Reviews & Tech – Bicycles Network Australia The Top Australian Cycling Portal Wed, 21 Mar 2018 08:46:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 KASK Valegro Helmet and KOO Open Cube Cycling Sunglasses in Review Mon, 19 Mar 2018 22:12:40 +0000 Australia is privileged in the world of pro-cycling because the dry summer heat of January marks the start of the international racing season with the Tour Down Under in Adelaide. This is followed by the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and Herald Sun Tour in Victoria which draw see international riders compete against the […]]]>

Australia is privileged in the world of pro-cycling because the dry summer heat of January marks the start of the international racing season with the Tour Down Under in Adelaide. This is followed by the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and Herald Sun Tour in Victoria which draw see international riders compete against the locals. Not only do we get to see the new teams racing for the first time, the new team bikes and gear is unveiled to the cycling fans.

On BNA we have reported on the growing success of KASK in Australia and after switching over to their own distribution and marketing for the cycle division in Australia, they have used the Tour Down Under in Adelaide as a launchpad for two new helmets and the KOO Open Cube sunglasses.

kask range helmets utopia valegro


Utopia: Nuovo arrivato in città

The latest addition to the road-aero helmet segment the brand new KASK Utopia. The Team Sky sponsor arrangements with KASK allow them exclusive use of the new Utopia for six months after which it will become available for purchase.

kask utopia review

The key performance metric highlighted by KASK was the claim that it saves an additional six watts over the best performing helmet of the current crop of aero helmets.  Bold claims indeed, but they are also quick to point out that the helmet is not solely about aero, but also well-designed and strategically positioned vents to ensure that the helmet also allows the rider to dissipate the heat generated during those long chases. ‘Aeration’ has been a common theme among Team Sky in their helmet design feedback.

kask utopia padding

Along with the ‘wind cheating’ design, attention is paid to the structural strength of the helmet as well as the internal airflow that explains the placement of the two wide supporting foam strips. These are removable (and replaceable) and are made of a newly developed anti-bacterial material that is also used in the new Valegro Helmet. The Utopia utilises the same integral network of straps and adjustments as the existing Protone & Infinity, along with the faux leather chin strap, which despite it’s bulk, is actually very comfortable.

team sky kask helmets
Team Sky KASK Valegro (left) and KASK Utopia Helmet 

Whilst the final pricing and release date have not yet been determined, it is expected that the pricing will be well above the A$400 mark. Keen riders will have to wait patiently until about July for it to be available.



KASK Valegro Helmet in Review: Light and Airy

The Valegro is also a new addition to the KASK line-up; it was seen on Team Sky last year and is just becoming available now. The key features of this helmet are the lightweight and excellent ventilation.  It was on limited release during the Tour Down Under (and now also with five specially selected bike shops) and is a lightweight beauty that is available for sale Australia-wide in April with a RRP of $299. On price alone, the Valegro sits below the aero styled Utopia and Infinity, and between the Protone ($359 RRP) and crowd favourite, the Mojito ($239 RRP).

koo cycling sunglasses review

For my first outing with the new Valegro helmet I was looking forward to giving it a real baptism of fire in January during the BUPA Challenge Stage of the Tour Down Under from Norwood to Uraidla. The hotter-than-usual temperatures exceeded 41 degrees so this Challenge stage was cancelled and the pro’s able to start an hour earlier. The next opportunity was workout on the world famous Willunga Hill during Stage 5. But before I reveal how it handles the heat, firstly I’ll cover some more details for the Valegro.

When the helmets go into retail in April, the full colour range will include Black, White, Black with a White stripe, Red, Lime, Sky Blue, Navy and three matte colours (at extra cost) – Black, Blue and Anthracite. The matte colours are quite unique, but all three are dark and that goes against my preferences of light/bright colours.  A matt Lime Green would be great in my opinion. The Valegro comes in three sizes, S, M and L and has an impressively light claimed weight in both European and Australian (standards) versions; the size S weighs in at a feathery 190g (claimed). The White medium helmet I have for review is also impressive on my scales and I recorded 205g (though the sticker stated 200g). The medium is suited for people with a head circumference of 52 -58cm.

kask koo review australia

It would be hard to miss the number and sizes of the openings for ventilation. There are 37 vents in total with attention has been given to sculpting of the vent shapes, not only for aesthetics, but to ensure good air flow through into and out of the helmet.  The seven removable/replaceable anti-bacterial pads (same material as in the new Utopia) are quite narrow and follow the main support ‘rails’ of the helmet. Rather then just providing padding, you can see how these are also designed to ensure the airflow through the helmet is maintained.

kask valegro padding

The structure (cutaways and pad positioning) at the front of the helmet is such that the forehead has clearance (traditionally padding is to provide clearance and absorb the sweat). As a result, you head receives good airflow and in turn this helps reduce sweating or saturating the pad until it drips during a ride and irritates the eyes.  There is a small, easily to operate ratchet at the back to ensure the right fit over a wide range of head shapes and sizes.

kask comfort

Once fitted, the helmet feels snug and secure, like it’s meant to be there. The faux leather chinstrap, which concerned me with its bulk (when compared to the common fabric chin straps), was surprisingly comfortable, and by the time I was out the gate, I was as comfortable as I’d ever been.  Even though I wear a skullcap, the additional ventilation that the Valegro provides is immediately noticeable.  But interestingly, the extra airflow didn’t cause negative effects of chill on the cool mornings that I have experienced to date with average temperatures of around 14 degrees.  Rides in winter may require something more than a skull cap, but I don’t yet see it as an issue.

On the return journey from Willunga, after watching the pros descent Penny’s Hill Road at almost 100 kmh (Gesink’s Strava showed a max speed of 98.6 kmh!), the temperatures were hovering just below 40 degrees. The additional cooling (or in reality it was just good airflow) was very welcome during the brutally hot journey home that stretched to 55km with 800m of climbing.

Overall, the KASK Valegro was a comfortable, in terms of overall fit, low weight and great ventilation. The fact that it looks great as well is a bonus.

More about KASK cycling helmets:


KOO Open Cube Sunglasses: Italian style with German precision lenses

For many cyclists, cycling sunnies are as much a fashion statement as they are a practical requirement when riding. Italians are known to be flamboyant at times and the first thing that stood out for me with the new KOO Open Cube glasses are that they are understated & stylish without being garish, either in their design or colours.

koo range cycling sunglasses

KOO sunglasses are proud that their glasses are 100% Italian made, all of their suppliers are within a 5km radius of their facility in Bergamo. The glasses, Open Cube (upper half frame) and the Open (full frame surround), are beautifully constructed and feature precision Zeiss lenses. The pair of cycling sunglasses I was provided with to review are the straight black version of the KOO Open Cube with the Smoke lenses.

As with many of the cycling sunglasses available on the market, the lenses are interchangeable and there are several lens options (Smoke, Clear and Infrared) which you can combine from the array of 12 frame colour combinations – of course you are meant to coordination the colours with your KASK Helmets to be as stylist as possible. But given that KASK and KOO are part of the same family, the sunglasses and helmets are designed and styled to be partnered together as a seamless pair.

koo open cube review

I’ve only recently converted to wearing sunglasses whilst riding. Despite the safety value (UV and debris protection) as I’ve found that many sunnies, particularly the wrap-around glasses lead to a build-up of heat around my face. This in turn leads to discomfort and fogging, especially during cold morning hill climbs.  Some styles of cycling sunglasses feature small ventilation holes or interesting lens curves to try and work around some of these problems. The KOO Open Cube glasses have a big lens with generous coverage due though are not overly large. Small, discreet vents on the upper edge (called Airflow Active System) help mitigate against fogging.

During a recent cold snap and a morning ride up Mt Lofty I could really test it. I put in a solid effort, almost a personal best heading into the last few kilometres with a shroud of mist and light rain as the temperatures dropped into single digits. The Open Cube glasses remained essentially fog free save for the last 400 meters, so I was happy.


There are a few tip to help prevent fogging further, the first is to adjust the lens tilt. The Micrometrical Arms let you tilt the lens into three angles. If you are breathing heavy in the coldest of temperatures while slogging away at a slow speed, this can invite fogging so tilting the lens as you need it can keep it clear for longer. The other tip is to take care to adjust your fit around the temples. The frame is designed to allow you to fit flexibly and you can also use this to your advantage to ensure you have the right fit and airflow.

The tint with the Smoke lenses was quite versatile and useable even on the brightest day, and in that transition just after sunrise. The Zeiss lenses deliver distortion free vision, even in the peripheral vision area. I notice the difference in clarity compared with other big name sunglass. The design and shape of the lenses provided great ventilation on descents as well, and none of the buffeting and turbulence during high-speed descents are big distractions when trying to pinpoint the best line while bombing a descent.

kask koo glasses

A unique feature for both the Open Cube and Open glasses are the clever & cool pivoting arm design. Rather than traditional sunglass arms that fold together, the KOO design is one where they pivot through 1800.  Once you are used to this feature, it makes it easier to place the glasses in the helmet (for those time when you don’t need them to protect your eyes), and with a bit of practice, they can be folded and slipped in the top of the jersey, where they are much more secure than the folding arm style.

kask valegro review koo open cube

So, if you want stylish, if you want functional and if you want quality cycling sunglasses, the Koo Open Cube with Zeiss lenses deliver.  While I didn’t try the full frame Koo Open model, I expect the same quality so you just need to identify the lens type, colour and if you want the full frame (Open) or wrap style (Open Cube). The retail price for the KOO Open Cubes in Australia is $299 (with an additional clear lens) and they are due in shops in April.

More about the Koo eyewear


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The QUOC Gran Tourer Cycling Shoes for Bike Touring and Gravel Grinding Fri, 16 Mar 2018 07:20:47 +0000 When QUOC launched their gorgeous Night lace-up road cycling shoes, the UK brand was like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, they had evolved. Now QUOC are starting to unfurl their wings and take flight with the launch of their new Gran Tourer Gravel shoes which deliver adventure and functionality with style. The thing about […]]]>

When QUOC launched their gorgeous Night lace-up road cycling shoes, the UK brand was like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, they had evolved. Now QUOC are starting to unfurl their wings and take flight with the launch of their new Gran Tourer Gravel shoes which deliver adventure and functionality with style.

The thing about QUOC is that the brand has always been about premium and functional cycling shoes, but now they are moving beyond the classic elegance and venturing into new territory, this began with the Night road shoes and is continuing with the new Gran Tourer gravel shoes. It is still a premium quality cycling shoe but the classic elegance concedes to a new and rebellious look. As a preview, I was able to get a first-hand look at their (preproduction) shoes, they are beautifully packaged and were a surprising pink and brown colour scheme. Whether you love or hate the style, you can’t deny that these are real head turners.

quoc shoes packaging unboxing

quoc cycling socks

quoc gravel touring shoes

Once you get over the colour aesthetics, beneath the facade you will find an equally surprising set of features on these SPD shoes. But so you don’t get turned off if pink is ‘not your thing’, there are a few more colour versions, a subtle black and a subtle green camouflage version but also a full-black version if you want to tone it down completely.

These are lightweight at 375 grams each (without cleats) for the size 42.5 (UK 8.5). The rubber sole appears to make up most of weight and just touching it with your fingers, you can already anticipate how well it will hold up in wet and rocky or loose surfaces. The rubber is very grippy and has a little bit of compliance but overall remains fairly rigid so it wont deform and let you down. They remind me of my trusty and very expensive leather Scarpa hiking boots… you simply know you can rely on them. And speaking of hiking, though the Gran Tourers are not high top boots with ankle support like traditional hiking boots, the versatility as a cross-over cycle touring and hiking shoe is undeniable.

quoc pham gravel shoes

bike touring spd shoes

grip cycle shoes snow

The rubber sole is described by QUOC as a custom-specced proprietary rubber compound which they call GravelGrip™ The rubber sole appears to be in-moulded (or at least very well adhered) with the carbon composite midsole. This means that the rubber sole is backed by the very stiff carbon composite. It was very difficult to get any flex out of the sole which is exactly what you are aiming for in a cycling shoe.

carbon fiber composite sole

The shoe upper is one piece but for added water protection, it is designed to be waterproof from the sole all the way up to the pink border. Many cycling shoes can allow water in from the cleat mount though the sole on the Gran Tourers is completely sealed. You still have the ability to adjust the cleat position (fore / after / rotation) but this almost invisible feature means you will be able to handle wet weather and keep your feet much dryer for much longer. To top this off, the tongue is gusseted towards the front so also helps prevent water seeping in.

The lacing system continues a theme introduced in the Night road cycling shoes with the so-called ‘Double-Lock’. If you are familiar with road cycling shoes or MTB shoes that have different fastening mechanisms such as velcro, ratchets and dials, the intentions is to allow different tensions to be set. For a ride you may be more comfortable with a looser fit at the front of the show and tighter fit up the top towards the ankle, or vice versa. The extra lace holes, positioned at the front of the shoe and towards the top are part of a patent-pending lacing system that allows the laces to be locked in the different parts of the shoe so different tension can be set in different parts to give you the comfort and fit you need.

quoc double stop lacing

In practice, you will need to try the cycling shoes on and spend a little times getting the most comfortable lacing. Should your laces come undone while walking or cycling, the double-lock holds the laces very well in place and retains tension.

The overall construction quality is superb, but from QUOC I already expect a finely crafted cycling shoe so this is not a surprise. Another small detail worth highlighting is the reflective strip on the back of the shoe. Reflectors on the shoes are simply good, any vehicles following you at night will then track your feet pumping up and down so the reflectivity it is a great advertisement for encouraging drivers to give you the safe space you deserve. On the Gran Tourer Gravel shoes, this black strip illuminates against bright lights.

quoc gravel touring shoes

The cycling shoe sizing for the QUOC Gran Tourers may be a challenge for some riders. Although the Gran Tourer is a bit wider than the thinly-cut Night cycling shoes, the size 42.5 preview shoes (size 8.5 UK / 9.5 US) are tight enough that I have to consider whether the next size is better. My feet can also swell while cycling which can turn a narrow shoe into a torture device.

If I follow the QUOC size recommendations and just use my foot length, the suggested size for me would be the 41.5 (UK 7.5) which I know is too small. The size 42.5 (UK 8.5) preview pair of shoes are a very exact fit. Simply taking time to correct adjust the laces and the tension gave me a much better balance between comfort and fit.

cycling shoes laces

As a tip, should you have wide feet, consider whether the extra (unnecessary) length up front is the right tradeoff. Don’t forget to consider your socks, road cyclists may have thinner socks for touring you may prefer thicker socks. While I don’t want to put you off the QUOC Gran Tourers, be realistic when looking through the sizing because it would be a shame to prioritise the look and style of these over your comfort and performance on your next epic bike trip.

cycle touring shoes

If you have decided that the QUOC Gran Tourer gravel shoes are irresistible, the good news is that they have just started a kickstarter campaign. The crowdfunding helps the brand get the message out but also gives you access to attractive early bird pricing.

The retail price is roughly $390 (and I expect shipping is extra). If you purchase over kickstarter, early backers will save 40% and get the shoes as soon as July while others will still save 30% off the retail price with delivery around September.

For details and specs on the Gran Tourer cycling shoes, visit the QUOC website.

This is the QUOC Gran Tourer Kickstarter campaign with discounted pricing.

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Reinventing Bicycle Bells and Lights with the Palomar Lucetta and Nello Mon, 05 Mar 2018 20:22:53 +0000 The unusual Lucetta bike lights and Nello bicycle bell will tickle the fancy of kids and riders who love a dash of style. Palomar are an interesting brand originating from Florence in Italy who have an unusual assortment of products which all reflect the concept of ‘space’. It means that space can be the stars […]]]>

The unusual Lucetta bike lights and Nello bicycle bell will tickle the fancy of kids and riders who love a dash of style. Palomar are an interesting brand originating from Florence in Italy who have an unusual assortment of products which all reflect the concept of ‘space’. It means that space can be the stars in the night sky that you can observe with their Galileo’s Telescope but space is also defined in their quirky city maps and travel logs. In review are the Lucetta bike lights and Nello bike bell that you can use as you navigate urban space.

It is no secret that I’m fan of Italy… with the exception of the 2006 World Cup where Italian soccer player Fabio Grosso took a dive which resulted in a penalty and 1:0 victory against the Socceroos. Yes, I am still upset about that game, but when it comes to culture, food, travelling and style, it’s great when it’s Italian. Could you imagine the history of cycling without the Italian bike brands and riders?

Beyond the world of pro cycling and past the Vespa’s that whizz through the streets of Florence, Palomar have coupled practicality and style into their urban cycling lights and bike bell.

nello bicycle bell lucetta bike lights


Lucetta – Theft-proof front and rear lights

Almost five years ago, the Lucetta was released and these bike lights have a timeless quality. The cylindrical lights are elegant and compact, when they are not in use, a magnet holds the white front light and rear red light together.

palomar lucetta bike light review

palomar lucetta light mounts

You pull them apart, put the rear light (marked with a red) on your seat tube and the front one on your bars or headtube. As soon as the magnets latch on… the light turns on. Simple and wonderful.

palomar bike lights magnetic mount

palomar rear bike light magnet

lucetta bike lights

cool bike lights

The big idea is that you simply take them off at the end of your ride and this saves them from theft. As the lights are so compact, they are so easy to drop into your pocket or a back,  you just have to remember to bring them out again when you are ready to ride.

The Lucetta lights are ‘too be seen’ and each have a single LED. They are bright enough to be seen by others on the road but for bike riders still want a bigger visual footprint the Lucetta are probably not the right lights.

Another nice feature is the three light modes, steady, slow flashing and fast flashing. To change you simple detach the light and then attach it back to the bike and the mode changes. It is so simple that it is fun which why the kids become fascinated.

You need to know that the magnets only work on steel bikes. A lot of commuter bikes are constructed with non-ferrous aluminium and steel bikes tend to be either the cheap and basic bikes or classic road and urban bikes. To help ‘magnetically challenged’ riders, the Lucetta is delivered with two attachments that let you use these on your aluminium or carbon fiber bikes. While this is not quite as elegant and simple – it is still a good solution and one I needed during this review on my everyday bikes (which are not steel).

palomar from rear bike light

palomar bike lights magnetic

In practice, I liked these lights and if you ride a stylish urban run-around like a fixie or vintage bike but don’t want to ruin your style with permanent lights or ugly lights, the Lucetta are a stylish and functional solution.

At 34 Euro plus 15 Euro postage to Australia, this represents an investment of around $75 (AUD) which means you may have to cut back on the smashed avocado on toast.


Nello – An oddball among bike bells

The name reminds me of the little yellow minions characters from the animated films that speak gibberish, instead of ‘hello’ they say ‘bello’. In fact, Nello is a catchy name and rhymes nicely with the Italian ‘bello’ (a handsome man).

palomar nello bike bell review

It is a real eye-catcher, the spherical ball sits on top of the bars and if you don’t already know what it is, your curiosity is awakened. In contrast to the Lucetta, the Nello requires the small mount. Straps in two lengths are provided and it can be setup in 1 minute. Set the Nello down and you can feel it latch on magnetically. It is ready to go ahead and press!

palomar nello bell installation

palomar bike bell review

palomar nello bello mount

With the 24 Euro retail price and 15 Euro shipping, $60 (AUD) is a hefty premium for a bike bell – it costs more than the knog OI! but is about $20 less than the Spurcycle bell. This is obviously in the league of premium bike bells where there is no admittance to riders who are perfectly happy with a $5 bell.

The sound is electronic (it runs on 2x CR2032 batteries) and there are three different sounds. To change the sound, lift it from the mount and set it back down.

The first sound is like an obnoxious whistle, the second sounds like a broken bike bell and the third is like annoying duck… I like that one best. Kids love this bell, their faces light up and they beg you to have a go.

In it’s simplicity, I still missed the practicality of being able to set my preferred sound (the ducks) and sticking with that. Each time you have to cycle through the sounds. Perhaps it is the early morning commutes where I just want to pedal away rather than setup the sound that steals away a bit of the joy. Sometimes the sound wouldn’t change properly and my beloved ducks were missing and I kept getting obnoxious whistle which I stopped liking. That will teach me for being grumpy.

The sound volume is 90 dB which is quite soft in noisy urban environments. The first big test was approaching a big group of pedestrians from behind and I was wondering why I had to ring the bell six times before any of them noticed and turned to look. Perhaps the unusual sounds don’t send the same message as the clear definitive tone of a bike bell. It was only when I put the Nello bike bell onto one of my kids bikes and headed out for a nice ride together was I able understand why pedestrians didn’t seem to notice it.

While I am riding with this bell on my bars it is audible to me. But when I am a few meters, the volume drops rapidly and it starts to become really difficult to hear regardless of the sound selected. In a typical urban backdrop with cars whizzing by, the buzz of pedestrians and squeak and clatter of bikes, the Nello very easily gets lost… I reluctantly have to say that this is a problem for me as I need pedestrians to notice and make space.

In practice, the Nello bell will help you satisfy the law of requiring an ‘audible warning device’ on your bike, but it underperforms in comparison to a regular (and boring) bike bell… In contrast, it looks fantastic. To become a convert however, I would need two improvements; a much louder audio and a broader selection of sounds.

luca palomar nello

Just the facts…

The Lucetta lights are not cheap, but if you have an awesome classic steel road bike or vintage bike, these lights are practical, fun and look good. The Nello bell is (ironically) not as audibly impressive as it should be… but it is different and visually, a head turner.

More information about Palomar products and purchases are online at:

bicycle light review

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Automatic Lubrication: Flaer Revo Via Chain Performance Review Fri, 16 Feb 2018 10:17:37 +0000 Cycling can be a bit of an arms-race, have YOU got the right equipment… have YOU got the best equipment? 10 grams here, 5 watts there. It is all performance driven; from the composition and weave of your cycling jersey through to the lubrication for your drivetrain. There are savings and enhancements everywhere. Just imagine […]]]>

Cycling can be a bit of an arms-race, have YOU got the right equipment… have YOU got the best equipment? 10 grams here, 5 watts there. It is all performance driven; from the composition and weave of your cycling jersey through to the lubrication for your drivetrain. There are savings and enhancements everywhere. Just imagine what would happen if the UCI removed the 6.8kg weight limit for race bikes.

If you look closely, you will discover an array of UCI rules governing the all aspects of the bike. Regulations define size, shape, geometry, fairings and even where and how water bottles can be fastened to the frame. With these boundaries this significantly narrows the scope for bike brands to innovate and explains the continuing popularity of technology that appears whimsical.


The Driving Force

Have you noticed that exotic chain coatings are on the rise? Long gone are the days of the untreated, steel plate chain… even a novice knows that a dirty and poorly maintained bike chain is not doing you any favours.

At one of the spectrum, rider can choose from different types of chain lubrication; dry, wet, wax, ceramic and PTFE/Teflon. At the other end (closer to the pointy end of the spectrum) are the treated chains including the Ceramic Speed UFO chains and Muc-Off Nanotube chains which promise elite-level performance. The Flaer system is squarely positioned in the same segment of ‘advanced drive train performance’ but takes a completely different approach by lubricating your chain continually and automatically while riding.

Riders with the Australian pro cycling team Orica-Scott (now Mitchelton-Scott) started using the Flaer system in 2017. Luke Durbidge and Daryl Impey were spotted at the Tour Down Under with the units. The young English company presented Flaer at Eurobike and BNA wanted a closer look to see if this unique solution is the start of a new chapter for riders.

nick muddle flaer


What is exactly Flaer?

The Flaer Revo is a battery powered electronic lubricating unit which attaches to your bike. The main ‘reservoir’ unit is positioned on the seat tube or down tube and has buttons to adjust the lubrication frequency. A cable connects this to the dispenser unit which is fastened to the derailleur (bottom jockey wheel) and delivers the lubrication fluid directly onto the jockey wheel which then transfers to the inside of the moving chain.

You have to use the Flaer brand lubrication (of course) and it is available at fair market prices. The principle is that they have a much lighter lubrication without ‘tackifiers’ so it is far less sticky and dirt and grim easily wicks away. As the mechanical unit it is able to continually ‘top up’ the chain, a sticky and wet lube is no longer required, not even in the rain.

flaer mounting

After calibration, Flaer delivers approximately 0.03ml of lubricating fluid at an interval of 30 seconds, 90 seconds or 150 seconds. The short interval is best for wet conditions and on this setting, the 27ml in the main reservoir will last about 7.5 hours. On the slowest setting it allows about 35 hours of ride time on a single fill.

The Flare is available in two versions; the Revo Via is for the road and a taller Revo Terra for the mountains. For this review I used the Flaer Revo Via on the roadbike.


Let’s talk about performance

Flaer boldly announce that you can ‘gain up to 12W’. Now that’s substantial over a long distance however the comparison graph presents a slightly different picture. The chart suggests that the chain inherently creates a 5 watt loss and over time, the comparison chains or lubricants can lose up to 12.5 watts in total. My maths says that if the Flaer can maintain the 5 Watts and not dip, it is not actually a gain, it would be better described as a saving. I am also calculating a 7.5 watt difference. Without a timeline on the x-axis of the chart or details on the other chains tested, I feel that I am missing information.

flaer performance comparison

A quote on the website from Dr. Geraint Florida-James (professor of Applied Sport Science at Edinburgh Napier University) states; “5% gains and maximum efficiency – The system produced excellent results under extensive testing“. Now we are talking percentages and not watts. Again I want more information so BNA requested the missing data from Flaer.

Eric the half a bee, d’y’see?   (If you don’t get this… the explanation is here)


Flaer are due to release some of the missing links in the up-coming months on their blog and I have been able to see some of this data. A core concept is that the higher the watts and power input, the higher the losses in performance. It is scalable. If we take drivetrain performance degradation out of the equation, no chain is 100% efficient and there is a natural loss of 2%. For example, when the rider pumps in 125 Watts they are automatically losing 2.5 Watts. At 250 Watts there is a natural loss of 5 watts and at 500 watts this is a loss of 10 watts.

With all of these numbers and mixing watts and percentage, there is a lot of room for misinterpretation or misrepresentation. But the basic principle of Flaer is that you are not gaining performance on a ride. But you’re not losing performance, either. By keeping the constant drivetrain loss constant, you’re ahead of someone who is experiencing a decrease in efficiency over time.

flaer drivetrain chain performance chart

And to return back to the graph, a version with more details was shared however Flaer won’t name the competing brands or setups they tested… which is completely understandable in light of the public spat between Ceramic Speed and Muc Off. Here the 7.5 watt difference is based a comparison with one unnamed brand/setup while other setups displayed a smaller 5 watt difference in performance loss. Flaer provided some of their testing parameters and have noted the tests represents a 250 watt constant input (95 RPM and 71kg rider) over 6 hours. This means that up to the 3 hour mark (with fresh, clean chains) there is very little difference in performance. After this is where the Flaer starts to bring advantages.

It would appear easy to dismiss the Flaer system completely if you are a 2 hour or 3 hour rider, but this would be assuming that your chain is thoroughly cleaned and lubed before each ride. In contrast, Flaer is able to maintain the drivetrain efficiency. On the second ride and third ride you are automatically ahead of the rest without a needing a to completely clean, let along install a new $200 coated chain each day.

I’ll admit that my immediate, honest reaction was “why would anyone  need…?” For a gain (or a non-loss) of 5W to have an impact, you’d have to be doing big kilometres, or doing big speeds for much of that distance. Racing, Audax and triathlon are the types events that then came to mind.

To provide some perspective, I used an online calculator to measure the impact of a 5 watt difference. At 250 watts with a 36.55 kmh average, if I lose 5 watts the average speed drops to 36.27 kmh – a 0.28kmh difference.

cycling power performance watts

I have purposely ignored the other factors which remain the same though set the drivetrain loss at 2%. While cycling, the drivetrain efficiency decreases over time which means that this loss needs to be adjusted to account for a constant decrease over time. This works out to an average loss of 0.14 kmh.

Keeping the Flaer chart in mind where the key degradation of performance occurs between 3 – 6 hours (and assuming that all other factors are identical), this 5 watt difference is worth 420 meters during that time. The tangible benefit however will constantly shift as the multitude of factors contributing to the performance efficiency changes. The net result however is drivetrain inefficiency is minimised and this is a performance advantage.

flaer revo reservior

In the world of aerodynamic performance, it is acceptable for the savings in watts to come at a cost of added weight. The Flaer system weighs 121 grams (empty) and even when it is filled with the lubrication, the additional power required to maintain the same speed can be measured in hundredths of a watt. The weight has a negligible effect so on numbers alone, the drivetrain efficiency puts the rider ahead. In other word, performance trumps weight.

A side effect of a well lubricated drivetrain is that it wears slower and lasts longer. The replacement cost of chains, cassettes, chain rings and jockey wheels on a high-end groupset is pricey. But in the real world, the minor economic benefit of prolonging the time between mechanical upgrades is not the top priority for competitive cyclists. The irony is that these top level riders are more likely to replace their components well ahead of time to avoid mechanical deficiencies.

But if you are comparing the one-time purchase of the $570 Flaer Revo Via (along with running costs of the Flaer lube) with the purchase of $200 coated chains for each day of competitive racing – the Flaer could also be financially attractive.

But what does this all mean when it comes to actually riding? You can save theoretical watts till the cows come home by changing bearings, chains, tyres, helmets, gloves, jerseys, shoes, pedals, you name it. After all, aero bidons weren’t invented just to look good. If you are competitive, saving or gaining power is the sum of all of the parts. If you’re not competitive, the Flaer is a gizmo that offers the convenience of lubricating for you.

flaer installed


Setting Up the Flaer

In my experience, setting up most new bike equipment requires patience because it can be time-consuming and you want to do it right the first time. With this in mind, I began the installation. The mounting bracket allows the main reservoir unit to be positioned underneath the down tube or seat tube bottle bosses, which is the logical place for it. Although the 100 gram reservoir unit is fairly light, mounting as low as possible is better. Just remember, if you are in a sprint finish, the upper body movement and side-ways movement means that a low center of gravity works to your advantage (every bit counts right?)

flaer revo mounting

The installation instructions are clear, numerous points during the setup are highlighted and with a good explanation to ensure that you take particular care during crucial steps. The supplied tube which connects the main reservoir unit and dispenser is long enough for even the largest frame. Mounting the dispensing unit on the rear derailleur is the hardest part, it took a while to ensure the nozzle played nicely with my SRAM Force RD cage. A spring loaded ‘nib’ on the dispenser actually touches the jockey wheel. There is scope to move it around so it was a struggle to get it exactly right. Inside the package a replacement long bolt for the lower jockey wheel in included however this didn’t fit through the metal bushings in my rear derailleur, so I left it off and all was well.

During the first use, the tip of the nib is slight burned so that it is no longer touching and doesn’t create any drag. It remains close enough for the lubricating fluid to move directly onto the jockey wheel.

flaer dispenser jockey

Routing and trimming the tube for installation was easy, removing extra length is important to limit the potential for unwanted movement. Although it is perhaps less than ideal to have it on top of the chain stay (exposed to the chain), the existing cable routing underneath the chain stay on my bike didn’t leave me with much choice. On a road bike, chain-slap is not as common as on a MTB, so I proceeded with this as it was the tidiest option. If you have internal cable routing, it is worth taking the extra time to run it internally which will give you and overall cleaner look. Alternatively, with electronic shifting or internal routing, the space below the chainstay is free and is the next best option for routing the tube from the reservoir to dispenser.

flaer revo installation

Flaer have a Di2 Tubing kit which is optional and has narrower cables to ‘match’ the Di2 look. The reservoir unit houses two N batteries and their website states that this preferable to rechargeable as these batteries are relatively common and are able to supply the required power and a 150+ hour lifetime.

The Flaer system sits neatly on the bike, if you happen to be running a titanium or steel frame with small, round tubing, the unit may appear a bit bulky. It is a bit like an externally mounted Shimano Di2 battery. The larger tubing of aluminium and carbon fibre frames allows the system to appear more integrated.


On the road with Flaer

I fitted it, filled it and when it didn’t turn on, replaced the batteries and then tried again. Three blue LED’s scroll-up to indicate that it has powered on, and the current ‘interval’ setting. The unit has 3 settings to dispense 0.03ml of fluid every 30, 90 or 150 seconds. This lights on the reservoir to signify the current interval are useful aides however there is no recommendation which setting should be used. It is implied setting 1 with the shortest interval is best for rain, setting 2 for varied weather and setting 3 for dry. You don’t want to drown the chain in lube because all excess lube will be thrown off and can start coat your wheels. Less is perhaps more, but when you are starting out, allow yourself time to test before heading straight into competition.

flaer lubrication

During the testing I heard reports that the lube tends to get washed away quicker than other proprietary mixtures, so needs replenishing sooner. Indeed this is intended and I felt that this has two benefits. Firstly, it is hard for a lighter lubrication to attract grime and build up (which would lead to decreasing chain efficiency). Secondly, the lighter lube allows excess lube and grime to be more easily ‘spun’ away from the chain while pedalling and similarly keeps the chain cleaner.

The system does have an auto-pause, but you have to remember to turn it on. A button press and you’re set. It doesn’t make noise, so unless you look for the lights, you won’t know if it’s on or off.


The End Game

If I look at the numbers of riders out there who neglect their drivetrains completely, the simple value of lubricating is lost on a lot of people already. But the Flaer is not (yet) fighting for the attention of the everyday cyclists. The $569.99 price tag alone already ensures that is a premium accessory. So yes, this is a lot of money and yes, a lot of bike riders won’t be prepared to pay that much money for ‘up to 12 watts’ savings. For every day riders, the Flaer is an interesting technology to observe as it can provide some hints about the future of cycling.

flaer chain

The Flaer is for cyclists who consider every part of their bike and setup while cycling.  It is the arena of marginal gains; in combination all of the small gains add up when you are fighting for mere seconds or meters in a long distance race. Triathletes who don’t have the advantage of drafting or employing team tactics are very obvious candidates. The other audience are cyclists who love premium bikes and gear and simply want (but don’t need) all of the bells and whistles.

The Flaer Revo Via is imported by Bike Sports Imports who supply hundreds of bike shops across Australia. More about Flaer online:

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Review: Garmin Edge 1030 – The Fully Featured GPS Cycling Computer Tue, 23 Jan 2018 09:41:39 +0000 It’s the successor to the popular Garmin Edge 1000, the 1030 arrives with a host of new features, a much larger screen, a longer battery life along with the ability to extend it even more through an external battery pack (with a neat integral mount). To top it all off, it boasts improved connectivity thanks […]]]>

It’s the successor to the popular Garmin Edge 1000, the 1030 arrives with a host of new features, a much larger screen, a longer battery life along with the ability to extend it even more through an external battery pack (with a neat integral mount). To top it all off, it boasts improved connectivity thanks to some pre-loaded IQ apps. But what’s how does it stack up for the average cyclist… is A$749 for the head unit or A$849 for the bundle a wise investment? In the review I will look at the key features and deliver the insights you need to decide.


So what is different?

If I reference the shiny new Edge 1030 to my much loved Garmin Edge 520, the obvious difference is that the new one HUGE. The top model Garmin GPS cycle computer succeeds the Edge 1000 and I will use that model as a better comparison for the physical specs. The new 3.5” screen (8.9cm diagonal) is HUGE (did I mention that already?) so an upgrade from the Edge 1000 gives you an increase from 240×400 pixels to 282×470 and retains the pin sharp graphics. The overall size gets a boost from 51 x 90 x 20mm to 58.4 x 144 x 19mm, like the trend in smart phones, bigger is meant to be better… not like the old days where electronics was getting smaller. But because a lot of cyclists are weight weenies, Garmin has ensured that the upgrade has only cost 9 grams which brings the payload for the Edge 1030 up to 123 grams.

The battery life is listed at “up to 20 hours” and for long distance cyclists can be extended for a further 24 hours through the fitment of the Garmin ‘Charge Power Pack’ accessory. The external battery pack can be purchased in a bundle ($849) or separately ($189) and connects directly to the supplied out-front handlebar mount and locks securely without requiring any extra cables, nice!

The Guided User Interface on the 1030 is a step-up from the button driven and complicated nested menus of my old 520. At times, some of the steps feel back-to-front but on the whole, operating the unit is intuitive. The ability to alter the size and layout of the data screens for a set number of fields was a welcome surprise as well as the dizzying array of available metrics.

Two new features interested me particularly; the preloaded IQ apps that allows cycling routes (such as Strava) to be directly loaded to the device and the Training Status metrics.I was also looking forward to trying out the Route Generator based on the data uploaded by the multitude of Garmin users throughout the globe. The Training metrics rely on the preloaded TrainingPeaks® app and to be useful really requires a Power Meter.

There are other new features, but these two are the ones that caught my eye and would be used, so I’ll spend more time on these and how the Garmin Edge 1030 really works for an everyday cyclist.


Touchscreens – useful or gimmicky ?

In my journey as a cyclist I have progressed from really basic wired speedos and onto the Edge Family (305, 500 and 520), the capabilities and development in technology has been huge. Prior to reviewing the 1030, all of my computers have been button operated. I have always felt that the cycle computer brands have struggled to get the desired mix in of number of buttons, their placement and the operation to make every user truly happy.

Touchscreens are ubiquitous in smart phones, tablets and small portable computers and the full colour interactive devices with the ability to load apps have also started to compete with the more tradition cycle computers. Garmin, Magellan and Polar have offered touch screens on their top model cycle computer and other brands such as Cateye, Lezyne, Bryton and newcomer Wahoo are yet to play with with the big boys in this respect.

As my first foray into the world of touch screen cycle computers, the initial setup for the 1030 was a good demonstration on how good a buttonless world it can be. The touch screen allows on the fly zooming, & re-centering of maps and even changing data fields far more easily than ever before. Under the hood, Garmin have switched from a resistive to capacitive screen technology in an attempt to improve the ability to work functionally in the rain. The change vast improvement and brings it closer to the experience of a modern smart phone… when it works. Let me explain.

garmin- edge 1030 touchscreen

Capacitive screens rely on electrodes to use the conductive properties of objects (rather than pressure in a resistive screen) or fingertips (in this case) to complete the function required, such as a swipe to a new screen or select a function via icon. The downside to this is that cyclists tend to wear long fingered gloves in winter and unless your long fingered gloves are conductive, it can be near impossible to achieve the desired screen change – something I found out in the middle of a ride. Changing the screen sensitivity (you can choose from High, Medium or Low) will help this but won’t solve it.

On top of the $749 price, you can then add the purchase of conductive long fingered gloves. If you are fussy like me and have a preferred brand then you may start ask yourself if you can really get the most out of this premium cycling computer. As a side note – if you are prepared to DIY, you could modify your winter gloves with conductive thread.


Navigation – the best bits (mostly)

For most of my cycling trips, I know where I am going. Occasionally I venture to new places, this is where the navigation capabilities, delivered through the large, crisp, full-colour screen is the bees knees. The display (when compared with my old 520) allows you easily see the route and the turn by turn directions are easy to follow. I usually set up the navigation screen with two bits of ride data – ‘Course Point Distance’ (how far to the next turn/change) and ‘Distance to Destination’ (how far to go till I get to the end). I also discovered that there is the ‘Ascent Remaining’ data. I imagine that this is useful for the unexplored mountainous rides as a good pacing tool to make sure you don’t bonk, or at least see how much more suffering to endure before the coffee stop! Trouble is, you can only have two fields on the map page. This has me baffled because the size of the screen, even with four fields there is still leaves ample room for a viewable map in my opinion.

Thanks to the IQ Strava Route app, it is painless to convert rides on Strava so that they can be downloaded to the cycle computer and used to as a route. When I tested this, all of the turn by turn directions came though fine and there is no need to connect the Edge 1030 directly to a computer. One neat feature of loading rides from Strava, the ‘privacy’ border setup in Strava is observed. The route starts at that privacy border intersection. Even the routing from your current location to the start point of a ride was faultless.

garmin strava route

The same clever usability however can’t be said for Garmin Connect. This online application also allows an existing ride to be converted to a route. To then load the ride onto the Edge 1030, you need a cable connection between the unit and the computer. The real problem is that the course point data isn’t transferred. On the course I selected, although the route elevation trace was correct, it estimated the total ride ascent as 16,180m (instead of 731m actual). Other mapping and course generation programs such as RidewithGPS require premium membership and hooking to the computer via cable. I actually expect more from the a  flagship product at this price point would be disappointed as a buyer once I started to encounter these problems – especially as competing brands do this quite well.


Trendline Popularity Routing

When navigation first appeared on cycle computers, they followed the lead from car navigation. The map data was the same and it assumed that the rider was on a one-way trip and would pick a destination, like a driver. The navigation attempted to prioritise cycle friendly routes but the reality was that the most suitable cycle trips needed to be manually curated and a lot of cyclists do round-trips and return to their origin.

The latest generation of smart phone apps are improving on this, as has the Garmin Edge 1030. If you are in a location where you don’t quite know the best routes or just want to try something different, you can get the Garmin to come up with a route (or several) for you. It is easy and you begin by selecting key points to include and whether you want to ride a loop. Simply follow the options on each menu and hit the ‘Search’ button.

garmin route

garmin zoom

I wanted to generate a 100km loop from home. The Garmin delivered 3 different options ranging from 135km through the hills, 106km through a different hills route, or a 110km route down south. I like the ability to view the map of the route as well as a terrain plot and total route ascent. Whilst the navigation worked fine, the downside is that there is no course point data or routing chart which means that there is no indication as to whether the next turn is 500m away or 15km. This meant that I was constantly looking at the unit to see if the next turn was coming up (the audible warning help, but sometimes you ask why it is beeping).

The routes that I tested from the generated trips sometimes included bike tracks, which is makes sense as the routes are generated from popular user routes. I would like to see the option to pick route type (easy/hard) or type of road, as there are some roads that I don’t consider to be very good for riding due to traffic conditions/volume. Despite a few short-comings, it is a nice feature which lets you discover new routes and gives you a head-start if you are cycling in new locations.

garmin 1030 trendline route

garmin edge 1030 iq strava


Backlighting & the auto sensing feature

One of the gripes that I have with my old Garmin Edge 520 is the legibility during dawn/dusk & night rides. It either required an overhead street lamp or a double button press to get the screen I was on to illuminate.

The Edge 1030 is leaps ahead in this department with its ambient light sensor (top left hand corner). This auto-adjustment of the brightness is an optional function and if you want to reduce battery usage you can turn it off. My family commitments mean that a lot of my rides are at dusk/dawn and this feature alone is so useful and convenient that it is a major asset. I hope to see this trickle down to the smaller Garmin 530 and 830 when they are released.

I don’t know what the impact on battery life is, but I would gladly charge the unit more often so that I can see the display easily regardless of the light levels.

garmin edge 1030- gps cycle computer


Battery life – 20 hours expandable to 44 hours

During my testing time I wasn’t able to push the Garmin Edge 1030 to the full 20 hours but think I was fairly close. Following the first charge I tallied about 13 hours of riding (some route following and auto backlight function turned-on with some dusk rides). Add to this a few hours getting the unit set-up, modifying the screens , loading routes from Strava and a firmware update to v3.50. After this, I had 25% of battery life remaining so the claimed 20 hours runtime appears reasonable. I assume most riders will recharge their cycle computer frequently for peace-of-mind and 15 hours runtime is a good target to then recharge.

If you want a longer runtime, the Edge 1030 can be seamlessly connected with the Charge Pack accessory. I didn’t have a Charge Pack to try out. This accessory has featured prominently in Garmin promotions for this computer but at a glance, the $100 upgrade (or $189 purchased separately) seems like an expensive upgrade.

Most riders are able to recharge regularly so will be well served with the by the 1030 alone. But the travellerd and endurance riders with limited access or ability to recharge, the Garmin Edge 1030 is suddenly much more useful and versatile. The Charge Pack becomes an accessory with a very neat and robust mounting option that is designed to be an integral part of the Edge 1030 and Out-Front mount combination.


Training Status Metrics – data galore

I’m not a data nerd when it comes to cycling. I prefer to just go out and ride, I haven’t even used a HR or cadence monitor for the last 5 years. But when the Edge 1030 arrived it was bundled with items (as well as a speed sensor) so there was no escaping the reality of how hard I was, or wasn’t working !

garmin 1030 navigation metrics

The pre-loaded extensive metrics suite (using the preloaded TrainingPeaks app) is a great way to visually represent some of the key metrics that are measured during your efforts on the bike. To take full advantage of this capability, you really need a power meter (of course Garmin would recommend their own Vector 3 pedals for this). These metrics are recordable and displayable to an extent on most of the GPS enabled bike computers available today. The difference is that on the 1030 the metrics are available on the large colour display; the clear graphical interface is so easy to view and use that you could argue that you can run an entire professional training program directly through the Edge.

There is also the capability to take the information and start developing your own training programs, taking notes of the Stress Scores, power zones, recovery times etc in order to improve the fitness and gain a competitive edge. Other apps (many with free tier usage) provide the ability for more personalisation from race day apps to weather alerts, in other words the bells and whistles to allow the data orientated cyclists to collect and use their ride data exactly the way they want.


Other useful tidbits

A few more perks built into the units range from ‘useful’ to hmmmm… okay. One of the more useful ones is the ‘Crash Detection Alert’ function that utilises your phone contacts to send a message to nominated people in the case of an accident. I found it a bit clunky to setup (requires setup on the 1030 and Connect App). It’s a feature you hope you never need, but is nice to know is there if need be.

garmin out front

Another perk is ‘Rider to rider messaging’ – to me, this falls into the hmmmm… okay category as it is currently only capable of messaging from 1030 to 1030, the messages are pre-determined and the circa 20 available messages are not customisable. I understand where they are going with it but if I need to message other riders, I am not going to scroll through a list of generic messages while riding, I am going to stop and send a text message or whatsapp message which doesn’t depend on the brand of device of the recipient.

As you would expect, you get bluetooth connectability which is a must-have for bike tech as it provides a far great ability to ‘connect’ than ANT+. If you have a Strava premium membership there is a goodie as you are able to easily see the segments while you are riding. If you feel like a winner you can go for some PRs or KOMs. An SD card slot also allows you to store a wealth of extra data, it can accommodate up to 64GB which is a lot of riding.


Is the 1030 worth the ‘walk up’ value?

I will use the word ‘invest’ rather than ‘buy’ because $749 is a considerable amount of money. If you want decent GPS navigation (and not merely recording) there are only very few options. The Edge 1030 delivers navigation capably in an attractive, albeit large package. You could use your smart-phone for navigation however the phone apps are far less likely to deliver clever and suitable trips which the Edge does so well by collating other popular rides.

The size and clarity of the screen make the 1030 a decisive step up from the Edge 800/1000. The feature list is impressive, particularly for data nerds and serious competitors who will stop at nothing for metrics. The Edge 1030 is boasts ‘versatility’, from crash detection to ambient light sensor and extensive compatibility. Competing brands now have to playing catch-up, they simply don’t yet match the extensive feature list of the flagship Garmin cycle computer.

garmin routing

However your own needs have to be evaluated, I mentioned that I hadn’t used a heart rate monitor or speed sensor in years so my demands for data is fairly minimal. If you don’t need navigation and don’t need a large format display or extensive array of training metrics, a smaller cycle computer could be the better option. My crystal ball suggests that Garmin Edge 820 and 520 are due for upgrades soon and we should see an Edge 830 and Edge 530 which will borrow many of features from the big brother but at a lower price point.

I enjoyed the features and was impressed with the clear and legible screen. But the touch screen and my ‘winter glove’ problems hold me back from becoming an ‘investor’. I ride a lot with long fingered gloves and so am very picky. A lot of people like touch screens but I’m not one of them. I got too many touches instead of swipes, taps not recognised, or slightly misjudged taps that annoyed me.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to like about the Edge 1030 such as the auto-backlight option which is brilliant, I am just not the right investor for this stock. But if it is right for you, the Garmin Edge 1030 GPS cycle computer is a complex and feature rich unit that is really leading the bunch.

Further specs and details from Garmin for the Edge 1030

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In Review: Ortlieb Back-Roller Pannier Bags for Cycle Touring Sat, 18 Nov 2017 09:41:29 +0000 The best thing about cycle touring is opening the front door when I return home at the end of the trip. It is familiar territory and everything has its place so it is like a reward following a great journey. You can tell that when I am travelling by bike, I still want some comfort […]]]>

The best thing about cycle touring is opening the front door when I return home at the end of the trip. It is familiar territory and everything has its place so it is like a reward following a great journey. You can tell that when I am travelling by bike, I still want some comfort and organisation. Swap the rough and dirty with a nice place stay overnight to keep me happy. Leave the tins of baked beans and safety matches at home… but if it rains, I am not turning back.

This year I embarked on a new travel experience with the bike and bahn, as in the Deutsche Bahn (trains) in Germany. My work trip to Eurobike involved travelling across Germany by train and doing all the short trips by bike. Usually I take a plane or car and this time was really looking forward to travelling door to door with the bike. I knew it would let me avoid the dreaded congestion and allow me to simply enjoy the ride.

For this type of trip, the only way to be all-inclusive is with big pannier bags. If I was doing a crazy long-distance ride against time then I would opt instead for a bike-packing setup. Bike packing is ultra-cool and very much about a minimalist, aerodynamic setup. My distances are shorter and my demands for comfort are high so the best bike for the job is my daily commuter which has pannier racks on the back and let’s me tackle gravel paths and trails at a whim.

bike packing ortlieb

In Germany, if you want to buy bike bags, the two main brands are Deuter and Ortlieb. Deuter are reliable but don’t have the same edge as Ortlieb who have established themselves with practical designs that have a tendency to be simultaneously classic and contemporary. I have always liked Ortlieb gear and for years rely on the Ortlieb Vario Urban which is a backpack that can also fit onto a pannier rack. I only every use it as a backpack because it is extremely comfortable and because I don’t like the thought of hanging my laptop from the side of the bike. Therefore, the Vario backpack is already booked in to house my laptop and DSLR on the trip while new panniers will do the rest.

ortlieb back roller review

The Ortlieb Back-Roller is a popular model available in a myriad of variations; 9 models with different sizes, material and features. The Back-Rollers are waterproof pannier bags which close securely by rolling the of the bag closed and then fastening it so that it doesn’t unravel. There is no ‘zip lock’ to actually seal it, but the mechanism works fantastically and the contents will stay dry when it pours with rain. Ortlieb also offer fully sealed bags which I haven’t tried – these would be of interest if you are crossing rivers and the bags are submerged.

bike bags touring

To mount the back-rollers on the bike it has a brilliant ‘quick lock’ fastening system which allows you to simply set it into place on panner rack. It automatically locks into place and you are ready to ride. The same beautiful convenience lets you also ‘unmount’ the pannier bag simply by lifting the bag off – it releases immediately and you are on your way.

ortlieb close bag

closing bike bag

I opted for the large 40 L Back-Roller Black’n White, the price and the size were right. The Black’n White model is available in a dominant black or dominant white version, both feature a big Ortlieb logo splashed across the front. The panniers a cost 129 Euro (AUD200) for a pair directly from Ortlieb, I got them slightly cheaper as there was a special with better pricing for the panniers with the big ortlieb logos. In Australian bike shops, the retail price for this model ranges between $190 to $225. At the time of writing, this particular model has suddenly been labeled on the German site as ‘discontinued/sold out’ though was still available in Australia.

An important trend for the Ortlieb company is sustainability which stretches from their brand philosophy and into all facets including manufacture and recycling. Traditionally PVC has been used in Ortlieb bags, it lends the bags a lot of positive traits such as durability and waterproofing but the recycling is problematic because PVC can release pasticisers into ground water or toxic dioxins when burnt. Across the entire Ortlieb range, the materials are being shifted to materials which can be recycled or are degradable. The Back-Roller Black’n White is completely PVC free and utilises polyurethane coated canvas.


Setting up the Pannier bags

Out of the box, the Back-Rollers are straight forward to setup, I only referred to the instructions to setup the shoulder strap properly. The shoulder strap functions both as a shoulder carry strap and as part of the bags fastening – it secures the ‘flaps’ to ensure that the panniers remain closed and protected from water. For casual trips about town you can leave the straps off and just use the hand-carry strap.

I was impressed by how fast I was able to get both the bags properly setup on the racks. Each pannier has the QL2.1 (Quick Lock) system and by hand you can simply adjust the position of the rack mounts. The aim to set up the mounting clips so that the bag can’t slide about. You also want to ensure that the bags are far enough back so you don’t hit them with your foot while pedalling. On the rear of each bag (neat the bottom) is an adjustable mounting ‘latch’ which helps to keep the bags into place and prevents them from swinging. The end result is a stable and reliable mount and in my case it was setup, adjusted and completed in less than 90 seconds.

quick lock 2 ortlieb

pannier bag bike

mounting pannier bag

The QL2.1 mounting system will suit racks with tubes up to 16mm in diameter. Small inserts for the clips give you an exact fit for racks with 8, 10 and 12mm diameter tubing.

For every day use there no complicated steps to follow, you just set the bags down into place on the rack and Quick Lock does the rest, or pull the bag up and it releases. This ease-of-use meant I immediately put the bags into action and you could see me cycling about town transporting power-tools or piles of books which were securely stowed inside the back-rollers.

quick lock 2 ortlieb

Travelling with Panniers

The big trip by train and bike was looming and after years of experience, whittling the luggage down to the necessities was routine. The bags were comfortably full with clothes, shoes and toiletries and the extra weight noticeable. If you have a big stand and heavier pannier bags there will be a limit to how much weight can be supported. I don’t use a bike stand though it means taking care when leaning the bike to making sure it won’t topple.

ortlieb cycle touring

The trickiest part of travelling was lifting the bikes with loaded panniers onto and off the trains. I could have taken the panniers off but when a lot of other passengers are also trying to get on or off, it is simpler to leave the bags and do it in one swoop. The train trip from Frankfurt to the bottom of Germany requires three different trains so there was some lifting and shuffling involved. Inside the train I simply parked the bike in the reserved spot and took all my bags with me to my seat.

deutsche bahn fahrradmitnahme

A real plus point of these bag is that they can generally stand upright on their own and don’t topple quite as easily as other panniers.  As the bags come as a pair, it is also easy to lean them against one another.


Bike Handling with Panniers

If you haven’t used panniers before, the first thing you will notice that the broad surfaces of the Ortlieb Back-Rollers catch the wind. As the panniers have a low center of gravity when loaded, this is usually not a big concern. In high-wind locations, the bags will create enough drag to affect stability and bike handling.

I like to ride swiftly so the drag is very noticeable. If I really wanted to be aerodynamic then bike-packing would make more sense so I have to keep reminding myself that bike touring is not a race. When the weight is distributed across the two panniers the bike remains easy to control but it is ‘back heavy’ so is best to take bit more care when turning or braking on wet or loose surfaces.


Let it rain

I was able to start my journey with balmy, sunny weather. Halfway through the second day, dark clouds crawled across the skies of southern Germany and torrential rain set in. Despite wearing a fully waterproof jacket and waterproof pants I was soaked to the bone, but the spare cloths and supplies in the Back-Rollers were bone dry.

The rain continued and for each 15km trip from my accommodation to Eurobike and then back again, it was only the intensity of the miserable weather that changed. With the Ortlieb panniers I always had a change of dry clothes and my verdict after putting them through days of pretty awful weather is that I completely trust them to keep my gear secure and dry. Over the days, dirt and grim collected on the bags but with the dark colour and design, it was perfectly in-place.


Just one thing…

The only issue I experienced was when hand-grip would get tangled inside the quick-lock and jam. The first time it happen I dismissed it but when it happened again, and I had to try and pry open the quick-lock, it made me wonder if this is something can can be improved somehow in the design or construction. As a minor issue, this barely affects the overall functionality.

But there are a few details that I could easily overlook as I have used a few Ortlieb products and just expect them to work well. For example the reflective patches on the bags make sense, the comfortable hand-grips feel great when I have to lug the heavy bags about and the re-enforced base that makes it more durable and stable. All of the plastic clips and buckle are ‘quality’ parts and all of the details contribute to form an overall package that last.

ortlieb quality


In Summary

Ortlieb panniers are not the cheapest panniers on the market but they have a design that works and deliver superb quality. Coming into the review, I was already convinced that Ortlieb are good and still can’t fault them following my test of the Back-Roller Black’n White pannier bags.

ortlieb urban bag

The German brand are well known among touring cyclists but for commuters and bike packers, they have some very good looking bags in their range. More from

KASK Helmets are Sky Rocketing to New Heights in Australia Sun, 05 Nov 2017 20:09:37 +0000 Helmets are a hot topic in Australia right now but sports cycling is a different beast – faster speeds for road cyclists and off-road terrain for mountain bikers create the conditions where most cyclists automatically reach for a helmet without the need for a law. Not to mention, the helmet is an essential part of […]]]>

Helmets are a hot topic in Australia right now but sports cycling is a different beast – faster speeds for road cyclists and off-road terrain for mountain bikers create the conditions where most cyclists automatically reach for a helmet without the need for a law. Not to mention, the helmet is an essential part of the sports cyclist wardrobe just likes sunnies, the lycra cycling kit and cleats. And this is exactly where Italian brand KASK fit in, their Protour sponsorship of the successful Team Sky and distinct styling has sent the popularity of KASK helmets sky rocketing.

Australia has become an important market for KASK and with the growing demand, the brand have parted-ways with distributor Italiatech and moved the complete distribution, marketing and events into KASK Australia. Did you know that KASK are big in ski, equestrian and safety helmets? Cycling is the final segment and KASK Australia now looks after all division along with their young sunglasses brand KOO.

Coinciding with the structural change, the KASK helmet line-up changes for the coming season. The Infinity ‘aero’ and Protone ‘aerated’ helmets remain at the top of the line and will be joined by the new Valegro which Team Sky riders have been wearing in the Grand Tours. The Valegro is all about even more air and by adding this also takes on a less edgy appearance. The Australian versions of helmets can change slightly to their European counterparts as the AS/NZS 2063:2008 standards testing necessitate production changes (such a styrofoam density) in some cases and for the Valegro, the design is likely to be identical but the 215g (size S) may be slightly higher for the Australia edition.

kask valegro concept helmet
Kask Valegro for more air through your hair

The Vertigo 2.0 helmet is being dropped from the line-up but the ever-popular and more ‘accessibly priced’ mojito remains in the lineup.

The Infinity aero helmet is now joined by a teardrop Time Trial / Triathlon helmet called the Mistral. To suit individual riding position and preferences there is a short tail and a long tail version available. Both have the clever magnetic lens system which allows the lenses to be detached and set on the upper part of the helmet.

kask bambino pro mistral aero

Kask Track / TT Helmet Lineup
Mistral – New (December) Price TBD
Bambino Pro $479 + Visor ($70 – $100)

kask infinity protone helmetskask valegro mojito helmets

Kask Road Cycling Helmet Lineup
Infinity (Aero Style) $359 RRP
Protone $389 RRP
Valegro – NEW (March/April 2018) Price TBD
Mojito $239 RRP (Matt $249 RRP)
Rapido $129 RRP

kask rapido rex helmets

Kask MTB Helmet Lineup
– Rex $329 RRP


A Perfect Match with KOO

To match your helmet you need a matching pair of sunnies… right? The original KOO OPEN sunglasses are now accompanied by the OPEN CUBE. It has the same delightful adjustable arms which are designed to fit well with the helmet, of course they recommend a KASK helmet. The ‘full frame’ is remove which leaves the bottom the the sunnies free and gives an overall ‘sporty’ look. The original KOO Open and the new Open CUBE retail for $300 RRP.

koo open cube sunglasses comparison

koo open cube sunglasses
KOO Open Cube from Eurobike

KASK Australia said they will continue to look after current dealers and focus on fast delivery and after sales support as well as reaching out to new dealers. Under the KASK Australia umbrella they are increasing stock and availability and also starting ‘grass roots’ activities such as events and demo-days to connect directly with cyclists.


Velopac – Premium Storage for Cyclists in Review Tue, 31 Oct 2017 21:18:01 +0000 Put your hand up if you have ever used a zip-lock bag to protect the things in your jersey pocket. It’s the poor man’s (or women’s) solution for storing cash, cards, a mobile phone and other essentials while out cycling. At the other end of the spectrum you can spend upwards of $150 for a […]]]>

Put your hand up if you have ever used a zip-lock bag to protect the things in your jersey pocket. It’s the poor man’s (or women’s) solution for storing cash, cards, a mobile phone and other essentials while out cycling. At the other end of the spectrum you can spend upwards of $150 for a high fashion, high tech “all-conditions” phone pocket. In-between there is the UK-made Ridepac for $49.99 which I have in review and the big question is, how does it stack-up against the ziplock bag?

I’ve graduated from the ziplock bags long ago. I was out riding and fished the ziplock bag out of the jersey pocket to the tragedy of my phone falling and clattering onto the bitumen. I’d pushed the bag too far and used it too long, it had split along the bottom and had to pay the price. I was lucky to avoid a very expensive less but with a new iPhone8 or Samsung Galaxy S8 setting you back $1000, does your smart phone really only deserve a ziplock bag?

The saddle bag is a good option for the spare inner tube, CO2 cartridge, tyre levers and multitool. It keeps this gear out of my jersey pockets so to protect my phone, cards and cash all I need is a compact style pouch.

My current solution is the Sticky Pod, but I tried some other solutions first, among them a 3½” external hard drive case (a bit small for an iPhone 6S), a Lezyne Phone wallet (great but the zip broke) and a Cicli Borsa from an LBS (bigger but lower quaility). The Sticky pod has been servicing me well however a new, larger protective case (attached to the iPhone 6S) means that it is a bit tight, so it was perfect timing to compare with the Ridepac from UK brand Velopac .

The Ridepac is 18.5 x 11 cm and exactly 2cm higher than the Sticky pod so is accommodates the taller mobile phones, even if they have a slightly bulky protective case, that is the first win already. The external zip is ‘water resistant’ and as it doesn’t extend around the entire perimeter, it doesn’t open fully and lay flat. It is essentially a pouch so access to the items inside a bit more fiddly it means better water resistant and makes it harder for things to fall out, in my book, that it the the second win.

The added height of the RidePac makes it suitable for the newest generations of smartphones though if you use a particularly bulky protective case, it could get tricky.

Speaking of bulky, the wallets/pouches like the RidePac generally work best when they are not over-packed. If are thinking of using it for your spare innertube and tools then the pouch will be stuffed and heavy and end up bouncing around when you ride along.If you can’t rely on a team car to get you out of strife, the saddle bag is the best idea for the accessories and the Velopac is for the phone, cards and cash. Be warned, using a saddle bag means you will break Velominati rule #29 “A saddle bag has no place on a road bike…”

A big calling card of the RidePac is the design – in Australia they are available from Acium Sports (they sell a lot of other stuff like awesome looking socks called Pongo, tools, Cobb saddles and a wheel brand called Parcour). You will find 11 RidePac variants available – solid colours including bright blue, orange, green, yellow and a plain black or grey, along with 3 designs with the artwork of Spencer Wilson, a QoM & KoM, male and female ‘Allez’, and the Belgian inspired ‘Echelon’.


The 11 RidePacs feature the same internal pocketing and holders which work well to keep the items segregated and protected. The soft inner brushed fibre is kind to the phone (if you don’t have a case) and the elasticised side pouches hold the contents to make access quite easy, despite the narrow opening.

The external material is a waterproof outer plastic layer that has a matt finish that resists not only the downpour, but sweat as well. I didn’t try it during a downpour but did my best to push it to the limits with the sweat test on a particularly warm and holly ride. As expected, the pouch was dry inside and the smooth outer casing grippy and easy to extract from the jersey pocket. As it is tall. it poke out of the top of the jersey pocket a little which is also easier to retrieve on the fly or when at rest.

Because of the slippery surface I did consider whether there was any danger of it slipping out of the pocket but tackled some particularly rough roads without issues. It remained steadfastly secure, and it fitted in a variety of jerseys without issue. As I didn’t get a downpour, for scientific purposes I did the bathroom sink test to prove that it is suitable for all weather.

As a tip, keep your gels / bars / banana in one jersey pocket and the RiderPac in another.

I only had a couple of gripes with the RidePac, the first is because I have used other pouches that completely open so let me see the screen without extracting the phone. The flip-side is that the RidePac is secure in this respect though I appreciate the convenient of quickly checking the phone. The other criticism is that $49.99 is a solid investment for a discretionary buy. In context it has first class quality, made in the UK and is cheaper than other boutique offerings from Bellroy, MAAP and Rapha.

If you want to be hard on yourself this Christmas, an alternative is the soft PVC waterproof Phonepac pouches. It is like a ziplock but more durable and reliable. They are also available from Acium Sports and cost $14.99 though were not tested.

While there are alternatives, the RidePac is well made accessory that which makes storage of the smart phone, cards and cash convenient. The design is thoughtful and details such as the soft microfiber and pockets make sense. Riderpac editions with artwork are charming, a little retro and a little playful so it brings a smile to my face.

Further information and ordering online from Acium Sports

Review: Pedalit Pro Bike Care for a Sparkly Clean Bike Fri, 29 Sep 2017 07:50:29 +0000 As a busy father that loves to ride, I’ll be honest and say that the ‘bike cleaning’ is one aspect that is usually first on the do next time list. You can attribute this to a mixture of being time poor and not having the right gear to get the job done well and easily […]]]>

As a busy father that loves to ride, I’ll be honest and say that the ‘bike cleaning’ is one aspect that is usually first on the do next time list. You can attribute this to a mixture of being time poor and not having the right gear to get the job done well and easily (OK, I’ll admit it’s being lazy too). When I received the ‘Pro Bike Care package’, it didn’t come soon enough as my bike was suffering under an excessive accumulation of grime and road detritus.

If you read my recent review on the Pedalit Body Care range, you will know that the brand are want to be recognised for high-quality products with natural or environmentally conscious selection of ingredients. But is that enough to get a dirty bike clean? Let’s find out and take a look at the Pedalit degreaser, the bike wash and some tools to make cleaning easier.

dirty bike

filthy chain


cleaning dirty bike


‘Resurrection’ Degreaser

Usually I turn to old-fashioned Mineral Turpentine or Kerosene to tackle the build-up of crud, grease and road grime from the bike. And as you can guess, it is a filthy and tedious process that is not kind to my hands and lawn.

For the acid test to ‘resurrect’ my bike, I started by using the Pedalit Resurrection degreaser “neat” which means undiluted in a spray bottle. The Pedalit team recommend neat for really tough grime, a 3:1 mix of water:degreaser for semi-hard grime and 20:1 for lighter or general washing. Back to my test, the drivetrain areas received a liberal dosing from the spray bottle and was given time to do it’s work. The non-offensive odour of the degreaser was duly noted and my hands were spared from the typical duress of harsh solvents which was much appreciated.

It was then time to get out the cleaning tools from Pedalit which included the Drive Train Claw and the Component + Hub Brush. You have probably seen these type of bike specific cleaning accessories before, they will generally do a better job than random tools and rags from your toolshed and the Pedalit ones are very affordably priced at $4.95 for each.

pedalit cleaning brush

bike cleaning brush

I didn’t have to scrub with all my might, as it all came off pretty easily. A light hose off and the bike was already  starting to look pretty damn good. The accumulated brake pad dust from the discs was gone, and the hefty layer of grease/grime & lube on the jockey wheels vanished without any real water pressure. Now time for the next stage of cleaning.

washing bike



Premium Chain Tool & Premium Chain Holder QR

When it comes to keeping my bike chain squeaky clean, as a creature of habit, I’m a ‘break the quick link on the chain, dunk it in turps, dry & lube and then refit’ guy. I’ve tried a chain cleaning tool once before and wasn’t convinced with the result. Once I worked out how to open the Pedalit Premium Chain Tool, I’m now more confident that I can easily do interim chain cleans easily, especially when paired with the Chain Holder.

chain cleaner

clean drive train

pedalit bike cleaner

The Chain Holder is a handy little tool and is designed to keep your chain nicely in-place when your wheel is removed. It means you can use it for cleaning as a chain guide but also for transporting the bike. My chain needed real help so I went for undiluted Resurrection degreaser and it needed a few revolutions through the cleaner. By the third run my bike chain could once again see the light of day. The brushes in the Chain Tool are not fixed within the unit so you have to be careful that they don’t accidentally pop-out and get lost when you are not looking (which nearly happened to me).

shiny clean bike

clean derailleur

For lubing the chain with my bike mounted in my Tacx workstand, the Chain Holder made it super easy and I began to wonder how I ever did without it.

clean bike



‘Splendor’ Bike Wash

The grease and grime was now gone from the drivetrain, time to give the frame a bit of TLC. This is where the Splendor Bike Wash and Premium Frame Brush really made life easy. The Splendor foamed nicely (mixed 20:1 as recommended, so a 1 litre bottle will last quite a few washes) and when combined with the soft, but large faced Frame Brush, it made the task really easy and actually quite quick.

soap bike

Even after some serious scrubbing in and around bottle cages, cranks, disc calipers etc, the bristles remained intact and all pointing in the right direction. I’ve seen many brushes (cheap and expensive) suffer from a good use and be almost a throwaway item after a few uses. This isn’t the case with the Premium Frame Brush.

A quick rinse with the water revealed that I do actually have a nice shiny bike underneath! The only downside to the Frame Brush is that it’s size means that there are some areas it doesn’t get into well, such as the inside of chain stays, fork crowns and the like. Now that I am a bike cleaning expert (just see how clean my bike is… like new) I can put in a recommendation for a ‘Father & Son’ pair of Frame Brushes for the next generation.


I didn’t think it would happen, but my habits have been changed. I’ve now gone from a ‘Crikey, I better wash this as it’s looking REALLY ratty’, to a ‘I like a shiny & clean bike that I am proud to ride, even in winter’.

The proper tools make a world of difference, cleaning is easier and rewarding. It also makes a difference that the Splendor & Resurrection bike cleaning products are Australian Made, biodegradable and the company behind it have a positive approach. The cleaners and tools are very competitively priced and work well which make it easier to opt for the local product.

pedalit hand cleaner

As a tip, the knowledge base on the pedalit website has some genuinely useful information which is good even for the more experienced cyclists.

You can see product details and purchase online from:

Finn – The Urban Smartphone Mount in Review Mon, 25 Sep 2017 20:05:10 +0000 Whenever a new smart phone is launched, an entire industry of accessory suppliers rush to manufacture a perfectly fitted smart phone case. Brands who make bike mounted smart phone cases also have to follow suit, but Austrian brand Bike Citizens have changed the rule and have mount called Finn which suits any brand, but a […]]]>

Whenever a new smart phone is launched, an entire industry of accessory suppliers rush to manufacture a perfectly fitted smart phone case. Brands who make bike mounted smart phone cases also have to follow suit, but Austrian brand Bike Citizens have changed the rule and have mount called Finn which suits any brand, but a different type of riding.

On my bike, the handlebars are the ‘cockpit’ where everything needs its space, from the brakes and gears to accessories such as a light, bell and cycle-computer. It is very much about efficiency, ensuring I can ride comfortably while having easy access everything I need. But the Finn does things differently, you don’t need to plan, it more of a smart phone mount for casual urban riding and touring where you can easily put in on, take it off and just go with the flow.

The thoughtful design, simplicity and affordability is what sells it. The silicon wraps around the bars, threads through itself and stretches around the phone. A flat section on the mount assists in keeping the phone orientated correctly but it remains versatile so you can shift the position on the fly. At $22.50 (including shipping), it reasonably priced for a smart phone mount and you don’t have to deliberate because it suits all smart phones which tend to be flat rectangles.

bike mount

iphone bike navigation

Of course a mount like this doesn’t give you bells and whistles like the protection that you would get from an enclosed case style mount like the Quadlock. If it rains and your phone isn’t waterproof, then you wont be using the Finn. I was wondering about the stability and rode on various surfaces including single-track and cobble stones and it actually works very well. The silicon lends the grip and stretch that it will only wobble if the going gets tough.

As an easy-to-use mount, it is also easy to misplace, is it in the jacket pocket or in a bag?

silicon bike mount

As the Finn mounts on your bars, you don’t get the advance of the popular ‘out-front’ styles mounts where smart phones or cycle computers are positions in front of the bars. That has the advantage of (usually) freeing more space on your handle bars and making it a tad bit easier to glance down at the screen. The position means that some riders may find their knee knock against it from time to time when turning. The silicon straps also cover the edges of the screen but for touring and urban use I don’t see that as a big detractor.


But wait…. there’s more

Firstly, there is a triple-pack available where you get three mounts for the price of two. The other part of Finn is that belongs to the Bike Citizen concept. In essence this is an App (called Bike Citizen) which mixes urban lifestyle and navigation. For each Finn mount you get access to mapping for one city and can purchase additional cities for ca. $6.70 (or all cities internationally for $30).

finn cycling navigation

In Australia, only the major cities are available though Bike Citizen is just getting started in this country so there are no cycling tours yet, instead the App relies on standard navigation (computer) and OpenStreetMaps. This opens an opportunity for newcomers to start adding tours for their cities and even for cities to partner-up and provide bike routes and services.

At the time of writing, a new version of the app has been released and with the limited content for Australia and new release, a deeper analysis will not be provided, but the Bike Citizens app can viewed as a bonus.

The Finn bike mount for smart phones is available online:

finn bike mount

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