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Serfas Optics – Review

3 Oct

For all of you out there who’ve been thinking “man, I wish the same people who made my grandma’s bike saddle would make sunglasses,” Serfas Optics has arrived. Eyeware from the famous Tawainese manufacturer brings a variety of styles to a pricepoint (MSRP $50) somewhat less obscene than bigger name brands. But how does the product compare?

Style: 3. Why else does anyone really wear sunglasses? The model I picked, the Hunters, was decently stylish. At anything other than close inspection, they looked like an expensive bit of performance eyeware. Of course, once you tell people Serfas makes them, they laugh at you, but the style is undistinctive enough that few people ask. Good range of frame/lens colors to coordinate with your outfit. So 3, right dead in the middle of the road.

Performance: 4. Not bad. In fact, quite good. The glasses, which have the standard rubber pads on the nose and ear pieces, stay put extremely well. I never had trouble with sliding down even while riding a rigid MTB fixed-gear through a rock garden in 90% humidity. Yeah, they collect sweat and occasionally fog, but no worse than any other sunglasses out there. Plus, they’re very lightweight and don’t make the tops of your ears ache. Lens changing was tricky to figure out, but simple after the first time.

Lenses: 3. The Hunters (and I believe all the other interchangable Serfas shades) come with 4 polycarbonate lenses – gray, red, yellow and clear. Red is a darn good multi-condition lens for anything from bright and sunny to moderately overcast. The grey lens would be decent for sunny days if it didn’t diffuse direct sunlight in the AM and evening all throughout your field of vision, making it seem like you’re riding in fog. Clear is for rain (duh) and performs adequately, while yellow is a good twilight lens, but it made me nauseous* in any sort of direct sunshine. Moving distortion is minimal, but a single bright source of light, such as a headlight or reflective piece of metal shows up as a double-image. Good scratch resistance.

Durability: 2. My frames broke at the nose piece after about two weeks of wear. I was quite cautious about changing lenses, so the break could have happened in my crash at GMSR, but even then, I don’t feel like there was enough impact that they should have broken. Still, they remain functional and it’s not all that noticable, so I’m less ticked off about it. Traditional weak spots such as the hinges are still like new after a month of serious usage. Rubber on nose and earpieces seems not to be rotting, which is a plus.

Price: 4. When compared with the $125 tag on a new pair or Smiths or Oakleys, these look pretty good. And they’re certainly a step up from what you’d find on the $12 rack at the department store, or even at Nashbar or Performance. But other mid-range brands, like Tifosi might offer a little more bling (if not performance) for your buck, without the “comfort seat” connotations of the Serfas name.

Final Thoughts: I’ve gotta say, first off, that I hate all eyewear. If it weren’t for the immense discomfort of picking gnats from the previous night’s ride out from under my eyelids each morning, I wouldn’t wear glasses at all. That having been said, these shades are all right. They annoy me no more while riding than eyewear costing twice as much. You, however, if you’re the sort that generally likes glasses, might have higher standards. So if you’re a slave to brand names, or a performance opitics coinisseur, these may not be for you. But if you’re a working sap looking for a passable pair of shades that won’t make you look like a total Joey, these’ll do fine.

*You’re gonna tell me this should be “nauseated,” not “nauseous,” right? Well, tough. I like the way “nauseous” sounds, so suck it up and deal.

Sigma Sport BC 1200 – Review

7 Sep

A basic, middle-of-the-line computer from your favorite German fitness product company. Avg. speed, ridetime, stopwatch, ride distance, max speed, total odo, and even a countdown odometer (for those of you who can’t subtract). Retail is $25, a wireless mount (which I got) is 15 more.

Set-Up: 4. Pretty simple. After you find the hidden button on the back that resets it, just punch buttons (there’s only two) through the menus, enter the special 4-digit code for your wheel size, set your clock, and it’s good to go. Barely need the manual at all. Kinda sucks that you can’t mount it on the stem without having it rotated 90-degrees, though.

Use: 5. God, it’s so easy. One button goes between modes, the other starts/stops. Both buttons together reset a given mode. Plus the display is so flippin’ huge that even Laurent Fignon could read it without glasses. Average speed stops measuring when the wheel stops rolling, as does trip time, so you can stop to take a leak without messing up your data.

Maintenance: 3. Could have been better. Sigma’s dumb stock magnet doesn’t fit bladed or radically butted spokes. The sensor (on my Look fork, anyway) moved around a lot. I’d say about once a week I’d look down while riding and find my current speed at 0.0, and have to realign things.

Durability: 2. I flip the bike upside-down for maintenance, and it didn’t seem too damaged by it. I also packed in pretty hard one time (around 20mph) and computer stayed put on the bars. But after changing its location to the stem so I could mount aerobars, I started sweating on it alot, and after 1820 miles, it stopped working. Changed all the batteries, bought a new wireless mount, new magnet, still nothing.

Features: 4. Everything I need, nothing I don’t (except the stupid trip countdown – aren’t Germans supposed to be good at math?). Actually, it would have been nice to have a cadence option, and a backlight, but that might be asking too much from a $25 dollar computer.

Final Thoughts: For me, it comes down to ease of use vs. reliability. Maybe if you buy a Mavic magnet, superglue the wheel sensor in place, and don’t sweat on it, it lasts longer and requires less tweaking. The sheer frustration of trying to use the CatEye I have now makes it seem worthwhile to stay with the BC 1200 and just replace it every 2000 miles.

Fizik Aliante Sport – Review

16 Aug

A stripped down model of the super-pimp Aliante this saddle might just only be available as an OEM part. No matter. It might be on a bike you want, it might turn up on Nashbar next month. It weighs 263g with Ti rails, cost is probably around $70 retail? Anyway, let’s get down to business (on a scale of 1-5 as always, with 3 being the industry average.)

Cost: 3. At my guestimated retail price, it compares favorably with other saddles in that price range. Ti rails keep it light, rest of the saddle is cheap: plastic, foam and faux leather.

Comfort: 4. Is there really any other criterion to judge a saddle by? Unlike many seats, which require a few moments for the backside to adjust before they feel ok, the Aliante is immediately cozy. Seriously, I sat down and was like like “Hellooooooooo.” After about 90 minutes of uninterupted sitting, things get less comfy, but still without numbness in the bits, and no worse than on any other saddle I’ve ridden. Perhaps the super-advanced carbon shell under the padding on the top-end Aliantes addresses this issue?

Weight: 3. More than an SLR, less than a (cheap) Concor. I really don’t care about weight, but if you do, my guess is you’ll probably want something a little easier on the gram scale; the high-end Aliante will definately scratch that itch a little better.

Shape: 4. What’s this you might ask? Why, it’s an assesment of the saddle’s ability to let you ride in different positions to adapt to different speeds, road conditions and just for plain old comfort. The Aliante does pretty well, with a slightly raised/widened nose, which aids comfort while time trialling (ouch), and the back flares up nicely, letting you get back for comfort on cobbles or to get flat-backed without aerobars. Only problem is the cheap plastic bit under the nose has pointy ends that snag your shorts (if your thighs are as huge as mine).

Style: 3. Pretty Plain Jane as these things go. Fizik really held off on the sweet Italian styling that made their Arione so classic. Nothing here but boring old black and a tiny “Arione sport” written on the side of the nose. Plus is doesn’t have those kevlar cloth edges, so a crash or two is sure to tear this thing open and make it a sponge. Bummer.

Final Thoughts: A clear winner for cheapskates like me who love to stand up every once in a while. My only caution is that I have a pretty girthy backside (I mean, it’s all muscle, but still, pretty big). I weigh a fair amount (165lbs, 75kg), but that pressure is well distributed. I’ve only come across one saddle that I ever couldn’t stand, and people have told me on numerous occasions that my previous saddles have sucked. So take my advice at your own discretion.

Sharkies – Review

27 Jul

Interesting. A fully organic gummy candy. Seems counterintuitive. Also, it’s marketed as an energy food for workouts. Let’s see how they stand up against other products on the market.

Cost: 2. Retail is 3 dollars a pouch. A 12-pouch box of non-organic gummy candy is 6 bucks. That does not compare favorably.

Portability: 4. Pouch is larger than most energy foods, but is very easy to compact and doesn’t seem bulky in a jersey pocket. Plus, if opened correctly, it’s essentially resealable (compared to an energy bar or goo container).

Ease of Use: 3 If you drop an energy bar while riding, all of it is going to hit the road and get dirty. With Sharkies, you’ll drop one or two little fish, but the rest of the bag is safe. If you’re prone to dropping things this is an advantage; if you aren’t, the smaller fish may prove harder to hold. Pick your poison, I guess.

Taste: 2 (compared to other gummi candies; it’s good for an energy food). After extra salty licorice fish, probably the worst tasting gummy candy I’ve eaten. It doesn’t taste bad per se, just unusual. Like someone left the rinds on the organically-grown oranges when they threw them into the Sharkies-making machine. The aftertaste is especially weird. Still, miles beyond a Cola Buzz Clif Shot.

Punch: 2. There’s 170 calories in a bag, but I just don’t know where they all go. Eating a bag over a minute or two felt like eating half a Gu. Sharkies do offer two distinct advantages over most energy foods, though. If you’ve got an odd or unpredictable metabolism that doesn’t respond well to being swamped by sugers, they hit (and eat) more like a regular food than anything else I’ve tried. Also, they let you add in calories a little bit at time, if you’re one of those atheletes who’s super bent out of shape about steady caloric input during exercise.

Final Thoughts: A good attempt, but not that great. It is nice to see a wholly organic energy food (other than regular old fruit, I suppose), especially considering the warning label on the back of Enervit Cheerpacks that warn they may contain “crustaceans.” Maybe if you’re big into natural foods and adding energy to your system a little bit at a time, this could be for you. Otherwise, stick to the classics and supplement with gummy candy from your local 7-11.

"Crash!" DVD – Review

26 Jun

The product reviews here at Cyclocosm aim to be a bit different than on other sites. We tell you as much as possible, as quickly as possible. The testers decide what traits of a product are important to that product’s not sucking, then rate those traits 1-5, with 3 being the industry standard. No overall score is given, as different people will want different things from each product.

Hosted by Bob Roll, Featuring Lance, Jan, many other riders, Color, 104min, MSRP $24.95.

Originality 4. Nothing new about a bike racing compilation. All crashes, though, is a new development.

Acting: 3. A very hungover (or stoned?) Bob Roll gives insight but little flare to the narration. The flighty, post-race interviews with Lance are ok, and the commentary of Phil and Paul carry the production, but the Oscar has to go to Alex Zulle, for acting like he really meant to ride his TT bike straight into a wall during the ’98 Giro d’Italia.

Watchability: 4. Basically, this category is how easy/fun it is to watch. If you’ve got a 30 pack of High Life and a bunch of guys over, it’s a good time (especially with frame-by-frame playback.) Can’t say I’m motivated to watch it over and over again.

Monotony: 3. It does get old toward the end. The Eddy Merckx section is interesting, but the guitar-riffing-over-crash-footage at the end is just weird.

Final Thoughts: A novelty, albeit an entertaining one. Borrow from a friend or get it free with your Year-Long subscription to Cycle Sport.

Ritchey WCS Crankset – Review

26 Jun

The product reviews here at Cyclocosm aim to be a bit different than on other sites. We tell you as much as possible, as quickly as possible. The testers decide what traits of a product are important to that product’s not sucking, then rate those traits 1-5, with 3 being the industry standard. No overall score is given, as different people will want different things from each product.

Crankset, Aluminum, 53/39, 170mm, 592g, MSRP $199.99 (widely available for less).

Looks: 4. What component draws more attention than your crankset? Machined, black-anodized aluminum looks sweet and industrial in world dominated by shininess and rounded carbon weave.

Weight: 3. Company says it weighs 592g, my pasta scale (non-digital) puts it well above 600. Weight Weenies claims 654g. Still, lighter than Ultegra.

Stiffness: 1. I visibly bend the left crank simply by standing up (I weigh 170lbs). Occasionally, the chain will pop off under max power bursts, which I believe may also be a stiffness issue. Simply unacceptable.

Shifting: 3. Unremarkable. Works most of the time, no more hesitant to shift or prone to accidental derail than any other I’ve used.

Cost: 4. Overlook the stiffness thing, and its a good, low cost upgrade/replacement.

Final Thoughts: Lack of stiffness mars all other traits. Heavy/powerful riders and racers will find it infuriating. Perhaps suitable for the weight/style-conscious cyclotouriste or recreational rider.

Enervit Cheerpack – Review

2 Jun

The product reviews here at Cyclocosm aim to be a bit different than on other sites. We tell you as much as possible, as quickly as possible. The testers decide what traits of a product are important to that product’s not sucking, then rate those traits 1-5, with 3 being the industry standard. No overall score is given, as different people will want different things from each product.

This lovely energy supplement is an extremely sugary liquid, billed as “nitrous for your body.” The idea is to boost your performance over the last hour of a race or hard ride.

Cost: 2. Retail is 5 bucks a pack; about twice what a PowerGel costs. Enervit claims each pack is two servings’ worth, but drinking half a pack is both difficult and impractical.

Portability: 3. Nothing fancy, same size as most energy gels, slightly thicker package size. Several fit fine in a jersey pocket.

Ease of Use: 3. Again, pretty standard. The screw-off top is a little easier to open without making a mess and allows resealing, but the consequences of an accidental swallow are much higher.

Edibility: 3. The taste is pretty neutral, but the massive amount of sugars can make it tough on the throat. Still, the fact that it’s entirely liquid makes it go down easy. Not bad, not good.

Punch: 5. As far as I can tell, this is the next best thing to 400mg of meth. The impact is immediate, like a good Coca-Cola buzz, but long-lived and without the nasty belches. I took one with 2 laps to go at the Boulder-Roubaix race, and it made me a different man. Time your usage well, though; the comedown hits hard after about an hour and 20 minutes.

Final Thoughts: Expensive, but useful. Find someone who works at a shop that imports from Veltec, and get them at cost.