Odd in many ways that OTE are not a better-known brand, partly because they are the official nutrition partners of Team Lotto Jumbo, but also, if the Duo Bar is anything to go by, their products are really rather good…
The OTE Duo Bar has been developed by professional sports nutritionists and is based on race food used by professional cycling teams. The 65g bars – we had the chocolate chip to test out – are pre-sliced into two equal bites, with each serving up approximately 20g of carbohydrate, enough we would figure to push through around 40minutes of training or racing depending on intensity.
The texture of the Duo Bar is crumbly with a homemade appeal, slightly on the dry side and certainly needing a swig of water to consume, but the taste is decidedly good without being overly sweet. The nutrition, beyond the 40g carbs per bar (18g of which are sugars), also stacks up quite neatly: 10g of protein, 1.5g fibre and decent levels of fortification including B12, calcium and magnesium. Although most of the supplementary levels are quite low it all helps, especially when it comes to replacing even small amounts of body salts lost through sweat.
Whilst the Duo Bar is certainly too dry to depend on alone during exercise – we really got through the water bottle on test – it’s certainly worth adding to the list of nutrition foods to help power your training and racing.
An individual 65g OTE Duo Bar, chocolate or vanilla, retails at £1.85 with boxes of 24 available at £39.96. Further details and online purchase at otesports.co.uk
Quoc Pham, purveyors of ‘classically-inspired, hand-lasted cycling shoes’, first came to our attention when they launched with the ‘fixed’ touring shoe around five years ago. Although a beautiful piece of kit the need for retro toe-clips made for limited appeal.
Since then the company has expanded the range to include SPD compatible shoes including the Urbanite. A classic and clean looking shoe with leather uppers and a stiff rubber sole, the Urbanite comes in ‘Low’ and ‘Mid’ models, with the Mid offering a higher, desert boot-like, shape and the Low more easily passing for a rather smart pair of sneakers.
We road tested the Quoc Pham Urbanite Low for a week using various SPD equipped bikes.
The company claims that by using leather the shoe softens, and moulds to fit with use. Even after just a week it was clear that this was no exaggeration. The hardened mid-sole gave a secure and effortless pedal action and was perfect for the average commuter ride. Encountering wet, cold, warm and windy weather it was clear that the Urbanite was snug and wind resistant but stayed cool in the heat and once off the bike we quickly forgot they were anything but a normal, high-quality, pair of shoes.
Apart from the clean styling the attention to detail also impresses. Fitting the SPD clips on the sole was effortless and the reflective strip on the heel is a nice touch. The addition of an elastic strip on the tongue makes sure laces stay away from moving parts.
We tested the Quoc Pham Urbanite Low in tan but black and brown are also available if you’re looking to colour coordinate your classic, retro look. The upper is Leather with a leather lining and the shoes also feature a reinforcement mess inner layer, lace closures and 3M reflective heel stripes. The sole is moulded rubber with a full-length hardened mid sole, and a wide base for extra comfort, whilst the sockliner is made from natural cork. They weigh in at 450g (size 43.)
If you are looking for an all-day shoe for commuting the Quoc Pham Urbanite does the job in a comfortable, understated way that undeniably adds a dash of style to the ride.
The cycling world is undeniably full of some pretty sexy kit – weather-defying materials, carbon components, high-tech gadgets and the latest nutritional science. It’s equally undeniable that there are some mundane issues that need to be addressed and some kit that really can’t be described as anything but functional; Quickstrap, part of the Quickloader family of products falls squarely into that category.
The Quickstrap is a unique strapping system that probably has a dozen applications for cyclists – although in all honesty Cyclo have only, so far, used it only for added securing of bikes to car-racks and for garage storage support. Pretty sure you’ll come up with other applications (let us know…)
A couple of things set the Quickstrap apart from more conventional strapping systems. Firstly there are no hooks, buckles or other fasteners to tackle, the Quickstrap just wraps around and through itself making attachment and removal a doddle. The lack of any metal or plastic components means that there’s nothing to scratch or dink the bike (or whatever you’re securing) and the rubberised material won’t crack or harden with age, meaning a set of these are likely to last you years.
Sold in sets of two for £11.94, each QuickStrap is 90cm long and capable of supporting a load of around 50kg (120lbs); they can also be linked together in various combinations as the situation requires.
There you go: not sexy, but incredibly useful and versatile.
Further details of the QuickStrap at quickloader.com and online purchase via aspli.com
Far, far too often Cyclo’s race nutrition plan looks like this: eat something sweet, eat something else sweet, feel sick, fail to eat anything else. Not good. Salvation from this reoccurring recipe for disaster could, in part, come in the shape of the MuleBar Eastern Express, a new savoury energy bar that bucks the sugary trend.
MuleBar have always delighted in doing things a little differently; their rage of flavours – including Piñacolada, Mango Tango and Strudel – are always a delight on the ride and it’s perhaps no surprise that they have produced something as left field as the Eastern Express given that tentative steps had already been taken with the halfway-house sweet/savoury Liquorice Allsports bar.
The Eastern Express combines pistachios, almonds, cashews & pumpkin seeds with an exotic blend of nigella seeds, cayenne pepper and garam masala (itself a heady mix of coriander, cumin, ginger, cassia, black pepper and cloves.) The result is a little like a Bombay Mix with dominant pistachio and a welcome saltiness; on paper there’s a danger that description doesn’t sound great, but trust us it tastes it.
Whilst the savouriness and salt hits the spots and proves a welcome break from the same-old sugary sweetness of most bars, the texture too is a surprise; so often on the ride, and regardless of the mix of bars you might try, texture becomes repetitive but the Eastern Express helps mix things up on this front too.
As you might expect from a bar with such a high percentage of nuts and seeds (about 20% by weight) there’s a significant delivery of protein – 7.1g per 56g bar – making them good for recovery too. By way of contrast, taking the Mango Tango flavour as being fairly representative, that would serve up just 4g per 56g bar. But Eastern Express doesn’t skimp on the energy levels with an impressive 265Kcal per bar, actually higher than the Mango’s 201Kcal, and 22.5g of carbs (15.2g of which are sugars). All this makes the Eastern Express a credible mix not just a novelty flavour.
Of course the bars do benefit from a swig of water to help digest, yet, despite the savouriness, no more so than your average sweet energy bar we found.
MuleBar Eastern Express bars are available in packs of 5 at £7.99, 12 at £19.00, 24 at £38.00 and, representing a 10% saving, boxes of 48 at £68.00. Full details and online purchase at MuleBar.com
Whilst you would be hard pushed to find a full-function bike computer for under £100 the RFLKT from Wahoo Fitness offers an affordable and surprisingly comprehensive solution by utilising the power of the iPhone.
Put simple the RFLKT mirrors, or reflects (hence the name minus some vowels and a random K), various popular iPhone apps, including Strava, Cyclemeter and own-brand Wahoo Fitness, bringing all the data wirelessly to a neat handlebar-mounted screen. Out of the box the RFLKT includes a ‘Quick Start Guide’ so stripped back it may as well say ‘look online’, which, to all intense and purposes, it does. Thankfully the online instructions are comprehensive, easy to follow and exceptionally straight forward. It’s a quick step to pair the RFLKT with the iPhone and get the chosen app running and synced – beyond that the complexity is really up to the user with no end or tweaks and personalisation available.
There are a number of particularly useful functions to the RFLKT not least the ability to customise a number of screens to only illustrate the data you require most often – with more info available at the touch of a button, of which the RFLKT has four (slightly stiff at first use, but quickly bedding in.) And, if you’re the kind of cyclist who listens to music on the ride rather than paying attention to your surroundings, you can even control volume straight from the handlebars.
Whilst you could achieve much of this by mounting your iPhone direct onto the bike it’s obviously advantageous to have that tucked away in a jersey pocket or seatpost bag, safe from weather and potential tumbles. The screen, monochrome but of sufficient quality, is also much more readable than using just an iPhone screen, which are notoriously reflective in bright conditions.
There are though a couple of issues to take note of: using Bluetooth is an infamous drain on the iPhone’s already infamous battery life and you’re going to feel that extra time pressure on the longer training rides. That said the RFLKT can display the iPhone battery percentage so at least you’ll know how long you have left to get to where you’re going. Also those with smaller capacity iPhones or with lots of apps already loaded and taking up space are likely to struggle with being able to add more of the ready-made screen configurations within the Wahoo Fitness app itself. But at a basic level the RFLKT works exactly as advertised and does so very well.
For less than £80 the RFLKT actually achieves an incredible amount. It’s conceivable to spend entire days experimenting with the possibilities and configuring various data options rather than actually getting out there and training. But once you do all the data you could ever require will be right at your fingertips.
The RFLKT ships with everything needed for mounting on stem, bar or via ‘quarter-turn’ mount. Whilst it works predominantly with the iPhone, there are Android options with full details of compatibility here.
Worth considering as an extra, and something Cyclo had on test with the RFLKT, is the Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor. Costing £39.99 the wireless sensor pairs quickly with the Wahoo Fitness app and can be mounted with zip-ties to the crank or via Velcro and a silicon pod directly onto the shoe. Those that really love crunching the numbers after a ride or race will appreciate the addition metrics.
The Wahoo Fitness RFLKT retails at £79.99 and the RFLKT +, which adds ANT+ connectivity, altimeter, and thermometer, retails at £109.99. Further details and online purchase at uk.wahoofitness.com
Overdrive Sox from 110% offer an innovative way of getting things started with Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation – often known simply as RICE – the tried and tested regime for speeding recovery post-exercise.
In essence the Overdrive Sox are a two part-system consisting of a performance compression sock, which can be worn for training and an additional over-sock ‘ice sleeve’ for use during recovery or rehabilitation. The main compression sock is a long, calf-length affair, which incorporates graduated compression (tighter to less constrictive from bottom to top) designed to increase blood-flow during exercise and help ‘flush’ lactic acid. Whilst lactic acid, a by-product of strenuous exercise, was once considered detrimental the jury is now a rather more out on the subject, but helping rid the muscles of the lower legs of it certainly can’t hurt.
The sock is comfortable with a fairly generous toe box, good squeeze and support through the arch and enough elasticity (15% spandex to 85% nylon) to move freely yet still deliver the compression. The sock is relatively thick, adequate for colder – but possibly not mid-winter – rides, and with decent wicking. The bulk may make it impractical for use with certain cycling shoes, but MTBers might find great flexibility here.
The unique selling point for the Overdrive Sox though is the recovery and here things get a bit fiddly…
The whole kit comes in an over-sized padded thermal bag that looks fit to ship transplant organs. Inside, in addition to the compression socks, are a range of pads, which can be trimmed to shape and size, and the ‘ice sleeve’ that houses them. Before use the pads need to sprayed with or soaked in warm water until they expand to around ½ inch, then wiped dry and popped into the freezer to set. Once done the ‘ice sleeves’, which have a higher 30% spandex mix, slip on over the compression socks and the frozen pads can be inserted into various pockets to treat whatever needs the healing touch – plantar fascia, Achilles, calf, etc. ‘This is not rocket science’ say the instructions; granted but a little time-consuming, which means you may more readily grab a bag of frozen peas.
Despite the time-drain or degree of pre-planning needed the Overdrive Sox do work incredibly well, yes they feel rather over-engineered but the results are a credible speeding up of recovery and relief from post-training aching muscles.
Overdrive Sox are available in four sizes – S to XL – retailing at £58.50 from 110shop.co.uk
For quite some time QM Sports Care QM2 Hot Embrocation has been Cyclo’s default muscle rub – a ridiculously complex name, but we’ve always found it hits the spot when it comes to aching legs and exhausted muscles. Enter though Hot Ginger Muscle Rub from relative new kids Natural Hero – a ‘superpowered’ recovery product boasting 98% natural ingredients, which, coming from the makers of the excellent Cool Peppermint Muscle Spritz (review here), we felt compelled to put to the test.
Hot Ginger Muscle Rub boasts a range or natural ingredients including ginger root oil (obviously), fennel – a ‘vasorelaxant’, which aids absorption, rosemary leaf oil, which apparently just smells nice, and borage seed oil (starflower), which is a rich source of essential fatty acids to aid muscle repair. To each their own on the perceived efficacy of any of these ingredients, but what we can say for sure is two things: the sensation of heat is extremely mild and it’s absorption rate was middling. If you’ll forgive the excess of detail, our testers overly hairy legs still looked like a matted spaniel even after many minutes of vigorous massaging.
If you are wondering about the 2% synthetic ingredients they are benzyl alcohol and the emulsifier sodium stearoyl glutamate – nothing in the least to worry about, but curious that Natural Hero didn’t got the whole hog on the natural front…
Okay, so QM still retains the title as far as Cyclo is concerned (despite being ridiculously difficult to source) but Hot Ginger Muscle Rub is a great alternative for those looking for a less ‘sciency’ or industrial approach to rubbing away those post-ride aches and pains. Natural Hero Hot Ginger Muscle Rub retails at £9.99 (100ml) with details and online purchase at naturalhero.co.uk
The Tangent Trainer is designed for use with a turbo trainer; it’s one of those deceptively simple innovations that always begs the question why hasn’t this been thought of before? Bolted between the crank and any clip-in pedal – a painlessly simple operation, well within the grasp of most cyclists – the Tangent Trainer demands a ‘tow’ pedal action for optimum transference of energy.
It takes some getting used to of course – it’s a training tool after all – and initially using the Tangent Trainer is a little like patting your head whilst rubbing your stomach, but with practice (and starting slowly) the technique becomes almost second nature. Although we didn’t find it necessary it’s fine to start with just one Tangent Trainer attached – on the non-dominant foot – and move things on from there. It’s important not to over use it, particularly at first, and the manufacturers suggest two sessions a week of around 20 minutes – that certainly fitted with our testing regime as little-used muscle groups slowly kicked in.
The makers say that trials are still on-going to establish true power gains from working with the Tangent Trainer, but estimate that as much as 20% could be achievable. Even sitting on the side of overly pessimistic a 10% gain would be impressive and worth the investment in the Tangent Trainer.
It may not seem that important, but we also thought the Tangent Trainer was really rather pleasing aesthetically; too often we see gadgets of one kind or another hitting the market still looking like prototypes. The Tangent is both beautifully engineered and has clearly had much attention paid to detail.
The Tangent Trainer, although not cheap at £99.99, should pay dividends for those serious about upping their game and improving their technique for either road or track. Full details, including fitting instruction video, and online purchase at tangenttrainer.com