Saturday, 28 February 2015

Review: Rude Health Cereals and Snacks

"You're reviewing cereals on your blog now?!" is the response that I expect many of you had when you saw the title of this post. Yes. Yes I am. Because, cereals and healthy snacks are just as important to a cyclist's diet as the energy bars, drinks and recovery products that you use. What you have for breakfast before your training ride, will undoubtedly have an effect on how well you perform out on the bike.

Rude Health is a UK based company, who produce a wide range of products from cereals to snack bars; all of which seek to taste great, but also provide you with an easy and convenient healthy option. I've been trying out a selection of their products over the last few weeks, and I think they tie in very well with the demands of a cyclist's diet. They're natural, low in fat, high in complex carbohydrates, and most of all, they taste rather good.

Here's what I thought of the range...

Breakfast! Rude Health Daily Oats Porridge, Ultimate Granola and Ultimate Muesli

Breakfast is quite possibly my favourite meal of the day, particularly when you're just about to head out on the bike. I really don't understand the inclination of some to skip breakfast; it provides you with a much needed kick-start to the day, and will fuel you in your activities.

The best kind of fuel for endurance activities is low-GI carbohydrates. Possibly the best known and most effective source of these is oats. Oats are a simple yet highly effective fuel source, and will slowly release energy into your system as they break down over time; this makes them the ultimate endurance fuel.

Rude Health produce three great breakfast products, which all revolve around the wonder oat. First up, there is the Daily Oats Porridge, which uses a combined mix of jumbo oats and finer ground porridge oats. The result is a quick cooking mixture, which will be ready in just three minutes in the microwave. It has a great texture, and mixed with a few plump raisins or dates, it makes a seriously tasty and warming bowl of fuel. I'm a bit of a porridge addict, and have it year-round, and this is one of the nicest oat mixes I've tried.

Next up, is the Rude Health Ultimate Granola. Like the porridge, this is a healthy organic option. It is made of multiple grains, and contains a mixture of oats, spelt and barley, stuck together with a blend of honey and date syrup. There are also crunchy seeds, puffed rice and an ancient ingredient called amaranth, which contains an incredibly high protein content for a grain. There is no fruit in the mixture, so you're free to mix it with fresh banana or berries, and it is an incredibly tasty and high protein snack when combined with greek style yoghurt.

The final breakfast table option (or healthy afternoon snack option, for that matter), is The Ultimate Muesli. This has 23 ingredients, but they're all healthy and low-fat components. Quinoa, oats, barley and rye flakes provide the staple carbohydrates, whilst flavour and nutrients are added by other components like blueberries, apricots, brazil nuts, almonds and seeds. It's a mix that provides a great taste and texture, and will set you up for any long ride or long day.

Dip, Dunk and Snack - Rude Health Oaty Biscuits

There's no point in having a healthy breakfast if your diet deteriorates thereafter, and your mid-morning snack is a doughnut or packet of crisps. The Oaty biscuit range from Rude Health are effectively a mixture of tasty oat cakes, which could provide you with a sustaining snack or a healthy lunchtime carbohydrate replenish.

Oats continue to be the ultimate fuel source here, and whether you opt for the plain "The Oaty" or the other varieties with Rye and Spelt blended in, these are a very tasty and healthy option. I've tried them dunked in hummus for lunch, with peanut butter as a mid-morning snack, or with banana and honey as a late-night fuel booster. They're tasty, have a great texture and for coeliacs, they're wheat-free too.

Snack Time! Rude Health Drinking Oats, Thins, and Nutritious Energy Bars 

The final set of products that I tried from Rude Health was the "snack range", comprising drinking oats, corn and rice thins, and beetroot and pumpkin cereal bars. If some of those sound unusual to you, then don't knock them before you've tried them.

The Beetroot and Pumpkin bars are a different take on snack bars. Made almost completely from fruit, vegetables and seeds; they're wheat-free, gluten-free and contain no refined sugar. They have a unique fudge-like texture, and the beetroot bar is a somewhat acquired taste, but they certainly taste and feel healthy, as well as being rich in fibre and nutrients.

The Corn and Rice Thins, are the modern and ultimate solution to a crisps craving. They're little puffed circles of cereal, and provide a great snack dipped in sauce or conserves. Tasty!

Last of all, there are the Rude Health Drinking Oats; possibly the most convenient form of oats yet. These fine milled oats can be added to a cold or hot drink and dissolve within a few minutes. Pop them in a post-workout shake, smoothie or glass of orange juice, and they provide a great slow-release energy source without the need to munch down on a handful of oats. A great solution if you're pushed for time before setting out on the bike in the morning.

The Rude Health range is well worth a look then, especially if you're a cyclist that pays particular attention to what you put into your body (which you should!). Some of the products are quite a price, but then you get what you pay for... these are organic, simple, healthy and effective sources of energy, and they'll leave you feeling great. Bow down to the oats, and get involved.

View the range at (Link)

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Review: Thule Pack n Pedal Commuter Pannier

If you commute every day of the week, then you're left with the dilemma of kit transportation to and from your workplace. Having used a whole array of rucksacks, courier bags and rack packs, I keep coming back to the pannier as my preferred option.

A pannier allows you to carry heavier loads without damaging your back; it lets you keep the weight low on the bike to increase stability; but, most of all, it avoids you turning up to work with a sweaty rucksack shaped patch on your back. It's the sensible option, in my opinion.

Thule has produced some great bicycle luggage in their foray into the market; I've previously reviewed the Thule Enroute Escort Daypack and the Thule Pack n Pedal Trunk Bag. Both bags impressed me with their quality and attention to detail in design. With the pannier still being my preferred commuting option though, I was keen to see how the Pack n Pedal Commuter Pannier would fare in daily service.

Unlike the Ortlieb Classic Roller, which is my normal pannier option, the Thule Pack n Pedal Commuter Pannier is designed specifically for weekday riding, to and fro between work and home. It is designed to be transportable off the bike, and it is designed to house your typical daily essentials like your laptop, lights, lunch and a change of clothes.

The biggest selling point of this pannier over its counterparts, is that it allows you to comfortably carry it off the bike. It does this through an innovative flip-away rack mounting system, and a large padded removable shoulder strap. The mounting system tucks away at a gentle push, rotating on an axle to leave a flush aluminium plate in its place. The shoulder strap clips onto webbing loops, and provides a comfortable and highly adjustable means to sling the bag over your shoulder when you’re off the bike.

There are a few minor faults with the carry system, in my opinion. Namely, the inside face of a pannier tends to get a lot of road spray and grime, so slinging this over your shoulder after a damp ride, can leave you with a rather blackened patch on your back. The second, is that the shoulder strap, although easily clipped into place, does need to be removed and stowed before you can clip the pannier to the rack and use it for riding. This is because, you can’t really keep it from falling back onto the inside side of the pannier, and risking it getting caught in the rear wheel. The concept is good though, bar these minor faults, and it certainly overcomes the pannier clips annoyingly catching on your clothing, which they typically have a tendency to do as you walk from the bike shed to the office.

As well as the innovative flip-away ability of carrying system, the way the Thule Pack n Pedal Commuter mounts to the pannier rack is also neat, and different from the norm. The upper mounts use a spring-loaded mechanism that rotates the clasps onto the top rack tube, and keeps the bag firmly in place. The lower part of the bag is kept in tight to the rack with a strong magnet, which works very well at holding the bag, even on rough-road ventures. It’s a unique and different way for a pannier bag to mount to a rack, and it seems to work well, and should fit pretty much any pannier rack out there.

Mounting and carry options are one part of this smart new Swedish design, but the overall quality and design is great elsewhere too. On the outside of the bag, there are two translucent pockets, which you can stash lights in to make you more visible. There is also a compression strap, which avoids loads spilling out and sinking to the bottom of the bag. The elasticated pocket on the front is also good for stashing the shoulder strap, or other easy-to-grab items like a waterproof.

Inside the bag, things are kept dry by the waterproof roll-top closure, and there is a dedicated padded laptop sleeve, and a reasonably generous 18 litre capacity. I don't take a laptop into work each day, but found the pocket good for housing smaller items, and the overall size is ideal for a lunchbox, change of clothes and other small essentials.

The way this pannier is designed, it has a taller, lower profile than some panniers that are typically created for touring. That's beneficial when you are carrying a smaller load, as they tend to sit closer to the centreline of the bike, therefore reducing the effect on stability. This is a smart design decision, and given you only get one of the panniers in a purchase (and should only really need one for commuting), it works well to keep things more balanced. 

Overall, the Thule Pack n Pedal Commuter Pannier is a well designed and thought-out piece of kit. Much like all of Thule's range, it demonstrates a great quality level, and a meticulous attention to detail. The flip-away rack mounts, and the ease of carrying off the bike, is a useful feature for anyone that has to walk a fair way after they've left their bike at the end of the commute; whilst the rack mounting system itself works well with its spring loaded clips and magnet. The size is ideal for daily service, and pocketing is great for keeping things organised and close to hand. It's a waterproof, well made and durable option, with minimal faults. I have enjoyed using it for daily commuting duty.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Review: SealSkinz Neoprene Halo Overshoes

How do you make a set of overshoes more interesting? They're neoprene booties that keep your toes snug and your shoes clean, right? How about adding some lights! This is a cool new product from SealSkinz.

SealSkinz first real venture into the overshoes market appears to be a good one; they've taken a traditionally fairly ordinary product, and added something new and useful. A simple battery-powered 4 lumen light, in the heel of the SealSkinz Halo booties, means they do something I've never seen in overshoes before... they act as a safety device.

It's not an overly radical idea, but it's an idea that makes a lot of sense. If you've ever ridden behind someone at night, who has reflective detailing on their shoes, you'll know even the smallest reflection shows up very well because of the speed at which your feet rotate at. Adding a powered light to your heel, could do wonders for your rear visibility.

Aside from the flashing light, SealSkinz seem to have done a good job of the rest of the design of these too. They're well made and there is a good attention to detail.

The soles have Kevlar reinforcing in key wear areas, and the rear panel of the overshoes is made of a higher stretch material to give a better fit. The zippers are a sturdy YKK design, with added reflective detailing, and the overshoes seal well around your calves with a Velcro strap and a gel elastic cuff. These are some great features, which demonstrate the care that has been put into the design.

The neoprene does a good job of keeping off the worst of the road spray, and the wrap around design keeps water from coming up from underneath too. The absence of a coating on the neoprene means they're not as windproof as some other booties on the market, but for all but the coldest conditions they work very well.

Overall, these are a great fitting, smart looking and well made set of neoprene winter booties; with the added (significant) benefit of acting as a safety measure through the little removable flashing light that sits in the rear heel. Great innovation!

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