For all the winter-weary cyclists out there (us included!) here below is a list of get-back-on-the-bike items, a spread of gear you might consider as you unbolt from the trainer and hit the trails or streets this spring once again. —T.C. Worley
Hincapie “George” Signature Jacket. Spring is wet and you will be too if you aren’t dressed correctly. Hincapie Sports’ George Signature jacket is made from a light rip-stop fabric with an eVent waterproof membrane. The minimal jacket shed water like a duck in our tests and it is so packable it can be stowed in a jersey pocket when not needed.
Not just for rainy days, it served me well as a windbreak on chilly days in the saddle. A large single pocket in back carries a fair amount of stuff, but I missed having a chest pocket for quick access to things like my phone. Fit is “slim” and may seem small at first, but on the bike it is just right. Comes in a bright “HEY DRIVERS, LOOK AT ME!” red and retails for $299.
Espresso Due Jacket. If springtime comes slowly in your neck of the woods, a warmer jacket may be in order. We tested Castelli’s Espresso Due jacket in temps around freezing and below. (The company recommends it for temps in the 32 – 50F range, though we found it capable in much colder temps winter riding.) Gore WindStopper fabric and a grid-pattern fleece interior help the warmth stay in, but the softshell material and four well-placed vents let sweat escape.
You’d be hard pressed to find a nicer looking jacket — it’s the Italian tuxedo of bike jackets, really. The luxury level jacket garnered compliments from even non-cyclists, and my riding partners insisted on trying it on. Comfort is on the high end too, and I found myself wearing this jacket off the bike. Available in red, white or black for $300.
TwinSix Wool Hoodie. We’re big fans of wool clothing here at GearJunkie and this piece is no exception. Twin Six’s Merino Wool Hoodie neatly rides a line between technical and casual. There’s nothing too whiz-bang here, just a warm, truly breathable merino hoodie with cuff thumb-holes, three zipper pockets, and a two-way main zipper on front.
We’ve run the Twin Six top as a mid-layer in frigid temps and an outer layer on more moderate days. It comes in black, which may not be the best color for visibility, but it never stains from road spray or grease. The hood is best when the ride is over; we found it too loose to be of much benefit on the bike and in the wind, where it billowed out and caught air. It ain’t cheap, but for the $180 the Merino Wool Hoodie costs Twin Six includes nine decal patches to customize the top to your taste.
Mission Workshop Fitzroy Pack. For bike commuting, the tough, U.S.-made Fitzroy pack from San Francisco’s Mission Workshop is a great choice. We’ve ridden hundreds of miles with this pack, which the company dubs an “impenetrable fortress” to weather and spray. We love the performance and design, and with more than 2,000 cubic inches of space inside the bag can haul a ton.
Waterproof construction and urethane-coated zippers keep the weather on the outside. An internal laptop sleeve and frame sheet make it a good choice for the techy rider. An optional waist-belt, $34, is nice if you’re a curb-hopping, out-of-the-saddle sprint kind of rider. The Fitzroy’s $219 price tag is steep but appropriate for a bag this well made. Final note: The company quotes the bag as “built to last a lifetime,” and that’s not just a motto; Mission Workshop gives the Fitzroy a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defect.
Chrome Camera Pack. Fancy a pack that can safely and comfortably carry your DSLR? (That’s a big camera, for those not in the know.) Look at the messenger-style NIKO from Chrome. The bag is burly, protecting of gear, and designed to ride well on the back of a cyclist.
Weather-proof (not waterproof, so don’t dunk it) construction with a tough nylon outer and urethane zippers should keep equipment safe from all but a serious downpour. Slim dimensions of about 15 × 9 × 6.5 allow at least a camera body and two lenses plus a flash and other accessories. A cross-chest stabilizer strap keeps the bag in place well I found even during spirited riding.
Caveats? Accessing our gear was a little slow and futzy. But the tradeoff is safe equipment, and for that the Niko is one of the better on-bike choices we’ve tested. Bonus: The $95 bag is embellished with the classic Chrome seatbelt buckle for added function and style to boot.
Wash and ‘Wet Lube’ from MOTOREX. Hoping to do a better job of caring for my bike this winter I tried a few items from Swiss lubricant maker MOTOREX. The company’s Bike Clean is just as it sounds — spray it on, wait five minutes, and then hose off the bike to a clean. I’ve used this stuff lately for unearthing my bike from the nasty grime that collects on it during the winter. Since it is solvent-free, Bike Clean is safe to use on your paint. $14.95 buys you a 500ml spray bottle good for about 10 to 15 washes. Worth it.
MOTOREX item No. 2 is the company’s Bike Wet Lube, which we found great for wintery and spring conditions. Gooey and thick, it goes on clumsily, but work it in, wipe it down, and you’re ready for the nastiest spring rides. The thicker formula will hang onto the chain and keep water and road slop out of the inner workings. Our only complaint is the bottle’s nozzle, which seems unnecessarily messy to operate. $9.50 for 100ml bottle.
Track Rides with Strava. “Compare your performance against friends, locals and pros,” urges the text on Strava.com. The last thing I wanted on my rides was another distraction from an electronic device. So initially I snubbed my nose at a “social network” for runners and cyclists. But once I tried it, I’ve used it on every training ride since. I’m hooked!
Strava’s free app is one of the more popular choices for cyclists wanting to track their rides. Besides being super easy to use, it is actually fun. The addiction comes when you see how your ride compares to others who have ridden the same stretches or “segments” as Strava calls them. For instance, I’m ranked 6th overall on the toughest climb on my commute. An average commute turns into a training day now that I have Strava. As long as Strava is “watching” I will never be able to roll that hill at an easy pace again.
Compatible with multiple Garmin GPS training devices, as well as phones, Strava also offers premium subscriptions for $60 a year that upgrade with extras like the ability to analyze pace, power and heart-rate on the ride. If your spring training lacks motivation, go to Strava.com and download the free app for either iPhone or Droid to try it out. We wager you’ll be gunning for “king of the nearest hill” before the puddles dry and spring fades toward summer and those hot days to come.