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Lake MXZ303 Winter Cycling Boots

For several winters I’ve worn the Lake MXZ302 Winter Cycling Boots and have been very happy with them for temperatures from 10 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. For temperatures below 10 degrees I usually wear the Columbia Sportswear Bugaboot (this is not a cycling-specific boot). Lake Cycling has recently updated their MXZ302 boot and have given it enough new features to make me buy of pair of the new Lake MXZ303 Winter Cycling Boot.

Lake MXZ303 Winter Cycling Boots

Lake MXZ303 Winter Cycling Boots

The MXZ303 is a high-end winter boot constructed with a three-part front cover made of water-repellent Pittards WR100 leather, 3M Thinsulate insulation in the toe box, Thermasol insoles, and a Vibram rubber sole that makes walking on snow and ice an easy task. Just like the earlier model, this boot has a side mounted Push/Pull BOA Closure lacing system so you can cinch it up with just one hand. One major improvement in this new model is the storm flap that fastens with an adjustable pinch clip—this really does a great job of sealing up the boot.

Push/Pull BOA Closure Lacing System

Push/Pull BOA Closure Lacing System

These boots are available in both regular and wide widths in even sizes from 38 to 50 (US). You also have a choice for the color of the printed logo on the outside of the boot (silver or yellow). These boots come with a pair of mud cleats (ice cleats) for each shoe and I would highly recommend you install them. I would also recommend that you apply a few drops of an anti-seize compound on the threads of the spikes and your cleats before installation. The anti-seize compound will make the spikes and cleats a lot easier to remove after they have spent the winter in snow, ice and road salt. My boots are size 47 wide and they weigh 755 grams (26 ounces) per boot and are six inches tall. These shoes are SPD compatible.

Storm Flap With Adjustable Pinch Clip

Storm Flap With Adjustable Pinch Clip

These boots claim to be “subzero rated” (a claim printed on the outside of every boot). I wore these boots for a couple of hours yesterday when the air temp was zero (Fahrenheit) with a windchill of -15 and my feet were toasty warm the entire ride. However, I probably should explain what else I was wearing on my feet: I started with a thin pair of RedHead ThermoLite Liner Socks, then a pair of DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks, and finished up by sticking a pair of Hot Hands Chemical Toe Warmers on the bottom of the socks (this is my normal set-up for zero-degree weather).

Vibram Rubber Sole

Vibram Rubber Sole

Lake MXZ303 Winter Cycling Boots are not cheap—they have a retail price of $280, but several online retailers like Amazon.com and Nashbar.com have them at discounted prices. I bought mine from Bikeman.com, a brick-and-mortar bike shop in Woolwich, Maine that also has an excellent online store (and they ship Internationally). After I received my boots I talked with one of the guys in their shop and was very impressed with their customer service—I will be ordering from them again.

Interesting note: These boots are so new to the market that Lake Cycling does not even have them listed on their Website yet. This is quite a contrast to 45NRTH who announced their Wölvhammer winter boots back on August 15, 2013. The day after 45NRTH announced the Wölvhammer boots I had the local bike shop put a pair of them on “item watch” at QBP, but the same day the boots arrived there they immediately went to “out of stock” status. I had the same problem with the Dillinger snow tires (thanks to the persistence of a bike shop owner I was finally able to get a pair of these tires).

 

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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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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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Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle with Loop Cap

While riding your bike in freezing weather can be extremely enjoyable, it can also be a challenge. Not only do you have to figure out how to keep your hands and feet warm, but you also need to make sure that whatever you have in your water bottle doesn’t turn into a solid block of ice before you get home. This is not really a problem on short rides when the ambient temperature is just a little below freezing—a regular bicycle water bottle with double-wall construction is usually good enough for rides like this. However, the colder it gets outside the faster your water bottle is going to freeze. The problem is not confined to your water freezing—before that happens the valve on your water bottle is probably going to freeze shut, so even if you have 18 ounces of liquid in your bottle you still won’t be able to get a drink. One solution to this problem is to use a Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle instead of the water bottle you use during the warmer months.

Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle

Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle

The Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle is a 100% food-grade stainless steel bottle with high performance vacuum insulation. The folks at Klean Kanteen claim this bottle with insulate hot beverages for up to six hours, and iced drinks up to twenty-four hours. The six-hour time frame for hot beverages is accurate if the bottle is stored at room temperature, but outside in near zero degree weather it is not going to last that long. However, if will keep you liquids drinkable for at least four hours. Since this is a wide mouth bottle you never have to worry about a small valve freezing shut in the winter. However, you will need to stop your bike in order take off the cap and get a drink (that’s not uncommon in winter cycling).

Klean Kanteen Bottles With A Composite Cage

Klean Kanteen Bottles With A Composite Cage

The Klean Kanteen bottle will fit in most bicycle water bottle cages. However, these bottles are a bit wider than normal bicycle water bottles, and if your water bottle cage is made of aluminum it will scratch the Klean Kanteen bottle to pieces in no time at all. To keep from scratching my bottles I replaced the aluminum bottle cages on my winter bikes with a flexible composite cage (I used the Bontrager RL Cage). Since most composite cages have a small “lip” to keep the water bottle in place, I took a Dremel tool and removed the “lip” so the bottle would slide in easier.

The 20-ounce Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle retails for $28 and is available in several colors, including Black, White, Wild Raspberry, Blue, Gray and Brushed Stainless. This product comes with a lifetime warranty (see the Klean Kanteen Website for complete details).

 
22 Comments

Posted by on December 24, 2012 in Product Reviews, Winter Cycling

 

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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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Surly Rolling Darryl Rims (Putting My Surly Pugsley Fat Bike On A Diet)

Question: How long does it take to finish building a Fat Bike? Answer: The world may never know! I’ve never met any Fat Bike owner who has actually finished tinkering with their creation—there is always a “little upgrade” or “tweak or two” in the works. Fat Bikes, like my Surly Necromancer Pugsley, are among the most versatile and customizable bicycles in the world and every time you think the bike is finished you find something else you would like to do with it. My wife has never understood why I need to keep buying upgrades for my Pugsley, but then again, I’ve never figured out why she needs 200 pairs of shoes (that number might be slightly exaggerated). Last week the guys at the local bike shop (Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois) made a few upgrades to my Pugsley, or, to put it another way, they helped me put my Fat Bike on a diet.

Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike

Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike

My Surly Necromancer (AKA, Surly Black Ops Pugs, Surly Neck Romancer) weighed an incredible 41 pounds the day I brought it home from the shop—this is about six pounds over factory weight because I had a Shimano Alfine 8 Internal Geared Hub installed, along several other upgrades. The bike came with 82mm wide Surly Rolling Darryl rims that weigh 1030 grams each (33.3 ounces). Last week we swapped out those rims for Rolling Darryl rims with cutouts and that took off six ounces per rim. These cutouts now only reduce the weight of the rim, but they also allow you to install a colored rim strip. I used the Surly PVC RIm Strip—they call the color red, but it is actually burgundy. To add a little more color to the rims I had them install red anodized spoke nipples.

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

My Pugsley came with rather heavy 1.3mm inner tubes that weigh about one pound each, so we switched these out for lighter 1.0 mm tubes (Surly Toobs). In the summer I use Slime in my Fat Bike tires and this adds eight ounces to each tire, but have finally decided that this is not necessary when riding in the snow (I hope).

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Thanks to the incredible effort of the owner of the local bike shop I was finally able to get a pair of 45NRTH Dillinger winter tires, the first-ever studded Fat Bike tire. These tires have an aggressive tread pattern and 240 lightweight aluminum-carbide studs. I haven’t had a chance to use them in the snow yet, but I can tell you that they have an amazing grip in the mud. Due to their business practices 45NRTH is one of my least favorite companies in the world, but this tire looks and feels great (I will publish a full review after Chicago gets some snow this year).

45NRTH Dillinger Fat bike Snow Tire

45NRTH Dillinger Snow Tire

This trip to the bike shop helped my Pugsley shed 3.5 pounds—that doesn’t sound like a lot, but you can really tell the difference when climbing a hill. As I said in an article last year, once you start customizing a bike it is hard to stop until you run out of cash. When the guys at the bike shop were ringing up my sale I asked them how much their average new bike sells for at the shop—well, I topped that number by about $40 with just this upgrade. Therefore, I am officially finished customizing my Pugsley—at least for today.

 
35 Comments

Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Fat Bikes, Product Reviews

 

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Airfoil 7617 Goggles With Polarized Lenses

A few months ago I was at standing in the seventh circle of Hades (also known as the Post Office), when a young woman pulled up in front of the building on a motorcycle and then walked inside the building. Since we were in line at the Post Office we had plenty of time to talk—and when she put her helmet on the counter I asked her about her cool goggles. She had a pair of Airfoil 7617 Goggles and claimed that they kept her eyes from drying out on long rides. After looking at the glasses a while I thought they would work well for winter cycling as well, so I ordered a pair.

Airfoil 7617 Goggles With Polarized Lenses

Airfoil 7617 Goggles With Polarized Lenses

The reason I liked the design of he Airfoil 7617 Goggles is that during winter cycling my eyes often feel like they are burning as a result of the cold air hitting my face. Since the Airfoil goggles fit up tight against the face that problem is eliminated. Airfoil goggles come with two pairs of 100% shatterproof polycarbonate lenses—the dark grey pair is polarized and the other pair is light blue. The polarized lenses really cut the glare from snow, water and ice. The light blue lenses enhance contrast in low-light situations, but I prefer yellow lenses in low-light. These goggles also come with a free soft case/cleaning cloth.

Air Vent On The Airfoil 7617 Goggles

Air Vent On The Airfoil 7617 Goggles

The Airfoil 7617 Goggles fit well, but since I always ride with a helmet I have to put the goggles on first (but that is not a problem). The flexible nose-bridge on these goggles provides a comfortable fit. These goggles have vents on the side to help prevent fog. However, if you sit at a light for too long fog can build up a bit, but once you get moving again it disappears. The only problem with these goggles is that they restrict peripheral vision a little—but not enough to be a problem.

Airfoil 7617 Goggles retail for $31 on the Pacific Coast Sunglasses Website, but you can find them on Amazon.com for $24 (with free shipping). Pacific Coast Sunglasses, Inc. is a California-based company that specializes in sunglasses and goggles for motorcyclists—they have been in business since 1984.

 
14 Comments

Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Product Reviews, Winter Cycling

 

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