By Nick Legan
Perhaps improbably, the somewhat radical design of Selle SMP saddles simply work for me. With their distinctive curved profile and large cutouts, it’s hard to mistake a Selle SMP for anything else. I’ve ridden them for years now and when a new model debuts, I’m always keen to try it. The Nymber is a wider version of my current favorite, the Blaster. It, like the Blaster, has only minimal padding, but its shape cradles one’s sit bones while enabling circulation to sensitive tissue.
The made in Italy saddles use high quality materials and are certainly up to the task of high-mileage riding. Long, stainless steel rails provide a large fore/aft range of adjustment. Because of the shape of Selle SMP saddles, dialing in the tilt adjustment can take some time. But, in my experience, the extra attention is worthwhile. The Nymber, with its extra width may be a better model for touring cyclists as it helps support a more upright position.
Many stocking dealers have a complement of test samples to help riders find the right model without the need to purchase multiple saddles. Also convenient is that most shapes and widths are available with various degrees of padding. If the shape of a Selle SMP saddle has you intrigued, they’re certainly worth exploring.
If you like to navigate using a GPS, the options available can be mystifying. A favorite of mine for many years, especially in remote areas, has been Garmin’s eTrex 30. It is aimed at hikers and sportsmen, but with Garmin’s accessory handlebar mount, it is a fantastic option for bicycle touring. Garmin updated the eTrex 30, adding an “x” suffix to the model name, an updated, easier to read display, a better internal compass, barometer, and more internal memory.
What sets the eTrex 30x apart from cycling oriented GPS devices is that it can be powered via a dynamo hub, an external battery pack, or two AA batteries. It is also a sturdy device with its rubberized surround. With a set of quality maps installed, the eTrex 30x is a long-haul touring cyclist’s best friend.
I bumped into the Green Goo booth at Outdoor Retailer this winter. Turns out they’re made just down the road from my home in Colorado. This B corporation produces a extensive line of first aid, bodycare, and animal care products using homeopathic, all-natural methods. You won’t see aluminum or artificial ingredients. Instead, essential oils and organic herbs are blended into soothing balms. I’ve been using Green Goo’s Solar Goo, Pain Relief, and First Aid creams, all with good effect. The small tins in which they’re packaged make them great for bringing along on your next ride.
Comfort is key on any ride, but especially so on longer treks. Keeping your backside happy is of paramount concern for any cyclist. Suspension is one answer to the trials of rough roads and trails. But the complexity and maintenance required for most suspension systems is off putting for many touring cyclists who put a priority on reliability.
Fortunately, other solutions exist, solutions like the BodyFloat Kinekt suspension seatpost. Moving via a parallelogram linkage and controlled by a pair of springs, the Kinekt seatpost offers up to 35mm of vertical travel. Those springs can be swapped out for different rider weights and preferences. Preload can be adjusted, without the need of any tools, on the fly. This allows you to tune the ride for varying surfaces within a given ride.
After reading the setup instructions, I went for a quick spin. After that initial ride, I quickly substituted the stiffer set of springs that came with the post. This is easily accomplished. The trickiest part is finding a comfortable seat height. But take the time to dial in your position, the springs that are best for you, and preload and the Kinekt post can effectively soften, or virtually eliminate most bumps in the road. It’s especially useful on dirt and gravel roads.
The only complaint I have about the Kinekt seatpost is that it is only offered in a setback version. I am not blessed with long femurs and require a zero setback seatpost on virtually every bike I encounter. With the Kinekt I wasn’t able to achieve my preferred saddle position. If this isn’t a concern for you (and I don’t think it is for most cyclists), then why not upgrade your current bike with a healthy dose of plushness. Sure, this seatpost weighs more than most, but it delivers a level of tune-able comfort that is hard to match.
The weight of down but the wet weather performance of synthetic. That’s the promise of Patagonia’s Micro Puff Hoody. Using Plumafill synthetic insulation, the new jacket delivers the best warmth for weight in Patagonia’s history. That’s saying something. At the same time, the Micro Puff packs down similarly to my previous down insulated Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody. Sure, the Micro Puff ain’t cheap, but it’s tough to put a price on staying warm, especially if you anticipate a wet cold. The fit is on the looser side even though at 5’10” and 150 pounds I went for a size small. Thankfully the arms are long enough for my orangutan limbs, even when in the cycling position.
The hood is fairly fitted but still allows room for a hat underneath while remaining small enough to fit under a helmet. There are two front, zippered pockets with the left also serving as a stuffsack for the whole jacket. Inside are two more pockets for stashing essentials. The shell uses Pertex Quantum, a light nylon ripstop that is windproof and water-resistant. It also receives a durable water repellant finish.
Instead of continuous baffles like those found on a down garment, the Micro Puff uses a series of two-inch quilted seams to keep its insulation in place. This reduces the amount of stitching, keeping weight to a minimum. But it also creates a lot of opportunity for stitching to come loose, something I encountered in a couple spots. Thankfully Patagonia has a stellar warranty policy.
The Micro Puff Hoody is a stripped-down, ultralight garment that tops its class with regards to weight, insulation, and packability. Despite its price, it’s my new favorite insulation layer for touring.