Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Gam Jams Reviews: The Aspen Cool Collar

Price often has an effect on how we appreciate something. For example, people told they had been given "expensive" placebos claimed to experience less pain than people told they were given "cheap" placebos (in both cases, they were given vitamin Cs). In taste tests people find wine labelled "expensive" better than wine labelled "cheap," even if the wine is from the same bottle.

I'll call this distortion "the pricing effect."

Cyclists regularly succumb to the pricing effect. A consequence of our spending wads of cash on expensive (but inconsequentially better) wheels is that we actually ride faster--not because of the wheels, but because of the effect purchasing the wheels has on our minds. Buying pricey wheels makes us faster because we believe anything that expensive has to make us faster, damnit.

This is great for those of us with cash and those of us who don't mind being the victims of self deception. But for those of us looking to ride faster without incurring financial ruin, there should be cheap and easy pieces of equipment we can purchase.

I was hoping the Aspen Cool Collar which, for me, was free, would do the trick. It was a disappointing looking item when it first arrived. This limp, flat, cloth was supposed to make me faster? I had seen Garmin-Chipotle's cooling vests and the frozen socks some riders tossed down their jerseys during TTs. Still, wearing a cold wet sock on my neck seemed pitiful and primitive--like tossing around a kettlebell or doing calisthetics in stockings.

As instructed, I immersed the collar in cold water for 30 minutes, causing it to swell. I strapped it on and headed down to Hains Point for two 20 minute intervals in 94 degree heat.

I can't say anything scientific about the collar. I can't say conclusively that the Aspen Cooling Collar increased my power output. I can only describe its effect on me.

Initially, it was a little too cold and slimy feeling. It took me a little while to get used to it.

When I started into my intervals, I started appreciating the collar's cooling effect. It felt great. Although I don't know whether it would improve my performance in a race, it did lead me to train longer and with more energy. I felt cooler, in the literal sense.

As a matter of feeling cool in the figurative sense, the collar doesn't compare to disc wheels or sweet TT bike or aero helmet. It looks a little dorky, having this bulge around your neck.

If feeling cool, riding longer in the heat, and maybe shaving some time off your TTs is your thing, spending 15$ for the Aspen Cooling Collar is probably a decent investment. If, on the other hand, blowing cash and feeling faster because you're poorer is your thing, have I got a deal for you...

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