Geared Up: Spring has Sprung

Gore Power Trail Gore-Tex Active Jacket, $300

The mainstream outdoor industry produces fantastic rain gear. And many touring cyclists look there for their trusted inclement weather garments. But most of them are made with walking in mind. When on a bike, this can lead to fit problems. Not so with GORE Bike Wear’s Power Trail Active Jacket. At $300, it isn’t cheap, but its slim fit, long sleeves, drop tail and excellent hood fit perfectly while riding in the wet stuff. Over the course of three plus hours in sopping conditions, it never wetted through. 

Small details include a small zip pocket on the chest and on the sleeve. The logos are reflective and there is additional reflective piping on the back of the jacket. The cuffs are adjustable via Velcro, and both the hem and hood are adjustable too. There are waterproof jackets that pack smaller, but they wet through more quickly and aren’t as durable in their construction. The Power Trail Active Jacket should last for years to come, keeping you comfortable in rugged conditions.  –NL

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants, $119

For a recent day of riding in the rain, I paired the Gore Power Trail Jacket with Outdoor Research’s Helium II Rain Pants. Both worked a treat. The Helium II’s are made with hiking in mind, but with the additional of two Velcro straps used at the ankles, they performed perfectly, never wetting through and adding a significant level of warmth in the process. Ankle zips make putting them on easy even without removing cycling shoes. They pack down small, so there is no excuse to leave them at home when traveling light. The price is also very attractive, making them a strong contender for your next rain gear purchase.  –NL

BarYak Expedition SL, $225

Bikepacking sounds great on paper. Just strap on a few bags and head off into the sunset. But in reality, it can be a bit complicated getting bags to work nicely with your bike, especially your handlebars and their associated cables and wires. 

Joe Stiller, a seasoned bikepacker and adventure racer, decided to make life a bit easier when it came to mounting bags to the front of his fat bike. After several prototypes, the result is the BarYak. With two rails that clamp the handlebar near the stem and a carbon cross member, you can strap a dry bag directly to the BarYak. Alternatively you can mount a Revelate Harness or similar to it, moving the assembly forward and away from cables. The stability is exceptional. 

In making the BarYak, Stiller also created additional space for telemetry, lights, dynamo charging ports, cache batteries, and misc. other touring accessories. The addition of bar ends on the cross member provides an extra hand position too. If you want to create an aero position, or relieve some pressure from your hands, consider the accessory Peregrine forearm rests. 

The machined aluminum rails are made right here in America and Stiller runs the show personally. If you’ve had stability or cable interference problems on your bikepacking steed, contact Stiller for more information. He’s a wealth of knowledge and top guy!  –NL

Nikwax Tech Wash, $9.75 for 10oz bottle

Many years ago, I washed my fancy ski jacket with the rest of my laundry using cheap detergent. How foolish! I’ve since been properly educated on washing technical outerwear. For example, did you know that scented detergents can clog the pores of a fabric’s waterproof/breathable membrane? Or that using Tide will cause your down puffy to explode? That last one isn’t true, but thanks to the speciation of fabric cleaners, you no longer have to worry about using the wrong detergent on your expensive garments. 

Nikwax offers an ungodly number of products to keep your outerwear in fighting shape, such as detergents and conditioners specifically designed for hardshells, softshells, leather, down, and even sandals. I’ve been using Nikwax’s Tech Wash for years on my GoreTex and eVent garments, and their water repellency always bounces back to like-new condition. Nikwax claims their product reinvigorates a fabric’s breathability as well, but that’s harder to evaluate. Downsides? Those little bottles aren’t cheap, and if you buy into the premise that you need a special cleaning agent for each kind of material — and you’re an outdoor enthusiast like me with an embarrassment of tech jackets, pants, fleeces, puffies, etc. — it adds up quickly. But if the right detergent helps your jacket perform better and last longer, the cost might be worth it.  –DM

Maxxis Re-Fuse Tubeless Tire - 700x32C, $55

The roads in Montana are not kind to tires. Spring is for potholes, summer is chip seal season, and then we've got a few precious months of smooth pavement in the fall before the snow hits. In many cases, the dirt forest service roads are in better shape than the asphalt, so that's where I like to do a lot of my riding.

For the past decade, Maxxis Re-Fuse has been my tire of choice for on-road rides, and has been available in 700x23mm, 25mm, and 28mm sizes. The diamond, knurled tread grips well on wet roads, and both the tread and sidewalls have plenty of puncture protection to shrug off shards of glass or pointy bits of metal.

Last spring, Maxxis unveiled an 'adventure' take on the Re-Fuse. They have the same tread design and MaxxSheild puncture protection as their skinny counterparts, but add wider sizes (700x32C, 700x40C, and 27.5x2.00), and tubeless compatibility. 

The tires tested were mounted tubeless to a set of Stans IronCross wheels. If you haven't tried riding tubeless systems yet, I highly recommend you give it a try, especially if you like gravel/dirt roads. Eliminating the chance of a pinch flats is a big perk, but you'll also appreciate the smoother ride you can get by running lower tire pressures. For a tubeless tire, it mounted with relative ease.

Choosing a gravel tire is a lot like choosing a mountain bike tire. You need to be aware of your regional surface conditions. The Maxxis Re-Fuse is not made for sandy or muddy terrain. This is ideal for dry hardpack conditions. There’s not much grip in tight corners, but it rolls through gentle curves nicely. It’s also tough enough to stand up against sharp rocks and sidewall tears. If you're crushing limestone gravel in the midwest, or Rocky Mountain dirt roads; I think you'll enjoy this tire.  –JT