Knog Blinder Road
Knog introduced the Blinder range of lights last year and they’re neat, self-contained units that are simple to fit to your bike and use LiPo rechargeable batteries. The new Blinder Road lights continue to use integrated silicone mounting straps but there is more power for the rear light (now 70 lumens) plus a new high-powered front light that pumps out up 200 lumens of white light.
The front light has two Cree LEDs — one provides a wide-angle beam, the other a narrow beam — that can be used individually or together in either static or flash modes. There are also two power settings for the output. Expect a run-time of one hour when using both static beams on high power compared to six hours when running them in flash mode on low power.
The rear light uses a column of three high-powered LEDs and one Cree LED that can also be used in one of three flashing modes or two static modes with a run time of up to 20 hours.
Blinder Road lights are finished with anodised aluminium faces in either black, red, gunmetal or grape. Both lights are waterproof and have low power indicators; the front light also has an indicator for low/high power output. The front light also comes with two interchangeable silicone straps to suit 22-28mm and 29-35mm diameters for mounting, a helmet mount (with velcro straps), and a USB extension lead for charging.
RRP: Front: $85; rear $60
For more info see Knog.
I’m a big fan of the design of these lights; they are perhaps the cleanest-looking units on the market. I also like how everything, including battery charging, is integrated into a single lightweight unit that is simple to mount and reasonably easy to use while on the bike, although the buttons are difficult operate while wearing full-finger gloves.
I’ve read a fair bit of criticism about Knog’s silicone cases — some users have snapped the straps with light use but I’ve never had the same problem, even after almost a year of using a Blinder rear light. Knog have responded to this shortcoming by introducing a detachable strap for the front light that can replaced if it breaks.
The short USB lead included with both the front and rear lights makes it easier to plug the unit into a computer for charging, addressing another common complaint about Knog’s Blinder lights. Out in the dark, these lights are perfectly suited for urban use where there is some ambient light.
With both beams on high power, you can expect the front light to create a reasonably well-lit corridor with around 20 meters of visibility. That makes for a pretty generous response time but riders facing long unlit stretches will want a light with a lot more output like the Fyxo 1000 that we looked at last year.
Regular users will have to get into the habit of charging the front light after every ride to compensate for the shortish run time or use high power sparingly. The Blinder Road rear light performs as well as the rest of the Blinder range but is improved by the addition of a steady output mode with just two LEDs that is much easier to follow in a bunch. My only criticism is that there isn’t an indicator to distinguish the different output modes for either light so I can avoid looking into the light to find the mode I’m after.
Echelon Sports Lights
Echelon Sports has a wide range of front and rear lights in its catalogue and the Beacon, Flare and Gamma Ray lights occupy the upper end. All of these lights use rechargeable batteries and USB charging. The Beacon and Flare tail lights are supplied with a tool-free mounting bracket and a USB Mini-B to Standard-A cord for charging. Both lights have similar run (up to seven hours in flash/strobe mode) and charge times (two hours) however the Beacon has a higher output (60 lumens) than the Flare.
The Gamma Ray front light comes packaged with everything you need including a wall-charger and brackets for both handlebars (22-31.8mm) and helmets. The Cree LED that serves the Gamma Ray can pump out 500 lumens for over 90 minutes on its highest power setting and the lithium ion battery can be recharged in three hours. Each light is equipped with a low power indicator and four or five operating modes that differ in output and flash frequency.
RRP: ES 601 ES Beacon: $50, ES 600 ES Flare: $30; ES501 ES Gamma Ray $130.
For more information, visit Echelon Sports.
The Gamma Ray is not the most elegant-looking light when mounted on the bars but the output of this light is very impressive. There’s lots of bright white light to chase away every shadow for at least 30 meters, with some penetration into the dark beyond that, all without the bulk or fuss of a separate battery pack.
I’d like to see a better bracket that allows the Gamma Ray to be mounted under the stem (to minimise its intrusiveness). A remote switch that allows the output to be toggled to suit changing conditions and oncoming riders would also be a very welcome addition. As for the rear lights, the Beacon and Flare are simple to mount and the output is impressive, especially for the Beacon.
Moon X-Power 300 & Shield Light Set
This light set is ideal for long, dark rides with both lights being fully rechargeable via a USB cable and a supplied charger. The X-Power 300 (front light) is rated at 300 lumens while the rear light, Shield, is rated at 60 lumens.
RRP: $150 (front & rear package)
For more info see Moonlights.
Bright, rechargeable battery, water resistant, multi-mode, and a great price in a packaged bundle (front & rear) at a great price. What more can you ask from a light as winter approaches?
Apres Velo T-shirts
The guys behind Apres Velo are passionate about bike riding and you’ll find this passion infuses all the clothing they design. Their t-shirts come in two basics shapes: semi-fitted with a crew neck or slim-fit with a round or v-neck. Designs range from “A Life to Behind Bars” to “Wheel Worship”, “Cycling Nuts”, “Shut Up Legs” and “True Religion”. All told there are over two dozen different t-shirt designs to choose from. Apres Velo also offer an undershirt, jackets and hoodies for men, plus a range of clothing for women.
RRP: $50 for all t-shirts.
More information on ApresVelo website.
If you like to display your passion for bikes, then Apres Velo’s designs are likely to appeal. These t-shirts are constructed from a mid-weight fabric that is easy to wear, where the slim-fit t-shirts offer a slightly closer fit than the semi-fitted shirts.
The seams appear to be finished with a great deal of care and overall each t-shirt has a high-quality look and feel. There are plenty of enticements to be found should you visit their website, plus keep an eye out for their new range of cycling wear and merino tops.
Personalized Team Sky Replica Jersey & Team Sky Pro Bib Shorts
Based on Rapha’s popular ProTeam jersey, the main body of the jersey is made from a breathable performance fabric, while the side panels use a more open mesh to help regulate body temperature. The side panels ensure a good fit and also help keep the jersey’s pockets stable when loaded.
The jersey has three large cargo pockets, as well as a vertical zipped valuables pocket. The left arm features a contrast Sky blue armband, while the rear of the jersey features Team Sky’s distinctive central blue stripe.
Based on the well known ProTeam Bib, the Team Sky Bib Shorts are made from a comfortable, Elastane-based fabric that is breathable, durable and has good stretch. The fabric also has a wicking treatment to improve moisture transfer and an anti-bacterial treatment to prevent the build-up of the bacteria that can irritate the skin.
Personalised Team Sky Replica Jersey: $150 AUD; Team Sky Pro Bib Shorts $250 AUD.
We’ve already raved about the quality, fit, styling and innovation of Rapha products, and this level of personalisation to activate their Sky partnership brings them into a league of their own. Sure your mates might take the micky out of you for wearing pro-kit out on the bunch ride, but it’s only because they’re jealous. Laugh all you want. I’ll be wearing mine…
Castelli Fawesome Vest & Nano Flex Arm Warmers
According to Castelli, the Fawesome Vest offers a high-performance blend of wind and water protection in a lightweight, aerodynamic package. They’ve apparently obsessed over the fit to the point that it’s nearly as aero as the company’s Aero Race Jersey. The windproof and water-resistant Windstopper X-Lite Plus fabric on the front and shoulders keeps the wind off.
Other features include a high collar to keep the wind out when descending, Velocity fabric on the back of the vest for temperature regulation, and a lower-back splash guard to protect from wheel spray. Rear reflective tabs and trim at hem provide increased visibility in low-light conditions.
The Nano Flex fabric behaves just like the company’s Thermoflex fabric in dry conditions, but then provides unbelievable water repellency when it starts raining. Castelli don’t claim that it’s fully waterproof, but they do say it’s “the most effective product we’ve ever made for keeping you comfortable in all conditions”.
After the atrocious weather that the riders had to endure during the Spring Classics and seeing many riders wearing the Gabba jersey (even though it went against sponsorship agreements), we asked Castelli for a Gabba sample to test out. Unfortunately they were sold out, but we were able to test their vest that is based on the same technology as the Gabba.
We love the fluro as the days are getting shorter and the color comes into its own at dusk or dawn. The weight is perfect for those cool Autumn days with protection for those mildy damp days. It’s not a rain vest but it does have a “super-pro” snug fit, and it’s vented in all the right places. The Nano Flex armwarmers are just as they say – breathable, water resistant, and they fit perfectly. We highly recommend these.
Attaquer “Paper Planers” Kit
Here’s what the folks at Attaquer had to say about their jersey and knicks combo:
“At Attaquer, we’re not afraid to be different, and neither are those that choose to wear our designs. Cycling inspires us, so should our kit. The Paper Planers kit features sharp geometric lines based on the simple aerodynamic design of the paper aeroplane.”
- Reduced muscle fatigue technology
- 50+ High UV protection
- Perforated front panels for excellent, comfort, breathability and moisture wicking
- Body Contour
- Waist Gripper
- Lazer cut legs with thermo taped gripper
- Soft Bib Mesh with larger perforations for comfort and ventilation
- Micro Fibre Fabric is breathable
- Excellent support to the Ischia bones
- Designed to Lessen pressure on perinea region
RRP: Full kit including jersey and knicks: $349
For more information, see the Attaquer website.
Greg and Stevan from Attaquer are doing something different in the road scene which I like to see. Their Pater Planers kit is one of their more conservative designs but if you’re feeling like shouting out, I suggest checking out the Leafy Camo. The attention to detail in their packaging when it shows up in the mail is part of a satisfying experience and the kit works, fits, and feels like some of the best on the market.
They’ve chosen Elastic Interface as their chamois supplier which is an excellent choice. If you want to stand out from the pack, I suggest you give Attaquer a try.
Capo Meryl 8 200 Needle Sock
Capo’s love for socks is unparalleled as we can see from their new Meryl 8 200 Needle Socks. Meryl stands for the socks’ material, Meryl Skinlife. This fabric was chosen for hypoallergenic and bacteriostatic characteristics. The ’8′ in the title, Capo is designating the socks 8cm cuff — very Euro. Capo also used a 200-needle machine for the socks’ construction to create a dense, conforming fabric knit without sacrificing breathability, softness, or by adding any additional bulk to the socks. As a result, you’ll find that these socks are exceedingly durable and supportive, yet highly breathable and quick-drying.
Capo prides themselves on making some of the best socks on the market and their new Meryl 8 200 Needle Sock (what a tongue twister!) raises the bar. If you think socks are just socks, think again. They’re the perfect weight, perfect fit (spot-on height), and last forever. My preference is using black for training, white for racing.
Be sure to check out Capo’s 2013 range. Some great stuff in there.
Bontrager Race 5″ & RXL 5″ Socks
Race 5″: Comfortable feet are pivotal to productive training and successful racing. Sporting a tall 5″ (12.7cm) cuff, the Race socks eliminate bunching around your foot, and move moisture away from your feet to keep them dry.
RXL 5″: Keep your feet happy. With extra cushioning in the right places, a taller cuff and moisture wicking fabric, the RXL 5″ cycling socks help keep your feet, and your ride, pleasant. These premium socks deliver performance and comfort for brisk training rides or climbing atop the podium after a hard-fought race.
RRP: Race 5″: $19.95 RXL 5″: $24.95
For more info see Bontrager.
There’s nothing like putting on a nice new set of socks and these Bontragers are a hit. If you like long socks that rise above the first lump in the calf, you’re going to love these. They’re not too thick, not too thin. The RLX’s have different densities of material in all the right places so they’re firm and comfy.
Both the RXL and Race have a nice ribbed collar at the top so they fit snugly around the calf. I didn’t know so much thought could be put into a pair of socks.
Babici Lumiere Nero Jersey & Knicks
To quote from Babici:
“The Lumiére range is Babici’s most detailed production to date. Designed to compliment the harsh Australian summers, the Lumiére jerseys are a composition of three unique high performance fabrics, combined to deliver an aero fit with the highest level of aeration and UV protection.
Comfort, style and performance are the three main components that form every Babici knick. Using only the very best in Italian and Australian fabrics, all Babici knicks are designed around Babici’s unique chamois to deliver one of the most comfortable rides you’ll ever have.”
RRP: Jersey: $170 Knicks: $180
Babici is a one-man brand and the amount of detail that Kev Babakian puts into his products, packaging, and order fulfillment is top notch. I visited the Babici studio in Sydney a few weeks ago and talked to Kev about what Babici was as a brand.
He told me, “It is all about being different. 99% of innovation fails but adds to a better product or result. Sure we can produce a standard product (which we do have) but that will not give us any sense of differentiation. One thing we want to be is always different.”
The Lumiere jersey is wonderful. The material feels nice against the skin, the fit is very good, and the design is beautiful. But it’s the chamois of the Lumiere knicks that first caught my eye.
I’m told that the chamois is the result of 12 months of development between Babici and the Italian Dolomiti. The chamois is not stitched inside the knicks – the same piece of material is pressing against your backside as is against the saddle. It feels loose or removed when upright and not seated. It feels weird at first, but isn’t bad once engaged.
The chamois has more movement than I’d like and I think it could be improved. The length of the knicks are slightly short but Kev tells me that they’re addressing this and they’re adding 50mm to the length of the leg. I’m looking forward to the next iteration of these knicks because I think they have great potential, however I’m not confident they’ve got the fit right. As for the styling, quality, and packaging, I’m very impressed at the attention to detail that Babici has put into their products.
Specialized Roubaix Endurance Tyres
“The Roubaix is an Endurance Road tyre for epic rides from smooth country roads to rough field roads. The Roubaix is fast like any competitive road tyre, but features unique casing technologies for added comfort and puncture protection. The 23mm tread handles quick. The 25mm casing smoothes your ride and keeps you fresh. Slick centre tread for low rolling resistance, shoulder sipes for increased surface adaption and grip.”
More information on the Specialized website.
These tyres come just at the right time for winter on wet roads and while I haven’t done enough kilometers to test their durability, I’ve asked regular users of these tyres and they come highly recommended. Weighing in at 260 grams the Specialized Roubaix Pros are about 60-80 grams heavier when compared to performance rated tire.
But these are not a race tyre — they’re a heavy-duty training tyre that are made to be comfortable and puncture resistant. If you want a good race tyre, check out the S-Works Turbo Competition tyre. I’ve been using them for a couple months and they’re magnificent.
Praxis Cold Forged Chain Rings
Praxis Works specialises in aftermarket chainrings to suit most popular cranks. What could possibly be the big deal about chainrings? Their point of difference lies in their manufacturing process as they cold forge their chainrings. Cold forging allows them to manipulate the ring shape and tooth profile more than ever before.
“With our ‘One-Shot’ forging we are able to increase the amount of shifting features on a chainring which normal manufacturing won’t allow. The process also creates a harder and tougher surface for durability. Individual tooth profiles, alternating tooth angles, timed ramps and tactically placed shift elevators are all jam packed onto a Praxis ring. Translation: All of these small aggregate features add up to the most durable and consistent shifting rings ever produced for cyclists.”
RRP: $170 per 2-ring set
More information at www.praxiscycles.com
We reviewed the Praxis chainrings a couple months ago and said that we did not find a significant difference in shifting between these rings and the Dura Ace 7900 rings, cranks and Di2 shifting. However, Praxis readily admits that Dura Ace chainrings are the gold standard that they aim to perform as well as.
Praxis sent me a mid-compact set of their rings to compare with my Specialized chainring setup. The front shifting was noticeably better than the stock chainrings. The inside chain pick-ups grab the chain quickly and don’t miss a beat when getting onto the big dog. Plus, the machining makes them look fantastic.
The other advantage of Praxis rings is that they’re about half the cost of many other chainrings and if weight is important to you, they’re only 118 grams a pair (some of the lightest on the market).
Shimano SH-R320 Road Bike Shoes
The R320 is Shimano’s top-of-the-range road shoe and it replaces the R315, coming with a number of enhancements. Arguably the biggest improvement is Shimano’s “Dynalast” technology which reportedly increases the efficiency of the pedal stroke by ensuring less energy is lost when the shoe flexes under stress.
While Shimano’s Custom-Fit technology isn’t unique to the R320 it is still a major drawcard for this shoe. The shoe’s upper, heel and insole are made of a thermoplastic material which can be moulded specifically to your feet using an oven and vaccuum system.
The shoes weigh in at roughly 500g — depending on what size you are and the cleats you choose to attach — and they come in a couple of colour options: white with black and red trim, and black with blue trim.
For more information see the Shimano Australia website.
I tried out the black with blue trim option and while the colour combination mightn’t please everyone (pros wear black shoes, right?), I found the design quite striking.
Putting on the shoes for the first time I noticed that the arch support seemed a little higher than I’m used to in a road shoe. But after a couple of wears I got used to it and before long the shoes started to feel very comfortable.
I didn’t get a chance to get the shoes Custom-Fit — the LBS recommend two months of wear to pre-mould the uppers, heels and insole — but even without that they were already the most comfortable road shoes I’ve worn. We’ve written about Shimano’s Custom-Fit in the past so if you’d like to read more, check out this article.
It’s probably a bit cliche to say that these shoes are light and stiff but that’s exactly what they are. I got great power transfer with no noticeable flexing of the carbon fibre soles. There are (slightly) lighter shoes on the market but why pay the extra $50-$100 to get your hands (or feet?) on them when these do the job?
The shoes are tightened with two velcro straps and a ratcheting buckle. Many people prefer the tightening knob design seen on Specialized shoes but my personal preference is for the tightening system featured on these shoes, aesthetically if nothing else.
Have you used any of these items extensively? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.