Chrome Industries Helix Bar Bag Review

chrome industries helix handle bar bag

You’ll probably know Chrome industries or Chrome for their excellent courier or messenger bags from way back in the 90’s. They continue to make those bags from their San Francisco base but now make a whole range of stuff from casual clothing, cycle commuter clothing and shoes to just about every bag you can think of. They also ship to the UK.

The guys at Chrome sent me two handle bar bags to try, The Helix seen above and a Doubletrack. I’ve been running the Helix for a couple of months on various bikes to get a good feel of how they suit gravel riding an the kind of conditions that the UK can meter out. The Doubletrack has just taken the Helix’s place on my bars and that review will be in a few weeks when I get some riding time in with it.

The Helix is a 3 litre bag measuring 6″ x 9″ x 3″ and weighs 0.6lbs. it’s made from a nylon and polyester mix and the interior is lined so there are zero issues with annoying rattles.

Helix bag balanced on the bars to show interior, actually fits the other way around

There are two small mesh pockets inside but otherwise it is just an open space. There are no external pockets. Two sturdy velcro straps fix the bag to the bars and once set they are 100% reliable and don’t budge. There is a stabilising strap at the back that clips around the head tube.

In use the Helix can take quite a lot of kit despite what looks like a small space. I had arranged a group ride, the first after the latest Covid lockdown and because pubs and shops were still closed I suggested everyone took a beer and a pie with them on the ride so we could have a socially distanced picnic. In the Helix was a large sausage roll, a 330ml can of beer, a waterproof jacket (that folds up into it’s own pocket) a GoPro camera and mini tripod, a phone, my keys and a cycling cap. Loaded up like this especially with the weight of the beer the Helix remained steady even over some very uneven trails and didn’t flap around.

I rode with the bag in all conditions, sun, wind and on one occasion a couple of hours ride in torrential rain. Chrome do not claim that the bag is waterproof at all on there website but i can confirm after this thorough drenching the contents of the Helix were as dry as when i put them into the bag.

In fact the Helix was a fit and forget item it was so reliable. If i could make one change to make it better though would be the zip. it works well, it never stalls or clogs but for me it is on the wrong side of the bag! It is sited close to the handle bar rather than the front so if you run lights on your bars or a Garmin etc these get in the way of the operation of the zip and you have to stretch around these to open the bag. Site the zip on the leading edge and it’d be perfect.

The Helix has another trick, literally up its sleeve because tucked away at the rear of the bag are two straps that convert the bag to a waist or across the body pack. this came in very handy when i visited my local bike shop and inadvertently picked up a new helmet. I obviously couldn’t wear two helmets so I converted the helix to a waist pack and slung the helmet in its bag over the strap and made it home without incident.

After all these rides, in sun, mud and at one point snow, the Helix just needed a quick wipe over with a damp cloth and it looks as good as new. it’s taken all I can throw at it without any effect at all.

Should you buy one? The helix is very competitively priced at £55, it’s sturdy and reliable and can take more stuff than it looks like it can. If you like black too then its ideal as that is the only colour it comes in. if they could move that zip though it’d make it the perfect day ride bag that you can literally take anywhere, even without the bike

more info can be found on the Chrome website Here

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad

To Video or not to Video?

Last week I was invited on a little treasure hunt by a guy I’ve interacted with on Instagram, namely @freakin_bikes He sent me a link to a video he had made explaining where to find the treasure and asked if I’d like to go find it as it was personally tailored to me. Intrigued of course I said yes. The other caveat was that I’d have to video myself opening the treasure so he could see my reaction.

So I set off in my best outfit, plaid/check shirt of course, my GoPro fully charged and a vague sense of where I was going (not much different to normal then). Now, I am not a professional videographer so I was playing things by ear and making it up as I went along. This I thought would show genuine spontaneity rather than me story-boarding or scripting something and it looking wooden and false. You might still think that it actually is just that though! Best if you just see for yourself so here is the video I made of what happened

As you can see if you’ve taken the time to view the video I had a great time and my reaction is real. The brilliant caricature that @freakin_bikes created for me is below, I can honestly say I didn’t deliberately wear that shirt!

me, personified

I really enjoyed the process of recording the video, or “edit” as the kids are calling it (yes that’s probably now out of date and marks me down as an old duffer) even the post production and putting the various clips together wasn’t that tedious but then it was a pretty straight forward ride to tree, film me opening the treasure, ride away from tree scenario. The biggest thing of course was thinking of something to say on the spur of the moment and not coming across as a complete loon. This last of course is for you to decide.

Boyed with the success of that first video, after all I got a huge 78 views in the first 24 hours and some people actually followed my Youtube channel! I thought I might try a product review next. If you don’t know I do product reviews

  • A) where have you been
  • B) click on the links on the menu bar above or to the side
  • C) why are you here anyway?

This product review thing is a whole different ball game to the first video though. A lot of companies send me stuff to look at for free and even though I make it plain that if i find fault with or don’t like the product I will say so I think its very important to show the product in its best light. By that I mean fitted or worn correctly and used for its intended purpose. Facts that are stated in reviews must also be correct and properly researched, if for example I’m giving a little backround on the company or stating a weight or tolerance this must be 100% correct so as not to mislead anyone. With this added pressure I had to come up with something to say, say the right thing, for example I kept calling the company in this video 76 products rather that 76 projects! That saw a few retakes I’ll confess. Also taking in between passing horse riders on the bridleway was also frustrating. all this of course makes editing the whole thing together a lot more time consuming. The software I am using didn’t help as it doesn’t support transitions between scenes or a nice title sequence so it all looks a bit amateur. But I’ve since been told this makes it more genuine rather than a paid for advert that you get a lot of on youtube. I can assure you I don’t get paid at all. I’m no Juliet Elliot making a living out of being an influencer, although I’d love to try that lifestyle.

Here is the 76projects (right 1st time!) review video

after the second video I put up a poll on my instagram stories asking if anyone thought It was worth me continuing with the video thing. usually if i pose a poll question I get over 1k of replies, this time I got 12, 5 for carrying on, 7 against. So while it was conclusive it wasn’t a very wide audience. Given my general glass half empty mentality I assume people were being polite by abstaining from voting no, so…

If you have got this far and watched the two videos can I ask you a few questions?

  • would you like to see more product review videos along side the written reviews on this page?
  • Is this style of shonky production something that you value more than a slick docu-advert?
  • what free (or reasonably priced) video editor should the amateur look at?

Thanks for reading/looking and i look forward to seeing your answers and hearing your advice

Groups rides are back!

It feels great and at the same time weird

ever felt like someone was following you?

Today I organised and led the first group ride since the latest lockdown started all those weeks ago. We’ve been allowed to ride with one other person in that time but to be honest I’ve mostly ridden alone through the winter months. Motivation to get out into the cold is hard enough when you’ve arranged to meet up with someone else. When it’s just you the temptation to not bother and just sit on the sofa and eat crisps is strong! The end of this phase of lockdown (we are still in it it’s just eased a little) has coincided with the start of spring, extra daylight and temperatures in double figures, everything has come together.

Pie and Pint. Although some things have eased others haven’t and we are still without pubs and can’t sit inside anywhere, both things we would have definitely have included in a group ride. To somehow bypass this fact I suggested the ride should have a theme of “pie and pint”, riders bringing their own choice of pie and a beer with them from home. Whether it was a sweet, savory (or both) pie was discretionary as was the beer type. If you were prepared to carry it, bring it!

The Route I planned took into account the easing of lockdown too. We are now allowed to meet other people outside and the local popular beauty spots have been busy as the season has changed, the fact that the Easter holiday weekend has started too was only going to make that worse. Back roads, grass up the middle lanes, bridleways and gated roads were the order of the day, one small section of “A” road was the busiest part. Luckily the recent dry weather and windy conditions made all the off road parts very dry and 100% rideable, a contrast to winter! In fact if anything it was too dry and the bumps and hoof-holes left in the bone hard soil by horses was jarring and quite frankly it frothed my beer up!

A mid ride stop to pay homage to Mr Bonham and admire the view from Rushock Church yard got us to just over the half way mark, stomach’s were rumbling at this point and some disappointed faces were seen as they realised the pies would need to stay packed away for a few miles yet. I didn’t like to mention the two big climbs we’d need to get over to get to the lunch stop.

those tough climbs defeated and a sweet section of bridleway brought us to Belbroughton Park, were we sat, socially distanced of course and tucked in to our selection of goodies and beer. The fact the Belbroughton Deli was visible from the park was part of my plan and at least 5 pieces of cheesecake was purchased and scoffed as the sun finally came out.

full of pie, sugar and beer we decided to take the slightly less hilly route home via bridleway and woods before people began splitting off and heading home.

Back to normal, but what is normal now? It was great to finally see these guys in person instead of just via social media, but the fact that we were all still keeping our distance from each other, sitting at either end of the benches for example meant that although it was good, it wasn’t exactly back to normal, no one could share food or beer and listening to a description of what Dan called “the most amazing cheese” just isn’t the same as tasting it! It was however great fun nonetheless. Sharing experience of technical sections and racing each other up climbs, having someone yelling “car” from behind you to warn you of traffic & riding along chatting about nonsense rather than current events was brilliant.

I hope there’ll be more group rides to come and that we get more and more of our former freedoms back, because I really really want to taste that cheese!

A ride of contrasts

bog bridge picture by Dan Phillips

It was all going so well, the trails were much much drier than I’d expected and surprisingly it was quieter in the woods than it has been recently. The stay local lockdown rules seem to have been heeded generally by everyone. The trails have suffered from over use yes, but once things open up and the amount of footfall lessens the ground should recover given enough time and a dry Spring.

As we were riding along Dan and I were discussing the fact that because riders haven’t been able to travel to riding spots that there had been a lot of trail building going on. Most of the trails locally have been there for years and are away from the most popular walking paths. So generally there’s not too much conflict between cyclists and walkers. The area is owned and looked after by the local council. The woods are maintained by the local ranger service working for the council and as long as the trails aren’t overly dangerous, there are “chicken” runs and they don’t use footpaths the rangers turn a blind eye. We’d never ride at peak times, such as Sunday afternoons in normal times as it’s just too busy with families , dogs and horses. However, in lockdown it’s busy all the time and I guess the local riders are bored so many new trails have sprung up and go across footpaths and paths that get very busy.

As we pedaled along one general use path I pointed out a trail that came down the steep bank to the left of us. The trail wound through the trees, then over a log drop into a shute that crossed the path and then carved round into a man made berm, also on another path. As we stood there considering if we had the skills to actually ride it (no is the answer from me!) an old chap and his dog came towards us. we moved on out of his way thinking it was a good job we hadn’t been riding down that steep route at that moment. Then, three riders appeared on that very trail. It’s a trail that needs commitment to clear, once you drop over the log there’s no going back as the pick up in speed is high. The lead rider narrowly missed the dog. The dog, who was getting on a bit looked a bit stunned and didn’t know which way to turn, back to his owner or away from the riders who now were following their friend down the trail. They were committed and if they tried to stop would almost certainly have crashed. they were dropping in straight at the dog.

I’m not sure how they managed it but they all missed hitting the dog or the owner and thank goodness for that. The lead rider was stood next to me sharing pleasantries and I’ll be honest I just had to ride away before speaking my mind. It wouldn’t have done my day any good to get into an argument over how riding these trails at peak times can cause conflict. Yes, some people will ask why we were riding at this peak time but we were trying to keep to the quiet areas and when we were in a busy part we always give way and employ judicious use of the Timber bell! This time they were lucky and no one was hurt from a collision or by crashing but it was pretty close. Yes, the dog was off the lead and I’ll admit I’m not a fan of loose dogs even if their owner claims they are under control but in this instance the dog was well behaved…or terrified. We didn’t stick around to see the old guys reaction either but it certainly wasn’t going to be a good one and he’s going to leave the woods with a bad impression of cyclists that he’s going to spread.

So, I’m in conflict about this. I’ve ridden this area for 30+ years and there has always been trail building. I’ve enjoyed riding these trails. Trails that 99% of the time have been away from the most popular areas. I can see it from the side of the riders, they can’t head to a trail centre or over the border to Wales or into the Forest of Dean for example, local is all they have at the moment. But, it’ll only take one incident where someone gets seriously injured and makes a claim against the council and the call to ban all riding in the area will rear it’s ugly head and the high volume of people at the moment increases the chance of that more and more.

My only hope is that the promised opening up of the country in the next few months will ease the amount of traffic on both sides and things will settle down again.

If you have similar issues and I’m sure it’s the same all over the country then please please think before you route that trail through a busy area used by everyone. Think before you drop into a trail where if a person or an animal gets in your way it will be difficult to stop

Share the space as if you’d like to ride it over and over for the next 30+ years because if you don’t you might find that that privilege has been taken away.

Going the Distance

pic by Dan

Lockdown 3 riding has been hard and also at the same time easy. It’s been easy to motivate myself to get out on the bike as it’s the only legitimate reason to be outside the house other than for work or essential visits to shops. Not even the recent cold snap and snow stopped me. it’s been completely Baltic conditions or miserable and wet and I’ve been out in all of it. Every time on my own up until now. It wasn’t until today’s ride that I realised how hard it has actually been and what made it so tough. The realisation came because today I rode with someone else!.

Dan had signed up to ride The Distance.cc’s Blockbuster event. The (socially) distanced ride https://thedistance.cc/sociallydistanced meant we had to follow a route collecting pictures of various things to get across the board

I’m sure other riders planned a careful route with pinpointed stops for specific items on the list but to be honest we just pedaled around with no real idea of where to go other than to follow the front wheel and see if anything we came across fitted the brief. Oh…. and there must be a (takeaway) coffee and cake stop…or two and just incase I took some hot cross buns for emergencies

There were a few stiff climbs but the early frost was melting quickly and temperatures were turning ever warmer and the novelty of chatting to someone else while riding rather than the habit of humming songs to myself that I’ve got into over the last few months meant the miles and elevation just seemed to fly by. We took the most off-roady route we could that would avoid the inevitable crowds that the popular routes would contain but I have to report that every person we came across, from horse and rider, large family groups with ebullient children to dog walkers all were friendly and courteous and when needed, we were the same, giving way with a smile and the very British thing of discussing the weather that we were all standing in and experiencing. it WAS a fabulous day for it though 😉

I had no idea if we’d scored any hits on the chart, Dan was taking care of that, I was just turning the pedals and at one point removing arm warmers as it was so warm. The feel of the sun’s power on bare skin was intoxicating and I didn’t want it to end. I want all my rides to be like this, temperatures in double figures, almost no breeze and plenty of daylight to enjoy it in. For once Pandemics were forgotten and the new normal was gone, the old normal was back for a few precious miles, until the next coffee stop where mask would be deployed and socially distanced queues would be joined anyway.

Secondary to the Distance.cc competition was my goal of exploring something on my doorstep that until Saturday I didn’t even know existed. I found out when an Instagram account I follow posted this picture @My_Midlife_adventures and knew I’d have to visit it myself to see if it was real. It certainly didn’t disappoint.

it’s no folly riding down here!

A genuine castle (sort of) hidden from the road, a road I’ve genuinely ridden past 100s of times not knowing it was literally yards away. the fact it had a cracking little route past it too just added to the fun. I think I got lucky with the light on this picture too.

Conditions just a week ago were awful, thick gloopy mud made much of the local area virtually unrideable and wheels and tyres got so clogged up they wouldn’t turn but the wind this week has dramatically dried things out apart from the odd patch..

an odd patch earlier

In fact we were so encouraged by the lack of moisture that we decided to lengthen the ride and tackle a bridleway that I looked at in January but failed to complete because of the conditions, I think I’d still be there today trying to extricate myself from the mud if I’d carried on on that day. Today though apart from a huge lake in the middle of the field it was actually passable with care even to the point that the ground was solid enough to knock my saddle out of alignment when my backside whacked it! We passed a windmill (not on the list) lots of pubs (closed 😦 ) and Lamas/Alpacas (just what is the difference?) taking a piss. We may also have stopped for a toasted teacake, a fruit scone and not a pot of tea from an Indian restaurant of all places. it’s amazing how businesses have diversified just to stay afloat.

After meandering for 5 hours we finally neared home, I’ve no idea if we got across the chart above or if Dan needed to spot something else on his way home. In the end it doesn’t matter, we had a great day and it was awesome to interact with another person, to share the thrills and near spills of the ride and to just talk crap all day just because we could.

last summit for home by Dan

Fearless Bikes Launch New Frameset: The Warlock

I’ve long been an admirer of Fearless Bike’s do it all steel frameset, The Vulture. When I did a mini interview with Tim, the guy behind fearless hinted that a new version was on the drawing board but didn’t want to give too many details, interview here

Today the new frameset has been announced and frankly it looks amazing, with clearance for bigger tyres if you want them, versatile brake caliper options (post and flat mount) and a bolt through upgrade from the Vulture’s QR it has a lot going for it. Add in extra mounting options and the all new fork together with the signs of a clear evolution from the old frameset and this could be a fabulous all rounder, a singletrack ripper, all day tourer and a bikepacking companion. The fact that it is made of steel and comes with this great looking paint job is just icing on the cake.

Warlock magic

I’d love to get my hands on one for a test but I think that this frameset is going to be so popular at just £720 that they are going to sell out fast

Here’s what Tim has to say about the new addition

after much delay Fearless Bikes announce the Warlock, their new gravel & adventure frameset. Sorry it took so long. 

Built for mini epics as much as multi-day adventures the Warlock is a mystical brew of all the things we love about riding drop bar bikes on challenging terrain. Big tyres and progressive geo means it’s built for tackling technical sections and rough terrain over longer distances in comfort, covering ground that might be out of bounds for conventional gravel bikes. Progressive geo with a short back end and a slacker front means it’s agile for hammering single track whilst stable enough for light touring and bike packing. It accepts big tyres- up to 650x58c or 700x47c. There’s also dropper post routing if you need it- super useful for those steeper descents. 

The Warlock frame comes supplied with the 404 Type 2 fork- a revised flat mount brake version of the original 404 fork found on the Vulture. It’s compatible with both flat motor calipers and post mount up to 180mm and comes in two frame size specific offset versions- The small and medium sized frames coming supplied with 52mm offset version and the L and XL the 48mm which keeps the handling tight across the size range. The 404 takes it’s name from it’s axle to crown length of 404mm which makes the Warlock geo correct for tapered carbon forks with a 44mm external lower cup fitted. Plus there’s all the eyelets you’ll likely need for cargo longer self supported days in the saddle.

Being an off-road orientated machine we didn’t skimp on the weather proofing. Both the Warlock’s double butted chromoly frame and the 404 Type 2 fork are internally ED coated and the frame has continuous cable routing throughout. The frame also has a forward facing seatpost slot to reduce debris from the back tyre entering the seat tube.

It’s a bike that’s fun to chuck about on the trail and can also double-duty as a bike packing or light touring rig. Stick on some fat tyres and some wide flared bars and rack up those cross country miles. 
Framesets come supplied with thru axles and a seat collar and cost £720.

for more details and to get in first and order a frameset go to https://www.fearlessbikes.com/warlock/

UKgravelCO shop is LIVE!

If you are already reading this you’ll know that ukgravelco.com is the place to go for reviews, views and real world writing about the kit we all use or want to try. This all costs money unfortunately, the cost of websites, domains and all that jazz soo adds up.

The main reason I started this website though was to review kit, bikes and anything to do with gravel and cycling in a slightly different way to the established online and paper press. I hope I’ve been successful in this over the months since I started and judging by the feedback from the riders out there who have messaged me and the companies whos products I’ve tested It seems to be being well received.

To help pay the costs of this I’ve set up an online shop to sell T shirts and stickers, I must think Dan Phillips for his design work with the logo, The proceeds of this shop go towards buying new items that you might potentially like the look of but don’t want to fork out your hard earned cash for in case it just isn’t for you. I take the risk and let you know, warts an all what the product is like. Even if I’m lucky enough to be sent things to test I always make it clear to the sender that I only do unbiased reviews, if i love it I’ll say so but if I hate it, I’ll say that too.

So please have a look at the shop and If you only buy a sticker it really helps this project go forward.

you can find the shop at https://ukgravelco.bigcartel.com/

At the moment, I’m fully stocked with the original logo sticker and the #norulesjustride sticker and limited sizes and colours of T shirt. The T shirts will be restocked shortly and look out for a poll on some new colours and other exciting items.

All stickers except the original logo ones are sourced and printed only 2 miles from UKgravelCO HQ so that money is also going back into the community and has a low enviromental impact.

Miss Grape Moon Handlebar Bag

Miss Grape gives you the moon

18 months or so ago the only handle bar bag you’d see on a bike was a carradice saddle bag converted to bar use and was paired with panniers and racks on a classic touring bike. Then with the advent of the popularity of gravel bikes a few companies sprung up around the world making short run bespoke bags specially designed for carrying enough kit for a day out in your local area. The type of ride you only need a packable jacket, multi tool, spare tube and some sandwiches. these bags are perfect for that on their own, cutting down on stuff jammed into pockets or strapped to the frame. Fast forward to now and companies are mass producing these “burrito” bags and they are available at a much more favourable price point. But has this meant sacrificing the usability and watered down the ideas seen in the original bags?

The Bag quite simply is a cylinder with a zip across the front, four attachment points, two of velcro and two with the same style of fixings seen on the Node top tube bag with a stabilising strap that goes around the frame head tube and it is also made of the same weather resistant material as the Node. On each end of the bag is a mesh elasticated pocket for stashing stuff you need to get to while riding along. Although the main zip is purposeful enough to enable opening while moving too. Inside the bag is a plastic stiffener that helps keep the bags shape and structure.

straps, fixings and end pockets

In use the bag fits easily to the bike and is stable when riding. I got a packable waterproof jacket, inner tube, tubeless repair kit, my phone, keys and a go-pro and mini tripod in the bag and there was still room for more. The end mesh pocket was used to stash a face covering. The inner stiffener meant that heavy items didn’t deform the shape and make the bag sag. this same stiffener also meant that anything like a bunch of keys if not wrapped in say a buff would rattle constantly and was very annoying! wrapped up safely and this was cured. The bag straps fitted either side of the stem on my bike but they aren’t adjustable for width if you have narrow bars or a lot of bar furniture. loading the bag up with heavier things ( i may have visited the beer shop for some take away cans) made no difference to the stability and the extra mass on the bars didn’t affect the handling of the bike.

weather proof Moon with a reflective panel

The bag is good, it’s the right size for day trips and looks and feels like it would last a long time and still look good due to the material it’s made from. if the inner plastic stiffener was covered in a soft material to stop rattles and the straps could be adjusted for width it would be pretty much perfect and a great way to get into the bar bag scene.

more info can be found on the Miss Grape Insta page or the official webpage

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad

How probably the least gravel friendly bike I own showed it’s all about the ride, not the bike

and that i need to work on my titles

The last snow we had locally was in 2017, three years into owning a fat bike and it was brilliant, the culmination of all that promise of how good a fat bike could be. I’d ridden on normal trails in both summer and winter and yes it was great but it wasn’t snow, the reason fat bikes came about really. But as the snow melted so did my enthusiasm for fat biking. i’d done snow so nothing else was going to compare. I’ll admit i put the fat bike away in the loft at the beginning of spring due to lack of space for other bikes and although I made sure everything was good to go on it so i could drag it out and ride it after setting up the tyres I pretty much forgot about it apart from the annual Global Fat Bike Day which is always on the first Saturday in December (until Gomez says’s it ain’t). On this day I travel down to the surrey Hills where some great friends organise a ride that I haven’t missed since its inception.

2017 vintage snowmageddon

Fast forward to 2020 and through the UKgravelCO network I met a couple of riders and during a gravel ride conversation, undoubtedly over a socially distanced (I can’t wait to be able to stop saying or writing that) cake or coffee talk turned to other bikes we owned. It turned out we all owned fat bikes and the subject of Global Fat Bike day 2020 came up. Travelling down south in lockdown wasn’t sensible so we decided a group of us would ride and go for a brew up in the woods. So I climbed up into the loft and got the fatty down. A quick gear check and topping up with sealant and she was ready. A couple of test rides followed and made me realise that fat bike riding is a lot harder than gravel bike riding, there’s a little more resistance rolling those wheels along after the grav machine. It made me feel like I was going backwards fitness wise. I began to regret getting it back out until this Christmas break.

The snow came down quickly and we managed to get around 3 inches of the white stuff in just a few short hours. The fat bike was probably the safest bike to ride in the conditions so I headed out into the whiteness. As I was riding along deliberately pedaling into the thickest patches of snow, sliding on the hidden soft mud underneath I got into the groove where you are just thinking about staying upright and trying to maintain as much momentum as possible to get up the next slippery climb and staying off the brakes as long as you can to avoid locking the wheels and loosing control. I stopped for a breather (riding in virgin snow is hard work!) and realised this is what I’ve been missing these last few months. After this hellish year and less opportunities to get out and do long rides I’ve found myself getting stressed about not doing as many miles as last year or four years ago and looking back on my mileage for that particular time of year and how i’d need to do “X” amount of miles to make up for it. I’d find myself thinking “if i don’t do 30+ miles it’s not worth riding” and be disappointed if I only had time for 15 miles and pushing my limits on the next ride to make up for it. It’s amazing how you can get into a rut about things, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s channeling the stresses of every day life into their hobbies and sports. Standing there at the top of the hill watching people sledging an laughing it made me realise it doesn’t matter how long the ride is or if the average speed is lower or if you “only” ridden on a cycle path the thing is that its the riding that is the important part.

In fact getting back on the fat bike has reinforced my mantra of No Rules Just Ride, it doesn’t matter what you ride, drop bar, flat bar, thin tyre or fat, just ride. that’s why any bike or rider is welcome on a UKgravelco ride.

Fast forward to 2020

I rode 8 miles on the fat bike in the snow and it was 8 miles of just riding along. It doesn’t matter how far you ride or if the route is epic or just round the block of your housing estate. The most important part is that you are out on your bike enjoying the freedom because you want to, not because you think you ought to.

The fat bike, probably the most inappropriate bike for riding gravel but the best bike for making you realise it’s all about the ride, not the destination or the bike.

As we near the end of 2020 Let’s hope that longer rides and rides with friends old and new can happen again but if that doesn’t happen I’m going to do my best to enjoy it no matter what and no matter which bike it’s on.

#NORULESJUSTRIDE

Miss Grape Node Top Tube Bag

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 50769437591_2c45a38625_k-1.jpg
new post…on a top tube bag!

Miss Grape are an Italian company from near Venice and have been making bike packing bags since 2014, although the company have been going since 2005. The UK arm of Miss Grape sent me a range of their bags to try out, the first being the Node top tube bag.

The Node, weighing in at 125g is a robust looking bag made from a nylon polyester mix with a water repellent polyurethane resin coating. this means the bag will shrug off a shower but if using in torrential rain a dry bag for the contents is advisable. A rather hefty looking weather resistant zip opens to reveal a lightly padded interior with a velcro centre parting that can be pulled apart to allow full length storage. On the outside two mesh pockets give quick access storage. Underneath the bag the base is a very shiny looking surface which turns out to be very grippy and stops the bag moving from side to side, A velcro strap at the rear of the bag wraps around the top tube and a neat strap and clasp with a rubber band to tidy the strap goes around your steerer. this has 3 height positions to swap depending on your steerer spacer configuration.

big enough for a sarnie, side pockets for essentials and interior adjustable divider

Using the Node I strapped on the node and used it for the small bit of commuting and local weekend rides. with the interior velcro divider open it easily fir my Pixel 3 phone, a container of hand sanitiser, a face mask (don’t you just love 2020?) a spare buff and house keys. On other rides I also put a gopro and mini tripod inside. The bag is quite tall ( 12cm) and so as with most other top tube bags careful packing is needed to stop the bag leaning over. Pack sensibly and there’s no movement. The rear strap wrapping around the frame is long enough to accommodate the largest diameter top tube. My frame has quite a thin steel tube so there was a lot of surplus strap that did catch my leg. If the pack didn’t have to be returned after the test I’d have trimmed this to fit and so this won’t be an issue for purchasers. The zip is easy to open and close with one hand while on the move so snacking without stopping is easy (pre cut your pork pie if not a fan of energy bars) and the bag will take a sandwich easily. It’ll also take a spare tube, multitool and tubeless repair kit for those minimal summer rides.

The Miss Grape Node top tube bag is a great bit of kit and will take a surprising amount of stuff and could be an important part of your bike packing or everyday it. the only things i’d like to see is maybe a media port to run a power pack through to or from a dynamo/computer etc and if the dotted surface of the material was reflective if would make for effective side on visiblity at night.

It’s definitely one to consider unless you run your stem slammed when it might be a bit too tall and the steerer mount might be difficult. Pair it with Miss Grape’s frame, seat post and barrel handlebar bags and it could be a perfect matching combo……good job tests on those very bags will be published here soon!

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integration station with Miss Grape

more info can be found on the Miss Grape Insta page or the official webpage

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad.

Spatzwear GRAVLR overshoes


The search for comfortable feet in winter

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there’s no way you’ll forget the name of the GRAVLR overshoe

I suffer with cold feet in winter, fellow sufferers will know how bone gnawingly awful it is to have feet so cold you lose the feeling in them and it actually feels like you are pedaling with ice blocks surrounding your feet. Cold feet sufferers will also know how annoying it is when a person who has all year round warm feet tells you to “put a thicker sock on”. Buying bigger sized shoes to put more sock layers on doesn’t work either as usually the cleat is then in the wrong position even at it’s extreme adjustment, I’ve tried it I know. I’ve also tried kitchen foil, plastic bags, pop socks and those chemical hand warmers you can get for feet, all to no avail. Once the temperature dips below 5 degrees I know I’ve got around 10-20 miles before it’s so miserable I head for home. The pain however doesn’t stop there as once back in the warm the blood gradually being allowed back into the capillaries of the feet brings intense pain and a lengthy wait until your feet are defrosted enough to stand in a hot shower without screaming.

So the Spatz GRAVLR has a big task to overcome. I admit I didn’t mention this when I contacted Tom at Spatz to see If I could get a pair to try. The overshoes have been ridden in conditions around 1 degree to 12 degrees over numerous rides. They been ridden in rain, drizzle, frost and through all manor of gloopy wet muddy trails that my local area can provide. So how did they do?

The GRAVLRs are made from “aero armour” which is a very stretchy smooth surfaced material which is reassuringly thick but not at all heavy. They have kevlar reinforcement to stop abrasions on the toe and ankle and this really works, there have been no tears or marks even though they’ve been through some tough conditions. They have a sort of quilted panel on the inside next to your shin to keep the warm blood flowing down to the toes. The side zip is robust and is glove friendly with a velcro flap to keep it neat. Underneath the foot area there is more kevlar reinforcement on the velcro flaps.



The Ride I got a tip from Tom about putting on the overshoes, “set the Achilles heel first, then pull the toe over” which was top advice. The overshoes are designed to be fitted so It does take a couple of tries and practice to perfect the process, but once worn in it became easier to do. To do an effective test I wore standard socks and a pair of shimano XC5 shoes.

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Once on the overshoes were pretty much unnoticeable as the fit was tight but not constrictive. Once the velcro under the shoe was set it never moved, even after some walking (into a bakery or two and up and down grass and mud slopes) Clipping in and out was unaffected and the overshoes didn’t need any readjustment during any of the rides.

Did I get Cold feet? On rides between 5-10 degrees I could have ridden on for as long as my energy could last, my feet were extremely comfortable in feel and temperature. On the coldest ride which was around 1 degree where in my normal set up I’d have been suffering after around 10 miles The GRAVLRs kept my feet comfortable for longer, In fact I could still wiggle my toes and had feeling in them after around 30 miles, they were cold but this is a massive improvement to how my feet normally feel. This is a complete win for me! In all temperatures and some really gritty wet conditions my feet stayed dry. The construction of the overshoes keeps the wind chill and damp at bay and together with that panel on the shin this the secret of their success.

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If you don’t suffer with cold feet I think you will find the GRAVLRs an excellent way to allow you to ride into deep winter with warm, dry comfortable feet. If you do suffer then these overshoes are an excellent part of your arsenal to keep going for longer in deep winter weather.

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the Spatzwear website says “these revolutionary knee length overshoes will transform your wet/cold riding experience” and riding along cocooned in these neoprene long length overshoes I’d pretty much agree.

for more info see Spatzwear.com

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad.

Redshift ShockStop SeatPost

Redshift shock post in ideal conditions to test weather proofness

In an ideal world suspension seatposts are designed to take the sting out of surfaces allowing the rider to be less fatigued and so ride further and longer. They should be simple to adjust, be reliable, be a reasonable weight and hardest of all maybe, they should look good (or not too weird). So can the Redshift Shock Post achieve all these?

Suspension seatposts are a curious thing. They are made to isolate the rider from the surface the bike is rolling over. However they are not a rear suspension system like those found on mountain bikes. So if you are expecting trail bike plushness and inches of travel you’ll be disappointed.

The Post is aluminium with an offset parallelogram design. the saddle clamp is a two bolt one and enables easy micro adjustments of the saddle angle and position. The adjustment to the amount of travel the post has and the “plushness” is found inside the main shaft of the post. There, a preload screw in cap hides the space where one or two springs (depending on your riding weight) sit. The parallelogram has a very neat cover that is magnetic and this protects the mechanism and the seat clamp adjustment bolts from rear wheel spray. The post is 27.2mm in diameter, shims are available when you buy to fit any size frame. Suspension travel is 35mm.

neat cover protects from the elements and is magnetic!

Set Up is very easy but does take some trial and error and a few test rides to get spot on. Get yourself kitted up in your normal riding gear and start by following the rider weight guide in the comprehensive instructions that come in the box. There are two springs that come with the post, one is already installed and depending on your weight you might need to add the smaller spring too. this fits inside the larger one on the inside of the post shaft, preload is adjusted by a screw in cap at the bottom of the post

I set the preload to “2” then went for a short test ride, finding the post a little too soft for my liking I then turned the cap to “4” another short test and I turned it to “3” which seemed to suit me the best given my weight and how I wanted the post to feel. I like quite a firm ride so the post doesn’t bottom out on anything but a big impact and there is no noticeable bounce when pedaling on a smooth surface. It’s worth while taking some time setting the post up properly but the actual adjustments are quick and easy. Saddle fitting was equally easy, the magnetic cap pulls aside and the bolts are accessible with a standard Hex key and they haven’t come loose or needed adjustment during the length of the test period over a variety of surfaces.

The Ride The first ride after the couple of set up rides was completely in the dark due to the time of year and work commitments so I really didn’t want to be tweaking any of the post adjustments by torch light So i rode it as i had initially set it up. Anyone who knows me will tell you I can set the saddle position and post height to exactly how i usually have it and within one mile of the first ride I’ll have moved it at least twice to get the right feel! This time I raised the post a few millimeters to get that ” just right” feeling. This is a good example of why a few short test rides are needed before any long rides are undertaken especially on group rides as the people you are riding with won’t want to keep stopping for micro adjustments.

With the post raised I rode on for around 15 miles on a mix of road and off road light trails. the post showed no side to side movement or rattles and the vertical movement was smooth. i knew straight away that I’d set the preload too soft as the post bottomed out on larger bumps.

The next ride was in daylight and on much bumpier terrain and in the meantime I’d added one full turn on the preload. The post sat at the top quarter of it’s movement and this was my sweet spot. it wouldn’t bottom out except on the harshest of hits, those that I deliberately sat down for to test the post, normally I’d have been standing up for those anyway. The post action was smooth and there was no discernable bobbing up and down while pedaling. Over a few 30+ mile rides I actually forgot it was a suspension seat post so good was the experience.

I do suffer with lower back pain and after a 20+ mile ride my back tends to stiffen up especially in cold weather and i have to start on the bike stretches to help cope with it. I can report though that this was much reduced using the shock post. Tested back to back with a standard rigid post on the bike on consecutive days over similar distances my back was a lot more flexible and less painful using the Redshift post.

The only issue I had with he post wasn’t the fault of the post at all. The magnetic cover moves downwards as the post compresses to cover the pivots at all points of the travel but when I’d set the post too soft I was using a band on rear light around the post. As the post reached full travel the end of the magnetic cover would touch the mode button on the light and change the settings of the flash mode! It took me a while to work out what was happening while riding in the dark. Setting the compression preload correctly stopped this and it hasn’t happened since.

Does the Redshift shock post take the sting out of rough surfaces? Yes, my back issues seemed much improved using the shockpost compared to a standard post

Simple to adjust? yes, just screw in or out the preload cap to adjust, no bolts to undo and no special tools needed.

Reliable? yes, no play has been felt or seen over the duration of the test, the action is still smooth and silent. The magnetic cap keeps rear wheel spray out of the mechanism and the saddle clamp has not moved since i set it.

Weight the post with the second smaller spring weighs 559g

looks good (or not weird) the post is actually very low profile compared to other shock posts on the market. The engineering that has gone into the design is clever and the mechanism is compact. It takes a second glance to realise that it is actually a suspension post, so yes I think it passes the looks test.

A Redshift Suspension Shock Post will let you ride further for longer, is easy to set up and look after. It doesn’t have a massive weight penalty and would suit any rider. It shouldn’t be confined to just gravel bikes either. A bike packing hardtail MTB would benefit from this post too and fitting a rear bag to the post should be easy. The action is subtle enough (if that’s the way you set it) or you can set it to get more bounce. that’s all down to personal preference.

The post has stayed on my bike since the initial test rides when I could have easily gone back to my favourite rigid post and that is I think that decision is all you need to know.

more details on the shock post can be found here Redshift Shockpost or the Redshift instagram page has more pictures

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad.

Wide rim v gravel tyre

Wilderness trail bikes Resolute 700×42 on 35mm mtb rim

Experimenting with wide rims and gravel tyres. 700×42 resolute on a 35mm rim.
Actually doesn’t look too bad.
The real reason is the only spare wheels I have are for an MTB and I was hoping the sidewalks didn’t stick out further than the tread! Which they don’t & the tread still has a round profile so the knobbles still work. Too narrow a tire on a too wide rim causes flattening of the tread which is horrible when leaning over in corners & the exposed sidewall is vulnerable to sharp bits of trail

Redshift Shock Stem

The guys at Redshift Sports out of Philadelphia USA got in touch with me to see if I’d like to try their shock stem and shock seat post after seeing my review of the Kinekt stem and post, In that review (see here) I said that although the stem and post worked flawlessly they were probably suited to more recreational bikes than a gravel bike. So I was skeptical the Redshift could bring anything different to the table but also intrigued to see what the most well known stem and post in the market performed.

The Stem, First impressions count and on first view the stem just looks like an ordinary stem, this is a massive plus point for me. The stem has a 4 bolt face plate making handlebar installation a breeze, the picture above shows the stem with the redshift integrated Garmin computer mount, this is sold separately. the 90mm stem weighs 256g 100, 110 and 120mm lengths are also available (and now a 80mm) there is also a 30 degree 100mm version too. Up to 20mm of travel can be achieved using the right rate of elastomer.

The suspension part of the stem is very simple, as all the best ideas seem to be. It has a hinge bolt at the steerer tube end and inside are two elastomers and a slider to secure then inside, seen below. 5 elastomers of various hardness (two already in the stem) come in the box

I started off with the stock elastomers as they were shipped to get a baseline on how they felt, you get softer and harder elastomers in the box and as there are two in the stem it’s easy to mix them to get the feel and the amount of movement you want. There’s a guide to rider weight and which elastomers to use and helpfully they come colour coded too. It’s important to remember to weigh yourself with riding kit on and not just your weight when you step out of the shower. The instructions also say to fit harder elastomers if you know your riding terrain is especially bumpy or you like a stiffer ride.

After a short ride I knew that I’d prefer a stiffer set up as the stem was easily using up all its travel. It’s very easy to swap the elastomers, you don’t even have to take the stem off the bike, the face plate does need to be removed though. The instructions are detailed and clear but having a torque wrench is desirable to seat the elastomers in the stem as per factory recommendations.

The Ride I had to fit the stem in the most elevated position to counteract the fact that this was a 90mm stem, i usually run an 80mm one (at the time the stem arrived Redshift had not yet released an 80mm version, this is now available) so It wasn’t optimal but the effect of the shock stem could be felt straight away. Roads around my home area are frankly atrocious and broken tarmac and raised and dipped drain covers on the way to off road routes was the perfect start to see how the stem performed. It definitely took the edge off the road chatter. Stand up out of the saddle and you can detect movement if you deliberately bounce up and down but climbing on the drops didn’t elicit any annoying “bob”. The stem had no twisting movement and I had none of the “is the front wheel loose” issues I’ve had with other suspension stems

off road the stem really works to iron out the roots and stones, it’s not a suspension fork and doesn’t set out to be one but it’ll take out some of the battering your hands and arms get which is transferred to your shoulders and neck and so reduces fatigue over long distances, in fact it’s perfect for autumn as you can’t see what is hidden under the leaves and the stem gives you an extra bit of confidence to pedal through sections. I set the stem quite hard but you can set it softer to give more cushioning but the off shoot of this is more movement when pedalling on smoother surfaces, but that is the beauty of all the different elastomer durometers, you can set it to exactly how you like it.

The stem is around £149 so by no means a cheap option, there are some deals around at the moment, including from Redshift themselves if you are quick Redshiftsports.com

Would I use the Redshift shock stem on my bike? after 4 weeks of riding with the stem I really like the way it works and my initial skepticism was been smoothed away (see what i did there?) and if this was the 80mm version I’d keep it on the bike all year round 100%

If you want a suspension stem that really works, can reduce fatigue and looks like a normal stem unless you look really hard then the Redshift shock stem is the one to go for

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad

Shadow Stand

Now you see it……usually you don’t

do you know how hard it is to photograph something clear!?

In this age of social media, selfies and inspirational pictures on the internet everyone is taking pictures of their bike and posting them online. To make the picture stand out from the rest it’s good to make it look as professional as possible. A picture of your bike leaning against a gate or a wall can be very artistic and sometimes just the bike lying on the ground can be atmospheric but to make it look professional with the bike standing up, seemingly on it’s own is hard to do.

You can use a stick and wedge it in the frame somewhere but then that is visible in the picture or restricts the angle of the shot. you can get a friend to hold the bike until the last second before releasing it while you take the shot before the bike falls over. For studio shots wires can be used then photoshopped out afterwards, but that’s a lot of faff so what’s the solution?

I was contacted by Shadow Stands after commenting on one of their Instagram posts @shadowstands020 and they sent me two of the stands, one standard size and one a little longer to cope with the higher bottom bracket height of a gravel bike.

The stand consists of a triangle of plastic with a notch to put the pedal spindle into at one end and a serrated end at the other for gripping the ground and simply that’s it. you lean the bike on it and it stands up on it’s own and is almost completely invisible.

It looks like the bike is defying gravity and makes picture taking of a stand alone bike a breeze.

on stage

so, will this improve your riding style? not really. Will it enable you to out climb all your riding partners? definitely not. Will it make your bike pictures look 100% better and make them literally stand out amongst all the others? I’d say yes. Just don’t drop it in a pile of leaves because you’ll spend 15 minutes looking for it like i did!

outstanding in the woods

you can get custom engraving and stands that fit under the bottom bracket shell too. the stand and all packaging is recyclable. you can find more information on ShadowStand’s website here ShadowStand.com

Kinekt Suspension Stem

90mm 7 degree rise option

Those of us of a certain age can remember a time when off road bicycles came with a rigid fork, stem and seat post and the only suspension was your arms and legs. Then came a revolution of suspension ideas, some innovative and useful and some just downright awful. But at the beginning of this revolution a few companies began to produce stems that suspended the rider via the handlebar from the chatter of the ground. they weren’t in anyway a 170mm suspension fork but they could enable you to barrel down a rock strewn or wash board trail without losing vision as the rigid fork shook you to bits. they were simple and worked and were only superseded by the plushness of a suspension fork.

Todays typical gravel bike has a rigid fork (yes there are a few exceptions from Fox and Cannondale etc) and the sort of rides we take those rigid forks on are much the same as we took and take a mountain bike on, albeit in my case a lot slower speed. So the time of the suspension stem might be about to shine again.

The stem has a very similar way of operating as the Kinekt 2.1 seatpost i tested recently and is a parallelogram design with a standard steerer clamp and a double face plate fastening making it very easy to swop on and off the bike and adjust. Similar to the seatpost it comes with a range of springs to suit the rider weight or riding style. it is suggested that if you ride more technical trails then fitting the medium spring would be a good place to start. swapping the springs is easy, there are very good instructional videos on the Kinekt website to guide you. One tip I would give is to keep the tiny grub screw that you have to remove very safe, I had visions of spending an hour or two trying to find it if it had rolled off the workshop counter, thankfully this didn’t happen but it is tiny and easy to lose. the stem is very well made from top quality materials and looks like it would stand a lot of abuse. It weighs 468g which is quite a lot more than the stem i usually run, is this increase in weight worth it?

The Ride, I fitted the medium spring as suggested and found i could easily move the stem just by pushing down on the bars so i took a short ride up and down the road outside my house and I could bottom out the stem easily. This wouldn’t work for me on the usual off road routes I ride. So i fitted the hardest spring in the box (you get three grades with the stem) which seemed a lot better and went for a proper ride

The test period was over around 2.5 weeks and i tried to ride all the trails I would have taken my normal stem on, this included technical forest trails, pure gravel tracks and at least one nearly 75% tarmac ride and a couple of off road night rides. The stem worked flawlessly and definitely damped out some of the roughness of the terrain. I do think though that an even harder spring would have worked better for me, the stem moved on the mildest of terrain, which it is supposed to do but i needed it to work on the harder hits and by the time those started the stem had already used up all of it’s travel and it bottomed out. Out of the saddle efforts on climbs did cause the stem to bob a little, again i think my weight and riding style could have benefitted from a harder rate spring. There was no visible side to side twist to the stem, a testament to its construction and I was definitely less beaten up at the end of a rough ride, my shoulders and neck ache after 40+ miles usually and this was markedly improved. There is a period of getting used to the feeling of the stem moving and at the beginning I will admit to stopping and checking that the front wheel bolt through axle wasn’t loose (it wasn’t!) but once i got used to that feeling I just rode the bike as normal.

the stem in action

As you can see from the video the stem managed to keep the camera quite still along a little descent and a gravel bridleway. Over a long distance on varied terrain i can see the benefit of a suspended stem. Long distance off road touring would be an ideal application. Bike packing too but you would have to carefully choose the spring rate to compensate if you load up your bars with luggage

Conclusions This stem is a quality made item, construction and materials are first rate and it looks like it would stand the test of time. It is however quite weighty compared to a non suspended stem and also costs £169 in the UK. It works perfectly and isolates the rider from a lot of the gravel chatter and rooty trails we get here, but finding the best spring for your riding style is paramount. it’s not a substitute for a suspension fork, you will still have to pick a line and find the smoothest path as normal but at the end of the ride you will feel less beaten up and fatigued and that means you can ride further and for longer.

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad

Kinekt 2.1 suspension seatpost

Velobrands.com are the new importers of the Kinetk series of suspension seatposts and stems and they very kindly sent me a seatpost and stem to test.

The post
As you can see in the picture the post consists of a parallelogram set up with a longer spring at the bottom and a smaller one inside. The saddle rails do actually look like they are on the wrong way around compared to a traditional seat post but are this way to ensure when the post compresses the saddle stays in the same plane and doesn’t move backwards or forwards excessively. Changing the distance between saddle and
bars on each compression wouldn’t be good for long term comfort. The Kinekt post overcomes this with its design. The post is constructed of aluminium, a carbon version is also available.
The saddle clamp comprises of two bolts pulling down a top piece onto a graduated rest that allows fine fore and aft tilt adjustment. Again the design of the post means when the post compresses the saddle stays exactly at the angle you set it at the beginning. Saddle adjustment angle and fore-aft adjustment can be done independently of the post.

Set up
There are very good instruction videos on the cirrus website and it’s important that you watch these as even though the post is easy to adjust it’s equally as easy to get it wrong and not get the best out of the post.
The post comes with the medium springs fitted, there are also small and large springs in the box and a guide to the idea weight of rider for each. For general riding the medium spring is recommended but as I could compress this easily with just my hands I thought I’d fit the large spring. Being not of slight build I also fit into the weight category for the large anyway. You’ll need a 4mm Allen key but you don’t need engineering skills to swap both springs just make sure you follow the instructions in the video.
Springs swapped I fitted the post to the bike and set up the saddle bearing in mind the little bit of sag that you get when sitting down. It’s best then to go for a short test ride to dial the post in. On the test ride I found there was a little pedaling induced bob so I wound in the preload to counteract this. Obviously you can set the post to react to even the smallest of bumps but I set mine to react to slightly harder hits leaving it firm for normal “just pedalling along”

The Ride
Most experienced riders have learned the “standing up and using your legs as suspension” technique early on and it’s hard to unlearn this so I found I had to concentrate to make myself sit down over roots and stones/rocks to see how the post performed. Over rough gravel and roots the post did exactly what it says on the box, soaked up the chatter and isolated me from the worst of the bumps, I could make it bottom out but it took some effort as the spring rate ramps up towards full compression. The post worked flawlessly throughout the rides I did on it, in complete silence too even when I covered it in mud flung up from the rear wheel. There isn’t much more to say really other than the post does exactly what it was designed to do. It takes some of the knocks and bumps out of the terrain and does it quietly and efficiently without any discernable side to side play.


Who would benefit from this seatpost?
There’s no getting away from two things with this component and that’s the way it looks and how much it weighs. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world and it weighs considerably more than a rigid alloy seatpost so should you part with your hard earned cash for one?
I think that racers, even endurance racers are looking for performance and as minimal weight of their bike and kit as possible, comfort comes a close second to this and you could do just as good a job of isolating the bike from the ground by standing up and those girls and guys have the stamina to do this over long distances so they are probably not going to go for this post.
Us mere mortals who get tired after long punishing rides (I know I’ve got to the end of rides where I’ve only just got the energy to turn the pedals and concentrate on steering and standing up and moving around becomes a chore) are more likely to benefit from the comfort of a seatpost to take the sting out of “long ride backache”.
Bikepackers whose bike is already laden probably wouldn’t notice the extra weight and can sit down and concentrate on route finding and staying alive!
City bikes and hybrid bikes would be perfect for this post with the state of todays roads and gravel strewn cycle paths and a hardtail e-bike would be great with this post, no worries on weight and you can just sit and spin along the trails.


Conclusion
I can’t fault the function of this seatpost, it works perfectly and is well made of quality materials, the adjustability is easy and straight forward and it is very well designed. I’d even go as far as to say looking at the build quality it’s worth the money (around £229). It will help you over rough tracks, it doesn’t bob when pedaling if set up properly and it is easy to adjust to suit your riding style. It is heavier than a normal post but the benefits of its suspension system may out weigh (yes I did that on purpose) this fact for you.
If you think you think you need a suspension seatpost I’d definitely look at the kinekt seatpost as one of the top options to consider.

90mm 7 degree rise option

Those of us of a certain age can remember a time when off road bicycles came with a rigid fork, stem and seat post and that was it. then came a revolution of suspension ideas, some innovative and useful and some just downright awful. But at the beginning of this revolution a few companies began to produce stems that suspended the rider via the handlebar from the chatter of the ground. they weren’t in anyway a 170mm suspension fork but they could enable you to barrel down a rock strewn or wash board trail without losing vision as the rigid fork shook you to bits. they were simple and worked and were only superseded by the plushness of a suspension fork.

Todays typical gravel bike has a rigid fork (yes there are a few exceptions from Fox and Cannondale etc) and the sort of rides we take those rigid forks on are much the same as we took and take a mountain bike on, albeit in my case a lot slower speed. So the time of the suspension stem might be about to shine again.

The stem has a very similar way of operating as the Kinekt 2.1 seatpost i tested recently and is a parallelogram design with a standard steerer clamp and a double face plate fastening making it very easy to swop on and off the bike and adjust. Similar to the seatpost it comes with a range of springs to suit the rider weight or riding style. it is suggested that if you ride more technical trails then fitting the medium spring would be a good place to start. swapping the springs is easy, there are very good instructional videos on the Kinekt website to guide you. One tip I would give is to keep the tiny grub screw that you have to remove very safe, I had visions of spending an hour or two trying to find it if it had rolled off the workshop counter, thankfully this didn’t happen but it is tiny and easy to lose. the stem is very well made from top quality materials and looks like it would stand a lot of abuse. It weighs 468g which is quite a lot more than the stem i usually run, is this increase in weight worth it?

The Ride, I fitted the medium spring as suggested and found i could easily move the stem just by pushing down on the bars so i took a short ride up and down the road outside my house and I could bottom out the stem easily. This wouldn’t work for me on the usual off road routes I ride. So i fitted the hardest spring in the box (you get three grades with the stem) which seemed a lot better and went for a proper ride

The test period was over around 2.5 weeks and i tried to ride all the trails I would have taken my normal stem on, this included technical forest trails, pure gravel tracks and at least one nearly 75% tarmac ride and a couple of off road night rides. The stem worked flawlessly and definitely damped out some of the roughness of the terrain. I do think though that an even harder spring would have worked better for me, the stem moved on the mildest of terrain, which it is supposed to do but i needed it to work on the harder hits and by the time those started the stem had already used up all of it’s travel and it bottomed out. Out of the saddle efforts on climbs did cause the stem to bob a little, again i think my weight and riding style could have benefitted from a harder rate spring. There was no visible side to side twist to the stem, a testament to its construction and I was definitely less beaten up at the end of a rough ride, my shoulders and neck ache after 40+ miles and this was markedly improved. There is a period of getting used to the feeling of the stem moving and at the beginning I will admit to stopping and checking that the front wheel bolt through axle wasn’t loose (it wasn’t!) but once i got used to that feeling I just rode the bike as normal.

the stem in action

As you can see from the video the stem managed to keep the camera quite still along a little descent and a gravel bridleway. Over a long distance on varied terrain i can see the benefit of a suspended stem. Long distance off road touring would be an ideal application. Bike packing too but you would have to carefully choose the spring rate to compensate if you load up your bars with luggage

Conclusions This stem is a quality made item, construction and materials are first rate and it looks like it would stand the test of time. It is however quite weighty compared to a non suspended stem and also costs £ in the UK. It works perfectly and isolates the rider from a lot of the gravel chatter and rooty trails we get here, but finding the best spring for your riding style is paramount. it’s not a substitute for a suspension fork, you will still have to pick a line and find the smoothest path as normal but at the end of the ride you will feel less beaten up and fatigued and that means you can ride further and for longer.

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad

My Bike and me – Claire

Next in our series of meet the rider is Claire Sharpe, Claire has only just started riding gravel but is no stranger to adrenalin fueled sports being an expert roller skater, check out the link at the end to Claire’s instagram account for some great video of her in 8 wheeled action.

Why that bike?  I’ve got a Pinnacle Arkose D1, now affectionately known as Ruby. My bike choice was all dictated by how much I could afford to spend. Ruby was the best I could get with the money I had…and I spent more than I planned. I got a bit of advice from my now boyfriend, ummed and ahhh-ed and took the plunge. Now I’m learning about my bike and building up knowledge so I can decide what to modify based on what I need rather than being completely clueless! I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought Ruby was a bit of a looker as well.


What does gravel riding mean to you? I only got my bike at the tail end of July and had very limited cycling experience beforehand. I commuted on a road bike and previously had a hybrid when I lived on a boat to handle all the towpath I was riding on. But, I knew I enjoyed cycling. Having a gravel bike has opened things way up, I now spot overgrown bridleways out the corner of my eye as I’m going along which I never did before. It’s really freeing to think I can get on my bike and head out almost anywhere and the only the limit is what my legs will put up with. The views are amazing and the rides are fun. I love going down hills fast, either on skates or skiing, this is another way to feed that hunger as well. So I guess gravel riding is my way to get outside, appreciate nature, stay fit, have a laugh and escape.


Where & when was your favourite or best remembered( good or bad) gravel ride ever? I have a very limited bank to draw from for this! That being said, my first ever group ride with the Bristol Gravel Group gang will always be the best. I turned up on a drizzly Wednesday evening with no idea what to expect. I’d never been on a group ride and had zero off-road experience, it was just me, my bike and a keenness to find out where I could go on it in Bristol. I got the warmest welcome from the guys and they really put me through my paces but in a way that let me know what was coming. We got covered in mud, went down some seriously slippy descents and had a drink after. It was that night I knew I was hooked and it wasn’t just the adrenaline and views, it was because I was really lucky to have stumbled across such a great group of people. I haven’t missed a Wednesday night ride since and have even signed up for the Devon Grit 70k so they really did get me hook, line and sinker.


If you could ride one place you’ve never been where would it be? That’s pretty much everywhere for me! I really want to get up to Scotland, I love it there anyway but I really want to experience it on my bike. The King Alfred’s Way has just been released, so that! Wales is on my doorstep and also amazing. I have a few ideas for some bike packing before winter really hits and after that, I think the world is my oyster! After organising a Bristol area women’s ride and sharing it in a few groups, I’ve had messages from people who wish they lived closer…so maybe I could go ride with some of them in their neck of the woods? That would be amazing. If you want to do that, hit me up! I used to work for a coffee roastery and would like to do a South West coffee tour at some point. There are some really amazing coffee shops dotted around in awesome locations. Something to plan for next Spring, I’ll have the best route down by then.


How would you improve the gravel scene in your area? Hopefully, I’m already on it. I am co-leading a Women’s Gravel Ride on 2nd September to try and recruit more women out on our rides. I can’t wait to share it with as many people as possible! The Women’s rides will be a monthly fixture and the ‘Bristol Gravel Group rides and routes’ Facebook group is steadily growing with a lovely bunch of people. Once we are able to, it would be great to put on a larger event where everyone can meet at the same time and recruit even more riders! I just really adore gravel riding and want to share that stoke with as many people as possible. I think having an emphasis on social, no-drop rides will open it up to more people. We’ve got a really solid core of welcoming people who just want to share their love for it too. If you’re Bristol way, ride with us!

Thanks Claire, I’m certainly with you about going to other places and experiencing how the riding differs in different parts of the country, maybe we should start a trail sharing/exchange scheme? it’s great to see gravel through the eyes of someone just starting out but it’s pretty much the same for those with more experience, we still ride along noticing bridleways and wondering where they go and having mini adventures riding into the unknown.

Good luck with the Women’s rides, it’s such a shame that more women aren’t into cycling I’m really keen to get involved in trying to inspire more female riders to try gravel out.

check out Claire’s instagram account here @clairesharpe

My bike and me -Olly

The UKgravelcollective has always been about ordinary riders doing what they like best, riding bikes. There are lots of features on the web about sponsored riders riding the latest bikes in exotic locations but the great majority of the people who contribute pictures and comments to our instagram page and facebook group are those who only have time to dash out after work in all weathers to ride or who’s epic adventure has to be planned meticulously in advance to fit around family life. So to champion these riders I thought a series about the readers and contributors to this community would be a cool thing to do. I asked via instagram if there were any volunteers for this and here is one of the first to respond. I hope to publish more during the coming weeks.

First up is Olly

Why that bike? Because of the bikes I own, this is the bike that works best on gravel! It started as a cyclocross build project so the tyre clearance is up to about 35mm, easily enough for gravel and it can deal with some singletrack too. It’s also my ‘deepest winter’ bike and my year round commuter. I built the steel frame myself, and it’s pretty cool to ride a bike you built. 


What does gravel riding mean to you? To me it means riding your bike wherever you want to. Despite what the industry tells you, you probably already have a bike suitable for gravel rides. You can buy a special new steed for your gravel adventures, indeed there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but most bikes are well capable. I see it as a return to bike riding of olden times, when all bike riding was gravel riding! Those bikes were all-purpose machines, not finely honed for specific terrain like they are today. I think gravel bikes are an updated nod to that early philosophy of a bike that will go where you point it, no matter what the surface is like.
It’s also is a very welcome blurring of the lines between the cycling cliques like ‘roadies’ and ‘mtb’ etc. There’s a little stuffiness in some parts of the cycling world and I think it’s important to remember we all just like riding bikes! 


where & when was your favourite or best remembered ( good or bad) gravel ride ever? I grew up in rural Norfolk and my paper round took in lots of gravel tracks up to farms and the like. They were always my favourite part of the round, traffic free and more interesting than village streets. I had a knackered early 90s mountain bike – well maintained these make excellent gravel bikes and are cheap to acquire!


If you could ride one place you’ve never been where would it be? The Alps feels like the ‘Wembley’ of cycling and I’ve never been riding there so something out there. Colle delle Finestre perhaps. Part paved, part gravel climb where Chris Froome effectively won the Giro d’Italia from nowhere in 2018. As inspiring a bike race as I’ve ever seen and would love to give it a go. 


How would you improve the gravel scene in your area? I think there is room for a clubs running more gravel rides, or even a specific gravel club perhaps. I think this will come as people get to know their local routes better. It can be a bit of a struggle finding routes to take in lots of gravel but with more people getting into it that will improve over time. 

Thanks for going first Olly and we echo your thoughts on any bike can be a gravel bike. you don’t need a specific bike to have fun.

Olly has his own interesting website, give it a look over at Steel Rouleur

Fustle Causeway GR1 Review

FYI: This is a completely unbiased review, Fustle Bikes did not pay for this but they were kind enough to let me ride this bike for over a week and paid the postage to get it delivered to me.

Back in the winter of 2020 just before the world fell over due to Covid 19 I did a brief interview Alistair Beckett from Fustle bikes about the launch of his new bike BIKE LAUNCH and i was very excited when it was suggested I could borrow one of the bikes for review. Fast forward 5 months and due to viruses, lockdowns and new normal work life it has taken until now to throw a leg over this bike.

The bike has been sent to a few bike journalists and as such the paint isn’t in show room condition but this is better for me because I didn’t have to be precious about it and could treat it like I would my own bike.

THE FRAME & FORK

The heart of every bike is it’s frame. The bits you attach to it, the saddle, bars, gears and wheels etc are important but really are consumables in the long run. The frame usually sees lots of component upgrades or changes over it’s life but the way it handles and to a certain point looks is the most important part.

Coming from an MTB back round I love the aesthetics of a sloping top tube frame and from the first time Giant introduced their compact geometry road bikes I always wanted a compact frame over a traditional more horizontal top tube one. The GR1 frame is very compact, you could easily mistake it for a Cross Country MTB. The shape of the frame also gives a very small rear triangle. Looking at it and knowing that this is made from aluminium you would expect the ride to be very harsh and direct. However this must have been thought of during the design process because over washboard trails and brick strewn tracks I didn’t feel like I was getting battered. this doesn’t mean it has a rear end like a wet noodle though, dance on the pedals and you get the impression all your effort is moving the bike forward while maintaining traction.

Fustle causeway gravel bike

One of the comments I’ve had via the UKgravelCO social media channels are that the compact frame doesn’t give a big enough space to run a frame bag and bottles for mini adventures, bike packing or touring but as you can see a medium full length bag and two bottle fit easily.

The head tube is tapered, there is internal cabling throughout for gears and brakes and also includes stealth routing for a dropper post (more on this later). The bottom bracket is press fit and despite the bad press these get I found now noise or play with it throughout the test which took it through dusty trails and up to the bottom bracket puddles. The paint seems hard wearing despite the best efforts of careless industry journos and though I’m not usually a fan of blue I could certainly live with the colour and the graphics. There are rack mounts, three sets of bottle cage mounts, a boss for a removable rear stay bridge to fit full mudguards and bosses to fit “bento box” style top tube bag. the frame has a 142mm x 12mm bolt through axle and is flat mount disc brake compatible.

The fork is full carbon with 3 mounts per side for mounting guards, “anything” cages or more bottles. It has a 100mm x 12 bolt through axle.

the frame and fork will take 700×50 or 650×2.2 tyres if you are not running mudguards.

gravel bike in typical wyre forest pose

THE KIT

The bike can be specified with various levels of Shimano’s GRX components and there are plenty of reviews of this groupset already so I won’t go into details but suffice to say I think this is currently the best cable operated gear and hydraulic brake groupset for gravel riding on the market today. the bike came with a 1 x set up of 42T chainring and 11-42 cassette. you can spec a 2 x groupset on the build page of the Fustle website and the frame is full compatible with two chain rings at the front. The wheel set was a DT GR1600 and they look fab and were light! The bar and stem are from the Pro Discover range on this bike but you can choose from lots of different bars when you order so it’d be unfair to go into too much detail here. they were comfy with a decent amount of flare at the drops. The saddle was a WTB volt, which despite me having trouble with saddles apart from a Charge “Spoon” i found comfortable even after riding 100k on it. It was quite grippy though and moving about on it off road resulted in me adjusting my baggies as the saddle gripped them enough to start pulling my shorts down! at least of a wet muddy ride you’ll not lose contact with the saddle.

DROPPER POST ON A GRAVEL BIKE?

Short answer? _ yes please! long answer- I’ve used a dropper post on MTBs from the early days when you could only get a “gravity dropper” and now wouldn’t be without one for technical riding but I’ve never had one fitted to my gravel bike, on occasion though I’ve wished for one to magically appear between my legs! The post is operated very neatly by using the redundant left hand lever (run 2 x and you’ll need a bar mounted dropper lever) and a slight push inwards releases the post to allow you to push it down with your back side, then another flick of the lever to raise it back up automatically. I found i only needed to move with around 50mm downward, even though it has 120mm of travel to gain a mass of confidence, a lower centre of gravity and a control level up there with an MTB. the only draw back I found was accidentally pushing the lever in when braking down hill and raising the post! It didn’t take long to remember not to do this though and wasn’t a problem after the first few descents.

local trails gravel bike fun

The biggest benefit was on long washed out rutted bridleway down hills where with the saddle out of the way I could throw the bike around in and out of the ruts and over the loose stones using the old fashioned “suspension legs” without fear of my shorts hooking up with the saddle. The sloping top tube and the added crotch clearance also helps.

THE RIDE

on the road – another comment I got from the UKgravelCO facebook page was “i bet with that head angle it’s boring on the road” so I was interested to see how it did handle, after all it does have a 69 degree head angle and a long top tube (geometry here), which is more MTB numbers than road lets be honest. on a 100k ride of which 70% was on tarmac and the rest off road i found that the combination of long top tube and short stem (for a road bike) combined with the head angle surprisingly kept the steering lively without being skittish. Not at all the ponderous slow turning ride I feared. It isn’t lightening fast but it isn’t boring and if you want a crit bike then this isn’t the bike for you, if you want something that’ll eat up the miles but let you carve some hairpins on this may well be it. The bonus of the GR1 for me was that it is so much lighter than my steel framed bike. Over a long distance the heavier bike takes it’s toll pedaling up hills and although the GR1 is undoubtedly stiffer than a steel bike the fact that i wasn’t hauling that weight around more than made up for it.

thumbs up on the road even on a gravel bike #dangerpanda

OFF ROAD

The riding around UKgravelCO HQ isn’t the lake district or particularly hilly, it’s rolling and most bridleways and tracks are only accessible using tarmac roads, what you’d say a gravel bike was made for but there is also a network of natural trails that we also ride gravel bikes on, not enduro MTB level but fun for us mere mortals and we chuck ourselves down these with giggles and seat of the pants (for a rigid forked, non dropper bike) riding. The GR1 laps up this type of riding.

this is one of the trails I took this bike on and many more like it during the test period. Slipping off the road, across the dusty surfaced car park, through the trees into “hidden trail” now over grown and living up to it’s name the entrance is a nettle and bramble barrier. Once through and into the trees the forest carpet of old pine needles and leaf litter crackles under the tyres. Duck down under the low hanging bow and plunge into “Bono” so named because it’s “close to the edge” (of the road). Follow the winding descent over large exposed roots, attempt a scandi-flick to get around the tight left hander. quick check for traffic and then shoot across the road and down the series of uneven poorly spaced wooden steps on the other side and then let the brakes off gathering speed quickly downhill into “the Tankslapper”. safe at this time of year but in anything but summer it ends in an unavoidable patch of mud that you need to engage all your skills to stay upright in as you reach maximum velocity. if you survive that the rest of the bridleway is a fast, loose stone, rutted test of nerve as you seek to carry speed and choose the best line possible. finally the track ends at a steep tarmac road which is taken in full aero tuck because at the bottom is the farm cafe and last one there buys the cake!

I’ve never felt as confident on a gravel bike, the dropper post came into it’s own on this type of trail. The GR1 felt sure footed and never out of of it’s depth, the combination of long dropped top tube, short stem and a wider bar than I’m used to made riding on the drops an engaging experience.

front end

the GR1 is fully capable of riding fully loaded the length of the country, it could do this with ease. you could bolt a rack on the back and commute to work on it, it’s manners in traffic would be impeccable. Hopping kerbs to avoid those close passes would be a breeze. long distance off road, sedate or fast off road or even just tarmac this bike would bring a smile to your face. But dip it’s front tyre into something challenging and it comes alive, carving turns, descents and technical trails. this bike would be a hoot at blue MTB trail centres and even some reds. Anything you can do on a XC mountain bike this bike would have a go at.

WHO IS THIS BIKE FOR?

If you come from an MTB back round this bike will feel instantly familiar to you. It won’t feel totally alien like riding a road bike straight after a riser bar bike would. you can throw it around and it’ll come back for more.

If you have only ever ridden a road bike so far you’ll love the way the GR1 has get up and go on tarmac but will look after you as you begin your off road bike journey, it’ll help you build confidence quickly.

it’s the perfect MTBers road bike and the perfect road riders off road bike

any direction, any time

CONCLUSION

If there is any such thing as an all rounder the Fustle Causeway GR1 will happily sit at the top of the pile. Fun in the woods, engaging on the road. it’ll go as fast as you dare or it’ll be happy to just ponder along…… but like a young puppy it’ll keep looking at you waiting for you to throw the ball and let the fun begin.

for more details and pricing see the Fustle bikes website ridefustle.com

big thanks also to Sandy at the Trailhead

private parking spot

Morvelo Overland Shorts, Selector V Elemental

I’m a huge fan of baggy shorts for gravel riding, coming from a predominantly MTB riding back round I’ve never been totally commited to the full lycra look. I’ll concede that for pure road riding that the wind cheating and muscle supporting advantages of lycra hit the spot. Having said this I will not go on any decent length of ride without a lycra bib short on. I just choose to wear a baggy short over the top. I do this for the extra protection the shorts afford for the abrasive nature and tumbles and falls that off road riding brings. I also do it because (i think) it looks good!

First of all let me say that Morvelo have had no influence in this review and that I used my own pocket money to buy these two pairs of shorts. the second pair were purchased after my experience of wearing the first along with the fact that they were on special offer on Wiggle!

Both pairs of shorts have been worn for around two months over approximately 500 miles in weather ranging from 5 to 30 degrees, sunshine, rain, hail and in plenty of mud and dusty conditions.

Selector

The selector shorts are described as “stretch combined with the lightweight BlueSign-accredited fabric means the Selectors offer unparalleled freedom of movement. Packing down small, and with their discreet design and DWR treated fabric”

First off, this statement is 100% true, I’ve not worn a pair of shorts this stretchy other than full lycra shorts. It’s like some sort of wonder material and it also feels great to the touch, a sort of silky, satiny material that instantly felt great to wear. The short is very light weight and i hesitate to write a cliché but they really do feel like they are not there! the list price is £90 but i managed to get them for less than £70 in a sale

Fit

They work well with lycra underneath but because of the amount of stretch they do fit to your form. These are no MTB massive baggy which means no flappage at speed but they do feel different if you are used to a traditional baggy short. the length is spot on for me, with a standard length bib short underneath the leg length easily covers the end of the bib so there’s no embarrassing lycra poking out. your knee will stay exposed though so your cycling tan can still happen. there are no belt loops but there are internal adjusters to micro adjust the fit. I usually wear a 34 and the size 34 fit perfectly. there are two zipped side pocket and one rear pocket.

Durability

The DWR coating is effective for rain showers but as you’d expect they will wet out in a deluge but the usual trail spray from the front and rear wheels is shrugged off, but if it’s wet out and you don’t want a wet crack fit a mudguard. The first two weeks of ownership coincided with the Spring heatwave and with temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius and despite them being listed as breathable i did feel over heated in them but i think this would have happened in any short. The short material, being so lightweight does give the impression that it’s not going to be able to take the general wear and tear of gravel riding. But to date after a couple of months of use this has proved unfounded. My local trails are strewn with brambles and nettles and the ground is a mix of clay, gravel and sand so quite abrasive.

Selector For

  • superb fit
  • lightweight material
  • spot on length

Against

  • price, although if you shop around you can get them for less

Elemental

The elemental shorts are described as “A short where simplicity is paramount. Once you hit the trails, the freedom of movement offered by the quick drying four-way-stretch fabric makes it a short perfectly suited to road cycling, mountain biking and gravel rides”

Again this is pretty much spot on but they are a very different short to the Selector. I bought these at the full price of £45 on the back of how good the Selector short was, after all everyone needs two pairs of shorts for when the other pair is in the wash. the material is more satin-y and does have a little rustle to it, they are again lightweight and pretty much fit and forget.

Fit

The Elemental shorts also have stretch built in but not as much as the selector so although not in the MTB baggy league they do flap more but it’s not at all noticeable unless you are going really fast or there’s a gale blowing. They are not as fitted as the Selector short which may suit someone used to wearing MTB shorts better than the more fitted Selector. The length again leaves them just above the knee when riding. the shorts have belt loops and to date I’ve been wearing them without a belt but because of the less stretch they do ride down a little when standing up pedaling. there are two unzipped side pockets. These shorts size up differently despite the size guide being the same and my usual size of 34″ (L) was too small and so I returned the pair and exchanged for an XL which fit much better. The Selector short adjusters are in no way maxed out so it might be wise to size up from your normal fit with the Elemental shorts. The return and exchange procedure was slick and quick despite the corona virus limitations.

Durability

The Elemental short does not come with a DWR coating but they do dry quickly, they are not advertised as being made of a breathable material but the extra bagginess over the other shorts makes them feel airy and I’ve never felt over heated in them. I’ve ridden these shorts on my gravel bike and MTB and they have taken a few scrapes and knocks without any damage and given the relative price compared to the Selectors I’m not so scared about plunging into thorn strewn tracks and trails in these

Elemental For

  • fit and length
  • price
  • they look like normal shorts. wearable anywhere, ride or post ride

Against

  • not as stretchy so you might need a belt, but loops are provided

Conclusion

the Selector and Elemental shorts are both great items, they are both great to ride in, comfort wise the Selector edge it slightly in a baggy, close to lycra level of comfort. This doesn’t take anything away from the Elemental shorts though, they are comfy too but in a different way. You could wear both pairs to the pub but the selector wouldn’t look out of place in a swanky wine bar whereas the Elemental would fit in at real ale festival without a second glance.

I’d recommend both shorts, if you can “stretch” to the price go for the Selector short and you won’t be disappointed. If you are on a budget or want a second pair of shorts to throw in a frame bag for touring or bike packing (the elemental will pack down smaller) go for the Elemental. either way both shorts are worth spending your cash on.