Archive for category Cycling Clothing and Gear

Saloman Quest 4D GTX day hiking boots

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I purchased a pair of Saloman Quest 4D GTX day hiking boots about 3 years ago. They are rated as a day hiker/ trail running boot on the Saloman website. The description is pretty brief as follows and sounds more like a war era news reel.

“Extra light backpacking boot gains stability and comfort from our most advanced Trail Running technologies.”

 


I needed a boot for temperatures between 0C. and – 30C. After that you’ll have to go with full on Sorell ice pack boots if you intend to stay warm in extreme temperatures for any more than an hour. Unfortunately these styles of extreme foot wear are very heavy and difficult to walk in never mind pedal a bicycle. Their only positive attribute is really their insulation.

The Salomans are fairly light weight comparison at 1.36kg. Choosing a light weight winter cycling boot is critically important since you will be pushing and pulling those boots around with every revolution of the cranks.

Having these pull tabs has truly been brilliant in oh so many situations, from storage to puffy socks.

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Reducing the weight of the moving parts in the drive train and engine will lead to increased efficiency, ( as if it matters in the winter). Your choice to reduce weight in your winter cycling boot will make spinning up to speed much easier as you stop and go.

The Quest 4D are a summer boot, therefore there is no insulation. I have left that up to my SmartWool socks and liners. The boots are very breathable as they employ an integrated Goretex XTR  water proof bootie. With out the perspiration trapped in the boot, your feet stay much dryer and as a result much warmer.

The tip of the toes could use some redesign as the rubber rand protecting the front of the boot seemingly blocks the escape of moisture as I can sometimes feel some dampness at the tip of the toes when taking off the boots.

As they have no insulation, the Quest boots do dry out really quickly.

The Contagrip tread has performed very well in warmer temperatures, and on frozen icy surfaces. The sole does get hard after -25c or so  and cannot be counted on for much more than common foot wear at those temperatures.

 

Whatever superb bonding system Saloman has used during the manufacture of the boots is really proving effective. Without any visible stitching, I still do not see a single peel around the entire rand of the boot.

Given, this is not a work boot, and I haven’t treated it as such. At this price you must respect the amount of hours you’ve worked to buy them.

I treated the boots initially with 3M Outdoor Water Shield. I use it on a lot of different gear when the OEM water repellent wears out, but now I use it preemptively on new gear. When the gear is new you can lock out the dirt using this spray. The finest dirt and greenest slime wash right off with water.

It’s a silicone protectant and I did not find that it interfered with the breathability of the boot, nor did it dry out the uppers in any way. I had been advised not to treat them at all, and that Saloman has already taken care of water proofing with their own durable water repelancy (DWR). Although I don’t have another pair for control test purposes, I’m convinced using the 3M Scotch Gard spray was a good decision, and did no harm the boots. I plan on doing my best shirts and pants next!

The lace system is very good and allows for some adjustment for different uses and conditions. I typically do them up completly for cycling, but if i’m just shuttling around I skip the ankle grommet.

I do wish that my pair would have come with the “lace lock” gadget featured on the Saloman insert. The laces were of fine quality regardless.

After two years and two winters of cycling, these boots are in terrific shape. No maintenance and the uppers are barely creased.

The ballistic nylon fabric used in the upper has offered mobility and flexibility like no other boot I have ever worn. Especially when squatting. I have more uncomfortable cleated shoes when concerning pedaling. The cut of the ankle does not interfere with your calf when riding the bike.

I’ve enjoyed driving my manual transmission car while wearing these boots during the coldest winters as well as being ever so thankful for them on moving day. I have done a moderate amount of hiking through the woods, and have had to cross swampy trails and portages. Although the water pours in over the top, you’ll appreciate how quickly things dry up.

Over all I am very pleased with these boots, and really have my fingers crossed that I’ll never have to buy another pair of boots for as long as I live. Nothing but satisfaction so far, I report back  with any further findings.

MEC Blast Gloves For Cycling in Extreme Cold

My search for real winter cycling gloves lead me to Mountain Equipment Co-Op. Their MEC house brand of products brings those highly technical fabrics and features found only on expedition grade outerwear to you at prices consistently lower than the leading adventure brands.

The Blast Gloves are no exception. Coming in at a 100$ trip to MEC, they are some of the most expensive gloves I have  ever owned. This year I had decided not to mess around as my hands were the weak spot in the gear last winter.

The Blast gloves have all the features I was looking for in a winter glove. Winter cycling gloves need to be very breathable, yet virtually windproof. I am still totally amazed at how much perspiration is produced even with even just a short ride up the block, never mind on the commute to work.

Breathable Gortex XTR liners are insulated with Primaloft, a synthetic fiber fill, with similar properties to down feathers. The major difference between down and Primaloft is that the Primaloft retains heat when it is wet, where as down looses it loft and insulating properties. The liners dry extremely quickly and move moisture away from the skin to be vented out of the shell.

There was an occasion in January where I forgot to put a load of laundry into the dryer from the washer the night before. Everyone has done it at least once in their life. I had my favorite riding gear on turbo dry, including the MEC Blast Gortex liners. After the wash, they were wringing wet, and after 20 minutes in the dryer they were, you guessed it, still dripping wet. I had to get rolling in order to be on time for work. After some deliberation, I decided to wear the wet glove liners in the shells, taking a real chance that I could loose my hands to frostbite.I had no choice. No spares…

After an hour of riding I was surprised to find that my hands stayed hot, even with the -40 Winnipeg wind chills. Wet, but hot. It’s obvious I soaked the liners first, and should have let them dry out properly, but this was a good demonstration of the technology.

A tough outer shell with real leather grip and palms gives me maximum feel and control of the handle bars. 4 way stretch Shoeller Dynamic breathable panels flex and bend better than a full leather shell and allow moisture to escape the glove, while still blocking the wind. The Shoeller panels allow the glove to be flexible enough to ride a bike with index shifters, and I bought the XL size.

Some nice luxury features on these gloves include the one handed adjustment toggle to seal the gauntlets from snow and trap heat inside the glove. This is a great feature to help regulate your temperature. When I feel the need to cool off my hands, I ‘ll loosen the toggle and let my hands breath a little easier, with out having to take off my glove.

The MEC Blast gloves are the only gloves i’ve worn that can truly compare to the warmth you get from wearing full on mittens. The gloves have all the techincal features of moutaineering gloves valued at over $200, available for half that. So far i’m very impressed with the quality and workmanship of these gloves. I will let you know if they don’t stand the test of time.

Secrets of Winter Cycling, Base Layers and Perspiration Management

There is no getting around it, no matter how expensive your gear is. Winter cycling is about perspiration, and how you manage the moisture. When exercising hard it’s inevitable, you’re going to sweat. Perspiration is being burned off by the heat of your body, it’s vaporized, like steam, and needs to travel away from you skin before it cools and condenses to water droplet form. The first layer of clothes that is in direct contact with your skin is responsible for repelling the chill. That chill is the feeling of your skin’s surface cooling as the moisture leaves it. Sweat should be wicked away from the skin’s surface by capillary action in the base layer’s fabric, so that evaporative cooling is minimized.

I find the quality of your base layer really comes into play at about 5 degrees Celsius to -15 degrees Celsius. I’ll use a single polyester jersey, preferably long sleeve. Few of them are actual “cycling jerseys”, and are more general sports wicking tops. I prefer the ones with a full neck zip, as they mate up to my balaclava better than the crew neck style. Polyesters won’t absorb moisture, they’ll “wick” to transport it through to the next breathable layer where is can be vented. It’s important that your base layers have a clinging fit, so that your skin is always in contact with the fabric therefore eliminating any air pockets.

Light to heavy weight polyester jerseys

In colder weather, -20c.  degrees and lower I’ll double up on the base layers to increase the wicking power. Two jerseys the finer knit one first. I’ll usually be dressed for cooler weather all around, so there is a better chance that I’ll start sweating if I have to go indoors or climb some snow hills.

Even at relatively warm winter temperature, a base long underwear layer is a must. Synthetic boxer briefs will give you the support and wicking you need to keep dry. Even padded cycling shorts will do the trick, but tend to absorb moisture in the chamois.

Full synthetic boxer briefs

Poly tights or mid weight long undies over synthetic briefs will move the moisture away from your legs and groin. Depending on how cold it is I will wear either waffle knit thermal or wicking long underwear. In extreme cold I’ll layer with both.

DC Sports thermal long underwear

A touque or “snow cap” as the Americans would put it, is a must have item at freezing temperatures. A base ball cap simply will not do. I prefer a fleece lined polyester variety, as they dry quickly and are not bulky so they fit under a helmet quite easily. Make sure you get one that offers good ear protection, you’ll thank me later.

MEC fleece lined touque

I wear a thin lightweight fleece balaclava on all rides under -5 degrees. It’s the Outdoor Research “Ninjaclava” Balaclava. I don’t really need it on my face until -10 -15 degrees, but it sure helps to block the wind draft around your neck no matter what the conditions. Just make sure you pull it off before you go to the bank to make a deposit!

Outdoor Research Ninjaclava

A truly great piece of gear for all outdoor sports in cooler zones. After -30 degrees look for something a little heavier like a wind blocking fleece balaclava, it won’t breath as well but will stop the wind chills.

In winter cycling, the base layer concept should apply to your hands and feet as they are a source of a lot of perspiration. Polypropylene or better liners are must. Dirt cheap, 100% synthetic.  If you’ve ever had to change a flat in sub zero temperatures, you’ll definitely appreciate the dexterity that you have while still being protected from the icy cold of the rims. You can’t change a tire with with mitts or gloves on. But you can with a thin liner.

Polypropylene glove liners

Get something cheap and disposable so that you won’t feel bad when you shred them. Even if you just carry them as emergency gloves, its good insurance..

As a base layer, polypro liners for your feet make a lot of sense too. I prefer something more like WigWam’s Gobe liners, as they are really gentle on bare feet, and move moisture very well.

Wigwam’s Gobe sock liners

If your using a vapor barrier like plastic bags or VB socks, remember to put on the liners first. Vapor barrier second. Then put on your insulation. Your feet will feel way less clammy wearing the liner first. The vapor barrier will prevent your perspiration from soaking your insulating layer and will keep your feet warmer if you’re outside for extended periods.

Wool Theorists

Where’s the socks?

The “Wool Theorists” out there will swear by wool, but I prefer polyester or polypropylene. Don’t even mention cotton…

Yep, I said it. I agree that wool stays warm when it’s wet, but as a base layer the whole goal is to move the moisture outward, not absorb and trap it. For me wool can be a chore to care for as it can stretch and shrink depending on how you wash it. I have washed my synthetic jerseys hundreds of times with virtually no visible changes to the fabric, no piling, no fading. There are some newer “smart wools” on the market that retain their shape, but are too delicate for me to wear. They are made mostly of synthetics anyway. I take my polyester jerseys out of  the regular laundry and hang them to dry. Ready to commute in a couple hours. Have you ever tried to dry a wool sweater?

I have one exception, and that is for socks. The insulating qualities of wet wool work well for that application, since the perspiration is trapped in your boot and cannot be vented.

There are actually quite a few designer “bike suits” on the market that may be quite good if you can afford them. But you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get out there and ride. Just keep the idea of synthetics and moisture wicking in mind as you shop for a base layer. In fact most of your summer riding gear will make a great base layer for winter, so don’t feel as though you need to go out and get winter specific base layers.

Other than adding a second jersey, I don’t change what I wear as a base layer regardless of how cold it gets out there. Simply ensure that you have good coverage from head to toe. The base layer is there to move moisture and protect against the chill of evaporative cooling.

Even at relatively warm winter temperature, a base long underwear layer is a must. Poly tighs or midweight long undies over sysnthetic breifs will move the moisture away from your legs and groin. A pair of breathable, lighweight nylon pants will dry off quickly in the wind as you ride. The’re are actually quite a few designer “bike suits” at this level that may be quite good if you can afford them. But you don’t need a lot of money to get out there for a ride. Just keep the idea of sythnthetics and moisture wicking in mind as you shop.