Sunday, 22 November 2015

10 Christmas Gifts for Cyclists for Less Than £50

Last week, I posted my Fifteen Festive Stocking Fillers for Cyclists - 2015; it contains some great little products that I thought any rider would be delighted to receive.

In this blog post, I've picked out ten more products from the past year of testing; they all retail for less than £50, some less than £10, but they are all great gifts. Hopefully they will provide some further gift ideas for the keen bike rider in your life.

Pocpac Any-Road iPac 3X Phone Case

I use a waterproof phone wallet almost every day of the week, and the ones from pOcpac are some of the best that I've trialled. This new 'Any-Road' case is an artistic extension to their great range of cases, which I reviewed on the blog a while back. It features a lovely design on the reverse of the case, as well as the standard pOcpac strong zip, well placed camera window and internal divider for cash/cards. The 3X version fits an iPhone 6 or a Samsung Galaxy.
View the pOcpac range (Link)

See.Sense 2.0 Rear Light

Bike lights get intelligent with Irish brand See.Sense. I was very impressed with this model when I tested it earlier in the year. The unit reacts to light and motion, both from the bike and from pursuing traffic; flashing angrily when it thinks there is an increased need for visibility. It really does work, and seems to make a notable difference to your road presence; I'm still using mine on my winter bike. See.Sense are soon to be releasing an even more intelligent light, the ICON; I should have a review coming soon.
Read my review of the See.Sense 2.0 Rear Light (Link)

Primal Europe HiVis Wind Vest

Regular readers of the blog will know that I'm well "into" high visibility kit this winter. Fluorescent kit doesn't have to mean you look and feel like a traffic warden though, and this wind vest from Primal Europe is a great example. It is wind-proof, water resistant and has three useful rear pockets. Ideal for stashing away in a jersey pocket, ready for that chilly descent or unexpected rain shower.
View the Primal HiVis Wind Vest (Link)

Vittoria Pave Tyres

Give the gift of better grip this Christmas. The Vittoria Pavé tyres are my favourite road tyres, not only for winter riding, but for all year round. Their supple casing, assuring grip and great puncture protection makes them ideal for rough UK roads. Tyres might not seem like the most exciting Christmas gift, but much like socks, every cyclist needs them, and a good set makes a hell of a difference!
Read my review of the Vittoria Pavé Tyres (Link)

Intrepid Apparel Pioneer Gilet

Intrepid Apparel produce some very well made and stunning value mountain biking kit. I tested the Pioneer gilet earlier this year, and it is a really nice, versatile piece of kit. Whether you're out mountain biking, commuting or just wearing it casually around town, this looks the part and performs well. It is also available for only £30 (at the time of writing).
Read my review of the Intrepid Apparel Pioneer Gilet (Link)

KT Kinesiology Tape

My recent winter cross training regime has meant I've discovered a few niggles whilst running. They're gradually fading as the muscles develop, but this KT tape has been great for stabilising problem areas. Available in a range of colours, it is waterproof and in easy to apply pre-cut strips; it's some of the best I've tried. The instruction videos are great as well.  
View the range of KT Tape, as well as detailed instructions (Link)

Swrve Modal Cotton Henley Top

Swrve is an American brand, which produces a superb range of well made, stylish and durable casual cycling apparel. Their iconic Indigo Cycling Jeans are the staple of the range, but they also do some great tops and accessories. This long sleeve Henley is a prime example, and is made of super soft modal cotton.
Read my review of the Swrve Modal Cotton Henley Top (Link)

Feetures Elite Light Cushion Mini Crew Socks

Feetures are really a maker of running socks, but I found these 'mini crew' height socks fantastic for riding too. Their Sock-Lock compression technology keeps them firmly in place, and the light cushioning helps with long endurance rides. They come in Black, Brilliant Blue and Fluorescent Yellow! Everyone gets socks for Christmas, so why not make them cycling/running socks!
View the Feetures range here (Link)

HipLok POP Cable Lock

This simple cable lock from HipLok, is perfect for nipping into the shops and leaving your bike in lower risk areas. When it is time to ride off, you simply unlock, wrap it round yourself like a belt, and pop it together. Simple, yet effective!
View the HipLok Pop Lock (Link)

Gore Bike Wear Equipe Gore-Tex Cap

Cycling caps are great for shielding your head from the wind, rain and cold. However, a cotton cap becomes far less effective once it has been saturated with precipitation. Made of Gore-Tex, the Equipe cap from Gore Bike Wear holds the solution; it is fully waterproof and super breathable, so your head is kept warm and dry, even in the worst winter downpours!
View the Gore Bike Wear Equipe Gore-Tex Cap (Link)

Hopefully some more helpful ideas for your Christmas wishlist!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Review: Garmin Edge Touring Computer

The Garmin Edge 810 has been classified by many to be the ultimate GPS computer. It is a compact unit, which has mapping capabilities, as well as full training software, and the ability to connect it to any ANT+ measurement unit. However, for many touring cyclists, the need for training software is limited, and the importance of mapping capabilities is the highest priority... enter the Garmin Edge Touring.

The Edge Touring comes in at a significantly lower price than the Edge 810. It is a stripped back, mapping specific cycle computer, which focusses its devoted attention on guiding its user, rather than providing in-depth training data.

The Edge Touring is the same size as the 810. It also similarly has a colour touch screen display, two easy-to-press buttons for start/stop/pause and lap, and a waterproofed port on the back to insert a mapping micro-SD card and a USB connection cable. Unlike the Edge 810 though, the Touring is able to meet a price point, by stripping back the unnecessary (for touring) training functions. Therefore the unit will not pick up ANT+ sensors such as heart rate, cadence or power, and it doesn't have as many data fields to display as a result (it is worth noting the Edge Touring Plus does feature the ability to detect sensors however).

On my last touring trip, I didn't own a GPS cycle computer. It was all old-school, with maps and notebooks. Boy was I missing out...

The Edge Touring is impressive. First of all, there is the ability to guide you to any defined location with the simple input of a postcode or address, or to a POI anywhere in the vicinity. The routing when using this function is quick, and from my experience takes you on roads that are good to ride on (something that isn't always true with bike GPS mapping, especially if it has been taken from a car GPS system).

The second neat feature, is the ability to instantly create planned training routes. Put in a ride distance, and as long as you are in the covered map area, the Edge Touring will create three pre-planned cycle friendly routes for you to choose from. Ideal for when you're training in unknown territory!

The other notable feature of the Edge Touring when doing these mapping processes, is that you can select whether you are a "touring cyclist", "cyclist" or "mountain biker". The unit will then plan the routes accordingly i.e. off-road routes for mountain bikers, scenic routes for touring cyclists and direct routes for road cyclists.

The battery life of the Edge Touring is another notable attribute. I've had the unit running for up to 16 hours without it fully discharging the battery; that's pretty incredible for a computer this size with a colour display. It also makes it ideal for cycling tourists, who are typically in the saddle all day long.

If you are venturing into the unknown, need some new training routes or want to explore a new country, the Garmin Edge Touring could be the ideal choice. If you don't need sensors then this provides all of the data, information and mapping that you could ever need. You can upload and share your activities on sites such as Garmin Connect and Strava, and you can download routes from these sites to follow as well.

Put simply, this is a great, simple to use bit of kit. Go explore!

View the Garmin Edge Touring at Wiggle (Link)

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Fifteen Festive Stocking Fillers for Cyclists - 2015

Christmas is coming, and that means stockings! In this post, I thought I would feature fifteen of the best cycling products that I've tested over the last year. They are all ideal stocking fillers, which don't cost the earth and would be ideal gifts for anyone that is into cycling.

From energy bars to tyre levers, there's a real mix...

Bounce Balls

Bounce Balls are tasty little energy snacks, which are packed full of natural goodness. They contain carbohydrate from rice bran and starch, and whey protein to keep your muscles in shape. As a Christmas themed option, the new Cacao Orange flavour is seriously tasty with a morning coffee!
View the Bounce Balls range (Link)

Tate Labs Bar Fly SLi Mounts

Keep handlebars clutter-free with an out-front mount. These new SLi mounts from Tate Labs are the best that I've used; I have the Bar Fly Sli BAM to hold a GoPro and Garmin Edge on my road bike, as well as the SLi-D MTB mount on my 35mm mountain bike bars. There is also a model which allows you to hold a light underneath the mount, using elastic band straps. These mounts are very well made, compatible with all Garmin units, and have a lifetime warranty.
Full review coming soon - View the Tate Labs range at Wiggle (Link)

GripGrab HiVis Arm Warmers

Arm warmers make a great gift; they're fairly inexpensive and it is fairly easy to guess someone's size. My favourite this season come from Danish brand GripGrab. These warmers strike the delicate balance between insulation and bulk, and they have strong gel grippers so you don't get any annoying slippage. They are also HiVis! (black versions are also available).
The GripGrab Hi Vis Arm Warmers are available at Wiggle (Link)

Aftershockz Bluez 2 Bone Conduction Headphones

If there is one product that has made a real difference to my daily commute, it is these headphones from Aftershockz. I now have the ability to listen to playlists, podcasts and the radio on my ride into work; all while still being able to hear the warning noises from the traffic around me.
Read my review of the Aftershockz Bluez 2 Headphones (Link)

Sportique Travel Kit

These are great carry-on sized soap bag essentials, which come with me whenever I travel to any ride, race or big event. Sportique uses natural ingredients, to produce products that are gentle on your skin, as well as being effective. These are just five products from their great range.
Read more about the Sportique range of products (Link)

Black Mamba Workshop Gloves

The best workshop gloves I've used, by a country mile. These Black Mamba gloves are considerably more durable than standard disposable latex gloves, which means you can do hours of winter maintenance without getting hands that look like you work as a chimney sweep.
Read my review of the Black Mamba Workshop Gloves (Link)

The Stick Massage Stick

It is like a foam roller, except it is compact, portable and more versatile. 'The Stick' is an innovative product that has been used for some time by the US Cycling Team. It allows you to perform most of the tissue massages on your tired legs, which you usually would with a foam roller; but you can also massage other areas like your neck and arms. For me though, the real winning attribute is its portability. I wished I had taken something like this with me on the Mallorca1127 week; it would have been great to have stashed in a bike box, and used to help ease out tired muscles.
View The Stick's range at (Link)

Endurance Conspiracy Tees

Everybody likes a fresh new t-shirt for Christmas, and the range from Endurance Conspiracy are some of the coolest I've tried this year. I profiled a few of them in a photo blog earlier in the year, and I also got a few shots of them 'on location' in South Tyrol, on my end of season break. They are great quality and a great fit; they also do a really nice lightweight hoodie.

Pedro's Utility Knife

Every bike mechanic should have a good knife to hand. Whether you're trimming down race numbers, opening boxes or cutting bar tape, a sharp blade is essential. The Utility Knife from Pedro's is probably one of the best additions to my toolbox in 2015. It is super easy to flick open and close with one hand, it takes standard replaceable craft knife blades, and it has a neat shackle spanner and belt clip built in. Well worth adding to any home mechanic's pocket.
Read my other Pedro's Bike Tools reviews here (Link)

The Grand Tour Cookbook

One small (OK, quite large) book, which has made a massive difference to my life this year. The Grand Tour Cookbook is a collection of recipes from Tinkoff-Saxo team chef Hannah Grant; recipes that could quite literally change your life. Healthy, super tasty dishes, which are all designed to help aid your performance through correct nutrition. This cookbook would make a great gift (although quite large for a stocking).
Read my review of Hannah Grant's 'The Grand Tour Cookbook' (Link)

GripGrab Hi-Vis Gloves and Headwear

Be safe. Be seen. Fluorescent riding accessories are definitely 'on-trend' this season, and the ones from GripGrab are the best that I've tested. Adding a 'pop' of colour to that dark winter riding kit, will certainly help to increase your visibility to other road users. The GripGrab HiVis range includes gloves, neck warmers, arm and leg warmers, skull caps and even overshoes.
Read my review of GripGrab's HiVis Hurricane Gloves (Link)

Eleven Vélo Ride Pouch

This is now part of my road cycling Every Ride Carry. It is a smart, comfortable and stylish way to carry your valuables and small ride essentials in your jersey pocket. A great design from San Francisco based Waterfield Designs, working in partnership with Australian based brand Eleven Vélo.
Read my review of the Eleven Vélo Ride Pouch (Link)

Scicon Compact 430 Saddle Bag

Still my favourite saddlebag. The design of Scicon's bags are simple, yet they function superbly. The Compact 430 is a great size for two road tubes, and it features a set of integrated tyre levers as well.
Read my review of the Scicon Compact 430 Saddle Bag (Link)

Pedro's Tyre Levers

Tyre levers are an inexpensive bit of kit, but when they break, it only adds to the aggravation of getting a puncture. These ones from Pedro's are fantastic. They are incredibly strong, and I've yet to have a set fail on me. They would make a useful gift for any cyclist, and they come in several colour options!
Shop for Pedro's Tyre Levers here (Link)

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape

Last, but very definitely not least; something to add comfort and a splash of colour to any road bike. The DSP Bar Tape from Lizard Skins is one of the best bar tapes that I've used to date, if not the best. It is super grippy, soft, shock-absorbing, and it also comes in a whole host of colours (including pink and camouflage!); so you can get the perfect match for your bike. Perfect for four seasons riding. 
Hopefully the above products have added some interesting ideas for your Christmas stocking filler list. What else are you hoping for this Christmas? (Comments below).