Light and Motion Urban 700 Review

Daylight savings time is finally here and the sun is sure to set by 5PM on the East Coast.  A good bicycle headlight is not only needed for visibility, but also a big factor in safety.  The Light and Motion Urban 700 was able to provide both while commuting. It also pushed out enough light to visit some backwoods trails.

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Bicycle lights have come a long way since their inception as carbide lamps powered by acetylene gas.  They are now small, powerful, and affordable. The Light and Motion Urban 700 is rechargeable and projects 700 lumens of light at a wider angle than most other manufacturers.  The unit comes equipped with amber lights on each side of the headlamp so you can easily be seen from the side; one can say it is perfectly designed for city riding.  Weighing only 119 grams, the light boasts a run time of 1 hour 30 minutes at 700 lumens and double that at 300 lumens.

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The rubber mounting system is simple and user friendly.  All you have to do is stretch the rubber band around your handlebar and lock it on the light around the other side.  It can fit any size handlebar and stays attached to the light so it does not take up any space on the bar while riding during the day.  A surprising feature was that the light can be spun a full 360 degrees while mounted so you are in ultimate control of where you want your light to shine.

The Light and Motion Urban 700 retails for $159, but you are sure to find some great deals at fairly lower prices during lighting season.  It comes equipped with USB recharging cable and helmet mount. Get seen and be seen!

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SRAM XX1: A Brief Review

SRAM’s new XX1 (1×11) drive train could be the only set of gears we need here in the North East. That statement is bold for a reason.  Once you ride with this gear set over on Long Island, you look back thinking “what were those other rings for?” Instead of boring you with the technobabble of SRAM’s x-sync, x-horizon, x-actuation, roller bearing clutch, cage lock, thing-a-ma-jigs, I’ll let you know what I found out after my first few rides: the XX1 is packed with new technology that made this group set extremely efficient, reliable, fast, and fun to use.

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The 11-speed spacing (10-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32-36-42) felt great with the 32 tooth front ring, however, your gear ratio can be fine tuned by replacing the front ring with several available sizes (28,30,32,34,36,38).  SRAM really makes you feel like you are in control by offering such a wide range of front chain rings to match your terrain, wheel size, and riding style without even needing to remove the crank set.

xx1train

The trigger shifter has a unique audible click that is crisp and clear.  Shifting into gear feels effortless both up front on the trigger and down back on the derailleur.  Throughout the day, the XX1 system shifted with precision and speed without dropping a chain.  Riding through technical trails felt much easier only having to worry about using my right fingers to shift and my left finger to feather the front brake.  It gave me more control managing technical sections of the trail and more speed coming out of each turn.

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One major downside is that the SRAM XX1 requires meticulous installation.  You must pay special attention to the alignment of the rear derailleur hangers as a slightly tweaked hanger will ruin the XX1 precision shifting.  Once I had gotten that all sorted out, the XX1 rear derailleur kept my chain glued to the front ring by keeping constant tension on the chain.full kit

Overall, the drive train is simply fun to use.  I could not ask for a different gear ratio riding my 29er hard tail on Long Island. And the weight savings – don’t even get me started. This may be a must have for all you weight weenies out there.

Skratch Labs Apples and Cinnamon (HOT) Excercise Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs said it best themselves:

“Who ever heard of a hot sports drink? Nobody, that’s who.  And that’s exactly why we made one.”

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Skratch Labs only uses all-natural ingredients for a great tasting product and even better performance.  I was skeptical using their “hot” mix at first, but it surely proves to be a great treat.  Skratch Labs Apples and Cinnamon does not disappoint.

It was pretty brisk before my ride yesterday morning so I quickly heated up some water in a travel mug for about thirty seconds and poured in a single serving packet.  The result was an explosion of flavor in my mouth.  You can tell they use real apples and cinnamon because it truly tasted like a delicious apple.  It was easy on the stomach, providing hydration with each sip and quenching your thirst.  Although the mix is clearly labeled “HOT”, I had to try it cold.  I was surprised that is also tasted great.  The guys over at Skratch labs also provided some great pointers in exercising in cold weather:

No reason to take our word for it, try it out yourself at http://www.BrandsCycle.com.

BarFly 2.0 Mount Review

Okay, what can we say – we are gear junkies.

All Three Mounts

The SRAM quickview, BarFly 1.0, and BarFly 2.0

BarFly’s new 2.0 Garmin mount is more aerodynamic and now supports the latest Di2/EPS junction boxes in comparison to its older cousin from years prior.  Specifically, there is a space designed at the bottom of the mount to attach the junction box to.  The mount itself sits level with your stem, instead of above or below, in an effort to reduce any extra drag.  Additionally, the mount offers two mounting positions and compatibility with two different computer sizes (the 200/500 and the 510/800/810).

Junction box

On the downside, the 2.0 is still slightly heavier than the SRAM quick mount and the previous BarFly generation.  However, if you are running Di2 or EPS, the BarFly 2.0 is a must have for junction box installation.

Weight

20 Grams

SRAM QuickView Mount Review

Just stopped by my local shop and picked up a SRAM QuickView Mount for the Garmin Edge.  I just wanted briefly let everyone know that it was not a wasted purchase.  Sure, the proprietary mount worked fine last year, however, I was simply in the mood for something new without breaking the bank.  This thing is sleek, lightweight, and holds your Garmin Edge 200, 500, 510, 800, or 810 devices securely in place.  The position of the unit allows for easy viewing while riding.

Front of Packaging
Back of Packaging

Installation was a joke (as with most handlebar components) and the purchase only made my pockets about $20.00 lighter.  Unfortunately, there are no adapters included so if your bar is smaller or larger than the standard 31.8mm you may run into a problem.

Weight on Scale

As a barfly owner, I do have to say I like them equally.  However, at the price differential (about $40.00 for the bar fly), you really cannot go wrong with the QuickView.  And at about the same weight, the comparison really is a no brainer.

Alternate Mounted View

Alternate Mounted View

Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070 Review

The time of electronic shifting has finally come of age.  It offers precision shifting in all conditions, a self-trimming front derailleur, push button convenience, and low maintenance.  I was originally weary with the first generation of Dura-Ace electronic shifting, however, the Di2 9070 is definitely cream of the crop.

The Di2 9070 Groupset

Here are several key features on the new Dura-Ace 9070 Di2:

1.  There are multiple shifting options available – “climbing”, “sprint”, bar-end, and standard brake lever.  The new junction box (SM-EW-90 A/B) enables the rider to connect any of these shifting options neatly below the stem and the box can be mounted anywhere you would like.

2. The PC linkage device allows you to plug your bike into a desktop computer (talk about Back to the Future! Will I warp in time when I hit 1.21 gigawatts? ) to program the functionality of each shifter and update the firmware of each component.  For example: You can now program the shifters to “multi shift” (which allows the bike to continuously shift as long as you continue to hold the shift lever).  The PC link also allows the use of advanced software to diagnose and troubleshoot any problems.

3. The shifter lever has been re-designed and offers a comfortable feel.

4. The battery is completely internal and rests directly inside your seat post.  You can remove the battery for charging or use an external plug located at the junction box.

5. With the external battery, the entire system weighs only 60 grams more than the Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical group set.

6. The Etube wire can be purchased in various lengths to allow for a precise cable run.

7. It is 11-speed and can be configured with up to a 28t cassette.

E-tube Project Software for programming, troubleshooting, and customization

Real World Testing:

I took my Cevelo R5 VWD equipped with the new Shimano 9070 Di2 towards route 9W and into Rockland, NY for the GFNY13 training ride.  The ride consists of approximately 100+ miles and 6,000+ feet of climbing, and not to be forgotten, some 15mph wind gusts that certainly added to the challenge.

Having used the Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical group for the last four months, I can happily say switching to the Di2 9070 was pure joy.  The transition felt seamless.  Push button shifting was intuitive, effortless, precise, and as stated earlier, the feel of the levers were extremely comfortable.  You literally only need  slight touch to shift the front or rear derailleur.  This gave me much better control while on the hoods and while standing up for climbs or a brief sprint.

Ergonomic Lever

Extra E-Tube port

I programmed my rear derailleur to multi-shift while holding down the lever.  Shifting was uninhibited, predictable, and smooth.  It reminded me of an automatic transmission in your car.  The fast reflexes of  the system led me to believe that drivetrain shock under pressure was almost nonexistant.  Standing up to sprint and shifting without easing up made my bike feel almost flawless.

Rear Derailleur Installed

The front derailleur adjusts trim on the fly for ultra quiet operation, while allowing for fast and powerful shifting.  Having had my bike properly adjusted by a trained Di2 mechanic definitely helped, however, I felt absolutely no chain rub whatsoever during my ride.  The only sound I would hear during my ride was the servo working like a good little robot.  I remember being annoyed by manually adjusting the trim on my mechanical group in the past and was excited to not worry in the future.  The only problem I encountered was shifting from the small ring to the big ring in which the derailleur failed to engage once or twice.  But, nevertheless, perhaps I was pedaling a bit too hard during the shift.

Front Derailleur Installed and Battery Mounted

Shimano manufactured two different types of batteries for the Di2 system.  One can be internally mounted within your seat post or frame (if your bike allows it).  The other, which I purchased, is an external battery that can be installed anywhere around the bottom bracket or using your water bottle mount.  Shimano claims that you can reach approximately 1,500 miles before recharge and charging time is only a little over an hour with the external charger.

Overall, making the switch to the Shimano Dura-Ace 9070 Di2 is completely worth it despite the expense and negligible added weight of the battery compared to the mechanical group.  The ultra fast, precise, reliable shifting is second to none.  The system truly gets out of the way and lets you do what you need to do – RIDE.

SMJC 40 Junction Box Installed with Precision

 

OSMO Active Hydration: Blackberry Review

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OSMO Nutrition has successfully engineered an active hydration supplement based entirely on how the body absorbs nutrients and fluids.  Their studies show that electrolyte and nutrient absorption is optimized by using natural and organic ingredients in their active hydration mixes.  Simply stated:  The hydration mix is designed to make sure you don’t get thirsty.

I took several packs of single serve OSMO Active Hydration: Blackberry on a recent group ride.  I figured the only way to really test this stuff was to make sure I was pushing myself to an optimal level of performance.  The ride was three hours long across 70 miles and approximately 6,000 feet of climbing.  It began at Exit 2 on Route 9W, went to Bear Mountain, and back.  I packed some OSMO, my favorite gel blocks, a power bar, and some bananas.

As a skeptic at first, I wondered: “What can this really do for me?”  I was happy to see the product actually delivers.  Needless to say, my body felt great during and after the ride.  I did not experience any bonking or cramping, and with each sip from my water bottle, I felt my quench for thirst relieved.  I immediately became a believer.

The single serving packets I had been given were extremely convenient and easy to use with a 16oz water bottle (rip the packet, pour it in, shake it up).  I later purchased the 14.1oz  container and have been using it on every ride since.  Each 16oz water bottle only requires two scoops of the mix. I was astonished that the mix was also cost-effective.  Furthermore, it was very easy on the stomach and had a great taste.  My legs hurt from the miles of climbing, however, I did not once experience any cramping or fatigue.  The supplemental hydration mix certainly helps ensure a positive riding experience.

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“Established Science”