Geared Up: Summer Picks

Burley Nomad Trailer ($339)

Bicycle trailers don’t often fiddle around with their design, but like a steel touring frame, they can stand up well against the test of time. For this reason, when I was asked to test out a Burley Nomad trailer earlier this spring, I thought to myself, “piece of cake, I’ve used this trailer plenty of times over the years, and I’ve got an eight-year-old Nomad in the garage that I’d be excited to revisit.” Little did I know the Burley Nomad has taken on a few updates, making it worthy of a fresh look.

If you’re already familiar with the Nomad, the 2016 edition appears almost identical to past models. It still rolls on two 16-inch wheels, boasts a generous cargo space of 105 liters, and can carry up to 100 pounds of gear; which is likely way more than you would ever want to take on a tour. The trailer is made of a soft shell material wrapped around an aluminum frame, which helps it tip the scales at about 15 pounds. It can also be packed down to fit in a large duffle bag for airline travel. But enough about the trailer you already know, let’s dig into some new and improved features.

First off, Burley has ditched the quick release wheels in favor of a push button design, which makes installing, removing, and storing the wheels faster and easier. There’s a new tarpaulin cover for the trailer, which feels more rugged than the previous cover, and will stand up to wet weather conditions. Maybe my favorite update is that they have moved to a bathtub design, where the cargo space is all one piece of material. This means there are no cracks or gaps between panels where dirt or mud can spray through. I’m also a big fan of the newly added skid guard on the front nose of the trailer, which is especially handy if you take this on dirt roads. Burley has also tweaked their mounting hitch. It’s now a beefy steel hitch that will accommodate up to 12.2mm axles, and the swing arm has been revised just a bit to provide more clearance for larger wheels and tires.

I love that the improvements are functional, and not aesthetic. The trailer still rolls very well on the open road, and maneuvers nicely around the campsite. My eight year-old Nomad is still going strong, and I have no doubt that this trailer will hold up just as well throughout the years.  –Josh Tack

milKit ($56)

I’ve avoided setting up my mountain bike tires tubeless for years, figuring that barring a sudden invasion of goathead thorns my tube setup was doing just fine, thank you very much (a strong analysis of this debate was provided by Josh Tack in an April 2015 “Fine Tuned” column, So when I briefly met with a guy named Sven at Interbike last fall and he handed me a carboard tube from his roller bag on the show floor, I looked over my shoulder to make sure everything looked as sketchy as it felt and then dug in my Luddite heels. The milKit, err, kit, sat on my workbench for months.

But this spring, whether inspired by the dawn of riding season or simply harassed into joining the modern age by a few cycling buddies, I decided to take the plunge and go tubeless. Cracking open the nifty packaging, I found everything I’d need to ditch the tubes except for sealant. The kit featured a syringe for easy filling, valve core removal tool to save my valves from my ham-fisted use of pliers, and a pair of milKit’s very clever valves (also available for $30 a pair) — more about those in a second.

I should say here that the four wheels I set up tubeless either didn’t require tape or were already taped by someone else, so your mileage may vary if you’re starting from scratch. First, I installed the valves, which is a straightforward task of inserting them into the hole and snugging them down. Easy enough. Next, I mounted the tires and used a small air compressor to seat the bead. So far, so good.

Removing the valve cores was a cinch, and then I filled the included syringe with the recommended amount of sealant and injected it into the tire. Shake vigorously, inflate, done. Seriously, I was afraid of this? Even an idiot could do it! 

As it turns out, an idiot was doing it.

MilKit’s real party piece is its valves, which feature a nifty one-way baffle that prevents them from clogging with sealant and allows the tire to hold pressure even after the valve core has been removed. I learned this the hard way (despite it being clearly labeled) when I decided to add a bit more sealant to a tire inflated to 40 psi[sm caps]. I filled the syringe, inserted the tip through the valve, and my shop and I became covered in tubeless sealant when the pressure blew out the back of the syringe and exploded in my face. 

It was operator error, to be sure, and the valves have been trouble free ever since. I set up a second wheelset with traditional tubeless valves for the sake of comparison, and while the milKit valves weren’t complete game-changers, they did prove to be handy. When it comes time to ditch the tubes on another bike, I’ll be giving them a long look. –Alex Strickland

JET Roll MTB ($55)

For the last two cycling seasons I’ve endeavored to remove any kind of weight from my back while riding. No hydration pack, no pockets brimming with tools, layers, and — most importantly — no lower back pain. Of course, riding without tools or spares isn’t an option, so lately I’ve been searching for just the right on-bike bag combo to carry what I need.

JET Roll — “Just Enough Tools” — is an update on the classic tool roll. Just slot what you need in there, roll it up, and slap it under your saddle. Easy enough. I tested the MTB version, which is a little bigger to accommodate a mountain bike tube along with essentials like tire levers, a small pump or CO2 inflator, patch kit, and small multitool. I packed it up and headed out for some early season riding that (awesomely) never required any trailside maintenance.

Then I made a small mistake (a theme in this gear guide for me) when I switched bikes, and instead of using the supplied strap that fits neatly through a little button hole in the fabric, I used a ski strap and cinched it down super tight. Not tight enough, as it turned out, since a two-mile-long rocky downhill was enough to dislodge the roll and its contents somewhere on the flanks of Sheep Mountain. 

Assuming you’re smart enough to follow the directions, something from the extensive JET Roll line should suit your minimalist tool kit needs. –AS

Shimano PD-T780 XT Pedals ($90)

Any touring cyclist knows the struggle of riding even a few feet on small clipless pedals when wearing sandals or camp shoes, while cursing their decision not to ride platforms. Except, of course, for those riding platforms, who then curse their decision to forego a clipless setup when grinding out of the saddle up a steep climb.

Shimano thinks they have an answer and markets the 780 pedals as perfect for touring thanks to their twin entry options (SPD on one, platform on the other), built-in reflector, and bombproof metal construction (alloy body and cromoly axle). In my experience, dual-option pedals tend to come up short on both ends. I’ve tried adaptors on SPDs but found the plastic easy to break, so I was pleased at the 780’s all-metal construction. So, too, was I happy to have Shimano’s entirely predictable XT clipless body on one side, a pedal I’ve used for years and years on mountain bikes and come to admire for the crisp feel and astonishing durability. 

So how are they? Well, after riding them primarily on the platform side of things on my commuter, they’re a compromise. The clipless performance is excellent. The platform performance is adequate. While I found that flipping to the preferred side of the pedal for my footwear at the moment was predictable and easy, the platform didn’t play very nicely with some shoe soles, and if there was any moisture on them it was like an elephant balancing on an ice cube. While the alloy platform is fairly wide, it doesn’t have much grip on account of the smoothly finished metal and shallow teeth.

In short, if you’re looking for a clipless pedal first with a platform for the occasional run around camp or to the corner store, you can’t do much better than the 780. But if your primary need is for a platform pedal, you might be better served just buying a set of Shimano’s excellent XT clipless pedals as a second set. –AS

Lezyne GPS Mini ($100)

I’ll admit it, I don’t typically don’t ride with a cyclometer. The exception is while on off-road tours when knowing where I am, generally, is more important. Even then I’ve viewed them as a clunky but necessary evil. But that’s all changed. I’m a new man because of the Lezyne Mini GPS. Yes, there are many GPS units currently available, but to my knowledge none of them are as easy and care free to operate as the Mini. The unit is very small, weighs just over 1 oz., and is only 1.25 x 2 in. with a viewable area of .75 x 1 in. It connects by lightly pressing and turning the unit clockwise into the X-Lock mount (and disconnects with a reverse action), which attaches to your handlebar with a rubber O-ring (extras included). Press the only button on the left side of the unit to turn the Mini on, and you’re off.

Information displayed on the super-sharp screen includes distance (current, odometer, trip total); speed (current, average, max); elevation (current, ascent, descent); time (clock, ride time); temperature; GPS signal; and battery life indicator. The display is also semi-customizable, meaning you can set it to display two, three, or four lines of data.

All the information you see is stored by the Mini for up to 100 hours and can be accessed on your computer (PC and Mac) via micro USB, which also charges the unit. If you’re into tracking your riding behavior, the information is saved as .fit files which are compatible with sites like Strava and TrainingPeaks. When you connect the Mini to your computer, it essentially behaves just like a USB drive and you can upload the files you’ve created during your rides. When you connect to Lezyne’s GPS Root website (, you can upload your files directly or connect to Strava from the website as well.  

Other features include auto start/stop, custom lap presets, scrolling data display, and instant information download.

A quick-start manual comes with Mini, and the full user guide and all other relevant information, including updated computer software, can be downloaded here

If you’re looking for a stylish, non-obtrusive cyclometer that displays essential ride data, the Lezyne GPS Mini should be on your short list. –Mike Deme

Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack ($119)

Ah, the ever elusive hybrid pannier/backpack. I’ve seen quite a few of these through the years, but most haven’t been done very effectively. Panniers and backpacks are “packs” of some kind so creating a hybrid should be easy — but it hasn’t been. Hybrid products by their very nature offer compromises, so the successful use of them has a lot to do with the user and their level of expectation.

The Two Wheel Gear Pannier Backpack Convertible is as good a hybrid as I’ve seen not only because of its design but because it’s not trying to tackle too much. It’s not meant to be used for long-distance touring but is rather aimed at the commuter. This hybrid, which is more of a backpack, performs quite well for this application. Internally, it features an secure laptop pocket, one large zippered pocket, an open catch-all pocket, and slots for pens and pencils. Externally, there’s a pocket with a soft liner for delicate items, two side pockets for water bottles, and a large pocket that also stores a waterproof cover for the pack. Additionally, the pack features reflective piping on its sides and a reflective patch on the front.

And what about the pannier? Well, it’s pretty simple. The rear panel with the shoulder straps unzips about halfway down the pack exposing its mounting system that fits around most standard rack diameters plus a strap that holds the bottom of the bag stable. And about those shoulder straps — you simply tuck them and the entire panel inside the pocket. It isn’t brain surgery, but it works well enough for its purpose.

If you’re looking for long-distance convertibles, check out Richard Jones Convertible Backpacks. –MD

Stojo Collapsible Pocket Cup ($15)

If you’re into bikepacking and bike touring (and that’s why you’re here, right?), you appreciate durable, functional gear that doesn’t take up a lot of precious space in your packs. And those features are what the Stojo Pocket cup offers the bike traveler who needs to drink fluids of all kinds, so all of us. Pop it against a wall, a tree, or your knee and the Pocket Cup converts from a 12 oz. full-sized container to fully collapsed and ready to be stored in a second. The screw-on top is leakproof, and the rubber rotating mouth-hole plug keeps liquids from spilling. Other features include a simple four-piece design that easily breaks down into its constituent parts, a sleeve for hand protection, and it’s dishwasher and microwave safe.

Just before going live, the good people at Stojo let me know that Biggie is now available for pre-order. The Biggie is essentially the same as the Pocket Cup but is 16 oz. and features a built-in straw. –MD

DZR H2O waterproof shoes ($169)

DZR is known for its cycling shoes that mimic casual footwear, and the H2O are the epitome of this idea. Essentially, they’re SPD-compatible, waterproof high-top sneakers. They are fully seam sealed and, with an H2O hydro barrier membrane, do the job of keeping your feet dry extremely well.

The shoe itself is constructed of supple DWR-treated sheepskin leather and fits your foot very snuggly. The platform is quite stiff due to the metal-reinforced nylon shank insert, and the gum rubber outsole provides excellent pedal grip.

Other features include an elastic lace catch, a reflective heel badge, and metal inserts for the top two lace holes where most of the pressure occurs.

If you ride where rain is prevalent, the DZR H2O waterproofs should be on your shoe rack. –MD

Fenix BC21R Light ($75)

The Fenix BC21R is a bike light for the never-go-dark crowd, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, it’s a top-notch bike light from a performance standpoint. When in Turbo mode (880 lumens; 1.5 hour runtime), it emits enough light to ride on pavement in pitch-black conditions and even performs pretty well on single track at night — if you’re not riding in banzai mode. The BC21R throws a fairly wide and neutral white beam and also reflects light downward directly over your front wheel, something I like. Other modes include High (380 lumens; 4.5 hours runtime), Medium (200 lumens; 8.5 hours runtime), Low (100 lumens; 15.5 hours runtime), and Flash (380/100 lumens). The light’s bracket attaches to your handlebar with heavy rubber o-rings to which the light itself clicks on or off easily.

My favorite feature of the BC21R is that it’s powered by an internal and removable mAh 18650 battery (included) that you charge via a USB mini port (cable also included) or by CR123A batteries (Fenix doesn’t recommend using rechargeable CR123As). What this means is that you can carry extra 18650s or CR123As with you to extend runtimes. These replacement batteries can also be purchased on Fenix’s website.

Other features include a low-power warning, a battery indicator activated by one quick click of the on/off switch, red side-indicator lights, a bracket to hold the USB port cover closed and watertight, water resistance in heavy rain, and a safety control circuit to keep the light from overcharging. –MD   

Eagle Creek Fast Inflate Pillow ($45)

If you want something to rest your head on when camping and you also want something that packs up extremely small and is very light (4.6 oz. inflated), the Eagle Creek Fast Inflate Pillow might be for you. There’s not too much to it. It inflates quickly by blowing into a valve you can fit your entire mouth into and offers a double seal and snap closure. It took me only 3 full breaths of inflate the pillow to maximum hardness. One side is fairly rough nylon and the other features a soft fleece fabric. It also features a quick deflate valve and a stuff sack for storage.

Two things I like about the Fast Inflate Pillow (besides the fast inflation) — you can control its softness/hardness and its size (19 x 14 x 5 in.). –MD  

Coast EAL20 ($54)

Bike travel is a term that encompasses many types of trips, from self-contained long-distance tours and bikepacking expeditions to bike overnights and location-based out-and-back rides. If you take a lot of the latter and you camp, a lantern can come in handy. 

The Coast EAL20 lantern features LED lights, so it needs no gas or delicate mantels. It offers a maximum of 375 lumens and will run for about 50-80 hours on four D-cell batteries, depending on the variable light setting you choose. For extremely long battery life and low light, there are solid and flashing red settings. Around the on/off switch is a battery life indicator and the EAL20 is both shock and water resistant. It weighs 36 oz. with batteries installed and stands 11.5 in. tall with the handle extended. –MD

Discovery Trekking Ultra Fast-dry Towel ($13-$35)

It’s light, it’s extremely packable, and it’ll dry the water off your body, cookware, a wet picnic table … you name it! Hi, Mike Deme here for Discovery Trekking Ultra Fast-dry Towel. Ha, ha! But seriously, why waste space by schlepping a voluminous, slow-drying cotton towel around when you can pack something that takes up 70 percent less space (by the way, that’s not an official number — I’m guesstimating)? What I’m not guesstimating is that the Ultra Fast went from soaking wet to dry in three hours inside my house on a rainy night. When placed in direct sunlight at 70 degrees F, it dried completely in less than an hour. But, you’re likely thinking, does it absorb water well? Yes and no. It doesn’t when compared to the above-mentioned fluffy cotton towel, but it does well enough for me when in the great outdoors, especially considering its other many benefits.

The Ultra Fast-dry Towel comes in four sizes and, trust me, you’ll find innumerable uses for it on a bike trip. –MD

Sticky Sounds Speaker ($49)

In “Hurdy-Gurdy Hare,” Bugs Bunny, while dealing with an irate gorilla, says “They say music calms the savage beast.” Bugs then proceeds to demonstrate this sentiment by subduing the brute by playing a violin. Priceless. Well, I don’t know about its effect on irate gorillas, but I know its effect on me and countless others. I also know that any discussion about listening to music while cycling makes some cyclists irate. Since I can’t play the violin (or any instrument!), I’ll admit that under certain circumstances listening to music while cycling is distracting and can be dangerous, particularly if you plug both ears. Of course many activities can be dangerous, but we do them anyway because we decide the benefits outweigh the cost. If you are someone who has decided listening to music while cycling yields such a benefit, consider the Sticky Sounds speaker. 

Sticky Sounds sounds pretty good, as good as you can expect from a speaker of its size (the entire unit is in the shape of a triangle with 5 in. sides and weighs 14 oz.). The speaker’s max output is 80 Db SPL at 1M (ground plan of 300HZ) and has a frequency range of 65-17,000Hz.

It’s compatible with most GoPro mounts so you can connect it to you handlebars or helmet, which for appearance purposes I cannot in good conscience recommend. 

The Sticky Sounds speaker charges via micro USB and sports an SD slot so you can play music directly through the unit without connecting to your mobile in addition to connecting via Bluetooth standard 3.2. It’ll last about eight hours on a charge and it’s waterproof. 

If you’re dead set against using it as a music speaker, you can use it to make calls through your mobile devices as well. And if you’re dead set against using it in any way relating to cycling, use it in the shower, but be careful — showering involves many inherent risks. –MD