Product Testing: Bike Touring PA style
We test our gear on a variety of levels. Our athletes and ambassadors are responsible for putting the latest designs and fabrics through the paces before we’ll add a new product to our lineup. But just because something reaches our shelves doesn’t mean testing is over. Once a new item shows up in our catalogs, our Customer Service staff gets busy ground-truthing the latest offerings. They know the questions our customers will be asking, and turn that attention to our gear.
Product Report – Spraymaster Jacket, Wool 2, Lightweight Endurance Ankle Socks, and MLC Wheelie
Activity – Bike Touring, Bound for Cheesesteaks in Happy Valley
Tested by – Chia (yes, like the pet) S., Patagonia Customer Service
It all started with a bluebird morning on Wednesday the 3rd. I had an early flight to catch and still had a few last-minute things to stuff into my luggage. But the first order of business was to flip open the laptop and double-check the weather. I was especially interested in the weather back east, as there was some hurricane activity brewing and I wanted to know if I was gonna be stuck testing gear in an airport somewhere between Reno and Philadelphia. Hurricane Hanna(H) was creeping along the Atlantic but she seemed far enough off the coast that I was confident I would not have any weather delays.
The plan was to get to Pennsylvania and meet up with my good friend Gym (yes, I spelled it right), drive to Gettysburg for a 3-day bike tour back to his house in Happy Valley, eat the best cheesesteak on the planet, and then catch an afternoon flight back to the BLC, all while trying to avoid hurricanes Hanna and Ike.
The Gear. Alright, with the mix of weather that I could possibly come across, I grabbed a bunch of gear before I left and layed it out across the floor and started to narrow down. The first thing I grabbed was a Spraymaster Jacket. It’s light, waterproof, stretchy, and it would hardly take up any space in my bike panniers. I then reached for socks. I decided to take a few pair of the Lightweight Endurance Ankle Socks. A little heavier than a typical cycling sock, but I was thinking maybe a little more comfort with the amount of time I’d be in my cycling shoes. I then grabbed a set of Wool 2 Top & Bottoms just in case it cooled down at night. Also, if I was gonna be cycling in the rain, the wool would still keep me warm and not absorb any body odor. The last thing I grabbed was the MLC Wheelie; though unsure I’d even be using any of the above items, I would definitely be using this at the airport.
Our first 2 days were sunny and hot with no hints of hurricane Hanna and we found ourselves using sunblock and refueling with bottles of water, gatorade, eating jellybelly sport beans, and I was stockpiling up on Macintosh apples from the fruit stands we would randomly pass. Sure enough, it didn’t last. Around midnight on the second night we were awoken by the taps of water droplets hitting the rain fly. I expected to be biking in the rain all the way back to Gym’s house on the last day, and welcomed the chance to try out the Spraymaster Jacket. If nothing else, the rain was keeping the temps down a few degrees. By the time we had packed up camp and hopped on the saddle the rain had pretty much stopped, it sprinkled here and there and stayed overcast. What we were not prepared for as we approached Happy Valley was the Penn State traffic on game day.
As for the gear, I was happy with my choice on the socks, they dried quickly when draped over the bike at camp. I cycle with the tight over some bike helmets, but the length and stretch of the jacket make it a great choice for cycling. The wool baselayer is always a favorite in the winter for snowboarding for me, it stays stink-free and is extremely warm for how lightweight it is. That was the case for this trip, I threw the wool on at camp the first night, but it was a bit too warm to keep on. As for the MLC Wheelie, I stuffed that thing full of crap, made the zippers bulge and it still fit fine in the overhead bins on the plane, my shorter flight back I actually stuffed it underneath the seat in front of me. My only complaint would be with the telescopic handle. You can lock it out at a couple different lengths, but it wiggles and just never really felt durable. Also, with it being a single pole handle, you are unable to wheel the bag across the airport and piggyback another bag on top of it.
All in all, everything I had with me worked well, including a sample top I had of ours, and for some reason we decided not to put it into production. As for Gym, he decided to do the whole trip on a comfort bike, carried beer the whole way, refused to let me carry part of the tent that he let me sleep in, mapped out the ride, and navigated us home safely.
[All trip photos: Chia Snyder]