Sunday, 24 July 2016

Review - Restrap Seat Pack and Frame Bag

restrap-bikepacking-luggage
My 'Coasts and Cols Tour' is approaching fast, and with that comes the need to finalise my luggage and kit choices for the trip. The Restrap Seat Pack and Frame Bag fast ascended to the top of my bikepacking luggage wish-list; the bespoke design of the handmade holster and frame bag is stunning, and promises to be the ultimate bikepacking luggage.



About Restrap

Restrap is a small Yorkshire based brand, who started life producing high quality camera straps. Since those early days, they've expanded their product range dramatically; and because the staff were keen bike riders, a range of bikepacking kit was a logical diversification.

Quality and superb function remain the two principle virtues of Restrap's bags, holsters and straps. All of the products are extensively prototyped, tested, and then produced by hand in the Yorkshire based warehouse. It is kit made to be so reliable, and so durable, that you really can #carryeverything with confidence.
restrap-bikepacking-luggage




The Restrap Seat Pack

restrap-bikepacking-luggage
The Restrap Seat Pack was the first piece of luggage that I eyed up when I was planning the 'Coasts and Cols Tour'. It is about as close to a piece of art as you can get, with a bag holster; and is renowned for its durable and quality build.

The holster mounts to the seatpost and saddle rails using tough Nylon webbing straps, and it feels ultra-secure and stable, even off-road. The housing unit is made from 1000D military-grade Cordura; which will withstand any abrasion and knocks you can possibly throw at it. In terms of capacity, the unit will hold between an 8 and 23 litre dry bag - I've opted for the larger of these two, to carry my tent and sleeping kit on the tour.

Perhaps the highlight of this hand-crafted seat-pack, is the closure system. The dry bag is captured within the holster using a patented magnetic buckle; it makes it super quick to remove the bag, and easy to adjust the closure, depending on how large the bag is.

Other nice little features include the reflective military para-cord on the lacing, and reinforced eyelets to further add to durability. This is a seat pack built to last, and built to ride anywhere.
restrap-bikepacking-luggage
The Restrap holster mounts to the seatpost and saddle rails, with tough Nylon straps

restrap-bikepacking-luggage
A double strapping system on the seatpost avoids any loose ends that might catch on shorts

restrap bikepacking holster
Smart and secure buckles

restrap bikepacking holster
Nice touches, like strap clips, on the Restrap holster, keeps everything tidy and safe

restrap bikepacking holster
The Restrap holster will accomodate a dry bag between 8 and 13 litres - I'm using the supplied Ortlieb one

restrap bikepacking holster
Possibly the highlight of the Restrap Seat Pack is the magnetic adjustable buckle

restrap bikepacking holster
The reflective paracord is one of the many nice touches on the Restrap luggage

restrap bikepacking holster
Quality kit, with attention to detail. As far as bags go, the Restrap kit is a work of art

restrap bikepacking holster
There is no doubt that this kit from Restrap will be the perfect partner for my bikepacking adventures




The Restrap Small Frame Bag

restrap bikepacking framebag
The second piece of luggage I'll be using from the Yorkshire brand, is the Restrap Small Frame Bag. This is a neat little pouch, which hangs in the front-triangle of the frame; I plan to use it for easy-to-grab food, tools and accessories. It should do the job superbly.

The bag attaches to the frame using rubberised strapping; to protect the frame, and provide a secure rattle-free hold. The zippers are 100% waterproof - so you be sure the contents will be kept dry; whilst inner mesh pockets mean you can organise small items safely and securely.

Again, this is a beautifully made bag, with a real attention to detail. From the leather tag, to the para-cord zip pulls; everything about it suggests durable, reliable and touring-proof character. I can't wait to get on the road and trails and really take this kit places!
restrap bikepacking framebag
A waterproof zipper, with a paracord pull tab, on the Restrap Small Framebag

restrap bikepacking framebag
The Restrap Framebag uses simple, but secure strapping

restrap bikepacking framebag
Another stellar piece of kit from the Yorkshire brand - I'm looking forward to using the Restrap kit in some real touring duties

View the Restrap range at restrap.co.uk (Link)

Monday, 18 July 2016

Review - Thule Pack 'n Pedal Shield Front Panniers and Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour Rack

thule-pannier-rack
Thule bags have fast become a favourite of mine. I use the Thule Commuter Pack 'n Pedal Rucksack on a daily basis, to carry kit to and from work. I use the Thule Paramount Rucksack, as my 'go-everywhere' travel bag. Then, I use a Thule Pack 'n Pedal Trunk Bag, for shopping runs and errands. The range of bags from the Swedish brand, is outstandingly good quality; and they are designed with intricate details, which make them a pleasure to use, and keep using.

The Thule Pack 'n Pedal Shield Panniers are a more recent addition to the line-up from the brand; adding some colour to their range of panniers, in a simple but very effective design.

The Shield Panniers will work with most pannier racks, but for this test review I've been trialling them with their intended partner - the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour Rack.



Thule Pack 'n Pedal Shield Panniers - Small

thule-panniers
The Thule Pack 'n Pedal Shield Panniers provide a great waterproof solution to kit transportation on the bike. With some neat features, and bold colourful designs, they have impressed me during my testing to date.

Effective waterproofing

Waterproof panniers don't need to be complicated; they need to keep your kit dry; they need to stay attached to the rack; and ideally they don't weigh a tonne. Thule have followed these requirements well with their Pack 'n Pedal Shield Panniers; creating a minimalist, but strong performing option.

The bag's design uses the tried-and-tested roll-top closure system; which is now pretty universal for waterproof panniers. The roll-down is secured in place with a smart quick-release buckle strap, which creates a reassuringly sealed closure, no matter how full the bag is. The waterproof coated fabric, with welded seams, then ensures that the contents stays dry, even in the worst downpours.
thule-shield-panniers
The classic roll-top closure provides simple and effective waterproofing


Secure rack mounting

The Thule Shield Panniers use the same mounting system as the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Commuter Pannier, which I have previously reviewed on the blog. It is a unique patented system; using spring-loaded cams to attach the bag to the top rung of the rack, then a strong magnet to keep the lower part of the bag close to the bike's centre line.

The system worked well on the Commuter Pannier; that bag continues to be used off-road by another tester, and I haven't heard of it ever bouncing the bag off the rack. It works equally well on the smaller Shield Pannier, and provides a reassuring, secure attachment.
thule-shield-panniers
The Thule Shield Panniers attach using an innovative cam system

Thule Shield Panniers
The cam system on the Thule Shield Panniers is adjustable to different rail lengths, without tools


Added extras

Thule are great at adding in the little details to their bags; things that make them stand out, and make them a pleasure to use. On their rucksacks, for example, they have neat crush-proof "safe-zones" for sunglasses and valuables, which have proven to be super useful.

On the Shield pannier set, there isn't that much scope to add too much in terms of bells and whistles, as it would add bulk and weight. However, Thule have made some clever additions to the classic roll-top pannier design; the most noteworthy of these are the interior organisation pockets, shoulder straps and light clips; all of which are nice features, which add extra practicality.
thule shield panniers
Useful light attachment points are an example of attention to detail on the Shield panniers


Overall

The Thule Pack 'n Pedal Shield Panniers are another great product from the Swedish company; a bag which could deal with everyday use and abuse, and do so in a smart and sophisticated manner.

The set that I've been testing here is the small version, which works very well as a compact pair of rear panniers (rather than one unbalanced large pannier); but they also work very well as front panniers. It is in this latter position that I intend to use the Shield Panniers most, and they are currently on my shortlist of kit to use for my 'Coasts and Cols Tour'.
Thule Shield Panniers
The Thule Shield Panniers work well as front or rear panniers

Thule Shield Panniers
Smart, well-designed and highly functional - The Thule Shield Pannier Set




Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour Rack

Thule Pack n Pedal Tour Rack
The Thule Shield panniers will work with most pannier racks, and they come with a variety of fixings for various rail diameters and formats. However, they are normally showcased in use with the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour Rack; a unique and very versatile pannier rack.

Fits to everything

The aim of the game with the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour Rack, is universal fitting. It is designed so that it can be pushed into duty on any bike, whether road or mountain; as well as being usable as both a front or rear rack.

The rack achieves this versatility through the design of its 'legs'. The aluminium tubes can be adjusted using various struts, to allow you to fit them to any tube angle - be that vertical forks, or sloped seat-stays.

The legs attach to the tube using strong webbing ratchet straps, and rubber feet. The ratchet straps are tightened up with a hex key, so you can get a really tight hold. The result, is a secure grip and hold onto the chosen surface; it really does feel pretty rock solid. It also means you have the ability to mount the rack on bikes that don't feature frame or fork eyelets, or which have rear suspension; that is highly innovative!

I've fitted the rack to my Kona Private Jake, both as a front and rear option, and in both duties it has performed very well. Unlike some racks that I've tested, there is no disconcerting wobble or vibrations from the Tour rack; it also hasn't moved a millimetre, even with bumpy Isle of Wight roads, and a heavy load. Impressive.
thule pack n pedal tour pannier rack
The Thule Pack n Pedal Tour Rack attaches using strong webbing ratchet straps, making it super versatile

Thule Pack n Pedal Tour Pannier Rack
Varying size struts on the Thule pannier rack, enable a level platform on a variety of mounting surfaces

Thule Pack n Pedal Tour Pannier Rack
Good quality stainless steel hardware and nylon webbing, it is what I've come to expect from Thule


Useful functionality

I have a sneaking suspicion that the design of the top platform on the Thule Tour rack was heavily influenced by the popular Scandinavian cargo bike design; with its solid plate design, allowing you to carry a whole multitude of loads.

The plastic top plate, with its adjustable aluminium rails, clicks into place on the tubular aluminium legs; providing a super solid rack top, which is suitable for rack-top bags, panniers and strapped-on loads. The design does add a bit of weight compared to your traditional style pannier rack, but it also adds wheel spray protection, both for you and your rack-top loads/bag; in my opinion it's worth the extra weight.

There is little doubt that the solid platform and the sliding pannier rails make the Thule Tour Rack very versatile, and add a lot to the functionality. It actually makes me wonder why more brands haven't adopted this solid-platform approach before.
Thule Pack n Pedal Tour Pannier Rack
The solid top platform on the Thule Tour Rack is ideal for a whole manner of stowage solutions


Overall

Overall, the Thule Tour Rack is an innovative and versatile pannier rack. Whether you use it with the Thule Pack 'n Pedal Shield Panniers, other branded bags, or strapped-on loads, it is more than fit for purpose.

The strong aluminium tubing and ratchet straps create a secure and super-solid platform; whilst the adjustable rails, and the solid top-plate, create a versatile carrying solution.

I'm looking forward to really using this rack in earnest for the Coasts and Cols Tour, and I'm sure it will perform well.

View the Thule Pack 'n Pedal range at Thule.com (Link)
Thule Pack n Pedal Tour Pannier Rack
The Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour Rack is a very well made piece of kit


Friday, 15 July 2016

Erdinger Alkoholfrei - The Isotonic Recovery Drink

Erdinger-Alkoholfrei
There has long been a tradition for a 'recovery beer' amongst amateur bike riders, and even many professionals. The refreshing chilled beverage has the ability to revive, rejuvenate and relax you after a hard effort. The positive effects of alcoholic beer after exercise, are primarily psychological though; its benefits in terms of real physical recovery are very limited, or even negative.

What you really need after a prolonged effort, is a drink that will re-hydrate you, and replace depleted muscle glycogen stores; so you're ready to fire on all cylinders again, sometime soon. Erdinger Alkoholfrei is the only 'beer' that can actually be labelled an effective sports drink; aiding re-hydration and re-fuelling through isotonic benefits.


What are isotonic drinks?

Isotonic drinks are those that have a similar osmotic pressure to blood; that means a similar number of dissolved particles per litre. This characteristic means they can be absorbed into the blood stream faster than other liquids.

Dissolved particles include polyphenols, vitamins, electrolytes, carbohydrates, sugar, and protein particles. If the concentration of these particles is correct, then isotonic drinks can be absorbed up to four times faster than water - re-hydrating the body in the process. If carbohydrates are present in the particle mix, then isotonic drinks can also be the fastest way to deliver fuel to muscles.

Blood has a particle concentration of 290 mOsmol, and a drink has to be +/- 15% of this value to be classed as "isotonic".


Why should you take isotonic drinks?

Endurance sport depletes body fluid levels; through sweating and a higher breathing rate. Reduced fluid levels (dehydration) decrease sports performance; this is because when you sweat, you also lose essential salts like sodium and potassium; dehydration also thickens the blood, making it harder for your heart to pump around your body.

Drinking an isotonic drink during sport can help to re-hydrate you; as well as deliver carbohydrate to the liver, to be converted into glycogen that can fuel your muscles.

Erdinger Alkoholfrei
Erdinger Alkoholfrei - The only 'beer' I've found that is genuinely a 'sports recovery drink'


What makes Erdinger Alkoholfrei particularly good as an isotonic recovery drink?

There are many drinks out there that classify as "isotonic" - apple juice is a commonly touted one; Erdinger Alkoholfrei is particularly good though, because of the mix of particulates that it contains. 

Erdinger Alkoholfrei has a particle concentration of 289 mOsmol, which is very similar to blood. It also contains a natural blend of salt and carbohydrates; to help re-hydrate you, and refuel your muscles. Finally, the polyphenols within Erdinger AF have been found to help boost immunity, which is often lowered by intense exercise. It is this mix of properties that make this Weissbier a proper 'recovery drink'.


Have a 'Recovery Beer'!

So, Erdinger Alkoholfrei is quite literally the "perfect post-ride poison"; except there is nothing in it that could be considered a 'guilty' pleasure. This is a drink that will help to re-hydrate and rejuvenate your body after exercise, or prepare your body before you ride.

The best thing is, it tastes great; and tastes like a regular beer; this is because it is made in the same Erdinger Brewery as the rest of their products, using similar authentic natural brewing methods.

Have a beer! This one genuinely is a great recovery sports drink.

Erdinger Alkoholfrei