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Category Archives: Cycling On Windy Days

Windstopper clothing such as jackets, gloves and toe covers for riding your bike on windy days.

Cat-Ears Wind Noise Reduction For Cyclists (Product Review and Giveaway)

Cycling on windy days can be a challenge for even the most dedicated of cyclists. A strong headwind will make your legs think you are climbing Alpe d’Huez during a stage of the Tour de France. Cross winds make it difficult to keep your bike upright—sometimes you have to lean into the wind so much to keep you bike upright it can rattle your nerves. Regardless of what direction the wind is coming from you are going to have difficulty hearing anything because of the noise the wind creates—conversing with fellow riders or hearing cars coming up behind you is extremely difficult. The folks at Cat-Ears created a neat little device that attaches to the straps of your bike helmet to reduce wind noise—and two lucky readers are going to win a pair of Cat-Ears to try out for themselves.

Cat-Ears Wind Noise Reduction For Cyclists

Cat-Ears—Wind Noise Reduction For Cyclists

A few weeks ago I was watching The Tour of California on TV. During the fourth stage of the race one of the announcers said that they were experiencing “incredible winds” of up to 25 KPH (15 MPH). I nearly fell over laughing! I live north of Chicago (“The Windy City”) and ride in stronger winds than that several days a week. As a result, I am always looking for products that will help me ride on windy days.

Cat-Ears are one of the coolest, albeit strangest looking, products I’ve ever reviewed. They are made of small pieces of faux fur and polyester fleece. Cat-Ears wrap around the straps of your helmet and are held in place by a small piece of Velcro. Cat-Ears got their name because they were designed after the pieces of fur in the ears of a normal house cat. When properly attached to your helmet Cat-Ears disrupt the flow of air around your ears and allow you to hear a lot better on windy days. When riding at very low speeds (12 MPH or below) you probably won’t notice any difference when using Cat-Ears, but the faster you ride the more effective they are.

Close-up of Cat-Ears

Close-up of Cat-Ears

Cat-Ears is based in Boulder, Colorado and all of their products are made in the U.S.A. (I always love it when I can say that about a product). After writing about a new product I am often asked, “Do they ship to my country?” According to the folks at Cat-Ears, about 20% of their business is international and they have shipped products to: Spain, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Taiwan, Belgium, Netherlands, Slovenia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Austria, New Zealand, Italy, and Romania. If you would like to order a pair of Cat-Ears for yourself you can visit the Cat-Ears website—they retail for around $14 to $16 a pair and come in Black, White or Grey.

The folks at Cat-Ears gave me a few extra sets of their product to give away, so if you would like a chance to win a pair of them then leave a comment below telling me why you need them. I have a pair of white Cat-Ears for a female cyclist and a black pair for a male cyclist. The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, June 14, 2013. After the contest closes I will read through the comments and choose the two winners based solely on my mood at the time (humor is highly encouraged). If you don’t need this product yourself you are free to comment on other entries. So I can remain impartial until the contest is over I will not be responding the comments. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. I will send this product to the winners via U.S. Mail at my expense. Good luck!

 

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Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants for rain and bad weather

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants

You might not love riding in the rain, but if your training schedule forces your out in it very often you need to pick up a pair of Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants. These pants 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.

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants are made of a three-layer thermo-regulating laminate fabric. This breathable fabric is 50 percent polyester, 32 percent nylon, and 18 percent nylon. You will find abrasion patches in high wear areas that should keep you from ripping these pants like I’ve done with cheaper rain pants. These pants are sturdy enough for both road and trail use. Since riding in the rain almost always means low-visibility, these pants have 360° reflective elements that really stand out when light hits them. The asymmetrical leg cuffs should keep you from getting your pants caught in the crank. There is also a side adjustable waistband to help you get a good fit. All of the internal seams are taped and totally waterproof.

We need to talk about the fit around the ankles for a moment. These pants have nine-inch waterproof ankle zippers so they will fit over cycling shoes and shoe covers with ease. However, there is not enough room to wear these pants with the cuff on the outside of heavy winter boots. This could cause a problem if plan on wearing these pants as a winter shell—they will do great most of the time, but if you have to walk through deep snow then you could find yourself with wet feet after a while.

If you are looking for the perfect waterproof shoe covers to go with these pants, I would suggest the Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover. If you need warm winter shoe covers, I would suggest the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers.

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants have a retail price of $225, but they are available on Amazon.com for around $160. These pants will probably be one of the most expensive pieces of cycling wear you will ever buy, but they should give you many years of use. This product comes with a lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. In case you were wondering, the P.R.O. in the name stand for Performance Race Optimized.

 

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Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket For Winter Cycling

If you are looking for a softshell cycling jacket for winter rides you really need to check out the Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket. This jacket is warm, windproof, waterproof and the most comfortable cycling jacket I own.

Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket for winter cycling and biking

Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket

The Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket is incredibly soft inside—it has a brushed thermal fleece fabric that does a great job of keeping you warm and transferring moisture to the outside. The jacket zips on the front and has a full-length internal draft flap and zipper garage. The sleeves are contoured for a great fit and extra long (something I like in winter jackets) and there is ample reflective material on all sides of the jacket to increase visibility at night.

The Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket only has two pockets. On the chest there is a pocket that will easily hold an iPhone, and it even has a small opening so you can run a pair of headphones through it. On the lower back  is one large zippered pocket, and inside of it there are three smaller pockets. These small inside pockets are a bit difficult to get into as you are riding, but I like them anyway. However, I have found that moisture from perspiration tends to build up inside of both pockets. These zippered pockets have very nice pull-tabs for easy opening even if you have a pair of gloves on. The body of this jacket is made of 100% polyester, and the panels are 95% polyester and 5% elastane.

How does this jacket compare other cycling jackets? While I love the wind-stopping power of my Gore Bike Wear Phantom Bike Jacket, I think Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket is at least as good in that department, plus this Pearl Izumi jacket is warmer and more comfortable. However, I like the rear pockets on the Gore jacket better (plus it has detachable sleeves). On the other hand, the Pearl Izumi jacket is the warmest cycling jacket I own.

Since I have several lighter cycling jackets I don’t wear this jacket until the temperature drops down to about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature I wear an Under Armour compression shirt and a Performance Polar Long Sleeve Cycling Jersey under my jacket. When the temperature is in the low 20’s I switch from the Performance Polar jersey to a thin thermafleece layer.

The Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket has a “semi-form fit” which means it will fit most cyclists, except for those who carry a large spare tire around the waist. This jacket is available is five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL) and appears to be true to size. You can buy this jacket in five different color combinations. The photo above is of a Black/Black jacket (even though it has a bit of red trim). The other color combinations are: Green Flash/Black, True Red/Black, White/Black, and True Blue/White. The list price for this jacket is $150.

 

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Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers For Winter Biking

When most people think about Planet Bike the first thing that comes into their minds is their famous Superflash Turbo Tail Light. However, this year they have introduced some of the best winter cycling gear on the market—their new Borealis Winter Cycling Gloves are the best pair of winter gloves I’ve ever owned. They also offer an excellent line of toe and shoe covers that should meet the needs of most (but not all) winter cyclists.

Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers for winter bike rides

Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers

If you are looking for one of the warmest shoe covers on the market, I would suggest you try the new Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers. This shoe cover is made of a windproof fabric with microfleece lining and a neoprene front panel around the toe box. While all suggested temperature ranges for winter clothing will vary from cyclist to cyclist, I would recommend them for temperatures from 20 to 35 degrees (Fahrenheit).

The bottom of these shoe covers is well designed and can be used with just about any cleat or pedal platform available. Like the Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers, the back of these covers is secured with a wide Velcro strip which makes the covers adjustable for different sizes. These covers also have reflective side logos for better visibility in low light conditions. Planet Bike offers these shoe covers in five different sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XXL). The small cover will fit a man’s size 6.5 shoe (40 European) and the XXL will fit a man’s 11.5+ shoe (46+ European).

While the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers should be sufficient for most cyclists, if you want to use them in even colder weather here are a few suggestions that will help. First, remove the insoles that came with your cycling shoes and put in a pair of 3M Thinsulate Thermal Insoles (available at most sporting goods stores). Next, instead of one pair of thick socks buy a pair of Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Wool Socks—these socks are fairly thin, but they offer great insulation and wick away moisture like crazy. As the temperature drops, add a pair of sock liners under your thermal socks (you might have to go to a sporting goods store to find these—bike shops seldom carry them). If your feet are still cold, buy a pair of neoprene toe gators (available on Amazon.com). Toe gators are very thin pouches that you put over your toes (under your socks). Finally, if you really want to heat things up, put a pair of HeatMax Toasti Toes Foot Warmers (available on Amazon.com) under your toes. These chemical toe warmers have an adhesive backing so they will stick to the bottom of your socks and they give off heat for over six hours. If you do these things you might be able to go all winter without ever needing a pair of expensive cycling boots (they average about $300 a pair). However, if you like to go out and ride when the temperature is in the single digits (and who doesn’t?), then you really do need winter cycling boots.

Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers have a retail price of $45, but you can find them on Amazon.com for around $40.

 

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Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers For Winter Cycling

You don’t have to hang up your bike when cold weather comes if you wear the right jacket, gloves and footwear. Several companies offer excellent shoe covers for cyclists, but the one I would recommend for temperatures from 25 to 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) is the Planet Bike Comet Shoe Cover.

Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers

Planet Bike Comet Full Neoprene Shoe Covers

Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers are made of neoprene and offer great wind and water resistance. Neoprene is the same material used in wetsuits and not only is it waterproof, but it offers excellent insulation. I’ve spent several hours riding with these shoe covers in both snow and rain and not a drop of water has soaked through this material.

These covers will fit almost any cleat/pedal platform you can throw at it. I’ve used these covers on my MTB shoes with Crank Brothers Egg Beater cleats and on my road shoes with Look Keo cleats. The bottom of these covers is made of a very rugged material, so you don’t have to worry if you run into a convenience store while out on a long ride. In the winter my MTB shoes have toe spikes and there is enough room between the toe box retention strap and the front of the shoe cover for these toe spikes to fit in easily.

As I said earlier, I like these shoe covers for temperatures between 25 and 40 degrees. However, your comfort level might vary—not only because of personal comfort zones, but because cycling shoes have a great deal of variation in the amount of ventilation they provide. While riding with the Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers the one place my feet did get cool was on my sole because there is no insulation there (this is true of every brand of shoe cover you find). The best way to overcome this is to replace your regular insoles with 3M Thinsulate Thermal Insoles (available at most sporting goods stores).

The back of these covers is secured with a wide Velcro strip which not only makes the covers adjustable for different sizes, but if your feet get too warm you can open up the top a bit to let some air in. These covers also have reflective side logos for better visibility to motorists.

Planet Bike offers these shoe covers in five different sizes. The small cover will fit a man’s size 6.5 shoe (40 European) and the XXL will fit a man’s 11.5+ shoe (46+ European). Planet Bike has a size chart available on their Website if you are not sure what size you need. I have found the listed sizes to be accurate, but if you are on the border between two sizes go for the larger one (tight clothing in the winter is a very bad idea). I wear size 11.5 cycling shoes and these covers fit perfectly and have a bit of room to spare. Nearly every other brand of shoe cover I have ever purchased was too small to fit my feet (the Bike Nashbar brand shoe covers run about two sizes smaller than advertised).

These shoe covers come with a limited lifetime warranty against defects in material or workmanship (see the Planet Bike Website for complete details). The warranty does not cover normal wear and tear, but they are very well made and I think you should get many years of use out of them.

Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers retail for around $40, but you can save a few dollars by purchasing them online. If you are riding in temperatures above 40 degrees I would recommend the Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers (my all-time favorite toe cover). For temperatures below 30 degrees I would recommend the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers.

 

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Planet Bike Aquilo Windproof Spring-Fall Cycling Gloves

If your goal is to find one cycling glove that will work in any weather condition you are out of luck. It has been my experience all cycling gloves are meant to function within a fairly narrow temperature range or within a specific weather condition. The Planet Bike Aquilo Windproof Cycling Glove is no exception, and I think the ideal market for this glove would be a commuter riding on windy days when the temperature is between 40 to 55 degrees (Fahrenheit).

Planet Bike Aquilo Windproof Spring-Fall Cycling Gloves

Planet Bike Aquilo Windproof Cycling Gloves

The Planet Bike Aquilo cycling glove is very comfortable and the gel padding on the palm works extremely well at reducing road vibration. The outer shell is made of a windproof four-way stretch material and the fingertips are reinforced. There is a bit of reflective piping on the back of the glove that should help motorists see your hands when you are signaling for a turn (you do use hand signals don’t you?). Since fall and winter bike rides often lead to riding in the dark, I wish all fall and winter gloves had a lot of reflective piping.

These gloves also have a soft fabric (80% cotton, 20% polyester) that runs along the index finger and thumb area that you can use to wipe away sweat or to wipe your nose (if you chose not to use the air hanky). Fortunately, these gloves are also machine washable.

The Planet Bike Aquilo cycling glove has a similar comfortable temperature range to that of the Planet Bike Orion glove, but the Aquilo is meant to protect your hands on windy days. If you are unaccustomed to riding on windy days this might not seem like a big deal, but to those of us who live around Chicago (AKA, the Windy City), this is very important. A bike ride on a 50 degree day with high winds can just about make your hands go numb!

I am not really sure why, but the Aquilo glove has a lobster claw, i.e., both your little finger and ring finger are in the same opening. Normally, lobster claw designed gloves are meant for extremely low temperatures, but this glove is not since it has no insulation. The lobster claw on this glove is not necessarily a bad thing, but it was not exactly needed either.

The sizing on the Aquilo gloves seems to run about one size smaller than advertised. The Aquilo glove does not have a liner, so if you buy a glove liner somewhere else you can wear it under this glove and extend the comfortable temperature range down to at least 35 degrees.

Sometimes people confuse windproof with waterproof, and hopefully you know that these two features are not the same. Planet Bike does not claim these gloves are waterproof (very few gloves are). I got caught in a heavy rain about 20 miles from home while I was testing the Aquilo glove and the results were not pretty. The gloves remained dry for the first 30 minutes, but the last 30 minutes of the ride the gloves were soaked all the way through. However, I set them on the glove dryer I keep in my man cave and the next morning they were are good as new.

A pair of Planet Bike Aquilo cycling gloves retails for around $35. If your local bike shop does not carry this glove you can order it from the Planet Bike Website or from online retailers like Amazon.com.

 

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Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

When the temperature drops down below 50 degrees it’s time to put away the knee warmers and get out the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights. I started wearing these tights last year and they are awesome! For temperatures between 28 and 50 degrees I don’t think you will find a better pair of cycling tights.

These tights are made with a very breathable wind-resistant fabric on the outside combined with a thin layer of thermal fleece on the inside. The fabric is about as close to magic as you will find—it wicks moisture away from the skin to keep you warm, dry and happy! While these pants are not rainproof they are definitely water-resistant. I often ride half-centuries (50 miles) in these tights during light rain without any trouble.

You can buy this tight either with or without a chamois. I would definitely buy one with Pearl Izumi’s Elite 3D Chamois since it is the same chamois that is in the Pearl Izumi Elite Cycling Shorts, which is what I ride in all summer. This chamois has 13mm of variable-density microfiber padding coupled with active carbon yarns to help reduce odors. Within the past 12 months I have cycled over 6,000 miles and 99% of those miles have been while riding with this chamois. This chamois was designed with Pressure Relief Technology (PRT) for riding comfort and improved blood flow and I think they ended up with a perfect design!

At the bottom of these tights you will find an 8-inch ankle zipper so the tights are very easy to put on (or take off). The zipper has a lockable tab to keep it closed. The tights also have silicone ankle grippers to keep the tights in place. You will also find reflective piping and logos on the legs to help motorists see you better at night.

These tights are solid black, but you will notice in the photograph I played around with the lighting a bit so you could see a few of the 16 different panels that this pair of tights is composed of. The panel behind the knees is thinner to allow for needed ventilation and better leg movement.

The quality of these tights is superb! As for fit, I would say they are true to size. However, if you are on the border between two sizes I would definitely go with the larger size. Tight clothing in the winter is never a good idea.

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights retail for $125, but you can save a few dollars by buying them from Amazon.com. If you enjoy riding when the temperature is between zero and 30 degrees (and who doesn’t?), I would suggest you buy a pair of Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights.

 

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