Giro’s 40M Tech Overshort is exactly what you imagine—high performance cycling shorts that you wear over your spandex. They provide style, warmth and perhaps protection in a crash, but mostly they’re for modest folks who don’t like to look like they’re riding around in their underwear.
Many people will tell you that there’s nothing like riding in just plain spandex cycling shorts. (The retired Pittsburgh bike messenger Ray Balls was living proof.) Wearing anything over them means you’re increasing the friction between you and your saddle, and impeding cooling and ventilation. Thus, one of the biggest challenges in designing a high-performance overshort is reducing friction. The 40M Tech Overshort features a seemless nylon and spandex panel where it matters most.
Another major factor in performace is fit, so Giro offers these shorts in sizes XS-XXL in both regular and slim fit. I have a 31″ waist, so Giro sent me the “32 Slim”. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better fitting pair of shorts. Granted, aesthetically I prefer a baggier look, but I simply can’t deny that the cut of the 40M is spot on.
Although they’re made for road riding, I’ve taken them on mountain bike rides, as well. Off road riding puts shorts to the test because you change riding positions so frequently. These never felt uncomfortable, nor did they ever snag on the nose of my saddle.
The shorts are constructed if synthetic fabric that has a nice look and feel, as well as a little bit of stretch. Giro makes use of additional spandex stretch panels at the waist, with both buttoned waistband adjustments and good old fashioned belt loops.
Personally, I would have liked a zippered wallet pocket on the butt, however Giro decided to keep the 40M Tech Overshort all business (noting that their accompanying jerseys all have plenty of rear pockets). These shorts have just two small pockets, a zippered cell phone pocket on the left thigh, and a key pocket on the right hip.
Like the rest of the New Road collection, the 40M Tech Overshort is sewn in California. Available in three colorways, they retail for $120. Check out www.giro.com
Giro’s New Road collection is an interesting take on cycling apparel. As the name implies, it was designed with road riding in mind. They’ve put a huge emphasis on fashion, creating a high-end alternative to gaudy lycra and spandex. In the past, many companies have produced casual clothing with cycling-specific features, and while they look good enough to wear après-bike, they tend to fall short in the performance arena. Giro, instead, took the approach of making high-performance cycling wear that makes no bones about what it is, but simply looks so nice that you wouldn’t feel self-conscious wearing it into the café.
Perhaps the best example of the New Road philosophy is the Ride Jersey. Made from a merino wool blend, it features an eight inch zipper and three rear pockets. The fabric looks and feels like high-quality cotton, but performs like the original technical fabric should. The stitching is pronounced, which gives the jersey a look that says, “This wasn’t made by faceless factory workers, this was made by human hands.”
The Ride Jersey is available in four colors and sizes XS-XXL. It retails for $150. Check out www.giro.com
The JBL Charge and Flip are wireless, portable, rechargeable, Bluetooth compatible self-contained speaker systems. While technically neither is an “urban cycling” accessory in the strictest sense, as they aren’t specifically designed to be used while riding, they are certainly both cool and useful items for those who are willing to shell out the money for entertainment on the go. Think rooftop hang out sessions, rocking out by the river, wrenching in the basement, bike polo under the bridge, etc.
Of the two, the Charge is the clear choice unless money is tight. For a device that’s not too much bigger than a can of beer, this thing pumps out some serious volume. And, I kid you not, it delivers a respectable amount of bass. Sure, you’re not going to compete with the lowriders in the park, but the Charge actually creates enough sound pressure to make your music sound good, not tinny. And if you crank it up indoors, you’ll probably be impressed.
The Charge features a 6000mAh Li-ion battery that charges via USB or the provided wall charger. It has a claimed runtime of more than 12 hours, and you can even take advantage of this gratuitous power source and use the Charge to recharge other mobile devices. It’s got a simple battery life indicator, and
Construction-wise, the Charge is clean and solid, and it seems like it’s built to withstand abuse. Intentionally or not, the Charge just so happens to fit in a bicycle water bottle cage. Electronically, it’s been flawless. I was able to sync it to my iPhone for the first time in less than 30 seconds, and since then I just turn the speaker on and hit play on my phone. No muss, no fuss.
The Charge does retail for a cool $150, which might carry a little sticker shock for some people, but consider that premium headphones are often considerably more expensive. And while there are competitively priced speaker systems on the market, they’re simply not JBL—a company that’s been around since 1946.
The Flip is essentially the Charge’s little brother. It’s still plenty loud—impressively loud—but it’s just not quite as powerful as the Charge. The $99 unit’s battery boasts a 5 hour run time, which is nothing to sneeze at, but lacks the ability to recharge other devices. The Flip also uses a dedicated charger (included) not a universal USB charging system.
The Flip does have one unique trick up its sleeve, however. It features a built in microphone and a call answering button. It’s not a feature that I personally found necessary, but I’m certain there are some who would really appreciate such functionality.
Both models are available in several color options and come with a neoprene carrying case. Check out www.jbl.com
Nikwax began as a one-man operation in the UK. Nick Brown simply wanted a better waterproofing product for his boots, and so he developed his own formula. In 1977 he started selling his wax in tins which he had silk-screened the labels onto. In the 1980′s he began to develop his signature line of water-based products that were more environmentally friendly than the competition, and arguably easier to use.
While I’ve long been a fan of Nikwax waterproofing wax for leather, until now I hadn’t tried their other products. Though I had seen them on the shelves of the local outdoor retail shop, I never really thought about buying products to care for my waterproof clothing. Then one sad day I discovered that my uber expensive softshell jacket no longer functioned like it once did.
Nikwax explains that softshell jackets like mine feature a “durable water repellent” finish. Designed to prevent water from entering while allowing vapor to escape, DWR finishes become degraded from exposure to contaminates. Apparently this was the case with my jacket, as a mere dribble of water would still bead up and run off, but any significant deluge would soak right through the fabric. Nikwax calls this “wetting out.”
The first step in reviving my jacket would be to properly clean it. Tech Wash is a soap based cleaner that removes both dirt and detergent residues without degrading the existing DWR. A few ounces in warm water is all it takes.
TX.Direct is a solvent-free waterproofing product. The directions were simple: set the top loading washer for a small load, fill with warm water, dial the settings for heavy duty, dump the entire 10 oz bottle of TX.Direct in, and add no more than three garments.
To make a long story short, the TX.Direct made my jacket every bit as waterproof as the day I got it. And to be honest, it might work even better. As an additional experiment, I treated a pair of non-waterproof cycling knickers with TX.Direct. While it didn’t fully waterproof them, it did impart a water-resistant quality that made light amounts of water bead up and run off.
Sold as a kit, 10 oz bottles of Tech Wash and TX.Direct retail for about $20. Individual bottles retail for about $9 and $13, respectively. While these products are nowhere near as cheap as ordinary laundry detergent, it’s a pretty small price to pay to extend the life of expensive waterproof outerwear. Check out www.nikwax-usa.com
My previous headlight died in its prime, of complications from a fall. Coming back to my bike on a wintery night with thick gloves on, I misaligned the slot on the handlebar mount when attempting to slide it into the bar mount and dropped it on the sidewalk, at just the right angle to snap one of the dainty plastic tabs that hold the bits of the light together. It’s safe to say that such things would never happen with the Gotham Defender, which my wife got me as a replacement, for two reasons. First, it’s designed to be as theft-resistant as the bike is, and doesn’t need to be taken along when the bike gets locked up. Second, even if you did take it off the bike, it’s hard to imagine a mere 3 foot drop injuring it; you could probably drive a nail with it if you had to.
The light clamps onto your 22 – 32 mm bars (or other protruding horizontal part of the bike) with a pentalobe nut, which makes it impossible to remove without the included mutated hex wrench tool; a hidden and recessed screw locks the battery compartment closed. While it’s still possible that a thief could have the necessary wrench in their gear, and also possible that they could bypass the clamp entirely by stealing the bars, the law of the jungle is such that your gear doesn’t need to be completely theft-proof, just more so that the other possible targets. This also makes it tricky for the rightful owner to adjust or open, though, unless you’re willing to tempt fate by bringing the tools with you or are methodical enough to replace the batteries before they run dry.
The build quality on the $60 Defender is impressive. Unlike most battery powered lights, it’s made of solid aluminum and has the 230 g of weight to match. It claims to be waterproof to 1 ft, and while that has not been verified by me, it certainly does fine with thunderstorms and heavy snowfall. Despite its size, it doesn’t rely on reflectors to amplify its light — the optics, such as they are, are six LEDs which protrude slightly above the face of the light. The downside to this indestructibility is that this is more a light for being seen than seeing by; the throw from the light, when adjusted to oncoming-car height, casts barely enough light on the street to identify potholes and hazards in a city. When tilted down, the Defender provides decent vision when street lights are absent, but makes visibility to cars that much less. Probably not the thing for country roads, but fine for city use, and the beam will reassuringly reflect in street signs a couple of blocks away.
Some may prefer a light that’s smaller or more efficient, but being able to leave your headlight on your bike without worrying about theft or abuse, especially during the cold and dark wintery months, is worth the price of admission for me. The weight penalty, as it usually is, is largely psychological, and considering its ostensible indestructibility, it is priced fairly. Sure, it would be great it if the light quality was better, but if the so-so light quality is necessary to make it smash-proof, I can live with that. If anything, I’ve found myself desiring a similar tail light, which is coincidentally being developed by Gotham and is planned for release later this year. See more at www.bikegotham.com
Review written by Dan Goldberg, Urban Velo riding buddy and sometimes tech consultant. Read other reviews by Dan.