Product Reviews - A Whole Winter's Worth
By Darren Dencklau
All sorts of products come to the offices of Bicycle Paper each year — most of them are good, while others are not. What starts out as a short email interaction turns into a package that shows up at our doorstep like a holiday offering, even when it’s nowhere near December.
We have been putting gear through the ringer this year, and I feel that it’s a privilege to do so, as both large companies and small one-man (or woman) operations trust us enough to write honestly about their wares that they are decidedly proud of. That said, we’ve picked some of the more recently received and seasonal-specific products to feature in our last issue of 2012.
We’re quite certain that you will find something of interest and discover some gift ideas for the upcoming holidays. But don’t just take our word for it, do some of your own research and contact your local bike shops to see if you can test something out yourself. They’ll be glad to see you.
ZOIC™ Men’s Reign Stretch Knicker and RPL Essential Cycling Liner
ZOIC’s fall 2012 line includes some new garments made specifically for cooler temperatures. The Reign Stretch Knickers are pliable “shants” featuring articulated knees, front and back pockets, two cargo pockets with zip closures, headphone cord grommet and loop, sunglass wiper, double snap waist with drawstring for reinforcement, and are made of a polyester/spandex blend.
If I had to rely on one word to describe these it would be comfortable, with a capital “C.” Made of 84% polyester and 16% spandex, I really like the stretchy fit and the thinner material. They are comfy against the skin and they hug my skinny legs adequately. The crotch fits tight enough to my butt that I don’t have much of an issue with them snagging on the saddle after standing on the pedals or during remounts. Also, the size mediums I tested didn’t even require a belt (I typically wear a 32” waist size). Overall, the Reign Knickers are a solid garment and I wear them often.
The RPL Essential Cycling Liner shorts I received with the knickers were not especially comfortable and the padded insert tended to ride up my crack while off the bike. They are satisfactory for the commute, but not for the long haul, although I have read several positive reviews about them; maybe they work better for others.
MSRP for the Reign Stretch Knickers is $59. RPL Essential Cycling Liner is $35. For more details visit zoic.com.
Ortlieb Bike-Packer Plus
Earlier this year I tested a pair of the Ortlieb Bike-Packer Plus rear panniers. This waterproof symmetrical set features the company’s proprietary QL2 attachment system, outer pockets, horizontal and vertical compression straps, and detachable shoulder straps.
The first thing I became aware of was how well thought-out the attachment system is. The design allows each pannier to be mounted on either side of a rear rack. There are several options for adjusting the width and depth of all points of contact, guaranteeing ample heel clearance. The QL2 hooks have plastic inserts of different sizes that can be swapped to fit bar diameters from 8mm to 16mm, ensuring a snug fit on most any setup. To mount, simply pull up on the webbed handle, line up the bottom hook located on the backside of the bag with the legs of the rack, and drop it into place. To dismount, pull up on the handle again.
With this ease of attachment and detachment, one might believe the panniers would come off inadvertently while riding — not so. In fact, I rode fairly rough terrain with a full load of gear and experienced no issues.
The Cordura fabric is durable, waterproof and completely sealed. The internal drawstrings also help reinforce the safekeeping of inside contents. The outside pockets have to be cinched down by the compression straps, located on the sides, so particular care must be taken with smaller loads.
My only complaint of the Bike-Packer Plus model is its few compartments. There is an inner pocket with zippered closures, but when the bags are completely full, these are difficult to get to. When touring, I prefer the convenience of several outside pockets to keep gear separated, as I abhor digging through my stuff or taking it all out just to find a small item at the bottom of everything. An extra compartment with zipper access on the “roof” of the bags would help.
Overall, I enjoy the ease of setup and security these panniers offer. They are great for the commute and the long haul. Even though I would like more outside pockets, the design is simple and both water and bombproof — maybe I just need to be more organized.
Colors include black, graphite, and yellow (tested). MSRP is $235 for the pair. Visit OrtliebUSA.com for more information.
Vemma, short for “vitamins, essential minerals, mangosteen, aloe,” recently sent me a box, as well as their Verve! Energy Drink (8.3-ounce can) and Verve! Low-Carb Shots (2-ounce bottle).
The company claims that consuming Vemma regularly supports a healthy heart, boosts the immune system, creates energy, promotes good vision, and produces and maintains healthy skin, eyes, teeth, gums, and hair(1).
The beverage’s main ingredient is mangosteen, a purple fruit that grows from a tropical evergreen tree found primarily in Southeast Asia. Mangosteen has been used for centuries and has been documented for its numerous medicinal properties. It contains xanthonoids, believed to help fight against certain diseases, reduce inflammation, treat skin infections, and more. Other ingredients include aloe vera gel, green tea, natural fructose, natural flavors, xanthum gum, and malic acid. Each serving has 12 vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and boasts only 35 calories.
The taste is pleasant and very sweet although it’s difficult to compare to other more common fruits, I would say it has an orangey-kiwi-like flavor.
The Verve! products contain most of the same ingredients, vitamins and minerals as Vemma. Additional ingredients include taurine, natural caffeine, D-Ribose, Inositol, and Choline Chloride. Concerned about the names of the last three ingredients mentioned, I looked them up. All of these are fancy names for naturally produced amino acids, sugars and vitamins that have been used to boost the immune system, treat anemia, prevent heart disease and kidney stones, and even to treat and prevent cancer, among other things.
I don’t particularly care for the taste of the Verve! Energy Drink, but since it’s only 8.3 oz., I liken it to drinking a Red Bull — sometimes it’s necessary, but with Verve! it doesn't have that flu medicine aftertaste.
For more information visit Vemma.com.
1. Statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
Update (10/30/14): There is a very interesting article on the company and its business practices at RollingStone.com, which can be found here.
Cébé Cinetik Sunglasses
I had never heard of Cébé before being sent a pair of their gray and orange Cinetik sunglasses. They came in a padded case with three different lenses — orange, yellow, and clear. The first thing I noticed was how light the frames are, a svelte 58 grams. Trying them on, the nose-piece sat comfortably and the arms didn’t dig into my head.
Looking through them, the mirrored orange lens provides a very neutral color and the peripheral vision is excellent due to the sparse material used on the arms. Wind deflection was above par and my contact lens-covered eyeballs remained happy on fast descents.
Although they may appear to be a bit cheap and flimsy, I found them anything but. While on a mountain bike ride this past summer, a friend accidentally stepped on them after I set them on a log during a rest stop. Although it made a catastrophic noise and one of the lenses popped out from the frame, they did not break. Maybe I got lucky?
The Cinetiks have been one of my go-to sunglasses, especially when the lighting is iffy while setting out for a ride; a quick and easy lens swap turns them from a bright sunlight repellant to a nighttime bug screen and windbreaker. They are durable and get the job done, and if they happen to break or become lost, the monetary setback is minimal.
MSRP is $49.95 and they are available in four different frame colors. Visit cebe.com for more information.
T-Leatherworks Mud Flaps
Fenders are a must in the Northwest, but they do have their limitations; just ask anyone following another rider closely on a rainy group ride. Most full fenders only come halfway down the wheel and water will still stream up from behind, creating a rooster tail aimed directly at the person behind.
Seattle, Wash., resident Tarik Abdullah recently started his own small business called T-Leatherworks, making leather mud flaps that extend below a regular fender’s reach. Fabricated from recycled strips of various colors, he hand cuts each one and adorns many of them with rivets and his signature single cog logo.
I not so recently received a pair of them — one longer and narrower designed for the rear fender, the other shorter and wider for the front. Each piece has two vertically aligned holes near the top center; just line the perforations up to where you want to situate the flap, drill through the fender, and screw the included hardwear into place. To make this process easier and to avoid accidentally drilling a hole in your tire, take the wheel out first. Abdullah also recommends weatherproofing the leather for longevity, but I haven’t yet and they have functioned just fine.
T-Leatherworks’ mud flaps give bikes a classy English-style appearance, ala Brooks Saddles, and do the trick in nasty weather conditions, surely to the approval of anyone following closely. If you want to give your commuter or even the fancy weekend steed a unique look while doing others a favor by keeping grime off their faces, you may want to give these a go.
MSRP is $19 each or $35 per set. Visit tsleatherworkz.wordpress.com for more details and photos of all offerings from T-Leatherworks.
Socks Aren’t Just Socks
When it comes to what goes on my feet, I am extremely picky. In fact, it’s safe to say that you’ll never catch me wearing a pair of cheap white cotton socks. Wool is my preferred material; it feels good, looks good, lasts a long time, and can be worn many times before the odors settle in. There are other alternative materials that do the trick, but they usually are a wool blend. I’ve been testing a few different socks recently, and since the holidays are coming up, I figured I’d feature them for gift ideas. Here are my thoughts.
Darn Tough is a family owned and operated company located in Vermont. They make socks that are, well, darn tough! I have two pairs — the Solid Micro Crew and 1/4 sock. Both feature high-density knitting and the 1/4 offers True Seamless™ technology, an undetectable toe seam, and reinforced heel and toe. They are great on the bike and while running and so far have held up to their name. Darn Tough is so sure of their products they offer an unconditional lifetime guarantee. Maple syrup is not the only thing made in Vermont. Highly recommended. Content: 60% Merino wool, 33% nylon, 7% Lycra®spandex. MSRP is $17.
Visit darntough.com for more information.
If you’ve ever seen riders sporting funky and colorful knee-highs at cyclocross or mountain bike races, there’s a good chance that Sock Guy made them. The company offers a slew of fun graphics and themes, including models called “Lucha Libre,” “I Heart Livestock,” and “Beano,” to name a few. One of my favorites is a limited edition that was made specifically for Soulcraft Bikes at the 2009 Singlespeed World Championships; “No TP? Wipe Here,” is embroidered near the arches, suggesting that they can be used for more than keeping your feet warm and comfortable.
I recently tried a pair of the Safety Meeting crew socks ($9.95) made of acrylic, nylon and spandex, as well as the Wooligan Granite ($12.95) model, a winter sock with a 4” cuff constructed of TURBOwool, which is a blend of polypropylene and Merino wool. Both models are super comfy and the Wooligans are especially great on cooler days. Visit sockguy.com for details.
Next up is a pair of the Cyclismo socks from DeFeet. This model features a compression fit, “no-feel” toe seam, ADVANSA Thermo Cool™ Duoregulation, AeroSpeed™ Cuff, and Aireator® mesh technology. So, what does this all mean? Well, in laymen’s terms, they are fancy.
They “breathe” effectively, stay put, and are pretty sleek looking — black with a white band on the cuff. DeFeet has been manufacturing high quality cycling socks for 20 years; they know a thing or two about them. Content: 38% Nylon, 33% Therma°cool, 16% Lycra, 13% Elastic. MSRP is $15. Check out DeFeet.com for more.
Merino wool is the staple material at Point6, as it naturally regulates body temperature, controls odor, wicks away moisture and lasts. The company’s name actually comes from the number 98.6 — the body’s optimal temperature. Using compact spun yarn, their socks feature more fibers than ring spun yarn, which is typically used by other manufacturers.
I’ve had the opportunity to test some of their 2013 line, including the Big Day, Rider, and Flyer models. All of them have performed flawlessly so far and after many wears, the material has stayed taut. My favorite is the Flyer, which features white wings on black. Go to Point6.com for more.
For proper care on all socks, it’s best to machine wash them inside out in cool or warm water on gentle cycle, then either air dry or tumble dry on low.
Lights & Motion Taz 800
Lights & Motion has been cranking out their products in Monterey, Calif., for roughly 20 years. The company takes pride in designing and building everything here in the U.S. The Taz 800 is from their “Crossover” line of illumination. It is self-contained, meaning no detached battery unit, waterproof, and is built for both commuting and trail riding.
Featuring three high-powered LED bulbs, there are five mode settings, high (800 lumens), medium (400), low (200), pulse (200) and flash (200). The lower power settings provide a longer battery life and are good for the commute, while the high setting effortlessly turns night into day — making trail riding a very viable option. On its brightest setting, the Taz 800 is rated to last two hours (four on medium, eight on low, 12 on pulse) and the flash mode is projected to illuminate for 24 hours before requiring a recharge using the included cord that plugs into a USB port.
On the trail, the beam emitted from this light is both powerful and wide and when compared to the company’s higher end “Performance” line, it holds its weight respectably. One of my favorite features is the battery life indicator. The clear top mounted power button glows green when the light is fully charged, amber serves as a warning, and then flashes red when it’s getting close to “dying.” This is a great design, and especially comes in handy while trail riding. Behind the power button is another switch, which turns off and on the amber lights located on each side.
The Taz 800 is exceptionally simple and easy to mount onto handlebars — Lights & Motion also offers a helmet mount attachment for an additional $10. I can charge up at work and by nightfall it’s ready to go. So far I have been very impressed and the estimated battery life seems to be accurate. Those extra lumens offer a sense of security on really dark bike paths and lights up the singletrack to boot.
Weight is just 215 grams. MSRP is $249. There is also a Taz 1200 model and Stella 300 in Light & Motion’s Crossover line. Check out lightandmotion.com for more information.
CleanEthics Bottle Bright
By Claire Bonin
As a cyclist, you have probably experienced the difficulty of trying to clean water bottles after leaving them partially filled with leftover energy drinks for a little too long. They get gooey, stained, and smelly, often leaving an unwanted and permanent taste no matter what you fill them with. At home, many find their way to the recycling bin.
I recently tried Bottle Bright, a chlorine-free, non-toxic, and biodegradable product designed to remedy this situation. It did an excellent job of cleaning even the most tacky bottles selected for testing. Simple to use, just put warm water in the receptacle, pop in a tablet, shake it and let it sit for 10-15 minutes, et voilà!, a clean bottle. It also works well on hydration bladders and can be used for all sorts of containers, including coffee-stained mugs, with the same result. Another plus, it doesn’t leave any residual taste behind.
MSRP is $11.95 for a 10-pack tube or $25.95 for 20-single packets. Visit cleanethics.com.