2014 BLBBRBK Fat Bike Race

20140126_122735_IMG_0776My wife and I drove up to Dekalb, IL today to hang out with the North Central Cyclery and Axletree folks as well as Dean from Riding Against The Grain. We had a blast at thier BLBBRBK fat bike race event. The course looked amazing and judging by the numerous smiles on riders faces, the event was a huge success.

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Today On A Bike

With a fresh three inches of snow or so, I joined some others for an urban snow ride today. I left the house with the essentials…2014-01-18 14.35.15-2I rode over to my amazing local bike shop, Bloomington Cycle & Fitness, to meet the others.
2014-01-18 14.47.43 2014-01-18 15.12.18We left the shop and rode around town channeling our inner kid selves riding over and through snow banks, up and down stairs, and general nonsense, all while smiling ear to ear.
2014-01-18 15.44.32 2014-01-18 16.13.12 2014-01-18 16.25.37A good day to not sit on the couch.

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Gore Tool Jacket Review

IMG_0401I have spent a lot of time wearing the Gore Tool Windstopper soft shell jacket since purchasing it. It is the warmest option for an outer that I have and Gore makes and thus it has been my go to jacket for the majority of my winter riding. I’ve put the Gore Tool jacket through its paces on hard road rides, slow fat bike rides, and in temperatures ranging from 40º F down to 5º F with varying under layering of wool base layers.

A big portion of controlling body temperature is keeping the wind off of your skin, which the Windstopper material does a great job of, and with the added insulation found in this jacket, it does the job of keeping you warm even in the single digits with a base layer. Equally impressive as the warmth the jacket provides is its ability to shed heat when you want to cool off. The Jacket features zippers that run from mid torso to the elbows allowing lots of ventilation. When you want even more airflow through the jacket, you can open the rear side pockets via zipper allowing direct access for exhausted air to escape from. The red zipper handles seen below are the ventilation zippers.
IMG_0396The rear pockets on the jacket are easy to use and offer a gracious amount of space for items. The center pocket has no zipper and is a traditional top entrance pocket perfect for items that you need quick access to. The side pockets feature side entrance and close with a zipper.

Another neat feature is a built-in cloth inside of the front pocket.
IMG_0398The fit of the jacket is looser than that of the Gore Alp-X I previously reviewed, but still snug enough to provide a good fit for cycling. The fit and ability to regulate warmth make this jacket great for commuting. Gore designs their products to be able to be worn together without “bunching” if desired and I appreciate the ability to throw the Tool jacket over the ALP-X jacket when the temperatures get ridiculously cold.

I don’t like the idea of rating a product on its ability to keep you warm or cool you off because everyone’s ability to maintain body temperature is different and a product shouldn’t get slammed because it didn’t perform for the reviewer. With that said, I like this jacket a lot because of its ability to both keep me warm and control overheating via good ventilation options.

If you are in the market for well-made winter cycling jacket with a lifetime warranty, I’d recommended giving the Gore Tool a try. If your local bike shop doesn’t carry Gore, feel free to give the folks at my local bike shop, Bloomington Cycle & Fitness a call to call for your Gore needs.

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45NRTH Wolvhammer Review

IMG_2355I’ve done a lot of riding this winter, most of which wearing the 45NRTH Wolvhammer boots. I’ll be honest, these boots came with a lot of hype and I wasn’t sure they could live up to the claims that those who have them make. After months of use in snow, cold temps, and varying wet conditions, I feel comfortable rating their performance.

So how did they do? Great, I am very happy with them.

This winter in Illinois has seen frequent snowfall and cold temperatures. I’ve worn them in snow up to a foot deep and in temperatures between 45º F and -15º F. The boots feel very well made when wearing or handling them. I believe the boots quality and performance come from the number of licensed materials used to create them. In my experience with shoes and boots, it seems common to see proprietary soles, inners, and outers. This is not the case with the Wolvhammers. The boots feature:

  • Vibram Soles
  • Cordura Outer
  • 3M Thinsulate Inner
  • Sympatex Waterproof & Breathable Materials
  • Aerotherm Insole

It blows my mind even writing that out. Each of those bullet points is a separate companies product. To me that means that QBP (45NRTH) paid to have proven technologies used for their cold weather boots rather than developing in-house solutions. This likely costs 45NRTH more money per boot, but the product is better because of it. I have no doubt that part of the cost is to pay for all of the licensed technology.

The boots do well in the cold. In single digit temperatures, my toes can sense that it is cold outside of the boots, but my toes and feet have never been uncomfortably cold, even after three plus hours of riding. On the other end of the spectrum, I have worn the boots inside of local restaurants and bars after riding to them and my feet have never been uncomfortably warm.

The boots do a great job keeping the snow and water out. The strap at the top of the boot allow for as tight of a fit as you want. The claim of being completely waterproof is true which is great because let’s be honest, the last thing you want inside of your boot when it’s freezing is any kind of water.

The downsides to the boot are limited. The cost seemed hard to justify last year, but after ridding in them this winter, they are worth every penny. They make riding in the winter more enjoyable, which is the goal of all winter riding gear. It makes for one less piece of gear to worry about when packing for a ride, just grab them and don’t worry about your feet. The boots take some time to put on and take off, but that comes with the territory. Clipping into and out of pedals has a slightly different feel. I’d recommend clipping into and out of them a few times before your first ride to get used to the action. I have noticed some wear on my crank arms of my fat bike due to the boots high top sides.

Overall, I’m very happy and would recommend them to anyone looking for a fat bike winter riding shoe/ boot solution. If your local bike shop doesn’t have them in stock, give the awesome folks at my local bike shop, Bloomington Cycle & Fitness a call to see if they can get you your size.

If you missed my initial thoughts on these boots after I purchased them and are interested, they can be found here: First Impressions: 45NRTH Wolvhammer

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My Intro Into Sufferfest Training Products

Sufferfest ScreenshotI recently made the decision to purchase a training plan and accompanying videos. The decision comes from three main thoughts:

  1. I want something to make indoor riding more fun. I don’t mind riding rollers for a half hour or so, but anything more than that and I am usually pretty bored. I hope the videos will add additional intrigue.
  2. I would like to improve more this year. I think most people would. I had a successful cycling year in 2013 with highlights including winning the Illinois Cat 2 Mountain Bike Championship and a time of 2:46:03 at Chequamegon, which I was happy with for starting in the last gate.
  3. My wife and I having our first child this May, and I anticipate riding more indoors in 2014 than I did in 2013.

I decided to invest in Sufferfest products as I have heard good things via word of mouth and after researching their products compared to their competition, it seemed like the proper fit for what I was looking for. I like that I own what I purchase, other similar training companies only let you watch videos as long as your membership is current.

I plan on starting the training plan this Monday and will provide updates and my thoughts after spending some time with the training plan and videos.

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