Summer Gear Guide 2016
Time for Benedicto to come clean about road riding. The reality of living in Portland, OR is that we ride mostly road - for fitness, for sport, we have good paved routes to the Columbia River Gorge and the west hills in particular. It keeps us ready for off road adventures, and frankly, we like the speed. If we lived somewhere like Durango with mountain biking out the door, surely we'd ride more trail, but we live in the city.
We're having a palette-cleansing black and white design appreciation moment. Here are six road things we're loving at the moment: 1. Rapha Herman Miller Caps - Limited Edition for the Tour of California. This Black and white print by Alexander Girard was a standout 2. Giro Synthe MIPS - Sleek, aero, and just a beautiful design object. We love that the stowage of eyewear factored in to the design. MIPS is the new standard for crash safety, so probably best to upgrade your lid 3. Oakley Jawbreaker Prizm - When it comes to eye protection and style, we love the look of Jawbreakers and Oakley optics are second to none. Prizm lens is the choice for bright summer days. 4. Rapha Brevet Insulated Gilet - Lightweight and packable, this works great on its own as a gilet, or as an additional layer for bikepacking and camping. 5. Giro LX gloves - Just the right amount of padding, great fit. Always wear gloves. If you ever go down, your hands will thank you. 6. Shimano RP9 Shoes - Not their top of the line, but heat moldable. Finally, Shimano does all white shoes - not half black, half white, not silver…just white. Essential summer kicks. Great fit, toe bumper, properly stiff and they're beautiful. Can you tell we appreciate good footwear?
Santini base layers - In 2009 I photographed the Giro d'Italia and I still remember seeing the pros in their tech baselayers after the finish of a stage, being tended to by soigneurs. You don't have to be a pro tour rider to appreciate the performance and wicking abilities of a high-quality base layer. Dry = comfortable. Last year we fell in love with the CAR 4.0 Santini base layer. It actually has carbon fibers woven in. The carbon virtually eliminates the stink factor, which is huge for a 4-day bikepack. From their site “The carbon thread absorbs and dissolves the electric charges which accelerates the process of evaporation of moisture by increasing the feeling of well-being. CAR 5.0 has a differentiated structure, with areas with a higher concentrainon of carbon to further decrease the moisture contact with the skin.” This year they've introduced the CAR 5.0. I've found that for temps in the 50s and 60s, I reach for the CAR 5.0 and for temps from 65 up, I reach for the MESH sleveless.
Rapha Core Bib Shorts - The Core line is Rapha's new more affordable offering this year. While Rapha is offering a line that is perhaps stripped down and more accessible, they also went and hired Alex Valdman (Giro New Road, Levis) as their design director. I can't confirm it, but I see Alex in this design. They fit extremely well. They look great - finally all black shorts without white logos! They're a bit longer than the ProTeam shorts that I'm used to, and the grippers are very grippy - you have to flip them to put the shorts on. Finally, most importantly they're extremely flattering. Probably not a 12-hour chamois, but a great choice for a 2-3 hour coffee ride. Well done Rapha.
7Mesh G2 Jersey - The first thing you'll notice about the G2 Jersey is the fabric - it seems to have skin-like pores. From their site: “The great feeling fabric is made from polyester, with no hydrophilic elastane (Lycra). Stretch is instead achieved using mechanically textured fibers (think: springs) - so the fabric stays much drier, lighter, more breathable, and more comfortable throughout your ride. A custom knit is used to achieve asymmetrical stretch, giving the G2 excellent lateral comfort while limiting vertical stretch to hold your pocket contents secure and prevent pocket sag. These guys really do consider the performance of a piece top-to-bottom and the G2 is no exception. I don't recommend riding with this jersey with a pack, since it can cause pilling. It has become my favorite road/gravel jersey. Really stunning in white with blue accents. Tip! Just released today!
7Mesh Resistance Jacket - We've been raving about this jacket for awhile now (see our Dirty Sellwood ride report). Technically it's a windbreaker, but 7Mesh went ahead and taped the seams, so it functions as a flyweight emergency rain jacket. The fact that it uses Gore Windstopper, means it seals up nicely and provides real warmth when the weather hits. It fits easily in a jersey pocket - and I don't mean crammed in a jersey pocket - it folds up slim. I wouldn't expect a jacket that only weighs 4 oz. to provide so much protection, but it does. This one is a game-changer. I rarely leave home without it, and the new Ember color is gorgeous and very visible.
7Mesh MK1 Bibshorts - I'll admit it. It took me awhile to appreciate these shorts, but now that I've done a few 12 hour rides and multi-day trips in them, they're my new go-to endurance shorts. They passed the all-day test with flying colors. The fabric is superior for wicking and the chamois is comfortable without being overly squishy or pillowy. Worth mentioning is the way the chamois is attached, so it “floats” independently and creates less friction as you pedal. 7Mesh, like everything they make, have really done their homework on this one. A supremely comfortable bib short. Take note on the sizing - I normally wear Medium and I wear a Small in these.
BIKEPACKING + MTB
Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch II - Many mountain bike shoes claim to be walkable, but few are this good and grippy. If a route calls for extended time off the bike, I'm most likely going to be wearing something like this from Pearl Izumi. I rode the X-Alp Enduro models last year and loved those, but found them a bit soft for all day pedaling. I'm a bit skeptical about the BOA, but I should probably just get over it, since so many cycling shoes incorporate the fastening system these days. Honestly I still prefer 3 good velcro straps, but that's just me. Also, if you get off to explore and/or take photos, walkability is so important. Price is really reasonable on these too.
7Mesh Glidepath Short - 7Mesh is killing it in my opinion. Their aesthetic is consistently on point, they make a lightweight product that looks great and works. Take the Glidepath for example - the material is so light that you hardly notice them. The waist adustment works the way it should. The zipper pockets are placed well. The look is more minimal, but will still please the trail or enduro crowd that demands “baggies”. The weight and function will please the minimalist and bikepacker crowd. I particularly appreciated these shorts when I was mountain biking in Arizona a lot this year. Recommended.
Thermarest NeoAir XLite - This is my go-to pad for bikepacking. It's the best blend of comfort, size and packability. The Regular size weighs just 12 oz. I just used this on an overnight bivy with just a piece of Tyvek underneath for protection. A great piece of equipment. For car camping, I grab the Luxury Map Mattress, for bikepacking it's the NeoAir XLite every time.
Montbell Breeze Dry-Tec Sleeping Bag Cover - One of the main complaints with bivy bags is condensation making for a wet nights sleep. So…four reasons this is a great bivy 1. Very breathable material 2. Very lightweight at 6.3 oz. 3. Packs down very small 4. Very affordable at $125. You definitely want to use this with a mummy bag. I recently tested this with a Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 bag and woke up with zero condensation. I'll be using this piece a lot in the future.
Mountain Hardwear Canyon Shirt - Travel clothing is a tough catergory. I want to like the concept - light materials that travel well and look good in a variety of situations, but most travel clothes make you look like you were only allowed to shop at REI and that usually means lacking in the style department. One reason I gravitated to the Canyon Shirt was its long sleeves, the fact that it looks like well-designed street clothes, and it provides some serious sun protection. Worth mentioning is the way the collar pops up for extended sun protection for your neck. I'll be packing this one on my next sunny bikepacking route. I might even wear it to my local pub for a beer. Fit is on the roomy side.
Mountain Hardwear AP Short - Great looking shorts that would work well as street wear or for hiking. Made from a blended canvas fabric that's 75% cotton, 23% nylon, and 2% elastine. Kudos to Mountain Hardwear for making a pocket that fits the iphone 6 perfectly. Enough stretch and style that you could bikepack in them, but I bet I end up wearing them everywhere.
Montbell EX Light Down Anorak - I hesitate to call pieces essential unless they truly are. There is a good reason so many Tour Divide racers pack this particular piece. It comes down to performance. It's the piece you'll grab at the end of the day when the temps drop. It packs down so remarkably small, that it's easy to bring with you. The combination of feather weight and dreamy warmth. This piece has made me a hood convert as well. It's not their lightest piece, it's 6.2 oz., but I think this is the best blend of price and function. 900 fill power. Sleek enough to layer a windbreaker or rain jacket if the weather demands.
7Mesh Outflow - I used to think synthetic filled pieces were just low-end alternatives to down. Not true! The big advantage is that synthetics don't lose their warmth when wet (sweating) and the other aspect is what they call warmth to weight ratio - this piece is just 8.8 oz. 7Mesh used Primaloft Active Gold on the Outflow jacket and the result is a winner. I basically lived in this jacket all winter long. It's that comfortable. The cut is fairly trim, so you can layer under their Revelation jacket, and it's cut like a bomber jacket, so it looks good enough to wear around town. It's a beautiful piece that you won't want to take off. This is part of 7Mesh's 2016 winter line and has not yet been released. Keep an eye out!
Rapha Brevet Insulated Gilet - An extremely versatile piece, the Insulated Gilet is part of Rapha's brevet line. Because Rapha used Polartec Alpha, this piece breathes and handles sweat well. “Polartec Alpha was engineered as an active insulation to regulate core body temperatures during both dynamic and static activities. This ‘adaptive’ breathability helps eliminate the need for shedding or adding layers while on the move, making it ideal for cycling. By keeping moisture vapor moving freely through the fabric, it increases overall air exchange and drastically speeds up dry times, providing thermal regulated comfort. Polartec Alpha is also highly compressible, made with a stable core… that prevents ‘fibre migration’ to keep a uniform consistency, even after heavy wear and repeated laundering.” Thoughtful touches include 2-way zipper and an integrated elastic band in the neck area for keep it your roll tidy when not in use. Reflective stripes keep you visible. This is a very useful piece for any cyclist.
LED Lenser SEO7R Headlamp - LED Lenser ticked all the boxes on this one. This particular headlamp has won multiple design awards and it's easy to see why. It's very bright, at 220 lumens (lamp is focusable), has a 20 hour burn time, has a USB-chargable battery unit, (takes AA batteries as backup) The automatic dimming function is very advanced, it senses reflected light and adjusts accordingly, so you don't blind yourself when you go to look a map. Weight is just 3.2 oz.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL2 Tent - This is a good choice for folks looking for a minimalist shelter for backpacking or bikepacking. Weight is just over 2 lbs. so if one person carries the poles and one person carries the tent, you'd hardly notice the weight. The design is compact, so I'd say it's spacious for one and snug for two. It's easy to set up and has a sleek, wind-cheating design. It breathes well and sheds light rain like a champ. So far so good with the Ghost UL2. We look forward to further adventures in this one.
Osprey Manta AG 28 - It's hard to believe how far packs have come lately in terms of light weight and comfort. The most stunning part of these new packs is the AG or “Anti-Gravity” part of the pack, which is a combination of a lightweight frame, a mesh back panel and form-fitting hip panels that hug you and at the same time, takes the load off your back. Unfortunately the wire frame prevents this model from being relevant to bikepackers, but if you're looking for the next level of comfort for day hiking, this is well worth a try. You can't ride your bike everywhere, ya know?
Mountain Hardwear Class IV Shorts - Finally a proper pair of swimming trunks! I love the look of them. Great medium length, mesh lined, so they're extremely comfortable and quick-drying. I'll be bringing these on hot summer road rides and jumping in the Sandy River. I might even hit the Washougal via the Historic Evergreen Highway!
MiiR Growler, Vacuum Insulated Bottle, and Pint Cups - MiiR is among a growing list of companies that are determined to make a difference in how it does business. They give 5% of sales to various projects dedicated to either, bikes, water, or education, mainly in Africa. Also, I'm a fan of well-designed objects. All the MiiR product are beautiful objects. If you're a craft beer fan, which I am, you have access to limited edition taps and can stoke out your friends at your next camping trip or picnic. What you need function too? Try 18/8 medical grade stainless steel, double wall insulation so your brew stays cold for 24+ hours or your hot toddie stays warm for up to 12 hours. Bring a set of the stackable pint glasses. I used the Vacuum Insulated Bottle on the Stampede ride for my recovery smoothie. Worked like a charm.