Archive for category reviews

Bike Repair App | Review

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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POW Gloves Hypervent | Review

POW Gloves got their start in 2002 by Dustin Goss and cover not only the cycling arena but snow sports and golf as well. With a focus strictly in hand wear, POW is growing rapidly from their HQ in Seattle, Washington.

POW sent over their 2011 Hypervent full-fingered mountain bike gloves for a good old fashion talkingtreads review.

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The Hypervents come in two finger lengths, short and of course, full-fingered. The gloves are made from a Polyester blend on the back and the palm is mesh combined with Clarino. Clarino, is a synthetic leather like fabric and offers resistance to tearing, is very flexible and most important, it easy to care for. Throw them in the wash with your kit and sit back with no worries. The pads on the palm are 2mm thick so they feel just right between you and your grips. I for one do not like a lot of bulk so I was happy to see this. While riding there is a very slight movement of the pads as the mesh on the palm is lightweight, however, this wasn’t a deal breaker due to it didn’t bunch up or cause any blistering. The mesh is an added benefit as the temps begin to climb; your hands stay cool and dry. Each finger of the glove is Clarino with rubberized grip on the pointer and middle finger which connected well with the brake levers and especially on rainy days. You’ll note that the glove has no hook and loop straps. The gloves slide on and stay semi-snug around your wrist. I didn’t find them moving around at all.

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The backhand of the glove is tear resistant polyester and breathes really well. The thumb has a softer blend for the always present nose wiping or glass cleaning. The overall fit of the glove is right on so check out their sizing chart before purchasing. I have fortunately/unfortunately crashed a few times while under review and the gloves held up very well and did not tear. I would recommend these gloves and at $30, that’s a great price, as well they work great for the chilly rides on the road bike where it’s too cold for fingerless but not cold enough for winter gloves.
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Biologic Bike Mount for iPhone 4 | Review

When Kurt wrote his review of Wahoo Fitness’s Fisica Sensor Case for iPhone he talked about some of the technical aspects of the case:

Made from ABS, the case is durable and weatherproof. Overall control of your iPhone is possible through the clear lexan screen cover, that works very well to the touch and I found that I could navigate with gloves on.

I don’t much care about that kind of thing and figure that if you do you can get all that information from the source.

What we’re going to focus on today is iPhone safety and overall dork factor.
Let me just get this out of the way quickly, mounting an iPhone to your handle bars is going to make you look like a dork but, as you probably wear lycra or, at the very least, a helmet that makes your head look like a mushroom, you’re probably used to the judgement of others and don’t much mind a few judging looks from guys with disk wheels and aerobars screaming past you at 21.5 mph – that is if you can even see their judging looks at that incredibly fast speed that requires a $5,000 bike build to even come close to hitting.

I digress…

The iPhone is big when compared to a standard cycle computer. The Bike Mount makes it slightly larger. If that kind of thing bugs you, go out and by a proper GPS unit and don’t bother with the rest of this review. If, however, you are a bike commuter who likes the idea of having a some GPS tracking available at the touch of a finger and the possibility of easily texting – while stopped, of course – your loved ones to let them know that you’ll be delayed because of a 35 mph headwind, this Bike Mount might be for you.

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The Bike Mount is really a mount and a water/shock resistant case for your iPhone 4 (or iPhone 3G/3GS). The phone rests in a removable nest of silicone, complete with cutouts for front and rear cameras and headphone/charger ports. The phone and silicone bed are then enclosed in a hard plastic case with touch-sensitive membrane so you can actually use your phone while mounted.

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After more than 50 rides with my iPhone on my handlebars, some of it in the moist early morning, I can vouch for the cases ability to keep my phone dry – and my warranty intact. Additionally, while I opted not to hurling my phone across the room to test the “shockproof” qualities of the case, I did drop the phone one while rolling slowly through a parking lot. The case and phone held up nicely, but I made it a point not to do that again.

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The mount itself is my favorite part of the case. It’s easy to get on the bike and easy to move around. Basically, the mount attaches to the bike via a threaded plastic strap. You wrap the strap around the stem or handle bar – I guess you could mount it on the seatpost or downtube if you’d like – thread the strap into a little hole and tighten using provided Allen key – you are warned not to over tighten the mount as, presumably, the plastic strap might break, but I avoided testing that outcome as well. Once the mount is on the bike, the case snaps on via a rotating clippy bit.

Overall, I thought the Bike Mount was well designed and did exactly what I wanted it to do; safely mounted my iPhone where I could see it. The mounting process was easy and didn’t require a bulk supply of zip-ties for when you wanted to move it. In the end, it turned out that – at least on longer “training” rides – I didn’t really love having my iPhone on my handlebars. It’s big and bulky and tends to get in the way, especially when out of the saddle. My commutes were a different story. Having the phone handy on my way home made it possible for my wife to text me, “ride faster, the kids are hungry.” And for me to easily text back, when stopped, to let her know my ETA.

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Strava iPhone App – Part 2

I wanted to share a few more views of the Strava iPhone app that is now available on iTunes for free! You can see your summary stats such as where your ride took place, date, mileage, speed, elevation gain, elapsed and total time.

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Next is a simple map overview with a ride outline. Green and red pins denote ride start and stop locations respectively. The purple pins you see highlight segments, if you tap them, they will pull up the specific segments detail.

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Tapping Climbs will give you the summary of all the climbs and/segments that occurred on your ride. As well, it will show what category the climb was, such as below, a cat 3 climb.

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Finally, as mentioned on the Map screen, by tapping the purple pins or on the Climbs screen tapping a climb or segment, you can bring up the detail. You can see the category the climb was, the elevation, distance, how you ranked currently and your previous best. I moved up one rank but it looks like I need to improve a little on this climb!

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Xpedo MTB XMFO8TT Pedals – Review

Xpedo is a new brand name that has been around longer than you might think. It is the creation from the pedal manufacturer Wellgo and their mission is “to develop the finest high performance pedals in the world”.

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The pedals Xpedo sent don’t have a flashy name, XMF08TT, but what you get, is something special. Weighing in at a stated 210 grams a pair, these titanium pedals are featherweights in their class, while comparable titanium pedals from other companies see a slightly lighter weight, 20-50 grams lighter, but overall are priced much less. The pedals body and spindle are made from titanium and there is a chromoly spindle version available, XMF08TC, with an added weight difference of 45 grams. The key point to consider in whether to purchase the different spindle beyond pedal weight and cost, is your weight. The titanium spindle version has a maximum weight limit of 185 pounds or 85 kg.

The XFO8TT gets an upgrade from the previous years model, the MF-1A, which had two DU Bushings. Wait… here Kurt goes again with his tech garble. Okay, I can help, thanks to MBAction for the definition…

It is a steel strip that is coated with sintered bronze particles and then impregnated with a slippery Teflon mixture.

This year the pedal has three cartridge bearings which will not only make it rotate smoother, but will help the spindle to last much longer and have to be serviced less. Keeping the dust out is a rubber seal, which brings my only qualm with the pedals. The rubber seal slides slightly out which could allow moisture and dirt to enter the bearings. I have to occasionally slide the seal back into its seat after a ride. Installing the pedal into the crankarm is accomplished by a 6mm allen key.

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The cleats of the pedal are SPD compatible and are adjustable side to side and front to back. The cleat offers six degree of float, which was comfortable and felt secure. Release is fully adjustable on both sides of pedal all done through a 3mm allen key. You’ll notice sixteen steps while adjusting the tension, making it simple and easy to match on both sides of the pedal. Clipping in and out, isn’t forced but smooth and I haven’t had issues with accidental clips out forced by rock hits. The pedals clean easily, mud sheds fairly easily and can take a beating out on the trail.

The Xpedo line is becoming more available here in the states and online. With a price tag of about $300, you are getting a pair of strong and light pedals with features and weight,  that of a pedal priced over $100 more. In regards to servicing Xpedo handles their warranty through their Culver City, California office. Aside from the rubber seal issue, I’ve been impressed by what the pedal has to offer and I am looking forward to more great things from Xpedo.

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Bellwether Zone Jersey, ThermoDry Bib Knicker, Climate Control Fleece Glove | Review

Bellwether saw its start in 1972 where it has been focused on listening to its riders and customers to create great cycling apparel. Profile-Design stepped in to improve the brand a few years later and ultimately it saw a re-birth, as a finely tuned machine in 2009. The goal is to create cycling apparel of high quality, best fit and performance, while maintaining a realistic price range.

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Bellwether sent over a kit and gloves that would be suitable for a California winter, spring and fall. Essentially, an outside temperature of about 40 to mid-50 degrees. This past winter was unseasonably colder than normal so on a few occasions it saw upper 30 degree weather including some fog and rain. The kit consisted of the long sleeve Zone Jersey in white/red/black, long sleeve Base Layer and the ThermoDry Bib Knickers. The gloves, so as not to forget the ever important digits, are the Climate Control Fleece Gloves.

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The Zone jersey comes in size small to XXL so able to fit a wide range of riders. I reviewed the large and as always best to review the size chart for your own personal fit. While on the topic of fit, I was pleased to find the Zone jersey to fit well, with and without the base layer. I am a tall, “fit” cyclist and have a long wingspan so any clothing that is long sleeve I am hesitant to try as it typically rides up my arm an inch or so. Such is not the case with the Zone. It is made from a mid-weight fabric and breathes nicely. Paired with the base layer, I did not feel the cold from the wind or the air and felt comfortable on those aforementioned cold day rides. Getting into the jersey is simple, as the full length locking zipper opens easily and during rides, as the sun comes out or on long climbs, one hand is all that is needed to open the zipper. The Zone offers four ample and easy to access pockets. One of them being a five inch zippered pocket for your iPhone, keys, ID, anything you would really like to ensure you still have at the end of your ride. I use my iPhone a lot, especially for my rides for GPS, but found I could easily open the zipper to get to it. Also to note, the zipper on the pocket is reflective and the jersey has a couple of reflective accents to help you be seen. I typically and more so while mountain biking have to pull my jersey down from being bunched  up. The Zone has a silicone bead around the base to help hold it down, a little extra that goes a long way in my book. The Zone has an suggested retail price of $75 which in my opinion for it quality, functionality and fit, is a great price. As mentioned prior, the Base Layer is recommended for those colder days and fits well, it didn’t bunch up while wearing and I like the fact the back of the trunk length is longer so you can tuck it in to your shorts. The Base Layer’s suggested retail price is $29.99.

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The ThermoDry Bib Knickers are a great addition to your cycling wardrobe. Like the Zone jersey, it fits a wide range of riders with sizes from small to XXL. The fit of the bibs overall were great. At the leg end it was only slightly loose, during a couple rides I had to pull it down a tiny bit. Now, to say, you can’t create apparel that will fit absolutely everyone perfectly, it could mean I just need to work on my calf muscles… So this wasn’t at all a deal breaker. Similar to the trunk base of the Zone jersey, the leg end has the Silicone bead to help keep the legs ends in place.  The top of the bibs has a mesh on the back to allow for breathing, which avoids sweat build up. The Chamois fits well and is comfortable, it gives great coverage while avoiding the feeling your wearing a pillow or a diaper, as some other shorts do. It has a slim design so as not to be bulky, the ECS Elite chamois make well for long rides and you can read up on Bellwether’s chamois tech here. Inside the bib is a lightly brushed fabric similar to that of a low cut fleece, keeping you warm on those chilly rides. The ThermoDry Bib Knickers have a suggested retail price of $90.

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The Climate Control Fleece Gloves keep the fingers nice and warm. I could just stop there. On many of occasions on past rides, as I am sure other riders have experienced as well, cold and/or numb fingers. Next to toes, this can really place a damper on the fun meter on a ride. To solve this, you will find your fingers will be comfortable in the fleece surround. Sizes available are small to extra large and tested was large. They fit well and are true to size. I have long fingers and didn’t find my fingers tips pressing hard against the ends, as I have on other similar type gloves. From the pointing finger to the thumb there is terrycloth to help in wiping your glasses or the ever present nose wipe. The palm of the glove is low profile with Silicone grip and padded palm. The wrist of the glove is slightly elongated, which is nice as you can tuck under your jersey to keep the chilly wind out.  The gloves are machine washable and I alway like to let them hang dry. After several washes, seams and padding are still in great condition. Suggested retail price for the Climate Control Fleece Gloves are $22.49.

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Cyclelogical Chopspokes

As a writer and stay-at-home father, I have the tremendous fortune of not needing to suit up in my cycling kit every morning before rolling out onto the mean-streets of rush-hour Sacramento to do battle with the traffic. If I had an office job, however, and regular hours, I wouldn’t hesitate to join the brave few cycle-commuters who express their dedication to American transportation-reform by claiming a slice of the highway on their way to work each day.

When I bought my first road bike, knowing I wouldn’t use it in low-light, I removed the chunky plastic reflectors which were bolted to the spokes. I am well aware of the vanity of such an endeavor, but I just couldn’t stand the look of the wide, clear reflectors on my otherwise-sleek new machine. My second road-bike was purchased lightly-used, but I noticed immediately that the previous owner had likewise removed the spoke reflectors. Indeed, so do the vast majority of cyclists. It’s not just me – we’re all image-conscious when it comes to our road bikes.

I have no doubt that the designers at Cyclelogical, shortly after removing the reflectors from their bikes, stood back and stared at their wheels, briefly enjoying the cleaner, sleeker appearance. One dark, hectic rush-hour commute later, however, and I imagine they wished their bikes could be more visible to traffic approaching from the side. Many cyclists who are hit by cars on the road are broadsided by drivers at intersections who claim they did not see the cyclist passing in front of them. Spoke reflectors offer some degree of visibility in these situations, and so the Cyclelogical team set about coming up with an alternative to the traditional system of flat, wide plastic arcs which appear on most new bikes.

Chopspokes are 2″ long plastic cylinders, 1/4″ in diameter, which are coated in 3M Scotchlite reflective material. They have a glittery silver appearance under normal light, with a slit up the side where they are pushed onto your spokes. I have flat, bladed spokes on my bike, and the reflectors slid on easily and clipped securely. They are easily removed, too, but once in place, they stay put when the wheels are spinning.

If you’re familiar with Scotchlite, you’ll know it is amazing stuff. Surfaces treated with the paint appear to have their own light-source; they glow brightly and consistently, and with incredible visibility. The relatively low profile of the Chopspokes means that they remain fairly invisible on your wheel, but in low-light, with a headlight shining on them, or even the ambient light from streetlights and shops, the sticks shine brightly and clearly.

Chopspokes are small and lightweight, which will appeal to every weight-and-image-conscious cyclist on the road, but I did have a slight concern that such a small item could potentially become soiled with road dirt, thereby limiting the efficiency of the Scotchlite surface. I will have to watch how they perform over the coming weeks and months. On the other hand, they are easily removed, and could be rinsed if necessary. Traditional reflectors are not immune from road-dirt either, but they are usually screwed or bolted to the wheel, making cleaning more of a chore.

If you have committed to the cycle-commuter lifestyle, there’s a fair chance you’re down with saving the earth and preserving the environment as well as looking good on your bike. Chopspokes offer the opportunity to help save and preserve your life while not really impacting the way you look, which has to be a good thing.

Chopspokes are $7 for a pack of 8 from the Cyclelogical website.

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Cyclelogical Gear

When I first heard about the Ojai, CA -based cycling-gear producer Cyclelogical, they were in the thick of the bike trade-show season, schlepping their small but impressively focused catalogue of organic t-shirts and custom bags from Austin, TX to Seattle WA. The far-flung exhibitions, at which Cycleogical’s dedicated team of young cycling enthusiasts set up promotional booths, offered important opportunities for the fledgling company to show-off their gear.

“Austin was spectacular. Lots of traffic and interest.” Said Sami Clingan, director of marketing at Cyclelogical. The team followed their success in Texas with even greater acclaim a week later in Washington, “At the Seattle Bike Show last weekend…we received best of show.”

Clingan’s excitement and enthusiasm at the direction the company is headed is infectious, and seems to be shared by everyone who has seen what Cyclelogical is all about. Their mission statement, proudly displayed on their website, professes a deeply-felt conviction that reducing gasoline-consumption and promoting respect for cyclists as road-users is the key to our transportation future. Not new concepts, by any means, but as Sami puts it, the company just wants to show that,

“Bikes are rad and bike commuting is such an awesome concept that everyone should be doing it!”

Cyclelogical was conceived in 2008 “by a couple of guys in the basement of a tiny house in Ogden, UT” keenly adjusting to the demands of cycling in a northern-midwest winter. The company rapidly developed a range of commuter-oriented gear, including innovative bags, pouches and something they call “chopspokes”; basically slim, reflective cylindrical clips which attach to your spokes and take the place of those wide, ugly plastic reflectors most cyclists immediately remove from their bikes.

Additionally, the company developed a network of designers who came up with another product beloved of urban cyclists and hipsters: post-modern t-shirts with evocative, whimsical drawings and slogans. The t-shirts are made from 100% organic cotton. Sami Clingan sent me one such shirt so I could get a feel for the product, and I immediately fell in love with it. I am 5’10″ and cycling-skinny, so most retailers’ t-shirts don’t fit me. The designers at Cycleogical seem to have taken into account the sort of frame most keen cyclists have (wiry and slim), and the t-shirt I received fits me like a glove. The organic cotton feels soft, like a well-washed shirt, and the design is really cool. Several friends complimented me when I wore it out the first time, and asked where they could get one.

Based on their early success in Austin and Seattle, and assuming the team will not sit back and rest on their laurels but rather get on with designing even more versatile and practical gear, it would be quite understandable if this attractive young company became a very serious competitor in the cycling-products market. Meanwhile, visit their website and read what they’re all about: I think most people will agree, we need more entrepreneurs with a vision like Cyclelogical.

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Portland Design Works Origami Fenders | Review

Let’s talk about fenders! That’s right, fenders! I can just feel the excitement. Fenders!

Because my commute bike is my road bike and because things like fenders look awfully silly in a paceline – though I have been on a few rides where a fender on the bike in front of me wouldn’t have been the end of the world – and because we all know that cycling is 1% fun and 99% style, it’s important that the fenders I put on my bike are easy to get off my bike.

The Origami Fender from Portland Design Works is pretty much everything I could ask for from a fender.

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The rear fender clips onto the seat post with and adjustable two stage clippy thing (technical term) and includes an little turny bit (again, very technical) that can be loosened to adjust the angle of the fender. In addition to the ease of installation, the PDW Origami fender is low profile and doesn’t turn your sleek carbon fiber road bike into an odd lucking commuting juggernaut.

The plastic fender – and this is true for both the front and rear Origami Fender – snaps on and off the mount and will flatten out in the event you wanted to pack in the a bag and be even more incognito.

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Now, the front fender is almost as cool, but I have to admit I haven’t been using it as often. The mount for the fender slides under the derailleur and brake cables on the downtube and attaches to the tube with a couple of silicone straps. Once the mount is on you snap the fender in place. It’s a tiny bit more difficult to get the mount on and off and because I don’t commute in my street clothes and I have a pretty fat down tube I’m not overly concerned with the small amount of road spray that may make it onto my leg warmers. That said, in the event of cycling with real pants on, the front fender would be required.

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I haven’t quite made it though an entire winter with these fenders – I’ve been riding with them, as needed, since early February, but the durable, lightweight plastic fenders seem to be holding up pretty well. The rear fender is not quite as straight as it was when I first got it – it tends to get pushed a little out of shape in my bike locker – and the front fender only gets used on the wettest of days. But, they are super lightweight, well designed and worth the reasonable price – $20.00 for the front and $25 for the rear).

Before I wrap up, I should also mention that PDW sent a Magic Flute along with the fenders and while I’m not quite ready to write a full review – I haven’t had a puncture since I got my hands on it (perhaps that’s what’s magic about?) – I will just say that it’s a pretty clever little mini-pump.

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I forced a test with it this weekend and, while I hate pumping up road tires with a mini-pump, I was able to get the PSI up to 80 pretty consistently before my arm wanted to fall off. But that’s not the clever part. The Magic Flute takes threaded CO2 cartridges through a twist valve on the end of the pump. Ensure the valve is twisted to the closed position, thread in the CO2 cartridge and twist the valve open to release the air. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked; there was no leakage to speak of as I twisted on the cartridge and filled the tire. The Magic Flute, because it’s magic, works with both Schrader and Presta vavles, thanks to a reversible thingy (I really do apologize for being so technical today).

Admit it, that was all a lot more exciting than you thought it would be.

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Cognition Caps | a review

When Cognition Caps sent a couple of cycling caps to review (disembodied head not included) I wasn’t all that excited. I’ve never much liked the look of cycling caps and hadn’t felt like I was missing out on anything in terms of head accessories. It turns out that now I’m slightly obsessed with hats.

Cognition sent a cotton cap and a wool cap with earflaps (which I’ve used far more often on my early morning commutes). Both caps have held up well in the month or so of testing – the wool cap did shrink a touch when it was accidently mixed in with my regular wash, but I was able to stretch it out to it’s orginal size and shape (more or less). Even before the shinkage, I found the earflaps on the wool cap just a touch short for my long ears, leaving me to deal with icy earlobes.

A style thing, I’m sure, but I also found the bills on both caps to be a bit short, leaving almost no protection from sun in the eyes. New to the cycling cap, I did a little comparision and confirmed that the bill was actually up to a full inch shorter than other caps I looked at. The short bill didn’t just offer little protection from the sun, it also made me look a little like a certain piece of the male anatomy.

Style questions aside, the hats fit well and are extermely durable – I even admit to using the wool cap to dry my legs after one rainy day commute. Both caps add comfort when worn under the helmet. The caps are handmade, come in a variety of colors, styles and materials and range from $24 – $30. The wool hat, specifically, is a good option if you’re looking for something low profile to wear under your helmet and keep your head warm.

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