My wife uses one of those fancy-ass electric toothbrushes.
She swears by it and is constantly telling me I need to open my mind and give it a try.
But for me, it just seems like an unnecessary gadget for gadgets sake.
You know one of those things you really don’t need, like a quesadilla maker or a smartphone controlled doggy water dispenser or a “smart” trash can.
I mean I have been brushing my teeth for quite a while now and at my last dental appointment I was complimented for the condition of my teeth.
And I was also doing a pretty nice job with my “analog” bicycle pump. My tire pressure targeting skills seemed to be doing just fine. Or so I thought, until the Fumpa arrived in my life.
It was my wife, once again, who pushed us into the future. It turns out she had been stopping in at the local bike shop to have them air up her tires while I was out of town.
Now, while I’m super grateful for their excellent customer service, I started to wonder how to future proof her tire pressure issues, just in case she needed air at a time the shop might not be open.
So I did some googling, threw down my credit card and the Fumpa arrived into our lives.
This little red box is nothing short of miraculous.
It charges with a standard USB cable, it fits firmly onto your presta valve and the pressure readout is clear and precise.
My wife finds the gadget to be overly noisy and the vibrations to be off-putting. She still has not completely adjusted to these peculiarities and thus it is not the perfect pump, but it has all but eliminated her trips to the local shop for a top-off.
And as for me, I’ve switched almost completely over to the Fumpa for my tire pressure needs, but I’m still stubbornly scrubbing on my pearly whites the old fashioned way. You can teach an ol’ dog the occasional new trick, but you can’t make him brush his teeth with one of those new fangled contraptions.
Forged of high-performance fabrics with only subtle indication of its on-the-bike inclinations, the Kitsbow Arcana vest is an unpretentious neo-classic that offers versatile outdoor performance with an eye-watering price tag. It is an effective combination of amazing insulation and breezy breathability, a durable piece that uses the very best materials and a few thoughtful touches to deliver a serious upgrade for the cool-weather rider.
Over three seasons of cool-to-freezing riding, this tester found the Arcana warm enough to enable fewer layers on chilly mornings – the Holy Grail of winter riding. That performance comes at a cost, but the Arcana feels built to last and can double as streetwear without screaming “I ride a bicycle!”
So as you’re sitting there deciding between that Campagnolo Record 12-speed rear derailleur and this $250 vest, here’s what you need to know.
First, the insulation. As fill, Kitsbow employs a polyester insulation developed for the U.S. military that the company writes was designed to “eliminate the need of adding or dropping layers during dynamic and static activities.” It’s breathable and warm, and it wicks. Whether you are hauling up the climb or sucking down the espresso (two very important activities for a cyclist), you are comfortable.
Next, the design. A subtle touch for the cycling sect, Kitsbow puts more insulation in the front of the vest than the back – smart, and you’d never know it if you weren’t looking for it. The polyester inner helps wick, and the nylon exterior makes it durable. Indeed, I would not hesitate to mountain bike or bushwhack through heavy brush with the Arcana.
Fleece pockets are nice and cozy, and stash pockets abound. A wee magnet keeps the collar in order, and icing for this delicious vest cake is a waterproof coating. This tester did not employ the vest in heavy rain, but in the misty Portland weather, water beaded off just fine.
Now, the tailoring. Kitsbow markets this vest’s fit as “tapered,” and it’s no joke. Concave-chested road cyclists like this tester will love how the Arcana hugs close to the torso and keeps out the wind. A well-designed collar reminiscent of an old bomber jacket adds to the effectiveness. A l
Finally, the style. Unlike your GORE-TEX blah blah blah, the Arcana vest is eerily reminiscent of normal clothing. This tester’s aesthetic of “vaguely track cyclist thrift store hobo” finds the Arcana a little fancy, but with some beausage, this could be an in-character bit of everyday kit. Yet the waist does ride above the belt for this pencil-proportioned tester, and Kitsbow recommends going one size up for streetwear use.
If you’re the kind of rider who could cradle their Record mech in the brushed fleece pocked of the Arcana vest while riding your vintage Colnago home from the shop, don’t hesitate, buy this vest. If you’re a dirtbag who somehow has an electronic drivetrain anyway, you should consider this vest. “Buy the best, cry once,” they say.
Or perhaps, “Buy the vest, cry once, and your tears will wick away as you ride cozy into the night.”
Remember the Aeroshell? Lazer’s innovative, if simple, plastic helmet fairings have allowed users to convert ventilated models to aero alternatives for several years. It’s a smart accessory adding versatility for users, but with no way to stow it, you better make peace with the level of head sweat you committed to at the start of the ride.
Enter the Bullet 2.0, the latest iteration of a creative, aero-profile Lazer lid that allows quick and easy toggling of the closure of its front-facing vents. Riders can keep things breezy when desiring better comfort and close the vents for better aerodynamics when needed, all without the need for some additional accessory. How does this interesting approach perform in the real world, and how does the 2.0 improve on the original?
First, the specs. Lazer reports the Bullet 2.0 weights 315 grams in size small. The helmet ships with several swappable panels (more on that later) and large Zeiss lens that is specific to this model. Lazer built a rear-facing red LED into the ratcheting retention mechanism for the Bullet 2.0, and finally, there’s a branded cloth bag with a drawstring to keep everything together. Prices vary, but this tester found costs of about $270 online.
The headlining feature of this helmet is clearly the ability to change modes on the fly. The default front vent is more complex than it might appear to a casual observer – there are four “fins” in the sliding mechanism that direct air over the head and pivot to sit flush while closed. The whole system is easy to operate, though this tester found it tricky to apply enough force while in motion in the saddle without much to grab on to. Still, it’s easy, and it works.
It’s difficult for a layman rider to comment on the aerodynamic benefits of “closed” mode, but Lazer offers some figures. If users swap for the alternative panels included with the helmet, turning the transforming vents into a flat surface, the Bullet 2.0 unlocks seven watts of power at about 35 miles per hour. Lazer says this equates to about eight meters in the last kilometer of racing, and for those out there who have lost races by millimeters, it’s a compelling statistic.
Some reviews of Lazer’s first version of the Bullet complained of inadequate airflow even while vents were open, but this was no issue for this tester with the 2.0 version, even on hot summer days at Portland Oregon’s Alpenrose Velodrome. The 2.0 has deeper channels in the helmet than the original version, and a new top-of-the-helmet vent Lazer calls the Venturi Cap is meant to accelerate the air flowing over the top of the head. Even with the solid panels installed, users can still open up the front to reveal a decently large port.
The fit is extremely comfortable – this tester has been using Lazer helmets for years, and true to his previous experience, the Bullet 2.0 applies even pressure around the head. Lazer secures the helmet using what it calls the “Advanced Turnfit System,” a back-of-the-head dial reminiscent of other helmet brands. This tester wondered whether the pivot from the Rollsys system Lazer uses for its other high-end lids would impact fit, but while the Advanced Turnfit System is bulkier in appearance, it is comfortable – and the build-in LED is a nice touch.
The Bullet is noticeably heavier than this tester’s typical high-end lid, about 100 grams heavier. But weight isn’t everything – the old adage was that aero came at a weight penalty, and for weight weenies, Lazer’s own Z1 is advertised at 190 grams for size small. It’s all relative, as this tester’s go-to helmet for many track events is Lazer’s Victor, a space helmet that exceeds 400 grams.
The Zeiss lens for the bullet is a really great touch. Lazer argues that the lens improves the aerodynamics of the helmet, and it fits flush, via magnets, to create a smooth and rounded profile facing into the wind. The optics of the lens are excellent, and there are zero contact points on the face. A single magnet exists at the rear of the helmet to stow the lens when desired.
One minor issue for this tester was that the Bullet would seem to tilt forward over time in an aero position and the un-cushioned bridge of the lens would wind up resting on the nose – I wonder whether a lightweight pad might make for a nice contingency, though perhaps it wouldn’t be worth it in terms of aerodynamics and weight. For those who prefer to use different shades, I had no issues with compatibility with long-armed eyewear such as the Oakley Radar.
Lazer manufactures a host of helmet accessories, and the Bullet is compatible with a heart-rate monitor and an alarm to remind riders to keep their head in the proper position.
So what was life like with the Bullet 2.0 this summer? For this tester, the Bullet addressed a very annoying problem at the velodrome – carrying two helmets. This tester would traditionally use an airier lid for warmups on the track, and only break out the space helmet for time trials. The ability to lean on an all-in-one helmet was a great convenience.
For the versatile competitive cyclist, the Bullet is just a great everyday lid. Keep it open for road climbs and training rides, close it down for criteriums, swap for the solid panels for time trials. With the Zeiss lens and the interchangeable panels, this is a very versatile helmet and a great way to buy some free speed.
Years ago when I was in grade school, Old Navy’s performance fleece was literally, the hottest sh*t in the yard. I also remembered it being shockingly cheap both in price, and eventually, the realization of its performance, or the lack thereof. But hey, hype-driven fast fashion at its finest.
Admittedly, I haven’t really given fleece another chance since then. I became smitten with water/windproof shells, a Patagonia down jacket, and an assortment of hoodies to go along with my messenger bag. I guess you can say it’s so damn hip San Francisco.
But I gave fleece another go last November when I saw the Mission Workshop’s Bosun Fleece jacket. While it is not without quirks, it’s darn near close to being the layer for so many reasons.
At first glance, the Portugal-made fleece jacket is reminiscent of those rugged military fleece jackets that were meant to be worn in all-terrain. With its 305 gram per square meter shearling poly fleece construction and a tailored, fitted fit, the Bosun felt substantial in hand. I wouldn’t say it felt like wearing a boat anchor, but its weight was definitely noticeable.
I received mine a few days before a wildfire in Northern California and as I was packing for what turned out to be a week-long assignment, I brought it instead of my down jacket knowing I needed something more heavy duty. I ended up sleeping in it for two days in the back of my car and found myself reaching for it during the mornings and evenings when the temperature dropped to the 40s. I even wore it over my Nomex fire suit a few times in order to stay warm.
Then, along came a trip to Japan weeks later. The fleece on the Bosun is thick and fluffy so it takes up more space in my suitcase, but unlike many low-quality fleece jackets, it stayed fluffy and most importantly warm over time with zero maintenance required. I layered it with Mission Workshop’s lightweight but spectacular Orion waterproof jacket whenever it rained, and it worked out to be a fantastic modular combo. Those nylon shoulder reinforcements? They were great as I was able to trade my camera straps to shouldering a backpack and a Babybjörn all day without worrying about wearing out those areas. I also like the fact that its understated grey color doesn’t garner any attention, and enjoyed the useful zippered rear back pockets to quickly stash maps, baby-wipes, and in one occasion, a can of stone-cold Asahi.
I do wish there was more give to the non-adjustable cuffs, however. They were tight around my tiny wrists which can be quite annoying if you want to check the time or simply roll the sleeves up a little.
At $265, the Bosun is competitively priced against, and arguably more urban-looking than many of the hiking-focused fleece jackets currently on the market. With its robust construction backed with a lifetime warranty, the Bosun is built for the long haul for both urban and rural lifestyles plus anything in between.
What makes for an exceptional bicycle workstand? With many options in today’s marketplace, details make the difference. Topeak’s Prepstand X offers a sturdy and highly portable option with great flexibility, but is this the workstand that works for you? If you like the idea of a one-lever-per-function system that works across an array of standards, read on.
The Prepstand X is an 11-pound, three-legged, foldable unit that relies on a front-fork mount system (as in, take that front wheel off). The 6061-aluminum stand can handle bicycles up to nearly 40 pounds, and an array of adaptors make it possible to accommodate many today’s axle standards. This tester found prices for online retailers between $200 and $250.
Perhaps most notable about the Prepstand X is that each operating lever affects a separate adjustment. Height, angle and rotation are all secured through individual levers. It may seem subtle, but the ability to control only the desired variable is very helpful when manipulating a frame for maintenance. For a hard-working workstand, this is a great feature.
Also notable is the Prepstand X’s ability to pack up in to a very manageable size. This full-size repair stand packs down to the size of a small duffel bag, and this sturdy stand appears ready to put in hard work in the field or at home.
The home mechanic using this stand will appreciate the ability to manipulate a frame 90 degrees from horizontal in either direction, all while maintaining stability via a large tray. A ratcheting strap across the downtube holds the bottom bracket well, and with the quick-release fork mount, the two points of contact are more stable than an alternative seatpost-mounted system.
The easy-to-manipulate control for angle of the subject bicycle does double duty as the control for sliding the bike tray – the whole arrangement works well, and is very user friendly. A horizontal access lever holds securely to keep the stand from rotating, and the unit rotates smoothly when the lever is open.
In short, manipulating the position of the subject bicycle with the Prepstand X is easy, convenient and secure.
Most users would have a rear wheel installed while using this stand, but Topeak does provide a dummy hub insert for cases when a rear wheel is not present. This tester cannot keep track of today’s axle standards, but given the huge array of adapters provided with the Prepstand X (standard QR, 12×100, 15×100, 15×110, 20×110 for the front fork, 5×130/135 QR and 12mm thru axle), this tester assumes that most standards can find home with this workstand.
What’s not to love about this excellent workstand? Topeak does not provide quick releases for standard QRs, but this is a minimal annoyance and understandable amid so many modern axle standards, specifically the rise of thru-axles. Users can simply use the appropriate adapter and whatever hardware came with their hub. This tester noticed some rocking while using the combination of an older quick release and the 12-millimeter adapter, but maintained confidence that this stand is a sturdy, portable platform well-suited for vigorous wrenching at home or in the field.
Water-carrying vessels have followed a simple formula since the beginning of civilization: A watertight apparatus plus a cap to secure and provide access to the oft-precious content within.
Well, I am not here to lecture about the history of water bottles, nor am I writing a punchy “OMG this is the must have bottle of 2019” clickbait.
Chances are you already have a few favorites lying around, and let’s be real for a second here: Finding the right bottle isn’t all that difficult these days since everyone seems to be making a few of their own. There are 385 search results under “water bottle” at REI.com.
My current bottle situation consists of a glow in the dark Nalgene, an insulated Camelbak, a screw top Sigg bottle plus a stash of frequently replenished cycling-specific bottles. My latest addition, and the purpose of this rambling, is the $20 HydraPak Stash 750ml flexible water bottle.
Initially, I thought the idea of a flexible bottle was more of a novelty. Rigid bottles have served me and civilization well for years. So I wondered, is it going to be like putting water in a Ziploc bag?
It’s been three months since I started using it and though without it quirks, I am finding myself liking it for what it is.
Upon arrival, the most obvious feature is its compact size. Measured at 2.6” inches tall, 3.6” in diameter and weighing 84-grams in its compressed setting, the Stash 750ml is about the size of two hockey pucks stacked on top of each other yet is some 50% lighter than its rigid compatriot.
To use, simply unscrew the 42mm cap and pull using the soft pull tab at the bottom of the rigid bottom. Instead of using the pull tab, I find it easier to just unscrew and push the bottom out from the inside – just make sure your hands are clean, though. Once the rigid bottom is released from the top cap assembly, the radio frequency-welded, PVC and BPA-free thermoplastic polyurethane body, imprinted with capacity marks, is liberated from its protective casing to hold fluids on demand. The bottle is approved to be frozen and contain hot fluids up to 140F.
Once filled, the bottle becomes semi-rigid within the TPU wall in such that it will stand fully-extended on its rigid bottom. I would advise strongly against holding anything but the hard top while operating. Putting the bottle inside a pouch/holder does take some time to get used to because you can’t just brute force it into submission given it soft sides. I also can’t seem find a cup holder that can fit the bottom cap. So for those few road trips, the bottle basically lived either on the passenger seat (during normal driving), or, for the most part, the front passenger floor during *spirited* driving.
Forget about drinking out of one while driving, too. Yeah sure it’s entirely doable, but it’s also a giant pain in the ass.
The space saving aspect, though, is unbeatable. I wish I had this when I flew to Asia for a work trip earlier this year as more room in my carry-on is always appreciated. I’ve gone on a few more flights, a couple of hikes with a backpack full of camera gear, kayaking in Channel Island and on a dune buggy trip that left my body all banged up, but I am happy to report that there were zero leaks, no unintentionally loose cap (could use a built-in tether) and that TPU body I was unsure about was in fact, durable with proper care (i.e. sharp objects). My Stash is by no means a direct replacement of a hard-sided bottle, but it is a godsend, a valuable tool, in instances where space and weight are at a premium. I am planning to also add the 1 liter version to my troupe of bottles, and you can say that I am infatuated with it.
OTTO DesignWorks saved the world when they released the OTTOLOCK, filling a nearly-neglected security niche between sturdy U-lock and crappy little braided cable. The clever rubbery ribbon and diminutive numeric lock mechanism was a great form factor for low-risk situations, and OTTO has ratcheted up the security dial with the new, beefier OTTOLOCK Hexband.
“But wait, they look exactly the same!” Look under the hood, and the secret is revealed….
The Hexband molds six steel layers plus aramid fiber under its anti-scratch Santoprene ribbon, doubling the amount of steel compared to the original OTTOLOCK. This adds up to a heavier unit compared to the original (375 grams compared to 260 grams for a 60-inch version), but the weight still pales in comparison to a standard U-lock. Like the original, the Hexband coils up into a tiny form factor when not in use.
Three months testing the 30-inch Hexband revealed, through ease of portage, how limiting the classic U-lock actually is. The Hexband slipped easily into a large saddlebag for a couple’s ride to a winery out of town, allowing enough spare room to carry an extra set of shoes and providing enough length to cover two frames. The three numeric dials on the lock cylinder were a little finicky, but the ability to avoid carrying a key was a fair trade-off.
OTTOLOCK still describes the Hexband as predominantly a theft deterrent, not a long-term security solution. Still, the option of a beefier version to the original could add valuable peace of mind during quick stops, bike tours, on a roof rack and a whole host of other creative uses.
The Hexband comes in the aforementioned 60-inch version as well as two additional options: a 250-gram, 30-inch model and a 190-gram, 18-inch spec.
West Coast riders are likely familiar with Ornot, since they launched in San Francisco back in 2013. But to the wider world, it’s still a relative newcomer and I’ll admit that, prior to their recent European launch, I’d never heard of them.
There’s a lot to like about Ornot. For starters, there was their motto: “You could be a rolling billboard, Ornot.” Intrusive branding has always been a turn off for me, so any company that promises to lose the logos has my full support. I also like the straightforward line-up. They offer a set of classy bib shorts and a few different types of jerseys. By contrast, one of the major Italian brands currently offers 19 different variations of shorts on their website. I like that Ornot are keeping things simple, and just focusing on making the best bib they can.
The first time I pulled said bibs on, the pad felt a little thin. On the bike though, it was plenty comfortable and after a few months riding I now prefer its lower profile. The material used has a nice texture to it and feels a little bit compressive, and the chunky cuffs look cool and keep everything in place.
At €134/$180, they’re not exactly cheap, but they feel like good value. In terms of comfort and ergonomics, they’re as good as any bibs I’ve tried, but crucially, there’s an obvious attention to detail in their construction. They feel more robust than a lot of other high-end bibs in my wardrobe, and with a good warranty and a crash replacement policy in place, you’ll get your money’s worth out of them. And aside from the blue detail on the right leg cuff, they’re neutral style-wise, so they’ll easily pair with any jersey or jacket you fancy wearing.
The Work Jersey I tested feels great, too. It’s comfortable and up close there are some nice little details in the design. The set-in sleeves look a bit retro, which I liked, and the olive colour is an understated alternative to the usual blacks and reds we see so much of in cycling clothing. I’d normally say that white is the only acceptable colour for a cycling sock, but the matching olive numbers that came with the kit really made it pop.
Good stuff all round, basically, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on what they do in future.
I was never a cargo bike kind of guy. I never had an interest or a need for one. An e-cargo bike? You’ve got to be kidding me, and that’s not a knock against e-bikes. In fact, I think e-bikes are cool for all its intended purposes.
But here I was staring at one at the 2017 InterBike. Gosh I don’t know why I am looking at it.
I’ve just been bombarded with a lot of eBikes that follow more or less the same formula: a heavy boring frame slapped with some equally boring motor unit with triple digit range per charge. You can only hear pitches about the same power unit from people so many times. However, this pastel blue GSD from Tern is different. It’s got 20 inch wells, could stand on its own like the statue of liberty, adjustable to be used by family members (or housemates, bros, whatever) between 4’9” to 6’3”, integrated front and rear lights, can be loaded with panniers, a front rack for a milk crate-type box… and dual baby seats.
Am I looking at an e-bus then? Despite my reservations, I decided to try one out. Months later, a Tern rep literally dropped one off at my house, fully charged and ready to go.
I had three weeks to ride it around town to buy groceries and take my toddler son out for a spin. I am certain it’s the heaviest bike that I’ve ever ridden, save for one of those silly four person tourist trap rental bikes that you instantly regret the moment you pay for it. Tern gave me a model with dual batteries with an extended range up to 150 miles. A range that theoretically would be sufficient to do a round trip down to Silicon Valley and back in one charge, but that also means it’s heavier than the specified 60lbs weight with a single battery to power this aluminum-frame rated to carry up to 400lbs. There’s no fancy carbon fiber handlebar or titanium-bolted stems here. Its stock components tend to weigh a little more for the sake of safety and durability. It’s got a comfortable seat, equally comfortable Ergon grips, and a pair of regular shoe and shin friendly pedals. It’s really a SUV on two wheels.
Comfy Ergon ergonomic grips.
Shoe and shin friendly pedals. Personally I'd go for something grippier such as the Shimano PD-MX80, though.
Durable Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires with reflective piping on both sides
Magura MT5 levers felt solid in my hands and were problem free.
Clutched Shimano Shadow+ rear derailleur to accommodate one very long chain
Release the spring-loaded cord at the bottom and you will be able to reverse the front wheel to save space.
Retractable foot pegs on the rear rack
Following that train of thought, there’s a sense of invincibility whenever I take it out for a “spin.” Yet unlike your below average SUV, the GSD, given its heft and upright geometry, is surprisingly nimble to maneuver. I am sure its low center of gravity and the fact that its wheelbase, despite its elongated appearance, is ever so slightly longer than a standard bike, beefy Boost thru-axles and fat 2.4″ Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires all contribute to its stability.
I love the Bosch Performance Line drivetrain. Power was smoothly delivered whenever I needed it. While I think Bosch can improve user experience by reworking those clunky buttons and display, it nevertheless worked as advertised in giving me five different case modes from gently assisting my walk-a-bike effort (handy to maneuver the GSD to a bike lockup) to full blown turbo mode that gives the most ooomph. I found myself using the turbo mode during my test for the maximum power assist and a more lively, responsive feel, but I did find myself switching to touring or economic mode more whenever I am going downhill or once I am rolling on speed.
One thing that I’ve learned is that the GSD likes to cruise steadily while seated and is a far more enjoyable ride to stay around 20 mph where the power assist cuts off. The power cutoff brings back the abrupt reality that this is one hefty bike, no matter how much power I crank into the clutched Shimano 1×10 drivetrain with a 11-36 cassette. I might not be getting a full human-powered workout, but I can do grocery runs while remaining relatively sweat free. The LCD display also controls the integrated front and rear light, and the four-piston Magura MT5 hydraulic disc brakes were amazing. Paired with 180mm rotors, The MT5 modulated nicely and I was able to stop on a dime considering all that heft with no audible brake squeal. The kickstand takes a bit of practice but it was rock steady while loading groceries.
Besides being a badass grocery hauler, I loved bringing my son out on the bike. The utilitarian racks allowed me to install the Thule Yepp Nexxt Maxi seat much closer to me than a towing trailer ever would be for better handling without the extra distance between me and my son. It’s nice to be able to not have to yell in order to hear each other while riding. My son couldn’t stop smiling and laughing during his first ride, a 15 minute trip, to our favorite grocery store. With a half-mile uphill kicker averaging 9%, I never thought of taking my kid along on a towing trailer, but it was a no-brianer with the GSD. The little dude was actually saddened to see the bike go back a few weeks later and said “why don’t you just buy one.” I don’t know if there’s a better incentive to buy a bike than that.
With a starting price of $3,999, it costs about the same as a very good road bike, a reliable motorcycle, or a child’s daycare expenses and it definitely commands a deeper commitment than a regular bicycle. If you’re in the market for an e-cargo bike, however, the GSD is one well-made machine designed for the long haul. For 2019, Tern will be adding a higher performance model with a higher-torque Bosch Performance Line CX motor along with a higher energy battery, a heavy duty Enviolo N380x cargo hub, and an integrated Abus wheel lock for additional security with a starting price of $4,995.
If you’ve been riding a long time, you probably have a fine collection of saddle bags. It’s just one of those things that we keep buying. Like the next one is going to be the one, the bag that fits all you want to fit, that doesn’t bounce around, or weigh a ton, or rub off your inner thighs when you’re high up on the saddle, or, worst of all, look like a Fred accessory on your hot new race machine.
Aesthetically, I’m been a fan of the classic pre-glued tubular neatly wrapped and tucked under the saddle, but that means having a couple of CO2 cartridges and a multi-tool bouncing around in your rear jersey pockets, which can be annoying. A storage bottle that slots right into your second cage is great too, right until you want to go on a long ride mid-summer and find yourself scrambling around for the old saddle bag so that you can carry more water.
I loved Scicon’s Roller 2.1 system where the bag clicked onto a quick release bracket … right until I hit a pothole and my pack went flying. In the middle of a fast descent in a granfondo. And so I gravitated back to the simplest of them all, a beat-up old rectangular pouch that’s secured to the seat posts with a long, wraparound piece of velcro. Hardly bling, but it worked.
Then along came Silca’s Grande Americano seat roll. Same idea – something wraps around it to secure it to the saddle rails – but instead of velcro, it’s a fancy BOA system, that most of you are probably familiar with from your shoes.
It’s exactly what you’d expect from Silca these days: Carefully considered, well-made, and at $58, not exactly cheap. There’s a lot of storage potential and it’s all kept tidy by three interior compartments that fold over onto one another. I had to pack and unpack a couple of times to get it to fold up the way I wanted – ie, as compact as possible – but now it’s a pleasure to use, with easy access to everything I could need on a ride. I carry some CO2, some tyre levers, a spare tube (Silca’s Latex offering is awesome if you swing that way), a mini-tool and a patch kit, but there’s room in there for more if you don’t mind it looking a bit bulkier.
So is it worth it? Well, in a sport where it’s OK to spend $30 on a fancy cream to rub on your crotch, I’d have to say yes. You could pick another saddle bag out of a bargain bin somewhere, and for a fraction of the price, it will do the same job. It just won’t do it as well. And it’s not like tyres or bar-tape that you’ll be replacing once or twice a season. Treat yourself, it will last for years, and if you’re a nerd like me, every time you open it you’ll get a little kick of smug satisfaction looking at how tidy all your stuff is.