Friday, March 18, 2011

Lederhosen and Woolen Knee-Highs

I made up my mind a few days ago. It's March, so I'm not going to wear pants anymore. Tuesday I dug my favorite pair of Columbia shorts out (the ones with two holes in the backside from being atop a bicycle) and I put them on with the intention of wearing them (shorts in general, that is) until winter comes next year. The first day of spring is not until the twentieth, I know, but I thought I'd get a head start this year. 

Now, you may be wondering how I'm able to get such a head start on my shorts-wearing season when it is still so frigid out. Easy. I wear knee-high Smartwool socks. Yesterday morning I rode to work and the temperature was 22 degrees. "Not a problem," I thought to myself. "I'll just throw on a set of knee-highs." For riding this is my favorite combination. A thick Woolrich wool shirt tucked into my shorts completes the German ensemble very well. All I need now are a set of red suspenders and a funny hat. I'm not joking. 
This is not a picture of me. My lederhosen are shorter. Much shorter. 
I think the Bavarian people had something here. We all know the style is incredible, but it's the practicality of the outfit that astounds me. Long rides are no longer a problem with lederhosen. You have an increased range of motion. You don't get chafing in your knee-caps. You have exceptional breathability, but warmth (with the knee-highs) enough to endure frigid mountain temperatures. Need I say more? 

When you are purchasing proper lederhosen (or just shorts) for cycling, one thing to keep in mind is the size of the leg-opening. A larger leg opening on an above-the-knee short (which is what I prefer) can be very refreshing, but also very revealing. A quick ride down a nice steep hill will leave nothing for the imagination unless you wear proper under layers. As an added warning, remove bulky objects, such as keys and cell phones from your pockets as these will further promote exposure especially when your cadence is high. 

I prefer to wear a short with smaller leg openings. I have smaller legs and I need all the help being modest that I can get. In lieu of the short season coming upon us, I purchased a new set of shorts from REI. They are the REI Castle Mountain short. So far, a new favorite. The Castle Mountain lederhosen are made from a blend of cotton, nylon and a scosche of spandex to give some stretch. They have a nine inch inseam and, on the 30" waisted version, the leg openings are small enough to not show my scivies. The pockets are a little long. They stick out the bottom of my shorts when I ride. I kind of like this, though, as it reminds me of my days wearing daisy-dukes (which are certainly not over). These shorts are durable, they dry quickly and are as comfortable as a quinzee hut. 

The one issue that I run into with early season shorts and knee-high socks, is that my kneecaps are exposed to freezing temperatures. Yesterday, when it was 22 degrees, my knees were cold and stiff. To remedy this, many cycling manufacturers have developed thigh-high leg warmers. This is a great option, but can be very costly, especially for a good, soft merino wool model. Someday, maybe I'll purchase a pair of these, but for now, I'll just deal with cold knee caps. After all, it's the middle of March and it's time to show off your lederhosen.

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