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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover For Rainy Day Bike Rides

The Chicago area normally has snow on the ground by this time of year, but so far we just keep getting rain! Riding in the rain is one of my least favorite ways to cycle. However, great products like the Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover make these rides a lot more enjoyable than they would otherwise be.

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover for rainy day bike rides

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover

The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover is designed for riding in rainy weather and they work incredibly well! Though they are fleece lined, they are not really intended for cold weather cycling. On a sunny day when the temperature is around 50 degrees you probably wouldn’t even want to use a shoe cover to keep your feet warm (a pair of toe covers will do). However, a rain day with a temperature of 50 degrees can just about freeze you all the way to your bones. If you are wanting to keep your feet dry in the rain, then these covers are for you. If you are looking for a great shoe cover for winter cycling, I would recommend the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Covers.

The Elite Barrier MTB shoe cover is made of 48% neoprene, 24% polyester, 17% nylon, 7% polyurethane, and 2% spandex. The sole is made of a very durable Kevlar so you should not have any trouble walking with this cover on your shoes. This cover also has reflective elements (the Pearl Izumi logo) for low-light visibility. These shoe covers have fairly tall cuffs so they will easily fit under your pant legs if you are riding with rain pants on.

These shoe covers are available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XXL). While they are true to size, I would order one size larger than normal just to make them easier to get on. The Velcro strip on the back is very easy to adjust. Like most Pearl Izumi products, this shoe cover is extremely well made and designed.

The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Cover retails for $70, but online retailers like Amazon.com often have it at a considerable discount (I paid $57 for my pair). This product is recommended for mountain bike shoes. If you want a similar cover for your road shoes you should use the Pearl Izumi Pro Barrier WXB Shoe Covers.

 

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Psolar Balaclava Heat Exchange Mask For Winter Biking, Hiking And Skiing

If you enjoy winter sports like snow biking or hiking you probably already own a balaclava to keep your face from freezing. A good balaclava will certainly keep your face warm, but if you want to protect your lungs from being damaged by the bitter cold you should get a Psolar Balaclava Heat Exchange Mask.

Psolar Balaclava Heat Exchange Mask for winter sports

Psolar Balaclava Heat Exchange Mask

The Psolar Balaclava Heat Exchange Mask combines a regular balaclava with a small heat exchanger (a lightweight thermal conversion module) over the mouth that traps warm air as you breathe out and then allows you to inhale warmed air. The heat exchanger looks like a very small air filter and requires no batteries to operate. The company that makes the mask claims that on a 0 degree day (Fahrenheit) your inhaled breath can be warmed to over 75 degrees before it enters your body. After several winters of use I have to tell you it works perfectly! Not only does the heat exchanger warm the air you breath in, but it also humidifies it as well (this will help keep you from getting bronchitis).

The Psolar Balaclava is not sold as a medical device for asthma patients. However, I do have asthma and I can tell you that if it were not for this product I wouldn’t even dream about participating in winter sports. I’ve gone on long winter bike rides while wearing a  Psolar Balaclava when the temperature was well below zero and have not had any lung problems as a result.

The Psolar Balaclava is available in several different models. The Psolar.HX Balaclava is a little thin on the top layer and is designed to be worn under a helmet. The Psolar.BX Balaclava is thicker on the top and is designed for hiking, skiing and snowshoeing (this is the one I wear when I am running my snow blower). They also have models available that do not cover the top of your head at all, just your face and neck.

The only downside to this mask is that it can cause your glasses to fog up when you are not moving. The company sells a Vapor Shield, which is a is a small foam device designed to prevent this from happening—but it does not always work. When it is cold enough to wear the Psolar Balaclava I stop wearing my cycling sunglasses and start using a pair of ski goggles. I’ve never has a problem with this mask fogging up while wearing the ski goggles.

The Psolar Balaclava Heat Exchange Mask retails for $40. At the moment the only place I can find this item online is at The Museum Store in Milwaukie, Oregon. I might be wrong, but it appears that the Psolar Balaclava is being replaced by the ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava (review coming soon).

 

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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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