Friday, March 24, 2017

Jamie's Diet Food: Sweet-potato chickpea patties with sriracha-yogurt sauce

Growing up, little hellion tomboy that I was, I did not expect that I would spend any time, let alone multiple hours a week, on a website* frequented by housewives and mommy bloggers. But I really like Pinterest. I spend a not-insignificant amount of time looking at pictures of color palettes, seasonal decorating ideas, cute pet pictures, and cilantro-lime-avocado-quinoa-whole 30-paleo-vegan-friendly-gluten-free-anti-inflammatory recipes. Seriously, all the recipes are like that. Somewhere, there is a random generator with all of those (search engine optimized) words that spits out ridiculous recipes.

There's a class of food and mommy bloggers out there (mostly on Pinterest) that have blogs that all look exactly the same: they're all on white backgrounds with an Instagram-worthy picture in the right-hand column and a cute, quippy "about me" section. They all have beautiful food photography that they've done themselves. They all write several paragraphs of backstory (which I scroll past) about the recipe that they're showcasing, interspersed with these well-lit, well-arranged, composed pictures of food. And almost all of these blogs are written in the exact same voice; I wonder if this is an SEO-approved way of writing, or if it's because they've all learned how to write from each other.

Good on them for having a blog and trying to make money off of it, but if you enjoy snarking at such creatures, you'll probably enjoy watching The Katering Show on YouTube. Hilarious.

I have no well-composed pictures of my dinner (and if you've made it this far, you're already through the backstory part), but I do have this recipe from The Kitchn that I tried a few weeks ago and really enjoyed. That link has a relatively short amount of backstory and only two well-composed food pictures; and it's from an online "magazine," rather than an individual's food blog. There is still an Instagram-worthy picture of the author, though.

Enough of that. Here's the recipe, adapted slightly from The Kitchn's version:

Ingredients
For the patties:
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces)
1/2 medium yellow onion
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon fine salt

For the yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce

1/8 teaspoon fine salt

Instructions
Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans (did you know cicero is Latin for chickpea?). Do not use a potato masher to mash them; it will take forever. Instead, dump the beans into a food processor, along with the onion, grated sweet potato (you could probably just chop it in the food processor before adding the beans, because grating a sweet potato takes forever, too), breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, and cilantro. Pulse the food processor until you have a fairly uniform paste. The original recipe also calls for cumin and smoked paprika, which I forgot to add; the patties tasted fine without it, but I'm sure they would be even better if I'd remembered to season them.

I pan-fried these on a non-stick skillet with no oil to keep the calories down. Next time, I'll try baking them in the oven. These are very fragile, so go slowly and carefully or you'll end up with hash. Scoop out a quarter of a cup of the paste, pack it into a tight ball with your hands, then squish it down into a patty shape. Carefully lay it in a skillet on medium heat. The patty will change color as it cooks, from orange to a yellow the color of curry powder. Cook the patty until that color change has gone more than halfway up the side of the patty (should take 3-5 minutes) then CAREFULLY flip to cook the other side. The patty should be golden brown, not dark brown or black; if you get dark brown or black, turn the heat down on your skillet. This recipe made 9 patties for me.

The sauce is easy: mix everything together. We had these like falafel patties, with flatbread (homemade, thank you very much), sauteed cabbage, pickled onions, and the sauce on top.

We got a computer, 26.8 k modem, and AOL when I was 8 or 9 (before that, we had a Commodore 64). The connection was so slow that the only sites we could consistently access were AOL message boards and fan sites. Do you know which ones I spent my time on? Star Trek and Babylon 5. I was a really cool kid.

Monday, March 20, 2017

New Bike Fit!

In the past two years, my body has changed. Part of that is down to being over 30. Part of it is my change in sports--no more running and swimming! Part of it is that I don't teach yoga multiple times a week anymore, and my flexibility from the time when I did teach 5-8 classes a week has now completely worn off.

When I first got my Felt AR5, I had a bike fit at my local shop Tri360 (which has since closed). The fit was from a F.I.S.T.-certified fitter, developed by SlowTwitch.com. The F.I.S.T. fitting system is very tri-centric, designed at a time when most bike manufacturers weren't developing bike geometries specifically for cyclists who need to be super-aero but also need to be able to run after riding. Which is to say that my bike fit, while very helpful for the Ironman training and racing that I did right after I got it, didn't suit my new path as a roadie. In fact, when I started road riding and racing again last winter, I re-tooled my fit on my own to be more road-friendly--both to increase my comfort and handling confidence for road riding and to stop my teammates from making fun of my triathlete fit.

But over the course of the past year I've gotten less and less comfortable on my saddle (a Cobb Gen 2 that was great for a TT position, but not very nice to my hoo-ha with a more laid-back road position), and I felt like I was limited in how low I could get over my bike. I tried messing with my handlebar position, my hood position, my saddle set-back; I had an overwhelming feeling, even after short rides, that I could be much more comfortable on my bike if I changed things around, but I was too lazy to put the time and effort into dialing my fit in myself.

So I outsourced the task to my sponsor bike shop, Spokes, Etc. Enter Anna, Spokes's pro fitter!

Anna is certified through Specialized's Body Geometry fitting program. I've been fit by a Specialized fitter before (back when I got my Specialized Transition). I like the Body Geometry system! It seems very thorough, much more so than the F.I.S.T.ing system (and yes, I know), like it takes more components of my individual body into account.

Here's a little before and after. See if you can tell the difference.
This is actually from right after I bought the Felt, not right before the fit, so it's not exactly how I had my bike set up before Anna worked on it.
And we live in a different house now. Notice the change of flooring!
There aren't a lot of obvious differences, although the one that stands out to me the most is the different in reach. The stack looks lower in the second picture, doesn't it? That's weird, because the saddle is much higher now than I had it right before. 

Saddle is lower, handlebars and stem are lower and rotated towards me slightly.
The pictures are kind of deceiving, because the only before picture of my bike I could find was from right after I bought it, before I had it fit for the first time. The changes we made this time were 
  • Raising the saddle
  • Moving the saddle back
  • Lowering the stem
  • Rotating the handlebars forward
  • And adding a new saddle
I'm now on a Specialized Power Saddle and it's working for me pretty well. It's still not perfect, because balancing on a few inches of plastic/carbon and leather for several hours is not comfortable. But the saddle seems to hit me in better places, and I've had less trouble with chafing and saddle sores since switching from the Cobb saddle. I can get really low with this fit without my chest and ribcage getting in the way of my legs. Some of the soreness in my piriformis and right hamstring has cleared up, too. This fit has worked out really well for me (and it's roadie-approved)! Big thanks to Anna and Spokes, Etc. for the much-appreciated service!

If you've never been professionally fit, I recommend it. It'll run you $100-$200, depending on the shop you go to, but it makes a big difference in how you feel on the bike. For my money, not having saddle sores and chafing in my lady-parts is well worth the cost (and it's an easy sell for spouses/partners if you have to convince them that you need to spend the money, if you know what I mean). Most shops will give you a free or discounted bike fit after you buy a bike from them, so check into that if you're in the market for a new bike.

I'll try to pull together some information on bike fitting and saddle choice soon, so if you can't swing the cost of a pro bike fit you can try to at least improve your position on your own. With that, thanks for reading!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Coping With the Flu

I was going to go to Williamsburg, Virginia, to race the William & Mary Tidewater Classic (last year's race report here) this weekend, but instead I decided to get the flu.
Check out my stash. Anyone in Big Pharma want to sponsor me?
I had the flu at the end of November, too. Both times, the illness coincided with being in Canada or around Canadian relatives. Those Canadian germs must be really tough! Polite, but tough!
Canadian germs, like the Mounted Police, are tough but polite.
But this post isn't just a forum for me to whine (I subjected you guys to enough whining in the Monster Cross Race Report)--I also want to be helpful! So here is my brief rundown of all the drugs I have taken, and how effective they've been. Please note, however, that this post in no way constitutes medical advice. If you're sick, go to the doctor. If you're interested in my pain and down for a laugh, read on.

For reference, my worst symptom with this year's flu (both times I've had it) is body aches all over. My muscles and joints are so sore that I can barely get out of bed. It hurts to eat, swallow, poop, urinate, and breathe. I also have a sore throat and sinus congestion and headache, but the all-over hurting is really the worst part. Without further ado, here are the things I've tried:

Nyquil (not pictured)
I only got half a dose of Nyquil because Emily had taken it all last week (she'll get me some more tonight). It did a good job of relieving the body aches enough that I could fall asleep. Unfortunately, it stopped working after 4 hours, at which point I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep because everything hurt.

Salonpas
If you've never used Salonpas, they're pain-relief patches that stick on the skin and work like icy hot. These were surprisingly effective, but they didn't cover enough territory. They are advertised to last for 8 hours, but mine stopped working closer to 6 hours in.

Tylenol PM
This is what I took after the Nyquil wore off (since we didn't have any more). I know from experience, having slept through work once, that the sedative part is powerful, so I only took one. But the pain relief part wasn't strong enough to keep me asleep, so I dozed fitfully after taking it.

Dayquil
Really helped with the nasal congestion and sinus headache, but not the all-over body aches. It's the thing that has cleared my head enough to be to write this, though.

Ibuprofen
I think this is what helped my sore throat and headache more than anything. It helped the body aches some, but not enough on its own to get rid of them.

Alka Seltzer Cold Plus
This is one of my favorites, because it addressed all the symptoms I was having and was fact-acting. However, it wears off fast (less than 4 hours), and you're only supposed to take 2 doses every 24 hours.

Vicks Vapo-rub
Smells nice, and helps a little with the congestion. Emily put it on her feet and then put socks on to stop her coughing (which actually worked, to my surprise), but it hasn't done much for me.

Cold-Eeze
No idea whether or not this stuff is helping. I seem to feel a little better after I take it, but that's probably a placebo effect. It's reasonably well-studied, but I'm pretty sure I have the flu and not a common cold, so I'm not sure I'm the target market right now.

China Gel/Biofreeze
This is the stuff that's been a life-saver for me. It does the same thing as Salonpas, but I can rub it all over my arms, legs, neck, chest, ribs, and back. It's surprisingly long-lasting, too; I put some on about an hour ago, and I'm pretty sure it's the only reason I'm able to sit upright and type right now. The China Gel and Biofreeze have similar mechanisms, but I don't think the Biofreeze works quite as well. I prefer the consistency of the China Gel, anyway. The Biofreeze is cheaper though, by a good amount (China Gel $3.74/ounce, Biofreeze $2.63/ounce).

My plan is to get a flu shot as soon as they start giving them out next year. I've never prioritized flu shots, but holy cow! I never want to feel like this again. From now on, I will always get a flu shot. And if you're unlucky enough to get this particular strain of Canadian influenza (Canadianfluenza, if you will),  Dayquil, ibuprofen, and China Gel is what's helping me survive until the virus runs its course.

No racing for me this weekend. Those of you who are racing, keep the rubber side down!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

PSA: Always Check Before You Ride!


I did an easy-ish ride this morning to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather before the forecast afternoon thunderstorms hit. On the second half of my ride, I started to feel extra tired. I chalked it up to being hungry for lunch, but then I heard a rubbing sound and realized that my front brake had gone off-center. I re-adjusted it and kept riding. It happened again a little bit later, and again a little bit after that. For the last 20-30 minutes of my ride, I was thinking hard about what could cause my brake to keep pulling to the same side, especially since it was pulling clockwise--away from the direction that the cables pull.

When I got home, I dismounted and gave the brake one last wiggle to see if I could feel any play. The brake felt fine, but the wheel moved.

Let me repeat: the wheel moved.

The quick release on my front wheel was loose. I don't know if it came loose at some point during the ride (unlikely), or if it's been like that since I put the front wheel back on after Sunday's ride. But that is a very dangerous problem to have. If my front wheel had come off at high speed, I probably would have been visiting the hospital right now instead of writing this blog post.

Consider this your public service announcement to check your bike before every ride! Here's a list of quick things to check before you head out:

1. Quick release skewers. Be sure they're secure and tight and lined up properly. Check for any side to side play in the front or rear.

2. Wheels and brakes. Give the wheels a quick spin to check for wheel true and brake rubbing. While you do that, eyeball the tires to make sure there's nothing stuck in the rubber. While you're at it, check the tire pressure and inflate your wheels to your preferred pressure.

3. Check the brakes by grabbing the front and rear brake and pushing forward and backward. With the front brake on, the front wheel should stop and the bike frame rotate forward. With the rear brake on, the rear wheel should stop and (if anything) the whole bike should scoot back. Neither wheel should slip against the brake pads, though.

4. Make sure the chain is lubed. Some people lube their chain before a ride, but I usually clean and lube my bike after every ride. Doesn't matter, so long as the chain isn't dry.

You should also wash and check your bike regularly. Ideally, you'd wipe the bike down and de-grease the drivetrain after every ride, but I know sometimes that's not possible. Definitely do it after every wet, rainy ride, though, and try to get it done at least once a week. While you're at it, check the chain for wear (you need a chain wear tester for that job, but they're not expensive). Clean the brake pads and check them for wear. Check your wheels and tires for true and for any little sharp bits that have lodged themselves in your tires. And check the brake track on your wheels for wear.

It doesn't take much time or effort to check your bike, but you do need a little bit of knowledge. I recommend SickBiker and Global Cycling Network, both of which have detailed and informative maintenance guides on their YouTube channels. You shouldn't need to take your bike to the shop for every little thing. And you need to be able to do enough to keep yourself safe on your rides.

Stay safe out there!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Race Report: Monster Cross

Oy. Where to begin?

First off, this race report isn't getting out until Thursday (4 days) because I've had trouble concentrating. I fell and hit my head pretty hard . . . and I didn't think I got a concussion, because it didn't feel like the concussions I've had before . . . But who knows. Maybe I had a mild concussion, or maybe I just feel loopy because the weather's been nice and my allergies are starting for the spring.

So. Monster Cross.

It sucked.

I should have gotten an indication of how things would go down at registration, where they ran out of T-shirts. So in spite of registering well ahead of time, I didn't get a T-shirt. Not that I care that much about another T-shirt, but the entry fee was $70 and included a shirt. Why couldn't you have enough shirts for pre-registered riders who paid for a shirt?

The start was a total shit-show, if you'll pardon my language. There was no direction given on staging. I heard a rumor that the 25-mile people were supposed to start after the 50-mile people, but I doubt many people got that note (and I don't even know if it was true). There were about 500 people at the start, and about half of them were assholes on mountain bikes who were really convinced that they needed to get around me and in front of me as quickly as possible. The first 5 miles were full of stupidity and unnecessary risks. Fortunately, I managed to find a pair of wheels from Rogue Velo that were riding at a consistent pace and taking good lines, so I tagged onto the back of them and followed for the first 5-10 miles (even though they were going slower than I knew I could ride).

After things thinned out a little, I passed the pair from Rogue Velo and told them they won my prize for steadiest wheels and thanked them for that. There was still a lot of traffic, though. I though Carl Dolan was stressful last year. It was nothing compared to a double-paceline on double-track with a bunch of dumb mountain bikers who apparently don't know how to ride next to other people and guys on cross bikes who seem like they've never ridden within 10 feet of another person.

There was one guy in particular (on a mountain bike, of course) who made at least 3 really dumb passes that I saw. He blew past me way too close (without calling anything out to me, of course), then I saw him on two other occasions pass someone with barely inches to spare (almost hitting the other rider) when there was plenty of room on the other side to pass! Stupid, discourteous, asshole behavior, all around.

Can you tell that this whole thing was making me grumpy?

I ended up passing and dropping the stupid mountain biker on the uphills, anyway.

I had about 5 miles of good riding before taking a creek crossing too fast (even though I was warned a few weeks ago about this particular creek crossing) and with a bad line. I tore a hole right through my front tire, tubeless system be damned. I ended up at the top of the next hill with half a dozen other riders in the same boat. My wheel was spewing Stan's NoTubes all over, but it was holding enough air that I felt like I could ride it for at least a mile or so before pumping it up again. Another woman was in the same predicament, and she told me she was pretty sure that we had been 2nd and 3rd until that point. But I didn't really care; I'd decided I didn't want to be anywhere close to the front with the self-important jerks and their dickish behavior.

The nice thing about flatting was that I was pretty close to the back of the field, so I had the trails to myself at last! The bad thing was that my tire was losing air, and I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it through a second lap. As I pulled over to the side of the trail to add some more air to my flat (again) tire, I resigned myself to pulling out at mile 25.

Miraculously, my tire had sealed and was holding air! It maintained the same air pressure for the last 4 miles of the lap, and I decided to risk a second lap on it. Right at the end of that lap, though, I passed a really, really, really bad crash. Some of my racing friends had pulled over to the side of the trail, and they all looked stunned. I tried not to look, and kept going on the lap. The woman who'd crashed ended up being taken out in a helicopter, and just regained consciousness the other day. Hope she pulls through.

I stopped by my car (which I'd conveniently and unwittingly parked right next to the start of the second lap) to check the air pressure on my tires with my track pump and let some air out of my tires, because I had way too much for confident handling on the first lap. I also grabbed a fresh bottle of water. And then I started my second lap.

The ride was going great, and I was reeling some of the women who'd passed me back in! Then there was a little mix-up with the course. A section of the course had two-way traffic, but the two-way section wasn't labeled in any way. So we were heading out on our second lap, and the front of the field was heading back on their second lap, and they were yelling at us that we were going the wrong way. Me and another guy on a cross bike rode back to the last corner to see if we'd missed a turn, but it didn't look like we had. So we started out the same way again, and met another group who assured us that we were going the wrong way. So we turned around and went back again, picking up a few more people each time. Finally, there were about a dozen of us stopped at the corner, so we all decided to go back down the two-way section and if we were wrong at least we'd all be wrong together. Turned out to be the right decision. But it's another example of really poor race management. First of all, that section was dangerous. There was only one good line to pass, and if two people were trying to pass at the same time from opposite directions, it would have been a mess. Plus, how hard would it have been to make a sign that said, "Warning! Two-way traffic! Keep right" huh? All it would have taken is a piece of poster board and a sharpie. Poor management.

By that point, I'd added 2 miles to my race and all the women I'd passed had passed me back. One of my friends was so frustrated that she just turned around and went back. I think she'd had enough. But I persisted and finished out the second lap mostly uneventfully. Mostly.

I'd had a terrible day, in spite of beautiful weather and surroundings, and I was having a difficult time keeping my spirits up. I was grumpy. So I did the one thing that could make my day complete: I slid out on a gravelly corner coming down a hill into a sharp right turn. There wasn't much blood, and I didn't damage my kit or my bike, but I hit my head pretty hard. No flash of light or anything, but I figured my helmet was a lost cause at that point. I dedicated myself to riding cleanly for the rest of the race, because I really couldn't risk a second knock to the head.

I rode extra carefully on the creek crossing and made it through without ruining any more tires, and extra carefully around the corner where the really bad crash had been on the previous lap. Made it to the final climb within site of a BikenetiCX rider. Spectators were egging us on to sprint to the finish, so we tried our best. I grabbed the guy's wheel, but just as I was getting ready to pull around him, some dumbass on a mountain bike rode right out in front of us. Without looking! On the finishing straight! I hit my brakes so I wouldn't hit him, and that was my race. A fitting end to that day, all around.

I would tell you how I placed, but the race director hasn't gotten them up yet. He sent an e-mail yesterday that basically said, "Shame on all of you for wanting your race results when one of your fellow racers is in the hospital clinging to life! You should all be thinking of her and praying for her instead of wanting your race results." Which didn't sit well with me. I agree that her health and recovery is waaaaay more important than knowing whether or not I finished DFL in this event, but what does that have to do with him? Is he at the hospital every day? Is he spending all his free time praying? How does her recovery affect his ability to get the results done? And it would have been so easy to handle this in a way that kept people happy instead of putting their backs up. He could have said, "Hey guys, sorry the results are taking so long. You probably know by now that we had a really bad crash, and one of our fellow racers is in the hospital clinging to life. I'm doing my best to get results out, but they're kind of messed up since we had to stop the race for 20 minutes for the helicopter evacuation. I promise I'll keep working and get the results up as soon as I can. In the meantime, please keep our fellow athlete in your thoughts and prayers." See? I would have so much more patience if he'd said that instead of "Shame on you."

Bah. This was a terrible race. I did not have fun, and I don't think I'm the only one. I won't be doing Monster Cross again.

<--End of rant-->

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Jamie's Diet Food: Almond Flour Pancakes


I've made protein/paleo pancakes before (back in the years when I was eating mostly paleo). They didn't come out well. They were basically a scoop of protein powder and an egg. That's a protein powder omelette. They tasted of chocolate and chalk (chalk-a-late?), and they had the texture of used coffee filters with bits of coffee grounds mixed in.

So when I was craving pancakes after cycle class this morning (IHOP advertises on CNN, yo, and CNN is always on at the gym), I didn't go back to those bad, bad pancakes. Instead, I used the magic of Pinterest to look for a recipe that wouldn't suck. And I found one!

I made a few modifications, which are included below, but this recipe was adapted from one by The Roasted Root. They are surprisingly good. I wasn't expecting much, but these are tasty and have a pleasant texture.

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup of almond flour
2 tbsp flax seed meal
2 tbsp vanilla protein powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Make sure to mix everything together well; it's especially important that the baking powder is evenly distributed. Whisk eggs and vanilla into milk. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until combined.
  2. Heat a pan or a griddle to medium-low. Use less heat than you think you need. These are better when they're not burnt.
  3. Pour about 1/4 cup of mix into the pan and gently tilt the pan to create a thin, even pancake. It takes 3-4 minutes on the first side. You should see brown, crispy edges peaking out from the sides, and there should be a few bubbles on the surface of the pancake.
  4. Flip the pancake over very gently. They're fragile. Cook for another minute or two on the other side, just until the bottom looks golden brown.
  5. Repeat until you've used all the batter.
Tips
  • The batter is pretty thick. I used a spoon to scrape out the inside of my 1/4 cup scoop. It doesn't pour well, and half of it will stick to whatever vessel you're using to transfer mix from bowl to pan.
  • I used a crepe pan that I have for some reason (who has a crepe pan?), which has a non-stick, non-Teflon coating. I used about 1/2 tsp of coconut oil to grease the pan, but it wasn't really necessary. These didn't stick to my pan, really, and the coconut oil that wasn't soaked up by the first pancake burned and smoked.
  • These are gluten free, so they don't have the protein structure to hold together as well. That makes them fragile. Use the biggest spatula/flipper that you have and turn them over slowly. I didn't have any break, but go carefully. Think of it more as flipping an omelette than flipping a pancake.
  • Cooking takes longer than regular pancakes. Prepare to do a lot of standing around. If you have a griddle and can do a whole batch at once, lucky you. If you're doing them one at a time, prepare to devote 40 minutes to the cooking process.
  • Try them with apple butter. Om nom nom.
  • This recipe made 8 pancakes using 1/4 cup at a time. Nutrition info:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Kit Review: Shebeest Petunia Bibs and Divine Jersey

My kit collection has gotten sad over the past couple of years. There are multiple pairs of bike shorts about which I've said, "I should really get rid of these." This year, I finally had to (because no one wants to see my bum in spin class or on team rides). My beloved Specs Racing cycling kit--which I've had since '08 or '09--has gotten a little too much use. I finally threw out my Specs bibs this year when the seams that held the pad in ripped out, leaving tiny windows into my crotch from front and back. The non-bib Specs shorts are still in the spin class/TrainerRoad session rotation, but they won't hold out much longer. Most of the jerseys have held out much better, but I lost one to a broken zipper this year. I have some nice, new Veloworks-Spokes, Etc. kits for racing, but the Mt. Borah padding doesn't play well with my privates during 3+ hour rides.

All of which means I've needed for a long time to invest in new cycling clothing. In spite of the fact that I have more money now and therefore shouldn't have so much trouble buying new stuff, I find that my tastes in cycling clothing have also gotten way more expensive. I finally learned while training for Ironman Mallorca that bibs in the $50-$60 range are not good enough for my bottom. I budget $100-$120 for a pair of bib shorts now, and look for sales to get the best value. I can't quite bring myself to pay $200-$300 for a pair of fancy boutique bibs, though. Sorry, but you probably won't be reading any reviews of Rapha or Velocio kit from me!

That brings me to the kit I finally bought from Shebeest: the Petunia bibs and Divine jersey in black and houndstooth.

I got a pair of shorts (not bibs) from Shebeest a couple of years ago for Ironman training. They were marked way down on Nashbar, which is how I initially found them. The ones I bought, which have since been discontinued, were labeled specifically for 5+ hours in the saddle. Even marked down, they were the most expensive shorts I'd ever bought, excluding team kit buys, at $99. But I loved them so much that I ended up wearing them for the cycling leg of my Ironman, even though they weren't bibs. They had the most comfortable pad I'd ever ridden, and that's including my Castelli tri suit.

So I went directly to Shebeest for this purchase. I don't love many of their colors and patterns; too girly for my taste. But I found these in black and houndstooth, which looks stealthy but still has a pop of flair.

My first ride in them was a TrainerRoad workout, because they were the only shorts that were clean at the time. But my second ride in them has a two-hour jaunt on my 'cross bike. I still ride the stock saddle that came on my Specialized, even though the faux-leather doesn't allow me to slide on when re-mounting, because I am cheap and I am lazy and I don't want to try out a bunch of saddles to find one that works with my pelvis (which is not at all shaped for perching on a bike seat). It is not a comfortable saddle for me. If I sit on it for more than an hour or so, my butt (and other things) start complaining.

The Shebeest shorts made that a little better. I don't know if I'm ready to ride that stock saddle all the way to Cumberland in the Shebeest shorts, but they made a noticeable difference in my comfort level riding.

The real breakthrough moment with these shorts came when I had to stop to use the toilet on my ride. It was about 40ยบ out that day, so I was fully kitted out with tights and a jacket. As I pulled over next to the port-a-loo, I was dreading the imminent disrobing--take off the jacket, take off the jersey, pull off the bib straps, pull down the tights, find a place to hand the jacket and jersey that isn't on the floor of the john . . . Then I remembered that these shorts don't have standard bib straps; they have a halter. So I unzipped my jersey and jacket about halfway, pulled the halter over my head, and dropped trou. It was a revelation! No more removing all clothing in order to pee!

My first pair of Shebeest shorts were mediums, and they were a little too big. This time, I went with the smalls, which are a little tight. They're not so tight that I can't wear them, but they are noticeably compressive. The bib part is a polka-dot fabric that comes over the head in a halter, and it's attached by fishnet-type webbing. The fishnet part isn't very stretchy, but the halter is so stretchy that it doesn't seem to matter (at least for me). I have some concern that the halter will put pressure on my neck and shoulders during a ride, which may cause trouble on longer rides in the form of extra stress in my neck and tension headaches. The grippers on the legs are silicone woven in with elastic, like Castelli uses on their grippers. I like the feel of it very much, although I do still get some sausage-leg effect on these size small shorts.

The Divine jersey is a summer jersey, so I feel like I can't evaluate all of its benefits yet. I really like the cut and fit, especially around the hips. These jerseys are designed to be more generous for women's bodies, so the hemline isn't as stretchy. Instead, the rear panel below the jersey pockets has a silicone/elastic hybrid fabric that has lots of stretch but still holds the jersey in place. I didn't have any problems with the rear of the jersey riding up. The cut is a little tight through my arms, but the fabric is stretchy enough that it's not uncomfortable. It just makes me look even more muscular.

The fabric of the jersey is shinier, more sateen than I'm used to. I wasn't sure about its breathability at first, but it seemed to do fine, and the feel of the fabric is growing on me. It's very stretchy, though, so I'm not sure how durable it will be.

All things considered, I really like this new kit. I'm looking forward to putting it through its paces on longer rides, and seeing how the bib pad meshes with my road bike saddle.