Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winter Cycling Gear I Like, Part 2

Okay, so only the first thing on this list is strictly winter gear, but it's all stuff I'm using on the winter bike, so it's fair game anyway.

Hand Warmers
I thought for a long time that bar mitts or Pogies or whatever you want to call them were for sissies and that a good pair of mittens with liner gloves would always be sufficient. Wrong. I was at Farm and Fleet the other day for something else and happened across a pair of QuadGear ATV mitts for under $20, so I decided to give them a shot. Yeah, pretty good stuff. I can wear a pair of cotton jersey gloves inside these down to about zero Fahrenheit and my fingers are pretty toasty. They have little velcro-closure pockets inside for chemical hand warmers. Easy velcro attachment. Granted, they are not custom Epic Designs Pogies, and don't fit my Titec H-bars like a glove exactly, and I sacrifice some hand positions because of it, but they're a good way to try out bar mitts. There's also enough room inside to carry an extra pair of gloves, a toque and maybe a little food. Experience to date suggests I won't need the warmer pockets for warmers, but I bet they'd fit some nibbles.

Another thing I like in the winter are dynamo hubs and LED headlights. I'm currently running a DH-3N71 disk hub on the Pony, which has Ultegra-quality bearings and kicks out 6 volts at 3 watts. It's hooked up to a German-made Schmidt Edelux 2-watt LED headlight. The LED actually shines backward into a parabolic reflector that faces forward, creating a nice, even, parallelogram-shaped patch of light right where you need it most. The beam also has a sharp cutoff at its top, helping to not blind other road and path users. Think BMW headlight rather than the usual vertically-symmetrical flashlight beam you get with most bicycle lights. Here's a picture of the beam (top) in action versus the 1W Planet Bike Blaze LED dynamo headlight (bottom):

Schmidt Edelux beam pattern
Planet Bike Dyno LED beam pattern
Don't get me wrong, I love the PB light, especially for its killer Superflash blinkie mode, but the Edulux is better for seeing more of what's on the ground ahead of the bike.

One thing I really like about dynamos in general is that you don't have to noodle with batteries, which tend to be sapped by cold temperatures. Something about not converting chemical energy into light energy quite as easily. I know that battery technology has gotten much better in recent years, but I just don't like dealing with them in general, whether rechargeable or disposable.

I'm also using an all-dyno powered setup on the Moose now, with a Shimano NX-30 hub powering a Lumotec IQ Fly headlight (truly great for the price), PB Blaze and Busch & Müller DToplight XS Plus taillight. Not supposed to be able to do all of that, but it works. Potential future Blog Gold.

Dressed up Pony
The best I have saved for last. My new Epic Designs frame bag and gas tank. Another hat tip to Doug for finally pushing me over the edge on ordering these in plenty of time to take delivery for the DDD. These might seem sort of expensive, but when you consider that they're custom-made from high-end materials by a guy who really knows his stuff and feel how light the package is when it arrives in the mail, they start to seem like a pretty darn good deal. I've been carrying a couple of dry shirts, a pump, a few tools, a tube, first aid kit and thermos of hot beverage in the frame bag and eats in the gas tank.

The last likey, neither strictly winter or cycling, is the camera that's been shooting most of the photos that appear here and in my Flickrama over the last month or so. It's the waterproof, dustproof and shock-resistant Panasonic Lumix TS1. After thrashing 4 cameras over the last 4 or 5 years and dooming 2 of hem, I settled on something that might have a chance of surviving going everywhere with me for just a little longer. We'll see how that works out. It's doing well so far in spite of being subjected to this sort of thing:

Also, one little footnote regarding the previous post. I like Freddie's Revenz Lites for the kind of riding that happens around here. On the 48mm ZHI rims at about 15-18psi, they have a pretty squared-off profile, darn good gription and more than a little bit of squishiness to soak up rough trail surfaces. All this in something that weighs less and feels better than the 2.5-inch WTB Timberwolf and Continental Digga tires that I had tried on before—tires that don't carry the 336 steel stud insurance policy. Been looking at the Larry though...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Cycling Gear I Like, Part 1

Even though I've been into the whole snowbiking thing ever since I first threw a leg over my buddy's chrome Ross Mt. Hood back in January of 1989, only lately have I gone really nuts on gear. I've gotten about a half dozen things over the last 12 months that I really, really like and are genuinely helpful.

As a wise man once said, "When I go winter camping, I don't wear my summer hiking shoes with shoe covers. I wear winter boots. When I go snowshoeing, I don't wear summer shoes with covers on them. I wear winter boots."

I think this applies to feet, heads and most of the winter clothing a person can name.

The first thing I got was a pair of Lake MXZ302 winter boots. Yeah, they were expensive, even getting them on closeout this past spring. I had gotten a pair of the older MXZ300 model used at the bike swap a couple of years back and really liked them but for two issues: 1. they were just a little too small, and 2. they are only good down to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The new ones are better on both counts.

The second is a downhill ski helmet. Until this year, I've muddled through winter with all sorts of stuff covering my head. I came pretty close with a good spandex scullcap and neck gaiter, but never quite got it right. Then one day I was shopping at local sporting goods store that was having a moving sale and happened across a Giro G10 like this one:

They only had the one in stock, and it was a mere Large. I tried it on, thinking it would never fit my enormous melon, and what do you know? Just about perfect. Feels more solid than the average bike helmet, is fully lined and has very good ear coverage. Full goggle compatibility too, including a strap keeper on the back. I'm not wild about the way it distorts my hearing, but it's not much different than a pair of dog ears. A solid win, but doesn't make me any less goofy-looking:

So Debonair

The last thing for this post is the Nokian Freddie's Revenz Lite studded tire. Made specifically for off-road ice racing, it tends to be overkill for anything to do with commuting, until we get 14 inches of snow in one day. Worked great all of last week, and I'm hoping it's a better bet than the Surly Endomorph for the DDD. We'll see.

Tire Comparison

Even though it's full of metal, it seems to weigh a little less than the WTB Timberwolf 2.5 I used on this bike in nicer weather. Has a little more supple feel too.

Next time, a little bit about bags, lights and other sundries.

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 in Review, Part One

Homebound Panda

I know it isn't over yet, but I have a lot to say and I can type faster now, so here we go.

Back in 2007, I did quarterly updates: Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4, but I haven't done them for the last two years.

I think we'll make Part the First about bicycle riding.

2008 saw a drop in milage in relation to 2007 from 3600 to about 3200. Most of that was pretty leisurely, with only a couple of notables. First, there were a couple of heavy-duty weeks of recreational riding in the summer, a spike in gas prices made for some very busy bike paths, and I did the second-annual Bike the Barns ride. The second notable was the decision to try the DDD and the building of the Black Pony, which I blogged here and here. That turned out to be a pivotal decision for this year.

This year was a little more intense. I'm on track to close out the year at almost 3500 miles, but the distinction is more in the speed at which those miles were ridden. This year was faster without question. Something about the DDD prompted me to start riding as though I were training for something, which I guess I am. I've dropped almost 30 pounds since last year at this time, joined a gym and feel much stronger. It's been a really positive motivator for me.

Other landmarks in 2009 include the Glare Ice Project, the Planet Trek with my youngin, Madison's first annual Ride the Drive, the third annual Bike the Barns ride, and my very first cyclocross race. Didn't buy any new bikes this year, but did reconfigure the Cross Check again:

Woodpecker Mk.V

Considering a dedicated cross bike for next season if I'm still in the mood. Maybe a nice Chili Con Crosso frame built up with my parts. We'll see.

The DDD is coming up on January 9. I'm doing it 30 pounds lighter this year, with a bike that weighs 6 pounds less, better winter boots, a winter (downhill ski) helmet, better tires and a set of Epic Designs frame bags. Should be much more interesting...I guess we'll see what the weather does compared to last year.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

All Done

It's finally stopped snowing now and the wind has picked up and shifted around to the North. We're all snug in the rug, though a little sore. It was a leg- and neck-gaiter kind of day.

Losing Ground

Still snowing. City shut down. Typing is shaky. Have yet to see a snowplow today. Snow weighs as much as a heart attack. Might take a catnap now that I've had a big bowl of chili, a Thermotab and a couple big glasses of water. Then I'll put on my last pair of dry gloves and go back at it.

Blizzard Warning

16 inches of wet, heavy, snowman-grade snow so far. No work today but for the all-day shoveling marathon. Nobody is going anywhere. Wisconsin has declared a state of emergency. Please, if you can read this, stop by the liquor store and pick me up some antifreeze.

Read more about it here