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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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Winter Cycling Tights

Note: This is the fourth 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”).

Winter Cycling

The hardest part of winter cycling is the first 500 feet

If you live in an area of the country that doesn’t experience extreme winter weather, well, you have my sympathy. As avid winter cyclists are fond of saying, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. To paraphrase President Theodore Roosevelt, “Far better is it to cycle all winter, to freeze your body down to the bone, even though pelted by sleet and snow, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they ride their trainers in the basement all winter and know neither joy nor fresh air.” The hardest part of winter cycling is the first 500 feet once you leave your house.

The easiest thing to keep warm in the winter is your legs—once you get going your legs become little furnaces and all you have to do is keep them dry, and as the outside temperature drops you switch to slightly better insulated tights.

During cool weather some cyclists try to pretend that it is till warm outside and convince themselves that they can keep wearing their summer gear—even when common sense dictates otherwise. One special concern is keeping your knees warm. As Hughes and Kehlenbach explain in their book, Distance Cycling, “The knee has poor circulation. If your knees get cold, blood won’t reach them and they may become injured. You can avoid this by wearing knee or leg warmers until temperatures exceed 60° F.”

DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

DZ Nuts InHeat

When the temperature is between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 16 Celsius) I apply DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream to my legs before I ride. 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. 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). 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. 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. A six-ounce tube retails for around $20 and you should be able to get 15 or 20 rides out of a tube.

If you don’t want to use and embrocation cream, then you ought to try knickers that extend down to your mid-calf. I like the Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker because it is extremely comfortable and the fabric quickly wicks moisture away from your skin. The chamois on this knicker is also very comfortable, even on very long rides. There are also several reflective elements for low-light visibility. The silicone leg grippers on these knickers keep the pant legs from sliding up as you ride. The Pearl Izumi Men’s Attack Knicker is available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL) and retails for $85.

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

For temperatures from 28 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 to 10 Celsius) I don’t think you will find a better pair of tights than the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal 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. You can buy this tight either with or without a chamois. I would definitely buy one with Pearl Izumi’s Elite 3D Chamois. This chamois has 13mm of variable-density microfiber padding coupled with active carbon yarns to help reduce odors. At the bottom of these tights you will find an 8-inch ankle zipper so the tights are very easy to put on (and 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 retail for $125.

If you enjoy riding when the temperature is anywhere from zero to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 to -1 Celsius), I would suggest the Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights. These tights are designed for extreme weather conditions—I am talking about very cold, wet and windy days. The fabric is very breathable and wicks water away your skin incredibly well. Even after several hours in snow and ice storms these tights kept me dry. The tights also have the 3D Elite chamois (like the pair above). The lower leg of these tights has an 8″ zipper with an internal draft flap and zipper garage. Around the inside of the ankles there is a silicone strip to keep the tights in place. Reflective piping, strips and logos make you visible to motorists from just about any angle. The Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights are also available without a chamois and/or in a bib. Most people will tell you that bibs keep you warmer than tights, but I haven’t had any trouble keeping warm even in temperatures down to zero. Besides, if you are out on a bike trail in ten degree weather and have to answer the call of nature while in bibs you will need to look at your driver’s license just to remember your gender (if you catch my drift). Theses tights seem to be true to size and have a suggested list price of $155.

Craft PXC Storm Pants For Winter Cycling and Nordic Skiing

Craft PXC Storm Tights

For temperatures below zero Fahrenheit (-18C) I wear Craft PXC Storm Tights. These tights are primarily designed for Nordic skiing, but any winter cyclist or runner would benefit from them as well. These windproof tights are very breathable, and the articulated knees make them very easy to cycle in. The seams on both the front and back of these tights have reflective piping to help motorists (or snowmobiles) see you at night. These tights have a looser fit than most cycling tights (they are really more like pants). However, this looser fit allows you to layer other clothing under the tights when needed. Since a chamois is not available on these tights you will need to wear at least a pair of your summer cycling shorts under them. The waist on these tights close with a draw cord and there is also a credit card pouch attached to the inside of the pants. I was very pleased with the generous (long) ankle zippers on these tights. Fellow blogger and avid winter cyclist Joboo wears these tights in temperatures down to -50F (-45C) without a base layer and says he stays “toasty warm.” It never gets that cold in the Chicago area, so I can’t vouch for that myself, but I can tell you that they are the warmest tights I’ve ever worn, and if you do get cold you can always add a layer under them. Craft PXC Storm Tights are available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL), and seem to be true to size. These tights retail for $130. If your local bike shop does not carry these tights you can find them on Amazon.com, the L.L. Bean website, and R.E.I.

 

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Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey

I own more pieces of Pearl Izumi cycling gear than any other brand because they consistently offer high quality clothing that shows evidence of meticulous attention to detail. Between shorts, tights, jackets, jerseys, vests, gloves and base layers I probably own 60 to 70 pieces of their gear. A lot of their clothing carries a small tag to tell you when the clothing was manufactured. When you look at almost any piece of their clothing you can see small changes that take place from year to year—and always for the better. One of the finest pieces of cycling wear I have ever purchased is the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey—and if spend a lot of time cycling in cool weather this thermal jersey will make your rides a lot more enjoyable (and you’ll look better too).

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey

The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey is made from a fabric composed of 63% polyester, 27% Minerale polyester, and 10% elastane. I don’t know exactly how they form the polyester into this thermal fabric, but it is extremely comfortable, highly breathable and incredibly warm—and yet it is very lightweight. This jersey also dries quickly after washing and is odor resistant.

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey

Full-length zipper with draft flap

This jersey has a full-length front zipper with an internal draft flap with a zipper garage to seal in the heat. There is a drawstring around the neck that adjusts in the back—you can open it up a bit if you start to overheat.

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey

Zippered front pocket with reflective piping

The front pocket on this jersey is large enough to easily hold an iPhone or other cell phone, and there is an opening in the back of the pocket that allows you to pass a headphone cable through. Around the zipper is a piece of highly reflective material (and this jersey has several other pieces of reflective piping as well).

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Jersey

Three rear pockets plus a zippered sweat-proof pocket

On the back of this jersey you will find three full-length pockets along with a small sweat-proof zippered pocket. In addition, there is a piece of elasticized gripper material on back of the jersey to keep the hem in place. You will also notice that the back of this jersey is cut longer than the front to keep your backside warm (and to keep you from offending anyone riding behind you). The Pearl Izumi Website says the recommended temperature range for this jersey is between 45˚F and 55˚F and I think these numbers are correct. You could also use it in slightly cooler weather if you wear a thin thermal base layer under it.

The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey is not cheap! The men’s version retails for $160 and is available in three colors (Red, Black, and White). The women’s version is $10 cheaper and comes in four colors (Red, Black, White, and Hi-Vis Yellow). Prices for this jersey on Amazon.com range from $110 to $150. If you just can’t justify spending that much money on a thermal jersey you might want to consider the Pearl Izumi Select Thermal Jersey—it is missing a few of the nice finishing touches the P.R.O. jersey has, but will certainly keep you warm (and save you about $50).

 

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Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet

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

Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet

Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet

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

Goggle Strap on the Giro Encore 2 helmet

Goggle Strap on the Giro Encore 2 helmet

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

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

Giro Encore 2

I Love The Red Accents

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

 

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Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava

It is no secret that I love winter sports—what you might not know is that I have asthma, and strenuous exercise in sub-zero weather can easily put an asthmatic in the hospital. Ten years ago I couldn’t exercise outside when the temperature dropped below 40 degrees without having an asthma attack, but thanks to several different pieces of protective gear I am now able to comfortably ride in temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit (the lowest recorded temperature in my area is -31F). One of the most effective pieces of cold-weather gear I own is the Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava. I’ll divide this review into two parts, first the ventilator on the face mask and then the head covering.

Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava

Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava

This balaclava has a medical-grade polyurethane ventilator that covers your mouth and nose and it mixes the warm air your expel from your lungs with fresh air from the outside—the result is that you breathe in warm, moist air (and to an asthmatic this will probably keep your lungs from getting inflamed from the cold air). This ventilator will raise the temperature of the air your breathe in from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (for example, if the air temperature is zero Fahrenheit, you should be breathing in air that is somewhere between 40 and 60 degrees). This polyurethane ventilator is both non-toxic and anti-microbial. If you head out for a bike ride in the morning in the cold and it warms up in the afternoon you can easily remove this face mask and just use the head covering.

The material that covers your face, neck and head is made of “soft-shell” Polartec Wind Pro fleece and without question this is the warmest balaclava I own (and I own a lot of balaclavas). The manufacturer claims that this product will block 95% of the wind, and in my experience they are absolutely correct. This balaclava is also longer than any other balaclava I own—it completely covers your neck and throat area. I’ve not had any problems with my glasses fogging up while wearing this balaclava. However, by the time it is cold enough to use this balaclava I wear ski goggles instead of cycling glasses (and the ski goggles I use are pretty much fog proof anyway). I’ve worn this balaclava under both cycling helmets and ski helmets without any trouble.

My only criticism of this balaclava is that the fit is a bit sloppy, i.e., it is not as form-fitting as I would like. I am of average size and this product is a bit loose on me. However, since the face mask attaches to the hood with a wide Velcro patch I can usually adjust it so that no cold air gets through to your skin.

The Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava is made in the U.S.A and retails for $80, but you can find it on Amazon.com for $56. This product comes with a one year warranty against manufacturer defects.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Product Reviews, Winter Cycling

 

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Dave’s Mud Shovel Fat Bike Fenders

If you own a Fat Bike you already know how those wide tires can throw more mud than a Chicago politician in a tight race. One time I came home from an off-road ride so thoroughly covered in mud that my wife asked me if I had crashed in a mud puddle (boys will be boys). Last winter I used the SKS Grand M.O.M. Oversized Rear Mudguard on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley because it was the widest mud guard I could find at the time—it was wider than most MTB fenders, but not wide enough for a true Fat Bike. Fortunately, Portland Design Works now sells front and rear fenders that are specially made for Fat Bikes—the Dave’s Mud Shovel Fenders. My Grand M.O.M. fender has found a happy home on one of my other mountain bikes and the Dave’s Mud Shovel is the only thing I use on my Pugsley.

Dave’s Mud Shovel Fat Bike Fenders

Dave’s Mud Shovel Fat Bike Rear Fender

The 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). Folks, if you ride your Fat Bike off-road (and isn’t that why you bought it in the first place?) then you need this fender now! 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. This fender, as well as the front fender, have the signature of their inventor, Dave Gray, on them.

The Front Fender Attaches To Your Seat Post

The Rear Fender Attaches To Your Seat Post

The Dave’s Mud Shovel front fender attaches to your 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 normally 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.

Portland Design Works Mud Shovel Fender

Portland Design Works Dave’s Mud Shovel Rear Fender

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.

Portland Design Works Mud Shovel Front Fender

Portland Design Works Dave’s Mud Shovel Front Fender

Great Tip: 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. One more suggestion: 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 your garage (or so I’ve heard).

Portland Design Works Mud Shovel Front Fender

Portland Design Works Dave’s Mud Shovel Front Fender

Not For Everyone: The bad news is that 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 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.

One Caution: I own several grunge and mud guards that attach to the down tube of my mountain bikes just like the Mud Shovel does and all of them fasten the same way, i.e., with two rubber fasteners. In the strongest terms possible I want to urge you to take the front Mud Shovel off your bike after every ride—if those rubber fasteners stay on your bike all winter it will probably discolor the paint. I had that happen with a different mud guard two years ago and I still can’t get the stain out.

Great Packaging: Both the front and rear fenders come in a flat package—all you have to do is punch the fender out of the surrounding shell. I was able to install the fenders in about five minutes each the first time I used them, but it is much quicker now (just a few seconds).

Packaging For The PDW Mud Shovel

Packaging For The PDW Mud Shovel

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.

 

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ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava

I am always on the lookout for new winter cycling gear and the colder it gets the less likely I am to wear products that were specifically manufactured for cyclists. Some of my winter gear was designed for hunters, while other pieces of clothing were meant for cross-country skiers. One of the coolest looking balaclavas I’ve purchased, a ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava with a skull on the face, was as intended for motorcycle riders.

ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava

ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava

The ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava has a full neoprene face mask, but the rest of the material is thinner which makes it perfect for riding with a helmet on. The thinner material around the head and neck seem to breathe well and not retain moisture. The thicker neoprene face mask area really blocks the wind well. This product is only available in one size (“one size fits most”), and it fit me perfectly.

ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava

Close-up of the ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava

The main concern most cyclists would have about this mask would be how well you can breathe with it on. If you look carefully at the close-up photo you can see the small holes which allow air into and out of the mask, as well as the opening for the nose. Personally, I think this mask is fine for recreational riders, but if you are riding at top speed you are definitely going to have difficulty breathing with it on.

Balaclava and Airfoil Goggles

Balaclava and Airfoil Goggles

I own a dozen or so balaclavas and I bought this one for one reason, i.e., it looks cool! If you are stopped at an intersection with this mask on you are going to have some fun! Some car is going to pull up next to you and a little kid is going to point at the mask—then you can hear his mother tell the child not to stare and watch her burn rubber as she flees the intersection. I am a totally harmless person, but I do have a rather warped sense of humor.

The ZANheadgear Coolmax Extreme Balaclava retails for $27, but you can find it on Amazon.com for only $16. If you want to make this product even cooler looking you can always couple it up with the Airfoil 7617 Goggles I reviewed last year. However, while this balaclava is fun to wear, I would high suggest you refrain from entering your local bank with it on. By the way, the folks at ZANheadgear make a lot of other cool balaclavas and other forms of head gear—some of their products even glow in the dark (how cool is that?).

 

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