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Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet

The days are getting longer and the average daily temperature is gradually beginning to rise—so this week I’m going to review a couple more winter cycling products, and then next week we’ll move on to warmer weather cycling gear. I always wear a helmet when I’m on my bike, but those lightweight summer helmets with the large air vents just won’t cut it in the dead of winter. When the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit I wear a helmet that is normally intended for snow skiing. This past winter I bought a Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet and was very happy with the way it performed.

Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet

Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet

The Giro Encore 2 is certified as a multi-sport helmet, which means it is suitable for use by skaters, bicyclists, and snow skiers (certification: ASTM 2040 / CE EN1077 / CPSC). If you experience an unplanned dismount (crash is such an ugly word) while riding in deep snow you probably aren’t going to get hurt. However, snow can also hide some nasty rocks, broken fence posts and sharp objects—not to mentioned a layer of slippery ice.

Goggle Strap on the Giro Encore 2 helmet

Goggle Strap on the Giro Encore 2 helmet

Unlike regular bicycle helmets, snow helmets usually allow for a bit of customization. The Giro Encore 2 has removable ear flaps (black padding). These covers will definitely help keep your ears warm, but they do inhibit your ability to hear ambient noises. If you are riding off-road where you are not worried about getting hit by a car, you can install a set of Skullcandy headphones into these ear flaps (like the Skullcandy Home Brew Kit). All of my winter cycling jackets have headphone ports—a small opening inside a vest pocket so you can run a headphone jack into your iPhone or MP3 player. And let’s face it, riding in a blinding snowstorm is a lot easier when you are listening to Air Supply (does that officially make me old?)

This helmet has thirteen small cooling vents with mesh covers (the mesh helps keep the snow out). When the temperature drops to below -5F I wear a Smith Optics Variant Brim Snow Helmet that has air vents I can close. Also, because this is a snow helmet, you can wear snow goggles and when you don’t need them they will rest comfortably on the front of the helmet without falling off (there is a small clip at the back to keep the goggles from moving around).

Giro Encore 2

I Love The Red Accents

The Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet retails for $60. I bought mine at a brick-and-mortar Dick’s Sporting Goods store and paid full-retail for it, but it is also available from several online retailers, including Amazon.com. This helmet is available in three sizes: Small (52–55.5cm), Medium (55.5–59cm), and Large (59–62.5cm). This helmet comes in several colors, but since the names they use won’t mean much to you, I’ll say the color selection is red, black, white, hi-viz yellow, and ivory (not all colors are available in all sizes). I chose the red helmet because, in my opinion, red objects are the easiest to see in the snow. Sometimes I have to ride on the same off-road trails used by snowmobiles—and getting hit by one of those things could make for a really bad day.

 

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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. When you look at the photograph below you will understand why they are called lobster gloves—your first and second fingers are in one opening and your third and forth fingers are in the other (this arrangement keeps your fingers very warm). Lobster gloves do make shifting gears a little harder to do, but you will get used to it rather quickly and after a ride or two you probably won’t even think about it any more.

Pearl Izumi Barrier Lobster Cycling Gloves

Pearl Izumi Barrier Lobster Cycling Gloves

Pearl Izumi Barrier Lobster Cycling Gloves have a Pittards Carbon Leather palm and a lightweight ripstop fabric shell. As bulky as these gloves look, you can still easily grip things with them. They have a large microfleece wiping surface on the thumb area and close with a sturdy strip of Velcro. These gloves also have reflective piping and logos for low light visibility.

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 (and longer) when the temperature was in the single digits and they kept me toasty warm the whole time.

Like every pair of winter gloves I’ve ever purchased, the inside of these gloves will be damp when you get home after a long ride. Since these gloves are rather thick they will not dry out overnight, so I hang them on a “boot and glove dryer” overnight and they are always ready to go the next morning. If you ride much in the winter you really need to buy a glove dryer—it will make your life a lot easier!

In my opinion these gloves run about a size smaller than advertized, so I would order them in a size larger than you normally wear. Wearing tight gloves in the winter is a terrible mistake that a lot of newbies make. Tight gloves impede blood circulation to your fingers and this will make you hands feel a lot colder.

Pearl Izumi Barrier Lobster Cycling Gloves retail for around $70, but you can find them on Amazon.com and several other online retailers for around $60. I know this is a lot of money for a pair of gloves, but it is certainly a lot cheaper than a trip to the hospital so you can get treatment for frostbite.

 

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Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights For Winter Biking

Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights For Winter Biking

Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights

Out of the many fine clothing products for cyclists that Pearl Izumi makes, my absolute favorite is the Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tight. These tights allow you to have a comfortable ride on winter days that aren’t fit for either man nor beast. Though not truly waterproof (but highly water-resistant), these tights do offer fantastic wind, water and ice protection.

Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights are designed for extreme weather conditions—I am talking about very cold, wet and windy days. The fabric is very breathable and wicks water away your skin incredibly well. Even after several hours in snow and ice storms these tights kept me dry.

The body of these tights is made of 10% polyurethane, 12% elastane, 41% polyester, and 37% nylon. The 3D Elite chamois is made with a variable density microfiber that wicks moisture away and has active carbon yarns to help reduce odors. This is the same chamois that is found in the Pearl Izumi Elite Cycling Shorts and their Elite Thermal Cycling Tights. I have found this chamois to be very comfortable even on rides over 60 miles or more.

What is the best temperature range to wear these tights in? Some cyclists wear these tights in temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve used them in temperatures down to zero without any problem. At the other end of the scale I find them too warm to wear in temperatures much above freezing, but some people have no problem using them all the way up to 50 degrees. Personally, for temperatures between 28 and 50 degrees I prefer to wear Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights.

The lower leg of these tights has an 8″ zipper with an internal draft flap and zipper garage. Around the inside of the ankles there is a silicone strip to keep the tights in place. Reflective piping, strips and logos make you visible to motorists from just about any angle.

These tights are also available without a chamois and in a bib. Most people will tell you that bibs keep you warmer than tights but I really haven’t had any trouble keeping warm even in temperatures down to zero. Besides, if you are out on a bike trail in ten degree weather and have to answer the call of nature while in bibs you will need to look at your driver’s license just to remember your gender (if you catch my drift).

Theses tights seem to be true to size, providing you use the sizing guide found on the Pearl Izumi Website (the size guide on Amazon.com has no connection with reality). The Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tight (with 3D chamois) has a suggested list price of $155, but you can buy them from Amazon.com for around $105. Once you’ve had a chance to try these tights out I am certain you will think they were worth every penny you paid for them.

 

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Innova Steel Studded Bicycle Tires For Winter Cycling

When the snow starts falling you only have a few choices if you want to avoid gaining 20 pounds during the winter. You could set your bike up on a trainer in your basement or garage, but within 15 minutes you are going to feel like a hamster when he is running on the wheel in his cage. The best solution is to man-up and buy a pair of steel studded bicycle tires so you can ride all winter long. Unless you live north of the Arctic Circle cycling in the snow is a blast! While there are many good brands of studded bicycle tires available, last year I chose a pair of Innova (26 x 2.1) snow tires and used them all winter long.

Innova Steel Studded Bicycle Tires

Innova Steel Studded Bicycle Tires

Unlike the more expensive Nokian or Schwalbe tires that use carbide studs, the Innova tires use steel studs, so yes, they are going to rust (see the photo above). However, the Innova tires are at least half the price of Nokian or Schwalbe tires. The Innova snow tires have 268 replaceable steel studs and an aggressive tread. I rode with them all last winter and found them to be a pleasure to ride on. While it is very common to lose a few studs during normal use every winter due to friction, the best I can tell I didn’t lose a single stud in over 500 miles.

While the side of the tire says the maximum air pressure is 60 psi, I would recommend you don’t go above 50 psi. At 60 psi I just didn’t feel like the studs were gripping the snow and ice as well. I hate to admit it, but I did a face plant into the snow last year while riding with these tires. I was cranking along at about 20 MPH on my street which only had a bit of ice on it when I turned into my driveway that had six inches of snow on it. My front tire came to sudden stop, but my body didn’t. I should have shoveled my driveway before I went on my ride, but where is the fun in that?

Innova steel studded bicycle tires are made in Taiwan. While I have not had any problems with these tires, I think that if I had it to do all over again I would opt for a more expensive Nokian tire simply because I love riding in the snow and I think that in the long run the Nokian tires would be a better buy. However, if this is your first year to attempt riding in the snow I would suggest you try out a pair of Innova tires—even if you only use them for two years you will get your money’s worth out of them.

If your local bike shop does not carry Innova tires, you can buy them from Amazon.com for around $60.

 

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