Sunday, 21 September 2014

Review: High5 Energy Bar Comparison

High5 Bars
Energy bars are finding their way into my jersey pockets more and more as the racing season comes to a close. Gels and sugary sports drinks are replaced by bars and 4:1 mixes, as the longer endurance rides start again.  Now seems a good time to report back on a few of my favourites then, from the UK based High5 brand.

High5 isn't a new brand to the blog; I've previously written on their endurance orientated 4:1 products and their caffeine based range. It's now time to look at what they can provide in terms of solid food in the form of their Sports Bar products and Energy Bars.

High5 Sports Bar - Berry Yoghurt
The High5 Sports Bars are without doubt one of the tastiest energy bars on the market. This one is a particular favourite of mine in the summer months; it features a fruity berry and cereal centre, with an outer coating of yoghurt. Imagine those yoghurt coated raisins, but with Special K in the middle rather than raisins. Pretty darn tasty, and an ideal pre-race snack.
High5 Sports Bar - Chocolate Caramel
If you like chocolate (most people do!), then this is a great choice. It has a cereal and caramel middle, with a chocolate outer coating. To be honest, it doesn't really taste much like a traditional energy bar at all; it tastes too good! It seems to work though, and gives you a good sugar boost and a prolonged energy hit from the cereal filling. The only thing to note is that it's not great for hot summer days; it tends to melt a bit in your jersey pocket.

High5 Energy Bar - Banana
The High5 Energy bar range are a little smaller in size than the Sports Bars, but they still pack a great carbohydrate punch, and they are ideal for being eaten on the move.

The banana flavour one is very good: I tend to shy away from banana flavoured products a bit; (probably too many of those banana sweets when I was younger) but this is really very nice. It's moist, tastes like real banana and provides a great sustained energy boost.

High5 Energy Bar - Berry
A tasty berry flavoured snack. It is actually more a forest fruits flavour; a mix of berries and apple. Like the banana flavour it is nice and moist, which makes it very easy to eat even in the summer months.

These 50 gram bars seem to be the ideal size to wolf down even on a hard training ride. They're easy on the stomach and provide a good slow-release source of energy.

High5 Energy Bar - Chocolate Orange
The Chocolate Orange Energy Bar is a Wiggle exclusive; developed in conjunction with the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling team. It is a bit like a Terry's Chocolate Orange melted over a cereal bar. The good thing is that if you're a chocolate addict, you can have this one in the summer months, because it doesn't seem to melt, even in a hot jersey pocket. A great tasty choice if you can't do without a chocolate kick.

High5 4:1 Training Bar - Cranberry
I've talked through the benefits of High5's 4:1 Training range in my blog 'Nutrition for Multi-day events' (Link); in essence, taking on a small amount of protein on longer events will help to reduce the damage and fatigue caused to muscles by exertion, as the protein will help to kick-start the repair process.

This cranberry bar tastes just like a nice moist cereal bar, and is not dissimilar to the berry flavoured Energy Bar, but it has the added benefit of protein for recovery. Great for long winter training rides and multiple day training blocks.

All the High5 Energy Bars and Sports Bars are good to be honest; it largely comes down to personal preference which one you would prefer to snack on whilst out on the bike. The benefit of them all tasting good is that you can have some variety in your choice!

Energy bars need to be moist, easy to eat, easy on the stomach and effective at giving you a boost; all these bars do these things very well, and are well worth stocking up on to keep you fuelled throughout your long winter training efforts.

High5 Energy Bars are available from Wiggle (Link)

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Review: Thule Atmos X3 iPhone Case

For many of us, our phones are a lifeline. They're a link to friends, family and work; as well as being a vital emergency contact system. It pays to look after them, and a good quality case will help to avoid damage caused by the knocks, bumps and scrapes that occur with everyday riding and use.

Thule is a brand renowned for its quality products. Roof racks and bike carriers is where it all started, but recently they've come out with a superb luggage range (I reviewed the Thule Enroute Escort Rucksack earlier this year [Link]) and accessories range.

The Thule Atmos X3 iPhone case is designed to be a sleek minimalist case; to protect your phone from drops and scratches, whilst actually enhancing the feel of the unit in your hand.

It works. The sky blue colour Atmos X3 I have really does have a reassuring quality feel about it, and looks unique and different from most other phone cases on the market.

The case itself is made of a dual compound "armour", which has provided effective protection in several phone drops to date. The Shock-Stop corners give great protection, yet add minimal bulk. The raised bezel on the front of the case does a great job of keeping the screen away from surfaces when you place it face-down. The volume buttons have a great positive feel to them, and all the ports remain highly accessible. Quite simply, the case is very good at doing what it is designed to do: keeping your phone safe, yet still very user friendly.

There are plenty of other protective cases on the market though; what I really like about the Thule case is that it feels great in your hand. Apple spent a lot of time creating a minimalist phone, so it seems right that a protective case should be as minimalist as it can be too; the Thule case seems to provide this low-bulk solution, which feels great in your palm. The grippy rubber sides to the case also mean it feels secure to hold, and you feel confident using the phone even on the move.

For a cyclist, or indeed any outdoor enthusiast, this is a great solution to phone safety.

Check out the Thule range at (Link)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Race Report: 14 Hills Killer 2014

Go big or go home. That seemed to be the mantra for today's 14 Hills Killer. In truth, the reason I chose to do the 14, rather than the 7 this year, was just because it started closer to home; it saved me riding out to Freshwater from Sandown to start! Turns out the 14 was one hell of a challenge...

Conditions were near perfect; it's been dry for a long time in the later part of the summer, and it's left the Isle of Wight trails as dusty as I've ever seen them. With a decent easterly wind, it looked like we'd have a helping hand on the outward leg to Freshwater as well, countered by a nice headwind on the way home!

Pre-event involved a fair bit of faffing. The checkpoints are normally in pretty similar spots, but my old riding buddy Jamie had laid them out yesterday and hidden them in rather different locations. I'd decided not to take a map, but on finding the "fresh" positioning of the marks, rather wished I had. Photos on my phone and scribbled notes with a chinagraph pencil on my handlebars ensued...

After the start it all blends into one a bit to be honest. The first few checkpoints were a bit tricky to find, but things went smoothly enough. The one in Brighstone forest was the real killer, and involved me taking a rather inefficient loop through the forest to eventually regain my bearings.

From Brighstone, it was up and over Mottistone, including a dog-leg to get to a hidden checkpoint; then up Freshwater Down and down the rapid golf course descent.

Freshwater was were things went a bit dodgy... using the photo on my phone to guide me I managed to go down the wrong road for at least a mile, turned around, and then proceeded to go down another wrong road for another mile. Eventually I found the checkpoint. A bit flustered, I raced up Freshwater Down, but then realised halfway up that I had forgotten to go to the furthest checkpoint at the 7 Hills Killer start! A painful decent back into Freshwater, a desperate race to the checkpoint and a rather adrenaline fuelled re-ascent of Freshwater Down followed. It must have cost me a good 30 minutes in total. That will teach me to study the map a bit more carefully.

After the Freshwater mishap, it was a lot smoother on the way back. The legs were beginning to feel heavy and the building headwind wasn't doing any favours either, but it was just a case of churning away, on what were now fairly deserted trails in the West Wight.

I rolled back into Lake feeling pretty out of it, in a time of 5 hours 11 minutes. Despite the Freshwater drama, that time was enough to earn me the top spot on the rankings; 40 minutes ahead of Jamie in second place.

The 7/14 Hills Killer really is a great event, every time I do it (even the time it involved completing it in the tail-end of a hurricane) I find it really enjoyable.

Today reminded me how tough mountain bike racing can be: sitting at 82% of max heart rate for over 5 hours is a good indication. It's made me keen to do more of it again though; the search for a carbon 29er hard tail has begun!

Blood, Sweat and Gears (and a very nice pair of GripGrab gloves)
These notes were not quite enough to keep me on course for the whole time...
Shattered, but smiling.
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