It's already August, we've already had the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes with a slew of tech trends, from the final nail in the coffin for rim brakes and a much more dominant showing from tubeless, and the weather in the U.K. is already turning grim again after our annual four days of sunshine.
July also saw us head to Eurobike for a mega tech roundup, and try and answer that tricky question of which upgrades give you the most bang for your buck.
This is in addition to the usual collection of tech that we've had in for review in the last four weeks we've had a few slightly more alternative things land on the doormat, so we're going to take the opportunity to highlight these, instead of the usual carbon-fest.
We've got gravel fashion, camera portage, and some coffee that's ideal for bikepacking, so sit back and have a scroll through what's landed here in the last month.
Ostroy Resort Shirt and Cargo Bibs
While road cycling is steeped in tradition, and still somewhat under the thumb of some ironically written rules, the free spirited nature of gravel means you can get away with some slightly more challenging fashion concepts. Enter Ostroy, a New York based brand who caught my eye when it created the cycling Resort Shirt.
At a glance, it's just a normal, if slightly garish, short sleeve shirt. Put it on however and you realise it's made of the same material as the best cycling jerseys. If you've never ridden in a shirt before you're missing out; on hot days the additional airflow more than offsets the aero drawbacks (unless you're actually racing), and having one made of Lycra elevates the form even more over cotton and linen offerings. What's more, there's even a rear pocket for your phone.
Perfect for dress-down Friday at the office before heading straight from work for a quick blast to the pub in the sunshine without needing an awkward wardrobe change in the loos.
Alternatively, pair it with a fabulously yellow pair of cargo bibs and you’ve still got the capacity to carry all you need for a full day out. Sure, some traditionalists will say bib shorts have to be black, but to them I say you’re missing out on bringing a bit of sunshine to proceedings, which can only be a good thing. Head to Ostroy to see the rest of the range.
Heaped coffee bags
Cycling and coffee go together like clotted cream and strawberry jam (jam first, or we'll fall out), or for those who don’t live in southwest England, like cereal and milk. I’m a bit of a coffee nerd, and have tried a few methods for coffee on the go, with varying degrees of success. Instant is light and fast, but has the tendency to taste like the bottom of an old shoe. An Aeropress and grinder makes excellent coffee, but is a faff, and can become borderline painful when beset by swarms of midges in Scotland.
Enter the coffee bag, in this case from Heaped. As with a teabag you get a little bag filled with freshly ground coffee. Simply chuck it in your fashionable enamel mug, add some water, and brew for a few minutes. You get 14 bags in a box, so enough for a two-week tour if you only need a morning camp brew, and the bags are entirely compostable if you’re in a situation where burying them is an appropriate thing to do.
If you’re a full-on coffee maniac who weighs their water (like me, it has to be said), it’s a little harder to dial in, but a simple volumetric measurement of water in and a stopwatch will get you some pretty decent results for an in-the-wild brew up. The end result is pretty similar to a French press in terms of mouth feel, plenty of fines make their way through the bag. This isn’t a criticism either, I love a French press.
The beans are 100% arabica and a blend from Central and South American growers. What’s more, 50% of the profits are donated to support environmental causes and coffee growers too. Head to Heaped to find out more, and to stock up for your next bikepacking trip.
Outer Shell camera strap
For a lot of us a phone is all the camera we need while riding. It can fit in the pockets of your jersey or cargo shorts and nowadays they take pretty good pictures. A lot of the time it’s all I'll take out with me, but the rest of the time I’m forever trying to find a way to transport my proper camera safely and easily.
The first of three camera portage items this month comes from San Francisco-based band Outer Shell. While at first glance it may look like a relatively standard strap the main feature that sets it apart for life on two wheels is the addition of a stabilisation strap that threads under your shoulder. Anyone who has tried to use a basic sling strap while riding will know that within a few minutes your camera will have migrated from your back to swinging dangerously around your knees.
The additional stabilisation strap keeps the camera firmly in one place, but cleverly it uses a Fidlock magnetic clasp that can be opened and closed one-handed for easy access to the camera when needed. It’s perfectly possible to deploy the camera, shoot, and re-holster it without having to stop pedalling, which is saying something.
I’ve not put that many miles in with it yet, but from what I have done it’s performed excellently and is the best strap-based system I’ve used so far on the bike. The wide shoulder strap relieves pressure better than many I’ve used, and the daisy chain loops make it extremely adjustable to get the camera positioning just so. Better still it comes in leopard print, as well as a host of other colours. Head to Outer Shell for more information.
Chrome Tensile Hip Pack and Niko Camera Sling 3.0
For single camera outings and general use the Outer Shell strap is excellent, but there are times when it doesn’t quite cut the mustard. If it’s raining, if you’re riding in the mud without mudguards and have crud flung all up your back, or if you need to bring multiple cameras or spare lenses with you.
While out riding gravel in mucky conditions a hip pack is my go to, so I’m looking forward to using this new Tensile Hip Pack from Chrome, and presumably absolutely ruining the ice-white exterior. There is room for a camera, alongside the basic riding spares I need in a lightly padded interior with enough room to spare for an extra layer or a tonne of snacks. It’s compressible too, for when you don’t pack it totally full, and has space for two cans of your favourite juice on the sides.
Sure, you could use a framebag or bar bag, but having your camera on your hips isolates it from the worst of the shaking that can wreak havoc on delicate internals and sensors.
For more involved shoots, where having a space camera, extra batteries, chargers, lenses, filters and all the other paraphernalia that comes with a photographic hobby I’ve been lucky enough to have been sent the Niko Camera Sling 3.0. A dedicated camera bag with multiple padded compartments.
It can be worn as a hip pack, but I prefer to wear it as a sling bag with the stabilisation strap to keep it on my back. It’s not going to get as regular use as the hip bag, but when it is called upon, the extra capacity and dedicated organisation is much appreciated, as is the sturdy construction; a lifetime guarantee is included, and while it isn’t advertised as waterproof there is the rubberised tarp construction and waterproof zips that are found across the Chrome range, so I’m relatively confident it’ll shrug off a shower at the very least.
Café du Cycliste Marinette bibs and Betty jersey
I think I’ve made it pretty clear over my time here that I’m a fan of some slightly unusual clothing choices. Airy gravel jerseys are definitely my cup of tea, and the Betty jersey from Café du Cycliste is a particularly good cup of Earl Grey.
It’s effectively a T-shirt with pockets at the back, but it’s cut for riding with a short front and dropped tail, along with a gripper on the rear hem to stop it riding up too much. The material is luxuriant and breathable, but to be honest I just like it because it reminds me simultaneously of vintage PE kit and what I imagine the USS Enterprise staff would look like if Starfleet was a French entity (USS Énterprise?)
Naturally, it’s best to pair any jersey with some shorts, so Café du Cycliste kindly sent over its new Marinette shorts (every item has a lovely French name, just to maintain the aesthetic).
These are the brand's standard bib short, but they feel anything but. The fabric is lightly compressive, and lightly peached to the touch too. They feel premium and are very comfy, though I’ve yet to put any serious miles in them yet. The legs are cut long, with invisible grippers and the pad is a Cytech model tuned for long days in the saddle.
Most interestingly the straps and upper portion is made primarily of recycled polyester, while the legs are made from over 50% biodegradable polyester. It appears they’ll need deconstructing to fully make use of their biodegradable properties, but it’s a start in terms of creating a more sustainable future for the cycling apparel industry.
Head to Café du Cycliste to find out more.
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