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Tag Archive: cold-weather cycling gear

Review: Pearly’s Possum Socks

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.

Review: Planet Bike’s “Borealis” Winter Gloves

It seems that spring has sprung for most of the country…and so this review may seem a bit late for those of you looking for winter gear for your cold commutes. Since this was MY first real winter in over 20 years, I was expecting a ton of snow and ice in which to test Planet Bike’s “Borealis” winter gloves — I wanted to run these gloves through the worst conditions I could find, even snowball fights and epic sled rides. Alas, it barely snowed here and the longer I waited for Mother Nature to do her thing, the closer to spring it got…

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Here’s a bit about the gloves straight from Planet Bike’s website:

-Windproof back panel and forchettes
-Removable liner for quick dry time
-Ultra-soft Fleece thumb
-Reflective piping for night visibility
-Water resistant, reinforced Serino palm
-3-in-1 design allows flexible temperature range by using liners, outer shells only, or outer shells with liners
-Neoprene cuff/pull tab with hook and loop closure

This 3-in-1 system is pretty handy…wear the liners on cool days, the outers when you need windproof protection or liners and shells together when things get really nasty out there. I was on the cusp between sizes L and XL (I chose the large size)…so the liners are a bit snug but the outers, strangely, have just enough room to wear other liner gloves in my collection. The stock liners are fairly lightweight fleece, so a heavier liner was pressed into service when the temperatures really bottomed out. Here are the fleece liners:

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The fleece liners don’t have any grip-enhancing goodies on them, so they can be a tad slippery all by themselves. I didn’t spend too much time riding with just the liners — when it was warm enough, I had other full-finger gloves that I prefer using, and when the temperatures dropped I grabbed the outer shells (which have plenty of grip). Take a look at all the grippy stuff and reinforcement patches on the palms:

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Feature-wise, these gloves have a lot going for them…good reinforcements on the palm, a generous (and soft!) nose-wiping area on the thumbs, a neoprene cuff and simple closures that did a really good job of sealing out chilly drafts. And, despite their seeming bulk, I had no trouble manipulating the brake and shift levers on any of the bikes I ride. Even the small thumb-lever on Campagnolo Ultrashift levers was no trouble. Seeing as how this was my first time with lobster-style gloves, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these gloves really didn’t interfere with the operation of the shifters as I had feared prior to riding with them.

The grey piping on the gloves is highly reflective, so the Borealis gloves are a good choice for nighttime riding or when extra visibility is key.

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(Don’t let the bright sunshine fool you…it was 15 degrees F when I took this picture!)

Although these gloves are not fully waterproof, they fended off most of the rain and spray from my rides. If you’re heading out into a downpour, however, there may be better choices in gloves for you…something with a vapor-permeable waterproof liner and taped seams. As far as temperatures go, I was comfortable down to around 10 degrees F…with temps in the teens, I could get about an hour of riding before my fingers started to tingle with cold, but below that, I would have to invest in hand-warmer packets, pogies or something else to keep my digits warm.

At a retail price of around $42.00, these gloves are a pretty smart choice for cold-weather commuters. The Borealis gloves are substantially less expensive than other similar “lobster” gloves, yet have most of (if not all) the features in those pricier gloves. And, of course, Planet Bike has you covered for other protective gear and accessories, no matter what season you ride in. Swing on over to their website to take a look.

Coming up later in the week, we will be reviewing some cold-weather shoe covers from Planet Bike. Stayed tuned for that!