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There are select socks that I refer to in my life. I’m not a complete sock snob, but I am pretty darn close to it. I love Smart Wool socks in the winter or for cold rainy training rides, I love Twin Six socks (especially their new brand) for the look and sexy factor. The rest of my sock drawer is mostly filled with Sock Guy and DeFeet cycling socks, keeping only one or two “girl stockings” on hand for when I have to wear a suit.
FITS Co sent me a couple pairs of socks to try out, nothing behind it but a beautiful handwritten note and a funky business card from their brand manager Wood Talkington. I won’t lie, their story is unique and worth a visit by itself.
Knitting socks in Niota, TN since 1902, Crescent Sock Co. endured the ups and downs that shaped the character of America’s people and her textiles industry. Today the company produces socks under its own FITS™ name in the oldest operating hosiery mill in the U.S. -FITSSock.com
Review of FITS Performance Trail Sock
Pulling on the Performance Trail sock I felt like I was pulling on a Smart Wool sock but with more arch support. As if the sock was giving my sock a nice hug at the end of a long day. The cuff seems to be of a different knit than the body of the sock, I’m assuming this is for circulation and support, without cutting your circulation off in the leg. The socks are heavier in weight and warmth. I wouldn’t wear these around in 90 degree weather with out reason but on a hard hike and mountain biking these socks provide the shock absorbing to my feet for all day comfort.
The cost is high for FITS socks, $17.99 for the Performance Trail. One could argue it is American made and high end wool, I would argue to buy a pair to keep for those long rides or cold night rides in the winter. I don’t plan on wearing them too often for everyday around the house as I want them to last!
Review of the FITS Light Runner Sock
These socks were reviewed by my girlfriend so I’ll turn over the keyboard to her.
I don’t know what to say about reviewing the socks, but this is what I think of them so far. For wool, these socks are very soft, the compression is exactly where I want it and when I was riding in 100 degree weather I didn’t notice these socks at all on my feet other than comfortable!
The MSRP is $15.99 for the Light Runner socks. With the cuff showing above the shoes, and a heavy cuff at that it seems that it is going to wear well without Kim wearing a hole in her socks quickly. If Kim can’t kill these socks, no normal user will be able to!
Overall Review of the FITS Co Socks
The socks feel amazing, both pairs feel amazing. If I had a larger income, I would wear some variety of this and Smart Wool of some variety. The costs on the flip side is what brings me hesitant from giving this a 100% positive review. $15-20 for socks is steep, and I hope these socks feel as amazing as they did the first day for the next 8 months.
These socks were provided at no cost. I was not paid or bribed, and hopefully if you read this far you know I’m honest and won’t put my name next to something.
Another sneak peak into the new bikes for 2012. This time it is an urban Cannondale Bad Girl, the newest bike from Cannondale and the sister to their long time Bad Boy. The commuter and random alley hunting, urban lover, in me is jumping up and down to share this with you!
2012 Cannondale Bad Girl
Available in 3 models, (1, 2, 3) and two sizes “small” or “tall”.
Cannondale had this to say about the new Bad Girl
Sophistipunk. Urban mobility with attitude, sleek and stylish with a street scrapper’s heart yet nimble and fun handling, with a “heads-up” riding position. Bad Girl’s unique frame design combines a kickass silhouette with great standover clearance. Couture inspired artwork ensures that, punk show or premiere, you arrive in style.
Cannondale Bad Girl 1 $1670
The frame mimics that of the old school “Delta-V” mountain bikes. The Bad Girl 1 also has the Cannondale Lefty Headshok, with new OPI (one piece integration) fork The drivetrain is a good mix of Shimano Deore/SLX, with Magura Hyraulic disc brakes. Rip up the streets or commute in style, this bike takes the fitness hybrid and commuter to another level.
2012 Cannondale Bad Girl 2 $1100
Everything from the Bad Girl 1 but with a little less parts. The same frame, different fork and downgrading the drivetrain. Still hitting the right price point and hydraulic disc brakes!
2012 Cannondale Bad Girl 3 $800
Again, the same frame but with 8 speeds in the back (instead of 9) and more basic mechanical disc brakes. This is the budget friendly, go to commuter rig for ladies!
I think bike manufactures are finally getting it. Women’s bikes are not taking a “unisex” bike, shortening the top tube and throwing a women’s saddle on there. Let me introduce you to the 2012 Trek Lush. There aren’t too many details but this is what I have so far.
120 mm of suspension. Ground up design with a lower center of gravity and lower stand over. The spec’s and prices haven’t been released but with 4 different models from “Lush” to “Lush Carbon” I would bet that the pricing and spec will mirror the EX line that has been Trek’s mainstay for the past few years.
When the Specialized carbon fiber 29er, the Fate, was released there was talk about the Jett. An aluminum version of the sporty carbon hardtail. Now there is details to share!
Highend Aluminum Women’s Racing in 26″ or 29″
The new Specialized Jett comes in two models, Comp or Comp 29″. Exact same “mid-level” build on both, only difference is wheel and tire size. I really wish that the build was a step up on parts. 9-speed with Alivio cranks (SLX rear derailleur and hydraulic brakes..) doesn’t seem to fit the need of an aggressive rider. Full SLX or XT would have been a better fit for in my mind.
Details to Note
- 80mm of travel on both models
- Frame size specific spec. This means a smaller frame will have shorter cranks, smaller brake rotors and narrower handlebars.
- M4 aluminum, 2nd from the top level of aluminum that Specialized has to offer
- Lock out and adjustable rebound on a coil sprung fork
- Super low stand over (still waiting on geometry to confirm) and short front end to fix the 29er downfalls.
I love wool. That is a great way to start an article about wool products, right? I love wool, the thought of wool reminds me of skiing trips, bundled up at the bus stop and all things winter. It does not remind me of 90º weather on the bike.
This review took longer than I would like. Normally after a couple rides, a few washings and time on the saddle you’ll know if clothing is going to last or work for you. Personally, I didn’t if the pieces from Icebreaker would work for me but overtime these bike clothing pieces won me over.
Icebreaker SS Halo Jersey $130
Last year I was able to try one of Icebreakers first bike jerseys for women. I loved the material, but the jersey fit my body (and several friends bodies) like crap. Fast forward almost a year exactly, this past March, when I was approached with trying another round of clothing from Icebreaker. Right away the jersey fit amazing, it was tailored for a woman. After many washings (per directions) the fit didn’t stretch out, or did the color fade. The pockets were proportional to the jersey, and there is even a smaller pocket inside of one for your pump to fit in and not flop out!
Other than the collar on your neck, the jersey feels naked on you. The breeze flows through easily, yet on early morning rides this jersey was perfect with arm warmers.
Icebreakers Halo Jersey website->
The GT200 fabric is amazing. Warm, soft, cooling, wicking and best of all – it doesn’t stink! I learned the importance of wool during a 5 day bike tour in western North Carolina. It rained for most of the day and you were left trying to dry out your clothing. I brought enough clothes for the week, but sweaty clothes aren’t good in your bag – even if you wrap them in multiple plastic bags. All the clothing I had brought that was wool from Smartwool, Icebreaker and Defeet, did NOT stink and was easier to care for it seemed.
Icebreaker Halo Bike Shorts $160
These wool cycling shorts are where my hang up for this review was. When you wear these shorts on the bike they could be the most comfortable fitting shorts I’ve ever tried. They remind me of boy boxers, with the tight cotton feel around your hamstrings and upper quads. What surprised me was that attaching the chamois to the shorts was spandex. Right in the crotch area. Why is this weird? Wool wicks and doesn’t stink – wouldn’t that make sense to have in that area? I know, not right on it but around it?
The chamois was comfortable on long rides. It has much more mass than I am used to, so when standing around off the bike it defiantly felt like a diaper. This feeling disappeared once I was back on the bike, and I never had any chaffing issues so I can’t complain.
These shorts I have an absolutely love/hate relationship with. I love them, they fit amazing and I mean AMAZING. I want to order boy boxer briefs from Icebreaker to wear to bed because of it. I feel that the benefits of wool, especially at this level, would benefit a rider closer to the crotch. Then you have the issue that thin wool is rather see-through and I’m sure you can’t attach a chamois to wool for long term use without it ripping the material. I’m sure someone in product design with more knowledge than I has thought of all these things but they still perplexed me on the long rides. Enough not to write a review until the love outweighed the bad and I could put my name behind it.
At the end, when I was finally ready to weigh the pro’s and con’s I realized this clothing has inspired me. Sometimes you get something (a bike, clothes, computer, etc.) that make you want to try something new. I think these pieces of clothing from Icebreaker would be the ultimate unsupported bike tour clothing. Pair it with a nice set of cycling knickers for colder weather or night times by the fire, and a pair of wool socks – you would have a perfect, quick drying, and non-stinking set of cycling clothing!
Icebreaker Halo Shorts website->
Pretend we are listening to the Superman jingle in the background… “Is it a hybrid? Is it a mountain bike? No! It is a Dual Sport bike!”
Joking aside, the Trek Dual Sport lineup, when it was under the Gary Fisher brand originally, was a huge favorite of stocking bikes when in my shop. It has 29er size wheels, strong enough to take light off roading, but efficient enough for rocking on the road or commuting. For the average person it is the true DO ALL bike. Think of it in line with a cyclocross bike, but for folks on a budget or not wanting drop bars and a leaned over position.
Starting in 2011 Trek brought the Dual Sport to the women’s line. Welcome the 2012 Trek Neko Dual Sport lineup.
2012 Trek Neko $529.99
21 speeds, double wall (stronger) wheels, and 700x38mm tires. A perfect starter bike. Room for racks, fenders and with a slightly “dropped” top tube, this bike is a great alternative to a hybrid.
2012 Trek Neko S $599.99
The same frame as the base model but an extra gear in the back (7 gears to 8), nicer tires, grips, handlebar and most importantly a lock out on the fork. The lock out makes it so you aren’t bouncing up and down on the suspension on the road, and the nicer tires will avoid more flats. The nicer gear system (8 speeds) will last a longer, and the shifters alone are worth the upgrade.
2012 Trek Neko SL $839.99
Still the same frame but they’ve upgraded everything else. 9 gears in the back, pretty industry standard and easy to find if you need replaced. DISC brakes (great for commuting and longevity), much better wheels and an all white saddle. The saddle alone will make you faster, I can guarantee and prove it!
We have already been lucky to see the 2012 Specialized Women’s 29er carbon hardtail, the Fate, but there is another new high end from Specialized this year for women.
The Specialized Amira
Specialized has tagged this as a true women’s race bike. Using years of development from the Allez Dolce in 2003, and Specialized sponsored elite women’s road bike teams through the years they now have a new model, the 2012 Amira.
Click to enlarge
High End Technology for Women
Finally, a ground up HIGH END women’s designed bike that doesn’t borrow everything from the guys model with a shorter top tube. This includes shorter chainstays, and completely differently geometry.
- Frame Module Weight = 1970g, more than 100g lighter than the 2011 Amira (I’m assuming this is the weight for the smallest size available)
- Stiffness to weight = The stiffest women’s frame on the market
- Women’s performance geometry teamed with FACT IS 11R carbon
Is there a Need?
I am interested to see how many Amira’s Specialized sold in 2011. Apparently it was enough to justify more engineering time on the 2012. My hopes with high end bikes like this one, it will give women another reason to compete, be inspired and have their own toys designed around their body type. Not every woman needs a womens bike, but having high end bikes makes it easier for a woman to grow in the sport without being intimidated or feeling “boxed in” by bike company marketing. How many women are watching the Tour de France this year and thinking, “God that is amazing” now they have a pretty package, designed around them, to answer that calling.
In the past year 29ers finally hit the women’s niche of the market. Locally I have only been able to put my hands on the Trek versions of the women’s 29ers. After the test ride and looking deeper at the geometry I wasn’t sold. The bike didn’t ride well, but that was one brand trying their hand at the women’s 29ers. Specialized has had their own cross country recreational women’s 29er line out as well, the Myka. The line has several different models, from 26 to 29, including two different levels of the 29er hardtail. Now, Specialized wasn’t the first company to the original 29er market – they were actually very slow about the movement. They must really love the bikes, and what 29ers can do for women (I Told You So) as they have released a couple new lines of 29ers for women, including a carbon hardtail.
The Fate – Women’s 29er carbon mountain bike
Some of the details: Performance fit (race ready), 80mm travel, and a higher level of components. The Fate will be available in stores in September in two models: the Comp and the Expert. Each will come in three sizes: 15″, 17″ and 19″. Pricing is not yet finalized, but is expected to come in between US$2000-3000. (Details from CyclingNews)
Depending on the level you’ll see the spec of something of the following: Roval 29er wheels, Renegade 2Bliss tires, XX chainrings with custom gear ratios, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and Specialized saddle, handlebar, stem and post. (Details from BikeRumor)
The Jett – Women’s 29er aluminum mountain bike
The Jett’s full details haven’t been released but this is what we found over at TwentyNineInches. M4 Aluminum (2nds from highest grade in Specialized library) and the same performance fit as the Fate. The exception will be rack mounts.
What is Specialized doing different with women’s 29ers
You’ve heard my rant about the wacky geometry that Trek’s 29ers possesed. I haven’t seen Specialized by the numbers, but they are doing some custom things to their new line.
First is a “women’s designed carbon layup” which I am questioning to their product managers but it is an interesting thought. From there Specialized teamed up with Rock Shox for a custom fork. At the 15″ size the offset of the fork is different, it goes to 51mm. Finally the headtube is as shortened as much as I have seen especially with the integrated headset that most production 29ers are using now.
From Bike Radar‘s Q & A
Hughes said Specialized has noticed that women have been slower to adopt 29ers than men. Part of the reason is that many shorter women believe they are too small to fit on a 29er. And in fact, looking at the geometries of bikes like Specialized’s popular Stumpjumper hardtail 29er (for which the smallest size is a 15.5″), that observation proves true for many women although possibilities for smaller female riders vary by manufacturer and model.
The Fate’s geometry will naturally position female riders lower and longer than they would be on the Myka. For example, on the 15″ Fate, a 10mm shorter headtube drops the front end of the bike, an 8mm longer top tube puts women in a longer, more racing-oriented position while 17″ and 19″ Fates have 20mm shorter head tubes. With 6mm shorter chainstays for all sizes, the Fate also climbs better and ends up with a shorter wheelbase (14mm for a size 17, for example) for quicker handling than the Myka.
One of the biggest issues encountered during the design process was addressing toe overlap, a common problem on smaller bikes, especially those with shorter wheelbases. To address this, the small 15″ bikes were designed with a 51mm fork offset while the 17″ and 19″ frames will feature the standard 46mm offset.
What does “Women’s Specific” 29ers mean for you?
The jury is still out. The folks that have given feedback thus far are Specialized branded racers. I have a message out to Lea Davidson, who races for Specialized, for more specific questions from her last race on the bike. These bikes were designed for those that like a lower front end, but want the benefits from a 29er. The Myka is their recreational bike that will suit more women off the bat, but for the women wanting to push themselves further and faster or perhaps used to the Epic or Titus Racer-X the Fate is for them.. Finally, I am simply excited that a company like Specialized is seeing the women’s market big enough to design a new carbon line around it.
Once I know more, you’ll be the first people to know!
Camelbak Octane 18x
Water Capacity: 100oz
Size: Expanded 20L, Closed 16L
80 mile road rides, epic mountain bike rides, a Swiss Army knife that folds into a camel’s back. The Camelbak Octane 18x is a great bag. You’ll make some sacrifices on the long day trips for a lighter bag, but overall this is a great water hauling bag.
How the Camelbak Octane 18x Fits
To save some weight they take the structure and extra padding from the pack. The bag can be rolled up and the shoulder straps are thin. With tons of weight this would make the pack pretty uncomfortable but with clothes and water it was great. I never used it to haul down hill gear on my back! As a woman I normally have issues with the chest strap being too high on my neck, or stuck across my boobs. This one had enough room to move up and down without hindering.
Uses of the Octane 18x
Expandable, from 16L of room to 20L when unzipped. This holds a good amount, more than the bag could probably support on your back comfortably. I stuffed it with clothes, shoes and food one day. Due to not having tons of back support it is easily conformed and the bag’s light weight material ended up looked like a sack of potatoes. I loved the waist pockets with key clip and the zipped up minimal sizing. I used this bag on the road since it was so light, on hike a bikes, and simple rides around town. As long as the bag isn’t loaded down it is pretty ventilated. It doesn’t have any fancy mechanics to keep it off your back, so you do get sweaty, but the bag isn’t heavy so it isn’t horrible during my southern humid commutes.
Final Thoughts and Review of the Octane 18x
When I was approached my Camelbak to review some of their product I had things in mind. I’ve used many “all day” packs. Ones that carry your life on your back comfortably. I wanted something for cross country riding and possibly using on longer road rides. Weight and ability to still haul was what I needed.
The Camelbak Octane 18x answered all my wants. While it isn’t going to be perfect for everyone, it fits what I was looking for and that is rare in my life.
Companies have done it before. Using recycled material to make messenger bags. First there was utilizing old truck tarps, then recycled tubes and now there is the Chrome Salvage Series.
Salvage Series uses reclaimed materials for the external panels of our Heritage Citizen to create unique, one-of-a-kind bags. Built in Chico, California, each series is limited by the quantity of available material. Each bag is stamped with the lot size and its unique number within the lot. Once they’re gone, they’re gone!
First of their type Chrome used US Army tents. For $160 one of these could be yours. A very cool concept, but I think if I was in the Army or retired this would feel pretty cool to have as my everyday bag! Too bad my retired Army dad wouldn’t be caught using one. My sources at Chrome say these bags will go quickly and are only allotted to specific Chrome stores and quality retailers. If you end up with one of these gems please post up!