When it comes to heart rate monitors (HRM), most of us got started with a good ol’ fashioned HRM strapped to our chest. It worked and though HRM technology has improved and is now more comfortable after the introduction of soft(er) straps, it could still get a bit uncomfortable at times. Ever try adjusting a chest strap while riding? Forget about it.
So let’s forget them chest straps. You can now wear a HRM on your sleeve with the all-new Wahoo TICK FIT.
Weighing in at just 19 grams with the included large strap, the TICKR FIT is an optical heart rate monitor armband that tracks heart rate and calorie burn data with an optical sensor on its underside, much like how the Apple Watch tracks heart rate at your wrist, but is said to be more accurate given its recording location.
Similar to other Wahoo products, the TICKR FIT is designed to be simple to operate and pairs nicely with other popular devices and apps with its dual Bluetooth and ANT+ compatibility. It’s also simple to use: Power on by pressing its sole button till it blinks blue and power down by holding the very same button till the red LED stops flashing. Speaking on power, the sensor pod uses a rechargeable battery from the included USB dock with up to 30 hours of battery life between charges. The sensor pod itself is waterproof to IPX7 specification meaning it’s protected from water immersion with a depth of up to one meter and a max duration of 30 minutes.
Also worth noting is that each TICKR FIT comes with two adjustable bands (260mm and 375mm) so rest assured your chicken arms or oversized guns will fit perfectly.
Pocket pumps are such a polarizing item because of their bad rep from all the shitty ones you can buy. Tires just don’t seem to inflate nearly fast enough, they’re slippery when wet, essentially rendered useless when the barrel gets inhumanly hot right about the time your arms are all warmed up trying to make a PR on how quick you can get to 90PSI. Oh, and shitty pump heads that either don’t seal or seal so well it pulls the valve off the tube. The Silca Pocket Impero, though, seems to solve all of that. Situated inside a CNC aluminum head, the 3mm Italian leather gasket slips onto a presta value with just the right amount of resistance. So smooth you’d swear it’s a match made in heaven. Not only that, its mirror-honed interior and generous use of precision metal parts (as opposed to plastic) will stand up against years of last minute roadside abuse.
Usually seen stacked in the back of a ProTour team car, the SciCon race rain bag is popular for a reason: To keep a rain kit neatly organized with its many labeled pockets (shoes+covers, warmers, gloves, jersey+shorts, jacket+vests) so there will be no frantic fumbling when trying to fish out some shoe covers in the back of a moving car flying down the French countryside. I don’t have a team car following me on every ride, but nevertheless I love my Race Rain bag whenever I am driving to a race or to a ride. The bag doesn’t take up much real estate in the trunk and as long as its packed properly in advance, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to use: unzip pocket labeled “jacket” and viola, jacket. Bye bye pre-race frantic fumbling in search of your glove. Each bag is also customizable (for free) to include your name and a country flag of your choice, just like what the pros get.
We’ve been smitten with our Wahoo Elemnt for a while now with its trove of smart features and ease of setup. The Atlanta-based company‘s newest offering, the Elemnt Bolt, seems to continue their tradition of forward-thinking design. It is much more than just a compact and less expensive version of the original Elemnt. Rather, it’s been race optimized much like a BMW M3 within the 3-series itself. The screen is about half an inch smaller (at 2.2″ instead of 2.7 “) and 39 grams lighter, but the bigger story here is that the Bolt is designed with aerodynamics in mind, down to its flush computer mount. Existing Elemnt users will instantly feel at home with its easy to use interface and it’s a perfect unit for those who prefer a smaller computer coupled with the additional benefits of marginal aerodynamic gains. Yea, it’s all about the details.
Tubeless tires rock but unfortunately they’re still susceptible to flats. And when they do, they suck. Worst, flatting in the middle of a race. Luckily, DynaPlug has a pretty ingenious solution just for that. Similar to the company’s repair solution for automative tires but with a twist, DynaPlug Air will first inflate the flat with CO2 through the plug applicator. Once inflation is complete, simply pull the insertion tool and the DynaPlug situated in the end of the tool will seal the puncture with a sticky strip of rubber… Just like the ones used to repair car tires. Pretty sweet to be able to use one tool to inflate and repair in one go.
While some might overlook the Victorinox BikeTool because of the lack of a cycling-specific function such as a chain tool, spoke wrench, or even a bottle opener, Victorinox essentially convinced me with its robust practicality. Unlike many mini-tools that don’t nearly generate enough torque to loosen a bolt roadside, I really like the BikeTool’s full-length 5mm allen wrench, plus the 8 additional bits connectable to the 5mm via a magnetic adapter. Heck, there are two beefy tire levers on each side of the tool too. It’s also worth noting that BikeTool is a manufactured by respected Swiss toolmaker PB Swiss in Switzerland. For $40, it’s as good as killing two birds with one stone.
I must admit I didn’t give them much initial thought since who reviews beer sleeves anyway. But these Rumpl Beer Blanket are not the faded red neoprene sleeves you find in your parents’ garage. True to its name, the blanket certainly feels and works like a sleeping bag. It’s good to know it’s fluid resistant so there’s no need to worry about toasting your friends after that gnarly gravel grinder. At $8, you can pretty much give them to every single member of your family and still be able to buy some of those hot IPA cans from Alvarado, Moonraker, and Monkish.
Summer doesn’t usually call for arm warmers, but summer living in San Francisco means living at the mercy of Karl the Fog. It gets chilly when you least expect. I used to swear by DeFeet ArmSkins (still have two pairs on rotation) but my new favorite are the Arm Warmers Light from Denmark’s GripGrab. Founded by three brothers in 2000, the Arm Warmers Light are silky smooth to the touch with the right amout of insulation and elasticity. Once in place, grippers on both ends of the warmers serves as anchors while the highly elastic fabric moves along its now defined area like second skin, even with those chicken arms of mine.
Cramps suck. I am one of those unlucky ones that literally make it rain the second the weather gets warm so I am constantly looking for ways to prevent cramps from happening. MODe’s Anti-Cramping energy shot is different in such that it’s not a pill, nor is it some gel. It’s an easily digested juice shot with a kick that one of our testers described, “It’s like I just ate some fresh spicy Mexican mangoes”. Think of this energy shot as the happy medium between going to a cold-pressed juice bar and getting more supplements from GNC – except MODe is all natural with no added sugars and preservatives. As for that spicy kick? It’s from a combination of ginger, turmeric, and black pepper extracts that is said to help to combat cramps and to prevent sugar spikes that plague the more commonly used gels.
Bike computers are my kryptonite. Yes, even Garmins. I know I’m in a tiny minority on that one, but they’ve always bugged the hell out of me. I can never stop the beeping. Ever. And the problem has gotten the worse the better the computers have become.
No matter how hard I try to work the wireless syncing, I always end up dragging ride files from the unit with a USB cable and dropping them into Strava. I have no patience left. I don’t want to learn how to sync anything. I want to be petulant. I’m proud to be a luddite.
All of this is undoubtedly a user issue. A bicycle version of PEBKAC, as in, problem exists between keyboard and chair. This problem exists between bar-mount and saddle. I know this. But I don’t care. I have no interest in the Quantified Self. I know I suck. I don’t need a computer for confirmation.
Part of the issue is device overload. Life these days can seem like little more than hopping from one screen to the next. Laptops, phones, tablets, smart watches, wi-fi kettles, intelligent fridges … I’m genuinely convinced that someone I know is going to become a real life Theodore Twombly – Joaquin Phoenix’s character in the film Her, who falls in love with his OS – in the next few years. I have some suspicions that it’s happened already.
I’m not going to start talking to the Wahoo Elemnt, but I am smitten. The simple screen is crystal clear and always visible, no matter what conditions you find yourself in, and the uncomplicated interface belies serious functionality. There’s all kinds of connectivity with Bluetooth 4, ANT+, and Wi-Fi, including automatic uploads to social media or everyone’s favorite ride-tracking site, and alerts for incoming calls and messages.
Route directions come with eye-catching color-coded alerts on the LEDs on the side of the unit; if you see those red lights, you’ve made a wrong turn. The LEDs are also customizable to indicate performance and exertion levels. Wahoo claim that it’s waterproof up to five feet, which means that unless you’re the sort who washes their bike in the deep end of a swimming pool, you should be ok. And the battery lasts for ages, even when it’s giving turn-by-turn directions. When used for more basic purposes like data and ride-tracking, it should last for several outings without a charge.
The monochrome display, which is not touchscreen, will be a deal-breaker for some, and a boon for others. Were it not for its myriad features and excellent connectivity, you might call that low-fi. As an overall package, I prefer to think of it as paired back. No computer on the market is easier to set-up or personalize, thanks to its accompanying app, which also checks for updates and warns you if the battery is low. You just pair it quickly with a QR code and unless you want to individualize the info displayed on screen, the process is practically done. And though it’s obviously subjective, I also found it easier to use on the bike. Is it a match for the mighty Garmin? It’s another option. A fool-proof one. Which is great news, for fools like me.