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Picture of Park Tool Co Founder Howard HawkinsPark Tool Co Founder Howard Hawkins













Walk into any bike repair shop and you will notice the distinctive blue tools and repair stands which have become standard equipment in most all American bike shops.  Since 1963 Park Tool Company has made it easier and safer for bike techs. to perform their work with innovative designs and a reputation for quality.

Check out the link provided below from Bike Magazine showing how Park Tool provides more bike specific tools than any other company in the world.  Most of my bike specific tools are from Park Tool Co. and I truly appreciate the tried and true quality of their products.

With the recent passing of Park Tool Co Founder Howard Hawkins I just wanted to express my gratitude and condolences.  

Links Related to this Post:
Thank You Howard Hawkins
Park Tool, a Lasting Legacy Video
Park Tool Factory List
Road Bike Review Forum Post
 

Picture of a bike repair work bench with Park Tool Co. Bicycle Tools
My little bike repair bench is more often than not able to handle my bike repair tasks thanks in large part to Park Tool Co.
 
 
Picture of Wald #90 Balloon Bolt-On Bicycle Splash Guard Fender on mountain bike for touring and commuting.
Wald Balloon Splash Guard Fenders are designed to fit up to 2.125 wide mountain bike tires.
Bike commuters and folks who enjoy packing their touring bikes for a nice scenic getaway will both agree that a minimalist approach founded on common sense sure makes life easier.  Packing too much stuff on your bike can make for a rather burdensome outing where as being able to pack the bike "nicely" contributes to a more enjoyable ride.  As I have a tendency to be a bit stingy with myself I decided to look at some steel fenders for a few different bikes that wouldn't hurt my budget and yet refrain from installing anything plastic looking.  

I really like Planet Bike Fenders and the full length Cascadia fenders are excellent.  For some of the other bike builds this past year I was looking to purchase four sets of fenders which would would be easy to install with front or rear racks and for bikes without the appropriate braze ons.  When it comes to mountain bike specific fenders the choices are most typically made of some sort of petroleum based plastic and it has never made much sense to me to spend a lot of money on any type of plastic fender set.  I was tickled to find the Wald Splash Guard Fenders not only because I found another affordable quality product but because I was able to effortlessly install these fenders on a few different bikes and if I want to swap them onto another bike it's easy enough.  

The Wald #90 Balloon Bolt-On Bicycle Splash Guard Fender shown in photo above is a nice fit for a mountain bike for commuting and are available in a few different models specific to wheel and tire size of course. I have rode that bike in heavy rain while the fenders performed good enough in keeping my clothes from getting saturated with road grime and I like the look and style as opposed to plastic MTB fenders.  
Picture of Wald #80 Lightweight Fender / Splash Guard
Wald Splash Guard Fenders look nice on old vintage bikes.
For an old Puch Bergmeister (which has been a work in progress for a couple years now) the fenders I had originally installed would occasionally rub ever so slightly on the "whiskers" of the new tires and when the fender mounting bolt hole became elongated I got a pair of the Wald #80 Lightweight Fender Splash Guard which also enables me to put a fatter tire on if I choose to.  Although these fenders fit nicely with  27 x 1 1/4" wheels they also fit just as well on 700c wheels as shown in photo below of an old Fuji Frame converted to a Porteur Bike. 
Picture of Wald #80 Lightweight Fender / Splash Guard on Porteur Bike
Wald #80 Lightweight Fender Splash Guard fits both 700c and 27 x 1 1/4" wheels.
If you're someone in the market looking for a nice set of quality fenders to spice up your commuter bike or simply want the practical ability of easy installation with plenty of options check out the Wald Splash Guard Fenders available in a few different sizes in either black or chrome.  
 
 
Picture of Tenn Driven Cycling Waterproof Breathable 5K Cycle Trousers BlackAdjustable velcro zippered pant leg
It has been quite a cold and wet winter, more typical of Oregon or Washington than here along the southern Texas Coast which is why 
I was pleasantly surprised to receive these wonderful waterproof pants earlier than expected.  Lisa mentioned something about a gift arriving for me after Christmas while they would be in Arizona and so I concluded "how nice, my Sweetie is suggesting I get out and ride more".  As my old Columbia Omni-tech pants have been around for so many years it's been a chore trying to find affordable quality pants for bike commuting and touring that are as waterproof, breathable and leisure style without compromising on performance.  

After discovering TENN Driven Cycling's waterproof trousers (from UK at half the price of what I was expecting to pay), my gal decided it was worth giving these a try for the simple fact that here is another pair of waterproof bike pants that do not have a plasticky look or feel and if they were a bit large I could have worn a belt with them if needed.  

Picture
TENN Driven's design provides very adjustable double velcro straps overlapping the zipper which makes easier to change in and out of these pants for bike commuting.
Picture of Tenn Driven Cycling's Waterproof 5k trousers with moisture wicking barrierTenn Driven Trousers wicking moisture barrier liner and rubberized waist band.
It was kinda difficult to get a good photo showing the inner liner of these pants which provide a wicking barrier between skin surface and pants.  Apparently this helps greatly in maintaining a breathable waterproof set of pants that don't soak the rider in sweat.  Other reviews complained about the pants being harder to get off and on because of the liner but I found that simply undoing the velcro and zipper made getting my wool sock covered foot through the pants simpler.  I didn't try putting these pants on over my waterproof bike commuting boots because I don't need to.  
It seems like these days all sorts of claims are being made about a product being waterproof of course it's either not at all waterproof or it doesn't have the breathability for waterproofness to even matter.  As I mentioned it has been excellent weather for testing the functionality of Tenn Driven's Trousers so I did a side by side comparison.  After giving my several years old Columbia Pants a fair go of it I washed  them a couple times with Sport Wash to restore some of the water repellency.  By the way I love those old Columbia pants and will keep them as well as after a couple of washings they work pretty darn good considering their age.  I went for a six or seven mile ride (average commute distance) in what was a good down pouring of rain.  The bottom pant cuff of the Columbia pants tended to hold water and soaked through the fabric.  However, the rest of the pants kept me dry.    Then I did a similar ride with the Tenn Driven trousers and wow!  I can see why they refer to these as trousers rather than pants.  Not really but they are excellent.  I was pumping along at a pretty good rate as the cold rain brought pretty intense head winds but these pants not only kept the water out they also let the moisture out with excellent wicking characteristics you would expect to find from a product which would cost much more.  

Perhaps the bike commuter specific design of Tenn Driven's trousers with the adjustable velcro kept the rain from soaking the pant cuffs as the Columbia pants are not cycling specific being designed for any outdoor activities.  Which I would like to point out with Tenn Driven's pants which would also be suitable for hiking or backpacking as well. I could also use these working outside in the rain and because they have a bike commuter's leisurely appearance they're good for walking around town.  As far as packability is concerned Tenn Driven's pants are actually just as pack friendly if not more so than my old Columbia pants even though you might think the liner of the Tenn Driven's would add more bulk.  Surprisingly not so.  They are not heavy and are very fast drying which would be ideal for bike camping and touring if rain is expected. 

Tenn Driven Cycling Waterproof Breathable 5K Cycle Trousers BlackCasual looking waterproof bike commuting pants
With reflective trim, zippered front pockets and even belt loops Tenn Driven is providing a waterproof trouser with casual style and looks for most any wet weather activity.  

I really love and appreciate Lisa for getting me these waterproof trousers as a gift and look forward to more fun wet weather riding.  

 
 
Picture of mountain bike built for touring and commuting
One year of building, changing out accessories and many rides later getting to look forward to many more.
Another year gone by, out with the old, in with the new, with every ending there is a new beginning. Cyclists observing cycles of life and.....gotcha, not going to "spin off" (pun) on some philosophical "Mumbo Jumbo" which happens to be what we have come to refer to this bike build as.  I considered building a fat bike but it just isn't a necessity here along the Texas Gulf Coast.  When we went to ride the Matagorda Coast the Kenda Small Block Eights 2.35 diameter handled most of the sandy pathways just fine.  We dubbed this bike the Mumbo Jumbo when it's loaded with panniers for touring and refer to it as the "Rigmaroll" when it's used for commuting without the steel Minoura Front Pannier Rack.  
Picture of custom built commuter bike for off road use.
Rigamaroll in Commuter Bike mode with 2.6" Kinetics rear tire.
Picture
Mumbo Jumbo loaded with panniers and bags as a touring bike.
"Feel comfortable mixing high tech and low tech, old and new parts and technologies, and don't apologize to anybody for it.". Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bike Works. 
Picture of Avid Speed Dial Levers with Thumb shifters
Using New Old Stock Components such as the Deore LX thumbshifters paired with Avid Speed Dial Levers built a bike of true reliability and performance with comfortable handling.
Picture of Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc Brake
Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc Brake is considered a favorite by many bike folks
Well, I don't recall the last time I felt like a hero on a mission to save the world but I can relate somewhat to the bike as rideable art, particularly when you build it yourself. 
Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world.  Grant Petersen Rivendell Bike Works
Picture of bike commuter's shadow
Lisa had been enjoying the bike photography so much it has become a fun hobby for her, not to mention becoming a better rider herself.
Picture of new retro mountain bike for commuting and touring
It does have a rather elegant retro style in a modern bike build
Picture of mountain biking near creek
A commuter bike that allows me to explore off road like going turtle watching.
Picture of Wald Balloon Splashguard mountain bike fender
Recently added Wald Splashguard fender on the rear for rainy season and changing to a smaller, faster rolling tire.
Picture of bike touring at night
Made it through another year. Happy New Year!
 
 
Feeling safe, confident and comfortable on a touring or commuter bike without compromising performance begins with establishing effective bike posture.  Riding a bike consists of three points of contact resulting in direct pressure on hands, feet and buttocks.  Effective bike posture results in relieving undue pressure at all three points of contact and lends to a lighter, more agile and responsive feel while riding.  An old diagram depicting a good average touring posture reveals that this method has been around a very long time.  It's easy to incorporate on most all modern bikes with slight modifications.  Diagram on right I have added what I consider to be a very important point of establishing good commuting posture and that is when the mounting point of the handlebar is aligned with the front axle one's line of sight is perpendicular to the head tube of the bike when looking down at the front axle. 
Picture of touring bike posture
Effective touring posture has been around for decades
Picture of bike commuting and touring bike posture
Handlebar to front axle alignment is a good starting point for establishing effective bike posture.
Picture of commuter touring designed for good bike posture.
An old Puch Bergmeister refurbished meeting all the parameters of a comfortable commuter touring bike.
Picture of vintage commuter touring bike with Velo Orange Porteur BarsPuch with Velo Orange Porteur Bars
Thanks to my swapping out the original drop bars with the Velo Orange Porteur Bars the restoration job of the old Puch classic in above photo provides a near perfect example of a bike designed for effective bike posture.  "If I have learned nothing from working on bikes I know that nothing has to be perfect".  I love that quote, not just because it's my own but mostly due to the fact that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to riding a bike which is one of the reasons I love bikes so much.  That being said I have built every bike I own as well as many more for satisfied customers with only slight variations on the method being described here in achieving effective bike posture. By effectively distributing a rider's body weight between the saddle and the handlebars there isn't too much pressure applied to one or the other.  

With the exception of "pedal forward" designed bikes, which are not designed for touring most any bike used for commuting can also benefit from this technique of aligning handlebars with front axle. Anyone familiar with the ever popular Bridgestone MB-1 from the nineties which included Tom Ritchey's long flat stem and bars are familiar with bike design where the handlebars are not at all aligned with the front axle.  That is due to the fact that it was designed as an aggressive trail bike.  Later on many folks who began using their mountain bikes which were designed in a similar fashion from that era complained of hand numbness and pain.  Older steel hardtail mountain bikes have found a new niche as excellent commuter touring bikes and perhaps serve as the best example of bikes needing slight modifications for achieving better bike posture.   Photos below of a '93 Bridgestone MB-1 are indicative of changes made in achieving a more comfortable riding position.  In reference to diagram at beginning of this post note how the modified Bridgestone on right compares to "good average touring posture".

Picture of original mountain bike design for trail riding
Original '93 Bridgestone MB-1 note handlebars are way out in front of alignment with axle.
Picture of mountain bike converted for touring posture
After replacing the straight blade suspension fork with a raked out Breezer fork and adding a 90mm 20 degree stem the geometry of the bikes is a more suitable commuter touring bike
In most instances when converting an older steel frame mountain bike for touring and commuting a 90mm length stem with a 20 degree rise has been the stem of choice.  This has been determined after experimenting with different adjustable stems of varying lengths.  Though I have nothing against some of the higher quality adjustable stems it doesn't make sense to add another item which needs to be routinely checked to ensure it's tight. 

For the long haul most folks prefer to ride with road drop bars permitting use of multiple hand positions.  With drop bars aligning the stem with the front axle proves to be even more effective in establishing good bike posture for touring.  By placing hands on the brake hoods (which is where most folks spend their time while touring) is the position to use when determining length and stem angle height for aligning with front axle. 
Picture
When I converted a '91 Diamond Back Ascent EX with dirt drop bars I used this method to build a flexible off road touring bike that could also be used for commuting.  As there is an exception to every rule the very long angled top tube of the 17 1/2 inch frame may have proven to be a bit troublesome if I hadn't inadvertently picked up a couple 1 1/8" quill stems on close out from my parts supplier.  Those stems had been stashed away in the spare parts bin and while I sort of marveled at the bike's overall funky geometry wondering just how I was going to install dirt drop bars and at the same time improve the riding posture of the bike I recalled those just as funky stems.  

Photo at left offers an excellent example of aligning drop bars with front axle on a bike that offered up some difficulty in accomplishing the task with a frame that could best be described as long and short and that being the case I guess that's the long and the short of it and a good place to stop. 

I could provide examples of several more bike build examples with more information but I feel that the ideas of modifying a bike to achieve a comfortable posture for your commuter touring bike has been well covered.   If you're looking for more information relating to this topic such as basic bike nomenclature or bike fit I have provided some links below. 

Picture of bike commuting with correct posture
Correct bike posture makes for a much more pleasant ride whether bicycle touring, commuting or ya, not sure what that other guy is doing.
 
 
Picture of mountain bike touring with wagon wheels
Bike Touring in beautiful Colorado
Picture of commuter bike and old oak treeCentury Old Oak Tree with Bridgestone
An old business axiom is "location, location, location" and much the same is with photography. Not just the geographical location but the location of placing subject matter within the frame of the image.

In this era of point and shoot cell phone technology and social sharing sites such as Instagram and Flickr it seems that everyone is a photographer these days.  However there is still a place for a more advanced understanding of simple photo techniques particularly with cameras offering more creative control allowing a photographer to influence the image in effort to emphasize portions of their pictures.

Fortunately for me I have had friends with a creative knack for getting excellent photos and who were generous enough to share their tips and ideas with me.  I enjoy bikes so much that one of the ways in which I display my appreciation for them is to photograph them and when I create a nice photo I feel that I have justly shared my enthusiasm with others.  

Paul Jeurissen has share his many years of creating beautiful images from exotic locations around the world has provided a free ebook for bike folks interested in creating better photos with many tips and techniques with links to other how to photography resources.  Paul's free ebook "Bicycle Touring, a Quick Guide to Taking Better Pictures" includes information regarding selling your photography as well as basic understanding of photo copyright and more.  Click on either of the underlined links or click on photo below to check out an excellent resource for any bicycle photographer whether beginning or advanced any bike folks interested in photography would enjoy Paul's photos as well as the information.
Happy Holidays,
From our Bike Family to Yours.

 
 
Bike folks looking to refresh their commuting kit or wanting to add to it for overnight camping trips or bike touring here are some must have items to help get you there and back safely and with less hassles. 
Picture of mini pumps for bike commuting and touringConvenient, portable, packable mini pumps
"They don't make a good mini pump" to quote my old bike school instructor in Oregon.  That may be true but a mini pump shouldn't be compared to a frame pump for performance.  Mini pumps are the "it's certainly better than nothing" option that the teacher was inclined to agree with.  That having been said there actually are some mini bike pumps that are better than others.  Two that I have owned for several years are pictured at left.  My tried and true Crank Brothers Road Pro has been replaced by the Power Alloy Pump with the only difference I could see is that the newer model is nine inches long like the Topeak Pocket Rocket.  I like my older model better.

Any-how, it is a good idea to know-how to repair a flat prior to participating in any serious bike travel whether that be bicycle touring or commuting.  One of the primary assets in one's preparedness kit is a pack along pump.  Today while cleaning the shop and sorting through some old tool boxes I found these two old mini pumps. The Topeak Pocket Rocket and Crank Brothers Road Pro. Still working fine after dusting them off and testing their functionality.  I like keeping a mini pump in my pack or bag in case I forget to put the frame pump on my grocery getter bike after having the pump on my mountain bike.  Both of the mini pumps here are excellent quality, very small and lightweight perfect for an emergency or as a back up pump.  

Picture of Park Tool MTB3.2 multi tool for bikesPark MTB 3.2 for modern bikes
Got disc brakes?  Lots of bike folks are finding disc brakes on road and commuter bikes and seems more of standard equipment than brakes reserved for mountain bike use.  An excellent multi tool for disc brake equipped bikes is the Park MTB3.2 Tool.  

Hoping to get one for my disc brake equipped commuter bike as just last night I had to fiddle with a slightly out of true rotor to eliminate friction for my ride.  Sure an adjustable wrench can do the job just fine but I thought how convenient it would have been to have that little tool tucked under my saddle for just such an issue.  Not to mention all the other 27 quality tools packed into the smaller lighter weight model of the old Park MTB3 Rescue Tool.  More information at the multi tool review earlier this month. 

Picture of Cygolite Metro 360 USB rechargeable front bike lightCygolite Metro 300 or 360 Front Light
Even folks who do most of their commuting or touring daylight hours can benefit from having a quality set of front and rear bike lights.  Bright, strobing lights that can alert drivers of you and your bike's presence.

Cygolite Metro 360 USB rechargeable with a 25 hour run time in pulsing or strobing mode is also exceptionally bright when used in the brightest solid light mode.  The strobing steady function is unique to this light and is very convenient for being able to see the road or pathway while signaling drivers at the same time.  Cygolite Hotshot Taillight also USB rechargeable and 200 hour run time is of exceptional quality and very well reviewed. 

Picture of bike commuter wearing Bell Muni bike helmet Commuter friendly Bell Muni
Hmm, guess there was some controversy about shoulding the "need" to wear a bike helmet.  Whatever, I find them convenient at times for adding helmet lights, visor, rear view mirror, ya they can work pretty well for lots of things.  Last year when I reviewed my ten year old Bell Metro Bike Commuting specific helmet I learned that it was being replaced by the Bell Muni.  While the Muni may have some of the bike commuting concepts like that of the Metro it is a far cry from being anywhere near the helmet the Bell Metro is.  I say "is" as I am confident of getting many more years of use from my old helmet. 
What the Muni lacks the quality and features of the Metro it is very reasonable considering it's about half the price the Metro was ten years ago.  There have been some mixed reviews regarding sizing but reading over the information can help in size selection.

Happy Holidays from our bike family to yours.

 
 
Picture of locking ergonomic cork bike gripsLocking ergonomically shape grips
For handlebar tape on drop bars cork tape is preferred by many avid cyclists.  So why would that be different for bike grips?  

A big turn off for some folks was assuming they would have to use spray adhesive to install old fashioned cork grips.  While that style of cork grip is still in use there are many cork grips available including all the features specific to virtually any other grips being made including ergonomic shape, locking grips or integrated bar ends. 

Last year I found some locking ergonomic molded rubber cork grips.  I hadn't heard of the EVO SL1 Cork Grips or read any reviews but was excited to try them for the very decent price based on the description.  One of the reasons for my wanting such a grip was due in large part to the hot humid climate and wanting a grip that didn't feel gooey tacky like so many other grips tend to do after being weathered for a few months. 

Picture of tanned cork mountain bike gripsEVO SL1 grips seem more durable
After a solid year of casual trail use, mostly commuting, bike camping and lots of exposure to the weather the EVO SL1 mountain bike grips have seasoned nicely.  With a look and feel that resembles leather more than cork the grips not only look good and feel good but have developed a very protective sheen very similar to putting shellac on all natural cork grips like those pictured in the next grips reviewed. 

On the practical side of things since I was looking to relieve hand numbness and tendinitis pain these grips have played an important part in mostly eradicating the pain associated with that.  Putting these grips on a mountain bike built for bike commuting and off road touring with a steel front rack has provided a nice solid feel to the sweeping handlebars while pedaling with a front pannier load.  

Considering there are three points of contact between a rider's body and their bike (hands, butt and feet) resolving pain while at the same time adding a confident feel to a bike is a nicely added bonus. 

Click on links provided or photos for information or purchase or continue reading for some all natural cork grips from Dimension.


Picture of all natural cork grips on mountain bike for bicycle touring and commutingDimension All Natural Cork Grips
So called all natural cork grips are made with a synthetic foam and cork just as many of the popular synthetic cork bar tapes.  This pair from Dimension is a very natural looking cork grip that wears and holds well. 

After applying a few coats of shellac and allowing it to dry completely I used Loctite Spray Adhesive to ensure a good bond without slippage.  These are very comfortable grips and I like the looks of them as well.  After clear coating them they feel very durable and will be interesting to see how they look after a year of riding them unless I decide to sell the old Specialized Rockhopper.  

There are of course several other natural cork grips but the Dimension Cork Grips have been around awhile and are well reviewed.   Use link provided above for information or to purchase. 

Links related to this topic:
Four Favorite Cork Grips



 
 
Picture of winter bike commuting apparel
Layering for Winter Bike Commuting provides many options.
"Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night stays these commuters from the swift completion of their appointed rounds".  Adopted from the unofficial postal service motto but is true of many hard core bike commuters as well. 

However if you're new to bike commuting you may have had some rather unpleasant experiences attempting to ride a bike in adverse weather conditions.  If not, consider yourself lucky as most well traveled bike commuters have many stories to share  regarding their learning curve on the way to obtaining expert knowledge of what does and does not work under certain conditions and the most popular is winter bike commuting.  From trying different tires on varying wet surfaces to pedaling out fifteen miles in sub zero temperatures knowing what to wear and how to layer different fabrics can sometimes make a difference in a joyful ride or a miserable commute leaving some folks abandoning winter riding altogether.  

Layering is effective in not only keeping a person warm and dry but also provides ability to stay cool under varying temperature changes.  In severe winter climates with drastic temperature changes ranging from zero degree morning wind chill factors and sunny late afternoons supplying a balmy 40 to 50 degrees knowing how to effectively layer clothing not only for changing temperatures but wind and precipitation as well. 
Picture of bike commuter with winter apparelBike Commuter well equipped for winter

Ten years ago while living on the property of an "off grid" cabin in Colorado I was car free and spent three winters bike commuting approximately twenty miles round trip five or six days a week.  I made some mistakes along the way hurt myself a few times on steep frozen dirt roads but for the better part of it I didn't just survive, I thrived.  Information discussed here is effective layering that not only worked well for me in Colorado but in wet climates like Portland and Astoria, Oregon.  It is actually a fairly easy task to run out and purchase stuff to stay warm and dry but keeping bacteria and body odors from accumulating after several days of use is something to consider when purchasing warm gear for cold weather riding to the work place.
  

Beginning with a good moisture wicking, fast drying and antibacterial fabric that wont add too much bulk for layering is very important.  Afterall it is the material which is touching your skin and is either holding or wicking perspiration.  Wool, synthetic blends and silk are all good to consider and each has it's own best qualities. Therefore I found having a cotton, wool, synthetic blend from Duofold worked best for most all conditions due to the 25% wool that acts as a natural antibacterial fabric and the faster drying wicking properties of the lesser synthetic I found it lasted longer before it needed to be washed.  Rather than push the limits of one base layer of thermal underwear I opted for two pairs to alternate through the work week and so I have a second set of silk underwear.  Silk is not as fast drying and is extremely warm so I found I didn't need to layer as much with it.  Plus it is very nice to sleep in.  Having these two options as base layers worked extremely well.  The only reason I didn't try merino wool underwear was the price tag. 
Picture of winter bike commuting base layerSilk base layer is very warm, natural fabric.
Ear muffs, helmet rain cover and replaceable lens sunglasses that don't fog up while wearing a face shield makes for a very pleasant ride.  Folks argue that wearing ear muffs cancels out too much sound so that they can't hear cars and don't feel as safe not being able to hear as well.  My ears had a tendency to become so cold that I had to stop to warm them and if I was running late it was miserable not being able to stop.  Therefore I wear ear muffs whenever I feel like it.  I found that wearing a beanie under my helmet and adding a helmet cover to close the air vents from the frigid cold reduced my need to wear ear muffs and the original Masque is very nice to have when it's so cold that breathing ice crystals is a health risk. Ya, if it's that cold definitely get.  Why invest in good sunglasses for your winter bike commute?  Besides changing light conditions and shorter wintery days using clear lenses when it is so cold that your eyes water so profusely you can hardly see where you are going and they have proved to be very helpful in heavy rain as well.  Not to mention a truck passed me on the highway once sending a rock directly into one of the lenses but didn't crack the polycarbonate.  Nice. Lastly but not leastly is a good helmet light.  I have had my Planet Bike Sport Spot light for many years now.  I like the long run time in flashing mode, very bright and because I was riding unlit rural roads if I were to get a flat it worked great as a hands free work light for repairs.  I installed rechargeable NIMH batteries and has been nicely cost effective.  

Picture
Wool sweaters are simply a must have for winter bike commuting.  Natural insulating properties that keep you warm and with water wicking lanolin fibers is warm even when it gets wet.  Wool is also naturally antibacterial usually for the life of the garment and when not too bulky is excellent for layering.  I was fortunate enough to find a fairly form fitting light weight wool sweater that I could zip a wind proof shell over if needed.  Here's some quoted information from the wool experts at David Morgan

"Because of the temperature gradient between the warm skin and the colder exterior of the wool garment, the moisture from perspiration migrates towards the outer surface of the wool, and there evaporates into the ambient air. The insulating value of the wool fleece or fabric is determined largely by the pockets of air trapped within the fabric. The amount of water vapor in the air within the wool fabric is a function of the temperature and the amount of water in the fibers, and affects the heat conductivity of this air. All else being equal, when the amount of activity or the ambient temperature increases the body perspires more, the heat conductivity of the air trapped in the wool fabric increases, and the insulating value of the wool decreases. Thus wool clothing not only keeps the skin dry and warm, but also adjusts its degree of insulation to some degree to suit the amount of activity and external temperature".
That explained why I have favored wool so much in cold, wet climates and couldn't have said it better myself because I didn't know that. Nowadays whenever I look for arm warmers, leg warmers, mittens, caps or beanies as a gift or for myself it has got to be mostly wool for our winter outdoor activities.

Picture of Thermal Soft Shell Jacket for winter bike commutingThermal Soft Shell with Vest

For dry, bitter cold with nasty wind chill a favorite not only of mine but of many other winter bike commuters is a thermal windproof shell.  A description like that is just what a bike commuter wants to hear for cold windy conditions.  Typically this type of garment consists of polyester and elastene allowing the material to stretch and move without feeling restricted in movement.  Usually fleece lined for added warmth and there is perhaps none better for price and performance than the Pear Izumi Elite Barrier Jacket available for both men and women.  Sizing seems to run a bit small and I wanted to be able to layer underneath so I got a large when I normally wear a medium.  By clicking on any of the links provided and reading the reviews you will understand why this is such a popular winter soft shell jacket among many types of cyclists.  The newer models have reflective trim and excellent color options.  As mine is black I added a commuter vest for better visibility as well as having another outer layer that is easily packable.  Nice combination.

Picture of bike commuter wearing windproof shellPackable Windproof Shell

Due to the incredible warmth of my thermal softshell jacket sometimes it was too warm and as I mentioned how much better wool performs for odor reduction I found that having a thinner, more packable windproof shell over my sweater worked best in keeping me from getting too hot and perspiring too much on the steep climb into town. Also, the full length zipper allows easy ventilation as well as having a fully vented back panel, something thermal softshell jackets don't offer. When my after work evening ride home was mostly downhill I packed along arm warmers just in case there was a cold snap. 

This is the most pack friendly lightweight shell I own and can also be worn over a thermal softshell layer for extreme dry cold at temperatures well below freezing. 

Cycling specific shoes are arguably a poor choice for winter commuting.  Regarding keeping feet warm and dry as I prefer thick wool socks and sandals having a pair of neoprene booties like these from Pearl Izumi work very well.  Easy to put on and are compatible with bike shoes. 

Picture of waterproof jacket and pants for bike commutingWaterproof, ventilated Jacket and pants

When it comes to the vast array of nylon, gore-tex or other synthetic waterproof or windproof garments I have found that opinions of how these types of fabrics perform varies greatly from one person to another.  I have tried several varieties and have an assortment of rain and windproof outerwear to choose from most of which are easily stowed in a bike pannier or hydration pack so that I can regulate being over or under dressed on the go.  A truly waterproof outer shell that breathes well and doesn't feel like plastic has always been lacking in my array of winter bike commuting gear and I have tried several.  Without mentioning brand names or how awesome their products are supposed to be I have at long last found a truly waterproof, breathable jacket designed specifically for bike commuting and I couldn't be happier with the Craft Active Bike Rain Jacket or the Levi's Commuter Series Parka.  

Waterproof, windproof pants that can be worn to commute with more of an everyday casual look. 



At a certain point in my budgeting I thought to myself "wow, gearing up for winter bike commuting is sort of expensive, maybe I should just drive".  That thought lasted about a minute.  When my sister asked "what do you do on days you don't feel good?"  My response was "I take it easy".  The importance of proper layering for consistent winter bike commuting is very important.  My first year I did the "grin and bear it" method but as my body burned excess fuel to stay warm in extreme cold without proper attire I experienced significant weight loss of approximately 15 pounds.  I also noticed ice crystals in the air on some of my winter wonderland night rides and learned later how potentially harmful  it can be to suck ice crystals while pumping up a steep climb.  There is nothing wrong with getting off the bike and walking it when it's the wiser thing to do in harsh winter conditions.  

Links Related to this Topic:
Waterproof Cycling Clothing
Bike Commuting in Wet Weather
 
 

High Sierra Hydration Pack for Mountain Biking, Touring and Commuting

Picture of mountain biking with High Sierra Quick Shot 70 Hydration Pack
Mountain Biking in Colorado with High Sierra 70 Hydration Pack
Picture of High Sierra Hydration Pack for bike commuting with helmet holderNice helmet carrying ability
There is nothing wrong with touting good equipment when you find it.  Particularly when it delivers more than expected.  This can be said of the quality and affordable hydration packs from High Sierra.  

Most of my gear for bike touring and commuting has been of such good quality I haven't had to replace anything for ten years or more.  Might have something to do that I don't feel the need to keep up with bike fashion trends or the latest greatest gadget.  When a friend stepped on my twelve year old Nalgene hydration pack and broke the plastic buckle I considered replacing it.  Later after all the fuss of BPA Free hydration containers I decided to look for a new hydration pack.  

Whenever I replace a substantial piece of everyday riding equipment I consider what I didn't like about the item (seems there is always something) and look for a product that meets that criteria of "new and improved".  Things I was looking for were an ergonomically designed bike specific hydration pack, two litre reservoir, simple strap system and a way to store my helmet when not in use. 
I located just such a critter last year with the High Sierra Splash 70 which has been replaced this year with the Quick Shot 70.  I'm not exactly sure what they improved in the newer model compared to mine as I am quite satisfied with it's rugged design, insulated tube to prevent freezing, surprisingly adequate cargo capacity with a 2 litre reservoir and very waterproof.  Other than removing the so called "monster hook" for adding extra items to the outside of the pack such as a sunglasses case, visor or hat.  Listed specifications of the two packs are identical other than the differences mentioned.  By following links provided you will see how well reviewed both models of this hydration pack have been. 
  • Large, front-load main compartment
  • Separate, side-access hydration reservoir compartment makes it easy to access your water supply
  • 2-liter hydration system has a wide opening reservoir for easy filling and cleaning. System is BPA free and antimicrobial
  • Hands-free reservoir pressure valve Insulated water tube cover helps to prevent water from freezing in the tube
  • Hinged front pocket holds a helmet. Front zippered pocket holds bicycle tools, accessories or media player

Picture of High Sierra Quick Shot 70 hydration pack for bike touring and commutingHigh Sierra Quick Shot 70
An example of how much stuff I have been able to fit into this pack with a three quarter full reservoir. Topeak Hexus Multi Tool, Tire Jack and tire levers, wallet, cell phone, three energy snack bars, bike gloves, beanie or stocking cap, Planet Bike Sport Spot Helmet Light, Packable Windproof Shell, leg warmers, arm warmers, rear clip light for the included relective clip strap and when I am wearing my helmet the external pocket holds quite a bit of whatever I want to stash in it.

What did I like best about it?  The price.  When I purchased my old Nalgene pack it was sixty five bucks with my employee discount while I paid a mere thirty five bucks for this new and improved pack not to mention it was ten years later!

I have been using my High Sierra Hydration Pack for a solid year now on camping trips, bike touring, mountain biking and commuting and it still looks like new.  Click on any photos or links provided in this post for information or to purchase.

Links related to this article
Variation of Hydration




 

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