Thursday, September 22, 2011

Plusses and Touring Shoes

     Not that long ago it would have been hard to anticipate that these people could go about on the street and enter stores without causing a raised eyebrow...

... yet when these fellows walk across the pub after a ride, some people give them curious or even agitated looks:

     In 1980 one could find plusses (knickers) at any hiking and mountaineering outfitter. They were the standard, practical garb for Nordic skiing, hiking, and climbing. Patagonia, now primarily known as a purveyor of plastic "technical" clothing for suburbanites, sold corduroy and wool plusses along with packs and mountaineering equipment. It was around that time, though, that recreational x-c skiers and cyclists began to effect the look of the pros, adopting the tight-fitting plastic clothing worn by Olympians and professional racers. Wool and corduroy largely disappeared from the shelves of outfitters, hastened by dire (and false) warnings from outdoors magazine writers - in service to their advertisers - that to wear natural fibers was to court hypothermia on the bike path or groomed golf course ski trail. Woolrich's classic, hearty corduroy knickers were dropped from the line.

     Plusses once commonly were worn by European touring cyclists. Although tight, garish clothing has become the norm overseas, too, some British cyclists still ride in the comfort of plusses. Indeed there are enough such cyclists and other sportsmen in Great Britain to support the manufacture of both ready-to-wear and made-to-measure plusses. Furthermore, it still is possible to purchase traditional, normal British cycling shoes - no plastic, no toddler-friendly Velcro, no holes in the sole to let water in, just black leather. Such garments and footwear are staples in the Veteran-Cycle Club.

     New England V-CC members use the products of all the following makers and can vouch for their good quality and capable service to overseas customers.

Stamford Clothiers  Ready-to-wear and made to measure plus twos, plus fours, and breeks. Quality is high, service is timely, and prices are reasonable. The breeks are most like Woolrich knickers of old. With your leg bent to ninety degrees in dress trousers or chinos, measure along your inseam with a cloth tape to the length you want below the knee. If ordering breeks, they will be made to this length. Plus twos seem to add four inches, plus fours, eight inches. There is a good selection of fabrics. Cavalry twill is a rugged three-season choice, suitable for skiing but comfortable for spring cycling, too.

Reynolds Shoes Cycling shoes the way they used to be made. They may ask you to try on a pair of Clark's shoes to establish your British size, as Reynold's sizing closely matches that ubiquitous brand (or at least did before Clark's moved to Chinese production - it has been probably ten years since I ordered my Reynold's). My touring shoes are one full size smaller than my American size, but some people buy down only a half-size, so it is good to follow their fitting advice. Unlike French and Italian cycling shoes of yore, the width is reasonable for most. Reynold's shoes can be resoled.

Hilltrek Scottish purveyors of Ventile garments. They make a cycling jacket very similar to the late, lamented Greenspot Nomad. The jacket runs a full size smaller than typical American sizing. There is a reasonably priced made-to-measure option.

Rough Stuff Journal, vol. 15, no. 5, Sept.-Oct.1969
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