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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bar Mitts keep you riding all winter

Ride All Winter With Bar Mitts
  I received these last March, so only had a very few cold days to test them out, but in November cold days came early and sub-freezing temps could not keep me from riding thanks to Bar Mitts.

  Bar Mitts are a neoprene handle bar cover fitted specifically to your road bike, mtb, or even other sports uses.  I have the mtb pair.  The idea is to keep all the wind from sucking heat out of your glove, and also insulate your hands in a warm cocoon that allows you to easily operate your controls.  Keeping your hands warm on a cold ride makes a huge difference for your over-all comfort.

  Entry and exit is very easy.  My method of entering is to make a pointy-hand by folding my thumb and fingers together.  Concerns of missing the hole fold when you realize the Bar Mitts are playable enough to grab on the outside.

  The Bar Mitts come with an internal hook & loop strap to attach the end to the grip securing the Mitt from moving around (you can see a red flap inside - see below why it is not attached).

  To attach the Bar Mitt simply unzip the lower cable opening, slide on, and zip up.  Two external straps close the opening to reduce air flow.

  Note that some air flow is necessary to prevent your hands from sweating.  The small gaps at the cable provide this.

  On a sub-20 degree day you can wear 50 degree gloves when using the Bar Mitts.

  Users report loving using regular gloves as the bulk of winter gloves just does not feel right and isolate the rider from the terrain.

 I have modified the grip strap by attaching a screw and washer through the Mitt and into the bar plug.  It has the same effect, but eliminates the inner strap which can either come off, or in my case, just bug me.

Bar Mitts now come with an expandable bar plug to do the same thing, and requires no tools.

  My only complaint is cold knuckles.  My top knuckles can press against the fabric and get a chill.  The insulation comes from the warm air pocket inside the Mitt, and with my knuckle pressed against the fabric this decreases in that particular spot.  Likely a one size larger Bar Mitt would solve this, but I have to tinker…
Where I had screwed the Mitt to the bar plug is the solution.  I simply moved the screw hole back 1/2 inch to make more room in front of my hands, and this solved my issue.
Bar Mitts also has one called the Extreme.  Founder and creator, Ward reports:
The larger sizes have a gusset in between the two halves giving them more body/hand room.     …I made an Extreme version, its fleece lined, has a removable cuff, a large ventilation zipper and comes with the expandable bar end attachment plug. 

Pros: Everything.  This is a product that has almost all positives:
Warm hands, does not interfere with riding, easy to use, can be left on if temps rise., no more bulky ski gloves.
Cons:  Cold knuckles.

UPDATE December 8, 2014.

Two new innovations since the initial review are entry slits and a bar plug mounting option.

 First, is the addition of the slit-entry to the previously tested Bar Mitt.  Seen here mounted inside out for visual clarity.
   The red is the same neoprene fabric as the Bar Mitt, and it is held on with velcro.  The purpose is to make a more air tight seal around the wrist to prevent heat loss.
  The neoprene is just stiff enough to keep the Mitt in a nice oval shape.
Entry and exit are quick.
  Mount this black side out so the velcro does not show, and so it will shed snow or rain better.

  The new Bar Mitts come stock with the slit-entry.  To the right is the Extreme Bar Mitt.  The only size is XL.  The 5.5 mil neoprene is thicker and lined with a fleece interior for extra warmth.
Viewing inside out here shows the bar plug mounted into the red fabric, which is sewn to the inside, so the bar plug remains fully inside the Mitt.
  To mount the plug a small hole allows a 4mm allen wrench to tighten the expanding plug.  It is securely attached when mounted, so removal on the trail will require that 4mm wrench again.

  Here is the bar plug shipped as an upgrade for older versions of Bar Mitts.
  The red tab seen above on the Bar Mitts has a hole just big enough for the allen bolt to slide through and is held secure between the rubber thingie and the purple cap.
  The washer is actually the nut which the bolt threads into.
  The red tab is big enough to allow the user to reposition the bar plug so as to fine tune position of the Bar Mitts on the bar/brake lever assembly.

  Not pictured here, but a small detail on new Mitts, is that the zipper unzips from the edge. The significance is that the zipper does not detach at the end when open anymore.  Mitts no longer require getting the zipper started as on a jacket, but rather a quick zip like on a jersey.

  Bar Mitts is a small company with innovation always on their mind.
5 Stars!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Tortola Roundtail

A crazy looking bike, but with purpose.  It is fun that the frame circle almost matches the wheels, but there is more to it than ascetics.  The giant circle is essentially a leaf spring.
The initial reaction to riding it is that no noticeable difference in ride quality is felt.  The real benefit is on longer rides when the micro-shock from tiny bumps in the road would normally start to agitate the rider.  After about 2-3 hours in the saddle the rider will start to appreciate the comfort of the Roundtail.  After the initial ride the effects are noticeable even at the start of a ride.
It does have a small suspension effect.  The rider notices bumps that are usually uncomfortable are now much smoother.  Test riders noted that they were looking for instead of avoiding bumps just to feel the action of the frame.
The frame is designe on CAD where finite element analysis can be studied.  The frame not only smooths out the bumps, but dampens the high frequency vibrations, the ones that can feel like holding a power sander.   Durability of the frame is improved since strain is transferred around the circle and not on any one specific point as a triangle would have.
Frame testing beats it up with 100,000 cycles, and the Roundtail surpasses a traditional frame.

I got the chance to ride this bike for a few days.  I had mixed feelings about it.  While it does ride very nicely, there are those shortcomings that I cannot do without personally.  The biggie is that the 2nd bottle cage mount on the would-be seat tube is missing, leaving only one mount, thus one bottle.  The next, and much lesser, is that there is extra material in making the rear round, so there is a weight trade off for your comfort ride.  This really is not a problem for the intended end user who does not intend to enter competitive racing.
I like the frame and the ride quality, but coming from a mountain bike background I feel that smoothing out road bumps pales in comparison to what happens off road.
A much better application of this technology would be in a hard-tail mountain bike frame where there is a greater need for smoothing out the bumps.
It's not for me.  I need two bottles on my road rides, and am not willing to give that up for creature comforts, but if you are looking for a cool frame that rides excellent, the Roundtail might be for you.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Boreas Bolinas Day Pack

Bolinas Pack
Boreas Bolinas pack, 30L

This 30 liter pack touts its versatility that it is a bike pack that can convert to a long-haul day pack.  The goal of this pack is pure function.  Where other pack offer big padded shoulder and hip straps, the Boreas crew knows this can be over-kill.  The secret is in the suspension system.

30 Liters of storage, water resistant, expansion segments, 3 external zipper pockets, hydration bladder compatible, daisy loops tucked into access pockets, and most important the trampoline suspension system that adjust to fit the contours of your back for hiking or cycling.

The key to the packs versatile function is the internal wire frame that also serves as a spring.  The ends are aluminum for light weight, wile the center is spring steel.

By tightening the tension straps you can have the pack flat on your back for hiking, or more rounded for cycling.  Finely tuning the curve ensures a perfect fit.

The frame sits behind a trampoline mesh which provides ample air flow on the users back.

The frame is not meant to be removable, but is possible as we found out for purposes of showing you how it works.
The pack opens by unrolling the top, which holds its shape thanks to a semi-rigid plastic strip in the seam.
Rolled inside out to show the water bladder pocked with velcro strap, and a side pocket.

I first took this pack out on an overnight bike packing trip.  One complaint is the corners of the mesh trampoline did rub my hips the wrong way and eventually became uncomfortable.  A more upright position might prevent this. Also, accessing anything in the bag during a quick stop was not easy. It is one big compartment, and everything disappears when you want to find it.  Some side pockets would make storage more organized, but at the same time would also add weight.

The pack was comfortable riding all day, and the minimalist design kept the work space clutter-free.  Strap adjustments are easy to make.

The big downside is the lack of external zipper compartments.  The pack is intended to haul your stuff into camp and then be unloaded.  If you want to have quick access to little items all during your trek this pack might not be right for you.

Overall, this is a great pack for day trip hiking or cycling, and even for light-weight camping trips.

From Boreas site:

  • COLORS:Farallon Black, Golden Gate Red, Marina Blue
  • FABRICS:210D nylon ripstop with UTS impregnated silicone coating
  • SUSPENSION: Our variable suspension, aka SUPER-TRAMP (patent pending), lets users adjust their pack with the tug of a strap. Tighten the strap and it’s a trampoline suspension, perfect for biking and hot weather travel. Loosen the strap and the pack reverts to a standard suspension, moving the weight closer to your back for more stability while hiking or climbing. And because the tension setting is infinitely variable, you can pick a spot somewhere in the middle for the best of both worlds
  • BODY: Rolltop lid, waterproof  side pocket, stretch panels allow the pack body to expand and curve depending on load and suspension setting, hydration or laptop sleeve with two hydration ports, hidden daisy chains, removable hipbelt and adjustable sternum strap

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

THOMSON Carbon Road Bar

THOMSON Carbon Road Bar
I have had the chance to put some serious miles on the Thomson carbon road bar.  It is a carbon bar, what makes it better?  Well, any carbon bar will have the desired ride characteristics of damping road vibration while maintaining strength and light weight.

What sets Thomson apart is their fine quality and exact specifications.  A nice touch is that the bar is exactly 31.8mm diameter under the clear coat.  The clear coat compresses when clamped, so mated to a Thomson stem that is exactly 31.8mm you get a perfect fit, and a reduction of stress to the bar as well as a tighter fit.

The bar comes with a tiny tube of carbon application lube, that is a gritty gel to increase friction between the stem and the bar. This reduces the clamping force necessary to hold the bar.  A torque wrench should be used to 4Nm when tightening the stem bolts to avoid over-clamping and crushing the carbon.

Thomson found that the sticky goo other bars have at the clamp area only cause the bar to slip easier, especially in the drop test.

The bar comes in different widths, and there is also a CX version for the winter racer.

The Thomson website reports:

Our road bar features a mild wing shape on top, clamping area wide enough for aero bars, mid-compact reach and drop. This is the modern bar for the modern road bike. Our Road bar wing section is small enough not to restrict hand movement when riding on the top and allows bar angle adjustment with out “locking out” your wrists. Shaping on the bottom side of the wing allows housing to be taped out of the way without the use of narrow housing channels or internal routing, both of which shorten bar life. Certified to EN, tested to DIN+.

For Cyclocross we present the KFC-One, Katie Compton Signature ‘cross bar. Katie brings her multiple National Championships and European racing experience to give you a bar built her way for cross. The natural transition from your Thomson road bar for the ‘cross season. Twin flats on the bottom of the bar allow taping your housing to create a completely round bar when wrapped. Top profile is round and as wide as possible. This allows auxiliary brake levers to be safely used and still leaves lots of room for your hands. Certified to EN, tested to DIN+.

Layup uses 3 different fiber types with different tensile strengths and tensile modulus, including High Strength carbon fiber. This helps allocate stiffness and flex where needed.

All carbon fiber is produced by Toray and uses tailor made Nano Epoxy Resin for very high impact resistance. Toray is the main supplier of carbon fiber for Boeing and Airbus.

Both the Road and Cross bar are made in one piece, not three pieces co-molded and glued together.

Bars are molded over an EPS mandrel to avoid wrinkles inside the layup during molding. Most other bars are molded over inflatable nylon bladders.

Reach for the Road and Cross bars is the same at 78.5mm. Drop is proportional. Road drops are: 40CM 137mm, 42CM 140mm, 44CM 140mm, 46CM 143mm. Cross drops are: 40CM 131mm, 42CM 133mm, 44CM 135mm.

1.5K woven impact ends help prevent damage to uni-directional fibers from impact

Model NumberHandlebar DescriptionWeightRetail Price
HB-E10440cm center to center-Road x 31.8188 g$249.95
HB-E10542cm center to center-Road x 31.8190 g$249.95
HB-E10644cm center to center-Road x 31.8192 g$249.95
HB-E10746cm center to center-Road x 31.8194 g$249.95
HB-E11040cm center to center-KfC-One-Cross x 31.8202 g$249.95
HB-E11142cm center to center-KfC-One-Cross x 31.8204 g$249.95
HB-E11244cm center to center-KfC-One-Cross x 31.8

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Two-Fish Bottle Cage Mount

Here is a little product that should be in every one's arsenal for that special occasion.  No, not your sisters wedding anniversary party, but for that time when you will need extra water, but do not have extra space for it.

Simply, this is a water bottle mount that can be put almost anywhere.  It has a rubber half-circle backing and a big velcro strap.  The back side of the seat post is the most common placement, but for my one-cage bike, I sometimes use it under the top tube while racing long events.

I have ridden a few hundred miles with no issues, but finally lost it in the woods with it strapped to the post.  I found the bottle a month later, but someone decided to keep the Two-Fish.

It straps on in seconds and is usually pretty secure.  With it under the top tube I have never had any issues.  Access to the bottle is fairly easy and did not interfere with my other bottle on my size large frame.  Smaller frames might require only using the smaller bottles.

Here is my old race bike set up for a summer camping trip.
 This model came with an alloy cage, but can easily be changed out to your cage choice.

The rubber backing molds to any shape or size application and is tacky enough to stay in place.
The velcro is wide and strong.  I only experienced a little wobble with it mounted, but was not an issue - not until I lost it.

Two-Fish has many other products for bottle placements.

Since the review I have continued to use the mount.  Mostly it is used on the back of the seat post, but it fell out on a not-so-bumpy trail.  I found the bottle a month later, but someone kepis the Two Fish. I now use a modified bottle cage and hold it in place with an automotive hose clamp.  If you are worried I suggest using a hose clamp in place of the velcro.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Products on deck

Bar Mitts Road

Magellan Cyclo 505 Bike Computer

Coppi Merino Cycling Cap
Wool cap

Cool little hat with a brim to be worn under the helmet, or alone in any outdoor activity.

Volagi Liscio
Disc Brake Equip Road Bike

Other long-range products:
Truckerco brake pads
Truckerco tire sealant
Electric scooter
Fuji cross bike

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

MTB National Championships Video Interviews

Clips from the event.  More footage on the way will be added into this page as they upload.
Juniors, Pros, Women, U 23...

Pro Mens Highlights

Stephen Ettinger takes the win in this 6-lap race, Todd ins, JB 3rd.

Junior Sport Nationals

Highlights from the Cat II Jr XC race.

Junior Expert Nationals 

Highlights from the race

U-23 Nationals

Highlights from the race

Pro Men before and near start

pre-race with JB and Todd and a few race clips


JB after the race and a few clips

Mary McConneloug

pre-race interview

Georgia Gould

pre-race interview on the start line


post-race interview with women's single speed national champion.