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Showing posts from 2019

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…

Review - Chrome Industries Folsom 2.0 Shorts

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Spring is here. Summer is soon on the horizon. Shorts are the way forward, and the new Folsom Short 2.0 from Chrome Industries has become one of my go-to options for casual wear and casual riding.

On a recent trip to Berlin—the city that oozes urban cool—I spotted a definite trend… Chrome.

Chrome Industries messenger bags adorned more shoulders that I could count, and if a guy or girl riding a flat bar fixie pulled up alongside the tram, then it could be almost guaranteed that they were rocking some piece of apparel or luggage from the distinctive American brand.

One of the brand's straplines is 'Building Indestructible Gear Since 1995', and damn is that right. This is the brand that first invented the swing-over messenger bag; using seatbelt buckles and straps, five bar webbing, and double-lined bombproof interiors. From the outset, the brand was built for the urban jungle.

More than 20 years on, with the days of garage floor sewing machine production well in the past, …

Review - Restrap Rando Bag - Front Rack Rack-Top Pannier

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The Restrap Rando Bag is designed to be a go-anywhere do-anything front rack pannier bag; with a semi-rigid construction to make it easy to load, and extra stable. I have used Restrap's panniers, handlebar bag, and frame bags for numerous long distance tours, and they are faultless. While I have not taken the new Restrap Rando Bag on any global adventures, yet; it has been fitted to my run-around Quella Varsity single-speed bike, and it is performing very well.

The concept behind the Rando bag is that it would be ideal for a long distance randonneur (a.k.a. Audax'er) with a front rack, equally though it is superb as a daily run-around. It connects to the rack using two magnetic fasteners on the bottom front of the bag, and a tie-back strap on the rear of the bag; securely holding it in place but making it easy to remove. [N.B: you do need to use the magnetic buckle tie-back strap if you do not want to see your milk go flying down the road on the next downhill!]

The Rando bag …