Showing posts from 2018

Review - Hiplok FLX Lightweight Bicycle Cable Lock

Café rides and bikepacking / bicycle touring share a similar conundrum: what to do with your bike when you are inside getting supplies? Out of sight, your bike is vulnerable to opportunists. A lightweight cable lock like the Hiplok FLX can provide the solution.

The Hiplok FLX uses a small one metre cable, housed on a spring-loaded retractable wheel inside the unit's plastic shell. A combination code is used to open and close the locking device, and it is easy to set your preferred combination using a small button on the side of the product.

The Hiplok FLX also features a 10 lumen red light, designed to be a back-up in case of emergency. You can clip the lock to a jersey pocket, and the light provides a respectable last-resort visibility aid if you are caught out later than expected on your cafe (or pub) trip.

The unit itself is not overly robust, and the braided steel cable would be no match for a set of bolt croppers. That said, this is not meant to be a high protection lock; fo…

Review - Pro Bike Tool Torque Wrench

Anyone that owns a carbon bike should have a torque wrench, and increasingly even anyone that owns an alloy bicycle. A torque wrench allows you to tighten bolts evenly and safely, without the risk of over or under tightening clamps. The Pro Bike Tool Torque Wrench is my personal choice.

It is worth spending a bit on a good torque wrench, as with frequent bike maintenance it will get a good bit of use; and you want to be reassured that it is a good enough quality that it is in fact delivering the measured torque level. The Pro Bike Tool Torque Wrench achieves a great quality level, and at a very good price.

Using the Pro Bike Tool Torque Wrench is super simple: you just rotate the barrel of the handle to set it to the desired torque level, and then fit your required tool bit to the ratchet head.

The unit has a nice feel and weight to it, and the extension arm is useful for reaching difficult bolts such as those on disc brake mounts, or the seat post clamp on my 3T Exploro (don't g…

Review - Thule Evo WingBar Roof Rack and K-Guard Kayak Carrier

The new year is going to signal the start of many new adventures for me; including a dive into the world of expedition sea kayaking. The change has created a demand for some new transportation kit — the Thule Evo WingBar Roof Rack and Thule K-Guard Kayak Rack are two of those investments…

I have previously reviewed the very well designed Thule ProRide 598 Bike Carrier on the blog, and praised its practical and durable design for transporting bikes on the roof of your car. Ever since owning that bike carrier I have been keen to try one of the innovative T-track slide roof racks from the Swedish brand, to see if they truly deliver on their promised fast access and ease of use when combined with Thule's roof-top rack accessories.

A change of family car meant that a new roof rack was in demand, and so it seemed a logical choice to go for the new Evo WingBar from Thule. The exceptionally strong aluminium bar is super light, but also super strong — easily capable of taking the load of …

Stocking Fillers For Cyclists 2018

For the past three years I have written quite extensive lists of stocking filler ideas for cyclists (check them out here); but this year I decided to try and narrow it down to a 'Lucky 7' picks. Here are my wheely great little gift ideas of 2018...

(1) Victorinox SwissCard Lite
After trying the Victorinox Bike Tool earlier this year I was keen to see what other gadgets the swiss brand had that would be suitable for a cyclist's jersey pocket. The SwissCard is a great little tool, which would easily slip into a rider's 'Every Ride Carry' and provide them with an extensive range of useful pocket tools: including a pen, mini knife, scissors, torch, screwdrivers, and tweezers. Of course it has the predictable faultless quality from Victorinox, which should mean that it lasts a lifetime.

>> Shop the Victorinox SwissCard Lite here <<

(2) Velopac RidePac Cyclocross
The Velopac (first reviewed on the blog here) has become my favourite ride wallet. It can c…

Review - Feedback Sports Chain Keeper Device

A chain keeper is a simple but extremely useful little gadget — designed to hold your chain tight and secure during transport and servicing; avoiding unwanted paint chips to your bike's chain stays. The new Feedback Sports Chain Keeper is a great example of the must-have accessory.

I used to have a homemade chain keeper device made from a piece of plastic tube cut to the drop-out width, with a quick release skewer through the centre. It did a decent job of holding the chain taunt when washing and transporting the bike, but it looked pretty homemade and it didn't work with bolt-thru axles.

The new Feedback Sports Chain Keeper Device is a significant improvement over my homemade bodge. You mount the device to the right hand dropout of the bike by either slotting it into a quick-release style drop-out, or with a 12 mm bolt-thru axle you use the neat adapter that expands inside the recess left when you remove the axle.

Once installed, the chain keeper device holds the chain tight…

Review - Bullet and Bone Skincare Products for Sportspeople

Your skin takes a battering when you ride in all weather — in the summer sun you can be left burnt and overheated; in the winter winds you can be left cold and dried out. The new range of skincare products from UK brand Bullet and Bone is designed for active sports; providing preparation, protection and recovery for you skin and muscles.

The range consists of four products: Muscle Activating Rub, Vapour Release Balm, Protective Moisturising Spray, and Cooling Recovery Body Wash. All of the products are designed with a specific purpose that should provide comfort and enhanced performance when taking part in active sports.

Bullet and Bone Muscle Activating Rub The Bullet and Bone Muscle Activating Rub contains natural ingredients such as ginger, tea tree, and black pepper, which give it a subtle and pleasant smell compared to many warming balms on the market.

The natural warming effect comes from the ginger and black pepper extracts, while the willow bark and clary extracts help to s…

Review - Overboard Bags Pro-Sports 60L Waterproof Duffel Bag

Transporting kit for any kind of outdoor sports pursuit can be a headache; you have so many component pieces, many of which can be valuable and fragile. A waterproof and robust luggage solution can take a lot of unnecessary stress out of travelling; the Overboard Bags Pro-Sports 60 Litre Waterproof Duffel Bag is a great option.

The Pro-Sports design from Overboard Bags has become my preferred choice of waterproof roll-top duffel bag, because of its plethora of features and cleverly thought out design.

The holdall is made from tough and hardwearing waterproof PVC — the fully welded seams and a roll/fold-top closure system then mean it attains a 100% waterproof certificate — ranked IP66 on waterproofing tests (which means it is submersible). Having a bag that is fully waterproof is a great comfort; you can rest easy knowing that even if it is thrown in the back of a pick-up truck, or left out in the rain on the runway of an airport, then the contents will be kept safe and dry.


Review - ESI Grips Foam Mountain Bike MTB Grips

Even many high-end models come with hard rubber handlebar grips. One of the best upgrades you can make, in my opinion, is to switch these out to soft silicone foam grips like those made by USA brand ESI Grips.

Silicone foam MTB grips offer improved cushioning, comfort, and grip compared to harder compound grips. Just like tyres, the softer compound increases the contact area between your gloves and the bars, and therefore reduces pressure points. Of course, the softer nature also helps to provide more cushioning from vibrations, which further enhances your ability to hold and control the handlebars.

ESI Grips claim to be the ORIGINAL 100% silicone grip producer, and still make all of their products in the USA. Their range is extensive – with a variety of cushioning levels, and a variety of grip widths.

I have tested the ESI Racer's Edge, ESI Fit XC, and the ESI Fit CR Grips. My favourite of the three is the Fit CR, which is a mix of 'Chunky' deep cushioning and the '…

Review - Pongo London Cycling Socks

Everybody loves socks, and everybody likes to be a bit different. Pongo London produce some cool and quirky summer and winter cycling socks that could be the perfect gift idea for cyclists this Christmas.

I was sent the Apron Stripe in Classic White, the Grey Breton Stripe Socks, and the Navy and Fluorescent Pink Winter Merino Socks.

The Apron Stripe and Breton Stripe socks both share the same high-quality summer cycling sock profile — made from a technical Italian mesh fabric, with a classic six-inch cuff.

The Navy and Fluorescent Pink Winter Merino Socks use 70 percent mercerised merino wool, which is even softer than normal super soft merino. They are indeed luxuriously soft and very comfortable. They are not quite as deep pile as some winter cycling socks, but they provide a good amount of cold weather insulation and they are lasting well with repeat washing.

Quality does not come cheap, and the Pongo London Socks retail for between £16 to £17.50 per pair. They are however som…

Review - Stans NoTubes ZTR Crest S1 29er (700c) Tubeless Wheel Set

Nobody can deny that 'Gravel' adventure cycling is no longer a 'fad' – it has evolved into a mainstream cycling discipline. The fortunate reality is that many component parts of both road cycling and XC MTBs can be repurposed for 'Gravel Grinding' – the Stan's NoTubes ZTR Crest S1 Wheel Set is one of those superb evergreen creations.

I have been using a set of original Stan's NoTubes Crest rims laced onto Hope Tech Pro3 hubs on my mountain bike for over half a decade – they are impressively durable, and the easiest set of wheels to mount up with tubeless tyres. Stan's NoTubes have evolved from just being a producer of rims, rim tape and tubeless kits though; they now produce several own brand wheelsets, which offer great value performance.

The Stan's NoTubes ZTR Crest S1 Wheel Set is listed as an entry-level cross-country mountain biking wheel Set, most likely because of its high spoke count (32 front and rear) and wide rim profile (23 mm inter…

Review - Knog Plus Bicycle Light Set

Crazy light. Crazy compact. Crazy bright. The new Knog Plus bike lights are pretty revolutionary. I have been testing them out to see if the super minimalist design from the Australian brand can deal with the dark onslaught of British winter.

Knog have long pushed the boundaries in terms of how bicycle lights mount to your bike, and also how they perform. I have used their Blinder series of lights for a long time and continue to be impressed by their beautiful simplicity and high level of performance both in terms of battery life and brightness.

The new Knog Plus Light Set is a complete redevelopment of Knog's light design. I was worried that this might mean a loss of some of the great performance, but luckily that doesn't seem to be the case...

Let us start with the fitment system… Knog have created a clever all-in-one combination of a secure bag clip and a secure on-the-bike bracket. A small plastic bracket mounts to the seat post or handlebars using a simple rubber band, t…

Review - Goodyear Connector 40c Gravel Tyres

A gravel biking tyre is distinctly different from a mountain bike or a cyclocross tyre – it should be at least 40c in volume and have a tread pattern that is capable of handling both rock strewn trails as well as gravel and sand. The new Goodyear Connector Tubeless Tyres are a great example.

I fitted the Goodyear Connector Tyres to my 3T Exploro – set up tubeless on a set of Stan's NoTubes S1 Crest wheels. They were quick to mount up and felt robust and well made from first inspection.

The tread pattern on the Connectors is a fine 'micro-diamond' design, and not as aggressive as some gravel tyres that I have tested, such as the Vee Tire T-CX, or the WTB Nano. The clear virtue of this is that the tyres are notably faster rolling and better for asphalt and light gravel sections than many, though predictably it does mean traction is slightly lower on slippery and loose surfaces compared to more aggressively knobbly competition.

The added volume in a gravel tyre means it is ca…

Review - Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel Charger and Venture 30 Power Bank

In the search for charging solutions when bike touring, I have tried everything from dynamo hubs to café plugs. The Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel is my first solar solution – paired with a Goal Zero Venture 30 Power Bank it is performing well.

The need for power when bike touring is a constant conundrum. A dynamo hub is reassuringly self-sufficient; but you risk it failing and leaving you without power. A collection of power banks, recharged in cafes and hotels is another solution; but they are heavy, and charging is slow. Solar power is a potentially more sustainable and reliable option, and the offering from Goal Zero is one of the most impressive on the market.

The Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel is a portable and rugged solar panel, ideal for providing power when cycle touring, trekking, kayaking, sailing, or in any other outdoor pursuit.

The Nomad 7 panel is 24cm x 16cm in size and folds out to create an area twice that width (24 x 32cm). It is the smallest solar panel within the …

Review - Chapeau Summer Cycling Base Layers

Cyclists can underestimate the power of a good base layer — it is the foundation of a layering system, and wicks sweat away from your body to leave you cool and dry. The Chapeau base layer is a great example of summer cycling base layer.

A base layer is not a complicated piece of clothing: it is a single layer of fabric, which needs to fit like a second skin in order for it to perform its wicking function effectively. The key for any base layer is the fabric, which must be both moisture absorbing and super-fast drying, in order for it to transport sweat away from the skin's surface to the outside atmosphere.

UK brand Chapeau Cycling is new to the base layer market, but their summer cycling base layers are a great first venture. The lightweight fabric fulfils the required attributes, and the short-sleeved layers fit well, even in the cycling position.

It might not be summer as I write this review, but summer weight base layers are also ideal if you are into indoor training or spi…

Adventure Life - Zone3 Open Water Swimming

Life is short; and the wild is a vast and beautiful place. Bicycles have allowed me to explore and embrace many new wild places and adventures; but this year I came to the realisation that I should also turn to some new exciting sports – to widen my wild horizons. Open water swimming is my most recent endeavour…

Living on an island has always given me a fond association with the sea and open water. I was never much of a swimmer and never liked the confinement of swimming pools, but I have always been a keen sailor and sea kayaker. Now, living just a stone's throw from the beach, I decided that open water swimming could present a great cross-training sport.

With the cycling season coming to a close in autumn, I knew that if I was to dive into the world of open water wild swims, I would need some kit – namely a good swimming wetsuit, and protection for my extremities. I opted for the great value Zone3 Vision Wetsuit, wetsuit booties, and wetsuit gloves.

Kitted up… I headed out int…