A lot of gear comes across our desks here at Pinkbike. Check Out is an occasional round-up of everything our tech editors have gotten their hands on. Sometimes it's products we're doing long-term tests on, other times it's stuff we're stoked on but don't have time to fully review. And, sometimes it's crazy shit someone sent us unsolicited and we're having a laugh.
Just in time for the holidays, here's my recent collection of unique items and deals that might also interest you.
Hydro Flask Down Shift 14 Liter Hydration Pack
Sunrise on the White Rim Trail. Photo: Corie Spruill
The guava colored Down Shift. Photo: Corie Spruill
Rim Tours guides showing us our daily route. Photo: Corie Spruill
The Hydro Flask press launch crew. Photo: Corie Spruill
• 14-liter internal volume with a 2-liter insulated reservoir • Colors: Sapphire, Guava and Black • $135 USD • hydroflask.com
• Insulated HydraPak IsoBound 3-liter sweat-proof neoprene internal sleeve • Articulated back panel to allow airflow between you and your pack • Multiple internal pockets for tools, sunglasses, keys and other essentials. • Streamlined design transfers weight from shoulders to hips
Hydro Flask has become known for for their vacuum insulated bottles and coffee mugs, but they are relatively new to the hydration pack realm, having only just released their first pack, the Journey Series this past Spring (review can be found here). When the opportunity came up to head to Utah this past October to check out their latest hydration pack offering, the Down Shift, I couldn't pass it up.
Three full days of off-the-grid exploring by bike on the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park left me pretty impressed with this pack. It's lighter, less bulky and generally geared more towards mountain biking adventures than their Journey Series packs. The articulated back panel offered excellent airflow to keep my back from getting overly sweaty. The weight distribution was balanced and felt comfortable. Internal pockets offer a variety of storage options, and there is a scratch-resistant front zip pocket for sunglasses storage. The thing I like most about this pack, though, is the HydraPak IsoBound 3-liter internal sleeve. Why? On the first day, we each started the day off by putting ice in our water reservoir and then slipping it into place in the internal insulated sleeve. The water stayed cold for over 4 hours, impressing us all as the sun and heat beat us down. On the final day, I squeezed a cold beer can into the sleeve. When the ride was done, I was able to enjoy that barley pop a bit cooler than cowboy cold.
While this pack isn't available until Spring 2020, I would keep it in mind as a seriously consider it a top contender if you are looking for a full hydration pack that is comfortable, well designed and has an effective hot/cold insulated reservoir.
POC Womens Ultimate VPDS Bib Shorts
The stretchy back design allows one to easily pull down for a quick potty break.
• Women-specific VPDS Multi D chamois • Extra stretchy overlap design for quick toilet breaks • Integrated leg gripper
I'll confess that I love bib shorts. For any ride over about an hour, I will choose a bib 99.9% of the time -- comfort over style. The POC Women's Ultimate VPDS Bib shorts arrived on my doorstep just in time for fall shredding. I'm typically a size medium and the size medium fit me as expected. The bibs offer a comfortable, breathable fabric that is tight where it needs to be yet stretchy where you want it. This bib is designed to be used either as a liner (under my MTB shorts) or a top layer (road cycling lycra). It's also one of a handful of women-specific designs that allows trailside relief (i.e. peeing) without having to do a striptease. While POC uses their own creative stretchy design to achieve this feat, it's worth noting it's not a new innovation but a variation of what other companies are doing (Giro, Specialized, Patagonia to name a few).
Overall, I was pretty stoked on this bib. I'm to the point where I won't purchase a bib that doesn't include a bathroom break friendly design and I was happy with POC's design. I spent many hours in the saddle and on the trails and have found the chamois to have the perfect amount of padding. The material is breathable and comfortable, and I had no weird chaffing issues any complaints with the chamois. Most importantly the chamois pad was slim enough that I didn't feel like I was wearing a diaper. I'd call this bib short the perfect addition to my collection.
• Full rubber outsole (heel/midfoot) for durable grip • BOA closure system integrated with ExoWrap™ for secure fit and support • MES composite plate for a lightweight and stiff sole
Liv's updated Tesca is a proper light-weight off-road riding shoe. It's designed around Liv's Dynamic Cycling Fit, which is aimed to increase power transfer while maintaining comfort. The shoe can handle everything from XC racing to hours mashing up trails or gravel roads. I've had the Tesca's for just over a month and in that month I've logged about 10 hours of riding them, with a blend of trail riding and mixed-surface road/gravel outings. I tend to like a stiffer riding shoe, so the carbon sole fit nicely with my preferences. While ten hours isn't all that much, it's enough for an initial positive impression and I haven't noticed any abnormal foot fatigue or discomfort.
The shoe is comfortable and size EU 41 fits my US 8.5 foot perfectly. The shoe was wide enough to wiggle my toes, but snug enough to cradle my foot with no heel slippage. The Tesca's feature a velcro forefoot strap along with a micro-adjustment BOA closure system that integrates with Liv's ExoWrap technology for a secure fit without any noticeable pressure points.
The rubber outsole provides good grip walking around the trails. One thing to note - I failed to check that I could easily clip into my 2019 Shimano XTR (PD-9120) trail pedals before heading out to ride. When I got out on to the trail, low and behold, I couldn't clip in as the pedal design didn't play nicely with the Tesca's deeper style cleat pocket. I had no issues after I swapped my pedals out to a first generation pair of XTR trail pedals. That being said, a simple shim under the cleat solved the problem and, lesson learned - don't ever assume. Not a deal-breaker by any means but if you prefer to ride the new XTR trail pedals, be aware that you may need to shim the cleat.
Bottom line, this is a great clip style shoe for XC racing, trail riding, and gravel riding, particularly someone looking for high end comfort with the power transmission a carbon sole offers paired with sleek style.
WHOOP Strap 3.0
Whoop Strap 3.0 Sleep Statistics. A good nights sleep.
• Lightweight, waterproof, BLE compatible • 5-day battery life • $30/month for a strap and access to the app for a minimum 6-month window
• Whoop Live allows you to use the app to record a video of your workout to social media with your heart rate information superimposed on your video • Holiday special: 25% off 1-year Whoop membership ($18/month, $216/year) • whoop.com
I've been pondering purchasing a smartwatch for quite some time to get a better gauge on my quality of sleep and heart rate during activities so when the WHOOP Strap 3.0 came into my hands, I was totally on board to see what kind of feedback it would give me. First off, the Whoop Strap is not a smart "watch". There is no digital display to answer all your questions, no Dick Tracy phone, and no access to the google-webs. But it is a fancy (although low key), wearable smart band that links to a super impressive app that is designed for athletes. Without the need for digital display, the Whoop Strap is fairly stealth, weighs next to nothing, and (from a style perspective) has a large selection of different band colors.
So what's it do? First point - the Whoop Strap tracks your sleep. Each morning when you open the app and hit the little "process" button, it analyzes your night and then produces a "Sleep Performance" value based on those numbers and some user input. Secondly (and the most important analysis I get from this thing), is what they call a "Recovery" percentage. This is what separates the Whoop Strap 3.0 from most of its competition. This number is calculated using your heart rate variability, resting heart rate and your sleep. On mornings I woke up with a super low recovery number, I could see my performance in the gym was below average and on mornings when it was high, I was definitely feeling pretty dang good.
Out of the box, the Whoop Strap was simple to charge and set up. The app is very user-friendly, and as I am approaching wearing this thing for almost a month straight, I feel like it has really provided me some useful life feedback. A little background before I tell you why: I am a pretty routine oriented person. I tend to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night and fall through spring, I regularly wake up at 4:30am Monday thru Thursday to hit an alternating strength/cycling class before heading out to toil in the salt mines. I also was racing cyclocross most weekends this fall and fitting in test rides when I could. So lots of data to "analyze." The Whoop Strap helped me start seeing trends in my low recovery and high recovery days, which led me to understand why my recovery percentage sucked on certain days of the week, even when I wasn't working harder than other days. The culprit? Things like stress and alcohol seemed to be my "low" triggers and impacted my overall fitness more than I had realized. Lastly, the Whoop Strap does evaluate "strain" as well, which isn't stress, but a summary of how hard you worked throughout the day.
The app wasn't perfect—I ran into a couple little bugs; but overall I have been happy with the Whoop Strap 3.0 as it has provided me with useful performance and recovery data without the added distraction of a clock or texts showing up on my wrist. The biggest drawback is that you can't just purchase the thing - you have to sign up for a monthly or yearly membership with prices ranging from $18 - $30 USD per month depending on how long you commit (note: the current holiday pricing offer for the Whoop Strap 3.0 includes 25% off a 1 year WHOOP membership , meaning $18/month/$216 for a year. This includes the actual device, so you're essentially only paying for the service).
So would you rather pay $350-$500 dollars upfront for a fancy device, or go stealth for $216/year? In my mind, stealth is the way to go.
Leatt DBX 3.5 Junior Fuel Neck Brace
Oliver Hubler, 11 years old.
Adjustable and designed to fit younger riders.
• Weight: Approx. 497g (1.1lbs) • CE tested and certified as Personal Protective Equipment 89/686/EEC • Adjustable to fit most body shapes
At some point in the past six months, my 12-year-old son started hitting jumps and drops beyond what I am comfortable riding. It's been a big change going from towing him into things to now having him tow ME in! As a mom, it seems fairly normal that I want to protect my mini tornado from injury and give him all the protective equipment to minimize the chance of anything catastrophic happening. We all know mountain biking has risks, but so does driving down the freeway in a car. Chatting with other moms whose kids are also hitting jumps that make us cringe, it seemed that a neck brace as an option had been completely overlooked by us (except perhaps those moms in the downhill racing circles or for whose groms are growing up on the slopes of a bike park).
We passed the neck brace around to two kids to tell us how it felt to ride with...
Overall, my son indicated he pretty much forgot the brace was there when he was out riding and that it felt very light and he didn't notice any chaffing. Our friends 11 year old son Oliver stated, "it feels great. I don't notice it unless I'm wearing a hydration pack. It works great with a hip pack. I think its a very well designed piece of protective gear. Its important so that I don't break my neck if I crash!"
If you have a lil shredder, this might just be the Holiday season to invest in a neck brace and the Leatt DBX 3.5 Junior Fuel Neck brace seems to be a great tested and proven option designed to fit on a small body. There is nothing more important than keeping our cargo safe.
Fox Racing Shocks Service Special
• Fork Servce: $175 USD before discount • Shock Service: $160 USD before discount • Seatpost Service: $90 USD before discount • The 36/Grip2 Special: $305 USD before discount • ridefox.com
• Fork and shock bundle saves you $50 USD • Fork, shock, and seat post bundle saves you $85 USD • Fork Service and Grip2 Damper Upgrade saves you $120 USD
As one industry insider put it to me, you wouldn’t drive your car without ever changing the oil. So why do people fail to regularly service their suspension? Fox is offering an end of season service special (just in time for the holidays, too): 15% off for parts and labor for a 2 item bundle (in my case a factory 36 fork with Fit4 Damper and a DPX2 rear shock), and 20% off parts and labor for a 3 item bundle (add in a seatpost?). Or go whole hog with your fork with a service and a Grip2 damper upgrade for 25% off parts and labor for the fork service and upgrade.
Why upgrade from Fit4? The Grip2 Upgrade is perfect for aggressive riders by allowing one to customize high and low speed compression and high and low speed rebound damping without having to get your fork PUSHed or custom tuned. This is a great upgrade for strong female riders, because the Grip2 damper offers more ability to fine tune the shock as compared to the Fit4's factory style settings. That's not to say the Fit4 isn't a good damper—it is! But the Fit4, while a bit lighter weight and offering a lockout for extended climbs, just doesn't offer the same tunability for when the fun starts, particularly those riders who weigh in at 130 lbs or less (59kg or less). I went for the upgrade because I never bothered to use the Fit4 lockout and given my lighter weight (130-ish lbs) and riding style, the Grip2 Damper offers me better performance.
Bottom line? Make your suspension new all over again—$320 for my fork and shock with some new parts—and maybe throw in that Grip2 upgrade ($229 for my Fit4 equipped 36). Note: retail prices quoted above are for typical service and the parts associated with that. Unusually worn parts may raise the cost; my DPX2 shock needed a new damper shaft and shock sleeve, which added $51 to my service. But it was so worth it after beating the tar out of my suspension for over a year.