Showing posts from 2019

Review – Rapha Brevet Insulated Cycling Jacket w/ 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 Insulated 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 2000 m…

Review – Goodyear County Touring / Gravel Bike Tyres

I have been searching for the perfect tyre for mixed surface touring for some time; something that offers low rolling resistance on asphalt, but a good degree of grip and puncture resistance on gravel roads and bike paths. The new Goodyear County 35c tubeless tyres looked to tick many of the sought-after boxes, so I fitted them to the Kona Rove to test them out…

Last year, I reviewed the Goodyear Connector Tyres; those are 40c tubeless tyres aimed at the gravel rider—with a fine tread pattern offering impressive grip on off-road trails, but still with a fast rolling speed on asphalt. The Connector's remained on my cyclocross bike for the whole of the winter, and were impressive in their durability, and versatility. With that in mind, I was interested to see what the Goodyear brand could offer in the more road-focussed touring tyre category.

The County is a 35c diameter tubeless tyre, designed to be used on the road and on light off-road paths. Previously I have used 30c tyres for…

Review – Absolute Black Oval Chainrings (CX Narrow-Wide)

I have been using oval chainrings on my road, gravel, and cyclocross bikes for six years now. I have tried multiple brands, and the offering from AbsoluteBLACK is one of the best designed and best value elliptical chainrings out there. I fitted the Narrow-Wide Absolute Black CX Premium Chainring to my Kona Private Jake to give it a thorough test.

Oval chainrings claim a number of benefits: such as reduced fatigue, higher cadence, and more efficient power output. I have tested them on everything from ten mile time trials to my ultra-distance rides such as the Ride the Trafalgar Way and #BlackForest400; for me, the biggest notable different is a higher average cadence, especially when fatigued. A higher cadence means reduced strain on your muscles, a more efficient engine, and a faster ride; considering these notable benefits, I have taken to using oval chainrings on all my road and gravel bikes.

The Absolute Black oval chainrings are a well thought out, and well-designed option in the…

Behind The Brand – CeramicSpeed

On the west coast of Denmark lies the small city of Holestbro; quiet and calm on a chilly morning dawn.

At CeramicSpeed HQ, energy is flowing though: at 6am the production team arrive, many by bike. Breakfast and laughter are shared, before the delicate work begins…

The CeramicSpeed Heritage Jacob Csizmadia founded CeramicSpeed 13 years ago, in the building that still houses the company. Back then it was his family home, and the company operated from a small workshop. Now it is a world-reaching world-class production facility.

CeramicSpeed is all about bearings. The little balls that enable so many components and machines to run smoothly; both on your bike and in the world as a whole.

Bearings are an intricate product. For them to run at precision smoothness, for a maximum life, each ceramic ball within the set must be an identical size, and perfectly spherical. Every seal must fit to the micrometre, and the components housing the bearing must match exactly.

Produce a faultless beari…

Review – Hiplok SPIN Combination Chain Bicycle Lock

When it comes to wearable bicycle locks, UK brand Hiplok owns the show. Their cable locks and chain locks pioneered the concept of ditching the bike bracket and carrying your lock on your hips, with an adjustable Velcro belt. The new Hiplok SPIN Chain Lock is the latest release, and the first combination chain lock in the range.

I have always been impressed by the quality of Hiplok products. From their super solid Sold Secure Gold rated Hiplok GOLD Chain Lock, which has accompanied me on many city errands; to their miniature Hiplok FLX Cable Lock and innovative Z-Loks that are perfect for bikepacking and lightweight touring. All the products are superbly designed and the highest possible quality level for their intended use and price tag.

The new Hiplok SPIN Chain Lock is another superior design from the brand and fills the category of a lightweight chain lock with a combination closure.

The Hiplok SPIN uses the same chain as the Hiplok Lite—my most used lock within the Hiplok range.…

Review – OneLifeID ICE Personal Identification Bracelets

For the past six years, I have worn an OneLife ID identification wristband day-in-day-out. I originally reviewed the simple but potentially lifesaving ICE wristbands on the blog in 2013, and noted then that they are an essential 'Every Ride Carry'. I continue to advocate their use, with great support.

Being able to be easily identified in the event of an emergency is a huge benefit to paramedics and hospital staff, and anyone else attending the accident scene. Detailing known allergies and past medical history on your ICE medical ID bracelet could be life-saving in the event of hospitalisation and treatment.

OneLifeID is a UK business that produces a range of ICE bracelets and tags; the above pictured recycled tyre Stealth wristband is my current everyday wear. The products are subtle, stylish, and super durable; but they achieve their aim with great success; you can detail a surprisingly amount on the wrist band itself, and then add further information to an online profile t…

Review – Chrome Industries Summoner Backpack

Intercity travel should not mean heavy rigid cases that swallow up your belongings like the kitchen sink. The Modal collection from Chrome Industries is a range of versatile and durable bags that will allow you to stay organised and flexible on your travels—both on and off the bike. The Chrome Summoner Backpack is the mid-sized 32 litre rucksack from the brand, and it has proven to be a superbly designed travel bag.

Chrome Industries were the pioneers behind the original sling bike messenger bag. More than 20 years ago in the city of Boulder–Colorado the brand created the now famous bag out of seatbelt buckles and straps, five bar webbing, and double-lined bombproof interiors. Their strapline now reads 'Building Indestructible Gear Since 1995'—a claim that they reliably hold true to.

Chrome Industries bags are not just built to last in the urban jungle though, they are also designed to be practical, lightweight, and stylish. The Modal collection is all about fulfilling those …

Review - Arkel Signature BB Waterproof Handlebar Bag

With each additional long distance bike tour, my bikepacking kit list shortens and lightens. On returning from each trip I can usually par back my equipment based on 'use versus weight' calculations. The Arkel Bags Signature BB Handlebar Bag could well be the minimalist lightweight handlebar bag that I have been searching for to use on future bicycle touring trips.

Handlebar bags are great for stashing valuables in that you do not want to lose in the cavernous depths of your panniers. On my last few tours, such as the #CoastsandCols, #7Countries7Passes, and #RoadsFromRome, I used traditional rigid style handlebar bags or large roll-bag bikepacking handlebar bags; from brands like Arkel, Thule and Restrap. These bags were great, but they were also quite cumbersome and restricted your view of the front wheel.

The reality was that on these past bikepacking trips I used to fill my handlebar bag with everything from jars of peanut butter to rolls of toilet paper (some would say t…

Book Review - Mountains by Michael Blann

I have always had a love of mountains. I grew up by the coast, but take me into the majestic land of peaks and valleys, and I suddenly feel at home. 'Mountains' by Michael Blann is the only book I have discovered that seems to be able to articulate this deep-seated emotional connection through print; it is a literal and pictographic window into the hidden beauty of the mountains of Europe.

When I have toured across Europe on journeys like the #7Countries7Passes and #RoadsFromRome, I have felt an undeniable bond with the mountains. I would ride across the plains of Germany or fields of Northern Italy and feel very much alone—isolated in a foreign land. Yet, as soon as the road turned skywards and the snow-capped peaks appeared on the horizon; then, I would feel calm and at peace—as if this was a sheltered home.

Of course, the mountains are not a sheltering landscape at all. Quite the opposite. Their unique weather systems are a game of roulette, and their slopes are perilous a…