Rapha 3/4 Bib Shorts Review

I’ve had these bibs for about 2 years now.  You can’t tell by looking at them, because they still look like new.

Excuse the garage poseur pics…I don’t have any good pics of them on actual rides.

The shoulder straps are incredibly comfortable.  Despite not having any rubber grippies on them, they stay in place on your shoulders perfectly.

The length of the bibs tends to fall about mid-calf, or a little above.

The chamois is one of the best, most comfortable chamois I’ve ever had.  Notwithstanding 2 years of heavy use, it looks like new and still feels great.

I wear a medium in the bibs…and they’re snug in the legs.  If you just pull them on and go ride, the legs will pull the bibs down and move the chamois in an uncomfortable way.  Over time, I’ve found that when you put the bibs on, it is critical to grab the leg fabric and pull it up firmly…you have to really make sure the legs are up enough that they don’t pull down on the rest of the bibs.  Once they’re in place, they’re perfect and don’t move at all.

Aesthetics are typical Rapha–understated and elegant.

I wear these from the 50s down to the low 40s/upper 30s.  If it’s 35 and it’s going to go up to 50, I wear these.  Some question the need for bib-knickers.  I find that keeping my knees warm is critical to being comfortable on the bike.  If your knees get cold, particularly in damp weather, they don’t feel good.  Knickers help keep you comfortable, without getting too hot, and without any binding or adjustment of knee-warmers.  They’re a great compromise piece for fall/spring riding.

The fabric is what Rapha calls fleece-backed Thermoroubaix; it’s insulating/windproof, but not terribly water-resistant.  If it’s raining, you’re getting wet.  The back of the bibs has some very breathable fabric that makes these comfortable under a jacket or winter jersey.

I’ve tried 3/4 bibs by Capo, Pearl, Rapha, and others…and the Rapha are unquestionably the best.  I should also note that the Pearl bibs, while significantly cheaper, started to unravel at the seams after about a year of use and are not insulated.  The Rapha bibs have been bulletproof.  They’re an investment piece…twice as much as the Pearl bibs, but more versatile, and they’ll last more than twice as long.

One final note on Rapha: I think the post-ride care of these is pretty critical.  I turn mine inside out, and machine wash them (cold) with an extra rinse, and then air-dry them.  They still look like new.  These are the best bib knickers I’ve ever used, and one of the best chamois I’ve ever used.

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Ground Loop

I’m not a terribly good technical rider.  When I ride mountain bikes, to the extent that I’m able to keep up, it is because of my stubbornness and willingness to punish myself in the straightaways, and not because of my ability to demonstrate excellent bike handling abilities.  But I’m looking to improve my abilities–always striving to be better.

Last Wednesday, during the day, I saw a fantastic video of a guy riding a rigid fatbike in a terrain park, and absolutely killing it.  One of the most impressive parts was seeing how he would approach a jump or berm by either doing a natural or a wheelie, picking the front end up, and then just lofting onto the jump.  Hence, Wednesday night on our fatbike ride, I decided to try to learn how to wheelie.

At night.

Clipped in.

In Wolvhammers.

With lobster gloves.

On a carbon fatbike with longish seat stays.

On ice-cold pavement.

Nothing about this went terribly well.

My past experience with trying to wheelie has been just barely lofting the front tire, but not being able to hold it up.  I was advised that you have to pedal harder to loft the front…and after a few unsuccessful tries, I really punched the pedals as I lifted the bars and shifted my weight back.  The front tire rose precipitously, and things looked great.

This happened pretty quickly, and I’m not sure exactly what happened.  Because of the clipped in Wolvhammers, I was unable to unclip and get my feet down.  Because of the lobster gloves, I was unable to grab the brakes quickly (without losing precious grip on the bars).

think what happened was I got my weight too far back, and instead of wheeling, I pulled the whole front of the bike off the ground.  As the bike rotated vertically, I’m pretty sure I spun completely backwards and pulled the rear wheel off the ground as well (at that point, looking like I was riding upside down).  I landed squarely on my spine, on the cold asphalt, still clipped in, the bike still vertical between my legs, my hands still on the bars.  I rotated the bike to the side, and immediately felt the panic that is associated with the feeling of not being able to breathe.

I did a quick self-assessment.  I was conscious, jealously huffing tiny breaths.  I hadn’t hit my head.  I could move my extremities.  Friends came over and grabbed the bike, and tried to move me.  I mumbled a feeble “No…”, and they left me lying, asking if I was alright.  I had the wind knocked out of me, but the pain I had was diffuse.  Bad, but diffuse.  It didn’t feel like anything was broken.  I lay there for a few minutes and then rolled on my side.  That was worse.  I got up.  That was worse still.  I walked for a few seconds, and then got back on my bike.  Everyone asked if I was alright, and I said I was ok.

That night, it hurt to breathe.

The next day, I felt quite a bit better.

The third day, I could barely get out of bed.  A quick trip to the doc and some radiation later, and I can confirm that the escapade cost me three broken ribs.  Left side, towards the back.  None fully broken, none displaced, no threat to the lungs.  Just pain.  Constant pain.  It’s a paradox…you have to breathe to live, but every breath hurts.

I’m writing this with a smile on my face, because I realize how asinine it sounds.  I also realize how asinine it is that I was on the trainer a few days after the fall, keeping my legs up.  The jarring nature of riding on the road is unbearable right now.

I fell, and that sucks, but you know what?  I was able to wheelie.  A little too good perhaps, but a wheelie nonetheless.  And when the weather improves, I’ll do it again.  On a soft surface, with platform pedals and a pillow strapped to my back, but I’ll do it again.

This is also a good time to ask a question: are you prepared for a bike emergency?  If one of your friends ground looped, would you know what to do?  What if she suffered a broken bone, or a spinal fracture?  What if shock was setting in rapidly?  The first impulse in helping another person is to touch them…to move them from wherever they were injured.  That is almost always the wrong impulse.  I’m pretty confident in my ability to respond to an emergency based upon my time as an EMT/Firefighter…but if you’re not, you should give some thought to some first aid or wilderness first aid coursework.  The life you save may be your friend’s.

This blog is about disclosure, so even though this is an embarrassing chapter for me, and despite the fact that it requires disclosing a weakness, I’m publishing this post.  The ground loop.  I do not recommend it.

45NRTH Sturmfist

Click on over to the 45NRTH website to see their new STURMFIST gloves.

If you were at the North Central Cyclery winter clinic last week, you got to see these gloves before they were released.  Literally, a pair was hand courier’d from the factory to NCC for the demo night.

They’re available in 5 finger and 4 finger, with the 4 finger combining your ring and pinky finger…so you still have full shifting/braking, and you get the warmth of the 4 finger design. Bulk is about equivalent to a ski glove with the 4 finger…but you get the benefit of the aerogel insert in the palm and fingers, to provide a complete thermal barrier from cold grip/bars, and from the onslaught of cold wind on the very leading edge of your body.

The Sturmfist look great–and sizing runs pretty true.  I’m a L in most gloves, and a L in the Sturmfist.

Get ‘em while you can.

Whereupon, I sacrifice one of my tenets and espouse Rapha.

In the next few days, I’m going to do something that I’m not entirely comfortable with.  From the outset of this blog several years back, I’ve been a fond supporter of local bike shops, and have spent a considerable amount of time rallying against the onslaught of online retailing.  It’s no secret that my bike transactions occur at one of the greatest local bike shops ever, and I’ve focused my efforts for the most part on reviewing products that are available for purchase at similar local shops.  With rare exception (like the carbon fat fork I reviewed a couple years ago), the products I talk about are LBS friendly, and that’s by choice.  In large measure, it’s a decision based on principle for me.  When I need a tire, there are times when I could order it online, have it within a day or two, and maybe even save a buck or two.  I prefer to go the LBS and buy, and support the careers of some awesome bike industry professionals, notwithstanding the slight increase in cost.

In the next few days, I’m going to talk about some kit from Rapha.  I’m going to talk about it for a few reasons.

First, one of the things that makes me feel better about Rapha is that, in some small way, they try to be local.  You may recall that Rapha came out to the Night Bison this year and made it just a little more awesome.  They do support local events, and when they’re somewhere, they’re typically pretty cool about what they’re doing.  In the interests of full disclosure, the Rapha dude gave me a discount card that I used to buy some of the stuff I’m going to talk about.  If I could be a full-time paid shill, I would totally do so.  For now, a modest discount will have to suffice.

Second, it’s good stuff.  Seriously.  It looks good, it performs well, it has proven to be durable.

Third, I think that Rapha is a direct competitor for the Gore brands that I have come to know and love.  Sure, at retail, the Rapha is significantly more expensive.  But if you watch their site, they do have regular sales and clearances that make owning a few pieces significantly more affordable.

Finally, I’m a sucker for their branding.  I’ll readily admit it–I fall for the Rapha mystique.  Their ride videos, their blog posts…even the aesthetic of their website.

Rapha is very polarizing–I completely get that.  When I first saw Jensen wearing a pink wool jersey in the middle of summer on a 115 mile ride a few years ago, I was the first to question his judgment (but never his impeccable sense of style).  Over time, I’ve come to appreciate just how good their stuff is.  Not all of it perhaps, but everything I’ve tried.

I know it’s expensive, even on clearance.  I regard their pieces as something of an investment.  I’ve had cheap bike jackets that blow a zipper after a year of hard use, and even after repair, are never quite right.  I’ve had nice bibs that perform well, but have one area where the cut and trim is just a little off, leaving me chafed and uncomfortable after a day of riding.  For me, I’d rather pay a little extra at the outset to have a piece that will last a very long time, and perform without equal.

Haters gonna hate–I certainly know it.  And yes, even I’m a little reluctant to embrace a brand that is only available to me via a plane ticket or an online purchase.  But I use Rapha products, and I’m going to talk about my experiences with them.  Maybe, just maybe, they’ll start selling through a select few local bike shops.

The Burrito Bandito

Way back in the day, some three years ago now, we had an idea to do a kinda crazy nighttime ride.  Because of the peculiar ride food choices that some people made, the ride became known as the Burrito Bandito.  At the outset, everyone tried to look stoic and disinterested.  Except for Chad.  He’s always interested.

There was quite a collection of bikes.  At the left was Eric’s mountain bike, then my first Mukluk, although I didn’t ride it that night.  Then Chad’s Mukluk (which he rode), then my Ti Vaya, then Halverson’s Ti La Cruz, then Joel’s steel Vaya.  Man, I don’t think that Muk was ever that clean again.

We headed out into the night, looking for a fun ride, and hoping to hit some utility roads that had been recently installed.  Hijinks soon followed.

There was a lot of stopping.  For hydration purposes.

There were ghosts in the trees.

Man, there was a lot of crap on the Vaya.

If I recall correctly, there was a bottle of port in the frame bag.

I have no idea what we were doing here…

Then, we traversed some crazy mud roads, and Halverson decided to blow out his rear derailleur on his new (literally new…never before ridden) Ti La Cruz.

After some efforts at rendering the bike single speed…

We decided that wasn’t going to happen…but alas, we were about 8 miles from town.  What to do?

Vaya to the rescue.

I didn’t capture any pictures of the actual towing, but here’s the aftermath.  (Did I mention the road was muddy?)  We looped a tube around my septets, and around Halverson’s handlebars, and I towed him back into town on his oversized coaster bike.  It certainly took a while, but we eventually got back…and the towing story became a part of the local folklore.

I haven’t had many other chances to ride with Eric or Joel, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the intervening three years with Chad and with Halverson.  This past weekend, Halverson moved on to an amazing opportunity in Oregon, and our local cycling community is the worse for it.  We will miss him, but wish him the very best.

For me, the ride was an eye-opener.  I was amazed that Chad could ride a fatbike that far (not knowing what the future held for me).  I was amazed that I could pull Halverson back to town.  I was amazed at how much fun we had riding at a slower pace.  I was amazed at what night biking in the country had to offer.  I was amazed by how much alcohol five cyclists could transport on bikes.  I was amazed at what ridiculous routes Chad could put together.  (And in retrospect, I am amazed at how much of a fred I look like).

There were some crazy rides before, and many since.  The Burrito Bandito, however–it was one of the defining moments of my “early” riding.  It was one of the moments that transitioned me from a hobbyist into a serious cyclist.  It was one of the first rides that was both challenging and super-fun…and one of the rides that pushed me towards my current lifestyle.

I’m reminded of this because of a recent comment from one of my close friends about the difference between racing bikes and riding bikes.  All of my most memorable moments on a bike have been during rides.  At heart, I’m a cyclist, not a racer.  The Burrito Bandito shall forever live in infamy.

Superfish (Salsa Spearfish) For Sale

If you follow the blog, you know how obsessively I build and maintain my bikes.  My beloved Salsa Spearfish is currently available for purchase.

Salsa Spearfish 1, fully loaded. ENVE 29XC rims, set up tubeless with Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires (like new). Cannondale carbon lefty with 110mm of travel and remote lockout, set up with a Project 321 tapered steerer adapter. ENVE DH handlebars with Ergon grips. Salsa carbon seatpost. Shimano XTR-Ice brakes. The ENVE rims have the best spokes in the world (Sapim CX-Ray), laced to a DT240 rear and a Project 321 front hub. Ergon SM3 Pro saddle. 

Size is Medium. 600mm effective top tube. I’m 6′, and normally ride a 56cm road bike. You wouldn’t want to be taller than that on this bike.

Drivetrain is currently a XX grip shift, Type 2 (clutched) X0 rear derailleur, 11-36 Sram XX cassette, and SRAM XX1 crankset with an MRP 34T bling ring. If you’d prefer 2x, I’ll throw in the original double crankset and front derailleur/shifter. Also, it has a super-blingy red/black KMC DLC X10SL chain.

This also has an upgraded, Kashima Coated CTD shock. The complete bike weighs 23 pounds. Pedals not included. Note that for optimal clearance of the Lefty, I’m running a Salsa stem (and not a Thomson stem shown in pictures).

You can see the build progression on my blog.

Why a Spearfish?

Spearfish 1 Review.

Spearfish V23.4

Gripshift Spearfish


Project 321 Lefty Installation

Project 321 Lefty Update No. 1

Project 321 Lefty Spearfish Update

Further Project 321 Lefty Update

Seriously, this is an amazing bike. I am not thrilled about selling it, but at this moment, that’s the right thing for me to do. The wheels alone retail for $2600. You can have the whole bike, complete, for $4,000. I’m open to reasonable offers, via private message. Free shipping to CONUS at that price. Contact me with any questions.

Seriously hot bike. It will be missed.