CTech December Product Picks
The December edition of CTech Product Picks is packed to the brim with all manner of cycling-related products, including on- and off-the-bike clothing, tyres, chamois cream, stationary trainers, lights and a whole lot more besides. If you’ve used any of the products mentioned in the post, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Click the links below to skip through to a particular review:
- LeMond Revolution trainer
- Astute Saddles
- The Sufferfest video – “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time”
- DZ Nuts Pro Chamois Cream
- Nuun Electrolyte Drink Tabs
- Bontrager Tubeless Road Tyres
- Look Mum No Hands! caps, socks and Podium Pants
- Creux shirts and jeans
- Assortment of Knog Blinder front lights
- BBB Select Sunglasses
- Assos S7 “Game Changer” bib shorts
- UpBeat Nitrate Max Beetroot Juice
- Rapha super-lightweight jersey, bibs and merino hoodie
- Rouleur Centenary Tour de France book
LeMond Revolution trainer
The LeMond Revolution is a direct-drive, progressive resistance trainer. This means that all of your energy goes directly into turning the flywheel, creating the same high inertia, low mechanical drag that you get while riding outdoors.
The Revolution spins freely when the pedals aren’t engaged, and delivers progressive wind resistance similar to real-world conditions. The Revolution does away with the rear wheel entirely. You simply remove your back wheel, slip your dropouts onto the axles of the Revolution and go. This means no tyre slippage, tire wear and tear, and no more front blocks to level your bike.
RRP: $699 AUD
The Revolution is up there with the best trainers I’ve used. The heavy flywheel and wind resistance give this trainer a remarkably similar “feel” to riding on the road. You don’t need a separate front wheel stand to keep the bike level, and it takes only a minute to remove your rear wheel and fasten your drive-train to the Revolution (note that a cassette is not included), and you don’t burn out a good tyre while riding it.
There are a couple shortcomings however. The biggest deal-breaker for many people will be the loud noise that it generates when pushing a big gear. This is unfortunate, but a necessary evil of the wind resistance which gives it such a realistic road feel.
Also, strength-endurance intervals cannot be done properly with the Revolution. It is much better suited to speed and time trial efforts. You can use a big gear to generate a lot of resistance, but it has the same feel as riding on a flat road rather than climbing.
To understand the difference, we wrote an article on this a while back here (it’s all about high kinetic energy). That said, the time spent on a trainer doing SE intervals would be in the minority.
Pitfalls aside, I highly recommend the LeMond Revolution to anyone who takes their ergo training seriously.
by Wade Wallace
Astute is a new saddle manufacturer and is proud that its products are made wholly in Italy. Their catalogue currently comprises three models: SkyLine (titanium rails with a carbon-reinforced base), SkyLite (carbon rails with a carbon-reinforced base), and SkyCarb (carbon rails with a full carbon base). All three models have the same shape with a choice of an open central channel (designated as VT) or closed (designated as SR).
Three densities of foam are used as padding for Astute saddles. The SkyLite and SkyCarb models also incorporate shock-absorbing materials at the rear of the saddle. The so-called Shock Pad Absorption System (SPAS) is inserted between the carbon rails and the base of the saddle like a rubber bumper to further cushion the rider.
All Astute saddles are available in white or black with either a red or black base. For more information visit the Astute Italia website.
RRP: SkyLine $189; SkyLite $289; SkyCarb $499.
The SkyLite VT saddle sent for review presented beautifully and the finish was impeccable. The logo placement in particular was handled very tastefully, adding interest rather than offending the eye.
On the bike, this saddle first reminded me of Fizik’s Kurve saddle in the way that it sways during pedalling. I didn’t find the sensation uncomfortable nor did it detract from my efforts, and my awareness of it disappeared after a few kilometers.
The saddle has a very square shape and lacks any noticeable dip, so is better suited to riders that like to sit “on” a saddle rather than “in” it. The padding and shock absorbing pads made for a comfortable ride, and the surface of the saddle was neither slippery or sticky but just right.
by Matt Wikstrom
The Sufferfest – It seemed like a good idea at the time (ISLAGIATT)
Here’s what the team at The Sufferfest has to say about ISLAGIATT:
“Two hours on the trainer. Who the hell wants to spend that much time on the trainer? Nobody. But if you’re training seriously and need to be indoors, then you have to put in longer sessions to ensure you’ve got the endurance to go the distance. It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (ISLAGIATT) is here for you and you’ll never be bored on the turbo trainer again.
Featuring four major climbs over the course of two hours, it’s the story of your quest to capture the Giro d’Italia’s Most Aggressive Rider award. With an engrossing story, stunning footage, a killer indie/electronic soundtrack and more attacks than you can shake a shredded chamois at, this is one of the best Sufferfest videos in the land of Sufferlandria.”
For more information, visit The Sufferfest website.
Are your ergo sessions like this? They don’t have to be.
I’ve watched The Sufferfest evolve from the first video where some of my criterium footage appears. Back then, The Sufferfest was basically a hobby to David McQuillen (creator) and it’s remarkable to see how far his trainer videos have come.
My one minor criticism back then was that the videos didn’t follow much of a structured workout. They were entertaining and certainly smashed the legs, but I’m a big advocate on proper structure if you’re going to be on the ergo. That’s all changed however.
With the help of Apex coaching, the workouts are now designed with specific training purposes in mind and they keep you entertained with real race footage and great tunes at every moment.
The Sufferfest has now produced about 15 more videos and ISLAGIATT is their most recent. Featuring footage from the 2013 Giro d’Italia, the workout follows an exhilarating storyline that puts you right in the middle of the race. The “Glow-worm” character (a little runt in Fantini-Vini kit that I like to think of as Di Luca) becomes your nemesis and gives your legs a thrashing.
The workout is two hours long and features three big climbs (15-20 minutes), a short but steep final berg (8 minutes), and just when you think you’ve had enough and can’t go any longer there’s an exciting ending which leaves you completely spent.
Even in Australia during the beautiful summer, ergo training is an important and efficient part of training. It doesn’t need to be boring. In fact, it can be invigorating. Just add The Sufferfest and it’ll give you all the motivation you need.
Not only does The Sufferfest make creative, useful and entertaining videos. It also has an immense community of “Sufferlandrians” who are a masochistic lot. Check out www.Sufferlandria.com (the Ministry of tourism and torture), the Knights of Sufferlandria, as well as their facebook page. What a crazy bunch.
by Wade Wallace
DZ Nuts Pro Chamois Cream
Dave Zabriskie is the DZ in DZ Nuts, and he is keen to “protect your junk”. His Pro cream has been designed to both prevent and heal saddle sores using four strategies.
First, the cream reduces or eliminates chafing; second, it has an anti-inflammatory action; third, the cream promotes wound healing; and fourth, infection is reduced by anti-fungal and anti-bacterial ingredients such as tea tree oil.
DZ Nuts also offers a formulation for women called Bliss Pro that also contends with yeast growth.
For more information, visit the DZ Nuts website.
RRP: $29.95 for 125ml Pro (men’s) or Bliss Pro (women’s) cream
The last time I used a chamois cream was during the ’90s when cycling shorts used a true chamois and a cream was crucial to keep the leather supple. Modern elastic padding no longer depends upon on a cream to be comfortable however saddle sores continue to afflict cyclists, and a cream like DZ Nuts will help the problem.
I found DZ Nuts Pro cream is easy to apply and a little went a long way. You’re free to apply the cream to the pad or your skin, but be warned, it contains menthol that provides a measure of heat (just like Vick’s VapoRub!) wherever it is applied.
If saddle sores are an ongoing problem (especially if they always occur of the same side of your perineum), I recommend you spend some time addressing your fit on the bike to alleviate the cause of excess chafing or friction.
by Matt Wikstrom
Nuun Electrolyte Drink Tabs
Dissolve a Nuun Active Hydration electrolyte tab in a bidon of water to get an electrolyte drink in roughly two minutes. Each cylinder of 12 tablets fits comfortably in your jersey pocket meaning convenient lightly-carbonated electrolyte drinks without having to stop to buy a bottle of ready-made sports drink.
Each tablet contains less than 1g of carbohydrate. They contain no sugar, no high-fructose corn syrup and no artificial flavour or colours. They are availble in 12 flavours, from common flavours such as Lemon + Lime to less common options such as Lemon Tea or Cherry Limeade.
For more information see the Nuun Australia website.
RRP: $44.95 for a four-pack (total of 48 tablets)
If you’re used to drinking ready-made electrolyte drinks such as Powerade or Gatorade you’ll likely find Nuun to be rather weaker in flavour and sweetness. There’s no sugar, but the sorbitol (artificial sweetener) gives the drink a slightly sweet taste.
Nuun recommends that you dissolve one tablet in 480ml of water. I tried three flavours — Lemon + Lime, Strawberry Lemonade and Tropical — at different strengths and one tablet in a 650ml bidon definitely tasted too weak. Even with two tablets the intensity was a little milder than I was used to, but all three flavours sampled were pleasant.
by Matt de Neef
Bontrager Tubeless Road Tyres
Bontrager label their tubeless tyre system TLR (tubeless ready) and offer a range of TLR wheelsets and tyres along with rim strips, valves and sealant. There are two TLR road tyres in Bontrager’s catalogue, the R2 and R3, and both are available in 23mm and 25mm widths. The R2 is around 15g heavier than the R3 tyre for either width; otherwise they share the same aramid bead and 120tpi casing.
The R2 and R3 can be used with any tubeless system provided a sealant is used. Bontrager recommend 25ml/tyre of sealant and offer their own formulation in two sizes, 2oz (59ml) and 32oz (950ml).
For more information visit the Bontrager website.
RRP: Tubeless R3 tyres $79.95 each; tubeless R2 tyres $59.95 each; 32oz (950ml) sealant $39.95; 2oz (59ml) $5.95.
Bontrager promise that the R3 tubeless tyre is both lightweight and supple. The latter claim is noteworthy given that many tubeless road tyres have a reputation for being anything but supple, though in this instance, Bontrager’s claim proved to be true.
I had no trouble fitting the R3 tyres to Stan’s Alpha 340 rims without tyre levers and inflation was straightforward, all that was required was a little more time compared to a regular clincher, though the process gets easier with practice. A set of 25mm R3 tyres were provided for review, so I started with 80psi in each wheel, and it served me well, both on- and off-road.
The R3 tyres started singing as soon as I hit the road and they sounded a like a good racing clincher fitted with latex tubes. They were fast and supple too, and provided plenty of traction in corners. The 25mm tyres were also very comfortable, as expected for this width.
The extra performance of these tyres comes at a small price: just like latex tubes, these tyres lost some air (~20psi) overnight and it was necessary to pump up the tyres before every ride. For some riders, this may be a deal-breaker, but it’s nothing compared to the extra performance on offer.
The only question that remains to be answered is the susceptibility of the R3 tubeless tyres to punctures and pinch-flats. The tubeless system promises to reduce or eliminate both, which should prove invaluable if you’re keen to go riding with some CT staffers.
I didn’t suffer any punctures during the test period despite subjecting them to some pretty craggy limestone paths and a variety of trails that have previously my regular clinchers on previous occasions. All told, this is a remarkably versatile tyre that offers supple performance without sacrificing the robustness of the tubeless system.
by Matt Wikstrom
Look Mum No Hands! Caps, Socks and Podium Pants
We featured the Look Mum No Hands! bike shop in our article Ten More of the World’s Coolest Bike Shops a few months back and now the London shop has its own online store with some branded merchandise.
They sent us a selection of five cycling caps, two pairs of socks and a set of Podium Pants: men’s briefs in yellow, green and white with red polka dots, as per the Tour de France jerseys.
For more information see the Look Mum No Hands! online shop.
RRP: Caps $18; Socks $18: Podium Pants $45
We were sent five caps in a variety of styles and all sported a nice broad brim, perfect for keeping the sun out of your eyes on summer rides. All will look just as good at the cafe sans-helmet as they will under a helmet while on a ride, but ensure you follow these guidelines on when and how to wear a cap (or don’t; we don’t really mind).
We did notice that a couple of the caps had a few loose threads when they arrived and they did feel a little thin and flimsy. Minor criticisms aside, these certainly are some stylish caps.
The Look Mum No Hands! socks are simply just branded De Feet Aireator socks and do what they’re supposed to do. They’re comfortable, breathable and look pretty nice with Look Mum No Hands! at the top of the sock. The sock height will appeal to you if you like your socks of a more traditional height but if you prefer your socks to touch your calves, these might feel a little short.
It’s hard to know what to say about underwear other than that the Podium Pants are comfortable and do everything that undergarments are supposed to do. That said, I did notice that the polka dot briefs did seem a little tighter than the other two — perhaps a reminder that it wouldn’t hurt to lose a few kilos to improve one’s climbing? (Or I might have had a big dinner the night before)
Perhaps the most impressive thing about these Podium Pants is the marketing campaign which saw the team climb Mont Venotux in little more than their podium pants. In the words of Sam Humpheson from Look Mum No Hands, “It was bloody freezing…”
by Matt de Neef
Creux shirts and jeans
The folks at Creux Cycling sent us two basic t-shirts and two merino t-shirts to review, in addition to a pair of their straight-leg indigo raw Soigneur cycling jeans. The jeans feature an in-built chamois, 2% lycra for stretchability, waterproofing and an inside-leg print for night-riding visibility.
For more information see the Creux Cycling website.
RRP: Lion & “Pane e Acqua” shirts $64.95; “Director Sportif” and “Hellingen” merino shirts $119.95; Soigneur straight leg cycling jeans $199.95
Jeans that are suited for riding used to be a novelty in my world but after wearing my first set of Creux cycling jeans I thought “these are awesome!” The lycra mixed in the denim makes them remarkably stretchy and comfortable.
They are actually ideal for riding in for short commutes. Even when I have no intentions on riding I’ll find myself putting my Creux jeans on at the beginning of the day.
Just note that the “Straight legged” jeans are still a relatively skinny cut – something I had to get used to (I’m more of a baggy jean type of guy).
As for the t-shirts, I love the subtle design details. They’re edgy, they fit like a t-shirt should fit, and they’re high quality. Give me a merino t-shirt and I’ll wear it until it falls apart, and these are no exception.
by Wade Wallace
Assortment of Knog Blinder front lights
Australian-based bike light makers Knog sent us a collection of three new Blinder front lights to try: the Road 3, the Arc 1.7 and the Arc 5.5.
The Blinder Road 3 has two side-by-side LEDs that pump out a maximum of 300 lumens on the brightest of three settings. You can also toggle between having both of the two LEDs on, just one, or flickering between the two. The Road 3 also comes with a helmet mount and two mount straps for different handlebar diameters.
The Blinder Arc 1.7 features a single LED and is capable of producing 170 lumens at peak brightness. The Blinder Arc 5.5 also features one LED but is capable of 550 lumens at its peak. It is also nearly twice as long as the Arc 1.7, it features a helmet mount kit and also comes with two different mount straps, for different bar diameters.
For more information see the Knog website.
RRP: Blinder Road 3 $99.95; Blinder Arc 1.7 $69.95; Blinder Arc 5.5 $124.95
The first thing you notice when you unpackage Knog lights (from their recyclable packaging) is that they are beautifully designed with a simple but effective finish. All three lights we tried were black with one simple colour at the front (red for the Road 3, blue for the Arc 1.7 and silver for the Arc 5.5).
The silicone attaching straps work great and seem to keep the lights in place just fine, except with the heavy Blinder Arc 5.5 which seemed to droop slightly whenever I hit a bump in the road.
One of the criticisms of the earlier Knog models was that while the USB recharging feature was great, the USB port was awkwardly placed and made attaching it to a computer very difficult, and sometimes impossible. It’s good to see that both the Blinder Road 3 and the Blinder Arc 5.5 come with a short USB extension cord. Why the Arc 1.7 doesn’t is a bit of a mystery.
We tested all three lights at full brightness and there’s a reason they have been given the name Blinder. All are incredibly bright (please don’t look directly at them) and you’re unlikely to make many friends on your home commute if you have these directed at eye level. It raises an interesting question: how bright is too bright? Are these lights too bright for city riding? I would probably use them at one of their lower settings, to save battery and to avoid blinding fellow cyclists.
At full brightness all three lights ran out of charge quite quickly: in less than 90 minutes in the case of the Arc 1.7, ten minutes longer for the Road 3, and in 2.5 hours for the Arc 5.5. If you set these lights to flash they’ll last for roughly six times as long.
As with previous lights in the Knog range, it’s safest to get into the habit of charging these every night. Charging times were surprisingly long: 4.5 hours for the Arc 1.7, 5.5 hours for the Blinder 3 and 7 hours for the Arc 5.5.
But at the end of the day these are beautiful looking lights that do the job just fine. Just be prepared to charge them after every use and you’ll be fine.
by Matt de Neef
BBB Select Sunglasses
BBB’s Select sunglasses feature a Grilamid frame and interchangeable shatterproof polycarbonate lenses. There is a choice of coloured lenses and each set comes packaged with another two lenses (yellow and clear), a carry case, and cleaning accessories. In addition, there is a full range of spares available.
Choose from black, white, or neon yellow frames and a variety of lens colours (smoke, mirrored red, mirrored blue, mirrored green) and temple tips (black, blue, red, yellow, white, grey, pink, yellow).
For more information visit the BBB website.
These glasses are light and comfortable and the optics are very good, providing a crisp view. Changing lenses just takes a moment or two, the extra clear and yellow lenses add value to the asking price. For even better value, hunt down the Select Gift Box, which provides white or black frames with a 6 lenses and 7 temple tip colours for $165.
by Matt Wikstrom
Assos S7 “Game Changer” bib shorts
Here’s what Assos has to say about their S7 “Game Changer” bibs:
“We developed the S7 Platform with four models; each serving a specific need but all for the same rider. Frequent riders need more than one pair of shorts, but there is little reason to own several of the same pairs of the expensive ones. Why? One you might ride every day, one might be for an important race, another might be for a leisurely ride with friends. Different needs mean different shorts.”
They also quote the following figures, in comparison to the previous S5 model: -14% less volume (lighter), -23% less genital pressure, -47% less seams, +17% more soft compression and +21% more breathability (when dry).
The shorts received for this review are the T.Equipe (middle of the range). The four bib shorts in the range are the T.Neopro, T.Equipe, T.100 and T.Campionissimo and are designed to offer a regular fit, racing fit, comfort fit and compressive racing fit – each getting lighter, more features, and more expensive as you move through the range.
Do you really need four sets of knicks for different riding situations? I applaud the fact that they have catered for all uses and personal preferences, but personally I wouldn’t feel the need to buy all of them.
It doesn’t take long to appreciate all the features built into these shorts. The most obvious difference between these and other shorts is the seat pad (or chamois). A chamois is typically sewn into a short around the entire area, however on the S7, Assos have interrupted the sewing in the area between the legs, a feature they call “Golden Gate” which they say improves movement and reduce friction.
The side of the chamois is also finished with “anatomical side flaps” designed to reduce chafing on the side of the saddle. Their two top tier models (the T.100 and T.Campionissimo, not the ones shown here) feature the so-called “Kuku Penthouse” which features a round-shaped pattern made of skin contact textile, not foam, which “creates a ‘nest’ where the male genitals are properly stored”.
The chamois itself is very comfortable (made by CYTECH, previously Elastic Interface) and I would expect nothing less. The bibs have a nice feel, are comfortable, and have a very nice fit around the shoulders and chest. As with all Assos bibs I’ve tried, they rise quite a bit lower on the stomach than other bibs (which makes them very easy to take a nature break in). The bands around the legs have small silicone grippers which hold them in place, and I really like the leg bands.
There’s no doubt that the Assos S7 shorts stand out from the crowd and I won’t hesitate to say that these are an impressive set of bibs. But saying they’re a “Game Changer” is a big call. However, I’ve only worn them once at the time of this mini-review and I look forward to posting an update after a few hundred kilometers to see if they do indeed change the game.
by Wade Wallace
UpBeat Nitrate Max Beetroot Juice
Here’s what the folks at UpBeat have to say about their product:
“The idea of manufacturing an Australian beetroot super drink came from a partnership between Steve Steele, Paul Phillips and Simon Jones in September 2012. Paul, a competitive mountain biker, was preparing for the Cape to Cape mountain bike race in Western Australia. Paul met with Simon (a former Head Coach of Great Britain Cycling team and former personal coach to Bradley Wiggins) to discuss training and nutrition for this arduous event.
Simon introduced Paul to beetroot and its health and performance benefits. Research into the impact of beetroot juice on sport performance had been well established by researchers from the UK.
Paul found the beetroot juice supported his training but availability and taste was a bit of an issue. Also, buying from the UK just seemed un-Australian! So he came up with the idea to make his own drink, and make it better. Paul spoke to a good friend of his, a food technologist Steve Steele. Steve then created various prototype drinks over several months. After extensive testing and re-testing for taste quality and nitrate levels, Upbeat was formed.”
RRP: $45 for a 12-pack of 250ml bottles
Find out more at the UpBeat website.
Anecdotally I think this beetroot thing is more than just a fad. I’ve used it before and although there are so many variables in how performance is perceived, every time I’ve used it I feel stronger than normal.
I can’t say for sure though, and neither can the research. Our resident dietitian Alan McCubbin wrote a piece entitled “Beetroot juice – Good science or just great marketing” which explains it far better than I ever could.
by Wade Wallace
Rapha super-lightweight jersey, lightweight bibs and merino hoodie
Here’s what Rapha has to say about these products:
“The Super-Lightweight Jersey is made from three synthetic technical fabrics developed exclusively for Rapha. Designed for rides when even a Rapha Lightweight Sportwool Jersey is too heavy, the jersey’s main fabric is comfortable against the skin whilst you perspire and is also fast drying. The jersey also benefits from an anti-odour treatment and the central cargo pocket is designed to carry a third bidon for extra hydration.
The Lightweight Bib Shorts have been designed to keep you cool and comfortable in hot and humid conditions. They are made from a soft, stretch fabric that offers exceptional breathability, is significantly lighter than other Rapha Bib Shorts and also incorporates sun-block treatment. Other features designed for hot-weather riding include a lighter mesh for greater breathability and a larger cutaway section in the back.
The Merino Hoody is an innovative, mid-weight outer layer that uses an ingenious mix of fabrics to create a top that offers high performance with contemporary, urban styling. Windproof front panels keep out chills when riding, while the fully-fashioned 100% merino body and arms keep you snug on and off the bike. The jacket also features clever details such as a detachable hi-vis tab and a roll-up hood.”
RRP: jersey: $175 AUD bibs: $230 AUD hoodie: $230 AUD
Let’s start with the Merino Hoodie. It’s one of my favorite pieces of Rapha kit. I own four of them and wear every single one. My wife is sick of them. They’re warm but not too warm, they protect your chest from the wind, the hood is basically an ornament but it looks cool and wouldn’t be a hoodie without one.
The Lightweight bibs are similar to Rapha’s Classic bibs, but obviously more lightweight and great for those scorching hot Australian summer days that are approaching. The chamois is made by CYTECH, the best in the business, and the overall fit is near perfect. A good set of bibs is the most important part of cycling kit and Rapha has nailed it.
The super-lightweight jersey is just that; very lightweight and a good choice in the summer. However, I’ve always been critical of Rapha’s pockets. In particular, the middle pocket is too small to make much use of, therefore forcing riders to stuff everything in the side pockets and it looking like a royal mess (a big no-no).
Otherwise, the jersey is superbly constructed, designed, and styled. If you like the minimalist look, you’ll be very happy with this set of kit.
by Wade Wallace
Rouleur Centenary Tour de France book
Seven writers and photographers went along to the 100th edition of the Tour de France for Rouleur and each team was given license to document three stages of the Tour as they saw fit. The result is Rouleur’s seventh annual photo book which features some terrific stories from and around the race, complemented by some simply stunning photos.
For more information or to buy a copy head to the Rouleur website.
This book is the very definition of what a cycling-related coffee table book should be. Big, beautiful photos, many of them double-page spreads, and some amazing stories from the 100th edition of the worlds’s biggest bike race.
The storytelling (in text and in image) is far less about who won each stage and how — instead it’s about the stories, the locations and the characters behind the 100th Tour de France. It’s a unique perspective on what might have seemed like a reasonably lifeless race (Froome takes yellow on stage 8 and holds it all the way to Paris).
If you’re looking for a cycling book for your coffee table, or if you’re looking for a document of this year’s Tour de France you could do far worse than the Rouleur Centenary Tour de France book.
by Matt de Neef