Sera

I like cycling and I like making films. And watching them.

Cycling Specific Jeans: Yes you need some.

Some of you might be of the school of thought that any jeans are riding jeans, why spend top dollar just because someone’s labelled them ‘cycling” jeans? Is it a form of hipster trap? Why do I even want to ride anywhere in jeans? These are valid questions. Here’s why…

I rarely wear anything besides jeans unless I’m going for a ‘proper’ road ride. I live and work in a town which is a perfect size to get around by bike, and as a result I have worn clean through the arse area of the following jeans: Seven For All Mankind, Superdry, 2x pairs of G-Star, and my Hudsons are getting dangerously close. I love my jeans and these were all rather nice ones… It’s depressing when they go, and it’s pretty much impossible to fix. (I have tried, both with a sewing machine and with iron-on patches) The G-Stars in particular were useless – a new pair wore through in less than a year!

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon Creux Cycling – an Australian urban cycle clothing brand – and fairly rapidly decided I wanted to own everything they made, especially their jeans. At a glance they just have a style I love, and on closer inspection they’ve considered everything to make these the ultimate legwear for living and riding in.

Fortunately while at Bespoked Bristol a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting the man behind (iL) Soigneur who has been hand-making really lovely musettes since 2011, and doing rather well at it. (iL) Soigneur now stocks a selection of Creux gear here in the UK and I took away a pair of the men’s and the women’s jeans to see which I’d get on with the most.

(Size info: I’m testing the Men’s Small and the Women’s Large (12),  most of my jeans are a size 29-30 waist. My waist is 29 inches, and my hips are 40 inches)

The Review

The men’s version of the Soigneur Jeans are, on me at least, a slim fitting straight-leg cut which fit comfortably around my waist, higher than most of my jeans which are all low rise cut, these come to about an inch and a half below my belly button. The lower legs are just loose enough to turn up a couple of times to avoid your bike chain, but I couldn’t roll them up any higher than in the pictures. When riding, I prefer the men’s because of the higher waist. It feels just right in the bike position, no pants on show.

Men’s version.

The women’s cut has a lower rise, and a much skinnier leg. I LOVE how these look when I’m walking around, but when I’m riding I found that once they’d loosened up a bit, they were coming down a bit too low at the back. It’s no biggie if your shirt is tucked in, but if not; PANTS CITY.

Women’s version.

The fit is really quite different from the men’s, and I’m surprised by how well the men’s cut fits me – I do not have boyish hips. So it really comes down to your preference – do you want slim straight leg or skinny leg? Higher waist or low rise? Both are super comfy on and off the bike.

Two things I love about turning these jeans up: The cyan coloured tape sewn over the seams on the inside looks ace, and on the men’s version, the large reflective Creux logo inside the right leg, which massively increases your visibility in the dark. Never mind products with a tiny bit of reflective piping here and there, there’s nothing better than a huge block of the stuff to catch driver’s eyes. Plus it looks freaking cool. It’s not there on the women’s, no doubt because they’re a lot skinnier so you can’t really roll them up.

 

Men’s – reflective turn up

 

Both versions are very slightly stretchy, but to be honest I think they could be stretchier, because it’s such a heavy weight denim. When these jeans first go on they feel heavier and stiffer than most jeans. Unsurprisingly though, after wearing these for a few days they loosened up a fair bit, became less tight around the waist, and altogether more and more comfortable as the days wore on.

The denim itself is such a big feature of these jeans, it feels so tough that I can’t imagine ever wearing through the arse section. Even if the bum was one layer thick I don’t think I would – but as it happens Creux have built in a double layered seat, complete with lightly padded chamois! I was a little concerned this would feel bulky and even too warm, but when I’m not riding I just don’t notice it.

Then there’s the Schoeller NanoSphere treatment, which is unbelievably valuable. Living in the UK, if I waited for it to stop raining, I’d barely ever get to ride so I don’t tend to shy away from wet weather. After all, skin’s waterproof, right? Turns out these jeans are too. Close enough anyway. I live a short distance from work, but even a short distance will soak regular jeans through if it’s pissing it down as it often does. I’ve sat at my desk for several hours with wet jeans, patiently waiting for them to dry out after the 5 minute ride in. It takes about 3 hours, I’ve timed it. So since testing these jeans out, I’ve had it rain on me a couple of times, once while riding, not overly heavy rain, and once when it just absolutely shat it down for 5 minutes, so I went outside and sat in it. Just to see what would happen.

I’d say that in extremely heavy rain, 95% beads and splashes right off you, and 5% begins to dampen the jeans. Dampen, mind, not soak. I came back inside, brushed them off and sat at my desk, and within 10 minutes the jeans felt completely dry again. My hood stayed wet for the rest of the day.

The men’s jeans have a few little features which the women’s jeans don’t have, although I’m not entirely sure why. There’s an extra pocket on the right hip which is much easier to dig into then the front pockets when you’re sat down, there’s a little loop for keys on the left side waist band, and there’s a D-lock holding loop on the back, which is pretty handy if like me you often pop into town without a bag.

The only thing to be aware of is that these jeans are very heavily dyed, and it will transfer to your pale coloured couch. I’m hoping that it will wash off the cushion covers. I’m told the denim is designed to fade with use, so I fully expect a lot of loose dye to come out in the first wash which will probably stop the couch getting any worse.

There’s not much else to add, so I’ll summarise by saying that, like me, you can test these jeans out without buying them because (iL) Soigneur is offering a no quibble try before you buy scheme. So if you’re still not sure, try them out for yourself! I for one will be putting my money where my mouth is and buying them. I’m just not sure which ones…

Screw it. I want both.

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How a Bicycle Is Made (1945)

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Riding again: Pure joy.

These last few days have brought with them blue skies and a warm sun, the likes of which we in the UK cannot take for granted as even the height of summer here does not necessarily mean more than 2 warm sunny days strung together at a time. My brother (and fellow Talking Tread) Sam reports that we’ve stolen his Californian weather, and that it’s grimmer than the Yorkshire Dales back in Sacramento. Well, we’re just borrowing it, okay? You probably need the rain anyway.

I left it until mid-afternoon to go for a ride yesterday, and decided – possibly unwisely – to try a couple of hills. I took a route South East through Cheltenham, whose pavements were thronging with shirtless chavs, and started the steady climb out of the bowl of our town up London Road, which I picked for it’s gentle drag which never takes you by surprise. And much to my happiness, it didn’t take me by surprise at all. I turned right near the top to get off the main road and onto a very quiet lane with smooth pavements, then left to take me South East toward Withington village.

Then I almost burst into tears. In fact for about half a mile, it was all I could do to keep my breathing under control. It’s a little hard to explain why, it’s not my first ride since starting with the back treatment, but I guess it was the first one that reminded me why I ride. It’s pure joy. The sun, the Cotswold countryside, smooth tarmac, the speed, the drivers smiling at me (it occurred to me afterwards that I might have had an enormous grin on my face without realising, and that the drivers were just returning it). Once I’d regained myself, I broke into an all out sprint, Cav-style in the drops, down the arrow-straight hill to Withington. So much fun.

However the route I planned for myself was to turn right on Withington High St, back up the hill. I might have underestimated this climb – the last time I did it I was riding with two friends, and I was fitter than both, so I slowed my pace to ride the gradient with them, resulting in what felt like a relatively easy ascent. I guess I’d convinced myself that I could ride as slow as I liked, keep my heart rate down. But the climb was about twice as long as I’d remembered, and twice as steep. It winded me, I crawled up it, but I didn’t stop. A small victory.

And then, again, a beautiful downhill section – this one somewhat more terrifying than the last – through the woods on a thin strip of tarmac peppered with pot holes deep enough to smash your carbon laminate wheels to shit and send you flying into a tree. Winding turns where you pray there’s no one coming the other way. You know, the kind of barely-driven-on country roads with accumulated gravel piles down the centre of it, which you occasionally have to ride over at speed because it’s better than hitting the pot holes. I emerged onto the main road shaky, my knuckles white. Just as I’d forgotten how much I loved to ride, I’d also forgotten how much nerve I must have built up to fly down roads like that, cause I know that wasn’t the scariest of them by far.

From that point on I was able to relax, get into a rhythm. The road gently climbed back up to the bowl edge of Cheltenham, with one last steep kicker before rolling down Leckhampton hill and back into town, setting off the LED 30 mph speed gun sign.

It wasn’t really a long ride by anyone’s standards. Not anyone who reads this site anyway – but for me it felt like a watershed. A shift between cruising round the flat lanes, my ass struggling to get re-acquainted with my super hard racing saddle, trying to remember why I loved doing this so much, and then the shift to realising exactly why I love this so much.

I think it has something to do with hills.

- Sera

(my ride is here)

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Riding again: Building up the miles

Hello again.

That title makes it sound like I’ve done loads. I haven’t. But what I have done is take a definitive step forward and started to ride a bit more regularly, and so far, without any excessive lower back spasms post-ride.

I’m through the first block of treatment, which lasted a month, where I was seeing Stefaan twice a week. In that time he has repeatedly manipulated my body, allowing me to stand up straight with a curve in my lower back where there should be one, but wasn’t 4 weeks ago. We’re backing off to one appointment per week now, and I’ve been given licence to ride again, as long as I don’t hit the hills yet, and I don’t treat the rides like individual time trials. In other words, go easy.

I’ve been on 3 rides since Thursday’s appointment, and I think the hardest thing I’m having to adjust to, besides my cardio fitness level being less than ideal, is that it’s psychologically tough going out on rides which feel long, hard and tiring, when I know that exact loop is so easy that it was just a short warm-up when I was fit and well. It’s making me impatient to get my fitness back. If nothing else so that I can look at some new scenery – there’s really only so many roads you can go on when your total ride length is limited to around 30km, before you have to start heading home again. It also isn’t helping my mental game that while using Strava at the weekend, I decided to upload ALL of my previous activities which were still saved on my Garmin, serving as a reminder if the volume of riding I used to be doing in 2009 & 2010. It’s pretty hard to stop measuring myself by the same yardstick.

It’s all mainly positive though, and while I’m not pain free, the pain I do have is less severe, doesn’t set in until later in the day, and isn’t bad enough to stop me getting on my bike like it was 2 or 3 weeks ago. Right now it’s as bad as it’s been all week, and that’s no doubt due to moving my edit suite/office to a different floor at work today, followed by the 27km ride I did when I got home. But it’s manageable with a hot water bottle & some co-codamol, and I’m just happy enough to have been out this evening turning the pedals over, watching a gorgeous sunset from the country lanes, counting the bunnies on the grass verges.

I’ve not put a proper training plan in place yet, but I’m trying to get out for at least an hour every other day just to build up some base miles and strengthen all the muscles around my new, improved spinal position.

Here’s my rides on Strava since Thursday:
Out & Back to Bredon
Riding around the lanes while I wait for my car to get serviced
G-Man’s loop

- Sera

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Riding again: March update.

Just a quick one. I’m 5 treatments in to my course of spinal therapy, or whatever you’d call it, and so far it’s going well. I’m visibly standing differently, less ‘hunched over in pain’ as my Mum described, and Stefaan has put a curve back in my lower spine, where there wasn’t one before.

I got a little excited after the first week when pain levels were low and did a ride around Bredon Hill with my Dad, that backfired somewhat and sent me into 4 days of extreme discomfort. But generally the pain has improved to the point where I’ve been able to recommence my short commute by bike, and ‘Elvis’ has taken his rightful place next to the edit suite water cooler again.

The best news is that according to Stefaan, I’ll be able to start training again either at the end of this week or the next.

Can’t bloody wait.

- Sera

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Riding again: new goal.

Mont Ventoux. That’s my goal. Three ascents from three villages in one day. This September.

I had my first back treatment appointment with Stefaan Vossen earlier this afternoon, I’ve been given a shoe insert to help undo my imbalance and I’ve got another seven appointments booked in over the next 4 weeks, after which it’ll go down to 1 appointment per week. He’s confident he can not only get my back and pelvis re-set to how it should be, but that I’ll be able to start training in as little as 4 weeks.

That means, all being well with my back healing as my fitness gradually improves, I’ll have roughly from mid March until September to get myself in the shape of my life. Six months… Doesn’t seem like a lot. This is going to take some epic training effort and a lot of hill repeats on Cleeve Hill. I’ve never been more excited to put my body through hell, I wish I could get started now but I’ll have to make do with writing up a training plan. It’ll be a company trip to Mont Ventoux some time in September – I don’t yet know the date – with a couple of us Dair peeps taking some cycling-keen clients along for the ride.

Super, super excited. Can anyone point me towards a decent 6 month training plan for this sort of thing that I can adapt?

-Sera

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Riding again: February update.

A couple of months have passed since my last post and I’ll be the first to admit those months haven’t really gone to plan.

I managed 3 or 4 short flat rides in December before succumbing to a huge increase in back pain, which I’ve been unable to get under control, even enough to spin my bike into work each day (it’s a 7 minute ride).

It knocked the wind out of me somewhat, and suddenly the idea of being fit by summertime felt rather depressingly unrealistic. I think I underestimated the problem a little bit.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as in January two metaphorical busses arrived at once, and I’ve jumped on one of them whole heartedly. The first was a chance to have a 1/2 hour chat with world leading sports physio Rob Harris, who after hearing the exact nature of my symtoms was fairly certain I had Spondylolisthesis (try saying that a few times, or at all). I can’t deny It was a massive relief to hear that there could be a tangible, nameable cause for 15 years of intermittent back pain, but on requesting copies of my low back X-Rays from 2009, it became clear that it’s not ‘Spondy’ after all. Square one. Sort of…

Then I had a chance encounter with an ex-England Rugby player Tim Stimpson, who was in our offices waiting for a meeting with the MD. We got chatting about chiropractors (I don’t like them very much based on the amount I’ve spent on them for no benefit) and he ended up contacting his friend and spinal physician who had helped him a great deal. Next thing I know, this guy is calling me up, very interested in my case, specifically because the length of time I’ve had the problem, and the amount of specialists I’ve seen who did no good. He prides himself on finding what other people missed, and fixing the issues. In fact his clinics are the only ones in the country to offer an insurance-backed money back guarantee on his treatment. i.e. at least 70% improvement in your condition or your money back.

Not that money matters, he gave me a free assessment and on the back of it, he offered to give me a full round of treatment at no cost. Apparently I’m the kind of case he likes to take on pro bono, can’t complain about that.

Now I’m awaiting my next appointment in 10 days time, and the onslaught of 3-4 weeks with 2 appointments per week, plus plenty of ‘homework’ exercises. After that it’ll be 1 appointment per week for a while, gradually seeing him less & less over the coming months. Stefaan is confident that I will be fully able to ride and train again by the summer time, which is the best I could have hoped for.

There is a hint of a big ride coming up in September, as part of a team with the guys I work with. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but it’s not working.

Bring on the healing.

- Sera

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Worth a read

Okay I’m going to link straight to another dude’s blog here because everyone who drives a motor vehicle ought to read this post, and please pass it on especially to non cyclist friends & acquaintances…

Click below then read the entry for December 30, I can’t link directly to it for some reason.

Institutional Cyclist’s Christmas Lecture

- Sera

Update: Below is the bit I’ve found most moving, I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on it because of the inability to direct link to the post  (but really, go read the entire thing). -Michael

The point is this: behind the statistics, lie people. Each of the hundreds of cyclists killed every year, each of the thousands of other deaths and injuries on the roads each year are real people that have families and friends. Each death is a family devastated. Each death affects a hundred friends. For a hundred deaths, read ten thousand people grieving. A small town’s worth of grief.

The point is this: This is not a war. This is not genocide. This is not a disease. These people are no one’s enemies. Their deaths are not meant as a warning to others. Their deaths are pointless and banal. They are not killed out of spite but out of ignorance, out of foolishness, out of incompetence. They die because others send text messages. They die because others misjudge speed and distance.

The point is this: The people that kill these people do not want to kill them. We must never forget to spare a little pity for them. They are only there because the gamble that paid off on all the other times failed to do so on this occasion and the video game reality through the windscreen suddenly became horrifyingly real. They are, after all, only acting in that way because the society that we live in allows them to and only suffers to penalize their actions when people die.

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Bike Art.

“Ai Weiwei’s most recent work, Forever Bicycles, installs 1,200 bicycles–some hanging from the ceiling, some standing upright on the floor–one behind the other. The bikes have no handlebars and no seats and instead use those parts of the frame to extend upward and outward to connect to other wheels and other frames, creating the illusion of a labyrinth-like space in a three-dimensional area.”

I can’t help thinking they’d be better off being ridden. But it does look cool.

Sera

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Riding again.

2011 was without a doubt, my worst year yet as a cyclist. I’m not counting years previous to becoming a cyclist in the first place, of course.

Thanks to spectacularly throwing my back out at the peak of my fitness 3/4 the way through 2010, I’ve mostly spent the last year suffering various degrees of back pain and a new knee pain which has also manifested. I’ve not spent the entire year off the bike, but my total miles for 2011, spread across 12 rides, was a pitiful 220 miles. The longer rides I did manage were plagued as much by my lack of fitness as the knowledge that after the ride I would suffer more back pain. Too much riding and not enough other exercise is pretty much what set my back off in the first place, and wasn’t a psychological help, either.

On the up side, having spoken to a lot of health & fitness professionals, and one or two world-leading physiotherapists and read a few books on self re-alignment techniques, I feel I now have the tools to get off my ass, fix my own back and start riding again.

So in the hopes that starting in the dark winter months will mean I’m fit enough to enjoy the summer months, I started out small at the end of November, doing one short ride a week in the pitch black, freezing cold mornings. Not the easiest thing to do but I didn’t want to leave it till January, New Year’s Resolutions are bound to fail. After having a week long head cold over the Christmas period, I’ve just been out for another, very slightly longer ride earlier today. 17 miles rather than 10-12.

It feels REALLY LAME going for such short, flat rides when mentally you feel like you should be out for much longer, and climb at least a few Coteswold hills along the way, but I’m determined not to blow out my limited engines too soon, and stress my back out.

I thought perhaps sharing my progress back to riding ‘properly’ on Talking Treads would be a good thing. Maybe some readers have struggled with similar issues. If you’re interested, I’m using the methods found in ‘Pain Free’ by Peter Egoscue to set my back right, as well as using the FKPro Bodyweight suspension system to build up my laughably weak core, which is basically resposible for holding my spine up like it should be.

So, for anyone interested, you can see my first ride of the new year here.

Happy riding!
– Sera

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