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Category Archives: Cycling In The Rain

Rain jackets, bicycle tires, lighting and reflectors for riding your bike in the rain and in low-visibility situations.

Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case

I take my iPhone with me on every ride—in rain, snow, mud, sand or beautiful sunshine. There are several good phone cases on the marker that will keep your iPhone dry while you are riding (or running for that matter), but the best case I’ve found so far is the Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case for the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5.

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case

The Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case is a weatherproof case with welded edges and a dual zip-lock closure that will keep your phone happy and dry all day long. I have an iPhone 5 and always keep it in a thin polycarbonate case—and even with the case on my phone fits perfectly into the CloudCover case. In addition, the CloudCover case fits into my middle jersey pocket with room to spare.

Easy Open Dual Zip-lock Closure

Easy Open Dual Zip-lock Closure

The CloudCover case has a tab on one side so you can attach a key chain or mini-carabiner to it. The case also has reflective piping so if you keep it in your panniers it will be a lot easier to find in low-light. The design of this case also serves to cushion your phone if it should happen to hit the ground.

You Can Take Photos Through The Clear Cover

You Can Take Photos Through The Clear Cover

One of the features I like best about the CloudCover case is that you can still use the iPhone camera without having to take the phone out of the case. I’ve experimented with this option several times and still cannot believe how well it works! As long as you are photographing in bright sunlight it is nearly impossible to tell that the phone was in the case when you took the photo. However, in low-light situations it is easier to tell the difference. Unfortunately, if you attempt the use the flash while taking a photograph the light will bounce off the clear plastic cover and ruin your photo. One other note: if you have the iPhone 5 you will need to remove whatever protective case you have before you put it in this case or the phone will sit too high in the case to take a picture.

Showers Pass also makes CloudCover cases and wallets for several other electronic devices, including: iPad, iPad Mini, Kindles, and a general purpose wallet for smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy. While the iPhone case and the generic smartphone case are available in either black or silver, the other cases only come in black.

The Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case retails for $25 and if you ride in inclement weather that price is a steal! If your local bike shop does not carry this product you can order if it from the Showers Pass website or Amazon.com.

 

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2013 Felt F65X Cyclocross Bike

I would like to introduce you to the newest member of my family, a 2013 Felt F65X Cyclocross Bike (I haven’t even named her yet). Cyclocross bikes look a lot like regular road bikes, but allow for fatter tires so they can have better grip on the ground—they also have greater clearance on the forks so mud won’t build up as quickly. Cyclocross races usually take place in the fall and winter over a course that includes pavement, off-road trails, hills, man-made obstacles and mud. This particular from of racing has been around for over 100 years and is usually associated with countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and France, but is growing in popularity here in the states.

2013 Felt F65X Cyclocross Bike

2013 Felt F65X Cyclocross Bike

The 2013 Felt F65X Cyclocross Bike has an aluminum frame with a carbon fiber front fork. The drivetrain has SRAM Apex DoubleTap shifters, a compact 46/36T crankset and an 11-28T cassette with a SRAM 10-speed chain. This bike also has Felt CXR disc rims with stainless steel spokes. To protect you in foul weather, this bike has Felt All-Weather sealed slick brake and derailleur housings.

2013 Felt F65X Cyclocross Bike

SRAM Apex DoubleTap Shifters

Traditionally, cyclocross bikes have used center-pull cantilever brakes which give a lot of brake pad-to-rim clearance that reduces drag when you are riding through the muck. However, disc brakes are becoming more common on cyclocross bikes, and the Felt  F65X uses Avid BB5 disc brakes with SRAM Apex levers. One other note: the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) used to ban disc brakes in cyclocross races, but that ban has now been lifted.

2013 Felt F65X Cyclocross Bike

AVID BB5 Disc Brakes on the Felt F65X Cyclocross Bike

Even though this bike weighs 21 pounds it feels very light and handles like a dream on both pavement and off-road trails. You don’t have to be a cyclocross racer to enjoy this bike—in fact, a lot of the purchasers are commuters who have to travel over both pavement and off-road trails just to get to work.

There were three things about this bike I did not like—the Felt SL Saddle, the Felt Gel Velvet Tape, and the stock Vittoria Cross XG Pro 700c x 32c tires. The stock saddle was lightweight, but it felt like I was sitting on a brick, so I replaced it with a Planet Bike ARS Standard Anatomic Relief Saddle (I have this same saddle on all of my bikes). The handlebar tape was not very comfortable so I asked the guys at the shop to re-wrap the bars with Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape (my favorite bar tape). The Vittoria Cross XG Pro tires were probably OK, but since I live in an area with a lot of broken glass on both the streets and trails I replaced the stock tires with Bontrager LT2 700C tires (hard-case tires with triple flat protection).

Until a few days ago the 2013 Felt F65X Cyclocross Bike retailed for $1859. However, since the 2014 models will be hitting the showroom soon, I was able to pick up this bike for only $1399.

I purchased my 2013 Felt F65X Cyclocross Bike from Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois. In fact, I’ve bought my last seven bikes from them—I don’t even bother shopping around for a better price anymore. If you live in the Upper Midwest you really need to check these folks out. They keep anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 bikes in their store (depending on the time of the year) and they have six full-time mechanics who work all-year long (that is very rare in our part of the country). Thanks to their reputation for building high quality Fat Bikes the mechanics now have a lot more work to do in the winter than they used to!

Important Update Notice (9/6/13): This bike comes stock with an Ashima 6 Bolt 160mm Air Rotor (disc brake rotor). This rotor is great at shedding mud, but I was having trouble with the whole front end of my bike shaking every time I applied the front brake—it was fine on smooth roads at low speeds, but this is a cyclocross bike and I love to go fast when I play in the mud. The problem is apparently common when you have a disc brake on a carbon fiber fork. The guys at the local bike shop suggested that I replace the Ashima Air Rotor with a beefier Avid G3 CS Clean Sweep Disc Rotor—this rotor has more metal and does not shed mud as well, but it stopped the problem I had with the front end shaking.

 

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Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX With Rigid Molded Panels

When I started cycling about twelve years ago, like many newbies, I carried a lot of gear with me that I didn’t really need. I am now a minimalist, i.e., I only carry gear that I absolutely need (a patch kit, spare tube and a compact set of tools). However, there are times when I really do need to carry more gear than will fit in my jersey pockets or seat bag—and that’s when I break out the Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX.

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX (note the 3M reflective stripe)

The Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX is a lightweight and spacious bag designed for mountain bikes. This bag is made with flexible 600 denier fabric and has rigid molded panels so it will keep its shape. The main interior compartment has an adjustable divider (you can remove the divider entirely if needed). There are also two mesh side compartments that close with zippers. While this bag has a Dupont Teflon coating for water resistance, you can also buy an optional rain cover. The rain cover comes in either white or yellow—I bought the yellow one because it makes it a lot easier for motorists to see you in the rain.

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX with Bungee Cords

The Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX weighs a bit over 1.5 pounds and measures 13.8″ long x 8.3″ wide x 7.5″ tall. This bag has a storage capacity of 480 cubic inches (8 L). There are adjustable bungee cords on the top of the bag so you can carry over-sized items, but I usually use it to carry a light rain jacket. This bag also has 3M reflective strips on the left and right sides—when car headlights shine on these strips it reflects the light back and makes you nearly impossible to miss. The back of the bag has a clip so yo can attach a taillight, like the Topeak RedLite II.

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX on the QuickTrack Rail

This bag slips on your bike with the Topeak QuickTrack system, a lightweight rail that attaches to your seat post. The QuickTrack rail accepts several different sizes of Topeak bags and baskets. The TrunkBag comes with a built-in carrying handle and a detachable shoulder strap (in case you need to do some shopping along the way).

I own five different Topeak bags (two for road bikes and three for mountain bikes). A couple of my Topeak bags are over ten years old and they still look like new. I bought the Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX about 18 months ago and one of the things I’ve noticed is how the Topeak bags have evolved during the past decade. The newer bags are more streamlined (aerodynamic) and lightweight than the older bags.

As with any bag or pannier you put on your bike, you need to try to spread the weight out, i.e., don’t put everything in the TrunkBag. Last year I put the TrunkBag on a mountain bike and went out into the woods to collect acorns (I enjoy feeding the squirrels in my backyard). Acorns weigh more than you might think and when the TrunkBag was full I could really feel it as I was going uphill.

The Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX retails for $70 and should be available from just about any bike shop. I always encourage people to buy from the local bike shop whenever possible, but if you are a bargain hunter you can buy this bag from Amazon.com for only $42.

 

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Favorite Embrocation Cream: DZ Nuts InHeat

DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

DZ Nuts InHeat

According to the calendar the first day of spring arrived last week—but it is hard to tell because of all the snow and ice on the ground where I live. On cool mornings cyclists in my area of the country have to decide whether to put on knickers, leg warmers or knee warmers for our morning rides. A few years ago I started applying DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream to my legs before riding in cool weather and have been very happy with the results.

If you are not familiar with embrocation creams here is the Reader’s Digest version: they are creams that contain vasodilators and when rubbed onto your body they warm up the skin and underlying muscles. These creams also create a weather-proof barrier that protects your skin from the elements, like rain and sleet. The DZ-Nuts Website says their cream was “developed and tested on the European roads by Garmin Transitions and Columbia HTC professional cycling teams to be an essential training and racing tool.” For many male cyclists embrocation creams are the main reason we shave our legs. Warning: Never shave your legs on the same day you use an embrocation cream!

If you have never used an embrocation cream before you are probably wondering how this product works. About 15 minutes before you go out for a ride on brisk day you massage this cream into the exposed areas of your legs. It will take several minutes for you to feel the cream working, but once it does you will feel the warmth and be able to ride for several hours in cool weather without having your legs cramp up from the cold.

When your ride is finished you will be pleasantry surprised that the cream did not pick up road grime as you might have expected. I’ve used this cream on long off-road rides on dusty trails and haven’t had much dust stick to my legs.

It has been my experience that the greatest amount of heat is felt once your ride is finished. While you are riding in cool weather you don’t really feel the cream working, but then again, you aren’t feeling the cool air on your legs either. Once you put your bike up and go inside you can feel your legs getting warmer and this will keep your muscles from getting tight after a ride. The DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream washes off easily with just soap and water, but you can still feel it a bit even after you are out of the shower. My advice: When you get into the shower try to wash off the cream with soap and cool water—hot water opens up the pores of your skin and makes this cream heat up again.

Second Warning: Make sure you put this cream on your legs after you put your cycling shorts on! If you put the cream on your legs first and then pull your cycling shorts up some of the cream will stick to your chamois. This cream has capsicum in it (think red-hot chili peppers and police pepper spray). If the capsicum comes in contact with your nether regions you are going to experience a level of pain that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay never even dreamed about (I speak from experience—and a very painful one at that).

DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream comes in three strengths (low, medium and high). The low heat cream is good for rides down to around 50 degrees (Fahrenheit). I’ve not used the other creams because when temperature gets down in the 40’s I really prefer tights. A six-ounce tube of DZ Nuts InHeat retails for around $22 and you should be able to get 15 or 20 rides out of a single tube.

In case you were wondering, the “DZ” in DZNuts is for cycling legend David Zabriskie.

 

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Topeak DeFender RX and FX Bicycle Fenders

If you ride in the rain, snow or mud then you already know how messy your clothing is when you get home. One way to minimize (but not entirely eliminate) the mess is the put both front and rear fenders on your bike. I have several sets of bicycle fenders hanging on the walls of my garage, but the two I use the most are the Topeak DeFender RX and Topeak DeFender FX fenders (the RX is the rear fender and the FX is the front fender). These fenders are designed for 26″ mountain bikes.

Topeak DeFender RX Bicycle Fenders

Topeak DeFender RX Bicycle Fenders

The Topeak DeFender RX rear fender is made from impact resistant plastic and attaches to your seat tube with a quick release locking mechanism (one size fits all). The RX weighs about seven ounces and measures 22” x 4” x 6”. The underside of the fender is highly polished to help shed mud. However, if you want any fender to shed mud and snow better just spay the underside with PAM non-stick cooking spray (you probably have a can of it in your kitchen already). Since this fender is almost always used when it is raining I added a few strips of 3M Scotchlite Reflective Tape on the sides to make it easier for cars to see me in low-light situations (I wish Topeak would add this tape to their fenders at the factory). The angle of this fender is adjustable so you should be able to use it on almost any 26″ mountain bike.

The only problem I’ve had with the DeFender RX is the tightening mechanism (a nylon webbed strap). The problem is that if there is not enough friction on the seat tube to keep the nylon strap from moving the fender a bit from side to side. The solution is real easy: just cut a strip of rubber from an old bicycle inner tube and put it under the strap (old inner tubes have a lot of uses).

Topeak DeFender FX Bicycle Fenders

Topeak DeFender FX Bicycle Fenders

The Topeak DeFender FX fender attaches to the front fork (fits 19.6–26 mm steerer tubes). This fender weighs a little over six ounces and measures 23” x 3.5” x 6.3”. Like the RX rear fender, the FX has a highly polished underside. The quick release mechanism for this fender allows you to add or remove the fender in a matter of seconds. However, the first time you put it on it will take about five minutes to adjust (I keep the attaching mechanism on my mountain bike all the time).

The Topeak DeFender RX rear fender retails for $15, and the Topeak DeFender FX front fender retails for $13. Your local bike shop probably has both fenders in stock. However, if you have trouble finding them they are also available on Amazon.com.

 

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Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB Shoe Covers

We had a very dry summer in the Upper Midwest, but fall is finally here and that usually means a lot of long rides in the rain. Riding in the rain can be relaxing (if you are not on a major highway), providing you stay dry. Fortunately, there are many great cycling products that can help keep you dry all day long (see the “Cycling In The Rain” link in the column on the right). If you are looking for a way to keep your feet dry then you should check out the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB Shoe Covers.

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB Road Shoe Covers

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB Shoe Covers

The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB Shoe Covers are designed for riding in rainy weather and they work great! This product is recommended for road shoes with external cleats. Though they are fleece lined, they are not really intended for cold weather cycling. On a sunny day when the temperature is over 50 degrees you probably wouldn’t even want to use a shoe cover to keep your feet warm (a pair of toe covers will do). However, a rain day with a temperature of 35 to 50 degrees can just about freeze you all the way to your bones. If you are wanting to keep your feet dry in the rain, then these covers are for you. If you are looking for a great shoe cover for winter cycling, I would recommend the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers.

The P.R.O. Barrier WxB Shoe Covers are made of 70% nylon, 20% polyurethane, 8% elastane, 1% Cordura nylon, and 1% Kevlar. The sole is made of a very durable Kevlar so you should not have any trouble walking with this cover on your shoes. This cover also has reflective elements (the Pearl Izumi logo) for low-light visibility. These shoe covers have fairly tall cuffs so they will easily fit under your pant legs if you are riding with rain pants on. Like most Pearl Izumi products, this shoe cover is extremely well made and designed.

The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB Shoe Covers retail for $50 and are available in two colors (Black and Screaming Yellow). This product comes in five sizes (S, M, L, XL and XXL). In my opinion these covers run a bit small, so I would order covers one size larger than you usually wear. If you want a similar cover for your mountain biking shoes you should buy the Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Covers.

If you are looking for a fantastic pair of cycling pants to wear in the rain I would recommend the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants—they are breathable, windproof, waterproof and they have kept me dry in torrential downpours on days when no one in their right mind would be outside.

 

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Kool Stop High Performance Bicycle Brake Pads

Many years ago I drove by an automobile brake shop and noticed the slogan on their sign, “If you can’t stop, don’t start.” Well, the same thing is true for cyclists—it doesn’t matter how fast you can go on your bike, if your brakes are sluggish it could cost you your life. Earlier this year I rebuilt an old Trek 1200 road bike and customized it to handle foul weather (mainly rain). The finishing touch on this rebuild was the brake pads—and after a bit of research I chose Kool Stop Bicycle Brake Pads due to their superior stopping power in wet weather.

Kool Stop Bicycle Brake Pads

Kool Stop High Performance Bicycle Brake Pads

Kool Stop International, Inc., a company based in Oregon, has been making bicycle brake pads for over 30 years. They make a variety of brake pads, but my Trek 1200 uses their Dura Road Pad set (Dura-Ace/Ultegra), so that is what I have used. The Dura Road Pad (like their Campi Pad) is a dual compound insert that fits inside an aluminum holder. This holder has a “dual pivot adjustment” (a conical washer) and is very easy to adjust.

Kool Stop Wet Weather Bicycle Brake Pads

Kool Stop Brake Pads

Kool Stop manufactures several different compounds for use in their brakes—some compounds are best for dry weather cycling and others are very aggressive for use in wet weather. As the name implies, the “dual compound” brake pads are a combination of two compounds—it uses a black compound usually found in their dry weather pads along with their aggressive salmon colored pad that offer superior stopping power in wet weather. Kool Stop ships these brakes with the dual compound pads preinstalled, but they also include an extra pair of salmon colored pads (for really nasty weather).

Even though the Chicago area has had a drought this summer, I have been able to ride a few hundred miles in the rain (mainly in the spring) with these brake pads and they work as advertised. While the brake pads I took off the old Trek 1200 were pretty worn, the Kool Stop brake pads allow me to stop in about half the distance as before.

If you have never replaced a pair of brake pads on your bike before you might wonder how difficult a job it is. There is no reason to have the local bike shop put these pads on for you—a total amateur can put on a set of these brake pads in under 15 minutes, and the second set will probably go on in 10 minutes.

Kool Stop Bicycle Brake Pads with X Pad (Dura-Ace/Ultegra) retail for $23 a pair and you should be able to find them at your local bike shop. These brake pads are nearly twice the price of other brake pads, but they are worth it (if you value your life).

 

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