Well, my training is winding down again in anticipation of another 70.3 – my third of the season. So, rather than bore you with complaining about how much the taper sucks, I thought I would try and give you something useful – some product reviews. Enjoy!
Standard Product Review Disclaimer: All items were either purchased by myself or received as a gift purchased by a family member (ie. Jennie). I am not receiving any compensation from any of the listed companies (however, I would be will to accept any sponsorship they may wish to offer).
Michelin Krylion Carbon Tires (700x25c)
List Price: $60
I bought these tires after my first set, Continental UltraRace tires, started to wear out. I purchased these tires from biketiresdirect.com for about $20 under list price. I selected them mainly based on the reviews the website offered. So far, they have been great. While there has been a lot of talk lately about flatting (here, here and here), I’m going to knock on wood before I say this. I have not had a single flat with these tires. There, I said. Nearly 2,000 miles and no flats. Because of the lack of flats, I am rating these tires pretty high. I still don’t know exactly how long they are going to last before they wear out, but so far, so good.
Profile Design Aerodrink
List Price: $20
I got this Aerodrink bottle as a birthday gift from Jennie back in July. I have now used it in two races (Steelhead 70.3 and Millennium Sprint Tri) as well as a couple of training rides. When I first got it, I was a little leery of it because it attached to the aerobars using only a couple of rubber bands. Also, with the configuration of my aerobars, there isn’t a lot of surface area where the bottle is supported by the bars. Surprisingly, the rubber bands hold the water very securely.
My first ride with the Aerodrink was a mess. I didn’t use the sponge at all and put the straw in the larger hole (where the black lid is). Within the first mile I was soaked with sticky Gatorade. Every bump I hit splashed me with the sticky goodness.
For my second ride (the Steelhead 70.3 race), I added the sponge beneath the black lid and used the secondary straw hole instead. This really cut down on the splashage. It also made it really easy to refill the bottle on the go. Had the straw been in the hole through the black lid, it would have been difficult to open and refill. I also found that as long as I take a few big sips right away, it lowers the level of the fluid enough that it doesn’t splash as much. I just have to remember to only drink on the smooth roads. If the road is too bumpy, you risk the straw digging into the roof of your mouth.
Overall, this has been a great addition to my bike. I’m giving it 4 out of 5 wheels mainly because there is a bit of splashage regardless of how hard you try to avoid it. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge deal, but it is a bit annoying.
Profile Design: Airstryke Aerobars
List Price: $125
This is my second set of aerobars. I bought this set of aerobars when I went in for my bike fitting. My previous set (the Century bars – see below) didn’t adjust on the horizontal plane which made it hard to get a good fit.
The biggest downside to these bars are that the arm rests are spring loaded. When not in use, the pads flip up. While this does afford some extra handle bar space when not in use, they are quite noisy when going over rough roads. The salesman did warn about this when I bought them and it did take some getting used to, but it was still annoying at first. Had I not been warned, I would have thought my bike was falling apart when I hit the bumpy sections of roads. Of course, this can al be solved by staying aero as much as possible.
Compared to the Century aerobars, these are much more comfortable. However, I think this is purely related to the fact that I am fit to these aerobars and in a more comfortable position overall.
If you are in the market for some aerobars, I would recommend this set. The only thing you will need to consider is the fact that they are single piece and may not fit all handlebars if the stem is too wide. Some configurations may require aerobars that are separate bars which allow you to customize the width between the bars.
Profile Design: Century Aerobars
List Price: $78
The Century Aerobars were my first set of aerobars. I selected this set of aerobars simply because they were the cheapest ones I could find. These worked great for me on my first bike and my newer bike until I had a bike fit.
My first two years of racing involved primary sprints and Olympic distance races, so I didn’t notice any problems with these aerobars. It wasn’t until I had an actual bike fit that I realized how poorly the aerobars actually worked for me. The lack of horizontal adjustment is what did these bars in. However, if you were able to be fit to the bars without needing any horizontal adjustment, then these are a great starter pair of aero bars.
Profile Design: RM1 Saddle Mount Water Bottle Cage
I have had the RM1 bottle cages for a little over a year now. I bought them back in the summer of 2009 in anticipation of my first Steelhead 70.3 race. At that time, I knew that having only two bottle cages on my bike would not be enough to get me through a 56 mile ride. In one of the two cages, I usually keep an old water bottle which holds my bike tools (multi-tool, CO2 cartridge, and tire levers) leaving me with one cage for an extra water bottle. Because of the location of the cages, it really isn’t possible to use both the cages and saddle bag which requires storing the tools in the water bottle.
For the first year or so (about 10 months), these cages worked great. However, after that, they have rapidly started to deteriorate. First off, the elasticity of the cages has worn out and water bottles will shoot out of the cages when going over larger bumps like railroad tracks. This was easily solved by adding extra rubber bands to hold the water bottles in place. This works well, but it makes it harder to remove the water bottles with only one hand. The second problem has been more of nuisance. There is a single screw that allows you to adjust the angle of the cages. After about 100 miles of riding this screw will loosen enough that the cages will be dangling below the seat. In one case, the cages actually fell off the big.
The fact that the main screw needs tightening every once in a while wouldn’t be a huge deal if it wasn’t such a pain in the ass to tighten. Because of the location of screw in relation to the cages, it is nearly impossible to tighten the screw without removing at least one of the cages.
I contact Profile Design about my problems and they suggested using Loctite on the screw. I don’t have any Loctite on hand, but I am going to try a locking washer to see if that solves the problem. Regardless, it has been more of a pain than it has been worth. Especially now that I have the Aerodrink, this cage has become almost worthless.
Fi’zi:k Arione Tri 2 Wing Flex
List Price: $159
This is my latest purchase for the bike. I purchased this new saddle earlier this week after noticing that my current saddle was in poor shape. Below is a picture of the bottom of my previous saddle with the cracks highlighted in red.
I actually noticed the cracks in the saddle shortly before Steelhead this year and they had me worried. However, at that time, I was leery to swap out saddles that close to race time.
Even though I have two more races this season (a HIM and sprint), I decided that now was the time to invest in a new saddle. After reading multiple reviews, I settled on the Arione Tri 2. Now, I realize that it isn’t wise to base choose a saddle based on reviews alone because the fit of a saddle varies from person to person. With that in mind, I chose a saddle very close (if not identical) in size and shape to my current saddle.
At this time, I have only done one ride with the new saddle. The first thing I have noticed is that it is much stiffer than my old one (TWSS). Because my old saddle had a couple of cracks in it, I got used to the fact that it had a bit more give to it. So, I think it will take a few rides to get used to a new saddle. Other than that, I have high hopes for this saddle and will hopefully report back with an actual rating at some point. For now though, I can only give this a “TBD” for a rating.
Thanks for reading. I hope these reviews have helped you if only a little bit. Are there any products that you couldn’t like without? Ones that you regret ever buying the first place?