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These are women’s mountain cycling shoes made by Lake. They are by far the most comfortable and the most walkable cycling shoes I tried. They are also by far the most reasonably priced. I love it when that happens! These shoes are obviously made to fit a woman’s feet, unlike some of the makers of women’s cycling shoes who seem to have just used really tiny-footed men for crafting the dimensions for the female version of their men’s shoe line.

I got my Lakes at BIKE NASHBAR (along w/a few other goodies) – they have coupons and sales going on all the time, and their prices are deals even before you get the discount of sale pricing and input your nifty-neato coupon codes.

http://www.nashbar.com

This is my BELL SWEEP helmet that I got from REAL CYCLIST via Amazon Marketplace. I don’t know about you, but I’m a comparison shopper because I’m usually living on a teacher’s salary. And since we moved back to Texas I’m living on an unemployed teacher’s salary, which, when I think about it, is really not that much different. My point (yes, I knew I had one!) is that whatever I’m shopping for, I check the price (and reviews) on Amazon and several other vendor sites before buying. The advantage to buying through Amazon Marketplace is that very often you don’t have to pay for the shipping and oftentimes the price is less than it is on the actual storefront’s website. I don’t know why that is, but obviously I like lower prices and free shipping. Who doesn’t?

This helmet is oh-so-light, it’s got a butt-load of ways to adjust the fit, and my favorite thing about it is that it keeps my head cool. MS symptoms are exacerbated by heat; the lower I can keep my core temperature the longer I can ride; simple as that. So this blue & green BELL SWEEP helmet isn’t just versatile in fit and spiffy looking with it’s alien tech design, it really is a necessity in my cycling arsenal.

Check out REAL CYCLIST here. They seem to get a lot of clearance items and pass that on to us at outlet prices. I like that. A lot.  www.realcyclist.com

I cannot begin to describe the love affair I have going on with ICEBREAKER clothing made from Merino wool. And the truth is that because I’m such a frugal wench I never would’ve discovered ICEBREAKER if I hadn’t been lucky enough to be awarded a free pass to the TEDactive conference in Palm Springs in 2009 (http://deniselanier.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/kids-write-to-ted/).  When you check into the conference they give you a goodie bag – much like they must give at the Golden Globes – chock-full off of super-yummy stuff. There was a chocolate brown, long-sleeved ICEBREAKER shirt in my gift bag, which really came in handy during the chilly early mornings and after the sun went down behind those gorgeous, guarding mountains. If you ever have an opportunity to go to a TED conference (or Palm Springs), GO! No matter who you are or what you do for a living, what your hobbies, political or religious persuasions are – TED will open your mind and heart in ways you cannot possibly imagine. The people there – those who run the events, the speakers, the attendees – are among the most gracious, intelligent, generous, funny, laid back, full of passion, service oriented – I have ever met. If TED were a commune I would move there today.

But back to the ICEBREAKER:

It dominates anything else I’ve worn before or tried since. On a teacher’s salary it’s not easy to come by, but little by slowly I’m willing to invest because their product makes such a difference to my comfort, which in turn enables better performance. As I mentioned above in regard the Sweep helmet, MS symptoms are exacerbated by heat so the cooler I can keep my body the longer and more efficiently I’m able to ride. Which is all to say that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into finding active wear that breathes & wicks (& lasts) because it’s *really* important to me. I can even wear my long-sleeved collared ICEBREAKER top in the Texas summer heat (for sun protection) and be as cool as if I were wearing a tank. Well, “cool” isn’t the accurate word, but you get my drift .

They have a superfine Ultralight for use in the hottest conditions, on up to a weight worthy of Alpine ski conditions. The layering options are near-endless & they even have advice on layering for specific activities/conditions on their web site (one of the most beautiful/educational/helpful I’ve encountered). These garments breathe & wick & look better than any other Merino wool garments I’ve had and they get softer with every wash. Merino wool can be expensive, but that’s because it’s superior in quality & wear & performance. I look at buying what I wear when I’m exercising the same way I approached the purchase of my recumbent trike, I’m willing to spend a bit more for stellar quality, for something that outperforms & outlasts the other, slightly-less-expensive options.

When comparing ICEBREAKER pure Merino wool garments to the more common “performance wear” – you need to know that those tech fabrics are *synthetic* – as in, made from plastic (which is why they smell so awful!) & are extremely flammable to boot. Whereas ICEBREAKER is organic, made from a sustainable, annually renewable resource. Each of their garments comes with a “Baa Code” that you can use to trace the wool to the very sheepfarm from which it came. Sheepfarms run by families, many of which have been running their sheepfarm for multiple generations. I get a kick out of knowing that my purchases support an actual sheepfarm, a real family! How cool is that? 

I heard Icebreaker is coming out with a special line of highly visible garments for runners & cyclists with lots of reflecty bits – sports bras, running & cycling shorts/tights too. I can’t wait. OK, I’ll stop sounding like ICEBREAKER’s unofficial spokeswoman for now. But, seriously, go buy some. You won’t be sorry! I’ve gotten pieces of ICEBREAKER from Amazon, Backcounty, REI and, of course, ICEBREAKER’s own web site. Make sure to get on their mailing list so that you can take advantage of the seasonal sales. And check out their blog, the story of how they came to be the company – the community – they are. I’m crazy about what they stand for and believe in, how they craft their products and their organization, the mission to which they hold true:  www.icebreaker.com

Speaking of visibility, I’m sorry you can’t see my trike’s flag in all it’s neony lime green glory, the way it looks in person. Most trikers, like most bikers, spend a good deal of their time on the streets. I attempt to avoid streets. A) because I’m still getting used to being among car traffic without the protective covering of an actual vehicle surrounding my person, and B) People can drive like freakin’ idiots around cyclists, endangering safety and lives. I like being safe. And alive.
Which brings me back to my flag, from PURPLE SKY FLAGS. This thing is made from high quality materials, it’s expertly and durably sewn, it will not droop when I’m at a stand-still – like most flags – which diminishes the very visibility I’m aiming for, and those circles are uber-reflective. Go to the PURPLE SKY FLAGS website and check out the images of what the flags look like when hit by headlights at night. I can’t imagine being able to find a flag that makes you more visible, safer, than these. In spite of my best efforts to avoid streets and cars, I still have to traverse some to get to the cemetery by my neighborhood where I often ride, and even on the many dedicated run & bike trails along the bayous in the greater Houston area, I still have to navigate intersections at various points. Drivers simply aren’t looking, paying attention. Now, more than ever, we’re distracted by phones and PDAs and iPods and so much else while driving.
Cyclists must take their well being into their own hands. Because recumbent trikes sit lower to the ground – sometimes being obscured by foliage or other vehicles – visibility is even more of a concern. A bike can get away with not having a safety flag; in fact I cannot remember the last time I saw a flag on an adult’s bike. Recumbent cyclists, and those riding recumbent trikes most especially, need the added “WOOHOOO, I’M OVER HERE, DON’T HIT ME, PLEASE!” that a flag announces.
Don’t miss the feature of being able to create your own flag design; that customizer tool is so much fun (a little addictive, actually)!  These flags are ridiculously-reasonable in price for the high quality of materials and construction. And damned if the flags aren’t the finest looking on the market to boot! The customer service at PURPLE SKY FLAGS is out of this world. Dan and Rachelle are trikers themselves, so they know what’s what. I love that it’s a family run business, where I’m treated like a friend of the family rather than a customer. How often do you come across that these days?  www.purpleskyflags.com
I’ll be adding more to this Favorite Things list later, so check back.  Also, I mentioned this in a previous post but it bears repeating. For the most thorough list of all things cycle related and an exhaustive review section, go to Bent Rider Online. Don’t let the name fool you, BROL is for *every* cyclist, ‘bent or not, no matter how many wheels. You’ll land among some of the most experienced riders – the friendliest and most helpful folks – in cyberspace.  www.bentrideronline.com
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