In Chicago, the brutal winter hasn’t truly hit us. We’ve had a few days and nights in the teens but nothing a seasoned Chicagoan can’t handle. I’ve been doing a lot of clothing reviews, but I thought I’d share some products I’ve found to enhance winter riding.
Bar Mitts Winter Bot ($29.95 MSRP) – Keeping your water bottle from freezing is a common problem when winter riding in the true cold. The folks at Bar Mitts came up with the Winter Bot. It’s a neoprene enclosure for your water bottle. The Winter Bot comes with its own plastic cage, allen key, screws and washers. It was quick and easy to install. Well, actually it’s easy once you read the instructions and discover there’s a small hole under the zipper stop to access the bottom cage screw. The Winter Bot fits up to a 20oz water bottle, which is easily accessed with gloves using the extended zipper pull.
Bar Mitts handle bar covers ($74.95 MSRP) – A common complaint I hear from winter riders is about cold hands. When temps get below 30 degrees F I throw Bar Mitts on my fat bike. They take no time to install or remove since it is a single zipper and a couple Velcro straps. The waterproof, 5mm thick neoprene Bar Mitts fabric allows me we wear thinner gloves and my hands stay nice and toasty.
When I first tried them a couple of years ago, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get my hands out fast enough if I started to fall. But I have yet to encounter an issue and as long as I don’t wear big bulky gloves, my hands slide out just fine.
Bar Mitts are available in different sizes to fit MTB, Commuter, road and fat bike handle bars. Consult the sizing guide on their web site to get the right fit for your winter bike.
Bontrager Adventure frame bag ($79.99-$84.99 MSRP depending on size) – In addition to nutrition and repair items, winter riding often requires you to carry extra clothing like a windbreaker or gloves. There’s only so much you can fit in a jersey pocket or saddle bag. Bontrager sent me their new Adventure frame bag to try out. They only had the small version (120 cu in) in stock at the time so that is what I’ve been using. I threw it on my fat bike which is pictured below. A few of the features I really like:
- The neon green interior which makes it easy to find items, as well as smaller internal compartments for phone and keys.
- A center divider keeps items from shifting and zippers on either side of the bag provide easy access.
- Large zipper pulls allow you to open and close the bag without removing your gloves
- Numerous straps securely fasten the bag to the frame, so it doesn’t move while pedaling. Also, it is so secure it stayed perfectly in place even while the bike was being transported on a hitch rack at expressway speeds.
One issue I had on my fat bike was the bottom of the bag hit my water bottle. It was easy enough to move the bag to the side and grab my bottle, but I had to stick to a smaller bottle. To be fair these bags were designed for touring bikes like the Trek Checkpoint where the top tube is not at such a severe angle.
The frame bags come in three sizes from 16:x4” to 20”x 4.75” and pricing varies by size.
Bontrager Line Pro MTB flat pedals ($99.99 MSRP) – If you are reader of RBR you know my fat bike was stolen back in August. When I replaced it with a Trek Farley 9.8, I fine-tuned the components including fork, dropper post and pedals. The pedals I purchased were Bontrager’s Line Pro MTB flat pedals. Pedals are one of the three touch points on the bike and having secure footing during winter rides gives me one less thing to think about out on the trail. The Line Pro MTB’s pins stay grippy in both snowy and muddy conditions, no matter what gets on my boots/shoes.
Muc-Off Silicone Shine ($16.49 MSRP, 500ml can) – If you ride in the winter, removing damaging salt and mud from your bike is crucial. I feel like I’m constantly cleaning my bikes between November and March. Recently I found a new product from Muc-Off called Silicone Shine. After I clean my bike, I spray a micro-fiber towel with Silicone Shine and apply it to the frame (do not use on tires or braking surfaces). Not only is my bike shiny but the silicon formula prevents grime build-up. Once I started applying Silicone Shine the less trail and road crap would adhere meaning less time cleaning the bike. Less time cleaning means more time riding!
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women's cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri's full bio.