Category Archives: Gear Review

Zipp Looks to Educate Buyers on Counterfeits

I have well documented the bike industry’s battle against counterfeit product here on the blog. (Here and here specifically, with other references throughout.)

Aside from the obvious effect it has on manufacturer/distributor bottom lines and brand perception; counterfeit product presents a dangerous safety risk. Authentic products are tested to extreme levels of performance by the brand which designs and produces them to ensure they deliver on the promises they make but also to protect the end users – us – in this inherently dangerous sport we love.

Zipp_Fake

Have you ever experienced a component failure? I know from my years behind a bike shop counter that those experiences are few. But; the ones I have seen are scary and often quite injurious to the user as well.

Counterfeit products can be hard to spot (except from the often accompanying “too good to be true” price); but the downside to the risk is huge. Learn to identify some of the warning signs that a product may not be what it is represented to be and be an advocate for your own safety.

Shimano RS-80 C24: First Impressions

The natural progression continues…

As it stands at the time of publishing this post; two of my most popular pages are my reviews on the Shimano WH-7850-c24-cl wheelset and the Shimano WH-6700 Tubeless wheelset. I am anticipating that this one will join their ranks rather quickly.

The RS-80 c24, much like the WH-6700 Ultegra Tubeless is a allegorical “shot-across-the-bow” at other major players in the road wheel market. With both of these wheels Shimano is basically saying: “We’re doing this be cause we’re Shimano and we can.” Not that other providers cannot; just that they either don’t have the guts or capital (or both) to pull it off without serious stress or anxiety. These wheels possess features of higher priced wheels at prices that you just don’t find from the competition. In the case of the RS-80 c24, those features would be light-weight carbon-laminate rims at a price usually below $900. The rims are so light in fact that you cannot get much lighter without going to a full-carbon rim and sacrificing the superior braking of the aluminum brake track.

RS80-C24-01

The RS-80 c24 can be thought of as the “Ultegra” version of the Dura Ace c24-cl. It uses the same rim but merely swaps in a lower grade hub to result in a significantly lower cost and slightly higher weight. Here’s the cost/benefit analysis:

Weight:
~Dura Ace (7900-c24-cl): 1395 grams
~RS-80 c24: 1516 grams
~ Difference: 121 grams (only 24 grams in front)

Retail Prices:
~Dura Ace: $1300
~RS-80 c24: $900
~ Difference: $400

All that for just a simple difference in hubs and spoke threading…

RS80-C24-02

In my book; that’s a pretty good trade-off. Not to knock the Dura Ace wheels, they’re great and if you read the original review I gave them you’ll remember that I raved about them and would love to have a set. Well, several years later and now I’m not just a father of 1 boy, but now 3 boys… well, let’s just say that I’m now that guy who can’t justify paying more for some things just because it says Dura Ace on it if the performance is close enough. And those 121 grams: I gained more weight from eating the ham, turkey, and cheese sandwich and crackers I had at lunch – if I really get serious then I’ll lose 121 grams myself faster than you can say WH-7900-c24-cl AND I’ll have more money in my pocket! So as far as I’m concerned – I finally got my wish and have the wheels I wanted.

Specialized Purist Water Bottle Review

Nasty, funky, water bottle.

purist

We’ve all probably had one. That bottle that no matter how much you washed it just wouldn’t seem to come clean or stop stinking like foot. If you’re lucky its just that this bottle seems to always taste like that energy drink you used a while back. Whatever it is; your average water bottle has a tendency to become “funky”.

The solution: replace it – you will likely never get that stain or stink out. However, while we used to have to settle for replacing the funk bottle with the same kind of bottle with the same propensity to get nasty. Specialized Bicycle Components has presented a solution though and I think it is a good one.

A GLASS BOTTLE?
puristThe Purist bottle uses an ultra thin (a few microns if that means anything to you…) layer of food grade silica to isolate whatever you’re putting in the bottle from the plastic it is made out of. This coating is basically like a thin layer of glass and addresses several things;

  1. Isolates your beverage from the plastic of the bottle to keep it from tasting like plastic or whatever was in the bottle before.
  2. Isolates the bottle from the beverage so that the plastic will not pick up the flavor or color of that beverage.
  3. Makes the bottle noticeably easier to clean and keep clean.
Let’s look at each of these points a little closer.
Your average plastic bike bottle often receives complaints about making water and other drinks taste like plastic. I don’t recall noticing this; so perhaps I’ve been drinking out of them for too long or I’m not sensitive enough, but either way I can see where this is undesirable. Since the Purist is essentially glass-coated it is more like drinking out of a glass – not flavoring your drink at all!
Additionally, these bottles can pick up the colors and flavors of some of the drinks that were in them before. I’ve had a few bottles turn a brownish color after I used them for iced tea in the summertime. Additionally, the flavor from a particularly “flavorful” drink will sometimes stick around for a few wash cycles, influencing whatever you may subsequently put in the bottle. This thin glass-like layer also helps prevent these conditions.
Finally, just like things rinse right out of a drinking glass – Specialized says you should be able to simply rinse out the Purist bottle with hot water and be ready to go again. I can say that I tested this for a little while with the first bottle I got – drinking everything from tea, to Hammer Recoverite and Perpetuem, to water and lemonade from that vessel without a single scrubbing or trip through the dishwasher. Not the most scientific test (nor potentially the most sanitary); but I can attest that I had no lingering flavors or coloring and didn’t even get sick! Good enough for me…
WATERGATE AIN’T JUST A HOTEL IN D.C.
sp-purist03Let’s talk quickly about the other new feature: WaterGate. (Will that get me some hits from political searches?)
The no-drip valve has been tried a few times with mixed results. Lately, the hydration system pioneer CamelBak probably had the best success with their Podium bottle. I tried the Podium, but found the valve action to be a little firm for my liking; taking too much effort to open resulting in a harsh stream of water with a similarly harsh closing action.
Specialized seems to have addressed this nicely as well. The WaterGate valve opens and closes more gently – a feature that I think cannot be truly appreciated until you compare the two. Additionally, it seems to live up to its no-drip promise. I have opened the valve and turned the bottle upside down and could seemingly wait minutes without a drip unless I squeezed the bottle. Push the valve down to its locked position and nothing is getting out – a motion that is identical to traditional bottles unlike the twist-lock motion of the Podium which requires you to learn a new habit to lock the bottle.
sp-purist04I also really like the “fuel gauge” – a streak of clear material that runs down the side so you can see how much and what is in your bottle (for those days when you have trouble distinguishing between the bottle with the water or energy drink…) For those of us who like bottles with some color as opposed to the clear ones; this is a nice feature I got hooked on with another bottle (which I’ll discuss in a moment) and was happy to see Specialized adapt.
LOOKS GREAT, BUT WHAT’S MISSING?
sp-purist06So, is the Purist the perfect bottle? Nearly. It addresses a lot of the issues many of us have had with our bottles for a long time. And, they’re slowly becoming the majority in my bottle collection. But; with all of the thought that went into these bottles they seemed to miss one important item: grippy bumps.When Trek re-vamped their bottles a few years ago and added these relatively big bumps to their bottles; I fell in love… and the Trek bottles quickly became my favorites. Truthfully, while working at a Specialized dealer – I would drive 10 minutes to the Trek dealer to buy those bottles at full price because of these bumps.  You see; on a cold and wet day those bumps make the bottle much easier to get out of the bottle cage without fumbling and potentially dropping it.Specialized has had some tiny bumps – just shy of a lightly textured surface – on their bottles for some time but nothing on the scale of the Trek bumps. So – if you’re reading; Specialized – the absence of even these little bumps is a mistake on the Purist bottle. If you think of adding them back; go a step further and make them bigger and you have the perfect bottle!

 sp-purist07
 Do you have a Purist bottle? What do you think? Or, tell us about the nastiest, funkiest bottle you’ve had or seen…

Swiftwick Socks: Tested

SOCKS? REALLY?
I am actually amazed at the amount of gear that I have had for a long time that I have never written about. To say the least – it’s been a busy few years and I haven’t been writing as much as I would have liked. My Swiftwick socks certainly fall into that category.

My experience with Swiftwick socks goes back quite some time. If I had to guess I would say it was sometime around 2005 or 2006 when one of the owners of the company walked into the bike shop I was running in Brentwood, Tennessee (suburb South of Nashville and Swiftwick’s home town). He handed me a sample set  claiming they’d be the best socks I’d ever worn and said he’d check back in a few weeks to see how I like them. Well, long story short (’cause I can be long-winded); I still own the socks, they get regular use, and not only are they still holding up but they are among my favorites. Additionally; I have spent a decent amount of my own  money acquiring more (the photo above is just the pairs that aren’t in the laundry at the time…and there are 6-pair pictured.)

socks-0001

THE DETAILS
So what’s the deal? What makes these so great? Well, as much as I’d like to start off with materials and technobabble – I think what is at the core of the greatness here is good old fashioned attention to detail.

They get the small stuff right. Seam placement; compression; cuff height (and options of cuff heights); bulk and weight of material; durability; and last but not least: fit – all of these are qualities that I would praise in every one of my socks from the Mid-South brand. Every single one of these qualities lends toward a sock that doesn’t have “hot spots” in the shoe, will support your foot and the many muscles and bones within, and provides proper cushion and protection for a variety of activities. I have run, played soccer and basketball, skied, gone on road and mountain bike rides – heck; I even hiked the Great Wall of China – while wearing these socks and I am convinced that my feet felt better than if I’d have worn something else.

Fascinating Article on Tire Testing

Part of a series I’m calling Tires 101 with lots of great info to consider when looking for new tires.

CHOICES, CHOICES…
Our choices in the tires we ride are possibly among the most subjective we make. There is often very little empirical data (except maybe price…) that is involved. More commonly our “data” is along the lines of “my buddy says they’re the fastest tires he’s ridden” or “she said she didn’t get flat tires for a year”. When you really stop and think about it though – there is a lot of highly personal variables involved in those statements. Let’s cut through the clutter.

I’ve long admired cyclingnews.com’s James Huang’s technical writing and referred to it often as the best in cycling journalism (although – VeloNews has really stepped it up lately).

tire-test

One of his latest pieces highlights a tire testing facility in Finland that seems to finally be coming up with some good data on tires in real-world type scenarios and less-so in the controlled laboratory conditions of older tests. The article has some fascinating facts and data; confirming some long-held thoughts and theories of my own and surprising me on a few areas that I had accepted as fact which it seems were not.

FIRST – THE CONFIRMATIONS:
-Wider tires are faster due to less energy lost in casing deformation. The study specifically cites 25 mm tires versus 23mm tires.

-Puncture resistant tires are typically slower, but to different degrees depending upon the stiffness of the material used. Again, based on tire deflection.

-Lighter inner tubes are faster. Lower weight at the periphery of the wheel lessens the moment of inertia and amount of effort required to maintain speed – the same as with lighter tires.

11/25/06 – Winter Riding “Must Haves”

So you’ve spent all summer and fall following your training schedule or working toward your goal of riding the MS150 and now that winter has come, you’re thinking “now what?”.

You’re not alone. We talk to many people every day who are in your shoes and come to us to look for the gear they need to make it through the winter and hit the road in better shape next spring. Whether you’re the hard-core rider who plans to ride outside as much as possible this winter or looking for ways to ride inside to beat the cold and darkness – we’ve got what you need. Here’s a quick and easy guide:

Inside:  For those wanting to stay inside, there’s some great options.
~The stationary trainer is the most popular way to maintain fitness and your schedule. Popular models from CycleOps, Kinetic, Elite, and Blackburn will meet your needs and give you options. A stationary trainer holds your bike by the rear axle while a resistance unit attached to a roller, which contacts your rear tire, provides the workout. Varied resistance units and types of resistance are the main ways that trainers vary from each other – but “fluid” resistance trainers are the most popular and the industry standard. When buying a trainer, also consider buying a Riser Block and Trainer Mat. The riser lifts your front wheel to the same level as your rear wheel (which is elevated by the trainer) for more comfortable riding. The CycleOps Climbing Riser Block ($29.99) has three levels to accomodate different sized tires or simulate a “climbing” riding position to correctly stimulate your climbing muscle groups.

The Trainer Mat is a persperation and lube proof mat which will protect the floors of your home from the sweat, chain lube, and dirt from your bike.

In addition, one thing that has annoyed long-time, loyal indoor trainer users has been tire wear. The higher-than-normal heat on your tires from the aluminum roller of the trainer causes your rear tire to wear exceptionally fast – especially if it is a lower-quality tire. Two tips: The Elite “Elastogel” trainers replace the aluminum roller with a high density elastomer (rubber) roller which dissipates heat better, doesn’t wear out your tires, reduces tire-slippage, and can be quieter than conventional aluminum trainers. Also, Continental Tire has created a tire specifically designed for use on stationary trainers. This yellow tire uses a harder, more heat resistant rubber compound with no carbon (which makes your tires black – and what comes off your tire while riding a trainer, causing wear and covering your bike, trainer, and floor with black stuff). The Home Trainer tire ($39.99) is a popular choice for our clients who like to use higher-quality tires on the road and don’t want to wear them out on the trainer. Many people will also choose to purchase a lower-quality rear wheel and gear cluster to use with the trainer tire so that they don’t have to constantly change tires when installing or removing their bike from the stationary trainer. This “trainer wheel” is a huge time-saver and very convenient when a nice day rolls around and you want to take your bike outside for a spin.

Another great choice for folks whose schedule is better suited to indoor riding during the winter is a stationary bike – now commonly known as a “Spin” bike. Spin bikes are great if you don’t want to subject your main bike to the wear, tear, sweat, and basic punishment of the stationary trainer. The LeMond RevMaster is our best seller and is a Gym-quality spin bike (found in many YMCA’s and rec-centers) which is great for home use. It’s nearly silent operation and infinitely adjustable fit options make it perfect for your home, where it will see multiple users; usually during the kid’s nap time! Because its so quiet, it is also perfect for setting up in front of a television for watching movies, news, or using training DVD’s like Spinnervals or CTS’s series of indoor training DVD’s (both also in stock at our stores).

Giant also makes two popular models: the Turbo, a lower-cost spin bike not unlike the RevMaster; and the DualFit which is nearly identical to the ubiquitous Schwinn Airdyne – only with higher-quality parts and construction. All of these are in stock at our stores. All come fully assembled and can be delivered in the Metro-Nashville area.

Outside: Now we get to my favorite part. I love riding in the winter! Our weather is mild enough that you really can ride year-round here – with the right gear: lights and a versatile mix of clothing to respond to our unpredictable winter weather. We’re so lucky here to have the great riding available to us that Middle Tennessee is known for – and the climate to enjoy it almost year round. Here’s some of the best items you can get for your money to help you expand your riding season.

A good “base layer” is essential. Keep your core warm and the rest of you will be warmer. Our favorite is the Craft Pro Zero. This base layer is woven a special way to help eliminate “hot spots” and move your body heat more evenly around your torso to keep you warm. It’s so warm, in fact, that I can’t stand to wear mine above 50 degrees! Pearl Izumi and Descente also make great base layers.

Gloves and shoe covers are probably our best selling winter items – as these extremities are the hardest to keep warm. We’ve found that, in our climate, the most important quality for either of these items is for them to be wind-proof. In our area, the wind is what seems to be the killer when it comes to getting cold. Keep the wind off and you’ll stay warmer. We keep a good supply of wind-proof gloves and shoe covers in stock along with the popular glove-liners, “lobster gloves”, and neoprene shoe covers.

Cycling tights are essential for riding below 50 degrees. It is a commonly-held belief that below 60-70 degrees you want to cover your joints to avoid damaging them, because they actually stop lubricating themselves below a certain temperature – especially your overly-active knees. Knee-warmers are suitable for use down to about 50; and are easy to carry along and remove/put-on mid-ride. But, below 50, you might as well wear full-leg tights unless you know the weather will warm up during your ride to above 65 or 70 degrees.

Most tights are a polyester blend, which wicks well to keep you dry, with a brushed fleece lining for loft and insulation. Commonly, cycling tights will not have a cycling pad, or chamois, in them – so you’ll wear your regular riding shorts under them for comfort. Buy a really good pair of tights and they’ll last you for years. I have a pair of Pearl Izumi ThermaFleece tights that are easilly 15 years old and still in good shape.

Jackets are a great way to keep the wind off your core so you can stay warm. More versatile than a long-sleeved jersey, a wind-breaker style cycling jacket is a great piece to have if you’re taking the minimalist route to winter riding gear. The cycling-specific cut of the jackets we sell is form-fitting to keep it from flapping around as you ride and to not limit movement. Cycling jackets also have a longer cut to the back to cover your lower back while in the forward-bent riding position, protecting you from wind and any water that may spray up off your back tire. The zippered front allows for great ventilation while climbing – and is easy to zip back up for the descent. A very popular option is a jacket that converts to a vest. The sleeves are removeable and packable to allow you to customize your wardrobe to changing conditions during the season or even a single ride. The Pearl Izumi Vagabond jacket uses a one-piece removeable sleeve section to make it easy to remove mid-ride and eliminate the annoying (but inevitable) situation of losing one sleeve – rendering your jacket useless. We stock all sizes and most colors.

Now, lights. Never, ever ride after dark without proper lighting. Never. Ever. Seriously. I don’t care how reflective your helmet, jacket, tights, shoes, reflectors, bike, wheels or pale skin might be – it is not only dangerous, it’s against the law. Bikes have to follow all the same rules as cars – including proper night-time illumination. Any bicycle-specific taillight is suitable. The more expensive ones are, in fact, brighter and easier for motorists to see, but a basic $12.99 taillight will do the trick and is safer than nothing. Sigma Sport makes a micro safety light – red for the front, white for the back – which is so small, you barely notice it (the picture at left is nearly to scale…) – but when switched on, it lets cars know you’re there. It’s also perfect as a secondary light – attached to your arm, helmet, or frame – to augment your higher powered lights. They’ve become very popular in our stores.

Serious, longer-distance riders will want to consider a brighter, higher-powered, rechargeable headlight system. These are more expensive than the battery-powered lights, but offer better illumination – making it actually possible to see obstacles in the road before you’ve run over them and bent a wheel or caused a flat. The NiteRider MiNewt LED system and the Sigma Sport EVO Pro Endurance Halogen system are my personal favorites for their reasonable cost, bright and wide light pattern, long battery life and reasonable cost. Both are about $160, but the Sigma comes with two battery packs – perfect for frequent nighttime riders.

In closing – theres a lot of information I haven’t covered here. Don’t hesitate to drop in to one of our stores for answers to any of the questions you may still have. The difference you’ll find in our stores is that we actually ride in the winter and know the gear first-hand. Also, join Allanti for our cult-classic Tuesday Night Ride – only held in winter. We leave the Brentwood store every Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. for 22 miles of fun. Call for more details.
Thanks for reading!

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