Category: Clothing

Winter’s here, and it’s time to suit up for battling the cold. I’m not talking to my many Florida friends here — I am looking at you, O Winter Warriors!

A few weeks ago, Duke from Pearly’s Possum Socks sent a pair of their cold-weather riding socks for us to test out.

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I had heard of these; in fact, Jeremy over at our sister site Mtnbikeriders.com reviewed a pair about a year ago. I remember being very intrigued by socks made from “exotic” materials, so when the opportunity came to try these out, I volunteered myself in a heartbeat!

Exotic materials, you say? Yes — as they say in the Deep South: “thar’s possum in thar!”

Let’s get something straight right off the bat, though…this isn’t the possum most of us are familiar with. Not the late-night garbage can-marauding, cat food-stealing, angry hissing variety found in the United States, but rather the cute and cuddly-looking New Zealand Brushtail Possum. Cute as it may look, it’s considered an agricultural pest in NZ.

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The socks, according to the manufacturer, are:

45% fine merino wool
40% possum fur
10% Nylon/Lycra
5% Isolfil (a polypropylene yarn)

The socks are THICK…the manufacturer states that they will compress into any shoe, but I will warn those of you with very low-volume shoes that these socks do take up some precious real estate. I myself had no issues, but I did have to adjust the straps of my road and mountain shoes quite a bit wider than normal. And LORD are these socks luxurious…they feel fantastic on the foot; soft and utterly itch-free.

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As you can see, the socks have about a 4″ cuff. For really cold rides, I thought to myself that I’d enjoy a little more cuff length, but I didn’t have any problems with drafts around my ankles. Extra length would have merely been a guilty pleasure (to be fair, I’ve spent a bit of time fantasizing about a possum/wool bodysuit on the frostiest days).

While the socks are not windproof, they’re tightly-woven. So far, I have taken them on several rides with temps just above freezing…all this while wearing my regular vented cycling shoes and no other foot coverings. The Possum Socks are warm enough for about 2 hours of riding before I started getting tingly toes. Suffice it to say that I am fairly blown away by that! In winter-weight shoes, or in shoes with foot covers, these socks should handle temperatures much lower than I experienced, and I hope to test that theory out as winter progresses.

Now, let’s talk about the price: these socks aren’t cheap. In fact, they’re rather stunningly expensive at $58 a pair. That stings, but consider this: we spend a lot of money on gear and bikes…why not spend money on stuff that actually WORKS and helps us get to work/school in comfort? I put the following question to Duke at Pearly’s:

Jack: What would you say to the naysayers who might balk at the price of these socks?

Duke: We typically ask them how much their bike cost, and how much their shoes cost. And then, how much are comfortable feet worth?

Generally, the answer is….well yeah if they actually keep my feet warm and comfortable, it doesn’t really matter what they cost.

Last year I had this great exchange with James McLean down in Santa Barbara. He was like “Are you crazy? I use plastic bags when its cold! ” And I was “James, how much did your bike cost?” And he goes “$10,000” and I go “You are riding a $10,000 bike with your feet in plastic bags???” Then I sent him a pair of socks and now he is a champion of ours.

For my own purposes, I am prepared to spend whatever it costs to stay warm in conditions like this:
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Pearly’s claims that their socks remain stink-free (like most wool clothing does) over several days of use. In the interest of science (and, to be fair, to mess with my child a bit), I wore these socks for about 5 days in a row and had my boy give them the “sniff test”. The results:

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Pearly’s Possum Socks are a luxurious way to keep your feet warm on cold rides. Yes, they are expensive, but they fully stand up to the claims the company puts forth. I look forward to slipping into them all winter long!

Visit Pearly’s website for a pair of your own, or stop by your local shop and demand they carry them. They are worth the price of admission.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Have you ever had your shoelaces get caught in your chain, or wrapped around your pedal, or gotten chewed up by your cranks? I have…all three scenarios and a few more. Sure, there are a couple of creative shoe-tying techniques one could use to minimize such entanglements (or one could just get a chaincase), but accidents DO happen.

What to do? How do we keep our shoelaces protected from the ravages of our bicycles’ drivetrains? Enter Hickies, an elastic shoelacing system. The kind folks at Hickies graciously sent me a couple pairs to try out…one for me, and one for my school-age child to test.

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The Hickies are made of a stretchy and durable elastomer. They basically consist of a looped length with a plastic “head” on one end that the loop goes around. 14 come to each package…enough for a pair of shoes with seven lace eyelets. The packaging is neat (and recycleable!) and comes with clear instructions. Simply lace the Hickies through the shoe’s lace holes and pass the lopped portion around the head. Viola — instant slipons!

All laced up and ready to go:

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The Hickies work quite well — they are incredibly stretchy, so they accomodate a fairly wide range of shoe sizes. How the shoe fits after installing the Hickies, though, will be up to the shoes themselves and your feet. I have fairly narrow feet, and the Hickies were secure without binding. My son LOVES his…no more shoe-tying squabbles in the morning, and plenty of security for playgrounds and P.E. classes! As you can see from the photo below, if the Hickies prove to be too loose, you can try weaving them differently (all covered in the instructions and company website). In our case, the top runs were too loose, and crossing them as shown in this picture took up just enough slack to work:

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If they are too tight, though, there’s no way to lengthen them — I had to remove the topmost run on my shoes since they were too tight to allow my foot to enter the shoe. No worry…the shoes now fit like slippers, with even snugness the length of my foot. This was especially handy during plane trips, where I could slip in and out of my shoes at TSA checkpoints and on the planes themselves.

Over the past couple months, the Hickies have proven to be very durable…no breakages to note. If I had anything negative to say about the Hickies, it’s this: I had the topmost loop pop off the head of the device a couple times when pulling my shoe on. The Hickies sort of roll a bit as my foot slides in, and that was enough to pop them loose. If the groove that runs around the circumference of the Hickies head was a little deeper or wider, that may ensure retention.

Hickies come in a rainbow of colors to match nearly any shoe, and the heads are interchangeable so you can mix-and-match to your heart’s desire. Match your bike, your bag, your shirt, your shoes! The Hickies retail for $19.99 per package, and offer a fun and effective way to eliminate shoelace tangles.

Please take a look at the Hickies website for more details, instructive videos, and their creation story.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Editor’s note: A while back we received a flannel shirt from Twin Horizon that was made just for cycling. We asked for an XL, but once it arrived, realized that this shirt had Asian sizing (the company is based in Shanghai). So, their XL was more like an American Med/Large. Needless to say, it didn’t fit. So, I recruited one of our MtnBikeRiders.com Team Racers to help me out with the review. Here are Bryan Doney’s thoughts on the garment.

Initial Impressions
The second I saw the Twin Horizon Cycling Flannel, I had some mixed feelings. The version of it we received was green and orange, which is a color combination that I really wasn’t excited about. Also, when I was told it was an extra-large I was a little surprised considering that it fits me perfectly — I am 5’ 9”, weigh 130 lb., and usually wear large-sized shirts. However, when I put it on, the cotton fabric the flannel was made out of was really soft and non-irritating to the skin (unlike some flannels I have experienced in the past). I also noticed that it had three holes near the armpit region on each side for extra breathability, but while standing there I really did not notice much of an improvement over the t-shirt I had been wearing earlier.

The shirt has three pockets, one on the lower right portion of the back, and one each on the left and right chest region. I don’t carry a lot with me when I ride, but I’m sure you can stuff your keys, money and a cell phone in these pockets. With all of these things in mind, I decided I would take it out for a ride to see how the flannel works.

During my ride

The day I took it out riding, the temperature was in the low to mid 80s and it was mostly sunny; solid riding weather. However, I noticed while stand around or while I was airing up my tires, I got hot relatively quickly in the flannel. No surprise there; who really wears a flannel while it’s in the mid 80s? Anyhow, this changed very quickly when I got onto my bike and started riding. I found that it breathes just as well as any of my riding jerseys — even better than some of them.

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Another thing to think about, if you did get warm while riding, you can vent your shirt by undoing a few buttons. Though I did not crash during my test rides, I can imagine that because the material is a bit thicker than that of my jerseys, it would provide some protection and help prevent road rash. After riding with the Twin Horizon handmade flannel for the last few months, I’d have to say they’re well constructed shirts; no stitches came undone at the seams and the fabric was durable throughout the testing period.

Though the flannel was tested during warmer months, this would make a great riding shirt during cooler weather. The plus side of this product is that you look normal; you won’t arrive to your destination in a loud cycling jersey, but instead you roll in looking like a regular guy. That is something a lot of commuters can get behind!

Would I recommend this to anyone that rides bicycles? Yes — not just cyclists, but anyone who is into action sports, too. It is in general a great piece of apparel that is very effective at achieving breathability, flexibility, and comfort. Go over to twinhorizon.com and order one… I know I will (when you do, just keep in mind that they run small, so go up a size). The Twin Horizon Cycling Flannel retails for $56.00 USD.

We’d like to thank Bryan for helping us out on this review.

Our Review Disclaimer

You may remember that way back in March, we announced that Chrome Industries (makers of those ubiquitous messenger bags) had a new SPD shoe. After that announcement, Chrome generously sent us a pair to review. I’ve been riding them for several months now and want to present my thoughts on them.

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Here’s a bit about the shoes straight from Chrome’s website:

FIT:

• Dual density FlexPlate™ Technology delivers unprecedented walking comfort

SPECS:

Weight:
2.1 lb

FEATURES:

• Durable rubber heel cup with reflective details
• Compatibility with most clipless pedal systems

FABRICATION:

• 100% Vulcanized construction
• Contoured impact-resistant PU footbed
• Skid resistant contact rubber outsole
• Abrasion-resistant 1,000 Denier Cordura upper
• Built in: Thailand

Style-wise, Chrome shoes tend to evoke “classic” footwear…shoes that resemble Vans, or perhaps Converse Chuck Taylors. The Truk Pro shoes, at least to me and to several of my cycling friends, vaguely resemble the classic Keds of the 70s and 80s. They have a similar tapered toe shape and unembellished look, much like those Keds. Some others, however, thought that Chrome dropped the ball in the styling department with the Truk Pro. My wife was not a fan and remarked that they look like “orthopedic ‘old folks shoes’”. Ouch. To each their own, I guess.

Back when we reviewed Chrome’s Kursk shoes, we remarked on the amazing durability of the 1000 Denier Cordura fabric. That same fabric makes an appearance here, and it is every bit as bombproof. The material shrugs off abrasions and stains and keeps on looking good.

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Unlike the Kursk shoes we reviewed a couple years ago, the Truk Pro comes with removable sole plugs to mount most two-bolt cleats for many clipless pedal systems. The sole plugs are held in place by two cleat bolts and no cutting is required. If you don’t want cleats, leave the plugs in place. The cleat mounting holes are in a good location and offer the user plenty of adjustment fore/aft and side-to-side. I mounted Shimano-style mountain SPD cleats (my preferred pedal interface both on-and offroad) with no issue.

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Chrome thoughtfully added a generous amount of reflective material to the backs of the shoes — blackout by day, dazzling by night:

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The Truk Pro pedals rather efficiently; the sole is stiff enough in the right places to offer a benefit without being too stiff to walk in. The cleat pocket recessed my SPD cleats enough to minimize contact with the ground, so there are no worries about chewing up your hardwood floors or breakroom linoleum should you wear them to work. The insole is cushy, and the shoe itself is comfortable for all-day wear.

In my experience, the overall fit was a bit of an issue. Normally, I wear size 10s in most brands of shoes, with the occasional 9.5 thrown in. The Truk Pro pair I reviewed was size 10. The foot part felt the right size…but the heel cup just doesn’t work for me. I experienced a bit of heel lift when walking unless I cranked the laces really tight, and still my foot sloshed around toward the backs of the shoes. It might be a good idea to try a pair on, if possible, before purchase. I am hesitant to suggest that you order a half-size down, but in my case, I think that may have helped. According to Chrome’s website, the shoes come in half-sizes from U.S. 4.5 all the way through 11.5, and whole sizes up to U.S. 14. The Truk Pros come in black or grey.

Overall, I liked the Chrome Truk Pros. They are subtle enough for daily wear in casual work environments, they do a fine job whether walking or pedaling, and they are supremely durable. Priced at $95.00 USD, that’s not a bad price for quality footwear with the features Chrome offers. Just check the sizing, if possible, and ride on!

Check out Chrome’s complete lineup of bike bags, apparel and footwear by visiting their website.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

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Hey *cycle* LADIES! (<— a la Beastie Boys.) Back in June, we were contacted by LUV Footwear to review their funky-colored, lightweight, multifunctional Dream Flats. An unusual suggestion for Bike Commuters product reviews, I know. But, I thought about the cross-section of my activities this summer (teaching, meetings with the City of Asheville, biking, walking, and wading in the river) and agreed immediately to test some kicks.

Here’s a peek at the product specs from their marketing specialist:

LUV Footwear presents the Dream Flat, a revolutionized ballerina flat that fuses artistic expression with anatomical performance.  The versatile Dream Flats deliver a kaleidoscope of colorful, stylish offerings with a comfort experience of athletic, weightless support.  LUV Footwear releases collectable, limited edition Dream Flats seasonally, each with its own fun, cute, and beautiful personality.

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Distinctive Features:

  • Extremely light and flexible
  • Machine washable
  • Waterproof, and they float
  • Anatomically shaped and supportive insole
  • Protective toe cap
  • Collectible, colorful designs released seasonally

Great For:

  • Kids
  • Travel
  • At the beach or park
  • Water sports
  • After running, cycling, or yoga
  • Gardening

Materials: EVA outsole, lycra upper

Retail price: $40 adults, $36 toddlers and youth

LUV Dream Flats come in a buttload of different colors, so many that it wracked my brain on which to choose… Since they rotate their patterns and colors every season, I thought I’d choose a solid, neon, and a patterned pair to try out for summer:

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From top to bottom: Metallic Pewter, Large Lunar Dot Grey, and Neon Blue

If I had to summarize the imdb movie blurb of the LUV Dream Flat, it’d go like this:

 

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Dream Flats: a chickmance starring Julie Bowen and Kristen Wiig. Two friends throw caution to the wind and fulfill their childhood dreams of biking across the continent to open a white-water rafting shop in Costa Rica.

Okay, that was random. But, what I’m trying to say is that these shoes are amphibious, fun, and cuter on my foot than I expected. They’re like a bougie, more socially acceptable version of those Vibram foot-glove things. I could wear them biking (maybe not all the way to Costa Rica) and then jump in the water at my destination.

If I were Roger Ebert, I’d give the Dream Flats two thumbs-up for versatility! One day I biked uphill to work in them during a 15 minute summer rainstorm… and the flats looked better than the rest of my outfit when I arrived at the studio sopping wet! On the Fourth, I wore them to hike to the waterfalls, walk about downtown, and even biked to the bars for a 3 hour dance party.  Cute and comfortable, yet sturdy enough to kick in some good pedal power.

And if I had to throw rotten tomatoes, I’d say the only downfall is that the inner lining becomes loose under the toes after several wears in and out of the river. They do take a bit of breaking in, but no blisters necessary. The 37 was perfect for my size 6.5-7 ducky foot after a good 8 hours in the Dream Flat.

For 40 bucks a pop, these Dream Flats are everything they claim to be. Here’s a Mir.I.Am dorkin’ about town slideshow for those of you who wanna judge for yourself if these look good on your feet:

And if you want some goodies, and you’re the type of cycle lady to cruise the streets despite the summer rains, the LUV Dream Flats can take you from office to kayak with a bit of style. Would you rock flats over clips like Hannah, Karen, or Dottie? Until the end of July 2013, enter the promo code “BikeCommuters” to save 20% off at LUV footwear online.

Wanna get a free pair of chickmance Dream Flats for some summer pedal power? How about a Bike Commuters + LUV giveaway? Just follow these steps:

  1. Leave a comment below describing your favorite pair of kicks for summer bike commuting.
  2. Head over to LUV Footwear’s facebook and sign up for the mailing list.

We will select a winner based on our favorite comment from today’s post and send you a promo code to use for one free pair of LUV Dream Flats! Contest ends at 12:00 Noon EST, July 31, 2013.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.