Treat Yourself to an End of Tour Shopping Spree

Photo: Stephen Lam/

I normally associate the end of Le Tour the unofficial end of summer: When I was in school, the end of the Tour meant it was time to start thinking about the mandatory quarter/semester textbook ripoffs, and when I graduated from j-school the end of the tour meant, well, shit there’s no more cycling on TV for a while, perhaps I should work and bike more.

But one consistent summer activity I remember well is gear shopping. It’s a pretty cute idea to have a Tour De France-themed daily sale, to get all your year’s worth of Scratch on stage one and wrap it up with buying the 11-23 Dura-Ace cassette on the final day at Champs-Élysée.

So here are a few products we’ve been pretty smitten with lately. They are the few I won’t regret buying or recommending to my friends. You are my friend too, after all.

Kitsbow Geysers’ Jersey

Kitsbow Geysers' Jersey Photo: Stephen Lam/

We’ve been a fan of Kitsbow‘s offering for a while and the Petaluma company’s first foray in road-specific apparel did not disappoint. Clean, understated lines and it’s quickly becoming a favorite go-to for those long, all-day adventures. The Geysers’ are made of a 43% Merino and 57% Polyester blend so they’re slightly thicker and more durable (more on that in a sec) than your average typical spandex jerseys, yet they still breathe unbelievably well.

The fit was spot on. Not too tight and doesn’t like you’re letting it all hang out. Longer sleeves are also a welcomed addition. Kitsbow deserves a big high-five for the Geysers’ well-executed pocket arrangements. Besides the three standard rear pockets, there’s also a chest pocket for small items (perfect for credit cards), a water-resistant pocket in the back (for your phone), and there’s even a pump sleeve inside the center rear pocket, that I use to store sticks of CLIF Bloks.

I was in a pretty good crash while wearing one at the PressCamp MTB ride in Park City. I went over the bar and dented my helmet but the Geysers’ remained in one piece. Not what I expected from wearing a road jersey on a full-on mtb ride. Didn’t rip, didn’t break. I am now a fan. Extra credit: Kitsbow even included a microfiber cloth in the chest pocket for your phone/computer/glasses. It’s all in the details.

King Cage Titanium Water Bottle Cage

King titanium water bottle cage. Photo: Stephen Lam/

I’ve had my run with water bottle cages and the one that I keep going back to is the King titanium cage. It’s a classy-looking, light as a feather (28g, thank you titanium) cage individually made from a one-man shop out of Durango, Colorado that just keeps working. It’s the only cage that I’ve used in which I haven’t lost a bottle with. Unlike carbon fiber cages, the bottle retention is actually adjustable so it’ll hold even that odd-sized bottle from your last grand fondo. If $60 is too steep of a price tag, King also makes an identical, albeit heavier version out of stainless steel that works just as well for $18.


TUFMED TUFRELIEF rub. Photo: Stephen Lam/

Ahh, muscle and joint sores. With a raging one-year-old at home and touting all the cameras for work (and my bike), my dominant shoulder hasn’t really been the same. I’ve tried plenty of over-the-counter rubs for relief in the past with decent results but TUFRELIEF is my current favorite. It’s non-toxic, non-greasy, made in the U.S. with no banned substances and odorless: I can now rub it all over myself and go to work (or any coffee shop) without smelling like I just got out of a medicinal hotbox.

Giordana EXO compression knicker

Giordana EXO compression knickers. Photo: Stephen Lam/

You read that right, there’s a knicker for a summer gear product review. I was never much of a knicker type of guy to begin with, but Giordana’s EXO compression knicker was impressive to say the least. Unlike most knickers on the market, the EXO is actually designed for warm weather riding and extends further down the knee for better zone compression by integrating eight (!) different types of fabrics throughout. It’s perfect for those morning rides around San Francisco where it doesn’t get either super warm or super cold. Giordano’s variable thickness Cirro OF chamois is also worth mentioning because it fits just right and is oh so comfortable. Heck, the proprietary chamois even has memory foam and aloe vera infused right into it.

Giro Empire SLX

Giro Empire SLX. photo: Stephen Lam/

There’s been plenty of reviews in print and on the ‘net about this shoe because of the shoelaces so I’ll just go straight to the point: Don’t hate until you’ve tried it (I know there are still many of you out there). The Empire SLX is freakishly light and comfortable. The Easton EC90 SLX carbon sole is stiff but Giro still managed to keep it so thin that I never felt disconnected from the pedals as if I was riding with a pair of Jimmy Choo Portia 120s. And the shoelaces? I was skeptical about them initially but I am now a fan.

ITW Tac Link Photo: Stephen Lam/

ITW Tac Link: Not exactly a cycling specific product but all you carabiner-wearing people will rejoice at the fact that you can use this without feeling like you’ve just connected yourself to your keys by the ways of a boat anchor. Just don’t go climbing with this one.

Kuwahara Hirame pump head

My Kuwahara Hirame pump head has gotten a bit of rust and scratches from constant use the past few years but I am sure it will outlast just about every single toy in my garage. Plus what's not to love for a bit vintaged look (and feel?) Photo: Stephen Lam/

Similar to the KCNC pump head Jim reviewed earlier this year but this has been one of those tools I am super happy with. My teammates were a bit confused with this whole solid piece of brass at a team camp a few years back, but honestly I haven’t had one of those pump heads flying off the valve incidents since I got this, and it’ll even clamp on the slipperiest tubular valves with authority like no other

Knog Binder MOB Kid Grid

Knog Binder MOB Kid Grid in it's element. Photo: Stephen Lam/

Let’s just say this little guy’s totally lit. Silicone mounting brackets are simple to use and won’t mar, or slip off your fancy carbon seatpost. Five modes from its grid of 16 (!) LEDs to choose from, low battery indicator and even an integrated USB charging plug. Oh, and it’s waterproof. With all those features, you’d think it would be as big as a phablet but no, this is one well designed and executed taillight.

Jagwire Elite Link shift/brake kit

Jagwire Jagwire Elite Link brake kit. Stephen Lam/

Okay, it’ll take more time to setup than traditional cable kits but the tradeoff is well worth the extra time and money spent. Concept wise it’s similar to Nokon, Alligator, and Power Cordz Swift by connection small aluminum links over a slick Teflon liner to create a lightweight and compressionless system that’ll play nicely with tight bends. I’ve been running both the brake and shift kit on a Dura Ace 9000 group for about a year and am happy to say it’s so durable, accurate, smooth and crisp that I don’t ever want to go back to regular cables. Pro tip: The housing squeals every once in a while but a small dab of Tri-Flow between the problematic links will take care of it.

Sportful’s Fiandre Kit Is an All-Weather Must

Photo: Paolo Ciaberta
Photo: Paolo Ciaberta

Climb into the back of your wardrobe and pull out some winter kit from when you were younger. I dare you. It’s horrible. Offensive. Uncomfortable. And it didn’t work very well. You either rode wearing an expensive bin bag—wetter with sweat than you would be with rain—or you didn’t ride at all.

These days it couldn’t be more different. All of the major brands are making innovative, stylish and extremely functional attire for the hibernal season. Excuses are now out of fashion. There’s no such thing as bad weather anymore, only poor sartorial choices.

I’d been hearing good things about Sportful‘s Fiandre—no prizes for guessing, it’s Italian for “Flanders”—range for some time, so when the opportunity came to test it after Il Lombardia alongside some of the guys from Team Tinkoff, I cleared my schedule.

The Race of the Falling Leaves is the autumnal classic, the final monument of the season, a testament to the beauty and the challenge of riding in cold and wet conditions, the perfect backdrop to a review of some extreme threads. So naturally, when we met outside the hotel on the the banks of Lake Como, the sun was splitting the rocks and people were more concerned with their shades than their thermals.

Photo: Paolo Ciaberta

Still, with a few chilly descents to deal with, the Fiandre No-Rain short sleeve jersey and its matching bibshorts were perfect. Good against showers and gusts, while still breathable enough for when the sun came out or the climbing got aggressive. Which it tends to do when you’re scaling Madonna del Ghisallo and the Colma di Surmano, desperately trying to keep pace with Ivan Basso, Roman Kreuziger and Sergio Paulinho, all three soft-pedalling and chewing the fat while we chewed our stems.

Heavy-duty items in the range had to wait a little longer for a proper testing, but after a couple of months worth of winter rides, they’ve now become firm favorites. I don’t want to ride in anything else.

Photo: Paolo Ciaberta

The Extreme Neoshell Jacket is a marvel. Breathable and stretchy but completely waterproof. Cut to fit like a winter jersey, but warm enough to wear as a jacket even in the frostiest months. The chunky zipper and taped seams protect against drafts and soakage—and they look cool. Combined with the right kind of base layers or thermals, it could be the only top you need from autumn right up into the spring.

As a small aside, it’s worth trying this on while in your riding position because anyone who likes a snug fit might find their normal size a bit tight under the arms while standing. Once you’re riding, however, it’s like a glove and while offering an impressive level of protection, it feels light and unrestrictive.

The No-Rain bibtights don’t disappoint either, with plenty of features to keep you snug in the most inclement conditions. There’s an extra layer over the thighs and knees, which is always welcome when riding into piercing winter winds, and there’s even an extra rear flap for protection against wheel spray. Minimal stitching keeps things tight, and some reflective piping is a good idea for this time of year, when visibility can be low.

Hincapie Mercury Kit Brings the Heat, Keeps You Cool

Hincapie Mercury kit
Photo: Jim Merithew/

There’s a short way to describe Hincapie Sportswear‘s Mercury range: Not for the faint of heart. It’s lightweight, close-fitting, features plenty of mesh areas … and it’s white. This is a kit for your top form, when you’ve shed the winter weight, dialed in the tan, and can afford to draw some attention.

It’s a well-designed kit with plenty of tech in it aimed at riders who are focused on performance. There’s ample amounts of wicking, UVA/UVB protection, heat reflecting materials, and ventilation so it’s perfect if you want to go hard under summer sun.

This particular hack gave the Mercury bibs and jersey a few spins during a week climbing the Italian Dolomites, and it functioned perfectly. The chamois was comfortable all day, the tight-fitting extremities stayed in place, and it stayed cool—even on some exposed climbs where the gradient hit double figures. And the icing on the cake? It received a few begrudging compliments from the bunch.

Check it out the Hincapie Mercury kit at Competitive Cyclist.

Keep Cool, Look Cool With the POC Raceday Climber Jersey

POC Raceday Climber Jersey
POC Raceday Climber Jersey. Photo: Jim Merithew/

The POC booth at the 2013 Interbike show was a showstopper. There was so much buzz around their booth, you couldn’t help but be excited about what they were up to. They had appeared on the bicycle scene with a scream, arriving out of nowhere.

Even if you weren’t crazy about orange as a color, their bright aesthetic and safety-first spiel was infectious. The helmets, and even the sunglasses, started to appear everywhere, with a whole pack of riders embracing their non-traditional style with a vengeance.

The apparel line on the other hand seemed to land with a little bit more of a whimper. This seemed to be part availability and part, if the internet is to be believed, early quality and sizing issues.

I can’t speak to the early versions of the POC apparel, but this Raceday Climber Jersey is an excellent piece of kit.

The Raceday jersey uses what they call 3d fabric. It feels like a quilted material and wicks the sweat away from your body. It also keeps you cool under the hottest of conditions. The arms and waist stay in place and the color, although not the bright, neon orange of their early kit, looks great in person.

Donkey Label’s Boutique Bike Kit Is Built With Local Love

Founder and product designer Paul Krumrich, right, and James Tainter are the team behind Minneapolis-based Donkey Label cycling apparel. (Photo: David Pierini)
Founder and product designer Paul Krumrich, right, and James Tainter are the team behind Minneapolis-based Donkey Label cycling apparel. Photo: David Pierini/

Update: Donkey Label is offering readers 20% off with the code “onthedl”.

When you think of Minnesota, donkeys are not the first thing which come to mind. But tucked away in a warehouse in Minnesota’s tree-lined residential neighborhood of Longfellow there are a pack of donkeys hard at work.

Not the actual animals, but there’s definitely some real-ass work going on. Donkey Label, makers of beautiful and unique bicycle kit, have set up shop in this midwest neighborhood.

“Minneapolis was a choice early in my life as I attended college here,” says Paul Krumrich, lead donkey. “Minneapolis is a great city for cycling: QBP, HED, Twin Six, Park Tool, Art Crank, Curt Goodrich, Appleman, Peacock Groove, One on One, Hollywood Cycles, Cars r Coffins are all located here.”

A Donkey Label speed suit. (Photo: David Pierini)
A Donkey Label speed suit. Photo: David Pierini/

Donkey Label is the bicycle company version of the locavore, sourcing as much material locally as makes sense and stitching their cycling gear right inside the Twin Cities. They still turn to Italy for much of their actual technical fabrics, as it is still where the best materials are being created, but if there’s a local alternative they embrace it.

“I think Minneapolis has some cache in the cycling scene,” says Krumrich. “We are not Boulder or London or Italy. I think if I were in one of those locations DL would not exist as it is. It works because it is authentic. I might view the world differently if I was sipping cucumber water on the beach instead of sticking hand warmers down my shorts to get a ride in when it’s 14 degrees.”

James Tainter folds a jersey at Donkey Label in Minneapolis. (Photo: David Pierini)
James Tainter folds a jersey at Donkey Label in Minneapolis. Photo: David Pierini/

Their warehouse is packed with containers of jerseys, exotic materials, zip pulls and sundry other items. The Donkey crew have a distinct laidback internet startup vibe. On top of their own bicycle apparel they also have socks, wallets made by a local guy and massage oils, natural soaps and embrocation made by a woman from Viroqua, Wisconsin.

The Donkey Label does things one way. Their way. The jerseys are admittedly in the neighborhood of pricey.

“Our stuff is not for everyone, and we are ok with that,” says Krumrich. “If we tried to hit the sweet spot in the market we would be forced into making decisions based solely on money. Our jerseys are worth every penny. And part of what makes them worth every penny is the knowledge of where those pennies go. Kit is printed and stitched right here in Minneapolis and our socks are made in North Carolina.”

Donkey Label. Photo: David Pierini/
Photo: David Pierini/

As the good folks at Donkey Label like to say “you vote with your money,” and we are voting for one of those sweet Artist Collaboration Miami Cycling Jerseys.

Krumrich was also nice enough to answer a few more of our silly questions here:

What thing in your life are you most proud of: My two boys.

Do you believe in love at first site: I believe in being overtaken by someone or something in a single instant. I’m just not sure that meets the definition of love.

Form or function: Function (by a nats’ ass).

Founder and product designer Paul Krumich, foreground, with team member James Tainter run Donkey Label out of small space in Minneapolis. (Photo:David Pierini)
Founder and product designer Paul Krumich, foreground, with team member James Tainter run Donkey Label out of small space in Minneapolis. Photo: David Pierini/

Toilet paper, over or under: Now that I have kids there is no question—UNDER. When Torbdog spins it like a wheel, it does not unravel all over the damn floor.

What is your spirit animal: I just had a flashback to interviews I had out of engineering school. Donkey.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Designing, riding, relaxing and repeating. Maybe in a different location with mountains, or oceans close by. My ADD doesn’t let me stay focused on any single thing for too long so five years is a lifetime.

Donkey Label
Photo: David Pierini/

What is the last album you listened to in its entirety: Paul’s Boutique, Beastie Boys. I listened to High Plains Drifter three times in a row, and then just let it go.

Yellow or Pink: Pink.

If you could be someone else for one day who would it be: Jeffrey Lebowski.

What is one thing about you almost no one knows: I have no belly button.

Boxers or briefs: Boxer briefs.

Founder and designer Paul Krumrich folds a jersey at Donkey Label in Minneapolis. (Photo: David Pierini)
Founder and designer Paul Krumrich folds a jersey at Donkey Label in Minneapolis. Photo: David Pierini/

Are the stereotypes of the midwest accurate: Yes, we are overly nice, fatter than most and drink more than we should.

If you were thrown in jail for a bad habit, what would that habit be: Saying yes to everything.

What would be your chosen superpower: Mind control.

Merckx or someone else: Steve HED.

Describe your perfect vacation: I have been to 2 World Cups and it has been the perfect mix of exploring the country, meeting cool people from the reaches of the globe, and watching an unbelievable sport. I will repeat that as many times as I can in my life.

Donkey Label
Photo: David Pierini/

What was the most embarrassing event in your life: Got a serious grundie in fifth grade that ripped my whitey tighties off, in front of the entire class. And/or the day my dad pulled over the captain of the football team for speeding. Half the football team was waiting at my locker when I got to school. My dad is not a police officer.

Favorite food: Dark chocolate.

Glass, half full or half empty: The Dude Abides.

Road bike or mtb: Yes.

Hardtail or full suspension: Hardtail.

Update: Donkey Label is offering a 20 percent discount to anyone who wants to try their kit for the first time. Code: onthedl

The New Rapha Pro Team Aero Jersey Is So Fresh and So Clean

Photo: Jim Merithew/
Photo: Jim Merithew/

Aerodynamic. Versatile. Team Sky. Something called “Coldblack technology.” There’s no shortage of buzzwords to accompany Rapha’s Pro Team Aero range, but they weren’t what hooked me when a colleague fired the full, fresh-and-clean kit at me. Using the the age-old, unimpeachable rationale of cyclists everywhere: I liked it because it looked cool.

The data print style—a graphical representation of performance data collected from a pro rider during a grand tour—is a move away from Rapha’s almost trademark tendency towards understatement, and for this hack at least, that’s a good thing. Because if imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, those designers in London should be extremely pleased with themselves.

Rapha have redefined cycling’s aesthetic over the last decade—chapeau—but as an inevitable consequence, it’s all gone a bit identikit. There are now hoards of Rapha-wannabes, all trying to sell us the same clean lines and muted palette. No one wants to go back to the luridly shameful ways of the 90s and early 2000s when skeuomorphic denim prints and a plethora of sponsor logos were the order of the day, but a little colour never hurt anyone.

The Pro Team Aero range is a happy medium. As well as the staple black, the block color jerseys come some bright—but not offensive—colors while the data print option allows the flashier among us to express themselves a little without making their riding partners nauseous. The bibs are understated, but the use of some fluo for the branding means they pop just enough.

There’s also some performance benefits to be had. The shoulders, seams and pockets have apparently been reworked to make the jersey more aero. It’s the kind of thing marketeers refer to as “free” speed, though at $195 for the jersey and $290 for the bibs, it’s hardly gratis. Crucially, then, for gear in Rapha’s price range, this is some well-made kit and once it’s looked after, should stand the test of time better than a lot of the competition.

They’ve taken elements of Team Sky’s racing skinsuits and bundled them into a more versatile jersey package. As a nice pro touch, there are still loops to hold race radio cables—or headphones for the mere mortals. And the aforementioned “coldblack” material reflects more heat than standard fabric, while some nice mesh on the back and sides makes it all very breathable.

Rapha claim that Sky have been riding various versions of this kit for the last few seasons, and that the Aero has become their go-to jersey. Assuming you’ve got the bank—and the physique to suit its tight, race-cut lines—it could very quickly become your favourite kit, too.

The New Capo Leggero SL Kit Is Matchy Matchy Flashy

Limited Edition Leggero SL. Photo: Jim Merithew/
Limited Edition Leggero SL. Photo: Jim Merithew/

I spotted one of those tall, lean and handsome Capo guys sporting the new Limited Edition Leggero SL kits on their social media channel and I couldn’t stop staring.

No, not at him. At this kit. It looks awesome.

And it is even better in person, than on the Facebooks. Which is rarely the case.

Capo has integrated their 360° Luminescent material into the sleeves and the back pocket. They’ve also added what they call Eyelet Mesh microfiber under the arms, and the bibs come with their excellent—excuse the technical terminology—Anatomic CS Carbon EIT® chamois.

We are torn between loving this kit for its eye-popping appeal and its excellent fit and finish. Released in celebration of the 2015 Tour of California, this kit is designed to be ready for the heat of race day.

The arms are cut long, as are the bands around the legs, which is an acquired taste. But once you acquire it, there is no turning back. This kit is definitely a set it and forget it operation.

Throw in a pair of Capo’s top-o-the-line sockies and a cap and you are ready for a epic day in the saddle.

Capo Leggero SL socks
Capo Leggero SL socks. Photo: Jim Merithew/

Five Pieces of Kit You Should be Rocking Right Now

Photo: Jim Merithew/
It is time to pull some new kit on.Photo: Jim Merithew/

Bike kit just gets nicer and nicer. We’ve never ridden in such comfort, and style. The big brands are doing good work, but a lot of the new development is also thanks to the smaller brands—companies that might only produce a handful of items.

What follow are five pieces of kit we’ve been riding, and loving, day in and day out, be it on our weekend riders or our commute to work:

Read on for our reviews.

Giro Empire VR90 shoes. Photo: Jim Merithew/
Giro Empire VR90 shoes. Photo: Jim Merithew/

Giro Empire VR90

I finally got shoe game back on track in a sweet, styling way. If you told me a couple of years ago, I would be lusting after a pair of lace up bicycle shoes, and in a particular a pair of lace up mountain bike shoes, I would have called you crazy. And even after seeing Taylor Phinney hammering his bike in a pair of metallic silver shoes with bright green laces, I still couldn’t quite get my excitement on. It wasn’t until I almost had my hands, nay feet, on a pair of the limited edition camo Giro Empires when the hook was sunk.

And now I finally got my hands on a pair of the new VR90s I am officially smitten with laces. There have been plenty of reviews and online chatter about the benefits of the lace system. If they are to be believed you can get a overall better fit without hotspots, over a buckle system. I have never suffered from hotspots, so I can’t speak to this claim. But like almost all the Giro shoes I have worn over the last few years they make some of the most comfortable riding shoes, right out of box, being sold today. Sure, lacing up takes a little more time and adjusting on the fly is nearly impossible, but damn if I don’t look pimp and feel surprisingly cozy.

—Jim Merithew

Cadence Collection Tempo Light Kit. Photo: Jim Merithew/
Cadence Collection Tempo Light Kit. Photo: Jim Merithew/

Cadence Collection Tempo Light Kit

I want one of everything Cadence Collection makes. I can’t say that about very many companies, but it is completely true about Cadence. I’m not sure how they do it, but they make some of the most distinctive, stylish and comfortable kit being put out by any of the small players. They seem to be able to straddle the line between distinctive and poppin’ without ever rolling over into the garish or distasteful.

I’ve been on a couple of big fondos in the last couple of months and I almost always find myself wanting to yell CADENCE when I spot someone in their kit. Which must mean they are doing something right. We’re digging the Tempo Light in particular.

—Jim Merithew

7mesh Revelation Jacket. Photo: Jim Merithew/
7mesh Revelation Jacket. Photo: Jim Merithew/

7mesh Revelation Jacket

This has been the rainiest spring I can remember here in New Mexico. Every afternoon it clouds up, the winds start whipping and then it dumps. The weather is great for the local aquifer since we’re in a drought, but it’s a pain in the ass to ride home through. My saving grace has been the 7mesh Revelation Jacket.

The thing is made from Gore-Tex Pro, which you don’t see for bike jackets, and it’s like wearing a force field. I stay bone dry, plus it cuts the wind and cold. The design is also spot on, with a perfect cut for the bike, and side vents that let me reach in and access my jersey pockets. The cost is WAY up there—nearly five bills—but think of it like an investment. You should have this jacket for decades to come.

—Jakob Schiller

Kitsbow Haskell Short. Photo: Jim Merithew/
Kitsbow Haskell Short. Photo: Jim Merithew/

Kitsbow Haskell Short

People like to talk about one-quiver bikes, and one-quiver skis—well, the Haskell is the one-quiver short. They’re great for riding your mountain or commuter bike with a slim cut but a huge range of motion.

They’re also great for picnics, playgrounds with the kids, soccer, watching television, drinking beer or anything else you can think of. I literally live in these shorts when the weather’s warm. All that movement comes from a nylon/spandex mix that’s wicked stretchy but also plenty tough. If you take a spill in the hills the shorts will be fine. And if you get caught in the rain a DWR finish means you won’t look like a wet dog.

—Jakob Schiller

Topo Designs Work Shirt. Photo: Jim Merithew/
Topo Designs Work Shirt. Photo: Jim Merithew/

Topo Designs Work Shirt

This shirt is not a piece of bike kit. But whatevs. It’s cool, and I use it on my bike anyway. Just last week I had it on while I road through the foggy streets of San Francisco and it kept me warm but breathed just enough so I didn’t sweat out when I had to climb a couple hills. Made by the smart folks over at Topo, it stands out just enough from the normal flannel and is plenty nice to wear into work, or the bar, or to your inlaw’s house for dinner.

—Jakob Schiller