Showing posts from 2018

Review - ZOKU Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle

I was touting the benefits of stainless water bottles long before the 'war on plastic'; read posts from 2016, and you will note praise for better taste, sustainability and hygiene. My latest carry is the ZOKU Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle.

The 18oz ZOKU Stainless Steel Bottle is a vacuum insulated water bottle that promises to keep cold drinks cool for up to 40 hours, and hot beverages warm for up to 12 hours. It is made from high quality (heavy gauge) stainless steel, and has a super solid drop proof feel to it.

I have adopted the ZOKU as my every day carry for the last month; taking it in bike bottle cages and clipped to my rucksack using the integrated (but removable) paracord lanyard. It has stood the use and abuse very well, and does indeed do a great job of keeping hot things hot, and cold things cold, without a hint of leakage.

I opted for the plain black colour way, but you can get an array of ten different colours.

The ZOKU Insulted Bottle is well made, dura…

Review - Smith Optics Overtake MIPS Helmet – Smith Optics Attack Sunglasses

The Smith Optics Overtake Helmet and Attack Sunglasses were my headwear of choice for the #RoadsFromRome tour, and they surpassed all my expectations.

With Italian styling, and a superb build quality; this helmet and pair of sunglasses have a unique look, but equally exceptional performance.

Smith Optics Overtake Helmet Review Most people will recognise the Smith Optics Overtake Helmet from the distinctive horizontal vents on the front of the helmet, as well as the pointed rear section, and the honeycomb like internal structure. All of these are unique design features, but they are also features that help to explain the great performance of this helmet.

The Overtake helmet is constructed in a complex five layer system, illustrated in the image below. This includes a skeletal outer shell, carbon fibre reinforcements, high volume EPS foam, and Smith's  Koroyd material. Labelled the AEROCORE™ construction, it is designed to improve airflow, while also providing far greater impact …

Review - Thule RoundTrip Pro XT Bike Case Bag

There is no doubt that the Swedish brand Thule are innovators: whether it be their bike carriers, travel bagsrucksacks, panniers, or this semi-rigid bike bag; their products push the boundaries in terms of functionality and design. The quality level is also impeccably high, and the Scandinavian influence is clear in their attitude and implementation. The Thule RoundTrip Pro XT Bike Case/Bag is a great piece of kit...

I have tested a lot of bike bags and boxes, from many well known manufacturers; many of them have excelled, and done the job of transporting my rides to far-flung destinations. Many of them have had faults or niggling downsides though... anything from wheels that have fallen off, to being unable to take recent 'Gravel' bike axles and wheel sizes. The new Thule RoundTrip Pro XT Bike Case / Bag, is a semi-rigid option, which seems to tick many of the boxes, without a lot of the downfalls of its competitors.

Hard case protection with soft case packability Bike bag…

Review - Rapha Brevet Flyweight Wind Jacket [Polartec]

Can you really fit your whole life into a seat-pack the size of a small rucksack? When you do, it calls for specialist lightweight kit; the Rapha Brevet Flyweight Wind Cycling Jacket features super-light Polartec insulation, and has a tiny pack-size, making it ideal for cooler temperatures on your bike explorations.
Let us get straight to the point... this jacket is ludicrously lightweight; weighing in at just 74 grams for the Medium sample I have on test. That weight is thanks to a super-light weight Nylon windproof outer, and high level Polartec Alpha insulation; combined together, these create an impressively protective and insulating layer, with absolute minimal bulk. Polartec Alpha is a unique market-leading insulation fibre, which provides both great breathability when you are working hard, as well as effective insulation when you are more sedate in your movements. 
I used the jacket on my recent #XPDTN3Dolomites bikepacking trip, and for the early morning ride-outs up above 20…

Review - Victorinox Bike Multi Tool

I have a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife that has featured in my 'every day carry' for almost a decade; it still performs like new, and in an invaluable asset. I recently discovered that the Swiss brand makes a bike tool, and I was keen to see if it lives up to the same exacting Swiss standards.

The Victorinox Bike Tool is effectively a mini socket set: the magnetic 5mm hex key detaches from the tool holder and then you fit any bit piece to it: the range includes 2-6mm hex keys, a T25 Torx key, and flat and cross-head screwdriver bits. All the bit pieces are made from high tensile stainless steel, and have a very good fit in bolt heads; promising not to round off fittings if used correctly.

The body of the tool also features two clip-in tyre levers, which are made from strong plastic composite, and do a good job of levering stubborn tubeless tyres from wheel rims, as well as having a nice rounded profile to protect the tube.

The whole bike tool weighs just 92 grams, and is 100mm …

Review - Juice Lubes SpongeJob CleanParts Sponge

It is a sponge... okay? Well, not all sponges were made equal. The SpongeJob CleanParts sponge and sponge cloth from UK lubricant and cleaner brand Juice Lubes, is a darn good sponge.

Super soft, and super squidgy: the sponge is great for cleaning off the frame of a bike, while the sponge cloth is ideal for those hard to reach places like around brakes and cables.

They are both super absorbent, and they last a lot longer than your standard big yellow sponge.

Well worth adding to your autumn cleaning arsenal.

Shop the Juice Lubes SpongeJob CleanParts pack here

Review - Rite In The Rain Notepad and Black Metal Clicker Pen

I am a notepad addict. I do a lot of copywriting and planning, and I find making notes in ink is both natural and productive; I constantly carry a notepad. For cycling, sailing, kayaking and hiking, a waterproof notepad is a significant advantage: avoiding the need to decipher blotted and soggy pages. Rite In The Rain's Waterproof Notepad and All Weather Pen are my new go-to option.

The American brand has a whole range of big and small waterproof notepads; all utilising their patented waterproof paper. I have the small top-bound jotter notepad, which is the perfect size to stash in a jersey pocket or trouser pocket; written up with course notes, emergency contact details, waypoints, or just general musings.

To complement the Rite In The Rain Waterproof Notepad, I also have the Rite In The Rain Black Metal Clicker Pen. This might sound excessive to some, who would ask, "why not just use a bog standard ball-point or a pencil?" – well a pencil works fine, but sometimes you…

Gearing Up - The #XPDTN3Dolomites Kit Selection

The Dolomites always deliver. I have ridden in the area on a racing bike, cross-country MTB, and passed through the region on both the #7Countries7Passes and #RoadsFromRome tours. One area I have yet to explore though, is the opportunity for GRAVEL...
On my #5MaratonasChallenge I stayed at the great Ustaria Posta in Badia, and the owner Igor talked of the opportunity to create an amazing multi-day off-road route linking up alpine huts. That pipe dream is about to become a reality...
The #XPDTN3Dolomites will be a three day bike-packing trip; travelling from Ustaria Posta into the UNESCO World Heritage site, and exploring the road less travelled. These are paths normally only scouted by walkers in the summer, and alpine ski tourers in the winter; we will be taking to them on gravel bikes. My choice of weapon is the 3T Exploro.
The full story will unveil itself on Instagram over the next week — follow #XPDTN3Dolomites
For now, here is a look at the kit that is coming along on the bike-…

Review - Tune Dreckschleuder MTB Wheel Set

It is common to hear "the best upgrade you can make to your bike is a new wheel set". That is not strictly true, but undoubtedly good wheels ensure you get the most from your frame and components, and it is often the item skimped on when a manufacturer builds up a bike. I fitted the Dreckschleuder wheel set from German manufacturer Tune to my Kona Rove for the #RoadsFromRome. This, no question, was an incredible upgrade...

Understanding wheel upgrades… Before jumping into the review proper, I think it helps to consider why a new wheel set could be an upgrade to a bike:
Rolling Resistance - The first is rolling resistance, or rather the ability to reduce rolling resistance. Consider that every time your wheels rotate you are relying on the numerous bearings inside the hubs to make it as smooth and as friction-free as possible. Therefore good quality bearings, with good quality seals to keep out the friction-inducing muck, will make a huge difference to the effort-required and…

Travel More - Cycling South Tyrol's Dolomites

I have ridden many of the mountain ranges of Europe; the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Central Massif, and many lesser known but equally challenging areas. Yet, one region clearly tops them all for me — the Dolomites.

The Dolomites always deliver. The mix of single-track roads and stunning mountain passes such as Timmelsjoch and Stelvio make it a diverse and challenging place for road cyclists. The brutally steep climbs and twisting gravel paths under the ski lifts make for incredible off-road riding. Then, for the more leisurely days, the pristine bike paths through the vineyards and orchards are pure tranquillity.

I rave about the riding in the Dolomites so much that I decided it was about time I wrote a post about it. There are many great parts to the Dolomites mountain range, but in this post I decided to focus on making the town of Merano a base, and look in detail at the routes and climbs you can reach from this stunning South Tyrolean province.

How to get there… First things first:

Review - Spurcycle Bicycle Bell

Some bells are better than their counterparts. Louder, clearer, more melodic, and crucially able to deal with repeated 'dinging'. I used to destroy those cheap plastic bicycle bells every few months on my commute (I am no shy dinger). But then I got sent a Spurcycle Bicycle Bell. It is the business.

The Spurcycle Bicycle Bell is not cheap — it's £49.99 RRP. That means it needs to be damn durable to outlast the equivalent number of plastic bicycle bells that could have been purchased for the same amount of cash. This bike bell is a thing of beauty though, and really does tick all the boxes.

The Spurcycle bell is precision made in the United States of America. It comes in a classic pure metal finish, or in a matt black coating. Its compact all-metal construction (even the strap that goes around the handlebar is metal) means that it looks and feels like it will last a lifetime of aggressive dinging. And, that dinging is a good ding...

The Spurcycle bell sounds with a clear, …