Sunday, March 7, 2010

Safety bike gear reviews

To continue from last week's "cold" weather reviews, I wanted to add a few more items that I incorporate into my bicycle commute in the non-summer months. I got a Sugoi helmet cover last year so I could ride in the rain and keep my head as dry as possible. I chose the ugly neon yellow color because it's super reflective. It practically glows in the dark. I feel radioactive when I've got this over my helmet. I bought mine at REI, and it doesn't look like they have the neon yellow one online anymore. I kept this on my helmet until mid-summer when I preferred the ventilation of my helmet over visibility. I haven't actually ridden in real rain with this, so I can't vouch for the waterproofness. But it helps keep my head warmer and it provides 360 degree visibility. You can find this for less than $30 and the neon yellow one is inevitably always cheaper than the cool black cover.

Another purchase I made in fall '08 with the idea that I'd be bike commuting all winter was a pair of bike booties. These are the Sugoi Resistor Bike Booties. List price at REI is $50 though I think I got them for half off somehow. They fit on over your bike shoes. The bottom of the boot is mostly open so that your cleat is exposed and able to clipin to your pedals. There is a small velcro strap that goes across the bottom of the shoe to hold on the booties. Then you zip up the back. In theory they are water resistent but I decided I was too wimpy to test them in the rain. They do keep your feet warmer though because they keep the wind from rushing through your well-ventilated bike shoes. They are fleece lined, but the fleece just matters for warmth since the booties don't really touch your skin at all. The outside is rubbery. I haven't bothered wearing these this year, but last year I used them a lot. (Let's face it, I could be acclimating to the cold, or more realistically it's just that I'm not riding as much as last winter.) As an added bonus, the bright yellow is fairly reflective. Since your road bike probably doesn't have reflectors on the pedals, this is a decent substitute in the winter months when it's more likely to be dark on your bike commute. My main problem with these is that you have to adjust your shoes exactly how you want them before putting on the booties. There's no way around this, it's just how booties are. But forget playing with the Velcro straps to loosen your shoes after 2 or 3 hours on the bike. You have to get off the bike and remove the booties first.

My most dorky bit of safety gear is my reflective vest. Mine isn't exactly like the ones pictured here. Although mine is designed basically like the orange one, mine is actually more reflective. The piping around the edges is neon yellow instead of black, and the yellow stripes have an additional silver reflective stripe down the middle. I can't remember where I bought mine and there is no label. I don't think I got mine at a bike store, but maybe I did... It was the cheapest one I've ever seen, something like $10. The best thing about it is that it is one size fits all, and it's mesh. See those black things on the side that look like tabs? Well, that's what connects the front to the back. It's a long elastic thing (mine is neon yellow, of course). The front is connected with some velcro. Because it's one size fits all, I can wear this OVER my backpack! It actually stretches enough to have the back part of the vest around my gigantic backpack. My backpack usually has about 4 big tupperware containers for snacks and my lunch, plus that day's work clothes, and in the afternoon it'll have my leg warmers and a long sleeve top usually too. It's the kind of backpack that you hit people with when you turn around in the elevator. This type of vest is a lot more useful for me than a reflective jersey would be. Since it's mesh I can wear it in the summer and it doesn't make me overheated (although in the summer it's almost always bright outside when I'm riding). I can wear it over any amount of layers. And it's way less expensive than a reflective jersey.

I also have lights, of course! I've got a great red light for the back which is on a clip, so I can easily place it on whichever bike I feel like riding. It hooks onto my saddle bag. For the front, I have a permanently attached light on my hybrid, but I don't have any front flights on my road bikes. I'm too lazy to take them on and off for races, etc. Also I've had a hard time with those lights because they can be difficult to adjust to aim exactly where you want. Lately I've been using my headlamp though. It works pretty well and I can adjust it to either fit over my helmet - sitting basically where the visor on a helmet usually is - or I have the light be on my forehead. The best part about having a light attached to the helmet instead of the bike is that the light shines on what you're looking at. I feel better about having a light on my head because I can look at a car and I like to think that if a driver is more likely to notice a light that is suddenly aimed directly at the driver.

For the first week of March, I think I did pretty well on my bike commuting. I rode my bike to work each day that it wasn't raining - Monday, Thursday, and Friday. (I also ran Wednesday morning on the treadmill!) Monday's ride home was pretty grey and getting dark - I'd forgotten my headlamp and was getting a little worried about not having one but I survived; Thursday's ride home was great as there were no clouds to cover the sun. Friday I wasn't really excited about riding home. Actually I almost never am. I like to ride in the morning but by the afternoon I'm dreading it. There are definitely a few unpleasant parts to my commute and at times I get nervous about it. Since it wasn't super bright out and I was really not feeling it my husband picked me up from work. Perhaps it was an indication that I needed the rest, because yesterday I wasn't feeling very well at all. We skipped our planned ride and just rested all day. But I got 7 workouts in for the week, so I'm feeling good about that.


  1. Thanks. I have been thinking about booties, now I know where to go

  2. I never look forward to the ride home either. I am always tired and hungry, and then 17 long miles stretch out between me and my couch. That's the beauty of the bike commute though; can't talk myself out of the workout.