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Category Archives: Cycling In The Rain

Rain jackets, bicycle tires, lighting and reflectors for riding your bike in the rain and in low-visibility situations.

Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound

Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound

Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound

Even if you are not a bicycle mechanic you probably have at least a few bike tools so you can make minor repairs to your bike. Regardless of how small you tool collection might be, you need to have a tube of Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound in your toolbox.

Anti-seize compounds are formulated to reduce the friction in threaded connections. If you use a good anti-seize compound when assembling your bike it will make it a lot easier to disassemble when necessary. While this product is for use on many bicycle parts, like the bottom bracket, headset cups, and quill stems I think most non-mechanics will use it for pedal threads, seatposts, water bottle cages and shoe cleats.

Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound forms a protective barrier around small parts to protect them from rust and corrosion. This product is safe for use on steel, aluminum, and Titanium.

Because I ride year-round and in all weather conditions I find myself using this product a lot. During winter rides in deep snow I replace the Crank Brothers Eggbeater pedals on my Surly Necromancer with Odyssey JCPC Pedals and the Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound makes changing the pedals a breeze. Also, in the winter I have to switch styles of water bottle cages on a couple of my bikes and if I apply the anti-seize compound on the threads of the bolts it is a lot easier to get the bolts on and off.

Another great use for this compound is on the cleats of your bike shoes. On average, I wear out two pairs of Look Keo Cleats on my road bikes every year and removing the old cleats can be a very difficult task if you don’t use an anti-seize compound when you change cleats.

While there are many good anti-seize compounds on the market, I like the Park Tool compound mainly because of the squeeze tube it comes in—it makes it extremely easy to apply to bike parts without getting your hands dirty. Is the Park Tool compound better than what you could buy in an auto parts store? Probably not, but I like Park Tool products and try to stick with brands I know.

Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound retails for around $8 for a 4-ounce tube (112g). This product can be purchased at just about any bike shop in America, and if for some reason you can’t find someone who carries it you can always buy it from Amazon.com.

 

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Michelin Pilot Sport HD Folding Bicycle Tire With Reflective Sidewalls

My oldest road bike is reserved for riding in inclement weather (rain and winter slush). For several years I used  Continental Touring Plus tires on this bike because they are lightweight, puncture resistant and have an aggressive enough tread pattern to make it easy to ride in the rain. Unfortunately, these tires are also very difficult to work with, i.e., they are hard to get on or off the rim. I know one experienced bike mechanic who broke three tire levers just trying to get a pair of these on a bike. For some reason it seems like I only get flats on rainy days, and fiddling with Continental Touring Plus tires in the rain is not a task I enjoy. As a result, the last time I replaced the tires on this bike I took a chance and switched to Michelin Pilot Sport HD folding tires—and I am so glad I did!

Michelin Pilot Sport HD Bicycle Tires

Michelin Pilot Sport HD Bicycle Tire

Michelin Pilot Sport HD tires are a part of the Michelin City Trekking tire series and are made with their “Protek Compound rubber mix” which provides “antioxidant ingredients and a reinforced architecture.” These tires have anti-puncture reinforcement and are designed for urban fitness riding, i.e., for those who like to ride road bikes in places that are not usually desirable due to broken glass and road debris.

I only have about 1,000 miles on these tires, but have been extremely impressed with how well they handle on both wet roads and dry pavement. They hold the road extremely well and corner better than any other tire I’ve tried. I’ve used these tires during many hours of heavy rain and have found that the inverted tread pattern helps move water out from under tire in a very efficient manner.

Michelin Pilot Sport HD Folding Bicycle Tire

Michelin Pilot Sport HD tread Pattern

In my opinion this tire offers a very low rolling resistance considering that they are designed to run at a fairly low tire pressure. On the sidewall of every bike tire you will find both the minimum and maximum pressure the tire is capable of handling. If the tire pressure goes below the minimum you run a very high risk of getting a pinch flat; if the pressure goes above the maximum you have a good chance of blowing out the tire and will certainly have a very bumpy ride. The recommended minimum pressure for the Michelin Pilot Sport tire is 44 psi and it has a maximum pressure of 87 psi. The tire pressure you should use depends on your weight—light riders can drop the pressure down towards the minimum while heavier riders should inflate towards the maximum. In the case of the Michelin Pilot Sport tire they suggest that riders weighing 132 pounds or less inflate the tire to 44 psi; riders weighing 220 pounds or more should use 87 psi. Michelin has included a weight and psi chart of the side of the packaging for this tire.

Like the Continental Touring Plus tires, the Michelin Pilot Sport HD tires have reflective sidewalls which increases visibility in low light situations. A ride in the rain almost guarantees that you will also be riding in low light—and when a the headlights from a car hit the sidewall of this tire the reflective strip can be see from at least a quarter of a mile away.

Michelin Pilot Sport HD folding bicycle tires retail for around $40 each and are available in four sizes (700x28c, 700x32c, 700x35c, and 26×2.3). These tires all have a thread count of 30 TPI (threads per inch). A low thread count usually means a less supple tire, but one that is more puncture resistant. The 700x28c tire weighs 402g. You should be able to find this tire at just about any bike shop—if the shop does not have it in stock they can order it for you.

 

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Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape (2.5mm)

Some cyclists ride with neither gloves nor bar tape, but I am not one of those folks! The roads in my area are extremely rough and without padded bar tape and a good pair of gloves my hands would shake for several hours after a bike ride, which is a royal pain since I spend most of my day working on a computer keyboard. For many years I wrapped the handlebars on my road bikes with Bontrager Gel Cork bar tape, but this past winter I started using Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape and long rides are now a lot more enjoyable.

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape

I found Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape at the local bike shop one day after I’d spent several hours riding in the rain. The Bontrager Gel Cork tape always got very slippery when wet, and since I seem to spend a lot of time riding in the rain I wanted a handlebar tape that offered a better grip. While the Lizard Skins DSP tape offers a superior gripping surface, I still won’t ride in the rain without a pair of gloves—I might seem overly cautious to some, but when cycling at high speeds on slick roads I want to feel like I am in complete control of the bike, and for me that means a good grip on the handlebars.

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape is an ultra-lightweight tape (only 56 grams per set, including plugs). This tape is made with DuraSoft Polymer (DSP) and provides a comfortable surface for your hands even on rides of six hours or more. The bike I use for long rides in the rain has an aluminum frame, and even on a smooth roads I can feel every little bump. This tape greatly reduces road vibrations and offers superior shock absorption. This is going to make some people cringe, but I actually have two layers of bar tape on this bike since this bike is also used for winter rides when the temperature is down to near zero (Fahrenheit), the second layer of bar tape protects my hands from the chill of the handlebar. I only have one layer of this tape on my Trek Madone, but I never ride this bike in the winter.

Close-up of Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape

Close-up of Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape (Tread Pattern Provides A Great Grip)

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape is available in eight colors (Black, White, Blue, Red, Pink, Green, Yellow, Orange, and Celeste Green) and retails for around $38 per package. Each package has two rolls of 2.5 mm thick tape, two bar-end plugs, and two finishing strips. You should be able to find this tape at your local bike shop (or at least they can order it for you). This tape is also available from RealCyclist.com, REI, Amazon.com and many other online retailers.

 

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Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub

This past December my new Surly Necromancer Pugsley arrived at the local bike shop and among the customizing I had done before I took it home was the installation of a Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub. I wanted an internal geared hub because I planned on taking the Pugs to places where most cyclists fear to go—through mud, slush, snow, ice, sand and standing water. I also planned on riding in temperatures well before zero (Fahrenheit). I liked the Alfine hub so much that a few weeks later I had one installed on my Gary Fisher Big Sur mountain bike. Well, if two bikes with internal geared hubs were fun, three would be a blast. In February I had a Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub installed on an old Trek 1200—a road bike I only use for riding in rain, light slush, and when the roads are covered with salt (in other words, from mid-November through mid-April).

Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub

Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub

Most Shimano Alfine 11-Speed hubs are put on commuter bikes to cut down on maintenance. However, I put it on a road bike because I spend so much time riding in foul weather and since this hub is sealed I don’t have to worry about road salt, sand, mud and grime fouling up the gears. In the past few months I’ve logged over 1,000 miles with the Shimano Alfine 11-Speed hub and am extremely satisfied with the performance I get out of it and in this article I am just going to make a few general observations about the hub. If you are a gearhead and need exact gear ratios and technical specs you need to visit the Shimano Website.

Shimano Alfine FC-S500 Front Crankset (45T)

Shimano Alfine FC-S500 Front Crankset

The Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Geared Hub (SG-S700) weights about three ounces less than the Alfine 8 (3.5 pounds), but it is nearly twice the price. The Alfine 11 has a gear range of 409%, compared to 307% for the older 8-speed Alfine hub, so I decided to go with a single ring in the front and installed a Shimano Alfine FC-S500 Front Crankset (45T). This is a two-piece crankset that comes with an integrated bottom bracket and chainguard.

When I started riding with this hub it would sometimes shift for no clear reason. Eventually I figured out the problem—it always happened after I had shifted into an easier gear while going uphill. To solve the problem all I had to do was to stop pedaling when shifting gears while the hub was under a lot of strain (I’m only talking about missing a single stroke).

One of the advantages of having a single ring in the front is that it is nearly impossible to break a chain since it never has to move side-to-side. A single ring in front also means you don’t need a front derailleur, shifter or cables (this saves a bit of weight). Another advantage of a single ring in front is that in the winter you will never have to worry about the front derailleur freezing shut. Several times last year I rode through a bit of running water and when it splashed up on my front derailleur I couldn’t shift any more.

Versa 11-Speed Road Shifters

Versa 11-Speed Road Shifters

The old shifters on my road bike were not compatible with the Alfine hub so I put on Versa 11-Speed Road Shifters  (VRS-11) since Shimano does not make an 11-speed shifter for drop bars. The Versa 11 shifters/brake levers work well and shift smoothly, but they don’t feel as well made as the Shimano Ultegra shifters I have on my Trek Madone. Versa 11 shifters retail for $320, which is nearly as much as a good pair of Shimano Ultegra shifters. If your bike does not have drop bars you can use the Alfine Rapidfire Plus shift levers (SL-S700-S)—these shifters have an Optical Gear Display so you can see what gear you are in. The only thing I don’t like about the Versa 11 shifters is that they are hard to use when you are down on the drops—the shifter has a very long throw and unless you have fingers like a orangutang it is hard to move the shifter all the way over to get to an easier gear.

Alfine Chain Tensioner (CT-S500)

Alfine 11 Hub With Chain Tensioner

The Shimano Alfine 11-Speed hub retails for $675 and unless you have a lot of experience working on a bike I wouldn’t recommend trying to put this on yourself. Remember, you are going to have to rebuild your entire wheel with new spokes and nipples to use this hub, and then you will have to true the wheel when you are finished. Depending on the drop-outs on your bike, you might also need an Alfine Chain Tensioner (CT-S500).

Since you are probably reading this article because you are considering a Shimano Alfine 11 for one of your bikes, I would strongly suggest you also consider replacing your derailleur cables with a set of Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables. These sealed cables are completely protected from snow, mud, and dirt by continuous liners.

 

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Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Rain Jacket For Cyclists

I can’t say I enjoy cycling in the rain, but I seem to do it a lot anyway—a good ride in the rain beats a day in the office anytime. In the past ten years I’ve probably purchased a dozen rain jackets for cycling, but most of them fell short of my expectations. A few years ago I read one blogger who said that if you ride in the rain very often you will end up with a Showers Pass jacket, but you will probably waste a lot of money on inferior jackets before you do. Last year I bought a Showers Pass Touring Jacket and liked it so well that I later bought a Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Jacket as well.

Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Rain Jacket For Cyclists

Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Rain Jacket

When it comes breathability in a rain jacket I don’t think you could find anything better than a Showers Pass jacket. On a breathability scale of one to ten, where a one is a plastic trash bag, I’d give a Showers Pass jacket a ten and most Goretex jackets an eight. The breathability of this jacket comes not only from the eVent three-layer fabric, but also from the numerous venting options built into the jacket. This jacket has fully taped seams, 11-inch pit zips under both arms, large gusseted cuffs, and a very large back vent for flow-thru ventilation. There are elastic cinch-cords on both the collar and the hem—you can open them for added ventilation or close them the keep the heat in. The back of the jacket is extra long to keep your backside dry in pouring rain (and it works well).

The front of the Showers Pass Elite 2.0 jacket seals up with a water-resistant full length two-way zipper. There is also a roomy chest pocket (a Napoleon pocket) with an audio port that allows you to keep your iPhone or other audio device dry in the pocket and run a headphone cord up to your ear. The collar on this jacket is made of soft Micro-fleece and is very comfortable. Around the neck is a series of Velcro attachment points so you can attach a rain hood (sold separately). For your safety there is a substantial amount of 3M Scotchlite reflective taping on arms and back (the best I’ve seen on any jacket), and light loop in the middle of the back so you can attach a small LED flasher (I wish all cycling jackets had light loops).

When I reviewed the Showers Pass Touring Jacket I questioned the sanity of anyone who would buy a black cycling jacket. However, as you can see in the photo above, I ended up buying the Elite 2.0 in black, so let me explain why. First, I would never ride on the road in a black jacket, even with the 3M Scotchlite reflective taping. I did not buy this jacket for road cycling—I bought it mainly to use as a shell for winter cycling. On snow-covered off-road trails a black jacket is fine—black fabric has a tendency to attract heat better than other colors and it also contrasts well against the white snow. In addition, when I ride on muddy off-road trails in the rain the black jacket cleans up better (i.e., after clean-up you can’t see the dirt you missed as easily as you can on brighter jackets). I’ve used this jacket as a shell for winter cycling over an Under Armour compression shirt and a fleece jacket and this kept me warm down to about 10 degrees (Fahrenheit).

The only thing I don’t like about this jacket is the slanted zipper on the back storage pocket. The pocket itself is waterproof and very roomy, but I just don’t like the slanted zipper! To be fair, Showers Pass is not the only company to offer rain jackets with a slanted zipper, but I have trouble opening these pockets while riding and I hate to stop when it is raining.

The Showers Pass Elite 2.0 Rain Jacket retails for $240 and if you ride in the rain very much it is worth every penny. This men’s jacket is available in four colors (Black, Chili Pepper Red, Electric Blue, and Goldenrod) and comes in five sizes (S thru XXL). The women’s jacket is only available in three colors (Chili Pepper Red, Crystal Blue, and Goldenrod) and comes in six sizes (Extra-Small thru XXL). I found this jacket to be a little larger than advertised. For the Weight Weenies among us, the large jacket weighs about 13.5 ounces.

 

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Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to improve the performance of your bike and cut the maintenance time, then you need to install a set of Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables. When I had my Surly Necromancer Pugsley custom-built this past December the local bike shop installed a pair of these cables and I liked them so much that they are now on all five of my bikes.

Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables

Gore Ride-On Derailleur Cables (middle and right)

As the name implies, Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables are sealed cables which means that from the shifter to the derailleur the cables are inside of one continuous sealed liner, and they terminate with a tight Grub seal which means they are impervious to rain, mud, road salt and grime—and you will never have to oil or maintain your cables again (for as long as they last). In addition, these are the smoothest shifting cables you will ever find! After putting a pair of these on my Trek Madone road bike it felt like an entirely different machine—words can’t describe how easy the shifting was (and since the Madone has a Shimano Dura Ace derailleur I didn’t think there was any room for improvement to begin with).

Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables

Gore Ride-On Cables With Grub Seal At The Derailleur

While the local bike shop installed four sets of these cables for me, I installed the last set myself on an old Trek 4300 mountain bike I was rebuilding. Installation of the Gore cable system is fairly straightforward—if you can install a standard set of bike cables then you can easily install these. The only tools you need are a set of metric Allen wrenches, a pair of cable cutters (like the Park Tool CN-10 Cable and Housing Cutter), a new razor blade and a sharp awl (to clean out the cable ends after cutting). Gore has an instructional video on their Website if you need help with installation. In addition, Calvin Jones from Park Tool wrote an excellent article on Gore Ride-On Cable Installation.

Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables retail for around $55 a set and are available with either black or white cables. Gore has several similar products (with similar names), so whether you ride a road bike, mountain bike, tandem bike or full-suspension bike they have a product that can meet your needs. These cables are compatible with Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo mountain and road derailleurs and come with a one year limited warranty. After riding with these cables for a few months I no longer consider them a luxury item—they are a necessity!

 

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Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

In the summer when I’m on my road bike I don’t carry much with me—just a few energy bars in my jersey pockets and a spare inner tube and CO2 pump in a small seat bag. However, when I ride off-road or in the rain I tend a carry a bit more with me and often need a place to store some of my rain gear when it is not needed. This past winter I purchased a Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag and it is one of the best pieces of cycling equipment I’ve ever purchased.

Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

As the name suggests, the Tangle Frame Bag is a bag that fits on your bike frame—this one attaches to the top tube with reinforced Velcro straps. It also has adjustable webbing straps for the down tube and seat tube and low profile camlock buckles with strap keepers. I bought this bag for use on my winter bikes, but I think any commuter or distance cyclist would really benefit from it as well.

This bag is very well designed and thought out. It is divided into two pockets—the thinner pocket on the left hand side holds smaller items like maps, chemical hand warmers, and cell phones. The pocket on the right hand side is much larger and can easily hold vests, jackets, tools or enough energy bars for a 24-hour ride. Or, since the main compartment has an exit port at the front of the bag, you can use the larger pocket to hold a hydration pack. You could also use the larger compartment to hold the battery for your headlight and run the wire through the exit port (and still have a lot of room to spare).

The Tangle Frame Bag is made of Dimension Polyant Xpac 400 Denier Fabric (also known as sail loft). I own a lot of seat, saddle and storage bags and this is the sturdiest soft-sided bag I’ve ever seen. The zippers on this bag are water-resistant and the inside of the bag is lined with a bright yellow fabric so you can see the contents even in low-light situations.

Inside the Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

Interior Of The Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag

This bag is available in three sizes. The smallest bag is 17″ long by 4″ tall and is designed for 15″–18″ mountain bikes. The medium bag is 19.5″ long by 4.5″ tall is designed for 17″–20″ MTB frames. The largest bag is 21″ long by 6″ tall and fits 20″ (or larger) MTB frames. These bags also fit road, touring and commuting bikes—just check the Revelate Designs Website for additional sizing information.

I used the medium-sized bag this past winter on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley and had to buy shorter water bottles to fit in the bottle cages. Another alternative is to buy side entering cages.

Revelate Designs is located in Anchorage, Alaska and I’ve purchased several of their products and every one of them has been of the highest quality. These bags have a product warranty that covers any defects for life. The Tangle Frame Bag retails for $68 to $70 (based on size) and is available from the Revelate Designs Website.

 

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