The Warmest Gloves For Winter Cycling

•January 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

So far, the winner is:

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Lobster Gloves
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Lobster Gloves

These gloves are amazing. In combination with the closed-cell foam wrap on my grips, I arrive at the end of my commute with warm (nearly too warm) hands, even when it is so cold that my feet are like blocks of ice. These gloves get five stars from me.

Goofy looking is how some respond to these unusual gloves. I do find that one has to be a bit methodical in how one moves their fingers from grip to shifter to brake and back, because the bulk at the fingertips tends to catch. For instance, to move two fingers from the brake lever back onto the grip, I have to be very deliberate. I don’t ride with my fingers on the brake levers – this exposes them to more wind, and has them gripping cold metal instead of closed-cell foam. No biggie. I ride with enough attention to what’s taking place around me that I have never needed to make panic stop. These gloves are going to be almost too warm much above -5C, that’s how toasty they are.

Things Take Longer in the Winter

•January 23, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I carry my work clothes with me in a 10 litre dry bag (2 gallons for my US friends), inside a pannier, protected by a pannier rain cover. I am 100% certain I will have dry clothes when I get to work, no matter what conditions I had to cycle through to arrive. Essentially, the work arrival ritual is the same winter, spring, fall or summer: get the bike protected, bring in the panniers, clean up, and change. Winter doesn’t alter the tasks, but it does affect timing – something for which I must make allowances. I’m wearing extra layers, which includes shoe covers, merino base layers, gloves, head band or balaclava, etc. These all take time to peel off. Even in winter, I still arrive on the ‘damp side’, so all of the damp items must be hung to dry during my working hours. It’s worked out for me that the elapsed time for the winter ritual is roughly double that of summer’s version.

Even though it’s winter, I still carry and use one of these:

Pack Towel

Get one big enough that the same towel can be made wet on one half, while the other half can be used for drying. Hung up, it should dry and air out while you work. This little piece of commuting gear remains a necessity even in cold weather cycling.

Cycling at -20C

•January 23, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Today’s commute was the coldest yet, and as such, proved to be a good test of clothing and bicycle.

I wore a merino wool base layer, a polar fleece 200 weight mid layer, and Showers Pass jacket. It was a perfect combo, not cold at all. Cycling shorts, merino wool long johns and Pearl Izumi barrier pants kept the legs just right as well.

Having experienced cool toes at -12C, I started out by putting plastic bags on my feet, then wool socks, then shoes, the soft shell overshoes. This worked exceedingly well for 3/4 of the ride, and then my feet became quite cold – quite suddenly. As though a switch was thrown. I repeated the experiment on the return leg of the commute. Same result. So, for short commutes, 30 minutes or so, this little tip works very very well. Then it doesn’t.

The hands were fine as well, thanks to 3 things: 1) closed cell foam wrapped over my grips 2) Pearl Izumi primaloft lobster gloves 3) making every effort to keep arms and shoulders relaxed. The latter point is easily overlooked, but relevant. Pressure on the hands compresses insulation, puts more skin surface area against the grips, and restricts blood flow. Stay loose to stay warm.

Finally, up top I went with a balaclava, helmet with cover, and my everyday spectacles. A bit of skin on my cheekbones did start to sent pain signals near the end of each leg of the commute. This bare skin was fully exposed to wind chill. I believe I found the low temperature limit of bare facial skin cycling today. Stay tuned, I will find a solution.

As far as the bike goes, the rear shifter stopped shifting not long into each ride, turning my clunker into a heavy single speed. If you know your steed is apt to stop shifting, start out in a gear that you think you can use for the whole ride. It would really suck to have a siezed up shifter leave you on smallest cog, with a long cold ride, uphill, into the wind, ahead of you.

Bicycle Bell Protocols

•January 22, 2013 • 1 Comment

My daily commute usually includes passage over a section of mixed use path in a powerline right of way. It’s typical to encounter retired couples out for their morning walks together, and a battery of dedicated animal lovers taking their beloved companions out for a romp (and other business). Most don’t expect to encounter a cyclist in winter, so they go about their activity not entirely on the alert.

The last thing I want to do is impair cycling by demonstrating myself a hazard to pedestrians or animals. That is why my bike has a bell, and why that bell is used.

Just letting you know I am here...

Just letting you know I am here…

If I am cycling up behind someone and think there is a risk that they may inadvertently turn into my path, I use the bell to warn of my presence. Here is where things get interesting. The signal that is my bell ringing is not a request on my part for right of way. Rather, it is an audible signal of my presence – I am letting the others know that they need to exercise caution if they deviate from their current course and speed. At the same time, I slow down and give as much berth as possible – allowing for as much reaction time as possible should the pedestrian do something I don’t expect.

I confess I feel guilty when I am cycling along, ring the bell, and in turn the warned party makes way for me. It was not my intent to demand right of way. I would not want the public habituated to yielding right of way to cyclists ringing their bells. In scale, this is the same as car drivers honking their horns at me: get out of my way.

If governments are looking for ways to improve integration of cycling into the overall transportation and lifestyle solutions in their communities, here is a good educational opportunity: through consistent messaging, establish bicycle bell ringing protocols as a courtesy from cyclists to pedestrians, not a demand for right of way.

This may seem like a small matter, but my opinion differs. There is a place for courtesy between us, and as an ambassador for cycling in my community, I would feel much more relaxed if I had the confidence that pedestrians understood I was offering them the courtesy of being more aware of my presence, rather than feeling entitled towards having a space to ride as I wish and I hereby demand access to that space.

Review of Showers Pass Elite 2.1 Jacket

•January 20, 2013 • 1 Comment

Shower Pass Elite 2.1 Goldenrod

I’ve now worn this jacket, daily, rain, shine, sleet or snow since October. Typically, I have it on for roughly 90 minutes per day. After all this time, I have no desire to find anything better.

There’s quite a bit to like about this jacket: coverage, venting, and waterproofness.

For a pricey item, there are a few shortcomings that need to be considered. First, the front zipper is lame. I find that it’s very easy for fabric on the right side of the seam to engage itself in the teeth, resulting in a tedious. slow motion zipup, with retreats, do-overs, and harsh words spoken. The other zippers on the jacket are excellent, though: front pocket, and rear pocket.

The rear pocket is an odd sized thing, but I have found it handy for holding an assortment of headgear accessible without having to dig into a pannier should I find it too warm or too cold. I stash a balaclava and wool beanie in that pocket, and swap out depending on ride conditions.

The neck closure is a bit dodgy. To be fair, I have a long thin neck, so I find there is too much fabric around the closure. On a person of average construction, it’s probably a good closure. Mind you, I’m usually so warm on my rides that I usually have the zip open a bit at the neck. The tabs on the zippers could be a bit bigger. I find that trying to adjust a zipper while riding with heavy winter gloves on is a hit-or-miss thing. Something beefier on the zipper pulls would be handy.

The DWR coating works well, but I did notice that upon its first exposure to real rainfall, it wetted out in several places. I promptly gave it a wash in Nikwax Tech Wash, followed by a Nikwax TX Direct bath. I’ve had no problems with water repellency with this jacket since. Note that washing this jacket in detergent is something I do not recommend, as it can negatively affect the water repellent qualities due to residues that allow water migration.

I chose the goldenrod version of the jacket, for visibility reasons. Knowing that I would be cycling through rain, fog, snow, in daytime and at night, I am going for maximum visibility. I also hang a small light off the loop on the back of the jacket, but as I have noted in another post, this can negatively affect the opening of the vent at the back. I’ve actually had drivers roll down windows at a stoplight to tell me how visible I am. That’s a relief!

I have to say that while I am impressed by how well the venting does work when not impeded by an extra weight, I am a little on the disappointed side with respect to the breathability of this jacket. It’s based on eVent, which has an excellent reputation. However, I have found that no matter how careful I am about base layering and midlayer insulating, I arrive at the end of my commute on the damp side. My expectations may have been set too high. Keeping the vents open when temperatures permit does help regulate moisture inside the jacket, however. I have been able to keep the vents fully open (pit zips, back vent) even in very heavy rains, and have experienced no leaks. This feature alone is enough to recommend this jacket.

All in all, I am glad I chose this jacket. It has minor irritations, only one of which I can really lay at the doorstep of Showers Pass, and that is the issue with the zipper. I give it four stars out of a possible five, allowing for something even better to exist out there of which I am not yet aware.

Calories, calories!

•January 17, 2013 • 2 Comments
Cheer Up, It will soon be spring

Cheer up, it will soon be spring! Now feed me!

It’s very useful to have some way of monitoring your heart rate during a ride. I generally always wear a heart rate transmitter and record my rides. Over time, this gives me a good insight into the state of my health. For instance, the day before I came down with a bad cold just before Christmas, I noticed that my heart rate was about 5 beats a minute higher than normal on my daily commute. I deduced that I was coming down with something, and was able to react by increasing my vitamin C. I did get that cold, I did miss one day of work, but I was back riding and working 48 hours later.

But the monitoring delivers more than a heads-up on the state of the body, it can also provide good insight into personal energy. My commutes take between 250 and 500 calories, depending on wind, and temperature. If I see that the wind will be blowing stiffly into my face on my generally uphill homeward commute, I know I should have a few more calories in the tank before I head home, so I will manage to get a snack into me with roughly the required number of calories early enough that the ride is manageable.

Living a cycling lifestyle has kept my weight low and stable, and focused my attention on the quality and energy content of what I eat. Natural snacks, like raisins, become equated to kilometers cycled.

Beware of overheating by hanging a light on your jacket

•January 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Cycling jackets are often well ventilated, with pit zips, a vent across the shoulders on your back, etc. one thing to beware of – if you hang a light off the loop on your back, there can be enough weight added that he shoulder vent will not open. I discovered the last night on my homeward commute. It was around 14C – balmy for Ontario in mid-January – and I needed every bit of venting in my jacket. Even riding into a strong headwind, I noticed that my venting on my back was not functioning. Ah ha! I had hung a small disc-shaped light off the loop on my back, and its weight was enough to keep the vent closed.

Winter commuting traction tip

•January 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Even though I am running on studded winter tires, in some conditions I still find the bike is difficult to control. I have deduced that wheel bounce contributes to loss of traction. For example, ice formed from compressed snow at the side of a road, between the plough spoil and clear area, is often choppy. When I ride over this at a good pace, my wheels bounce, and become slightly unweighted. This unweighting is often enough to result in loss of traction!

Besides reducing tire pressure – I run my tires around 35psi instead of summer’s 70 – one can take a tip from the Paris-Roubaix professional road race. Much of this race is over cobblestone roads. The pros run on wheels with lowered spoke tension, to reduce wheel bounce.

It works on winter’s icy cobblestones as well.

For some of you, it will make sense to have a set of winter wheels, set up with studded or aggressively treaded tires. Consider tweaking spoke tension as well to optimize traction.

Alarming Effects of Global Warming – You Can Help

•January 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Alarming Effects of Global Warming – You Can Help

Please help me help the planet by donating – buy donating to my carbon credit fund I will continue to offset your carbon footprint by living a bicycling lifestyle. Many thanks.

Carrying Extra Clothing

•January 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I like to sea kayak in the summer, and have a collection of dry-bags that are just the right size to fit into a kayak hatch. These are now being used to protect clothing inside my paniers. I always do my commutes and trips anticipating a flat or some other situation that will have me off the bike exposed to the elements.

Not a bad idea, if you have the space, to carry some fleece, wool hat, liner gloves, dry socks just in case you have to make a pit stop and withstand the elements.