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Category Archives: Bicycle Clothing

Reviews of bike clothing (jerseys, jackets, tights, socks, helmets, glasses, shoes)

Winter Cycling: Keeping Your Head And Neck Warm

Note: This is the seventh installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by late November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap

Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap

I always ride with some sort of cycling cap under my helmet—in the summer I use the Headsweats Shorty Cycling Skull Cap to keep the sweat out of my eyes, and in late fall and early winter I wear the Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap to keep my head warm and my ears from freezing. This is a soft, windproof and water-resistant insulated cap that provides excellent moisture transfer (i.e., it doesn’t trap water). It is also thin enough to fit comfortably under your helmet.

This cap is constructed of two polyester panels. The panel that covers your forehead and ears is made from a windproof Barrier fabric—it is meant to be snug against your head to keep you warm and protect you from the wind. The back of this cap is made from Pearl Izumi’s P.R.O. Thermal fabric—it will keep you warm without causing moisture buildup under the cap. This cap is only sold in one size and should be suitable for most people. However, if you are petite it is going to be too big and if you have a large head it is going to be too tight. The Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap is only available black and retails for $30 and if your local bike shop does not have it in stock you can get order one from Performance Bicycle, Bike Nashbar or Amazon.com.

Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover for rain and winter

Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover

Another item I often use in cool weather is a helmet cover. Helmet covers close up the vents in your cycling helmet and shield your head from rain—my favorite one is the Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover. This cover is made of a very breathable Stopzone fabric and does a fantastic job of blocking both wind and rain.

The Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover is available in two colors: Black or Bright Yellow. Both colors of this helmet cover have reflective piping to help motorists see you in low-light situations. I wear the bright yellow cover when I am riding on the road because it is hard for drivers to miss. When I am riding on muddy off-road trails I wear the black helmet cover because it will still look good after I wipe the mud off. The Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover is available in two sizes: Small/Medium and Medium/Large. This helmet cover retails for around $20 and I have yet to find a better helmet cover on the market.

With a good balaclava and a helmet cover I have no trouble keeping my head warm in temperatures down to around 20 degrees. If you look in any cycling catalog you will quickly see that there is no shortage of balaclavas available—I own at least six balaclavas and not all of them are cycling specific.

Bontrager Unisex Balaclava

Bontrager Balaclava

For early winter one of the least expensive balaclavas you’ll find is the Bontrager Balaclava. The feature that appeals to me most about the Bontrager Balaclava is the way the front folds down so you can get a drink or eat a carb gel. The balaclava fits well and offers full head, face and neck protection. It is thin enough to easily fit under your helmet, but thick enough to provide real warmth. The flatlock seams on this headpiece means that you won’t have the imprint of a seam on your forehead for several hours after your ride is finished. Some balaclavas are so thick that they restrict your ability to breathe. I had absolutely no problem breathing while riding with this balaclava. However, the fabric around the mouth held moisture like you wouldn’t believe! All of the balaclavas I own hold moisture to some degree, but this one held a lot more than most. Another negative with this item is that because it holds moisture it will also fog up your glasses every time you stop. On the other hand, the way this balaclava folds down in front makes me love it anyway.

While Bontrager does not usually have “top of the line” clothing, I think their products are reasonably priced and offer a decent value for the price. In addition, Bontrager offers one of the best guarantees you will find anywhere for cycling product: “If for any reason you’re not satisfied with the comfort of your Bontrager saddle, shoes, or technical apparel, return the item(s)—along with the original sales receipt—to the place of purchase within 30 days of purchase date for exchange or store credit.” The Bontrager Balaclava retails for $25 and should be available at any bike shop that sells Trek bikes. If there is not a Trek dealer in your area you can order it online from hundreds of different Trek bike shops.

Seirus Combo Clava Balaclava

Seirus Combo Clava For Winter Cycling

The Seirus Combo Clava is usually sold as a balaclava for alpine skiing, snowboarding and hiking, and is also a good choice for winter cyclingit is lightweight, extremely warm, quick drying and highly breathable. The main body of this clava is made of Polartec fleece and the smaller face mask part is made of contoured Neofleece. Neofleece is really five layers rolled into one. The first layer is the outer shell, the second is a waterproof liner, and under that is fleece lined Neoprene, followed by Thermolite insulation and finally a wicking Microfleece lining next to your skin.

The Seirus Combo Clava fits great under most bike helmets. Out of all the balaclavas I own this one produces the least amount of fogging on my glasses. In fact, the only time it ever produces any fog is when I have to stop. The easiest way to deal with this is to pull the face mask down under your nose when you stop. While your mouth will be covered with the face mask part, I have found it to be easy to breathe through due to the holes in the mask. This balaclava is available in three sizes (ES, SM/MD and LG/XL). To determine the size you need just measure the circumference of your head just below your nose. The SM/MD size fits 20–24 inches and LG/XL size fits 22–26 inches. The Seirus Combo Clava retails for around $30. I purchased mine from Dick’s Sporting Goods, but they are also available at many online stores, such as REI.com and Amazon.com.

Howler Multi Tasker Pro Windproof Balaclava

Chaos Thermal Regulation CTR Howler Multi Tasker Pro Windproof Balaclava

Another great balaclava is the Chaos Thermal Regulation CTR Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava. This balaclava offers incredible face and neck protection, in part due to the hinged design that prevents gaps in the fabric, and it easily drops down off the face when you need to get a drink. This product also has a soft fleece interior to help wick moisture away from the skin. For a winter athlete the most important feature of this balaclava is the mesh breathing panel that covers the mouth area. One of the biggest complaints most cyclists and runners have against balaclavas is that they restrict air flow. I am happy to report that this balaclava did not impede my breathing in the slightest!

Because of the way this balaclava is designed you can cover nearly your entire face, leaving only your eyes exposed, or you can open it up a bit if you start to overheat. If the weather warms up you can pull the face mask down and use it as a neck gaiter. Like every other balaclava I’ve ever owned this one can cause your glasses to fog up. Since this balaclava is extremely warm you might save it for days when it is so cold you need to wear ski goggles instead of regular cycling glasses—in which case you won’t have to worry about anything fogging up since the goggles will seal the balaclava against your face.

This balaclava is considerably warmer than the two balaclavas mentioned above. In addition, the Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava is 100% windproof and has a water-repellent surface that sheds rain and snow. We all have different tolerances for cold weather, but let me tell you how well this balaclava works for me: I’ve used it several times when the temperature was below 20 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind blowing at over 20 mph. Even when riding my bike at 20 mph into a strong headwind my face was perfectly warm.

The Chaos Thermal Regulation CTR Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava is available in three sizes (Junior, Small/Medium, and Large/X-Large). This product retails for around $35, but you probably will not find it at your local bike shop. However, it is available at many ski shops and online retailers like Amazon.com.

Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava

Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava

One of the most effective pieces of cold-weather gear I own is the Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava. This balaclava has a medical-grade polyurethane ventilator that covers your mouth and nose and it mixes the warm air your expel from your lungs with fresh air from the outside—the result is that you breathe in warm, moist air. This ventilator will raise the temperature of the air your breathe in from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (for example, if the air temperature is zero Fahrenheit, you should be breathing in air that is somewhere between 40 and 60 degrees). This polyurethane ventilator is both non-toxic and anti-microbial. If you head out for a bike ride in the morning in the cold and it warms up in the afternoon you can easily remove this face mask and just use the head covering.

This product is not sold as a medical device for asthma patients. However, I do have asthma and I can tell you that if it were not for this product I wouldn’t even dream about participating in winter sports. I’ve gone on long winter bike rides while wearing the ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava when the temperature was well below zero and have not had any lung problems as a result.

The material that covers your face, neck and head is made of “soft-shell” Polartec Wind Pro fleece and without question this is the warmest balaclava I own. The manufacturer claims that this product will block 95% of the wind, and in my experience they are absolutely correct. This balaclava is also longer than any other balaclava I own—it completely covers your neck and throat area. I’ve not had any problems with my glasses fogging up while wearing this balaclava. However, by the time it is cold enough to use this balaclava I wear ski goggles instead of cycling glasses (and the ski goggles I use are pretty much fog proof anyway). I’ve worn this balaclava under both cycling helmets and ski helmets without any trouble.

My only criticism of this balaclava is that the fit is a bit sloppy, i.e., it is not as form-fitting as I would like. I am of average size and this product is a bit loose on me. However, since the face mask attaches to the hood with a wide Velcro patch I can usually adjust it so that no cold air gets through to your skin. The Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava is made in the U.S.A and retails for $80. This product comes with a one year warranty against manufacturer defects.

Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet

Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet

When the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit I wear a helmet that is normally intended for snow skiing—at the moment I prefer the Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet. This helmet is certified as a multi-sport helmet, which means it is suitable for use by skaters, bicyclists, and snow skiers (certification: ASTM 2040 / CE EN1077 / CPSC). If you experience an unplanned dismount (crash is such an ugly word) while riding in deep snow you probably aren’t going to get hurt. However, snow can also hide some nasty rocks, broken fence posts and sharp objects—not to mentioned a layer of slippery ice.

Unlike regular bicycle helmets, snow helmets usually allow for a bit of customization. The Giro Encore 2 has removable ear flaps that will definitely help keep your ears warm, but they also inhibit your ability to hear ambient noises. If you are riding off-road where you are not worried about getting hit by a car, you can install a set of Skullcandy headphones into these ear flaps (like the Skullcandy Home Brew Kit). All of my winter cycling jackets have headphone ports—a small opening inside a vest pocket so you can run a headphone jack into your iPhone or MP3 player. And let’s face it, riding in a blinding snowstorm is a lot easier when you are listening to Air Supply (does that officially make me old?)

This helmet has thirteen small cooling vents with mesh covers (the mesh helps keep the snow out).  The Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet retails for $60. This helmet is available in three sizes: Small (52–55.5cm), Medium (55.5–59cm), and Large (59–62.5cm). This helmet comes in several colors, but since the names they use won’t mean much to you, I’ll say the color selection is red, black, white, hi-viz yellow, and ivory (not all colors are available in all sizes).

Smith Optics Variant Brim Snow Helmet

Smith Optics Variant Brim Snow Helmet

When the temperature drops to below -5F I wear a Smith Optics Variant Brim Snow Helmet. This helmet has a dual regulator climate control which means you can close the vents when you get cold (I kept mine closed when the temperature is below -5 Fahrenheit). The removable ear flaps allow you to hear traffic, but still keep your ears warm at the same time. Also, because this is a snow helmet, you can wear snow goggles and when you don’t need them they will rest comfortably on the top of the helmet without falling off (there is even a small clip at the back to keep the goggles from moving around).

The curvature of the helmet is designed to match the curvature of most snow goggles and it also provides flow-through ventilation which means no fogging even on the worst days. This helmet is very lightweight and has a very comfortable fit. This snow helmet has the same safety certifications as the Giro Encore above. This helmet retails for $160.

 

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Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

I normally ride around 6,500 miles a year and most of those miles are on the road—which means most of the time I wear Lycra cycling shorts. However, about 20% of my mileage is on off-road trails and I wear mountain biking shorts on those rides (the “when in Rome do as the Romans” thing). The MTB shorts I bought when I started cycling about twelve years ago were heavy and held water like a sponge. Fortunately, in the past few years several manufacturers have developed MTB shorts that are lightweight, durable and don’t hold moisture. A few weeks ago the folks at Serfas sent me a pair of their new Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts to review these shorts should appeal avid mountain bikers, recreational cyclists and commuters alike.

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts consist of an outer shell and an inner liner. The outer shell is made of lightweight 100% Polyester and has a snap front closure with a zippered fly and an adjustable Velcro waistband. The outer shell has four pockets. There are two large pockets on the front of the pants—one on each side just like every other pair of pants you own. However, these pockets have mesh on one side so water or dust won’t build up in your pockets. These are what I call “walking around” pockets—they are great for holding small items when you are off your bike, but since they do not close I wouldn’t use then while riding.

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Zippered Pocket On The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

On the lower right-hand side of the pants there is a roomy zippered pocket (7″ wide x 8″ deep). The zipper appears to be made of a high-quality nylon and is very smooth to open or close. Since this is the most secure pocket I keep my car keys and billfold in here (I sometimes have to drive my Jeep to the off-road trails).

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Pocket With Velcro Closure

On the lower left-hand side of the pants there is another roomy pocket (7″ wide x 8″ deep). This pocket closes with a piece of Velcro and you can easily open or close it as you are riding (I keep extra carb gels in this pocket).

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

The Inner And Outer Layers Snap Together

The detachable inner liner of these shorts is made of 90% Polyester and 10% Spandex. If you are used to riding in Lycra road shorts then you will find one of the biggest downsides to most MTB shorts with a detachable liner is that they tend to hold in heat and moisture (mainly because they have two layers). However, these shorts don’t seem to hold moisture like most of the other MTB shorts I own (and for the post month I had to ride on many days when the humidity was well over 80%). This liner attaches to the outer shell with a pair of snaps of both sides of the pants.

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Chamois On The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Last, but not least, the Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts has a high quality chamois (Serfas calls it their “Launch Pad Compression Foam Chamois”). If you are looking for a solid inch of gel then this chamois is not for you! This chamois is fairly thin, but  extremely comfortable. As with every other chamois on the market, I would strongly suggest you use a chamois cream before you go out for a ride (put some cream on the chamois itself and on your skin in the area of your sit bones).

The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts are available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XL). In my opinion these shorts run a bit small—so if you are on the border between two sizes I’d go with the larger size. By the way, since these shorts have an adjustable Velcro waistband if your pants are a couple of inches too big you can quickly adjust them to have a perfect fit.

These shorts retail for $60 and are available from the Serfas website and from authorized Serfas dealers (most bike shops). These pants are also available on Amazon.com, but they appear to have an older version of these pants in the photos and description.

 

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Serfas RX Short Finger Cycling Gloves

I always suggest that cyclists buy their gloves one size larger than what feels comfortable when they are trying them on at the bike shop. In the winter you need a larger glove because the extra air space in a full-finger glove provides a micro-climate of warm air that will keep your hands warm (tight gloves in winter will also reduce the circulation in your hands and make them very cold). On hot and humid days you need larger gloves because after a few hours on the bike your hands will swell and the fabric in the gloves will be soaked with sweat and the gloves will be very difficult to get off your hands. Fortunately, Serfas has the RX Short Finger Gloves that are not only easy to remove (even when totally saturated with sweat), but also provide a very comfortable grip! While I’ve bought at least six pairs of these gloves in the past five or six years, the folks at Serfas were kind enough to send me a new pair for review (I needed a new pair for the photographs—no one wants to see my well-worn gloves).

Serfas RX Short Finger Cycling Gloves

Serfas RX Short Finger Cycling Gloves

Serfas RX Short Finger Gloves were designed by physicians to reduce the pressure on the nerves and arteries in the hands and they succeeded in their goal! As far as I am concerned the gel padding in these gloves is perfect. I know a few cyclists who prefer gloves with little or no padding, but I ride over a lot of rough roads and without gel padding my hands will start to cramp after a few hours on the bike.

Serfas RX Short Finger Cycling Gloves

“Easy Off Loops” on the Serfas RX Gloves

One of the coolest things about these gloves is the “Easy Off Loop” that allows you to slide the gloves off easily, even when they are soaking wet from a long ride in the rain. The Serfas RX Short Finger Gloves are machine washable and I have been able to get nearly 2,000 miles of use with every pair. These gloves also have two pieces of reflective piping on the fingers—if you are riding at night and use hand signals for your turns the headlights of cars behind you will reflect off of this piping and make it easier for motorists to see you.

Serfas RX Short Finger Cycling Gloves

Note The Reflective Piping On The Fingers

I’ve gone riding with these gloves when the temperature was over 100 degrees (with a heat index of over 115 degrees Fahrenheit) and these gloves never made me feel like they were heating up my hands. In fact, my hands are cooler with these gloves than just about any other glove I’ve tried. I use these gloves with both road and mountain bikes, and in sunny weather or rain.

Serfas Men’s RX Short Finger Gloves are available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL) and come in four colors (Black, White, Blue or Red). Serfas Women’s RX Short Finger Gloves are available in four sizes (S, M, L, XS) and come in either Black or White. These gloves retail for $29 and I buy mine from the local bike shop, but they are also available from the Serfas website and from Amazon.com.

One last thought: If you live in an area with high humidity you really need at least two pairs of cycling gloves so you can wear one pair while the other is drying out.

 

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Penguin Brands Sport-Wash

Penguin Brands Sport-Wash for cycling clothing

Penguin Brands Sport-Wash

It doesn’t take a long bike ride to leave your clothes smelling like a locker room. The moisture wicking fabrics used in cycling clothing does a great job at moving moisture away from the body, but they can’t move odor-causing bacteria out with it. The bacteria left on your clothing reproduces incredibly fast and the odor it creates is not easily removed by normal laundry detergents. If you really want to keep your cycling clothing from stinking you need to wash it in Sports-Wash by Penguin Brands, Inc.

Sports-Wash is an unscented, biodegradable laundry detergent that reduces odors and prevents color fading. It is also residue-free and non-allergenic. In addition, it restores the factory-applied Durable Water Repellent (DRW) finish to clothing.

Sports-Wash is also notable for what it does not contain. It contains no bleach, fabric softeners, or scent. I have noticed a slight smell as the clothing is being washed, but it rinses right out and leaves no residue.

Penguin Brands, Inc. claims that Sports-Wash will remove blood and grass stains. Fortunately, I have not had the opportunity to test this claim, so I will have to take their word for it.

My dear wife is kind enough to hand-wash all of my cycling clothing (yes, I am a lucky man). She uses one capful of Sports-Wash per sink full of dirty clothing. Sports-Wash retails for $18 for a 42-ounce bottle. I buy Sports-Wash at a local Dick’s Sporting Goods store, but it is also available on Amazon.com. Sports-Wash is more expensive than normal laundry detergent, but your expensive cycling clothing will last a lot longer if you wash it in a quality product like this.

 

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Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey

I own more pieces of Pearl Izumi cycling gear than any other brand because they consistently offer high quality clothing that shows evidence of meticulous attention to detail. Between shorts, tights, jackets, jerseys, vests, gloves and base layers I probably own 60 to 70 pieces of their gear. A lot of their clothing carries a small tag to tell you when the clothing was manufactured. When you look at almost any piece of their clothing you can see small changes that take place from year to year—and always for the better. One of the finest pieces of cycling wear I have ever purchased is the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey—and if spend a lot of time cycling in cool weather this thermal jersey will make your rides a lot more enjoyable (and you’ll look better too).

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey

The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey is made from a fabric composed of 63% polyester, 27% Minerale polyester, and 10% elastane. I don’t know exactly how they form the polyester into this thermal fabric, but it is extremely comfortable, highly breathable and incredibly warm—and yet it is very lightweight. This jersey also dries quickly after washing and is odor resistant.

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey

Full-length zipper with draft flap

This jersey has a full-length front zipper with an internal draft flap with a zipper garage to seal in the heat. There is a drawstring around the neck that adjusts in the back—you can open it up a bit if you start to overheat.

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey

Zippered front pocket with reflective piping

The front pocket on this jersey is large enough to easily hold an iPhone or other cell phone, and there is an opening in the back of the pocket that allows you to pass a headphone cable through. Around the zipper is a piece of highly reflective material (and this jersey has several other pieces of reflective piping as well).

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Jersey

Three rear pockets plus a zippered sweat-proof pocket

On the back of this jersey you will find three full-length pockets along with a small sweat-proof zippered pocket. In addition, there is a piece of elasticized gripper material on back of the jersey to keep the hem in place. You will also notice that the back of this jersey is cut longer than the front to keep your backside warm (and to keep you from offending anyone riding behind you). The Pearl Izumi Website says the recommended temperature range for this jersey is between 45˚F and 55˚F and I think these numbers are correct. You could also use it in slightly cooler weather if you wear a thin thermal base layer under it.

The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey is not cheap! The men’s version retails for $160 and is available in three colors (Red, Black, and White). The women’s version is $10 cheaper and comes in four colors (Red, Black, White, and Hi-Vis Yellow). Prices for this jersey on Amazon.com range from $110 to $150. If you just can’t justify spending that much money on a thermal jersey you might want to consider the Pearl Izumi Select Thermal Jersey—it is missing a few of the nice finishing touches the P.R.O. jersey has, but will certainly keep you warm (and save you about $50).

 

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Walz Cycling Caps (Product Review and Giveaway)

When I was a young man (back when the planet was still cooling and dinosaurs roamed the earth) my best friend and I had a lengthy conversation about the worst automobile drivers in America. We came to the conclusion the most dangerous drivers were “old men who wear hats” (by the way, my friend is nearing retirement age, now lives in Florida and wears a hat—just sayin’). That being said, I try to avoid wearing any sort of head covering except for my bicycle helmet. However, when the folks at Walz Cycling Caps sent me one of their products for review I had to reconsider my opinion about hats and caps. While I will never look as good wearing a cycling cap as Yehuda Moon does, there is something about them that is just plain cool. If you would like to see how cool you can look in a cycling cap just read the last paragraph of this article to find out how to enter our latest contest.

Walz Wool Cycling Caps

Walz Cycling Caps

Walz Caps is located in Oceanside, California and they specialize in manufacturing quality cycling caps—in fact, that is all they make. The cap they sent me (the one in the photo above) is made of 100% wool and is incredibly soft. Walz Caps makes these wool caps in over two dozen different colors and patterns, including tweed, houndstooth, herringbone—they even have a few that only mad dogs and Englishmen would love. If wool is not your style, Walz Caps also makes caps in cotton or a moisture wicking 100% circular knit polyester. These caps are thin enough to be worn under your cycling helmet.

The majority of caps sold by Walz Caps retail for $20, but you can have your cap personalized for a small additional charge. If you really want to get fancy they can customize your cap with embroidery, screen-printing or even full dye sublimation (great for cycling clubs). Walz Caps offers free shipping in the United States and they will ship internationally via USPS first class international mail.

Regular readers know that I seldom keep the products that are sent to me for review. While my grubby little hands did touch this cap while I was photographing it, I did not wear it because I wanted to be able to give it away (and no one wants a used cycling cap). In prior contests I had readers choose a number within a certain range and then used a random number generator to select the winner. However, because the snow biking season is almost over I am in a strange mood—so the rules for this contest are a bit different. If you would like to win this beautiful cycling cap then leave a comment below telling me why you need this cap. The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, March 15, 2013. After the contest closes I will read through the comments and choose a winner based solely on my incredibly subjective mood at the time. I probably won’t respond to the comments left below, but I promise to read and consider every one of them. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. I will send this product to the winner via U.S. Mail at my expense. Good luck!

 

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ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava

I am always on the lookout for new winter cycling gear and the colder it gets the less likely I am to wear products that were specifically manufactured for cyclists. Some of my winter gear was designed for hunters, while other pieces of clothing were meant for cross-country skiers. One of the coolest looking balaclavas I’ve purchased, a ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava with a skull on the face, was as intended for motorcycle riders.

ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava

ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava

The ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava has a full neoprene face mask, but the rest of the material is thinner which makes it perfect for riding with a helmet on. The thinner material around the head and neck seem to breathe well and not retain moisture. The thicker neoprene face mask area really blocks the wind well. This product is only available in one size (“one size fits most”), and it fit me perfectly.

ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava

Close-up of the ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava

The main concern most cyclists would have about this mask would be how well you can breathe with it on. If you look carefully at the close-up photo you can see the small holes which allow air into and out of the mask, as well as the opening for the nose. Personally, I think this mask is fine for recreational riders, but if you are riding at top speed you are definitely going to have difficulty breathing with it on.

Balaclava and Airfoil Goggles

Balaclava and Airfoil Goggles

I own a dozen or so balaclavas and I bought this one for one reason, i.e., it looks cool! If you are stopped at an intersection with this mask on you are going to have some fun! Some car is going to pull up next to you and a little kid is going to point at the mask—then you can hear his mother tell the child not to stare and watch her burn rubber as she flees the intersection. I am a totally harmless person, but I do have a rather warped sense of humor.

The ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava retails for $27, but you can find it on Amazon.com for only $16. If you want to make this product even cooler looking you can always couple it up with the Airfoil 7617 Goggles I reviewed last year. However, while this balaclava is fun to wear, I would high suggest you refrain from entering your local bank with it on. By the way, the folks at ZANheadgear make a lot of other cool balaclavas and other forms of head gear—some of their products even glow in the dark (how cool is that?).

 

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Chaos Thermal Regulation CTR Howler Multi Tasker Pro Windproof Balaclava

Cyclists and other athletes who love exercising outdoors in extreme winter conditions often wear a balaclava to help them cope with the low temperatures. A balaclava is not just for keeping your face warm—it also helps keep your skin from drying out in the dry winter air (just like freezer burn). A few weeks ago I bought a Chaos Thermal Regulation CTR Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava and it quickly became my favorite balaclava of all time! This balaclava offers incredible face and neck protection, in part due to the hinged design that prevents gaps in the fabric, and it easily drops down off the face when you need to get a drink. This product also has a soft fleece interior to help wick moisture away from the skin.

Howler Multi Tasker Pro Windproof Balaclava

Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava

For a winter athlete the most important feature of this balaclava is the mesh breathing panel that covers the mouth area. One of the biggest complaints most cyclists and runners have against balaclavas is that they restrict air flow. I am happy to report that this balaclava did not impede my breathing in the slightest!

Because of the way this balaclava is designed you can cover nearly your entire face, leaving only your eyes exposed, or you can open it up a bit if you start to overheat. If the weather warms up you can pull the face mask down and use it as a neck gaiter. Like every other balaclava I’ve ever owned this one can cause your glasses to fog up. Since this balaclava is extremely warm you might save it for days when it is so cold you need to wear ski goggles instead of regular cycling glasses—in which case you won’t have to worry about anything fogging up since the goggles will seal the balaclava against your face.

How does the Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava stack up against the other balaclavas? Well, it is considerably warmer than two of the other balaclavas I’ve reviewed in the past (the Bontrager Balaclava and the Seirus Combo Clava). In addition, the Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava is 100% windproof and has a water-repellent surface that sheds rain and snow.

We all have different tolerances for cold weather, but let me tell you how well this balaclava works for me: I’ve used it several times when the temperature was below 20 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind blowing at over 20 mph. Even when riding my bike at 20 mph into a strong headwind my face was perfectly warm.

The Chaos Thermal Regulation CTR Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava is available in three sizes (Junior, Small/Medium, and Large/X-Large). This product retails for around $35, but you probably will not find it at your local bike shop. However, it is available at many ski shops and online retailers like Amazon.com.

 

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HooRag Seamless Bandana

Because I ride in just about any weather condition I have accumulated a large collection of cycling caps, bandanas, hoods and balaclavas. Most of these items are one-trick ponies, i.e., they are only designed for one specific weather condition. A few weeks ago the folks at HooRag sent me one of their products for review and it has turned out to be a very versatile piece of outdoor wear.

Hoo-Rag Seamless Bandana

The HooRag as a Balaclava and a Pirate Rag

The basic design of the HooRag is fairly simple: it is an 18″ long tube constructed of 100% polyester microfiber and it is open at both ends. You can pull the entire HooRag over your head and slide it down your neck and wear it as a neck gaiter—you can also pull it up halfway for a face mask or pull the top all the way over your head and use it as a balaclava. I need to point out that this material is fairly thin, so it is not a substitute for use as a deep winter balaclava. You can also quickly fold the HooRag and wear it as a pirate rag or beanie rag. If you just want to keep the sweat out of your eyes you can wear it as a head band, and if your hair is long enough you can use it to wrap your ponytail (sorry, but I couldn’t try this one myself).

Hoo-Rag Seamless Bandana

The HooRag as a Neck Gaiter and a Face Mask

The target audience for the HooRag is pretty broad, i.e., anyone who engages in outdoor activities. The polyester microfiber on this product wicks away moisture extremely well and it is small enough that you can stow it in your pocket when not in use. The HooRag is not just for athletes—fisherman or even fans sitting in a stadium for fall sports would enjoy it.

The HooRag retails for $15 or less and they are available from the HooRag Website. They offer free shipping for orders mailed to within the continental U.S. The HooRag I tested was Tactical Black, but they come about fifty different styles—from numerous camouflage patterns to bright colors and paisley designs.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Bicycle Clothing

 

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Terramar Tech Skins Polypropylene Thermal Base Layer

Staying comfortable in inclement weather is all about layering. Anytime you wear two or more layers it is imperative that your base layer is good at wicking moisture away from your body. The Terramar Tech Skins Thermal Base Layer is lightweight (only 140 grams), extremely breathable and does an amazing job of keep your skin dry during strenuous outdoor exercise (like cycling).

Terramar Tech Skins Polypropylene Thermal Base Layer

Terramar Tech Skins Polypropylene Thermal Base Layer

The Terramar Tech Skins Thermal Base Layer is made of 100% polypropylene—this fabric is stain-resistant and provides a decent amount of odor control. Terramar makes three different thicknesses of crew neck base layers and this one is the thinnest. I’ve found that this base layer adds about 6 or 7 degrees of effectiveness, i.e., if you have a cycling jersey that will keep you warm down to 50 degrees, when you add this base layer you should be able to stay warm down to about 43 degrees (your experience might vary). One of the nicest things about this product is that if you get too warm you can take it off and stuff it in a jersey pocket.

There are many clothing companies that sell base layers, so what makes Terramar different? That’s a great question and one that is easy to answer: most companies sell base layers as a sideline, but at Terramar it is their only business! For over forty years these folks have specialized in manufacturing high performance base layers for climbers, cyclists, skiers, hikers, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts. I own a lot of their products and they all show evidence of being well thought out.

The Terramar Tech Skins Thermal Base Layer retails for $20 and is available from many different kinds of stores—from bike shops and ski shops to places like Gander Mountain (that’s where I bought mine). This product is available in five sizes for men (S, M, L, XL, and 2XL). Terramar also has a version of this product available for women, the Women’s Polypropylene Baselayer (S, M, L, XL, and XS). This product is manufactured in China.

 

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