2015 Sram Red 22 Hydraulic Disc Brakeset First Impressions

MJ5L0876I really like my Specialized Crux, so to say I was bummed when Sram announced the hydraulic brake recall last winter would be an understatement. Furthermore, the recall took a serious toll on my faith and desire for Sram products. The recall was the reason I switched my road bike order this spring from being a Sram equipped bike to a Shimano equipped bike.

Sram handled the recall as well as possible from my perspective. They provided a mechanical brakeset to use while the new brakes were designed, manufactured, and tested. The 2015 Sram Red 22 hydraulic disc brakeset arrived at my local bike shop around the time Sram said it would and shortly thereafter I had my Crux back to the spec it was when it was purchased. I hope Sram took care of the local bike shops across the country with reimbursements for parts and labor.

I wanted to give the new brakeset a fair, open-minded chance. This has been a bit tough because it’s hard to shake the thought that Sram had years of development and testing for the first set which had defects and now Sram was telling me to put my faith in their new set when they designed, manufactured, and tested this set in less than six months.

The 2015 Sram Red 22 hydraulic disc brakeset appears to be a completely different brakeset. The shape of the hoods is bigger and shaped differently. I have average sized hands for an adult male and these hoods are about as big as I can feel comfortable riding with. They are not too large, but they are substantial.
MJ5L0880 MJ5L0879The modulation and lever range are greatly improved over the first generation. The first generation brake levers would touch the handlebars when squeezed with force, a real problem when you were using gloves with any bulk on or wanted to switch a gear while breaking. Now the brakes have great lever range with smooth braking and great modulation. They simply feel great.
MJ5L0896 MJ5L0895The finish on the brakeset is great and has the typical Sram style design and flash.
MJ5L0883 MJ5L0886Time will tell how well these fair. So far I am very happy with them. Cyclocross season is approaching and I’m excited to put these brakes through their paces!

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Sram XX1 Fatbike Crank & Wolf Tooth Chainring Review

MJ5L0044I love my fatbike. I’ve been riding my Salsa Ti Mukluk a lot more this summer as overtime the notion of it being a “snow bike” has been completely removed in my mind. I’ve wanted to do a one by conversion on my fatbike for a while and recently ordered the required parts from my local bike shop.

I knew I wanted to run a Wolf Tooth chainring for a few reasons. I’ve read a lot of positive things, I have friends who love them, and I prefer to support the little guys when I can. It doesn’t hurt that it’s beautiful, seriously, and it is also light weight. The 28 tooth chainring from Wolf Tooth I purchased weighed 60 grams as advertised. One benefit over Sram’s own XX1 chainrings are that Wolf Tooth offers a 26 tooth chainring and Sram’s smallest option is a 28 tooth chainring.

Once I made the decision to use a Wolf Tooth chainring, I had to start looking for a replacement crank as the E13 that came spec’d on my Mukluk features proprietary interfaces. I knew I wanted to have the option of running small chainrings as deep snow can be difficult to pedal through. With a normal 104 bcd crank spider, you are limited to chainrings that are 32 teeth or higher as numbers below that throw off the chain line and would start to interfere with the spider. The solution is to not run a spider. When looking for a crank that is compatible with Wolf Tooth direct mount chainrings and has a 100mm spindle for fatbikes, the choices are somewhat limited. My search came down to either a Sram X9 or a Sram XX1 crank. To be honest neither of the options was appealing. I am replacing all of the drivetrain and brakes with Shimano XTR bits and I was a bit hung up on having a Sram crank in that mix, but in the end, the XX1 was the best choice for me as I’m a bike parts snob.

The Sram XX1 crank is light, and simple. I appreciated that the fatbike version does not come with chainrings so there is no added cost of unused parts. As a fan of simplicity, it looks great. It feels stiff but then again, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt a modern-day crank flex.

Overall the combo of the XX1 Crank and the Wolf Tooth chainring is great. With those components and removing the front derailleur, cable, and shifter, the bike looks much better. I think I nailed the gearing with a standard 10 speed 11-36 cassette and a 28 tooth chainring. I have yet to spin out the gearing while riding singletrack and it climbs very well. The chain refuses to drop even with no chain guide and a rear derailleur without a clutch, although I plan on adding a rear derailleur with a clutch as soon as parts come into stock. I’d highly recommend both Wolf Tooth and the Sram XX1 fatbike crank if you’re looking for a light weight one by solution for your fatbike.

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Gore ALP-X 2.0 GORE-TEX Active Jacket Review

MJ5L1542I really like my Gore jackets so when I found myself in need of a rain jacket, I knew where to start my search. I narrowed the waterproof Gore jackets down to the Gore ALP-X 2.0 GORE-TEX Active. The GORE-TEX fabric that the jacket is made from is pretty amazing. It keeps all water out while also wicking away sweat leaving you dry and 40% happier than a wet version of yourself.

The jacket features a flap that a be unbuttoned that extends how low the jacket hangs in the rear keeping water from being sprayed on your backside.
MJ5L1544 MJ5L1532 The jacket has two pockets, one breast pocket and one centered rear pocket.
MJ5L1546The Jacket has a removable hood via zipper.
MJ5L1549 MJ5L1552The jacket features adjustable wrist straps that allow for the fit you want.
MJ5L1536The jacket fits a bit looser than all of the other same sized Gore jackets, probably related to it being marketed as a mountain bike jacket. Overall I am happy with the jacket but I wish they had a snugger fitting rain jacket with the fold down rear flap. It does a great job of keeping me dry from the rain and getting any sweat off my skin. I find myself wearing it around town on rainy days because of how much I like it and how well it works. If you are in the market for a long-term cycling rain jacket, I’d recommend you give this one a try at your local bike shop or if they don’t carry Gore, give my local bike shop a call and they would be happy to help you out.

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Revelate Tangle Frame Bag Review

MJ5L1436I wanted to explore more gravel rides this year after last years awesome intro to gravel. I made a few changes my Specialized Crux for gravel rides in the cyclocross off-season including Surly Knard 41c tires, side entry water bottle cages, and a Revelate Tangle frame bag.

I knew I needed to be able to carry a variety of items on longer gravel rides. I choose a half frame bag because full frame bags removed the option of water bottles, and saddle bags removed the option of easy access during riding. I choose a Revelate Tangle frame bag because of their build quality and materials used.

I really like that the left side and the right side compartments are separated (roughly 80% 20% spit). It allows for easy access to some things while not having to deal with sorting through other types of items.
MJ5L1438 MJ5L1432

The fit of the bag is great and allows for use on a variety of frames because of the versatility the Velcro and straps have.
MJ5L1426Overall I’m thrilled with the bag. I love that it keeps all water out. The zippers are high quality and feature weather sealing. I like that the interior fabric is bright yellow, making things easier to find. I like there is an access hole to put a hydration bladder inside and run the hose and mouth piece out. There is nothing I’d change about the bag or things I wish it did differently. It’s awesome!

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2014 S-Works Tarmac SL4 Dura-Ace Di2 Review

MJ5L1422Earlier this year I picked up a 2014 S-Works Tarmac SL4 Dura-Ace Di2 and since then have spent a lot of time riding it. Let’s start with this, the bike is awesome. I really enjoy riding it. It is ridiculously lightweight weighing in at 14.88 lbs as pictured, it climbs like a rocket ship, and it rides far smoother than I ever imagined it could.

The shifting on the bike is amazing. Amazing. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to like Shimano Di2 the first time I rode it. I was a fan of Sram (particularly DoubleTap) and didn’t like the idea of a battery to charge and wires. The first time I rode a Di2 bike on a steep hill and threw the front derailleur over to the small chain ring I was sold. It didn’t complain, it didn’t make any angry noises, it just did exactly what I asked, all while being quite and fast.

In addition to the best front shifting I’ve ever experienced, several other Di2 features sold me on it as the group for this bike. I love that the front derailleur trims itself every few rear shifts to ensure no rubbing. I love that I can change the shifting buttons to do whatever I want. This is cool for things like making the left shifter act the same as the right shifter as I have done, but even cooler for people with special handicap needs and want to be able to shift with one hand. Di2 rocks.
MJ5L1443 MJ5L1476 MJ5L1480The crank on this bike is a thing of beauty!
MJ5L1445The brakes are powerful and provide even modulation.
MJ5L1458I’m a big fan of the internal cable routing, and internal battery for the Di2 shifting.
MJ5L1493The wheels are light, have quick engagement, and the braking is good even in wet conditions.
MJ5L1484The bike rides much smoother than I thought it would. I expected a bit of harshness compared to the Specialized Roubaix I previously rode and was pleasantly surprised how similar the compliance was. The geometry is a change from the Roubaix so my riding position has been stretched out a bit now. I still find myself very comfortable after four hours in the saddle. The handling of the bike was the biggest difference compared to the Roubaix. The steering is noticeably quicker. While screaming down hills in Southern Illinois at over 47 mph, steering inputs don’t require a lot of force, I can attest.

MJ5L1467 MJ5L1450I smile when I think of the future rides I’ll spend pedaling this bike. It’s everything I could want in a road bike. I love it.

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Gore Tool Jacket Review

IMG_0401I have spent a lot of time wearing the Gore Tool Windstopper soft shell jacket since purchasing it. It is the warmest option for an outer that I have and Gore makes and thus it has been my go to jacket for the majority of my winter riding. I’ve put the Gore Tool jacket through its paces on hard road rides, slow fat bike rides, and in temperatures ranging from 40º F down to 5º F with varying under layering of wool base layers.

A big portion of controlling body temperature is keeping the wind off of your skin, which the Windstopper material does a great job of, and with the added insulation found in this jacket, it does the job of keeping you warm even in the single digits with a base layer. Equally impressive as the warmth the jacket provides is its ability to shed heat when you want to cool off. The Jacket features zippers that run from mid torso to the elbows allowing lots of ventilation. When you want even more airflow through the jacket, you can open the rear side pockets via zipper allowing direct access for exhausted air to escape from. The red zipper handles seen below are the ventilation zippers.
IMG_0396The rear pockets on the jacket are easy to use and offer a gracious amount of space for items. The center pocket has no zipper and is a traditional top entrance pocket perfect for items that you need quick access to. The side pockets feature side entrance and close with a zipper.

Another neat feature is a built-in cloth inside of the front pocket.
IMG_0398The fit of the jacket is looser than that of the Gore Alp-X I previously reviewed, but still snug enough to provide a good fit for cycling. The fit and ability to regulate warmth make this jacket great for commuting. Gore designs their products to be able to be worn together without “bunching” if desired and I appreciate the ability to throw the Tool jacket over the ALP-X jacket when the temperatures get ridiculously cold.

I don’t like the idea of rating a product on its ability to keep you warm or cool you off because everyone’s ability to maintain body temperature is different and a product shouldn’t get slammed because it didn’t perform for the reviewer. With that said, I like this jacket a lot because of its ability to both keep me warm and control overheating via good ventilation options.

If you are in the market for well-made winter cycling jacket with a lifetime warranty, I’d recommended giving the Gore Tool a try. If your local bike shop doesn’t carry Gore, feel free to give the folks at my local bike shop, Bloomington Cycle & Fitness a call to call for your Gore needs.

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45NRTH Wolvhammer Review

IMG_2355I’ve done a lot of riding this winter, most of which wearing the 45NRTH Wolvhammer boots. I’ll be honest, these boots came with a lot of hype and I wasn’t sure they could live up to the claims that those who have them make. After months of use in snow, cold temps, and varying wet conditions, I feel comfortable rating their performance.

So how did they do? Great, I am very happy with them.

This winter in Illinois has seen frequent snowfall and cold temperatures. I’ve worn them in snow up to a foot deep and in temperatures between 45º F and -15º F. The boots feel very well made when wearing or handling them. I believe the boots quality and performance come from the number of licensed materials used to create them. In my experience with shoes and boots, it seems common to see proprietary soles, inners, and outers. This is not the case with the Wolvhammers. The boots feature:

  • Vibram Soles
  • Cordura Outer
  • 3M Thinsulate Inner
  • Sympatex Waterproof & Breathable Materials
  • Aerotherm Insole

It blows my mind even writing that out. Each of those bullet points is a separate companies product. To me that means that QBP (45NRTH) paid to have proven technologies used for their cold weather boots rather than developing in-house solutions. This likely costs 45NRTH more money per boot, but the product is better because of it. I have no doubt that part of the cost is to pay for all of the licensed technology.

The boots do well in the cold. In single digit temperatures, my toes can sense that it is cold outside of the boots, but my toes and feet have never been uncomfortably cold, even after three plus hours of riding. On the other end of the spectrum, I have worn the boots inside of local restaurants and bars after riding to them and my feet have never been uncomfortably warm.

The boots do a great job keeping the snow and water out. The strap at the top of the boot allow for as tight of a fit as you want. The claim of being completely waterproof is true which is great because let’s be honest, the last thing you want inside of your boot when it’s freezing is any kind of water.

The downsides to the boot are limited. The cost seemed hard to justify last year, but after ridding in them this winter, they are worth every penny. They make riding in the winter more enjoyable, which is the goal of all winter riding gear. It makes for one less piece of gear to worry about when packing for a ride, just grab them and don’t worry about your feet. The boots take some time to put on and take off, but that comes with the territory. Clipping into and out of pedals has a slightly different feel. I’d recommend clipping into and out of them a few times before your first ride to get used to the action. I have noticed some wear on my crank arms of my fat bike due to the boots high top sides.

Overall, I’m very happy and would recommend them to anyone looking for a fat bike winter riding shoe/ boot solution. If your local bike shop doesn’t have them in stock, give the awesome folks at my local bike shop, Bloomington Cycle & Fitness a call to see if they can get you your size.

If you missed my initial thoughts on these boots after I purchased them and are interested, they can be found here: First Impressions: 45NRTH Wolvhammer

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