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Louis Garneau Neo Protect Cycling Shoe Cover

The Louis Garneau Neo Protect Cycling Shoe Cover allows you to wear your summer cycling shoes in temperatures well below freezing. Cleat openings on the bottom of the cover make it compatible with most pedal systems used in both road and MTB shoes (I’ve used these covers with Look Keo, Shimano SPD and Crank Brothers Egg Beater cleats).

Louis Garneau Neo Protect Cycling Shoe Cover

Louis Garneau Neo Protect Cycling Shoe Cover

I used these covers on at least 20 rides last year that were longer than three hours each and they kept my feet warm down to around 20 degrees. I need to mention that this protection was provided with the aid of some nice wool cycling socks and Grabber Toe Warmers Heating Packs (these disposable warmers cost about a dollar a pair and are available on Amazon.com and at most sporting goods stores).

Garneau’s Website claims this cover “protects your feet from the wet and extremely cold temperatures,” and this mostly true. You should not have any trouble wearing these covers in snow or light rain, but they are not waterproof—your feet will get wet in a heavy rain. These covers also give great protection from the wind.

This shoe cover is made from 3-mm neoprene and closes in the back with a thick strip of Velcro. There are several shoe covers on the market that close with a zipper and I have not had much success with any of them. The reflective logos on this shoe cover add some visibility, but because of their position on the top of the cover I don’t think this is much of a selling point.

The Louis Garneau Neo Protect Cycling Shoe Cover is available in four sizes: Small (39-41), Medium (41.5-43), Large (43.5-45), XL (45.5-50). The sizing on these covers is good, but I would recommend you buy a size larger than you normally wear so you can get them on easier. This product retails for $20 and is certainly worth the price.

 

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Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

When the temperature drops down below 50 degrees it’s time to put away the knee warmers and get out the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights. I started wearing these tights last year and they are awesome! For temperatures between 28 and 50 degrees I don’t think you will find a better pair of cycling tights.

These tights are made with a very breathable wind-resistant fabric on the outside combined with a thin layer of thermal fleece on the inside. The fabric is about as close to magic as you will find—it wicks moisture away from the skin to keep you warm, dry and happy! While these pants are not rainproof they are definitely water-resistant. I often ride half-centuries (50 miles) in these tights during light rain without any trouble.

You can buy this tight either with or without a chamois. I would definitely buy one with Pearl Izumi’s Elite 3D Chamois since it is the same chamois that is in the Pearl Izumi Elite Cycling Shorts, which is what I ride in all summer. This chamois has 13mm of variable-density microfiber padding coupled with active carbon yarns to help reduce odors. Within the past 12 months I have cycled over 6,000 miles and 99% of those miles have been while riding with this chamois. This chamois was designed with Pressure Relief Technology (PRT) for riding comfort and improved blood flow and I think they ended up with a perfect design!

At the bottom of these tights you will find an 8-inch ankle zipper so the tights are very easy to put on (or take off). The zipper has a lockable tab to keep it closed. The tights also have silicone ankle grippers to keep the tights in place. You will also find reflective piping and logos on the legs to help motorists see you better at night.

These tights are solid black, but you will notice in the photograph I played around with the lighting a bit so you could see a few of the 16 different panels that this pair of tights is composed of. The panel behind the knees is thinner to allow for needed ventilation and better leg movement.

The quality of these tights is superb! As for fit, I would say they are true to size. However, if you are on the border between two sizes I would definitely go with the larger size. Tight clothing in the winter is never a good idea.

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights retail for $125, but you can save a few dollars by buying them from Amazon.com. If you enjoy riding when the temperature is between zero and 30 degrees (and who doesn’t?), I would suggest you buy a pair of Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights.

 

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Planet Bike Dasher Windproof Toe Covers

Toe warmers are intended to allow you to ride in cool weather with your summer cycling shoes. I own at least a dozen pair of toe warmers for my cycling shoes—some good, some bad, some worthless. A few weeks ago I ordered a pair of Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers from Amazon.com. As I opened the package the room I was in grew brighter, a choir of angels started singing the Hallelujah chorus, and all seemed right in the world. OK, that might have been a bit of hyperbole, but this is not: this is the best designed pair of shoe covers I have ever seen!

Planet Bike Dasher Windproof Toe Covers

Planet Bike Dasher Windproof Toe Covers

What makes the Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers so great? Well, they started with a windproof fabric on the outside coupled with a microfleece lining on the inside. By itself, this is nothing special—nearly every brand of toe covers has a similar fabric. What makes these toe covers stand out is the elastic heel strap that keeps these covers in place. Most toe covers are held in place by an elastic band around the end of the cover. Most elastic bands suffer form one of two problems: either they are so tight you can’t get them over your shoe or they are so loose they won’t stay on. The heel strap on the Dasher allows the cover to easily slide onto your shoe and then keeps it in place as you ride.

The bottom of the Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers have cut-out guides for both SPD and road cleats (I use Look Keo cleats). If you own both type of cleats you could use the larger road cleat cut-out area for both pair of shoes. However, I would suggest you just buy another pair of the Dasher toe covers because the larger cut-out area for the road cleats leaves very little of the bottom of the cover left. When you cut out the area for an SPD cleat you will have a lot of the thick bottom part of the Dasher covering the treads of your MTB shoes—the material on the bottom of the Dasher is thick enough so that this will not be a problem. Some toe covers are so thin that the bottom side of the cover wears out with just a few weeks of use.

Planet Bike Dasher Windproof Toe Covers

The Planet Bike Dasher has cut-outs for both SPD and road cleats

As an added benefit the Dasher has reflective side and back logos. The reflective logo on the back of the heels actually does a good job of making your presence known to motorists. Since your feet (and therefore the reflective logos) are moving up and down as you ride it is more noticeable than the same size logo would be on a jacket or jersey.

Planet Bike offers these toe covers in five different sizes (most companies offer only two). The small cover will fit a man’s size 6.5 shoe (40 European) and the XXL will fit a man’s 12.5 shoe (47 European). Planet Bike has a size chart available on their Web site if you are not sure what size you need.

The Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers retail for $27. When the weather gets too cold for just a toe cover I would suggest you purchase the Planet Bike Comet Full Neoprene Shoe Covers or the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Cover.

 

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Gore Bike Wear Oxygen Toe Protector

Remember that great pair of cycling shoes you bought that promised to keep your feet cool all summer? Well, you are going to hate them this fall (and next spring). Cool summer bike shoes usually have a lot of vents to increase air circulation and in the fall this is a real problem. The good news is that the Gore Bike Wear Oxygen Toe Protector can block the wind and keep you comfortable at the same time.

Gore Bike Wear Oxygen Toe Protector

Gore Bike Wear Oxygen Toe Protector

The Gore Bike Wear Oxygen Toe Protector is made of the breathable, yet totally windproof, Windstopper soft shell fabric. Please bear in mind that this protector is not insulated—it is intended to stop the wind, not warm you up (there is a difference). The product has reflective logos, but they are really not a great selling point. The logos are on the side of the protectors but I doubt if anyone could see them unless they were standing next to you and looked down. Gore only offers this protector in two sizes: S/M (36-41) and L/XL (42-47) sizes.

This toe protector is designed for road shoes. I use these covers on my road shoes with Look Keo cleats and they work perfectly. Some people put these protectors on mountain biking shoes, but I would not recommend it. In order to get them over the sole of a MTB shoe you would really have to stretch it a lot and probably ruin it in the process. In addition, because MTB shoes have tread that hangs down below the cleats, if you use this item on a MTB shoe the fabric will rub against the ground every time you walk in your shoes (something it is not designed to handle).

The Gore Bike Wear Oxygen Toe Protector retails for $30 and I think this is a great investment for something that can extend your cycling season. However, if you are looking for a toe protector for even cooler weather or for your mountain bike shoes then you should buy the Planet Bike Dasher Shoe Cover.

 

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Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Arm Warmers

Most people check the calendar to find the first day of fall. For me the first day of fall is the day in early September when I have to grab my arm warmers before I go out for a morning ride. I own several different brands of arm warmers, but the Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Arm Warmers are my absolute favorite.

Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Arm Warmers

Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Arm Warmers

The Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Arm Warmers are made of a nylon/spandex/polyester blend and have a Windstopper membrane that keeps the wind out. While these arm warmers are not waterproof, they do offer great protection from light drizzle. If the temperature rises while you are out on a ride you can roll these arm warmers up and stuff them in your jersey pocket and you’ll still have room to spare. The reflective accents on these arm warmers are larger than you will find on most cycling jerseys or jackets. Since you are going to be wearing these arm warmers in the spring and fall when the sun sets earlier in the day this is a valuable feature.

A couple of things separate these arms warmers from the other brands. First, these arm warmers actually work! The Windstopper fabric keeps the wind out and the fleece backing traps warm air next to your skin to keep you comfortable. Second, the “grippy” elastic hems keep these arm warmers in place. I have several pair from other companies that just won’t stay where they belong!

I use these arm warmers in temperatures from around 50 to 64 degrees. When the temperature drops below 60 I also put on a cycling vest—this way I can avoid wearing a jacket for as long as possible.

Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Arm Warmers retail for $50, but you can find them online (Amazon.com, Nashbar.com, et al.) for around $40. There are a lot of cheaper arm warmers on the market, but I don’t think you will find better ones.

 

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Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket

If someone told me that I had to choose one brand of cycling clothing to wear for the rest of my life I would not hesitate for a moment to select Pearl Izumi. While no company can make perfect products every time (except Apple), Pearl Izumi comes very close. However, I don’t believe the Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket lives up to their usual high standards.

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket

The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Jacket has many great features, including a fabric that offers decent wind protection and water resistance. The convertible part of this jacket is the sleeves—they are held in place by two zippers and several pieces of Velcro. There is a great vent panel on the back of this jacket that provides excellent ventilation. The two zippered hand pockets and one Napoleon (chest) pocket are well-made and roomy. I was also happy with the amount of reflective piping found on this jacket. Both the shell and lining of this jacket are made of 100 percent polyester. Finally, there is an elastic draw cord around waist that can be adjusted with just one hand as you ride (to increase or decrease air movement inside the jacket). This jacket is designed early fall or late spring riding (temps in the upper 40′s or above).

This jacket is available is sizes Small through XX-Large and several colors, including Screaming Yellow, White, Black, True Blue, True Red, Black Plaid and Coffee. The Screaming Yellow jacket is a Hi-Viz Yellow and if you buy this jacket I would recommend this color. Unless you are trying to get hit by a car I would avoid the Black jacket at all costs. I found the jacket to be true to size.

Inferior Zippers On The Pocket

Inferior Zippers On The Pocket

My only problem with this jacket are the zippers. The main zipper on the front of the jacket is fine, but the zippers on the pockets and sleeves are horrible. It took me over five minutes to get the sleeves back on because the zipper just didn’t want to close. I found the zippers on the pockets to be very difficult to use while riding. The zippers are so tight I had to stop my bike and hold the fabric around the pocket just to close it. The inferior zippers make this jacket something I could not recommend.

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket retails for around $100. I bought mine from Amazon.com for $70, then immediately took advantage of their return policy by sending this jacket back for a full refund. It’s really too bad, the jacket has so many great qualities—but that doesn’t mean much if the zippers don’t work!

 

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DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

Those of us who live in the Upper Midwest have already had a few fairly cool mornings and have had to decide whether to put on knee warmers for our morning rides. I try to put off wearing knee or leg warmers as long as possible, so I started using DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream on my legs before I ride and have been very happy with the results.

Embrocation creams contain vasodilators that warm up the skin and muscles. They also create a weather-proof barrier that protects your skin from the elements. The company Website says this particular cream was “developed and tested on the European roads by Garmin Transitions and Columbia HTC professional cycling teams to be an essential training and racing tool.” For many of us, embrocation creams are them main reason we shave our legs (just don’t shave your legs on the same day you use an embrocation cream).

If you have never used an embrocation cream before you are probably wondering how this product works. About 15 minutes before you go out for a ride on brisk day you massage this cream into the exposed areas of your legs. It will take several minutes for you to feel the cream working, but once it does you will feel the warmth and be able to ride for several hours in cool weather without having your legs cramp up from the cold.

When your ride is finished you will be pleasantry surprised that the cream did not pick up road grime as you might have expected. I’ve used this cream on long off-road rides on dusty trails and haven’t  had much dust stick to my legs.

It has been my experience that the greatest amount of heat is felt once your ride is finished. While you are riding in the cool weather you don’t really feel the cream working, but then again, you aren’t feeling the cool air on your legs either. Once you put your bike up and go inside you can feel your legs getting warmer and this will keep your muscles from getting tight after a ride. The DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream washes off easily with just soap and water, but you can still feel it a bit even after you are out of the shower.

One important word of advice: Make sure you put this cream on your legs after you have put your cycling shorts on! If you put the cream on your legs first and then pull your cycling shorts up some of the cream will stick to your chamois. This cream has capsicum in it (think red-hot chili peppers and police pepper spray). If the capsicum comes in contact with your nads you are going to experience a level of pain that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay never even dreamed about (I speak from experience—and a very painful one at that).

DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream comes in three strengths (low, medium and high). The low heat cream is good for rides down to around 50 degrees. I’ve not used the other creams yet, but I am certain I will before the winter is out (I ride all year long). A six-ounce tube retails for around $20, but you can find it cheaper on Amazon.com. You should be able to get 15 or 20 rides out of a single tube.

In case you were wondering, the “DZ” in DZNuts is for cycling legend David Zabriskie.

 

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Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Gloves

I own a lot of cycling gloves, but there are really only a few pair that I regularly use. Most of the gloves I’ve bought have failed to meet my needs and are now residents of the Island Of Misfit Cycling Purchases (the population of the island increases every time I go to a bike show). I separate my gloves, like most of my cycling outerwear, into different weather categories roughly based upon 10 degree categories. When the temperature is in the 40′s I really like the Gore Bike Wear Men’s Alp X III Windstopper Gloves.

Gore Bike Wear Men's Alp X III Windstopper Gloves

Gore Bike Wear Men's Alp X Windstopper Gloves

The first thing you need to know about these gloves is that they are for cool weather, not cold weather. 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.

As for sizing, these gloves run a bit tight. If you normally wear medium-sized gloves I would order these in large.These gloves have a very good gel pad in the palms and silicone-coated fingertips that provide a  good grip. I used these gloves on dozens of 50 mile rides and have found them to be very comfortable. The long wrist cuffs on the gloves have a Velcro closure so you can provide some ventilation if your hands get too warm (they will if you are riding with these in the mid 50′s).

The Gore Bike Wear Men’s Alp X III Windstopper Gloves have a list price of around $60 and are available on Amazon.com and many retailers.

 

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Gore Bike Wear Phantom Bike Jacket

If I had to limit myself to only one cycling jacket it would have to be the Gore Bike Wear Phantom Bike Jacket! I live in the Chicago area and it’s not called the “Windy City” for nothing. The Gore Phantom Jacket is made with Gore’s famous WindStopper fabric and it really makes riding on windy days a lot easier.

Gore Bike Wear Phantom Bike Jacket

Gore Bike Wear Phantom Bike Jacket

This jacket not only stops the wind from penetrating the fabric, but since it is designed to be tight-fitting it reduces drag as well. While they do not claim the jacket is waterproof, I have found it to be highly water-resistant and very breathable. The sleeves easily zip off and leave you with a great vest with quarter-sleeves. It has reflective accents to make your presence known in low-light situations and has the best pockets of any of the jackets I own.

I rode with this jacket during the winter in temperatures down to around 25 degrees (I was also wearing a Performance Polar Jersey and an Under Armour Tactical Longsleeve Crew). I could have ridden with this jacket in colder weather, but I really didn’t want to ruin it with all the grit, grime and slush that splashes up on me in the winter months.

I purchased my jacket from REI for around $170, which is about the same price you’ll find on Amazon.com.

 

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