The latest products to hit our desks include a smattering of useful commuter gear, for winter and beyond, from Bontrager, Continental, Giro, and Küat. Here's a quick first look.
Bontrager’s long-sleeve wool jersey
Bontrager have gone headlong into creating a high-quality and all-encompassing cycling clothing line, which includes everything from professional-level road kit to items like the Commuting Wool Long Sleeve Top (US$109.99) seen here. This 100 percent merino wool jersey is thicker than the company’s short-sleeve options and built with a high, crew collar for keeping out chills and a single rear side pocket.
The rear/side pocket is a signature on Bontrager's wool commuter line
On the bike the wool helps manage moisture and when you step off, it doesn’t stink as an equivalent untreated technical fiber might. We found the fit to be snug enough so as not to flap excessively if worn without a shell, and loose enough to blend in at the office or coffee shop. The quarter-length neck offers some venting and the metal buttons further its acceptability in professional settings.
Continental TopContact Winter 2 tire
Continental have taken their studless winter car tire knowledge and used it to develop an equivalent for bicycles. The TopContact Winter 2 ($64.95) is a three-ply, 180tpi wire bead tire which employs a special cold-temperature rubber compound and impressively siped tread to gain grip on ice and snow. Between our two 700x37mm test tires, weights averaged 607g – considerably less than that of a winter tire with metal studs. Conti also offer a 26x1.9in version with a claimed weight of 740g.
The TopContact Winter 2s offer noticeably better grip than file-tread or aggressively treaded cyclo-cross clincher tires on packed or frozen surfaces at comparable pressures. We've tried them at 30psi; for general use, Continental recommend a tire pressure in the mid to high 50s psi. In deeper snow, the tires do pack up. However, we noticed that this packing is temperature dependent and the rubber definitely stays more pliable in colder temperatures than a standard tire.
A look at the heavily siped tread
On dry pavement, the weight and soft durometer rubber don’t seem to make the tire too sluggish, so it could be a good option for those who encounter snow and ice regularly on their commutes, as well as those in cooler rainy climates just looking for some extra grip. We've yet to put enough miles on the Top Contact Winter2, however, to be able to comment on wear.
Giro Ambient 2 and Pivot winter gloves
Giro’s Ambient 2 ($49.99) is one of our favorite performance (light) winter gloves because it provides exceptional dexterity and lots of warmth for its size. The only update for 2012 is reflective detailing on the back but it has also served as a starting point for the design of the new Pivot, a medium weight, waterproof equivalent.
Giro's Ambient 2 and new, waterproof Pivot (r)
The $69.99 Pivot is slightly bulkier and less precise on fit, due to bunching of the X-Static insulation. However, it’s warmer and offers a waterproof back, via Pertex soft shell material made with the Hipora waterproof membrane. (The Ambient 2 uses a simple soft shell material that’s DWR treated to be water resistant).
We expect the Pivot to be useful to commuters in cold and rainy climates, but not those that freeze solid; think rain in the mid-40°s F (5°C). Racers will likely push the limits of the glove down well past freezing.
Küat Bottle Lock
Most commutes are short enough for a single water bottle, or even to go without, yet most bikes have provision to carry two or more; Küat’s Bottle Lock takes advantage of an unused bottle cage as the perfect place to carry a 5ft cable lock.
The Bottle Lock all buttoned up
The $34 Bottle Lock comes in black, white or pink and features a windable top to retract the 8mm x 5ft cable along with a lower storage compartment for the keys. It fits in any standard bottle cage.