15 Months with the Vulpine Long Sleeve Merino T-Shirt

I’ve had my Vulpine Long Sleeve Merino T-Shirt for two winter seasons now. It’s time to discuss how it is holding up beyond first impressions. In a word: brilliantly.

No pilling, no tears, no holes, no stink… what more would you want from a baselayer.

That’s what the shirt is to me, I wear it almost exclusively under my Sugoi RSE NeoShell Jacket. The Vulpine shirt is thus in rotation with two merino Patagonia zip-tees of different weights.

I don’t generally wear any of these on their own because I find that the wind blows through them and I feel cold with just a wool layer. I have been thinking about adding a windproof gillet to my selection and then might wear wool jerseys as a single layer on my arms more often. While the wool is knitted tightly enough that it is quite smooth and comfortable on the skin, it is loose enough to let the wind through. Surely that’s a bonus when wearing the shirt under a jacket to add breathability, but that’s in part why I don’t really end up wearing it on its own a whole lot.

In the meantime, however, the Vulpine shirt keeps me nice and warm under the water/wind-proof jacket, but not sweaty. Given the open neck, it’s my go-to baselayer in not-so-cold weather. The construction of the seams around the shoulders is very comfortable and not in the way in any riding position under any version of a jacket.

The wool is holding up VERY well. No pilling, not wear as far as I can tell. The overall quality is really terrific even after months of daily use. I wash the shirt in a primitive N American toploader then hang-dry so not particularly gentle in treating it, but there is no sign of wear even on elbows, no loose threats. This quality (rather than functionality) would justify the price entirely in my mind.

The blue colour has also stayed true all along. It continues to be much more handsome a shirt than I am or than my bike is.

Some more critical thoughts:

  • As I noted in my first impressions, the sleeves are a little too short. Off the bike, they are just right, but in a riding position, they leave my wrists uncovered which I don’t like much. [Yes, a bit of a theme, i.e. I like to stay warm!] While I am quite tall (1,96m), most of that height is in my legs and I don’t order long sleeves on dress shirts, for example, so it seems like the proportions on the sizing are a bit off for my body type.
  • Likewise, the longer back is also not very long. Worn by itself (i.e. not tucked in) the shirt covers the edge of whatever pants I’m wearing, but not much more.
  • I have never used the pocket on the back, in part because I mostly wear the shirt as a baselayer, but also because the most likely items would be keys or a wallet and those either would likely rip the pocket (keys) or don’t fit (wallet)
  • As I wear the shirt under a jacket, the reflector on the back pocket is also turning out to be less essential than I would have anticipated.
  • I do like my neck warm, so I wouldn’t mind a slightly closer collar.

Bottom line: Definitely high quality and very nice to wear. As it turns out for my use as a baselayer, some the functionality is not necessary.

 

Betabrand Bike-to-Work Pants

Betabrand is another one of those brands that I’ve been keeping an eye on for their bike-specific hipster ware. So, when they were having one of their sales (sign up for their newsletter or follow on Twitter) I jumped in and ordered olive bike-to-work pants.

The main attraction to the brand is, er, the brand. Hip, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but functional and good looking.

Well, the bike-to-work pants didn’t really turn out to be a winner.

I ordered them in 36, my usual side, but the waist was a bit big, while the thighs (I do commute by bike after all) were tight. The sizing was odd since I also ordered one of their beautiful cordarounds in a 36, but that was too small.

The bike-to-work pants weren’t massively too large, but I would have needed a belt off the bike which means wearing the belt on the bike and that’s just not that comfortable.

In the end, I was also a bit underimpressed by the bike functionality and the quality.

I had ordered “olive” but my order confirmation already said “mushroom”. The pictures of olive looked like a light green, but the colour turned out to be a pretty bland, meh shade of, well, mushroom.

Because the fit wasn’t right, I didin’t quite try them riding on the bike, but the coverage in the back seemed adequate. The cut didn’t seem obviously conducive to riding.

The reflective flap that folds out of the left rear pocket is terrific. Nice to have a bikeware item designed for right-hand-drive traffic too.

But that’s pretty much it for bike features, i.e. lower-in-front-higher-in-back, no seams to sit on and pocket and rolled-up-pant reflectors. Terrific and new a coupl of years ago, but so-so now.

Finally, I just wasn’t that impressed with the quality given loft prices of US$100+ (pre-sale). The pants really seemd liked a pretty regular pair of chinos that could have been Dockets or some similar ho-hum brand.

Obviously, I can’t report on durability and fit on the bike, since I returned them…

 

First Impressions: Vulpine Rain Shorts

It’s the first day of Spring in Vancouver. Appropiately, my Vulpine shorts arrived today to usher in the end of another rainy season. Also an appropriate time to take up the blogging call again after a long break.

I’d been looking at these shorts for quite a while after having noticed Vulpine for their merino shirt.

I have two pairs of cycling jeans, one pair of knickers, so shorts were the next obvious steps.

Wow, are these shorts a quality product and wow, do I look good in them if I say so myself.

Everything seems thought out in terms of design and functionality.

The fit is right on. I ordered an XL (=36″ waist) and they fit just right.

The epic fabric is soft and fairly slippery; feels good.

Features:

  • hook in the right front pocket for keys
  • hidden zipper pocket in left front pocket
  • reflectors on outside at bottom of leg (seems like a great spot for shorts and they are discrete yet give me the sense that I will be visible)
  • low cut in the front to sit on the bike
  • right rear pocket with magnet closure
  • the flap on the rear pocket folds up to reveal a bright green patch and reflector underneath
  • inside the waistband is a rubberized strip that will keep the shorts from sliding

Design:

  • “indigo” means purple, but it’s actually a very nice colour
  • terrific how much thought someone has given the seams which appear in contrasting green on the inside, and the zippers which are red
  • the V-shape on the main button is also a nice touch

Obviously, these are not cheap, so I waited for Vulpine’s second anniversary event to off-set the price a little.

No thoughts on the epic fabric yet other than it’s nice feel. I’m not sure that I really need rain-resistant shorts. In Vancouver either it’s the rainy season (Nov – March) and kind of too cold to wear shorts, or it’s shorts-weather and thus rarely rainy.

Also, will have to see how they wear with regular use (I still commute every day).

Only concern so far is one that a reviewer mentioned as well, i.e. that the seam in the back is not elastecized, so there’s some risk of exposure depending on the shirt I’m wearing.

Update some weeks later:

Some nice early Spring weather has given me a chance to try the shorts out on the bike. Great! The “slipperiness” of the fabric makes them very comfortable, though I can definitely feel the thigh seam. They are not restrictive in the thigh, but definitely not loose. Coverage on the lower back is a bit of an issue because the seam isn’t elasticized.

The hook in the front right pocket actually works for my key chain.

 

 

 

First Impression Muxu Socks

I’m not a big fan of the socks-that-dont-even-cover-your-ankle genre, esp. in winter. Is there some particular reason bicyclist want their ankles cooled?

Even though I don’t particularly like these short socks, even the ones that barely go over your ankle, that’s pretty much what’s available for riding.

At least the Muxu Ride Sock comes with the added bonus of a reflective stripe on the heel.  That way the sock is no longer your, er, Achilles heel of visibility, I guess. The socks themselves are a nice blue tone (there is also a black model) and feel quite nice on your feet. They are neither particularly thick, nor particularly thin and a wool-synthetic blend.

I haven’t been able to ask a motorist who was approaching from behind how visible the reflective stripe is, but it’s literally woven into the fabric in a criss-cross-pattern and is lasting through washes just fine.

These will be particularly nice in the summer with shorts, I think, as the dayglo green velcro bands around the ankles are a safety-only-beauty-be-damned accessory with shorts.

Unlike many other current socks, they don’t come as a rightie and leftie and aren’t overly engineered for fit, but just a regular, handsome sock.

First Impressions Craft Winter Hat

I do wear a thin hat under the helmet almost every day in the Fall/Winter. I find that a hat absorves enough of the rain that I don’t need a helmet cover and soaks up sweat nicely as well. I’ve had my current hat for some years, I don’t even quite remember where I bought it or what brand it is.

It’s functional with a bit lighter fabric on the sides of my head, presumably for breathability. It does cover my ears, though I have to tug on it occasionally to make sure that it stays put. It’s not particularly warm or wind-proof, though gets the job done.

I thought I could use a step up from that in warmness and opted for the Craft Winter Hat. When the hat arrived in the mail, I was surprised that it was not as substantial or fleecy as I had expected given the name. The section that would cover the forehead is a different fabric which makes a lot of sense to me given that that is exactly where the most wind and rain is likely to “arrive”.

However, the forehead section was a bit loose in this L sizing. When I tucked the hat under my helmet and road around the block, this looseness was immediately palatable in some wind sneaking in under the bottom edge. The earflaps were also creeping upwards because the edge on the neck comes down to low, so with my head leaning back as I’m looking up, that edge pushes up.

I’m not sure whether these are issues that would be different in a size down, but I’m returning the hat for now, perhaps another item that’s better bought in person rather than on-line.

First Impressions Vulpine Long Sleeve Merino T-Shirt

I forget now where I came across Vulpine as a brand, I think it was on a bike blog that I follow. The website and the products had an immediate appeal even within the crowding market for functional merino clothing for bicyclists and other sporty types.

I have been wearing Patagonia zip neck wool baselayers, one thinner, one thicker in the winter and thought that an additional long sleeve would be nice.

I ordered the long-sleeve merino t-shirt in navy large.

The colour is beautiful actually and the logo and pocket on the back offer a very nice accent. Straight out of the alwaysriding envelope, I thought this looked very nice. The fit is also quite good for me, snug, but not tight. The longer back is appreciated as it will be nice when I wear the shirt on its own, but is short/thin enough to push into shorts/rainpants when I’m wearing the t-shirt under a jacket.

I had to wear the shirt the next day, of course, and it performed as well as expected under my rain jacket. No bunching anywhere, nice on the skin.

I would not that the L sleeves are not long, i.e. they don’t cover the wrists. Under a rain jacket there are two obvious options for a baselayer in my mind, long enough to cover the wrist, ideally with a thumb loop at that point, or short enough that the shirt doesn’t get in the way of the cuff/glove nexus. This t-shirt is clearly of the latter variety. I also probably prefer the longer sleeves, especially with a thumb loop, but this slightly shorter sleeve will probably be nice when wearing the shirt on its own.

All in all, first impressions are very positive. Note however, that the button on the pocket on the back fell off in the first wash which is a little disappointing. I will review how the shirt holds up over the coming weeks/months of wearing it in a coming post.

P.S. (later in December 2012): My wife was kind enough to sew the button back on and both alwaysriding and Vupline reacted very promptly to my note about the button. Great service!

Initial Impressions Muxu Jeans

A second item in my recent order from Muxu was their cycling jeans.

I have owned a pair of Swrve jeans for a while now and really love them. Very comfortable on the bike and off, stylish and with thoughtful bike details.

So, how about the Muxu variant? Definitely a keeper!

They are dark blue denim and definitely a bit stretchier than other bike jeans I’ve tried. But fear not, they don’t look at all like my daughters’ jeggings, but like proper jeans. Stitching is grey, but blue at the waist and for the button hole. Branding is very subtle on the left front pocket.

Funnily, just like Swrve they have a very cheerful pocket liner on the inside, though not daisies but graphic versions of the brand.

The cut is a loose, but not baggy jeans cut with the articulated knees that are typical of bike jeans.

Four regular pockets (two front, two back) with an additional pocket offset forward of the back right pocket. This is meant for small items like cell phones etc. I like the fact that it is outside of the back pocket (unlike on the Swrve jeans) so that I keep trying to shove my wallet into this pocket. If I did own a cell phone, it seems like this would be a really nice pocket since it’s offset to the side, so you wouldn’t be sitting on the phone. I did borrow my wife’s cell phone the other day just to try and thought that the stretchiness might work against using this pocket a bit because it felt like the phone might well work its way out of the pocket.

Riding comfort is definitely high, the no-seam-crotch is great. Stretchiness is also welcome.

In the first couple of days that I had the jeans, the rainy season hadn’t quite started yet, so I wore them a fair bit. They are quite comfortable on their own or even under rain pants. Not excessively tight, but not flapping around either.

One of the bike features is that there is a reflective X sewn into the inside of the right leg as is the case with a number of other casual bike pants and jeans. Not sure that Muxu got this quite right though. The X only starts fairly high on the leg, so you have to roll it up fairly far. Also, one leg only? I can’t imagine that it costs that much to sew this X in, so why not in both legs so you can roll up the left as well, especially for us right-hand-riders as that is our leg that’s “in traffic”. I think a long straight strip might also work better with different roll-up lengths or a longer X if that is part of the branding.

Muxu 3/4 Shorts

Charcoal 3/4 pants in size 36 were part of my first Muxu order.

I had been eyeing some Swrve shorts for some time and my wife had bought me one of the models of knickers for my birthday. However, they were a) generally too skinny, and b) missing that essential (for my body type) feature of a high cut in the back as I am neither of an age nor in a physical shape that I want to display any lower back cleavage to the world. After returning that pair, I was hoping for another colour for a pair that I had tried on at on the Rivet, but like my salvage jeans, these still hadn’t arrived after four months, so I had to look elsewhere.

My first impression of the Muxu 3/4 shorts was very positive (partly because I was excited to receive them and excited that the shipping was so speedy). When I tried them on, however, they were quite snug. I guess this is generally the fashion for bike wear and the snugness looks good on the website photos. It also felt nice because the Lycra fabric feels soft and natural, but also immediately warm. The length takes the 3/4 shorts about 10 cm beyond the knee and when I tried them on, I was a little worried that they’d be tight around the knee.

The impression of snugness was confirmed further when I tried on a Muxu jeans of the same size that was significantly roomier. Snugness in the shorts is not necessarily around the waist (though tighter than jeans here as well), but rather around between waist and thigh and around knee. One of the signs of this snugness that I’m not so fond off is that the zipper tab stands not to stay flat, but sticks out as you wear the shorts.

The colour is actually quite nice in that it doesn’t look like spandex bike wear even though the fabric has give. I would be curious how much the fabric will bleach in the sun.

Overall design is also subtle in that the branding is attractive and not terribly visible. The top seam of the back pockets is very horizontal and looks like a seam rather than pockets. Nice! The extra pocket for a lock, phone, or pump might be useful, but these are not items that I carry in my pocket, so they don’t add much to the shorts for me.

I did leave the shorts on for a test-seat on my bike and was immediately surprised that the tightness in the knees that I feared when I just put them on was actually quite comfortable on the bike. Same with the snug fit around the upper end of the calf. I hadn’t tried a length like this on the bike and immediately liked it. The weather here in Vancouver has been turning a bit chillier recently and the shorts felt warm. I was also pleased to note that the cut in the back is sufficiently high for full coverage.

However, the snugness around the waist/thigh does seem to turn into tightness when I’m on the bike. Hm… even though I quite like these shorts and like them better than others I had tried on, they are a bit too tight for my taste and I returned them for a refund.

The tightness is also a factor in that I couldn’t wear long underwear underneath these shorts. That makes some sense as they are not really meant for weather (not particularly wind or water resistant), so can’t really fault the shorts for this, but it’s an option I want to have with half the year of riding here in Vancouver spent either wet or threatening to get wet.

I like the deep front pockets a lot, but given the snug fit of the shorts, the bottom edges of the pockets make for pronounced lines mid-thigh, especially while in a riding position.

Muxu items generally seem to have fewer bike-specific details than some other makes, suggesting that this may be a focus more on design rather than on technical specifics. In the 3/4 shorts that means that the bike-specificity is primarily in the fabric, the no-seam-crotch and the low-front-high-back cut. The latter in particular is important to me. The lack of additional features may be in part due to the fabric and its likely purpose in warmer weather riding where reflectiveness may also not be an issue because it might be light.

Given the Barcelona mention in the Muxu tag line, however, those late Spanish dinners will likely see you riding home in the dark, so some reflective details would be welcome.

P.S. (Dec 2012):

Muxu has now come out with the Tempest 3/4 Shorts. The “cut is slim, but not skinny (it’s much less fitted than Muxu’s Ride shorts)”. Sounds like it might just be what I’m looking for given the too skinny cut of the regular 3/4 shorts.

First Ride Gore Oxygen GT AS

Just in time for Vancouver’s “Bike to Work Week” I’ve decided that I didn’t want to wait any longer and get wait in my old winter/rain jacket.

On the expert advice of Karen (on the Rivet), I bought a Gore Oxygen GT AS. The main selling point (beyond the advice and reports of other happy commuters) was the lightness, waterproofness and breathability of the fabric, Active Gore-Tex.

My main doubts and criteria not fulfilled that I was looking for: double-zipper, some kind of pocket, pit zipper, velcro closures, many reflective patches.

I was delighted to see “Engineered in Germany” stamped in the jacket and the “Made in Turkey” is just fine with me as well.

So, early Monday morning and lo and behold it’s raining (this is Vancouver in almost-November after all). Over the weekends I saw some reports from German football (Bayern finally lost) that featured games in snow already and parts of Canada have had snow for weeks now, of course, so not complaining too much about the rain. It was welcome today in any case as it gave me an opportunity to wear the new jacket.

Here are impressions from the first ride:

  • the jacket is obviously super light. Really quite amazing compared to my previous jacket.
  • The snug cut makes it feel even more like you’re just standing there in a t-shirt and I was wondering whether that would be a good thing.
  • Speaking of the cut, this is the only garment I own, I think, that is an XXL. Seems like they got the sizing scale slightly wrong.
  • The main zipper tab is fairly small, so best to zip up before putting on the gloves.
  • The cuffs stretch very nicely across the (gloved) back of the hand, this seems like a really good fit.
  • The grey letter on the sleeve (supposedly this is reflective despite the grey colour) turns up on the arm so even if it is very reflective, it won’t do much good except for to warn helicopters with searchlights, perhaps.
  • The tail stretches nicely down across the bum, both standing but even more so sitting.
  • When sitting on the bike, the fit is really good! Tight in all the right places, but not pulling. Quite a surprise as I was skeptical initially.
  • You notice how good the fit is when you sit up straight (“Look, ma, no hands!”) and the cut is no longer ideal.
  • I’m not fond looking at black sleeves (in this grey, semi-dark morning), but am somewhat reassured by the red of the main body of the jacket (unfortunately, green was sold out).
  • One of the best things about jacket/fit is the collar. It has a stretchy part in the back that goes up the neck a little and this certainly seems to work well. No cold air coming in at the collar, nor rain, but at the same time it feels much less tight (when turning the head) than my previous jacket.
  • The only iffy spot in the fit: the jacket is quite short. Of course, that means it’s nicely out of the way at the hips, but I thought I felt a bit of a draft of air coming in on my sides, heading for kidney areas. Remember, as a German, I’m particularly susceptible to drafts.
  • Water pearls in very small beads on the fabric.
  • The zipper for the cuffs is placed just right, down on the inside where you could keep it open for the intended venting function.
  • Now, the big questions: waterproof? Yes, absolutely. It wasn’t a severe downpour, but for part of the right it did rain hard.
  • Breathability: hm… Definitely a bit moist on should blades, pecs, pits. But, admittedly, I wore one layer to think underneath, a thicker merino layer, rather than the lighter layer that would have been more appropriate, but is in the wash. So no verdict on that quite yet, just some doubts.
  • Arrived at work, the water shook off and I am not at all worried about putting on a clammy jacket late this afternoon.

Muxu

This is laying the groundwork for more product reviews, by writing a little bit about the company that makes 3/4 shorts that I will review soon…

I can’t remember how I came across Muxu cycling clothes (http://www.muxu.cc | @muxubarcelona), but I kept oogling their website for some months. When my Swrve order through favourite local bike store, on the Rivet, kept not arriving even after four months, I decided to take the plunge and ordered jeans, 3/4 shorts, and a riding shirt from Muxu.

The website is very straightforward to navigate, functional and also fairly comprehensive.

The order arrived in exactly a week even though a Canadian national holiday came in the middle of that period, definitely good shipping service especially given that it’s free.

I continue to be a bit puzzled by the tag line, “Barcelona Inspired Cycle Wear”. I haven’t been to Barcelona since the 1992 Olympics and can’t recall any particularly stylish cyclists then, but that was before the days of fashionable bike clothes, or really any bike clothes other than those classic bright yellow plastic ponchos we had as kids.

Curious about the tag line, I tweeted at them and received the prompt reply that they mostly manufacture in Portugal except for their jeans which are made in Taiwan. Shipping is clearly from the UK, so that’s where “they” seem to be based, but I haven’t really dug further to find out more.

I have recently ordered a copy of “Urban Cyclist”, a new magazine, which has a feature on Muxu, so perhaps I’ll learn more from that.

Reviews: