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Category Archives: Spring And Fall Cycling

Cycling clothing and equipment for fall and spring bike rides

Don’t Hang Your Bike Up Just Because It’s Fall

Let me depart from my usual product reviews for today so I can extol the virtues of year-round cycling. A few months ago every bike shop in the Upper Midwest was as busy as a Chicago “slip and fall” attorney the day after an ice storm. Back in the spring the bike trails were full of new cyclists on shiny bikes. By the middle of summer some of those bikes had been abandoned and some the of new cyclists became former cyclists. However, a lot of those newbies persevered, lost weight, gained muscle and are now in great shape. Unfortunately, at the first sign of cool weather many of these folks will hang their bike up for the next six months, gain back all the weight they lost and then start all over again next spring. Folks, it doesn’t have to be that way! There is absolutely no reason you can’t ride your bike outside all year long!

Ride your bicycle all year long

Improve Your Mood: Cycle All Year Long!

I live between Chicago and Milwaukee and during an average winter the temperature rarely drops below -10 degrees Fahrenheit (the record is -27 F). When people ask how I can possibly enjoy riding in such temperatures I tell them two things: First, some crazy folks up in Minnesota ride in temperatures below -40 degrees (or worse), so -10 degrees is actually not too bad. Second, the hardest part of riding in the winter is the first 500 feet after you leave your house.

Riding in the fall and winter does require an extra layer of clothing (or two), and because the days are shorter you will probably need a headlight and taillight as well. However, the advantages of cycling year-round far outweigh the disadvantages. First, you won’t gain back the weight you lost during the summer. Second, spending time outdoors will definitely improve your mood. Third, next spring you won’t have to reintroduce your butt to your bike saddle—they will already be old friends and get along well. Fourth, you will impress all your wimpy friends who spend winter inside and exercise with their training wheels, in mean, on their trainers. And last, you will never have to worry about overcrowding on the off-road trails.

If you are interested in becoming a year-round cyclist I would suggest you check-out some of the product reviews I’ve done for Spring and Fall Cycling, Winter Cycling, and Cycling In The Rain. As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

 

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Keeping Your Legs Warm During Cool Weather Bike Rides

DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

Those of us in the Upper Midwest have already had a few fairly cool morning bike rides. While it is very tempting to just “tough it out” in cool weather, you really ought to keep your knees covered. As Hughes and Kehlenbach explain in 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.” I try to put off wearing knee or leg warmers as long as possible, so I apply DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream on my legs before I ride and have been very happy with the results.

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 the 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 you massage this cream into the exposed areas of your legs. It will take several minutes before you feel the cream working, but once it does you will be able to ride for several hours in cool weather without having your legs cramp up from the cold. 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.

Make sure you put this cream on your legs after you have 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 and if the capsicum comes in contact with your ‘nads you are going to experience a level of pain that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have never even dreamed about. 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, but you can find it cheaper on Amazon.com. You should be able to get at least 15 rides out of a single tube.

Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers

Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers (back side)

If you would rather not use an embrocation cream you should get a pair of Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers. These lightweight knee warmers will keep you comfortable when the temperature is in the 50′s and you can easily take them off when the temperature hits the 60′s.

The Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers will wick moisture away from your skin and keep your knees warm at the same time. The elastic band at the top of the warmers does a good job of keeping them in place. There is another elastic band on the bottom edge of the warmers that is a bit looser, yet still keeps the fabric from moving around too much. Flat-lock seams prevent both hot spots and chafing. There is a reflective logo on the back of these warmers that will help motorists see you easier at night. In addition, there is a very small reflection circle at the top to identify the left and right warmer. The Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers are available in four sizes (S,M,L,XL) and have a suggested list price of $50.

Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker for cool weather biking

Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker

Another great option for cool weather cycling is the Pearl Izumi Attack Knickers—they extend down to mid-calf and keep your knees warm in cool weather.  The Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker is extremely comfortable and the Select Transfer fabric quickly wicks moisture away from your skin. The chamois on this knicker is very comfortable, even on very long rides. There are also several reflective elements for low-light visibility and 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

When the temperature drops down to below 50 degrees it’s time to put away the knee warmers and get out the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights. For temperatures between 28 and 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) 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 Metric Centuries (62 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. 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.

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. 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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Arm Warmers For Cool Weather Cycling

September is my favorite month of the year for cycling. My speed usually picks up due to cooler temps and by September I usually have around 5,000 miles of cycling done for the year—in other words, I am at my best form of the year. However, September in the Chicago area usually means that I have to wear arm warmers (at least for the first half of my ride). If the temperature rises while out on a ride you can roll arm warmers up and stuff them in your jersey pocket. I use several different brands of arm warmers and here is a quick rundown of my three favorite brands.

Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Arm Warmers

Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Arm Warmers

The Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Arm Warmers are the ones I use most of the time. These warmers are made of a nylon/spandex/polyester blend and have a Windstopper membrane that keeps the wind out and a fleece backing traps warm air next to your skin to keep you comfortable. While these warmers are not waterproof, they do offer great protection from light drizzle. The reflective accents on these warmers are larger than you will find on most cycling jerseys or jackets. The “grippy” elastic hems keep these arm warmers in place. I use these arm warmers in temperatures from around 50 to 64 degrees. When the temperature drops below 60 I also put on a cycling vest—I try to avoid wearing a jacket for as long as possible. Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Arm Warmers retail for $50, but you can find them online (Amazon.com, Nashbar.com) for around $40.

Reflective Running Sleeves From Nathan Performance Gear

Reflective Sleeves From Nathan Performance Gear

Reflective Sleeves from Nathan Performance Gear are made with a form-fitting, ultra-stretchy synthetic fabric.  These Reflective Sleeves look like traditional arm warmers, but they are not—they are intended to make you visible to motorists at night. They have a long 3M Scotchlite reflective strip on each arm and when the headlights from a car hit it they can be seen from up to 1,200 feet away. However, on mild days when you might not need a heavier pair of arm warmers they are perfect! Nathan Reflective Sleeves come in three colors (Grey, Yellow, and Black) and two sizes (S/M, L/X-L) and they run a bit small. The sleeves retail for about $25 a pair and I doubt if you find them in any bike shop. I purchased mine from a brick-and-mortar Dick’s Sporting Goods Store. If you cannot find them at a store in your area then you should check Amazon.com.

Canari Veloce Pro Arm Warmer for spring and fall

Canari Veloce Pro Arm Warmer

The Canari Veloce Pro Arm Warmer is made of 84% polyester and 16% spandex and uses single-panel construction to eliminate seams. An elastic arm gripper keeps this product in place. This not a thermal arm warmer, nor is it windproof. However, the Canari Veloce Pro Arm Warmer is great for those days when it is not cold enough for a long sleeve jersey, but not warm enough to wear just a short sleeve jersey. These arm warmers are unisex in design—based upon sizing for men (women should order one size smaller than usual). You will also find these arm warmers are a bit longer than most other brands and you will appreciate this on cool days! My favorite feature of these arm warmers is the color selection (Black, Killer Yellow, and Solar Orange). The Killer Yellow not only matches my hi-vis yellow jerseys, they also make it a lot easier for motorists to see me signal for a turn. This product has a retail price of around $30 and you can find them online at places like Sierra Trading Post or R.E.I.

 

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Pearl Izumi Cyclone Toe Covers

Even though summer is not officially over, those of us in the Upper Midwest can already see the leaves on the trees changing their color. It is also that time of year when we have to start thinking about finding the toe covers for our cycling shoes. If you need toe covers for a road shoe the Pearl Izumi Cyclone Toe Covers might do the job for you.

Pearl Izumi Cyclone Toe Covers

Pearl Izumi Cyclone Toe Covers (Side View)

Pearl Izumi Cyclone Toe Covers slip over the front of your cycling shoes and block the wind that would normally pass through the air vents on the shoes. The Cyclone Toe Cover is made from Pearl Izumi’s AmFIB fabric (65% polyester, 30% nylon, and 5% spandex) to block the wind, coupled with a Microfleece lining to keep your toes warm. These covers have a durable rubber sole with a cutout for your cleats, but this cover is only suitable for road shoes with external cleats. A finger loop on the bottom of the covers (see photo below) allows you to easily pull the cover on or remove it. Reflective elements on the top and sides of these covers help motorists see you at night.

Pearl Izumi Cyclone Toe Covers

Pearl Izumi Cyclone Toe Covers (Bottom View)

Now for the bad news: Unless you have small feet you are never going to get these covers over your shoes! Pearl Izumi only makes this product available in two sizes (S/M and L/XL). The L/XL cover will barely fit over a size 10.5 men’s road shoe. Since they only offer two sizes the chances are that whatever size you order isn’t going to fit!

In my opinion the best cycling toe cover on the market is the Planet Bike Dasher Windproof Toe Cover. The Dasher comes in five different sizes, from a man’s size 6.5 shoe (40 European) to the XXL that fits a man’s 12.5 shoe (47 European).

Pearl Izumi Cyclone Toe Covers retail for $20. This product is not currently listed on Pearl Izumi’s Website, so I imagine it is going to be out of stock out most bike shops. However, it is still available from Amazon.com and is listed as a closeout item on several other online stores.

 

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Canari Veloce Pro Arm Warmer

Canari Veloce Pro Arm Warmer for spring and fall

Canari Veloce Pro Arm Warmer

Arm warmers are an inexpensive bit of clothing that can add a great of comfort to your cool weather rides. I live just a stones throw from the eastern shore of Lake Michigan (one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world) and in the spring and early summer the temperature near the lake is often 10 to 20 degrees lower that just a few miles inland. I usually leave home with arm warmers on and take them off just a few miles down the road—then a couple hours later on my way home I have to put them back on. The Canari Veloce Pro Arm Warmer is a very useful product that you need to add to your cycling kit.

The Canari Veloce Pro Arm Warmer is made of 84% polyester and 16% spandex and uses single-panel construction to eliminate seams. An elastic arm gripper keeps this warmer in place—I have a few other arm warmers that slip down my arms as I ride. This not a thermal arm warmer, nor is it windproof (like the Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Arm Warmer). The Canari Veloce Pro Arm Warmer is great for those days when it is not cold enough for a long sleeve jersey, but not warm enough to wear just a short sleeve jersey. These arm warmers are unisex in design—based upon sizing for men (women should order one size smaller than usual). You will also find these arm warmers are a bit longer than most other brands and you will appreciate this on cool days!

My favorite feature of these arm warmers is the color selection (Black, Killer Yellow, and Solar Orange). Black arm warmers are fine for off-road use, but I prefer hi-vis colors while on the road. The Killer Yellow not only matches my hi-vis yellow jerseys, they also make it a lot easier for motorists to see me signal for a turn.

I don’t own a lot of Canari Cyclewear clothing—mainly because none of the bike shops in my area stock their products. However, every piece of Canari clothing I do own is of very high quality. Canari also makes my favorite great lightweight cycling shell.

The Canari Veloce Pro Arm Warmer appears to be in limited supply, so you need to order them while you can. They have a retail price of around $30, but I noticed that both Sierra Trading Post and R.E.I. have them on sale for about half price.

 

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Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker For Cool Weather Cycling

Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker for cool weather biking

Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker

On those days when it is too cold to wear cycling shorts and too warm for cycling tights a pair of Pearl Izumi Attack Knickers might just be the best thing to wear. Knickers extend down to mid-calf and keep your knees warm in cool weather. You might be tempted to just “tough it out” in cool weather, but you really ought to keep your knees covered until it warms up. As Hughes and Kehlenbach explain in 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.” There is one other alternative to knee warmers or knickers, i.e., a warming cream like the DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream.

The Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker is extremely comfortable and the Select Transfer 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.

If you wear knickers on a sunny day you should probably put some suntan lotion on your legs. Last week I wore these knickers for a century ride (100 miles) on sunny 56 degree day and when I got home I had the weirdest sunburn—from mid-calf to my sock line I was bright red. By the way, even on a century ride the chamois did not develop any “hot spots.”

The Pearl Izumi Men’s Attack Knicker is available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL) and retails for $85. I purchased two pair of these knickers from Amazon.com for $61 a pair.

 

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Performance Toesties Toe Covers For Cyclists

If you want to keep your toes warm while cycling on a chilly morning you need to buy a pair of toe covers. While there are many good toe covers for cycling shoes on the market, the Performance Toesties covers are probably the least expensive. Sadly, they are also an example of getting what you pay for.

Performance Toesties Toe Covers For Cyclists

Performance Toesties Toe Covers

Performance Toesties are made of neoprene fabric and are both windproof and waterproof. These covers fit over the end of your cycling shoes, even if you are wearing cleats, and actually do a decent job of blocking the wind and keeping your toes warm. Because the covers are thin you can easily put them in your jersey pocket when you don’t need them. I’ve used them with both Look Keo and Shimano SPD cleats.

Performance Toesties Toe Covers For Cyclists

Performance Toesties lack any form of reinforcement on the bottom

The major downside of Performance Toesties is that there is no reinforcement on the bottom of the covers. If you walk very much at all in these covers the neoprene will start to shred. Not only that, but every time you clip in you will probably do a bit of damage to the covers—it doesn’t take long for them to wear out completely. I look at these covers as being disposable after a dozen or so rides.

Performance Toasties retail for $15 and are available at Performance Bicycle (both online and in their brick and mortar stores). The covers are available in four sizes: S (6.5-8.5), M (8.5-10), L (10-11.5), and XL (11.5+). I have found these covers run a bit on the small size, so you might want to order one size larger than your shoe size.

In my opinion the best toe covers on the market are the Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers. These covers are a bit more expensive, but I think you will get a lot more use out of them.

 

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