Dec 13 2011
It’s no secret, I suppose. Professional writers whose names don’t begin with the initials J.K. can’t offer bankers much competition in the Gross Income Stakes. Which is why I’m always on the lookout for a good deal. And I found one last month, when a bright red shirt caught my eye as I made my way toward the Walmart checkout, pushing a cartload of groceries.
In truth, it wasn’t the brilliant hue that pricked my interest. It was the shirt’s overall appearance. It bore a disconcerting resemblance to a long-sleeved winter jersey. Was it possible that Walmart had started to cater to “serious” cyclists? Well, no, it wasn’t. But the resemblance was more than skin deep. The shirt in question bore a tag labeled “Starter,” along with a lot of reassuring stuff about “four way stretch” and “Geo fleece.” But the salient points were obvious at a glance: long sleeves, high collar, and a long zipper at the neck.
This was good news. To be sure, I already have a cabinet shelf of cold-weather cycling jerseys. All of them were bought at end-of-season sales, but none was exactly cheap, and I don’t like to wear them when I leave the road for a little rough stuff, let alone spend a couple of hours working outside on my bike. I needed something cheap and cheerful for these tasks, something that would keep me warm on and off the saddle, but which wouldn’t trigger a wave of remorse when—that’s when, not if—I lost a round with a hawthorn or managed to spill the contents of an oil can over myself.
The Walmart Starter didn’t disappoint. It set me back only ten bucks (USD9.97, to be exact, not including sales tax). And the cut was just right: roomy without being floppy, it was long enough to cover my waist even when I bent over the bars. The soft, stretchy polyester fleece promised easy care and dry comfort, too.
Here’s what it looks like:
The fabric’s low pile is on the inside, where it belongs, with a curious checkerboard pattern that I suppose might limit the clingy clamminess that fleecewear sometimes develops when you work up a good sweat. There’s a zipper garage at the neck, too.
And the long sleeves are really long—much longer than those on my Duofold Veritherms:
No matter. That’s what sewing machines are for.
So much for first impressions. How does the Starter pullover measure up in use? Surprisingly well, I’m happy to say. I’ve already worn it while cycling in temperatures down around the freezing point, and hiked in it on colder days. It’s warm, easy to ventilate, and non-binding. (That “four way stretch” claim is no exaggeration.) There are no pockets, however—but since I always wear a vest or windbreaker in cold weather, this doesn’t matter. I can think of only two other drawbacks: (1) I couldn’t find any women’s sizes, though most women can still get a good fit from among the men’s sizes. And (2) the brilliant red color bleeds in the wash. So unless you really like pink, don’t throw your Starter in the wash with your white sheets.
Bottom line? At ten bucks, I more than got my money’s worth. The Starter bids fair to be my constant companion from now till May Day. Which gives me plenty of time to finish the latest installment in my best-selling Parry Hotter series. Eat your heart out, J.K.!