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Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Yeah, it’s cold

Yesterday and today, we’ve been having a bit of a cold snap, with the overnight temperatures reaching about -20°C. It was cold enough that I bought out my really cold riding gear for the first time this winter.

It was about -16°C when I rode into work, and I found that I got overheated a bit. On the way back home, there was a bitter headwind so I was glad that I was dressed the way I was.

This time, I guess the seal around my nose for my North45 balaclava was not quite perfect, so there was a bit of fogging and icing on my glasses by the end of a 45 minute trip. Still much better than a standard balaclava./

For the record, my clothing was:

  • Winter pants by Makers and Riders, although this pair by Eddie Bauer is decent. (anything fleece lined and relatively wind proof will do.)
  • wool undershirt
  • wool shirt
  • Winter jacket. Mine is by Arcteryx, but I can’t recommend it as I’ve had to send it back to get the front zipper repaired, a process that took months.
  • Woolie Boolie socks
  • Boots (I use flat pedals)
  • North45 balaclava.
  • earflaps on helmet.
  • Pogies, and medium weight gloves.

On Thursday evening, I attended a winter biking workshop given by Cycle Toronto.

Our two presenters were Rick and Dave.

Here Rick is talking about the importance of regular cleaning of your bike, along with re lubing after the clean. I do the same thing roughly weekly, rinsing the salt off of the drivetrain with a garden sprayer, filled with hot water.

If you look closely, you will note the homemade mudflap on the front fender that keeps your drive train cleaner. A front mudflap also keeps your feet drier in the rain.

They had a lot of good advice. They promised a bunch of links after their talk, and when those are distributed, I will add them to this blog post.

Some of the talk was about not purchasing a lot of expensive gear for winter riding. In that spirit, I did some experimenting with a home-brew solution to fogging glasses. Here I cut part of the bottom off of an N95 mask so that breath would escape out the bottom.

Here it is combined with a balaclava. (a reminder that my favourite is this wool one from TST)

Here is a picture riding with this combination, and there is no fogging of the glasses.


BTW, CycleTO has finally announced this year’s version of the “Coldest Day of the Year Ride”. It will be Sunday February 12 at 11:30, when the forecast is for a balmy 0°C. The ride starts at Sumch-Shuter Parkette, and it looks like it will go west on Shuter, north on Sherbourne, and then east across the viaduct and along Danforth to East Lynn Park.

Hoping that the temporary ramps on Danforth will be OK, as there has been a repeated problem with one of them having the edge of the metal ramp being bent up by snow plows.


At any rate, hats off to all those who were out biking yesterday or this morning. Know that you were probably biking on the real coldest day of the year.

Also note that the International Winter Bike to Work Day is this Friday. Somewhat confusingly, there is also something planned for Saturday according to this website.


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North45 Anti-Fog Balaclava

Here’s an example from about a month ago, showing the fogging that can occur when it is cold, and your breath is directed upwards by a covering over your mouth. When is is really cold, the fog can also start freezing to your glasses.

North45 is a company that sells balaclavas that claim to eliminate fogging of either ski goggles or glasses when you otherwise need full facial protection from the cold. I got one of their balaclavas for Xmas, but until yesterday it really wasn’t cold enough to put it to the test.

The model that I got is meant for glasses rather than ski goggles. Here is what it looks like from the side. It is a medium weight merino wool balaclava with an extra band of cloth.

When you bring this band down to the correct position, then it covers the lower half of your face, and the top edge of the band has a bit of wire or metal that gives a good fit around your nose.

This is what it looks like in operation. Bottom line: no fogging of glasses.

It is gets too warm, it is easy to pull the band down to your chin. Also, the fact that it is merino means that if it gets a big soggy from your breath, it will still keep you warm, and in fact the flap stays further from your face than a regular balaclava.

The reason it works is that the band is open at the bottom so that your breath is all directed downwards away from your glasses. I can imagine rigging up something by taking an N45 mask, cutting big vents in the bottom, and combining it with a balaclava to get much the same affect, but it wouldn’t quite provide the same level of protection when it is really cold.

At any rate, it is a high quality item. It is made in China, but buying it supports a small company in the Canadian Rockies. From the postal markings on the package I see that mine passed through both Lake Louise and Canmore AB.

Here’s to hoping that I’ll actually not using it much this winter. At -9°C yesterday and this morning, it was too warm.

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7 Roads is a small company in Ukraine that makes a full line of bike packing bags. I heard about them from this review of their pogies. I was intrigued since the pogies were advertised as dual purpose, i.e they would fit MTB type bars as well as drop bars. I was not sure if they were still able to produce bags given the situation in Ukraine so I sent them an email. Elena responded quickly, along with the following note:

“Thank you for supporting Ukrainians! We just spent around 2000 usd on Ecoflow (compact power station), cause we need to keep working, no matter of electricity black outs after russians bombardments. “

Ordering through their website was very smooth, and they can make their bags and pogies in your choice of colour scheme. I ordered a pair of XPac fabric pogies in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. They were shipped in about 10 days after the order. Understandably the shipping was a bit slow, and they arrived yesterday after about three weeks.

Close up of all the stickers that came with the order.

The zipper makes it easier to install than the other pogies that I’ve had.

Comparing them to the Dogwood Designs, I would say that they sweep back about the same amount, but the Dogwood Designs have a lot more volume forward of the opening for the straight bars. This photo is a bit deceiving: the Dogwood designs pogies have a lot more volume.

Here they are installed on my drop bar gravel bike. Note the reflective trim that appears grey in this photo.

It took a bit of fiddling to get them in the right position so that the brifter levers didn’t drag on the lining. Here you can see that they don’t have a baffle closing the space around the wrist. This has the advantage that it makes it easy to get your hands in and out of the pogies. The lining and insulation are pretty close around the hand so I’m not particularly concerned. Of course it was +8°C today, so it wasn’t really a good test of how warm these will be. I’ll update this post when I’ve had a chance to ride these in colder weather.

Given the glorious weather, I took a quick spin out to the Etobicoke Creek Trail. There was ice and snow on the creek, but the trail was clear, having been heavily salted in the past week.

As an update, they have taken the fence down at the south end of the crossing under the QEW. I don’t know if this means that the trail is now official open, but riding across is pretty easy for any bike that isn’t a skinny tired road bike….

although on this particular day there were patches of slippery mud.

Just had to take a picture of the pogies at this particular spot.

Bottom line: I highly recommend these pogies. They are very well made, and I would argue that they look more solid than even the Dogwood Designs pogies that are considerably more expensive. Also the ability to choose your colour scheme is pretty unique at this price point.

I’m a big fan of buying high quality bike gear from small companies that don’t offshore their production, such as Randi Jo Fabrications, Kitsbow Clothing, Arkel, Atwater Atelier, Rockgeist, and Carsick Designs.

I’m very happy to add 7Roads to this list, with the added bonus that I’m supporting a small business in Ukraine that is operating under difficult conditions.

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Tried and liked 2022

Around Christmas time, it’s a bit of a tradition on the Internet BOB list to post bike related things that you have tried and liked during the past year. I see that it’s been many years since I’ve posted such a list, the last one being in 2016. I still really like of the gear that I recommended that year, with one update being that my choice for wool balaclava is now from TST.

Since that time, there are a number of items that I would highly recommend, most of them acquired in the last year or two.

Firstly, I love the wool shirts from Kitsbow.

This an employee owned company that sews all of their stuff in house in North Carolina. Their icon shirt has lots of lovely details that make it a lifetime garment, and the regular cut is trimmer that all of the other flannel or wool type shirts that I’ve tried. This, along with a wool undershirt, is my regular commuting gear. In winter I also throw on a jacket over top. I’ll also put in a good word for their wool knickers. I’ve worn those down to 0°C. They are a stretch wool blend. I don’t know if the wool makes much difference, but they are much more stink resistant than regular bike gear. All their stuff is expensive, particularly with the exchange and shipping to Canada, but if you want the best, and you want to support manufacture in North America…..

On a similar note, I really like my Search and State jacket. It is sewn in NY, and so is quite expensive. A very stripped down. design, but it seems to breathe well. The only additional thing I wish it had was a chest pocket, but that would add weight and make it less package. I see now that they’ve added a jacket with more pockets, but the price is even more stratospheric.

In winter, I like pogies as a preferred solution to cold hands, and so I finally broke down this year to get the ultimate versions by Dogwood Designs. (update: see my review of the pogies from 7Roads.

I have another pair of pogies in bound from a small shop in the Ukraine. I’ll let you know how they turn out. If you are looking for a cheaper pair, the padded ones from Rock Bros are OK.

On a side note about pogies, if your hands are buried in them, then you probably have to relocate your bell from its usual location. An alternative is to use an electric bell with a remote button. The Twooc is not a bad option. It is certainly plenty loud.

My Routewerks handlebar bag is terrific. Yes, it is rather heavy, but it is very well made, and the flip top is awesome for access while riding. You’ll see plenty of pictures of it elsewhere on the blog, such as this recent example.

Finally I’ll mention that my initial impressions of the new commuter bike headlight from Trek are pretty positive. It has decent optics that give the beam pattern a horizontal cutoff as is required in Europe.

On low beam, it is still brighter than my lower end B&M dynamo headlight.

At any rate, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and tailwinds for the new year.

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Chainstay mounted kickstand

I’m a big fan of kickstands on my city bikes. My winter bike has not had one for a while, so I finally broke down and bought one. This particular bike didn’t look like it would be compatible with a mounting position just ahead of the rear wheel so I elected to get one that mounts off of the chainstay. In addition, the one that I chose also has an additional clamp that attaches to the seat stay for greater rigidity.

It looks like this model will fit a wide variety of bikes. However, in this particular case, since my bike has something coming down from the chain stay to mount the cable adjuster for the rear internal hub, there was a bit of interference with the kickstand mount.

A little early morning work with the Dremel.

Much better.

One of the things that I didn’t fully appreciate is that with a single sided kickstand, it is easy to roll the bike even with the kickstand down. Additionally, the rear mount eliminates any interference with the pedals.

This is in contrast to my plescher double legged stand on the pink bike, which is great, but once the stand is down, the bike cannot roll.

Mounted a flag for today’s ride with Santa. I haven’t used this flag since 2015.

For those joint us for the Cycling Good Cheer ride, I’ll see you either at North York Centre, or at the meet up at Bloor and Yonge.

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Winter tires

After my ride today, I dropped by Hoopdriver Bicycles to pick up a pair of gravel bike tires that were on sale.

Martin always has nice things to look at in his shop. Here, he is assembling a Moulton model that I had never seen before. This model isn’t even on their website. It looks like an evolved F frame, but with the front suspension of one of their spaceframe models.

Speaking of tires, if you are interested in Continental Winter Tires (they are not studded but work very well), then Martin has them on special in both the 700C and 26″ sizes. Details on his website. He sells them in pairs. He also just sent me a note saying that if you mention my blog, then he will provide an additional discount on these tires.

I guess he’s betting that it’s not going to snow much this season.

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Most bike headlights in Europe have a beam pattern that is similar to that on newer cars: there is a horizontal cutoff that keeps other oncoming cyclists from being blinded. Historically almost all bike headlights sold in North America have a simple cone shaped beam like a flashlight.

Recently, Trek started advertising two new headlights with a feature they call “kind beam“. I was reminded that I already had several older lights with this feature, so I decided to pick up one of the Trek lights, and to compare it with the others.

The first one was a smart headlight that I heard about from Kent’s bike blog.

It meets the German standard in terms of having a properly shaped light pattern, it has a photocell to adjust the light brightness, and it was relatively cheap. Unfortunately it is no longer available, and I wish I had ordered several back in January 2020.

Next up: the Planet Bike Blaze 600 SLX.

It is supposed to have had a “clean beam”

However, my impression was that the beam didn’t really have a clear horizontal cutoff, although the beam pattern was clearly wider than it was high. Unfortunately the light was stolen off of my bike before I got around to taking any pictures of the beam pattern.

I was left with comparing two lights: the Portland Design Works Pathfinder USB, and the Trek Commuter Comp R. Both come with a simple mount that is secured with a rubber strap, and both charge with a micro USB cable.

Here is the PDW light. It retails for $38 USD, but I do not know if there are any dealers in Canada. 85 grams.

Here is the considerably more expensive Trek light. 113g.

Both lights have an LED at the top of the light opening, and a reflector below it to shape the beam.

Trek (left) PDW (right)

Here are the two light patterns. The PDW is the more rounded pattern. Both have a reasonable sharp horizontal cutoff, but not quite as good as the German generator lights that I have on two of my bikes.

I took advantage of some foggy weather to take some other picture of the beams, from the front and the side. Here is the PDW:

Here is the Trek:

Both do a good job of putting a fair amount of light down on the road without being blinding to someone standing in front of the light.

Of the two lights, I’ve used the PDW more as I’ve had it for longer. I do have two complaints about the light. I might have a bum sample since the run time is much less than advertised. Here the light is down to 3 out of 5 bars after about 40 minutes of running on the pulse mode.

Not anything like what they claim.

The other thing is that the rubber button worked loose after not much use, although I was able to squeeze it back into position. It does make me wonder how waterproof the light is.

The Trek light appears to be much more solidly built. Of course it is not cheap. ($92 CDN). I’ll report back on the Trek light when I’ve had more time with it.

If you want this type of light in a battery powered model, both are reasonable choices that didn’t exist a couple of years ago. They are both considerably cheaper than German battery lights that are $150 USD and up.

German dynamo powered headlights are cheaper, but you have to factor in the cost of a front wheel with a generator hub.

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Studded tire time

Given the amount of snow on the roads, I figured it was time to get the bikes ready for winter. I got the winter beater out from the back of the garage, and transferred over the lock and panniers from my daily commuter. It is a Louis Garneau Cityzen Sub Zero, which was marketed for a short time as a winter bike.

It has Schwalbe winter marathon tires, and the huge Dogwood Designs pogies.

I also put the studded tires back onto the cargo bike and reinstalled pogies. I also relocated the bells so that they were outside of the pogies.

After all this trouble. I assume that the snow will melt back and the roads will be clear.

Also: it looks like sidewalk plowing is higher priority than bike lane plowing.

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I switched over to the Continental Contact tire for my Brompton back in April 2020. They were a brand new entry to the market at the time, and I had to order them from the UK. Now I recently noticed that Curbside Cycles is carrying the tire, along with a tan wall version. Here is the black version with the reflective stripe.

This version folds, and I can’t be sure that it is the same as the ones that I have since I think they had metal beads? Nevertheless, I’ve been happy with mine. They roll fast, and in 900 km of riding over the past two years I’ve gotten one flat.

I’ve bought this one as a spare since I am gearing up to fill in the middle section of the RSVP ride, the missing 100 km that resulted from my having a blowout of my tire and tube back in 2019. This time I have a spare tire and tube!

I’ll also note that at $45 each, they are a good deal, although I note that Curbside also seems to be clearing out Schwable Marathon Races at $20. Not sure if these tires are take offs at that price.

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Just a few notes about my Brompton. I’ve written before about how my wrists are not happy with the straight bar position, and I strongly prefer a hand position like on the hoods of the brake levers on drop bars (i.e. with my knuckles faced outwards). I addressed this on my Brompton by digging an old pair of Cane Creek bar ends out of my parts bin. I’ve had pictures of them on my blog, for example here.

The other great thing about them is that they are short and so they don’t interfere with the fold, which can be an issue with some of the Ergo bar ends that seem to be popular with Bromptoneers.

A while ago, I saw that Cane Creek reissued them, but for some reason they used a new squared off shape that looked quite uncomfortable. So I was happy the other day to see that Urbane carries what looks like a worthy alternative.

The other thing I noticed was that my Brompton had lost an EZ wheel, so it was time to drop by Curbside for a replacement.

Of the choices they had, I opted for a pair from Nov designs. Since my rack is not standard, I figured that I could use a pair of the “frame mount” wheels, rather than the “rack mount” version that comes with much longer bolts. I was pleased to see that they came with bolts that were longer than what came with the wheel that matched the one that fell off.

A little blue thread lock, and I was all done. Note that the bolt is threaded more solidly that the old wheel.

As it turns out, now all four of my EZ wheels match.

Of course I couldn’t help noticing that they had a P series on display. It is considerably lighter than my bike since it has Ti rear triangle and fork, as well as a new 4 Spd derailer set up instead of the 3 Spd internal hub.

I was told that the managers were at Eurobike and that they were checking out the even lighter T series, among other things.

Looks like they are having too much from from this post.

At any rate, it is always a bit dangerous to drop by my favourite bike shops.

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