Friday, October 3, 2014

Tour Divide 2015 - Contact Part 1: Hands

When riding a bike, you come into contact with it in three places: hands, feet, and butt.  Okay, technically that's five contact points, but you get the idea.  When riding that bike for miles and miles and miles and hours and days and weeks, it's important to think about how you interface with those contact points.  Minor irritations on a weekend ride with your buddies can turn into unwanted game changers when undertaking a multi-day bikepacking race.  The last thing you want when you're headed to the middle of nowhere is for your bike to rub you the wrong way.  Literally.

The "look."
So, hands...

But before I get into that, I have a confession.

I'm usually a pretty pragmatic guy, but when I ordered my bike, I have to admit to some degree of vanity.  See, I was going for a "look."  Those of you seasoned enough to know better are already grinning at my folly.  Anyway, when I ordered the bike, I also ordered a Gilles Berthoud Aspin touring saddle, a beautiful natural leather French-made piece of bicycle art, and matching leather handlebar wrap.  I even bought vintage-looking ElevenGear riding gloves.

Quite the ensemble.

Now, I did take the extra measure of wrapping the bars with an under-layer of Specialized Bar Phat.  I mean, it's gonna be rough out there.  Gotta treat your hands right, right?

Then I took it all out and rode the Chino Grinder, and I learned a few things about contact points.  I'll save the saddle discussion for another time, but here's what I learned about that pretty, smooth leather bar wrap: it's slippery.  Especially with matching leather gloves.  Especially on gravel roads.  With washboard.  I only rode the short course, but after 42 miles, my forearms were sore from simply trying to hold on to the handlebars.  No way this stuff was going to go any serious distance.

So, off it came.  I kept the padding, but switched out the leather for Lizard Skin bar tape.  Very tacky, very grippy, and in combination with the Bar Phat, very cush.  So far, it's been great.

I haven't finalized on gloves yet.  I like the carpenter's gloves I've been using on my trail bike - simple, cheap and durable protection, although they have no padding to speak of.  I do still dig the ElevenGear gloves for warm, dry riding.  They offer less finger protection, but offer some modest padding in the palm.  And did I mention that they look cool?  Not sure if either are going to do the job just yet.  Decisions, decisions.

I haven't bought thermal or wet-weather gloves yet.  After the horror stories I've heard from those who rode in the 2014 TD (Grand Depart), I'm uncertain which way to go.

For rain, I was keen on the Mountain Hardwear gloves that Marshal Bird was going to take out, but after reading about his experience, I'm thinking twice.  I've heard similar stories about other brands of "waterproof breathable" gloves too.  So at this point, I'm looking elsewhere to find something appropriate.  So far the most promising thing I've found is from the world of motorcycle touring.  My favorite so far is the Aerostich short gauntlet rain covers, but even Aerostich offers a bullet-proof (and cheap) alternative: industrial dish gloves.  At $4 a pair, I'll probably throw a pair of these in my kit for good measure.

As for thermal gloves, I was looking at the DeFeet Wool Duraglove.  Simple, inexpensive, Merino wool.  Pretty tough to beat.  Then when it came time to pony up, my size was not available.  Come to find out the Wool Duraglove is being discontinued, as DeFeet is introducing a Wool ET (electronic touch) Duraglove to replace it.  It's only a couple dollars more than the original, and is designed to be used with touch-screen devices.  Handy when futzing with the GPS or making a phone call with the smart phone.

Looks like these just came online, so if you'll excuse me, I gots me some shopping to do.


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