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.
We've written about these fantastic gloves four times over the past dozen years (which is a lot since we post about quarterly). When we get around to publishing the MB Hall of Fame they'll be an original member. And now, thanks to a price-drop notification from our price-tracking app (still in alpha) they're just $85.95. Since 2012 we haven't paid a dime less than $125. Buy them; you'll love them.
If, like at least one reader, you're concerned about whether rabbits have suffered in these gloves' production, they have. But if it makes you feel any better, we learned from Fratelli Orsini they provide Gauls nutritional value before being turned into ridiculously luxe and cozy glove lining: "...the rabbit fur comes from either France or Belgium where rabbits are used as a food source and therefore the pelts are used for gloves and other garments."
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.
Q: I have my eye on a pair of those rabbit fur-lined gloves you endorse as an xmas gift to myself. I know it might not be totally MB to care about how the rabbit fur gets inside, but I've seen a couple of PETA rabbit fur videos and don't want any part of them if they're made using that technique. Please tell me they're free-range rabbits and are only used for glove lining after they die of natural causes. —Ben
A: Ben, would you like us to tell you that there's a Santa Claus too?
Sorry, we can't sugarcoat it. But at least the answer we can give you is not as awful as what you might be expecting after watching those videos, which document what PETA saw at some angora rabbit farms in China.
Here's what Fratelli Orsini told us when we asked about the source of the rabbit fur they use in the gloves:
The shell of the glove is Italian lambskin and the rabbit fur comes from either France or Belgium where rabbits are used as a food source and therefore the pelts are used for gloves and other garments.
In other words, if you're okay with wearing a leather belt that comes from a farm-raised cow that ended up as a hamburger, you might find the gloves acceptable too. If not, you will have to continue your quest for free-range fur. If you choose that course, let us know how it goes.
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.
Q: I was all set to pick up a pair of the MB-approved Kombi Captain Freedom gloves for a ski trip in Jackson Hole, when I discovered that the folks at Kombi have altered the design. (new one here: http://www.snowshack.com/detail/SNW+KB-30324+L). It's like New England getting rid of the Pat Patriot helmet. Some things just don't make sense. Nonetheless, the gloves are still pretty sweet. Do you approve? —Andrew
A: What's worse? New England getting rid of Pat Patriot or Tampa Bay abandoning the winking pirate Bucco Bruce? We say the latter by a nautical mile.
At any rate, we were completely joking about wearing the Kombi Captain Freedom gloves for skiing. (Though we weren't joking at all about wearing the Naked and Famous Snowpant Denim; they are terrific for banging bumps.)
What we're wearing this year is Wigens bearclaw gloves (bottom). Made in Sweden, these not only protect your fingers from Jack Frost, they also double as part of a Halloween costume if you're dressed as a black bear. 100% goat leather plus 100% rabbit on the outside, the only problem with these is they're too warm.
Q: It's starting to get a bit cold outside. What do you think about fingerless gloves? --Tom
A: Fingerless gloves are great if you're either a street vendor or bum, since they provide the necessary dexterity to make a hot dog or fish a beer can out of the trash. MBs have no need for doing either, and prefer to keep the extremes of their extremities encased in cashmere, or better yet, fur. The latter are a little hard to come by these days but we've been satisfied with the Fratelli Orsini option at leatherglovesonline.com and they're just 82 bucks.
Not so much a tip as props: needing a new pair of gloves, I scanned the archives for this. Sent the link on to the gift-giver late in the season (12/21) and damned if the (awesome) gloves didn't arrive in time for Xmas morning. Also, the gloves are phenomenal. So thanks for the killer tips, and keep up the good work! --Andy
A: Yes, in spite of having perhaps the most prosaic company name on the entire internet, Leather Gloves Online has some excellent product at a good value. We recommend anything lined with rabbit fur. Once you go bunny, even cashmere-lined gloves feels like you're slumming it. In fact, besides being pets, the rabbit's primary reason for existence is to line an MBs accessories and sweaters.
2 parts Germain-Robin Craft Method brandy
1 part Cointreau
1 part fresh lemon juice
Lightly shake with ice, then pour into a ice-filled rocks glass. Based on your tastes, brandy choice, and strength of the lemon juice, you should adjust the Cointreau and lemon juice to find proper balance.