How Machines for Freedom was born from frustration…

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I wish I had the woman-power of CyclingTips and Total Women’s Cycling to bring you stories like this one first-hand but alas, I’m a one-woman show over here. So thanks to sites like these for being excellent resources.

This story developed because CyclingTips is now selling Machines for Freedom in their Emporium. A Southern California brand built by women for women.

Read the full story here.

 

Giro Introduces First Boa Enabled Lace-Up Shoe

http___coresites-cdn_factorymedia_com_twc_wp-content_uploads_2016_08_J6A4701OMG THIS. It address all the concerns of my Giro Empire W ACC review and it’s white. Thanks for the first review Total Womens Cycling!

First Ride: Giro Introduce First Boa Enabled Lace Up Shoe

Sockturday: The Wonderful Socks

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The Wonderful Socks. What a great name, don’t you think?

Every single Wonderful Sock tells a story inspired by the achievements of great sportspeople, whether a race or a single extraordinary sporting event. ‘Bubba’ is a tribute to Forrest Gump’s epic run across the USA. ‘Arenberg’ is a celebration of the Paris-Roubaix race, also known as the Enfer du Nord. ‘Seoul 1988’, an homage to Gelindo Bordin’s Olympic Marathon Gold Medal. ‘The Climb’, a poem to all cyclists who love to climb mountains.

Each pair is made in Italy and designed by world-class creative talents, so when you put on a pair of Wonderful socks you feel inspired to be as great as those they are named after.

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What is your favorite TWS sock/shoe combo?
Giro Empire Slx, we love shoes with laces, and all the collection of TWS, it depend on what day we go for training.
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Do you adhere to the height rules or answer demand instead?
Yes we do. We love 6” long cycling socks. We love 6” long socks also for running. They are a show off accessories and there is much more space where you can design the patterns!

Do you make your own socks or do you use another company to manufacture your designs?
We concept and design the socks. Another company produce them with a know how in manufacturing technical socks. All in Italy.
14064095_1777546249194972_8913730516064578477_n Why do you think cycling socks are so much fun to wear/design?
Because the socks is an accessories that give you personality, style. You can easily show off. And unveil your nature.
14053948_1775325952750335_3043799629565918295_n Why do you not offer a women’s sock different from a men’s? Oftentimes, especially for smaller footed women the design is off when worn and there may be rubbing inside a shoe from seams that are not quite right.
Our socks are for men and women. We have three sizes, S M and L, this is to avoid rubbing inside a shoe from seams, blisters, bad length and give the best wearability. Quality and design are priorities.
13912765_1770765816539682_2712252182894953441_n Do you consider mixed materials in your socks for specific purposes – warmer weather, cooler weather, wet weather, road versus CX, etc? Do materials make a beneficial difference to athletes?
Yes we do. We use only Polypropylene and Resistex Carbon. Innovative tecnological fibres. Breatheble, resistant, isolating, lightweight, soft, antibacterial and confortable. They are much more thermo insulating them virgin wool. Thanks to this characteristic function, the feet can be dry and warm in winter and dry and fresh in summer. Moreover Lycra is spread out on all the sock to give a light compression.
13920688_1773060529643544_3145139967462843080_n What is your design inspiration? The meaning behind your designs and patterns? All men’s racing and sports?

Each sock is inspired by a story chosen from the sport world. Mostly from cycling and running. This is to motivate those one who approach and those one who are keen on sport.  We love also tell stories unknown. 

Any releases to look out for this year?

A small collection is upcoming on the next month, stay tuned.

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The Velocio Story

J6A4742I had the lucky chance to ride and chat with Kristy Srcymgeour during Velocio’s USA tour and I fell even harder for the line that brings top quality kit to women. I will be reviewing a jersey from the summer ’16 line soon, but until then enjoy this Cycling Tips piece on the story behind the brand.

 

 

The Domestique Critique: Rapha Core Collection Jersey

WOR01-base-detail-03_MEDIUMHonestly, I don’t even understand why Rapha introduced the Core Collection. In a 2015 interview with founder Simon Mottram, he was quoted as saying:

“Some people love us, and some people don’t like us, and that is fine,” says Mr Mottram, the 49-year-old chief executive.

“But our stuff is really good, and if someone is going to spend, say, eight hours on a bike… then their clothing should be really good.

“I don’t want to make bad shorts or jerseys just to hit a [lower] price point.”
If he meant that, and he has no interest in chasing pounds and dollars, then why aim for a new price point with this collection? This step plus the off-putting designs of the womens’ collections of late make me really question Rapha’s “prestige” and worth.
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Onto the jersey itself, I purchased the navy Core jersey. I wear a size Small in the Rapha Classic jersey but Medium in Souplesse so since this jersey was said to be cut for comfort and less for aerodynamics I opted for a Small. My bust size is 36 inches, waist is 30 inches, hips 38 inches and I’m 5’3″ on a good day. The jersey retails online for $115 USD.
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I’ve worn it for two months now. It’s been hot weather with little shade on most of my weekend rides, but I also do a lot of weeknight riding, when the temps dip and you almost don’t need arm warmers. This jersey does best in the latter weather situation. It’s made from 100% polyester, making it a heavier weight than the Souplesse but a step lighter than the merino-mixed Brevet jersey. It’s great when summer turns cool or fall and spring are approaching.
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I had some trouble with the fit in various places. Rapha is proud of the addition of a “deep, laser-cut rear gripper lined with soft silicone” but it held nothing. In 10-20 minutes of riding the entire jersey was above my belly button.
 DSC00786I went fishing for that deep rear gripper several times an hour. I was more than a bit annoyed after the first ride.
The jersey wicked sweat well and didn’t smell bad after a long, hot ride. It didn’t show any sweat marks either, something you end up being embarrassed about in the light-colored Souplesse jerseys. They attribute the odor control to the fact that the materials has been treated with an antibacterial process.
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I realize after I purchased the jersey that many Rapha customers also noted in the comments section about the bunching and pulling of the material. I tugged and shimmied often trying to smooth it out. It had a lot to do with the jersey riding up, too, I think. Perhaps the jersey just wanted to come right up over my head and off?
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I also had trouble with the zipper lip. I appreciate having one there, I’ll be the first to cheer that addition on a lower-priced jersey, but I couldn’t smoothly zip all the way up without the lip interfering. This meant that I needed to remember to fix the zip before a descent or live with the gap while zipping during the downhill.
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Finally, the pocket space was much appreciated for a core collection jersey. Two full-sized pockets, one narrow middle pocket, and one side packet with zipper closer gave me ample room for all the necessities even on my longest of rides. But, I have always complained about the height of Rapha’s pockets on all the jerseys I own and this one was also tough to reach back and high enough to access my things.
Overall
 The Core collection jersey could be a good introduction to Rapha if you are afraid to spend all your paycheck in one go. But you are honestly better off buying a more quality comfortable piece from their Classic collection that will bring you all the same comfort and style but is constructed better. The simplistic but rich color options are excellent and many washings didn’t change that at all. But overall, skip ahead to a tried-and-true jersey.
 [1] Only shorts are offered for women in the Core Collection. Rapha is quoted as saying this is because “feedback that the design team got for this segment was that regular shorts would be the most appealing to the widest range of current and new customers.” Bicycling Magazine apparently thinks that if enough women raise their hand in class like good little girls we’ll get bib shorts. I say what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Rapha, you claim to be for the discerning cyclist, right? Every discerning female wants a pair of bib shorts so respond accordingly. Equal is equal. Comment below to share.
[2] Rapha has such a reputation for being elitist for the sake of being elitist that a spoof website floated around. Cracking good time reading it too.

 

 

 

 

The Domestique Critique: Giro Amare II Helmet

Giro_H_Amare-II_BlackGalaxy_34It happens. Myself, the pavement and my helmet all meet at the same time with brute force and unfortunate circumstance. Enter Giro Amare II. I needed a new helmet and was intrigued to try something from the new Giro Chrono line at my LBS.

I was initially attracted to the helmet because it matches the rad new lace-up Empire W ACC shoes for women that Giro recently released. Look for my review of those shoes here. The Amare II comes in 5 color combinations and I chose Black Galaxy. It was the closest to solid black I could get and it closely matches the holographic colors of the shoe. giro_h_amare-ii_blackgalaxy_back

The Amare II is a mid-range helmet at $140 USD. With $270 the highest range of Giro helmets and $40 the lowest, you expect to be getting more style but less technology with this helmet. But I was very surprised to see several lower-priced models offering Giro’s brand new MIPS technology for a difference of $30 or more. Online you can see that Giro offers almost a replica helmet style for $30 less in the Sonnet, but with MIPS, so you may be better off getting that.

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The Amare II is well-ventilated. You can’t really feel the difference between 23 vents and 27 vents and I’m not riding in a wind tunnel. I am, however, riding in sun and cool breezes and this makes for a great summer helmet. But I will note that some may not like the high number of large vents because it actually exposes more head and hair to the sun. I doubt I was taking full aero advantage of the ventilation and instead ended up just baking in the sun with a slight scalp burn. If you didn’t wear a cap before, you may want to try one now.

DSC00794As for the fit of the Amare II, the helmet’s headform is a bit more round than ovoid so the main points of contact on your head are really the front and the back upon tightening. This became one of the big drawbacks of this helmet in my view. Once I tightened the helmet, I felt intense pressure at the forehead yet didn’t feel that it was secure all around my head. This pressure became a piercing pain over the course of my rides and I frequently wanted to stop and remove the helmet to relieve the pressure and give my poor head a break. For this reason I was always aware of the feel the helmet on my head, which is the exact opposite of an ideal helmet.

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The tighter I tried to make the helmet, the more the pressure on my forehead increased, yet I could slip it off with a hard shake of my head, even when tightening the system to its max. I tried on several sizes of the helmet and chose the one that matched the measurements of my skull so I doubt I have too big or too small of a size for me. It felt like the sides of the internal reinforcement skeleton did not even tighten around my head. I feel more safe and secure in the Lazer or Mavic helmet skeletons. I wore a cap for the remainder of my miles with the helmet and felt that worked better, both to relieve the forehead pressure and to secure the helmet on my head.

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The other big drawback was the stiff tightening system. To lighten the helmet weight, Giro developed their patented Roc Loc5 system at the base of the helmet. I found the turn knob to be stiff and small, even for my smaller hands. I couldn’t do it with gloves at all. The design of the system also caused my cycling cap to bunch up. It does accommodate any kind of ponytail, though.

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OVERALL

The Giro Amare II helmet has a great look for a mid-range price. But the tightening system is stiff and the pain and pressure the shape caused my head is frustrating for the money I paid. A cap makes its flaws less noticeable but overall I would not recommend this helmet.

The Domestique Critique: Empire of the Laces

Gorgeous cycling shoes made for women are finally here.

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Long have men had the stylish options from Giro in the Empire model. Purple, orange, matte black, glossy gold. ENOUGH. While there are many women with bigger-sized feet who could borrow from the men’s line, how much do they want to be known for wearing men’s shoes? Why are women’s cycling shoes tinted with pinks and pastel purples as though we are all hopping our way to the Easter bunny? Why is it so hard to answer the demand for more style and options? Giro’s release of the Empire W ACC proves that pairing a solid-fitting cycling shoe with a striking, bold design is just smart business. They retail online for $275.00 USD.

IMG_0078 copyMy previous experience with Giro shoes was the Factress and they were on the narrow side, giving me hot spots after longer rides, or even because of weight fluctuations. Asking around, this was quite common with Giro shoes, so if you know, for sure, that you have a flat foot then I might suggest giving another shoe company a try (like Lake or Northwave). Like many people, however, your foot may go flatter when you apply pressure, losing your arch and widening in the toe box. If this is the case, then it might be time to explore the world of laces. Reason being, laced shoes offer more points along your foot for adjustment, whereas Boa systems (twist-to-tighten, cable-and-dial) typically have only two criss-crossing points and buckle systems have only one secure point with up to two Velcro additional points.

IMG_0089Giro’s Supernatural Fit Kit, which provides three different arch supports to allow some customization. Rather than build arch support into the outsole of the shoe, Giro allows you to pick the arch support that works best for you. It may take a few rides to determine your favorite. I went with the maximum arch insert, which attaches securely to the underside of the insole with Velcro, but soon changed out entirely for my custom insoles from Foot Balance. (I highly recommend going to a bike fitter to study how your feet work in action to get custom-molded insoles. You’ll thank me later.)

IMG_0086 copyThe Good

-There is no flex. You keep all the power transfer from your leg to your pedal. What you put in is what you get out, it makes climbing feel easier. EASIER I SAY.

-Giro now offers several replacement laces in various colors. You can add one more accessory to you already polished #kitstyle.

-The weight. It’s a very light shoe, and weight weenies will appreciate this.

The Bad

-They are a warmer shoe. Fewer ventilation areas along the shoe make for a sweaty foot when all is said and done.

-Not easy to make on-the-bike adjustments. If you have been pedaling along and feel you need them tighter or looser, then you’ll have to ask the group to stop while your inner 5 year old re-ties the shoes. Hope they’ll stop!

Doing a hard, short hammer ride, intervals, or crit? Go ahead and lace them up tight to avoid any heel slip and ensure your foot is locked in. For longer rides though, we suggest scrunching your toes while lacing up and tying. This will create a few millimeters of wiggle room, which will give your feet some room to swell during the ride, avoid undue pressure, and keep you more comfortable.

-Size is off. I still had trouble with Giro’s sizing. The LBS didn’t offer my exact size (they didn’t want to carry all women’s sizes?) so I had to guess when it came to the smaller end of the range. I guessed correctly for my width, but the heel cup is still too big and the lacing won’t fix that. So I slide a little in the heel. It’s annoying but doesn’t directly affect my pedaling. Giro reps recommend you also checking out the men’s line (not unfamiliar with women unfortunately) for more size options.

IMG_0081*My reviews follow wear of 5 months (as you can see from the cleats!)

 

 

Look for Less: Rapha vs Champion

Rapha_Light-Support-Bra_performance-womens-cycling-sports-brassiere_under-bib-shorts50367589If you’re in the market for a sports bra for cycling, then consider these. They are both medium support, seamless for comfort and layering, and come in black and white. The only difference is Rapha will set you back $75 and the Champion for Target bra is only $16.99 in store and online.

Sockturday: Sock Guy

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Well, you can’t get much more ubiquitous than Sock Guy. They are hands-down my favorite brand. Every single pair fits perfectly, washes well, holds up, and looks sharp. They have numerous original and collaborations that offer a broad range of design and color for endless days of #sockdoping. They care about what they make for you, and their growth and popularity prove that. Welcome to Sock Guy.

What is your favorite SockGuy sock/shoe combo? Or (if not cycling) what has been the most touching story you’ve received about your sock design?
Our favorite SockGuy sock/shoe combo is any SockGuy sock in any sort of shoe. Whether that is a cycling shoe, running shoe, boot, loafer, moccasin, clog, croc, oxford, slip on, wing tip, chelsea or boat shoe. As long as people are stoked and wearing comfy, good looking socks that is what we are all about.
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Do you believe in any height “rules” or do you prefer to let the design dictate the style?
All personal preference. Rules are made to be broken. That being said, a good crew length sock is wonderful for all types of cycling these days.
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How did SockGuy start? What made it successful, or what was the growth turning point?
SockGuy started in 1996 and started out as a custom sock manufacturer. People loved the fun funky designs that we made. From there, there was demand for a retail line. We’ve been going strong since! We’re celebrating our 20th anniversary this year.
-Do you feel that your size now allows you to work with groups you would not have been able to previously? We have had the pleasure of working with some amazing groups/teams. Too many local teams and clubs to name. But we are really proud to work with some of the best Women’s teams in cycling. We sponsor the LUNA Chix, Team Twenty16 Pro Cycling as well as the Raleigh/Clement Pro CX Team. We also make the Panda Power socks worn by Amanda Nauman:
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CXLA_151122__9234.jpgSide Note: Amanda Nauman is a CX racer from Southern California that competes on a national level now. I actually DO already own her Panda Socks and I practically live in them!

Why do you think cycling socks are so much fun to wear/design?
Socks in general are just fun! Socks are one of the easiest ways to add some flair to your kit/look with out going to wild if you don’t want too.
Do you feel that there is need for a women’s sock versus a men’s? Do you use a custom mold for women?
That’s a tough one. One thing that sets SockGuy apart from the other sock brands is our patent Stretch-to-Fit sizing system. It’s uni-sex and it’s literally big feet little feet. The materials we use in our socks allow us to do this and fit pretty much everyone very will with these two sizes.
Do you think you design with a woman in mind? What woman would that be? Do you have different demographics in mind when you design a sock or a collection?
Yes, absolutely. Our primary market is Cycling, so typically the women we are targeting are cyclists or athletes in general. We actually just finished sorting out our Fall ’16 line and that process took three women and four men to complete. We tried to get everyone’s perspective. The owner is a guy, so he gets final say, haha!
What types of mixed materials do you consider for the different athletes you serve? and why?
We offer three different materials and multiple “builds”. Our classic socks are made from Micro Denier Acrylic, our Wool socks are made from TurboWool and our SGX socks are made from a PolyPro blend. The second part of this question is tough. We really want people to try them all and see what suits them best. We don’t want to tell them what they like.
What is your design inspiration? The meaning behind your designs and patterns?
Anything and everything! We are based in SoCal so we have beach culture right down the street from our office. We just want to keep it fun for everyone.
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Kitsbow cycling sock by Sock Guy
Any releases to look out for this year?
Fall ’16 is about to drop just before InterBike.