Monthly Archives: December 2011

Top Five Cycling Products For 2011

This year I’ve written about 110 product reviews and today I would like to make mention of my favorite cycling products of 2011. It was hard for me to narrow this list down to just five items, but I did follow a couple of guidelines. First, I decided to limit myself to one product per manufacturer, though some companies could have easily had more than one item this list. Second, this list is for products that I reviewed this year, though not all of them were introduced this year. Third, this list is in alphabetical order mainly because I couldn’t decide which product was going to be listed first. If you click on any of the links below it will take you to the complete review for the product mentioned.

Abvio Cyclemeter iPhone App. If you are fortunate enough to have an Apple iPhone then you can probably toss your GPS out and just use Cyclemeter to log your rides. I used this iPhone App on every one of my last 300 or so rides and it is insanely awesome! I think I have tried every iPhone app for cyclists that is available and this one is light-years ahead of the rest.

Dual Eyewear SL2 Sunglasses. The simplest way to explain the Dual SL2 Sunglasses is to tell you that they are a great pair of cycling sunglasses with a pair of reading glasses built-in. What this means is that now you can read even the smallest print on your GPS, bike computer or cell phone without having to switch glasses!

Genuine Innovations Top Dog Legend Floor Pump. Genuine Innovations has several products that could have easily made this list, but none of them have been used more than the Top Dog Legend Floor Pump. This floor pump has been on the market for several years and is incredibly well designed, durable and easy to use.

Illuminated Cycling Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light. Illuminated Cycling is a very small company, but their Fire Eye 2.0 helmet light is something that every commuter or roadie needs. Motorists are often easily distracted by phone calls, texting and screaming kids in the back of the car. The Fire Eye helmet light is the best way I know for a cyclist to make their presence known on the road.

Planet Bike Borealis Winter Cycling Gloves. The Borealis glove is windproof, water-resistant and the best winter cycling glove I’ve ever owned. This glove has only been on the market for a couple of months, but I’ve already used it for over 600 miles use, both on the road and on off-road trails.


Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Product Reviews


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Neoprene Tip Toe Covers For Winter Cycling

Gator Sports Neoprene Tip Toe Covers for winter biking

Gator Sports Neoprene Tip Toe Covers

Are you looking for an easy way to keep your toes warm on your winter bike rides? The toe covers and shoe covers sold in bike shops are designed to fit over your cycling shoes and they work great. However, if your toes are still cold you ought to try a pair of Neoprene Tip Toe Covers by the Gator Sports.

Tip Toe Covers are designed to be worn inside of your shoes—either under your socks or over them. I think the best way to wear Tip Toe Covers is over a polypropylene sock liner and under your normal winter cycling socks. The polypropylene sock liner will wick moisture away from your skin while the neoprene in the Tip Toe Covers will help keep the heat in. Tip Toe Covers are very lightweight and stretchable, which is a good thing since they only come in one size (one size fits all).

After having used Tip Toe Covers on numerous cold weather rides this year it seems to me that they warm up my toes about 10 degrees more than than they would be without them. Tip Toe Covers are not the only cold weather gear your feet need, but I think every cyclist ought to own a pair. Neoprene Tip Toe Covers sell for $9 a pair on the Gator Sports Website, and I am certain you will find them very useful on cold rides.


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Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover

I try to not let the weather dictate when I ride my bike. When the temperature drops or it starts raining I just make adjustments to my clothing and go out for a ride anyway. One item you really need to own for inclement weather riding is a good helmet cover, and my favorite one is the Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover (H-Cover).

Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover for rain and winter

Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover

The Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover is made of a very breathable Stopzone fabric and it does a fantastic job of blocking both wind and rain. This cover stretches to fit all the helmets I own (Bell, Trek, Louis Garneau and a Giro). You might have tried other helmet covers before, but most of the covers on the market that I’ve tried don’t fit my helmet very well. Last year I bought an illumiNITE Helmet Cover and the best I can tell it was patterned after my grandmother’s shower cap—I don’t know who designed it, but they apparently had never seen a bicycle helmet before.

The Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover is available in two colors: Black or Bright Yellow (Hi-Vis Yellow). Both colors of this helmet have reflective piping to help motorists see you in low-light situations. I wear the bright yellow cover when I am riding on the road because it is hard for drivers to miss. When I am riding on muddy off-road trails I wear the black helmet cover because it will still look good after I wipe the mud off.

With a good balaclava (like the Seirus Combo Clava) and the Louis Garneau helmet cover I have no trouble keeping my head warm in temperatures down to around 20 degrees. When the temperature drops to below 20 degrees I switch over to a skiing helmet (I prefer the Smith Optics Variant Brim Snow Helmet).

The Louis Garneau Bicycle Helmet Cover is available in two sizes: Small/Medium and Medium/Large. This helmet cover retails for around $20 and I have yet to find a better helmet cover on the market.


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Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants for rain and bad weather

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants

You might not love riding in the rain, but if your training schedule forces your out in it very often you need to pick up a pair of Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants. These pants are breathable, windproof, waterproof and they have kept me dry in torrential downpours on days when no one in their right mind would be outside.

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants are made of a three-layer thermo-regulating laminate fabric. This breathable fabric is 50 percent polyester, 32 percent nylon, and 18 percent nylon. You will find abrasion patches in high wear areas that should keep you from ripping these pants like I’ve done with cheaper rain pants. These pants are sturdy enough for both road and trail use. Since riding in the rain almost always means low-visibility, these pants have 360° reflective elements that really stand out when light hits them. The asymmetrical leg cuffs should keep you from getting your pants caught in the crank. There is also a side adjustable waistband to help you get a good fit. All of the internal seams are taped and totally waterproof.

We need to talk about the fit around the ankles for a moment. These pants have nine-inch waterproof ankle zippers so they will fit over cycling shoes and shoe covers with ease. However, there is not enough room to wear these pants with the cuff on the outside of heavy winter boots. This could cause a problem if plan on wearing these pants as a winter shell—they will do great most of the time, but if you have to walk through deep snow then you could find yourself with wet feet after a while.

If you are looking for the perfect waterproof shoe covers to go with these pants, I would suggest the Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover. If you need warm winter shoe covers, I would suggest the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers.

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Cycling Pants have a retail price of $225, but they are available on for around $160. These pants will probably be one of the most expensive pieces of cycling wear you will ever buy, but they should give you many years of use. This product comes with a lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. In case you were wondering, the P.R.O. in the name stand for Performance Race Optimized.


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Park Tool PCS-9 Home Mechanic Bicycle Repair Stand

Park Tool PCS-9 Home Mechanic Bicycle Repair Stand

Park Tool Home Mechanic Repair Stand

Even if you have no desire to ever work on your bike, you still need to clean and oil it. You probably already know that your bicycle chain needs oiled after about every 100 miles of use, and more frequently if you ride in inclement weather. You are far more likely to keep your bike clean and your chain lubed if you own a good bicycle repair stand. I purchased a Park Tool PCS-9 Home Mechanic Repair Stand about nine years ago and could not imagine life without it.

The Park Tool PCS-9 Home Mechanic Repair Stand is probably the best cycling investment you will ever make—it will definitely save you money in the long run. Park Tool describes the PCS-9 as an “entry-level repair stand for the home mechanic.” Why do you need it? After every bicycle ride I put whatever bike I was using in the repair stand and use an air compressor to blow the dust off the chain and from around the brake pads. Then I take a piece of cotton cloth (from an old T-shirt) and wipe off the tires (I am actually looking from pieces of broken glass in the tire). About every 100 miles (which in my case is often twice a week) I oil the chain, cables and pivot points. This process only takes a couple of minutes, but in ancient days (before I got the repair stand) I was one of those guys who turned my bike upside down on the garage floor and tried to clean it there. Turning your bike upside down was fine when you were 10, but if you are reading this blog I imagine (and hope) you are well past that stage of your life.

Once you have a good repair stand you are also more likely to keep your bike clean (the mechanic at your local bike shop will appreciate that). You can also use the stand to put on a good layer of paste wax once or twice a year. The wax will help keep a metal frame from developing surface rust, and it will help keep mud and road tar off of all bikes (steel, aluminum or carbon fiber).

Clamping arm on rthe Park Tool PCS-9 Bicycle Repair Stand

Clamping arm on the Park Tool PCS-9 Bicycle Repair Stand

The height of the Park Tool PCS-9 Home Mechanic Repair Stand can be adjusted from 39″ to 57″ and the screw clamp will adjust to fit tubes from 7/8″ to 3″. I’ve used this repair stand on everything from my featherweight Trek Madone to my behemoth Surly Necromancer without any trouble. The PCS-9 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-9 Home Mechanic Repair Stand retails for around $150, but you can find it online for around $110 on While I dearly love my PCS-9 repair stand, if I had it to do all over again I would buy the next model up, the PCS-10. I am not even sure if this model was available when I bought my PCS-9, but the PCS-10 will accept the TS-25 Truing Stand (something I now really want). The PCS-10 also has a few other nice features, but you will have to wait till I buy one so I can tell you all about them.

Whatever repair stand you buy I would also suggest you get a Park Tool Work Tray as well. This is an accessory tray that helps you keep tools, lubes and spare parts right on the stand itself. This accessory retails for around $36 and is definitely worth it.


Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Bicycle Repair, Product Reviews


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Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket For Winter Cycling

If you are looking for a softshell cycling jacket for winter rides you really need to check out the Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket. This jacket is warm, windproof, waterproof and the most comfortable cycling jacket I own.

Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket for winter cycling and biking

Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket

The Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket is incredibly soft inside—it has a brushed thermal fleece fabric that does a great job of keeping you warm and transferring moisture to the outside. The jacket zips on the front and has a full-length internal draft flap and zipper garage. The sleeves are contoured for a great fit and extra long (something I like in winter jackets) and there is ample reflective material on all sides of the jacket to increase visibility at night.

The Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket only has two pockets. On the chest there is a pocket that will easily hold an iPhone, and it even has a small opening so you can run a pair of headphones through it. On the lower back  is one large zippered pocket, and inside of it there are three smaller pockets. These small inside pockets are a bit difficult to get into as you are riding, but I like them anyway. However, I have found that moisture from perspiration tends to build up inside of both pockets. These zippered pockets have very nice pull-tabs for easy opening even if you have a pair of gloves on. The body of this jacket is made of 100% polyester, and the panels are 95% polyester and 5% elastane.

How does this jacket compare other cycling jackets? While I love the wind-stopping power of my Gore Bike Wear Phantom Bike Jacket, I think Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket is at least as good in that department, plus this Pearl Izumi jacket is warmer and more comfortable. However, I like the rear pockets on the Gore jacket better (plus it has detachable sleeves). On the other hand, the Pearl Izumi jacket is the warmest cycling jacket I own.

Since I have several lighter cycling jackets I don’t wear this jacket until the temperature drops down to about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature I wear an Under Armour compression shirt and a Performance Polar Long Sleeve Cycling Jersey under my jacket. When the temperature is in the low 20’s I switch from the Performance Polar jersey to a thin thermafleece layer.

The Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket has a “semi-form fit” which means it will fit most cyclists, except for those who carry a large spare tire around the waist. This jacket is available is five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL) and appears to be true to size. You can buy this jacket in five different color combinations. The photo above is of a Black/Black jacket (even though it has a bit of red trim). The other color combinations are: Green Flash/Black, True Red/Black, White/Black, and True Blue/White. The list price for this jacket is $150.


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Christmas Gifts For Cyclists—Business Card Holders

If you are looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for your favorite cyclist, I found two items that might be of interest to you (and them), providing they have a desk job and a business card. Since my wife didn’t think of buying one of these for me last Christmas, 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).

Christmas gifts - Road Bike Business Card Holder

Road Bike Business Card Holder

I purchased the Road Bike Business Card Holder from, a company out of Mahwah, New Jersey. 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 Website. I noticed this same item is also available on, 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 retailer. The cost is under $16 including postage.


Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Product Reviews


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Surly Necromancer Pugsley (Black Ops Pug)

It was nearly four months ago that Surly announced several new fat bike products, including the Surly Necromancer Pug (formerly known by the much cooler Black Ops Pug name and also by the horrible Neck Romancer name). After one look at the Necromancer I knew I had to have one, so I asked the folks at the local bike shop, Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois to order one for me. Surly seriously underestimated the demand for this bike and for a while it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to get one till next March. Fortunately, Mary Daisy, one of the owners of Zion Cyclery, worked tirelessly to make sure I got my new bike and it finally arrived yesterday.

Surly Necromancer Pugsley (Black Ops Pug)

My New Surly Necromancer Pugsley (Black Ops Pug)

To call the new Surly Necromancer Pug a “work of art” would be an understatement! Nearly the entire bike is black, including the rims and spokes. The Necromancer has 82mm-wide single-wall Rolling Darryl rims, a Shimano drivetrain and a Mr. Whirly offset double 22/36 crankset. The front tire is a Surly Larry (3.8″) and the rear tire is a Surly Endomorph (3.7″).

Since December is not exactly the busiest time of the year for bike shops in the Chicago area, I asked the folks at Zion Cyclery if I could be present for the build. I had no part in putting the bike together—I was just there to photograph the blessed event. While the Necromancer is one rugged fat bike straight out of the box, I wanted to make a few changes to transform the bike from rugged to nearly invincible. The crew at Zion Cyclery spent a lot of time preparing a list of options for me and we ended up with one of the coolest bikes you will ever see!

Grant at Zion Cyclery working on the front fork

Grant at Zion Cyclery working on the front fork

The standard Necromancer comes with Avid BB7 cable actuated brakes, and these were replaced with Avid Elixir 3 Hydraulic Disc Brakes and a Shimano SM-RT53 Disc Rotor. Since I plan on riding this bike in a lot of snow, mud and dirt the standard derailleur cables were replaced with a Gore Ride On Sealed Low Friction Cable System. These cables have an uninterrupted housing so they are completely sealed from the elements (it also means I don’t have to worry about oiling the cables after a ride in the rain).

Curt at Zion Cyclery making a few adjustments on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley

Kurt at Zion Cyclery making a few adjustments

The biggest (and most expensive) change was deleting the stock Shimano Deore rear derailleur and 9-speed cassette for a Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Hub, coupled with a sealed Shimano Alfine Shifting Lever. This change meant they also had to install a Shimano Alfine Chain Tensioner. The internal hub might be considered a luxury item, but if you spend much time in deep snow you will appreciate how much abuse a premium-level component group can offer.

Shimano Alfine SG-S501 8-Speed Internal Hub

Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Hub

Several other minor changes were also made on my new Necromancer. The standard handlebar grips were replaced with Ergon GC-2 grips. Since this bike does not ship with pedals, I chose to put Odyssey JC PC Pedals on (at least for the winter). I’ll probably switch the Odyssey pedals out for Crank Brother Egg Beater pedals once the snow melts.

Everything on this bike is solid black, except for the disc brake rotor, chain and bolts. I didn’t change the chain, but all 24 of the silver water bottle bolts (yep, the Necromancer has 24 braze-ons) were replaced with solid black Origin8 Alloy Bottle Cage Bolts. Unlike the standard Pugsely, the Necromancer has braze-ons on the front fork so you can put a water bottle cage on each side (plus space for a bottle cage on both the down tube and seat tube). The inside of the bike was coated with Boeshield T-9 to give it a bit of added rust protection. Finally, since I ride in an area that is full of broken glass I asked the shop to put 8-ounces of Slime in each inner tube (if you’ve ever had to change a tube when the wind-chill temperature is -20 degrees Fahrenheit you will understand).

In case you are interested, after the customization this bike weighs in at 41 pounds. That is a lot more than my carbon fiber Trek Madone, but I don’t plan on racing anyone with my Necromancer (except maybe over a few miles of single-track in deep snow).

The Surly Necromancer Pug has suggested list price of $1850. The Shimano Alfine Internal Hub and associated parts was around $450. Once you start customizing a bike it is kind of hard to stop until you run out of cash. While the changes I made could not be considered a necessity, they will make operating the bike in inclement weather a lot more enjoyable.

Cyclists have a tendency to either love or hate their local bike shop. In my case I have to say I love it! I’ve purchased my last five bikes at Zion Cyclery and I have never been tempted to try to find a better price at another bike shop. Their prices are fair, they treat their customers well and their mechanics are the best I’ve ever seen. Over the past few years Zion, Illinois has lost a lot of locally owned businesses—some due to the bad economy, others due to poor management. Don and Mary Daisy have owned Zion Cyclery since 1981 and their son Chris is in the process of taking over. Their business was built the old-fashioned way—hard work, customer service and honest business practices. If you live in northeastern Illinois or southeastern Wisconsin you really need to pay these folks a visit before you buy your next bike.


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NeoCell Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex

If you want to go from being a mediocre weekend rider to a distance cyclist one of the things you have to work on is your post-ride recovery. You probably already know that protein is essential for muscle recovery, but how can you help repair the connective tissues in your tendons and ligaments? The folks at NeoCell Corporation in Santa Ana, California recently sent me a container of their new Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex to try and I think any aspiring distance cyclist should give this product a try.

Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex for muscle recovery

Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex

Like most quality protein drinks the Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex contains whey protein isolate and is loaded with essential and branched chain amino acids (including glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine). I am not going to reprint their entire product label, but one serving has a wide range of vitamins (about the same as in a multi-vitamin) and 1,000 grams of L-glutamine, the main amino acid that drives nitrogen into muscle cells for muscle synthesis and repair. Each serving also has 50mg of pomegranate extract, a powerful antioxidant.

Most of the time we choose nutritional products because of what they contain. However, Collagen Sport stands out because of what it does not contain! Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex contains no gluten, wheat, sugar, lactose, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, fillers or synthetic ingredients.

The biggest problem with most protein drinks is the taste and/or texture. I don’t suppose anyone will ever confuse a protein drink with a milkshake from the local ice cream shop, but the  Belgian Chocolate Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex actually has a decent flavor. However, what is more important to me is the texture. Most of the protein drinks I’ve tried in the past have been rather gritty (and that is being kind). Surprisingly, Collagen Sport dissolved easily in water and did not clump like nearly every other protein drink I’ve tried.

I don’t usually share recipes, but here is my favorite way to prepare this protein drink: Pour one scoop of Collagen Sport Complex and eight ounces of cold water into your blender, then add one banana and two cups of frozen strawberries, then mix until smooth (about 30 seconds). You should end up with something like a smoothie, but this one not only has the 30 grams of protein, but also gives you three servings of fruit and weighs in at under 350 calories. It takes me about three minutes to prepare this smoothie and it is very refreshing after a long ride.

This product is available in two flavors: French Vanilla and Belgian Chocolate. I tried the chocolate flavor, but   vanilla flavored protein mixes offer more versatility if you want to mix it with fresh fruits or juices to make a smoothie. A three-pound container (30 servings) of Collagen Sport Whey Isolate Complex retails for $50, but you can buy it from for around $33.


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Moose Mitts For Winter Cycling On Road Bikes

Those of us who enjoy winter cycling on our road bikes know that one of the hardest things to do is to find a way to keep our hands warm when the temperature outside is below freezing. When the temperature drops below 25 degrees you almost certainly have to wear heavy gloves, like the Pearl Izumi Barrier Lobster Gloves. Lobster gloves will keep your hands warm, but they also limit your dexterity and you have to take them off every time you try to reach into one of your pockets. A better alternative for roadies is the Drop Bar Version of Moose Mitts from Trails Edge.

Moose Mitts drop bar version for road bikes

Moose Mitts drop bar version for road bikes

Moose Mitts are best described as large mittens that fit over your handlebars so you can slip your gloved hands into the mittens and stay warm. Moose Mitts are made of thick 1000 Denier Cordura and are 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). I need to point out that there are some competitors to Moose Mitts and most of them limit your hand positions.

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

You can use Moose Mitts with your hands on the drops, flats, or hoods

In my experience Moose Mitts warm your hands up by about 15 to 20 degrees. If you are riding with a pair of gloves that are only good down to 35 degrees, you will probably be able to wear them with Moose Mitts all the way down to 15 or 20 degrees. I have one pair of gloves that would normally have my hands freezing at 35 degrees, but with Moose Mitts those same gloves had my hands sweating at 23 degrees.

One of the questions you are probably asking yourself is, “What about the aerodynamics?” 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 at all. 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. Riding with a 30 MPH crosswind didn’t create any problems either. Because the mitts are open in the back to accommodate a variety of hand positions, a strong tailwind can cool your hands down a bit (but your hands are still much warmer than they would be otherwise).

My only criticism of Moose Mitts is the location of the 3M reflective stripe—the reflective tape is on the top of the mitts so I don’t think it does much good (unless you ride in an area with a lot of low-flying aircraft). If you ride during the day it really doesn’t make any difference where the reflective tape is at. I ride a lot at night I always try to buy products with reflective tape. However, I realize that sewing reflective tape on something like thick Cordura is probably not very easy. Mike Flack, owner of Trails Edge, told me they are working on a Super Hi-Vis version of Moose Mitts that employs additional reflective stripes and is made of a Hunter Orange color fabric.

Moose Mitts are hand-made in Michigan by the folks at Trails Edge. These mitts are only manufactured during the winter months, so if you want a pair you need to order them by mid-February at the latest. The drop bar version of Moose Mitts sells for $75 and I think they are well worth the money. Trails Edge also makes Moose Mitts for mountain bikes (or any flat bar bike) and for hiking and cross-country skiing poles as well. The flat bar version sells for $60 a pair.


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