Friday Group Ride #193

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Sometimes I find myself thinking about stuff I want, and I think, ‘yeah, I’m gonna get that stuff. It’s going to be great.’ And then I catch myself. I remember that getting stuff very seldom makes my life better. It’s doing stuff that makes me happy, and for sure, there is some relationship between the two, for example you have to have a bike to ride a bike, but at this stage in my life I’ve got so much stuff that a lack thereof is not what’s holding me back.

Last night a new helmet arrived at my house, sent to me by a company to review here on RKP. It’s a cool helmet, and I was impressed with it right away. I’m looking forward to trying it out. Stay tuned for more on that, but as I took it out of its box and formed first impressions, I also thought, well it’s heavier than my current helmet (they all are), so I began the process of putting it into context.

For most products, context is everything. I have yet to receive a review product that didn’t excel at some part of its intended function, and I think a good review highlights what a thing is good at, while acknowledging the ways it might fall short.

A good review should keep you from getting a thing and being disappointed by it. A good review should help you spend your money with a reasonable knowledge of what problem the product will solve for you. It’s harder to write that review than it might seem.

In truth, there are relatively few real revelatory products out there. There is a lot of pretty good stuff, a smaller, but not insignificant amount of very good stuff, and then this small, select number of game-changer items. One example of a game changer is a particular, thermal under-layer made by Exte Ondo that Padraig sent me a few winters back. It is the warmest, non-bulky, perfect-fitting winter riding thing I own. When I put it on, I know I’ll be warm enough. And comfortable. I can’t think of any way to make that thing better. I can’t think of any way it comes up short.

I am extremely fortunate to get regular exposure to new cycling stuff, and I take an active interest in hearing from my legion of riding friends what they like and don’t like. Despite knowing that it’s the doing not the having that matters, I am still very interested in having. But as I get older, I’m really only interested in having those best things, the game changers. I don’t have the time or room for stuff that just sorta works.

So this week’s Group Ride asks, what one thing do you have in your cycling life that you think is perfect? How did it change the game for you? And how many other things did you try before you settled on it?

Image: Assos.com

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51 comments

  1. Doug

    The game changer for me has been my Blue Collar ‘cross bike.
    It is my new favorite dirt bike. 40 something tires, tapered steerer and Whisky fork make for a solid front end. And, as we all know, the rest of the bike just follows after. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my Fox fork Ventana, but now only the gnarliest drops and rock gardens make me wish for monkey motion.

  2. Matt

    My Rapha Lightweight Bibs. I put off buying a pair, quite content with my usual Castelli kit. Now I dread the days when I don’t have a pair of clean Rapha bibs. (Which is most of the winter as I haven’t replaced my cold weather Castelli bibs with Raphas yet.)

  3. August Cole

    Fizik Aliante. You never notice it – the best thing you can say about a saddle. It followed a steel Turbomatic 3, which is a great saddle too but less forgiving. Moreover, its classic look makes it clear it’s designed to be a seat.

  4. SloKenny

    For me, one of the indispensable items is a pair of Manzella Knit Thermax gloves. Tightly knit to block just the right amount of wind, and perfect for mid-40′s through the ’60s temperature. They kept my hands warm without feeling clammy. The control dots allowed for a secure grip on the bars. You could easily and quickly take them on & off while on the bike, and they stashed away nicely in your rear pocket. I had a purple set from Nashbar that I used for years.

    When Manzella came out with a DuPont Thermostat glove found it was not as warm as the Thermax glove. I think it was because of the knit, the Therma gxloves had a finer, denser knit.

    I was on a year’s long quest for the perfect glove. I tried all sorts of gloves, fleece, Gore Windstopper, Pittard’s leather, lined Lycra gloves that cost $60, gloves with hi-tech fabrics. It didn’t matter, none of the other gloves worked as well as the $12 Manzellas.

  5. Dave

    My game changer is a horse. More specifically my wife’s horse. By the time she tacks him up and does her ride and then cools him down etc etc, 3 – 4 hours has elapsed. Perfect for me to get in a nice long ride. It’s allowed me to average 6,000+ miles a year for the last 4 years and has allowed me to be more fit than I have been in a dozen years (and at 52 that’s something). Horses are generally a PITA, and this one is, but the side benefits are awesome.

  6. kurti_sc

    Three things come to mind:
    My new carbon Sarto frame. I loved steel for sooo long. I just didn’t know any different, but a well made carbon italian frame has had me smiling all Autumn long.(but i still ride a steel mtb)
    Compact Cranks. I’m getting older and the 10 – 12% extra range is much appreciated and has given me definitely more opportunities to ride.
    An old pair of Hincapie knee warmers. These are the perfect weight for the southeast. They aren’t as warm as the Arenberg version they currently make. Except for about 4 weeks in the middle of winter, this is all of the legging I need.
    @Dave, I like your insight. That’s awesome about the horse. My wife is getting into yoga. I will make sure I am very supportive!

  7. Andy

    Merino wool anything. Comfortable, very few unpleasant weather surprises, don’t have to wash every time, cool in summer, warm in winter. Ultimately recycled (grass) & recyclable. The original manufacturer is delicious, if a little bony.

  8. Josh

    Thanks for the referral on that Etxeondo baselayer. Went online right away and found the long sleeved version on bikewagon.com for $44 shipped, and a buy it now ebay listing of the short sleeved version for $34 shipped. snapped both up. Hoping they keep me from lusting over the $80 Rapha baselayers.
    My game changer is Giro LX short finger gloves. I have worn Specialized BG gel gloves, and many others (I don’t remember them all), but these gloves are super luxe, and they feel great on the bike. I have black for road rides and tan for commuting, looking for the white for this summer as well.

  9. Tim Lane

    Helmet liners for keeping the sweat out of my eyes. I used to think they were unnecessary but I miss them if I forget to bring one along. I’m brand agnostic, Headsweats, Halo, Gut’r, they’re all good.

  10. Quentin

    I second the vote for the helmet liner.

    The contact points with the bike are where I’ve spent the most effort swapping out things until I’ve found perfection, or something close to it. Once you’ve got shorts, saddle, gloves, and shoes that you’re happy with, it doesn’t matter quite so much that you’re riding (as I do) an aging aluminum road bike and merely dreaming about newer gear.

  11. @PasadenaCyclist

    My personal game changer, without question, is my Seven Axiom SL. Nothing short of a well-fitted, custom bike could have made such a big difference to my riding. It fits me better, so I can (and want to, and desparate to) spend more time in the saddle. More time in the saddle means stronger riding. More me stronger riding means more riding. It is a vicious, beautiful circle.

  12. Randall

    Road discs for commuting. The first time it saved me from a car trying to hit me, it was worth its weigh in gold. There have been many more times since then too…

  13. Kimball

    The original Lezyne Caddie Sack in medium size. It simplified my life on those early morning roll-outs when I’m not thinking too clearly. Ideal size for a jersey pocket. Waterproof eneough. Holds everything I need – tube, patches, multi-tool, misc stuff. Longer lasting than a ziplock bag. Eliminates the seat bag. I have a gray one set up for my road bikes and a black one for my commuter bike. Doesn’t matter which road bike I hop on, I just grap the gray “Sack” and know I’m good to go. Can’t speak for the new style Caddie Sacks, but the original was perfect as is.

  14. cash

    Road Holland Arnhem jersey. Purchased based on a RKP review. It’s a perfect thing. Ideal for autumn riding in Colorado. Perfect fit (snug but not tight), just enough warmth, no bulk, as stylish as cycling jerseys get (with no apologizes to that epic brand, for epic ride/s/rs), the right price.

  15. Bill

    Gotta say, the picture at the top echoes my own experience – the Fugujack, obtained a few years back at 50% off sale, is the perfect addition to my wardrobe for cold winter rides – it’s an amazing piece of clothing! At full price, not so sure, but at the sale price it was well worth it. Keep your eyes out for sales folks!

  16. Kurti_sc

    Oh yeah, it’s not all about stuff either. Love, friendship and the curious spirit that makes the longer treks and the newly discovered routes so much more enjoyable. These occurred to me on a nice LSD ride today.

  17. Zach

    Assos Zehgo sunglasses. They fit impeccably well and the clarity is stunning – I forget that I’m wearing them. I’ve worn Rudy Project and Oakley (a few pairs) and there’s no comparison. And while it took me awhile to come to terms with the price, I can now say that they are worth every penny.

  18. Steve

    Two main things- Wind proof fabrics on the the front half and wool anywhere else; socks, base layers, long sleeve jerseys, you name it.
    There are lots of others.. lighter, stiffer carbon frames, forks and other bits…. bib knickers, wool hats under your helmet and that Asso IJHabu jacket I found for 50 % off last year- though still technically a “wind proof” bit, it fits better and keeps me warmer than anything I have ever worn in the winter, would honestly pay full price now that I know how good it is!
    That and having a lifetime of old riding buddies to keep me honest every weekend and get me off the couch….

  19. Arjay

    Three cycling items have been “mana from heaven” for me:

    (1) Campagnolo Chorus groupset – The ergolevers are a perfect match to my small hands, shifting mechanics are second to none, and that classic Italian look. After installing them on my bike about a year ago, I have never stopped dreaming of riding my steed whenever I’m off it. Even if it costs more than twice the price of Ultegra from where I live, it’s money well spent.

    (2)SiDI Wire Vent Carbon – They fit my feet to a T. Superb craftsmanship. Micro adjustability. What’s not to like?

    (3) Specialized Romin saddle – Before I settled on this, I’ve been through four saddles, two of which are the Arione and the Antares. Now, I’ve been riding for metric centuries without discomfort on my behind and nether region.

  20. Bikelink

    ISM “road” saddle. It’s actually a TT saddle (very short, as well as no nose) but the one with a little more padding. I can get criterium-aero low and ride there for an hour without numbness. Went through many saddles before, including other ISM saddles before finding “the one.” Could change almost everything about my riding equipment but would need that saddle.

  21. Mike C

    I loved my ISM saddle. That is until I rode my first century. I had previously used it up to 85 miles. Rode the citrus tour MS ride and got to the hotel and noticed the burn in the shower. Chaffing. .. it was just too wide for me. Got the neosporin or and creamed up. Yes, I use chamois butter. So after getting through the 75 miles on day two off came the seat. Been through a half dozen others and none are as comfortable

  22. David

    1. Selle Italia SLR flow kit carbonio saddle – the old style one. It has almost no padding, but is exactly the right shape for my rear. The metal rail one is just not the same- too much padding and the sides don’t slope down as much, and it’s just not as comfortable. I am worried about what to do if this one ever gives out, as the new ones are just slightly differently shaped.
    2. another vote for Campy ergo levers. smooth as silk shifting and perfectly shaped levers.
    3. Pinarello Paris- I can’t honestly say if it is the bike or the fit, but whatever it is, is terrific! Comfort, handling, power and looks all in one.

  23. Peter Lin

    It hasn’t been created yet. I need someone to invent a light and affordable heated kit for winter riding. That way instead of being stuck inside when the temperatures drop below 10F, I can go out for a ride without putting on 4 layers or feel like the michelin tire mascot.

  24. Kjetil Haaland

    Some bits that I really like:
    1) Campagnolo Ergopower Ultrashift controls positioned just right on Deda RHM shape handlebars.
    2) The Selle SMP Full Carbon saddle.
    3) The Assos Bonka jacket and tights for cold temperatures above freezing.
    4) Speedplay Zero pedals. High maintenance, but greater reward.

    2) is the most important I think. That’s MY saddle.

  25. Bikelink

    Mike C…the comes up a lot…the ‘too wide’ is generally a sign that the saddle needs to be further back (you sit further forward on it). Also exactly how far you sit forward on it is model specific. (I have not connection with ISM company just like riding the product). They don’t do a good job explaining why to pick different saddles, too. I found the image on the placard attached to the saddle to be most helpful..here’s an image of that: http://justtritalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/adamo62.jpg

  26. Girl

    You racers will think I’m a dork, but it’s my Brooks saddle. Maybe if I hadn’t found it, I would be willing to try a Fizik or something, but now I’m hooked. All of my bikes have one.

  27. brian

    I don’t have anything that fits that description. I don’t have the best of anything cycling related. I’m poor and only spend what I absolutely have to in order to ride. And guess what, I still love riding and do it often. I think most of you spend too much money and care too much about your gear. Just go out and ride.

  28. David

    This is a tough one but after deliberating I would say its my Garmin Edge 810. I put off buying one for years saying to myself the iPhone app and Cateye was more than enough but finally my wife told me to get it because she has seen that look in my eye before.

    Well my inner nerd came out when I set it up and was able to break down and analyze every ride; speed, cadence, grade, temperature (I live in Texas), you name it. I love reviewing my rides and comparing performance and swapping it between bikes.

  29. Ghost Rider

    I’m with Brian — while I do love my Ergopowers, I don’t have the best of or the most advanced of anything. Hell, most of my bikes are from the early 80s!

    The most important “thing” in MY cycling life (and, I suspect, in most of yours) is that we caught the bug — we love the open road, the speed, the wind in our faces, the catharsis of grinding out miles, the sweat of honest labor, etc. What we ride and what equipment we choose to rock is really a distant second to our love of the bike and of the ride itself.

  30. Bryan Lewis

    When Robot says something is a game-changer, I figure it’s worth a try. He said that last year about the NiteRider 650 light. He was right. My night commute holds no reluctance any more.

    So this time I ordered the Exteondo Iluna base layer. (Found it for $40 which is nice.) It’s okay but it’s not in the game-changer park. (My opinion after one ride… maybe it’ll get better as the temps decline?) It doesn’t feel any better than wool and it needs washing after each ride. I’m in the same camp with the two previous commenters about a wind-breaker on the outside and Merino wool anywhere else.


  31. Author
    Robot

    @Bryan – That base layer is not to be used until it is in the 25deg range outside. I agree completely about wool base, wool jersey, windbreaker for temps down to about 30. When it’s REALLY cold, that’s when you bust out the Etxe Ondo top. I run warm, so I can only use cold weather gear sparingly, or I turn into a one-man sweat lodge, which is never good when it’s cold out.

  32. Josh

    HOLY COW! 36 degrees this AM and I wore the Ilune long sleeve with the Rapha long sleeved Brevet Jersey (with gilet) and was toasty. Game changer for sure. I have a suspicion that it is made from the same fabric as the arm warmers that come with the Rapha classic jersey.

  33. Touriste-Routier

    @Girl You are not a dork; Brooks saddles are terrific. Most fret about fit of their frames, clothing, shoes, etc. Leather saddles like Brooks are the only way of getting a custom fit, as they form to your shape. The primary downside is their weight.

  34. Nick

    My Ay-Up lights. I’m not a morning person, so my mid-week training rides used to come with a level of reluctance as I dodge traffic and potholes, especially during winter. That all changed when a mate put me on to Ay-Up V Twin Sport. These lights, with light plus battery, are a little heavy but they’re brighter than the sun.

  35. William M. deRosset

    Real revolutions in cycling have been thin on the ground. I’d include modern generator hubs and LED lighting as the thing that changed my riding habits the most in the last 25 years. Riding overnight becomes a magical and enjoyable experience with few compromises, rather than something to be endured if necessary and avoided when practicable.

    Best Regards,

    Will

  36. Brian

    My Seven axiom sl (custom built with maxed out drive train stiffness). I have had several other top end carbon bikes including cervelo’s and pinarello’s but they have all had issues at some point with cracks or other issues. The seven is the bike I ride during any winter/ bad weather training as well as any races on bad roads. I don’t worry about cracks and it rides fantastically well. I made improvements to the equipment over time (ENVE fork and wheels) and it only seems to get better. It’s worry free, trouble free riding.

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