Reviews

Bontrager Shoe Review
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Bontrager RL WSD Mountain Bike Shoes Reviewed


Long Term Bontrager RL Mountain WSD Cycling Shoe Review

MSRP: $139.99
Sizes: 36-43 euro (including half sizes between 37.5-41.5)
Details: eSole insole, durable heal cup and toe box, two straps and a third ratchet with buckle

Shoes and saddles have always been the two most sensitive areas with me.  I’ve owned several brands over the years, previous to owning the Bontrager shoes my feet were found in pink Sidi Dominator’s for 3 years.  When I was looking at the Bontrager cycling shoes they were for back up, for rain or during endurance races when you may need an extra pair of shoes.  Quickly, the e-soles inside and the fit of the Bontrager RL WSD shoes won me over.  I went from a pair of $280 cycling shoes, to $140 shoes and they made my feet happy enough I would have paid $300 for them!

Initial Feelings of the Bontrager RL Mountain Shoe

Part of me wished the shoe came in a couple color variations. Coming from my pink and red Sidi Dominators I wanted something with character and funk!  The black and blue design grew on me, having some feminine flair but not a ton.  The moment I put the shoes on I felt like Cinderella as the shoe fit like a glove.  I was able to take out shims beneath my cleats during my first fitting with the shoes.  This is due to the eSole insole system that had variable arch support, keeping my foot from rolling in towards my crank which had been causing me knee pain for the past 6 years.  Yes, a proper fitting, arch support, shoe helped me with the knee pain I had been dealing with forever (including over 18 bike fittings!)

Bontrager RL Shoe Review

Side View

Main Features of the RL WSD Shoe

The key selling features to me were the following

  • fit
  • neutral yet fun color
  • ventaliation
  • toe box protection
  • toe spikes for cyclocross or mud
  • price

Overall Review of the Bontrager Shoes

If the shoe fits, wear it.  I have gone through so many different pairs of cycling shoes to find on my first long ride that they make my feet go to sleep.  While I may receive product for review on Bike Shop Girl, and they may end up being shoes, I will continue to purchase Bontrager shoes for my personal shoes.  Shoes, much like any piece of clothing, is based on fit and your needs.  The shoes have lasted me almost two seasons as I purchased them two years ago while an employee at a shop.  Now that I pay retail for most things, I will still be happily paying the $140 for these shoes, I’m actually weighing the option of purchasing the RXL version mainly due to the patent leather and gold look (plus much lighter/stiffer.)   I wear these shoes DAILY, for commuting, road riding, mountain biking and everything in between.   My family lives mostly on a shoe string budget and even with that I will still be happily paying for these shoes.  There are some things in your life you shouldn’t skimp on, for me it is my cycling shoes.

Bontrager RL ATB Shoe Review

Sidebar

I feel that I should add one last thing to this review. To some people $140 is a lot for cycling shoes, for others compared to Sidi or other more boutique shoes this is half of what they normally would pay.   Products to me shouldn’t be weighed by cost.  If something is going to help you be a better and happier person it should be worth you saving your pennies, OR in the case of these shoes be open minded to something cheaper than I normally would have purchased.    Also, my shoes are worn out.   The have become flexy and the back heal has started to peal apart. They still ride wonderfully but are slowly finding their way to becoming my “rain shoes.”

These shoes were purchased with money out of my own pocket. I was not paid nor bribed for this review, though it would be nice to make money on this one day.

2010 Raleigh Clubman Review
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2011 Raleigh Clubman Bicycle: Full Review

Raleigh Clubman Steel Bicycle

MSRP: $1150

Main Features: Tiagra 9speed, full fenders, Brooks Swift leather saddle, Lezyne pump

Other Notes: I reviewed a 2010 model, the only changes to the 2011 are the paint (now green) and the wheels from my understanding are now 32h instead of 28

Over the past year I have been able to review a ton of great product.  A product that I started to review for Commute By Bike and was put on hold during my fear of riding on the road is the Raleigh Clubman.  As this bike is one of my reliable and one of the most eye catching frames in my fleet I want to make sure to give it a full review for all those interested or looking at purchasing one.

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Princeton Tech Push Light Review

Princeton Tech Push Light Review

Princeton Tech Push Front Light

MSRP: $49.99
Power:
100 Lumens powered by an LED
Burn Time:
63 Hours Blinking
14 Hours Low
4 Hours High

Initial Thoughts of the Push Light

I received the Princeton Tech Push light in for review last fall.  After my accident in October I wasn’t able to really test it as it should be tested in a true commuter/road aspect.  A few weeks ago I started using it as part of my daily front light for my commuter.  My first feelings of the light out of the box was superb.  Princeton Tech has great retail product package experience, and they also do a great job with the user interface of the light.  It simply works.

The light mounts to the handlebar using a rubber coated round clamp that tightens up with a plastic knob on the end of a screw/bolt style.  The light head pivots on the mount incase your bar isn’t perfectly straight.   The light easily is removed, yet is very sturdy on the handlebar thanks to the combination of the rubber and knob you can tighten down on.

Push Light Review

I chose to mount my light upside down on my bar mainly as I felt the red blinking lights that are on the side (cool feature) weren’t able to be seen if the light was mounted on the top of the bar.   Normally I also like this way as the light has less “top heavy” feel, flopping less on the bar.

Main Features of the Light

We’ve already gone over the mounting system of the light.  This works well as I have mounted the light on my mountain bike and did some easy off roading and the light did not move.  Here’s some more features that I love.

Easy to use large button function. One button, with gloves it is easy to find.

Red blinking lights on the side. This is a pretty cool feature and even able to be seen to a point during the day.  On drop bar bikes the drops hide the blinking, and if you mount the light on the top of the bar the red blinking light is towards the bottom of the light… which it was more centered on the sides.

Several light functions. The below video will give a good run through of the settings.

Overall Review of the Light

This light for $49.99 is a great deal. Aesthetically I love it, even over my normal go to Planet Bike Blaze 1W. This is mainly due to the mount feature and the clean metal/black look. The Blaze does have a better run time, but I don’t know what the Blazer provides in lumens (I haven’t been able to find on the internet..) I should also mention that more local bike shops carry Planet Bike products over Princeton Tech.  I haven’t run my Push light through a full set of new batteries, that is a set of batteries I have installed fresh instead of the ones that came in the box.  For the most part I run this light in blinking mode during my commute thanks to day light savings.

I highly recommend this light for someone that needs a reliable light source, has funny handlebars or possibly will take their rig off the beaten path.

Buy it Now

This product was given to me at no charge for review.  I was not paid or bribed to give this review and it will have my honest opinion or thoughts through out. Several of the above links are affiliate links.  I believe in this product and feel you’ll be happy if you purchase.

 

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2011 Airborne Goblin 29er: On Review

 

MSRP: $1,199.95 A well built bike for  5 cents under $1,200.   For the person looking to upgrade their entry level bike, getting into 29ers or simply a deal finder that will upgrade the parts as they need. (I fit in the latter.) Weight: 18 inch is 28 lbs Key Parts: Aluminum hydroformed (shaped) frame, SRAM X7 2×10 drivetrain, Avid Elixir R brakes, RockShox Reba RL fork, WTB Trail 29 wheels.

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Answer Products PINK ProTaper XC Flat Handlebar: On Review

I’m a color freak. Ask anyone that I’ve built a bike for, I love things to compliment, match and fit pieces together well.  Colored housing, grips, zip ties and spacers – they all matter for the end product.   For women especially, wanting to ride a bike is almost as important as how well the bike rides.  While walking the grounds of the 2011 Sea Otter Classic I spied color, ProTaper XC colored handlebars from Answer to be exact.  There aren’t enough bike components made in green, and we all know my love of pink.

Answer ProTaper XC MTB Handlebar

Answer Products ProTaper Handlebar

I was caught taking photos by one of the Answer guys, I inquired if they were making a flat bar in pink.  29ers ride very well with flat bars… The nice guy said “Yes, yes I do! How about you check out the matching gloves?”

How could I turn this nice guy down?  White gloves, pink accents, and a clean subtle feel to the palm.   The graphics on the handlebar and gloves are matching, the main graphics will be hidden under a grip other than the very prominent brand and model logo’s displayed in the middle of the stem.

Answer Pink Handlebar and Gloves

The gloves have been used daily for riding and a couple times for wrenching, they work perfectly so far.  Longer term I’ll document the fit and a full 360º of the glove as well.  The handlebar will be installed this week and tested for fit, weight and awesome color flare!

This product was given to me at no charge for reviewing.  I was not paid or bribed to give this review and it will have my honest opinion or thoughts through out.
nuun new flavors
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New nuun Flavors and Packaging at Sea Otter Classic

As I started my Thursday off dragging through the Sea Otter venue trying to find a bathroom and coffee, yes in that order, I was stopped by Tall Tyler of Nuun.  A little hand slap and a what’s up “bro”.  Tyler then whispered in my ear that he had some new goods to show me at their booth when I had time.  Soon the California sun was beating down on me and the coffee was wearing off.  I needed hydrated and I knew where to find it.

nuun new flavors

Tall Tyler whipped out some fresh colored nuun canisters.  Gone was the all white with only a small colored trim to differentiate and now there was a new, cleaner logo, with fun colored labels!  With that, thank god, there were new flavors.

nuun Strawberry Lemonade

Let me introduce you to one of my new loves in life.  Strawberry lemonade flavored nuun.   In a 16oz glass of water or bottle it is the perfect hint of tart and sweet, amazing for the long ride or when you are quenching your thirst


nuun strawberry vanilla

The rest of the Sea Otter Classic I literally LIVED on nuun Strawberry Vanilla.  They kept a few water coolers full of their new flavors for people to test, I kept testing over and over anytime my water bottle was low.

There are other new flavors as well : Lemon Tea, Fruit Punch, Grape, and Tropical  I haven’t gotten to those as I am in love with the above.

A full review will be posted of all the new flavors, including how my kids and non-cycling friends like the flavors/concept.

This product was given to me at no charge for reviewing.  I was not paid or bribed to give this review and it will have my honest opinion or thoughts through out.
Airborne Goblin 29er Preview
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First Taste of a New Bicycle

When I was first notified that I had made the cut for the Airborne Flight Crew my selfish first thought was “when do I get to try out the bikes?”

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No longer do either the dreaming of bikes, or critically going through the specifications or grams of a bicycle do it for me. Every bike is built different, and other than the geometry of a bike your early can’t know how all the ingredients of the end recipe will turn out. Every piece of the puzzle matters and even in sales I often would tell a “upgrade crazed” consumer to simply give their new ride a few weeks as stock.

Some great examples :

I cycle through 4 different saddles. Depending on the bikes reach, drop, handlebar width, seat tube angle and “cush” I may fit on one saddle better than the next.  There are 3 tires I prefer on my mountain bike. If it’s a suspension bike, full suspension bike, 29″ or 26″, and finally how aggressive the fit is. All of these things change the handling of your bike, which will change how you ride your tires. Do you have more weight on your front tire through the turns, are you able to run lower air pressure, will you ride rockier trails (all mountain style) and the list goes on.

The First Taste of a New Bike

Where was I? Oh yes! I know the generic spec off paper of how the bike will be built. I don’t know how all of those spec’s in this “bike recipe” will taste, and I can’t wait to get my butt on the bike to taste my new bike!

Today’s the Day

As I walk into the 2011 Sea Otter Classic I have a few things on my mind, and a few things to take care of but I am ultimately excited to be testing out what I’ll be riding the rest of 2011. Between the Airborne Goblin 29″ and the Airborne Delta CX my butt will mostly be rotating between some variation of these two bikes.

Look for an initial preview of my first test ride

!

Camelbak Octane 18X Preview
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Camelbak Octane 18X Hydration Backpack Preview

Camelbak Octane 18X Preview
MSRP: $99.00
Water Capacity: 100oz
Size: Expanded 20L, Closed 16L
Weight: 1LB

Details from Camelbak

The CamelBak Octane 18X weighs in at just a pound and with 18L of fully expanded cargo capacity, this pack is perfect for 3+ hours of nonstop action. The Octane 18X features an independent suspension, easy to reach stash pockets, a harness pocket and an expandable cargo pocket so you can comfortably carry everything you need which moving fast. Great for extended trail runs or adventure races. The CamelBak Octane 18X also includes the new 100 oz. Antidote reservoir which has a quick-snap cap that tightens in a quarter turn and a quick-disconnect tube system.

Video Preview from Camelbak of the Octane 18x

Initial Thoughts and Feelings

I try to use water bottles as much as possible.  Too much weight on my back can kill me on hard and fast rides.  When I venture further away from the car or house, I need to carry things.  If it is to be more of a boy scout with things to fix trail side or more water and food for longer rides.    In the past I have used bags from Camelbak (the Lobo), Deuter, Osprey Packs and more .   Several of these will have final reviews posted in the coming months as well!  I have always wanted something lighter, and Camelbak seems to have delivered that.

The material of the bag reminds me of a parachute.  The zipper in the center helps keep things nice and tight when I don’t have a jacket or extra clothes in the bag.  My only concern is the lack of support on the bag.  It literally can be rolled up (without the reservoir) and put in a large jersey pocket.

Full review after Sea Otter

I will be taking the Octane 18x with me to Sea Otter and will be able to provide a full review after I abuse it a bit more in the heat and sand!

Chrome Mini Messenger Bag Review
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Chrome Mini Messenger Bag: Long Term Review

In February I did a preview of the Chrome Mini Messenger that I received for review at no charge from Chrome (yes that is my mandatory disclaimer.)    For the past 6 weeks I have been riding, using for work, the gym and even used it as a warm bed for a small baby chihuahua.

Features of the Chrome Mini Messenger

A few key things that really stood out to me, it is about the small details that companies put in their product that stands out the most.

  • Extended flap on sides to keep out rain when the bag is closed
  • Reflective straps on the back buckles
  • Loop for blinky light on tail of bag
  • Bottle opener on the buckle
  • Several pockets to keep the small things from getting lost in my bag

What the Chrome Mini Messenger Bag Is

The Mini Messenger is perfect for those looking for a slimmer and trimmer messenger bag.   It isn’t as bulky or combersome as most messenger bags.   The colors I picked stand out, and often is commented about when I take it to business meetings.   It has personality without being over the top, and it helps that it is my companies branding colors.   The bag comfortable carriers 20-25 lbs with the load spread out over the very padded shoulder strap.

What Fits in the Chrome Mini Messenger Bag

Daily I use the Mini Messenger for transportation back and forth to work.   This includes two or three notebooks, a 17″ MacBook Pro, cables and a small camera shoved in a side pocket, many pens, and sometimes a hat or a rain jacket thrown in for safety.   It doesn’t carry a ton, it is not a bag to carry the kitchen sink.

Other Random Notes and Dimensions

(Pulled from ChromeBagsStore.com)

Weight: 2.3lb
Fabric: 1000 denier Cordura outer shell, 18 oz. truck tarp liner
Made In: Chica, CA, USA
Dimensions: 20″ wide, 12″ high, 7″ deep
Volume: 20.5L

Personal Downfalls of the Mini Messenger Bag

In no specific order, these are the things that I disliked.

  • The cross chest strap sucks for women with boobs.   The bag is so small though, I often didn’t use it even when I had a full load doing urban riding.
  • I wish it had a top mounted handle for carrying purposes.   Yes, I could have asked for the Buran but it didn’t have any pretty stock colors!
  • The liner system was something that took me a few days to figure out.  Essentially the interior bag is suspended over the exterior bag.   It is fully water proof because of this, but I had lost a couple documents in the bottom of the bag not knowing that it wasn’t closed off. No fears, I found them and I’m smarter for the experience.

Final Thoughts and Review of the Chrome Mini Messenger Bag

The bag was pleasantly comfortable to ride in, even with a rigid laptop on the back.   It was very water proof, even in down pour for 45 minutes I never had any wet documents or electronics (thank god.)    The colors are completely me and I’m glad I picked out the bright colors.   As I said above, I don’t use the chest strap that often due to it not fitting well with my chest, but that didn’t cause any problems during riding or transporting a full bag.

I would recommend this bag, but making sure you know it won’t fit the kitchen sink.  It is for a change of clothes OR a laptop and notebooks, not both.   It will be perfect for someone that needs to carry clothes to work and change, or goto the gym (a yoga mat was held very nicely under the flap.)   Beware during the summer heat you will get a sweaty back with this heavy duty material.

Buy your own Chrome Mini Messenger Bag at the Chrome Bag Store. Make sure they know Bike Shop Girl sent you!

This product was given to me at no charge for reviewing.  I was not paid or bribed to give this review and it will have my honest opinion or thoughts through out.
Women's 29er Geometry
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Why Women’s Specific 29ers Don’t Work

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to test ride on a local trail a few women’s specific 29er mountain bikes.   As I had mentioned in the past I was very excited about this new idea of women’s sizing  in 29″ technology but that is where my research ended.

The idea of fitting smaller individuals (men or women) on to the larger wheel technology has been something that I’ve had hopes for.  A few years ago when the 650b movement started I was completed behind it for that reason.  The 26″ wheel, to me, is not the solution for everyone based on how they ride and where they ride.  People deserve options, an example of this is why 3″, 5″, 7″ and 9″ suspension systems exists.

Back on topic, riding women’s specific 29ers

I didn’t have the ability to check saddle fore and aft, saddle to handlebars or any specifics other than seat height.  Now that my disclaimers out of the way….

The bike didn’t handle well.  I don’t know how else to say it….   The geometry of it all doesn’t make any sense.   Take a normal size 29er, keep the wheel base the same length and shorten the top tube.  What you get is a very slack, very flip flop, very slow handling bike thanks to changing the head tube angle to something that would mimic a 5″ travel “all mountain bike”.

Women's 29er Geometry

To a point I understand why they did this.  Shorter top tube to fit women with shorter upper bodies.

My Opinion : How to fit women on 29ers

My bike fit is 140% female.  I have a super long inseam and super short upper body, even my arms are short.   This is my take on fitting my own personal 29ers.  Longer top tube than I would ride on a 26″ bike, and an inch shorter stem. My effective length from saddle tip to handlebars hasn’t changed, but how I achieve it has.  My handling is changed to make up for the bigger (heavier and larger) front wheel and often more raked out fork.  Faster steering is achieved with the shorter stem and my front wheel isn’t tucked up under me either.

Your Bike, Your Opinion

Fitting mountain bikes is a very dynamic effort. It’s not as straight forward as fitting someone on a road bike.  You take everything that you know from fitting road bikes, tie in your own mountain bike experience and then tie in the person RIDING the mountain bikes own feedback.   Test ride, try out things, and repeat.

Depending where you ride, how aggressive you ride, and your own body type (size, shape, fitness, strength &  flexibility) every bike will fit you different.  A bike out of a box most likely won’t fit you.  How the mechanic that built the bike probably won’t be how you need it to fit.

The above feelings about how the 29er women’s specific bikes rode is my own experience, I ride aggressively, I push my bike and body every time I’m out riding.   The handling of the bike was too slow and did not excel for technical riding.   Inquire with your local bike shop, talk about bike fitting and your own needs!

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