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Category Archives: Bicycle Clothing

Reviews of bike clothing (jerseys, jackets, tights, socks, helmets, glasses, shoes)

Walz Cycling Caps (Product Review and Giveaway)

When I was a young man (back when the planet was still cooling and dinosaurs roamed the earth) my best friend and I had a lengthy conversation about the worst automobile drivers in America. We came to the conclusion the most dangerous drivers were “old men who wear hats” (by the way, my friend is nearing retirement age, now lives in Florida and wears a hat—just sayin’). That being said, I try to avoid wearing any sort of head covering except for my bicycle helmet. However, when the folks at Walz Cycling Caps sent me one of their products for review I had to reconsider my opinion about hats and caps. While I will never look as good wearing a cycling cap as Yehuda Moon does, there is something about them that is just plain cool. If you would like to see how cool you can look in a cycling cap just read the last paragraph of this article to find out how to enter our latest contest.

Walz Wool Cycling Caps

Walz Cycling Caps

Walz Caps is located in Oceanside, California and they specialize in manufacturing quality cycling caps—in fact, that is all they make. The cap they sent me (the one in the photo above) is made of 100% wool and is incredibly soft. Walz Caps makes these wool caps in over two dozen different colors and patterns, including tweed, houndstooth, herringbone—they even have a few that only mad dogs and Englishmen would love. If wool is not your style, Walz Caps also makes caps in cotton or a moisture wicking 100% circular knit polyester. These caps are thin enough to be worn under your cycling helmet.

The majority of caps sold by Walz Caps retail for $20, but you can have your cap personalized for a small additional charge. If you really want to get fancy they can customize your cap with embroidery, screen-printing or even full dye sublimation (great for cycling clubs). Walz Caps offers free shipping in the United States and they will ship internationally via USPS first class international mail.

Regular readers know that I seldom keep the products that are sent to me for review. While my grubby little hands did touch this cap while I was photographing it, I did not wear it because I wanted to be able to give it away (and no one wants a used cycling cap). In prior contests I had readers choose a number within a certain range and then used a random number generator to select the winner. However, because the snow biking season is almost over I am in a strange mood—so the rules for this contest are a bit different. If you would like to win this beautiful cycling cap then leave a comment below telling me why you need this cap. The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, March 15, 2013. After the contest closes I will read through the comments and choose a winner based solely on my incredibly subjective mood at the time. I probably won’t respond to the comments left below, but I promise to read and consider every one of them. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. I will send this product to the winner via U.S. Mail at my expense. Good luck!

 

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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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Chaos Thermal Regulation CTR Howler Multi Tasker Pro Windproof Balaclava

Cyclists and other athletes who love exercising outdoors in extreme winter conditions often wear a balaclava to help them cope with the low temperatures. A balaclava is not just for keeping your face warm—it also helps keep your skin from drying out in the dry winter air (just like freezer burn). A few weeks ago I bought a Chaos Thermal Regulation CTR Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava and it quickly became my favorite balaclava of all time! This balaclava offers incredible face and neck protection, in part due to the hinged design that prevents gaps in the fabric, and it easily drops down off the face when you need to get a drink. This product also has a soft fleece interior to help wick moisture away from the skin.

Howler Multi Tasker Pro Windproof Balaclava

Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava

For a winter athlete the most important feature of this balaclava is the mesh breathing panel that covers the mouth area. One of the biggest complaints most cyclists and runners have against balaclavas is that they restrict air flow. I am happy to report that this balaclava did not impede my breathing in the slightest!

Because of the way this balaclava is designed you can cover nearly your entire face, leaving only your eyes exposed, or you can open it up a bit if you start to overheat. If the weather warms up you can pull the face mask down and use it as a neck gaiter. Like every other balaclava I’ve ever owned this one can cause your glasses to fog up. Since this balaclava is extremely warm you might save it for days when it is so cold you need to wear ski goggles instead of regular cycling glasses—in which case you won’t have to worry about anything fogging up since the goggles will seal the balaclava against your face.

How does the Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava stack up against the other balaclavas? Well, it is considerably warmer than two of the other balaclavas I’ve reviewed in the past (the Bontrager Balaclava and the Seirus Combo Clava). In addition, the Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava is 100% windproof and has a water-repellent surface that sheds rain and snow.

We all have different tolerances for cold weather, but let me tell you how well this balaclava works for me: I’ve used it several times when the temperature was below 20 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind blowing at over 20 mph. Even when riding my bike at 20 mph into a strong headwind my face was perfectly warm.

The Chaos Thermal Regulation CTR Howler Multi Tasker Pro Balaclava is available in three sizes (Junior, Small/Medium, and Large/X-Large). This product retails for around $35, but you probably will not find it at your local bike shop. However, it is available at many ski shops and online retailers like Amazon.com.

 

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HooRag Seamless Bandana

Because I ride in just about any weather condition I have accumulated a large collection of cycling caps, bandanas, hoods and balaclavas. Most of these items are one-trick ponies, i.e., they are only designed for one specific weather condition. A few weeks ago the folks at HooRag sent me one of their products for review and it has turned out to be a very versatile piece of outdoor wear.

Hoo-Rag Seamless Bandana

The HooRag as a Balaclava and a Pirate Rag

The basic design of the HooRag is fairly simple: it is an 18″ long tube constructed of 100% polyester microfiber and it is open at both ends. You can pull the entire HooRag over your head and slide it down your neck and wear it as a neck gaiter—you can also pull it up halfway for a face mask or pull the top all the way over your head and use it as a balaclava. I need to point out that this material is fairly thin, so it is not a substitute for use as a deep winter balaclava. You can also quickly fold the HooRag and wear it as a pirate rag or beanie rag. If you just want to keep the sweat out of your eyes you can wear it as a head band, and if your hair is long enough you can use it to wrap your ponytail (sorry, but I couldn’t try this one myself).

Hoo-Rag Seamless Bandana

The HooRag as a Neck Gaiter and a Face Mask

The target audience for the HooRag is pretty broad, i.e., anyone who engages in outdoor activities. The polyester microfiber on this product wicks away moisture extremely well and it is small enough that you can stow it in your pocket when not in use. The HooRag is not just for athletes—fisherman or even fans sitting in a stadium for fall sports would enjoy it.

The HooRag retails for $15 or less and they are available from the HooRag Website. They offer free shipping for orders mailed to within the continental U.S. The HooRag I tested was Tactical Black, but they come about fifty different styles—from numerous camouflage patterns to bright colors and paisley designs.

 
12 Comments

Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Bicycle Clothing

 

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Terramar Tech Skins Polypropylene Thermal Base Layer

Staying comfortable in inclement weather is all about layering. Anytime you wear two or more layers it is imperative that your base layer is good at wicking moisture away from your body. The Terramar Tech Skins Thermal Base Layer is lightweight (only 140 grams), extremely breathable and does an amazing job of keep your skin dry during strenuous outdoor exercise (like cycling).

Terramar Tech Skins Polypropylene Thermal Base Layer

Terramar Tech Skins Polypropylene Thermal Base Layer

The Terramar Tech Skins Thermal Base Layer is made of 100% polypropylene—this fabric is stain-resistant and provides a decent amount of odor control. Terramar makes three different thicknesses of crew neck base layers and this one is the thinnest. I’ve found that this base layer adds about 6 or 7 degrees of effectiveness, i.e., if you have a cycling jersey that will keep you warm down to 50 degrees, when you add this base layer you should be able to stay warm down to about 43 degrees (your experience might vary). One of the nicest things about this product is that if you get too warm you can take it off and stuff it in a jersey pocket.

There are many clothing companies that sell base layers, so what makes Terramar different? That’s a great question and one that is easy to answer: most companies sell base layers as a sideline, but at Terramar it is their only business! For over forty years these folks have specialized in manufacturing high performance base layers for climbers, cyclists, skiers, hikers, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts. I own a lot of their products and they all show evidence of being well thought out.

The Terramar Tech Skins Thermal Base Layer retails for $20 and is available from many different kinds of stores—from bike shops and ski shops to places like Gander Mountain (that’s where I bought mine). This product is available in five sizes for men (S, M, L, XL, and 2XL). Terramar also has a version of this product available for women, the Women’s Polypropylene Baselayer (S, M, L, XL, and XS). This product is manufactured in China.

 

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DeFeet Woolie Boolie Winter Socks

DeFeet Woolie Boolie Winter Socks

DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks

If you exercise outdoors during the winter you already know how difficult it can be to keep your feet warm. While there are many good winter socks on the market, the only one that I will wear for “heart of winter” cycling is the DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks. These socks are advertised as being “multi-purpose” and I think that any cyclist, runner, skier, hiker, snowboarder or snowshoer would really enjoy them. In the fall and early winter I wear Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Wool Socks, but the Woolie Boolie is meant for use when the temperature is below freezing (at least).

These socks are made of high quality Merino wool and while they have thick padding on the soles, they are not bulky (DeFeet calls it mid-weight cushioning). Even after four or five hours of exercising in the snow these socks are still warm and dry. DeFeet, a North Carolina based company, has been making quality socks for nearly 20 years. Even after several years of use these socks still look like brand new—the wool really holds up well.

DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks are not cheap—they retail for $16 a pair for the 4″ cuff and $17 for the 6″ cuff. These socks are available in four sizes (S, M, L, and XL) and in my opinion they are a bit smaller than advertised. Since these socks are unisex in design, you might want to consult the DeFeet Website if you have any questions about sizing. A few years ago I bought four pairs of these socks in the large size, and this year I bought another four pairs in XL. Tight clothing in the winter is a real killer, and with looser socks I can always wear a pair of RedHead ThermoLite Liner Socks under the Woolie Boolie socks for added warmth.

 
17 Comments

Posted by on December 28, 2012 in Bicycle Clothing

 

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Bontrager Unisex Balaclava

Even though I own several different brands of balaclavas, I am always on the lookout for one with better features. A few weeks ago the owner of the local bike shop showed me the Bontrager Balaclava and I decided to try it out on a few cold weather rides.

Bontrager Unisex Balaclava

Bontrager Balaclava

The feature that appealed to me most about the Bontrager Balaclava is the way the front folds down so you can get a drink or eat a carbohydrate gel. The Bontrager Balaclava fits well and offers full head, face and neck protection. It is thin enough to easily fit under your helmet, but thick enough to provide real warmth. The flatlock seams on this headpiece means that, unlike some balaclavas, you won’t have the imprint of a seam on your forehead for several hours after your ride is finished.

Some balaclavas are so thick that they restrict your ability to breathe (not a good thing during aerobic exercise). I had absolutely no problem breathing while riding with this balaclava. However, the fabric around the mouth held moisture like you wouldn’t believe! All of the balaclavas I own hold moisture to some degree, but this one held a lot more than most. One other negative with this item is that because it holds moisture it will also fog up your glasses every time you stop. On the other hand, the way this balaclava folds down in front makes me love it anyway.

While Bontrager does not usually have “top of the line” clothing, I do think their products are reasonably priced and offer a decent value for the cost. In addition, Bontrager offers one of the best guarantees you will find anywhere for cycling product: “If for any reason you’re not satisfied with the comfort of your Bontrager saddle, shoes, or technical apparel, return the item(s)—along with the original sales receipt—to the place of purchase within 30 days of purchase date for exchange or store credit.”

The Bontrager Balaclava retails for $25 and should be available at any bike shop that sells Trek bikes. If there is not a Trek dealer in your area you can order it online from hundreds of different Trek bike shops. This balaclava only comes in one size and one color (black).

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

 

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