Bar Mitts/Pogies

Oh! The sacrifices I make for you to write this blog! 😉 I have written about winter biking and clothing more than once and I thought I’d written my last.

I realized that, while I have written and raved about my mittens from Empire Wool and Canvas Company (more than once), and mentioned Bar Mitts (aka pogies), I’ve never tried them. As a responsible blogger, I bought a pair.

The Bar Mitts brand come in regular and Extreme models. Living in a rather extreme climate (having ridden in temperatures from -26 to +106 degrees F [-32 to +41 C]) the Extreme seemed the logical choice. If I wanted to see if they could replace my mittens, the Extreme was the only choice.

The Extreme uses thicker Neoprene and adds a cuff. Without the cuff in place, you can see a large gap between arm and mitt. That much ventilation is not welcome in bitter cold.
With the cuff in place, there is no gap between arm and mitt.

Other reviews I have read talked about sweaty hands. In cold weather, that is not an issue worth losing sleep over. I rode with them at 50 degrees (10 C). I forgot how warm 50 degrees is. My windfront tights were too warm. My jacket was too warm. The cap under my helmet was too warm. My hands did not become too warm until after I realized I was overdressed in general. Even then, I removed the cuffs and opened the zippers, which allowed flow through ventilation. My hands were the most comfortable part of me. In the upper photo you can see a bit of light coming through from the bottom. That’s where the zipper is.

They come in multiple sizes. The place I bought mine stocks only extra-large. I can’t imagine a smaller size. There wouldn’t be room to get my fingers around the brake levers with warm gloves or mittens on. In a warmer climate, that might not be a problem; but then, you wouldn’t need the Extreme model, would you?

Mounting on the bike

is a simple process. They open up with a zipper and slip over the bars. Zip them shut, then Velcro two tabs around the cables on the stem side of the bar. The mitt is held in place with an expanding bar-end plug. (If you’ve ever used a boat with a drain plug, you’re familiar with the concept.) It takes a bit of fishing through a small hole in the Neoprene with a 4mm Allen wrench to tighten. Removing is likewise simple, but not something I’d do as often as I’d change from one pair of gloves or mittens to another.

Riding

takes a bit of adjustment. Since they cover the bar ends, you can’t use that hand position. If you have bar-end attachments, you can buy a model with holes so the bar ends stick out, but then you can’t use them and stay warm at the same time. To signal a turn, you slide your hand toward you to get it out of the mitt, then signal; so it’s a two-step process and takes a bit longer than just removing your hand from the bar to signal. Slipping back in is easy but, again, different than just re-gripping the bar. When approaching a turn, to remove your hand to signal, slide it back in to apply the brake, and maybe back out to signal again is a bit of a chore. If I had reason to get my hand out fast, I think it could be a problem. If you use a bell, it will be inside the pogie, meaning the sound is greatly muffled. You can’t see your hands, but if you need to see your hands to shift or apply the brakes you have a bigger problem.

Warmth

is the reason for these, right? So how do they stack up? Since they stay on the bike, if you leave your bike in an unheated space, they are cold inside until your body heat warms them. They are not air tight, so there is a breeze coming through where the cables exit. You can adjust the air leak by tightening or loosening those tabs. If you’re gonna pull your hand out to signal, you still need a glove or mitten unless it is pretty warm out. If you never signal, they are much easier. Then again, I don’t want to ride with you. You do need less glove than without the pogies. I have so far tried liner gloves, full fingered lightweight gloves, full-fingered “winter” gloves, and woolen mittens. The coldest I have ridden so far is 5 degrees (-15 C). At that temperature I needed mittens under the pogies. Gloves weren’t enough. There’s not a lot of room inside with a mitten on, so applying the brakes takes a bit more concentration. I would not wear my big Empire mitts inside. (I just tried them. I can get them in but once there, they stay there. I have to pull my hand out of the mitten and the pogie to do it with any speed.) The mitts I wore at 5 degrees would not have been enough at below zero temperatures and getting my hand in position around the brake lever in that tight space took some doing.

Bottom Line

If your hands are always cold, you can’t get Empire mittens because Kevin isn’t making the bike mitts anymore, you have gloves and mittens that you like but they’re not quite warm enough, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you; especially if your mittens use Thinsulate or some other warm and not bulky lining.

If you never signal your turns anyway, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you.

If you don’t like anything bulky on your hands, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you.

If you don’t ride where it’s really cold, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you. Around the freezing point they are pretty comfortable with just liner gloves under them – once you warm up the insides. But that’s hardly what I’d call “extreme.”

As for me? The jury is still out, but the ‘no’ votes appear to be ahead. I admit, it hasn’t been a fair test. I’ve only used them between 5 and 50 degrees. But gimme a break. I haven’t had ‘em a full week yet.

Ice boats and live piano music on the lake…that’s why I live here.

They now have two weeks of use. I will leave them on until it is too warm to use them…but I’m not so sure they’ll go back on next winter.

garden expo

PBS Wisconsin is putting on a virtual garden and landscape expo February 20-21. Included is a photography exhibit/contest and yours truly has two entries.

In the macro category, I have “Ant”.

In the phone/tablet category, I have “New Year/New Morning”.

You can attend the expo virtually (and vote for my photos) at: https://wigardenexpo.com/?fbclid=IwAR2gsTbS6n0FMWD_LHtBTJhN81VXiwn0NwAaqBqrPAKcsekGRLuT8qERixg

You need to register online at the link above, so I’m sending this out early in the week. I’m guessing that the link “photo competition” at the bottom of the page is where you’ll see photos. As of today it just links you to instructions to enter (for which it is far too late).

While it is below zero (Fahrenheit) today, it is time to order seeds and time to start seedlings indoors is approaching. If you’re not a gardener, you can just have a little vicarious summer in the midst of the cold (unless you live somewhere that talk of below zero temperatures sounds like a foreign language).

For those looking for photo details, the first photo was shot with a Nikon D5300 with 105 mm lens @ F22, 1/125 sec, ISO 5000, in natural light, in my back yard. The second was shot with an iPhone X, on New Year’s Day (from the Jenifer St footbridge over the Yahara River) at the beginning of the ride chronicled at: https://halffastcyclingclub.wordpress.com/2019/01/02/

The right tool for the job

My father used to say “It is a poor workman who blames his tools”. (The saying, or variations, seems to date from the 13th century or before.) Maybe that’s how he justified using mostly a monkey wrench and a Vice Grips on nuts and bolts. I don’t recall him ever buying a tool. I was 18 before I realized that nails come from the hardware store. Before that I thought they came from the baby food jars in the garage. If the nail I needed wasn’t there, I went to the scrap lumber pile beside the garage, pounded a nail out of an old piece of wood, pounded it straight, and used that.

The flip side of that is “Use the right tool for the job.” I have favorite tools in all of my endeavors.

For cooking, it is the 8 inch French knife. Mine has a walnut handle that feels right in my hand. It is not the greatest of knives – it is stamped steel, which holds an edge well but doesn’t take an edge well. Forged steel is better, but this knife has been my companion for almost 50 years, since shortly after I no longer got paid for my knife skills, and my funds were limited (and I could get a massive discount on this particular brand due to my employer selling them). A KitchenAid stand mixer is probably my next favorite kitchen tool. Not used daily, like the knife, but pretty handy when I do use it.

Favorite plumbing tools include the Sawzall, which does what the name says. It will cut through framing, even with nails. It will cut pipe (better for removing old pipe than cutting new pipe, but it will cut copper, steel, cast iron, or plastic in a pinch). The ½ inch right angle drill will fit between studs and has enough torque to get through anything – mishandled, it can do damage – more to you than to the material. Add a Forstner bit (or the Plumber’s Self-feed Bit Kit) and you can make 2″ and larger holes in no time.

Pipe cutter image from Ridgid Tool (think of that as a 4″ diameter pipe to get an idea of scale), Drill image from Milwaukee Tool.

The hammer drill makes quick work of concrete when you could spend ridiculous amounts of time with a regular drill motor and a carbide bit, only to make a dent. The no-hub torque wrench is a simple and elegant tool – a T-handled wrench that tightens the couplings on cast iron pipe fittings and never overtightens. The cast iron pipe cutter beats the hell out of trying to saw through cast iron. It has a chain that wraps around the pipe, with cutting edges (vaguely similar to a chain saw) that bite into the iron. As you tighten it, the pipe suddenly snaps with a suitably straight end. (Torque wrench image from my toolbox.)

For winter biking I have written about favorites before (links to three different posts). The face deserves special consideration. Down to 20 degrees (F) I just use a tight-fitting, windproof cap that covers the ears and fits under a helmet. From 20 down to about 5 or 10 I add a silk balaclava that covers the chin and cheeks and can be pulled up to cover the nose and mouth if needed. From +5 to -20 it is a merino wool balaclava that covers the nose and has a breathing hole for the mouth (and if it is borderline too cold you can breathe inside of it to warm yourself instead of letting that heat escape). A pair of ski goggles gets added at this juncture. You can easily pay $200, $300, or more for ski goggles. Mine fit over glasses and currently sell for about $35 (Outdoor Master is the brand). I can’t find a justification for spending 10 times that much to get the brands the pro skiers wear. Colder than -20 degrees and I switch to a fleece balaclava that is otherwise way too warm. That seems to work to -30 and I haven’t ridden colder than that. I could probably fit the silk balaclava under the wool or fleece one to get colder. These temperature ranges may vary depending on the wind (and you – I see folks in goggles and balaclavas when it is barely freezing).

Ready to face -5 Fahrenheit (-20.5 C – you’ll have to convert the rest yourself)

Since we’re talking about serious cold, this is the weather to read Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire”. Full text is available here and it is a quick read. It is the story of a man, a dog, and a brutally cold day in Alaska.

Since this guy didn’t make it into the last post, I thought I’d add him today.

Now it’s your turn. What do you do and what is (are) your favorite tool(s) to do it with? Tell us in the comments.

Why is it…

that the only people trying to steal the election are campaigning under the banner “Stop the steal”? Is it just me, or is that the ultimate in irony?

I did it. The first injection of the novel coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer went into my arm Saturday afternoon. My arm did not freeze and fall off. With a substance stored at -70 degrees C (-94 F) I was hoping they’d warm it up a bit. They did. Nothing like frostbite from the inside out. While there are supposed to be only mild side effects (like the pain at injection site you get with the flu vaccine), my employer isn’t taking any chances – I was required to get the vaccine at the end of my Saturday shift so, if I get sick, I’ll be sick on my own time and won’t miss work unless it lasts 3 days. Kinesiotape at the injection site works for the flu vaccine. We’ll see how it works for this.

Twenty four hours after injection I have an achy arm, a lot like after a flu shot. I have a vague sense of dis-ease – slight disequilibrium, subtle visual changes, very mild nausea, and a slight headache – nothing that would have kept me from working if today were a workday. In three weeks I’ll let you know how the second injection goes.

We received our new shipment of PAPRs (Powered Air-Purifying Respirators) so I can dispense with the N-95 mask and patients can see my face for the first time this year (except for a week or two in February when I worked maskless). I still need a mask for the non-COVID patients and when I am doing anything else at work, but that is just a simple mask, not an N-95. They can hear me better, too. (Photo: What the well-dressed therapist is wearing these days. Isolation gown not shown.)

I’m thinking a PAPR could come in handy for the Death Ride. Nothing like extra air delivered under pressure for the thin air at higher elevations while climbing mountains. Not to mention that I don’t expect to be ready to share air at close quarters with a couple thousand other people in July.

We added a new member to the family this week. He was a street dog from Oklahoma and came to us via a rescue organization and a foster home. He seems to like it here so far. He got a little close for this selfie but, lacking thumbs, he did pretty well I think. Especially since he was drifting off to sleep. When our daughter moves out, he goes too, so I can’t get too attached. Maybe he’ll come for sleepovers. (Then again, I got pretty attached to the kids but it was OK for them to move out on their own.)

We had our first real snow and the lake is starting to freeze. Time for the studded tires. For now, I try to avoid the icy spots and ride slowly when there is no choice.

Rumor has it people have started skating on the shallow bay – the first place to freeze and attract ice fishers, who are on the ice before any sane creature.

A couple of days after that last paragraph, it warmed up; and the newspaper included a story about the number of ice rescues performed that day. None were from that bay, but skating will wait, as it has been above freezing for >24 hours.

In our culture, this season is often associated with conspicuous consumption – the TV ads encouraging us to surprise each other with new cars, telling us the only way you can show your love is via diamonds, helping us convince ourselves that joy comes from stuff. Delbert McClinton and friends tell us otherwise:

Check the sky tonight – Jupiter and Saturn will appear very close together, and just in time for the solstice. They will appear in the southwest sky shortly after sunset as long as, in your home on the range, the skies are not cloudy all day.

Photo by Jim Peacock, Bayfield WI, 12/14/2020. From EarthSky.org