Monday, January 5, 2009

Gear Notes Pt 1.

I purchased some new gear to bring on this last trip to help with the weather. While we didn't face any seriously terrible weather, it was cold-ish (definitely cold for a Los Angelean). Mornings were brisk in the 40s, nights may have dipped into the 30s and daytime highs were probably in the 50s-60s. So here's what I thought of the new stuff.

IBEX Leg Warmers
Construction-wise, these leg warmers are top notch. The grippers are fairly grippy, the wool is thin enough for free movement but definitely has some thickness in it to keep you warm. There are zippers around the ankle area to facilitate removal. The wool is smooth and non-itchy.

Now, I'm not a spandex wearing kind of person usually, so when I first rode with these on without bike shorts I was a bit disappointed. They worked themselves loose and after a few miles the thighs were around my ankles. I was bummed. Then, I tried them with bike shorts, which I am assuming is how these things were intended to be used. I wore them so they were layered beneath the shorts and they didn't fall down. So with shorts they're great, without shorts (for me) they didn't work so hot. Highly recommend (with shorts).

North Face Apex Glove
I purchased these after a week of rain here in LA. I wanted something waterproof and wind proof to keep my hands dry and warm. Perusing through my local REI, these seemed to fit the bill. They were waterproof and not overly bulky. They have a thin fleece lining in them for warmth.

In use, I'm having mixed feelings. They seem to be waterproof and windproof, but don't provide much warmth. My hands are still cold (though not as cold without of course) and I think that is due to the fleece. I'm going to try to combine it with some wool glove liners to see if this improves its performance. Not quite sure what I think yet.

Marmot Zeus Down Jacket
I didn't have too much of problem keeping warm when climbing hills, but at camp...brrrr. That is when this jacket came in handy. I purchased this during an REI member sale knocking off a few dollars. Down jackets are said to have the highest warmth to weight ratio. The trade off being their complete failure if they get wet.

This particular one is said to have a water-resistant covering, which probably more or less translates to "don't get it wet," which I didn't. One neat feature of this jacket is that the left pocket doubles as a stuff sack! You turn it inside out and stuff the jacket into itself (sort of like its own personal vortex) and it turns into a neat squarish down pillow of warmth which fit easily into a pannier.

In practice, the jacket worked as advertised and provided good warmth. While I wouldn't wear this to the arctic, it did keep me from shivering when combined with a few wool layers underneath. Recommend.

Power Grips
Purchased off the Riv site, I wanted something that provided some foot retention but could be used with regular shoes. I've tried toe-clips and half toe-clips and they work well with regular shoes, they don't work well with Keen sandals. Keens just have big honking toe boxes. Unfortunately, Keens are my footwear of choice for touring.

So I ordered some PGs. Installation was fairly straight forward and hardware seemed OK. I'd carry some spare hardware and maybe an extra strap if I were going on an extended tour in remote country.

With the Keens, the straps are nearly attached to its end to accommodate the large toe box. So if you have Keens and want to try PGs, get the extra long version! This shortness made it a bit tricky to get into. To be honest, I was getting pretty frustrated the first few days of use. However, by the third day I was able to get in and out with more regularity.

They provided good retention and I got to test them in the rain a little, where they were invaluable. Overall, I'm pleased with them, but I do plan on ordering an extra long version to work with my Keens. I won't say anything conclusive about these, but they feel like they're on the right track. Recommend.


Nemo said...

I also converted to PGs awhile ago. I purchased the extra-long model and it was almost too big...even with a US shoe size of 13 in boots! Similarly I had the frustration and difficulty upon first using them but I adapted and love them now. They are so much easier than clipless pedals around town and I don't need special shoes!

Great post. Its good to hear honest comments from folks using gear. :)


2whls3spds said...

Thanks for the review on the Power Grips! I have been considering a set of those for my City Bike, but they will have to come after I get the new pedals from Velo Orange.

Are Power Grips adjustable? Or is it a one size will have to work? I ride in different foot wear depending on the weather, destination and time of the day. I use toe clips on some of my bikes and miss having them on the City Bike, but they don't work with all of my footwear...the follies of fashion and comfort. ;-)


JPTwins said...

I'm with Nemo: I have size 13 shoes as well, and when I wear normal adidas sneakers with the Power grips on the smallest setting, there's way too much wiggle room. I'll either trying riding with my winter boots (the reason i got them) or try punching another hole in them to make 'em smaller.

crazy to think that keens don't fit in the regular size -- what size shoes do you wear russ?

regarding gloves: I'm still on the holy grail hunt to find some that are neither too hot or too cold. On winter rides, I end up carrying two pairs.

JPTwins said...

oh and a question: does your girlfriend end up getting all this gear too? I mean, presumably she need to stay warm and comfortable too...

Jesse said...

Thanks for the PG suggestion! I love my Keen's, but I've been keeping an old pair of sneakers around for using with my clips. I never even thought about Power Grips!

RussRoca said...

The PGs are adjustable and after some research, I've found that they make two models.

One is micro-adjustable (like the one they sell on Riv). The strap is held in place by some hardware and you can adjust the tautness incrementally.

The old style has fixed holes in the strap (sort of like a belt buckle). From what I've gathered, the Extra Long PGs only come in the old style.

I wear size 9 shoes. I have a pair of sneaker like Merrells and they work great with the PGs. They slip in and out with no problem and there's plenty of strap to adjust it tight.

With Keens, in addition to the wide toe-box, the uneven surface texture from the top webbing prevents an effortlessly smooth entry (for me). Getting out is no problem.

I think over time I'll get the hang of it as well as wear the straps a little so it's easier to get into. If you ride clipless, be prepared for an adjustment period.

I forsee their greatest value in the rain or in any conditions that would make flats slippery to ride on. They will give enough retention so your shoes won't slide off on a climb.

Laura and I wear different but similar gear. We both have a lot of wool, brought a fleece and windproofish jackets. She doesn't have a down jacket, yet.

Hmmm.....maybe I should have her start writing some posts too!

rockandrollcannibal said...

I got a pair of PGs for my winter bike (fixed gear, so I didn't want to be without some pedal retention) and I'm quite happy with them. For Wisconsin winters I like a somewhat heftier shoe than I can get into my toeclips, while the PGs are a bit awkward with a pair of shoes with a very large toe box (I find anyway, though I could loosen them up a bit more) I've got a nice comfy pair of Eccos that fits quite nicely in them and helps keep my toes toasty (in two pairs of socks with some plastic in between over the toes on those chilly days). A small allen wrench is all that's needed to adjust back to more summery shoes when that time comes, at least with the new model that Rivendell sells, which is a lovely tan with a bit of a tartan design.