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Showing posts from November, 2018

Review - ESI Grips Foam Mountain Bike MTB Grips

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…

Review - Norrona fjørå Powerwool Long Sleeve MTB Jersey

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I have used the Norrøna fjørå Long Sleeve MTB Jersey for everything but mountain biking: as a casual long sleeve tee, as a base layer under a winter jacket, even under a gilet when gravel biking in the high Dolomites mountains (okay, that is probably mountain biking) – in all of these pursuits, it has excelled.

Norrøna is a Norwegian brand, who are know for their superb quality outdoor sports apparel. The Long Sleeve Thermo Mountain Bike Jersey is one of their ventures into the bike world, and it shows great promise.

The fjørå Powerwool jersey itself is nothing extraordinary in terms of features – in essence it is a loose fitting long sleeve t-shirt, without any pockets or zippers. The exceptional aspect of the jersey comes from the fabric, which is Polartec's award-winning Powerwool. This soft blend of merino wool and synthetics creates an insulating layer that is highly flexible and versatile in use, while also being superbly durable.

Whether hiking up an Italian mountain or re…

Review - Bridgedale Stormsock Waterproof Socks

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Waterproof thermal cycling socks can be a great asset in the cold months of autumn and winter, especially on muddy and wet cyclocross and mountain bike rides. The new Bridgedale Waterproof Stormsock Thermal Socks are a great example.

Overshoes are ideal on the road, and even for most off-road pursuits; but their capabilities are diminished if you are required to dismount and walk through mud or water; in these environments you find water and mud seeps in between shoe and cover, and quickly soaks your socks and feet. The solution I have found is waterproof cycling socks – these allow you to walk through anything up to ankle deep puddles, and retain warm and dry feet.

The Bridgedale Stormsocks come in a variety of cuff lengths and thermal insulation levels; I have been testing the mid-range option; the Bridgedale Stormsock Midweight Boot, which is cut as a standard crew-length sock just above the ankle.

The socks are made of a three layer construction: with a soft Terry pad providing …

Review - Schwalbe G-One Bite Tyres

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I first tested the Schwalbe G-One gravel tyres when they were released in 2016 – the original version was 700x35C in profile, and performed well on light gravel paths and hard-pack trails.

The new Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres are 700x40C and feature the micro-dot tread pattern 'pumped up'; they sit at the top of a three tier Schwalbe G-One range; promising a tyre suitable for more challenging trails and 'Gravel'.

I have been testing the new Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres on my Kona cyclocross bike; set up tubeless on tubeless specific rims. They mounted up easily using a compressor pump (I use the Lezyne Pressure Overdrive Pump).

Out on the trails, I have been pushing the Schwalbe G-One Bite to their limit – seeking out trails strewn with drops, fist-sized rocks, and tight berms. I was keen to see if the new larger volume G-One model was more resilient to pinch-flats caused by sudden impacts, as well as keen to test their capability on corners and off-camber descents.

My fin…

Weekend Watch - Velochef Outside is Free

"Food always tastes better when you eat outside... and when you add a physical activity like cycling, then it tastes even better..."
This is a superb video accompaniment to the great Velochef 'Outside is Free' book.