Review of Extreme Bar Mitts versus original Bar Mitts

New for this winter bike commuting season are Extreme Bar Mitts. Like the original Bar Mitts the Extreme Bar Mitts are like mittens for your handlebars that stay on the bike. You operate the controls inside of them, possibly with additional gloves or mittens on.

dropping child off at day care by bakfiets, 35F and raining

I have long, thin fingers and tried many pairs of gloves and mittens looking for something that would keep my fingers warm for cycling. When I finally found Bar Mitts they made a huge difference for me, allowing me to ride at colder temperatures or with greater comfort than anything before. In typical winter conditions I could use lighter gloves– and sometimes no gloves– inside the Bar Mitts, allowing me to more easily and safely operate the shifters and brakes. I’ve been using the original Bar Mitts about four years.

Recently Bar Mitts sent me their new Extreme Bar Mitts model to try and it has finally been cold enough to put them to the test. I was concerned that Extreme Bar Mitts would be too warm, since I already found the regular Bar Mitts sufficient for me down to about 0F when paired with fleece-lined wool mittens.

Continue reading Review of Extreme Bar Mitts versus original Bar Mitts

Staying Below the Sweat Threshold

Photo by Dottie, a lawyer in Chicago who bike commutes to work and writes for She has a great related post on how to bike commute in a suit.

The sweat threshold is the level of physical activity above which you begin to
sweat. Bike commuters ride below the sweat threshold– sometimes just below it– to arrive at the destination presentable and without using special clothing for cycling.
Continue reading Staying Below the Sweat Threshold

3 wardrobe updates that worked for winter bike commuting

Whitewater Gorge, Richmond Indiana

The seasons are changing and it’s time to prepare for another winter of transportation with minimal car use.¬†

Over the past couple of winters, I successfully experimented with some wardrobe updates that allowed me to be comfortable outside without a car.
Continue reading 3 wardrobe updates that worked for winter bike commuting

Video: How to Dress for Winter Bike Commuting

Dottie commutes by bike with style through winter in Chicago, and she’s put together this great video on how to dress for winter bike commuting:

My own philosophy and recommendations would be rather similar. She also provides her own blog post with more details and photos.

You’ll find several more tips on this site in the clothing category.

SKS Chainboard: solving the greasy pant leg problem

SKS Chainboard
The SKS Chainboard in action

A significant deterrent to everyday bike riding is the prospect of getting chain grease on your clothing. European city bikes generally solve this problem with internal hub gears and partial or full or chainguards. The internal hub gearing also reduces the maintenance.

But here in the US, most bikes now have both front and rear derailleurs. And it’s just about impossible to find a chainguard that works in combination with derailleurs. But the new SKS Chainboard seems to be just that.

Read Patrick’s review of the SKS Chainboard on the Velocouture blog for a full review.

DIY sleeve extender for winter bike commuting

Wrists are prone to getting cold while winter bike commuting. With arms stretched out to reach the handlebars, a gap appears between jacket and gloves. When my wrists are cold, I’m cold.

I tried jackets with sleeves that cinched over my gloves. These slipped. I tried giant over-mitts that tightened over my jacket sleeves. These slipped too, and the big mitts were bulky to carry around in my pockets when I was off the bike.

So I made this simple sleeve extender, shown in this photos after the jump. It’s super to easy to use, doesn’t slip, and is very low bulk. It also happens to look like an extra long shirt sleeve, rather than technical mountain climbing gear.
Continue reading DIY sleeve extender for winter bike commuting

Surprisingly dry bike commuting in a $10 jacket

Today I tried a cheap nylon jacket for rain protection. Like, “ten dollars” cheap. The jacket I wore is from Eastbay, and is discounted from $40 to $10.

It kept me completely dry for a 10 minute bike commute through the pouring rain. Ten minutes is enough time for cotton clothing to get drenched. It’s also enough time for me to get from home to grocery or from the office back home. It’s enough time for a $150 Marmot Oracle rain jacket to begin to leak through the pockets.

That’s precisely why I’m trying the backup jacket– I’m sending in the Marmot jacket for what I believe is a design flaw and which I expect they’ll take care of through the warranty process.

I was so surprised by the performance of the Eastbay jacket, I went online to check to see if it made any claims to be waterproofing. The jacket does not even classify itself as a rain jacket, but simply “water repellent”.

From what I’ve learned about what “water repellent” means, a chemical was probably applied to the nylon, which causes the water to bead-up and roll off, rather than soaking through. Over time, this feature will work less and less well. They are spray-on solutions than can be applied to later to rejuvinate the effect, but from what I’ve read they often don’t work as good as the original repellency.

This also means that had I taken a longer ride, I’m sure the jacket would have eventually soaked through, which a waterproof jacket should not do. Further, waterproof jackets have taped seams, and sometimes have special waterproof zippers, while this jacket does not.

What I’m saying is that the Eastbay jacket is not a magic alternative to the quality of a waterproof/breathable jacket. However, it may just be “good enough” for some around town trips, despite perhaps being less durable. At $10, or even $40, it’s certainly worth a shot for staying comfortable in the rain.

Bike Gear and Clothing Recommendations for Commuting in the Rain

My solutions for comfortable clothing and dry gear.

Rainy day gorge tour
I was afraid of the rain. The car used to protect me from it when I got around. After several years of being car-free, I’ve been able to replace this fear with an understanding of how to stay comfortable when bike commuting in the rain.

What I’ve learned along the way that is the staying comfortable in the rain takes an all or nothing approach: Repel it or enjoy it.

Here are my strategies for both cases.

Continue reading Bike Gear and Clothing Recommendations for Commuting in the Rain

Everyday Gloves for Cool Weather Cycling

Wind Glove and Liner Glove I recently wrote about Bicycling Mittens for Five Degrees. That’s a solution for an extreme, so today I want to Back the Truck Up, and describe the gloves that I find work best for everyday bicycle commuting in cooler whether.
The qualities I find are important are:

  1. Wind Protection. This is the primary purpose.
  2. Light Insulation, to take the edge off.
  3. Comfort. Not too tight.
  4. Functional, so they don’t get in the way of braking.
  5. Compact. Easy to carry when not in use.

Continue reading Everyday Gloves for Cool Weather Cycling

Constructing a Bicycle Wind Shield

photo of head gear for winter bicycling

The cold wind pressed harder against me as the bike accelerated down Bridge Avenue. Despite the freezing wind chill, I remained comfortable behind my wind shield.

The key things I’ve learned about keeping my head warm on a bicycle are 1. The comfort of my face contributes a lot to my overall perceived comfort. 2. In cooler temperatures, blocking wind is the key to a comfortable face and 3. A lot of the wind I’m blocking is generated from pedaling itself.
Continue reading Constructing a Bicycle Wind Shield