Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gadgets, Gizmos and Goodies (part III)

Wheelbuilder Aero Disc covers

In terms of aerodynamic benefit per €, these guys are hard to beat, second only to clip-on aerobar extensions. For a less than a hundred bucks you get a set of plastic covers cut to fit your wheel and hub combination, thus converting your ordinary spoked wheel into a lethal disc wheel. Its a good idea to also buy the cassette removal tools they recommend - even a dummy like me was able to install the covers and figure out how to put the cassette back together in the right order. My only gripe is that the nifty little stickers that come with the covers, designed to perfectly cover the cut-out hole for pump access, are not available separately. Still, a roll of power tape does the trick, even if it is not so "cool".

Genuine Innovations Air chuck + Topeak valve extender

You're probably wondering what the big deal about these two accessories is. I went through a number of similar items before I discovered these two, and the difference is substantial. The Air chuck allows you to inflate your tyres with one of those compressed CO2 canisters but the difference is that it has a valve built-in, so none of that precious CO2 gas can escape unless you are actually pressing the chuck onto the valve of the tyre. I don't like using the canisters to inflate the tyres for environmental reasons but, in competition or even if you get a puncture they are much more effective than any hand held pump.

I need to use a valve extender because I have deep rim wheels and it seems silly to have all this supposed aerodynamic benefit only to wreck it by using inner tubes with long sticking-out valves. What sets this valve extender apart from all the others I have seen and tried, is that it very cleverly allows you to close the (concealed) tyre valve, thus avoiding air (or CO2) leaking out.

Casio Exilim EX-FH100

This camera is incredible - I have not seen any other compact (and reasonably priced) camera like it. It can shoot videos at up to 1,000 frames per second! You can also take funky pictures like this using its special shooting modes. Slow motion video (or, what is as far as I am concerned confusingly called "high speed video") can help you iron-out your running, biking and swimming technique no end. The camera never lies: you can see ever little unconscious movement, as well as the conscious ones. It doesn't tell you how to fix your technique but it helps you measure whether you are on the right track. And you can make your own "Chariots of Fire" style videos at long last.

DiNotte Lighting 400L

Without this, I would not be able to commute to work on my bike, simple as that. It pumps out 400 lumens of light which forces every treacherous nook and cranny on my path to reveal itself. In fact, it is often easier to navigate obstacles at night time because of the stark contrast thrown up by the shadows cast by the light. As you can see it is an extremely rugged design - in my case it has survived unscathed from half a dozen over-the-handlebars jobbies. What you can't see in the picture is the huge battery that feeds this mother - it attaches to the frame with a velcro wraparound and gives a couple of hours of autonomy on full blast. I ended up getting a spare double sized battery so I'd never get caught short.

Effeto Mariposa Giustaforza

When I first got my carbon bike and saw that all the bolts had torque ratings on them, I thought they were just covering their arses. I am now much wiser after having both cracked by seatpost (OK, its only a surface crack and I'm sure it will hold out) and having had a crank fall off on me while pedaling. The guys in one of my local bike shops claim to be "human torque wrenches" - you only have to do a quick search on the internet to see how often human torque wrenches wreck carbon frames. Its all to do with how much force (strictly speaking "torque" or force x distance) you apply: too much and you can screw (sorry) it up; too little and it could fall to pieces. This is where "Giustaforza" comes in - Giustaforza means "the right force". A brilliant bit of marketing by intimidation is to call their company "Effeto Mariposa" or "butterfly effect", the idea being that 1Nm too much or too little (the butterfly) could lead to a massive pile up of riders and their expensive bikes (the effect).

The tool is a beautiful thing. If you like well engineered marvels like mechanical watches, knives, fountain pens, etc., then the reassuring weight of this torque wrench in the palm of your hand banishes images like the aforementioned pile up of human flesh and carbon from your mind. It is a joy to use, but I only have so many bolts to tighten - now I have to wait until I have to reassemble my bike before I need to use it again - damn! Unlike most other torque wrenches, once you hit the dialed-in torque, it doesn't slip all the way round - it simply makes a loud click and gives about 3 degrees of free movement. This means, of course, that if you want to, you can continue to tighten until something gives but then, this would make you a moron. The reason for this is that they have been able to design it so that the bolt you are tightening is at right angles to the wrench and so there is no need for an extra piece to give you the leverage you need.

You should be warned that this kind of quality does not come cheap but, compared to even the insurance you'd probably take out on shipping your bike, it isn't as much of a luxury item as it might at first seem.

Rapid Racer Products NeoGuard

No-one likes mudguards. Even if they look whizzy or sexy the fact is that you are saying that you mind about getting a bit muddy. Seriously though, mud guards can sometimes be more like over zealous mud collection devices and do more harm than good. This "mudguard" was inspired by the age old tradition amongst downhill racers to tie a couple of inner tubes around the gap at the top of the suspension forks, in such a way that the mud kicked up from the front wheel doesn't make it as far as your (typically wide open) mouth. What is neat about the NeoGuard is that, every time the suspension fork compresses, any mud that has caked up gets shaken off. I still have a normal back mud guard, mainly to protect my suit as I make my way to the office from the gym.

I suggested to the guys who came up with this idea that they should make something similar to cover the swing arm of the front derailleur which always gets clogged up with mud and stops shifting properly. They claimed that they had already thought of it but had abandoned the idea. I'm hoping that they were lying because my gears get jammed every single time I ride in and I often have to struggle up a steep hill mashing the big chain ring.

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