CTech October Product Picks
In the latest edition of CTech Product Picks we pull together a whole bunch of goodies that have arrived at CyclingTips HQ in the past month or so, giving you our initial impressions. As ever, if you’ve used any of the products featured here, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Next to Skin Undershirts
Next markets a variety of products ranging from cycling garments to sports video cameras and a variety of gel and foam products. Amongst the company’s range of cycling garments are Next to Skin undershirts, which are designed and manufactured in Italy.
The Mesh undershirt is sleeveless and designed for warm weather where the mesh acts to keep the skin dry while providing evaporative cooling. The Multi-Season undershirt is designed for both warm and cool weather. Both versions feature seamless construction for improved comfort.
The Mesh undershirt is available in two sizes (S-M, L-XL) and one colour (white); the Multi-season undershirts come in four sizes (S, M, L-XL, XXL) and three colours (white, black, and grey).
For more information visit Next.
RRP: Multi-season sleeveless undershirt, $89; Multi-season short sleeve undershirt, $95; Mesh sleeveless undershirt, $79.
There are two reasons to consider an undershirt (or base layer): the first is to protect the torso from the cold, and the second is to improve cooling in warm weather. Next to Skin undershirts are well made and promise to withstand multiple seasons of use.
The length is generous and the absence of seams along the torso makes these undershirts very easy to wear. Sizing is generous and there is plenty of stretch so there’s no need to go a size up for this Italian brand. I found that the Mesh undershirt was very effective at cooling, but I preferred the versatility of the Multi-season undershirt.
by Matt Wikstrom
Next-Zero Gillet and Jacket
In addition to undershirts, Next also manufactures gillets and jackets. Both garments use Zerowind which Next describes as a light membrane with “dynamic breathability” that allows condensation and perspiration to escape while maintaining protection against the wind and rain. Zerowind also packs down into a small size making the garment easy to stow away when not in use.
The gillet and jacket both have a lined collar, elastic waistband and cuffs, and a side pocket that doubles as a storage bag. The seams of the jacket are fully taped to improve water-resistance. Next-Zero gillets are available in white or black in sizes XS-XXL while the rain jacket is available in white, black, or fluorescent yellow and sizes XS-3XL.
For more information visit Next.
RRP: Zerowind Gillet, $139; Zerowind jacket, $179.
Next’s Zerowind fabric is impressive. Barely there, it is virtually silent while on the bike and very easy to pack away in a pocket when not in use. As noted above, Next’s sizing is generous, however I found the arms of the jacket could have been longer to stop the cuffs creeping up my forearms while I was stretched out on the bike. The Next-Zero gillet and jacket are ideal for those mild days when there is a risk of a change in weather.
by Matt Wikstrom
Taggisar ICE stickers
Taggisar ICE stickers are marketed with the line “Stickers that save lives”. Each sticker features a unique QR code and web address which is linked with a webpage with vital information about you. The idea, of course, is that if you’re involved in a crash or other incident, a first responder can pull up vital information such as your emergency contact, any medical conditions you might have, any medicine you are taking etc.
By scanning the QR code or visiting the website a responder can trigger an alarm that will automatically notify your emergency contact(s) via email and text message.
RRP: Pack of two, £4.99 (AUD$9); Pack of five, £9.99 (AUD$18)
It’s easy enough to set up each sticker. Simply scan the QR code or type in the URL on the sticker, enter your emergency contact details (mobile and/or email), any medical conditions you might have, any medicines you’re taking etc. Then attach the sticker to your bike or other gear to give you peace of mind. By logging into the website you can update your info or add a profile picture at any time.
This is a nifty little idea and one that’s very cheap to make use of. While paramedics and other first responders mightn’t specifically be looking out for these stickers or be notifying loved ones as a first priority, there’s certainly no harm in making your information available. The only issue I can see is one of internet access — if you’re in a location where internet access isn’t available, a personal ID band such as Road ID will be more useful.
by Matt de Neef
Le Coq Sportif Austre Women’s Jersey
The Austre Jersey was designed to look more like a teeshirt, but act like a jersey, with the same technical qualities and breathable material used in the fabric of the Tour de France cyclists’ jerseys. The material wicks away moisture from the skin, keeping you dry while maintaining your body temperature.
Women’s specific fit means fabric sits close to the body, without hugging too tightly. Three pockets feature on the lower-rear of the jersey, for essentials, plus a side-compartment fit for an MP3 player.
For more information, visit the Le Coq Sportif’s website.
Upon first picking up the jersey the luxurious fabric is immediately noticeable. It’s smooth, unlike many slightly scratchy forms of cycling apparel. On the bike it’s perfect, all moisture is immediately wicked away, and the silicon gripper along the bottom keeps the jersey perfectly in place without grabbing or pulling at skin or fabric.
The collar is what Le Coq Sportif has called a “Peter Pan” style, it has rounded edges and folds down like a polo teeshirt. The three-quarter zip can be a slight hassle if wearing bib shorts, but the zip itself is neat and well tucked away.
Overall, this jersey is great for the enthusiastic cyclist. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a general sports company who make fine products throughout their range.
by Caz Whitehead
The team at CycleDesign sent us a selection of their LED lights — a mixture of front and rear lights, some small, others bigger and superbright. In their own words, CycleDesign lights offer “a sleek minimal looking design, easy to use operation and high visibility. Ideal for commuter or road cycling. Each light is designed to be compact, durable, water resistant and easily mounted to your bike.” All lights we tested were USB rechargeable, with the exception of the 300 Lumen front light, which takes two AA batteries.
For more information visit the CycleDesign website.
RRP: Safety 40 Lumen Rear Light $35; Mini Rechargeable Rear Light $35; Mini Rechargeable Front Light $35; Front Light $55; 3 LED Headlight $35.
In our minds, commuting lights need to be functional, bright and aesthetically pleasing. The mini rechargeable lights in the CycleDesign range seem to fit the bill in all regards.
At only 45mm in length, the black (also available in white) mini rechargeable front light packs a surprising wallop, while remaining discrete when not in use. The rubber strap mounting is robust, and a simple click and twist allows you to remove the unit for charging. The light comes with a fairly extensive mounting kit to allow for helmet and bar installs for a range of different sizes.
The 40 lumen rear light features the same simple rubber mounting and can be installed in seconds. A number of different holes allow for mounting on different seatposts, however the bracket is not suited for narrow aero seatposts. Visibility of the rear light is high, and on the flash mode the rechargeable unit will last a claimed 50 hours.
Discrete and stealthy, easy to install, and with good visibility these units provide excellent value for money.
by Andy van Bergen
Peak Cyclewear Vintage Velo Kangaroo Leather Gloves
The defining feature of Peak Cyclewear’s Vintage Velo gloves is the fact that they feature kangaroo leather “for style and breathability”. According to the company, kangaroo leather has “superior shape retention”, it is “up to 3x stronger than all other leathers” it is “extremely lightweight and comfortable” and it offers “vastly better grip in all conditions”.
For more information visit the Peak Cyclewear website.
According to Peak Cyclewear, “Heaven really is in the palm of your hands” when wearing their Vintage Velo gloves. While that particular statement might be a little overblown, these are certainly a nice set of gloves.
The leather feels durable and thick, noticeably more so than other sets of gloves we’ve worn in the past. We weren’t about to test just how durable the leather is by crashing, but judging by the thickness of the pads on the heel of the hand, they’d offer considerably more protection than your standard, synthetic cycling gloves.
We noticed a few loose threads here and there but generally these gloves look the part and promise to offer solid protection.
by Matt de Neef
Fondo Snow, Disco and Geo kits
After noticing a gap in the market for a combination of both interesting and comfortable cycling kit for women, Fondo set out in late 2013 to create something that covered both of these areas. Founded by three avid cyclists in Melbourne, they worked on a design that both looked great while still maintaining fabric and manufacturing quality. Three different kits have been released in season one; named Snow, Disco and Geo.
For more information visit the Fondo Cycling website.
RRP: $320 for each set
The Snow design was my choice of the three; looking like the wooly jumpers of winter, it caught my eye right away. When first removing the kit from its packaging, immediately a couple of obvious things sprung to attention. The straps on the bibs are quite thin, and made of a gripper-like material. They sit very wide – unlike regular men’s, or even standard women’s bibs – sitting on the edges of the collarbone rather than the middle. Also, the fabric of the jersey feels light and stretchy to the touch.
The bibs felt fragile at first wear – and quite tight – and this is where the testing began. I decided not to be gentle with the fabric, but rather pull on it and muscle it around. The delicate fabrics simply took the pressure in their stride, and came to rest happily on my legs, grippers gripping but not squeezing.
The bib straps are wide-set, meaning they sit to the sides of the chest area; no crushing of breasts involved. The jersey feels amazing on, thin and airy without feeling cheap or clingy. Sleeve length is great; arm warmer gaps almost impossible. And the best part – the chamois is incredibly comfortable. I’ve ridden many kits, and found few I’ve loved, and many I’ve disliked. Several kits I own are purely for the sub-40km ride, and only the best come out for the three-hour-plus rides. Fondo is now in that exclusive group.
by Caz Whitehead
Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix
Skratch Labs was founded by Dr. Allen Lim who famously worked with Floyd Landis at Phonak and later with Garmin. Besides other things, he became well known for his real food recipes that he gave to the professional riders.
He’s now branched off to create his own business called Skratch Labs where he takes his philosophy of “real food” to make sports products available for you and I. According to Skratch Labs:
“For years, athletes would secretly dump their sponsors’ drinks to replace it with ours, earning the name SDM from the pros who used it. Those athletes will tell you that they felt better, performed better, and didn’t experience the bloating and stomach issues that they did with other sports or electrolyte drinks.”
For more information visit the First Endurance website.
RRP: $49.50 per box of 20 single sachets
I still make some of Allen Lim’s recipes at home and am a big advocate of ‘real food’ on the bike. However, food that’s made at home doesn’t have the convenient packaging and portions that commercial products have.
I have to say, I was impressed by my introduction to Scratch Labs’ products and absolutely loved the taste of their pineapple and raspberry hydration mixes. At first it seems like a weak flavour when adding to a 650ml bidon, but after a bit of exercise I found the concentration to be perfect. The taste is outstanding and feels like you’re drinking a bit of fruit juice diluted in water, but tailored for exercising (i.e. has the optimal amount of sugars and electrolytes). The convenient 24g packaging makes it easy to bring a few sachets out on a ride to refill and doesn’t make a mess.
I’m definitely a fan and am keen to try more of Scratch Labs’ products.
by Wade Wallace
Find Your Freedom kit
The bibs are described by Find Your Freedom as follows: “Like the ever reliable dependability of a team domestique, the FYF Bibestiques represent the faithful ‘go to’ cycling bib-shorts for comfortable day in, day out riding. Designed in Australia and made in Italy for when you seek unwavering assurance that the job will get done.” The jersey is described like this: “For those that ride it all. Designed for the pavé, bitumen or single track alike, the FYF Rouleur jersey guarantees you’ll feel better, ride better.”
For more information visit the Find Your Freedom website.
RRP: ‘Bibestique’ Bib shorts $129.95; Rouleur jersey $129.95; FYF gloves $39.95; FYF SS socks $17.95; FYF Cycling Cap $19.95.
The FYF kit sports a clean, simple design with a nice colour palette. The single, light-blue leg band ties the knicks nicely to the jersey, the latter sporting a stripe of the same colour across the chest. The race-cut jersey looks and feels slimming and the whole kit is comfortable.
The bib and brace and the silicon leg grippers keep everything in the right place, as you’d expect. The chamois reads “high density – max impact absorption 120” and while it’s not entirely clear what the second part of this means, it certainly is thick, thanks to a dual-density design. It’s probably a little too bulky for my liking, but that’s just down to personal taste and one’s anatomical structure.
The cap and socks are pretty standard fare, but the gloves deserve some mention. According to FYF, the “super grip finish ensures you won’t lose a handle on even the tightest of hairpins”. They certainly are grippy — the textured palms not only look great but they afford extra confidence when gripping the bars, even when it’s wet.
Overall, FYF has put together a simply designed but effective ensemble that looks and feels great.
by Matt de Neef
Thule Chasm 90L Sports Duffel Bag
Thule’s 90 litre Chasm duffel bag features an oversized, wide mouth opening to “make it easy to pack and easy to get to your gear”. It features “durable, waterproof tarpaulin fabric [that] stands up on its own for easy packing, but easily folds for storage”, and a padded bottom to “cushion your gear from the ground”.
The Chasm is available in four colours (dark grey, light grey, dark blue and yellow) and has the following stats: external height 33 cm; external length 74 cm; External depth 42 cm; weight 1.2kg.
For more information visit Thule Australia.
The Thule Chasm is exactly as the name suggests: a big bag with a large opening that’s easy to get your stuff in and out of.
Like any good bag the Chasm has a raft of straps and handles (which you can tuck away neatly, or remove completely when not in use) and a bunch of different compartments to help keep your various bits of gear separate. When you aren’t using the Chasm, you can roll it up into a cylinder and store it in its mesh bag to save room.
All told, this is a big, handy bag that’s perfect for carting your gear around in while off on a cycling weekend. It feels tough and durable, and the waterproof exterior gives extra confidence that your gear will be kept safe and dry.
by Matt de Neef