Archive for category reviews
When Walz Caps sent me a few of their caps to review I was looking forward to the opportunity to expand my cycling cap collection. The package arrived while I was at my day-job and when I got home I had to find away to get the caps from my two-year-old.
Walz Caps offers three different caps styles – four-panel, a three-panel, and earflap – in three fabric types – cotton blend, moisture wicking, and wool. They sent one of each: three-panel cotton blend, four-panel moisture wicking, and wool earflap. All three caps were of the highest quality, durable and comfortable. All three fit nicely under my helmet and offer a bill that’s long enough to shade the eyes and short enough to allow for visibility.
I’m going start with the wool cap. I’ll be brief about it since I’m pretty sure you’re not all about to rush out and buy a wool cap with earflaps just as summer (finally) hits. Rather than a straight earflap that’s like an extension of the cap itself, the Walz Caps earflap is loose bit of wool with an elastic band to hold the earflap in place. While this leads to a slightly less streamline cap – the earflaps mushroom out a bit, under the ears and down at the base of your head – the benefit is that it’s easy to tuck the ears in and protect them from the cold – no cold earlobes.
I’ve worn the wool earflap more times than I can count and washed it – more than a couple of times, against the care instructions – on delicate in our washing machine and the cap still looks new. The wool does what you expect. It’s comfortable, it keeps the head warm and, even in the rain, dry.
While the wool cap was my go-to morning cap it was pretty clear, even as the caps came out of the box that the red and black, three-panel cotton cap was going to be my everyday work horse. The cap is made of a durable cotton blend and the black stripe down the center gave it a classic and stylish look. Even as the weather slowly started to turn I’d wear my wool cap in the morning and pack the cotton cap in the bag for the ride home.
Where the cap with earflap looks, at least a little, silly when not on the bike, the cotton cap is stylish enough that I’ve worn it at the park with the kids, at the beach, out shopping, at coffee…basically, I’d wear it just about anywhere I’d wear a regular cap.
So, I need to be honest here, it’s just barely warm here – unusual for this time of year in Sacramento – so I haven’t had as much opportunity to wear the light weight moisture wicking cap. In the few times I’ve worn it, around the house and on the bike, I’ve noticed the same things about fit and comfort. At this point I can’t say for certain the moisture wicking fabric is going to hold up as well to everyday abuse as the other two caps, but I will say that I have no reason to believe it won’t.
These are fantastic caps and now that I’ve been using them so regularly, it’s pretty much impossible for me to imagine not having them. The two caps that I wear regularly have held up well to everyday abuse and I’ve not noticed any significant wear. If I were you I’d order a few, just in case a two-year-old intercepts your shipment too.
When James Ward Packard purchased a Winton automobile in the late 19th century he did what many of us do when we’re unhappy with a product; he wrote a complaint letter. When Alexander Winton responded by challenging Packard to make his own car, Packard took things a step further than most of us would and did. Creating, with his brother, his own automobile company and inventing the first twin six engine. When Ryan Carlson and Brent Gale couldn’t find the exact cycling gear they wanted, they followed James Packard’s lead and made their own. They named their company Twin Six.
Twin Six makes apparel for both men and women including jersey’s, bibs, T-shirts and socks. Twin Six sent us the Motor jersey, in green, for our review. The Motor jersey is one of the technical jersey’s Twin Six offers – it’s also available as part of the Dark apparel line (a limited edition, underground line with a black theme).
Twin Six jersey’s are typically redesigned annually, this is to keep designs fresh and maintain the statements of style, identity and self. Twin Six works with a private label manufacturer to produce the jersey’s here in the USA. They are of 100% soft Polyester micro-fiber fabric and designs are sublimated, this means the ink goes from solid to gaseous state, which impregnates the jersey fiber with ink, making it more durable. Bringing the jersey together is a sixteen inch invisible zipper up to square collars and outfitted in raglan sleeves. The Motor has you set to store your goods in the three pockets on your back.
The Motor jersey is well designed and constructed. The jersey gives you at least 50 more watts or 3-5 horsepower, okay it doesn’t, but it sure appears to. The seams are smooth and no tag annoyance! The fit is a cross between a Euro cut and an American cut, which I would agree is great for going from the road bike on to your mountain bike. As your jersey fit is based on personal preference, Twin Six recommends that if you like your jersey to fit tighter, select the same size as you wear your T-Shirt. If you like the fit to be with a bit more space, order one size up. Based on my preference and my size, the sizing chart was spot on.
The pockets hold items well and haven’t snagged or tore. I bring along my iPhone for tracking my rides and it stays put. Other jersey’s I have my iPhone and other items move around while riding and it drives me crazy, the Motor does not. Hidden inside of the middle pocket or your “hood” is where you’ll find your V12 (Twin Six) providing all that extra power.
The zipper is great and has held up to months of testing, it is border line on ease though, as sometimes it takes two hands to unzip.
At $75 this is a great all around jersey. The design, fit and shear coolness factor of Twin Six, it has my vote. While you order your own jersey, pickup its matching bib and socks.
In the western United States – and California in particular – the market for cycling helmets is dominated by the highly-visible Scotts Valley manufacturer Giro, whose Atmos, Ionos and Aeon road helmets are ubiquitous on the heads of amateurs and pros alike. Giro have been highly successful at placing their product in the pro teams, and their designs are both technically advanced and attractive to consumers.
Outside the US Giro has a strong foothold, but the company shares the market with the established European manufacturer Lazer. Lazer holds the distinction of being the oldest helmet maker in the world in continual operation, established in 1919 in Belgium. Over the last 92 years, the company has been responsible for innovating and developing almost every generation of cycling helmet technology.
The Lazer Sphere occupies a position in the Lazer range just below the Helium and the Genesis, making it a strong competitor for upper-mid-range priced helmets like the Giro Saros. The current model features the classic Lazer profile: a sharply downward-sweeping front with a rather abrupt rear when compared to other road helmets. In fact, the Sphere has been redesigned to offer greater protection to the back of the head, and this model features a broader, more substantial rear arrangement, with some attractive and functional venting beneath the sweeping lines which separate the top portion from the lower back piece.
The Sphere is extraordinarily lightweight – just 292g, despite the manufacturer’s claim of 315g nominal mass. Compare this to my Giro Atmos, which weighs in at 297g and my Giro Ionos which tips the scale at 308g. The Sphere is a smaller helmet all around, with a very sleek fore-section which fits close and snug to the head. This racier profile is visually appealing, especially if – like me – you’re used to Giro’s mushroom-head effect. The lines are fast and streamlined, with higher side-sections and a more top-of-the-head feeling than other helmets I’ve worn recently.
The chin strap is the best I’ve ever encountered on a road helmet, and the adjusters are smooth, easy to manipulate and sturdy. The nylon is high-quality and soft, and is arranged to clear the edges of the ears without any rubbing. I could wear the Sphere all day and be perfectly happy; this is a profoundly comfortable helmet. The straps look a little odd when you see the shorter, faster profile of the helmet, appearing to fasten closer to the front than I’m used to on similar helmets. Since the Sphere is essentially a flatter, less bulky helmet, you notice things like straps and where they appear. This is not necessarily a criticism of the design, but rather a personal opinion on the overall appearance. On my regular helmets, the straps appear further back and deeper, essentially becoming less visible when seen from the side.
The adjustable interior cradles the head with flexible plastic bands covered with Lazer’s X-Static foam cushions, while an innovative tube-and-wire arrangement allows minute adjustments via the wheel on the top of the helmet. This seems to me a more user-friendly and precise system than the ones on my regular helmets, although I did worry about the wires relaxing during the course of a long ride. Essentially, the wires pull the cradle tighter around the crown of the head, but without a locking mechanism, the system is prone to slipping open again. That said, I didn’t notice any looseness during my riding with the Sphere.
The Sphere is well ventilated, with 21 vents (23 if you count the central holes at the back) placed thoughtfully to provide cooling to every part of the head. As I mentioned earlier, the Sphere rides a lot higher on the wearer’s head than many other helmets, so overheating is unlikely. However, ventilation is not an exact science when you account for the variables in each rider, including the shape of an individual’s head, his hair length and style, whether he wears a cap or not, etc. The Sphere definitely errs on the side over-ventilation, which ought to satisfy Sacramento-area summertime cyclists, for whom every little extra breath of air is a bonus.
If I had one enduring criticism of the Sphere, it would be the use of a moulded shell reinforcement on the exterior, which is finished in a high-gloss laminate. The effect is, unfortunately, a rather cheap-looking helmet which belies the high-tech, high-performance item underneath. I vastly prefer the look of both my Ionos and my Atmos, which have a low-gloss finish with careful attention to detail. The Sphere seems to cry out for a more sophisticated color-scheme, finish and shell design, and that is really the great downfall of this particular helmet.
For around $130, the Sphere offers very sleek European styling in an (unfortunately) slightly dowdy package, let down by too much glossy sheen. If you can see past the cheap-plastic look of the finish, the Sphere ought to make Californian cyclists seriously consider reaching for something other than the Giro.
Way back in October, or September even, when I first read about Shutt Velo Rapide I was just getting tired of the obnoxious advertising that plastered the replica team jerseys I usually wore. Will someone please tell me which marketing genius figured out cyclists would pay $100 just to be a billboard? This blog was still in its infancy – or this version of this blog – and I wrote a quick note to Shutt Velo Rapide to get some information about their product. Eventually, a Signature Sportive found its way to my house and the only disappointment I felt was that it was late October and the weather was turning from nice to cold, wet and I knew I wouldn’t have many opportunities to wear the jersey before it was too cool for a summer training top.
My first impression of the jersey was favorable. It has a simple, stylish design with a little color and none of those disgusting graphics you find on so many jerseys. The jersey also has two standard pockets in back with a small zipper pocket in the center. It is hand sewn (in the UK) and made of high quality sport wool. At £79.00 I wasn’t exactly sure how much it cost (I’m pretty sure that works out to about $130.00 US) but I knew it wasn’t ridiculous.
So, I wore it once (not counting the times I wore it around the house just to see how it fit). After my second ride I was a little less impressed.
The zipper on the center rear pocket zipped vertically from the bottom up to close the pocket. The pocket itself had been one of the things I was most excited about; a safe place to put my, still new, iPhone 4. When I got back from my ride I was dismayed to find my iPhone stuck in the pocket. The zipper’s slider was stuck and the pocket was closed. I spent 40 minutes or so gently trying to finesse the slider down the zipper and free my phone. I wiggled it, twisted it, swore at it, and pleaded with it to it with no result. It was still stuck. Eventually, starting to feel iPhone withdraw, I changed tact and pulled the slider up, forcing it past the top stop of the zipper and then, once the slider was completely removed from the jersey, used my fingers to pry apart the teeth and free my trapped phone.
I was a little disappointed. In addition to the now useless pocket, the jersey itself had 2 small holes in the back, where the pocket was sewn to the rear panel, from my less than gentle attempts to free my iPhone.
A few days later I sent an email off to my contact at Shutt VR and told her about the issue. Her response was that I must of gotten a jersey with a defective zipper which would be covered under warranty:
Faulty or Broken Zips
We only use quality zips but they do break, if you believe the failure is due to quality or manufacturing fault please contact us immediately. If the fault is outside of normal wear and tear we will arrange either a repair or an exchange free of charge. If not then we can still arrange for a repair at cost.
Directly following the zipper incident I didn’t have much time to ride and when I did it was usually too cold for a lightweight jersey like the Signature Sportive. It was January before I got to start wearing the jersey again regularly – with a baselayer and a wind proof jacket on most days. Without even really thinking about why, the Signature Sportive became my everyday commuting jersey. I wore it rain or shine, with or without base layer, twice a day, three or four days a week. In that time I’ve washed it every day (delicate – line dry) and stuffed it in my bag rain and sweat soaked. We’ll just say it’s been well used.
If I ignore the issue with the zipper, write it off as a defective product – a quick Google search turns up only glowing reviews of Shutt Velo Rapide’s jerseys and no mention of any problems with any zippers – I love this jersey. It’s durable and shows very little wear considering the daily abuse it gets. It’s stylish. The sport wool is comfortable and does just what sport wool promises to do – wicks moisture away from the body.
In the end, I guess, the overall quality and durability of the Signature Sportive far outweigh the minor, warranty covered problem with the zipper. But if you all go out and buy one, then my favorite thing about the jersey won’t be true anymore – to date, I’m the only person I’ve ever seen wearing it.
All images from shuttvr.com.
Rudy Project is heating up the sunglasses market not only in style, but functionality and safety as well. The Rydon sunglasses are a perfect example of this. Rudy Project sent over the Rydon Crystal with Impactx Photochromic clear lens for our review.
The Rydon are light at .88 oz and are packed full of features and technology. The carbonium frames are adjustable from the non-slip nose piece and aluminum alloy temple pieces as well, thus allowing a custom fit for everyone. You can also customize the nose piece and temple end pieces to match your kit or bike with ten colors to choose from. The temple hinges of the Rydon are hidden which keeps you safe in the event of a crash or impact.
The Rydon’s lens are interchangeable with numerous tint, color and feature options. The style that was supplied are the Impactx Polarized Photochromic clear lens. Impactx is Rudy Projects revolutionary lens material which not only provides superior optical quality but are as well light weight. Impactx, is guaranteed unbreakable for life and are semi-rigid so they will bend or give, upon a crash. Can you tell that Rudy Project has your safety in mind?
The Photocromic feature of the sunglasses adjusts to varying UV intensities. The clear lens is perfect for partly cloudy to storm like conditions. As you can see below, in direct sunlight the Rydon goes from clear to full tint, in about twenty seconds. A few items to note about the Photocromic feature that Rudy Project points out, in cold weather they will tint quickly and go clear slowly, for hot weather the inverse occurs. Fog and humidity absorb UV radiation, this lowers the reaction speed of the lens, but in most cases, the sunlight in the fog stayed consistent, so to me this is a moot point. I found that the tint of the lens was just right during the varying conditions, it was lighter when I needed it to be and as well darker when the sun peered through the clouds. When mountain biking, it worked well going in and out of shaded areas to open fields. One observation that occurred just a few times, is when heading in one direction for a long distance and with the sun behind you to the side, the light that would cast itself on the lens would cause a streak. So it is good to know that in some minute cases only a portion of the lens can change tint. Changing your direction or facing towards the sun would quickly correct the streak.
For those near or far sighted cyclists, the Rydon are prescription friendly and offer either Rx adapters or Rx lenses for your specific eye need.
The Rydon are a great pair of sunglasses for the cyclist. They offer the best in weight, style, lens and safety features. I’ve thrown all the elements at them, mud, rain and sun over the past months and they have held up well. While riding I have wiped the lenses of such elements and the lenses are scratch free, this is a plus in my book. You can purchase your pair of Rydon’s for about $209. For me they are worth every penny, as in my book there are two things you cannot skimp on when purchasing for your body, which are shoes and sunglasses.
If you been watching any of the 2011 AMGEN Tour of California you might have seen Team Liquigas-Cannondale riding with some bright yellow helmets. These are none other than the Rudy Project Sterling in Le Fluo – Yellow / Blue. Rudy Project sent us a version for our own review and testing.
The Sterling comes in two sizes Small/Medium (21.25 -22.8 inches) and Large (22.8 -24.4 inches) and offer eight color options to choose from. There are three Le Fluo (fluorescent) and five standard colors. Weight of the Sterling is 12 oz for Small/Medium and 13 oz. for the Large. 18 vents will keep your head cool and a mesh bug stop to keep those pesky critters at bay. Vents are designed well, not only providing excellent air flow, but holding on to your sunglasses, securely. Included with Sterling is a great helmet bag, a visor and extra pads as well.
The Sterling utilizes the new RSR7 retention system which allows for easy adjustments on and off the bike and provides you with the best fit possible all with a turn of dial. I found this to be great right away on rides, easy to turn and was quick, no fumbling at all. The straps are of a softer material and don’t cause irritation under the chin.
I am a tall rider and so, I have a large noggin. Finding a helmet that not only fits, but looks good is quite an arduous task and that was all solved with the Sterling. It fits just as it should and is comfortable. I ride out in hilly country roads where it gets hot and have really come to like the bug stop. How many times have you had a bug go right into a vent and stay there until you have to take your helmet off? Also, while I can’t guarantee this, I believe the mesh bug stop blocks a bit of the nasty sun rays beating down on your head.
Lastly, one of the biggest things about the helmet is technically the smallest, its weight. It is very light weight and you almost forget you have it on.
The Sterling Le Fluo versions are about $254 and are worth ever penny, the standard colors are slightly cheaper at $230, but you want to be seen right? The Sterling might not be the helmet for someone on a tight budget or someone just getting into cycling, but saving for it, you will not be let down. I personally wear the Sterling for both road and mountain biking and has been working great over the months during review with no issues.
Somehow I managed to procure a personal sponsorship while at Interbike in Las Vegas last September (2010). I seem to forget sometimes how easy it is for me to start a conversation with a complete stranger and I’ve been known to make friends in 2.5 seconds flat. Networking comes easy to me, always has. I feel lucky then as an elite athlete to receive a Brand Ambassador sponsorship for my 2011 racing season from the relatively new company 2XU. When I say that I mean, relatively new to the United States markets. I’ve used other compression products for recovery in the past from brands like Skins and Zoot and have already been sold on the value of the effects on recovery as a result of wearing those types of products. Traveling to and from races is almost, if not just as difficult on an athlete as the actual race itself. Combine that with traveling anywhere from 1-3 hours one way to every race I go to here in Northern California nearly every weekend from February to September; and it doesn’t take long for the monetary investment to pay off for an elite athlete looking for every edge they can get to perform at their best every time they compete.
The first thing I noticed about 2XU’s compression tights was the brilliant eye-catching artwork that makes me feel like I’ve jumped ‘warp-speed’ into the 25th century and I suddenly have an urge to die my hair orange and walk around saying ‘Autttooooo wassshhhh’ all day long. Speaking of which, I think suspenders should come back in style……but I digress. It’s not uncommon to show up to a bike race and see 1/2 your competitors walking around in some kind of compression type clothing. I’ll tell you what though, you walk around with these tights on and…….BOOM…you’ve already mentally-whipped your competitors into submission because you already look fast walking around.
While I’m not in the habit of bad-mouthing other companies’ products, I will say this about 2XU’s compression tights, are not too tight, which makes them easy to get on, but they’re tight enough to help prevent loading and definitely make a significant difference in being able to train for days in a row and feel fresh. As elite athletes, we know the next best thing to a quality pair of compression tights is laying against a wall with your legs up in the air, but we also have other lives and lots of things that just need to get done. Investing in a quality pair of compression tight is well worth the investment and in my personal experience, no other product has performed better than my pair of 2XU compression tights.
There have been a few things that have surprised me about my transition to bike commuting, one is my new obsession with bags. Fit, comfort, style, capacity, all of these things need to be considered when choosing the right bag for daily commuting. So, of course, when an awesome company like Cyclelogical sent me one of their Commuter bags to test out, I was more than a little excited.
Like Sam, I was excited about Cyclelogical when I first heard about the company and my first impression of the bag confirmed my suspicion about the quality of their products. Out of the box, I could tell the Commuter backpack was of the highest quality. With weather sealed zippers, padded laptop compartment, designated laundry, shoe and yoga mat compartments, it was clear the folks of Cyclelogical had thought of everything.
But bags have personalities. With the various compartments, pockets, and flaps, the Commuter bag almost demands it’s owner put things in the right place – pack it just so. When I first opened the bag I felt like it needed instructions. Put your shoes here. Put your folded clothes here, sweaty clothes here. This zipper does…well I still don’t know what. It was complex. I liked the idea of it. A spot for everything. But in reality it wasn’t for me.
Compared to my other bag, this bag took twice as long to pack. I wanted to love it, in fact, I did love a lot of it: the reflective pin-striping on the font of bag and the velcro that could be used for reflector or velcroable solar panel – genius; the padded, comfortable but not bulky shoulder straps; the plush lining in the laptop compartment. So, I used it, trying to fall in love with it, but I kept finding myself looking for excuses to use my messenger bag.
I forgot to mention capacity. I made a joke to my wife one evening that the Commuter backpack was like Mary Poppins’ bag. I never seemed to run out of space. Several times, we’ve had the following conversation:
“Hey, can you pick up a couple of things on your way home today?”
“I’m not sure if I can fit them in my bag.”
“Just bring that big bag.”
But the capacity thing cuts both ways. It was a big bag and it looked big on by back. Most days I wasn’t carrying any more than I normally do, but I felt like I was taking up twice as much space. I’d gone from being a cyclist to being a classic Volkswagon Beetle.
The punchline is that I didn’t love the bag. I was impressed with the quality and comfort, but the truth is, it wasn’t designed for me, really. This bag is for upright cyclists with flatbars and street clothes. This bag is for people who want to make sure their clean clothes and dirty clothes never touch. This bag is for someone a bit more organized than me. So for that person, I recommend it. For everyone else, check out the rest of what Cyclelogical is doing, because they’re still making quality gear and probably have something for you.
Who doesn’t want to wear Italian made shoes when riding? There is something to be said about the look, the feel and the fit that people, such as myself, are drawn to them. Diamant or DMT has been creating athletic footwear since 1978 with a focus on combining technology and design, as well, they have lent their expertise in engineering and development to Nike.
DMT sent over a pair of their 2011 Radial road shoes in the green and white color scheme. For those looking for a more down to earth color scheme, not to worry, white/silver, black/gold and silver/black are available, but I dig my green and white.
As you step into the Radials you draw down three hook and loop straps keeping you snug and comfortable. The straps have held up very well over the past few months with no accidental releases. Microfiber upper allows for great ventilation, keeping your feet dry and temperate. When it comes to winter type weather, I would suggest a shoe cover. The bed of the shoe is a perforated cushion that provides ample comfort. Under the insole is a anti-shock pad for your heel. When it comes to fit, for me, the width of the shoe fit well with just enough room and the overall size was spot on with other popular cycling shoes. On the external of the heel is a new support system DMT has added to provide more stability in all types of riding.
Flipping the Radials over, you have a CX Carbon Fiber sole. The sole is constructed of nine layers of Toray MR60 Carbon Fiber which will provide excellent energy transfer from your legs right into your pedals. Marked on the sole is a textured fitting grid for your Look or SpeedPlay cleat (depending of course which type you have), making for easy installation, avoiding cleat slippage and saving you the need for any cleat adapters! The fore and the aft of the sole has a guard to keep you upright when walking and that nice Carbon as scratch-less as possible.
Overall, the Radials are a great pair of road shoe for anyone looking for performance, comfort and good looks. A size 41 weighs in at 255 grams, so they are light weight. There are few online sites in the US that carry them for around $265 with a shoe bag, such as Glory Cycles and Competitive Cyclist. I’ve been very happy with the Radials and they have taken the place as my main shoe and besides the green grows on you…
If you like to tackle most of your bike repairs and save the complex ones for your LBS, Bike Repair App from Atomic Software might be just what you need. Available for iPhone, iPad as an HD version for $2.99 and also available for Android phones for $2.10. The app is fair priced as to what you receive and what is comparable for twice as much. This review focus’s on the iPhone version which is comparable to iPad.
With a simple interface, the app will walk you through your repair even if you’re unsure what needs to be fixed but know the part or if you know what needs to be fixed, just unsure how. If you know roughly what part is giving you greif, you can select Problems, select what part and then the app presents some simple troubleshooting questions. Then it walks you through how to remedy the problem. This is a great and simple way to troubleshoot. I would have liked to see a search function or if the troubleshooting questions were all in one place as would make another option for the user to find a similar troubleshooting question they are experiencing. Some bike problems aren’t easy to tell the location, so you will need to do your best to isolate it down to what part or at least area of the bike and peruse the parts on the app for your fix.
If you know what part is out of alignment, needs some TLC or just want to know what it does. Selecting Parts from the menu, then the part, like Rear Derailleur, it will then point out what adjustments, cleaning or fixes are related. I find this a great way to learn more about your bike if you don’t know already.
Regardless of which repair option you have selected, Problems or Parts, you are walked step by step through detailed pictures and instructions. I found the pictures to be great and instructions well written. If the issue or repair is to complex or requires special tools, the app suggests a visit to your LBS. You’ll note Messages and Information as a menu option. Messages are quick tips or announcements from the company and Information houses the app rating, social media, which you can share your feelings of the app and finally some friends of the company worth a visit. Great app, perfect for the toolbox of the up and coming self bike mechanic.