2014 Fall Cycling Gear Review
Magellan 505 HC Bundle GPS$479 1 of 15
Garmin has dominated the GPS cycling computer market; the Magellan 505 HC turns out to be a quality alternative. While there isn't the Livetrack option for your iPhone that we loved some much on the new version of the Garmin 1000, this unit has a lower price point and a smaller size that will be attractive to customers. The 505 HC is Bluetooth compatible and has the ability to sync with Android and iPhones to receive text messages or data from your favorite app (Strava, etc.). The layout of the home screen provides easy navigation from each menu and the customizable dashboard, where the data is collected, makes it easy to keep things organized.
Our favorite feature of the Magellan 505 is the Places of Interest (POI) included with the maps. This navigation function enables you to select from bike shops, cafes, medical facilities and ATMs based on proximity, and then lets you choose the route you want to take. The unit comes with a heart rate monitor and a cadence sensor that connects wirelessly.
We also like that you can save the cadence and heart rate sensors to a profile (up to six total) without having to sync before each ride, though it was our experience that it takes several minutes for the unit to recognize the sensors once it's turned on. While this can be annoying, there were no problems with the function. Overall this is a sound GPS computer that's easy to use and has plenty of value considering it's $200 cheaper than the Garmin 1000 bundle.
Ear Hero Earbuds$149 2 of 15
Touted as the first open ear headphone, the purpose of the new Ear Hero is to provide a way to listen to music while exercising and still maintain the ability to hear what's going around you. For cyclists, it's a good idea if you want to listen to music safely out on the road. The earphones are small and are kept in place by a tab of plastic that holds the speaker into your ear canal. It feels awkward at first and can be difficult to get the fit right, but once you've done it a few times it gets easier and stays in place while exercising.
The sound quality is good, but you'll miss the low-end frequencies—which means your favorite White Stripes song or hip-hop album probably won't sound so sweet. If you're not an audiophile and you're simply looking for a solution so that you can listen to music and still be safe out on the road, the Ear Hero is a smart way to do it.
Pearl Izumi Men's P.R.O. Thermal Bibs/Select Thermal Jersey$175/$100 3 of 15
Using a knee or leg warmer can ease the transition from shorts in the summer to full tights in the winter. The cool fall air tends to penetrate regular Lycra shorts. The P.R.O thermal bibs solve this problem adequately.
We found the P.R.O to be perfect for keeping you the right temperature during fall cycling. The wide straps are supportive, the 4D chamois is comfortable at 13mm of thickness and the reflective material spread across the backside of the shorts makes you easier to see at night.
Like the thermal bibs, the Select thermal jersey is a good option when you aren't quite ready to start layering. The fleece lining is warm enough to wear by itself with a base layer. It doesn't have some of the wind-blocking shells that jackets do, so really cold wind will pass through the chest. This means it's more breathable in moderate temperatures than a jacket will be. In temperatures below 40 to 45 degrees, this jersey could be used as a base layer with a light jacket over the top, providing a versatility that makes this piece usable across multiple seasons.
Fizik Kurve Saddle$270 4 of 15
The new line of Fizik Kurve saddles comes in three different models: the bull, chameleon or the snake, ranging in widths based upon the individual spinal flexibility and the amount of support needed at the rear of the saddle. The bull saddle is for heavier riders with larger, less-flexible hips, while the snake is made for smaller, more flexible cyclists.
One of the standout features of the Kurve model is the versatility of the stiffness. The screw insert at the nose of the saddle allows the tension to be adjusted according to how soft or hard you like your saddles to be. Since comfort is such an objective characteristic when it comes to saddles, we found that this feature allows for saddle adjustability that isn't seen with other seats; it's usually hit or miss when it comes to comfort. Coupled with the wing-flex technology that allows free leg movement during pedaling, the Kurve is a saddle best suited for long rides over two or three hours. While it isn't the lightest saddle of the bunch, you'll appreciate the fit and comfort once you dial it in to your individual needs.
Specialized Women's Ember Road Shoe$160 5 of 15
Cycling shoes are expensive, but they can make a big difference to your performance on the bike. The Ember from Specialized fits in the best bang-for-your-buck category. Priced at $160, the Ember is equipped with the BOA lacing system that's usually reserved for high-end road shoes. It's easy to make adjustments to tightness/pressure on the bike without having to fumble around with multiple straps. The padding around the heel, tongue and ankle is generous and the uppers are plenty supportive.
There are fewer mesh panels than in previous models, which makes them not quite as cool but still manages to provide sufficient airflow. Less mesh does make the white versions of these shoes easier to clean, which we found to be a huge plus. The soles aren't carbon, which is how Specialized is able to keep the cost down.
These shoes are plenty stiff for any cyclist except for the serious racer. If you're looking for a comfortable shoe that offers plenty of performance under $200, you won't find a better option than the Ember.
Garmin VIRB Elite Action Cam$399 6 of 15
The VIRB is an action camera that's similar to the Go Pro in a lot of ways. The weight of the unit is about the same and the HD quality of the video is pretty similar at 1080p. Though the unit is quite a bit larger than a Go Pro, you won't notice a difference with the bike mounts. The helmet and handlebar mounts worked well, but if we were going to choose one over the other, the helmet mount is the better choice.
The image stabilizer is good—probably one of the best you'll find of any action cam, including the Go Pro. It also has a separate button that's used for taking pictures, which keeps you from having to navigate back to the menu if you decide you want to take a picture on the fly. In photo mode, you can choose from a 16x9 format at 12 megapixels or a 4x3 at 16 megapixels. You can also switch to burst mode, which will snap five pictures over a 1- to 2-second time period. This makes it easier to capture the action if you're a novice photographer.
We liked the ability to pair the VIRB with other Garmin units, especially on the bike. The color viewer isn't the best and makes it difficult to see what you're actually filming. The menu navigation can be difficult to figure out too, but a lot of technical gadgets can be this way. Overall, as an action cam or a high quality camera, the VIRB is a solid unit that's tough and can take a beating. Look for a few updates in the future that could make this unit even better.
Bontrager Women's Vella Jersey/Knickers$64.99/$79.99 7 of 15
Some fall days are hotter than others. When you need something a little lighter than usual, the Vella jersey and knicker provides light protection from the elements while still maintaining a sense of style. The fit of the jersey is flattering and the mesh vents on the side release heat well enough to use midday when you're exposed to the sun.
The knickers are fleece-lined and warm, but not so thick that you'll overheat. The length, stopping just below the knee, is designed for fall cycling. The chamois pad is thick enough for long rides and the Lycra offers just enough protection from the wind to take the chill out of the air. If you're looking for a little bit of style in moderate fall conditions, this combo is a sure bet.
Smith Optics Overtake Helmet$249 8 of 15
The goal of the new Overtake helmet from Smith Optics is to combine superior ventilation, aerodynamics and protection in a new design. Their new Aerocore technology that's used instead of the standard Styrofoam material you see in most helmets doesn't look that breathable with its open-cell construction.
Looks can be deceiving. It's extremely light, and though it looks like it fills in the air vents more than a traditional helmet does, it actually lets in more air and does a better job keeping the head cool than most other helmets we've tested.
Smith claims this helmet is more protective than standard materials. Testing numbers show it's nearly identical to time savings to the Specialized Evade—one of the most aerodynamic road helmets on the market. Other features such as the slot in the front of the helmet made to hold your sunglasses are just as inventive. Functionally, the Overtake is on par with the best helmets we've ever tested. Smith's ability to think unconventionally during the design process should be applauded. If you're looking for a performance helmet that's different from the rest, the Overtake is expensive but worth every penny.
NYNE Cruiser Bluetooth Bike Speaker$79.99 9 of 15
Whether you're riding a beach cruiser or a fat bike, there might come a time when you wish you could blast some tunes. The NYNE Bluetooth speaker has the ability to wirelessly pair with a smartphone or iPod within a range of 30 feet. The housing is waterproof and comes with a lithium rechargeable battery that can be plugged into a wall socket or into your computer through a USB.
The speaker comes with a handlebar mount that holds the speaker securely, even when riding over rough roads. The sound quality is better than expected with a decent high-low range. The neoprene sleeve that comes with the speaker is also handy, making it easy to take camping or to the beach while still keeping it protected.
Fly6 HD Camera & Tail Light Combo$159 10 of 15
There are a few HD action cameras that have the ability to record your rides. What makes the Fly6 different is that it's less about recording your ride as you see it and more about safety—namely what you don't see. Incorporated into a taillight, the Fly6 doubles as an HD quality camera meant to record motorists during those close calls coming from the rear. While it won't protect you from actually being hit, it might help to crack down on unsafe or aggressive drivers who are in the wrong.
The light itself is 15 lumens—plenty bright enough to be seen. The camera is high quality during daytime use, but lacks a light function to illuminate the street at night, which makes the quality of the video recording decrease when it's dark. Since the camera is more about recording an incident than it is about reproducing a high quality video, this isn't an issue.
The combo is charged through a USB cable and is easy to load the files to your computer. The unit is turned on with one button and is simple to use. Most commuters will love this ingenious device.
Santini Guard Jacket$189.99 11 of 15
A good lightweight jacket that offers enough protection to stay warm while maintaining some semblance of breathability can be hard to come by. The Guard jacket by Santini is highly water-resistant, windproof and has a race-fit cut. The breathable hydrophilic membrane material will keep you cool when you're working hard, while the inner collar and wrists are tight fitting and lined with fleece to keep cool air from coming in. The lightweight and extra thin materials make it a cinch to pack in a jersey pocket should the temperature rise.
The only downside to this jacket is the lack of visibility; there isn't a lot of reflective material used on the back of the jacket. But if you're looking for a race-ready jacket that uses some of the best high-performance materials on the market, the Guard will deliver.
Bontrager RL Visibility Road Shoe$179.99 12 of 15
During the darker months of the fall and winter, it's important to wear gear that makes it easier for motorists to see you. The RL Visibilitiy shoe from Bontrager are impossible to miss—which is a good thing when you're out riding in the early morning or evening when the sun's gone down.
What surprised us most though, is that this shoe is more than just a loud color. It's weight is on par with the lightest of road race shoes, and the buckle closure provided a secure fit that was easy to adjust on the bike. And when your ride gets you a little dirtier than expected, you'll be happy to find that these shoes are really easy to clean and keep looking new. With a carbon sole, an ergonimic footbed, and a really resonable price, these well rounded combination of features are unbeatable.
Light and Motion Taz 1500$299 13 of 15
Without a doubt, the Taz 1500 is one of the brightest headlamps you can buy. At 1500 lumens, you'll be surprised just how much light you'll be able to put on the road or trail. In fact, Light and Motion says the Taz 1500 is as bright as a motorcycle headlight, and you won't get any arguments here.
On the highest setting you can run this light for 1.5 hours. The medium setting, which is still plenty bright, will give you double the run time, and the low settting will get you up to 6 hours. One of the coolest features is the waterproof body, submergible up to 1 meter. The lithium battery is charged by a USB cable, which is a handy option when you're at the office. Charge time can take a while though if you plug it into your computer (up to 14 hours), but if you opt for the wall socket option instead you can cut the time to about four or five.
Specialized All Condition Armadillo Elite Tire$55 14 of 15
Mucky roads require a little more beef when it comes to your tire choice during fall and winter. The Armadillo Elite is a good option if you ride on rough roads in a variety of weather conditions. The new tread pattern provides good traction in the rain, and the inclusion of the Gripton compound provides a low rolling resistance that performs equally well in dry conditions.
While it is on the heavy side at 315 grams, if you want a a tire that's going to provide more puncture protection than a standard tire that you can train on through the winter, the Armadillo doesn't skimp on performance. Tip: If you're looking for more comfort, try the 700x25 or the 700x28 size. The wider width will make a huge difference, especially if you ride on rough roads.