Winter has settled in here in (South) Australia, getting nice and comfortable with making us nice and uncomfortable. There’s no snow and the temperature is never likely to remain below freezing (though it often does in the hills in the morning), but it’s still cold, it’s definitely wet, and this year has been fairly windy.
You know another place that has to deal with cold, wet, and wind? The Netherlands. That’s why their cyclists are always considered as the “hard” ones of the pro peloton. BBB (Better Bike Business? By Bikers for Bikers? I’ll confirm soon…) is a Dutch cycling parts and accessories brand that aims to make affordable but high-quality equipment. They have a fairly extensive clothing line, and a particularly good portion of that is created for just these conditions.
I’ve had a set of BBB Heavyduty shoecovers and a pair of their Coldzone gloves for a while now, and here’s what I think.
BBB Heavyduty Shoecovers
What’s in the box
In general, shoecovers are usually fairly straight-forward. Most are a couple of pieces of wind and/or waterproof material sewn together with a couple of holes in the bottom for your cleats to engage and your heels to walk on. Some are really tight-fitting, some are one piece, and most have a zipper in the back to help with getting them on and off.
The BBB Heavyduty shoecovers are made from 3mm thick neoprene, have a fair amount of stretch and come in a wide range of sizes, include reflective material, a full zip at the back, and the bottom is joined by Velcro rather than being one piece.
How do they work?
BBB have a huge range of shoecovers, and these are pitched as one of their really warm ones, as most of their shoecovers are 2mm thick, whereas these are 3mm. They are straight-up neoprene, however, so they are not waterproof, but they do manage to breathe fairly well.
When I say that these have a fair amount of stretch, I mean that, although I am using the size down (43/44) from my normal shoe size (45), I still feel like I could use a size smaller if I wanted to. They aren’t too big, but if you like your shoecovers close-fitting, then it might be best to bring your shoes in and see how they fit (and don’t forget to buy them from the shop if they do fit). They’ll never be Velotoze tight, but the upshot is that they are extremely easy to put on and remove and will have zero chance of causing any discomfort from compression.
The stretch aside, the full zip at the back and the Velcro strap at the bottom make them particularly easy to get on compared to other shoecovers I’ve had, even if you do choose a smaller size, and the strap on the bottom can be adjusted to fit wide or narrow shoes, or provide a tighter or loser fit.
Are they warm? Yes. But not too warm. Because they aren’t waterproof (more on that later), they breathe, so while they keep enough heat in and wind out, you won’t come home with soaking wet socks and shoes from sweat. You won’t be sweat-free, but substantially less-so than with waterproof shoecovers, and not much more than not wearing any at all. I get ridiculously cold feet and hands (there’s a challenge for all you makers of gloves and footwear!), and on this mornings ride in single-digit temperatures with some rain, my feet were never an issue. After a seven hour ride in cool conditions last weekend, my feet were comfy and only somewhat sweaty. I’ve actually had these since the end of last winter, so I’ve logged a fair few km’s in them.
As far as rain is concerned, these have been more water-resistant than I anticipated. Light showers won’t be a problem, and it does take a fair effort for water to actually cause wet feet. Damp feet? Yes. Wet in a downpour? Yes. But then, they have properly waterproof overshoes for these conditions. You’ll get about a 12″ of height with these, so unless you like really tall socks, you’ll avoid getting wet from water soaking down your socks and into your shoes.
The toe-box isn’t reinforced with anything, so be weary of this if you choose to take them off-road, as they will succumb to gravel or rocks without too much effort.
If you want warm feet with a very reasonable level of water-resistance in a breathable shoecover, then that’s exactly what the BBB Heavyduty shoecovers will deliver.
BBB Coldzone gloves
At the other end of your extremities, hands are the other piece to making sure you are comfortable on the bike. Like I said, I get cold hands. It’s a problem. I like to have a few different levels of warmth to see me through as the season progresses from Autumn to Spring, and the BBB Coldzone gloves have so far performed over a wider temperature range than I had expected.
What’s in the box
These are a mid-weight glove, not being stuffed full of insulation, but thicker than thin liner-gloves. They are made of a few different materials – Clarino for the palm, Trioxx for the back of the glove, and a neoprene cuff with a Velcro strap to tighten things up. BBB Australia claims that Trioxx is both windproof and waterproof (it feels more like thin neoprene than anything else), and the inner side of the Trioxx has a soft, fleecy feel.
How do they work?
As I alluded to earlier, better than I thought. So far I’ve not needed a warmer glove than these, but then winter is just getting started here. They’re not thick, having no insulation, but with the Tiroxx windproof material and a light fleecy feel on the lining, they do a pretty good job of managing the cold. I have no doubt that when the temperatures dip to freezing I’ll need more insulation, but for someone with hands that freak out at even the idea of cold, they aren’t doing a bad job so far. They aren’t extremely tight, so you could slip a liner glove in there to add extra warmth (such as the BBB Raceshield of Innershield gloves), which I’ll try as the temperatures drop.
A common problem for me is finger length. Like my arms, they’re long but thin, so I usually have trouble finding gloves that are both small enough in the hands but long enough in the fingers. Gloves that are too roomy are annoying and make it more difficult to handle the bars and controls. These are just long enough to avoid my fingers from pushing into the ends of the gloves when on the handlebars (which I hate), and aren’t too loose elsewhere, which is as good as I can hope for.
While the Coldzone’s aren’t too big, the body of the gloves do have enough room (for me) to fit some finger-less summer gloves under if you want to retain some padding between your hands and the bars. Different hands may, of course, fit these differently.
Now, the waterproof claim. Actually, it’s a mixed message, with the Australia BBB site claiming they’re waterproof, and other BBB sources claiming Trioxx is water-resistant. What I can tell you is that it’s definitely the later. They’ll get a bit damp without too much effort. The palm isn’t as water-resistant as the outer Trioxx, so when handling wet bars or other objects, it won’t take all that much for water to start to stay behind. But, again, if you want waterproof, they have other gloves for that.
I have been pretty happy with these. They’re neither bulky nor expensive, are surprisingly warm while remaining breathable, and deal with water as you would expect a non-waterproof glove to. These don’t have a touch-screen friendly finger or thumb, which I would appreciate, but BBB have other models that do.
On the whole, BBB seem to have hit their mark with these, providing great protection for your hands and feet for cool to cold, and dry to somewhat wet conditions. They’re comfortable, not too expensive, and haven’t shown any signs of wear after a few months use.
I have no problem recommending these.
All images: The Sticky Bidon unless otherwise stated