Thursday, 24 July 2014

Review: SUNDRiED Cycle Tee and Aire Sunglasses

SUNDRiED are a new brand on the block, with a range of eco-inspired and produced casual clothing and accessories. If you're an active person, with a passion for the outdoors, this is kit well worth checking out.

The SUNDRiED brand came into being on a surfers' beach in Peru, and since then it has grown into a global network across countries such as New Zealand, the USA and the UK. Epitomising the word casual, this kit is about kicking back and making the most of what nature has to offer.

The brand cropped up on my radar because of their new Triathlon inspired range of tees and hoodies; a set of clothing that focusses on Cycle, Swim and Run. The guys sent through the very nice Cycle tee to test, and a set of their Aire sunglasses; I've been enjoying them in the summer heatwave...

The tee is 100 percent organic cotton, and has that quality soft and strong feel to it. It's got an athletic cut, so that it fits well and doesn't look like a tent; it's also putting up with some heavy usage and washing well, fitting in with its rugged outdoor branding.

The Aire sunglasses are a unique pair of hand finished specs. They look the part and do a great job of shielding your eyes from the sun's glare, as you kick back on your days off or at the café after a ride.

This is kit that's got the sun, sea and outdoors spirit in its fabric, and it would be a great choice as a gift to any cyclist, runner, triathlete or outdoors fan.

Check out the range at (Link) 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Hints and Tips: Treating and Recovering from Road Rash

For road cyclists, road rash is an unfortunate reality that you are likely to encounter at least a few times during your riding. Icy lanes, dangerous drivers, greasy roundabouts and tyre blow-outs are just a few of the potential hazards that could leave you with the painful red abrasion to your hips, elbows and knees.

I've had my fair share this season, as I mentioned in my 'Mid-Season Update' (Link), and I've learnt a few things that significantly help the healing process...

1) Get it clean straight away - Tarmac is not a hygienic or sterile surface, and getting bits of grit in your road rash and cuts will prolong the healing process and potentially lead to infection. It hurts like hell, but wash your cut out thoroughly in the shower after the accident, and use antiseptic wipes to really get it clean before you do anything else.

2) Apply Sportique Road Rash Remedy - Unfortunately, with experience of road rash over the last few years, I've also had fairly extensive experience of different remedy creams and lotions; this one from Sportique is quite easily the best.

It is a natural remedy that is infused with antimicrobial and antifungal Ozone, which helps to avoid infection. It is also a naturally oily consistency, which tends to stay put and avoid abrasion on the wound; this seems far better than more water based antiseptic creams, which tend to be absorbed into dressings or clothing. Keep the wound slightly moist, clean and free of abrasion, and it significantly aids skin healing and reduces scaring.

3) Use fresh dressings - If dressings look like they are getting soiled either by bodily fluid or from dirt on the outside, take them off and add a fresh one, cleaning up the wound and re-applying the disinfecting balm as you do so. This will help to avoid infection and aid the healing process.  

Road rash is an unpleasant and painful side-effect of bike riding, but with careful treatment it doesn't have to last as long, or be as painful. I hope these tips help you heal up quick. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Review: Hutchinson Toro and Squale Tyres

This review has been a long time in the pipeline, but then I feel (and have said before), that the best time to judge a pair of tyres is when you take them off the rim. Either you’ll be ripping them off cursing the quantity of punctures, poor grip and slow performance; or you’ll be taking them off ready to put a new pair of the exact same tyre back on there, because you’re impressed by them so much.

I started testing the Hutchinson Tyres Squale and Toro earlier this season in the rather idyllic setting of a French farmhouse in Provence. At the Hutchinson Tyres press camp in late May, a group of other journalists and myself put the new Squale and Toro through their paces over two days of fast all-mountain riding.

They proved an impressive set of rubber; hugging the gravel berms as we carved around them, holding steady on the rock gardens as we dropped down the side of the mountain, and proving that they are very much worthy of their usage with one of the best downhill race teams; Hutchinson-Polygon, who showed us how these tyres really can be pushed to their limit.

Hutchinson Squale
Hutchinson Squale
Hutchinson Toro
The Squale and Toro are both designed to be all-mountain tyres, but they are distinctly different in their style and appearance:
  • The Squale uses tall aggressive lateral knobs to maximise cornering control, it's 2x66 TPI casing is great at resisting punctures, and the ramping on the central knobs is effective at aiding braking and accelerating. The Squale is the go-to tyre of the Hutchinson-Polygon team.
  • The Toro by contrast, has a more neutral set-up; it uses tall evenly spaced knobs to hang on the corners and lower central knobs to aid with mud dispersion. It is well suited to a variety of conditions, including muddier terrain.

The difference between the two tyres was noticeable; people question how much of a factor tyres are to performance. The answer is they are a HUGE contributor. Whilst descending the same Provence mountain double-figure times, we were able to feel how the Squale gripped in the corners better on the dry material, and how the Toro rolled faster and smoother over the rough ground, due to its lower central knobs.

Both tyres performed incredibly well; despite some extremely challenging surfaces, which tore at the knobs and lugs on the tyres, there wasn’t a single puncture in my riding group, and despite riding completely new trails, all of the journos felt confident and in control on the bike. 

These tyres are packed full of new technology as well, and Hutchinson filled us in on some of the details: for example, the Race Riposte compound aids durability, whilst the Tubeless Ready Hardskin makes these super easy to seal onto tubeless rims, as well as being better at resisting sidewall cuts.
Mick Hannah showing what the Hutchinson Squale really can do

All the above features are marginal gains, which have been studied and developed by the French firm throughout their 160 years of production. It is this attention to detail that makes these (and I expect many other Hutchinson tyres) superb in performance, and should make them able to perform in all conditions.

Indeed, to give the Hutchinson Squale and Toro a true mixed surface test, I took a set of both out on the UK trails for several weeks when I returned home from France. Rather than the large 2.25 and 2.3 versions we used on the mountains of Provence, I downsized a little to the 2.1, to see if they were equally capable on the mud of the Isle of Wight, as they were on the dust and gravel of Southern France.

The results were good, very good. The 2.1 version of the Toro is branded an XC Marathon tyre, and I was shocked at how well it performed this function. Certainly it was equally as impressive in performance as its bigger brother was in the all-mountain terrain. The tyres shed mud with ease, gripped the corners with a feeling of confidence, and have dealt well with a constant onslaught of potential foreign objects that have threatened to damage or puncture the casings. 

The Hutchinson Squale and Toro are two very interesting tyres then; in one big-volume guise they are extremely adept at handling the gravel and rocks of an all mountain track. In their skinnier variety they are equally as inspiring and fast on an XC bike, on the UK’s muddy trails. 

The superb press camp in Provence set a great first impression of Hutchinson for me; a team of enthusiastic and helpful people; but the real credit is that this passion is reflected in their work quite clearly, and these French designed and French made tyres are well up to the mark. Look out for more Hutchinson content coming soon; these are a brand worth noting on your radar.
Hutchinson Toro
Hutchinson Squale
Rocky conditions in Provence
Test bikes at the Hutchinson Press Camp in Provence
Smaller profile XC Hutchinson Toro mounted up tubeless for UK testing
The Toro was just at home on an XC bike as it was All Mountain
Even in the greener, leafier conditions of the Isle of Wight, these Hutchinson tyres performed very well
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