Companies send me stuff, and I write about the stuff and the company, hopefully to your amusement. That's part of the blog world if we so choose. But every now and then this process stops me in my tracks. Like today, while looking into Sealskinz, makers of waterproof layers for feet, hands and head:
1914: John Logie Baird invents a waterproof sock to minimise trench foot for the troops in the Great War. He makes his fortune, retires to the Caribbean and invents TV.
What the what? First off, I'd never heard of John Logie Baird, which is strange, because I do watch television. Oh well. Secondly, while Baird did not go on to found Sealskinz, his ideas did (kinda-sorta). And, well, that certainly puts my slightly cold, wet feet, earned by cycling upwards of six miles to work in winter... into perspective.
So are Sealskinz the cure for trench foot? No, they're the work of a Scottish textile company approaching its fourth decade of making waterproof socks, which over time expanded into caps and gloves. Baird, a fellow Scot, predates the company by much of a century, but his story inspired the company founders to make warm, dry clothing for the extremities. The Scots know a thing or two about getting soaked, starting with the hands and feet. Be it fishing or endurance sports or just being outside, the weather over there sounds about on par with Seattle's fall-winter-spring gloomfest. So when Sealskinz wanted to send out a few items for testing, I was their guy.
First up, some of their famous socks, this time the shoe-covering variety typical in these parts for about a solid eight months a year.
These are the Waterproof Cycle Over Socks, listing for £35 or $55 US. I rode these in wet weather, before the onset of our dry summer, and I loved them. Compared to cheaper stuff, they were extremely well constructed, including the cleat and heel openings -- an area ripe for failure. They slipped on and off easily, thanks to their unique dedication to high-stretch material. They were warm and snug. And with the breathable hydrophilic membrane, my feet stayed completely dry. How they hold up across a long winter of daily use, I'll have to get back to you on that. But oversocks this dry and warm can actually help justify wearing bib shorts, rather than long leggings. Something to keep in mind for CX season.
Next up, gloves.
The Sealskinz Fingerless Summer Cycle Gloves, retailing for £20, might be UK-only, or hopefully showing up in America soon. Sealskinz started applying their ideas to gloves in 2000, and have done very well in the world of skiing and mountaineering. I'd take a good look at their long-finger stuff for winter riding and Nordic skiing when the time comes. The summer fingerless gloves are more of a sidebar for them, I think.
But they're good gloves, I think ideal for people in reasonably mild, wet areas -- maybe your afternoon thunderstorms in Florida or early fall showers in the northeast? The material breathes, but not as well as a typical lightweight summer glove. I didn't love them in hot weather. I'm also not completely sold on the waterproof functionality of short-finger gloves -- what matters isn't staying dry but maintaining good friction with the bars. For that, they performed well. This same grip, on a long finger glove like this, is a quality item. the Fingerless Gloves are nice, but not for mid-summer and not entirely necessary.
Lastly, perhaps most importantly, they've taken their micro-porous membranes to cap-making, and the results are outstanding.
More so than the other two products, this is a big development. I simply haven't seen many cycling caps that repel moisture, and have had to rely primarily on cotton caps, which generally shouldn't be worn in winter at all.
At £25 or $40 US the Waterproof Cycling Cap is downright exciting. It absolutely does repel water, while breathing pretty well. Like the gloves, not as well as your typical cotton or mesh cap for hot weather, so it's more of a nine-month accessory. Lucky for me, it really only rains in Seattle during those other nine months anyway. And in that time, I go from a cap alone in the "warm" rainy months to a cap under a beanie the rest of the year.
My guess is that this will be the cap I wear practically every day, save for cleaning time and occasions such as races, when I need to show my team colors. The Sealskinz Waterproof Cap is bone-dry underneath, lightweight, and built to last much longer than the typical bike cap. The brim appears to be solid but pliable, neither too brittle nor too soft. In short, it's the cap I've been waiting for since I moved here.