New Bike Swag for Winter

Normally, I’m all about getting rid of “stuff.”  However, my one weakness is stuff for my bikes.  I get a strange thrill out of buying stuff that promises to make my year-round, all-weather bike rides safer and more enjoyable.  I’m sure it secretly drives my wife nuts.

Just over a week to go before “dark season” is upon us, and with it, cold and icy winter weather.  This year, I have a whole slew of new gear that will be put to the test in the coming months:

  • Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires.  I bought these for commuting in icy conditions, in hopes that they’ll keep me upright and prevent things like, oh, falling down and getting concussions and multiple rib fractures.  Not that I have any experience with that.
  • New headlights.  I bought 3 Planet Bike “Blaze” lights:  a 2-watt, a 1-watt, and a ½-watt.  The 2- and 1-watt lights will go on the bars, and the ½-watt will go on my helmet.  I had initially intended to mount the 1-watt on my helmet, but it’s a little too bulky and doesn’t fit well in the helmet mount.  So I went ahead and got the ½-watt, and I figure 3 headlights are better than 2.  The lights have seen plenty of use in flash mode during daylight, but have yet to be tested in the dark.
  • Helmet mounted taillight.  After reading several articles about how a helmet flasher really helps with visibility, I picked up a Planet Bike Blinky 3H.  I was initially concerned that it wouldn’t fit properly on my Bell “Sweep” helmet, but happily, it fits perfectly.  I haven’t ridden with it yet, and may wait until it’s dark.
  • Ergon GR2 grips for my mountain bike.  The mountain bike is going to see a lot of action this winter, and it desperately needed new grips.  The Ergons have been widely praised, and I’m hoping they’ll be more comfortable than what I had on there.  The GR2 also comes with a short bar end.  It was at a good price point relative to their other models.  The bar ends are a little shorter than the old bar ends I used to have on the bike, but I don’t think I’ll miss the extra length.  After much deliberating, I went with the small size grip.  There’s not too much perceptible difference between the small and large sizes, but I’m guessing the small will be more comfortable with gloves.  We’ll see.
  • Kool Stop replacement brake shoes and pads for my single speed.  This bike came with Dia Compe BRS101 brakes, with cheap one-piece shoe/pads.  They squealed a lot on the rims, and now one of them is worn down, so I’m replacing all 4 shoes.  The Kool Stop pads are much better made, and the shoes and pads are separate, so the shoes can be reused when the pads wear out.  I’ve been really happy with the Kool Stop cantilever pads on my mountain bike, so I’m hoping they’ll perform well on my caliper brakes too.

Stay tuned for raving and/or whining about each of these products (whichever is warranted), as I start to use them!