MVP // From The Beginning
Words by Jenn Hannon of Machines for Freedom
Images by Tracy Chandler
We were about to ride for 8 consecutive days from Portland to San Francisco in the middle of October which meant a few things: a high probability of misty rain and the guarantee of colder temps than we were used to in LA. After running through the obvious list of questions like… can we do this? Have we trained enough? Have we trained too much? Tracy and I looked at each other as if we had read each other’s mind. “What will we wear?!”
It was clear that this ride would not be shorts and jersey weather. Up until this point Machines had only developed our Endurance Kit, intended for long sunny days and warm summer rides. For this week-long adventure we would undoubtedly need to cover our arms and our legs, but with what? Simple black arm and leg warmers were the obvious solution, but neither of us are huge fans of these accessories. This was the type of ride where even the smallest wrinkle in your sock can cause temporary insanity... did we really want to feel elastic squeezing the fleshiest parts of our limbs during an 8-hour day in the saddle?
And I'll be honest, our own vanity came into the equation. This ride would be documented by hundreds of pictures, a few of which would circulate through the social media universe. For me, leg warmers and cycling is the equivalent of the shy boy at school who is forced to wear a Speedo on his high school school swim team. It’s a necessary evil; one that he copes with by sporting tear-away pants that can be ripped from his body moments before stepping on to the starting block. The goal: to keep public displays to an absolute minimum. So while these accessories were options, and options I often reach for out of necessity, it wasn’t ideal.
We didn’t have much time. Two months to be exact. In the world of apparel this is a blink of an eye. We only had time for one round of sampling so it had to be right…or at least right enough. My strategy was to minimize the amount of unknowns. Work with what we already had. Build upon our existing bib short design. Use the same fabrics and chamois. Add legs. Add some ventilation in the back to keep us from overheating and negate the need for a “convertible” option like warmers. The result: a pant that not only got us through that trip, but also became my go-to bib for transitional seasons back home. And when you think about it, the hottest points of Summer and the coldest points of winter aren't the norm, especially if you live outside of Southern California. The other 10 months out of the year are transitional. This got me thinking... Is this pant really a seasonal piece or could it be a new staple?
After our trip I continued to ride in the pants through a cooler-than-normal California winter. I continued to tweak the design and modify the fit well into summer and found that these pants were not just something I dug out from the bottom of my drawer on rare days when LA temperatures dropped into the low 50's. Nor were they something I put on because I had to log testing miles. I found myself washing these prototypes on the daily despite the fact that I had nearly a dozen clean Machines bib shorts hanging in my closet. Even when the weather was warm enough to rock shorts, I found myself reaching for these to keep the sun off my legs while logging low-intensity base miles. Or when mornings were just a tad too chilly to find easy motivation, rather than “suck it up” until the sun began to warm the air, I threw on these pants and let my body ease into the adjustment from cozy warm bed to crisp ocean breeze. The desire to ride at dawn became a tad bit stronger knowing I could focus on the stillness on the air and the ocean waves lapping against the sand, not a mild sense of discomfort as my body became riddled with goose bumps. Not to mention that by skipping the step in my morning routine that involved slathering my body in sunscreen I was awarded a few more minutes of sleep. To simply roll out of bed, brush my teeth, slip into a 2-piece kit, and be out the door felt like a luxury.
Then a really crazy thing happened. My tan lines started to fade. These tan lines had been burned into my quads over years of long endurance rides through deserts and exposed mountain roads. I thought for sure they were permanent, a “natural” tattoo. But after months of oscillating between shorts and pants I no longer received sideways glances from strangers on the street while donning my favorite pair of cutoff shorts. I no longer noticed girls and guys lingering for an abnormal amount of time on my legs with an expression of bewilderment. And I no longer had to put my skin through added exposure to damaging UV rays in an attempt to achieve a level of tan line normalcy.
The pant that we created out of necessity has become something new altogether, It's name, The MVP, calls out its number one factor: Versatility. I've ridden these pants in cool winter excursions up to 9000' elevation and on summer mornings down the beach path. But we also wanted to give a nod to the traditional MVP, the Most Valuable Player. The MVP might just change how you think about getting dressed for the bike. It might take a while to wrap your brain around the idea: that pants can be for more than the coldest rides of winter. Give them a try and I promise, you might just find yourself benching your other players in favor of The MVP.
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