Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Review: Tate Labs Rain Fly Rear Mudguard

Fed up with a wet back (and crack), and want some protection from road and trail spray? This new Rain Fly guard from Tate Labs could well be the solution...

Many readers will have seen and/or used an Ass Saver mudguard. The neat laser-cut plastic flap slots underneath your saddle, and provides valuable protection for your butt; while adding only minimal weight and aerodynamic drag. It is a KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach to reducing the "mud-slick" effect.

The Ass Saver works well; but it isn't without its faults. The most significant downfall for the Swedish designed product, is that it rather too easily goes askew; exposing your back to your rear wheel. The second, is that it doesn't really provide protection for the back of your legs, or for a saddlebag or rear light housed on your seatpost. The new Tate Labs Rain Fly promises to follow in the lightweight minimalist footsteps of the Ass Saver, but to overcome these two short-comings.

The guard attaches to your seat stays using simple zip-ties, which means it will fit onto almost any frame, whether road, cyclocross or MTB. It sits solidly in place, and has proven resistant to moving; even with knocks, off-road riding and bike washing.

As mudguards go, the Tate Labs Rain Fly looks good, too. It looks aero, minimalist and sleek. 'Fenders' aren't meant to enhance the aesthetics of your bike, they are designed to improve comfort; but this one doesn't take away too much from your bike's street cred.

Crucially though, does it work? I am pleased to say it does, rather well. Much like an Ass Saver, it significantly reduces the amount of mud and spray plastered onto your vulnerable back. In addition though, it also protects the back of your legs from spray; keeping them warmer and more comfortable. It also does a great job of keeping your seat-collar, saddlebag and rear light muck-free; all of which are worth protecting.

It is a similar KISS approach to the Ass Saver; but I would argue it provides equal simplicity, but with better protection. KISS that mucky butt goodbye!

View the Tate Labs Rain Fly Mudguard at Wiggle (Link)


Sunday, 24 April 2016

Ride Photo Blog: The Wight CX Century

The sound. The sound of flints and gravel; pinging and crunching beneath wheels. The sound, of tubeless tyres hitting tarmac, momentarily; buzzing like an angry bee. The sound of friends, wincing and shouting; as they fly down chalk downland and rutted single-track, slightly out of control. The sound, of cyclocross.

Today, I rode a CX Century. 100 miles of chalk, gravel and mud; intermingled with very occasional tarmac respite. I rode 100km of it with great friends; old friends and new.

It was a superb day to be in the saddle of the Kona Private Jake - a bike which has affirmed itself as my new favourite.

Here's a photo essay, to sum up the day's events...

I've reached 1000km on the Kona Private Jake to date. She is quite frankly, superb.


Ben unfortunately punctured early on, and the huge sidewall gash put end to his ride.


My Kona Private Jake, and Chris's Kona Rove. Sitting pretty.


Worth the climb.


Green and Blue.


Café stop - #fuelfortheride


100km. Looking back out to The Needles. Plenty more hills yet to come.


The Kona needed a lie down.


I needed some Bounce. 


My new favourite. Looking well used and abused - The Kona Private Jake


My custom GripGrab toe covers seemed to do the trick. Job done. 


There were a few lumps along the way... A great day in the saddle.


Monday, 18 April 2016

Review: Thule Paramount 29L Rucksack

Back in 2014, I reviewed the Thule Enroute Escort Rucksack; and it fast became my go-to pack for day trips, weekend breaks and business trips. In 2015, I reviewed the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Commuter Rucksack; and that is now my choice for daily cyclocross commuting. Between the two reviews, I have also used, abused and been impressed by a number of other Thule products within the range; including their famous bike carriers. (All the reviews can be found here). The theme with the products from this Swedish company is clear; they are carefully designed, tested and refined by outdoor enthusiasts; it is also evident that quality is paramount. So, on that note, I was interested to try out the latest release: the Paramount 29 Litre Daypack.

The Paramount 29L Rucksack is designed to be an everyday carry; smart enough for the office, but rugged enough for ventures off the beaten track. Features like light mounts, a waterproof base and a well-padded laptop compartment, serve to demonstrate this focus. It has a few unique design features too, and much like the Enroute Escort and Pack 'n Pedal Commuter before it, it has won me over.

Easy-access storage

The first unique feature of the Thule Paramount Backpack, is that it boasts a huge storage volume; but it doesn't provide it in the form of one cavernous top-accessed compartment. Instead, the Paramount adopts a multiple-access approach; where you can reach your belongings through multiple means...

The main compartment houses a well-padded laptop and tablet sleeve, with extra padding on the edges and base. It also boasts bags of room for additional items, like a jumper, jacket or notepads. This main compartment in the Paramount can be accessed either be opening the top flap, and unzipping the top-access entrance; or by accessing the laptop sleeve and/or the main compartment through the side of the rucksack. This approach means it's super easy to find stuff, and also means if you're carrying the rucksack by hand, then you can use the side carry handle, and use the bag a bit like a satchel.

Organised, protected possessions

Further storage in the bag comes in the form of a large zipped pocket on the 'hood' of the pack; which is great for quick-access items. Then, underneath the flap - with more protection and security, there is a fantastic padded section for sunglasses and phones; as well as a section with mesh pockets and zipped pockets, which is great for organising small essentials. Everything has a place, and the positioning of these allocated slots has been thought about, to make the Paramount as practical as possible.

Versatile comfort 

It is pretty clear that Thule have got the stowage in the Paramount pack nailed; but they also haven't skimped on the comfort. The rucksack has a strategically padded high density foam back, which helps to provide comfort, as well as good ventilation. The straps are made of a similar soft but shock-absorbing material, with a perforated structure that helps to let moisture escape. You also get an adjustable chest strap, which helps to keep the pack well placed on your back, even when you're active. There is no doubt, the Paramount 29 is comfortable to wear; just like the Enroute Escort and Commuter Rucksack that I have previously tested.

Overall

Overall, the Thule Paramount Backpack is another fantastic piece of quality kit, from the Swedish brand. It has a rugged and robust look and feel to it, and it has storage that is well thought-out and extremely practical. It's comfortable, durable and a pleasure to use. I have a new everyday carry...

View the Thule range at Thule.com (Link)

The Paramount 29L has a smart heritage look to it, and features great durable fabrics

Quality buckles and an innovative hidden light/key clip

Even the zippers on the Paramount 29 Rucksack have an 'outdoor enthusiast' feel to them

Comfortable foam padding and articulated shoulder straps on the Thule Paramount backpack

Next to the back, there is a well-padded laptop compartment, which can be accessed from the side

The main compartment can also be accessed through a side-opening; providing easier access to items

Safe, padded storage for your phone and sunglasses

Great organisation for small everyday essentials

The top opening for the main compartment, allowing you to access the laptop sleeve too

Overall, another fantastic, well-designed bag from Thule