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Category Archives: Fat Bikes

Surly Pugsley and Salsa Mukluk Fat Bikes and accessories, gear, bags, and components

Repainting A Well Used Bike

New Powder Coating On My Surly Necromancer Pugsley

New Powder Coating On My Surly Necromancer Pugsley

If you think this past winter was hard on you, just think about what it did to your bike! I rode all winter long, mainly on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike, and all the road salt I rode through took its toll. Compared to my other bikes the Necromancer is barely used—it has less than 3,000 miles on it! However, out of 3,000 miles it probably only has 200 miles of use in good weather. I’ve ridden this bike on sandy beaches and in Lake Michigan (in water up past my hubs). It also has a lot of miles through the mud and the swampy water of the Des Plaines River, but the majority of miles were in freezing weather as I traveled through snow and ice (that was my main purpose for buying this bike in the first place).

While I dearly love the Surly Necromancer, I was never happy with the original paint job. Straight out of the box you could see it had an inferior paint job (as compared to most other bikes). The original paint scratched easily and even with a good coat of paste wax it never did shine! I enjoy getting my bikes filthy in the mud, sand and snow, but when they are sitting in my garage I want them to look like brand new (I know that psychological counseling could probably cure this affliction, but cleaning supplies are cheaper than therapy). Even though this bike is only three years old I decided to have it stripped down and repainted.

Two weeks ago I took the Necromancer down to the local bike shop, Zion Cyclery, and they took everything off the bike and handed me the frame and front fork—which I then took to J & J Powder Coating in Zion, Illinois. The guys at J & J Powder Coating ran my bike frame through a chemical bath to remove the old paint and surface grime (and some rust). They then closed up the openings on the bike (mainly the braze-ons) and applied a thick coat of black powder to the frame and baked it at over 300 degrees. Powder coating is much thicker, and far more durable, than liquid based paints. After the initial powder coating they applied a thick layer of clear coat which not only makes the paint sparkle, but also adds another durable layer of protection to the frame. The guys at J & J Powder Coating only charged $120 for their work, and I think that is a very fair price! Unfortunately, you can only powder coat steel or aluminum bike frames. If you have a carbon fiber bike you’ll have to take it to an auto body shop (or motorcycle shop) to have it painted. By the way, painting your bike could possibly void the warranty on your bike’s frame (but not always), so check with your local bike shop first.

The Shiny Front Fork Now Has Beautiful New Decals

The Shiny Front Fork Now Has Beautiful New Decals

Once I picked up my repainted frame and fork I took it back to Zion Cyclery where Kurt, mechanic extraordinaire, rebuilt the bike. Because of the rust on the original parts, he replaced nearly every bolt and piece of hardware on the bike (with stainless steel parts when possible). He also had to replace the bottom bracket (even a sealed bottom bracket can only take so much time under water). I debated whether to replace the decals on the bike. The decals on the top tube had rubbed off because I frequently use a top tube bag in the winter to carry some of my gear and the straps on the bag cut through the decals. I finally decided to just replace the decals on the front fork of the bike (and Kurt did an excellent job of aligning them perfectly). The total cost at the bike shop was a little over $300 (more than half of that was for new parts).

The bottom line is that for under $450 I once again have a beautiful Fat Bike with a lot of shiny new parts! The bike has now been in my garage for over 24 hours, so I guess it is time to look for some muddy trails so I can start the process all over again!

 

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45NRTH Bergraven Technical Fatbiking Gaiters

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

Warning: This article deals with adult subject matter and is not suitable for southerners or cyclists who spend their winters in the basement riding a trainer. Reader discretion is advised.

After several mild winters in a row, those of us in the Upper Midwest have finally been blessed with a ton of fresh snow and bone-chilling temperatures. Several weeks ago I was at the local bike shop and saw the new 45NRTH Bergraven Technical Fatbiking Gaiters. I hesitated getting them because the past few winters have been rather disappointing for Fat Bike owners, but I decided to take a chance and buy them anyway—and I am certainly glad I did!

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

Gaiters are put on over your boots and winter cycling tights and extend from your boots to just below your knees. If you are not familiar with the purpose of winter gaiters, let me explain. First, they keep you lower leg and calf muscle warm (the wind has a way of making calf muscles very stiff). Second, they keep the snow out of your boots when you have to get off the bike and push.

The Bergraven gaiters are specifically designed for Fat Bike riders. The soft outer shell is made with Primaloft ECO insulation and there is a Kevlar panel to protect the gaiters if they come in contact with either the crank arms or chain-rings. These gaiters close on the sides with a hook-and-loop closure and there are buckle adjusters at the top so you can make them as snug (or loose) as you like. There is also a strap that goes under your boots to keep the gaiters in place. In addition, there is a bit of reflective piping on the back of the gaiters.

If you are fortunate enough to own a pair of 45NRTH Wölvhammer winter cycling boots there is a toe hook on these gaiters that will snap into the boots for a better fit. Unfortunately, my feet are too wide to fit into a pair of Wölvhammer boots (even though they have a wide toe box). However, you do not have to wear these gaiters with Wölvhammer boots. When the temperature drops below 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) I wear the Columbia Bugaboot Plus Cold Weather Boot—this boot is designed for hunters, but it works for cyclists as well. By the way, the toe hook on the Bergraven gaiter will lock into this boot (but you will need to trim the hook with a Dremel rotary tool first).

Sometimes you just have to dismount and push your Fat Bike

Sometimes you just have to dismount and push your Fat Bike

We’ve had a lot of snow this winter and I’ve had to walk my bike through deep snow drifts on many occasions. Sometimes you can see a drift in front of you and just dismount and walk through it. However, a few times I’ve run into deep snow without any warning and these gaiters have kept the snow out of my boots every time!

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Fatbiking Gaiters are available in two sizes: Medium (38–43) and Large (44–50). These gaiters retail for $85 a pair—not cheap, but it’s hard to put a price on staying warm! You might live in an area of the country where you would never need a product like this, but I am certainly glad I bought them (especially this year).

 

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Fatter By The Lake

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

Note: In many of my articles on this blog I refer to “the local bike shop” and by that I mean Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois. I’ve purchased my last eight bikes from this shop, including my highly customized Fat Bike (a Surly Necromancer Pugsley). Last year Chris Daisy, the owner of the shop, organized a winter event for Fat Bikes called Fatter By The Lake. I couldn’t make it to the ride this year, so I asked Chris to write an article about it so you could get a taste of what winter cycling is all about.

Chris And Cassie Daisy

Chris And Cassie Daisy

I’ll be the first to admit that the first annual Fatter By The Lake was a disaster! It took place in early February, and the weather was a mix of “I hate this” and “I want to die.” Freezing rain, crippling wind gusts and deep wet snow kept everyone except my Trek rep and myself from attending. The only reason we pushed on was because the local press was there, so I at least got a cool photo and write-up for our efforts.

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

This year was a different story. Thanks to slightly better weather and a nice shout out from Fat-Bike.com, attendance was up 1500%! Riders from all over the Chicago and Milwaukee area assembled at our shop and set out for Illinois Beach State Park, the only undeveloped and natural stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline in the state of Illinois. We headed east from the bike shop and picked up a trail headed toward the beach. We were immediately greeted by a huge sheet of ice, so some of the less experienced riders were falling like dominoes. Eventually everyone started to settle in and we crunched along in the snow towards the beach.

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

The skies were a heavy overcast, the waves were big enough to surf (except the temperature and undertow would have killed you), and there was an ever-present threat of freezing rain that never quite materialized. We headed south along a waterfront paved path, past the abandoned mid-century modern bathrooms and concrete sun shelters to a plateau of sand near a large parking lot. As we waited for everyone to catch up a Fat Bike derby contest broke out. The object of a derby is to ride in an ever shrinking circle without tapping a foot on the ground, while of course trying to get your opponents knocked off their bike. We watched and cheered until the last man was track standing and pedaled on.

Time For A Break At Dead River

Time For A Break At Dead River

The beach riding south of the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center was sweet. The sand was frozen solid without being slippery, and the wind was at our backs as we cruised along bunny hopping driftwood, riding wheelies and just taking it all in. The Dead River is the edge of the Illinois Beach State Park property, so we stopped and let folks catch up again while we socialized, and someone took the nice photo shown above.

Ready To Roll

Ready To Roll

Naturally the ride home was against the wind, so the pace slowed up a bit. We reached the Zion Cyclery parking lot with enough time for folks to catch the Bears vs. Packers game (a sore subject with me). A group of guys wanted to check out Beulah Park, an 80 acre wooded park in Zion that we spent all summer building legal singletrack in with the help of the Chicago Area Mountain Biker Association and the Zion Park District. Since I was hosting the ride I had to gather up some gumption and press on. The riding conditions at Beulah Park were rough. The trails didn’t have enough traffic yet and my legs were no match for the group of bike messengers and die-hards I was leading. We headed back towards Sheridan Road where I gave them directions for a safe passage back to the shop, and I headed north towards home, exhausted, cramping up and grinning from ear to ear.

 

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45NRTH Cobrafist Pogies For Fat Bikes

The All Seasons Cyclist With His New 45NRTH Cobrafist Pogies

The All Seasons Cyclist With His New 45NRTH Cobrafist Pogies

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about How To Keep Your Hands Warm While Cycling In The Winter. In that article I reviewed the three major products that winter cyclists use to protect their hands: Moose Mitts, Bike Poagies and Bar Mitts. Unfortunately, that article was published before 45NRTH introduced their new Cobrafist Technical Fatbike Pogie. I am an experienced winter cyclist and own at least two pairs each of Moose Mitts, Bike Poagies and Bar Mitts—and I have to say that 45NRTH’s new Cobrafist pogies smash the competition—these are warmest, best designed and most well thought-out pogies on the market today!

45NRTH Cobrafist Pogies For Fat Bikes

45NRTH Cobrafist Pogies For Fat Bikes

45NRTH Cobrafist pogies are constructed with a wind resistant, puncture resistant 600 denier outer shell and warm layer of 400g Primaloft insulation. These pogies will easily add 25 degrees of warmth to your hands, i.e., if your gloves are normally good down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, with Cobrafist pogies you can wear those same gloves down to at about 5 degrees—and if you drop a small chemical hand warmer into each pogie you gain another 10 degrees of warmth.

Zippered Air Vents To Regulate The Temperature

Zippered Air Vents To Regulate The Temperature

Chemical hand warmers are intended to be used in an oxygen restricted environment—not in an airtight container. Since all the other pogies cut off outside air from reaching into the pogies they also suffocate chemical hand warmers (make them stop working) within an hour or so. Fortunately, the Cobrafist pogies have zippered vents on the top and bottom so you can regulate the amount of air you let in—or you can choose to seal the poagie up almost air tight if you want. These zippers also allow moisture to escape from inside the pogies which will help keep your hands dry—and these zippers have pulls on both the inside and outside of the pogies so you can adjust the ventilation without taking your hands out of the poagie (I dearly love this feature)! In addition, the Cobrafist has two small inner pockets that allow you to store extra food or chemical hand warmers without them sliding around inside the pogie.

A Bar-End Plug Secures A Grommet To Keep Your Pogie In Place

A Bar-End Plug Secures A Grommet To Keep Your Pogie In Place

While the Cobrafist pogies are technically advanced, they are still easy to install—they slide over your handlebar and a bar-end plug secures a grommet tight against the handlebar (the only tool required is a 3mm Allen wrench). The only downside to this system is that you can’t use a tall bar-end grip like the Ergon GC3 Handlebar Grips I normally use on my Pugsley. However, the shorter Ergon GC3 Race Grip will work. The other end of the pogie (the end closest to the headset) has an oval-shaped foam donut that seals the handlebar and cable closure and keeps unwanted cold air out. The Cobrafist also has a drawstring around the opening for your hands—keep it loose if you start to overheat, or cinch it up if the weather turns nasty.

45NRTH Cobrafist Fat Bike Pogies

45NRTH Cobrafist Fat Bike Pogies

Every time I write about pogies I get letters from readers asking about how difficult it is to get your hands in and out of the pogie while riding. Well, I wondered about this same thing before I first used them. Let me put your mind at ease by telling you that these pogies are incredibly easy to use—you can get your hands in and out in total darkness without even having to think about it.

45NRTH Cobrafist Fat Bike Pogies

Cobrafist Pogies Could Use Some Reflective Piping For Riding At Night

While I believe the 45NRTH Cobrafist pogies are the best pogies on the market, I do have two suggestions that I think would make them even better. First, I would like to see some reflective piping on the front and side of these pogies. Sunshine is a rare commodity during the winter, and I often find myself riding after dark and reflective piping would make it a lot easier for cars and snowmobiles to see me. Second, I would like the pogies to extend about 2″ more past the brake levers than they do now—while the pogies are roomy, it is too easy to stick your fingers in the pockets when they ought to be on the brake levers.

45NRTH Cobrafist Fat Bike pogies retail for $125 a pair and they only come in one color: black. They are not cheap, but as far as bike pogies go they are actually reasonably priced. While it might be fun to brag to your friends about the time you got frostbite while riding your Fat Bike, having your fingers amputated because of it might not be as fun as it sounds!

 

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Winter Cycling: Putting It All Together

Note: This is the final installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I am in the process of converting these articles into a PDF book that you will be able to download for free from this website.

I am often asked about what type of gear I carry with me on winter rides—the answer is not exactly cut and dry. When I am riding in urban areas I don’t carry anything more than I would in the summer. However, the further away from home I ride, or when I am on lonely off-road trails, I usually carry some extra gear. In this article I am going to suggest a few items that you might want to carry with you this winter.

Cell Phone. Going out for a bike ride in the heart of winter can be a beautiful experience—and it can also be deadly if you are not prepared. If you are riding in your neighborhood and your bike experiences a mechanical problem you can just walk it home. However, if you are 30 miles away from civilization when you break down they might not find your body until the snow melts. I carry my Apple iPhone with me on every ride I take—not just so I can call my wife if I break down, but also because there might be a time when I can’t call her at all! I use Abvio Cyclemeter iPhone app to record my rides, and when I am riding in inclement weather I also turn on the Road ID iPhone app so my wife can track me during the ride—she will even get a notification if I crash.

Road ID iPhone App For Cyclists And Runners

Road ID iPhone App

The Road ID iPhone app is very simple to set up and even easier to use. Once you download the app from the iTunes Store you input your basic information (name, address and email address), then you can select up to five of your contacts who will receive either an email or a text message when you are ready to go ride or run. The contacts you selected with get a brief message telling them that you are heading out—and in the message there is a link they can click that will allow them to see exactly where you are at any given moment while you are out (an eCrumb—an electronic breadcrumb). They can watch you on any smart phone or web browser.

The Road ID iPhone app also allows you to turn on a stationary alert—if you don’t move for five minutes the app will send an email or text message to your selected contacts advising them that you are not moving. The message does not necessarily mean that you are lying face-down in a ditch somewhere—it just means that you have not moved more than 15 feet or so in the past five minutes. However, one minute before the text message or email goes out the app will sound a loud alarm to warn you so you can cancel the message. This stationary alert cannot be adjusted to any other time-frame—it is either set at five minutes or it is turned off entirely.

This app will drain your battery a bit, but for most people it is not going to be an issue. I’ve used this app on a lot of short rides (three hours or less). Each time I started with a battery that was 100% full and when I got home after three hours the battery had only gone down by 20%—but I was also running the Abvio Cyclemeter app at the same time (I always turn off the Wi-Fi on my iPhone when heading out for a ride to prolong battery life). One other feature the Road ID iPhone app offers is that it allows you to make a personalized Lock Screen—even if your phone is locked emergency responders can see any pertinent information they need and a list of people they can call in case of an emergency.

According to the description on iTunes, this app is “compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation), and iPad. This app is optimized for iPhone 5. Requires iOS 5.0 or later.”

If you live in an area where cellphone reception is spotty (or even non-existent), you should consider a SPOT Trace device—a small electronics package (2″x3″) that uses satellite technology to track your movements and report your position. These devices start at just $100 (and basic service is just $99 a year).

Cell Phone Cover. Because cold weather will decrease the battery life on your cell phone, it is always best to keep your phone close to your body. Unfortunately, your body produces a tremendous amount of perspiration during winter rides and all of that humidity is often trapped between your body and your outer layer—and your cell phone is trapped between those two layers. You need to store your cell phone in a waterproof cover—a Ziplock bag can work in a pinch, but a more durable option is the Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case for the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5.

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

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. 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.

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.

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. 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.

Rubber Gloves: While your chances of getting a flat tire while riding in the snow is fairly low, it is still possible—and if you are not prepared the experience is going to be utterly miserable! I haven’t figured out a way to change a bike tire with winter cycling gloves on, but when you take the gloves off your hands are going to freeze in a matter of minutes. In addition, most winter rides are in the snow which means that the tires are going to be wet when you work on them. Therefore, if I am traveling very far away from home I carry a pair of Ansell HyFlex CR2 Cut Resistant gloves with me. These gloves have a nylon lining and a polyurethane palm coating—they don’t have any insulation, but they will keep you hands dry if you have to change a tire, and they are pliable enough to be easy to work with. If you have a pair of winter glove liners with you they can be worn underneath the HyFlex gloves for a bit of added warmth. While these gloves are fairly thin, if you want something even thinner you could wear a disposable latex glove, like the Microflex Diamond Grip Powder-Free Gloves.

Chemical Hand, Foot And Body Warmers. One of the most useful products I’ve ever bought for winter cycling is also the cheapest—chemical hand, foot and body warmers. Chemical warmers are made by several companies, such as HotHands and Grabber. Though the exact ingredients in these warmers vary depending on the manufacturer, they all basically have the same ingredients: Iron powder, salt, water, activated charcoal and vermiculite (or cellulose). To activate these chemical warmers all you have to do is expose them to air by removing them for their packaging (sometimes you have to shake the packs for a few seconds). Once out of the package these products warm up in 15 to 30 minutes and can stay warm for four or five hours. These products are almost always advertised as being good for seven or eight hours, and under ideal circumstances they might, but that has not been my experience with most of them. Please check the expiration date on the packages before you buy them! When these warmers get old they don’t produce much heat (if any).

Chemical Hand, Foot and Body Warmers for winter cycling

Chemical Hand, Foot and Body Warmers

Chemical hand warmers are the most common type of warmer you will see at Walmart, Target and sporting good stores. They come in packages of two and each warmer measures about 2″x3″. Chemical body warmers are larger than hand warmers—they measure 4″x5.5″, and the Super HotHands Body Warmer keeps working for up to 18 hours!

Miscellaneous Items: I always a carry a container of ChapStick with me on winter rides—the cold, dry air makes my lips burn and chap. In addition, a couple of extra carb gels or energy bars are not a bad idea if you are riding very far away from home (you can burn a lot of calories while walking your bike home).

One of my favorite off-road winter rides is on the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County, Illinois. As the name suggests, the trail runs next to the Des Plaines River, and sometimes when the river is high I’m riding just a few inches from the water. I’ve never fallen into the water, but one slip of a tire could really ruin my day. So, when the river is high and there is a chance of taking an unintentional dip in the water, I carry a disposable SOL Emergency Blanket. This 56” x 84″ emergency warming blanket reflects 90% of your body heat, yet it only weighs 2.5 ounces and doesn’t take up much more room than a Clif Bar. I haven’t had to use it yet and I pray that I never do!

One Final Item: Don’t ever go out for a bike ride without your Road ID or your driver’s license. If you have an accident the emergency responders need to know how to get in touch with your family. In addition, if you are riding when the temperature is -20 Fahrenheit (-29 Celsius) sometimes you have to look at your driver’s license just so you can remember your gender.

If you are an avid winter cyclist please feel free to tell me what you think I missed on this list.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Fat Bikes, Winter Cycling

 

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Winter Cycling: Favorite Fat Bike Accessories

Note: This is the ninth 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”).

StemCAPtain Stem Cap Thermometer For Bicycles

StemCAPtain Stem Cap Thermometer

Most of the items mentioned in this article are designed for Fat Bikes, but the StemCAPtain Stem Cap Thermometer is a cool accessory you can add to almost any bike! StemCAPtain is a small business based in Grand Junction, Colorado that specializes in quality bicycle accessories. Their product line centers around items that replace the stem cap on your bike with a small accessory base so you can put a clock, picture frame, compass, bottle opener, or a thermometer where the stem cap used to be.

Installation of StemCAPtain weatherproof thermometer was very simple—all you have to do is remove the old 1″ or 1-1/8″ threadless headset stem cap from your bike and replace it with the provided anodized aluminum base. The base of the StemCAPtain thermometer is available in six colors: Black, Red, Blue, Green Pink, or Gold. You also have a choice of two dial colors (Black or White).

The temperature range on the thermometer goes from -15 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit (-26 to 57 C). While this is a very wide temperature range, I wish it went down a bit further—winter cyclists often ride in temperatures down to -40 F (or colder). The StemCAPtain Stem Cap Thermometer retails for $25 and I ordered mine from the StemCAPtain Website. However, this product should also be available at any local bike shop that orders from Quality Bicycle Products (QBP).

Accu-Gage Low Pressure Presta Tire Gauge for Fat Bikes

Accu-Gage Presta Tire Gauge

Those of us who spend winter riding in the snow on Fat Bikes usually try to keep our tire pressure between 5 and 10 psi. Unfortunately, very few tire gauges are accurate as such low pressures. The good news is that Accu-Gage has a professional grade low pressure tire gauge for Presta valves, and this puppy is dead-on accurate every time! Those mammoth tires on bikes like the Surly Pugsley have a maximum tire pressure of only 30 psi, but most of us never inflate them past 15 psi, even if we are running on pavement. While the tire pressure gauge on your floor pump might be correct at higher pressures, I have found them to be very unreliable at lower pressures. You might think that a digital tire gauge would be the best alternative, but cold temperatures have a great impact on their accuracy—and some of us like to ride even when the temperature is well below zero.

These gauges are fully geared and have a precision movement with a bronze Bourdon tube. The piston-plunger gauges on most bicycle pumps are affected by changes in temperature and humidity, but gauges with a Bourdon tube (like the Accu-Gage) are not. Also, since you don’t need batteries for this gauge you don’t have to worry about the battery dying in the cold like they often do in digital gauges. The Accu-Gage Low Pressure Tire Gauge is a 2″ dual scale dial tire gauge with a maximum pressure reading of 30 psi (calibrated and is accurate to within .5 psi). You should be able to get the Accu-Gage Low Pressure Tire Gauge (model #RPR30BX) from your local bike shop for around $13. Unfortunately, this item is temporarily out of stock, but will be back in 2014.

Dave’s Mud Shovel Fat Bike Fenders

Dave’s Mud Shovel Fat Bike Fenders

The wide tires on a Fat Bike can throw more mud than a Chicago politician in a tight race. Fortunately, Portland Design Works sells both front and rear fenders that are specially made for Fat Bikes. Dave’s Mud Shovel rear fender is 5.5″ wide by 22.5″ long and attaches to your seatpost with a small adjustable clamp (like the one some bicycle taillights use). It’s possible that a little mud or snow will find a way around the fender, but to me it seems like it stops about 99% of it.

Portland Design Works Mud Shovel Front Fender

Portland Design Works Mud Shovel Front Fender

Dave’s Mud Shovel front fender attaches to your bike’s down tube with two sturdy rubber fasteners. This fender is 6.5″ wide by 19.5″ long and will help keep your bottom bracket and crank sprockets clean. To get to my favorite off-road trails I have to ride my bike over a couple of miles of surface streets and when there is a lot of slush on the roads my legs get really wet—this fender seems to block a lot of road spray.

Both of these fenders are very flexible and at first I wasn’t sure about their durability. However, after a lot of miles on sand, mud and snowy off-road trails I can honestly say that these fenders far exceeded my expectations. As an added bonus, if you ever have an unplanned dismount (crash is such an ugly word) these fenders will probably escape totally unharmed. The rear Mud Shovel retails for $28, and the front Mud Shovel for $20. Both of these items are available from the Portland Design Works Website. You can also buy these fenders from your local bike shop.

Quick Tip #1: The Mud Shovel is easy to clean once you get home, but there is an easy way to keep mud and snow from sticking to your fenders in the first place—just coat the bottom of the fenders with PAM no-stick cooking spray before you go out for a ride. The PAM will wear off after every ride, but it does an incredible job of keeping crud from sticking to your fenders.

Quick Tip #2: Buy your own can of PAM—don’t take the one your wife has in the kitchen cabinet. Apparently some wives don’t approve of you taking items from the pantry out into the garage (or so I’ve heard).

Bad News: The front Mud Shovel is so wide that you can not use it if you have a Salsa Anything Cage attached to your front fork. The problem is that if you have anything in your Salsa Anything Cage (like in the photo below) it will hit the front Mud Shovel when you make a tight turn. However, if you don’t mind trimming the fender with a cutting knife I am sure you could make it work.

Outdoor Research #2 Water Bottle Parka

Outdoor Research #2 Water Bottle Parka with Salsa Anything Cage on Front Fork

One of the many challenges winter cyclists face is trying to keep their water bottles from freezing on long rides. Riding three or four hours in freezing temperatures is not all that difficult, but having to swallow a slushy cold sports drink doesn’t exactly make you feel warm inside! While there are several good ways to keep the contents of your water bottle warm, the Outdoor Research Water Bottle Parka is one of the best I’ve tried. This parka is a container made of a water-resistant, coated nylon fabric with a polyester knit lining. The closed-cell foam insulation in this parka does a tremendous job at keeping the temperature of the liquid in your bottles steady. I have not tested this product to its limits, but after five hours outside with the temperature in the single digits my drinks are still plenty warm.

Outdoor Research Water Bottle Parka

Water Bottle Parka with a 20-ounce Camelbak

The Water Bottle Parka comes in three sizes. Size #1 is for water bottles like the 1L Nalgene. Size #2 fits a .5L Nalgene or 21-ounce Camelbak Podium Chill bottle (like the one you probably use in the water bottle cage on your bike). Size #3 fits bottles like the 40-ounce Klean Kanteen, the 40-ounce CamelBak or the 1L Sigg. I use the Size #2 and it is 12.25 inches tall and 3.75 inches wide (exterior dimensions).

The biggest challenge to using the Water Bottle Parka for winter biking is finding a good way to attach it to your bike. The Water Bottle Parka comes with a reinforced nylon strap with a hook and loop closure, so you could just attach it to your handlebars. However, if you ride in the winter you probably already have a rack of some sort on your bike that you could use. I use two Salsa Anything Cages mounted to the front forks of my Surly Necromancer Pugs. The Outdoor Research #2 Water Bottle Parka is available in two colors (Red or Dark Grey), and retails for $24. This is not the type of product you are likely to find at your local bike shop, but you can order them from Amazon.com if you can’t find them at a local sporting goods store.

Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

In the summer when I’m on my road bike I don’t carry much with me—just a few energy gels, a spare inner tube and air pump. However, when I ride in the winter I tend to carry a few more items with me (more on that in another article). The Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag and it is one of the best pieces of cycling equipment I’ve ever purchased. As the name suggests, the Tangle Frame Bag is a bag that fits on your bike frame—this one attaches to the top tube with reinforced Velcro straps. It also has adjustable webbing straps for the down tube and seat tube and low profile camlock buckles with strap keepers.

This bag is very well designed and thought out. It is divided into two pockets—the thinner pocket on the left hand side holds smaller items like maps, chemical hand warmers, and cell phones. The pocket on the right hand side is much larger and can easily hold vests, jackets, tools or enough energy bars for a 24-hour ride. Or, since the main compartment has an exit port at the front of the bag, you can use the larger pocket to hold a hydration pack. You could also use the larger compartment to hold the battery for your headlight and run the wire through the exit port (and still have a lot of room to spare).

The Tangle Frame Bag is made of Dimension Polyant Xpac 400 Denier Fabric (also known as sail loft). The zippers on this bag are water-resistant and the inside of the bag is lined with a bright yellow fabric so you can see the contents even in low-light situations.  This bag is available in three sizes. The smallest bag is 17″ long by 4″ tall and is designed for 15″–18″ mountain bikes. The medium bag is 19.5″ long by 4.5″ tall is designed for 17″–20″ MTB frames. The largest bag is 21″ long by 6″ tall and fits 20″ (or larger) MTB frames. These bags also fit road, touring and commuting bikes—just check the Revelate Designs Website for additional sizing information. Revelate Designs is located in Anchorage, Alaska. These bags have a product warranty that covers any defects for life. The Tangle Frame Bag retails for $68 to $70 (based on size) and is available from the Revelate Designs Website.

Revelate Designs Gas Tank for Fat Bikes

Revelate Designs Gas Tank (Top Tube Bag)

Revelate Designs also has a smaller top tube bag, the Revelate Designs Gas Tank. The Gas Tank is a small zippered bag that mounts on the top tube of your bike and allows for one-handed access while riding. This bag is made of high-tech outdoor weight sailcloth and is lined with a bright yellow fabric so you can see the contents even in low-light situations. The Gas Tank is fully padded with closed cell foam and has a hook and loop interior divider so you can arrange the contents of the bag as you want. The Gas Tank is extremely lightweight—it only weighs 3.5 ounces. As for dimensions, the standard bag is 9″ long and at the stem it is 5″ high by 2.5″ wide, and it tapers down in the back to 1.5″ tall by 1.5″ wide along the top tube. The Gas Tank retails for $55 and is available from the Revelate Designs Website.

 

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Winter Cycling Tights

Note: This is the fourth installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by 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”).

Winter Cycling

The hardest part of winter cycling is the first 500 feet

If you live in an area of the country that doesn’t experience extreme winter weather, well, you have my sympathy. As avid winter cyclists are fond of saying, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. To paraphrase President Theodore Roosevelt, “Far better is it to cycle all winter, to freeze your body down to the bone, even though pelted by sleet and snow, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they ride their trainers in the basement all winter and know neither joy nor fresh air.” The hardest part of winter cycling is the first 500 feet once you leave your house.

The easiest thing to keep warm in the winter is your legs—once you get going your legs become little furnaces and all you have to do is keep them dry, and as the outside temperature drops you switch to slightly better insulated tights.

During cool weather some cyclists try to pretend that it is till warm outside and convince themselves that they can keep wearing their summer gear—even when common sense dictates otherwise. One special concern is keeping your knees warm. As Hughes and Kehlenbach explain in their book, Distance Cycling, “The knee has poor circulation. If your knees get cold, blood won’t reach them and they may become injured. You can avoid this by wearing knee or leg warmers until temperatures exceed 60° F.”

DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

DZ Nuts InHeat

When the temperature is between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 16 Celsius) I apply DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream to my legs before I ride. Embrocation creams contain vasodilators that warm up the skin and muscles. They also create a weather-proof barrier that protects your skin from the elements. For many of us, embrocation creams are them main reason we shave our legs (just don’t shave your legs on the same day you use an embrocation cream). 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. 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. A six-ounce tube retails for around $20 and you should be able to get 15 or 20 rides out of a tube.

If you don’t want to use and embrocation cream, then you ought to try knickers that extend down to your mid-calf. I like the Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker because it is extremely comfortable and the fabric quickly wicks moisture away from your skin. The chamois on this knicker is also very comfortable, even on very long rides. There are also several reflective elements for low-light visibility. The silicone leg grippers on these knickers keep the pant legs from sliding up as you ride. The Pearl Izumi Men’s Attack Knicker is available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL) and retails for $85.

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

For temperatures from 28 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 to 10 Celsius) I don’t think you will find a better pair of tights than the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal 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. You can buy this tight either with or without a chamois. I would definitely buy one with Pearl Izumi’s Elite 3D Chamois. This chamois has 13mm of variable-density microfiber padding coupled with active carbon yarns to help reduce odors. At the bottom of these tights you will find an 8-inch ankle zipper so the tights are very easy to put on (and 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 retail for $125.

If you enjoy riding when the temperature is anywhere from zero to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 to -1 Celsius), I would suggest the Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights. These tights are designed for extreme weather conditions—I am talking about very cold, wet and windy days. The fabric is very breathable and wicks water away your skin incredibly well. Even after several hours in snow and ice storms these tights kept me dry. The tights also have the 3D Elite chamois (like the pair above). The lower leg of these tights has an 8″ zipper with an internal draft flap and zipper garage. Around the inside of the ankles there is a silicone strip to keep the tights in place. Reflective piping, strips and logos make you visible to motorists from just about any angle. The Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights are also available without a chamois and/or in a bib. Most people will tell you that bibs keep you warmer than tights, but I haven’t had any trouble keeping warm even in temperatures down to zero. Besides, if you are out on a bike trail in ten degree weather and have to answer the call of nature while in bibs you will need to look at your driver’s license just to remember your gender (if you catch my drift). Theses tights seem to be true to size and have a suggested list price of $155.

Craft PXC Storm Pants For Winter Cycling and Nordic Skiing

Craft PXC Storm Tights

For temperatures below zero Fahrenheit (-18C) I wear Craft PXC Storm Tights. These tights are primarily designed for Nordic skiing, but any winter cyclist or runner would benefit from them as well. These windproof tights are very breathable, and the articulated knees make them very easy to cycle in. The seams on both the front and back of these tights have reflective piping to help motorists (or snowmobiles) see you at night. These tights have a looser fit than most cycling tights (they are really more like pants). However, this looser fit allows you to layer other clothing under the tights when needed. Since a chamois is not available on these tights you will need to wear at least a pair of your summer cycling shorts under them. The waist on these tights close with a draw cord and there is also a credit card pouch attached to the inside of the pants. I was very pleased with the generous (long) ankle zippers on these tights. Fellow blogger and avid winter cyclist Joboo wears these tights in temperatures down to -50F (-45C) without a base layer and says he stays “toasty warm.” It never gets that cold in the Chicago area, so I can’t vouch for that myself, but I can tell you that they are the warmest tights I’ve ever worn, and if you do get cold you can always add a layer under them. Craft PXC Storm Tights are available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL), and seem to be true to size. These tights retail for $130. If your local bike shop does not carry these tights you can find them on Amazon.com, the L.L. Bean website, and R.E.I.

 

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