Drive My Bike


Cold Wet Bike Commuter Feet? Not Any More!
December 13, 2008, 12:15 am
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I wrote last month about how miserable I was when I had to ride in a heavy rainstorm and my feet ended up soaking wet. That put me on a mission to find a workable solution to keep my feet dry in the rain, and warm in the winter wind and snow. I found that solution… Neos Overshoes!

Here’s a quick video that shows what they look like and how easy they are to put on…

I ordered these based on the picture and information on the website, and I was afraid that when I got them they would be too big and bulky to use while riding. I’m happy to say that is not a problem at all! I took some more pictures to give you an idea of what these look like and their size relative to the running shoes I usually wear while commuting.

Here’s a front view, one overshoe unbuckled and open, the other one buckled up…

NeosFront

You can see the internal waterproof coating, and the inner liner behind the velcro seam. This makes them completely waterproof. You could probably submerge your foot in a 4-6 inch deep puddle and still remain completely dry. The quick release buckle makes for a snug fit, and they do not move around at all once you have them on. They really feel just like part of your shoes.

Here’s a back view…

NeosBackjpg

The logo on the back is reflective, which is a nice touch.

Here is a size comparison with my shoe…

NeosSizeCompare

This picture makes the size difference seem more than it is. Again, when I have them on I really don’t feel a difference from my shoes, and they don’t feel any bulkier. I could easily forget I have them on, except that they are a lot noisier when moving around due to the rustling of the waterproof fabric. When I wear them, I also wear my Novara rain pants, and I put the pant legs over the Neos, and then zip the pants down and velcro the cuff around my ankle. This means that my foot is completely sealed so that any water runs down my pant leg and onto the Neos, and then off.

Here is a picture showing how much they will compact down for storage…

NeosCompact

That is both of them folded down with a rubber band so that I can put them in my pannier. You can also see the tread on the sole. The tread pattern is not very aggressive, but it will give you a bit of traction on normal surfaces.

In addition to wet protection, I have been wearing them for very cold rides to keep the wind off my feet. They are completely wind and waterproof, and the company claims that even though these don’t have any internal insulation they will still add ten degrees of warmth to your shoes.

The only negative thing I can come up with is that they are so waterproof that they don’t breathe at all. This means that when I get to my destination there is a lot of condensation on the inside of the overshoe, enough that there are visible droplets. This hasn’t been a real problem, but if it gets too bad I’ll probably just carry a spare pair of socks. If it is not raining and I’m just wearing them for cold wind protection, then I still velcro the cuff of my rain pants around the Neos, but I unzip the legs of my rain pants up to the top of the Neos to try to vent some of the perspiration. I’m not sure how much this really helps, but I figure it can’t hurt, and I’m still plenty warm.

You can find out more about these from the Neos company website. I purchased the Villager ultra light model from CampMor. For those that are in extreme cold and want really warm feet, they make models that have internal insulation, but I imagine those are a bit bulkier. I wear a size 11 shoe, and I got the XL size Neos, which is just perfect.

I love these things, and I am now completely confident that I’ll stay dry in rain and snow. If you are trying to figure out a solution for cold, wet feet, then I would encourage you to try a pair of Neos.



My Bike: Schwinn Midtown from Costco

When I started thinking about this bike commuting thing, of course the first thing that popped into my mind was “What am I going to ride?”.  I hadn’t owned a bike in at least ten years, and I didn’t really have any idea what I needed to start bike commuting.  A few days later I happened to be at Costco, and noticed that they had a couple of bikes available, one of which was the Schwinn Midtown, which they called a “comfort bike”.

Schwinn Midtown from Costco

I certainly wasn’t familiar with what a “comfort bike” was, so my first impression was that it sounded like the kind of thing I might buy for my mom. I knew what a “cruiser” was, and this bike had some of the curved lines of a cruiser, but then it also had things that made it look more like a mountain bike. After doing some research about what kinds of bikes were common today, I came across the term “hybrid”.  A “hybrid” bike is basically a cross between a road bike (similar to the “ten speed” I had in high school) and a mountain bike (the grown up version of the BMX bike I had in sixth grade). A hybrid is often considered to be a great commuter bike, because it is a bit more rugged than a road bike, with wide tires and upright handle bars, but it is still designed to ride on pavement more than dirt. I learned that sometimes hybrids are also called “comfort bikes”. Mystery solved.

So, now that I knew what a comfort bike was, I decided to shop around a little bit to see what other options were out there for commuting.  I read plenty of things that warned me about buying a “department store bike”, but when I looked at this model that Costco was selling, it looked like it had been upgraded quite a bit.  I checked with some local bike shops, and found some very nice commuter bikes in the $400-$600 range, but I wasn’t ready to make that kind of investment since I wasn’t sure I’d stay committed to this commuting idea. The Schwinn Midtown at Costco was $220, which seemed like a pretty good value, and I knew that with Costco’s generous satisfaction guarantee I could return it if I had any problems.  So I took the plunge and bought one…

That was about two months ago, and since then I have put almost 100 miles on my Schwinn Midtown.  I have added numerous things to make it more commuter friendly, and it now looks a good bit different than it did originally.  A couple of weeks ago I pulled up behind another bike commuter at a stop light and noticed he was also riding a Schwinn Midtown.  I said hello and commented on our bikes, and he did a double take before he recognized they were the same.  “You’ve got fenders!”, he exclaimed.  “Yeah, and a few other things also”, I added.

Rear Rack

To the basic Midtown I’ve added a rear rack, a front fender, a rear view mirror, a headlight, a water bottle, a seat bag, and a lock. Improvised Rack Brace Mounts I had to get creative with the rack mount, since the bike has full rear suspension, and doesn’t have standard mounts on the frame to attach the rack braces.  I found a couple of rubber lined plumbing mounts at Home Depot, and after bending the rack braces a bit I was able to get a solid configuration by using the plumbing mounts to fasten the braces to the rear frame right below the shock.  Solving this problem was very satisfying, as the rack was the first thing I added to the bike, and it was a great way to “make it mine”.

UPDATE: Go here to see how I mounted the rack on my Midtown.

UPDATE: Go here to see how I mounted the front fender on my Midtown.

UPDATE: Go here to see how I solved some flat tire issues on my Midtown.

I have searched to find more information about the Schwinn Midtown, but it is not listed on Schwinn’s website, and I have only found a couple of articles mentioning this model.  It is common for Costco to get manufacturers to create exclusive items only sold by Costco, so I am assuming that is what Schwinn did with the Midtown.  I certainly don’t know much about quality bike hardware yet, but it seems to me like the hardware on my Midtown has been upgraded and is of good quality.

So far, it has been a good bike for me to get started.  The only problems I have had are the few flats on the rear wheel that I have blogged about, but I haven’t had any more flats after my last repair.  My only other negative has been the weight of the bike, because it is not light.  I’m used to riding it now, but I’ve looked at some more expensive commuter bikes and have been amazed at how much lighter they are.

If I had it to do over again, would I buy another Schwinn Midtown for my commuting?  Probably not, but only because I now know that I’m committed to bike commuting, and I know more of what I want, so I would be willing to spend a bit more than before.  I would probably look for something more along the lines of a road bike built for touring, and maybe next year I can do that, but for now I’m happy with this bike, and I’m sure I’ll put a lot more miles on it before I get rid of it. If you are looking for a very reasonably priced bike to get started with your commuting, then you might want to head down to Costco and take a look at the Schwinn Midtown.

What about you? Do you have a Schwinn Midtown, and if so, do you like it? If not, what did you use to start bike commuting?