Monday, March 19, 2012

A snowy ride

I wanted to test my new Firstgear Kathmandu overpants in bad weather and that's exactly what happened over the weekend. Cutting to the chase, the pants performed admirably but that's not the interesting part of the story.

Keep in mind, it's the middle of March and Spring officially starts tomorrow. March in western Oregon can be mild and meek and pleasant, and it can also be hellish and fickle and tumultuous. So far, it's definitely been the latter.

It was sprinkling lightly when I left the house but I had honest-to-goodness rain within a few miles. My goal was to ride up the Clackamas River highway to the small community of Three Lynx, turn around and then come back home, hopefully through as much rain as possible. I put Pledge furniture polish ("Lemon, mmm!") on the outside of my helmet's face shield and shaving cream on the inside, made sure the zippers were all closed on my pants and jacket, donned my Aerostich tripple-digit overgloves, and hit the road. All of my gear worked great, although my hands eventually got cold (which is nothing new).

The highest elevation my route traversed was 1,210 feet, just east of Estacada as the highway passed above North Fork Reservoir. I saw snow flakes in the air but nothing was sticking on the ground. It rained off and on, heavy at times, all the way to Three Lynx where I turned around and headed back. This pattern of weather continued, with rain falling at least 80% of the time.

When I got back to Eagle Creek the rain turned to big, fat snowflakes and it started to stick on my fairing, arms, legs, and helmet. I used the squeegie on my tripple-digit glove covers to wipe the building snow from my face shield. The snow wasn't sticking on the road surface but it was sticking on the ground next to it. By the time I got home a few minutes later, I had to wipe the snow from my face shield every 5-8 seconds and visibility was reduced from the volume of snow flakes in the air. Snow had built up on my bike's fairing and completely obscured the view through it. I had snow over my boots, knees, and covering my arms and shoulders. There was also 1/4" of snow built up on my helmet (only the face shield was free of snow buildup).

Within 20 minutes, the sun was shining and the 1/2" of snow on my front yard was melted and gone as if it never happened.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March ride with Firstgear Kathmandu overpants

We had a rare, almost Spring-like sunny day over the weekend so I took advantage of the nice weather and gave my new Firstgear Kathmandu overpants a 130-mile test.

The first pair I ordered from were size 32, and based on reviews, they were supposed to be true to size. They were. However, they were a little snug in my belly, which wasn't the pants' fault, so I sent them back and exchanged them for size 34s. They fit perfectly.

The Firstgear Kathmandu pants are meant for adventure-touring and have numerous features that are suited for that type of riding. They have a waterproof ripstop outer shell, which is far more convenient than pants using a removable waterproof liner. I don't want to have to stop and do a hopping two-step trying to get a liner inserted inside my riding pants every time a rain shower passes overhead (which happens almost every day that I ride). I want gear that is waterproof on the outside.

They come with a removable insulated liner that is very effective, although riding in temperatures below 40 degrees would require the use of street pants. Anything below 30 degrees probably requires thermal underwear under that. This is standard, however, and something I'm used to.

The cuffs have a snap and elastic enclosure that fits around my boots. These are not meant to be truly waterproof but instead to prevent or delay the invasion of water into the top of my boots during heavy wet weather riding or during stream crossings. It takes slightly longer to put the pants on because of this but the added protection is a nice feature.

The knees and hips use D30 armor, which is lighter, thinner and more flexible than standard rigid armor found in most riding garments. This reduces the overall weight of the pants and the armor is barely noticeable when I ride. The D30 armor is supposed to become instantly rigid during an impact event and is the latest technology.

The Ride

After getting suited up, I left the house mid-morning and headed through Estacada and Molalla before hitting the highway south toward Silverton and Stayton. What was bright, warm sunshine at home turned into overcast and foggy cold weather once I left Molalla. The temperature dropped 15 degrees in a short distance and soon I was wishing I had another layer underneath my pants and jacket. By the time I got to Stayton and stopped at the Dairy Queen for a quick lunch I was eager to get inside and warm up.

After chowing down a chicken sandwich, I suited back up and headed north toward home through the chilly fog. The sun came out and the temperatures rose once I got to Molalla. A few twists and turns and another 40 minutes of riding brought me back home.

The Kathmandu pants proved to be the most comfortable riding pants I've ever worn (they are the first pair of Firstgear pants I've owned, my previous two pants were both Fieldsheer) and my cold ride was my fault for not wearing enough layers. I think if I had left in the insulated liner they would have been comfortable in both temperature extremes. I look forward to wearing them in rain as well as in warmer temperatures.

Update 3/7/2012: I rode to work this morning wearing the Kathmandu's with the insulated liner installed. It was 25 degrees with clear skies. The pants worked flawlessly and I had no hint of cold nor were they too hot.