Thursday, March 08, 2007

You know you're too tall when...

...your knickers are too short.

One of the longstanding themes of me and bikes is the difficulties trying to get stuff big enough. I stand 6' 5" tall with a 36" inseam and wear a size 14 shoe (49 European). The fashion in bikes is for everything to be small, so that most bike shops leave me utterly uninterested in their newest offerings, which often max out at 60 or 62cm frame sizes.

In the last couple of years I've managed to address this. My main bike is a Rivendell Atlantis in the 68cm size (27"). I've got 175mm crank arms on it and the 56cm wide handlebars. It's really the first bike that ever fit me properly and has been a joy to ride--there's only so much that lots of stem and seatpost can do on a fundamentally too-small frame. (If you click on my Profile photo you'll see me dwarfing a 21.5" Marin mountain bike frame with lots of seatpost, a tall stem and riser and handlebars that come up a bit more--but the bike still feels cramped, and is now relegated to winter duties). My around-town bike is a early 1980s 68cm Schwinn World Sport bastardized into an 8-speed Nexus hub bike. It has regular 170mm cranks but the wide Nitto Albatross bars, real longhorns. Both these bikes, when around other people's rides, look like they have about a foot of headtube and the Schwinn, with thin 1980s frame tubes, looks particulary willowy.

Clothing remains an issue. In everyday stuff I wear a 17 1/2 X 37 shirt, 46 XL suits/jackets, very large hats and XL gloves. Cycling shorts are no problem, of course, nor are short-sleeved jerseys. Other items, though, get harder. It's tough to find size 49 cycling shoes, and 48s and a grimace don't make it (I tried). When I came across the Adidas El Moro IIIs in 49, I bought two pairs. One learns to buy when stuff is available. Long sleeved jerseys can be a problem; I tend to buy XL or XXL just to get the sleeve length, ending up with a really baggy fit since I have a very flat chest, due in part to a big chest operation I had when I was about 16 which at least gives me an artful scar and two belly buttons (OK, one's a drainage tube scar). The buy-large strategy doesn't always work; I recently got a Nike Tete du Course merino wool jersey in XXL length. It was $200 originally, I got it on deep discount sight-unseen, and the sleeves are short. It's made in Italy and their impression of an XXL doesn't seem to match up with North America's. It's not uncommon for garments made with really expensive luscious fabrics to be a bit stingy in the fit, which is pretty cheeky when you are asking $200 for a jersey.

Anyway, I decided to try some knickers. I was going to buy some last year but the places with my sizes were out and I never got around to it. This year, the guys at Bicyle Fixation are doing some knickers. They're wool, they're dressy, they're actually made in the United States of America! They even have a bit of flashy satin lining! I ordered up a pair.

They arrived yesterday. I was so happy, and nobody else was home, so into the living room and off with my trousers! I tried on the knickers and...they're too short. Not by a lot, 2 or 3 inches (OK, that's a lot in a garment), but with my upper leg horizontal, as on a pedal stroke, the knickers' cuff binds diagonally over my knee. I was really bummed out about this. There was a little note in there from the Bicycle Fixation people, how the wife was unimpressed by the selection of cycling garments for her husband, how they put together these wool gabardine knickers, how the flashy satin was actually from their wedding...I loved the vibe on these things. I wish they worked for me. They just don't fit.

(As an aside, there is a review of these knickers at Fixed Gear Gallery).

So, I'll be contacting them and returning them. In the meantime, I just got a pair of unhemmed wool dress trousers from Sierra Trading Post for $20 and they're lovely. There's a lady around the block from us who does alterations...I'm thinking I'll call her up and see if she can sew the trousers into knickers for me. I'm going to call her tonight and take over the Bicycle Fixation knickers so she can see what's involved. On the whole, I'd rather keep them, but they do need to fit. If you're normal-sized (my buddy Paul, who picked up the Tete du Course jersey for me in Cedar Rapids, said "that's what you get for being a freak" when I whined about the short long-sleeves on the garment), I'd think about a pair.

PS Later on today, after having posted this entry, I got a call from George's Shoe Store, where I'd left a pair of Rockport Dressports 14 Narrow shoes to be resoled. The sole that I'd selected? They don't make them that big. Sheesh, story of my life. I approved a different sole, and they'll be ready next week.


Anonymous said...

I'm 6'5" with a 34" inseam, and I've found the rivendell MUSA pants (XXL) to work out well for me.

They have velcro in the cuff that lets you hike them up like knickers. They also sell a knicker version of the same pants, but I haven't tried those.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hell yeah man! i can't find 'em big enough.. got this 64 Fuji and did it up proper...

the swiss cheetah.

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