Kit review: Barmitts – no gloves for winter

The most important aspect of this test was the “do I look like a dork” section. Peaks on helmets and valve caps are big no no’s on the road bike – never substitute substance for style, I have been told. I’ve even had my peak cap and helmet straightened up for photos. The key part of my test was going to be the reaction I received from fellow discerning road cyclists.

Taking some big hunks of neoprene and sticking them over the hoods was probably going to get me a bit of ragging on the bike, which is starting to look less like a road bike with all the little bits and bobs I’m adding for the bikepacking races in 2014. The big outing of the Barmitts was on our annual Christmas ride, for which I dress up, I was going to look a bit odd anyway, may as well finish off the look.

Neoprene hood covers for cycling

The Barmitts slip over the bar-ends and cover the hoods allowing you to ride glove-free to about 5-6 degrees (not scientifically tested). The air warms up within the Barmitts as you pedal along, keeping the ambient temperature quiet comfortable. This did change with the cross wind, but it seemed to only affect the areas closer to the wrist, with the ends of the fingers remaining quite toasty. The really big plus for me was when it rained and given how much rain we’ve had, there’s been ample chance to test this aspect. My hands remained completely dry in the lashing rain, I was riding with cashmere lined leather gloves (as one does) at the time and they remained completely dry and my hands were pretty warm. I eventually took off the gloves as the temperatures got up and my hands were starting to sweat a little.

The Barmitts look like mini fairings on the handlebars, thus one would expect some impact from the wind. Into a headwind they work very well, however in a gusting sidewind bike handling became a little sketchy. As the “fairing” effect is directly attached to the front wheel, gusts made the front of the bike very twitchy, changing my weight distribution to bring more of it onto the front wheel helped control this a little better. I preferred using them in the country, where as City riding felt a little too sketchy to manage around London traffic and the changes in wind direction from buildings and cars. (As a very light rider I generally shift sideways in the wind, so preferred to take off the Barmitts off in the 50mph gusts on the commute home).

Keeping hands warm and dry

One of the other factors to consider and should be fairly obvious – you get to ride in one position only – on the hoods. Initially I found the shape of the Barmitt restricted where my handholds sat on the hoods, a little adjusting of the Barmitt position gave me a more comfortable hold. If you spend most of your time on the hoods, this won’t be a problem, if your hoods are an uncomfortable position to sit in for extended periods, you’re going to have a problem. (I’d probably be questioning your flexibility and core strength and not blame the Barmitts). I spend most of my time on the hoods, so loved these little additions to ride comfort.

Lastly the Dork-Effect. I was fully braced for some ragging on the ride, however this did not come, the overwhelming response was, “what a great idea”. Even to the point where I was rolling the bike out of the post-ride pub and a patron commented on “what a great idea”.

In conclusion, where you need to get those long winter rides in, these Barmitts are absolutely fantastic.

Warm, dry hands – a huge plus on long winter training rides
Thinner gloves – better control on the levers
No numb, painful fingertips – you can actually feel the levers

Sketchy in cross winds – takes a bit of getting used to
Hand positions restricted – probably will alert you to bad bike setup or lack of core strength fairly quickly

Cost: around £45 (2013 price)

Are @use_exposure lights worth £300 #readme before you buy a light

At £300 a pop, Exposure’s top lights are not so light on the pocket, but are they worth the hefty price tag? Many product reviews come out with a few weeks or months of testing and then get a few stars next to their product.

My Exposure Toro (the big daddy of lighting up the path ahead) has been strapped to the front of my bike for five years. Being somewhat safety conscious, and these little LEDs earn a lot of respect on the road, my lights run every day whether its light or dark – one can’t earn enough respect on our busy roads. They’re also accustomed to riding in rain, shine, sleet or snow, somewhere in me there must be a little Belgian trying to get out.

They get charged up once a week, twice if we are doing night-cross in winter. In the 5 years of running them down and charging them up, I’ve never noticed (touches wood) a decline in the hours they burn or the quality of light they shed.

On an Epic night ride of 3 hours around Richmond Park at 11pm in the lashing rain (I blame the little Belgian) I stopped to sort out a puncture having bunny hopped some branches, the light seemed to falter – perhaps it’s not Belgian enough. After that it seemed to work intermittently on the “front end” but still ran the back light, then the front end gave up. I was gutted, thinking there goes £300.

I had no receipt, no proof of ownership, nor did I think the warrantee would extend after a year or two at most. Customer Service at Exposure were fantastic, they said to send it in as it was most likely a lose wire. I got an email when my lights arrived and one to say it was being sent back to me. When I scrolled down the page, there was no charge.

So if you are wondering whether the £300 price tag is worth it, I would say hell yeah! And for these reasons:
5 years on one set of batteries
Solid metal construction, all sealed up very nicely, probably indestructable, but not tested this.
Waterproof as ducks you-know-what (no this excludes swimming)
Plug in bright back light – powers off one unit
USB rechargeable
Solid metal attachment to the bike, never broken one yet, despite the light moving from one bike to another frequently. Nor has the light ever fallen off, even when I have.
Gets huge respect on the road (careful not to blind oncoming cars – angle them down in traffic)

Before you cough at the price, add up the money you’ll have spent on lights, batteries, broken mountings, £300 is not bad for 5 years of dedicated service – and counting.