When I got into cycling 15 years ago, racks were for randonneurs and cross-country riders and people who “had” to commute by janky, clapped-out bikes (the cool kids rode fixies and carried hulking messenger bags). Front baskets were only for brightly-colored women’s-specific cruisers. In short, anything that was simply functional was dorky to me: a teenaged roadie wearing white Spandex and maniacally hammering farm roads under a brutal Texas sun. (Any irony was clearly lost on me, at the time.)
When I moved to a certified bicycle friendly city in Colorado and began running errands by bike, I carried an enormous backpack and learned to suffer under heavy loads. Fortunately, in recent years, the cycling culture has shifted—a shift that put a renewed focus on adventure travel, everyday cycling and bike-as-useful-tool. The idea of leaving your car at home to run short errands has finally trickled down from big city centers. I think one of the best things to come out of it is the general acceptance of the rack and basket.
So, of course, I had to try it. I’m not so much a trend follower as I am a good-idea follower, and a set of racks seemed like a good idea. I settled on a large, sturdy, traditional rear rack for panniers and a long, flat surface for lashing things to, paired with a small front rack platform that would leave room for a handlebar bag. Because Velo Orange already has a lot of my money—its lovely offerings constituting a candy shop for bicycle beautifying addicts like myself—I chose a few items from its stock and ordered them up.
It wasn’t without consternation that I choked down the $80 price tag on a VO Pass Hunter Front Rack with a mere 4-inch by 8-inch platform. My esophagus tightened further after I found the rack didn’t fit on either of the bikes I could have installed it on, and even further when I discovered that the cantilever brake post mounts aren’t functionally adjustable.
Meanwhile, on my cycling-heavy Instagram feed, I started seeing a wire basket with lanky mounting legs showing up on everything from vintage bar bikes to full-on road/gravel touring rigs. I liked the idea: just shove crap in there as needed. Some were big enough for a box of pizza. All of them were big enough for a bag of donuts, a six pack, a copy of War and Peace and a spare jacket. Or, camping gear.
The baskets I saw most are those made by Wald Cycle Company, which has been in existence since 1905. Needless to say, I’m way late to the party in “discovering” this company. Wald’s components and accessories have been Kentucky-made since the 1920s, and yet its prices are startlingly reasonable.
Front baskets range in price from a mere $20 to a slightly more luxurious $55 for a model with a wooden platform included. There’s even a version with a quick-release bar mount that allows you to pop off the basket without tools and take it with you to do your shopping. The price, spaciousness and universal fit of the Walds swayed me. I paid a whopping $25 for my made-in-the-USA “Multi-Fit” model and needed all of five minutes and one Phillip’s screwdriver to install it. I didn’t even need to look at the directions; common sense sufficed.
The generously sized bar clamps work on all diameters and set the basket far enough away from the bars to allow room for even the messiest of cable clusters. The legs are just about infinitely adjustable and can mount on all kinds of forks or the hub skewer. The result is a basket that’s damn sturdy. Even when I decide to take the dirt detours into town, I don’t hear any rattling or notice any unnerving movement. With a few, cheap elastic straps across the top, there’s not much I can’t carry that I need on a regular basis. The basket’s dimensions are roughly 14.5 inches by 9.5 inches by 9 inches, with a two-inch taper at the bottom.
Indeed, a Wald basket may look a bit gauche. It’s not sleek and understated like the lovely VO rack I started with—and really wish would have fit. Big baskets also make your bike’s front end heavy and floppy. The Multi-Fit’s heft is three pounds, but the bike I put it on is early-90s lugged steel with a set of ancient bullmoose handlebars that, alone, probably weigh as much as the rest of the bike put together. I’m not worried about the weight of the Wald.
The Wald’s overall quality seems excellent, though I haven’t had it long enough to comment on longevity or how it holds up over time under repeated heavy loads. Still, I feel plenty confident recommending it and, thanks to the four-pints price, I will probably purchase a smaller one for my 1984 Bridgestone T700 touring bike.
There’s a lot of history spun up in these tires. With a tread design crafted by Joe Murray decades ago, the Rock N Road has been recapturing interest with the resurgence of gravel and mixed-surface adventure riding.
When framebuilder Bruce Gordon starting building touring bikes with big tire clearance, he wanted a larger tire to fit his bikes. The original 700x43c Rock N Road bikes and tires were a precursor to the modern 29er mountain bike. The new 650b version takes the same ethos and applies it to the smaller size, plus adds a tubeless kevlar folding bead.
Made in Japan by Panaracer, the Rock N Road tires sealed up well on a pair of Stan’s NoTubes rims. Getting them to seal isn’t idiot-proof, but if I can do it with a floor pump you probably can, too. I installed these wheels as an experiment on a Specialized Tricross that was designed for 700c wheels. Because the diameter of the 650x43c version is very close to that of a 700x28c tire it was a good fit and didn’t drastically affect the bike’s handling.
On the road the thin, supple sidewalls paired with the low pressure afforded by the tubeless setup give a comfortable, forgiving ride. The tread pattern might look retro but it rolls really well on smooth pavement while still allowing for some bite when the going gets soft. The gum sidewalls look fantastic but the tires are available in all black if that’s more your style. The Rock N Road tires are available straight from Bruce online or at your local bike shop.
Price: $57 each
More info: bgcycles.com
Like a lot of people, my fingers are one the first things that succumb to the ravages of cold weather biking. The combination of cold air rushing over the glove surface and sweat trapped inside can sometimes cut my frosty rides a bit short. And that’s a shame, because some of the most beautiful rides happen on those cold, bitter days when the streets and trails are devoid of people who are instead hiding inside, warming themselves on their couches and watching reruns.
To combat this problem, I’m always searching for gloves that offer warmth and breathability. Thankfully, there are quite a few good options on the market. One such option is the Windstopper glove from Gore Bike Wear. I have been using a pair of their Element Urban Print version for a few months and am quite happy with them.
Besides having a layer of water resistant, windproof, moisture wicking Windstopper material, the Element Windstopper glove has a plethora of neat features that make for a glove that performs well in daily use.
First up, the inside of the glove is a comfortable, soft fleece material that draws moisture off the skin to evaporate through the Windstopper material and keep your skin dry. This process worked well in most instances. Only occasionally did I find that the glove couldn’t keep up with the amount of sweat being produced by my hands. Generally this was when I was working hard in temperatures above freezing.
There are a few things worth noting on the exterior of the glove, starting with the always-important snot/sweat wipe on the thumb. The absorbent patch is soft and big enough to deal with any moisture problem you have going on with your face.
Next up is the palm. It’s almost completely covered with silicone dots that do a great job of providing grip. The dots are interrupted only by a gel pad on the outside edge of the palm, reinforced material between the thumb and index finger, and touchscreen friendly material on the tip of the thumb and index finger. While not the easiest thing to do, I was able to use my iPhone without removing my gloves.
The back of the glove has some features designed for your ride into work, or pedaling to the trailhead. Besides the nice bright material on the edges of the fingers, there are three reflective pieces of fabric, and one reflective logo on each glove that do a decent job of catching the eyes of the drivers around you. Perfect for signalling a turn or alerting oncoming traffic to your approach.
Finally, there is the overall fit and design of the glove. Of course the camo is cool, but the fit is just as important. The glove goes a bit past the wrist to provide good coverage under or over a jacket, and features an easy to use Velcro strap in addition to an elastic wrist cuff to keep the cold and wet where it belongs—on the outside.
Gloves are not the most exciting things in the world, but Gore Bike Wear did a great job of designing a pair that kept me dry and warm in temperatures ranging from low single digits to 45 degrees. They have also held up very well to my repeated urban and singletrack excursions. If the camo isn’t your cup of tea, Gore makes several different Windstopper models.
More info: goreapparel.com
Even with all the modern materials found in clothing, Merino wool has rightfully retained a place in the hearts of the outdoor enthusiast. Café du Cycliste’s Celeste cardigan sticks with that tradition, blends in some polyester, and adds a super soft fleece lining to make things that all that much better. Café du Cycliste is marketing this cardigan to the urban cyclist who finds the need for a bit of insulation during the brisk autumn months.
As a mid-weight top, the Celeste is great option on chilly outings but won’t keep you from shivering when the real cold blows in. On those days you’ll have to add some sort of wind resistant outer layer to bolster up your defenses.
The Celeste features a sturdy metal zipper, a two button neck flap, and a single rear pocket. That zippered vertical rear pocket contains a reflective flap that strangely can only be seen when the pocket is unzipped. The flap is sewn on to the inside of the pocket and secured by a single button on the outside of the cardigan. I don’t know if I’d trust it to transport anything of importance as I can easily pull a set of keys out of the pocket when it’s only secured with the flap. Obviously when it’s zipped, you’re fine…but you lose the reflectivity.
The Celeste is extremely comfortable, but it would be even better if the neck was also fleece lined instead of just wool. I think overall this is a good looking cardigan that lacks a few features I look for when shopping for cycling clothing.
$186 – cafeducycliste.com
Loulou Neck Warmer
We here at Bicycle Times love our buffs. You can even find one in our online store. A buff is the single most used piece of gear in my cold weather arsenal.
Café du Cycliste’s Loulou is definitely a step up from our offering. It is made of a Merino/Poly blend and can be worn around the neck, pulled up to cover the lower face, or even over your head to keep the heat from escaping through your helmet.
Besides being made from a nice soft wool blend, what makes the Loulou stand out is the additional material below the neck line. Extending to above my sternum it kept my neck warm, even when wind snuck past my jersey’s collar and through its zipper. It’s lightweight and easy to stash in your pocket if the day warms and you don’t need the additional coverage anymore.
The Loulou is stylish, inexpensive and extremely functional. Great product.
Made in Italy. Gray or blue. $39 – cafeducycliste.com
Want to see more? Check out Café du Cycliste’s autumn/winter product launch video below.
Showers Pass has been producing rainwear for cyclists since 1997. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, they know a thing or two about staying comfortable in foul weather. New for 2015 are the Metro Jacket and Rogue Pant.
Photos by Emily Walley
Metro Jacket – $199
The Metro Jacket is an Artex 2.5-layer hardshell that’s lightweight and designed to pack a lot of performance on the bike while not looking too bike-geeky off the bike. For me, the fit is pretty trim; I’d say it runs a bit smaller than the sizing chart suggests. Definitely size up if you’d like to have room for insulating layers underneath, or if you’re between sizes. On the bright side, sleeve length is generous.
Two large vents take the place of traditional hand warmer pockets to provide abundant ventilation. Teamed with the “exhaust pipe” zippered vent at the base of the neck on the back of the jacket, there is quite a bit of torso airflow and adjustability. Unfortunately, the exhaust vent’s effectiveness decreases dramatically when wearing a backpack. Large, adjustable cuffs help tailor fit and adjust airflow through the arms, but I would still love to see some sort of underarm ventilation on this jacket as torso ventilation surpases that of the arms.
Waterproofness is excellent with no sign of the face fabric wetting through, and I’ll give the Metro decent marks for breathability as well—for a hardshell. There’s no way around it; if you’re operating at high exertion levels you will be sweaty under even the most “breathable” of hardshells.
Initially, I was a little confused by the Metro Jacket. The trim fit, elastic bottom hem, ventilation arrange and subsequent lack of handwarmer pockets point to the performance end of the spectrum. On the other hand, the subtle color palette and the name Metro imply a certain level of street cred. For me, the end result is a damn fine jacket that I’ll use mostly in performance settings; longer, more dedicated rides where weather protection and ventilation take top priority, both on and off road. For casual spins to the pub on a damp evening, I’d be more likely to spring for the similarly priced softshell Amsterdam Jacket instead.
Rogue Pant – $99
The Rogue Pant is a casual looking softshell trouser made with water resistant stretch fabric and finished with a DWR treatment to further enhance moisture resistance. The tightly woven face of the fabric blocks most of the breeze and a good bit of moisture, while a soft terry interior feels great next to skin. The Rogue pants are styled and fit like a pair of relaxed fit jeans, but offer a gusseted crotch to reduce seam irritation and facilitate movement on the bike. Fit seems to run a little on the large size. I’m normally a 33- to 34-inch waist and the 32-inch Rogue pant fit me comfortably. If you’re between sizes, you should be able step down a size without issue.
Subtle reflective cues increase visibility at night, including reflective chevrons printed inside the bottom of both pant legs that are revealed when you roll up the legs. A buttoned cinch strap is hidden in the hem of the pants to keep them out of your chainrings and to secure the pants when rolled up. There’s a hidden zippered pocket inside the right back pocket for secure storage, and a buttoned utility hook to fasten keys or the like to one of the right-hand belt loops. The only gripe I can muster revolves around the shallow front pockets. They’re a little small for today’s larger smartphones; a little more depth would increase security.
I’ve been looking for a pair of softshell pants like these for a while now because they’re so versatile through the fall, winter and spring. Wear them alone for cool days or layer underneath for comfort in much colder temps. The Rogue Pant’s combo of ample wind resistance and stellar breathability make for an incredibly comfortable pair of pants. I’ve worn them for everything from mountain biking, to rainy commutes home from work, to going out for a date-night drink. There are the rare product that delivers a casual aesthetic to blend in with most any situation, but offer the technical chops to keep you comfy in most any situation short of a heavy, sustained rain—they’re not designed to be waterproof after all. These pants are worth every penny of the $99 asking price. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.