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Category Archives: Spring And Fall Cycling

Cycling clothing and equipment for fall and spring bike rides

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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Creating A Road Bike To Handle Foul Weather

Riding in foul weather is really hard on your bike. In my area of the country it’s not the snow that bothers you, but all the junk that goes along with it. Every winter our roads turn white—not from the snow but from numerous layers of road salt (on a quiet night you can sit in your garage and listen to your car rust). The highway department also uses a lot of sand to give motorists better traction on icy roads. Salt and sand will eat through all the components on your bike, even if you wash it off after each ride. I also spend a lot of time riding in the rain and that can be just as hard on a bike. It’s not the water falling from the sky that hurts your bike—it’s all of the grit and road grime that splashes up on your chain, cables, brakes, derailleurs and crankset.

Trek 1200 With A Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Geared Hub

Trek 1200 With A Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Geared Hub

Last week I had the local bike shop (Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois) rebuild my old Trek 1200 road bike. By rebuild I mean they replaced everything except the frame, handlebars and headset. The sad fact is that I could have bought a new Trek Madone for what the overhaul cost, but I already have a Madone and what I really need is a great bike for riding in foul weather.

The Trek 1200 is an aluminum frame road bike with Shimano Tiagra components that I bought back in 2005. The Tiagra product line is on the lower end of Shimano’s shop quality parts and is best suited for “advanced recreational” riders (still better than anything you will find at the “big box” stores). I was able to get over 10,000 miles out of these components, and most of that was in bad weather. Unfortunately, road salt had eaten through the chrome plating on all the components. Since the Trek 1200 has a lifetime warranty on the frame I decided to keep it and build a “new” bike with higher quality components that could withstand the harsh conditions I often ride in.

The biggest expense on this overhaul was the Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Hub Geared (SG-S700). The hub has a much wider gear ratio than the Alfine 8 found on two of my other bikes, so I decided to go with a single gear in the front and installed a Shimano Alfine FC-S500 Front Crankset (45T). The Alfine 11 weights a bit less than the Alfine 8, but it is nearly twice the price. Since all the gears are internal I don’t have to worry about salt, sand, road grime or rust. My old shifters were not compatible with the Alfine hub so they put Versa 11-Speed Road Shifters on (at the moment Shimano does not make an 11-speed shifter for drop bars).

If you ride in bad weather your brake pads will end up having grit embedded in them and this can wear down bike rims rather quickly. The original rims on my 1200 had worm down, so we went with new Mavic Open Sport rims and used brass nipples on the spokes (better for wet weather). Since the front rim was going to be replaced they dropped in a new Shimano 105 front hub (a higher quality hub than the original). Both the front and rear brakes on the 1200 were pretty well-worn, so new Shimano caliper brakes were installed. The Continental Touring Plus road bike tires I had on the bike were still in good shape, so I didn’t change them out.

Finishing touches included Lizard Skins DuraSoft Polymer Handlebar Tape. This handlebar tape is not only extremely comfortable, but offers incredible grip in wet weather (remember, this is going on a bike that is only used in foul weather). I also had Gore Ride-On Derailleur Cables installed. These sealed cables are maintenance free and shift smoother than anything else I’ve ever tried.

Was the cost of the rebuild worth it? It’s too early to tell yet. However, when I got home from my first long ride after the overhaul my bike frame and all the components were covered with road salt. It had snowed the day before and by the time I went out the road salt had been ground to powder by highway traffic and even something as light as my bike kicked up a lot of dust. This layer of dust (salt) reminded me of why I needed to have the bike “weatherproofed” in the first place.

 

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Pearl Izumi Thermal Glove For Cyclists

I ride all year long and in all weather conditions, so over the years I have acquired a lot of cycling wear. Without any hesitation at all I would tell anyone that Pearl Izumi is my favorite manufacturer of cycling clothing—they are known for their high quality products. However, even a great company can sometimes let a product go to market that doesn’t live up their normally high standards. One such product is the Pearl Izumi Thermal Glove.

Pearl Izumi Thermal Glove

Pearl Izumi Thermal Glove

The Pearl Izumi Thermal Glove has many great features. The first thing that drew my attention to this full-fingered glove was the Hi-Vis Screaming Yellow color (it is also available in solid black). Since I often ride in low-light situations I always appreciate gloves that allow motorists to see my hand signals, and very few gloves are as effective at this as the Pearl Izumi Thermal Glove. This glove also has reflective elements for additional low-light visibility. The fabric on this glove provides great insulation, odor-resistance, and moisture transfer. You will also find a soft fleece wiping surface on thumb and the silicone grips on the palms are the best I’ve seen in any cycling glove.

These are thermal gloves and they do an excellent job at keeping your hands warm, even though the gloves are very lightweight. These gloves are designed for cool weather, not the heart of winter. No glove can possibly work at all temperatures, but I think these gloves are very well suited for days when the temperature is in the 40′s.

Unfortunately, one fatal flaw makes this glove a product that I could not recommend to any cyclist—there is absolutely no padding on the palms (zip, zero, nada). Normally I wear cycling products out on at least five rides before I write a product review for them. However, these gloves were so painful that after one ride I knew I would never wear them again. I took these gloves out for a 50-mile ride, but had to turn around and head home after just ten miles because my hands were so numb because of the lack of padding in the palms.

The Pearl Izumi Thermal Glove retails for $25 and is available at most bike shops. If your local bike shop does not carry this glove you can easily order it from online retailers. I believe the glove is true to size, and while I cannot recommend it for cycling, I think any runner would love them!

 

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Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover For Rainy Day Bike Rides

The Chicago area normally has snow on the ground by this time of year, but so far we just keep getting rain! Riding in the rain is one of my least favorite ways to cycle. However, great products like the Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover make these rides a lot more enjoyable than they would otherwise be.

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover for rainy day bike rides

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover

The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover is designed for riding in rainy weather and they work incredibly well! Though they are fleece lined, they are not really intended for cold weather cycling. On a sunny day when the temperature is around 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 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 Elite Barrier MTB shoe cover is made of 48% neoprene, 24% polyester, 17% nylon, 7% polyurethane, and 2% spandex. 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.

These shoe covers are available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XXL). While they are true to size, I would order one size larger than normal just to make them easier to get on. The Velcro strip on the back is very easy to adjust. Like most Pearl Izumi products, this shoe cover is extremely well made and designed.

The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover retails for $70, but online retailers like Amazon.com often have it at a considerable discount (I paid $57 for my pair). This product is recommended for mountain bike shoes. If you want a similar cover for your road shoes you should use the Pearl Izumi Pro Barrier WXB Shoe Covers.

 

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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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Louis Garneau Neo Protect Cycling Shoe Cover

The Louis Garneau Neo Protect Cycling Shoe Cover allows you to wear your summer cycling shoes in temperatures well below freezing. Cleat openings on the bottom of the cover make it compatible with most pedal systems used in both road and MTB shoes (I’ve used these covers with Look Keo, Shimano SPD and Crank Brothers Egg Beater cleats).

Louis Garneau Neo Protect Cycling Shoe Cover

Louis Garneau Neo Protect Cycling Shoe Cover

I used these covers on at least 20 rides last year that were longer than three hours each and they kept my feet warm down to around 20 degrees. I need to mention that this protection was provided with the aid of some nice wool cycling socks and Grabber Toe Warmers Heating Packs (these disposable warmers cost about a dollar a pair and are available on Amazon.com and at most sporting goods stores).

Garneau’s Website claims this cover “protects your feet from the wet and extremely cold temperatures,” and this mostly true. You should not have any trouble wearing these covers in snow or light rain, but they are not waterproof—your feet will get wet in a heavy rain. These covers also give great protection from the wind.

This shoe cover is made from 3-mm neoprene and closes in the back with a thick strip of Velcro. There are several shoe covers on the market that close with a zipper and I have not had much success with any of them. The reflective logos on this shoe cover add some visibility, but because of their position on the top of the cover I don’t think this is much of a selling point.

The Louis Garneau Neo Protect Cycling Shoe Cover is available in four sizes: Small (39-41), Medium (41.5-43), Large (43.5-45), XL (45.5-50). The sizing on these covers is good, but I would recommend you buy a size larger than you normally wear so you can get them on easier. This product retails for $20 and is certainly worth the price.

 

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