Cambium Saddles

I have moved from some beautiful leather Berthoud saddles that were amazing comfortable but a bit fragile. Berthoud saddles are supposed to be weatherproof and they are to a degree. They are to a degree but theory and reality are not always aligned.

However, I live in the East (MD to be specific) and it rains here. A lot, in fact. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been caught out without a saddle cover and I begin the look for a shopping bag to cover my saddle so I don’t ruin it. I love the look and feel the Berthoud saddles and the Brooks leather saddles. I just had the hassle. It is like a manual transmission, the idea of it is way better at this point in my life than the reality.

Cambiums by Brooks are amazingly comfortable and they are completely waterproof. They come in now three sizes: the ‘normal’ C17 is the equivalent of the Brooks B-17, the C15 which is probably the equivalent of the Swift, and a new C19 which is even wider.

I have a C17 and a C15 and they are both amazingly comfortable. And two other people are now happy with my Berthoud saddles. If you are wondering about these saddles, they look pretty good (they are not a Swift with hand hammered copper rivets by any stretch) and they are incredibly comfortable to me. As with any saddle review, your mileage may vary.

Papa has a brand new bag

Recently, I ordered and received a new Swift Industries Hinterland Randoneur handlebar bag. I added a Nitto decaleur and viola i have a new setup on the bike to carry stuff that is convenient and lightweight. The bag comes in any color you want as long as you like black. For a handlebar bag, it is well thought out; it has elastic straps sewn into the inside of the bag so that you can strap small stuff to the edges and not have that shit roll around and piss you off (not that it would necessarily piss you off but you get what I am saying). It has a decent pocket in the front, slash pockets on the side, and two small pockets that would hold a smallish mobile phone. I have an iPhone 6+ and no way that is fitting in there. I put sun screen, lip balm, Scatch, and chamois cream in these pockets and it works fine for me. The top of the bag has a map pocket with a clear screen for a map — do people still use paper maps? — that allows you to interact with your mobile phone also. The main space — I have the small — holds my TiGr small bike lock, a flask when needed, tools, tube, second set of gloves (Spring is here…), different hat (Spring again), and could easily hold a jacket, a thermal layer, arm warmers, leg warmers, and a bottle of wine with some space to spare. It could hold most of that and a six pack of good beer. It definitely cannot carry the flask, the wine, and the beer but then you should probably just go to a bar eh?

Updates from previous handlebar bags

They redesigned the top ‘latch’ so that you don’t have to try to snake your hands to the clip between the small rear pockets. It is still there but even with my small hands, it is still completely inaccessible. Most bags ‘clip’ there and most are never clipped since no one can actually get in there.

The sewn in elastic is simple and damn brilliant.

You can interact with your phone via the map pocket. Works pretty well with an iPhone. Your experience may vary.

Damn this thing is light.

Fast shipping on ready made stuff. Honestly, they have a great process for made to order stuff also.

Stuff I don’t like

Not a damn thing and I can bitch about almost anything.

The company

I cannot say enough nice things about Swift Industries products. They are well made. They are great people to deal with. I have more of their products than I should admit to. They are made in the USA.

Made in America or I Lost My Taillight

On a cold and crappy — but not rainy at least — Saturday, Nancy and I went on a 18-mile ride near BWI. I was trying out my new Tailrider bag and had put my Light and Motion 180 Taillight on the bag. As noted in the heading of this post, the light leaped off the bag and out of my life.

The L&M light is a great taillight. Bright, decent battery life, made in America, and better looking than your average rear light. I got it directly from L&M after I sent back my third L&M 180 Micro when the On/Off switch broke yet again. As a set of quick side notes, L&M’s Micro has a faulty on/off switch design. If you review the reviews on Amazon, this is a pretty common complaint. I would heavily recommend taking a pass on this light. However, L&M has great customer service. Each time it broke, they sent me a new one and I shipped back the broken one. I cannot say enough positive things about their customer service. So when I contacted them about the third death, they offered me the regular 180 at a decent upgrade pricing. I pulled the trigger and lived happily ever after. Until Saturday, that is.

So I have this thing where I try to buy American if given the opportunity and the price difference is not substantial. I buy American jeans, socks, shirts, sweaters/wool, and bike parts and bags. So I fire up Amazon when I get home and look for the L&M 180 light. There it is. It is a great light as I said, but is it worth a 3x markup ($89.99)? It gave me pause. So then I go to Bike Light Database and The Sweet Home. Neither recommend the L&M 180. They like it but they note its price and that there are other lights that are just as good for a lot less. As another side note, both of these sites were extremely helpful in my search.

It saddens me that an American company cannot make a great, high quality taillight in this case that is not at least somewhat competitive in price. I am not saying lose money on the deal but I should not suffer a degree of sticker shock that I felt. I ended up picking the Cyclolite Hotshot for $28.48. This is over $60 cheaper and gets as good of reviews.

I will review more adequately once I have received it from Amazon and used it a few times.

Brooks Cambium – My Take

It was time to replace the much loved but irretrievably sagging Brooks 17S. I had it transferred to my to my Soma when it was built last year. It was only 4 years old when it developed a very uncomfortable sag. It was fixed once and held up well for about a year. There are many who say Brooks leather saddles aren’t what they once were. Two summers in a row that included week long tours in the rain may have hastened it’s demise. I used a saddle cover of course but after enough days and nights of rain maybe some damage was done. I’d been curious about the Cambium for a while. Given John’s positive experience with it (see previous post) I was ready to give the C17S a try.

I’ve now ridden over 300 miles on it and overall, I like it. I agree with John that it’s amazingly shock absorbing. I didn’t find that it was easy to fit or instantly comfortable though. Part of this might be that the C17S is longer in than the B17S, which changes the feel of the contact points quite a bit. It also made it a little tricky getting the right “fore and aft” position. We couldn’t just copy the positioning of the B17S.

This saddle doesn’t break in. That’s no surprise. What you feel at first is what you get. So I had to toughen up. After a couple of weeks the bruised feeling subsided though was still not entirely gone. I think this was largely due to how long it took me to get the right seat post adjustment.

The Cambium has less height than the B17S. I read other blogs suggesting a need to raise the saddle post .5″ to compensate. That wasn’t the right adjustment for me. After fidgeting with it over a number of weeks (and having the predictable pain behind my kneecaps and then in the muscles around my knee) it dawned on me to look up how to fit the a seat post.

Grant at Rivendell Bicycle Worksg says to adjust the seat post to PBH-4″ from saddle top to the middle of the crank arm. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant. Which way should the crank arm be positioned? My next “aha” was to check this out using my perfectly fitted ANT (thank you, Baltimore Bicycle Works!). It emerged that you position the crank arm to be parallel with the floor. I made the needed adjustment and now I think I’ve got it! It turns out not only does the right seat post height relieve knee pain and give you full use of your quads for climbing, it also relieves undue saddle pressure. I don’t know the bio-mechanics of that, just reporting the experience. Now when I hop on the ANT the B17S on it feels oddly short and lacking in support. I might end up with Cambium on it, too.

If you read John’s review you’ll see he had no fit problems with his Cambium. He just put it on the bike and he was fine from day one. So there you have it. My experience may not indicate what yours would be like in any way.

Verdict: The Cambium may never give your butt the nice custom comfort that comes with a broken-in leather saddle, but it is noticeably better at smoothing out the ride and it is comfortable when positioned properly. Rain is no problem for it. As others report repositioning yourself on it is easy even though it’s not as smooth as a leather saddle. I expect it to be more durable but won’t know about that for 4-5 years!

Vaya Bag Saddle Bag

Vaya Bag Saddle Bag

Vaya Bag Saddle Bag

Tianna Meilinger founder and owner  of Vaya Bags was at Baltimore’s American Craft Council Show again this year. It’s always nice to see her and check out what’s new with her creative recycled-material messenger bags, purses, panniers and accessories. Last year I got a medi messenger bag which I use a lot. It’s comfortable to carry, easy to adjust and for me, the perfect size.  It works well for multi-modal commutes and as an airplane carry-on too. This year I wanted a small saddlebag. I wasn’t sure if she still made them, but indeed she had the cylindrical bag with her, set up as a handlebar bag. She was ready to customize one as a saddle bag, adding on my requested rear light loop. About a week after I sent her the measurements for my saddle’s loops, the bag arrived. It attaches easily, is convenient to open and close, and holds a fair amount for such a compact bag.  My tool roll’s design is too bulky for it so it goes in the rando bag. As it’s made from recycled tire tubes this bag is waterproof, as are all Vaya bags (I think!).

2013 Gift Giving Guide for the Cyclist in Your Life

Time’s speeding like a first-place contender in the Tour de France. I don’t actually know how fast that is, but you know what I mean. Thanksgivingkah is just about here and Christmas isn’t far behind. What to give your favorite cyclist?

First, my gift to you: A trail mix recipe. On the bike it’s a delicious, fortifying, real-food snack. Off the bike it’s just as good. Mix together 1 c dried berries, 1 c slivered or sliced almonds raw or roasted (unsalted), 1/2 c roasted shelled sunflower seeds, 1/2 c roasted shelled pumpkin seeds, and 1 cup of Sunspire candy chips or M&Ms.

Variations: Adjust proportions as you like. You can’t go wrong. Try other dried fruits and nuts.

Keeping in mind the rapid march of time, we’re only recommending things that you can get within the next 5 weeks.

Nancy’s Choices

For Warmth

I’m a big fan of wool when it’s the non-itchy kind. Here are some wool items that I’ve biked with and liked:

Ibex Knitty Gritty gloves $25 — these medium weight gloves have grippy stuff on the palms. They aren’t padded, in case that’s important to the gift recipient. I use them on cool days for non-bike activities and on cool or cold days for biking. When it’s seriously cold they aren’t warm enough though.

Ibex Sport Half Zip $120 — Ibex doesn’t make any petite clothing and this sweater though too long on me. I wear it even so as it makes a versatile, non-bulky layer. I use it on it’s own over a jersey in cool weather and as a layer under a jacket when it starts getting colder. It has a small zipper pocket on the sleeve which can maybe hold some dollar bills or a key. It’s not really a very practical pocket.

Ibex 3/4 El Fito $145 — Love these. I use them when temperatures start dropping below 50 and when they’re as low as in the 20’s. I haven’t tried them in weather colder than that.</p

Ibex Woolies 150 bottoms:  $70 This thin base layer can be worn under bike pants or with off bike clothes, too.

Buff — Start at $33 for the wool version. I have one of these in a tech fabric and one in merino wool. I like the feel of the wool one better but they both are wonderful. This versatile tube of fabric is lightweight and easily stuffed into bike bag or pocket. It an serve as a head cover, ear band, face cover or neck warmer.

Silk Long Underwear – $34 at Lands End. these of course are available from a number of retailers, but I’ve only tried Lands End’s. They have lasted for years. Like most of the other clothing I’ve recommended these are useful both on and off-bikeThey make a great, nonbulky layer under work clothes and bike clothes and they’re great for travel. They can be hand washed and will line dry overnight.

Rivendell long sleeve merino t-shirts – $60 They are made for men and are long and a bit loose on me, but they are so comfortable. In warm weather they are great on their own. In cold weather they make a great, non-bulky layer under a sweater.

Carrying stuff:

Wald Wire Basket $23 — a multipurpose, endlessly useful basic basket

Arkel Tailwind rear bag $115 — Roomy, lightweight, and visible, attaches via sturdy Velcro straps to most rear racks. It doesn’t pair with my Swift panniers though I’m told that it’s possible with some patience to use it with Arkel panniers.

Swift Short Stack Panniers $230 — You can probably get a set of ready-made ones in time for Christmas. I’m pretty sure it’s too late for a custom order, but check with them. I toured with mine this summer and loved them. For an inn-inn summer tour they are more than roomy enough. For entirely self-supported touring or colder weather you might need to add a set of front panniers. They are waterproofed and close with a drawstring, using fabric that is at least water-resistant. The pocket in the removable lids provides extra cargo capacity but is not waterproof. This made me a little nervous so I packed my belongings in water -resistant sacks. We didn’t get much rain on that tour so their water proofness wasn’t put to the test. Outer pockets provide additional carry ing capacity for water bottles and anything else you want to keep at hand.

Vaya Bags Medi Messenger Bag $150 — I’m not a huge fan of carrying stuff on my back when cycling. However for light loads and short trips, a messenger bag can be more comfortable and easier to use than a backpack. This bag is thoughtfully designed, good looking, stable and comfortable. It’s from recycled bike tire tubes and sturdy sun cloth. http://www.vayabags.com.

Brooks B–17S @$100 — My favorite. I presently have 3 bikes and this is the saddle I use on each of them.

Skin Care

Dry, cold winter air can cause chapped lips, very dry skin and patches of eczema. I recommend Burts Bees Beeswax Lip Balm,  about $3.30 at various online and brick & mortar stores, Badger Lip and Body Balm, $3.99 also at many retail outlets, and Extreme Alaskan Mountain Momma’s Balm, $12.00. This last is available through Silver Bear Sundries  for $16 including shipping. It’s exclusively available in the lower 48 at Buffalo Valley Outfitters, Lewisburg, PA. This is my sister’s and brother-in-law’s store, by the way. If you don’t live near there, check out their web site at www.bvogear.com. They are the new owners of this sporting goods shop. I don’t see the balm on the website yet. If you’re interested in getting  it from them you can use the contact info at the bottom of their web page.

John’s Choices

Get Lost Adventure Kit $235 — the Paloma handlebar bag, a couple of water bottles, a Rothera cycling cap (I love his caps very comfortable), and a bandana. Not a bad collection for the price.

Berthoud Touring saddle $209 — I love this saddle. I have been a Brooks fan and remain one. But I bought one of these based on Boulder Bikes 6-month promise that if you don’t like it then you can return it. It is pricey but it is amazingly comfortable right from the start. I would highly recommend it as a perfect gift for the retro-grouch on your list who is not a racer type.

Brooks Swift saddle @$180 — I know I just said that the Berthoud is the best saddle but if you are more of a racer than a tourist type of cyclist. This is a fine saddle. It takes quite a while to break in. I have several hundred miles on mine but it has just begun to get comfortable. But if you have trouble with chafing with a B17 this is a great saddle.

Swift Rando bag $210  I got this bag for my Rivendell Rambouillet rather than a trunk bag. It is made in America (Seattle) and is very well built and reasonably priced depending on which size you get. I have the smaller one (I have a 52cm bike) and it easily holds what you would need for a longish day ride or as a great small bag in a touring set up. It has a great map pocket, a front pocket, and two side slits. I have used it as a century ride bag and have ordered a second one for the Atlantis as a touring bag. Swift has released a new handlebar bag, the Paloma bag that uses the KlickFlix mounting system. I am not a big fan of handlebar bags actually being mounted to the handlebars but if you are okay with that I think this would be a great bag and it is $60 cheaper.

Ibex Duo shorts $120 — I have been a big fan and remain one for Boure shorts but these are very comfortable and work in both Baltimore’s extreme summer heat and chilly fall weather. They are cheaper than the really high-end shorts and a bit more than the Boures at but I have a pair that are two years old and still look great.

Rapha Club Jersey $120 — now this is pricey at regular price but I got mine for $120. Still a lot for a jersey but it is again incredible comfortable and has a lot of thoughtful ideas. It has a zippered pocket that is great for your wallet/phone. You want that stuff close by and safe but you don’t need it during the ride per se. It looks great and feels great and now its on sale for $110 if they have your size.

Rapha Essentials case $65 — this is a good stocking stuffer assuming you are okay with spending $65 for a stocking stuffer. This murse (I am calling it as I see it) will hold your wallet and your phone easily unless you have one of those dorky, giant Samsung phablets. I love mine.

End of summer reviews

Catlike Kompacto Helmet

BLAA

This is one fine helmet. I have one fat head and this helmet in size large fits, is light and very comfortable, and the straps are very easy to adjust. The helmet is cool in the heat with large vents in the front with a very well-thought out screens to keep out bugs, bees, etc. It does not look as unique as the high-end helmet, the Whisper and the Whisper Plus but it is also half the price.

Backcountry

Swift Industries Roll Top Panniers

P1000058

These panniers are great looking, very roomy, and very, very well-built. On the 7-day Inn-to-Inn trip, they easily held my bike clothes (2 pair bike shorts, 5 jerseys, socks, rain jacket, and light wool top) in one pannier and my off-bike clothes (2 pair shorts, 4 shirts, and a pair of shoes for off bike) with plenty of room to spare in the other pannier. They easily pack and unpack and considering they are made of waxed canvas they are pretty light. They are lined with vinyl so they are completely waterproof. Nancy has the codura panniers and they are lighter. The front of the bag has a small zippered pouch that held spare tires (2) on one side and a medical kit on the other side. They have a rear-facing pouch that easily held a spare water bottle — Kleen Kanteen. These rear-facing pouches also had a reflective stripe. I would heartily recommend these bags! They also have a ‘notch’ on the front side to avoid heel strike. I have the standard mounting mechanism and they mount and dismount easily.

Swift Industries

Rapha Club Jersey

Somewhere along the route

Somewhere along the route

I am a fan of wool jerseys and shorts but not a fan of scratchy wool. These jerseys are a wool polyester blend that looks great, wicks great in the heat, not scratchy in the least and best of all, has a zippered pocket on the right side. I love by Ibex Duo shorts but don’t think the short-sleeved jerseys are very good looking. These are pretty expensive if you don’t get them on sale and I cannot say at this point how long they last. I have synthetic jerseys going on ten years old that don’t look like they have ever been worn. If I am that lucky with these, they would be a great deal.

Rapha