19 Dec 2012

2012: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 2?

It has been a very mixed year for cycling related purchases. Some of them were from the previous year but with my awful memory I have no lazy way of sorting them into a valid timeline. So just think of the following as a running review. (Or rant, if you prefer) ;ø)

The Abus helmet has been perfect. I used to hate helmets for all sorts of reasons until I finally saw and tried on one of these. So light, I usually forget I have it on. Even now I have to occasionally check for a chinstrap to be sure I have the helmet on. Is there any higher praise? I have never fallen off so cannot confirm its ability to protect the already brain damaged. ;ø) It even seems to keep its looks long term. Since it is treated like eggs and never bumped I don't see any reason to replace it yet.

The GripGrab lightweight overshoes have been excellent. Thin and flexible rubber with felt inside. They are easy to put on and have lasted extremely well. Only now are they beginning to fray at the heels where I continuously walk on them. They have kept my feet reasonably comfortable in some very cold conditions. Being open at the bottom, I find they are not terribly waterproof. Not even with mudguards and flaps. Though my feet haven't felt very cold when wet. I have worn them every day since the winter started. No hesitation at all in getting another pair when they get too untidy to wear in public.

The pretty, blue, Continental GP4000 tyres were fine until I started raising pressures in the search for lower rolling resistance. Then they wore more quickly and became extremely hard and uncomfortable. They still only lasted for half the life of the folding Bontrager Race Lites.

The asymmetrically striped Race X-Lites were rather strange. I could never get them to seat on the rim properly! They would bump on every turn of the wheel given half a chance. I kept letting the air out to try and arrange them on the rims before over-inflating again in the hope of the tyres centring themselves. I gave up in the end and took them off. They are still hanging up in the shed somewhere. Another sixty squid down the drain. I have already mentioned the crap quality, GP4000Scheiße which replaced them. One hundred quid wasted that time. The next tyres to be fitted were the Schwalbe Durano Plus. These have not had a single puncture in 1255 miles, under exactly the same road conditions and the treads are still completely undamaged. Unlike the GP4000Scheiße which were full of gaping holes after the very first ride!

The Bontrager 'Race' MTB shoes have been an unqualified success. As comfortable as any slippers. I tried a few different MTB shoes on and these jumped out as supremely comfortable right out of the box. Most of the others were much more expensive but felt more like narrow, down at heel, square, cardboard boxes in comparison. The Bontragers are incredibly easy to walk in. With good grip on all surfaces in all conditions indoors and out. Road shoes would never have suited my normal daily use. I get off to take photographs and corner sharply in the aisles of supermarkets. I need shoes which feel and look fairly normal when on foot.(sic) The treads conceal the SPD cleats and the colours and style are muted enough to pass off as black trainers. Why I should worry about looks is a point of confusion given my usual, colourful cycling garb. They are rather noisy when walking in shops. One toe cap is just working itself free of the glue but is hardly noticeable. The toe bumpers on my previous Tahoes became seriously unglued and gaped.

Both of my cheap, supermarket, action camera purchases were complete crap as action cameras. The thumb-sized one from Netto was much worse than the Aldi product and was duly returned. The Aldi Medion is very insensitive in dull conditions with frequent zebra-striped artefacts.

The TouPeak track/floor pump is very easy to use to any useful pressure. The TouPeak "Smarthead" twin-head, D2 pressure gauge much less so. It is often quite difficult to fit onto the valve, switches itself off ridiculously quickly and loses air when removed. I hardly bothered to use it much since the floor pump can do both jobs far better. So the separate gauge was a waste of money but bought before the track pump. It was meant to monitor how well I was doing with normal pumps. A revelation on how low the pressures I was actually getting from frame fit and mini pumps before exhaustion sets in! It helped to end a long run of pinch flats though. So it probably earned its keep in that role.
Which is more than I can say for the Bike Attitude mini pump. Which was more wasted money on complete crap. It could barely manage 50 psi and had a floppy folding handle designed specifically to inflict personal injury on the user.

Then I bought a frame fitting Zefal HP pump to get the higher pressures I thought I needed at that time. It was strangely heavy but efficient up to well over 100psi. Though prone to bending valves unless care is taken with the locking lever. It needs to be locked on or it blows off the valve. Not having a pressure gauge makes its use rather sparse except for inflating after punctures out on the road. The extra weight does give one confidence that it could be used against a vicious dog.

The Carradice Longflap "micro" Camper saddle bag was a serious disappointment. Far smaller than even the manufacturer's seriously inflated, claimed dimensions and dreadfully poorly stitched. The honey coloured leather straps are already looking very cracked and worn. The bag will just take 6 x 1 litre boxes of milk, arranged 2 x 3, standing up. Then the bag is completely full. I supplement its very limited carrying capacity with zipped sports bags. These are merely hung over the seat pin by their cloth handles and take care of themselves. Ideal for shopping which does not want to be crushed. Mainly eggs, bread, rolls, biscuits, fruit and boxed frozen stuff. So, pretty well everything except 6 cartons of milk and bags of organic spuds. Did I mention these saddle bags are heavy as well?

GripGrab's under-helmet, scull caps are absolutely superb! I have one each of the lightest and the slightly heavier one. They make cycling through the three cooler seasons a real pleasure. Sometimes I take both and swap to the lighter cap once I have warmed up. Or from light to heavy if I turn into a cold wind. They are  incredibly warm, wind proof, compact and comfortable without being sweaty. At their best riding into a cold headwind, they make a huge difference to comfort levels in all conditions without bulk. Easily stuffed into a jersey back pocket for immediate use when needed. These caps fit like a glove, cover the ears like no normal fleece hat and offer no pressure to the head. (at all) So one is usually unaware of their presence under the helmet and can wear sunglasses without the least discomfort from crushed ears. Unreservedly recommended! My wife washes them every time they are worn and they are still as good as new.

My 'Smart' bike lights finally grew dim a couple of years after purchase. Not through constant use but more due to old age. I know how they feel. Opening up the lights proved that they held no reverse-engineered, alien technology but only alkaline batteries. 2 x AA in the front light and 2 x AAA in the rear. This is good news because these batteries are easily replaced. I had feared they might be oddball sizes and therefore foolishly expensive.

Searching online proved that a number of manufacturers label these lights as their own. Oxford has an identical rear light by the same name "Super Flash". Both lights are bright. Though one can't ride very fast in dark country lanes by the front light alone. 10 mph is probably safe where there are no potholes. Two similar lights would help at twice the cost. Fortunately I no longer need to commute after dark. If I wanted to see the road ahead, rather than simply be seen, I'd probably want something much brighter at the front.

The rear light is easily 'Close Encounters' quality. Now matched and duplicated for brightness by very low cost, supermarket, LED bike lights. There are some very attractive long but narrow light fittings for the rear if low wind resistance is your bag. These are really nothing more than clear plastic cases to house a row of bright LEDS and the batteries. Front lights still seem to be a problem when one sets a ceiling on expense and demand seeing the road well enough ahead to avoid the usual drunks, unlit UFO cattle rustlers and their butchered road kill.  

The Velo no-name (Avenue style) vinyl covered saddle was very odd indeed. It is difficult to believe it was ever intended as a serious saddle. It was hard to sit on, but very obviously padded when thumb pressure was applied. Narrow, heavily laterally curved and flicked up at the bifurcated (forked) tail. Giving the feeling that one was perched high on an oddly-shaped lump of firewood. It produced some really weird and random pains in my leg muscles from the very first ride to the last. Presumably due to localised nerve pressure. What it did have was real speed! I gave it a full week of normal riding, before finally giving up on it. I always wanted to get somewhere quickly on it. Just so I could get off again!

Actually, I am only half joking. It really did make me want to ride fast all the time.So it might actually suit some people more than me. Had it not been so curved, crossways, it might well have had a much better chance of remaining on Mr Higgins. It is odd how many plastic saddles try to split the "personality" of those riding them!



  1. enjoyed your rants and ramblings ,merry christemass
    and a safe and happy new year.

  2. Hi Dave

    Thanks for the encouraging comment. :-)

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.