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Cat-Ears Wind Noise Reduction For Cyclists (Product Review and Giveaway)

Cycling on windy days can be a challenge for even the most dedicated of cyclists. A strong headwind will make your legs think you are climbing Alpe d’Huez during a stage of the Tour de France. Cross winds make it difficult to keep your bike upright—sometimes you have to lean into the wind so much to keep you bike upright it can rattle your nerves. Regardless of what direction the wind is coming from you are going to have difficulty hearing anything because of the noise the wind creates—conversing with fellow riders or hearing cars coming up behind you is extremely difficult. The folks at Cat-Ears created a neat little device that attaches to the straps of your bike helmet to reduce wind noise—and two lucky readers are going to win a pair of Cat-Ears to try out for themselves.

Cat-Ears Wind Noise Reduction For Cyclists

Cat-Ears—Wind Noise Reduction For Cyclists

A few weeks ago I was watching The Tour of California on TV. During the fourth stage of the race one of the announcers said that they were experiencing “incredible winds” of up to 25 KPH (15 MPH). I nearly fell over laughing! I live north of Chicago (“The Windy City”) and ride in stronger winds than that several days a week. As a result, I am always looking for products that will help me ride on windy days.

Cat-Ears are one of the coolest, albeit strangest looking, products I’ve ever reviewed. They are made of small pieces of faux fur and polyester fleece. Cat-Ears wrap around the straps of your helmet and are held in place by a small piece of Velcro. Cat-Ears got their name because they were designed after the pieces of fur in the ears of a normal house cat. When properly attached to your helmet Cat-Ears disrupt the flow of air around your ears and allow you to hear a lot better on windy days. When riding at very low speeds (12 MPH or below) you probably won’t notice any difference when using Cat-Ears, but the faster you ride the more effective they are.

Close-up of Cat-Ears

Close-up of Cat-Ears

Cat-Ears is based in Boulder, Colorado and all of their products are made in the U.S.A. (I always love it when I can say that about a product). After writing about a new product I am often asked, “Do they ship to my country?” According to the folks at Cat-Ears, about 20% of their business is international and they have shipped products to: Spain, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Taiwan, Belgium, Netherlands, Slovenia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Austria, New Zealand, Italy, and Romania. If you would like to order a pair of Cat-Ears for yourself you can visit the Cat-Ears website—they retail for around $14 to $16 a pair and come in Black, White or Grey.

The folks at Cat-Ears gave me a few extra sets of their product to give away, so if you would like a chance to win a pair of them then leave a comment below telling me why you need them. I have a pair of white Cat-Ears for a female cyclist and a black pair for a male cyclist. The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, June 14, 2013. After the contest closes I will read through the comments and choose the two winners based solely on my mood at the time (humor is highly encouraged). If you don’t need this product yourself you are free to comment on other entries. So I can remain impartial until the contest is over I will not be responding the comments. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. I will send this product to the winners via U.S. Mail at my expense. Good luck!

 

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Performance Toesties Toe Covers For Cyclists

If you want to keep your toes warm while cycling on a chilly morning you need to buy a pair of toe covers. While there are many good toe covers for cycling shoes on the market, the Performance Toesties covers are probably the least expensive. Sadly, they are also an example of getting what you pay for.

Performance Toesties Toe Covers For Cyclists

Performance Toesties Toe Covers

Performance Toesties are made of neoprene fabric and are both windproof and waterproof. These covers fit over the end of your cycling shoes, even if you are wearing cleats, and actually do a decent job of blocking the wind and keeping your toes warm. Because the covers are thin you can easily put them in your jersey pocket when you don’t need them. I’ve used them with both Look Keo and Shimano SPD cleats.

Performance Toesties Toe Covers For Cyclists

Performance Toesties lack any form of reinforcement on the bottom

The major downside of Performance Toesties is that there is no reinforcement on the bottom of the covers. If you walk very much at all in these covers the neoprene will start to shred. Not only that, but every time you clip in you will probably do a bit of damage to the covers—it doesn’t take long for them to wear out completely. I look at these covers as being disposable after a dozen or so rides.

Performance Toasties retail for $15 and are available at Performance Bicycle (both online and in their brick and mortar stores). The covers are available in four sizes: S (6.5-8.5), M (8.5-10), L (10-11.5), and XL (11.5+). I have found these covers run a bit on the small size, so you might want to order one size larger than your shoe size.

In my opinion the best toe covers on the market are the Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers. These covers are a bit more expensive, but I think you will get a lot more use out of them.

 

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Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers For Winter Biking

When most people think about Planet Bike the first thing that comes into their minds is their famous Superflash Turbo Tail Light. However, this year they have introduced some of the best winter cycling gear on the market—their new Borealis Winter Cycling Gloves are the best pair of winter gloves I’ve ever owned. They also offer an excellent line of toe and shoe covers that should meet the needs of most (but not all) winter cyclists.

Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers for winter bike rides

Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers

If you are looking for one of the warmest shoe covers on the market, I would suggest you try the new Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers. This shoe cover is made of a windproof fabric with microfleece lining and a neoprene front panel around the toe box. While all suggested temperature ranges for winter clothing will vary from cyclist to cyclist, I would recommend them for temperatures from 20 to 35 degrees (Fahrenheit).

The bottom of these shoe covers is well designed and can be used with just about any cleat or pedal platform available. Like the Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers, the back of these covers is secured with a wide Velcro strip which makes the covers adjustable for different sizes. These covers also have reflective side logos for better visibility in low light conditions. Planet Bike offers these shoe covers in five different sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XXL). The small cover will fit a man’s size 6.5 shoe (40 European) and the XXL will fit a man’s 11.5+ shoe (46+ European).

While the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers should be sufficient for most cyclists, if you want to use them in even colder weather here are a few suggestions that will help. First, remove the insoles that came with your cycling shoes and put in a pair of 3M Thinsulate Thermal Insoles (available at most sporting goods stores). Next, instead of one pair of thick socks buy a pair of Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Wool Socks—these socks are fairly thin, but they offer great insulation and wick away moisture like crazy. As the temperature drops, add a pair of sock liners under your thermal socks (you might have to go to a sporting goods store to find these—bike shops seldom carry them). If your feet are still cold, buy a pair of neoprene toe gators (available on Amazon.com). Toe gators are very thin pouches that you put over your toes (under your socks). Finally, if you really want to heat things up, put a pair of HeatMax Toasti Toes Foot Warmers (available on Amazon.com) under your toes. These chemical toe warmers have an adhesive backing so they will stick to the bottom of your socks and they give off heat for over six hours. If you do these things you might be able to go all winter without ever needing a pair of expensive cycling boots (they average about $300 a pair). However, if you like to go out and ride when the temperature is in the single digits (and who doesn’t?), then you really do need winter cycling boots.

Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers have a retail price of $45, but you can find them on Amazon.com for around $40.

 

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Planet Bike Borealis Winter Cycling Gloves

This past April I picked up a pair of Planet Bike Borealis Winter Cycling Gloves on clearance at a brick-and-mortar REI store. However, before I got a chance to use this glove Planet Bike updated it so I bought a new pair a few weeks ago for review purposes. To call this glove an “update” doesn’t do it justice. About the only thing the 2011 Borealis glove has in common with the older version is the name. The older model of this glove appeared to be OK, but the new version is absolutely the best winter cycling glove I’ve ever owned!

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

Planet Bike Borealis Winter Cycling Gloves

The Borealis glove has a windproof back panel that works incredibly well. Some cyclists try to ride in the winter with a warm pair of gloves they bought at a sporting goods store. However, a glove that was created for a hunter walking through the woods is not designed to block the wind like a glove made for cyclists. It doesn’t matter how warm the glove is if it can’t block the wind your hands are going to freeze.

The first time I rode with these gloves was on a 29 degree day with the wind blowing at 29 MPH. Since I was on my road bike the first 15 miles of the ride was directly into the wind. If you have ever cycled on a day like that you know there are very few gloves that could keep your hands warm. The Borealis glove functioned perfectly and kept me warm the entire ride.

As you can see in the photo above, the Borealis is a lobster claw glove, i.e., both your little finger and ring finger are in the same opening. This arrangement is meant to keep your fingers warm (and it works).

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.

Personally, I would never ride with just the fleece liner since it does not have gel padding on the palms (plus I have a lot of other cycling gloves at my disposal). I think the best thing about this glove is that on a cold day you can stop and take the outer shell off as you grab a bite to eat or adjust your bike and still keep the fleece liner on. The ability to remove the fleece liner will really make a difference in the way you cycle in the winter. When you get home from a ride you can easily pull the liner out of the glove which will allow it to quickly dry. One of the biggest problems with most other winter cycling gloves is that they take forever to dry out (unless you use a boot and glove dryer).

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.

If I could change one thing on this glove it would be the lack of gel padding in the palms. This is not going to be a problem for most people since the fleece liner does cushion your hands, but for those of us who spend a lot of time riding in the winter extra padding would be appreciated. The glove does have a reinforced Serino palm, but it lacks gel padding. This glove is water-resistant, not waterproof (unless you are trying to make snowballs it won’t make any difference).

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. If you choose to order this glove from an online retailer make sure you ask for the new 2011 glove with the removable liner, not the model from last winter.

When the temperature drops down to below 25 degrees I would suggest the Pearl Izumi Barrier Lobster Gloves, or better yet, buy a pair of Bar Mitts that fit over your handlebars so you can ride with the Borealis glove all winter long.

 

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Seirus Combo Clava (Fleece Lined Face Mask)

If you look in any cycling catalog you will quickly see that there is no shortage of balaclavas available. However, my favorite balaclava isn’t cycling specific. The Seirus Combo Clava is usually sold as a balaclava for alpine skiing, snowboarding and hiking, but it is my absolute favorite for winter cycling.

Seirus Combo Clava Balaclava

Seirus Combo Clava For Winter Cycling

The Seirus Combo Clava is lightweight, extremely warm, quick drying and highly breathable. The main body of this clava is made of Polartec fleece and the smaller face mask part is made of contoured Neofleece. Neofleece is really five layers rolled into one. The first layer is the outer shell, the second is a waterproof liner, and under that is fleece lined Neoprene, followed by Thermolite insulation and finally a wicking Microfleece lining next to your skin.

The Seirus Combo Clava fits great under most bike helmets. Out of all the balaclavas I own this one produces the least amount of fogging on my glasses. In fact, the only time it ever produces any fog is when I have to stop. The easiest way to deal with this is to pull the face mask down under your nose when you stop. While your mouth will be covered with the face mask part, I have found it to be easy to breathe through due to the holes in the mask.

Some people prefer to have their balaclavas tucked inside the neck of their jackets. Personally, I like a balaclava to sit on the outside of my jacket (I think it holds the heat in better). After a long ride the face mask part will be a bit wet, so allow it to dry before your next ride.

This balaclava is available in three sizes (ES, SM/MD and LG/XL). To determine the size you need just measure the circumference of your head just below your nose. The SM/MD size fits 20–24 inches and LG/XL size fits 22–26 inches.

The Seirus Combo Clava retails for around $30. I purchased mine from a Dick’s Sporting Goods (a brick and mortar store), but they are also available at many online stores as well, such as REI.com and Amazon.com.

 

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Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers For Winter Cycling

You don’t have to hang up your bike when cold weather comes if you wear the right jacket, gloves and footwear. Several companies offer excellent shoe covers for cyclists, but the one I would recommend for temperatures from 25 to 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) is the Planet Bike Comet Shoe Cover.

Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers

Planet Bike Comet Full Neoprene Shoe Covers

Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers are made of neoprene and offer great wind and water resistance. Neoprene is the same material used in wetsuits and not only is it waterproof, but it offers excellent insulation. I’ve spent several hours riding with these shoe covers in both snow and rain and not a drop of water has soaked through this material.

These covers will fit almost any cleat/pedal platform you can throw at it. I’ve used these covers on my MTB shoes with Crank Brothers Egg Beater cleats and on my road shoes with Look Keo cleats. The bottom of these covers is made of a very rugged material, so you don’t have to worry if you run into a convenience store while out on a long ride. In the winter my MTB shoes have toe spikes and there is enough room between the toe box retention strap and the front of the shoe cover for these toe spikes to fit in easily.

As I said earlier, I like these shoe covers for temperatures between 25 and 40 degrees. However, your comfort level might vary—not only because of personal comfort zones, but because cycling shoes have a great deal of variation in the amount of ventilation they provide. While riding with the Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers the one place my feet did get cool was on my sole because there is no insulation there (this is true of every brand of shoe cover you find). The best way to overcome this is to replace your regular insoles with 3M Thinsulate Thermal Insoles (available at most sporting goods stores).

The back of these covers is secured with a wide Velcro strip which not only makes the covers adjustable for different sizes, but if your feet get too warm you can open up the top a bit to let some air in. These covers also have reflective side logos for better visibility to motorists.

Planet Bike offers these shoe covers in five different sizes. The small cover will fit a man’s size 6.5 shoe (40 European) and the XXL will fit a man’s 11.5+ shoe (46+ European). Planet Bike has a size chart available on their Website if you are not sure what size you need. I have found the listed sizes to be accurate, but if you are on the border between two sizes go for the larger one (tight clothing in the winter is a very bad idea). I wear size 11.5 cycling shoes and these covers fit perfectly and have a bit of room to spare. Nearly every other brand of shoe cover I have ever purchased was too small to fit my feet (the Bike Nashbar brand shoe covers run about two sizes smaller than advertised).

These shoe covers come with a limited lifetime warranty against defects in material or workmanship (see the Planet Bike Website for complete details). The warranty does not cover normal wear and tear, but they are very well made and I think you should get many years of use out of them.

Planet Bike Comet Shoe Covers retail for around $40, but you can save a few dollars by purchasing them online. If you are riding in temperatures above 40 degrees I would recommend the Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers (my all-time favorite toe cover). For temperatures below 30 degrees I would recommend the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers.

 

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North Face Montana HyVent Gloves

Last winter I purchased a lot of winter cycling gloves in the hope that I would eventually find a pair that could keep my hands warm. Along the way I bought a lot bad gloves, but I also found a few products that you probably won’t see in any cycling catalog. The North Face Montana Gloves are designed with snow skiers in mind, but mountain bikers and commuters could also benefit from them.

North Face Montana HyVent Winter Gloves

North Face Montana HyVent Gloves

North Face Montana Gloves are well insulated, waterproof, and very breathable. The outer shell is made of HyVent and the lining inside is made of brushed tricot. This glove has a “Storm Door” cuff gasket and a ladderlock wrist cinch that seals up the glove to keep the heat in and the cold out. There is also a soft chamude nose wipe on both thumbs.

I used these gloves last year for riding off-road trails in temperatures from around 25 degrees to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. While these gloves are great for off-road use or commuting, I think roadies should stay away from them because they are not windproof. Since you are generally moving a lot faster on the roads than on the trails the wind has a greater impact on roadies.

On the back of this glove you will find a zippered stash pocket where you can insert a chemical hand warmer. Most chemical warmers cost around a dollar a pair and last for up to eight hours each. This zippered pocket is what drew my attention to this glove in the first place. I buy chemical hand warmers in bulk and use them all winter long. Sometimes I put them in my jacket pockets to keep my carbohydrate gels from freezing when I am out on long rides.

As with all winter cycling gloves I would suggest you buy these in a size larger than you would normally wear. Not only will loose gloves keep you warmer that tight ones, but the extra space will allow you to wear a thin pair of glove liners so you can venture out in even colder temperatures.

Like all winter gloves the Montana will soak up perspiration on the inside of the gloves and will have to dry out before you can use them again. The best way to take care of this problem is to buy a boot and glove dryer so your gloves can dry out overnight. Just a bit of moisture in your gloves can ruin a ride!

I purchased my pair of North Face Montana HyVent Gloves at Dick’s Sporting Goods (a brick and mortar store). You can also find them online at numerous sites, such as REI.com, Moosejaw.com and BackCountry.com. The gloves retail for around $60 and if you can work them into your training routine I think they are worth the price.

 

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