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Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

I normally ride around 6,500 miles a year and most of those miles are on the road—which means most of the time I wear Lycra cycling shorts. However, about 20% of my mileage is on off-road trails and I wear mountain biking shorts on those rides (the “when in Rome do as the Romans” thing). The MTB shorts I bought when I started cycling about twelve years ago were heavy and held water like a sponge. Fortunately, in the past few years several manufacturers have developed MTB shorts that are lightweight, durable and don’t hold moisture. A few weeks ago the folks at Serfas sent me a pair of their new Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts to review these shorts should appeal avid mountain bikers, recreational cyclists and commuters alike.

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts consist of an outer shell and an inner liner. The outer shell is made of lightweight 100% Polyester and has a snap front closure with a zippered fly and an adjustable Velcro waistband. The outer shell has four pockets. There are two large pockets on the front of the pants—one on each side just like every other pair of pants you own. However, these pockets have mesh on one side so water or dust won’t build up in your pockets. These are what I call “walking around” pockets—they are great for holding small items when you are off your bike, but since they do not close I wouldn’t use then while riding.

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Zippered Pocket On The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

On the lower right-hand side of the pants there is a roomy zippered pocket (7″ wide x 8″ deep). The zipper appears to be made of a high-quality nylon and is very smooth to open or close. Since this is the most secure pocket I keep my car keys and billfold in here (I sometimes have to drive my Jeep to the off-road trails).

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Pocket With Velcro Closure

On the lower left-hand side of the pants there is another roomy pocket (7″ wide x 8″ deep). This pocket closes with a piece of Velcro and you can easily open or close it as you are riding (I keep extra carb gels in this pocket).

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

The Inner And Outer Layers Snap Together

The detachable inner liner of these shorts is made of 90% Polyester and 10% Spandex. If you are used to riding in Lycra road shorts then you will find one of the biggest downsides to most MTB shorts with a detachable liner is that they tend to hold in heat and moisture (mainly because they have two layers). However, these shorts don’t seem to hold moisture like most of the other MTB shorts I own (and for the post month I had to ride on many days when the humidity was well over 80%). This liner attaches to the outer shell with a pair of snaps of both sides of the pants.

Serfas Men's Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Chamois On The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts

Last, but not least, the Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts has a high quality chamois (Serfas calls it their “Launch Pad Compression Foam Chamois”). If you are looking for a solid inch of gel then this chamois is not for you! This chamois is fairly thin, but  extremely comfortable. As with every other chamois on the market, I would strongly suggest you use a chamois cream before you go out for a ride (put some cream on the chamois itself and on your skin in the area of your sit bones).

The Serfas Men’s Ripcord Cargo Shorts are available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XL). In my opinion these shorts run a bit small—so if you are on the border between two sizes I’d go with the larger size. By the way, since these shorts have an adjustable Velcro waistband if your pants are a couple of inches too big you can quickly adjust them to have a perfect fit.

These shorts retail for $60 and are available from the Serfas website and from authorized Serfas dealers (most bike shops). These pants are also available on Amazon.com, but they appear to have an older version of these pants in the photos and description.

 

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Serfas Thunderbolt Headlight and Taillight

If you have not shopped for new bicycle lights in a while you will be surprised at how much things have changed in the past few years. Modern bicycle headlights are far brighter and lot less expensive than the were just five years ago. Not only are the lights brighter, but they also weigh less—and most lights now have rechargeable batteries as well. A few weeks ago the folks at Serfas sent me a pair of their new Thunderbolt USB rechargeable lights to review and if you are a commuter these lights will be of special interest to you. Thunderbolt is the name given to both the headlight and the taillight, but they are sold separately.

Serfas Thunderbolt Headlight

Serfas Thunderbolt Headlight

The Serfas Thunderbolt headlight is very compact (3.5″ long, 1″ tall, and 1.5″ wide) and provides 90 lumens of light. The light pattern is non-directional, i.e., the beam covers a wide area (just the opposite of a spotlight). The Thunderbolt headlight has a silicone body and is highly water-resistant, as well as being extremely lightweight (just 50 grams). There are four light settings available: high beam, low beam, high blink and low blink. You should be able to get about 90 minutes of use in the high beam with a fully charged battery. However, cold weather negatively impacts all batteries—when the temperature drops below freezing don’t expect a full 90 minutes of use. The high blink mode is what I used the most and was able to consistently get almost four hours of use per charge (Serfas only claims 3.5 hours). The headlight can be seen from a mile away, but at 90-lumens it is intended for commuters, not mountain bikers.

Both the headlight and taillight attach to your bike with a pair of silicon mounting straps (included) and should fit most bikes. These lights attach quickly—a trained monkey could do it in under five seconds. If you use the lights to get to work you are going to love this feature!

The best part about these lights is that they are USB rechargeable. Using the included USB cord you can charge these lights by plugging them into your computer (I used the wall charger for my iPhone instead). If you buy both a headlight and a taillight you will have two USB cords—you could leave one at your office and the other at your house so you can recharge the lights at either place.

Serfas Thunderbolt Taillight

Serfas Thunderbolt Taillight

The Serfas Thunderbolt taillight quickly became one of my favorite taillights! At 35 lumens it outshines most of the taillights you will find at your local bike shop, and since it is USB rechargeable you will never have to buy batteries for it. The taillight is primarily designed to attach to your seatpost (3″ of exposed post required), but you could also mount it on your seat stays. Like the headlight, the taillight has four operating modes (high beam, low beam, high blink and low blink). I never run taillights in the high beam setting—I believe the blinking mode makes it a lot easier for motorists to see you. In the high blink mode this light runs for three hours on a full charge.

As I mentioned earlier, the Thunderbolt lights are not designed for mountain bikers. However, Serfas has a wide selection of other lights available, including their brand new TSL-1500+ (1500 lumens of light with a three hour run time).

The Serfas Thunderbolt headlight and taillight retail for $45 each and are available in seven different body colors (Black, White, Red, Blue, Pink, Green, Yellow). You should be able to buy this light at any bike shop—if they don’t have it in stock they can order it for you. These lights are also available from Amazon.com and many other online retailers.

 

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Glo Glov Reflective Sport Glove

Some us of ride our bikes at night because it is fun, others do it because they have no other choice. Regardless of why you are cycling at night you want to get back home safely—and that means proper lighting and reflectors. One of the greatest pieces of safety equipment I’ve ever bought was a pair of Glo Glov Reflective Sport Gloves and I never ride at night without them.

Glo Glov Reflective Sport Glove for cyclists

Glo Glov Reflective Sport Glove

Glo Glov Reflective Sport Gloves are lightweight gloves that have several pieces of yellow retro-reflective vinyl sewn onto the back (and a red piece on the wrist). These gloves are specially designed for outdoor sports and are great for cyclists, runners, walkers or anyone who has to exercise near road traffic—the reflective strips can easily be seen from 1/4 of a mile away. While a reflective vest and taillight will allow motorists to see you, these gloves will allow them to see you signal for turns (or for a stop if you point the red reflective strip towards the back). These gloves work so well that I’ve had several motorists pull up beside me at a stoplight and ask about them.

These gloves have a padded grip palm and you can wear them alone or over your regular cycling gloves. These lightweight (only 1.5 ounces per pair) gloves are highly breathable and made of a non-fraying fabric (80% nylon, 20% spandex). As for sizing, these gloves are advertised as “one size fits all.” Incredibly, this is one of the few times that a claim like this is actually true—the gloves should fit any size hand from Medium to XXL. I wear XL cycling gloves and the Glo Glov fits of them without any trouble (and they come off just as easy).

Glo Glovs are made in the USA and sell for $20 on the Glo Glov Website (price includes shipping). I would highly recommend this product to anyone who cycles or runs at night.

 

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Trek Soho Commuter Coffee Mug

Trek Soho Bicycle Commuter Coffee Mug

Trek Soho Commuter Mug

I am not a commuter, nor am I a coffee drinker. However, I know of a great product for coffee drinking commuters—the Trek Soho Commuter Mug. This 18-ounce coffee mug has a stainless steel exterior with a plastic interior, and is designed to fit in the water bottle cage on your bike. The insulation in the mug is decent, but the one weak spot is the lid—it is thin so there is going to be some heat less here.

Even though I am not a coffee drinker I have used this mug on occasions—it keeps my Gatorade or other sports drink from freezing in the winter. I know this is not the intended use, but winter cycling forces all of us to make compromises. The only downside of this mug is the height—it is nine inches tall and this might be a problem for small framed bikes. However, if you use the Zefal WIIZ Side Mount Bicycle Water Bottle Cage it should fit without any problem.

If you are looking for the right coffee to put in this mug you might want to try the new Sip, Clip and Go! Coffee that my friend Anna reviewed on this blog a few months ago.

The Trek Soho Commuter Mug retails for $15. The local bike shop I use just a got a new shipment of these mugs in, but I noticed yesterday that they are out of stock at the Trek online store (Item #05650). If you cannot find this mug at you local shop you might want to check out the 16-ounce Travel Mug from Sip, Clip and Go! Coffee (I have not tested this mug myself, but it looks like something that would work well for any commuter).

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Product Reviews

 

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Best Gloves For Winter Cycling

Judging from the search engine terms that people are using to find this blog it seems as though many folks are already looking for winter cycling gear. One of the hardest pieces of winter gear to find is the right pair of cycling gloves. Some cyclists try to use gloves that were designed for hunting or skiing, but most of the time they are disappointed—those gloves are insulated to keep your hands warm, but they are usually not windproof and as soon as your hands start to sweat they turn to ice. I own more than twenty pair of full finger cycling gloves and in this article I want to highlight my favorite gloves for fall and winter cycling. The links in this article will take you to detailed reviews I have published in the past. One note about sizing: you always want your winter gloves to have a loose fit—the air pocket between the glove and your skin provides excellent insulation.

Planet Bike Orion Gel Full Finger Cycling Gloves

Planet Bike Orion Gel Full Finger Cycling Gloves

The Planet Bike Orion Gel Glove is intended to be the first full finger glove you use in the fall and the last one you use in the spring before your regular summer gloves come out. These gloves are great for temperatures between 45 and 55 degrees. However, this temperature range will vary depending on the type of cycling you do. A commuter or mountain biker might be able to wear these gloves in slightly cooler temperatures because they are generally moving slower and the wind will not impact them as much as a roadie riding along at 25 or 30 MPH. The palm of this glove is made of terry and the body is made of a four-way stretch woven spandex—these two pieces are held together with a thin strip of woven Lycra. This glove also has a large Velcro closure, so you can either keep the glove tight or loosen it up a bit as the temperature rises. Planet Bike Orion Gel Full Finger Cycling Gloves retail for $26 and they come with a limited lifetime warranty against defects in material and workmanship.

Gore Bike Wear Men's Alp X III Windstopper Gloves

Gore Bike Wear Men’s Alp X Windstopper Gloves

When the temperature is in the 40′s I really like the Gore Bike Wear Men’s Alp X III Windstopper Gloves. My fingers do get cold in these gloves when the temperature drops into the 30′s. However, they are highly breathable and block the wind like no other gloves I’ve ever used. They have a bit of reflective trim on the fingers, but not enough to make them stand out much in low light conditions. The Gore Bike Wear Men’s Alp X III Windstopper Gloves have a list price of around $60. I often use a very thin liner under these gloves and that allows me to use them in even cooler weather.

Planet Bike Borealis Winter Cycling Gloves with removable fleece liner and windproof fabric

Planet Bike Borealis Winter Cycling Gloves (Fleece Liner In Middle)

The Planet Bike Borealis Winter Cycling Glove is absolutely the best winter cycling glove I’ve ever owned! Planet Bike advertises the Borealis as being a “3-in-1″ glove. The glove itself consists of a windproof outer shell and a removable fleece liner. You can use this glove wearing just the shell, or on a mild day you could ride with just the fleece liner, or put them together to have the best winter glove on the market. This glove also has a Neoprene cuff and pull tab with a Velcro closure. The cuff on the glove is big enough that you can pull it over the ends of your jacket to keep the heat in. There is also a fair amount of reflective piping on the back of the glove so motorists can see your hand signals at night. The Planet Bike Borealis Winter Cycling Glove retails for $42 and this has to be the best value you will find in a winter cycling glove.

Pearl Izumi Barrier Lobster Cycling Gloves

Pearl Izumi Barrier Lobster Cycling Gloves

If you enjoy hardcore winter cycling then you are going to love Pearl Izumi Barrier Lobster Cycling Gloves! These gloves are waterproof, fully insulated, comfortable and insanely well made. These gloves are so warm that I would never wear them in temperatures above 25 degrees (Fahrenheit). I’ve used these gloves on many two-hour rides (or longer) when the temperature was in the single digits and they kept me toasty warm the whole time. Pearl Izumi Barrier Lobster Cycling Gloves retail for around $70. Pearl Izumi has recently changed the appearance of the gloves, so if you order a pair they might not look exactly like the ones in the photograph above.

If you really enjoy winter cycling (and who doesn’t?) then you might be better off with thinner gloves used in conjunction with Bar Mitts, Moose Mitts or Bike Poagies.

 
 

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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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The Rails-To-Trails Guidebook Series

Rails-To-Trails Guidebook for cyclists

Rails-To-Trails Guidebook

One of my favorite nonprofit organizations is the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. For over 25 years they have been at the forefront of the movement to turn abandoned railroad corridors into multi-use trails for walking, hiking and cycling. There are now over 20,000 miles of converted rail lines scattered across the United States. Some of these trails are only a few miles long, while others, like the Katy Trail State Park in Missouri, seem to go on forever (well, 225 miles to be exact). Finding these trails on your own would be a nightmare! Fortunately, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has published a series of six guidebooks that cover the trails in over 25 states.

The Rails-Trails: Midwest Guidebook covers 113 trails in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Like the other books in this series, this guidebook is loaded with maps! The book is divided into sections by state, and there is a map at the beginning of each section to show you where the trails are located, then another map and description for each trail. Each entry has information about the trailheads, parking, directions, public restrooms, trail length and trail roughness (based on a scale of one to three).

While I have not been able to ride on every trail in this book, I have been on enough of them to draw some general conclusions about the quality of the information provided. As far as I can tell, both the maps and descriptions are excellent! You should have not trouble finding any of the trailheads or a place to park, and all the maps are drawn to scale.

As much as I like this book, I do have major concerns about what is missing, i.e., information that could save your life! Let me explain using the example of the section dealing with the Robert McClory Bike Path in Lake County, Illinois (a trail I’ve used several hundred times). The information about this trail sounds like it was written by the local Chamber of Commerce—it talks about the history of the trail and the beautiful scenery on the southern part of the trail, including the golf courses, woodlands and neighborhood gardens. Unfortunately, it fails to mention that the northern end of this trail runs through one of the highest crime areas in Illinois—it is not uncommon for cyclists to get robbed on this trail (and sometimes beaten as well). It would have also been helpful if they would have mentioned that the locals call this trail The Glass Highway, due to the overabundance of broken glass (mainly from broken beer bottles). Because I live near this trail I still often use it, but only on an old bike with Kevlar belted tires and inner-tubes filled with Slime. On several occasions I’ve met cyclists on this trail who were scared out of their wits and trying to find a different way home.

The Rails-Trails Guidebooks vary in price from $15.95 to $18.95 and are available from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Online Store.

 
 

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ShowerPill: The Athletic Body Wipe

ShowerPill: The Athletic Body Wipe

ShowerPill Body Wipe

One of the biggest hindrances to folks cycling to work is that most of us do not have access to a shower at our place of employment. You could use a Wet-Nap to clean up a bit—the fresh lemon scent is great, but it does a terrible job of removing grime, dirt and body odors. A few weeks ago the folks at ShowerPill sent me a box of their moistened body wipes and in my opinion this is the best body wipe on the market!

ShowerPill is not really a pill, but a 9×8″ moistened body wipe—it’s alcohol free and infused with Aloe Vera, Witch Hazel and Vitamin E. Most hand or body wipes contain alcohol and this quickly causes your skin to dry out. Instead of using alcohol ShowerPill wipes contain Benzalkonium Chloride, an antibacterial agent that kills 99.99% of common germs, including the germs that cause odor. Since the Upper Midwest has been unusually hot this summer I’ve had plenty of opportunities to use ShowerPill and am extremely happy with how they work. I’ve also given a couple of these wipes to other cyclists to see how they liked them.

Since most of my road rides start and end in my driveway, I decided to try the ShowerPill on days when I put a mountain bike on my Jeep and headed out to the off-road bike trails. Due the drought conditions in my area the off-road trails are incredibly dusty—when I got home from one ride I was so completely covered with dust that my wife asked my if I had rolled around on the ground! I used the ShowerPill to clean the dust of my legs and arms and they worked better than any other product I’ve tried for this purpose.

I gave a couple of these wipes to a female cyclist who had the misfortune of having the air conditioner at her house break during a heatwave. She had nothing but praise for these wipes, but she did have one suggestion for using the ShowerPill. She said that while they work fine straight out of the package, they work even better if you can moisten your skin with a little water first.

I also gave a few of these wipes to a new cyclist—my youngest son who just got out of the Marine Corps after seven years of honorable service. He did a two-hour bike ride to work on one of the hottest days of the year and said that once he got to his office he used ShowerPill to clean up. He reported that the antibacterial properties in the ShowerPill worked perfectly for the rest of the work day! He also commented that in Iraq these wipes would have been worth their weight in gold to military personnel out on patrol.

ShowerPill wipes are not just for cyclists—any athlete who doesn’t have access to a shower would love this product. They are also great for campers and travelers. Two years ago I got stuck overnight at JFK International Airport and had to sleep on the floor—I would have loved to have had a ShowerPill wipe so I could have cleaned up better before my next flight.

ShowerPill comes in a box of ten individually wrapped wipes and retails for $12.50 a box. The easiest way to buy them is from Amazon.com.

 

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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 bars in my jersey pockets and a spare inner tube and CO2 pump in a small seat bag. However, when I ride off-road or in the rain I tend a carry a bit more with me and often need a place to store some of my rain gear when it is not needed. This past winter I purchased a Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag and it is one of the best pieces of cycling equipment I’ve ever purchased.

Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

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. I bought this bag for use on my winter bikes, but I think any commuter or distance cyclist would really benefit from it as well.

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). I own a lot of seat, saddle and storage bags and this is the sturdiest soft-sided bag I’ve ever seen. 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.

Inside the Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

Interior Of The Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

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.

I used the medium-sized bag this past winter on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley and had to buy shorter water bottles to fit in the bottle cages. Another alternative is to buy side entering cages.

Revelate Designs is located in Anchorage, Alaska and I’ve purchased several of their products and every one of them has been of the highest quality. 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.

 

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