Showing posts from April, 2020

Bikepacking Tips – The Importance of Comfort (and Tea)

Last month I wrote a piece for The Expedition Journals that referred to my 4C's of Expedition Execution: Care, Comfort, Communication, and Contingency. This post focuses in on the second of those—Comfort— in particular, the importance I personally place on having a comforting cup of tea on a bikepacking or bicycle touring adventure…

First, to add some context, here are my 4C's of Expedition Execution:
Care – This starts with careful and thorough planning of an expedition, and continues with a careful and sensible approach to all aspects of its execution.Comfort – This does not mean opting for luxury; but considering comfort over potential discomfort or distress. For example, if you are wild camping in sub-zero temperatures, take the right season sleeping bag rather than opting for a summer season one to save weight—it could save you from hypothermia.Communication – Aim to keep communication as constant and as flowing as possible at all times. This supplies reassurance to famil…

Review – Suplest Crosscountry Edge+ Pro Off-Road Cycling Shoes

My first pair of full-carbon road cycling shoes came from Suplest—they were superb. The Swiss brand paused distribution to the UK for some time, but now they are back; with that, the Suplest Crosscountry Edge+ Pro Off-Road Cycling Shoes, featuring BOA's new IP1 closure system, flashed up on my radar as a strong candidate for the top spot in the gravel and off-road cycling shoe category.

The Swiss always seem to make exceptional kit. It is a cliché—but it is true, in my opinion: Motorex—the best bicycle cleaners and lubes; Victorinox—the best knives in the world; SwissStop—the best brake pads in the world. The country prides itself on first-class workmanship, which shines through in the attention to detail in design, and in the faultless execution of their products. Suplest, is no exception…

The new Suplest Crosscountry Edge+ Pro Off-Road Cycling Shoes take an innovative approach to fit and function—helped in no small part by great collaborations with BOA dials, Solestar insoles,…

Good Reads – 'The Race Against The Stasi' by Herbie Sykes

Post World War Two Europe makes for a fascinating study. At school and at university, my history and economic history courses delved deep into the political, economic, and social impact of the divisions between the communist bloc and the democratic west during the Cold War period. However, what my studies never really touched on, was sport. So, when the 'Race Against The Stasi' was published, I was sure it would be a compelling read.

The historical account follows the life of Dieter Wiedemann—a cycling hero from the GDR (East Germany). Dieter's biography: composed of quotes, news extracts, and letters from his life, is a captivating account. It is story of ambition, success, challenge, and love.

The narrative begins with Dieter competing for the GDR in amateur events such as the iconic Peace Race and Tours of the communist bloc countries. However, after realising the true extent of political influence on his life and sport, Dieter eventually makes the life changing decisio…

7 Tips – How to Choose the Right Bicycle Saddle for Cycling

Choosing the right bicycle saddle is similar to looking for a comfortable pair of shoes; there are numerous factors to consider—both physiological and with intended use. In this article, I offer 7 Tips to consider how you can choose the right bicycle saddle for your anatomy and style of bike riding.

1 – Seat-Bone Width The first thing to consider is the distance between your seat bones. Your seat/sit bone width determines the ideal width of the saddle you should choose.

You can measure your seat bone width using a piece of corrugated cardboard: place the cardboard on a hard bench, and sit firmly on it. Rock forwards slightly to mimic a riding position, and elevate your feet to press your seat bones down onto the cardboard—so that they make an indent. Then, mark the centre of the two indents and measure the distance between the two points. This will give you your seat/sit bone width.

A narrow sit bone width would be 100 mm or less, medium 100 to 130 mm, and wide over 130 mm.

Saddle …

5 Best Sugru Hacks and Fixes for Cyclists

Sugru is an amazing mouldable glue. Out of the packet it looks and feels a bit like Play-Doh, but then once moulded into shape it sets solid in 24 hours; creating a strong and slightly flexible bond on all manner of base materials. These are my five top uses for Sugru in the cycling world—some great hacks and fixes for cyclists.

Shoe Vents If like me, you suffer from cold feet when cycling, then blocking up those 'cooling' vents on the bottom of your cycling shoes is a sensible start to solving the problem. You can tape over the sole vents, but it will not stay put for long on wet winter rides; Sugru offers a far more permanent plug, and one that can be easily chiselled out if you need some summer foot ventilation after the cold months have passed.

Light Buttons Another area that I have discovered suffers from water ingress on extremely wet winter rides, are the buttons on your cycling lights. I have had several lights fail on me because of water ingress, and the culprit has…

Review – Pro Bike Tool Single Bike Floor Stand

There are bike racks, and there are bicycle stands. The first is just a bicycle storage solution; the second doubles up to present and display you bike. The Pro Bike Tool Bike Floor Stand (for one bicycle) is a quality example of the latter; safely and securely holding your bike for presentation or storage.

The collapsible bike stand uses an innovative spring-loaded three-point hold of the bicycle's wheel. You roll the front or rear wheel into the self-adapting lower cradle, and the spring-loaded arm locks around the tyre to give a secure three-point upright hold. It is a far better way of storing a bike than leaning it against a wall, and it keeps delicate drivetrain and disc brake components away from potential knocks and drops.

The Pro Bike Tool Bike Floor Stand is compatible with road bikes, cyclocross bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, and kids' bikes—with any tyre size up to 2.3 inch. It is not recommended for heavy e-bikes though.

The stand is made from heavy duty st…

Training Tips – Cycling Rollers Training Session Plans

Cycling rollers are a superb training tool that will help both beginner and experienced cyclists improve technique and fitness. I reviewed the Tacx Antares Rollers and Feedback Sports Omnium Rollers on Life In The Saddle; in this post I follow up with three simple training sessions that are easy to follow when using cycle rollers.

Rollers are particularly useful for working on pedalling technique, cadence training, and active recovery. The low resistance means they allow you to easily spin at a high RPM—working on elements of your cycling technique such as balance and efficiency that can be hard to target out on the road.

Recovery Spin Session – 30 minutesThis session is designed to be done post-race, or on a rest day. The objective is to get blood flowing to your muscles to flush out lactic acid that has built up during hard efforts.

The "intervals" are very low intensity, but are added to bring variety and interest to what could otherwise be a monotonous spin session.������…

Review – Pro Bike Tool 3/8 Inch Drive Click 10 to 60 Newton Meter Torque Wrench Set

Sometimes you need BIG Torque. This torque wrench from Pro Bike Tool is a high-torque specification; capable of accurately delivering 10 to 60 Newton meters (88 to 530-inch pounds) torque, with micro-adjustments down to 0.5 Nm. This is the ideal tool for safely installing bottom brackets, cassette lock rings, crank sets, pedals, and disc brake rotors.

The Pro Bike Tool 3/8 Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench Set removes the guesswork from high torque installations. The tool is simple to use – it comes with a 3/8" to ¼" adaptor, a 3/8" to ½" adaptor, and a 75 mm extension bar; so you can simply fit your existing standard torque wrench bits into the tool (read my review of Pro Bike Tool's 1/4 Inch Drive 2 to 20 Nm Click Torque Wrench Set here).

You adjust the torque setting using the spring-loaded adjustment collar, and the wrench locks onto the selected torque setting to ensure there is no accidental adjustment. The two-way ratchet wrench then emits a click that can…

What Is in Your Gravel Adventure Handlebar Bag?

The new Rapha Handlebar Bag has fast become a favourite bikepacking 'day ride' handlebar bag. Rather than just write a product review of this compact handlebar bag though, I thought I would also look inside—to see what comes with me on a solo self-sufficient gravel ride. This is my pack of essentials to keep you riding all day…

It has become increasingly important for us to become self-sufficient on our rides; the outbreak of Coronavirus in March 2020 closed most shops, cafes, and even public conveniences, as well as making solo riding a necessity. Luckily, experience with off-road and back-of-beyond bicycle touring has taught me a few tricks to avoid needing to depend on support or re-supply stops when out on the road or trail.

I used to favour a saddlebag as my on-bike bag for carrying spares and tools, but that choice has evolved over time; a small handlebar bag does not restrict your view of the front wheel at all, it is a lot more accessible than a saddlebag, and it also…

Review – BAM Bamboo Clothing Casual and Activewear

I cannot remember the last time I wore a suit to work. My life off the bike is spent in trainers, walking shoes, or wetsuit boots. Often, I am in cycling jeans or sweatpants, accompanied by a down jacket or hoodie. The range of clothing from BAM Bamboo Clothing is my latest casual kit obsession; the brand makes beautifully soft bamboo activewear and casual wear. It is so good; you might never take it off.

Bamboo, like merino wool, is a favourite natural fabric of mine. It is sustainable, incredibly breathable, soft, stretchy, and surprisingly durable.

My top two pieces of kit from BAM are the Urban Bamboo Jogger Sweatpants and the Jersey Active Bamboo Hoody. I practically live in these.

The sweatpants are a classic tapered leg design, with wide comfortable ankle cuffs and waistband. The hoodie has a close-fitting articulated cut, with a handy zippered chest pocket and side hand pockets, thumb loops, and a little bit of elastic stretch for active use.

Bamboo is a beautiful fabric, a…

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…