Saturday, 23 August 2014

Review: Swrve Modal Tees

Swrve is a very cool brand, it's apparel that is made to look casual, but also to function very well on the bike. In the past I've reviewed their WWR Trousers, Durable Cotton Trousers and Indigo Jeans. In this review I turn to their tops, and take a look at their Modal tees, both in the long and short sleeve variety.

The Modal range is a collection of cotton tops that have the positive qualities of bamboo, but without the drawbacks of bamboo tops, which tend to stretch with use.

Modal fibres are 100% natural and derived from beech tree wood; it's a natural wicking material, so draws moisture away from the skin leaving you warm and dry, and much like Merino and bamboo, Modal is also naturally anti-bacterial.

The Modal fabric is a new phenomenon for me, but it is impressively comfortable; the close knit structure means that is is soft on the skin and a great insulator, despite its high breathability. It also seems to last extremely well; coming out of the wash looking like new, time and time again.

I became interested in the Swrve tees primarily because of their unique Modal fabric, but of course like other Swrve products, they are designed to be highly versatile for use both on and off the bike...

For example, the Modal cotton short sleeve tee looks great straight off, but it also doubles as a great base layer when riding. The flat locked seams and seamless armpits mean it doesn't irritate or rub, even with riding. Then the long hem, trim fit and thin (yet strong) fabric mean it feels and performs like a cycling-specific wicking layer. This is a cool top in more than one sense of the word.
The longer sleeve polo shirt option is also a great bit of apparel; ideal for the cooler days when riding around town or down to the shops. It uses the same fabric as the short sleeve Modal tee, but has a comfortable soft collar and three button neck, which adds a slightly smarter look and a means to cool down if you have to open up the vents.

These are both very nice tops, and great for both on and off the bike. They look smart and perform well; more great kit from the American brand.

Check out the range at (Link) 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Review: Secret Training Race Day Personal Care Kit

Secret Training
Considering cyclists tend to be gear fanatics, we are surprisingly often a bunch that are hard to find good gifts for. We only want the latest, the greatest, that saddle, that frame; if it's not the right one, then it's probably not going to make your best bike. For that reason, it's always great to find products that really are great gift ideas for cyclists; products which you could give to any two-wheeled enthusiast, and it would bring a smile to their face. I reckon that the Secret Training Race Day Personal Care Kit is one of those...

Secret Training might seem an odd name for a company that currently provides predominately care products, but it has an interesting background. Founded by Tim Lawson, a European Track Cycling Champ and highly accomplished cyclocross racer, it is designed to give you the edge in tough race conditions.

Secret Training

Tim Lawson explains the ethos behind 'Secret Training' very well on his blog:

"Tips and advice (from coaches) would ensure that (mostly) we would not have to learn the hard way, that when it comes to racing there won't be sufficient pins for your number (or any at all if racing in Belgium), the bathrooms are likely to run out of toilet paper and there probably won't be showers at the Village Hall head quarters.

For the modern newcomer into cycling, anti-chafing or chamois cream can be a "secret" that is only discovered after an uncomfortable experience that can needlessly reduce cycling enjoyment and sometimes develop into something more serious.  

Secret Training
Even when you see the guys that are organised and know about the possibility of a no-shower clean up after the races, vast quantities of baby wipes seem to be the chosen method - better than nothing but not really the best tool for the job. 

When I started racing the "old boys" would have sourced some kind of plant sprayer and made a concoction of Eau de Cologne, soap and water that would efficiently clean off embrocation, sweat and road grime. This practice seems to have been forgotten as the professional riders finish races and climb aboard their 5 star team buses equipped with showers and washing machines. 

Surely it would be possible to revisit this system, design a spray specifically for this purpose with modern micro fibre cloths thus combining best practice with modern technology for a really practical solution. The strategy of learning from the past and applying modern technology to create effective practical solutions to race day personal care is something we have tried to do across the Secret Training Race Informed Products (STRIP) range. We hope you like it!"

When I read the above, it brought to light a very real situation that I have noticed at races. In fact, I have been the culprit of some of these mistakes as well; such as staying in riding shorts for too long after a race, or staying sticky and dusty for too long on the drive home and feeling uncomfortable as a result. Proper preparation and clean-up is key to both performance and enjoyment.

Onto the products...

Secret Training
The Secret Training Race Day kit bag contains ten thoroughly thought-out products, which will make your race day less stressful and far more enjoyable.

Secret Training1) Lip Balm - Cycling is hard on your lips; the wind and rain, oil and energy drink, dry them out and irritate them far more than usual. Chapped lips and sun-burnt lips are uncomfortable at best, and a very unwelcome distraction during a hard race. This mix of coconut, almond and beeswax seems to be highly effective at rehydrating and nourishing your lips, to avoid any discomfort even on long rides.

2) Anti-Bacterial Hand Spray - Cycling puts a real strain on your immune system, as does any intense sports effort. Avoiding bacterial infection is key to maintaining your form, so it's very handy to have some high quality anti-bacterial sanitiser in your bag.

Secret Training3) Sun Cream - We all know the importance of protecting our skin from UV rays, and this SPF30 cream seems effective at staying put and avoiding Rudolph nose syndrome whilst you're out on the bike. Definitely something for every kit bag.

4) Anti-chafing Cream - Another equally important cream: saddle sores and infections cause discomfort at best, and at worst could halt your riding. Avoid them with a decent application of chamois cream. This one seems to work well; it's thick, stays put and works effectively for several hours in the saddle.

Secret Training5) Pins In A Tin - Flapping race numbers are distracting and inefficient, ensure you avoid them with a good stash of safety pins, and keep them together (and not distributed around your kit bag and washing machine) in this neat little tin.

6) Start (pre-race) Oil - Embrocation can help to add a bit of comfort on colder days, and avoid injury when you launch into an early race effort with cold muscles. This Start Oil provides a long lasting warming effect, and contains a lot of natural ingredients such as ginger.

Secret Training7) Micro-fibre Towels - Once you've finished it's clean-up time. These two micro-fibre towels provide a great option to get dry and clean, without taking up valuable kit-bag room.

8) Post-race Wash - Combine this with the micro-fibre towels to provide a very effective cleaning solution. It smells nice, and it works very well at getting rid of dirt, oil and grime. In short, it's far better than paper towels and soap from the HQ toilet.

9) Hygiene Wipes - Run out of loo roll in the HQ? These are the solution. Always a good back-up to have!

10) Wash Bag - Finally, everything is housed upright in a very neat and tidy bag; so that it is always there and easy to grab, and you don't have to go rummaging around in your kit bag to find that bottle of embrocation that has inevitably leaked everywhere.  

I'm impressed. This is a cool thing to have in any kit bag, whether you are a hard core cross racer or a sportive rider. Make your racing more enjoyable, give yourself a bit of an edge... do a bit of Secret Training.

Check out the range at (Link)
Secret Training
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Secret Training

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Weekend Watch: Disc Brakes On Road Bikes – Are They Worth It?

This is an interesting insight into whether disc brakes on road bikes will be the next big thing are going to make that much difference. I'm looking forward to seeing a number of the models coming out from brands at Eurobike this year. Perhaps I'll get to demo one soon too.
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