Monday, December 6, 2010

PlanBike's Best Bay Area Bike Shops of 2010

Here are some of my favorite bay area bike shops of 2010. This isn't a comprehensive review of their quality of service. This is just a survey of all the shops that kept me coming back for more in 2010.

There are so many great bike shops in the San Francisco Bay Area. In this post, I'm not even profiling some of the all-time greats. For instance, the Missing Link Cooperative. Its store and annex have been institutions in the east bay for years.  Likewise, the chain store Mike's Bikes is great in many ways. It carries a nice range of Cannondales, Specialized, and other assorted bikes. Also, they have some great sales: where I got my last 3 bikes.  Nevertheless, as great as these stores are, they leave room for lots of niches. These niches are filled nicely by the shops I'm about to feature. I love to just visit them every couple of months whether I need anything or not.

The niches seems to fall into 2 categories: style and function. This is not to say any bike shop is lacking in either of these. However, when I think about what keeps me coming back to a given store it is one or the other these qualities. Regarding style, a relatively new shop is at the top of the list.

Points of Style
That is Public Bikes. The Public Bike shop is actually a chain of stores selling Public Bikes. There are already 2 locations in San Francisco. The shops themselves are very unique and visually interesting. Outside of their surprisingly minimal South Park location, sit some of the tripy bike racks. I saw some similar in Palo Alto while researching bike parking and security. I haven't used one yet but they are pleasing to my eye. They turn bike racks from a cluttered pile of metal to something pretty. Regardless, they look way cool outside the Public Bike storefront.

The second thing I like about Public Bikes is the hallway when you first enter. Instead of bike accessories, the walls are covered with books and magazines, some of which are not related to bicycles. This is far from the hard sell storefront. It feels more like a library.

Once inside, you are treated to a sparse but elegant display of bikes and accessories. Some of the accessories are quite unique. For instance, they have bike helmets disguised as hats. The helmets have textiles wrapped around them to minimize that safety geek look that so many cyclists seem to hate.

The final thing I like about Public is the Public Bike itself. At first glance, it looks like just another sturdy commuter bike: large seats, high handlebars, lots of fenders and racks. However, most intriguing to me is the internal shifting that many of these bikes feature. They use Shimano's Nexus internal shifting hub in 3 and 5 speed versions. These are not the lightest bikes but the elegant shifting is very cool.

For style of a different sort, I like to visit Manifesto. It's centrally located in a flat part of Oakland so it is easy to get to by bike. It is also nicely situated next to a great espresso bar and a nice assortment of other interesting shops. Perhaps all this is why cyclists tend to congregate here.
Manifesto has an eclectic mix of bikes: from cool commuter bikes (including internal shifting), to fixed gear, to regular road bikes. It also has a nice collection of accessories made out of recycled materials. It's fun to stop, grab some coffee, and have a look around.  I just like the whole vibe there.

Finally, in the stylish category is Pacific Bicycles in San Francisco. The shop itself isn't particularly stylish but they carry some of the most stylish bikes. The Bianchi Pista is a classic fixed gear beauty and this shop has scads of 'em. Just seeing so many Pistas in one spot is a visual pleasure.
Pacific Bicycles also carries scads of Cervélo road bikes. These are beautiful, mostly carbon fiber, bikes and they all look cool. I love their "squoval" and blade shaped frames and find their high contrast graphics and paint jobs to be a visual pleasure. Lifting the carbon ones is a pleasure as well.

That sums up my top 3 bike shops for a stylish shopping experience. What follows are bike shops that are not the least bit lacking in style but have a wealth of functional aspects that have me frequently coming back for more.

Points of Function
First up is Recycle Bicycle in Berkeley. The name says it all. The "pre-owned" nature of their bikes makes their bikes way affordable. Even so, this is no "land of misfit toys". They've got some cool bikes in here.

Perhaps due to their focus on pre-owned bikes, they are also great at thinking creatively about all your existing bike issues. I came in asking what it would take to make an old 10 speed a fixie and they gave me a lot of details that saved me a lot of pain.

Next up on the functional side is Tip Top Bike Shop. First of all, it has a great location.  It is in the heart of a major cycling neighborhood in Oakland: The Temescal. This neighborhood is, in turn, situated on a major cycling corridor, Telegraph Avenue, which stretches between UC Berkeley and some hip parts of downtown Oakland.

Perhaps its just me and where I bike but when I urgently need supplies or some work done, I consistently find Tip Top to be in the right place with the right stuff. The other day, they replaced my gear cassette while I hung out at a nearby café with my niece and nephew. I was going to schlep over to Mike's Bikes but Tip Top could do it when and where I was already going for pretty much the same price. Love that.

Tip Top also has great gear I can't find anywhere else. In particular, they have Endura bike clothing. Endura is British rain/wind gear. Their jackets blow away anything else I've seen. Noone else in town seems to carry it so I love to swing by Tip Top to try on their latest.

Finally, the guys at Tip Top are just very friendly and fun to talk to. I don't feel like they are selling the whole time.

For function of a different sort, I like Bay Area Bikes. Although it also has a great location near downtown Oakland and a great bunch of guys doing sales and service, the thing about it that really stands out is its selection of folding bikes, particularly Dahon.
Folding is a big deal. It dramatically expands where you can use a bike. You can fly with it and ride off from the airport. You can park it under your desk at work. Best of all, you can take it on the metro at rush hour.

As of this writing many metro systems won't let you take your bike on the train during rush hour periods: the exact time when they should be helping people get out of their cars and on their bikes. Folding bikes are the exception. Hopefully, metros will fully recognize their symbiotic relationship with the bicycle and let them on their trains at all times of the day. Until then, folding bikes are a great solution.

Folding bikes also have the advantage of providing all the fenders, racks, and high handlebars you find on any commuter bike but with a lot less weight. What's more, folding bikes are getting pretty stylish. Dahon's Speed Pro TT is pretty cool and fast looking.  I saw one at Bay Area Bikes but it didn't stay there long. I want to take one for a spin if they get one in again.

Last but not least, is Wheels of Justice. This place wins lots of points for both style and function. On the functional side, it's tough to find any bike shops up in the east bay hills except for Wheels of Justice. The hills are where both road and mountain bikers spend a lot of time so it is great not having to schlep all the way down the hill to get something.

For parents, the place has one of the best selections I've seen of bikes for little kids. Nevertheless, it also has a great selection of supplies and unique accessories for all bikes.

I found my Ergon pack at Wheels of Justice. I hadn't seen anything like it anywhere before nor have I since. These Ergon packs have straps that are mounted on a U-joint. The pack is also incredibly water-resistant. You can't dive with it but you can stand in the shower with it. Between that and the unique strap suspension system, no other bike pack comes close. When I needed to adjust the fit, Wheels of Justice was great about ordering parts and installing them at no charge.

Although the cool products, location and customer service are great at Wheels of Justice, what I like best about this shop are the people who work there. It's their personal style that I find pleasing and useful.

First of all, there's Justice Baxter, the owner, who is super cool. He's the kilted one on the left in the photo.  I asked someone about the name and all I was told is "his parents were hippies". Fair enough. Anyway, Justice solicits more customer feedback than any shop owner I've seen. He's constantly using facebook to survey what his customers want most from his store.

If that weren't enough, the store regularly hosts "customer appreciation parties", group rides, and bicycle lessons of all types. Sometimes, it feels more like a club and than a store. That is my favorite kind of bike shop.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Diverse Cycling Fashion

Updated on 2010-11-14: See Casual Californian and the Loquat Lady.
In honor of Bike to Work Day, here's a survey of some of the many ways you can dress while cycling to work or play. They illustrate that it doesn't have to be all about spandex bike shorts, loud tops, weird bike shoes, and bulbous helmets. Here are some gals cycling back from dinner on a Friday evening in the bike crazy Temescal neighborhood of Oakland, California. They've got a nice mix of safety and style going.

If cycling as serious transport is ever going to go mainstream one of the many things that has to change is the perception that cycling means dressing up like a giant "day glow" lollipop. Folks seem to have many different issues with that look.

Folks don't seem to like the crisp formality of this look. One reason for that may be the similarity it has to these guys. These fellas are two of Vancouver's finest. I ran into them at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games while they were guarding the Olympic torch. Many folks simply don't want to look like they are in uniform when they cycle.

What follows are some pictures of folks I have met on the road recently showing you can get it done on bikes without all that.

A perfect case in point is this guy I met at Polk and Geary one Saturday while doing the story on Johan and his bike accident. This guy is looking fabulous in his green and black striped knee socks, matching green T-Shirt, and Elvis-style sunglasses. He's getting his PhD in urban planning and transportation design at San Jose State. He is big in to bike commuting but you wouldn't know it from this outfit.

He's a great example of the opposite end of the spectrum from the sporty or cop look. He's got no helmet, gloves, or special shoes. He's not letting the bike dictate anything. Still, he is definitely sporting an equally bold look.

This fellow is demonstrating the same thing albeit from a classic Californian perspective. The bike even ties in to it. His beautiful Saluki bike with its vintage leather/spring seat and canvass bag looks as comfortable and casual as he does. You've also got to love the "Wallaby" shoes. Don't see those that often anymore. Very cool.

This gal also is not sacrificing style or comfort or even her options for free speech. She's looking very comfortable in a beautiful skirt. Apparently, those are not a problem to ride with. She's also put on her bike the same bumper stickers she would have on her car. A pleasant surprise was her bike rack which was full of freshly-picked "loquats". Delicious! Other than the helmet, you wouldn't know she was a cyclist.

There are lots of folks showing a hybrid approach to safety/style/comfort. This guy, for instance, is pedaling and looking fine in his business suit. His side rack ensures no backpack straps will wrinkle his blazer. Nevertheless, he's got a helmet and gloves just in case. He was really moving when I took this so, for him, a little extra safety is probably not a bad idea.

This fellow has taken it up a notch with his pleated slacks and his sweet all chrome Bianchi Pista. These dress clothes didn't get in the way of performance. He tore out of the BART station and pretty much kept up with car traffic across an intersection.

Here's father and daughter who've balanced safety with style while going out to breakfast at The Creamery (a cool new café across from the SF train station) on a mellow Saturday morning. Love the Pea Coat on dad and the cute "wellies" on daughter. Also, a gorgeous red bike for two. Apparently, dad makes these himself.

Another look I found interesting was this gal. She's dressed in regular clothes. She was just pedaling home from work. No need to sport a special look for that. Like most folks, she's opted for a helmet but otherwise, you wouldn't know she was a cyclist. Nevertheless, check out those shoes.

She's riding home in clogs. Definitely a very comfortable choice for walking but not an obvious choice for cycling. I asked her if they ever slide off while she rides. She says they work fine. Those particular clogs are beauties too. Check them out in the close up. Since then I've met lots of folks who swear by slip on shoes. I never would have guessed that.

Swinging back toward the sporty direction is this guy shown by the BART train. He's got special cycling shoes for clipless pedals. I'd bet he's got other bike-specific clothing underneath. On the outside, though, its just jeans and regular clothes. I see this look a lot and for good reason. With this you get the comfort and efficiency of the bike-specific attire but you avoid the lollipop look. This guy had a sweet race bike as well. Nothing like driving a Ferrari to work every day.

Below is a picture of me cycling on the Las Vegas strip. I'll admit it. I'm like the "day glow" lollipop. I go the whole nine yards: bike-specific pants, shoes, gloves, helmet, and jacket. After biking for years, I've succumbed to the full bike uniform. I mitigate that by just throwing something over my bike attire when I arrive.

Street clothes work if you are going a few blocks but after a few miles (for me at least), they chafe, soak with sweat, or get bike soile with chain grease or gutter runoff. Not to mention, if you take a spill with no gloves or helmet you use your skin to stop. I've torn through gloves after falling at only 5 miles an hour. Luckily, I've never taken a high speed fall but Johan can attest that it warrants a helmet. All this is not to mention the rain which begs for the water-resistant or quick-drying bike clothing even more.

In the end I found that, as with anything, a bit of planning for the worst-case scenario pays off. Given that, I bite the bullet and wear the bike suit. Slipping regular clothes over spandex when you reach your destination is remarkably quick, easy, and socially acceptable. I've also found that bike shoes with mountain bike clips are decent walk shoes that look decent with black or blue jeans.

Regardless, the beautiful thing is that all these people are out there looking however they want to look while making their health, the air, and the traffic a lot better. Bless them and anyone new who cares to join them on Bike to Work Day or everyday.

P.S. Here's a CNN story on John Leguizamo cycling to work in NYC. Go John! I hope you start a trend amongst celebrities.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cycling The Giants World Series Parade

Willie Mays
After the Giants won the 2010 World Series, there was the usual mayhem in the streets the first night. Several fires were lit. Buses were stopped dead in their tracks and used as grandstands. One motorist foolish enough to try to drive through a crowd was taken out and beaten and his car was trashed. For me, that all added up to a nice cycling challenge: how to get around insanely crowded streets during events like these.

Some of my friends discouraged me from taking the bike. They thought the density of pedestrians would make it problematic. There was probably no way for any vehicle to negotiate that scene the first night. However, I thought the bike might negotiate the traffic snarls that would inevitably surround the parade area 2 days later. This event should be a bit more organized and so have a bit more space to get places. I decided to find out.

San Francisco has a metro system called BART but one of its many shortcomings is the fact that it doesn't allow bicycles on the trains during rush hours. This is precisely when you want people cycling, i.e. not driving, it seems to me. Nevertheless, BART was out for getting into town with the bike on parade day so I decided to take the ferry. This turned out to be an excellent choice. It accommodated bikes no problem. It was a nice sunny day and beautiful ride. Better still, it was not crowded at all even though BART was a mad house. I love it when the path less traveled turns out to be the best.

From the SF Ferry Building, it was a breeze pedaling along the embarcadero a few blocks, then in a few blocks to the base of the Transamerica Building where the parade was starting. I literally pedaled right up to the blockade, and parked my bike. Sweet! And totally impossible with any other vehicle. I was off to a great start.

I was a bit worried about locking my bike. I doubted anybody was gonna show up to the parade with bolt cutters but I did worry about crowds kicking or crushing my bike if things got super wild. Still dreaming of a day when there's ubiquitous bike parking, I bit the bullet and locked it to a parking meter without incident.

Sergio Romo (as the Beard)
Once done, it was time to relax and enjoy the parade. Although it was heavily front-loaded with everybody except the players, it was a great show. For starters, there were bicycles in the parade. Cool! Bicycle taxis had been utilized to cart a few sets of VIPs down the route. Unfortunately, I didn't recognize who they were but it was great to see the bikes there anyway.
Madison Bumgardner
After a long stream of back office staff that were enjoying their day in the sun along with the team they support, some familiar faces started to arrive. The mayor, Gavin Newsom, one of the senators, Diane Feinstein, and the icon of Giants baseball, Willie Mays, all participated.

Finally, the real stars showed up. Sergio Romo, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgardner, Buster Posey, and Aubrey Huff, were all on display. They each got their own end of a trolley-style bus in which to bask in the glow of being the first Giants to win the World Series in 56 years. Unfortunately, for baseball ignoramouses like myself, a lot of them were on each other's trolley. I didn't know who I was looking at. The worst was "Sergio Romo" who sported "the beard" and park himself inside Brian Wilson's  bus. Fun stuff.

Buster Posey Matt Cain

Aubrey Huff
I'm not a big baseball fan but I found the details of this team's win very interesting and moving. 56 years since the last win for the Giants. Never a World Series win on the west coast, despite participation in a couple. Almost as interesting were the team members themselves. These guys are like the Bad News Bears or something. In interviews, more than one expressed surprise and gratitude for having a job at all this season. And now they are World Series Champs. Right on!

After the parade, I took a ride down the peninsula on CalTrain to see what that was like. Thanks to some considerable lobbying by cyclists, CalTrain has had dedicated bike cars for years. Nevertheless, try telling that to thousands of weary and/or inebriated Giants fans when they want to go home. The bike car was difficult to get a bike into, to say the least. That said, I have to hand it to the conductors that fearlessly guarded the space for cyclists. Thanks, guys!

Tim Ryan
While waiting for the conductors to get all the occupants in order, I bumped into Tim Ryan, a reporter for CBS News Radio. It turns out, he's a hardcore cyclists both for sport and for transport. For fun, he does solo bike trips over the Rockies. For work, he sometimes take his bikes on a story. So cool! Today, he was taking his bike on the train for the same reason I was: to have an elegant way to quickly zip around the crowds while he reported on the event.

He says he doesn't always bike to work but does so when it is a good fit for his itinerary on a given day. He's also done this in other cities he's lived and worked in as a reporter. Meeting Tim and hearing how cycling helps him do his very dynamic, time-sensitive, job embellished my positive bike commute experience to celebrate this historic event.

Given how well it worked for me and how well it seems to work for demanding bike commutes like Tim's, I wouldn't hesitate to ride my bike into such crowds again.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bike Gear: Wind and Rain Protection

An unaltered night photo of the Nike Vapor described below.
Cycling as serious transport in a country without a commitment to it requires a lot of guts and a lot of great gear. Over the years, I've gone through a lot of money and strife finding that gear. Below is one post in a series  (see also visibility, security) profiling only the best gear that has worked for me.

Not Covered
For wind and rain protection, I'll discuss the top down, then discuss the extremities. I'll skip the head since I don't use more than a helmet. In icy conditions, I can see getting a cover for the helmet but I didn't need one while biking to work in snow at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Whistler. I'll also skip eyewear since I haven't found any good way to keep those clear in the rain other than simply wiping on occasion.

For the torso, there are some great options. However, it took a while to find them. For years, skiers and hikers have had gore-tex: a material that won't let moisture in but will let moisture out. The great value in this is to manage perspiration and rain at the same time.

Having done all three activities (cycling, hiking, and skiing), I can safely say skiers and hikers never sweat as much as a cyclist. If breathability were needed anywhere, it is needed in cycling. Given that, it is surprising how very little breathable material I've found in cycling outerwear. Instead, I find lots of plain old nylon jackets and pants with a little bit of elastic at the ends. The plain nylon outerwear tends to be a big sweat factory. Consequently, I avoid it like the plague with one exception.

Adjustable Jackets
The nylon jackets with removable sleeves work pretty well. Obviously, having no sleeves is a great way to produce breathability. It obviously leaves you less protected which matters greatly in really cold conditions but I'll get to a solution for that later. In most conditions, a jacket with adjustable sleeves has met most of my needs for rain and wind protection.

Magnets Rule
Amongst the removable sleeve jackets, the best I've seen is the Cannondale Morphis Shell. This jacket is head and shoulders above all the other removable sleeve jackets because it is so easy to detach and attach the sleeves. It is the only one of its kind that I can do this while riding. With other jackets, you might get the sleeves off while riding but you will be hard pressed to get them back on at all because they use snaps, zippers or velcro. Even if you could, it would not be as easy as it is with the Morphis.

Why? Because the Morphis uses magnets, yes magnets, to attach the sleeves instead of zippers or velcro. These magnets break away more quickly and easily than any fastener but, more importantly, the magnets are self-attaching. When you are ready to re-attach the sleeves, you simply slide them on and the magnets find each other like something out of a Transformer movie.

The jacket is simply incredible. This kind of rapid flexibility is just what I want while riding in mixed to bad weather. All the other jackets with removable sleeves make you stop and futz in the rain to get the zippers, snaps, or velcro together but with the Morphis I detach and attach sleeves with impunity as conditions change. It's awesome.

The one issue is that the magnets leave space for air to get through the seams which can be an issue on very cold days. However, for those days you probably don't need adjustable sleeves at all.

As amazing as the Morphis shell is, having no sleeves obviously provides no shelter for the arms. Consequently, I use this shell for moderately cold and relatively dry days, windy days, or days where I don't know what it's gonna do.

Breathable Jackets
For the really serious storm, a full jacket with breathable material is the way to go. You've got to really search in the bike shops but it is there.

In the breathable category, the best I've found is the Endura Luminite Jacket. It uses a thick yet breathable material that feels really great.

In addition to being breathable it is super visible. My friend Johan  and I really value visibility since we are really not into premature death. This jacket has a wealth of reflective material all over it and it comes in "day-glo" yellow  (although it does come in black).  If that weren't enough visibility, this jacket also has a blinking red LED light embedded in the back.

I've worn the Endura Luminite Jacket on the worst kinds of days and not been wanting for anything else. It has velcro straps to close the sleeves and a very high, cinchable, collar to keep rain off your neck. I've even worn this sailing with satisfactory results.

Jackets So Cool They Deserve Special Consideration
For all my talk about breathability, there is one jacket that I now exempt from that metric because it excels so greatly in other areas: the Nike Vapor Flash jacket.

This is actually a running jacket but I think it is better suited for cycling. Partly because it is heavier than most running jackets but mostly because it is made entirely out of reflective material. The jacket is one big reflector. Cyclists need all the visibility they can get in any weather but foul weather especially. You can't get more visible than this when headlights hit you.

Again, the jacket is made from a heavy material, is not breathable and its sleeves do not detach so I expected it to be another sweat factory. However, it has some major zipper vents to make up for the lack of breathability.

And, so far, sweat hasn't been a problem at all. I was not sweaty after riding from the Embarcadero to Golden Gate park which has a few climbs. On top of that, I wore it into Cal Academy's 85 degree rainforest and was totally comfortable.

We'll see if it feels this good in spring time. Regardless, the awesome reflectivity deserves special consideration. If you follow cyclist feeds on twitter, you know how many of us get hit every month. Given  that, I choose visibility over breathability.

One other plus is that it looks good even when you are not cycling so, for me, it doubles as work wear. When the light isn't hitting it, it is just a smart looking flat grey jacket. There's nothing better than rainwear with form as good as its function because it means you pack less and have less to change into when you finish your ride.

Flexibility and breathability are sufficient qualities for outerwear covering the top of your body. However, since the real action in cycling is down below, outerwear for the bottom of your body needs something more: stretchability. 
Less Pant is More Until 50°
To keep things simple, I avoid long pants as long as possible and just ride in rain in bike shorts until it gets below 50 degrees fahrenheit. It's not uncomfortable while you are pedaling. Below 50 degrees, I'll throw on some long rain pants. Thankfully these days, you can now find long rain pants that are both flexible, breathable and stretchable.

Stretchability Rules
The best I've seen of this type of outerwear is the Sugoi Firewall Pant. These pants breath and stretch beautifully. They have a nice reinforced material inside the ankle that keeps the cuff out of your chain without bunching tightly around your leg. They also have a zipper along the outside of the ankle to make them easy to slip over your shoes.

Rubberized Zippers: Double-edged Sword
Running the Sugoi Firewall pant zipper is a two-handed operation so you can't do that while you ride. However, the only time I ever want to do that is when I forget to zip before I get on the bike which is kind of my bad. The zipper is tough to zip because of the rubberizing around it so it is a feature not a bug.

Passable As Pants
Nevertheless, what really makes these pants stand out is the cut. These look and feel like regular pants. They have a matte finish to the fabric so they don't reflect light all the time like typical rubber rain gear. They even have two side pockets with zippers. The cut around the leg is just loose enough to look like normal pants. From a distance, if it weren't for some reflective graphics, you'd think they were slacks of some kind.

I actually wear these pants for a night out. Throw a dressier top over your jersey and you can get passed the "Maître d'" at most restaurants. You'll still be a little funny looking but these days who isn't?

Given this fashion feature, on top of the superb performance on the essentials, these pants stand out. With these in my pack I can be out without worrying about the rain, cold, or even the possibility of dinner plans. In the latter case, I can transform from a bike geek to a relatively normal looking patron in a couple of seconds. For more on bike fashion, check out Diverse Bicycle Fashion.

The Sugoi Firewall Pants, true to their name, are great for truly rainy days and they are passable as regular pants but since my original post, I've found that their sound gives away the fact that they are rain pants even if their looks don't. The make a swishing sound when you walk.

Almost Like Slacks
For days when the rain is light but temp is low and/or the wind is high, I wear Patagonia Traverse Pants. This is a "soft shell" pant that is really not rain gear at all. Nevertheless, light rain drops seem to bead up and blow off anyway.

What you lose in waterproofing, you gain in breathability, comfort, and style. They feel like regular pants. Sweat is never a problem. Neither is comfort because they are a loose fit that is moderately stretchy. The Firewall Pants might actually stretch more but these Traverse Pants feel more forgiving because there is no water-resistant membrane to stick to your legs.

Finally, the Traverse Pants look almost like slacks so these really do double as workwear for me. The reflector on the ankle zipper is telling but I still wear these most places I go without hesitation.

One catch with the Traverse Pants is, like a lot of Patagonia stuff, they seem to be out of production already. Patagonia does bring back items over time. Nevertheless, right now you have to buy them from a third party because they are not in Patagonia's catalog at the moment.

Last but certainly not least are extremities. I'll start with the feet. First of all let me set the context. If you are riding without clip-less pedals then you can obviously wear any kind of shoe which allows you to pick any kind of protection you want so the comments on footwear below are moot. You can skip to gloves. Likewise, cycling in snow can demand gear where some of the things outlined below are irrelevant. Nevertheless, what follows is my experience keeping my feet dry or, at least, comfortable while using clip-less pedals and shoes.

With clip-less pedals, you are obviously focused on pedaling performance which means you are already using a shoe that is stiff and pretty well ventilated. This means, that water is going to go right into and out of the shoe constantly unless you cover it with something. Although, there are rain guards for cycling shoes, I have found the exposed and wet scenario is actually fine provided you have the right socks.

Full Booties: Rarely
I tried the full booties that slip over the shoes. They work great but they are not breathable so you can wind up with sopping wet feet from your own perspiration. Also, if rain does get in there, it doesn't easily come out. Finally, the booties are a bit of a pain to get on.

Half Booties: Never
As a remedy, I tried the "half-booty". These are slightly easier to get on but were pointless in the rain and not much help in the wind. They had the inconvenience of full booty installation without any of the moisture protection. The rain simply went up and over the half-booty and into my shoe.

Consequently, I now go out with nothing special on my shoes but something special on my feet. I wear soft nylon socks. They get wet but they dry so quickly that they feel pretty normal when I reach my destination.

I even leave them on at work. The obvious exception not yet covered is snow. If you are riding in snow then all bets are off regarding perspiration. In that case, the full booties are the way to go. I'm fond of the socks like these by DeFeet. They are cheap, they look great in business or cycling shoes, and they dry super-quick.

For the hands, I use two options. If I'm commuting, then sooner or later I'm going to need a lot of finger dexterity to get my metro card out or money or something. I haven't found a full glove yet that does that well but I did recently find these cool mittens with a quick-release finger flap.

The finger compartment slides off when you need your fingers. Very cool when fumbling for your metro pass in a commuter line. The only issue has been that these slip a bit on my brake handles. I bought them at a runners shop so they are not designed for cycling. Otherwise, these are totally cool. Some cycling glove vendor needs to take note.

For a regular cold ride, I use these Pearl Izumi full-fingered gloves. Very nice dexterity. I can even run a smart phone touch screen with them. The only bummer has been the netting in the palm tears easily during a crash and the gel pads fall out. However, most gloves don't last long when sliding on asphalt. Regardless, I forgive this because they feel so good the rest of the time.

This gear isn't the cheapest but I think it is the best. Again, I've wasted a lot of time and money trying to skimp. In the end, I wound up with this stuff and now I don't think twice about going out on any type of day. The gear keeps me perfectly dry and/or comfortable year-round. If cycling is going to become a serious form of transport, gear like this is what it is going to take.