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Category Archives: Spring And Fall Cycling

Cycling clothing and equipment for fall and spring bike rides

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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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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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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Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Barrier Jacket

Have you ever bought a cheap polyester cycling jacket from one of the “big box” sporting goods store? The first time you wore did you feel like you were wearing a plastic garbage bag? Those cheap jackets are usually not very breathable and they are often so loose-fitting that they create extra drag when cycling. If you are looking for a well-made jacket for cycling, running or cross-country skiing I would suggest you take a look at the Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Barrier Jacket.

Pearl Izumi Men's Elite Barrier Jacket

Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Barrier Jacket

The Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Barrier Jacket is a lightweight, breathable jacket that is both water and wind resistant. Though it will never take the place of “full-time” rain jacket like the Showers Pass Touring Jacket, it will keep you dry if you get caught out in the rain. This 100% polyester jacket is not insulated—its main purpose is to block the wind. I like to wear it over an insulated long-sleeve jersey when the temperature is in the low 50’s.

Pearl Izumi Men's Elite Barrier Jacket Zipper Garage

Zipper Garage On The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Jacket

My favorite feature on this jacket are the Direct-Vent panels—they allow moisture to escape from under your arm pits and this keeps the inside of the jacket very dry. There is also a full-length internal draft flap (with zipper garage) to keep the heat in—or you can unzip it a bit to allow some extra air in. This jacket also has contoured  sleeves with elasticized hem and cuffs.

Back Pocket On The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Jacket

Back Pocket On The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Jacket

This jacket only has one pocket—it is on the back of the jacket and is rather small. There is enough room to store your cell phone, keys and several gel packs, but it is not very easy to get into. This pocket closes with a strip of Velcro. There are reflective elements on both the front and back of this jacket to make it easier for cars to see you in low-light situations.

This jacket is available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XXL) and appears to be true to size, though it does have a semi-form fit. The Elite Barrier Jacket comes in several colors, including Black, White, True Blue, True Red, Safety Orange, and Screaming Yellow.

The Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Barrier Jacket has a suggested retail price of $90. If your local bike shop does not have this jacket in stock you can easily find it listed at many online retailers, such as Amazon.com, L.L.Bean, Bike Nashbar. This jacket is machine washable (but the manufacturer recommend to you avoid the use of fabric softeners).

 

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Louis Garneau Vent 2 Vest

A windproof vest is an essential piece of clothing for any cyclist. When the temperature starts dropping in the fall I usually wear one over a short sleeve jersey, along with a pair of arm warmers. Then as the temperature increases most vests are thin enough to roll up and put into a jersey pocket. While I own several good cycling vests, my absolute favorite is the Louis Garneau Vent 2 Vest.

Louis Garneau Vent 2 Vest

Louis Garneau Vent 2 Vest (Front and Back)

Like many cycling vests, the Vent 2 Vent is made from ripstop fabric and is tear resistant. This vest is windproof, yet very breathable (the front of the vest blocks the wind while the mesh on the back allows moisture to escape). The front of this vest closes with a two-way zipper and has an inner flap behind the zipper to block the wind. The zipper also has a chin guard (or garage) to keep the metal on the zipper from cutting your neck.

The back of this vest has something that most cycling vests lack, i.e., two large pockets. I have never understood my most vests lack rear pockets. You usually want a tight fit on vests to cut down on wind drag, but this makes it nearly impossible to get your hands into the jersey pockets. This vest also has an adjustable elastic drawstring at hem for secure fit.

Rubber tab on the Louis Garneau Vent 2 Vest

Rubber Tab On The Rear To Hold A Flasher

The Louis Garneau Vent 2 Vest comes in three colors (Bright Yellow, Ginger, and Black). I bought the black vest because I intended on using this for off-road trails where I don’t have to worry about motorists running into me. Under normal circumstances I would never wear a black jersey or jacket while riding on the road. However, this vest has more reflective piping that any other piece of clothing I own—from shoulders to waist and on both front and back this vest makes it easy for motorists to see you from a long way off. In addition, this is the only vest I own that has a rubber tab on the back (near the bottom of the vest) that allows you to clip on a flasher like the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo or the Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000.

The Louis Garneau Vent 2 Vest retails for $50 and if your local bike shop does not have it in stock it is available from many online retailers, such as Amazon.com and RealCyclist.com. This vest is available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XXL), but some retailers do not carry all sizes and/or colors. I found this vest to be true to size. Louis Garneau also makes this vest in a special design for women.

 

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Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap

Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap

Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap

In the past few weeks I’ve run reviews of products for cool weather cycling. Once you find a way to keep your hands and feet warm everything else is a piece of cake! I always ride with some sort of cycling cap under my bike 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.

The Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap 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—even if you have a pony-tail (OK, I don’t have a pony-tail myself but obviously it will work).

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 rear 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 also has a couple of reflective elements for low–light visibility, but if your helmet is on no one is going to see it anyway. 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 in one color (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. By the way, this cap is also great for skiing or cold weather running. If you are looking for something with to protect you face from the wind, I would suggest the Seirus Combo Clava (it is a fleece lined balaclava).

 

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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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