Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter stuff

Winter has arrived somewhat later than usual in Ithaca, but now it's definitely here. Last week was the first time that I had to ride home on snow covered streets and there is a lake effect warning for today. As always, I'm committed to riding year round, and winter after winter I'm fine-tuning my gear to make riding in the cold a more pleasant experience.


In the past couple of winter, I always switched from my 28mm Conti Gatorskins slicks to the 32mm Ritchey Speed Max that came with the Crosscheck. The main issue I've had with they Ritcheys is their bad puncture resistance. I haven't kept exact records, but I definitely had more than 1 flat/1000 km. Flats suck, and they do so quite a bit more in the winter. To deal with this, I originally intended to just keep the Contis with their basically perfect puncture protecting on throughout the winter. After all, most of the time roads are clear of snow and even when there is snow, it's nice to have a skinny tire that will cut through to the road surface. However, in last weeks first snowfall, I realized that this didn't work out so well. I was able to ride home, but definitely noticed that the Contis lacked traction. Consequently, this morning I put back on the Ritchey tires, but eventually I want to get something else. Probably some kind of 'cross tire, but with the added puncture protection.


Regular readers of this blog will remember my persistent issues with cold and numb feet. Since this was basically the main point of failure during previous winters, I decided to spend big and get proper winter cycling boots. Glenn Swan, owner of my trusted local bike shop and year-round rider himself, highly recommended the Lake MXZ302. It took a long time to get the shoes in size 15 wide, but two weeks ago it finally arrived. Due to end-of-semester stress and a cold I haven't been able to test them on a long ride, but they do feel very cozy on shorter rides. I'll keep you updated about their performance.


Another recommendation from Glenn Swan were my Kinco winter work gloves. I had bought one pair last winter and was overall satisfied with them. They had two issues, however: the cuffs on them were of the "safety cuff" variety, meaning they were pretty wide and therefore made it difficult to keep cold air, snow, and rain out of them. In addition, they weren't really waterproof. Well, a month ago I lost one of the gloves, giving me an opportunity to find something even better. It turns out that Kinco also make a waterproof version of the glove with a knit cuff (model is 1938 KWP instead of 1938) and that's what I got. So far I'm pretty satisfied -- they are indeed waterproof and as warm as the other model. I'm not quite sure yet how much I like the knitted cuffs. They do prevent water and snow from running into the cuff, but they're also the part of the glove that gets pretty cold. Maybe I'll need some kind of wrist warmer to go with the gloves. In terms of warmth, the gloves alone should be warm enough down to around 0° C, but below that I'd recommend using them with a woolen liner glove. The liner glove is a good idea anyway, as it will absorb some of the sweat that definitely accumulates in the glove on warmer days and harder rides. For really cold days and emergency situations, I still have a big stash of chemical hand warmers.


Because everybody--both people I know and people on the interwebs---is raving about how great their products are, I bought a Showers Pass Touring jacket. While it is a decent jacket, I've become more and more critical of it. First of all, it's not really waterproof. The company makes a big deal about being from the Pacific Northwest and therefore making gear appropriate for really wet conditions, but this doesn't really hold true for my jacket. Whenever I'm either riding for extended periods in light to medium rain or in heavy rain for as short as 20 minutes, the jacket always lets in quite a bit of rain. The largest amount of rain enters through the ventilation zippers under the arm pits. But even the fabric itself is definitely not waterproof. Now I must say that previous to this jacket I've never really owned any bike specific rain gear and therefore can't compare the jacket with other ones. But given how expensive these things are (the Touring has an MSRP of $150) I'm feeling disappointed. I even sent an e-mail to their customer service, trying to figure out if this was a common issue or if maybe my jacket had some manufacturing defect. Well, I've never heard back from them.

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