There is much to be said about adding as much visibility as possible on the bike – especially in poor visibility and low light. The Aura Belt is an interesting solution from a new Brit start-up, which looks to address the issue of 360degree visibility; whilst traditional lights (regardless of how many you add) broadly provide illumination front and back, the Aura Belt delivers all-round light and resolves the problem of side-on illumination and protection.
Constructed from high-wearing ‘ballistic’ nylon, the Aura features an integrated LED strip (powered by a replaceable CR2032 battery) beneath coloured, weather-proof, fabric which switches on via a button next to the clip fastener. Available in six colours – pink, yellow, orange, blue, red, green – the belt can deliver either a fixed ‘on’ glow or two speeds of pulsing flash. Construction is substantial and it feels built to last, it might not quite be a thing of beauty but in terms of functionality it’s spot on.
The Aura Belt currently comes as one-size-fits all, adjustable from ‘Women’s size UK 4 to men’s size 38inch’, a good starting point but smaller sizes – specifically for children – would be an excellent addition as would, perhaps, larger ones to accommodate rainy-weather commuters fully layered-up against the elements.
At £25 the Aura Belts are pretty much on the money. There are very few other products on the market that address the 360degree and side-on safety issue (the Nathan LightBender at £20 perhaps or the Fibre Flare Shorty at £27.99 – Cyclo review here) but Aura Belts do it with some style. Expect to see theses in shops soon, but for now they can be ordered at auracyclesystems.co.uk with the addition of £3.50 P&P which covers any number of belts ordered and world-wide delivery.
Cyclo highly recommends Aura Belts – light up and be seen…
Renowned manufacturer of bike systems and riders’ equipment Mavic, based in Annecy, France, has been an official partner and sponsor of the Tour de France since the 1970s. Founded in 1889 – their name an acronym for ‘Manufacture d’Articles Vélocipédiques Idoux et Chanel’ (phew) – it’s fair to say they know a thing or two about the sport and with their first carbon clinchers, the Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40 C Wheels, fresh to market Cyclo were naturally eager to put them through their paces.
Three years in development, The Cosmic is a wheel-tyre system, which comes with slim Yksion Pro tyres (190g each), inner tubes, skewers and wheel bags. They have high stiffness, carbon/alloy hubs with aero flanges, integrated nipples and weigh 1,545g for a 40mm-deep pair (front wheel: 670g, front wheel with tyre – WTS: 940g) and 2,085g for the pair of wheels with tyres. But it’s not the weight (there are lighter clingers available) that sets them apart.
There are two recognised difficulties in developing a carbon fibre rim for a clincher; the first is the resistance of the sidewalls to the pressure of the tyre and the second is the resistance of the brake track to the heat created by braking. Whilst an aluminum rim is able to dissipate heat relatively quickly and aluminum resists very high temperatures, that is not the case for carbon fibre (and especially for the resin holding it together) and this inability to resist the heat can tend to cause softening and the failure of the sidewalls.
Mavic’s solution: a combination of an aluminum insert (completely different from a normal rim) with carbon fibre, which uses a resin able to withstand very high temperatures. Two types of resins are used on the brake track, each one having its own glass transition temperature. Mavic’s Maximum Glass Transition Temperature TgMAX technology consists of laying up several types of high technology resins, then fixing them using a proprietary heat treatment process to achieve the highest possible resistance to braking heat. In addition the manufacturing process, Mavic say, allows them to drill only the inner rim wall and not the aluminum insert, this avoids having to drill the tyre bed of the rim, making for a stronger rim as the inside is left uncompromised by holes.
Mavic tested the Cosmics with a 100kg rider on a 10km downhill section of Mount Ventoux in the Alps, riding at a consistently high speed whilst constantly applying the brakes. They measured the heat inside the rim with a T° patch and each sample had to withstand multiple descents. Whilst Cyclo lacked both the Alps and a 100kg rider (we’ll admit to 70kg), we set about testing the Cosmics…
Having fitted the yellow carbon rim brake pads (which Mavic supplied with the wheels) to our Specialized Transition time trial bike we took the Cosmics out for a ride over a mix of fast flat and hilly terrain. The Cosmics felt stiff and light when we climbed steep, winding ascents and certainly much easier to climb with than our normal day-to-day wheel (Easton EA90 SLX), a relatively light wheel (1,398g for the wheelset without tyres). Descending relatively short but steep and fast technical descents in dry conditions we found the brakes to be very efficient when applying the pressure needed.
On the flat it felt like the Cosmics really came into their own. Certainly over the shorter distance they felt nimble and quick to accelerate, and when we pulled into a sprint the sensation of speed was exceptional. What’s more we found that we could maintain the sprint for longer than usual; whether this was a mix of strong legs on the day combined with the wheels, only time will tell, but the Cosmics certainly delivered a very smooth ride and more than met our expectations.
The Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40 C wheel-tyre system has an RRP of £1,800, more details at mavic.com or see the video below…
When it comes to choosing sunglasses there are many criteria to consider when investing – and given some of the prices around ‘investing’ is the correct term… Not least of these considerations is manufacturer credentials and heritage (not always failsafe as even the mighty Oakley have, in our opinion, occasionally missed a trick). Consider Salice, then; with almost a hundred year’s of experience in producing quality eye-wear this Italian giant has reputation aplenty – how though do the new Salice 005 measure up?
If the name 005 feels less than inspired (something like Eye-Armour X2 always sounds so much harder working), Salice can perhaps be forgiven; it appears most of their effort has, quite rightly, gone into designing the actual glasses.
Beyond the aforementioned manufacturer’s credentials there are a number of crucial points to consider when picking new glasses. Firstly: pure aesthetics. Horses for course and no one design is going to be to everyone’s taste, but in our opinion the 005s look damn look; available in a positively phantasmagoric array of colour combinations and lens types. Cyclo was testing Salice’s trademark ITA design that hints at the country’s tricolore with green, white and red flashes across the upper front frame; a full wrap, with elegantly tapering arm, they manage to look good without seeming to try too hard, with the added benefit of not appearing overly engineered or unnecessarily fussy. ‘Simple and elegant’ is perhaps the reductive way to put it.
Moving on to comfort. The Salice 005 aren’t exactly featherlight, but weighing in at less than 30g and with a flexible, adjustable nose piece they sit perfectly comfortably with generously large rubberised grips on the arm ends keeping them securely in place. The frame and lens curve is such that even those with the lashes of a cow shouldn’t experience any close-call discomfort and although they lack the multi-flexibility that gives some maker’s glasses an almost bespoke feel the overall level of comfort is more than adequate.
Polarized and photochromic lens options are available, whilst Cyclo was testing the more workmanlike mirror options. With to-be-expected 100% protection against UVA, B and C rays, these antiglare lenses performed admirably even riding into setting sunlight, with contrast strong and negligible image distortion even on the very periphery of vision. Unlike the 006 iteration, the Salice 005 features two individual lenses which, with triple-vents to the top and semi-open aspect to the sides, failed to fog even on our hottest test ride. The lenses are interchangeable (they ship with clear, low-light appropriate options for when you just need a ‘windscreen for the eyes’) and snap in and out effectively with little fuss or recourse to checking complex instructions. That alone is refreshing and makes them worthy of recommendation.
The ITA design with mirror lens ships at £69.95, whilst the transitional photochromic option costs £74.95 and the polarized £84.95. The price-point, whilst hardly in the budget category, hits the mark dead on for the quality of both build and lens, making the Salice 005 a solid option that adds a dash of Italian dolce vita. Still a shame about the name 005…
Keeping kit and belongings dry on the bike is a perennial problem and, if legend is to believed, one that caught the attention of two brothers from South Africa – both engineers and keen mountain bikers. Out one day in the bush and caught in a torrential downpour that soaked or diluted everything in their saddlebags and pockets they noticing that the only thing unaffected was the water in their camelbaks; it set them thinking that perhaps using the tech that kept fluid in, could be used to keep fluid out. And so pOcpacs were born.
The pOcpacs range of sealable bike packs are made from recyclable (though not actually recycled) material which has both memory and elasticity, meaning the cases can be filled to the brim and still close effortlessly. The closure is achieved via a fairly standard looking zipped press-seal (with a substantial metal zipper) but unlike many fastenings of this type Cyclo has encountered they stayed firmly and reassuringly shut however much we tried to over-stuff the packs.
pOcpacs are available in three flavours: The Off-Road Pac, the largest at approximately 150x170mm, has a clear plastic divider inside and easily held a multitool, spare inner, puncture kit, gels, wallet, keys and various other cycling detritus. The Road Pac – slightly smaller at approximately 150x140mm – also features an internal divider and neatly fitted an inner, tyre leavers, gels and other odds and ends. Finally the iPac (at 140x95mm) is designed for phones and has the added advantage off allowing full touch-screen functionality without having to remove the phone in adverse weather.
pOcpacs are a neat and functional solution that do one thing and do it extremely well. An obvious benefit is that they can be slipped into a jersey lumber pocket; neatly hold everything together in one place (and keeping them dry as a bone) without the need for saddle- or seatpost bags. The Off-Road and Road Pacs costs £9.99 and the iPac £6.99 and whilst the simple design and branding is fine as is, the manufacturers can also supply them (minimum order of 100 units) branded for clubs or sportive events.
For almost as long as we have loved bikes we have loved Buff – the perfect, seamless multi-use headwear (the name comes from ‘bufanda’, Spanish for scarf) that has been with us on virtually very ride we can recall. Juan Rojas, a keen off-road trials motorcyclist from Spain, who had worked for more than a quarter-century in the textile industry, realised a need for a simple multifunctional garment that could be worn on or around the head in a range of conditions; eventually finding a high performance microfibre that was breathable, moisture wicking and wind resistant he created a proprietary ‘tubular loom’ knitting process and the Buff was born. New for 2013 is the Helmet Liner Pro Buff – Cyclo, naturally, wanted to know more…
Designed to be worn under a helmet (which also makes it great for potholers, climbers and skaters) the Helmet Liner Pro Buff is shorter than the traditional version at 27.5cm – compared to the 52cm original – and is made from a knitted polyester fabric with a special construction similar to beehive cells for outstanding breathability, wicking and drying.
On the ride we found a comfortably close fit beneath the helmet (an Abus Airflow, which we adjusted slightly with the ratchet dial) and despite the fact that, unlike the tubular-knit traditional Buffs, the Helmet Liner Pro does have a seam, nothing rubbed or irritated. Wicking was excellent and the addition of a topical silver ion treatment to prevent odour that can result from bacterial build up was a welcome addition.
Will the Helmet Liner Pro Buff replacing our extensive collection of other Buffs? Almost certainly not – the traditional Buffs have too many multi-purpose uses to jettison and we love the winter warmth of the Polar Buff and additional safety served up by the Reflective Buff – but the Liner Pro is an excellent and welcome addition that we can see accompanying us on rides for years to come.
The Helmet Liner Pro Buff retails at £15 and is available in a range of six colours/patterns. Further details and online purchase at buffwear.co.uk
As we never tire of mentioning: being seen at night and in low-light conditions is of paramount importance. Lights, lights and more lights is the sensible mantra but adding as much reflective surface as possible goes a long way to ensuring you (probably) won’t become another tragic statistic. An unusual solution has come our way in the form of the FlipFlap, a pocket sized reflective solution with plenty of commuter appeal.
Designed to flip out of front or rear pockets – hence really a commuter option, although arguably a rear race jersey pocket would do – one side of these reflective paddles is rubberised to grip the pocket, whilst the flap which… well, flaps out, is hi-viz, tested to (and exceeding) the EN13356 safety standard. The simplicity here is certainly one of the appeals. Tuck the whole thing back in the pocket when not in use and it’s on hand (technically on backside) and ready to be flipped out when set to hit the streets.
£16.95 (plus P&P) might sound a little steep, particularly when you could buy some simple Respro hi-viz stickers for less than £7, but the FlipFlap does offer something more substantial and certainly more portable in the sense that it can obviously be slipped into any pocket for use at any time, rather than permanently adhered. Additionally the FlipFlap can be cut into smaller panels; on delivery each ‘paddle’ (two per pack) measures approximately 100x110mm, but by cutting between the sealed guides each can be divided into three reflectives – two of 25mm and one of 50mm; all of which starts looking far more reasonable for the price.
A simple solution to better visibility, the FlipFlap adds a neat little dash of safety to the ride. And for that it should be highly commended.
For years SealSkinz have been the go-to manufacturer of waterproof apparel; their gloves, hats and socks have kept a generation of ourdoors-types safe from the elements and the only thing really missing for cyclists has been overshoes. That is all about to change with the launch in July of the highly anticipated and long-overdue SealSkinz Waterproof Overshoes – Cyclo got a first look at these and put them to the test. Did they live up to expectations?
Initial impressions were of a truly substantial looking overshoe – as tough as the kind of rides we like to take – constructed from a medium-thickness neoprene material that near-recalled a scuba boot. At the ankle a close-fitting, but not restrictive, silicone leg gripper is included to help keep everything rock-solid in place and ensure water doesn’t enter from the top, whilst the openings for cleat and heel appeared snug and featured Kevlar (which also extends to the toe) for added toughness and to prevent abrasion.
Available in S, M, L and XL; Cyclo was testing the Large which pulled on easily over the shoes (UK size 9 Specialized BG Comps) thanks, in part, to the pull-down loop – the kind of attention to detail that makes all the difference, particularly when kitting up in cold weather and with numb fingers. The heel-to-top zipper, with reflective tab, all tucked away neatly behind the integrated storm flap – which, as the name suggests, further keeps weather at bay – and final adjustments were made with the adjustable Velcro ankle strap.
Cleating in for the first time proved initially tricky. The closures around the cleats are very snug – a necessary feature of such complete attention to waterproofing – but with practice this became easier and a slight amount of ‘give’ (not enough to worry about long-term we felt) also meant the task became less of an issue. Riding in both wet and near-freezing conditions we repeatedly found that the SealSkinz Waterproof Overshoes performed to – probably even beyond – our expectations; warm(ish), dry feet at the end of a long late-winter ride is always something to aspire to and the Sealz certainly helped deliver that.
We had expected good things from the SealSkinz Waterproof Overshoes and good things we got. When launched they will retail at £30 – comparable to something like the dhb Extreme Weather Overshoe – but for our money looking set to compete with the likes of the Castelli Estremo, just at a third of the cost. Sealz will also be launching their Lightweight Waterproof Overshoes specifically for MTB, Cyclo will bring you a review soon…
Once launched in August full details of the SealSkinz Waterproof Overshoes will be available at sealskinz.com – to read the Cyclo review of the SealSkinz Waterproof Thin Socklet click here.
This review, in adapted form, is also published on our sister site TriGear.co.uk
Zéfal have a solid reputation for both value for money and the quality of product that said money gets you. The Zéfal Air Profil FC01 is no exception to either of these rules, coming in at less than £20 and being solidly built despite the slightly plastic feel.
The thermoplastic construction is reinforced with an aluminium stem, meaning there is rigidity and muscle where it’s needed most, and, thanks to the telescopic barrel, the Profil almost doubles its stowed length of 200mm when in action. This more substantial ‘action-length’ means that a pressure of 6bar (87psi) was easily achieved and a tyre, from flat, was fully inflated in less than 150 strokes. Cyclo found we hardly broke a sweat even squeezing in those final few strokes.
The connector is integrated – so we won’t have to dump it with the dozens of other discarded pumps that have lost them – and switching between Presta and Schrader involved the simple unscrewing and reversing of the connector end. Flexibility is good to, so reduced chance of damage to the valve stem, and the connection itself felt rock solid. The chunkier design makes it (probably) more suited to MTB, as does the bike mount – with Velcro fastenings, which doesn’t lend itself to bottle cage integration.
At 116g the Zéfal Air Profil FC01 is mid-weight and the extra bulk actually makes for a more comfortable grip and easier refill. A full five pounds cheaper than the similarly featured Topeak Race Rocket Master Blaster Mini Pump (£24.99) it’s easy to see why Zéfal maintain such a good budget option reputation.
For further details and to find a retailer see zyro.co.uk or take a look at the video below (in French, but don’t panic – subtitles provided…)