Archive | February, 2008

Kmeleon Compression Shorts & Tights – Review

24 Feb


Kmeleon is a new company that designs and manufactures compression athletic apparel in Montreal. They sent Cyclocosm a pair of their shorts and tights for testing and reveiw. Here’s how things shook out:

Style: 3. While not the most exciting look in the world, there’s something to be said for a plain pair of black shorts, especially ones without garish stitched seams and with a beautifully understated logo. Plus the compression material tends to give legs a nice shape.

Fit: 3. Even for bike shorts, they’re tight. But as I mentioned earlier, your less-toned areas tend to get shaped and stay put, rather then get mushed out and jiggle. A few beefs, though: the hemline of the short isn’t raised in the back, leading the unsightly lower back gap between short and jersey, and the knees of the tights aren’t articulated enough to comfortable accommodate the knee angle at the top of the pedal stroke.

Features: 4. I’ve always been skeptical about the benefits of compression garments, but there’s a clear and immediate difference between these and a standard pair of bike shorts. Kind of like a gentle pressure keeping everything lined up. It also really seems to reduce the jelly-legged sensation you tend to get at the end of a long, exhausting ride. Add to that the fact that these things wick better than any other short I’ve ever worn, and you’ve a pretty serious technical garment.

Comfort: 2. There is no chamois. Let me say that again: there is no chamois. That’s a huge issue. There is a soft, breathable, and flexible gusset between the legs, but it just doesn’t provide the cushion and friction reduction you need for plus rides. Maybe your backside is tougher than mine, maybe you stand up a lot, but for most, consensus is you’ve gotta have something down there.

Durability: 4. I haven’t put in the time I’d like to in these garments, but after a few months of commuting with the tights (and one rough tumble at the corner of Adams and Medford), there’s no fraying, scuffing, unravelling, or loss of elasticity. Plus their specially-treated fibers don’t pick up the stench most wicking garments gather after a few wears.

Final Thoughts: It’s really a shame about the chamois thing, because these garments perform fantastically, and the other glitches (non-articulated knees, low waistline in the back) are minor. But Kmeleon has assured me they’re developing a bike short with a fat 3mm of chamois to keep you cozy for long hours in the saddle. So as it stands, the shorts / tights are great for commuting, short mountain rides with lots of standing, or multi-sport use, but a definite miss for the high-milage guys.

Another Week, Another French Win.

17 Feb

Right…so I took on a third job last week. Questionable judgment on my part, I know, but it appears to be a short-term kinda thing. At any rate, some of my predictions in last week’s post have already begun to come true. Astana – not invited to the ’08 Tour. No Kloeden, no Levi, no Condator. Sylvain Chavanel just got that much closer to his first TdF win.

And don’t bet on another High Road-style change of heart. Not only does High Road have a different sponsor, but its “clean” new management also didn’t spend the past 8 years winning the Tour de France under an ever-thickening cloud of suspicion. That’s not to say that the cleaner-looking members of Astana aren’t giving it the old college try in hopes of a TdF ride, but folks, it’s just not happening.

I don’t know why you’d want to start up a new race in cycling’s current environment, especially at this time of year, but the people of Grosseto thought they’d give it a whirl anyway. Didn’t work out so well. Just down the coast, the more established Tour Med concluded with another two French successes to add to the tally – Cofidis’ Chavanel with the final stage, and CA’s Botcharov with the overall.

And yeah, fine. I’ll mention the Tour of Cali. But it’s a bitter thing to me, this California; so close, and yet so far away. Also, I don’t have cable (yet). But it’s worth mentioning, as after the Puerto reopening in Spain, the ToC organizers managed to both exclude a bunch of Puerto escapados, and STFU Michael Ball in one sweet swoop. I wish that windbag a perpetual case of laryngitis.

2008: The Year of the French

10 Feb

Het Volk isn’t until March 1st this year, but it’s never too soon to start dredging the murky channels of cycling to see what fetid gunk comes up. First sloppy bucketload – some guy whose name I can’t pronounce won a race I can’t pronounce. This sort of thing would normally make me feel like an unlearned American, but since no one can agree on how Monsiour Trofimov spells his name, I’m giving myself a pass.

The Bouygues Telecom rider’s win is yet another rhinestone in the neckless of knock-off wins strung together by French teams this pre-season. Jeremy Hunt added another at the TdL to go with Matthieu Sprick’s win on Stage 1, and the only win of significance thus far, Phillipe Gilbert’s win at the non-stage race stage race in Mallorca.

As a result, I now officially declare that the 2008 TdF, for the first time in 23 years, will be won by a Frenchman – and not just because no one else will be invited. Drug scandals aside, the ’07 Tour was one of the worst in history for the host nation; their highest finisher was 27th, over an hour back. And when the obviously hesitant heads of state betrayed the effectiveness of the doping ejections, there was no more excuse of a peloton at two speeds. Someone will finally take Fignon’s adivce to heart this season, and put on a show come July.

Hopping back over to the US of A, Velonews finally launched their new website, and I must say I agree whole-heartedly with their design team: those jiggly Wrench Science ads weren’t nearly annoying enough in the right sidebar. Smack dab in the middle of text is the perfect spot. On a related note, I’ve revised the blogroll over to your left, and added a feed ripper from the blog I get paid for. I get a traffic bonus if I draw enough hits; more money for me is more content for you, so spread the word and check back frequently.

Everki Pace Cycling Backpack – Review

7 Feb

The folks at Everki sent me their Pace backpack last fall. I’ve been abusing it solidly ever since. Does it still work?

Style: 2. The first thing you notice about this pack is its relative formlessness. Kinda just a big lump, with everything else tucked away inside. And, it’s uh, mostly black. With this kind of dull, non-reflective orange highlight. Not really my thing. But all the messengers seem to be into that.

Fit & Feel: 4. Man, if only this thing had a chest strap. It’s cycling designed, so it sits low on the back, allowing you to swing your head around without the back of your helmet smacking into it. It’s impressively light, too, with decent padding/airflow on the back. But jammed full, it’s just hard to shake the feeling that its about to slide off my shoulders. A chest strap (easy enough to DIY) would make it easy 5.

Features: 4. Lotta crap on this thing. Padded iPod pouch with a cool little portal for your earbuds. So if you feel like dying young in traffic, this could be the way. A ton of other pockets/pouches for keys, tubes, levers, jimmy hats, and all are quick access – especially the shoulder strap cell phone pocket. And a super-paded laptop slot that can fit a hydration pack in a pinch. Two things missing: reflectivity and a rainfly.

Capacity: 5. For its weight and size, very impressive. I can bike into work with a full set of clothes, street shoes, rain jacket, hat and gloves back there. Helmets and stiff-soled bike shoes are notorious space hogs, but it’ll eat a set of bike gear easy if you pack the soft stuff inside your lid, and stack the shoes carefully.

Durability: 5. I had my doubts with the weight, especially after a few threads splayed early, but they haven’t continued running. I’ve been rough with it, dragging it across pavement, yanking on straps, and jamming zippers, and still nothing worse to see than scuffs. Short of tying it to horses moving in opposite directions, I can’t imagine how to abuse it more.

Final Thoughts: Maybe its your style, maybe it isn’t. Regardless, it packs a lot of size and features into a light, compact, and tough case. The chest strap issue is minor, and probably localized to the more broad-chested. It’s a great pack for the day-tripper or cyclist-about-town, but really needs for-real water resistance and reflectivity to appeal to the hardcore commuter.

more info

Sheldon Brown, R.I.P., RCS Still Alive, Qatar

6 Feb

It was a rough Sunday out here in New England. First was the Pats loss, and then came word of Sheldon Brown’s passing. It’s not so much that without Sheldon’s site I wouldn’t be writing this; it’s that I wouldn’t be on a bike. At all.

Riding a bicycle, especially an entry-level machine, causes stuff to break all the time. Waiting on the local shop (yes, that still says ’06) to fix it simply won’t keep you rolling, and Sheldon’s pages made it so anyone with access to Google and a set of metric Allen keys could keep their ride in order, and learn more than they’d ever dreamed in the process. To say he will be missed is understatement redefined.

Leaping from the loss of an immense societal contributor to the stubborn continuance of a societal leech, Italian media conglomerate RCS announced invitations for the ’08 Giro d’Italia last week. Not invited? A whole fistful of international powerhouses. Invited instead? Local Italian teams! Awesome! Evil media conglomerate’s rationale: “ethics, quality, international character [and] the historical relationship with RCS Sport”. Ah, what lofty criteria from a country so corrupt it’s drowning in its own garbage.

Seriously, though – LPR Brake’s roster features Danilo DiLuca, who spent the runt-end of last season suspended after being mired in at least two dope scandals; one of them even involved suspicious test results from his ’07 Giro victory. Perhaps to ease the obviousness of this contradiction, RCS has now dropped hints that maybe they’ll invite anti-dope pioneers Team High Road as a 22nd squad, because they might bring a little “sporting quality” and “respect for the rules” to the event – no doubt to compensate for RCS’s lack thereof.

But enough bitterness! Time to revel in the flat, sunbaked, sprint-happy glory that is the Tour of Qatar! Slipstream almost won the first stage, which is (IMHO) a fine start for the burrito powered squad. Things went pearshaped a bit when Backstedt broke his collarbone, but the big guy still has hopes for Roubaix. For me, the story of the race was Tom Boonen only winning half the stages. Last year he won nearly every day, missing only a long escape in which a teammate sealed GC victory. Could Tornado Tom be slipping?