SUMMER 2019 GEAR GUIDE
Montbell Down Hugger Half Length #3 - $219
Like most bikepackers, we’re always looking for ways to reduce the weight and bulk of what we carry on the bike. The genius of the Montbell Down Hugger Half is that it’s modular. We all carry down puffers for warmth when camping, but instead of taking it off or using it as a pillow, with this system you keep it on for sleeping. If you’re still cold, cinch the nylon fabric up around your shoulders. Beyond that, bring a bivvy bag as well. This particular bag is 800 fill down and rated to 38 degrees. The material is 20 denier ballistic ripstop nylon. The weight is listed at 14.7 ounces, which is awesome, but even better is how small it packs down. We’ve loved our 25 degree 900 fill bag (which employs the same spiral stretch technique) It really does move with you, so for active or side sleepers it’s really the way to go. For those looking to shed some sleep system weight and bulk, give this half bag a shot.
Thermarest Vesper Quilt - $370
Industry heads will tell you that quilts aren’t the big story at the moment, it’s that big companies like Thermarest and getting into the fast and light game. This is good news for us all in that we don’t have to cue up with a cottage maker and wait for a custom bag. I won’t go into all the reasons to ditch your sleeping bag for a quilt. You probably get the gist - less weight. For those that sleep warm, it is that much easier to dump excess heat. Our sample is a 20 degree bag, which Thermarest comfort rates at 30 degrees. Apparently Thermarest is proud of their independent testing and goes out of their way to give consumers an accurate number, so they don’t get home from a trip at altitude and complain about having frozen in their new quilt. This 20 degree quilt should keep hikers and cyclists comfortable in a wide range of conditions. The idea is that you attach the quilt to your sleeping pad with two elastic straps. The straps are easy enough to use, and easy to lose. Two more major thumbs up for this quilt is their use of 900 fill hydrophobic down. And of course, packability is fantastic. I hate to use the nalgene comparison, since nobody carries nalgenes these days, but yep that’s about the stuffed and packed size. Kudos to Thermarest for offering ultralight gear for the masses!
Klymit V Ultralite SL Sleeping Pad - $60
Wow! This pad packs up super duper small and is still comfortable. Full stop. What else should I say? Really, it’s so tiny compared to any of my other pads. My scale says it weighs 10.6 ounces. Size-wise, it packs up to about the size of a soda can. I worry about how thin the fabric is, but Klymit offers a lifetime warranty and your pad comes with a patch kit, so you can take care of any repairs in the field. The design is clever - the side rails are designed to keep you centered on the pad. Final bonus - it seems to inflate quickly compared to my Thermarest pads. It’s not as thick, but maybe that’s a bonus for you. I find the thickness just cushy enough and it’s quite stable. We’ll report back when we have more time on it, but so far this is my current pick for fast and light adventures. Final final bonus - that price tag.
Hydroflask 22L Soft Cooler Pack- $206 ($275 aftrer 7/4)
Finally coolers get a cool upgrade! How many times have you lugged a heavy awkward cooler way too far, just to have a sweet picnic in some remote location. We like so many things about this cooler: the first is the obvious ability to wear it like a backpack. Second, Hydroflask say it keeps your contents cool for up to 48 hours. It holds a surprising amount of food & drink. Finally, the vertical orientation fits really well behind a seat in the car. As coolers go, it’s ridiculously lightweight. They have YKK aquaseal zippers, and the external stretch pocket fits a full size wine bottle! Finally, Hydroflask is based out of Bend, Oregon. We love supporting local companies making fun, innovative product. We’ll use this every time we go mountain biking, and for sure will be taking it to our Oregon Timber Trail work parties. We love stoking out volunteers with ice cold cold brew and/or beers on trail!
Five Ten Kestrel Pro Boa - $200
The Five Ten Kestrel Boa is a legit bomber trail shoe. First impressions on this shoe are fantastic. I just got a proper trail ride in on these, and especially paired with the Shimano 9120 XTR trail pedals, the stability and control was next level for me. I really loved the feel! The first thing you’ll notice is the fact that the shoe is substantial- it weighs a bit and the sole is properly stiff. When I wear them I feel protected. They pedal well and I don’t notice the weight. I think they look great too - I love the design and the orange pop on the toe and instep. Obviously as a company with rock climbing roots, you know the sole will be sticky and functional. We love how flat the sole is. The Stealth rubber is known to be tacky and durable. We know it will perform well walking on rocks, which is huge for bikepackers. There seems to be plenty of room in the foot. I can easily wear thick hiking socks with these. Final point is the BOA. Love it or hate it, it works and this version of it, seems to be a bit trimmed down from previous versions. I did pop the BOA open accidentally when I went down on one lame slow motion fall the other day, but it was easy enough to retighten. I don’t anticipate that happening a lot, but I wonder if a more centered placement of the dial (like Pearl Izumi’s X-Alp elevate) might prevent that. Overall, a killer shoe from Five Ten!
POC VPD System Knee Pads - $150
We’ve been on the lookout for the best knee pads for trail riding and these might be the ones. Most of us aren’t running pads for cruisy XC riding, but when things get a little gnarly and we need to save the knees we look to a company like POC. I know you want to know what’s VPD. Well since you asked, it’s an acronym that stands for Visco-elastic Polymer Dough. More importantly, it’s soft and comfy when you’re just wearing the pads and the material stiffens up to protect you on impact. Speaking of comfort, there are no straps, just comfortable wicking poly material. Also worth noting is the breathability of these pads. The last thing you want is to get all sweaty inside and have the pads slip on you when you need them. Not the case here, these breathe well and stay put. When you need to step up to some dedicated pads for everyday trail use, invest in some POC tech. Your knees will thank you.
Osprey Seral Lumbar Reservoir Pack - $85
Hip packs are back! If you’re like me, not every ride is an epic and I don’t always want to carry 3 liters of water. Sometimes you want to give your back a rest and just carry some essentials, and on those days, the Seral is the way to go. It’s roomy enough to carry a couple PB&Js, a multi tool, a first aid kit, and a spare rain jacket. I ditched the 1.5 liter water reservoir. I think it’s awesome that Osprey worked with Hydrapak to design a reservoir that sits well in the pack shape without lots of movement, but I couldn’t figure out where to stash the tube, even with the nice magnetic holder. It just felt odd to have the tube around my waist. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, I just haven’t spent time with it. For me, I think the volume is perfect to bring all the extras for a short day of riding, and I’ll still put my hydration drink in a bottle, since that’s my preference. I’ve found myself using this bag around town quite a bit as well - room for my U-lock, wallet, phone, a rain jacket and a bar. Like all Osprey packs, it’s a breeze to cinch down properly and it’s simple to use. The main compartment is sub-divided well, so you can organize your things well, with enough mesh pockets and zippered pockets, and clips for your keys, etc. The mesh that sits on your low back vents well and overall the bag is extremely comfortable. I’m confident that I’ll use it bikepacking as well when I want a little extra carrying capacity without carrying a full backpack. Highly recommended!
Topeak Mountain Twin Turbo Pump - $33
Mountain bike tires are evolving, 2.5 being sort of a new standard, 3.0 has become popular not to mention fat bike tires going even larger…so shouldn’t we be equipped to handle all those new standards when it comes time to fix a flat, or just add some air. The Topeak Mountain TT is that evolved pump, where both your in stroke and your outstroke are filling your tires with air. Topeak’s floor pumps like the Joe Blow and the Joe Blow Booster are standards in our workspace, working reliably day after day with very little maintenance. So when it comes time to grab a pump and hit the trails, we’ll gladly grab a Mountain TT, since we know it’s not a fiddly mini pump and instead is built to handle real fix-it duty and designed to cut your time working on your repairs. The barrel is aluminum and the pump feels solid, and it feels like the right size for the job in your hands. It comes with a handy mount bracket that mounts under your water bottle cage. If you don’t usually just throw your pump in your hydration bag, why not just mount it on your frame, so there’s no chance of forgetting it. Thank you Topeak for making reliable tools that quietly get the job done.
Vasque Breeze LT GTX - $170
Hiking boots on a cycling website! Yep! We like to hike too. Some days you want to get a good workout and check out some views, but you don’t want to suit up for a bike ride. Variety is the spice of life, my friends. Also, our dog Memphis loves a good hike. She’s getting older now and doesn’t hold our wheels as well, so…hiking. We’ve been fans of Vasque since we picked up a pair of their Italian-made Sundowners. The Breeze is the boot we would hope for in 2019. It’s basically a rugged high top sneaker, which is exactly what I was after. They’re comfortable right out of the box, with no break in period required. The Vibram megagrip sole gives me the confidence I need on all kinds of surface, from scree fields to soft muddy patches I feel sure-footed. Aesthetically Vasque has taken two big leaps with these. I have to say recent offerings have felt a bit dated and now with the LT GTX we’re taking a step into 2019 and feeling stylish. I like the muted colors with small bright accent colors. So far, the breathability has been pretty good. We’ll be curious to see how they do in wet conditions and how well they hold up. So far, I’d say Vasque has a winner with the Breeze LT GTX.
Tubolito S-Tubo Ultralight Spare tube - $38
A while back we spotted Schwalbe doing ultralight tubes and tried hard to get a hold of some. We had no luck getting those, but years later Tubolito is on the scene with bright orange ultralight tubes. This 29er tube weighs just 45 grams and packs up tiny. The S-Tubo has the screw off valve for even more packability. You don’t get these because they’re more durable than a standard tube, you get them because they’re ultralight and most likely you just keep them on hand as spares, so you can hide them away deep in your frame bag. The ultralight polymer was actually first developed for speaker diaphragms. Interestingly, though they change shape permanently when you inflate them, so say you use one as a spare in your 2.3 tire, you can’t then deflate it and try to use it in a 2.1 or 2.5 tire. The shape becomes permanent. If you look at how much weight you save per dollar per ounce, these little orange spares are well worth the price. If you don’t care about how much weight you carry and having more room for burritos in your frame bag, well just keep keepin’ on. Now I have to get them for my gravel and road bikes too. Luckily REI just started carrying them, so you no longer have to mail order from Europe.
POC Ventral Air Spin Helmet - $250
We love POC helmets for multiple reasons. For one, their design aesthetic is uniquely their own. You can tell a POC helmet from a block away. The all white look (white shell, white foam, minimal grey, cyan logos) is so clean looking. Second, POC helmets are lightweight. A medium Ventral Air Spin weighs only 230 grams. Finally, they fit my head. I mean you’re going to wear this thing on your head all day long, it might as well be the most comfortable lid you can find. Finally, the Ventral Air Spin is our pick for summer, for it’s emphasis on air flow. You bet they tested it in a wind tunnel. Air goes in, cools your head and escapes out the back easily. And most importantly, the reason you wear a good helmet in the first place is impact protection. POC’s SPIN (Shearing Pad INside) pads allow the helmet to move independently, which is beneficial especially in oblique impacts. I can’t tell you which is better, but for whatever reason, POC has moved from MIPS to SPIN. It’s a lovely helmet, looks great on, cools really well, and does its job. Love it.
Shimano RC9 Road Shoes - $250
I’m sure the hardcore dirt folks among our audience hate that we review road gear as well. Sorry ya’ll we still love road riding and we love gear like Shimano's shoes that make the ride so much better. Also, for the gravel heads that only ride SPD, cheers to you, but there’s nothing like the interface of a good stiff pair of road shoes and road pedals. It just feels fluid and it feels like precision. It’s kinda zen. If you’ve followed us since our start, you know that we love Shimano shoes because they fit our feet well and they work great. We love that they’ve kept the cat’s tongue material on the inside of the heel cup for grip - yes it really works. The carbon sole is as stiff as you’d like it to be for maximum power transfer. That said, on longer rides I still go back to my RP9s for pure comfort. For whatever reason, they still rule for all day comfort. Speaking of which, I wish the footbeds were nicer on these premium shoes. I usually don’t worry about it, since I’ve just slipped in my own custom footbeds, which give me much better arch support. Also, I don’t feel that BOAs are an improvement. This iteration of the BOA works like it should and is easy enough to cinch down tight and releases just fine at the end of a ride. Aesthetically, they’re still just two big cylinders slapped on the shoe. They look lumpy under shoe covers. It leaves me wondering why laces and BOA seem like our two choices for high end shoes right now. All that said, I still very much recommend these RC9 shoes. They’re lightweight, beautiful, and they make me faster. Did I mention the rainbow iridescence? Yep, these are pure magical unicorn kicks.
Shimano RP7 Womens Road Shoes - $200
I really love the Shimano road system, but these shoes take it to a whole new level. They’re impossibly light while giving me incredible stiffness and power transfer—which being the slow climber I am is a huge advantage, and also helps a ton when I want to give a little on the flats. I was a bit concerned that the darker grey color would overheat on hot days, but my feet stay consistently cool and vented. This is my first experience with the boa system and I love it. I struggle with shoes because I have a wide fore-foot that narrow’s to my heel, so it’s challenging to find a shoe that has room for the toes while staying snug in my tiny heel cup. The women’s fit was perfect for that and the boa adjuster snugged up my angular mid-foot wonderfully. Since it usually takes 2- 4 tries to get me out the door for my ride before I remember all the things I forgot to grab, the boa system also makes it a snap to quickly and easily get in and out of the shoes, or adjust as my feet swell on an all-day ride.
Oakley Sutro - $163
We think Oakley have a hit on their hands with the Sutro. The goal was to create a performance model that is still somehow low key enough (or how do we say…casual?) to wear around town off the bike. It’s a funny thing these random aesthetic guidelines that we put on these things, but it’s subtle and it’s something you can feel, even if the words are elusive. In the scheme of Oakley’s design history these hit the mark, since they’re so similar to their first performance model, the eyeshade - think Greg Lemond or Andy Hampsten circa 1985. I’m an electro/techno fan, so I have to drop (Planet Rock) Afrika Bambaataa here too. He never wore Oakley, but that’s the vibe 1980’s future tech, so yeah it’s a retro-future thing, and the function is on point for 2019. They’re light, they fit really well and the coverage is great. Proof is that pro tour riders have picked them up - lord knows those guys won’t rock them if they don’t work for 5-6 hour races. Top of the line Prizm lenses on these as well. Function and style in one nice package. We have a winner! Update: Bernal just blew these up in the Tour. Hot fire!
Oakley Flight Jacket - $223
The Flight Jacket may not do double duty as a lifestyle shade like the Sutro, but it does road performance really well and it allows for lens swapping. Especially for touring, bikepacking or multi day outings, I like bringing one frame and a couple lens options. I can usually get by with a clear photochromic lens for low light situations and something like the Road Prizm for bright light. I love the fact that these come with shorter arms that you can swap out. I usually just rock the shorter ones, since the glasses stay put just fine and then they don’t poke into my helmet. I have yet to really employ the advancer technology, which is what they’re calling the anti-fog switch. It should work fine and probably does, I’m just not in the habit and it seems like too much fiddling when I’m in the middle of a ride. It’s still simpler to just push them down your nose a bit if they fog up. The glasses themselves are extremely comfortable and the coverage is great. My only minor complaint with the Flight Jacket is that the lenses aren’t as easily swappable as the Jawbreaker.
SQ Labs Innerbarends- $40
I think most of us that grew up with bar ends have moved away from them permanently, perhaps as a result of bar width increasing, maybe because they can grab things on the end of the trail and toss you. Enter innerbarends. Basically, you mount these where you like according to your shoulder width, and these guys give you one more place to put your hands as you ride. Like to get a little aero on the flats? Need another place to grab your bars on hike-a-bikes, innerbarends have you covered. Dusty at Revelate has become something of an opinion leader for us, with some really fast times on some hard routes like Arizona Trail Race, Highland 500. We saw these on Dusty’s bike, then met the fine folks at SQ Labs at Sea Otter. They also have a more minimal, lighter weight version coming out soon. Give these a try on your next adventure and see if they don’t give you some more options for hand placement.
Elite Fly MTB bottles - $11
One more (affordable) must-have item for the weight weenies! The Fly MTB bottle claims to be 30 percent lighter than a standard bottle. They’re made with an injection process and because of that process Elite is able to make the base and the threaded top part thicker where it’s needed and thinner in the middle where you squeeze. The material is BPA free and dishwasher safe. That’s another huge selling point on these bottles is the ability to keep them clean. The spout pops on and off easily (only good when you mean to take it apart) but makes for great flow rate when you go for a drink. Finally, the (removable) outer cap is brilliant for anyone that has a third bottle cage on the bottom of their down tube. Keep the gunk out til you’re ready to use the bottle. I went for the 750 and 950 sizes and the clear with white cap and grey spout is my hands down favorite. Get some!
Nuun Hydration - Immunity/Vitamins/Rest/Sport, $7 - 10 tablets Endurance ($20 canister/ $24 - 12 sachets)
We loved Nuun before, but this year there are a couple of new reasons to check them out. First, they’ve expanded their line of tablets to include Immunity, Vitamins, and Rest. You don’t always need all the sugar that you’d get in a sport tab and you just want some electrolytes. I’m a bit obsessed with a good night’s sleep, so I highly recommend their REST tablets. They really work! They’re a great affordable alternative to CBD. From Nuun’s site: “Nuun Rest was formulated with three key-ingredients that work to support your body’s overall relaxation responses. Magnesium, tart-cherry and potassium play a crucial role in relaxing the major muscle groups, reducing inflammation, relieving stress and tension from the body, and easing nerve functions that keep the brain alert and awake.” We’ve talked about Stacy Sim’s Endurance formula many times before, but this year Nuun has given us two new flavors - lemon lime and strawberry lemonade. Here’s the deal on the Endurance product: “The formula for Nuun Endurance was developed in partnership with world-renowned exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist Stacy T. Sims, PhD. Utilizing her industry disrupting hydration research, the product is optimized for the added physiological stress the body endures during long-distance (over ninety minutes) and high intensity exercise. Nuun Endurance is comprised of multiple carbohydrate sources and electrolytes in specific quantities that maximize the absorption of fluids and nutrients while minimizing gastric distress.” Take a few sachets on your next all day outing and see if you don’t feel better.
Modern Medicinals CBD Oil ($30 for Pets $60 for humans)
Wow! CBD just blew up. It’s everywhere. We now have entire stores dedicated to the magical elixir. Everyone knows athletes are all about recovery and pain management, which means optimal rest and chill out time. That’s where CBD can help - helping the body relax and reducing inflammation and pain. So, why use MM and not another brand? Most use industrial hemp stalks or hemp seeds. MM uses Oregon CBD flower. You do get a bit of a burnt weed taste, but I don’t find it at all unpleasant. It makes me feel like it’s the real deal. They also talk about the oil being “bioavailable” which just means that it has quick activation time and works right away. We’ve had great results with Modern Medicinals and recommend it. Our dog Memphis is eleven years old now and has been loving the Pets formula for arthritis relief.
Cytosport Sleeping Giant ($28 for 18 servings), Nuun Rest ($7 for 10 tablets), Infinit Nocturne ($55 for 32 servings)
You know what else just blew up? Nighttime recovery. I remember years ago trying (Stacy Sims era) OSMO’s nighttime recovery formula, which they abandoned since nobody like the taste of the valerian. But this new wave of products is remarkably similar. Sleeping Giant and Nocturne are both nighttime protein drinks with Tryptophan to help you sleep better. Nuun is an electrolyte drink with magnesium, potassium, and tart cherry which help your muscles relax and reduce inflammation. I’m surprised how well it works and it’s a great option when you don’t need your nighttime protein. I love that I can easily take the tablets with me when I travel. Really great product!
Picky Bars - $2.75 Picky Granola - $9
We love Picky Bars! They’re made for athletes by athletes and they’re based in Bend, OR. They use all natural ingredients and put a serious emphasis on making ride food that tastes good. They’re up to 10 flavors now to keep things interesting and have just launched their granola with these two delicious flavors. I have to say the “Sassy Molassy” is my fave flavor on the granola. I’m amazed at how dense they are with quality superfoods, seeds and nuts. The decision to put molasses in there is genius if you look at the health properties of molasses and depth of flavor that it provides. The goji berries are a nice touch too. We don’t usually comment on prices in our gear guide. We’ll leave that to the internet trolls. $9 does seem steep, but there are 10 servings per bag and they really are loaded with nutrient dense and all organic everything, so it’s a very premium product aimed at athletes that demand top quality food and flavor. Give them a try and decide for yourself. We like what Picky is doing.
Clif Cubes - $2.50
Clif’s copy reads “nut butter filled endurance bites.” As someone who makes his own ride food, I don’t always feel obliged to cover what big brands like Clif are doing, unless I try the bar and like them because they’re tasty and the nutrition is in line with what I like on the bike. I tried these at Sea Otter and they’re close enough to the bars I make that if I were in a pinch, these would be a top choice for me. I like the mix of date paste and almond butter. They’re cut into 5 bite sized pieces and each bite contains 42 calories. So if you’re fussy and you count calories, or just like to track exactly what goes into your body during a race or bikepacking, that’s easy to track. I like where Clif is going with the cubes. Pop ‘em in your mouth and keep pedaling…