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Category Archives: Gear and Tools

Watts Next?

Graphic courtesy of outsideonline.com

When you buy a complete road bicycle, including pedals, it is ready to ride. Sort of. To ride safely, you need front and rear lights and a bell. To ride for more than thirty minutes, you need bottle cages and some bottles. If you don’t want to fill your jersey pockets, you need a saddle bag to carry a spare inner tube, a multi-tool, etc. And if you want to keep track of how far and how fast you rode, you need a cycling computer.

Thus equipped, you are ready to tackle most rides. You will be tempted to upgrade various components, but you don’t need to add anything else to your bike. But when did “need” get in the way of “want?”

You may want a power meter. A valid reason to add a power meter to your bike is you are a competitive cyclist who wants to train using power. Most of us want to add power meters because they are cool pieces of technology. And we like cool technology.

Power meters came into being in 1989 when Ulrich Schoberer started selling crank spider-based power meters. At the time Schoberer Rad Messtechnik (SRM) was the only power meter game in town. And the prices were eye-wateringly high.

Since then the power meter market has grown to include hub-based, crank arm-based, bottom-bracket based and pedal-based power meters.

Graphic courtesy of dcrainmaker.com

Examples of the various types of power meter are pictured below.

Prices have come down. SRM is still the price leader at about USD2,350 for the SRM Origin. Alternatively, a Quark DZero spider-based power meter costs USD399. At this price, you need to supply the chainrings and crank arms.

One downside of hub, spider, crank arm and bottom bracket-based power meters is that they cannot easily be switched between bicycles.

Pedal-based power meters are increasingly popular because they can be swapped from one bike to another with minimum fuss. However, power meter pedals are not available for all pedal interfaces. The Assioma Favero Duo, Garmin Vector, and SRM Look Exakt are Look pedal compatible only.

Lately, there has been a buzz around pedal-based power meters. In February, SRAM announced that it acquired Time, a French pedal manufacturer. SRAM owns Quark and Powertap. They have announced that the Powertap P2 power meter pedal will no longer be available. Will a Powertap P3 power meter pedal come soon, or even a Time pedal-based power meter?

Favero has hinted that it will launch a version of its Assioma Duo that will be compatible with Shimano SPD-SL pedal bodies.

Photograph courtesy of cyclingtips.com

Also, on the compatibility front, it seems Garmin is about to expand its range of power meter pedals to encompass the three most popular systems: Shimano SPD-SL road, Look Keo road, and Shimano SPD mountain bike interfaces. With a new name – Rally, instead of Vector.

Photograph courtesy of cyclingtips.com

Finally, Wahoo just announced the launch of its Speedplay pedal range. Wahoo acquired Speedplay two years ago, and there has been much speculation about the platform’s future. Along with four updated pedals, Wahoo announced the Powrlink Zero. Few details are available, apart from a Summer 2021 launch and the photograph below.

Graphic courtesy of dcrainmaker.com

If a SRAM Time-compatible power meter pedal hits the market, users of almost all pedal interface types – Shimano SPD-SL, Look Keo, SpeedPlay, and Time – will have a power meter pedal option.

Price remains a barrier to entry to the world of power meter pedals. A set of SRM Exakts cost USD1,699. Garmin Vector 3s go for USD1,000. There is no word yet on the pricing for the various Garmin Rally power meter pedals. A set of Favero Assioma Duo pedals costs about USD650. The expected retail price for the Wahoo Powrlink Zero is USD1,000.

Despite being a life-long SpeedPlay user, I don’t think a set of Wahoo Powrlink Zeros will be on my Watts Next list.

Something New at the Bicycle Shop

I recently read an online article in Bloomberg Pursuits about record growth over the past year in the market for musical equipment. And with it, a new affliction: gear acquisition syndrome (GAS).

GAS is defined as a tendency to purchase more equipment than justified by usage or price.

Music Radar states that guitarists are the most at-risk population for GAS. Middle-aged men are heavily represented.

It strikes me that cyclists can be added to the list of the GAS afflicted.

Graphic courtesy of pinterest.com

Cyclists, certainly the middle-aged ones, fit nicely into the 7 stages of Gear Acquisition Syndrome, as outlined in Music Radar.

Dissatisfaction

There was a time when you loved everything about your bicycle. But of late, every time you ride, you feel like every other cyclist is riding something better. Your bike isn’t as pretty as all those other bikes. The ones with custom paintwork and higher-range drivetrains. The grass is greener. . . .

Desire

You’ve seen the bicycle you want, and it is embedded in your brain. Only this bike can bring happiness. With it in your hands, your riding will improve.

You don’t just want it. You need it, to the point that you’re not entirely sure you’ll survive without it. It’s time to start edging towards making this new purchase a reality.

Research

A hallmark of the 21st-century shopping experience is the paralysing indecision that comes after a couple of hours spent reading reviews of a product you thought you wanted.

For cyclists, the problem is much, much worse. Everyone will have an opinion on your potential purchase. One minute you will be feeling positive having read a lengthy, seemingly well-informed review. The next minute you’ll see multiple comments below it that destroy every positive point.

But if the GAS is strong with you, no amount of negative press can change your plan of action.

Purchase

You know what you want, and you know what you’re willing to pay. You go to the shop that has the right bike in stock or can order one for you.

You begin the process of haggling with the guy behind the counter, but your heart isn’t really in it, and he knows it. He offers you an insignificant discount, and you take it because you are blinded by desire.

Plastic is waved. Your heart is close to bursting with joy. Inevitably, it won’t last…

Guilt

For a week after you take delivery, the guilt ruins your enjoyment of your lovely new purchase. You can barely even look at your bicycle for the shame, so you hide it. Or claim that you just had it repainted.

Acceptance


You eventually stop feeling guilty. You rejoice! You finally own the bicycle of your dreams. The one you will take to your grave. Hooray! Except…

Relapse

If the purchase was relatively small, expect to experience GAS again quite quickly. You’ll be reading new product reviews without even realising it.

A high-end bicycle? Well, you’ve probably brought yourself a year or two. Eventually, though, the sense of glory diminishes. You swear the bike feels heavier.

You remember a friend telling you about a new bike shop. You’ll drop in to buy inner tubes.

After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Disclosure

I have Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I own three bicycles and multiple cycling accessories and tools.

However, I didn’t buy a new bike during the writing of this post.

Chemical Soup

A few of the group on the 70km to 80km long ride last Sunday had not ridden in months. Everyone finished, but there were a few moans during and after the ride.

Graphic courtesy of cycling-passion.com

A long time off the saddle left some feeling a bit sore around the ischial tuberosities aka sit bones.

That led to a conversation about chamois creams. I religiously use chamois cream. The one time I didn’t, I developed a saddle sore. Since then, I ensure that I have a ready supply of Chamois Butt’r Original. My chosen brand of chamois cream. Unfortunately, Chamois Butt’r isn’t available locally.

I ordered some online a while ago. COVID-19 compromised logistics chains mean that I haven’t received my order yet. As I am running low, I recently bought some Assos Chamois Crème from my LBS. I have not used Assos Chamois Crème because it contains menthol. I didn’t want that “cooling” effect. But beggars can’t be choosers.

I looked at the Assos Chamois Crème jar to check if menthol is still on the list of ingredients. It is, along with a chemical soup of other ingredients.

I have been following a thread of comments on VeloNews about skin sensitivities. The conversation started with skin sensitivity to synthetic materials used in cycling bibs. The thread went on to include sensitivity to laundry detergents and chamois creams. That led me to research what each of the ingredients in a tub of Assos Chamois Crème does. Here is what I found.

Photograph courtesy of Assos of Switzerland
IngredientFunction
WaterSolvent
OctyldodecanolEmollient
Glyceryl Stearate SEEmollient
GlycerinEmollient
Propylene GlycolEmollient
Cetearyl AlcoholEmollient
Alcohol Sorbitan StearateEmulsifier
Polysorbate 60Emulsifier
CyclopentasiloxaneEmulsifier
OzokeriteEmulsifier
Viscosity Increasing Agent
Hydrogenated Vegetable OilEmollient
Menthyl LactateCooling agent
PhenoxyethanolPreservative
Stearyl StearateEmollient
PanthenolEmollient
Dimethicone/Vinyltrimethylsiloxysilicate CrosspolymerEmollient
Stearic AcidEmulsifier
MentholCooling agent
Hamamelis Virginiana Water (Witch Hazel)Anti-microbial
Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E)Anti-oxidant
BHAAnti-oxidant
Denatured AlcoholSolvent
Citric AcidPreservative
Ingredient list courtesy of Assos of Switzerland

23 ingredients, presumably in decreasing percentage of total volume of the product. Which is 140ml / 4.73 fl. oz.

9 chemicals are emollients or moisturisers. 5 are emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are chemicals that stop fats and water from separating. 2 are anti-oxidants, which may preserve skin health. 2 are preservatives. 2 are cooling agents. We’ll see how well I get along with those. There are a couple of solvents. I imagine this product is mostly water. There is 1 anti-microbial.

Having put Assos Chamois Crème under the microscope, it was only fair that I did the same with Chamois Butt’r Original.

Photograph courtesy of Paceline Products Inc.
IngredientFunction
WaterSolvent
Mineral OilEmollient
Glyceryl StearateEmulsifier
Cetearyl AlcoholEmulsifier
Stearic AcidEmulsifier
GlycerinEmollient
LanolinEmollient
PEG-100 StearateEmulsifier
Diazolidinyl UreaAnti-microbial
Iodopropynyl ButylcarbamatePreservative
Cetyl Hydroxyethyl-CelluloseEmulsifier
Viscosity increasing agent
Potassium SorbatePreservative
Disodium EDTAStabilizer
Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf JuiceEmollient
Anti-Inflammatory
Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E)Anti-oxidant
Retinyl PalmitateAnti-oxidant
Ingredient list courtesy of Paceline Products Inc.

The Chamois Butt’r Original has 16 ingredients. 4 emollients. 5 emulsifiers. 2 anti-oxidants. 2 preservatives. 1 stabilizer. 1 anti-microbial, and 1 solvent. Again, I assume water makes up the most of this 32oz pump bottle.

I am relieved to find that the Chamois Butt’r Original does not contain as many chemicals as the Assos Chamois Crème. Having said that, the Assos has more than twice as many emollients. Which I assume are the key ingredients in a product that is formulated to eliminate chafing. The 4 emollients in the Chamois Butt’r have been enough for me though.

I just hope that the menthol lactate and menthol in the Assos Chamois Crème aren’t too cooling.

Image courtesy of free vector.com

Product Review: Redshift ShockStop Suspension Seatpost

My first review of a Redshift product was for their ShockStop suspension stem. At the time the ShockStop suspension seatpost had just been launched on Kickstarter. I pre-ordered one and have been using it for a few months now. It was on my bike during the 280km IIUM Endu-ride at the end of last month.

Appearance

One knock against suspension seatposts is they are not particularly attractive. The Redshift ShockStop is fairly minimalist compared to, from left, the Cane Creek Thudbuster ST, the Kinekt-BodyFloat, the Suntour NCX and the Specialized CG-R suspension seatposts.

Construction

The ShockStop seatpost is made of 6060 T6 aluminium alloy. It is 350mm long and 27.2mm in diameter. Shims are available to fit 30.9mm or 31.6mm seat tubes. The saddle clamps are compatible with 7mm round and 7x9mm oval saddle rails.

This seatpost weighs 497gm.

Photograph courtesy of amazon.com

Mechanism

The 35mm of suspension travel is provided by a main spring. A second inner spring can be combined with the main spring to provide a stiffer spring rate, up to the rider weight limit of 110kg.

The spring stiffness can be fine-tuned by adjusting the preload plug at the bottom of the seatpost.

Diagram courtesy of Coldroket.com

Installation

Installation is straightforward. A comprehensive set of printed instructions comes with the seatpost. An installation video is also available on the redshiftsports.com website.

Graphic courtesy of redshiftsports.com

Ride Quality

The Redshift website says that the ShockStop suspension seatpost “lets you float over rough terrain – ride further, faster, and more comfortably on the bike you already own.”

This seatpost delivers on that promise. Saddle movement is fluid, without any jerkiness as it moves through the 35mm of available travel. This creates a plush feel that is effective at isolating the rider from vibrations and larger impacts.

The four-bar linkage keeps the saddle angle constant throughout the range of movement.

A nice touch is a fender or cover that attaches magnetically to the rear of the suspension linkage. This keeps the moving parts of the linkage and saddle clamp bolts clean when riding on wet roads.

Animation courtesy of redshiftsports.com

Conclusion

The Redshift ShockStop suspension seatpost is well-engineered, easy to adjust and has a smooth and impressive suspension action you can tune to your own personal preference.

I like this suspension seatpost so much that I bought a second one for my other bike.

Purchase online at Redshift.

Product Review: Redshift Shockstop Stem

Road cyclists dream of riding on smooth tarmac. The reality is bumps, ruts and potholes. The longer the ride the more shocks are transmitted through the handlebar to the hands, arms and shoulders. Which naturally leads to fatigue and discomfort.

Some manufacturers are building shock-absorbing features into the front ends of their frames, such as Specialized’s Future Shock and Trek’s Top Tube Isospeed.

But what are the options for the road cyclist who wants a more comfortable ride from their existing frame? Using thicker bar tape and/or padded gloves are one option. Switching from 23mm wide tires to softer-riding 25mm or even 28mm tires is another option.

What to do if you want more comfort but don’t like riding with thick bar tape and thickly padded gloves, or can only fit 23mm or 25mm tires on your bike? The Redshift Shockstop stem may be your answer.

The Redshift Shockstop stem pivots at the steerer tube clamp to provide shock absorption at the bar.

GIF courtesy of redshiftsports.com

The Shockstop has a 20mm range of travel for drop bar bikes and 10mm of travel for flat bar bikes. The degree of travel can be customised to suit your body weight and riding style by installing the appropriate elastomer blocks inside the stem. The stem uses two elastomer blocks.

Photograph courtesy of singletracks.com

The Shockstop comes with five different elastomer blocks, each with a different durometer or hardness rating. This allows the Shockstop stem to cater for a range of rider weights from less than 52kg / 115lbs up to more than 93kg / 205lbs.

Photograph courtesy of redshiftsports.com

Does the Shockstop stem work? Absolutely.

With my hands in any position, the ShockStop does an admirable job of removing road buzz and smaller shocks from potholes and broken tarmac.

Handling is not compromised by the addition of travel in the bar, even under braking and hard cornering. The Shockstop smooths out the road surface without being obtrusive.

The Shockstop stem is available with a +-6º tilt in 90mm (264g) , 100mm, 110mm and 120mm (298g) lengths. It is also available in a 100mm length with a +30º tilt.

This is not the lightest stem around but it is by far the most comfortable stem.

This stems fit a standard 1 1/8″ steerer clamp diameter and 31.8mm handlebar clamp diameter. Shims are available for 25.4mm and 26.0mm steerer tubes.

Redshift also makes computer and utility mounts that attach to the stem faceplate. The computer mounts cater for Garmin, Wahoo, Cateye, Joule, Mio, Magellan, and Polar units.

The current price for a Shockstop stem on the Redshift Sports website is USD149.99. This stem is definitely worth every cent.

I bought one and I like it so much that I bought a second one to put on bike number two. The Shockstop stem is that good.

Excellent Warranty Policy: Apidura

Click on the Warranty link at the bottom of the Apidura home page and this is what appears:

WARRANTY

Apidura covers defects in material and craftsmanship for the reasonable lifetime and intended usage of its products. Should any flaw appear due to defective materials or craftsmanship, we will gladly repair or replace the product. If we determine the damage to be the result of normal wear and tear, abuse or accident, or exceeding reasonable expectations of the products lifespan, repairs will be made at a reasonable cost. Please note that this warranty excludes zipper damage.

We proudly stand behind this guarantee as it offers us the chance to see the effects of real user wear on our gear.

I recently put this guarantee to the test.

The Apidura Saddle Pack has an adjustable bungee cord on the top of the pack which allows for storage and easy retrieval of small items.

Two of the bungee cord attachments points came unstuck from my Saddle Pack.

I emailed the photograph above to Apidura customer service. Jonathan from Customer Service emailed back within 24 hours apologising for this failure, asking for the serial number of the item, and expressing the hope to resolve this as quickly as possible.

Jonathan again responded the day he received the serial number, confirming that Apidura consider this a manufacturing defect and are happy to replace this pack as part of their warranty policy.

He asked me to make a cut through the lash tab upon which the serial number is printed and then send him a photo of this so that Apidura can identify the pack as one that has been replaced under warranty. He even sent a photograph showing where to make the cut.

Photograph courtesy of Apidura

I sent Jonathan a photograph of the cut lash tab and the next morning I received a Fedex International Priority Service tracking number for a replacement Saddle Pack. I will get my replacement pack tomorrow.

Apidura make high-quality packs and accessories, but their products are not the cheapest in the market. I prefer to pay more for a quality product that comes with a world-class warranty and responsive customer service.

Kudos to Apidura.

Graphic courtesy of Bitmoji

Kudos for Silca

I own a number of Silca products.

T-Ratchet + Ti-Torque Kit
Phone Wallet
Seat Roll Premio
Tire Levers Premio
EOLO III CO2 Regulator

The quality of the Silca items I own reflects the brand’s commitment to its customers:

Our commitment to you, our fellow cyclist, that we will continually strive to design and build the most perfect products possible.

https://silca.cc/pages/about

That commitment extends to customer support.

One of the reasons Silca calls their CO2 inflator head a regulator is because the spool valve seals the pierced canister.  No CO2 escapes until you depress the SilEOLO IIIspring-loaded valve.  Which means that any unused CO2 stays in the canister.

The spool valve on my EOLO III started leaking CO2.  I emailed Silca customer support to ask if there was a way I could stop the leak.  The response was perfect.

This showed up on my doorstep yesterday.

D31A5565-9E82-4F34-B474-C98082B67709

A free replacement for my defective EOLO III.

Silca items are not the cheapest of their kind.  However the design and build quality of their products, coupled with outstanding customner support, make Silca products true value for money.

Fabric Chamber Ratchet Head Multitool

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Dorel Sports is one of the world’s leading bike portfolio companies. Their brands include Cannondale, GT, Schwinn, Mongoose, Sugio, Guru, and Fabric.

Fabric creates unique and innovative cycling products. Like the Chamber Ratchet Multitool. I like my Silca T-Ratchet + Ti Torque kit a lot. However, the waxed cloth case makes the kit too bulky to fit in my KEG Storage Vessel. I had been carrying a rusting Lezyne multitool, and the Fabric Chamber looked like a good replacement.

The base of the cylinder unscrews to reveal a set of double-ended stainless steel bits.

ac1fd688-6e97-45de-b9c5-36815d8a2f6a

Photograph courtesy of fabric.cc

The cylinder is 99mm tall and 25mm wide.  In a holder in the base are 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5 and 6mm hex bits, T10 and T25 Torx bits, SL3 and SL5 flat head bits, PH1 and PH2 Phillips head bits, and an 8mm hex adapter.

Apart from the small size, I was attracted by the two-way ratchet head.  Bits can be positioned centrally in the ratchet.

c2760edd-499a-462a-be60-aa5300b4e7b5

Photograph courtesy of fabric.cc

Or at one end of the bit for a longer reach.

farbic-chamber-tool-silver-long

Photograph courtesy of fabric.cc

The Fabric Chamber Ratchet Head Multitool has replaced the Lezyne multitool in my KEG Storage Vessel.  The Chamber Ratchet Head is smaller than the Silca T-Ratchet + Ti-Torque kit.  It weighs less too, at 170gms compared to 232gms for the T-Ratchet.

6C6C925E-7C6F-406E-AD7F-147FD4E9B938

Photograph courtesy of fabric.cc

The Chamber tool lacks a torque function.  However, I feel this does not detract from its usefulness for repairs while on the road.  Loose bolts can be tightened just enough to hold until the end of the ride.  Tightening to specification with my Silca Ti-Torque wrench can be done once at home.

The Fabric Chamber Ratchet Head Multitool is a good-looking design that fits inside my KEG Storage Vessel along with tire levers, a spare tube, a CO2 canister and an inflator head.

Neat, tidy, and ready to roll.

Selle Italia SP-01 Superflow

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The best cycling-related advice I have ever been given is “Make sure the bicycle frame you buy is the right size for you.”

The second-best is “If your saddle is comfortable and isn’t giving you trouble, don’t change it.”  I got the advice about saddles from a salesperson at Condor Cycles in London.

In 2012 fi’zi:k launched their Kurve range of saddles.

Fizik Kurve road cc

Photograph courtesy of road.cc

There were three models, in the range: the Snake, Chameleon and Bull.  Each shape was designed to suit where your bodyweight was positioned, as determined by your flexibility.  That was sufficiently geeky to attract me. 

I walked into Condor Cycles ready to buy a Kurve saddle.  The salesperson asked me which saddle I was using at the time, and if I liked it.  My first road bike came with a Selle Italia SL saddle.

Selle Italia SL

Photograph courtesy of Selle Italia

I said I had no complaints about that saddle.  Which is when she told me that she wouldn’t sell me a different saddle.

When I got my second road bike I went with a Selle Italia SLR Superflow saddle.  Which was essentially the SL with a larger cutout.

SLR-Superflow-S

Photograph courtesy of Selle Italia

Fast forward a few years, and my SLR Superflow was showing its age.

Selle Italia SL

There was a cut right at the tip on the left side.  A memento from a crash.  Riding in the rain with wet and gritty bibshorts had abraded the cover on either side of the nose.  And the blue elastomer insert under the rails at the front had been squeezed out of shape.  It was time for a new saddle.

Last July Selle Italia announced the latest iteration of the Superflow saddle.  The SP-01.

Selle Italia SP-01-TITANIUM superflow

Photograph courtesy of Selle Italia

Immediately noticeble is that the rear frame is divided into two parts.  This allows the saddle to adapt and flex subtly to different riding positions and shifts of rider weight from side to side and front to back.  That was sufficiently geeky to attract me.

The avice from the Condor Cycles salesperson was ringing in my ears.  But I figured I was safe by keeping my new saddle choice in the Superflow family.

I’ve had the SP-01 Superflow for a couple of months now.  I like it alot.  I still have an SLR Superflow on my Ritchey Break-Away.  So I have been able to compare the two saddles.  This is a subjective assessment, but the SP-01 Superflow does feel a bit more comfortable and compliant than the SLR Superflow.

The SP-01 Superflow meets that main criteria for any saddle.  I have a

Happy Bottom

Photograph courtesy of worldofsigns.com

Check With Your Doctor

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Ticket to Ride banner

Every now and then newspapers and especially social media carry reports of a cyclist succumbing to a heart attack or cardiac arrest mid-ride.  The cyclists are usually men in their 40s or older.  The latest happened three Sundays ago during an organised century ride.

These events generate a flurry of conversation about cycling being risky for older individuals.  Despite all the research showing the health benefits of cycling for older adults.

I am not implying that precautions are not necessary.  My Biker Chick is very very supportive of my cycling habit.  With one proviso.  I must pass a full health screening every year.

Ticket to Ride medical assessment

My annual medical examination includes the usual blood and urine tests, a pulmonary function test, a resting 12-lead ECG and treadmill stress test, a chest x-ray and a full abdomen and pelvic ultrasound examination.  This year I added a full skin analysis since I spend a lot of time in the sun and had a squamous cell carcinoma a few years ago.

Ticket to ride all clear

I’m good to go for another year!