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My New Favourite Bike Shorts

25 June 2019

Hi again Ground Effect people!

For the love of Lycra, what have you done to me?

It has been about seven months since I wrote to you about the problem with my favourite bike shorts (MFBS), a sorrowful tale about how my old biking companions had started to finally fall apart. You Ground Effect folk responded with kindness, after clearly empathising with my pitiful situation. You offered to help me with replacements, and even said I could tell a select few mates "I'm sponsored now" (even though I felt a bit awkward asking about that bit). I am very grateful for your generosity and thought it was time to let you know how I got on with the replacements.

Here is a bit of a recap regarding my previous situation: I bought MFBS second hand on TradeMe, I estimated that they were about five years old when I took them over from their previous owner (although after riding in my replacement shorts I think they may have been much older). I quickly became very close to MFBS and they were soon my first choice for any ride (both on the road and the single track). After about eight years and many kilometres had passed beneath us both, the relentless durability of MFBS convinced me they would last forever. I was shocked and dismayed when they finally started to fall apart. What I didn't tell you last time, is that I had serious doubts that I would ever find another pair of bike shorts as good or comfortable as MFBS.

Me and my first Lycra shorts in about 1983. I ditched tubulars and shaving my legs decades ago, but I'm still a big fan of Lycra down below and wool on top.

When the replacement shorts arrived (large black Sputniks to be precise), I conducted a detailed assessment of the new article. To be fair, they looked better than MFBS, they were an even, low-sheen black, whereas MFBS were looking a bit shabby. The panel construction was similar, the elasticity of the ShockWave Lycra was consistent with expectations and they were almost exactly the same size. Crikey; they even extended the same length down my hairy legs to my existing bike shorts tan-line. The initial indicators were all looking good. The one major difference, though, was the move to a moulded synthetic chamois.

After buying some sale priced European Lycra a few years back, I had become a little suspicious of such technology. It is a tricky balance getting this aspect of design right and I had been caught before. Too much moulded padding stitched into not enough Lycra results in something that feels pretty weird and looks well, obscene. I was a little worried that the new Sputniks may not live up to expectations, I was unsure that the moulded chamois would be as comfortable as the old stitched fabric version in MFBS (even though it was worn through in two places).

I tentatively took the new pants for a few rides; a bit of commuting at first, a lap of the Coppermine then a bit of time on the Takaka Hill (sandwiched between my behind and the saddle of my good road bike). They seemed pretty comfortable, things were going well. I hadn’t really tested them properly before work commitments, heat and forest fires put everything on hold for a while though. Summer somehow slipped by quickly without very much pedalling, but fortunately my lovely wife and I found a few autumnal weeks for a back-road tour down south. It was then that I took a punt and invested in a second identical pair of large, black Sputniks.

I am pleased to inform you that since then I have given them proper testing and I am in a strong position to report back. We managed to tour some of Otago's remote shingle passes over dry treeless hills, then made our way west and north through lush, wet west coast forest, on a road left empty by the bridge washout at Franz Joseph. After a bit of wet weather testing over the Rahu Saddle, we made our way back home to Nelson on as many back-roads as possible. I should take a quick moment to say thanks to the Kennett Bros for publishing Classic NZ Cycle Trails, we have the 3rd and 4th editions, which are full of good ideas for getting away from traffic. After doing the Porika Track from south to north, I can confirm that the Sputniks are also very comfortable attire for walking up steep hills pushing a bike.

MNFBS and I arriving into the MacKenzie Basin via MacKenzie Pass

MNFBS and I near the top of Danseys Pass

MNFBS and I feeling nervous at about 2pm on a day that started before dawn. We had somehow talked my lovely wife into doing both big hills (and some smaller ones) on the Old Dunstan Road in one day. A warm NW head-breeze was starting to blow and we still had a long way to go over the Rough Ridge Range to Omakau.

I have also managed to put the new shorts through their paces on the Old Ghost Road and the Heaphy Track recently. The identical twin tag-team did extremely well. Not only do the dynamic duo feel at least as comfortable as M(old)FBS, they just look new and great all of the time. Now that I have a few thousand kilometres under the belt, I can confidently state (for the record) that they are my new favourite bike shorts (MNFBS). The fact that they are new, there are two of them and they have all of the hallmarks M(old)FBS suggests that I may never need to search for replacement Lycra again.

MNFBS and I on Skyline Ridge enjoying the view (OGR)

MNFBS and I nearly falling off my bike, posing for a photo at the Heaphy Hut

'Sputnik Twin One' takes a well-deserved rest in the frame bag while 'Sputnik Twin Two' tags-in for a day in the saddle on the way home from the Heaphy.

MNFBS go undercover. We respect the no visible Lycra in the café rule, remember guys; togs, togs, togs, undies, undies, undies!

As for M(old)FBS, I felt like one of those shallow guys that gets a girlfriend and doesn't ring up his old mates anymore. Solution;

M(old)FBS prepare for a place in my 'Cycling Hall of Fame' (actually the garage wall)

So it's a big thanks from me, Ground Effect people, not just for the memories but for your ongoing commitment to quality Lycra (for down below) and quality merino blends (for on top). In the unlikely event that anything ever wears out again, I will be in touch.

Billy from Nelson