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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bar Mitts keep you riding all winter

Ride All Winter With Bar Mitts
  I received these last March, so only had a very few cold days to test them out, but in November cold days came early and sub-freezing temps could not keep me from riding thanks to Bar Mitts. update: yes it got cold

  Bar Mitts are a neoprene handle bar cover fitted specifically to your road bike, mtb, or even other sports uses.  I have the mtb pair.  The idea is to keep all the wind from sucking heat out of your glove, and also insulate your hands in a warm cocoon that allows you to easily operate your controls.  Keeping your hands warm on a cold ride makes a huge difference for your over-all comfort.

  Entry and exit is very easy.  My method of entering is to make a pointy-hand by folding my thumb and fingers together.  Concerns of missing the hole fold when you realize the Bar Mitts are playable enough to grab on the outside.

  The Bar Mitts come with an internal hook & loop strap to attach the end to the grip securing the Mitt from moving around (you can see a red flap inside - see below why it is not attached).

  To attach the Bar Mitt simply unzip the lower cable opening, slide on, and zip up.  Two external straps close the opening to reduce air flow.

  Note that some air flow is necessary to prevent your hands from sweating.  The small gaps at the cable provide this.

  On a sub-20 degree day you can wear 50 degree gloves when using the Bar Mitts.

  Users report loving using regular gloves as the bulk of winter gloves just does not feel right and isolate the rider from the terrain.

 I have modified the grip strap by attaching a screw and washer through the Mitt and into the bar plug.  It has the same effect, but eliminates the inner strap which can either come off, or in my case, just bug me.

Bar Mitts now come with an expandable bar plug to do the same thing, and requires no tools.

  My only complaint is cold knuckles when wearing thin gloves.  My top knuckles can press against the fabric and get a chill.  The insulation comes from the warm air pocket inside the Mitt, and with my knuckle pressed against the fabric this decreases in that particular spot.  Likely a one size larger Bar Mitt would solve this, but I have to tinker…
Where I had screwed the Mitt to the bar plug is the solution.  I simply moved the screw hole back 1/2 inch to make more room in front of my hands, and this solved my issue.
Bar Mitts also has one called the Extreme.  Founder and creator, Ward reports:
The larger sizes have a gusset in between the two halves giving them more body/hand room.     …I made an Extreme version, its fleece lined, has a removable cuff, a large ventilation zipper and comes with the expandable bar end attachment plug. 

Pros: Everything.  This is a product that has almost all positives:
Warm hands, does not interfere with riding, easy to use, can be left on if temps rise., no more bulky ski gloves.
Cons:  Cold knuckles.

UPDATE December 8, 2014.

Two new innovations since the initial review are entry slits and a bar plug mounting option.

 First, is the addition of the slit-entry to the previously tested Bar Mitt.  Seen here mounted inside out for visual clarity.
   The red is the same neoprene fabric as the Bar Mitt, and it is held on with velcro.  The purpose is to make a more air tight seal around the wrist to prevent heat loss.
  The neoprene is just stiff enough to keep the Mitt in a nice oval shape.
Entry and exit are quick.
  Mount this black side out so the velcro does not show, and so it will shed snow or rain better.

  The new Bar Mitts come stock with the slit-entry.  To the right is the Extreme Bar Mitt.  The only size is XL.  The 5.5 mil neoprene is thicker and lined with a fleece interior for extra warmth.
Viewing inside out here shows the bar plug mounted into the red fabric, which is sewn to the inside, so the bar plug remains fully inside the Mitt.
  To mount the plug a small hole allows a 4mm allen wrench to tighten the expanding plug.  It is securely attached when mounted, so removal on the trail will require that 4mm wrench again.

  Here is the bar plug shipped as an upgrade for older versions of Bar Mitts.
  The red tab seen above on the Bar Mitts has a hole just big enough for the allen bolt to slide through and is held secure between the rubber thingie and the purple cap.
  The washer is actually the nut which the bolt threads into.
  The red tab is big enough to allow the user to reposition the bar plug so as to fine tune position of the Bar Mitts on the bar/brake lever assembly.

  Not pictured here, but a small detail on new Mitts, is that the zipper unzips from the edge. The significance is that the zipper does not detach at the end when open anymore.  Mitts no longer require getting the zipper started as on a jacket, but rather a quick zip like on a jersey.

  Bar Mitts is a small company with innovation always on their mind.
5 Stars!

Update February, 2015:
It finally got cold.  With highs barely getting above 20 I finally got to test these further.  The bigger size of XL made it possible to wear ski gloves, which is nice to wear at these temps.  In my size Large the space is just too tight for bulky gloves to fit neatly.  I was glad to have the bigger size on cold days.  With temps in the high teens my hands were sweating a little.  The trick is to open the velcro closure a little to allow some airflow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Tortola Roundtail

A crazy looking bike, but with purpose.  It is fun that the frame circle almost matches the wheels, but there is more to it than ascetics.  The giant circle is essentially a leaf spring.
The initial reaction to riding it is that no noticeable difference in ride quality is felt.  The real benefit is on longer rides when the micro-shock from tiny bumps in the road would normally start to agitate the rider.  After about 2-3 hours in the saddle the rider will start to appreciate the comfort of the Roundtail.  After the initial ride the effects are noticeable even at the start of a ride.
It does have a small suspension effect.  The rider notices bumps that are usually uncomfortable are now much smoother.  Test riders noted that they were looking for instead of avoiding bumps just to feel the action of the frame.
The frame is designe on CAD where finite element analysis can be studied.  The frame not only smooths out the bumps, but dampens the high frequency vibrations, the ones that can feel like holding a power sander.   Durability of the frame is improved since strain is transferred around the circle and not on any one specific point as a triangle would have.
Frame testing beats it up with 100,000 cycles, and the Roundtail surpasses a traditional frame.

I got the chance to ride this bike for a few days.  I had mixed feelings about it.  While it does ride very nicely, there are those shortcomings that I cannot do without personally.  The biggie is that the 2nd bottle cage mount on the would-be seat tube is missing, leaving only one mount, thus one bottle.  The next, and much lesser, is that there is extra material in making the rear round, so there is a weight trade off for your comfort ride.  This really is not a problem for the intended end user who does not intend to enter competitive racing.
I like the frame and the ride quality, but coming from a mountain bike background I feel that smoothing out road bumps pales in comparison to what happens off road.
A much better application of this technology would be in a hard-tail mountain bike frame where there is a greater need for smoothing out the bumps.
It's not for me.  I need two bottles on my road rides, and am not willing to give that up for creature comforts, but if you are looking for a cool frame that rides excellent, the Roundtail might be for you.