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DHB Flashlight Thermal Gilet

Review by Garga Chamberlain

DHB’s flashlight series is all about high-visibility in darkness and low-light conditions, so it’s aimed more at commuters and those training solo rather than the bunch-rider.

flashlight-gilletThere are lots of high-viz gilets around so why would you choose the flashlight? Well number one reason would be that it’s very weatherproof. The windslam membrane does what it says on the tin – no icy blast is going to penetrate this fabric, so the core of your body will always be warm when you’ve got this gilet on and zipped up. As with most windproof membranes, it also keeps a fair amount of rain off. Not 100% waterproof on a long ride in the rain but certainly adequate protection on a rainy commute of up to an hour in my experience. A brushed micro-fleece inner fabric adds insulation so it’s ideal for midwinter riding.

The high visibility comes from the majority of the garment being a vivid fluoro yellow, but there are generous areas of reflective scotchlight taping as well, which will shine out when hit by car headlights. These care on the rear of the gilet and around the front/neck and shoulders too.

Comfort-wise, the fit is surprisingly sleek for a bit of commuter kit, but with lots of stretch in the fabric you shouldn’t have trouble getting into it if you’re blessed with a fuller figure. There are nice details too, like a gripper around the hem to stop it riding up and a “zip garage” at the neck to stop the zipper from chafing.

In all my rides in the Flashlight Gilet so far, I’ve been warm enough in all weathers and confident that I’m totally visible (through a commute that varies from unlit cycle paths to a busy city centre). The construction seems good with robust zips and stitching so I expect to be riding to work in this for a good few years.

Buy

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DHB Aeron Roubaix Long Sleeve Jersey – Review

Review by Garga Chamberlain
With this jersey priced at £60 I was expecting something functional but basic – in fact it’s a really versatile and well-designed piece of kit that I am already wearing day in and day out.

dhb-aeron-roubaix

The thermal, moisture-wicking fabric is tightly woven with a brushed texture on the inside for warmth on the front, sides and front-of-sleeves but the underarm panels and middle of the back are a lighter and more porous mesh that lets your body breathe without allowing the chill to penetrate where it shouldn’t. I’ve found this top just right in cool to cold conditions, but the stretchy fit allows you to slip a thermal or windproof baselayer underneath for days when the temperature is right down around freezing point.
The stretchy fabric and sleek cut are what makes this jersey so comfortable to ride in – close fitting and flexible with long sleeves that leave no chance of a gap between cuff and glove, the Aeron also has an excellent gripper around the tail of the jersey to prevent it riding up when you lean down on to your drop bars or tri bars – it’s equally good whether you’re in that aero position or sitting up to recover after a
hard effort.

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Warmest socks – heat holders

Cycling at this time of the year is dominated by how to keep warm, especially fingers and toes. The warmest socks I’ve found are these heat holders – a thick pair of tubular type socks.

  • They have a thick layer of fibres to keep wthe armth in.
  • The length of sock means heat rises up the foot and ankle, keeping whole foot area warm.
  • There is no elastic to constrict the blood supply.

They are pretty chunky and in terms of aerodynamics, pretty useless, but for keeping feet warm, they are as good as they get.

Left sock (outside of sock) Right sock (inside turned inside out)

Overall Review of Heat Holders

They are the warmest sock I’ve found.

Don’t worry about sizing they are very elastic.

If you wear them around the house, they don’t last forever, and bits of fibre do start to come off. I have worn holes in the heels of some socks I’ve had for two years. But, I bought a new pair recently because they are still excellent value. If you want to keep feet warm, these are very good. As the weather warms up, they can become too hot, but they don’t get too sweaty, there is room to breath too.

As mentioned in recent post on  hotpads, I get very cold feet, so I use an inner pair of socks, a pair of hotpads and then these heatholders on top. Cold feet will never be an excuse to stop cycling.

Cycling in the 2 degrees

Yesterday, the mercury was edging just above freezing. It was just about tolerable to cycle for a couple of hours. I had several thermal layers, 3 pairs of gloves and the hot pad / heat holder combination on the feet. The feet were amongst the warmest part of the body. Continue Reading →

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Assos LS. Skinfoil baselayer review

The Assos LS Skinfoil longsleeve base layer is a top of the range base layer, designed to offer comfort and temperature control. In summary – expensive, but very good.

assos-climar-ange-2

My other career modelling for skinny cycling clothes

I bought the Climarange 4/7 Fall version, as that seemed to offer the biggest range of temperatures for the base layer to be useful. I have used it over the winter (mostly wet and mild). But, also used it this weekend, cycling in pretty chilly temperatures of 2 degrees.

Fit

I took size L, (waist 30-32) which was a good fit, allowing for my lanky body shape. I would have liked arms to be a little longer, but it felt close to the skin without being tight in any particular parts. Assos say that it is manufactured like a tubular design (rather than flat bed). This seems to mean it has better contours to the shape of the body.

They say it is important to get the right fit because if it doesn’t fit close to skin it doesn’t work as it should. Continue Reading →

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Ortlieb Back Urban Pannier Review

The Ortlieb urban pannier is a sturdy construction of waterproof materials. It has a 20 litre capacity and even can be adapted into using as a rucksack.

ortlieb-panniersThe bag is well made and looks quite good. As commuting bags go, the coffee linen material is quite stylish.

Ortlieb panniers come with quite a high price tag – £65, but as a compensation it is well made, although I’ve only had a few weeks, it gives the impression of being long-lasting.

With 20 litres capacity, you can fit quite a lot of shopping in there. The above photo was taken with just a laptop inside. It looks a little floppy.

I use a pannier back for commuting into town. I often fill it up with shopping so am looking for a robust pannier bag, that you can also sling over your shoulder.

Specifications
Height: 42cm
Width: 23cm
Depth: 17cm
Weight: 850 g
Volume: 20 Litres
QL2.1 mounting system for racks with max. 16 mm tube diameter
ortlieb-full1
Full with shopping.

Attachment to panniers

ortlieb-fixing

To attach to the panniers there are fixing hooks which slide onto the top of the pannier. When you lift up the bag, it automatically unlocks these hooks. That is quite ingenious and useful for a quick getaway. The downside is that sometimes these locks stop the bag sliding onto the pannier in the first place, and you have to make a quick adjustment. Continue Reading →

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Hotpads for cold feet

hotpadsHotpads are small disposable packets that can be slipped down a pair of socks to keep your feet warm when it’s very cold.

If you wear thermal socks and a good pair of overshoes, you might not need them. But, for many with poor circulation in the extremities, these can be the difference between being able to cycle in the cold and getting too cold.

Little Hotties hand warmers – 10 pairs, £8.99 or 40 pairs from £21.99

Hot pads for cold feet – pack of 40 for £28

Hand warmers – pack of 10 for £12

It doesn’t matter if you buy hotpads for feet or hands, they are 100% interchangeable.

This has been one of the mildest winters so far and I haven’t needed to use too many. But, the cold spell this week (less than 5 degrees) means I definitely will be using.

I have poor circulation in both hands and feet. I feel the cold more in the feet because the toes are mostly immobile whilst cycling. When the temperature drops below 7 degrees, my feet can’t survive for more than an hour without extra  heat. – (no matter what combination of socks and overshoes I try)

I have had electric socks, but last year they broke and so stick to these hot pads. (at Amazon.co.uk)

Basically, when you take them out of a plastic wrapping some chemical reaction creates heat which lasts for seven hours. I put them in my cycling shoes just above a pair of socks. They are great for long rides.

They can be expensive if bought individually, you can pay up to £2 for a pair. But, buying them in bulk means I can get them for 50p a pair. They are disposable, so its a little extravagant, but before I found these  I used to really suffer. I used to wear about three pairs of socks and overshoes and go from cafe to cafe warming up my icey feet (which actually puts you at risk of chilblains)

Also, when you’re feet get very cold, the temptation is to wear several layers of socks, but when you squeeze into your cycling shoes, the socks can actually constrict your blood flow, a key factor in making you cold.

Review of Hotpads

They really do work. It’s not a gimmick. They are 100% reliable. Even after 5 hours, you can still feel the heat.  I always use a thin layer of socks, then put the hotpad and then a thicker layer of socks to keep the heat. This particular brand is good because the pads are quite small, but provide just the right amount of heat to avoid feeling scorched, but also to provide a heat source.

Also, useful if you get a puncture in freezing weather and have to take off your gloves to mend a puncture.

I will use them in some early season races. I’d rather have the extra weight than toes going cold and cramping for lack of blood.

Alternatives to Hotpads.

I have tried the re-usuable hotpads. You can re-energise them in hotwater or microwave – depending on the model. However, these tend to be bigger, and much more difficult to get into a pair of cycling shoes. Also, I find they may only last for one or two hours.

My philosophy is that winter cycling is tough enough. I always try to do anything to make the ride more comfortable, enjoyable. Hot pads are my saviour for winter riding. If you have very good blood circulation, you may not need them unless it goes below freezing. But, if you do suffer from cold hands and cold feet, definitely give these a try, buy a box – forget about the cost. And then you have one less excuse for not going out in winter!

Related

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Scicon Aerocomfort bike bag review

The Scicon Aerocomfort bike bag is a soft case bag for transporting a bike. It is unusually wide at one end to minimise the amount of bike dismantling required. Although it is a soft case, it is reasonably well padded.

I spent a long time trying work out the best bag to buy. In the end I went for this. I recently used on a trip to Sicily.

See also: Taking your bike on a plane

.scicon-bag-2The bag – a little unusual shape, but not much bigger than other bike bags. It doesn’t particularly look like a bike bag.

Features

  • Separate compartments for wheels. This was a big improvement on my last bike bag because there the wheels were loose in the bag. The wheel sections are quite well padded.
  • No need to dismantle handlebars – One end is wide enough to take.
  • Weight: 8.9kg
  • External Dimensions: L 118cm x D 25cm x H 90cmFolded Dimensions: L 106cm x D29cm x H 24cm
  • Additional padding for top tube and handlebars
  • Swivel bike pump
  • 1 antishock bike frame

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DHB Aeron Roubaix Softshell Gilet

 Review by Garga Chamberlain
I’ve always used lightweight jackets and gilets before – the type that fold up to the size of a satsuma at most and give reasonable wind protection but not a lot of warmth. This softshell gilet is very different – it has a windproof / water-repellent outer fabric and a warm microfleece lining, so even when packed flat it’s about the size of a couple of thick-cut sandwiches. On the plus side, it’s been perfect for such a wide range of conditions this winter that I’ve not had to take it off and find room in a pocket for it.
dhb softshell
The softshell gilet is part of DHB’s performance range, so it’s aimed at the serious cyclist wanting good value training kit rather than the commuter or occasional rider. Having worn it for a few weeks of winter weather though, I’d say just about anyone who rides in all weathers will love this piece of kit.
Genuinely warm and windproof, this gilet has kept my torso dry in some sharp showers and sustained drizzle too. The cut is definitely sleek, with a lot of stretch and an effective gripper around the base, so when I drop down into an aero position it doesn’t sag around my middle like some jackets do. It’s great in windy conditions, with no flapping of fabric and zero rustling. The zip is robust and backed by a storm
flap which protects from wind penetration and also prevents any rubbing at the neck.
My favourite feature is the storage – 2 very large, stretchy pockets give me space to carry all the gear I need on a long ride (bananas, bars, lightweight waterproof etc.) or my winter commute (small lock, bunch of keys, wallet, etc.). Honestly you can cram a lot of gear in there and the flaps at the top of the pockets make sure it stays put while still allowing easy, fumble-free access when you’re riding.
There’s good reflective trim at the back, a reflective logo on the front and if you opt for the navy/fluoro colourway as I did you’ll be seen from miles away. If you are more worried about how you look than how well you get seen in the dark, there’s a cool-looking black version available too.
gilet-side
Verdict – warm, windproof and showerproof with a sleek, body-hugging fit and generous storage.
Related product

Buy

  • DHB Soft Shell at Wiggle
      £65   (currently on sale for under £40 – a bargain)
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Knog blinder R70 – Review

The Knog Blinder R70 is a rear LED light unit with integrated USB recharge, peak lumens of 70 and only weighing 50 grams. It is easy to attach and comes with three different length straps for the ability to fit to seat posts of different sizes.

This summer I spent a lot of time trying to get a satisfactory light for my time trial bike, which has a large circumference aero seat post. (I felt the choice was pretty limited. See: rear light for aero seat post) Many people advise a light which can be put under the saddle – but there I often have a water bottle or saddle bag. What I really wanted was an clip on rear light which would go around the seat post. But, because it is so large (34cm circumference) many lights didn’t fit.

When I say the new Knog light had an adaptation for aero seat post I asked a copy for review. Knog sent me a copy and I was happy to test.

r70-blinder-tt-bike-on

Review

Firstly, it is quite similar to many other Knog lights that I have used in the past few years. I have both a Knog front light USB and a Knog 4V rear light. I have used them for other two years, and have had good experiences.

Previous model Knog blinder 4v

Previous model Knog blinder 4v

The only problem is that I broke the strap of the Knog 4V rear light trying to stretch it around an aero seat post.

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Chris Froome – The Climb Review

Review of Chris Froome – The Climb.

chris-froome-climbLast week I received a copy of Chris Froome – The Climb for my birthday, and have spent the past two weeks reading it. I have enjoyed the book, and have read at quite a quick pace. It is an unusual and quite intriguing cycling story. Gangly Kenyan born Brit learns to ride mountain bike with local Kenyan cyclists and despite multiple crashes, having to impersonate officials and coping with tropical diseases, manages to work his way into the European pro cycling scene.

Even if it stopped there, it would be quite an interesting story – a triumph of will and determination over adversity and an unlikely background for a pro cyclist. Of course, it doesn’t stop at just getting into a pro team, Froome has gone on to win the Tour de France twice, Olympic bronze and has come very close in the Vuelta twice. If all that wasn’t enough drama for a wannabe cyclist, Froome was fated to be the first winner of the Tour de France, since the very public expose of the greatest doping scandals in cycling (if not sport).

There was a time when cyclists were heroes, and any awkward questions were swept under the carpet. But, post-Lance – and anyone who has the temerity to win a race, is subject to the latent suspicion and, at times, hostility of those who are fed up with the unending doping scandals that have blighted the sport in recent decades. What might have been celebrated as a romantic story – “The guy who went from the African bush to the Champs Elysees podium” – has – to an extent – been overshadowed by questions of where did this guy come from? If he was this talented, why wasn’t he winning bigger and earlier?

A strong theme in the book is that Chris gets to tell his side of the story. How he started, how he became a better cyclist, how he missed out, why race performances often didn’t match training data. A cynic might say, it is a long attempt at self-justification, but I didn’t feel that. Everyone tells their story in a way to portray themselves in the best light. Especially given the sub-plots circulating around pro cycling, I wouldn’t have expected anything else.

African roots

chris-froome-mtb
In many ways the early chapters are amongst the strongest in the book. It is just a very different life – brought up feeding pet rabbits to your pet python, the only white boy training with Kenyan locals and learning to ply his trade on a mountain bike bought from a supermarket. This is boys own stuff, and makes the Otley CC Sunday run through Yorkshire Dales look like a walk in the park. Continue Reading →

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