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3,000 Miles Down

A rare photo of the All Seasons Cyclist without snow on the ground!

A rare photo of the All Seasons Cyclist without snow on the ground!

A few months ago I mentioned that the first 1,000 miles of the year are the hardest—at the time I didn’t know how difficult the second 1,000 miles was going to be! My first 1,000 miles for this year were all in the snow, while the second 1,000 miles seemed to be all going into a strong headwind (I live in the Chicago area). Fortunately, the third 1,000 miles proved to be a lot easier and this morning I passed the 3,000 mile mark for the year. For the past several years I have averaged a little over 6,000 miles of cycling per year. Last year I was just one short bike ride away from 5,000 miles because I had to take some time off the bike due to surgery (and then I was rather slow for a while during recovery). The brutal winter we had this year has put me seriously behind my normal schedule and it is rather doubtful that I will hit 6,000 miles this year.

A visit from the Puncture Fairy

A visit from the Puncture Fairy

This morning I rode with a friend of mine, Anna, and she had a visit from the Puncture Fairy about 50 miles into our ride. I am not sure what Anna did to tick off the Puncture Fairy, but she double-flatted today!

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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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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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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Top Five Cycling Products Of 2013

This year I’ve penned over 100 product reviews and today I would like to make mention of my top five favorite cycling products of 2013. It was hard for me to narrow this list down to just five items, but I did follow a couple of guidelines. This list is for cycling products that I reviewed this year, though not all of them were introduced this year. In addition, I limited myself to one winning product per manufacturer. If you click on the links below they will take you to the complete review for the product mentioned.

BikeLoot Box For July

BikeLoot

BikeLoot is a box of five to seven cycling related products that are mailed to subscribers every month (like carb gels, bars, hydration, and maintenance products). Most of the products are just samples of products you’ve probably have never heard of before. BikeLoot has several great advantages. First, you don’t have to buy a whole box of a product and the hope that you will like it once it arrives—you can try the sample from the BikeLoot box and if you like it you can order more, and if you don’t like you haven’t wasted any money. Second, you will be sampling products that most cyclists aren’t even going to hear about for another year or so! And third, the BikeLoot box also offers substantial discount codes for some of the products in the box.

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

I’ve spent a lot of money buying tires for my Fat Bike, but the best investment I’ve ever made in a set of tires was the 45NRTH Hüsker Dü. This is the tire that ought to come standard on every Fat Bike! The Hüsker Dü tires will give you a great grip in adverse conditions while still providing less rolling resistance on pavement or packed trails. These tires have a thread count of 120 tpi (threads per inch). Higher tpi tires are usually lighter, more supple and more expensive.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

High Quality Aluminum Construction

Lezyne makes some of the best bicycle hand pumps in the world, but the Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump is in a class all by itself. I bought this pump for my Surly Necromancer Pugsley—a Fat Bike with massive 4″ wide tires. Fat Bike tires usually run at very low pressure (10 to 15 psi on off-road trails; 5 to 7 psi on sand or snow), but they do require a high volume of air. Most bicycle hand pumps are designed to work the other way around (high pressure, low volume) and they would take forever to fill up a Fat Bike tire. A high volume pump like this one will fill your tires is 30% less time than most other pumps. The Lezyne Alloy Drive pump is made with CNC-machined aluminum construction, which makes it very durable and extremely lightweight—just 4.5 ounces (128 g) without the frame mount. This pump has a flex hose with a threaded Presta connection on one end and a threaded Schrader connection on the other.

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

I take my iPhone with me on every ride—in rain, snow, mud, sand or beautiful sunshine and the best case I’ve found so far is the Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case for the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5. One of the features I like best about the CloudCover case is that you can still use the iPhone camera without having to take the phone out of the case. I’ve experimented with this option several times and still cannot believe how well it works! As long as you are photographing in bright sunlight it is nearly impossible to tell that the phone was in the case when you took the photo.

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Out of the dozens of bicycle multi-tools I own, the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool has to be my favorite! Here is a breakdown of the seventeen tools in the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool: Eight Allen keys (8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.5, 2, and 1.5mm), one 10m open wrench, four spoke wrenches (3.23, 3.3, 3.45, 3.96mm), a chain break tool with two chain retainers, two Torx drivers (T25, T30), CO² Inflator head, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. This tool has a full metal body and is 2.75″ long, 1.5″ wide, and .75″ tall. This products weighs an even 4.0 ounces (114g). The chain tool on the Serfas ST-17i is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a cycling multi-tool. The biggest selling point for the Serfas ST-17i is the CO² inflator head (Presta valve only) that is built into the mini-tool.

 
 

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Picky Bars: All Natural Training Snacks (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

Picky Bars All Natural Training Snacks

Picky Bars: All Natural Training Snacks

I am always on the lookout for new nutritional products that I can take with me on long bike rides. As a distance cyclist I often burn over 5,000 calories on a ride and I try to consume around 300 calories per hour while riding. There are a lot of great carb gels on the market, but after a couple of hours on the bike I crave real food—but I need food that is all-natural and easy to digest. A few months ago I reviewed BikeLoot, a subscription service that sends a box of five to seven cycling related products to your home every month. In a recent shipment of loot they included a sample of Picky Bars and just one bite was all it took for me to want more!

Picky Bars are made from all-natural ingredients, such as: organic dates, hazelnut butter, organic almonds, cranberries, organic sunflower butter, sunflower seeds, honey, organic apricots, organic cashews, organic walnuts, organic peanut butter, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and rice protein powder. These bars are fairly small (2″ x 3″ x 1/2″), but are packed with flavor! Each bar has 200 calories or less and has a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio (28g carbohydrate and 7g protein). These bars are also gluten and dairy free, and contain less than 1% soy content.

Picky Bars are available in five flavors and come in boxes of ten. I ordered 20 bars so I could try several of each flavor (they only had four flavors available when I placed my order). The four flavors I tried were: Lauren’s Mega Nuts, Need For Seed, All-In Almond, and Smooth Caffeinator. The first three flavors were absolutely fantastic, and Lauren’s Mega Nuts was my favorite. As the name implies, Smooth Caffeinator has caffeine—25mg to be exact (about as much as 1/3 of a cup of coffee). I am not a coffee drinker, so I would not order the Smooth Caffeinator again because it does have a mild coffee flavor. However, I gave a stack of the Smooth Caffeinator bars to a friend of mine who does like coffee and he said they were great! The folks at Picky Bars have recently introduced a new flavor, temporarily known as Runner’s High, but I have not had a chance to try these out yet.

While these bars are not 100% Paleo approved (due to the use of peanut butter), I have no trouble recommending them to any athlete. I do need to point out that when the temperature is in the 90’s (32 Celsius) these bars are a bit messy (mainly because of the fat from the nut butters).

Picky Bars retail for $23 for a box of ten and are available from the Picky Bars website or Amazon.com. The average cost for carbohydrate gel is over $1.50 a package, but they usually only offer 100 calories per package. Since Picky Bars provide 200 calories per package they actually are a better buy! I’ve only done this for three products over the past few years, but I have to put Picky Bars on the Highly Recommended List—if you are an athlete you really need to buy a box of these bars!

 
 

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The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Cordain and Friel

The Paleo Diet for Athletes

The Paleo Diet for Athletes

Unless you have lived under a rock for the past few years, you have probably heard about the Paleo Diet (“the caveman diet”). The diet purports to emulate the diet that our ancient ancestors had—a lot of meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts, but no refined sugar, grains, legumes or dairy products. For the past couple of years a friend of mine has encouraged me to try the diet out, but diet’s restriction on carbohydrates pretty much ruled it out for me—I am a distance cyclist and on long rides my muscle glycogen stores would be depleted before I got halfway through my ride. However, while browsing on Amazon.com a few months ago I found a book titled, The Paleo Diet For Athletes: The Ancient Nutritional Formula For Peak Athletic Performance, by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel (Rodale Books; revised edition; September 2012). If you are an athlete and have either started or are considering starting the Paleo Diet you really need this book!

The entire Paleo Diet is summed up in just one paragraph from the book: “The fundamental dietary principles of the Paleo Diet for Athletes is simplicity itself: unrestricted consumption of fresh meats, poultry, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. Foods that are not part of the modern-day Paleolithic fare include cereal grains, dairy products, high-glycemic fruits and vegetables, legumes, alcohol, salty foods, processed meats, refined sugars, and nearly all processed foods.”

While I disagree with Cordain and Friel on the origin and development of mankind, I sincerely appreciate this book. The first third of the book deals with the nutritional requirements of athletes and this section alone is worth the price of the book! This is absolutely the best treatment of the nutritional requirements for athletes I’ve ever seen—especially for endurance athletes. The second section of the book discusses the authors views of the development of our stone age ancestors (interesting reading, but we all have different views on this matter). The last section of the book give 80 Paleo “energy-packed” recipes—again, interesting reading but there are better Paleo cookbooks on the market.

Thirteen years ago, before I started cycling, I was morbidly obese and in terrible health. In hindsight I realize that the majority of my problems came from a poor diet and lifestyle. At that time I held elected public office and served on the board of directors for nearly a dozen civic groups, which meant I seldom found time for a real meal, and never had time for either proper exercise or sleep. My road to recovery started with the Atkins Diet and cycling—then I gradually withdrew from public life and started focusing more on my health.

While I’ve basically followed the Atkins Diet for thirteen years, I couldn’t follow their guidelines while cycling because a low-carb diet just isn’t compatible with endurance sports like distance cycling. The Paleo Diet is more of a “sensible carb” diet than a “low carb” diet. In fact, The Paleo Diet For Athletes has convinced me to consume more carbs during and after a long bike ride than I had before! Switching from the Atkins Diet to the Paleo Diet was not a problem at all for me—basically I just had to give up dairy products and cereal grains. The surgeon who repaired my esophagus back in June had already told me I needed to give up dairy products, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable after eating cereal grains anyway. So, switching to the Paleo Diet was really easy for me and the food tastes so much better!

The biggest difference between the normal Paleo Diet and the Paleo Diet For Athletes is the use of carb gels before, during and after exercise. As the author states on page seven of the book, “Perhaps the most important refinement made to my original Paleo Diet was Joe’s recognition that consumption of starches and simple sugars was necessary and useful only during exercise and in the immediate postexercise period.” In my case, for example, they would recommend that I consume a 100-calorie pack of carb gel 10 minutes before my bike ride, then 300 calories of gels and/or sports drinks per hour during the ride, followed by 600 calories of carbohydrates within 30 minutes after the ride (along with protein powder). The amount of carbs gels you need will vary depending on your weight and the length and intensity of your exercise.

I realize that some people would never try the Paleo Diet because it involves the consumption of red meat. If you are a vegetarian due to religious beliefs I can accept that without any problem. If you are a vegetarian because you think that makes you morally superior to the rest of us, well, you have my sympathy. If you are a member of PETA please feel free to stop by my office and I’ll grab a crayon and big piece of construction paper so I can explain the facts of life to you in a way you can understand (hint: human beings are carnivores and we have eight incisors for a reason—and it’s not so we can tear into pieces of tofu).

In case you can’t tell, I really like the Paleo Diet For Athletes! Like most men, I would rather die than count calories or have to measure my food before every meal. On the Paleo Diet I’m eating a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, along with a sensible portion of animal-based protein (red meat, fish, turkey, chicken, etc.) at every meal. It seems like I am never hungry and my weight is still dropping and energy levels are increasing.

The Paleo Diet For Athletes retails for $16 in paperback, and Amazon.com has it for $13 (or $9 for the Kindle version). As I mentioned above, if you are an athlete you need to read the section of this book on the nutritional requirements of athletes, even if you don’t follow the Paleo Diet.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2013 in Book Reviews, Sports Nutrition

 

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Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt For Summer Sports

One of the nice things about living between Chicago and Milwaukee is that our summers are usually pretty mild. However, last summer was one of the hottest on record and there were many days I had to go riding at 5:00 in the morning just to avoid the heat. This year has not been as hot, but the humidity has been unbearable. As a result, I have looked at ways to stay cool while cycling in hot weather and one of my favorite “discoveries” has been the Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt.

Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt

Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt

The Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt is a base layer—an extremely lightweight sleeveless shirt that you wear under your regular cycling jersey (or running jersey if you are so inclined). The shirt is made of 95% Polyester and 5% Lycra and woven into a lightweight mesh. Since the shirt is slightly “puffy” it forms a thin airspace between your skin and your jersey and Craft claims that this shirt will make you feel 6 degrees cooler than you would otherwise feel.

Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt

Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt Base Layer

How well does the Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt work? Well, while you are moving it is incredible, but if you stand still in the direct sunlight for very long you will begin to heat up (so keep moving). The idea behind this product is that if you wick moisture away from the skin and then run air over it the process of evaporation will cool your skin down. This shirt has flat seam contour construction that reduces chaffing and the fabric resists odors (but when you get home your regular jersey will still stink).

Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt

Close-up Of The Mesh On The Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt

The first time I wore this base layer was on a day when the temperature was in the 90’s (33 degrees Celsius) and the humidity was around 85%—it felt like I was riding directly into a hair dryer that was set on high. I wasn’t sure if the shirt was doing anything for me until I stopped at a rest area—after a quick “nature break” I got back on the bike and it felt like the temperature dropped by several degrees! If you unzip your jersey about halfway it will scoop in a lot of air and make the process of evaporation cool you down a noticeable amount. When I got back from my ride I immediately ordered a second shirt so I would always have a clean one to wear!

The Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt comes in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL) and appears to be true to size. This shirt retails for $45, but I was able to get mime from Amazon.com for under $39. Craft also offers this shirt in a style made for women.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2013 in Product Reviews

 

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