Sunday, 7 February 2016

Photos: Sunshine, Squalls and Summits - Primal HiVis Ride

Sunshine, gales and lots of hill climbing featured on today's ride. A chance for a few photos, too.

This is the latest kit from Primal Europe, which I have been testing for the last few weeks. It includes the HiVis Rain Cape, Onyx Wind Vest and Onyx Bib Knickers, as well as the Primal HiVis Fusion Jacket.

The Primal HiVis Rain Cape has been invaluable with the frequent squalls


A shadow! That means sunshine!


I am impressed by the features and quality of this latest Primal Wear kit


Fluorescent visibility


Warm enough for three quarters, just.


The Kask Infinity featured in my 'Top Winter Cycling Kit for 2016' post


I have become a fan of the HiVis pink bar tape. I was dubious at first.


Crosswinds!


A great day in the saddle. #HappyTrails #NeverLoseYourGrip


Sunday, 31 January 2016

Review: Swrve Softshell Belgian Cap

A warm piece of headwear is vital to staying comfortable on the bike in the winter months. Your head acts a bit like a heat dissipater, because of the significant blood flow close to the skin; as a result, it becomes essential to protect it from the wind, water and cold temperatures.

My normal choice of headwear for winter riding is a simple skull cap, which fits neatly and snugly underneath your helmet. However, a skull cap does little to shield your forehead from driving rain or (if you're lucky) sunshine; this is where the Belgian style cycling cap comes in...

Featuring a brimmed peak like a traditional casquette, as well as fold down ear flaps; the Belgian cap is a belt-and-braces approach. Swrve, an American brand that should be familiar to blog readers (read previous review here), has taken the protective design one step further, and produced this rather luxurious softshell version.

Last month, I reviewed the Swrve Winter Softshell Trousers, and praised them for their practicality, comfort and durability. With the same three layer softshell fabric being used for this winter cap, as well as a beautifully soft fleece on the fold-down ear flaps, this looked to be a winner from the moment I set eyes on it.

Indeed, the Swrve Winter Softshell Belgian Cap hasn't failed to disappoint. It is warm, water-resistant and windproof, and yet highly breathable. I have worn it on winter commutes; in temperatures from -4°C right up to +12°C; in wind and rain, and it has been superbly comfortable throughout.

In typical Swrve fashion, even after hours of use, it still looks like new, too. It has put up with the daily wear and abuse, and there is no sign of the robust flat-lock seams coming loose any time soon.

Fantastically comfortable; this has to be one of the best winter riding accessories on the market.

View the Swrve Softshell Belgian Cap at swrve.co.uk (Link)

Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Best Stainless Steel Bottles For Bikes - 24Bottles

Last week, I wrote a post on the Benefits of Stainless Steel (Link); considering how plastic-fantastic bike bottles might not be your best option, for a number of reasons.

As a continuation on the theme, I have been experimenting with different stainless steel bottles over the last month, from a variety of brands; searching for the best design for on-the-bike usage. My testing has considered how robust the bottles are, their weight, design, and how well they work with bicycle bottle cages. After much deliberation, I think I have found the best result, and it comes from Italian based brand 24Bottles.


The Range

The range from 24Bottles contains four great sizes, in a wide variety of snazzy colours and designs.

The largest in the range is the 1 litre Urban Bottle, which is fantastic for long days, and for water carrying whilst touring. Below this, there is a 500 ml version, with the same lightweight metal design and screw-top lid. Also available at 500 ml is the Thermo Bottle, which is a slightly chunkier but insulated version; very useful for hot summer days and cold winter rides.

In addition to these drinking bottles, there are also the baby brother Dispenser Oil Bottles, which are made for carrying cooking oils and spices, in a compact 250 ml size. Then, the complete bottle line-up is complemented by accessories, like an insulating neoprene jacket for the 500 ml Urban bottle, and the stylish Porta Bottiglia bottle sling, more on those later...

The complete range should have all your hydration bases covered, whatever the season.



Italian Styling and Design

Italians are known for their style and design prowess, and the range from 24Bottles is no exception to the norm, in this respect; their bottles look great!

Whether it is the brushed stainless steel Urban model, or the matte black Thermo bottle; every one would be a stylish bike, desk or trekking companion. Scuffed and marked plastic bidons featuring chewed and discoloured sports caps, can become a thing of the past; replaced by smart stainless steel cleanliness.



Robustness and Practical

A real virtue of stainless steel is that it lasts. It doesn't discolour, degrade or deteriorate with use. In fact, some would argue that a bashed and scratched stainless drinks bottle is a sign of someone that has travelled and toured far and wide; a bottle that has seen the world.

The 24Bottles are impressively light, but super robust. Their simple single-walled design (aside from the Thermo bottle), coupled with the neat screw-on replaceable cap, means there are no more bells and whistles than necessary. They are robust, easy to clean, and above all else, practical.



Usability and Adaptability 

So they look great, and should last a long time, but the main thing that prompted me to write this piece, was that 24Bottles are a particularly good stainless option for bike riders.


For Touring Cyclists

For tourers, the large volume 1 litre Urban Bottle is ideal for transporting plenty of fluid, and it will fit into most metal bike bottle cages, with a bit of bottle cage manipulation (bending open).

Another great option for touring cyclists, is the Oil Dispenser Bottle. This secure little bottle would allow you to transport cooking oil or spices safely between evening camps, and make that outdoor cooking experience even more special. It features a neat pouring spout underneath a push on cap.
The 1 Litre Urban Bottle in the Porta Bottiglia holder

The compact 250ml Olio bottle is great for oils and vinegars

Easy to pour spout on the Olio bottle



For The Everyday Cyclist

For everyday cyclists, the 500 ml Urban Bottle is superb, and if you partner it with the thermal neoprene jacket, then it sits snugly and quietly inside a cut-down bottle (you've got to do something with all those plastic bidons you are now going to throw away/recycle!).
The 500 ml Urban Bottle in the Thermal Neoprene Sleeve

This option fits perfectly in a cut down plastic drinks bottle



For The All-Weather Cyclist

For extreme weather riders, the Thermo bottle is great for keeping that weak black tea warm on a winter ride, or for keeping iced tea cold in the summer. This fits in a standard bottle cage too, although you may need to squeeze the bottle cage 'closed' a bit.
The super smart Thermo bottle



For The Stylish Cyclist

Finally, for the stylish cyclist, the Porta Bottiglia is the ultimate; it allows you to carry your stainless bottle (or a bottle of wine) on your top tube, down tube or seat tube, without clumsy bottle cages or bolts. Ideal for those retro frames that were never drilled out for bottle cages!
Carry your 24 Bottles' stainless bottle, or a bottle of wine!



Summary

To sum up, the range from 24Bottles has got all the bases covered. They are great looking water carriers, and they perform faultlessly, both on and off the bike. The reasons for going steel are very real, and this range is well worth checking out!
View the 24Bottles range at 24bottles.com (Link)