Showing posts from 2020

Review – Aftershokz X-Trainerz MP3 Bone Conduction Headphones for Swimming, Cycling, and Outdoor Sport

The Aftershokz X-Trainerz MP3 Player Headphones use an open-ear listening design utilising the same superb bone-conduction technology found in the Aftershokz Aeropex Headphones (reviewed last month). This model is different in that it is designed as a stand-alone MP3 player, particularly suitable for swimming.

The Aftershokz Aeropex have very quickly become my favourite headphones for cycling and running (read the review here); they offer incredible sound quality, but with the phenomenal benefit of not affecting your ambient noise hearing or balance. The Aftershokz X-trainer attracted my attention because of this positive experience, and because I was looking for a set of headphones to use for water sports—when I do not have a Bluetooth phone/MP3 player connection to hand.

The X-Trainerz is IP68 waterproof rated and designed so that it is compatible with swimming goggles, caps, and earplugs. It has a standalone 4GB file storage capacity and supports all major audio file formats (MP3…

Review – Pro Bike Tool 17-in-1 Compact Bike Multitool

A good bicycle multitool is like a Swiss army knife—you do not appreciate what an asset it is until you really need it. The new Pro Bike Tool 17-in-1 Multitool is a compact and lightweight bicycle tool, made to an exacting high-quality standard. A great companion for any ride.

Much as you might not appreciate your pocketknife until the moment you need to open that package, or uncork that bottle of wine, or tighten that screw, or gut a fish… A bicycle multitool will often lay unused in a saddlebag or jersey pocket, until that moment that you really need it…

When that time arises, you will appreciate having a top-quality tool. Cheaper multitools might round-off bolt heads, rust, or even snap with enough force—leaving you stranded at the side of the road or trail. A quality bicycle multitool will allow you to tighten that bolt, adjust that screw, or fix that chain—getting you back underway as soon as possible.

The Pro Bike Tool 17-in-1 Multitool is a strong example of a high-quality bike…

Review – Swrve Modal Cotton Henley Top

Life In The Saddle readers will be familiar with the Swrve brand—it crops up in reviews a few times a year, and I am always impressed by the quality, fit, and feel of the products; not to mention the superb durability. The Swrve Modal Cotton Henley Top upholds that great reputation, and like many Swrve products it has become a wardrobe staple—it is the perfect piece of springtime apparel.

The beautifully soft modal cotton fabric, flat-lock seams, and seamless armpits mean the Swrve Modal Cotton Henley is comfortable enough that it can be worn as a base layer or layered with an under-tee in colder transition season conditions.

As with other Swrve products that I have tested, the Henley has a flattering trim fit. It also has some subtle details that help to make it more cycling-specific than your standard tee—such as a higher cut front hem and a lower cut rear to help overcome that uncomfortable gap problem.

The collar design with its three soft rubber buttons means you can shut out th…

Review – Pro Bike Tool Tubeless Bike Tyre Repair Kit

Plugging or repairing a large hole or cut in a tubeless bicycle tyre can be a necessity when the opening is too large for the tubeless tyre sealant to clog. The Pro Bike Tool Tubeless Tyre Repair Kit is a neat tubeless tyre plug system, housed in a compact metal canister.

I once wrote a feature on 'How To Make Your Own Tubeless Plug System' – that system worked well, but it was rather flimsy and eventually broke after repeat use. The homemade creation was based on the tried-and-tested design of most tubeless tyre repair plugs though, and this Pro Bike Tool one is a great example.

The Pro Bike Tool Tubeless Tyre Repair Kit is a simple system: you insert a sticky plugging strip into the open needle end, and then push the needle into the hole or cut in the tyre. As you pull the needle out, the plug strip remains in the hole. Then, you just spin the wheel and the sealant clots around the plug.

The Pro Bike Tool system is housed within a neat metal canister, which avoids the needl…

Review – Aeropress GO Portable Coffee Maker

When it comes to making coffee in the wild, the Aeropress has always been my preferred method. For bikepacking and bicycle touring trips it is the ultimate compact coffee maker. The new Aeropress GO is the brand’s innovation on the already superb design. The GO is smaller, lighter, and has some great functionality improvements.

Let us start with how it works… the same as the Aeropress: you place a paper filter in the perforated bottom cup of the chamber, then add scopes of fresh ground coffee to the chamber. You then pour boiled water into the chamber and use the provided stirrer to circulate the grounds. When you have left the mixture to brew for as long as you wish, you take the plunger and push the coffee through the filter into your mug.

With the new Aeropress GO the procedure is the same as with the original Aeropress, but there are a few slight changes in the instruments. To make things more compact, the scoop has a smaller handle, and stirrer is foldable; so, both fit inside…

Review – Token Products RoubX Prime Carbon Gravel Wheelset

Gravel has become Monster Gravel. Cyclocross has morphed into CXtreme. XC courses are no longer distinguishable from Enduro. With the lines between disciplines becoming even more blurred, Token Products designed the RoubX wheelset – a 700c do-it-all carbon wheelset that supports anything from 700 x 30c to 29 x 2.1" tyres. Built on a super wide tubeless rim, with CX-RAY spokes – the ROUBX is light, stiff, and fast. Here is my test report and review…

When I consider the key attributes of a gravel bike wheelset, I think of strength, weight, rolling resistance, and aerodynamics—in that order. To fulfil the sought-after balance you need the right materials for rim, hub, and spokes; you need the right spoke lacing pattern; you need the right rim profile and depth; and you need a smooth running and durable hub at the heart of the wheel. The Token Products ROUBX wheels seem to tick a lot of these boxes, even just glancing down the spec's sheet…

A hooked 33 mm deep tubeless carbon rim…

Review – SunRace CS MX80 (MX8) 11-46T Cassette for SRAM

If you are running a SRAM Force or Rival 1X drivetrain set-up, then you may well find yourself wishing for a lower gear, especially on bikepacking adventures. The SunRace MX80 / MX8 11-46 tooth cassettes supply two additional low ratio gears than you get on the standard 11-42T SRAM cassette. That is an upgrade worth considering...

On my Kona Sutra LTD build, I was concerned about a lack of low end gear spread for the Tour Divide. Whilst pure grunt will usually get you up most things on an 11-42T cassette, I thought with the cumulative fatigue and long climbs on this 21 day bikepacking route, I might need something lower...

SRAM rate their SRAM Rival and Force 1X rear derailleurs as suitable for a maximum of a 42-tooth cassette—I was keen to see if the SunRace MX80 and MX8 cassette would work with the derailleurs and provide that sought-after lower gear possibility.

You may well not have heard of the SunRace brand, but you likely have heard of Sturmey Archer—the iconic hub gear brand …

Review – Otterbox Defender iPhone 11 Phone Case

A phone is an essential piece of equipment for a bike ride. Cyclists use their phones for staying connected, calling in emergencies, and documenting their adventures. A good phone case is a well justified accessory though, as the life of a smartphone can be a tough one in a cyclist’s jersey pocket. The Otterbox Defender Case is a quality modular bumper phone case, which supplies superb drop protection and functionality for your iPhone.

I am familiar with the Otterbox brand, having used their Defender case on an iPad for several years. That case has saved the iPad from many drops, knocks, and spills; even when the device has been carried to work in a pannier on a daily cycle commute. It was with this familiarity and reliability in mind that I selected the Otterbox Defender as my choice for a robust phone case to keep my smartphone safe on cycling adventures.

The latest Otterbox Defender case features several great upgrades, as well as keeping all the winning qualities of the older D…

Recipe – Rude Health No-Bake Cereal Energy Bars

My recipe for High Energy Flapjacks has always been a favourite on the blog. So, when I spotted this great looking recipe on the Rude Health site, I thought it needed to be shared with the cycling world—these are a great homemade cycling energy food bar.

Combining Rude Health's Puffed Oats with seeds, fruit, and nuts—it makes a great snack either for on the bike, or for those mid-afternoon stomach rumbles. Best of all, there is no need to bake.

Ingredients (makes 8 breakfast bars)2 ½ cups (65g) Rude Health Puffed Oats¾ cup (150g) dates (about 7 medjool dates) ¼ cup (80g) honey (or substitute in maple syrup, for a vegan option) ¼ cup (60g) almond butter ¼ cup (50g) almonds ¼ cup (50g) pecans ¼ cup (35g) sesame seeds ¼ cup (50g) sour cherries or dried blueberries
Method Line an 8×8 inch (20×20 cm) pan with parchment paper. Add the dates into a food processor and run until the dates are well chopped. If the dates form a large ball in the process, stop the food processor and break ap…

Explore – 7 Accommodation Options for Cyclists on the Isle of Wight

In this Explore blog post I consider my lucky seven pick of the top accommodation options for cyclists on the Isle of Wight—from yurts and campsites, to hotels and pubs. These are my seven favourites that will welcome cyclists with open arms and provide you with a great base from which to explore.

The lucky seven includes two farms, two hotels, two campsites and a country pub...

The Garlic Farm, Newchurch The Garlic Farm offers a wide variety of fantastic self-catering accommodation; from cottages and converted stable blocks, to a cluster of five family fun yurts. All the options are beautifully maintained and spotlessly clean, with private parking and easy access. The on-site restaurant serves exceptional breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and there is plenty on the farm site to keep children (and adults) amused. This centrally located farm is a perfect base for couples, groups, and families.

Tapnell Farm Park, Freshwater Another converted farm, but this one in th…

Review – WTB Raddler TCS Light Tubeless Gravel Tyres

The new WTB Raddler Gravel Tyres are the bigger brother of the well known WTB Riddler Tyres. They feature larger knobs and side lugs for improved grip and better traction on loose or muddy trails. On my recent XPDTN3 Algarviana bikepacking adventure in Portugal, I put the 700 x 40c tyres through their paces on the challenging terrain of the Algarve.

I have used the WTB Riddler tyres in 38c volume on a number of test bikes over the past few years. For light pea-sized gravel, they deliver the perfect balance between fast rolling speed and traction on forest tracks and dry dirt trails. Where the Riddler begins to struggle though, is when the rock size increases to more fist-sized gravel, or when the mud and slippery roots increase in number. This is where the Raddler enters…

The WTB Raddler uses larger depth knobs and larger side lugs, to provide more grip and traction for the tyre. The slightly larger 40c volume also provides more cushioning from impacts, and more comfort on rough terr…

Review – Aftershokz Aeropex Bone Conduction Headphones

I have been using a set of Aftershokz bone conduction headphones daily, ever since I reviewed the Bluez2 headphones back in 2015. The Aftershokz Aeropex is the brand's latest release model and offers several notable upgrades: including IP67 waterproofing, a lighter and slimmer frame, and an outstanding improvement in clarity and unit functionality.

Bone conduction headphones allow for open ear listening—where the headphone sits next to the ear rather than featuring an earbud that blocks the ear canal. The result is that you keep your ambient sound listening capabilities—a vital safety consideration for cyclists, as well as being necessary for optimum balance and stability.

Even back in 2015, with the Aftershokz Bluez2 headphones, I was impressed by the Aftershokz bone conduction open-ear technology. I remember being sceptical whether the sound would be comparable to normal headphones, but I was amazed by the clarity of the audio. The small downfalls of the Bluez2 model were sound…

Personal Hygiene and Skincare for Bikepacking and Cycle Touring Expeditions

A question often asked in the bikepacking and cycle touring community is “how do you keep clean and maintain good personal hygiene on a multi-day cycle tour?” The secret for me, lies with a few products and techniques. These are my tips for healthcare, hygiene, and skincare on bike touring expeditions.

The first thing to consider is the potential problem areas for hygiene and healthcare when clocking a lot of miles in the saddle. All these problems can be traced back to three root causes: bacteria, weather, and bodily fatigue. These three factors solely or jointly cause issues like saddle sores, infection, sunburn, windburn, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

To protect from and help cure the above ailments, I use a simple choice of products that come with me on most bicycle touring adventures…

1. Mum&You Biodegradable Baby Wet Wipes These wipes are an essential for cleaning yourself and your equipment when on a bicycle tour. You can use them to wipe away sweat and bacteria from y…

Review – Easton EA70 AX Gravel Handlebars and EA70 Stem

With the growing popularity of sweep handlebars (a.k.a. wood-chipper bars) I thought it was about time to see how they could improve the ride of one of my gravel / cyclocross bikes. To test and review, I fitted the new Easton EA70 AX handlebars and Easton EA70 stem to my Kona Private Jake.

I have not upgraded much on my 2016 Kona Private Jake; the stock components are genuinely superb. With the more recent models of Kona gravel bikes featuring sweep handlebars though, it suggested it would be a worthwhile upgrade to test.

The Easton EA70 AX Handlebars are an alloy sweep bar aimed at the gravel and adventure market. The handlebar features the same top section as the well praised Easton EA70 road handlebar, but the drops flare out at 16 degrees to provide a wider grip for greater control on rough terrain and descents.

Sweep bars come in varying degrees of angles, some with a very extreme flare. Easton deemed that a 16 degree flare was optimal for easy switching between hand positions …

Review – Scicon Aerocomfort 3.0 TSA Road Bike Bag

The best-selling Scicon Aerocomfort Bike Bag has received some significant design updates. With thru-axle compatibility, added protection, and an overall lighter weight—the Scicon Aerocomfort 3.0  is even more of a market-leader than before.

Back in 2013, I reviewed the Scicon Aerocomfort 2.0 (read the review here). That bag has had some significant use: for transporting bikes on planes, trains, and even yachts. With many of my bikes now having thru-axle designs though, the Aerocomfort 2.0 had required some questionable 'bodging' on my part to make it usable. I was therefore relieved when the new 3.0 was released—this new design is much improved.

Thru-Axle Compatibility One of the biggest differences with the Scicon Aerocomfort 3.0 Bike Bag is that it will accommodate 12 mm thru axles on the front and rear of the patented suspension frame system.

To fit thru-axles, you simply remove the QR inserts in the suspension frame, then use your bike's existing axles to secure it t…