DIY Leather toe Covers for cycling shoes

Count cycling amongst your list of hobbies long enough and you will eventually accumulate gear for every possible weather condition.  Arm and leg warmers, vests, long sleeve jerseys, full zip, 1/2 zip, bib-shorts, tights, gloves, glasses for every lighting condition, etc.

Your road shoes are very well vented.  Your feet will thank you all summer, but come fall, a heavier pair of socks just isn’t going to cut it.  Bring on the toe covers!

Having a look at AllSeasonCyclist‘s winter gear he writes that he has 12 pair of toe covers!  I was looking for my 1st pair to cover up my very well vented Diadora Speedracer 2 Carbon shoes that I picked up just a few weeks ago at the Toronto Fall Bike Show.  I do have a couple of pairs of shoe covers, or booties as they are known, for more extreme conditions, but was looking for something a little more civilized for those cool, dry fall rides.  After a bit of searching, I decided I would just make my own.

Let’s start with a look at the finished product:

Leather toe covers for Diadora Speedracer 2 Carbon shoes

Leather toe covers for Diadora Speedracer 2 Carbon shoes

My BMC Streetfire is black and red with white decals and bar wrap. My Diadora Speedracer 2 Carbon shoes are white with red and black accents.  I figured I would carry those colours into the toe covers.  I dyed the leather with Fiebings USMC Black leather dye and used a red braided nylon thread to really make the stitches stand out.

The whole process starts by making some paper patterns until you have an idea of how much leather you might need.  I then soaked the leather for about 40min and here’s where things literally start to take shape.  I worked the leather around the edge of the shoes, pulled the leather into position with cord, stretching and compressing it, before letting it dry overnight.  This part isn’t pretty…

Working and stretching the leather into shape

Working and stretching the leather into shape

By the next morning they were dry and starting to look like a toe cover:


I cut off the excess from around the edges, made a piece for the bottom, shaped it slightly and dyed all of the pieces:

Dye Another Day

Dye Another Day

Oops, missed a step or two.  Use the stitch groover so that your stitches will be “counter-sunk”, mark all of your holes for stitching, re-dye that strip, mark and rough-up the sections to be glued, apply the contact cement, line the pieces up, fit them into place and begin stitching:

a Stitch in thyme

a Stitch in thyme

…and then it’s just a matter of cleaning up all of the edges, fitting some snaps to secure the cover around your shoe and applying some finishing products to protect the leather.  Here they are with my Time Espresso 6 cleats fitted into place:


…and then it’s time to enjoy the finished product:




Time to get out and enjoy them.  See you on the road!

DIY Cycling Mittens

$85 for new Pearl Izumi Lobster gloves?!?  Okay, I loved my old pair but I’m just not willing to part with that much money to keep my hands warm this winter.  Truth be told, I suppose they are worth the money.  Lobster gloves are the perfect blend between the warmth of a mitten and the dexterity afforded by a pair of gloves.  Riding a fixed gear bike though means no gears to shift and only one brake lever to grasp so I can get away with mittens if I want which gave me a great idea.  I decided to upcycle my old Louis Garneau jacket into a pair of gore-tex cycling mittens.

My LG Gore-Tex jacket lasted for years!  I wore it for my daily commute from October to April for 7 years before bits of the gore-tex began to peel away in some high stress areas, like where my shoulder bag would sit, until I was left with a wet back and shoulders on rainy days.  There were of course a few spots that could still hold back the rain and I decided to put them to use.  Full disclosure: I never took Home-Ec and have never been taught how to sew, but, like Jeremy Clarkson so often asks on BBC’s Top Gear, “How hard could it be?” 🙂

I started with some liners that I made from fleece that I’d picked up at Fabricland.  The minimum purchase by the yard will cost about $8 and will get you enough for at least 6 pairs of mittens (if you’re feeling ambitious).  What I have here certainly won’t constitute a pattern, but if you decide to give it a try for yourself, just fold the material over your hand and trim off the excess and cut a pac-man for the thumb hole.  I’d actually started by making one that turned out a bit tight, so I started over, using it as my pattern.  Seen here:

mitten (2)

I sewed these by hand, using some extra strength thread and a loop stitch   The thumbs were a bit of a pain in the butt to put together.  I put my thumb through the hole, folded some material around it, pinned it in place, trimmed the excess and sewed.  Voila, liners are complete and are a perfect fit!

mitten (4)

I’ve had some deer hide sitting around for a while that was supposed to go into another project.  Instead they became the leather palms for my mitts.  Less than 6$ worth.  Here they are after being cut for size:

mitten (5)

Then it was time to rough cut out the gore-tex covers and complete the thumbs before adding the leather palms.  Leather palms do take a while to add.  First you need to mark all of the holes with a pin wheel, then punch all of the holes with an awl.  Finally saddle stitching them into place with a braided nylon thread will set you back another hour each.

mitten (7)

and many hours later:

mitten (8)

There we have it custom fit, Gore-tex riding mittens with deer hide leather palms.  No, the gloves aren’t seam-sealed and they’re not perfect, but they’ll do just fine.  I used them last week and they were great.  I made the thumbs a bit longer than standard fit so that the tips of my thumbs have a bit of extra space, and gave my fingers a bit of wiggle room as well.  They were wind-proof, gripped my bull-horn bars well and were very warm!  If winter ever arrives then I’ll be ready, or at least my hands will be warm…

Best cycling gloves

I have gone through a lot of cycling gloves over the years.  I have worn out gloves from such brands as Pearl Izumi, Rip n Hammer and Fox racing, just to name a few.  I have no complaints.  They all performed as expected and wore away over time, none of them ever really falling apart.  So I wasn’t really in the market for anything else, hell I wasn’t even in a bike shop at the time, when a product caught my eye and I had to try it.  I was in the Home Depot wandering through the aisle looking for some large rubber coated hooks for my DIY indoor vertical bike rack when I passed their display of work gloves.  The ‘subcontractor’ glove stood out. It had the same look and feel as the many pairs that I have worn over the years while mountain biking and commuting and was clearly made tough enough to hold up to the demands of someone that might be wielding a hammer for 10 hours a day.  The seams and finger tips were well reinforced, the fingers well shaped, the palm was ever so slightly padded and it had a velcro closure at the wrist.  The only real difference between these and my last pair of cycling gloves was the price.  If I recall correctly they were only $20!  You’ve seen a cheaper pair perhaps?  Well, these lasted 7 years!  That’s 7 years of daily rides to work from April to November (when my winter gloves finally come out) and some recreational riding, trips to the grocery store etc.  7 years!  When I finally replaced them a couple of years ago the ‘Subcontractor’ must have been out of stock so I settled on the ‘Handyman’ as they are nearly identical.  From a quick look at the Home Depot website just now it would seem that the branding has changed a bit.  My gloves are both labeled CLC (Custom Leathercrafts), now the gloves carried are DeWalt.  I looked up both companies and it would appear that CLC makes DeWalt’s work gear for them so I doubt anything has really changed.

Here’s the Handyman glove fromCLC:

The best value in riding gloves may not be riding gloves!

Okay, so if you’re on the Bradley Wiggins and/or Cavendish bandwagon after their success in the 2012 Tour de France and you’re looking for the latest ‘SKY’ labeled gloves to match your new jersey then obviously these gloves are not for you.  If however you are looking for something to protect your hands everyday for the best value then you may want to think outside the bike shop.

Ride safe!

Brain buckets, bike shares and other lessons from the Ambassador of Urban Cycling

There was a great episode of The Current yesterday on CBC radio.  They spoke with Mikael Corville-Anderson, the ‘Ambassador of Urban Cycling’.  Check it out on the CBC Radio’s player on-line:

They discussed the success of various bike share programs, the lack of European bike helmet laws (for all-ages), car culture, cycling infrastructure and many more topics of interest for the urban cyclist.

I have been wearing a bicycle helmet for 24 years now so I was initially rather surprised by Mikael’s view of helmet laws.  I have always believed that helmet laws would improve rider safety, but how do you encourage the growth of bike share programs, and cycling in general, if mandatory helmet laws are in place as an obstacle?  Are individuals to carry a helmet around at all times just in case the opportunity to rent a bike presents itself?

Here’s my favorite quote from the interview regarding infrastructure”…we don’t consult smokers when we’re implementing smoking laws, so why are we consulting drivers when we’re trying to redevelop our liveable cities?”.  Here we go, I can hear Rob Ford shouting about the “War on cars” again…

Enjoy the interview, and ride safe.