Posts Tagged ‘biking’

Salomon Trail 20 Review

September 29, 2016

It’s been a long while since I’ve done a review of any sorts, and that’s probably some combination of laziness and wanting to do in-depth reviews with lots of pretty pictures and whatnot. But I figure there may be some useful value to just sharing thoughts on products I use on a regular basis, not worrying too much about getting into nitty gritty tech specs, but just with the hopes of making your next purchase a little bit more informed.

Since moving from the suburbs to roughly 5 miles bikeable distance to Boston, I’ve been biking to work almost daily on my GT Grade. In fact, as of the time I started drafting this post, I think I took the subway 3 times into work as opposed to riding. It’s been a really wonderful change to my daily commute, certainly coming from upwards of 75 minutes by car from our suburban home, and I look forward to it on a daily basis.

Of course, one challenge when bike commuting is how to transport your clothes needed for work. Luckily, I work in an office with a pretty casual dress code, i.e. no dress code, when we don’t have clients, so my daily officewear is jeans, a button down, and sneakers. Since I started riding into work, I’ve left a pair of sneakers in the office, cutting down on the things I need to transport. I also am able to leave my U-Lock and cable locked to the bike rack in our office building. For the rest of what I need, I use the Salomon Trail 20 backpack.

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In this bag, I can comfortably fit a pair of jeans, shirt, and foundation garments (socks too!). Although I generally don’t take my lock with me, I can also fit the U-lock and cable when needed. I would not say it’s appropriate for a suit, but it’s fine otherwise. I think it’d also be tight if you bring shoes with you on a daily basis, but, again, not a concern of mine. For what it’s worth, Salomon states the pack’s volume is 20 l. and 1220 ci.

To keep the pack secure as you bomb through urban streets, the pack has both a chest and waist strap, both of which I find keep the pack exactly where I want it to be. I don’t experience any kind of slipping around, whether when “sprinting” or climbing. The waist strap has two pockets, a zipped one on the left, and a mesh open pocket on the right side. The zip pocket comfortably fits my wallet and keys. Each side of the pack also has deep mesh pockets, which I often use to hold my phone in case I need to access it quickly for, you know, directions. Definitely not for selfies. I never take selfies when riding.

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OK, this ONE time I stopped and took a selfie, but that was purely to illustrate the backpack for this post. Except that I took it a couple weeks before starting this post. And before I decided to write this post. Also, I take a lot of selfies while riding.

So, there you have it, if you’re looking for a streamlined pack for bike commuting, I’d recommend checking out the Salomon Trail 20!

Hannukah Gifts/Stocking Stuffers For Your Triathlete

November 20, 2015

With the weather in Boston in the 50s today, it seems crazy to think that the holiday season is nearly upon us.  I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to know it’s the holiday season when Starbucks cups are just plain red in color, devoid of any symbolism.  Still, Hannukah is a scant couple of weeks away, which I did not even realize until beginning this post, starting the night of Sunday, December 6, and Christmas is, the 25th?  It’s hard to keep track of it with it changing dates year to year!

Last year, R and I switched things up and did a gift each night of Hannukah, rather than one big gift.  I think we kept the price range under $10, allowing for some bigger gifts balanced by some smaller ones.  It made us think a bit more about what we’d get for each other and was pretty fun.  I figure the same guidelines work for stocking stuffers, but I’ll admit I’ve only ever received a stocking from my in-laws, and have never stuffed one myself.  There is truly no shortage of holiday gift guides out there for runners, cyclists, running cyclists, swimmers, triathletes, etc., but I honestly never find them all that useful, and most don’t focus on smaller gifts.  So, here’s hoping this list of gift ideas for the triathlete in your life, any of which I’d want to receive myself (hint hint R if you’re reading this) proves helpful!

1. Bike Tubes

Any cyclist will tell you that you can never have too many spare tubes around.  I’ve ended rides thinking that I was coming home on a perfectly good tube only to find the next time I went to go out that I’d somehow gotten a puncture at a late point in the ride and was in need of a tube.  Road tubes will generally be 700 (diameter) x __ (width).  Do some digging in your triathlete’s stash to see if you can get the size they use.  Otherwise, something in the low 20s will be just fine.

It’s tough to go wrong with a Continental tube.

2. CO2 Inflator and Cartridges

So, you’ve got a flat, you take out your brand new spare tube, and what do you use to inflate it?  While some roadies keep a frame pump or mini-pump on them, those pumps often can’t get a high enough PSI for a road tube, are bulky and heavy to carry (heavy in a roadie sense) and don’t work with tri bikes.  Maybe it’s not the sexiest of gifts, but it’ll help keep your triathlete rolling!

To actually use the cartridge, you need a chuck.  The chuck screws on to the cartridge and lets you actually get air out.

If you want to splurge a little, I use the Portland Design Works Shiny Object CO2 Inflator with 16G Cartridge set, which is $27.76 on Amazon.  What I like about this set is the chuck lets you regulate the flow of air into the tube, which is quite helpful when changing a tube, and the leather sleeve protects your hand from the cartridge, which gets very cold in use.

3. Socks

Good socks are the best.  Like, seriously, the best.  Some prefer short socks, some prefer long socks.  Me?  I like long socks when it comes to training, short for racing, mostly for ease of use with an ankle chip strap.  Socks have special significant, for some reason, in the cycling world, earning multiple references in the Velominati rules, and are a source of expression for riders.  Plus the good ones are super comfortable.  Personally, I prefer socks from The Athletic, based out of Portland.

4. Casquettes de Cyclisme/Cycling Caps

I first fell in love with the cycling cap from an unlikely source…

That’s right, White Men Can’t Jump.  Now, I’ll admit, these hats are rather controversial, with some very strong opinions on both sides.  I happen to love them, both on the bike and off, and have a fairly good collection going right now.  Some hats are made from technical fibers and go well under a helmet to help keep sweat out of your eyes.  They are also great for sweaty trainer rides.

There is a large variety of hats out there, some are vintage cool.

Some are groovy.

And some are just wicked awesome.

5. Fuel

Having the right fuel for training and racing is vitally important.  Especially during peak training periods, this means going through a lot of gels, chews, powders, waffles and bars.  You really cannot have enough of your favorite source of energy and these items make great small gifts.

For drink mix, I like Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix, which is sold both in 1 lb bags and singles.  The singles are great for their portability, which is especially handy for traveling for races and for taking on long rides to refuel with.

For chewy fuel, I dig Skratch Labs Fruit Drops, as documented in my review.

6. Tools

Is your triathlete a tinkerer?  Does he or she like to do maintenance on his or her own bike rather than take it into the shop every time it needs an adjustment?  If so, your triathlete might enjoy some new additions to the toolbox!  This might be the kind of thing where you might have to do some inquiry into what tools are already in hand, and what may be needed.  Your triathlete may also have a brand preference for tools.  Personally, I love the look and performance of Park Tools.  Some options to consider include:

A pedal wrench.

Three-way hex wrench.

Mini Chain Brute Chain Tool.

7. Lube

Get your mind out of the gutter.  A properly lubed bike drivetrain is a happy drivetrain.  Give your triathlete the gift of a well-lubed machine.

 

8. Custom Name Stickers

This gift was absolutely my favorite one from last Hannukah.  Most pro riders have custom name decals for their bikes, and now your triathlete can have the same.  Name stickers help set your bike apart from the rest of the field, make you feel like a pro, and give you a chance to add some self-expression to your steed.

Sticker Name

9. Swim Gear

Finally, swimming involves a surprising amount of training tools, many of which your triathlete may not have bought for him/herself, instead relying on the grody stuff at the pool.  To upgrade their gear, consider:

TYR Pull Float

Speedo Mesh Equipment Bag

TYR Kickboard

 

Should I happen upon some other neat-looking gift ideas, I’ll be sure to update this post.  Until then, happy holidays to all!

 

 

XX2i Sunglasses Review

August 4, 2015

It is with great excitement that I can say I am now a part of the Rudy Project/XX2i team!  If you’re into the cycling or triathlon world it’s a virtual certainty that you’ve heard about Rudy Project before.  Their helmets dominate the Kona field year after year and their sunglasses are a superb combination of technical features and style.    XX2i is distributed by the same company as Rudy Project, Running And Cycling Enterprises (R.A.C.E.) and has been making a name for itself alongside Rudy Project at race expos as a more affordable entry into performance optics.  There are a wide range of options available in different frame styles starting at $59.99, putting the sunglasses at the same price point, or cheaper, than Tifosi or Optic Nerve, which occupy the same space.  The difference?  XX2i glasses are plain and simple better.

For my review, XX2i sent me a pair of the France2 glasses with the crystal frame, green tips, and green flash lenses.  The lenses on this frame are interchangeable, with replacement lenses only costing $24.99.  The glasses come with a great case that keeps your glasses well-protected with foam while not taking up too much space in a bag.  Also, it looks much cooler than competitors’.

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Here are the glasses themselves.

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I seriously love that green, and it just so happens that it matches my bike, which is super-important!  You can see the nose piece looks a little misshapen, but that’s just because it’s adjustable and got bent a little before I took the picture.  The ear tips are also adjustable.

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Now, of course, sunglasses for running and biking aren’t just about looks –   what matters is how they perform.  I first took the glasses out on a commute ride, about 24 miles, on a hot, humid, sunny morning.  As you can see in the picture above, one of The Rules I adhere to when pure road riding (as opposed to triathlon racing) is ear pieces over helmet straps.  I found the glasses to be very comfortable on my face, with no discomfort in the nose or ear regions.

You can see just how much face coverage the France2 provides.  I haven’t experienced any eye tearing with these sunglasses as the lenses do a great job of providing both sun and wind protection.  The clarity is also excellent, better than my Tifosis, giving me confidence when going from sunlight into shade and not worrying as much about seeing road imperfections.

The coolest feature of the sunglasses though is how they shed sweat.  I didn’t notice this feature until I felt a cool stream on my face and couldn’t figure out why.  With my other sunglasses, sweat would streak the lens and dry, making it hard to see.  Not so with the XX2i’s.  Even on hot, sweaty rides, I haven’t had any issues with the lenses staying fairly dry, a huge plus during a New England summer.  Similarly, I had zero issues with fogging while riding.  If I stopped long enough at a light the lenses did fog up, but that went away immediately when I started back up again.

Two other important features to note from the XX2i website:

WARRANTY: Lifetime Warranty! No questions asked, you break or scratch them, send them back to be replaced for a nominal shipping and handling fee!

RETURN POLICY: 365 Days! We know it may take some time to try on and get comfortable with a pair of sunglasses bought online so that’s why we give you a full year to do so! That’s right, take up to 365 days to determine if you want to keep them and if not, send them back for a full refund less any shipping and handling fee.

You can call me an XX2i convert, which I suppose is a good thing if I’m going to be on the team.  Though I was sent these glasses free (that’s my obligatory blogger disclaimer), these opinions are all mine and completely uninfluenced by RACE, Rudy Project, or XX2i.  Silly though it sounds, I want to ride more so I can wear these sunglasses more.  Feel good, ride good.  Here’s the best part, if you’ve made it this far in the review you can be rewarded with a 50% off discount code for Rudy Project.  How’s that sound?  To get the code, leave a comment with your email address and I will send you directions forthwith.

Happy swimbikerunning!

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