Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gear Selection Part I

“I am bored I got nothing to do. I’m gonna take a retard to the zoo!” - The Dead Milkmen

Not that I am an expert by any means, I figured that maybe I should document the loads of crap that I have purchased as I stumbled my way to what works for me. In order to give some sort of order to this, I will start with my head and move downward.

Helmets – Since a helmet goes on top of your head it falls first on my list. I have had the pleasure (?) of owning several helmets and breaking a few. Most helmets available will “get the job done” most of the time. The helmet’s job is to sacrifice it’s life in hopes of reducing the grade of your concussion during a crash. Helmet fit and fashion is a very personal topic. What works for one person may not work for others.

For trail riding my helmet of choice has been the Giro Xen. It has nice vents for cooling and fits my head well. I have owned a few of these helmets and they have protected my head well. The adjustable visor is handy but tends to fall down at times (read during extremely bumpy fast descents). The retention system is good, but I have had some issues with the “snap” where the plastic attaches to the helmet. When the helmet is tight they can pop loose. Being someone with a receding hair line (no not quite as bad as Leipheimer) I have had the problem of “vent spots”. These are dark spots that correlate with the location of vents in my helmet, they can be embarrassing and are probably the most conspicuous tan lines one could have. I have also purchased a Specialized Decibel helmet for my wife. She seems to like the helmet. It has a removable visor so you can look like a roadie if you like. Her biggest complaint about this helmet, and most helmets for that matter, is that her sunglasses don’t seem to fit quite right with the helmet on. Her complaint has something to do with the earpiece/helmet/strap interface. The only reason I mention this is because it is aggravating for me when I want to ride and it seems like she is messing with her glasses/helmet for like forever! (or 4 minutes, I am so impatient!)

For playing around or jumping I had purchased a 661 Dirt Lid. This helmet seemed to fit like shoes that are 4 sizes too big. It wasn’t very comfortable and flopped around on my head. It is a strange coincidence that I only wore it once to go to the local BMX track. I crashed on a big table top and my head slammed on the ground. The foam inside compressed and did it’s job. I don’t think I will buy another one to replace it.

For DH racing I have a Giro Remedy. I guess I own this helmet for a pretty dumb reason. It was cheap. Lots of my racing friends have Troy Lee helmets and claim that an expensive helmet will protect their heads better. I don’t know if that is true, but if it is I should have a Troy Lee also, but I have a hard time spending money on something you throw away after one good crash. I also owned one of the early Specialized Deviant helmets. It didn’t last very long as I crashed in a practice run at one of my first DH races and broke it. I suffered a pretty good concussion so I don’t rate that helmet very high.

There are several items that we have worn under (or over) our helmets for one reason or another.
-Halo makes a sweat band that is designed to direct sweat away from the front of your head to keep it from going in your eyes. I have found that they work, but can be ineffective if you sweat like crazy (me).
-I have also made some makeshift head/neck covers to aid in reducing sunburn. What I have done was to cut an old T-shirt so that the sleeve would fit over my head, while a portion of the front or back of the shirt would drape over my neck/ears. I call it a “Fake Mullet” and it works but looks funny (kind of like a real mullet).
-During the summer when the flies are really bad we have used bug nets (purchased at the local camping store) placed over the helmet/head to keep from having the bugs drive us mad. There is nothing worse than suffering up some ridiculous climb in the heat of summer and having 1,000 flies swarming your face and ears. We almost always have bug nets in our packs during the summer!
-In the winter on really cold or wet days I have used a shower cap placed over my helmet to reduce the chill. This can be quite effective although it does look funny.
-Another cold weather must have is a Pearl Izumi Skull Cap (don’t know if that is what they call them but I will call it what I want in my blog). These little items can really save your head and ears on long cold descents in the winter.

I have also seen cyclists using hats under their helmets. I am guessing that they do this to eliminate sun burn through the vents and on their noses, but I just can’t wrap my head around wearing a hat under a helmet. It seems to me that it would completely negate the effectiveness of vents in your helmet?

To round off this blog I will discuss eyewear. In my opinion eyewear is an absolute must have for riding. On the trail there are all sorts of sticks and objects that could get into your eye, which is painful but most likely less so than the high speed crash that would most likely follow! On the road there is always some sand or gravel being kicked up from wheels in front of you and once again the ensuing crash is worse than the grain of sand that got in your eye. So for most of my riding I have a pair of Specialized sunglasses. They work well and were cheap. For night rides I like to have the cheapo glasses with interchangeable lenses. I also have a pair of regular clear safety glasses that I can use at night. For DH racing I usually use goggles (although sometimes I wear sunglasses because they are more comfortable). Goggles seem to be pretty much the same across the board, but having tinted lenses is usually a plus, as is having the ability to run tear-offs for muddy conditions.

So that about covers the head stuff I think.

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