Rain protection inside a hot pandesal bun?

One of those things we just have to accept as cyclists is that the weather will not always be on our side. In the Philippines, the onset of rainfall can catch many unaware, especially those that aren’t prepared for it. For a pedestrian commuter, preparation usually consists of an umbrella of some sort. For cyclists, it’s a waterproof outer layer – usually a rain jacket.

Indeed, a rain jacket is a near-permanent fixture on my center jersey pocket on long rides. My particular jacket, though, a Sugoi Zap from 2014, is a bulky item. Rolled up into a cylindrical bundle, it hogs all the center pocket’s space, leaving no room for other items to carry in that location.

As far as waterproofs go, Sugoi’s first hyper-reflective rain jacket was decent. The Pixel fabric incorporated very tiny glass beads for the reflectivity, while taped seams took care of the battle against water ingress, and a mesh inner lining provided insulation. It even has a dropped tail hem to protect your ass from mud if you ride with no fenders.

It has its shortcomings. Breathability is decent, but the only choice you have for venting out your steamed-up sweat is the main zipper. The fit is a little baggy, which is great for riding with street clothes, but adds a bit of drag. I’ve seen the glass beads rub off the fabric, too, after years of living in my center jersey pocket…where its bulk makes its presence felt and seen, as mentioned.

Then I saw Carmela Pearson of Audax Randonneurs Philippines organize a group-buy for the Sportful Hot Pack 5 rain jacket sometime in late 2016. She had had a good experience with it, even riding with it to the Gran Fondo Marmotte in July of that year. I passed on it then, but chanced upon it again a little later, when it went on clearance sale at a discounted price.

FEATURES

  • Advertised weight: 79 grams
  • Made of Schoeller Nanosphere, a windproof, water-resistant polyamide/rayon fabric
  • Reflective accents on the lower back
  • Vented at the back and underarms
  • Packable; comes with its own integrated stuff sack with drawstring

IMPRESSIONS

According to Sportful, this particular jacket is the base model – the “5” refers to the fifth generation of the Hot Pack since it debuted in 2001. Next up the hierarchy is the Ultralight version, which weighs even less at 50 grams, but offers the same benefits. Finally, there is the Hot Pack NoRain Stretch, which keeps the same shape and fit, but adds stretch panels in the back and taped seams for better water resistance – and heaviest of the line at 105 grams. Most of the Hot Pack line is offered in gilet (vest) form, too.

The first thing that struck me with the blue jacket I ordered is just how light and thin it is. It feels around one or two steps removed from flimsy…but remember that this is meant to be an ultra-packable rain jacket, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. The blurb about the Schoeller Nanosphere material is that it’s made up of very fine yarns that are woven very densely, hence the water resistance.

There’s got to be more to it than this initial impression, then.

Putting it on…it’s pretty snug. Mine is an XL sized item, same as the Zap, but the two cannot be more different in practice. Where the Sugoi was baggy, the Hot Pack 5 can almost be called “tailored” to the fit of a rider in a cycling jersey, such is the closeness of its fit to the torso. Naturally it will accentuate any bulges you already have, so getting the sizing right is critical. The material does have a bit of stretch and give, but much less than a typical cycling jersey.

The Hot Pack 5 advertises itself as a windproof, and one useful touch to aid this is found on the ends of the sleeves. They are elasticated and come with thumb loops, to ensure that the sleeves stay in place and do not hike up your arms while riding your road bike. Very neat.

Around the ribcage area below the underarms are overlapping slats cut into the black fabric. These, along with the vents on the back panel, are the Hot Pack 5’s concession to venting the heat and sweat buildup you will inevitably pick up when riding hard in the rain. There’s even a small center pocket, flanked each side by four pieces of reflective material along the lower back. These are placed well for road cyclists’ visibility, as they tend to be bent over the bike.

The real party trick of the Hot Pack 5, though, lies somewhere within the center pocket. Inside is a stuff sack with a drawstring. You can basically roll up the jacket inside this tiny stuff sack…

…and end up with a package as big as a typical “pandesal putok” bun. As it is, mine is just slightly larger than my fist. Rain protection in a package a quarter of the size of the rolled-up Sugoi Zap? Now that is awesome.

I’ve ridden around in this jacket a few times, and it does an admirable job keeping the wind chill out while giving relatively good water resistance. It can actually be rather sweat-inducing if ridden somewhere with no wind. As with many other rain jackets, it’s the arms that tend to wet out first in the rain, but considering that this has no taped seams, it’s quite effective. Your back and torso will stay quite warm and dry even if your forearms have dampened.

VERDICT

Given how light and packable this is, the Hot Pack 5 leaves you absolutely no excuse to not bring a rain jacket and prepare for sudden changes in weather. Again, though, it’s not perfect. Even though Schoeller touts Nanosphere is abrasion-resistant, I do worry about tearing the very thin material in a crash. It’s also not ideal for riding with bulkier street clothes; I think it will accommodate a base layer, a jersey, and arm wamers underneath – at most. It also leaves out some ultimate water resistance on the table by reserving taped seams for the more expensive NoRain version.

Tour de France 2017: That’s all she wrote

Well, Chris Froome did it again. He is now a four-time winner of the Tour de France.

Exactly how he went about winning this year was the main talking point, though. Notably, Froome did not win a single stage, nor did he look as imperiously dominant at climbing as he was before. Many times it looked like he was at his most fragile, cracking at the Stage 12 Port de Bales climb. His margin of victory was a relatively scant 54 seconds ahead of Rigoberto Uran of Cannondale-Drapac. Finally, there were times when it seemed like his Team Sky teammate, Spaniard Mikel Landa, was keen on taking the yellow jersey himself. Landa eventually finished fourth in the general classification, 2:21 in arrears and one second behind Romain Bardet.

The result may have seemed inevitable, but the actual victory was anything but. After all the dust has settled, Froome won the race in the two individual time trials of Stages 1 and 20.

Some will say that Froome is not a “deserving” winner as he did not win a single stage. Others detest his lack of flair and robot-like efficiency, his gaze permanently fixed on his stem as he rides and climbs to a set power output. The man sure has his share of haters, like when he was splashed with a cup full of urine by French fans while competing in the 2015 Tour de France.

At the end of the day, though, he played by the rules of the general classification and won where it mattered: against the cumulative clock. Congratulations, Mr. Froome.

Anime review: “Long Riders!”

The title card for “Long Riders!”

Okay, I see what you’re thinking. Why is a cycling blog reviewing an anime series? Well, I basically grew up with anime, having developed a discerning taste for it, as it frequently delves into more mature themes Western animation is hesitant to explore. If it can combine with my love of bicycle riding, then why the hell not?

A QUICK HISTORY OF CYCLING IN ANIME

Cycling as a subject matter for anime is actually very under-represented. The earliest I remember is a 1998 original video animation (OVA) called “Nasu: Summer in Andalusia.” This one-shot OVA detailed a professional multi-day stage race where Spanish rider Pepe Benengeli tries to win the current stage he is riding, despite the harsh realities of being a professional cyclist and his own personal issues. Since then, there haven’t been a lot of titles…but it’s also seen something of a surging boom beginning in 2013, when Wataru Watanabe’s anime “Yowamushi Pedal” blew the world sideways with its take on high school bicycle racing.

A review of that 500-pound gorilla will have to wait for another time.

SO WHAT IS “LONG RIDERS!” ABOUT?

Refreshingly for viewers like me, who are sick and tired of the current anime fixation on high school, this series follows college freshman Ami Kurata. Clumsy and not very athletic, one day she is smitten by a passing 16″-wheeled folding bike, and decides to buy one to join her friend Aoi Niigaki, who is already a moderately experienced cyclist.

(L-R) Aoi Niigaki, Ami Kurata, Hinako Saijou, Saki Takamiya, and Yayoi Ichinose of Team Fortuna.

Along her growing appreciation of the sport, Ami meets more people, makes cycling friends, and broadens her horizons. Eventually, she forms Team Fortuna with Aoi and her riding buddies Hinako, Yayoi, and Saki. As de facto leader, Hinako sets ever higher goals for Ami to scale, while worrying that she may get frustrated and give up cycling altogether, as there are very few female cyclists their age around. Even when she is faced with failures such as mid-ride bonking and cramping, her optimism and love for the sport prevails, making Ami a good example to follow for new riders — especially new female riders.

Ami discovers just how light Saki’s road bike is – even in bikepacking guise.

It’s an organic kind of growth, and as my friend Arvin mentioned, it parallels my real-life experience of starting from a folding bike and making my way up to a road/cyclocross bike as I became a stronger rider.

NO RACING, JUST RIDING

Another refreshing thing about “Long Riders!” is that unlike “Nasu: Summer in Andalusia” and “Yowamushi Pedal,” nowhere in its twelve-episode run does bicycle racing even get mentioned. True to its hiragana-spelled English title, this anime concentrates on the simple joys of riding longer and longer distances…all for the sake of it. This anime has a randonneuring heart firmly beating inside it.

It so happens that Ami’s cycling adventures all occur around Japan, whose culture is innately, notoriously friendly towards bicycle traffic…despite not having bicycle lanes and cycle paths everywhere. How this series promotes the longer distances and bigger challenges Ami encounters is by providing incentives along the way, and those come in either delicious regional foods and delicacies, or majestic tourist sights, such as the beach of Miura, the climb to Mount Oyama via the Yabitsu Pass, and the famous Shimanami Kaido seaside cycling road. In a sense, “Long Riders!” doubles as a tourist and foodie brochure for Japan.

Hinako and Yayoi enjoying some Hassaku daifuku at a rest stop in Innoshima.

Hinako teaching Ami the pleasures of a post-ride gelato.

Be warned: this anime can make you hungry

FUN, FRIENDSHIP, FITNESS, AND FOOD

I like how this series pokes fun at the less-than-savory aspects of our sport. Good bicycles are seldom cheap, illustrated to hilarity by Ami’s repeated visits to the fictional Alpaca Cycle bike shop, and how everybody works part-time jobs for better equipment. Not only does the expense stop at the bike, but things such as lights and apparel come into it as well. The sickening sweetness of energy gels isn’t spared its ridicule either, as Ami has to take one to recover from a bad mid-ride bonk.

Yes, Hinako, the struggle is real.

Ami’s reaction to her first energy gel. Priceless

 

Visually, this anime looks nice enough. The 3D computer-rendered animated riding sequences and bicycle models are okay, but can be a bit jarring when put next to the 2D characters. Then again, with the more laid-back vibe of the show, the visuals are perfectly serviceable as is. Much of the show is focused on Ami, but the other characters are all given a decent time to develop within the short twelve-episode run. If I were to make parallels to other anime series, I’d say “Long Riders!” is closest to “K-On!” but with bikes instead of a rock band.

“Yowamushi Pedal” and its hot-blooded bike racing action may hog all the headlines, but I think “Long Riders!” is a more inclusive show, and much more relevant to the road cycling beginner.