Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Solstice

We passed the winter solstice so now the days will get longer. Not that it is very noticeable yet but it soon will be. This is also the time of year people celebrate various holidays and buy gifts for one another. Even though I don't go for Christmas gifts -in Belgium people give New Year's gifts and then only to those who bother to visit on New Year's day- here is a list of things I would consider for the multisport athlete.

Big ticket items
End of season is a great time to buy big ticket items at deep discounts. If you need a new frame or a new wetsuit, now is the time. XTerra Wetsuits has been advertising deep discounts but I am sure the other manufacturers are too. I personally like my Blue Seventy wetsuit. What I like best about it is the low neckline that does not put pressure on my windpipe. That goes a long way towards preventing a claustrophobic feeling that is common with some wetsuits.

When it comes to bicycle frames, I saw some great deals on Kuota and Look frames. I just built a Kuota KOM and I like the way it rides. One of the best and lightest frames I ever had. My top three road frames are Kuota KOM, Look 595 and BMC SLC01. For triathlon I ride a Griffen. My mountain bike is a Kona Kula Supreme with SRAM components. I like the feel of it.

Every one of these I bought at season end, often getting discounts of 50% or more. Given the enormous markup on such items, even 50% off is an outrageous price to pay. I was told by someone who knows that the average high end carbon fiber frame (made in a mold in China or Taiwan) enters the US for $270, taxes and duties included. Most of these are then sold for $3,500 and up. No wonder everyone is so keen on carbon.

Small items
If you are looking for small item stocking stuffers, here are some ideas. Tubes are always useful even for those who prefer tubeless tires. That said, a new set of tubeless tires may be an even better idea for that special gift. Once again, expect deep discounts this time of year. Even better if you can wait until after Christmas. That is one reason New Years presents make so much more sense.

Other ideas include wool socks, gloves, toe covers or booties, and bike lights. All these can be had for very little money and they make for great gifts that really get used. I know a lot of people buy water bottles but I have found that you can get plenty of those for free at races. I haven't bought a bottle since 2002. Another item I am drowning in is T-shirts, both regular and technical T's.

Finally, something needs to be said about sunglasses. While these are very useful, I can't see why anyone would pay $100 and up for a pair of shades. You can get perfectly fine Foster Grant Ironman glasses for $19.95 at Rite-Aid and these are every bit as good as those fancy Rudy Projects, or -in my opinion- very silly looking Oakley's that Lance and his crew seem to fancy.

Not only are the lenses identical (polycarbonate), but expensive sunglasses break just as easily, or get lost just as easily as their cheaper cousins. That is the main reason not to spend a fortune: shades do not last. A optometrist friend of mine once told me that, unless you wear your glasses all day long, they simply don't last. People who wear glasses (whether prescription, reading glasses, or shades) on and off, go through them about 10 times as fast as people who wear theirs round the clock. So unless you want to wear those Oakley's or Rudy's all the time, better save your money for other goodies.

On Sunday I rode 38, to the golf course and back. Yesterday I rested (the weather was awful) and today (very nice and sunny) I ran 10.5 miles in the hills.

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