The new saddle, or the one that almost wasn’t

selle saddle

Well, I thought I’d seen most everything that could be done to a package that has been delivered by UPS, FedEx, or the USPS.  I was in for a bit of a treat, then, considering that I was pretty sure I’d seen it all.

I ordered the above saddle from Pro Bike Kit, across the pond in England, because they offered an insanely good price on one of my favorite saddles and they offered free shipping.  What’s not to like?

So, I ponied up the money – $57 or so US dollars – on 12-17-13, and sat back to wait.  I found in the web site that about 10 days should get it done, so I thought it would make a dandy Christmas present to me. 

Christmas came and went and so did New Year’s – with no saddle.  Another few days passed – no saddle.  I was starting to worry.  I had sent an inquiry to the company, and they said to wait a month before getting to wound up about it.   

On 1-9-14, I went to get the mail, and the husband went in to actually physically fetch it.  He came back out in a bit of a hurry, saying, “You need to come in and look at this to make sure it’s all there.”  I shot him an odd look – I had no idea what this could be – simply because I was expecting the saddle at the house, not the P.O. box.  I went in – and sure enough, there was a box from Pro Bike Kit, inside a clear plastic bag, with stuff falling out of the ripped exterior.

The box looked like Godzilla had gotten hold of it and just ripped into it.  The one whole  corner was gone, and the rest of the box was mashed and shredded.  The little plastic airbags were falling out of it, and saddle, all the way in one corner, was hidden under the mess of cardboard. 

I dug into the box, gently removed the saddle, which was in its own plastic bag, to find that the saddle itself was fine.  the cardboard hang tag was soaked and no longer intact. 

Wow – I didn’t know you could mangle a box that badly and not hurt the actual product, but it appears this is so.  I doubt I will use this company again, even if their prices are that good.  The saddle itself is okay, it is now mounted on its intended bike, and I really like it.


A Word About Fenders

Fenders are an integral part of my own personal riding preference. Of the 10 or so bikes that I own, better than half of them have fenders on board. If they are ones I have built or have had built, I make sure there is room for fenders before I ever build them. The bikes that I own that do not have fenders on them typically do not have room under the brake bridges to include fenders as part of their daily appearance. For those bikes, I keep a set of SKS Race Blades (strap-on fenders) around so that if the weather has been unpleasant or wet, I can still keep the road grime off me and my drive train.

Why the fixation with fenders?

Several reasons.

1. Protection from road grime and objects. I personally hate have road grime, small pebbles, and other garbage sticking to my legs. In the summer, I sweat enough that dirt and small stones stick to my legs and leave me looking as if I have unreasonably dark legs and nothing else. I also just don’t like feeling that sticky, if I can help it. Additionally, I don’t have to worry about the skunk-striped appearance of the back of my jacket or jersey if I have fenders on the bike.

2. Protecting paint and drivetrain. Fenders are good protection against things jumping into the drivetrain of your bike and also from keeping larger objects from impacting your down tube, fork crown, fork legs, and other areas. Fenders also will funnel water away from you and also your drivetrain should you be bicycling in foul weather. Instead of having wet, clammy feet that are uncomfortable and also having a wet and then rusted drivetrain, you will be some drier if you have fenders on the bike.
3. Appearance. Some bikes just beg for fenders. For instance – I have a late 70’s – early 80’s Kabuki Bridgestone HT that just absolutely begged for a set of fenders in chrome. I obliged, since I had an old set, and it really added to the vintage look of the bike, as well as adding the functionality of protection against the elements. I also have three touring bikes that wear fenders constantly (a giant OCR touring, custom-built Nashbar frame, and Salsa Fargo) and, to my eyes, wouldn’t look right without them. I’m also putting fenders on my Surly Troll just as a matter of personal preference.

Types of Fenders

I’ve ridden with many types of fenders. I’ve used everything from SKS Raceblades to Cascadias and multiple narrower styles on various types of bikes. Some were better than others. For instance, the Cascadias I have on the Fargo are some of the best I’ve had as far as coverage and prevention of wearing mud and objects. They were also some of the easier ones to install, even over disc brake mounts. The hammered Velo Oranges I have on the Nashbar touring frame, on the other hand, are quite attractive and get many compliments. Once they were properly fitted, they were fine, but they were hard to put on and required a lot of fiddly work to get them right. There have been several other types and styles, but they were close enough in type and size that those areas were non-issues. For the most part, if you have the proper size fenders for your brake bridge and tire size, the fenders will offer protection from the wet and also from dirt and other objects.

As far as added weight, most fenders are light enough that unless you are a road racing sort, or doing serious downhill, the weight is really a non-issue. If your bike has appropriate attachment points, you should consider adding fenders to your bike. For a minimum trade-off in weight, you can have reasonable protection from dirt and other elements while you ride.

Craft of Sweden Active Bike Rain Jacket

craft jacket

From Craft of Sweden’s Active collection, the Bike rain jacket is designed to provide ergonomic range of motion and excellent resistance to wind and water.
•Great protection from the elements without hindering mobility
•Wind and water-resistant
•Fleece collar
•Zip side vents for ventilation
•Zip pocket in back
•Stretch hem for stay put fit
•By Craft of Sweden
•Made in China

I got this jacket about 2 months ago to help with the wind. Although it is also water proof (or so the blurb says – no chance to test that part yet), I primarily got it to keep the wind off me while riding. And . . . . it WORKS!!!

I ordered a men’s large in the bright red with black to increase visibility without looking like a neon sign.. It is big enough that I can put layers under it if I choose – several, as a matter of fact. It also keeps the heat in without cooking me. It’s vented in the back and also has zipped vents on the sides and these help enormously. I sweat a lot if I’m too warm, and this venting system works really well.

The style is good – large without being overly bulky. I am wearing the large comfortably. The sleeves are a little long, but that’s okay with me – I am always grateful for the extra movement and girth around the actual arm itself. If overly long arms bother you, size down appropriately.

It does have a mesh style liner, not designed to be warm by any stretch – more to facilitate ease of putting the jacket on and off. No pockets to speak of, except the back one, and that is a little annoying, because I like hand pockets. I normally wear something under it that has pockets. It does have a collar liner and a zipper garage – both nice features for not irritating your neck.

I also like the stretch hem – it stays put and doesn’t ride up my back while I am riding. It covers most of my jerseys and keeps them under cover and out of the weather.

Overall, a good, serviceable jacket that seems to do what I want it to do. More later on the rain resisting qualities of the jacket.

Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Softshell Glove

My new favorite cold weather gloves.

The lightweight Pearl Izumi ELITE soft-shell bike gloves deliver excellent warmth and wind protection when cycling on cool days.
•Anatomic fit maximizes finger dexterity for shifting and braking
•ELITE soft-shell fabric on back of hands provides superior wind and water protection; fabric wicks moisture and stretches well
•Warm, light and nonbulky PrimaLoft® synthetic microfiber insulation delivers great warmth while expelling moisture and allowing high dexterity
•Extended gauntlet seals over jacket cuff for superior warmth
•On the palms, strategically placed gel pads absorb shock, relieving pressure on ulnar and median nerves
•Soft synthetic leather palms grip well and stand up to everyday wear
•Silicone screened fingertips add grip
•Soft windproof fabric on the thumb gives you a gentle place to wipe your nose
•Rip-and-stick? pull tabs on wrists close Pearl Izumi ELITE soft-shell bike gloves snugly and ease removal
•Gauntlet length cuffs to ensure good coverage over or under jackets
•Reflective detailing increases your visibility in low light

Have I mentioned how much I like Sierra Trading Post? I really, really like their products and prices.

For instance – the lovely gloves displayed above.

These things are WARM!!! I’ve had them out in 30 degree weather and below and my fingers stayed toasty. STP was only selling these in a size M mens, which is what I wear.

The fit is wonderful. However, if you have big fingers or larger hands, these may not be for you. I have an average sized hand and fingers, and they are perfect for me.

I really like the dexterity I have with these. Granted, I’m not sure I could text quickly with these on, but I can pick things up, move the fingers independently, and also use the whole hand very well. The silicone on the finger ends really aids with picking small things up off the ground and the Primaloft insulation helps keep you fantastically warm without the bulk of comparable gloves. Even if your hands heat up a little, the moisture is transferred out and you don’t wind up swimming in your own sweat.

The soft-shell fabric really does break the wind without letting it through to my hands. The only other gloves I’ve had that did this well, but were somewhat lighter weight, were my Gore windstopper gloves. The fabric stretches just enough to let the gloves be comfortable.

Another feature I like is the gauntlet-style wrists. They go up under your jacket, fasten nicely with Velcro, and keep the wind out and the warmth in. You can adjust them to whatever you want, comfort-wise, over the jacket cuffs or under them, and they work nicely.

Additionally, the gel inserts in the palm are right where I like them to be. They dampen the road vibe enough to be comfortable without bulk and keep your hand from going numb from sitting on the bars. The synthetic leather palm seems to be wearing okay for now – I haven’t noticed any pilling and scraping at this point. A similar fabric is on the palms of my Gore gloves and it has also stood up well to wear and abuse.

Other things about these gloves that I like:
The soft fabric to wipe the nose with is very nice and soft – haven’t had any stiffness there and still have a soft nose. 🙂
The reflective details are nice. I only wish there were a few more of them – the ones that are there are reflective, but a few more discreet ones could be added if the deisgners so chose. The colors are also quiet – not loud – I like this, but others may feel that bright colors lend some safety value to the gloves.

Overall – excellent gloves for the money. I have been wearing them as everyday gloves too – and they are really showing me that quality products are worth what you pay.

Bottom line – if you want warm hands in really cold weather and you cycle through the winter – buy these. If you are a fair weather cyclist, these are too much glove for the temps you’ll be in; find something lighter and less expensive.

Craft Pro Windstopper Shirt and Pants Base Layer

craft shirt
craft pants

Craft Pro Zero Windstopper® Shirt – Short Sleeve Base Layer and Craft Pro Zero Windstopper Pants Base Layer.

It was windy enough on Sunday afternoon when I went out for a ride that I dug out the Craft Windstopper base layer. I purchased these a few years ago at Campmor, but time has not diminished their effectiveness. I was able to ride on Sunday with the base layer and an Underarmour -style shirt over it with my thermal Pearl Izumi outer jacket, and I was toasty – just shy of being too warm. The Windstopper fabric was quite effective and really kept the wind off the vital parts of my anatomy that were exposed to it and helped to maintain a rather nice core temperature as well. The jersey backing helps to wick away perspiration as well as give you a stretch-to-fit feel. Not too tight, nor is it too loose.

I don’t think this particular model is being made anymore, but in general, the Craft products are good and really do the job when it comes to blocking the wind. I’m not sure what the replacement model for these has been, but I’m certain it’s every bit as good.

These are definitely worth the money if you live where it is windy. I have really come to like mine quite a bit.

Winter riding shoes

Some time ago, I got really tired of having cold feet. I’m the type of person that if my ears or feet get cold, I’m done. I also, paradoxically, like to ride my bike in the winter. So, it seems, that I am often dealing with either cold feet or cold ears. I solved the cold ear problem about 2 years ago (more in another post), but up until about a year and a half ago I was still dealing with cold feet. Not fun 😦
I decided that what I needed were dedicated winter biking shoes/boots. I started to look around, and found several companies that looked promising, Lake, Pearl Izumi, and several others. Then I looked at the prices, and just about had heart failure. I immediately began reconsidering and also looking on Craigslist.
The problem finally got solved when I went to the Seagull Century that October. Frequently, they have lots of gear and other bike items on sale, and so I was hoping against hope that they would have some shoes there.
There were all kinds of shoes, from all kinds of brands. I tried on Lake, Specialized, and Pearl Izumi. Fortunately for me, my feet liked the Pearl Izumi mountain bike winter boots very much.

pearl izumi boots

The colors work pretty well – your basic black is always good – and with a few red and reflective highlights, these boots are somewhat stylish even though they are some serious gear. I like their appearance because even though they are for winter, I don’t feel as if I am wearing a Sorel style boot or Eskimo mukluks. These boots do their job without being terrifically clunky or overwhelming your feet.
I have been wearing these now for two winters. They are absolutely great. They have a quilted inner liner, much like some regular winter boots, and the sizing is perfect for my feet. (I wear a 42, normally) I can put on a nice medium to heavy wool sock and wear the boots comfortably. They come up over my ankle, and the front part velcros over the zipper that shuts the shoe. Additionally, there is an internal lacing “system” that you can tighten before you zip the shoe up. On top of all this goodness, the boots have gore tex in them and are pretty waterproof and also windproof.
I generally start wearing these once the temps dip below 40-45. Much warmer than this and my feet are in a puddle of sweat. I’ve had them out in cold that was down to 28 degrees with a wind chill factor. While some people don’t ride in that kind of weather, I’ve found that these shoes are key for keeping me warm and comfy, and they do a fine job of it.
The only thing I don’t like is that the velcro part likes to catch on my socks and stop my foot from entering the boot. I have to make sure that I am really hanging onto the boot top when I stick my foot in.
One other thing that I didn’t like at the beginning of my time with these boots was the extreme chemical smell they exuded right after I bought them. The smell really hit me hard in the nose when I opened the box, and did not dissipate for a long time – I actually put them outside on the front porch for several weeks, since the smell was so overpowering in my bedroom.
I run spd pedals on all my bikes, and the spd cleats I have on these boots work perfectly. I have never experienced any issues with clipping in or out of my pedals.
Overall, I have to say that winter riding has gotten a lot more fun since I bought these boots. I was quite fortunate in that I got about a 50% discount at the time of purchase because they were the last pair that particular dealer had. So, the price was right, the fit is excellent, and the shoes are durable and do exactly what they are supposed to do. Not only would I recommend these boots from this company, I would recommend winter boots to anyone who can afford them. They will extend your riding season by quite a bit and also increase your comfort level as well.
***** Disclaimer – Not getting paid by Pearl Izumi to review their stuff – the boots happen to be what fit.

Pearl Izumi Women’s P.R.O. Insulator Jacket


Pics from Amazon, description quote from Backcountry

“Pearl Izumi gave the Women’s P.R.O. Insulator Jacket light quilted insulation in the front panel and a highly breathable back panel, so you can enjoy ride-friendly warmth just where you need it. A brushed thermal interior assists moisture transfer and a full-length zipper lets you bring in a little cool air when you work up a sweat.”

I purchased my jacket several months ago from Sierra Trading Post, and I really like it.  I thought at first I’d only use it a little, but it has become my go-to jacket for mildly cold days all the way to as cold as it’s been in the DC area.  I have discovered that it works great as an outside layer, and it does what the description says – it breathes!!!  I tend to get really warm on my back, and this jacket just wicks away the sweat and heat really well.  I tend to use a base layer and then a jersey and then this jacket.  I am comfortable and if I need to, I can go over the jacket with one more layer.

As a female, I always like it when manufacturers make their clothes functional and pretty.  I like the little floral accent on the back right shoulder and also in the zip-in area on the arm.  It makes it pretty but not less functional. I own the jacket in the color above, and really like the shade of red – it’s like a really nice anodized red on bike bits, and fulfills the same function – to make the overall whole more appealing. The red zipper area really makes the jacket look very classy and coordinates well with the red collar area.

Something in the jacket’s favor is that it is lightweight.  It doesn’t weigh very much at all, and there sure is a lot of warmth packaged into this fine piece of apparel.  Even though I purchased a women’s xl, it is still fairly light and the fit is excellent – so many times I find that a company’s version of xl is made for really small folks – of which I am not one.  Getting bike clothing to fit is difficult, and Pearl Izumi has a good size range to fit slightly larger women without sacrificing style or function.

One thing that really makes a difference for me is the wrist zips.  Being able to unzip the wrists really helps me regulate my temperature so that I can stay comfortable.  The full front zipper also helps this situation and makes it so that a little unzip = a lot of comfort.  The zippers travel easily without undoing themselves so much that they are an inconvenience.

While the quilting pattern may look pretty, it also fulfills the function of keeping me warm and ventilated.  I really like how the quilting looks and functions – I stay warm, without roasting.

The brushed thermal lining not only helps maintain warmth, but also helps soften the jacket where it impacts your skin, particularly at the neck.  I really like that I can zip this jacket up the whole way and I don’t get the “itchies” around my chin and neck area from the thing rubbing me while I’m trying to move my head.

 Overall, this is an excellent piece of kit, one that I recommend if you do any kind of colder weather clothing.  I have yet to find anything I don’t like about it – heck, it’s even washable in cold water.  I plan to use this piece for some time to come.

Disclaimer – not being paid by PI to push their stuff – just happen to love their jacket.