). Made in Ethiopia!
6. Carolina Steel Toe Work Boots (Model CA7503). Red Wing gets all the glory, but for actual work Carolina is better. Great for all sorts of labor beyond lumberjacking, especially when your toes are at risk from being crushed or cut off. Made in USA (and they never let you forget it). Carolina runs one size small.
7. Stihl MS 261 C-M. If there is a single piece of advice you take away from this site — besides, say, proper sleeve-rolling technique — it's this: never, ever buy any hardware or tools or machinery labeled "homeowner." Or even "farm & ranch." Always buy pro gear. It's more but always less expensive. This Stihl saw is light and powerful and could last your lifetime.
1. Naked & Famous Snow Pant Denim. "Trump Skis in Jeans" is a popular bumper sticker out here. He only wishes he could be so stylish! We've raved about Naked & Famous's Snow Pant Denim for a decade, or about as long as they've stopped making them. Please join our quixotic effort to get Naked & Famous to resume production, and send them a note.
2. Valentino Ski Jacket. This purchase resulted in a confirmation call from American Express, and we said, "Yes, sir. Thanks for asking. Signature pieces are worth this expense." Valentino is currently owned by the Qatari royal family — where they're probably 1500 miles from the nearest ski resort — but got some excellent consulting, packing it with down, a high collar, knit cuffs, and left-breast lift-pass pocket.
3. Wigens Bear Claw Gloves. Part of our Biking to Work in Arctic Conditions collection, these are also great for skiing. Every ride up the chair people ask, "Where did you get those?!" Wigens has stopped making them, and instead inexplicably focused their business on newsboy caps, so they're available only on eBay.
4. K2 Mambas Yes, Hart's F17 Fusion are the bump ski standard, but we were unable to resist the '70s colorblock styling on the K2 Mamba "bump killers." (Also they are half the price.) Compared to either the Hart or the K2, today's all-mountain, wide-waisted skis feel like you've strapped on a pair of 2x4s.
5. Bollé 711s Unless it's snowing, we're part of the 1% who still prefer sunglasses over goggles. Our favorites are these Bolle 711s with sideshields, designed for glacier mountaineering. They're just $75 and available at the official MB eyewear outfitter, Allyn Scura.
If you live north of roughly the 40th parallel, tomorrow is opening day at your private club's pool. Here's what we're wearing, alongside a handful of XL G&Ts.
1. Sunglasses Conceived as eyeglasses by designer Allyn Scura, our favorite sunglasses are the Angelo with bottle green lenses. They're simultaneously retro and modern, and comfortable enough to wear from sunrise to sundown. We've invested heavily in sunglass diversification but it has not been money well spent; we almost always end up simply grabbing the Angelos with bottle green lenses. Made in Japan.
2. Swim Trunks. In 11 years we've never made a strong swimwear recommendation despite trying everything from Penguin to Vilebrequin, but we can now: Robinson Les Bains (Oxford Long cut). While these are not nearly as unforgiving as, say, Speedo, there's not much material available for chub concealment. But if you've mixed in some salads in the off-season you're rewarded with a terrific fit and delightful touches like elasticised snap side tabs, a zipped valuables pocket, and depending on the model, a waterproof pouch. Made in France.
As you'd expect, the widest selection is at the Robinson Les Bains store. If you're not into spending 195€ (~$230), keep an eye on YOOX as these pop up often at a fraction of retail.
Bonus: Robinson Les Bains designer Christophe Vérot's 10 Rules of Style. #1: Stay fit, stand tall, and keep your head up.
Fit tip: Being French, these run petit. Order one size up.
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.
Our annual pilgrimage to Lambeau is expected to be colder than we were expecting, with a high of just 52 and low near 40. So we're getting dressed. (As always, check Pourcast to determine what cocktail to be consuming at any day and any time at any place around the globe.)
1. Pants. The best 5-pocket corduroy pants we've ever worn are Uniqlo's Slim Fit Corduroy Jeans. Indeed, you have to be slim and fit to wear these, but as the product description says, they do in fact "create slender, fashionable lines," work during the week, and have the versatility to play on Sundays. We're wearing them in off white. A tremendous value at just $39.90. They're vanity sized about 1 inch in the waist (so size down).
2. Belt. A critical element of our understated fandom gameplan is our own Game Day Belt. Made from the same Horween leather that's used to make the official NFL footballs, and constructed right here in the Twin Cities. Fits perfectly true to size.
3. Shirt. Five years ago we all got this Red Jacket long sleeve anti-jersey and they're still playing in the league. Yes, there is some legibility on the back, but it's the name of perhaps our favorite Packer and MB archetype Paul Hornung, famous less for his football than for his womanizing, drinking, and gambling. Fits true to size. (Lots of other options available from Mike Ditka to Johnny Unitas.)
4. Shoes. Sneakers and exposed ankles are usually the play call for mid-October Packer games, but given the forecast we're audibling into ankle boots. Since our all-time favorite TST chukkas have seemingly gone the way of Peyton Manning's arm strength, we're substituting them for these Joyks with beautiful thick white rubber whitewalls. (We may additionally substitute free-agent white laces.) Fits fractionally small.
5. Vest. We have a thing — bordering on fetish — for goose-down puffer vests. 313, Montecore, and Marville provide the best value, but if you have the cash Duvetica is the way to go. This version — along with a Hall of Fame headbuzz — will stiff-arm the dramatic post-game cool-down, and the blue-and-gold color combo is a subtle, tasteful nod to the Packer throwback jerseys (which the team will be wearing on Sunday). We always size down one for puffer vests, and this is no exception.
We do music festivals about as often as we vote for President, but this Sunday's lineup is irresistible with Galantis (our current fave), The Chainsmokers, ODESZA, Florence + the Machine, and Kygo. (Speaking of the latter, check out his remix of Sexual Healing.)
We need to get dressed.
1. Shorts. These Todd Snyder Navy Plaid Shorts are one of our favorite purchases of 2015. They're a slim fit, so skip if you're currently carrying too much chub or have Tour de France competitor-sized thighs, but these are highly tailored shorts in a fabric with a terrific hand and a stylish, yet understated plaid pattern. We'd even consider paying the original $225 but they're just $59, and 30% off through August 2 with code THIRTYOFF. (That's $41.30.) (Check your size using Todd Snyder's highly-accurate sizing wizard.)
2. Shirt. Like country clubs have a collared shirt policy, Lollapalooza should have a collarless shirt policy. With t-shirts there is a high risk of violating the MB Legibility Principle, but this is easily avoided with this simple New Look T-Shirt with Crew Neck, which is the closest we've come to discovering the perfect white T, and it's 11 bucks. Order one size larger than normal. (New Look is like the UK's GAP, except it's not closing 25% of its stores.)
3. Shoes. Comfort usually trumps style in extreme walking-and-standing situations, but you can get both with these Tretorn Nylites in aurora red chambray, and they're on sale for $45. If some lightweight Millennial sprays on them, no big deal. (These run slightly large.)
4. Sunglasses.Girard 3700s. If you weren't one of the lucky dozen to get a pair of the same frames worn by Bradley Cooper in American Hustle, we have five more pair of the red-framed ones. Not every man is capable of pulling these off, but if that's you, you'll look like a million bucks.
1. Attire We don't always wear underwear, but we do when we're sitting on the sofa at 5AM on a Monday for 7.5 hours of British Open coverage, and we prefer CK One Cotton Stretch Slim Fit Boxers. Slim, yet unconfining, and discreet even under the shortest, tightest, and lowest-rise shots, these have been our favorites virtually since Seve won on a Monday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 1988. They're the best. 2 for $30 at calvinklein.com, but you can always find these at Teej for about half that.
We get a lot of "what should I wear?" questions at Ask the MB, so we thought than on occasion, when we're having an occasion, we'd share what we wear. Articles and accessories will reflect core MB tenets like archaism, Anglophilia, artful dishevelment, and a few others that don't start with the letter A.
The first occasion: A singles match at the club during Wimbledon.
For any tennis played during this fortnight we always channel two of our all-time favorites, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, and split the difference where we can. We also strictly follow the Club's hopelessly vague and wonderfully antiquated "almost entirely white" rule.
1. Shorts. While ATP players' shorts have not yet reached the slacks-like length of the NBA and NCAAB, they're still far too long for our taste. We want zero restriction as we go wide to reach for our opponent's cross-court volley, and tanned thighs nicely accompany a down-the-line winner in response. 4" max inseam here, and cotton of course (principle of organic materials). So we're wearing these Sergio Tacchinis (the McEnroe brand) from a terrific UK eBay shop called honourabletype. Bookmark this one. $43.69.
2. Shirt. McEnroe got the shorts, so naturally Borg gets the shirt. What else but Borg's iconic Fila striped polo with oversize collar and 4-snap placket? $41.99.
3. Shoes We could take the court with the left foot wearing a Borg Diadora and the right foot in a McEnroe Nike, but instead we're opting for the classic style, relative obscurity, and archaism of Pantofola d'Oro low-tops in white. Launched in Ascoli Piceno, Italy in 1886, these are made for the street but hold up great on the court, and no one else wears them. $210.00.