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Topeak DeFender RX and FX Bicycle Fenders

If you ride in the rain, snow or mud then you already know how messy your clothing is when you get home. One way to minimize (but not entirely eliminate) the mess is the put both front and rear fenders on your bike. I have several sets of bicycle fenders hanging on the walls of my garage, but the two I use the most are the Topeak DeFender RX and Topeak DeFender FX fenders (the RX is the rear fender and the FX is the front fender). These fenders are designed for 26″ mountain bikes.

Topeak DeFender RX Bicycle Fenders

Topeak DeFender RX Bicycle Fenders

The Topeak DeFender RX rear fender is made from impact resistant plastic and attaches to your seat tube with a quick release locking mechanism (one size fits all). The RX weighs about seven ounces and measures 22” x 4” x 6”. The underside of the fender is highly polished to help shed mud. However, if you want any fender to shed mud and snow better just spay the underside with PAM non-stick cooking spray (you probably have a can of it in your kitchen already). Since this fender is almost always used when it is raining I added a few strips of 3M Scotchlite Reflective Tape on the sides to make it easier for cars to see me in low-light situations (I wish Topeak would add this tape to their fenders at the factory). The angle of this fender is adjustable so you should be able to use it on almost any 26″ mountain bike.

The only problem I’ve had with the DeFender RX is the tightening mechanism (a nylon webbed strap). The problem is that if there is not enough friction on the seat tube to keep the nylon strap from moving the fender a bit from side to side. The solution is real easy: just cut a strip of rubber from an old bicycle inner tube and put it under the strap (old inner tubes have a lot of uses).

Topeak DeFender FX Bicycle Fenders

Topeak DeFender FX Bicycle Fenders

The Topeak DeFender FX fender attaches to the front fork (fits 19.6–26 mm steerer tubes). This fender weighs a little over six ounces and measures 23” x 3.5” x 6.3”. Like the RX rear fender, the FX has a highly polished underside. The quick release mechanism for this fender allows you to add or remove the fender in a matter of seconds. However, the first time you put it on it will take about five minutes to adjust (I keep the attaching mechanism on my mountain bike all the time).

The Topeak DeFender RX rear fender retails for $15, and the Topeak DeFender FX front fender retails for $13. Your local bike shop probably has both fenders in stock. However, if you have trouble finding them they are also available on Amazon.com.

 

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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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Kool Stop High Performance Bicycle Brake Pads

Many years ago I drove by an automobile brake shop and noticed the slogan on their sign, “If you can’t stop, don’t start.” Well, the same thing is true for cyclists—it doesn’t matter how fast you can go on your bike, if your brakes are sluggish it could cost you your life. Earlier this year I rebuilt an old Trek 1200 road bike and customized it to handle foul weather (mainly rain). The finishing touch on this rebuild was the brake pads—and after a bit of research I chose Kool Stop Bicycle Brake Pads due to their superior stopping power in wet weather.

Kool Stop Bicycle Brake Pads

Kool Stop High Performance Bicycle Brake Pads

Kool Stop International, Inc., a company based in Oregon, has been making bicycle brake pads for over 30 years. They make a variety of brake pads, but my Trek 1200 uses their Dura Road Pad set (Dura-Ace/Ultegra), so that is what I have used. The Dura Road Pad (like their Campi Pad) is a dual compound insert that fits inside an aluminum holder. This holder has a “dual pivot adjustment” (a conical washer) and is very easy to adjust.

Kool Stop Wet Weather Bicycle Brake Pads

Kool Stop Brake Pads

Kool Stop manufactures several different compounds for use in their brakes—some compounds are best for dry weather cycling and others are very aggressive for use in wet weather. As the name implies, the “dual compound” brake pads are a combination of two compounds—it uses a black compound usually found in their dry weather pads along with their aggressive salmon colored pad that offer superior stopping power in wet weather. Kool Stop ships these brakes with the dual compound pads preinstalled, but they also include an extra pair of salmon colored pads (for really nasty weather).

Even though the Chicago area has had a drought this summer, I have been able to ride a few hundred miles in the rain (mainly in the spring) with these brake pads and they work as advertised. While the brake pads I took off the old Trek 1200 were pretty worn, the Kool Stop brake pads allow me to stop in about half the distance as before.

If you have never replaced a pair of brake pads on your bike before you might wonder how difficult a job it is. There is no reason to have the local bike shop put these pads on for you—a total amateur can put on a set of these brake pads in under 15 minutes, and the second set will probably go on in 10 minutes.

Kool Stop Bicycle Brake Pads with X Pad (Dura-Ace/Ultegra) retail for $23 a pair and you should be able to find them at your local bike shop. These brake pads are nearly twice the price of other brake pads, but they are worth it (if you value your life).

 

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Michelin Pilot Sport HD Folding Bicycle Tire With Reflective Sidewalls

My oldest road bike is reserved for riding in inclement weather (rain and winter slush). For several years I used  Continental Touring Plus tires on this bike because they are lightweight, puncture resistant and have an aggressive enough tread pattern to make it easy to ride in the rain. Unfortunately, these tires are also very difficult to work with, i.e., they are hard to get on or off the rim. I know one experienced bike mechanic who broke three tire levers just trying to get a pair of these on a bike. For some reason it seems like I only get flats on rainy days, and fiddling with Continental Touring Plus tires in the rain is not a task I enjoy. As a result, the last time I replaced the tires on this bike I took a chance and switched to Michelin Pilot Sport HD folding tires—and I am so glad I did!

Michelin Pilot Sport HD Bicycle Tires

Michelin Pilot Sport HD Bicycle Tire

Michelin Pilot Sport HD tires are a part of the Michelin City Trekking tire series and are made with their “Protek Compound rubber mix” which provides “antioxidant ingredients and a reinforced architecture.” These tires have anti-puncture reinforcement and are designed for urban fitness riding, i.e., for those who like to ride road bikes in places that are not usually desirable due to broken glass and road debris.

I only have about 1,000 miles on these tires, but have been extremely impressed with how well they handle on both wet roads and dry pavement. They hold the road extremely well and corner better than any other tire I’ve tried. I’ve used these tires during many hours of heavy rain and have found that the inverted tread pattern helps move water out from under tire in a very efficient manner.

Michelin Pilot Sport HD Folding Bicycle Tire

Michelin Pilot Sport HD tread Pattern

In my opinion this tire offers a very low rolling resistance considering that they are designed to run at a fairly low tire pressure. On the sidewall of every bike tire you will find both the minimum and maximum pressure the tire is capable of handling. If the tire pressure goes below the minimum you run a very high risk of getting a pinch flat; if the pressure goes above the maximum you have a good chance of blowing out the tire and will certainly have a very bumpy ride. The recommended minimum pressure for the Michelin Pilot Sport tire is 44 psi and it has a maximum pressure of 87 psi. The tire pressure you should use depends on your weight—light riders can drop the pressure down towards the minimum while heavier riders should inflate towards the maximum. In the case of the Michelin Pilot Sport tire they suggest that riders weighing 132 pounds or less inflate the tire to 44 psi; riders weighing 220 pounds or more should use 87 psi. Michelin has included a weight and psi chart of the side of the packaging for this tire.

Like the Continental Touring Plus tires, the Michelin Pilot Sport HD tires have reflective sidewalls which increases visibility in low light situations. A ride in the rain almost guarantees that you will also be riding in low light—and when a the headlights from a car hit the sidewall of this tire the reflective strip can be see from at least a quarter of a mile away.

Michelin Pilot Sport HD folding bicycle tires retail for around $40 each and are available in four sizes (700x28c, 700x32c, 700x35c, and 26×2.3). These tires all have a thread count of 30 TPI (threads per inch). A low thread count usually means a less supple tire, but one that is more puncture resistant. The 700x28c tire weighs 402g. You should be able to find this tire at just about any bike shop—if the shop does not have it in stock they can order it for you.

 

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Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape (2.5mm)

Some cyclists ride with neither gloves nor bar tape, but I am not one of those folks! The roads in my area are extremely rough and without padded bar tape and a good pair of gloves my hands would shake for several hours after a bike ride, which is a royal pain since I spend most of my day working on a computer keyboard. For many years I wrapped the handlebars on my road bikes with Bontrager Gel Cork bar tape, but this past winter I started using Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape and long rides are now a lot more enjoyable.

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape

I found Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape at the local bike shop one day after I’d spent several hours riding in the rain. The Bontrager Gel Cork tape always got very slippery when wet, and since I seem to spend a lot of time riding in the rain I wanted a handlebar tape that offered a better grip. While the Lizard Skins DSP tape offers a superior gripping surface, I still won’t ride in the rain without a pair of gloves—I might seem overly cautious to some, but when cycling at high speeds on slick roads I want to feel like I am in complete control of the bike, and for me that means a good grip on the handlebars.

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape is an ultra-lightweight tape (only 56 grams per set, including plugs). This tape is made with DuraSoft Polymer (DSP) and provides a comfortable surface for your hands even on rides of six hours or more. The bike I use for long rides in the rain has an aluminum frame, and even on a smooth roads I can feel every little bump. This tape greatly reduces road vibrations and offers superior shock absorption. This is going to make some people cringe, but I actually have two layers of bar tape on this bike since this bike is also used for winter rides when the temperature is down to near zero (Fahrenheit), the second layer of bar tape protects my hands from the chill of the handlebar. I only have one layer of this tape on my Trek Madone, but I never ride this bike in the winter.

Close-up of Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape

Close-up of Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape (Tread Pattern Provides A Great Grip)

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape is available in eight colors (Black, White, Blue, Red, Pink, Green, Yellow, Orange, and Celeste Green) and retails for around $38 per package. Each package has two rolls of 2.5 mm thick tape, two bar-end plugs, and two finishing strips. You should be able to find this tape at your local bike shop (or at least they can order it for you). This tape is also available from RealCyclist.com, REI, Amazon.com and many other online retailers.

 

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Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Rain Jacket For Cyclists

I can’t say I enjoy cycling in the rain, but I seem to do it a lot anyway—a good ride in the rain beats a day in the office anytime. In the past ten years I’ve probably purchased a dozen rain jackets for cycling, but most of them fell short of my expectations. A few years ago I read one blogger who said that if you ride in the rain very often you will end up with a Showers Pass jacket, but you will probably waste a lot of money on inferior jackets before you do. Last year I bought a Showers Pass Touring Jacket and liked it so well that I later bought a Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Jacket as well.

Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Rain Jacket For Cyclists

Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Rain Jacket

When it comes breathability in a rain jacket I don’t think you could find anything better than a Showers Pass jacket. On a breathability scale of one to ten, where a one is a plastic trash bag, I’d give a Showers Pass jacket a ten and most Goretex jackets an eight. The breathability of this jacket comes not only from the eVent three-layer fabric, but also from the numerous venting options built into the jacket. This jacket has fully taped seams, 11-inch pit zips under both arms, large gusseted cuffs, and a very large back vent for flow-thru ventilation. There are elastic cinch-cords on both the collar and the hem—you can open them for added ventilation or close them the keep the heat in. The back of the jacket is extra long to keep your backside dry in pouring rain (and it works well).

The front of the Showers Pass Elite 2.0 jacket seals up with a water-resistant full length two-way zipper. There is also a roomy chest pocket (a Napoleon pocket) with an audio port that allows you to keep your iPhone or other audio device dry in the pocket and run a headphone cord up to your ear. The collar on this jacket is made of soft Micro-fleece and is very comfortable. Around the neck is a series of Velcro attachment points so you can attach a rain hood (sold separately). For your safety there is a substantial amount of 3M Scotchlite reflective taping on arms and back (the best I’ve seen on any jacket), and light loop in the middle of the back so you can attach a small LED flasher (I wish all cycling jackets had light loops).

When I reviewed the Showers Pass Touring Jacket I questioned the sanity of anyone who would buy a black cycling jacket. However, as you can see in the photo above, I ended up buying the Elite 2.0 in black, so let me explain why. First, I would never ride on the road in a black jacket, even with the 3M Scotchlite reflective taping. I did not buy this jacket for road cycling—I bought it mainly to use as a shell for winter cycling. On snow-covered off-road trails a black jacket is fine—black fabric has a tendency to attract heat better than other colors and it also contrasts well against the white snow. In addition, when I ride on muddy off-road trails in the rain the black jacket cleans up better (i.e., after clean-up you can’t see the dirt you missed as easily as you can on brighter jackets). I’ve used this jacket as a shell for winter cycling over an Under Armour compression shirt and a fleece jacket and this kept me warm down to about 10 degrees (Fahrenheit).

The only thing I don’t like about this jacket is the slanted zipper on the back storage pocket. The pocket itself is waterproof and very roomy, but I just don’t like the slanted zipper! To be fair, Showers Pass is not the only company to offer rain jackets with a slanted zipper, but I have trouble opening these pockets while riding and I hate to stop when it is raining.

The Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Rain Jacket retails for $240 and if you ride in the rain very much it is worth every penny. This men’s jacket is available in four colors (Black, Chili Pepper Red, Electric Blue, and Goldenrod) and comes in five sizes (S thru XXL). The women’s jacket is only available in three colors (Chili Pepper Red, Crystal Blue, and Goldenrod) and comes in six sizes (Extra-Small thru XXL). I found this jacket to be a little larger than advertised. For the Weight Weenies among us, the large jacket weighs about 13.5 ounces.

 

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Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to improve the performance of your bike and cut the maintenance time, then you need to install a set of Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables. When I had my Surly Necromancer Pugsley custom-built this past December the local bike shop installed a pair of these cables and I liked them so much that they are now on all five of my bikes.

Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables

Gore Ride-On Derailleur Cables (middle and right)

As the name implies, Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables are sealed cables which means that from the shifter to the derailleur the cables are inside of one continuous sealed liner, and they terminate with a tight Grub seal which means they are impervious to rain, mud, road salt and grime—and you will never have to oil or maintain your cables again (for as long as they last). In addition, these are the smoothest shifting cables you will ever find! After putting a pair of these on my Trek Madone road bike it felt like an entirely different machine—words can’t describe how easy the shifting was (and since the Madone has a Shimano Dura Ace derailleur I didn’t think there was any room for improvement to begin with).

Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables

Gore Ride-On Cables With Grub Seal At The Derailleur

While the local bike shop installed four sets of these cables for me, I installed the last set myself on an old Trek 4300 mountain bike I was rebuilding. Installation of the Gore cable system is fairly straightforward—if you can install a standard set of bike cables then you can easily install these. The only tools you need are a set of metric Allen wrenches, a pair of cable cutters (like the Park Tool CN-10 Cable and Housing Cutter), a new razor blade and a sharp awl (to clean out the cable ends after cutting). Gore has an instructional video on their Website if you need help with installation. In addition, Calvin Jones from Park Tool wrote an excellent article on Gore Ride-On Cable Installation.

Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables retail for around $55 a set and are available with either black or white cables. Gore has several similar products (with similar names), so whether you ride a road bike, mountain bike, tandem bike or full-suspension bike they have a product that can meet your needs. These cables are compatible with Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo mountain and road derailleurs and come with a one year limited warranty. After riding with these cables for a few months I no longer consider them a luxury item—they are a necessity!

 

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