I was offered a chance to review two products sent from Wiggle. The first thing I chose was a waterproof jacket. In the past few years, technology has improved, but for various reasons I haven’t bought one for a long time. I needed a proper waterproof cycling jacket just for commuting into town on rainy days.
The DHB Flashlight Compact-XT Waterproof Jacket claims to be lightweight, waterproof, breathable and adjustable.
It comes in a choice of two colour – blue or fluorescent yellow. I chose the fluorescent yellow for better visibility on the commute into work.
Sizing – I chose medium expecting it to be a little short. I’m very tall (6″31) and thin, so it’s always hard to get a good fit, but the sleeves came down nearly to gloves and it wasn’t too baggy. This was my main need – I didn’t want it to be too flappy.
The jacket is definitely waterproof, it kept me dry in quite persistent rain and shows no signs of leaking at the seams. It feels quite solidly made.
DHB state the Waterproof Jacket has a waterproof rating of 10,000 mm to keep you protected, with additional rain defence from Teflon™
It is not bad for breathability. I rode commuting into town and didn’t work up a sweat. If your training really hard, then I’m sure it will get a bit more sweaty. But, I think overall it is fairly decent for breathability. There are flaps on the back to allow some air to escape without allowing water in. The zip is fairly easy to undo, if you need to let a bit more air in the front.
Quality of build
The zip seems fairly solid and so far has no problems.
I like the adjustability of the cuffs. It is easy and quick to change with velcro and quite useful for getting on and over winter ski gloves.
The fluorescent jacket certainly stands out on the roads.
It comes with a few pockets – not that I tend to use pockets on a waterproof jacket.
I didn’t want to pay the money RRP £249, but I didn’t really want to buy another Garmin 500 because I was annoyed it stopped working. Here is how I’ve been getting on.
Comparison of size and weight Garmin 500 vs Garmin 510
Garmin 500 weight 80g – 85 x 52 x 24mm
Garmin 510 weight 58g – 69 x 48 x 22mm
As a self-confessed weight-weenie and aero-weenie. This is a bad start. The Garmin 500 is generally well proportioned for a bike computer. The Garmin 510 starts to feel a bit like a brick. It’s not that far off the Garmin 800.
22g of weight doesn’t really matter (don’t quote me on that in the hill climb season). But, I worry that the extra depth is going to cost seconds on the time trial bike. I don’t like the bulky size of the Garmin 510.
I’ve had the Garmin 500 for two and a half years. It has many good features and represents a huge step up in terms of cycle computer technology and possibilities. The ubiquity of the Garmin 500 within the cycling community is generally well deserved. However, it is not without its faults, which I will come to later.
This includes parts of the initial review from 2012, but more of the faults which have become apparent in using it.
In cycling, it is good to know where to spend your money. For example, with – Shimano 105 v Shimano Dura Ace – there is very little difference in quality, but a huge difference in price.
But, when it comes to cheap cycling shorts vs good cycling shorts – there is a huge difference in quality of the product, the enjoyment of your ride and even can affect how many saddle sores you get. (see: tips for avoiding saddle sores)
It is ironic that I often end up buying the most uncomfortable looking saddle (69gram sheet of carbon fibre) and then rely on a good pair of padded cycling shorts to make the ride bearable.
– Throw away the cheap cycling shorts. Last November I mentioned how I made myself throw away several pair of cheap cycling shorts. They are not worth using because they gave saddle sores.
A good padded cycling short is one of the most essential ways to get a more comfortable ride, especially for anything over two hours.
Over the years I’ve tried quite a few cycling shorts. For quite a few years, I’ve ridden some Impsport custom made ones for my cycling teams like Oxonians and Sri Chinmoy CT. Unfortunately, Impsport do not make the best cycling shorts. They are not as bad as they were (and they may continue to get better). But some of the earlier models were virtually unrideable with the chamois inadequate, and in the wrong place leading to chaffing. Unfortunately, this wasn’t just my experience, but also that of a team-mate. I haven’t tested other types of custom made team kit. I’ve heard people speak relatively highly of Endura. But, it is always a little bit of a gamble ordering custom made shorts, when you can’t test them until it is too late.
A few general comments about cycling shorts
Bibbed shorts are more comfortable than non-bibbed. It is much easier to keep them up without the feeling of elastic around the waist. They also seem to stay in position much more easily. I do have a few non-bibbed shorts, but, when getting in and out of the saddle, they tend to move around, which is mildly irritating.
All shorts become more comfortable when you are used to cycling. Getting used to spending hours in the saddle is like anything else, you develop tolerance over time. If you’re new to cycling, even spending £200 on some shorts may still leave you feeling pretty sore after a seven hour sportive. If you’re used to spending hours in the saddle, you will find all shorts more comfortable.
Keep Clean. I’m sure this doesn’t really need saying, but, you want to wash shorts after every ride. Try to avoid hanging around in sweaty shorts after a ride too. On tour, you can handwash shorts pretty easily. (Some pros used to insist on hand washing so they could be sure it didn’t get mixed up with other laundry which could potentially pass on germs)
Don’t Wash at Too High Temperature. On one holiday in US, I took my laundry to a US washomat. After washing at presumably very high temperature, the lycra was stretched to almost indecent proportions. I had to throw away the see-through shorts before getting into trouble. Don’t ruin a good pair of lycra by washing in very hot water!
Some Chamois cream can help keep the insert padding soft. Useful for long rides, though most synthetic chamois are pretty good at staying soft.
Shorts I can recommend
This is a cold weather range of shorts. It is suitable for many months of UK weather – apart from hot days, and very cold.
Assos have a reputation for producing the best, (whatever the cost). These shorts certainly looked intriguing with their dimpled padding. The padding is quite substantial and feels very soft when put on. It does feel different to other shorts because of the air flow and space in between dimples. This helps to wick away sweat which is one of top ways of creating friction and discomfort. The short fits on the body very easily, it smooths away pressure and there is no feeling of tightness or discomfort. Also, I never felt any seems which I often do on other shorts. For long rides, it is substantially more comfortable and does make a real difference.
It comes with a warning that the material is more delicate. It is not bullet proof and may not last. It suggests careful use, hand-washing – it even gives instructions on how to pee whilst wearing the shorts. However, I’ve had them for two years and after considerable use, there is little discernible sign of use. There is a little fraying in the padding, but it is not a problem. I will be fairly confident of getting a substantial amount of wear to justify the cost.
Overall, these are a very good short. Excellent comfort and design. A good investment for those who do longer rides. See: full review of Assos T607 F1 Mile
I also bought some Assos Uno for £110. These are a cheaper version to the T607, but still offer great comfort. They are ironically, the ‘starter’ version of Assos premium short range. Again, I’ve used for over two years without any obvious sign of wear and tear.
I recently reviewed the shorts here. Half the price of Assos, they offer a good comfortable use. I’ve used for the past couple of months and it has been comfortable. The only thing I have noticed is the lyrca which comes into contact with the saddle has begun to ‘bobble’. But, they fit well and offer a good degree of padding and support. There is a noticeable difference with the Assos. But, at £60, they are good value.
DHB classic shorts RRP £49.99
For a mid-range shorts which still gives a good riding experience. The DHB shorts offer good value. You might be able to pick up for less than £30. There is no cost of buying a ‘branded’ name, which can add extra on to the final price. The classic shorts are thin lycra, they also do the DHB Vaeon Roubaix padded shorts for extra insulation and riding in cold weather. Overall a no fussy, comfortable pair of shorts.
I received these a couple of months ago, and have been wearing on training rides – up to four hours on time trial bike. I am pretty impressed with the comfort of the shorts. The padding looks relatively thin, but after four hours everything feels pretty good, no discomfort at all (I use dash saddle) The product description says it has high density foam with good air ventilation.
On the outside they look pretty good. They are close fitting to legs, without having strong grippers which leave marks on the skin. I got size L which is pretty good for 6″ 3′
Only weighs 210g
A lightweight carbon fibre mesh bib construction to keep cool. To be honest, in England I rarely overheat when cycling so haven’t been able to test this out, but I can believe it is very lightweight and cool.
I have ridden quite a few shorts over the years. For short training rides, I tend to ride mid-priced shorts like the Specialized or DHB. For long training rides of 3 hours plus, I ‘treat’ myself with the very comfortable Assos shorts. This is to extend the life of these more delicate shorts. There is also a psychological advantage of having the best shorts reserved for the longest rides.
There are many more types of shorts I haven’t ridden, which might be worth looking at. Fortunately, short technology seems to have improved in the past few years.
In the past I have ridden a couple of Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tyre on my my road bike. I had a very good experience using them. This is an updated review which originally appeared on my old blog.
The Ultremo ZX is a slick racing tyre – light, fast, very easy to put on and looks good. Perhaps I had good luck, but I got through 3,000-4,000km without a rear tyre puncture – which is quite unusual for a light racing tyre. But, don’t sue me if you get a few during that distance. I’ve seen them on sale for as low as £20.99 – at that price it is really very good value for an upcoming summer tyre.
The Ultremoz ZX V-Guard has a weight of only 195 grams [same weight as previous Schwalbe ZX version] It also has a low rolling resistance.
Grip in the dry is very good. As you expect from any tyre, it performs less well in the wet; so there is a need to be relatively cautious on wet descents. However, I’ve had no major problem with lack of grip. I was using a 23″ tyre. A 25″ might be my preferred choice now.
I’ve used the tyre on hilly rides across the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Oxfordshire. It performed well on the ascents and descents of Wrynose pass / Hardknott pass – despite roads being wet. Also, these roads were very gritty, rocky and hard work. The tyre was resistant to cuts against these rough road surfaces.
I’ve never had a road tyre which fits on so easily. Very easy to work with. The rubber feels quite smooth and supple. Definitely no tyre levers are needed to fit onto the wheel or take off.
A few weeks ago, I was sent some Clif shot bloks – energy chews and Clif Shot energy gels for review.
At this time of the year, I don’t use many gels and energy bloks. But, on a four hour plus ride, you can burn up pretty much anything so I took some ‘bloks’ along as well. I have also used them quite a bit over in the US; in America the brand seems quite widespread and were often most common gel on sale in local bike shops. Perhaps the American roots explains the American spelling of ‘blocks’ I used the blocks and gels on some interval training sessions back in August.
Anyway, the energy chews make a change from your typical energy powder and energy gels. It is satisfying to have something to chew. They are quite easy to eat on the move and taste quite nice. The packaging is easy to manage, even with thick winter gloves, which is a bonus. You can just squeeze the tubes up the plastic packaging until it pops out.
The nutrition information is pretty much what you would expect from an energy gel. 80g of carbohydrate per 100g. 50% of the carbohydrate is carb which sugars, the rest is maltodextrin. There’s nothing surplus to carbohydrate – zero protein, fat and fibre. Just a touch of salt – potassium citrate. Quite simple.
6 pieces in a 60 gram pack give
Energy 192 kcal
of which sugars – 24g
fat – 0g
Fibre – 0g
With condensed energy, it is advised to take water with them. I don’t often take too much gels in winter, preferring to work on the fat burning capacity. But cycling up to Aynho junction last Monday, just 3 pieces was sufficient to give a good sugar boost to the system. You could feel it right away.
The energy gels are very similar – same carbohydrate content. Ingredients based on maltodextrin, can syrup and water. Some come as double expresso, which gives a whopping 100 mg of caffeine – far too much for my taste. There is also gels with single caffeine shots or without.
The consistency is quite thick. You obviously need to take water with them. But, taste quite pleasant. Though when it comes to gels I’m not overly fussed about taste. Some people speak highly of the ‘Razz’ flavour. But, I’m always dubious about eating something as exotic as ‘Razz’ flavour. I prefer the chocolate.
Leisure Lakes and Bikes offered to send a free product for me to review. I chose the Specialized RBX Expert Winter Bib Short. This choice was inspired by using the Assos T.607 winter bib short. A very good product, but very expensive.
At this time of the year, I prefer to keep riding shorts and legwarmers – rather than winter bib tights which are less manoeuvrable and tight on the shoulders. It is easy to get warm leg warmers, but most of your shorts are thin lycra, which can leave you feeling cold in those parts, you would rather didn’t get too cold. I mentioned in the review of Assos, other companies should offer more insulated shorts for winter because I feel there is a big market for them, especially in the UK.
Review of Specialized RBX Expert Winter Bib Short – £61.99
Firstly, design is as simple as you can get – 100% black, no fuss, no design. When it comes to design, my only preference is – any colour except black. However, with shorts I make an exception because shorts are nearly always black. So they look like 80% of other shorts.
There is a thin layer of Lombardia fleece, which gives the same degree of insulation as your typical pair of winter leg warmers. For this time of the year, this short is ideal. You could comfortably ride this shorts in any weather from 4 degrees to 18 degrees – which in the UK is a good percentage of the year. A pair of winter bib shorts should be on anyone’s Christmas list.
The padding insert is firm. There isn’t much sponginesss, but it is well made and put in the right parts. There are no irritating seams or padding cut off at the wrong point. I went out for a three and half hour ride yesterday, it was fine. Though they are not as comfortable as the Assos; there is a definitely a difference between the two.
Winter involves a lot of long cold miles on slippery roads. My main priorities for a winter tyre are:
Strong puncture resistance
Reasonable rolling resistance
Grippy in the wet.
Not too difficult to take off rim with cold hands.
Over the years, I’ve ridden several different tyres during winter. Primarily Continental Gatorskin and Continental 4 Seasons. Sometimes, I’ve gone into winter with lighter summer tyres still on, like the Gatorskin, Continental Grand Prix 4000. Sometimes I’ve gone to the other extreme and ridden really hard, heavy puncture resistance tyres like Specialized All Condition, but find these are just a bit too ‘heavy’ and slow – even though I never picked up a puncture with these tyres. Generally, it becomes a toss up between spending time mending punctures and being slowed down by heavier tyres. The good news is that even reasonably light and decent rolling resistance tyres are now fairly puncture resistant. There seems to have been improvement in tyre technology since I started cycling 20 years ago.
Best size tyre for winter?
For myself. 25″ is the new 23″ I’d strongly recommend 25″ in winter, especially for the rear tyre. I used to have this idea that the smaller the tyres the faster you go, but it’s more complicated than that. There is no discernible difference in speed between using 23 and 25, but you get a bit better grip. I’ve visited quite a few bike shops this week, and many road tyres seem to be 23″. But, for training, I prefer riding 25″ – especially in winter. 25″ will be perfectly fine for summer riding too.
The Best Winter road tyres
Schwalbe Durano Plus Performance
These are an excellent tyre. They last a long time, have one of the best puncture resistance and have reasonably rolling resistance. It’s everything that you want and need from a winter road bike tyre. I’ve only used one. But, it lasted a good 3,000 miles and I don’t remember getting a puncture. I’ve ordered another one for the rear wheel. It was 33% off which helped. The downside is that it is a bit on the heavy side, the smartguard puncture protection is fairly thick. It means the 25″ tyre weighs 380g (23″ weighs 340g) Compared to the Specialized All Condition it feels it has a little more spongyness, and a little better grip. Though heavy, they are not completely ‘dead’ and offer decent rolling resistance. Keep them well inflated, and you should get few punctures. The other downside is that, especially the first time, they are hard work putting on; they are very tight to the rim. But, once on you can almost forget about them for quite a while.
I’ve used Gatoskin for the past couple of winters. They are relatively light for a winter training tyre, and good enough for summer training too. (23″ only 230 gram and 25″ 250gram) I’ve left the last pair on almost all year. They are quite flexible and a quite easy to fit. They are quite fast. However, I want to change them now winter is really setting in.
They have been a bit slippy on recent rides. I got bad wheel spin on a climb to Brill (16%) and nearly skidded out on a damp corner. I might have been better off with a 25″ and it’s always slippy in winter. But, I’m going back to Durano Plus for my real mid winter tyre.
Continental have also brought out a Gatorksin Hardshell. This adds an extra 48 gram to the tyre and adds an extra layer of puncture protection. I’ve had one hardshell variety, and I couldn’t notice much difference in terms of rolling resistance, so the better puncture protection is good for winter. For winter, the Hardshell is definitely a good option. The Gatorskin are more of an all season tyre.
I find the Gatorksins are very long lasting. I’ve been riding on the same pair for the past 12 months, which is perhaps close to 5,000 miles on that wheelset. Continental have made progress in making the tyre more resistant to scratches and sidewall splits.
A review of ‘Lifeline performance hygiene plus membrane waterbottle‘ – well quite a mouthful of a product title to start with. Doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue.
Firstly, it looks quite good, even if it does remind me of some bottle you may find in a hospital with all those clear labels to write your name and blood type on. It is well designed and looks good on the Trek Madone, less so on the winter training hack.
Old marginal gain hill climbing habits die hard. The first thing I did was to put it on the weighing scales because it felt heavier than your typical plastic water bottle. It is of no consequence, but for the record it weighs 125 grams; that’s 40grams more than your standard 750ml bottle.
But no one (I hope) buys a waterbottle on weight – not even me.
Bacteriostatic glass like inner surface
One reason for the extra weight is the ‘bacteriostatic glass-like inner surface‘ again, another suitably impressive sounding title. The good news is that this inner surface does seem to give a noticeable performance feature – the bottle tastes less like plastic – more like drinking out of a glass cup. For those who get tired of retained odour and taste in plastic bottles, this is quite a notable feature. Definitely a strong selling point.
Another feature of the bottle is that you can adjust the cap to alter the water flow. In other words, either off or on – I never needed anything in between. I’m not quite sure of the point of this. The problem is that to open the cap you need two hands. When you’re cycling this gets a bit tiresome, especially if you have thick winter gloves on. After a few times of opening and closing I got fed up and just left it open. The good news is that if you leave it open, I didn’t notice any water jump out. But, if no water jumps out, why close it?
I received a Lifeline Professional Track pump for review.
I have had a couple of track pumps over the year. Overall, this is very good so far.
It looks impressive and is well designed, with a smooth wooden handle to finish it off. The air hose fits neatly by the side of the track pump when not in use – an improvement over my current pump where valve and hose are always swinging around.
It is relatively easy to use. The locking mechanism is pretty solid. To blow up tyres to 120psi is quite easy, with the nice big dial clearly showing the tyre pressure. There is a long stroke for quick inflation.
The one thing that took a bit of getting used to is that the Presta valve cap only needs to go lightly on the end of a valve. With my old one you push it much further other the valve tip. It seems to go on only a small part of the valve tip to inflate. You don’t have to push it far over the end.
A good feature I haven’t had before, is a release button to reduce any excess tyre pressure. Useful for when racing, and you are trying to get the exact PSI.
Taking the valve off, is always the tricky part of a track pump. Be careful of the metal lever – it really snaps out of position. I can’t help but loose some air when taking it off. But, that’s the case with every track pump I’ve used.