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Category Archives: Product Reviews

Reviews of cycling products that I have tested while riding in the Upper Midwest.

The 2015 Trek Domane 6.9 Endurance Race Bike

2015 Trek Domane 6.9 Endurance Race Bike

The 2015 Trek Domane 6.9 Carbon Fiber Endurance Race Bike

Two years ago I purchased a Trek Domane 5.9 Carbon Fiber Endurance Race Bike and after just one ride I thought there was no way possible for Trek to improve on that bike! One of the biggest selling points for the bike was that Fabian Cancellara (a.k.a. Spartacus) used this bike for the most painful pro bike race in Europe, the Paris–Roubaix (a.k.a. The Hell of the North). The Paris–Roubaix is a 157 mile race that takes place in northern France and large sections of the race is over cobble stones—making it a ride that can tear apart both cyclists and their machines. Trek developed the Domane as an endurance bike—it is a race bike that can help you endure rough roads, even cobble stones, with ease. I live between Chicago and Milwaukee and the roads in our area are horrible (like most of the upper Midwest). Our brutal winters cause even a new blacktop road to crack, crumble and disappear during the spring thaw—and the Trek Domane is the perfect road bike to ride over this mess.

As I mentioned in my last article, my 2013 Trek Domane frame was damaged by a component failure and Trek was kind enough to give me a new frame under their fairly generous warranty program. However, since my frame was two years old Trek did not have that exact frame available, so they upgraded me to a much more expensive 2015 Domane 6.9 Disc frame (thank you Trek!). I rarely take a stock bike home from the local bike shop—so in this article I would like to tell you about some of the upgrades I made. All of these changes were suggested to me by Grant Mullen, mechanic extraordinaire at Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois.

grant-mullen-zion-cyclery

Master Mechanic Grant Mullen From Zion Cyclery

The most expensive part of this project was the new wheelset (rims, hubs, spokes). Since the new frame was designed for disc brakes I was going to have to buy a new wheelset. I would have been very happy with the standard Bontrager Affinity Elite Disc wheelset (142×12 rear, 15mm front), but unfortunately it was out of stock. In fact, at this time of the year it was rather difficult to find anyone who had a compatible wheelset in stock. Fortunately, we were able to obtain a much lighter (i.e., more expensive) wheelset from Industry Nine Components. Their i25TL Disc wheelset comes with Torch Road system disc hubs laced with 24 Sapim CX Ray straight pull spokes. For the “weight weenies” among us, this wheelset weighs a mere 1455 grams!

Spyre SLC Dual Piston Mechanical Disc Brakes

Spyre SLC Dual Piston Mechanical Disc Brakes

Since my new frame was designed for disc brakes we decided to forego the standard Shimano RS785 hydraulic disc brakes and go with the Spyre SLC dual piston mechanical disc brakes (with a 160mm rotor). This set has Carbon actuation arms for maximum weight savings (156g per caliper). I wanted disc brakes for two reasons: First, I often get caught out in the rain and standard caliper brakes don’t stop too well when wet. Second, I am a big guy (borderline Clydesdale) and a fast descent from the hills can be downright scary—disc brakes provide a lot more stopping power for larger cyclists!

My two-year old bike had the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electronic groupset (front and rear derailleur, shifters, crank) were still in great shape, so we kept them. This groupset provides the smoothest shifting you’ve ever experienced on a bike—even while climbing. In addition to smooth shifting, this unit also provides automatic trimming on the front derailleur. Since the bike was in the shop anyway, a new cassette sprocket (11-28T) and chain were also installed.

I live in an area where there is a lot of broken glass on the road so I had a new pair of Continental Gatorskin tires installed (700x25c with a 180 tpi carcass). However, Grant suggested I use their hardcase tires for even better protection. These tires offer triple flat protection: a Kevlar belt provides puncture resistance, anti-pinch ribs stop pinch flats, and bead to bead woven construction dramatically reduce your chances of cutting your sidewalls.

Bontrager DuoTrap Digital Speed And Cadence Sensor

Bontrager DuoTrap Digital Speed And Cadence Sensor

The Trek Domane has a cut-out in the frame so you can add a Bontrager DuoTrap Digital Speed And Cadence Sensor—since the sensor fits into the frame there is no added aerodynamic drag (and no ugly cable ties). Two years ago I bought the older DuoTrap sensor which was ANT+ compatible, but a few months ago I upgraded to the new Bluetooth model (I will review this product in the near future). The Bluetooth model is compatible with the Wahoo RFLKT Bike Computer and the Cyclemeter iPhone app (the greatest iPhone app ever made).

Duwayne Moss

Duwayne Moss Putting The Finishing Touches On The Bike

It took Grant nearly four hours to put my new bike together, but before he was done he had fellow mechanic Duwayne Moss wrap my handlebars. Duwayne has a reputation for turning bar tape into a work of art (when I try to wrap my handlebars it always looks like it was done by a three-year-old with ADD who had been drinking Red Bull). My favorite tape is the Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape—this 3.2mm tape is made with DuraSoft Polymer (DSP) and provides a comfortable surface for your hands even on Century rides. It also allows you to keep a grip on your handlebars during a rainstorm!

The 2015 Trek Domane 6.9 Endurance Race Bike with disc brakes retails for around $8,300 and is only sold by authorized Trek dealers. I know that is a lot of money for a bike, but if you ride on rough roads you will never regret buying one.

As I left home to watch Grant put my bike together my dear wife suggested that I wear a T-shirt that she had bought me at Christmas (but had not yet worn). The front of the shirt, in very bold type, says, “I promise honey, this is my last bike.” The back of the shirt has a photo of a hand with the fingers crossed. My wife knows me very well.

 

 

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Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey From Tribesports

Several months ago the folks from Tribesports asked me to review one of their new cycling jerseys. I warned them at the time that it would be a while before I could review a summer cycling jersey since the Chicago area was in the middle of their worst winter in recorded history. Warm weather has finally arrived (about three months late) and I’ve now had a chance to ride several hundred miles while wearing this jersey. Here’s the bottom line: If you want a sharp-looking, professional quality men’s cycling jersey at a great price, then head over to Tribesports and order one today. If you need a bit more information before placing your order, then continue reading this article!

Men's Performance Cycling Jersey

Tribesports Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey

Out of the more than 400 product reviews I’ve written in the past few years I’ve never used photos supplied by the manufacturer before. However, today I am going to use them because this jersey is so beautiful that the review deserved better photos than I could take (black clothing is really hard to photograph). The Tribsports Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey is incredibly well designed—in fact, I believe it even exceeds that of a top-end Pearl Izumi jersey. This jersey is designed for warm weather cycling and has breathable moisture wicking fabric that pulls moisture away from your skin for quick evaporation, along with ample ventilation under the arm pits to keep your cool. The fabric is a 4-way stretch material (88% polyester, 12% spandex), and is given an antibacterial coating during the manufacturing process to help keep odors down.

Tribesports Men's Performance Cycling Jersey

Tribesports Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey

This premium jersey has several nice touches that separate it from most of the jerseys you will find at your local sporting goods store. First, the two rear cargo pockets are noticeably deeper than any of the other jerseys I own (8″ deep by 5″ wide). In addition, there is a 5″ deep zippered pocket on top of the right rear pocket. A silicon rear hem grip will keep the tail of the jersey in place (and it works extremely well). There is also 360 degree reflective piping to help cars see you in low-light situations (but don’t forget to put a trail light on your bike as well!).

This jersey is available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL). I believe this jersey is true to size, but slightly tighter than a standard Pearl Izumi jersey, so if you are on the borderline between two sizes I’d go up not down in size. I own over 60 cycling jerseys (yes, I am a collector) and the Tribesports jersey than is more comfortable than his one costs nearly twice as much!

Tribesports Men's Performance Cycling Jersey

Tribesports Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey

Tribesports is a fairly new company (just three years old), and they only sell through their website. They do not have any retail outlets, television ads, or celebrity endorsements. As a result, their overhead is lower than most other sporting goods manufacturers and they pass the savings on to their customers.

The only thing I did not like about this jersey is that the primary color is black. Black fabric absorbs heat, so I would never wear it when the temperature was in the 90’s (and that’s not been a problem this year). Also, while riding on the road I prefer to wear hi-vis yellow jerseys for easier visibility.

The Tribsports Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey retails for $80, but if your “join the tribe” you get a 15% discount off all listed prices. The membership is free and it took me less than one minute to join (all they need is your name, address, phone number, and email address). So, with the discount this beautiful jersey can be yours for only $68, and Tribesports offers free shipping on all orders over $65.

 

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Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels

Ingredients For Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels

Ingredients For Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels

Last a fall I was out on a long bike ride with a friend of mine when he asked me how much money I spent a month on the carbohydrate gels I use. It was a question I really hadn’t thought much about before, but after doing a few quick calculations in my head I was shocked. Most of the carbohydrate gels I use are organic (a word usually synonymous with expensive), and during most of the year I go through 30 packs a week which comes out to $180 a month (I am so glad my wife never looks at the American Express statements). After I got home I decided to see if I could find a way to cut my expenses by creating my own carb gels, and at the end of this article you will find a few recipes that I have used. However, before we get to the recipes I need to explain how to choose your ingredients (if you want to experiment on your own).

I am a distance cyclist and except for my winter rides in the snow I seldom take a ride of under two hours. On long rides I normally burn between 900 and 1,000 calories an hour (based on my weight and speed). As a result, I try to consume 300 calories an hour (including 60 grams of carbohydrates). I get 100 calories an hour from my sports hydration mix and the other 200 calories from carb gels (and bananas when available). Most commercial carb gels offer a mixture of both simple and complex carbs and have 100 calories, along with 20 to 30 grams of carbs, and cost anywhere from $1.20 to $3.00 per package. Store-bought energy gels also have about 45mg sodium and 35mg potassium per serving. Simple carbs give a quick shot of energy, while complex carbs provide a slower release of energy. If your gel is composed entirely of simple carbs you will feel a quick rush of energy, followed by a sinking feeling a few minutes later.

You can make your own carbohydrate gels with just a few inexpensive ingredients—and it will only cost you around .30¢ per serving! As a bonus, your gels will always be fresh and free from unwanted chemicals. Here is a quick breakdown of the main ingredients that I use in my gels…

Brown Rice Syrup has 65 calories per tablespoon (21g) and 16 grams of carbohydrates. Brown rice syrup has a Glycemic Index of 25 and is composed of about 50% complex carbohydrates, 45% maltose, and 3% glucose. I buy Now Foods Organic Brown Rice Syrup from a local grocery store (it’s in their health food department) and it sells for under $5 for a 16-ounce container.

Raw Honey is a 100% simple sugar and has a Glycemic Index of 58. Honey has 64 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 17 grams of carbohydrates. Simple sugars can elevate your blood sugar very quickly, so you don’t want to take too much at one time. By the way, make sure you buy raw honey and not the processed garbage that comes in the cute bear containers.

Light Agave Nectar has 60 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 16 grams of carbohydrates, with a Glycemic Index of 11. Maple Syrup has 53 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 13 grams of carbohydrates, with a Glycemic Index of 54. Blackstrap Molasses has 45 calories per tablespoon (21g) and has 11g of carbohydrates, along with 15mg of sodium and 500mg of potassium. Blackstrap molasses has a Glycemic Index of 55. Since blackstrap molasses has a strong flavor you should probably start with just a bit of it and work your way up!

Now for the recipes—I wish I could take credit for all of these, but most of them are recipes that I’ve cobbled together from other cyclists. However, the first recipe is mostly mine and it is my favorite!

Blue Ribbon Butterscotch Candy

Mix 8 tablespoons brown rice syrup, 2 tablespoons light agave nectar, 1 tablespoon warm water, 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 1/4 tablespoon Morton Lite Salt Mixture, and about 1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt. This mixture provides about 100 calories per 1.5 tablespoon. A ¼ teaspoon of Morton Lite Salt Mixture has 290mg sodium and 350mg potassium (I use this as an easy way to get potassium into my gels). This is my favorite homemade gel—and as the name implies, it tastes like butterscotch candy (and is highly addictive).

Honey GOO Recipe

This recipe comes from HomeGOO, a company that sells incredibly low-priced flasks for carb gels. Mix 4 ounces of raw honey, one tablespoon organic blackstrap molasses, 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. This recipe will approximately fill a 6-ounce flask.

Down And Dirty

I don’t remember where I found this recipe, but it is very easy to make and has a mild taste. Mix 3/4 cup of brown rice syrup, 1/2 cup of agave nectar, 1/2 cup of raw honey, and 1/2 tsp of sea salt.

Finding A Flask

HomeGOO sells two different reusable flasks. The five-ounce Goo Flask is a 5.5 inch tall BPA free plastic container with a leak proof, push-pull valve. The flexible six-ounce Goo Flask is made from ultra-lightweight BPA free plastic and collapses as you consume the gel. It also has a push/pull drink spout with removable cap, though the cap really isn’t necessary. These bottles are easy to wash by hand and are dishwasher safe.

HomeGOO Flexible Reusable GOO Flask

HomeGOO Flexible, Reusable GOO Flask

HomeGOO sells the five ounce flask for only .99¢, which means that if you only used in one time you still saved money over the cost of buying prepackaged gels. The six-ounce flask sells for $3 and should last a very long time. If you are into endurance sports you owe it to yourself to try these flasks!

 

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RFLKT iPhone Powered Bike Computer

Wahoo Fitness RFLKT Bike Computer

Wahoo Fitness RFLKT Bike Computer

If you were to ask me to name my favorite cycling product of all-time, without any hesitation I would tell you about Cyclemeter by Abvio. I’ve used this iPhone app to record my last 20,000 miles or so of cycling. It is the most user-friendly iPhone cycling app you will find and it is easy to customize to suit your needs. It’s not that Cyclemeter is just better than the other cycling GPS apps, but it is so far advanced beyond the other apps that it doesn’t even belong in the same class. In all seriousness, it is worth buying an Apple iPhone if for no other reason than to use this app! I’d rather have the Cyclemeter/iPhone combination than any Garmin computer on the market. This iPhone app is only $4.99 and is available for download via iTunes.

Since I carry my iPhone in my back jersey pocket I am not able to see “real-time” statistics (speed, distance, cadence, heart rate, etc.). As a result, I’ve always had a second bike computer mounted on my handlebars so I could read it as I was cycling. Fortunately, Wahoo Fitness has recently introduced the RFLKT iPhone Powered Bike Computer and it is now one of my top two favorite cycling products of all time!

The RFLKT wirelessly reflects the information that is on your iPhone (hence the name) and displays that information on a compact unit that easily mounts on your handlebars or stem. What makes this bike computer so amazing is that it is completely customizable—you get to choose exactly what is displayed on every screen (and you can create a lot of screens), and you also get to choose the font size (from small to very large).

The RFLKT measures 2.4” long by 1.6” wide by 0.5” thick and weighs only two-ounces. It is powered by a replaceable coin cell battery and the wireless connectivity is made through a Bluetooth 4.0 connection to your iPhone. This computer has several mounting options, including quarter turn, so it is perfect for road bikes, mountain bikes, and cyclocross. I’ve used it in pouring rain and in temps as low as -12F and it hasn’t missed a beat!

The Wahoo Fitness RFLKT Bike Computer retails for $100 and is worth every cent! Wahoo Fitness also has cadence meters and heart rate monitors that tie into the Cyclemeter app (there are other apps available for use with the RFLKT unit, but I’d stick with Cyclemeter).

Note: In the photo above you will notice that my average speed for that bike ride was under 11 MPH. I was riding through 5″ of fresh snow on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike and anything over 8 MPH in deep snow is pretty good!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Product Reviews

 

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Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix For Winter Sports

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

For the past couple of years I’ve used Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix as my primary drink while on the bike. This drink mix was developed by Allen Lim, PhD, a sport scientist and coach for a professional cycling team. He created this product “from scratch” because he thought he could improve on the usual prepackaged hydration products that were already on the market. While I love Skratch mix when served cold, or even at room temperature, it just didn’t appeal to me when served piping hot. In fact, I don’t know of any sports drink that tastes good when served hot. However, this past fall Skratch Labs introduced their new Apples & Cinnamon flavor and this product is intended to be served hot!

Thanks to a snowy and bitterly cold winter I’ve been drinking a lot of the Apples & Cinnamon flavor Skratch mix while cycling this year. I always fill two thermos bottles with this drink mix before I go out on a ride and after several hundred miles through the snow I can say I dearly love this product! It tastes great piping hot and even when it starts to cool down. While the cinnamon flavor is more dominant than the apple, this mix is perfect for all winter athletes and I highly recommend it.

A 16-ounce serving of this drink mix has 90 calories and provides 22 grams of carbohydrates, along with 300mg of sodium and 40mg of potassium. The ingredients list is fairly simple: Cane sugar, dextrose, apples, sodium citrate, citric acid, cinnamon, magnesium lactate, calcium citrate, potassium citrate, and ascorbic acid.

You can buy this Exercise Hydration Mix in either a one-pound package or as single-serving individual packages (sticks). The best buy is the one-pound package which retails for $19.50 and will make twenty 16-ounce servings. When the temperature warms up a bit and you want a cool drink, this product also comes in several other flavors, including Lemon & Limes, Raspberries, Oranges, and Pineapple. While I like all of them, the Raspberry is my favorite—the flavor is not overpowering and it is a very crisp and refreshing drink.

 

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Orp Smart Horn: The Most Anticipated Cycling Product Of The Year

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

What does an inventor do when they have a great idea for a new product but lack the funding to bring it to market? Many inventors turn to Kickstarter, a website where they can promote their idea and seek financial backers. Sometimes the backers donate money just because they think the project is worthwhile and other times they contribute enough to earn a few perks (anything from decals or a copy of the finished product, and all the way up to a trip to the manufacturing plant). Over the past few years I’ve helped back several projects that had to do with cycling, but the one I have anticipated the most is the new Orp Smart Horn.

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

The Orp Smart Horn {Smorn} is a “combination dual tone, high-decibel bike horn and front beacon light designed to make you more visible and hearable.” While the Orp is not in distribution yet, the specs for this item are fantastic! The Orp is smaller than almost any other bicycle light on the market, and the horn is louder than any bike bell could ever dream of being. The horn is activated by touching an ergonomic switch on the back of the device (the Wail Tail) and you can choose from either a friendly chirp (76 decibels) or a loud ear-splitting alert (96 decibels). The light on the Orp has 87 lumens and operates in several modes, including Slow Strobe, Fast Strobe, and Constant On. This product is also incredibly compact and lightweight (only 89 grams).

The Orp is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion power cell and should last from 6 to 12 hours, depending on the settings you choose to use. This battery recharges with a USB cable—which means you can just plug it into your computer to recharge it (great for commuters).

The suggested list price for the Orp Smart Horn is only $65 and it will be available in seven colors (Glorp, Aorta Red, Snot Green, Frostbyte, Safety Cone Orange, Wail Blue, and Asphalt Black).

 

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45NRTH Bergraven Technical Fatbiking Gaiters

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

Warning: This article deals with adult subject matter and is not suitable for southerners or cyclists who spend their winters in the basement riding a trainer. Reader discretion is advised.

After several mild winters in a row, those of us in the Upper Midwest have finally been blessed with a ton of fresh snow and bone-chilling temperatures. Several weeks ago I was at the local bike shop and saw the new 45NRTH Bergraven Technical Fatbiking Gaiters. I hesitated getting them because the past few winters have been rather disappointing for Fat Bike owners, but I decided to take a chance and buy them anyway—and I am certainly glad I did!

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

Gaiters are put on over your boots and winter cycling tights and extend from your boots to just below your knees. If you are not familiar with the purpose of winter gaiters, let me explain. First, they keep you lower leg and calf muscle warm (the wind has a way of making calf muscles very stiff). Second, they keep the snow out of your boots when you have to get off the bike and push.

The Bergraven gaiters are specifically designed for Fat Bike riders. The soft outer shell is made with Primaloft ECO insulation and there is a Kevlar panel to protect the gaiters if they come in contact with either the crank arms or chain-rings. These gaiters close on the sides with a hook-and-loop closure and there are buckle adjusters at the top so you can make them as snug (or loose) as you like. There is also a strap that goes under your boots to keep the gaiters in place. In addition, there is a bit of reflective piping on the back of the gaiters.

If you are fortunate enough to own a pair of 45NRTH Wölvhammer winter cycling boots there is a toe hook on these gaiters that will snap into the boots for a better fit. Unfortunately, my feet are too wide to fit into a pair of Wölvhammer boots (even though they have a wide toe box). However, you do not have to wear these gaiters with Wölvhammer boots. When the temperature drops below 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) I wear the Columbia Bugaboot Plus Cold Weather Boot—this boot is designed for hunters, but it works for cyclists as well. By the way, the toe hook on the Bergraven gaiter will lock into this boot (but you will need to trim the hook with a Dremel rotary tool first).

Sometimes you just have to dismount and push your Fat Bike

Sometimes you just have to dismount and push your Fat Bike

We’ve had a lot of snow this winter and I’ve had to walk my bike through deep snow drifts on many occasions. Sometimes you can see a drift in front of you and just dismount and walk through it. However, a few times I’ve run into deep snow without any warning and these gaiters have kept the snow out of my boots every time!

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Fatbiking Gaiters are available in two sizes: Medium (38–43) and Large (44–50). These gaiters retail for $85 a pair—not cheap, but it’s hard to put a price on staying warm! You might live in an area of the country where you would never need a product like this, but I am certainly glad I bought them (especially this year).

 

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