Geared Up: Apparel, Tech Carriers, and More

OffRoad by Suplest ($195)

Shoes matter. Ask Imelda Marcos. Okay, maybe she’s a bad example, but the point is shoes matter when cycling. Why? Because when riding long distances, your leg muscles, particularly your calf muscles, fatigue more quickly when you wear inadequate shoes. And by inadequate, I mean shoes that provide little support to the entirety of your foot. Converse Chuck Taylor’s may be hip, depending on your generational perspective, but they make for terrible cycling shoes.

Of course, like Imelda Marcos, the cycling industry at some point became overwhelmingly enamored with shoes, so if you’re looking for a good pair you’d better dedicate some quality time to the task, especially if you’re into roady kit. If you’re not, I’ll save you some time and highly recommend the OffRoad shoe from Suplest. Yup, it’s just called the OffRoad. The Swiss don’t have time for silly, fancy names. And like the Swiss, this shoe is all business.

The OffRoad features a rubber-protected toe box that fits snuggly, at least around my size 9.5/43 size, fairly wide foot. With both laces and a velcro strap over the top two lace holes, the OffRoad can be so firmly fastened to your foot that blood flow can become limited — you don’t want that. Snug is just fine. Mesh is positioned on top and around the laces to hasten quick drying and allow air flow, something feet love. There are three small holes on the inside and outside of each shoe which allow even more air flow and also provide for a bit of material expansion. The OffRoad also features entry loops on the back of each shoe. These are supposed to facilitate easy on/off but I’ve never found these useful on any shoes and often cut them off. Right below them, however, is a reflective dot, which actually is functional.

But the best two features of the OffRoad are the the Vibram sole and silicon grippers placed around the heel and achilles tendon on the inside of the shoe. The Vibram sole is very stiff and performs well even out of the saddle, and the silicon dots add an extra layer of snugness to the shoe.

The OffRoad can be used with both clipless pedals or flats. I prefer flats these days and the Vibram sole provides excellent grip on my Grand Cru Sobot Pedals (see below). – Mike Deme

Grand Cru Sabot Pedals by VeloORANGE ($90)

For most of my riding these days, I prefer flat pedals to the clipless variety but I’ve found most flat pedals to be crap. Seriously, why would I want to take pedals apart to grease ball bearings so they stop creaking every three months? Right. I wouldn’t. 

According to VeloORANGE, “Most existing pedals with large platforms use either loose ball bearings or are designed for BMX or downhill riding and use durable, but stiff, bushings. We designed a chromemoly spindle that uses three sealed bearings, two inboard and one outboard. This makes for a very smooth pedal; it feels like a high-end road pedal, and the bearings are easy to replace.” Okay, I can live with replacing the ball bearings and maybe I’ll need to do that someday on the Grand Cru Sabot pedals but I haven’t had to yet and the miles have been piling up.

The Grand Cru have a large platform (100 x 100mm) so they are comfortable with super flexible shoes, therefore good for commuting, but they really shine over long distances. There are 12 pins on both sides of the pedal, and the stock pins are rounded. I found these to be just fine, and better than fine when I wear a really good shoe like the Suplest OffRoad (see above). If you desire a sharper pin, they are included and can be easily replaced. 

Each anodized aluminum pedal weighs about 205 grams. There is space between the upper and lower platform of each pedal, plus there is plenty of slotting in each platform to allow mud and water to easily pass through. –MD  

Rev 18 by Osprey ($120)

I tend to always be in a hurry when preparing for recreation so I’m a kitchen-sink kind of guy who keeps a bunch of stuff ready at all times — and that includes when I ride a bike. The Osprey Rev 18 hydration pack allows me to cram into it just about anything I’ll need when I go for a ride. 

The Rev 18’s list of features is nearly astounding. Let’s start with storage: a large hydration compartment that can handle up to an 85-oz. reservoir (and it comes with Osprey’s 2.5-liter large-mouth Hydraulics LT version) and features a harness to keep it in place; a massive front pocket that I’ve used to store enough clothing to get me through any winter ride; a quick-access pocket at the top for smaller items like tire levers; a pocket on each side of the waist belt for even smaller items that you want quick access to from the front; and pockets on each shoulder strap for even quicker access to items like a mobile phone — and all are zippered except for those on the shoulder strap. If that amount of storage isn’t enough, the front panel features a looping bungee cord so you can fasten more stuff to it. Who needs panniers?

Other features include the Rev air-flow back panel, a cross-chest strap which contains a magnet for attaching the quick-flow water valve so it doesn’t dangle, an easy-carry loop at the top, and a cross-top clip to keep the whole package snug.

Once you’ve got the Osprey Rev 18 loaded up to the max, there’s only one thing left to worry about: toppling over and and ending up like a turtle on its back. Be careful out there! –MD 

C&D Montana by Ibex ($99)

As I write this, it’s still fairly cold in Montana so a good long-sleeve jersey is a requirement, so why not go with the aptly named Ibex C&D Montana? Made from superfine 18.5-micron New Zealand Merino wool, which is an excellent fabric for temperature and moisture management, it features two zippered rear pockets and a full front zip, which allows for additional ventilation. This mid-weight jersey fits a bit more loosely than your typical cycling jersey, which I like, and the rib-knit collar and cuffs, in addition to the elastic hem, keep everything nicely in place. Plus it’s machine washable. With the C&D Montana, you’ll ride in style and comfort. –MD 

Power Wool Base Layer by Kitsbow ($115)

Depending on where you live, this time of year you may need another layer below a jersey like the Ibex C&D Montana. If that’s the case, a great option is the Henley-style Kitsbow Power Wool Jersey made from Polartec’s new bi-component knit fabric, which uses Merino wool on the inside and polyester/nylon on the outside at a 34% to 66% ratio. This combination of materials maximizes warmth, breathability, and durability.

I’ll say this, I’ve never worn a jersey with any percentage of wool in it that is as soft as this Kitsbow incarnation. When worn underneath a full woolly, I don’t think you can wear a combination better suited for comfort or for a variety of weather conditions. And when worn by itself, it’s great too. –MD

Ass Savers (£7.99)

Don’t blame me. That’s the name of this line of products, and I’d rather suffer the wrath of those who despise profanity in all its uses and forms than not let you all know about these ingenious pieces of plastic. 

Fenders are great, but not everybody wants to keep them on their bike at all times, take them on and off, or install them at all. Ass Savers are a quick-on/quick-off solution that performs one simple function —  protect your butt from water flying off your rear wheel. 

When you unpack the Ass Saver, it’s a flat piece of plastic but once you follow the simple instructions, it turns into a easy-to-install, easy-to-carry fender. You simply slide the attachment end into and through your saddle rails and adjust them until they snap into place. It’s that easy, and they work. I’ve been using the wide version to block the water sprayed off my 29 x 1.9-in. Geax Evolution tires to great effect. If you don’t use fenders regularly but want the protection of rear fender, give Ass Savers a look. –MD

Cycling Ride Pouch by Waterfield Designs ($69)

Designed in tandem with Eleven vélo, the Waterfield Cycling Ride Pouch is a 3/4-zippered carryall for much of what you’d consider must-have items when you go for a ride: mobile phone, patch kit, micro pump or C02 inflator, tire levers, etc. The Ride Pouch is made of distressed full-grain leather and features a large internal pocket for mobiles as large as an iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung S5. When your mobile is inserted, you can view it through the touchscreen-friendly window and use the device as well, although I’ve been unable to use the iPhone’s fingerprint recognition system (so be sure you know your passcode!). There are also two small internal pockets for credit cards and cash, just in case you still carry the green stuff. 

Once everything is stuffed inside, you can slip the entire Ride Pouch (roughly 4 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.) into your jersey pocket and away you go. And if you’re carrying a hydration pack or panniers, the Ride Pouch is a good way to keep all your important items in one place. –MD

Elements Phone Pocket by Bellroy ($100)

What, another phone pocket review? Yup. Variety is the spice of life, and I’m a firm believer in that adage. The differences between the Bellroy Phone Pocket and the Ride Pouch are that it won’t accommodate the iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung S5 (or any other “phablet”) and it doesn’t have a touch-friendly window so you can’t use your mobile device when it’s inside the Pocket. On the other hand, it’s waterproof, has more compartments (including one for a key), and it’s quite a bit smaller (2 1/2 x 6 in.) and, therefore, is likely to fit into smaller jersey pockets. Because of its smaller size, I’d be more apt to use it in a non-cycling situation.  

The Bellroy Phone Pocket is beautifully constructed and makes for an excellent keeper of all that’s sacred whether it’s in your coat pocket, cycling jersey pocket, seat pack, or pannier. –MD

Wojo Wallet ($12.95)

Okay, you’re right. This wallet thing is weird, but the way I see it, you might want to compare and contrast all of these options to see which ones work best for you. Think of the children, won’t you?

The Wojo Wallet is as simple as can be. Constructed of a neoprene-and-silicone–layered shell, Wojo (no relation to Detective Stanley Wojciehowicz) will securely hold a single credit card or ID or expand to accept a dozen, and a key to boot. In addition, if you separate the silicone band from the neoprene body, they can be used separately, and together, the unit will float.

The Wojo comes in an assortment of colors and, another cool thing about it is that you can use it inside both the Bellroy Phone Pocket or the Waterfield Designs Cycling Ride Pouch. –MD

LX Gloves by Giro ($65)

Serious cyclists need a serious pair of cycling gloves, and that’s just what the Giro LX are. The LX are stylish yet tough, and offer the performance one would expect from a glove inspired by the grit and glory of bicycle racing’s past and manufactured with modern technology such as Super Fit Engineering.

Constructed of supple cabretta leather, the LX offers 3mm Technogel three-panel palm padding on all the necessary hand-pad surfaces, plenty of ventilation, an absorbent microfiber wiping surface, sonic-welded pull tabs for easy removal, and velcro closures. 

If you’re in need of a new pair if cycling gloves for your next tour, the Giro LX might be what you’re looking for. –MD

TOGS ($25)

As a mountain biker in the 90’s, I swore by skinny bars and big (obnoxiously colored) bar ends. Of course, because I was a “mountain” biker in the 90s in the Mississippi Delta there wasn’t much need for the extra climbing leverage bar ends provided, they were mostly just an extra hand position for spinning along flat dirt roads and trails. As flat bars got wider and bar ends went the way of the dodo, I’d often find myself resting myself resting my hands — including my thumbs — on top of the grips during long dirt road climbs, though a sudden pothole or water bar could easily cause an unwelcome scare thanks to the lack of steering control the relaxed position affords. Well, a small Utah company called TOGS might’ve solved the problem, and done so at very little penalty on the scales or the wallet.

TOGS (Thumb Over Grip System) are small, lightweight thumb grips that slide onto the bar just inside the grip (and lock on with a 2.5mm hex bolt) to provide a fairly secure alternate hand position that still offers steering control and access to brake and shift levers. Made from a thermoplastic called Zytel, the pair weighs a scant 18 grams and comes in a variety of colors from stealthy graphite to Mardi Gras -worthy shades of orange, green, and purple. While not ideal for rowdy singetrack, TOGS are a nice addition to any flat bar bike racking up mileage on more modest terrain and a welcome break for tired hands. – Alex Strickland

BackBottle ($12)

Some ideas are so forehead-smackingly simple they’d be infuriating if they weren’t so darn handy. For the second time in a few years, Wisconsinite Brian Davis has managed to cause just such a reaction with his simple but ingenious product inventions. Davis used the online crowdfunding platform to launch Fix It Sticks in 2012 (available in our Cyclosource store. Also, full disclosure, I worked for a small public relations firm that helped Davis with the original press outreach.), a clever take on the beloved t-handle hex wrenches found in countless garage workshops reimagined into a lightweight, portable package. Now he’s back on Kickstarter with a uniquely shaped water bottle designed specifically for stashing in a cycling jersey pocket. Though many cyclists like to keep an extra bottle on their back, the cylindrical shape it’s especially comfortable or convenient — attempting to locate the pocket edge and “catch” it with the bottom of a traditional bottle while riding down the road sometimes feels it requires more precise alignment than a mid-air refueling. Enter the BackBottle, an 18-oz. bottle that’s both BPA-free and made in America, and shaped with a flat side to minimize rolling in the pocket — complete with small ridges for a little airflow — and a wedge-shaped bottom to easily slide into a jersey pocket without fumbling around. 

No, it’s not very handy when wearing a t-shirt or non-pocketed jersey as it doesn’t fit securely in a bottle cage and since it can’t stand upright on a table, you better make sure the cap is on tightly and closed after filling when you lay it on the counter. But this bottle’s one trick is a darn good one, and once you use it, you won’t be sure how you ever managed without it. –AS

Wolftooth Tools ($15.95-$32.95 each)

The proliferation of component “standards” on modern bikes can be dizzying — making not just replacement parts, but also tools to remove or install them like searching for a needle in a haystack. It’s certainly tempting to pack up a workbench’s worth of shop tools just to be sure you’ve got a obscure wrench should the need arise far from a bike shop. But that temptation is usually overcome once the weight of your full-size tool collection becomes clear. Wolftooth, an outfit well known for its made-in-Minneapolis mountain bike chainrings, has created some small, portable versions of some of the biggest tools on the pegboard: bottom bracket and lockring sockets. The super-minimalist version of each require a larger tool to drive them — either a ratchet or crescent wrench — but those are easily sourced on the road even when a bike shop is miles away. A larger, but still light, lock ring and bottom bracket wrench provides some leverage, and paired with the small lock ring socket is a killer combo for a pannier toolkit. Both bottom bracket tools are machined aluminum (anodized a good-looking and easy-to-find red) while the lock ring socket is chromoly. 

All have proven plenty tough and resistant to rounding off any contact points when used carefully. Be sure to check compatibility with your bottom bracket before buying.

Perhaps the most useful tool of all — at least in the garage — is a combination bottle opener and rotor truing slot. I can’t say I’ve required the services of the the rotor slot, but the bottle opener has proven quite durable. –AS

X-TRA-DRY XL by SKS ($19.99)

When it comes to keeping the dreaded stripe of mud and slush off my back, I don’t need complexity or fine aesthetics, I just need need it to work. And despite a conspicuous lack of snow and slush this winter in Missoula, the SKS X-TRA-DRY XL performed admirable when called into service. A no-nonsense plastic fender that attached to the seatpost via an easy-to-use clamp, the X-TRA-DRY XL clips on when needed and pops off when the sun comes out. At 162 grams it’s light and the 95mm width and 600mm length kept all sorts of assorted spray off my back. I used it mostly on a cyclocross bike fitted with 40mm tires, though the width would keep you protected even if rolling on considerably bigger rubber. Paired with the company’s Shockboard XL front fender a commuter or mud-averse mountain biker would be well set for spray-free adventures. Dedicated fenders are a better option if you’re looking for a permanent solution and customizable coverage, but if you prefer to go fender-free in the summer months and like quick-release convenience, the SKS pair are worth a long look. –AS

This Bar Saves Lives Bar ($19.99 for a box of 9)

This bar is a mouthful in more ways than one. We’ll get to the taste in a second, but This Bar Saves Lives doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. We chucked in the office at the trailside scene when you say, “Hey Bill, can you pass me a This Bar Saves Lives bar when you have a second? Wow, this This Bar Saves Lives bar is really good!”

Butchered sentence structure notwithstanding, the bar is actually good. Really good. In fact, I might dare say it’s among the best granola/energy bars I’ve ever had. The Madagascar vanilla almond an honey flavor (seriously, This Bar Saves Live Madagascar vanilla almond and honey. If only I were paid by the word.) in particular was outstanding. Not too chewy, nor quick to crumble to bits, the bars had great consistency, good flavor and, if you’re into that sort of thing, are gluten free and made from non-GMO ingredients. They’re also made in America, which I appreciate.

So what’s the name about? Well, in the way that Tom’s footwear and Warby Parker eyeglasses have popularized a “buy one, give one” model to help people in less fortunate spots, so too does This Bar Saves Lives work with nonprofit partners to distribute foodstuffs to people in need.

Available in the aforementioned vanilla, a wild pistachio blueberry and dark chocolate cherry and sea salt flavors, the bars are for sale directly from the company’s website and grocery stores around the country. –AS