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Fatter By The Lake

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

Note: In many of my articles on this blog I refer to “the local bike shop” and by that I mean Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois. I’ve purchased my last eight bikes from this shop, including my highly customized Fat Bike (a Surly Necromancer Pugsley). Last year Chris Daisy, the owner of the shop, organized a winter event for Fat Bikes called Fatter By The Lake. I couldn’t make it to the ride this year, so I asked Chris to write an article about it so you could get a taste of what winter cycling is all about.

Chris And Cassie Daisy

Chris And Cassie Daisy

I’ll be the first to admit that the first annual Fatter By The Lake was a disaster! It took place in early February, and the weather was a mix of “I hate this” and “I want to die.” Freezing rain, crippling wind gusts and deep wet snow kept everyone except my Trek rep and myself from attending. The only reason we pushed on was because the local press was there, so I at least got a cool photo and write-up for our efforts.

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

This year was a different story. Thanks to slightly better weather and a nice shout out from Fat-Bike.com, attendance was up 1500%! Riders from all over the Chicago and Milwaukee area assembled at our shop and set out for Illinois Beach State Park, the only undeveloped and natural stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline in the state of Illinois. We headed east from the bike shop and picked up a trail headed toward the beach. We were immediately greeted by a huge sheet of ice, so some of the less experienced riders were falling like dominoes. Eventually everyone started to settle in and we crunched along in the snow towards the beach.

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

The skies were a heavy overcast, the waves were big enough to surf (except the temperature and undertow would have killed you), and there was an ever-present threat of freezing rain that never quite materialized. We headed south along a waterfront paved path, past the abandoned mid-century modern bathrooms and concrete sun shelters to a plateau of sand near a large parking lot. As we waited for everyone to catch up a Fat Bike derby contest broke out. The object of a derby is to ride in an ever shrinking circle without tapping a foot on the ground, while of course trying to get your opponents knocked off their bike. We watched and cheered until the last man was track standing and pedaled on.

Time For A Break At Dead River

Time For A Break At Dead River

The beach riding south of the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center was sweet. The sand was frozen solid without being slippery, and the wind was at our backs as we cruised along bunny hopping driftwood, riding wheelies and just taking it all in. The Dead River is the edge of the Illinois Beach State Park property, so we stopped and let folks catch up again while we socialized, and someone took the nice photo shown above.

Ready To Roll

Ready To Roll

Naturally the ride home was against the wind, so the pace slowed up a bit. We reached the Zion Cyclery parking lot with enough time for folks to catch the Bears vs. Packers game (a sore subject with me). A group of guys wanted to check out Beulah Park, an 80 acre wooded park in Zion that we spent all summer building legal singletrack in with the help of the Chicago Area Mountain Biker Association and the Zion Park District. Since I was hosting the ride I had to gather up some gumption and press on. The riding conditions at Beulah Park were rough. The trails didn’t have enough traffic yet and my legs were no match for the group of bike messengers and die-hards I was leading. We headed back towards Sheridan Road where I gave them directions for a safe passage back to the shop, and I headed north towards home, exhausted, cramping up and grinning from ear to ear.

 

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350,000 Views In 2013

My sincerest thanks to every visitor to this blog! By reading the comments you leave here and by visiting your blogs it seems like I’ve gotten to know some of you fairly well. Most of the visitors to this site are interested in cycling in one form or another, while others just have a general interest in fitness. Regardless of why you read this blog I wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 350,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 15 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

If you scroll to the bottom of the report you will see one very sad note. The report has the names of the five “most active commenters” on this blog. The most frequent commenter was Irish Katie, a lovely woman who passed away from cancer back in October. The Chatter Blog had two wonderful articles about Katie. In the first article she simply noted how Irish Katie had not been commenting on any of the blogs recently, and in the second article it was revealed that Katie had passed on. I never had the privilege of meeting Katie, but her cheerful comments brightened up every blog she visited. She will truly be missed.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Only 4,949 Miles On The Bike This Year

The All Seasons Cyclist On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

The All Seasons Cyclist On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

This year did not turn out like I had planned—I ended up cycling only 4,949 miles this year and that makes it the worst mileage year I’ve had in a while. It also drops my yearly average down to just 6,075 miles per year.

We had fairly mild weather in January so I was able to get a good head start on my miles for the year. However, during the second week of February I got the flu (a genuine case of influenza, not just a common cold) and it took me off my bike for three weeks. When I finally got back to riding I was a bit slower than normal, but I worked my way back up to normal speed and distance rather quickly.

On March 28 I went out for a Metric Century ride on a beautiful day—light winds, full sun, a foot of snow on the ground and temps around freezing. The ride was enjoyable and I felt great when I got home. However, about four hours later I was at my office when my chest started hurting. Actually, the word hurting doesn’t even begin to describe the pain—it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I thought it was asthma, but after numerous medical tests and consulting with six different doctors I ended up having surgery on my esophagus during the first week of June. This little episode took me off the bike for a total of eight weeks and the first month back on the bike was slow and painful. On the day of surgery I was already over 2,000 miles behind where I normally would be for that time of the year.

A few days ago I was feeling sorry for myself for having such a miserable year and I told my friend Eric (a Naval officer, scientist, and all-round nice guy) how depressing it was. Eric sent me an encouraging letter to remind me that even for a dedicated cyclist mileage isn’t everything. He reminded me that since I switched to the Paleo Diet for Athletes I’ve dropped a good bit of weight and improved both my endurance and recovery times. In addition, I’ve set at least a dozen personal speed records, both on the road and on off-road trails, since I had the surgery. And even though I wasn’t able to ride a lot in the spring, this past fall I did more Century rides than I ever had before. I am thankful for good friends!

For the record, I am 54 years old and work full-time. However, I have somewhat flexible hours so long rides in the morning mean I will be at the office rather late that night. All three of our sons are grown, so Cub Scout meetings and high school football games no longer interfere with my cycling—and my wife is a very patient woman. Years of cycling have paid off—my morning resting pulse rate is usually 50 BPM and my average morning blood pressure is 104/62.

Some cyclists ignore their families just to rack up the miles. If you are one of those people let me kindly inform you that you are an idiot. Your children are only young once—so spend as much time with them as you can. It doesn’t take any extra time to eat healthy food, nor does it take all that many miles on a bike to keep your circulatory system in great shape. When your children are big enough you can have them join you for a ride.

I often think about some of my friends who are in their 40′s but are already on medication for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. All I can say is, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” How many chronic health problems in America could be cured by changes in diet and exercise? I’ve had friends die in their 50′s and I know the death certificate listed their cause of death as heart disease, but I have to wonder if it shouldn’t have read “suicide by lack of exercise.”

And, as I’ve said several times before, I want to thank God for my good health, Trek for making awesome bikes, and my wife for not looking at the American Express statements. I hope you all have a wonderful 2014!

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Top Five Cycling Products Of 2013

This year I’ve penned over 100 product reviews and today I would like to make mention of my top five favorite cycling products of 2013. It was hard for me to narrow this list down to just five items, but I did follow a couple of guidelines. This list is for cycling products that I reviewed this year, though not all of them were introduced this year. In addition, I limited myself to one winning product per manufacturer. If you click on the links below they will take you to the complete review for the product mentioned.

BikeLoot Box For July

BikeLoot

BikeLoot is a box of five to seven cycling related products that are mailed to subscribers every month (like carb gels, bars, hydration, and maintenance products). Most of the products are just samples of products you’ve probably have never heard of before. BikeLoot has several great advantages. First, you don’t have to buy a whole box of a product and the hope that you will like it once it arrives—you can try the sample from the BikeLoot box and if you like it you can order more, and if you don’t like you haven’t wasted any money. Second, you will be sampling products that most cyclists aren’t even going to hear about for another year or so! And third, the BikeLoot box also offers substantial discount codes for some of the products in the box.

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

I’ve spent a lot of money buying tires for my Fat Bike, but the best investment I’ve ever made in a set of tires was the 45NRTH Hüsker Dü. This is the tire that ought to come standard on every Fat Bike! The Hüsker Dü tires will give you a great grip in adverse conditions while still providing less rolling resistance on pavement or packed trails. These tires have a thread count of 120 tpi (threads per inch). Higher tpi tires are usually lighter, more supple and more expensive.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

High Quality Aluminum Construction

Lezyne makes some of the best bicycle hand pumps in the world, but the Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump is in a class all by itself. I bought this pump for my Surly Necromancer Pugsley—a Fat Bike with massive 4″ wide tires. Fat Bike tires usually run at very low pressure (10 to 15 psi on off-road trails; 5 to 7 psi on sand or snow), but they do require a high volume of air. Most bicycle hand pumps are designed to work the other way around (high pressure, low volume) and they would take forever to fill up a Fat Bike tire. A high volume pump like this one will fill your tires is 30% less time than most other pumps. The Lezyne Alloy Drive pump is made with CNC-machined aluminum construction, which makes it very durable and extremely lightweight—just 4.5 ounces (128 g) without the frame mount. This pump has a flex hose with a threaded Presta connection on one end and a threaded Schrader connection on the other.

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

I take my iPhone with me on every ride—in rain, snow, mud, sand or beautiful sunshine and the best case I’ve found so far is the Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case for the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5. One of the features I like best about the CloudCover case is that you can still use the iPhone camera without having to take the phone out of the case. I’ve experimented with this option several times and still cannot believe how well it works! As long as you are photographing in bright sunlight it is nearly impossible to tell that the phone was in the case when you took the photo.

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Out of the dozens of bicycle multi-tools I own, the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool has to be my favorite! Here is a breakdown of the seventeen tools in the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool: Eight Allen keys (8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.5, 2, and 1.5mm), one 10m open wrench, four spoke wrenches (3.23, 3.3, 3.45, 3.96mm), a chain break tool with two chain retainers, two Torx drivers (T25, T30), CO² Inflator head, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. This tool has a full metal body and is 2.75″ long, 1.5″ wide, and .75″ tall. This products weighs an even 4.0 ounces (114g). The chain tool on the Serfas ST-17i is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a cycling multi-tool. The biggest selling point for the Serfas ST-17i is the CO² inflator head (Presta valve only) that is built into the mini-tool.

 
 

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Disease Proof by Dr. David Katz

Disease Proof by Dr. David Katz

Disease Proof by Dr. David Katz

Imagine if a pharmaceutical company introduced a drug that promised to cut your chances of contracting all diseases (including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease) by at least 80%? I imagine you would immediately have four questions: How much does it cost? What are the side effects? How can I get a prescription? And, How can I invest in the company? While such a drug is not available, you can achieve an incredible 80% reduction in your chance of developing a devastating disease by making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. Disease Proof, a new book by preventive medicine specialist Dr. David Katz, provides a road map for making the diet and lifestyle changes that will “add years to life, and life to years.”

David Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, is a remarkable physician. He received his BA from Dartmouth College and his MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. According to his website, Dr. Katz “helped develop and found one of the nation’s first combined residency training programs in Internal Medicine & Preventive Medicine, and formerly served as the program’s director. Dr. Katz currently co-directs a one-year post-doctoral residency program in Integrative Medicine at his center in Derby, CT.”

The basic premise of Disease Proof is that you can slash your risk of disease by making just four adjustments to your diet and lifestyle—don’t smoke, eat healthy foods, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. The book begins by analyzing the past 20 years worth of medical research and concludes, “the leading causes of death and disease are largely within our control because they result from what we do or don’t do with our feet, our forks, and our fingers—namely, whether they are physically active, consume a healthy diet, or smoke—on a daily basis.”

While it is true that some diseases are inherited (such as Huntington’s disease, sickle-cell anemia or cystic fibrosis), the truth is that eight out of ten serious illnesses could have been prevented by changes in diet in lifestyle. And the fact is that most medical doctors find that prescribing drugs is a lot easier than instructing patients on how to develop a healthy lifestyle—and I really don’t blame doctors for this sad state of affairs! Thirteen years ago my physical health was horrible—I was morbidly obese and suffered from a multitude of major medical problems. My family practice doctor would load me up with prescription drugs and send me on my way. When I hit my lowest point I decided to turn my life around. I am not a physician, but I do know how to thoroughly research a subject, so I started reading dozens of books on health, exercise and nutrition. Then I went on a healthy diet and started a serious exercise program. The next time I saw my doctor he said I looked fifteen years younger than the last time I was in his office, so I explained what I had done. Before I left his office I asked him, “Why didn’t you tell me to eat healthy and exercise?” He cracked a smile and said, “You know, after telling that to thousands of patients and having them all ignore me I guess I just gave up.” He was probably right—the vast majority of people have to hit bottom before they are willing to even consider changing their diet and lifestyle.

While Disease Proof does discuss DNA, genetics and the Human Genome Project, it is not a difficult book to read (medical jargon is kept to a minimum). “One of the eye-opening revelations provided by the Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003, is that the genes themselves don’t lead to disease. It’s the interaction of certain high-risk genes and unhealthy environmental influences (including poor diet, physical inactivity, and smoking) that combine to trigger disease.” Dr. Katz discusses how diet and exercise can literally change the behavior of our genes and how heart disease, cancer, stoke and diabetes are not really the cause of death, but rather “the results or effects of how people live.”

Over half of the book is spent on nutrition, and while it does not offer a strict Paleo diet, it is what I would call “Paleo friendly”, i.e., eat a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats and skip the pre-packaged garbage that makes up most of the typical American diet. Dr. Katz wisely observed, “The longer the shelf life of a food product (such as neon-orange cheese puffs), the shorter the shelf life of the person who consumes it regularly.”

I realize that most of the readers of this blog are probably already following a fairly healthy lifestyle, but I am certain you have a lot of family members who could use a bit of a nudge towards healthy living—this book would make a wonderful gift for them! The hardcover edition of Disease Proof retails for $26, but is available from Amazon.com for only $17. The Kindle edition sells for $12. This book was published in September of 2013 and was printed by Hudson Street Press (304 pages).

 

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Christmas Gift Ideas For Cyclists (2013)

I write over 100 product reviews a year for the benefit of fellow cyclists. However, once a year I write an article for those folks who are lucky enough to have a cyclist as their spouse or significant other. If you are trying to find a great Christmas present for a cyclist I would like to make a few suggestions. In case you are wondering, I receive absolutely no monetary compensation for this website. This site does not have any advertising or sponsors. I do not receive any compensation when you buy any of the products reviewed on this site, nor do I participate in affiliate marketing. The items on this list are here because I own them myself and think they would make a great gift for just about any cyclist!

BikeLoot Box For July

BikeLoot

Sometimes it takes me while to decide what to put on this list of gift ideas. However, the moment I saw BikeLoot back in July I knew it was going straight to the top of this list! BikeLoot is a box of five to seven cycling related products that are mailed to subscribers every month (like carb gels, bars, hydration, and maintenance products). For example, one box of loot included samples of the following products: Body Glove Surge (all natural energy shot), EBOOST (an all natural energy supplement), AeroShot™ Energy (an air-based shot of energy), Elete Citrilyte Electrolyte, a Progold Prolink Towel (an 8″x12″ textured towel), and a Wired Waffle (an individually packaged caffeinated waffle).

You can have a box of loot delivered to right to your favorite cyclist’s mailbox every month by getting a subscription to BikeLoot. A monthly subscription is only $10 per month (plus $3.95 S&H), or a 3-month recurring subscription is only $9 per month (plus $3.95 S&H; billed quarterly).

Oakley Half Jacket 2.0 XL Polarized Sunglasses

Oakley Half Jacket 2.0 XL Polarized Sunglasses

Cycling sunglasses are a very important piece of gear for every cyclist. This past year I reviewed a pair of Oakley Half Jacket 2.0 XL polarized sunglasses and I’ve never worn a pair of sunglasses that provided a clearer or sharper image than these Oakleys! In addition to giving a beautiful view of the world, these glasses have special components in the rims that increase grip when you sweat—something every athlete will appreciate! These Oakley frames have a “Three-Point Fit” that keeps the lenses in precise alignment. These glasses filter out 100% of UVA / UVB / UVC light and meet all ANSI Z87.1 standards for impact resistance. The curvature of the lens protects you from the sun, wind and impact, and the wide peripheral view stays sharp no matter where you are looking! This pair of Oakleys retails for $180 and I got mine from ADS Sports Eyewear, an authorized web-dealer for Oakley sunglasses. You need to be aware of the fact that many of the “cheap Oakleys” you see advertised online are just knock-offs. Since you probably don’t know exactly which pair of Oakleys your cyclist would prefer, I would suggest you buy a gift certificate from ADS Sports Eyewear so your cyclist can pick their favorite color (and other options) for themselves.

Tour de France 100 by Richard Moore

Tour de France 100 by Richard Moore

This year was the 100th running of the Tour de France. My wife will tell you that the only reason we have a wide-screen high-def TV in our house is so I can watch the Tour (and she is absolutely correct). If your favorite cyclist is also a fan of the Tour de France (and if they are you will know it), you need to get them a copy of Tour de France 100: A Photographic History of the World’s Greatest Race. This is the most beautiful book about cycling you will ever see! The photos are simply stunning. I own several thousand eBooks (an occupational hazard), but this is one book that you really need to have in your hands to appreciate. This hardcover book measures 11″x12.5″ and has 224 pages with over 250 color and black and white photos.

My wife hasn’t been on a bicycle since the day she got her driver’s license, but she watches every stage of the Tour de France with me. Even non-cyclists can appreciate the beauty of the French countryside, the excitement of the crowds that line the routes and the incredible endurance of the world’s greatest athletes (plus I’ve noticed that my wife pays special attention to the race when Fabian Cancellara in on the screen). Tour de France 100 retails for $35, but is available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com for under $25.

Christmas gifts - Road Bike Business Card Holder

Road Bike Business Card Holder

Since my wife didn’t think of buying one of these business card holders I had to buy them myself. I have a large desk and both of these business card holders sit on it to greet any visitors to my office (I have two different business cards so I need both holders). I purchased the Road Bike Business Card Holder (photo above) from bikegifts.net. This business card holder is 8.5″ wide, 7″ tall, and 2″ across. This holder is made of hand cut recycled steel, so no two of them are exactly alike. It is also welded and painted by hand. This item is large enough to hold about 50 business cards. I paid $40 for this holder and that is still the price listed on the bikegifts.net Website. I noticed this same item is also available on Amazon.com, but at a higher price.

Hi-Wheeler Bicycle Business Card Holder

Hi-Wheeler Bicycle Name Card Holder

If you want a smaller holder for business cards, you might like the Hi-Wheeler Bicycle Name Card Holder. I have this little holder on my desk sitting right in front of the larger holder mentioned above. This holder is made of cast metal and has a high quality pewter color plating, covered with a clear lacquer finish. This holder is approximately 2″ wide, 2.5″ tall, 3/4″ deep and holds about 50 business cards. The only place I have been able to find this item is from an Amazon.com retailer. The cost is about $17 including postage.

Park Tool Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

Park Tool Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand

Even though I am not a trained mechanic, I do a lot of work on my bikes and the Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand makes the work a lot easier to do. If your favorite cyclists does any work at all on their bike they would love to have this repair stand—even if they only use it to clean and lube their chain (something cyclists do about every 100 miles).

The height of the Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand can be adjusted from 39″ to 57″ (99cm to 145cm) and the screw clamp will adjust to fit tubes from 7/8″ to 3″ (24mm to 76mm). Park Tool claims that this model can hold up to 100 pounds (45 kg), providing the weight is centered over the legs. The PCS-10 can be folded down for easy storage, but once I set mine up in the garage I have only moved it a couple of times just to clean the area under it. The Park Tool PCS-10 Home Mechanic Repair Stand retails for around $200. If the local bike shop does not have one available you can always find it on Amazon.com. If you purchase this repair stand I would strongly suggest you also buy a Park Tool Work Tray (shown in the photo above). This is an accessory rack that fits on the repair stand and it retails for around $34. This work tray has a storage bin on one side that will hold several cans of lube and a towel rack on the other side.

Gift Certificate

Buy A Gift Certificate For Your Favorite Cyclist

If you still can’t figure out what the love of your life would like you can never go wrong with a gift certificate! If your favorite cyclist speaks in glowing terms about their local bike shop, then that is where you should go first. Most bike shops will either have an actual gift certificate available or give you a receipt showing how much “in store credit” you purchased. However, if your beloved tends to buy most of their cycling clothing online, I’d get them a gift certificate from eCyclingstore.com. This company offers decent quality merchandise and their prices are hard to beat. Their gift certificates are available in amounts from $25 to $500.

If you are a cyclist you can do one of the following: First, you can print out this article, circle the items you want and give it to your beloved (this is a lot easier than dropping hints). Second, if you are so inclined, you can list a few other gift ideas in the comment section below to help someone find the perfect gift for another cyclist.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Winter Cycling: Putting It All Together

Note: This is the final installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I am in the process of converting these articles into a PDF book that you will be able to download for free from this website.

I am often asked about what type of gear I carry with me on winter rides—the answer is not exactly cut and dry. When I am riding in urban areas I don’t carry anything more than I would in the summer. However, the further away from home I ride, or when I am on lonely off-road trails, I usually carry some extra gear. In this article I am going to suggest a few items that you might want to carry with you this winter.

Cell Phone. Going out for a bike ride in the heart of winter can be a beautiful experience—and it can also be deadly if you are not prepared. If you are riding in your neighborhood and your bike experiences a mechanical problem you can just walk it home. However, if you are 30 miles away from civilization when you break down they might not find your body until the snow melts. I carry my Apple iPhone with me on every ride I take—not just so I can call my wife if I break down, but also because there might be a time when I can’t call her at all! I use Abvio Cyclemeter iPhone app to record my rides, and when I am riding in inclement weather I also turn on the Road ID iPhone app so my wife can track me during the ride—she will even get a notification if I crash.

Road ID iPhone App For Cyclists And Runners

Road ID iPhone App

The Road ID iPhone app is very simple to set up and even easier to use. Once you download the app from the iTunes Store you input your basic information (name, address and email address), then you can select up to five of your contacts who will receive either an email or a text message when you are ready to go ride or run. The contacts you selected with get a brief message telling them that you are heading out—and in the message there is a link they can click that will allow them to see exactly where you are at any given moment while you are out (an eCrumb—an electronic breadcrumb). They can watch you on any smart phone or web browser.

The Road ID iPhone app also allows you to turn on a stationary alert—if you don’t move for five minutes the app will send an email or text message to your selected contacts advising them that you are not moving. The message does not necessarily mean that you are lying face-down in a ditch somewhere—it just means that you have not moved more than 15 feet or so in the past five minutes. However, one minute before the text message or email goes out the app will sound a loud alarm to warn you so you can cancel the message. This stationary alert cannot be adjusted to any other time-frame—it is either set at five minutes or it is turned off entirely.

This app will drain your battery a bit, but for most people it is not going to be an issue. I’ve used this app on a lot of short rides (three hours or less). Each time I started with a battery that was 100% full and when I got home after three hours the battery had only gone down by 20%—but I was also running the Abvio Cyclemeter app at the same time (I always turn off the Wi-Fi on my iPhone when heading out for a ride to prolong battery life). One other feature the Road ID iPhone app offers is that it allows you to make a personalized Lock Screen—even if your phone is locked emergency responders can see any pertinent information they need and a list of people they can call in case of an emergency.

According to the description on iTunes, this app is “compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation), and iPad. This app is optimized for iPhone 5. Requires iOS 5.0 or later.”

If you live in an area where cellphone reception is spotty (or even non-existent), you should consider a SPOT Trace device—a small electronics package (2″x3″) that uses satellite technology to track your movements and report your position. These devices start at just $100 (and basic service is just $99 a year).

Cell Phone Cover. Because cold weather will decrease the battery life on your cell phone, it is always best to keep your phone close to your body. Unfortunately, your body produces a tremendous amount of perspiration during winter rides and all of that humidity is often trapped between your body and your outer layer—and your cell phone is trapped between those two layers. You need to store your cell phone in a waterproof cover—a Ziplock bag can work in a pinch, but a more durable option is the Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case for the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5.

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

The Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case is a weatherproof case with welded edges and a dual zip-lock closure that will keep your phone happy and dry all day long. I have an iPhone 5 and always keep it in a thin polycarbonate case—and even with the case on my phone fits perfectly into the CloudCover case. In addition, the CloudCover case fits into my middle jersey pocket with room to spare. The CloudCover case has a tab on one side so you can attach a key chain or mini-carabiner to it. The case also has reflective piping so if you keep it in your panniers it will be a lot easier to find in low-light. The design of this case also serves to cushion your phone if it should happen to hit the ground.

One of the features I like best about the CloudCover case is that you can still use the iPhone camera without having to take the phone out of the case. I’ve experimented with this option several times and still cannot believe how well it works! As long as you are photographing in bright sunlight it is nearly impossible to tell that the phone was in the case when you took the photo. However, in low-light situations it is easier to tell the difference. Unfortunately, if you attempt the use the flash while taking a photograph the light will bounce off the clear plastic cover and ruin your photo.

Showers Pass also makes CloudCover cases and wallets for several other electronic devices, including: iPad, iPad Mini, Kindles, and a general purpose wallet for smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy. The Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case retails for $25 and if you ride in inclement weather that price is a steal! If your local bike shop does not carry this product you can order if it from the Showers Pass website or Amazon.com.

Rubber Gloves: While your chances of getting a flat tire while riding in the snow is fairly low, it is still possible—and if you are not prepared the experience is going to be utterly miserable! I haven’t figured out a way to change a bike tire with winter cycling gloves on, but when you take the gloves off your hands are going to freeze in a matter of minutes. In addition, most winter rides are in the snow which means that the tires are going to be wet when you work on them. Therefore, if I am traveling very far away from home I carry a pair of Ansell HyFlex CR2 Cut Resistant gloves with me. These gloves have a nylon lining and a polyurethane palm coating—they don’t have any insulation, but they will keep you hands dry if you have to change a tire, and they are pliable enough to be easy to work with. If you have a pair of winter glove liners with you they can be worn underneath the HyFlex gloves for a bit of added warmth. While these gloves are fairly thin, if you want something even thinner you could wear a disposable latex glove, like the Microflex Diamond Grip Powder-Free Gloves.

Chemical Hand, Foot And Body Warmers. One of the most useful products I’ve ever bought for winter cycling is also the cheapest—chemical hand, foot and body warmers. Chemical warmers are made by several companies, such as HotHands and Grabber. Though the exact ingredients in these warmers vary depending on the manufacturer, they all basically have the same ingredients: Iron powder, salt, water, activated charcoal and vermiculite (or cellulose). To activate these chemical warmers all you have to do is expose them to air by removing them for their packaging (sometimes you have to shake the packs for a few seconds). Once out of the package these products warm up in 15 to 30 minutes and can stay warm for four or five hours. These products are almost always advertised as being good for seven or eight hours, and under ideal circumstances they might, but that has not been my experience with most of them. Please check the expiration date on the packages before you buy them! When these warmers get old they don’t produce much heat (if any).

Chemical Hand, Foot and Body Warmers for winter cycling

Chemical Hand, Foot and Body Warmers

Chemical hand warmers are the most common type of warmer you will see at Walmart, Target and sporting good stores. They come in packages of two and each warmer measures about 2″x3″. Chemical body warmers are larger than hand warmers—they measure 4″x5.5″, and the Super HotHands Body Warmer keeps working for up to 18 hours!

Miscellaneous Items: I always a carry a container of ChapStick with me on winter rides—the cold, dry air makes my lips burn and chap. In addition, a couple of extra carb gels or energy bars are not a bad idea if you are riding very far away from home (you can burn a lot of calories while walking your bike home).

One of my favorite off-road winter rides is on the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County, Illinois. As the name suggests, the trail runs next to the Des Plaines River, and sometimes when the river is high I’m riding just a few inches from the water. I’ve never fallen into the water, but one slip of a tire could really ruin my day. So, when the river is high and there is a chance of taking an unintentional dip in the water, I carry a disposable SOL Emergency Blanket. This 56” x 84″ emergency warming blanket reflects 90% of your body heat, yet it only weighs 2.5 ounces and doesn’t take up much more room than a Clif Bar. I haven’t had to use it yet and I pray that I never do!

One Final Item: Don’t ever go out for a bike ride without your Road ID or your driver’s license. If you have an accident the emergency responders need to know how to get in touch with your family. In addition, if you are riding when the temperature is -20 Fahrenheit (-29 Celsius) sometimes you have to look at your driver’s license just so you can remember your gender.

If you are an avid winter cyclist please feel free to tell me what you think I missed on this list.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Fat Bikes, Winter Cycling

 

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Winter Cycling: Food and Drink

Note: This is the tenth installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by late November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

You probably won’t be cycling as fast or as far in the heart of winter as you would during the summer, but riding through snow and ice can burn a lot of calories. My heart rate monitor and Cyclemeter iPhone app do a decent job of calculating how many calories I burn during normal rides, but I don’t think it is possible for even the best power meter to accurately reflect the calories you burn during the winter—there are just too many variables. Even if you don’t get very thirsty during winter rides you still need to drink a lot or you will get dehydrated; and if you are going to ride for more than 90 minutes you need to take in an appropriate amount of carbohydrates (based on your speed and weight). In this article I am not going to focus on what tho eat or drink as much as I am on how to keep those items from becoming solid blocks of ice during your ride.

Klean Kanteen Bottles With A Composite Cage

Klean Kanteen Bottles With A Composite Cage

The colder it gets outside the faster your water bottle is going to freeze. The problem is not confined to your water freezing—before that happens the valve on your water bottle is probably going to freeze shut, so even if you have 18 ounces of liquid in your bottle you still won’t be able to get a drink. One solution is to use a Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle instead of the water bottle you use during the warmer months. The Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle is a 100% food-grade stainless steel bottle with high performance vacuum insulation. The folks at Klean Kanteen claim this bottle with insulate hot beverages for up to six hours, and iced drinks up to twenty-four hours. The six-hour time frame for hot beverages is accurate if the bottle is stored at room temperature, but outside in near zero degree weather it is not going to last that long. However, if will keep you liquids drinkable for at least four hours. Since this is a wide mouth bottle you never have to worry about a small valve freezing shut in the winter. However, you will need to stop your bike in order take off the cap and get a drink (that’s not uncommon in winter cycling).

The Klean Kanteen bottle will fit in most bicycle water bottle cages. However, these bottles are a bit wider than normal bicycle water bottles, and if your water bottle cage is made of aluminum it will scratch the Klean Kanteen bottle to pieces in no time at all. To keep from scratching my bottles I replaced the aluminum bottle cages on my winter bikes with a flexible composite cage. Since most composite cages have a small “lip” to keep the water bottle in place, I took a Dremel rotary tool and removed the “lip” so the bottle would slide in easier. The 20-ounce Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle retails for $28 and is available in several colors, including Black, White, Wild Raspberry, Blue, Gray and Brushed Stainless. This product comes with a lifetime warranty (see the Klean Kanteen Website for complete details).

Skratch Labs Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs Hydration Mix

Now that you know how to keep your drinks from freezing during a ride, what drink is the best to use? I enjoy hydration mixes from both Skratch Labs and Osmo Hydration—most of the their drink mixes taste great either cold or at room temperature, but very few drink mixes taste good warm. Fortunately, Skratch Labs has recently introduced a new flavor that is designed for both winter and summer use, Apples and Cinnamon, and this mix tastes great when served cold and even better hot! When mixed with hot water the flavor reminds you of a cup of warm apple cider.

Another one of my favorite winter drinks on the bike is hot tea with honey. I always use decaffeinated tea because tea has a diuretic effect and that effect is compounded with caffeine (and when the temperature is well below zero you don’t want to stop to answer the call of nature any more than is absolutely necessary). This is one time when you don’t have to be shy about how much honey you add to the tea—you need the carbs!

Honey Stinger Chocolate Waffle, Certified Kosher and Organic

Honey Stinger Organic Chocolate Waffle

For several years I’ve taken Honey Stinger Waffles with me on nearly every bike ride and can’t imagine cycling without them. If you have not tasted a Stinger Waffle your life is sad and lacking. Without the slightest bit of exaggeration, these are the best tasting items you will ever consume on a bike! Each waffle has 160 calories, offers 21 grams of carbohydrates, are all organic and certified Kosher. Two packages of waffles take up about the same amount of room in your jersey pocket as a single Clif Bar. As the outside temperature drops these waffles become brittle. The best way to keep the waffles soft is to put them in a jersey pocket under your cycling jacket. When the temperature drops to below 20 degrees (which is most of the time in the winter) I put these waffles in my jacket pocket along with a chemical hand warmer. These waffles taste great at room temperature, but when you are riding on a snowy day and pull one out of your jacket that has been warmed up, well, you have a treat fit for a king!

Hammer Gel 26-Serving Jug and Flask

Hammer Gel 26-Serving Jug and 5-Ounce Flask

I don’t normally like using carb gels in the winter because they are too hard to open with gloves or mitts on—and I hate taking off my gloves before I get home from the ride. However, Hammer Gel not only sells their product in individual packages, but also a 26-serving jug of gel for $20 (this comes out to just .77¢ per serving). You can use the gel from the jug to fill your own flask—but the Hammer Gel 5-Ounce Flask is your best bet—it is made of high-density polyethylene and has molded finger tip groves. This flask is incredibly easy to use while on the bike—I can get the gel out faster from the flask than I ever could with a single-serving package. In addition, small packages usually spill a few drops of sticky gel into my jerseys, but the flask seals lock-tight and you won’t spill a drop! I have been carrying this flask in the vest pocket on my jacket—when it gets colder I’ll add a chemical hand warmer to the pocket.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2013 in Sports Nutrition, Winter Cycling

 

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Winter Cycling: Favorite Fat Bike Accessories

Note: This is the ninth installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by late November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

StemCAPtain Stem Cap Thermometer For Bicycles

StemCAPtain Stem Cap Thermometer

Most of the items mentioned in this article are designed for Fat Bikes, but the StemCAPtain Stem Cap Thermometer is a cool accessory you can add to almost any bike! StemCAPtain is a small business based in Grand Junction, Colorado that specializes in quality bicycle accessories. Their product line centers around items that replace the stem cap on your bike with a small accessory base so you can put a clock, picture frame, compass, bottle opener, or a thermometer where the stem cap used to be.

Installation of StemCAPtain weatherproof thermometer was very simple—all you have to do is remove the old 1″ or 1-1/8″ threadless headset stem cap from your bike and replace it with the provided anodized aluminum base. The base of the StemCAPtain thermometer is available in six colors: Black, Red, Blue, Green Pink, or Gold. You also have a choice of two dial colors (Black or White).

The temperature range on the thermometer goes from -15 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit (-26 to 57 C). While this is a very wide temperature range, I wish it went down a bit further—winter cyclists often ride in temperatures down to -40 F (or colder). The StemCAPtain Stem Cap Thermometer retails for $25 and I ordered mine from the StemCAPtain Website. However, this product should also be available at any local bike shop that orders from Quality Bicycle Products (QBP).

Accu-Gage Low Pressure Presta Tire Gauge for Fat Bikes

Accu-Gage Presta Tire Gauge

Those of us who spend winter riding in the snow on Fat Bikes usually try to keep our tire pressure between 5 and 10 psi. Unfortunately, very few tire gauges are accurate as such low pressures. The good news is that Accu-Gage has a professional grade low pressure tire gauge for Presta valves, and this puppy is dead-on accurate every time! Those mammoth tires on bikes like the Surly Pugsley have a maximum tire pressure of only 30 psi, but most of us never inflate them past 15 psi, even if we are running on pavement. While the tire pressure gauge on your floor pump might be correct at higher pressures, I have found them to be very unreliable at lower pressures. You might think that a digital tire gauge would be the best alternative, but cold temperatures have a great impact on their accuracy—and some of us like to ride even when the temperature is well below zero.

These gauges are fully geared and have a precision movement with a bronze Bourdon tube. The piston-plunger gauges on most bicycle pumps are affected by changes in temperature and humidity, but gauges with a Bourdon tube (like the Accu-Gage) are not. Also, since you don’t need batteries for this gauge you don’t have to worry about the battery dying in the cold like they often do in digital gauges. The Accu-Gage Low Pressure Tire Gauge is a 2″ dual scale dial tire gauge with a maximum pressure reading of 30 psi (calibrated and is accurate to within .5 psi). You should be able to get the Accu-Gage Low Pressure Tire Gauge (model #RPR30BX) from your local bike shop for around $13. Unfortunately, this item is temporarily out of stock, but will be back in 2014.

Dave’s Mud Shovel Fat Bike Fenders

Dave’s Mud Shovel Fat Bike Fenders

The wide tires on a Fat Bike can throw more mud than a Chicago politician in a tight race. Fortunately, Portland Design Works sells both front and rear fenders that are specially made for Fat Bikes. Dave’s Mud Shovel rear fender is 5.5″ wide by 22.5″ long and attaches to your seatpost with a small adjustable clamp (like the one some bicycle taillights use). It’s possible that a little mud or snow will find a way around the fender, but to me it seems like it stops about 99% of it.

Portland Design Works Mud Shovel Front Fender

Portland Design Works Mud Shovel Front Fender

Dave’s Mud Shovel front fender attaches to your bike’s down tube with two sturdy rubber fasteners. This fender is 6.5″ wide by 19.5″ long and will help keep your bottom bracket and crank sprockets clean. To get to my favorite off-road trails I have to ride my bike over a couple of miles of surface streets and when there is a lot of slush on the roads my legs get really wet—this fender seems to block a lot of road spray.

Both of these fenders are very flexible and at first I wasn’t sure about their durability. However, after a lot of miles on sand, mud and snowy off-road trails I can honestly say that these fenders far exceeded my expectations. As an added bonus, if you ever have an unplanned dismount (crash is such an ugly word) these fenders will probably escape totally unharmed. The rear Mud Shovel retails for $28, and the front Mud Shovel for $20. Both of these items are available from the Portland Design Works Website. You can also buy these fenders from your local bike shop.

Quick Tip #1: The Mud Shovel is easy to clean once you get home, but there is an easy way to keep mud and snow from sticking to your fenders in the first place—just coat the bottom of the fenders with PAM no-stick cooking spray before you go out for a ride. The PAM will wear off after every ride, but it does an incredible job of keeping crud from sticking to your fenders.

Quick Tip #2: Buy your own can of PAM—don’t take the one your wife has in the kitchen cabinet. Apparently some wives don’t approve of you taking items from the pantry out into the garage (or so I’ve heard).

Bad News: The front Mud Shovel is so wide that you can not use it if you have a Salsa Anything Cage attached to your front fork. The problem is that if you have anything in your Salsa Anything Cage (like in the photo below) it will hit the front Mud Shovel when you make a tight turn. However, if you don’t mind trimming the fender with a cutting knife I am sure you could make it work.

Outdoor Research #2 Water Bottle Parka

Outdoor Research #2 Water Bottle Parka with Salsa Anything Cage on Front Fork

One of the many challenges winter cyclists face is trying to keep their water bottles from freezing on long rides. Riding three or four hours in freezing temperatures is not all that difficult, but having to swallow a slushy cold sports drink doesn’t exactly make you feel warm inside! While there are several good ways to keep the contents of your water bottle warm, the Outdoor Research Water Bottle Parka is one of the best I’ve tried. This parka is a container made of a water-resistant, coated nylon fabric with a polyester knit lining. The closed-cell foam insulation in this parka does a tremendous job at keeping the temperature of the liquid in your bottles steady. I have not tested this product to its limits, but after five hours outside with the temperature in the single digits my drinks are still plenty warm.

Outdoor Research Water Bottle Parka

Water Bottle Parka with a 20-ounce Camelbak

The Water Bottle Parka comes in three sizes. Size #1 is for water bottles like the 1L Nalgene. Size #2 fits a .5L Nalgene or 21-ounce Camelbak Podium Chill bottle (like the one you probably use in the water bottle cage on your bike). Size #3 fits bottles like the 40-ounce Klean Kanteen, the 40-ounce CamelBak or the 1L Sigg. I use the Size #2 and it is 12.25 inches tall and 3.75 inches wide (exterior dimensions).

The biggest challenge to using the Water Bottle Parka for winter biking is finding a good way to attach it to your bike. The Water Bottle Parka comes with a reinforced nylon strap with a hook and loop closure, so you could just attach it to your handlebars. However, if you ride in the winter you probably already have a rack of some sort on your bike that you could use. I use two Salsa Anything Cages mounted to the front forks of my Surly Necromancer Pugs. The Outdoor Research #2 Water Bottle Parka is available in two colors (Red or Dark Grey), and retails for $24. This is not the type of product you are likely to find at your local bike shop, but you can order them from Amazon.com if you can’t find them at a local sporting goods store.

Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

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 gels, a spare inner tube and air pump. However, when I ride in the winter I tend to carry a few more items with me (more on that in another article). The Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag and it is one of the best pieces of cycling equipment I’ve ever purchased. 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.

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). 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.  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. Revelate Designs is located in Anchorage, Alaska. 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.

Revelate Designs Gas Tank for Fat Bikes

Revelate Designs Gas Tank (Top Tube Bag)

Revelate Designs also has a smaller top tube bag, the Revelate Designs Gas Tank. The Gas Tank is a small zippered bag that mounts on the top tube of your bike and allows for one-handed access while riding. This bag is made of high-tech outdoor weight sailcloth and is lined with a bright yellow fabric so you can see the contents even in low-light situations. The Gas Tank is fully padded with closed cell foam and has a hook and loop interior divider so you can arrange the contents of the bag as you want. The Gas Tank is extremely lightweight—it only weighs 3.5 ounces. As for dimensions, the standard bag is 9″ long and at the stem it is 5″ high by 2.5″ wide, and it tapers down in the back to 1.5″ tall by 1.5″ wide along the top tube. The Gas Tank retails for $55 and is available from the Revelate Designs Website.

 

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Winter Cycling: How To Keep Your Hands Warm

Note: This is the fifth installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, “A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

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 the inside of the gloves turns 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. I have included the temperature range that I recommend for each of these gloves, but your personal preferences might not be the same as mine.

Planet Bike Orion Gel Full Finger Cycling Gloves

Planet Bike Orion Gel Full Finger Cycling Gloves

50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 16 Celsius): 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. 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

40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (4 to 10 Celsius): For this temperature range I prefer 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 $70. I often use a very thin liner under these gloves and that allows me to use them in even cooler weather. As for sizing, these gloves run a bit tight. If you are ordering these online make sure you order them at least one size larger than normal.

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

Planet Bike Borealis Winter Cycling Gloves

30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to 4 Celsius): 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.

Quick Tip #1: The best way to find the right size for your winter gloves is to go into a bike shop and find one that fits you hands, then buy the next size larger glove. You always want your winter gloves to have a loose fit—the air pocket between the glove and your skin provides excellent insulation. Tight gloves in winter leads to frostbite (or worse).

Quick Tip #2: Many winter cyclists, runners and skiers leave their wet gloves sitting on top of the heat register on the floor to dry out—and this is certainly a lot faster than just leaving them on a table to dry. However, forced air has a tendency to not only dry gloves, but shrink them as well. If you exercise outdoors in the winter your gloves are going to get wet inside and a thermal convection boot and glove dryer will dry your gloves out in just a few hours, but will not cause them to shrink. Thermal convection boot and glove dryer are available at most sporting goods stores and retail for around $45.

There comes a time when even the best winter cycling gloves just can’t keep your hands warm anymore. Fortunately, there are mittens that attach to the handlebars on your bike that allow you to wear lightweight gloves in even the coldest of weather while your hands stay toasty warm—and they also block the wind better than any glove can. The three best-known brands of these handlebar mittens are Bar Mitts, Moose Mitts and Bike Poagies. I own a few pairs of each of these brands and use all of them (but not at the same time).

One of the biggest mistakes people new to winter cycling make is wearing clothing that is too tight—this impedes blood circulation and ends up making your colder. Layered, loose clothing allows warm pockets of air to form around you and give an extra insulating layer (it works on the same principle as a sleeping bag). If you ride in temperatures below freezing you really need to buy one (or more) of these products—there is no reason to have cold fingers on winter rides! I usually start using these mitts when the temperature is around 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 Celsius).

Bar Mitts For Mountain Bikes

Bar Mitts For Mountain Bikes

0 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 to -4 Celsius): Bar Mitts attach to your handle bars with a simple Velcro cinch and can stay on all winter long without any problem. Once installed you can put your gloved hands into the mitts and ride in some of the worst weather possible without worrying about frostbite. I ride with my “fall gloves” (gloves I use when the temperature is between 40 and 50 degrees) even when the temperature is in the teens. Bar Mitts give you much more control over your bike since you are wearing thinner gloves (plus you can actually find your energy bars and gels by touch). Getting out of the mitts while riding is no problem.

Bar Mitts are made of 5.5mm thick neoprene (a synthetic rubber used in wetsuits) and has nylon laminated on each side. Bar Mitts are available for both road and mountain bikes and retail for $65 a pair (with free shipping within the contiguous United States). The folks at Bar Mitts ship their products out very quickly—I’ve ordered twice from them and both times the items arrived within five days after ordering.

Bar Mitts For Road Bikes for cold weather cycling

Bar Mitts For Road Bikes

The mitts for flat bars fit most mountain bikes, commuter bikes, and Townies. They also have a style available for road bikes with drop bars—one style is for the older Shimano style (externally routed cables), and another is for Campy, SRAM, the newer Shimano style (internally routed cables). The drop bar version of Bar Mitts only protects your hands when you are riding with them on the hoods (you have no protection when you hands are on the drops or flats). Bar Mitts retail for $65 a pair and the company offers free shipping within the contiguous United States (International shipping is also available).

Hunter Orange Moose Mitts

Hunter Orange HiVis Moose Mitts

-20 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 to -9 Celsius): Moose Mitts for Flat Bars (most mountain bikes) are made of thick 1000 denier Cordura, a sturdy and abrasion resistant material, and are lined on the inside with heavy fleece. The outside is coated with a windproof and waterproof membrane—it also has a decent amount of reflective material so cars can see you better at night. On the inside of the Moose Mitts there is a small internal pocket where you can put chemical hand warmers or use them as a storage area for your energy bars. One nice feature of Moose Mitts is the Velcro closure on the bottom of the mitts that allow you to close the mitts and keep the heat in if you stop to take a photograph or “nature break.”

Moose Mitts for winter cycling with your hands on the drops, flats, or hoods

Moose Mitts For Road Bikes

Moose Mitts also come in a road bike version for drop bars and, like the MTB version, are made of thick 1000 Denier Cordura and lined on the inside with heavy fleece. They are both windproof and waterproof. These mitts are attached to your handlebars by an elastic ring that goes over the bottom of your drops, a strip of Velcro on the top, and another strip of Velcro around your cables. There is also a strip of 3M reflective tape on the top of the mitts. The drop bar version of Moose Mitts allow you to ride your road bike with you hands in any of the three standard positions (on the drops, hoods, or flats). At first glance Moose Mitts look about as aerodynamic as a bookcase. However, I’ve ridden with them into 30 MPH headwinds without any trouble. In fact, and this is a very subjective opinion, I think the Moose Mitts create less drag than you would have with a pair of lobster gloves on.

Moose Mitts are hand-made in the U.S.A., but they are only manufactured during the winter months, so if you want a pair you need to order them soon—shipping can be a little slow if everyone decides to wait until the first snowfall to order. The mountain bike standard black sells for $70. The drop bar version of Moose Mitts sells for $75. They offer free shipping in the United States (Shipping to Canada is available).

Bike Poagies, manufactured by Dogwood Designs

Bike Poagies For Mountain Bikes

-40 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 to -12 Celsius): Bike Poagies are manufactured and sold by Dogwood Designs, a small business in Fairbanks, Alaska (and those folks know what cold weather is really like). Bike Poagies fit over standard straight bar bicycle handlebars and allow you to slip your gloved hands in and ride in warmth and comfort. They have a durable nylon shell on the outside, polyester insulation in the middle, and a nylon taffeta lining. There is also a lightweight internal skeleton to make sure the Poagies hold their shape.

To attach Poagies to your bike you just slide them over your handlebar and then cinch them down around the bar with the attached elastic strap. There is also a gusset where you put your hands into the Poagies that you can close to keep the cold air out. However, I leave mine open most of the time because my hands get too warm when the Poagies are sealed up too tightly. If your bike has bar ends (like the Ergon GC3 Handlebar Grips) these Poagies will fit over them perfectly and allow you to still use several different hand positions. Bike Poagies are roomy enough that you can store a couple of energy bars or gels in them to keep them warm (or a chemical hand warmer if needed).

Standard Bike Poagies are good down to around -15 Fahrenheit. Dogwood Designs also offers Poagies Plus which are supposed to be good down to around -40 (I’ve never had a chance to try these out for myself). Both versions of Poagies are available with an optional reflective trim if you have to share your route with either cars or snowmobiles.

Bike Poagies sell for $98, and the Poagies Plus for $150. The optional reflective trim is an additional $12. Both versions of Poagies are available in an unbelievable seventeen different colors: Red, Royal Blue, Yellow, Neon Green, Hot Pink, Safety Orange, Electric Watermelon, Purple, Gold, Forest Green, Charcoal, Light Gray, Navy, Kelly Green, Chocolate Brown, Olive Green, and All Black. The cost for shipping to U.S. addresses is around $12 ($25 to Canadian addresses). The folks at Dogwood Designs do not have a Website. However, you can email them at dogwooddesigns@gci.net for a current brochure (they will send it to you as a PDF file).

Quick Tip #3: If you store your bike in an unheated garage (like most of us do) you can quickly warm up the inside of the mitts with a handheld hair dryer before you go on your ride (it just takes about 30 seconds per mitt). I bought a cheap hair dryer for a local drug store for under $10.00.

Quick Tip #4: If it is really cold outside you can toss disposable chemical hand warmers into any of these mitts and they will do an even better job of keeping you warm.

 

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