Pearl Izumi Winter Gear: Make Cold Weather Riding Enjoyable

For many cyclists, winter is a time to relax, cross train, tweak positions and take a mental break from hard training and longer rides.

Cycling in the cold and dark only appeals to a very select, albeit slightly hardcore, group. But for those that live in relatively mild climates, winter is also an excellent time to get outside and enjoy the cooler temperatures with the appropriate gear.

"Appropriate gear" is what training in colder weather is all about. Extremities such as fingers, toes and ears are most susceptible to cold. Specially designed, gloves, shoe covers and head bands will take the edge off those cold mornings. Breathable fabrics that also resist wind are key to keeping you warm and dry.

If you wear standard clothing layers and jackets, after 20 minutes of exertion, you're sure to find yourself soaked in perspiration, making for a miserable ride as your "wet" clothing gets battered by wind.

Fortunately, as with everything else in technology, advancements in lighter, more breathable fabrics have changed the way we think of dressing for outdoor activity. Over the past month, I've tried a few products from Pearl Izumi, one of the leading manufacturers of cycling clothing and accessories.

Here's a rundown of a few products that can make your cold weather rides a pleasurable experience:

Gel Lite Gloves

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For temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, Pearl Izumi Gel Lite gloves are outstanding. In fact, they're so light and breathable, you can wear them early and as the day wears on and temperatures rise, you won't feel too hot in these full-fingered gloves. On a 75-mile ride that started at 47 degrees and warmed to a sunny 75 in the desert, I never felt like I needed to take them off.

The perforated leather palm allows your hands to breathe in the unexposed areas, while the lightweight fabric and mesh between the fingers protects the top of your hands and fingers providing maximum flexibility between fingers.

The interesting thing about these gloves is the closure is under instead of on top of the back of your hand. It took me a little getting used to, but after a few rides it seemed second nature to fasten these gloves from underneath. The thinking here is that the gloves are more aerodynamic with the smoother surface area on top.

A neoprene cuff secures your wrist while ergonomically placed pressure pads keep the pressure off sensitive areas while holding handlebars or riding on top of the brake hoods. There's even a conveniently placed microfleece on the thumb to wipe away any cold weather nasal drips.

If you're going to be riding in temperatures below 45 F, especially if it's windy, you'll want a little thicker glove than the Gel Lites. At a suggested retail of $39.95, these are excellent mild weather gloves.

Zephrr Vest

For cold weather riding, especially in climates where the sun quickly warms the air, I find that a good vest, with an undergarment, jersey and arm warmers is really all you need to keep your upper body warm. Nice thing about a vest is it can quickly fold and store in a jersey pocket as the temperature rises.

I found the Zephrr vest to be one of the most comfortable, light and wind resistant vests I've ever used. The extended neck, with a microfleece collar, goes a long way in keeping you much warmer than a standard vest. I especially like the way a notch at the top of the collar folds over the zipper when fully zipped, ensuring a completely wind resistant area around the zipper.

The Zephrr fabric at the front is wind resistant, water repellant and extremely breathable while a hydrophobic mesh in the back wicks away any perspiration.

There's a credit card pocket inside, which I used for my garage door opener and reflective strips on the back are great for nighttime riding and visibility. At a suggested retail of $54.99, this is one item you'll want on nearly every cool morning ride.

AmFIB Shoe Cover

Because most cycling shoes are so breathable, and the fact your feet spin around 100 rpm which creates extra wind exposure, feet tend to be very susceptible to cold weather. A good shoe cover or "bootie" as they tend to be called can go a long way to keeping your feet toasty warm on the chilliest mornings.

For me a good sock cover does the trick most of the time, but if it's a little colder or when the roads are slightly damp or wet from earlier rainfall, I find a full bootie like the AmFIB works wonders. Many shoe covers are really tough to get on and stretch over cleats, straps and buckles. Nice thing about the AMFIB is it zips all the way up the back, making it much easier to get on and off.

What I found surprising is that a "Large" was actually kind of tight, even though I have a relatively smaller foot at size 8.5. In looking at the sizing chart, I noticed I'm at the high end of medium and low end of large. That said, I'm not sure I'd enjoy stretching on a medium and then having to zip up the back. It seems you want to go slightly larger when ordering a pair of these.

I rode into work one day on wet roads in a light rain and found that my feet were just slightly wet after a 45 minute ride. While not totally waterproof, these AmFIBs will definitely keep the mud and water off your shoes while, most importantly, keeping your toes warm.

The adjustable ankle strap allows you to really tighten down the bootie and keep the elements out. If it's raining, however, you'll definitely get a little leakage through here but not that much. At a suggested retail of $49.99, the AmFIBs may be the ideal shoe cover to protect your feet from the elements.

For more information on any of these Pearl Izumi products or to see their full line of clothing and accessories, visit www.pearlizumi.com or call (800) 328-8488.

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